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.
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.