T-Wolves 4th in West, 21-10: Kandi Man
Wizards 13th in East, 9-21: Stackhouse
Bulls 11th in East, 10-22: Jay Williams
Jazz 9th in West, 17-5: Clark
Kings 1st in West, 21-8: Webber
Hornets 3rd in East, 21-12: Mashburn
Magic 15th in East, 8-25: Hill
You ask what do all these teams have in common...the answer is they are all playing without their superstar or player they worked so hard to get. These teams right now are doing what they didn't think they were going to have to do...play without one of their primary options. These teams have all responded in different ways, some are struggling and some are doing better than anyone could have predicted. The teams that are doing so well without their star have to ask them self if they are doing this well without their star (Kings & Hornets), should they trade their injured star. They also have to take into consideration that they players that are doing so well now for them, the guys that have really stepped it up, with go back to their old type of performances and won't do near as well when the star of the team comes back (Webber & Mashburn).
And the teams that are struggling, they have to ask them self, should they trade their injured player for someone who can help them now or continue to wait and see if they will have enough time left in the season to make some kind of push to try and get into the playoffs.
I'll break down each team and what I think they should do:
Magic: this is an easy one. Grant, the same guy that was once being compared to MJ, has not played a full season since the 98-99 season and that was only a 50 game season. The next season, his last with the Pistons he missed 8 games due to injury. And since then, he has only played in 47 games...that's 47 games in 3 seasons. That means for the Magic, he has only played in an average of 15 games per year. Now, he claims he is going to try and come back again sometime within the next couple of months. If he does come back, and has somehow been able to keep in shape , the best he will be able to do is give them 15 points a game (what his average is with the Magic), until he gets injured again. So what if he can still get 15 a game, that is only taking away shots from the other guys...guys who have played all year and aren't rusty and have to work to get their shot to being a 10th of what it once was. T-Mac will get fewer shots, which won't make him happy, he will call Hill selfish for shooting too much. Howard, who has started picking his game up, won't get as many touches. And neither will Gooden, so when you main 3 guys are taking fewer shots, and an old injured guy is taking shots that are not quality shots, you should be able to figure out what will happen. Those 3 guys get mad, the Magic lose every single one of those games, and Hill gets hurt AGAIN.
So Grant Hill should do the Magic and NBA fans a favor...go ahead and retire. It saves him the embarrassment, it saves the team money, and us the pain of watching a could have been never live up to the bar that was set for him. If he did everyone this favor, the Magic could get someone who could actually help them win and do better. If he was willing to retire, I am sure the could even trade him for a good player, especially to a team looking to free up some cap space. That would make the Magic happy and the other team could benefit from having more cap room.
Hornets: Baron Davis is having a great year, he will probably even be a MVP candidate. And is averaging a little over 23 ppg and 8 assists (better than Mashburn averaged last year without Davis). It is now obvious who the best player on the Hornets is. And when Mashburn returns, Davis and Wesley both will have to get adjusted to having him back in the line up, and Baron won't be taking as many shots, and will have to get used to sharing the points again. Having Mashburn back will hamper and limit the team, because Mashburn will want to be the main option, something he isn't anymore. I think the best thing Davis as well as the Hornets is to trade Mashburn away for players that won't demand the ball and can help out through defense and will be content with being a role player.
Kings: the way Peja is playing this year is crazy, he is 2nd in the league in scoring and is probably going to be an all star. Brad Miller came in and is playing well for them. And the Divac and Miller combo seems to be working pretty well. This year they have no real need for Webber, because of the way Peja is playing. When Webber returns, Peja won't get half as many looks, Divac will have to come off the bench, and Miller won't get the ball down low as much. they will need an inside presence next year, because this year very well may be Divac last. I think they should trade Webber to a team where they can get deeper, this year they are not as deep as the used to be. A type of trade they should look for is like a Webber for Fortson and Finley, that way they would get a big man who wouldn't be demanding of the ball, a guard that can score, but doesn't have to have score a lot of points every game. That way they could have Christie off the bench too, giving them a strong second unit.
Jazz: during the off season, they tried to make a run at almost every available free agent (Brand, JT, and Magette to name a few) and all they were able to get is Keon Clark. And he is injured, so their big free agent hunt was only able to land a decent center, who they don't even have right now. The weird thing is if they playoffs started today, they would only miss making it by 2 games. This is a team who lost it's 2 players (Malone & Stockton). And yet, they are still finding a way to get W's, something no one expected of them. So they should keep Clark, hope he can help give them a little extra push when he comes back, and who knows come playoff time, they may be that 8th seed and go against us in the first round.
Bulls: Jay Williams had a bright future until his motorcycle wreck, and then there was speculation if he would ever walk again much less play basketball. Well the Bulls are in a good position right now, they can afford to wait on Williams (if he is still a Bull by then) who won't make a return till next season, this is because they are getting great performances from both Crawford and Hinrich, so it appears they are set and don't really have a need for Williams. I would be very surprised is he is a Bull when he returns to the league. There is no way Hinrich or Crawford would come off the bench, so trading Williams to a team that needs a pg (Rockets would be a good fit) for a scorer (something they need since they traded Rose and Marshall to the Raptors).
Wizards: they started off decently without Stackhouse, but have started to go downhill and fast. Reports are saying he will be back by the beginning of next month, his comeback can't come soon enough for the Wizards. They need him desperately, so they don't have to hang around jockeying for last place with the Hawks and Magic and can actually win some games. On paper they have enough talent to make the playoffs, but so did they last year and they were unable to do it. It will be interesting to see if Arenas' promise that they will make the playoffs will come true come April. I doubt they will make the playoffs though, because Arenas and Hughes are running the show now and Hayes has put up some big games for them. Hayes has to get used to a reduced role, Arenas and Hughes have to get used to playing with Stackhouse (something Arenas has yet to do) and used to it being Stackhouse's team. So it may be a little late for them to do something this year, mainly because Stackhouse has been out so long, if so then next year they are a shoe in for the playoffs, but if it's not to late for them, then I guess we will be seeing them on tv this year (they don't have 1 regular season game on national tv this year).
T-Wolves: They are fine without Olowokandi, but if they want a big man then maybe they should shop him. I know he is as soft as they come, but he still has trade value, maybe they could get a little tougher big man...unless they are satisfied with Olowokandi (one of the softest centers around), Johnson (one of the oldest centers around), and Miller (one of the fattest centers around). That won't cut it, plus they may like some help before they need a solid big man (when they are trying to get better playoff position), because remember if they don't do something this year (if they lose in the first round again) KG won't be very happy and may look elsewhere for employment. They don't need a big man that can score (KG, Cassell & Spree have that covered), they need one that can guard guys, can play D, and isn't labeled as a softy.