NBA Trade Deadline: 7 Situations to Watch

Dwight Howard once again headlines players available before Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline

As the NBA's trade deadline quickly approaches (it's on Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern time), the list of players being made available has been growing daily.

Outside of the possible tear down of the Atlanta Hawks, not much had been looming on the horizon until some other big names have been added to the trade block over the weekend.

The early rumors have shown that if your team is in the market for a center or point guard, there will be plenty of options. After analyzing the teams and players, the case can be made that some star talent will be on the move before the end of the week.

Here are some teams and players to keep an eye on going into Thursday’s deadline.

1. Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets (4.7 nERD)
2. Al Horford, C, Atlanta Hawks (7.8 nERD)

These two are grouped together because this could be a match made in heaven for both teams. Some extra pieces would need to be thrown in from Atlanta, possibly Tiago Splitter, to make the salaries come close and maybe a draft pick or pick swap rights from Houston if Atlanta is planning for the future.

Depending on how the rest of the deadline breaks down for Atlanta, Dwight Howard could keep the Hawks afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race while adding a hometown talent to the mix. Atlanta would be able to play a similar style to the 2009 Orlando Magic with Paul Millsap playing the stretch four position. Howard has a player option for 2016, which he will probably decline as the salary cap jumps up next season.

The Rockets are having some issues with style of play when Howard has been available. Since January 22, Houston is 4-0 without Howard and 1-6 with him. These splits can be attributed to other factors, but it may mean it’s time to move on.

Enter Al Horford, who ranks seventh among centers in nERD at 7.8, which indicates how many games above or below .500 he would make an average team as a starter. Horford’s ability to run the floor and shoot threes from the center position would allow Houston to play more uptempo at all times. Horford would fit right into the Rockets' mold, as they lead the league in three-point attempts at the All-Star Break. With Houston knocking on the door of the playoffs and only five games separating them from the 5 seed, this could push them into a situation where making the playoffs doesn’t just mean a beating from Golden State, San Antonio, or Oklahoma City in the first round.

3. Greg Monroe, C, Milwaukee Bucks (6.1 nERD)

Greg Monroe is currently having one of the best statistical seasons of his career, and his contract, two more years at $17 million each, with the second year being a player option, will seem very affordable next season when middle of the road starters will be commanding that type of money. So why might Monroe be available? Coming off last season’s 41-win campaign, Milwaukee has limped out to a 22-32 start, good for 13th in the Eastern Conference, and while Bucks coach Jason Kidd claims they will be silent at the deadline, the Bucks may want to capitalize on some value and recent interest in Monroe from other teams during last summer’s free agency.

Two of those teams, the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers, are attempting to improve on their current playoff positions. The Orlando Magic may also be an interesting destination for Monroe and have the ability to put together the best package of those teams, headlined by Nikola Vucevic.

4. Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks (0.7 nERD)

As the Hawks look to move one of their point guards before the deadline, Jeff Teague has been one of the most rumored players to be dealt by Thursday. The obvious fit for Teague is the New York Knicks, but they lack the assets necessary to make the type of deal Atlanta would want. The Knicks could offer a pick swap in 2017 or their 2018 first round selection, as they do not own one this year, but that may not be enough.

The loudest rumor has circled around the Indiana Pacers, who would send George Hill (2.9 nERD) to Atlanta. This would be more of a “change of scenery” move, as both players have similar stats this year and contracts that run through next season at $8 million per year. Orlando has also been in the mix offering a package involving Victor Oladipo; however, those talks have cooled over the weekend.

5. Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics may be the most interesting team to keep an eye on before Thursday. Boston owns several picks in this year’s draft and is in need for a superstar to put them in contention with Cleveland and Toronto in the East. With a probable top-five pick coming from Brooklyn and two other first-round picks in tow, Boston is likely to be involved with some of the biggest names that are available. Rumors involving the Celtics have included names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, and Al Horford, and they have the assets to be in the running for Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony if they are made available.

With David Lee’s expiring contract on the books, Boston can match almost any big salary and send any package of picks to get to the right price. The Celtics are in a place where they can make a splash similar to 2007 when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen on their way to an eventual NBA title.

6. New York Knicks
Brooklyn Nets

The two New York teams are out of the playoff race, but given a lack of first-round picks in the 2016 draft, the Knicks and Nets will have to improve their fortunes via trade.

While the Knicks are five games behind Charlotte for the eighth spot in the East, they have every reason to make a run at the playoffs this season. Given the talent and expectations, the Knicks will be trying to deal before the deadline. The biggest hole in the Knicks' depth chart is currently at point guard, where Jose Calderon is posting a pedestrian season with a nERD of 0.5.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, they do not have many assets, so acquiring Jeff Teague from the Hawks will be tough to pull off. Other names rumored to be available at point guard that will be a little cheaper are Detroit’s Brandon Jennings and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio. Jennings is in the last year of his contract and has played 10 games since returning from a torn Achilles tendon. He does not seem to have a place on the Pistons roster after this season, which makes him a good buy-low player for the Knicks. Rubio could also fit well as a facilitator for Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis while working with his fellow countryman Calderon.

Brooklyn is currently 14-40 with no chance of making the playoffs this season but can use trades to get into a better situation for the future. With trade chips such as Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, the Nets can try to recoup some first-round draft picks. One team interested in either Lopez or Young is the Toronto Raptors, who happen to own the Knicks' first-rounder in addition to their own. Dealing both players for picks and expiring contracts would free up tons of cap space as they try to rebuild their roster fully. The Nets already look to be giving up a top-five pick this season to Boston as part of the 2013 deal where they received Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They will have to do whatever they can to improve quickly to save face in the trade, as Boston can swap picks with them in 2017 and own their 2018 pick as well.