NBA Trade Deadline Buyers

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By: David Kay

With the NBA trade deadline of February 18th at 3:00 p.m. EST quickly approaching, there are several playoff teams looking to add some talent to help their post-season push.  Here are a list of teams that should be buyers in the market.

Houston Rockets

For the past month, the Rockets have been teetering on the border of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture and need to make a move if they are serious about playing in the post-season.  Fortunately for Houston GM Daryl Morey, he possesses the biggest bargaining chip in all of the NBA; Tracy McGrady’s $23-plus million expiring contract.

Any team looking to start the re-building process by dumping some bigger salaries should be calling Morey every hour on the hour, and Morey should be listening to all offers to try and improve his team for a playoff push.  The latest buzz has struggling teams like Washington or Philadelphia looking to free some cap space by dealing All-Star caliber players.  The Wizards could offer up Caron Butler and either Brandon Haywood or Mike Miller to get McGrady’s expiring contract.  The 76ers’ Andre Iguodala has also been rumored going to Houston, but the Rockets would also likely have to take on Samuel Dalembert and his $12.2 million salary for next season.  In those instances, Houston would likely have to send another player and/or a pick to make it more worthwhile for the sellers.

Morey has said that he will eat up McGrady’s salary and save the cap space for his own team if the right deal is not on the table.  But seeing that the Rockets only have one player taller than 6-9 currently healthy, Morey might want to swing a deal for a big man and scorer on the wing, which both Washington and Philly would be able to offer.

The Bulls could be another suitor if they don’t think they are a post-season challenger by offering up veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and center Brad Miller (who is a free agent after the season.)  The Bulls would free up about nine-million dollars in cap space for next season which would help their chances of landing one of the big name free agents.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Yes, the Cleveland LeBron James’ have the best record in the NBA, but with the expiring contracts of Shaq ($20 million) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas ($11.5 million), Cleveland may be forced to make a move to find better complimentary pieces for the King.

Iguodala, Butler, Atawn Jamison, and Troy Murphy have been mentioned as possible targets for the Cavs in a deal that could send Big Z and an improving young player like J.J. Hickson or a 2010 first round pick out of Cleveland.  If the Cavs are serious about making a move now, I wouldn’t count out making a run for Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire or possibly even David West especially now that the financially-conscious Hornets’ playoff chances diminished with Chris Paul expected to miss at least a month.

It is sort of a double-edged sword for GM Danny Ferry though.  By trading the expiring contracts, you are limiting what you can do this off-season which will be the most crucial in the franchise’s history since LeBron could bolt.  The other thought is that by brining in another piece to help LeBron, you are showing James that you are committed to surrounding him with the necessary players to win a championship.  This will be a very interesting team to keep an eye on up until the trade deadline.

Boston Celtics

This team is showing their age and needs to pull the trigger on a trade.  Boston is 8-9 since the calendar turned to 2010 including three losses to Atlanta and two to Orlando; both teams that are ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

Ray Allen’s expiring legs, errrr… I mean contract seems to be the most talked about piece to be shipped out of Beantown even though Danny Ainge insists he will not trade the veteran sharpshooter.  If Ainge does keep Allen, he still has about $6 million in the expiring contracts of Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen to dangle out there as well as the very reasonable $3.3 million due to Glen Davis next season.  Names like Kevin Martin and Hinrich have surfaced as possible players coming to Boston.  Whatever the case may be, Boston needs to make some sort of move to improve their roster for a playoff push.

Minnesota Timberwolves

You might be asking yourself, “Why would a terrible, re-building team like the Timberwolves be buyers at the trade deadline?”  Well, it is rather simple; GM David Kahn has done a nice job of accumulating valuable assets in expiring contracts and future draft picks and needs to turn them into something.  As it sits now, Minnesota will be approximately $16 million under the salary cap and understandably so, Kahn has said that he doesn’t plan on making any big moves to risk hurting that flexibility.

But let’s be honest, what marquee free agent is going to be willing to join a young franchise that is clearly building for the future?  None.  So why wouldn’t Kahn try to shop his expiring contracts and a protected first round pick to acquire a solid player who won’t royally screw up their cap space?

How about this possibility: T-Wolves deal one of their bigger expiring contracts (Brian Cardinal or Mark Blount), Wayne Ellington, and a protected first round pick to the Wizards for Caron Butler.  Minnesota would still have about $8 million in cap space next season in addition to a likely top-three pick and most likely a mid-round pick coming their way from Charlotte or Utah (whoever’s pick they don’t send to Washington.)

That gives Minnesota a core of: Jefferson/Love/Butler/Gomes/Brewer/Flynn/Top 3 pick/Mid first-round pick/$8 million in cap space to sign free agent/and Sessions (or whoever they trade Sessions for.)  That is a team that could compete for a playoff spot next year.  If it doesn’t work out, no need to stress. Butler’s contract is expiring and could be dealt for what Minnesota gave up for him; an expiring contract, young player and/or first round pick.  It’s a win-win isn’t it?

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