They won't be swapped for each other, but both elite talents are on the trading block.
Deadlines are great motivators, and with the NBA trade window slamming shut at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 20, talks will be put in a pressure cooker. There are numerous sellers eager to jettison valuable players and some surprising buyers as Evan Turner, Pau Gasol and Andre Miller each figure to be in different uniforms by the end of the month.
The Philadelphia 76ers are seeking a draft pick for Turner, and he's not the only trade chip, as everything in Philly is up for grabs, including Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Turner remains the top talking point, but according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the market has been soft thus far due to his expiring contract.
As one unnamed NBA general manager put it: "It wouldn’t be smart to give up assets for a player you think you can just sign on your own in July. If you don’t need to trade anything away to get him, then why would you?"
That said, it's not often that a player of Turner's caliber goes on the trading block. Outside of Rudy Gay, Turner is the most potent swingman available in recent memory.
Through 47 games, he's averaging 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He's an underrated talent by virtue of playing for the moribund Sixers, and he's blessed with great ability. A change of scenery could transform him into a valuable postseason contributor.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns have expressed interest, according to Deveney, and each would be instantly improved by Turner's presence, but any trade would have to assure he remained with the team beyond 2014.
The 76ers allowed competent D-League center Dewayne Dedmon's 10-day contract to expire, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and that seems likely motivated by trade flexibility. It also implies Hawes' residence in Philadelphia beyond the trade deadline.
Turner is clearly the big fish, but teams are understandably wary of parting with a first-round pick for him and his uncertain contract status.
Other sellers include the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, and a Pau Gasol trade appears imminent as Phoenix pops up again on the rumor mill.
As Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders put it: "There are so many ways the Lakers and Suns could reach some sort of agreement for a Gasol swap, we found it difficult to find a reason why they wouldn’t be able to make a deal happen."
Of course, not everyone can trade with the Suns, but some team is likely to do so considering the bevy of draft picks at their disposal. They could potentially have a staggering four first-round selections.
As noted by ESPN's Marc Stein, the Suns covet Pau Gasol as a potentially game-changing big man who could bolster their playoff potency. Adorably, they may actually think they can emerge from the West and win the title, but Gasol would certainly add the presence of a bona fide champion with his two rings.
For the time being, Phoenix has second-year player Miles Plumlee and rookie Alex Len manning the 5, so acquiring an established veteran would add a tutor for the talented youngsters.
As noted by Stein, the struggling Lakers would make the move primarily motivated by financial considerations, and the Suns' most likely trade piece would be injured big man Emeka Okafor, who came over in an October trade with the Washington Wizards:
The $4.8 million difference between Gasol's cap number and Okafor's would immediately drop the Lakers less than $3 million away from the league's luxury-tax threshold, meaning one more smaller deal before the Feb. 20 trade deadline could conceivably be enough to take them out of tax territory completely.
While a Gasol trade would serve as confirmation that the Lakers are gunning for the lottery, it would also give the team flexibility for the future as Kobe Bryant seeks to squeeze more seasons out of his body.
Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets recently received even more motivation to swap disgruntled veteran Andre Miller after Nate Robinson underwent knee surgery. In light of Ty Lawson's dinged shoulder, the Nuggets are very thin at point guard, and their playoff hopes could rest on a potential Miller swap.
Miller has not played since Dec. 30, following his in-game insubordination of head coach Brian Shaw regarding playing time. Miller ranks ninth on the all-time assists list.
"We're giving both sides space & time to cool down and move on from it." Brian Shaw on #Nuggets G Andre Miller excused for two games.— Denver Nuggets (@denvernuggets) January 4, 2014
As noted by Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, the trade necessities for Miller are becoming clearer in the wake of Robinson's injury:
First, a Miller deal now almost has to include a guard in return. There was a time when that wasn’t a necessity, but now it will be. The Nuggets could deal him for not much and go the D-League route to fill the open position, but that’s not a better option than getting a player already on an NBA bench in return.
Denver is hurt by the fact that Miller is of absolutely no use since he did not play at all in January. Every team in the league knows that the Nuggets are desperate to swap Miller, so he won't garner much in return, but the trade deadline often motivates needy GMs in February.