The NBA trade deadline is right around the corner, and talks are starting to heat up all around the league. Some of the biggest names in the NBA are being floated around, and teams are already beginning to position themselves for that franchise-altering star player.
Now that the Phoenix Suns have shown their success is sustainable, is it time to push in for a player like Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol?
Are the Chicago Bulls preparing to clear room for a star like Carmelo Anthony?
Who will win the Evan Turner sweepstakes? Will there even be a sweepstakes for Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe?
Let's tackle all the latest NBA rumors in this February edition of buy or sell.
The Rumor: According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, Luol Deng thinks the Cavs are a mess.
The Verdict: Buy
Here's what Deng reportedly told a close friend, according to Lawrence:
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.
Deng has since commented on the report by saying he is unhappy because the team is losing, but he's not frustrated with his teammates, according to Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer:
I'm really disappointed and it hurt me a little bit because I do care about the guys in the locker room. I've never in my career had something like that written about me.
The assertion that the Cavs are a mess, whether Deng said it or not, is correct. The fact that Mike Brown wouldn't confirm or deny the reported practice and locker room antics tells you a lot about what might be going on behind the scenes, and it's pretty unusual for a team to have all these rumors of dysfunction without having at least some of it be rooted in truth.
For Cleveland, this was supposed to be an opportunity to sell Deng on staying long-term, but it could be backfiring entirely. Cleveland has struggled to win games since acquiring Deng, and the efforts in recent nights have been pretty pathetic.
I'm buying that the Cavs are a mess and that Deng sees them that way as well. It would be a surprise at this point if he stayed with Cleveland in free agency.
The Rumor: According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Phoenix Suns are in talks with the Los Angeles Lakers about acquiring Pau Gasol.
The Verdict: Buy
Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said in December he'd be willing to use his stockpiled draft picks to acquire a star player, and Gasol may fit the bill. The Suns have the expiring deal of Emeka Okafor and cap space to offer to the Lakers, which is a unique combination few other teams around the league have.
For the Lakers, Gasol is likely viewed as an expiring asset. This is almost certainly the last chance Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak will have to cash in on Gasol before having to renounce his rights at the outset of free agency to create max cap room.
There are plenty of reasons why the Lakers should look to deal Gasol, and the Suns seem like a definite buyer at the deadline after their hot start proved sustainable.
This is a match that makes a lot of sense, but we'll see if the Lakers are prepared to move Gasol for a late first-round pick, which is likely all Phoenix will be willing to sacrifice in such a deal. It's not clear if Phoenix would have interest in keeping Gasol beyond this season, but if the cost of the rental is low enough, we could see him with the young Suns in the playoffs.
The Rumor: According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Taj Gibson's name is picking up steam in trade talks.
The Verdict: Buy
Given the state of the Bulls, there are precious few players who likely aren't available for trade.
As Cowley notes, if the Bulls want to clear max cap space this offseason to chase a player like Carmelo Anthony in free agency, amnestying Carlos Boozer and finding a trade for Gibson may be the only real way to accomplish that without trading Joakim Noah or Derrick Rose.
After the Bulls dumped Luol Deng, there probably isn't a shortage of suitors for a solid two-way player like Gibson. According to Cowley's source, the Lakers, Wizards and Bobcats have all inquired about Gibson.
Of that group, the Bobcats likely make the most sense as a trading partner. Charlotte has the big expiring deal of Ben Gordon to play with and a need at power forward for the future. It's hard to see the Lakers taking on future salary, but the Wizards could look for a talent grab with some of their expiring frontcourt pieces as well.
There will be plenty of suitors for Gibson, and a close eye will be kept on the New York Knicks leading up to the deadline. If the Knicks fall flat and there is indication that Anthony would join forces with Rose and Noah in New York, perhaps trading Gibson for draft picks and cap space would become a more viable option. This won't be a deal that's made on a whim, though.
There would have to be some assurances from Anthony's camp to likely justify clearing Gibson's future salary off the books.
The Rumor: According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner is at the forefront of trade discussions.
The Verdict: Buy
Another rumor, another buy. It makes sense that Turner would be shopped hard in advance of the deadline, as the Sixers likely have little interest in providing the young guard with a qualifying offer this offseason to make him a restricted free agent.
If Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie doesn't see Turner in the future plans, moving him for any asset now is likely the top priority. Although the Sixers may also look to move Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, there's a chance both remain on the team next year.
That's particularly true in Young's case, as he's on a long-term deal. It seems likely that the trade market for Young will improve this offseason when teams have more cap space to absorb his deal.
As for Hawes, he's been a great fit in Philadelphia's uptempo system. While he'll likely get paid elsewhere as a sweet-shooting 5, it's not completely implausible that the Sixers will be able to retain him as an unrestricted free agent on a relatively cheap deal.
With the deadline approaching and the lowball offers likely improving as time goes on, Hinkie should be able to find a trade for Turner. He's an obvious candidate to be dealt.
The Rumor: According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, sources say the Pistons have told teams Greg Monroe is not available for trade.
The Verdict: Sell
Greg Monroe is headed to restricted free agency this offseason, where he'll likely command a max offer. Are the Pistons willing to pay that amount when it has become clear that the frontcourt trio of Josh Smith, Monroe and Andre Drummond isn't yielding results?
It's hard to see what incentive there is for Detroit to flat-out deny that Monroe is available, perhaps other than to eliminate some of the bad initial offers that may be coming in.
Still, it's hard to believe that the Pistons wouldn't at least entertain the idea of trading Monroe for a better fit, especially since you would think a team would be willing to pay a decent price for a potential franchise big man.
To me, this sounds like Joe Dumars is putting up a front. Dumars is on the last year of his contract with Detroit, and it's become pretty clear that this current Pistons team isn't much of a playoff threat. While the public stance may be that Monroe isn't available, it would only make sense for Dumars to gauge the market and see if there's a trade out there. I'm selling that Monroe is untouchable.