OKC Thunder and the 5 Most Improved Post Trade Deadline Teams in the NBA

Eric CaspersonCorrespondent IIMarch 1, 2011

OKC Thunder and the 5 Most Improved Post Trade Deadline Teams in the NBA

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 30:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Ford Center on January 30, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Once the trade deadline passed last week, analysts could only judge a team's deal based on paper.

    Now, most of the teams have had a couple of games under their belt with their new rotations and new pieces in place.

    Playoffs are only a few weeks away. This is why these NBA teams made these deals. They wanted to give their team an extra boost down the stretch.

    Teams are fighting for a top four seed in order to get home court advantage. Young teams like Oklahoma City and Chicago are trying to make a run in their respective conferences.

    Based on paper and their recent games, here are the most-improved NBA teams after the deadline.

5. New Jersey Nets

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    nba.com
    nba.com

    Although their record does not show it, the Nets are a better team with Deron Williams calling the shots.

    The Nets have yet to win since Williams arrived, but have shown improvement in those losses.

    One thing I look for Williams to do more as the season goes on is score. He will realize that there are not a lot of good shooters on the team and he will have to take in excess of 20 or so shots per night.

    Williams in his first three games has been too passive in my opinion. He had 12, 17 and 18 assists in his first three games as a Net.

    If you look at his stats this year, his shots per game actually are lower on the Nets than when he was with Utah.

    Maybe he is still learning the system, but Williams should be taking a lot of shots than he currently is.

    If he does so, the Nets will have a chance to creep back to .500.

4. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Portland has played only one game with Gerald Wallace since he was traded. The game resulted in a loss to a very good Atlanta team.

    Not only were the Blazers welcoming Wallace to their lineup, but they were welcoming back Marcus Camby who had missed a few weeks with a knee injury. Brandon Roy also came off the bench.

    Wallace, after receiving a standing ovation off the bench, recorded nine points in 29 minutes.

    With the addition of Wallace, the Blazers may be one of the deepest teams in the league.

    When you have guys like Rudy Fernandez, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum coming off your bench, it enables a coach to work in several rotations and put good match-ups on the court.

    Come playoff time, no Western team is going to want to face Portland in the first round.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 21:  Teammates Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma Thunder celebrate after a basket as D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats walks away during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 21, 2010 i
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The big news out of Oklahoma City is that the Thunder are 0-3 since trading away Jeff Green to Boston. They have lost to top playoff teams like the Spurs, Magic and Lakers.

    However, they have not played with their new toys yet. Kendrick Perkins will be out for a few weeks with a knee sprain and both Nazr Mohammed and Nate Robinson have yet to see playing time.

    It looks like we will not get to see the final results of this trade until playoff time. When the Thunder have all their new pieces playing and Perkins back, the Thunder could be a dangerous team.

    The one area where the Thunder were lacking in was size. Now that they got their big man to match up against Gasol and Duncan, Oklahoma City should be able to contend in the West.

2. Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 28:  (L-R) Wilson Chandler #21, Raymond Felton #20 (hidden), J.R. Smith #5, Arron Afflalo #6 and Chris Andersen #11 of the Denver Nuggets huddle up against the Atlanta Hawks during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on February 28, 2011
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Who would have thought that the Nuggets would be on this list after the first week?

    Although Carmelo Anthony is a great player, he may have been a cancer in George Karl's system.

    With their new team, Denver is 3-1, including an overtime loss in Portland.

    They have already shown improvement on the defensive end, holding Boston and Atlanta to 75 and 90 points respectively.

    Without Anthony, Denver has become more of a balanced team. They are young and bring maximum effort each night.

    Denver is not in rebuilding mode. They are pushing for home court in the first round.

1. New York Knicks

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks drives past LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on February 27, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It looks like the Knicks and Nuggets pulled off a win-win trade so far. Denver is playing well with the additions of Chandler and Gallinari and the Knicks pulled off a marquee win in Miami.

    Coming up with how to guard both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire will cost a lot of NBA coaches some much-needed sleep.

    The duo is combing to score over 53 points per game in their first three games together. That is 50% of their offense.

    Overlooked by many in this blockbuster trade in Chauncey Billups. Billups is a quiet guy who leads by example. He may be the most clutch shooter in the league. Add his 21 points per night and you have yourself a dynamic trio.