With the February NBA trade deadline less than a month away, speculation is running rampant on who’s going where. Every day I expect to see some blockbuster has been pulled off that shuffles the power of the conference, sets a young team in a new direction or jump-starts a rebuilding project. But other than the Orlando/Phoenix trade, there has been a lot of talk but very little action. Here’s a few headlines I’d love to see.
Detroit trades Richard Hamilton and Jason Maxiell to the Utah Jazz for Andre Kirilenko.
The Jazz are an enigma. On paper, they look like they could challenge the league’s best. Deron Williams is as good as it gets at point guard. Jefferson, Milsap and Okur provide quality up front. C.J. Miles has shown ability. But there is a gaping hole at in the backcourt that has been there since Jeff Hornacek was filling it up in the late 90’s. Quincy Lewis, Calbert Chaney, Deshawn Stevenson, Ronnie Brewer, the list of marginal wings players who have started for the Jazz go on and on.
While a unique talent, AK-47 has always seemed ill-suited for the Utah offense. A career 31 percent three-point shooter, his inconsistent shooting has limited his effectiveness on the wing and all evidence would lead you to believe he will be allowed to leave when his contract expires this summer.
Deron Williams may very well bolt after next year in free agency, so the time is now to make a move. Why not just go with what worked in the 90’s and bring in a proven veteran with playoff credentials that’s ready to win now? Hamilton’s ability to work off screens and move without the ball fits perfectly with Jerry Sloan’s offense. A solid scorer and underrated play-maker (17.7 ppg and 3.5 apg for his career), his playoff experience could prove invaluable in an extended playoff run. His unquestioned professionalism and work ethic could serve as an example for up and coming rookie Gordon Hayward.
Yes, Hamilton is 32 and the hefty $25 million plus owed over the last two years may be a hard pill to swallow, but the move will solidify the lineup, add more depth to the bench and keep the Jazz in the hunt for the west until D-Will decides to stay or go.
Detroit is in shambles. The Rip vs. Kuester rift is only getting wider and Dumars would welcome the salary relief. With Kirilenko’s whooping $17 million off the books this summer, Piston’s brass can begin to clear up its crowded rotation.
Phoenix ships Steve Nash and Robin Lopez to Atlanta for Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and a First Round Pick
It is painfully obvious the window of opportunity has closed for Phoenix. The rebuilding project began with the blockbuster deal leaving the Suns with young bigman Marcin Gortat, defensive stopper Mickael Pietrus and the expiring contract of Vince Carter. The process will be a long and difficult one, with the summer deals with Josh Childress and Channing Frye (both running through 2014) looking more and more like disasters.
At this point, it would only make sense to cut Nash loose and try to get some young talent for him. Nash is still a tremendous player, even at 36. Lopez seemed early on like a cornerstone for the team’s future, but recently, Gortat has been getting the bulk of the minutes and seems to have some upside.
The Atlanta Hawks are in desperate need of a play-maker of Nash’s pedigree. He worked well with Joe Johnson when the Suns were in their prime and a reunion would relieve JJ of his play-making responsibilities. It would also free Johnson and young Marvin Williams to be finishers and the addition of Lopez would permanently slide Al Horford to his more natural power forward position. This move would give the Hawks two years (Nash’s deal expires in 2012) to truly challenge in the Eastern Conference.
Josh Smith seems to finally putting it all together. The versatile forward has always been a terror on the defensive end, but has improved his shot selection over the past few years. Smith could flourish in a more prominent role. Although it would work to Atlanta’s benefit to include Mike Bibby or Williams in this deal (another pair of ridiculously bad signings), Phoenix would probably prefer the young Teague who has shown some flashes. The draft pick would be irrelevant to the Hawks because they are one of the worst drafting teams in the NBA anyway.
Memphis swaps O.J. Mayo to New York for Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike.
Putting dreams of Melo aside, the Knicks need to get better to be competitive. Raymond Felton is being overworked and his productivity is suffering (37 percent shooting in the month of January). Azubuike was supposed to get significant minutes in the backcourt, but he has been unable to play due to injury and may never suit up. Additionally, the acquisition of Anthony Randolph this summer has been a big zero for the Knicks so far. Although unquestionably talented, Randolph has struggled to crack D’antoni’s rotation and currently is being dangled as trade bait for a first round pick.
Memphis is facing the possibility of losing both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in free agency this summer. Even if the Grizz hope to keep both, the price could be too high. Sign though next year, the 6’11” 21-year old could provide insurance if one or both decide to leave. Azubuike has an expiring contract than could be covered up to 80 percent if he cannot play this year.
O.J. Mayo has had a miserable year. His production is down across the board (12.5 ppg in 2011 versus 18 ppg in his first two years) and has been regulated to a bench role for the Grizzles. Hoping for an extension this year, it appears Memphis has chosen to move forward with this year’s first round pick, 19-year old Xavier Henry. Mayo could excel in New York’s quick paced offense. His outside shooting and ball handling ability could really be an asset in the Knick backcourt. Best of all, acquiring Mayo would not interfere with the Knicks alleged pursuit of Carmelo Anthony if he becomes a free agent this summer.
New Jersey exchanges Devin Harris to Minnesota for Corey Brewer, Luke Ridnour and the rights to Ricky Rubio.
The Nets were huge losers in free agency this summer and compounded the whiffs by overpaying Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw. That being said, the Nets have assets and can still make significant changes to their roster.
Devin Harris has had some great moments with New Jersey, even making the all-star team in 2009. But like everyone on the Nets outside Brook Lopez, he’s expendable in the right deal. The Wolves have drafted multiple point guards but haven’t settled on one to lead their young talent. If Harris can return to all-star form, he along with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and rookie Wes Johnson could form a nice talent base for the Timberwolves.
Brewer has had some ups and downs in Minnesota. At 6’9”, the lanky and athletic swing man’s his length is extremely disruptive on the defensive end. It’s possible the he could become that stopper Avery Johnson craves in his lineup. His play as a starter this year (12 ppg, 2.4 spg in 10 starts) is significantly better than his overall numbers. Luke Ridnour has a way of finding minutes where ever he goes. Steady and productive, Luke could start or back up Jordan Farmar at the point.
The wild card is Rubio. It’s clear that the Spaniard has zero intention for playing in Minnesota, but he has indicated he does like New York. His flashy style could be a big hit in the Tri-State area. If as good as advertised, Rubio could join the NBA’s elite point guards in time. The Nets could then pursue another wing scorer with Troy Murphy’s contract and the draft picks they have collected.