Surely this is a case of ‘famous last words,’ but this year’s trade deadline has been extremely quiet compared to the past few years. Maybe it’s the lack of Melodramatic storylines and the like, but it’s probably more tied to the new collective bargaining agreement, which has set old, inflated player salaries against the backdrop of a prohibitive luxury tax that even the large markets are trying to avoid.
Even if teams are wary of the salary cap’s new realities, chances are things are going to pick up immediately and we’re planning big coverage around here, as usual. Adam Levitan will have a report in the next few days on the most likely trade candidates, and we’ll follow that up next week with a report on top fantasy stashes. I’ll summarize the action here today and then again during All Star weekend, and then in the days leading up to the deadline we’ll have daily write-ups independent of the Daily Dose.
Fantasy owners know that values can swing wildly during this time of the year, and the savvy owner can change the course of their season, and likewise those that sleep during this time can find the competition rapidly gaining on them.
We’ll carry the coverage into the day of the deadline and bring you the action in real-time on both our player news page and also on Twitter. If you’re not following our entire crew on Twitter, go to the basketball home page and add everybody on the list. If you’re not following me, you can click right here and get dialed in.
Past years have seen a barrage of tweets that fly in faster than any human can read, and we’ll update the action live so you can have winners and losers within moments of the final bell. It’s one of the best days of the NBA year, so hopefully you’ll be able to call in sick, grab your beverage of choice, and find yourself a diamond or two before the competition does.
So let’s get you guys setup with what we know heading into today so you can read the tea leaves with the best of them.
Chris Broussard recently reported a “60 percent” chance that Josh Smith gets moved, and recent reports have painted a back-and-forth between player and club that supports the idea that he won’t be with the Hawks. Smith, a free agent this summer, recently said that he believes he is a max player, and the Hawks have said that they won’t pay him max money. We can argue the merits of whether or not Smith deserves max money, but chances are there is at least one team out there willing to pay the man, and that leaves the Hawks with a pretty easy decision to get something for him before he walks.
The Nets are where the thickest smoke resides, as David Aldridge cited them as suitors and Broussard said they are “going hard” after Smith, but I’ll be the first to say that a theorized package of MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, and a future (low) first aren’t breaking down the door. It’s early, but I’d imagine other parties would want to get in on the action at that price. For their part, the Hawks have said they won’t part with Smith unless they get a “bona fide star” in return, which is what they’re supposed to say so no surprises there. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has refuted the Broussard and Aldridge reports, which sounds like team-side sources circling the wagons. I'm going to assume Aldridge and Broussard are onto something here.
The Suns and Marcin Gortat were floated by Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy, and that report was eventually refuted. Pistons beat writer Vincent Goodwill opined that the Suns and Mavs would be teams to watch, though it’s unclear if he’s just spitballing or has sources telling him this. Marc Stein reports that the Hawks want a young center in return for Smith, and Gortat while struggling certainly fits the bill. While there has been talk that the Hawks would want to keep Smith to try to recruit Dwight Howard this summer, Broussard reports that Howard has no interest in playing for Atlanta, an idea that we probably shouldn’t etch in stone given the big man’s indecisiveness. Anthony Morrow’s name has been attached to the rumors, and owners should only care about that in the late stages of a ‘bona fide’ deal.
The bottom line for Smith’s owners is that there is more of a chance that he moves onto a team with depth than one as shallow as the Hawks are. He’s also afforded a tremendous amount of freedom with Atlanta to play his special brand of head-scratching basketball, and moving into another system there is no guarantee that he will enjoy the type of bump that Rudy Gay is enjoying for the time-being in Toronto. I don’t think a team will pony up for Smith and put the shackles on him, and he could very well benefit from a little structure to enhance his efficiency. But if he lands on a loaded roster, like the Nets, he could take incremental hits to his scoring and rebounding.
I think owners need to be flexible and approach this situation from both sides. A buy low offer to a panicking offer has just as much merit as a sell-now offer for a comparable player. Throw in the fact that Smith carries fourth and eighth round rankings in 8- and 9-cat leagues over at BasketballMonster.com, which don’t nearly match the type of name value the first round fantasy pick carries, there are going to be some wild trade offers in fantasy leagues.
THE CONSOLATION PRIZE
If the Nets can’t swing a deal for Josh Smith, the next item up on the agenda in the rumor mill is a swap of Kris Humphries for Ben Gordon of the Bobcats. The Cats were after Humphries last summer, and they can certainly use a big body that can handle NBA minutes. I’ve heard some talk about Humphries stepping in and being the Bobcats’ best big man and I just don’t see it, even if he would be a lock to play 20-25 minutes or more per night. In other words, don’t go panicking over Byron Mullens, who has flashed a nice little mean streak since his return.
As for Gordon, a move to Brooklyn would certainly stand a chance of resuscitating his value. The Nets need a consistent scorer off the bench badly, and Gordon profiles well spacing the floor for Brook Lopez next to Deron Williams. Chris Broussard reports that this trade is secondary to the Nets’ interest in Josh Smith, so that will be the domino for owners to watch here.
THIBS’ BLOOD PRESSURE
I’m not sure how much weight to give this rumor, but the theoretic trade sending Carlos Boozer to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani is pure comedy. Boozer’s matador defense is already famous in Chicago, and responsible for at least one playoff exit against the Heat two years back. Bargnani might be the rare player that can make Boozer look passable on that end of the floor, so the idea that Tom Thibodeau would get to sink his claws into the soft stretch four is enticing.
The trade does make sense from a pure basketball perspective, though, as Bargnani would open big lanes for Derrick Rose and that has been an ongoing problem for the Bulls. A potential swap would be slight bad news for Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson owners, as Boozer would likely command more time than Bargnani in a post-deadline scenario, and the money scenario for JV and Johnson owners is that Bargnani goes and no big man threats return. Boozer’s value might actually increase in Toronto, as Noah steals a lot of his stats and Thibs has no problem pulling him – and the Raps will likely want to showcase their asset. Bargnani’s value would have a similar chance of increasing in Chicago, as his shooting is a needed commodity and there are only two bigs in Noah and Taj Gibson to compete with, and Noah’s foot is a red flag.
Overall, owners probably don’t want to tilt their projections for either player too much since this trade doesn’t have a whole lot of traction and the Chicago Sun-Times has already (somewhat curiously) pooh-poohed the deal. But should the smoke thicken, this would be an ideal situation for both guys in a trade scenario.
SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY
J.J. Redick’s name has been in trade rumors all year. He is a free agent this summer and that is the core of the speculation, as the Magic have to decide whether or not they want to pay him as a core guy or get what they can now. My guess is they’ll weigh the offers and make the call based on that. The Bulls, who were matched on a qualifying offer for Redick once already, are in the mix as are the Bucks, Pacers, and Celtics. Marc Stein wrote that the Bucks are weighing their ability to sign him if they make a deal to acquire the swingman, and that the price is “expiring(s) and a future No. 1 pick.” Redick told the Orlando Sentinel wrote that the Magic are not actively shopping him, but it’s unclear how much weight to put into that statement. I think owners have to be fairly aggressive here. Redick enjoys one of the easiest paths to fantasy value in the NBA playing for the Magic’s extremely shallow unit as a primary ball-handler. With perhaps a coin flip chance of being traded right now, and nowhere to go but down in terms of utilization, I think owners need to be working sell-high offers.