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The 7 most desperate NBA teams as the trade deadline approaches

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What makes a team desperate? Which teams currently fit that definition? If you answered "unfilled expectations" and "the Knicks," you're right! The Hook looks at six more teams under the gun.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We have already seen two major moves (Rudy Gay, Luol Deng) and a scad of minor trades this season. But with the NBA trade deadline less than a month away, things should really get into gear ... if teams feel the urge to shake things up.

Certainly there are plenty of teams who should be ready to shake things up. Today's Hook is an exploration of which teams might be most desperate at this point.

What makes a team desperate? Let's turn to this highly scientific formula.

{[(Actual Wins - Expected Wins) * Years On GM's Contract] + (Tax Threshold - Payroll) + 1sts Owned in Next 3 Years} * Craziness Of Owner

Using the back of a napkin and working around the inevitable coffee ring, here are the most desperate teams in the NBA as trade season begins in earnest.


The franchise was disappointed when it got punked by the Pacers in the conference semifinals last season, and as such, made some big offseason moves (trading for Andrea Bargnani, re-signing J.R. Smith to a serious deal, reuniting Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih). A few of the smartest stats-minded scribes warned that regression was highly likely due to New York's extraordinary health despite being an old team in 2012-13. And what do you know? Injuries have ravaged the KnicksMore than that, Smith has been disastrous in every way, Bargnani has been, well, Bargnani and 'Melo has very little help on a nightly basis.

So, the Knicks sit at 15-26, 5.5 games behind the Raptors for the Atlantic lead. They are sitting in the No. 11 spot in the East. Not even the biggest Knicks skeptics anticipated such a devastating slip.

Add in that 'Melo is scheduled to hit free agency in July. For kicks, let's also mention that the rival Nets have turned it around since losing their best player (Brook Lopez) for the season. This is baaad. Beno Udrih requesting a trade bad.

If there's one bucket of cold water for the idea the Knicks will make a panic move, it's that the Knicks already passed up an opportunity to make a panic move for rental Kyle Lowry because they refused to include a future pick, according to reports. But with every loss, the specter of missing the playoffs becomes all the more real. And that's just not good.


Did Joe Dumars do it again? In 2009, flush with cap space from breaking up the Motor City's title team, Dumars attacked free agency with vigor and ended up with ... Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, who promptly turned into pumpkins. The Pistons continued to flail, picking up lottery picks. In 2013, Dumars again found himself with cap space, part of it gained by trading away Gordon with this year's first-round pick (protected in the top eight). He spent that space on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and the playoffs were the stated goal.

And ... it's not working. Detroit has lost 10 of its last 14 and sits seven games under .500, outside the playoff picture. The good thing is that Dumars has plenty to work with in the trade market, including Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko and, yes, Greg Monroe. But with each wrong move, purgatory continues, and fairly new owner Tom Gores looks more like he might pull the plug on the Dumars era.


The West is so darn tough that it's hard to fault teams not quite living up to expectations. But Minnesota has the NBA's longest active playoff drought (eight years and counting) and conventional wisdom is that the Wolves are running out of time to convince Kevin Love his career will be maximized by staying in the Great White North before he becomes a free agent in 2015. While Flip Saunders and Milt Newton just took over the front office in the offseason, and owner Glen Taylor is looking to unload the team, the persistent fear of losing Love has to be causing some jitters in the Twin Cities. No one is going to lose their job over another losing season, but everyone is going to lose a lot of sleep.

That Love is rather vocal about his frustration only fans the flames of panic.


Cleveland already made a huge move, trading a well-protected first round pick from Sacramento and the favorable Andrew Bynum contract for a Luol Deng rental. But the Cavaliers continue to flail a bit and are still outside the playoff bracket. Shouldn't have the Deng trade ensured the Bulls would fall out of the picture, opening a spot for Cleveland? If so, someone needs to tell Joakim Noah, Tom Thibodeau, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.

We don't know how much pressure there is on GM Chris Grant. He's been in place since the 2010 offseason, when he replaced Danny Ferry at the end of the LeBron era. Mike Brown is safe as coach, and Grant does have a legitimate star in place in Kyrie Irving.

In reality, the playoffs shouldn't be required of the Cavaliers this season, as the roster is still pretty darn green. But every move the Cavs have made since the draft -- including taking Anthony Bennett instead of, say, Nerlens Noel -- has pointed to a desire to make the playoffs immediately. Jarrett Jack, Bynum, the Deng deal ... it's pretty clear that Cleveland was intent on leaving the lottery behind.

If that mission fails, will it cost Grant his job? How he feels about that question could determine how likely it is that Grant leverages additional picks or prospects to shore up the team's weaknesses on the wings.


Brooklyn is currently inside the playoff bracket with a small cushion. But I'm not sure a No. 7-seed is good enough, and there's a chance that another injury to a team filled with players who have recently struggled with injuries could knock them back out. Mikhail Prokhorov isn't spending $180 million for a lottery team. He isn't watching future draft picks go to Boston and Atlanta to watch a 40-loss team. Billy King very well may have four weeks to ensure the team doesn't crash back down in March and April and that he keeps his job.

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The front office and coach are all almost assuredly safe, but one assumes owner Robert Pera does care about how the franchise is viewed. And if the team misses the playoffs a year after Lionel Hollins coached them to the Western Conference Finals? That's a whole lot of nothing Pera (or his front office) wants.

The problem is that all of the Grizzlies' movable pieces are already veterans. Trading Zach Randolph or replacing Tayshaun Prince likely means getting younger and reinforcing Memphis' loudest critiques. It's a sticky situation. The only way Memphis could have avoided it when parting ways with Hollins is by winning a lot. The team is 20-20 and three games outside the No. 8 seed.


Washington is more of an honorable mention, and only because GM Ernie Grunfeld's contract is up at the end of the season and because the playoffs are a stated goal by owner Ted Leonsis. Why an honorable mention? Barring another major injury, the Wizards are going to make the playoffs. They are at .500 in a shallow East, and B-Ref's forecast gives them a 96 percent probability of making the postseason.

But Washington still has some obvious flaws, and the Wizards have been mentioned in a number of rumors. So don't be surprised if what one might call a desperation trade -- moving younger assets to win more now -- comes around.

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