The 1 Trade That Would Strengthen Every NBA Title Contender in 2013-14
Complacency can be death for a contending team in the NBA, even when the roster appears rock-solid. There's always room for improvement.
The following teams are all hunting for a championship next season, and as we near opening day, some teams have bigger holes than others.
What's worse than having a hole, however, is lacking the ability to fill it due to a shortage of available trade assets. Some teams simply can't make any more big deals. We're looking at you, Brooklyn Nets.
Whether it's a big move or a smaller one, these trades could improve the prospects of title contenders around the league.
Team Needs: Shot creation off the bench, Dwyane Wade insurance
Trade Target: Ramon Sessions
The Miami Heat don't need much. When you win back-to-back championships, it's more about maintenance than building.
That said, adding extra insurance can never hurt.
Considering the shaky state of Dwyane Wade's knees, the Heat might want to prepare for the worst-case scenario a little early.
While there's no player who would be able to completely replace what Wade does on the floor if the Heat lose him, Ramon Sessions can do a decent imitation.
Last year with the Charlotte Bobcats, Sessions was a stud sixth man who often played quite a bit of shooting guard. Despite the change in role and position, Sessions put up eye-raising numbers, highlighted by a whopping 7.6 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes.
To provide context for how elite Sessions was at drawing fouls last season, his 7.6 attempts per 36 were 1.2 attempts better than Wade's per-36 totals.
Thanks in large part to his blinding speed, Sessions can pretty regularly get in the paint and create for others. The Heat would miss that without Wade in the lineup and with LeBron James on the bench. Miami's supporting cast is composed almost solely of stand-still shooters.
On a modest $5 million expiring deal, Sessions would fit in Miami's financial window and should be relatively easy to acquire. Something along the lines of Mario Chalmers and a second-round pick for Sessions might make sense for both teams, as Charlotte could be in full-blown asset acquisition mode at some point this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Team Need: Frontcourt upgrade, veteran player off the bench
Trade Target: Channing Frye
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti should get rid of Kendrick Perkins just so Scott Brooks doesn't have to play him so much.
Finding a team to take Perkins' contract won't be easy, but a similar deal in size and length like Channing Frye's might do the job.
Frye has to prove he's ready to go after heart problems sidelined him all of last year, but he could be an interesting target for the Thunder as a great shooting big man who could open up driving lanes for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The downgrade in talent from Frye to Perkins for the Phoenix Suns could be easily swallowed if the Thunder sent a young prospect like Perry Jones III over. Phoenix is all about acquiring young players with potential right now, first and foremost.
Oklahoma City is limited in its ability to make deals because it wants to stay under the tax, but moving on from Perkins and finding more time for Nick Collison is something that probably should have happened a long time ago.
Golden State Warriors
Team Need: A better defender at the 4
Trade Target: John Henson
The Golden State Warriors have a bright future with their young backcourt, but finding the right matches up front will be tricky. David Lee's monster salary is going to be tough to move, and Andrew Bogut is headed for unrestricted free agency next offseason.
While trades like this very rarely happen, a swap of sophomore players (Henson for Harrison Barnes) could benefit both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors.
In Henson, the Warriors could have a Bogut replacement who could handle the rim-protection and glass-cleaning needs at a cheap price. Barnes would be tough to part with, but Henson's defense would likely impact the bottom line more than Barnes' scoring would.
This move would be all about need and fit, as from a talent standpoint this appears to be a pretty even deal. Milwaukee gets to stick with Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, and the Warriors get to play Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala all the minutes they can handle.
Team Need: A three-point specialist who can soak up backup point guard minutes if needed
Trade Target: Jimmer Fredette
The Indiana Pacers led the league in defensive efficiency last season, but offensively there were plenty of issues.
While Danny Granger's return and a few smaller bench additions (Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland) could give a serious boost to Indiana's 20th-ranked offense, you can never have too much shooting coming off the pine.
It's important to remember that despite their success, the Pacers were just 22nd in three-point percentage last year. Because the defense is good enough to hide a subpar individual defender (much like the Chicago Bulls), the Pacers can take a chance on a guy like Jimmer Fredette.
After a rough rookie season, Fredette rebounded to hit 41.7 percent of his shots behind the arc, dropping in 2.4 makes per 36 minutes last year. Fredette's floor spacing and ability to play on or off the ball offensively would be a nice luxury for a contending team with very few holes.
Slated to be a third-string guard on the Sacramento Kings, Fredette might come cheap. Considering Sacramento's big hole at small forward, the Pacers might be able to move Solomon Hill and Orlando Johnson for Fredette.
Again, the Pacers don't need much, but nearly every elite team stockpiles elite outside shooters, and Fredette appears to be just that.
Los Angeles Clippers
Team Need: Defensive-minded third big man
Trade Target: Samuel Dalembert
The Los Angeles Clippers acquired Doc Rivers to establish his revered defensive system, but the Clips may not have the personnel off the bench to make it work. If Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan miss time, the result would be increased minutes for Byron Mullens or Antawn Jamison. That's a little scary.
If the Dallas Mavericks are out of the hunt or if Brandan Wright plays so well that he demands the bulk of the minutes, a swap of Dalembert and Wayne Ellington for Jamal Crawford could benefit both teams. Crawford's contract next season isn't fully guaranteed, and if the Mavs kept him, he'd provide some instant scoring off the bench.
Crawford may be the odd man out of a crowded backcourt for the Clippers, and adding a rim protector like Dalembert, who can also stretch the floor, might take priority over Crawford's streaky scoring contributions. Ellington would be a nice addition as a spot-up shooter as well.
Not many teams need a sixth man, but Crawford's contract situation and potential to want more minutes could make him an asset worth shopping.
Team Need: A young, athletic wing who can defend
Trade Target: Jamaal Franklin
The Brooklyn Nets don't have an awful lot of movable assets, but perhaps more importantly, they don't have the minutes available.
With that in mind, the Nets can only really make fringe moves.
Due to the age of the roster and the plodding nature of Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, the Nets could use an athletic defender on the wing. Andrei Kirilenko will help there, but counting on him to stay healthy is always dicey.
Acquiring a player like Memphis Grizzlies second-round pick Jamaal Franklin for future considerations could give the Nets a young wing defender to groom. That's one of the few things missing in Brooklyn this year.
Team Need: A stretchy power forward
Trade Target: Ryan Anderson
Dwight Howard may not be able to man a defense all by himself like he used to, but the Houston Rockets could have a legitimate shot at the having the league's best offense if they put a capable three-point shooter at the power forward spot.
A swap of Omer Asik for Ryan Anderson makes plenty of sense for both the Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Asik is a young big who would pair nicely with Anthony Davis and make the Pelicans defense sturdy, while Anderson has shown in the past that he can play very well off Dwight Howard in the post and in the pick-and-pop game.
With practically identical salaries, Asik for Anderson seems like a deal that would satisfy all parties.
Team Need: Backup center who can protect the rim
Trade Target: Gorgui Dieng
The Chicago Bulls are another contender without a lot of obvious flaws, so long as everyone is healthy. Any trade would likely result from Derrick Rose showing he's back at full strength and Marquis Teague making Kirk Hinrich expendable.
Hinrich is a valuable player for the Bulls because he can back up either guard spot and defend well, but the Bulls are pretty thin in the frontcourt behind Taj Gibson.
Adding a player like Dieng would provide extra depth, and the rookie big man's high-post passing on offense could mimic what the starting unit does with Joakim Noah.
If Luol Deng's contract wasn't expiring, perhaps the Bulls would have considered selecting Dieng instead of Tony Snell with the 21st pick. Dieng was most often linked to the Bulls before the draft, so perhaps there's still some lingering interest there.
Something like Kirk Hinrich and a heavily protected 2014 first-round pick for Gorgui Dieng, Alexey Shved and a second-round pick could benefit both teams. Minnesota could use a veteran defensive-minded combo guard with size behind Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, and even a late first-rounder in this deep draft would provide value. The Bulls, meanwhile, would get an infusion of cheap young talent.
New York Knicks
Team Need: Frontcourt defense
Trade Target: Aron Baynes
The New York Knicks are locked and loaded for the season with solid depth at every position, but things could fall apart quickly if Tyson Chandler goes down and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani are asked to actually play defense.
Given Chandler's injury history, the Knicks should probably prepare for the worst-case scenario in any way they can. Kenyon Martin is a bit of an insurance policy, but going out and getting a bigger body like Aron Baynes from the Spurs would make a lot of sense.
Moving Beno Udrih after December 15 for a player like Baynes could work, as the Knicks have three guards (Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert) capable of handling point guard duties already. On the Spurs side, Udrih could give Tony Parker a rest while mimicking Parker's love for mid-range jumpers.
The Knicks probably don't need to make a move until an injury hits, but avoiding any situation where Stoudemire and Bargnani share the floor would be wise.
San Antonio Spurs
Team Need: Backup point guard
Trade Target: J.J. Barea
The San Antonio Spurs don't need much, but finding a replacement for Gary Neal who can also run the point would be a good starting spot.
J.J. Barea of the Minnesota Timberwolves might not be the most efficient scorer in the world, but the Spurs could use his ability to find his own buckets coming off the bench. Barea also seems to kill the Oklahoma City Thunder whenever he goes up against them, which might be a nice added bonus.
San Antonio would be just fine rolling with Nando De Colo as a backup ball-handler, but if things fall off for the Timberwolves and they aren't in the playoff hunt near the deadline, a swap of De Colo and Matt Bonner for Barea would clear up some future salary for the Timberwolves while giving them a young prospect to play with.
While it's doubtful the Spurs make a big move, adding some scoring power might not be a bad idea.
Team Need: A young wing scorer
Trade Target: Marcus Thornton
The Memphis Grizzlies had a great run last year, but the age of the starting wings is a little concerning going forward. Tayshaun Prince is 33 and Tony Allen is 31, and neither player provides great perimeter shooting.
The Grizzlies have done well without it, but it might be time to bring in a young shooter and scorer on the wing who can either start or heat it up quickly off the bench.
Marcus Thornton of the Sacramento Kings can fill those quotas. Thornton averages 19.4 points per 36 minutes on his career and is a high-volume three-point shooter. Defenses have to pay attention to him.
A swap of Prince for Thornton could benefit both sides.
Quincy Pondexter may be a better option at small forward for the Grizzlies right now anyway, and Prince could provide some veteran leadership at a position of need while freeing up plenty of minutes for Ben McLemore in Sacramento.
With both players having two years left on their deals, the Grizzlies might want to sacrifice a little D for the sake of the offense.