More shooting? Bench depth? Draft picks for the future?
The Athletic asked its NBA writers this week what they think each team needs. Here’s what they said:
3-point shooting: We can make a case for the team needing a perimeter defender (gettable) and a stretch four (good luck). But 3-point shooting has gone from a strength to a weakness, partly because of the trade of Kevin Huerter (salary-cap casualty) and the decline of Bogdan Bogdanovic. A reliable shooter off the bench would help make up for a porous defense.
Third big man: The Celtics should feel confident in their eight-man playoff rotation, which will likely include Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Grant Williams off the bench. When healthy, they won’t have many minutes for a third big man behind Al Horford and Robert Williams. Still, that’s where they should be looking. Luke Kornet has been solid, but the Celtics could use another center who can play a different style than he does. If a bigger acquisition like Jakob Poeltl doesn’t make sense, they should be looking for a switchable player with size like Charlotte’s P.J. Washington or Houston’s Jae’Sean Tate.
Scoring forward: There’s been so much focus on finding another backup for Robert Williams and Horford that many Celtics fans have forgotten the hole in the rotation left by Danilo Gallinari’s injury. There have been times this season when the team has clearly needed another forward who can create his own shot, rather than just a shooter who can attack space and move it. The Celtics need more bench scoring when Brogdon isn’t catching fire, and another forward can help.
Physical center who can shoot free throws: Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton are two of the Nets’ best defenders. They’re also two of the team’s worst free-throw shooters. Playing them both down the stretch in close games will lead to inevitable hacking, and Claxton has already seen a recent uptick in free-throw attempts. Finding someone who can guard the Joel Embiids of the world and not be a liability from the charity stripe would be a welcomed sight.
Clarity on Miles Bridges: The team’s leading scorer during the 2021-22 season has been out of the league since being arrested last June on felony domestic violence charges (Bridges pleaded no contest and was recently sentenced to three years probation). On the court, he would help them more than any trade they could make, at least in terms of talent coming in. Getting off Gordon Hayward’s contract (one year and $31.5 million remaining) also would be nice. What a disaster for Charlotte — paying out $120 million over four years to a player who hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
3-point shooting: For the second straight season, the Bulls rank last in 3-pointers attempted per game. With virtually the same roster, a glaring issue for the Bulls last season has spilled into this season and already made the difference in a handful of outcomes. There’s a long list of needs for Chicago, but 3-point shooting should be the most accessible.
Wing stability: The deadline conversation has turned back to a potential trade for a wing. The Cavs have tried different players as the starting small forward this season, including Caris LeVert, Lamar Stevens and Isaac Okoro. Dean Wade also entered the year in that conversation, but he has dealt with injuries. Is there an available wing who offers an upgrade from their current options? Remember: the Cavs also don’t have much available in terms of first-round draft assets to add to a trade.