10 Bold NBA Trade Deadline Predictions

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIFebruary 19, 2013

10 Bold NBA Trade Deadline Predictions

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    Making bold predictions prior the Feb. 21 NBA trade deadline can be a difficult process. When you consider that the bulk of this season’s trade rumors have been shot down, it’s impossible to decipher accurate rumors from blind speculation.

    Following a report from Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com that Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks is unhappy and wants a trade, Shumpert’s agent Happy Walters took to Twitter to state the following:

     

    For the record, no one has requested an Iman trade from the Knicks.The report from Chris Sheridan is incorrect.

    — Happy Walters (@Happywalters) February 18, 2013

     

    Additionally, following a report by CBS Sports that the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics discussed a Rajon Rondo-for-Dwight Howard swap, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak denied that report. Via ESPN:

    "I haven't talked to Danny Ainge in weeks," Kupchak told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. "I made the statement a week or two ago that we're not going to trade Dwight Howard and that hasn't changed."

    Again, it’s difficult to keep NBA trade rumors straight. General managers often make an effort to publicly deny certain reports. However, in some cases, that may just be a case of damage control.

    Plenty of buzz is sure to surface around the NBA community in the coming days. So with the hours ticking down before the trade deadline, here are 10 bold predictions.

10. Los Angeles Clippers Will Trade Eric Bledsoe

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    Eric Bledsoe has established himself as a dynamic, up-and-coming guard in today’s NBA. He’s a freak athlete who has improved by leaps and bounds compared to his first two NBA seasons.

    With that said, there’s reason to believe the Clippers will choose to part ways with the talented 23-year-old.

    The major X-factor that would have the biggest impact on Bledsoe’s future in L.A. is NBA All-Star MVP Chris Paul.

    With Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reporting that CP3 will re-sign with the Clippers, Bledsoe has become somewhat expendable.

    It’s bizarre to see Bledsoe and the word "expendable" in the same sentence, but the team with the league’s best point guard can afford to move him. If nothing else, a trade will open up more playing time for Bledsoe, who would have the chance to blossom into a star with more minutes.

    Additionally, there has been no shortage of Bledsoe trade rumors recently. Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN have reported that Bledsoe could go to Utah in exchange for Millsap.

    Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports said there's a chance that Bledsoe and teammate DeAndre Jordan could be sent to Boston for future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.

    Clippers fans just need to hope that the front office doesn’t undervalue Bledsoe moving toward the deadline.

9. J.J. Redick Will Be Moved

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    J.J. Redick is experiencing a career year this season for the Orlando Magic. He’s averaging career highs in points (15.3), rebounds (2.4), assists (4.4) and field-goal percentage (45.9 percent).

    As a result of those statistics, Redick’s trade value is at an all-time high. Orlando has a lowly 15-37 record this season, so it’s safe to say they’ll be bad whether Redick is around past the deadline or not.

    Plenty of teams around the NBA could use the spark Redick provides on offense, and they may be willing to “overpay” to get him.

    ESPN’s Marc Stein stated that the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks are all interested, but that Orlando is asking for a lot in return.

    Ultimately, I believe the Magic will continue the rebuilding process by swapping Redick for some extra pieces.

8. Denver Nuggets Will Make a Move to Improve

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    Following a mediocre 17-15 start to the season, the Denver Nuggets turned things around with a six-game win streak and a nine-game win streak during January and February. They entered the All-Star break with a 33-21 mark, good enough for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

    Denver seems to be a notch above the likes of Golden State, Utah, Houston and Portland in the West, but it'll need to make a move in order to compete with the Western Conference elite.

    Pau Gasol seemed like a good fit for Denver before he got hurt. He’s a skilled big man who can rebound and score in the low post, and he is a proven champion.

    However, his foot injury, hefty contract and the fact that he’s experiencing his worst statistical season ever certainly land in the “cons” section.

    The Nuggets are a hyper-offensive team that can occasionally live and die by the three-point shot. Historically, those teams don’t tend to win championships.

    It would be tough for Denver to completely change its identity moving forward. Nevertheless, it’d benefit from cutting down its logjam of athletic wing players in order to add another interior or defensive piece.

7. Milwaukee Bucks Will Swing Deal

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    The Milwaukee Bucks are one of many teams stuck in NBA no-man’s land. In other words, they are a fringe playoff/fringe lottery team.

    The chances they compete for a championship this year are remote at best, and two of their best players have questions surrounding their futures.

    According to an article by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Brandon Jennings will explore free agency this summer. Additionally, Monta Ellis is expected to decline his $11 million option and become a free agent as well.

    The logical decision for the Bucks moving forward is to trade either Ellis or Jennings for value in return before they hit free agency. Retaining one of those two hyper-offensive guards is feasible, but keeping both around likely isn’t.

    There’s a chance that the Bucks’ trade partner moving forward will be the next team on the bold prediction countdown.

6. Utah Jazz Will Trade Millsap or Jefferson

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    Much like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Utah Jazz are in the realm of being in NBA no-man’s land.

    Although the Jazz appear to have a solid shot at the NBA playoffs, they too have question marks surrounding two solid players headed for free agency.

    Both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the key pieces in Utah’s great frontcourt, are in the final year of their contracts. It’s not financially feasible for the Jazz to retain both guys moving forward, so a trade before the deadline makes the most sense.

    Unlike Milwaukee, however, the Jazz have two young players waiting for their time to shine.

    Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have provided the Jazz with amazing frontcourt depth. Favors is likely the prime candidate to get more minutes moving forward, but the point is that the Jazz have adequate replacements if they choose to move Millsap or Jefferson.

    Whether the Millsap/Bledsoe trade comes to fruition or not, I’d be surprised if the Jazz didn’t make some type of move before the deadline.

5. There Will Be 6 or More Trades Before the Deadline

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    Prior to the 2012 NBA trade deadline, the biggest deal that took place was Milwaukee trading Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State for Monta Ellis.

    The San Antonio Spurs followed that up by trading Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson, while the Los Angeles Lakers tossed away first-round picks to get Jordan Hill and one year’s worth of Ramon Sessions.

    I expect the 2013 NBA trade deadline to be far busier than a year ago.

    There are plenty of NBA teams looking to improve, cut salary or find final pieces to the championship puzzle.

    As a general manager, you don’t want to make a deal unless it improves your team in some way. Regardless of that, there are a lot of desperate teams in today's NBA environment.

    There are poor teams looking to improve by selling tickets and teams on the fringe of a championship looking to add players to make that a reality.

    Desperation can cause snap decisions. However, I have a gut feeling that the 2013 NBA trade deadline will lead to not only a lot of activity, but also a variety of teams finding solid improvements to their rosters.

4. Brooklyn Nets Will Clear Cap Space

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    It’s no secret that the new-look Brooklyn Nets have been carefree with their spending. The Nets have the second-highest 2012-13 payroll behind the Los Angeles Lakers, but unlike the Lakers, they’ve put a competitive product on the court.

    Nevertheless, if the Nets don’t find a way to cut some payroll, they’ll be faced with debilitating luxury-tax penalties.

    Add the fact that Dwight Howard reportedly still plans to play for Brooklyn next season, according to NBA insider Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio, and that gives the Nets added incentive to cut salary from the books.

    Now, I’m going to point out some very interesting numbers tied to this Nets roster.

    Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, who are making a combined $64 million, are averaging 14.9 points and 11.4 rebounds between them.

    Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, who are making approximately $6 million combined, are averaging 13.7 points and 14.5 rebounds.

    Essentially, the Nets are getting the same production from Evans/Blatche as they are from Wallace/Humphries despite a $58 million difference in salary.

    Due to that, I expect the Nets front office to do whatever is necessary to free themselves from those contracts. It won’t be easy, but if the Nets can sweeten the pot with young players and draft picks with the intention of bringing in Howard next season, it would be hard to fault their plan of action.

    What better way to compete with a poor rebounding championship favorite (Miami) than by adding one of the league's best rebounders?

3. Boston Celtics Will Stand Pat

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    Following the news that Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and would miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season, members of the media chimed in by saying that Boston should blow up its roster and start from scratch.

    To answer those critics, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce led the Celtics to a seven-game win streak. Despite the fact that the Celts also lost Jared Sullinger (back) and Leandro Barbosa (ACL) for the season, the C’s have been playing solid enough basketball to keep playoff hopes alive.

    If the Celtics end up making a trade, the most likely candidate to be moved is KG.

    It’s hard to imagine a Celtics legend like Paul Pierce retiring in a different uniform, but Garnett has made it clear that he doesn’t want to leave either.

    According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, when asked if there was any circumstance or team destination that could woo Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause, he simply said, “No.”

    The Los Angeles Clippers seem to think they can change KG’s mind, but that statement seems pretty concrete from the future Hall of Famer. If the Celtics can’t trade Garnett, I can’t imagine them trading Pierce either.

    In terms of players with any sort of trade value, that leaves Jeff Green. The 26-year-old forward has had an up-and-down year (mostly down), and his play hasn’t justified his lofty contract.

    On that basis, there’s a chance that Boston will go back-to-back seasons without making any noise at the deadline.

2. Josh Smith Will Get Traded

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    Josh Smith’s name has fluttered around in trade rumors for what feels like a decade at this point. He is in the final year of his contract with the Atlanta Hawks, and as recently as March of last year, he wanted to be traded from Atlanta, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Smith has proven over the years that he can be a dynamic talent on both ends of the court when motivated. He’s a solid scorer and rebounder who also racks up steals and blocks with his athletic ability.

    As a result of that talent, Atlanta can’t afford to lose him for nothing this summer.

    At 27 years old, Smith is still relatively young from a basketball standpoint. However, given that the Hawks are in a pseudo-rebuilding phase following the trade that sent Joe Johnson and his gargantuan contract to Brooklyn, finding younger talent to build around could be an option.

    It appears as if the Hawks’ best chance at keeping Smith past this summer is to sign a star talent to plug in beside Smith and Al Horford.

    Since Dwight Howard looks poised to test other free-agent landing spots like Brooklyn, Houston or Dallas and Chris Paul seems to be staying put in Los Angeles, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry may have a hard time convincing Smith that Atlanta is the best place for him to win.

    Major players for Smith include Brooklyn, Boston and, according to Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter, Phoenix.

1. Los Angeles Lakers Will Trade Dwight

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    This is far and away the boldest prediction on the list (or perhaps the most foolhardy).

    It’s more than logical to believe that the Los Angeles Lakers will not trade Dwight Howard moving forward, considering that general manager Mitch Kupchak made a statement saying just that.

    However, Kupchak is no fool. If he has any inkling that Howard does not intend to stay in Los Angeles, which also seems logical given the reports that the big man still plans to play in Brooklyn next season, he needs to trade the big man for value in return.

    If Kupchak decides to part ways with the disgruntled center, reports say he’ll have full support from a powerful source.

    According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, sources have said that Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant would be fine with a Howard trade moving forward.

    Given how talented the Lakers looked on paper prior to the season and how flat-out mediocre they’ve been this year, a big shakeup could be exactly what this team needs.

    Bryant and Howard don’t appear to be worst enemies by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, Bryant’s prodding of Howard through the media has been one of the key storylines in Lakerland so far.

    When the Lakers won championships in 2009 and 2010, Bryant and Pau Gasol were leading the way. At that time, Andrew Bynum was young, injury-prone and didn’t log big minutes in the playoffs. So perhaps the Lakers’ best bet at cracking the postseason is by reverting back to what worked in the past.

    After Gasol gets back from injury, he could return to the low post, where he is most comfortable and most effective. Mike D’Antoni could continue playing Earl Clark to spread the floor, while Steve Nash gets everyone involved out of the point guard spot (instead of simply being a spot-up shooter).

    Any team trading for Howard would essentially be gambling on whether it could convince him to stick around. If the team adding Dwight is already a playoff contender, though, the addition may be enough to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.