5 Teams That Dropped the Ball by Not Dealing at NBA Trade Deadline

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IFebruary 21, 2014

5 Teams That Dropped the Ball by Not Dealing at NBA Trade Deadline

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

    The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and a few teams that were originally expected to deal decided instead to stay put.

    While it's always difficult to get a sense of what a team tried to do, or what deals were close that failed at the last moment, at the end of the day all we have to work with are the actual results.

    It happens every year, but this season's trade deadline was particularly perplexing because only a handful of teams (like the Philadelphia 76ers) were truly aggressive. Some squads passed up golden opportunities to get better, while others failed to fix obvious roster flaws or tear it down and just start over.

    Let's take a look at the top five teams that should have found a way to do something at the deadline.  

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently two games below .500 and five-and-a-half games out of the No. 8 seed. Star power forward Kevin Love can become a free agent after next year. Head coach Rick Adelman's contract will end after next season as well.

    With all that in mind, you would think that there would be a sense of urgency in Minnesota to try and get into the playoffs, or if nothing else, to make changes to improve for next year.

    Instead, Timberwolves GM Flip Saunders opted to stay put at the deadline and ride this year out. Perhaps that was due to a lack of attractive players and contracts to deal, or the hesitancy to give up future assets given the uncertainty of Love's situation.

    Whatever the reason, it's tough to get over the fact that Minnesota is wasting another year with such a transcendent talent. The Timberwolves may be running out of time to build a winner, and Love may be running out of patience. It's hard to view this deadline for Minnesota as anything but a missed opportunity.

Phoenix Suns

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    Obviously, no one really expected the Phoenix Suns to be in this position.

    At 31-21, the Suns are firmly in the playoff picture in the Western Conference while also being set up incredibly well for the future with plenty of draft picks scheduled to be conveyed over the next two years.

    So what's the issue?

    The Suns had a great trade piece to use in Emeka Okafor, but they didn't. Because Okafor's remaining deal will be 80 percent covered by insurance, a number of teams around the league should have been interested in acquiring it to save money.

    Instead, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver will collect the savings himself. That's hard to justify considering the Suns could have improved, if only for this season, by adding an actual contributor to the roster.

    Maybe GM Ryan McDonough didn't want to jeopardize chemistry, but if the chance for more playoff success was passed up to save a few million dollars, that seems painfully reminiscent of how the Suns operated for many years.

Boston Celtics

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    Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge is a bit of a spin master. After the deadline came and went with Rajon Rondo still on the roster, here's what Ainge told Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe:

    "We were not trying to trade Rondo in any way, shape, or form. Most of the rumors out there were completely false."

    While that certainly seems hard to believe considering how much Rondo's name came up over the last few months, the decision itself is a sound one. Rondo can potentially attract other stars via trade and free agency, and his stock should rise once he fully regains his pre-injury form.

    It makes sense that Rondo stayed, but it's harder to argue that the Celtics should have hung on to Jeff Green. With the potential to be on contract for the 2015-16 season if he accepts his player option, Green could put a serious dent into Boston's 2015 offseason plans. While there will be other opportunities to deal him, improving the odds of this year's lottery pick while picking up another future asset would have been nice.

    Boston not dealing isn't as egregious as some of the other teams, but it wouldn't have been the worst thing if the rebuilding project kept rolling on instead of being delayed until the offseason.

Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons are in one of the worst situations imaginable, and the failure to do anything about it at the deadline only complicates matters further.

    The Pistons are currently out of the playoff picture but are still likely to have to forfeit their first round pick to the Charlotte Bobcats, as it is only top-eight protected.

    The frontcourt trio of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond has failed to produce wins, and with no trades at the deadline, it appears the three may be locked in together long term if the Pistons end up matching on Monroe this offseason, who is a restricted free agent.

    It's not that the Pistons lacked the assets to try and improve, either. Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey were both on expiring contracts, but neither were utilized. Instead, the cap room they'll free up by coming off the books should be mostly absorbed by Monroe's new deal.

    It's possible that Pistons owner Tom Gores wants someone else to make the major decisions since GM Joe Dumars is on the last year of his deal. That might be the right decision long term, but for now, the Pistons are stuck in basketball purgatory.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Not unlike the Detroit Pistons, the New Orleans Pelicans are also stuck in a pretty difficult position.

    Because of the Jrue Holiday trade, the Pelicans will have to give the Philadelphia 76ers their first-round pick this season, so long as it doesn't fall in the top five.

    More importantly than that, though, is the clearly mismatched backcourt and hole in the frontcourt going forward. New Orleans isn't going to have enough cap space to get Anthony Davis a better match at center, and it doesn't look like Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans can all coexist together.

    Injuries are probably always going to be an issue with this core, and even at full strength, the Pelicans might not be more than a first-round exit waiting to happen.

    Instead of working to fix his errors and find better fits, Dell Demps and the Pelicans sat on their hands at the deadline and didn't even use the disabled player exception they received after Ryan Anderson's injury. At some point, things need to change in New Orleans.