The NBA trade deadline is just over three weeks away, so teams have until February 20th to complete any last moves in an attempt to load up for the playoffs. Unfortunately for fans, the NBA this year is even more stratified than normal, with only a small handful of teams having championship hopes. So consider this year’s deadline as Tankfest 2014, the starting gun in the race to be as bad as feasibly possible to get as many pin pong balls in the draft lottery. Some big names might be on the move, with few suitors free to spend big money on a major upgrade, don’t be shocked if all is quiet on the basketball front this year.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (16-27): 24.67 PER, $21.4 million
The Knicks have once again been a huge bust this year. Even in a horrible Eastern Conference, they’re currently out of the playoff race, and a lucky jump to an eight seed won’t be enough to save this disaster from being aborted in the offseason. Melo’s deal is up at the end of the season and with the usual Laker rumors running rampant, some are expecting a deal before the deadline. However, the Lakers are abandoning ship as well and don’t have the pieces to satisfy the Knicks in a trade. A trade to a mid-level contender such as the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls or Dallas Mavericks seems to make more sense. Whatever team trades for Anthony should have some foundation, a shot at contending this year and the financial means to re-sign the forward in the offseason. Keep an eye on the Los Angeles Clippers, who could trade the house and some change to pair Anthony with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to form the highest scoring Big Three in the NBA.
Prediction: Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls for Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Draft Picks and trade exceptions for Luol Deng and Marques Teague
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers (16-28): 18.81 PER, $19.3 million
As noted above, the Lakers are on the short list for worst team in the NBA. Injuries to everyone and their brother has resulted in a rotation that features Kendall Marshall playing forty minutes a game. The writing is on the walls and it’s about time that ownership bet their chips on next season instead of struggling to MAYBE get a lucky playoff spot in a stacked western conference. Even the return of Kobe Bryant is not going to make this team anywhere near a contender, so the Lakers’ best move is to sit Bryant for the year and trade anyone with value for cap space and future assets. Steve Nash is unmovable, leaving Nick Young, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill as the Lakers only viable assets. Gasol is the only difference maker of the bunch and could be able to find a contender in need of a big to complete a deal. More likely, however, is a trade to a team in rebuilding mode who could use Gasol’s expiring contract and a draft pick to prepare for the future.
Prediction: Lakers trade Pau Gasol and a future first round pick to the Philadelphia 76’ers for Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (15-30): PER TBA, $11.9 million
Rondo is just returning from an extended injury absence and is not at all up to speed yet. However, with some time to get up to speed, Rondo could quickly become an impact player on a contender. Any team in need of a ball-handling point guard will make a strong push to bring Rondo into town. Of all players possibly on the move, Rondo may have the best fit waiting for him in the Houston Rockets. Jeremy Lin is wasting away next to James Harden, Omer Asik wants out and Houston could use a backcourt mate for Harden who can play strong defense and carry some of the dribbling duties without needing to score. This deal makes too much sense for it to fall through.