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Carmelo Anthony and 10 Players Who Will Have The Most Impact on The NBA Playoffs

Justin KeyCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2011

Carmelo Anthony and 10 Players Who Will Have The Most Impact on The NBA Playoffs

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Barring the Orlando Magic’s fire sale just a week before Christmas, the 2010-11 season’s transactions have been largely boring and insignificant.

    Sure, Jerry Stackhouse played again by joining the Miami Heat. But just like that, he was gone, no suitors for the weary or wobbly legged. And we all fondly remembered Michael Finley for one last time.

    And all the trade rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony have been relentless, although fruitless.

    Ultimately, nothing much has transpired; though, there isn’t any reason to believe that will be the standard between now and the February 24 trade deadline.

    Franchises are now weighing the pros and cons of remaining or altering their rosters.

    So, some teams will pick up bad contracts to dump them at years end. Others will pick up bad contracts for the potential win it all this year. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics will most likely sit tight and place their fate in the hands of what they already have.

    Here’s a look at 10 players who will mostly likely affect the playoffs and the playoff race:

Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey and 15 Player Megadeal

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Purely running on the element of speculation, this deal goes through and alters nothing except maybe the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference.

    With what has been the supposed starting lineup for the New Jersey Nets—reuniting Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt, Carmelo Anthony at small forward, and a front line of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries—won’t change anything.

    Yes, a possible first-round matchup of New Jersey versus the Miami Heat is tantalizing, bordering on the notion that these could be the conference rivalry equal to the Spurs and Lakers of the last decade.

    But that will take time materialize.

    The team that this trade will affect—sadly to say—is a resurgent Denver Nuggets team who has finally come to life despite all the constant hysteria surrounding them.

    Denver will float off into oblivion and will in all likelihood disappear from the significant NBA landscape for some time.

    And Chauncey Billups, one of the truest of basketball professionals in the last decade-plus, will feel the sting more than anyone else.

Carmelo Anthony to New York Knicks

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    With all the excessive amount of hearsay in the league, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Carmelo Anthony wants to be a Knick. It’s even harder to believe that it will change anything though.

    Although the Knicks desperately want Anthony and vise versa, a trade to New York cannot help the Knicks, especially when they can just obtain him for nothing next summer.

    The truth is that the Knicks aren’t winning a championship in the foreseeable future, immediate future, or this year. Simple.

    The Knicks can just sign Carmelo over the summer, hope there isn’t a lockout, and continue to build a winning culture without him. It’s naïve to believe that a pure scorer—albeit a guy who doesn’t do much else—can come in and help a team that can only score and not stop anybody in the process.

    If Anthony to New York happens this year, expect to see the Knicks in the same exact playoff spot (fifth) that they would be without him. And expect the same results—done in the first round.

    Winning teams defend and execute in the playoffs. The Knicks have neither an offense that is based on execution—more of a free-for-all—and concede buckets like it has no affect on anything.

    If they keep their core, add ‘Melo in the summer, then they can build on that. But you can’t add more offense to offense and expect the defensive side of the ball to have different results. 

Gerald Wallace

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Recently there have been reports about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ interest in Gerald Wallace. If the trade materializes, sending him to the Charlotte Bobcats for the trade exception picked up from LeBron James, this pick could be outdated and irrelevant very quickly.

    Gerald Wallace is on the trading block as Michael Jordan wants to shed the remaining two years and $22 million on his contract.

    Despite the talk about Wallace being shipped out to the worst team in the NBA, there are several other teams who could use his services who aren’t in as bad of condition as Cleveland.

    And although it would seem like a consolation prize for the New York Knicks to get a hold of Wallace instead of ‘Melo, it would strengthen the Knicks if Anthony heads to New Jersey and becomes unattainable.

    Wallace would actually be the better fit for the Knicks as well. The Knicks have one of the most high-octane offenses in the NBA, if the fastest, most percolating of them all.  However, the Knicks cannot stop anybody from scoring and give up nearly as many points as they score every night.

    Wallace’s defense on the wing could greatly help a team like New York—again, if they can’t get Carmelo—and would provide another source of rebounding for the Knicks. 

Zach Randolph

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Memphis Grizzlies are currently at a burdensome crossroads. Zach Randolph’s future is ambiguous and at the forefront of Grizzlies’ decision-making process.

    Randolph is currently making over $17-million this year, which is large considering that Memphis extended Rudy Gay’s contract last summer. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming up, paying the two of them simultaneously may not be possible and is highly improbable.

    Big time contenders whose front lines are not up to par will be seeking to nab Z-Bo, especially in the Eastern Conference. Teams like the Orlando Magic will be eyeing possible scenarios to bring in Randolph in order to beef-up enough to deal with the likes of the Boston Celtics.

    The problem lies with money and market. It’s difficult to obtain a player like Randolph and win a championship in the process because, his salary is too large for a small-market team like Memphis to let him go without receiving a lot in the process. Gutting a team so late in the season can be devastating to chemistry.

    But the truth remains, even if not selected by the fans or the coaches, Zach Randolph is an All Star with 20.0 ppg and 12.9 rpg. He can help a team out, especially like the Orlando Magic.

Caron Butler

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks have had their legs taken out from them since Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki went down with a pair of right knee injuries, slipping them a spot in the Western Conference standings.

    This is devastating to the Mavericks who had finally employed some defense to add to an already offensive-potent lineup, not exactly their forte during the Nowitzki-era.

    While it’s not completely clear if the Mavericks’ recent woes are from the loss of Caron Butler on top of perennial All Star Nowitzki, it is abundantly clear that Mark Cuban isn’t afraid to shake things up in this situation.

    Being a contract year for Butler, other teams may be willing to trade for him exclusively based on the expiration of his contract.

    And Dallas will desperately need to replace Butler’s 15 points a night.

    It has also been rumored that the Mavericks are interested in Bobcats’ Stephen Jackson.

Andre Iguodala

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Andre Iguodala is having his worst season in five years and he’s still very young, turning 27 at the end of the month.

    The Philadelphia 76ers are no-doubt shopping Iggy around with their young nucleus. Currently, they’re sitting as ninth best in the Eastern Conference and only one game out of the playoff picture. To keep Iguodala around would be to neglect the overall growth of their younger players.

    But it’s not all bad news. Iguodala would be the perfect fit for multiple winning teams who have the means to acquire him, which would hopefully rekindle his basketball spirit.

    The Dallas Mavericks will more than likely take a stab at Iguodala with the Caron Butler situation. Also, Iguodala is a much better defender than Butler and would be the perfect fit for a team who already has a winning culture, something that he was unable to build for himself in Philadelphia.

    The Utah Jazz could also try to obtain the seven-year veteran. With Andrei Kirilenko’s large, expiring contract and multiple trade-exceptions, acquiring Iguodala wouldn’t be out of the question. The Jazz do not currently have a go-to scorer on the wing to complement Deron Williams.

Marcin Gortat

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    While most people were star-struck with the Orlando Magic’s trade last month, nobody realizes how important trading Marcin Gortat to the Phoenix Suns is.

    First of all, the trade never happens without Gortat, as he was the Suns most coveted piece—like Vince Carter is really “wanted” these days.

    Phoenix is one of the worst rebounding and defensive teams in the NBA. They’re undersized at nearly every position that matters close to the basket. Robin Lopez is the Harvey of the Grant twins 20 years ago.

    As for the Magic, the new-look roster also looks very impressive on paper, but the game is played on hardwood.

    Believe it or not, Otis Smith kissed his opportunity to win a championship this year goodbye when he moved Gortat.

    If the Magic cannot find a way to protect Dwight Howard’s minutes, they simply cannot compete with the Boston Celtics in a 7-game series.

    Ultimately, moving Gortat has minimized the Orlando Magic’s hopes of winning an NBA title. If by some obscene twist of fate the Magic arrive undersized to the NBA Finals, they will be facing a team who out-mans them in the middle. 

Udonis Haslem

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    No, the Miami Heat aren’t going to trade Udonis Haslem. But his impact on the playoffs will be undeniable. 

    The Miami Heat’s early loss of Udonis Haslem was devastating, especially after their dismal start. Since then, the Heat have exploded to win 21 of their last 24 games.

    There is very little doubt that this team is a serious contender anymore. No team in the league is hotter, finally reflecting the talent on the roster.

    However, just like the Orlando Magic—although not as bad, the Heat’s middle is bad, really bad. They simply cannot compete with the Celtic’s front line as they currently stand.

    Well, Udonis Haslem isn’t on crutches anymore though he’s still wearing a boot. His return, which isn’t immanent, is set for late March to early April and the Heat better hope it happens.

    Haslem may not even be enough for the Heat to overcome the size and strength of Boston but, a quick recovery from foot surgery can only help them.

    As it stands now, the Heat don’t stand much of a chance against a healthy middle and dose of the Celtics. Haslem, at the very least, improves their chances. 

Joakim Noah

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bulls currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and a legitimate MVP candidate in Derrick Rose.

    They started their season with Carlos Boozer on the bench, and got him back just in time to lose Joakim Noah.

    What’s impressive and scary about the Bulls is that they’re already a very good team with a lot of depth. They just haven’t played together for any significant time.

    And that trend will have to continue until March, when Noah expects to return.

    Noah’s presence is undeniable in the middle. He has a very strong influence on the paint and was having a career season before going down with a hand injury.

    In all seriousness, the Bulls have a legitimate chance in the Eastern Conference when Noah gets healthy. A front line of Boozer and Noah is big enough to deal with Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic.

    Is it big enough to deal with Boston? Well, that remains to be seen or done by any team that isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers. Although, the combination of Noah and Boozer will be a formidable one to say the least.

Rasheed Wallace

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    There are whispers about Rasheed Wallace coming out of retirement for one more NBA title run. And not to make the playoff road too easy for the Magic, Heat, or Bulls, ‘Sheed may be putting the Celtic’ uniform on again.

    While this may seem largely insignificant to some, it’s not. Wallace’s best years are far behind him, and nobody will argue the contrary. But he can stretch the floor and guard the biggest positions in the league with craftiness.

    If Rasheed Wallace returns, it puts a seventh big on the floor for Boston, and a versatile big at that. That is 42 fouls at Doc Rivers disposal, especially significant if they see Orlando in the playoffs.

    Given Wallace’s age and demeanor, playing in 25 regular season games and the playoffs will be perfect for him. First of all, his minutes will be scarce but efficient. And secondly, it doesn’t give him an awful lot of time to accumulate technical fouls in Stern’s new regime. 

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