Who? That's the question. We know for pretty close to certain that it will happen....we just don't know when or to where.
All season, Big Al's name has come up in trade rumors. Al Jefferson for Amare Stoudemire (bet a lot of us wish we could revisit that one...) Al Jefferson for Danny Granger. Al Jefferson for Luol Deng. For Tayshaun Prince. For Troy Murphy. For Zach Randolph.
Lately, Wolves fans....and Canis Hoopsters in particular....have been very down on Al's trade value. He's not a good fit, we have plenty of other big men, the team has publicly declared it intends to trade him and then he declared himself that he wants out.
Well Hoopusters, take a deep breath. Al Jefferson isn't a salary dump, and the last two weeks have proven it.
One thing has become very obvious lately: the number of teams looking for a quality big man far exceed the number of quality big men available in free agency.
And further, several teams we weren't expecting to look for big men....well, are.
Free agency has already been helter skelter, as most of you know, but if you add up the little things, it starts to equal one really big thing for us....Al is going to be in demand by the summer's end. Every time a team overpays to retain its own players, every time a Carlos Boozer to Orlando trade comes up, every time two or more of the big name free agents visit the same team, Al's value goes up. Teams overpaying their own players takes those players off the market and away from other teams looking to address needs....teams that can't afford Bosh, but need something. Rumors like Boozer to the Magic (potentially) send free agent big men to teams that didn't save up for this summer....and takes one more quality big man away from a team that did. Two big name free agents on one team means one less free agent for a different team....a team that starts seeing itself getting shut out.
Suddenly Al's public availability stops being a liability and becomes an asset.
I've divided the list of possible Al Jefferson destinations into three categories: teams that are interested, teams that are likely to be interested, and teams that could become interested.
- Teams that are interested:
Did anyone see this coming? I mean, Mark Cuban has a reputation for making bold, spur of the moment choices, but this was completely unexpected.
The Mavs were a little spooked when Dirk opted out of his contract. Not scared, and not really even worried that they wouldn't resign him. But they got the message: get help.
Well, they don't exactly have cap space to burn, so the next best thing is a trade.
As good a big man as Nowitzki is, he's also unconventional. He's a shooter. A really really really damn good shooter, but a shooter nonetheless. His post game is limited in the way Kevin Garnett's is. You'll get a solid turn-around jumper and maybe a few baby hooks, and that's it.
The plan of getting defenders to equal out difference didn't work. Brendan Haywood turned out to be a less-than-spectacular post defender. Tim Duncan annihilated the Mavs in the playoffs. So apparently Cuban (in classic Cuban fashion) has decided to swing the pendulum the other way and trade "defense" for offense.
It's not precise what the initial offer was from the Mavs, but comments for the team and just common sense give us a pretty good guess: Erick Dampier. Start the negotiations strong, right? I'm not sure what else the Mavs could include....or what we'd even want from them....but they are definitely interested and I'd expect them to come calling again this summer.
And yes. I intentionally posted a picture of Mark Cuban for this section because I know how much Canis Hoopus loves Mark Cuban. Right??? You love him.
Another team I wasn't expecting, but hey, who's complaining? The Nuggets have a ton of desirable assets for us: Nene, JR Smith, Chauncey Billups, Ty Lawson, and of course, Melo.
And I have noticed a massive increase in enthusiasm over Melo.
Granted, the Nuggets are unlikely to trade their franchise player for Al, but there is a lot of fuel on the fire and stranger things have happened.
The Nuggets, of course, are offering the same thing as the Mavs, just in the form of Kenyon Martin: cap space. A big expiring contract. Again, I don't see us biting on that. But I've read in several articles and have been told by several Nuggets fans that the team would seriously consider making Nene or JR Smith a part of the deal if we sweetened our end a bit.
Trading Jefferson for Nene? I can get behind that.
Of course, I'd love Melo the most. I think everyone would. I mean, who could forget this masterpiece?
Any chance that would get Melo to do that for us rather than against us is worth taking.
And since we are talking Melo and the Nuggets, here's something I posted earlier that bears repeating:
Melo has a 3 year, $65 mil extention on the table right now
Keep an eye on it. How he reacts will say a lot about what he thinks Denver’s future is. He wasn’t very optimistic on it following the Jazz series
Denver is documented as interested in Jefferson and are putting a lot out there right now. I’ve read articles and talked to various fans who bring up Kenyon Martin, JR Smith, Nene, and Billups all as players Denver would trade for Al. But not Melo
BUT if he decides he doesn’t want to be in Denver, they might be forced to trade him anyway
The relationship there is tenuous. Melo was very unhappy....and very critical....after the team's loss to the Jazz in the playoffs. Factor in that he doesn't mind going to a rebuilding team and loves playing in an open court system, and the idea of Melo to the Timberwolves seems like something really worth pursuing, doesn't it?
They were linked to us in a rumored Al Jefferson/Danny Granger deal (which it's still unclear how that started....) and have since been on the phones shopping Troy Murphy.
They also have something of a problem at shooting guard, and are in bad bad need of a point guard.
I'm not sure who the Pacers could offer. I know Canis Hoops is still really interested in a Danny Granger deal, but I just don't see that happening. Outside of that, there's pretty much just Paul George and Roy Hibbert, and it seems that the Wolves could and should be able to find something better elsewhere.
But Indiana is definitely on the "interested" list.
Even though they drafted Greg Monroe, the Pistons are still looking for big man help. We offered Al for Tayshaun Prince right before the draft, and I think that deal would still have merit for both sides.
Prince would be a great one-year rental and/or trading piece for the deadline. Teams that have established themselves as playoff-bound would highly covet Prince. Detroit also has promising forwards Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko that could be bargained for. It's likely we'll be in contact with Detroit again this summer, as they're one of the teams desperate for immediate help, but without the money to spend in free agency.
I'm not sure what to say about this other than we know the Warriors are interested. I can't really explain that interest....but it's there.
We discussed before the draft a possible Jefferson for Anthony Randolph deal with the Warriors. Those talks are dead. But our interest in Randolph is still alive and so is their interest in Al. So this could start going somewhere again.
Certainly any trade with the Warriors would have to be for Randolph. No other player makes sense except for Steph Curry, and they won't be giving him up.
Still, Randolph would be a fantastic pickup for us. He's long, athletic, can really run the floor, defends the rim, and has a multi-dimensional skillset that still has a lot of potential for growth. A perfect fit next to Darko in our frontcourt.
Personally I feel this is a real missed opportunity, because we could have had Randolph for fairly cheap at the beginning of last season, if the team hadn't been so hellbent on proving to itself Al and Love couldn't play together successfully.
Another trade discussion that died. Jefferson for Zach Randolph would be a salary dump, and if we were content with that, we might as well trade Al for Dampier or Murphy or KMart. It's not what we're looking for, and we'll be able to negotiate for much more later this summer.
In the meantime, the Grizzlies have a perplexing situation they've gotten themselves into that could make on player in particular up fro grabs: OJ Mayo. Think about this.....the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol because they weren't winning and he was too expensive. Then last year, they started winning, so it's spend spend spend again.
Their interest in Jefferson is because they've flown into win-now territory again. Al does the same thing as ZBo, but is under contract for longer, so they'd be able to keep him for longer without having to do free agent negotiations. But at the same time, they're still a cost-conscious team, with a looming decision to make about OJ Mayo, and a glaring need at point guard.
If we were to up the ante on both sides....say Jefferson, Ramon Sessions and Corey Brewer for ZBo and OJ Mayo, I think we'd have their attention.
- Teams that are likely interested
This category is a little...I don't know. Unique.
The reality is both team are definitely interested. Both teams have been in contact with us about Jefferson already. Both have a need for a player of his type and quality (I'm still not convinced Al and Brook Lopez are that compatible, but for the sake of this write up, I'll roll with it)
The condition, of course (and why I categorize them as likely), is unlike the teams above, these two teams have money to spend on free agents. Lots and lots and lots of money. Meaning Al isn't their first choice....Chris Bosh is, then Carlos Boozer, then David Lee. Then Al Jefferson.
There's a couple kickers, here of course. One is Amare Stoudemire is off the market now, so that option is already gone. Two, Carlos Boozer is drawing strong interested from the Magic (I told you drafting Daniel Orton would be big for them). Three, David Lee is drawing strong interest from....well, us (and several other teams not looking to land one of the big three). And four, there's a chance either team could land both Wade and LeBron, which would leave them no money to spend on any free agent big man.
I post this picture to ridicule it. That is some terrible composition work. If you're not going to have LeBron overlap the other two, at least have frames around them or something. The little white gaps that cut off half their arms look ridiculous. C'mon ESPN...don't let junior interns do your front page graphic design.
Anyway, of the two, the Nets are the more desirable trading partner, because they have Derrick Favors. I know there's a good number of Hoopsters interested in Luol Deng, but Favors is really the better option for both now and in the future.
But basically the deal is this: if either team strikes out on Bosh, Boozer and/or Lee, they will come calling about Al.
- Teams that could become interested
It's pretty simple. They want Boozer. If they don't get Boozer, who else can they target? It'd be either Lee or Jefferson, and since I'm guessing the point is to add legitimate post scoring, it'd most likely be Jefferson.
They wanted Al before, and now with Stoudemire officially out the door, they could want him again. Of course, they have a lot less to bargain with now, but there's still players worth talking about here. Jason Richardson. Robin Lopez. Leandro Barbosa, Earl Clark, Channing Frye.
Like how the opening commentary on that was Jim Pete? Ya, that was our third game of the season when Channing Frye BURIED US from three. I know Frye got a deal that's more than he's really worth, but still....he'd be a solid rotation player who fits our system.
I have a feeling the Suns will come calling at some point this summer. They can't just blow it all up....as long as Nash is on the roster, they have to try and win now.
I've had a lot of Celtics fans tell me that the C's are contemplating how they can put together an offer for Jefferson using Big Baby and the contract of Rasheed Wallace. Make what you want of it.
The franchise caught a huge break when Richard Jefferson chose to opt out of his deal. Granted it was a solid decision for him too....he just did not fit in with the Spurs, and now he can pick where he goes next....but that's $15 million the Spurs suddenly aren't spending.
What they do have is a big need in the frontcourt to get Duncan help. Blair is a monster on the glass, but he's not much for carrying a scoring load and is on the short side. Given the style the Spurs play, Jefferson would be a pretty good fit for them and would fill a need.
The Spurs have an army of possible trade options. Tony Parker is arguably expendable with George Hill performing so well, and they have tons of possible sign-and-trade options with all the players who hit free agency from their roster this year.
It's more speculation than anything here, but this is the "could become" category, so...
They're most likely losing Carlos Boozer, and are still looking for takers on Andre Kirilenko's deal.
Superstitions aside, this is a team that has a couple players out-of-water, so to speak, and are in need of bodies in the frontcourt. In that Jefferson is a skilled, scoring body that would fit their roster and system, I could see interest developing here. Jefferson would do better with them, and LaMarcus Aldridge would do better with us.
Well, if they can't keep Wade, they won't get LeBron or Bosh. And they'll need something, right?
Ok. This is another unique situation, which is basically that the Raptors could make a call about Al in connection to Chris Bosh, or completely separate from him.
I know the team has basically given up on Bosh, but I think that's a mistake. Especially if Wade and LeBron end up on the same team, we can sell Bosh on the same thing as anyone else really: we have a roster that compliments him at every position, and he can be the undisputed #1 guy with us. If he can't team with Wade of James, that's the same offer everyone else will be making him. Bosh to the Wolves would necessitate a sign and trade that would send Al (and someone else....my suggestion would be Webster) back to the Raptors.
If we don't or can't sell him on it, well, the Raptors are still down one highly productive big man.
So as you can see, there are a number of teams already interested in Al, and a number more who could be by summer's end. His value will probably be pretty solid late this month, so I wouldn't sweat over us trading him for nickles and dimes.