High-priced superstars could be on the move
The NBA executives we've spoken to are nearly unanimous in their belief that Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies is the most likely high-profile player to be dealt before next month's NBA trading deadline. They cautioned, however, that the unsettled situation surrounding the New York Knicks could change the league's entire landscape in the next five weeks.
Seems the fans at Madison Square Garden aren't the only ones chanting "Fire Isiah." Executives from a handful of teams around the NBA are voicing similar sentiments following nearly a month of all talk and no action emanating from Manhattan.
Sources told ESPN.com that the New York Knicks have been one of the more active teams in trade discussions around the NBA. But team president and head coach Isiah Thomas has quashed numerous proposals put together by his top assistant, Glen Grunwald, mainly because of Thomas' reluctance to part with the two players other teams ask for the most, Jamal Crawford and David Lee.
One proposed deal would have sent Crawford and a cap filler (Malik Rose and/or Jerome James) to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter. Another would have sent Crawford and others to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a package built around Larry Hughes. A third deal, which was squashed by the Bucks, would have sent Zach Randolph to Milwaukee.
The feeling around the NBA, from discussions with front office executives, agents, scouts and coaches, is that the uncertainty surrounding Thomas' job status -- along with possible resistance from ownership -- is keeping the Knicks from pulling the trigger on any trades. But should owner James Dolan decide to fire Thomas and make Grunwald the new (and most likely temporary) architect of the roster, the breakup of the team would commence almost immediately, and there would then be a ripple effect that would impact other trade discussions around the league.
If Gasol is dealt, it would mark the 10th time in the past season and a half that a superstar player -- or at least a player making superstar money -- had switched teams via a trade. The legit superstars who were traded were Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the paid-like-superstar players (currently earning at least $10 million) were Rashard Lewis, Randolph, Jason Richardson, Theo Ratliff, Wally Szczerbiak and Steve Francis.
With many other players like that scattered throughout the league, and rumors running hot, it's time to take a close, educated look at the trade prospects -- or, in some cases, the lack thereof -- for a wide cross-section of both the league's best and its highest-paid players: