Now that every team in the NBA has passed the 41-game mark, each one is analyzing the first half of their season and how they can improve on their chances going forward. While the top-tier clubs like the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics don’t have too much to worry about in terms of roster changes, other teams like the Nuggets and 76ers appear willing to give up big-name, big-pay players.
The rest of the league, crowded with a myriad of mediocre teams, is looking to improve, and improve fast.
Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, the landscape of professional basketball will undoubtedly change for the second half of the 2010-11 season.
Here are the three teams who I believe are one (big) move away from making a powerful charge towards the postseason.
New York Knicks:
The obvious first choice on this list is obviously the Knicks, who have been at the center of recent trade talk involving one Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, a Brooklyn native.
However, if New York does land Melo, it seems as though it will not be until next season. This means another move must be made right now to kick start a team that has gone through quite a few ups-and-downs so far this season.
The Knicks started out very strong with newcomer Amar’e Stoudemire leading them to a 22-15 record. Then, after winning four of five, New York went on a six game losing streak, including embarrassing home losses to the Kings and Suns.
Clearly, something is not running smoothly in the Big Apple.
I believe the problem lies within the Knicks‘ depth. While their top scorers, Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, have given them a great deal of production, they are missing a real shooting guard and more importantly, a reliable back-up for their big man.
A trade for an experienced forward like Tyrus Thomas in exchange for a young, but unproven talent, like Anthony Randolph plus Danilo Gallinari could be extremely beneficial. Thomas would take some pressure off of the team when Stoudemire needs rest. Allowing for the level of play to stay up until he can return fresh.
A number of other forwards are available, so look for New York to shop around Randolph.
Golden State Warriors:
The next team that I believe can close in on the postseason with an alteration or two is the Warriors. The Dubs, dealing with injuries for the better part of the first half, seem to have finally found their form with a (mostly) healthy roster, going 10-5 in their last 15 games.
Still, success is determined over an entire season and the Warriors’ current 19-24 record is not exactly making the Bay Area faithful run through the streets of Oakland clothing-impaired. Co-owner Joe Lacob has already opened up to trade talks involving the team’s most prized commodities—Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry—in the hopes of landing a big star.
They may even be looking to enter the Melo-drama.
The bottom line with the Warriors is that they need a low-post threat. Anthony would give them pure points and a few boards, but Ellis already puts up 26 with six assists and three rebounds every night.
Curry, with 19 and six per game, is the catalyst for the offense and Monta is exponentially more effective with Steph at the point. Draft pick Ekpe Udoh has length, but he has yet to develop as a post player, and understandably so. David Lee, at 6’10”, 250 pounds, is not nearly large enough to be an inside force for a team in need of a powerful center.
Andris Biedrins, though effective during the short-lived Baron Davis era, is not the answer. This position has been a question mark for the Warriors for a while now, so do not be surprised if they split up a great backcourt for needed size. It may be the best option if the Dubs want to make the postseason.
Then again, with the way this franchise has been run, the Warriors may just wallow in their own futility. Time will tell.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Lastly, and you may think strangely on this list are the Thunder. Maybe OKC does not belong in first place of their division with a record of 28-15, but I believe they do. Their play has been very strong lately, with wins against Orlando and Dallas, and close road losses to the Lakers and Nuggets.
However, they have not yet reached the point of dominance that I think they can achieve with one more guy added into the mix. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are undoubtedly the future of this team, as they combine for 50 points a game, but the supporting cast is not quite good enough to bring the Thunder to elite status.
The key to the current and future success of this team rests in the hands of GM Sam Presti. If he can figure out how to get a big man other than Nenad Krstic into the mix, the force of Durant, Westbrook and Big Man X would be hard to stop.
It might be difficult finding a guy to fit this description, just as it will be for the Warriors, but maybe a Marcus Camby is all the Thunder need. A trade with Krstic and Morris Peterson or James Harden might do the trick.
Oklahoma City is a scary team for the future, but right now, the Thunder are just a team to be worried about. With a little maneuvering, OKC will take control of the West, sooner rather than later.