Prior to Christmas there are a number of teams that are a key player away from becoming legitimate threats in both the Western and Eastern conferencesb
Teams: New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Kobe can end his career with Phil Jackson, while chasing a chip in the weaker Eastern conference. The bulk of the scoring load is lifted off of Carmelo, and Linsanity returns to NY where he became an overnight celebrity. Lin will not be relied upon for his scoring output and instead will come off the bench and provide a spark. Meanwhile NY Knicks can shave some salary off the books with JR Smith and Amare’ (who the Lakers will be thrilled about last year of his contract). At least they receive Tim Hardaway Jr. who along with "Swaggy P" will be the future of the Lakers' shooting guard position Post-Black Mamba.
Teams: Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans
Austin Rivers has never fit into the lineup for Monty Williams in New Orleans, and Eric Gordon has not managed to stay healthy for very long. Joe Johnson comes to a New Orleans Pelicans team that is on the brink of making serious noise in the Western conference. Although Tyreke Evans has been playing well, he can continue to come off the bench as a 6th man a la Jamal Crawford, and Joe Johnson can take over secondary scoring responsibilities behind Anthony Davis. Bringing Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon to Brooklyn alongside Deron Williams will provide some younger talent that Billy King can continue to build around.
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had some recent success but one piece of the puzzle has not quite seem to fit and that is Dion Waiters. Dion has been shifted from starter to bench player, but when he is on the court with Kyrie Irving the offense is not as fluid. He is a good scorer, who can create his own shot fairly easily but is taking minutes away from Mike Miller who would be better suited to play alongside Irving and LeBron. He would fit well on a Nuggets team which lacks both defensive tenacity and a go to scorer outside of Ty Lawson. JaVale McGee has not worked out in Denver, and with Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson the front court may be a bit too crowded. The Cavaliers could use a rim protector—badly. If Lebron can rub off on JaVale the same way he has on Tristan Thompson, then LBJ can finally have that defensive center he has been dreaming about playing alongside.
Teams: Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets
Kevin McHale has been trying to get Rajon Rondo in a Rockets uniform since the end of the original “Big 3”. He is the missing link that is preventing the Rockets from elevating to the next level. Rondo and Harden become a fiercely competitive back court in the Wild west, Jeff Green reunites with his old Thunder teammate, and the Rockets become a serious title contender. On the other hand Danny Ainge becomes stocked with guards, after recently drafting Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley re-signing as a combo guard the Celtics have to build some front court depth. Taking back the contracts of Donatas Motiejunas and Kostas Papnikolaou provide some young rich European talent on a rebuilding squad who will most likely have a high draft pick. Nick Johnson is an exciting, athletic, crafty ball handler and scorer who has the potential to develop into a serious SG.
Tune in Saturday's for the weekly podcast, and hear Lils discuss whats poppin in the Urban sports media world.