With a quarter of the NBA schedule now behind us, general managers have begun to gauge whether or not changes need to take place for their teams this season. A GM has a plethora of moves at his disposal, but none is more intriguing than a trade. There have been a few rumors rumbling around the league so far, and some bear the potential to change the course of a team's season.
Dion Waiters and the Chicago Bulls
Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers put Waiters on the trading block last week. While the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers were also mentioned as viable candidates, the Bulls beat both in terms of how the addition of Waiters would transform the team.
With Derrick Rose missing the rest of another season, Chicago could use a dependable scorer in the backcourt. Waiters is putting up 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists so far this season, shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three. His 67.8 percent from the free-throw line leaves a bit to be desired, but his overall offensive skill is evident.
Broussard's report listed Bulls longtime swingman Luol Deng as the player that the Cavs desire. Chicago couldn't come to terms on a contract extension in the offseason, and Deng is set to be a free agent at the end of this season.
The Bulls may opt to re-sign Deng in the offseason, but the team's payroll of $79.2 million has them over the luxury tax threshold of $70.3 million. Re-signing Deng would only push them over the tax limit again.
Mark Deeks of SB Nation broke down Chicago's woes with the luxury tax:
The Bulls' projected total expenditure this season after tax is due to be $91,234,177. The same payroll with the same hypothetical tax threshold, when subject to repeater tax, would result in a total expenditure of $98,774,605. This again demonstrates the effectiveness of the repeater tax. A team now only a mere few million over the luxury tax, then, is starting to get incredibly expensive, to the point that being one good player over the threshold puts it at a near nine-figure payroll.
In other words, keeping Deng on after this season would be costly. While the forward has been a longtime Bull, his salary will be too much for Chicago to manage financially.
Moving him for Waiters makes sense in this regard, as Deng's $14.2 million contract this season is gargantuan compared to Waiters' $3.8 million. The guard will be on his rookie-scale deal for the next two seasons if the Bulls decide to accept the team option, which would give them a young scorer to build around sans Rose.
The Bulls don't need to rebuild the team, but having Waiters, who was drafted No. 4 overall in 2012, as a cornerstone will put them under the tax threshold as well as provide them with a future scorer with a ton of potential.
Omer Asik and the Portland Trail Blazers
When the Houston Rockets signed Dwight Howard, Asik felt the full impact of the addition. He started all 82 games for the Rockets last season but has started only eight of the 17 games he's played thus far.
He is a defensive big man, much like Howard, so their styles clash and can't exist together on the court. Houston has searched far and wide to find a suitor for the disgruntled big man, who has repeatedly submitted trade requests.
The Rockets signed Asik to the "poison pill" contract last season in hope of swaying Chicago's interest. While it worked in Houston's favor, it may come back to bite the Rockets when it comes to trying to move Asik.
Charlie Zegers of About.com broke down the "poison pill" contract:
For example: the Houston Rockets offered identical contracts to Knicks guard Jeremy Lin and Chicago Bulls forward/center Omer Asik. The deals will pay roughly $5 million in years one and two and $15 million in year three. For the Rockets, those deals will count as roughly $8.3 million contracts each year, for cap and tax purposes. If the Knicks opted to match, Lin's deal would count at its actual value. That $15 million cap hit - combined with the contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler - would have come with a staggering luxury tax bill.
Portland has looked at acquiring the big man, courtesy of the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence. The Trail Blazers would need to send center Robin Lopez and another player to match Asik's $8.3 million this season. Despite this, the addition of Asik would give the team a defensive presence inside.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid two-way player, but the Blazers could use a legitimate low-post defender and physical rebounder. Portland is already a great defensive team, allowing 99.7 points on 45 percent shooting. The team outrebounds opponents by an average of 2.3, which is good for No. 6 in the NBA.
Even so, adding Asik would give Portland an edge and push the team's potential higher. The big man is a better center than Lopez and in turn would improve the overall roster of the team. Asik's offensive shortcomings would be negligible given the Blazers' offensive weapons in Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews and be outweighed by what he can give the team inside.
Iman Shumpert and the Oklahoma City Thunder
The New York Knicks are quickly going downward this season, with a dismal 3-13 record that is just a half-game back from being dead last in the Eastern Conference. Losing Tyson Chandler to a fractured right fibula will see the team without him for four to six weeks, and the team needs some help in the frontcourt.
According to Onchie Ebriega of The Latino Post, the Oklahoma City Thunder have thrown their hat in the ring for Shumpert. They are rumored to be offering big man Nick Collison and a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Next year's prospects are enticing, so that may be the biggest upside in the deal.
The Thunder need to push this deal to fruition, as the addition of Shumpert would give them a substantial edge over most teams. Oklahoma City already has a young and athletic duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, not to mention the contributions of defensive beast Serge Ibaka.
Shumpert would be a younger and more versatile option over current Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha. His 7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals thus far are almost mirrored in Sefolosha's 6.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals this season.
Despite this, Shumpert is just 23 years old in comparison to Sefolosha's 29 years of age. The Knicks off-guard's youth isn't his only upside, as his defensive abilities are renowned around the league.
He is keeping opponents to 42.9 percent shooting, according to SynergySports, and he uses his athleticism and quickness to overpower opposing scorers. Shumpert would be a lock for a starting spot in OKC and give the Thunder another player to rely on at both ends of the court.