Don't look now, but the NBA trade deadline is less than two weeks away.
With most of the attention turning toward the All-Star break and exciting play on the court, several names remain on the trade market as the Feb. 20 deadline approaches.
Along with those players out on the trading block, a number of players are already beginning to draw attention thanks to the free-agent field that could become available this offseason.
Whether it's a superstar like Rajon Rondo or a great scorer in Evan Turner being tossed around for trade assets, or the likes of a rising star like Lance Stephenson floating the possibility of being a free agent, there are several rumors that have become intriguing.
Before the trade deadline officially draws to a close, here is a look at the latest rumors around the NBA for both trade bait and likely free agents.
Knicks Looking to Land Rajon Rondo
Rondo's name has been tossed around a lot in trade rumors since his return—and even before his comeback, quite frankly—but it appears the New York Knicks might have serious interest in the Boston Celtics point guard.
Sam Amick of USA Today shed some light on the situation in a must-read article breaking down the league:
Despite the consistent claims from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge that Rondo isn't available, the Knicks have a strong belief that he can be had if—in a nod to another show—the price is right. They can offer the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire (one season remaining after this one, at $23.4 million) while taking future money back (such as Gerald Wallace and/or Jeff Green) and helping Ainge clear the way for the summer of 2015 that is known to be a priority of his.
That summer is a major priority for the Knicks, too, but it appears the Rondo scenario is one of the few, if not the only, where they'd consider the impact of his addition great enough to justify taking on some money from that point on. The Knicks can include Raymond Felton (a much cheaper point guard option) or Iman Shumpert (rookie contract) and even discuss beloved rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.
Should the Celtics trade Rondo?
While it might seem ridiculous to consider the possibility of trading away Tim Hardaway Jr. after not finishing even one season with the team, getting Rondo in return might be just enticing enough.
The biggest question with Rondo from the beginning of the season was how he would look when he returned. In his last four games played, Rondo has averaged 11.3 points, 8.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, each of with is near his career average.
With Rondo returning to his normal All-Star numbers from years past, his name will continue to float around on the market. As for his health and missing one game with knee soreness, Rondo said it's nothing to be concerned about, according to the Celtics' official Twitter account:
Rajon Rondo on missing last night's game with knee soreness: "It's a little sore. Nothing major. Knee is fine."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 8, 2014
It's clear that the Celtics are moving on after trading away nearly every member of the 2008 championship team. Without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the court with him and Doc Rivers on the sidelines, Rondo can't be expected to hold this team together.
Despite Ainge being adamant that he's not going anywhere, getting rid of Rondo might just be the next step in the process.
Evan Turner Still On the Market
There's not a day that goes by that Turner's name hasn't been tossed around on the trade market, yet he's still in a Philadelphia 76ers jersey.
With a few days still remaining for talks to heat up and owners able to use the All-Star break to discuss matters, a deal for Turner could still be in the works.
Amick also provided some information about Turner's current status with the Sixers:
And in the final episode of Fear Factor, we have the case of Evan Turner (another Falk client). The fourth-year swingman is having a very productive season, averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
But the price for that production in his forthcoming restricted free agency (if he's extended the qualifying offer) is likely too rich for the 76ers' blood, meaning they'd rather net a first-round draft pick in return for him and continue their rebuilding efforts with a more salary-cap friendly situation. One rival executive mentioned the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Bobcats as possible destinations via trade, though both teams could also wait until the offseason to see if they could simply sign him then.
Rather than waiting out free agency and hoping they can re-sign Turner, it appears the 76ers might be ready to deal him for a possible draft pick to help rebuild the team in the future.
What's interesting about this deal is the last part of Amick's report. Both the Spurs and Bobcats could simply wait until the offseason and outbid the Sixers for Turner, but if they deem him important for a postseason run, they could pursue the trade further.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported earlier in the month that a Turner deal bringing him to the Bobcats:
Turner struggled in the early parts of his career, but he's come into his own this season. His numbers have been slightly down as of late in terms of scoring, but his production has been well above his career average.
But the pressing issue for Turner is the fact that he'll be a free agent in the offseason. With a big contract likely coming and the fact that he could walk away from a Philly team trying to rebuild with it getting nothing in return would be tragic.
Pacers Will Possibly Part Ways with Lance Stephenson
How mad is Stephenson about not making the All-Star roster? So infuriated that he went off for a triple-double against the Phoenix Suns and dunked on the referee—no, seriously.
OK, maybe the point production wasn't out of anger, but he will certainly be a little incensed if he's not getting paid in the offseason. of Sporting News reported on the possible price tag and why that could be bad news for the Indiana Pacers:
If the Pacers don’t address the Stephenson problem, there will be wolves with cap space lurking. The Lakers, Bulls and Bobcats will be among the teams who can and would offer an ample payday and increased opportunity for Stephenson this summer.
As things stand, the Pacers are looking at a payroll of $68 million next summer. The luxury tax is projected to kick in at $75.7 million, which obviously leaves the Pacers at a $7.7 million starting point for signing Stephenson. Under NBA rules, the Pacers could sign Stephenson to a deal worth $44 million over five years, or an average of $8.8 million per year.
Stephenson has been one of the budding stars this season in the NBA, averaging over 14 points, five assists and seven rebounds per game. With those numbers, his price has skyrocketed after averaging just 8.8 points, 2.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds last year.
Nothing is confirmed for the Pacers or Stephenson and won't be until the season closes for the team—potentially in the NBA Finals—but will be a pressing issue for the future.
The 23-year-old is finally coming into his own and could end up becoming a full-blown superstar for another team. That's not something Indiana likely wants to happen after helping to develop Stephenson as a second-round pick.
Though Stephenson has been one of the keys to Indiana's success this season, Pacers fans might have to see him walk in order to retain the championship team they currently have constructed.
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