The NBA trade deadline, on Feb. 19 at 3 PM is nearly a month away. Many teams are positioning themselves, and their salary cap, for the summer of 2010 when superstars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are scheduled to become free agents.
That means a lot of movement should be expected until then.
The New York Knicks have been severely strapped by their high payroll for years. Thanks to the mismanagement of the horrible regimes prior to Donnie Walsh taking over.
They struck first early this season by making quite possibly the most blatant salary dump in this history of the NBA when they traded forward Zach Randolph and guard Jamal Crawford away, thus capitalizing on the team's early season success.
While many teams are banking on the star studded class of 2010, some of the more elite team would be wise to take advantage of these opportunities to improve their current rosters.
These same teams, Cleveland in particular, should also do everything to turn themselves into perennial championship caliber teams to make themselves more attractive to potential free agents, and current superstars.
So, without further ado, here are several trades that I think can, and should happen. (Thanks to ESPN.com's Trade Machine which I experiment on a little too much for my own good)
1.) The Utah Jazz trade forward Andrei Kirilenko, who makes $15.1 million this year, and three years left to the Miami Heat for forward Shawn Marion who makes $17.8 million, and has a expiring contract.
Why Miami would do this deal?
The Matrix has regressed a lot since leaving Mike D'Antoni's fast paced offense for South Beach. While Marion is still averaging nearly a double-double for this season he hasn't made quite the same impact that we have come to expect out of him especially on the offensive end.
Kirilenko has thrived in his role as a sixth man for the Jazz and he has cemented his reputation as one of the best defenders in the league.
AK47 would be an excellent fit with the defensive-minded Heat, who are one of the most underrated defensive teams in the league. It would take pressure off guard Dwayne Wade, because he wouldn't have to guard the opposing team's best perimeter offensive threat.
It keeps Wade fresher, more focused on the offensive end and enables him to be a free roaming defender. Which is much like the way former Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan was playing with forward Scottie Pippen.
Kirilenko is one of the best shotblockers and thieves in the league with 1.46 and 1.57 per a game respectively.
Plus, Marion is set to become a free agent after the season and he is seeking a huge contract, which the Heat would not be willing to give him.
With a core of Kirilenko, forward Micheal Beasley, guard Mario Chalmers, guard Daequan Cook, and forward Udonis Haslem the Heat are setting themselves up to be very attractive to Mr. Wade when 2010 arrives.
Why Utah would do this deal?
Marion is still a good player and he would benefit from playing with a great pure point guard in Derron Williams. A lineup of Williams, guard Ronnie Brewer, Marion, forward Carlos Boozer, and forward Mehmet Okur is still very formidable out west.
Most importantly, his expiring contract would free up some much needed space in order for the Jazz to resign Boozer and/or forward Paul Millsap in the offseason.
It also puts the Jazz in position to make a run at an impact player in 2010, while still managing to remain very competitive.
2.) The Cleveland Cavaliers trade forward Wally Szczerbiak who makes $13.7 million, and has a expiring contract, forward J.J. Hickson who males $1.3 million this year, and has two years left, and 2009 first rounder, or trade exception, to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Michael Redd who makes $15.7 million this year, and has three years left.
Why Cleveland would do this deal?
Cleveland has been the best team in the eastern conference thus far and they are arguably the best team in the league right now. It is scary that they can only get better, because they own a valuable asset in Wally's huge expiring contract.
Cleveland would be getting one of the best scorers in the league in Redd, who played with LeBron on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal.
This can be the player that puts the Cavs over the hump and he will make LeBron frighteningly better.
It will be like the Olympics all over again ,with Redd just nailing open jumpers, because teams will be keyed on containing James. Obviously, LeBron is unstoppable one on one.
Plus, the injury that guard Delonte West suffered in last night's game against Chicago leaves a gaping hole at the shooting guard position.
Hickson looks like a solid young forward, but he won't get a lot of minutes when the Cavs are at full strength with center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, forward Ben Wallace, and forward Anderson Varejao firmly entrenched in the frontline rotation, along with LeBron playing spot minutes at power forward. They also have a veteran big man in forward Lorenzen Wright.
Can you imagine how good this team would be with a lineup of guard Mo Williams, Redd, LeBron, Wallace, and Ilgauskas with West, guard Daniel Gibson, Varejao, and guard Aleksandar Pavlovic off the bench?
It would be tough to find any weaknesses in that rotation and they aren't sacrificing a consistent rotation player.
Perhaps most importantly, they make themselves a helluva a lot more appealing to LeBron when free agency comes around.
Why Milwaukee would do this deal?
The Bucks are currently 19-22 which is not horrible, but I doubt they would really go far in the playoffs with their current roster.
By ridding themselves of Redd's huge contract they afford themselves salary cap flexibility for the future with Wally's deal coming off the books. Plus, it gives youngsters such as Joe Alexander and Ramon Sessions an opportunity to play more minutes.
They also add a solid young big man in Hickson.
3.) The Cleveland Cavaliers trade Szczerbiak, Hickson, and a 2009 first rounder to the Washington Wizards for forward Antawn Jamison, who makes $9.9 million this year, with four years left, and G DeShawn Stevenson who makes $3.6 million this year with two years left).
Why Cleveland would do this deal?
I realize that this deal sounds a little weird considering LeBron and DeShawn Stevenson's heated feud that made headlines in last season's first round matchup.
However, the Cavs would be getting back two solid players who would instantly improve their team without having to give up anyone of consequence.
Jamison, at 6'9", is a very good scorer making 46 percent of his field goals, who can shoot from the perimeter, or drive to the rim. He is also a solid rebounder averaging nearly nine rebounds a game this season.
The Cavs can pencil him into the power forward spot next to Z and have Wallace coming off the bench. Or perhaps, Jamison can come off the bench and reprise his role as the sixth man of the year, which he won in 2003-'04 with Dallas.
I'm sure Stevenson and LeBron would make peace if this trade were to take place. DeShawn is a solid two guard who can stretch the floor with his outside shooting, and he plays tough defense on the perimeter.
His ability to defend takes some pressure of LeBron at the defensive end. Plus, Cleveland's other guards are very undersized, which might be a problem when they decide to go with a small lineup.
While neither player is at the caliber of a Redd they are good pieces to surround James with, and it should make them a championship favorite.
Why Washington would do this deal?
The Wizards own one of the worst records in the league at 7-31. They are clearly in rebuilding mode and they would be smart to get rid of a long term deal such as Jamison's.
Wally's expiring contract frees up some much valuable cap room, and like the Bucks in my previous scenario, Washington obtains a solid young big man in Hickson, along with a first-round pick.
The Wizards have some good young players in guard Nick Young, center Andray Blatche, forward JaVale McGee, guard Javaris Crittenton to build around for the future, or as potential trade assets.
They are adding to their stable with Hickson, their own high lottery pick, and the Cavs late first rounder.
4.) The San Antonio Spurs trade guard Ime Udoka who makes $1.08 million this year with a expiring contract, guard Jacque Vaughn who makes $1.2 million with a expiring contract as well, forward Fabricio Oberto who makes $3.6 million with two years left, and a first rounder to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Nick Collison, who makes $6.3 million with three years left.
Why San Antonio would do this deal?
The Spurs have a need for a solid big man to complement foward Tim Duncan down in the low post. Collison fits that description.
The former Kansas Jayhawk can score in the post and he is a fantastic rebounder. His 56 percent field goal shooting should only increase by playing with guys such as Duncan, guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Plus, the Spurs are giving up none of their key role players who play significant minutes. Center Matt Bonner and/or foward Kurt Thomas move back to the bench where they can spell spell Timmy, and provide solid contributions.
A starting lineup of Parker, guard Michael Finley, foward Bruce Bowen, Collison and Duncan with a bench consisting of Ginobili (super-six man), Thomas(post defender, dead eye mid-range jump shooter), guard Roger Mason Jr.(clutch three-point sniper), Bonner(perimeter shooting big), and George Hill(good young backup point guard).
That lineup will make the Spurs a force in the western conference as they always are.
Why the Thunder would do this deal?
Current Thunder GM Sam Presti is a former Spurs executive and he has helped the Spurs before last season's Kurt Thomas trade.
By unloading Collison the Thunder would remove the most expensive and longest contract on the team. With the worst record in the league, this young team is rebuilding and salary cap flexibility is essential to any rebuilding process.
It also opens up minutes in a loaded frontcourt that already consists of newly signed center Nenad Krstic, center Robert Swift, center Mouhamed Sene, center Chris Wilcox, forward Joe Smith, if he is not traded, and current starting foward Jeff Green.
If this trade were to happen then I don't see any of the three players acquired suiting up for the Thunder. They would all most likely be bought out because those are three relatively cheap contracts.
Under this trade scenario the Thunder would obtain a first-round pick, which to them would be the most important asset in this deal.
Other notable expiring contracts
1. Raef LaFrentz, $12.7 million, Portland Trailblazers.
2. Andre Miller, $10.3 million, Philadelphia 76ers.
3. Lamar Odom, $14.1 million, Los Angeles Lakers.
Portland should definitely look to package LaFrentz's expiring deal, along with one, or possibly, two of their young players outside of their near untouchable core.
They can use an upgrade at point guard with guys such as Andre Miller or perhaps even Jason Kidd available.
If the 'Sixers (18-20) fall out of contention, or if they determine that they won't go anywhere, they should consider trading Miller who's deal expires after the season.
Philly already has a solid young guard in Lou Williams waiting in the wings. It's not likely the Sixers would have re-signed Miller with a young player ready to take over.
If a team offers a package consisting of at least two out of the three a good young player, expiring contract, and/or first round draft pick it would be hard for the Sixers not to accept.
Lamar Odom has not seemed comfortable in his new role off the bench for the Lakers. While it is unlikely, Odom seems unhappy in Los Angeles.
Perhaps he gets traded for Marion or Kirilenko.
With the trade deadline a little over a month away, I'm looking forward to see what moves are made between now and then.
Who knows? One of these deals might occur.
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