Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
A month to the trade deadline: Which team in the East most likely will make a big move? In the West?
Steve Aschburner: With so much expected action in outright signings – J.R. Smith, Gilbert Arenas, Kenyon Martin already – I’m thinking fewer trades this year at the deadline. But that window between All-Star Weekend and the deadline cries out for a Dwight Howard deal, so Orlando rates as my East pick. If the team acquiring him is out West – Golden State? L.A. Lakers? – then I’m covered for a West prediction too. Otherwise, it’s Phoenix being good guys and moving Steve Nash to a contender.
Fran Blinebury: Despite their bold talk, I still think Orlando will have to trade Dwight Howard and all of his inconsistencies and insecurities. He seems to be burning his bridge one match at a time. In the West, the Lakers have to do something, anything, if they hope to be playing the Clippers, not watching them, after the first round of the playoffs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Still going with the Magic. They can’t want this game of chicken with Dwight Howard. Unless Howard specifically gives them reason for optimism about a new contract, as opposed to him toning down the rumbles about wanting to leave, Orlando has to make the big move. In the West, it’s the Lakers. A decent-size trade exception, needing an infusion, unable to be patient – that’s a team wanting to make a move.
Shaun Powell: Most of the contenders in the East will probably stand pat unless it means getting Dwight Howard, who’s obviously the poster boy for the trade deadline. Can’t see Miami, Chicago, Philly or Atlanta doing anything, and Boston is waiting until summer when those contracts expire. Pretty much the same story out West, with the Lakers looming large in the Dwight sweepstakes.
John Schuhmann: I’m still not 100 percent sure that Orlando trades Dwight Howard before the deadline, but if they do, I think the most likely scenario is that he ends up in New Jersey. Beyond the Magic and Nets, you’ve obviously got to keep an eye on Danny Ainge and Larry Bird. Bird has the cap space to acquire a player to turn his team into a real contender, and Ainge has that itchy trigger finger of his. In the West, I feel like Houston is candidate No. 1, especially with Kevin Martin averaging just eight points and 21 minutes in his last five games. Daryl Morey has been fishing for a star for a while now and got his Pau Gasol trade vetoed. The Rockets are a solid team, but solid doesn’t really get you anywhere in the Western Conference.
Sekou Smith: I think the better question is who needs to make the big move? Most likely to make a big move? In the East, Celtics’ boss Danny Ainge is one of the few executives willing to think outside the box. Sometimes it works (The Big 3), sometimes it misfires (Rajon Rondo trade chatter) and other times it backfires completely (Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green). If the Magic decide to put us out of our Dwight Howard-rumor-mill-misery, just so it doesn’t interrupt “Linsanity” next month, we’d be eternally grateful. In the West, the Lakers have to realize that this team they are putting on the floor right now is solid but far from the championship-caliber bunch they’ve been used to in recent years. With a glaring hole at point guard and Kobe Bryant pining for another title opportunity, now is the time, Mitch Kupchack.