Decided that now was the right time to do an NBA overview, starting first with a ranked listing/review of the trading season (early February to the deadline) followed by predictions and if we’re lucky a quickie mock draft.
NOTE: These are not power rankings, just how I think teams did in terms of personnel.
However, they ARE ranked in order of how well they did in terms of trades and whatnot during February
- Los Angeles Lakers- Simply put, this team at full potential is better than any Lakers team since Magic Johnson retired. They have size (Gasol/Bynum/Odom?!), versatility, and experience/toughness. What’s more, they have a beast of a bench that will only improve with time and Ariza coming back from injury. The best thing about them is how well they match up against each and every other top team, except that I worry about their PG’s match up against speedy or overall top-flight PG’s (but they’ll do fine if that’s their biggest worry).
- San Antonio Spurs- Many pundits have them lower on the list, but it boils down to this: they got a guy in Kurt Thomas who adds something substantial to their size and defense without giving up anything of note. It’s compounded by the possibility of getting Brent Barry back, but honestly that’s not too big a deal.
- Miami Heat- They took a guy in Shaq who was unquestionably a majorly expensive drag on their current team and turned him into a player who is a phenomenal talent with a substantially better contract in Shawn Marion. If Marion opts out (or leaves after the opt-in), all they get is better money, and if he stays, they have a great SF/PF who compliments Wade well as long as they can have a shooter or have Cook blossom.
- New Jersey Nets- Another team that took a detriment and turned him into an asset. Much of their long-term grade depends on whether they keep Diop beyond this year. Devin Harris is a very good young player who is substantially better long-term than what they could probably get otherwise. The X-Factor now is whether they can move Carter and Jefferson and get anything for them.
- Cleveland Cavaliers- If I were to tell you that you could dump Larry Hughes and pick up some talented guys without having worse contracts to deal with in terms of the cap, would that be something you’d be interested in?
In all seriousness, it was a pretty great trade for the Cavs. LeBron has much more natural compliments and the front court of Z, Joe Smith, Varejao, and Big Ben is pretty potent as long as Mike Brown plays them in the right combinations. Sure they lose on perimeter D, but Delonte West and the bigs are good enough to make the trade a significant net gain. Also, getting the 3-seed in the East is huge, because Orlando, Cleveland, and Toronto are fighting for it and the winner plays a mediocre team (Washington, Atl, whoever) while the losers play each other for the right to play the #1 squad.
- New Orleans (for now) Hornets– I really like what they did. Bobby Jackson wasn’t doing a whole lot there, and the Mike/Bonzi combo adds depth that they desperately needed. It would have been nice to get some size, but there really is not much of that around.
- Sacramento Kings- Some will criticize them for not moving Artest, but there’s no reason to move him for an expiring and a low pick when there is a chance he either doesn’t opt out or re-ups there. As far as the Bibby trade goes, they moved a useless piece for expiring and a guy in Shelden who is a natural compliment for Brad Miller and Spencer Hawes and is still on his rookie deal.
- Houston Rockets- While the trade with New Orleans isn’t my favorite for them, essentially adding Gerald Green (overrated as he may be) is a compelling move. I’ve heard that GG idolizes T-Mac, and he might be one of the few people that can actually make him try.
- Utah Jazz- They didn’t do anything in this time period (Korver trade was earlier), but there was no need to. It would have been nice to get a shot-blocking presence to play with either Boozer or Okur, but it wasn’t a necessity and tough to find.
- Atlanta Hawks- Welcome to relevance, fellas. It’s been a quite some time. While I like that they didn’t give up much to get Mr. Bibby (besides Shelden, who doesn’t fit in their up and down system), I’m not sure how much he adds. It seems like they’re a playoff team in the East now, which is nice, but it’s not a meaningful change in the long term.
- Toronto Raptors- It’s not entirely clear how much Primoz will bring, but he has size and Juan Dixon was not necessarily an asset for the Raptors.
- Boston Celtics- Certain “differently abled” personalities like Stephen A. Smith criticized them for not making moves, but it’s relatively clear that they will get a PG and/or players that get cut off other teams in the next few weeks. Sam Cassell will almost definitely be on this team soon.
- Detroit Pistons- Juan Dixon is better than Flip Murray, but I worry that they may be looking for rebounding. However, getting Magloire or Dale Davis would correct that, and it’s definitely possible.
- Seattle/Oklahoma City Sonics- They saved money for Clay Bennett (huzzah!), but part of me worries that a piece like Wally’s expiring contract next year would have been more valuable than what they got, especially in light of the Gasol theft. Part of what puts them so high is converting Rashard Lewis (who could have just signed outright with Orlando) into three first rounders in total, which is simply incredible, especially now that the 2010 pick might be from a Suns team on the slide with Nash and Shaq on the downslope then.
- Washington Wizards- Didn’t do a whole lot, but were pretty hamstrung by the guys they already had on roster. They really should give Dominic McGuire more minutes- he has the potential to be a very good player down the road.
- Philadelphia 76ers- Probably the hardest team to place in this. On the upside, they have potential as a playoff team, but they didn’t get anything for Andre Miller. However, the final verdict is that the current team is good enough to have Andre Iguodala stick around, which makes a net positive since Miller / Iggy / Thad / Dalembert is a core that just needs a good PF to complete.
- Chicago Bulls- While I’m 100% down with the addition by subtraction of Ben Wallace, Larry Hughes only blocks Thabo Sefolosha (and is a worse player eventually) and losing Joe Smith has to hurt. Still, giving Noah, Tyrus, and the underrated Aaron Gray more minutes to see what they’ve got puts them higher on the list than other teams that made moves.
- Charlotte Robert JohnsonCats- Not much they could have done, and they didn’t do anything. That’s what happens when you have terrible management and undesirable talent. They better pray that Emeka doesn’t want to leave, because they’d be down to Nazr Mohammed and the cadaver of Sean May on the inside. And for the love of God and all that is holy, give Jermareo Davidson.
- Milwaukee Bucks- It’s good that they didn’t give up Michael Redd (since they probably wouldn’t have gotten a good offer), but moving Charlie V would have made some sense because he and Yi pretty much fill the same niche in the long-term.
- LA Clippers- Why exactly couldn’t they get something like Najera and a pick for Cassell instead of the inevitable buy-out? It also would have been nice to see them go ballsy and move someone like Maggette, but that’s Elgin Baylor for ya…
- Indiana Pacers- Why exactly couldn’t they get something for Jermaine O’Neal? They need a leader (and a SG) in the worst way, and they did absolutely nothing to fix those issues.
- Phoenix Suns- Some love the trade, some hate it. There is a significant chance that Shaq hooks up to the Juvenation Machine™ and I like Amare as a PF defensively (hell, nothing’s worse than him as a strong-side defender), but they’ll need to learn how to handle the pick and roll. Also, I’m worried that Shaq dominating the paint will draw Amare out to take more mid-range shots and he won’t have the same speed advantage on PF’s that he had on C’s. The bigger issue is that they lost an underrated Shawn Marion and his great D, and it is appalling how they sold away so many picks (including picks that directly resulted in Rudy Fernandez, Rajon Rondo, and Sergio Rodriguez) and gave away Kurt Thomas. If they’d have used a smidge of the money saved there, they might not have the depth problems that will cost them a shot at the title.
- Golden State Warriors- They didn’t do anything, but since they have to re-sign Baron, Monta, and Biedrins this off-season, it was not practical for them to move a guy like Pietrus for a long-term deal.
- New York Knicks- It sure seems like they could have moved a guy like Starbury for a longer running contract and some young talent. I’ve written extensively on them, so you can read what I would’ve done there.
- Portland Trailblazers- Taurean Green is a good player, and it doesn’t make sense to cut the cord on him for essentially nothing at this juncture. Paul Allen has the money to make a move like that after Summer League. It was time to hold pat or put their eggs in a basket and get a legit PG or SF.
- Denver Nuggets- They really needed to make a move to have the depth and versatility to make any real noise and had an asset in Najera to do so. That said, I really like Linas, but they could have made a move with Najera, JR Smith, and their draft picks.
- Minnesota Timberwolves- They made two major mistakes. First off, they let a potential guy in Gerald Green go for essentially nothing (a mid-50’s pick). Do they really need that roster spot? The bigger issue is that they have zero chance at being meaningfully under the cap next year, but they still kept Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract™ around instead of moving it to a team Gasol-style. Hell, they could have made a better offer to Memphis than the Lakers easily…
- Dallas Mavericks- I worshipped Jason Kidd as a child (he went to Skyline High and Cal and I grew up in the Bay Area), but there’s a line between what Kidd was in his prime and what he is now. The best things he brings to the table are smoother transition offense and leadership (when he’s happy). The things he does not bring to the table are shooting skill and defensive ability against top-notch PG’s. Guess what the Mavs need?
That is compounded by losing Diop, who is pivotal for stopping teams like the Lakers and Spurs, and the draft picks. The Mavericks made themselves much more beatable against the Spurs, Lakers, Hornets, Jazz, and Rockets. Those aren’t the teams that they should be getting worse against.
- Memphis Grizzlies- Possibly the funniest GM thing I’ve ever seen is the perennially incompetent Chris Wallace trying to show backbone on trading Mike Miller after gift-wrapping Pau. If the Grizz had the goal of cutting their long term salary, they had three guys to move: Pau, Miller, and Brian Cardinal. Naturally, you move the most valuable with the least valuable if someone has negative value (as Cardinal does). Instead, he basically screws the pooch and slaughtered the team to get a feeble amount of cap space that the team will not be able to use to get any free agents.
- Orlando Magic- Simply unforgivable. They have an arsenal of expiring contracts, need quality players, and will unquestionably be over the cap next year, but do not move ANY of those valuable assets. They could have easily outbid the Spurs for Kurt Thomas or countless other players that their teams didn’t want to handle. Instead, they stayed shallow and hollow, and will pay the price for it and moving Trevor Ariza. I’m really sorry Dwight- you deserve better. Maybe you can convince Lebron to make the move when he has his opt-out…
With that out of the way, it’s time for a little playoff projection and some awards predictions. Yeah, boyyyyyy!
LA Lakers (#1 seed) vs. Dallas Mavericks (#8 seed)- Lakers in 5
San Antonio Spurs (#2 seed) vs. Houston Rockets (#7 seed)- San Antonio in 5
New Orleans Hornets (#3 seed) vs. Golden State Warriors (#6 seed)- New Orleans in 7
Utah Jazz (#4 seed) vs. Phoenix Suns (#5 seed)- Utah in 6
LA Lakers vs. Utah- Lakers in 6
San Antonio vs. New Orleans- San Antonio in 6
Western Conference Finals:
LA Lakers vs. San Antonio- Lakers in 7
Boston Celtics (#1 seed) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (#8 seed)- Celtics in 4
Detroit Pistons (#2 seed) vs. Atlanta Hawks (#7 seed)- Pistons in 5
Cleveland Cavaliers (#3 seed) vs. Washington Wizards (#6 seed)- Cavs in 5
Orlando Magic (#4 seed) vs. Toronto Raptors (#5 seed)- Raptors in 6
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors- Celtics in 5
Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers- Cavs in 7
Eastern Conference Finals:
Boston Celtics vs. Clevland Cavaliers- Celtics in 6
LA Lakers vs. Boston Celtics- Lakers in 6
Finals MVP: Kobe Bryant
Regular Season Awards!
MVP: LeBron James
Coach of the Year: Byron Scott
Rookie of the Year: Kevin Durant (even though Al Horford will deserve it)
6th Man of the Year: MANU Ginobili
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby