NBA Offseason: Southwest Division

Monday, 20 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.

Dallas-Mavericks-2011-NBA-Champions-Dirk-Jason Kidd-Jason Terry-Shawn Marion

The Southeast has proven it's ready to compete again next year, but not before some significant roster upgrades.

San Antonio Spurs: 2010-11 record: 61-21 (Southwest: 10-6)

The Spurs don’t really have much choice other than try and win it again with what they have even though they are too old to do it.  They played 2010-2011 perfectly (win the Western Conference while also resting your stars) but they were outmatched by the 8th seed in the playoffs.  Out of respect for Tim Duncan you can’t blow this team up yet until he has retired.

Free Agents: Steve Novak and Chris Quinn (do the Spurs ever have free agents?) are the two free agents so the Spurs aren’t sweating too much.  They don’t really have the money to spend on another impact player.  They will have to make do with what they have and hope George Hill and Gary Neal get even better.

Draft: At the 29th pick, Jeremy Tyler will be the biggest and most athletic body available. They should get someone who can spell Tim Duncan when DaJuan Blair doesn’t match up well with the opponent.

Amnesty: Richard Jefferson (3 years; $30.5 million) is the only Spur outside of the Big 3 that gets paid anything, and he has yet to prove he’s worth it.  Dropping Jefferson still doesn’t put them in position to acquire more talent, but it allows them to continue to develop their young players and puts them in great shape next year when Duncan’s contract expires.


Dallas Mavericks: 2010-11 record: 57-25 (Southwest: 8-8)

The Mavericks playoff run was one of the most impressive runs that I can remember.  They were a complete team that never gave in.  They have the glue guys like Brian Cardinal, J.J Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson.  They even had an All-Star in Caron Butler who was injured and never played.  The Mavs played hard and with heart.  They had a special team.  The problem is, they are about to lose a large chunk of that unit.

Free Agents: JJ Barea, Caron Butler, Brian Cardinal, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, and Peja Stojakovich are all unrestricted free agents.  The Mavericks have to re-sign Tyson Chandler if possible.  He seemed to like being there so this is definitely a possibility. Barea will be a lot more expensive but Kidd comes off the books the following season and that may be a good enough reason for him to stay.  The Mavs should resign as much of their current team as possible before looking elsewhere.  If they let Caron Butler walk, they just may be able to resign the others.

Draft: Hard to find a need from such a deep team that just won the whole thing, especially with the 26th pick.  Whether Barea leaves or not, they should probably get another insurance point guard because Kidd is so old.  Nolan Smith or Shelvin Mack could contribute right away.

Amnesty: The Mavs have a lot of key players from they’re championship team they’d like to bring back and they’re already over the cap.  While Haywood (5 years; 47 million) was a valued contributer (and Chandler insurance), I’m guessing Cuban would rather pay someone that played more than 8 minutes a game.


New Orleans Hornets: 2010-11 record: 46-36 (Southwest: 9-7)

The Hornets are a tough team to figure out.  They are probably dreading all of the hoopla that will be surrounding Chris Paul’s pending free agency after next year with all the press Carmelo Anthony received during this past season.  They won’t be able to keep Paul so they may want to follow the Jazz’s footsteps and begin anew right away (a move Paul was not a fan of).  It’s a cruel world in the NBA.

Free Agents: Marco Belinelli (restricted), Jason Smith (restricted), Marcus Banks, Willie Green, and Carl Landry are current free agents.  None of them are must signs for the Hornets, although Jason Smith showed some promise at the end of the year.   Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, or Marcus Thornton may be interesting options because they could actually make the shots Chris Paul gives them.  There other current starters: Emeka Okafur, David West, and Trevor Ariza are all a little old or overrated.  I’m not sure what the Hornets are going to do and I’m not sure they are either.

Draft: No first round pick.

Amnesty: Emeka Okafor ($40.5 million; 5 years) is overpaid and has the only contract on the team really worth using amnesty on, but the team needs him to compete.  They’re not in a good position but probably elect not to use amnesty unless they need to clear space to bring in someone to convince Paul to stay.  Not likely.


Memphis Grizzlies: 2010-11 record: 46-36 (Southwest: 8-8)

The Grizzlies were a fun team to watch during the playoffs.  It was very interesting to watch them excel without their “best player” Rudy Gay.  They should start the season with Gay and see if they are a team that turned the corner.  If they don’t have the same potential they showed in the playoffs, look to move him.  Someone would take him despite his contract.  They also need a better point guard, but they have a lot invested in Mike Conley.

Free Agents: Marc Gasol (restricted), Shane Battier, and Leon Powe are free agents for the Grizzlies.  I think they have to resign Gasol at all costs even though he will be a bit pricey. They should resign Battier as well. He is just a winner. Aaron Brooks can be bought at a discount. He is a restricted free agent so the Grizzlies would have to outbid the Suns but I’m not sure how invested the Suns are in him. He would provide a spark of the bench and may even be able to outplay Conley to become the starter. It’s not like he is old or ineffective. He just had an injury-riddled year and never found his groove.

Draft: No first round pick.

Amnesty: The Grizz have a lot of money invested in three players: Gay ($69 million; 4 years), Randolph ($66 million; 4 years), and Conley ($40 million; 5 years), all of whom they appear very committed to.  I don’t think any of them deserve what they’re making, but they need to at least try with Gay (or, again, trade him) and they’re building around Z-Bo.  An upgrade at point guard would be nice, but they probably won’t get any time too soon.  Plus they’re in very good shape financially.  They probably don’t use it.


Houston Rockets: 2010-11 record: 43-39 (Southwest: 5-11)

The last place team in this division had 43 wins.  Go figure.   The Rockets were almost too deep for their own good last year.  They had so many players that were used to more playing time that they had a hard time finding their groove.  If they can find the right pieces to complement Kevin Martin, Louis Scola, Chase Budinger and even Kyle Lowry (very underrated), then they can go places.  With Yao Ming coming off the books they have some money to spend if they so choose.  So long Yao, it was fun while it lasted.

Free Agents: Yao Ming and Chuck Hayes. The center from this list that they really need to resign is Chuck Hayes.  He is the perfect glue guy on a good team.  He is a very good defender, rebounder, and passer despite his smallish stature.  The Rockets could go after Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler along with every other team in the league.  I could see them going for a cerebral veteran like Grant Hill or Tayshaun Prince to mentor Budinger.

Draft: The Rockets are deep at every position other than center and will have a hard time improving their team with the 14th and 23rd picks.  I say either trade the picks, or just draft the best player available regardless of position for a potential trade in the future.  The best case scenario at 14 would be Kemba Walker.  The best at 23 would be Klay Thompson.

Amnesty: They don’t have any unreasonable or untradeable contracts on their roster.  Kevin Martin has the most expensive contract at $24 million, but it only has two years left.  The Rockets’ many assets would be better used in the trade market.

Response to Jimmy

Wednesday, 11 May 2011, 6:54 | Category : NBA
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Kevin Durant. Zach Randolph, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies

Well, who should it be?

Last week in my post “Grin and Bear It” I talked about how I’m having a difficult time deciding who I want to root for in the Thunder-Grizzlies series. I’m not going to get into to get into the triple OT game last night because I think it’s been beaten to death already.  However, I did root for the Thunder in game four because I want to see the series go to seven.  And yes, I actually watched all three OTs.  (Check out some breakdown of plays down the stretch.)

To sum up, the Thunder has everything I want in a team.  They are likable, clean cut, tight nit, and unselfish (which may be debatable seeing Westbrook’s play in the playoffs).  The Grizz, on the other hand, are an underdog without a superstar trying to make history.

Here’s what Jimmy commented on this post:

I like the Thunder because of Kevin Durant. He is one of the few superstars who doesn’t showboat and demand attention.  Meanwhile, the Grizzlies best player right now is Zach Randolph.  He’s not exactly a likeable role model.  Go Thunder!  By the way, is their nickname growing on you yet?

I agree wholeheartedly with Jimmy on his assessment of the Thunder. While Zach Randolph may  not be the most likeable, the team just has something about it.  Memphis is not the most talented, but it’ll be you with tough defense and attacking the paint.  They truly have a shot a beating any team left in the playoffs in a seven game series.

How do you root against a true underdog story?

To further complicate things, I finished watching the Sonicsgate documentary the other day.  Sonicsgate is a documentary worth watching.  You too will look at the Thunder differently.  I know it’s not the players’ fault, but I don’t want Clay Bennett to get the satisfaction of winning.  At least watch the trailer.

And that is why I have a hard time rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder now.  As for the name growing on me, that’s for a different post.

Should I hold Clay Bennett’s (the Thunder’s owner) betrayal of Seattle against this Thunder team?  Now it’s a best of three series, who do you support, the Grizzlies or the Thunder?

The Kings’ Court

Monday, 11 April 2011, 5:05 | Category : NBA
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Sacramento Kings, Anaheim Royals, DeMarus Cousins

At this point of the year I hope we are all well aware that the tax deadline is approaching, but taxes aren’t the only due.  April 18th also happens to be the NBA’s deadline for franchise relocation applications.  It seems inevitable that next season (supposing there is a season) the Sacramento Kings will be the Anaheim Royals.  Since my taxes are all in, it’s time I stop putting off this post before the decision is officially announced and it becomes irrelevant.

I realize that the Maloof’s, the owners of the Kings, have had issues in Sacramento and with the arena.  I also am beginning to understand just how big the market in the LA/Anaheim area is.  But do they really think moving into a market with two other NBA teams that they’re going to compete for fans?  Especially fans that are currently division rivals?  Especially fans of the team that played the Kings in the heated Western Conference Finals in 2002?  (Just listen to what Shaq had to say about them. Keep watching, it’s number four on the list.)

Sacramento Kings fans

Not gonna find fines like that in Anaheim.

The Clippers moved there in ’84 and have been overshadowed by the Lakers ever since.  It wasn’t until this year with Blake Griffin storming into the NBA that people even began to wonder if the Clips will ever be able to rival the Lakers.  What do the Kings bring to the table?  Last year’s disappeared ROY, a head case, and the fifth worst record in the league (about 7 ½ games behind the Clippers)?

Here’s what I think they should do based purely on franchise nicknames and colors, and not on logistics whatsoever.

Plan A: The Sacramento Kings should replace the Grizzlies in Memphis, while the Grizzlies return a team to Seattle.  This would be a little mess (like when the Browns moved to Baltimore), but it makes sense.

They should still go back to their throwback unis but stay the Kings.  Their name would pay homage to the cities music history (Elvis “the King” Presley and B.B. King), as well as Martin Luther King Jr.  You better believe Commissioner Stern would milk that.  The team would get a newer arena that holds nearly as many people as the Duck Pond.  They would have a monopoly on professional sports in the Memphis market.  Yes, they would have to compete with the University of Memphis men’s basketball team, but with a name like the Kings, how could anyone in the area not feel an instant attachment?

Can't you see it? The Seattle Grizzlies.

As for the Grizzlies, they would be back in the Northwest, where grizzly bears have actually lived.  Then all they’d have to do is change the yellow to lime green and they’ll match the other Seattle teams.  Not to mention, they would move to a real sports market.  Even with an older, smaller arena, the Grizz will probably get a better turn out.  They could sign a very short term lease with the Key Arena andtell the city they want a better arena of they’ll move to Vancouver.  After losing the Sonics, the city should do everything in its power to keep them.  If not, then go to back to Vancouver.

Plan B: Same plan, but the two franchises just switch names and the Maloofs take their team to Seattle.

Plan C: Commissioner Stern mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Vancouver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, Tampa/St. Pete, as cities that are equipped to have an NBA franchise.  Move any of those other than Anaheim.

I know this is unlikely (especially since the Anaheim thing is all but a done deal), but it’s what I would do if I had that much power.  If you want to leave, then fine.  But California doesn’t need any more teams, especially in the LA/Anaheim area.  Other places want/need you a lot more.  Think of the people.

(Check out photos of franchises that have relocated since 1975.)

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