It’s X-Files season for the NBA. The trade deadline is here, come Thursday, and we’re all separated into being either the tin foil hat that wants to chase down every rumor, the realist that knows the truth is somewhere in between nothing and something, and the skeptic who wouldn’t believe the mail was delivered until you smacked him upside the head with the electric bill.
Questions will be answered, even though this current season has a fatalistic feel to it where you know who’s dancing at the end against one another for the title, and who they probably will have to step over to get there.
1. Can Houston get someone to buy the Dwight Howard snake oil?
The Rockets are still docked from the end of last season, and it appears a genuine shake up of NASA could be on the way before anything goes into orbit, if it ever does. It was only two off seasons ago that Howard was the prized free agent of nearly everyone’s misguided desires when he landed in Houston to build a title contender for the long haul. Now, without even speaking to the marriage counselor, the divorce lawyer is in. Howard has been a bulldozer of coaches in his last four seasons. Some will always blame him. Some never will. It’s hard to believe there are too many teams that don’t know what type of presence he is as a leader still that will take a shot at him. Hometown Atlanta might. Houston seems resolute that what they thought was gold not even three years ago was merely pyrite. If someone gets him, it will be bandied about as a major coup, because Howard is big, athletic, can dunk from anywhere, and block anyone. The truth of the matter is, Howard has been wearing out his welcome rather quickly in many towns, these days.
2. What’s the deal with Michael Carter-Williams?
There’s the old saying about meeting pretty, single girls at the bar … remember, there’s a reason she’s not with anyone. It’s not a solid saying, to be honest. And neither is giving up young point guard talent in the NBA, but the Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly ready to part with MCW, whom they acquired last year from the Sixers, not one year after he won Rookie of the Year. Assuming Philly was just inept in getting rid of him, you have to wonder what the heck is going on with teams being willing to let go of such a young talent. MCW also is shooting the best numbers of his career, and really hasn’t been all that bad with the Bucks. Yeah, there’s a reason he’s being dangled, but whatever it is, the gamble on a young point guard is probably worth the dice roll.
3. Why the fire sale in Atlanta?
The Atlanta Hawks currently sit fourth in the East, yet it seems like every 10 minutes, there’s a new trade scenario involving them dumping Al Horford, Jeff Teague, or both of them. Yeah, this season has not been the number one seed-bound onslaught of 2015, but damn, how about a little patience before throwing sugar in the gas tank and pushing it off the cliff? As for Teague, the Hawks have faith in Dennis Schroder and Teague isn’t playing as heavy minutes as normal, but he’s still a one under 30-years-old one year away from his All-Star season who can walk in two years, so it’s not like you’re married to the guy long-term. Horford hasn’t said anything bad about Atlanta or the prospects of coming back (he’s a free agent this summer). This feels like the Seinfeld episode where Costanza breaks up with his girlfriend first, thinking she’s going to break up with him, just so he can cut the ties first (The Pez Dispenser). If Constanza is doing it, it’s not worth repeating. The Hawks do not have so much hand, they’re coming out of their glove.
4. Who is the aggressive team looking to get in the playoffs just to be there?
There seems to be a chasm between the top two teams in each conference and the remainder of it, so in a sense, it might be foolish to go chasing trade rainbows in hopes the retool will cause enough of a quick improvement to make up a rather large gap. That said, there will be some teams that haven’t been playoff fixtures looking to invigorate the fan base at the potential expense of the future for a playoff spot. Sacramento seems to want to be all in. Charlotte, winners of their last three prior to the break to slip into the East’s 8th seed, should be, too. The Pistons probably feel like it’s time to be back. Ditto for Utah. There will be buyers just wanting so bad to get into the club that they’ll pay the absurd cover charge, but who are they?