Like clockwork, the NBA's rumor mill is once again buzzing as the calendar approaches the midpoint of December.
That doesn't happen by coincidence. For starters, every club has played at least 25 games, so front offices have a fairly good read on what their rosters have and still need. Plus, Saturday marks the first time players signed this summer are eligible to be traded, so the potential pool of trade candidates will soon expand dramatically.
With plenty of chatter ringing out across the Association, we've compiled the latest discussions below.
Rockets Eyeing JR Smith?
The Houston Rockets secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference last season. This time around, their sluggish 12-14 record has them in 14th place.
While there is a multitude of factors in these surprising struggles, the Rockets clearly have a deficiency on the wings. That might have been expected given the offseason departures of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but perhaps not to this degree.
So, Houston is reportedly searching for assistance on the trade market in the form of exiled Cleveland Cavaliers gunner JR Smith, per Marc Stein of the New York Times:
Smith last suited up for the Cavs on Nov. 19 and has since been waiting for his ticket out of town. He hasn't been the easiest player to move as a 33-year-old collecting $14.7 million (plus a partial guarantee for 2019-20) and last posting a league-average player efficiency rating in 2012-13.
But perhaps Houston views this situation as offering significant bargain potential.
The Rockets need help from distance, and Smith is a career 37.3 percent shooter from range. Their win-now mentality might also attract them to someone who has played in 130 postseason contests and been to the Finals each of the last four seasons.
Suns Out on Markelle Fultz?
Logic seemed poised to bring the Phoenix Suns and slumping 2017 top pick Markelle Fultz together.
The Suns have the league's worst point guard rotation (by far) with rookies Elie Okobo and De'Anthony Melton either manning the position or sitting in favor of natural shooting guards. On Monday, the team assigned Okobo to its G League affiliate. Meanwhile, Fultz has appeared in dire need of a fresh start after falling out of the Philadelphia 76ers rotation and back onto the injury report, this time with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.
With the Los Angeles Lakers coveting Suns swingman Trevor Ariza and Phoenix looking to find a third team capable of routing a playmaker to the desert, Fultz seemed the natural choice to complete the transaction.
But that's not happening, according to Arizona Sports 98.7's John Gambadoro:
There's no evidence to suggest the Suns have their floor general of the future already on the roster. And while Fultz has encountered heavy turbulence at the start of his NBA career, he's the same player whom SI.com's Jeremy Woo wrote had the 2017 draft's "best blend of start ceiling and consistent floor." Given what we've already seen from that class, that's significant praise.
Phoenix, once again trapped in the NBA's basement, would appear to have all the patience needed to discover what Fultz might become.
Then again, maybe this is an indication of how far Fultz's stock has fallen amid his rocky year-plus in the league. And with developmental projects already occupying a huge chunk of the Suns roster, they might feel Fultz isn't worth the effort or opportunity cost.
Pistons Targeting Damyean Dotson?
The Detroit Pistons are trapped in a downward spiral, losing five in a row and failing to find consistency from its perimeter players.
This wing rotation looked problematic to begin with, and the early returns suggest it may be even weaker than anticipated. Reggie Bullock and Glenn Robinson III are both shooting below 40 percent from the field; Stanley Johnson is at 40.1. And Luke Kennard, last year's No. 12 pick, has battled both injuries and inconsistency.
With money already tight, the Pistons are limited in how they can try to address this. But Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News hears New York Knicks sophomore swingman Damyean Dotson has appeared on Detroit's radar:
Dotson, the 44th pick in 2017, has taken a big step forward in his second season. His scoring has nearly tripled (11.4 points per game, up from 4.1), and he's managed to bump his shooting percentages from the field (46.9, from 44.7) and long range (38.5, 32.4).
His rise, of course, could give the 'Bockers reasons to keep him around. But they also seemingly have the perimeter depth to cover his departure between Tim Hardaway Jr., Allonzo Trier, Mario Hezonja and Kevin Knox. Plus, Trier is already approaching the 45-day limit on his two-way deal, so someone will need to go if his contract is converted to a full NBA pact.
That said, Dotson's three-and-D upside makes him an intriguing asset, so the Knicks will seek something of value in return, which might sink the Pistons' hopes.
"The Pistons aren't doing minor deals that would put them over the luxury tax," Vince Ellis wrote for the Detroit Free Press. "The Knicks aren't looking to add money, so it's tough to see an avenue to a deal."