20. Indiana Pacers (15): They missed out BIG TIME on not acquiring OJ Mayo in a deal that fell through just moments before the deadline, but they are still going to have around 35 million in cap space this summer, and although – like Charlotte – they play in a small market, they should still be able to find some talent to put around Danny Granger, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert. If they can find a solid scoring guard and an inside/outside power forward with their available cash, they are easily a playoff contender in the East.
19. Golden State Warriors (16): They were the recipients of Kevin Love’s monster game last night, and that is largely attributed to their lack of, well, anything inside. David Lee is a great power forward, but the way the Warriors use him in their offense (and whatever they call their defense) is not conducive – to any extent – in filling their gaping hole in the paint.
18. Utah Jazz (19): Talk about a massive makeover. The Jazz’s offense is now being run by Devin Harris and instead of having a glut of three big men, they now have FOUR power forward/centers, who are all capable of contributing in big ways. I wouldn’t write off Utah’s season yet, but with Memphis and Phoenix playing so good as of late, they do not have a tight of a grasp on a playoff spot as they likely thought prior to the all-star break.
17. Houston Rockets (21): The Rockets are going to take a major hit defensively, as a result of the Shane Battier trade and it could very well be the one thing that keeps them from making the playoffs. However, they added some MUCH-needed size by trading for Hasheem Thabeet, who might be able to salvage his career in Houston, where the Rockets are in dire need of a real center. Alongside Luis Scola, Thabeet has the potential to flourish and become the center everyone thought he would be when Memphis drafted him No. 2 overall in 2009.
16. New Orleans Hornets (13): They flipped Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry in a “highly controversial” trade, and it gave them a little more depth up front, which they have been lacking. Even will a healthy top-six, the Hornets are still a ways away from competing with the likes of San Antonio, the Lakers, Oklahoma City and even Dallas. Chris Paul is great, but not great enough to make David West, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Marco Bellineli play winning basketball on a consistent basis.