Watch the 76ers most of all because they’ve got Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner as moveable pieces at a time when the plan is to carve out additional cap space, although Turner is not expecting to be moved as a single piece amid indications coming out of All-Star weekend that no one is willing to meet the asking price of a first-round pick.
And the Cavaliers, because they’re the Cavaliers and need to do something. The Bobcats too. Watch the Bobcats, rightfully excited about the playoff chances and searching hard for scoring to help the push and able to offer expiring contracts (Ben Gordon) and/or multiple first-rounders.
But for real intrigue before the trade deadline Thursday, for impact that could reverberate to the top half of conference standings, there is the West. More specifically, there is the Pacific Division.
The Clippers continue to look for another piece, the Warriors are aggressive in good times and now come out of the All-Star break in a precarious position to just make the playoffs, and the Suns have the assets to make a move for now and the future. Meanwhile, one of the Pacific teams out of playoff contention, the Kings, are pursuing a third (or more) trade of the regular season, while another, the Lakers, are breaking up with Pau Gasol for about the 93rd time and will finally get a resolution one of these decades.
While any Gasol move will draw headlines – a big-name player and a monster-name franchise – the actual 2013-14 implications are about where he lands. That’s part of the new Lakers. They’re the team others try to hit for final pieces in anticipation of May and June, not the other way around.
The Clippers, Suns and Warriors, though, are about now. Golden State is more right now because of a disappointing season marked by inconsistency, making it the one most needing to do something. There has been no sign of play that indicates a long playoff run, so when owner Joe Lacob was asked by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News whether the front office expects to be aggressive at the trade deadline, Lacob responded:
“Very aggressive. I don’t think I would answer that differently any year. Honestly, I don’t even know how you think about it any other way.
“You should always be very aggressive, should always be looking to improve your team.
“Now it’s not clear we’ll be able to do that. There’ve been a lot of discussions, that’s what I hear around the league, but we’ll just have wait and see.”
It has always been clear that the Warriors, approximately $2.2 million away from the luxury tax, are willing to cross that line. They have one trade exception worth $11 million, a great chip to hold in reserve, and another at $4 million. Ways to make a move plus a desire to make a move usually lead to one outcome. The problem is, they have little of value to offer in return for a significant addition, unless the return is good enough to push Golden State to part with Harrison Barnes.
Same with the Clippers. Internally, they have been interested in a move, whether in trade or free agency, for months, even if injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick hadn’t forced the issue. That so still remains the case, despite 37-18 and a virtual tie for third in the West, that L.A. has stayed at 14 players to keep a roster spot open to allow for a two-for-one or other deal with an uneven amount of people. If nothing happens before Thursday noon West Coast time, the Clips will wait for players to become available via buyouts.
But as is the case with their state rivals in Oakland, the Clippers don’t have much available to trade that would bring a meaningful return. Maybe Jared Dudley, maybe Reggie Bullock as a prospect.
Phoenix is the one with the assets. Young players, expiring contracts (Emeka Okafor), the possibility of four draft picks in 2014, including some in the lottery – general manager Ryan McDonough is in a great spot. Make a move now and the Suns could become more of a factor now and into the future. Keep the current roster in place and be content with blowing everyone away this season and going into a summer with the possibility of some $20 million in cap space. This is a good place to be.