Tuesday , Feb , 17 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Points in the Paint

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The NBA’s trading deadline is Thursday at
3 p.m. (et). Teams that are primed for a playoff run will be trying to get
stronger, while clubs that are suffering through a tough season will attempt
to get rid of big contacts and free up salary cap space for a brighter future.

No one knows what is going to happen. Thursday could be a very active day, or
the deadline could come and go without any deals. Rumors will be flying, and
everyone will be dreaming up trades that will see star players changing
addresses.

Remember, it is very difficult to make trades in the NBA because of the rules
under the salary cap. In order for some deals to be completed, a third team
and sometimes even a fourth has to be included in the transaction.

Here are some teams that could be busy before Thursday’s deadline passes.

ATLANTA HAWKS – Atlanta has already traded away centers Theo Ratliff and Nazr
Mohammed, forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim and guard Dan Dickau. General manager
Billy Knight has brought in the expiring contracts of Rasheed Wallace ($17
million), Wesley Person ($7.7 million), Joel Przybilla ($2.4 million) and
Michael Doleac ($1.6 million), as the Hawks are trying to clear between $20
million to $22 million under the salary cap.

There is talk that Wallace could be on the move again. But why would Knight
trade Wallace when he has already achieved his goal to have flexibility under
the salary cap for the future crop of free agents.

The deal would have to be perfect for Atlanta to move Wallace.

CHICAGO BULLS – The hope here is that general manager John Paxson has realized
that this team is going in the wrong direction. The mix of veterans (Antonio
Davis, Jerome Williams, Scottie Pippen) and youngsters (Tyson Chandler, Eddy
Curry, Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer and Kirk Hinrich) just isn’t working. The
recipe is wrong, and it is time to start over once again in Chicago.

The only player that Paxson should not think of moving is Hinrich, who is
having a solid rookie season.

Crawford is eligible to become a restricted free agent after this season, but
the Bulls can match any offer he receives. Chandler and Curry will be in
similar situations after the 2004-05 season. I have a feeling Chicago will
hold onto the three youngsters and look to deal Williams and Davis, both of
whom were acquired from Toronto for Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny
Baxter on December 1. Fizer is the one youngster most likely to be on the
move.

Dallas and New Jersey could have some interest in Davis, while Williams has
been rumored to be possibly headed to Philadelphia for guard Aaron McKie.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – The Cavs should entertain plenty of offers for starting
center Zydrunas Illgauskas.

The Knicks and Mavericks should have the most interest in Ilgauskas, while it
wouldn’t surprise me if the New Jersey Nets made a phone call to Cleveland to
see what it would take for them to acquire the Cavs’ center.

Cleveland should probably hold onto Ilgauskas, who is a nice complement to
rookie phenom LeBron James and up-and-coming power forward Carlos Boozer.
However, the possibility of acquiring either Antawn Jamison or Antoine Walker
from Dallas could be very enticing. James and Jamison or Walker would be a
very lethal one-two scoring punch.

DETROIT PISTONS – Acquiring a forward that can score would not hurt Larry
Brown and the Pistons. Orlando’s Juwan Howard, who played his college ball at
Michigan, can be had for the right price.

A future draft pick and a veteran player might be enough to bring Howard to
Detroit.

DENVER NUGGETS – Denver is trying to make the playoffs for the first time
since 1995. A veteran with playoff experience would definitely help the
Nuggets.

The Nuggets do not want to trade for a veteran player with a lot of years left
on his contract. Denver worked hard to free up salary cap space so it could
make serious offers to impact free agents.

DALLAS MAVERICKS – The Mavs desperately need a center to have a chance in the
postseason against the Western Conference powerhouses. Dallas does have some
tradeable commodities.

I expect the Mavs to explore the possibility of dealing either Walker
or Jamison. There should be plenty of interest, as both Walker and
Jamison can light it up on the scoreboard.

The Mavs should seriously consider dealing one of their scoring forwards to
Cleveland for center Illgauskas. If Dallas can’t make a deal for Ilgauskas
they could pursue a deal with New York for Mutombo and/or Kurt Thomas.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – Things have not worked out the way Warriors’
management was hoping. Golden State has some players that will spark interest
around the league.

Point guard Nick Van Exel, who was acquired from Dallas in an offseason trade,
center Erick Dampier and veteran forward Cliff Robinson could have new homes
before Thursday’s deadline passes.

The 37-year-old Robinson is the perfect player for a team that is headed
towards a run at the postseason and needs some added scoring punch off the
bench. The Denver Nuggets could be a perfect suitor for the veteran forward.
It won’t take much to pry Robinson from the Warriors.

Golden State should get a lot of phone calls regarding Dampier and Van Exel.
But it won’t be easy to move either player, as Dampier has an opt-out clause
in his contract that he can exercise at the end of the season and he can leave
without compensation. Van Exel also has an opt-out clause at season’s end. Van
Exel, however, most likely won’t opt out because it would mean giving up $11.8
million.

MIAMI HEAT – The Heat will get some interest regarding guard Eddie Jones.
Miami could use a low post presence and Jones could help the Heat acquire that
type of player.

What about Jones to Golden State for Dampier and Speedy Claxton? Just a
thought.

Miami would also love to move forward Brian Grant and his big contract.

NEW JERSEY NETS – The Nets are on a roll since replacing head coach Byron
Scott with Lawrence Frank. New Jersey lost center Alonzo Mourning, who had a
kidney transplant, to retirement early in the season. The Nets could be
looking for some help in the middle.

New Jersey should inquire about Dampier and Chicago’s Davis, but the price
will probably be too high. I would not be surprised if New Jersey picks up a
veteran player that can rebound and play defense.

NEW YORK KNICKS – Isiah Thomas will work the phones and see if he can find any
takers for center Dikembe Mutombo and guard Shandon Anderson. Dealing Kurt
Thomas is also not out of the question.

During the All-Star break, trader Isiah, who acquired star point guard Stephon
Marbury and Anfernee Hardaway from Phoenix earlier this season in his first
blockbuster trade as New York’s team president, acquired center Mohammed
and forward Tim Thomas in a three-team trade, which saw the Knicks part with
forward Keith Van Horn and Doleac.

I don’t think the Knicks can get much for Mutombo, but maybe a package of
Mutombo or Anderson along with Kurt Thomas could get New York one more missing
piece to Isiah’s puzzle. How would Dampier, Illgauskas or Dallas’ Walker look
in a Knicks’ uniform?

ORLANDO MAGIC – The dismal Magic will try and make a deal before Thursday’s
deadline passes. Orlando, which would rather have its nightmarish season come
to end, will try and move forward Juwan Howard, who signed with the Magic as a
free agent in the offseason.

Howard could spark some interest from the Detroit Pistons.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – I expect the 76ers to make one trade, maybe even two.
However, neither deal will involve All-Star guard Allen Iverson.

Philadelphia could deal guards Eric Snow and McKie. The Sixers would
probably like to trade disgruntled forward Glenn Robinson, but what team wants
to inherit another club’s problem.

The 30-year-old Snow could end up in Seattle, where he played two-plus seasons
before being dealt to Philadelphia in January 1998. Snow to the Sonics for
Brent Barry, who is sidelined with a broken finger, is a possibility, while
Orlando may decide to trade forward Juwan Howard and shooting guard Gordan
Giricek for Philadelphia’s starting point guard. Snow signed a contract
extension before this season that will take him through the 2008-09 season,
which makes it difficult for the 76ers to trade him.

McKie has been rumored to possibly be headed to Chicago for power forward
Jerome Williams. Not a very exciting trade.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – General manager John Nash has already traded, in
separate deals, forward Rasheed Wallace and swingman Bonzi Wells. Nash has
brought in Ratliff, forwards Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles and Dickau.

Dale Davis could be the next to leave Portland. The 34-year-old forward/center
should generate interest from certain teams. Nash could be talking to New York
or New Jersey about Dale Davis.