There’s still more than two weeks until the March 15 trading deadline, but the rumor mill already is churning.
Most of the buzz is around Dwight Howard, whom the Orlando Magic don’t have to trade. Really.
However, there are a handful of players who have to be traded for the greater good of their teams. Whether it be removing a problem, creating financial flexibility or moving someone one year early rather than one year late, some big names will be changing teams before the Ides of March.
Here are the top candidates:
MICHAEL BEASLEY: We liked Rick Adelman’s idea of bringing Beasley’s scoring mentality off the bench because it gave the Timberwolves an alternative on the many nights when Derrick Williams and Martell Webster offered nothing. But Williams has been playing a bit more lately, and Minnesota has to do some reconaissance on him, even while trying to stay in contention for a playoff berth. Meanwhile, Beasley has an $8.2 million qualifying offer and may have reached his ceiling as a player.
PROPOSALS: Beasley ($6.2 million) could be moved with Anthony Randolph ($2.9 million) to the Lakers for their $8.9 million trade exception and draft picks. Or they could replace Randolph with Darko Milicic (signed through 2013) and take back Josh McRoberts or Matt Barnes with the exception.
ANDRAY BLATCHE: He hasn’t played in a month, but his name remains synonymous with knucklehead. He also has three years and $23 million left on his contract, so it won’t be easy to find a taker unless he is part of a multi-player deal. But the attitude adjustment in Washington’s locker room has to start somewhere. At the same time, Blatche is still just 25 and could be a 20-10 guy if someone can get his head on straight.
PROPOSALS: We’re grabbing at straws here, but how about straight up to the Bobcats for Tyrus Thomas in a your-problem-for-our-problem deal? Or straight up to the 76ers for Andres Nocioni in a cap move? Or with Roger Mason or Maurice Evans to the Magic for Hedo Turkoglu, who could alleviate John Wall’s ballhandling issues and has one less year on his deal?
MONTA ELLIS: The Warriors would move David Lee and Andris Biedrins, who both dramatically underperform their contracts. But Ellis is their most desirable asset, and five years is a large enough sample to establish that they are not going to win with him as their alpha dog. Just 26, Ellis has two years at $11 million apiece after this one, which given his production is not that bad.
PROPOSALS: Any deal should not bring back another top-shelf shooting guard, which would take minutes from Klay Thompson. Perhaps the Warriors would take back Beasley and Luke Ridnour ($3.7 million, two more years) from Minnesota. How about Antawn Jamison ($15 million expiring) and Ramon Sessions ($4.2 million plus next year) from Cleveland, with Kwame Brown’s expiring deal balancing matters?
PAU GASOL: He has to be moved if the Lakers are serious about getting younger and remaining competitive, and he is not going to pry Howard away from the Magic. He also is 31 and has two years at $38 million left on his deal, but that doesn’t make him untradable. As the 7-foot Gasol gets older and slower, he could easily make the transition to center, which makes him more attractive given the dearth of quality big men.
PROPOSALS: Would the Bobcats take Gasol and a first-round pick for Corey Maggette ($10.2 million), D.J. Augustin ($3.2 million) and Matt Carroll ($3.9 million), all signed through 2013? Would the Wolves take Gasol and a No. 1 for Beasley, Ridnour, Nikola Pekovic ($4.3 million) and Darko Milicic ($4.7 million)? How about Gasol to Cleveland for Jamison and Tristan Thompson ($3.7 million)?
KIRK HINRICH: The Hawks are in luxury tax territory with a current payroll of $72 million and can make due without Hinrich ($8.1 million), especially with Jannero Pargo averaging 13.3 points in his last three games. Atlanta has numerous salary issues, but this is one it can fix.
PROPOSALS: The Lakers need a point guard, especially one who can defend. Derek Fisher can’t keep people in front of him and Steve Blake can’t hold his ground. Hinrich can do both and doesn’t have to unlearn the triangle to fit into Mike Brown’s offense. But LA would have to use its trade exception to land him. The Hawks could also move Hinrich to a team with enough cap room (Sacramento, Cleveland, Indiana) and take back a draft pick and/or a trade exception.
STEPHEN JACKSON: He started the preseason with the bold declaration that he wanted a contract extension, even though he is 33 and had two years and $19.3 million left on his current deal. After a half season of injuries, inconsistency and borderline insubordination, he is practically an amnesty candidate. With Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Mike Dunleavy, the Bucks are set at small forward for now.
PROPOSALS: The Nets desperately need a small forward and package reserves John Petro ($3.25 million), Jordan Farmar ($4 million) and/or Shawne Williams ($3 million). Like Jackson, all four are signed through at least 2013, so it would not impact New Jersey’s ability to pursue Howard. Jackson could end up with the Lakers for the trade exception, but the team that should really be looking at him is the Wolves, who need his snarl, championship experience and ability to play both wing spots. Minnesota could offer Beasley and Randolph to make it work.
CHRIS KAMAN: It’s common knowledge that the Hornets have tried moving Kaman, having already given him a six-game vacation while they pursued potential deals. The choice of allowing his deal to expire and taking the $14 million cap slot is still viable – as long as New Orleans understands it has absolutely zero chance of filling it with another $14 million player unless it wants to dramatically overpay a second-tier free agent. Kaman’s slot likely will be filled by two or three average players, which the Hornets also can do via a trade.
PROPOSALS: New Orleans has to find a team that needs a center. It could move Kaman to Philadelphia for Spencer Hawes (expiring $4 million deal), Andres Nocioni ($6.6 million), Tony Battie and a first-round pick. Or it could move him to Charlotte for Boris Diaw ($9 million expiring) and Augustin. Or to Boston with Jarrett Jack ($5.2 million) for Rajon Rondo ($10 million), Jermaine O’Neal ($6.2 million expiring) and Sasha Pavlovic.
SHAWN MARION: The Mavericks are between a rock and a hard place, because they are trying to shed a massive amount of salary while remaining a championship contender. But moving Marion makes those mutually exclusive. Dallas has to deal Marion’s remaining $18 million and two years if it wants to land Howard and Deron Williams in free agency, but his defense on opposing smalls has become almost indispensable. The decision may be made for the Mavs if the Magic pre-emptively move Howard and he signs an extension.
PROPOSALS: As solid as Marion has been this season, it is hard to imagine any team taking on a fading player who turns 34 in May and has two expensive years left on his deal, let alone sending back an expiring contract or trade exception that helps the defending champions.
GERALD WALLACE: We feel Wallace is still very much an asset; he does not turn 30 until July and is just two years removed from All-Star status. Earlier this season, he told the Trail Blazers he plans to opt out and become a free agent this summer, joining a burgeoning class. He could always change his mind if he is moved elsewhere, which is an option Portland should explore. At the very least, it will help mend fences with restricted free agent Nicolas Batum.
PROPOSALS: This doesn’t have to be a dump; Not counting Wallace ($10.65 million), the Blazers have about $20 million they can remove from their cap this summer. They could move him to Detroit for Rodney Stuckey ($8.3 million) and Austin Daye ($1.9 million), although the Pistons may have to find a taker for Tayshaun Prince. And although the Lakers are a rival, the Blazers could send him there for the trade exception and Barnes.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.