With the uncertainty of the looming lockout hanging over the NBA, teams having the daunting task of using this offseason to position themselves for success in whatever direction the new CBA takes them. We are doing a division-by-division break down of what teams should be aiming to do this offseason. We will analyze each team’s current situation, free agents, draft prospects, and whose contract the team would drop if the new CBA includes a new amnesty rule. GMs, no need to worry. We’ve got you covered.
Atlanta Hawks: 2010-11 record: 44-38 (vs Southeast: 9-7)
It’s deals like the one Joe Johnson got last summer that have created the terrible situation surrounding the new CBA. Despite have the roster coming off the books this summer, the team’s overall salary only drops about $4 million. This limits the Hawks going forward and pretty much sticks them in no man’s land. They did surprise us by upsetting division rival Magic in the playoffs, but is that even saying much?
Free Agents: Hotlanta needs to focus on getting more size and replacing Jamal Crawford (assuming he leave for more money). They don’t have much monetary flexibility, which means testing the trade market may be the way to go. I personally think trading Joe Johnson for several pieces and picks, but they were willing to pay him $124 mil not to leave, so I don’t think that’s happening (plus, who would bite on that?). More realistically, J-Smoove is the best trade piece they’re willing to part with.
Draft: No first round pick.
Amnesty: Joe Johnson is getting paid way too much to not play. More than anyone else on the roster, the Hawks need to erase the memories of not pick Chris Paul or Deron Williams by getting Marvin Williams (3 years; $24 million) off the books. Okay, nothing will erase those bad memories until they win a title, which isn’t happening any time soon. But at least they’ll get a little financial relief and can start moving in the right direction.
Charlotte Bobcats: 2010-11 record: 34-48 (vs Southeast: 4-12)
Bob’s Cats are officially in rebuilding mode. Rich Cho proved to be a competent, if not good, GM in his short stint in Portland. Heck, he basically stole Gerald Wallace from his new employer. At this point the team needs to decide who is part of the long term plan and who isn’t. Whoever is not part of the future needs to be shopped around for pieces that possibly fit that long term plan or come cheap and just fill the roster until they do get what they want. And don’t forget to get stock up on draft picks.
Free Agents: The good news is they have some wiggle room. The bad news is they’d have to overpay any quality players to go there, stunting the rebuilding process. They need to improve at basically every position except PF. His Airness needs to see who he can bring in for a decent price yet focus more on trading players like…well, anyone really. The only player I seem them having trouble trading is Tyrus Thomas, and that’s only because of his contract. I bet they can get some good value out of Captain Jack and Boris Diaw (if he opts to stay).
Draft: Picking 9th and 19th, Charlotte should just take the best player at any position that is available because their bench is so week. They could also take a European big guy because they are pretty weak at center. Marcus Morris may be an interesting option as well. Their second pick could go to a potential scorer like Marshaun Brooks or Jordan Hamilton.
Amnesty: Tyrus Thomas (4 years; $33 million) has the longest and most expensive contract on the team, but they may want to keep him around going forward. Diop (2 years; $14 million) may be a better option considering he is less productive and could provide some immediate relief. It’s possible the Bobcats may chose not to exercise this right since their main focus right now doesn’t seem to be winning anyway.
Miami Heat: 2010-11 record: 58-24 (vs Southeast: 13-3)
Is there anything left to say? Miami obviously needs a more well-rounded roster but have little flexibility for years to come. They’ll actually increase salary over the years while losing players, and Mario Chalmers is going to be looking for a pay raise. So it looks like Pat Riley will have to continue looking for vets willing to play for the minimum in exchange at a shot at the title.
Free Agents: I don’t buy the idea that they’ll trade to trade James or Bosh for someone like Dwight Howard. They came really close this year and just need minor upgrades at PG and C (it also won’t hurt if LeBron doesn’t choke again). I’m just not sure who’s going to be better than their current roster that will want to play with the Heatles for so little. Too bad Antoine Walker isn’t a few inches taller, I hear he’s looking for a job.
Draft: No first round picks, but they have the first second round pick so we’ll include them. They are obviously in a win-now scenario so go with an upperclassman with smarts from a winning program. Shelvin Mack, JaJuan Johnson, Chandler Parsons, and Jon Leuer could contribute immediately. Of course, most people would contribute to that bench.
Amnesty: The only players they have on the books beyond next year were their most important players outside of the Big 3. If they do use it, Miller (4 years; $24 million) seems most likely to get the axe. The others are big, which the team sorely needs, and he gets paid slightly more. Although, they may just use it on Eddie house if he opts into his final year.
Orlando Magic: 2010-11 record: 52-30 (vs Southeast: 11-5)
For a team that wants to keep it’s star player happy and in contention for a title, the Magic are in bad shape. Whatever they do this off-season, the Magic need to make sure it makes Dwight happy and convinces him the team is moving in the right direction.
Free Agents: The Magic need someone who can cut and get to the rim (besides Dwight). Also, having a backup center couldn’t hurt.I don’t think they’ll be able to sign anyone of much significance, especially since a hard cap is a real possibility. I think the trading my be Orlando’s best option, but that may mean parting with Redick. Do you think Philly would do an Iguadola for Arenas trade? Neither do I, but Iggy would be a great fit, giving the Magic an athletic slasher and defender. Don’t hold your breath, Magic Kingdom.
Draft: No first round pick.
Amnesty: The Magic wouldn’t mind having the option to use this on 3 or 4 players. There’s no doubt that Arenas (3 years; $62 million) would be the lucky winner.
Washington Wizards: 2010-11 record: 23-59 (vs Southeast: 3-13)
The Wizards have decent starters at every position so they may be able to contend sooner than we think. The key now is to continue the course and be patient.
Free agents: Even with $20 mil going to Rashard Lewis, the Wiz are well below the current cap. They need to stay strong and resist overpaying anybody this summer. Short contracts are the way to go if they do sign anyone.
Draft: There’s been talk about them trading up for the 2nd pick, but if that’s just to get Kanter it’s an iffy move if they have to give up too much considering he may fall that far anyway. Besides, is he even the guy they want? Perhaps they should think about Kawhi Leonard at 6 for the energy and rebounding and they could grab a scorer off the bench with someone like Tobias Harris or Jordan Hamilton at 18.
Amnesty: If you had the chance to half your payroll by giving up an asset that isn’t in your long term plans would you? As should the Wizards by using amnesty on Rashard Lewis (2 years; $46 million). If they feel that’s too much money to pay Lewis to play for someone else, Blatche (4 years; $29 million) is the clear second choice. While he makes significantly less than Lewis, he is a head case and his contract lasts until 2015.