The next week and a half is kind of a big deal around the NBA.
First, the best and the brightest descend upon Houston for All-Star Game festivities next weekend. We will not only get to see Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony share a court as teammates, but we'll also see Usain Bolt play hoops, unfortunately.
On the surface, the All-Star Weekend festivities are meant to give NBA players and teams a nice reprieve from the daily grind.
However, there will be no vacationing happening in Houston. General managers from across the league will convene, with the purpose of speaking in hushed tones about players who could be on the move.
All-Star Weekend is always seen as the apex of the NBA trade rumor mill, and top-shelf names have already been bandied about with surprising fervor.
With that in mind, let's take a look at all the latest rumblings for top stars on the trade block.
"60 Percent" Chance Josh Smith Traded by Deadline; Atlanta Wants a Center in Return
Off and on the block more times than anyone can count, it seems as if the paradigm for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith's trade prospects are back in the full, upright and "on" position.
According to NBA.com's David Aldridge, the shift happened after the two sides met this week to discuss Smith's contract situation. It was there the Hawks told Smith's representatives they had no interest in signing him to a maximum contract extension:
The Hawks met with Smith's representatives this week, at which point the team indicated it was not willing to give Smith a max contract after this season, according to a source.
Though Smith's constant vacillation on and off the block makes all rumors worthy of some skepticism, there seems to be some fire to this smoke. ESPN's Chris Broussard's followed up on Aldridge's report, and a source told him that there is a "60 percent" chance Smith is moved by the Feb. 21 deadline.
As has been the case since the beginning of this fiasco, one thing stands between the Hawks and trading Smith: money. More specifically, cap space.
General manager Danny Ferry has put Atlanta in a position where it has just $18.43 million locked up for next season, and that number will dip once the team declines DeShawn Stevenson's option years and Jeff Teague's contract situation is sorted out.
With top-flight free agents hitting the market in each of the next two summers, Ferry isn't going to risk his space just to get something in return for Smith. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Ferry knows exactly what he wants: a young center:
It's still a tricky call for the Hawks, given their longstanding reluctance to take on money and squander the copious salary-cap space they're on course to have this summer, but here's the subsequent scuttle I heard from one interested party: Atlanta wants a quality young center in return in the event it does decide to part with Smith before the deadline.
And that, my friends, is why Smith won't be traded, regardless of some "60 percent" rumor. No team is going to give up a "quality young center" for a player who can walk this summer and has showed little inclination of doing anything but testing the free-agent waters.
Atlanta probably wants to trade Smith. Unfortunately, he's a necessary evil for the team's long-term plans at this point.
Sixers Shopping Evan Turner?
While Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday has excelled as he's been given more responsibility, the same cannot be said for Evan Turner. The third-year forward, who was supposed to take over the Andre Iguodala role in the Sixers offense, hasn't broken out like many expected.
He's averaging 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game—a leap from his previous career highs. But Turner's per 36-minute numbers show a different story. While his counting stats are up this season from years past, Turner's play has seen no appreciable rise on the per-36-minute level.
In other words, he's not a better player, he's just getting more minutes. And with the Sixers completely in limbo with Andrew Bynum still out with a knee injury, Turner's lack of improvement is one of the many reasons they hang outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
So when ESPN's Marc Stein reports that Philadelphia is considering a shakeup involving Turner, it's not what you would call groundbreaking:
The Sixers, sources say, are open to a shakeup as they continue to wait for the return of Andrew Bynum to give All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday some badly needed help. And I'm told Philly, as such, is shopping (or at least making calls to gauge the value of) swingman Evan Turner.
If they call the right teams, the Sixers should get plenty of interest. Turner is still just 24 years old and plays an effective point-forward role when asked. It's not like he's an unsalvageable bust.
Turner could probably flourish into a 16-6-6 type player who plays consistent defense, and his value has not cratered the way 2011 No. 2 pick Derrick Williams' has. If Philly can find a young scorer who won't eat up its cap space, then this might be a situation where both sides could happily separate.
Bucks Making a Push for J.J. Redick?
Expected to make massive trade winds, the Orlando Magic have been conspicuously quiet all season on the rumor mill.
They have been in full rebuild mode ever since making the Dwight Howard trade and still have a few lingering veterans who contending teams want and whose career trajectories don't follow that of the team.
Among the Magic's most attractive assets is J.J. Redick. Oft-maligned early in his career for not living up to his prowess at Duke, Redick has evolved into a frisky on-ball defender, an underrated driver and a very capable shooter.
His name has been one of interest throughout the season, but Redick has been quoted multiple times saying he wants to stay in Orlando.
Unfortunately for Redick, he may not get his wish. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Milwaukee Bucks are trying to land Redick, with the Magic asking for a future first-round pick in exchange:
Marc Stein @ESPNSteinLine
Weekend Dime addendum: Milwaukee now in mix for Magic's JJ Redick. Bucks, I'm told, assessing their ability to retain sharpshooter long term2/9/2013, 3:44:09 PM
Marc Stein @ESPNSteinLine
To meet asking price for Redick -- expiring(s) and a future first-round pick -- Bucks naturally wanna know they can retain free agent-to-be2/9/2013, 3:45:46 PM
It's hard to fault Milwaukee (or any team, really) for going after Redick. He's not going to command much over the mid-level exception in the offseason, and he would have a well-defined role on any team.
The more interesting facet to me is the Bucks' desire to keep Redick long term. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent this summer, and Monta Ellis has a player option for next season, which he will almost certainly opt out of.
If Milwaukee is looking to land Redick and keep him in the great state of Wisconsin, at least one of those two guys isn't coming back. So while neither Ellis nor Jennings is exactly going to garner a max contract this offseason, it will certainly be interesting to see what the Bucks do to prepare for their impending free agencies.
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