Cohen: The Pressure Is On For...

By Josh Cohen
March 31, 2012


ORLANDO -- Every season there is extreme pressure on stars to live up to dignified expectations in the playoffs. But what if they fail to perform to that standard and their teams suffer early, heartbreaking postseason exits?

I glance around the NBA and examine stars on playoff-bound teams that may be shopped this summer if they underachieve in this season’s playoffs.

DANNY GRANGER

Everyone around the Indiana Pacers has repeatedly affirmed the conviction that Paul George will eventually evolve into a superstar talent. But many also believe that the only way this comes to fruition is if he doesn’t have to share the spotlight with Danny Granger.

Since the retirement of Reggie Miller in 2005 and following Indiana’s decision to rebuild by trading Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington shortly after, Granger became the centerpiece of the Pacers franchise. There has been no disappointment, generally speaking, in Granger’s performance over the last few years, but it’s become noticeable that the Pacers want to balance out their roster.

If Indiana fails to advance past the First Round of the playoffs, don’t be surprised if it opts to shop Granger, who has two more years worth around $27 million left on his contract, for a more conventional shooting guard this summer. This would permit George to return to the position he is most comfortable with.

RAJON RONDO

It sure seems that all you have to do is spread some gossip that he may get traded and suddenly Rajon Rondo returns to the perennial All-Star we know and admire. But, it’s no secret that he and Doc Rivers have clashed in the past and the Boston Celtics reportedly were hoping to snag Chris Paul in December before he was dealt to the Clippers.

If Boston were eliminated early in the playoffs and failed to reach its lofty expectations, it would only seem logical for the C’s to reconsider trading Rondo for an assortment of valuable assets. By virtue of reason, a premature exit from the postseason would potentially convince Boston’s aging stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who are both unrestricted free agents this summer, to explore other options.

And therefore, getting back a blend of quality and quantity for their only star in his prime may be the only practical way for the Celtics to successfully rebuild.

JOSH SMITH

All reports suggest Josh Smith still wants out of Atlanta despite having the best season of his career. It started last season when Smith revealed a list of teams he would like to be traded to and it continued right up until the March 15 trade deadline when he allegedly approached Hawks management with another trade request.

Smith only has one more year remaining on his deal worth about $13 million and you can bet that if the Hawks are ousted sooner than later in the playoffs, Atlanta may finally decide to grant Smith his wish to move on. And based on his outstanding performance this season (career highs of 18.5 points, 9.8 rebounds), there will be a myriad of teams calling to try and obtain him.

ANDRE IGUODALA

It seems every summer Andre Iguodala is mentioned in a variety of trade rumors. Last June before the lockout, there was talk that the Sixers and Lakers discussed a deal that involved Lamar Odom and there was another discussion that the Warriors were considering dealing Monta Ellis for Iggy. But reports indicate that Philadelphia is always reluctant to deal away its prime attraction.

If the 76ers do not advance past the First Round for the fourth time in the last five years, they may ultimately determine that it would be best to shop Iguodala. Having one of his worst statistical seasons since his rookie campaign together with his sudden knee issues, the eight-year veteran’s stock may be dropping.

Josh Cohen


CHRIS PAUL

Since he never signed an extension and never completely committed to the Clippers, you really have to wonder if Chris Paul could be available if L.A. underachieves in the playoffs. Logic would suggest that even if the Clippers do not eclipse the opening round, they wouldn’t make a rash decision and trade one of the premier point guards in the league without giving next year a chance.

But if it becomes obvious in any way that Paul won’t pledge to stay with the Clips long term, rumblings may flare up again with teams trying to acquire the five-time NBA All-Star.

PAU GASOL

He already was almost traded once and reports leading up to the trade deadline made it evident that he could have been dealt all the way up until March 15. Pau Gasol was the subject of almost every trade rumor imaginable since L.A.’s unanticipated exit from last season’s playoffs.

Gasol was on the verge of being sent to Houston in the vetoed Chris Paul deal. He was heavily discussed in all the Dwight Howard possibilities. There was plenty of chatter about Minnesota trying to obtain him and sources say there was preliminary conversation about a Gasol-for-Rondo swap.

If the Lakers do not prove to still be a championship-caliber team in the playoffs this season, it would seem like a lock that the four-time NBA All-Star will be shopped again this summer.

ANDREW BYNUM

Sometimes dubious behavior can be enough to convince a franchise to move on from a player even if he is the best that he has ever been. This is probably where the Lakers and Andrew Bynum sit.

If there was any doubt before regarding who the second best center in the NBA is, that has all been silenced with Bynum’s injury-avoided and statistically dominant season (18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds).

But if there is some inescapable tension between Bynum, head coach Mike Brown and the Lakers front office and L.A. crashes again in the postseason, perhaps the belief will be that L.A. can acquire an assortment of first-rate assets for a center in his prime.

CHRIS BOSH

This is the big wild card of the document. If Miami does not win the NBA championship and even more so, if it fails to reach the NBA Finals, will it abruptly decide to tarnish the villainous Big Three of South Beach?

Most NBA observers assume the Heat will get to the Finals for a second straight season. But for argument’s sake, what if they don’t? You know tension and turmoil will balloon in Miami and it’s very possible that Pat Riley will have an impulsive reaction and try to surround Dwyane Wade and LeBron James with serviceable, yet augmented, role players. Could Chris Bosh’s tenure in Miami be in jeapordy if the Heat don’t accomplish their goal?

Or dare I pitch the idea, but would the Heat seriously consider trading LeBron if the Heat suffer a devastating playoff exit? Let's remember, there were those reports that James would consider a return to Cleveland. In the NBA, anything is possible.



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