It's probably true the trade machine is the last refuge of a desperate basketball fan. But it's the first refuge of a fan hoping to give his team an edge in the sometimes unpredictable 2011-12 season.
Employing the trade machine, here are five writers proposing five deals.
1. What trade should the Lakers make?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.
So Dwight doesn't want to be the No. 2 guy? Wait a couple of years. That's less time than Kobe had to spend behind Shaq. Make movies and TV shows in the meantime.
D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog: Andrew Bynum to the 76ers for Andre Iguodala.
The Lakers would address some glaring weaknesses by trading Bynum to the 76ers for Iguodala. Athleticism and defense are Iguodala's main strengths, but his ability to make plays and occupy the point-forward role vacated by Lamar Odom would be huge. The 76ers, meanwhile, would stop fighting fire with fire by acquiring the elite center Miami doesn't have.
The Bucks receive Gasol and Jordan Farmar while New Jersey receives Dwight Howard bait -- Stephen Jackson and Jon Leuer. (Note: Some combination of Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Jason Kapono would need to be waived.)
L.A. sends out Gasol to field a much more balanced roster and brings back a young, up-and-coming player in Jennings. Losing Gasol hurts, but Mbah a Moute and Morrow dramatically upgrade a woeful bench, and Jennings would finally plug the lingering hole at the point guard spot. It's also worth nothing that Gooden has been sneaky productive (19.48 PER) for the Bucks this season. If he keeps that up, it may not be as big a downgrade at the 4 for the Lakers as it initially appears.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Andrew Bynum for the trade exception, Steph Curry, Kwame Brown and Dorell Wright.
Gasol is out of position, the Lakers won't win championships when Kobe gets too old anyways, the Warriors are center-crazy, and the Lakers desperately need penetration and 3-point shooting. Also, Mike Brown and John Kuester excelled at running plays to get Mo Williams open 3s in Cleveland, so they'd likely do well with Steph. Unfortunately, this doesn't work without including the trade exception, but if the Lakers can get Beasley for Walton and two picks to fill the hole at the 4, they should do that.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Pau Gasol to Boston for Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O'Neal.
The Lakers have already "traded" Gasol once. So it's not like they have a major attachment to their Spanish power forward. They need a point guard badly and would probably be willing to compromise in giving up someone like Gasol to get one of the better guards in the game. Why do the Celtics want Gasol when they already have Kevin Garnett? Well, you'll see when you get to my Celtics trade.
2. What trade should the Magic make?
Adande: See above. It's the only way Orlando could bring in two big men who've made an All-Star team. If you have to move Howard that should be the minimum requirement. Plus, they're out of Hedo's contract.
This might look bad for Orlando, but it may be safer than putting all their eggs in one basket with Andrew Bynum or relying solely on draft picks from New Jersey to pan out.
Otis Smith has put Orlando in bad contract hell, so taking on the remaining three years and roughly $21 million on Childress' deal to get Nash is a risk he has to take to keep Howard in Orlando. A Nash-Richardson-Turkoglu-Anderson-Howard starting five is tough and definitely pushes the Magic's ceiling as a team higher than the current construction. However, their bench would be so horrendous that Childress would step in and immediately become their most productive reserve. So while their ceiling is raised with Nash on board, the question is, by how much?
This is a very long shot, but the Suns do need to get younger, and Monta might thrive in that system. Also, the Magic are now contenders.
It's time for Otis Smith to put all his eggs in the basket. Make everything available to Phoenix, other than Howard, to get Nash. If you want to have any dream of maintaining Howard, you have to show him this is a franchise worth staying with. Nash and Howard would give the Magic an incredible one-two punch, and you just fill in the pieces after that.
3. What trade should the Suns make?
It doesn't put Nash on the inside track to a championship, but it gets him closer than he'd be in Phoenix, while bringing the Suns a big man that Atlanta has done surprisingly well without.
This would be smart regardless of what direction Phoenix wants to go. Batum is a rising star who just needs more minutes, and Felton requires an up-tempo setting to be successful. For Portland, Nash and LaMarcus Aldridge's pick-and-pop game would transform it into a serious contender.
The Suns ideally should look to get something for Nash, as it is unlikely he will decide to spend his remaining years under Robert Sarver's reign of cheapness. This trade nabs them two young assets, along with another expiring contract. It's not splashy or sexy, but it's a logical move to start stockpiling assets and young players on a roster that has too many middling, overpaid veterans.
Krolik: See my answer to Question 2. Really, the Suns are getting the shortest end of the stick in this trade, because Monta Ellis is horrifyingly overrated and Gentry's system isn't that different from the systems he developed his bad habits in, but this will give the Suns a talented scorer in his 20s and allow them to be terrible enough to get a high-lottery pick. Yay?
From the Suns point of view: You're not building around a 38-year-old. As loyal as Nash is and as much as he means to the organization, sometimes it's just better if you let go. Nash needs to spend the twilight of his career competing for a ring, not helping in a rebuild. What Phoenix gets back here isn't a whole lot, but think about it: It's a 38-year-old point guard on an expiring deal. All things considered, it's not a bad haul.
4. What trade should the Celtics make?
Adande: Rajon Rondo to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Ersan Ilyasova. If Rondo has to go (if for no other reason than to end the annual rumors of him leaving) this deal brings a replacement point guard, plus $5 million in payroll savings to help free-agent shopping.
Foster: Boston acquires: Steve Nash, Jared Dudley and Kenneth Faried;
Denver Nuggets acquire: Rajon Rondo, Chris Wilcox and Sebastian Telfair;
Phoenix Suns acquire: Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Avery Bradley
In a three-team point guard swap, Boston would ramp up for one last run, Denver would get the best player in the deal and Phoenix would save money -- its usual priority.
Webster and Miller both have player options on their deals, so this trade is essentially three expiring contracts and a lottery-protected first for Pierce. Boston's aging core is finished, and getting Pierce's contract off the books leaves the C's with only $14.5 million in committed salaries going into the offseason. Would the Celtics' strong tradition, a blank slate of a roster and Rajon Rondo be enough to lure Howard to Beantown?
Krolik: Stand pat. Remember when everyone was panicking because the Celtics were losing to the league-worst Nets and being horrifyingly inconsistent, and the Cavs made trades that doomed their franchise specifically because they were looking past the Celtics and ahead to the Magic? This is not a team you want to count out of anything. Give Doc, Rondo and the Big Three one more shot.
The Celtics' title window is barely cracked right now and that core just isn't built to win anymore. Danny Ainge knows it, and that's why you're hearing his entire roster come up in trade rumors. A shakeup is needed and, as he tried last year with the Jeff Green trade, he needs to get talented youth. The Hawks have been stuck in neutral and could get two guys to give them a chance at making a run this season while opening up some cap flexibility for the future.
5. What trade should the Warriors make?
If the Warriors want to get bigger and more defensive-oriented under Mark Jackson while moving Monta's contract, here's a way to do it.
The Warriors would finally have the legitimate center they've been yearning for and a resolution to the backcourt dilemma between Ellis and Steph Curry. On Utah's end, it would be clearing playing time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and have the backcourt scoring option it desperately needs.
Extension or not, Golden State should roll the dice on Howard. The Warriors have a nice collection of wing players who can spread the floor, a productive 4 in David Lee who can stretch the floor to 20 feet and a dynamic young point guard in Curry. This move will make or break this franchise going forward. If the gamble pays off and Howard signs an extension, the Warriors will find themselves in the upper tier of the Western Conference for quite some time.
Krolik: See my answer to Question 1. The Warriors now have a franchise center, a solid point guard, a great young shooting guard who actually scores efficiently, plays defense and does the little things, and are free of the horrors of Monta Ellis' shot selection, aversion to passing, turnovers, and anti-defense. If they really want to make an extreme culture change, they need an extreme personnel change, and this would be it.
It's time to move Ellis. I'm sure it's tough to do because the Warriors see him as a star player because of his scoring ability and aren't going to get equal return. Still, it's time to hand the team over to Stephen Curry. Would the Pacers give up their big man for Ellis? Probably not, but the Warriors want a sizable 5 who can score. Next to Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, Hibbert's the next best thing.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Henry Abbott writes for ESPN.com. Zach Harper is the host of Daily Dime Live. David Thorpe writes for Scouts Inc. Graydon Gordian and Rob Peterson contribute to the TrueHoop Network.