The month of December is often ripe with trade discussions in the NBA, and although plenty of potential swaps crop up, few of the seeds planted by rumors bear actual fruit in the trade market.
The Dallas Mavericks pulled off a blockbuster trade and landed pass-happy point guard Rajon Rondo—as well as forward Dwight Powell—from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a host of players and picks, including point guard Jameer Nelson and a conditional first-rounder in 2015, per a report from ESPN.com.
The Rondo exchange has the NBA all shook up, and the concentration of star power in the Western Conference is at an absurdly high level now.
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The state of Texas alone has three bona fide championship contenders right now—the Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, for those keeping score at home—which is about the same number of legitimate Larry O'Brien hopefuls in the East.
Of course, a big trade like Rondo to Dallas simply whets the appetite for more high-stakes bartering. The rumors will keep flying until the trade deadline in February grounds all the talks. Expect plenty of trade talk in the ensuing months as deals fall through and others rise through the cracks to take their place.
Here is a quick look at the latest trade chatter from around the league.
The Charlotte Hornets, mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and with perhaps a glimmer of hope for a turnaround after a 3-4 start to December, have apparently been looking for ways to improve the current roster via the trade market.
Shooting guard Lance Stephenson has become scapegoat No. 1 for the team's poor start, even though a number of factors, including a shoddy team defense that allows 101.4 points per game and diminished contributions from bedrock players, can be blamed for the disconcerting 2014-15 campaign.
However, it appears the team is sticking with Stephenson for the time being in a lukewarm trade market, per ESPN.com's Chris Broussard and Ramona Shelburne:
"Underwhelmed by the quality of trade offers they've received for Lance Stephenson, the Charlotte Hornets have decided to keep the volatile guard 'for now,' according to league sources."
This is a fine development. The Hornets' trade options with Stephenson were likely limited, especially considering he's averaging just 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. It's way too early for the team to scrap everything and rebuild, especially with stars like Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson locked up through at least 2016.
They would have needed to trade Stephenson for an immediate contributor out on the wing, but of course there was always the possibility that any new player would need his own adjustment period and leave the team treading water.
Stephenson is still just 24 years old, and although his regression is stark, improvement is not impossible. Shelburne and Broussard provided insight as to why the Brooklyn native might have to stick around regardless of the trade interest for him:
Another factor in the Hornets' decision to keep Stephenson is their growing belief that a groin injury has hindered him all season and played a significant role in his lack of production. Stephenson is expected to miss the next two games because of the groin and did not travel to Philadelphia for Friday's game against the 76ers.
Charlotte feels the injury has affected Stephenson's movement and conditioning, according to sources, and that just as he was getting healthy, he reinjured the groin Wednesday against Phoenix. The Hornets want to rest Stephenson, let him heal and see if he can either fit in with Charlotte or re-establish his trade value.
Recent performances indicate Stephenson's game might finally be on the upswing, at least when it comes to scoring and holding onto the ball.
|Lance Stephenson November, December Stats|
|Month||G||MPG||PPG||FG %||3P %||RPG||APG||TPG|
A groin injury might also explain why Stephenson has been settling for more jumpers and driving to the hoop less often. In 2013-14, 51.5 percent of Stephenson's shots came from within 10 feet of the basket, per Basketball-Reference.com. This season, that number is down to 42.3 percent.
Unless another team comes through with a golden trade opportunity for the Hornets—the Nets would be a decent partner should they be willing to part with the likes of Joe Johnson and other assets—it's best the team holds onto Stephenson and sees if it can make an organic turnaround by the end of the season. If not, the Hornets' brass can always reassess the situation in the summer of 2015.
Jeff Green and Brandon Bass
Boston just might have an encore in the works after trading Rondo to Dallas. According to the MetroWest Daily News' Scott Souza, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn't rule out possible trade discussions involving veterans Jeff Green and Brandon Bass:
On Wednesday, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears reported what the Celtics might be looking for in a potential Green deal:
"Boston has been consistently shopping forward Jeff Green, trying to acquire a package that includes a first-round draft pick, sources said."
Trading either one of these players makes a great deal of sense for Boston, although it might make the team rather unwatchable in the short term. It would also signal a fairly complete overhaul of the team, considering they are two of the longest-tenured Celtics, per CBS Sports' Sean Grande:
Green and Bass are 28 and 29 years old, respectively, and don't fit in with the youth movement that's bound to take place in Boston.
Bass, who is averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, is set to become a free agent at the end of this season and could fit in well for a contending team that needs depth at the 4-spot, such as the Golden State Warriors.
Green is the team's leading scorer with 19.5 points per game, but his age, the fact that he's due $9.2 million this season and has a player option in 2015-16 for the same salary make him highly expendable. Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com (via CBS Sports' Matt Moore) notes that the Celtics would have a great deal of cap room if Green (among others) were no longer with the team:
He would actually make quite a useful second- or third-option on a (potentially) overhauled and playoff-ready Celtics squad in a couple of years, but since it's unclear that the team can keep him throughout what could be a painful rebuilding process, it's best that the C's get rid of his salary and focus on grooming the next generation of stars to grace the TD Garden hardwood.
The Georgetown alum noted that Rondo was one of the reasons he stayed in Boston, which could diminish the chances of him sticking with the team on his own accord.
"He’s going to a great situation so I wish him the best," Green said of Rondo, via MassLive.com's Jay King. "It was tough to see him go. He’s one of the reasons why I came back and we’ve formed a brotherhood so it’s tough. But like I said, we have a great team here. We’re moving on. Just try to play basketball. Guys have to step up."
However, the Celtics' future already seems quite secure with eight first-round draft picks in the next four years. They currently possess the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 10-14.
If the Celtics' higher-ups decide that a playoff push is needed in order to retain the faith of a fanbase that can no longer claim one of the best distributors in the league as one of its own, then keeping Green around might be in the organization's best interest.
Unless otherwise noted, contract information courtesy of Spotrac.