Which teams must make moves before the March 15 trade deadline comes and goes? Our 5-on-5 panelists take aim at some of the top trade storylines.
1. Fact or Fiction: Orlando will move Dwight before the deadline.
Myles Brown, A Wolf Among Wolves: Fiction. If they haven't by now, it's doubtful they will, right? Dwight can't seem to make up his mind, so perhaps Orlando thinks its chances are better at convincing him to stay over the next few months than taking a chance on Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez for the next few years. It's certainly not the smartest move, but it has the biggest payoff, and apparently the Magic think it could work.
Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fiction? What is Orlando supposed to do? Just trade Dwight because he's going to leave? What about having him play out the season in Orlando and then exploring options then? Sure, he could leave without giving them anything, but I think the fans laying a two-month guilt trip might affect him. Shame him into staying, Orlando! SHAME HIM!
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Fiction. I'm sure some of the "Magic resolve" chatter that's been gaining traction in recent days about how increasingly determined they are to keep him beyond the deadline is at least partly designed as a means of trying to improve the offers that come in before the deadline. Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it's better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there's so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.
The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando's bravery has staying power or whether the claim that it'll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Fiction. I think Orlando would rather roll the dice and see whether he re-signs. If he doesn't, the void left is a catalyst toward a future top pick. Something to watch for: If New Jersey wins the draft lottery, I think it effectively wins the Dwight sweepstakes. Even Pat Riley's hair frizzes from the thought of Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Anthony Davis.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Fiction. It appears that owner Rich DeVos is willing to roll the dice in the hope that Dwight Howard will regain his passion for the franchise and city that developed him from a teenage phenom into the best center in the game. It's a risky gamble, considering how fickle Dwight has been these past few months. This may cost some folks their jobs by the end. But for now, the Magic seem to be standing by their man.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Clippers must make a trade.
Brown: Fiction. The Clips are playing .500 ball since Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles, and counting on Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe has never made anyone any money. But a trade may not do them any good in the long run. No one wants their scraps, and they aren't likely to deal away any of their assets. For now, it's best to gauge what this team is capable of in the playoffs and make a run at a replacement in the offseason.
Harper: Fact. The Clippers must make a trade. I'm not exactly sure what they have to trade outside of Eric Bledsoe, but they definitely need to find a way to bring in another wing. What would be awesome is if you could trade coaches. I'd have the Clippers trade two future first-round picks and Vinny Del Negro to Portland for Nate McMillan. He could make them defensive enough, right?
Stein: Fact. The Clips are under as much pressure as any team out there to succeed because they've only got next season to go before CP3 is eligible to leave them in free agency and blow up Lob City as quickly as it came into vogue. They've got to win now to convince him to stay and convince Blake Griffin to commit to Clipperland long term. The problem is that, even with a few decent trade assets to work with, it's way tougher to pinpoint realistic in-season targets that can make a difference at their position of need.
Strauss: Fact. This defense is awful, and VDN seems incapable of using the current talent to mold a good one. Maybe the solution is trading Griffin and flotsam for Dwight Howard?
Wallace: Fact. As remarkable as Chris Paul has been overall since he arrived, the Clippers are still a wing defender/shooter -- a Wilson Chandler type quickly comes to mind -- away from shoring up a championship-level roster. Even with Chauncey Billups out for the remainder of the season, there's still a luxury of depth at the point guard spot. It's going to take giving up one to get what they need in other areas.
3. Fact or Fiction: Minnesota should do what it takes to get Crawford.
Brown: Fiction. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are untouchable. Derrick Williams, if he is to be traded, is worth far more than Crawford's twilight, and the Wolves' frontcourt would fall apart without Nikola Pekovic. What's left? Michael Beasley? Luke Ridnour? Their line of suitors doesn't exactly go around the block. If the Wolves can get something for them, they'd obviously do it. But a trade is supposed to make both teams better. Portland doesn't need what the Wolves have to give.
Harper: Fiction. I wouldn't be opposed to a Luke Ridnour-for-Crawford swap, but it doesn't exactly mean I'd think it's a steal. The Wolves need a scoring-competent guard at the 2 in the worst way. But they also don't want J.J. Barea as the full-time backup point guard. Can I interest Portland in Beasley for Crawford? He's shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range! Threes are worth more than 2s!
Stein: Fiction. I suspect Crawford wishes now that he chose Rick Adelman's team over the Blazers in free agency, but the Wolves don't need to be rushing into deadline deals. With so many top recent draftees stockpiled, they'll eventually have the chance to take part in a blockbuster. As pleasantly surprising as the Wolves have been, furthermore, this isn't a one-piece-away team and shouldn't act like it.
Strauss: Fiction. Minnesota isn't good enough for quick fixes. All plans should be long-term, and the 31-year-old shooting guard isn't the best investment. More importantly, he'd be a ball-stopper in an offense that could get plenty of production elsewhere.
Wallace: Fiction. With Ricky Rubio hitting that proverbial rookie wall these past 10 games, the Timberwolves could use some punch in their backcourt. Crawford would fill the void perfectly. But he's not a player who will make everyone else on the floor better. Plus, he can be a bit of a defensive liability, and Minnesota certainly doesn't need any more of those.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Bulls should make a move for a 2-guard.
Brown: Fiction. The Bulls are sitting atop the East without Richard Hamilton and feel they're inches away from a championship. Moving any of their frontcourt for a stopgap at shooting guard is a backward move. They've gotten this far by maintaining a defensive identity and should keep their focus on holding opponents to fewer points, not trying to score a few more.
Harper: Fiction. They would definitely benefit from a 2-guard who can score, and maybe they have that in Hamilton if he's healthy. As of right now, their offense is one of the best in the NBA, they're moving the ball great and their frontcourt depth is one of their best weapons. Unless you're bowled over with an offer for Taj Gibson, I wouldn't sacrifice depth for someone like O.J. Mayo.
Stein: Fiction. And I only say that because I expect the Bulls to spend the rest of their time before the deadline wrestling with whether they should interrupt another wildly successful regular season by breaking it all up to roll their own dice on Dwight. All the old questions remain about the Bulls' ability to score enough when it matters in the playoffs, but I tend to believe they'll resist the temptation to surrender something meaningful for a mid-priced shooter, with so little time to work him in on the fly anyway.
Strauss: Fiction. Didn't this kind of thinking get them Rip Hamilton's ghost? There just aren't many elite shooting guards in this league, and even fewer on the market. As long as Derrick Rose keeps progressing, Chicago is lucky enough to not need one.
Wallace: Fiction. Rip Hamilton hasn't necessarily been reliable this season. But the Bulls are tough, deep and versatile enough on the wing -- when healthy -- to buy him some time until the playoffs. This is a team-specific issue for Chicago. This is all about finding a fourth-quarter scorer to counter the Miami Heat when LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade slow down Derrick Rose. But the Bulls will want to solve this in-house.
5. Fact or Fiction: Dealing only Ray Allen is the smart play for the C's.
Brown: Fact. Dealing Ray Allen is the only play for the Celtics. Unless you think shipping Rajon Rondo out is the right idea. (You're wrong. It's not.) Kevin Garnett can barely jump over his contract, and the thought of trading away Paul Pierce is akin to blasphemy in Beantown. Allen can still command a decent haul and keep some semblance of the Celtics' core together for one more run.
Harper: Fiction. There isn't anybody on this team who isn't a smart play to trade. I think Rondo is a lot better than most fans give him credit for, but if you could turn him into a really good big man, you'd have to do that. Might as well blow up this entire roster and prepare for the future. If that means trading everybody, then so be it.
Stein: Fact if the Celts can get a good young piece on a favorable contract or a worthy draft pick in return. Allen is the one guy out there who could do so much for most of the teams we're talking about here (Wolves, Clips, Bulls as well as Oklahoma City), but Danny Ainge isn't going to surrender the cap flexibility forthcoming through Ray's and KG's expiring contracts for just anything.
Strauss: Fact, fiction, does it really matter at this point? No move short of an entire overhaul fixes what ails the Celtics. Why not just part with Allen and KG en route to the ping pong sweepstakes?
Wallace: Fiction. The Celtics are going to let this ride out with the Big Three making one last stand for an improbable championship push. Danny Ainge is doing his job by taking calls and kicking tires around the league. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping this group intact and seeing how far they can go. Boston did the same thing with Bird, Parish and McHale. There will be enough cap space coming their way in the end.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Marc Stein is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Michael Wallace writes for ESPN.com and the Heat Index. Zach Harper is the host of Daily Dime Live. Myles Brown and Ethan Sherwood Strauss contribute to the TrueHoop Network.