Saturday, May 31, 2008

NBA Offseason Preview - New York Knicks

New York Knicks
Record:
23-59
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $91.0M

Draft Pick: #6

After having a comparatively good season in 2006-2007, the Knicks once again reached rock bottom. This time, hitting rock bottom resulted in some measure of accountability for the organization. Though supported by young talent (Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Mary Collins), the veteran core of Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson has disappointed on a regular basis.

There is hope for the Knicks, but it hinges on their ability to find a true point guard. That statement holds exponential truth when factoring in the D’Antoni system’s dependence on a quality point. One fair expectation for the Knicks and The [New] Six Million Dollar Man is that players not take plays (quarters, games, road trips, or perhaps even seasons) off.

Burning Questions:
All questions stem from this one. What roster moves will Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh make upon taking charge of the Knicks? The less na├»ve question is: What roster moves they will be able to make given the number of albatross contracts they have in their arsenal?

Is there an existing true point guard on this roster who can include his teammates and invigorate the hapless core of veterans?

Will Nate Robinson be used in a role similar to Leandro Barbosa in Phoenix?

If David Lee does not end up fitting in with D'Antoni's style, will the Knicks be smart enough to capitalize on his value to other teams by packaging him with a bad contract in order to land a player at a need position?

Perceived Needs: True PG, Athletic (Scoring) PF, Heart

If I Were GM … I would evaluate Marbury’s psyche on a daily basis. If the Knicks are to be successful with the players they have, Marbury having a defined role and executing in that role is extremely important. Marbury is in a contract year in which $21.9M comes off the books. Also coming off the books is the contract of Malik Rose ($7.6M) who was once a key cog for the Spurs’ championship runs.

With the #6 pick, the Knicks are in no man’s land given that most of the talent in that pool consists of shooting guards, shoot-first point guards and small forwards. I would attempt to trade down in order to avoid reaching for a true point guard not named Derrick Rose. If not afforded that opportunity, I would select the best player available who would the D’Antoni system.

NBA Offseason Preview - Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 22-60
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $44.0M

Draft Picks: #5, #28

It wasn’t all horrible for the Grizzlies. Rudy Gay earned acclaim for his vast improvement between seasons 1 and 2. When healthy, Mike Miller was his normal self, knocking down shots. Though inconsistent and riddled with injury, the Grizzlies received plenty of contributions from the point guard position.

Looking forward to the 2008-2009 season, the Grizzlies need to become acquainted with playing defense (gave up 107 ppg). They didn’t do it last year and that continued this year. The loss of Shane Battier has proved huge and Memphis needs to acquire an unselfish player with a similar mind frame.

Burning Questions: After a 22-win season, what type of latitude will the front office give Marc Iavaroni to bring in his type of players? Will Memphis trade the 5th pick overall in pursuit of a veteran power forward or center? Can Memphis entice a team to take on Brian Cardinal’s contract ($13M over two years) by trading them Kyle Lowry ($6.2M over three years with a qualifying offer of $3M in the final year) on the cheap?

Perceived Needs: PF, C, Veteran Leadership, Athleticism

If I Were GM … I would find suitors for the 5th pick and look to trade down, unless Brook Lopez (whose stock is reportedly dropping) falls into your lap. In my eyes, Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay are untouchable, and Mike Miller would cost a steep price. Because Mike Conley Jr., Javaris Crittenton and Kyle Lowry all cannot play on the court at the same time (though, Crittenton play the 2), Memphis will need to ship one (preferably, Lowry) along with Brian Cardinal’s contract and one of the first-round picks for a veteran power forward or center with leadership skills.

If unable to strike a deal or trade down in the first round, Memphis should select the athletically-gifted Anthony Randolph. With the 28th pick, the Grizzlies would be wise to look in the direction of a big who is defensive-minded. Instantly, Joey Dorsey comes to mind.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NBA Mock Draft - Version 3.0

1. Chicago. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Kansas State. Many have Derrick Rose going first and I have little problem with that. Rumors are abound that the Bulls are shopping Kirk Hinrich. On the flipside, there are just as many rumors, if not more, that the Bulls may trade for TJ Ford or Jose Calderon. All of these known, the Bulls still have not fully addressed the need for a dynamic frontcourt player who can score at will. Beasley immediately addresses that need and is a 15 and 9 contributor out of the gate.

2. Miami. Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis. Two seasons removed from an NBA title, the Heat were holders of the league’s worst record. For having a horrible season, they get the point guard they’ve been dying for. Enter Derrick Rose, a true point who can slash, pass, create his own shot and finish around the basket. Needless to say, Rose is also a fabulous defender and a team-oriented player.

3. Minnesota. OJ Mayo, SG/PG, USC. Seemingly stocked at the guard position, the roster is short of playmakers who can turn it up on the defensive end and OJ Mayo is that. The Wolves will take a very long look at Brook Lopez, the offensively gifted center out of Stanford; however, Lopez has been lacking in the rebounding and defensive department.

4. Seattle. Brook Lopez, C, Stanford. No more project centers! Though Brook Lopez does not carry the upside of a Greg Oden, he is no project like his predecessors (Robert Swift, Saer Sene, Johan Petro to name a few). Seattle will consider Jerryd Bayless as well, but can you imagine the number of shots left to the other three players on the court after Bayless and Durant have taken their shots? Neither can I. But that’s because I don’t want to.

5. Memphis. Danilo Gallinari, SF, Armani Jeans Milano. In an extremely unenviable position, the Grizzlies will look for a trading partner. If they cannot find one, they will begrudgingly select Gallinari who’s no slouch. He’s a live body with superb shooting and driving skills. Gallinari will need to add some meat to handle the rigors of the 82-game NBA schedule, but don’t we all? Other options include Darrell Arthur (not as skilled as Gallinari, but more physical) Anthony Randolph (too much of an upside pick), Kevin Love (poor fitness) and DeAndre Jordan (see Randolph). Here’s one more question: How similar is Gallinari to Rudy Gay?

6. New York. Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas. Unsatisfied with the long-term prospects of both Zack Randolph and Eddy Curry (David Lee is awesome, but he may not fit into Mike D'Antoni's plans), the Knicks invest their future in Arthur, who brings a solid mix of size, lateral quickness, a mid-range jumper and the ability to run the floor.

7. LA Clippers. Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Arizona. With uncertainty in sight (both Elton Brand and Corey Maggette may opt out) at all positions except center and one forward position, the Clippers need a playmaker. If you’ve watched Bayless, you’ll know exactly how aggressive he can be on offense. However, his defensive intensity leaves something to be desired.

8. Milwaukee. Anthony Randolph, SF, LSU. Every draft has a Mr. Upside. This is him. Though he played in the SEC, Randolph remained in national obscurity for much of the year to all except scouts and college basketball die-hards. Randolph has a ridiculous wingspan and agility to boot. Though he needs to bulk up, Randolph will make an immediate impact on the defensive end to a Bucks squad that has more holes than Swiss cheese.

9. Charlotte. DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M. Though limited offensively, Jordan makes up for that with his sheer size and athleticism. With a shaky frontline and their best frontcourt player (Okafor) able to leave in the summer (qualifying offer of $7.1M), Michael selects another Jordan … who will be riding pine because Larry Brown doesn’t like playing rookies.

10. New Jersey. Kevin Love, PF, UCLA. Talk about a great fit. Love adds an interior scorer who can create mismatches. His passing ability only makes him better. That said, Love’s conditioning has come into question.


No Love from CDR

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

11. Indiana. DJ Augustin, PG, Texas. Last season, the Achilles’ heel of the Pacers has been the point guard position. Enter DJ Augustin, who, though small (5’11”, 180 pounds), makes up for it with toughness and guile. Additionally, he’s a true floor general with a sense for the game, and has been known to include teammates well.

12. Sacramento. Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana. Though not the greatest fit, Gordon is by far the most talented player left on the board. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Gordon has a NBA body. Nevertheless, his stock has dropped following a disappointing March. If the Kings cannot re-sign Beno Udrih, they may select Russell Westbrook.

13. Portland. Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia. It is already common knowledge that the Blazers are shopping this pick. Since this version of the mock draft does not include trades, the Blazers address their weakest position – small forward. Though the upside of Donte Greene is tough to pass up, Joe Alexander has a more complete game and can contribute in more ways than simply score points.

14. Golden State. Russell Westbrook, PG/SG, UCLA. With a maximum of nine players under contract, the Warriors may trade down to amass more selections. Prepared to lose Monta Ellis this summer and perhaps Baron Davis next summer (it’s very unlikely he’ll pass on a $17M player option this summer), the Warriors select Russell Westbrook, who arose from the UCLA bench to heavy lottery consideration. The 6’4” guard will need to work on his ball-handling skills, but his lack of a true position will actually benefit him in Don Nelson’s open system. His defensive abilities make him an instant asset.

15. Phoenix (from Atlanta). Nicolas Batum, SG, Le Mans. Since the Suns are missing a head coach, this selection is quite difficult. If they run with a system similar to the one they had under Mike D’Antoni, the Suns will roll with Nicolas Batum, a wiry 6’8” shooting guard from across the Atlantic, who has the tools necessary to be a top 15 player in this league. He just needs to get stronger. All things considered, if Shaq decides to call it a day, the needs become readily clear.

16. Philadelphia. Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown. With Dalembert more inconsistent than Yao Ming is tall and injury-prone, the 76ers go after Hibbert, who can add scoring punch and alter shots in the lane. Hibbert will need to work on his footwork and add creativity to his game.

17. Toronto. Brandon Rush, SG/SF, Kansas. Set at only the power forward position, the Raptors go after the multi-faceted Rush, whose most noted weakness is that he’s unselfish to a fault. An all-around stud, Rush has stellar athleticism, pure shooting touch and can defend up to three positions well.

18. Washington. Robin Lopez, C, Stanford. Upon watching the Wizards bow out of the playoffs, two things were clear. The teams lack toughness and they cannot rebound. While the two are not mutually exclusive, Robin Lopez fills the void (albeit, not entirely) at both. Offensively, Robin may be a liability and that may limit his playing time.

19. Cleveland. Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas. For as great as LeBron James is, this year’s playoffs showed us exactly why the Cavs need a point guard. Though Mario Chalmers played the 2, he is capable of playing the point (otherwise, Ty Lawson becomes the pick). A cagy on-the-ball defender, Chalmers is equally excellent in terms of anticipation – two things that Mike Brown will love. Did I mention that he can shoot from behind the arc and is not afraid to take the big shot?

20. Denver. Jason Thompson, PF, Rider. After giving up a million points in four games against the LA Lakers, the Nuggets brass are closer to coming to terms with the fact that they need a defensive-minded player. Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for little-known Rider during his junior and senior year, Jason Thompson used his leaping skills and footwork to become a solid shot blocker.

21. New Jersey (from Dallas). Donte Greene, SF/PF, Syracuse. With Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson signed through 2011, it’s unlikely that Greene would see much of the floor early on. However, with the trade winds indicating that Jefferson is being shopped and history proving that neither stay healthy for an entire season, Greene is a superb value at this pick. In Greene, the Nets obtain a great shooter with length who is ultra aggressive on offense. Greene will need to work on strength, shot selection and defense.


Greene: Unlikely to go this late


Courtesy: Syracuse University

22. Orlando. Chase Budinger, SG, Arizona. When a team has a great rebounder, you can never have enough shooting. Though he struggled for a good portion of his sophomore campaign, Budinger has exceptional range and improved on moving without the ball. Additionally, though he’s no Mo Cheeks, he vastly elevated his game defensively. Also receiving consideration for this pick are Wayne Ellington and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

23. Utah. JaVale McGee, C, Nevada. Though Utah has many skilled big men in their arsenal, none are defensive specialists. McGee’s 7’6” wingspan will garner immediate playing time, but he will need to add strength and discipline in order to maximize on his high ceiling. Patience will no doubt be a virtue for McGee.

24. Seattle (from Phoenix). Marreese Speights, PF, Florida. Having taken Brook Lopez with their first pick, the Sonics continue to play the draft board by going with Speights. Adept at the 4, Speights already has the frame and some skills to compete in the Association. Nevertheless, Speights must continue to gather basketball IQ, as his tendency to not use his strength and inability to maintain focus and intensity have plagued his game.

25. Houston. Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio State. In Koufos, the Rockets get a true center with shooting range, a la Yao. Despite average athleticism, Koufos is a sound defender and a good rebounder. In the meanwhile, Koufos must get more aggressive to battle with the big uglies in order to shed the unfair yet accurate tag of being a European big man.

26. San Antonio. Joey Dorsey, PF/C, Memphis. If you could describe the Spurs and Joey Dorsey in a single word, the words “tough” and “winner” come to mind. Needless to say, though the Spurs have Ian Mahinmi and Tiago Splitter in the pipeline, the Spurs have an aging frontcourt. Dorsey’s mean streak, strength and ability to be a facilitator despite lacking offensive tools make him the smart money pick. Expect the Spurs to consider reaching for a swingman with this selection.

27. New Orleans. DJ White, PF, Indiana. Following their exit from the playoffs, the Hornets realized that they need to add more depth to the frontline. In spite of being undersized and having difficulty staying healthy, DJ White can contribute almost immediately and can deputize for David West on occasion.

28. Memphis (from LA Lakers). Nikola Pekovic, PF, Partizan Belgrade. In desperate need of a big, Memphis leaches onto Pekovic, who had great success in the Euroleague. A back to the basket player, Pekovic has demonstrated explosiveness near the rim. To round out his game, he will need to work on his J. His ability to run the floor is an added bonus for Marc Iavaroni.

29. Detroit. JJ Hickson, PF, NC State. Though seemingly loaded at power forward, the Pistons select Hickson, who lost steam as the season persisted. Since Hickson is only 19, the Pistons know they will need to reign him in quickly in order to benefit from his strength, rebounding ability and overall potential for excellence.

30. Boston. Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina. You can never have enough shooters. With two years left on Ray Allen’s contract, Ellington can begin grooming himself to win the starting role in 2010. This season, Ellington escaped from the criticism that he was “only a shooter”. The goal for next year is to overcome the stigma of “only playing offense”.

2nd Round

31. Minnesota (from Miami). Nathan Jawal, PF/C, Cairns Taipans. After selecting OJ Mayo, the Wolves set their sights on Nathan Jawal, an Australian big who actually enjoys getting physical. Like most aggressive players, Jawal will need to refine much of his game while continuing to learn the game.

32. Seattle. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina. The Sonics just got much quicker. Upon drafting two bigs, it was imperative that they select a backup point (assuming that either Luke Ridnour or Earl Watson gets dealt this summer).

33. Portland (from Memphis). Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG, Memphis. Likely selecting for another team at this point, the Blazers take the best player available. Should they wish to opt for the international stow-away route, the Blazers can opt for Alexis Ajinca or Omer Asik.

34. Minnesota. Davon Jefferson, SF, USC. Same approach, different team. Jefferson is an athletically gifted player but lacks the functional skills (shooting, dribbling) to dominate. Jefferson can be an energy guy for any roster in the very least and can become a star if he works on shooting and dribbling.

35. LA Clippers. Kyle Weaver, PG/SG, Washington State. One of the headiest players in the draft pool, Weaver is a tenacious defender. He will need to refine his offensive game if he wants to be the man down the stretch. His ball-handling skills allow for him to be an effective point guard who can cause matchup problems due to his height.

36. Portland (from New York). Alexis Ajinca, C/PF, HTV Hyeres-Toulon. Ajinca provides the agility and length to alter shots and rebound effectively. He is still getting accustomed to the game and has little to no offensive game. Ajinca likely needs two years of seasoning prior to seeing an NBA floor.

37. Milwaukee. DeVon Hardin, PF, California. Hardin adds a defensive mind who requires few shots to be effective and fits the mold of Scott Skiles.

38. Charlotte. Jamont Gordon, PG/SG, Mississippi State. You have to love versatility to make this pick. Gordon is a grinder who’s tough and gives you a tougher option at the point. Do not be surprised if the Bobcats opt for Lester Hudson, the scoring point out of UT-Martin.

39. Chicago. Lester Hudson, PG/SG, UT-Martin. If the Bulls go with Beasley, this pick will be a point. It’s surprising that Hudson has stuck around this late. Hudson is an effective scorer who can pass but not necessarily run a team.

Hudson: The darkhorse candidate to be a 1st-round pick. Who's that guy covering him?

Courtesy: The Love of Sports

40. New Jersey. Ryan Anderson, SF/PF, California. Because the Nets know their major hole is a scoring forward, they take a second swing with Anderson, who excelled in the PAC-10. A lack of foot speed hinders Anderson’s overall potential and ability to be superb on both sides of the ball.

41. Indiana. Courtney Lee, SG, Western Kentucky. Not quite a need, Lee provides explosiveness and a great shooting touch.

42. Sacramento (from Atlanta). Victor Claver, PF/SF, Pamesa Valencia. Despite being only 19, Claver plays in Europe’s highest level and has shown considerable athleticism and agility, as well as a growing skill set to boot. His intelligence continues to grow. Claver may be best served to hone his game and earn a guarantee from a team before bolting for the NBA.

43. Sacramento. Rodrigue Beaubois, PG, Cholet. Compared to Rajon Rondo by NBADraft.net, Beaubois has been buoyed by a 6’10” wingspan as well as tremendous foot speed. Poor decision making and an inability to get through screens hurt his prospects but he is only 20.

44. Utah (from Philadelphia). Bill Walker, SG/SF. If Walker waits a year, he should be a first-round pick. On the flipside, he tore his ACL and may be worried about doing it again. With Walker, the Jazz get a 1st-round talent with the composure and maturity of an undrafted free agent.

45. San Antonio (from Toronto). Shan Foster, SG, Vanderbilt. Since the Spurs are set at three positions, they need to continue to surround themselves with specialists. In Foster, the Spurs get one of the best shooters in college basketball. Israeli Omri Casspi receives consideration but raises too many red flags for Pop.

46. Seattle (from Portland via Boston). Omri Casspi, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv. A known rising talent in Israel, Casspi is also one of the youngest. At 19, Casspi has a great feel for the game and is athletic, versatile, agile and aggressive. The only thing holding down Casspi is his ego.

47. Washington. Richard Hendrix, PF, Alabama. The Wizards are suddenly becoming a physical team (if they want to be, of course). Hendrix lacks overall speed, but he makes up for it with physicality and basketball wherewithal.

48. Phoenix (from Cleveland). Trent Plaisted, PF/C, BYU. In the current Suns system, Plaisted’s athletic ability and face-up game make him a fantastic fit. Could be a 10-year veteran role player in the league.

49. Golden State. Othello Hunter, PF, Ohio State. And here goes the run on athletic fours. The hard-working Hunter is an instant energy player who will make hustle plays and use every ounce of his talent.

50. Seattle (from Denver). Serge Ibaka, PF/C, L’ Hospitalet. Per Aran Smith of NBADraft.net, Ibaka is a “tremendous athlete blessed with insane length and leaping ability” who “conjures up memories of Shawn Kemp”. According to the YouTube clip, this guy has the potential to be the real deal. With solid footwork, an existing jumpshot (great form to boot) and an awesome work ethic, Ibaka is much further along than many other project bigs.

51. Dallas. Jeremy Pargo, PG/SG, Gonzaga. Rick Carlisle finally gets an opportunity to place his imprint on the franchise and he does so with a point guard who has some toughness. Pargo isn’t a great shooter and can be prone to turning the ball over, but he has proven to show up in big games.

52. Miami (from Orlando). Semih Erden, C, Fenerbahce Ulker. A pure seven footer, Erden has athleticism and lateral quickness to match his size; however, Erden needs vast improvement in the defense and rebounding departments. Not too bad for the Stan van Gundy pick.

53. Utah. Omer Asik, PF/C, Fenerbahce Ulker. Unless Utah sees a player it loves, they will likely find a trading partner for this pick. If not, they are best served to draft an international player who is not yet NBA-ready. Asik is a consistent performer with ball skills, but he is paper thin at 220 pounds (mind you, he’s 7’0”).

54. Houston. Will Daniels, SF, Rhode Island. Daniels is a basketball player with great hands. He knows his strengths and exerts effort at all times. On the flipside, Daniels has the tendency to get into foul trouble and take bad shots.

55. Portland (from Phoenix). Pat Calathes, SF, St. Joseph’s. Calathes brings versatility to the table; however, Calathes really needs to bulk up in order to diversify his game. Calathes may be best served in the European leagues.

56. Seattle (from New Orleans). Richard Roby, SG, Colorado. One of the best shooters in this draft class, the Sonics can always use a sharpshooter. Like many, Roby will need to add upper body strength to take the ball and finish near the hoop.

57. San Antonio. Gary Forbes, SG/SF, Massachusetts. Throughout his collegiate career, Forbes increased his basketball IQ and consistency. At 6’7” and 220 pounds, Forbes will have a size advantage over most shooting guards and be comparable to most small forwards. Also, he is very coachable, which is an attractive proposition for the Spurs front office.

58. Los Angeles Lakers. Maarty Leunen, PF/SF, Oregon. Leunen can provide scoring punch and always gives his all on the glass.

59. Detroit. Goran Dragic, PG, Union Olimpija. A tall point, Dragic is no stranger to the lane and scores most of his points there. He has been considered unselfish to a fault and the Slovenian likely needs a couple more seasons in Europe.

60. Boston. Sean Singletary, PG, Virginia. The point guard from Virginia would have been selected higher last year had he remained in the draft. In him, the Celtics get a proven ball handler who can both score and facilitate.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NBA Offseason Preview - Seattle Supersonics

Seattle Supersonics
Record: 20-62
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $48.4M

Draft Picks: #4, #24, #32, #46, #50, #56

While the Sonics were stinking up the courts across the country, one thing become certain as the season reached a close. This is Kevin Durant’s team. With a glut of mediocrity (in other words, the entire roster minus the aforementioned Durant and perhaps Jeff Green) shaped across the Sonics roster, it’s no wonder that they have little to no sense of team identity.

The Sonics are at least two years away from any real talk of the playoffs. Therefore, the goal this season is to get tougher and develop some level of consistency.
Burning Questions: The same question asked about Portland last year will be asked of Seattle this year. With six draft picks, what is the Sonics plan (beyond moving to Oklahoma City)? Also, when will they begin to shed the expiring contracts of veterans who do not figure to be a part of the Sonics' long-term plans? Though unvisited in this post, will the Sonics make a play for a free agent this season (the dumb thing to do) or wait at least another season for Kevin Durant and Jeff Green to mature?

Perceived Needs: C, PF, Backup PG

If I Were GM ... I’d be prepared to offload the likes Chris Wilcox, Robert Swift, Saer Sene, Donyell Marshall and Adrian Griffin who are in contract years (Sene has a team option in 2009-2010) in order to clear the books. Also, I would settle once and for all on who the point guard will be by trading either Luke Ridnour or Earl Watson. Combined, they make $12.7M, but do their statistics amount to that figure? Not unless they are members of the Knicks. With six selections in the draft and three in the top 32, the Sonics can address holes while developing players who are seasons away from the NBA. The Sonics may package one or more of their second-round picks in an effort to offload salaries.

With the 4th selection, the Sonics must hope that the Timberwolves do not married to the idea of drafting Brook Lopez, who would be a dynamic set for PJ Carlesimo. If the Wolves do, the Sonics hold a ticket back into the 1st round at pick #24 (and a quartet of second-round picks) which can facilitate a trade for the Stanford big man. If worse comes to absolute worst, then the Sonics have to evaluate a vital question followed by a corollary. First, they need to determine whether Jerryd Bayless or OJ Mayo are capable of transitioning to the point guard position. If not, the Sonics have to consider trading down in the 1st round for cash or future considerations.

Since the Sonics have only 12 players under contract going into the season and at least 3 who are in the final year of their contract are likely to be used as trade bait, it would not surprise me if as many as four draftees are on the opening night roster.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

NBA Offseason Preview - Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves
Team Record: 22-60
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $55.1M

Draft Picks: #3, #31, #34

With the trade of Kevin Garnett last summer, the Timberwolves’ brass essentially waved the white flag for the 2007-2008 season. And wave it proudly they did. After reaching buyouts with both Troy Hudson and Juwan Howard (Fun Fact: The Wolves are still on the hook for $13.7M this year and $6.3M next year), Minnesota inked PF/C Al Jefferson to a 5-year/$65M contract. Meanwhile, Marko Jaric and Rashad McCants showed glimpses of their potential … when they were healthy.

At the point guard, Randy Foye has fallen well short of expectation to the point that Sebastian Telfair played significant minutes at times last year.

At forward, Corey Brewer struggled as a rookie, but is expected to contribute much more in Year 2. He’ll share time with Antoine Walker who is subject to a team option next year. That leaves rookie Chris Richard and whomever is re-signed among Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith and Wayne Simien.

Burning Questions: With the 3rd pick firmly in their grasp, the Wolves need to answer the following question: Do we go with the big (Brook Lopez) in order to move Al Jefferson to his natural 4 position or are we better served with a playmaker (e.g. OJ Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Danilo Gallinari)? Since they are unlikely sign both and stay below the luxury tax, will the Wolves extend either Gomes or Smith?

Perceived Needs: C, Playmaking G or SF, Physical Presence

If I Were GM … I would take the best player available (i.e. not Brook Lopez) with the 3rd pick overall. Since Jerryd Bayless reminds me of Randy Foye minus the defensive tenacity, it’s a toss-up between the controversial OJ Mayo and the Italian Danilo Gallinari and I’d lean towards Mayo. For the #31 and #34 picks, there are a number of players who can play center to select from, such as Nathan Jawai, Nikola Pekovic and Joey Dorsey. A player with a high basketball IQ like combo guard Kyle Weaver should also be given consideration.

In terms of re-signing free agents, Ryan Gomes (12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has to be the priority. Can he be signed for the mid-level exception?

Friday, May 23, 2008

NBA Offseason Preview - Miami Heat

Miami Heat
Record:
15-67
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $53.4M

Draft Picks: #2, #52

In what could only be described as a profound disappointment, the Heat begin the Erik Spoelstra regime with a shred of optimism, knowing that it’s likely Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion may be playing meaningful basketball games next season. What’s better? If you said “anything compared to the 2007-2008 campaign”, then few will disagree with you. Though the Heat were considered to be aging and beyond their best, no one tagged them for a 15-win basketball team.

That said, the Heat shed two hefty salaries in the form of Jason Williams ($8.9M) and Ricky “9th rebound off of my own glass” Davis ($6.8M). At the same time, the Heat require a long-term replacement for Alonzo Mourning.

Burning Questions: Set at the 2 and 3 positions, both Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley would be amazing additions to the team. In the end, it comes down to what the Bulls do. Also, what will the Heat do with their bevy of guards (Marcus Banks, Dorell Wright, Daequan Cook) not named DWade who are also under contract?

One last burning question. If Spoelstra is successful, when will Pat Riley hijack the team? Cheap shot.

Perceived Needs: PG, PF, C, Toughness

If I Were GM … It’s a no-lose situation with drafting second. Though drafting second, the Heat are likely to get their man in Rose. Also, with a combination of Wade, Marion and whomever is selected, it’s a situation that can lure a veteran guard for less than market value. With the #52 pick overall, the Heat are best served to trade out of that spot or select a project big who can provide depth in 2-3 years. Depending on the draft board, I would also consider trading into the early portion of the second round by sending multiple 2009 second-round picks (Miami currently owns three) to select either a power forward or a center (e.g. Kosta Koufos, Nathan Jawai, Nikola Pekovic, Joey Dorsey, DJ White, DeVon Hardin).

Additionally, I would do my best to cleanse the squad of superfluous guards and add to a very thin (in both talent and depth) frontcourt.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NBA Offseason Preview - Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls
Record: 33-49
2008-2009 Payroll (Source: HoopsHype.com): $40.4M
Draft Picks: #1, #39

How the winds of change have taken shape in Chicago! The season started with rumors of Kobe Bryant heading to the Windy City followed by another slow start ultimately squelching the Kobe rumors and relieving Scott Skiles of his job. It ended with a blockbuster sending Ben Wallace on his way, but taking on Larry Hughes’s ugly contract (2 years/$26.5M). With the acquisition of Drew Gooden, the Bulls added a scoring power forward to their roster. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng remain Bulls, but for how long? Both have qualifying offers, but will be prized free agents.

And when all hope was lost following a disheartening season that saw good turn into bad and bad into worse, the Bulls were gifted with the #1 overall pick.

Burning Questions: For a guy who pulled the trigger on many now-famous shots as a player, John Paxson has been notoriously gun-shy as a GM. Now that the Bulls are selecting first overall, how does this affect the long-term signability of Deng and Gordon? Also, who will the Bulls select first?


Gasol: Could have been a Bull.
Credit: The Hype
Perceived Needs: Scoring PF, Backup PG, Veteran C

If I Were GM … I would select Michael Beasley as the #1 pick overall. Last season was an aberration. What was missing the previous two seasons? It was most definitely an interior force who can score at will. Simply put, the upgrade at power forward (Drew Gooden) is higher than the upgrade at point guard (Kirk Hinrich) should the Bulls select Derrick Rose. With their second-round pick (#39), the Bulls should address the potential exodus of backup point guard Chris Duhon.

Among the existing Bulls, re-signing Luol Deng (qualifying offer of $4.5M) is the top priority, because he provides a value-add with his mid-range jumper which is rare in today’s game. While inking Ben Gordon (qualifying offer of $6.4M) is important, this may not be realistic unless the Bulls are able to offload the hefty contracts of either Larry Hughes or Andres Nocioni (4 years/ ~$29.5M). If Gordon demands a trade, the Bulls can be certain to ask for a lottery-protected 1st-round pick from a Western Conference team.

Without a head coach, it’s tough to project the tempo at which the Bulls will play. Nevertheless, the Bulls could always use a true center to complement Joakim Noah, who shocked many with his steady performances following the trade of Ben Wallace.
(Editor's Note: Andres Nocioni did not pass the ball at any point during the development of this post.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NBA Draft Lottery Tidbits

Desperate for a floor general, many NBA teams are rating Derrick Rose ahead of Michael Beasley.
Credit: Pictopia

Going into tonight's draft lottery, the two-headed monster of Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley are stealing headlines. Also, that team in New Orleans forgot to cover Manu Ginobili in a decisive Game 7 and paid for it. At least, they now have time to buy new rods. The Spurs played their signature lockdown defense and avoided a third-quarter collapse that proved symptomatic in their three previous games in The Big Easy.
Here one's more tidbit.
  • One game separates the third (Minnesota) and sixth picks (New York). The sixth pick has a 25.5% chance of gaining a top 5 pick, whereas the third pick has a 95% of doing the same thing.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Coming Soon to PHSports

- Team-by-Team Breakdowns leading up to the NBA Draft and Free Agency

- Latest Edition of the NBA Mock Draft

Sunday, May 11, 2008

PHSports Staff MLB Predictions & Forecast: A Month Too Late???

What do you know, it’s MLB time! No matter where or when “opening day, night, or afternoon” was…baseball is back! While most of us don’t really care about the national pastime until post-NBA Draft time, there are plenty of fans who are still salivating for their team to be playing in late-October (now more than ever for far too many).

Who else would you trust to preview what the season will look like come late October???

Without further adieu, let’s roll!

Okay, we know we’re a bit late; however, the hangover from March Madness (what a ride!) left us putting this material on the back-burner.

If anything, it makes our work all the more skeptical.

Pay

If not now Lou...then when???
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

NL East Champs: New York Mets
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks
AL East Champs: Boston Red Saux
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees

Cy Young Award Winners: Carlos Zambrano [NL], John Lackey [AL]
MVPs: Derek Lee [NL], Alex Rodriguez [AL]
Rookies of the Year: Kosuke Fukudome [NL], Jacoby Ellsbury [AL]

World Series Matchup: Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Saux
Word Series Champs: Chicago Cubs (if not now, then when?)

Armin

Could Man-Ram pull off a Kobe-like MVP run this season?
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

NL East Champs: New York Mets
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies
AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Detroit Tigers
AL West Champs: Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Card: Cleveland Indiana

Cy Young Award Winners: Johan Santana [NL], Justin Verlander [AL]
MVPs: Chase Utley [NL], Manny Ramirez [AL]
Rookies of the Year: Kosuke Fukudome [NL], Evan Longoria [AL] (What a name!)

World Series Matchup: New York Mets vs. Boston Red Sox
World Series Champs: Boston Red Sox

Clement

8-0 Brandon Webb sure is making Clement look good.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

NL East Champs: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers
AL East Champs: Boston Red SOOOOX [aka ESPN’s Man-Crush]
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indiana
AL West Champs: Seattle Mariners [sleeper!]
AL Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

Cy Young Award Winners: Brandon Webb [NL], Josh Beckett [AL]
MVPs: Ryan Howard [NL], Manny Ramirez [AL]
Rookies of the Year: Johnny Cueto [NL], Jeff Clement [AL] (Come on!!!!]

World Series Matchup: Cleveland Indians & Chicago Cubs
World Series Champs: Cleveland Indians [Take THAT 1945!]

There you have it! Predictions that weren’t doctored mid-way through the season. Instead, only a month-or-so in.

See you throughout the season!

All 6 months…

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Long Overdue College Basketball Post

Since Kansas shocked the college basketball world with its stunning comeback against Memphis, a few things have taken shape.

First, a number of talented ballers have entered early for the 2008 NBA Draft. At the bottom of the same page, there is a list of players who are returning to further their education [in college basketball].

Second, plenty of transfers will re-enter the hardcourt donning new colors. Players to watch this season include: Mike Mercer (South Florida from Georgia), Reginald Delk (Louisville from Mississippi State), Joe Trapani (Boston College from Vermont), Alex Legion (Illinois from Kentucky) and Tre'Von Willis (UNLV from Memphis).

Third, as for players who are leaving their schools this spring either for reason of a self-initiated transfer (see Ben Hansbrough) or a dismissal (see Indiana and Tennessee), there is no shortage of talent. I'll have my eye on Vernon Macklin, who entered Georgetown with notoriety, but did not mesh with JT3's system and was criticized for a lack of basketball IQ. He'll be suiting up for Billy D, who has been much the alchemist with raw big men.

Fourth, Bob Huggins signed an 11-year contract ... which means absolutely nothing beyond new money for Huggy Bear (800K to 1.5M per annum). Had he not signed the deal, I might have believed that he'd remain at WVU for the remainder of his career.

Fifth, staying in the coaching ranks, longtime Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins is now the head basketball coach at Stanford. While Dawkins has cited the similarities between his former and current institution as a major reason he left Duke, many including myself will wonder whether the color of Dawkins's skin has a part in being the successor to Coach K in Durham. For now, Stanford gets an excellent coach with name recognition. Can he recruit?

Sixth, how bad do all of the people feel who dogged Chris Lofton for a lackluster senior campaign? I, for one, feel about two feet tall after calling his play like I saw it. Why? Lofton played his entire senior season with testicular cancer and kept the secret from teammates. “It used to be that a bad game was the end of the road for me. When I went through my cancer, I realized basketball is fun but it’s not that big of a deal,” Lofton said.

Now, that is perspective.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

10 NBA Thoughts

1) Avery Johnson is out of Dallas after the team lost its ephemeral toughness while continuing to outspend its opposition. If John Paxson has an ounce of intelligence left, he offers the job to Johnson immediately.

2) Mike D'Antoni is likely out in Phoenix, after the Shaq trade resulted in a 1st-round knockout via ... the Spurs. Here's some free advice to D'Antoni. When Atlanta bows out of the playoffs and does not renew Mike Woodson's contract, vouch for the job. The Hawks are young, can run and they have more than one player who can play defense (the Suns had 1, Raja Bell). With a legitimate regular season head coach, the Hawks can retain the Joshes (Smith and Childress).

3) Perhaps, it's the fact that I live in the Washington DC area, but I really enjoyed watching The Traveling LeBrons lose last night at home. In the last five games, I have a few learnings to share.

First and foremost, the Wizards are a better team without Gilbert Arenas. There, I said it. No one wants to say it except the Gil haters. Here's a fan of Gil expressing this.

Secondly, this series reminds me of Knicks/Heat ... minus the talent and execution.

Third, pardon me. Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas thought I was wearing a Wizards jersey and climbed my back. Meanwhile, DeShawn Stevenson just got a tech for not closing his yap. We all know it's really for his hideous beardage.

4) What is the over/under on Larry Brown in Charlotte? Let's go with three seasons. I know everyone wants to hate on Michael Jordan, the executive, but what other coach who's available can better instill toughness into a young, soft team? Sure, the players will hate Brown by the All-Star break next year, but they'll be playing meaningful games after that. If I were Larry Brown, what would my first action be? Force Adam Morrison to shave the 'stache. College is over.

5) Kevin Durant won the Rookie of the Year award and I couldn't care less. To be honest, I expected more from him and everyone else. Had Rick Adelman not pulled a Doc Rivers and changed his lineup every night for the first half of the season (sans Yao/McGrady), Luis Scola would have had a very strong argument.

6) When I'm 37, I hope I look this young .

7) Dear Detroit Pistons players and coaching staff: You are in the playoffs and you are not playing Dwight Howard yet.

8) Did you know Zimbabwe was having an election? Ok, that has absolutely nothing to do with the NBA. It's more provocative than some of the Eastern Conference matchups though. Furthermore, it'll be as clean as last year's NBA Draft Lottery.

9) Can Utah just do us all a favor and end the series, so the second-round matchups can start sooner in the Western Conference? Thanks.

10) The playoff runs for high payroll teams like Dallas, Phoenix and Denver can be summarized in 4 seconds.