With just eight days until the NBA’s trade deadline, the rumor mill is in full swing. Perhaps the biggest names that get moved will be Will Bynum and Eric Maynor. Or maybe all hell will break loose and Josh Smith, Al Jefferson and Andrea Bargnani will all find themselves elsewhere. Most likely, the deadline activity will fall somewhere in between.
Here are 10 of the most impactful players whose names will be bandied about ahead of the Feb. 21 deadline.
1. Al Jefferson/Paul Millsap, C/PF, Jazz
Both Jefferson and Millsap have expiring contracts and both are going to want the Brinks Truck backed directly into their homes this summer. Utah is extremely unlikely to pay both, especially with future star Derrick Favors chomping at the bit for starter’s minutes. Unless the seventh-seeded Jazz foolishly think they are championship contenders, trading one of these guys for assets would be a no-brainer. As All-Star caliber big men that can score with their back to the basket, both are going to garner a ton of attention on the trade market. Utah would probably prefer to keep Millsap, a franchise favorite that has actually plays defense. He’d also bring more in return.
Most likely landing spots: Phoenix, San Antonio, Brooklyn
2. Andrea Bargnani, PF, Raptors
Bargnani has worn out his welcome in Toronto. When he’s been in the lineup this year, the Raptors are 6-18. When he’s been inactive, they are 14-14. Defensive-minded coach Dwane Casey loves warrior Amir Johnson and Lithuanian prospect Jonas Valanciunas is showing raw signs of potential. Still, there aren’t many players in the league like Bargnani. He gets a well-deserved bad rap for being soft, but very few true 7-footers that can shoot the rock like he can. As long as the showcase leading up to the deadline goes well, expect plenty of contending teams to come calling. Bargs proved he isn’t a building block, but he’s a nice fit when asked to play his role.
Most likely landing spots: Chicago, Lakers
3. Josh Smith, PF, Hawks
Back in mid-January, the Hawks suspended Smith for one game due to “conduct detrimental to the team,” also known as getting booted out of practice. In between flirtations with greatness, Smoove has shown a tendency for off-court maladies, mind-boggling shot selection and questionable leadership skills. Does this sound like a player worth a five-year, $94 million maximum contract? Not to me and reportedly not to the Hawks. According to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Atlanta has already told Smith’s representatives that they are not interested in giving him a max deal when he becomes a free agent this summer. Smith, of course, has already gone on the record saying he wants that max. So now it’s up to GM Danny Ferry to see what he can get. A package of young players, picks and expiring contracts would allow the Hawks to clear out a massive amount of cap space and begin the rebuilding process in earnest.
Most likely landing spots: Brooklyn, Phoenix
4. J.J. Redick, SG, Magic
Redick has quietly had a monster season, setting career-highs in points (15.5), field-goal percentage (45.7), 3-pointers made (2.4), assists (4.5) and rebounds (2.4). If it weren’t for the likes of Jrue Holiday, Paul George and Tiago Splitter, he’d be in the race for Most Improved Player. But with Redick’s contract set to expire at the end of this season, the Magic have to decide if they can pay him like a well above average shooting guard – especially when starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo will make roughly $23.4 million over the next three years. Is Redick a core part of their rebuilding process or is he a great role player on a championship-contending team? Orlando has told him they “are not trying to actively” trade him, but teams are going to come calling for an elite shooter that is now showing playmaking skills.
Most likely landing spots: Milwaukee, Indiana
5. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Clippers
There isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t love to get their hands on Bledsoe. He just turned 23, is an explosive athlete with a rapidly improving shot and is a rabid on-ball defender. And when you play behind Chris Paul, you only get about 18 minutes per game. Therefore, trade rumors are going to abound. However, I’d be surprised if Bledsoe was moved. With the Clippers in all-out win-now mode, those 18 elite minutes Bledsoe gives could be the difference in a playoff series. Paul has also dealt with knee woes in two of the last four years and he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Still, someone could blow the Clips away with an offer they can’t refuse here.
Most likely landing spots: Boston, Dallas, Utah