The NBA’s development league is holding a talent showcase in Reno this week where dozens of wannabe big-leaguers are doing their best to impress, but the real action is taking place away from the floor. Every NBA general manager in attendance is indeed talking up players ... NBA players who might be dealt.
Therefore, the stretch run to the Feb. 21 trade deadline has officially begun. Almost three months have passed, and GMs now have a better idea about what they need and where they’re going. The true contenders are looking to plug holes and find difference makers. Those headed for the draft lottery are trying to dump heavy contracts and gain financial flexibility.
With the handcuffs on the new labor agreement about to kick in, teams are more mindful than ever about payroll limits and luxury tax thresholds and expiring contracts. The trading game is almost as much about managing the cap as it is managing a roster. The more freedom a team has, the more options available to add talent.
Conversations have started and talks will intensify right around the All-Star break. The one team under close watch will be the Lakers, who fancy themselves as a contender but are playing like a lottery team. If they panic, anyone not named Kobe Bryant will be thrown into the discussion. Yes, even Dwight Howard.