February is the month of love. As much as Valentine's Day is about buying flowers or taking your significant other out for dinner, it's also about break-ups. It's just a great time for introspection that a lot of relationships run their course this month.
February also happens to be trade season in the NBA. As the trade deadline of 3:00 AM on Friday draws near, here are some of the players and teams that really should consider breaking up.
Note: This list won't have Ben Simmons on it anymore since he and the Philadelphia 76ers are pretty much already broken up but can’t separate until Ben finds a new apartment to live in. There’s going to be almost hourly coverage on Simmons over the next few days so there’s bound to be plenty of content on him.
James Harden and the Nets
Speaking of Simmons, the one player that’s been rumored to be interested in taking his place in Philadelphia is James Harden.
Harden’s relationship with the Nets has been short and strained. He moved to Brooklyn expecting he’d be playing on a super team in one of the biggest markets in the league. Instead, he’s realized he left Houston, where he was the star and his every whim was accommodated, to team up with an anti-vaxxer Instagram monk.
Harden will be a free agent in the offseason and has expressed his desire to explore other options when the time comes. That doesn’t mean he’s not coming back to Brooklyn but it doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, either.
In reality, this trade deadline might be the best time for Brooklyn to find deals for Harden as there should be more teams outside of Daryl Morey and the Sixers interested in bringing in the former MVP. In the offseason, Brooklyn might lose out on Harden altogether with a sign-and-trade being their only hope of getting any assets.
Russell Westbrook and the Lakers
Telenovela fans are very much aware of the old troupe of the parents not liking their child’s significant other for one reason or another. Westbrook is pretty much in the same boat as Lakers fans and media seem to have turned on him from the start of the season.
It’s been a rough go for Westbrook in his hometown of Los Angeles as his brash, ball-dominant style has not meshed with LeBron James or Anthony Davis. The missed midrange jumpers off the top backboard have encapsulated the Westbrook Lakers experience. He’s not even closing games for them anymore.
So it might be time to cut this pairing short. Expect Westbrook’s name to come up in the next couple of days in trade rumors. It might be hard to find a new home for him since he’s still under contract for next season, for which he'll be owed around $48 million. But if the Lakers found a way to acquire Westbrook, they should know of a way to dump him.
Jusuf Nurkic and the Blazers
The writing’s on the wall for Portland: Dame Time is over. It’s time to tank.
Lillard will probably sit out the rest of the season as his abdominal injury remains one of the more mysterious injuries in a season teeming with weird injuries. The Trail Blazers have already dealt Norman Powell, Robert Covington, CJ McCollum, and Larry Nance Jr. Soon, it will be time to say goodbye to Jusuf Nurkic.
In truth, this space was initially going to be about McCollum until the Blazers pulled the trigger on a trade with New Orleans during the wee hours of the morning. That was the biggest sign the Blazers were determined to quickly offload many of their big contracts to get as many assets as they could.
Nurkic is an interesting case since he has an expiring contract, making him extra valuable despite his injury history. The Blazers could pull a highly-protected first-round pick or a relatively young player from a contending team in need of a solid center like the Charlotte Hornets or the Toronto Raptors for Nurkic.
Jerami Grant and the Pistons
Last season, the most impactful move around the trade deadline was PJ Tucker moving from a tanking Houston Rockets team to Milwaukee, where he won a title.
This year, Jerami Grant becomes that role player that could elevate a fringe contender into the NBA Finals. He’s still owed $20 million next season but that could be a small price to pay for teams like the Lakers, Nets, Chicago Bulls, or Memphis Grizzlies - teams that could patch up plenty of their problems with a versatile player like Grant.
This is one of those mutually beneficial breakups. Grant signed with the Detroit Pistons to prove he could handle more responsibility. He’s improved as a scorer with the Pistons while still displaying the switchable defense that teams crave nowadays. The Pistons could get an interesting piece for Grant in the coming days that better fits with Cade Cunningham.
The surplus we have this trade season involves shooters on bad teams. Eric Gordon with the Houston Rockets and Orlando’s Terrence Ross and Gary Harris should attract a few low-end suitors.
Among the three, Gordon could be the biggest impact player for a contender like Brooklyn that needs both his defense and scoring. Despite his age, Gordon has proven he can be effective in the playoffs. He deserves to play on a contender.
Ross and Harris are solid players but Orlando is much more interested in developing their young players than giving them minutes. Both players should still be viable additions for teams that need wing depth.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and don’t reflect the views of the NBA, Smart Communications, and Cignal TV.