February is a dangerous time for NBA teams looking to make a playoff push. In the jungle that is the trade market, teams that need to improve either make deals and stay ahead of the pack or stand pat and get devoured by the competition.
By this point in the season, most coaches and executives know where their teams stand. Whether building for the playoffs or regrouping for the future, the time for action has arrived.
Several teams in the league have nearly cemented playoff spots, but making the playoffs isn’t the ultimate goal. For the following teams, making a deal before the Feb. 21 deadline would mean a greater chance to win a ring at the end of the season.
The Nuggets have one of the deepest rosters in the entire league, but apart from Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, Denver lacks players with massive scoring potential. Having contributors on all areas of the floor is fantastic, but the Nuggets could use one more scorer—particularly a perimeter scorer.
At 33-19, Denver is in control of the fifth seed, just seven games out of the lead in the Western Conference. With a good mix of youth and established talent, the Nuggets have the potential to make a major splash in the playoffs.
Denver isn’t an elite squad, though, and it needs to make a move for one big piece that can take the team over the top. That may or may not happen, and coach George Karl seems unfazed by trade deadline talk, as quoted by Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
Masai and I have had one conversation about what's going on in the trade world. I'm really very happy with the team. Masai, it's his job to figure out what makes us better and bring that to us. Right now, I don't think there's a lot of urgency for me to think about it very much.
Denver has some valuable trade assets with which to work, including the expiring contracts of Timofey Mozgov and Corey Brewer (h/t The Denver Post). Brewer has been terrific off the bench for the Nuggets, and while Mozgov hasn’t seen much playing time, both could help Denver find a true sixth man who can score a lot of points.
Brooklyn is 29-22 and 6.5 games out of the lead in the Eastern Conference. With a playoff spot nearly guaranteed, the Nets can afford to pursue a deadline deal that will help them move up in the standings to secure a better seed when playoff time arrives.
The Nets are reportedly discussing a deal that would send the power forward to the Bobcats for shooting guard Ben Gordon, which would essentially be a swap of high-priced contracts.
The financials of such a deal wouldn’t cripple the Nets in the long term, which is what a lot of executives have to consider when shopping near the deadline.
Gordon may not be the star scorer that would cement Brooklyn at the top of the standings by the end of the season, but he would be a fantastic scoring option off the bench with the potential to make a substantial impact down the stretch.
Los Angeles Clippers
Injuries have hampered the Clippers as of late, and yet Los Angeles is 36-17 and 4.5 games out of the lead in the West. There’s no denying the talent on that roster.
Still, there’s always the potential to find the right deal that will take a team over the top, and Los Angeles would be wise to keep its options open.
Overtaking Oklahoma City and San Antonio will be a difficult feat, and the Clippers need to begin planning for the playoffs, improving the roster wherever it needs some patchwork. Given the lack of frontcourt scoring (outside of Blake Griffin), adding some young, athletic depth in the paint might not be the worst idea.
The Clippers aren’t going away this year, and while depth is a necessity in the playoffs, parlaying some of that depth for another scorer and frontcourt impact player would make them even more deadly when the playoffs roll around.
San Antonio Spurs
The fountain of youth is located somewhere in the AT&T Center.
San Antonio is one of the most experienced teams in the league, and the core of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili continues to pick apart the Western Conference. At 40-12, the Spurs boast the best record in the NBA with no sign of slowing down.
Starting talent, depth and quality coaching are powering the Spurs through the league, but there is the potential for San Antonio to be even more dangerous with a big deadline deal.
According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, Al Jefferson is likely to be traded and he would be a good fit in San Antonio:
Chris Sheridan @sheridanhoops
Al Jefferson of #Jazz is strong No. 2 on Most Likely to Be Traded list. #Spurs are a fit: http://t.co/XXO1tzmD2013-2-7 03:10:58
If the Spurs can swing a deal for Jefferson, consider the West locked up. As talented as the Clippers and Thunder are, it would be extremely difficult to keep up with a team that talented at every position.
San Antonio has a lot to gain by making the right deal before the trade deadline. Landing Jefferson would all but ensure a deep playoff run.