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Nothin' but Net: Trade deadline probably another dud

4:24 PM, Feb 5, 2014   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Two weeks from Thursday is one of the most important dates in the NBA regular-season calendar - the vaunted trade deadline.

It's always an interesting time to see what teams are going for a run, or others who are packing it in for the season, trying to rebuild for another day.

That's especially relevant this season when the NBA Word of the Year has been "tanking." That might mean that some of the lesser teams in the league with decent assets - Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks - might be more inclined to move players so the losses will pile up and increase ping-pong ball odds.

But the deadline, like so many things in life, ain't what it used to be.

Not to get too technical, but the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement might have killed the big trade deadline moves. It's all about luxury tax now when you make a move, because exceeding that threshold comes at an even steeper price.

That means general managers and personnel people will be more hesitant to pull the trigger on any move that costs the team a lot more money. Bigger names, with more zeroes in salaries, will stay put.

Players on rookie contracts are the still the most attractive to prospective teams looking on the market. Due to those contracts still being relatively small, the teams with those kind of players are less likely to trade them, again, because going over the luxury tax is way more harmful than in seasons past when players like Carmelo Anthony or Deron Williams were moved in February.

Remember last season's trade deadline? Of course you don't because it generated more zzzs than a bottle of NyQuil.

Josh Smith was the biggest potential free-agent on the market, thus, the biggest trade chip and he stayed put in Atlanta before bolting for Detroit in the offseason.

There is still room to trade an expiring contract, but, and this hasn't changed with the new CBA, is the price worth it? Without any guarantee of the traded expiring contract staying long-term, no team will be willing to part with too much for him. That's universal in all of sports.

Last season's biggest mover at the deadline was J.J. Redick. Remember that parade in downtown Milwaukee after the Bucks won the title? Redick helped the Bucks to the eighth seed.

So what will this trade deadline look like?

More like the last, I'd imagine, but that doesn't mean there's a shortage of possibilities.

Let's disqualify the silly notions like potential free-agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and even Carmelo Anthony, who may seem like the most tradable of those names, but isn't going anywhere.

Also, let's eliminate anyone from the sellers list on truly contending teams like the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or Portland Trail Blazers.

So, the targets are players with expiring, or reasonable deals, on bad teams trying to rebuild.

Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers might be the biggest name on the market. He is an unrestricted free-agent in the summer and the Lakers appear to have little interest in bringing him back.

Gasol has clashed with head coach Mike D'Antoni. He hasn't been effective in D'Antoni's offense and the Lakers are stuck in the mud. They're desperately in need of a rebuild, but they are the Lakers and that's not how business is done.

The Lakers will try to free up as much cap space as possible, well, after you discount the absurdity of Kobe Bryant's contract. LA is going to try and remake the franchise by signing big, expensive free agents like James or Anthony. They'll get a high draft pick because they are sinking down the depths like a treasure chest.

As for trading Gasol, the Lakers would be more than willing, but they want a ton for a potential Hall of Famer. The Phoenix Suns are the most rumored destination since they have Emeka Okafor's contract right there to be moved. A trade like that saves the Lakers a few million and gets them close to going under the luxury tax. Gasol will cost an expiring and either legitimate young talent or first-round picks.

The other really big name who might be available is Boston's Rajon Rondo. He has a year left on his contract after this season and is affordable at $12.9 million in 2014-15. The Celtics believe Rondo is a centerpiece to rebuilding, but he's into becoming a free-agent. If Rondo isn't moved at this deadline, he could be shipped in the summer or during next season.

(Oh, there's also that reason why the deadline's been a dud of late - trades are happening earlier in the regular season. Rudy Gay has been moved before February the last two seasons and Luol Deng was also traded before the deadline this season.)

The most intriguing potential trade bait on the market is Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors. He's an unrestricted free agent after the season and signing him to a big contract would scare me blind.

However, he's been incredibly productive and the Raptors have probably won too much already to make tanking for Canadian Andrew Wiggins of Kansas a realistic possibility. That's a pickle, but Toronto should keep him and ride out this season. His money can come off at the end.

The next group of movable assets are the restricted free-agents who didn't come to terms with their current teams before the deadline to make them free at the end of the season. (Restricted free, but free to some extent.)

The Detroit Pistons don't seem hell-bent on keeping Greg Monroe past this season. The 76ers don't want to keep Evan Turner past this season, and I'll live to be 1,000 years old and never figure out how something didn't get done to keep Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix and Gordon Hayward in Utah.

Monroe for Turner actually makes a lot of sense as Detroit could move Smith to his natural power-forward spot and Monroe could be the kind of help Nerlens Noel would need down low for the future of Philly.

Monroe could be moved because Smith can't be with his big contract he signed in the offseason. The Sixers and GM Sam Hinkie would love to trade Turner, but won't move him to just move him. If the right deal can be made for either, they'll both be gone.

Bledsoe emerged before an injury derailed his season. He'll be in high demand, but won't get traded. Same goes for Hayward.

That all adds up to another dull trade deadline. There are other names that could be moved, players without the cache of the above mentioned. Guys like Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Larry Sanders, Spencer Hawes, Brandon Bass, Andre Miller or Jameer Nelson might need a good realtor.

It's all the CBA's fault, but the trade deadline is probably going to be another snoozer.

The Sports Network

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