Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lockout Doozies: Part 1

Without further ado, here’s the best and worst quotes of the offseason thus far.

I am confident, check that, I am certain more doozies will be forthcoming so look for Part 2 at the conclusion of the lockout. Let’s hope there’s no need for a Part 3 or 4.

“Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal. When it comes to contracts, the players aren’t sitting there negotiating that contract. I’m sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, ‘I got a max on the table.’ I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Naw, that’s too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 [million] less.’ “
- Washington’s Rashard Lewis.

He’s right.

“All Haters should catch full blown Aids and Die! Do the world a favor! and rid us of you all!”
- Kenyon Martin on Twitter, in response to some criticism over his lucrative Chinese deal.

K-Mart – you’re a bum.

“I wanted to display all of my shoes, so I had this 500-square-foot closet made. I just thought this would be a cool idea, and it would almost look like a museum. I had a fingerprint sensor put on the door to make sure I’m the only one who can get in here. I mostly wear Air Jordans. All of the Jordan guys are selected by Michael Jordan himself. It’s kind of hard to tell MJ no. I have 436 pairs of sneakers in here, and they’re mostly unworn. I’ll wear all of them eventually.”
- Atlanta’s Joe Johnson.

That’s perfectly reasonable.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All-Head Case Team

The general rule of thumb is that an NBA roster can support only one head case. Exceed the limit and the job of coaching will resemble that of a highly paid baby sitter – just ask Flip Saunders or George Karl.

So I’ve always wondered; what if we rounded up the ten biggest lunatics in the NBA and stuck them on one team. How would they fare?

The results would be spectacular – in a train wreck sort of way. I imagine team chemistry would be similar to what you would find at a 10 year-olds pick-up game, with tantrums, blowups and a ‘whoever gets it shoots it’ strategy.

But it’s not like I am treading new ground here. Isiah Thomas had the same idea back in his New York days.

Here’s my All-Head Case line-up.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Filling Holes In Free Agency

I am a positive thinker (not really I am just bored) so when the lockout ends sometime around mid January, the free agency period promises to be a pretty dull affair. It’s short on big names and teams with cash to spend. But like always, if you know where to look you can find what you need.

With that in mind I’ll examine the free agent market and identify two players that each team should target.

I’ve based my decisions on two criteria; 1) team needs, and 2) considering their current cap position, what they realistically can afford. I’ll say that again folks, what they REALISTICALLY can afford.

With a new CBA on the horizon things are gonna be a changin, so a fair bit of guess work was involved here. Therefore, I made the following assumptions:

1. The 2011/12 season will be operating under a similar cap figure to last year
($58m). Whilst there will be some big changes in the new CBA, the consensus is that these changes will be phased in over several years.

2. Although it will be more restrictive, the new CBA will not include a hard salary cap – the owners had already caved on this during the first round of talks. And there will be a similar mechanism in play that allows teams to retain their own players (Bird Rights and the right to match for restricted free agents).

3. The Mid-level Exception (MLE) as we know it will not exist in the new CBA. Under the MLE, once a year teams were able to sign a player to a contract averaging about $7m per year, even if the team was already over the cap. In the new CBA the MLE will either be eliminated, or replaced by a new version worth about $2-3m per year.

Note: The figure provided for each team is the amount of salary already committed for the 2011/12 season, excluding their rookie obligations.

*Free Agents (R – restricted; U – unrestricted; P – player option)

Atlanta Hawks ($65.8m)

1. Joel Przybilla (U) 2. Kwame Brown (U)

If you’re familiar with my work you’ll know my thoughts on Josh Smith; he’s the cancer on this team that needs to be removed. But assuming these dopes stand pat with the current group (likely) they’ll need some more beef upfront, and Przybilla or Brown offer defense and rebounding at the pivot, which would allow Horford to slide over to the four.

And as far as I am concerned Jamal Crawford can walk. He’s an overpaid chucker who is clueless on the defensive end.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trimming The Fat

The NBA’s new CBA will almost certainly include an “amnesty clause” – a one-time opportunity for teams to remove their worst contracts from the books. They will still have to pay the players guaranteed monies, but it will not count against the cap.

So here’s the deal. I am the owner, I’ve got deep pockets and I am looking to trim the fat.

For each team I identify the player that I would jettison under the amnesty clause.

Atlanta Hawks – Marvin Williams (three years, $23.3m)

Drafting Williams with the second pick in the 2005 draft (ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams) was bad enough, but then they compound the problem by giving him a $40 million extension in 2009. On what basis they made this decision I have no idea, because from what I’ve seen he’s not worth half that. And for the skills he has at his disposal you would be hard pressed to find a more passive player in the NBA. Let me know when you see him do anything other than take 18 foot jump shots.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

June In The NBA

It’s that time of the month folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s action. Let’s get straight into it.

1. It’s All On LeBron

Dirk was legendary and the Dallas team was collectively brilliant, but let’s be realistic. If LeBron James shows up, or even just matches his averages, the Miami Heat bury the Mavs.

The stats don’t lie. LeBron averaged 17.8 ppg in the Finals (that’s an 8.9 ppg drop off from the regular season), attempted only 20 free throws and scored 18 fourth quarter points combined. I was pro LeBron all year but I can’t defend that; it was a meek performance, a meltdown, a good old-fashioned choke job. And quite honestly, his passivity in the clutch was one of the strangest things I’ve witnessed in sports.

Robd wrote a brilliant piece on LeBron’s performance so I won’t cover the same ground here. And I think we can all agree on this – he performed far below his capabilities and he’s got issues between the ears.

But the fact is the Miami Heat were two games shy of winning an NBA championship on their first go-round, so talk of blowing it up or predicting LeBron’s demise is premature to say the least.

The history of the NBA tells us this: you lose, you learn and if you’re good enough you eventually overcome. If LeBron James has one ounce of mental fortitude he will come back next year better and more determined and eventually win titles. However, if he’s not wired in this way and can’t become the ferocious competitor that’s required in order to win on this level (like Dirk evolved into), then he’s headed for heartbreak and endless ridicule.

I am betting on the former, but one thing’s for sure, it will be fascinating to watch going forward.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

JT's Playoff Diary

What’s it like to be an NBA sportswriter? Well, courtesy of NBAMate I had the chance to find out, by attending two games in Chicago and New York during the first round of the playoffs. As experiences go it was off the charts, a dream come true for a life long hoops fan. ‘Surreal’ is the best way to describe it.

I am not going to take you through the nuts and bolts of the game; that’s old news. What I will do is describe the experience of attending the playoffs as a member of the media. From walking into the stadium through the media entrance, to the post game press conference, I’ll lay it all out for you.

Before we proceed, a valuable tip. If you’re going to make this epic journey from Oz to realise your NBA dream, then don’t let your mother-in-law drive you to the airport. Let’s just say, if we cut it any finer ‘JT’s Playoff Odyssey’ would have been over before it started.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

March In The NBA

It’s that time of the month folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s action. Let’s get straight into it.

1. Quotes Of The Month

“I don’t like Pau Gasol or Phil Jackson. Phil is arrogant. Pau is soft. Kobe tries to bring out his toughness, but he’s still soft.”

- Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins

Don’t hold back Perk, tell us how you really feel.

“I was just standing there, and I hoped he wasn’t going to crush my face.”

- Phoenix center Marcin Gortat, on the receiving end of a Blake Griffin monster jam (that was ruled an offensive foul)

Full marks for honesty.

“This is the system David Stern and his minions like. So that’s the system you have … I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything. So I’m not really allowed to have an opinion.”

- Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy on Dwight Howard’s one-game suspension for exceeding the technical foul limit.

I am surprised that Stan still has two healthy knee caps after making this statement.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

February In The NBA

It’s that time again folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s NBA action. Let’s get straight into it.

1. Melo Did Good For Melo

He’s a one-trick pony and a very VERY bad liar, but you have to hand it to the guy. Through all this mess (that he created) he achieved the best possible outcome (for himself); a max extension with the New York Knicks. Notice the theme here? Melo’s all about Melo and always has been. But for the sake of the Knicks, let’s hope he grows up in a hurry because that mentality is going to be a problem in New York, where a first round exit will get you drawn and quartered.

The Billups acquisition was a masterstroke. He’ll be the glue that holds this thing together early and makes them a very good team from the get-go.

But as we all know defense wins championships, so let’s not delude ourselves here; as currently constructed they can’t seriously contend. The elephant in the room is Melo’s and Amar’es defense, if you can call it that (I love the way George Karl called him out on it).

And for those of you clinging to the Miami game and saying “but look, they can defend”, well sure they can, when the mood strikes them (rarely). But defense has to be a collective mindset and something you just do, not something you say you do. Remember, over the course of a seven-game playoff series weaknesses will always be exposed (by good teams).

For the New York Knicks to become championship quality, the following must happen: In the same way that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen became solid defensive players when the ‘Big 3’ came together in Boston, Melo and Amar’e must make a genuine commitment to improve at that end of the floor. I believe this is possible, but only after they get their tails handed to them in the playoffs and then come to that realisation. But with these two, it may take a while for the ‘penny to drop’.

They must be surrounded with rock-solid defensive types. Fields and Turiaf are a good start (I don’t understand the Brewer buyout), but a tough defensive center is key (Joel Przybilla would be a nice pick-up in the offseason if he comes back). And the addition of a third ‘star’ will be required to replace Billups in 2012 to tie this thing together (which I believe will happen).

Succeed on these fronts and the Knicks become a legit contender and perennial powerhouse.

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January In The NBA

It’s that time of the month folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s NBA action. Let’s get straight into it.

1. KG – Mr Cheap Shot

I am a Celtics guy so I don’t dislike Kevin Garnett. In fact, I love what he brings to the floor. But I can’t hold this back any longer; nobody does a cheap shot like KG.

It usually goes something like this. When he’s over excited from a dunk or an and-one play he’ll dish out a cheap shot, typically an elbow to the grill or mid-section (then again, he could just chop you in the balls after a jump shot; ask Channing Frye). When the guy comes at him to remonstrate, he’ll throw his arms up and back away as if he’s the innocent party. I suspect he does this because he doesn’t have the stomach for a real confrontation.

It does surprise me that very few players take him to task on it (although Bogut has on several occasions). Just once, can someone please call his bluff and snot him one because he thoroughly deserves it. And you know what; I reckon he’d go down like a sack of spuds.

Sure, you’d get suspended and fined a princely sum, but boy, wouldn’t it be worth it to see KG hit the pine. And I am sure there would be no shortage of players around the league offering to help pay the fine.
Read more of my article at NBAMate

Sunday, January 2, 2011

December In The NBA

It’s that time of the month folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s NBA action. Let’s get straight into it.

1. Chris Bosh Needs To Get His Hands Dirty

For the Miami Heat to reach their enormous potential (complete domination) Chris Bosh will have to undergo the same transformation as Paul Gasol – that is, removing the softness from his game. Gasol is still a finesse player in style, but he’s added grunt to his play on both ends of the floor. I acknowledge Bosh’s strong play of late, but in a seven-game playoff series an aggressive team like Boston with a big front line will expose him, as they did to Gasol and Odom in 2008.

Let’s not sugar coat it; Chris Bosh is a powder puff, a 6-11 jump-shooter who shies away from physical contact. But he can adapt. Instead of taking stand-still jumpers from the top of the key, rebounding and establishing a presence down low must become his priority. As was the case with Gasol, until he can make this transformation the scrutiny will be immense and the criticism harsh.

The reality is that Miami would have been better served with David Lee as their power forward; his heart and hustle would have been the perfect complement to LeBron and Wade. The price tag would have been $20-30m less, which would have allowed them to sign another role player (ex. Raymond Felton).

I am not saying that Miami’s success depends on Chris Bosh, in fact, far from it. I think they will go as far as LeBron and Wade will take them. But if Bosh wants to assist the cause and make this team unbeatable, he needs to roll up his sleaves and get his hands dirty.
Read more of my article at NBAMate

Friday, December 3, 2010

November In The NBA

It’s that time of the month folks, when I chime in with 10 observations from the previous month’s NBA action (in no particular order). Let’s get into it.

1. No Haslem, No Title?

LeBron’s been too passive, Wade looks lost and Bosh has no presence on the inside. All this can and will be rectified, but what can’t be overcome is the loss of Udonis Haslem. I would liken it to the Lakers losing Lamar Odom; he plays a similar role (especially on the boards) and is critical to their success. With Haslem gone they have lost their depth on the front line, and more crucially, their only blue collar guy. This will be exposed against elite competition in the playoffs.

Wade’s absence in the preseason and the complexity of trying to mesh two ball-dominant alpha dogs, is reason for the slow start. Expect them to start clicking after the All-Star break, but the loss of Haslem may have ultimately sealed their fate.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oops, Did I Say That?

Outrageous, incredibly stupid, downright delusional; no, I am not talking about James Dolan. Rather, these words describe some of the comments made in the NBA in recent months. There are some doozies here, let me assure you.

“On paper, we are the best team in the League. We are deep and athletic.”
- Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey.

He does know he plays for Detroit, doesn’t he?

“We’re very astonished, to say the least, that not one team has contacted us with any interest. I just don’t understand it. What has Allen Iverson done to not warrant interest in him?”
- Gary Moore, Allen Iverson’s personal manager, on the lack of interest showed by NBA teams this summer.

He’s kidding, right?

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Big Decisions for the Next Wave of Free Agents

In November of 2008 I wrote an article on the 2010 offseason, predicting which players would stay with their current team and which would leave. For the marquee names – LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson – I was bang on.

In the next two years a new wave of stars will potentially become available in free agency, and again I’m attempting to forecast the outcome. Sure, anyone can make these predictions, but my success rate two years ago has to earn me some extra credibility, right?

Read more of my article at NBAMate

Sunday, October 3, 2010

True Title Contenders - Why There's Only Two

(Published by on 03/10/2010)
The word ‘contender’ gets bandied about too often in NBA circles. According to those in the know, teams such as Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Utah and Chicago are ‘contenders’ for the upcoming season. My understating of a contender is a team that is capable of winning an NBA championship, and no disrespect to the teams above but neither will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2011. The reality is there are only a few teams each season, generally two or three at the most, that have a legitimate shot at capturing an NBA title. And this year is no different.

With the seven game series format in the playoffs the NBA is not a hard sport to predict. Don’t believe me? Ask my poor wife, who must endure my predictions each October and the gloating that usually follows in July.

But under a system that ensures the best team will progress, how does one reliably identify who these ‘best’ teams are? This is what I hope to answer.

My objective: to create an easy-to-use tool that can clearly distinguish the non-contenders from the true contenders.

There are certain qualities that an NBA champion must possess. With that in mind I have identified five key elements that will form the basis of my theory; DEFENSE, EXPERIENCE, DEPTH, BIG-GAME PLAYERS and the X-FACTOR.

Let me explain.


It’s no secret that defense wins championships in the NBA, but more specifically it’s interior defense that is the critical element. If a supposed contender fronts up to a season with a thin/small frontline (ex. Atlanta/Utah/Phoenix), they might as well pack their bags and go home because come the playoffs they aren’t going anywhere. Poor interior defense means no title and it’s as simple as that.


To succeed in the NBA you must first fail. Winning is a process and valuable lessons need be learnt before you can take your place among the NBA’s elite. Whilst championship experience isn’t a necessity, a team must have at least three regular rotation players with deep playoff experience before they can realistically expect to contend for a title.


A thin bench will only get you so far in the NBA. There are exceptions, like the Lakers of the last two years, but they had the luxury of an ultra talented starting unit and Lamar Odom off the bench. But history shows most NBA champions sport a deep bench, and if you want to compete with the big boys you will need at least three players of real quality coming off the pine.


What do Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Dwayne Wade and Manu Ginobli have in common? Apart from each winning an NBA title in the last five years, they’re all elite big-game players. To climb the NBA mountain requires a special player of this ilk who can take the game over on the biggest stage. But it doesn’t stop there; you’ll need this big-game quality in some of your role players too. Like a Fisher, Posey, Horry or Payton. A team without this will come up short in their quest for a title.


All championship teams have an aura about them; that is, they have something unique that makes them special. With the Lakers of the last two years (although I think they got off lightly in 2009 with Garnett’s injury) they were led by the ruthless Kobe Bryant hell-bent on furnishing his legacy, with the best number two in the league by his side; the 2008 Celtics were ferocious defensively with three Hall of Famers in their prime; and the 2007 Spurs were a clinical machine with no chinks in their armour. This is what I call the ‘X-Factor’; a defining characteristic that will set you apart from the competition.


My rating system works like this. For a given team, each of the five elements above will be assigned a rating of A, B or C. The meanings are as follows:

A – Championship Calibre
B – Average
C – Sub par

The way I see it, any team that scores less than four A’s and one B is not a legitimate title contender. Score a C in any category and that will automatically remove you from the discussion. This may seem harsh but in order to identify the cream of the crop a rigorous standard must be applied.


I will now apply this tool to the five best teams in the NBA. Some people may question Portland’s inclusion but I maintain that if healthy, and that’s a big if, they are the only team equipped to challenge LA in the west.



Total: Five A’s

Comment: LA solidified their bench in the offseason with the acquisitions of Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff. As a result, this Laker team will be a notch better than last season and even better than that with a healthy Andrew Bynum. Yikes.



Total: Five A’s

Comment: People will nitpick but the reality is they’re going to be a nightmare for any team to handle. Concern has been raised about interior defense, but let me just say this; the Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships with average to below-average players manning the middle. The Bulls did it collectively, as will the Heat. Miami has some very good individual defenders in LeBron, Haslem, Anthony and Chalmers, and freed from the burden of carrying their teams, Wade and Bosh should also join this group. Combined with the fact that Erik Spoelstra is an exceptional defensive coach – last season the Heat ranked second in fewest points allowed per game (94ppg) despite the lack of quality on the roster – and this Heat squad should be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.



Total: Five A’s, one B

Comment: Show me a team that has won an NBA championship when most of their key players are past their prime? It doesn’t happen, and with two super teams to compete against, it won’t happen this year either.



Total: Three A’s, two B’s

Comment: There’s something lacking here. For mine it’s an elite go-to scorer, and I don’t think Dwight Howard will ever be that guy. The Vince Carter experiment was a bad one, and if they can’t turn his ending contract into the type of player they need (Gilbert Arenas?), they’re in trouble.



Total: Three A’s, two B’s

Comment: They have the size to challenge LA in the west, they’ve got a big-game player in Brandon Roy and they have a deep roster, but unfortunately all their key players are injury prone. At full strength they would be dangerous.


In LA and Miami you have two teams of the highest quality, and this is reflected in the results. Although Boston could contend for a title in a weaker year, their heavy reliance on players past their prime will rob them of the crucial ‘X-Factor’ that champions typically possess.

Therefore, although time will ultimately be the judge, I predict that the only true title contenders for 2011 are the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. In the case of an injury to a key player, then Orlando/Boston in the east, or Portland/Dallas/Oklahoma in the west could step up. But so long as either LA or Miami are in the finals with their key pieces intact, that’s where the championship will land in 2011.

And who would win an LA versus Miami finals match-up? Sorry, I am willing to stick my neck out but not that far; it’s just too early to call. But for what it’s worth, one thing I will say; a lot depends on the health of Andrew Bynum.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

5 Win-Win Trades

Published by on 12/09/2010

Typically an NBA trade produces a winner and a loser, but here are five trade scenarios that could achieve a win-win outcome. These deals aren’t pure fantasy; they all work under the NBA’s salary cap.

* Expiring contract or a contract that can be bought out after the 10/11 season (team option)

Golden State’s Monta Ellis, Vladimir Radmanovic* and Charlie Bell to Utah for Andrei Kirilenko* and C.J. Miles*

Aim: To start over in Golden State with Steph Curry at the controls, and to make them major free agent players in 2011; for Utah to acquire the ‘third banana’ they so desperately need to be a contender in the West.

With Monta Ellis dominating the ball Steph Curry’s development will suffer, therefore Ellis and his hefty contract must be moved. But the market for a 6-3 shooting guard on a big contract, who has never seen a shot he didn’t like and plays no defense, is limited. An expiring contract and/or a promising young rotational player is the best they could hope for in return. Enter Utah with Kirilenko’s massive expiring deal ($17.8m) and a big young wing in Miles to pair with Curry. The Warriors could also dump Charlie Bell’s contract in the trade.

For the Jazz, it seems like an odd fit but it could work. The hole in this team has always been a legit third option that can put up 20 points on any given night. With a 25.5ppg average, Ellis could fill this role and then some. But he’s a 6-3 shooting guard in a point guard’s body, so for defensive purposes he must be paired with a big point guard who can defend the opposing 2 if necessary. At a bulky 6-3 and 207 lbs, the bullish Deron Williams fits the bill. Raja Bell would also play a role here.

With Jerry Sloan at the helm I couldn’t think of a better coach to reign in the undisciplined Ellis. In Utah poor shot selection will get you benched in a nanosecond, and that’s exactly what he needs. Under this trade scenario defense would be a concern for the Jazz, but if they can surround Williams/Jefferson/Ellis with defensive minded players, they could be dangerous.

Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala to Chicago for Taj Gibson, James Johnson, Ronnie Brewer and TPE (roughly $4.5m) - ** trade can’t be completed prior to Dec 15 due to Brewers FA signing

Aim: For Chicago to take a seat at the big boys table; to get Philly off the fence and into a full-scale rebuild.

A starting five of Rose, Iguodala, Deng, Boozer and Noah would be a fearsome unit, especially on the defensive end. Under this deal depth would be an issue, but the opportunity to add the multi-talented Iguodala would trump these concerns.

For Philly, as currently constructed they aren’t going anywhere, especially with Iguodala as the lead guy owed $56m over the next 4 years. The reality is Iggy would be a second or third option on a championship team. This move would allow them to clean up the duplication on the wing, cementing Turner as the 2 and Young as the 3, with Brewer and Johnson the backups. And slotting the impressive Taj Gibson into the starting power forward position would give nice balance to the roster. Winning ballgames will be a challenge for this team, but with a talented young core (Holliday, Turner, Young, Gibson and Hawes) they will finally be moving forward with a bright future. Whether Doug Collins is the right coach to handle such a young group is debatable.

Atlanta’s Josh Smith to Boston for Kendrick Perkins*, Glen Davis* and Nate Robinson - ** trade can’t be completed prior to Dec 15 due to Robinsons FA signing

Aim: To transition Boston towards a youthful core; to give Atlanta a frontline that can compete in the playoffs.

This is a tough one for me because I am a Boston guy. Perkins is the gold standard for post defense, I love what Baby brings to the floor and I think Josh Smith is a knucklehead. So why the proposal? Because Boston’s championship window has closed – there I said it. Don’t get me wrong, they will still be an elite team this year and would beat 27 of the other 29 teams in a playoff series. But if they are relying on the ‘Big 3’ to carry them to another title, which they are, then they’re ignoring the slippage in their games - Paul Pierce included. Yes, they took LA to seven games last season but for mine LA were clearly the better team. And with an Andrew Bynum on two legs, Boston wouldn’t have even come close. Remember, Boston is my team so I am not ragging on them here, I am just facing facts.

Rajon Rondo is the future for Boston and their best player hands down, so I would look to re-work the roster around his talents. A Rondo/Smith duo would be a good place to start the transition, and at the same time they would still be an elite team in the East. Under strict direction and veteran leadership Josh Smith’s immaturity could be reigned in, and this could finally see him reach his potential as the ‘mini KG’. Smith would eventually be Garnett’s replacement at the 4, but in the meantime they could play in tandem.

For the Hawks, they need to move Al Horford to power forward and acquire a legit NBA center. With Perkins and Horford starting upfront, and Baby off the bench, this would be a nasty frontline and one that could make traction in the postseason. Nate Robinson is merely the filler to facilitate the deal. And Smith’s arrival in Boston only affords one knucklehead in town.

Cleveland’s Mo Wlliams to Portland for Andre Miller*, Patty Mills* and Luke Babbitt
Aim: To provide Portland with a point guard better suited to their system; to enable Cleveland to clear some cap space and get some young talent (and an expiring contract) in return.

Although most astute NBA minds already knew it, William’s lacklustre play in the last 2 postseasons proved beyond doubt that he is not a high level player in this league. On a championship squad he would ideally be your fourth option. Such a miscalculation by the Cavs is one of the main reasons (if not the reason) why LeBron skipped town. In light of this, and with the recent acquisition of Ramon Sessions, I would look to offload Mo and the $26m still owed. With Miller’s expiring contract (minimal buyout for next season), and two nice young pieces in Mills and Babbitt, Cleveland could move forward uninhibited by Williams inflated price tag and ego.

For Portland, Andre Miller has been solid at the point but his dodgy outside shot weakens their system where perimeter shooting is key to supporting Brandon Roy. Mo Williams is a better spot-up shooter than Miller, and on the deep blazer roster he wouldn’t be asked to perform above his capabilities, as was the case in Cleveland. In regard to Mills and Babbitt, neither is likely to see the floor this year due to the Blazers depth, making them surplus to requirements.

Washington’s Gilbert Arenas to Orlando for Vince Carter*

Aim: To free Washington from the Arenas albatross; to enable Orlando to acquire a prime-time scorer before their hands are tied.

Granted, this is a huge risk for Orlando, but if you understand what lays on the horizon you will see my angle. Orlando is massively over the salary cap, and even with Carter’s contract coming off the books next year (minimal buyout for next season), they will still be over the cap. So what does this mean? It means their hands are tied in terms of their ability to improve the team – the only acquisitions they can make are through an MLE deal (or smaller) or trade. And with the impending lockout and subsequent tightening of the cap that will surely follow, the situation will only worsen for the Magic.

Let’s be honest, the Magic don’t have anything on their roster that could fetch another star (i.e. Melo or CP3), and that’s what they need if they wish to compete with LA and Miami. They are in need of a big-time scorer and Arenas may be the only realistic option. He could play alongside Jameer Nelson at the 2. The risks are obvious but it is a risk they must take if they want to keep pace.

For Washington, they can get out from under Arenas’s albatross and move on. Vince Carter the player (or lack thereof) is irrelevant in this deal.

Friday, September 3, 2010

GM for a Day - Assessing the 2010 Offseason

Published by on 29/08/2010

If you’re anything like me, you’ve often thought to yourself, “what were they thinking” when viewing NBA trades and acquisitions. How some of these GMs continue to land jobs in the NBA after leaving their team in tatters, is beyond me. It seems one good move is enough to cancel out five bad ones.

So in this space I will fulfil my fantasy and become GM for a day. With that said, here’s a ‘no-punches-pulled’ assessment of each team’s offseason, and what I would have done differently if sitting in the big chair.

Atlanta Hawks

The Joe Johnson extension was absurd (6-years $119m) – I would have let him walk at that price – but the real problem here rests with Josh Smith. Anyone who witnessed his pathetic displays of immaturity throughout the second round series against Orlando, will know exactly what I am talking about. To be blunt, the guy is a class-A knucklehead and a cancer on this team. There are two solutions here. One, hire a ‘tough-as-nails’ coach who is willing to ‘kick his arse’ when necessary, or two, trade him. Since they opted for cheap over need in the coaching department, he must be dealt. The ultimate goal here should be to move their most important player Al Horford back to his natural position of power forward. And with Smith as the bait, a legit NBA center is the target. Some deals that may have interest to both parties (and work under the salary cap): to Cleveland for Varejao and Hickson; to Boston for Perk and Baby (plus filler); to Orlando for Gortat and Bass; and to Denver for Nene. Look, I know you’re getting back cents on the dollar here in terms of sheer talent, but the team would have more balance and better on-court chemistry as a result.

Boston Celtics

I am tempted to blow it up and rebuild around Rondo, but with the right decisions they could have still been in the mix. The Jermaine O’Neal signing had merit to replace Wallace, but with Shaq’s arrival, the old adage ‘you can never have enough bigs’ will surely be tested. Do you really think he can handle playing behind Perk, Baby and J. O’Neal? I don’t. But the real concern here is depth on the wings behind the declining Pierce and Allen. In free agency, Josh Howard, Ronnie Brewer, J.J. Redick or Matt Barnes should have been strongly pursued. And in the draft, wings such as James Anderson, Dominique Jones or Damion James would have made more sense than the point guard Avery Bradley. These failures and the addition of the O’Neal relics, tells me their time has passed.

Charlotte Bobcats

I am struggling to see any real positives on this roster. Jackson and Wallace are your only impact players and that spells trouble. And the team is alarmingly devoid of young talent which doesn’t give much hope for the future. Letting Felton walk was a sound decision as he is nothing more than an average point guard. But giving $40m to the surly Tyrus Thomas? Yikes. He can block shots and rebound but that’s it my friends, he’s a (bad tempered) energy guy, no more, no less. The Bobcats are in a bad way and you can’t dress that up.

Chicago Bulls

I can’t fault any of the Bulls moves and they should be a formidable team come playoff time. They are still one quality player away from contending so improvements can still be made. Maintain your cap space and keep adding young assets for a potential trade down the line.

Cleveland Cavaliers

To tear it all down and start over is the only logical way forward. Apart from J.J. Hickson, the entire roster can go. In an ideal world, the rest could be had for expiring contracts, young players or draft picks. But with several bad contracts on their books, that’s easier said than done. With the realisation that they are not an attractive free agent destination, they must use Oklahoma City as the model and build patiently through the draft.

Dallas Mavericks

They have a lot of talented parts but they don’t fit together and there is no balance between youth and experience. Age is a major concern and I think they have crossed the line in that regard, just like Boston. And you would have thought Mark Cuban learnt his lesson in handing out bloated contracts to Marion and Diop in recent years. But with the 6-year $55m deal he gave Brendan Haywood, he obviously didn’t learn a thing. Tyson Chandler was a nice addition and could definitely help, but injuries are always a concern. The Mavs are a capped-out aging team who are not good enough to beat the top team in the conference (Lakers), so for my mind a rebuild is in order. Cuban obviously has other ideas.

Denver Nuggets

With the signing of Al Harrington they have well and truly exceeded their knucklehead quota. By my count that makes four. Good luck dealing with that George Karl. But seriously, the last thing they needed was another hungry mouth to feed, and that’s exactly what Harrington brings, and not much else. They were in desperate need of more size and muscle upfront, and vets such as Kurt Thomas, Jermaine O’Neal, Kwame Brown or Lou Amundson could have filled the breach. Regardless, things aren’t looking good for Denver as Melo seems like a goner. If that’s the case, I would face facts and look for the best possible package for Anthony leading up to the trade deadline, with emerging players and high draft picks the priority. If you do in fact go down this path, I would also explore the market for Billups, K-Mart, Smith and Birdman.

Detroit Pistons

Just trade Hamilton and Prince already. With their youth movement these guys just don’t fit anymore. Good luck moving Hamilton though as Dumars gifted him a ridiculous extension in 2009. Not much about this team makes sense, from the Gordon and Villanueva signings last year to the T-Mac experiment this year; it’s a mish mash of odd parts. One positive; they can thank Golden State’s incompetence for landing the uniquely gifted Greg Monroe in the draft, who should be their starting center for years to come. Going forward, anything other than a focus on developing youth does not make sense here.

Golden State Warriors

The selection of Ekpe Udoh with the 6th pick was ridiculous. Greg Monroe should have been the man, without any doubt. Here’s my recommendation to the new ownership group; take a broom through the entire front office, fire Nellie on the spot (no matter what the cost) and banish that ridiculous ‘small ball’ brand of basketball, trade Ellis and Biedrins and build around Curry and Lee. Did I mention fire Nellie?

Houston Rockets

The Houston roster is not all it’s cracked up to be. They still seem blindly married to Yao when it’s clear his days could be numbered and they should be moving on. And allowing him to play more than 25 minutes a night this season would be foolish. The Martin acquisition made little sense (especially for Landry), as he too is injury prone. Did they not learn their lesson with Yao and T-Mac? They have some nice young pieces in Hill, Patterson, Budinger and Lee, but they are all limited role players. The extension to Scola was a must, but $24m for Lowry? And I don’t understand why they aren’t shopping Shane Battier. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine player but he’s on the backend, and at this stage of their careers I would have preferred the spritelier Trevor Ariza. And by the way, why all the ragging on Ariza? He’s a role player/glue guy – and a damn good one – but that’s all he is and all he ever will be. LA knew that. The mistake here was Houston talking him up as a potential All-star. That was an unrealistic expectation and showed poor judgement on their part. But for what he brings to the floor, Ariza is worth his contract.

Indiana Pacers

The acquisition of Darren Collison changes everything for the Pacers. With him comes a genuine hope for the future after years stuck in the mud (thanks Larry). In the draft, their lack of quality bigs should have made Ed Davis a no brainer at pick 10, and in the second round Stephenson was a steal, until he confirmed his bad rep by throwing his baby mama down a flight of stairs. Nice. Going forward, they must preserve their potential 2011 cap space at all costs, resisting the urge to take on bad contracts in a trade. The ultimate goal should be to target restricted free agent to-be Al Horford with a big time offer next year.

LA Clippers

Tell me if I am wrong but virtually everyone on this roster is offensive ‘minded’. That’s not a recipe for success on any team, especially for a perennially bad one like the Clippers. The free agent additions of Foye and Gomes were sound, but something’s missing here and a shake-up is necessary. Most of the key pieces are young so that should be their focus. I would stop the charade that Davis and Kaman are your building blocks and try and turn them into young assets or expiring contracts. If they are going to climb out of this hole Blake Griffin has to be the real deal.

LA Lakers

The champs actually got better with some terrific additions. But if I am nit-picking, a three year contact for Derek Fisher seems excessive, and Lamar Odom’s regular vanishing act when the going gets tough is a concern.

Memphis Grizzlies

Gay, Mayo and Gasol are nice pieces for Memphis, but the others – not so much. But I don’t think a team led by Gay and Mayo is going anywhere in the west, so a trade to land a clear cut number one should be explored. Gay’s extension seemed quite outrageous on the surface, but they couldn’t let him walk for nothing and they protected themselves against a frontloaded offer. Mike Conley is not a starting point guard so alternatives need to be sought at this position. In regard to Randolph’s expiring contract, there’s no future in him as a key piece on a young team so I would look to deal him before 2011 deadline. I would have gone hard after David Lee in free agency and been willing to give up some young assets in return (ex. Conley, Henry, Thabeet or future first round draft picks).

Miami Heat

What can you say, Pat Riley is a genius. I cannot fault any of his moves. With what little was left over, he did a masterful job filling out the roster. Enough said.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are sitting pretty with a Jennings/Bogut duo, but that doesn’t mean you can get reckless in other areas. With the re-signing of Salmons and acquisition of CDR, I see no logic in the trade for Maggette. He’s a ball hog and an unwilling defender, not to mention his bloated contract (3 more years at $30m). And $32m for the journeyman Gooden - c’mon. I understand that you’re in a small market but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Overpaying for mediocre talent is the wrong way, building patiently through the draft is the right way (ex. Portland and OKL). The Bucks will certainly be an improved outfit with the added firepower, but this team’s not going further than the second round.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Where do you start with this mess? Passing on DeMarcus Cousins was just another in a long line of draft botch-ups; trading away arguably the best low post scorer in the game (Jefferson) for a bag of chips was ridiculous; and re-signing Milicic for 4-years and $20m, well words can’t describe the absurdity of it. The low risk Beasley acquisition was the only real positive move for the club. I am sorry but the only hope I see here is if Ricky Rubio – who I think will be special - decides to come over next year. But to be honest, if I were him, I wouldn’t touch this rabble with a 10-foot pole. I would try and force my way out with a trade demand or just stay over in Spain.

New Jersey Nets

You must credit the Nets for not overreacting and spending their cap space on marginal talent when they missed out on the marquee names. Preserving this space will eventually pay dividends; they just have to be patient. The selection of Favors in the draft was a good one and sets up a potential monster frontline with Brook Lopez. Their free agent additions of Farmar, Outlaw and Petro are questionable, whilst Morrow could be a steal. They let a good young player go in Courtney Lee in the Murphy trade, but regardless, the future is bright for the Nyets.

New Orleans Hornets

Make no mistake, Chris Paul is gone, it’s just a matter of when and where to. He has made it crystal clear he expects to play for a title contender and that’s not going to happen in the Big Easy anytime soon. The Ariza trade is mere window dressing and I still can’t believe they gave up Collison for a role player, as he was their only insurance against losing Paul. Now they will be in a position where they have to get a point guard in return. And just like Cleveland it appears they cannot see the writing on the wall, and this will be their downfall. Recognising the reality of the situation I would have kept Collison, and over the course of the next two years aimed to get the best possible deal for Paul, seeking promising players and draft picks in return. I would have also used this opportunity to offload Okafor, who is nothing more than dead wood.

New York Knicks

Having swung and missed on the big guns the moves they made were solid. With his defensive struggles Stoudemire is not worth $100m, but if his presence helps you land Melo, CP3 or Tony Parker, then he is worth every penny. Signing Felton on a short contract was a sound move, and trading for Randolph was brilliant. But the Knicks must resist the urge to spend on marginal talent in the next two years. If they do, they will have the opportunity to form the next super team. And I would aim to put an immediate end to this insane obsession with that clown Isiah Thomas.

Oklahoma City Thunder

If I could poach one GM for my team it would be Sam Presti. This guy knows what he is doing and has built this franchise into a potential powerhouse. They needed a ‘lunch pail’ big, so he turns two low first rounders in a weak draft into Cole Aldrich. Brilliant. Just let this team grow, continue to add depth in the frontcourt and sit back and enjoy the ride.

Orlando Magic

Several things became crystal clear last season. One, Vince Carter is finished as an impact player. Heck, he shouldn’t even be a starter. Two, Rashard Lewis’s monster contract is going to severely restrict this team’s ability to improve going forward. And three, Dwight Howard is what he is. That being, he’s more Bill Russell than Patrick Ewing in terms of offensive ability, so quit expecting the man to shoot the ball because it may never happen. Don’t get me wrong here, Howard is a dominant force, but just not in the way many people would like him to be. And Van Gundy needs to get off his high horse about not using a traditional power forward alongside Howard. Bass is there and is capable so use him. The Magic will still be in the mix, but realistically they don’t have enough reliable offensive weapons to hang with Miami or LA in a 7 game series.

Philadelphia 76ers

Selecting Evan Turner in the draft was the right move as a Holliday/Turner backcourt could be special. They are hamstrung until they can unload Brand and his albatross contract, so I would consider moving Iguodala (as a package) to make it happen. Acquiring a good young big and stockpiling draft picks should be their priority.

Phoenix Suns

A mediocre summer will lock this team into a mediocre future. Trading for Turkoglu and signing Frye and Warrick to ridiculous contracts, will take them nowhere but a first round exit. And I can’t understand why they didn’t pursue Michael Beasley. It was well known that Beasley was available for cap space and Minnesota was the only taker. With the TPE (Traded Player Exception) from the Stoudemire trade to New York, the Suns had the opportunity to acquire him but passed. Wouldn’t Beasley have been a better option than Hakim Warrick? He’s cheaper, younger and far better offensive player, and they could have released him after one year if he didn’t pan out. And playing alongside a point guard like Nash could have been just what the doctor ordered for Beasley. They dropped the ball here. Phoenix needs to rebuild, not reload.

Portland Trail Blazers

It all comes down to health for the Blazers. They have a terrific blend of youth and experience and they may be the only team with the requisite size to challenge LA in the west. They did well to clear the logjam at the wing so that Batum could thrive (I think he will become a force), and the Wesley Matthews signing will help. But it’s always a risk when most of your key players are injury prone.

Sacramento Kings

An organisation making all the right moves. Evans is a bull in the backcourt, Landry is as tough as they come at the power forward position and Cousins could be a monster. This team could be scary down the track. I would be seeking a combo guard with shooting range to pair with Evans. Beno Udrih just doesn’t cut it. With this in mind, Randy Foye or Shannon Brown would have been a nice low key addition to the rotation. They would be wise to keep preserving cap space going forward, with the idea of eventually signing some quality vets to put around the young studs, similar to Portland.

San Antonio Spurs

Since 2008 I have been telling anyone who would listen that the Spurs are finished as title contenders, and to this day I have seen nothing to suggest that I am wrong. Surely a second round sweep at the hands of the defensively challenged Phoenix Suns is evidence of that? And let’s be frank, they certainly would not beat the Lakers in a seven game series, and I don’t even think they could get past a healthy Blazers or Thunder. So why bother – for old time’s sake? Not on my watch. Brace yourself, but I would blow this thing up and quickly, before their aging ‘stars’ lose any more value. To clarify, I am talking about cashing in Duncan, Manu and Parker for young assets. This trio could fetch a significant return and set the organisation up for the future. In regards to the Jefferson extension, it doesn’t take Einstein to realise there was a handshake agreement in place when he opted out and re-signed for 4-years and $39m. Considering that he proved to be a bad fit for the system, this makes no sense to me. I would have let him play out the last year rather than lock him in for that exorbitant amount, when you know you will be rebuilding in a year or two. This whole thing about the Spurs organisation being above reproach in terms of their decision making; I don’t buy it.

Toronto Raptors

The only positive I can see here is Ed Davis. The once crafty Bryan Colangelo has now turned reckless, handing out several bad contracts to mediocre talent in recent years. So can you really blame Bosh for skipping town? A youth movement is the only logical way forward.

Utah Jazz

First off, I love their new unis. But I digress. To mine, Jefferson is an upgrade over Boozer so nice move, but they still have major holes here. They will not be going anywhere until they solidify their frontcourt, where they have been abused in recent years. And having a starting center that lives on the 3 point line just doesn’t help matters. They need more muscle upfront and Cole Aldrich in the draft could have been the answer. They also need a scoring wing, and Henry or George fit that description. The selection of Hayward just doesn’t inspire confidence as he appears to be a role player at best. And presenting the past-his-prime Raja Bell as a big acquisition doesn’t fly with me. If they don’t get Williams more help in a hurry, they’re in trouble. D-Will is not a patient man.

Washington Wizards

With John Wall at the controls their future is bright, so surrounding him with young talent must be the plan. With Arenas, I would continue to explore trade and buyout opportunities but luck will be needed here. They can console themselves with the fact that history shows no one is untradable in the NBA. In regard to the Hinrich trade, taking on a reserve guard at $9m per year makes no sense for the Wiz, especially with Arenas’s albatross hanging around their necks.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Offseason Wrap Up: Who Aced It, Who Blew It?

Published by on 13/08/2010

Let’s get straight into it; here are my offseason awards for the summer of 2010.


Cleveland Cavaliers

There’s only one way out of this mess and that’s to tear it all down and start over. Anything else would be deluding themselves and their fans. Being a small market team that is unattractive to free agents it is vital they take the slow methodical approach of building through the draft, using Oklahoma City as the model. The patchwork approach that they seem to be favouring will only drag this ‘summer of pain’ out for the next decade or more.

Toronto Raptors
I once believed Bryan Colangelo was a top GM, but now I think he’s lost the plot. In the last few years he has handed out $230m worth of contracts to the likes of Bargnani, Calderon, Kapono, Jack, Johnson, Turkoglu and Kleiza. Yikes. No wonder Bosh skipped town. Drafting Ed Davis may be the only saving grace here.

Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns just spent the offseason setting themself up for mediocrity. They did Toronto a huge favour by taking on the overpaid and overrated Turkoglu, and if they think they can replace Amar’e Stoudemire with Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye, they’ve lost touch with reality. And why are they hoarding small forwards? That’s the preferred position for Turkoglu, Hill, Childress, Dudley and Clark. A rebuild focused on youth would have been the sensible approach.


Miami Heat

The Miami Heat will be an unstoppable force for years to come. All the elements are there; scoring, shooting, rebounding, toughness and defense. For the next 2 years only one team stands in their way – the Los Angeles Lakers. After that, forget about it. Unless another super team is formed.

Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have finally arrived. Though not a true championship contender (they are still one quality player away), they are a top 4 team in the East and will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. And just like the Blazers, they must love ‘stickin it’ to the Jazz.

Los Angeles Lakers
By making improvements to their championship squad, LA has promptly snuffed out the aspirations of other would-be contenders in the West. And let’s not beat around the bush here, barring an injury to one of their key players, they will be participating in the 2011 NBA Finals. Ditto for Miami.


I’ll preface this section by saying that I was truly spoilt for choice here. Let’s be frank, GMs were spending like drunken sailors this summer. Some of the contracts handed out to mediocre players were absurd, even by NBA standards.

Darko Milicic (four-years, $20m), Wolves
It makes you wonder how closely David Kahn has payed attention to the NBA over the last few years. If he had, he would have seen the evidence that Milicic is just not cut out for the NBA. Three years ago Memphis gave Darko a 3 year $21m deal, and he failed to live up to it. In spite of this, Kahn saw fit to reward him with a 4 year $20m deal. Did we all miss something; does Kahn know something we don’t? Who am I kidding; this guy is the new ‘Isiah Thomas’. Minnesota fans don’t deserve this.

Joe Johnson (six-years, $124m), Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks better get comfortable being on the outside looking in, because that’s where they are going to stay with this decision. $124m for the guy who averaged 11.8ppg in the second round whitewash against Orlando? That’s no franchise player. The evidence is there; ignore it at your peril.

Drew Gooden (five-years, $32m), Bucks
This is a staggering amount for a guy that is about to play for his 9th different team in 9 seasons. And who exactly were they bidding against? His biggest strength is his rebounding but he far too often looks for his shot, not seeming to recognise his limitations on the offensive end. One positive; that won’t fly under coach Skiles.


Udonis Haslem (five-years, $20m), Heat

Re-signing Haslem solidified this team as a true title contender right off the bat. He’s a warrior and the perfect complement to the Miami Big 3. Staying in Miami for far less than market value also says a lot about the guy. His sacrifice will be rewarded.

Matt Barnes (two-years, $3.6m), Lakers
Matt Barnes should be a very bitter man. The one guy who actually deserved a payday once again got screwed, while the likes of those above were showered in undeserved millions. You don’t win championships in this league without a guy like Barnes, and it’s quite perplexing as to why no one wants to pay him. But he landed on his feet in LA where he will finally get the recognition he deserves, just not the payday. Shame.

Ronnie Brewer (three-years, $12.5m), Bulls
I was tempted to go for Steve Blake here but getting Brewer on the cheap is a steal. Despite his inconsistent stroke, he is a big athletic wing who can defend multiple positions, a perfect match for new coach Tom Thibodeau. Teaming in the backcourt with Rose, Brewer will be an important cog in this new and improved Bulls team.


Corey Maggette from the Warriors to the Bucks for Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell

You just know Warriors GM Larry Riley let out a ‘suckers’, when someone actually agreed to take on Maggette and his horrible contract. With the emergence of Bogut and Jennings and the re-signing of Salmons, Maggette was an unnecessary acquisition for the Bucks, especially at that price (three more years at $30m). But like it or not, they have 3 years to incorporate this volume shooter (i.e. ball hog) and lazy defender into the mix. I give it a week before he lands in coach Skiles’s doghouse.

Hedo Turkoglu from the Raptors to the Suns for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones
Bryan Colangelo deserves credit for unloading Turkoglu, but then again, he should have never signed him to that ridiculous contract in the first place. Barbosa’s similarly overpaid at $7m per, but I know which player I’d rather have. Phoenix, the problem is yours.

Kirk Hinrich and 17th overall pick Kevin Seraphin from the Bulls to the Wizards for the rights to 2006 second round pick Vladimir Veremeenko

They could have got more for him, but unloading Hinrich and his generous $9m per year salary was not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is Washington’s insistence that you need to put all your eggs in the backcourt basket to be successful in this league. $9m per year for a reserve guard is a luxury they can’t afford, especially with Arenas’s albatross hanging around their neck. My advice, although it appears to be a foreign concept to them, focus on improving your frontcourt if you really want to make strides.


Al Jefferson from the Wolves to the Jazz for two future first round picks, a salary cap trade exception and Kosta Koufos

Big Al could ultimately be a better fit in Utah than Boozer, providing more length on defense and a better scorer on the block. And I am sure the low key Jefferson will endear himself to the salt lake city faithful, who no longer have to endure those exaggerated ‘look at me’ screams from Boozer every time he perceives a foul.

David Lee from the Knicks to the Warriors for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and a future second round pick
A nice trade for both sides, particularly for the Warriors, where Steph Curry and David Lee will form a solid foundation to build around. It’s a pity that foundation doesn’t include Greg Monroe.

Michael Beasley from the Heat to the Wolves for a future second round pick.
It’s hard to write this but nice move by Kahn. But let’s be honest, it’s not as if he burned up the phones to make this deal happen, as it was common knowledge that Beasley could be had for a packet of skittles. The enigmatic Beasley can average 15 points per game in his sleep, so imagine what he could do if he was actually clued into the game. Whether that can happen in Minnesota is another question.


Ekpe Udoh, No. 6 Warriors

You could see this coming a mile away. Greg Monroe would have been the smart choice but the Warriors typically don’t operate that way. Monroe should be a starting quality center for years to come, but with the arrival of David Lee, Udoh is destined to be a backup power forward. Presumably this pick was based on the belief that they already have a starting center in Andris Biedrins. Although a good rebounder, Biedrins averaged a truly pathetic 16% from the stripe last year, and let’s be honest, he couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Just because he is paid like a starting center doesn’t mean he is one. And enough already with drafting raw injury prone 6-10 stringbeans.

Avery Bradley, No. 19 Celtics
Look, Bradley could be a fine player in this league one day but I just don’t understand this pick for the Celtics. Boston has a desperate need for youth on the wings behind the aging Pierce and Allen, and James Anderson, Dominique Jones or Damion James could have provided that. At 6-3 and 180 lbs Bradley will have to make the transition to point guard in order to be successful in this league. And correct me if I am wrong, but the Cs already have a young superstar at that position who recently signed a lucrative extension. A trade is inevitable. And I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time trusting the man who 2 years ago drafted JR Giddens with a first round pick.

Gordon Hayward, No. 9 Jazz
The Jazz needed a home run with this gifted pick but I fear all they got was a serviceable role player, at best. They could have filled their two glaring holes, an athletic scoring wing to take the burden off Williams in the backcourt (Henry/George), and more importantly, size and muscle upfront with a defensive focus (Aldrich) to battle the likes of the Lakers in the playoffs. A missed opportunity, but not surprising if you look at their recent draft history (Maynor (traded), Koufos (traded), Almond (waived))


DeMarcus Cousins, No. 5 Kings

Ok, I admit it, there is a bust potential on Cousins due to his surly demeanour and negative attitude, but the rewards could be enormous. His ‘edgy’ personality may in fact help him to succeed at the center position, where let’s be frank, too many softies roam the paint. In a league where true bigs are becoming scarce, if Cousins does fulfil his potential he could be a monster. He has all the tools, he just needs to discover that burning ambition to be great. And I still can’t believe Minnesota passed on him, considering they are crying out for something resembling an NBA center. But that’s their MO, to butcher the draft. Need I remind you of the players they have passed over in recent years: Granger, Roy (traded), Westbrook, Curry, Jennings etc.

Cole Aldrich, No. 11 Thunder (from Hornets)
Oklahoma City gave up the rights to the 21st and 26th pick in a 15 man draft, in exchange for the 11th pick Cole Aldrich. Sam Presti is a genius. Aldrich won’t be confused for a star and may not even be a starter, but he could be a valuable rotational big on a contending team. That’s funny, I thought New Orleans were in need of the same thing. My mistake, I forgot they have Darius Songaila. And some people question Chris Paul’s desire to leave the penny pinching Hornets.

Lance Stephenson, No. 40 Pacers
The Pacers had nothing to lose with the 40th pick in the draft and they rightfully swung for the fences with Stephenson. He may not turn out to be the star once predicted, but his form and versatility in summer league proved he could be a nice contributor. Seemed like the perfect low risk pick for the Knicks at 38 or 39.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Rise Of The Super Team Has Only Just Begun

Published by on 12/08/2010

The dramatic events of the 2010 offseason has laid the foundations to a new NBA, one where the rich get richer and poor get poorer, and where joining forces may be your only chance at success. In short, the era of the super team has only just begun.

The suped up Miami Heat threaten to become an unstoppable force, led by 2 of the top 3 players in the game, an All-Star power forward and a crew of smart veterans along for the ride. Three players the calibre of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, coming together in this fashion to join forces in their prime, is a first for the NBA, and they will redefine what it means to dominate in this league.

Critics have been quick to poke holes in the theory, but sell these guys short at your peril. The issue of interior defense has been raised, and is a genuine concern as it’s typically the most crucial element to playoff success. But the Chicago Bulls won six NBA Championships with average to below average players patrolling the paint (Longley/Wennington/Purdue/Cartwright). The sheer greatness of Jordan and Pippen was enough to overcome it (and team defense) and the LeBron/Wade duo should have a similar impact. And Chicago never had a power forward the calibre of Chris Bosh.

The LeBron ‘Decision’ has set off a tidal wave of criticism, questioning everything from his competitiveness to his ability to win. Fact is, Cleveland had 7 years to put a championship calibre team around LeBron and failed to do so, being unable to pair him with one credible sidekick over that span. And make no mistake, that was the deal breaker. I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that Mo Williams was a worthy number 2 – or even a 3. The same applies to the 38 year old Shaquille O’Neal and the past-his-prime Antawn Jamison. Management dropped the ball, plain and simple.

You can’t win alone in the NBA and everyone should know that, and why so many seem to gloss over this fact is quite puzzling. Michael Jordan had Pippen, Kobe had Shaq and now Gasol, Magic Johnson had Kareem and Worthy, and Larry Bird had McHale and Parish, among others. In Cleveland, LeBron was stuck on an island. The Cavs were a one dimensional team, not built to withstand a tough 7 game series against an elite opponent. With Wade and Bosh as his new running mates, this team will win and win big.

For the Miami Heat, 4-5 championships over the next 5-6 years is the realistic goal. Resistance will come from the Los Angeles Lakers in the next 2 years, but as Kobe moves further away from his prime it could get ugly for the rest of the league, or simply spectacular if you are the Miami Heat.

In the years to come, the formation of a second super team may be the only real hope for the league. Top line players will come to the realisation that in order to take down the Heat, they will need to join forces with other elite players. This is the future of the NBA and the seeds already have been sewn for this to occur.

2012 will usher in super team number two. Chris Paul and Deron Williams can opt out of their deals in 2 years, and their recent comments suggest that this is the likely outcome. The trade speculation surrounding Paul merely reflects these intentions. Their respective teams, especially New Orleans, will have no choice but to seriously consider genuine trade proposals next summer and at the 2012 deadline. If they don’t wise up to the writing on the wall they will be left holding the can, like so many teams this offseason. Unless of course they are fine with the idea of receiving a TPE (Traded Player Exception) for their franchise player and future. But to lose players of that calibre in this fashion is unacceptable to a loyal fan base.

Paul and Williams are the type of players who are not motivated by money, they are single-minded winners who demand excellence and have no patience for mediocrity. If their team is not a genuine title contender in 2012, which seems likely, the chance they opt out and switch teams is real. And following in the footsteps of the Miami Big 3, they will accept less money if it means contending for a title in this new top-heavy NBA.

So who are the realistic suitors for Paul and Williams? You can’t go past New York and New Jersey, who barring any rash decisions in the next 2 years will have the money and cachet to attract the next wave of super team wannabes. Both teams are positioned nicely to make a run. For the Knicks, the shrewd signing of Raymond Felton for only 2 years, and Eddy Curry’s $11.3m expiring contract will put them in a prime position come 2012. Amar’e Stoudemire is already on board and they have two young forwards with All-Star potential in Gallinari and Randolph.

For the New Jersey Nets, apart from their Russian billionaire owner and a move to Brooklyn, the big attraction could be their emerging frontline of Favors and Lopez, which could be a monster in 3-4 years. And attacking Miami on the interior with an elite PF/C combination may be the only realistic means of challenging the Heat. But for New York and New Jersey, patience will be key and they must resist the urge to spend on marginal talent in the next few years.

Both teams could also have the capacity to add a young player like OJ Mayo or Eric Gordon, who barring an early extension, will be restricted free agents in 2012 and may be desperate to escape the NBA purgatory that is Memphis and the Clippers.

For Paul and Williams the smarter move may be to avoid the east altogether and stay in the west, where they would only encounter Miami in a finals matchup. In this case they may look to Portland or Oklahoma City. Whilst not having the glamour of the Knicks or a Brooklyn bound Nets, they certainly have the resources and pieces in place to form the next super team. Regardless of the outcome, for the next 2 years the power of free agency rests firmly in the hands of Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Carmelo Anthony could also play a big role here but he is currently considering an extension with the Nuggets. If he has genuine ambitions to win an NBA title, he would be wise to play out his current contract and seek similar opportunities in 2011 (can opt out) or 2012.

Remember this day, July 8 2010, the day LeBron made his decision, because on this day the NBA as we know it changed. Whether it changed for the better is up for debate, but one thing is certain, the formation of a super team will have long lasting effects on the league. The standard for achieving success in the NBA just went up a notch.