The NBA is definitely a parity league. No matter now much teams stack up, it seems like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are poised for a fourth straight meeting in the NBA Finals. Still, that shouldn’t stop any NBA team from stacking up talent to compete in the NBA. In fact, there are a few NBA teams that are somewhat borderline contenders. Now that the trade deadline is approaching, there are some players that can turn a few teams into contenders.
Here are a five teams that are one trade away from contention. Hopefully, these teams can actively get what they need to destroy the parity in the NBA.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently 19-13 in the NBA. That’s only good for 4th seed in the NBA Western Conference. The Timberwolves finally look ready to make the postseason since 2004. Though, why isn’t the team making any noise? That’s partly because the Timberwolves still need some help in their lineup. The Timberwolves main trio includes Karl Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, and Andrew Wiggins. All three of these players are meshing well so far in the regular season, but the Timberwolves just don’t look like they are ready to make the next transition into contention.
The Timberwolves need defensive-minded players. In the regular season, they allow their opponents to shoot 37% from the three point line. That number isn’t bad, but it’s not really that good either. If the Timberwolves can get a hold of a defensive jockey, they can potentially climb the standings as one of the best teams in the NBA. Obviously, the offense is there. Towns, Wiggins, and Butler are playing really well and are a menace on the court. Though, if the Timberwolves can’t get a quality defender, they might not ever be able to challenge the real title contenders in the Playoffs.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have been a surprise to watch this season. Many people have questioned whether or not DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis would fit together in the frontcourt, and the results have been positive. The Pelicans are currently the eighth seed in the West and look poised to stay there, especially due to key injuries keeping the Jazz and Clippers at bay. But, should a team with two of the best centers in the NBA be content with the eight seed? Of course not. That’s why the Pelicans are in a unique position as the trade deadline approaches.
In retrospect, the Pelicans are better than what their record suggests. With one piece, they should be able to fight for contention in the Western Conference. The Pelicans need to secure a reliable wing that can cushion the dynamic frontcourt of the Pelicans’ offense. Interestingly, the Pelicans have received large contributions from their bench, which is always good. However, with a quality wing player such as Tobias Harris or Robert Covington, the Pelicans would be amazing on offense. With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans have the skill to beat any team down low. With the right wing player, they can torch defenses with backdoor cuts, solid screens, and shooting. If the Pelicans can find the right player, their position should change almost immediately.
3. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the entire NBA. They have received amazing production from Otto Porter, and Bradley Beal has taken the next step towards NBA stardom. The Wizards have a chip on their shoulder from getting embarrassed last year by the Celtics, and they look ready to make a statement this year. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. The Wizards are ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference, but they are tied with the likes of the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks. What exactly is wrong with the Wizards, you may ask. The problem lies in their bench.
The Wizards’ starting lineup is solid, but who exactly do they have in the second unit? Their main bench pieces are Kelly Oubre, Mike Scott, and Ian Mahimi? That doesn’t necessarily form a great bench unit. In fact, the Wizards’ disappointing second unit was one of the main reasons why they lost to the Celtics in the second round. You need depth to contend, and the Wizards can gain some depth by trading for established veterans and bench pieces such as Lou Williams or Wilson Chandler. If they can secure more depth, the Wizards can definitely join the upper echelon in the Eastern Conference.
2. Toronto Raptors
Unlike the rest of these teams, the Toronto Raptors are doing marvelous this year. The Raptors are currently second seed in the Eastern Conference, featuring a brilliant 22-8 record. In fact, the Raptors have exceeded expectations this year. DeMar DeRozan has transcended into superstar terrain, and Kyle Lowry has returned to his usual self. Though, this isn’t the time for the Raptors to get complacent. The Raptors need an upgrade in the frontcourt, but it’s not in the power forward position. The Raptors need a rebounding and defensive big man that can get his own buckets. With an added center, the Raptors will be scary good this year.
DeAndre Jordan and Nikola Vucevic would make excellent additions for the Raptors, as they try to beat teams down low with physical play. The adding scoring can also throw teams off balance in the post, creating a variety of fastbreak opportunities for DeRozan to thrive in.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have certainly been disappointing all year. The trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony just isn’t working. While there is still a lot of time for the gang to figure out the offense, the Thunder’s problem lies in its bench. In fact, the Thunder’s second unit only got worse when Victor Oladipo was traded away. Andre Roberson can’t shoot, and it’s a problem. Alex Abrines is inconsistent. Jerami Grant is a solid grab, and Raymond Felton is on and off. Patrick Patterson is the Thunder’s only reliable option in their second unit, and that won’t cut it if the Thunder hope to battle the likes of the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and the Golden State Warriors.
A small upgrade for a few two-way bench players will greatly improve the Thunder and take stress off of Westbrook. Actually, for all of these teams, gaining necessary players can increase competition and hoist each of these teams into title contention fairly quickly. We’ll just have to wait and see on what happens at the trade deadline.