The NBA Trade Deadline is set for Thursday, March 13 at 2pm CST, and plenty of teams around the association will be working to improve their situation in 2012 and/or beyond. Do the Los Angeles Lakers need to move Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum to surround Kobe Bryant with a point guard? Do upstart teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers have a shot at competing now by making the right addition to their talented but incomplete rosters? Should the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors sell off some of their assets and eye a run two or three years down the line?
There might not be better way to assess the standing of each team around the league and their respective needs than to look at a visual breakdown of strengths and weaknesses in these NBA Power Rankings. Some things are very clear -- the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls remain a cut above everyone else -- while other issues are still murky. The Portland Trail Blazers still look good in terms of efficiency differential, but (as usual) they have suffered from some bad luck and their actual record lags behind. The Orlando Magic are a top-10 team and the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but incessant Dwight Howard speculation makes the whole operation seem like more of a disappointment than it has really been so far this year. Anyways, let's take a look at the current NBA landscape and see what we can see.
Here are three observations that seem particularly relevant with the 2012 NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching:
(1) The LA Lakers need to find a good three-point shooter. There has been plenty of talk about the Lakers pursuing a point guard in the trade market, even if it means parting with Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum, but the gaping hole at the PG position should come with an asterisk. Kobe Bryant and company have the third-worst three-point shooting percentage in the entire NBA (30.3 percent) at the moment, so merely adding a distributor wouldn't quite solve the problems with their No. 14 offense. Yes their turnover rate is a bit high at the moment, and they rely far to much on Kobe Bryant isolation sets at the end of games, but the team needs to find someone who can truly stroke it from beyond the arc to make a noticeable improvement. If they can't land Kyle Lowry and instead make a move for someone like Ramon Sessions -- a career 28.7 percent shooting from three-point range -- don't expect an amazing bump in efficiency. Ray Allen, anyone?
(2) The Indiana Pacers need an efficient scorer, or at least someone who finishes well at the rim. The Indiana Pacers have been impressive so far this season, and they are currently the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but there is a serious problem with their offense. With stretch shooters like Danny Granger, Paul George, David West and even Roy Hibbert (who attempts more shots from 3-9 feet than at the rim), Indiana currently has the lowest shooting percentage at the rim of any NBA team (56.1 percent). That's a whopping six percent below the league average! It explains why the Pacers' offense ranks just 20th in True Shooting and 15th in Offensive Efficiency, but it might be difficult to find an easy fix to the problem. One quick solution might come from playing George Hill (61.5 percent finisher) over Darren Collison (52.3 percent finisher) more at point guard, but adding a big man with any semblance of a post game or even just an athletic slasher could go a long way towards making Indy a more legitimate challenger in the playoffs. Warning: Jamal Crawford -- a 54.1 percent finisher in 2011-12 and 59.3 in 2010-11 -- isn't the answer the Pacers are really looking for right now. However, someone like Luis Scola would be a nice fit that actually addresses their big offensive deficiency.
(3) The Milwaukee Bucks should feel free to sell off anyone and everyone. But the Bucks are just two games out of the No. 8 seed in the East! Well, here are a couple other interesting facts: (a) they are the equivalent of 14th place in the West, (b) they own the No. 22 overall record in the NBA and the No. 22 efficiency differential (-3.14 points per 100 possessions) and (c) they have no business prioritizing a backdoor route into a playoff spot without honor over the future health of their franchise. Trade Ersan Ilyasova, unless you are determined to resign him. Trade Stephen Jackson to the most desperate GM you can find for next to nothing (Otis Smith should be on line one, Mr. Hammond). Trade absolutely anyone as long as you get back young assets, draft picks or serious financial relief going forward. A recent win over the Knicks doesn't make this team any better than a bottom third team with an upside of a bottom half team in the NBA, unless Andrew Bogut can get healthy very, very quickly.
Here is a complete look at the NBA: