NBA Rumors: Analyzing Hottest Trade Buzz Entering 2016 Deadline Day

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2016

New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) reacts after scoring during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

The NBA's brief and hectic trade season ends Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, and a lot could happen in the final few hours.

Deadline-day deals often struggle to make a huge impact, but there are plenty of exceptions. With several big names floating around in rumors, there's a definite chance we could see a blockbuster, franchise-defining move happen Thursday.

Let's analyze three situations that are earning headlines heading into the deadline, including news on Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and a possible point guard swap between the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.


The Rockets Want Dwight Howard Gone

The Houston Rockets sport a 27-28 record just one season after making the Western Conference Finals with nearly the same roster. What's behind the decline? A lack of defensive effort. Per ESPN, Houston's point-preventing efficiency ranking has dropped from sixth in 2014-15 to 26th in 2015-16.

Naturally, the Rockets are now working hard to get rid of their most valuable defender, Dwight Howard, according to ESPN's Marc Stein:

Well, it's not quite that simple; the 30-year-old Howard will likely opt out of his contract this summer to become an unrestricted free agent, so Houston is trying to leverage him into something of value before he bolts for one of the teams willing to give him a max contract.

The Rockets' problem here looks to be finding a team who wants to take on a half-season rental of a moody, borderline-star center for the return they want. That won't be easy.

If Houston does find a partner before the deadline, they absolutely need the player (or players) in return to be a guy who can help spur a culture change on the defensive side of the ball.


Is Ryan Anderson Headed to a Contender?

Ryan Anderson is built to play for a good team. He can drain open threes at a dizzying rate and space the floor for teammates who get into the lane. It's no surprise, then, that two of the league's best teams are interested in acquiring his services.

Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of those squads:

The Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch added that the Los Angeles Clippers are also interested in Anderson, though coming up with a package in return may be challenge:

The motives for both teams seem clear. Cleveland is bracing itself for a possible swap of Kevin Love, and Anderson can give the Cavs a lot of what Love provides at a much lower price.

Los Angeles may be an even better fit. The Clippers' bench struggles are well-documented, but the offensive punch Anderson would provide as a reserve after Blake Griffin's return from injury would make the second unit quite a bit more formidable. When playing with the starters, he and point guard Chris Paul would make a killing in the pick-and-roll.

Cleveland seems to have a larger cupboard of available assets to throw in this deal than Los Angeles. If the Cavs get their way, they'll have a poor man's version of Love along with plenty of other value earned in trading the 27-year-old.


The Rockets and Jazz Are Discussing a Point Guard Swap

Houston is also in talks for another swap, this one at the point guard position.

Stein also reported the Rockets and Utah Jazz are discussing a trade centered around floor generals Ty Lawson and Trey Burke. Neither player is providing much value to his squad right now, but each team thinks it can improve through switching the players.

Ty Lawson quickly went from off-court to on-court disaster, but the Jazz think they can turn him around.
Ty Lawson quickly went from off-court to on-court disaster, but the Jazz think they can turn him around.David Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Rockets would get a capable sixth-man-type scorer to boost their second unit and likely another role player to make the salaries match. Getting rid of Lawson in and of itself would be a victory, as he's been a huge negative on both ends this season.

Utah, meanwhile, has surged into a playoff spot thanks to a recent seven-game winning streak behind a roster that's finally getting healthy. The team would be taking a considerable risk by going after the troubled Lawson, especially considering its no-nonsense organization, but his deal isn't guaranteed for next season, so the Jazz could dump him over the summer if it doesn't work out.