NBA Offseason: Central Division

Thursday, 9 June 2011, 5:00 | 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.


Cleveland Cavaliers, Nick Gilbert, Dan Gilbert, number 1 pick NBA Lottery Draft

Most of the Central Division is rebuilding, will they find what they need in this shallow draft?

Chicago Bulls: 2010-11 record: 62-20 (vs Central: 15-1)

After a very successful but disappointing season, Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls seemed to be one piece away from making the Finals.  Boozer, who spent key minutes on the bench in many fourth quarters, never became the second scoring threat the team needed.  Their biggest whole is at SG, but it’s unlikely that either Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton (solid players at both ends of the floor unlike any of the current Bulls SGs) would’ve been a difference maker in the Miami series.

Free Agents:  The team will stay mostly intact next season, but they may want to look into bringing back Kurt Thomas (who they should’ve played more against Miami) for toughness and leadership off the bench.  Wade would’ve fit perfectly with this team but isn’t an option.  They should look into trading Boozer and Bogans for Joe Johnson (but the Hawks would also need to get rid of Josh Smith).

Draft:  The Bulls have two picks at the end of the first round.  They are a team that can take a chance on a very unproven but apparently talented Josh Selby.  I never saw the talent but people are high on him.  The Bulls will be good for a while no matter what they do in this draft, so they are in position to take a gamble.  Their other pick could go to another big man that can defend and rebound.  Someone like Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Tyler, or Jordan Williams.  You can never have to many big men when Carlos Boozer is a starter.

Amnesty:  Boozer is the only contract (4 years; $60.5 million) worth  dropping, but that’s a lot of money to pay someone to not play for you, especially if that someone has trade value.  Maybe if they upgrade at SG they could use it on Brewer or Korver.  Bogans is in the last year of his contract.


Cleveland Cavaliers: 2010-11 record: 19-63 (vs Central: 3-13)

The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up.  Dan Gilbert is going to attempt his best Sam Presti impersonation by rebuilding through the draft and avoiding any cap killing contracts (unless it means more draft picks).  It looks like the Cavs are well on their way to winning a championship before LeBron does.

Free Agents:  No hour long special for any of the Cavs this year.  The only “key” player entering free agency is Anthony Parker, who they should let walk.  If they’re truly committed to rebuilding, then they need to get rid of their older, more expensive guys to give the young players experience.  Jamison’s expiring contract will surely be used in an attempt to pick up more draft picks.  Varejao, and maybe even Hickson, should also be shopped around.  It’ll be painful, but has the potential for a big payoff years up the rode.

Draft:  The only two options in this draft seem to be Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams.  Reminds me a little of the Derrick Rose vs. Michael Beasley scenario in 2008.  Go with the point guard (which seems to be a done deal at this point).  This will give them a quality PG to build around.  The problem is they have three other PGs all on the books for 2 more seasons (again, look for the Cavs to shop these players around).  They would love to have Enes Kanter at 4, but may have to settle for a different Euro big because Kawhi Leonard is redundant to Verajao, and Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight are more point guards.

Amnesty:  For fear of the new building block of the franchise being mentored by Baron Davis (2 years; $29 million), it’s likely he’d be the one to go.  Not to mention, there’s a logjam at his position and every other major contract on the team is still tradable.


Detroit Pistons: 2010-11 record: 30-52 (vs Central: 7-9)

The gears are moving in Motown.  Tom Gores is now owner and he’s looking to get things back on track. With Kuester’s inevitable firing, the decision for the new head coaching job is important.  The team needs some consistency by hiring a coach who the players respect and will bring toughness back to Detroit.  Of those on the short list, I like Mike Woodson best.  He was an assistant when the won a championship, he’s proven, and he’ll have the players’ respect.  Bill Laimbeer deserves a look too (at least to bring on the staff).  He coached three WNBA championship teams and knows a things or two about bringing toughness to the game.  We’ll see if Dumars can redeem himself with the backing of an owner willing to do what it takes.

Free Agents:  One of the season long problems was finding a reasonable lineup and allocating minutes.  They need to bring back Jerebko and build around him, Monroe, Daye, and this year’s lottery pick.  Stuckey’s stock is down, so they probably won’t have to pay top dollar to keep him (nor should they).  Wallace, McGrady, and Wilcox are cheap enough that you bring them back if they want.  As much as it saddens me, it’s time to part ways with Prince (sign and trade) and Hamilton (if you can trade him without giving up too much).  Everyone else is expendable (that is if you can find a sucker to take on Gordon and/or Villanueva).

Draft:  8th in this draft is nothing to wet yourself over, but it’s still a chance to build.  Gamble on a big European guy; Ben Wallace isn’t going to play forever.  If they can move Hamilton or Gordon, then they should go for Alec Burks.  Dumars has been hit and miss drafting so cross your fingers Detroit.

Amnesty:  The obvious choices are Villanueva (3 years; $24 million-third year player option) and Gordon (3 years; $37 million-third year player option).  With chances of a lockout high, Hamilton will only be on the books for one more full season.  Villanueva is cheaper and has been more productive, but they’ll likely be clearing space at the two for Gordon.  I suppose it depends on what happens with the rest of the roster.  They can’t go wrong clearing either salary.


Indiana Pacers: 2010-11 record: 37-45 (vs Central: 9-7)

After an inspiring push in the first round against the Bulls, you can help but to feel like the Pacers are close to turning into a pretty decent team.  Despite their recent success, they should let their veterans go and continue to rebuild.  They have a strong young core of players, but should look to improve on defense.

Free Agents:  With all of the expiring contracts they have coming off the books this summer, the Pacers will have the second-most cap space in the league.  They need to improve at PF more than any other position.  David West (if he opts out) and Carl Landry would be good options.  They just need to make sure that they don’t break the bank signing someone.  Also look for them to shop around Granger.  But if they do make a trade, it’ll be for some proven talent, not draft picks.

Draft:  At 15, the Pacers seem to really like Jimmer (which would only be suiting after the Jazz stole their hometown hero last year), but I think they need to get more athletic and get some defenders.  Tristian Thompson would fit the bill around that pick and he just may develop into a scorer someday too.

Amnesty:  After years of being cash-strapped, I don’t think Indy will be a fan of this rule now that they have cap space.  The only player that makes sense is James Posey (1 year; $7 million).  This would put the entire team’s salary under $30 million.


Milwaukee Bucks: 2010-11 record: 37-45 (vs Central: 6-10)

After a surprising show in the playoffs, it looked like there really would be reason to “Fear the Deer.”  Bucks management decided to skip the rebuilding process and make a stab at success now.  They signed Drew Gooden (rebounding) and John Salmons (who played a crucial role in their playoff run) and traded for Corey Maggette (scoring/free throws).  On paper the team looks great, but they took a step back this year and are now tight on cap room moving forward.

Free Agents:  Michael Redd is finally off the books!  This clears up tons of well-needed space to go after a proven scorer.  The problem is they’ll have to either trade for that player (and that’s hard to do with so many bad contracts) or over pay him to come play in Milwaukee (not advised).  Do you think Golden State will take Maggette back for Ellis?

Draft:  With the 10th pick they need a scorer on the wing and Alec Burks or Klay Thompson could play immediately and unselfishly.  They need to go in a different direction on the wing because Maggette doesn’t help the team when they already have a shoot first point guard in Brandon Jennings.

Amnesty:  Out of the three contracts Maggette makes the most, but he also comes off the books in two years.  Salmons (4 years; $26 million) makes a little more than Gooden 4 years; $40 million, but they have several young PFs.  But in truth they can’t go wrong.

NBA Summer Review- Central Division

Monday, 4 October 2010, 16:06 | Category : NBA
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Central Division: The powers in the the Central division are shifting, but are any of them true contenders?

Chicago Bulls: This summer, the Bulls traded away one of their key players (Kirk Heinrich), missed out on all Big Three, and settled for the third (or fourth) best power forward in free agency.  Even so, they ended up having the best summer of the major free agent players in my opinion (yes, even better than Miami).

Adding Carlos Boozer and former Jazz key role players, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, has turned the Bulls into the Jazz 2.o.  While Rose still may not be quite as good as Deron Williams, he has shown he can be.  Also, Noah is the piece the Jazz haven’t had, a physical presence down low.  Way to hold strong and not trade him for Melo. Brewer brings defense and Korver the 3-point shooting they’ve been lacking.

I think the Chicago Jazz are going to be one of the best teams in the league.  That being said, I’m not convinced they have quite all the pieces they need for a championship, but they are going to wreak havoc across the league. I think they’ll do about as well as the Jazz have. Good thing the soonest they’d play the Lakers is in the finals.

Note: I wrote this before Boozer broker his hand. He is sorta a bleeder. That’s what the bulls get for assuming they’re fate would be better than the Jazz’s.

(1st- Central, 3rd-East)

Cleveland Cavaliers: The last 7 years were spent making LeBron happy and giving him the pieces he needed to win

At least Cavs fans took the news well.

championships.  For a couple years in a row they even got the best record in the league.  I consider them lucky that Matt Barnes did not agree to an oversized contract to try a fill the gap.  They still have lots of talent to work with, so there’s no need to make a kneejerk reaction.  The truth of the matter is it may take several years before they make the playoffs again (or win a championship before LeBron), but the Cavs have a number of valuable trade pieces.  Play it cool. Get in the middle of some of these trade talks as a facilitator to move Melo, CP3, or any other disgruntled playerand rebuild.  You may not like it, but that’s not bringing Bron back.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Cleveland actually did better than expected and ended middle of the pack in the East, but at this point landing a high draft pick would probably be better for the team.  Looks like Cavs season is up in smoke just like a LeBron jesery in Cleveland.

(5th-Central, 14th East)

Detroit Pistons: It’s hard to criticize Joe Dumars too much after he’s made risky moves in the past (i.e. Rasheed Wallace) and has seen major dividends (an NBA championship and a decade of domination).  However, I’m going to.

Last summer when Dumars decided to begin tuning up the Pistons instead of waiting to be blown off by LeBron and Bosh, I supported that.  Signing defensively challenges players, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, to long, expensive contracts, I didn’t like so much.  They did not mesh well in the blue collar team play that Detroit has trademarked over the years.  And they weren’t even able to help the team offensively, finishing near the bottom of offensive teams in the league.

As if that wasn’t painful enough, this summer my buddy Joe decided to sign one of my least favorite players, Tracey McGrady.  I mean, the Clippers wouldn’t even take him in a summer when they missed out on every other semi-important free agent!  And he’s still talking about a dunk he made over Okur in 2003! Did I mention he doesn’t play defense either.

The look on their faces says it all.

Fortunately, they’ve had some solid draft picks over the last couple of seasons.  Dumars has some young talent he can begin to build around.  Unfortunately, they are log jammed at the two forward positions and don’t have any cap space.  This has put the last remnants of the championship team on the trading block, only further confusing their identity.

Ben Wallace showed flashes of brilliance last season, but they need some big bodies to put in the middle.  They talk about trading for some size, but Eric Dampier is a free agent… It’s okay.  I like Rip and Tay so much that I’d almost prefer them to be traded if this is the direction the team is moving in.  Hopefully they’ll make sure to send them somewhere where they can be successful like they did for Chauncey.

It also doesn’t help that team ownership is up in the air.  I don’t think the league would approve a move of one of the oldest franchises with a huge fan base and lots of success in recent years.  But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t lost sleep over it.

I like to think if the team can stay healthy that they’ll improve unpon last year’s record a little bit, but that may just be wishful thinking.  In reality, this team brings a whole new meaning to the Bad Boys.

(4th-Central, 12th-East)

Indiana Pacers: Dropping Troy Murphy’s expiring contract and picking up Darren Collison was a huge move in the right direction for the Pacers.  They are really starting to develop a nice core of young talent with Granger, Hibbert, and now Collison.  Indiana still has some work to do to get all the right pieces in place and get a squeaky clean image, but if they play their cards right, it may not be long before the Pacers get back into the thick of things.  I’m betting the Pacers end up in no-man’s land, missing the playoffs but not getting a top pick in the draft.  However, if things click for them this year and Hibbert’s kickboxing translates to better basketball, they could beat out the Knicks for a spot in the playoffs.

(3rd-Central, 9th East)

Milwaukee Bucks: This last season, the Bucks made a surprise run at the end of the season and finally made it out of

Which young PG will be able to lift their team?

the lottery.  Milwaukee showed real chemistry and the potential they have to turn into an actual threat.

Losing Ridenour hurts.  Hopefully resigning Salmons will work out better than it did with the Bulls.  The summer acquisitions mend some of the weak points on paper, but may upset the fragile balance of chemistry of an emerging team.  At least Skiles knows how to handle potential problems, like Maggette.  We’ll see if Gooden has found a home.And is Michael Redd ever going to get healthy?

I’m just excited to watch Jennings with a year of experience under his belt, especially once his buddy Bogut gets healthy.  This most likely is not a championship team yet, but if they can be if they continue to build around their core.  I like what they’re doing.  Fear the Dear!

(2nd-Central, 5th East)

No Go for Noah!

Friday, 10 September 2010, 17:46 | Category : NBA
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Ever since word got out that Chicago was on the short list of teams Carmelo Anthony would want to play for, the Bulls have been looking for ways to make their new and improved team even better.

Chicago has some legit pieces to through in a package (an atheletic Luol Deng to replace Melo, some young talent, and even draft picks), but Denver is thinking bigger than that.  In order to compete with the two-time defending champions, the Lakers, everybody know you need some legit size.  Denver’s frontline has been struck with health issues.  If they’re going to lose Melo, they need to upgrade down low.

He may not be pretty, but he gets the job done.

He may not be pretty, but he gets the job done.

The Bull’s center, Joakim Noah, brings size and one of the best young centers in the league.  He isn’t a scoring machine, but he brings size, rebounding, shot blocking, defense, toughness, and passion.  He’s the kind of player that’s not afraid to get in LeBron’s face and tell him to shut up and stop his silly antics on the floor.  What more could you ask for?

If Chicago wants to for its own “Big 3,” then they need to make a trade without Noah work or just wait.  The Bulls will already have a good team for the next several years, no need to go jeopardizing it now for a shot at the fast track.

Without Noah, the Bulls will lose so much of what has made them who they are today.  Much of why people want to go there is because of him.  Boozer has proven he can’t (or won’t) play defense, but playing alongside Noah (as opposed to softy, Mehmet Okur) their team can be successful.  Noah is the only difference this team has from the Utah Jazz teams of the last several years.  If Melo really wants to play in Chicago, then he can come as a free agent next year.

Basically, don’t do it, Chicago!  Some sacrifices just aren’t worth it.  Do you think Melo is worth losing Noah?

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