NBA Offseason: Southeast Division

Friday, 17 June 2011, 6:00 | Category : NBA
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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.

Dwight Howard Orlando Magic, LeBron James Miami Heat
Will we see any major shake-ups in the Southeast where teams are either cash-strapped or rebuilding?

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.


Playing to a Different Tune

Thursday, 17 February 2011, 15:19 | Category : NBA
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Last week, we were all shocked to hear that Jerry Sloan retired from his position as head coach of the Utah Jazz.  I want to wish Coach Sloan well and thank him for the many great years he’s brought to the franchise.  He says he doesn’t care, but I’m sorry he never won coach of the year, because we all know he earned it.  (By the way, how are Avery Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Byron Scott, and Mike Brown doing these days anyway?)

Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz

What is Jazz basketball without Jerry Sloan? I guess we'll see.

Sloan is/was a coaching icon around the league.  He utilized the same motion-offense system his entire coaching career.  Just as Sloan stamps his identity on his teams so do most successful coaches.  This brings me to two other extremely successful coaches: Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown of the Spurs and Bobcats respectively.

This summer, neither team had much turnover, but both had high expectations to improve this season.  Last year the Spurs underperformed and the Bobcats made it to the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.

Both coaches have won championships and are two of the coaches with most wins (both behind Sloan).  Defense is a trademark of both coaches.  The difference between both teams is that the Spurs jumped back to the top of the league and the Bobcats took a step back to being just out of playoff contention.  Why would that be?

As much as consistency is valued in sports, change is what’s benefitted the Spurs.  Last year, Brown had the Bobcats defending as well as anybody in the league, even better than the Spurs.  For whatever reasons, their defense just hasn’t been the same this year.  Brown insisted his team play the kind of ball that got them to the playoffs just a season ago, but it didn’t happen.  Now Brown is gone.

Comparing the Bobcats from the time Brown stepped down to that same week last season the team’s defense allowed an average of 6 more points per game while their offense only scored less than two more points per game.  Since Paul Silas became interim coach (and has now been officially named head coach) the Cats have gone 14-12 (compared to 9-19 with Brown).  Silas gave the team the green light to run and push the offense.  Not only has their season average for points scored improved, but they’re also allowing fewer points.

Popovich faced similar problems as Brown did with his squad coming into the season.  The difference is he embraced

Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, NBA Finals

Popovich was even Brown's assistant for the 2004 summer Olympic team.

it.  He’s moved away from focusing on aging Tim Duncan and has utilized the speed and athleticism of his young guys. Believe it or not, the boring Spurs have spent most of the season as the highest scoring team in the league.  And as much as Popovich would like the team to get back to its defensive ways, they are actually about 1.5 fewer points per game as they had last year going into the All-Star break.

No one can argue with the success Larry Brown has had as a coach.  He won a championship with my Pistons; however, I think Popovich’s ability to be flexible and maximize the value of the pieces available to him have allowed his team to flourish.  It also helps that the Spurs have a unique blend of seasoned champions and young talent.

Sloan’s system also obviously worked well because the Jazz have been a pretty successful franchise; however, they’ve never brought a championship to Utah.  We’ll see how they fare playing to a different tune.

NBA Summer Review- Southeast Division

Monday, 11 October 2010, 19:04 | Category : NBA
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Southeast Division: Arguably the new best division in the league, but do any of these teams have what it takes to win a championship?

Atlanta Hawks: Keeping Joe Johnson from fleeing in free agency was top priority this summer.  Regrettably for the Hawks, this locked them up financially and they no longer have the means to address their other issues.  This could be a detriment in the long term.

Last season the Hawks proved they were a good team, but they also showed us they have some serious flaws they need

Teams need to get big if they want to compete anymore.

to address.  One of those flaws being size.  However, they refuse to get bigger and allow Horford to move into his natural position at the 4.  Keeping Jamal Carwford happy would be another priority of mine if I were Atlanta.

The Hawks have progressed every year for the last 5 or 6, but that streak will likely end this year.  We’ll see if a new coach will yield different results.  Atlanta is still a cut above most of the teams in the East and should end middle of the pack.  However, it may be some time yet before the Hawks fly to the top of the East.

(3rd-Southeast, 5th-East)

Charlotte Bobcats: Hopefully Charlotte will be able to maintain or build upon its success from last season of reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  However, with Michael Jordan’s takeover of the Mikecats, the team’s future becomes uncertain.  I mean this is the same guy that drafted Kwame Brown as the number 1 pick.  At least we know Jordan has learned his lesson because this summer he signed Brown.  At least this time he was only willing to give him the veteran’s minimum.

Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace have developed real chemistry, and the team is finally starting to take shape and develop an identity.  The team is lucky that Coach Larry Brown didn’t bail just as they were figuring things out (especially with Jordan taking over).  There are still two gaping wholes at the point guard and center positions, which are often considered the most important.  Just because the Heat can pull it off does not mean Charlotte can.  Devin Harris would’ve filled in nicely as the floor general.  Kwame probably isn’t the answer for a dominate force down low, especially against division rival Magic.  It looks like the Airman and his Aircats will still have their work cut out for them but have a shot at a repeat appearance in the playoffs.

(4th-Southeast, 7th-East)

Miami Heat: I’ve already said plenty on the NBA’s new biggest bandwagon team in Unofficial Review’s very first post ever. Just know that loaded teams have not always been successful in the past.  A fairly reent example from 2004 when the Pistons pulled the first ever 5 game sweep over a stacked Lakers. (And yes, I am living in the past).  Do to matchup problems for most teams, the Heat will probably end with the best record in the league, but I do not believe they will win the championship.  Use that for fuel, LeBron.

(1st-Southeast, 1st-East)

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard and Co. have proven they have swagger.  When they’re clicking (which is often) they

Did I mention size is important?

will kill you from the outside with 3s or inside with Dwight.  The problem is, even the reigning two-time champs made major moves to improve this summer.  The Magic merely found a poor-man’s version of Matt Barnes in Q-Rich and committed big money to JJ Reddick.  That means Carter better get things in order or he could be shipped out.

Last year, Coach Van Gundy made the mistake not to take advantage of additional big bodies on the roster, namely Brandon Bass.  Living and dying by the 3 is great, but pounding it inside is what opens up the shooting.  Speaking of pounding it inside, Dwight needs to continue to fine tune his play if he is going to ever get his team back to the finals.  Increasing his free-throw percentage and a developing a mid-range shot would make him deadly.  Until the team is able to take another step forward, they will continue to win games but come up empty handed.

(2nd-Southeast, 2nd-East)

Washington Wizards: The Great Wall is now as important to Washington as the one in China is to Yi Jianlian.  John Wall is in good hands with assistant coach Sam Cassell and Kirk Heinrich to show him the ropes.  Wall is an excellent piece to begin rebuilding around.  I’m also a fan of McGee.  However, Flip Saunders will have the challenge of coaching a very different and much younger group than he signed up for.  The Wiz have a modge podge of talented players, but I’m not convinced it will translate into a cohesive unit.  That should translate into being an active player in the trade scene, especially with so many stars yurning to take their talents to new locations.

Management and the coaching staff need to make Agent Zero (9?) their top priority.  His comeback would be difficult

Wall has already proven to be more valuable than their previous No. 1 pick, Kwame Brown.

enough without a rookie stealing his position and title of franchise player away from him.  Though undersized, Arenas makes a better SG anyway.  But does he agree?  I’m sure he’s already aware that if he doesn’t stay in line that he’ll be on the trading block.

In spite of Wall, this just won’t be the Wizard’s year.  They are in a stacked conference and will probably end up near the bottom of the East.  Just give it time.

(5th-Southeast, 13th-East)

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