By the Blouin News Sports staff

Trade rumors heating up in the NBA

by in Basketball.

Danny Granger's return to action might just be a showcase for an eventual trade. Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Danny Granger’s return to action might just be a showcase for an eventual trade. Michael Hickey/Getty Images

On December 15, NBA players who signed contracts this past offseason can be included in trades. Over the weekend, trade rumors are likely to heat up and culminate into several trades. Who is most likely to be dealt?

Point guard Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors figures to be moved as early as Sunday. His expiring $6.21 million contract and his high level of play this season have given the Raptors a great trade piece. The Raptors are struggling to compete and are more interested in rebuilding with younger talent. They sent forward Rudy Gay last week to the Sacramento Kings, shedding Gay’s long-term large salary for several smaller salaries that expire sooner. So Lowry is the next to go as he doesn’t fit in with the Raptors’ future plans. The New York Knicks have a strong need at point guard, but they’ve been unwilling to fork over yet another draft pick or highly coveted guards Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. Metta World Peace is eligible to be traded starting on the 15th, and he might be essential in making a trade work between the two Atlantic division rivals. The Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors are also interested, but it seems like the Knicks have the biggest need for Lowry — look for a deal to get done by early next week.

Ömer Aşik, the seven-foot Turkish center for the Houston Rockets, is definitely being dealt out of Houston: the Rockets obtained all-star Dwight Howard in the offseason. Trading for Aşik and his 2013/2014 salary of $5,225,000 is a great deal for whomever lands the defensive-minded big man. However, the Rockets gave Aşik a back-loaded contract that will spike up to $14,898,938 next season — a lot more than he is worth. Aşik can easily be a difference-maker on a contending team in need of defensive help in the frontcourt, so swallowing his big contract next year might be worth it for a team like, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Houston GM Daryl Morey is unlikely to trade within his own conference, paving the way for Aşik to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Philadelphia 76ers. The next hurdle would be Morey’s demands — he is currently requesting two draft picks in return for Aşik, which he will likely fall short on. Aşik will be traded by the end of next week, and it will likely be to an Eastern Conference team willing to fork over some talent and at least one draft pick — a good fit would be the Atlanta Hawks. For that to happen, forward Paul Millsap would likely be included once he is eligible to be traded on Dec. 15.

Pau Gasol has been rumored in trade talk ever since head coach Mike D’Antoni took over last season. The 33-year-old Spanish center is one of the most talented big men in the game, but his style of play conflicts with the coach’s philosophy. He is in the final year of a deal that will pay him $19,285,850 this year, which is attractive for teams who are looking for expiring contracts heading into the offseason. Gasol would be a good fit on several teams, but he is not the player he used to be. The Lakers would likely want a first rounder plus young talent in the frontcourt in any deal for Gasol, which makes any trade involving Gasol unlikely. No deal is currently presenting itself at the moment, but it’s very possible Gasol is traded before the trade deadline in February.

Forward Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers has yet to play in a single game this season as he recovers from an injured left calf. The Pacers have the best record in the NBA this season and are only going to get better when Granger returns. And if their chemistry with him turns out to have dissipated, they have a great trade asset. Granger is earning $14,021,788 this season but comes off the books at season’s end. The Cleveland Cavaliers could make a push to bring in the sharpshooter to play alongside Kyrie Irving and a potentially rejuvenated Andrew Bynum. Giving up young shooting guard Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao would make the trade work, as the salaries of those two match up nearly perfectly with Granger’s. The trade makes sense for both teams: the Pacers would get more depth at the guard position and in the frontcourt to keep David West and Roy Hibbert healthy for the long haul. For the Cavaliers, they would shore up more money in free agency for next season as they try to lure in some of the bigger names available — possibly even bringing back LeBron James. This trade wouldn’t happen until after the New Year. But the buzz around it will stay strong until then.