As the old saying goes, the 24/7 news cycle never allows the NBA trade rumor mill to die. And with All-Star weekend forcing NBA executives from across the league to convene in Houston, the rampant speculation has hit its apex.
Though ultimately meant to honor the NBA's best and brightest, All-Star weekend has long been a hotbed of NBA rumors. The trade deadline always comes on the following Thursday, and the time away from the 82-game grind finally gives general managers and coaches a chance to truly assess their rosters' weaknesses and strengths.
And with a wealth of big names being bandied about on the rumor mill this season, the 2013 deadline will certainly be a buyer's market. Josh Smith has been the biggest name looming for months, but recent rumblings have had him joined with Kevin Garnett and some other notable names.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of all the latest speculation coming out of Houston this weekend.
Clippers Think They Can Convince KG to Sign Off on Trade?
Just when everyone had written off the possibility of Kevin Garnett wearing anything but Celtics green, All-Star weekend seems to have re-opened the possibility of the Big Ticket ending his career elsewhere.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears reported Friday night that the Clippers and Celtics were engaged in trade talks for the 36-year-old forward-center. In exchange, Los Angeles would send some package of point guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan back to Boston in exchange.
There's just one person these two forgot to tell prior to engaging in talks: Garnett himself. Speaking on Saturday about the rampant trade rumors, Garnett, who has a no-trade clause, was asked point-blank whether he would approve a deal prior to Feb. 21. His response, according to Spears, may disappoint Clippers Nation:
When asked if there was any team or circumstance that he would drop his trade clause for, Kevin Garnett simply said: "No."— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 16, 2013
Welp. OK, then. Let's move on, right? Not so fast. Spears later followed up on his report to gauge the Clippers' reaction to Garnett's quote, and a source said they still think it's possible to convince the All-Star to switch coasts:
Clippers confident they could change Kevin Garnett's mind about a trade if the Celtics tell him they want to do it, a source tells Y! sports— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 16, 2013
The Clippers' confidence doesn't come from a place of cockiness. They know Garnett has a house in Malibu and that it's been previously reported he would only leave Boston for a Los Angeles franchise.
Where would you rather play if you were Kevin Garnett?
More importantly, they can use Garnett's legendary competitiveness as a swaying factor. The Celtics, 8-1 without Rajon Rondo or not, are not winning an NBA championship this season. The Clippers, equipped with superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and a great bench, are likely one piece away from becoming a favorite.
Garnett could be that piece. He provides interior toughness, a weakness for the Clippers, and has stayed exceedingly efficient for someone his age. If Garnett is going to retire at the end of the season and wants to do so as a Celtic, then a trade veto is understandable.
But if he wants to win championships, he'll be on the first plane ticket to L.A.
Iman Shumpert Wants a Trade?
It's hard to find many scenarios in which Shumpert's return from an ACL tear could have gone worse. He's averaging just 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting a paltry 33.8 percent—and it wasn't like Shumpert was ever Larry Bird circa 1987-88 to begin with.
Part of Shumpert's struggles are due to the understandably slow recovery process. Ricky Rubio has nearly doubled Shumpert's games played and is still shooting under 35 percent this year.
However, a much bigger portion of Shumpert's struggles come from him playing wildly out of position at small forward. With Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton establishing themselves as lineup stalwarts throughout the season's first half, Mike Woodson was left in an untenable position with his young star: either play him out of position or sit him on the bench as the fourth guard in New York's rotation.
Woodson chose the former, and the aforementioned results speak for themselves. That's led to rampant speculation that the Knicks would trade Shumpert in exchange for help in the middle, a claim that has been denied by Woodson recently.
If reports are to be believed, Woodson may have been telling a little white lie. According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, the Knicks are still open to trading Shumpert if the right deal comes along.
More interesting, though, is the fact it may be a more-than-mutual divorce. A source told Sheridan that people close to Shumpert have been pushing the Knicks to trade in order to avoid stagnating his development: "They feel he’s being played out of position (at small forward) and his confidence is suffering because of it. They understand the team is having success and it has to be the right deal, but they’d prefer Iman in another situation… And soon."
Why has Iman Shumpert struggled this season?
The Phoenix Suns have been widely mentioned as a possible suitor for Shumpert, but their viability depends on how dearly they're willing to pay for Shumpert. The Knicks would leap on a Shumpert and Marcus Camby for Marcin Gortat deal, but Phoenix would probably want assurances that the seven-footer will retire after the season to avoid paying the next two years of his deal.
And even if the Suns get that assurance, is Shumpert really worth Gortat, an above-average NBA center? Probably not.
Shumpert's situation is one where not enough teams want him badly enough to give up what the Knicks need. Barring some change, Shumpert stays in the Big Apple for the remainder of the season.
Monta Ellis Available for Right Price?
For a team that's just one game above .500 heading into the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks sure do have a ton of decisions to make in the coming months. It's become readily apparent that this core of players, led by Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, will never go beyond what it already is: a No. 8 seed.
Who should the Bucks keep: Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings?
With Jennings being a restricted free agent and Ellis having an opt-out clause this summer (one he will use), decision time is upon the Bucks. They can either keep this duo around, which would likely cost somewhere around $20 million worth of cap space per season, or they could allow one or both to walk, via trade this week or free agency this summer.
The easy, objective answer is to let them walk. Neither Jennings nor Ellis is a franchise changer, though the latter gets far too little credit for his offensive excellence. It's not like losing either would cripple the franchise, say, the way Chris Paul bolting in the offseason would the Clippers.
That's likely why, according to the Racine Journal-Times' Gery Woelfel, the Bucks are willing to move just about anyone on the roster. The most likely names to be moved? Ellis and center Samuel Dalembert: "Some league officials claim the Bucks are willing to deal virtually anyone on their roster, although they say Monta Ellis, who has an opt-out after this season, and center Samuel Dalembert, who has an expiring contract, appear the most likely candidates to be traded."
Again, that makes perfect sense on the surface. If the Bucks can acquire a draft pick or something valuable for a player who is going to bolt in free agency, why not just bottom out and do it now?
Three words: pressure to compete. Very few owners in the NBA are willing let their general manager ship off the team's best player midway through the season—especially with millions of dollars worth of playoff money on the line.
It's possible that the Bucks wind up taking a risk and pulling the plug prior to the deadline, but it will have to be an awfully attractive offer to get the job done.