Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but it’s not to late for thirsty NBA teams to meet their matches. The first Thursday following the NBA All-Star break is usually the NBA’s day to exchange obligatory awkward messages and feel the pressure to make a premature move.
There will be no chocolates being exchanged between now and Thursday. There will be buyers and there will be sellers. There will be one-sided trades that don’t pay out until down the road and there will be trades that payout immediately and become detrimental down the road.
However, each franchise is solo dolo until they find a trade partner to do the deadline dance with. There aren’t many marquee players on the trade market this year before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, but there are plenty of fish in the sea. This year, it’s all about finding the right fit.
If you’ve ever seen that eHarmony commercial where the founder tries to convince viewer that you’ll find their soulmate, this is a little like that. NBA player acquisition and team-building has become a science. Advanced player statistics and the influence of MIT's Sports Analytics Conference has made basketball analytics the Neil DeGrasse Tyson to baseball's Bill Nye Moneyball era. Just don’t tell that to Lionel Hollins who used to rail against the advanced analytics revolution before player tracking technology took root around the league this season.
Most of these trades will never happen, but here’s a peek at the expectations and reality for buyers and sellers before the upcoming trade deadline.
SACRAMENTO KINGS: Seeking Rajon Rondo. 90% chance they get rejected.
Dream Scenario: Isiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton to Boston for Rondo sounds appealing, however, this is unrequited love for Sac-Town. The Celtics 27-year-old point guard would have to sign a contract extension, which Rondo has no interest in doing. Besides, what could be worse than the cantankerous personalities of Demarcus Cousins, Rondo and the intense Michael Malone in one locker room besides building a nuclear reactor half a mile from an active volcano? One thing that you’ll find is that Isiah Thomas cannot be dealt for many players with equal production because of his second round entry level salary. There's not much upside available here if Rondo's interest isn't piqued.
Trade Partner Match: The Brooklyn Nets ship Reggie Evans and Jason Terry for Marcus Thornton.
HOUSTON ROCKETS: seeking Rajon Rondo/distributor at PG/small forward. Breaking up with Jeremy Lin.
Dream Scenario: Two summers ago, they had Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowery on their roster. Instead, they went fo the big splash by signing Jeremy Lin after casting away Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowery. Lowery and Dragic are now two All-Star caliber floor leaders while Lin is a backup point guard with a poison pill awaiting him next season.
The Bulls have reportedly told Carlos Boozer that he will not be traded, but if they're listening, here's a trade that satisfies a slew of franchises.
Four-team Rockets, Bulls, Cavs and Raptors trade will never happen. pic.twitter.com/fUSJYVjTbb— DJ RedHerring Dunson (@CerebralSportex) February 19, 2014
Omer Asik returns to the Bulls, Deng escapes the C-4 Cavaliers, the Rockets jettison Lin to Toronto, who failed at Riggin' for Wiggins and where Drake is helping them start over from the bottom. Plus Lin gets to reunite with Landry Field's couch. Boozer is unhappy getting benched by Thibodeau for Taj Gibson late in close games because of Gibson's efficiency on both ends of the floor. Boozer betrayed the Cavaliers nearly a decade ago at the begining of the King James era, therefore it's apropos he ends up back where it all began--at least for a few months.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: seeking a divorce from Pau Gasol
Dream Scenario: It’s the definition of it’s not you, it’s me for the NBA crowd. Gasol is getting up there in years, but the reason they’d want to rid themselves of their star power forward is to use Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract as an anchor to sink their record in the Western Conference. This is all about the upcoming draft.
Trade Partner Match: Phoenix. Dragic is the point guard Gasol thought the Lakers had acquired in Steve Nash. D’Antoni’s former employer will deploy him better than the Lakers did.
Dream Scenario: A healthy Pau Gasol pulling down 17 and 10 while bringing a little more diversity to the Suns offense wouldn’t make them contenders, but it could be enough to make them a threat out West. Gasol will be a free agent this summer and they may decide to try luring him in the offseason through free agency.
Trade Partner Match: The Lakers seem intent on maintaining their rocky relationship with Pau Gasol until his contract expires this summer and the Bulls aren’t parting ways with Carlos Boozer. We’ll find out soon enough how devoted the Lakers are to their 2014 Lottery positioning.
NEW YORK KNICKS: seeking a point guard, Kevin Love and a defensive power forward
Dream Scenario: The Knickerbeggars lead the league in trade requests this season, but from all accounts they need love more than LL Cool J needs a hat and chapstick. In a temporary moment of insanity after the Knicks kept ringing their phones for the past six months, the Timberwolves offer Kevin Love for Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert’s expiring contract.
Trade Partner Match: They lower their expectations and Denver dishes Kenneth Faried to the Knicks for Iman Shumpert.
ATLANTA HAWKS: Jeff Teague
Dream Scenario: The most interesting prospects on Atlanta’s roster are their organ player and Jeff Teague. The Knicks want Teague, but the Knicks don’t have enough in their coffers to interest Atlanta.
Trade Partner Match: No matches. Teague's fallen off from his hot start to the season and is shooting just 41 percent from the field. Without Al Horford, he's been Jeremy Lin without the cultural cache averaging 14 points, 5.8 assists and 39.8 percent shooting from the field. The Knicks are looking harder than Nicki Minaj would like, but Teague's four-year $32 million deal isn't worth risking their 2015 flexibility. Even the Knicks aren't that shortsighted.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Selling Jarrett Jack, Luol Deng and Anderson Varejao
Dream Scenario: This is like splashing cologne over must after a morning workout, but the Cavs need to salvage this wreck. Jack has been a disappointment in Cleveland and Varejao should be dealt while he still has value. The Kings are interested in Jack. If they could throw in Shaq’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest throne for Gilbert to use as a bargaining chip if LeBron tests free agency this summer, that would be enough to appease the Cavs.
Trade Partner Match: The Kings aren’t the NBA royalty Cleveland wanted to be associated with, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Dream Scenario: The Sixers phones are ringing off the hook today. Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes are all available for the right price while they refocus their tanking strategy in the second half of the season. Their dream is to rid themselves of Young, Turner and Hawes for enough draft picks to replicate Oklahoma City’s draft LEGO assembly and own half of the 2015 Rookie-Sophomore Game starting lineup.
Trade Partner Match: Charlotte Bobcats, Spurs
It probably won’t be a lottery pick given how the Knicks are playing, but Team Ground Jordan is in the market for a shooting guard of Turner’s ilk for Ben Gordon’s expiring contract and may be willing to drop a 2014 first round pick into the bucket as well.
The Spurs are interested in Thaddeus Young, but San Antonio is gifted at spotting late first round bargains that Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie should also request R.C. Buford make the pick for them.
DETROIT PISTONS: seeking an unclogged paint area
Dream Scenario: The Pistons are in a predicament where they have to unload either Monroe or Josh Smith, however, Smith’s burdensome contract makes him radioactive on the trade market. Monroe is headed towards restricted free agency this summer and the Pistons would probably
Trade Partner Match: Philadelphia 76ers - It’s unlikely, but a guard like Evan Turner for Monroe would benefit the Pistons by pushing underwhelming Rodney Stuckey to the bench and allow Josh Smith to play closer to the basket in his rightful spot as a power forward. The Smith-Monroe-Drummond trio has been a catastrophe.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: seeking to fill out their frontcourt depth
Dream Scenario: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and D-League scoring whiz Pierre Jackson are all on the block. I’m not sure who they think is going to have enough interest in Rivers, one of the league’s worst young players to offer anything of value.
Trade Partner Match: Detroit Pistons
Only viable trade scenario for the Pistons. If Dumars could give Ben Gordon $54 million, he'll love Eric Gordon pic.twitter.com/c5FYfa1TMD— DJ RedHerring Dunson (@CerebralSportex) February 19, 2014
Dream Scenario: The Pistons could deal Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey’s expiring contract for Aaron Afflalo’s return to Detroit. A frontcourt of Monroe and Vuvecic could be a solid foundation. If it doesn’t work out, Monroe will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Trade Partner Match: Memphis Grizzlies offer first round picks that the Pistons aren’t willing to surrender, Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince for Afflalo.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: seeking a backup point guard
Dream Scenario: Ernie Grunfeld also acquire the rights to George Karl for a future lottery-protected first rounder, not understanding that Karl isn't under contract with Denver.
Trade Partner Match: Denver Nuggets deal Professor Andre Miller to the Wiz and John Wall receives the elder statesman to show him the way that he's always needed. Miller can still play, but he'll also be ueful as a mentor in Wall's ear.