As soon as the NBA All-Star Game ended, the attention quickly shifted across the league to the trade deadline. Teams will now scramble to pull off some blockbuster deals before 3 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Organizations are in different positions at this point of the year, which usually shapes what to expect in the coming week. Some squads that have exceeded expectations are looking to go all-in by welcoming a star who puts them over the edge. Others have struggled during the year and now want to trade off any assets that have value.
The varied situations create some intriguing rumors, although not all of them will go through. Still, here is the latest on big-name players who could be on the move.
Dwight Howard to Miami?
A year ago, the Houston Rockets were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. If the season ended today, they wouldn't even make the playoffs. This fall from grace could lead to drastic changes before the deadline.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News provided a look at one discussed deal:
Frank Isola @FisolaNYDN
Dwight Howard could be moved by Thursday's trade deadline. Miami is talking with Houston about a deal that would include Hassan Whiteside.2/15/2016, 4:46:40 PM
Dwight Howard is averaging 14.6 points per game, which would be the lowest since his rookie season. According to Basketball-Reference.com, he has increased his offensive efficiency and is also providing 12 rebounds per game, although ESPN Stats & Info noted how the Rockets have been better without him:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Since Jan. 1, the Rockets are 6-10 when Dwight Howard plays and 5-0 without him. They're allowing 9 fewer PPG without him in those games.2/11/2016, 11:09:27 PM
Considering Houston's struggles on the defensive end, bringing in an elite rim protector like Hassan Whiteside makes a lot of sense. It would save tons of money this season and allow the organization to make a decision about what it wants to do with the future based on how he performs for the rest of the year.
From the other perspective, Miami would be adding a proven All-Star who could be a lot more successful in the Eastern Conference. Considering Howard's upside as one of the best centers in the league, you can understand the Heat taking this bet.
It would be a risky move for both sides, but it could also be mutually beneficial.
Celtics Looking for Big Piece
While Houston dealing Howard would certainly turn heads, the Boston Celtics might be trying for the biggest move of the trade season. They have already been one of the more pleasant surprises of the year, getting out to a 32-23 start to sit in third place in the East. Now they want to find a way to make themselves legitimate contenders.
Anthony DiMoro of SportsRants.com noted a few possibilities the front office has considered:
Anthony DiMoro @AnthonyDiMoro
#Celtics have been in minor talks with #Cavs for Kevin Love and #Hawks for Al Horford.2/15/2016, 6:22:24 PM
Isola goes even further, noting that along with Kevin Love and Al Horford, Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin are also targets as the team tries to make a "big splash." The questions left are whether the other teams are willing to make a deal and what the Celtics are willing to give up to make it happen.
Love has been the focus of trade speculation since he arrived in Cleveland last season—and in reality, throughout much of his career. While there is debate about how Love fits within the Cavaliers offense, LeBron James didn't mince words in his assessment about a potential deal, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
Chris Haynes @ChrisBHaynes
LeBron James was asked about the Kevin Love rumor to Boston. "It's false."2/13/2016, 5:07:42 PM
On the other hand, a trade for Horford might be more likely. A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com reported the 29-year-old All-Star may have asked Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas about playing center in Boston. The Hawks are also in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and appear more likely to become sellers with their impending free agents.
One potential holdup might be if Boston trades away the first-round pick it received from the Brooklyn Nets, who have the third-worst record in the NBA. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical told CSNNE that such a move would be unlikely:
The Brooklyn pick has tremendous value. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Celtics trade that. If they do trade that it’s got to be for a really elite, star-level player. I don’t think that player is out there available for them.
They don’t want to overreach and give away these assets. They’re looking for that Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen deal that they did to put the previous champion together. Those deals probably aren’t out there for them.
Love and Horford could potentially qualify as star-level players, and either would be a huge boost to the Celtics' chances of contention this season. Whether either side is willing to pull the trigger, though, remains to be seen.
Orlando Trading Youth
Unlike the Celtics, the Orlando Magic are still on the outside looking in for a playoff berth. However, they are still willing to mortgage the future if it means getting to the postseason.
Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported the organization has considered dealing some recent first-round draft picks:
The youth-laden Magic have made it known they are in the market for veterans as they continue to slide out of playoff contention. Sources say Orlando has been willing to discuss the prospect of moving some of its more familiar names, including former No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo and the recently re-signed Tobias Harris.
Although neither of these players is a star just yet, they are both only 23 years old and have certainly shown some upside. With time to develop, they can both be impact players at this level.
If Orlando does move one or both of these players, the good news is there is still plenty of youth remaining on the roster. Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon are all 25 years old or younger, and a quality veteran could be exactly what this inexperienced team needs. Still, it appears as though there isn't much to gain with the Magic still far from contention.
They need to be careful with any potential deals, although the rest of the league could look to pounce on an offer in the coming days.
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