As the NBA regular season quickly approaches the halfway mark teams around the league will need to start making some personnel decisions. In turn, a rumor mill that's been pretty quiet since the offseason should start heating up once again.
The only question mark is how the close playoff races in both conferences could impact the number of moves. Normally, teams still in the mix don't like moving assets, but with about one month until the deadline, front offices will need to be realistic about their chances.
With that in mind, let's examine some of the latest buzz making its way around the NBA and examine what it could mean for the teams involved.
Smith was struggling mightily even before his antics caused him to get fined and benched. In four January games, the guard is averaging less than seven points while shooting 31 percent from the floor, including below 20 percent on threes.
It's a far cry from last season when he was one of the league's most valuable reserves, chipping in over 18 points per contest for the New York Knicks. Now the team is working to find a possible trade route to get him off the roster, according to Ian Begley and Marc Stein of ESPN:
While they acknowledge that a trade may be difficult to pull off, the New York Knicks in recent days began exploring the potential market for guard J.R. Smith, ESPN.com has learned.
Sources close to the situation said Wednesday that the organization has become increasingly frustrated with Smith's on- and off-the-court transgressions and may feel that a fresh start would be best for all parties.
Begley also passed along comments from Smith, who admitted he wasn't sure if his future is with the Knicks:
J.R. Smith was asked if he believes his future is w/the #Knicks: "Honestly, I don't even know at this point. At one point I was for sure."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 10, 2014
Given the recent issues, it sure seems like a situation where a change of scenery would be the best option for both sides. Smith can try to get back on track with another team, and the Knicks can eliminate a distraction.
Alas, it's easier said than done due to the guard's contract.
Afflalo has made steady progress during his seven seasons in the league. Now he's on pace for his best season to date as he hits his prime. The UCLA product is averaging over 20 points per game for the first time to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
His individual success hasn't led to much team success for the Orlando Magic, though. They sit near the bottom of the weaker Eastern Conference, leading many to wonder if he could end up being moved to a contender.
Stein reports that the Magic so far have resisted:
Orlando, meanwhile, continues to give the same stiff-arm to teams registering interest in shooting guard Arron Afflalo. The difference there, though, is that some rival clubs aren't convinced that the Magic’s stance is as absolute as the Knicks’ stance is with Chandler. Has Afflalo played well enough, in this breakout half-season, that the Magic will eventually be offered a first-round pick closer to the deadline that can pry Afflalo loose? The reality is that no one is giving up first-round picks these days—such is the lure of the 2014 draft—but 40 days is a long time.
While Afflalo likely wouldn't play the same type of major role for a top team, he's clearly a player capable of making an impact for a playoff team seeking some extra scoring punch. The Magic are right to hold off in search of a top-notch offer, however.
Fredette was an outstanding scorer at the collegiate level—22 points per game in his final year at BYU—but he's never really fit in with the Sacramento Kings. Sam Amick of USA Today reports he could be on the move if a team is willing to move a pick:
The former BYU star deserves immense credit for his professionalism in these last few frustrating years, and that's the very reason you won't likely hear him complain publicly (or even privately) about his lot in Kings Land. But with Sacramento hoping to get at least a second-round draft pick in return for him in any possible deal, count me among the masses who hope he's on the move sooner rather than later and that he finds a better fit elsewhere.
Which player is most likely to get moved?
Fredette has watched his playing time drop in each season with the Kings. He's playing under 11 minutes per night this season as the backcourt logjam remains in place. But he's shooting nearly 50 percent from long range in that limited action.
If another team needed a player capable of providing instant offense off the bench, he would be well worth a second-round pick. His defense is subpar, but that doesn't mean he can't provide value if placed in the right situation. It just doesn't appear Sacramento is a good fit.