NBA Trade Rumors: Playing Fact or Fiction with Biggest Buzz Prior to Deadline

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

Feb 11, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) drives against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Hawks beat the Mavs 105-101. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the impending NBA trade deadline causing a cavernous swarm of rumors to come from all across the land, it's become nearly impossible to sift through the speculation.

The line between what's real and what's mere speculation has become almost blurred beyond recognition. And that's especially true when considering the amount of top-flight players being bandied about this February. 

All-Star starters Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett have both been thrown in trade rumors of late, and Josh Smith's name obviously looms over everything. The Atlanta Hawks' forward is the biggest domino waiting to be dropped, with his impending trade to wherever likely sparking a rampant wave of deals.

Will Garnett or Howard be among those players moved? Let's check out the latest rumblings around the rumor mill and break out everyone's favorite trade deadline trope—fact or fiction—while we're at it. 

Lakers Still Refusing to Deal Dwight Howard?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been adamant that they won't trade Dwight Howard prior to Thursday's deadline. General manager Mitch Kupchak has said that both to Howard privately and to the media publicly on more than one occasion.

That has not derailed the D12 speculation one bit. Chris Sheridan of (h/t CBS New York) put the odds at 50/50 that Howard will be traded this week, once again mentioning the Brooklyn Nets as the most likely suitor. 

Nevertheless, sources continue to tell USA Today's Sam Amick that Howard won't be on the move:

I'm far more inclined to believe Amick for obvious reasons. First and foremost, Kupchak hasn't wavered whatsoever about trading Howard. And though he could have been doing that simply to keep his center's trade value from plummeting, we're far too close to the deadline for any of that shenanigans. If Howard was attainable, he would have been moved already or we would have heard.

What's more, it doesn't behoove the Lakers to trade Howard in any way, shape or form. Believe it or not, this team's goal is still to win an NBA championship. That has not wavered despite all of the controversy and the Lakers still think they have enough talent to make it happen.

Even though most have chalked that up to foolery this season, Howard also holds the key to the Lakers' future. Without Howard, this isn't a team that's running on fumes. It's one that ran out of gas years ago. Howard is the only building block piece on this roster below age 30, and it's his presence that the entire organization is counting on to attract free agents a couple years down the line.

The Lakers are going to dangle the extra $30 million they can offer and hope Howard takes the bait. That's their plan. The only semblance of a Plan B is a sign-and-trade deal this summer when/if Howard makes it abundantly clear that's the only way he puts his name on the dotted line.

It's a calculated risk, but ultimately a smart one. Howard would be a historical anomaly if he walked away from $30 million, and it would take the Lakers .3 seconds to convince Brooklyn to send Brook Lopez in a sign-and-trade swap this summer.

Howard isn't going anywhere this February because he never was. Period.

Verdict: Fact

Clippers' Potential Deal for Kevin Garnett Rests in CP3's Hands?

Though the Boston Celtics were rampaging through the league prior to the All-Star break, the possibility of Danny Ainge setting the detonator on this roster remains. Kevin Garnett has been linked with the Los Angeles Clippers for weeks and Paul Pierce would almost immediately follow the Big Ticket out the door if a trade came to fruition.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), it does not look like Ainge will have the opportunity to press the "Boston Celtics go boom" button. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers have pulled out of trade talks that would send Garnett to Los Angeles for DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.

And the only person that can re-invigorate those talks is not in either front office. Per Wojnarowski, it's Clippers point guard Chris Paul:

For now, the Los Angeles Clippers have terminated talks with the Boston Celtics on a Kevin Garnett for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan trade, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Celtics have been eager to continue the conversation on the deal, but league sources said the talks will remain dormant unless Clippers star Chris Paul pushes the issue with management.

This may be the biggest "fact" verdict of the year. Paul's desires control the Clippers' desire to complete a trade for Garnett. If CP3 wants to bring in KG to make a run at a championship, then the Clippers will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Why? Because Paul has been the de facto general manager of the Clippers ever since being traded there prior to last season. The Clippers are so deathly (and rightly) afraid that Paul will leave during the offseason via free agency that they will essentially cater to his every whim until he signs on the dotted line.

That's still true despite all indications being that Paul will be coming back next season. The Clippers are a fringe title contender without Garnett and will be in a far better place than any possible suitor on the market.

But if Paul says "get me Garnett," then you better believe the Clippers will be offering Bledsoe and Jordan—which is a massive overpay, for what it's worth—to give their star what he wants. Once that name is signed this summer, though, expect much of that power to swing back Donald Sterling's way.

Verdict: Fact.

Brooklyn the Favorites to Land Josh Smith?

Throughout the season, I was long on the bandwagon saying Josh Smith would play out his contract with the Hawks and leave during the offseason. Danny Ferry wanted cap room, and trading Smith just to avoid losing him for nothing seemed short-sighted.

Well, as we get closer to the deadline, it's become readily apparent that Smith will be traded by Thursday. The situation is far too toxic and too many teams have made overtures for nothing to come to pass.

One question remains: Where does he go? According to what a source told ESPN's Marc Stein, the Nets have slowly crept into the clubhouse lead at the moment:

One team close to the situation consulted Monday night predicted that the Nets would ultimately land Smith via a three-way trade after ESPN's Chris Broussard reported Feb. 11 that Smith is a prime Brooklyn Nets trade target. 

Though, in a perfect world, Brooklyn would love to land Smith, finding a third team could prove to be exceedingly difficult. The Nets have a multitude of unattractive contracts and a dearth of young talent, exactly the combination that usually scares off all trade suitors.

Case in point: Any third team would have to be willing to take on the $12 million owed to Kris Humphries next season. Though he had seemingly morphed into a double-double machine the past two years, Humphries' play has cratered in 2012-13. He's averaging just 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season, while shooting a paltry 43.5 percent from the floor. 

Excuse the other 29 franchises if they aren't going out of their way to make this deal happen. Humphries is a league-average (at best) player with a huge salary in 2013-14—and we're not even going to go near his massive off-the-court baggage.

Unless some team still thinks MarShon Brooks has Sixth Man of the Year potential and is willing to take back Humphries to test that hypothesis, the Nets have nothing to offer. And that's all discounting whomever the third party would give to the Hawks to make this deal all happen.

If some owner around the league is feeling charitable and wants to see the Larry O'Brien Trophy make a trip to the Carter-Knowles house, then I guess anything is possible. But with so many other teams chasing after Smith, Brooklyn simply does not have the assets to pull off a deal, three-team or otherwise.

Verdict: Fiction