As the NBA makes its way down the final month and a half of the season, teams trying to make noise in this season’s playoffs need to trade for a missing piece to get over the hump.  In the Eastern Conference, the favorites to make the Eastern Conference Finals are Miami and Chicago.  But what about everybody else? No other team will challenge the Heat or Bulls in a seven game series without making a move.  Here are a few that would give the upcoming playoffs a few more storylines.

The Indiana Pacers trade for another scorer.  The Pacers are an athletic group that can give any teams fits.  They have shown they can win on the road with impressive road wins at Los Angeles against the Lakers on Jan. 22, then three nights later in Chicago.  However, they have struggled at time to put points on the board.  Danny Granger is their leading scorer and he only averages 18.8 ppg.   Indiana added David West this past offseason, but he has struggled to find his niche.  Since the team doesn’t have a superstar who demands the ball in the clutch, the best way to win would be having another guy to go alongside Granger.  Rumored available players who could be good fits: Paul Pierce (SG, Boston Celtics), Monta Ellis and Steph Curry (PG/SG, Golden State Warriors), Gerald Wallace (SF/PF, Portland Trailblazers).

The Philadelphia 76ers trade for a scorer AND a big man.  Doug Collins has done a great job turning this team around.  Philadelphia is able to hang in most games by playing solid defense and limiting turnovers (only 10.6 turnovers per game – leads NBA).  But they have the same problem as Indiana – no elite scorer.  If they are to make it out of the first round, adding a scorer is a must.  The 76ers also lack a presence down low.  Spencer Hawes has been injured for most of the season and teams don’t have to game plan for his replacements (Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic both average less than seven points per game).  Rumored available big men: Dwight Howard (C, Orlando Magic), Andrew Bynum (C, Los Angeles Lakers), Chris Kaman (C, New Orleans Hornets).  Philly will not exceed expectations without making one – if not both – of these additions.

The Orlando Magic trade Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu’s expiring contract to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour.  The last year of Dwight Howard’s contract has been a soap opera all year.  While most are convinced that he will walk at season’s end if he is not traded by the deadline, GM Otis Smith has made it known the team wants to keep Howard.  Trading for Beasley and Ridnour would be one step in the right direction.  Neither player is elite, but it would fill areas of need for the Magic.  Jameer Nelson has struggled mightily, and he and Howard just aren’t clicking anymore.  Ridnour showed before Brandon Jennings got to Milwaukee that he could efficiently run an offense.  Beasley would take over the SF position and bring more athleticism to the club.  At this point Turkoglu doesn’t bring much to the table.  The Magic already have plenty of guys who spread the floor with their 3-point shooting capabilities by way of Ryan Anderson who is having a breakout year, as well as Jason Richardson and JJ Redick.  Bringing in an athletic face-up player like Beasley would give Orlando the formidable starting lineup of Ridnour-Richardson-Anderson-Beasley-Howard.  This deal isn’t likely, but it’s worth a look as this isn’t a championship team as built.

The Atlanta Hawks trade for an available center.  Al Horford going down with a torn pectoral muscle early in the season was a devastating loss for the Hawks.  Since his injury, the team has had to turn to Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins.  Neither of these guys will suffice come playoff time.  The Hawks can compete with just about anybody in the East – Josh Smith is a super athletic player who fills up the stat sheet.  Jeff Teague is coming along at the PG position and Joe Johnson can score 20+ points on any given night.  But the team is undersized at the center position.  As the game slows down in the playoffs, Atlanta will only have a shot if they can add this needed piece to guard the paint.

The Boston Celtics keep their roster as is.  It seems that every season for the past four years there are talks of dismantling the “Big Three.”  However, the story this year has been the emersion of PG Rajon Rondo as one of the league’s elite.  This team seems to be hitting their stride as the second half progresses.  As one of the oldest teams in the league, injuries have been an issue.  But when the entire squad is healthy they have shown they can compete with just about anybody.  Danny Ainge wants to make a move that will improve the team for the future – but he owes it to both the players and Boston’s fans to leave this team intact to make one more run at it.  If it proves unsuccessful, it is likely the roster will change in the offseason.

The New York Knicks stand pat.  Much has been made how Amare Stoudemire has struggled this season.  Some analysts say he can’t play alongside Carmelo Anthony.  This just isn’t the case.  Amare spent much of the first half getting his legs under him.  No one thought he would have such a hard time adjusting to the 20 pounds he added to aid him when banging bodies down low.  Now that his play is improving and Carmelo is back from injury, the Knicks have shown flashes of what they can do.  And even though Jeremy Lin has cooled considerably since Linsanity first swept the nation, he is still adequately running Mike D’Antoni’s offense.  Keep this team as is and see what they can before jumping the gun on a trade.