The 2015 NBA trade deadline isn't until Feb. 19—at 3 p.m. ET, to be exact—but already the league has seen flurries of trade rumors this winter.
The talk won't die down until the league-mandated moratorium on trades has passed, but at least closure and resolution for all of the tantalizing rumors is in sight.
February is when things snap into focus somewhat. Some teams become more transparent as to which players are on the block in order to drum up interest, while failed deals or in-progress talks leak out to the media and give fans an idea of what their teams are trying to accomplish.
The NBA All-Star break should give execs plenty of time to chat without worrying about the day-to-day operations of the team, and one has to wonder if these latest trade rumors from the Association pipeline will soon come to fruition.
The Brooklyn Nets have been mainstays in the rumor mill this season. They're 19-28 on the season, and it's clear the team could use a Page 1 rewrite. This can't happen, however, without dismantling the expensive star trio of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Lopez is the latest of the big three to make his way round the carousel of chatter and into the public discourse again. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Denver Nuggets have their eye on the 7-footer:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nuggets have offered big men JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson, as well as one of the two draft picks Denver recently acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for center Timofey Mozgov, in exchange for Lopez.
But Brooklyn, sources say, has rebuffed those advances so far.
The Nuggets need a replacement at center after dealing Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jusuf Nurkic has stepped in admirably but averaged just 7.7 points per game in January, per ESPN.com.
Lopez would fit in nicely in the team's offense, complementing the frenzied play of Kenneth Faried. Lopez is averaging 15.5 points on 50.4 percent shooting in 27.2 minutes per game this season.
Of course, it's Lopez's offensive prowess that is presumably making things difficult for the Nets to pull the trigger. Stein opined as much after a 35-point outburst on Jan. 30:
At just 26 years old, Lopez could also see out a rebuild in Brooklyn. The same can't be said for the 30-year-old Williams or the 33-year-old Johnson.
Those last two points regarding Lopez are perhaps why general manager Billy King wants to wait until the All-Star break to make a move, via the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy:
If the Nets do feel the need to trade the big man no matter what, they might not see better offers than the one Stein relayed. Lopez's salary—$15.7 million this year with a $16.7 million player option for next season, per Stein—will prove prohibitive for many teams.
This is especially true when one considers his injury history. Lopez played just five games in 2011-12, only 17 in 2013-14 and has missed 10 games so far this season.
Also, not too many teams will be keen on a giant of a man who snags a mere 6.2 rebounds per game. The Nuggets can make up for his lack of rebounding prowess with the likes of Faried and Nurkic, but they will be hard-pressed to strike a balance in playing time between the latter and Lopez against elite offensive opposition.
Clearly, it wasn't easy for the Philadelphia 76ers to trade Thaddeus Young to the Minnesota Timberwolves in August 2014.
Upon Young's return to the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 30, the Sixers presented him with a fine gift, per Timberwolves PR:
Young played seven solid seasons in Philly. While he won't soon be forgotten by fans in Liberty City, Timberwolves fans might hardly get a chance to know the guy. According to The Boston Globe's Jake L. Fischer, Minnesota is keen to move Young before the deadline:
The Timberwolves are working to clear space and collect assets for their ongoing rebuilding project. Young has struggled at times this season, although he's generally improved as the season's moved along.
|Thaddeus Young 2014-15 Stats, November-January|
|Month||G||MPG||PPG||FG %||3P %||RPG||APG|
Still, salary is likely the main issue here, especially the $9.7 million player option Young has for next season, per Spotrac.
CSNPhilly.com's John Finger believes he would make a great complementary piece on a number of teams:
Young can take a $9.9 million contract for next season and live with the hand he’s been dealt, or he could opt out and play for a team with a chance to win. Imagine Young playing for San Antonio, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Golden State or his hometown team, Memphis. An eight-year veteran that is still just 26 without any major health issues, Young could be a missing piece for a contending team.
However, it's tough to imagine him getting traded to a championship contender with that expensive player option on his contract. Teams looking for a stretch-run boost won't want to run the risk of Young loading up their salary cap next season, even if a potential deal for Young keeps the books relatively balanced.
He's more likely to be traded to another rebuilding team that can take on bigger contracts without stifling roster creativity, or a squad looking for a frontcourt boost such as the Phoenix Suns. ESPN.com's Ohm Youngmisuk reported in mid-January that the Nets had interest:
It's unclear who the third party would be, but this is a scenario to keep an eye on. The T-Wolves are highly unlikely to take on any one of Brooklyn's aforementioned star trio, but a third team could come through and allow both these rebuilding squads to get what they want.
Continuing along the Timberwolves beat, it appears the team is willing to part ways with veteran point guard Mo Williams as long as their demands are met, per Stein:
At 32 years old, Williams—averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 assists per game this season—doesn't square with the Timberwolves' long-term plans. And with Ricky Rubio finally returning to action, he's not quite so valuable to the team in the short term, either.
Thanks to Williams' expiring contract, per Spotrac, the scenario Stein presents screams "playoff contender looking for a stretch-run push." ESPN 1500's Darren Wolfson noted a few teams that could be interested in Williams:
The Cleveland Cavaliers would appear to be a most fitting landing spot, given Williams' history with that franchise and LeBron James. The Cavaliers could use depth behind Kyrie Irving at point guard, and Williams would be a significant bench upgrade for a team that has had issues with second-unit play all season.
The Charlotte Hornets could also be interested with point guard Kemba Walker out injured for a significant amount of time, but they may not be keen to give up a draft pick for a veteran replacement with short-term viability. Minnesota would have to be desperate and accept a second-rounder for that to happen.
Like Young, Williams would appear to be an easy player to shop at the deadline. The team is right to ask for a draft pick in order to clear the books and start as fresh as possible with a young core built around Andrew Wiggins next season.