Less than 48 hours to go: Five players, teams to watch heading into trade deadline

Associated Press
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At 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday it will all be over.

That’s when the NBA’s trade deadline hits, and if a trade is not done — we’re looking at you, Anthony Davis — then it’s on hold until after the season and heading into the draft. The flood of rumors dies down too… mostly.

For a few minutes, let’s put aside the Davis trade saga that has mesmerized the NBA. The potential of a Davis trade has developed its own gravity, pulling all NBA discussions in its direction, with countless moving parts and a Game of Thrones atmosphere.

However, there is another NBA universe moving toward a trade deadline, one that has most teams looking for smaller deals to give them a boost on the court at some point (the Dallas Mavericks landing Kristaps Porzingis) or freeing up cap space for future moves (the Knicks trading said Porzingis).

What is left to happen at this deadline? It may be a little quiet, but there will be trades. Here are five teams and players to watch.

1) Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies. When the Memphis Grizzlies finally made their cornerstone players available, there was interest in both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The problem with both has always been money — both make a lot of it. Gasol is making $24.1 million with a $25.6 million player option for next season. Which he may or may not pick up, complicating matters. Conley is making $30.5 million this season with likely $67 million guaranteed in the two seasons after that. Which is a lot of money for a player who is now on the wrong side of 30 and who has missed significant time two of the past four years with an Achilles issue.

That said, both appear like that can or will be moved.

Memphis and Charlotte are reportedly deep in talks for Gasol, part of Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan’s push to get Charlotte in the playoffs, impress Kemba Walker, and keep him next July (he’s a free agent). The exact terms of the deal are in flux, but Gasol appears to be headed to the Carolinas.

There also is a lot of buzz around the league about Conley being traded to the Utah Jazz. The package back would either be Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors and a first round pick (or picks); or, Rubio, Grayson Allen, a 2019 first round pick, and some other player to balance the numbers. Memphis may want two picks (not sure Utah goes there). The negotiations are ongoing. For the Jazz, Conley would be an upgrade at the point — he’s an All-Star level player just stuck in the deep West — who could help push the Jazz deeper in the playoffs. But that is a substantial financial commitment from a smaller market, and it gives up a couple of young players. Are the Jazz ready for that?

2) The Sacramento Kings. If you’re going to bet on one team to make a move before the deadline, bet on the Kings. Not because of their assets, although they have veterans on expiring contracts such as Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert, and Kosta Koufos they can deal. And not because of Sacramento’s eagerness to bring in a big wing to help them compete in the West and maybe make the playoffs (they are half a game out of the eight seed as of this writing).

No, it’s because the Kings have $11 million in salary cap room — far more than any other team at the deadline — and can take on a contract another team wants to dump. Sacramento can trade for an expensive player (Kent Bazemore in Atlanta, Harrison Barnes in Dallas) or the Kings can be the third team in a bigger trade, taking on some draft assets to help facilitate a deal.

One way or the other, big or small, the Kings are going to be in on a trade before the deadline.

3) Terrence Ross and the Orlando Magic. There are more than a couple of playoff teams who could use some quality depth on the wing. Terrence Ross is that, he’s on an expiring contract, and is not part of the future in Orlando. Ross has averaged 13.3 points a game this season shooting 39.3 percent from three, and a lot of teams could use him. The question is the return: Orlando is rumored to want a first. The market probably will not offer that, more like a couple of seconds or a young player. Will that be enough to get a deal done?

Orlando also has All-Star center Nikola Vucevic — an expiring contract who can help a team on offense, but who has defensive liabilities. There have been rumors about interested teams. However, with Mo Bamba now out for a while, the Magic may decide to keep Vucevic around.

4) Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon (and maybe Kent Bazemore) and the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta long has been expected to be a seller at the deadline — the Hawks signed Lin with the intention of trying to trade him mid-season — and there is interest from teams around the league. Both Lin at the point and Dedmon as a forward can provide help off the bench for a playoff team right now, plus both are on expiring contracts. Expect at least one if both to get traded

Kent Bazemore is a more complicated story because he makes $18.1 million right now with a $19.3 million player option that he will likely pick up. That’s a lot of cash, which is why Bazemore has drawn minimal interest. Bazemore has returned from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for a chunk of the season, but that money is keeping teams away.

5) Wayne Ellington and the Miami Heat. Every team can use more shooting. Ellington is a career 38 percent shooter from three who is buried on the Miami bench and is on an expiring $6.3 million contract. That is the profile of a player who gets traded. The one catch is he’s on a one-year contract and because of his Bird Rights he gets to approve any trade. He’d likely welcome the change of scenery, but he can’t just be moved anywhere.