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The Western Conference At The Deadline

When the clock hit 3 PM EST on Thursday, basketball fans around the globe groaned as another NBA trade deadline passed without the epic blockbusters that fill the RealGM Forums. Although the deadline lacked a true blockbuster, the trades that were made (and the ones that were left on the table) will undoubtedly shift the landscape of the Western Conference playoff picture and possibly the team that will be facing the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals (It’s a lock, nobody is seriously questioning it).

The four most notable trades in the West came from the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors, who picked up Steve Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers, will look for him to provide the steady hand off the bench that they have been pursuing since Jarrett Jack left in the offseason. Blake’s addition isn’t going to drastically improve the team, but he is able to give the team quality backup point guard minutes behind Stephen Curry, given Jordan Crawford’s inability to play without Brad Stevens as his coach.

The Rockets moved little used backup point guard, Aaron Brooks, to the Denver Nuggets for Jordan Hamilton. After refusing to lower their insane asking price on Omer Asik, the Rockets decided to fill their lack of a stretch four with Hamilton. Despite Hamilton blatantly not being a power forward or an elite shooter (39 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3), the Rockets apparently believe he can become one when freed up as Dwight Howard draws attention in the post. The more important aspect to this trade is that it likely allows the Rockets to call-up D-League star, Isaiah Canaan.

The Spurs traded little used point guard Nando de Colo for Austin Daye. In one of the day’s most intriguing moves, the Spurs took on another reclamation project in the form of a 6’11 shooter who was once a top prospect coming out of high school. While Daye has struggled to earn minutes outside of his second season in the NBA (when he shot 40 percent from 3), he has tremendous length, can guard multiple positions, and San Antonio has shown interest in him. If that isn’t a sign of someone that will be playing meaningful playoff minutes in May, I am not sure what is.

The last deals of any consequence in the West were by the Clippers. They traded both Antawn Jamison and BJ Mullens for the rights to a Turkish player that probably is unaware he was traded, and a conditional second round draft pick that will likely never happen. These deals, while not interesting beyond the salary implications for the Clippers, do allow open roster spots on the team for buyout candidates. Look for Glen “Big Baby” Davis to join his old coach, Doc Rivers.

While each team above made a move – albeit small – at the trade deadline, the other five teams in contention, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies all stood pat.

Although several teams are in desperate need of a big man (OKC, PDX, PHX), no one budged on Philly’s offer of two second round draft picks for Spencer Hawes.

Portland, who is without a second round draft pick until 2019, had a tremendous need for Hawes with Joel Freeland out for two months and LaMarcus Aldridge banged up.

The Thunder flirted with a deal for Knicks embattled shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, but backed off at the last moment.

As for the remaining needs, the slew of veterans that will likely be bought out this upcoming week will have to suffice. Fortunately for these teams, Glen Davis, Caron Butler, Danny Granger, Jason Terry, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Antawn Jamison are all buyout candidates.

Many NBA teams believe it is better to trade during the offseason so that players can get familiar with a system and their teammates, while others utilize the short second half of the season as a tryout for recently acquired players to see if they’re long-term fits. It appears that teams trading in the offseason are better off. For any fan grumbling over their team not making a blockbuster yesterday, here’s a stat you need to know: one; as in the number of Championship teams during the last 25 years to trade for a starter at the trade deadline (Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons in 2004). So while fans of the Rockets clamored for Rajon Rondo and Warriors' fans hoped for Kevin Love, just know that the odds of you winning the title with those guys was slim to none.

Happy Trade Deadline everyone! Only 124 more days until the NBA Draft!

Westbrook Has To Be Oklahoma City's Catalyst To A Championship

Kevin Durant provided Russell Westbrook with the opportunity to be announced last during player introductions during his first game back since last season's injury. The deferred introduction could be interpreted as merely a kind gesture to most spectators. Westbrook, on the other hand, viewed it as much more.

“It's a blessing, man,” said Westbrook of Durant’s act, but the true blessing will be if Durant defers to Westbrook and gives him the opening to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a championship. 

Perseverance, or mental toughness, is one of the most underrated qualities of an NBA player. Yet, in many cases it is the delineating factor between two great players. Durant, for instance, struggled to endure difficult circumstances; in particular those associated with James Harden being traded to the Houston Rockets.

During an interview with The Oklahoman, Durant confided:

"I was screaming at my teammates, at the refs, at the coaches. I got mad because I thought… if we have a bad game here, we're not going to win a championship.” 

Durant now professes that he will no longer worry about winning a championship. Likewise, he should not concern himself with serving as the team’s leader, but instead on accentuating leadership qualities. Westbrook should take on the leadership role for the Thunder.

Leadership can be defined as “a process of social influence” or the “action of leading a group to a common goal,” while a leader is the individual entrusted to cultivate the social influence that will eventually advance the group to their goal. Durant definitely demonstrated leadership qualities during Friday's game against the Detroit Pistons, scoring 37 points and getting to the free throw line 19 times.

Yet, it was Westbrook’s personality that cultivated the overall positive and enthusiastic sensation that led Oklahoma City to victory. He consistently plays with an explosive force that can be seen by onlookers but, most importantly, felt by teammates.  

Chauncey Billups speaks to Westbrook’s influential personality by stating, “In my opinion, Durant is the best player on the team. However, Russell’s explosiveness is what will make or break the team’s chances to win a championship.”

NBA teams traditionally take on the personality of the “best player” and of their head coach. Although the title of Oklahoma City Thunder’s “best player” is reserved for Durant, it is indisputable that Westbrook’s attitude and personality is the explosive force that influences the entire team. Such influence is needed to transform the Thunder into a championship worthy team comparable to the 2004 Pistons who were known for perseverance, physical endurance, effective defense, aggressive attitude, and unwavering grit… Sounds a lot like leadership qualities possessed by Russell Westbrook.

There are some people that will disagree and their skepticism is, in large part, a response to Westbrook’s occasional reckless impulses (like getting an offensive foul at the end of the game that kept the Pistons within striking distance). But it is important to recognize that the Thunder are no longer the skilled team they were with James Harden and their fate cannot be determined solely by Durant’s playing abilities. Westbrook’s leadership qualities, explosive personality, and ability to motivate and mobilize his team may be what Oklahoma City needs to move them toward a championship. 

30 Rapid-Fire Questions For Each Team's Front Office

The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.

Eastern Conference 

Atlanta Hawks: Are the Hawks going to try to bottom out and if not, what is their plan for the future?

Boston Celtics: What’s going to happen with Rajon Rondo's return from a torn ACL and how will the Celtics' front office go about their rebuilding process?

Brooklyn Nets: How will Jason Kidd lead a veteran roster filled with players he competed against for the last 15-20 years?

Charlotte Bobcats: Are Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller legitimate young players to build around?

Chicago Bulls: Do the Bulls need another source of offense to prevent defenses from dialing in on Derrick Rose?

Cleveland Cavaliers: Who will emerge as Kyrie Irving’s sidekick if Andrew Bynum doesn’t return to full health?

Detroit Pistons: Will the Pistons be able to manage a functional offense with three non-shooting big men?

Indiana Pacers: How will the Pacers divide playing time between Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson, and who will be more effective with the starting group?

Miami Heat: Will Shane Battier and Ray Allen be able to remain productive as the key three-point threats in the Heat offense?

Milwaukee Bucks: Can the Bucks trade some of their young promising players for an All-Star?

New York Knicks: Will Andrea Bargnani provide another element to an offense that became stagnant in the postseason?

Orlando Magic: Will the Magic be active in trying to trade some of its young pieces, or will they be patient and hope for another high lottery pick?

Philadelphia 76ers: To what lengths will the 76ers go to make sure they have the worst record in the league?

Toronto Raptors: When will the Raptors trade Rudy Gay and what will they get in return?

Washington Wizards: Do the Wizards need to add a frontcourt offensive threat in order to score consistently?

Western Conference

Dallas Mavericks: If it becomes clear that the Mavericks aren’t going to be a contender, what will they do about Dirk Nowitzki?

Denver Nuggets: What will the Nuggets do about the highly paid trio of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee if they do not make the playoffs?

Golden State Warriors: Will Andre Iguodala hurt the Warriors’ three-point attack that was so vital to their success in the postseason?

Houston Rockets: Will the Rockets keep Omer Asik and have the best backup center in the league while experimenting with coexisting with Dwight Howard, or will they trade him to bolster their rotation elsewhere?

Los Angeles Clippers: Do the Clippers need to make a move for an effective third big man in order to become a legitimate contender?

Los Angeles Lakers: How angry will Kobe Bryant be if the Lakers find themselves on the verge of missing the playoffs?

Memphis Grizzlies: How will the Grizzlies maintain a good balance between shooting and perimeter defense at their wing positions?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Will Derrick Williams have an opportunity to live up to his potential as a former second overall pick despite not being an offensive priority?

New Orleans Pelicans: How will Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon mesh in the backcourt?

Oklahoma City Thunder: Who will emerge as the new third scoring option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook?

Phoenix Suns: Is Eric Bledsoe capable of being the Suns’ point guard of the future?

Portland Trail Blazers: If the Trail Blazers struggle, will LaMarcus Aldridge’s name reemerge in trade rumors again?

Sacramento Kings: Is DeMarcus Cousins good enough for the Kings to put up with his immaturity?

San Antonio Spurs: Will Tiago Splitter develop enough to become a factor on both ends in the playoffs?

Utah Jazz: Will Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter work together in the frontcourt?

Why Comparing Players By High School Class Makes More Sense

Once players leave AAU basketball and enter college, their careers diverge quickly, even those with similar amounts of talent. Some declare too early, others too late. A perfect example of how our perceptions can change is to compare Jeremy Lamb to Victor Oladipo.

30-Team Offseason Rundown

Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.

2013 NBA Offseason Primer

With the 2013 NBA offseason underway, here is a primer on what all 30 teams are facing.

Leroux's 2013 NBA Draft Review

Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.

2013 NBA Amnesty Primer

One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.

The Lottery Lowdown

We have seen a whole lot of changes since the pre-Tournament issue of the Lottery Lowdown. March Madness gave us a few players to watch both this year and for 2014 while the Nike Hoop Summit and Combine helped clarify the picture in terms of athletic ability and positional versatility.

Thunder Head Into Offseason Early, Weakened From Season Ago

Had the Thunder been patient and truly believed in the strength of their program, they would have discovered that James Harden is better than good. Meanwhile, the Thunder are left with the burden of finding the right guys to get the team back to contender status.

Ronnie Brewer Could Ultimately Be Thunderís Answer For LeBron

When Sam Presti beat the trade deadline to acquire Ronnie Brewer, he had a vision of another wing defender the Oklahoma City Thunder could use in critical moments on Manu Ginobili or Kobe Bryant, and, ultimately, LeBron James.

Fred Hoiberg's Future

The early returns are impressive, but Fred Hoiberg's free-flowing and wide-open style of play is what has really caught the eyes of NBA GMís. He could become the Chip Kelly of college hoops, unless the NBA grabs him before he has the chance to finish the job at Iowa State.

Oklahoma City's New Third Star

Serge Ibaka has truly benefitted from not trying to replace James Harden. Accepting and knowing his role has allowed him to win the respect of his teammates and made his job a lot easier.

How Many Players Teams Acquire At Each Trade Deadline On Average

The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.

Life After Harden

The Thunder have a lot of question marks this season following their trade of James Harden, but have been able to sustain a strong winning percentage while figuring out the new composition of their team.

Leroux's 2012-13 NBA Tier Predcitions

While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.

On The James Harden Trade

The Thunder team that became the second favorite team of many NBA fans will enter a new, very different phase. Their relevance in the championship landscape will be put on hold for possibly longer than many people realize.

Wise End Of Bench Moves

This is the part of the offseason in which general managers fill out the very end of their roster. Would a name player at the very end of their career really make more sense than someone like Terrence Williams, DeAndre Liggins or Sundiata Gaines?

Leroux's 30-Team Offseason Review

The Nuggets, Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Nets were amongst the teams with great offseasons, while the Bucks, Magic, Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers and Bulls were in the bad column. Here's how all 30 teams have fared in the 2012 offseason.

Team-By-Team Gold Medal Winners

The Jazz and Thunder have had the most Gold Medalists since the USA began bringing NBA players in 1992, while Duke leads amongst colleges. How do the other 29 NBA teams rank?

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