NBA Trade Rumours: Raptors shifting focus to Bulls’ Taj Gibson?

Taj Gibson is one name being linked to the Toronto Raptors. (Paul Beaty/AP)

With Thursday’s NBA trade deadline on the horizon, teams are starting to scramble to make improvements to their current roster or acquire draft picks to help build a brighter future. A couple of deals have already occurred, but here’s some of the latest buzz from around the league:

Will Raptors find their big man?

The Skinny: ESPN’s Zach Lowe says the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have had initial discussions about a possible Taj GibsonPatrick Patterson swap. Toronto has also been linked to other power forwards ahead of the deadline.

Analysis: Gibson always seems to come up when looking at potential trades involving the Bulls. Chicago has been blessed with loads of frontcourt talent, but have dealt with a flurry of injuries to their forwards this season. Gibson’s game is clear at this stage of his career: He’ll bring a heavy dose of energy on offence, scrap for as many rebounds as he can, and add strong interior defence.

One thing Gibson lacks in his arsenal is a three-point stroke, which is Patterson’s most valuable tool. With Jonas Valanciunas spending the majority of his time around the basket, a stretch four would be more useful for Toronto. The Raptors could leave Luis Scola and his 43 per cent clip from long range in the starting lineup, but his defence has really started to be exposed.

Other power forwards Toronto has been linked to recently include Thaddeus Young, Kenneth Faried, and Ryan Anderson. Atlanta Hawks all-star Al Horford would be the piece that would benefit the Raptors the most, but it's unlikely they have the resources to acquire him.

But aside from Horford, would any of these targets actually be an upgrade over what Dwane Casey has now? Maybe not. It's also worth noting that the Raptors are no longer interested in trading for disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris.

Howard on the move?

The Skinny: According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Charlotte Hornets have engaged the Houston Rockets in trade talks for Dwight Howard. The Miami Heat have also been linked to Howard in recent days, and are reportedly willing to include promising young big man Hassan Whiteside in the deal.

Analysis: The Hornets made one of the pre-deadline splashes on Tuesday when they acquired Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade. That move increases their wing depth with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist done for the year, and now they appear to be interested in landing another big.

Charlotte currently sits in the East's final playoff spot, but could climb up the standings in a hurry. The Hornets have been a streaky team thus far, but if they can find some consistency and bring in one more impact piece like Howard, they could be a major player come the post-season. Matching salaries may be difficult for the Hornets as either Al Jefferson, Nic Batum or Kemba Walker would almost certainly have to be moved to Houston.

Addressing the other rumour, Miami is likely going to be without Chris Bosh for an extended period of time, so it remains to be seen as to whether they will push their chips in, or hold back come Thursday. Whiteside will hit the free-agent market this off-season and figures to command a hefty pay day.

Howard can opt out of his contract at season's end or exercise his $23 million player option for 2016-17. The eight-time all-star is posting his lowest scoring total since his rookie season, but remains an outstanding rim protector and rebounder. If he were to take his talents to South Beach, the Heat would still be a fearsome opponent even without Bosh as a lineup consisting of Howard, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic is nothing to sneeze at.

Former Raptors leaving New York?

The Skinny: The New York Knicks are aiming to trade veteran point guard Jose Calderon and are attempting to talk up his leadership qualities, according to Stein. Over in Brooklyn, the Nets are interested in buying out Andrea Bargnani, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Analysis: The Knicks seemed like a decent bet to make the playoffs a few weeks ago, but have dropped 10 of their past 11 and now sit 12th in the East. Calderon likely wouldn't grab a starting gig if he were to be moved to a contender, but could still be a serviceable backup who can log 20 productive minutes per night. He would also be a nice security blanket for a team without a reliable second point guard on the roster.

It's no secret Brooklyn is in rough shape as a franchise and buying out Bargnani seems inevitable. He has a player option for roughly $1.5 million next season, but even that figure is too high for what the former first overall pick brings to the table these days. Bargnani is seeing less than 14 minutes per game on a bad Nets team and is averaging 6.6 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Cavaliers interested in McLemore?

The Skinny: Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com recently reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking at potentially adding Sacramento Kings wing Ben McLeMore. Stein also adds that the Cavs' Iman Shumpert is being shopped.

Analysis: Shumpert was an important piece for Cleveland in its run to the NBA Finals a year ago, but he's having a down season in 2015-16. Nevertheless, he still provides strong defence and typically decent three-point shooting that other teams could covet. The 25-year-old's high price tag could drive suitors away, though, as his salary increases over each of the next three seasons.

McLemore would provide the first-place Cavaliers with a backup plan should J.R. Smith go down with injury or leave in free agency, and would bolster their overall wing depth. McLemore is due to make just $4 million next season.

Sacramento is apparently eager to end a lengthy playoff drought and is looking to add players to help them achieve that goal rather than look to the future by acquiring draft picks. McLemore could be due for a change of scenery as he has seen his playing time take a hit this year. However, he's still averaging a respectable 13.2 points per 36 minutes and is shooting a solid 37 per cent from beyond the arc.