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NBA AM: More Trades On The Horizon?

There have been nine “pre-deadline” trades so far in the NBA, could we see several more for the deadline?

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More On The Move?:  There has been no shortage of trades in the NBA so far this season; in fact it’s been record setting.

So far on the season we have seen nine “pre-deadline trades”(trades that happened after the start of the season but before the annual trade deadline).

Last year there were seven, although the seventh was consummated a day prior to the deadline, but that counts as a “pre-deadline” trade. In 2013 there were just three “pre-deadline” trades; so, it’s safe to say this season has been busier than normal, mostly due to Boston’s massive roster purge. The Celtics have been involved in four of the nine deals done already and it seems they may have a few more in the works.

Here are some of the names that continue to get kicked around in trade talks, and by no means are these the only ones getting play among NBA executives:

Marcus Thornton – Boston Celtics

The Celtics are continuing to try and find a home for the veterans on their roster earning any kind of money. Thornton seems to be next on the Celtics’ to-deal list, although his contract isn’t exactly the most favorable due to his $8.575 million salary. It is tough in the NBA to dump money without including additional assets, but fortunately for Boston they have a ton of them. In fact, as things stand now the Celtics have more than 11 first round picks owed over the next seven years and almost as many second round picks. If packing in a pick, especially an unfavorable one, can help grease a deal, the Celtics have more than a few to spare.

Gerald Wallace – Boston Celtics

Like Thornton, the Celtics would love to off-load forward Gerald Wallace. The problem is he may be very difficult to move before the deadline, mainly because he is owed $10.15 million this year and $10.105 million next year. It’s one thing to dump an ending contract on a team looking for fire power like Thornton; it’s another to dump a guy that bites into available space for next season. With the Celtics fairly reluctant to take back anything of real value in a trade, moving Wallace will be tough. With that said, Boston continues to work the market place looking for deals and Wallace has been kicked around a few times.

Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets continue to kick the tires on possible deals for Lopez. It’s always been assumed because of his contract option that the Nets would eventually deal him. However, sources say with so many deals dropping, that there seems to be an increased desire to find a deal for Lopez before the chips on the trade table dry up. The Nets are not looking to “give” Lopez away, but their asking price isn’t crazy, so it’s likely they can find a deal fairly soon. The latest suitor at the table is reported to be the Miami HEAT, who have been uncharacteristically active in the trade market, likely because they continue to go sideways in the standings. Lopez is owed $15.71 million this season and has a player option worth $16.744 million. There has been a debate over whether Lopez opts for free agency in July or stays in his final $16.74 million contract year. If he opts into his deal or gives assurances that he would stay in the deal, he might hold more value in trade than if it’s clear he is a rental hitting the open market.

Austin Rivers – Boston Celtics

The Celtics recently acquired Rivers as part of their Jeff Green transaction with Memphis and New Orleans. It’s believed the Celtics have the framework of a deal in place to send Rivers to the LA Clippers in exchange for a second round pick and an ending contract or two. The Celtics have opened up a few roster spots to take on the players; one of those spots came by way of the contract buyout agreement the Celtics have reached with guard Nate Robinson, who they just acquired in a trade with the Nuggets for guard Jameer Nelson. Amusingly, it’s believed once Robinson clears waivers he’ll also join the Clippers.

Jordan Farmar – Los Angeles Clippers

As covered above, the Clippers look to be adding a few new faces and could also be trading for a third. There have been reports that the Clippers are closing in on a deal that would send point guard Jordan Farmar to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for guard Ramon Sessions. This one seems almost complete, and is likely waiting on the other transactions on the table to fall into place. The Clippers were one of the other teams calling Boston on forward Jeff Green, however, couldn’t muster the assets to make a deal that included a first-round draft pick.

Wilson Chandler – Denver Nuggets

Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw adamantly denied that his team was shopping guards Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo, however there are numerous reports and a couple of league sources that say the Nuggets have engaged in talks on both, but have yet to find a deal they would do. Shaw’s stance is that his team isn’t making outgoing calls looking for deals, which is true; they don’t need to other teams see blood in the proverbial water. Chandler has this season worth $6.75 million and an attractive partial guaranteed on the $7.17 million left on his deal next year that only has $2 million guaranteed. Chandler seems to be drawing real interest from several teams, however, the Nuggets seem to be a little torn internally on whether to move him. The pending return of forward Danilo Gallinari could help the decision process, especially if he can show that’s he’s healed and recovered from the two knee procedure he underwent almost two years ago.

Arron Afflalo – Denver Nuggets

Like Chandler, teams see Afflalo as obtainable; however, the Nuggets are being elusive on that front. The team to watch here is Charlotte. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford has long coveted Afflalo and had urged his front office to move on Afflalo several times over the last year. With Charlotte continuing to hover just outside the playoff picture in the East, Clifford may have the leverage he needs to get a guy he has wanted for some time. The question becomes do the Hornets have the assets it would take to get Denver to bite? Eventually Denver has to make a decision because Afflalo is likely going to use his option for free agency in July, meaning the Nuggets could lose him for nothing.

Maurice Harkless – Orlando Magic

A few teams have been at the Orlando Magic on swingman Maurice Harkless, but are finding the asking price on Orlando’s side to be steep. Harkless is not playing a huge role in Orlando and was inactive for a stretch of games before injuries hit the roster. There was a sense from other teams that he could be pried loose on the cheap. Word is Orlando is asking for a first-round pick to even open a discussion, which has sort of killed momentum. Magic sources continue to say Orlando sees no urgency in selling off roster parts, especially with the roster being a little banged up and so much uncertainty surrounding forward Aaron Gordon and the pending free agent status of Tobias Harris. Things can always change at the trade deadline, however at least for now it seems like Orlando’s price tag may be too high to make a deal.

Jose Calderon – New York

The New York Knicks are actively looking at deals that could move off the salary of Calderon. The Knicks’ first option would be move Calderon and take little to nothing in return. Sources say they really are not even looking for draft picks, a few ending contracts might get the job done for New York as they understanding moving off not only Calderon’s $7.097 million this year, but the $7.402 million next year and the $7.708 million in 2016 are tough concepts to swallow for most teams. The second option would be the inclusion of a roster player like Tim Hardaway Jr., although sources say that’s not really something the Knicks want to do. There is a sense that if the Knicks cannot find a deal before the trade deadline, they would re-open the process around the draft when teams may be a little more open to taking on Calderon. One Knicks source indicated it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Knicks did not move Calderon, but they are trying as it would increase their cap flexibility this summer.

The 2015 NBA Trade Deadline is set for February 19 at 3pm EST, so teams still have a lot of time to consummate deals, but with so many transactions dropping there is a sense the league is open for serious business. There seems to be more of an appetite to close something now rather than later if the right deal can be reached.

Maximizing Rajon Rondo:  Hard to believe that Dallas guard Rajon Rondo has already logged 12 games with the Mavericks, as it just seems like yesterday he was moved in a multi-player deal.

Rondo sat out last night due to soreness in his hamstring, something Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle attributed to the back-to-back versus Sacramento and the extra work his team logged in overtime.

There were doubts about how effective Rondo would be in Dallas given his reputation for being hard to coach and being a below-average shooter. Since arriving in Dallas not only has Rondo bought into the process, he is shooting a scorching 39.1 percent from three, a career best by a large margin.

Mavericks’ sources point to an early conversation that Rondo had with Carlisle in which Dallas’ coach challenged Rondo a little, telling him that the team knew he could average 20 assists a game. The challenge was could he average 20 points a game?

This was really the first time in Rondo’s career were he had a coach actively imploring him to shoot the ball and to shoot it from three and Rondo has responded with some of the best shooting numbers of his career.

Rondo has a long history of being tough to coach, however Mavericks sources point to Carlisle’s rocky history as being a bit difficult himself and said that it seem they both speak the same language and have really connected in an unexpected way.

The Mavericks are 8-5 since acquiring Rondo and are currently the fifth seed in the West. If the playoffs started today, the Mavericks would open on the road against the Houston Rockets, who have a game and half on the Mavericks for the fourth seed.

What Giannis Doesn’t Understand:  The Milwaukee Bucks joined the New York Knicks in London for the annual London regular season game at the O2 arena on Thursday.

During one of the many press events for the trip Bucks swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked about his brother Thanasis, who was drafted by the Knicks with the 51st pick and is currently playing in the D-league.

Like most brothers would do, Giannis used the moment to support his brothers’ call-up to the NBA.

“He’s ready,’’ Antetokounmpo said to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I don’t think the Knicks have to lose anything. They lose 15 [straight] now. Tomorrow is going to be 16. They don’t have anything to lose. My brother could bring energy to the team and [is] hard-working, and guys from the team can see that and take something from him.’’

Giannis went on to say that he thought something would happen soon on that front.

“He’s going to make it,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I think the call-up is going to be soon, hopefully soon. My brother is working hard, keeps staying focused and does what it takes to make it in the league. He’s working, effort is going to pay off.

“I thought he [would] get called up before the game. I’m a little disappointed he’s not going to play tomorrow against me.’’

The problem with this notion is that if Thanasis is smart, he’d wait until the offseason when he may have a little more leverage in the situation and could secure some fully-guaranteed contract dollars.

The Knicks can’t offer much more than the pro-rated NBA minimum now and would likely be unwilling to guarantee a second year that would bite into their July cap space.

While calling up Thanasis would offer something for the fans to get excited about, it likely wouldn’t be a very good business move for Thansis and it might take a trade asset off the table for the Knicks as they can use his draft rights as a trade inducement if they needed to right now. If they sign him he’d be locked in for the season.

It’s a fun story that Giannis wants to play against his brother, and he may be right on Thanasis being far enough along to bring something to the roster, but there is a business layer that’s not being factored in for either side; a deal now would likely be a bad deal for Thanasis and it would likely be equally bad for the Knicks.

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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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