NBA OFFSEASON REPORT CARDS (Click here for Part I)
DALLAS MAVERICKS – Mark Cuban will not be raising Jason Kidd’s jersey to the rafters any time soon. He thought he had a deal in place – only to see Kidd bolt for the brighter lights of Madison Square Garden. This is a team that will be treading water all season, then looking to make a splash in free agency next summer. (Yes, that was the plan for this summer, too, but things didn’t quite work out). There are going to be a lot of players on short-term deals looking to pad their stats, foremost among them O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison (who was a nice pickup in exchange for Ian Mahinmi). For once, they do not have a long-term salary cap commitment to a center who stinks (don’t count on Erick Dampier, Brendan Haywood or Shawn Bradley ever having their numbers retired), and Chris Kaman still can put up better-than-decent numbers. There has been enormous roster turnover since they won the title two years ago, and the jury is going to have to remain out for a year. In the meantime, there is enough here (starting five of Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Collison and Vince Carter/Mayo), with a bench that includes Elton Brand and Delonte West) to be in contention for a top 8 finish in the West. More analysis here.
Grade: B -
DENVER NUGGETS – There has been some debate around the league about who has the NBA’s deepest roster, and not enough people have included the Nuggets in the discussion. Try to find a weak spot here: C: JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov. PF: Kenneth Faried and Anthony Randolph. SF: Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari. SG: Wilson Chandler and Evan Fournier. PG: Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. Is that a championship roster? No. Is it a roster that starts to remind you of the Detroit Pistons when they were going to the Eastern Conference finals year in and year out? Yes. Is that the roster that the Nuggets will take into the playoffs? Highly doubtful. They still have a $13 million trade exception from the Nene deal, which means they will likely be one of the most active teams at the trade deadline if they believe they are one upgrade away from contending with the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs. Don’t sleep on this team, despite their 90-1 odds to win the title. More analysis here.
DETROIT PISTONS – Not that we like to dwell on the past or anything, but they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson to create the cap space to sign Charlie Villanueva, who stinks and is a prime amnesty candidate for next July, and Ben Gordon, who stunk and has since been turned into Corey Maggette, who stinks. Oh, and the Pistons had to throw in a future No. 1 to offload Gordon. Nobody goes to their games anymore after they sold out the Palace for almost a full decade. Given that they have six (!) small forwards, you have to believe at a certain point they are going to send Tayshaun Prince to a contender in exchange for some building blocks to put alongside a pair of very capable big men, Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond. In the interim, they become the cure for insomnia. Condolences to Lawrence Frank. More analysis here.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS - If Andrew Bogut returns at full strength and Stephen Curry never sprains his ankle again, they will surprise people. But when was the last time Bogut wasn’t being held together with duct tape, or the last time Curry’s ankle was stable? When both were in high school? With Carl Landry coming on board for two years and $8 million, and with the Warriors right up against the luxury tax, you have to believe David Lee becomes the player most likely to be traded to a contender. (My best guess is Denver, which could take him into its trade exception but might have to part with Manimal and a future 1st). On the bright side, Harrison Barnes is going to be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. Should have gone 2nd in the draft, IMHO. Kent Bazemore is a sleeper rookie, even more than Kravtsov of the Pistons. Jarrett Jack (who cost them Dorell Wright), on his sixth team since going 22nd in 2005 draft, has become the quintessential keeping-the-seat-warm point guard. More analysis here.
HOUSTON ROCKETS – The empty expanse of West Texas is now not the only vast wasteland in the Lone Star State. Gotta give Daryl Morey props for trying, but his efforts to acquire Dwight Howard turned this team into a train wreck. They now go into a three- to four-year rebuilding plan, with $30 million in payroll (although not salary cap space) taken by Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. They have 20 players making guaranteed money this season, yet their committed salary for next season when Kevin Martin comes off the books is only $25 million. We can safely assume that Martin will be flipped for an expiring stiff and a No. 1 pick at the trade deadline. Morey now becomes Sam Presti 2.0 or Joe Dumars 2.0. Verdict to come in 4-5 years. Will have their own lottery pick and Toronto’s unless the Raptors’ is top 3. A grade here is somewhat unfair because Morey’s offseason job is unfinished. He has too many NBA-worthy young players. The NBA roster limit is 15. More analysis here.
Grade: D +