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 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.