1 Forward AlJefferson, a top two protected first-round pick and center Theo Ratliff(Celtics) for forward Pau Gasol (Grizzlies) All signs are that the Bulls areunwilling to send two of their top young perimeter scorers (Luol Deng, BenGordon, Kirk Hinrich and Andres Nocioni) to Memphis for Gasol, which opens thedoor for another team. By making this deal with Boston, the Grizzlies cleartheir biggest contract (Gasol is owed $63.1 million through 2010--11), whichhelps owner Michael Heisley in his efforts to sell the team. A WesternConference G.M. predicts that the Celtics will win the sweepstakes for Gasol(left) because Ratliff's contract, which expires after next season, is beingcovered by an insurance policy (he has missed all but two games this year witha back injury) and because the 22-year-old Jefferson has had a breakout season,averaging 16.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.50 blocks over the last sixweeks--all for the low salary of $1.6 million.
2 Swingman BonziWells and guard Bob Sura (Rockets) for forward P.J. Brown (Bulls) Chicago maybe unwilling to make a major deal for Gasol, but the Bulls are desperate for apost-up scorer. Why not rent Wells (right) for the rest of the year? He's thebest back-to-the-basket mercenary on the market; in spite of his disagreementswith coach Jeff Van Gundy, Houston has been giving Wells as many as 15 post-upsper game during center Yao Ming's absence. With Yao due back later this month,the Rockets can afford to move Wells in exchange for the classy Brown, who hasthe professionalism and length (6'11") at power forward that Van Gundycovets for the stretch run. To make the numbers work, Chicago must take on thecontract of Sura, who may never play again (multiple knee surgeries) and who ison the books for only $1 million guaranteed next season.
Wells could helpthe Bulls get past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time sincethe Michael Jordan era; Chicago isn't going to win the championship this year,but the Bulls desperately need to experience some success in thepostseason.
3 Guard SamCassell (Clippers) for forward James Posey (Heat) While Cassell isn't beingshopped, Los Angeles has made it known that it would be willing to deal him inorder to accelerate the development of 21-year-old point guard of the futureShaun Livingston. Cassell (center) would be an instant cure for ailing Miami--abackup combo guard who can help the team maintain its intensity for a full 48minutes and take some scoring pressure off Dwyane Wade. The Heat would have togive up the expiring contract of Posey, whose defense and all-around play mighthelp the Clippers turn their season around. The downside for Miami is thatCassell's $6.2 million salary next year could push it over the luxury-taxthreshold, but it should be willing to absorb that risk for a shot at anothertitle.
What's behind this lack of activity is a LEAGUEWIDEPARITY caused by injuries to franchise cornerstones and the burdens of theluxury tax.
JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES; JOHN W. MCDONOUGH; D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES