The trade deadline on February 20 is always anxiously anticipated, and this year is no different.
The deadline, one way or another, always provides answers to all the questions we've been obsessing about over the last few months.
Which teams will make a push for the playoffs, and which teams will bow out of the race? What big names will change addresses? Will title contenders stand pat or make a huge splash? The speculation will end, and we'll finally get to evaluate teams for exactly what they are instead of what they might be.
Naturally, with the deadline right around the corner, you hear a lot of rumors as teams are busy shopping players and gauging the market. For this exercise, we'll play a little buy or sell for five of the biggest rumors around the league as we draw ever so close to deadline day.
The Rumor: According to Bill Ingram of BasketballInsiders.com, the Houston Rockets are consistently being "brought up in reference to a Rondo trade."
Verdict: Buy the theory, sell the logistics
The Houston Rockets seem like a somewhat logical landing spot for Rondo, if only because they are one of the few elite teams without a great point guard.
There are complications here, though. Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge would likely demand a king's ransom of draft picks, cap relief (Gerald Wallace's deal in particular) and promising young players in return. Houston has all that to offer, but it lacks a headlining player to deal.
Omer Asik is talented, but he'll make $15 million next year—the final year of his contract. That's a big risk for Boston to take on.
Perhaps most importantly, dealing Rondo would likely eliminate Boston's ability to attract another star player via trade or free agency. Trading Rondo to Houston could easily prolong Boston's rebuilding process a few more years, which might not be ideal to ownership.
It doesn't seem like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is willing to pay such a steep price, especially if it all but kills his flexibility. Ainge, meanwhile, might view Rondo as his new Paul Pierce and hesitate to move him for anything but a perfect offer.
The Rumor: Carmelo Anthony's wife thinks Anthony will "definitely stay" with the New York Knicks.
Here's the full quote from La La Anthony, transcribed by ESPN New York.
I definitely think he will stay. I know that he wants to stay, and I support him wherever he wants to go.
Listen, I used to live in Denver with him. If I can live in Denver, I can live anywhere. I just want him to be happy.
While it's hard to put too much stock into this, it does make sense that Anthony would want to stay in New York.
New York is where Anthony can make the most money and have the most power. So long as he remains patient, the Knicks should be able to pair him with another star during the 2015 offseason once the nasty contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani clear the books.
There are obvious organizational issues, but Anthony has enough sway to get what he wants, when he wants it. The Knicks are his team.
There are other teams who can offer some of that package, but not all of it. It's definitely a possibility Anthony leaves, but you have to imagine New York is the heavy favorite to retain him at this point.
The Rumor: In a chat at BasketballInsiders.com, Steve Kyler said that, "I know Washington is interested in Greg [Monroe]…however I have been told aggressively that Detroit is not open to it. So short answer is no."
If the Detroit Pistons are going to trade a young franchise big man like Greg Monroe before he hits restricted free agency this offseason, it would make sense to try and move him out of the Eastern Conference, right?
The Washington Wizards aren't an ideal trading partner for that reason, but also because they have a lack of proven players on rookie-scale deals. Otto Porter could be a nice small forward and a good fit, but the jury is still out on him. Other than Porter, Washington doesn't have a whole lot to offer.
Monroe will almost certainly be shopped, but Pistons general manager Joe Dumars would likely want more of a "can't-miss" player if he's dealing a solid contributor. There's serious potential for making a compounding mistake whether Monroe is dealt or not, but moving a talented big man for 50 cents on the dollar when the playoffs are at least in reach probably isn't the plan here.
It makes sense that Washington is interested, but Detroit should have much better options to explore before and after February 20.
The Rumor: According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the "sense around the league remains that Toronto is more likely to trade Kyle Lowry than keep him to prevent losing an asset for nothing."
When the Toronto Raptors dealt Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings, it sure looked like Kyle Lowry would be next to go. However, the Raptors started winning games and building a really nice chemistry, and that made things complicated.
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri would definitely kill a lot of the good vibes in Toronto right now by dealing Lowry, even if he's on an expiring contract. Remember, it's not completely out of the question that Toronto could re-sign the 27-year-old point guard next year, as not a lot of teams will be in the market for a starter.
Toronto is currently on pace to a host a first-round playoff series, so it might be extremely difficult for Ujiri to pull the plug early. It may make more sense to ride it out, and then possibly use Lowry in a sign-and-trade deal this offseason if there aren't plans to keep him long term.
Getting an asset for Lowry now may be the best business decision, but Ujiri runs the risk of alienating a fanbase, coaching staff and team by doing that. If Toronto keeps winning, it should probably hold off on selling Lowry.
The Rumor: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, "All along, the Phoenix Suns' plans have been to flip Okafor's expiring and insured deal before the trade deadline."
With half of the season already in the books, the Suns certainly look like a playoff team. While trading draft picks or young players right now might not be realistic for a team with its best days still ahead of it, cashing in on an expiring asset like Okafor makes a lot of sense.
Phoenix should be able to target teams looking to lighten their owner's salary commitment, as an insurance policy recently came into effect that covers 80 percent of Okafor's remaining salary. That's a big plus for any team that's waving the white flag on the year and just wants to save some cash. Okafor won't be as attractive as Andrew Bynum was, but he could definitely bring back a worthwhile rotation player.
Phoenix has lots of assets to throw around at the deadline, but using Okafor to upgrade the frontcourt seems pretty likely, even if it's just a swap of expiring deals.