Posted Mar 13 2012 9:55AM
Will March Madness be restricted to college basketball Thursday, or the NBA for one afternoon?
Because of the compressed schedule, the NBA trading deadline was moved ahead to compete with the opening of the college basketball tournament, and just as well, because both are known for their unpredictability. There might be a series of trades. Or maybe just a few. Big names could be moved. Or maybe they'll just offer a tease.
Here's a look at the top players up for grabs, and the best trade scenarios over the next 48 hours:
Dwight Howard: He's the whale in the trade room, the player everyone would love to have, with a catch: Not everyone can afford him, not everyone is willing to rent him, and few have anything to exchange for him.
If Howard is moved before Thursday, and Magic officials are putting it at 50-50, only the Nets and Lakers are factors because those are two of the three teams (Dallas the other) on Howard's list. Anyone else is merely renting him for two months, three if they're lucky.
The best trade is Howard to the Bulls for Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, or Howard to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook, because those deals help everyone involved and will put Howard with a potential championship winner. That's why he wants to leave Orlando, right? Well, those deals won't be made unless Howard signs long-term, and he's given no indication that he's dying to be teammates with Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose (imagine that).
The most intriguing scenario? Howard stays in Orlando, exercises his $19 million option, and we do this dance again next season.
Josh Smith: He told the Atlanta media that he wants out, although his demand generated surprisingly little traction, both inside the organization and out. That's because nobody believes the Hawks will surrender Smith, who's an emotional guy and could change his mind by tomorrow. That said, there's a risk for the Hawks to keep Smith, because his deal is up after next season. They should wait until summer and see if Smith is serious. If he threatens to walk in July 2013, send him to the Sixers for Thad Young. Smith would give Philly the star it needs, while Young, who's only 23 and played at Georgia Tech, is signed for the next five years at a reasonable salary for a budget-tight team like the Hawks.
Pau Gasol: The Lakers are old, boring and slow, which goes against everything Laker basketball is supposed to be. They must win a title while Kobe Bryant is still upright, and he's only signed for three more years. Rather than a complete strip-down, the Lakers should trade Gasol while they can and change the tempo of the team. Only a handful of teams would be willing to absorb Gasol's contract (roughly $60 million the next three years) and for the Lakers' sake, hopefully Houston is one of them. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry sound about right. Or maybe the Knicks have figured out Carmelo Anthony is a bad fit with Amar'e Stoudemire?
Monta Ellis: The organization is about done with Monta, who needs a fresh start elsewhere. Orlando would like to get him to convince Howard to stay. Or the Hornets, who need scoring badly and are well under the cap, can send a collection of young players or Chris Kaman to Golden State.
Chris Kaman: He'd be a good get for a contender who wants to rent a big man for the stretch run but refuses to give up a ton for Dwight Howard. Might as well take a chance on the poor man's Howard, then. Kaman becomes a free agent this summer and really isn't on the Hornets' radar but could play his way into a decent extension should he help the Warriors, Spurs (Tiago Splitter, etc.) or Bulls (Omer Asik, Taj Gibson) grab a ring.
O.J. Mayo: After shelling out millions for Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, there's nothing left for Mayo this summer, so the Grizzlies can deal him now. Anyone looking for a scoring sixth man would be wise to take a small gamble on Mayo, and that would include the Mavericks (Lamar Odom?).
Steve Nash: NBA folks say they'd be shocked if Nash twisted the Suns' arm and asked out of Phoenix. Most likely, the Suns are too emotionally attached to moving Nash at this point. They'd find interest in Orlando, Miami and Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers) but the return won't be too attractive, even for the league's assist leader, who becomes a free agent this summer and would essentially be a rental.
Michael Beasley: The Wolves have tried to move Beasley for months and interest, to say the least, has been mild. He clearly has no future in Minnesota, even though the Wolves have a desperate need for a scoring swingman. Anywhere he goes (Celtics perhaps) would serve as an audition for next season.
Tayshaun Prince: The Pistons strangely gave him an extension last fall but this is not 2004 anymore, for Prince or the Pistons. He'd be a good pickup for a team looking to tighten up the defense or add veteran leadership.
Lamar Odom: The Mavericks thought they got a steal when Odom came from the Lakers; not so much now. They'd love to dump him now, rather than wait until he becomes a free agent this summer. But the Mavericks don't want to take any contract back in return because they're saving money for a summer run at Deron Williams and/or Howard.
Rajon Rondo: Unless the Celtics are blown away with an offer, and nobody's likely to do that, they'll keep Rondo at least until this summer. And then it's all about how they plan to rebuild around Rondo and Paul Pierce, who has two years left at big money.
Andrew Bogut: How seriously do you take the vibe coming from Milwaukee that a massive overhaul is about to begin? Bogut is another player who could be moved but probably not until the summer at the earliest, after the Bucks get an idea where they'll be drafting. He could bring a decent package and become more valuable to the Bucks on another team (Warriors?).
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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