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.)
Nene Hilario (player option)
DeAndre Jordan (restricted)
Marc Gasol (restricted)
Spencer Hawes (restricted)
Ronny Turiaf (player option)
Ryan Hollins (player option)
Aaron Gray (player option)
Hamed Haddadi (restricted)
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.