Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Thursday afternoon is the NBA's trade deadline, an annual guessing game that provides both the fan base and the media with enough fodder to last at least a week.
Don't be upset when Thursday's 3 p.m. Eastern time yard marker passes with a whimper.
It's hard to be angry with the NBA if the deadline turns out to be a stinker. This season, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, Dion Waiters and Jeff Green all moved before the All-Star game.
There is great parity in the league. Teams knew they had a chance this season, so they began loading up, especially in the Western Conference, where, as soon as one contender made a move, every other tried to follow suit. It was like watching fringe militias loading canned goods. Everyone knows the war is coming, so better to be prepared in case the government turns off the power.
That make this deadline unfairly uninteresting. How can the teams top that kind of first-half transactional output? They can't, that's how.
The other date hurting this trade deadline in terms of relevance is March 1. That's buyout day, so the list of victims from that could be more impressive than those available by Thursday. Already, Amare Stoudemire has been bought out by the New York Knicks and is getting fitted for a Dallas Mavericks jersey.
Hey now! Larry Sanders' bizarre tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks appears over. There's no more intriguing talent available right now than Sanders. One minute, he's the best rim protector in the NBA. The other, he's Tommy Chong without the pacifist charm.
Buyout day candidates include Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Bass, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrea Bargnani and maybe Kevin Garnett. Lump Sanders in that mix and this group might be more attractive than what's available in trade bait.
The biggest names you'll read about in the next couple days are Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns and Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets. Dragic is a free agent this summer and Brooklyn isn't quite that lucky on the Lopez front.
The deadline is the perfect outlet to move a potential free agent who may not re-sign. That's a big risk for the Suns, who want to actually make the playoffs, a refreshing change of pace in today's NBA. Phoenix has the depth at the point spot to endure in a post-Dragic world, but they apparently are more inclined to trade Isaiah Thomas than Dragic. The idea would be getting rid of the Thomas-third of their point-guard triumvirate would be easier because Thomas has a reasonable contract, and it'll free up Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to enjoy that wacky chemistry that worked so well a season ago.
Plus, what does Dragic fetch in a trade market with free agency looming? That makes Thomas, a fantastic scorer, very available. Phoenix has a lot of young talent, cap space and future picks. They need the big dog to make the roster whole. That's not coming by Thursday, so Dragic stays (I think Dragic stays long-term in Phoenix as well).
Lopez sounded like he was going to become a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder about a month ago. Now, he's not going anywhere. Brooklyn and Billy King are trying, but Lopez is young and valuable enough that the Nets can't give him away for change on the dollar. The Denver Nuggets offered J.J. Hickson, JaVale McGee and a first-rounder for Lopez. Brooklyn rejected the offer with prejudice. I chuckled when I first read that offer.
That's not to say Denver will be quiet this week. Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler are both available, but it'll cost another team at least a first- rounder for either. The Nuggets have no identity, no plan, so thinning the herd is a nice start for a rebuild. If their demands come down, Afflalo and Chandler are both very capable wing players a team like the Thunder or Portland Trail Blazers should covet.
Does Denver go full Hinkie and blow up the village to rebuild it? Ty Lawson is a top-12 point guard with a fair contract. Do the Nuggets value him or Kenneth Faried, an overpriced energy guy, who won't seem overpriced when the salary cap explodes next summer, too much to shop them?
And speaking of Mr. Hinkie, what will those Philadelphia 76ers do? They are well below the salary cap. In fact, they're well below the salary floor, so they'll pull a Hinkie. And what is a Hinkie, you say? That's taking a veteran with a big contract, trading for him and a second-round pick, then releasing the player.
The Celtics also will look to make a deal, but does anyone want to give up a single thing for Bass or Prince or Marcus Thornton? The Orlando Magic will give you one of their young small forwards who didn't work out - Andrew Nicholson or Mo Harkless. The Minnesota Timberwolves have some tantalizing veteran talent in Thaddeus Young and Kevin Martin. What's the price tag? The Lakers have literally nothing tradable.
There's no conceivable way to get a handle on the Sacramento Kings. Does George Karl want massive changes? Reports say Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams are available, but no bites. Some have said Nik Stauskas has been added as sweetener. If that's true, someone will make a deal with the Kings.
That leaves one bad team left, the one with the most talent, thus the most intriguing - the Utah Jazz. Rudy Gobert has emerged into a borderline force with the Jazz. The human most resembling the inflatable things outside the grand opening of car dealerships has forced his way into the long-term big man mix in Salt Lake.
That leaves Enes Kanter potentially out, a spot that, according to his agent, doesn't bother him. Kanter wants to be traded. The Jazz want to keep him, but, as a restricted free agent in the offseason, his self-worth is very high. Some would say it's unreasonably high. That might kick the Jazz in the pants enough to move him by Thursday.
Yes, this deadline has the sex appeal of Comic Con, but remember how spoiled you were the first two months when every week brought another big-name trade? Thursday is the cost of that business. No contender wanted to be left behind. Now, they all believe they are fine.
Phones will ring. Texts will fly, but by the time Shonda night hits ABC airwaves on Thursday, the 2015 trade deadline will have come and gone with little fanfare.