A few weeks ago, I was predicting a fairly quiet trade deadline.
Let's forget I said that.
It seems more and more teams will do anything in their power to avoid the league's new-and-improved luxury tax, which escalates a lot more quickly than the old version and which includes an additional charge – dubbed the “repeater tax” on teams that exceed the threshold for too many years in a row.
In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. Fear of the tax was a big reason the Thunder traded James Harden before the season, was the primary driver of the Grizzlies' recent trades, and is a major factor in just about every proposal that has been floated this week.
So who's going where?
Carlos Boozer to the Raptors? The Bulls have never been shy – or particularly apologetic – about looking to economize on salaries, and it feels like they've been hoping to unload Boozer's exorbitant salary since the day he arrived at the United Center. The hottest rumor has Boozer headed to Toronto in exchange for Andrea Bargnani. It's not hard to see why Jerry Reinsdorf likes the idea; Boozer will make roughly $32 million over the next two seasons, Bargnani $23 million.
Funny thing, though – for a money deal, this one actually makes a fair amount of basketball sense. Bargnani would give the Bulls a floor-stretcher in the frontcourt, which would help create space for Derrick Rose's drives, while Taj Gibson is already on hand to replace Boozer's paint presence.
Toronto, meanwhile, would get a low-post scorer they haven't had since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach, and (potentially) a nice complement to Rudy Gay.
Boozer is 92-percent owned – which seems about right. He'll score and rebound but doesn't block enough shots or shoot a stunningly-high percentage. Gibson (32-percent owned) stands to benefit significantly from the proposed deal, especially when you consider how much time Bargnani and Joakim Noah spend dealing with injuries.
Al Jefferson to the Spurs? Chris Sheridan is reporting a potential deal that would send Jefferson to San Antonio with Tiago Splitter and possibly Patty Mills joining the Jazz.
Again, there's a lot to like for both teams. Jefferson alongside Duncan would give San Antonio their most imposing frontcourt since David Robinson retired. Will that get them past the Thunder in a playoff series? Maybe, maybe not, but it'd certainly improve their chances.
On the Utah side, the big winner would be Enes Kanter. Jefferson's departure would open up a starting spot and big minutes. Kanter is available in 98 percent of all Yahoo! leagues, and he's well worth a claim on the off chance that this deal goes through.
Mills is owned in zero percent of Yahoo! leagues and is worth a look as well. Given Mo Williams' injury problems, Mills could end up logging significant minutes in Utah, and he's proven to be a capable scorer when given the opportunity.
Will Bynum to the Thunder? With Jose Calderon in the fold, Will Bynum (four-percent owned) has become a real extravagance for the Pistons. General manager Joe Dumars would be crazy not to try and turn Bynum into an asset as he rebuilds.
Bynum is a talented backcourt scorer that passes well and doesn't create turnovers. He'd be a useful piece on just about every bench in the league, but Sheridan suggests the Thunder as the most logical destination, as he'd give the Thunder a distributor and ball-handler to complement the occasionally turnover-prone Russell Westbrook. (You know, sort of like James Harden was before they shipped him to Houston.)
It's not hard to imagine Bynum logging enough minutes in the Thunder backcourt to be a viable option in most fantasy formats. And at just four-percent owned, he's there for the taking.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo! Your league's mileage may vary.
John Wall (90%) – Wall is starting to show off that first overall pick/rookie of the year form after missing the first half of the season. He torched the Knicks on Wednesday night, scoring 21 points with nine dimes, five boards, and a block in 39 minutes.
Bradley Beal (56%) – Beal should be back in the lineup shortly. He's already missed five games with a wrist injury. (Sorry to disappoint all the Garrett Temple fans.)
Elton Brand (52%) – With Chris Kaman (concussion) sidelined, Brand will have a more significant role off the bench for Dallas, though Bernard James may continue to be the starter. Unfortunately, Brand has been mired in a major shooting slump, so the extra playing time hasn't helped his overall fantasy value that much.
Earl Clark (43%) – Pau Gasol has a torn plantar fascia and won't be back any time soon, so Clark is more or less assured of a significant role for the rest of the season.
Samuel Dalembert (40%) – The emergence of Larry Sanders has given Milwaukee the freedom to find a taker for Dalembert. Sanders hurt his back this week, so the injury could delay any move a bit.
Arnett Moultrie (0%) – The rookie big man will get an extended look while Thaddeus Young is sidelined with a hamstring injury.