The latest trade chatter leading into Thursday afternoon's deadline...
Atlanta remains committed to moving Josh Smith. For a while, the Hawks were conflicted about dealing Smith, an All-Star caliber power forward who has been a consistent 16-18 point, 8-10 rebound, 3-5 assist per game player for the last four seasons. A team source suggested there were strong feelings, as recently as the last few weeks, about finding ways to keep Smith as part of the team's core.
But the combination of Smith's likely contract demands this summer -- Smith publicly stated he felt he was a max player -- and his history of uneven behavior in Atlanta has the Hawks ready to move on, according to league sources familiar with the team's thinking. Atlanta GM Danny Ferry has shrewdly positioned his team to have cap flexibility this summer, and bringing back Smith for big dollars isn't in the plans. Yahoo! Sports reported that Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Phoenix are the frontrunners for Smith while two rival executives believe Boston and Dallas remain in the mix.
Kevin Garnett likely to stay put. An NBA source says that Boston initiated the discussions with the L.A. Clippers about Garnett but that discussions have been dormant for "a few days now." The Clippers coaching staff would love to get its hands on Garnett, a more polished offensive player than DeAndre Jordan who has performed surprisingly well at the center position in Boston this year. But LA's front office is believed to be lukewarm about dealing Jordan and Eric Bledsoe, a dynamic point guard, in a deal for Garnett that could turn out to be a three-month purchase. Despite Garnett signing a three-year deal, the belief is that, for Garnett, that contract is just a series of one-year deals. If his soon-to-be 37-year-old body isn't up for another season, Garnett could easily walk away.
USA Today first reported Duffy's conversation with Ainge.
Rival executives believe Boston is open to trading Rondo, but his knee injury -- which will likely sideline Rondo for parts of next season -- diminishes what the Celtics can get in return. Similarly, Boston is willing to part with Pierce but only at the right price. The Brooklyn Nets, who discussed a deal for Pierce with Boston last season, are interested and the Celtics have discussed a Pierce-Smith headlined deal with Atlanta, which would unite Smith and Rondo, who are close, with the Celtics.
Still, it does not appear that Boston is getting the offers it wants for its top talent.
Utah open for business. The Jazz have a surplus of big men and no intention of bringing them all back next season. That makes Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, both in the last years of their contracts, prime trade candidates. But Utah has made it clear it has no desire to take on large contracts that extend beyond this season unless that player clearly fits into the team's long-term plans. The Jazz payroll drops from $67 million this season to $26 million next season, giving the team the kind of financial flexibility it has not had in nearly a decade. There is a feeling amongst rival executives that Utah is content to let its big money contracts wash off the books this summer and position itself to absorb the salary of an All-Star level player in a trade from a team looking to avoid the punitive luxury tax penalties that kick in next year.
Lakers not dealing Dwight. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak offered his strongest words on Howard to date when he told ESPN Radio that "Dwight is our future."
"We've been very consistent," Kupchak said. "We're not trading Dwight Howard. He will not be traded, and there's nothing that anybody can do today to call me today and ask me, 'Would you do this?' and get a positive result."
Most of the speculation about Howard being moved has been media -driven, and despite Howard's continued desire to play in Brooklyn, the Lakers intend to play this out into free agency and effectively dare Howard to leave $25 to $30 million on the table by walking away to Dallas or Atlanta.
Evan Turner available. The No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft can be had. However interest around the league is lukewarm. The most oft repeated reasons: Turner is still an inconsistent shooter who doesn't have a clear position. Moreover, Turner is eligible for a contract extension this summer and teams are not sure he is worth a $45-$50 million investment.
One more thing: Philadelphia isn't aggressively shopping Turner because the front office still wants to see how the team performs when Andrew Bynum comes back. Turner is one of several players on the Sixers roster who will benefit from a strong low-post presence.
Teams like Denver's players. General Manager Masai Ujiri, who is quickly emerging as one of the brightest young minds in basketball, has put together a strong group of young talent, headlined by Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee. The Nuggets likely are one piece -- or the development of one player -- away from being true title contenders, but one Western Conference executive says there have been no indications yet that Ujiri is willing to part with any of his top pieces before the deadline.
Redick likely to go. Orlando loves Redick, who has been a played instrumental roles for the rebuilding Magic this year both on the court (career best 15.2 points per game) and in the locker room. Redick wants to stay, too, but his asking price next season ($7 to $10 million over four years) is too steep for Orlando, which will likely look for younger, cheaper alternatives as they develop their top talent. Milwaukee is high on Redick, though the Magic are seeking a first-round pick. Expect interest in Redick to increase on Thursday; Redick's ability to come off the bench and score would help every team in the league.
About Milwaukee. The Bucks have made it clear that Brandon Jennings will not be traded, and that they will match any offer for him this offseason. Monta Ellis, however, is very available. A likely free-agent-to-be -- Ellis has can forego the final year (and $11 million) on his deal this summer -- Ellis won't be back in Milwaukee, and the Bucks would love to pry Smith away from Atlanta in a deal built around Ellis, an NBA source said.
Nets looking to improve. Surprise, right? Under aggressive general manager Billy King, Brooklyn is often one of the most active teams at the trade deadline. The Nets don't have much flexibility, but they are in the hunt for Smith, and rival executives say King is willing to package underachieving power forward Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks in a significant deal.