Much Ado About Nothing: The 5 Biggest Trade Deadline Teases

You can blame it on the Grizzlies.

Ever since they traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a bag of peanuts and some slightly used underwear, NBA teams have become more and more fickle about pulling the proverbial trigger. With the state of the economy, and some owners desperately trying to cut payroll before the cap and luxury tax thresholds decline, it’s a buyer’s market out there. And those buyers are looking for Gasol-type deals. On the flip side, Chris Wallace took all kinds of grief over that trade and general managers around the league don’t want to follow in his footsteps.

After two or three weeks of covering all of this trade chatter, the biggest deal to speak of is the Shawn Marion/Jermaine O’Neal swap and that happened almost a week ago. Sure, guys like Brad Miller, Andres Nocioni, John Salmons, Rafer Alston, Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas, Chris Wilcox and Drew Gooden changed zip codes, but I doubt any fans out there are sporting wood at the idea that one or more of these players is joining their team.

This year’s trade deadline was mostly about teams setting themselves up financially for the next two summers of free agency. Even though there were a number of big names bandied about, the Marion/O’Neal deal is the only semi-blockbuster trade of the season. And, barring some last-minute, late-breaking deal, we have these five teams to blame…

5. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were in talks with the Nets about acquiring Vince Carter and also spoke with the Bucks about Richard Jefferson. Either of those players would have been a nice addition, but the Spurs just don’t have the pieces (or the balls) to pull off a trade like that. They were willing to trade for Carter, but they didn’t want to give up Roger Mason or George Hill. So they offer the Nets Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto. Great, the numbers don’t even add up. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t really think that the Spurs should have given up Mason and/or Hill to acquire Carter. They’re arguably the second-best team in the West and their current lineup, if healthy, is likely to give the Lakers fits if the two teams meet in the playoffs with a less-than-100% Andrew Bynum. Plus the Spurs are notoriously conservative when it comes to messing with their chemistry. Jefferson wouldn’t have been a problem in that area but Carter might have been. So the Spurs stand pat. Shocker.

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Expiring contracts…who’s got ’em?

The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, so it’s a good time to talk expiring contracts. These are players that are in the final year of their deals, which makes them trade fodder for teams looking to cut salary this summer. I’ll list each player by contract size, whether or not he can still play, and discuss the possibility that they’ll be traded by the trade deadline. I’ll also dig into the strategy that their current teams should and/or could be utilizing when considering a trade.

All salary data is from HoopsHype, and I’ll assume – given the bad economy – that the cap will stay at about $59 million next season. (In fact, it might even be lowered.)

Allen Iverson, Pistons
Salary: $21.9 million
Detroit is 20-15 since trading for AI, and considering the franchises successful run over the past few season, that’s disappointing. But the Pistons didn’t make this trade to acquire AI, they made the trade to rid themselves of Chauncey Billups’ contract, which runs through 2011. Was this wise? Probably not, at least in the short term. Billups is one of the top point guards in the league and is doing great things with his new team. But since the Pistons like what Rodney Stuckey can do (and justifiably so), Billups became expendable. GM Joe Dumars made the deal to give the team the financial flexibility to retool the roster over the next two summers, and with Iverson and Rasheed Wallace coming off the books, the Pistons will have about $26 million to spend this summer. They could opt to sign Carlos Boozer, but would likely have to pony up big bucks to do so. He would probably start at $14 million, so that would leave $12 million to re-sign the 34 year-old Wallace or another center. The team could conceivably sign Boozer, then wait a year, let Rip Hamilton’s contract expire, and then sign Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire in the summer of 2010, giving the team a core of Stuckey, Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and either Bosh or Stoudemire to build around. Not bad. Considering the main reason the Pistons traded for AI was to cut salary, the chances of them trading him (and taking on salary in return) aren’t good. (Though a Marion-for-Iverson swap might help both teams in the short term.)
Chances of being traded: Low

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