With the NBA trade deadline (February 18) less than six weeks away, you can expect chatter to start heating up shortly – even if talks of deals have been rather quiet up until this point. One of the questions that arise each year is should contenders make a move at the expense of team chemistry? As we approach the halfway point to start the season, weaknesses for each unit have emerged. But the question remains, do you tinker with team chemistry by bringing in new parts or do you let things play out?
Let’s take a look at the top five teams from each conference, as of January 8, and evaluate if moves need to be made before the deadline.
Golden State Warriors
2015-16 Record: 33-2
Conference Rank: First
Realistic Trade Assets: Jason Thompson ($6.9m), Brandon Rush ($1.3m), Ian Clark ($947k)
Potential Need: Inside scoring presence
Golden State has been the best team in the league to start the season and it hasn’t been close. The Warriors, along with the San Antonio Spurs, remain the league’s only undefeated teams at home. General manager Bob Myers has been a huge believer in not interfering with team chemistry, but if someone is nitpicking, the franchise doesn’t have a consistent inside presence that can get a basket on the low block. Sure, the game is moving away from traditional back-to-the-basket big men, but having an option in the paint to get easy buckets would be an added luxury – especially for a team so reliant on their three-point game. Also worth noting is the fact Golden State ranks in the bottom half of opponent offensive rebound percentage. Another interior body would be a nice to have, but certainly isn’t a requirement for the defending champions.
San Antonio Spurs
2015-16 Record: 31-6
Conference Rank: Second
Realistic Trade Assets: Rasual Butler ($947k), Ray McCallum ($947k)
Potential Need: Additional outside shooting
Outside of Golden State, the Spurs are about as complete a team as you can assemble. San Antonio has battle tested veterans throughout the roster with enough young guys sprinkled in to carry the regular season load. There’s not much to dislike in San Antonio and even though the team ranks second in three-point percentage (39 percent), the continued struggles of Danny Green and age of Manu Ginobili are areas to keep an eye on. Making midseason shakeups typically isn’t the Spurs’ usual way of doing business, but the efficient franchise is always on the hunt for pieces that fit their program.
Oklahoma City Thunder
2015-16 Record: 25-11
Conference Rank: Third
Realistic Trade Assets: Steve Novak ($3.8m), D.J. Augustin ($3m)
Potential Need: Veteran backup point guard
There haven’t been many hiccups for first-year head coach Billy Donovan in OKC. The team’s 8-6 road record is cause for concern, but the franchise appears to be positioned to lock up another Northwest Division crown. But a situation to watch is in the backcourt. Rookie Cameron Payne has been getting solid minutes as of late while veteran D.J. Augustin has fallen out of the rotation. However, rookie contributors on teams with title aspirations are a rarity. If the Thunder are looking to tighten up a spot, it would likely be in their backcourt.
Los Angeles Clippers
2015-16 Record: 23-13
Conference Rank: Fourth
Realistic Trade Assets: Lance Stephenson ($9m), Jamal Crawford ($5.7m), Josh Smith ($947k)
Potential Need: Small forward help
The Clippers are on a seven-game winning streak despite the absence of All-Star forward Blake Griffin. The team is also thriving despite its lack of consistent production from the wing. If you remember, the club invested heavily to strengthen up the wing last summer – bringing in Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Wesley Johnson. But even if you summed up the total of all three guys’ production, it would pale in comparison to some of the league’s other small forward combinations.
2015-16 Record: 21-15
Conference Rank: Fifth
Realistic Trade Assets: Devin Harris ($4m), Raymond Felton ($4m)
Potential Need: Small forward help
After some would say was a disastrous summer, it didn’t appear as if the Mavericks would be relevant during the 2015-16 campaign – on paper. But the team currently sits fifth in the conference and are in a position to make some noise if veteran forward Chandler Parsons can regain his pre-surgery form. But that’s the issue. Parsons has struggled to find consistency dealing with his surgically repaired knee and the Mavericks don’t have another true small forward on the roster. Wing depth is an area worth watching for Dallas as we approach the trade deadline.
Next week we will take a look at the top five teams in the Eastern Conference and their needs as the trade deadline approaches.
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