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.

Playing to a Different Tune

Thursday, 17 February 2011, 15:19 | Category : NBA
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Last week, we were all shocked to hear that Jerry Sloan retired from his position as head coach of the Utah Jazz.  I want to wish Coach Sloan well and thank him for the many great years he’s brought to the franchise.  He says he doesn’t care, but I’m sorry he never won coach of the year, because we all know he earned it.  (By the way, how are Avery Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Byron Scott, and Mike Brown doing these days anyway?)

Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz

What is Jazz basketball without Jerry Sloan? I guess we'll see.

Sloan is/was a coaching icon around the league.  He utilized the same motion-offense system his entire coaching career.  Just as Sloan stamps his identity on his teams so do most successful coaches.  This brings me to two other extremely successful coaches: Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown of the Spurs and Bobcats respectively.

This summer, neither team had much turnover, but both had high expectations to improve this season.  Last year the Spurs underperformed and the Bobcats made it to the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.

Both coaches have won championships and are two of the coaches with most wins (both behind Sloan).  Defense is a trademark of both coaches.  The difference between both teams is that the Spurs jumped back to the top of the league and the Bobcats took a step back to being just out of playoff contention.  Why would that be?

As much as consistency is valued in sports, change is what’s benefitted the Spurs.  Last year, Brown had the Bobcats defending as well as anybody in the league, even better than the Spurs.  For whatever reasons, their defense just hasn’t been the same this year.  Brown insisted his team play the kind of ball that got them to the playoffs just a season ago, but it didn’t happen.  Now Brown is gone.

Comparing the Bobcats from the time Brown stepped down to that same week last season the team’s defense allowed an average of 6 more points per game while their offense only scored less than two more points per game.  Since Paul Silas became interim coach (and has now been officially named head coach) the Cats have gone 14-12 (compared to 9-19 with Brown).  Silas gave the team the green light to run and push the offense.  Not only has their season average for points scored improved, but they’re also allowing fewer points.

Popovich faced similar problems as Brown did with his squad coming into the season.  The difference is he embraced

Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, NBA Finals

Popovich was even Brown's assistant for the 2004 summer Olympic team.

it.  He’s moved away from focusing on aging Tim Duncan and has utilized the speed and athleticism of his young guys. Believe it or not, the boring Spurs have spent most of the season as the highest scoring team in the league.  And as much as Popovich would like the team to get back to its defensive ways, they are actually about 1.5 fewer points per game as they had last year going into the All-Star break.

No one can argue with the success Larry Brown has had as a coach.  He won a championship with my Pistons; however, I think Popovich’s ability to be flexible and maximize the value of the pieces available to him have allowed his team to flourish.  It also helps that the Spurs have a unique blend of seasoned champions and young talent.

Sloan’s system also obviously worked well because the Jazz have been a pretty successful franchise; however, they’ve never brought a championship to Utah.  We’ll see how they fare playing to a different tune.

NBA Summer Review- Southwest Division

Saturday, 20 November 2010, 0:58 | Category : NBA
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It’s about time I finally finish my review from the summer. My picks based off of what I saw from the summer are pretty irrelevant at this point, but I want them on record in case any turn out to be accurate. I’m pretty off on a few of my predictions, but the season is still young.

Southwest Division: After a couple of down years, it looks like this division is ready to reclaim its title as the best in the league.

Dallas Mavericks: They’ve had at least 50 wins for the last decade. I have no doubt that the talent the team has has picked up is good enough to win enough to keep them at the top of the

Coming off the bench can't stink as bad as that.

conference. The rejuvenated Tyson Chandler is a good addition to have coming off the bench. It’s one of the few teams that has the size needed to go far and maybe even compete against the Lakers. Even with a loaded team with a good record, I expect to see them chocked in the playoffs again.

(1st-Southwest, 2 West)

Houston Rockets: I like the switch of Courtney Lee for Trevor Ariza. The last several year the Rockets have thrived on scrappy, hardworking players (ex. Battier and Scola) and Lee brings them solid D at the 2. Having Brad Miller come off the bench is a smart idea because who knows how effective Yoa will be or how long he’ll even last (unfortunately, I was right about this). I think they have the talent to compete for a playoff berth, but the West looks like it’s as loaded as ever so I think their season won’t exceed 82 games.

(3rd-Southwest, 9th Wes)

Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay has always been good, but now he has to expectation to play $80 million good. Tony Allen is hardly going to take the team to the next level, but he should at least bring some well needed defense (which they were hoping to get out of Ronnie Brewer last year). I think they’re still weak at the PG position. They need Conley to step up his game if their going to progress. If they can keep jelling like they did last year, they’ll have a shot at being fairly good. I’m guessing they’ll just be one of the best lottery teams.

(4th-Southwest, 10th-West)

New Orleans Hornets: Keeping Chris Paul happy is obviously priority no. 1, but trading your

Now who will fill Paul's shoes if he leaves?

insurance at the PG is a big risk. For their sake, I hope it brings big returns. I like to see loyalty to teams and I think CP3 would honestly like to stay where he is as long as he has a good team surrounding him. Trevor Ariza is an athletic wing who can defend as well as score. If it’s any prediction to how well he’ll do, he looks better in the Hornet unis than the Rockets. To make it back to the playoffs their going to need more than two players. Okafur, for one, needs to start pulling his weight and earn his paycheck. I think they’ve still got some rebuilding to do ad big contracts to shed.

(5th-Southwest, 13th-West)

San Antonio Spurs: I’m not sure how resigning Richard Jefferson, a player everyone complained about under-performing, is supposed to recharge the Spurs. I just don’t get it. I watch Splitter play a little during the World Championship and was impressed. They do have an excellent combination of experience and youth. I would never count the Spurs out (I’ve learned my lesson), but I’m still not convinced they’re going much further than last year. But I’ve been wrong before.

(2nd-Southwest, 5th-West)

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