With the NBA basketball trade deadline coming up on February 24th, NBA teams are all evaluating how they might improve for the stretch run. Some teams, like the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat, are doing very well and will likely stand pat. Others, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks, could improve but are hamstrung by fiscal constraints. However, there are several clubs-the Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets, Nuggets, and Knicks-that have strong teams but still need to make a move at the deadline to pick up the pieces to become true contenders now or in the near future. Let's take a look at their individual team needs and what they might be able to pick up before February 24th:
Chicago has excellent chemistry, the league's fifth best record, and the third record in the east. They have played hard and well all season and have not been completely healthy all year. So, why do the Bulls need to make a move? Simply put, they don't have a single reliable ball-handler behind Derrick Rose and lack any kind of scoring punch at the shooting guard position. They will need to fill both holes-ideally with one player-to become a true championship contender.
So, who could they get before the deadline? Young Memphis shooting guard O.J. Mayo is in the middle of a subpar, injury-riddled season and a PED suspension. He would fit the Bull's needs and system well and is their top trade target. After Mayo, the Bulls could target Rockets guard Aaron Brooks (though he may be too much of a point to play shooting guard full time), or even bring back Ben Gordon from the Pistons (and make Detroit surrender a few useful assets in exchange for taking on that contract). Ultimately, though, the Bulls should look to acquire Charlotte Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson because he will cost almost nothing to obtain, is still a top player when motivated, and has the versatility to play three positions defensively and score from anywhere on the court.
The Mavericks are a deep, veteran team this year and have been playing some of their best basketball in several seasons. But, with that said, Dallas needs to bring in another elite player next to Dirk Nowitzki at the NBA trade deadline if Mark Cuban wants to win the title this year. He may be able to do that this year because of Dallas' combination of young talent and expiring contracts.
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Dallas' first choice would be to get Phoenix Sun's point guard Steve Nash (who they unwisely let go six seasons ago) but Phoenix remains unwilling to trade its franchise player. The Mavericks could also look to rent star small forward Carmelo Anthony for a year but that would be a make or break move because, if Melo were to fair to deliver a title and leave after a half season, Dallas would be left in the cold. So, a Melo deal makes sense but only at a very low price. If either of those options fail to materialize, Dallas executives should try to acquire Philadelphia swingman Andre Igoudala, Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson, or Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace because the addition of one or more of these players could be the difference-maker for this deep and talented team.
The Rockets would not make a lot of "desperate deadline team" lists but, Houston may need to make a move this year more than any other club. Houston is mired in "good but not great" mediocrity and, with a high payroll that will cause problems under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, this deadline may be Houston's last chance to acquire an impact player for quite a long time. Armed with Yao Ming's 17 million dollar expiring contract (and more than ten million in other expiring) and several good young players, Houston could make a credible run at almost any top player in the NBA. The Rockets should explore all their options behind closed and make the best move available but, if I were in GM Daryl Morey's shoes, I would make a run at Andre Igoudala, Danny Granger, and Gerald Wallace (or more than one of them) and try to resign Yao Ming as a free agent.
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These two clubs need to help one another at the deadline. After whiffing on LeBron James last summer, the Knicks ought to lock up Carmelo through a trade as long as it doesn't cost too much. Since Denver's mercurial small forward refuses to sign anywhere else, it shouldn't cost the Knicks a king's ransom to obtain him. By the same token, the Nuggets need to get rid of Carmelo's cancerous locker room presence, get what they can in return, and move forward.
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These five teams may not be the only clubs to make a move at the deadline. If you think that other clubs need to make a move, or that these clubs should do something different than what I've suggested here, let everyone know! Post on The Best Sports Blog forum and in the comment box and tell us what you think. As always, we are up for a good debate!
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