When the Detroit Pistons unlocked the lid to the trade deadline Pandora’s Box by acquiring Blake Griffin, we thought there might be a torrent of trades.
Not so much, with the deadline just three days away.
The Clippers sent Griffin, along with reserve center Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to Detroit for SG Tobias Harris, SG Avery Bradley and C Boban Marjanovic. That swap may also mean that the final part of a pretty dynamic trio in L.A., DeAndre Jordan, may also be on the market.
Time will tell if Griffin can boost the ninth-place Pistons’ fortunes, and he’s off to a good start, with wins in both his first two starts.
The only other trade of any consequence other than the Griffin blockbuster was New Orleans packaging up Omer Asik, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and a conditional first round pick to Chicago for PF Nikola Mirotic and a second rounder. Mirotic’s acquisition was made to offset the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to injury.
Just about every contender — and would be contender — not named Golden State could use some help come the playoffs. Here are 20 teams, some we charitably call contenders, with identifiable needs that could be solved at the deadline, starting with Eastern Conference worst to best records.
20. Charlotte Hornets – Power Forward
A lot of talk and rumor surrounding the Hornets, who are in 10th in the Eastern Conference as of Monday, concerns the status of team star point guard Kemba Walker. He has led the Hornets to three straight wins of late to push them within three games of eighth place Philadelphia. However, the buyer/seller status of the Hornets is murky at best. Walker’s name has been linked, seriously and in jest, to quite a few teams. Yet, if the Hornets do decide they can make the post-season, getting rid of Walker would be ludicrous. Their biggest need, then, is a veteran power forward to complement Dwight Howard up front. Utah’s Derrick Favors is a name that stands out.
19. Detroit Pistons – Shooting Guard/Swing Man
Even with the big time swap that brought in Blake Griffin, the Pistons, who are in ninth place a half game behind Philadelphia, have a hole or two to fill. One glaring one is at shooting guard, especially since the Griffin trade cost them both SF Tobias Harris and SG Avery Bradley, both adept three-point shooters and all-around scorers. The Pistons could target outstanding sixth man Lou Williams from the L.A. Clippers, but they have gone to that well enough. A better option, or two, could be either SG Kent Bazemore or PF Irsan Ilyasova to fill a need for a good perimeter shooter. Of course, 14th-place Atlanta would probably be looking for draft picks and/or prospects in return.
18. Philadelphia 76ers – Shooting Guard
When J.J. Redick went down with an injury for a recent seven-game stretch, the Sixers had few options to take over his minutes, and drop threes like he does, with any kind of consistency. And considering that Redick isn’t getting any younger, he’s 33, bringing in another shooting guard for a run in the post-season might not be a bad thing. The Sixers may want to capitalize on the great season second-year man Joel Embiid is having, ditto rookie point guard Ben Simmons, if for nothing more than decent playoff exposure for the youngsters. Six-year veteran swing man Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic might be worth looking into for availability.
17. Miami Heat – Depth Guard
The Heat dropped three straight games of late, but still occupy seventh in the East. Barring a complete collapse, they should make the post-season. They have very balanced scoring, with eight players in double digits as of Monday, but a look at their playmaking ability says they don’t have a guy off the bench who can even top leading assists man Goran Dragic, who has a ho-hum 4.7 dimes per game. After Dragic, the next best playmaker is forward James Johnson, with 4.0 assists per game. As Dragic is 31 and in his ninth season, it might behoove the Heat to get a little younger at that position. A player rumored to be available is Denver PG Emmanuel Mudiay, who is still just 21 and has been pushed to the bench by Jamal Murray.
16. Indian Pacers – Playmaker
Just like Miami, the Pacers are in need of a true playmaker, since veteran PG Darren Collison leads the club with just 5.3 assists per game, trailed by shooting guard Victor Oladipo‘s 4.1. Cory Joseph is the next best thing off the bench, coming in with 3.2 APG, so the there is a need in Indiana for a passer. The Pacers have been surprising, considering the off-season exodus of talent and given the right tools, could make life miserable for a team like Cleveland in the playoffs. The Lakers have made it known that fourth-year depth point guard Jordan Clarkson is available, for the right price. His play off the bench, for a good part of the season, has been “Sixth Man” award worthy, with per 36 minute averages of 22.4 PPG and 4.9 APG (14.7 PPG and 3.0 APG actual).
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Point Guard
It was not a good news weekend for the Bucks, who have fought hard this season to be a contender. The Greek Freak suffered an ankle injury (not serious) and it was learned that starting point guard/shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon will be out 6-8 weeks with a torn quadriceps suffered in a game against Minnesota last Thursday. In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury was another to veteran PG Matthew Dellavedova, who also sprained an ankle and could miss some time. With little in the way of great ball handling talent off the bench, the Bucks should be sussing out the availability of someone who can spell Eric Bledsoe. Sacramento’s George Hill is rumored to be on the block after expressing disappointment in the Kings’ competitive edge this season.
14. Washington Wizards – Veteran Point Guard
When Washington’s John Wall went down with a knee injury, it was expected that the perennial contenders would swoon a bit. Well, so much for that theory. The Wiz have won four straight in the All-Star point guard’s absence, including victories over contenders Toronto and OKC. But, we don’t think the Wizards can weather the storm down the stretch with youngsters Tomas Satoransky (a second year swing man) or journeyman PG Tim Frazier. Wall may be back in time for the first round of the playoffs, but until then a move to bring in a veteran floor general should be considered. The New York Knicks’ soon-to-be free agent Jarrett Jack (7.8 PPG, 6.1 APG) could fill the bill as a rental, at the right price.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers – Power Forward
Kevin Love is down — again — with an injury that will keep him out of the line-up about two months. The starting power forward broke his hand and won’t likely be back until the last few games of the season. Given his poor track record with injuries that last two seasons, the Cavs ought to at least examine the trade market for a reliable replacement with a decent shooting hand, most likely short term as Jae Crowder may soon transition in to the starter role. A player rumored to be available would be Atlanta’s Ersan Ilyasova, who is UFA at season’s end and would be a rental. He has been decent for one of the East’s worst teams, registering 10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game for the Hawks, as well as 35.5 percent shooting from three-point territory.
12. Toronto Raptors – Veteran Swing Man
If the Raptors are serious about contending, there is one player available who could play a versatile role in getting them to at least an Eastern Conference final. That guy would be Memphis Grizzlies Tyreke Evans. He has had one of his best seasons since breaking in with Sacramento in 2009-10, when he made the All-Rookie Team. Evans has recorded 19.5 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting. He also has logged 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steal and a career high 39.2 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. That kind of prowess would put him tops among starters in the Raptors line-up. Add to that the fact he could be used as a point guard, shooting guard and even small forward and he’d be a very nice addition to a good Toronto club.
11. Boston Celtics – Center
The Celtics, who lead Toronto by two games in the Eastern Conference, may be on the cusp of bigger and better things. The Kyrie Irving acquisition paid off and a recent four-game winning streak may have management thinking no moves need to be made in advance of Thursday. However, one area they could upgrade in, at least from a rental perspective, is center. Yes, they did sign released veteran Greg Monroe and have the untested Aron Baynes at that position, but if Boston is serious about a championship run, exploring the market for a big man is a must. Two names stand out here, they being the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Memphis’ Marc Gasol. Of the two, Jordan is the most likely to be dealt. He’s the rebounder (14.9 per game this season) and all-around player the Celts could use to take them to the next level.
10. Utah Jazz – Perimeter Defender
If the Jazz were a better road team, they would be in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. That they are only 3.5 games out of eighth, as of Monday, is nothing short of miraculous, considering they lost Gordon Hayward in the off-season. But, while Hayward doesn’t play for Boston after an early season injury, Utah has kept things simple and managed to stay semi-relevant. Hayward’s shoes are hard to fill, but what the Jazz might want to do if they have any designs on a playoff spot would be to explore the market for defensive help, particularly around the perimeter. Utah is fourth worst in three-point percentage against (37.3 percent for opponents), so getting an agile PG/SG/SF or two to stifle those opportunities should be a priority. Denver SG Will Barton, who is UFA this year is a good shooter and decent defender and could be had cheaply.
9. L.A. Clippers – Small Forward
Tobias Harris, most recently acquired in the Blake Griffin trade with Detroit, has taken over Griffin’s spot at power forward for the Clips. Which leaves the small forward slot a little undermanned. L.A. is hardly out of the West’s playoff picture at 26-25, but indications are they will also move DeAndre Jordan at the deadline to keep the remake of the team in full swing. But, if they don’t happen to get the right asking price for Jordan and to a lesser extend Lou Williams, the Clippers would do well to get a depth small forward to augment Danilo Gallinari, who just got back from injury and has played all of 13 games this season. New York Knicks’ Michael Beasley is UFA at the end of the season and has the experience (10 seasons) and shooting ability (12.5 PPG in just 19.5 minutes per game) that could help L.A. stay in the post-season hunt.
8. Denver Nuggets – Veteran Point Guard
The Nuggets have a very real chance of making the playoffs, as they sit eighth in the West as of Monday. Only problem is, if the playoffs started Monday, they would face the All-Star team otherwise known as the Golden State Warriors. In brief, they would be D.O.A. So, if they have one area that could use an upgrade, it would be back-up point guard. At this point, sophomore PG Jamal Murray is running the show, with 21-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay backing him up. A veteran with some playoff experience couldn’t hurt, in that regard. Cleveland has three point guards, one of who, Jose Calderon, is a free agent at the end of the season and could be available for a middling return. The 36-year-old, who plays behind Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose, hasn’t seen a lot of floor time lately, but has started 24 of his 36 games this season. He has averaged 3.9 points and 2.0 assists this season and has 24 games of playoff experience. He’s also an excellent three-point shooter, having dropped 26 of 58 attempts through play Monday.
7. New Orleans Pelicans – Center
Nikola Mirotic’s arrival heralded the move of power forward Anthony Davis to center — in place of injured C DeMarcus Cousins. The latter is out for the season, leaving the Birds with no true center. They are adequate at that position with Davis, but could use another veteran to keep the heat off him. Rumored on the trade block is Mirotic’s former teammate in Chicago, Robin Lopez. He like, Phoenix Suns C Tyson Chandler, is fairly expensive with a cap hit of just under $14 million on a contract that expires in 2019. However, there is no guarantee that “Boogie” will be the same player after recovering from Achilles surgery (the odds are stacked against him). Lopez contract would be the only detriment to acquiring him, in our opinion.
6. Portland Trail Blazers – Back-Up Power Forward/Center
With All-Stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum forming one of the best back courts in the NBA, it is paramount the team to beat the bushes to beef up their front court. Young C Jusuf Nurkic is doing an admirable job in the paint, ditto Al-Farouq Aminu at power forward. But, they are third and fourth in scoring at 14.3 and 9.8 points per game, respectively and it goes down sharply from there. If the playoffs were to start Monday, the Blazers would face the third place and veteran laden San Antonio Spurs, who conceivably they could beat. One player who might enjoy a change of scenery and who is rumored to be available is Phoenix Suns C Tyson Chandler. He is fairly expensive at a $13 million cap hit, but he’s a good rebounder (9.5 per game this season) with fairly extensive playoff experience (75 games).
5. Oklahoma City Thunder – Veteran Shooting Guard
After making significant inroads in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Thunder have crashed back to reality in the past week, dropping four straight. Where this team is woefully deficient is three-point shooting. Outside of Paul George, who is 42.3 percent efficient this season, no other starter is above 35 percent. In fact, their starting shooting guard, Terrance Ferguson, is just 28 percent from beyond the arc. As a team, OKC is also a distant 27th in three-point efficiency, dropping just 34.9 percent of all attempts. Therefore, if they want to maximize the contributions of a fearsome front three (Westbrook, George and Anthony), the Thunder have to get a real shooter. For sheer volume and veteran ability, the Clippers’ Lou Williams could be that guy. He has a 38.3 percent average this season, shooting 142-for-371. Ditto Atlanta’s Marco Belinelli, who is clipping along at 37.2 percent.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves – Depth Guard
After an off-season that saw the acquisition of premier players like SG Jimmy Butler, PG Jeff Teague and PF Taj Gibson, the T-Wolves don’t have a whole lot of glaring weaknesses. Especially not with Karl-Anthony Towns at center and Andrew Wiggins at small forward. After that starting five, though, there is a marked decline in real depth, particularly at guard. Offensively, the team seems fine, dropping an average of 109 points per game to sit sixth in the NBA. Defensively, they are middle of the pack at 105.7 PPG against, which is fine. Also, they don’t turn the ball over much (just 11.8 times per game, lowest in the NBA) and they force the second most from their opponents. The weakness, then, is in depth on the wing, particularly three-point shooting — just like OKC. So, the rumored field of shooters is the same for Minnesota as Oklahoma City and a couple of other deficient teams. Atlanta’s Marco Belinelli could fit in with this bunch.
3. San Antonio Spurs – Back-Up Center
One of the oldest teams in the NBA is still getting it done, fashioning a 34-21 record as of Monday, good for third in a competitive Western Conference. However, that record pales in comparison to the Warriors (41-12) and the Rockets (38-13) who are poised to make mincemeat out of the rest of the conference come playoff time. Where the Spurs might want to augment is at center, where they are thin after veteran Pau Gasol, who is well past his prime at 37. Joffrey Lauvergne is the only other true center and is not near as dynamic as Gasol. Just down the road in Dallas, then, is former blue chip prospect Nerlens Noel, who is wasting away with the Mavs and could use a fresh start. He’s still young at 23 and given the right scheme and floor time could get back to early career numbers.
2. Houston Rockets – Front Court Depth
The Rockets back court is as good as any in the NBA, what with MVP candidate James Harden running the show, along with Chris Paul. Up front, they are still darned good, as Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza do a fine job in the paint. However, after those four, they aren’t that frightening, particularly at power forward. Ryan Anderson is decent, as is back-up Luc Mbah a Moute. However, they won’t strike fear into the likes of Golden State’s Draymond Green or Kevin Durant. It is at the power forward position, then, that the Rockets should investigate making a deal for a veteran C/PF with some playoff experience, if possible. Now, Los Angeles Lakers starting PF Julius Randle has no playoff experience, but he is a better scorer than Anderson or Mbah a Moute, with 14.0 PPG and a good rebounder, with 7.3 per game. The best part is he’s rumored to be available at the right price.
1. Golden State Warriors – Defensive Depth Guard
There are no discernible weaknesses on a Warriors team that is clipping along at a league best 41-12 mark, including a better road record (22-6) than home (19-6). They score by the bucket full, at an average of a league high 115.6 points per game and have the NBA’s best field goal percentage (.509) and three-point percentage (39.2). Thus, one could draw the conclusion the Dubs don’t need anyone. And they wouldn’t be wrong, necessarily. However, a little digging sees an ugly propensity to turn the ball over (15.4 per game, third worst in the NBA) and a 22nd place standing in points allowed at 107.7 per game. So, trading for a staunch depth defender, or two, might not be the worst plan for the off-season. Tyreke Evans is that kind of guy and if the Warriors obtained his services from Memphis, look out NBA.