NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Dwight Howard to the Lakers and All 30 Teams

Jason HeimCorrespondent IMay 25, 2011

NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Dwight Howard to the Lakers and All 30 Teams

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    The NBA engine is humming right now with news and events on every front. Everybody is looking to improve, whether in the NBA Playoffs or at home watching them. This is why some of the trade rumors floating around, most notably the Lakers' flirting with Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, are so intriguing.

    The Lakers, though, aren't the only team that needs a ton of help in the free agent or trade market. If this year's toppled giants, the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, are any indication, then every team has somewhere they can improve.

    Some teams have many needs; some have just one or two. Regardless of every team's condition, they will vigilant to sniff out any discount or advantage that presents itself in the pre-lockout climate.

    Here is the latest speculation on what each NBA team will seek after this summer and into the next.

Atlanta Hawks: What Is Needed More, a Point Guard or Center?

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    The Atlanta Hawks are fantastic through the middle of the lineup with shooting guard Joe Johnson, small forwards Josh Smith and Marvin Williams and power forward Al Horford. The bookends are where they lack impact contributions.

    Second-year player Jeff Teague had a fantastic set of games during the second round against the Chicago Bulls as a replacement for the injured Kirk Hinrich. This turn of events complicates the point guard situation further.

    The Hawks must decide whether free agent Jamal Crawford, a vital impact player off the bench, is worth the approximately $12 million he will cost. If so, Teague or the $9 million Hinrich won't get enough minutes.

    In my opinion, the Hawks should re-sign Crawford, put Hinrich on the market and hand the keys to Teague starting next season. They drafted him for a reason, and it's time to let him free with lots of playing time.

    Before the Hawks found success by moving Al Horford to center, Josh Smith to power forward and Teague into the lineup at point, they scared no one in the post. Even with the new lineup against the Bulls, Atlanta got outrebounded and let Joakim Noah score more than they should have.

    If the Hawks land a backup center or trade Josh Smith for a starter, they'll be able to protect the rim much better, plus have an offensive threat instead of the incomparable Jason Collins, Zaza Pachulia and Hilton Armstrong.

    The priority list should show point guard clarification first, then finding a productive center.

Boston Celtics: Who Should They Re-Sign, Let Go, and Trade For?

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    The answer: Ray Allen, Glen Davis and...that's it.

    Shaq, Troy Murphy, Nenad Krstic, Delonte West, Von Wafer and Jeff Green should go. 

    The Boston Celtics got away from what made them successful last year and in 2008: build around the Big Four with solid role players and don't get greedy.

    The Celtics got greedy with the signings of former impact players like Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal. All this did was screw up their chemistry and force Doc Rivers to move Kevin Garnett to center. These signings completely blew up in Danny Ainge's face.

    I mentioned Garnett playing center. The reason why he had to play big is that Ainge inexplicably traded physical tone-setter Kendrick Perkins for the overrated Jeff Green. This is one of the biggest reasons that the Celtics lost in the second round.

    What do the Celtics need to do? Cut the fat, re-focus on Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Allen and make savvy moves for cheap role players to go after one more title in 2012. Wouldn't Jamal Crawford, Mike Dunleavy, Carl Landry or Chuck Hayes go great on the Celtics' second unit?

    Re-signing Ray Allen is a must. Glen Davis is a good next step. He's become an integral part of the Celtic rotation, and letting him go now would leave a hole in the bench. Next, acquiring a physical big man like Kenyon Martin, Nazr Mohammed or Sam Dalembert could re-capture the toughness they lost when Perkins left. 

    Unlike the last few summers, the Celtics have serious work to do this time around, and the success they have in the trade and free agency markets will dictate their success in the even more competitive Eastern Conference next year.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Right Time to Trade Stephen Jackson to Improve at Center?

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    The Charlotte Bobcats have holes all over the court. They're a mess at center and below average at point guard, shooting guard and at small forward behind Stephen Jackson.

    Ah, yes, Stephen Jackson.

    The veteran is a nightmare for a team that's trying to rebuild. He shoots way too much to get his 18 points a game, turns the ball over a ton and doesn't play defense. At $20 million for the next two years, Jackson kills the Bobcats' ability to get better as a team.

    They need to trade Jackson for a package of young players or draft picks. Better yet, throw in Boris Diaw's expiring contract to sweeten the deal. 

    If the Bobcats want to improve, they might have to get a little worse on the court before they results improve. Jackson and Diaw are the team's most talented players, but they're not taking the Bobcats anywhere.

    Diaw and Jackson for a young center and a first round pick would get MJ's franchise back on the road to the playoffs. Will he step off the golf course for long enough to realize it?

Chicago Bulls: Will a Shooting Guard Complete Championship Puzzle?

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    The Chicago Bulls are currently seven wins from an NBA Championship. They arguably have the best collection of players of any remaining team and look like a major contender for the next several years.

    They have one problem. The guy they start at shooting guard, Keith Bogans, is quite possibly the worst starting player in the NBA. He only plays 17.8 minutes per game, so his impact is minimized, but imagine how much better the Bulls would be if they had a legitimate two guard.

    I can envision Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon or Rodney Stuckey really making a difference at shooting guard. They might all be overpaid, but at least they bring something to the table. Bogans brings nothing.

    An even tighter fit might be free agent Mike Dunleavy. He doesn't have to handle the ball or rebound, and the attention paid to Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer would get him frequent wide open looks on the three-point line. Of course, they thought the same thing would happen for Kyle Korver, and that's been a disaster. 

    What about starting Ronnie Brewer, you ask? Well, that's an acceptable option too, but coach Tom Thibodeau seems averse to doing it. Brewer's impact is predominantly on defense, so they'd need to add a shooter at the position anyway.

Cleveland Cavaliers: What Needs Will Remain Post-Draft?

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    The Cavaliers received some favor from the basketball gods on Tuesday at the lottery. They were projected to get the second pick and the seventh pick, but lucked into the top and fourth picks. 

    With even more hope after the lottery, the Cavs and owner Dan Gilbert have a lot more options. Now, they have the luxury of choosing between potential franchise players point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Derrick Williams at No. 1. Both players will be dramatic upgrades over Ramon Sessions/Baron Davis at point or Alonzo Gee/Christian Eyenga/Joey Graham at small forward. 

    The Cavs could conceivably fill whichever position they don't choose with the top pick at No. 4. Lengthy athletic forward Jan Vesely will presumably be on the board at four, as well as dynamic point guards Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker. Kawhi Leonard has rocketed up the draft board toward the top five and could be the athletic infusion the Cavs need at forward. 

    After the draft, the Cavs will have yet more options in the trade market. Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions could both be expendable with the rise of Manny Harris at backup point guard. 

    Antawn Jamison is a fantastic trade piece that Cleveland smartly held instead of trading prematurely. They could use a package of Sessions and Jamison to lock down a much-needed impact center.

    How about Jamison and Sessions to the Clippers for Chris Kaman? 

Dallas Mavericks: Will They Need to Find Another Shooter?

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    The Mavericks, admittedly, are in great shape going forward, even though most of the team's core players are free agents within a year from now..

    Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea are all players that Dallas should burden itself to re-sign this summer. If they do, the team will have fantastic depth heading into next year.

    One guy who's had a tremendous impact on the Mavs' current playoff run is Peja Stojakovic. The team's unconscious three-point shooting is something that Peja is largely responsible for. Before about a month ago, Peja wasn't a part of the team's future plans, but his performance of late might cause Dallas to reconsider.

    The Mavs also have to reconsider what Butler's role is. Before he went out for the year, he was Dallas' No. 2 scorer and a vital part of keeping defenses honest against Dirk Nowitzki. Now, with Stojakovic filling such a 

    If they don't bring Stojakovic back, they'll need to fill the hole on the three-point line that he leaves. They can shoot from almost every other spot on the floor and need to spread the court from the small forward as well. Butler is more of a slasher and won't really do what Peja can. Suitable replacements for Peja might be Kyle Korver of the Bulls or free agent Jason Richardson.

    What the Mavericks will do with their free agents dictates what they'll need in the trade market. Either way, the Mavericks are pretty well positioned to make another run next year.

Denver Nuggets: Which Forward Position Will They Need to Fill?

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    Kenyon Martin's $16.5 million contract has ended, and there is considerable doubt that he is a part of Denver's plans for next year.

    If the Nuggets let K-Mart walk, they have a starting forward position to fill and at least one more bench forward to get. In this situation, the best option is to slide the 6'10" Danilo Gallinari to power forward, re-sign Wilson Chandler to play small forward and bring Arron Afflalo back in to start at shooting guard.

    The Nuggets also need to re-sign Nene, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Bringing back Nene, Afflalo and Chandler while letting Martin and J.R. Smith walk is the most prudent strategy for the Nuggets. It makes sense with the team they now have after the Carmelo Anthony trade and with their financial landscape.

    With a lineup of Ty Lawson, Afflalo, Chandler, Gallinari and Nene, the Nuggets would have roughly $10 in cap space to go get backups at the wing spots that can provide energy off the bench. O.J. Mayo and Francisco Garcia (via trade) are good examples of players that could add quality depth to an already strong rotation.

Detroit Pistons: Will Drafting a Top 10 Big Man Be Enough to Solve Paint Issues?

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    Greg Monroe is a promising young player, but he can't control the Detroit paint on his own.

    He needs to help offensively and defensively with a capable forward that can play with him. The Pistons own the eighth pick in next month's draft, which will likely be used on either Tristan Thompson or Bismack Biyombo. Thompson is more of a scoring forward with a lot of offensive potential, while Biyombo could be the next Ben Wallace, all the way down to being undersized at 6'9".

    With either of those two coupled with Monroe, the Piston paint will be in great shape moving forward. I believe that Biyombo and his Ben Wallace-like defensive potential is the pick, because adding Thompson's offense does not complement Monroe's game as well.  

    The rest of the roster, however, is a mess.

    Bad contracts and malcontents abound in the forms of Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Rip Hamilton. If the Pistons allow Tayshaun Prince to leave as a free agent, which I have a hard time envisioning, Villanueva should be moved to the starting small forward, clearing a logjam of ineptitude at power forward a little bit.

    Hamilton and Gordon should both be shopped around in hopes of returning a young small forward to backup Villanueva or Rodney Stuckey at point.

    The biggest problem in Detroit, aside from the players quitting on their coach last year, is depth. The low post situation will look a lot better after the draft, but the guard condition will still need fixing, and general manager Joe Dumars will have to get creative to fix it.

Golden State Warriors: Is the Shallow Depth at Guard Even Worth Addressing?

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    Golden State has one of the best guard tandems in the NBA with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. They play off each other brilliantly, having a keen sense of when it's time to shoot and when it's time to hit the other. Never do they quabble over shots.

    When they're both in the game, Golden State is at its best. When Reggie Williams, Jeremy Lin, Charlie Bell or Acie Law sub in, the level of proficiency on offense drops dramatically. Now, Ellis played 40.3 minutes and Curry played 33.6 last season, leaving roughly 23 minutes for the rest.

    The question is, are those 23 minutes that both Ellis and Curry aren't in worth upgrading? Would signing Jamal Crawford give the Warriors the most potent guard trio in the NBA? Would the Kings send Beno Udrih west to the Bay Area to stabilize the Golden State bench?

    The possibility of drafting Colorado super athlete Alec Burks could silence all questions at shooting guard behind Ellis. 

    The Warrior bench guards are dreadful, while the rest of the positions are pretty well staffed.

    They could use sharpshooting backups at power and small forward, but the guard positions should be prioritized for Golden State this summer, especially as insurance for a possible trade or exit by Monta Ellis.  

Houston Rockets: What Will They Do at Center If Yao's (Rockets) Career Is Over?

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    The offseason game plan of the Houston Rockets hinges largely on whether Yao Ming can still play basketball with his foot agony.

    If he re-signs and the Rockets are confident that Yao can play, the gaping hole at center will be plugged and the team can focus on adding depth at small forward and point guard. 

    If not, the Rockets must direct all resources toward getting a new center. Can they do that from the 14th pick in the draft? Markieff Morris and Kenneth Faried should be available, but both are power forwards. The Rockets have not shied away from playing small down low in the past, so maybe they would try it on a permanent basis by adding one of those rookies.

    Otherwise, they'll have to call around the league asking for help with size. Utah might be a trade partner with plenty of bigs in its stable. Mehmet Okur doesn't fit the Rocket prototype at center, and Paul Millsap might be too small, but both would be upgrades over Brad Miller and Hasheem Thabeet as the only signed Houston centers. 

    Calling up Orlando to ask about Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass is an option as well. 

Indiana Pacers: Is Darren Collison the Right Man for the Point Guard Job?

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    Darren Collison was supposed to be the Indiana Pacers' point guard of the future after lighting the NBA on fire in Chris Paul's absence for part of 2009-10. 

    The Pacers struck last offseason to fix the T.J. Ford debacle at the point, but it did not turn out well this year. Collison did not respond well when the Pacers handed him the keys. Maybe it was the high expectations, maybe the different style, maybe the starting role. Only Collison knows.

    One sure thing is that run a fast break style that depends heavily on the point guard. They have to make sure that the point guard is the best player on the floor, or else everything else won't work right.

    If the Pacers decide that Collison can't handle the job, now is the time to jump into the market. Several quick point guards are available this summer: Aaron Brooks, J.J. Barea, Ray Felton and Jamal Crawford.

Los Angeles Clippers: Shouldn't They Care About Small Forward?

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    The current small forward competition for the Los Angeles Clippers includes Ryan Gomes, Jamario Moon and Al-Farouq Aminu.

    We should all go put on stilts and try out for the Clippers' starting swingman position. I guarantee that no unemployed person will find a better paying, more fun and imminently attainable job than that this summer.

    In all seriousness, the Clippers have every other spot on the floor covered with terrific young talent. The small forward is one that really kills the Clips, because it inhibits them from guarding big athletic scorers like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant. They either have to put Blake Griffin or Eric Gordon on those players, lest Jamario Moon play 34 minutes a game.

    The Clippers could desperately use a guy like Gay to throw at other teams: an aggressive defender that can rebound, shoot and create shots for others.

    The inspired rebuilding movement has a lot of momentum, but the Clippers will never get to where they envision being with such a big hole in the middle of the lineup. They need to use some of that young talent to get an All-Star forward.

    They don't have a first round pick this year, so they'll have to do this through free agency or the trade market. 

Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard or Chris Paul: Which Is Needed More?

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    The Los Angeles Lakers have always been obliterated by opposing point guards. Up until this year's series against Dallas, they've always found a way to overcome their backcourt deficiency over the course of seven games.

    This time, the Dallas guards were so good that the mighty Lakers' biggest weakness was the fatal blow to the team's potential dynasty.

    Let's cut to the point: The Lakers have several problems. Kobe Bryant is old and speedily declining, Pau Gasol has lost his confidence, Ron Artest and Matt Barnes don't do anything and the bench chronically underachieves.

    The biggest problem, though, is the lack of a point guard.

    A major change is in order. The Lakers need to forget their illusions of Dwight Howard grandeur and aggressively court a point guard. Trading for Chris Paul will likely cost them two starters, which might not be worth the price. Andre Miller wouldn't cost nearly as much, but his contract expires next year. Aaron Brooks is a free agent, but he's more suited to a fast pace offense that affords him plenty of shots.

    The Lakers could do something they haven't done in a loooooong time: make a splash on draft day. What if they traded up to draft Brandon Knight?

    The Lakers can think of a dozen ways to improve the team quickly to stop the closing championship window, but the absolute necessity is importing an impact playmaker at point guard. 

Memphis Grizzlies: What Are Their Weaknesses?

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    Did anyone see Memphis' meteoric rise up the West's pecking order coming? By bowing out on the verge of the Western Conference Finals as the eighth seed, the Grizzlies showed that, when at their peak, they can beat anyone, even over seven games.

    On the way, they showed development all over the court. Zach Randolph turned into the best post scorer in the NBA. Marc Gasol made the Lakers doubt trading him for his brother just a little bit. Mike Conley consistently made a positive impact and showed maturity in decision making. O.J. Mayo hit several clutch shots and didn't make any trouble. Tony Allen ran around the court doing Tony Allen things better than ever before. 

    What's astounding is that the Grizz accomplished all this without their best player, Rudy Gay.

    The return of Gay next year will create issues if free agent Shane Battier returns with him. Gay, Allen, Sam Young and Battier all need minutes to make an impact. Any way they slice it, they'll have plenty of talent on the perimeter with who prevails from that group and Mayo and Conley in the backcourt.

    The Grizzlies have the luxury of contemplating a trade of their best player, Gay, because of how much his team improved without him. The haul they could get, or stockpile of high draft picks, means that they could be considerably better within a couple years.

    Washington and Detroit need athletic, scoring small forwards and top-10 picks in the draft. If Memphis traded Gay for one of those picks, it could quickly end up with someone like Tristan Thompson. 

    The post is also in great shape with the freshly-signed Randolph secured long-term. Marc Gasol, he of the astoundingly rapid improvement, is not under contract. There's no reason to believe that he won't re-sign with the promising Grizzlies because of the major role he played in their rise this season.

    So...what can they possibly do to improve? The starters are not great but play so well together, as we've seen, and the bench is stellar.

    One thing sticks out, and that's Hamed Haddadi, the backup center. Can't general manager Chris Wallace do better? Aside from going small when Gasol goes out, the Grizzlies should look to mend the backup post.

    Otherwise, the Grizzlies appear to be in fantastic shape for next year and far into the future.  

Miami Heat: Can't Win a Title with Joel Anthony at Center, Right?

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    I've mentioned before that the Miami Heat have an obvious deficiency at point guard, but that, with the amount of ball handling that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James do, they don't need a conventional point guard. This means that the Mario Chalmers-Mike Bibby combo doesn't bother me all that much.

    What does bother me is the Joel Anthony/Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Erick Dampier/Jamaal Magloire quartet at center. All but Anthony are free agents, so that problem will solve itself by the Heat letting them walk. 

    Still, the Heat have a big need center for a hard-working defender that can control the glass. Udonis Haslem just returned from a long-term injury and fits that description. However, he's too small to play center and actually protect the basket. 

    They've constructed the team similarly to the 2008 Celtics with a little bit more star power and a little less role-playing talent. It's a championship-winning model in today's NBA.

    The one thing they're missing is a center that they can confidently take to war. When they find themselves in a Game 7 against a gritty and physical opponent, will Erik Spoelstra get nervous when he remembers that Anthony is his best center option? When the officials swallow their whistles and let the players decide who advances (as in Game 7 of the Finals last year), will Anthony be the last one standing in the paint?

Milwaukee Bucks: Is It Time to Trade John Salmons for a Power Forward?

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    Midway through last season, the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Bulls shooting guard John Salmons, hoping that he'd continue his development as an impact scorer. Salmons' change of scenery sparked his shooting for the rest of the year, as he poured in 20 points a game for the last 30 of the season.

    This year, the Bucks didn't get what they're paying $8 million over the four years for. Salmons shot a career-low 41.5 percent and scored just 14 points per game. With so much committed to him over the next few years, the Bucks might begin thinking about a way to shed his big cap hit.

    The Bucks have plenty of scoring on the perimeter with Brandon Jennings at point and Carlos Delfino's impressive three-point shooting, so they should bite the bullet, go with Chris Douglas-Roberts' defensive-oriented game and trade Salmons.

    The exchange of Salmons for a power forward threat would ease the pressure on Andrew Bogut down low and create freedom to part ways with the glut of power forwards. 

    With Utah's need for an offensive shooting guard, why not swap Salmons for Paul Millsap?  How about sending him back to Chicago for Taj Gibson?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Is David Kahn Satisfied with Ridnour and Flynn at Point?

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves have taken four point guards in the last three drafts. Somehow, none have managed to contribute anything noteworthy on the court.

    No team can take four point guards in three years and be competitive. It reflects poor talent evaluation or personnel management, or both.

    The Wolves have a capable point guard in Luke Ridnour. However, he'll never provide him with the significant impact that the team needs to return to contention. It looks more and more like Jonny Flynn was a busted pick and will be unable to do that as well.

    Drafting with the second pick, Minny will definitely have the chance to take Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker, and might have Kyrie Irving fall to them if Cleveland goes for Derrick Williams at No. 1. 

    These are impact, and potential franchise cornerstone, players that might take this team in the direction it needs to go. 

    Taking another point guard might draw snickers and mock praise from many, but never before have the Wolves had a shot at as good of point guards as these. 

    Taking Irving, Knight or Walker in this draft might be their ticket to improving the rest of the team as well. This would free GM David Kahn to trade both Flynn and Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, currently playing happily in Europe.

New Jersey Nets: Which Acquisition Was Worse, Travis Outlaw or Anthony Morrow?

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    Last offseason was a terrible one for the New Jersey Nets in the summer of free agent fun. 

    Some teams came away with expensive new toys. The Nets came away with their older brothers' old rejects: Anthony Morrow in a trade with Golden State and Travis Outlaw in free agency.

    Both players immediately became starters on a meager roster and combined for just 22.4 points, seven rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.7 steals per game while earning a combined $11 million. 

    The Nets are, needless to say, not happy with that production from two high-scoring positions. The problem is, they don't have the trade chips to improve at those positions, unless someone wants to take back Morrow or Outlaw.

    They don't have a lottery pick because they traded theirs to Utah in the Deron Williams trade.

    The only hope of rectifying the problem on the wings for New Jersey is to land a free agent, which they have the money to do. Arron Afflalo would be a good pickup if Denver lets him walk, as would Caron Butler.

    Without the lottery pick, which turned into the third overall selection for the Jazz, the Nets' ability to improve this offseason is limited, which means next season will likely be another painful one. 

New Orleans Hornets: Needing an Impact Shooting Guard?

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    With Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry/David West and Emeka Okafor, the New Orleans Hornets have a strong foundation. 

    What keeps this team from the deeper rounds of the playoffs is the inability to score from the perimeter. Willie Green and Marco Belinelli were absolutely dreadful in the Lakers series and a large reason why the Hornets didn't dethrone the former Champions then and there.

    The Hornets don't have a go-to offensive player after David West, who isn't really a primary scorer anyway. At times, they're easy to guard in spite of Chris Paul's constant presence. 

    How much tougher would they be with a scoring guard like Caron Butler, John Salmons or Jason Richardson playing the two? 

    Both Green and Belinelli come off the books this summer, so the shooting guard position will be wide open. Butler and Richardson are free agents that the Hornets might want to look at to improve their starting five.

New York Knicks: What Can They Do to Add Quality Depth?

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    With the scarcity of depth the New York Knicks have, sometimes it seems like they're playing with only four guys on the court. 

    The Knicks gutted most of their talent in the Carmelo Anthony/Chauncey Billups trade, losing Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari. 

    Now, the main factors off the bench include Renaldo Balkman, Toney Douglas, Bill Walker and Andy Rautins. The Knicks know that, no matter how strong their starting five (which isn't that strong, by the way), they can't come close to winning a championship with that bench. 

    The Knicks are in a similar predicament faced by the Miami Heat last summer: three expensive players, a short roster and no money to fill it out.

    The Knicks need to find five players that have the same production/cost ratio as the dependable Landry Fields did in 2010-2011. The chances of that are slim to none in this thin free agent class.

    What can the Knicks do to add quality depth? I don't have the answer. They don't have any pieces for a trade. They don't have much money to spend on quality free agents. They don't have a lottery pick.

    Even if they stink next year, at least the Knicks will be fun to watch.


    Note: I wonder if the Knicks would have been better off declining Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million option for next season. With him, they're at $59.7 million and nine rostered players. Without him, they'd still have Toney Douglas at point and $45.5 million on the payroll.

    Could they do more with that $14.2 million than they did with Billups?  

Oklahoma City Thunder: Can They Add Depth in the Post?

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder have two miniscule problems: low-post depth and a backup small forward that can score. 

    And that's nitpicking. 

    After Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder don't really have anyone that can control the boards and block shots. Nazr Mohammed is a free agent and Cole Aldrich faded terribly this year. If one of those two players were to get in foul trouble consistently, which Ibaka tends to do, the only player capable of logging extended minutes is Nick Collison. Collison is a solid veteran backup who knows how to play, but he's not about to stop the West's scoring power forwards.

    A veteran big like Carl Landry or Spencer Hawes complete the Thunder's fold with quality size that they can go deep into the playoffs with. 

Orlando Magic: Should They Let Jason Richardson Go and Find Cheaper Shooting?

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    The Orlando Magic could be lottery-quality this time next year, so they better set themselves up as well as possible for the future.

    The team is on the hook for $74 million next season without Jason Richardson's contract. Given that they'll have no dangerous perimeter shooters, they have a decision about whether J-Rich is too expensive to re-sign or not. They need a spot-up shooter, but Richardson was dreadful after coming to the Magic last year that they might let him walk.

    The team is set this year at the other four positions, but has no conclusion at shooting guard. Stan Van Gundy could let Richardson leave, then make J.J. Redick a starter. He is a good shooter, but has never experienced starting on a sustained schedule.

    Gilbert Arenas is another option. In fact, I'm surprised the Magic didn't experiment with Arenas at the two last season. Instead, they traded for him, then gave him short minutes off the bench, preventing him from ever getting going.

    Will the Magic be satisfied with either of those options, or will they go externally to find a shooter? Whatever they do, they should be committed to sticking with it, because next year, they won't have much to fall back on if Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass and Jameer Nelson sign elsewhere. 

Philadelphia 76ers: How Do They Continue to Improve and Land a Credible Center?

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    Few teams came together as magnificently as the 76ers did after the All-Star break. Andre Iguodala found his appropriate role, which allowed young point guard Jrue Holiday to flourish and Elton Brand to recapture his mojo.

    Once they hit the playoffs, though, their elimination was swift because they lack a dominant scorer and a low-post threat. 

    Five Sixers average at least 10 points per game, and no one averages more than Brand's 15. Balance is great, but only when the team knows without a doubt who gets the ball in crunch time. This team doesn't have that player: Lou Williams is just as likely to find himself taking the shot as Iguodala or Brand at the end of a close game.

    What the Sixers need is a center that confidently demands the ball in crunch time. Andrew Bynum comes to mind, as does Chris Kaman.

    Could the Sixers manage to trade Iguodala to land a center and actually get better? Only a blockbuster trade will help us to know.   

Phoenix Suns: How Do They Fortify the Backcourt?

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    It doesn't matter how much he costs or how much he sits on the bench: The Phoenix Suns must re-sign point guard Aaron Brooks. 

    The perimeter situation will be so dire next year if Brooks, Grant Hill and Mickael Pietrus leave that they will be forced to give Zabian Dowdell and Josh Childress 30 minutes per game each.

    That cannot happen.

    The Suns have to make Brooks his $2.9 million qualifying offer and cross their fingers that nobody drives his price sky high with an offer sheet. Grant Hill is vital to bring back as well because of his maturity and stabilizing presence. 

    Steve Nash isn't going to play forever, and the Suns need to be prepared for life without him, even as soon as 2012. 

    Aaron Brooks will be worth whatever the cost is, because he is the Suns' quickest and easiest option as successor to Nash. 

Portland Trail Blazers: Can They Re-Sign the Players They Need to Re-Sign?

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    Right now, the Portland Trail Blazers are stacked. Andre Miller, Wes Matthews, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby is as complete a starting five you'll find in the NBA. Throw in a guy named Brandon Roy, Patty Mills, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum off the bench, and you have the best 10 player rotation in the league by far.

    Next year, Miller, Camby, Wallace and Fernandez will all be free agents. They won't have a ton of money even after free of those players, so management will have several key decisions to make.

    For now, the Blazers need to position themselves to preempt 2012 free agency by working a trade or two. Marcus Camby should be traded, though no one will give much for him. They should look to move Rudy Fernandez, Roy and Miller. 

    Because it will be hard to re-sign all of 2012's free agents to keep the team together, they should take a stick of dynamite to isolated parts of the foundation, light it, then hope the whole foundation doesn't crumple. If the Blazers can trade one or two of their core players while remaining competitive, the team will be in much better shape long-term while not losing a ton in the immediate term.

    If I had to prioritize the players to trade, I would work on Camby first, then Miller. If both of those actually went through, I'd move Batum because he is probably the most attractive trade chip on the roster. 

Sacramento Kings: Is Point Guard or Center a Bigger Need?

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    I pose the question again: What do the Sacramento Kings need more, a center or a point guard?

    Let's assume that Samuel Dalembert is not re-signed as the team's big man and that Jason Thompson and Hassan Whiteside are the team's internal options at center. 

    Let's also assume that the Kings make the excruciatingly difficult decision to decline Pooh Jeter's $788,872 option as the backup point guard. 

    What do the Kings need more?

    With the seventh pick, the best values might actually be Texas big man Tristan Thompson or Bismack Biyombo, both capable of playing center. The Kings are unlikely to see Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker drop that far, though it's certainly possible. If Walker fell to seven, I think the Kings would take him, then move Tyreke Evans to the small forward position, with Marcus Thornton holding stay at shooting guard.

    Even after drafting to fill one of those needs, the Kings will be about $25 million under the salary cap, the most in the league. They could essentially make any trade they want to get better because they have the space and the trade chips.

    I think the point guard position is a greater need for the Kings because the team has quality players to throw out at center, even if the fit isn't natural.  

San Antonio Spurs: What Now?

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    Tim Duncan is 35 years old and has $21 million left on his contract for next year. He posted career lows nearly across the board and is moving further away from the core of the San Antonio Spurs. 

    It's really hard to imagine Tim Duncan transitioning from best player to role player, but that's what is currently taking place.

    The shocking and historic upset at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies signals the impending end of the Spurs' dynasty and the Tim Duncan Era.

    The question that series evokes is, what do the Spurs do now?

    Well, they've got every consequential player back from this year's team, though it's clear that that roster won't win the championship. What this means is that the Spurs have a year to make changes after they know that their time is up. Not every team gets that benefit once it hits that the fun is over.

    What the Spurs need to do is be firm with Duncan that they won't re-sign him. Sometimes, superstars can survive into their late 30s on a one or two-year contract and then ride into the sunset. Steve Nash is a current example. This won't work for Duncan. He's already done at 35. Next year at 36 should be the end for him and the Spurs.

    The Spurs are fortunate to have Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to turn to once Duncan is gone. Because of them and role players DeJuan Blair, Richard Jefferson and George Hill, the rebuilding phase could be really short.

    What the Spurs need to focus on is replacing Duncan with a solid post player. Though it might be received poorly by Duncan, signing Sam Dalembert this summer would make the team every bit as good as last year, plus allow the Spurs to hit the ground running once Duncan leaves.

    R.C. Buford and the management team have work to do, but I'm confident that they will make the Duncan transition seamlessly.  

Toronto Raptors: Will Trading Jose Calderon Solve or Create Problems?

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    Jose Calderon has run the point very effectively for the Toronto Raptors over the last several years. He turned in another strong effort this past season, but might be holding the Raptors back by no fault of his own.

    Calderon is due nearly $20 million over the next two seasons, which the Raptors would love to spend elsewhere. Jerryd Bayless is ready to take over the reins at point, but he can't because of Calderon's incumbency. 

    Bryan Colangelo, who just got an extension on his contract as general manager, would find no shortage of interested parties if he put Calderon on the trading block.

    If he could return either a legitimate shooting guard or small forward to start aside DeMar Derozan, the Raptor starting five could get better quickly.

    Then again, Calderon's value is unlikely to be replicated by Bayless, at least right away, which could cause a trade to backfire. Maybe Bayless isn't able to run the offense as well or isn't ready to lead and the Raptors get worse.

    It's Colangelo's homework to figure out how the trading of Calderon would affect the rest of his team. 

Utah Jazz: Will a Shooting Guard Bring This Team Back to the West's Elite?

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    The Utah Jazz rely heavily on their big men, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko, to carry the offense. While formidably offensively on the interior, the Jazz won't beat any of the West's best without perimeter scoring and the threat of the three-pointer.

    Raja Bell and Gordon Hayward play the two, but neither is an adequate NBA shooting guard at this point. Devin Harris is a penetrator, not a shooter. What the team needs is a player like Jason Richardson to stand on the three-point line, shoot and bring more athleticism to the lineup.

    The Jazz have few other questions, aside from the low hum about the possibility of trading Harris. 

    With the third and the 12th picks in the draft, the Jazz will have the opportunity to take anyone they want, short of Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. That includes shooters Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette.

    The Jazz might consider taking Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker with that third pick, freeing Kevin O'Connor up to trade Harris freely or just push him with competition. 

    Exciting options abound for the Jazz, who will most definitely be back in the postseason next year.

Washington Wizards: Can Management Get John Wall Some Help on the Perimeter?

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    Assuming the Washington Wizards cut loose everyone they should cut loose, only John Wall and Rashard Lewis will remain across the guard and small forward positions. 

    The Wizards will have over $20 million to fill up their perimeter, a much-needed overhaul at the perfect time to accompany Wall.

    The team has no marketable assets to use on the trade market, so immediate improvement will have to come via the draft and free agency. That should be no problem with players like Caron Butler, Ray Allen, Jason Richardson, Andrei Kirilenko, Grant Hill, Shane Battier and Mike Dunleavy looking for new contracts.

    The Wiz might even take a cheap flyer on Michael Redd, which could turn to gold if he's still got some juice.

    They should be able to land at least one or two of that group, right?