NBA Trade Rumors: Deals That Could Change Playoff Race

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NBA Trade Rumors: Deals That Could Change Playoff Race
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Dwight Howard is unhappy in Lakerland. Will that result in his departure within the next week?

With the NBA All-Star Weekend now underway, the rumor mill is heating up across the league as the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaches.  

Questions loom for several contending NBA teams who have key decisions to make over the next week.

Will the Atlanta Hawks trade Josh Smith? Will the Lakers make a last-minute move with Dwight Howard or Steve Nash? How will Danny Ainge compensate for Celtics’ injuries to Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger?

Here are two potential deals that could change the playoff landscape in each conference over the final third of the regular season.

Western Conference: Al Jefferson to San Antonio Spurs

According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, the Spurs are the front-runner to land the Jazz center. Sheridan writes:

So the time for the Jazz to move him is now, and the team with the biggest need for an upgrade at center is the Spurs. The inability to protect the rim was one of the prime reasons for their collapse in last year’s Western Conference finals when they had won 20 in a row and had a 2-0 lead on the Thunder, only to lose the next four.

The Western Conference appears to be a three-team race between the Spurs, Thunder and L.A. Clippers.  Currently, San Antonio leads the NBA with a 42-12 record, and has a 2.5-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Jefferson in the silver and black would provide the Spurs with an edge over their rivals with an answer to Serge Ibaka and Blake Griffin.  The Spurs would also have a legitimate double-double threat and a low-post presence to go along with an aging Tim Duncan.  

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Al Jefferson is a high-priority target for several teams.

 

This season, Jefferson is averaging 17.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG and 2.1 APG.

Eastern Conference: Paul Millsap to Brooklyn Nets

A durable big man is a precious commodity for any team with championship aspirations, and that is exactly the mindset that the Nets have heading into the trade deadline.

Brooklyn quietly sits at fourth in the Eastern Conference (31-22), and trails the Knicks by 2.5 games for the Atlantic Division lead.  

According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the Nets are eyeing Utah’s other big man in Paul Millsap, after talks regarding Josh Smith and Ben Gordon both broke down.  Lawrence writes:

Still, the Nets are focusing on Utah's Paul Millsap or another power forward to add by the trading deadline. The Nets and Jazz have been trading partners in the past, highlighted by the Nets' bold move to get Williams at the 2011 mid-season deadline. But (Billy) King also insists he hasn't given up on this group.

Like Jefferson, Millsap could provide Brooklyn with a legitimate added size that would match-up well against other Eastern Conference opponents looking to dethrone Miami.  Millsap is Utah’s second leading scorer and rebounder behind Jefferson. He is averaging 15.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 2.6 APG.

Millsap would also give the Nets help in scoring where they rank 20th (95.2 PPG), rebounding where they are 15th (42.2 RPG) and scoring defense where they rank fifth (94.7 PPG).

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