With New Players Celtics, Lakers Start Playoff Hunt

Chris DowhowerContributor IMarch 2, 2008

There have been several articles, and stories on the NBA trade deadline and the moves made before the March 1st signings.

Most people have proclaimed the Lakers as the biggest winners by getting Pau Gasol for almost nothing. The Cavaliers shook up their entire team, the Suns brought Shaq in to take them to the promise land, and the Celtics signed veterans to add depth.

Below I will break down each teams roster moves, and what you as a fan need to know, and what to watch for, to see if your team is ready to contend for it all.

Lakers—Most people feel that the Gasol move makes this team a contender once Bynum returns. I think they contend whether or not Bynum makes an impact. Pau Gasol is the perfect fit and just what the doctor ordered.

Dr. Buss has taken some criticism over the past couple of years from players, and fans. Well the doctor and Mitch have answered the critics, and given the Lakers the best chance to win it all without loosing Bynum or an Odom. Gasol is the best fit for the triangle offense out there. He passes, he shoots, and he is not selfish. His game allows the others to not have to change their game in anyway. Odom gets to fill in whatever piece is missing that game, Kobe still has an open lane to go and attack and the shooters get even better looks.

If this team plays defense half as well as the can on offense, there is not a team out there who has the depth and options they do. Prediction—this team will make it to the finals, after a fairly easy playoff run. Their offense is great and Phil will get them to play enough defense to get it done.

Suns—Shaq, Shaq, Shaq, which one of you will you show up in the dessert? The first view of Shaq is he is supposed to be still be one of the most dominant low post players in the league. Sure he's lost a step and can't carry you, but surely he can give the Suns a half court offense presence to use in the playoffs.

The second view of Shaq is he will give the Suns and interior presence. He will rebound, he will block shots and he will clog the lane. His passing skills will help generate open shots, and fast break opportunities. Any scoring will be an extra benefit, not really needed. The last view is that Shaq is done, an over-paid, over-weight, poor shooting player.

He has little lift, can't play the pick and roll and clogs up the once open offense of the Suns. Which Shaq you get, will determine just how far the Suns go. I think Shaq is a mixture of all three and will show flashes of each.

The problem is the Suns already have streaky players like Diaw, Barbosa, and Bell. Can they afford another unpredictable piece? Prediction—Shawn Marion was part of the problem, but Shaq is not the solution. The lack of shooters and the inconsistent play of their players, other than Amare and Nash, will lead to a second round ouster in the playoffs. Shaq could help, but won't be enough to make the Suns significantly better.

Mavericks—It took forever and kept changing, but Jason Kidd finally came home. Kidd has the ability to impact a team, much the way Steve Nash does. Kidd makes everyone on the court that much better.

I give the Mav's credit for making the move and taking a chance. Dirk's game gets easier, Terry doesn't have to defend the two and Josh Howard gets more easy points running the wing. Devin Harris was often out of control and way too inconsistent as a ball handler and decision maker. Overall the Mav's have improved their team and will only really miss Diop's defense in the paint.

Kidd's drawback is his shooting and tendency to go ice cold. The Mav's, like the Suns, already have a lot of key players who are also streaky.

Prediction—they won't loose in the first round, but they aren't going all the way either. This team is good, but still is to soft and inconsistent on offense to get the job done. Kidd is mentally tough, but he can't transfuse that into the others. Avery Johnson seems to over think things, and screw up a game or two as well.

Spurs—What would the playoffs be without Kurt Thomas? You know you want to see him glaring at someone after he just gave a good hard foul.

The Spurs pick up Stoudamire, and Thomas to add depth.They will get Brett Barry back in a few weeks and will start their attempt to repeat as champs. These moves in any other year may have put them over the top. This year they may not be enough.

Thomas adds a physical presence to help Duncan not have to bang away on defense. Stoudamire gives another scoring option and play-maker to a team that has few. Barry will fill the same role he has for the past few years. There are no drawbacks to any of these moves.

Prediction—The Spurs appear to still be the team to beat. My issue with them is they added good veterans, but where are their young legs. Manu is healthy and Parker is still the quickest player on the court, but what's after that? Against many of the Western teams who appear quicker and more athletic, veteran savvy may not be enough. I know this team has gotten by before, but this year it will catch up to them.

Warriors—Chris Webber, need I say more? This move was a non-move and the Warriors will struggle in the tough west to even make the playoffs.

Prediction—Webber complains, and the team falls just short of the playoffs. Winning your home games isn't enough to get by the Nuggets, and/or surging Rockets.

Cleveland—How often does a team go to the finals and change almost its entire roster in the next year? The Cav's needed to make some moves and are big time winners at the trade deadline.

Ben Wallace will fit along with the Big Z perfectly. He replaces a wildly inconsistent Drew Gooden and gives a defensive presence. Wallace and Joe Smith give the front court more flexibility, and outstanding depth. Add the return of Wally back to Ohio, and Delonte West at the point, the Cav's have addressed most of their weaknesses.

Wally gives them a consistent outside stroke and West is scoring threat who can play two positions. Things that may be of concern is their perimeter defense, or lack there of, and the need for the team to jell together.

Prediction—This team will contend for the championship again. However, they will fall short this year.  Their offense will be good, but they will not have enough time to jell on defense. Lebron will be even better with a good supporting cast, but this year the Pistons and Celtics are better and more cohesive. Watch out for this Cleveland team next year.

Hawks—Finally the Hawks have a point guard. Not since Mookie Blaylock have the Hawks had a point who was respected. Mike Bibby makes them much better and should excite Atlanta fans for years to come.

A floor general with these young pieces give the Hawks a team to keep your eye on. Much like the Raptors last year, this young team will soon make teams in the East take notice. Bibby is streaky and often injured, but their are no drawbacks to this move. It's a move forward by the Atlanta front office, which has been questionable for years.

Prediction—Joe Johnson, Bibby, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Josh Childress form an outstanding nucleus. This team will make the playoffs if Bibby stays healthy and will scare someone in the first round. They still do not have enough shooting and experience to advance, but they are on the rise. The Hawks are officially back as a legit sports franchise.

Nets—After three years of rumors, the big three was finally broken up. Jason Kidd gets out and the Nets add talent in return. Devin Harris and Marcus Williams will make up for the loss of Kidd and only get better. Diop will add more defense options and allow Kristic and Boone to play more at the four.

This team was able to reload and still stay competitive despite trading a star. The move made sense for both sides, both Dallas and New Jersey will benefit. There are no drawbacks to this trade and will keep the Nets in the playoff hunt.

Predictions—Despite being a good move, the Nets will struggle to make the playoffs. Even with the big three healthy, they were still way below .500. Adding more pieces will pay off in the long run, but this year it will not be enough to make noise in the playoffs. Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson just don't seem to bring it every night. There is not enough scoring on this team to make up for poor games by these two. Carter seems to have returned to his passive self and Jefferson can't seem to put it all together for extended period of times.

Boston—The Celtics made no trades before the deadline, but still came out winners. They didn't give up any of their young pieces, or picks, and still added depth.

The PJ Brown signing was an outstanding move. It adds depth and experience to a thin front court, plus his game fit right in. A good re-bounder with a nice touch, Brown helps the Celts on and off the court.

The young guys like Davis, Perkins and Powe get to learn from a top flight professional. This move will show its worth against the Pistons and their strong front court. Then there is Sam I am. Cassell escaped the Clippers to make the move east. This move has been rumored about since the beginning of the season.

The Celts held pat and still got their man. This is a good move and becomes a great one if Cassell takes to being Rondo's backup. If he starts getting too big for his britches, or is divisive, this could become a cancer Boston could have done without.

Prediction—They have the best record in the NBA and these moves should only help. If Cassell takes to his closer role, and Brown helps keep KG fresh the Celtics should make it to the finals. It will be a great match up against Detroit, but they have the pieces now to do it.

Teams have decided this year to stop standing pat and decided to make some significant moves to their rosters. Many franchises are going for it all and hope their GMs made the moves to put them over the top. New faces in new places, the NBA is going through change. But after all this, it looks like we are heading back to the past. Back to one of the greatest rivalry in sports, Boston and LA yet one more time.


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