While excitement is building for the All-Star weekend, I've decided to take and quiet look at the upcoming trade deadline and all the drama, anticipation and disappointment that comes with it. All NBA eyes are focused on Los Angeles where the league's elite showcase their immense talent for a weekend of highlights, high-flyers and high-expectation. So now is as good of a time as any to take a look at what could happen in 5 days when the league gets back to work.
We've all been watching the main story of trade talks this year with baited breathe. A Carmelo Anthony trade has been, supposedly, imminent since last season and we appear to be no closer to a conclusion than we were then. First he was staying in Denver, period. Then he didn't sign an extension, then New Jersey got involved and basically offered every player on their team for him. Then Denver threatened to move Anthony to New York if New Jersey didn't keep trade talks quiet. Then New Jersey were swept aside. Then other teams got in on the action including Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, New York, Chicago and Minnesota, none of which with much success.
Now we reach the All-Star break with no more information in front of us than we had at the start of the season. 'Melo is still in Denver and is adamant he doesn't want to leave, he doesn't want to stay though. The Nuggets refuse to give any information away but have been rumoured to be in talks with, more-or-less, every team in the league except Miami. 'Melo refuses to give any information on the subject also, but in all honesty, his guess is as good as ours. One thing is certain, no-one knows anything for certain.
Personally, I think Carmelo Anthony will play out his contract in Denver and then leave for Free Agency where he will be given a huge contract by someone like New York, New Jersey or Chicago. He insists that all of his decisions are based around winning rather than money but I'm not so sure. If he heads to a contending team then that argument might sit better with everyone, but he'll still receive a fat and juicy contract no doubt. As of yet, no-one really knows what's going to happen or when. I'll say this though, the attention that Denver is receiving has nothing to do with their play but do they seem bothered?
When you look deeper and beyond all the 'Melo drama, there's a lot to see with regards to the upcoming trade deadline. It appears more teams than usual are getting ready to make something happen. Whether that's due to injuries, play-off or title hopes or to take a slice of Miami Heat publicity pie, I don't know. In my book, the obvious reason to make a trade is injury, in the hope you can continue momentum and feel the effects of that injured player's absence as little as possible.
That's where Dallas, Houston and Portland come in. Each has lot a key player or two for the season and is looking to shore up that gap with some pieces that will keep them in play-off or title contention. Dallas' loss of Caron Butler was huge but they've done well to make-do up unto this point. I'd expect they'd try and make a move on another solid scoring swing-man to take some weight of Dirk and Terry later in the season and post-season. They temporarily bandaged that wound with the addition of Peja Stojakovic and the recovery of Rodrigue Beaubois but they'll need more defence and longevity than that if they're to continue as planned. Some suggestions have been acquiring Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia, 'Melo from Denver or Stephan Jackson from Charlotte. Whatever the outcome, Dallas seems to be trying to make the right moves for what they need and are willing to split some hairs to do it. All for the good of the Championship.
Portland and Houston both have lost their franchise and star players in Brandon Roy and Yao Ming. Consequently, other players have had to step up and LaMarcus Aldridge, for one, has done an excellent job. But both of these teams are aspiring for play-off slots so they're looking to deepen their teams in order to make those aspirations as realistic as possible. Portland will need another solid scorer, Wesley Mathews has been solid so far but he'll need to elevate or get some help if they're to stay in the race. Portland's off-season will be critical in terms of player movement. What they do with Roy, Oden, Aldridge, Miller, Mathews, Batum and Camby will determine the near future of this franchise.
Houston needs size. They can make do without a scoring big-man because the likes of Brooks, Martin, Lowry and Scola can hold those reins. But it's there defence in the middle that will be the biggest worry going forward. Their lack of size means that defensive rebounding could become an issue and might just make the difference between the eighth and ninth seed.
New York and New Jersey are likely to continue talks with Denver about the availability of Carmelo Anthony and only time will tell how that one turns out. Keep in mind 'Melo's stance on all of this and the potential impact of Dallas, Chicago and Houston in the potential next team of 'Melo.
Chicago could be involved else where however. The loss of Joakim Noah earlier in the season and the unsure date for his return could put Chicago in the hunt for another big-man. There's only so many games in which Dwight Howard can drop 40 on Kurt Thomas and Orlando still loose. Sooner or later they'll loose games like that and the second half of the season isn't the time to do it. Speaking of Orlando, they too could be in the hunt for more size. Their trade earlier in the season did one thing for sure. It made Dwight Howard vulnerable. With no Marcin Gortat coming off the bench, Orlando has little bulk and defence in the paint when Dwight sits down. Dwight is therefore playing more minutes and having to monitor his fouls all the more closely. In my opinion, getting a solid back-up for Dwight is a must if Orlando wants to contend down the stretch with the massive frames of Boston, Miami and, to a point, Chicago and Atlanta.
Many teams have been mentioned in the constant trade talks but there are 4-6 that really stand out as ones that are most likely to make moves. New York, New Jersey, Dallas, Portland, Denver and Chicago. They're all interested in acquiring 'Melo, filling gaps caused by injury or sizing up their front-court. These potential changes could create another true contender in the shape of the Mavericks or Bulls. An un-stoppable offensive force in the shape of New York. Or a franchise building a new team around a new star player, Aldridge in Portland and Carmelo in New Jersey.
Whatever may or may not happen, I'm sure that this will be one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent NBA history and that it will change the second half of the season and the play-offs because of it. I think it will be solely based around Denver and Carmelo Anthony and the potential shift in the power balance caused by their decisions. All we need to do is wait, watch and hope our team doesn't mess up.