TIS THE season when general managers nestle all snug in their beds, while visions of cap space and unprotected draft picks dance in their heads. So here is SI's holiday present to them: five deals—each of which would benefit both teams—that should be made before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
1. G Vince Carter to the Clippers; C Chris Kaman and G Eric Gordon to the Nets
Despite a surprising 13--13 start, New Jersey isn't rebuilding around the soon-to-be-32-year-old Carter, so the Nets should move him while his value is still high. Los Angeles needs scoring and star power to emerge from the shadow of Kobe Bryant's Lakers. Kaman is redundant in L.A.—the Clippers would still have a nice high-low combo in Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph—but he rebounds, blocks shots and has a low-post game that would complement jump-shooting power forward Yi Jianlian. And Gordon is more than a throw-in: The seventh pick in last June's draft, from Indiana, he would ultimately replace Carter at shooting guard.
2. C- F Rasheed Wallace to the Hornets; C Tyson Chandler to the Pistons
New Orleans's payroll next season is $77 million, threatening owner George Shinn with a $6 million luxury-tax bill that he can't afford. The Hornets would drop below the threshold when Wallace's $13.9 million salary comes off the books this summer, and they can claim that he improves their immediate title hopes by providing a versatile scoring option to go with Chris Paul and David West. In Chandler, Detroit would gain a longer version of Ben Wallace to protect the rim—without giving up Allen Iverson's expiring contract.
3. C Brad Miller to the Cavaliers; G Eric Snow and F J.J. Hickson to the Kings
Cleveland wants to upgrade for a title run and not upset its chemistry—which makes Miller an excellent fit. One of the league's most skilled centers, he provides insurance for Zydrunas Ilgauskas as well as another frontcourt shooter and playmaker to pair with LeBron James. But that's not all: The 7-foot Miller adds to the Cavs' size advantage over the Celtics, and his contract ($23.6 million remaining) expires in two years, satisfying Cleveland's objective to have cap space in 2010 in order to add a big-name running mate for James. Woeful Sacramento is also aiming for '10, and this deal hands the Kings $13 million in instant savings (Snow's contract expires next summer) as well as Hickson, a promising rookie power forward.
4. G-F Anthony Parker and F-C Nathan Jawai to the Bucks; G Charlie Bell and F Austin Croshere to the Raptors
Is this the ideal way for Toronto to fill its desperate need for a backup point guard? Of course not—but it's the best the Raptors can do while saving enough money to get under the luxury-tax threshold this season. Bell isn't a true point, but he's capable enough to spell overworked Jos� Calder�n. Milwaukee, meanwhile, sheds Bell's contract (three years, $11.5 million remaining beyond this season) for Parker, whose three-point shooting and professionalism will come in handy before his contract runs out this summer. Croshere could help Toronto as a frontcourt shooter, but he and Jawai are mainly throw-ins for cap purposes.
5. F Joe Smith to the Nuggets; G Chucky Atkins and a first-round pick to the Thunder
Denver needs a backup big man for the playoffs, and Smith can do it all—score, rebound and defend—while enhancing any locker room's chemistry. Oklahoma City would pick up its third first-rounder in June and save $1.6 million this season. Even if this particular deal doesn't go down, look for the Nuggets to drive all kinds of rumors as a contender eager to swap future assets for a title shot now.
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