The 2013 NBA trading deadline is not like other trading deadlines.
After last year's CBA negotiations, there are a whole slew of clauses and financial impingements that go into effect next year.
Consequently, the usual salary dumps for a draft pick that used to occur at the deadline have vanished into thin air this year.
There are only two reasons to make a deal before Thursday afternoon: getting something for a prospective free agent you don't plan to sign or getting rid of enough salary to come in under the luxury tax line.
The latter is pretty straightforward. You want to get something for the player instead of nothing, but the recipient needs to be confident either that they'll sign the free-agent-to-be that the player is a very worthy rental.
As for managing salaries, this will become a delicate dance around the luxury tax where each team will be in close contact with its accountant.
As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote, "Starting this summer, teams whose post-trade payrolls exceed the luxury-tax line by more than $4 million will not be permitted to acquire a player in a sign-and-trade." But I love sign-and-trades!
So with some teams jockeying for playoff position and others rejigging their roster and payroll ahead of free agency, what are the deals that just plain make sense? Well, there are only five of them.
Pretty much the only trade amidst all the swirling rumors that makes 100 percent sense is the Los Angeles Clippers sending Eric Bledsoe to the Utah Jazz for Paul Millsap.
Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein from ESPN reported that sources said the two teams were talking.
ESPN's Bradford Doolittle observed how much sense the trade makes in his article on Monday (subscription required).
Essentially, the Jazz want a point guard upgrade from Mo Williams who has been out with a thumb injury; the Clippers want a power forward to give them greater depth with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. They would also likely give up Caron Butler in the trade.
Utah is looking at both Millsap and Al Jefferson hitting free agency this offseason, and they can't sign both. Jefferson is the superior talent and the player that conventional wisdom would dictate should be retained.
The Clippers would be formidable if they could lock Millsap up to a long-term deal and pair him with Griffin at forward. Millsap brings a serviceable post game and would strengthen their rebounding too.
L.A. has Bledsoe locked up to a cheap deal and he won't hit restricted free agency until 2014. But they also have Chris Paul, who is all but certain to sign a sizable contract extension in the offseason.
This season, Bledsoe has shined coming off the bench and starting for an injured CP3 at times.
Bledsoe's stats per 36 minutes are impressive (15.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.4 blocks), but he struggles with turnovers (3.2 per 36).
He also has not shown a consistent ability to knock down perimeter jump shots, so he could be outplaying his ability. The Clippers might view this as an opportunity to sell high.
Both players fill a need area for the other team, and this is a deal that should go down.
The Atlanta Hawks have announced to the world that they intend to trade Josh Smith sometime this week, and that news has set off a firestorm around the NBA.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources linking Smith as a trade candidate for no less than five teams. That number is believed to have been even bigger.
So who's gonna land the big fish at the trading deadline? Well, it all depends on what each suitor has to offer.
The Boston Celtics could send Paul Pierce. The Phoenix Suns could send Marcin Gortat and Sebastian Telfair. The Dallas Mavericks could send...um...okay, Mark Cuban will get back to you on that.
But the Hawks reportedly have their eye on one of the girls at the dance this year. ESPN's Marc Stein quotes a source saying the Hawks are interested in Monta Ellis of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Now that could be a beautiful friendship. The Bucks brought Ellis over in exchange for Andrew Bogut, but pairing him in the backcourt with Brandon Jennings hasn't proved to be the symphony that Milwaukee hoped for.
Ellis is expected to decline his player option and test free agency, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The Hawks evidently do not plan to re-sign Smith, but they do like getting Ellis in the backcourt with Jeff Teague, so that could be their long-term plan.
The Bucks could also use an All-Star caliber player like Smith to stuff the stat sheet. The current Bucks starting frontcourt consists of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Samuel "Slammy D" Dalembert.
Milwaukee would also have an advantage come free agency time. While other teams would be restricted to offering Smith a four-year contract, the team that retains his Bird rights through a trade would have the leverage of being able to offer a five-year deal.
J.J. Redick is a sharp-shooting guard who's enjoying a career year. The problem is that he plays for the Orlando Magic. He's a free agent in the coming offseason and he's a prime trade candidate for a rebuilding team.
But for some reason, Redick likes playing in Orlando (per the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz).
Nevertheless, this is a business and Orlando has already invested heavily in Arron "Aflac" Afflalo. They would also have the advantage of Jennings becoming a restricted free agent in the summer, meaning they would have right of first refusal on him.
Redick is an unrestricted free agent, meaning Orlando would have to battle the market for him.
The Milwaukee Bucks backcourt pairing of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings has been less than successful. Bucks blogger K.L. Chouinard gave an interesting breakdown of their lackluster guard play.
ESPN's Chard Ford reported on February 13 that Jennings had "irreconcilable differences" with the Bucks, but that has been downplayed since.
And Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that Redick could be a "major target" for Milwaukee. The Bucks would have to be certain that they would sign the Duke product before they pull the trigger on a trade, but they certainly seem motivated to retain him.
While this is essentially a swap of guards, each teams gets a player that is arguably a better fit in their scheme and on their payroll.
This would also take a little bit of fiddling with at ESPN's mighty Trade Machine, but it would not be hard to pull off if both sides are motivated.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Toronto Raptors want to give Andrea Bargnani to the Philadelphia 76ers. The only question is what do they want in return for the Italian big man.
Amico cites the suspicion of a "Western Conference executive" that it would be Spencer Hawes.
This is the same Hawes that the Philadelphia Inquirer's John Mitchell reported the Atlanta Hawks were seeking along with Evan Turner in a swap for Josh Smith. And the Sixers said no?
Similarly, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote a week before the deadline that according to league sources, the Raptors could get Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson for Bargnani and John Lucas III "whenever they wanted." And they won't do that deal?
Despite the Toronto Star's Doug Smith quoting a source on Monday as saying that it "looks like the summer" will be when the Raptors move Bargnani, this trade makes sense for both teams.
Bargnani, provided he can stay healthy, would bring some much needed offense to the Sixers. He has a career scoring average of 15.4 points per game and he put up 21.4 a night back in 2010-11. Philly averages 92.3 points per game, the second lowest total in the NBA.
Hawes is posting 10.2 points a game this season, but he has not proven to be a consistent scorer, unlike Bargnani. On the other hand, Hawes is the superior rebounder.
He would be a better fit in Toronto alongside Jonas Valanciunas and the emerging Amir Johnson.
Bargnani also makes $3.5 million more than Hawes, so Toronto would have to take on another player's salary (I hope it's Kwame Brown!) or get a third team involved.
The Chicago Bulls are right up against the cap, and they must be shaking in their boots about the new luxury tax. It's worth noting that the Bulls have never paid the luxury tax.
Generally, people in Chicago don't like to pay taxes; that's how Eliott Ness got Al Capone.
For months now, it has been rumored that they are willing to trade the man in the mask, Richard Hamilton, to get rid of his $5 million salary through next year and avoid a year of "repeater-tax."
Hamilton is again, yes, but he can still score on the wing and run an offense when asked to. And he brings a strong veteran presence to the locker room.
The Southwest can be a nice place for an older player to go and stay limber in the twilight of his career. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Phoenix Suns were reported to have interest in Hamilton way back in December (via Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago).
Hamilton also considers new interim Suns coach Lindsey Hunter his "main man," as he tweeted back in January:
Congrats to my main man Lindsey Hunter on getting intern job for the Suns. Holdat.
— Rip Hamilton (@ripcityhamilton) January 21, 2013
The Bulls could swap Rip for someone on an expiring contract (like Wesley Johnson) and use their trade exception from Kyle Korver.
Hamilton would have to settle for playing on a lottery team, but there are worse ways to spend your days than chilling in Phoenix with your main man.