NBA trade rumors are a hot topic around the league pretty much year round, but once we head into December the rumblings and whispers become more significant for multiple reasons.
The most obvious reason is that, with a month gone and over 20 percent of the season complete, teams have a good idea of what to make of their roster. They generally know whether or not they're going to be one of the league's top teams, a team fighting for a playoff spot or one that needs to develop younger players in hopes of improving in the second half or building confidence heading into next season.
Since coaches and front offices have a general understanding of what their specific strengths and weaknesses are, the buyers (or the contenders) usually start to dab the trade waters to see if they can't pull off a deal that will help them now.
On the flip side, the sellers (the bottom-dwellers) want to know if there's anything they can get in return that will help them long-term.
We've heard plenty of names getting tossed around so far this season—guys like Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Gilbert Arenas have been in headlines since the summer.
But, there are a few other interesting names (Steve Nash, Josh Smith, Terrence Williams) have been linked to trade rumors as well, though there hasn't been any concrete evidence that these players will be moved—just more speculation than anything else.
In a perfect world, all of the league's top teams would add an extra piece just to make the playoffs that much more exciting.
So what would it look like if that were the case and a bunch of marquee names were moved to contenders before February's deadline?
Allow me to present five players that would make a significant impact on their new respective teams should a deal ever take place.
(Note: I am not suggesting that these trades will actually happen, just that it would be tremendously entertaining and exciting if these players wound up on these teams.)
Atlanta Receives: Steve Nash, Josh Childress
Phoenix Receives: Jamal Crawford, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans, Atlanta's 2011 No. 1 Pick, Houston's 2013 No. 2 Pick (credited to Atlanta), Atlanta's 2014 No. 1 Pick
I wrote about how well Nash would fit in with Atlanta earlier this week. The more I delved into it, the more I realized how great it would be if it actually happened.
Atlanta needs a point guard, someone that can dictate the tempo, run the offense, get into the lane with dribble penetration, and create open shots and driving lanes for Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams.
Mike Bibby simply doesn't fit that role—at this point in his career he's a shooter more than anything. His assist numbers have dropped dramatically in the last two years as he's just not having an impact in Atlanta's halfcourt game.
With all of the athleticism the Hawks have, they need to push the tempo as often as possible. When they don't attack they rely too much on Johnson to create shots (well, they won't for the next 4-6 weeks now). He's much better at doing that for himself than he is his teammates.
Nash and Johnson thrived together in Phoenix, and while they wouldn't be playing the exact same tempo, they'd still be a difficult matchup in the backcourt for most teams.
Add in Nash's three-point shooting and the leadership he brings to a team and this would make Atlanta a player in the East. With this roster they're not going to beat Orlando, Boston, Miami, or probably Chicago in the next few years, so why not give it a gamble?
Meanwhile, Phoenix would save money with Crawford & Evans' expiring contracts, get a dynamic scorer who could thrive in their system (Jordan Crawford), get rid of Josh Childress' deal, and collect some draft picks in the process.
(Note: This deal would have to take place after Dec. 15 when free agents are eligible to be traded and Phoenix would have to use some of Amar'e Stoudemire's trade exception).
I can't even put together a faux trade proposal because I don't want to offend Nuggets fans who will read something along the lines of "Denver receives: Eddy Curry, Landry Fields, Anthony Randolph, Bill Walker and Roger Mason...with no draft picks."
In order for this deal to get done a third team is going to have to get involved. Someone who can match up contracts with both teams or provide some draft picks that Denver would be interested in.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I truly believe that it's been Anthony's intention all summer to wind up in New York. There's been a lot of feet dragging by both parties (Carmelo and Denver) but ultimately it's not because Denver thinks they can re-sign him or they're still waiting for the best deal.
It's because Anthony has probably made it very clear behind the scenes where he wants to play...and that's the only place he's signing an extension.
How much would Carmelo actually improve the Knicks? That's debatable.
They'd definitely be a better team, but they still wouldn't be in the top four in the East. Raymond Felton, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Anthony are too weak defensively and they still don't have a prominent big guy who can keep up with Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah\ or Carlos Boozer. As we've seen in the playoffs since Michael Jordan retired, size wins.
But this is the deal we've been waiting to happen for months. Ultimately, it's got to be pulled off.
This is another deal that can't even get a trade proposal drawn up because of a variety of reasons.
One is that the only contract that the Bulls could give up to get Hamilton would be Luol Deng and that would pretty much be a wash.
Another is, while the Bulls could throw in someone like Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer after Dec. 15, it would defeat the purpose because they need the three-point shooting that Korver brings off the bench. Plus, the Pistons wouldn't trade Rip's three-year deal for two players with three or more years left on their contracts.
So, like Anthony and New York, they'd need a third party involved.
But, if Chicago could bring in Hamilton without giving up any of their Derrick Rose-Deng-Carlos Boozer-Joakim Noah core, it'd be a no-brainer.
They'd probably have to sacrifice Taj Gibson, who ultimately would end up in Detroit since they are desperate for something on the block. But if you were the Bulls and you were offered a multi-team deal where you had to part with Gibson, Brewer, James Johnson and cash to get Hamilton, wouldn't you have to do it?
Hamilton spaces the floor nicely and will be able to get open thanks to one of the best screeners in today's game, Joakim Noah. He would never demand attention from the defense because of Rose and Boozer.
Rip and Deng are both strong mid-range shooters, but I don't think that would matter—defenses will have to pack the paint and open shots are open shots, whether they're from 18 feet or 23 feet.
Dallas Receives: Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams
Philadelphia Receives: Caron Butler, J.J. Berea, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, 2013 No. 1 Pick
Dallas is off to a hot start this season and has really flexed their muscles defensively, thanks in large part to the addition of Tyson Chandler.
But, they are struggling to get much of anything out of Caron Butler, who is averaging 13.6 points (his lowest since 2004) and is shooting only 42.2 percent. And he's not contributing much else statistically either, which is a surprising drop-off from such a well-rounded player.
It's in Philadelphia's best interest to move Andre Iguodala. They're not going to be able to bring in a superstar for him to play second-fiddle to, so they need to clear his contract off the books, create more playing time for Evan Turner, stock up on draft picks and clear cap space.
If they can get Roddy Beaubois in the process, and get Mark Cuban to take on Lou Williams' contract (three years, $16.7 million), even better.
Iguodala is a phenomenal defender and throwing him onto a strong defensive team like Dallas would be a scary thought for teams in the West. He can match up against any small forward and is physical enough to play against some finesse power forwards.
Offensively, he won't have to create a lot of anything because Jason Kidd will have the ball in his hands and Dirk Nowitzki is the No. 1 scoring option. He can facilitate ball movement, crash the offensive boards, get out in transition...things that are all strengths in his game.
Oklahoma City Receives: Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker
Cleveland Receives: James Harden, Nenad Krstic, 2012 No. 1 Pick (Either OKC's pick or LAC's pick, which belongs to the Thunder)
As a Cavalier fan, there's absolutely no way I want to trade a player that's so underappreciated and so undervalued like Anderson Varejao.
As an NBA fan, though, I'd love it.
The Thunder need two things: someone who can space the floor by consistently knocking down open three-pointers, and a big who can rebound, defend the paint, and do all of the little, unnoticed things while Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green get the attention.
The solution to the latter is easy: Varejao.
Teams have been inquiring about Varejao's ability for most of the season. Several of these teams (Portland and San Antonio, to name a few) are contenders that love what he brings to the table. His energy, rebounding, and tenacity inside would be a fantastic fit for the Thunder.
On the other hand, Cleveland gets a guy in James Harden who, if put on a different team, could erupt as the complete scorer he was at Arizona State. They have to acquire Krstic because they need another big man, but they save the final four years of Varejao's contract and pick up a draft pick in the process.
Granted, the move is a little risky for both teams. Bringing on Varejao's deal (guaranteed through 2014) could complicate things when it's time to give contract extensions to Westbrook and Green.
And maybe the Thunder don't want to give up on James Harden yet. And, perhaps the Cavs aren't ready to concede that it's a going to take a while for them to rebuild and they want Varejao to be a part of their future.
Still though...a team with Westbrook, Durant, Green, and Varejao in the starting lineup would be the most fun team to watch in the NBA. Hands down.