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NBA trade market shifting as season progresses

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The market is shifting quickly and the best GMs will make their best moves when those shifts open up opportunities.

Darren McCollester

Let us make one thing perfectly clear to begin with. Danny Ainge doesn't care about this winning streak. If he sees a deal that would net him good returns at the expense of the current team, he won't hesitate to pull the trigger. On the other hand, I don't think he'll make a deal just to "step back in the standings" and secure a better draft position. If there isn't value there, he's not listening.

He's working on a plain above the day to day and week to week peaks and valleys. His eyes are focused on the long term and he's going to largely leave the short term up to Brad Stevens (who seems more than up to the challenge).

Of course that doesn't mean that he's taken a blind eye to the team all year. Just the opposite. He's watching the team progress and the players develop. He's watching the rest of the league as well. In just over a month things have changed pretty substantially all around the NBA between the first game and the quarter mark.

Supposed title contenders are cratering (Nets). Supposed East power players are on life support (Knicks). Two teams are running away with the top seeds in the East and everyone else is either fighting to get their heads above .500 or fighting to stay below .500 or torn between the two.

Meanwhile in the West the playoff race is alive and well and filled with quality teams. If the season ended today, the 11-9 Phoenix Suns (who were supposed to be tanking but have played really well) would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in. But if they were in the Eastern Conference they'd be the 3 seed.

All of which should make for an interesting trade season. In fact, the eye opening trades have already started happening. The Wizards moved early picking up Marcin Gortat. Minnesota and Sacramento swapped forwards (Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute). Now the Raptors have moved Rudy Gay to the Kings.

More trades are on the way as the Rockets are highly motivated to move Omer Asik. The Kincks have been rumored to have Iman Shumpert on the block all year. The Kings and the Raptors are apparently still open for business.

That's a lot of "sellers" on the market. But who are the "buyers?"

It was assumed before the season that some teams on the fringe of the playoffs would make a trade to push themselves over the top. The Cavs and Bucks were two mentioned in those conversations. The Bucks are in contention for the worst record and the Cavs are only still "in it" because the rest of the East is so so bad.

The Wizards are still focused on the playoffs, so they might want to upgrade again, except that they dealt away their 2014 pick (protected) already so they'd have only their uninspiring crop of youngsters and future picks to offer up as value.

The answer, it seems, is to go West. Everyone is in the playoff hunt out West it seems. The Rockets, Mavericks, and Nuggets all seem like teams that would be willing to wheel and deal to get a bump up the standings. Same with the Pelicans, Grizzlies, and T-Wolves who have each struggled more than expected so far.

Ainge likely has his eye on all these teams. We have veterans who could step in and help any of them but again, Danny won't just be giving them away. He'll want young talent and/or picks to continue to build with. If one of those young players can help us now, great. If not, they'll get some run anyway since development is the name of the game.

But a little winning streak won't give Danny any pause. It didn't matter in 2010 when he traded Kendrick Perkins the second he got healthy for what turned out to be good value (despite what I still consider to be poor timing on the morale of the team). He held onto Pierce and Garnett an extra year (or more) not out of loyalty so much as out of value. He didn't get the kind of offer the Nets gave up for them so they stayed until he got what he couldn't refuse.

So will Ainge jump into this trading game this year? I remain convinced that he will until proven otherwise - which won't happen until February 20th. The market is shifting quickly and the best GMs will make their best moves when those shifts open up opportunities.