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NBA AM: Some Trade Rumors Just Won’t Go Away

As the offseason winds down, there are still names floating around the rumor mill that just won’t go away.

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The Names That Won’t Go Away:  There is an expression that comes to mind as we open this topic. “Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.” That is likely why some names never come out of the trade rumor mill. Some of that is because their home team entertained a phone call, which every team does, and some of it is simply wishful thinking from a fan base that wants to see change.

Somewhere in the middle is likely the truth, but that hasn’t stopped some names from being mentioned more aggressively than others. Here is where some of those players stand.

Joe Johnson – Brooklyn

There is no question that the Brooklyn Nets are in cost cutting mode and moving off the $24.894 million owed to Joe Johnson would be welcomed in that department. The problem with moving him is the enormity of the contract. Almost no one can meet that payroll without sending equally as much money back to Brooklyn, which defeats the entire concept of the trade. The Nets have aggressively shopped Johnson and understand exactly what his trade value is (non-existent). That could change close to the NBA Trade Deadline in February after the Nets have paid almost 70 percent of his salary and Johnson is far cheaper and an ending contract.

Brooklyn seems at peace with the idea they will have Johnson for the season. That won’t stop his name from being mentioned, especially as his true cost goes down, but sources close to the situation say there is no deal the Nets would do out there for Johnson, so he is a name you can safely remove from the list for now.

Kenneth Faried – Denver

Things got bad in Denver last year and while former point guard Ty Lawson was a big part of that, so too was forward Kenneth Faried. There was an expectation that Denver would look to part ways with both players this offseason, hence Faried’s name being mentioned so frequently. However, with Lawson now gone and new head coach Mike Malone in place, there is a growing sense that Denver wants to see if Malone can reach Faried in the same ways he reached DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento and turn the situation around.

Faried is a tremendous talent when motivated and the Nuggets would like to see if the younger core of rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, Faried and Jusuf Nurkic can work under Malone before looking at deals. This one likely has to play out. If Faried continues to be a malcontent, express unhappiness and not buy into the program, it’s not out of the question he gets moved. It just seems highly unlikely that a move is going to happen before games are played and the Nuggets likely give this situation a good look before entertaining situations.

Because Faried could be had at some point, his name will continue to get mentioned, but it’s safe to say he’s not obtainable now and would take an ugly start to the season for that to change.

Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix

Ah, Eric Bledsoe. This offseason, a fan asked a question in a chat over at ESPN and from there came this fan-driven narrative of the Suns wanting to trade Bledsoe. It genuinely took on a life of its own and has spun so far out of control it’s not even funny.

Bledsoe was the lead recruiter for Tyson Chandler and was a major voice in the meetings with LaMarcus Aldridge and now the team is trading him?

Some of this is other fans wanting Bledsoe’s talent on their team. Some of this is people believing because Brandon Knight is locked into a new hefty contract and that both guards cannot play together. None of that is true.

The problem with social driven media is that people inside the NBA read the same stories fans do and often repeat those same stories to reporters.

In this case, Suns source openly laughed at the notion of trading Bledsoe. That’s not to say that a home run type trade wouldn’t turn the situation, because that is true of virtually 95 percent of the league, but to characterize the Suns as looking to trade Bledsoe couldn’t be further from the truth.

One Suns source said if the team wanted to move Bledsoe they could without much effort – there is that kind of interest in him. The problem for the Bledsoe trade enthusiasts is that for all the reasons someone would trade for him are all the reasons the Suns plan to keep him.

You can safely scratch Bledsoe off the trade list. It would take a massive breakdown in Phoenix to change that stance.

Ricky Rubio – Minnesota

There seems to be inevitability to Ricky Rubio being moved out of Minnesota; the problem for the trade enthusiasts is it’s not likely happening anytime soon. Rubio is owed too much money, has had too many injuries and has not progressed enough as an offensive player to be more valuable in trade than he is to the Wolves. To move Rubio now would require packing in other favorable assets and it does not seem like that’s where Minnesota wants to go.

There remains a sense that if Rubio can get right physically that his ability to playmake and run the offense can be a big part of the team turning the corner with the young guys. That might sound a little delusional given the track record, but the Wolves’ stance is they are keeping him. Now that may change if Zach LaVine shows some consistency or if Tyus Jones starts to show promise, but for now the Wolves believe Rubio is their guy.

Another injury plagued season, or another season lacking progress, could change that. But the answer to all of those happens during the season, which means pulling Rubio of the trade list.

DeMar DeRozan – Toronto

The DeRozan rumors are 100 percent fan driven. Sources close to the Raptors side of the equation said they have not entertained anything with DeRozan’s name on it and that he has been a central and core figure for them in recruiting free agents and being a leader in the offseason.

DeRozan get mentioned because he is an All-Star and a lot of fans want more than what he provides and mention him as the stepping stone to a better player. All of that may be true from a fan perspective, but from a team perspective DeRozan is way ahead of where they wanted him to be as a player and his production to his contract is stellar. They just need to surround him with more talent and that was a goal this summer.

You never say never when it comes to trades, especially if the season starts to get away from you, but to characterize DeRozan as obtainable would be wrong. To get DeRozan, you’d have to offer a ton and the Raptors are not exploring that.

Luol Deng – Miami

Like Rubio, there is inevitability to Deng being traded, especially if rookie Justise Winslow can adjust to the NBA game quickly. The HEAT have made a number of cap clearing type trades in an attempt to open up roster spots and lower their impending “repeater” luxury tax bill; dumping Deng’s $10.15 million would get them all the way there.

The fit for Deng in Miami has been less than ideal, but sources near the situation say the HEAT want to see if this squad, when healthy, can truly compete. If it all works there is a real chance Miami keeps things together and sees how far this team can go. If the HEAT are middling, then looking to cash out Deng and reduce the tax seems extremely likely.

Everything in this situation will be tied to how the team plays out of the gate and more importantly if Deng can get back to his All-Star caliber form. If Deng is average, he’s trade bait and this one is absolutely a name to watch as the season opens up.

As mentioned above, you never say never in the trade world. The phone could ring tomorrow with an out of this world offer. However, based on where things stand today, most of the names on this list are wishful thinking more so than actually available in trade. Their names may not go away because that’s how it works when you get linked to something, but the truth is, especially as camps come open, virtually everyone on this list should be on their respective team to start the season and the majority likely remain where they are for the whole campaign.

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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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