With the end of the All-Star weekend, the final surge for the playoffs has begun in the NBA. Teams are gearing up for well-fought battles against conference opponents. Wins and losses from now on could affect a team's standings and what seed they receive in the playoffs.
There have been certain players that have helped their teams get to this point. Offseason moves allowed players to be signed and traded to other teams to make an impact. Some players have done a really good job at improving their team’s playoff chances. Here are five offseason moves that are already paying big dividends.
This season, Jamal Crawford has been one of the best offseason pickups by any team. Crawford has added another scoring threat to the lineup. He is an excellent all-around shooter. Crawford is second on the Clippers with 16.8 points per game and fourth with 2.5 assists per game. These numbers have made him one of the leading contenders for the sixth man of the year award.
The Clippers are a much better team when Crawford is on the court. They have shown that they are one of the best teams in the Western Conference and a team that could win the title. But they are going to need everyone healthy and playing their A-game to beat teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Surely Crawford will be one of the X-factors for the Clippers in the playoffs.
This season, Brook Lopez has played like one of the best centers in the league. He leads all of the centers in the league with 19 points per game and fourth with 2.2 blocks per game. These numbers earned him a spot in the All-Star game for his first time.
The Nets currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 32-22 record. Last year, they didn't make the playoffs and finished 12th in the conference. Lopez needs to continue to play the way he has been and make the players around him better to give the team a good shot in the playoffs.
James Harden has shown the country that he is one of the stars of the league. Playing for another team other than the Oklahoma City Thunder has allowed him to shine. Harden is fifth in the league with 26.1 points per game. Harden's numbers finally earned him a spot in the All-Star game. He is one of the main reasons why the Houston Rockets are the best offensive team in the league.
Although Harden is playing really well, the Rockets are not a lock for the playoffs. As a team, they need to improve their defense if they are going to make it to the postseason. As a team, they rank 29th in the league with 103.3 points allowed per game. Harden and his teammates have to do a better job of defending opponents.
Nicolas Batum is one of the rising small forwards in the league. This offseason, the Portland Trailblazers matched the Minnesota Timberwolves' offer. The Blazers knew how good Batum is and how good he can become in the future. This season, he is averaging 15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. So far, he has had two games of 30 points or more, a five-by-five game and his first triple-double.
The Trailblazers have a chance at making the playoffs, but they are still three and a half games behind the eighth-place Houston Rockets. If they don't make it this year, their future is bright because of the young talent throughout the roster. Hopefully, Batum can continue to contribute and give this team a fighting shot at the postseason.
The Miami Heat already had an excellent roster, and then they added Ray Allen in the offseason to help even more. Allen could earn one or even two championships while on the Heat. Allen is fourth on the team with 10.7 points per game and has added another three-point threat to the roster.
His addition will be crucial down the road in the playoffs because of all of the experience he brings to the table. Although Allen is not one of the best offseason pickups, he is an excellent veteran role player that will make an impact in the postseason.