By: Steve Kyler
The Next Wave: The NBA has seen some pretty exciting trades this season – Iverson and Detroit, The Washington Wizards shook up the backcourt, while the Phoenix Suns get an impact scorer. With less than 70 days remaining until the NBA trade deadline there are a few teams shopping for change and a few more looking at additional deals, here are some of the teams in play:
Raptors Want To Deal: Raptor's president Bryan Colangelo has been trying to be patient with his team in the wake of relieving Sam Mitchell as head coach, but the writing is on the wall. His club needs some help, and needs it quickly. The first order of business seems to be adding a front court player, mainly as a backup. Word is the club is considering adding a D-League guy like Courtney Sims or Jermareo Davidson, Damone Brown has also been mentioned in the press. On The trade front the Raptors are looking for some shooting, but like a few other teams in the market – they have very little that teams are interested in. The cupboards are a little bare of talent that the team could afford to part with leaving them looking for bargains. Expect a roster move or two in the coming weeks.
The Blazers: The Portland Trail Blazers are not going to do anything silly that breaks up the core, but GM Kevin Pritchard has made it clear that he's shopping the $12.7 million ending contract of Raef LaFrentz and looking for value. LaFrentz is injured and not going to play, meaning in a few weeks at the 41 game mark, insurance will start paying his deal making him a "free player" that clears a ton of cap space in July. Its unlikely LaFrentz returns a serious impact player to Portland, but at $12 million the Blazers could pick up a sizable contract if indeed a team is looking to clear space. The Kings, the HEAT and the Hawks could all be players this summer, while Oklahoma City, Memphis and Detroit are already looking at ample space in July. A $12 million swing could also be interesting to the ten teams looking at hefty luxury tax payments into 2009 as well. The other thing to consider is LaFrentz could be an interesting third-team toss in that gets the Blazers future draft picks, a trade exception or a promising young guy. Sources close to the situation say the preference from Portland is a veteran leader to help the young guys prepare for the post-season, so expect Portland to be involved in talks as the deadline approaches.
The Kings: As mentioned, the Kings are going nowhere fast and have a couple of veteran assets they are more likely to move than keep. Brad Miller is by far the most obvious chip for the team to cash, and there is a lot of interest around the league in the former All-Star center. The thought process coming out of Sacramento is that there are some decent core pieces in town, but that a solid trip through the 2009 free agent class might be enough to swing the team from outside the playoff discussion to in the hunt next year. Miller and the contracts of Kenny Thomas ($8.5 million) and Mikki Moore ($6.2 million) seem to be the deals the Kings will look to move. If the Kings can return ending contracts for those players they could be sitting on as much as $18 million below the salary cap with significant room to go shopping. Do not expect the Kings to part with any of their promising young core or future draft assets.
The Warriors: The Warriors may be a team in the market next week, as December 15th opens the first days the team can trade players signed to contracts this past summer. Duplicate players like Corey Maggette or even Kelenna Azubuike (base year) could be on the move. The Warriors have had Marco Belinelli and Marcus Williams on the trade market for some time, so it's possible one of these four guys is moved, especially with Monta Ellis making progress towards a late December/early January return to the court. Warriors' coach Don Nelson and new assistant GM Larry Riley are expected to join the half dozen executives in attendance for tonight's NBDL game in Bakersfield, don't be surprised if rumors involving Detroit, Denver, and Miami surface as they will all be in attendance sitting with each other for several hours during the game.
The Magic: The Orlando Magic have been in the market for a third point guard, but it is clear in their lack of action with names like Antonio Daniels and Mike James already having been moved that Magic GM Otis Smith is not looking at anything splashy. Talks with the Denver Nuggets regarding Chucky Atkins seem to be stalled or outright dead, and long coveted Javaris Crittenton is now off the market. Brian Cook seems to be the asset the Magic would consider moving. Cook's $3.5 million contract is not going to return much in terms of marquee level talent, but Smith has been clear he is not looking for anyone that would upset the apple cart in terms of "needing" minutes, the ideal candidate would be happy to be the third guard, yet capable if injury strikes – not sure that player exists, but that's what the Magic seem to be coveting.
The HEAT: The HEAT have started to string together some wins behind an MVP-type season from Dwyane Wade, which is causing the team to pause – there is a belief the team needs to get D-Wade some front court help, but there is also a belief that things are starting to work so why mess with it. As constructed the HEAT are unlikely to be formidable playoff contenders, which is why the team has been sniffing at deals. Shawn Marion is the big chip the HEAT can cash, and it seems more likely than not he is the guy dealt before the February 19th deadline.
The Knicks: The Knicks finally got closure yesterday on Cuttino Mobley's heart situation – while clearly a sad day for an amazing team guy that is one of the best "people" in the league, it now opens a much needed roster spot for the Knicks. Fans are hoping the spot goes to pre-season sensation Patrick Ewing, Jr. although Knicks sources say Stephon Marbury is holding his chair, once Steph's buyout situation is resolved Ewing would be signed (smart PR move actually). The Knicks have been active in trying to trigger a two-for-one deal, and have expressed interest in Sacramento's Quincy Douby according to reports and Portland's Sergio Rodriguez. The Knicks may be the team that makes the next move in the trade market, they are by far the most motivated.