NBA Teams with Massive Questions to Answer After 2013 Trade Deadline
At long last, the NBA's annual trade deadline has come and gone.
Now we can all get back to the business of focusing on basketball rather than speculating about which players could or should go where and for what.
It's a relief for all involved that the deadline is a thing of the past, even more so that the usual frenzy was limited to a swath of minor moves made mostly between teams in the muddled middle. All told, 27 players changed homes across 12 separate transactions within a 24-hour span between Feb. 20 and 21, so it wasn't as though nothing happened.
But absent from the festivities were any blockbuster moves. The fact that J.J. Redick was the most consequential player to move should tell you everything you need to know in that regard.
That's all out of the way now, though. For the most part, teams will have to dance with the ones who brought them, as a wise woman once sang.
These seven squads in particular will face big questions in the wake of their activity (or lack thereof) on deadline day.
San Antonio Spurs
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San Antonio was mentioned in connection with a number of the bigger names on the market (i.e. Josh Smith and Al Jefferson) at one point or another. In the end, the Spurs decided to stand pat.
And so far, they look smart for doing so. A 116-90 trouncing of the Los Angeles Clippers added to San Antonio's NBA-best record of 44-12 and was the team's fifth win in a row and 15th in 16 games.
Still, there's some concern as to whether this Spurs squad is truly capable of winning the title this year. Their frontcourt remains woefully thin, and the viability of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili over the course of a long playoff run remains in doubt, given their respective ages and recent injury histories.
Surely, it'd be a shame if the Spurs couldn't capitalize on Tony Parker's MVP-caliber season on account of a short corps of bigs and/or the beckon call of Father Time to Duncan and Ginobili.
Los Angeles Clippers
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On the other side of that win for the Spurs was a Clippers squad that clearly could use some help in its pursuit of the Western Conference crown.
After handling San Antonio during two previous meetings this season, the Clips came crashing back down to Earth on Thursday. They failed to execute in the half court against the Spurs' stifling team defense and were even more helpless to stop San Antonio from running its own offense to near perfection on the other end.
The Spurs seem to have figured out how to beat the Clips, albeit in much the same way they did last spring—by running their stuff to perfection.
This brought into question the Clippers' place among the Western Conference's elite.
Their fast-paced, turnover-fueled style of play and incredible depth both bode well for beating up on teams during the regular season, but what are the Clips to do come playoff time, when the competition improves, the tempo slows and half-court execution becomes the order of the day?
Right now, L.A. doesn't appear to be all that well equipped to answer those queries to any satisfaction. Most glaringly, the Clippers sport plenty of talent up front, between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but neither counts as a reliable low-post scorer who can get buckets in the half court.
They could've addressed that deficiency at the deadline, with either Kevin Garnett or Paul Millsap, but ultimately opted against such a late shakeup.
And they may well pay the price for such inactivity come playoff time.
Los Angeles Lakers
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For the second year in a row, the passing of the trade deadline brings with it a measure of relief for the Los Angeles Lakers. Last year, the departure of Derek Fisher came as a shock to their system, though Pau Gasol was certainly pleased to find himself still in purple and gold.
This time around, Gasol was nearly untradeable on account of his foot troubles. Dwight Howard, the presumed future of the franchise, was deemed to be off-limits by general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Kupchak held true to his word. Now it's incumbent upon Kobe Bryant and Co. to hold true to theirs. The Lakers' climb into the Western Conference playoff picture remains as steep and uphill as ever, especially now that the Houston Rockets are back on a roll.
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Speaking of teams with their sights set on the eighth seed, the Milwaukee Bucks made something of a splash at the deadline. They pried J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic in a deal that also delivered Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith to Wisconsin and sent Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih to Florida.
On the whole, the deal registers rather high (or is it low?) on the Nothingburger Scale, as any involving a sixth man joining a fringe playoff team would. Had the Bucks convinced the Atlanta Hawks to take their bait in a trade for Josh Smith, we might just have something worth discussing.
As it is, Redick isn't likely to do much more for Milwaukee than boost the team's chances of not missing the playoffs.
But what if the Bucks tumble out of the postseason picture in the East anyway? What if Redick struggles to find a role (and perimeter shots) in an offense that's already dominated by Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings? And what if, after all that, J.J. decides to take his talents elsewhere this summer?
The answer? General manager John Hammond keeps his job. The Bucks have already inked him to an extension.
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Despite Milwaukee's best efforts to steal the spotlight at the deadline, the biggest story coming out of the Central Division remains Derrick Rose's impending return to action with the Chicago Bulls.
And, moreover, another question is whether the Bulls' lack of activity at the trade deadline might encourage Rose to sit out for a while longer. Reggie Rose, Derrick's outspoken older brother, was none too pleased with Chicago's decision to stand pat, though Derrick and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau both distanced themselves from the somewhat incendiary comments.
Still, one can't help but wonder whether Chicago's tacit admission that title contention is all but out of the question this season won't encourage Derrick to sit out the remainder of the 2012-13 season, even if he's ready to play at some point.
Without Rose, the Bulls can beat up on the dregs of the NBA, but they will be hard-pressed to make hay against a quality opponent in a seven-game series. There's only so much Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer can do without the benefit of a guard who can create for himself and others, as was the case against the Miami Heat on Thursday.
With Rose, though, the Bulls may yet have a fighting chance of sneaking their way into the Eastern Conference finals.
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Not to focus too much on the Central Division, but the Indiana Pacers' situation might be the antithesis of the Bulls' situation.
That is, the Pacers are anticipating the return of an All-Star (Danny Granger), but they are playing so well in his absence that it's not entirely unreasonable to ask whether they'd be better off without him.
Indy officially moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with a 32-point thrashing of the Detroit Pistons on Friday and has handled the top-seeded Heat twice already this season.
At this point, it might behoove the Pacers to bring Granger off the bench if/when he gets back in playing shape. Ideally, he'd add a scoring punch to Indy's second unit while preserving the good thing the Pacers have going with Paul George and Lance Stephenson on the wings.
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The biggest question in the wake of the trade deadline is directed not toward a playoff hopeful but rather at the Sacramento Kings: Why Thomas Robinson? Why?
The Kings sent Robinson to the Houston Rockets on Feb. 20, mere months after spending the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA draft to acquire the All-American out of Kansas. The trade, which also rid the Kings of Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, appeared to be motivated by an attempt to save money.
That makes sense, considering the financial bind that the Maloof brothers are in at the moment.
But why did such measures require the disposal of Robinson? Couldn't the Kings just as easily have shipped off one of their many scoring guards or wings, be it Aaron Brooks, John Salmons or Jimmer Fredette?
Sure, Robinson hadn't performed up to par in Sacramento (4.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 42.4 percent shooting), though he hadn't been given much of an opportunity to strut his stuff (15.9 minutes per game).
Chances are, T-Rob isn't complaining. He's leaving behind the NBA's biggest quagmire—where he was stuck behind DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson—for a potential starting spot with an up-and-coming Houston Rockets squad whose ownership situation is far steadier than anything he'd have found in Sacramento or Seattle.