We are 20 games into the NBA season, and just like last year, the teams from LA have been looking like the favorites to win it all. Still, with certain changes, some challengers may take a step forward. What are the 3 NBA teams that need to trade before the deadline? How can the contenders improve their chances of making this year’s finals?
More than a month after the start of the season, things are starting to unravel. We see some teams playing better than what we’re used to seeing from them (Obviously, The Knicks). And, we see some teams struggling to improve their performance from last year.
Of course, making a trade to improve your team is always an option. But which NBA teams should explore the market, and who can upgrade enough to upset the Los Angeles favorites?
No. 3 – Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have already made the biggest trade of this season. They gave away their bench, some rim protection, and more picks than we can count. But they got a superstar in return. James Harden is now playing with KD and Kyrie Irving. The Nets have a big 3, but what’s missing?
“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.” You’ve probably heard this Bear Bryant quote a bunch of times already. But that’s what the Nets have been looking like so far (except they can’t even sell tickets due to the league’s COVID-19 restrictions).
The Nets have spent most of the season below the 20th spot in defensive efficiency, and it hasn’t been better since they made the blockbuster trade. They lost 147-135 to the Cavs in their first game with all the stars together. And it hasn’t been better since.
The Nets’ defense came to a low point. They gave up 149 points in four quarters to none other than the Washington Wizards, the team with the worst record in the league. And, they managed to lose a 5 point lead with only 12 seconds left in the game.
Brooklyn is a contender with the team they already have. The big three can go shot for shot with anybody, but can they do it for 4 games against the Lakers or the Clippers? Or do they actually need to invest in some defense? Are there veterans willing to do the dirty work for the Nets’ Big 3? It’s hard to say who should Brooklyn trade for, but most likely, the stars are going to need some help.
No. 2 – Denver Nuggets
A couple of months ago, the Denver Nuggets beat the Jazz and the Clippers in a 7-game-series. They did that by having 2 guys playing on a superstar level. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic really showed up for their team in the playoffs. And it still wasn’t enough to win it all. Right now, they don’t seem to be better than the team that lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Don’t get the wrong idea; the Nuggets aren’t bad. They have improved their record after a slow start to the season. But it seems as we’ve seen this before. Nikola Jokic is playing like a true superstar, and the rest can’t keep up.
Jamal Murray is averaging almost his exact numbers from last year’s regular season. The rest of the team isn’t showing a lot of improvement either. Michael Porter Jr is having a better season than last year, but he is far from his prime. Some international fans hoped that Facundo Campazzo might allow Jokic to create a bit less, allowing him to rest, but Campazzo doesn’t spend enough time on the court.
It looks like the only way to take a step forward is to split the big duo they have or get them a third star. Bradley Beal’s frustration with the Wizards has been growing. If he requests a trade, should the Nuggets be first in line?
What if Denver offers both Murray and Porter Jr in a package for Beal? Could we see the league’s top scorer playing in Colorado for a while? And would that be the push the Nuggets need to get them over the hump and at least in the finals?
No. 1 – Milwaukee Bucks
Everything changed in the East when James Harden moved to the Nets. The Bucks stopped being the favorites to go out of the conference as soon as that big 3 formed. And even without the Nets, it’s hard to take anybody to win the East over the Sixers and the Celtics right now.
Milwaukee Bucks did some great things since last season ended. The biggest one of all is getting Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign the 5-year extension with the team. The second thing they had to do is bring more help for the back-to-back MVP.
They got Jrue Holiday. He is an improvement over Eric Bledsoe. Jrue can help the Bucks on both sides of the court. They ended up not getting Bogdanovic ( who is currently injured ) that could have been a valuable asset in their journey to the championship.
Aside from that, not a lot has changed. Middleton is still the number 2 guy, averaging his usual numbers (with a slight increase in APG and shooting percentages). And the biggest problem of them all, Giannis still can’t shoot.
The MVP still can’t find his 3-point shot, and on top of that, he can’t hit free throws. Antetokounmpo’s free throw percentage is at his NBA career-worst 59%. If Milwaukee wants a championship, something needs to change.
Just like the rest of the league, The Bucks might take a shot at getting Bradley Beal. Zach Lavine is another star shooting guard that might become available, which could help many NBA teams. What should the Bucks do? Is this the season to risk it all and try to win a ring with Giannis?