JT is the newest writer to hit the pine for NBAMate. A Brett Maher-like streak shooter in his heyday, JT now finds time to break down the fundamentals of the round-ball game in between changing diapers and other fatherly duties.
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 fulfill my fantasy and become GM for a day. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 sprightlier 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 judgment on their part. But for what he brings to the floor, Ariza is worth his contract.
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.
Tell me if I am wrong but virtually everyone on this roster is offensively-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.
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.
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).
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.
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 contact (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 (e.g. Portland and OKC). The Bucks will certainly be an improved outfit with the added firepower, but this team’s not going further than the second round.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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; obviously I don’t buy it.
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.
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.
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.
To read more of JT’s stuff, check out his blog at NBAozblog