The Playoffs are only a few short games away and many teams are already looking ahead to see how their teams can be improved by next season. (Or the next playable season)
Even if you have Kevin Durant at your small forward or Dwight Howard as your center, the chances are that your team could still do well to beef up in other areas. The brass of every NBA team does their best (or so we hope) to create complete teams that are capable of contending for championships. The problem is, reality gets in the way and things don't always turn out the way they planned. Now, certain teams are left with glaring holes in them that need to be addressed and every other team would admit to certain areas where they could use more depth and talent.
All of these teams (playoff bound or not), have two opportunities to shore up their shortcomings this coming offseason. They can fill the void via Free Agency/trade scenarios or they can do their research and come out of the draft with some fresh talent. It's the choice of bringing in the old wise ones or the fresh, athletic young ones. The choice they make could very well dictate the successes or failures they will continue to see for the short term of their franchise.
In this article, I will take a look at each NBA squad and figure out where they are lacking. I will determine which position needs saving the most on each line up and give my thoughts about what the team could possibly do in order to come back both stronger and more complete. Feel free to leave comments to agree or disagree, but let's keep it proactive folks.
First thing's first, these teams need to do nothing more than to stand pat where they are. They need everyone to get healthy so they can all play their rightful positions, and from there things will continue to improve.
San Antonio Spurs- Even with the aging concerns of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, the Spurs are actually well poised for a new generation of players to take over. Tony Parker is still young enough to plan with and players like Gary Neal, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter give this team great hope of remaining relevant in the coming seasons. Now it's just a balancing act for Popovich, as he must make sure to play the veterans enough to win games and give the new guys enough time to turn them into the franchises future.
Utah Jazz- The Utah Jazz have certainly seen better days, but fans should not be as devastated as you may think. Utah went through a colossal shake up and things are just going to take time before they get back to normal. They still have a great point guard in Devin Harris, a top level power forward in Al Jefferson and a promising young shooting guard in Gordan Hayward. They also have an effective forward in Memet Okur, who will be returning from injury during the next playable season. If these guys can vibe with their new coach and form some chemistry, they can be a very dangerous team in this league.
Memphis Grizzlies- The Grizzlies have done well in shocking the league this year, as they have proved to be a thorn in even the best team's sides. Zach Randolph has gone from a punchline to an indispensable asset and Mike Conley has risen to relevance connecting the dots for Memphis. When everyone thought the Grizz would sink without Gay in the lineup, they thrived instead. Who knows how well they could play together when Gay is back healthy? I would not change a thing in Memphis with everyone playing as they are. This team needs is more time to grow.
Dallas Mavericks- Dirk Nowitzki is not getting any younger these days, but he is still playing like he did when he won his MVP in 2006. Jason Kidd could be some of the rookie's fathers, yet he still seems able to hack it on a nightly basis. Tyson Chandler has injected some much needed defense into the system and Caron Butler proved invaluable when he could stay on the court. What the Mavericks need to stay a top level team is health and heart. They have plenty of young guys currently learning the ropes from their veterans and will do well replacing them when the time comes.
Second in line are the teams that must go in the complete opposite direction. These teams need to stage an all out Fire Sale, and ditch the terrible poisons that are currently decaying their franchises. Look for these teams to make drastic moves this offseason to regain some sort of professional dignity and fan base.
Cleveland Cavaliers- So Barron Davis has had a few good games since his return, big freaking deal. Any team that is looking at J.J. Hickson as their franchise player is in need of some serious help, fast. I will say the Cavs are full of potentially valuable role players, but that couldn't matter less if they don't have someone to be their anchor. It's going to be hard getting any team to take their players and give them a star in return, so the Cavaliers are looking more to the draft for their potential savior.
With their record, it's not inconceivable they end up with a top level prospect like Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette or Harrison Barnes. Without a doubt, this is the first thing they must address, followed directly by cutting and trading away all dead weight that could hamper that prospect's future there.
Detroit Pistons- Can someone pull the lever on this stack of dynamite already? The coach is hated by the players, the players don't like the team and the team doesn't play well together. All of these facts are intertwined by one another and nothing is going to get better until everything changes. Just like with the Cavaliers, there is no identifiable center pierce here and that will have to be addressed by the draft this summer. Going big or small will be up to them, but an anchor is what they will need to attract more talent to come to Detroit. Odds favor that they pick up a top flight scorer and build around him in the coming years. One thing that's certain, is that things are going to take a while to get positive in Detroit.
Wait a minute, you don't think these teams need an upgrade at the point guard position?
For whatever reason, these teams are thin at the one spot and with all the top level point men out there in the league today, they desperately need to upgrade. Humorously enough, this slide includes two top title contenders that would be all but invincible if this problem was properly addressed.
Miami Heat- The Miami Heat have seen it fit to let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade control the ball on offense this season, but make no mistake about the fact that this team would indeed to better with an actual point guard. Have you seen the way that LeBron James moves without the ball? How about Wade? These guys have the skills to control the ball, but their real strength is finishing plays, not starting them. The Heat need to go away from options like Chalmers and Bibby and they need to acquire a point guard who can thread the needle for their superstars. If I were them, I would seek out a veteran player like Kirk Hinrich so that the Heat could run a fluid offense.
Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers are still running like a well oiled machine, but their point guard position is drying up real fast. Fisher may still be the clutch iron man we all know and love, but this could (and should) be his last starting season for the Lakers. The Lakers need someone with speed and vision to compete with all of the talent at the point guard position and Steve Blake is, frankly, not going to cut it. He works coming off of the bench, but the Lakers are going to need to eventually deal for a guard with a knack for staying in front of his man on defense. The market for free agent point guards this year is a bit thin, however, so LA will most likely have to strike a deal and give up one if not two of their current guards to make this happen.
Atlanta Hawks- With Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich in the backcourt for Atlanta, no one really knows who the point guard is. The Hawks committed to Johnson with his recent max extension, but they don't seem to want him running the point anymore. While Hinrich could be the answer for a few teams in this league, I don't think he's what Atlanta needs to get to that next level. They need to deal Hinrich in return for a pure point guard who can concentrate more on dimes than scoring.
The following teams seem to have the size and direction of champions. Now, if they only had someone to put the ball in the hole. Of course, all of the following teams have shooting guards, but these guards have proven to be either ineffective or inconsistent with the team's goals. Each of these teams is poised to make a great jump in ability if they are able to deal for a new scorer.
Chicago Bulls- The Chicago Bulls have one of the most dynamic point guards in the game and some of the best rebounders cleaning the glass. They have role players galore in Korver, Bogans, and Gibson, but where are they lacking? Oh yes, in the shooting guard position. No offense to Ronnie Brewer, but are you kidding me? The Bulls are looking like a title contender for the foreseeable future, and will be title winners if they make a deal for a more prolific scorer. The move doesn't have to be anything drastic, as even a Corey Magette would go a long way in putting consistent points on the board.
Orlando Magic- The Magic have flirted with many different shooting guard choices, but nothing has really caught on like they would like. Jason Richardson can catch fire some nights, and he can also shoot you out of the game just as easily. JJ Redick has come out of his shell this year as a scorer, but I still can't justify starting him. The Magic need to find a way to dupe someone into taking Arenas and young talent Redick in return for a guard who will get them 20+ a night. Someone like Ben Gordon sounds right here, as he wouldn't be asked to shoulder all of the load by himself.
Indiana Pacers- First it's Mike Dunleavy, then Brandon Rush, but either way, it's not working. Dunleavy is better used as a small forward and Rush is not capable of being the guy they can count on to score a bucket every time the offense is at a stale mate. Someone like John Salmons could go a long way for Indiana in terms of putting the ball in the hoop and it's time for Indiana to start exploring packages to make something happen this offseason. Once they address that, the new member joins the promising ranks of Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger and Daren Collison.
Oklahoma Thunder- Thabo Sefolosha is one of the best wing defenders in the entire league. The problem is he's practically the anti-scorer. The other man is James Harden. While Harden is scoring better these days, he's just not dependable for points, at least not yet. If I were the Thunder, I would think long and hard about making a slight upgrade at the SG position. I'm not sure which of the two I would try and package in a deal, but they both appear to be a little too one dimensional for this team.
New Orleans Hornets- Keeping Chris Paul in uniform may be the largest item on the Hornet's agenda, but the position they need to switch up is at the two guard. Marco Belinelli has struggled to put together a good scoring season for the Hornets, and as a result they have had a tough time hanging with the leagues best scoring teams. Instead, the Hornets should look for a man like Jason Richardson to fill the void. With CP3 dishing open looks, Richardson would score in bunches as an off the ball scorer.
These teams find themselves coming up a little short, or a little heavy at the three spot now days. They may have an athletic baller who can dazzle the eye from time to time, but what they'd kill for is someone who could produce consistently and take some of the scoring burden off of their back court.
Los Angeles Clippers- What the Clippers have is an abundance of youth and athleticism. What the Clippers really need from this point (besides a true center) is more reliable scoring from their starting line up so they can better keep up with the top scoring teams in the league. Eric Gordon has addressed these woes well since his arrival, but he will need additional input from another pure scorer if the Clippers want to come out on top against the league's elite. The weakness for them right now is the small forward spot, where Jamario Moon resides. While he's an athletic swing man, he's not a prolific scorer and not to be counted on to lighten the load. Behind him you have Ryan Gomes and Al-Farouq Aminu. Both of these reserves are talented shooters, but not much else. If I were molding the Clipper team of the future, I would be looking to package two of the three of these forwards for someone more like Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, or Mike Dunleavy.
Philadelphia 76'ers- You all know it, but I'm going to say it again. Andre Igoudala does not work in this system. Virtually no one in Philadelphia wants him there anymore, and I'm sure he would have been glad to have been shipped out by the deadline as well. Andre is a very athletic and versatile forward in this league, but he just can't seem to give the 76'ers what they need. The good news for Philadelphia is they will probably be able to get good value in return for him, as he could attract interest from contenders league wide this off season.
New Jersey Nets- One man who has not lived up to his end of the bargain is Travis Outlaw of the New Jersey Nets and you can bet they will be looking to dump him on anyone foolish enough to accept. The Nets thought they were signing a versatile swing man who could finish strong at the rim, and provide supplemental offense on a nightly basis. What they got was a lethargic after thought with a bad case of a "I got my money, so whatever". The Nets do have good cornerstones, however, in Williams and Lopez, so look for them to shore up this weakness quickly this offseason. If they could snag someone like Mike Dunleavy, who can score in bunches, their fortunes may turn around quicker than some have predicted.
Toronto Raptors- You knew things were bad in Toronto, but James Johnson bad? I was looking at their depth chart a while ago and I was shocked that I didn't even know who this guy was. That may be due to the fact that I don't get to see many Raptor games (or want to for that matter), but the fact remains that the Raptors need to make some moves here. Andrea Bargnani is obviously their corner stone, but they should be looking to add some consistency to go along with Barbosa and Co. on the scoring end of things. They don't have much in terms of bargaining chips, so I would look for the Raps to try and score heavily in the draft and see if they can find a young stud to fill the void.
Portland Trail Blazers- The Trail blazers on the other hand are flooded with small forwards and they need to ditch some of them quick. They already had Brandon Roy (who can play both SG and SF) Nicholas Batum and Rudy Fernandez and now they added Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline. The bare bones of this development is they no longer need Fernandez. They need to get back some balance on that team if they expect to have the right amount of depth at each crucial position and that all starts with the SF spot for them. Rudy is the most obvious choice to be dropped, as he has expressed the desire to play elsewhere and he contributes the least of them all.
Sacramento Kings- The Kings need help in more than just one area, but their small forward situation was one that proved especially troubling for me. They also have the "one dimensional" player type going on here, with Francisco Garcia, and Omri Casspi taking up most of the minutes. Both of these guys can put the ball in the hoop, but don't do much else. What the Kings really need are more players like Tyreke Evans, who provides a stunning amount of versatility in what he can bring to the game every single night. They need a forward who can buy into this school of thought and create an intense atmosphere on the defensive side of the ball. If I were them, I would look to create a package to bring in a Shane Battier type of player to really create a versatile starting five.
These teams have started to shape up in the last year or so and are currently looking to improve their power forward spot in order to really be taken seriously by the rest of the league. Each of these squads needs someone who will help will help with cleaning the glass, scoring and providing good size on the defensive end of the ball.
Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets are currently coming together better than anyone thought possible. They have been as hot as anyone since All Star Weekend and they are building more of a reputation every time they hit the floor. The issue that they need to address this season, however, is that of the small forward. I see that Kenyon Martin has had a few good games since his recent return, but I still don't believe he is what's best of this young team in the long run. They need someone with a better attitude, a better work ethic, and most of all a better injury history. The problem with moving him will once again be his ego, but also his bulbous contract. The Nuggets would give themselves yet another leg up if they could manage to ditch this guy before the next playable season and get someone who's hungry and can stay on the floor.
Washington Wizards- Yi Jianlian is not who everyone though the was going to be. There, I said it. He has missed a good deal of time due to injury, has had a good amount of trouble adapting to Washington's system out East and just doesn't seem to terribly motivated either. Add to this dilemma Josh Howard and Rashard Lewis, who are still on the books and you start to fantasize about packaging them all together. The Wizards need to drop all of this dead weight if they want to get some sort of positive reputation back. They can make a trade if anyone will listen, draft some new talent or, heck, even just waive two of them and be on a better path than they are now.
Milwaukee Bucks- Some seem to be satisfied with Mbah a Moute's contributions up to this point in the four spot, but I must say that I'm not convinced. He's only putting in seven points per game and has not been a consistent contributor in many other categories. While it's true the Bucks also have Ersan Ilyasova raring to get back in action, he's not exactly God's gift to basketball either. The Bucks could do well in trying to package a forward or two in return for someone with a reliable shot that could help lighten the scoring burden in Milwaukee.
These teams all have one thing in common, the need for a big fella' to protect their paint. These squads need someone who can score in the post, defend the rim and make life difficult on the opposing offense. Each team has a different story on how they got this glaring hole in their starting five, but they all just need that void filled as soon as humanly possible.
Boston Celtics- Perkins is gone, Shaq is hurt, Jermaine is useless and Kristic is not going to cut it. I sure hope Beantown has something up their sleeve this offseason, because to me it looks like the flushed away one of the best centers in the game.(especially for them) It's too late for the Celtics to fix this problem this season, but they would do well in kicking Shaq and the other O'Neal to the curb and finding some younger blood to clog up the paint.
New York Knicks- One thing's for sure in the Big Apple, they need more size. No one in their front court is taller than 6'11", and that's a big problem. (no pun intended) While Turiaf has proven himself to be quite the shot blocking specialist, he's just not a starting caliber player. He's an energy off of the bench player. What the Knicks really need is a gigantic body to anchor the defense that their just now discovering they can play. Someone like Marcus Camby would actually go a long way in giving NY the size and post presence they have been missing for a few years now.
Charlotte Bobcats- Say it with me folks, Kwame Brown. Do I really need to explain why he is the worst possible player to have as a starting center? I didn't think so. They could start Tyrus Thomas at the five spot and be immediately improved, but let's hope they do things the old fashioned way and draft some new talent.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Using the same argument as above, Darko Milicic people. No, he's not as bad as Brown, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. While Darko may have proven he's not a complete waste of space this year, he's still no one that I would be content with starting on my team. They don't exactly need a rebounding power house with Kevin Love already on board, but I would look for the Timberwolves to add a center to the depth chart with a little veteran leadership or knowledge of the game. Darko is fine coming off of the bench for the Wolves for as long as hey choose to keep him around, but in no way should he be starting.
Houston Rockets- Yao Ming is not going to play again folks and if he does, it will only be until he goes out with another season ending injury. Chuck Hayes has been filling in as of late, but he just does not have the size or shot blocking ability to be a starter in this league. Behind him on the depth chart is Brad Miller, who is useful at times, but is not a starter at this point of his career. Houston is going to need to address this void in their starting five if they want to make that jump from underrated to feared.
Phoenix Suns- The Suns have some young talent in Robin Lopez and some nice grit from Marcin Gortat, but both of them suffer from being entirely too one dimensional. They both seem to have a knack for defense, but can't put the ball in the hole to save their life. While the Suns haven't had a shortage of scorers recently, it has still hurt them to not have a scoring option at the five spot. I feel as if the Suns would do well in creating a package for a scoring center that can take a bit of the burden off of the points in the paint category.
Golden State Warriors- The Warriors have always been able to run and gun with the best of them, but their weakness has always been their utter refusal to put a true center in their line up. The truth is that they need someone to block shots, clean the glass, and post up on the block. They have such a lack of size in their front court, that it's easy for them to lose the battle of the boards each night. (which usually determines the outcome of a game) Golden State simply needs to bite the proverbial bullet here and realize that they need a Big Man in the post if they want to stand tall with the rest of the league.