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Woj: Buyers, sellers, untouchables and more trade buzz as deadline looms

From ESPN - January 8, 2018

As the NBA trade deadline looms a month away, the market is slow to develop and slower to anticipate the volume of activity. Buyers and sellers are separating themselves in the standings, and contenders ask internally: At what price do we sacrifice tomorrow for today?

As one general manager, consistent with ESPN's conversations with his peers, said: "It is pretty slow so far. Nobody seems desperate to get into the playoffs. The tankers are sellers, but asking prices are too high."

Nevertheless, most teams will have front-office executives in Toronto for the G League Showcase this week, including numerous general managers, and those face-to-face conversations could start to spur movement.

Based upon conversations with owners, general managers and agents around the NBA, here are a few factors that will shape the market:

The future of DeAndre Jordan

The biggest names on the trade market can dictate momentum, and so far, the sluggish pursuit of LA Clippers veteran DeAndre Jordan reflects the overall morass. Jordan, 29, can decline the player option on his $24.1 million contract for 2018-19, and most teams believe the All-Star center will be willing to re-sign with the team that trades for him -- as long as they are willing to pay him his long-term extension. So far, serious offers to Los Angeles have been slow to come. "He's a difference-maker, but I am not sure anyone thinks he puts you over the top," one GM said.

Because so few elite teams, if any, play through the center position offensively, there's less of an urgency to exhaust trade assets on Jordan before seeing who else might join the trade market. Milwaukee has been determined to find a center, and Jordan tops the Bucks' list, but it's unclear if they have a package to eventually make the deal.

The Clippers are not set on trading Jordan at all costs, because the idea of bringing back marginal draft picks with heavy protections and so-so talent in a trade is far too unappealing.

Two years ago this week, the Denver Nuggets fetched two first-round picks to send modestly talented center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It is unlikely that the Clippers will get that for their All-NBA center, largely because the dynamics of trading picks for players has changed.

Fewer picks are available in deals that do not include frontline starters, and several NBA executives believe the fallout from the 2013 Boston-Brooklyn trade has played a part in fostering that reluctance.

"No one wants to end up embarrassed like the Nets were," one Eastern Conference GM said.

Because there are so few teams with maximum salary-cap space this summer, Jordan's best option could still be re-signing with the Clippers -- and revisiting a trade again in the future.

Another Clipper with value, guard Lou Williams, is attractive because he's authoring the best offensive season of his career and holds an expiring contract. Bench rentals rarely render first-round picks anymore, but Williams will be a coveted commodity for a contender closer to the deadline.

Given how many draft picks the Clippers have missed on or dumped in trades, it is incumbent on the new front-office regime of Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger to nail these deals.

The push for wing players

There are far more teams chasing wing players -- shooting guard/small forwards -- than quality talent available at those positions. Drafts have been lean on those spots in recent years, and they are in great demand now.

Detroit, New Orleans, New York and Portland are a few of the teams most interested in upgrades, but the true list is much longer.

New Orleans is limited in its tradable assets. No one is taking the moribund contracts of Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca without the Pelicans including a first-round draft pick -- if not more -- in the deal.

The sellers

The untouchables (for now, anyway)

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