The NBA's trade deadline was pushed back to March 15 this year. But the season of wild, irresponsible speculation is already underway.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith created a bit of a stir by suggesting that the Orlando Magic had made inquiries about sending Dwight Howard to the Knicks in exchange for Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Sounds great - especially to Knicks fans - right? Problem is, Stoudemire has an enormous contract that can't be insured due to his injury history and Chandler - as a free agent signed this year - can't be dealt until March 1 at the earliest.
Over on SBNation, Mike Prada has suggested that two of the league's most-improved teams - the Sixers and Pacers - should capitalize on their fast starts by making moves for Howard or Deron Williams. That's an interesting concept - I thought the Sixers missed an opportunity by not making a big, splashy trade in the offseason. But after watching both teams this season, I'm of the opinion that continuity has played a major role on those teams' successes.
The continuity factor could become a big issue as the trade deadline approaches. With compressed schedules and extremely limited practice time, getting new players integrated into teams will be even more difficult than usual. Last year's Knicks are a pretty good example of how a mid-season roster makeover can hurt a team's performance in the short term. And bear in mind, with the deadline pushed back to mid-March, teams will have even less time to integrate new pieces before the end of the regular season.
Of course, last year's Denver Nuggets provide an equally compelling counter-example.
I'm also not convinced that either Howard or Williams will be moved at the deadline; both the Magic and Nets seem to be holding on to the (admittedly slim) chance that they'll be able to re-sign their star players, despite increasing evidence to the contrary. I suspect the biggest deals at this year's deadline will involve teams looking for depth at key positions and/or filling holes created by injuries.
Picks for the Week
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who may be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers.
I'll giving percent owned stats for both Yahoo! and ESPN/NBA.com leagues with each pick - first number is Yahoo, ESPN/NBA is second. If you play some other league/format, let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can to accommodate.
Samuel Dalembert (77%/100%) - Dalembert has been putting up Kevin Love/Dwight Howard rebounding numbers of late - 12 or more in five of Houston's last seven games (15 on Monday night).
Tayshaun Prince (49%/63.9) - I still think Joe Dumars' decision to re-sign Prince was one of the most curious of the offseason. But at least the Pistons are getting some nice production out of the veteran. Detroit's guards have been doing a great job finding Prince for mid-range jumpers off dribble penetration, and Prince has been taking advantage.
O.J. Mayo (48%/43.7%) - Mayo has gone from "trade bait" to "key bench contributor" this season, and now has Lionel Hollins' green light to shoot more often. That will mean occasional dud games - like his 0-5 from three on Monday - but he hit 6-10 from long range in his previous game.
Tiago Splitter (15%/7.6%) - Second-year big man is becoming a bigger part of the Spurs' offense. He's scored in double figures in four straight games.
Jodie Meeks (38%/5.5%) - Bit of a specialist, sure - but he continues to hit threes at a very respectable clip.
Landry Fields (37%/11%) - It might have gotten lost, with the Knicks in a 0-6 tail-spin, but Fields is starting to look like the player he was before the Carmelo Anthony trade. He had 18 points and seven boards against Denver on Saturday, and 17-and-6 in last week's loss to Phoenix.
Marco Belinelli (8%/1.5%) - Eric Gordon (knee) will reportedly miss another three weeks, so Belinelli will continue to get minutes for New Orleans.
Jordan Farmar (6%/3%) - The Nets can't keep anyone healthy - MarShon Brooks is the latest to be sidelined. Farmar was actually developing into a pretty decent bench scoring threat even before Brooks got hurt; he could be a very good play even in deep leagues if the rookie is out for any length of time.
Goran Dragic (4%/.5%) - For future reference: Dragic probably isn't worth a roster spot at this point. But if Kyle Lowry gets hurt - hardly a rare occurrence during Lowry's NBA career - Dragic (14 points, 5-7 shooting, 3 assists, 3 steals on Monday) would be a must-add in just about any format.
Chandler Parsons (13%/2.3%) - Second-rounder doesn't shoot or score much, but he is earning a significant role in the Rockets' rotation with his passing, rebounding and defense.
Donte Greene ( 1%/.84%) - Will be getting additional playing time with Marcus Thornton sidelined. And this is the second time Thornton has been sidelined with the same thigh injury, so the Kings may opt to be a little more cautious with him this time.
Isaiah Thomas (1%/0.31%) - Like Greene, Thomas will get a boost in minutes while Thornton is out.
Steve Novak ( 0%/0%) - Josh Harrellson will be out for the next six weeks. Mike D'Antoni is reportedly planning on using some combination of Jared Jeffries and Novak to replace him. Three-point shooting is Novak's specialty, and it has been a major weakness for the Knicks this season. If he starts hitting, D'Antoni will find minutes for him.
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