By Any Means Necessary
The upcoming NBA season could be one of the best ever.
by Bryan Crawford / @_Bryancrawford
A year ago I wrote Winning Now or Never which focused on NBA powerhouse squads making moves to make themselves more or less “instant” contenders to compete for a ‘ship.
It’s always cool to look back on that piece—as well as the comments—because I feel sort of prophetic in my analysis.
Last year I gave both the Celtics and the Lakers “A+” grades and they were the two teams competing in the NBA Finals this past June. I gave the Magic an “A” (they made it to the ECF), the Spurs an “A” (injuries to key players certainly didn’t help their cause) and the Cavs a “B-” (told’ja).
This season, not many of the teams will change, but the concept remains the same. So let’s start things off with the…
Los Angeles Lakers
Additions: Steve Blake ($16 million, 4 years), Matt Barnes ($1.7 million, 1 year), Derek Fisher ($10.5 million, 3 years), Shannon Brown ($4.6 million, 2 years), Theo Ratliff ($1.3 million, 1 year), Derrick Caracter ($473K, 1 year), Devin Ebanks ($473K, 1 year)
Subtractions: Jordan Farmar, DJ Mbenga, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell
Taxable ’10-’11 Salary: $38.9 million
With Jordan Farmar clearly not in their plans for the future, the Lakers needed to address their already desperate need at PG. It’s no secret that Derek Fisher, the champion that he is, has a lot of miles on him and having him as the lead guard another season was clearly not an option. So they went out and got the much younger Steve Blake to run the show. With Blake, not only did they get bigger in size at the position, they got a veteran and savvy point guard who should be able to pick up the offense quickly and is a better fit for the triangle as opposed to the aforementioned Farmar. L.A. then signed Theo Ratliff as Andrew Bynum insurance, but the biggest improvement should come with the addition of Matt Barnes—who came on board for a dirt cheap price— who is an excellent perimeter defender that gives the Lakers even more size as well as a threat from long range. By adding Barnes to the mix with Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant and their size and length in the paint, the Lakers now have arguably the best defensive team in the NBA. With Kobe healthy, and if Bynum can actually play a full season without getting hurt, look for the Lakers to win the NBA Championship again next year in Phil Jackson’s last year as an NBA head coach. A championship next season would be the third three-peat in franchise history and would tie the Boston Celtics for most championships in NBA history at 17.
Additions: Dwyane Wade ($14.2 million in ’10-’11) LeBron James ($14.5 million in ’10-’11), Chris Bosh ($14.5 million in ’10-’11), Mike Miller ($29 million, 5 years), Joel Anthony ($18 million, 5 years), Udonis Haslem ($3.5 million in ’10-’11), Zydrunas Ilgauskas ($2.4 million, 2 years), Juwan Howard ($1.3 million, 1 year), Eddie House ($2.8 million, 2 years), James Jones ($1.1 million, 1 year), Shavlik Randolph ($992K, 1 year), Patrick Beverly ($947K, 2 years), Kenny Hasbrouck ($762K, 1 year), Dexter Pittman (473K, 1 year)
Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal, Quentin Richardson, Daequan Cook, Dorrell Wright
Taxable ’10-’11 Salary: $6.66 million
The Miami Heat practically gutted their squad over the summer. As much as I hate to admit it and as much as I hate this new NBA trend of superstars wanting to join forces instead of competing against one another, by re-signing Dwyane Wade and adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside him, those three alone make the Heat, at least on paper, the best team in basketball and favorites to win it all next year. But games aren’t played on paper and what isn’t certain is the supporting cast Miami has surrounded Wade, James and Bosh with. The one drawback to signing three max players is not having enough financial flexibility to surround those guys with the best talent available. In a nutshell, you can’t get what you want; you have to take what you can afford. The next best player the team added is Mike Miller who gives them consistent perimeter shooting, but not a whole lot on defense and his production has been way down the last two seasons. The rest of the roster is made up of players either old and past their primes (see Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard) or just not championship caliber (see almost everyone else). This makes the Heat’s chances of winning a title this season not as much of a sure thing as everyone predicts. Still, games have to be played and you can’t do any worse than having three of the best players in the NBA on the same team. In all honesty, we could very well have a potential dynasty on our hands on South Beach. Whatever happens, we’re all going to be watching very, very closely. If the price of League Pass goes up this season, you’ll know why.
Additions: Carlos Boozer ($75 million, 5 years), Kyle Korver ($15 million, 3 years), Ronnie Brewer ($12.5 million, 3 years), CJ Watson ($10.2 million, 3 years), Kurt Thomas ($1.8 million, 1 year), Omer Asik ($1.7 million in ’10-’11)
Losses: Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Flip Murray, Acie Law, Jannero Pargo, Hakim Warrick
Taxable ’10-’11 Salary: $0 (Under Salary Cap)
Not saying that the Bulls could win a championship this season, but based on their offseason moves, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add them here. First they managed to steal Tom Thibodeau from Doc Rivers’ bench and made him head coach. Long considered to be a defensive guru, Thibodeau not only brings that aspect of resume to Chicago but also an NBA Championship ring which he won as an assistant under Rivers two seasons ago. Secondly, Chicago finally added a low-post scorer in Carlos Boozer who is one of the best in the business at his position. He gives them that inside presence that they have long coveted and his toughness and career scoring averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds will be a welcome addition alongside rising star Joakim Noah in the paint. The team also added sharp-shooter Kyle Korver and a very good perimeter defender in Ronnie Brewer giving the Bulls three former Jerry Sloan disciples. With a healthy Luol Deng and the continued maturation and development of Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose, Chicago will assuredly be one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference. They may not be able to contend for a championship right away, but it certainly looks as if they’re headed in the right direction.
Additions: Ray Allen ($20 million, 2 years), Jermaine O’Neal ($11.9 million, 2 years), Nate Robinson ($8.7 million, 2 years), Shaquille O’Neal ($2.7 million, 2 years), Avery Bradley ($10.6 million, 5 years), Von Wafer ($915K, 1 year), Luke Harangody ($437K, 1 year), Semih Erden ($437K, 1 year)
Losses: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Michael Finley, Brian Scalabrine, Shelden Williams, Bill Walker
Taxable ’10-’11 Salary: $21.78 million
With Rasheed Wallace retiring Kendrick Perkins out with a knee injury and not expected to return until at least February, the Boston Celtics bolstered their front line by adding the two O’Neal’s, Jermaine and Shaquille. My only question is what took so long for this to happen? I can’t wait to see those S-dot and J-dot jerseys. Although neither player is what they used to be and while Jermaine should log the most minutes of the two, even at 38-years-old, Shaq can still play and having him on your team never hurts. When Perkins returns, the Celtics will have the most formidable front line in the NBA. The re-signing of Nate Robinson, who should play a much larger role as Rajon Rondo’s backup, was a good move and so was re-signing Ray Allen. Doc Rivers should once again have his team in contention for a title next year but come playoff time, he will have six players 30-years-old or older on his roster. The Celtics may be second oldest team in the NBA (the Lakers are the oldest), but they have a good mix of veterans and young guys that all know how to play hard and compete. That’s always a dangerous combination.
Additions: JJ Redick ($20 million, 3 years), Chris Duhon ($14.3 million, 4 years), Quentin Richardson ($2.2 million in ’10-’11), Jason Williams ($854K, 1 year), Daniel Orton ($8.6 million, 5 years), Stanley Robinson ($476K, 1 year)
Losses: Matt Barnes, Anthony Johnson
Taxable ’10-’11 Salary: $37.84 million
The moves that the Orlando Magic made which garnered them a grade of “A” last year is in stark contrast to the moves they made this year which earned them such a low mark. Yes, they’re still a team capable of winning it all, but even with Dwight Howard in the paint, this team is still primarily made up of guys who love to shoot from the outside and a squad built that way will never win a championship. Ever. Allowing your best perimeter defender (Matt Barnes) to leave and replacing him with someone (Quentin Richardson) who plays no defense at all was a real head scratcher. This puts even more pressure on Howard to defend the rim leaving him even more susceptible to foul trouble than he already is. Even with the Q deal and the re-signing of JJ Redick, Orlando did nothing to improve their chances of being a contender for the Eastern Conference crown. The Magic are still going to be a tough out in the East, but another appearance in the NBA Finals seems like a stretch at this point and Stan Van Gundy may find himself without a job after this season.
After all of the things that have taken place this summer, the 2010-2011 season is going to be one of the most anticipated and most watched in the NBA in quite some time. Look for the teams mentioned here to make some noise of course, but also watch out for squads like Portland, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Atlanta and Utah to add themselves to the conversation as well.