Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July: Anything is Possible

Now with the Finals behind us, and an interesting Draft to say the least, the end of June is here. Tomorrow, July 1st, might be the day that some players will say their goodbyes to their old teams, and move on to the next city for an insane amount of money. But for some players, their free agent period might be one huge deception, because some team owners aren’t willing to spend millions this summer due to the financial problems that their respective franchises are suffering from, or are holding out ‘til the summer of 2010 (speaking of deceptions, it’s entirely possible that some of the big name free agents of ’10 will sign an extension this summer for financial stability, so it could be that next summer won’t be as interesting as many people would like to think).

George Karl had this to say about franchises that are willing to endure a mediocre season, waiting on those superstars to be available: "The free-agent list (of 2010) turns you on a little more, but as a coach, I don't understand that philosophy," he said. "How do you lose to win? How does that work? (A front-office executive) says, 'We're going to lose a year or two and then . . .' But as I coach, I say, 'You're not losing, I'm losing!' I'm sure there will be some teams who have manoeuvred to try to rebuild by going through the bottom, building salary cap space and assets, though I'm not sure I believe that philosophy. I think it's a philosophy that gets coaches fired and general managers extensions." Even though he’s right, obviously moves will be made in the next couple of days / weeks / months. Thirty teams are working the phone tomorrow, maybe as soon as one minute past midnight, when the free agent market opens. A brief look at the teams as they are right now:

Atlanta Hawks: Two names: Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague. With those two (point) guards coming in, this will mean Mike Bibby will need to find a new home. I like Crawford, but don’t expect the Hawks to be any better next season because of him. As long this team is unwilling to play together, they will always be what they are right now. A Playoff round or two, and that’s it. And almost on a daily basis you can read where Josh Smith might be going, but SLAM writer and passionate Hawks fan Lang Whitaker will explain to you why that won’t happen here.

Boston Celtics: If they are really willing to part with Rajon Rondo, they must be out of their minds. Rondo almost averaged a triple-double against the Chicago Bulls in this year’s Playoffs, and played like a legitimate star for this team. He might be stubborn, he might not be well-liked by some of his teammates or even Doc Rivers, but he’s 23, he’s not too old to learn, and I hope the Celtics can see that he is the future of this aging franchise. Pierce, Allen and KG won’t be around forever, but they should give it another shot next season. With all of them healthy, they’re still a top 3 team in the East. But what will they do with Glen Davis? Take a risk and offer him big bucks, hoping he can be a part of this squad for years to come? How high is his ceiling? Will he even be better, improve his D and rebounding, or will he be the next Mike Sweetney in a couple of years?

Charlotte Bobcats: Raymond Felton will probably stay with this team, and he played better and better as the season progressed. If Michael Jordan buys the Bobcats from Bob Johnson, they don’t have to worry about their finances for a while. They made a good pick with Gerald Henderson, so the Bobcats will be fun to watch next season. Like every other team in the NBA, it wouldn’t hurt to add another big body to the roster.

Chicago Bulls: Where will Ben Gordon go? He provided quite a few highlights against the Celtics in the first round, but I can’t see him playing for any of the other teams that can afford him (Detroit, OKC, Memphis).

Cleveland Cavaliers: They got Shaq. Who’s next? Charlie Villanueva would make sense, or Rasheed Wallace, but both could be too expensive for the Cavs. They also need to improve their bench, and search for a long, athletic swingman to help out on D. The addition of O’Neal still wouldn’t help them all that much defending the Magic’s wing players. As long as they don’t spend all their money on Anderson Varejao. You gotta love the guy’s energy, but you have to wonder if Andy would be better off as a sixth man.

Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd could go, so they need to search for a point guard. J.J. Barea will not make you a contender. The Mavericks might have a big problem this off-season as a lot of teams in the West have been improving the last couple of seasons, while Dallas’ window of opportunity is rapidly declining.

Denver Nuggets: They don’t have to do much, besides re-signing Chris Anderson and Dahntay Jones. Smart move of acquiring Ty Lawson last Thursday. Being mentored by Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets don’t have to worry about the point guard position for years to come.

Detroit Pistons: Probably the most active team this summer, since they have some money to spend now that AI, Sheed and McDyess are off the books. But I’m very surprised that Ben Gordon’s name keeps getting linked to the Pistons, because that wouldn’t make any sense at all. Why? Richard Hamilton, that’s why. Gordon is an undersized shooting guard and not a great defender, and is not an upgrade when you already have Hamilton on your roster. With Michael Curry gone, and probably some new guys coming in, the Pistons will have an entirely new product on the floor after the summer.

Golden State Warriors: As long as they’re not willing to give up Stephen Curry, they won’t get Amar’e Stoudemire. I’m still not sure whether I was amazed or not by the fact that Golden State didn’t draft Jordan Hill. It would give them a starting line-up of Ellis, Jackson, Maggette, Hill and Biedrins. For the first time in years a starting five not solely consisting of Biedrins and a bunch of guards and small forwards. But yeah, that didn’t happen.

Houston Rockets: I feel so bad for Yao Ming. Who knows when he will return from his troubling foot injury. Wait, make that if he ever comes back at all. Houston should start over, and face the dreaded “R” word: rebuild.

Indiana Pacers: They decided not to pick up the option on Marquis Daniels, seeing Brandon Rush as their projected starting shooting guard. Larry Bird picked Tyler Hansbrough in the Draft, and is being mocked for it. Bird might have the last laugh though, since Hansbrough has impressed everyone who has seen him working out before the Draft. Oh, and free Tinsley! It has gone on long enough.

Los Angeles Clippers: With Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and hopefully a healthy Baron Davis, it can only get better, right? Right?! Now they have to figure out who will take Zach Randolph, Chris Kamen and / or Marcus Camby off their hands.

Los Angeles Lakers: Odom and Ariza, Ariza and Odom. Who will return? Hopefully both of them, because the Lakers’ bench just isn’t that good. Even NBA Championship teams have some work to do in the off-season. There are also rumors about adding Jason Kidd to the roster, but not sure if that will work financially.

Memphis Grizzlies: Hopefully, Hasheem Thabeet will be that defensive force they are hoping for. Let’s not forget, the NBA isn’t a big man’s game anymore. With Conley, Mayo, Gay, Gasol and Thabeet they certainly look good on paper, giving the few Grizzlies fans out there something to be excited about.

Miami Heat: What to do, what to do? Like any other team, the Heat has talent, just not enough. Dwyane Wade is an MVP calibre player, what he did last season was unbelievable. The rest? Not so much. Mario Chalmers is good running mate to have, and I have always been enamoured by Udonis Haslem, but the Heat has plenty work left to regain the status of being amongst the NBA elite. Will Beasley be a starter this year?

Milwaukee Bucks: RJ is gone, Charlie V. is gone, so who will score for the Bucks? Michael Redd must first show how healthy he is, Andrew Bogut is a good center, but no star, and it’s not even sure that Ramon Sessions will be there after the summer (although that is the plan). At least they brought some excitement to Milwaukee in drafting Brandon Jennings.

Minnesota Timberwolves: You can say a lot about David Kahn, but not that he isn’t active. While NY fans are probably singing “Let my Ricky go”, Rubio will either play in Europe or in Minneapolis when the new basketball season starts, and let’s not forget about Flynn, Big Al and Kevin Love. It looks like the Timberwolves are finally are building something that resembles a basketball team. Next up: a coach.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets franchise is exactly what George Karl meant: the Nets dealt Vince Carter and according Rod Thorn this gives them the flexibility to get two “max” players next summer. The Nets do have a lot young talent in Harris, Lopez, CDR, Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams. What they don’t have are people who can score (besides Harris and maybe Lopez), and sadly enough Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe are counting on Yi to get it done. As a Nets fan, I’m not so sure.

New Orleans Hornets: Not that long ago the Hornets were one of the better teams in the West, but looking at their roster now, they have to figure out how to remain competitive. Stojakovic’s play is declining, there’s no bench, and Tyson Chandler might not be with the team anymore when the new season starts as management is exploring options to trade him (again).

New York Knicks: Rubio won’t be in New York, so now the Knicks are talking with Jason Kidd, who also has an off-season home in the area. He’s a fan of Mike D’Antoni, and could make a young team better. If Kidd signs with the Knicks, you can be sure of it he will end his career without a Championship, so the Lakers would make more sense.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Ben Gordon has also been linked to the Thunder, but they already have enough fire power in Durant, Green, Westbrook, and rookie James Harden. They also traded for center B.J. Mullens on Draft Night, but they could improve their bench.

Orlando Magic: The Magic made a great move trading for Vince Carter, but you can be sure of it that Hedo Turkoglu will be gone. It’s been reported that Orlando offered him around 35 million for four years right after the Finals, but he declined. This prompted them to trade for VC, which is almost the same as saying: “See ya!” to Hedo. Now they need to re-sign Marcin Gortat, and shore up their bench a little, and they’re good to go.

Philadelphia 76’ers: The first thing the Sixers did is sign coach Eddie Jordan. What’s next? Andre Miller might be gone giving Lou Williams a chance to start, with rookie Jrue Holiday backing him up. Will they try to make it work with Elton Brand this season?

Phoenix Suns: That’s the end of the Shaqxperiment. Now if they do trade Amar’e Stoudemire, I hope they get a big man in return, because there aren’t many left in Phoenix. Another big question is: what will Steve Nash do?

Portland Trail Blazers: They might try to add Kirk Hinrich, who would be a great fit next to Brandon Roy. Other than that: don’t change a thing.

Sacramento Kings: The Kings had a solid Draft, getting Tyreke Evans, but also Omri Casspi, who might be the sleeper of the Draft.

San Antonio Spurs: And the rich get richer. Acquiring Richard Jefferson is such a smart move, and assures them of being able to contend for the Championship next season. And who do the Spurs pick up in the second round of the Draft? DeJuan Blair. Like I said: the rich get richer.

Toronto Raptors: Trouble in Toronto. You don’t know what Chris Bosh will do in 2010, Shawn Marion will be gone, and it doesn’t seem likely that there will be any big names entering Canada in the near future. Rookie DeMar DeRozan will be an exciting player, so stay positive Raptor fans!

Utah Jazz: The Jazz have a problem. Why the hell would Carlos Boozer opt out, since nobody will pay him more than what he can make next season anyway? This doesn’t make it easier for Utah, who should by all means keep Paul Millsap. Boozer will be gone next summer, and Millsap should be their power forward for years to come. With Boozer staying, it will also make it difficult to re-sign Mehmet Okur.

Washington Wizards: Will this finally be the year that everyone stays healthy? How good will Arenas be? Did they make the right move in trading away their Draft pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye? What can Flip Saunders do that Eddie Jordan couldn’t? The Wizards have more questions than answers, but who doesn’t want to see what these guys can do?

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