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NBA Trade Deadline: Deals The Contenders Should (And Could) Make

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When my editor suggested this latest column be about trades that should happen before the NBA’s February 18th trade deadline, I had to do some soul searching.  You see, as a die-hard, lifelong Nuggets fan I have no interest in suggesting beneficial trades for our competitors and frankly, want them all to fail.  But if my fellow Nuggets fans will cut me some slack, I’m going to put myself in the shoes of competing, contending teams’ fans and compose a trade deadline wish list for several teams hoping to participate in the 2010 NBA Finals.  Note that all these proposed deals fit within the NBA’s rule of trading salaries that are within 125% plus $100,000 of each other…

Atlanta Hawks

If I’m a true Hawks fan (and that would make one of us), I want more size on the front line entering the second half of the season.  Al Horford is doing a solid job at center, but he’s generously listed at 6’10" and I’m cringing at the prospect of a seven-game series watching Horford pitted against Dwight Howard/Marcin Gortat of the Magic, Shaquille O’Neal/Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Cavaliers and Kendrick Perkins/Kevin Garnett of the Celtics.  And no, Zaza Pachulia and his 4.8 ppg on 46.7% shooting isn’t the answer.

The ideal center for my Hawks would be the Wizards’ Brendan Haywood.  Haywood’s $6 million salary comes off the books at season’s end, and the Wizards likely want to shed the salary and tank a few extra games in hopes of securing the overall #1 pick in the draft so that John Wall can bring his guns if he chooses into our locker room some day (bad joke, I know).  The problem is the only way I can get Haywood into a Hawks jersey would be to trade him along with Dominic McGuire for a combination of Maurice Evans (two years on his deal), Randolph Morris (one), Jeff Teague (two) and Joe Smith (one).  The Wizards will get better offers than that from teams that have trade exceptions to play with and will probably have to buy someone out to make the roster maximum limit.  But maybe, just maybe, the Wizards will do the deal to get Smith onto his 11th NBA franchise.  That has to count for something in an otherwise lost season in Washington, right?

Boston Celtics

Assuming I’ve recovered from the realization that my Patriots are nothing but a shell of their former selves and my Red Sox will be playing for second again in the American League East, I’m worried that my Celtics don’t have enough punch off the bench to get to the NBA Finals.  Marquis Daniels hasn’t panned out as hoped, meaning that our bench consists of Rasheed Wallace and Eddie House.  That’s it!  It’s gotten so bad that Celtics fans hit the panic button when Brian Scalabrine gets hurt!  So I’m understandably nervous.  And before I let Ray Allen walk in the offseason and overpay for Rudy Gay to come to Boston, I need to make a small move to get some offense coming off the bench before the 2010 trade deadline.

To bolster my bench, I’m looking far west to Oakland where the Warriors have a surplus of young talent collecting dust in Don Nelson’s doghouse.  The object of my desire is Anthony Morrow and his instant 10 ppg off the bench (once he becomes a Celtic), but given that he makes less than $1 million, the Warriors aren’t going to give him away, meaning I’ll have to take on one bad contract to get him.

To get Morrow, I’ll have to take Vladimir Radmonovic’s awful contract in exchange for Scalabrine (and yes, my fellow Celts fans will be devastated) and the aforementioned Daniels (good riddance!).  I’m hoping the Warriors would do this to get Vlad Rad’s contract off the books for next season and am counting on their willingness to deal under any circumstances.

Dallas Mavericks

Cringing that Wade Phillips did just enough to keep his job with my Cowboys for next season, I have to try to put that out of my thoughts and focus on my Mavericks.  Now that Jason Terry is starting, it’s apparent that the Mavericks need a scorer off the bench not named Josh Howard, who only plays every-other-game anyway.  Morrow would be a good fit here, but I can’t imagine Nellie doing anything to help Mark Cuban out, so we’ll likely have to look out of conference for a deal to add a bench scorer.

Looking north, I’d love for my Mavs to get their hands on the BullsJohn Salmons so they can move Terry back to his role as the best sixth man in the NBA.  To acquire Salmons, I’d probably need to package Drew Gooden and Quinton Ross.  The Bulls might do this to get further under the cap entering 2010-11 (Salmons has two years on his deal) as they hope to entice a big time free agent to join Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Denver Nuggets

Well, since you asked…

Like our counterparts in Atlanta, my Nuggets need size up front.  Anchoring the center position admirably for the second season in a row, Nene is getting worn down but he would flourish at power forward, his natural position.  But since we’re cash-strapped and are already paying into the luxury tax, creativity is needed.

In addition to Haywood, a guy we’d like to have in Denver is the Pacers’ Jeff Foster.  But to get Foster, we’ll have to package a group of players – most of whom never get a sniff of playing time anyway.  I’m thinking we go four-for-two and trade the seldom used Renaldo Balkman, Johan Petro, Anthony Carter and Malik Allen to obtain Foster along with Luther Head, and then sign two NBDL guys in the wake of that deal to fill out the roster or bring Carter and Allen back after the Pacers buy them out upon receipt. 

This way, Foster can spell Nene at center for about 15-20 minutes a night while Nene punishes opposing power forwards.  Oh, and when we meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals you ask?  We’ll throw a five-some of Chauncey Billups (PG), Carmelo Anthony (SG), Kenyon Martin (SF), Nene (PF) and Foster (C) at Derek Fisher (PG), Kobe Bryant (SG), Ron Artest (SF), Lamar Odom (PF) and Pau Gasol (C).  Assuming the Lakers don’t get Chris Bosh, of course…

San Antonio Spurs

Oh where oh where did my season go?  By acquiring Richard Jefferson for nothing in the offseason and stealing DeJuan Blair in the draft, my Spurs were supposed to be neck-and-neck with the Lakers for the Western Conference’s top seed.  Instead, we’re duke-ing it out just to make the playoffs with the likes of the Jazz, Suns, Rockets, Hornets and (aghast!) Thunder and Grizzlies!  

If we’re serious about salvaging this season and giving Tim Duncan – the best power forward ever – another shot at a ring, we need more firepower and have an assortment of players in the final year of their deals to offer in trade.  I know the Mavericks would like to get their hands on Salmons, but we could do better.  We could send the Bulls Roger Mason as a semi-adequate replacement for Salmons and throw in Michael Finley to make the salaries work.    

Or…perhaps the Wizards would send us sharpshooter Mike Miller along with Dominic McGuire in exchange for Mason, Matt Bonner, Michael Finley and a draft pick.  This way the Wizards can continue to throw their season away while not having any lingering salaries entering next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

That Shaquille O’Neal trade made me nervous for a while, but having watched my Cavaliers win 20 of their last 24 games, I don’t know if another big trade is necessary.  Many of my fellow Cavs fans are advocating for an Antawn Jamison acquisition in exchange for the Big Z’s expiring contract.  I’m sure Washington would like to do that as they want to start over from scratch in the District, but do we want to be saddled with Jamison’s three-year deal that pays him $15 million when he’s 36?  Although, seeing Jamison at the three-spot and moving LeBron James to the two spot might guarantee us a championship this season.  Ah, screw it.  Make that deal, Danny Ferry! 

Los Angeles Lakers

Laker fan here!  I’ve missed the entire first quarter of yet another game at Staples Center and am now getting into my $300 upper rafter seats about halfway through the second quarter.  Being a Laker fan, I believe we’re entitled to acquire whomever we want regardless of salary cap implications.  But if I knew anything about how NBA trades/the salary cap works, I’d know that jettisoning Andrew Bynum’s soon-to-be onerous contract (especially since Phil Jackson never plays him down the stretch) is the way to go and that the Raptors might – just might – be willing to take Bynum along with Adam Morrison and Jordan Farmar.  Bynum becomes Toronto’s de facto "Bosh Insurance" since Bosh has all but guaranteed he’s not playing in Toronto next season.  Although if Phil Jackson can’t get the best out of Bynum, what’s Jay Triano going to do?

Frankly, do we even need to make a trade?  Not only will we be the West’s number one seed entering the postseason, but even if the Nuggets, Mavericks or Spurs put up a fight, the NBA will ensure we get all the favorable calls from the referees.  In other words, have fun speculating about trades and I’ll see you suckers in June…