Now to those western teams that might be looking to make a trade as a way to get into the playoffs or get a better seed:
West: Denver, LA Lakers, Golden State, Utah, Houston, Sacramento
Denver: This team needs another defender and a legitimate distributor like they had last year in Steve Blake. Chucky Atkins is returning soon, and was signed for his ability to hit open 3s. This may make Anthony Carter (or even JR Smith) expendable, and with the number of teams looking for a point guard, they may be able to acquire a perimeter defender at no cost to their 8 man rotation. I could see them swapping Anthony Carter for Mickael Peitrus of Golden State, for example.
more after the break…
Lakers: The Lakers are in this discussion because they have a good team but not a great team. They are deep and have a lot of tradeable assets, but won’t be able to beat San Antonio in the playoffs. There have been rumors throughout the year of a Jason Kidd or a Jermaine O’Neal trade in the works, but I don’t think Jermaine is likely to come because the team is not looking for a huge shakeup that could disrupt their playoff chances. Kidd, on the other hand, if he could be had cheaply, would be a great addition to the team.
Warriors: The Warriors need a new backup point guard, especially with news that Troy Hudson’s injuries may force an early retirement. They also need an inside rebounder who is at least capable in their offense. The Anthony Carter/Mikael Peitrus swap mentioned earlier may work well for them, but getting the inside presence they need to contend with Utah and San Antonio will be difficult if not impossible during the season.
Utah Jazz: Although his relationship with the team is improved this season, its clear that Anrei Kirilenko is not the best fit for this team. Moreover, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer have mostly played a two-man game, and the team should look to add a third scorer if it wants to present more of a challenge to the top teams in the West. Shooting guard Gordan Giricek is extremely unhapy in Utah and team is seeking to trade him immediately. They may be able to package him in an effort to return a Mike James or John Salmons type of bench scorer.
Houston: The team is struggling mightily this season, although on paper it is stronger than last year’s squad. In my opinion, this is the team that will flinch first; their starting lineup currently has two offensively incapable players in Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, who are ideal candidates for bench roles should the Rockets find a viable trade at their positions. Rumors have recently included trading McGrady to Chicago or attempting to acquire Jason Williams from the Heat.
Sacramento: They are one run away from being back in playoff contention, and would likely be able to trade disgruntled John Salmons once Kevin Martin returns. Salmons would be a very valuable trading piece as he has shown the ability to score in bunches and could contribute immediately off the bench for a legitimate playoff contender. With the excellent play of Beno Udrih, the Kings may look to jettison Mike Bibby, and rumors of a Ron Artest trade have been plentiful since before the season started. Its not likely that they could improve their team to make a solid 8th place finish in the conference this year, but by selling high with some of their more valuable assets they can reshape their team for a playoff run in 2009.