Sunday, January 20, 2013

Biggest Names On The Block

Atlanta forward Josh Smith is one of the most popular names
on the trade block this season.

      Nearly one month away from the trade deadline, most NBA teams have figured out their identity as the season approaches its midpoint. Several teams are bona fide contenders (Thunder, Heat), some are middle of the road (Rockets, Bucks) and some are flat out train wrecks (Phoenix, Cleveland). Several teams who are contenders or middle of the road teams are eager to make a swap that will propel their team into playoff contention, where it could be anyone's game. Here are some of the top trade targets of this season and where they could be dealt by February 21st.

1. Rudy Gay

Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 36.6 MPG

Overview: Rudy Gay is a solid player in this league, but he's yet to be named an All Star. To be honest, this is the first time Gay and power forward Zach Randolph have been fully healthy together and with Marc Gasol, the trio forms one of the best frontcourts in the Association. Memphis has shined early on in the season and has proven to be able to hold its own against other contenders. The only reason why Memphis is attempting to deal Gay is because of his contract. Most will agree that Gay is grossly overpaid and in turn, that is why the Grizzlies are looking to deal the small forward. Gay serves as an effective scorer on any team and can instantly impact a struggling offense.

Best Fit: Phoenix Suns. The Suns have been setting since early December and it doesn't look like things will be getting better any time soon. Head coach Alvin Gentry and the team agreed to mutually part ways. Phoenix has several interesting pieces that could interest Memphis, but it might take a 3-team deal to make it work. Check out my deal here in which Memphis also receives a first round draft pick from Phoenix. In Phoenix, Gay would become the franchise player and continue to make strides while he is still in his prime.

2. Tyreke Evans

Statistics: 14.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 30.0 MPG

Overview: Since he won Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans has steadily declined in Sacramento. The team has been stagnant since Evans was drafted and the havoc around the franchise has not helped. The Kings are on the verge of being sold, possibly to be relocated. Head coach Keith Smart has been unable to command the team and DeMarcus Cousins incidents seem to be one of the few things keeping the Kings relevant in the NBA. Evans' value is at a career low, but on a contending team, he might be able to live up to his potential.

Will Evans be sent out of the
Kings' court?
Best Fit: Indiana Pacers. Many people are assuming when forward Danny Granger comes back, the Pacers could fight for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. It's debatable, but at the same time, Granger has hit his peak and nobody knows how he will come back from injury. Granger is supposed to return soon, but the Paul George era has already begun in Indiana. George fits best at the small forward position but without Granger, the Pacers have gotten limited production from the shooting guard position. Lance Stephenson and Orlando Johnson are two young players who are still developing, but Evans can come in and become a huge piece of the puzzle immediately. In this trade, Indiana will also receive a protected first round draft pick.

3. Anderson Varejao

Statistics: 14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.6 BPG, 36.0 MPG

Overview: Varejao's value is arguably the hardest to gauge of any player in the NBA. Since the 2012 London Olympics, in which Varejao was a member of Brazil's team, he has played great basketball. However, the 30-year old injured his right quadriceps muscle earlier in the season and underwent successful surgery last week. The big man will be sidelined until March and it might scare teams off from pursuing a trade for Cleveland's center. However, when healthy, Varejao has proven to be a menace on the glass and solid in the post on both sides of the ball.

Best Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota has been decimated by injuries and is now on the outside looking in for the Western Conference playoff seeding. All Star Kevin Love will be sidelined for a while, but if Varejao can return healthy, he can at the very least give the Timberwolves another dominant rebounder. Also, Nikola Pekovic could leave in free agency and Varejao would provide a suitable replacement for years to come. In this 4-team trade involving Minnesota, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, the Cavaliers would also receive a lottery-protected first round draft pick from the Timberwolves. Varejao and Love, if on the same team, could become the top rebounding duo in the NBA.

4. Paul Millsap

Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 30.5 MPG

Overview: Millsap has been a fixture in Utah for years now, but it might be time for the Jazz to trade the athletic power forward. Millsap can score but is mostly known for his defensive prowess. He is an expiring contract, but also has a successor waiting in the wings in Utah. Derrick Favors, who was acquired from the Nets in the Deron Williams transaction, has continued to grow as an all-around player and is just scratching the surface of his prime. Millsap has never been an All Star, but his level of productivity would be welcome by any franchise.

Best Fit: Brooklyn Nets. Last season, the Nets had trouble getting offense from the small forward position. That problem was fixed once they traded for Gerald Wallace. Now, the Nets can't seem to get much offense from the power forward position. Kris Humphries, after signing a big contract, has not replicated the production of his last two seasons. Reggie Evans is great on the glass, but is limited offensively. Mirza Teletovic has come on a bit of late, but his defense is still questionable and he's yet to make a smooth transition to the NBA. In a 3-team trade also involving Charlotte, Utah would receive a future first round draft pick from Brooklyn in the package.

5. Al Jefferson

Statistics: 17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 32.9 MPG

Overview: Millsap's teammate, Al Jefferson, has also been a hot commodity on the trade block. The big man has been an anchor for the Jazz since he was acquired from the Timberwolves. Jefferson has also never been an All Star, but is regarded as one of the top centers in the NBA. He is polished on the offensive end and his defense has improved this season. Jefferson will be certainly be among trade discussions during the next month.

Best Fit: San Antonio Spurs. Why the Spurs? Head coach Gregg Popovich has ingrained a winning culture into the franchise and although San Antonio isn't a team that would usually make a deal of this magnitude, it would certainly build on the franchise's chances of winning another championship. "Big Al" would become another sturdy force in the paint next to Tim Duncan and they would be able to match or dominate any other frontcourt combo in the NBA. If the Spurs re-signed Jefferson, he would be a force in the paint for years to come even after future Hall of Fame member Tim Duncan retires. In this swap, Utah would also receive two future first round draft picks.

6. Jose Calderon

Statistics: 10.8 PPG, 7.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 28.1 MPG

Overview: Coming into the season, it was widely assumed that the Raptors would move Calderon because of his expiring contract as well as the team's acquisition of point guard Kyle Lowry. While Lowry has performed well this season, he's also been injured often and Calderon has capitalized on his opportunities. The Raptors are playing it smart by starting Calderon to raise the 31-year old's value. Calderon is a great free throw shooter and facilitator who would be serviceable for a contending team.

Best Fit: Miami Heat. The Heat probably won't be making a move for a point guard at the deadline, but that doesn't mean Calderon wouldn't fit in Miami. As mentioned before, Calderon is a great facilitator who could spread the ball around to Miami's "Big 3" of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as well as all of their shooters. Calderon is an upgrade over Mario Chalmers and might be able to break Miami out of its recent woes. While this trade isn't probably what would be best for Toronto, they'd also receive a first round draft pick from Miami. This trade is proposed because I believe Calderon would fit with the Heat, not necessarily because it's the best package available for the Raptors.

7. Josh Smith

Statistics: 16.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.2 BPG, 34.9 MPG

Overview: Josh Smith, born and raised in Georgia, has played for the Atlanta Hawks for his entire career, but that doesn't mean he's untouchable. This season, Smith has clashed with his head coach, Larry Drew, on a number of occasions. He was recently suspended for a game against the Brooklyn Nets for "conduct detrimental to the team." Smith is an expiring contract and it's very plausible that he could spurn Atlanta for another franchise. General Manager Danny Ferry will have to think long and hard about this one, but if he can acquire more young prospects, his team will be set up well for the future.

Best Fit: Houston Rockets. In the summer, Houston vehemently pursued Dwight Howard, but to no avail. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has proven he will go at lengths to improve his team after outbidding the Knicks for Jeremy Lin and trading for shooting guard James Harden just before the start of the season. Harden and Lin form a solid, young backcourt, but the Rockets are yet to have a true inside presence. Omer Asik is starting to come into his own, as is Chandler Parsons, but they are still developing. Insert Josh Smith into Houston's starting lineup and this team has a dynamic "Big 3" of Lin, Harden and Smith for years to come. In the swap, Atlanta gets three young prospects and a proficient perimeter shooter.

      Comments? Trade proposals? Leave them below in the comments section!