Friday, June 23, 2006

NBA Team Needs--Atlantic Division

Unlike the NFL, there is not much time too relax and decompress for NBA organizations because the off-season festivities start immediately. Front offices are on high alert this time of year and the corresponding stress levels it produces is only rivaled by the trading deadline in February.

What I've tried to slap together here is a current analysis of team needs for this upcoming off-season. This year's draft lacks a clear consensus #1 pick and you could possibly shuffled the top 5-7 picks into a variety of permutations right now. This has, in turn, led to higher than usual rumors about teams trading their picks, so the next few days could change the outlook of some of these team needs going into the draft. But this unpredictability is what makes draft night so fun.

You will notice the two parentheses next to the team name. The first one will either have "MLE" or a dollar amount in it. This just states if the team has the Mid-Level Exception (which is roughly $5 mil this year) that is rewarded to every team that is over the salary cap. If a dollar amount is shown that means the team is under the salary cap. There are only a handful of teams under the salary cap (which has yet to be finalized, but should be around $50-52 million), they are as of right now: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Clippers, NO/OK, & Toronto; Utah might be slightly above the MLE, but that is not finalized at this point. The dollar amount is a rough estimation at this point, and can change to a degree for a myriad of technical things like cap holds, renounced rights, player options and the yet undetermined exact amount of this year's salary cap. The second parentheses just states the draft picks that each team presently owns.

BOSTON (MLE) (#7): PG; Post player
-- The biggest need the Celtics have is point guard. Delonte West has been a mild surprise in the backcourt, but he's really better suited as a combo guard to bring off the bench. At the #7 pick this year, guys like Marcus Williams of UConn, Rajon Rondo, and maybe even Jordan Farmar make sense at that spot. Williams could possibly be gone, but Rondo should still be there. Some people are mentioning Randy Foye at #7, but I don't feel this is a good fit as I feel that Foye is more of a two-guard. The free agent PG crop is pretty weak cause either the players available are too old (Cassell, Jackson) or not really the pure point that Boston needs (Terry, James). So if Boston wants a point they better do it in the draft or try to piece together a trade for a vet. If Aldridge or Tyrus Thomas drop to #7 (not out of the question), the Celtics' decision could become harder and they would be justified taking either guy instead of a point.

NEW JERSEY (MLE) (#22, #23, #54): PF; Back-up PG; Wing Shooters
-- The Nets' major need is easy: they need an athletic PF is the worse way. They don't even have a true PF on the roster; I don't expect Uncle Spliffy to come back and Jason Collins is a center playing out of position. They need an athletic 4 who can defend, rebound, & run the floor with Kidd. You know who does all that and should be there at the #22, #23 spots: Josh Boone. I know there are some questions about his desire, but I liked what I saw for 3 years, and I always said he reminds me of a young PJ Brown. On top of that, the MLE probably will not be enough to lure guys like Nene, Wilcox or Gooden away from their current teams. The next area the Nets need to address is a young point they can groom behind Kidd. Jacque Vaughn is a free agent and McInnis has a player option, so this position could be up in the air. The Nets also would not hurt themselves looking for someone who can provide some long-range shooting off the bench. The Nets were one the worst 3pt. shooting teams in the league. Someone like Matt Harpring could fit the bill in free agency.

NEW YORK (MLE) (#20, #29): ??????????; Role-players; SF
-- This mess just got a whole lot messier. To tell you the truth, I have no idea how to evaluate the current Knick situation cause I have no clue what guys are going to be shipped out or brought in. And I expect Isiah to make more changes this summer and they are probably going to turn out badly in the longview. Looking at their current roster, I guess the SF position seems to be the shakiest. The Knicks actually have pretty good raw talent at each position, it's just they have no concept of team basketball or much defense. Jalen Rose is in the last year of his deal, and Q Richardson has a balky back. They should get a role-playing SF who will pass the ball, play solid defense, and not need to touch the ball all that much. I know there were some rumors they were high on Jared Jeffries and he would be a perfect fit around all the ballhogs in NY. In the draft, guys like Bobby Jones of U of Wash. or Shawne Williams could be around in the 20s and make sense at the SF. They also are supposedly high on Boone for one of their picks in the 20s, and I think this would not be such a bad idea since they could use a back-up center since you can't count on Jerome James too much.

PHILADELPHIA (MLE) (#13): PG; PF; Post scoring
-- Philly could be another Atlantic Division team due for a major overhaul this summer. There seem to be more rumblings that Iverson could have finally worn out his welcome and be heading to maybe Atlanta or Denver. I am going to assume that AI & Webber will still be around, so the first need for the Philly roster should be a point guard or a combo guard who can allow AI to play off the ball some. Iverson showed some more willingness to improve his point skills the last couple years, but I think he's much more effective when he can just worry about scoring. At the #13, Philly should look for guys like Rondo, Farmar and if guys like Foye or Roy somehow drop here they have to be given serious consideration. Local product Mardy Collins could be a good fit next to AI cause of his size allowing AI to guard points. But #13 might be a little to high for Collins. The Sixers also need a back-up for Webber who hopefully will provide a little post scoring, because Shavlik Randolph was their main 4-spot back-up and he should not even be allowed in the NBDL. Cedric Simmons from NC State could possibly be the best fit at #13 to groom as a Webber understudy.

TORONTO ($12-14 mil) (#1, #35, #56): Anything but a PF
-- Besides maybe Chicago, there is no other team in a more enviable position this off-season than Toronto. They have the first pick in the draft and have around $14 million to play with this summer either to entice free agents or facilitate trades easier. All signs are pointing to them picking 7-footer Andrea Bargnani of Benetton Treviso from Italy with the # 1. New GM Bryan Colangelo has been scouting him for a couple years, he just hired Treviso's GM as his asst. GM, he came from the Euro-style Suns organization, and his wife is Italian to boot, so that has to mean something. Although, Bargnani projects out as a PF, which just happens to be the last thing the Raptors need with their two best players being natural 4s (Bosh & Villaneuva). Although, Bargnani has been compared to Dirk cause of his pension to float out and drill jumpers, so maybe he can be used as a SF on offense. The Raptors could be making a mistake considering that they could literally use an upgrade at every position besides the 4. Guys like Morrison, Gay, Roy or Foye seemed to be better fits to fill the Raptors need for somebody who can provide some dynamic scoring in the backcourt. Their point guard situation is up in the air as well because Mike James opted out of his contract and Jose Calderon is their only point on the roster, and he's probably better used as a back-up. The number one pick is definitely too high to take any of the major point prospects and the free agent crop is pretty limited, so maybe they will try the trade market to find their answer at point. Also, the free agent shooting guard crop is pretty weak with Bonzi Wells being the lone stud, but I doubt Bonzi's too jazzed about playing in the Great White North, so maybe the Raptors do need to draft a guard.


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