Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NBA Offseason Review: Part 1

First of All let me take this opportunity to introduce Achyut (our resident baseball expert) and Rizwan (hockey), the newest contributors to the site. You can read their pilot works here and here

In case you didn’t notice, the offseason just happened. And it was kind of important. You see, everyone was preparing for this offseason for two years, and in doing so fundamentally changed the way trades work (no more talent for talent swaps, now it’s all talent for expiring contract trades) and altered the competitive balance of the league for years to come. So put it this way: You would respect me less if I DIDN’T recap the most eventful offseason of the last fifteen years. With that we’re counting down 30 of the biggest names of the offseason starting with a certain big man from Kentucky, only it might not be who you’re thinking of…

30. Patrick Patterson: At the trade deadline the Rockets swiped Kevin Martin for the price losing Carl Landry and paying Jared Jeffries $5 million for one season, then turned around and found Landry’s replacement in the draft; so they basically picked up Jeffries (an overpaid but useful defender with an expiring contract), Jordan Hill, the Knicks’s next two first rounders (which could be very high picks), and Kevin Martin for Tracy McGrady’s rotting corpse. Seriously, that’s basically what it boils down to.

29. Jermaine O’Neal: Wait, he’s alive and well? Had no idea. All I know is that Kendrick Perkins’s injury must be pretty serious if they’re turning to Jermaine, as well as this guy…

28. Shaquille O’Neal: To be fair, props to Shaq for at least having the guts to swallow his pride and take the minimum to play for a contender. He’ll help the Celtics as long as they’re not asking him to give more than 10-15 minutes per game or handle crunch-time duties. Still, it feels weird to see him as a sort of basketball mercenary – this is not how great careers should end.

27. Danny Ainge: Not getting nearly enough credit for signing Rondo to that $55 million extension back in November. Considering some of the deals that have been flying around (Amir Johnson anyone?), how much do you think Rondo would command on the open market?

26. Demarcus Cousins: To start off, let me say this to all the doubters: Cousins is not a bad person. He’s a 19-year old that acts the part and just needs guidance. Franchise centers with this combination of power and finesse don’t grow on trees, and even if Cousins busts he’ll be a Rasheed Wallace/Derrick Coleman type bust where we’ll always wonder what he could’ve been, but at the same time he’ll still be an extremely useful player. Anyways, regarding the draft: we all know the T-Wolves screwed this up, but I wonder if the Nets will regret passing up Cousins. They could’ve paired him with Brook Lopez and created a frontline to rival the Lakers, possessing a size advantage that other teams simply can’t match up with. Derrick Favors is good, but not the mismatch nightmare that Cousins could become. As for the Kings, I can’t believe it but we could end up saying that they got the two best players in the draft two years running without ever winning the lottery. That Cousins-Evans combo is going to be scary.

25. David Lee: Before the season I said he could be amazing at the right price on the right team. So obviously he got overpaid by the team that needs him the least. You’re telling me the Clippers couldn’t have used Blake Griffin insurance? How could the Wizards or the Kings not make a play for him? Or couldn’t the Sonics use another rebounder to handle the dirty work for Durant (quick tangent: I respect the way the Sonics have built up the team, especially the ingenious strategy of using cap space to take on other teams’ bad contracts at the cost of draft picks. But once Durant’s extension kicks in that cap space will disappear, and I wonder if they’ll regret not having gone and brought in a blue chipper like Lee or Ben Gordon)?

24. Travis Outlaw: Definitely a useful player. That’s good when you’re not making starter’s money, which, unfortunately, is what Travis will make now that he’s got $35 in his back pocket. He’d be worth it if he were to defend and rebound TO HIS POTENTIAL, but if that hasn’t happened in seven years then why would it happen now?

23. Joe Johnson: I really hope the Hawks enjoy those annual second round sweeps, because that’s their ceiling for the next 7000 years.

22. Whoever the hell is running the Trail Blazers: I won’t even mention a name since A. It’s probably better if I don’t single any one person out and B. I honestly have no idea who the hell is in charge of my favorite team. First they got duped by Minnesota into trading Martell Webster (a quality starter) for a rookie that may one day be half as good. Then they signed Wesley Matthews for the bargain price of $35 million. Don’t laugh, how can you pass up the chance to pay someone $9 million to be the third-string shooting guard? Let me put it this way: when you get outsmarted by David Kahn in a trade and it’s only your second worst move of the summer it may be time to re-evaluate you’re career choice.

21. Rudy Gay: Yes the Grizzlies needed to re-sign him…but for $80 million? Do you realize he’ll be making pretty much the same amount of money as Kevin Durant over the next five years? For at best 3rd wheel on a title contender? I wonder if the Grizzlies would have been better off letting someone else overpay for Gay’s dime a dozen services.

20. Bill Simmons: And you thought I was just talking about people actually employed by the league! I love reading the Sports Guy’s work, and he certainly has a great deal of influence on both my writing style and opinions. But someone has to call him out on all the bullshit that he’s been spewing this summer. First there’s the 6-24 thing with Kobe – look we all get that he hates Kobe and the Lakers, and he is making a fair point that the media totally brushed this under the rug in its attempt to crown Kobe as the greatest player ever. But at some point if you STILL haven’t let it go then it sounds more and more like him just being a sore loser. Which nobody likes.

Then of course there’s the Lebrocaplypse column which was so off base in so many ways. Forget his thoughts on the decision itself – I find it ridiculous how hard he keeps trying to convince himself that a team with three of the top fifteen players in the league is somehow going to fail. He actually put their ceiling at 50 wins in his pre-Decision column (never mind the fact that in the EXACT SAME COLUMN he said that having Lebron or Wade ALONE guarantees you 45 wins), then tried as hard as he could that Chris Bosh sucks at defense and rebounding (I mean it’s not like he was picked to play in the Olympics specifically to defend the pick and roll and shut down the international big men), and actually thought that no one would take less money to play for the Heat (I mean who the hell would ever want to play with Lebron, Wade and Bosh and live in South Beach?). To be fair Simmons did have the guts to try (and fail miserably) to defend his opinions on his podcasts with Le Batard, Dameshek, Hench, House, et. al. Still, not the best summer for the Sports Guy.

19. Drew Gooden: Arghhh!! What is it about this guy that makes everybody want to keep signing him? He’s a good energy guy and decent scorer with a certifiably awful basketball IQ. Somehow that makes him worth 25 million? Here’s the kicker: many pundits defended the signing by pointing out that the Bucks can probably move that contract whenever they want – and to be honest, that might actually be true, which if anything is a referendum on the league as a whole. If this were The Hills all the NBA GM’s would be Audrina Patridge and Gooden would be Justin Bobby – much like Audrina, those silly general managers just keep coming back to Justin Bobb..err Gooden even they know all his warts (Oh and get used to more Hills references). Funny stuff this NBA thingy is.

18. Matt Barnes: Perfect signing, both for the player and the team. Barnes basically gets to focus on nothing more than playing defense, making 3’s, and being a badass while playing for a loaded title contender and living in LA. Seriously, he’s actually getting paid to do this! I’m jealous- let’s move on.

17. Donnie Walsh: Obviously some of the more delusional Knicks fans are still a bit bummed that Miami’s Menage-a-trois didn’t join forces in the Big Apple (and for the record I would much rather see those guys playing in front of basketball’s best fans in a meaningful and historic arena rather than a party city with fans that only show up when there are good teams with even better after-parties. Put it this way: they could’ve been NYPD blue but settled for being Miami Vice. Sad stuff), but I have to give the Knicks’ brass credit for not totally screwing up the summer and capping out with a pair of second tier stars that will never take them to the second round. They got 75% value for David Lee (and with Anthony Randolph finally going to a real coach they might even get the better end of the trade), got a bargain for Raymond Felton (someone who’ll flourish now that he’s finally being told to just push the ball and throw lobs to the big guys), and maintained their future cap flexibility for next year (Carmelo Anthony anyone?). Obviously the Amar’e Stoudemire deal is a bit much, especially the five fully guaranteed years, but at least he gives them a legit blue chipper to sell to the fans. Now if only they had some draft picks…..

16. Mike Miller: I don’t know how many people realize how perfect of a signing he is. He’s more than just a knock-down three point shooter. If you close out on him he’ll drive on you both ways and either unleash his deadly stop-and-pop (by far the finest in the game) or use his underrated passing skills to find the next open man. He can even post up on quicker guys that try to defend him. Basically he spaces the floor because you CANNOT leave him open under ANY circumstances, which could be a little bit of a problem when you’re trying to defend the two best players in the league…

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