Team Needs (West Contenders)
Last week I covered the East contenders, and below is a look at the team needs/adjustments for Western Conf. playoff contenders. With the tradeline on Thursday, I wanted to examine what each team needs to do to improve their squads for the playoffs.
Mavs--Really don't need to do much. The defense is good, rebounding is great, & the offense ain't too shabby. The only minor nit-picky thing they could possibly use is a player who can get some post-up points. This team is still pretty jumpshot-centric, and this can cause some problems in the playoffs & it sometimes led to the Mavs' offense bogging down a few times last spring.
Spurs--Need to find a consistent 4th scorer. The defense is fine, it's not quite as good as has been in the past, but still one of the best in the NBA. All this talk of their defense being the main problem is off-base. After the big 3, they just have not gotten enough scoring punch. Barry & Finley have been alright, but neither has been consistently productive enough. If they could find a young wing who can average 12-15ppg that would be ideal. If they can pry Maggette from the Clips, they should not hestitate to make the deal.
Rockets--This team still needs to find an athletic 4 (who's 6-10 or bigger) in the worse way. Juwan Howard is playing surprisingly well now, but the Rockets really don't have anyone to guard the elite PFs out West. In the playoffs do you want Juwan having to check the likes of Duncan, Amare, Brand, and to a degree, Dirk. Did not think so. The Rockets are devoid of any athleticism on the frontline. Chuck Hayes is nice for 15 minutes a game but he is way too undersized which leads him to be a foul machine. But I am not really sure who they could dangle to entice another team. Maybe Bonzi, but I think Houston might need him as a 3rd option on offense down the road. I love what Luther Head brings off the bench, and would not want him dealt. So the options look pretty slim for the Rockets to bring in a PF.
Hornets--Had to add this team to list at the last minute. Pretty stunning that Bryon Scott still has this team scrapping for a final playoff spot with all the major injuries this team has had to endure. This team could always use some more help at the wing positions, preferably a SG since Mason is in the last year of his deal. Otherwise should just sit tight and be happy that they are sniffing the playoffs considering their injuries woes.
Suns--Still need a 6-10 or bigger guy who can provide some rebounding & defense. Still have to feel uneasy about their interior defense & defensive rebounding--the two things that have been their major bugaboo the last 2 years in the playoffs.
Lakers--Even though Smush has played solidly lately, I have to imagine the Lakers' brass still feel their PG spot is unsettled for the playoffs. Similar boat as the Cavs--the Lakers need a PG who can stick the jumper. They really don't need a playmaker since Kobe & Odom are there & the Triangle does not really call for that type of point. All sort of rumors flying around LA, JKidd's name being most prominent, but if I was the Lakers I would want to get my hands on Bibby.
Clips--This team has basically no back-up post guys. Tim Thomas can slide to the 4, but he really is a 3. Also, they could look to improve their 3pt shooting, something that was a problem last year. If they are going to deal Maggette, it would be a good idea if they received a big in return. Maybe Maggette for Magloire & spare parts would not be a bad deal for either team. The Clips would get a back-up big with an expiring deal and maybe they can pry Martell Webster away from the Blazers to aid their outside shooting issues. The Blazers' biggest need is at the SF, so Corey makes sense & has a reasonable contract.
Warriors--I guess you can't totally discount the Warriors chances of getting the 8-seed. Like with the Wiz, I don't know if a few tweaks in personnel will make a difference, because I think their defensive issues can be traced back to their coach. So Warriors Fans, as long as Nellie's around expect the defense to suck. Are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, and getting rid of Murphy & Diogu did not help things. So I guess if they have to make a move, how bout a big who will defend & rebound.
Kings--Have played better of late and the recent upswing has seemed to coincided with Artest's improved play. I really thought this team would be better defensively under Musselman's control, but they have underachieved in my mind. The Kings are lacking size upfront and still have no defensive presence in the painted area. Like alot of teams, they could use a guy 6-10 or bigger who can provide some defense & shotblocking. The Kings do have the expiring deals of Corliss & Potapenko to use as trade bait.
Jazz--If there is one thing the Jazz could change internally that would be for the better, is to stop fouling so much. This really ends up killing them on the defensive end. The Jazz have a solid Def. FG% & top-notch rebounding but they basically neutralize this by leading the league in fouls. But I think it might be tough to change their style now because it's an embodiment of Coach Sloan. The 2-guard spot is a little unsettled, and Fisher would be better served coming off the bench. The Jazz's outside shooting has been subpar for the 2nd year in a row. I thought it would improve this year, but Fisher & Giricek have not shot the ball up to their usual standards.
Nugs--Probably will not make a move. But still need to address a problem that has killed them for 2 years straight in the playoffs--outside shooting. The situation is not quite as dire as last year because JR Smith has shot the ball well, but after him their ain't much else (The Nugs are currently dead last in 3pt%). You might see a steady diet of zones thrown at the Nugs, and you put alot of pressure on JR to be the lone guy to spread the defense so Melo & AI can go to work. Free Agent Keith Van Horn could be a nice fit , and I believe is currently living in Colorado. It would be good idea to look him up.
Wolves--Need to exchange some of their surplus of combo gurads for some frontcourt help. But the problem for the TWolves is they are saddled with an array of difficult contracts. If they could move Jaric for Nazr that could help somewhat. But I can't see how the Wolves can really make a significant upgrade right now because they just do not have enticing trade bait around Garnett, besides maybe Davis & Foye. And I doubt they are parting with Foye. So I think the TWolves are short on options to make a serious playoff push, and I now expect them to move KG in the off-season.