Many view the marquee NBA event in December as basketball on Christmas Day, but the NBA trade market opens for certain players on Dec. 15.
Per the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, no player who signed a contract as a free agent can be traded until Dec. 15 of the salary cap year, or three months' time, whichever comes first. The Phoenix Suns signed free agent forward Trevor Ariza to a one-year, $15 million deal ahead of this season.
Now, the 4-20 Suns—owners of the worst record in the NBA—reportedly want to move him.
Let's delve a little more into the trade chatter surrounding Ariza and other players or teams in the NBA below.
As mentioned, the Suns are said to be preparing to place the 33-year-old small forward on the trade market, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. "The Suns' Trevor Ariza is seen by rival teams at the top of the list of players who will be made available via trade after Dec. 15, league sources say," Stein tweeted.
For whatever reason, the Suns just can't get things right. Already this season Phoenix reached a buyout agreement with 36-year-old center Tyson Chandler, who has since signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
After a 120-96 loss to those Lakers on Dec. 2, Ariza was asked directly about his name being the most prominent in trade speculation. He said the following, according to Gina Mizell of The Athletic:
"I'm not one to get somewhere and then just duck out. I'm one to be in it, regardless of whatever the situation is. Fight until the end. That's the type of person that I am, and that's what I expect. ... Although I love to win, sometimes you have to be the person that's able to take these punches and be able to still get up. (I have to) teach the next generation, teach the younger players how to prepare, how to become better pros."
The next generation in Phoenix includes shooting guard Devin Booker, first-round rookie center DeAndre Ayton and small forward Josh Jackson. Ariza is the second-oldest player on the roster behind 38-year-old Jamal Crawford, which is to say a 33-year-old on a one-year deal is not part of the Suns' long-term rebuild.
But Ariza's services are appealing to many other teams, especially a contender. He has proved to be reliable thus far this season having not missed a game, even if his offensive statistics are lackluster: 10 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field, 5.5 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game.
The most appealing aspect about Ariza's game is his defense. With Ariza on the team last season, the Houston Rockets were the best defensive team in the NBA. Since his departure—along with Luc Mbah a Moute—the Rockets have deteriorated to tied for 20th league-wide defensively.
There hasn't been a clear trade partner identified, but a defense-needy team looking to contend will undoubtedly try to acquire Ariza before the February trade deadline.
Could Philadelphia make another splash? Some seem to think an Ariza trade is the ideal way for the 76ers to unload Markelle Fultz, and one source told Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Suns are among teams interested in Fultz.
It is no secret that Washington D.C. is currently an unpleasant place to be. The Wizards' 11-14 record doesn't do justice to the dysfunction oozing from this team since the season began. Emerging from the turmoil are rumors swirling around point guard John Wall's future with the franchise.
Most recently, Wall has been linked to New York, according to The New York Post's Marc Berman:
"Some in the league believe the Knicks are stocking up their young assets and will make a major play for Wall if he becomes available. The Wizards were said to be ready to break it up after their disastrous start. It would have to be a three-team deal with the Knicks throwing in Ntilikina, Dotson, Courtney Lee (for cap purposes), a 2020 first-round and second-round pick."
Berman also linked current Knicks 22-year-old point guard Emmanuel Mudiay's progress—or lack thereof—to New York's willingness to make a play for Wall.
Trading the 28-year-old star would not be easy for Washington. Wall's contract stipulates a trade kicker demanding for him to be paid 15 percent of what is owed on his contract if traded, per ESPN (h/t ABC News). Wall is also set to receive a supermax starting in 2019-20.
With the Knicks missing out on previously rumored top-tier free agent targets such as Kyrie Irving, they could opt to pursue a player like Wall. Other guards set to become free agents after this season include Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic and Ricky Rubio.
The Houston Rockets
The Rockets need help. At this point last season, the Rockets were 18-4. They went on to post the best regular-season record in the NBA. Right now, Houston looks like a completely different team and sits at 11-12.
On Tuesday, Houston waived Danuel House Jr. By itself, that roster move isn't necessarily a headliner. But Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reported House Jr. needed to go in order to open up a roster spot "with the Rockets seeking a trade this week, a person with knowledge of the team's plans said.
"The Rockets are seeking a deal this week, in time to possibly include a player involved in another trade before the Feb. 7 deadline, the person with knowledge of the plans said."
Could Houston make a play to bring Ariza and his defense back? Bring in J.R. Smith, who has been absent from the Cleveland Cavaliers for over two weeks until Cleveland can find a trade partner?
Houston already offered four first-round picks in a package proposed to Minnesota to acquire Jimmy Butler before he was traded to Philadelphia. That put in bright neon lights what we already knew: General manager Daryl Morey is desperately in win-now mode.
Even though Butler is off the market and players of his caliber aren't rumored to be available, Houston has to make a move. Even head coach Mike D'Antoni knows it—telling reporters during a four-game losing streak on Nov. 29 that depth "is a problem."
"It's something that I know that the front office tried to address. They're going to do the best they can."
The question now is who "the best they can" results in.