Monday, June 13, 2011

The NBA is like a book, we're in the final pages of a great chapter

In the past few years, some NBA greats-that's GREATS, not just all stars- have crossed off "getting a ring" off their bucket lists. It started with the Lakers in 04 when Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined Kobe and Shaq in LA for a "one last chance" but ended up falling to Detroit in the Finals. Then things worked out in Miami in 2006 when Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning were able to contribute to a championship team. In picked up again in 2008 when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen joined forces in the most humble of ways to try and get a ring. It worked and these NBA greats succeeded. And it has started up again with Dirk and Jason Kidd, two more of the greatest players ever, able to contribute to a championship team. If we're keeping track, here are the next in line of guys up there in age who still have it and can contribute to a championship team -

1. Steve Nash - 2x MVP will be in the last year of his contract next season, could be traded away, or sign for a contender next summer.

2. Tracy McGrady - 2x scoring champion may not have enough left in the tank, but is a free agent this summer, could possibly start or be a 6th man for a championship contender.

3. Grant Hill - Returned from constant injuries and still a solid defender. Could be a missing defensive piece to a championship caliber team. Is a free agent this summer.

4. Vince Carter - Used to be one of the greatest dunkers and scorers in the league, just didn't really try hard to stay at the top of his game. Could contribute offensively off the bench for a championship team, but doesn't have much on defense. Will be a free agent this summer after the Suns do not exercise his team option in his contract.

5. Antonio McDyess - Solid big man role player now, but used to be a 20 ppg scorer. Came 1 year too late for the Pistons' championship and a couple years too late for the current Spurs core championship, although he had a good shot this year. Has one more year under under his contract, with the right pieces and a little luck, could have a finals run next year with the Spurs.

6. Marcus Camby - A personal top 5 favorite of mine. Least decorated star player from the 1996 draft with only a defensive player of the year award and All NBA defensive teams to show (no all star games). Seems happy in Portland, who has the talent to make a championship run, but not quite the health (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Camby himself). Will be in the last year of his contract this season, could be traded.

The championship favorites for the next five or so years will be the Lakers, Heat, Bulls, and maybe Thunder. But every so often, you get a Mavericks type team, who makes a run and has the veteran swagger and knows what it takes to win a championship, hopefully some of these guys fall into one of those teams and can contribute their play to get a ring.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Part 5.5 of 6 Summer Plans - School's Out Fo Summa!

(part 7 will be summer plans for Mavs and Heat, coming soon)

San Antonio Spurs 61-21
(Knocked in first round by a Grizzlies who lost last game of season so they would play Spurs in first round, ouch- but Manu was playing hurt)

Notable Free Agents - Tiago Splitter
Core players still on contract - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, DeJuan Blair

Recap: The Spurs started the season hot and never cooled off. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and the top teams in the league. Then the playoffs came around and perhaps the age of Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess caught up to them as Zach Randolph torched them offensively and Marc Gasol scorned them with rebounds. Throughout the season though, they got solid contributions from Tim Duncan although he is light years away from his prime. Manu Ginobili played great this season and Tony Parker, besides the playoffs also had a good year. Richard Jefferson did not.

Look for them to: 1. Stay the same. 2. Look for inside presence.

There's not too much the team can do other than try and get younger. The core is pretty set in stone but with Tim Duncan getting a lot older and becoming more and more like David Robinson circa 2002-2004, the team needs to get some inside scoring, something DeJuan Blair does not quite have in his repertoire. But hey, they had the 2nd best record in the league, just got ousted by an up and coming Grizzly 8th seed who had the inside presence the Spurs lacked. But this team will almost look exactly the same. Still waiting on Tiago Splitter...

Oklahoma City Thunder 55-27 (Kendrick Perkins to the rescue! Oh wait, Dallas already took care of the Lakers)

Notable Free Agents - Nazr Mohammed
Core players still on contract - Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha

Recap: Coming off gold medals in the world championships in Turkey, MVP candidate Kevin Durant got this team rolling. Then they really shook things up by trading Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins (and Nate Robinson), to compete with the bigs of the western conference (most notably, champion favorite Lakers and Pau Gasol). Well it didn't quite work out when Dallas took them out and Kendrick couldn't keep up with Dirk. Then again, it seems like no one can keep up with Dirk. In the playoffs, everyone was giving Russell Westbrook a lot of flack for not giving the ball to Kevin Durant enough, how he's a SG playing a PG, how he took too many shots. I guess it's somewhat true, he averaged 17 FG attempts during the season with 7.7 FT attempts. In the playoffs, those numbers jumped to 20 FG attempts and 8.3 FT attempts. Will a rough playoffs require a huge shake up?

Look for them to: 1. Re-Sign Nazr Mohammed. 2. Look for a low post scoring center. 3. Not trade Russell Westbrook.

First things first, Nazr played well and they can sign him for cheap to keep some front court depth available. But the team's big men are not low post scorers. Kendrick Perkins is a defensive center. Serge Ibaka is a defensive power forward with a nice jump shot but no post moves. Nick Collison is a hustle, offensive rebounder power forward, who can play great defense and take charges. Nazr Mohammed is old and is strictly there for, you guessed it, defense off the bench. They drafted Cole Aldrich last year and he is... YES A DEFENSIVE CENTER. Just like many other teams they will be looking for big men this summer in either trades or free agency.

As for Russell Westbrook, the Thunder had better be getting a GREAT point guard if they do decide to trade but I highly doubt they will. This core will be healthy and will start playing together for an entire season next year and the west is severely weak now, and all the good teams are old (Spurs, Mavs, Lakers). The Thunder are young and the team of the future, another year together will serve them well and they'll do just fine.

Chicago Bulls 62-20 (You have no idea how certain I was that the Bulls would beat the Heat in five games)

Notable Free Agents - No one
Core players still on contract - Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng

Recap: MVP, Coach of the year, best record in the league, taken out by the three heat. New coach, Tom Thibodeau took this first round fodder and made them into a defensive stopper team. Derrick Rose upped his game and came up with the MVP award. And the team just rolled through the season and got the top seed! What's not to like?

Look for them to: 1. Sign or trade for a shooting guard. 2. Make another run with this core.

They lost to the Heat because Derrick Rose is the team's engine. Without him on the floor or being involved in a play, the team flounders. He creates his own shot or gets someone else involved in the play. If he's held down, the team will lose. LeBron and Wade guarded Rose and the Bulls couldn't get anything going. If you look at the box scores, Rose would have like 25 shots and near 10 assists making him in that rare company of people who can't be blamed for not shooting enough and can't be blamed for not getting his teammates involved (LeBron, Kobe). But if he can work on his 3 point game, he'll have defenders being honest and not sagging off him on defense, always playing the drive.

As for a shooting guard, Keith Bogans could be upgraded. He's good on defense but not much of an offensive threat. If the Bulls could do anything to improve their lineup, it's the SG position and there have been talks about a possible Richard Hamilton trade with some other team who would end up buying him out, allowing him to sign with the Bulls. Rich get richer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Ode To Shaq

Shaq retired - here's what I have to say -

I started watching NBA basketball during the 2000 playoffs when Shaq and Kobe won the championship over Reggie Miller and the Pacers. I was an instant fan, but I was definitely spoiled. I barely knew the players besides Kobe and Shaq let alone any other players in the league. I had no idea that Shaq was one of the greatest centers of all time.

The next season I watched every Laker game. I loved Kobe but I also loved Shaq. He was a true go to guy that gave you a good look every possession. They'd post him up and he'd either back his man down or do a hop step leaner toward the basket and because he was so huge, it was pretty much a layup from 6 feet out. Then the playoffs came and I was spoiled even more. The Lakers swept every opponent to get to the Finals. It was ridiculous. I almost felt it was unfair. Shaq was too big for anyone and Kobe had all the energy in the world to put away the opposition in the fourth quarter. I was so spoiled that I actually was rooting for the 76ers in the finals. Dikembe Mutombo turned out to be my favorite player of all time (still is), and I was happy that they won game 1 and upset when the Lakers won the next 4! Shaq won the Finals MVP again, and during the Laker parade and celebration, I was happy again that the Lakers won. Shaq rapped, Madsen danced, the crowd cheers 3 peat.

Mutombo was the defensive player of the year and he and Matt Geiger were simply too small for Shaq. I was spoiled. Any time we needed a bucket, post up Shaq, hook shot, drop step, two handed power dunk, 2 points. A three peat was no question. No one can stop Shaq AND we have Kobe Bryant. The Lakers will never lose, and I am 2/2 in my NBA season watching on championships.

2001-2002 Season rolls around and the Lakers get right back to work, they get to the playoffs where have the great Robert Horry win game 3 of the Portland series to sweep them, and then the fabled Sacramento series. Oh my GOD- Game 4 when the Lakers were down 1-2 with the risk of going down 1-3. Down by 2 with 10 or so seconds, Kobe drives the basket, misses, Shaq gets the rebound, misses, Divac bats the ball out to Robert Horry who drains the 3. But this post isn't about the Lakers, it's about Shaq.

We won the championship over the Nets who didn't have a center that came close to Samaki Walker let along Shaq. During the championship parade and speech - Shaq didn't care about the Nets. No Laker fan did. We still cared about and hated the Kings. Shaq was right there with us - "SACRAMENTO is not the capital of the California! LOS ANGELES IS THE CAPITAL OF CALIFORNIA!" To which everyone cheered.

Because Shaq was not just the most dominant player of all time, he was the most charismatic player of all time. He didn't just play for Los Angeles, he WAS Los Angeles. After every emphatic dunk, he looked to the crowd which was cheering, he looked at his behemoth palm that had just massacred a defender, his eyes widened, his lion like roar resounding in the ears of the opposing team, he was a rockstar.

And I was spoiled.

The next year we didn't win the championship. We lost to the Spurs. We re-upped with Gary Payton and Karl Malone, and lost in the Finals to Detroit. And then Shaq left.

And we didn't make the playoffs in 04-05.

My how the mighty have fallen when you go from Shaq as your starting center to Chris Mihm and Brian Grant. Why aren't these guys dunking? Why aren't they bull dozing their way toward the basket? Why why WHY are they taking 15 foot jumpers!? WHY ARE WE NOT IN THE PLAYOFFS!? I missed the go-to-shaq-we-need-points plays. I missed the light hearted FUN basketball. Because as much as I love love LOVE Kobe Bryant, he's just not that fun. That's not to say that's a bad thing, it's just who he is.

Take for example the 09 Orlando Magic Finals. We win the championship and have a parade and celebration. The whole team takes turns with little speeches culminated by Kobe's speech where he ends with having the team put their hands together and including the crowd on their ritual, they yell RING after counting to 3. And that was it. The celebration over, Laker fans go home. It was nice, but it was no where near as FUN as Shaq rapping and the whole team dancing.

(Fast forward to 8:30)

I'm not jumping ship either. I was on, and still am on Kobe's side of the whole Shaq v. Kobe fiasco. But I did and still do miss the amazingness and hilarity of Shaq's game in the purple and gold. Especially after Pau Gasol's sorry performance this May.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Part 5 of 6 Summer Plans - If there's a lockout then this might turn into Fall plans

Atlanta Hawks 44-38, lost in 2nd round to Bulls (Kirk Hinrich could have possibly changed the outcome of the Bulls series)

Notable free agents - Jamal Crawford
Core players still on contract - Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Teague

Recap: It was a solid season all around for the Hawks after re-signing Joe Johnson to max money. They especially solidified their PG position by trading Mike Bibby for great defensive point guard Kirk Hinrich. Unfortunately for them, he was injured and did not play in the 2nd round against the Chicago Bulls. You're telling me that a team that lost in 6 games couldn't have changed their fortune if a healthy Kirk Hinrich was guarding Derrick Rose?

Look for them to: 1. Re-sign Jamal Crawford... maybe. 2. Make some changes to this core. 3. Get a center.

There's something about this team that is puzzling. It's like they have all this young talent with great potential but year after year they stay at the same level and never improve. Marvin Williams got a contract extension a couple years ago and has regressed in ability it seems. Josh Smith, the first of this core to put the Hawks back on the map is an enigma. He flashes his crazy athletic ability and then has games where he takes horrible jump shots and he's already a horrible jump shot shooter.

Al Horford and Joe Johnson are the all stars of the team and Al Horford needs to play power forward, not center, to maximize his production. That means the Hawks need to upgrade their starting center position from Jason Collins to someone else. They're on tap for over $60 million next season so signing a center may be a little too expensive, especially if they decide to re-sign Jamal Crawford. So look for them to look into the trade market and possibly trade their small forwards Marvin Williams and Josh Smith for a center or a different small forward, or both.

Jamal Crawford is a pure scorer, streak shooter, with a really nice behind the back cross over that's almost automatic when he pulls up after losing his defender. He is a defensive liability, however. It will depend on how much he wants and how long of a contract and whether or not the Hawks are willing to agree to what he wants. Otherwise, it could be goodbye and off to yet another team for Jamal Crawford.

Orlando Magic 52-30 (This team was in the 09 finals and lost in the first round, the mighty may fall even more this summer)

Notable free agents - Jason Richardson
Core players still on contract - Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, Jameer Nelson

Recap: Another team that went through a major renovation. In December they dealt Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix and Rashard Lewis to Washington and received Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. That's a lot of "talent!" Well it didn't quite work out as they had an impressive season winning 52 games but had didn't end on a strong note in the season and ultimately lost to the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. Coupled with the fact that there are constant rumors about Dwight Howard changing teams because he hasn't signed the extension that is on the table for him, this team could be in for quite a shake up this season.

Look for them to: 1. Do everything they can to keep Dwight, but if they find the right deal for him, ship him out and most likely package Gilbert Arenas and/or Hedo Turkoglu with him.

And that's pretty much it. If they lose Dwight, it's rebuild mode. If they don't, everyone but Jason Richardson is still on contract and they'll make a free agent signing to replace that SG slot. What everyone is hearing is that Dwight wants to go to the Lakers for a deal that would send Andrew Bynum and Pau or Lamar or some kind of combo like that for Dwight and Arenas or Hedo, but this is all speculation- but so was Carmelo's deal to New York. So we will definitely be sitting on pins and needles this summer watching for Dwight movement because that is priority number 1 for the Orlando Magic.

Boston Celtics 56-26 (I predicted this team would make it back to the Finals last year and stand by that if Rajon Rondo hadn't broken his arm in half).

Notable Free Agents - Nenad Krstic, Glen Davis, Delonte West
Core players still on contract - Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal

Recap: Big story here was the trading of Kendrick Perkins which had fans, bloggers and analysts shaking and scratching their heads and centers from other teams jumping for joy. You're telling me you don't think defensive center Perkins couldn't take Chris Bosh completely out of the game and help defend on LeBron and Dwyane Wade? (And they still coulda won if Rondo hadn't dislocated his elbow!) In return they got Jeff Green and Nenad's expiring contract. Let's face it, this is an old team and Jeff Green is a young player that could ultimately take the reigns from the big 3 and run the team with Rajon Rondo in the future.

Look for them to: 1. Find and sign scorers. 2. Keep adding pieces and stick with this core for next year including big men to replace Shaq and Nenad.

Doc Rivers signed a 5 year extension recently. He wouldn't have done that if the team was going into rebuild mode. They will stick with this big 3 plus Rondo and Jeff Green for next year. They do need some scoring though. The big 3 are turning a year older and aren't really GO TO guys anymore (except for Paul Pierce). Rondo is a creator and Jeff Green isn't the answer to this issue. They will need to look into free agency or into trades to get a player or two who are young, fast, and can keep the Celtics from going through scoring droughts. Preferably a big man because Shaq is D-O-N-E (actually, he WAS done before the season started), and Jermaine O'Neal is not the answer to this issue either. Glen Davis may leave town if another team offers him more money and after that, the Celtics have no more bigs and for their sake, I hope they don't think Nenad Krstic is the answer either.

Los Angeles Lakers 57-25 (I could write a book on these Lakers right now, but I won't)

Notable free agents - NO ONE
Core players still on contract - Do I have to list them? Kobe, Lamar, Artest, Gasol, Bynum, Fisher, Steve Blake

Recap: Isn't it crazy how Kobe in 09 went from 0 championships to 4 championships, and then in 2010 went from 4 championships to 6 championships? Anyway, these Lakers were the favorites to win the championship and they did their typical Laker season routine by winning a lot of games but losing to some bad teams such as the Cavaliers and Clippers and waiting to turn on the "switch" when the playoffs come around. They went on a 17-1 spree after the all star break (where Kobe won all star MVP) and ended the season with more bad losses. Then they struggled against the Hornets in the first round and got swept by Dallas in the 2nd round. Phil Jackson retired (a damn shame), and everyone in LA is furious with Pau Gasol, the "killer bees" (Barnes, Blake and Brown), and Fisher, but mostly Pau Gasol who had a horrible playoffs. Reactions range from blow up the team to give it another go with this team and make minor tweaks.

Look for them to: 1. Find a new coach. 2. Add pieces based on said new coach's philosophy by getting players who are faster and more athletic.

Hire a new coach-DONE. MIKE BROWN is the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. As a Laker fan I hate it, and would have rather had Rick Adelman or Jeff Van Gundy, but definitely not Brian Shaw but anyways it will be hard to match the respect Phil commanded from his players so we'll see how the Lakers and Kobe especially buy into his plan.

Now that they have the coach, they gotta get some talent. Speed. Quickness. Defense. They got the bigs, they need some speed now. Someone to keep up with the Chris Pauls, Jason Kidds/Terrys, Derrick Rose's, Russell Westbrooks etc. and the league isn't slowing down either. Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are coming in keeping the trend alive that almost every team in the NBA except the Lakers has a fast fast fast point guard. This is priority number 1 for the Lakers. They have bigs. They don't NEED Dwight. He'd be an upgrade sure. But they don't have a point guard at all. Steve Blake was supposed to take the reigns from Derek Fisher but that is not likely to happen (but maybe with a new offense he could thrive). But they will roll with this core again and try to win the championship next year.

Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (8th seed beat 1st seed Spurs, took 4 seed Thunder to 7 games-WHO WOULDA THOUGHT)

Notable Free Agents - Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Shane Battier
Core players still on contract - Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, OJ Mayo

Recap: In the beginning of the season they extended point guard Mike Conley's contract to $40 million over 5 years. That's a lot of money. People jumped on the hater wagon and said this was one of the worst moves of all time. And although it is pretty high priced, Mike Conley did his best to earn what he got paid and had an improved year from last season, although they were slight improvements. Rudy Gay got hurt in February and had to miss the rest of the season and playoffs. Tony Allen went from barely playing to the team's defensive MVP by season's end. And they traded their #2 draft pick from last year Hasheem Thabeet for Shane Battier (expiring contract mind you). They made OJ Mayo a sixth man mid season to give their bench some scoring punch.

Look for them to: 1. Re-sign Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph. 2. Court Shane Battier. 3. Possibly trade Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo.

One of the best two man big man tandem in the league are both free agents. They need to lock these guys up, especially Zach Randolph who has some unbelievable post moves. Think Dirk Nowitzki right now in the playoffs only instead of fadeaways, Zach's moves are back to the basket. Marc Gasol actually took a step back in production, but he plays with some toughness not seen in his all star brother, Pau. If they can fortify that frontline and get Rudy Gay back next season, this team could be SCARY.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Part 4 of 6 Summer Plans - Are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet

Houston Rockets 43-39 (All star starting center didn't even play 10 games!)

Notable free agents - Yao Ming, Chuck Hayes
Core players still on contract - Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Hasheem Thabeet

Recap: They were gonna play Yao sparingly. Give him the nights off on the second night of back to backs. But his left foot never got right and he missed the rest of the season. Chuck Hayes and Brad Miller were serviceable but the team had to rely on Kevin Martin and Luis Scola and it simply wasn't enough. Just 3 games out of the 8th seed in the west, they finished 9th and didn't make the playoffs.

Mid season they traded Shane Battier to Memphis for Hasheem Thabeet and Rick Adelman recently resigned as coach.

Look for them to: 1. Find a new coach. 2. Re-sign Yao Ming for a discount. 3. Try and get Hasheem Thabeet to be their new center for the future.

Rick Adelman was a good coach and he left because this team is in disarray. He expected to coach Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady but ended up coaching Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. Yao and Tracy were supposed to be the new Kobe and Shaq! Now the team looks to start over with Kyle Lowry and Hasheem Thabeet as their young guns to go along with vets Kevin Martin and Luis Scola.

I do expect them to sign Yao Ming because from an owner's stand point, they get 100% of China's ratings, which leads to a lot of money. Granted they'll sign him at a discounted price given his health issues, but the price of ratings far outweighs the price of his contract. He's a guaranteed all star starter every year! But he probably won't play that much if because he might be injured or they'll try and prevent him from being injured by not playing him much...if that makes sense. So Hasheem Thabeet will be their new project to see if he can become the franchise center. He didn't get much playing time in Memphis behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph but he will have a chance in Houston, let's see what he does with it.

New York Knicks 42-40 (Madison Square Gahden with Cahmelo, Amahhre, and Chuuoooanncey haha)

Notable free agents - Ronny Turiaf (player option)
Core players still on contract - Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields

Recap: The Knicks are back! Playoff team from here on out for the next 5 years guaranteed and if they're smart, possible title contenders with Boston aging and Dwight possibly moving. The team got Amare over the summer and finished off the lineup by trading for Carmelo and Chauncey. They had their ups and downs but had nice wins including over the Miami Heat, but was not able to get a win (due in large part to injuries) against the Celtics in the playoffs as they were swept out and into the 2011-12 season.

Look for them to: 1. Decide whether they want to play through Mike D'Antoni or buy him out of his last year of his contract. 2. Find a big man.

A lot of noise was made about how Mike D'Antoni's offensive scheme with little attention to defense would work with this brand new lineup. He'll be in the last year of his contract next season but the Knicks, who seem to have a billion dollar credit limit, can buy him out and let him become a free agent and find a coach that can bring these stars some playoff wins.

They also need to fill out their roster. Almost everyone is a free agent besides the core players and they'll need to make some adjustments. For one, they have to find a big man because right now Ronny Turiaf is their starting center and he's just too much of an offensive liability to be in the starting lineup. Great defensively, but the Knicks want another scoring big man, a center, so that Amare can continue to thrive in his natural power forward position.

New Orleans Hornets 46-36 (Imagine if David West was playing against the Lakers)

Notable free agents - David West (player option), Carl Landry
Core players still on contract - Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Jarret Jack

Recap: Chris Paul had a couple stats slip across the board, and his jumpshot wasn't as accurate as his years were before last seasons injury, but that shouldn't take away from his great season, including some incredible moments against the Lakers in the playoffs. Unfortunately, David West tore his ACL about a month before the playoffs and had to miss the rest of the season. But they were still able to push the Lakers to 6 games with solid play from newcomer Trevor Ariza who can play great with a great point guard (but not as the #1 option like Houston wanted him to be), and of course, Chris Paul played out of his mind hitting all kinds of shots and distributing the ball with ease.

Look for them to: 1. David West will not take his player option and will stay with the team. 2. Re-sign Carl Landry. 3. Find a scoring back to the basket big man.

David West will have to stay with the team and not opt out because no team would want to sign him to a big contract after he came off ACL surgery. So with that being said, they'll need to re-sign Carl Landry as insurance because he played great in West's absence. In addition to that, they'll need to sign a scoring big man because neither Landry, West, or Okafor are post move scoring big men. The Lakers were able to capitalize on the Hornets with their size and they will address this issue over the summer.

Of course all of these measures are being taken to KEEP CHRIS PAUL IN NEW ORLEANS. Everyone remembers his toast at Carmelo's wedding last summer where he said that he, Carmelo and Amare were forming their OWN big 3 in response to LeBron, Wade and Bosh teaming up. Well New York has 2 of the 3 already, CP3 could very well demand a trade ala Carmelo. But know this, if CP does leave New Orleans, the Hornets will have to rebuild from scratch. He is MVP caliber and a star-something not easily replaceable.

Portland Trailblazers 48-34 (Greg Oden is still on this team)

Notable free agents - Greg Oden (Qualifying Offer), Andre Miller (team option)
Core players still on contract - Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nic Batum, Gerald Wallace, Wesley Matthews,

Recap: Over the summer they got Wesley Matthews and re-signed Marcus Camby, both of whom had great seasons especially given the fact that Brandon Roy and Greg Oden got hurt. Lamarcus Aldridge however was the MVP of the team, keeping the team from going on any kind of losing streak with the knee surgery Brandon Roy had to have, forcing him to miss time. Brandon Roy came back and came off the bench. They traded Joel Przybilla for Gerald Wallace (Man this team has a lot of talent) and got the 6 seed in the playoffs and were favored to beat the Mavericks. In a great series however, they eventually lost in 6 games.

Look for them to: 1. Offer the qualifying offer to Greg Oden. 2. Retain Andre Miller. 3. Get more big man insurance for Greg Oden and Marcus Camby.

Everyone knows about Greg Oden. This was his fourth year in the NBA and he's played in 2 of those season for a grand total of 82 games. But they still don't know what they have with him. And it'd be irresponsible for them to let another team take him at a discounted price and watch him turn into a quality center in a league where centers are rare. Andre Miller is also going to stay right where he is in the starting lineup. No reason to let him become an unrestricted free agent.

Back to the center issue though, Greg Oden might not be able to play again next season and Marcus Camby is 37 years old. They traded away Joel Przybilla (who also had injury issues)- this team needs a big man in case Greg Oden can't go and Marcus Camby's age catches up to him.

I realize the past handful of teams listed are in need of centers so let's sidebar for a second and see what centers are available in the free agent pool -

In order of relative best available (taking into account injury history, age, skill, upside, etc.)

Tyson Chandler
Yao Ming
Nene Hilario (player option)
DeAndre Jordan (restricted)
Marc Gasol (restricted)
Kris Humphries
Samuel Dalembert
Spencer Hawes (restricted)
Kwame Brown
Erick Dampier
Nazr Mohammed
Kurt Thomas
Carl Landry
Chuck Hayes
Chris Wilcox
Ronny Turiaf (player option)
DJ Mbenga
Ryan Hollins (player option)
Joel Przybila
Earl Clark
Aaron Gray (player option)
Jamaal Magloire
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Etan Thomas
Hilton Armstrong
Hamed Haddadi (restricted)
Jeff Foster
Juwan Howard

Denver Nuggets 50-32 (Carmelo leaves and these guys vault to the 5 seed!?)

Notable free agents - Kenyon Martin, Nene Hilario (player option), JR Smith, Wilson Chandler (qualifying offer), Arron Afflalo (qualifying offer)
Core players still on contract - Raymond Felton, Al Harrington, Chris Andersen, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson

Recap: Carmelo did his best to just play and not bring attention to his NY wishes, but it ultimately happened and the Nuggets got a lot of pieces for their whole Carmelo. It worked, until they got to the playoffs where a lack of a go-to-guy really showed in a couple close games against the Thunder. The Knicks who came to Colorado looked especially good, including Raymond Felton who came off the bench while Ty Lawson started, and Danilo Gallinari who showed he was more than just a three point shooter.

Look for them to: 1. Try and re-sign Nene who will most likely opt out of his contract and look for a long term deal. 2. Offer qualifying offer to both Wilson Chandler and Arron Affalo (both are cheap enough). 3. Let JR Smith and Kenyon Martin leave town IF they demand more money than their worth. 4. Try and find offers for Raymond Felton and try and package their horrible signing last summer-Al Harrington- with him.

This team is in rebuild mode with Ty Lawson the new face of the franchise... it seems. This team has no identity except for the fact that their half Nuggets/half Knicks. Kenyon Martin is coming off knee surgery and isn't the Kenyon of the Nets anymore and he'll probably take a pay cut if he comes back to the Nuggets. JR Smith is also a great shooter and scorer the Nuggets could use, it all depends on whether he could and wants more money from another team.

Nene is the real focus here. One of the few really good centers in the league. He's likely to opt out of his contract and look to extend for more years and more money. That would be priority number 1 for the Nuggets. As for Raymond Felton, he's too talented to come off the bench, and Al Harrington sucks too much to be paid so much money. Look for the Nuggets to explore trade options for that package and try to find a go-to-guy that they lost in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Part 3 of 6 Summer Plans - Because GMs don't like going to baseball games

Golden State Warriors 36-46 (I just feel this team should rename themselves the Golden State Small Forwards/Shooting Guards)

Notable Free Agents - Vladamir Radmanovic's $6 mil contract
Core players still on contract - Monta Ellis, David Lee, Stephen Curry, Andris Biedrins, Dorrel Wright, Ekpe Udoh

Recap: Don Nelson was fired by the Warriors before the season started and was replaced by assistant coach Keith Smart. They signed Acie Law in the first part of the season to a small 1 year deal. They traded for Troy Murphy and quickly bought him out in a money saving move. And they worked with new guy David Lee who didn't really play up to his "hey he's a max deal player!" hype he received in New York-but a solid year nonetheless.

Dorrel Wright had a break out season and became a go to guy with his lethal 3 point shot. A small bright spot in the Warriors' season.

Expect them to: 1. Find a new coach. 2. Play in free agency. 3. Try and trade either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis.

Hopefully they get Rick Adelman or someone who can command a lot of respect and gives a crap about defense because for the past, oh I don't know, 10 years or so, this Warriors team has been a run-n-gun offense that was highlighted when Baron Davis and company took out number 1 seed Mavericks a few years ago.

They shed a lot a lot a lot of money, about 20 million worth and can sign a few good guys to fill out the roster. Unfortunately, this summer's free agent class isn't as great as last year's, but if they try and work a trade into the mix as well with either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis, they can really shake up this roster and move away from the run-n-gun that has never worked in the history of the NBA as far as championships are concerned. It's fun. It sells tickets. It doesn't win championships.

Indiana Pacers 37-45 (Oh yeahhh they made the playoffs with that atrocious record (AW YEAAA!!!!)

Notable free agents - Mike Dunleavy, TJ Ford, Jeff Foster
Core players still on contract - Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Darren Collison, James Posey, Paul George, Brandon Rush

Recap: They traded for Darren Collison after he had a great rookie campaign filling in for the injured Chris Paul on the Hornets last year. They continue to push Granger as their franchise player. Tyler Hansbrough continued to prove naysayers wrong and had a productive sophomore season and Roy Hibbert, had his ups and downs but looks like a legitimate center. It may not be the best looking roster but apparently 37 wins gets you an 8th seed in the east. And they won a game against the Bulls! ALL UNDER AN INTERIM COACH FRANK VOGEL!

Look for them to: 1. Make a decision as to whether or not to keep Frank Vogel. 2. Play in free agency as over $25 million dollars is coming off the books. 3. Try and trade James Posey's $6 million expiring contract. 4. Continue to build with a pretty young and talented nucleus.

Frank Vogel has recently was interviewed by the Houston Rockets this week, so he might be on the way out. It's a toss up as to whether or not it's a good idea to re-sign him, although the players have come out and said they want him back.

Aside from the coach though, a LOT of money is coming off the books and the young core is under contract for more than two years. I see a big signing in the form of a small forward to fill out the roster. Maybe a shooting guard and put Paul George on the bench or a power forward and put Hansbrough on the bench. Who knows, but this team has the money to either sign a big name or a couple solid role players.

As for James Posey, he just straight up doesn't play for them anymore. Lot of inactive games and wasn't even a part of the playoff roster. He'll be in the last year of his contract and could be a trade piece for a team trying to shed salary. He isn't a part of the Pacers' future at all. The future will look to build around Granger, Hibbert and Collison. It may not be anything special now, but it is building blocks they can work with. Could be an exciting season next year depending on who they sign.

Utah Jazz 39-43 (Oh how the somewhat mighty have fallen)

Notable free agents - ANDREI KIRILENKO, Kyrylo Fesenko
Core players still on contract - Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, CJ Miles, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward

Recap: In the beginning, they traded for Al Jefferson for future draft picks, based on Deron Williams request of the list of big men they could get and DWill said "I'm gonna make you an allstar." Then some ish went down and the team stopped responding to the coach which lead to THE GREAT JERRY SLOAN QUITTING. THEN Deron Williams was TRADED for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors! WHAT?! Wasn't Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer supposed to be the second coming of John Stockton and Karl Malone? Whatever. The team floundered during and after that trade and didn't make the playoffs and now could have an entire new look by next season.

Look for them to: 1. Find a new coach. 2. Re-sign Andrei Kirilenko. 3. Get their players healthy again. 4. Build around their new core.

It'll be tough, but the Jazz do need to find a new coach that can get this team back to the playoffs. I haven't really heard much about who they'd want to replace him with, which could mean they'll roll with Tyrone Corbin who replaced Sloan when he left. As for Kirilenko, both sides have expressed their desire to re-sign, and at a discounted rate! AK said he doesn't want to chase a championship by being a "bit" player (Like Iverson). Although he has said he would listen to the Nets' Russian owner about playing there.

This team just needs to get healthy though. Andrei, Mehmet Okur, Fesenko, Ronnie Price and CJ Miles all had injuries and missed time. Next season will be a fresh start and hopefully everyone will be healthy again. Mehmet Okur can really add some dynamics to this team as another big who can shoot the 3 pointer. They can cause matchup problems with him and Al Jefferson subbing for each other.

For a team that lost it's two best players in Boozer and DWill, they got some great pieces to move forward with, including one of the fastest point guards in the league Devin Harris, and the #3 pick in last years draft Derrick Favors, along with their own draft pick Gordon Hayward and two great bigs- Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. If they can get Andrei Kirilenko back and Mehmet Okur back from injury, they'd have all the pieces to make a run at the playoffs again.

Phoenix Suns 40-42 (So I guess that Amare Stoudemire wasn't just a great player cuz of Steve Nash then eh?)

Notable free agents - Vince Carter (team option that they better not pick up-$18 mil), Grant Hill, Mikael Pietrus (player option ($5 mil)
Core players still on contract - Steve Nash, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley (fun names!)

Recap: This team went through a lot of changes this season - At one point they had Jason Richardson, Goran Dragic and Hedo Turkoglu and that changed to Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat and Aaron Brooks. Everyone knows it-put anyone on the same team as Steve Nash and they'll have a great statistical year. But the talent this team used to have got them to the playoffs. This year, they didn't even win half their games. And Steve Nash being the best teammate never demands a trade and just keeps playing, passing and shooting 3 points with crazy accuracy.

Ultimately, Vince Carter became a bench player and played about 20-25 minutes for the last two weeks of the season in a downward spiral to his career.

Look for them to: 1. Not re-sign Vince Carter. 2. Look to replace his spot in the starting lineup by signing a shooting guard, Michael Redd? 3. Re-sign Grant Hill. 4. Re-sign Aaron Brooks. 5. Do everything in their power to please Steve Nash.

Vince Carter is self explanatory. He's not good. Nowhere near worth 18 million. Bye bye Carter. There are rumors that the Suns would be able to get Michael Redd for cheap given his injurious past. I wouldn't do it BECAUSE of his injurious past but they do risk signing a long term deal with someone else and then watching Steve Nash peace out next summer.

Regarding Grant Hill, he is playing great given his age at 38. He finished 7th in defensive player of the year voting! He's a great leader and veteran and if it weren't for the sorry role players the Suns have (Hakim Warrick was supposed to replace Stoudemire, and then Childress and Robin Lopez just didn't play well).

As for Aaron Brooks, they will probably give him his qualifying option of about 2.5 million in case something drastic does happen with Steve Nash. Aaron Brooks fell off a little bit after winning the most improved player award (an award I have major beef with), but he is still one of the fastest dudes in the league and can start and score.

Philadelphia 41-41 (Our first 500 team! And it's our 15th team! Right on track)

Notable free agents - Jason Kapono's $6.6 million contract, Darius Songalia's $4 million contract
Core players still on contract - Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Louis Williams, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday

Recap: 500 team makes the playoffs and wins 1 game against the Heat after a season where Elton Brand came alive again and Jrue Holiday took a big step forward in his young career. They barely got to see what #2 draft pick Evan Turner could do. But in the end, they lost in the playoffs and Andre Iguodala, the face of the franchise, skipped his exit interviews, which leads us to what you should

Look for them to: TRADE ANDRE IGUODALA. Yes. I said it. And from what I've been reading around the internet is that it could be for another SF or for a big man. I'm not going to speculate who but they need to open some playing time for young Evan Turner so that he and Jrue Holiday can start getting this already playoff team (yet only 500 team) in the right direction. Other than that, they need to fill out their bench. It's not that impressive and they won't have a good draft pick to do so, but they can dabble in free agency and sign some bench guys. But that will all depend on who they can get for Andre Iguodala.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Part 2 of 6 Summer Plans - What will YOU take to south beach?

New Jersey 24-58 (I heard once they had a Russian owner or something?)

Notable free agents - Dan Gadzuric's &7.2 million dollar contract, Sasha Vujacic, Kris Humphries
Core players still on contract - Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar

Recap: Well they improved from their historic 13 win season last year, but did make some questionable signings. After they missed out on LeBron, Bosh, Wade, and Stoudemire, they felt the next best thing was getting Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow. All three's contracts are about the same as a max contract that they would have signed those big names for. So they have that core which isn't very nice.

But in the middle of the season, after they lost out on Carmelo, they traded for Deron Williams who's on contract for one more year, and then has a player option NEXT summer. So they have one season to convince Deron Williams to stay.

Another trade was a 3-team deal that got them Houston's first round pick (lotto protected), and LA Lakers' first round pick. They also got Sasha Vujacic's expiring contract.

Expect them to: 1. Re-sign Kris Humphries. 2. Not Re-sign Sasha Vujacic. 3. Build depth with the draft. 4. Make a play for Dwight Howard.

Yes. There are rumors that the Nets want Dwight Howard (who doesn't?) and a trade they'd have to do would be their big men of Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. So that's two reasons they'd re-sign Kris Humphries, he's a great rebounder who had a break out year, and he's a trade asset for Dwight.

Sasha will not be re-signed. He was the catch in the trade that netted them 2 first rounders with the Lakers and Rockets. It should be noted that the Jazz have the Nets' first round pick.

Check out the article regarding the Nets going for Dwight Howard here.

Detroit Pistons 30-52 (I remember when everyone was jumping all up on the Detroit bandwagon when they signed Charlie V and Ben Gordon a couple summers ago...)

Notable free agents - TAYSHAUN PRINCE, Tracy McGrady, Chris Wilcox
Core players still on contract - Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, Ben Wallace,

Recap: The Pistons had high hopes after Greg Monroe fell to them in the 2010 draft, but this team went nowhere fast. Included in this season was the benching of Richard Hamilton, a player revolt where T-Mac, Chris Wilcox, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince didn't show up for a shootaround because they were unhappy with coach Kuester. Needless to say, the team only won 30 games.

Expect them to: 1. Not re-sign Tracy McGrady. 2. Try and fail to re-sign Tayshaun Prince (leading them to put . 3. Trade Richard Hamilton. 4. Sign Rodney Stuckey to an extension. 5. Draft high and build around Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe.

They gave Tracy a chance and it didn't quite work out. It was only a one year contract so they'll move their separate ways. Tayshaun Prince has no reason to stay. He's a veteran now and a great defender/all around player that a championship contending team could offer some good money to (Heat comes to mind-speculation). I fully expect Tayshaun to skip town. And with that I expect them to trade Richard Hamilton (2 more years on contract for about 12.5 mil) for expiring contracts so they can re-sign Rodney Stuckey.

I also expect them to shop Charlie V. and/or Ben Gordon but will have a lot of trouble doing so because they are not that good and they are being paid way too much (both for 3 more years - BG for 11.5, 12 and 13 million, CV for 7.5, 8, 8.5 million - WOW!) But other teams would watch Richard Hamilton, he's still a good defender with a great shot.

This team is all about Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey now and they will build around them through said trades and draft. These aren't the best players but it's all they have to work with.

Los Angeles Clippers 32-50 (I thought this team would make the playoffs this year- LOL)

Notable free agents - DeAndre Jordan
Core players still on contract - Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Mo Williams, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe

Recap: New Coach Vinny Del Negro had a team that wasn't ready in the beginning of the season but started coming together near the end. Blake Griffin finally had a rookie season and won himself Rookie Of The Year. Eric Gordon improved his stats but did little to improve his ball handling skills after helping Team USA win gold in Turkey. Baron Davis started the year hurt, and ended the year a Cavalier. In return the Clippers got less a play maker, but a better shooter in Mo Williams and athletic dude Jamario Moon. Chris Kaman also started the year hurt, which gave DeAndre Jordan playing time and he shine shine shined his way into an upcoming big pay day this summer.

Expect them to: (Check out my previous post where I got to hear Donald Sterling divulge some goods about what the Clippers plans are) 1. Re-Sign DeAndre Jordan. 2. Trade Chris Kaman. 3. Decide whether or not they want to sign Jamario Moon his team option (if they can trade Kaman for a SF, then no). 4. NOT draft (Cleveland has their pick through Baron trade).

No huge changes here, unless Chris Kaman can get the Clippers a nice player. The Clippers are the first lottery team I've talked about that has a not only a really good player, but a really good core (Wizards have John Wall and Rashard Lewis, not much to really build around). A starting lineup of Mo Williams, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and some SF that Chris Kaman could yield (if not, Jamario Moon or Ryan Gomes) is a potentially lethal starting lineup. Could THIS be the year that the Clippers finally put it together? They better because I just got another season's worth of tickets.

It will be very interesting to see what they can get for Chris Kaman though.

Charlotte Bobcats 34-48 (Team blown up, let's see where the bits fall)

Notable free agents - Joel Przybilla's 7.5 mil contract, Morris Peterson's 6.5 mil contract, Kwame Brown
Core players still on contract - Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas

Recap: They. Traded. Gerald. Wallace. They also traded Nazr Mohammed. For expiring contracts of course. Michael Jordan the owner decided this team wasn't gonna get it done with Gerald Wallace as the best player so to Portland he went. And the team played out the season. And that's pretty much it.

Expect them to: 1. Draft twice (their pick and New Orleans'). 2. Potentially trade Boris Diaw's expiring 9 mil contract. 3. Play with free agency and try and sign a top talent.

And that's pretty much it. They don't have a lot of pieces except for DJ Augustin to build around so they're gonna have to see where they end up in the draft and then go from there. This team will lose a lot of games next season if they don't sign a top talent and go strictly with young draftees.

Milwaukee Bucks 35-47 (The Michael Redd era is ova)

Notable free agents - Michael Redd, Luc Mbah a Moute
Core players still on contract - Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Corey Maggette, John Salmons, Drew Gooden

Recap: If the Milwaukee Bucks plays a game but no one is around to hear it, do they make a noise? The crazy thing is that they were only 2 games behind in the east to make the playoffs! The thing is, this core group of guys is on contract for a lot of years and they're just not that good. I mean Corey Maggette? He's a bench player these days. John Salmons is good and Drew Gooden is solid but as for starting lineup quality in the East? Which all of a sudden is the dominant conference almost over night? Not gonna get much done.

As all star quality as Andrew Bogut can be and as flashy as Brandon Jennings is, this team is still a couple pieces away from being a borderline 8th seed to a solid 7th seed.

Expect them to: 1. Not re-sign Michael Redd. 2. Use that $18 mil from Michael Redd's contract to sign a big name or two tier 2 or 3 guys. 3. Draft near the middle of the draft for some OK talent at best.

Like I said, they can use that $18 mil to really bolster this lineup with some solid offensive punch. Unfortunately, Milwaukee isn't a big name city, but this is an attractive lineup for the right player. Great center who can play defense and a scoring point guard with John Salmons on the wing? See who they can sign...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Summer Plans- No Vacay for the Weary

All but 8 teams are no longer playing basketball and it is up to their GMs and owners to make some decisions about their future. This will be a multi part post, starting with the bottom teams that didn't make the playoffs -

Minnesota Timberwolves - 17-65 (ouch)

Notable free agents - Eddy Curry's $11 million dollar contract.
Core players still on contract - Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson

Recap: Well, we've heard it time and time before, "This was a rebuilding year." The light at the end of the tunnel is workhorse Kevin Love and is historic season of rebounding, and Michael Beasley staying out of trouble and having a solid season. Both are on contract for the next two seasons.

Caught in the middle of the Carmelo Anthony trade, Eddy Curry's expiring contract somehow landed in Minnesota. That's $11 million the Wolves can use this summer to sign their high draft pick and a free agent or two. They have a very low payroll, but then again, they are not that rich of a team that can push the salary cap to the limits like the Lakers or Knicks.

Look for them to: 1. Try and get Ricky Rubio over here from Europe! Again!
2. Draft high, build with young players.

The problem is that they have their core starting lineup all on contract for the next few years, but they're simply not good. Besides Love and Beasley, they have Milicic and Ridnour at center and point guard. And rookie Wesley Johnson started to start near the end of the season. They have these young players who will probably need... yes... ANOTHER rebuilding year to get good. By the time Love is a free agent, will he want to stay?

Cleveland Cavaliers 19-63 (including a 26 game losing streak, yet still not worst record in history)

Notable free agents - Ryan Hollins with player option (can opt out of 2.4 million)
Core players still on contract - Antawn Jamison (last year), Baron Davis, Anderson Varejao, JJ Hickson

Recap: They beat the Boston Celtics in their home opener. Things were looking up in the post LeBron era with new coach Byron Scott leading a... kinda weird lineup of veterans and young guys. Then a couple losses, couple wins here and there, and then injuries, trades, the 26 game losing streak. It was to be expected though, this team is rebuilding.

Look for them to: 1. Draft high and twice. 2. See if JJ Hickson is their guy. Possibly trade Antawn Jamison's expiring contract.

They have their own draft pick and the Clippers' in the Mo Williams/Baron Davis trade. Giving them a little more chances for the number 1 pick but 2 lottery picks guaranteed. Along with those young draftees, they're gonna continue to work with Hickson who's a great athlete with little basketball IQ. They have to decide whether to build aroudn him or to start somewhere else, which would depend on who they get in the draft. Along with those new draftees, they could find a team trying to shed some salary and trade Jamison's contract which is valued at $13.3 million and get a solid player in return-hopefully, for them. We will in fact see if Dan Gilbert's guarantee that they would win a championship before LeBron James holds true.

Toronto Raptors 22- 60 (thought they'd have worst record in league this season-off by 5 wins)

Notable free agents - Leandro Barbosa (player option for 7.6 million), Reggie Evans
Core players still on contract - Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Demar Derozan

Recap: Nothing too notable happened with the Raptors this season. They lost Chris Bosh and worked with what they had- Demar Derozan took a step in the right direction and looks like he could possibly be an all star someday. Andrea Bargnani is their franchise guy as he's on contract for over $10 mil a year until 2014-2015. Like the Wolves, they have the guys set in place as far as starting rotation goes, it's just they're not that good. Bargnani is the center, Jose Calderon the PG, DeRozan probably the only solid player at SG, but Amir Johnson at PF on contract until 2014-2015? They'll probably have to adjust that and possibly make him a bench player.

Look for them to: 1. Also draft high. 2. hit the free agency market and possibly look for a small forward upgrade to replace James Johnson and Sonny Weems if they don't do so in the draft.

This team is also in rebuilding mode as most of these last place teams should be and are in. Jose Calderon is a great distributor but not a great point guard. He's not good defensively and a lot of his assists come in transition. Andrea Bargnani has been improving year after year but just not a back to the basket kind of center. He's a 3 point shooter. I'd rather him play SF or PF and for the Raptors to get a low post presence- but hey, that's me.

Washington Wizards 23-59 (Gilbert Arenas era is ova)

Notable free agents - Josh Howard (remember him?)
Core players still on contract - John Wall, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, Javale Mcgee

Recap: The Wizards were the worst road team this year winning 3 out of 41. But this is the first worst team of the league that is already on the upswing with #1 pick John Wall having a fantastic rookie season and Javale McGee coming into his own as a huge, defensive, freak of nature-still raw though, but looks to be improving (and got robbed at dunk contest).

In the beginning of the season, they had three starter quality point guards in John Wall, Arenas and Kirk Hinrich and ended with John Wall and Rashard Lewis, hey- Rashard may be overpaid, but at least they're overpaying for a power forward and not a back up PG or undersized SG.

Look for them to: 1. Surprise surprise-draft high. 2. Re-sign Nick Young to a bigger contract, hopefully not a max contract.

They got a good core and a GREAT point guard in John Wall (fast as Westbrook and Rose). They gotta build around him and have the pieces and draft possibility to do so. Finally out of Caron Butler-Antawn Jamison-Gilbert Arenas mode.

Sacramento Kings 24-58 (Staying in Sacramento)

Notable Free Agents - Samuel Dalembert, Marquis Daniels, Marcus Thornton
Core players still on contract - Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins

Recap: Tyreke teamed up with another high profile rookie in DeMarcus Cousins, both of whom had good seasons. Samuel Dalembert had a good season as well and it's up to the Kings to decide whether or not to re-sign him. A lot of the Kings season had been over shadowed by the possible move to southern California, but this team has some good pieces in Evans and Cousins.

Look for them to: 1. RE-SIGN MARCUS THORNTON. When they traded for Marcus Thornton, they got a great scorer who will go along great with Evans who can create for him. 2. They will also draft high and address needs such as a big man if Samuel Dalembert leaves town. But first things first, they gotta re-sign Marcus Thornton.

I'm going 5 teams at a time so next post will be in a couple days and I'll cover New Jersey, Detroit, LA Clippers, Charlotte, and Milwaukee.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Mini Chat With Clipper Owner Donald Sterling March 5, 2011

Photo taken with Blackberry - No he is not smoking a cigarette, he is trying to answer someone from far away.

A quick intro: I am a season ticket holder for the Los Angeles Clippers. The month of March is considered "MVP month," which means season ticket holders get some cool prizes and access that non season ticket holders cannot get or attend. These include: Autograph night, Voucher giveaways, Team photo giveaways, Dessert Night (Yum!), a coach's chalk talk (talk with the coaches and team president) and photo night, which was tonight.

So after tonight's game against the Denver Nuggets (a win), season ticket holders lined up outside one of the doors and were ushered towards the seats a couple rows behind courtside seats where we would wait to take pictures with a random Clipper. We were split into three groups and luckily, my group was very close to where Donald Sterling was talking with some Clipper employees. He walked by and said "did you enjoy the game!?" To which we responded with cheers and applause because they won. He then came around the courtside seats and chatted with us. There were about 50 of us, I was in the third row so I got to hear a lot of it.

THIS IS WHAT HE SAID: (DISCLAIMER: I'm going to paraphrase as I did not have a tape recorder handy so these are paraphrases and not actual quotes)

  • "Now do you want to talk with me, or read what the newspapers have to say?"
  • Regarding Heckling Baron Davis - "I noticed he was taking three pointers and missing so I said, 'Why don't you drive it to the basket instead?'"
  • Regarding Baron Davis trade - "We had to give up a #1 draft pick with Baron! I was told that Mo Williams REALLY wants to come to LA. I was told that Mo Williams' WIFE really wants to come to LA. I was told Jamario Moon is a great player and defender and he'll work hard for us."
  • Regarding Blake Griffin - After explaining what a restricted contract is, where the Clippers can match any offer any other team gives him - "Blake is a $20 million dollar player, and we're not going to give up the best player in (he either said America or the world, but yes, he did say Blake was the best in either America or the world). Now some of these journey men are trying to get paid $20 million dollars too, which is something we're not going to do, but Blake is worth it."
  • Regarding Elgin Baylor - "Elgin Baylor was our GM for 22 years and I respect him a lot, but every time we'd talk he'd let it be known that who we had on the Clippers was the best talent we could get." Followed by a shrug.
  • Regarding fan jeers of Chris Kaman - "Look I can't tell you who but we are playing some guys to pad their stats in an effort to trade them. I can't tell you who, but you can figure it out. We're trying to land a superstar player to give Blake some help." *Crowd responds in a resounding cheer*

He then left to go talk with some other Clipper employees.

THAT IS IT. Those are the paraphrases of what Donald Sterling said- Let me break it down for you, and give you one way to analyze what he's saying. This is no longer Donald Sterling talking. This is MY take on what is going on with the Clippers based on what Sterling said.

  • Regarding heckling Baron Davis - Not really much to look into here. I didn't hear him say anything, my seats aren't close to his. But my personal opinion, owners should never disrespect their players. I don't even think owners should be that CLOSE to the players. Exception Mark Cuban.
  • Regarding Baron Davis trade - Baron Davis is on contract for A LOT of money: $13 mil this year, $14 mil next year, $15 mil the year after that. Cleveland needs to rebuild so they want draft picks. The only way they'd take on that expensive Baron contract is if they got a draft pick as well. So Clippers, already neck deep in young talent decide they don't need draft picks and send it over to Cleveland to take on Jamario Moon ($3 million this year, team option of $3 million next year AKA Clips can let him go if they want next summer) and Mo Williams ($9 mil this year, and 2 years of player options at $8.5 mil, which even if he takes, is still millions less than they'd be paying Baron Davis). OK That's a lot of writing. What does it mean? They're cutting payroll so they can pay DeAndre Jordan a lot more money than the $850 thousand he's making this year, because he's a free agent this summer.
  • Regarding Blake Griffin - I totally agree with Sterling, I think they should re sign Blake to some max money no matter what and Donald Sterling better keep his word or he'll have to rebuild a team AGAIN, after getting so lucky at getting that #1 pick in the draft and got a once in a decade type player. If he doesn't, he'll continue to be LA's other team, and Sacramento Kings might come to Anaheim and they might push the Clippers to be LA's THIRD team.
  • Regarding Elgin Baylor - Again, I have no idea what really went on in the Clippers front office. All I know is Elgin tried to make a team but got a lot of bad luck with Shaun Livingston's freak injury and Elton Brand skipping town AFTER Baron signed with LA, not getting Kobe in 04 and settling for Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley (which did get them to the playoffs). But that's not the point. Sterling said that Baylor said that who the Clippers had was the best they could do. Of course they're a lot better now because they made the no brainer decision to draft Blake Griffin. But I also know that Elgin Baylor hasn't been hired as a GM anywhere else so... no more comment.
  • Regarding Chris Kaman possibly being traded - Again Sterling NEVER called out Kaman by name saying the Clippers were padding his stats to make him look good for a possible trade. But he did say these comments after someone yelled out something about Chris Kaman. Chris Kaman is on contract for this year and next year so it is very likely the Clippers are padding his stats to trade him this summer as an expiring contract with talent to either shed more payroll to pay their youngsters or to get a high quality superstar which Sterling DID say. Personally, I think Sterling is cheap and won't want to pay 2 superstar salaries. I think he's happy with the Clippers selling out games JUST to see Blake Griffin. They don't need 2 superstars to sell out games, but that's just me. And if the Clips do get a 2nd superstar, GREAT!
That's all folks, hope you enjoyed reading. Sorry for the lack of posts :(