Even the league's top teams have some upgrading to do this offseason. As we did last week with the lottery teams of the Eastern and Western Conferences, we're now pointing out the statistical weaknesses (and options for addressing them) of the NBA's postseason participants, starting with the East.
Statistical weakness: Shooting (23rd)
Weakest position: SG, PF
The expiration date on the current collective bargaining agreement couldn't have come at a worse time for the Pacers. With Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Jeff Foster and Jamaal Tinsley's contracts all coming off the books, the Pacers will shed about $30 million worth of expiring contracts heading into next season. Their spending money will likely be compromised significantly by the new rules, and in terms of supply and demand, it's a seller's free-agent market this offseason.
A shooting guard should sit atop the Pacers' shopping list this summer. Danny Granger's efficiency has tumbled each of the past two seasons, and he's better equipped to play the 3 than he is to guard quicker 2s. Who can they target in free agency? Vince Carter, Jason Richardson and Jamal Crawford make up the blue-chip stocks at the 2, but they're all on the wrong side of 30 years old. With promising small forward Paul George waiting in the wings behind Granger, the Pacers could afford to deal their biggest scorer for a younger shooting guard. Though the Memphis Grizzlies don't need another small forward, it's worth restarting the talks for O.J. Mayo.
Statistical weakness: Free throw attempts (28th)
Weakest position: C
So, the Sixers need a center? Join the 20 other teams in the league. The Sixers will likely bring back Spencer Hawes, who is a restricted free agent, but they'll look for upgrades in free agency and in the trade market. If Andre Iguodala truly is on the block, they need to fill that 5 position first and foremost.
It's a good offseason to be eyeing a center as Nene, Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Yao Ming and Kwame Brown will all look for homes in the coming months. Unfortunately, the Sixers don't have the cash to reel in a big name, so they'll be forced to get creative in trade talks. Could they entice the Mavericks with a sign-and-trade involving Tyson Chandler and Iguodala (pending new rules of the next CBA)?
New York Knicks
Statistical weakness: Rebounding, both offensive and defensive (24th and 26th)
Weakest position: C
Let's be serious: the Knicks should lobby for a designated defender in the next CBA. As defensively-challenged stars, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony make up two of the most lopsided players in the game. If they could somehow sub out every defensive possession, the Knicks would be set! Sadly, that's nothing more than a New York City pipe dream.
If the Knicks want to be legitimate contenders next season -- and not just a sugarcoated average squad like they were in 2010-11 -- they need to surround Stoudemire and Anthony with defensive stalwarts. Trouble is, they can't afford to compromise their summer of 2012 pursuits by burning any long-term spending money on a legitimate center this offseason. Can they convince Samuel Dalembert to take the veteran minimum to play in the Big Apple? If he's willing to play at a bargain rate, it'll be tough to keep the Haitian away from South Beach.
Statistical weakness: Causing turnovers (29th)
Weakest position: C
Jeff Teague blossomed as a point guard in the playoffs, but the Hawks still have to address the other end of the positional spectrum at center. This edition of the Hawks hit their playoff ceiling already, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals without a true center anchoring the back line. And if they want to get over the hump in title contention, it may be worth dangling Josh Smith for a center who would push the 6-foot-10 Al Horford to his more natural position.
They'll likely lose Jamal Crawford to free agency, as other teams will be looking to fill a void at shooting guard. The Hawks could be content with staying put and wading in the waters of good-but-not-great over the next couple of seasons. However, they have a tradable asset in Smith, who still ranks as one of the most productive athletic freaks in the NBA, even if he lacks polish. It might be worth kicking the tires in Denver on a sign-and-trade with Nene.
Statistical weakness: Avoiding turnovers (27th)
Weakest position: PG, SG
So, Dwight Howard thinks that Gilbert Arenas wasn't used properly last season? Arenas was an $18 million mess and a shell of his former self last season in Orlando. As painful as it is, it wasn't a case of misappropriation, but rather a demonstration of what happens when skills and health erode hand-in-hand. The Magic would be title contenders if they boasted the Arenas of five years ago, but a lot can change in a half-decade.
The Magic are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Even though Arenas was the source of many of their offensive struggles last season, his exorbitant contract demands that they squeeze whatever value they can out of him. And it also means that they can't afford to reel in a go-to scorer this offseason. Richardson will be gone, and they don't have a backup plan that doesn't involve J.J. Redick getting the starting gig. Hey, they could always bring back Vince Carter, right?
Statistical weakness: Offensive rebounding (30th) and turnovers (28th)
Weakest position: C
The key for the Celtics this offseason is to not overreact. They don't need to blow it up. They don't need to press the rebuild button. The truth is that the elbow injury to Rajon Rondo couldn't have come at a worse time. Sure, the C's were disposed of in five games at the hands of the Miami Heat, but they're closer to title contention than it seems.
With four All-Stars in the fold, the Celtics find themselves in a stronger position heading into 2011-12 than almost every team in the NBA. If they can sharpen the periphery, they'll be right back in the mix for the East crown -- at the very least. Jermaine O'Neal will be back for another go-around, but they desperately need someone who can rebound. For reference, Matt Barnes posted a better rebound rate than O'Neal last season. The Celtics will likely join New York and Miami, among others, in competing for the services of Dalembert at the 5.
Statistical weakness: Causing turnovers (26th)
Weakest position: C, PG
Mike Bibby posted one of the worst postseason runs in NBA history and Joel Anthony averaged 2.8 points per game in the playoffs, and yet the Heat came within two wins of an NBA title. The Heat have holes at the point guard and center slots, but it's also true that they look more pronounced next to the Big Three. With Mario Chalmers entering free agency for the first time, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier likely to retire, the Heat have to refresh the roster this offseason.
They'll start with targeting Reggie Jackson, the first-team All-ACC point guard from Boston College, in the draft, but they need to do better. After overachieving in the postseason, Chalmers is due for a big payday and the Heat may not want to match the price tag. The new CBA affects the Heat perhaps more than any other team in the league, since they have almost their entire payroll tied up in five players. They'll try to convince Dalembert to take the minimum to play for a title contender within a strong Haitian community in Miami, but the veteran will be leaving a lot of money on the table. If the Heat open next season with a starting five of Chalmers, the Big Three and Dalembert, the offseason will have been a success.
Statistical weakness: Turnovers (17th)
Weakest position: SG
Among title contenders heading into next season, no team bears a bigger hole than the Bulls do at shooting guard. They whiffed at the trade deadline by not securing a go-to scorer alongside Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer, and they'll look to address that void in the offseason. Although the Bulls probably can't afford them, Jason Richardson, Vince Carter and Jamal Crawford headline the shooting guard crop in free agency this offseason. Elsewhere, O.J. Mayo and Monta Ellis could be potential trade targets at the right price, and the ascension of Taj Gibson makes Carlos Boozer even more expendable at the power forward slot.
Judging by Chicago's No. 1 overall seed and its strong statistical profile (17th in turnover rate isn't a huge concern), the Bulls could be one move away from becoming title favorites. But their good standing also means they shouldn't feel desperate to plug the hole. The Bulls could enter next season with a platoon of Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver at the 2, and have no problem reaching the East finals. With two picks at the end of the first round, they could use one of those for a package deal on draft day.