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.