With the Orlando Magic having steamrolled the two best teams in the NBA over the course of the last week, we have a great example of what a big trade (or in Orlando's case, two big trades) can do for a franchise.
Also, now that December 15th has come and gone and all the summer's free agent signings can be included in deals, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for all the potential trades hanging around out there in basketball purgatory.
The trade deadline is less than two months away, and teams are far enough into their seasons to know what their weaknesses are and who they'd be willing to move. It's trading time, ladies and gentlemen, and over the next couple of days, Lang Greene and I will be looking at every team in the league in terms of what they can move, as well as what they'd like to get back in return.
We'll start today with the Eastern Conference, with the West coming tomorrow.
Atlanta Hawks – Just like they've done the last few years, the Hawks are quietly one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, posting a 19-12 record, good for what would be the fourth seed in the playoffs. They're going to be a playoff team with a reasonable seeding, so getting their roster right before the deadline is important, especially as they decide what to do with Jamal Crawford and his expiring contract.
Assets: Jamal Crawford, SG (1 year, $10.1 million), Maurice Evans, SG (1 year, $2.5 million), Mike Bibby, PG (2 years, $11.8 million). Crawford could very easily walk at the end of the season if not offered a proper extension, so the team may look to move him to avoid losing him for nothing. He'll be the guy most coveted by other teams. Hawks' backup point guard Jeff Teague has shown flashes of promise this season, perhaps making Bibby a player that could be moved if the returning player were good enough. Evans has a great salary for what he brings to the table, and the fact that it's an expiring deal makes him worthwhile, too. Atlanta has a few other inexpensive expiring guys (Jason Collins, Etan Thomas, Josh Powel, Pape Sy) that could be added to deals as well.
What They're Looking For: More than anything, they could use a real center so Al Horford can actually play some power forward. Not that there are a lot of marquee centers being dangled around out there, but the Hawks need some size down low.
Boston Celtics – It's hard to complain if you're a Celtics fan. The team has gone 23-5 through the 2010 portion of the season, and they've done it all without their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, and only 19 games from Shaquille O'Neal. Even with Rajon Rondo a little shaky, they've still been dominant. What trade could get them to do any better?
Assets: Not a whole lot, honestly, unless someone is interested in Marquis Daniels's $2.5 million expiring contract.
What They're Looking For: Just to keep the guys they've got healthy. They're dangerous enough as it is.
Charlotte Bobcats – Things are sort of coming unraveled in North Carolina, what with Larry Brown having recently stepped down from the head coaching position amidst a disappointing 9-19 start to the season. The team made the postseason for the first time last year and were supposed to build on that momentum. Instead things are looking a little rough and some sort of trade from Michael Jordan's organization seems inevitable.
Assets: Looking at the lineup it's hard to believe that anybody is untouchable, but some of the contracts would be more difficult to move than others. Stephen Jackson is safe, both because of his production and his money remaining (3 years, $28.8 million), and Tyrus Thomas just signed a pricy and lengthy extension through 2015. Also, DeSagana Diop's albatross contract (2 years, $13.5 million, plus a $7.3 million player option for a third year) is pretty rough, but that hasn't stopped him from being included in rumors. Beyond that, nobody is officially on the books beyond 2012, with Gerald Wallace being the most desirable asset of the batch. If the Bobcats are really looking to make a splash, he'd be the player to dangle out there.
What They're Looking For: A marquee point guard. Losing Ray Felton has proven to be more costly than Charlotte imagined, and while D.J. Augustin has played fairly well as the new full-time starter, an upgrade is necessary for the team have much of a shot at getting back to the playoffs—if not this season, then next. Baron Davis has been in the news as a possibility here, and he makes a lot of sense for the Bobcats.
Chicago Bulls – I think we all know how much better these Bulls are compared to every single other Bulls season since Jordan retired, but the right trade could be the difference between Chicago taking a big step in the right direction this season, or legitimately having a shot at the NBA Finals, which is less absurd than it sounds.
Assets: Taj Gibson, PF (2 years, $2.3 million, not including options at end of rookie deal), James Johnson (2 years, $3.5 million, not including options at end of rookie deal), SF, Ronnie Brewer, SG (3 years, $13.9 million), C.J. Watson, PG/SG (2 years, $6.5 million, with a team option for a third year at $3.7 million), Keith Bogans, SG (2 years, $3.3 million), Omer Asik, C (2 years, $3.6 million). Gibson will be the hottest commodity, but Johnson and Asik should hold some value as well—short, inexpensive deals for players with high upsides. Also, if the Bulls do make a deal for a shooting guard, Bogans or Brewer will likely have to be included to avoid a glut at that position. Kyle Korver could be included instead, but I get the sense he's the one two guard the team is least inclined to move due to his ability to hit threes and spread the floor.
What They're Looking For: Not a single one of Chicago's three shooting guards is good enough to be an NBA starter. All are affable backups, but with Keith Bogans starting (or Kyle Korver or Ronnie Brewer, should Bogans ever lose his spot), the Bulls just don't look like a championship team. More than anything else, the Bulls need to find the right two-guard, and Jamal Crawford (mentioned above) could potentially have a great second stint in the Windy City. Other ideas that have been thrown around include Richard Hamilton (who probably is too expensive long-term) and O.J. Mayo. Finding a back-up center less raw than Omer Asik and less old than Kurt Thomas would help a lot, too, especially with Joakim Noah likely out until after the All-Star Break. And as hot as C.J. Watson can get shooting the ball, the team really has no true point guard to run the team should Derrick Rose end up hurt.
Cleveland Cavaliers – It's time to blow this thing up. At 8-22, they're the fourth-worst team in the league right now, and there's absolutely nothing keeping that from getting worse as the teams behind them (Washington, Minnesota, and Sacramento) all have plenty of room for improvement. With LeBron gone, it's time to rebuild, and in order to do that properly, the team will need to make a few moves to wipe the slate.
Assets: Antawn Jamison, SF (2 years, $28.4 million), Mo Williams, PG/SG (1 year, $9.3 million, with a player option for $8.5 million the following year), Anderson Varejao, C (4 years, $35.2 million, with a team option for a fifth year at $9.8 million), Jamario Moon, SF (1 year, $2.97 million, with a team option for a second year $3.2 million), Anthony Parker, SG (1 year, $2.9 million). While Varejao has got himself a rather lengthy contract, he's the player other teams seem to be most interested in. He's young enough to include in the rebuilding process, but for the right returns, moving him may be what's best for the future of the organization. Cashing out Jamison and Williams, however, should be the team's first priority.
What They're Looking For: Draft picks, cap space, and young assets. That's the holy triumvirate of the rebuilding process, and it's the route Cleveland should be taking at this deadline if at all possible.
Detroit Pistons – We've been saying it all year; the Pistons are stuck between a burgeoning youth movement and the remnants of their championship past. There's no need to keep all those veteran contracts on the payroll when the team clearly isn't in a position to be competitive any time soon, so moving a few of the team's bigger names, though painful, is what should be in the cards for Detroit. It probably won't be, knowing Joe Dumars's loyalty to his veteran guys, but it should be.
Assets: Tayshaun Prince, SF (1 years, $11.1 million), Rip Hamilton, SG (3 years, $38 million), Ben Wallace, C (2 years, $4.3 million). Prince will be the easiest to move, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for Hamilton, as well. Both players still have some gas in the tank, but their talents are being wasted on a team that doesn't appear to be going anywhere.
Indiana Pacers – Indy has hovered right around .500 all year, which in the East is probably good enough for a playoff spot should that trend continue. If they want to actually win a series, though—and that hasn't happened for quite a while—they'll need to make some moves. Luckily for them, they've got an asset or two to work with.
Assets: Mike Dunleavy, SG (1 year, $10.6 million), Jeff Foster, C (1 year, $6.7 million), T.J. Ford, PG (1 year, $8.5 million), James Posey (2 years, $13.4 million). While Larry Bird and David Morway have said that they're looking forward to having the cap flexibility this summer that Dunleavy, Ford, and Foster will provide, there's no reason they shouldn't explore using those assets to make a few upgrades.
What They're Looking For: Power forward is by far the weakest position the Pacers have, and if they can find a team with a starting-quality four they'd be willing to move for cap space, Indiana could be a perfect trading partner.
Miami HEAT – All that stuff about the HEAT looking awful, about them not living up to the hype—it's time to forget all that. After starting the season 9-8, the HEAT have gone 14-1, even with some scattered injuries to Dwyane Wade. While it never hurts to spruce up a roster, the HEAT are going to be fine as long as the Super Friends are intact. And since they are (intact), they will be (fine).
Assets: Not a lot. The Big Three aren't going anywhere, Udonis Haslem is too injured to move, and we haven't seen enough of Mike Miller to warrant moving him already; the organization still thinks he's a great fit for this team, and he probably is. All that leaves is a bunch of veteran minimum deals, and there isn't a whole lot they can expect to in return for those.
What They're Looking For: The same thing we knew they'd be looking for once we got a sense of what their final roster would look like—a point guard, and a center. But again, they don't really have the assets to bring one of those in.
Milwaukee Bucks – More than a few really smart NBA people thought that the Bucks would win the Central Division. It doesn't look like that's going to happen, especially now that Brandon Jennings is going to miss some extended time with a broken foot. It's not too late for them to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and making a trade is one way that they could potentially do that.
Assets: Michael Redd, SG (1 year, $18.3 million), Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG (1 year, $850,000, with a $1.1 million qualifying offer on deck after the season), Ersan Ilyasova (2 years, $4.9 million). Redd doesn't hold a lot of value as a player anymore, but his is one of the hugest expiring deals in the league, and that's what makes him so valuable. Beyond him and the other two guys listed above, the players on this roster are either keepers or on long-term deals that could make them hard to move.
What They're Looking For: To be honest, this is a team with a ton of talent already. What they really need is to figure out a way to start winning some more ball games. As far as personnel is concerned, Milwaukee really isn't in all that bad of shape.
New Jersey Nets – Well, things aren't as bad as they were a year ago, but a 9-21 start to the season isn't necessarily something we'd call marked improvement. There's some reasonable talent on this roster, as well as an owner who's willing to spend, so it seems like only a matter of time before they do something splashy.
Assets: Devin Harris, PG (3 years, $26.8 million), Troy Murphy, PF (1 year, $12 million), Derrick Favors (in the first year of his rookie deal, which starts at $4.1 million and increases every year), Kris Humphries, SF (1 year, $3.2 million). The guys listed above are players the Nets are most likely to throw out in trade discussions, but New Jersey will give up anything they have to short of Brook Lopez in order to get their ideal target…
What They're Looking For: Carmelo Anthony. They'll cast out a wide net once they really start getting into trade season full force, but nobody will get more attention from them than Anthony. He's their Holy Grail.
New York Knicks – Perhaps the most surprising team of the season so far, New York's insurgence led by Amar'e Stoudemire, Ray Felton, and Danilo Gallinari has been nothing short of heartwarming. That doesn't mean that aren't interested in making a few changes, however, and you can count on them being a team involved in more than a few rumors over the course of the next several weeks.
Assets: Eddy Curry, C (1 year, $11.3 million), Kelenna Azubuike, SG (1 year, $3.4 million), Wilson Chandler, (1 year, $2.1 million, with a qualifying offer of $3.1 million on deck for this summer). As with the New Jersey Nets, the Knicks are interested in Carmelo Anthony, and they'll trade almost anybody they've got to make that happen.
What They're Looking For: Other than Anthony, they'd like to bring in some more size to keep Stoudemire from having to deal with all the centers in the league. Otherwise, it's hard to see them doing anything too crazy unless it's a sure-thing move. Why mess with a good thing that's just getting started, right?
Orlando Magic – I'm not sure there's a whole lot else the Magic can do. After two huge trades recently, they don't' really have a whole lot of guys on the roster that they want to trade. That said, there's a logjam at the guard spots that could be loosened with a move, and now that Marcin Gortat is gone, Dwight Howard really needs a backup.
Assets: J.J. Redick, SG (3 years, $21 million), Brandon Bass, PF (2 years, $8 million, with a third-year option for $4 million), Chris Duhon, PG (4 years, $14.3 million), Jason Williams (1 year, $1.4 million). Redick is a big contract to take on compared to his output, but in the right situation, he could be a big producer. As for Duhon and Williams—moving them would help relieve that glut at the guard positions.
What They're Looking For: A back-up center and any other upgrades Otis Smith might feel are best for the team. We've heard it suggested that he isn't done yet, and he very well may not be.
Philadelphia 76ers – As the season has progressed, the 76ers have looked more and more like a real NBA team thanks to the coaching talent of Doug Collins and a lot of eager young players trying to make their marks on the league. However, were the team able to cash out Elton Brand for almost anything, the Philly fandom would be elated. Not that Brand's been horrible or hurt this year, because he hasn't. It's just that he's not as much in the long term plans of this organization as they thought he'd be when they signed him to that monster contract a couple years ago.
Assets: Elton Brand (3 years, $51.2 million), Andre Iguodala (3 years, $40.6 million, with a fourth-year player option for $15.9 million), Jason Kapono (1 year, $6.6 million), Darius Songaila (1 year, $4.8 million). Moving Brand is most likely a pipe dream, but if it's going to happen they'll have to package him with youth, draft picks, and cap space. Philly has a little bit of all of that, but finding a taker is still going to be tough. Finding a taker for Iguodala would be quite a bit easier, but they aren't letting him go unless they're getting a superstar in return. Iggy's value is high right now, so the Sixers are going to try and maximize it.
What They're Looking For: Upgrades pretty much everywhere except point guard and small forward. The team is happy with Jrue Holiday and Iguodala, but nobody else on the roster has been so great that they couldn't be improved upon.
Toronto Raptors – This is a very, very young team, and the real conundrum about where to go with this team moving forward is whether to ship off what little veteran influence there is left on this team in favor of a complete youth movement, or to bring in a couple more vets and see if those young players can transform into solid role guys for a more experienced team.
Assets: Peja Stojakovic, SF (1 years, $15.3 million), Jose Calderon (3 years, $29.3 million). Jerryd Bayless is the point guard the franchise wants to move forward with, which means that even after moving Jarrett Jack, Calderon is still on the block. Leandro Barbosa is tradable too, as are a number of the younger guys on the roster, but if something is going to be done, it's more likely to involve a veteran than a youngster.
What They're Looking For: Star power. It's easy to point out the team's need for a veteran big man ever since a certain someone left a Chris Bosh-sized hole in the Toronto starting lineup, but the truth is that they just need someone who's going to come with not only years under his belt, but also an air of confidence that can rub off on a young group that doesn't necessarily believe in itself.
Washington Wizards – Dumping Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis was a great start for Washington this trading season, but even with a Rookie of the Year candidate and quite a bit of talent on the roster, this is still the worst team record-wise in the Eastern Conference. They need to keep exploring their options and see what else they can get done.
Assets: Josh Howard, SF (1 year, $3 million), JaVale McGee (2 years, $4 million, with a $3.5 million qualifying offer on deck for the summer of 2012), Al Thornton (1 year, $2,8 million, with a $3.9 million team option for next season). There's not a whole lot left here that other teams would be knocking down the door to get at, but McGee has been disappointing this season and just hasn't clicked with Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. There's no question he's got promise, and at that money he could be worth taking a gamble on.
What They're Looking For: Another veteran who takes the game as seriously as Lewis and Kirk Hinrich. Those two, along with John Wall, are the kind of players Washington should be building their team around. If they can turn some of their less mature younger players into vets that know how to prepare and get through a full NBA season, they'll be in much better shape.