The current buzz on the NBA rumor mill is headlined by two potential high-profile trades involving stars on struggling squads.
Multiple reports assert that Los Angeles Lakers veteran Pau Gasol is at the center of negotiations in a possible move to the Phoenix Suns. With the Philadelphia 76ers struggling in the midst of a rebuilding effort, one of their key pieces is reportedly on the block, too, in Evan Turner.
Before getting into the latest on the Sixers front, though, the mess that is the Cleveland Cavaliers at the moment may be getting even worse in light of the conflicting messages from their latest prized player in Luol Deng.
Let's take a look at the latest chatter from around the Association and what it means for the players and teams involved.
Pau Gasol to the Phoenix Suns?
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that the Suns' new regime is intent on making a postseason push despite their perceptive rebuilding status in a stacked Western Conference.
Landing a player like Gasol would go a long way in making that a possibility, and it's something general manager Ryan McDonough is taking seriously:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers' four-time All-Star.
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times also reported that the two sides were talking about Gasol moving to Phoenix.
McDonough has done a phenomenal job of assembling a competitive team and nailing the hire of first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek. If he were able to pull off this deal for Gasol, it could shift the Suns' fortunes from borderline playoff team to a legitimate force to be reckoned with.
Stein notes that a prospective trade option would be to send a first-round pick to Los Angeles and center Emeka Okafor's expiring contract in the exchange.
AZCentral.com's Paul Coro implied that the talks were preliminary, though, and with the Suns potentially having as many as four first-round picks in the upcoming draft, many trade scenarios are plausible:
Coro highlights how Gasol makes $19.3 million to Okafor's $14.5 million this season but is also an expiring contract, thus freeing up cap room for any future pursuits McDonough should desire if the acquisition were to flop.
Since Okafor has never really lived up to the hype and is injured at the moment, swapping him for Gasol would save the Lakers cap space and be an absolute steal for Phoenix.
The Suns don't really have a viable veteran in the frontcourt to mentor this year's top draft choice in Alex Len. Gasol would help a ton in that regard and also get a necessary fresh start, leaving the Mike D'Antoni offense that has never quite fit his skill set.
Luol Deng Reportedly Disgruntled in Cleveland; Issues Denial
It hasn't been long since Deng was shipped to the Cavaliers from the Chicago Bulls, yet there are already rumblings that the class-act star is unhappy with his new situation.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reported on Saturday, Feb. 1, that Deng was in disbelief about some of the things he had witnessed in terms of practice work ethic since arriving in Cleveland:
In Chicago, where Deng broke in and played nine-plus seasons, there is a winning culture where players are expected to act like professionals and understand that they will suffer the consequences if they step out of line.
As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess."
That alleged private admission is something Deng has since denied, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer's official Twitter account:
Giving Deng the benefit of the doubt is wise because he has a precedent of professionalism that needs to be kept in mind. At the same time, he's only contractually obligated to remain a Cavalier through this season, and few could blame him for wanting out of what appears to be a nightmarish situation.
The team's brightest young star, Kyrie Irving, denied reports that he wants to flee Cleveland when he becomes eligible for free agency in 2016, but there aren't enough pieces in place to field a viable squad around him.
Irving can only do so much. GM Chris Grant deserves to take some heat for the awful draft picks he's made in recent years—save for Irving, of course.
If Grant can't keep Deng in town and the Cavs can't find a way to turn this thing around and make the playoffs in 2013-14, a regime change is a real possibility, as is Deng's departure.
That would likely leave Cleveland with a high lottery pick in the 2014 draft, but given Grant's misfires, he or the man replacing him would have to nail the selection to make it worth the suffering the Cavs have endured since LeBron James left town.
Evan Turner Leads Sixers' Trade Talks
It really does seem like the Sixers are one player away from competing in the weak East, and landing a lottery pick in this loaded impending draft class would presumably get the franchise just that.
However, Philadelphia is reportedly still seeking to clean house. In addition to shopping Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes, Turner is the man most prominent as a trade chip, per Sporting News' Sean Deveney on Monday, Feb. 3:
The Sixers...have been stepping up their efforts to make a move before the trade deadline, and swingman Evan Turner has been at the forefront of those discussions, sources told Sporting News. The Sixers are eager to net a draft pick for Turner...and that has been a hang-up in their efforts to find a trade.
Turner has emerged as a versatile swingman who's beginning to play more like the No. 2-overall pick and franchise-caliber player the team thought it was getting in the 2010 draft.
Then again, he plays sort of a 'tweener role, requiring a lot of dribbling to make his style of play effective at the NBA level and still doesn't have a consistent enough jump shot to be a viable perimeter threat.
All of that works against the 25-year-old, and he could use a fresh start as more of a role player than a cornerstone on a championship-caliber roster. The Sixers seem intent on putting their eggs into the draft, and Turner may be a strong enough asset to land another first-round selection.
Given how young Philadelphia's nucleus is, though, perhaps Turner could fit into the future plans and thrive with another blue-chip player as the Sixers' chemistry continues to progress in the coming seasons.