The February 19th trade deadline is fast approaching in the NBA, but teams have already started to make moves to bolster their rosters. In the East, injuries and inconsistency from the Bulls and the continuing disappointment of the Cavaliers has left the conference up for grabs with the Wizards, Hawks and Raptors looking like the best teams. In the West, it’s all about just getting into the playoffs in a historical strong conference that may take 50 wins for the 8th spot and sees the defending champion Spurs sitting at 7th. With very little separating the teams at the top this is year, the championship is available for the taking and one move could make a difference in a playoff series.
Making this trade deadline even more exciting is that most of the top teams have their first round pick in this year's draft and seem willing to part with a pick that is likely in the mid-20s if it gives them a shot this season to win it all. Teams are already shipping first round picks for current players, the Thunder rolled the dice on the potential of Dion Waiters, Memphis got more versatile and solidified their wing with Jeff Green and the Cavs improved their size and rim protection with the addition of Timofey Mozgov. Teams like the Nuggets and Celtics recognize that there is a strong trade market this season and are looking to cash in now and build for the future through gathering as many assets as possible. The more wide open playoff seedings are by next month, the more moves we might see, as every team will be looking for a leg up on the competition.With none of the playoff teams looking entirely complete, this is a list of one trade target each playoff team’s GM should be looking at.
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18 Eastern Conference
17 Brooklyn Nets - Lance Stephenson
It seems so long ago that Jay-Z and the Brooklyn Nets were the talk of NYC. The Nets are possibly the most boring team in the league and they have sacrificed almost all of their assets in a win-now attitude to get Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG and Deorn Williams and they are paying for it now (the 6th overall pick Damien Lillard for Gerald Wallace will remain one of the worst in history). This is a team that needs something exciting to offer some hope to their fan base. Smartly they seem to be recognizing they need to get out from under their bad contracts and start over by trading their "star" players.
Lance Stephenson has disappointed this season but he's a NYC kid and would love playing in Brooklyn where he could function as the primary ball-handler which is where he succeeds. The Hornets are having buyer's remorse and it didn't take long to realize a backcourt of Kemba and Stephenson wasn't going to work. Lance is on a good contract and would be a smart buy-low for a team that could use a trade to go their way.
16 Miami Heat - Gerald Green
The Miami Heat need athleticism and scoring to pair with their veterans. Gerald Green is a good 3-point shooter that makes smart cuts to the basket and can play either wing position. Green would offer solid scoring on nights when Wade can't play and could also play alongside him. Loul Deng has not regained his Chicago Bulls form and those minutes that Thibodeau had him playing may be taking their toll.
The Suns have been rumored to be shopping Green who plays in a crowded backcourt with the three point guards. The Heat are reportedly making a run at trading for Brook Lopez but Bosh excels as a smaller, agile center and Lopez's defensive liabilities don't fit Miami's system. Green would bring a scoring punch to a team that has lacked explosion since Lebron's departure.
15 Cleveland Cavaliers - K.J. McDaniels
Not every mid-season trade needs to be for an established veteran. The Cavs need some young talent with players like Mike Miller and Shawn Marion logging significant minutes. McDaniels bet on himself this year with the Sixers, turning down a multi-year contract as a rookie and instead opting for a one-year non-guaranteed deal that makes him a restricted free agent this offseason, with little reason to remain with the Sixers.
The Sixers are always looking for the future and may want to cash in on one of the few bright spots on their team this season. McDaniels is averaging a steal and 1.5 blocks per game this season and would bring much needed defense and athleticism to the Cavs and insurance for the oft-injured Shumpert. McDaniels could come in and take Marion's minutes as a younger, more athletic player with a similar skill-set.
14 Milwaukee Bucks - Kevin Garnett
This is unlikely to happen. Part of this is just to see KG bring his long-armed defense to a team full of lanky defenders. The Bucks have played surprising well relying on their overall depth and defensive prowess. Coach Kidd has used one of the largest rotations usually going 10 or 11 men deep. Their front-court rotation has been suspect since Jabari's injury and the mystery that is Larry Sanders. Garnett could come in for a coach he has played for previously and bring his wisdom to a young playoff bound squad. KG would surely love to chance a championship in what may be his last season but for the Bucks this could be a fun gamble. Garnett has spoken about his hopes for a coaching career after retirement and this could be where it starts.
13 Chicago Bulls - Mo Williams
Call it an overreaction to his inexplicable 52-point game, but Mo Williams has something to offer as a scoring option off the bench. The Wolves are building for the future and with Ricky Rubio coming back shortly from injury the backup minutes are better used to develop Zach LaVine. The Bulls have a history of turning spark-plug point guards into valuable role players (see Augustin, Nate Robinson, Aaron Brooks).
The Bulls have a roster than can win the East but Rose's injury concerns and sporadic play remain the biggest obstacle. Behind Rose are the always hesitant to shoot Kirk Heinrich and the unreliable Aaron Brooks. Mo Williams would offer some valuable scoring and security for a team that could compete for a championship.
12 Toronto Raptors - David West
The Raptors, like a few teams this season, are riding team chemistry and cohesion to one of the best records in the East. The Raps' backcourt remains one the best in the league and is bolstered by the depth of Lou Williams and Greivas Vasquez. It's the front court where the Raps should look to improve their rotation with Amir Johnson's questionable ankles and Valanciunas' inconsistency and foul tendencies.
David West would bring veteran playoff experience and toughness to a young team and would allow them to challenge the big men on the Hawks, Bulls and Wizards. With the Pacers going nowhere this season it would be a good idea to cash in on their veteran talent for young assets and build around Paul George's return next season.
11 Washington Wizards - David Lee
The Wizards, when healthy, have one of the more complete rosters in the league. Health however, is a significant concern with Nene rarely at 100% and not much depth behind him. This is a team that relied on Drew Gooden for significant 4th quarter playoff minutes last season. David Lee is an excellent passer and a player that you can run the offense through at the the elbow.
Pairing Lee with a defensively sound big man like Gortat would cover up for any of Lee's deficiencies on that end. It may seem senseless for the best team in the league to trade a key player, but Golden State is going to be way over the salary tax next season if they don't and they have already transitioned Draymond Green to the starting role, proving they can excel without him.
10 Atlanta Hawks - Brandon Bass
The Hawks play some of the best team basketball in the league and there's no reason to mess with it in any significant way.Their starting lineup is one the most well-rounded in the league, but their bench depth is questionable in some spots. Brandon Bass is not in the plans for Celtics moving forward but is big-bodied veteran that can backup Millsap and Horford. Bass sets a good screen and is a good pick and roll player which the Hawks thrive on with Teague and Korver. Bass has had some great games in the playoffs and wouldn't take many assets to pry away from the Celtics. Bass would give some versatility to the Hawks who can play stretch four with Mike Scott or pick and pop bruiser with Bass depending on the matchup.
9 Western Conference
8 Phoenix Suns - Carmelo Anthony
What a difference a 5-36 record makes. Carmelo has looked off all season and his knee issues are a concern but he is still one of the best scorers in the league and the type of star that Phoenix has coveted since new ownership has taken over. Melo proved that he could function in an efficient offense in Denver and the legendary training staff and doctors in Phoenix are sure to help his aging process.
The Suns have a stockpile of assets but aren't as interested in making small moves at this point. They have a deep team with talent at every position but lack a go-to no.1 scorer. To this point they have chosen to build from within with players like the Morris brothers and Alex Len but there is a finite ceiling to a team with Markieff Morris as its best scorer.
7 San Antonio Spurs - Thaddeus Young
The Spurs have looked uncharacteristically out of sync this season with key injuries to Parker and Leonard. Thad Young is out of place on the young Wolves who are looking to the future and he is blocking minutes from Wiggins and Shabazz and developing their young talent. Young is versatile and can play either the 3 or 4 for the Spurs, offering solid perimeter defense and a diverse offensive skill set that would allow him to fit well in the Spurs system, similar to Boris Diaw. The Spurs need to continue to bring in a mix of athletic, younger talent to pair with their veteran savvy and shooting.
6 L.A. Clippers - Wilson Chandler
Sorry Doc, but Austin Rivers isn't the answer. The Clippers need some help on the wing with Matt Barnes disappointing them all season. Their crunch-time lineup often has Paul, Reddick and Crawford playing together which does not work on defense. Chandler is an underrated defender who can hit the big 3's and offers some versatility as a small-ball 4. The Nuggets have been actively shopping him and the Clippers may be in bidding war against other playoff contenders like the Blazers. Chandler is the kind of player the Clippers need if they want to go up against Durant in the playoffs and craft a championship caliber defense.
5 Dallas Mavericks - Kosta Koufos
The Mavericks already made their big move trading for Rondo earlier this season. The Mavericks have one of the league's most impressive offenses with shooting and spacing all over the court. Their ability to run pick and roll with Dirk and Monta makes them darn near unstoppable. Their front court however is very thin, especially after trading away Brandan Wright for Rondo. Tyson is a huge defensive burden and plays a lot of minutes for someone with a history of injury issues. Kosta Koufos would provide security behind Chandler and is playing on a good contract. Koufos is a solid defender with very good hands around the basket on offense.
4 Houston Rockets - Randy Foye
The Nuggets are having a fire sale and everyone is up for grabs outside of Ty Lawson. The Rockets have one of the deeper rosters in the league with recent additions of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. One spot they may want to solidify is a backup guard who can play some point guard. Point guards for the Rockets don't need to be traditional players as Harden will operate their offense and pick and rolls. The guard opposite Harden does need to be able hit open shots off his penetration and Foye is a great 3-point shooter, hitting at 38% for his career. He has experience running the point and fits with the 3-point heavy offensive system in Houston.
3 Memphis Grizzlies - Jamal Crawford
The Grizzlies addressed their one glaring need at the wing spot replacing the shell of Tayshaun Price with Jeff Green. The Grizzles remain a team that finds it difficult to score at times and Crawford has always had that ability. His value to the Clippers remains questionable as his defensive liabilities make it difficult to play him alongside Paul or Reddick and their offense functions well without him on the court. The Grizzlies have the defensive parts to compensate for Crawford liabilities in Tony Allen and Courtney Lee. There is a win-win trade option here sending Koufos to the Clippers for Crawford that makes a lot of sense for both teams.
2 Portland Trailblazers - Wesley Johnson
The Blazers have one the best starting lineups in the league but their bench is lacking and depends on players like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe. Nic Batum has played poorly this season and their wing depth is in need of an upgrade. Welsey Johnson has disappointed after being a top-5 pick but quietly in L.A. has turned himself into a respectable pro. Johnson is an effective 3-point shooter and uses his athleticism and length on defense. There are other targets but the Blazers don't need someone to come play 35 minutes, come playoff time their starters will be playing 40 minutes a game. Johnson would be a savvy addition at a low cost.
1 Golden State Warriors - Jose Claderon
The Golden State Warriors are operating as fluidly on offense and defense as any team in the league. Steph Curry and his shooting ability is an offensive force but their scoring rate has disappointed when he is off the floor. Jose Calderon may be too costly for the cash-strapped Warriors but his ability to run an offense is exactly what Golden State needs. His defensive liabilities will be less worrisome in their defensive scheme and against backups. Calderon functioned well last season in a similar offense in Dallas can still hit three pointers at a high percentage.
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