The latest buzz on the NBA trade rumor mill involves a couple of key role players who could be on the move and even swing the fortunes of contenders around the Association.
Both Milwaukee Bucks guard Gary Neal and versatile Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy are a part of the chatter. Each player is on a struggling squad seemingly intent on rebuilding, with an eye on what looks to be a loaded 2014 draft class.
Another rising star who has been talked about as possibly being dealt is unlikely to be for a variety of reasons.
Read on to find out more about the aforementioned duo and what to expect with Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry moving forward.
Gary Neal to the Oklahoma City Thunder?
A number of players have stepped up to fill the scoring void left by Kevin Martin for this year's Thunder squad, but adding a playoff-experienced guard to the fold wouldn't hurt.
The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater took part in a chat with fans recently and opined that Oklahoma City's top need in a possible trade is an additional shooter. Slater cited Neal as a candidate based on his friendship with OKC superstar Kevin Durant:
[Neal]'s having problems in Milwaukee and is clearly on the trading block. And after last game, both he and Durant, two Maryland boys, were having a nice chat after the game.
Problem with him is he's owed over $3 million for the next two years. So along with the [Eric] Maynor exception, the Thunder would have to add some type of contract to the trade. And it would have to be something the Bucks are willing to take back. We'll see. But he's a streaky shooter that could win you a crucial ballgame, as shown in the NBA Finals last year.
It makes sense for the Thunder to snag a three-point marksman such as Neal, considering they're making just 34.2 percent of shots from beyond the arc as a team compared to a 37.7 percent clip in 2012-13.
Durant is the only consistent threat from beyond the arc. Given his versatile offensive arsenal, he's not made to camp out on the perimeter on a consistent basis.
The Bucks are the worst team in the Association record-wise, and Neal isn't going to help them now. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported on Jan. 7 that Milwaukee is indeed seeking to get the 29-year-old to a new team by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
Losing has to be a frustrating change for Neal after spending his previous three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. He would be more in his element in Oklahoma City, and his bond with Durant gives him an immediate in with regard to chemistry.
Multiple Teams Reportedly Covet Mike Dunleavy
A surefire 40-percent three-point marksman with Dunleavy's 6'9" size makes him a valuable commodity for top-flight teams seeking a boost off the bench.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, at least four teams have called the Bulls to inquire about Dunleavy. Head coach Tom Thibodeau characterized Dunleavy as a more complete player than he's given credit for:
The thing about Mike that adds a lot to your team is his passing. Obviously, Mike is a very good catch-and-shoot player and provides space for your post-up players. But he feeds the post extremely well. I think he understands ball movement, knows when to make the extra pass. I think he also knows how to move without the ball.
Dunleavy's appeal has caught the Houston Rockets' attention specifically, and Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher had some knowledge to drop about how Dunleavy could help alleviate the tense lame duck situation regarding center Omer Asik:
A league executive offered this plausible reason for the Rockets’ interest in Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy: It gives them more flexibility at power forward without having to deal Omer Asik for one before the trade deadline. Dunleavy can either play stretch 4 or allow small forward Chandler Parsons to slide there; the presence of Dwight Howard allows the Rockets to get away with it defensively.
Bucher also notes that "several GMs" believe Dunleavy is a sure bet to be moved before the deadline, since the Bulls are allegedly resigned to tossing out this season.
Dunleavy proved his viability as a complete player in the Bulls' 128-125 victory in triple overtime over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday evening. It wasn't a good shooting night for him—he made just three of 11 shots—yet the veteran pulled down six rebounds and dished out six assists.
Apparently, Thibodeau knows what he's talking about with respect to Dunleavy's passing ability.
Complicating matters is how hard Chicago's squad has played for Thibodeau, from last season without superstar point guard Derrick Rose through now—even after trading Luol Deng to Cleveland. That was evident yet again when Thibodeau's bunch clawed to a win in Orlando.
The Bulls are still in the meager Eastern Conference playoff picture despite a sub-.500 record, and their defense should continue to keep them within it.
Losing a scorer like Dunleavy would diminish the team's postseason outlook, which may be unwise considering the experience that the members of the nucleus have with each other and the potential to capitalize on a down season in the East.
Reasons for Kyle Lowry Staying in Toronto
The Raptors have been among the biggest surprises in the NBA thus far with their strong play even after trading Rudy Gay. That has made Lowry, who is in a contract year, safe to stay.
Bucher reported—before Wednesday, Jan. 15's three-team trade that saw Golden State acquire Jordan Crawford from the Boston Celtics, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman—that the Warriors were interested in Lowry. Locker room concerns scared the Western Conference contenders away:
The Warriors’ search to bolster their bench—particularly with another backup point guard—led them to seriously consider Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, a league source said. However, concerns about how Lowry—a soon-to-be free agent—would fit into their locker room prompted them to pass.
Lowry seems to be taking the leadership reins in Toronto, but perhaps he wouldn't have fit in Golden State's backcourt rotation featuring the likes of stud starters in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The 27-year-old Raptors standout responded to the rumor that he wouldn't have fit with the Warriors, per SportingNews.com's Sean Deveney:
I didn’t hear that. I don’t know where they got that from. I just want to win. If they did not trade for me, it does not matter, I am still a Raptor. I am more worried about my camaraderie with my teammates here, and all we want to do is win, more than anything else.
Not only is he proving to be an excellent distributor and a capable scorer when called upon, but Lowry is also doing an outstanding job at staying in front of his man defensively, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg:
As much of a professional as Lowry has been amid constant trade speculation in Toronto, it's unclear just what the Warriors didn't like about him. Other teams that have expressed interest in Lowry include the New york Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, per the Toronto Star's Doug Smith.
Considering how stacked the league is with point guards and the level Lowry has raised his game to, general manager Masai Ujiri would be wise to retain Lowry for the rest of the season.
It looks as though that will be the case, but Golden State may have done better to get Lowry if the chance was to be had rather than the more volatile, streaky Crawford.