NBA Rumors: Breaking Down Most Logical Trade Discussions

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NBA Rumors: Breaking Down Most Logical Trade Discussions
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next 24-plus hours, you will be inundated with an overwhelming flood of trade rumors across the NBA, sending players big and small, terrible and franchise-changing across both coasts.

Many of these rumors will be mind-numbingly, hilariously stupid. Not that the reporters who are touting this information are sending out falsehoods; I'd never accuse any one of that without hard evidence. Teams and agents float things, reporters report them.

It just so happens some of the things floated make zero sense. Sorry, Knicks fans. Rajon Rondo and Kenneth Faried aren't coming your way. Those players might move, but if they do, odds are it'll be to a team that can trade a draft pick before 2018. And good luck trading for Kevin Love, homies. You can pry him out of Flip Saunders' cold, dead hands.

Rondo and Love are the names that get people talking, but they're also the ones who will let people down. By all accounts, the Celtics will keep Rondo unless their doors are blown off, and the Love trade rumor mill shouldn't pick up any real steam until this summer or next February.

Still, if you dig yourself deep enough into the rumor muck, you're bound to come out of the you-know-what pile with one or two rose petals—the analomous rumors that not only feature a relatively big-named player but also have some cogency.

These aren't deals that will all be consummated or even ones that necessarily should be. If you squint hard enough, though, you could probably talk yourself into believing that the following trades might come to fruition.

 

Brooklyn, Cleveland Trade Off Unwanted Contracts in Jarrett Jack and Jason Terry

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Nearly two years into the three-year, $15.67 million contract Jason Terry signed with Boston in 2012, it's safe to say he's not exactly a mid-level player anymore. Terry slogged through a frustrating one-season stint with the Celtics, shooting pretty well but becoming an unusable defender who clashed with the defense-first culture in Boston. He was then shipped to Brooklyn as a throw-in to the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce megadeal.

Things now? Yeah. They're not going well. Terry, still the same not-so-good defender, has fallen off a cliff offensively. He's shooting a career-low 36.2 percent from the floor and has become only a sporadic member of Jason Kidd's rotation. 

But here's the thing about the NBA: Terry could shoot the ball with his left foot and still cash a game check. The Netsthe wildly, exorbitantly spending Netsare now stuck with this terrible contract. No one in their right mind would take it on unless Terry was attached to a Brook Lopez-level sweetener.

Unless, of course, they found a team eager to get out of a slightly longer but equally inhibiting contract.

Glenn James/Getty Images

Meet Jarrett Jack and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In case you are unfamiliar with the Cavaliers' season, this hyperlinked picture of a dumpster fire would probably suffice for 54 game's worth of highlights. Cleveland is a terrible, disjointed mess. It also hasn't helped that Jack, one of two big offseason signings for Cleveland, has gone bust.

Jack is shooting a career-worst 39.7 percent from the floor, is scoring at his lowest rate since his rookie season and has been an oil-water mix with the Cavaliers' already ball-dominant guards. Cleveland is scoring just 96.4 points per 100 possessions in Jack's 1,337 minutes on the floor this season, a rate that would rank only ahead of the Sixers for worst in the NBA. With two more guaranteed years (and a third non-guaranteed year) remaining at $6.3 million per season, suffice it to say the Cavs wish contracts came with receipts.

Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein of ESPN are reporting the Nets and Cavs may offer one another salvation. A source close to the situation indicated the two sides have discussed a possible swap, with Jack and Terry being the principals, and it makes a ton of sense both ways.

There are some financial hurdles for both front offices to consider. Brooklyn wants to get under the luxury tax for 2015-16 to avoid repeater penalties. Jack's deal would add $6.3 million to that season's cap sheet not currently allotted, making an already unlikely dream nearly impossible. But that's kind of the point. 

The Cavs are looking at the prospect of cutting their losses, essentially, to get out of one season of paying Jack. Stein and Youngmisuk noted Cleveland would like a third team to take Terry, but that's not happening. Terry is staying put if he gets moved. And even if Cleveland doesn't love the Jack deal, he's still a backup NBA point guard. Terry is a decomposing body collecting his last checks; it's still a pill to swallow.

That said, Cleveland and Brooklyn would have a difficult time finding better deals for these two. Sure, the Nets would like to avoid the tax in 2015-16. The entire male population would like Kate Upton's phone number. Some things just ain't in the cards, jack. Brooklyn has more than $60 million in commitments to Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in 2015-16. Ducking the tax isn't happening.

So why not Jack? He hasn't worked in Cleveland, but he's less than a year removed from coming thisclose to winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award. With Williams struggling mightily with injury and Shaun Livingston lacking much punch offensively, Jack could transition to a more ball-heavy role that suited him in Golden State.

As for Cleveland? Jack is not working on a roster that already features Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. If Cleveland plans on keeping the latter two players, get out of Jack's contract and move on.

 

Pau to Phoenix for Playoff Push (Enough P's for You?)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This one has been hanging around like a pesky gnat for a while now. Stein first reported the Lakers and Suns were discussing a deal that would send Pau Gasol to Phoenix for Emeka Okafor's insured contract and likely a first-round draft pick. After an initial groundswell of excitement, the deal was tabled, as the Suns and Lakers reassessed their options going into the All-Star break.

Post-break? It seems the grass isn't greener anywhere else. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reported league executives believe the two sides will re-engage in talks before Thursday:

For both teams, consummating a Gasol trade means answering quite a few key questions. Are the Suns serious playoff contenders or bound to peter-out down the stretch?

The longer we go, the longer it seems like the former. Phoenix is 31-21 and sitting in the No. 6 seed out West after Tuesday's overtime win in Denver. This isn't what anyone expected for a roster barely worth 20 wins in the preseason. 

Still, with Memphis finding its groove and Dallas and Golden State both boasting playoff-tested veterans, odds remain the upstarts will wind up just missing out. That's just the way things work in the NBA.

More important, then, is how much the Suns value their war chest of first-round picks. General manager Ryan McDonough isn't the type who will sacrifice the future for a couple-month rental like Gasol, but he's also smart enough to realize how unrealistic the Suns' pick structure is. Phoenix could have as many as four first-round picks in June. No team, no matter what stage of its rebuild, wants to integrate that many high draft picks.

Is Gasol worth the worst of those possible first picks? Before going down with his groin injury, Gasol was lighting the world on fire in January. His 20.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game were peak-Pau offensive numbers, even if the defense isn't quite where it used to be. The Spaniard is probably still good enough to lock Phoenix into the playoffs considering the team's desperate need for a legitimate post threat. 

And, hey, there's nothing that stipulates Gasol has to be a rental. He's a free agent, but Phoenix has cap space and could work out an amenable short-term deal that doesn't hurt the future. There are possibilities here worth getting excited about.

The Lakers' internal discussion is a whole lot simpler. Does the front office realize this is a terrible, terrible basketball team with literally nothing to play for but pingpong balls? Does Mitch Kupchak understand that netting some sweet, insured Okafor money and a draft pick is more valuable than Gasol propping up a roster filled with misfits and also-rans? Does he realize those two assets are worth more than the nothing the Lakers will receive in return when Gasol leaves in free agency this summer?

If so, make the deal, give Gasol a warm homecoming on March 30 and fortify the tanking machine.

 

The Isaiah Thomas Sell-High Sendoff

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

We're talking more of an idea than actual rumored trade here. For the purpose of this section, it's worth mentioning first that Isaiah Thomas is awesome. He's a 5'9" tank with the ferocity of a pit bull. His ability to twist and turn and contort and hesitate with his body in the lane to get off difficult shots despite his size is a sight that every NBA fan should see in person at least once.

The Kings have also unleashed Thomas this season, after two years of people like yours truly crying and moaning about it on Twitter. The result has, quietly, been one of the best offensive seasons in the league for a point guard. Thomas is one of five qualifying players averaging 20 points and six assists per game, and he has a higher PER than Paul George. Given his above-average three-point shooting, we're talking about an elite offensive point guard. 

Sacramento scores at a top-10 rate with Thomas on the floor and a bottom-10 rate with him on the bench. Even despite all the skills we just mentioned, perhaps Thomas' greatest skill is his presence, which allows Mike Malone to avoid playing Jimmer Fredette at point guard as much as possible.

That and his nonexistent price. Thomas, a 2010 second-round pick, makes exactly $884,293 this season. Even among rookie contracts, he is one of the handful of biggest bargains on NBA teams' books in 2013-14.

So why on heaven and earth would Stein report the Kings are making Thomas available in trade talks?

Plenty of reasons, actually. Most of them are pretty sound, too. 

The problem with Thomas is that he will not be making a six-figure salary next season. He'll be making far, far, far more. As a restricted free agent, Thomas' market is murky, but Sacramento is going to have heavy competition this summer. Teams are loaded with eight-figure cap space, and if the major players wind up staying put, Thomas is the exact type of player an enterprising general manager could overpay.

Thomas is a fantastic value at $884,293. Is he such a great player if we start talking crazy, $40 million over four years numbers? That's probably an extreme number—teams, no matter what, are going to be wary of Thomas' size for the remainder of his career—but he'll wind up somewhere in that $32-$40 million range in July.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

For all of Thomas' strengths offensively, he's nearly as big of a detriment defensively. The Kings are a miserable defensive team top to bottom, but Thomas is one of the two or three biggest minuses on the roster. Big point guards can pass over him like he's not even there, and even more diminutive guards like Chris Paul have an easy time seeing the floor over his 5'9" frame. And it's hard for Malone to throw Thomas on a so-called hider, because even limited wings can kill him in the post. 

Thomas' height isn't his fault. It's just a reality when discussing his value. When he's on the floor, you're essentially punting one defensive position and hoping Thomas just plays good team defense. Which, if you watch enough tape, becomes clear isn't always a commitment. 

I'm not sure how much Sacramento could get in return for Thomas. Other executives are well aware of his contract situation. It'd be curious to see a team give up a real asset for what could be a Thomas rental, and it'd be even stranger if Sacramento dumped him for a lesser player. A trade involving Thomas would probably have to involve multiple components.

The fact that Sacramento is floating his name, though, shows a whole helluva lot more critical thinking than the previous regime.

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

 

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