The trade rumors will surely be swirling around Boston's Rajon Rondo and Chicago's Luol Deng.
There are still 160 days until the 2013-14 NBA trade deadline on Feb. 20, but if last season is any guide, the biggest action might come earlier. While the 2013 deadline was relatively quiet, we saw James Harden traded in October and Rudy Gay dealt in late January -- two moves that helped shape the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. Who might be involved in this season's big trades? Let's take a look at 10 key players with a reasonable chance of wearing different uniforms.
"We're not looking to trade Rondo," president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told Bill Simmons on the BS Report last week. "We think Rondo's a big part of our future." Of course, Ainge also admitted the Celtics were close to trading Rondo to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul, so we know he's not afraid to make a move if he feels like it will bring back an elite piece. As a result, and with Boston now in rebuilding mode, expect to hear plenty of rumors once Rondo returns from surgery to repair the ACL he partially ruptured last January.
Extension talks between the Bulls and Deng's agent, Herb Rudoy, broke off earlier this week without resolution. That means the two-time All-Star will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and one of the best on the market.
As much as head coach Tom Thibodeau loves Deng, Chicago will have to determine how much it's willing to pay long term for a player who turns 29 in April. If the Bulls suspect Deng will get more lucrative offers elsewhere, they'll have to consider dealing him before the deadline to get some value in return, potentially even if they're contending in the East.
Despite having Miller as an established backup to Ty Lawson, the Nuggets signed Nate Robinson as a free agent this summer. Much as new GM Tim Connelly insists that signing doesn't affect Miller's status, first-year head coach Brian Shaw will have a hard time finding minutes for three point guards 6-foot-2 and under. If Miller chafes at reduced playing time, a trade might be Denver's only alternative.
Dwight Howard's arrival in Houston doesn't necessarily mean Asik's exit. The Rockets will surely experiment with playing both big men together after successfully starting Asik alongside another paint-bound player, Greg Smith, late in the regular season.
But if that combination clogs up Houston's spacing on offense, Asik is much too valuable to relegate to backing up Howard. If the Rockets can parlay him into a stretch 4 to complement Howard, GM Daryl Morey surely won't hesitate to pull the trigger.
If Granger is healthy after missing nearly all of last season due to patellar tendinosis that eventually required surgery, Pacers coach Frank Vogel will have to reintegrate him delicately. Last season's starting lineup, with Lance Stephenson in place of Granger, was one of the best in the league and got Indiana within a game of the NBA Finals. Yet the Pacers' starting five was nearly as good the season before with Granger, and Stephenson could strengthen Indiana's upgraded second unit.
If the chemistry goes wrong, Granger is both an expiring contract and a potentially useful player. However, a trade will be equally tricky because of his big salary and the Pacers' inability to take on lucrative long-term contracts with star Paul George due for a big raise in 2014-15.
Randolph is a key player for a team that reached the Western Conference finals a season ago and moreover a major part of the Grizzlies' grit-and-grind identity. Still, don't be stunned if Memphis ends up dealing for another starting forward because of the combination of Randolph's age (32), his ability to opt out of his contract next summer and the presence of Ed Davis (a restricted free agent next summer barring an extension) on the roster as a ready-made replacement.
Both of Orlando's starting guards are possible trade candidates, but without any top young point guards on the market after Eric Bledsoe was traded to Phoenix, a deal involving Arron Afflalo seems unlikely. That leaves Nelson, the oldest member of a youthful Magic starting lineup at age 31. Nelson's 2014-15 salary is guaranteed for just $2 million, per Mark Deeks, so he's functionally an expiring contract for a team looking for a short-term upgrade at point guard for the stretch run.
With the 76ers effectively sitting the season out, Turner and teammateThaddeus Young are both popular in trade rumors. While Young could be a part of the next good Philadelphia team -- the only question is whether he's too good to keep -- Turner is a different story. Even last season, when he developed a 3-point shot, Turner still posted a woeful .478 true shooting percentage.
Barring massive, rapid improvement, he's unlikely to get a new contract when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. If some other team wants to try to rehabilitate the former No. 2 overall pick, they'll likely have a chance.
Consider Gortat the single player most likely to be traded in the entire NBA. He'll turn 30 shortly before the deadline, making him a poor fit for a rebuilding team, and is also in the final season of his contract. As a quality 7-footer, Gortat will surely have plenty of value at the deadline and could fetch the Suns another first-round pick to add to their stockpile of five over the next two drafts.
Sensing a theme here? Rush is a veteran role player with an expiring contract on a young, rebuilding team. As a 3-and-D specialist, he could help a contender off the bench, assuming he demonstrates he's fully back from a ruptured ACL that cost him nearly the entirety of the 2012-13 season.
Dealing Rush will help the Jazz recoup additional value from this summer's trade with theGolden State Warriors.