Sunday is Dec. 15. It is an otherwise nondescript day that has some significance in the NBA.
Next Thursday is Dec. 19. So is that.
Rarely do we see many transactions so early in the season. When we do, they are usually minor signings and waivings of the final few players on the roster, yet even those do not come about in bulk until after Jan. 5, when 10-day contracts become available. This season has seen more than a usual amount of significant trades going down in the period between the end of the main free agency period and January, including the Rudy Gay trade of earlier this month and the Marcin Gortat trade right before the season began. Nevertheless, despite these, it is still in relative terms a quiet time on the trading market, as teams continue to evaluate what they have before deciding what to do about it.
However, on Dec. 15, trades become more viable. They do so because of the expiration of a restriction. Players who sign as free agents cannot be traded for up to three months after signing, or until Dec. 15, whichever is later.* This means that all players who signed before Sept. 16 cannot be traded until Dec. 15.
Considering that most free agency movement takes places in July and August, this means most of the free agents signed thus far this season are applicable here. And considering that over 200 new contracts have been handed out at this point, that means a whole load of recent free agents become tradable as of Sunday.
The full list is as follows:
Atlanta: Elton Brand, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll.
Boston: Keith Bogans, Vitor Faverani and Phil Pressey.
Brooklyn: Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson, Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston.
Charlotte: Jannero Pargo, Al Jefferson, Anthony Tolliver, Josh McRoberts and Gerald Henderson.
Chicago: Nazr Mohammed and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Cleveland: Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and Matthew Dellavedova.
Dallas: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Gal Mekel, Bernard James, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington and Samuel Dalembert.
Denver: J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and Nate Robinson.
Detroit: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Josh Harrellson, Luigi Datome, Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum.
Golden State: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal and Toney Douglas.
Houston: Dwight Howard, Francisco Garcia, Ronnie Brewer, Omri Casspi, Aaron Brooks and Robert Covington.
Indiana: David West, Chris Copeland, Earl Watson and Donald Sloan.
L.A. Clippers: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins.
L.A. Lakers: Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams, Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre.
Memphis: Jon Leuer and Mike Miller.
Miami: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley and Chris Andersen.
Milwaukee: O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino, Gary Neal and Miroslav Raduljica.
Minnesota: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf.
New Orleans: Tyreke Evans, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greg Stiemsma and Anthony Morrow.
New York: Metta World Peace, Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih, Kenyon Martin, Chris Smith and Toure Murry.
Oklahoma City: Derek Fisher and Ryan Gomes.
Orlando: Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price.
Phoenix: Dionte Christmas.
Portland: Dorell Wright, Mo Williams and Earl Watson.
Sacramento: Carl Landry and Hamady N’Diaye.
San Antonio: Manu Ginobili, Jeff Ayres and Marco Belinelli.
Toronto: Tyler Hansbrough, Austin Daye and Dwight Buycks.
Utah: Ian Clark and John Lucas.
Washington: Martell Webster, Eric Maynor, Garrett Temple and Al Harrington.
Of course, many of those players will not be traded. Most were signed to be with the team long term, while others just aren't the kind of player worth trading for. Further trade restrictions also apply to some candidates: from that list, Blatche, McRoberts, Pargo, Mohammed, James, Brooks, Garcia, Hollins, Andersen, Aminu, Martin, Fisher and Temple still have to consent to any trade they are in, and players signed after Sept. 15 still have to wait their three-month period. Nevertheless, the simple passing of that date greatly opens up the possibility of trades, both major and minor.
The other aforementioned date, Dec. 19, might ensure a very small window of high activity. Just as players signed as free agents cannot be traded for three months, players acquired by trade cannot be re-traded for two months if they are done so in combination with other outgoing players and the team trading them is over the cap. Considering that all teams except Atlanta, Milwaukee, Utah, Phoenix and Philadelphia are over the cap, and that the majority of trades involve multiple outgoing players on either side, this criterion becomes important.
And thus, so does the date of Dec. 19, because of what happens two months later. Two months after Dec. 19 is Feb. 19, and one day after that is Feb. 20, this season's trade deadline. The advantage therefore to trading players before Dec. 19 is that they can then be dealt again before the trade deadline, in a way that they could not be if they were dealt after that date. In an ideal world, teams trade for players to keep them for the duration of their contracts, but in reality, they do not. And thus this flexibility has value, enough so to affect a team's trading strategy this early in the season.
In short, then, next week could see some trades being made. We are already seeing Kyle Lowry's name being mentioned as a player very close to being dealt, while Houston is said to be committed to trading Omer Asik before Dec. 19 for this reason. It is very likely that these two players, and perhaps many more, will be dealt by this time next week.
And if they aren't, then ... well, at least now is the time we can start working on our Ian Clark trade scenarios.
* - With one exception: the date becomes Jan. 15 if the player is a Larry Bird or Early Bird free agent who re-signed with his over-the-cap team and received a raise greater than 20% in the first season of his new deal in the process. This applies only to Brandan Wright, Timofey Mozgov, Tony Allen, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, J.R. Smith and Tiago Splitter.