The Brooklyn Nets have turned their season around, but if they want to make an NBA Finals run, their roster needs an upgrade.
According to Charles Barkley, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, in regards to the Nets, "I don’t think they’re any good at all...you only got two teams in the East: you got the Heat and you got the Pacers. I actually think probably the Washington Wizards are the third best team in the Eastern Conference."
For Brooklyn to advance past the Heat or Pacers, its roster will need to be tweaked by the trade deadline (Feb. 20).
The Nets need to add another point guard to their roster.
With Deron Williams having an injury-plagued season—and his best days behind him, according to Barkley—Shaun Livingston has had to play more minutes than he should when considering his own history of being injury prone.
Throughout the month of January, Williams missed five games and Livingston averaged 29.7 MPG, including a 51-minute outing against the Heat (Jan. 10). Livingston has been consistent for the Nets, but if he is sidelined for a significant period of time the next best playmaker is Marquis Teague, and things could get ugly.
Teague is talented, but he hasn't come close to reaching his potential in his young NBA career. He has a long ways to go before becoming a consistent contributor at the 1.
Since Brooklyn received a $5.25 million Disabled Player Exception for Brook Lopez, there are a few players that can be acquired without removing any of the key components to the Nets' resurgence. The trade exception plus a draft pick could be enough to land Ramon Sessions, Greivis Vasquez, Jimmer Fredette or Patty Mills.
Each one of those guards is an upgrade over Teague and would provide Brooklyn with an insurance policy if Williams or Livingston succumb to injury.
Most Valuable Asset
Despite his season-ending injury, Lopez may still be the Nets' best asset not named Deron Williams.
It's difficult stomaching the loss of a player of Lopez's caliber—especially on offense—but with his chronic foot problems, it may be in Brooklyn's best interest to cash in before Lopez further damages his value.
At the moment, Nets general manager Billy King could find a few suitors willing to gamble on Lopez's health and potential. A team like the Cleveland Cavaliers may be willing to part ways with Jarrett Jack and Anderson Varejao in exchange for the injured center.
Adding Varejao provides Brooklyn a big body on a reasonable contract capable of averaging a double-double nightly and the addition of Jack would fortify their vulnerability at the 1.
The Phoenix Suns could be another potential suitor with the young talent and draft picks they have at their disposal. The ideal deal would be Eric Bledsoe and Emeka Okafor for Lopez, but if that can't be done, a combination of Miles Plumlee, Alex Len or Archie Goodwin plus a first-round draft pick would suffice.
The Nets could be a darkhorse threat in the playoffs, but the roster as is isn't enough to propel them past the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Moving Lopez may be the key to fulfilling championship dreams echoed in the offseason.