Well, the NBA Finals are over. Congrats to the Miami Heat on their second consecutive NBA title and LeBron James on his second consecutive Finals MVP. Congrats to me as well on my spot on breakdown of the series and correct pick, nothing like being right lol. But now that that’s over the focus shifts to the future. With the NBA Draft 6 days away and Free Agency about a week and a half away, it’s impossible to make reasonable predictions. So instead here’s part one my quick team by team breakdown of off-season needs and moves I think they should pursue. Just playoff teams for today.
We’ll begin with the 2-time defending NBA Champs, the Miami Heat.
All due respect to the Heat, I’m not sure we’ve ever had a more critically flawed team win the NBA Championship. They were last in the NBA in rebounding which goes against a lifetime of believing you can’t win without rebounding. Their rebounding numbers are skewed however by the fact that they shoot a higher percentage than most teams and hold their opponents to fewer shot attempts than most by forcing turnovers. Still, paint presence and interior defense have to be the priority here. It may come at a cost though in that having a true big on the floor shrinks the court for LeBron and Wade. But can they really survive another series vs the Bulls or Indiana without an inside presence and a, presumably, healthy D-Rose, healthy Danny Granger, and better Paul George? The odds of making it to 4 straight Finals aren’t very good to begin with, doing it without an interior presence seems impossible. So where do they go for help being cash strapped and unlikely to break-up the big 3? I think you take a chance on Greg Oden if you don’t have to overpay or guarantee his contract. If he can give you 15-20 minutes a night it can make a huge difference. Anderson Varejao is another option, especially if Cleveland takes Nerlens Noel number 1. Though getting Dan Gilbert to help LeBron seems unlikely. My last option is probably the least likely, but assuming most of the NBA will refuse to pay him top dollar you might be able to steal Andrew Bynum with a one year MLE deal. He’ll want to prove himself and earn a big pay day and a motivated Bynum can be dominant. It’s risky but the rewards could be great. Interesting fact: the Heat have no cap space this summer, obviously. But because of player and team options technically have no money tied up beyond next season.
Next up the Spurs:
Making the assumption that both Tim Duncan and Coach Pop return, the Spurs are still going to be a good team. This may have been this teams last run at a title, though, with their Big 3 as constituted. They also have to decide on a style of play. If playing with two traditional bigs surely they can do better than Tiago Splitter. And if playing with a stretch 4, they can do better than Boris Diaw. Kawhi Leonard’s development will play a huge role as well. If he continues to grow he may allow the Spurs to part ways with Ginobli, combined with Splitter leaving give the Spurs approximately $18,000,000 in cap space. Assuming the Spurs make such moves, which I believe they should, they have many options. Acquire more quality depth. Make a run at Dwight Howard??? But for them to have a chance to legitimately get back to the finals, I think Indiana’s David West and Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans(assuming West opts out and Sacramento doesn’t extend a qualifying offer to Evans) are clear upgrades to Ginobli and Splitter and natural fits with Coach Pop. A top 6 of Parker, Green, Leonard, West, Duncan, and Evans isn’t too shabby.
The Indiana Pacers:
They had a wonderful season. Paul George looks like the second coming of Scottie Pippen. But Roy Hibbert is still soft and their point guard play is still questionable at best. The question for dilemma for the Pacers is that if David West opts-in they have no cap space basically. But if he leaves they have cap space, not enough to make a run at Chris Paul but close enough to be able to get a sign-and-trade done with the Clippers should Paul want to go there. I truly feel that if the Pacers can somehow land Chris Paul, even at the expense of David West, they become the Championship favorite. Seems unlikely though. More likely is, I think David West opts out of his deal and flirts closely with the Spurs and ultimately heads to San Antonio. And with about $12,000,000 in cap space, and the expendable Danny Granger, they try to upgrade the point guard position while finding a serviceable 4 to hold the position down. A combination of Jarret Jack and Paul Millsap and/or Josh Smith fit well here as well, better point guard play and defensive-minded bigs fit in Indiana and can open the floor athletically.
The Memphis Grizzlies:
After having the best season in franchise history the bottom seems to be falling out here. First the dumbfounding trade of Speights and Ellington and then the even more mind numbing Rudy Gay trade… All to save money I suppose but wait… What? They still have no cap space? Nope, none at all. No cap space and no coach… 6 days before the NBA Draft and 10 before free agency starts. Not the position a team that was on the verge of becoming elite should be in, but they put themselves there. As far as off-season needs, they need offense and athleticism. If Ed Davis can continue to grow and make more consistent the flashes we seen towards the end of his time in Toronto, they’re fine inside. But on the perimeter, they need a back up point. A starting 3, a backup wing, or somehow find a way to re-sign Jerryd Bayless and Tony Allen and pray Allen learns how to shoot. Oh, and find a coach who can somehow put all those pieces together. Lionel Hollins seems like the right guy for that… Oh yeah… I’m not to high on Grizzlies management as you can see, lol.
The Chicago Bulls:
This one is easy, Derrick Rose actually plays. And pray he’s the old D-Rose. From a cap stand point, even with waiving Rip Hamilton and using the Amnesty on Boozer they’d still have no cap space. I’d expect to see Nate Robinson gone and with Luol Deng getting closer to extension time him being traded wouldn’t shock me one bit.(To Cleveland perhaps?) The Bulls are what they are and have little room for growth via free agency or within, besides Jimmy Butler. They are a threat to Miami but I think they’d still lose in 5 or 6, D-Rose or not.
The Golden State Warriors:
I keep hearing this crazy talk of them as a landing spot for Dwight Howard but they don’t have the necessary cap space. Unless they plan on sending Curry and Thompson and/or Barnes, along with Bogut I guess to make the money work, there’s no way the Lakers do this deal. I also don’t believe there’s any way Golden State parts with Curry and Thompson, not yet at least. Though as Charles Barkley pointed out, at some point they will have to to be a true contender. For now I think they will rely on continued growth from all their young players, especially Ezeli. Re-signing Jarret Jack looks more and more unlikely by the minute with so many teams needing point guards and many will likely take young guards in the draft and Jack, as one of the better leaders in the league, is a great guy to have them learn under for a few years.
The New York Knicks:
This is easier than the Bulls, they’re stuck. With no cap space to re-sign JR Smith, no flexibility to move Amare because of his health or Chandler because you have nothing to pair with him, they are truly stuck right where they are. Perhaps you could package Shumpert and Chandler but I’m not sure what you could get back. The Knicks need better point guard play, more consistent offense, and better defensive perimeter players. Through smart drafting and some internal development, both Knick weaknesses, they may be able to address a need but not all.
The Oklahoma City Thunder:
Not a team with large needs. I can even argue they have no needs, besides health. But I do have some strong suggestions. First, I’d move or waive Kendrick Perkins. In today’s NBA players like Perk are not needed very often, especially at his current salary. They are a significantly better team with him off the floor. Next, let’s move Kevin Martin into the Starting Lineup. You continually got off to slow starts last season, playoffs especially, increasing the burden on your stars Westbrook and Durant. Martin starting creates more driving lanes for Westbrook early and thus more open looks for everyone else later. Also, Martin is not James Harden. He does not possess the ability to come off the bench and be like a 6th starter and initiate the offense. He is best as a floor spacer, who can put the ball on the floor and get to the line when need be. But not a creator. Next, decide can you have both Reggie Jackson and Westbrook on the floor together at times. My answer would be no because Jackson is too much like Westbrook and I’d look to move Jackson while his value is high and draft a more traditional Point Guard with their pick, 12th overall. Possibly Michael Carter-Williams or Shane Larkin. Lastly, since I believe at this point we’d all agree that Ibaka is a stretch 4 at this point and won’t develop much post game, look again to the draft, with 28th pick or trade up, to try to find a big who may develop offensively. Those are just my opinions though, as presently built they’re still the slight favorite to win the west anyhow.
No cap space and bad contracts equal little room for improvement. Fortunately, they still can be a very good team. They will likely lose Andray Blatche but Kris Humphrey’s will have an opportunity to regain his double-double form under new Head Coach Jason Kidd, feels weird writing that… Anyhow, under Kidd I expect the Nets to play with more pace. More pace equals more possessions. More possessions for a team with more talent than most should equate to more wins. MarShon Brooks will be given more opportunity to play as the Nets desperately needed more scoring and Brook Lopez should continue his growth. He needs to rebound better but it’s coming along. In the draft, at pick 22, I’d expect them to look for an athletic big or a spot up shooter. With no pressing needs, those two player types are good to stock pile. Kenny Kadji from Miami, may be a reach there but seems like a good pick for them.
So much of this depends on who the coach ends up being. There aren’t many coaches who see and play the way George Karl does. So with him gone I’d expect some major moves and for the Nuggets to look very different next year. It’s all but a done deal Igoudala will opt out. That experiment had pretty mixed results but it’s pretty obvious the he’ll never fulfill the perennial all star type potential he has. Where he’ll end up is anyone’s guess, his talent suggest a priority free agent but his production suggest a secondary free agent. But Cleveland seems like a strong option there. But we’ll get to that later. As far as the Nuggets go, with a new coach and other new front office members your guess is as good as mine. But if I were player there I’d probably be prepared for a move.
Arguably the most mediocre team in all of sports. Never really bad but never really good. I think that’s about to change though. Unless they miraculously land Dwight and Paul, it’s going to be a bad year in Atlanta… Josh Smith is gone, that ship has sailed. I can’t imagine they’d want to commit to Jeff Teague long term at this point, so any offer he receives I doubt they match.But they still Louis Williams coming back next year! That was sarcasm… It’s safe to say the Hawks need everything. And they will have tons of cap space. But they have not built up the necessary reputation to attract those big time free agents. So unless they want to overpay for the likes of Tyreke Evans or JR Smith, or take the risk on Andrew Bynum, they’ll be very bad. If they do take those risk, they’ll be what they’ve always been, mediocre…
Los Angeles Clippers:
There’s so many rumors in Clipper-land right now, all of which seem feasible. I won’t take long here but here’s a short list of their needs: Get Doc Rivers and re-sign Chris Paul. That’s it. If that’s all they do the Clippers become the slight favorite ahead of OKC in the west. Doc is just that much better than Del Negroe and Chris Paul is that important to the future of the Clippers. With Doc, he’ll have a top notch staff and they will develop Deandre Jordan and be more creative offensively and great defensively. While I know the Clips are high on KG and not so high on DJ, but they’ll need DJ’s presence defensively and athleticism to get to where they want to get. They do need improvement in athleticism at the 3 spot but that’s a relatively cheap fix they can do easily. Get Doc, re-sign CP3. That’s it.
Blow it up! I’ve been saying that for a while now but it seems they have finally reached that conclusion. With Doc seemingly on his way out, it won’t be long before Garnett and Pierce are on their way out as well. The question comes at Rondo. Is he truly a piece you can build around. His offensive game is so below average as far as scoring goes, you have to question if he can be the Rondo we’ve come to know without 2 or 3 Hall of Famers around him. And if he’s not, where do you move him? What for? I’ve been on record as saying move him for Cousin’s in Sacramento but without Doc there I’m not so sure. Other issues for the C’s include Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. Trying to move those 2 contracts may prove difficult but with this now clearly being rebuilding mode there’s no need to hold on to them. It was a nice little run for the Celtics, a failed run in my opinion, but nice still. Did get one title after all.
Los Angeles Lakers:
It all starts and ends with Dwight. The Lakers need an infusion of youth and athleticism. They need shooting and better perimeter defense. But until something is done with Dwight they are in wait and see mode. Hopefully for them Dwight doesn’t let his free agency draw out for weeks causing opportunities to slip past the Lakers but I fear he will. Assuming he wants to leave, there are lots of rumors out there. The most recent being to the Clippers. If the Clippers really do offer Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe the Lakers would be foolish not to accept. You solve the athleticism needs, the perimeter defense improves, and you have a face of the future. Another, probably more realistic, scenario is with Houston. With Lakers receiving Omer Asik, Thomas Robinson, and/or Aaron Brooks and Carlos Delfino. This trade not being as star driven but filled with substance. Either way, I believe they gain more by moving him. But we’ll see what happens.
The Milwaukee Bucks:
Honestly, does anyone care? All signs point to them loosing Jennings, Ellis, and Redick. Ellis certainly is leaving. Jennings, if allowed, will leave or play out this next season for unrestricted free agency next summer. It’s plausible that they can try again to pursue Josh Smith. Josh Smith and Larry Sanders, along with keeping Jennings, could make the Bucks interesting. But still not enough for most to really care… So moving on…
It’s not often you say this about an 8 seed, but they have no glaring needs. James Harden is well on his way to be elite. Asik’s growth has been exceptional. And Parson’s has been a pleasant surprise. More consistent point guard play would be nice, but for the most part Lin and Beverly will be solid. But hey, they have almost $16,000,000 in cap space too! This time last year GM Daryl Morey looked like an idiot. Now he looks like the genius Mark Cuban wishes he was! Houston to me are the co-favorites to land Dwight Howard, but let’s say for a second they don’t. Let’s say instead they take that $16mil and sign Josh Smith. Losing no pieces in a sign-and-trade and plugging in an all-star caliber player in the weakest part of their line-up. How much better would they be? Defensively? Of all the playoff teams, the Rockets have the greatest potential to jump over 5 or 6 teams and become elite.
Well that’s all for my off-season reports on this past seasons playoffs teams! Let me know what you think. I miss any key points? Was I little too off the wall with some of my scenarios? You know the drill, like, follow, comment, and share! Thanks for reading and see you back here soon for my break down of the non-playoff teams. This is Life of a Basketball Addict, thanks for reading.