Plenty of rumors are swirling around the NBA at the moment, and the weakness of the Eastern Conference is really putting some of the teams seeking to engage in trade talks in tough spots.
The Detroit Pistons are among several squads reportedly in the market to make some moves, but they are 14-21—still good enough for the No. 8 seed in the East.
That is just the beginning of what should be a wild several weeks ahead of the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
But before diving into the chatter about prospective deals that could alter the Association landscape, let's start by taking a look at the impact of a high-profile trade that has already happened.
Andrew Bynum Reportedly Favors Heat or Clippers
The former Cleveland Cavaliers big man was dealt to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng and multiple draft picks, per the Bulls' official Twitter:
Bynum has already been released on Tuesday and is already making it known that he wants to play for a contender when he becomes a free agent on Thursday. According to a report by the Sporting News' Sean Deveney, the 26-year-old is looking to take his talents to South Beach or back to the City of Angels—but not for the Lakers:
Bynum, league sources confirm, wants to play for a contender, and his preference is the Heat. He would also be open to a return to Los Angeles, though with the Clippers, not the Lakers. The Clippers waived swingman Stephen Jackson today, so they have an open roster spot.
ESPN's Marc Stein noted how the moves made by the Clippers to cut ties with Jackson and Chicago's immediate dismissal of Bynum came at nearly the same time:
Eerie: Press releases from Bulls and Clippers on letting go Andrew Bynum and Stephen Jackson popped into the inbox one minute apart— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 7, 2014
Arash Markazi and Stein report for ESPN.com that Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers isn't focused on finding another frontcourt player at the moment:
"I honestly haven't given it a lot of thought, I can tell you that," said Rivers. "We've had very few discussions about anyone big right now. We're far more focused on the perimeter part of our team."
That leaves the Heat, who could use the potential rebounding help and inside scoring Bynum might offer—if he plays anywhere near the level he did as an All-Star with the Lakers.
It's hard to envision that happening based on his performance thus far in 2013-14, where Bynum has averaged 8.4 points on 41.9 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds per game in 24 appearances.
Plus, Miami is still waiting on former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden to hit the court for the first time this season. Ethan J. Skolnick of Bleacher Report weighed in on the potential union between the Heat and Bynum:
If the Heat jump on a FA Bynum, it gives us a better idea of where Oden stands. Oden has not been available to media since start of season.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) January 7, 2014
It remains to be seen if and when Oden's return will happen, but signing Bynum would create a complicated surplus and would likely restrict Oden whenever he does return. Then again, Turner Sports' Matt Winer brings up an interesting point:
Bynum to Miami makes sense for same reason Oden was worth a gamble- the potential Pacers playoff series. And unlike Oden, Bynum has played.— Matt Winer (@matt_winer) January 7, 2014
So the market for Bynum going to a true contender and being a big factor doesn't look too promising, but his raw skill set still makes it a tantalizing proposition.
Golden State Warriors Targeting Kirk Hinrich?
Now the proverbial dominoes may begin to fall in the East due to the shakeup created in Chicago by shipping Deng away.
While the Bulls struggle to figure out how to shape the future with the health of their superstar, Derrick Rose, being a big question mark and the departure of one of their long-time, versatile cornerstones, they may continue to unload the roster.
Sam Amick of the USA Today reports on Jan. 7 that the Warriors have been targeting Hinrich even before the big news of Deng's departure hit:
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Golden State Warriors are among teams that had been showing serious interest in Hinrich long before the Deng trade. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because trade talks are typically private.
Hinrich has an expiring contract, which makes him a logical option to be a stopgap backup for a rising contender in Golden State.
Which teetering East team would fare best in the playoffs?
The Warriors are thin in the backcourt beyond Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While the 33-year-old Hinrich hasn't played well this season (34 percent shooting), perhaps his game could be elevated with that type of supporting cast flanking him.
Despite being undersized as a 2-guard, Hinrich is capable of playing off the ball and running the point. That would create an interesting dynamic alongside Curry, because both are essentially combo guards despite being gifted distributors.
This would be an excellent move if Golden State could pull it off. Whether or not it's worth a look on Chicago's side of things is difficult to determine, since the Bulls are 15-18 and yet still in sixth place in the East.
Amick also reports that Denver Nuggets veteran Andre Miller is expected to be traded this week after a spat with head coach Brian Shaw.
Miller would also be a solid option but should have more interested suitors and, per the report, hasn't been inquired about previously by the current Golden State regime as Hinrich has.
Teams Treading Water, Seeking Deals
As hinted at before, the Pistons are trying to figure out what to do with their situation.
They have a unique slew of circumstances with new pieces (Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings) still-developing but promising youngsters (Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond) and veterans clinging on (Rodney Stuckey and Chauncey Billups).
Although there isn't much to report at the moment, that could change as the deadline gets closer, per HOOPSWORLD.com's Alex Kennedy on Sulia:
There is a lot of turmoil in Detroit, and the Pistons aren’t sure whether they should be buyers or sellers at the deadline, according to league sources. They had playoff expectations entering the season...but they have struggled early on. Within the organization, it sounds like there are some people who want to be buyers in order to ensure a playoff berth, but there are also some who don't believe the pieces fit together very well and think Detroit should be sellers.
Kennedy also cites the Philadelphia 76ers as a team looking to dump some of their best assets, with an openness to dealing Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young among others—but at the right price.
After getting off to a surprisingly decent start to the year, the Sixers have dropped off a bit, yet are still only two games back of eighth place in the conference. Yet another dilemma created by the dreadful East.
But wait, there's more! The Charlotte Bobcats—who don't have much of an offense to speak of in the first place—are considering trading one of their few strong shooters in Ben Gordon, per Kennedy:
The...Bobcats are shopping Ben Gordon, according to league sources. They have talked to many teams about the veteran guard and are trying to move Gordon's $13,200,000 ending contract for a player who helps them win now.
Credit is due to the Bobcats' staff led by first-year head coach Steve Clifford for turning this putrid franchise into a respectable one, thanks to amazing defense and superior effort.
As reported by Lang Greene of HOOPSWORLD.com on Jan. 2, Gordon is focused on winning his first Larry O'Brien Trophy at his next stop—something that won't happen in Charlotte:
Ben Gordon will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He says his next move is all about winning a title http://t.co/3gusS6lMx7— Lang Greene (@LangGreene) January 2, 2014
The Bobcats have a meager 15-21 record to show for their valiance in 2013-14, but again, that's competent enough for a playoff spot at the moment.
It's all quite a cluster in the East, with a strong prospective draft class coming in complicating things all the more. Even for the struggling franchises, this is one of the more compelling seasons in recent NBA memory—and the rumors should only become more rampant as the year unfolds.