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|
2. Houston Rockets
|Will Dragic still be a Rocket in November?|
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 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."
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
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!