Trade winds across the NBA have slowed down from gale force to merely a breeze in the aftermath of the Luol Deng-Andrew Bynum blockbuster, as teams continue to recalibrate expectations for their players who could be on the move.
The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers were seen as two of the most active teams on the open market. With Chicago dropping under the luxury tax and Cleveland getting its short-term fix on the perimeter, it remains to be seen whether either team has any interest in further moves. The Bulls have guys like Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy, who could intrigue playoff contenders, but there is no longer any pressure internally to shed their salaries.
Without leverage—or even the possibility of leverage—things are bound to quiet down a bit. We're still more than a month away from the Feb. 20 deadline. The high flurry of action and rumored action of the season's first half may serve as a prelude to an even crazier February, or we could see a redux of last year, when the biggest deals were already in the past by deadline day.
For now, not all that much seems close to happening. Deng is probably the best player getting moved no matter what—unless the Knicks smarten up and consider dealing Carmelo Anthony—so the headlines will be made by the number of moves, not the names involved.
But as the rest of the league is recalibrating, we're also starting to get a good idea of which players are actually available and which ones really aren't. Here is a look at the last dispatch of rumors from around the Association.
Pelicans Want to Deal Eric Gordon, but Contract Complicates Matters
Eric Gordon and the New Orleans Pelicans are in the third year of what has been a mostly contentious relationship. Gordon has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he has not been much of a fan of New Orleans since his arrival. He attempted to bolt for Phoenix as a free agent before his four-year, $58 million offer sheet was matched, stomping his feet and kicking and screaming all the way back to Louisiana to sign the deal.
The team kept Gordon and mostly ignored his pleas, but it was more of an asset relationship than one of player and team. It didn't help, either, that Gordon played exactly 51 games in his first two seasons with the team, dealing with chronic knee injuries and losing his mantle as the best young shooting guard in basketball. When the Pelicans spent their offseason adding possession-needy guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, it was a better sign than ever where Gordon stood.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News is the latest to report New Orleans is starting its trade push of Gordon anew, shopping the 25-year-old guard for the second time in as many seasons. Landing a big man to pair with Anthony Davis is said to be the overarching desire of the front office. While Davis has taken a major leap in his second NBA season, Monty Williams has struggled mightily to find a consistent 5 with Robin Lopez working on his craft in Portland.
That's had an especially big impact on defense, where Williams is seemingly always juggling an undersized lineup.
The three-guard lineup with Gordon, Evans and Holiday has allowed 113.3 points per 100 possessions this season per NBA.com, more than five points worse than Utah's league-worst mark. Williams' lineup featuring his five best players—the three guards plus Davis and Ryan Anderson—is allowing 119.8 points over the same period, a horrid rate that nearly cancels out that unit's elite offense.
Gordon, obviously, is the scapegoat here, a leftover piece from a previous ownership group. He's also probably the most promising of New Orleans' three guards. Even though Gordon's knee injuries have hampered his value among league executives, he's nailing a career-high 39.7 percent of his shots beyond the arc, is scoring right around his career rate per 36 minutes and could obviously benefit from a change of scenery.
Unfortunately for both parties, other teams aren't too keen on paying $15 million a season for someone with Gordon's injury history and lack of defensive skills. He's also not improved as a passer in the way folks hoped he would in Los Angeles. As teams continue to hoard even Omer Asik-level big men, the Pels are going to have a difficult time making something happen.
Andre Miller a Goner, Won't Play for Nuggets While Being Shopped?
Miller is far and away the likeliest player to get moved in the near future. Denver has been shopping him ever since his sideline blowup with coach Brian Shaw, and both parties seem to want this situation resolved as soon as possible.
Miller may have overstepped his bounds by going at Shaw on the sidelines, but he's a well-respected veteran whose consummate professionalism has allowed him to shift into numerous roles without complaint. Doing right by him—especially at age 37—is a good way to pay it forward as a message to any other aging players who might want to land in Denver.
Since the spat, Miller has stayed away from the team. Although he's worked out at the team facility, it's a well-understood agreement that he is no longer a part of the future, and it's only a matter of time before he's headed elsewhere. Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post reported it's highly unlikely he ever wears a Nuggets uniform again.
As for where he's headed, that market seems to be fluid. ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Knicks have begun kicking the tires, as they continue their effort to re-assemble the mid-2000s Nuggets (or something). The Kings are another team that seems interested in Miller for no apparent reason—they're going nowhere, Miller is old, etc.—but Sam Amick of USA Today notes they're trying to shoehorn Travis Outlaw's inexplicable contract into the trade.
All of this has to concern Miller. His combination of old-man game and elite smarts aren't going to go away anytime soon, but Miller is also someone used to playing basketball. This is the first time in six seasons that Miller will miss more than one game, and ending his consecutive games streak probably played a factor in his frustration with Shaw.
The Nuggets are smart to hold out for an asset, but only to a certain point. I wouldn't imagine any front office is shortsighted enough to give up a future first-round pick for a 20-minutes-per-night player in Miller, and certainly, well-established young assets are off the table. Miller isn't worth more than a second-round pick, and any non-contender (*cough* Sacramento *cough*) should step out of negotiations.
Overall, Miller is more entertaining for us basketball nerds—dudes who love his ability to make the extra pass, know where everyone is on the court, etc.—than he is an effective player. Contenders looking for a backup guard should apply, but that's about it.
Stop Calling, Arron Afflalo Isn't Available?
Remember when we were all jealous of Arron Afflalo for somehow pilfering an eight-figure deal and wiggling his way into being a No. 1 option? Afflalo's first season in Orlando was, like many on that team, a nightmare. The noted efficiency that made him an underrated option with the Nuggets disappeared, as he hit just 30 percent of his shots beyond the arc and noticeably struggled with his increased responsibility.
Well, as we approach the midway point of 2013-14, Afflalo's deal is emerging as one of the best bargains in the league. A very solid two-way player, he may be on his way to his first All-Star appearance. He's averaging a career-high 20.8 points per game while knocking down an elite 41.4 percent from beyond the arc and averaging career highs in rebounds and assists as well.
On the surface, this would seem like a perfect storm for the Magic. In the preseason, Afflalo looked to be one of the likeliest veterans to move before February. Orlando drafted Victor Oladipo second overall in June to play Afflalo's position, and keeping a 28-year-old shooting guard on a team at least two years away from contention seemed unlikely.
It seems, however, that Afflalo's hot first half has changed more than perception around the league. ESPN's Marc Stein reported Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan is currently rebuffing offers for Afflalo, instead preferring to keep him on the roster at the moment. Executives on opposing teams aren't sure that stance will stick as we get closer to the deadline, but it's obvious the Magic are going into negotiations asking for a haul.
A 2014 first-round draft choice has been nearly impossible to acquire at this point. Only the most desperate teams are giving them up. The class is widely looked at as the best since 2003 in terms of both depth and top-level talent, and the NBA's collective bargaining agreement has made teams more hesitant to part with picks, regardless. Young, cheap talent is being emphasized in front offices as owners get more and more skittish about paying the luxury tax.
That said, Afflalo is an interesting piece—one that could swing the title picture. The Oklahoma City Thunder would be a perfect fit if they were willing to dip into the luxury-tax threshold, and the Phoenix Suns could be an interesting fit now that Eric Bledsoe's knee will keep him on the shelf for a while. Phoenix could have as many as four first-round picks in June. No team, regardless of draft, wants to have four rookies on its roster.
Afflalo is a piece good enough and relatively cheap enough—he makes $7.5 million for 2014-15 and has a player option for the same price in 2015-16—to consider offering a future pick.
(All stats via NBA.com unless otherwise cited.)
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