Playing Fact or Fiction with Monday Night's NBA Trade Rumors

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

Playing Fact or Fiction with Monday Night's NBA Trade Rumors

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    NBA trade rumors continue to swirl in the days leading up to the league's Feb. 21 trade deadline.

    The remaining days and hours left before that time have been more calm-before-the-storm than thunderous activity, but there's still a wealth of names being bandied about. The question remains, though, with regard to the likelihood that any of these players files a change-of-address form before that 3 p.m. ET deadline hits.

    There are intriguing names on the market, and teams with clear needs at their positions. Whether or not these hopeful trade partners will offer the right combination of talent, financial relief and future draft picks remains to be seen.

    But that doesn't mean there isn't enough info available to make an educated guess about which, if any, of these deals will come to fruition.

Fact: Josh Smith Will Be Traded

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    The Atlanta Hawks hold the most intriguing player at the deadline in versatile forward Josh Smith.

    Given Smith's impending free agency and his reported desire to strike it rich on the free-agent market has left Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry rightfully fielding offers. The Hawks have been at the forefront of the rumor mill and reportedly have leaked their desire to trade Smith, as opposed to trying to re-sign him over the summer:

    Hawks have convinced numerous teams that Josh Smith will be moved between now and Thursday 3 PM deadline. Question remains where exactly

    — Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2013

    There are a number of reasons why the Hawks should move Smith, not the least of them being the dollar figures already running through his mind. There's also the distinct possibility that this revamped Atlanta core (Smith and Al Horford) may have peaked as a team, as no legitimate examinations of the club leave hope for them to contend with the likes of the Miami Heat, New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers.

    But it's going to have to take more than the paltry offers floated Atlanta's way thus far to get a deal done, as the Hawks don't need cap space (they've got loads of it with or without a Smith trade). They have some intriguing players in place but could stand to add some depth on both the perimeter and interior.

    I still think that something takes place between now and Thursday.

    Whether that's the Brooklyn Nets building a more formidable offer than Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, the Boston Celtics replacing Brandon Bass with a more cap-friendly contract, or even the San Antonio Spurs sneaking in with a last-minute package, someone will find a way to get Smith out of Atlanta.

Fiction: Josh Smith Will Be Traded to the Brooklyn Nets

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    The Nets can read the writing on the wall. They're talented and competitive in the East for the first time in five years, but they're not yet built to contend with the conference elites.

    And they're reportedly targeting Atlanta's Smith to change that fact:

    Brooklyn is solely focused on making a Smith deal.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    On paper, Smith is an incredible fit for Brooklyn. A front line of Smith, Gerald Wallace and All-Star Brook Lopez is as formidable as anything the East (maybe even the NBA) has to offer. Not to mention the fact that the two franchises have a recent history thanks to last summer's blockbuster deal that brought Joe Johnson to Brooklyn.

    But no matter how deep owner Mikhail Prokhorov's pockets may be, there has to be a limit on how many major contracts one team can add. The money that this team owes Wallace, Lopez, Johnson and Deron Williams is staggering. Yes, even with Prokhorov's bankroll.

    Ferry's not looking to bring back expensive talent in exchange for Smith, so already Brooklyn's top four players are removed from the equation. Sophomore guard MarShon Brooks is mildly intriguing, but he was a far more valuable piece as a 12.6-points-per-game scorer as a rookie, than a 5.1-points-per-game scorer in his second season.

    Unless Brooklyn can flip some of its bench pieces for at least one more name to put alongside Brooks (someone a little more talented than the Charlotte Bobcats' Ben Gordon if that's where you were headed), the Nets' trade season will be marked more for its effort than its activity.

Fact: The Minnesota Timberwolves Will Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline

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    With the Minnesota Timberwolves emerging as this year's most unlucky franchise, there was a wide-held belief that the guard-heavy team would simply be facilitators at the trade deadline.

    The combination of Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour figured to lead the franchise to cash out on (at least) one of their point guards in an effort to retool for next season, when it will presumably return a healthy Kevin Love alongside Rubio.

    But recent reports suggest that may not be the case:

    Minnesota has been aggressive in offering multiple first-round picks for established talent, league sources tell Y!

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    There's a chance that Barea or Ridnour is dealt alongside one or more of these draft picks, but it won't be a fire-sale move by any stretch.

    The Timberwolves aren't making postseason plans for this season, but their interest in adding proven talent may have something to do with Love's apparent discontent and the fact that the forward can opt out of his current deal after the 2014-15 season.

    Assuming Love does exercise his opt-out clause, that leaves two seasons for the Minnesota front office to find enough proven talent to lead to the sustained success that he so badly wants. The fact that this is an underwhelming draft class removes the shock value from seeing the 'Wolves dangle multiple first-round picks. It also likely drives down the value of those on the trade market.

    But even in down years, teams are always seeking to add young, inexpensive players. If the Phoenix Suns can't land any of the big names they're targeting, they could do a lot worse than to breathe some youthful energy into their roster.

Fiction: The Portland Trail Blazers Will Trade J.J. Hickson

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    Thanks to the emergence of Rookie of the Year front-runner Damian Lillard and another All-Star season from LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers are once again a playoff contender in the West.

    But a recent five-game skid has them sitting on the outside looking in, and an encouraging effort of late from the Los Angeles Lakers threatens to slide Portland further down the conference ladder.

    As talented as the Portland starters are, its bench is equally horrific. That's led to Portland gauging interest for their starting center, J.J. Hickson:

    Portland still willing to move J.J. Hickson, but hasn't found an appealing offer yet, sources tell Y!

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    This isn't a bad strategy for Portland GM Neil Olshey—on paper.

    In reality, though, the expected losses in a potential Hickson deal far outweigh the gains.

    For starters, one would assume the trade would not be for an upgrade at the center position, but rather multiple pieces to shore up that second unit. While Hickson has put forth a respectable season (12.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game), he's not likely to bring back massive improvements over those already on Portland's woeful bench.

    And if Portland fails to replace Hickson in a trade, it's putting a lot of pressure on the shoulders of rookie Meyers Leonard. Maybe Leonard is a beast on the practice floor, because his 14.8 minutes per game has not shown near enough to comfortably assume that he's up for a dramatic increase in responsibility.

Fact: The Orlando Magic Will Trade J.J. Redick

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    The Orlando Magic figured to be in line for a massive roster overhaul, and that's exactly where they stand.

    At 15-37, the Magic hold the second-worst record in the NBA; they have just three wins to their credit for the entire 2013 calendar year. So it goes without saying that Magic guard (and free-agent-to-be) J.J. Redick has been a mainstay on the rumor circuit throughout the season:

    Teams trying to trade for J.J. Redick surveying cost to re-sign him in summer. If Bucks move a starting guard, he's a major target for them.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    Certainly there are arguments to be made to keep Redick in Orlando. The team is running out of any marketable talent to sell to the fanbase, and Redick (15.3 points and 4.4 assists per game) may be the best the Magic have to offer right now.

    And while he's in line for a pay raise over the summer, it's unlikely he'll command anything close to top dollar.

    But this is precisely the type of trade that the Magic need to make to speed up their rebuilding process. Redick's the best possible option for teams looking to upgrade their perimeter attack, and the fact that teams are seeing him beyond a half-season rental hints as to where his price tag currently sits.

    If the Magic can pair Redick with one of their atrocious contracts (Hedo Turkoglu or Al Harrington), then they scour the free-agent market to fill multiple needs.

Fiction: The Phoenix Suns Will Acquire Josh Smith

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    The Phoenix Suns want a star player to sell to their perplexed fanbase. The value that James Harden has brought to the Houston Rockets, or, to a lesser extent, Rudy Gay has given to the Toronto Raptors has only fueled that desire.

    The Suns aggressively tried to pry Eric Gordon from New Orleans over the summer, but the Hornets matched their maximum contract offer. They then fell unsuccessful in their efforts to land Gay from the Grizzlies.

    Now, the Suns reportedly have their sights set on Josh Smith:

    One more: In Josh Smith derby, several teams believe Suns are determined for deal after missing on Eric Gordon and Rudy Gay in past months.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    Phoenix may well have the most compelling package of proven talent that the Hawks will see, in center Marcin Gortat and wing Jared Dudley. But neither player comes cheap, as Gortat has one year and $7.7 million left on his deal, and Dudley is still owed $12.75 million over the next three seasons (assuming he exercises his $4.25 million player option in 2015-16).

    Unless the Hawks feel like Gortat and Dudley are their missing pieces (they shouldn't), then the Suns won't find their way to a winning bid for Smith. As the Suns' Western Conference-worst 17-36 record suggests, there just aren't many compelling players to be had.

Fact: The Los Angeles Lakers Will Acquire Raja Bell

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    If you'd forgotten that Raja Bell was still in the NBA, don't beat yourself up about it. There's a reason for that.

    The 36-year-old hasn't played a single game this season after he and the Utah Jazz were unable to negotiate a buy-out over the summer. He has not been with the team all season, instead biding his time through individual workouts.

    But that reportedly hasn't diminished the Lakers' interest in acquiring the veteran:

    Mike D'Antoni has remained intrigued with bringing exiled Jazz guard Raja Bell to Lakers, sources say.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013

    Wojnarowski has long been reporting D'Antoni's interest in Bell (via Yahoo! Sports). And according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Kobe Bryant tried to bring Bell to the Lakers two seasons ago.

    He's not the young, athletic wing that the team really needs. But he is a pesky, veteran defender, and his career 40.6 three-point percentage would be a welcome addition to D'Antoni's rotation.

    There's no guarantees about how much he has left in the tank (although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the perimeter in 34 games last season). And one can only speculate just how strenuous those individual workouts have been.

    But with L.A. handcuffed by numerous costly contracts, Bell could be one of the few potential deals that it could actually see through. Utah's asking price cannot be too high considering anything it could get for him in return would simply be a bonus.