Impact Players Most Likely To Be Moved
(Ranked from most likely to least likely to be traded)
1. Rajon Rondo, G, Celtics
I know the Celtics are saying Rondo isn't going anywhere. But there are two problems with that. (1) It doesn't jibe with what a number of NBA GMs are saying based on conversations they've had with Celtics president Danny Ainge. (2) Ainge isn't stupid. He doesn't want to trade Rondo, but Rondo is the best chip he has to play right now.
If Ainge waits and does nothing, the Celtics will be a middling lottery team without much hope next season -- in the same spot where Ainge inherited them a few years ago. He doesn't want to go back there. If he can get two pieces back for Rondo, I think he'll do it. Atlanta, Portland and Indiana are interesting destinations if they are willing to pay.
2. Josh Smith, F, Hawks
Again, I know what the Hawks are saying. "We're not shopping anyone ... yada, yada, yada." The truth is, Rick Sund has been exploring possible Josh Smith deals for the past few years. If he could get a legit point guard and a credible forward to replace Smith, he'd do it. If the Celtics would offer Rondo, I think they'd have a deal. Ditto if the Suns would offer Steve Nash.
3. Chris Kaman, C, Hornets
It's no secret that Kaman is on the block. Given that the Hornets really don't want much in return, I'm surprised he hasn't found a home already.
The Warriors, Rockets and Heat have shown a lot of interest. And with Jeff Foster still out in Indy, Kaman could be a great fit with the Pacers as well. He has no long-term future in New Orleans. This one is a no-brainer.
4. Monta Ellis, G, Warriors
Ellis is a dynamic scorer, but it just isn't working in Golden State and probably never will as long as Ellis and Stephen Curry are in the backcourt together.
The Warriors really need a big man, which makes a deal tough because most GMs aren't willing to trade big for small. But if the Warriors would be willing to take back Amare Stoudemire from the Knicks or if the Hawks were willing to swap Smith for Ellis, I think there's a deal to be had.
5. Pau Gasol, F, Lakers
Gasol is playing better and so were the Lakers, until this week. That's got to hurt the chances that the Lakers move him for anyone other than Dwight Howard before the deadline. But the Lakers have to be looking at the Celtics and sweating a bit. They don't want to be the team that is on the verge of plummeting into lottery hell next season.
Kobe Bryant won't be playing at this level forever, and neither will Gasol. Gasol can fetch the Lakers some good young assets now. In another year, I'm not sure we'll be able to say the same.
6. Gerald Wallace, F, Blazers
The Blazers balked a bit at moving Wallace at the start of the season, but they seem more open to it now. Nicolas Batum is their long-term answer at the small forward position, and they aren't really competing for a title.
A few long-term assets might be all that's required to pry Wallace from Portland. I could see the Magic making a big push in this direction.
7. Eric Gordon, G, Hornets
Gordon was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Hornets' new rebuilding effort, but injuries have kept him out of the lineup for all but two games this season. With Gordon hitting restricted free agency this summer and preferring to play elsewhere, do the Hornets cut their losses and try to make a deal now while they can?
The team has coveted New Orleans native Danny Granger in the past, and the Pacers would love to bring back one of Indy's own as well. It would be a risky move for the Pacers, as Gordon is still several weeks away from being ready to play. But it could be a great move long term.
8. Dwight Howard, C, Magic
Howard should be atop this list. All signs point to his leaving Orlando this summer if he makes it to unrestricted free agency, where the Nets and Mavs will throw money at him, and the Knicks and Lakers could find ways to get involved, too. Alas, Magic GM Otis Smith thinks he has a shot at keeping Howard and is telling GMs he won't move the All-Star big man before the deadline.
While the offers the Lakers and Nets have put together for Howard won't blow anyone away, they are better than the zero Howard could leave the Magic with this summer.
9. Deron Williams, PG, Nets
If Dwight Howard makes his way to New Jersey, all is well. The Nets would re-sign both Williams and Howard, and suddenly have the best point guard-center combo in the NBA. But if Howard doesn't end up in New Jersey, the Nets will be in danger of losing Williams for nothing. After all they gave up to get him, that has to keep Billy King up at night.
The problem for the Nets is they are paralyzed until they know what's happening with Howard. If the Magic move him to the Lakers or Bulls, Williams moves to the top of this list. If Howard isn't traded and remains on track to become a free agent, Williams will stay put.
10. Steve Nash, PG, Suns
The Suns continue to insist they're not trading Nash, which might be true. That's why Nash is at the bottom of the list. They even believe they have a chance at re-signing him this summer, which is a pipe dream.
The Suns are no longer a playoff team and are on the verge of a major rebuilding project. While Nash has publicly supported the Suns, it doesn't make much sense for either party to keep the marriage alive. Nash is still playing like an All-Star and could have a chance at winning a title elsewhere.
At this point, the Suns won't get much for him. His contract expires in a few months, and Nash has made it clear he'll shop the market. But if the Suns lose him for nothing? They would join the Cavs and Raptors as teams that let their fantasies get in the way of reality.