Take my overpaid star…please!

Memphis GM Gerald Wallace took a lot of heat for trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers. But if we’ve learned anything in the past few days, it’s that Wallace was simply a man ahead of his time.

On Tuesday, we learned that the Bucks agreed to trade Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Amir Johnson. (Fabricio Oberto was part of the original deal, but San Antonio sent him to Detroit for Johnson, who was then sent to Milwaukee.)

Regular readers know I’m a Bucks fan, and I spent the last couple of days grumbling on the Sports Bubbler message boards about how we didn’t get anything in return for Jefferson, who is still a pretty good player. When Wallace traded away Gasol, at least he got Javaris Crittenton (who was considered a prospect with upside at the time) and Pau’s brother, Marc, who turned out to be a productive center for the Grizzlies.

Then I wake up today to see that the Cavs and Suns have agreed to go through with that long-rumored trade that will send Shaq to Cleveland for salary cap relief. Who do the Suns get in return? A retiree (Ben Wallace), a bench player with a partially guaranteed contract (Sasha Pavlovic), some cash and a second round pick.

This is the going rate for a Third Team All-NBA center these days.

We knew that this summer had the potential to be a rough one for free agents, but it’s a little surprising to see that good players like O’Neal and Jefferson could be had for virtually nothing. Bucks owner Herb Kohl and Suns owner Robert Sarver realize that their clubs aren’t legitimate contenders, so they don’t see the point in paying the luxury tax just for the privilege of being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. What kind of an effect these moves have on season ticket purchases remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that if a team is willing to spend, there has never been a better time to acquire talent. You’re not going to get someone like Caron Butler, who plays for a (pretend) contender and has a reasonable contract, but you can get Jefferson, who is overpaid and is on a mediocre team that is up against the luxury tax. And the older the player, the more likely he’s available. Teams aren’t going to give up good players that are in their early- or mid-twenties because the plan is to rebuild before they’re over the hill.

So who might be on the move for a bag of peanuts and some salary cap flexibility? How about Tracy McGrady, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Vince Carter, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Redd, Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton?

Truth be told, a team like the Suns isn’t going to give the youngish Stoudemire away for cap flexibility alone. But as the price of a star goes down, the price of superstar goes down as well.

It promises to be an interesting summer.

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Marc Stein’s trade talk: Amare, Tyson, Richard Jefferson and more

The trade deadline is Thursday, and trade talk is really heating up. Marc Stein gives us the latest.

Two rival executives we spoke with Sunday night immediately wondered whether the Suns’ decision to replace Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry would convince Phoenix to “tap the brakes,” as one put it, on its Stoudemire talks. If the Suns are going to try to recapture a semblance of what they had under Mike D’Antoni, with the only holdover from D’Antoni’s staff taking over, you can understand why Gentry would prefer to have Stoudemire for the rest of the season to help the cause.

Stoudemire is still under contract for another season, so it wouldn’t hurt the Suns if they wanted to see what Gentry could do with this group before moving their star player over the summer. I’d say that the Porter firing makes it more likely that Stoudemire stays put, though I’d still put the chances at better than 50/50 that Amare is moved before the trade deadline.

Read the rest after the jump...

Raptors and Heat make O’Neal/Marion swap

If this trade had happened a few years ago, it would have been a blockbuster.

The Toronto Raptors have agreed to send Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon to the Miami Heat in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks, league sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher.

The deal is pending league approval, according to sources, and if approved, would be announced later Friday afternoon.

Rumors about this deal broke a few weeks ago, but died down when all the Amare Stoudemire talk started.

The trade makes sense for both sides. The Jermaine O’Neal experiment was not working in Toronto, and by trading for Marion, they get out from underneath O’Neal’s giant contract, which runs one more year at the tune of $23 million. The Heat have been looking for a center since Shaq left, and O’Neal can be that guy. If he can post 18/10 and be a presence on the defensive end, the Heat will be a dangerous team come playoff time. The fact that his contract ends after next season still leaves Miami with plenty of cap room to sign another big name to go along with Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley in the summer of 2010. The Heat were also able to unload Marcus Banks’ contract and they got a pretty good small forward (Moon) as part of the deal.

In Miami, Marion was not fitting in very well and his numbers were down across the board. Toronto likes to push the ball, so if Marion can get back to his old play, they might keep him around in the offseason (assuming he doesn’t ask for a contract that will break the bank). If not, Toronto will have about $13 million in cap space this summer.

Marc Stein’s trade talk: Amare, Chandler, Caron and more

Marc Stein wrote a nice piece discussing some of the bigger NBA trade rumors out there right now.

1. Can we really expect an Amare Stoudemire trade in the next two weeks?

Sources say it’ll happen in-season only if the Suns can find a deal that delivers a mixture of top young talent and payroll relief. Which won’t be easy.

2. A deal for Toronto’s Jermaine O’Neal remains readily available to the Miami Heat. The Sacramento Kings likewise would still love to send Brad Miller to Miami for Shawn Marion as long as they don’t have to take back Marcus Banks, too.

3. I’ve heard multiple rumblings in the past month that Washington has made rugged forward Caron Butler available. But our research disputes that.

4. Portland is naturally making calls to see what it can fetch with its LaFrentz chip, but it appears that there’s a much better chance that Kings swingman John Salmons will wind up with the Blazers — who have inquired about Salmons — than that Chicago’s Luol Deng will.

5. San Antonio’s desire to acquire one more big man (preferably a floor-stretching big man) to counter the Lakers and Boston is no secret.

Random thoughts…

I still can’t believe that the Suns are actually considering trading a former 1st Team All-NBA player in the middle of his prime, but apparently they are…Jermaine O’Neal torched the Lakers two nights ago and looked great doing so. If he joined the Heat, that would become a very interesting team to watch. The key is his staying healthy, however…The Wizards would be nuts to trade Butler away. He’s their best player and the cheapest of their big three…I don’t think I’d go after Salmons if I’m the Blazers unless they’re planning to start him. He doesn’t play well off the bench and given the team’s glut of wings, I don’t know that he’d be the best option in the starting lineup…I’d love to see what Rasheed Wallace could do in a Spurs uniform, but San Antonio doesn’t have any expiring contracts and the numbers just don’t work.

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