From the Phil-fiasco in New York to the demise of a promising and talented roster in Chicago, this season has been full of surprises. Spoiler alert: don’t expect the days leading up to the trade deadline to be any different. Teams like the Celtics and the Rockets appear to be a move or two away from becoming the powerhouse of their respective conference, while the influx of big men in Philadelphia will most likely lead to one of their first-round frontcourt guys packing their bags. LeBron, a front office executive, coach and small forward for the Cavaliers, will most likely get what he wants in the form of a veteran point guard, and it appears that Phil Jackson is willing to trade Carmelo Anthony for a Kobe Bryant bobble-head at this point.
Here are six scenarios that I believe would make sense to happen before the February 23rd trade deadline. While none of the following are guaranteed, it is all very possible.
One of the 76ers Young Centers Will Be Traded
…and it won’t be Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. I find the recent Jahlil Okafor trade rumors to ring true. In a day and age where the amount strong backcourt players seem to outweigh the big men in this league, young guys like Okafor have some serious value. It’s borderline ridiculous for the 76ers to hold onto three young centers, especially with their sub-par guard play. While the Sixers could go for the immediate fix and trade for a guy like Brandon Knight who seems to be on his way out of Phoenix, look for Jahlil Okafor to be wearing a New Orleans Pelicans’ jersey later this month. Okafor has proven to be an offensive-minded player that could serve as a great compliment to Anthony Davis, who would finally be able to stick to the Power Forward position with Okafor as the 5.
The Magic Will Trade Serge Ibaka
Right now, this seems like the most likely of all trade scenarios. The Orlando Magic are the furthest thing from playoff contenders. At the same time, Serge Ibaka will become a free agent this summer, leaving the Magic with a decision on whether or not to give him the near-max deal that he’s going to be demanding. In all likelihood, the Magic probably do not have plans to build their team around the 27-year-old big man. That being said, their decision comes down to either letting the guy who they traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis for walk away and get nothing in return, or trade him for some role players and a first-rounder. The Toronto Raptors, who are in need of an upgraded frontcourt, seem to be a possible destination for Ibaka. Also look for the Miami Heat to put themselves in the running for Serge Ibaka. A team that appeared to be a seller at the trade deadline a few weeks ago is currently the league’s hottest team and are most likely to pursue anything that would solidify their chances at a playoff run.
Celtics Make a Splash
The Celtics currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference under the Cleveland Cavaliers. Isaiah Thomas appears to be this year’s dark horse MVP candidate and has single handedly taken this franchise to the next level. His supporting cast of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Al Horford, who isn’t even playing his best basketball right now, have led the Celtics to a 35-19 record thus far. There are teams in playoff contention that could add another superstar player and still be a few steps behind the top team in their conference, but the Boston Celtics are not one of those teams. Look for Boston to package either one or two of their first-round picks from the Brooklyn Nets with an asset like Crowder, Bradley or Marcus Smart to trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George. A guy like Butler or George would help solidify their offense and would almost immediately allow the Celtics to cross the border between good and great.
LeBron Gets His Point Guard
Typically, genies only grant a limited amount of wishes. It appears David Griffin is the furthest thing from a genie because once again, LeBron is going to get what he wants. They now have sharpshooter Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith should be back down the stretch and now they are going to get themselves a veteran point guard. As much as I like to scold LeBron for his demands for a roster improvement as the top seed in the East, I actually agree with this move. Not only will trading for a veteran point guard give the Cavs the bench depth at that position that they need, but it couldn’t hurt for Kyrie Irving to develop behind a veteran like Deron Williams or Jose Calderon. There is a lot going around about a possible Ricky Rubio deal, but I don’t see him as a great fit in Cleveland and its likely that Cleveland will have to pay a hefty price for a guy that they don’t necessarily need.
Westbrook Gets His New Partner-In-Crime
He may not be a 6’9 knockdown-shooter that averages over 25 a game, but the Oklahoma City Thunder will bring in a player to take the load off of Westbrook. The Thunder currently sit about eight games out of a top-3 spot in the Eastern Conference, a place where not many analysts saw them ending up after the departure of Kevin Durant. There aren’t really many moves at this point that the Thunder could make to allow them to be a true contender in the West, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to tack on another all-star caliber player before the deadline. There are rumors that Wilson Chandler is looking to leave Denver, who although doesn’t compare to Kevin Durant talent wise, is the type of tall, athletic, defensive-minded wingman the Thunder are looking for. Look for the Thunder to acquire a talented wing player before the deadline to aid their final push into the playoffs.
Melo Stays Put
If you’re a fan of the Knicks, the second half of your season is most likely going to be even worse than you thought. If you’re a reporter, grab your camera or microphone, because things are about to get much more interesting in New York. After making multiple calls and using eBay, Tinder and Craigslist, Phil Jackson will still fail to move the leopard whose spots he can’t change. Phil Jackson has treated Melo like the girlfriend that he feels to bad to breakup with so he decides to treat her horribly until she finally ends the relationship herself. However, in this case, the girlfriend has a no trade clause that will make any transaction very difficult. The Knicks are going to try and move Carmelo to a team that he is willing to play for, which means a contending team that resides in a place where he feels comfortable moving his family. His willingness to go to Los Angeles and his close relationship with Chris Paul leads me to believe that the Clippers are going to be the only viable option. However, the Clippers do not currently own a first-round pick, meaning that a third party would need to be involved in order to complete the transaction. Let’s be real, no third party is giving up a first-rounder unless they’re getting Carmelo. Due to the inability to bring a third team into this deal, Carmelo will have to wait until at least this summer to leave New York.
While all of these deals would make sense in the minds of NBA fans, the NBA trade deadline tends to be unpredictable. Let’s be real. It would also make perfect sense for James Dolan to fire Phil, sell the Knicks and promptly leave the country. Unfortunately for the Knicks organization and the remaining fans, that’s more unlikely than Dwight Howard making a free throw. Meanwhile in Chicago, a perfect world for the Bulls would entitle Rajon Rondo leaving the team. However, after being on his 4th team in as many years, the Bulls are probably more likely to pay a team under the table to take Rondo than get something in return for the troubled point guard. It appears that we will see a fair amount of player swapping over the next ten days. As usual, it seems that this year’s NBA trade deadline will be an eventful one.