NBA Draft Impressions

Monday, 27 June 2011, 22:16 | Category : NBA
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With this year’s NBA draft being such a week one, the jury is still out on who the real winners and losers are.  Only time will tell, but unfortunately there’s likely too much time before we even get to see these players begin their careers.  So I’m not going to pretend to pronounce the winners and losers of the draft, just my feelings on how my teams did.  All three of my teams (Pistons, Jazz, and Wizards) had lottery picks.  All three are in various stages of the rebuilding process.  All three agree it was a bad year to have such good picks.

Utah Jazz: For the 3rd pick, Utah basically had it narrowed down to either Brandon Knight or Enes Kanter.  Both would fill the most important needs for the Jazz and both were the consensus best players left on board, not just in their respective positions.  As the draft drew closer, the thought of drafting Knight grew on me, but I believe the Jazz probably made the best choice.  Scouts believe that Knight’s ceiling is probably around the level of Devin Harris.  Well, they already have Harris.  There can be arguments that he’s a younger version who can shoot better, but he still probably isn’t the long term answer Utah needs at the point.

On the contrary, while PGs of Knight’s projected skill level are fairly easy to come by (unless you’re the Hawks), it’s hard to find skilled big men.  Nobody really knows how good Kanter is, but he has shown the potential.  He’s like a younger version of Memo in that he can shoot, but he doesn’t appear to be another “soft Euro”, which is definitely not like Memo.  He’s probably worth the gamble, especially in this draft.  If he turns out to be a bust, he’s still a big body you can stick in the middle.  You just have to hope that the pick from the Deron Williams trade turns out to be the right one.

I’ve read mixed reactions on Burks, but Chad Ford had him ranked as the top shooting guard and tenth overall in this draft.  Jimmy is also really high on Burks.  I don’t know much about him, but I did have the Jazz drafting him.  It also looked like the best pick available once the Jazz were on the clock.  And I’m sure they were relieved Jimmer was not on the board at that point, because they weren’t going to take him.  Utah still has some needs to fill, but had a good start on draft night.

Washington Wizards: So Kanter isn’t going to end up in our nation’s capital with his buddy John Wall, but it’s maybe for the best.  I wasn’t ever sold on Kanter for Washington.  I know very little about Jan Vesely, but from what everyone is saying, it sounds like he’ll be a good fit.  He’s almost 7 feet but plays the 3.  He appears to be fast and can dunk.  I told myself I wouldn’t make a joke about his hot girlfriend or the awkward kiss because it’s been way overdone, so I won’t.

Chris Singleton brings toughness and defense to the team.  I think he was a steal at 18.  Shelvin Mack took his school to back-to-back national championship games.  He should be a competant backup to Wall.  It’s reassuring that the Wizards are using this rebuilding process to change the culture of the team.

Detroit Pistons: By the time the Pistons were up with the 8th pick, none of the players they were expected to be interested in were left on the board thanks to  Charlotte trading up.  I like that Dumars didn’t panic and just draft some other big that didn’t have any business going at 8.  He drafted the best talent available, which the Blazers over the years have taught us is the way teams should do it.  Although, I did hear that one of the Morris brothers really impressed Detroit, but they must have felt that Knight’s talent trumped theirs.

Knight does add to the logjam the Pistons have, but he’s a building block of the future.  The Pistons are working to get rid of many of the players currently on the roster, many of whom are guards.  Knight is a building block of the future.  And it’s hard not to like a kid that smart.  It says a lot about him.  It sounds like the type of person Detroit needs to start filling it’s roster with.  Plus the Knight and Daye comments should keep us entertained for a while, although it’s still not as great as what almost became the Gay-Love Era.

Kyle Singler and Vernon Macklin also seem to add to the logjam problem in Detroit, but both were considered steals for where they were drafted.  Singler seems to be another high character addition.  I don’t know much about Macklin, but Dumars assures us he is also a tough, high character guy.  Then again, he said that about Darko too.

While I have zero affiliation with the Bucks, I also want to give them a little recognition.  They took on three really bad contracts last season and were able to get rid of two of them in one trade.  They also brought in a few other assets.  All they had to do is move don nine spots in a bad draft.  Even then they managed to draft Tobias Harris, who Ford has ranked at 14, with the 19th pick.  Clearing out those bad contracts was huge for the Bucks.  Big night for them.

All things considered, my teams did a nice job on draft night.  Both the Pistons and Jazz have found unexpected talent in previous drafts, I hope this year was no different.  With all three of my teams rebuilding, the future can’t come fast enough.  I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to witness the fruits of this draft.

NBA Offseason: Northwest Division

Tuesday, 21 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.

It's a bad year to have a top pick, but the Northwest is undergoing change and needs all the help it can get.

Denver Nuggets: 2010-11 record: 50-32 (Northwest: 9-7)

Now that the Melo-Drama has passed, Denver can finally look to it’s future, and the future looks fairly bright.  Post-Carmelo-Trade-Denver actually came together quite nicely. They’re also in a pretty good financial situation, with only Nene making more than $10 mil next season.  The problem is they’ll only have $17.5 million in total salaries next year so they need to look to keep up a solid roster.

Free Agents: They are losing two prominent players from the Denver line-up in Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, but both are headcases anyway.  Martin has also been injured quite often so his contract coming off the books is a blessing.  They need to get deeper at both forward positions and they’ve got the cap space to do it, they just need to make sure they keep enough room to resign key guys like Nene, Afflalo, Chandler, and Gallinari (next year).  Finding a new backup PG for when Lawson takes over is also key.

Draft: Grab Kenneth Faried with the 22nd pick if he is available. He has more energy and will power than anyone in this draft.  We already saw how much better the Nuggets were when they played team basketball post Carmelo, and Faried will do the little things to fire up this TEAM.

Amnesty: If Chris Andersen ($15.5 million; 3 years) isn’t going to be healthy then they’ll have to let him go.  Although, it would seem a bad idea to pass on a chance to erase Al Harrington’s (2 years; $13 million plus two team options for a total of another $15 million) contract.  It would allow them to sign an impactful bench player and keep plenty of cap space.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves: 2010-11 record: 17-65 (Northwest: 1-15)

No one be sure what David Kahn has planned for the woeful franchise.  At least he can say Rubio is finally coming, although I’m not sure that sounds as great as it would have a few years ago (or not?).  Along with roster confusion, the T-Wolves need to figure out the coaching situation soon.

Free Agents:  Sebastian Telfair and Eddy Curry (does he even count?) are the only two free agents.  I know they like Wesley Johnson, but they need to get a more potent SG.  They’re also committed to Darko, but is he the answer for a starting center to put alongside Love?  With Rubio finally joining the team, Flynn is no longer needed and will likely be traded, probably for peanuts.

Draft: Poor Minnesota.  They just can’t buy the #1 pick, and when they get the #2 pick, the obvious choice is the exact same player they already have.  The Wolves will have to pick Derrick Williams who is a tougher clone of Michael Beasely who doesn’t shoot as well (yet for some reason they have declared they will not be trading Beasley, Anthony Randolph, or Martell Webster).   I think they should consider trading this pick, but they probably won’t until they’re on the clock.  At 20, they should take Marshon Brooks.  They don’t have any guards who can score and even if Brooks misses a lot, Kevin Love will get the rebound.

Amnesty: The T-Wolves seem oddly devoted to all of their misfits and are in good shape financially so they’ll probably elect not to use it.  If they do decide mix things up, they don’t have any contracts that aren’t tradeable.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: 2010-11 record: 55-27 (Northwest: 13-3)

Now that OKC has written the how to guide for building an NBA team, we anxiously wait to see what the next chapter to take a team to contender is.

Free Agents: Nazr Mohammed is the only FA for the Thunder.  It wouldn’t hurt to resign him as a quality insurance policy for Perkins, but he’ll probably take a pay cut.  The Thunder also need to get deeper at SF, but they don’t want to spend much without knowing what the cap under the new CBA will be.

Draft: I like Justin Harper at this pick.  He is big enough to give Serge Ibaka some rest and he has enough range to give Kevin Durant the spacing he needs. They need a big who can shoot the rock.

Amnesty: OKC wants everyone on the roster and is paying them what they want except for Nate Robinson (1 year; $4.5 million).  He’s in his final year, but they may as well clear the cap space because the Thunder’s favorite cheerleader is buried pretty deep on the bench.

 

Portland Trailblazers: 2010-11 record: 48-34 (Northwest: 10-6)

It looks as though the Blazers have reached their ceiling with their current roster.  That means they’ll need to shake things up a bit, which may mean taking a disappointing step or two backwards.  It’s going to be difficult for Portland to pick a direction they want to go and do it well until they get some consistency in the front office.  The last two GMs have done more than good jobs, so who’s going to want to take that job if they’ll likely be fired in a year?

Free Agents: The Blazers have two FAs this summer.  Patty Mills is probably worth bringing back as a backup point, but there is a 7 foot question mark concerning Greg Oden.  Portland would love to bring the big man back, but he is a high risk high reward situation.  He’s not the only concern on this roster going forward.  Blazer fans love their team but realize some changes need to be made.  Portland may be better off convincing Brandon Roy to retire, otherwise two of their main stars may have a total of zero kneecaps.  There’s an excess of wings and almost no depth in the front court.  They’re also looking for a long term replacement for Miller at point.

Draft: With the 21st pick they should nab a guy who can shoot some threes off the bench.  This pick may be too high for Kyle Singler, but the Blazers have enough athletes.  They need more shooters.  Justin Harper may be a decent fit for this team as well.

Amnesty: After he led to Blazers to an amazing comeback over the Mavs in the playoffs, it’s hard to say this, but they’d have to take a serious look a using this on Roy (4 years; $54 million).  Losing his contract would get them back around the cap and give them only one player without knees to worry about.  It won’t be easy letting go of him though.

 

Utah Jazz: 2010-11 record: 39-43 (Northwest: 7-9)

It hurt to part with D-Will, but let’s face it, it was inevitable.  And it’s not like the Jazz were really ever on the same level as other possible contenders.  Now they have two lottery picks from last year’s draft, two this year, and potentially two next year (a protected pick from the Warriors via the Nets and their own).  Assuming they draft well, the Jazz will have a nice mix of young talent and vets in their prime.  The Jazz hurt themselves this last decade with plenty of bad deals that led to one little loss after another.  Let’s hope they get it right this time.

Free Agents: AK’s contract (ranked in top 3 worst contracts of the decade) is up!  The Jazz will be sad to see him go but glad to not pay AK like a top 20 player.  Utah also needs to decide if they’ll bring back any of their other FAs (Price, Fesenko, Watson, or Elson).  Depending on who they draft they may not need any of them.  With their current roster, they’re set with power forward, now they need a backup point guard, a wing who can score and defend to replace AK, and a legit center.  Accomplishing this may require trading one of their current PFs (Millsap?).

Draft: Big draft for the Jazz.  I think the Jazz have to pick Enes Kanter at #3 even though they have a plethora of post players already.  The other option is Brandon Knight, but I don’t see him being any better than Devon Harris is at any point.  At #12 they should grab the best available wing.  Jordan Hamilton or Alec Burks can put the ball in the hoop as well as any wings the Jazz currently have.

Amnesty: I would most like to see this used on Raja Bell (2 years; $7 million) who hasn’t done either thing he was brought in to do well (shoot and defend).  But with the logjam of big men (especially if they draft a big) it makes sense to clear out Memo’s contract (1 year; $11 million) to fill in the positions they do need.  Plus, the injury may have lowered his stock, even with it being a contract year.

Fouls and Foul

Sunday, 13 March 2011, 17:12 | Category : NBA
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Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

You either love him or hate him.

I stumbled upon this video where NBATV analysts and a former referee break down some controversial calls.  It may help you realize just how difficult these calls are or ease your pain from a game in which you felt your team got a hosed by a bad call.  One thing is for sure, if you haven’t already noticed, you’ll see just how pesky the Spurs are.

On another note, the Salt City Hoops blog makes some observations about the Jazz that I’m on board with.  I’ll follow up with more comments once I bring myself to face reality.

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