At this juncture in the NBA season, there are plenty of borderline teams that have endured varying struggles and may not hang on for the postseason. Yet hope could be on the horizon with a savvy trade to get playoff hopes back on track.
The Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics are still contenders to play beyond the regular season, but have enough assets to make a move before the Feb. 6 deadline that could fortify their respective chances at making a run.
Here is a breakdown of those three teams, who they have to put on the block and how a prospective trade would help them in particular.
Dallas Mavericks: Trade Chris Kaman
The return of Dirk Nowitzki to the lineup has given this team a bit of a spark, and Kaman has seen his role continue to decrease. With an expiring contract worth $8 million and solid production, there should be a lot of suitors coveting the center.
According to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, the Mavs will consider plugging him to a trade in light of his recently diminishing minutes.
Kaman unfortunately suffered a concussion in the team's last game (h/t USA TODAY), which makes a move in the very immediate future very unlikely. Once he is recovered, though, the Mavs may look to move him in exchange for young talent.
This is a rather old roster, and an infusion of young talent would be critical. Defense should also be a major point of emphasis, as Dallas is 29th in the league, giving up 103 points per game.
Help could be on the way defensively or in terms of youth should the front office set up an exchange involving Kaman.
Atlanta Hawks: Trade Josh Smith
It hasn't exactly been a putrid season for the Hawks, but there has been a recent stretch of inconsistency that now has the squad sliding a little further back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! recently stated that a source told him a move involving Smith was highly likely before the trade deadline.
Even though Smith is a strong, versatile defensive presence and the team's leading scorer, the Hawks have other options and will likely run a smoother offense with J-Smoove out of the picture.
The recent emergence of extremely quick and sweet-shooting point guard Jeff Teague gives Atlanta the opportunity to put more on his shoulders and trade Smith in the process. Smith also can stagnate ball movement on the offensive end.
With a post passer of Al Horford's caliber and plenty of high quality guards in the fold, there is ample opportunity to move Smith.
In exchange, the Hawks could help make up for the absence of explosive guard Lou Williams, and also have the flexibility to upgrade the frontcourt.
As Spears indicates, Smith has enjoyed an outstanding January with 17 points, 8.6 rebounds. 4.7 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. That should make his stock extremely high, and the Hawks could potentially add another piece to get over the hump of the conference semifinals as soon as this year.
Boston Celtics: Find rebounding help
Two league executives told the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett that interest has gone up since the recent season-ending injury to star PG Rajon Rondo.
If there is one area of the game that the C's could use serious help in, It's rebounding.
Boston ranks 29th in the NBA in rebounds per game, and thus don't get very many second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass. That is part of the reason the Celtics are just 20th in the league in scoring, too.
Unfortunately for GM Danny Ainge, the player that teams are interested in most is rookie forward Jared Sullinger. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported that on Twitter, but didn't seem to think the Celtics would let their first-round pick go:
Most appealing Celtic, according to multiple team execs: Jared Sullinger. Don't expect Boston to part with him— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) January 28, 2013
There exists a surplus of combo guards that define the Celtics backcourt, but the team has improved to 2-0 without Rondo running the show. In the most recent game against the Sacramento Kings, though, center Kevin Garnett led the team with five assists.
The Celtics won't be able to find another Rondo for the remainder of the season, but should especially find a capable rebounder. Rondo also provided 5.6 rebounds per contest, and that has to be a priority should the team want to make a decent playoff run—or even make the postseason.