A bevy of pre-NBA trade deadline rumors very seldom translate to an abundance of actual deals, but this year's trade talks have filled the headlines over recent days and weeks.
Different teams' scenarios seemingly provide for a few perfect fits. Teams like the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are attempting to shake off poor starts and improve their rosters heading into the second half. The Sacramento Kings appear to be selling high on their prized young guard.
The uncharacteristically rebuilding Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have key assets that may be on the move before the deadline hits. Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol are surely two of the deadline's flashiest names, but will they be moved?
There is still a lot of uncertainty, but we may only be moments away from this February's first deadline deal, which will get the ball rolling. Or, like last season, we may not see much change at all.
All we can go by right now is what we're hearing from those in the know. Ahead, we round up the latest rumors and reports before Thursday's deadline.
In what has been the zaniest twist of the pre-deadline rumors thus far, James Dolan is reportedly interested in rekindling the Jeremy Lin love affair.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford's interview with Bill Simmons, the Knicks "would love to get their hands on Lin" after opting to let Houston have him in the summer of 2012. It was believed that Dolan was perturbed at Lin's deal being back-loaded, which would have packed a heavy tax penalty on New York in 2015. So it's only fitting that the team is willing to bring Lin back in the back-portion of the contract.
Lin's fit with the Rockets isn't as glamorous as it was perceived to be when the deal was signed, with James Harden and now Dwight Howard being the focal points of the offense. Lin has posted a career-best true shooting percentage of .586 this season, per Basketball Reference, and would boost any team looking for an upgrade at the point.
Aside from Lin, the Knicks have also inquired about Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks, via ESPN's Marc Stein, and remain determined to coax the Toronto Raptors into parting with Kyle Lowry, via ESPN New York's Ian Begley.
Both reports bring up the Knicks' lack of trade assets, which would pose issues in any deal. The most immediate draft pick they have to offer in a trade is a 2018 first-rounder, while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert are the only promising, attractive pieces they have to offer.
It's clear that New York is looking to upgrade at point guard, given Raymond Felton's season-long struggles. He's shooting 41 percent and just 30 percent from three and has been benched by Mike Woodson in the fourth quarter on two occasions this month.
Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal posited some more realistic replacement options for the Knicks to chase. Greivis Vasquez—Lowry's backup in Toronto—as well as Charlotte's Ramon Sessions were mentioned. Goran Dragic of the surprising Phoenix Suns was also brought up, but it's unlikely that the team would part with such a key contributor in an encouraging season—if the Knicks were even able to muster up the pieces to trade.
It's also important to note that the Knicks are planning on making a free-agency splash in 2015, and any player with a contract that stretches beyond that date would be less likely to be considered.
The Sacramento Kings have already made a splash this season by singing off on two high-profile trades. But it doesn't seem like they're finished just yet.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, 25-year-old point guard Isaiah Thomas is being made available in talks to perhaps grab a bigger name.
The news, coming in the midst of a career season from Thomas, is upon us just a day after Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported a similar piece of info. According to the Yahoo report, the Kings made a push for the rebuilding Boston Celtics' star Rajon Rondo and offered a package headlined by Thomas and rookie Ben McLemore:
26. Boston Celtics (19-35; last week's ranking: 26): Source said Sacramento offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick for Rajon Rondo. Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento.
Sacramento failed to lure in a new face of the franchise, but it seems as if management is continuing to use Thomas as a trade chip.
Through the first half, he has been playing the best basketball of his NBA career as the starting point man. He's averaging 20 points and six assists on 44 percent shooting. The team dealt Greivis Vasquez earlier in the season to free up the starting job for the University of Washington product.
As it turns out, perhaps it was solely to showcase him for rival front offices.
Thomas just turned 25 this month and is playing for the minimum salary this season. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer.
Yahoo! Sports reported that Thomas is playing through sprained ligaments in his shooting wrist, but Jason Ham of NBA.com confirmed that an MRI came back negative, and he'll be playing through the ailment.
The resurgent Brooklyn Nets, after two months of floundering, miraculously find themselves in the middle of the Eastern Conference's playoff picture at 24-27. If you go by what you hear, they're looking to solidify the bench to shore up their status as a postseason participant.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Nets and Sacramento Kings have engaged in talks centered on Marcus Thornton, Jason Terry and Reggie Evans.
Thornton is a 6'4" shooting guard who is averaging career lows of eight points and one assist per game. His shooting marks of 38 percent from the field and 31 from the arc are also worsts for the 26-year-old.
Wojnarowski also noted that the Nets were previously in talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers regarding Jarrett Jack, but that Jack's hefty contract—in terms of length—will keep a deal from getting done.
The report also brings up prior talks with the Los Angeles Lakers, which had Jordan Hill moving to Brooklyn by way of the team's disabled player exception. But the move would end up pushing the Nets' salary and luxury-tax commitments up near $200 million, and as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reports, that may finally be the tipping point for the Nets' free-spending management:
Although the Lakers engaged in preliminary talks about a trade that would send Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets, the deal likely will not happen, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
The main reason: Brooklyn would absorb a $17 million luxury tax penalty for absorbing Hill’s remaining $3.5 million on his expiring contract. Brooklyn has some flexibility considering its $5.25 million disabled player exception could be used to absorb Hill’s contract. But that doesn’t erase the luxury tax implications. The Nets would then have shelled out around $190 million in combined payroll and luxury tax.
The Lakers could use Hill's post presence. According to 82games, centers log a player efficiency rating of 17.3 against Brooklyn—higher than any other position. The .526 effective field-goal percentage allowed to centers is tied for the highest of any position.
Hill's opponents shoot 49 percent against him at the rim, which is better than four Nets frontcourt players, per NBA.com.
Pau Gasol's name has been scattered throughout trade rumors for the last two years but no more consistently than this month.
The Lakers, at 18-35, are looking to cash in on Gasol before his contract expires this summer. It's unlikely the big man would be brought back next season with Kobe Bryant signed and the team expected to chase a max-level free agent in 2014 or 2015.
Earlier in the month, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein reported that the Phoenix Suns were intrigued at the prospect of adding Gasol in time for a playoff run with their young core.
Phoenix has four first-rounders in this year's draft to offer, and it would likely take one of them to pry Gasol from the Lakers. Phoenix could also include Emeka Okafor's $14 million expiring, insured contract to make a deal legal.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Charlotte Bobcats have inquired about Gasol as well, but no deal is likely to be completed in time for the Thursday deadline.
Speaking to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, Gasol shared thoughts on the prospect of leaving LA for good: "It's something that's there and there's potential that it might happen. Who knows? We might be saying that it's been great to see you guys [in the media] and we'll see you around. But hopefully that won't be the case because it's always hard and I think if it ever happened, it would be tough."
Gasol's health has played a role in discussions as well, since he hasn't played this month with a groin strain.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders rattled off the most recent piece of Gasol news late Tuesday:
Rival executives believe the Lakers and Suns will resume trade talks, with Pau Gasol ultimately being traded to Phoenix.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 19, 2014
To summarize, there's no real telling if Gasol is staying or leaving the Lakers. But with the deadline approaching on Thursday, we'll soon find out.
As the deadline has inched closer over the last month, scattered Rajon Rondo rumors have made their way into headlines. But, as it will likely play out through the deadline, he is worth more to the Celtics than any other team.
The Knicks (from ESPN's Marc Stein), Kings (via Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports) and Raptors (per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun) have all reportedly contacted Danny Ainge about the star point man, and Rondo has conveyed an unwillingness to sign a contract extension in Sacramento (via Spears) or Toronto, via ESPN's Chris Broussard.
Rondo's contract expires after next season, and it's unclear if a team would be willing to surrender prime assets for him without a commitment beyond 2015.
The Knicks, of course, love Rondo and dream of a pairing with Carmelo Anthony over the next several seasons. But with no draft picks to offer until 2018 and only Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert as young trade chips, there's no chance at a trade getting done.
As Sam Amick of USA Today writes, no presented offer has pleased Celtics management.
The most likely scenario is for Rondo to play out this season with the C's, and Ainge will revisit trade discussions on draft day.