Should the NBA consider rule changes to encourage trades?

Jan 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Josh Smith (5) is interviewed by the media after rejoining the Rockets via a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Josh Smith (5) is interviewed by the media after rejoining the Rockets via a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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The trade deadline is fast approaching. With the amount of (in)activity, it may pass with no one noticing.

I don’t spend a lot of time fussing about NBA rules. However, I’m profoundly concerned about the current state of the trade “market” less than three weeks before the deadline for deals of February 18. This season has seen so little action among teams, I wonder if consideration should be given to extending the deadline. Why aren’t deals being done?

Let’s take a look at what trades have actually occurred. We don’t need to spend any time discussing the Toronto Raptors. Masai Ujiri has made only one trade since the monster deal which sent Rudy Gay to California two years ago, that being the draft-night deal moving Greivis Vasquez to Milwaukee. The latest trade in the NBA transpired recently when Josh Smith was donated to the Houston Rockets by the Los Angeles Clippers. I’d wager lots of do-re-mi that the player ( Maarty Leunen – yes, that Maarty Leunen) who was sent to LA will never step on an NBA court. Ish Smith went to Philly from The Big Easy for 2 second-round picks. There were two other trades I won’t bore you with – and that’s it for this season. Pitiful.

Nov 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Greivis Vasquez (21) works against Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: James Brosher-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Greivis Vasquez (21) works against Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: James Brosher-USA TODAY Sports /

Making a trade used to be a vital part of a General Manager’s bag of tricks. Now it seems to be his last resort, tracking well behind the June draft, free-agent signings, and D-League call-ups. This last has gained remarkable momentum in the past few seasons, in concert with the significant increase in NBA teams owning their affiliates. The Raptors move players up and down from the big team to Raptors 905 on a daily basis. We’ve had blink-or-you’ll-miss-him sightings of Bruno Caboclo, Norman Powell, Anthony Bennett and Delon Wright at the ACC. Lucas Nogueira had a brief flash of excellence but appears overmatched defensively. Like all of these hopefuls, he’s not ready.

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA], the document which governs the relationship, financial and otherwise, between the league, is the major culprit for the demise of trades. They are just so treacherous to negotiate, with tripwires everywhere. GM X may want a player from GM Y’s team, and GM Y may want to move him. That’s not good enough anymore. The money moving in either direction has to match, or very nearly, then the players involved have to agree to report, assuming they don’t have a no-trade clause in their existing deal. I’ve just scratched the surface. Carrying on about trade exceptions, Poison Pill Players (JV & TRoss are examples), Bird, Early Bird, RFA & UFA, over the cap…CBA jargon is fun only for nerdy lawyers.

Sometimes two trading partners need to bring in a third or even fourth team for facilitation purposes, at which time the complications expand greatly. Every team must “touch” (not my term, the NBA’s) each other once, which is why the Memphis Grizzlies own the Raptors’ 2016 second-round draft pick. Check out the July 9, 2009 trade involving the Raptors and 3 other teams if you haven’t had your head spun in a while. All so our team could end up with Hedo Turkoglu – 0h joy.

Somehow the new CBA currently under negotiation will need to have looser rules to encourage player movement.

ESPN’s Marc Stein thinks there will be trades before the deadline. Maybe, but I’m a skeptic. Markieff Morris is still a Phoenix Sun, despite nearly setting his uniform on fire in his zeal to get out of the desert. If such a blatant malcontent can’t be moved, what hope is there?

Next: Raptors best draft picks ever - slideshow

The press is trying to gin up a trade involving Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, who has been supplanted by Dennis Schroder. At this point, Teague and Markieff are the canaries in the coal mine. If neither is moved before the trade deadline, you can be sure deal-making in the NBA is all but over.