10 NBA Teams That Have to Make a Trade to Stay in the Playoff Hunt

Tim Penman@TimPenman24Featured ColumnistNovember 30, 2015

10 NBA Teams That Have to Make a Trade to Stay in the Playoff Hunt

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    With the first month of the NBA season coming to a close, it’s time to assess where certain fringe teams stand as well as what steps they can take in order to improve their chances of a playoff berth. 

    November has turned out to be full of surprises, with the Houston Rockets struggling to the tune of 7-10, and the Charlotte Hornets off to an impressive start. 

    In general, the Eastern Conference is much improved. With the added competitiveness comes the eventual need for teams to make trades in order to achieve better depth and balance.

    For this list, we’ll look at which teams are laboring across the league and then break down the areas that need improvement.

    Some of these teams are just one move away from a playoff-caliber roster, while others have lots of work to do ahead of the February trade deadline.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Similar to the Rockets, the Milwaukee Bucks have holes on defense. In fact, as NBA.com writer John Schuhmann points out, the Bucks have fallen from second to 30th in defensive efficiency.

    Part of the blame can be attributed back to the July 9 trade of Zaza Pachulia, as Kevin P. Smith of RealGM.com writes. Pachulia is good at defending pick-and-rolls, which Milwaukee needs help with now.

    In Pachulia’s place is Greg Monroe, who is more of an offensive-minded player. This team could benefit from trading for a defensive big man in order to balance things out and get them back to their 2014-15 form, when they finished sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Washington Wizards

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Washington Wizards have lost four in a row and now have a record of 6-8. Similar to the Bucks, Washington is struggling on the road this season partly due to a vastly improved Eastern Conference. 

    The recent losing streak has made Marcin Gortat speak out about the negativity surrounding the team. Gortat is clearly unhappy, as this is the second time this month that he’s commented on the situation in Washington.

    Two weeks ago, Gortat told the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo he didn’t appreciate being singled out by head coach Randy Wittman following a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Gortat is in the second year of a five-year, $60 million contract.

    Meanwhile, the Wizards just haven’t been able to shoot the ball the way they did last year, as J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet notes. As a team they are shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from the three-point line.

    Like the Rockets, the talent is there, and they may just need time to get it together. If they can’t, they could improve by looking to trade for a shooter and bench help.

Detroit Pistons

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    With an 8-9 record, the Detroit Pistons currently occupy the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Point guard Reggie Jackson has been a revelation for them, but Detroit’s injuries have caught up with the team.

    Brandon Jennings remains out with a torn Achilles tendon. Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks has been sidelined since breaking his right foot during the first week of the season.

    The current roster situation, having four point guards and two power forwards, could mean a trade is in Detroit’s future, writes David Mayo of the MLive Media Group. 

    Mayo mentions 35-year-old Steve Blake as one candidate to possibly get dealt. Blake, shown in the Detroit Pistons video above, is averaging 3.4 assists per game and is on an expiring contract.

Houston Rockets

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    It’s no secret the Rockets have struggled on defense this season. Currently ranked 28th in the league in opponent points per game, the team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season has drastically underperformed. 

    One solution would be to explore trade possibilities for a defensive specialist.

    It’s important to note that the team got a boost when Patrick Beverley returned from an ankle injury on November 25.

    Beverley is known for his ability to defend elite point guards, as Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post points out. Beverley had five steals Sunday versus the Knicks. His presence should help, but the team may need more if it hopes to turn things around.

    As Basketball Insiders reporter Steve Kyler reports, eventually trading Dwight Howard is not totally out of the question. But the talent is there for the Rockets and it’s not time to completely panic just yet.

    While their record is under .500, things could be worse. If Ty Lawson can adapt to the new system, and they add a defensive player, Houston could get over its slow start.

New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks have had an up-and-down season as they continue to search for a clear identity on offense. After winning four games in a row a little over a week ago, they then lost their next three. 

    If this team hopes to make the playoffs, it can’t just rely on hot nights from rookie Kristaps Porzingis. After being limited to just 78 points in Friday’s loss to the Miami Heat, it’s clear the Knicks could benefit from additional offensive help.

    Carmelo Anthony was limited to just 11 points and three rebounds.

    Offseason acquisition Derrick Williams (featured in the Knicks.com video above) has been a disappointment thus far, averaging only seven points per game off the bench. According to Nick Borges of ESPN.com, Williams is frustrated with his lack of playing time.

    Who knows, the team may look to eventually trade him in a packaged deal. Currently signed for two years, Williams can become a free agent in 2016 if he turns down the player option for next season, according to Borges.

Phoenix Suns

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With a record of 8-9, the Phoenix Suns are trying to get back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

    While the Suns’ promising backcourt duo of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight has really come together, Markieff Morris has been uncharacteristically inefficient on offense, according to Ray Hrovat of SB Nation.

    Morris is shooting 40.5 percent overall. Last year, he shot 46.5 percent from the field. 

    After Morris, the inexperienced bench may be one reason for the Suns’ rough start. Alex Len, Mirza Teletovic and Archie Goodwin haven’t brought that much off the bench. This team could benefit from trading for extra depth.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    You have to feel for Portland Trail Blazers fans. After an offseason in which they lost Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge, the team has suffered through a 7-10 start.

    Gerald Henderson, one of the key players acquired from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Batum, has struggled while coming back from hip surgery in July, as detailed by Comcast SportsNet

    Henderson, whose press conference is shown in the Clutch City video above, is averaging only 5.1 points per game, compared to 12.1 last year and 14.0 in 2013-14. Similar to the Pistons, injuries have impacted this roster. Center Meyers Leonard has also missed time due to a dislocated shoulder from which he has just returned, as reported by CBS Sports.

    Thus, Portland fans will just have to be patient with this squad. They will continue to hope for improved health but may need to get active in the trade market in order to add some bench help before the February deadline.

Denver Nuggets

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Since their 6-6 start, the Denver Nuggets have lost six in a row. They are 3-6 at home and may be in desperate need of quick action to help save their season, which at one point seemed very promising.

    Danilo Gallinari has been linked to trade rumors in the past, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. Could he be a possible trade piece for general manager Tim Connelly before February?

    Also, rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay’s player efficiency rating of 8.52 leaves something to be desired. Trading for an additional guard to help the team’s overall assist numbers may take some pressure off some of their stars.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the surprise teams in the NBA at the beginning of the season, but thanks in part to a 2-6 record at the Target Center, they now find themselves barely hanging onto the eighth spot in the West. 

    But it’s important to keep in mind that this team is extremely young. As interim head coach Sam Mitchell pointed out, the Timberwolves need to learn to be more physical in matchups.

    Mitchell also said they need to move the ball more, as his team currently ranks 20th in the league in assists per game. Team defense could be better, too. Minnesota currently ranks 18th in opponent points per game, allowing 101 points on average. 

    With veterans such as Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett around, the young players have plenty to learn from. Garnett just became the fifth player in NBA history in the 50,000-minutes-played club. But in order for this team to truly consider itself a playoff team, at least one trade will be necessary.

Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic have been another surprise team in the league. With a 9-8 record, they are eighth in the Eastern Conference. 

    This youthful team is coming together quicker than some expected, with the play of Evan Fournier (17.7 PPG) and Elfrid Payton (6.6 APG) as evidence. Fournier's nice jump shot is highlighted in the video above. 

    Fellow youngster Nikola Vucevic is also having an outstanding season. The center is averaging 14.9 PPG and is leading the team with 8.3 RPG. 

    However, his backup at center, Dewayne Dedmon, is only averaging 4.4 PPG. This team could improve by eventually trading for another big man to insert in the rotation.

    As noted above, the Eastern Conference is more competitive this season. To counteract that fact, the Magic need to make a trade if they hope to climb up the standings significantly.

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