A variety of NBA teams surprised, surged, or simply slacked in the 2011 season that was ultimately captured by a relentless Dallas Mavericks squad.
When Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy, a collective alarm sounded in the minds of every other NBA team. If they wanted to be in that exact situation next year, a change needed to be made.
But who could be dealt? What money was available? Who was realistic and who was a pipe dream?
What follows is the player each team could potentially trade to enhance their chances for next season.
The Rondo-Pierce-Allen-Garnett quartet has proven consistently effective since joining forces in 2008, stunning the basketball world by capturing a NBA Championship in their first season together and another three 50-plus win seasons.
However, since that golden year of success, they’ve endured a variety of struggles between aging players, untimely injuries, questionable trades, and a glaring lack of youth in their squad.
The answer: Trade Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
The former LSU standout has been a consistent force on both ends of the floor for the Celtics. Big Baby has become notorious for his unexpected athleticism and balance regardless of his bulky, 6’9", 280-pound frame. Davis has a solid game in the post, has developed a "baby" jump shot around the key and is sensational with puts backs around the rim.
Although, for all of Davis' positive traits, he contributes to Boston’s lack of speed and ability to run the floor. After recently acquiring the agile big man JaJuan Johnson in the NBA Draft, the Celtics can now rely on Johnson, Jeff Green, and even Jermain O’Neal for their down-low presence alongside Garnett.
As a result, Davis could be traded for a quick point guard or shooting guard with a reliable shot who willl bolster the team’s tempo on both ends of the court, while taking some of the burden off Pierce, Allen, and Rondo.
Whether it’s Bryant, Gasol and Bynum or James, Wade and Bosh, the NBA is quickly become about star trios.
The New Jersey Nets cannot be afraid to follow suit by reorganizing their line-up to become a realistic contender and NBA-wide threat. They’ve currently got one of the leagues best floor generals in Deron Williams and one of the league’s emerging big men in Brook Lopez. Unfortunately, they are without that X-Factor; that starter or 6th man who stimulates the offense with his outside shot or fortifies the defense with his relentlessness.
The Answer: Kris Humphries has got to go.
The Nets need to be practical because while Humphries averaged a double-double last season on 27.9 mpg, he doesn’t have the spark the Nets need to contend. New Jersey needs another scorer; a versatile player with the burst power to get to the rim consistently, but who can also pull up for a perimeter jump shot. Williams and Lopez cannot do it on their own and trading for Humphries may be the remedy.
When the New York Knicks turn finally came in the 2011 NBA Draft and the fans who’d traveled from NYC rose to their feet in hopes of hearing the name of a young star with the power to wipe clean the previous season’s woes, the name Iman Shumpert rang through the microphone. The echo rang through the grand auditorium and the audience let out a shared sigh of disappointment.
It was an all too obvious sign that not only was Shumpert not the key to unlock the Knicks potential, but that with a squad boasting two all-stars (Anthony and Stoudemire) and an emerging young talent (Landry Fields), the Knicks have far too much talent to not to be in the hunt for a championship this coming season. Yet with all of this talent, the Knicks have a variety of needs, most evident on the defensive end. As if this were a newsflash, Ronny Turiaf is not the answer. The Knicks need size, power and force and they need it now.
The Answer: Get rid of Chauncey Billups and his bloated $13 million salary for a down-low presence alongside Stoudemire.
Scoring does not need to be this player’s forte, especially when you’ve got Fields, Melo and Stoudemire. But instead, this big man should conquer the boards and have the type of frame and strength to challenge any player willing to drive to the hole.
Andre Igoudala, Jrue Holiday, and Elton Brand are the backbone of the 76ers lineup, but it’s about time the organization fortified its NBA presence by making a long overdue trade.
The Answer: Trade Jason Kapono.
Since being traded in 2009 for Reggie Evans, the former UCLA hot-shot three-point shooter has never quite found his rhythm in Philly. It’s difficult to tell whether his shot has diminished or if he’s just in a drought, but for a guy making over $6 million and who is only getting sparing minutes off the bench, a change is in order.
Get rid of Kapono and invest in a player who can actually come off the bench and contribute. Aside from Spencer Hawes, who’s been mediocre at best for the 76ers, there is a glaring demand for a center. Elton Brand remains the reliable down-low presence, but at the age of 32 he needs a younger, more agile big man to depend on for rebounds and put-backs.
When your team finishes 22-60, perhaps it’s time to mix things up.
Adding Lithuanian big-man Jonas Valunciunas was a step in the right direction, but in order for Toronto to reroute their inauspicious 2011 season they’ll have to make a big time trade.
The Answer: Jose Calderon.
As a point guard, Calderon has been reliable, scoring 9 ppg alongside 8 apg. However, the Raptors need a scorer. They already have Andrea Barnani raking in over 20 ppg and Reggie Evans controlling the boards with 11 rpg, but Calderon is not providing on offense in the way a prototypical point guard should. Also, considering Calderon has been earning the highest salary on the team ($9 million), trading him will allow the Raptors to actively and aggressively pursue a big-time player and offer him a starting position for an emerging team.
Throughout the 2011 season the Chicago Bulls were an undeniable contender for the NBA Championship. However, playoff experience and production under pressure was their Achilles Heel, which was never overlooked amidst their finals run, but only became truly palpable in their defeat to the Miami Heat.
The Answer: Trade Carlos Boozer.
While Boozer nearly averaged a double-double (17 ppg and 9 rpg), his inconsistency was never more apparent than in the playoffs. In the first game against the Heat, Boozer basically played to his averages, scoring 14 points with 9 rebounds. But then in the next game, Boozer tanked, scoring 7 points with 8 rebounds, and faltered again in the final game of the series with just 5 points and 6 rebounds.
Obviously every player has an off night from time to time and every player makes mistakes. But as a starter, key player and leader for the Bulls, Boozer underperformed in the regular season and then again when it counted most. If the Bulls could trade him – and his $14 million salary – for a mature, more versatile power forward then they will again be a serious contender next season, but have the X-factor they were lacking the last time around.
Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be hugely beneficial to the Cavs who are eager to forget their awful record-setting season (consecutive losses, 26).
The answer: Trade Anderson Varejao.
The 6’11, 260-pound power forward is like the meal you order with high hopes, but after eating it are nowhere near satisfied. He does things well, but nothing excellent. He’s a fine rebounder, decent with put-backs, and average passer.
Why are the Cavs holding on to the Varejao and his $7+ million salary?
After acquiring two of the most lauded NBA Draft picks and possessing veteran talent in Baron Davis and Antawn Jamison, the Cavs will have a solid selling point for a big man to come play in Cleveland.
After Detroit finished a miserable 30-52 last season, there was no question the Pistons needed to adjust their lineup. This team is brimming with talent between veterans like Tracy McGrady and Richard Hamilton and emerging talent like Brandon Knight.
The Answer: Trade Tayshaun Prince.
Prince is a hot commodity throughout the NBA. A versatile, wiry big man, Prince stands 6’9 and uses his agile frame to throw off defenders with a crafty post-up game and dependable jump shot. Most importantly, Prince is currently being paid over $11 million, which means that the Pistons could trade him and get another, if not more skilled, player and be able to dish out a competitive salary.
The Pistons need a point scorer; their leading scorer last season was Rodney Stuckey with just 15 ppg. If Detroit could execute this trade for a Deron Williams-eqsue player with the capacity to drop 25-30 ppg and be the reliable, go-to guy when the game is on the line it would drastically improve their chances to contend.
Mike Dunleavy, age: 30, $10.5 million.
Jeff Foster, age: 34, $6.5 million.
James Posey, age: 34, 7.1 million.
Experience is incredibly important and an asset to any team, except when experienced players underperform, like the three players listed above. After a 37-45 season, the Pacers showed resilience and budding talent in players like Danny Granger and Tyler Hansborough, but this team was lacking the cohesiveness to truly make strides into the playoffs.
The Answer: Out with the old and in with the new.
Getting rid of just one of the 30-something’s above will clear up the capital to aggressively pursue what the Pacers need most: a floor general. Although the Pacers currently have T.J. Ford bringing up the ball, his 5 ppg and 3 apg are not cutting it. If the Pacers can trade for a young, speedy point guard who has both strong defense and the perceptiveness on offense to integrate the entire team than they will fill a major void and become a league-wide threat.
Plagued by debilitating injuries -- torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2009 and then retore the ACL in 2010 -- Michael Redd has hardly played for the Bucks over the last two seasons. As unfortunate as this situation has been, he's also got a bloated salary around $18 million.
The Answer: It’s time the Bucks rid themselves of Redd and reel in a real franchise player.
There are an array of benefits to letting go of Redd for a big-time performer. First, with $18 million they can get a dependable, versatile high-scorer. Second, the Bucks have many talented young players on the rise, including Brandon Jennings, big-man Andrew Bogut, and they recently acquired Tobias Harris in the NBA Draft. Finally, they can offer an opportunity to lead a team and be the face of the franchise and what player doesn't crave the spotlight?
Coming off one of their best seasons in the last decade, the Atlanta Hawks need to push forward with last season’s momentum and trade for a legitimate shooting guard. The Hawks have plenty of size between Al Horford and Josh Smith, but they need another reliable shooter besides Joe Johnson.
The Answer: Trade Zaza Pachulia.
The 6’11 275-pound center has had little not zero impact for the Hawks. He’s dragging a $4 million salary and could be part of a swap to get the type of player the Hawks need to continue competing and ultimately go further in their playoff run next season.
After a disastrous 34-48 season, if the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t make a substantial shift to their lineup it’d be a detriment to their future.
The Answer: Trade Boris Diaw.
Diaw has proven neither consistent nor effective for the Bobcats. Last season he averaged a 11 ppg and 5 rpg, which is a noticeable decrease from previous seasons. Between Corey Magette, Tyrus Thomas, Edwardo Najera and D.J. White, the Bobcats are stacked with skilled power-forwards, meaning the organization is more then able to deal away Diaw.
The Heat need…more. A trio of all-stars looks great on paper, but cannot be a final solution. Miami needs to be put an emphasis on the “team” and what it means to have five guys on the floor, not simply which of the big three is in a rhythm in a given moment.
The Answer: Trade Joel Anthony.
Freeing up the $3 million that Anthony took up for his measly 2 ppg and 3 rpg could allow the Heat to seek out a solid shooting guard or small forward who could play a versatile role for Miami. There’s no doubting the abundance of talent in South Beach, so what player wouldn’t want to go join a team on the rise?
You’d think that with Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick, Brandon Bass and Jameer Nelson that at least one of them could develop the kind of intimidating tandem with Dwight Howard, who proved himself to be the best center in the league in 2011. However, the Magic were degraded to a second-tier team last season, only made worse when they couldn’t compete in the playoffs.
The Answer: Trade Hedo Turkoglu.
The 32-year-old does not play with the intensity that he used to on either end of the court. His 10 ppg and 4 apg is not worth $10 million to the Magic, who can land a resourceful role-player if that type of cash is freed up.
The Wizards are a young, rapidly growing team between Nick Young and John Wall and recently acquired Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. Washington needs to continue to invest in its future considering its terrible 23-59 season. However, in order to fuel this new generation of stars, Washington needs to adjust its lineup.
The Answer: Trade either Josh Howard or Maurice Evans.
Neither of these 30-somethings proved they could consistently contribute on either end of the floor last season. Evans averaged 6 ppg and 2 rpg while Howard was just better at 8 ppg and 4 rpg. If the Wizards want to seriously contend they need to keep bolstering their squad with young talent.
The Golden State Warriors have been defined by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. While they work well together, share the spotlight and have acted as co-leaders for the Warriors, they need one more strong and sound competitor to magnify their chances.
The Answer: Trade Andris Biedrins.
While Biedrins was initially deemed that potential third player to aid Ellis and Curry, he’s been a total let down with just 5 ppg and 7 rpg. Trading Biedrins will be part of a totally revamped roster with a new coach in Mark Jackson and recently acquired guard in Klay Thompson.
There are a variety of team’s across the NBA that have a face, an icon, a leader that defines that franchise. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin leapt into that role and capitalized it with a backwards, dazzling dunk.
However, he’s not able to carry an entire team on his own. Before Baron Davis was traded he provided that veteran experience that allowed him to weather the storm for Griffin and the Clippers. But without a dependable leader – one who’s endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – captaining the Clippers is an arduous task.
The Answer: Trade Randy Foye.
After just a year with the Clippers, Foye’s value plummeted due to his inconsistent contributions. His 9 ppg and 2 apg were less than stellar for the Clippers and trading him would open a spot for the type of veteran guard to help lead this young team.
Derek Fisher’s ability to hit the clutch shot (.8 seconds) and sacrifice his body on defense has been hugely beneficial for the Lakers success over the last decade. However, those should be what he's remembered for, not his lackluster performance throughout 2011.
The lack of a real, effective, quick, offensive-and-defensive capable point guard was an unmistakable void in the Los Angeles Lakers squad last season, and may have been a decisive factor in the Dallas Mavericks stomping all over them in the playoffs. Bynum, Gasol, Bryant and Odom should remain the pillars supporting the Lakers rise to another championship run.
The answer: take your pick between Ron Artest – the loon being paid $6+ million – Luke Walton – the guy you wish could be better, but just isn’t that good and being paid $5+ million – and the recently acquired point guard Steve Blake – the speedy three-point shooter who epitomized mediocrity for LA and was paid $4 million.
Also, Shannon Brown is not the point guard LA needs because while he provides an often necessary spark with his dazzling dunks, he also has a poor attitude, average ball handling skills, and most importantly is not a leader. This organization should get rid of two, if not three of these players for a point guard with, if anything, experience. Imagine Steve Nash bringing up the ball, or even a guy like Jose Barea, both of whom have the quickness, passing skills and intangible of complete relentlessness to redirect and ultimately magnify the Lakers chances next season.
The Phoenix Suns are stacked with talent; from the speed and experience of Steve Nash to the size and craftiness of Channing Frye around the basket. However, they fell short of the playoff run last season and could use a fresh addition to the squad.
The Answer: Josh Childress.
The former Stanford star averaged just 5 ppg and 2 rpg in 16 mpg last season. However, for as poorly as he performed, he’s earning around $6 million. That is the kind of cash that can entice young talent to come play alongside another upcoming star in recently acquired Markief Morris. With Aaron Brooks, Martin Gortat, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Vince Carter, this team has the potential to make a substantial impact in the upcoming season, but will need a young, fresh talent to stimulate the movement.
The Sacramento Kings need to market themselves as the next up and coming team in the league. Their awful 2010 season landed them at 24-58. However, after acquiring the NCAA Player of the Year, Jimmer Fredette, and UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt to play alongside budding stars Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins the Kings need to make a big trade and a grab a top-talent to bolster their chances to contend next season.
The Answer: Trade Jason Thompson.
Cousins has taken a great deal of the playing time from Thompson already and has proven to have a more substantial impact. Thompson is also prone to commit unnecessary fouls and plays a minor role on the defensive end. Also, the Kings have already invested $10 million in Samuel Dalembert at center, leaving Thompson in a peculiar place. Trading Thompson for another defenseman and role player is the exact kind of support the Kings will need as they enter this season of rebuilding.
The defending champs don’t need much, but other than Tyson Chandler, the Mavs had a noticeable disadvantage down-low. Although they easily handled the Los Angeles Lakers towering duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, they are and have remained a three-point shooting team.
The Answer: Trade Peja Stojakovic.
Although Peja still boasts one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA, there’s no questioning the fact that his shot is not going in as often as it used to. In fact, the Mavs hardly played Peja in the Finals against the Miami Heat, which was probably because if he’s not in a rhythm from behind the arc, the 34-year-old doesn’t contribute much else.
Many teams are eager to gain a three-point shooter like Peja and in return could swap with the Mavs a big-man that could be developed into a dominant low-post presence.
Now that Marcus Morris and Donatas Montiejunas have signed with the Houston Rockets, their is palpable sense of progress in the organization. This after the inescapable feeling of being 'stuck between a rock and hard place,' which has plagued the Rockets since Yao Ming, their franchise player, succumbed to serious injury. However, two young prospects will not be enough to shake up this team.
The Answer: Trade Hasheem Thabeet.
The 24-year-old center may be huge, towering over the competition at 7’3, but he’s also swallowing a huge salary with very little assurance that he will impact the team positively. Thabeet was only sent over to the Rockets recently (Feb. 2011) in a deal with Shane Battier, but based on his poor history it seems like Houston got the sour end of this trade. His contract is around $5 million so if Houston trades him they will have a substantial opportunity to pursue a more reliable, more mature low-post presence.
This is a team that proved a majority of basketball fans wrong last season when they epitomized the role of the underdog and climbed the unlikely trail towards a championship. It was a testament to guys like Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol playing clutch, resilient basketball. But unfortunately they were without the necessary ingredients to go all the way.
The Answer: Shane Battier.
As one of the best defenders in the league, Battier would be an asset to just about any team looking to fortify their defense outside of the key. While he was an advantage for the Grizzlies, he averaged just 7 ppg and did not contribute on the offensive end with the ferocity his team needed to stay afloat.
The speculation about Chris Paul leaving the Hornets in 2012 has been rampant, especially as the idea of a trio including Paul, Melo and Stoudemire rivals just about any other trio of stars in the league.
However, if the Hornets are intent on keeping their best player, and one of the league’s premier floor generals, they need to clear up some cash and institute a big-time trade. Paul needs another player he can rely on instead of the burden constantly falling on his shoulders.
The Answer: Trade Emeka Okafor.
For $11 million, Okafor should be contributing more consistently then 10 ppg and 9 rpg. The 6'10 center is just 28-years-old, but last season showed that he had little stamina towards the end of games, difficulty staying out of foul trouble, and an overall struggle to come through in the clutch. Trading Okafor and using that money to get a powerful center could bolster the Hornets’ chances of not only contending next season, but also holding on to Paul.
Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan: All phenomenal players with a great deal of talent, but also aging players losing their stride. Adding Kawhi Leonard was a crucial step, but they will need to continue investing in their team’s chances by creating a trade opportunity.
The Answer: Richard Jefferson.
Remember when Jefferson was one of the top scorers in the NBA? He still has the touch with his shot and agility to score at will, but in the shadows of Ginobli, Parker and Duncan hehas taken a back seat. Although he averaged around 10 ppg last season, he’d be a strong addition to any team looking for an aggressive scorer. Trading Jefferson would allow the Spurs to acquire a big man who will learn under the wing of one of the best power forwards of all time, Tim Duncan.
Kenyon Martin used to be one of the most feared big men in the NBA. Renowned for his versatility, Martin had an aggressive post move, burst speed in and around the key, and a springy leap to snatch rebounds. However, his effectiveness has been lacking over the last couple seasons while he’s drained up over $16 million. In addition to his inconsistency, Martin has a violent and volatile personality that has caused on-court arguments and fights.
Trade Kenyon Martin.
The Nuggets will be a solid, threatening team this year without Martin after acquiring Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. They’ll also have Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nene Hilario, J.R. Smith and Andre Miller leading the team into the new season. If there was a swap involving Martin, the Nuggets could add another young, budding post player who could work with Harrington and Miller and reinforce their dominance down low.
Going back to the theory of three, the Timberwolves are on the verge of creating a powerful trio with Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, but are short one player. With the recent acquisition of Derrick Williams in the NBA Draft, the Timberwolves will have a renewed force in the key, but there’s an opportunity to continue growing the team.
The Answer: Trade Darko Milicic.
When the hype of Milicic crossed a few continents and began simmering in the NBA, he was perceived to be one of the most talented foreign players ever to compete. Eight years later, Milicic has bounced around a host of teams in the NBA and never reached the potential and praise that surrounded him early on.
He’s underachieved for the Timberwolves, scoring just 8 ppg with 5 rpg. At 7’0 Milicic has never taken full advantage of his giant frame and now with Love and Williams down low, Milicic will be even more displaced. Getting rid of Milicic opens up around $4 million for the Wolves to get a reliable outside shooter.
Just as James, Bosh and Wade learned that success is about a team, so too did Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. The Thunder have a terrific young team that plays competitively on both ends of the court, but its two stars – Durant and Westbrook – were not as consistent in the pressure-filled setting of the playoffs.
The Answer: Trade Nazr Mohammed.
The 7’0 footer was a perpetual disappointment producing a lackluster 7 ppg and 4 rpg. Worst of all is that he’s earning more than both Westbrook and Durant at just over $6.5 million. Trading Mohammad provides the Thunder with an opportunity to get an older, more experienced player with the knowledge of playoff pressure and who can act as the leader for this young team.
Led by LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace, the Blazers were among the biggest surprises of the 2010 season. This coming season promises to be another solid showing by the Blazers, but will be contingent upon bolstering their defense outside of the key.
The Answer: Trade Marcus Camby.
This trade would free of over $11 million, effectively allowing the Blazers to pursue one of the league’s top, young small forwards or shooting guards. While this team was excellent in the "Points Allowed" per game statistic, ranking 7th at around around 94.6 points, they were also dreadful in the "Points Scored" statistic, ranking 24th at 94 points. Letting go of Camby frees up the cash for the Blazers to capitalize on a dependable scorer who will be enticed by the security down-low and up and coming aura surrounding this young team.
NBA Draftees Enes Kanter and Alec Burks will add a dynamic force down low for the Utah Jazz, which will be supported by the likes of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Andrei Kirilenko. After losing G Deron Williams and famed coach Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz have just one more necessary adjustment to begin rebuilding this team of rising stars.
The Answer: Trade Mehmet Okur
If you remember, Okur had a breakout season in 2007 for the Jazz, even being elected to the All-Star team for his dominant play down-low. Well, that was then and this is now. Okur endured a serious injury to his Achilles tendon early in 2010 and has been struggling to bounce back. Last season he averaged just 4 ppg and 2 rpg. Trading for Okur makes $9 million available for the Jazz to pursue a solid shooter or another power forward to play alongside Jefferson and Kanter.