THREE WORST ROSTERS MOVING FORWARD-
PG-Kyle Lowry, John Lucas
SG-Demar Derozan, Terrance Ross
SF-Rudy Gay, Landry Fields, Linas Kleiza
PF-Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
C-Jonas Valanciunas, Aaron Gray
2013-2014 Payroll-$65 million
State of the roster-When you can pay this group of misfits a total of $65 million to get you to 10th in the East, you have to do it, right? They’re a rich man’s Bucks in their ways of trying to scrap for that winning prestige they had when Chris Bosh was around. They have two assets on their roster, Valanciunas and Ross and I’m not even sure Ross is anything but a really good dunker. I expect some type of moves this summer to cut salary, but it would mean a complete tear down and are they finally willing to do it after trading for Gay nearly $40 million over the next two seasons? They have holes to fill, albeit, could strut out this roster and it wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment this summer, it is just known they won’t be making a playoff push.
State of the draft picks-Both of their picks this summer are owed to other teams, so they won’t be adding any pieces via the draft which hurts them because it is the cheapest option when they could use a young PG and big man to groom for the future. The positive is, they own their 2014 1st rounder. If they play out this season expecting losses and don’t make stupid moves, they’ll be set up to add a nice player in the loaded 14’ draft.
Toronto is never likely to be moved unless Vancouver gets a team (about 12 cities ahead of them) because of the Canadian market so they have that to fall back on. They’re going to ferociously look to trade Bargnani this summer which is entirely a possibility because you can probably talk a team into thinking he just needs a change of scenary and he only has two more years left on his contract. The downfall for Toronto is, outside of Valanciunas, they don’t have any other young players that they can look to and try to build around. They better hope Jonas comes out to have a monster season next year and be a dominant center to build around or else they won’t be able to start a re-build for another year and a half.
PG-Deron Williams, Tyshawn Taylor
SG-Joe Johnson, Marshon Brooks
PF-Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic
2013-2014 Payroll-$89 million
State of the roster-Thank god for a Deron Williams second half turn around to his season, because without that, many would have been calling it the downfall of his career. The Nets have some star power and are a lock for at least the playoffs, albeit a bottom seed, almost every season. The issue is, they have no cap relief coming for 3 years. In 2015-2016, they will still be paying Williams, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez a grand total of $69 million. That’s already $11 million over the cap. By then, Williams (31) and Johnson (34) will be broken down completely and Wallace will already be 5 feet down from his 6 foot grave. They also have nobody to look at and be the young building block unless you count Lopez, who with all due respect, had a great season, because they made the dumbest trade in a decade only protecting a pick top 3 while trading for Gerald Wallace, then setting their testicles on fire after already repeatedly blugening them with a hammer by signing him to a 4 yr, $40 million contract. Two dumb moves there; they gave up a huge pick (turned out to be Lillard) where they didn’t have to protect it beyond the lottery and then signed Wallace for $20 million and two years too long. They may have something to work with as Humphries contract is finally expiring and Brooks still rotting on their bench, but they have shopped that package for literally two straight years, offering it to anyone that would listen and nobody’s bit. Why would they now when Brooks has been lamented to the bench and Humphries is 2 years older?
State of the draft picks-Brooklyn owns their own pick in this year’s draft, but in 2014 AND 2015, Atlanta has the right to swap their 1st round pick with Brooklyn’s which was a caveat of the Johnson trade. They also don’t own a 2nd round pick until 2018! The first round picks may not be a huge deal as Brooklyn will likely stay the course while Atlanta may be in re-building mode, but it’s a wrinkle to keep an eye on.
The Nets are lucky to have a billionaire owner not afraid to spend money, because they’re going to have to finagle to find moves to bring in some representation of talent to keep this team afloat whether it’s minimum type guys or undrafted rookies.
New York Knicks-
PG-Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd
SF-Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak
C-Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby
2013-2014 Payroll-$76 million
State of the roster-you look at their roster and think they have a lot of talent to be on this list, but in reality, Amare can’t stay healthy, Chandler is breaking down and Camby and Kidd were drafted in the mid-90’s. They made three bad moves last season signing Kidd ($6 million for two more years), Camby ($7.5 million for two more years) and Novak ($11 million for three more years) to contracts that were both way longer and for way more money that needed to be handed out. And in reality, you can find guys on the street that would kill to play in New York for the minimum who give you what these guys give you, if not better (see: Prigioni, Copeland). They’re specialty guys and you don’t pay specialty guys that much especially when 2/3 of them are closer to 45 than they are 30. Shumpert is the one bright spot for them, however he hasn’t made the leap as many expected. Carmelo is a great player, top 5 in the league and can score for you, but his efficiency won’t get you to the Finals.
State of the draft picks-The Knicks own the following picks through 2016-2013 and 2015 1st rounder, two 2014 2nd rounders. That’s it. That’s 3 picks out of 8 total. The big hole is they don’t have their 14’ pick. They’ll get something out of this season which is loaded with bigs and PG’s which is what the Knicks need, so that’s the lone positive.
Carmelo’s going to win you 48 games+ every season. That’s the positive for the Knicks. They don’t own their amnesty after using it on Chauncey Billups in 2011 which they would kill 27 of their own fans for just to get Amare off their books ($45 million for two more seasons). If Amare can come back healthy and accept his 6th man role, they add a decent draft pick and find some veterans to come in and give them minutes though, they may not be in such bad shape, but they desperately need to find a #2 scorer after JR Smith bolts for free agency. Unfortunately, they probably won’t find it in the 20’s in the 13’ draft nor on a veteran minimum contract.
THREE BEST ROSTERS MOVING FORWARD-
PG-Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Aaron Brooks
SF-Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino
PF-Thomas Robinson, Royce White, Terrance Jones
C-Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith
2013-2014 Payroll-(approx) $34 million
State of the roster-How shrewd are the Rockets? Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley, Francisco Garcia, and Chandler Parsons were 4 of the 8 regular rotation players for the Houston Rockets in the playoffs and during the stretch run of the season where they exceled. Every single one of them were afterthoughts. Smith was undrafted, Parsons was a 2nd round pick by the Rockets, Beverley was discovered after last seeing an NBA floor in 2010 with the Heat by Rockets scouting staff, and Garcia was contract fodder in the Robinson for Patterson swap.
State of the draft picks-for all the moves the Rockets have made, they are still about even in draft picks. They own four 2nd round picks (where the Rockets excel) through 2015 from other teams, but do not own their own 2013 1st or 2nd rounder nor their 2014 2nd rounder. The key part is they do own their 2014 1st round pick. Morey and the Rockets will have dilemmas moving forward though as they are suddenly in a good position by owning too many assets. Guys like Aaron Brooks, Thomas Robinson and Motiejunas are pushed to the back of the bench because of the growth of other talent. At some point, you’re just going to run out of chairs on the bench and space on the roster. I expect more player movement from within this summer by Houston to upgrade its front court scoring and back court defense.
The Rockets represent a new era of NBA scouting. You don’t HAVE to win the lottery 3 years in a row, live in a major market to draw stars or save for ¾ of a decade to hope for max salary cap space to sign a guy not worthy of it. You don’t even need to make a lot of moves, just be shrewd about the ones you do make and maximize an asset which is exactly what they did. For a few years, the Rockets had been stockpiling assets and when they never made a move, but were always in discussions for big moves, it worried some as they may pounce at an opportunity that wasn’t right. Gasol, Howard, Paul were all rumored to be targeted by the Rockets, but it seemed they stood pat when the asking price was too much. And when a Harden trade became whispers of a possibility, Morey jumped at OKC, gave up an expiring and aging Kevin Martin at the twilight of his career, Lamb-a potential guy and two 1st round picks. Look, I’ll admit I was critical of the move and thought OKC benefitted (which I still believe is the case, but need to be smart about these assets they’ve collected), but I wasn’t sure of Harden. He had never been the spotlight guy, but a 6th man, energy boost off the bench. Did he show signs of game changer? Absolutely, but I feared Harden may have been that third tier type of guy who would get paid like a max player (ex: Rudy Gay) and thought Houston had thrown away its chance. They aren’t contenders yet and they still have tweaking to do within their roster, but their young, exciting and growing.
Golden State Warriors-
SG-Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush
SF-Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Richard Jefferson
C-Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Andris Biedrins
2013-2014 Payroll-$74 million
State of the roster-in all reality, it isn’t the prettiest depth wise. The Warriors, however, have made some moves to upgrade themselves and bring in talent that 29 other teams passed on once, some twice. The downside to the Warriors payroll is they’re over the cap and are paying Bogut and Lee long term that both have their severe deficiencies. The upside is that although they’ll have to pay Jefferson and Biedrins a combined $20 million next season, we may see a resurgence of “the expired contract” becoming a trade asset, and what better asset than an expiring contract on the dawn of the biggest free agency in years? GSW will have to decide which route they want to go. They have the opportunity to re-tool, probably lose more games than this season, make a push for a bottom seed and get eliminated first round then be a player in free agency or make a move to trade assets for a greater piece. Although Golden State is suddenly becoming an appealing destination (California, player’s coach, great teammates, great crowd), they, within a year of 2014 free agency, will be working on Klay and Barnes extensions which will push their limits and will have to decide who they want to move forward with. Replacing Jack and Landry will not be easy and they will have to do it with less money and few picks, but is possible as they found diamonds in the rough in Ezeli (last pick in 12’ draft) and Green (2nd rounder) who played crucial rolls for them this season.
State of the draft picks-the Warriors do not own either 2013 pick or their 2015 1st rounder, but recently there has been discussion and leaks that the front office is discussing buying into the 1st round of 2013. There are multiple teams with multiple picks and in a less than star-studded draft, few teams will want to be paying two rookie bench warmers. If the Warriors can pull off a deal surrounding cash and 2nd round picks to buy into the 1st round, there will be talent to be had in the 20’s in the Warriors most desperate positional needs (point guard and big men).
SG-Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson
SF-Paul George, Danny Granger, Gerald Green
C-Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee
2013-2014 Payroll-$48 million
State of the roster-with the break out season Paul George has had, the Pacers suddenly have built an extremely talented and young roster with cap space. David West is a free agent this summer so they will have to spend some money to re-sign him or look to add another front court player (Carl Landry would fit well as a younger, similar option). The Pacers also will look to add depth to their front court or at point guard through the draft. There was a lot of backlash after the Pacers matched Hibbert’s contract offer from Portland where he is making in excess of $14 million annually, but they have been shrewd in every other move. They’ve locked up George Hill who’s been fantastic in the playoffs for $8 million per, and have budding young talent in Stephenson who the Pacers have to receive a ton of credit for sticking with through rough patches during his first few years. He’s found his stride and place on the team. It can’t be forgotten that this has all been done in the absence of Granger. Granger has 1 year left on his contract. If the Pacers choose to go another route, they could trade him (1 yr, $14 million remaining) to another team or bring him in as the 6th man next season.
State of the draft picks-the Pacers aren’t a team too adapt to trading so they own all of their picks plus a 2nd rounder in 2015. They’ll be picking 23rd in this years’ draft. Although it’s a ways back, they could still find a piece. Although this draft isn’t top heavy, it is extremely deep into the early 2nd round.
The Pacers will have around $10 million in cap space this summer, most of which will be to fill backup needs and their hole at the 4. They will need to sign George to what will likely result in a max salary this coming season, so much of their cap room will dissipate, but if they’re willing to go beyond the cap and pay some luxury tax, they will still have an opportunity to re-sign West, George and bring in at least one marquee free agent this summer.
Prior to the lottery, prior to anyone seeing an actual 3 on 3, 4 on 4 or 5 on 5 drill, prior to anything actually related to on the court play, analysts will measure every aspect of a prospect to nit pick at before we even know who’s picking in what order of the first 14 picks in the draft. And I am one of them.
We are always listening to ‘upside’ and ‘length’ and ‘coachability’ and any other adjective Jay Bilas and Chad Ford can spew at us, some of which are graded by a ruler, others are graded by ‘a guy who knows’ from within that specific players school. A combine measurement, an interview answer, a doctor’s opinion won’t necessarily swing a team solely based on those things, unless of course you’re a narcissistic a-hole like Royce White or unless you don’t have knees like DeJuan Blair, but they are all units of measurement that compile the sum of the parts and help us begin to pave a path for who teams will pick come draft night. I, as the junky I am, watched a bit of the combine. Watching the workouts is a bit mind-numbing at times unless you can really divulge yourself into what you’re watching. Body language, conversations, even positioning can drive a stock up or send it crashing through the floor. For example, Marcus Morris was thought to be the better prospect of the Morris twins out of Kansas during their draft combine, but Marcus’ utter refusal to workout with the 4’s and demanded to be labeled a small forward in the league hurt his stock so much, he ended up getting picked AFTER his brother. So here are my observations in bulletpoint form after one day of combine workouts.
-Ones who come up short-
Michael Carter Williams-MCW is known to be the 6’6” point guard who will be transcendent because of his size and court vision. In his measurements though, he listed at 6’5” in shoes. That’s about 6’3” in socks (but who cares, nobody plays in socks), and a rather pedestrian 6’7” wingspan. For a guy thought to be a defensive disrupter, I would have expected something greater. He also measured out with hands smaller than guys 5” shorter than him. Who would have thought hand measurement would really mean anything? Well, ask Kwame Brown.
Gorgui Dieng-Dieng is thought to be a pretty sure thing in the NBA as a high post passer, rebounder and defender on defense. You’d think his natural position will be the 5 since Ibaka is proving if you don’t have a whiff of an offensive game and don’t have to the ability to stretch the floor outside of 7 feet, you’re not going to be a successful 4. Not to say Ibaka isn’t successful, I just have my doubts of him. Dieng measured at barely over 6’10” in shoes. Look, 6’10” isn’t terrible, but you’re then forced to position him with somebody, nearly at all times, of equivalent or greater height unless you’re playing against small ball. Dieng did measure out extremely well in other pre-requisites though with a 7’3” wingspan, a 9’4” standing reach and huge hands, so all in all, he has the length to be successful as an NBA defensive center, but I think he came up about an inch shorter most would have liked.
Pierre Jackson-look, we all knew Jackson was small. You can see it on the court at Baylor, but you hoped maybe it was a trick your eyes was playing on you because teammate Isaiah Austin is like 7’5” and has arms that drag against the floor. He barely snuffed 5’9” without shoes, 5’10” in shoes, a wingspan exactly his height (5’10-not good for an NBA player since your wingspan is your height to a normal human) and the smallest hands in the draft. Luckily, Jackson doesn’t necessarily play with his size, but it will show that he’s definitely not a full time starter in the NBA, more like a change of pace guy and I’m not sure, in a class deep with talent at point guard, teams will jump at the bit knowing the best they’re getting out of him is a role player.
Ben McLemore-its hard to judge a guy who is a lock for the top 3 in the draft and you can’t knock him based on his success in college that is almost a surety to translate to the NBA, but McLemore came up alarmingly small. Barely 6’4” in shoes, 6’3” without them. His other numbers were about average for what you’d expect, nothing eye popping, nothing that causes concern, but I thought McLemore was AT LEAST 6’5” in shoes.
Cody Zeller-let me write this guy off now. I had major question marks about him before. Amazing that a few measurements will throw him off my radar entirely. Zeller stood at 7’ in shoes which is nice to see. He proclaimed he wanted to be a face up 4 in the NBA in interviews and if a team likes the thought of that and see him at 7’, they’d be remiss to think anything but positive about that. Now here’s the scary part…his wingspan is SHORTER than his height. His wingspan came in at 6’10” He had average hand size for the entire class of point guards at the combine. His standing reach was average for a wing player at the combine. These aren’t just small nuances about Zeller. It’s a legitimate concern at this point.
Bigger than life itself-
Rudy Gobert-this guy’s stock rose just by walking through the door at measurements. He stood 7’2” in shoes with a 7’9” wingspan and a 9’3” standing reach with a body fat percentage of 4.4-one of the lowest in measurements. Gobert, a French prospect, is only 19 years old has shot up draft boards and will participate in combine drills which is huge for him. It could mean boom or bust. If he shows any signs of NBA ability, he could go top 10, even top 8.
CJ Leslie-Leslie’s name has been tossed around as a guy working himself into the late 1st round in the mold of the scrappy, defensive forward (see: Draymond Green, Kenneth Faried). His measurements helped him in that regard. He stood nearly 6’9” in shoes which is fine for a ¾, but recorded a 7’2” wingspan and decent size hands. His length will be his greatest asset by being able to disrupt shots and play in the lanes. He also recorded the fastest lane agility and had a 41” vertical. He’s a physical specimen whom scouts are down on because of NC State’s poor play and his inability to lead them to great success. Leslie won’t record 20 points a game in the NBA, but could be a great defender, one who can take on any position.
Tim Hardaway Jr-none of his numbers stood out and made anybody go “wow!” but they were above average across the board. He stood over 6’6” in shoes (more than some may have expected), a 38” vertical, a fast lane agility and was showing off some major charisma and a smooth jumper. After McLemore and Oladipo, it’s a toss up for 3rd SG off the board. It will come down to scouts opinion, but Hardaway certainly helped himself. Its really between him, Caldwell-Pope, Rice Jr and Crabbe.
Every point guard in the class-every time one point guard stepped up and wow’d somebody, there was suddenly buzz about another. Shane Larkin was the fastest by far, and jumped a 44” VERTICAL! He helped himself by standing ALMOST 6’ in shoes. He’s on the small side, but not the 5’10” some were projecting. Isaiah Canaan was a buzz in 2 on 2 and 3 on 3, he looked really smooth with the ball in his hand. He and McCollum are bringing a lot of Lillard buzz. Much like the 3rd SG off the board, this point guard class is a toss-up. Burke will go 1st, McCollum is 95% lock to go second and after that, Carter-Williams, Larkin, Schroeder, Jackson, Canaan, and even Ray McCallum are in play in the 1st round.