Five names to look out for at the NBA trade deadline
College Contributor Network
With the trade deadline just a couple weeks away, now is when the bevy of those trade rumors start coming into fruition. The most interesting kind of trade that happens at this time is when a contender makes a move to get that last piece they think will push them over the top. Without further ado, here are five players that could be involved in crucial trades around the league.
Kevin Martin -- SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Martin, who just celebrated his 32nd birthday on February 1, doesn't exactly fit in with Minnesota's youth revolution. Add in the fact that he's averaging just under 20 points a night and that he has very real trade value right now it would be a real head-scratcher for the toiling Timberwolves not to try to get something for him.
However, whichever team wants Martin won't be able to have him for just a half-season rental. Martin is signed through the 2015-16 season and has a player option the following year for $7.38 million. The Washington Wizards have come up a lot as a team that could get him, and it makes sense. The Wizards have struggled of late and arguably their biggest deficiency is that they don't have anyone on their bench that can create their own shot.
The Memphis Grizzlies could also use a shooter like Martin on their bench. Memphis prides itself on its grueling defense, and Martin doesn't fit the bill on that end, but the Grizzlies' bench shoots a hideous 27.8 percent from deep. The Mavericks and Hawks could also use a backup shooting guard, but it looks like if Atlanta is going to add players it will be from the free agency pool.
Taj Gibson -- PF, Chicago Bulls
Gibson is rumored to be involved in a lot of trade talks, but he's probably the unlikeliest of this list to be making a new home somewhere else. He's also the unique player of the group because he's already on a team with Finals aspirations, but the Bulls might be better served to see what they can get for the 29-year-old.
The reasoning is there. With Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and super-rookie Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls have three solid bigs in the rotation, and Gibson is owed $8 million this season and $17.45 million total the following two. Chicago is also in big need of a small forward or a true shooting guard to back up Jimmy Butler.
While Gibson is the most expendable piece the Bulls have that would net them a sizeable return, he's still a key player for the team. Noah has been dealing with injuries this season and hasn't looked himself on the court, while the 34-year-old Gasol is also in danger of breaking down eventually, as he's averaging 35 minutes a game and has missed at least 18 games every season since the 2010-11 campaign.
If Chicago does take the route of trading away Gibson, the two teams that could make this interesting are the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns. The Nuggets, as you'll see later in this article, seem to be on the verge of fire-sale mode. The two pieces the Bulls would be most interested in are wing players Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler as they are both quality players that fill a big void in Chicago's roster.
The catch is that Denver wants a first-rounder for Afflalo, and with his player option next season he's a risk to just walk away from the team he's on for nothing in return. If the Bulls don't feel like taking the chance with Afflalo and Chandler ends up elsewhere, the Suns are another team with wing players in spades, namely Gerald Green, that could use a defensive presence like Gibson, especially with Alex Len out with a sprained ankle.
Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler -- SG, SF, Denver Nuggets
As mentioned above, Denver is a sinking ship and could be one of the most active teams at the trade deadline, willing to part with anything not bolted to the floor or named Gary Harris.
The two names title-contending teams will be very interested in are Afflalo and Chandler. Apparently the Nuggets want to swing for either a star player or first round picks, but the latter is way more likely.
Afflalo will go to a team that desperately needs scoring off the bench and has a first-round pick to spare. The two teams that make the most sense are the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers as they both fit this criteria and both know that they need as much firepower as they can get to stay afloat in the Western Conference.
If Portland misses on Afflalo it could try and get Chandler, as the Blazers need depth behind Nicolas Batum, who himself has had a down season. It will likely take a first-rounder to nab him, but in a conference where the difference between the second seed and the sixth seed could be a handful of games it would be well worth it. The Clippers could also be potential suitors for Chandler, but they have almost zero cap flexibility and their 2016 first-rounder is the team's only first round pick it owns in the next three seasons.
Brook Lopez -- C, Brooklyn Nets
The Nets, like the Nuggets, may just trade away everyone in the organization including their GM if they can get away with it. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett are on the table, but Lopez is the prize catch.
When he's healthy, there's only a couple traditional centers with the offensive game Lopez has. He doesn't rebound quite as well as a center as skilled as he should, and his defense is suspect, but that hasn't stopped good teams from calling the Nets' front office.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets have both reportedly shown interest in Lopez, with OKC sending out a formal offer that Brooklyn denied. The Thunder, stuck starting Kendrick Perkins in the middle, could definitely use an upgrade. What the Rockets would plan to do with both Lopez and Dwight Howard is beyond me.
The Thunder could try to sweeten the deal with a future first-rounder, and that's probably what it would take for the Nets to want to take Perkins and whoever else the Thunder offer.
Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo