Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Off Season Needs: Southwest Division

     This season, the Spurs had proven that with an older group of stars, they can still win many games. At one point throughout the end of the season and the playoffs, the Spurs went on an incredible 20-game winning streak. However, the younger and more up-tempo Oklahoma City Thunder beat them in the Western Conference Finals. The 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks played well enough to have the #7 seed in the West, but like the Spurs, fell to the Thunder. The Memphis Grizzlies played consistent throughout the season. They were considered dark horses to win it all, but were upset in seven games by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Next year seems to be a redemption year for the Grizzlies. The Houston Rockets just barely missed the playoffs, but have two mid-first round picks in the draft where they can select a couple solid prospects. The New Orleans Hornets were one of the worst teams in the league but were awarded the first overall pick of the draft by winning the draft lottery. The team also has the tenth pick of the draft and a lot of cap space.

A quick key of acronyms used in the entry: RFA = restricted free agent. PO = player option. TO = team option. ETO = early termination option.

1. Dallas Mavericks

Players under contract for next season: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Brandan Wright, Lamar Odom, Kelenna Azubuike
Free Agents: Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Delonte West, Ian Mahinmi, Yi Jianlian, Brian Cardinal

What they need: Dallas ideally needs to get younger talent on its squad. They will need a point guard for the foreseeable future, as well as a center to anchor their defense. In the first round, the Mavericks are stuck in a bit of a quandary. Most drafts project them to select UNC's Kendall Marshall, a point guard. However, the Mavericks are also competing with the Brooklyn Nets for the services of superstar point guard Deron Williams. If the Mavericks had both Marshall and Williams, how would they coexist? I believe the Mavericks will not select Marshall, partly because I believe he will get picked before #17. He can go as early as #6 to the Trail Blazers, and can fill a hole on at least four different teams between #6 and #17. I think Dallas should go for a big man, but at the same time, there's not really any true center that is projected near #17. Either they are ranked higher like UNC's Tyler Zeller and Illinois' Meyers Leonard, or lower like Syracuse's Fab Melo and Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli. I think owner Mark Cuban and his team will conduct a trade to move further back or further up in the draft to select some sort of big man. In the second round, they could select a point guard project. Their pick is #55, but they might be able to find a player with knowledge and experience, like Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore or Florida's Erving Walker.

Will Williams be joining the Mavericks
this summer?
What to expect: I think the Mavericks will make a strong push for Deron Williams, but he will re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets instead. Recently, I read an article about Brendan Haywood's contract and how there is a "spread provision" clause in it that allows his earnings to be near only two million dollars per year over a span of fourteen years since the money is guaranteed. I think the Mavericks will exercise this clause to sign more free agents or possibly to move Haywood. The Mavericks will waive or trade Lamar Odom, because he is obviously unhappy in Dallas. Jason Terry is a fan favorite in Dallas, so I expect the Mavericks to keep him, but only for the right price. Ian Mahinmi is developing at a sure pace, so I think Dallas will retain him as well. Jason Kidd admitted he is not capable of playing long minutes due to age, and has been rumored to gain interest from several teams, so I think he walks from Dallas. I think the Mavericks will trade up to get Meyers Leonard in the draft, but if they stay in the same spot they will probably select a small forward like Moe Harkless or possibly even Fab Melo, even though it's a stretch, The Mavericks will probably sign their point guard in free agency, and if it's not Deron Williams, I think they would sign Houston's Goran Dragic. He plays a nice pace of game and deserves to be a starter in this league.

2. Houston Rockets

Will Dragic still be a Rocket in November?
Players under contract for next season: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, Marcus Morris, Samuel Dalembert, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Fortson, Diamon Simpson, Greg Smith

Free Agents: Courtney Lee (RFA), Marcus Camby, Goran Dragic, Earl Boykins

What they need: In the draft, the Rockets hold the #14, #16, and #18 picks in the first round. In this spot, they can choose a number of players. Personally, I think they should hold on to one of the picks and trade the others, whether it be in a deal to move forward or backward in the draft, or to acquire an All Star caliber player. They have a crisis for sure at the point guard position. Dragic will be in high demand from several teams, so they might have a tough time keeping him. Lowry wants to be traded, so I think they should move him in a deal somewhere. They will need a point guard for the future, as well as a center.

What to expect: There are a number of rumors swirling around about the Rockets' interests to obtain Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. I believe if the Rockets made this deal, it would be absolutely foolish. Howard does not want to be in Houston at all, and they'd give up future assets to have him for a year. While certainly he would get them in the playoffs, it wouldn't be a smart move. There's been talks that the Rockets are trying to move the #16 pick and Samuel Dalembert in a trade. I think if they can make that deal for Chicago's Luol Deng they would be solid. It would give them an All Star starter who plays tough defense out on the wing. They can also be players in a deal for Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, although no talks between the two teams have been documented or reported. I expect Houston to make a strong push for Pau Gasol, but ultimately the Lakers do not want to deal Gasol. The Rockets have a ton of pieces to move, but I expect them to move Lowry for sure as well as Dalembert and the #16 pick. With the #14 pick, I believe they will take Austin Rivers our of Duke. The star guard can create his own shot, and would be a good sixth man coming off the bench behind current starter Kevin Martin. Martin is an expiring contract, and might be moved, but Rivers can be able to start next season. It'd be a bit of a risk, but it could be a high reward for the Rockets if he's handled right. The Rockets are a borderline playoff team, and if they make the right moves, they'll be in it next season.

3. Memphis Grizzlies

Players under contract for next season: Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Josh Selby, Jeremy Pargo, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham

Free Agents: O.J. Mayo (RFA), Marreese Speights (RFA), Darrell Arthur (RFA), Lester Hudson (RFA), Hamed Haddadi, Gilbert Arenas

Crawford could be a solid option off the bench
for the Grizzlies, who need a shooter.
What they need: The Grizzlies will need an exceptional shooter on the wing as well as a back up point guard. Those are their top two priorities heading into this week's draft. The team is nearly eight million dollars over the luxury tax, so they might need to cut back despite bringing in a new owner. They're not expected to move Gay or Gasol, but there's been rumblings here and there about Zach Randolph as well as a possible return of Pau Gasol, where he and his brother would team up in Memphis. They have several options in free agency they could look at like Milwaukee's Carlos Delfino, Portland's Jamal Crawford, or Phoenix's Michael Redd. According to an article on the Memphis Commercial Appeal's website, the Grizzlies aren't hesitant about trading for a veteran who fills a need. They might be interested in trading for somebody like Brooklyn's Anthony Morrow, a shooting guard who hits shots from any spot on the floor and is an expiring contract.

What to expect: I expect the Grizzlies to bring back Arthur and possibly Speights, but that is it. Mayo has been entertaining some interest and will likely go elsewhere. Arenas played a short time in Memphis and played well, but a team like Miami might sign him to a cheap one year deal. In the draft at #25, I expect them to take Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague. He had an outstanding NCAA Tournament, which raised his stock. He won't challenge Conley for the starting job, but he will learn the ropes and play effectively behind Conley. He can become a starter like his brother Jeff of the Atlanta Hawks in a couple years. Why take a point guard? Because there aren't really any shooting guards projected to be around this spot that can make an immediate impact. However, they could possibly select former Memphis Wildcats guard Will Barton or Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, although they both would be reaches. As stated before, I think there are better options at shooting guard they can look at in free agency. Tony Allen is great defensively, they just need somebody who can shoot to come off the bench.

4. New Orleans Hornets

Players under contract for next season: Jarrett Jack, Al-Farouq Aminu, Rashard Lewis, Gustavo Ayon, Jason Smith, Xavier Henry, Lance Thomas, Greivis Vasquez, Darryl Watkins, Jerome Dyson

Free Agents: Eric Gordon (RFA), Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Marco Belinelli

What they need: The Hornets have a nice amount of depth for next year, but they will still need some players. Xavier Henry is not a bad shooting guard, but he's better coming off the bench. Al-Farouq Aminu is still developing, and I'm not sure if he's ready to start yet either. They have a big hole at center they need to fill, but it shall be filled by Anthony Davis who they'll presumably select with the first overall pick of the NBA Draft. At point guard, Jarrett Jack has been very serviceable and productive with the team, but he dealt with some injuries and is an expiring contract. The Hornets are looking to deal him to bring in a younger point guard for the future. With the recent trade of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Wizards, the Hornets saved some cap room. They are expected to waive Rashard Lewis, which will help them to save even more cap room. The Hornets have holes right now but most of them shall be filled by the time the season comes around.

Anthony Davis is expected to make opponents
"Fear the Brow."
What to expect: As mentioned before, I think the Hornets will waive Rashard Lewis sometime during the next seven days. In the draft, they will definitely take Anthony Davis at #1, and I think they will take another big body at #10 like UNC's Tyler Zeller or Illinois' Meyers Leonard. They might even take Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, despite rumblings about him having constant back issues. I think they'll trade Jarrett Jack and maybe another player or pick to get another first round pick, and use that pick to select Washington's Tony Wroten Jr. Wroten has a lot of potential, and stands at 6'6". He is taller than most point guards, and can play off the ball. He reminds me of Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, and I think Wroten could fit in New Orleans. I think the Hornets will do whatever it takes to keep Eric Gordon in town, even if it means giving him a max contract. He was the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade, is a consistent player and future All Star, and is the best player on the team right now. I think he'll get a ton of interest in free agency, and so the Hornets will probably have to give him the max deal. This team will be very young and have some growing pains, but I think they'll cope decently with the lack of veterans and established talent on the roster. Four years down the road, this team will be one of the best in the Western Conference.

5. San Antonio Spurs

Players under contract for next season: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, Derrick Byars, Cory Joseph

Free Agents: Danny Green (RFA), Patrick Mills (RFA), Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw

Can Duncan lead the Spurs to another
championship as he finishes out his
illustrious career?
What they need: The Spurs proved this year that father time has not caught up to their best players just yet. However, they will need to start making the transition toward the future. They have some decent players coming off the bench like Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter but I don't think they are ready to start. They are without a first round pick in this year's draft, but I think they can cope easily with what they have now. The Spurs will still be a top team in the Western Conference next year, but they will need to start giving their younger players more experience, mentoring, and playing time to be ready for the future.

What to expect: I don't expect really anything to change with this team next year. Tim Duncan isn't going anywhere, he will finish out his career in San Antonio. Danny Green could attract some attention, there have been rumors that the Celtics are interested, but I think the Spurs will try to keep him. Patrick Mills wants to come back, despite very little playing time, and Boris Diaw played well in their system so the Spurs might actually offer him a contract. This team will be relatively the same next year, and I expect them to be a top team in the West again.

     Lastly, I'll be going over the Northwest Division. The Oklahoma City Thunder reached the Finals but lost, so what will they have to do this off season to win it all? The Denver Nuggets are full of good players, but can they get that one superstar to push them over the top? The Portland Trail Blazers have a lot of free agents this summer but can they come back after a disappointing season this year? The Minnesota Timberwolves were looking good early in the season, but can stud point guard Ricky Rubio come back fully healthy? And finally, the Utah Jazz got hot at the end of the season, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs. How can they improve so they get farther than the first round? Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment