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KO's Mailbag: Forward-thinking trade targets to keep in mind as the deadline approaches

In a special edition of the CelticsBlog Mailbag, under-the-radar NBA trade targets are assessed.

If the Grizzlies fire the coach and GM, who's to say they won't press reset?
If the Grizzlies fire the coach and GM, who's to say they won't press reset?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Believe it or not, but there are only 65 days until the NBA's trading deadline. And today's December 15, the day most players who signed as free agents are eligible to be traded. This is usually when trade talks start swirling, so for a special edition of the mailbag, I answered Celtics-related questions strictly about trade ideas and potential players to target.

Please note: these responses are solely based off speculation and analysis of each respective team's potential situation closer to the deadline.

If I didn't answer your question this week, I might include it in future editions. You can read previous editions of the mailbag here. If you want to submit a question for a future mailbag use this form here or tweet me @KevinOConnorNBA.

Dominik from Croatia asks: Besides DeMarcus Cousins, who are some stars players that could become available?

Answer: Dominik, it'd take extraordinary circumstances for a superstar to become available in a mid-season trade. First, the team must be a non-contender. Second, ownership must be willing to press the reset button. Third, Boston would need to even have interest in the player. And fourth, they'd need to have the best offer.

But there's always a chance that happens, right? The key for all organizations is to be ready to react to those opportunities that may present themselves. Here are three stars, besides Cousins, that are worth keeping in the back of your mind:

  • Marc Gasol, Big, Memphis: It sounds outrageous, but what Memphis has just isn't working. There were rumblings Monday that Dave Joerger and John Hollinger are on the hot seat. Who knows if that has any legs to it, but if it does, maybe ownership is ready to scrap what they have now for a monstrous trade package. Gasol is 30-years-old, but he's a legitimate star two-way center and would be a terrific system-fit with the Celtics.
  • Danilo Gallinari, Forward, Denver: Even if Gallo's not really a "star." I believe in the right system, he could be a "star within his role." Brad Stevens would likely get the most out of him as a super versatile, knockdown shooting forward that can make plays with the ball in his hands. The Nuggets aren't very good and they reportedly shopped him in trades around the draft. The Celtics were rumored as one of the interested teams. The Nuggets are fighting for the playoffs, but if they slide down the standings, maybe the Celtics can offer them a nice package.
  • James Harden, Guard, Houston: The Rockets are only 12-13, and they've won seven of their last 10. But they've beaten a lot of bad teams, so I question if they'll maintain this winning. If they fall back into their poor early-season habits that got Kevin McHale fired, maybe they're another team that looks to blow it all up. I personally wouldn't deal Harden, but if you're the Rockets, and your team is struggling at the deadline, maybe you at least listen.

Always consider what Danny Ainge said in an interview posted to Celtics.com in May: "Just because we have assets, just because we have young players, just because we have draft picks, and we have cap space, it means that if there's one of those situations that becomes available, it just means that we have an opportunity. It doesn't mean that there's any guarantee that something like that will happen. So we want to stay in the game until we can do something significant."

In other words, you need to be ready. It's highly unlikely those three stars -- or Cousins -- become available, but if they are the Celtics are in a position to be "in the game" for them. From a fan perspective, they are merely names worth staying aware of, while monitoring each team's situation.

Angelo from Italy asks: Even though the Celtics will probably be active on the trade front, do you believe roster continuity will be favored?

Answer: Angelo, roster continuity is important. But trading away continuity for talent is what helped them become a better team last season. Trading Rajon Rondo was a no-brainer decision. Trading Jeff Green opened up more minutes for The Beast, Jae Crowder. Trading for Stealing Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix for Marcus Thornton was a no-brainer. So, if the right opportunity comes, as alluded to in the prior response, then talent trumps continuity.

M-BEAZY from Germany asks: I'd like to see the Celtics acquire another forward. Who do you think could become available? How about Tony Snell or Doug McDermott from the Bulls?

Answer: M-BEAZY, I don't see the Bulls trading two young guys in Snell or McDermott, even after Mike Dunleavy returns. But here are some forwards -- other than Gallo, who was mentioned above -- that make sense as non-star targets.

  • Jared Dudley, Forward, Washington: Dudley is a knockdown three-point shooter, plays hard on defense, has a high basketball IQ, and he's on an expiring contract. Maybe if the Wizards keep stinking, he'll be available. Plus, he loves Brad Stevens.
  • Terrence Jones, Forward, Houston: I've always been a huge fan of Jones for his positional versatility. He's a good three-point shooter from the corners and the right wing, so he'd help stretch the floor, too.
  • Shabazz Muhammad, Forward, Minnesota: I'm not a big fan, but Shabazz could provide a spark off the bench if the Wolves are willing to move him.
  • Robert Covington, Forward, Philadelphia: Covington is a good shooter, though his percentages are down this year. He feels like the type of player who will be a lot better once he's in a winning environment.

Of those names, from a general perspective, Dudley is probably most movable. The Wizards have the NBA's 23rd-worst net rating, and Kelly Oubre is waiting in the wings. Since Dudley is a free-agent-to-be, it'd make a lot of sense for them to move on if they continue struggling -- to get Oubre more time and get value back. Whether or not the Celtics would even have interest remains to be seen, since he'd possibly be just a half-year rental.

Tom from Cape Cod asks: Kevin, if the Celtics were to make a big trade during the season, which player do you think is most likely to be traded?

Answer: I don't see how it's not David Lee for three primary reasons:

1. The Contract: Lee has an expiring contract worth $15 million. That's appealing for the receiving team. It's also better for the Celtics, because there is significant value in holding onto Amir Johnson ($12 million). Johnson's deal is non-guaranteed for 2016-17, so the Celtics could essentially use his deal as a "filler" for draft night trades.

2. Depth: Lee has started to come around for the Celtics, but his presence really doesn't allow Stevens to play small. Stevens has mentioned multiple times how the team has "so many bigs," so dealing Lee for a wing or a forward would balance the roster.

3. Production: The Celtics have a +7.3 Net Rating when Lee is off the floor and a -3.7 when he's on, and the stats go a lot deeper than that, but we'll save that topic for another day.

Eric from Barcelona asks: Isn't it tempting to wait to see what can be done with the hundreds of picks the Celtics will have in June?

Answer: Eric, it's very tempting. Most of the blockbuster trades happen in the offseason, not the regular season, so that's more likely anyway. But I think you have to strike when the opportunity is there, if it's the right player.

Thank you, please submit more questions for next Tuesday's mailbag.