Sorting out the NBA off-season

Sorting out the NBA off-season

Posted by mikemcgraw on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 01:01
All around the NBA, ball racks will be rolled onto practice courts beginning Monday. As far as the summer goes, the league didn't generate much buzz beyond the Bulls' upset victory in the draft lottery. Then again, calm was probably a good thing, since we all needed time to let the patriotic fervor die down after watching the “Redeem Team” squeak past Pau Gasol and a bunch of borderline NBA players from Spain to claim the Olympic gold medal. Or maybe you didn't stay up until 3 a.m. to watch the game live. Trust me, it was inspiring. So here's a rundown of the NBA off-season activity. Maybe I'm a tough grader, but I found only two teams that took a significant step forward: The winners Philadelphia: No doubt the 76ers made the move of the summer by scoring free agent Elton Brand after it appeared a foregone conclusion that the former Bulls power forward would re-sign with the Clippers. The Sixers could challenge for the top spot in the East with Brand, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, underrated center Sam Dalembert and promising youngsters like Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams. The bad news is Philadelphia was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in NBA history last year and backup center Jason Smith could miss the the entire season with a knee injury. The Sixers signed a couple of 35-year-olds, Donyell Marshall and Theo Ratliff, to fill the gaps. Milwaukee: The Bucks landed a legitimate NBA star in former New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson and broke apart the hopelessly mismatched Mo Williams-Michael Redd backcourt by sending Williams to Cleveland. Milwaukee added point guard Luke Ridnour in the Williams trade, but little-known Ramon Sessions could win the job if his late-season performance was not a mirage. Here's what new coach Scott Skiles needs to do to turn the Bucks into playoff contenders: Convince Redd he should be the team's third scoring option behind Jefferson and center Andrew Bogut. It may seem far-fetched, but Skiles is good at what he does. The losers L.A. Clippers: The Clips should be decent with Baron Davis and Marcus Camby on board, but losing Brand was a huge disappointment. Denver: Most of us figured Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson wouldn't turn the Nuggets into title contenders. Denver still doesn't have a point guard and became so desperate for payroll relief it gave Camby to the Clippers. Golden State: That one miraculous playoff run against Dallas in 2007 figures to be where the Warriors' glory ends. Baron Davis bolted for the Clippers and Monta Ellis is expected to miss the first month of the season due to a moped accident. Dallas: It's bad enough the Mavericks committed to 35-year-old point guard Jason Kidd last year. Now their one promising young player, Josh Howard, will have to spend the season dealing with his YouTube dis of the national anthem. Atlanta: Josh Childress jumping to Greece isn't going to bankrupt the franchise or anything, but he was the Hawks' only reliable scorer off the bench. Childress was useful on those many occasions when Marvin Williams looked like a bad idea for a No. 2 draft pick. Hard to figure Houston: The Rockets already had Shane Battier, so of course the natural move was to trade for Ron Artest, a player who does most of the same things as Battier, but also brings a 1,000 times more unpredictable personality to the table. Let's face it, this Houston team is always going to have it tough because Yao Ming may never make it through an NBA season healthy. As great as he is, it just seems unrealistic that a player of Yao's size can withstand the pounding of running up and down the court for a full NBA season. Here's a suggestion for Rick Adelman: Limit Yao to 24 minutes per game, no back-to-backs and hope he's ready for the playoffs. Cleveland: If Larry Hughes and Wally Szczerbiak couldn't fit in next to LeBron James, why does GM Danny Ferry think shot-happy point guard Mo Williams will fare any better? Washington: Yeah, I know Golden State was driving up the price, but $111 million for Gilbert Arenas? The guy played in 13 games last year and even when healthy has won only a single playoff series in his career. I don't mean to say I told you so, but already Arenas is expected to be out until at least mid-December after needing another surgery on his bad knee. All NBA teams would be wise to follow the Grant Hill Rule: Before emptying the bank vault for a player, make sure he can walk first. Jury's out Toronto: If Jermaine O'Neal stays healthy, is willing to focus on defense and let Chris Bosh hog the scoring spotlight, the Raptors might be very good. Then again, O'Neal hasn't been healthy since the Palace was considered a peaceful arena and Toronto's next best option at center is either Nathan Jawai or Andrea Bargnani. Indiana: The Pacers made a nice upgrade at point guard by adding T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack, while coach Jim O'Brien's up-tempo offense showed promise last season. If you're comfortable with Mike Dunleavy as a top-notch shooting guard, go ahead and pencil in the Pacers for the No. 8 playoff spot. Waiting for 2010 New Jersey: If Nets part-owner Jay-Z is willing to rap about LeBron James' playoff feud with DeShawn Stevenson, imagine what may be in store when Jay-Z's good buddy hits the open market in two years. New York: In theory, players might want to sign up for coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense. But if the Knicks can't unload either Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries or any of their other bad contracts, there won't be any cap room in 2010. Wedded to rookies Bulls: Expectations may be down this year, but when Derrick Rose blossoms, he'll be something special. Miami: The Heat's future depends on positive chemistry forming between Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley. Portland: Greg Oden may look like he's in his late 30's, but after a year off for knee surgery, he's finally ready to be an NBA rookie. Memphis: If nothing else, the Grizzlies will probably steal some interest from the local college team by trading for O.J. Mayo. Oklahoma City: UCLA's Russell Westbrook was a surprise pick at No. 4, but he looked good during summer league. Minnesota: Will Kevin Love plus Al Jefferson equal Kevin Garnett? Doubtful. Linked by a single move New Orleans: After coming up small in Game 7 of the playoffs against San Antonio, the Hornets hope to get a few clutch hoops out of James Posey. He's won titles with Boston and Miami, but hasn't averaged double-figure scoring for five years. Boston: The Celtics' new lineup clicked from the start last season, but can they sustain success? Darius Miles, who hasn't played in over two years and will open the season by serving a 10-game suspension, has no chance of filling Posey's role. Standing pat L.A. Lakers: Now it's time to find out if a front line of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum can work. Detroit: Oddly enough, Pistons GM Joe Dumars insisted changes were necessary after last season ended, then didn't make any. San Antonio: Even if Robert Horry retires, the Spurs' supporting cast is still too old. Utah: Phil Jackson may dub the coming Jazz season as “The Last Waltz, Part 2.” Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver can all become free agents next summer. Orlando: Needed backcourt help. Signed former Golden State SF Mickael Pietrus. Sacramento: Perhaps the team most likely to hold a fire sale in February. It may fall on the dance squad to keep the Kings in the news this season. Charlotte: At least Larry Brown's legacy isn't at stake here. His streak of improving every team he coaches already ended with the Knicks. Phoenix: The good news here is when the Suns have finished paying Shaquille O'Neal the $40 million still left on his contract, they should have cap room in 2010.
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