The NBA's best and worst rosters
5-on-5 Roundtable: Which roster has more talent, the Heat or the Thunder?
Most experts predict that the Heat and Thunder are going to meet in the NBA Finals. Does that mean they have the most talented rosters? Let's examine.
1. Which NBA team has the best roster?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: Oklahoma City Thunder. Scott Brooks has the luxury of being able to play a 10-man rotation every game without ceding much in terms of talent or production. The team has two elite shot-creators/-makers in the starting lineup in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, with another in James Harden waiting in the wings off the bench. Few, if any, other teams can boast this.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Oklahoma City. The Thunder legitimately go two-deep at every position, and then some. If you could build a team from scratch and cover all of the elements you'd need on a roster, it would look a lot like the Thunder's. There's star power in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. There's interior athleticism and toughness with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. And they are complemented by shooters such as James Harden. There's even a veteran presence or two to guide them along the way.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Miami Heat. It's the only team in the league with two of the top five players in the league and the Heat have a third guy that's top-15 and one of the five best power forwards. They've got one of the best perimeter defenders in Shane Battier and some promising young point men. They're a bit top-heavy, but it's hard to deny that kind of talent.
2. Which NBA team has the worst roster?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: New Jersey Nets. Even the brilliance of Deron Williams can't turn this Nets team into anything more than an eyesore. The team is stockpiled with ineffective big men and alleged shooters who can't shoot. Words can't describe how badly the Nets miss you, Brook Lopez. Get better soon.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Phoenix. Beyond the lifetime achievement awards that go to Steve Nash and Grant Hill, is there much else there for this team? When you're stocked with these type of veterans, usually, it means you're trying to contend for a deep playoff run or even a championship. The Suns are stuck in no-man's land. They're not yet rebuilding, and they're not built to win now. They're just sort of playing out the string. That's what gives them the edge in my book over Charlotte, Detroit or Cleveland.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: New Orleans Hornets. After Eric Gordon, there really isn't a lot. Chris Kaman is past his time, Emeka Okafor is just a role player and Jarrett Jack isn't starting material. They've got guys named Squeaky Johnson and Gustavo Ayon in the rotation, for crying out loud. Which is the idea, I guess, seeing as the higher draft pick they get, the better.
3. Which sub-.500 team is in the best position moving forward?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: Minnesota Timberwolves. They are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA, and thanks to a number of factors, one of the most promising too. Kevin Love has grown into his superstardom, and Ricky Rubio has the potential to be the best two-way player on the team. They might only be a consistent perimeter scorer away from legitimacy.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Memphis. The combination of Zach Randolph's knee injury and a tough early schedule are largely responsible for the Grizzlies' stumble from the gate. But the team's top four players -- Randolph, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol -- are locked up contractually for the next several years, and this squad is on the rise, as it proved with last season's stunning run to the Western Conference semifinals. Now if they could only get -- and stay -- healthy for an extended stretch.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: I continue to be a believer in the Wolves, despite the fact that it's hard to trust David Kahn's judgment. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Derrick Williams and Wesley Johnson is a nice quartet and there's room for that roster to grow. It's not perfect and I don't necessarily think they're playoff material even next year, but there's a chance for that group to grow into a quality team long-term.
4. Which above-.500 team is in the worst position moving forward?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: Orlando Magic. If they lose Dwight Howard, everything crumbles. The team has a litany of multiyear contracts remaining, so any type of rebuilding process will be a molasses-slow crawl. The team will still have enough talent to somewhat compete if Howard leaves, which is unfortunate. The Magic may fall, but they won't free-fall, and that'll cripple their future.
Rob Mahoney, The Two-Man Game: The Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard is gone, and if the Magic aren't able to shed some contracts in a potential deal for him, they'll be stuck footing the bill for Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Jason Richardson in a hopeless season next year.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Orlando. The D12 era will end soon. And it won't be pretty. Dwight Howard and the Magic already have some impressive victories on the resume this season. But it's a fleeting feeling when you know that sooner or later, the trade of all trades is going to go down. And since there's virtually no way the Magic can get anything close to market value for Howard, they're going to take a hit. And they'll still be locked into the new overpriced contracts of Glen Davis and Jason Richardson.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Orlando Magic. Unless they somehow figure out how to talk Dwight Howard into staying, that team is about to drop off hard. I suppose they can salvage it with a trade that brings back a little talent, but that doesn't sound like it's the direction the Magic want to go right now.
5. Which team should be the most active buyer at the trade deadline?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: L.A. Lakers. Kobe is issuing his grand statement of dominance, torn ligaments and all. Andrew Bynum is becoming the player everyone thought he'd be. This is their time to strike. It doesn't have to be a blockbuster move, especially if they find a suitor for their trade exception, but their championship window will close unless they prop it back up.
Rob Mahoney, The Two-Man Game: I'll call a tie between the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks. Both should actively be looking to buy as a means of upgrading their benches, but that doesn't mean any potential trade partner would be all that interested in what these two teams are selling. Neither team has too many trade assets at present, though they could be able to scrounge up a deal if they're desperate or creative enough.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Indiana. When you factor in a team's available assets and the ability to part with something decent in order to get something even more complementary in return, the Pacers are at the top of the list. Indiana has a nice collection of talent, but there's still a piece missing that can make it a serious contender in the East. Maybe an upgrade at point guard or a perimeter finisher would do the trick, because Darren Collison and Danny Granger leave plenty to be desired right now.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Los Angeles Lakers. Howard is right there for them, if they want him. And the closer it drags to the deadline, the less the Lakers might have to give up. It's just hard to believe the Lakers didn't trade Lamar Odom to an active competitor without a reason.