Making Sense of the Phoenix Suns.

I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.

Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.

Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.

Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.

Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.

The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.

Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins). Continue reading

Game of Dominoes: NBA Free Agency

Let’s cut the flabber and get right to it. Steve Nash is heading to the Lakers in one of the more shocking moves of the offseason. The 38-year-old was shipped to LA in a sign-and-trade for two future first rounders and two future second rounders. The initial reaction isn’t a huge one. With Nash joining a proven playoff team, the picks figure to be at the end of their respective rounds. The thing is, though, that this was probably the best thing Phoenix was going to get. It surely beats letting him walk for nothing, and trumps out whatever sign-and-trade options Toronto, Dallas or New York would have offered.

It’s also somewhat genius for LA. Financial fodder aside, the Lakers got a top-tier player for relatively nothing. Los Angeles has a tendency to move their late first rounders for useful players in years past, so moving them for Nash isn’t surprising. Not to mention Steve Nash is much more than a useful player. No, the Lake Show didn’t get to unload Metta World Peace’s contract in the move, or any contract for that matter, but the Suns probably wouldn’t take it, or want it.

On the flip side of this, Phoenix seems to be throwing their new-found cap space at young, offensively-talented players. They have supposedly signed former Sun and Nash understudy, Goran Dragic, to a four-year deal and have also agreed to terms with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley on a multi-year pact. The third potential attacking prong is that of Eric Gordon. The Suns have signed him to a large offer sheet, and New Orleans could be hesitant to match given the fact that they are rebuilding and don’t want to tie down too much of their future money to one player, even one of Gordon’s talent. The Suns seem to be in less disarray than people would think after losing their face-of-the-franchise. A core of Dragic, Beasley, Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris and potentially Gordon is pretty desirable, especially for a team that wants to score in drones like Phoenix does.

With Nash now out of the picture, Dallas has lost on one of their point guard options, scratch that, one of their options period. Lamar Odom is gone and the return is simply a trade exception. That we knew was probably coming, but what’s more is that the Mavs find themselves having gone down swinging on Nash, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Derron Williams. Yikes. What Mark Cuban and friends do next is beyond me.

Speaking of Williams, he’s staying a Net. One reason for that is the acquisition of one Joe Johnson. Johnson will join Williams along with recently signed Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn at the expense of Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson (likely a sign-and-trade) as well as forwards Jordan Williams, Johan Petro and a draft pick. This move looks terrible for Atlanta when news trickles in that Jordan Farmar is likely being bought out. That likely leaves the Hawks with some three pointers by Morrow and some defensive stops from Stevenson. Not exactly what you envision when you trade a six-time All Star. But here is why it’s so wonderfully brilliant. All the contracts the Hawks received in return only run through next season. That’s right, all expiring contracts. Even more surprising is the fact that Danny Ferry also shed Marvin Williams oddly long contract by way of Utah, dealing another former number two overall pick to the Jazz for Devin Harris. Who, in sticking to theme, also has an expiring contract after this season.  So add that all up and the Hawks have thrown themselves into the much finagled running for Dwight Howard and All-Star Point Guard X, who might or might not end up being Chris Paul.

In other New York news, Jeremy Lin might be done playing for the Knicks. It’s reported that Jason Kidd has verbally, or whatever the official term is, reached an agreement with the Knicks. Because of the new CBA among other things, the Knicks do technically have the ability to match any offer that is made to Lin, but it could be costly as reports suggest that Houston is discussing an offer sheet in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars. Talk about “overnight” success.

Houston meanwhile is putting a lot of their eggs in that “Lin” basket. The team moved Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick that takes a lawyer to decipher when Houston could actually get the pick. That and Goran Dragic’s aforementioned presumable departure leaves the point wide open for Kevin McHale’s club. It would be a bit funny if Lin stays in New York and the Rockets go after and sign Aaron Brooks. Brooks was traded to Phoenix for Dragic, and should he sign with Houston… well you get the point.

With no transition at all here, no really, none at all, the Clippers are getting better. In terms of success, the newer Los Angeles team strengthened a solid backcourt to the point of using the word ridiculous. Randy Foye and Nick Young are likely out the door, but in their place return the now-healthy Mr. Big Shot as well as Jamal Crawford. They join Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe in a backcourt that now has four starting caliber guards. This move also merits the acquisition of Lamar Odom at the cost of Mo Williams. If you’re playing along at home, that’s a starting five of Chris Paul, Billups or Crawford at the two, Odom at the three (if not off the bench), Blake Griffin at power forward and DeAndre Jordan down low. Yikes.

In a slight towards the Oklahoma Raiders, what a crap deal to trade away Eric Bledsoe’s draft rights for a future first round pick, they could have definitely used him in the playoffs. Actually, good for Bledsoe: the Raiders don’t get a good player and Bledsoe doesn’t have to play for a terrible owner. Win-win.

In guards-who-can-score-at-all-times news, Jason Terry is going to Boston. Or he has “supposedly” agreed to a contract with the Celtics. Terry will get the full mid-level exception for three years and upwards of 15 million dollars. Jason Kidd supposedly signed with the Knicks because they had better pieces, and you can see why. Dirk’s supporting cast has shrunk to Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Yikes.

And throughout all this, the name “Dwight Howard” seems to be flying under the radar. FOR ONCE. The constant-topical center has supposedly (if I only had a million dollars for every time I said that, I’d be a multi-millionaire! Grins cheesily and gives Borat-esque thumbs up) asked to be moved to New Jersey Brooklyn. Good luck Dwight. After Joe Johnson and his contract (which, by the way, is so big that he had to check it on the flight up to Brooklyn) were acquired, and along with the long-term buildup of Gerald Wallace’s shiny new deal, there isn’t a whole lot of cap room left for you. The Nets do have Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, who all together almost add up to Howard’s salary. However, I’m not so sure that the Magic should make that move.

 Let the financial finagling continue.

The Dallas Mavericks and Their Cap Space

The Mavericks would like to continue to build around Dirk Nowitzki. They would also like to add Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and basically be the Anti-Heat from a style of play perspective.

What the Mavericks do with their cap space remains to be seen. Dwight Howard is likely to play in Orlando for at least the first half of next year while Deron Williams becomes the singular big name on the market.

Dallas could make a Miami-like splash with a superstar player or a Net-like splash that brings in guys like Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw on bloated contracts.

If Mark Cuban and friends want to get the big name free agent this summer (Williams), they need to do a few things. One is to trade Shawn Marion. Marion had a nice year in the Big D and played some lock-down defense. In any other situation the Mavericks would keep him, but with the possibility of pairing the aforementioned superstars with Dirk, he probably has to go.

The Mavs will also likely have to amnesty Brendan Haywood. Haywood wasn’t exactly Tyson Chandler this year, but he was a solid replacement and better than a lot of options. Like Marion, he would probably come back, but he is one of the biggest contractual albatrosses around. He probably has to go.

Vince Carter’s contract isn’t guaranteed next season or the year after, meaning he is also likely to go if the need for money persists. Lamar Odom is also likely out of the picture.

Brandon Wright, Dominquie Jones, Kelena Azubuike and Rodrigue Beaubois represent the only other multi-year contracts on the books. However, all four are young and cheap enough to be moved easily.

Jason’s Kidd and Terry as well as Brian Cardinal, Yi Jianlian, Ian Mahinmi and Delonte West could all land elsewhere next season as the Mavericks roster could be turned upside down.

Now that you’ve digested all of that, here’s what the Mavericks should do to achieve the goal of getting Deron Williams.

  1. Amnesty Brendan Haywood. Sorry, had to be done.
  2. Continually kick themselves for not resigning Tyson Chandler. That’s assuming they have no shot at trading for Dwight Howard (which they don’t) or signing him next offseason (looking iffier by the day).
  3. Trade Shawn Marion, Jones and Beaubois to Golden State for the Warriors first-round pick. This is assuming that Golden State doesn’t land a small forward like Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the draft. Jones and Beaubois could both use the change of scenery.  Jones could play the 3 in a smaller GS lineup, and Beaubois provides the Warriors with a little bit of insurance should Stephen Curry’s ankles give out (no really, at this point it wouldn’t be a total shocker.) Dallas meanwhile gets a top ten pick to go along with the potential of Williams and Dirk.
  4. Cut Vince Carter. I thought briefly about the idea of Marion being dealt to the Warriors for Richard Jefferson, the Mavs resigning Kidd and keeping Carter, but then again that would have been exciting maybe six years ago. Not now.
  5. Trade Azubuike for a second-round pick next year and the year after. Boring, I know. But the Mavs could use some picks, and they did deal Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer for a second-round pick in 2014, so maybe this isn’t so bad.
  6. Resign Jason Terry to a deal that’s as cap friendly as possible. The Jet landing somewhere besides Dallas? Give me a break.
  7. Convince Oklahoma City that Brandon Wright is a cheaper Serge Ibalka and swap the two. This would be phenomenal, but only from a standpoint of seeing Clay Bennett falter, and gasp, take scrutiny in OKC. In which case Stern would probably legally force Kobe and/or LeBron to play in OKC for pocket change. It’s not entirely impossible, but seeing as Stern did some questionable things moving the team there, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
  8. Sign Deron Williams. This is the big one. If the Nets were smart they’d keep Williams. If they can’t however and he signs in Dallas, the Nets should sap whatever they can out of the Mavericks in a sign and trade. Then maybe that pick from Golden State could come in handy…

The Mavericks might do some of these things, and they might not. (Side note, the OKC thing isn’t happening, I just like taking shots at Stern because I’m still irked, putting it nicely there, about what he did to the Sonics.) But all in all Dallas definitely could use some more cap room to go out and get a big name free agent.

Trade Rajon Rondo?

Rajon Rondo has evolved from a spare part to key cog in Boston. Rajon Rondo might also be the key to any success the Celtics wish to have in the future.

The question now shifts to, “Do you trade Rondo or keep Rondo and Build around him?”

This branches off into multiple questions. One being, “If they do trade Rondo, what would they get back?”

And another being, “Should we trade the Big 3 for younger pieces to build around Rondo?”

If the Celtics do in fact choose to trade Rondo, then the return has to be substantial, if not an offer that blows them out of the water. The Celtics need a torch bearer, a star or center piece to lead them into the next phase of Celtics basketball. Rondo could be that player, and currently is that player at the present time. If he is traded, then the return has to be a player almost exactly like him. Not so much in a playing sense, but one who can be the center of a team, but also one who is young.

Because if the Celtics do trade Rondo for lesser pieces, so to speak, then they will be left with those supporting players in three to five years and will be nowhere near the level they were a couple years ago.

It’s a long road back to a championship level. The Pistons are on that long road, the Lakers where making that trek before some guy named Gasol showed up.

But probably the one constant is that it’s hard to blow everything up and compete at the same level the next season. If the Celtics are going to move Rondo it needs to be a player on the same level as Rondo coming back. The problem with that is that players of the stature in the league are entrenched in playoff runs. These would be guys like Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. There isn’t a chance any of those teams makes those moves with the exception of maybe Orlando with Howard, but then the reoccurring question comes up for Orlando, can you build around Rondo? (This is assuming Rondo goes to Orlando in a Howard deal.)

The answer is … to be determined. If the Celtics jettison their vets for youth and keep Rondo, then we will see if you can build around him.

If the Celtics chose to build around their young point guard they need to, as stated, move their vets.

I’ve run through some potential situations and it makes the most sense to move KG and Ray Allen. Paul Pierce’s contract is probably one that the Celtics wouldn’t mind paying at a reduced rate, but Pierce retiring wearing another team’s jersey? Come on. Allen, Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal lead a horde of expiring contracts that dot the roster. The C’s will have a lot of cap room in the offseason. What they might choose to do with it is their decision. On the flipside, the expiring deals could be a draw for contenders and cellar dwellers alike to clear money. O’Neal’s contract is particularly interesting seeing as it is upwards of six million. Meaning the Celtics could move it for a sizable return and not be limited by the restrictions of a high-ish dollar value returning. Names like Michael Beasley, Tyrus Thomas and JJ Hickson are all potential targets for Boston. All three are young and have upside, and wouldn’t be a bad paring with Rondo.

Another thing that the Celtics should consider is Jeff Green, who they retain the rights to seeing as he is missing the year due to injury. Green paired with Rondo down the road suddenly doesn’t seem as bad as just Rondo. Still it’s nowhere near an elite nucleus the Celtics would like. Now if they get Thomas and pair him with Green, Rondo and maybe Avery Bradley, then maybe you get somewhere, but to be clear, Boston needs to make something happen.

One last name to consider is Josh Smith of the Hawks. His salary certainly isn’t obnoxious given his play, but it isn’t necessarily a bargain either. I’m not completely sure that Atlanta would move him to Boston for Ray Allen just to clear cap space.

Kevin Garnett could help a lot of squads. Squads who feel they are on the cusp of being legitimate contenders. Squads who feel they are that one veteran guy away from doing big things. If team X is out there, then they better have some monetary assets to move because KG makes north of 21 million this year. It’s not going to be a straight up swap to get him, and it might allow Boston to do something like this-

Boston offers KG to Dallas for Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. Then makes Dallas throw in Dominique Jones and Rodrique Beabois, because the Celtics are taking Marion’s contract off of Boston’s hands, hence allowing Dallas to pursue the inevitable Deron Williams and Dwight Howard paring in free agency.

All of a sudden you have a team of Rondo, Pierce, Marion, Green, Beabois, Bradley, Brandon Bass, JaJuan Johnson, E’twaun Moore, potentially Odom and free agent signings X and Y. That’s not too terrible, seeing as X and Y are probably big guys because that team would be a bit back court/wing heavy.

That scenario isn’t too bad. It actually seems a bit desirable. I would certainly take it over their current roster.

Here is another involving former Sonics great Ray Allen.

First off, Ray Allen would be an obvious fit in a lot of places, some of those being Oklahoma City and the Clippers. There is no way the Thunder can finagle Allen from the Celtics. Yes Allen is a great, if not perfect acquisition for Clay Bennett’s Raiders. But the return for Boston would probably be some mix up of Cole Aldrich, Nazr Mohammed, Thabo Sefalosha, Royal Ivey and Daequan Cook. There is no shot the Celtics take that. It also deprives the Thunder of most of their bench.

Back to trades- Minnesota has been linked to players like Jamal Crawford. Allen certainly isn’t the same player, but would give the Timberwolves a nice shooting touch at the two. The Celtics would get forwards Michael Beasley and Anthony Tolliver in return. Allen is probably a little difficult to replace for Boston, but the potential that Beasley provides for the future probably out-weighs the Celtics need of Allen this season. Tolliver provides the Celtics with another body up front seeing as their current bigs are KG, Bass, O’Neal and Wilcox, not exactly an elite front line. Not a bad one either, but still not elite. There is more upside to this than just Beasley. If he doesn’t work out then the Celtics can let him walk in free agency after the season. No skin off their teeth, same with Tolliver. Point is that they maintain their free agency flexibility.

Now back to trading Rondo. They aren’t going to get a full return on him. If the previous situations play out, the Celtics might look like an athletic, wing-dominated team a la the 76ers. You could have that or you could trade Rondo to say Utah for Paul Millsap (makes a lot of sense now that I think about it, at least from a Utah standpoint) and let’s also say that KG and Allen walk via free agency. So would you lose the Big 3 not named Pierce as well as Rondo, have Millsap to show for it and a ton of cap space? So there’s Pierce, Millsap (or frankly anyone like that that the Celtics would get in return) and cap space and even more cap space. Or the sure thing in a potentially dangerous team for an extended amount of time. Just something to ponder.