December will soon be over, and that means trade rumors and phone calls will begin to pick up. Who are the biggest names on the trading block? Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers although his contract is a problem, Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz although his defense is a problem, Andrea Bargnani who can’t wait to leave the Toronto Raptors and Monta Ellis and/or Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Milwaukee Bucks – Monta Ellis and/or Brandon Jennings
Numbers – Monta Ellis is averaging 18.4 points, 5.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.9 turnovers while shooting 38.7% from the field and 20% from three. Brandon Jennings is averaging 18 points, 5.9 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.4 turnovers while shooting 39.8% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc.
Very simple. When you have two very similar guards sharing your backcourt, both capablae of pretty much the same kind of production and both looking to get new contracts next season, with Jennings’ contract expiring at the end of this one and Ellis having an early termination clause for 2013-2014. Both players will be looking to make more than $12-13 million a season, and it seems there’s just no sense for the Bucks, who have Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute already signed to long-term deals, keeping both of them.
The Bucks think this core is capable of something. They are 14-12. The question is if they think Jennings is the kind of franchise player to build upon for years. He’s 23, Ellis is 27. Jennings is a less selfish player, more responsible with the ball and a better defender. If it’s just one of them, Jennings is the choice to pick for him to stay, while Ellis should be traded to his third team in 12 months.
Utah Jazz – Al Jefferson
There’s no question that Jefferson is one of the better big-man scorers in the NBA and a good rebounder. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 boards this season with the Jazz stuck at around the .500 with 14-13, finding it very hard to win on the road. Paul Millsap might not be as offensively talented as Jefferson, but the Jazz feel that him, Kanter and Favors are the big men to go with, while Jefferson is a question mark. Because his contract runs out, and because they don’t want to pay him $15 million a season anymore. The lack of a shred of defense means they’ll probably be looking for buyers in the coming months. Who? Remains to be seen.
Los Angeles Lakers – Pau Gasol
Numbers – 12.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks while shooting 41.4% from the field. There’s no doubt that 2012-2013 is a low point in Pau Gasol’s career, in the NBA and with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s making $19 million this season and guaranteed just under $19.3 for next season. With questionable knees and an obvious decline, both because of the system change and the laws of getting older, the Lakers have a real dilemma regarding a player that won two NBA titles with the team not too long ago.
Wait – the Lakers actually did trade Gasol 12 months ago, only David Stern vetoed the three team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. The thinking is this – The Lakers preferred Bynum to Gasol before, and there’s no doubt they prefer Dwight Howard, despite the 12-14 start and his sub .500 free throw shooting. While Gasol worked very well next to Bynum, it just isn’t working with D’Antoni’s style, although some suggest the coach is willing to make the necessary tweaks and is still waiting for Steve Nash.
More than if they want to trade if, there’s Gasol’s contract being the issue. The only available trades are for other big men, with the same kind of problems, or a different set of issues, that won’t necessary fix one of the Lakers’ biggest problems this season.
Toronto Raptors – Andrea Bargnani and more
Numbers – 16 points, 4.3 rebounds, 39.8% from the field. Bargnani is owed $10.75 million for next season and $11.5 million for 2014-2015, but there’s a termination clause on that one. In one line, Toronto is tired of the Colangelo-Bargnani-Calderon era, and the only question is in what order do these guys go. Bargnani is probably first in line, for his ability and even more so, his attitude. The Raptors are doing better while he’s injured, and the fact that he attempts more three pointers pere game (4.5) than grabs rebounds (4.3) tells the whole story. He’s a talented scorer, and probably will do better in a less significant role with a more nurturing scenery, but who’s willing to take that shot?