In between Christmas and the trade deadline in February, expect many NBA teams to jockey for position by making a few trades to improve their teams going down the stretch. A lot of contenders have some key players, and more importantly, expiring contracts, to dangle out there for the best deal. Who will make the trades and what players will go? Who will clear more cap-space for the 2010 free agency period? Here are the top eight expiring contracts likely to be traded before the deadline.
8. Ben Gordon – Chicago Bulls ($6,404,750) – Chicago could make a starting line-up filled with guards, and need front-court help. They have just a one-year qualifying offer and it will be hard to trade Gordon since he had what is the equivalent of a “no-trade clause,” since he would get Larry Bird rights at the end of this season. It will be hard to trade him, but I have a hard time believing that if Chicago lines up a trade that would put Gordon on a contender, that he would decline the trade.
7. Bobby Jackson – Sacramento Kings ($6,487,888) – The Sacramento Kings are off to one of their worst starts in the team’s history and looked like they have already packed it in. Their coach was already fired and appears to be playing for more ping-pong balls in the lottery. The Kings could move Jackson to clear cap space for 2010 and maybe get a draft pick in the process. He has been a deadline gem the last fe seasons and it seems like that could be the case again this season.
6. Andre Miller – Philadelphia 76ers ($10,333,334) – Philadelphia had high hopes coming into the 2008-09 season with a positive showing in the playoffs last year and the signing of Elton Brand. The season didn’t start off as they hoped and their coach was fired just a few weeks ago. The 76ers aren’t going to be players in the 2010 free agency bonanza, so if they move Miller, it would be a move to build for next year. Philadelphia would be looking for first round picks and maybe a young point guard, something similar to the Devin Harris/Jason Kidd trade last year.
5. Lamar Odom – Los Angeles Lakers ($14,148,596) – The Lakers could be looking to make a move if some other Western Conference teams start improving their rosters. Odom, who hasn’t played well in the playoffs, is now the Lakers sixth-man and looks like the most movable piece. Odom seems like he is content with his role with the team, but that could change with a more prominent 4th quarter role for Andrew Bynum. If Portland, New Orleans, or Boston make some moves, look for the Lakers to dump Odom to compete.
4. Eric Snow – Cleveland Cavaliers ($7,312,500) – Eric Snow is basically the Keith Van Horn of this season. He hasn’t played in a game this year, but with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, it could be worth dangling out there for teams looking to make a run at free agents this off-season (Carlos Boozer) or the coveted 2010 off-season. Snow’s contract isn’t Cleveland’s only expiring contract worth-noting as you will find out later.
3. Shawn Marion – Miami Heat ($17,610,000) – Miami has had its share of deadline trades and Marion’s move has been rumored since the end of last season. The Heat are currently floating around .500 and in the Eastern Conference its good enough to make the playoffs, but probably not get out of the first round. Marion is the biggest impact-players currently on the market and I’m positive that a deal will come across Pat Riley’s desk that will be too good to pass up. Shawn Marion will not be in South Beach by mid-February.
2. Wally Szczerbiak – Cleveland Cavaliers ($13,275,000) – It’s amazing that Wally Szczerbiak actually signed a contract where he is getting paid this kind of money, but worst contracts have been signed. He is still a great shooter and can put up 20 points on any given night, but Cleveland doesn’t need him and can use him to obtain a player to help them win a championship. Rumors of a possible deal with Milwaukee for Michael Redd could be where Szczerbiak lands. His contract is the ace up Cleveland’s sleeve, the other elite teams (Boston and L.A. Lakers) can make a trade and improve their club as much as the Cavaliers.
1. Raef Lafrentz – Portland Trailblazers ($12,722,500) – Once the apple of Mark Cuban’s eye, Lafrentz is relegated to the bench. His expiring contract could lead to a large power shift in the Western Conference. Portland is a young, explosive team and a trade of Lafrentz could land them some veteran leadership that they desperately need. A veteran point guard would be first on their list, someone to spell Rudy Fernandez and can maximize their offensive ability, since they have some great defenders in the low-post. If Portland can get a veteran or two in a trade, the Blazers instantly jumps up a few spots and could guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
The trade activity this season has only just begun. I think there will be more trades this season than in year’s past and will change the playoff landscape. I wonder if Keith Van Horn will make a comeback for some of this action?