One Ideal Trade Target for Every NBA Title Contender
The 10 teams with the best records in the NBA through Friday's games already have many of the pieces in place to make a deep run in the playoffs.
But as the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaches, even the best teams could benefit from the addition of a key player to fill a particular need.
In limiting this list to 10, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were both omitted. While each could prove otherwise in the second half of the season, neither team is a contender at this point.
10. Chicago Bulls: Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani would at least be serviceable on the defensive end in a Tom Thibodeau-led system.
Keep that in mind before dismissing this move as one that would contradict the defensive emphasis that has allowed the Bulls to build the Eastern Conference's fourth-best record.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Friday that the Bulls and Toronto Raptors have had exploratory discussions regarding a deal that would send Carlos Boozer to Toronto in exchange for Bargnani.
If this move materializes, it would be ideal for Chicago on a number of levels.
Despite having one of his least productive seasons in Toronto, the 27-year-old Bargnani is still an above-average offensive player when compared with his seven-foot colleagues throughout the league.
He is a career 36-percent three-point shooter who would also be effective in the pick-and-roll game with Derrick Rose. Both attributes would help Chicago improve its team ranking of 15 in three-point shooting and 26 in points per game.
In addition to Thibodeau's requirement that Bargnani also improve defensively, playing alongside Joakim Noah on that end of the floor would help to erase any mistakes.
Besides that, though, Bargnani would allow Bulls fans to stop holding their breath come playoff time wondering whether Carlos Boozer will show up.
9. Golden State Warriors: Timofey Mozgov
The Golden State Warriors have lost three straight and five of their last 10. Despite that, it's no time to panic in the Bay Area.
The Warriors are playing .600 basketball despite only having Andrew Bogut available for nine games.
As Bogut continues to build on the 9.3 points and 7.3 rebounds he's averaged during his three games in February, his return from injury is almost like acquiring a major piece at the trade deadline. The Warriors do not need to shake things up by making a separate splash as well.
A minor move such as trading for Timofey Mozgov would provide front-line help as well as depth. This is what the Warriors should be exploring as they continue to contend in the Western Conference.
Mozgov has only averaged three points and three rebounds in 10 minutes per night for the Denver Nuggets, so it shouldn't take much for Golden State to pry him away.
They could do so while keeping the majority of their rotation intact as they continue to build from within.
8. Indiana Pacers: J.J. Redick
The Indiana Pacers are averaging 92.8 points per game, 28th in the NBA.
To become a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference—a threat to not just enter the postseason ranked in the top three but to actually win the conference—they need more offense to complement everything they are doing right on the defensive end of the floor.
Trading for J.J. Redick would improve Indiana's chances of winning the East—especially if the team can hold onto Danny Granger in the process, dealing only from a list comprised of Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green, Lance Stephenson and any other draft pick[s] that might be able to get a deal like this done for Redick.
There isn't a contender in the NBA that wouldn't benefit by adding the sharp-shooting guard from Orlando, but the Pacers just might benefit the most.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Courtney Lee
Now is not the time for the Memphis Grizzlies to take on significant salary by way of another trade. After dealing away Rudy Gay, however, the Grizzlies could use some help on the perimeter.
This week, Comcast NBA analyst Ric Bucher suggested that a target for the Grizzlies should be Boston Celtics shooting guard Courtney Lee. While under contract through 2015, his $5.3 million yearly average is reasonable.
Lee could be acquired for "part of their $7.5-million trade exception"—as noted in the report—without giving up much more NBA talent. This trade would provide a needed upgrade for Memphis.
Lee is shooting a career-high 46.4 percent from the field in 23.4 minutes per game for Boston.
A similar number of minutes are available for him in Memphis. If his game translates, he'd help the Grizzlies improve their 25th-ranked field-goal percentage of 43.6 percent.
6. Denver Nuggets: Richard Hamilton
The Denver Nuggets have won eight in a row heading into Saturday's matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After opening the season with one road game after another, the Nuggets have compiled a 22-5 record at home, which has helped them earn the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. So I wouldn't do too much to mess with all that before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
If the services of Richard Hamilton could be purchased off the NBA trade discount rack, I'd take a flier on him.
He's averaging 10.7 points in 22.8 minutes per night while shooting 36 percent from three-point range.
Despite averaging the third-most points in the NBA, the Nuggets are shooting 33.8 percent from long range, which ranks 27th in the league.
J.J. Redick would provide a dramatic improvement in that department, but I'm not sure the Nuggets need to give up the pieces necessary to complete a deal like that with the Magic.
Mixing in Hamilton for a minimal price—Timofey Mozgov perhaps—could make Denver even deeper on the wing while also providing insurance against potential injuries at that position.
5. New York Knicks: Timofey Mozgov
The New York Knicks are another team I wouldn't do too much to mess with right now.
Before this season began, nobody expected the Knicks to be only 1.5 games back of the Eastern Conference lead at the All-Star break, and that is where they're sitting this weekend.
Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby have been both sidelined with injuries, however, and they could use some added depth in the frontcourt.
If the Knicks chose not to purse Amundson via free agency, they could similarly benefit by trading for Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov.
You can't coach size in this league. At 7'1", Mozgov's name keeps popping up because he certainly has that much going for him. The Knicks already liked him in his first go-round with the team back in 2010, but traded him away as part of the deal for Carmelo Anthony.
Whatever else he contributes as an insurance big at the end of the New York bench would be a bonus.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: Josh Smith
With the third-best record in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Clippers have been a great story.
They're deep and effective on both ends of the floor, and in Chris Paul they have that elite-level superstar needed to win a championship.
Free agency is rapidly approaching for Paul, though, and it might be time for the Clippers to push all their chips into the middle of the table.
Josh Smith appears to be the best player available in the trade market. If the Clippers can acquire Smith without giving up DeAndre Jordan, they could roll out a lineup that would be unmatched in terms of athleticism.
Whether Smith eventually uses the minutes of small forward Caron Butler in the starting lineup, or the reserve power forward minutes of Lamar Odom, the Clippers are a more dangerous team with J-Smoove on board.
They would have to part ways with at least Eric Bledsoe and a first-round pick to make this move. They'd also probably need a third team to facilitate this deal, but it is one of those high-risk, high-reward moves that could pay off big for L.A.
Josh Smith would only be a rental for the duration of the 2012-13 campaign. The Clippers are in no position to offer Smith a max contract. But if that rental helped Paul advance to the NBA Finals, it would be worth it.
3. Miami Heat: DeJuan Blair
The Miami Heat signed Chris Andersen to a contract this week for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. This is an underrated signing that isn't getting nearly the attention it inevitably will in the playoffs.
The Heat needed help on the glass in a bad way, and Andersen will provide that with size, energy and effort.
As the worst rebounding team in the NBA, though, the Heat could still use even more help on the boards. Trading for San Antonio's DeJuan Blair would be an ideal move for Miami.
Blair has been rumored to be available. He has been inconsistent at times, but he'd only play a minor role in Miami. The upside of his production could go a long way toward improving all that ails the Heat on the glass.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Will Bynum
The Oklahoma City Thunder do not need to make a trade. Their offensive attack is the most prolific in the league, and they can contend for an NBA championship as constructed.
With that in mind, however, a realistic trade target who would improve the Thunder's backcourt depth and bench is Detroit Pistons guard Will Bynum.
Kevin Martin has provided steady scoring for the Thunder reserves since arriving in OKC this season, but the point guard position behind Russell Westbrook has remained in flux.
After beating out Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson has been improving as of late. Bynum, however, would be an improvement over Jackson, at least at this point.
Bynum is averaging 9.1 points per game in 18 minutes this season for Detroit.
Making this move, first suggested by Chris Sheridan earlier this week, is a more ideal choice than trading for a backup center like Jermaine O'Neal.
1. San Antonio Spurs: Samuel Dalembert
Al Jefferson's name has been linked to the San Antonio Spurs in multiple reports the last few days.
In combination with the way Tim Duncan has been playing this season, Jefferson would provide San Antonio with the best frontcourt tandem in the league.
A move for Jefferson, though, who will get max dollars as a free agent this summer, just doesn't seem very San Antonio-ish.
Looking to upgrade the center position, Milwaukee Bucks' big man Samuel Dalembert—who is reportedly being shopped by Milwaukee, according to Marc Stein from ESPN—is a much more logical play for the Spurs.
While owning the NBA's best record, the Spurs do not need to make a major splash before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Dalembert would provide depth up-front while also maintaining the same consistency that's helped San Antonio win all season long.
The Spurs should not have to part ways with Tiago Splitter to get him, either.
DeJuan Blair, possibly, could be the primary piece the Spurs ultimately move in a multi-team trade that lands Dalembert in San Antonio.