We are just under two weeks away from the 2014 NBA All-Star game and have already seen trade talks intensify. With February 21st’s trade deadline quickly approaching, the outcome of these next two weeks will largely shape the second half of the season. Is there potential for any conference to be swung by a major move?
Let’s get right to it.
In a piece written by Grantland’s Zach Lowe Tuesday, Brooklyn Nets GM, Billy King, offers some insight as to whether or not Brook Lopez could be had for the right price. The short answer is yes:
“We are not shopping Brook Lopez,” King told Grantland last week. “Our goal is to get Brook as healthy as possible. But if deals present themselves, we’ve got to look at them. If we can get draft picks back at some point, that would help.”
Notice how King quickly backtracked off his initial statement. A savvy PR move by a veteran GM.
Coming off his first ever coach of the month award, Jason Kidd adds another layer to the mix:
“You have to have a sense of structure and an identity,” says Jason Kidd, the team’s coach. “You have to know who you are, and how you’re going to play both ends. And now we do.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Kidd says. “I don’t think the team with Brook is built to be a hybrid like this. Now we are, because we have no choice. We have a structure, and Brook going out has helped us define that.”
So the Nets are open to listening to offers, and Lopez, an All-Star caliber Center — and arguably the most offensively skilled at his position in the league — does not fit into the style that the “win now” Nets are succeeding with. He is also out for the rest of the season, rendering himself useless to a team in such a delicate position.
With so many variables in play, the Nets must consider the long-term affect a Lopez trade would have on the franchise. He does not have value to them today, but his undeniable skill level could help fetch them another piece to put them over the top, a place they declared all-in for when they traded a deep haul of draft picks for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this past offseason.
Considering the reality of where they stand in comparison to Miami and Indiana this season, that may be a short-sited approach, though. Lopez could also be used to pry young assets and/or draft picks away from a team that sees Lopez as a future piece to the puzzle.
But what if Pierce — a free agent at the end of the season — decides to leave, and Kevin Garnett, aging rapidly, decides to retire? That would leave the Nets with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson: two former stars that have not been playing up to their salary cap ravaging contracts that they are on the books for a few more years. And as Lowe notes, Brooklyn’s other big, Andray Blatche, has likely played himself into a new contract. One the Nets most certainly cannot afford.
While not guaranteed, this would add a tremendous amount of value to keeping Lopez.
And on the west coast, ESPN reports that the Suns are treading carefully while still involved in talks for Lakers Center Pau Gasol:
The Lakers and Phoenix Suns engaged in a fresh round of trade discussions Monday focused on four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol as both sides continued to assess their options in advance of the Feb. 20 trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that, while there is substantive interest on both sides, it’s believed Suns officials want to see how Gasol recovers from a strained groin before deciding whether to take talks to the next level.
Today head coach, Mike D’Antoni, said he believed Gasol will sidelined until after the All-Star break. That still gives the Suns time to see Gasol before the trade deadline, if they are still inclined to pursue him.
After averaging a robust 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January, Gasol is expected to miss the next three games with the groin injury, which the Lakers do not regard as serious.
ESPN reported on Sunday the Suns were strongly considering trading for Gasol as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make a playoff push this season.
One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor’s $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol’s $19.3 million. A trade for Okafor’s expiring deal would save the Lakers $4.8 million, taking them less than $3 million away from the league’s luxury-tax threshold, meaning one more smaller deal before the trade deadline could conceivably be enough to take them out of tax territory completely.
In return for helping the Suns make a strong playoff push, the Lakers will likely command a first round pick in return. The Suns could potentially have four first round picks in the coveted 2014 draft. For that to happen, well, a lot would need to happen, though.
Along with their own pick, Phoenix has the opportunity to gain:
- 2014 1st round draft pick from Minnesota: protected for picks 1-13
- 2014 1st round draft pick from Washington: protected for picks 1-12
- 2014 1st round draft pick from Indiana: protected for picks 1-14
Phoenix is almost assured at least one of those picks (Indiana’s), and if Washington can continue their strong play and make the playoffs they would earn a third. This offers Phoenix room to deal and the Lakers the perfect partner to finally ship off Gasol.
It’s time for the Lakers to pull the trigger.
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