Will the Los Angeles Lakers finally deal Pau Gasol to the Phoenix Suns? It could happen at the trade deadline.
The 2013-14 NBA season has been filled with trade rumors since before the year began, and with the Feb. 20 deadline on the horizon, it's time for general managers to focus on making the best move for their respective organizations.
For some franchises, the best move might be no move at all. For others, clearing house makes more sense, as both buyers and sellers will be active leading up to the deadline.
Whether a team is looking for cap relief, a quick fix or better positioning for the future, there's something out there for everyone. The trick is finding the right player who matches what teams are looking for—not to mention what they're willing to give up.
*All rankings, standings and statistics are accurate as of Feb. 18, 2014.
**All salary information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
Once upon a time, the Atlanta Hawks were considered a near-lock for the third seed out East. They were never looked at as legitimate threats to win a title, but in a watered down Eastern Conference, they were playing the best basketball of anyone not named the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers.
Unfortunately, their third-place hopes were derailed by an injury to Al Horford—not to mention a subsequent injury to Pero Antic—and the lack of a big man has forced them down to fifth place in the conference with just two months to go.
The bigger issue here isn't the current spot in the conference; it's the fact that any sort of drought will push Atlanta closer to the seventh or eighth seed. A matchup with the Heat or Pacers would be disastrous for its playoff hopes, but acquiring a big man before the deadline could mean the difference between first- and second-round appearances.
Danny Ainge could go multiple directions at the deadline, and he's not ignorant to that fact.
"We would do a deal to make our team better and use assets to get better right away," Ainge said, per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. "And we would also move veteran players to create flexibility and get draft picks. So we could go either way right now. But right now I think it’s a feeling-out process."
Ainge goes on to admit in the report that he isn't looking for insignificant improvement. He's not afraid to focus on immediate success, but in his own words, "I'm not talking about getting three wins better."
In all likelihood, the Boston Celtics won't find a deal that makes them a contender. They're not out of the playoffs, but sneaking in isn't ideal with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers waiting.
Boston would love to move Gerald Wallace, who has arguably the worst contract in the NBA, but assuming that's impossible, players such as Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Joel Anthony could become the odd men out.
The Brooklyn Nets may have fooled their most optimistic fans with their resurgence after the New Year, but this is still not a championship squad, which was the only goal in mind at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Although it will be difficult, the Nets need to swallow their pride and become sellers at the deadline. This is not a roster that can compete with the top two teams out East in a seven-game series, and quite frankly, starting over now could help Billy King acquire much-needed draft picks.
This team can—and in all likelihood will—make the playoffs, but the question is: How far can the Nets go? Anything less than a championship won't suffice, and burying those expectations now will help soften the blow later.
The Charlotte Bobcats have been sellers at the deadline virtually every season they've been in the league. In years past, adding a piece or two would have been counterproductive for long-term rebuilding, but in 2013-14, the goals have changed.
At 23-30, Charlotte is eighth out East and knocking on the door of the playoffs. No one in their right minds would pick the Bobcats in a series over the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat, but with the conference as weak as it is, a matchup with anyone else would give hope for a chance at the second round.
According to Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette, via B/R's Adam Lefkoe, Evan Turner and Brandon Bass are both targets at the deadline. Each player offers a different skill set, but both would be big additions with the postseason in mind.
The ultimate goal here is to add a productive piece before the playoffs, and using Ben Gordon's expiring contract is the key to making that happen.
Chicago doesn't need a second-round appearance to feel good about itself, so bringing in a significant piece now makes little sense. It needs to get ready for an offseason that could redefine the direction of the franchise, and clearing cap space is the best way to prepare.
One candidate to be moved is Taj Gibson. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, teams have inquired about the forward, and moving him at the deadline would be smart if the Bulls truly have their long-term future in mind.
Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy are also names to look out for, but one way or another, the Bulls' roster should be different come Feb. 20.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have looked atrocious for much of the 2013-14 campaign, but with the team just three games out of eighth place in the East, one more move could be all it takes to get this hungry fanbase back to the postseason.
Despite early struggles, Cleveland has shown recent signs of life. It won four straight entering All-Star weekend, and while it doesn't have an easy schedule the rest of the way, it can find solace in the fact that it's in the historically bad Eastern Conference.
As B/R's Howard Beck points out in the video above, getting a top-five pick would be extremely beneficial to this organization. The truth, however, is that there's a lot of pressure to win now, and finding a big who can create his own shot—aka Greg Monroe—would be a monumental step in the right direction.
At this point, Monroe-to-Cleveland discussions should be considered speculation—not rumor. But if the Cavs are smart, they'll start the discussion nonetheless.
The Dallas Mavericks are a strong candidate to stay quiet at the deadline. They have a solid core around Dirk Nowitzki, and chances are, they'll be a classic team nobody wants to play come the postseason.
All that said, the Mavs have a number of expiring contracts that are valuable this time of year, and if the organization is willing to make a big change, it should go after Omer Asik before someone else lands him.
Nowitzki, as incredible as he's been throughout the years, could always use a strong center inside. We saw it with Tyson Chandler, and we could see it again if management can pry Asik away from the grip of Daryl Morey.
There's no guarantee that the Houston Rockets are willing to part with their big man at this point in the process, but it's worth making the call. This could be a huge move for the Mavericks—one that sets them up both now and into the future.
Despite being known for his ability to stay on the floor, Andre Miller hasn't played since Dec. 30, 2013. The tumultuous relationship between him and the coaching staff has all but ended the point guard's tenure with the Denver Nuggets, and finding the best possible deal needs to be a priority for management.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Washington Wizards are interested in the 37-year-old. The Wizards have had an awful experience with Eric Maynor running the backup point, and as long as Miller is willing to accept a role off the bench, he'd be a nice fit in their organization.
As for Denver, maximizing its return is obviously a concern, but making a deal happen is the first step.
Trading Miller is a must, and it's officially crunch time when it comes to making it happen.
Watching the Detroit Pistons play this season, it's painfully obvious that Josh Smith hasn't been a good fit. He's a natural power forward playing the 3, and being out on the perimeter has encouraged him to attempt a career-high 3.5 three-pointers per game despite shooting 23.1 percent—his lowest mark since his rookie season.
Unfortunately for GM Joe Dumars, Smith's toxic contract will make him nearly impossible to move at the deadline, making Greg Monroe the odd man out.
Detroit has to do something to clear up the logjam it has in the frontcourt. The team is dead last in three-point percentage, and it could desperately use a new perimeter player after moving Smith to the 4.
The only way to make those two things happen is by dealing Monroe, and that's a fact the organization must realize before it's too late.
The Golden State Warriors have a fantastic starting lineup. The first five is fourth in points per game, according to HoopsStats.com, and fifth in field-goal percentage.
The group is also first in three-point percentage, but none of that completely makes up for the lack of production thus far off the bench.
So far in 2013-14, the Warriors' reserves are 29th in points per game off the bench. They're dead last in field-goal percentage, and they're 27th in three-point percentage.
This team is too talented in its starting lineup to not find playoff success, but if it doesn't do something about its reserves, that's exactly how things are going to play out.
Asik is still a Houston Rocket, and if you ask Morey, that's not going to change anytime soon.
"The window to trade him was [in December]," Morey said, according to Ben DuBose of ClutchFans.net. "So we're excited about him being a part of our future."
Morey may be excited, but chances are, Asik is not. The center expressed concerns following the signing of Dwight Howard, and if he had his way, he'd be moved to a roster where he could be the starting center.
Morey said one thing right, and that's that the ideal window was early in the season. Asik's value has likely plummeted because of Houston's unwillingness to negotiate—not to mention Asik's injury status for much of the year.
All that said, if the organization is wise, it will open the window and see where Asik's value stands, as he has the potential to bring back a strong asset in the run toward the playoffs.
The Indiana Pacers are in prime position to compete for a championship, and messing with that now would be a mistake when you consider both short- and long-term ramifications.
The most likely piece to be moved is Danny Granger. He's a former All-Star with an expiring contract, and in reality, he could be appealing to both buyers and sellers at the deadline; albeit mostly sellers.
Then again, he's a valuable piece to have off the bench, and he's someone who can provide offense on a defense-oriented roster.
As B/R's Howard Beck mentions in the video above, the Pacers would be remiss not to at least consider an offer sent Indiana's way for Granger—but only if they avoid taking back too much salary. This is an organization that will look to re-sign Lance Stephenson in the offseason, and letting Granger walk for nothing wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
The Los Angeles Clippers don't have a lot of valuable assets they're willing to move, but if they could find a way to swap a perimeter player for a backup big, they'd be in better shape entering the postseason.
One name that has been mentioned as a movable pieces is Jared Dudley. Despite being in just his first season with the Clips, ESPN's Marc Stein has reported that the organization could very well trade him before the deadline.
This is a squad that has been ready to take the next step for a while, and some assumed Chris Paul was the final piece. L.A. still needs toughness inside that no one off the bench has been able to provide.
The Los Angeles Lakers must do two things that are going to hurt their pride at the deadline, but that will ultimately put them one step closer to a brighter future.
They must say goodbye to Pau Gasol, and they must admit that this season is officially a lost cause.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Gasol recognizes that something could still be in the works with the Phoenix Suns despite the two sides stopping communication.
”Things are kind of quiet right now,” Gasol said. “But I think there’s something potential. But right now the offer would have to change a little to make it considerable.”
If Los Angeles can convince the Suns to go all-in on the big man, it will complete the picture-perfect deal—a deal involving Emeka Okafor's expiring contract (which is 80 percent covered by insurance) as well as a potential draft pick. If it can't, it must look elsewhere before the deadline comes and goes.
As the deadline nears, you're bound to hear Zach Randolph's name in trade rumors. His contract makes him a desirable player to move from a salary standpoint, but with the Memphis Grizzlies playing well once again, don't be shocked to see him stick around and make another run in the postseason.
Instead, the Grizzlies should hone in on finding a shooter. With Randolph still on board and Marc Gasol healthy, this team can be incredibly dangerous in the playoffs, and having a shooter on the roster would be huge for immediate success.
So far, we've heard talks about the Grizz engaging in discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves surrounding Tayshaun Prince and Chase Budinger, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. The potential swap is also reported to include J.J. Barea and Tony Allen, but if Memphis is feeling ambitious, it might look at what it would take to pry Dunleavy away from the Chicago Bulls instead.
The Miami Heat should stand pat at the deadline, but not because they're in perfect shape.
At this point in the process, the Heat are lacking the assets necessary to make a desirable move. As B/R's Ethan Skolnick points out in the video above, health is the main concern, and while the team would love to add a perimeter player as insurance behind Dwyane Wade, picking up a bought-out player is a more likely option.
If the Heat are able to swoop in and snag a player before the playoffs, they'd be smart to add depth to the roster. But without the assets to wheel and deal, don't expect much to find that piece before Feb. 20.
Although Ersan Ilyasova hasn't openly demanded a trade, "multiple sources" have confirmed that the 26-year-old has expressed his desire to leave the Milwaukee Bucks, per the Journal Times.
The truth is, almost everyone on Milwaukee's roster is expendable at this point, and Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders agrees. "The Bucks are definitely open for business," Kyler said. "Almost anything outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo or John Henson is going to get consideration."
In reality, we shouldn't knock the Bucks too hard for their struggles this season. People have ragged on them in the past for not tanking, and now that they're officially the worst team in the league, detractors are still holding their record against them.
The Bucks have positioned themselves to be players in the upcoming draft, and that's all we can ask. At the deadline, getting better doesn't make much sense, but sending out bad contracts and disgruntled players does, as 2014 should be the start of a new era.
Regardless of what the Minnesota Timberwolves do at the deadline, we know they have one true goal in mind: Make Kevin Love happy.
Love, whose potential free-agent status has been a hot topic all year, is itching to get to the postseason. As it stands, the Wolves are just two spots away from making that happen, but with six games between them and the Golden State Warriors, the odds aren't in their favor.
If Minnesota can't improve rather significantly before Love has the chance to bolt, the team's looking at starting over yet again. Andre Miller clearly isn't a long-term solution, but ESPN's Marc Stein has reported that the team is interested in bringing on the veteran at this stage in the season.
The Denver Nuggets would be happy to ditch the disgruntled guard, and it looks as if the Timberwolves might be the partner to make it happen. If GM Milt Newton can't find the long-term partner Love is looking for, this is a solid backup plan; although it shouldn't be considered the only move to help woo Love.
Trading Eric Gordon could be difficult because of his contract—not to mention his history of injuries—but shipping out the 2-guard would help the New Orleans Pelicans bring in a necessary upgrade in the frontcourt.
It's no secret that New Orleans could use a center, as pointed out in the video above by John Reid of The Times-Picayune. If the right deal came along to move Gordon for a position of need, you'd better believe the Pelicans would jump on it.
Despite entering the year with hopes of the postseason, those dreams have been crushed. Gordon is a talented player who could've helped the team if it were nearing the playoffs, but at this juncture, his place in the lineup makes him expendable.
A logjam is brewing in the backcourt, and while Gordon is extremely talented, it makes sense for Dell Demps to fix the roster before the start of the 2014-15 season.
The New York Knicks should be afraid of losing Carmelo Anthony in the 2014 offseason, but trading him now isn't the answer.
According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Anthony is willing to take a pay cut if it means binging in the right piece alongside him. “As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me,” Anthony said. "My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career."
The caveat here is that he could ultimately decide that even with a pay cut, the Knicks don't give him the best chance of winning. It's up to management to make the right moves before 'Melo has the chance to leave, and according to Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry have been linked to the Knicks this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are about to get a whole lot better without making a single move at the deadline.
With Russell Westbrook set to return as early as Feb. 20, per Sports Illustrated, the Thunder are essentially acquiring a three-time All-Star without giving up anyone in return. Westbrook averaged 21.3 points, seven assists and six rebounds before getting hurt this season, and his addition to the lineup will take the pressure off of Kevin Durant to be superhuman night in and night out.
Making a move now wouldn't make sense for OKC considering how good it has been thus far, and riding out the season as is will be fine following Westbrook's return. Swinging a deal might be smart if he were to miss more time, but with his return, the team should be the favorites out West once the postseason arrives.
The Orlando Magic aren't necessarily in tank mode, but they're hardly concerned with winning games this season.
Arron Afflalo is having a breakout year, which means the Magic could opt to sell high at the time of the deadline. He's averaging career highs all across the board, and he's been a player teams have targeted for the better part of the 2013-14 campaign.
The question is: Why would Orlando part with its go-to scorer? He's been a bright spot in another losing season, and he's the only player putting up more than 13.9 points per contest.
At age 28, you have to assume Afflalo has finally hit his ceiling. If the Magic don't believe he's the kind of player they can build around, it makes sense to ship him out for younger players or draft picks, especially considering more losses this season would be beneficial to Orlando's lottery hopes.
The Philadelphia 76ers have three young pieces all playing extremely well, and if GM Sam Hinkie is smart, he'll listen to each and every offer that comes in before the deadline.
The three pieces Hinkie has to work with are Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. All three are 25 years old, and all three are having excellent seasons despite not winning many games.
This is an ideal scenario for the organization. The team doesn't have to sacrifice its place in the lottery, and yet it gets to showcase its assets on a nightly basis.
Philly has no interest in winning right now, making all three of these players expendable to the highest bidders.
Early in the 2013-14 season, GM Ryan McDonough (pictured above) was willing to sacrifice one or more of his first-round picks if it meant bringing back a star, per Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. Now he has the opportunity to do just that, but he's getting cold feet.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Phoenix Suns put a halt on discussions surrounding Pau Gasol when the Los Angeles Lakers requested more assets along with Emeka Okafor's expiring contract. The Suns have a plethora of first-round picks to offer up, but with the deadline looming, McDonough is searching for the best possible deal.
While you can't blame the GM for having his team's best interest in mind, he must recognize that a late first-rounder, even in such a strong draft, won't come with the immediate impact that Gasol can offer. The suns are one of the biggest surprises of the 2013-14 season, and if they want to sustain that success in the playoffs, they'll make sure they have Gasol on their roster by Feb. 20.
The Portland Trail Blazers bench is bad, and you can look at the frontcourt if you want to point fingers.
With the playoffs around the corner, Joel Freeland—the team's only consistent reserve big—is sidelined for anywhere between four and eight weeks, leaving Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard as the only options off the bench. Neither has proved he can be reliable when given significant minutes, and neither offers the promise of immediate postseason success.
In an interview with B/R's Adam Lefkoe, CSNNW's Chris Haynes named Spencer Hawes as a potential trade target, and he's exactly right. The center wouldn't help Portland's defensive deficiencies, but he would give the team something it desperately needs: scoring off the bench.
Portland doesn't have many assets to offer, but if GM Neil Olshey is willing to part with his youngsters, he could convince a rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers squad to sacrifice their big man for a chance at long-term success.
The Sacramento Kings have made numerous acquisitions the past few years to brighten their future, and while drafting Jimmer Fredette was supposed to be one of those moves, it's time to move on.
Despite being arguably the worst team in the Western Conference, the Kings are 13th in scoring leaguewide. They're averaging 101.2 points per game, making Fredette the perfect trade chip for a solid defender.
Fredette's numbers are down again this season, but he wouldn't be tough to move to the right suitor. Not only is he a lights-out shooter, knocking down 49.3 percent of his shots from downtown, but he has an expiring contract, which is like gold to deadline sellers.
Sacramento doesn't need to be great this season, as the lottery is the No. 1 priority, but bringing in a player who quietly fills a need defensively would be a small step in the right direction.
When you think of the deadline, the San Antonio Spurs don't typically come to mind. This is a team that has created its legacy through the draft, and it has avoided shaking things up midseason in an effort to build chemistry and depth each and every postseason.
Unfortunately for Gregg Popovich and his crew, he has struggled against top-tier teams out West this time around, and adding another scorer would be beneficial.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, San Antonio could take advantage of a Philadelphia 76ers team that is going to be selling come Feb. 20. Evan Turner is on the market, and the Spurs could jump in and swoop him up.
Bringing in Turner wouldn't necessarily be a long-term move, as the swingman, who is having a career year, would bring with him an expiring contract. That said, the acquisition makes sense considering Kawhi Leonard's broken hand, and it would put the Spurs in better position to win another Western Conference championship.
The Toronto Raptors need to continue shopping Kyle Lowry, but making a trade for the sake of shaking things up doesn't make as much sense.
If the right deal comes along—a deal that improves the team now and offers a brighter future—GM Masai Ujiri would be smart to consider it. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the issue thus far has been the team's asking price, as Ujiri is smartly considering both of the aforementioned factors while wheeling and dealing.
Toronto hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008, and with that about to change (barring a significant move in the wrong direction), nobody wants to see this organization trade itself out of the postseason. Lowry has played well enough as of late to spark interest leaguewide, but his production is also going to play a key role in success come April.
The Utah Jazz have no interest in being good this season, which means they should sit back and watch the deadline pass with the 2014 offseason in mind.
If the Jazz wanted, they could have a complete fire sale come Feb. 20. They have multiple expiring contracts, including Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors, and they could be buyers when it came to adding long-term pieces.
This team, however, is more interested in riding out the rest of the year as is, and once the aforementioned contracts run out, that's when GM Dennis Lindsey can really focus on where the team can upgrade.
Andre Miller's time in Denver is all but done, and the Washington Wizards would be smart to place a bid for his services.
According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Washington would like to add point guard depth before Feb. 20. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as Eric Maynor has been an incredible disappointment, and with Miller on the move, the veteran would be a perfect addition to a playoff-bound roster.
Despite lacking the playoff success Washington could use, Miller still has a lot to bring to the table. At 37 years old, the crafty floor general has become known as an iron man in this league, and his ability to drive and kick would help create production on the perimeter despite his awful stroke.
Adding Miller alone won't help the Wizards defeat the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in a seven-game series, but his addition just might delay their fate until the second round. This team is hungry for success, and Miller could be the player to get it where it wants to be.