Saturday, June 24, 2006

NBA Team Needs--Central Division

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.

CHICAGO ($15-18 mil) (#2, #16): Low post scoring; SG with size
-- Talk about a team sitting pretty going into this off-season. All the other teams with this amount of cap room and favorable draft picks have these things for a reason...they are not very good. But the Bulls are team who arguably played the current World Champs as tough as anyone in the playoffs and are in a good drafting slot thanks to that wily GM, Isiah Thomas. The Bulls have a great young core to build around but its a little too concentrated on the perimeter. Their biggest chore this summer is to find some sort help for Chandler on the frontline. Chandler can bring the defense & boards, but he's severely lacking offensive skills and Sweetney is better suited for the bench, so a guy 6-9 or bigger who can provide post scoring is the answer. There is a lot talk that Tyrus Thomas is their man at #2; I don't like this idea. Thomas right now is basically a smaller version of Chandler and has shown very little in the way of refined offensive skills. On top of that, he might have to play the SF in the pros cause of his small frame--he has the exact same specs as Rudy Gay, even a little lighter than Gay. To me, Aldridge is a no-brainer if he's not taken at #1. He shown some nice scoring skills this year and a nice touch on his turnaround jumper. Granted, I know there is some questions about his desire, but I think Thomas has question marks about if he will ever improve his skill set and what position he's going to play. If Aldridge goes at #1, maybe the Bulls could look at Brandon Roy to give them a defensive 2-guard and then try to use their free agent money to go after a scoring big like Gooden or Wilcox. As you can see, Chicago has a variety of ways to go about their business this summer.

CLEVELAND (MLE) (#25, #42, #55): PG; Back-up center; Shooters
-- For a team that overachieved in the Conf. Semis, there are not too many glaring holes to fill; they should concentrate on letting their young talent develop organically. But if there is one place they can look to upgrade, its their point. They really do not need a classic pure point, they need a point who can flat-out shoot and defend decently. Eric Snow does a commendable job doing the little things & bringing defense, but he's a major liability in the shooting department. On the other hand, Damon Jones can stroke it, but brings absolutely nothing else to the table besides his reserved personality and understated sense of style. Now if you could somehow combine those two guys, you would have the perfect point for the Cavs. There was some speculation that Jordan Farmar or Kyle Lowry (Villanova) would make sense at the #25 spot. But I never really liked that thought process because neither guy is a very good shooter and that's what you need next to Lebron. The Cavs don't really have to worry about their point being a great playmaker or distributor, because Lebron's there and he becomes their defacto point guard in 4th quarters anyway. I do like the current rumor of a promise to Daniel Gibson at #25 though. He's more of a combo guard, but he can shoot, and does not have to handle the ball as much with Bron & Hughes capable of doing the brunt of it. Now can he defend well enough? Will have to see, but I still think he's a much better fit than Lowry or Farmar. Also, the Cavs could use a back-up for their frontline who can play both the 4/5 to protect them if they lose Gooden in free agency. (Drew is restricted, so the Cavs have the ability to match any offer another team gives him)

DETROIT (MLE) (#60): Back-up PG; Back-up Post player; Slasher
-- Well, for a team that could do no wrong during the regular season, some rust spots started to be exposed in the playoffs for the team from Motown. Basically, the Pistons are going to have to do their damage in free agency or trades since they only have one pick in the draft, and its the last one. The biggest question facing the Pistons this summer, is what to do with Big Ben. Ben's future was a foregone conclusion about 6 weeks ago, all that had to be to be done was the official signing of the contract. But after the rough outing in the Cavs series, then the Heat series that magnified Ben's liability to his team on the offensive end, Dumars & Co. possibly became a little reticent about the idea of re-signing 32-year old Ben to a six-year, hefty deal. And things became muddier for both sides when Ben hired an agent a couple weeks ago after not saying he needed one most of the season. Teams like Atlanta, NO/OK, Toronto all have the money & need to lure Ben away. The question is--does Ben just take the money to play for a rebuilding squad? I doubt it. My gut feeling is that Dumars & Ben work something out. But just in case and even if Ben does come back, they could use a back-up big. It would be probably nice if they could get their hands on a young big with all their current post players, besides Maxiell, being 30 years or older, but I am not sure anyone of substance will be around #60. Maybe they need to look at a guy like Reggie Evans in free agency or maybe they could just resign Cato. Another area that needs to be addressed is a back-up for Billups. Delk & Hunter are free agents. As mentioned before the free agent PG crop ain't special if you're looking for a starter, but if you just need a veteran back-up like Detroit, guys like Speedy Claxton or Bobby Jackson could work in a pinch. Another thing the Pistons have to consider adding is someone who can provide some dribble drives. This is one thing that is lacking from the Piston offense, and with the new rules favoring slashers, Pistons don't want to be left behind. If they could find a combo guard who can penetrate they could kill two birds with one stone--former Piston Mike James is one of the better combo guards on the market, but he might have priced himself above the MLE by his play this season. Flip Murray could be a more reasonable target.

INDIANA (MLE) (#17): Center; Wing; PG
-- There seems to be a lot of doom-n-gloom around this team, and I just don't get. If O'Neal & Tinsley are healthy, not to mention Foster, and they make the trade for Peja earlier in the season, this team is a legit title contender. There is a lot of talented pieces still on this roster and an extremely underrated coach to guide the roster. This talk of O'Neal being moved need to be squelched, unless he's being moved for another superstar in return like maybe Garnett. The Pacers' first priority is to make a decision on Peja. He is near the top of the list of this year's FA class and he could fetch a contract close to the $10 mil mark. Toronto, NO/OK, Charlotte could all be in the hunt for Peja. But if the Raptors take Bargnani it should take them out of the running, so does Peja really want to play in a rebuilding situation. The Hornets maybe, the Bobcats not so sure. This possible lack of competition could help the Pacers keep the pricetag reasonable. The other free agent quandary has to do with restricted-FA Fred Jones. Jones really emerged this past season as a viable scoring option off-the-bench and has shown an improved outside shot. With the fans and seemingly the rest of the team irritated by Steve Jackson's mercurial ways, Jones could be the answer to step right in if Jackson is dealt. You can see why the Pacers might need to grab a wing player in the draft just in case Peja & Jones bolt, because Indiana would be left with only Granger & Jackson to cover the wing spots. The Pacers could maybe look to go after a center who can shoot from 15ft. to help draw defenders off O'Neal. Although, I don't see too many guys who fit that description in the draft or free agency. If guys like Pat O'Bryant (Bradley), Hilton Armstrong, or Saer Sene (Belgium) are available at 17, Bird has to give them heavy consideration. There also seems to be some consensus that the Pacers need to look PG at #17, but I'm not so sure. Tinsley is pretty good when he's healthy, but the catch is--when he's healthy. Right now the Pacers have three PGs on the roster making a combined $13 million, so maybe bringing another point is not the a crushin need with servicable guys like Anthony Johnson & Sarunas still around. At # 17, it might be in the best interest for the Pacers just to take the best player available as opposed to worrying about the filling an exact need.

MILWAUKEE (MLE) (#39): PF; Back-up wing
-- Milwaukee is similar to the Nets in their primary need for an athletic PF to pair with Bogut. Magloire & Bogut started on the frontline this year, but this is not a long-term solution because of Magloire is going into the last year of his deal and he does not seem to interested in re-signing cause he understands Bogut's future is better suited for the 5-spot. Magloire is the hot topic of trade talk and the Bucks hopefully could exchange him for that coveted PF they need. They have Joe Smith as their only true PF on the roster, but he's better suited as a back-up at this stage and he's also entering the last year of his deal. The Bucks could use some auxiliary talent behind Redd & Simmons on the wings. With Kukoc a free agent, the Bucks really have no depth at the SF and are forced to use Mo Williams at the 2-guard more than they like cause they don't have any viable true SGs behind Redd. So if they could find a guy 6-6 to 6-8 who can bring a little defense off the bench that would help. At the #39 pick, players like Bobby Jones (Wash.), Hassan Adams (Arizona), James White (Cincy) could be around and make sense. The only guys on the FA market that make sense for the MLE or less, are Devean George or Deshawn Stevenson, maybe Harpring.