Before Thursday at 3 p.m. ET,, speculation, misinformation, smokescreens and awful trade ideas. Executives are barely sleeping, and they have the same Twitter notifications turned on as you do. It's such a fun time of year, isn't it?
As the trade deadline approaches, this is an attempt to sort through everything that's out there, from the stars who might be moved to the unpredictable nature of the Phoenix Suns. Twenty questions:
1. Will any big names actually move?
Bradley Beal cannot be traded. Chris Paul probably isn't going anywhere. Kevin Love might be stuck. If you're thirsty for blockbuster, franchise-changing deals, you're likely setting yourself up for disappointment. But maybe the Detroit Pistons and Andre Drummond will finally part ways. Maybe D'Angelo Russell will be on the move again. Five teams -- Atlanta, New York, Memphis, Charlotte and Cleveland -- project to have max cap space this summer, so anyone else looking to make a big splash will have to do so with a trade. Which brings us to …
2. Is there anyone outside of the rumor mill who might be on the market?
Two years ago, the Los Angeles Clippers sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons seemingly out of nowhere, mere months after selling him on being a Clipper for life in free agency. Tobias Harris headlined the package they got from Detroit, and last year they sent him to the Philadelphia 76ers in a move that no one saw coming. I bring this up not because I think Harris will be traded again -- although, hmmm! -- but rather to illustrate that surprises are possible.
Ten names I didn't include in my long list of players who might be traded, but are interesting to think about for various reasons: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Myles Turner, Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Luke Kennard, Terry Rozier, Paul Millsap, CJ McCollum and Kevon Looney.
3. How available is Holiday?
Imagine if the 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat or Toronto Raptors could get their hands on Jrue Holiday. No one seems sure about whether or not the New Orleans Pelicans will consider non-ridiculous offers for him, but if they will, then he is the elusive player who can potentially swing the balance of power at the top of either conference.
The trouble is that the Pelicans are only five games back of the eighth spot, with a favorable schedule and, now that Zion Williamson is back, a playoff-caliber roster. Holiday has value to New Orleans in the short term, and VP David Griffin has spoken extensively and effusively about the 29-year-old as a culture-setter. No one seems sure about how motivated the front office is to shop him.
The case for moving Holiday is simple: He would bring back real assets, and the Pelicans are deep enough to remain competitive with a less talented player in his spot. For them to do this now instead of playing out the season, though, they might have to be blown away by an offer.
4. How do the Sixers see themselves?
Philadelphia is sixth in the East, but it has occasionally looked awesome against contenders. It is 22-2 at home, but only 9-18 on the road. The Sixers' enormous roster is screaming for more playmaking, with an offense that ranks 20th despite considerable star power. Everybody knows they'd be much less erratic if they could somehow nab a guard like Paul, Spencer Dinwiddie, Bogdan Bogdanovic or Derrick Rose. Opinions vary, however, on how desperate they need to be to make a deal.
One end of the spectrum: This experiment hasn't worked. They should do whatever they can to rid themselves of Horford, a center who doesn't complement Joel Embiid and would be a massively overqualified and overpaid backup. It was crazy to think that this personnel would be enough to compete for a championship in this era. Even the most drastic measure, splitting up Embiid and Ben Simmons, should be considered.
And the other: This group is more suited for playoff basketball than an 82-game slog, and the starting unit has a plus-8.3 net rating in the 19 games all five players have been healthy. If you need an example of the upside here, just watch the Christmas Day game against the Milwaukee Bucks. All Philadelphia needs to do is make a tweak or two around the edges, and that can probably be done in the buyout market.
Ultimately all that matters is how the front office feels. The Sixers are clearly all-in on competing for a title, but that doesn't mean they have to remain all-in on bully ball. Scoring shouldn't look as hard as it does for them.
5. Can the L.A. teams add the reinforcements they want?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers both have limited flexibility, the cost of some moves you might have heard about last summer. The Lakers could use another playmaker in the backcourt and perhaps another two-way wing. The Clippers are interested upgrading at center and, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein, wing depth.
Rose is a potential fit for the Lakers, and not just because it would put the top three vote-getters for the 2011 MVP award on the same team. But would the Lakers be willing to trade Kyle Kuzma for him? They have no first-round picks to trade, and they can't even trade a second-rounder before 2023.
The Clippers, meanwhile, can trade their first-rounder this year, and if packaged with Moe Harkless' contract, they might be able to get someone like Marcus Morris or Andre Iguodala. More on those guys later, but Aron Baynes is my favorite potential Clipper.
6. Is Capela worth the fuss?
The biggest news in the past couple of days is that the Houston Rockets are looking at trading Clint Capela, a 25-year-old center who has become something of a prototype. Capela sets screens, catches lobs, runs the floor, blocks shots and switches onto smaller players. He is making around $15 million this season, and will be making around $18 million in 2022-23.
Capela is not necessarily overpaid relative to his production, but teams aren't lining up to commit long-term money to non-star centers. Everyone remembers Capela struggling against the Golden State Warriors in last year's playoffs, and everyone has noticed how well the Rockets have fared in the games he's missed this season. (Houston is 9-1 without him and has been better on both ends with him off the court.)
It seems like the front office is hoping that, by moving Capela, it can make a meaningful upgrade on the wing. Typically you'd think that a proven player at his age on a reasonable deal would be in high demand, but in this case I'm not sure if the Rockets will get what they want.
7. Is there a meaningful win-now move for Toronto?
The defending-champion Raptors have completely changed the conversation. Rather than potentially selling off their impending free agents, they are in a position to solidify themselves for the postseason. If Beal were available, Toronto would be an interesting landing spot.
But he isn't. And maybe nobody who could really raise the ceiling is. Holiday is intriguing, and to a lesser extent so is Danilo Gallinari, but the Raptors might be limited by the market rather than a lack of ambition.
To me, there's one big question: How does Toronto value OG Anunoby? Depending on how it sees the 22-year-old forward developing in the next few years, he could be either a core player or its best trade chip.
8. How bold will Denver be?
The Nuggets are another team that could have been in the Beal business, and I'd be shocked if all three of their upcoming restricted free agents -- Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and Torrey Craig -- remained on the roster at the end of the week. The bigger question they face, though, is how far away they think they are from true contention.
Denver is 12th in offense and 12th in defense. In separate stretches it has been elite on each end, but they haven't managed to be their best selves on both ends at the same time. I would like to see the Nuggets add someone who can slow down star wings, and I'd also feel a bit better about them if they had another perimeter playmaker. I doubt they're about to trade Michael Porter Jr., but I wonder what they could get for Gary Harris, Beasley and picks.
9. Can Miami go star-hunting?
The big contracts on their books make the Heat a fun trade-machine team, but they face the same issue as the Raptors and Nuggets: There might not be any realistic targets who move the needle.
Would Miami be willing to move rookie Tyler Herro? What is Justise Winslow's value? Given that it has no first-rounders to move, the Heat don't have many other options in terms of enticing a potential trade partner.
10. How much does Boston believe in its bench?
Grant Williams came up big in the Celtics' win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, and Brad Wanamaker is coming off the best two-game sample of his NBA career. It is unclear, however, how much confidence Boston has in Williams, Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams and Enes Kanter when it comes to playing significant playoff minutes.
My guess is that the Celtics are not as desperate for a center as the months of trade rumors would suggest, but they would like to add another reliable rotation player. They have the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick this season, and while it isn't as valuable as it used to be, it could still be used to get them some help.
11. Is Milwaukee satisfied?
The Milwaukee Bucks have been the best team in the league by any measure. Their success is the kind that can can lead a team to decide not to mess with anything. Even a minor move could theoretically affect the chemistry, put players in different roles and change the vibe around the team heading into the playoffs. Risky!
But there is also risk in doing nothing. As Milwaukee found out last May, the playoffs can reveal flaws that were camouflaged in the regular season. If the Bucks stand pat and do not win the title, it will be difficult for the front office not to look back to this time of year and lament missed opportunities.
Milwaukee could use a bit more playmaking and a bit more shooting. A 3-and-D wing would help, as would a lights-out stretch big. It has a lottery-protected first-round pick in this year's draft from the Indiana Pacers, and if it can use that to increase its championship odds, it probably should.
12. Will the Wolves overplay their hand with Covington?
The Minnesota Timberwolves want two first-round picks for Robert Covington, per the New York Times' Marc Stein, and their biggest leverage is that they don't have to trade him. Covington, 29, is owed $12 million next season and $13 million in 2021-22, which are team-friendly numbers as long as he stays healthy. If the Wolves aren't in a rush to shake things up, if they can't find the kind of deal that sufficiently improves their long-term outlook, then there's nothing necessarily wrong with keeping him.
I just wonder if that would be a mistake. Covington will likely never be more valuable than he is right now, with a dearth of true difference-makers available and a bunch of playoff teams trying to make upgrades. Given how well Covington's skill set travels and how simple it is for most teams to match his salary, the obvious concerns -- his knee, his problems defending bigger stars and his lack of offense beyond spot-up shooting -- can be overlooked in this particular trade market. That will not necessarily be true later.
13. Where will Iguodala wind up?
If it's the Clippers, they will be able to play some of the most terrifying defensive lineups the league has ever seen. Iguodala fills a more immediate need, though, for the teams that might have to face Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the playoffs. I'd love to see him in Utah, Dallas, Houston or Denver, and surely Memphis is hoping it can create a bidding war for a few months of Iguodala's services.
14. Is New York serious?
The Knicks are HELL-BENT on keeping Morris, per ESPN's Zach Lowe, and I am incredulous. This is the highest Morris' trade value has ever been, and New York should be doing backflips that it was lucky enough to sign him after he committed to a different team last summer. Instead of flipping him, though, it apparently might re-sign the 30-year-old forward in July.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Knicks will be open to the idea of moving him if offers get better before the deadline. I contend that they should be much more than open to it.
15. Do does OKC have anything up its sleeve?
The Thunder are endlessly fascinating, as they are competing and rebuilding simultaneously. Lowe speculated that they could use Andre Roberson's contract and a pick to get somebody like Covington, a move that would make the Thunder a scary lower-seeded playoff opponent. As awesome as that would be, though, it might not be any more likely than them selling off Gallinari or Dennis Schroder and getting worse in the short term. Paul and Steven Adams remain the subjects of much discussion, too.
16. What is Golden State up to?
The Warriors will almost certainly find a way to get under the tax. But what about Russell? He has been linked to the Wolves for obvious reasons, and, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Knicks have discussed making a run at him, too.
My argument for trading Russell: Thanks to Golden State's injuries, Russell has had to carry a big load on offense again, and he's averaging a career-high 23.8 points while shooting 38.3 percent from deep on a high volume. This is a good time to sell high, even if the Warriors are curious about how he'd look next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson next season.
17. Is Orlando going to do anything drastic?
Will the Magic trade Evan Fournier before he can be a free agent? Will they, at long last, move Aaron Gordon? They're such a weird team, and they're just kind of drifting along in eighth place, with serious problems on offense and no clear path to escaping mediocrity.
18. What are the Suns thinking?
You could imagine them making a win-now move, even taking on an expensive salary like Love's. You could also see them dumping Baynes to a contender and trading Dario Saric to avoid having to make a difficult decision in restricted free agency. Anything feels possible.
19. What is going on in Atlanta?
The rebuilding Hawks don't necessarily need to add anybody. They have young players at every position and plenty of cap space. They have been linked to a bunch of centers, though, from Drummond to Capela and Adams. At this point, it'd be somewhat of a surprise if they don't add a piece.