The NBA trade deadline is this Thursday, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.
One can expect that in the hours leading up to that 3 p.m. cutoff point (and I mean literally leading right up to the second), there will be a flurry of activity, even if relatively little in the way of actual moves.
Every year, there is one move no one saw coming. Every year, there is at least one move everyone said was going to happen and didn't. It is for these reasons and many more that breaking down trade rumors, while fun to dream upon, is ultimately a futile exercise.
This is generally especially true of the Dallas Mavericks, who are notoriously tight-lipped about their discussions with other teams. Some of you may remember last year that Dallas had a deal on the table for Paul Pierce that nearly went through. There had been little indication -- if any, to my knowledge -- that this was even a remote possibility prior to the trade deadline, and that transaction was very nearly consummated.
My personal method of practice in dealing with reported trade rumors involving Dallas is this: if it wasn't written by Marc Stein or Adrian Wojnarowski, ignore it.
So, it is with that extensive preamble that I do now precisely what I've just cautioned against. Let's break down some trade rumors.
What I'll do is rank the top 10 players that I have seen (via "legitimate" channels) rumored to be on the trade block, by fit with the Dallas Mavericks. Then I will try to construct a possible deal to land that player. Keep in mind: with little in the way of trade-able assets, any of these deals are probably a long shot. So, try not to dwell on that.
One final note: I've disqualified Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony because I think there is a comically low probability either the Wolves or Knicks would be dumb enough to trade away their franchise players. Now, anyway.
10. Evan Turner
Guard/Forward, 25, on final year of rookie deal
I've put Turner here, but in all honesty I am not overly enthusiastic about the player, the trade prospects, or the cost of keeping him.
Let's start with the player. Turner is in his fourth season after being the 2nd overall selection in 2010, and that draft pedigree would seem to be a big reason Turner is being bandied about as a real trade chip. He's averaging 17.5 points a game, which is fine enough, but consider the other offensive options in Philadelphia at the moment. If not for Milwaukee, the 76ers would be the worst team in the NBA, and Turner's scoring comes largely by default. I mean, somebody has to take shots, after all.
Turner is not a terrific outside shooter (he can make the long two but has yet to carry over this success past the three-point line), and he's not an elite athlete. This combination leaves him as one of the league's most inefficient scoring leaders. Turner also gives back a little more than you'd like at the defensive end. He is a very good ballhandler for a 6'7 wing and sees the floor well, but even that has not translated statistically into what you'd consider a point-forward type profile, like former Sixer Andre Iguodala.
Philadelphia has put several players on the block, and by all accounts the desired return is picks. Dallas does not have these in abundance (something that will be a theme as we continue down my list), and I'm not sure they think Turner is worth a pick, either, so they are not a particularly good trade match.
Finally, even if there is a team interested in Turner (who is still 25), the qualifying offer to keep him in restricted free agency is slightly north of $8 million. If he is not tendered this QO, he becomes an unrestricted FA, and can sign with any team.
Forward, 25, owed 2 years, $19 million
This is a good player who can very probably help a team out there, but by my analysis he's a poor fit in Dallas. Having played smallball 4 for several years now, he would have to shift to playing the 3 with the Mavericks, and moving away from the basket hurts him because he doesn't have a consistent jump shot.
That might sound like the profile of the guy he'd be replacing, Shawn Marion, but Marion is a unique, exceptional player, and Young is not quite the defender or rebounder Marion is (and definitely not back when Marion was Young's age).
Young needs to be on a team that runs the floor and gets him opportunities at the rim, where he's a fantastic finisher. A half-court driven offense built to spread the defense out and get players open looks from outside would waste Young's talents.
Then, of course, there is the fact that this is the rebuilding 76ers, who we've already established want picks. The best of that Dallas can offer is the second rounder they are owed from Boston, which may end up near the top of the round. I would be surprised if Philadelphia couldn't find a better offer somewhere else.
Potential trade: DAL trades Shawn Marion, 2nd rd. pick (from BOS) to PHI for Thaddeus Young
8. Luol Deng
Forward, 28, final year of deal
Deng has already been traded once this year, and the only reason I'm including him on this list is because there seems to be a sense that Cleveland is on the brink of cleaning house. They've already fired GM Chris Grant, and we've heard reports about the dysfunction within the locker room. How serious Cleveland is about shipping off Deng so soon after acquiring him, I can't say.
Deng is undoubtedly an attractive piece, however. From a player makeup standpoint I think he fits the Maverick culture pretty well. A team player who takes his job seriously, Deng is generally known as a great teammate and an excellent defender. Offensively, I don't believe this is a guy who can be a first or second option, but I feel much better about his fitting into a half-court, jump-shooting system than, say, Evan Turner.
Where Deng fits best is on defense, as he is well suited to take over Shawn Marion's position both as perimeter stopper and as backup 4 to Dirk Nowitzki. Deng isn't quite as versatile as Marion(in other words, I wouldn't want Deng covering point guards regularly), but he's taller and longer, and would go a long way toward helping to shore up an area of weakness for the Mavs.
There are obstacles to any trade, of course. Cleveland's asking price could be too high, and even if not, Dallas may decide to hold off in any case, and simply make Deng an offer when he hits free agency in a few months time.
Potential trade: DAL trades Shawn Marion, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and 2nd rd. pick (from BOS) for Deng
7. Pau Gasol
Forward/Center, 33, final year of deal
The once proud Lakers are in a position I can't remember them ever being in at a trade deadline: sellers. Motivated to get under the luxury tax threshold, the Lakers have reportedly discussed moving Pau with several teams, though salary-matching with the $19 million owed Gasol is difficult.
Gauging what the Lakers believe Gasol's trade value to be is something of a riddle, as well. The 7' big man from Spain is one of the highest profile players to be put on the trade block (where he's been for years), but his numbers have noticeably regressed, and how much that has to do with the toxic situation in L.A. or just the product of aging is unclear. Maybe no player who has been so crucial in helping a franchise win multiple titles has been as maligned in the press and by those associated with the team as Pau Gasol.
Pau is big and skilled, and there he has value to a team like Dallas. But, he is not the rim protector Tyson Chandler was, and one wonders how well an interior duo of old, slow-footed Dirk and Pau would handle quicker frontcourt guys. Still, it's hard not to be intrigued by what Pau brings to the table. He can post up, but also play away from the basket, where he shoots and passes as well as most guards. And even if Pau doesn't move terribly well laterally, there won't be many teams who can boast to having a pair of legitimate 7' footers clogging up the paint.
In the end, getting the Lakers to sell Gasol for twenty cents on the dollar might simply be too "un-Lakerly" for GM Mitch Kupchak to bear. And it's doubtful Dallas dishes out all of what few assets they have for a player they can try to woo in the off-season.
Potential trade: DAL trades Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington to LAL for Pau Gasol
6. Greg Monroe
Forward/center, 23, on final year of rookie deal
Monroe is an interesting guy. Thus far the Detroit experiment of Drummond-Monroe-Smith has been a disappointing one, as the Pistons are currently a half-game behind the Bobcats for the 8th and final playoff spot. Detroit may prefer to find a taker for Josh Smith, but trading his monster contract won't be easy, and given that Monroe may be lost in the summer, anyway, trading him is defensible.
I was one of many who thought the Monroe-Drummond duo would work well, but to this point that doesn't appear to be the case. Of the Pistons 20 most used lineups, the three with the worst defensive rating all have Monroe on the court, and at power forward. Perhaps Monroe is better suited to playing center, after all.
Now, Monroe is not exactly what I imagine Dallas considers the prototype partner for Dirk Nowitzki. He is not the nimblest guy, and he's not an explosive leaper. So his ultimate defensive ceiling must be based around timing, footwork and smarts. As it is, he may never truly be the rim protector Dallas wants. But, at just 23 years old with a wingspan over 7'2, Monroe may have more upside at this end than his numbers suggest (which would have you believe he's a sieve).
The rest of Monroe's game I like quite a bit, and maybe more than most. He's a good rebounder (before the arrival of rebound-vacuum Andre Drummond, Monroe was well on his way to being a regular double-double guy), and a quality passer who is developing a strong inside-outside game, though his mid-range game is still inconsistent. He's intelligent, well-mannered and I think capable of growing his game as he gains experience. Monroe would be a futures' bid; a part of the core post-Dirk.
Prying Monroe away at the deadline is highly unlikely, and like the last few men I've mentioned, possibly unnecessary, as Monroe is on the last year of his contract. However, Monroe will be a restricted free agent, meaning Detroit can match any offer, and that is where the advantage comes in simply going and getting the guy now, if one is so inclined.
Forward/center, 31, team option for next season at $9.8 mil
The trade chatter on Varejao hit a peak last year when he was rebounding like Dennis Rodman, but has quieted since as Varejao had his season cut short due to injury, and continued to be bit by that bug this season.
Varejao may be nearing the end of his prime, but in theory I think he is an outstanding fit.
Varejao is one of the league's best rebounders, especially at the offensive end. His hustle would make him a fan favorite overnight. On defense, Varejao uses quickness rather than leaping ability, and synergy has for years recognized him as among the very best big men covering the pick and roll. That sounds pretty useful, doesn't it?
Varejao also has added a few offensive skills to his game over the years (after being a human blooper reel in his early days), to the point where he's no longer a total void there. He is an intelligent, instinctive basketball player who I imagine would win Rick Carlisle's heart within a week. He also has a very reasonable contract, and is owed less than $10 million next year.
There is risk with Vareajo, who has missed chunks of each of the last three seasons due to injury. His style of play will always make that a possibility, and at his age he may start to leave some of his production on the doctor's table. Still, given the length of his current deal you could make the argument it isn't nearly the risk signing a longterm player might be.
Potential trade: DAL trades Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo, 2nd round pick (from BOS) for Anderson Vareajo
Center, 25, signed to 4 year, $44 million extension
After fracturing an orbital bone (yikes), Larry Sanders as a trade target is probably dead. For now.
Milwaukee, already in the midst of major tank-job, would be foolish to trade Sanders now, with his value at its lowest point. They'll probably have a much easier time either this summer or at next year's deadline, when Sanders has worked himself back into the position of being one of the league's best young centers.
It is for that reason, of course, that he makes sense as a target for the Mavericks. Sanders has a lot of the same traits Tyson Chandler did, with a tall frame, long arms, and dynamic athletic ability. Sanders probably has some block titles in his future, if he stays on the court long enough, and he's a game-changer at the defensive end.
Sanders also was climbing toward respectability at the free throw line (a key part of Chandler's game) last year, but this season has been a colossal failure for him there, as in most other areas.
All the reasons I like him are the same reasons other teams like him, which is why Milwaukee will probably get some quality offers, should they decide to hold off. Also worth noting is that there were reports of friction between Sanders and current Mav Monta Ellis. Some investigation into that would be in order before adding a player like Sanders (who has had some run-ins with the law) to the Dallas locker room.
Yet another wrinkle in trading for Sanders now is the "poison pill provision" in his contract. Since his extension kicks in next season, while his outgoing trade salary remains $3 mil and change, his outgoing trade salary is the average of his extended years, which clocks in at a little under $8 mil, which makes salary matching tricky. It took several tries in the trade machine to get this one right.
3. Omer Asik
Center, 27, owed $15 mil next season
I was tempted to move Asik higher, but #3 is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Moreso than any other name on this list, I am certain Dallas will be making phone calls about Asik, for obvious reasons. First, he clearly has no future in Houston, where Dwight Howard now roams. Secondly, he would be an excellent match for Dirk Nowitzki, as Asik is an excellent defender and one of the league's best rebounders. Finally, every day Houston doesn't trade Asik, I believe they lose leverage in dictating offers, as next season Asik's "poison pill" year kicks in and he will be worth roughly $15 million. Dallas stands as one of the few teams with the cap space to absorb that money.
I just mentioned Asik's positives, but they are worth repeating. Asik is a superb pick and roll defender, and though not a prolific shotblocker, he has the size to change shots in help defense situations. He is also perhaps the NBA's best rebounding center. So, in other words, he does the things Dirk can't.
Asik has not played much this season, but it is difficult to know if this is due primarily to his injuries or his unhappiness with the situation, as the minute Houston signed Howard he clearly became expendable.
At 27, Asik is older than most fourth year veterans, so there's a chance he's already reached his ceiling. But, the player is pretty fine as is.
Unfortunately, and I'm sorry that this is a recurring theme in my analysis here: getting Asik will be difficult for Dallas. The Rockets are accustomed to getting maximum value in every trade, perhaps to the point of stubbornness (not the worst quality, if you're a Houston fan). It has also been said that Houston has little desire to move Asik to a team in the same division, and I oscillate between believing that's overblown and a deal-breaker.
Potential trade: DAL trades Brandan Wright, Shane Larkin, 2nd round picks to HOU for Asik
2. Eric Gordon
Guard, 25, owed two years, $30 million
Gordon has been discussed in trade talks for a while now, but I am not sure just how eager the Pelicans are to jettison him.
If they do, Gordon is easily the best pure perimeter scorer on this list, and a really nice piece to build around in the eventual life after Dirk.
A 6'4 bowling ball, Gordon is adept at driving to the hoop and drawing fouls, as well as spotting up for three. He is also a capable passer who can create in pick and roll. The edges need some smoothing, but I think he has a potentially outstanding all-around offensive game. His opportunities have been stifled somewhat with the Pelicans this year, and consistency is certainly an issue, but a couple of years ago we saw how good he could be when running PnR with Blake Griffin. At that point, he was a future All-Star, and though injuries and a radical change in scenery have slowed him down, he is still just 25 and now seemingly healthy. I think this is the sort of guy who could make a Jason Terry-like leap if he got the chance to play with Dirk Nowitzki.
Shocker: getting Gordon to Dallas is the hard part. In fact, identifying what New Orleans really needs is difficult enough. They have a very young, very talented team, with a hole at small forward and little other glaring faults. If they are looking for high picks, Dallas is obviously out of the picture. If they simply want to reduce salary, then maybe the Mavs have an in.
The other issue is what becomes of the Dallas guard arrangement with Gordon. Taking Gordon likely means Ellis is gone (Gordon is the better shooter and defender), though it could be an interesting experiment to try deploying both. Gordon is capable of spotting up more, and defensively Ellis has historically fared better guarding point guards.
Potential trade: DAL trades Shawn Marion, Brandan Wright, Ricky Ledo to NOP for Eric Gordon
1. Rajon Rondo
Point guard, 27, owed $13 million next season
Rondo's name is circling the trade mill again, but somehow I have a feeling he ends up staying in Boston. At 27 (he turns 28 this month), he's young enough to possibly be on the next contending Celtic squad. If, for whatever reason, Boston decides to send him off, expect Dallas to be calling.
That doesn't mean there's a great chance of Dallas finding a deal to be made, however. I think GM Danny Ainge and Donnie Nelson have a good relationship (and that Dallas was in on the Pierce deal tells me there is trust between the two), but most likely Ainge will hold on to Rondo unless his socks are blown off.
It's easy to understand why. Rondo is one of the league's most dynamic point guards, a triple-double threat, and is in a lot of ways similar to Jason Kidd.
Also, as said, Rondo is 27, meaning he could stick around even after Dirk retires.
The only way I see Dallas making serious headway is by taking back bad salary, namely Gerald Wallace. Clearing off one of the worst contracts in the NBA would go a long way toward helping Boston truly rebuilding.
Potential trade: DAL trades Shawn Marion, Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin and 2nd round pick (from BOS) to BOS for Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace