With the Feb. 19 trade deadline fast approaching, trade talk will get hotter and hotter over the next few weeks.
There are multiple motivations for pulling a trade-deadline deal. A few contenders are looking for the missing piece to put them over the top. Some teams are looking to avoid paying the luxury tax or trying to get under the cap for this summer or the more coveted summer of 2010. And other teams are just looking to build for the future.
After spending weeks on the phone trying to get a handle on which players are available, we've put together a list of who could be moved before the trade deadline. It's not the easiest task since most general managers claim that no one on their team is on the block -- they are just "listening" to other teams' offers.
That means this information comes largely from two sources: GMs who tell us what other teams are offering them, and NBA player agents who often play important roles in getting their clients moved this time of year.
While most of the players will not be moved by the trade deadline, if history repeats itself, several will.
Today we start with one of the most coveted positions this time of year: point guards. We've ranked them in order of the likelihood they are moved by the trade deadline. In the coming days we'll roll out the top available wings and big men as well.
Top PGs on the block
Raymond Felton, Bobcats
Felton is a talented point guard, but he doesn't fit the pass-first mold that Larry Brown wants in his point guards. With rookie D.J. Augustin looking like the point guard of the future in Charlotte, the chances Felton heads somewhere else are pretty high.
The Bobcats would like to get something for him before he hits restricted free agency this summer and have been shopping him since before the 2008 draft. They tried to swap Felton for T.J. Ford twice in June -- once with the Raptors and once with the Pacers. More recently, they almost had a deal completed with Dallas a few weeks ago, but an Augustin abdominal strain forced them to pull back. With Augustin feeling better and nearing a return, the Bobcats could be ready to pull the trigger again.
Chance of trade: 75 percent
Mike Conley, Grizzlies
Some scratched their heads when the Grizzlies drafted Conley with the No. 4 pick in the 2007 draft. While Conley was a coveted draft prospect, the team was already loaded at the point guard position and it was unclear how he would fit. Eighteen months later, Conley still hasn't found his groove in Memphis.
Conley is a good distributor and an excellent defender, but his shaky shooting has made him a liability. And with O.J. Mayo now dominating the ball, Conley is often left standing around on offense.
The Grizzlies would like to move Mayo to the 1 or at the very least get another guard who can stroke the basketball. They turned down a Blazers offer of Travis Outlaw for Conley this past summer and have generally been looking for more. I'm not sure they'll be able to get it.
A rumored trade of Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander for Conley never materialized, in part because right now Sessions is a better player. But long term, Conley still has a lot of value in the right system.
Chance of trade: 65 percent
Earl Watson, Thunder
Watson may not be the most talented player on the list, but there are two big reasons he is coveted. First, his contract expires in the summer of 2010. Second, the Thunder aren't asking for much.
Oklahoma City has its point guard of the future, Russell Westbrook, and is primarily interested in getting below the cap. So an offer of an expiring contract or a young player who fills a need could get a deal done.
Chance of trade: 55 percent
Leandro Barbosa, Suns
Barbosa has played an important role off the bench for the Suns for years, but the team is sputtering and just about everyone appears to be on the table in Phoenix. While Amare Stoudemire and even Steve Nash appear in trade rumors, Barbosa is the more likely target.
Barbosa's diminishing role on the team is a telltale sign that head coach Terry Porter has lost faith in him. Still, Barbosa is young and has value: He isn't the pure point guard that some teams covet, but his scoring ability, energy and reasonable contract make him a hot name. It appears the Suns would be willing to part with him in return for a veteran who is more committed on the defensive end.
Chance of trade: 50 percent
Nate Robinson, Knicks
It might surprise some to learn that Robinson is second only to rookie Danilo Gallinari in plus/minus for the Knicks at the moment. Watch a Knicks game and you'll see why. Robinson is well-suited for head coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style and has played a critical role off the bench this season.
The problem for the Knicks is that Robinson hits restricted free agency this summer and the Knicks aren't inclined to pay him. They are trying to free up as much money as possible for the summer of 2010 and Robinson isn't worth risking that flexibility to lose out on a shot at LeBron and friends. If the Knicks can get a future first-round pick for him or if they can use him to sweeten an Eddy Curry package for an expiring contract, they'll have to consider dealing him.
Chance of trade: 40 percent
Monta Ellis, Warriors
Ellis' infamous mo-ped injury got him in hot water with Golden State, which is still holding out the right to terminate his contract if he doesn't fully recover. That hasn't sat well with Ellis' camp, which would jump at the opportunity to part ways.
A lot of teams will have interest in Ellis if the Warriors want to cut ties. The problem for Ellis is that he's a base-year compensation player and will have to be part of a larger deal to be traded before the deadline.
Chance of trade: 35 percent
Jamaal Tinsley, Pacers
There is no denying that Tinsley is on the block. The Pacers did not allow him to join the team during training camp and have been working with his agent, Raymond Brothers, to move him all season. According to all parties involved, Tinsley is totally healthy and in decent shape. Given his undeniable talent, that should have a number of teams seriously interested.
However, the issue is twofold. One is his contract: Tinsley still has two years and $14.7 million left on his deal after this season. Second is the combination of his injury history and off-court track record. In the past six seasons, he has started more than 43 games only once. And his well-publicized off-court issues have given a number of teams pause. Still, Tinsley could be the answer for teams -- like Miami -- that are looking for help.
Chance of trade: 30 percent
Andre Miller, Sixers
Miller may be the most attractive player on the list for two reasons. One, he's a very talented veteran who can immediately step in and contribute on a number of contenders. Two, he's in the last year of his contract, which means teams don't have to commit long-term.
With the Sixers hovering around .500 and not looking like the title contenders we thought they would be, it might be time for the Sixers to make a move for the future. While Miller won't bring them back an All-Star in return, he could get them a future pick or another player who could help them down the road.
It's not hard to see that the Sixers' future looks brighter with their youth, not their veterans. Miller might be the first to go, and it's not inconceivable that Elton Brand is next.
Chance of trade: 25 percent
Baron Davis, Clippers
After playing in all 82 games last season and securing a hefty contract from the Clippers, Davis is back on the shelf -- he hasn't played at all in January because of tailbone and hamstring injuries. With questions surrounding Davis' lack of motivation when his team is losing, who knows when he'll return from injury?
I doubt Mike Dunleavy would hesitate to move him if he could. On the right team -- i.e., a contender -- Davis obviously has a lot to offer. But who's picking up that extra four years and $53 million on his contract? In this economic environment, the Clippers will struggle to find takers.
Chance of trade: 15 percent
Kirk Hinrich, Bulls
By most accounts, Hinrich should be higher on the list. The Bulls have their point guard of the future in Derrick Rose, and Hinrich has real value in the league. The problem is, I don't think John Paxson can pull the trigger because he's a Hinrich fan. And on a team that's loaded with youth, Hinrich is a rare veteran presence.
I think the Bulls will most likely hang on to Hinrich for the rest of the season. However, the chances he gets traded will go up this summer, especially if there's a new GM running the show in Chicago by then.
Chance of trade: 10 percent
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.