The deadline is still five weeks away, but team’s jostling for the playoffs, or hoping to unload a hefty contract or two, could make a quick strike before Feb. 21.
The L.A. Clippers are the example of a team looking to win now, and they could move young talent to bring in the expiring contract of a top scoring forward like a Paul Pierce. Then there’s the Toronto Raptors, who could make a playoff push, but may find it a better idea to move Andrea Bargnani for more draft picks and salary cap room.
Eric Bledsoe, L.A. Clippers
Currently a hot name with the Clips dominating the entire league. The third-year guard is arguably the best back PG in the NBA, and is a bargain with just $6.3 million owed to him over the next two seasons.
Chris Paul and crew would hate to see him go, but Clippers management may dangle him to get back another shooter or big man for a playoff run. ESPN reported that the Washington Wizards inquired about Bledsoe’s availability, maybe as insurance for the oft-injured John Wall.
Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
His shooting and confidence are clearly down, and Gasol’s been on the block for more than a year. In fact he was traded, but that ended quickly after league commissioner David Stern nixed the trade.
Next year he’ll make $19.2 million and be 33-years-old. The Lakers are hurting, and the playoffs look like a longshot, which seemed unfathomable once they snagged Dwight Howard. And even though team owner Jerry Buss publicly stated he would not “blow” the team up, the Lakers could make a move to convince Howard they can still contend even with Kobe Bryant on the way out.
Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, Utah Jazz
The Jazz are currently 1.5 games back from the West’s final playoff spot, but Jefferson and Milsap could be on the move since both are free agents next season.
Utah has just $25 million committed to contracts next season, but have always been stingy and will probably look to re-sign one of their top frontcourt players, and develop Derrick Favors for the next few seasons.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
CBS Sports reported Pierce is on the block, not only for his scoring but his contract. Pierce’s $15.3 million salary for next season is not entirely guaranteed, which could make him an excellent rental for a team looking to make a run.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
The former No. 1 pick has been on the block for at least two years, with the Lakers previously mentioned as a destination. Who takes him and his contract on is the biggest question.
For someone owed more than $20 million over the next two seasons, the Raptors may have to take back heavier contracts or veterans in order to move Bargnani, who is shooting a career low 40 percent from the field and has a career average of five rebounds a game standing seven feet tall.