With the NBA trade deadline just days away, it should come as no surprise that speculation is running rampant. There are several teams that could potentially challenge for a title this season, and that may lead to more deadline movement than usual.
Although the potential trade market may appear somewhat light in terms of big names, there are plenty of solid players who can help contribute to a winning cause. They may not all be All-Star players, but top teams don't necessarily need superstars in order to take that next step.
At the same time, there are some guys on the block who have played at an elite level in the past. Here is a look at the biggest names that could possibly switch locales by the time the deadline comes and goes on Feb. 20.
No player has been the subject of more trade talks this season than Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol. The 33-year-old Spaniard is a four-time All-Star and a two-time NBA champion. He is enjoying a solid season for the struggling Lakers, but with tough times seemingly ahead for the franchise, trading him is a definite possibility. Gasol is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, and there isn't a team in the league that wouldn't benefit from his presence.
One team that has seemingly had interest in Gasol is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have far exceeded expectations this year and currently sit in the No. 7 position in the Western Conference. Phoenix has the makings of a team that could potentially knock out a top seed in the playoffs. Gasol would be a huge help, but negotiations have recently broken down, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the Lakers' poor season, Gasol doesn't necessarily want to leave. If he had his choice, he would remain in L.A., per Bresnahan.
My preference would be to stay. That's what I've been saying all year, though the circumstances are difficult right now for our team and nobody's too happy. But it's still my team and I still want to be here.
As nice as that must be for Lakers fans to hear, Lakers management has to do what is best for the team moving forward. The roster is quite old as currently constructed, and Kobe Bryant's proneness to injury means that the Lakers may not be competitive for a long time.
If the Suns or any other team are willing to offer an enticing package of players and picks, it would be wise to take it. Gasol is on the downside of his career despite his production, and it would be best to move him while he still has value.
The 2014 NBA draft is stacked to a point that even a mid- to late-round pick in the first round would be like gold. Los Angeles needs to build for the future, and dealing Gasol would help that immensely.
Outside of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat up top, the Eastern Conference is wide open. Any number of teams could make it to the conference semifinals, and the Washington Wizards are among them.
Washington is currently sixth in the East, and it boasts an impressive, young roster. Point guard John Wall is the unquestioned leader of the team, but he would benefit greatly from capable backup, which is something the Wiz don't have right now.
One possible fit is Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller. The 37-year-old veteran has pretty much done it all, and while his stats are down this year due to decreased playing time, he has shown that he can produce when given a chance. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Wizards would love to acquire him, but that has proven problematic:
As my man @ZachLowe_NBA noted in his trade opus, Wiz rightfully covet Andre Miller, too, but unable (so far) to find trade match w/Denver— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 11, 2014
Miller is the type of player who can teach Wall a ton and serve as a leader for the entire Wizards team. He also knows how to raise his game in big moments. Miller averaged 14 points per game for the Nuggets in the playoffs last year, and he has a career scoring average of 15.5 points per playoff contest. That would be a fantastic addition to a Wizards team hoping to make some noise this season, so Washington should do anything within reason to make it happen.
When point guard Beno Udrih signed with the New York Knicks this past offseason, he knew that he would be asked to play a reserve role. That was a risk that he was seemingly willing to take in exchange for playing on a contending team.
Unfortunately for Udrih, nothing has gone according to plan. The Knicks have had an awful season, one that currently sees them outside the top eight in the Eastern Conference, and Udrih has also fallen out of favor with Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
Which player is most likely to be dealt prior to the NBA trade deadline?
Udrih hasn't been used for nine straight games, and all signs point toward the Knicks moving the Slovenian guard. Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, one of Udrih's former teams, the San Antonio Spurs, may have interest in dealing for him. The Spurs reportedly tried to sign him during the offseason, but Udrih opted for New York instead. That was a mistake on his part, but it could be rectified.
From the Knicks' perspective, there is no reason to keep Udrih. New York already has Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, and Iman Shumpert is capable of playing point guard as well. Udrih is averaging just 5.6 points and 3.5 assists per game in 19 minutes, which is something that can be replaced.
When it comes to Udrih, it appears to be a question of where he'll be traded rather than if.
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