The Nets (29-20) are one of a handful of teams looking to make some upgrades before the second half of the season begins. In order to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn will need to acquire players that will give the team’s roster more flexibility and allow coach P.J. Carlesimo to put the most effective lineups on the floor.
With a backcourt that features perennial All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, looking to improve the frontcourt remains the priority. Gerald Wallace has been decent at small forward this season, and Brook Lopez will make his first All-Star appearance, but there are upgrades that can be made at the power forward and center positions.
Mozgov had his best season in 2011/2012 when he averaged 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The 26-year-old has spent most of this season on the bench, averaging just 10.4 minutes per game. Nuggets coach George Karl has opted instead to give increased playing time to young centers JaVale McGhee and Kosta Koufus.
Mozgov is an attractive target for Brooklyn because he is young, has great size and athleticism and has the potential to become a solid backup to Brook Lopez.
Acquiring Mozgov will also allow P.J. Carlesimo to insert power forward Andray Blatche into the starting lineup. Blatche has been a pleasant surprise for the Nets this season, averaging 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 19.9 minutes per game. Ideally, Blatche would have already been starting at power forward alongside Lopez, but the lack of roster flexibility has forced Carlesimo to use him as a backup center.
The Nets have a plethora of power forwards on their roster, but lack a player at the position who can both score and defend at a high-level.
Since becoming head coach, P.J. Carlesimo has elected to start Reggie Evans over Kris Humphries and Mirza Teletovic. Evans is an above-average defender and rebounder, but is horrendous on the offensive end of the floor. He’s averaging an abysmal 3.3 points in 22.1 minutes per game this season and has shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, both Humphries and Teletovic have been wildly inconsistent.
The Nets would be a better team with Evans providing energy coming off the bench. In order for this to happen, Billy King needs to trade for an exceptional power forward to tandem with Lopez.
The best potentially available power forward is Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Like Brooklyn, Utah has a surplus of power forwards, and might be willing to part with Millsap with youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings.
Millsap is owed $8.6 million in 2012/2013, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, both above his career averages. More importantly, Millsap would provide the Nets with a hardworking power forward who can shoot, rebound and defend at a high-level.
Josh Smith is without question one of the most talented power forwards in the NBA. With the Hawks slowly falling out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta may look to move Smith at the deadline. The 27-year-old is owed $13.2 million in 2012-2013 and is on the last year of his contract. It would be wise of the Hawks, if Smith is no longer in their long-term plans, to get something for him before he walks away for nothing at the end of the season.
From a basketball perspective, Smith would be a great fit for the Nets. He’s an elite athlete, who is highly-productive on both ends of the floor. He’s averaging 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, and could be a nice complement to Brook Lopez.
While Smith would improve the Nets’ interior defense and fast-break offense, he’s notorious for taking ill-advised jump shots that are beyond his range. There is a chance he could disrupt the Nets offense that relies on players being unselfish, moving the ball and finding the open man.
From a financial perspective, acquiring Smith would be a risky move. He’ll most likely be looking for a near max deal at season’s end, and Brooklyn already has three max contract players on its roster.
Trading for Smith makes the Nets instant title contenders in 2013, but it’s unlikely the team would be able to sign him to a long-term contract. Even still, he’s well worth consideration if the right deal presents itself.
There appears to be a changing of the guard taking place in Toronto, and with the trade deadline approaching, center Andrea Bargnani could be on his way out.
After the former No. 1 overall pick was sidelined with an elbow injury on December 10, the Raptors found success using a front linethat focused heavily on playing solid defense and rebounding. Toronto made it clear when they traded Jose Calderon that they’re trying get younger and more explosive in the backcourt, and appear to be moving in a different direction with their frontcourt as well.
Bargnani is a unique player. seven-foot three-point shooters are hard to come by in the NBA, and he could provide a nice scoring option for the Nets second unit. The 27-year-old Italian is far more of a finesse player than Timofey Mozgov, but could be effective in tandem with a player like Reggie Evans, allowing Andray Blatche to start at power forward.
Bargnani was averaging 16.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game before his injury. He is owed roughly $20.8 million over the next two seasons.
At 24-23, the Celtics are clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The team could look to move aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, knowing that without Rondo, winning a championship is no longer a realistic goal for this season.
Garnett will be 37 in May, but has remained a very productive player. This season he’s averaging 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
His leadership and tenacity make him a perfect fit for the Nets, and he could be the player that elevates them to a title contender in 2013.
Like Josh Smith, however, acquiring Garnett makes little sense from a financial perspective. He is owed $24 million over the next two seasons, and has a $12 million option with $6 million guaranteed for the 2014/2015 season.
While it’s unlikely Billy King will be able to pull Garnett away from Boston, the idea of a Garnett/Lopez configuration in Brooklyn is tantalizing.
This article originally appeared on Bleacher Report.