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.
The Pacific Division is officially in rebuild mode, with teams potentially shopping their stars.
Los Angeles Lakers: 2010-11 record: 57-25 (Pacific: 12-4)
What a difference a year makes. The Lakers were the overwhelming favorites to return to the NBA Finals out of the West at the beginning of last year. Then Pau Gasol all of a sudden got soft and Kobe Bryant started showing his age. Andrew Bynum is not turning into the superstar they were hoping/expecting out of him. With Kobe’s window closing, the Lakers may need to infuse some new blood into the organizing quickly.
Free Agents: Shannon Brown has a player option and Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff are the only other two FAs for the Lakers. They don’t have enough money to spend on free agents to upgrade that scrubby bench of theirs so the Lakers can only improve through trades. Andrew Bynum is still an intriguing trade chip (although not as much as a couple of years ago) so they can potentially make a move that could give them the depth they need.
Draft: Los Angeles Lakers: No first round pick. At least Kobe can’t whine about not being the one to make the pick.
Amnesty: Clearly Laker fans could do without Luke Walton, but he only has two years left and could possibly be a trade throw-in. Ron Artest (3 years and $22 million), on the other, has more time an money left on his contract and not exactly tradeable. His production has gone down and his sanity isn’t improving. Clear him out and make room for the future.
Phoenix Suns: 2010-11 record: 40-42 (Pacific: 9-7)
Phoenix needs to decide if it is going to rebuild or reload. The problem is, rebuilding means moving on from the Steve Nash era and letting Grant Hill go. My guess is, Phoenix will play the upcoming year with their same roster and see what happens. They could have some interesting trade chips during the trade deadline like Vince Carter and his expiring contract. If the Suns stay patient, they will have a lot of payroll flexibility the following offseason when some big names become free agents.
Free Agents: Grant Hill and Aaron Brooks (restricted). The Suns don’t really have to have Grant Hill, but he is well-liked in Phoenix and he probably doesn’t want to go anywhere else at this stage in his career. Aaron Brooks can give Nash the rest he needs every game so he may stay as well. They have been involved in a lot of trade talks, but I don’t expect the Suns to do much during this offseason despite the many flaws they have.
Draft: At 13, Jimmer would be an ideal pick because Steve Nash needs a lot of rest these days and the Suns’ system is the kind that Fredette could thrive in. I don’t think he will last until the 13th pick after his impressive workouts. The Suns should go for someone who can create his own shot. They don’t really have that guy anymore other than half man Vince Carter (I should say they need someone who can create and make the shots). Alec Burks and Klay Thompson are two high scoring Jimmer types that could thrive in the Suns’ system as well.
Amnesty: The Suns overpaid several semi-productive role players instead of using that money to pay someone impactful, and Josh Childress (4 years; $27 million) is somehow the greatest benefactor. He’s buried deep on the bench and no one’s trading for him. Four years is too long to wait this contract out. Cool hair though.
Golden State Warriors: 2010-11 record: 36-46 (Pacific: 5-11)
The Warriors have some talented players, but I don’t see how they can win with this team. None of their starting wings (Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Reggie Williams) can play a lick of defense. They are talented scorers, but they can’t stop anyone. Their big free agent acquisition from last offseason (David Lee) can’t defend anyone either. And somehow their new coach, Mark Jackson, is already preaching defense. It’s a bad situation for an entertaining team. Also, Monta Ellis is one of those guys who is destined to be a major scorer on a bad team. You aren’t going anywhere if he is your best player.
Free Agents: Reggie Williams (restricted), Acie Law, Al Thornton, Vladimir Radmanovic, Louis Admundson (player option). Thornton and Admundson are good defenders off the bench so they need to retain them. I think they should let Williams walk and get some diversity on the wing. The Warriors should do everything they can to get Shane Battier. He would inject some defensive intensity and veteran leadership to the young team.
Draft: With the 11th pick, the Warriors should get a big man that can run the court in their high paced offense. Kawhi Leonard just might fall enough for them to snatch him. He would provide athleticism and energy while deferring to the shooters on offense. Marcus Morris would be an interesting addition because of his scoring ability.
Amnesty: It’s time to part ways with Ellis and Biedrins, but both are reasonably priced that they can find somebody to take them even if it’s just for beans in return. But that’s better than paying them to play for someone else. David Lee (5 years; $68 million) is a good player, but they’re paying him way too much for a player that can’t defend. The Warriors just have to decide if it’s worth paying Lee that much money to not play for them.
Los Angeles Clippers: 2010-11 record: 32-50 (Pacific: 7-9)
It is really too bad that the Clippers can’t draft Kyrie Irving to throw the ball to Blake Griffin for the next ten years. Griffin is the best thing that has happened to the Clips in a long time though. They finally have someone to build around. Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe are good piece to have too. The Clippers are getting close to contending and the future looks bright.
Free Agents: DeAndre Jordan (restricted), Brian Cook (player option), and Jamario Moon are the main FAs. I think the Clips have to resign Jordan to a multi-year deal. He does the dirty work on defense so Blake Griffin can do his thing with the ball. They are a good combo down low. The Clippers also will have a lot of money to spend in the 2012 offseason so they may stand pat one more year. If they can get a guy like Shane Battier or Andre Kirilenko, they may want to grab them this year.
Draft: No first round pick. They gave away what turned out to be the #1 pick in the Baron Davis trade. Oops.
Amnesty: Kaman ($12 million) is in the last year of his deal and can therefore probably be traded easily enough (possibly in a sign an trade deal with Detroit for Prince). Unless they’re ready to hand the reigns over to Bledsoe, Mo Williams ($17 million) may be worth hanging onto for a year or two. If they upgrade at SF, then they may cut ties with Gomes (2 years; $8 million). They could just as easily choose not to use amnesty on anybody.
Sacramento Kings: 2010-11 record: 24-58 (Pacific: 7-9)
The Kings have their two guys to build around, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. They could still use another young stud and get some veterans to surround them. I’m not sold on Tyreke being the kind of guy who will lead a team deep into the playoffs and Cousins is not a team player that will command the respect of his teammates. They are both talented, but I’m not sold on the direction the Kings are going. Having said that, they should continue to improve every year and may be able to get some pieces together to make things interesting.
Free Agents: Darnell Jackson (restricted), Marcus Thornton (restricted), Samuel Dalembert (thank goodness), and Marquis Daniels. They have money to spend and since a lot of other teams are waiting for a year, they may want to make some noise. They could gamble on a somewhat cheap Yao Ming or Michael Redd. Or they can get some veterans like Andre Kirilenko or Tracy McGrady for leadership. The Kings have the financial flexibility to be aggressive while everyone else waits.
Draft: They have the PG in Tyreke Evans and the big in DeMarcus Cousins so the Kings are headed in the right direction. They have the 7th pick and should try to get a glue guy who doesn’t necessarily need the ball, but can still contribute. One of the Euro Bigs or Tristian Thompson fit the bill. I would not be at all surprised if they picked Jimmer in an effort to fill seats though.
Amnesty: Seeing as how the Maloofs are exactly looking to spend a lot of money and the team has the most cap space in the league, they could simply chose not to use this. After all, they do have to meet a minimum team salary. However, depending on how they do in the draft and in the free agent market, they do have players it couldn’t hurt to cut ties with.