The next big trade? Here's a three-team possibility

By Marc Stein

Our trusty Stephen Jackson Trade Saga, after providing us with nearly two months of good gossip fodder, unexpectedly zoomed to a pre-Thanksgiving conclusion.

So where do we go now for our trade chatter?

There is some hope, according to NBA front-office sources, for a three-way deal that is currently in the exploratory-discussion phase.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings, in considering the feasibility of a Samuel Dalembert-for-Kenny Thomas swap, have discussed expanding that concept with Boston by trying to draw in the Celtics on a potential three-way deal that would land Andres Nocioni with the Celts.

Sources further stressed over the past 48 hours that this should be classified as an ongoing conversation as the teams involved decide how much they like what’s on the table.

But the full deal as it stands, if it eventually gets that far, would send Nocioni to Boston, Kenny Thomas, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine to Philadelphia and Dalembert and J.R. Giddens to Sacramento.

Taking the teams one by one:

*Boston has had interest in Nocioni from the minute Sacramento acquired him in February in the deal that dispatched Brad Miller and John Salmons to Chicago. That said, Boston has also been hesitant since February about acting upon that interest because Nocioni has three years and more than $20 years left on his contract after this season. That’s a lot of long-term cash for the Celts to take on -- even if Nocioni turned out to be a James Posey-style Mr. Versatile for them -- after they just signed Rajon Rondo to a lucrative extension and with decisions about the futures of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen looming. So Boston pulling out because of financial concerns likely ranks as the biggest impediment to this deal.

*Philadelphia’s determination to trade away Dalembert’s contract is a months-old story, which would appear to make Philly the most eager of the three teams to get this done. Thomas, Allen and Scalabrine are all on expiring contracts. Dalembert is making $12 million this season and is scheduled to earn nearly $13 million next season. The Sixers, frankly, don’t care who comes back in a Dalembert swap as long as their contracts drop off the payroll at season’s end.

*The Kings have interest in securing another big man to join Spencer Hawes and the fast-developing Jason Thompson in their frontcourt rotation and have pondered the merits of gambling on Dalembert for some time. And trading for Philly’s out-of-favor center certainly makes more sense than a deal for New Orleans’ Emeka Okafor, who has four years and nearly $40 million left on his contract through the 2013-14 season. It’s believed that Sacramento, even if these three-way talks go no further, will continue to field offers for Nocioni, given the Kings’ desire to have cap space in the summer of 2011 and the promising early development of rookie Omri Casspi.

More forthcoming as we get it.

UPDATE: Important clarification on Nocioni's contract. The final year, at $7.5 million, is a team option. So if the Celts decide to go ahead with a trade for Nocioni, they are absorbing only two extra guaranteed years after this season at $13.5 million as opposed to $21 million over three years. Which makes Nocioni's contract somewhat less daunting. Another smaller but nonetheless notable variable here: Dalembert has a 15-percent trade kicker in his contract.