Monday, July 31, 2006

Indiana Pacers: Transactions, News, Notes

The Pacers are waiting, waiting, waiting for the Hawks to complete a deal to bring Al Harrington back to town. He's not worth the wait for Indiana. Their greatest need was not to find someone to run their pose offense through on the nights when Jermaine O'Neal. Harrington doesn't do anything other than score and he's not especially efficient doing that.

When O'Neal is healthy, Harrington will serve both to limit his touches and the minutes of Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger, Stephen Jackson, Shawne Williams, and James White. Daniels (when healthy) Jackson, and Granger are all better players than Harrington. Williams and White probably aren't yet and may never be but at least they would complement O'Neal in some way.

The Pacers still need a good point guard and some quality post depth beyond this year's Maccabi Tel Aviv import, Maceo Baston. Baston should approximate Foster's game better than either David Harrison or Josh Powell. The modesty of Jasikevicius's production in 2006 should prepare Pacers fans' expectations for such faint praise.

Houston Rockets: Transactions, News, Notes

There's no safer bet to improve on their 2006 season than the Houston Rockets. Juwan Howard, Rafer Alston, David Wesley, and Luther Head all played more minutes than Yao and Tracy McGrady last year. Acquiring Shane Battier, who has never missed more than four games in an NBA season, even at a significant price, should at least assure that the Rockets at least have a good player available to play more minutes than the members of their guild of role players and would-be role players.

It would probably be foolish to expect a full, healthy season of production from McGrady, but any minutes he contributes beyond the 1746 he played last year will be of greater utility than those contributed by Head, Wesley, Derek Anderson, Keith Bogans, Ryan Bowen, Jon Barry, Moochie Norris, Rick Brunson, and Richie Frahm. That's such a motley collection that Jeff Van Gundy might find Kirk Snyder a breath of fresh air.

If Bob Sura can
return from his year lost to micro-fracture surgery, all the better. Luther Head should be more useful in his second year. He could be far more productive than he was as a rookie if McGrady and Yao Ming are drawing attention on the court.

It's not all good news for the Rockets. Somebody's going to have to replace the departed Stromile Swift. Though a disappointment, Swift is still better than Juwan Howard or Ryan Bowen. The Rockets appear to be counting on Chuck Hayes being able to maintain his rebounding (6th in the league in rebound rate) and defensive production (5th in the league in defensive rating) in greatly increased minutes. I think that's unlikely even if Hayes reamins a good bench player.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Golden State Warriors: Transactions, News, Notes

Even when Chris Mullin does something right, the potential for failure looms.

Case in point: he succesfully trades away one of the five bad-to-horrible contracts to which he's agreed to create playing time for a cheaper, younger option and said option, Monta Ellis, hurts his knee. Again. Ellis, you'll remember, was available for the Warriors to take in the second round because of concerns about the long-term health of his knees.

Having waived Will Bynum in order to take on the bulk of unwanted players necessary for the Jazz to match Fisher's salary, the Warriors are dangerously close to announcing Keith McLeod as the starting point guard on the nights Baron Davis can't answer the bell.

Warriors fans (and executives) are counting on a trade for either Iverson or Al Harrington to help recompose the roster. I think either trade will simply change the team's problems rather than provide the 10 win improvement they need to make the playoffs, but, if they complete either deal they will be negotiating with Billy King or Billy Knight, making the possibilities endless.

Detroit Pistons: Transactions, News, Notes

For all intents and purposes, the Pistons had only six guys they were willing to play in the playoffs last year. Ben Wallace's departure for Chicago reduces that number to five. The seventh and eighth members of Detroit's playoff rotation, Lindsey Hunter and Tony Delk, were old and ineffective and should be allowed to leave as free agents.

Letting the old, bad players go would be easier had Joe Dumars not traded away his best (relatively) young bench player, Maurice Evans, for skinny Senegalese project Cheick Samb. Evans allegedly requested the trade so as not to share minutes with Carlos Delfino next year. Which is odd as Delfino has yet to demonstrate even marginal competence in any facet of the NBA game. Still, he should be better than Alex Acker (should he be re-signed) or Flip Murray, who will fit in not at all with the veteran Pistons. Will Blalock should get minutes before Murray.

It looks like the rest of the bench will be Nazr Mohammed, Jason Maxiell, and what's left of Dale Davis which means that if the starting five stay healthy the Pistons should make the playoffs but if anyone gets hurt, things could get desperate quite quickly.

Denver Nuggets: Transactions, News, Notes

Denver was awfully mediocre last year and, as of this moment, it looks like more of the same this year. I don't really understand how adding Iverson will make the Nuggets much better. Even Billy King would demand Andre Miller in that deal and refuse to take Kenyon Martin.

I think.

Generally speaking, it's tough to build a championship team by spending $130M over the next half-decade on two oft-injured guys who play the same position. Tends to limit one's flexibility. It would be foolish to expect either great planning or great execution from a franchise owned by an important booster of the University of Missouri Athletic Department.

Turning whatever it is they own of Howard Eisley's rights into JR Smith is a positive, though, again, the end result of the move just means a battle for Greg Buckner's old minutes between Smith, Ruben Patterson, Julius Hodge, and DerMarr Johnson (should they re-sign him).

I'll take another look at the Nuggets later in the week after they decide whether or not to match Francisco Elson's offer sheet.

Dallas Mavericks: Transactions, News, Notes

It hasn't been made official yet, but the Mavs re-upped Jason Terry at a very reasonable price for the next six years. That made it possible to swap the electrifying (when-healthy) Marquis Daniels for balding Austin Croshere (note the rarely-witnessed comb-forward in Croshere's pic in the linked story above) and his magical expiring contract. In less stimulating news, they announced a deal with DJ Mbenga.

So, Croshere presumably replaces Keith Van Horn, Buckner and draftee Maurice Ager replace Daniels and Adrian Griffin. Free agent Darrell Armstrong has been the subject of absolutely no rumor-mongering thus far but should be on somebody's bench this year should he so desire.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Transactions, News, Notes

The Cavs really should go ahead and Clipse (credit to Joey from Straight Bangin') with Drew Gooden. Then Danny Ferry should go make sure that Drew Gooden isn't the second-best player on the team. I'm not sure how Ferry goes about doing that as no team should be anxious to take on Eric Snow at $20M over three years, Damon Jones at $12M over three years, or Larry Hughes at $50M over four years. Luke Jackson, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ira Newble are cheaper but useless. No wonder they've mistaken the Brazilian Ryan Bowen for a good player. It's all about the context of their perceptions.

My guess is that Ferry trades Big Z's expiring contract at the deadline or lets him walk at the end of the year. Ilgauskas is productive but he's an old 30 and he and LeBron don't look like they complement each other very well. They don't really look like they're playing the same game. Are there any two teammates, good teammates, that are more dissimilar?

I love the hope that the class of 2003 is expressing through their 3- to 4-year contract extensions. They aren't living in fear of injury or for the desire of profoundly bullet-proof financial security. They're trying to maximize wins and money and they're making the NBA more competitive, fluid, and flexible.

Chicago Bulls: Transactions, News, Notes

John Paxson turned the second pick in the draft and Tyson Chandler into Tyrus Thomas, Viktor Khryapa, Ben Wallace, PJ Brown, and JR Smith. That's a solid summer. Oh, he also drafted Thabo Sefolosha, who, at least on my computer, watching through the single camera in the gym at the Orlando Summer League, looks ready to contribute immediately (the benefits of letting Kirk Hinrich exclusively play point guard could be significant). And, the Bulls are rumored to be in the running for Drew Gooden.

The Bulls used over 6000 minutes on Chandler, Darius Songaila, Mike Sweetney, Malik Allen, and Othella Harrington in the frontcourt last year, none of whom were better than mediocre. Wallace is a near-certainty to be good (even though he is declining), while Brown and Thomas figure to match the production of the journeymen they're replacing even in a worst-case scenario. Factor in that one of Deng, Gordon, or Sweetney (if he plays) could improve as well and the Bulls look capable of improving by 10-12 wins this year.

Signing Adrian Griffin to a three-year deal suggests that any big trade would most likely involve either Deng or Nocioni (perhaps one of Smith or Khryapa, too). Nocioni seems untouchable after his great playoff performance against the Heat but his trade value may never be higher because, 1) he was guarded by Antoine Walker for most of that series, and, 2) he's most useful playing as an undersized four but Tyrus Thomas and/or an effective Michael Sweetney will provide stiffer competition for those minutes.

Apparently, the Griffin signing means that JR Smith will never suit up for the Bulls, instead heading to Denver for Howard Eisley and two second-round picks. Eisley doesn't appear on any Nuggets roster that I can find but they apparently still own his rights after signing him for the rest of the season following two 10-day contracts last March. The Bulls intend to waive Eisley immediately. Fringe NBA prospects best hope those future second-round picks are far in the future. I don't see many young players with non-guaranteed contracts making this team over the next couple of years.

Charlotte Bobcats: Transactions, News, Notes

They drafted a young man with a little bit of facial hair and quite a lot of offense. Being unable to rebound or defend, the 21st-century Jeff Hornacek will, unfortunately, fit right in with his new teammates. Emeka Okafor better stay healthy this year. I'm pretty sure you can't finish ahead of even the Hawks with a frontline of Morrison, May, and Brezec.

Boston Celtics: Transactions, News, Notes

Paul Pierce's elbow will keep him from playing for Team USA this summer. It did not prevent Pierce from signing a contract extension.

Danny Ainge successfully swapped Raef LaFrentz's contract for Theo Ratliff's slightly less onerous deal, adding Sebastian Telfair in the process. Ainge then acquired Rajon Rondo in the draft, immediately making Bassy the third-best point guard on the roster. At the moment. Who knows what the roster will look like when the season starts. Will they add The Answer? Or some diversity?

Atlanta Hawks: Transactions, News, Notes

The Speedy Claxton signing should make it easier for me to become a Hawks fan. Salim Stoudamire ( "Honestly, there were days when I wanted to come up in here and fight somebody because we were losing so much.") is doing his part. I recommend Salim act on that impulse the next time he sees Tyronn Lue.

If one is willing to assume that Billy Knight gets some non-redundant talent (here's to not finding Troy Murphy in the A) from the Warriors or Pacers for Al Harrington, his next task should be the awesomely easy one of finding someone better than Lue or Royal Ivey to back up Claxton and start the 15-20 games Speedy will miss this year through injury. I nominate the following summer league stars who could be picked up for something approaching free: Travis Diener, Aaron Miles, or (ugh) Little John Lucas. I contend the 05-06 Hawks could have won as many as five more games if they had just signed a half-way decent point guard out of the D-League instead of letting Tyronn Lue shoot the ball every three minutes.

Early summer league reviews haven't been kind to Shelden Williams. My guess is that he's the latest decent-to-good complementary player (Boris Diaw, Jason Terry, Nazr Mohammed, Brevin Knight, Scot Pollard) who proves much more useful once he moves to a team with a plan.