Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Things to Watch for this upcoming NBA offseason

With the NBA Finals starting on Thursday and the NBA Offseason just around the corner, I thought I would share my thoughts on what could happen this 2014 NBA Offseason.  For those who are unfamiliar, the offseason in the NBA begins with their annual Player Draft followed about a week or so later by the opening of Free Agency.  All my scenarios are based of information I have gathered from media reports and personal sources over the last few weeks.

1. Miami Heat Trade Chris Bosh, their 2014 first round pick (26th overall) & 2016 first round pick to Los Angeles Lakers for their 2014 first round pick (7th overall); Miami Heat draft Julius Randle.
Whether or not the Miami Heat win this year’s NBA Finals, they cannot sustain their winning ways with an aging and expensive roster. The Greg Oden “experient” was a bust; Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem are not getting any younger; Shane Battier is expected to retire after this season; and of course LeBron James could opt out of his deal. Either way, there are more questions than answers in the Heat’s future. Pat Riley has to make a move to change this team so they can continue winning. While everyone says Chris Bosh is part of the “Big Three” the reality is he is the third wheel to James and Dwayne Wade. Bosh looks disinterested at times and disappears during games.

 Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers need to replace Pau Gasol, since the expectation is Gasol will leave via free agency. The Lakers have the cap room to easily absorb Bosh’s contract and many project that University of Kentucky superstar Forward Julius Randle will be available at the 7th overall pick. Randle is better defender and rebounder compared to Bosh, two elements the Heat really need.

 By making this deal both franchises show their star players (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) that they are serious about making the team better while also allowing for flexibility. Trading Bosh and drafting Randle opens up cap space down in Miami to upgrade the roster and still building for the future. On the flip side, the Lakers show Bryant that they want to win now and not make their aging superstar suffer through a rebuilding project.

2. Philadelphia 76ers trade their two 2014 first round picks (3rd and 10th overall) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014 number one overall pick; 76ers draft Andrew Wiggins
Currenty the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the number one overall pick but they do not have a specific direction to go in. They could draft the top big man prospect University of Kansas Center Joel Embid who has been compared to everyone from Tim Duncan to Hakeem Olajuwon. They could select the top perimeter player in this year’s draft, University of Kansas wing scorer Andrew Wiggins. But what the Cavaliers really need is an infusion of talent. Last year’s number one overall pick Anthony Bennett has been a disappointment thus far and aside from All-Star Kyrie Irving and Prospect Tristan Thompson, the Cavs depth of talent is thin compared to other teams.

 Meanwhile, the 76ers have talent but do not have a great player to play along side their Rookie star Michael Carter-Williams. Wiggins has a very high ceiling and is already a guy who has great ability to finish on offense while playing above average defense in comparison to most of the NBA.

 Wiggins would be a good fit for the 76ers and the deal would also give the Cavaliers the opportunity to stock up on talent in a deep draft class.  Of course, there is word circulating that the Knicks want most, if not all, of the 76ers five 2nd round draft picks and want to make a deal, so that would be an interesting twist as well.

3. Indiana Pacers trade Roy Hibbert to the New York Knicks in exchange for Tyson Chandler; Lance Stephenson joins the Chicago Bulls via Free Agency; Indiana Pacers sign Darren Collison via free agency.
 The Pacers looked stale and lost offensively at times during the 2014 NBA playoffs. The reality is setting in for the Pacers that Hibbert is not worth the money they paid him, Paul George is more like Scottie Pippen than Dwayne Wade, and George Hill is not the same player he was when he was playing for the San Antonio Spurs.

 Change needs to happen and it needs to be direct and purposeful. Hibbert and Chandler are both Centers in need of a fresh start and both are being paid about the same. The swap between the Knicks and Pacers would allow the Knicks a younger starting center who probably is in need of some Phil Jackson Zen-ology. Chandler could be the defensive force in the paint the Pacers need while also having a contract that is coming off the books soon so they are not “stuck” with him for the extended future if things do not work out.

 It appears Lance Stephenson is no longer wanted in Indiana despite he young age and exponential growth as an impact player on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Stephenson needs to go to a team with solid veteran leadership and a defensive minded head coach. The best fit would be the Chicago Bulls with defensive savant Head Coach Tom Thibideau being able to reign in Stephenson’s bizarre behavior while also allowing him to grow as a player. Although I would not be surprised to see Stephenson end up on the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, or even the Miami Heat (remember how Ray Allen was a thorn in the side when he played for the Celtics?).

 The Pacers also need a more efficient players on the offensive side of the ball. George Hill has been underwhelming since joining the Pacers. Darren Collison has been an underrated talent in the NBA for years. Collison is a better overall point guard than Hill and would open the opportunity for Hill to come off the bench (a place where he excelled in the past); Collison would also be an offensive upgrade at the position.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves trade Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to the Chicago Bulls for Carlos Boozer, Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer
 The “word on the street” is that Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota. The All-Star Forward wants to play for “a winner”. No one can blame the guy, especially since the best player in the Timberwolves franchise history (Kevin Garnett) could never get the team very far in the playoffs.

 If the Timberwolves follow through with trading their best player, they will want good compensation for him. Teams like the Lakers and Nets would like to have Love but they don’t have the trade pieces that could appease Minnesota. The Mavericks and Knicks do not have the flexibility under their salary cap for him. The Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers and Warriors could be destinations but how many people are really sure that those teams would part with any of their current starters to acquire Love?

 This is where the Bulls come into the picture. Boozer is not the player he once was and his contract is not worth what he gives the Bulls each night. Meanwhile, Snell and Brewer are young, talented, and have enough potential to be valuable via trade. In order to balance out the money, the Timberwolves could throw in veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin and the Bulls would be fine with that since they thin at the shooting guard position.

 The best part of this deal for Love is that he would not be expected to do everything for his team. Joakim Noah is already a low post defensive and rebounding machine and the Bulls have a good number of three point shooters. All of this would allow Love to operate on both sides of the ball more freely. Also, Love’s skill set would be a good complement to both Noah and Derrick Rose (whenever he is able to return from his latest knee surgery).

5. Carmelo Anthony signs this offseason with the Chicago Bulls…or Indiana Pacers…or the Los Angeles Lakers…or re-signs with the New York Knicks?
 Carmelo Anthony is the big name free agent this coming offseason. While the New York Knicks will do everything they can (within reason, or atleast Phil Jackson’s version of reason) to keep him in town, the reality is that Anthony has options. Anthony has said on numerous occasions he wants “to win”, he has to question how long it will be until the Knicks are major contenders again.

 Anthony and the Chicago Bulls could be a good fit. The Bulls need a high level scorer who can create his own offense and take away double teams from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. If the Bulls acquire Kevin Love, a starting lineup with Noah, Love, Anthony, and Rose would be one of the top teams in the NBA. But even if the Bulls bring in either Love or Anthony, both players would be upgrades for a team that at times struggles to put together consistent offense.

 My “dark horse” team to watch out for in the Carmelo Anthony Free Agency Sweepstakes is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers need to shake up the roster and if they can free up cap space Anthony could team up with Paul George to create one of the top five one-two punches offensively in the NBA. Anthony would give Indiana the type of player they desperately: a player who is always a concern for the other team’s defense. Even in games where Anthony has a poor game for three quarters, he is always capable of getting hot in crunch time. Imagine the Pacers-Heat series if Anthony was in the starting lineup instead of Lance Stephenson?

 Of course, the Lakers are always out there as an option. They can offer Anthony a maximum contract while also giving him the allure of being a star on the NBA’s most star driven franchise and become the “heir apparent” to Kobe Bryant. Bryant and Anthony has talked privately and publicly about the idea of playing together, although I am unsure how that would work since both players want the offense to run through them. There was have to be an active choice by both superstars to work together to win a championship. But I am unsure if Kobe is willing to not be the guy when he signed that massive contract extension recently.

 In the end, the New York Knicks are still a major option. Anthony makes his home in the New York Metro region and went to college at University of Syracuse. Even if he never plays in the NBA Finals, if he can be an All-Star caliber player for another five years Knick fans will adore him and treat him like one of the greats. Only time will tell if Phil Jackson can fix the mess that is the New York Knicks roster. Anthony would have to take less money than he would get from Indiana, Chicago, or LA Lakers in order to stay in NYC while allowing the team to re-tool.

 Where ever Anthony lands while shift the balance of power one way or the other in the NBA. Staying in New York allows the Knicks to always be in the conversation. Going to the Bulls or Pacers would make those teams the major competition to the Lebron James led Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. Landing in Los Angeles would allow the Lakers to become playoff contenders and give Anthony a chance at building his “legacy”.

Of course, all of this is conjecture, especially if the Dallas Mavericks clear up cap space and offer Anthony a max contract…but I digress.

No comments: