Small but Fascinating Trade Deadline Storylines

Trade season is in full swing in the NBA, as the Feb. 19 deadline approaches. The rumors are flying as teams are looking to upgrade their rosters for a playoffs push or cutting loose veterans in an effort to jockey for draft position. It’s a hectic period that offers an overdose of story lines. Here are some of the most interesting and least reported ones.

Trading Reggie Jackson could come back to haunt the Thunder

Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson has asked for a trade, according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s not exactly surprising, since Jackson has not made it a secret that he wants to start — which was never going to happen in Oklahoma City — and Dion Waiters was brought in to replace him. Jackson has clashed with his teammates, at one time being “frozen” by Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins and a contract extension would put the Thunder over the luxury tax line, a step they have been reluctant to take in the past. Jackson leaving the Thunder has been brewing for months.

And yet it’s hard to wonder if the move won’t come back to haunt general manager Sam Presti like the James Harden trade has. Obviously Jackson is not on Harden’s level and the fit with the current roster isn’t as seamless, but Jackson is a quality player. When Westbrook and Durant were out in November, Jackson averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds. His efficiency suffered, but at that point he was the only creator the Thunder had. He could really blossom into a high-quality starting point guard on the right team next to a star that allows him to be the second option.

The Thunder are hoping Dion Waiters, a player that has not been nearly as productive as Jackson has, will fill the sixth man role going forward. Waiters is still young and could become a dangerous scorer and creator — he certainly has the talent and the physical tools. But unless the Thunder get back a player that helps them advance far in the playoffs, trading Jackson could come back to haunt them if he reaches his full potential elsewhere. That’s what Presti gets for drafting so many talented players, I guess.

What are the Kings doing?

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The Kings have reportedly inquired about both Goran Dragic and Arron Afflalo. They have assets like Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, expiring contracts and draft picks to put together a competitive package and they obviously need a talent infusion. Yet they are not making the playoffs this season and both those players can become free agents next offseason. It doesn’t make sense to trade young players and assets for rentals. Unless they are sure they can convince them to opt in on their player options, that is.

The salary cap will jump considerably in the 2016-17 season, thanks to the money coming in from the new TV deal the league recently signed. That means every team will have significant cap space and free agents will get huge contracts. Opting out after this season and signing a long term deal could mean missing out on the new cap bonanza that could lead to players like Dragic and Afflalo easily commanding eight-figure salaries. The Kings could be betting on their ability to sell whoever they trade for to delay free agency, like they did with Rudy Gay, or sign them to a big contract extension that would look outrageous only for a year, before salaries explode.

There’s also the possibility that they are making a huge mistake by overplaying their hand and could be left with neither young talent nor the veterans they trade for. George Karl should help stabilize the franchise but DeMarcus Cousins remains as complex and opinionated player as there is, and there could be clashes. The West is not getting easier anytime soon. If the veterans on expiring contract believe the team is not headed to the playoffs next season, they could bolt, leaving the Kings to rebuild again. It’s hard to pinpoint what’s going on in Sacramento but it’s definitely fascinating.

Someone will welcome back Andray Blatche and Michael Beasley

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Some teams will inevitably miss out on their preferred trade targets, leaving them with holes in their rotation. The quality players that get bought out will be there for the taking, but there aren’t enough to fill every roster need. That’s when desperation sinks in, as teams try to convince themselves all Andrea Bargnani really needed was a change of scenery. And that’s when someone will look to the Chinese league for reinforcements and see Michael Beasley’s and Andray Blatche’s names.

Beasley has been fantastic this year in China, dominating like it was expected of him. He’s averaging over 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists a game. Sure, he’s indulged in the occasional hijinks but nothing major. He’s not in the NBA because he has squandered every opportunity given to him, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he gets another look by some team with a short memory and a desperate need for perimeter scoring.

Blatche’s situation is significantly more interesting. He has a similarly checkered past as Beasley but has been productive in the NBA recently. In the 2013-14 season with the Nets he averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in only 22.2 minutes a game. He was a decent reserve big man and NBA teams need those. Blatche went to China because of the money and is lighting up the league to the tune of 31 points, 14 rebounds and five assists a game. He will definitely have suitors when the season ends in China in March.

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