With the trade deadline fast-approaching, and the NBA trade rumor mill in full swing, one of the most exciting stretches of the season is upon us. Today, free agents signed prior to the start of the 2011-12 season are no longer trade-restricted and movements can now be made. Will Detroit be an active part of the deadline trade market this season? We're taking a look at the opportunities that are out there, team by team. Today, the Central Division gets the spotlight with the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers under the scope. Let's make a deal!
Milwaukee Bucks | Central Division | 14 - 21 Record
The Bucks are within striking distance of the 8th seed and the resulting spot in the 2012 NBA playoffs. Without their star center, and a lack of any starters that a casual fan would recognize, Milwaukee has performed better than expected. With a few tweaks, this team could wrestle with New York, Boston and Cleveland for the last spot in the post-season this year.
Trade Status: There hasn't been much chatter out of Milwaukee, but it's safe to assume that nearly everything is on the table for the right price. Even Andrew Bogut, as one unnamed Eastern Conference coach suggested. Brandon Jennings is another case, given his comments earlier this season about the allure of big market teams. Yet it's unlikely that Milwaukee makes a big trade that could take them out of the playoff hunt this season for a shot at a brighter future. But what they've accomplished this season they've done without Bogut, and trading him for value might be a smart idea.
I can't think of many teams that would give much up for Bogut, given his near constant injury status. He's got $27M left on contract after this season, and if he's not playing, that's one hell of a cap restraint. But a team with nothing to lose (Charlotte, Washington, maybe even Golden State) could take the risk while they work out the other kinks they're dealing with.
Trade Likelihood: 3/10
Pistons - Bucks Trade Options: Sure, Detroit would love to get their hands on Ersan Ilyasova, but if Milwaukee gives him up, they might as well write off the playoffs this season and be rewarded with a mid-first rounder with little value. Beyond Ilyasova, what might Detroit be interested in? Nothing that Milwaukee could sell that might bring value in return, and nothing Detroit is especially in need of. It'd be great to ship Tayshaun Prince to Milwaukee for Carlos Delfino and Mike Dunleavy Jr., but that would be a swindle that wouldn't fool John Hammond. Getting out of Prince's deal would be lovely, and getting two better players in return would be a coup. That kind of thing doesn't happen in Milwaukee. In short, it doesn't appear that the old colleagues of Hammond and Joe Dumars will do much talking toward the deadline.
The one thing Detroit could offer is a bit of insurance, given the apparent problems with Brandon Jennings looking to bolt (reportedly). If Milwaukee would be willing to part with what might be an 8th pick in the coming draft, would they move that for Brandon Knight given the lack of point guards in that range? Probably not, but it's worth thinking about.
Cleveland Cavaliers | Central Division | 13 - 20 Record
Cleveland is in position to be one of the most active players prior to the deadline this season. They have the second most cap space of any team in the league ($7.1 million), they have a large expiring contract with a player who actually still has value on the court ($15.1 million due to Antawn Jamison), and the most sought-after point guard in the current trade market in Ramon Sessions. No, my career-long fanhood of Sessions isn't coloring my opinion here, as the Lakers and other teams are practically begging Cleveland to make a deal.
Trade Status: One or all of these assets could be in play prior to the deadline on the 15th. Since Anderson Varejao is going to be out another four weeks or so, the playoff picture is a bit blurry. Moving Jamison wouldn't hurt much if they aren't expecting the playoffs, unless Cleveland is hoping to hold on to the expiring deal. Cleveland shouldn't keep Sessions, given the draft of Kyrie Irving, and they have point capable players on the roster who can cover the minutes in his absence. In total, this team has a lot of options at its disposal, and is in a great position to bring value back to the team.
Trade Likelihood: 9/10
Pistons - Cavaliers Trade Options: The Cavaliers are in desperate need of help on the wings. They're relying on Anthony Parker and Omri Casspi to start at the 2 and the 3, two players who have no business as starters this season. For once, Detroit can't actually provide any wing players who present affordable value to Cleveland. If Cleveland called about Ben Gordon, it would be the most charitable work NBA Cares has ever accomplished. Just think of the commercials.
Given Cleveland's cap space, Detroit could send a player with a larger contract for a player of a relatively smaller contract. Rodney Stuckey for Ramon Sessions works straight up, for example. Just an example. You know, just if we're throwing examples out there (changes pants, returns to computer). But in all reality, I don't expect that there's anything these teams can do to help eachother out this season. Cleveland has a lot of options, Detroit doesn't present anything of need.
If I'm Cleveland though, I try to hit one out of the park. Given that the Lakers are so entirely hungry for Sessions (and I don't blame them), try offering Sessions and Jamison for Pau Gasol. The Lakers would likely want more in the frontcourt, so a three team trade would be necessary. For example, LA could send its two first rounders to Utah, and Cleveland could swap its first rounder with Utah, while the Jazz send Derrick Favors to the Lakers. To clarify, Utah would have four first round picks, including a higher first rounder thanks to Cleveland. Anyway, it's a thought.
Indiana Pacers | Central Division | 22 - 12 Record
The Eastern Conference's third best team certainly shouldn't make any moves with its starting lineup. They've got five productive players from point guard to center who no team will look forward to facing in the playoffs. The question this team might need to ask itself is a difficult one to answer-- is this team at it's ceiling, or is there room to grow?
The team's starting lineup is solid, and their bench is stacked. They've got Tyler (Hands, Bro!) filling in behind David West and Roy Hibbert, and George Hill behind Darren Collison and Paul George. If there's any part of this team that could keep this ceiling low, it's Darren Collison, David West and Danny Granger. In their own way, these are solid players, but they come with flaws that might hold this team from doing anything better than it has done this season.
Trade Status: So should this team make a trade? No. They should drive toward the playoffs and see what they are really made of. If they get bounced in the first round, it'll be time to talk about making a trade to upgrade one of these slight, but growing weaknesses. Next season, they could move Hansbrough to the starting lineup and trade David West's expiring deal along with Darren Collison to pull in an upgrade at the point (Rajon Rondo, for example). There are a lot of options for the future, but we're not there yet. This team needs to see what kind of steam it can muster in the post-season.
Trade Likelihood: 1/10
Pistons - Pacers Trade Options: For now, none. If the Pacers are looking to move West next season to upgrade at the point, it's worth a call about Rodney Stuckey if he continues to play well in 2012. That's a long shot, but Detroit could use the salary relief and, while they're at it, a scoring power forward for a season.
- - - - - - - - -
We'll pick things up tomorrow with a look at the Southeast Division. Things will get interesting soon enough, as there are teams ahead that could certainly use what Detroit is selling, and have something real to offer this team. For now, what's your take on trade options with Milwaukee, Cleveland and Indiana?