The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend certainly appeared to be a nice reprieve for players from the daily grind of the basketball season.
As for the executives, general managers and other string-pullers behind the scenes, one has to wonder if they took a break from their duties at all.
Sunday and Monday saw the floodgates open and trade rumors come pouring forth, with only the storylines surrounding Kobe Bryant's All-Star Game swan song able to compete with the chatter.
The NBA trade deadline ends at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 18, and you can bet basketball media will be inundated with speculation, rumors and (hopefully) news of big deals right up until the last minute.
Here's a look at some of the latest rumors involving the league's biggest names, including predictions on how things might pan out for them before the deadline.
The Houston Rockets are a bit of a mess, one game under .500 and ninth in the Western Conference standings as of Monday, Feb. 15. They face the distinct possibility of losing center Dwight Howard this summer, as the big man can opt out of his contract, as noted by Spotrac.
While they still have some control over him, it appears the Rockets are trying to get what they can for Howard, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
This is a bit of a strange-looking deal on its face and seems unlikely to happen. The salaries don't match, so the Heat need to add players to make this trade happen, all on the idea that Howard will meaningfully upgrade their team and perhaps turn out to be more than a rental. It's a dicey proposition for either side, as Hassan Whiteside becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Neither Howard nor Whiteside is known for bringing harmony to the locker room. Howard is still productive, averaging 14.6 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, but at 30 years old it's fairly safe to say his best years are behind him.
The Rockets are a mess on defense, ranking 26th in the league in defensive efficiency according to ESPN's Hollinger stats. While Whiteside is known to throw frequent block parties in the paint, the Heat tend to play better defensively with him on the bench. Whiteside's upside is enticing, but he might not be able to improve Houston in any meaningful way and comes with his own set of issues.
Plus, the Heat are dealing with another blood-clot scare for Chris Bosh, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (via NBA.com), so they may be loath to shake up the roster while the status of one of their star players is in question.
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Are there any other good situations for Howard? Boston could go for Howard if the team thinks it needs to snag him right now, but the Celtics could also wait until summer to try to sign him, knowing any other deal is going to be tough to make happen. Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes brought up Oklahoma City but doesn't see it panning out:
Maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder qualify as a club that could justify a short-term risk of this magnitude. A notch behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs and facing the prospect of watching Kevin Durant walk after this year, perhaps OKC would take a nothing-to-lose approach and fire off some assets to add Howard.
It's hard to see the Thunder, who could easily win a ring this season if one of the West's superpowers stumbles, shaking things up that boldly.
Houston might still pull out of its slump and make the playoffs with Howard on the team. The Rockets will likely push to get rid of him and get some sort of value, but they will need to find a team desperate to win now. Otherwise, teams will come calling for Howard in the summer when his contract situation potentially changes.
Prediction: Rockets are stuck with Howard until the summer
Despite the fact he's currently out injured with a hand injury suffered in a fight with a team employee—or perhaps because of that incident—Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin's name continues to pop up in the rumor mill.
According to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith (via fellow ESPN's Amin Elhassan), the team is looking to move Griffin:
Isola essentially reported the same on Sunday: "The Clippers are making Blake Griffin available even though the injured forward is recovering from a second surgical procedure to his right (punching) hand and may not play again this season, especially if he's traded to a team out of the playoff race."
However, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register put a damper on the Griffin chatter on Monday:
High-level members of the organization say they remain adamant about not dealing Griffin, the best young player the franchise has ever had, despite another round of rumors suggesting they called Denver about Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic.
“One hundred percent not true,” according to one executive involved in any trade discussions. Clippers coach Doc Rivers has also been vocal, saying the team isn't trading Griffin.
Sure, the Clippers are playing extremely well in Griffin's absence, but it's easy to see why the team would want to hold on to him. At 26 years old, Griffin is just now entering his prime. He's averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. He's a phenomenal athlete and a big-ticket draw.
Still, Sports Illustrated's Andrew Sharp has made the case for the Clippers moving Griffin, noting the team's small-ball effectiveness without him on the court:
Possessions that typically ran through Griffin now run through everyone, with jumpers raining down from everywhere. On Jan. 31 the Clippers whipped passes all over the court to torch a top five Bulls defense 120-93. Now imagine that offense with perimeter reinforcements (Bradley and Crowder? Bosh? Anthony?) from a potential Griffin trade.
Griffin doesn't become a free agent until 2018, as noted by Spotrac, so this is no rental. A team like Boston, which is ready to make the leap in the Eastern Conference, could be in play here. Trading Griffin would presumably be easier for the Clippers to swallow if they could ship him to the opposite coast.
However, Griffin still seems too valuable to give up with San Antonio and Golden State currently lording over the West, especially if the Clippers aren't capable of getting a star-caliber player in return.
Prediction: Griffin remains in Los Angeles
Ricky Rubio, Jeff Teague
Both the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers need a point guard, and two names have cropped up: Minnesota floor general Ricky Rubio and Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague.
The New York Post's Fred Kerber floated the two as potential Pacers targets on Monday: "Minnesota’s youth and depth could lead to a possible trade of point guard Ricky Rubio, whose name surfaced amid the rumors as a possible target for the Pacers, along with Atlanta’s Jeff Teague."
While ESPN's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst mentioned the Knicks and Orlando Magic are sweet on Teague:
The Magic are likewise among the teams that have chased Hawks point guardJeff Teague.
The Knicks, who also strongly covet Teague in their search for a front-line point guard, are trying their best to get a team interested in Jose Calderon and the $7.7 million owed to the Spaniard next season. Sources say New York is talking up Calderon's leadership qualities and, in some cases, offering to include big man Kyle O’Quinn to sweeten proposals.
Rubio is nothing if not consistent, at least when you're perusing his year-in, year-out stat lines. He's a dreadful shooter (36.1 percent this season, 36.6 career), great passer (8.6 assists per game in 2015-16, 8.3 career) and good for a couple of thefts each night (2.2 steals per game in 2015-16, 2.3 career).
Teague is a much better scorer than Rubio (15.1 points per game, 40.8 percent from downtown this season) and much quicker, though the latter at least makes up for it on defense with his height and wingspan.
Both players would seem to be great fits for Phil Jackson's triangle system in New York, but the Knicks are short on assets and will have to do plenty of work in unloading 34-year-old Jose Calderon. It could be that they are stuck with what they've got for this season.
As for the Pacers, they can at least offer either team an athletic point guard in George Hill. CBS Sports' Matt Moore noted that a deal involving those two looks good for Atlanta, who can improve their win percentage by nearly four percent according to Moore's Sportsline model. The Hawks will need plenty of incentive if they are to trade the guy who orchestrated one of the league's more fluid and dynamic attacks just last season.
Considering Rubio signed a big extension with Minnesota in 2014 and is useful in marshaling all the team's young, athletic talent, the Timberwolves will likely hold on to him unless a blockbuster offer comes through. Look for the Pacers to push through a trade for Teague.
Prediction: Minnesota holds on to Rubio, Pacers pull off deal for Teague.