After 48 straight hours of studying Hoopshype, ESPN.com’s NBA Trade Machine, nba player salaries, the salary cap, and the luxury tax, I finally feel qualified to write about the upcoming NBA trade deadline on February 18th.
My first thought was to do a Boston Celtics trade column, but the options right now seem quite limited, and the NBA landscape was just too intriguing to ignore. As ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons wrote recently, with attendance dropping league-wide and owners losing millions of dollars, the trade deadline should be very active with some teams making trades to save money, and others taking advantage of those teams.
The New Orleans Hornets, Washington Wizards, and Phoenix Suns are all hovering just above the luxury tax threshold of $68.9 million and will likely attempt to cut player payroll, while Cleveland, Miami, and Portland are all potential buyers. Cleveland and Miami will try to add as much talent as they can before the deadline in the hopes of convincing Lebron and D-Wade to resign. Portland, meanwhile, is well below the luxury tax threshold and always trying to add one more piece to the championship puzzle.
I’m expecting a doozy of a deadline that has the potential to alter the course of the NBA playoffs. Therefore, I’m composing a list of the top 10 impact players most likely to be traded before the deadline, and also their possible destinations. The only rule is the player must be considered an “impact player” by my subjective judgement, so there will be no Hilton Armstrong’s or Mikki Moore’s on this list.
Without further ado, my top 10 players most likely to be traded before the February 18th deadline:
1) Zydrunas Ilgauskas
- Why?- Ilgauskas has an expiring contract of over $11.5 million. With the Shaq and Big Z experiment not working, and the impending free agency of LeBron James, Cleveland will look to deal Ilgauskas for a wing scorer to complement LeBron.
- Possible Destination- Portland Trailblazers; An Ilgauskas for Travis Outlaw (#6 on the list) and Joel Pryzbilla swap would give Cleveland a much needed swingman and Portland a much needed big man with the injuries to Pryzbilla and Oden. Also, Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be happy to keep cap flexibility by taking on an expiring contract.
2) Jermaine O’Neal
- Why?- Jermaine O’Neal is the 3rd highest paid player in the NBA this season, and his contract expires at the end of the year. I expect Pat Riley to use O’Neal’s expiring contract to add an impact player who will try to convince Dwayne Wade to stay in South Beach.
- Possible Destination- Utah Jazz; Riley has openly coveted Carlos Boozer (#10 on the list), who has said he’d like to leave Utah. A trade involving Boozer, O’Neal, and Michael Beasley (along with some spare parts to make the salaries work) could interest both parties.
3) Tracy McGrady
- Why?- This one is pretty obvious. Houston is openly shopping McGrady, who has asked for a trade. T-Mac is the highest paid player in the NBA and his contract expires at the end of the season. Also, Houston refuses to play McGrady, even though he says he’s ready. Some team will take a chance that McGrady is healthy and can contribute this season.
- Possible Destination- Toronto; McGrady returns to Toronto, Bosh (#5) moves to Houston. Toronto brings McGrady home for a rental season, and shaves $24 million off their salary cap for next season. Houston adds an All-star big man.
- Possible Destination- Dallas; Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, and Matt Carroll for McGrady works. Mark Cuban has never been afraid to take on a big name player, and a core six of Kidd, Terry, McGrady, Marion, Nowitzki, and Dampier could be dangerous come playoff time. As for Houston, they add a do-it-all forward and two decent role players who could fit the system.
- Why?- After the Gilbert Arenas saga, it’s time for the Washington Wizards to rebuild. Plus, Jamison has hinted that he wants out of the circus in Washington, and Wizards GM Grunfield might feel so bad for Jamison that he does what he can to oblige.
- Possible Destination- Cleveland; Jamison to Cleveland has been a rumored deal for years. Cleveland covets Jamison and think he would be a great fit alongside LeBron. Ilgauskas and Hickson for Jamison and Crittenton seems reasonable. Ilgauskas expires at the end of the season and I’m sure Washington is desperate to get rid of Crittenton.
5) Chris Bosh
- Why?- Let’s be realistic here. Bosh is NOT going to resign with Toronto for all the money in the world. Toronto would be smart to get what they can for Bosh at the deadline.
- Possible Destination- Houston; McGrady (#3) returns to Toronto, Bosh moves to Houston. Toronto brings McGrady home for a rental season, and shaves $24 million off their salary cap for next season. Houston adds an All-star big man.
- Possible Destination- Los Angeles Lakers- A Bosh for Bynum deal has been rumored around the league. For the love of Red Auerbach, please God, don’t let this happen.
6) Travis Outlaw
- Why?- Outlaw is a young swingman who has a lot of trade value. Also, he’s in the last year of his contract and plays in a logjam behind Brandon Roy. GM Pritchard will definetely test the market to see what he can get for Outlaw.
- Possible Destination- Cleveland Cavaliers; An Ilgauskas (#1) for Travis Outlaw and Joel Pryzbilla swap would give Cleveland a much needed swingman and Portland a much needed big man with the injuries to Pryzbilla and Oden. Also, Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be happy to keep cap flexibility by taking on an expiring contract.
7) Caron Butler
- Why?- See Antawn Jamison.
8) Richard Hamilton
- Why?- Detroit has lost 13 consecutive games and needs to shake up the roster. Hamilton, who has 4 years $11 million left on his deal, can still play and is GM Joe Dumars’ best bargaining chip.
9) Carlos Boozer
- Why?- Boozer has requested a trade and, frankly, just seems to be a complete asshole. Which is hard for me to say, because I’m a Duke fan. But can anyone argue that?
- Possible Destination- Utah Jazz; Heat GM Pat Riley has openly coveted Carlos Boozer. A trade involving Boozer, O’Neal (#2), and Michael Beasley (along with some spare parts to make the salaries work) could interest both parties.
10) David West
- Why?- New Orleans is desperately trying to get under the luxury tax threshold. They would prefer to deal Okafor, Petersen, or Stojakovic, but they all have nearly undtradeable contracts. West could be their only viable trade option to get under the luxury tax.
Honorable Mention: Amare Stoudemire, Andre Miller, Andris Biedrins, Mont’a Ellis
As you probably noticed, I had trouble finding plausible trade scenarios for Caron Butler, Rip Hamilton, and David West. If you want to, play around with ESPN.com’s NBA Trade Machine to create deadline deals for those, or any other guys on the list. I’d love to hear what the fans think, and will post the best trade scenarios I receive.