The month of February is right around the corner, and with it comes the Super Bowl, the All-Star Game and the trading deadline.
Predictions for all three: Gonna be a ton of empty seats at the Meadowlands. Too damn cold. You think the folks who attend that game are fans? Yes, they are fans of luxury, warmth and freebies. Real fans will be able to get into the game for $100 on the secondary ticket market.
All-Star Game: “We are looking at everything.” How many times will Adam Silver say that in his first formal news conference as commissioner? The over/under is 9.5. Now that the David Stern Era is over, the league needs some changes, beginning with the format for the postseason.
The best solution, IHMO, is allowing Western Conference teams to play East teams in the first three rounds of the playoffs. You win your division, you are guaranteed a top eight seed and homecourt advantage. You fill in the rest of the spots with the remaining top five teams from the East and West, and you get a balance of East vs. East, West vs. West, and East vs. West. You might end up with two teams from the same conference playing in the NBA Finals, but you know what? Big damn deal.
Trading deadline: The over/under on deals in 5.5. As we saw on draft night last year, the real activity takes place at the end of June. This year, there just aren’t that many teams who are one player away from being a legitimate championship contender — but there are a handful.
So with that latter prediction in mind, here are my picks for the five players most likely to be traded.
1. ANDRE MILLER, G, NUGGETS. He has been in exile since getting into a spat with coach Brian Shaw when a DNP-CD against Philadelphia ended his streak of 239 consecutive games.
He is a savvy veteran who can step in and calm a jittery young team (Toronto? Atlanta? New York? Chicago? Houston?)) in the fourth quarter of a tight playoff game, and he can be obtained on the cheap. His contract for next season contains only a $2 million guarantee.
Miller can probably be had for an expiring contract and a second-round draft pick.
Of all the teams mentioned above, the Rockets (who hold New York’s second-round picks in 2014 and 2015) appear to me to be the strongest contender.
2. CHRIS KAMAN, C, LA LAKERS. What, you expected to see Pau Gasol here? Well, I still think the Lakers will try to move him and get under the luxury tax (which would take them out of repeater tax territory in 2015-16 when Kobe Bryant will be in the final year of his contract), but that ship may have sailed when Mitch Kupchak failed to pull off a deal with Cleveland for Andrew Bynum.
Kaman is a serviceable big man who is doing nothing but gathering dust on the end of the Lakers bench. He is on a one-year, $3.18 million expiring contract, and centers who are not certifiable stiffs are always in demand. Something else to keep in mind: The Lakers would need to move $7.1 million in contracts to get below the tax threshold.
If they can find a taker for Steve Blake ($4 million), they get there.
3. SPENCER HAWES, F-C, PHILADELPHIA. A rare commodity – a stretch 5. You can use him underneath, you can put him out on the perimeter to open up the middle for a dominant big (yes, I am thinking Houston, too), and you can do a deal with the Sixers without having to match salaries because Philly is not only $10.8 million below the salary cap, it is $5 million below the salary floor – the minimum a team must pay in salaries. (If GM Sam Hinkie fails to reach the floor, he will need to cut a check to the Players Association). And Hawes is on an expiring deal and will be worth more than Philly will be willing to pay when he becomes unrestricted this summer.
Despite Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s stance that Omer Asik isn’t going anywhere, an Asik-Hawes trade makes a ton of sense for both teams. Philly gets a player who can spell Nerlens Noel next season, while Houston gets a backup for Dwight Howard who can actually play alongside him – which was the original plan for Asik – and give Houston another shooter to play with Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and James Harden.
4. ERIC GORDON, G, PELICANS. Yes, it would be a bit of an understatement to say Gordon has failed to live up to his four-year, $58 million contract – the one he signed with Phoenix two years ago and begged New Orleans not to match. Gordon is not getting precipitously close to entering the realm of a “dead money” player (think of namesake Ben Gordon of the Bobcats), but he is still a young gunner with a ton of talent who can be a 20-point per game scorer in the right system.
Since the Pelicans are going to lose their draft pick to Philadelphia unless it falls in the top five, GM Dell Demps would love to restock that cupboard in exchange for an expiring contract and a No. 1 pick that would fall in the late teens or high 20s.
Detroit fits that bill. The Pistons are dying for a 3-point shooter to add to their starting core of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. And though they cannot offer a 2014 first-round pick (they owe that to Charlotte), they could offer a pick swap in 2015 or 2016 along with the expiring deal of Charlie Villanueva and a throw-in with some upside, such as Kyle Singler or Luigi Datome.
5. JAMEER NELSON, G and GLEN DAVIS, F, MAGIC. Nelson falls into the same category as Miller but without the fallout factor involving his coach. And since Miller can be gotten on the cheap, it reduces the leverage of GM Rob Hennigan, who has shown he will hold out for the right deal no matter how long it takes.
Again, there are a number of teams that could use a veteran floor leader to calm things down in the fourth quarters of tough playoff games, al though there are a limited number of teams that have the assets to make a deal that would be to Hennigan’s liking.
Hennigan also has been trying to rid himself of Davis’ contract for more than a year, and a package of the players would represent $15 million in outgoing salary.
If Hennigan could get back Emeka Okafor (whose salary is being paid by insurance) along with one of the Lakers’ picks that the Suns have stashed, that would make Phoenix a much stronger playoff team (veterans are needed out there) and give Orlando a nice future asset in exchange for an expiring contract and a guy they have been trying to dump.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.