Who should be loading up for the stretch run? Which teams should be looking to tear it down? We make the call for five stuck in NBA limbo before Thursday's trade deadline.
1. Add, subtract or stand pat: What should the Knicks do?
Jim Cavan, KnickerBlogger: Stand pat. Pulling a panic trade at this point would only hinder New York's chances of retaining Carmelo Anthony, who has made it clear that he'll only stick around if the Knicks can better build around him. The only exception would be dealing Tyson Chandler for a pick or two, but even then you're probably looking at a little more than a late first-rounder.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Add. To borrow a phrase from Lionel Hollins, the Knicks have champagne tastes on a beer budget. No, I'm not saying the Knicks can't financially afford getting some help, but they lack the flexibility and inventory to get the kind of help they need.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: Add. I'd push for Kyle Lowry. Yes, he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, which might scare the New York faithful, but the Knicks would have his Bird rights in their back pocket and it's tough to turn down the Big Apple. He'd be a massive upgrade over Raymond Felton, who looks 39, not 29, out there.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: Subtract. Much focus is on Mike Woodson, but the Knicks have so many difficult-to-manage players. They should try to deal J.R. Smith (if anyone will have him) and move Tim Hardaway Jr. into a larger role. It looks like they want Melo and Melo wants them, so the strategy should be waiting out their other bad contracts and rebuilding around Anthony later on.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: Subtract. The Knicks need to come to the realization that a team built around this core is not a real contender. They need to shed salary and attempt to recoup some of the picks they've given away in previous moves. This probably costs them Melo this summer, but paying him $130 million only further cripples their financial flexibility and cements their long-term mediocrity.
2. Add, subtract or stand pat: What should the Cavs do?
Cavan: Subtract. The Cavs are an unmitigated disaster, but their best hope for convincing Kyrie Irving to stick around, at this point, might well lie in rolling the draft day die once more. If they deal Dion Waiters and can somehow connect on this year's pick, they might have the makings of a plucky upstart come next season. Where have we heard that before?
Elhassan: They should subtract and try to maximize their pick positioning for the upcoming draft, but since that doesn't seem to be in the company playbook for this year, I'll have to settle for standing pat. There isn't a massive overhaul available that will get Cleveland from "playoff spectator" to "not sacrificial first-round lamb," so why rush to the slaughterhouse?
Haberstroh: Subtract. There aren't any easy answers in Cleveland, but the Cavs need a cleanse. Get a fresh start and move everyone not named Kyrie Irving. And that probably includes coach Mike Brown, who hasn't had the strongest grip on the team. They need to make Irving into a superstar, and I'm not sure Brown is the guy to do it.
Strauss: Subtract. It's time for Cleveland to accept its sunk costs and move on. Dealing Jarrett Jack makes sense for the same reasons acquiring him didn't make much sense. The last thing Irving needed was a backcourt mate who plays similarly bad defense while also hogging the ball.
Soriano: Subtract. While chasing a playoff spot by mixing a veteran core with their young lottery picks seemed like a good idea, it simply isn't working. Jack, Anderson Varejao and Luol Deng should all be dangled at the deadline for better-fitting assets or draft picks.
3. Add, subtract or stand pat: What should the Celtics do?
Cavan: Subtract. That there are Rajon Rondo suitors a-plenty waiting in the wings goes without saying. If the Celtics can snag a couple of firsts in return, they could potentially speed up the rebuild process. Short of that, the only other options are marginal short-term flexibility for the sake of shedding their two most onerous contracts: Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace.
Elhassan: Stand pat. I am in the minority who think Rondo is worth holding on to, unless of course an amazing deal comes along. But the combination of his short contract and his gruff nature make it difficult to find a trading partner willing to take him on sans his approval.
Haberstroh: Stand pat and look to trade Rondo this summer after he's had time to fully restored his trade value. He's looked better as of late, but there's too much uncertainty here for teams to push all their chips to the table now. Revisit in July.
Strauss: Subtract. Rondo sure doesn't look old, but short point guards with poor jump shots age quicker than most. He's about to turn 28, and the Celtics are likely slogging through a lengthy rebuild. Getting value for him now makes more sense than waiting.
Soriano: Stand pat. The Celtics are in one of the best positions they can be: Their awful record will net them a high draft pick in a loaded draft, and they have a relatively young cornerstone player in Rondo. They simply need to keep doing what they're doing and nail their pick this June.
4. Add, subtract or stand pat: What should the Wolves do?
Cavan: Add. It's too early to think about dealing Kevin Love. The only hope the Wolves have of keeping him around, however, is to prove they can crack the playoff fold -- which is not entirely out of reach at this point. Take your chances on an upgrade and, should the postseason prove another mirage, you still have Love in your back pocket. The buyers aren't going anywhere.
Elhassan: Subtract or stand pat. At this point, it is inevitable that Love will want out of Minnesota. Like the Cavs, the "best" deal the Wolves can hope for will at best make them first-round fodder and at worst not be enough to get them to the postseason, but in either scenario they'll probably give up too much for too little. Forget Melodrama and Dwightmare Parts 1 & 2, time to crank up LOVEFEST!
Haberstroh: Stand pat. As I wrote last week, unless Love walks into Flip Saunders' office and demands a trade, there's no incentive for the Timberwolves to bail. Love is one of the top five or so players in the league right now and under contract through next season. Stay the course and hope the ghastly 2-16 record in super-clutch situations (final minute, game within three) is a mirage.
Strauss: Stand pat. See about trading Love, but not for any of the recently rumored deals. They probably shouldn't trade him, but If the return is lottery picks or someone of, say, Russell Westbrook's caliber? Then, yes, go with such a deal. I just doubt that such a great package comes along.
Soriano: Add. Yes, there's a risk that Love leaves regardless of what the Wolves do, but making this team as competitive as possible with him at the core is the best way to convince him to stay. It's much harder to leave a contender than it is a fringe playoff team, so the Wolves should build toward the former by adding as much talent as they can right now.
5. Add, subtract or stand pat: What should the Lakers do?
Cavan: Stand pat. The time to trade Pau Gasol was months ago, back when the standings -- and thus the draft hopes -- were more volatile. Should the Lakers at least be looking to unload Pau? Sure. Will they find a partner willing to part with picks or other desirable assets? Unlikely. Keep on nixin' 'um for Dante Exum, I say.
Elhassan: Stand pat. Other than Emeka Okafor's insurance gem of a contract, there just isn't a cache of expiring contracts out there that can match Pau's enormous cap number, and it's debatable whether the Suns will acquiesce to the Lakers' demand for a first-round pick. Basically, either the Lakers are taking back future salary, aren't getting a pick or (gulp) both.
Haberstroh: Subtract. Gasol has had a down season, but he'd still make the Lakers better, and that's the last thing the Lakers need right now. Trade Gasol to Phoenix for the Okafor contract and the first-rounder the Suns are getting from Indiana. Give in, Lakers. Bleed for Joel Embiid.
Strauss: Subtract. Trade Pau because, by the time the team's good, he'll be too old to help. He doesn't fit at all into a rebuilding process. And if you can trade him for Love? Well, I'm not sure how that even realistically happens, but congrats to Mitch Kupchak if he conjures magic yet again.
Soriano: Subtract. This isn't about getting worse for a better lottery pick as much as it is about turning players who likely aren't part of the team's future into assets who will be. Even if a palatable deal doesn't materialize for Gasol, trying to cash in on whatever value Jordan Hill or Chris Kaman might have on the open market is in the Lakers' best interests for next season and beyond.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Amin Elhassan, Tom Haberstroh and Ethan Sherwood Strauss cover the NBA for ESPN.com. Jim Cavan and Darius Soriano are part of the TrueHoop Network.
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