The trade deadline is here, and all 30 NBA teams are on the clock. Whether a team is pushing for a playoff spot, selling off assets or adding one last piece for a championship run, now is the time to get things done. Trade now, or forever hold your peace. And by forever, I mean until the offseason.
The trade deadline will be no different than the rest of the regular season in that plenty of what you hear won't happen. Still, we know there will be some action, and we know there are multiple teams with the incentive to make a deal. There always is at this time of year.
For this version of buy or sell, we'll take a look at five of the biggest rumors circulating around the league before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The Verdict: Buy
My first inclination was to sell on this because it's my belief that the Boston Celtics will also ask any team trading for Rondo to take on Gerald Wallace's contract as well.
While two unprotected first-round picks are certainly valuable, Boston might want to tear it down completely when trading Rondo. Otherwise, the chance to dump Wallace's long-term contract might be lost.
I've come around on Boston "only" accepting two first-round picks, though, even if it would also mean losing the franchise's best free-agent recruiter for the 2015 offseason.
Why is that? Well, when you think about the teams that need a starting point guard, like the Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic and maybe a few others, almost all of them aren't competing as of right now. While Rondo would certainly make a lot of teams better, the chances the first-round picks that end up being conveyed are toward the bottom of the round seem relatively low.
Whether two picks is enough to make Boston deal Rondo likely depends on the trading partner, but it's a solid field to choose from.
If I had to guess, though, I would lean heavily toward Rondo staying and not being dealt altogether. He could be the new Paul Pierce in Boston while general manager Danny Ainge accumulates enough assets to go get the next Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Either way, Ainge is infamous for gouging teams in trade talks, so here's buying that the initial asking price is two first-round picks, but the final price is a little steeper.
The Rumor: According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports, the San Antonio Spurs would love to land Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova or Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young.
The Verdict: Sell
I'm not selling because acquiring Ilyasova or Young is too difficult from a logistics standpoint. The Spurs have about $10 million in expiring salary with Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and Nando De Colo to deal, as well as all of their future draft picks. This could be done rather easily.
I just don't think San Antonio is willing to add such a big piece on a long-term deal before the deadline. The Spurs were a Ray Allen corner three away from winning the title last year, and even with all sorts of injuries, they've still looked great this season. The Spurs have gone the longest time of all the teams in the league without trading for a reason.
This is a title contender as is, and Diaw plays a critical role and probably can't be dealt. The Spurs probably aren't ready to ship off the guy who defended LeBron James so well in the finals. They'll need him.
If the Spurs were interested, though, Young and Ilyasova are both likely available. Recently, Ilyasova didn't hold back when talking to the Journal Times about his current situation:
The thing I'm upset about is each year, each season, we go through the same thing. Last year, we make the playoffs and now we start all over again. That's really frustrating.
The Spurs can likely get Ilyasova or Young for a future draft pick and expiring deals, but given the year-by-year nature with Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, that seems unlikely.
The Spurs can make a run just fine without making a huge deal. Continuity, flexibility and clearly defined roles usually take precedent over talent upgrades in San Antonio, anyway.
The Rumor: According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, league sources say the Brooklyn Nets have interest in Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack, with one source saying Jason Terry for Jack could be a possibility before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The Verdict: Sell
The Brooklyn Nets may not have much use for long-term financial flexibility thanks to Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, but this seems a little reckless. After this season, Jack will still have three years left on his deal, while Terry could conceivably be an expiring trade asset, if he doesn't retire.
Jack just doesn't seem like the type of player any team should trade for at this point, though. Thirty-year-old backup point guards making above mid-level exception money for multiple years just aren't all that appealing, even if Jack would probably be a decent upgrade over Terry.
Neither player has performed well this season, but current backup point guard Shaun Livingston has proven plenty capable for the Nets in a big role. Jack could still help, but it's hard to say he's worth his price, even for a team that doesn't care about that sort of thing.
For Cleveland, trading for Terry would be the equivalent of being granted a mulligan on their offseason mistake. The Cavs likely want to pursue free agents this offseason, and Terry's deal potentially coming off the books a year early could be very beneficial. Even if Terry plays out the rest of his deal, it still frees up future cap room down the line.
The Nets may want to upgrade wherever possible regardless of the massive luxury-tax impact, but someone in the organization has to be looking out for the future at some point, right? This just doesn't seem worth it.
The Rumor: According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the New York Knicks are intrigued by Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague.
The Verdict: Buy
Update: Tuesday, Feb. 18
Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks "are expected to pass on Teague," as the move would eat into their prized cap space for the 2015 offseason.
---End of update---
We know the Knicks have a history of being linked to names that can't realistically be acquired due to their lack of assets, but I don't necessarily think that's the case here.
If New York were willing to give up some combination of a future first-round pick, cap filler and someone like Iman Shumpert for Teague, you would certainly think that the Hawks would be willing to listen.
The potentially appealing thing about Teague for the Knicks is that he's on a long-term deal and not a rental, unlike another coveted target, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Teague is still young with the potential to improve, and he's clearly a substantial upgrade over Raymond Felton at this point. This would help the Knicks for the playoffs, which in turn could help keep Carmelo Anthony.
Although there's a risk in taking on any long-term deal, Teague has proven to be a solid point guard in the league who can use his speed to get into the paint. That's something New York has desperately lacked this year, so on the floor, at least, it's a good fit.
In terms of assets, the fit might be another story for New York, but I'm buying that Teague is a feasible acquisition for the Knicks. If Atlanta is convinced that Teague isn't the point guard of the future, it might not be out of the question for him to be dealt for future cap flexibility, a young wing player and a draft pick down the line. Unlike a deal for Rajon Rondo, this feels much more realistic.
The Rumor: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been active in the search for a shooter to fortify them for a title run.
The Verdict: Buy
While I'm of the belief that Oklahoma City will opt to stay put and not try to fix what isn't broken, searching for an additional cheap shooter who doesn't cost any major assets such as draft picks or members of the core makes sense.
If OKC only has to sacrifice a non-rotation player and the use of a trade exception to find a player more worthy of minutes than Thabo Sefolosha and Jeremy Lamb, then that could work—addition without the chance for any real subtraction, basically.
The bigger deals for guys like Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo are going to be tough to do without giving up draft picks, and that's something we haven't really seen the Thunder do in the past. It would be a bit of a surprise to see it happen now, since OKC owns the league's best record even without Russell Westbrook in the lineup for most of the season.
Gearing up for a title run is understandable, so I'll buy this so long as it's a smaller acquisition. It's hard to imagine a real blockbuster deal in OKC's future.