This time of the year—on the precipice of the NBA Finals—is the trickiest time for teams to discuss possible offseason moves.
While 27 of the league's 30 teams are chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool on a beach somewhere, no moves can actually go down yet. There can be talk, rumblings and innuendo, but having a serious conversation about a possible trade before the NBA Finals is like talking about what food you'll order three weeks in advance of your dinner reservation.
Too much can change for anything substantial to go down. Plus, there's the whole fact that you're not allowed to make deals now. That's always a deterrent.
Instead, this is about the time of the year that the rumors hotbed—the thing that will keep us sane through the melancholic months without NBA hoops—gets underway. We don't know who will be traded, but we're getting a good idea regarding who might be. And for the forlorn NBA fan in your life, that's often just as good.
The false trades often create more of a discussion than the consummated ones, with each fanbase talking themselves into a "one trade away" tizzy that tends to happen right around midnight at a local bar.
Alas, the trade rumor mill has arrived. So fire up the trade machine and get ready because, well, it's a long time until Halloween. With that in mind, let's take a look at all the latest info on some big names that could be sent elsewhere this summer.
Rockets "Determined" to Trade Thomas Robinson to Free Up Cap Space?
With almost super-max-level salary cap room heading into this summer, the Rockets will undoubtedly be one of the summer's most talked-about teams. They'll be in the market for a superstar to pair with James Harden, and they don't have much time to waste.
The overarching (and correct) sentiment is that the Rockets' No. 1 target will be Dwight Howard. Despite having Asik on the books next season, Howard represents a crowned jewel-type talent for Houston's one-in-four-out spread system—even at the diminished capacity we saw last season. Alongside Harden and Chandler Parsons, Howard could help form one of the most formidable threesomes in the entire league.
One problem: Houston doesn't have quite enough cap space to offer Howard the full maximum of four years and $87 million as a non-Bird free agent. Using simple deductive reasoning—that the Rockets will exercise options on Parsons (duh), Patrick Beverley (again, duh) and Greg Smith while dumping everything else—you could easily get the Rockets somewhere in the $17-18 million range under the cap, assuming a $60 million spending limit.
These are rough cuts because the NBA won't officially set the cap until July, but you get the point. Houston will need to shave costs wherever it possibly can to make luring Howard a possibility.
It seems as though the Rockets have found a semi-shocking way to save costs. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Houston is "determined" to trade 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson to the highest bidder.
The Rockets acquired Robinson in a midseason trade with the Sacramento Kings, who surprisingly gave up on the former Kansas star less than a season after drafting him. Robinson failed to crack the rotation in Sacramento, then looked like a terrible fit after coming over to Houston.
Though still young, Robinson's lack of developed outside game really hurt his chances with the Rockets. The spread system can only subsist when Lin and Harden have lanes to drive through, and that's not happening when Robinson and Asik share the floor.
With Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones on the roster, Robinson's long-term projections with Houston are nil. Being traded twice within a calendar year isn't exactly ideal, but perhaps this time around, Robinson can find a home where the team actually plans on using him.
Magic Offering Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe?
For a team like the Magic, in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, vested veterans serve little purpose. Their talent level and tenure necessitates the distribution of minutes that could go elsewhere, while their career trajectory works as a polar opposite of the team's long-term plans. They're essentially nuisances.
Such is the case with Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo. The 27-year-old guard was part of the Dwight Howard haul and was something of an experimental acquisition. Long viewed as one of the NBA's most underrated two-way talents, some posited a theory that Afflalo would flourish as the de facto top offensive option in Orlando.
That didn't happen, though. Afflalo essentially turned in a less-efficient version of the season that he had a year prior with the Nuggets, and his increased offensive responsibilities hurt his ability to dominate the wings defensively. That's fine. Afflalo is who he is, and that's still a very good player.
He's just not someone who's likely in the Magic's long-term plans. And after seeing a possibly attractive opportunity out there on the market, it's become clear that Orlando is willing to deal Afflalo for the right price.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford, that price is Los Angeles Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe. In the rumored deal, the Magic would also take the expiring contract of Caron Butler off of Los Angeles' hands and free up about $2 million in Donald Sterling's pocketbook.
Whether the Clippers have any interest in dealing Bledsoe is wholly dependent on the fate of Chris Paul. Should CP3 choose to bolt—a possibility that looks to be increasing, according to ESPN'S Chris Broussard—Los Angeles would then reply to all Bledsoe inquiries with two-word responses beginning in an expletive and ending in "no."
Beyond that, one wonders whether Afflalo has enough appeal to make the Clippers pull the trigger. He's a very good shooting guard who would help the Clips in a myriad of ways, but there's been a ton of interest in Bledsoe around the league. There are some who view Bledsoe as a possible two-way star should he get an increase in minutes, which is an impossibility with Paul hanging around.
It may get the point where the other 29 franchises know that the Clippers will have to deal Bledsoe and his stock goes down. In which case, Afflalo would probably be about the right price, but don't go fishing for definitive answers before July because they're not coming.
Zach Randolph's Future a "Question Mark" in Memphis?
The Memphis Grizzlies' run to the Western Conference Finals was unquestionably one of this postseason's better stories. Their "grit and grind" style brought back memories of a simpler time in the NBA, where small ball was that thing you did in triple-overtime games after all your bigs had already fouled out.
Leading that charge, of course, was the duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph, the half-man-half-teddy bear and reformed "Jail Blazer," was the pulverizing low-post presence who got by by making shots that looked impossible. Gasol, known colloquially as Pau's chubby little brother until about 2008, had developed into the game's best center. These two formed a two-way combination that included nearly everything an NBA team looks for in their big men.
But just when it looked like the "Artists Formerly Known as the Vancouver Grizzlies" were going to make the NBA Finals , the Spurs came along and swatted Memphis like a gnat with a four-game sweep, and the fun was gone.
While everyone seemed quick to write a glowing postmortem about this team, they are ignoring the biggest overarching question: "What comes next?" New ownership has led an analytics-heavy approach by hiring John Hollinger as their Vice President of Basketball Operations and jettisoning former franchise-face Rudy Gay, who just about every numbers-cruncher would tell you isn't a superstar.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the future of Randolph in Memphis may be the biggest question of all for the team heading into the offseason:
The future of Randolph in Memphis is another question mark after the Grizzlies’ struggles, and Randolph’s in particular, in their four straight defeats to San Antonio. Randolph drew interest from other teams before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, and, with more than $34 million left on his contract over the next two seasons, could well find himself in play to help Memphis build a more balanced team by addressing its ongoing lack of floor-spacers on the perimeter and rotation depth.
Stein notes that Gasol and ascending point guard Mike Conley are the only two untouchables on the roster. It's an understandable position to take. Gasol is the best center in basketball, and Conley is an above-average point guard on a pretty good contract.
Randolph is a 31-year-old power forward with only a slightly better build than Angels-years Mo Vaughn. His disintegration against the Spurs was a jarring sign, as was his middling play for long stretches during the regular season.
It's questionable whether Memphis can find anyone to take what's left of Randolph's deal, even if the team was interested in making a move. But don't be surprised if the Grizzlies make some cursory calls around the league just to see how other teams feel about Z-Bo.
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