With the NBA lockout gone like the wind, teams will finally be able to have open trade discussions as they search for the best deals they can find for the player they have on the block.
Several of the league's brightest young stars just happen to be on the block as they search for the place where they can cement themselves in NBA lore. However, that doesn't come easy and they'll be forced to prove themselves to their new teammates if they find themselves in a new area code.
Players like JR Smith and Jamal Crawford have their futures at their fingertips as they choose their newest destination via free agency. Players on the trading block, however, like Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala, may have a short list of preferred destinations but cannot truly pick their end location.
That's still plenty for some players who are looking to get off at the first exit and embark on a new journey with a new team. In other circumstances, teams look to ship off players to the first potential buyers. Relationships sour, and because of that, new relationships can be born through trades.
Here are some players who are known to be on the block who might just find themselves in new colors soon enough.
Ever since the Memphis Grizzlies shocked the NBA by downing the San Antonio Spurs in six games and then taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven, talks have been swirling around Rudy Gay and his potential exit.
Rudy Gay was one of the Grizzlies' top young stars before suffering multiple injuries that opened the door for the likes of Tony Allen and Zach Randolph to flaunt their skills. They did just that in the playoffs as Allen showed his defensive prowess and Randolph showed everyone just how much he's grown up since he entered the league, along with the brute force he uses to be effective.
With young stars like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley also sprouting up at every position, there seems to be somewhat of a log jam and it's likely that either OJ Mayo or Rudy Gay, or even both, will take the fall.
Offers will certainly come streaming in if they officially announce that either one is on the block, but one of those two will be on the fast track out of Memphis as the Grizzlies try to fill holes that appeared evident in their series loss to the Thunder by shipping out one of their highly-coveted players in Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo.
It seems as if every teams' fans are fabricating potential Chris Paul or Dwight Howard trades. Every team wants a piece of one of these two cornerstones who seem to desperately want a change of scenery but don't know how to demand it.
Make no mistake about this, though, Chris Paul needs to get out of New Orleans, and fast. If the Hornets were smart they'd ship him off before he becomes a free agent for as much as they can get. They could get quite the pieces for Paul, too.
Teams in search of a point guard would be willing to make some sacrifices. For example, Atlanta would probably give up Jeff Teague, Al Horford or Josh Smith (not both) and Marvin Williams all for Paul and some scrubs. The Knicks, whose pursuit of Paul has been well documented, would practically part ways with any player on their roster not named Carmelo or Amare, while the Magic would do anything they could to pair up Paul and Howard, even though they don't quite have the pieces to entice New Orleans.
Chris Paul might just be the hottest commodity on the block.
There has been chatter on ESPN and here on Bleacher Report of a potential Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul swap. While I think the Hornets could get more for Paul, the rumors themselves show just how much teams are scrambling for Paul.
He isn't winning anything in New Orleans, and for the man dubbed by Bill Simmons as a modern or revolutionary "Isaiah," he can't waste his prime on a fringe playoff team. This is a player who, given the right supporting cast, should be battling for a championship and a legacy that would rival the greatest point guards of all time.
The bottom line is this: Chris Paul is wasting away in New Orleans and needs to get out.
At this point, Magic fans should be begging for a trade.
He's not coming back to Orlando if he hits free agency. He'll be gone, and however much he chastised LeBron after "the Decision," he'll soon be walking in the same shoes as King James and feeling similar heat (no pun intended because Howard is clearly not going to Miami).
Howard has gone on record questioning his future in Orlando. He states that "...I've done so much and I just don't know what else I can do."
It doesn't look pretty for Orlando, and if I were Otis Smith I'd be shopping him to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta or any other place that would be willing to part ways with some significant pieces for him.
Dwight Howard is the best defensive player in the game today and the most dominant defensively since Hakeem. He's the best center the league has seen since Shaq's decline and he's a physical specimen to marvel at.
It's a shame that the Magic don't truly have the pieces to make Orlando a true title contender, and it's best to go ahead and take the hit of his departure and mourn their second loss of a dominant big man in as many dominant big men as their have been.
The Magic can get a lot in return for Howard, but if they don't watch out they'll get nothing at all as Howard will leave through free agency.
Monta Ellis is one of the most explosive scorers in the NBA. He's lightning quick with above average athleticism and his deep range coupled with the ability to put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack make him one of the game's most dynamic offensive threats.
He's subpar defensively as he gambles too much, but those gambles do result in a high number of steals. The Warriors have to make a commitment in their backcourt as Stephon Curry and Ellis battle for supremacy in Golden State.
It's apparent that the Warriors have decided to go with Curry, drafting over their leading scorer in Ellis by snagging Klay Thompson, a nice compliment to Curry in the backcourt.
Ellis can bring Golden State what they need, a swingman or a defensive force inside.
They seemed to be in talks for both as potential Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith trades were lurking around the corner and lingering in the air. Those died out when the lockout hit Defcon Five. Clearly now that we're all back to sanity and have the season laid out, those talks are sure to arise again.
Ellis is one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game. Sure he's a volume shooter and carries an ego with him, but his scoring ability is nearly unparalleled, and you can bet that the Hawks or 76ers are willing to offer up some key pieces to get Ellis.
Josh Smith is a born-and-bred Atlantan. A true citizen of the city and state of Georgia. He was AAU buddies with Dwight Howard in the peach state before being picked 17th overall by the Hawks, remaining in his hometown.
He's lived up to the hype but not his potential as he does nothing but anger Hawks coaches and management. He shoots jump shots to prove that he can be a shooter, but he misses a good portion of them, he barks back at coaches, further evidencing the rumored disputes he had between himself and both Mike Woodson and Larry Drew.
He's still the Hawks most talented player, and as a Hawks fan, the last thing I want to see is a home-town hero leave. However, there comes a time when it's time to part ways. I'm not even sure the Hawks are at that stage with Smith yet, but if they aren't it's fast approaching.
The Hawks can get good value for Smith, maybe Ellis or Iguodala, maybe he could be used in a package deal to swing Paul into Atlanta. The bottom line, however, is that he's being shopped. He's being shopped by the incompetent Atlanta Spirit Group (they aren't incompetent for shopping him, but for several other things) and Rick Sund. His name surfaced on draft day as a potential candidate for a new area code, and although it didn't happen then, it's not out of the question now that the lockout's over.
Despite the high-flying jams and the breath-taking blocks, Smith's time as a Hawk might be coming to a close sooner rather than later.
It's too bad Steve Nash hasn't won an NBA Championship.
That's why he has to get out of Phoenix.
The clock is ticking for Nash as he closes in on 40 years of age, and if he wants to compete for an NBA title, it's time to demand a trade.
Phoenix has not surrounded Nash with an adequate supporting cast and the Suns still, through Nash's leadership and heady play, remain a competitive team in the league. Phoenix could clearly reap long-term rewards if they could find a "win-now" team willing to offer some key, young pieces in exchange for Nash who probably, realistically only has another two great years in him.
He wouldn't surprise me though if he broke 40 and still played like he's playing now. Sometimes a player just gets the game. That's Steve Nash. He understands it. The ins and outs, the crooks and nannies, they all make sense to him.
Nash might be the smartest point guard to touch the floor since Magic Johnson, as shown by the preservation of his timeless play. However, he's not winning anything in Phoenix, and the Suns owe it to Nash to give him a shot at a title before it's too late.