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The closer you get to the NBA trade deadline, the harder it is for NBA front offices, agents, players and "people close to the situation" to keep their mouths shut while teams do real negotiating.

At this time of year, nearly every player under contract and every future draft pick is brought up in trade discussions whether it be as a centerpiece, sweetener or salary filler in a potential deal. Occasionally, some names are leaked out to the most in-the-know media types like Adrian Wojnarowski, Ken Berger and Marc Stein.

Just which names are leaked is fascinating.

Agents want their player's name leaked to drum up interest from other teams, either in trade season or upcoming free agency. "If [team] wants him, he must be worth acquiring!"

Friends and family of players want a name linked to a particular team to drum up too. "See how valuable [player] is?" or "[Big market team] really wants [player] because they were linked in the past and now [team] needs a guy like [player] or their season is lost!"

Front offices want trade parameters leaked in order to get better offers from other teams for their player. "[team] will give me this. Who can top it?"

Media guys leak names, sometimes weakly verified or only tangentally linked, because there's a attractive name or team in the rumor which would drum up readership. Anything with Knicks, Celtics, Lakers and Nets gets a ton of hits to the site.

Which of these reasons above was the impetus to leaking the Dudley-for-Shumpert offer?

Big-name team involved? Check.

Previously linked to each other? Check Check.

Knicks trying to get more for Shumpert than the Dudley and a (likely protected) #1? Makes sense.

Suns trying to get more for Dudley and a #1 than Iman Shumpert? Makes sense too.

What this means

First, we can take away that Jared Dudley is on the trade table. He is the Suns best asset to acquire a good young player: still in his prime, paid less than his value to a team, high level of respect throughout the league, no free agency in sight.

He was linked in an offer to Memphis for Rudy Gay last month, and now has likely been offered in a package for Iman Shumpert. We don't know if he was included in an offer for James Harden last fall before Harden went to Houston, but logic says that his name probably came up. Same goes for any deal with Boston for young Avery Bradley.

The Suns want to get younger, and Jared Dudley and their #1 picks are the best assets they have.

We can also take away that Iman Shumpert is on the trade table. The Knicks know that their championship window is only open for a short time with 8 players over the age of 30 on their roster. They brought in Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler and friends to win NOW, not later. Their salary cap is cooked. There's no time to develop a young player that isn't producing today.

The Knicks need another shooter on the wing, so why not leak an early offer (Jared Dudley and a #1) to the masses to see who can top it? Memphis did that last month with Rudy Gay and ended up getting what they thought was a better offer from Toronto.

The Suns love Iman Shumpert. For sure, any Suns fan knows the name Iman Shumpert. First, he was surprisingly in the mix at #13 on draft day 2011. Suns fans asked "who?" but then word leaked around the draft that many teams liked him too. Eventually, the Suns took the surer-thing in Markieff Morris who at the time looked like a certain 10-15 year player in the NBA. The Suns then (I think) hoped to acquire another #1 in the 20s to take Shumpert, but he was already gone by #17 to the Knicks. Shumpert had a great rookie year and many teams drooled over his potential.

Last summer, the Suns were trying to find a home for Steve Nash and asked for, who else, Iman Shumpert. The Knicks nearly did the deal, but ultimately balked and Nash went to LaLa land.

What's going to happen?

Who knows. With 6 first-round picks coming in the next 3 years, the Suns certainly have picks to offer in a trade for a good young player who has not yet reached his prime.

But Suns fans fretting over giving away a lottery pick can likely take a deep breath and relax. I have no inside info, but I really doubt the Suns would give away an unprotected pick AND Dudley to acquire a single asset. The Suns worked hard to get these picks and they won't throw it all away for a one player.

I do, however, think its okay to give away a lottery-protected pick with terms like Minnesota's pick to the Suns. The Suns have that very pick - Minnesota's - plus two from the Lakers plus three of their own. The Suns could offer "a first round, lottery-protected pick" that equates to any of their assets that falls below #13.

That way, the Suns get to keep all picks that land in the lottery.

What would Dave do?

I would make this trade in a heartbeat. I would offer Jared Dudley and either Minny's already-lottery-protected pick or a Lakers pick with lottery protection (not sure this can be done - to trade an asset you don't have yet with brand new protections on it - but I'm pretty sure it can) in exchange for Iman Shumpert.

To make the trade work, the Knicks would have to send back a few million in salary. The salary filler could even be Marcus Camby's or Steve Novak's long-term contract coming back. Both were signed under the new CBA, meaning the Suns could release them and spread the salary over "twice the years remaining + one" to minimize the cap hit to less than $1 million a year.

I love Jared Dudley and what he brings to a team, but the Suns need youth and high upside talent back on this team in the worst way.

Iman Shumpert brings that. He would instantly be the best young prospect on the Suns' roster. Shumpert is a playmaking combo guard who would look great next to the Suns own playmaker Goran Dragic as well as the backup Kendall Marshall. Shumpert is not a PG, but he passes well enough to help make plays. And he would make a great defensive perimeter trio with Dragic and Tucker on the wing.

Plus, Shumpert has a huge amount of swag. He is a magnetizing personality oozing with self-confidence that the Suns have been lacking since Amare left.

Do it, Suns. Sweeten the deal with a lottery-protected pick and eat a middling salary in return.

The Suns’ ugly loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday certainly gave a good enough preview for the second game in the series on Sunday in Phoenix. Lindsey Hunter’s team simply got...

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Yet again, the Phoenix Suns are showing their infatuation with second-year guard Iman Shumpert. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the team is dangling Jared Dudley and possibly a...

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1. Goran Dragic

Weekly Average: 16 points, 5.5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steals in 30 minutes of play

Thankfully, Dragic continues to be the best player on the team. He should be in the number one spot each and every week, as he is without a doubt the best and most talented player on the roster. Most Suns fans would like to see him step it up on defense...he shouldn't continue to be torched by opposing guards with his ability to defend. Also, we would like those assist numbers to increase, but I think we also have to take into account what he has to work with in that respect.

2. Marcin Gortat

Weekly Average: 13 points, 6.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes of play

Gortat had a very up and down week. He had two very productive games against the Grizzlies and the...ahem...Pelicans, but then managed to score only 2 points on 2 shots along with 4 rebounds in over 26 minutes against the Thunder last night. Even with his disappearing act, Gortat's numbers overall are still good enough to keep him clinging to the 2nd spot in this weeks rankings.

3. Michael Beasley

Weekly Average: 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1 assist in 23 minutes of play

I'm not sure what this says about the Suns, but Beasley has become one of the best players on this team. His overall performance over the last month can't be discounted as an aberration any longer. Beasley has been given more minutes lately, and has responded with increased production.

4. Jermaine O'Neal:

Weekly Average: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist in 22 minutes of play

Welcome back J.O.! O'Neal returned this week after a medical scare that had him sidelined the past couple weeks, and he stepped right back onto the court like he had never left. Jermaine is our best defensive big, and his presence in the post gives the Suns a presence they simply cannot replace without him. Not only that, he is productive offensively as well, and helps the Suns in a variety of ways as you can see from his stat line.

5. P.J. Tucker

Weekly Average: 5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assists in 24 minutes of play

Tucker continues to be the team's best defensive stopper, and hustle/energy guy. He has been given big minutes lately, and for the most part has done his job. He only played 16 minutes against Durant and the Thunder last night, which I don't fully understand, but when he has been asked to stop the opposing team's best player he has done it better than anyone else on the roster.

6. Luis Scola

Weekly Average: 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist in 19 minutes of play

Scola's minutes were significantly reduced this week, down one-third of his average from the previous weeks. A lot of this has to do with the rise of Beasley who has been taking more minutes from Scola at the four...and deservedly so. But Scola just isn't the same player when he's given a reduced role.

7. Jared Dudley

Weekly Average: 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 20 minutes of play

Dudley just hasn't been the same player lately. He had a good game against the hornets (14pts, 6rbs), but was non-existent in the other two match-ups this week scoring 0 and 3 points respectively. I'm not sure what's going on with Dudz, but he will need to step up his play soon or will risk losing more minutes to Marshall, or maybe Garrett as head coach Lindsey Hunter continues his development of the youngsters.

8. Markieff Morris

Weekly Average: 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 24 minutes of play

Morris has been struggling offensively lately, and his woes continued this week shooting only 6-17 from the field. Markieff has been in a slump, but Hunter continues to give him plenty of playing time. I think is probably a good thing, but Morris really needs to step up and play to his potential by finding ways to help the team even when his shot isn't falling.

9. Kendall Marshall

Weekly Average: 5 points, 3 assists in 24 minutes of play

Marshall was given his first big minutes this week, and Hunter did a nice job of finding ways to complement him on the court...especially when playing alongside Dragic which worked really well against the Grizzlies. Marshall is still very much a rookie, but found a way to make some nice passes and even some nice shots (at times). He's still very much a work in progress, but we're seeing growth, and that's what counts.

10. Shannon Brown

Weekly Average: 5 points, 3 rebounds in 19 minutes of play

Brown's minutes were about the same this week, but his production was down. Brown can be an electric scorer when he's dialed in, but he is still a liability on defense and if he's not producing on offense then there's little reason to keep him on the court.

So there you have it. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!

Some judge sport by the eye test. Does a team look good? Do the players try hard? What does the feel and the body language say of the final outcome? Others take a more analytic approach. What do the...

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