T-Mac, Carter big names on the block

By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Monday, April 19
Updated: April 19
9:37 AM ET

Maybe it's time for David Stern to recruit Donald Trump. In the first season of the popular reality show The Apprentice, Trump took his interns to meet the venerable George Steinbrenner, who gave the kids tips on everything from buying a World Series to firing a manager. Trump was grinning like a Cheshire cat the entire time. Steinbrenner may know a thing or two about kicking people to the curb, but he has nothing on the Donald.

The NBA could use some of the Donald's expertise. These days, it seems GMs are launching the soon-to-be-trademarked phrase, "You're fired!" on a weekly basis.

Everyone knows coaches are the first to go in the NBA, and a record 18 have been run out of town over the past year. With as many as eight more poised to get the ax this summer, GMs are running out of heads to roll.

Are the player's next? The signs are pointing to an emphatic yes. Already we've heard more trade rumors in April than we usually hear at the trade deadline. The kicker is that the names being bandied about aren't scrubs with little market value -- they are marquee players who stumbled badly on lottery teams this year.

McGrady. Carter. Iverson. Brand. Abdur-Rahim. Allen. ... You're fired?

The list is a who's-who of talented underachievers, and it doesn't stop with them. With the exception of the Utah Jazz, who have no real stars to trade, every lottery team is flirting with the idea of trading one of its biggest stars this summer.

Who's on the block? Who's most likely to be traded? Where could they be heading? Insider has the answers ...

Tracy McGrady, SG, Magic

Tracy McGrady
Shooting Guard
Orlando Magic

67 28.0 6.0 5.5 .417 .796
Magic GM John Weisbrod knows T-Mac can opt out of his contract after next season and likely will do so if Weisbrod can't seriously upgrade the team this summer. Without cap space, tradeable assets or a crystal ball to divine Grant Hill's health, it's becoming clearer by the day that the Magic may have no choice but to trade T-Mac now, while they can still get value back in return.

McGrady says he doesn't want to leave Orlando, but right now winning is more important. If Weisbrod can't make some miracles happen this summer, look for the Magic to shift gears and attempt to get two or three young prospects (preferably a center and a point guard) in return for McGrady.
Odds of trading T-Mac: 3-to-1

Vince Carter, SG, Raptors

Vince Carter
Toronto Raptors

73 22.5 4.8 4.8 .417 .806
The Raptors' franchise is in rubble, and whomever comes in to replace ousted GM Glen Grunwald is going to have a big decision to make the minute he walks in -- should V.C. stay? Despite Carter's erratic performance and history of injuries, it's a tougher call than you'd think. Carter puts butts in the seats. He's an icon in Toronto. Could the franchise survive without him?

The question on the other side of the coin is just as difficult. Can the Raptors win with him? Carter hasn't shown leadership comensurate with his salary and talent. The team is capped out, has a huge hole at center and is pretty weak at point guard. If trading Carter could help the team fill those holes, is it worth the risk? It should be the toughest call of the summer. Carter has value around the league because of his drawing power. It logically follows that you're not going to get equal star power in return.
Odds of trading Carter: 5-to-1

Elton Brand, PF, Clippers

Elton Brand
Power Forward
Los Angeles Clippers

69 20.0 10.3 3.3 .493 .773
One year after signing Brand to the biggest contract in franchise history, are the Clippers really considering trading him? The answer, according to sources around the league, is yes. L.A. was horrible down the stretch, finishing on a 3-22 run. Donald Sterling reportedly wants to add some star power to the roster this year. He's got the cap room to sign Kobe Bryant if he can lure him across the hall at the Staples Center.

If he can't, expect the Clippers to make a run at a star like McGrady, Carter or Allen Iverson. Sterling understands the economics of such deals better than anyone. Guys like Iverson or Carter might not translate into more wins, but they will sell more tickets. That's all the Donald really cares about anyway.
Odds of trading Brand: 3-to-1

Allen Iverson, SG, Sixers

Allen Iverson
Shooting Guard
Philadelphia 76ers

48 26.4 3.7 6.8 .387 .745
A tumultuous season spawned year-long speculation that Iverson and the Sixers were through. After a nice offseason chat with Iverson, however, GM Billy King claims the rift already has been healed and Iverson will be back next season. We'll see. Iverson hated coach Chris Ford and was a disruptive force all season. In addition, his body is breaking down, and his trade value figures to decrease with each passing season. If the Sixers can't find a way to bring Maurice Cheeks into the fold, they're better off shopping Iverson and trying to get another center and young player in return. Would an Iverson for Brand swap work for both teams?
Odds of trading AI: 6-to-1

Shareef Abdur-Rahim, PF, Blazers

Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Power Forward
Portland Trail Blazers

85 16.3 7.5 2.0 .475 .869
This is the worst-kept secret in the league. Abdur-Rahim said he left his exit interview on Thursday with a strong sense of where the Blazers envisioned him next season: "Somewhere else," he said. With Zach Randolph firmly embedded at the four and Darius Miles set to take over at the three, the Blazers don't need Rahim. Despite a terrible second half and a history of being a player who can't win, Abdur-Rahim is attractive for several reasons. One, he's one of the few proven low-post scorers available. Two, he's a nice guy who won't make waves. Three, he's only 26 years old. Finally, and most importantly, he's entering the last year of his contract, making the risk minimal.

The most obvious fit would be a swap with Seattle for Ray Allen. The Sonics have coveted Abdur-Rahim in the past and made a play for him before the February deadline. The players make the same salary, and their contracts expire at the same time. The Blazers need help in the backcourt, and the Sonics are in desperate need of front-court scoring.

But before you pencil the trade in, remember that a straight-up deal would be pretty lopsided in the Blazers' favor. Allen is a better, more-valuable player. Portland would have to add more to the trade (or take back a few bad contracts) to make it work. Alternatively, Seattle could put together a trade that included a re-signed Brent Barry, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jerome James and their No. 1 for Abdur-Rahim. Another team with interest will be the Warriors, who could offer a combo of Jason Richardson, Nick Van Exel (who is entering the last year of his deal) and their No. 1 for Abdur-Rahim.
Odds of trading Abdur Rahim: 2-to-1

Ray Allen, SG, Sonics

Ray Allen
Shooting Guard
Seattle SuperSonics

56 23.0 5.1 4.8 .440 .904
The Sonics might not be willing to swap Allen straight-up for Abdur-Rahim, but it does sound like he's no longer untouchable. Allen, once considered one of the NBA's best citizens, has openly complained about Nate McMillian and the Sonics' rebuilding efforts. McMillian shot back at Allen during his season-ending press conference, questioning Allen's attitude and shot selection. The chances of a contract extension this summer no longer look that promising.

Rashard Lewis, Radmanovic, James and Barry also are on the hot seat in Seattle. It appears they're on the verge of another major shake-up, with the goal of landing some low-post scoring and defensive toughness.
Odds of trading Allen: 4-to-1

Shawn Marion, SF, Suns

Shawn Marion
Small Forward
Phoenix Suns

79 19.0 9.3 2.7 .440 .851
Now that the team has been sold, the rumors about cost-cutting may stop. But if the Suns find a way to lure a player like Kobe or T-Mac, they'll likely use Marion as bait. Marion is one of the best rebounding small forwards in the league, but the team is in love with Joe Johnson, who's cheaper and more versatile. If they do land a player like Kobe or T-Mac, they'd prefer to keep Johnson (who doesn't need 20 shots a game) and rid themselves of Marion's burdensome contract. It might be the type of trade that a team like the Lakers (in a sign-and-trade) just might go for.
Odds of trading Marion: 5-to-1

Jerry Stackhouse, SG, Wizards

Jerry Stackhouse
Washington Wizards

26 13.9 3.6 4.0 .399 .806
We were all scratching our heads this summer when the Wizards, despite a pledge to get serious about rebuilding, gave Stackhouse a three-year extension. Stackhouse promptly missed most of the season with an injury, and when he got back, he struggled to fit in.

Stack wants to win, and the Wizards actually like the backcourt of Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes a little better. They'll try to dangle Stack to the Bobcats, but the Cats likely will pass. A Jamal Mashburn-for-Stackhouse swap might make some sense.
Odds of trading Stackhouse: 3-to-1

Jason Terry, G, Hawks

Jason Terry
Point Guard
Atlanta Hawks

81 16.8 4.1 5.4 .417 .827
The Hawks will have just four players under contract going into the draft, and one of them, Terry, wants out in the worst way. Terry signed an offer sheet with the Jazz last summer, when he was a restricted free agent, but the Hawks matched it. Since then the relationship has been pretty rocky. The Hawks can't trade Terry without his permission until September, but securing Terry's approval shouldn't be a problem. The Pacers have interest, but the Hawks would want Al Harrington in return. That's too high a price. The Clippers may be a better fit.
Odds of trading Terry: 2-to-1

Tyson Chandler, F, Bulls

Tyson Chandler
Power Forward
Chicago Bulls

35 6.1 7.7 0.7 .424 .669
Bulls GM John Paxson has to do something. On paper, the Bulls looked like a playoff team heading into this season, but they quickly proved to be as bad as ever. The young kids aren't panning out, the veterans have quit and head coach Scott Skiles is screaming at the wall. The Bulls will make at least one major move this summer, and all signs point to it being Chandler, the former No. 2 pick in the draft for whom the Bulls traded Brand.

Chandler's bad back, inability to score and his lanky frame (he slipped below 230 pounds this season despite being 7-foot-2) will hurt his trade value. At this point, I don't think Paxson cares. If he can get a mid-level veteran who actually knows how to play, that may be enough for him. Ideally, the Bulls would love to get a veteran small forward or two guard in return, but basically they'll take anything at this point.
Odds of trading Chandler: 2-to-1

Jason Richardson, SG, Warriors

Jason Richardson
Shooting Guard
Golden State Warriors

78 18.7 6.7 2.9 .438 .684
The writing was on the wall the minute the Warriors drafted Mickael Pietrus last summer. Richardson is a big-time scorer and athlete, but he's below-average defender who can give up as many points as he scores. Pietrus isn't as polished offensively, but he's already one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. The fact the Warriors' front office was pushing Eric Musselman to play Pietrus down the stretch, at the expense of Richardson, is telling. It's also pretty stupid. Musselman stuck to his guns and played Richardson 40 minutes a night, and that probably salvaged Richardson's trade value. He ended up leading his team in scoring at 18.7 ppg. Someone will offer the Warriors something of value for him. With both Erick Dampier and Adonal Foyle packing their bags, a big man would be nice.
Odds of trading Richardson: 4-to-1

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cavs

Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Cleveland Cavaliers

81 15.3 8.1 1.3 .483 .746
Before Cavs fans scream blasphemy, hear me out. Ilgauskas is heading into the last year of his contract, and GM Jim Paxson knows Z's trade value has never been higher. He's been healthy for two consecutive seasons, and his contract provides few risks at this point. Z isn't in the long-term future of the Cavs. If thy can turn him into draft picks, a veteran point guard, or just more young talent, now's the time to do it. Several Eastern Conference teams who believe they are one big man away from contending will jump at the chance to rent Ilgauskas for a season. Better to lose him now and get more building blocks for the future.
Odds of trading Ilgauskas: 4-to-1

Around the League

# Salary-cap problems? While the general news from the NBA Board of Governors meeting late last week in New York was that no news is good news, NBA GMs did get quite a jolt when David Stern announced that the league is now forecasting that revenue will be down for this year. That's at odds with what teams had been hearing all season. Revenue is directly tied to the league's salary cap. Generally, GMs believed that the cap would rise from $43.8 million this year to around $45 million next season. A few prognosticators had it going as high as $47 million. Teams were generally optimistic about the status because the money from the new television deal was supposed to jump start the revenue this year.

Stern's announcement that the revenue from the league had actually gone down (despite attendance going up) had to be a real kick in the gut. While no one knows the exact figures or how much it will affect the final salary-cap tabulations . . . the news was depressing to just about everyone. If it invokes the luxury tax next season (teams have been told all year by the league that there likely won't be a luxury tax for the 2004-05 season) it could be a knock-out blow to several owners.

# Celtics settle with Baker: The Celtics' decision to settle with Vin Baker may sound like good news on the surface, but it's likely to affect the Celtics and the league in a number of tough ways. If the Celtics settled with Baker for $16 million (out of the $30 million they still owed) him, the Celtics will have to spread out the terms of the buyout over the last two seasons that remained on Baker's deal. In other words, the Celtics take an eight million hit on their books the next two seasons. That puts the Celtics at a likely payroll of roughly $54 million next year, including cap holds for their three first-round picks. That number could jump as high as $59 million if the team figures out a way to lure back free-agent center Mark Blount. That's going to leave Danny Ainge with very little cap wiggle room this summer to make the big changes he's been promising.

The other bad news? Every GM in the league was crossing his fingers that the Celtics won their arbitration case with Baker. GMs wanted a precedent for using the "unfit to play" clause in a player's contract to void the deal. The NBA Players' Association, on the other hand, is breathing a big sigh of relief. The reason they fought the issue so hard was because they didn't want GMs to finally find a legit loophole in what is otherwise a pretty rock-solid guaranteed contract structure. Now that the two sides have settled (with the union's blessing), there still is no precedent for voiding a player's contract early.

# More draft shake-ups: Over the weekend top high school prospect Marvin Williams announced that he would not declare for the NBA draft and would instead be enrolling at North Carolina for his freshman season. Williams was largely considered a borderline lottery pick by NBA scouts.

However, three other high school players continued to take steps toward entering the draft. Dorell Wright told reporters that he'll enter his name in the draft, but won't hire an agent to keep his college eligibility.

"I just want to see where I stand," Wright told the Washington Post. "If I'm a top-20 pick, that's good enough; I really don't think I'm ready [for the NBA]. But if you are guaranteed right now, you never know what's going to happen in a year or two or four years. You have to take [the opportunity] now."

Wright impressed scouts again with a 24-point and seven-rebound performance at the Jordan Capital Classic on Saturday. He lead all scorers. Don't expect him to play at the Chicago pre-draft camp, however. Wright will likely get his draft stock information directly from private workouts. Scouts believe that he has a chance to improve his stock into the top 20s with workouts. There are too many variables for a kid his age to risk a poor showing at the pre-draft camp.

Two other players, J.R. Smith and Al Jefferson, sounded much closer to making the decision to enter the draft. Smith (another North Carolina recruit) has been interviewing NBA agents and plans to announce his intentions at a press conference this week at his high school. Smith told reporters this weekend that if he's projected as a lottery pick he's "definitely" in the draft. Even if he slips below that, Smith claims he's probably in, saying that a top-20 pick is "good enough for me."

Jefferson, when asked by reporters about whether he'd play at Arkansas next season, laughed at the question. "They're like, 'Come one year and be a lottery pick next year,' and you can't get an education in one year." Jefferson has 17 points and 10 rebounds at the Capital Classic on Saturday.

Peep Show

NBA Insider
Monday, April 19
Updated: April 19
9:27 AM ET

Detroit Pistons: Ben Wallace says the NBA should have counted the stats instead of the votes when it came to the Defensive Player of the Year, which was give to Ron Artest. "They put on a nice campaign," said Wallace in the Detroit News. "I probably would have voted for him if it was about campaigning. If it's about the numbers, the numbers don't lie. They campaigned hard for him and I guess they got what they wanted. But I think everybody knows that ain't what it's about. It ain't about going out and campaigning, it's about going out and playing and letting the numbers speak for themselves." As for the Pistons, they think he should have won the award for the third straight year. "(Artest) was phenomenal. He had a great year," said coach Larry Brown. "I'm not going to say it's unfair. It don't think it takes away from Ben's contribution. The things we did as a team, Ben was directly responsible for."

Memphis Grizzlies: Even the owner was hiding his face after the Grizzlies first playoff game in franchise history. "I think the players and all of us were ashamed, because it was an embarrassing loss," Michael Heisley said in the Commercial Appeal. "Frankly, no question we were tight and we didn't adjust to the fact the game is officiated differently than the regular season. Considering how poorly we shot (34.8 percent from the field), it was a miracle that it stayed as close as it did for awhile. But we've got to put this game behind us. (Grizzlies general manager) Dick (Versace) talked to (former Pistons coach) Chuck Daly and he remembered when the Pistons lost by 25 to Boston in the first game, and came back and won a series." And the players have decided to show up for the second game, too. "We're pretty upbeat, still," Shane Battier said. "We're only down 0-1. What happened is the growing pain of a team that's never been to the playoffs. We saw the NBA champions play one of their best games, and we know we have to raise the level of our game to compete."

New York Knicks: Isiah Thomas has been here before and he wants his players to know he'll be here for them. "They beat the stuffing out of us," Thomas recalled in the New York Post about getting blown out in the playoffs as a player. "In my earlier playoffs days, we got our butts kicked until we learned later in the playoffs how you have to play and how you have to act." He knows how he reacted. Now he wants to see how they'll react. "It'll be interesting to see," he said. "This is our first time through together as a group and as a unit. For me as a president/GM, it is a good time to observe and see how we respond and what we do. Everyone wants to see a win. That would help. But it's a wait and see . . . I've been in a lot of blowouts where you walk into the other team's building and they beat you by 25 points. But then there's a Game 2 and then a Game 3 and a Game 4. I'm not going to overreact and I don't think our team is going to overreact."

Minnesota Timberwolves: Wally Szczerbiak kinda likes not being in the playoff spotlight. "It was tough as a team losing -- that was the hardest part," Szczerbiak said in the Star Tribune. "I was going into the playoffs and playing really well -- I think I was getting like 25, 27 [points] a game going in, and the Lakers really focused on stopping me. They didn't allow me to put the ball on the floor. They were double- and triple-teaming whenever I did try and create anything, and it was a situation where it was tough."

Denver Nuggets: LeBron James can have the ROY award while wearing his street clothes. Carmelo Anthony would still be in uniform and playing. "I did what I had to do on the court," Anthony said in the Rocky Mountain News. "We're in the playoffs. . . . I think anybody who is home would rather be in the situation I am right now . . . I always had it in my mind I wasn't going to get the award. I'm happy I'm here in the playoffs."

New Orleans Hornets: It doesn't matter how many time Darrell Armstrong twists his ankle, it's still the playoffs. "I can't complain; it felt better than I thought it would be this morning," Armstrong said in the Times Picayune. "I thought I wouldn't be able to do anything . . . I had to give it a try, because I worked my butt off. It's swollen up, but not as much as the first time (April 9)."

Los Angeles Lakers: Shaq just needs a little more motivation at the free-throw line. "I'm probably concentrating too hard to shut you guys (reporters) up," O'Neal said in the L.A. Daily News. "And I know I can do it. Just continue to shoot 'em. They look good, I got an arch on the ball, they're hitting the same spot, so I just continue to work at it." But even his coach knows that it has to come from Shaq and no one else. "I'm going to say that it had to be his (idea), because Shaq is not very movable on advice," coach Phil Jackson said. "He's the one that gives himself advice. So we'll leave it with him . . . I've always felt the more you focus on it, the more it becomes an issue, the more difficult it is for him. And so I try to let him just sort that out. He's been able to find his way through those things in the course of the years. We've taken a loss here and there perhaps that's accounted for because of it, but overall we've won games in which he's been able to find his way through."

* Wallace's reign ends as defensive player of year
Chris McCosky and Joanne C. Gerstner / Detroit News
* The day after: Griz hopes still alive
Ron Higgins / Memphis Commercial-Appeal
* Isiah Wants Knicks To Tough It Out
George Willis / New York Post
* Szczerbiak optimistic about playoffs
Sid Hartman / Minneapolis Star Tribune
* Anthony prefers playoffs to award
Chris Tomasson / Rocky Mountain News
* Armstrong plays through pain of sore right ankle
John Reid / New Orleans Times-Picayune
* O'Neal falling further behind at the line
Howard Beck / Los Angeles Daily News