Though the NBA's February trade deadline is always an opportunity for teams to shift the paradigm of their season, this year's cut-off point could have more activity than any in recent memory.
There are plenty of "selling" teams that have emerged during the 2012-13 campaign, whether to get out from under a tax burden or simply because their championship window has ended. And with no contenders especially sticking out head-and-shoulders above their competition, February should see a few squads prey on their weakened counterparts' talent.
But if teams are going to act, they better do so soon. The Feb. 21 deadline is a mere two weeks away, and the NBA rumor mill has been mostly unrequited speculation thus far. Rudy Gay was shipped up to the Great White North by the Grizzlies, but that's the only major move we've had during the season.
Expect that to change in the coming days and weeks. With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of all the latest trade rumors from across the Association.
Spurs the Favorites to Land Al Jefferson?
Though it's been a problem for right around two seasons now, the Utah Jazz seem finally on the precipice of eradicating their logjam of depth in the middle. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both free agents in the summer, and with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, the two veterans have been on the trade block almost since the season's opening tip.
Utah has also been hanging onto a playoff spot in the Western Conference, though, so team management hasn't exactly been in a hurry. But with time running out before the Feb. 21 deadline, it seems like Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey is finally getting around to shopping his big men.
According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, it didn't take long for the Jazz to find a noteworthy suitor—at least for Jefferson. Sheridan reports that the San Antonio Spurs have emerged as far and away the favorites to land the 28-year-old forward-center:
Here is the latest they are telling me: The San Antonio Spurs are the front-runners to land Al Jefferson in a trade with the Utah Jazz – and they are frontrunners like Secretariat was in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
The most interesting aspect of the Jefferson-Spurs match is what San Antonio would give up in return. At least one draft pick is a given, as is (logically speaking) the expiring contract of Stephen Jackson. However, Kawhi Leonard is almost certainly an untouchable and is San Antonio's best young player.
Could a package of Jackson, a draft pick, DeJuan Blair and cap fodder (Matt Bonner) get the deal done? Possibly, but one has to wonder whether Utah will wind up receiving a better offer as the deadline nears.
The Spurs may be "Secretariat," but it would be a fool's errand to count out other teams. Jefferson is one of the league's best offensive big men, and his 17-9 stat line would be extremely welcomed by more than a few competitors.
Kevin Garnett Not Reciprocating the Nuggets' Mile High Love?
Almost since the moment Rajon Rondo went down with an ACL tear, rumors have been swirling about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett's future with the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge has long put the best interests of the franchise first, and with both legends advancing in age, this could be the last season either of them fetch a noteworthy haul.
Kevin Garnett finish the 2012-13 NBA season with which team?
But Garnett's no-trade clause puts the situation very much in his hands, so many thought Pierce was likelier to hit the road. Well, if recent rumors have any truth, that may have been a faulty assumption.
The Sporting News' Sean Deveney started a cabal of Garnett rumors after reporting that the Los Angeles Clippers were interested, and now other teams have started to line up for the All-Star's services.
According to the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla, count the Nuggets among those interested. They have a wealth of young, attractive pieces that could strike Boston's fancy, and are a sleeping giant in the Western Conference.
One problem: Garnett has no interest in coming to Denver, per Kiszla:
Through his representatives, Garnett has let it be known he has no current interest in the Nuggets. Don't be surprised, however, if Garnett is gone from Boston before the league's Feb. 21 trade deadline. And that's why the Nuggets must continue to monitor the situation.
That's not what one would call a shocking revelation. Garnett is rumored to only be interested in moving if it's to Los Angeles (near his Malibu home), and Denver is a beautiful city, but there sure as heck aren't any palm trees.
Just for fun, let's assume for one second that Garnett has a change of heart and heads to the Nuggets. Their package would certainly involve some combination of the Wilson Chandler/Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee/Timofey Mozgov logjam.
The improvement from Mozgov (the likeliest departing player) to Garnett is huge, but not enough to make the Nuggets championship contenders. Their biggest problems are interior defense and a lack of go-to scoring prowess down the stretch, the latter skill Garnett no longer possesses at age 36.
Denver may be "monitoring" the situation, but this time Masai Ujiri would be better off doing other things.
Milwaukee Bucks Shopping Samuel Dalembert?
Speaking of the Nuggets, it's their lack of presence in the middle that suddenly ascended Samuel Dalembert to never-before-seen heights. The Milwaukee Bucks' center came off the bench Tuesday night and had the best performance of his career, scoring 35 points (on 17-of-21 shooting) and grabbing 12 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
Then Dalembert was almost immediately put on the trade block. Reporting Wednesday morning, ESPN's Marc Stein noted that the Bucks were shopping Dalembert thanks mostly to the emergence of Larry Sanders:
While it's true Sanders' ascent has made Dalembert expendable, NBA general managers weren't born yesterday. Dalembert's 35-point, 12-rebound game was a fluke occurrence. He's a smart, veteran bench player who can guard most NBA centers and grab rebounds, but he also comes with a prorated version of a $6.7 million salary for the remainder of the season.
That means very few teams are going to come calling, unless they get Dalembert for pittance or Milwaukee takes back a bad contract. The latter certainly isn't happening with Dalembert expiring after the season, and the former would only be a cost-cutting move for a Bucks team that already ranks 24th in payroll.
Don't get me wrong, it's possible that Dalembert gets moved. Veteran bigs are a scarce commodity, and teams like the Los Angeles Lakers are finding out the hard way how precious depth is in the middle.
Just don't think for a second that any teams put stock into Dalembert's big night on Tuesday.