As all eyes are glued to the 2013 NBA playoffs, countless stars are left on the outside looking in as their respective teams have come up short of their title dreams. While some are already gearing up for 2013-14, other players are without the luxury of knowing where they'll be next season.
Believe it or not, even the stars who are under contract could be in danger of being dealt during the upcoming offseason.
When a trade transpires in the NBA, we often see role players or less established younger talent change teams. On the off chance a star-caliber player is dealt, however, the league instantly takes notice.
More times than not, the NBA's playoff structure is severely impacted.
This coming offseason, when players such as Chris Paul and Dwight Howard become free agents, that's likely to happen via the signing process. With certain teams looking for a fresh start and others hoping to acquire their final piece, however, trades will take center stage at point or another.
So who are the prime candidates to be traded?
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Pau Gasol is aware of the fact that his Lakers tenure could be over. This comes after he met with general manager Mitch Kupchak and failed to receive a definitive answer to questions pertaining to his future.
Yet another day in the life of the embattled Laker.
“(Kupchak) couldn’t really tell me, ‘Hey, thanks for everything you’ve done, it’s more likely you’re going to be gone,’ or no, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to stay here. We’re going to make it happen,’” Gasol said. “Which is to be expected. I appreciate Mitch’s honesty and everything that he’s done and the franchise has done for the last two years to keep me here and have me on the team.”
That last statement is in reference to the infamous Chris Paul trade that would have sent Gasol to the Houston Rockets.
Come the offseason, the annual Gasol-related trade rumors will roll around again as everyone with the slightest bit of basketball knowledge will debate where he may end up. Regardless of where he goes, one thing is clear.
Gasol is in serious danger of being dealt during the upcoming period of free agency.
Fortunately for the Spanish big man, he made a lasting impression in the eyes of general managers everywhere. During his final seven games of the 2012-13 season, Gasol recorded three separate triple-doubles.
When healthy, Gasol remains one of the best players in the world and will be treated as such during trade season.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
According to John Reid of The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Pelicans have not closed the door on a potential trade involving Eric Gordon. This comes less than 12 months after re-signing Gordon to a max contract deal.
Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was ambiguous on the idea of bringing Gordon back.
"To say if I anticipate him being back – I don’t know if that’s something I can answer right now, or him not to be back,’’ Demps said. "We’re going to sit down and evaluate every situation and opportunity.
"But for a guy to come back from injury like that, I thought he had some ups and some downs, but I still think his future is bright as an NBA player.’’
The general consensus is that Demps is right about Gordon's future.
With that being said, Gordon's time in New Orleans has been nothing short of turbulent. In his two seasons with the team, he's missed 97 of a possible 148 games due to injury.
Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story.
During the 2012 offseason, Gordon said he would be "disappointed" if the Pelicans matched the offer sheet extended by the Phoenix Suns (via The Times-Picayune). For those who don't understand, he was saying he wanted to play with Phoenix instead of New Orleans.
The Pelicans failed to oblige and thus re-signed a disgruntled star with knee issues.
During the course of the season, the Pelicans' patience with Gordon has run thin. Not only were injuries an issue, but Gordon also got into a verbal altercation with head coach Monty Williams in the middle of a game.
After the Pelicans unsuccessfully shopped him at the trade deadline, expect Gordon to be dealt this summer.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com, the Indiana Pacers were open to dealing Danny Granger at the 2013 NBA trade deadline. Since then, Paul George has moved to small forward and won the Most Improved Player of the Year award, while Granger has played in just four games.
That certainly sounds like grounds for executing a trade.
Granger can still be a highly effective player along the perimeter, as he plays rugged defense and shoots with limitless range. The question for the Pacers just so happens to be the most damaging one of all.
Where does he fit into their long-term future?
George has the small forward position locked down, and Lance Stephenson, 22, has made tremendous strides at shooting guard. Unless Granger is to play shooting guard, Indiana is in an interesting predicament.
Dealing Granger while his value is still high could be their only option.
David West is set to become a free agent, and the Pacers must do all they can to either re-sign him or replace him. If they're unable to do the former, dealing Granger for a high-quality frontcourt player would certainly be an option.
Regardless of where he ends up, Granger's name is certain to circulate on draft night and throughout the offseason.