Raptors' Lowry tops list of potential trade pieces

With deadline approaching, teams have to make a call on deals, Sam Amico writes in his latest look around the league.

The fact Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is a good player with an expiring contract makes him a hot commodity.

Howard Smith / USA TODAY Sports

NBA.com recently ran a column on eight players who may want to prepare themselves for a trade.

It was an intriguing list, topped by Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.

The Raptors are playing well, and as of today, are playoff-bound. It would be hard to imagine them missing the playoffs as currently constructed. They may even end up winning the Atlantic Division and garnering a top three seed in the East.

That was unfathomable at the beginning of the season -- and even more laughable of an idea after trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in December.

But the Raptors are right there. And now are faced with a bit of a conundrum. It's called free agency, and Lowry will be of the unrestricted variety this summer. That means he can sign with anyone, without the Raptors having the right to match or due any compensation.

Lowry isn't a superstar, but he is having a career year and is a big reason (along with shooting guard DeMar DeRozan) why the Raptors are surprising the league.

The fact Lowry is a good player with an expiring contract makes him a hot commodity. True contenders may attempt to rent him for a half season -- and then worry about his contract in July. The Knicks have already called Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri about Lowry. They may do so again.

Other teams seeking point guard depth are likely to do the same before the Feb. 20 trading deadline.

How the Raptors respond, and what they decide to do with Lowry, will determine how the rest of their season (and beyond) plays out.

By the way, the other players on NBA.com's list:

Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried; Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza; Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo; Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph; and New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon.

Celtic chatter

Another interesting team as the deadline rapidly approaches: The Boston Celtics.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is always aggressive when it comes to making a deal, and he possesses some appealing talent.

Most executives contacted by FOX Sports Ohio say it seems more and more likely that Ainge and coach Brad Stevens want to build around point guard Rajon Rondo, forward Jeff Green and second-year big man Jared Sullinger, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Everyone else, however, appears to be available. (And even those three aren't considered untouchable.)

Outside of Rondo, Green and Sullinger, forward Brandon Bass and guard Avery Bradley are drawing the most interest. The same goes for backup forward Kris Humphries, whose $12 million contract is set to expire.

The Golden State Warriors are said to be one team particularly interested in Bass, but no word on the others.

Double dribbles

-- With the on-again, off-again (mostly on-again) struggles of the New York Knicks, there's been some speculation that All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony could be moved at the deadline. But league sources say that seems considerably less likely and Anthony will remain a Knick at least until the end of the season.

-- Similar noise has surrounded Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, but you can put that to rest, said an opposing general manager. "Absolutely, positively untouchable, now and forever," is how the GM defined Irving's status.

-- There's been some talk that Pistons GM Joe Dumars could step down at the end of the season if the team fails to make the playoffs. If so, league insiders suspect Dumars won't be down for long. Despite the Pistons' failings in recent years, Dumars did build a title-winner. When that happens, you're always well-respected. And goodness knows, there will be plenty of openings.

-- The San Antonio Spurs typically aren't major players at the trading deadline, but that could change this season, sources say. The defending Western Conference champions have struggled mightily against the league's elite -- and with age continuing to inhibit the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and especially, Tim Duncan, the Spurs could be looking to make a move. None of the aforementioned, of course, are on the block. But forward Kawhi Leonard could be, provided the returns are fabulous.

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