Ah, the 2012 NBA trade deadline draws nigh, and, per usual, the league is aflutter with rumor and speculation. And keeping with what now seems an annual tradition, a single player acts as the star which the NBA solar system revolves. Two seasons ago it was LeBron James; last season, Carmelo Anthony. This year, of course, Dwight Howard finds himself in the enviable position of kingmaker. Any team fortunate enough to acquire his services would immediately vault into contention (depending on the parameters of the deal, of course), while those franchises that have staked their futures on him (*ahem* the Nets) would be left in desperate straits.
There are, of course, a multitude of other players that could find themselves moved before or at the deadline. And while some would undoubtedly benefit from a change of scenery, others have been unjustly dangled by their teams. In order to differentiate between those who should and shouldn’t be traded (as well as those who currently find themselves in uncertain circumstances), I’ve taken it upon myself to analyze some of the more intriguing scenarios.
The Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest
The Lakers have about as much chance of moving Artest as Ron Paul does of becoming President. But if a team were to offer so much as a bag of circus peanuts (gross) in return for Metta, they should agree without hesitation. The Artest Era was fun for a time, and he was an integral component of the 2010 title run; but he’s clearly past his prime (to put it mildly), and his enormous contract will prove a hindrance to any effort to start afresh.
The Charlotte Bobcats
The league should ship the entire Bobcats organization (aside from Kemba, of course) to Canada for some caribou and a six-pack of Molson.
A scorer as dynamic and exciting as Monta Ellis is hard to come by, but Warriors management will, at some point, be forced to surrender one (or more) of the Ellis-Curry-Lee tandem (which has failed to produce results commensurate with its talent), and transform their team from a toothless irrelevancy into a more competitive outfit. That Stephen Curry is clearly the future of the franchise should be incentive enough to move his backcourt partner for a player (or players) who could better complement his playmaking abilities. Perhaps Portland or Detroit would be appropriate destinations for a guy who’s undeniably gifted (he consistently finishes in the top-ten of scoring season after season), but who simultaneously could benefit from a fresh start elsewhere.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen
I love KG and Ray Ray, and would not be displeased to see them retire as Celtics. But with the Green on the verge of collapse, and with little hope of luring Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, or any other marquee free agent(s) to Beantown this summer, the time is ripe to cash in on the Big Three era and at least receive something in return for two guys who can still contribute to a playoff team. Draft picks, complementary role players, a time machine that could be used to undo the Kendrick Perkins trade: any and all would be more than sufficient compensation for a franchise that has little hope of competing for a title this season.
Ever since his remarkable string of performances during the 2009 Playoffs, Gordon has essentially become the NBA’s Forgotten Man. Which should, of course, come as no surprise, considering that he’s toiling away on one of the most hopeless and depressing teams in the league. And although he’s played (relatively) well since his arrival in the Motor City, his albatross of a contract probably prevents teams that would otherwise benefit from his services from actively pursuing a deal that would pry him away from Joe Dumars’ grasp.
But Gordon should be high on the list of any franchise seeking to bolster its chances at competing for a title this season, regardless of the money and assets it’d be forced to relinquish. It’s not hard to imagine that teams like the Clippers (in desperate need of a reliable shooter) or the Sixers (in desperate need of a crunchtime scorer) would find themselves in a much more desirable position moving forward if they somehow managed to convince Dumars (who must be itching to correct some of his mistakes and relieve himself of the onerous contracts he’s burdened himself with over the last few seasons) to correct some of his missteps of years past.
Don’t Trade ‘Em!
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Something’s amiss in La-La Land, despite the Lakers’ recent success. Indeed, events of the last six months (the Mike Brown hiring, the Lamar Odom deal, the Paul Gasol trade rumors, the Andrew Bynum trade rumors, Kobe’s (very) public excoriations of management, the players-only meeting, etc.) have made obvious an ugly, worrying truth, one which should cause Lakers fans to tremble with fear in regards to their team’s future: Jerry Buss has bequeathed his empire, one of the most successful franchises in sports history, to a court jester.
For how else can one characterize a man who signed off on replacing Phil Jackson with a coach widely regarded as one of the league’s lesser lights? Or one who seems intent on destroying his relationship with his best player? Furthermore, that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak have consistently attempted to surrender their team’s greatest matchup advantage (i.e. their height and size) in order to complement one ball-dominant guard with another is only further evidence that we’re witnessing one of the worst successions since Andrew Johnson replaced Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
What Buss (and Kupchak) should have been doing since his ascension to the throne was redoubling his efforts to surround his core with role players capable of helping extend the Lakers run (sorry, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono don’t count). Indeed, instead of moving Lamar Odom for, well, nothing, it would’ve behooved Buss/Kupchak to exchange him for a package of role players that could either a.) stretch the floor for Kobe, Pau, and Bynum, or b.) bring some toughness to a squad that’s about as intimidating as a Kleenex.
Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce
I’ve addressed this in the past, but it bears repeating: relinquishing Rajon Rondo would be a mistake of monumental proportions. He’s only twenty-six, he’s one of the league’s best point guards, and there’s little chance that Ainge would be able to swing a deal for a player of equal value. What the latter should do is stop reading from the Jim Buss Bible and cease alienating his best guys with public declarations of disloyalty, particularly in regards to players who rescued his career.
As for Pierce: perhaps it’d be foolish to surrender to sentimentality and retain a player who’s clearly on the decline. It would, however, be equally as callous to trade a guy who not only carried your franchise through thick and thin for over a decade with (relatively) few complaints, but also one who lead your team to its first title in 22 years.
Besides, I’d probably incite a riot if he was dealt. And no one wants that.
Who the Hell Knows?!
Who the hell knows indeed! Every day brings a fresh set of rumors, all of which seemingly invalidate one another. If Howard is inclined to leave this summer, than the Magic have a plenitude of options, and Otis Smith and his staff will have ample opportunity to exchange their center for a star player (of lesser quality, of course) or a package of players and picks that will (hopefully) ease the franchise’s transition into the post-Howard Era.
Nash finds himself in a position similar to that of Paul Pierce: he’s a loyal, hard-working, future Hall-of-Famer who, in a perfect world, would remain with his original team until career’s end. But just as it will be tempting for Celtics management to hit the reset button and trade their erstwhile cornerstone for younger faces, so too do the Suns find themselves wondering whether the time has come to begin anew. Could a deal with Indiana, Utah, Atlanta, or Portland prove beneficial to all the relevant parties? Or would trading Nash only inaugurate a depressing rebuilding process from which it would take many years to emerge? Only time will tell.
Whether Deron Williams leaves or remains in New Jersey/Brooklyn appears entirely contingent on whether and how the Dwight Howard crisis is resolved. And, unfortunately for the Nets, failing to acquire the latter could signal end of the D-Will Era. That’s why Nets management should at least consider moving their point guard so as to avoid the humiliation that would inevitably ensue this summer if Howard were to stay in Orlando or was moved elsewhere.