This season, the league can thank Cleveland Cavaliers for that following the team’s massive overhaul midway through the season. Such large scale changes are normally reserved in times before the season starts and not after going halfway through the campaign.
Former franchise players Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose headlined the group in an immediate response to Kyrie Irving’s trade demand before the season commenced.
But the experiment went bad and fearing a possible early postseason round exit, Cavs General Manager Koby Altman went to work and moved a lot of the older guys out and filled their spots with younger players. So the Cavs got Larry Nance Jnr, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood and got younger with a knack for playing better on defense.
The team solved alarming issues in the midseason trade but other contenders largely played little or no part. However, the NBA is all about second chances and teams in this bracket can get something even after the trade deadline.
Washington Wizards quickly come to mind as a team primed for great things but is held back by its consistently bad bench. The team has all the tools to make the Eastern Conference Finals yet it has two semifinal appearances since 2010 to show for its efforts.
Scott Brooks took OKC Thunder to the NBA Finals, Bradley Beal and John Wall are All Stars, Otto Porter Jnr. is a productive third scoring option. Kelly Oubre Jnr. is a future Sixth Man of the Year Candidate.
With all these weapons available, one might be tempted to believe the team can pass on free agent Joe Johnson. Johnson reached a buyout with Utah Jazz and is reportedly heading to Houston Rockets. Washington has few issues regarding the starting unit but same cannot be said about its bench which needs Johnson’s skills to keep up with opposing teams when starters sit.
With Ian Mahinmi’s struggles evident and Tomas Satoransky developing his game, Johnson’s ability to create his own shot and draw multiple defenders with his isolation heavy play would be a positive change for the team. Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce added more highlights to his glittering career as a lynchpin off Washington’s bench.
While Detroit Pistons made the headlines before Cleveland jumped in at the last minute, the team needs all the help it can get to move into the playoff spots. Opening things up more on offense certainly is top of the list. Despite getting Blake Griffin and veteran Point Guard Jameer Nelson in midseason, Griffin’s partnership with non three point shooting Center Andre Drummond makes it easier for opposing teams to guard them.
With Marco Bellinelli set to become a free agent after buying out his contract with Atlanta Hawks, Detroit needs the Italian veteran’s steady three point stroke off the bench to maintain its top four spot three point shooting percentage rank. There is nothing like having too many shooters on a team and adding Belinelli to Anthony Tolliver and Nelson opens up a lot of space for Drummond, Griffin and Reggie Jackson to score.
Possessing the second best record in the league and playing some of the ball this season, Houston Rockets have little incentive to risk rocking the boat in midseason. Many expected the Chris Paul-James Harden combination to take a while before gelling but both players have made it work seamlessly. However beyond the duo, Eric Gordon is the only viable option at the Point position which makes it necessary to have cover.
Enter Derrick Rose, the former MVP winner who has been traded to Utah but his contract is likely to be bought out as rumors of reunion with Chicago Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota are rife. Rose is far from the best shooter from deep and relies heavily on his ability to get to the rim as a sure scoring option. However, in Cleveland and now Utah, that will be problematic since neither team’s offense is spaced out enough. On the other hand, Houston’s offense is well spaced due to the abundance of three point shooting threats even in the second unit.
Ryan Anderson, Gerald Green, Luc Mbah a Moute, PJ Tucker and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon take defenders away from the basket which is sure to benefit Rose. After suffering several long term injuries, Rose can take a cue from Gordon’s health uptick since joining the Rockets to make the move.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter