The NBA rumor mill has been especially quiet recently, but the lack of activity on the trade market could prove to be the calm before the storm.
Since the three-team deal between the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 30, no team has completed anything that even resembles a trade. Names have been bandied about, but every rumor has been squashed by coaches and general managers hoping to keep their teams focused on the task at hand.
Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith have all come up in trade talk—to name just a fraction of the players who have garnered speculation in the last month. Rondo and Gasol are on the shelf, Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has vehemently denied that he will trade Howard.
So why should we believe much is going to happen at the deadline? Because that’s the way the NBA works.
Teams are constantly in discussions about potential trades, keeping phone lines and dialogue open for other executives to hit them with an offer that makes too much sense to not accept. No contract is unmovable, and almost every player has the potential to be traded at any given time for the right offer.
That’s not to say that every player should be looking for a real estate agent in every NBA city, but there are more tradable players in the league than there are untradable players. It all boils down to money—and finding the best way to avoid spending too much of it.
Which team is most likely to be active before the February 21 trade deadline?
The NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates new luxury tax restrictions for the 2012-13 season and beyond. As part of the CBA, teams over the luxury tax threshold will be penalized far greater than in years past, meaning toxic contracts and massive overspending just aren’t as feasible in the long-term as they once were (h/t ESPN).
With the new luxury tax restrictions just starting to take hold, almost all NBA franchises are looking for ways to spend less and win more. Between the teams that are in rebuilding mode, teams that are gearing up for a playoff push and those that simply need to cut spending, there is a lot of opportunity for major deals to shake up the NBA landscape in the coming days.
The Feb. 21 deadline hasn’t exactly snuck up on anyone, but things have been quiet. The CBA creates a lot of complicated measures to complete a deal, and a lot goes on behind the scenes that fans aren’t privy to. It’s why the biggest deals often seem to emerge from the woodwork at the last second, and why the majority of trade rumors evaporate before they ever get started.
We may not see a lot of deals that completely reshape the playoff picture, but don’t expect every franchise to be silent at the trade deadline. Money talks, and there’s a lot of it to be moved.
Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers understands the financial factors behind trades, as quoted by Jodie Valade of Cleveland.com.
“Usually you see the name trades. Now you'll see guys and think, 'Why would they do this trade?’ It's an economic trade.”
Those “economic trades” will be more and more prevalent in the coming seasons as teams adjust to the CBA’s new luxury tax restrictions. Don’t be surprised if a few are made before the deadline this year.