NBA Trade Deadline Buyers
This week will be a big one for Basketball Insiders and our readers. We’ve been working overtime putting together what will be a comprehensive 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Guide, which you can download from the iPhone App Store, Android App Store as well as online. Our team takes an in-depth look at all 30 NBA teams, detailing which ones are buyers, which ones are sellers and which ones are likely to stand pat. We also offer trade deadline insight from the player, agent and executive perspectives. As we anxiously await the publication of the magazine, let’s take a quick look at three teams that will absolutely be buyers as the last days before the deadline melt away.
First and foremost, we have the Phoenix Suns. They are, without a doubt, the most surprising team in the NBA this season, and they have let it be known that a playoff berth is not enough. They want to make some noise once they get there. Last week the Suns were pursuing Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, though talks broke down because the Lakers reportedly wanted more than the Suns were willing to part with. The Suns have Emeka Okafor’s expiring, insured contract burning a hole in their pocket, and they were hopeful that the cap relief it represents would be a primary motivating factor for the foundering Lakers. Of course, Gasol’s contract is expiring, as well, so the Lakers wanted the Suns to send them one of their four coveted first round picks in this summer’s very deep draft. The Suns declined. It will be interesting to see if those talks resume before the deadline, or if the Suns decide to open a dialogue with one of the many teams now willing to move quality big men. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Larry Sanders, Omer Asik, Anderson Varejao, Carlos Boozer, Spencer Hawes and maybe even Brook Lopez are a few of the bigger names that are believed to be available. If the Suns could add a star-level big man to their front line they might just have enough talent to get to the second round.
Second, we have the New York Knicks working the phones in an attempt to add another star-caliber player alongside Carmelo Anthony. As much as the media loves to talk about the Knicks dealing Anthony himself, that just isn’t very likely to happen. Anthony wanted to be in New York, which is why the Nuggets worked to send him there in the first place, and his feelings about that haven’t changed. We recently saw a story where his comment that the most important thing was competing for a championship were taken somewhat out of context, and used to presume that Anthony would look for greener pastures as a free agent. What Anthony meant, of course, was that the most important thing is to win a championship with the Knicks. Where the Knicks would really like to make a radical upgrade is at point guard, which is why they have been connected to talks about Kyle Lowry and now Rajon Rodo. Toronto’s asking price was too high, as they hope to convince Lowry to be their long-term floor general, so the Knicks are hoping to convince Celtics GM Danny Ainge that Amar’e Stoudemire’s expiring contract will help them make a huge splash in the next big free agent class: 2015. One way or the other, the Knicks need to make a significant move at the deadline to show Anthony why he should re-commit to New York. If they can do that, it won’t be a hard sell at all.
Finally, the Charlotte Bobcats have been surprisingly good this season, and they too would like to make a big move to solidify their spot in the postseason. The team is hoping to re-engage their fan base with a return to the Hornets nickname, and a few postseason wins would certainly further that cause. Charlotte would love to move Ben Gordon, and might even be willing to send out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to make a deal happen. The Bobcats are looking to improve their small forward position, and so have been connected to talks surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers’ Evan Turner. Turner would be a fabulous addition for the Bobcats, who, according to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell, do not believe they need to tank for another high draft pick as much as they need a taste of the postseason. If the Bobcats can land an upgrade on the wing they could be a tough out in the first round.
Once again, keep an eye on the site so you’ll know when our Basketball Insiders 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Guide drops and make sure you have the inside scoop on one of the most exciting days in sports.
Is There A Dark Horse in the West?
The Western Conference is by far the dominant conference in the NBA these days, with many of the Eastern Conference teams looking like they might really belong in the NBA Development League. Even in the West, however, there is a shortage of legitimate contenders, a list that might be just two teams long. Kevin Durant’s MVP season has helped the Oklahoma City Thunder to the league’s best record despite the absence of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs have been decimated by injuries, yet continue to find ways to win. They have the second-best record in the West and expect to be back in the NBA Finals come June if they can get everyone healthy.
As good as the West is, does that sum up the entire list of legit contenders in the conference?
It would be a mistake to overlook the Portland Trail Blazers, though many were writing them off even when they had the best record in the West. They have the second-toughest schedule over the second half of the season, and that is starting to take its toll on the team. They came into the weekend as winners of just four of their last six games and need to right the ship quickly to avoid falling below the third seed. The Blazers are the most-improved team in the conference behind the strong improvement of Damian Lillard and a number of key offseason additions. There are still concerns that they are not deep enough, and that may prove to be their downfall if they don’t address that issue at the trade deadline.
As things stand today there may only be one team in the Western Conference that can hope to upset either the Thunder or the Spurs and escape the wild, wild West. We’re talking about a team that made a radical upgrade in the coaching department, has added great veterans to the bench and looks like the deepest team in the NBA. They have struggled with significant injuries, but they’re about to get healthy, and once healthy they should be ready to make a run towards the top.
We’re talking, of course, about the Los Angeles Clippers.
Of all the teams that changed head coaches over the offseason, none did as well the Clippers. Doc Rivers is to Vinny Del Negro what Scary Movie Part 10 is to Dances With Wolves. There really is no comparison. Darren Collison was a fabulous addition behind Chris Paul, JJ Redick is one of the best shooters in the game, and the more recent additions of Hedo Turkoglu and Sasha Vujacic make the Clippers one of the most lethal three-point shooting teams in the league. Then you add one of the best frontlines with DeAndre Jordan intimidating opposing players and controlling the glass and Blake Griffin putting up great numbers, as well as the shoe-in sixth man of the year in Jamal Crawford and the Clippers appear to have all of the pieces required to win a championship.
Nothing has been determined, of course, and if a team like the Houston Rockets or maybe even the Phoenix Suns can make a splashy move before the trade deadline they might make things more interesting. As things stand today, however, the LA Clippers appear to be the most intriguing Western Conference team outside of San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and with Chris Paul due back tonight it’s time for what looks great on paper to start dominating on the court.
NBA Chat with Bill Ingram
In case you missed my last NBA chat, find it by linking here! You can also go ahead and submit a question for this week’s chat, which you can find here! I make an effort to answer every non-repeat question, and early questions are virtually guaranteed to be answered, so drop yours in now!
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