Feb 20 2013 12:32PM

Trade Bait

Dozens and dozens of NBA players are seeing their names bandied about in various trade rumors throughout the internet, blogosphere, rumorville, ESPNlandia and in parts unknown.

But essentially 90 percent of these stories--most fictitious, some planted, few actually true--revolve around the 10 men and 10 teams on this list.

Once these players go in trades--or don't go--other teams will pull the triggers on their trades. Or they won't.

Sounds simple, huh?

After all, teams are going to hold on to their poker chips if they think there's a chance someone is going to throw Josh Smith or Kevin Garnett or even Dwight Howard into the pot before the Thursday, February 21 trading deadline. Once they hear these game-changers are traded, or they get a better feel they won't be dealt, other teams can move on to their Plans B.

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Josh Smith
Josh Smith wants a max five-year, $99 contract (estimated), but very few teams--if any--are inclined to pay it this summer. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is one of those men who think that's too much, so he's looking to pull the trigger on the best deal he can find. Smith may be worth the $17 million he wants to be paid next year and the escalating 7.5 percent raises on top of that (Note: When I calculated his great +4.2 Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus score with how many minutes he projects to play based on a 41 wins equals $65 million team salary scale, Smith was on pace to be worth $17 million this year in basketball value). But most GMs believe he is not worth $17 million, which makes receiving equal value in a trade problematic for Atlanta. The Hawks will be on the books for Al Horford, Lou Williams, Jeff Teague's free-agency needs and John Jenkins, not to mention their own free agents, depending on who they want to re-sign (I think they'll bring back Kyle Korver and Zaza Pachulia for $5 million or so each next year, while letting Devin Harris go). At that point, Ferry will most likely have around $25 million to pay Summer 2013 free agents, along with whoever they pull back in the Smith trade. That said, you do not trade Smith unless you receive a bang-for-buck player out there or a lottery-round draft pick. Teams trying to unload stars with big contracts (Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, etc.) are just not a good fit for this Atlanta team. The ideal scenario in trading Smith would be some team's bang-for-buck $10 million-or-less wing and/or young prospects along with a first-rounder. None of the rumors you're hearing about have that kind of return. So that's why, so far, Ferry has not pulled this trigger.

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Eric Bledsoe
The Clippers are a top five championship contender right now. So if they trade future for present, they very well could become championship favorite in one of the next two seasons. That is why 23-year-old Eric Bledsoe--a possible future top 10 point guard--is on the block right now, and drawing All-NBA-worthy players--in my humble opinion--like Kevin Garnett and Paul Millsap. KG has a no-trade clause in his contract, so if good friend and Clipper Chauncey Billups cannot convince him to waive it, then the Garnett deal cannot happen. That's a shame because if I were the Clippers, I would add DeAndre Jordan to the mix in an effort to make it happen (word is L.A. is just offering Caron Butler or Lamar Odom to the Bledsoe deal). The Millsap acquisition, however, may have a better shot of going down. Read on to the next line ...

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Paul Millsap
Young backups Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are both ready for more playing time, so either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson will be dealt, since both are Summer 2013 free agents and the Jazz want to get something back for their services. Millsap, a better all-around talent who comes with a cheaper $8.6 million price tag, is the more attractive trade bait of the two. Utah needs an upgrade at both point guard and small forward, which makes the Clippers--as mentioned above--a perfect trading partner with Bledsoe as the target. No doubt the Clippers are probably trying to pawn off Caron Butler's $8 million contract this year and next to make the salaries work. And if you're Utah, that's not so bad. Pay both Butler and Bledsoe $10.6 million in 2013-14 and then let Butler go in 2014-15 when you can extend Bledsoe in 2015-16 and beyond for similar money.

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Paul Pierce
If KG just says No and Rajon Rondo is a no-go in trade talks because he is hurt, then Paul Pierce is your only option in so-called blowing up this team and building for a better future in Boston. Only a championship contender would be interested in taking on Pierce's $16.8 million contract this year and $15.3 million next season. So the best assets Boston could pull would be something like Bledsoe and, say, Butler and Lamar Odom, if GM Danny Ainge wants to begin the rebuilding process. But the question you have to ask yourself if you are the Celtics is this: Is Bledsoe enough to make us not want to make another championship run with the team we've got? Also, the Celtics value tradition and would love to see Pierce finish out his career in Green and one day have his number raised up into the rafters.

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J.J. Redick
Why would the Magic trade Redick to some other team when they love him, he loves them and the Magic can re-sign the fan favorite this summer for another extended $6 million annual deal? Answer: The only reason would be if Orlando got a lottery-projected first-round pick in return. The only teams with playoff shots that can offer such a pick are Oklahoma City and Portland, and neither one of those teams have been linked in the various Redick trade rumors. The only way another playoff team would land Redick would be to include their non-lottery first-rounder in a package with another good player or two at low salary.

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Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings, a restricted free agent this summer, is more likely to be dealt than Monta Ellis, but either one will be traded for the right price. Shoot, both could go if Milwaukee can get even halfway decent return on either shoot-first, ask-questions-later guard. Jennings seems more probable since he recently switched agents and has his eyes set on a bigger market with his restricted free agency approaching this summer. With Beno Udrih on board, the Bucks have a more-than-capable replacement on hand, so I believe their best play is to trade one of the multitude of talented big men--who are already limited in minutes--along with either Jennings or Ellis for a huge upgrade at one of the big spots. Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh, Samuel Dalembert and John Henson are all good big men, who along with a Bucks guard, could set up a blockbuster move.

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Kris Humphries
The Nets are going to have major financial problems next season when the more-punitive luxury taxes come in. The Nets already sport a roster that is going to be around $15 million over the luxury tax. By trading Kris Humphries' $12 million annual contract for this season and next, they can save a lot of money and sign a $5 million power forward this summer or re-sign their own free agent Andray Blatche for a similar price. So all they're really looking for is an expiring contract for someone to take Humphries off their hands. A playoff team who thinks he can help surely can make it happen.

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Danny Granger
All-Star Paul George has shown he can play the small forward position masterfully and the team has thrived even without their top scorer over the past five seasons, so the Pacers are exploring the possibilities of life after Granger and his $13 million contract this year and $14 million next season. If Indiana lands draft picks and/or a good bang-for-buck guard, then they may take the plunge. But there is no pressure on them to do so. The Pacers are in great fiscal shape--$49 million on the books next season when David West and D.J. Augustin become free agents--so they don't need to trade Granger, who should be back this week after missing three-and-a-half months with a knee injury. If no deal is made, George can go back to playing shooting guard and this Pacer team can go back to being a Top 3 team in the East.

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Pau Gasol
Gasol is pretty much impossible to trade now because he is out with a foot injury until April, not to mention he is making $19.0 and $19.3 million this year and next. Throw in the fact that he has a 15-percent trade kicker in his contract--taking his salaries up to $21.9 and $22.2 million if he is dealt--and the only player the Lakers can pull back for him are smaller overpriced contracts. True, you might be able to land a young stretch power forward who better suits Mike D'Antoni's offense (Houston's assortment of young forwards and bigs with a third party used to make the salaries work, or Memphis' inside-out threat Zach Randolph could perhaps fill the bill, although very unlikely to happen). But there are very few teams who can afford to pay--or want to pay--$22 million next year for a top five center like Gasol. If the Lakers adhere to GM Mitch Kupchak's promise of not trading Dwight Howard--past rumored deals mentioned Kevin Love or Brook Lopez--then it is unlikely you'll see L.A. able to pull off any other blockbuster at this time as well.

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Ben Gordon
Gordon is gone. And this was even before his recent insubordination towards head coach Mike Dunlap.The only question is for what? Last year, the Spurs made out like bandits when they claimed ex-Bobcat Boris Diaw after he cleared waivers, forcing the Bobcats to pay Diaw while he started for the Spurs in their 20-win streak stretch run. Charlotte wants to get some monetary relief from Gordon's $12.4 million this year and $13.2 million next. So if they can find another team who has a cheaper, overpriced player (like Andrea Bargnani in Toronto or Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson in Golden State), then GM Rich Cho will pull the trigger on that deal right away.