NBA Trade Rumors: Power Ranking Top 10 Teams As It Could Look by All-Star Break

Rich FernandesCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2011

NBA Trade Rumors: Power Ranking Top 10 Teams as It Could Look by All-Star Break

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    SAN ANTONIO - MARCH 24:  Forward Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball past Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 24, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Heat or Three-peat? 

    That has been the forgotten question in Lakers-land as the Miami Heat and L.A. Lakers have run the cycle from early season favorites, to LeBron and Co. struggling as Kobe and Co. dominated and finally to completely reversing roles.

    But for the first time in a long time, the Lakers besieged a top surging team in the New York Knicks so convincingly, and not long after, the same Knicks ran up the score on the San Antonio Spurs.

    Indeed, it was the defending champions that showed up at the Staples Centre at long last, the ones with attitude and swagger in every step.  They were the instigators and the perpetrators—they were the ones committing the crimes as they imposed their will in disparagingly copious amounts.

    And it’s about time these Lakers showed up again because as it seems, the top teams in the league (including New York and Miami) have become so much better.

    These top NBA teams exhibit a primal instinct on the hardwood—a sixth-like sense that constantly searches for vulnerabilities in their opponents, revealing an opening to pounce.  Their adrenalin begins to rush leading them into a powerful strike—the kind you see only on the plains of the Serengeti.

    As the trade deadline approaches, each of these teams are searching for dominance and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape.  The fingers are on the triggers, analyzing possible trade scenarios that will make them smarter, stronger, faster—more brilliant and resilient than their foes.

    A rare commodity in the NBA is the elite center, whom will be highly sought after by most of these teams, and now, Anderson Varejao (a perfect fit for many contenders) is out for the season with a serious injury. 

    Between now and the All-Star game, these teams will arm themselves by strengthening any visible weaknesses in the relentless pursuit of becoming the last one standing, because in the end all the power and the glory waits only for the survival of the fittest.  And in a dog-eat-dog world, only the top predator of the food-chain will emerge.

    So it's a good sign that the defending champion Lakers are bucking up from their previous nonchalant ways, because the enemies are waiting at the gate, bigger in their numbers, stronger than their former selves, salivating at the smell of blood, and gunning for a showdown.

    But one thing is for sure, these teams have already evolved and with these needed trades, the difference between #1 and #10 could be analyzed in marginal amounts.

    As these top teams pull the trigger on these trades, the NBA power rankings will change accordingly.

Obtaining a Starting Center Will Make the Jazz No. 10 by All-Star Break

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.   The Jazz won 103-85.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Utah Jazz have impressed, and behind superstar and indispensable starter, PG Deron Williams, they are proving to be a legitimate contender in the west.  They have all the pieces including Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to cause enough havoc against the best in the west.

    The injury bug has bitten the Jazz badly

    Jazz center Mehmet Okur (lower back strain) is suffering from nagging injuries including back and Achilles tendon, and this old workhorse needs help desperately. 

    The Jazz need a true Center  

    The Utah Jazz need a center, simply because Okur’s nagging injuries are unpredictable at this stage in his career.  So, in order to make a title run, the Jazz must pursue a good starting center.  Unfortunately Anderson Varejão would have been a great choice, but he is now out for the season due to injury.   Anyone of Marcus Camby-quality will do, even Camby himself.

Obtaining Andray Blatche Will Make the Thunder No. 9 by All-Star Break

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    NEW YORK - DECEMBER 22:  Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 22, 2010 in New York, New York.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/o
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Kevin Durant is again leading the league in the scoring race and Russell Westbrook’s unencumbered, lightening play begs for slow-motion replay to be freeze framed in order to catch the slashing blur making a direct line to the rim.   And Both Durant and Westbrook are NBA superstars in their own right, providing the Thunder with clout at the SF and the PG slots.

    The injury bug has been good to the Thunder

    Unlike the Celtics, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks, the Thunder have yet to be bitten seriously by the injury bug.

    The Thunder need a true Center  

    Nenad Krstic is an innocuous talent on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court and represents a gaping hole at the center spot.  Enter 6'11” Andray Blatche of the Washington Wizards who is accustomed to the PF slot but not out of place at the C spot.  Blatche is a double-double machine that will vastly improve this club.

The Celtics Will Temporarily Drop to No. 8 by All-Star Break

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07:  Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics passes the ball as Leandro Barbosa #20 of the Toronto Raptors defends on January 7, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Raptors 122-102. NOTE TO USER: User
    Elsa/Getty Images

    These old men dressed in green have surprised just about everybody by their consistent dominance over the competition thus far and remain a favorite to come out of a tough eastern conference.  The Boston Celtics have a team full of elite players including potential Hall of Famers and are guided by Rajon Rondo, who is having a sensational year.  And Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are still punishing their opponents.

    The injury bug has bitten the Celtics badly

    Shaq seems healthy for the time being, but the other O’Neal remains a constant revolving-door hospital patient.  Kendrick Perkins is still on the mend, and his recovery is a vital piece to the Celtics championship run.  The big concern is Kevin Garnett whose calf injury has been worse than previously stated and may require several more weeks to recover fully. 

    Celtics don’t need any trades pending further review

    Without Kevin Garnett and with Rondo playing tentatively because of a recent ankle injury, the Celtics may fall out of the Top Five elite teams in the league, but that’s only temporary while the club nurses itself back to good health.

Obtaining Marcus Camby Will Make the Knicks No. 7 by All-Star Break

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 30:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks drives against Marcus Camby #23 of the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden on October 30, 2010 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The New York Knicks have been a tremendous surprise this year behind first-year Knick Amare Stoudemire, reinvigorating basketball in the Big Apple and having recently run up the score in a convincing win over the powerful San Antonio Spurs.  The Knicks starting rotation are all having breakout years as even Raymond Felton is establishing himself as an elite PG.

    The injury bug has been good to the Knicks

    Unlike the Celtics, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks, the Knicks have yet to be bitten seriously by the injury bug.

    The Knicks need a Marcus Camby type Center  

    Enter Portland Trailblazers Marcus Camby, an underrated defensive journeyman that will undoubtedly improve the Knicks presence in the paint by allowing Stoudemire to move over to his natural PF spot.  This trade would also move extremely capable Wilson Chandler to the Bench, making the Knicks very deep.

    Acquiring Camby gives New York all the talent and size upfront to challenge the beasts in the east and join the Celtics, Magic and Bulls as the only teams in that group with elite players at the center, point guard and forward slots.  Camby has already indicated that he will favor a trade to New York.

Obtaining Steve Nash Will Make the Mavericks No. 6 by the All-Star Break

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    DALLAS - FEBRUARY 17:   Forward Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks fouls Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns on February 17, 2010 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks have one of the deepest benches in the league led by superstar Dirk Nowitzki, this team needs little in the form of trade upgrades, but a little can go a long way.

    PF Nowitzki is a superstar, Tyson Chandler is a dominant big man in the paint and the Mavericks are a truly deep club.

    The injury bug has bitten Dallas badly but it doesn’t matter

    Unfortunately, Caron Butler has suffered a season-ending injury, but they are so deep that Shawn Marion is picking up the slack.  In addition, Dirk Nowitzki is day-to-day (sprained knee) and should revitalize the Mavs’ attack when he returns.

    The Mavericks need a Steve Nash type player to open up their offense.

    In order to make a title run, however, Mavs’ owner Marc Cuban must acknowledge the biggest mistake of his life—that would be trading away Steve Nash to the Phoenix Suns.  By reacquiring the still swift Nash, the Mavs gain a PG that is capable of making all Dallas’ pieces perform better.  In fact, there are a bunch of teams that could benefit from signing Steve Nash.

Obtaining a True SG Stephen Jackson Puts the Bulls at No. 5 by All-Star Break

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    CHICAGO - JANUARY 18: Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Stephen Jackson #1 of the Golden State Warriors on January 18, 2008 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Warriors defeated the Bulls 119-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ack
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bulls are almost set because their dominating center, Joakim Noah is considered day-to-day, and the key that will help elite point guard, Derrick Rose and elite power forward, Carlos Boozer make a surge toward the top of the rankings before the playoffs begin.

    The injury bug has bitten Chicago badly, but it doesn’t matter

    The revolving door of injuries in Chicago included Boozer first and then Noah, but the Bulls are almost back to full strength.

    The one thing the Bulls need is a good Shooting Guard

    The Bulls are set in their starting rotation with the exception of the SG spot and are aggressively trying to fill this hole through a trade.  A better SG to complement Rose’s abilities only makes the Chicago Bulls that much stronger and a threat to the Celtics, Heat and Magic.  Stephen Jackson of Charlotte Bobcats is averaging 18 points, four assists and four rebounds per game and is being considered by the Bulls.

A Trade for Steve Nash Will Return the Lakers to an Elite No.4 by All-Star Break

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    PHOENIX - JANUARY 05: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball past Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 5, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This season has been a rollercoaster ride for the Los Angeles Lakers who were power ranked at number one for much of the early season.  The defending champs have gone from being declared as possibly the best team in history by some, to a nonchalant conundrum that loses games to mediocre competition.  They have dropped out of Top Five elite team status, but that’s the least of the problems facing the Lakers.

    The injury bug has bitten the Lakers hard

    Andrew Bynum is back and Theo Ratiff is still on the mend, but the Lakers injury woes have recently taken a shocking turn for the worse.  Matt Barnes is out indefinitely with a knee injury that requires surgery and Kobe Bryant’s admission that he’s playing with no cartridge in his surgically repaired knee echoes Portland Trail Blazers’ Brandon Roy’s sorry situation.

    Lakers need to trade for Steve Nash NOW

    The Lakers still have elite stars in Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to help them weather the storm.  But consider this:  A motivated playmaker like Steve Nash would be a tremendous upgrade to Fisher by providing the Lakers with a much-needed spark that would improve offensive production by getting everyone involved.  In this scenario, Shannon Brown’s minutes could increase at the expense of Bryant’s at the SG spot, with the goal reducing the wear and tear of the indispensible veteran’s knee.

A Big Center Will Make the Spurs No. 3 by All-Star Break

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 29:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to throw the ball inbounds over Tim Duncan #21 and Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 200
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    These old men from the west have (like their Celtics' cousins) also surprised just about everybody in their consistent dominance over the competition thus far and remain a favorite to come out of a tough Western Conference.  The San Antonio Spurs have a team full of elite players that includes potential Hall of Famers and are guided by an invigorated Tony Parker. 

    The injury bug has been good to the Spurs

    Unlike many other teams in the NBA, the Spurs have been spared from serious injuries that threaten their title run.  Tim Duncan is playing far fewer minutes in a strategic move to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

    The Spurs need to upsize at the Center spot

    Center, DeJuan Blair is undersized at 6'8", and the Spurs could become even more dominant with an elite center.  In order to make a title run, the Spurs must pursue a big presence at the center spot including the likes of Marcus Camby, Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, etc.

Obtaining True PG Jose Calderone Will Make the Heat No. 2 by All-Star Break

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 07: Mario Chalmers #15 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles against the Miami Heat at the Bradley Center on January 7, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    The Miami Heat are steamrolling over the competition, and they have become the NBA’s hottest team as they approach the all-time NBA road wins record set by the 1971-72 Lakers.  But their last two wins against the Bucks and Trail Blazers should have gone the other way and have been filed in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not archives. 

    The injury bug has bitten Miami but it doesn’t matter

    The Heat have surged since losing the previously indispensible Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller showing just how gritty this team can be.  As Miller makes his way back to 100 percent, the Heat have won an unbelievable 21 of 22 games.  And the Heat are in the process of achieving a 15-game winning streak before the end of this month. 

    Yet, the Heat must still prove themselves against top-tier teams like the Celtics and new-look Magic, whom have balance at every single starting position, as well as deep benches to boot.  And what if the unthinkable happens, and one of Miami Thrice goes down for the count?  In that case, the injury bug will matter very much.

    The one thing the Heat need is a true Point Guard

    As Miami pushes forward, their competition is evolving and becoming stronger as evidenced by the new-look Orlando Magic which could invariably impose matchup problems for the Heat.  The Heat must bite the bullet and get a true point guard like the Raptor’s Jose Calderone, who will open up Miami’s offense resulting in an increased potent attack as both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade zig-zag in the paint. 

    It’s a trade they must pursue, because their top competition have both an elite point guard and an elite center.  In fact, games against the Celtics, Mavericks and Bucks have underlined this Miami Heat matchup problem that must be addressed.

Obtaining a Backup for Dwight Howard Will Make the Magic No. 1 by All-Star Break

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 18:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic chases down a loose ball during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Amway Arena on December 18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    After completely imploding their team before Christmas, the Magic are looking invincible as the new-look roster from Orlando are exhibiting the type of synergy typical of only journeyed teams.  The Magic are also riding a nine game winning streak that they will extend to 15 games straight by Jan. 21 when they face off against the Toronto Raptors.  They are currently No. 4 in the power rankings.  

    The injury bug has been good to the Magic

    Anything that happened before Orlando’s new facelift certainly doesn’t matter, and the Magic are as healthy and rejuvenated as can be.

    The one thing the Magic need is a backup Center

    The only negative coming out of the blockbuster trade was that Orlando lost their backup center.  Going forward, this team needs to find a backup for Dwight Howard because not only will the big guy need his breaks, but he tends to get into foul trouble early.  A Marcus Camby-type player coming off the bench would make Orlando a devastating force, but they can make do with a lesser talent to fill this void and still be a very deep club.

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