The NBA trading deadline is a little more than a week away, and you know what that means. It means NBA general managers are working the phones like Brad Pitt in “Moneyball.”
That means GMs are concocting deals, calling their peers, settling on something — and then sometimes calling someone else and starting anew.
On and on it goes, with most trades taking shape three or four days before the Feb. 21 deadline. Some are actually executed. Others fall apart. Either way, most decisions aren’t final until the last minute.
So keeping in mind that things could change, here is what league sources are hearing today:
• Perhaps no name is spinning on the rumor mill more than that of Josh Smith of Atlanta. Everyone from San Antonio to Brooklyn to Charlotte supposedly has a strong interest. Smith is one of six expiring contracts on the Hawks’ roster, and when you consider the power forward’s overall talent (17.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg), landing Smith would be like hitting the lottery’s daily double.
• The Nets would really like to move forward Kris Humphries, who has struggled mightily in the season after landing a new deal (two years at a reported $24 million). It is believed the Nets would like to get a third team involved, making a deal involving Smith and Humphries easier.
• Cleveland GM Chris Grant admittedly likes making trades, and already pulled off a doozy by landing Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a protected first-round pick from Memphis. The price? A really good D-League prospect named Jon Leuer. But with an abundance of cap space and a few expiring deals of his own, Grant likely isn’t done.
• Grant and Hawks GM Danny Ferry are tight (Grant was Ferry’s assistant when Ferry was GM in Cleveland), as are Ferry and Nets GM Billy King. That has led to speculation the Cavs could become that third team in a Hawks-Nets deal. Grant also supposedly spent some time on the phone with King last week.
• The Cavs are seeking (more) draft picks. In order to land one, they’ll supposedly take on a player whose contract expires at the end of next season (such as Humphries).
• Meanwhile out West, sources say teams are calling Utah and Oklahoma City and displaying interest in forward Paul Millsap and point guard Eric Maynor, respectively. Millsap is a rugged player with a jump shot, a player like Smith in that Millsap is a true talent with an expiring contract. If the Nets fail to strike a deal for Smith, they may turn to the Jazz to try to land what would be a really nice consolation prize.
• Back to the East. The Celtics are 7-1 since losing Rajon Rondo for the season to the knee injury. Then things off the floor got worse, with productive rookie forward Jared Sullinger (back) and guard Leandro Barbosa (knee) also going down. Are they open to trading Kevin Garnett? Sources say yes. But you’d better give Danny Ainge something about which to get really, really excited.
• Milwaukee may be the least-discussed team when it comes to the deadline (and actual basketball, for that matter). But Bucks GM John Hammond is said to be strategically sitting by the phone, waiting for the chips to start falling, then acting quickly. Supposedly available: Ever-improving forward Ersan Ilyasova and, yes, dynamic young guard Brandon Jennings. But again, you’d better be willing to blow away Hammond.
• Dallas GM Donnie Nelson insisted the Mavericks aren’t looking to make a deal, but league sources say differently. Not that Nelson is taking a gung-ho approach to the deadline. But he is secretly seeing what he might be able to accumulate via veteran forward Shawn Marion, according to sources.
• Chicago supposedly put out some strong feelers a few weeks back, shopping power forward Carlos Boozer. The Nets were said to be somewhat interested, but things never really got anywhere. Others have said Bulls GM Gar Forman would love to get in the conversation for Smith or Millsap.
• Phoenix GM Lance Blanks is making everyone available, attempting to gut the team in the Season After Steve Nash. Sources predict Blanks will likely have to wait until the summer — but Blanks has worked alongside Ferry and Grant, and with plenty of wiggle room under the cap, the Suns are a natural dance partner in the here-and-now.
• Finally, New Orleans went against Eric Gordon’s wishes by matching the Suns’ huge offer for him over the summer — and now, lo and behold, it appears the Hornets are willing to deal him. Gordon would love to play with home-state Indiana. Interestingly, the Hornets are supposedly interested in almost-healed Pacers forward Danny Granger. But a package involving Gordon and Granger, sources say, has yet to be discussed.