This is the point in the season at which all NBA teams must decide if they are going to buy or sell. Several teams in the league are already shopping.
Need for frontcourt help is at an all-time high, but there happens to be a surplus of big men being talked about as potential trade pieces before the deadline.
According to 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in the market for frontcourt help. No specific names have been mentioned, but president David Kahn may want “more of a big guy, not a wing,” according to Wolfson’s sources.
Kevin Love will be out until some time in March with a broken hand, and center Nikola Pekovic has been banged up as well. Derrick Williams has failed to meet expectations since being drafted No. 2 overall in 2011. The Timberwolves need some frontcourt help if they are to contend for a playoff spot by the end of the season, and this would be a good time to go get it.
What the Timberwolves do before the deadline will depend on finding the right fit, but there are several teams that could be looking to move big men before the deadline.
A more surprising team that could be in the hunt for some additional help via trade is Charlotte. The Bobcats (10-30) have been abysmal this season, but according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, "Michael Jordan has given Higgins and general manager Rich Cho 'the green light to go out and make this team better.'"
ESPN's Tom Carpenter adds that Jordan wants his front office to “be aggressive at the trade deadline.”
The Bobcats may try to be aggressive in adding some young talent, but apart from another high draft pick, they may not have too much to offer in return.
Carpenter believes the Bobcats are desperate for frontcourt help and that they may try to target DeMarcus Cousins, Al Jefferson or Andrea Bargnani.
Both the Timberwolves and Bobcats would be wise to make deadline deals if the circumstances turn out in their favor. Minnesota is just below .500 with a chance at sneaking into the playoffs should they continue to hang around until Love returns.
Charlotte is not in contention, but Bobcats fans need to see some hope from their ownership. Charlotte cannot keep relying on draft picks year after year to bring fans to games until it develops more talent. Making a deal for a big man to shore up its frontcourt and create some excitement for the future certainly couldn’t hurt.
There is rarely a point in the NBA season when a move must be made, but it’s getting close for some teams. The Bobcats and Timberwolves remain among a handful of teams actively searching for a deal before the February deadline.
While Charlotte and Minnesota have openly expressed their interest to make a move before the deadline, there are many teams in the league that haven’t been as open about their intentions, but should plan to make some bold moves.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are two such teams that are in a position to make a big move before the deadline.
Los Angeles has one of the most talented rosters in the league, yet they sit at 17-23, 15 games out of first place and three games off pace of the No. 8 seed in the West. Much has been said about what the Lakers may or may not do in the next month, but something needs to be done.
Unfortunately for Lakers fans, general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t think there’s much that can be done. According to Nick Borges of ESPN, Kupchak doesn’t like his options.
We don't have many options. It's not like we're going to be active or overly active in the trade market.
The Lakers have very little chemistry, and between age, injuries and a lack of points to go around, Los Angeles should be ready to wheel and deal, regardless of the limited options. Pau Gasol is Los Angeles’ best asset in the trade market, and moving Gasol for some young talent and depth could be the spark the Lakers need to shake things up.
Because of the nature of the Lakers’ offseason and all the hype surrounding a team full of talented pieces, it’s more likely the Lakers will stand pat and hope Kobe Bryant can carry the team into the postseason. Still, the way the Lakers are headed, shaking up the roster may be their best option.
Which team is most in need of making a move before the deadline?
Houston is a team on the other side of the equation. The Rockets dealt for James Harden in the offseason and instantly became a playoff contender. But Houston sits at 21-21, currently in a position to be the No. 8 seed were the season to end today.
The Rockets have a much-improved roster, but they lack a truly dominant presence in the frontcourt. According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld, they may be actively looking to address that need:
Source says that the Memphis Grizzlies may keep Rudy Gay, and instead trade Zach Randolph to the Houston Rockets. Houston loves Randolph.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 20, 2013
The Rockets may not be a championship contender at the moment, but they have enough talent to be challengers in the West for a playoff spot. With one more big acquisition, Houston would be in a position for a potential surge in the second half and a better seed entering the playoffs.
There should be significant movement at the trade deadline this season, and the picture should become clearer as that time approaches. For now, it’s mainly speculation and posturing, but one thing is certain: the opportunity is there for several teams to make a big impact with in-season moves in the coming month.