NBA Power Rankings: Each Team's Best Trade Piece Before Feb. 21 Deadline
The NBA is usually full of surprises right around All Star Weekend and the NBA trade deadline, and this year is no exception. While the rankings are hovering in a similar direction as they did last week, the trade deadline has a tendency to bring out the desperation in general managers across the league.
This year, names like Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings have come to the forefront of the rumor mill, while minor pieces like J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley have crept up as potential fixes for contenders with needs.
As we take a look at this week's power rankings, a similar pair of foes are on top. The San Antonio Spurs still command the top spot after another successful week—this time during their annual "Rodeo Road Trip"—and the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder sit closely on their heels.
Not every team will make a trade before the Feb. 21 deadline, but there's a good chance that many teams explore every option before hanging up the phone for good and pulling the plug on a potential upgrade.
That in mind, here's a look at where your favorite team stands in this week's rankings and which players you might hear about as the rumor mill begins to churn out more and more gossip over the next week.
Note: All stats and information about players is accurate as of game times on Feb. 13.
Do the Spurs need to make a trade to win the championship?
1. San Antonio Spurs: F/C Tiago Splitter
The Spurs have been linked to Josh Smith in the past few days (h/t Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!), and some combination of Kawhi Leonard and Splitter would likely be the cost.
Of the two players, the Spurs would likely rather move the big European prospect rather than Leonard, who is one of the players that could be a long-term fixture in the Alamo City. Splitter is still young (28) and has shown signs of being a quality post man.
2. Miami Heat: G Norris Cole
Although there's little doubt that the Heat are not going to be extremely active at trade time, the piece that would net them the most return is Cole, second-year guard who can light it up at times. The rest of the roster is full of untouchable stars and old contracts—not exactly what the rest of the league is looking for.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: G Eric Maynor
Between Maynor and Reggie Jackson, the Thunder appear to have a choice. Although it's conceivable the team could transition Maynor into a combo-guard role when Kevin Martin departs via free agency, it might be more prudent to try and move Maynor now and see what kind of return they can get at the deadline.
4. Denver Nuggets: C Timofey Mozgov
Subject of trade speculation at the Denver Post, Mozgov is a center that isn't getting much burn right now in Denver. He's also a young post player with plenty of room for development, and many people feel like the Nuggets are one quality player away from being true championship contenders.
5. Los Angeles Clippers: G Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe continues to draw speculation as a piece that would be sent to Boston in any trade for Kevin Garnett, and for good reason. Although Boston has denied any potential interest in moving its future Hall of Famer (h/t CBS Sports), Bledsoe will continue to draw interest because the Clippers are in a position where they will have to commit a significant amount of money to keep PG Chris Paul.
6. New York Knicks: G Iman Shumpert
Shumpert has already drawn the interest of the Phoenix Suns (according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski), and more teams will come calling if there is any mutual interest in trading the second-year guard.
It's more than unlikely that the Knicks will trade the budding star, especially since Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni aren't exactly the youngest guards in the world. Keeping Shumpert makes a ton of sense, but that doesn't stop him from being the team's most valuable chip in negotiations at the deadline.
7. Indiana Pacers: F Danny Granger
Granger's injury has led to Paul George coming alive in his absence. Now that Indiana knows he can fill the small forward role full time, Granger and his $13-plus million salary could be in a new home after Feb. 21.
It will be tough to make a deal to make salaries match, and the Pacers might be better off letting him return to the lineup in the next week or so and see what kind of impact he makes on the rotation before deciding to give him away. Either way, Indiana is running out of time to make a decision.
8. Chicago Bulls: G Rip Hamilton
With a team option in his contract for 2013-14, Hamilton would be an attractive piece for a team (Orlando) to take on in any potential deal to create even more cap space this summer.
Hamilton hasn't officially provided the impact that many thought he would when he came over from Detroit, and parting ways with the former NBA champ might be best for both parties.
9. Memphis Grizzlies: F Zach Randolph
Although the Grizzlies have informed teams they aren't interested in moving the star power forward at this time (according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal), the cap hit they will take if he sticks around is enough to at least consider him as the best option to go.
The Grizz have already made two trades this season, and it would be nothing short of a fire-sale if they got rid of Randolph now.
10. Golden State Warriors: C Andris Biedrins
If Biedrins was a free agent this offseason, he'd be an automatic trade candidate. Even with one year after this season remaining on a $9 million annual salary, someone might take a chance on him if a draft pick (first round) was included in any deal.
However, the injury-plagued Warriors need all the depth they can get with Andrew Bogut in the lineup, and the best option might be to keep the long-time Golden State center around.
11. Brooklyn Nets: G MarShon Brooks
It's really amazing that the Nets were able to keep Brooks in the trade for Joe Johnson, but Brooks fell out of favor with Avery Johnson and found his name in trade talks before Johnson was axed as head coach.
Now that P.J. Carlesimo is in place, Brooks is back in the rotation and playing well. Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche are both on the block, but Brooks is the player that teams are going to covet come trade day. If the Nets do move him, expect a significant return.
12. Boston Celtics: G Jason Terry
Terry might be a salary-cap casualty if the Celtics struggle to find a way to get under the luxury tax before Feb. 21. The long-time sixth man is having an awful season shooting the ball coming off the Boston bench, and he might be the first casualty in Boston's efforts to get young fast.
13. Houston Rockets: F Terrence Jones
Jones is wasting away in the NBA Developmental League right now, but he's got the athleticism and ability to start contributing—or at least take some lumps—for an NBA team.
With Houston in the playoff hunt strictly due to its offense, trading Jones for a defensive presence might make some sense as the Rockets start preparing to hold off the rest of the league for one of the West's final playoff spots.
14. Los Angeles Lakers: F Pau Gasol
Gasol is out 6-8 weeks with a right foot injury, but you can bet Minnesota or another franchise would take a chance on that ailment to make a play for the big Spaniard.
It would be shocking if the Lakers made a trade now after months of denying scenarios for the two-time champion, but he remains the most un-Mike D'Antoni player on the roster and the player with the most value among the current players the Lakers could trade (that includes Dwight Howard).
15. Utah Jazz: F Paul Millsap
Al Jefferson is getting press as the Utah player that might be on the move, but Millsap is the one that could integrate himself into a championship-contending team. Millsap doesn't need the ball to be effective like Jefferson, and his salary is much friendlier ($7.2 million) on a new team's pocketbook.
16. Milwaukee Bucks: G Brandon Jennings
Jennings is the biggest guard on the market this year, and it's been reported that the Dallas Mavericks have interest in adding the crafty lefty to their starting lineup (via ESPN).
As one of the youngest guards in the league with multiple years of starting experience, Jennings hasn't meshed well with Monta Ellis since the latter came over from Golden State. Don't be surprised if Jennings has a new home well before the trade deadline.
17. Atlanta Hawks: F Josh Smith
Smith has been mentioned in trade rumors concerning the Lakers, Nets and other teams this season, and it seems the Hawks are destined to move the 27-year-old rather than lose him for nothing in free agency.
It would take a huge crop of expiring contracts and draft picks to get him, but Smith has some untapped potential that plenty of teams would like to explore.
18. Dallas Mavericks: C Chris Kaman
Vince Carter is also a potential trade target for teams looking for deadline help, but Kaman has an $8 million expiring contract, is currently hurt and still brings quality scoring to the table when he's healthy.
The Mavs are linked to Brandon Jennings, and it would likely take a first-round pick, Kaman and another young prospect (Darren Collison, Dominique Jones) added to any deal to convince another general manager to do any such deal.
19. Philadelphia 76ers: F Dorell Wright
As a bench shooter and defensive presence, Wright is very capable of contributing to a roster in certain spots. He can light it up as a streaky shooter and has a pretty favorable contract for any team looking to acquire his services. The Sixers have struggled this season and might be able to gain some fresh blood and a draft pick for Wright as they wait on Andrew Bynum to reach full strength.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: F Luke Babbitt
Since Nicolas Batum has a huge contract and Will Barton will be much cheaper than Babbitt going forward, Portland could opt to move the three-point marksman before the deadline. For frontcourt help or a second-round draft pick, this could be an under-the-radar trade that helps Portland long-term.
21. Detroit Pistons: F Corey Maggette
Maggette has a $10 million expiring contract. The Pistons are still building around their two frontcourt pieces. It might make sense to hold onto the contract until this summer, but other teams will see that number on the books and be very interested.
22. Washington Wizards: C Emeka Okafor
Okafor is still a solid defender and adds good screening and basketball IQ to any lineup. With just one more year after this one on his contract, he could be a piece moving in some sort of three-team trade involving big salaries. It's unlikely the Wizards are anything but sellers at the deadline, and Okafor qualifies as a contract that could be dumped in a deal.
23. Toronto Raptors: F/C Andrea Bargnani
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Bulls and Raptors have discussed a Carlos Boozer-Bargnani swap in recent days. It's no secret that the Raps will try to move their former No. 1 pick, as the youth movement has begun North of the border.
A poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, Bargnani is a jump-shooting assassin when he's on target and could try to reinvent himself in a new city.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Anderson Varejao
Varejao has a favorable contract and would draw major interest from about 50 percent of the teams in the NBA if he was made available. That being said, his injury problems could force teams away, and he won't be available for the rest of the season after a blood clot issue was discovered (via ESPN).
It might be more favorable for Cleveland to hold off until the summer to make a deal, but Varejao is clearly the best prospect they could offer in any potential trade.
25. New Orleans Hornets: C Robin Lopez
With two team options over the final two years of his contract, Lopez would be an attractive piece for a club looking for reserve center help. Additionally, Anthony Davis will likely need to take over the starting role next season full time, and Lopez is a road block to his progress if Ryan Anderson becomes a starter in 2013-14.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: G Luke Ridnour
Ridnour has caught the eye of some teams (Knicks included), and with Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea entrenched as the main options at guard, it might be time for the Wolves to get back some sort of draft pick for Ridnour's services.
As injuries continue to ravage what was supposed to be Minnesota's triumphant return to the postseason, it needs to start looking towards the future by getting rid of the seasoned veteran.
27. Phoenix Suns: G Jared Dudley
Dudley was the main piece heading to New York in the aforementioned Shumpert talks, but he would be a valuable defender and three-point shooter for a number of contenders if Phoenix is looking to rid itself of a number of current players.
Which team will finish with the league's worst record?
28. Sacramento Kings: G/F Tyreke Evans
Evans isn't as talented as DeMarcus Cousins, but he's going to be the best option for trade bait if the Kings decide Cousins is untouchable—which they likely will. Evans is instant offense (like it or not) and he can finish at the rim when contact is inevitable.
The Kings are sellers—selling Evans would bring a nice return of favorable contracts and maybe a draft pick or two.
29. Orlando Magic: G J.J. Redick
Redick is quickly becoming one of the hottest names on the trade market, and it's clear he's drowning in the sinking ship that is Orlando. Getting out would be a blessing for both sides and likely give Orlando some cap flexibility while giving a long-time contributor a chance to help someone out that needs outside shooting.
30. Charlotte Bobcats: G/F Gerald Henderson
Henderson is in the mold of Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington—solid wings that haven't produced much since coming into the league.
With a new lease on his career in another city, the Bobcats might pick up an extra draft pick along the way, and open up playing time for some of the younger pieces on the roster. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a middle-of-the-pack team to take a chance on developing him for the right price, especially with the Bobcats on pace for a shot at the No. 1 overall pick yet again.
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