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NBA AM: Let The NBA Trade Chatter Begin

The 2015 NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday and teams are starting to really ramp up trade talks.

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Time Waits For No Team:  With the NBA Trade Deadline set for Thursday February 19 at 3:00 p.m. EST and no games to get in the way of the process, most NBA teams are hunkered down in “war room” mode trying to shake loose roster transactions to either improve their team for a title run or offload unwanted or unneeded assets before rosters get locked. Here are a few things to watch for:

Suns Are Shopping

The Phoenix Suns might be the epicenter of this year’s trade deadline for a few reasons. They have two point guards in Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic who could get moved by Thursday. They also have big man Miles Plumlee and swing guard Gerald Green, who are also said to be available, along with a handful of draft picks. If any team is set up to make a splashy move it’s the Suns.

Word is that Dragic’s agents will meet with the Suns to sort of gauge whether a long-term deal for Dragic this summer is possible. If the Suns get indications that Goran would stay beyond his current deal, the odds of a deal involving him drop to almost zero and Thomas becomes the prime trade candidate. While Thomas won’t return nearly as much value as Dragic, he does have a long-term contract and that gives more certainty to a team acquiring him.

Phoenix has the assets to make a bigger, splashier deal; the question is will one surface between now and Thursday? They seem to be working toward one.

Denver Has Interest

You can start including almost anyone on the Nuggets roster as a trade candidate: Wilson Chandler, Arron Afflalo, JaVale McGee and Ty Lawson. The Nuggets are not fire selling the roster, but they are absolutely open for business and looking at deals.

Let’s start with Chandler and Afflalo; the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets have expressed interest in acquiring either player, with Chandler said to be Portland’s prime target, while Afflalo is Charlotte’s prime guy. The Chicago Bulls were said to be sniffing at both players as well, but may not be willing to deal anything that matters, putting them in the third chair on a deal.

The Nuggets have entertained some talk on Ty Lawson, but that’s going to cost a team a ton either in the return of assets or in accepting McGee as part of a deal. That might be tough for a team to pull off because of the combined salary of Lawson ($11.59 million) and McGee ($11.25 million). Both players have money owed to them next season, so is eating McGee’s $12 million 2015-2016 salary worth it to land Lawson and give Denver value in return?

That’s the dance that will take place between now and the deadline. Denver has chips they are willing to cash, but first-round draft picks are said to be their asking price and there just are not that many teams willing to part with them for potentially ending contract players like Afflalo, who holds a team option this summer.

Bulls Not Doing Anything Crazy

The Chicago Bulls would like to do something to bolster their roster, specifically with regards to perimeter scoring and outside shooting. The problem is Chicago won’t do much in terms of changing the construct of their roster. There has been some talk of the Bulls moving Taj Gibson, but sources say that’s more teams trying to pry Taj out of Chicago than the Bulls actively shopping or talking about him in trade.

The Bulls do have some young guys they would entertaining moving, namely Tony Snell, if it returned the right veteran shooting guard.

With a reluctance to move a core piece and a desire not to include draft assets, the Bulls are simply on the fringe and hoping something falls their way.

The stance from the team is that they may be more active in the buyout market or the free agent pool than the trade deadline, but they are out there talking – they just don’t seem like they want to deal anything that matters.

HEAT Would Make A Deal

You can lump the HEAT into the trade deadline seller category. They would move swingman Luol Deng and they have had guard Norris Cole on the market for most of the season. Neither player looks to return much value, but the HEAT are sniffing around for deals. Veteran big man Chris Andersen has become expendable with the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, so you can lump him into the player pool of available guys from the HEAT roster. Danny Granger has been mentioned as well.

The HEAT don’t have a “blow your skirt up” package of assets, but they do have interest in making a deal, so as teams get a little more desperate to deal, Miami is at the table. They just may not have anything anyone wants.

Orlando Is In The Market

Word is the Orlando Magic have empowered big man Andrew Nicholson’s agents to find a new home for him in trade, so that puts at least one Magic player firmly on the trading block. There is also a sense that guards Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour could be had as well, although Ridnour may not return much of anything given his play this season.

The Magic have been very clandestine in their approach to trade talk, they talk with a number of teams, but there isn’t a sense of what they would really do, even at this point in the process.

The Magic are a team to watch for a splashy move, as they certainly have the assets to make a bigger kind of deal and with their season in disarray they could swing for the proverbial fences or sit on their hands. That’s how unclear their plans are.

The Magic do have to consider the potential free agency of Tobias Harris this week and whether they will truly match an offer sheet this summer. Harris’ play this year has cemented the idea that he’ll get a hefty offer sheet in the $12-$14 million per year range so that will play a factor into the thought process too.

Orlando has done a deal at the deadline every year of the Rob Hennigan era, that trend does not look like it will stop this year.

Lakers And Knicks On The Periphery

While both the Knicks and the Lakers have their nose in the deadline huddle, neither team seems overly close to making a deal.

Both clubs are watching the Goran Dragic situation in Phoenix, and both have made runs at the Suns.

The Lakers have some assets they would move, namely the ending contract of Jeremy Lin, the ending contract of Steve Nash and a draft pick owed to them by the Houston Rockets. The biggest hurdle in making a deal for the Lakers is their absolute reluctance to take back any long-term salary.

The Knicks are in a similar situation. They would be open to moving Jose Calderon, but there just isn’t a market for him and the remaining two years and some $15 million left on his deal.

Both teams seem open to trading for a player they covet in free agency, if only to obtain their Bird Rights, but it does not look like either team would part with anything major to make it happen.

Both teams are sniffing around for deals that work for their big picture, but neither seems engaged in anything that would truly change the course of their respective plans.

Brooklyn Is Talking

The Nets continue to say they are not close to anything on the trade front, however more than a few teams have been at them trying to pry loose several players. The Thunder are said to still have eyes for Brook Lopez with a deal offer centered on Kendrick Perkins and Jeremy Lamb, and league sources are convinced that ultimately something similar to that gets done at the deadline as Brooklyn needs to start reducing their payroll.

The talk of deals involving Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have died off pretty aggressively, but there has been renewed talk that veteran big man Kevin Garnett could be in the sights of several would-be contenders with the Warriors said to be more than interested.

The Nets don’t seem to have a shortage of potential deals. None of them seem like they will improve the team, but that could change between now and the deadline.

Raptors Looking For Size

For weeks in this space, we have been talking about the Raptors’ desire to add some toughness in the front court, specifically at power forward. The Raptors have been active and somewhat aggressive.

There have been some reports suggesting that the Raptors would move swingman Terrence Ross or even promising big man Jonas Valanciunas for the “out of the park” deal.

Sources near the Raptors say the more likely move includes guys like Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough or Amir Johnson – all three are ending contract players.

Raptors source were pretty adamant that unless a bona fide All-Star big man were coming back to the Raptors, moving core pieces like Ross or Valanciunas was not a first option.

The Raptors would like to make a move to shore up a possible Finals run, so they are going to be engaged, but the odds that they do something to seriously shake up the team is small, unless it brings a real star to the table.

The Raptors have long coveted Indiana’s David West, so that’s the situation to watch, however sources close to the Pacers say that West is more likely going to stay in Indiana beyond the current year and pick up his contract option and may have already given the Pacers assurances that he would stay. If that is indeed the case, then you can pull West off the trade board.

Bucks Are In The Mix

The Milwaukee Bucks have said repeatedly that they would not give away the future for a playoff run, but given that they are locked into a good situation in the East, they do appear to be willing to deal in order to solidify what they have now and going forward.

The Bucks are one of the teams being linked to Denver’s Ty Lawson. They have also been linked to Chicago’s Taj Gibson, although it may take a lot more to land either of them than Milwaukee has to part with.

The Bucks are trying to buyout big man Larry Sanders, who is going through a tough stretch of personal issues that may sideline him for a while. If the Bucks can open up a roster spot or two they’d be in a position to catch some of the smaller pieces floating around the marketplace.

The two names that get mentioned the most as trade chips for the Bucks are swing man O.J. Mayo and forward Ersan Ilyasova. Both players are valued by the Bucks, so neither is being given away, but both could be the chips that bring real change.

The Bucks are not in desperation mode as they have been over the last few deadlines, but they do seem to be open for business.

The 2015 trade chatter should start to pick up more aggressively over the coming days and Basketball Insiders will have you covered with our Annual Trade Deadline Diary, which will drop tomorrow.

In one place you’ll have all the trade chatter and reports updated throughout the day all the way to and through the 3:00 p.m. deadline.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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