Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Team Needs (Southwest Division)

(Check here for Atlantic Div. Needs)
(Check here for Central Div. Needs)
(Check here for Southeast Div. Needs)

Arguably the toughest division in the NBA with 3 teams who have a legit shot at bringing home the O'Brien Trophy. The 3rd place team, Houston, could have very likely won the East title if they switched conferences. The Spurs & Mavs still should be serious contenders for the West title, and the Rockets are very dangerous, especially if they can find an adequate starter at PF. Also, if New Orleans can stay healthy next year, they could be the sleeper team out West, possibly securing a 4th playoff spot for the Southwest. Memphis has a lot work to do if they want to contend for a bottom playoff spot, but they do have one advantage over every other Western team: Memphis is the only West team with some significant cap space.

*--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 awarded 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 $53-55 million). 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.

DALLAS--(MLE) (#34, #50, #60): Low-post scorer; Bench scoring
Draft Targets: G. Davis; A. Gray; Visser; Fazekas

Well something we pointed to in in last year's Team Needs) & in this year's Mid-Season Team Needs post really came back to haunt the Mavs this year. They never could take advantage of the Warriors' weak interior defense because they played right into Nellie's hands by sticking with their jumpshot-centric mentality. Overall, don't think they need to overreact, and I don't think Cuban will; it was just a fluky, once in a lifetime series. Remember, the Mavs still won 67 games and are still equipped to challenge for a title, but do have to make some adjustments going into 07/08. Definitely need to find a back-up behind Dirk, and they could target someone who can give Dallas the much needed post scoring they lack. The problem right now is Dallas' first pick comes at #34, where they might not be able to find someone who can contribute right away. LSU's Glen Davis might be the best option at that spot to provide low-block scoring, though his ability to get off shots in the pros is in question with his undersized height & lack of hops. If they can't retain Stack they will need to find someone who can provide scoring punch off the bench. Might think about trying to choose between Diop & Damp since neither guy provides much offensively.

HOUSTON--(MLE) (#26): PF; Back-up 5
Draft Targets: Fazekas; McRoberts; S. Williams; G. Davis

They have to fill their massive hole at the 4 spot, which was really exposed in the Utah series, where they had no antidote for Boozer. And they should look for a 4 that is athletic since their frontline is severely lacking. They also have to establish a 3rd scoring option, but may have partly answered that issue with Bonzi recently saying he's willing to stick around. Also, alongside acquiring a starting caliber 4, they need to consider picking up a back-up center since Dikembe won't be around much longer. It seems that Rockets are interested in Fazekas at #26, and though he is a 4/5, he ain't very athletic & probably not starting caliber. But he does shoot the ball extremely well, and could help spread the floor for Yao & TMac. Also, Nick can function well at the high post, which could be important with Adelman at the helm. All I know is, if you bring in Fazekas, you better go after an athletic 4/5 in free agency like Mikki Moore or someone who can defend 4s. Not a huge fan of McRoberts, but if he's still around at #26, he could be a good fit with his athleticism & his ability to play the high post--Josh's passing & ball-handling could come in handy if Adelman brings the Princeton-flavored offense from Sacto to Houston.

MEMPHIS--($8mil-$10) (#4): PG; Post player
Draft Targets: Horford; Conley; Noah

Think their draft pick should be easy to choose: if Horford is gone, it's either Conley or Noah. Really could use a starting caliber PG, Damon is better suited as a back-up at this point in his career, while Lowry is just a change-o-pace point off the bench. Also, need help on their frontline, someone who can specialize in defense & rebounding. The Grizzlies were a terrible defensive unit this year & their rebounding was not too special either--this is why Noah makes a ton of sense. Memphis is the only team in the West who has cap space to chase major free agents, the issue is will they use it since the organization is financially struggling & have an uncertain future in the city of Memphis. If they go with Conley at #4, look for the Grizz to set their free agent sights on bigs like Varejao, McDyess (if he opts out), Darko, & possibly Magloire (a guy they've flirted with in the past). If they go with a big at #4, I would imagine they will make overtures toward Billups, but they will probably not have enough money to make a serious run & will turn their attention toward Mo Williams.

NEW ORLEANS--(MLE) (#13, #43): SG; Back-up PG
Draft Targets: N. Young; T. Young; Stuckey; R. Fernandez; Belinelli

Pretty amazing that this team was able to finish 39-43 with the multitude of injuries scattered thru-out the roster. To think Paul missed 18 games, D. West missed 30, Peja missed 70, and the Hornets still were fighting for a playoff berth until the last 2 weeks of the season. We felt for a long time Byron Scott does not get the credit he deserves, and after doing a Coach-o-Year caliber last year, he did another tremendous job this year. The Hornets' summer duties are quite clear-cut: find a shooting guard. Think Nick Young is the best pure 2-guard in the draft & he could still be around at #13, and it's a no-brainer for the Hornets to take him if he is. If he's gone Thaddeus Young might be their best bet, and there are rumors the Hornets are high on him because he has ties to the city. Actually think Rudy Fernandez has the talent to be picked at #13--it's just that he is a somewhat risky pick because of uncertainty with his contract situation in Europe. Don't think it would be a reach to consider Italian Marco Belinelli or East Wash.'s R. Stuckey at #13, if Nick Young is not around.

SAN ANTONIO--(MLE) (#28, #33, # 58): Wings; Back-up PG
Draft Targets: Almond; Belinelli; Fernandez; Pruitt

The Champs look to be in the hunt again next year with their Big 3 intact, but Buford & Pop do have some work ahead to shore up the auxilliary help around the Big 3. First off, the Spurs have to get younger on the wings: all of their rotation wings are 30 & above, not to mention 3 guys over 34. They have had great success with foreign players in the past, so I'm sure Belinelli & R. Fernandez are on their radar at #28. It looks like Pop has lost all confidence in Udrih, and Vaughn is an unrestricted FA, so the back-up PG role will need to be addressed this summer. If they look to answer this need in the draft, the points that should be available in the late 1st/early 2nd where the Spurs have 2 picks are guys like G. Pruitt, Koponen, T. Green, & R. Sessions. After they fill these voids, they could always look to add some more frontcourt help, especially since Oberto has decided to opt out. If they don't re-sign Oberto to a reasonable deal, they could turn their attention to free agents like Mikki Moore, C. Mihm, & Magloire.