4 Storylines to Watch as the NBA Trade Deadline Nears
The NBA trade deadline is inching closer, and teams around the league are hitting the phones trying to get a deal done before 3 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Rumors are flying and it looks like some big names could be on the move if teams get the right deals worked out.
This season, the motivations of several teams in the mix are shrouded in uncertainty as the deadline nears. The results of deadline moves could go a long way towards defining the outlook for these teams going forward this season.
Whether motivated by salary issues, title aspirations or the decision to build for the future, potential deals are flying out of the rumor mill with less than 24 hours to go.
Here's a look at the biggest news items to look out for as NBA GMs hit crunch time.
Where Will Josh Smith Land?
Several big names have been floated in trade rumors over the past several days, but none more concrete than those surrounding Atlanta Hawks star Josh Smith.
Smith has been a polarizing figure during his time in Atlanta. He has been a consistent scorer for the team during their recent string of playoff runs, but he's prone to taking bad shots and has also been a headache for the Hawks.
Smith is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and has voiced his desire to be a max-contract player where he signs next. Any deal involving Smith would come with the knowledge that they'd be negotiating his next deal very soon.
Smith and the Hawks have had their issues, and given that he'll probably walk in the Summer anyway, the team is aggressively shopping the star.
Given the questionable availability of other top stars potentially on the block, several teams have come inquiring to the Hawks about Smith despite his faults. His name's come up in talks with the Nets, Bucks and Suns just to name a few.
The Hawks are still a playoff team so they'll need to get value back if they're going to deal a scorer like Smith. It looks like someone will pay the price though, so look for Smith to be out of Atlanta when trading closes on Thursday.
What Do the Boston Celtics Do?
The Boston Celtics may have the biggest range of options of any team heading into the trade deadline.
With Rajon Rondo down for the season, many are wondering if it's time for the Celtics to blow it up. First it was talks to send Kevin Garnett to the Clippers, but several complications, including Garnett's no-trade clause, seem to have squashed any hope of a KG deal getting done.
Paul Pierce's name has also come up for the Celtics, with reports showing the Nets inquiring about the long-time Celtics star. The package the Nets are offering seems to be too low for general manager Danny Ainge to give away Pierce, especially with Garnett insisting he wants to stick around in Boston.
The most recent trade talks surrounding the Celtics have centered around injured point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo's injury was a setback for Boston, but with Pierce and Garnett on the way out, Rondo appears to be the future in Boston. The price would have to be pretty high for Ainge to part with the young star.
Fab Melo's name has been included in talks to acquire a guard who can pick up minutes lost by Rondo and Leandro Barbosa, who was also lost for the season to injury.
Despite all these big names circulating around the rumor mill, it looks like the Celtics are going to more or less stand pat or make a smaller deal to shore up the lineup for one last playoff run.
Can the Nets Swing a Deal?
The Brooklyn Nets think they're one star player away from being a serious threat to Miami in the East, and they have been aggressively pursuing several stars teams may be willing to trade.
The Nets have come up in deals involving both Josh Smith and Paul Pierce as noted earlier, and there have also been apparent talks about Ben Gordon and Paul Millsap, among others.
Brooklyn's biggest issue may be that it doesn't have many desirable pieces to give back in any deal for a star player. The Nets have been shopping Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks in their potential deals.
Humphries isn't a particularly desirable player, especially with his past off-the-court problems, and while Brooks is a nice young player with potential, this combo isn't one that's turning heads in other NBA front offices.
It's clear that Brooklyn wants something to get done to bolster their roster and get a spark going into the second half, but Nets GM Billy King won't force something that isn't there. If King isn't willing to give up more than Humphries and Brooks, the Nets may have to sit back and watch the deadline pass by.
Does Utah Deal Their Big Men?
The Utah Jazz have two stars up front with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, but both those players are on contracts that expire this season.
Coupled with the fact that the Jazz have depth in the frontcourt with young talent Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors coming off the bench, Utah can afford to deal Millsap or Jefferson for the right price.
The Jazz have struggled to find the right move as of yet, however. There have been rumors linking the Jazz to Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe, but financial issues seem to have dampened those talks.
Derrick Williams has also been mentioned in a potential Millsap deal with the Timberwolves, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard.
The Jazz are in the thick of the playoff hunt in the West though, and Jefferson and Millsap are key contributors on the team.
The Jazz can also afford to be picky, as they can wait for these salaries to come off the books and explore their options again at the end of the season if nothing enticing comes up before Thursday.