As of this Thursday, the NBA trade deadline will have passed. Now that All-Star Weekend is in the rearview and teams begin to focus in on the endgame for the 2013-2014 season, the trade rumors and analysis will begin to pour through in earnest, as every fan sifts through a metric ton of conflicting Twitter reports, anonymously sourced comments, and feverish ESPN Trade Machine manipulation to figure out what might happen. How will they orchestrate the perfect three-team trade to land their favorite players on their favorite teams?
This year, like most trade deadlines, has echoes of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp, a French artist who dabbled in Dadism and is most famous for putting his reputation on the line by submitting a stolen urinal to an art contest (and contributing heavily to the creation of Found Art in the process), is the reported progenitor of the phrase “it’s quiet, too quiet.” The fact that Duchamp was talking about the lack of a party scene in New York City compared to France is irrelevant — he’s now the official face of the 2014 trade deadline, and the measure by which we must judge all rumors.
Onto the scale — from one to three Duchamps. One Duchamp means that it’s probably bogus. Three Duchamps mean that it’s probably legit. As far as can be sourced, Marcel Duchamp was not a basketball fan, but he wasn’t not a basketball fan, either.
1. The Fate of Rajon Rondo
No NBA player has been under as much “will they or won’t they” scrutiny this season as Rajon Rondo. The last remaining vestige of Boston’s 2008 Championship squad, Rondo, arguably the best player on a team that came within ten minutes of winning a title in 2010, is too good for tanking but maybe not good enough to headline a serious contender after his knee injury. Not to mention that he plays at the deepest position in the league right now, and is set to get make superstar money in 2015. If you’re a rebuilding team, do you go for Rondo at 11 million-plus, or do you settle for 75 percent of the production for 20 percent of the price from a player like Goran Dragic?
Nestled within the latest news about the Chicago Bulls (another team that knows something about a promising point guard struggling to come back from injury), NBA.com’s Sam Smith pegged Boston’s asking price for Rondo at two unprotected first round draft picks. With NBA front offices hoarding first round draft picks like some people hoard precious metals and military rations, the likelihood that Boston general manager Danny Ainge will find a taker — if Smith is even correct, another wrinkle — willing to pay that price is decidedly low.
As of this writing, the Boston Celtics have won fewer than 20 games with Rondo. Odds are Ainge isn’t committed to trading him by the deadline in order to get a few more lottery balls — Boston has been burned twice when they’ve totally bottomed out for draft picks, missing Duncan in 1996 and Oden/Durant in 2007. Look for the league’s most enigmatic talent to keep hitting more jumpers than you think he aught to in Celtics Green for the rest of the season. Overall, three Duchamps in favor of Rondo staying.
2. The Philadelphia 76ers and the art of the fire-sale
Everyone knows what’s going on with Philly. The Sixers are actively trying to get worse, and word on the street is that they’re willing to trade all three of their good players — Evan Turner, pictured above, Spencer Hawes, and criminally underrated Thaddeus Young — for future draft picks and expiring salary. For Sixers fans, this puts a damper on what has already been a miserable season, watching Sam Hinkie systematically remove all the talent from the team in order to rebuild through the draft.
According to sources, Turner’s most likely landing spots include Charlotte (who could use the Detroit Piston’s 2014 first rounder), San Antonio, and the Phoenix Suns. The biggest knock on Turner since his introduction to the league in 2010 has been his lack of a reliable outside shot – a bad trait to have when the league has continued to move away from the midrange and increased its emphasis on the three-ball.
Hawes could be an attractive piece for a number of teams as a scoring big off the bench, while Young, a legitimate small-ball power forward, carries a hefty player option after next year. But to doubt Hinkie’s devotion to the tank would be to question the sincerity of a Philly fan’s boo. The odds that the Sixers get rid of at least two of them by hook or by crook? Three Duchamps.
3. Pau Gasol is gone from LA
Every year since the Lakers won the championship in 2010, Pau Gasol has been rumored to be on the block. Sometimes, like last year, nothing happens. Sometimes, like in 2011, the Lakers do trade Gasol – only to have the league call it off.
Now, with Gasol approaching his 34th birthday in June and his 19 million dollar contract officially in the “expiring realm,” the odds that Gasol will be traded seem high. If not now, after all, then when? He’s been linked to the Suns, the Bulls, and the Celtics for Rondo — although that one seems to have finally died for good after Rondo’s knee injury.
The reality is, there isn’t a team that could really use that expiring contract. Teams generally use expirings in order to help balance salary when they’re trading for great players that will have a big salary attached – if the Lakers were trying to trade for a Kevin Love or a Carmelo Anthony, Gasol’s contract would help balance the books significantly. While the Lakers would love to trade Gasol and pieces for Love or Anthony, they just don’t seem to have the extra parts to lubricate the deal. You never know with LA, but the idea that Gasol is on the move can’t get more than a pair of Duchamps.
4. Andre Miller stays with the Nuggets
Andre Miller’s had a bad year. Ever since December 30, when he exchanged words with Nuggets coach Bryan Shaw over receiving his first DNP-CD — did not play, coach’s decision — in fifteen years of play, which ended his consecutive games played streak at 239. Apparently, that streak was something Miller took very seriously, as he ripped into Shaw so viciously that he was suspended from the team for a pair of games. Actually, he hasn’t been back on the sidelines since.
Now that the Nuggets are completely empty at point guard — nominal starter Ty Lawson is out with a fractured rib and backup/combo-guard/sparkplug Nate Robinson suffered a torn ACL earlier in the season — the Nuggets have allegedly reached out to Miller about rejoining the team. That makes it a rumor.
But it’s completely legless, since every single other source reporting on the situation says that Miller has absolutely no desire to rejoin the Nuggets. While Miller’s contract is expiring, his salary for this season, right about $5 million, makes it difficult for a contending team to send out the kind of pieces Denver would want to get back. He may not get traded, but the idea that Miller plays another game for the Nuggets earns one Duchamp.
The Rockets have to do something, right?
Every year that Daryl Morey — also known as Dork Elvis for his salary cap and advanced stat nerd wizardry — has been the General Manager of the Rockets he has made at least one trade around the deadline. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. The same way a shark must swim forward in order to survive, so must Daryl Morey make trades.
Earlier this year, Morey tried to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik. Even though Morey was unable to trade Asik before his fabricated deadline of December 20, the idea that Morey will keep him on the team has been subject to suspicion, with potential landing spots including Boston, or possibly the New York Knicks, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fellow poison-pill contract Jeremy Lin is also a trade rumor staple, mostly because of his contract, which was backloaded and will cost Houston about $15 million next season.
Everything is true until it isn’t, of course. Just because Morey has made a trade every year doesn’t mean that he’s obligated to make another one this year. Past performance, future results, and so on. But seriously, there’s no way Dork Elvis doesn’t get his trigger finger going and fire off at least one last-minute trade. The idea that Morey won’t make at least one trade, however minor, just seems wrong. Not when his team is still starting Terrence Jones. One Duchamp for the idea that the Rockets roster stays pat.