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NBA Market Watch: Portland Trailblazers
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
June 27, 2007
Last offseason brought Portlandís rebuilding process full-circle, and their initial season with their current group of players featured numerous signs of progress for the recently struggling franchise. Brandon Roy lived up to his advanced billing, and ran away with the Rookie of the Year Award, while LaMarcus Aldridge showed enough promise to warrant consideration for the accolade as well. Unfortunately, Portlandís roster didnít have the experience or polish to make a run at the playoffs.

This past season may not have turned out perfectly in Portland, but things took a swift turn for the better when the team ascended to the top of the lottery to win the first overall selection. With that stroke of luck, the Trailblazers expedited their rebuilding process more than they could ever have anticipated. Adding a franchise cornerstone like Greg Oden will give the club a chance to win on a nightly basis. While Odenís selection is essentially set in stone, Portland could be extremely active on draft day given that they have four selections in the second round.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency



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Record/ Overview:

32-50, 3rd place Northwest Division

The Trailblazers have some bad contracts on their books, but they are in position to be shedding them at the right time. While that time wonít be until 2009, Portland will need to continue setting the foundation of what promises to be an extremely talented group of young players. As it stands right now, the Trailblazers will be adding a franchise player through the draft, and should the opportunity to surround him with great complementary talent when he will be hitting his stride.

Current Assets:

The Trailblazers have a number of assets that they could trade to add pieces to help them compete in the short-term, but they are building for the long-haul and will more than likely focus their trade efforts towards the draft. The team has a handful of notable youngsters beyond their rookie class including Jarrett Jack, Travis Outlaw, and Martell Webster, all of whom would receive interest on the open market. However, Portland may be reluctant to part with Webster and Outlaw considering their age, and Jack wonít be heading anywhere unless it is in exchange for another point guard.

The two players that Portland could look to deal are Dan Dickau and Fred Jones, who will both see their contracts expire at the end of next season. Neither player would return the Trailblazers a huge dividend, but they could provide the team with greater cap relief in 2009. If the two arenít dealt for future cap space, they could also be packaged with one or more of Portlandís second round draft selections to allow the team to move back into the first round.

Expiring Contracts:

Portland saw some of their past mistakes come off the books when the season ended, and will reap the rewards in the form of almost $20 million in cap relief. Moving forward, the Trailblazers probably wonít be in a hurry to retain any of their pending free agents outside of Ime Udoka, who performed admirably in the absence of Darius Miles.

The two most important contracts that the team will shed this offseason are those of Derek Anderson and Jamaal Magloire. While Andersonís contract didnít count towards the luxury tax due to the amnesty provision, General Manager Kevin Pritchard will rest better knowing he wonít have it hanging over his head next season. Magloire never lived up to expectations in Portland, and is the odd man out amongst the Trailblazersí overpaid big men.

The only other notable contract Portland will see expire is that of Travis Outlaw. In the last year of his rookie contract, Outlaw showed marked improvement in his game. The lanky small forward should find some suitors in restricted free agency, but questions about his jump shot and basketball IQ will probably keep him in Portlandís price range. If Outlaw is resigned, the club could let Ime Udoka walk. His status as an unrestricted free agent may drive his price up enough to deter the team from retaining him if they have already invested in Outlaw.

Total Cost: $23,272,203

Rotation Players:

Portlandís unreal amount of young potential didnít go a long way towards winning games this season. However, the club has a better rotation than it showed, and will only see it get stronger with the addition of Greg Oden. Zach Randolph posed as the teamís franchise player this season, averaging a double-double and looking very good carrying the teamís scoring load. Interest in Randolph has come to a head this offseason, but donít expect him to be going anywhere for anything less than a potential franchise point guard. He should mesh well with Oden, making him that much more attractive to keep around until the end of his contract in 2011.

Joining Randolph down low were Portlandís two overpaid centers, Raef LaFrentz and Joel Pryzbilla. If nothing more, the pair will spell Oden with six fouls a piece and alleviate the young centerís potential issues with foul trouble until their contracts expire in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Donít look for either player to be retained after they come off the books.

The forgotten member of Portlandís roster, Darius Miles, missed the entire season after undergoing right knee surgery. While Miles may not return to form athletically, he will be a welcome addition to the Trailblazers questionable frontcourt. Thatís if he doesnít decide to retire, which will be terrific for Portland since his contract will come off the books as far as the salary cap is concerned. His contract may be a bit pricy, but he was finally starting to come around before he got hurt, even if the Portland might not want his terrible attitude back.

On the perimeter, Portland featured three players: Jarrett Jack, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau. Jack provided quality minutes at point guard all season, but could be dispatched in favor of a more dynamic player should Portland choose to explore than avenue this offseason. What Jack lacks in explosiveness, he makes up for in court savvy. The fact that he makes players around him better should get his option for next season picked up and could keep him in Portland when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2010. Dickau and Jones failed to impress, and will spend one more season with the team at the most.

Total Cost: $43,488,215

Prospects:

Portland has a bevy of young players, four of which they acquired in last yearís draft. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy played well as rookies, and will help form a truly exciting young nucleus alongside Greg Oden. Look for both players to be retained in 2010 when they will be restricted free agents.

Sergio Rodriguez played very well off the bench as a rookie, and could make Jarrett Jack expendable if he improves his jumpshot and the club acquires another starting point guard this offseason. As a first round selection, Rodriguez will enjoy a few more seasons of development before becoming a restricted free agent. Portlandís last 2006 draft pick, Joel Freeland, spent the season overseas and looked underwhelming, making his immediate future with the team unclear.

Rounding out Portlandís group of prospects is former lottery pick Martell Webster. While Webster struggled to string together good games, he put up the occasional ridiculous stat-line. If Webster can improve the consistency of his focus-level and learn to create offense for himself, he could become a very good compliment to Brandon Roy on the outside. There are some serious question marks about that, though.

Total Cost: $10,249,360

Free Agency:

Portland probably wonít be too active in free agency this offseason in anticipation of their spending spree in 2009. After making a decision between Travis Outlaw and Ime Udoka, the club may be one of the few teams not inclined to use their exceptions. Their depth chart is rather set in stone at this point, and they donít have the cap space to add a legitimate contributor. The team may go after another point guard like Travis Diener, or make a play at another restricted free agent, but will probably be more inclined to build around their already outstanding nucleus.

Draft:

Portland will make Greg Oden the first overall draft pick tonight, but wonít spend much time celebrating. Kevin Pritchard will be working the phones all night, and will probably field a handful of offers for Jarrett Jack, Zach Randolph, and his stable of second-round picks. Should Pritchard choose to grab another first round selection, he will probably be looking to target Morris Almond or Nick Young, depending on how high the pick is. Both players would mesh well in Portland, especially Almond.

In the second round, Portland will be extremely busy. The team owns the 37th, 42nd, 52nd, and 53rd selections. Some of the teamís targets at their first two spots might include Dominic McGuire, Demetris Nichols, Ramon Sessions, Alando Tucker, D.J. Strawberry and Reyshawn Terry. Barring an extremely probable trade, Portland will probably look to draft a European player at 52 and 53, and will look in the direction of Yannick Bokolo, Zoran Erceg, Giorgos Printezis and Ali Traore. Renaldas Seibutis is another possible candidate, and he and Joao Gomes or any of the Europeans listed above will come into play if Portland actually uses its first four selections. With a bevy of positions to choose from, Portland will come out of this draft with a new franchise player and a boatload of depth at the minimum.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Seattle Super Sonics
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 26, 2007
The Sonics battled injury and inconsistency for the second straight season and finished at the bottom of the Northwest division. The team has been able to collect quite a few valuable assets over the course of the past couple of seasons and still have some veterans that may yield a return.

First year GM Sam Presti has elected to take over a very interesting situation. The franchiseís future in Seattle is still somewhat in question, but the improbable acquisition of the 2nd pick in this yearís draft has put the Sonics in a favorable position going forward. That pick could be the signature player in this draft, Kevin Durant, whose marketability may be just whatís needed to push popular support for a new arena deal through. Owner Clay Bennett paid a very steep price to acquire the Supersonics despite their marginal revenue potential, so the new arena will certainly be a hot topic moving forward.

Regardless of the politics of the teamís current position, the franchise has just been blessed with the ability to solidify their competitive place in the league going forward. If Presti is able to sift through the pieces of his roster quickly and establish the ďcultureĒ that he wants going forward, the Sonics should be a team to watch very soon.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



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Record/ Overview:

31-51, 5th place Northwest Division

There were few encouraging performances by the Sonics players. Both Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis missed some time, but both put up seasons that are pretty standard for each of them. Allen did shut it down late in the year, and his age and the teamís increased reliance on his performance to win is an issue the team must address.

Both Lewis and Allen were used substantially more than any other Sonics player in terms of the minutes they played for the team. Chris Wilcox was third on the team in minutes played at almost 8 minutes below the All Star tandem. The team was substandard defensively, but it was their lack of continuity on offense and over reliance on their two main players that really led to some inconsistent moments.

Nick Collison and Mickael Gelabale showed a lot of promise relative to their age and experience levels. Collison started the season off slowly, but broke out and showed a great deal of ability with his rebounding and court savvy. Collison had a great stretch of efficient offensive production before his shot opportunities diminished.

Gelabale had a nice showing as well after spending an extra season overseas. Gelabale has a lot to work to do, especially with his understanding of the tendencies of his opponents, but he gave the team some encouraging moments. It was surprising to see the French National Team pass on his services this summer, but that will only help him and Seattle as he continues to add new dimensions to his game through his hard work in the gym.

Current Assets:

The team has some nice assets to help them reconfigure around whichever franchise player they receive in the draft. The team has a slew of frontcourt talent that will have to be sorted through and an important decision will have to be reached regarding Ray Allen, who is 32 years old and really doesnít fit in well with a rebuilding effort centered around a teenager.


Expiring Contracts:

Rashard Lewis is the teamís largest potential off season loss as he has opted out of the last two years of his contract in order to hit the free agent market. There are a couple of suitors looking to acquire him for around the price heís looking for, but Seattle may be able to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal to get some quality return for the 28 year old before he walks for nothing.

If Lewis has a preferred location that doesnít have the cap room to sign him outright, the Sonics should be able to get a quality building block or two for him, perhaps a point guard and a wing. Itís in Lewisí best interest to work with Seattle as much as possible, since he can get more guaranteed years and bigger contracts increases through the Bird Rights they own.

Total Cost: $9,400,000


Rotation Players:

The team is built around Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and that leaves Allen as the likely lone gunman going into next season. Allen has had some of his best statistical seasons in Seattle and is a model of professionalism as far as his preparation and approach to the game.

Allen would seem to be the type of veteran presence that Presti could use as he tries to establish the team ďcultureĒ that he spoke of during his press conference. But at 32 years of age, Allen might be starting to think about bringing his act to a contending team, something many of his contemporaries have been clamoring about recently.

Allen will be 34 when his sizable contract expires, but a potential Hall of Fame talent like Allen should draw some interest around the league and could net the Sonics a decent return package.

Chris Wilcox was fairly inconsistent himself during the regular season, as were most of the other Sonics players. Wilcox has the ability to have explosive games, but wasnít reliable enough as a third option to carry the team through tough stretches. His post play is extremely valuable when heís on, but a greater commitment to defense would help his game tremendously.

Wilcox is only one of a group of five frontcourt players the Sonics have to work with. Wilcox is still young and is extremely talented, but heís never been a part of a winning environment since his days in Maryland and has developed some bad habits along the way. Making a determination on whether he has the character qualities that can be relied on going forward will be a major decision for the organization as teams typically pay a premium for productive big men.

Luke Ridnour had another solid, but unspectacular season as the teamís starting point guard. Ridnour is a reliable floor general, but would probably be better suited as a backup on a contending team because he lacks the explosive ability to truly take over games with penetration and playmaking. His 3-point shooting does not make up for his weaknesses in other facets of the game unfortunately.

Earl Watson makes up the other half of the point guard equation in Seattle and is a nice foil to Ridnourís more offensively oriented game. Watson has solid defensive ability and can run a team pretty well, but he is even less of an offensive threat than Ridnour. Watson is another player who makes for a fine backup point guard, but carrying a combined 12 million in backup level talent will probably force the team to choose between the two.

Nick Collison was probably the most consistent performer outside of Allen and Lewis considering he played in all the teamís games. Once he was a fixture in the starting lineup he quickly became a reliable double-double threat every night and showed exceptional work on the boards. Collison has to polish his offensive game if he wants to be a true impact player, but he is the most solid all-around big man the team currently has.

Swingman Damien Wilkins provides occasional scoring punch, but isnít the type of player that should average 25 minutes per game for a winning team unless he can be more productive on both ends of the court.

Total Cost: $43,500,000


Prospects:

Robert Swift is an interesting player to keep an eye on this season. Swift suffered a season ending ACL injury after having a solid training camp following a strong showing during the end of the previous season. Swift has offensive and defensive potential and has been the subject of interest from a number of teams with long memories who are looking to get him cheap. If he recovers and returns to form, he could really solidify the Sonics pivot position. Time will tell what level he reaches, but his value now is probably much greater for the Sonics than anything they can get for him.

Johan Petro is another big man who has shown flashes of skill, but hasnít put it together. Petro is extremely athletic and mobile for a player of his size, but hasnít shown to have a great feel for the game as of yet. Petro is only 21 years old, so there is quite a bit of development time left ahead of him. He has the type of size and potential that will elicit a big time contract if he puts up a couple months of tantalizing statistics, so the team will have to really get a feel for the work heís willing to put in to become more.

Saer Sene is another in the long line of young bigs that has many of the same questions surrounding him that Petro does. Sene was a disappointment for the coaching staff last year because of his lack of commitment to improvement and his sulky disposition. Sene has a world of raw talent, but needs to commit himself to improvement if heís to fulfill his potential. The Sonics probably canít get much for him, but it never hurts to gauge the value of your prospects.

Mickael Gelabale is another young Frenchmen who has shown the opposite disposition to Sene. He was a favorite of the previous coaching regime and should continue to improve his game under the next one. Gelabale has the chance to be a key defensive wing for this team going forward and maybe more. Again, his top level of development and the keys to unlocking it will be a matter of discovering which buttons to push as well as putting the right button-pusher at the helm.

Total Cost: $6,600,000


Free Agency:

The Sonics most likely wonít look to make any mid-level acquisitions this early in Prestiís watch. There is plenty of internal review of current personnel to be done before the team begins looking outward for help.

However, the team may very well be active on the trade market in the upcoming months and could have a different face before tipoff next season. Beyond the draft, this team has work to do, but plenty to work with going forward.

Draft:

There are two choices for the team as the draft stands now: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. While it initially appeared that Oden would surely go number one regardless of pre-draft workouts, Durant has put a substantial impression into the minds of the Trail Blazers and may in fact leave Seattle with another center to build around.

Oden would allow the team to trade away the best of their frontcourt prospects in order to obtain another dynamic player to place alongside Oden. Oden should anchor the defensive middle or the Sonics and could make Nick Collison extremely effective as simply a cleanup man off of the defensive attention he draws in the paint.

If Kevin Durant still ends up going with the 2nd pick, the team is going to have to decide very quickly whether or not his long-term future will be predominantly at the 4 or the 3. Durant has the versatility to play multiple positions, but he probably will be more effective on both ends of the court as a 4 in the West, where his mobility, length, and timing make him a two-way nightmare for most opposing power forwards.

In either case, Seattle is in a position to establish one long-term cog in the championship wheel. The Sonicsí other outstanding situations should be resolved with time as well.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Atlanta Hawks
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 25, 2007
The Atlanta Hawks had another typical Atlanta Hawks season. They were intriguing at times, mistake-prone at key moments, and lacked the overall continuity and offensive clout to ultimately win on most nights.

The Hawks arenít in the worst shape in terms of their roster make up, as a few years of destitution has given them a number of quality young players. Despite the horrendously lopsided trade with Phoenix a couple seasonís back, the Hawks will still luckily be able to add one more lottery level talent this season.

Depending on the other moves the team makes, they could get themselves further into the Eastern Conference playoff picture next year, which would be quite a feat for a management group whoís already fighting an uphill battle to maintain control of the team.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:




Efficiency:



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Record/ Overview:

30-52, 5th place Southeast Division

There were definitely some positive moments for the Hawks last season as the team was able to compete for a playoff spot early in the year and fought hard to win each and every night. Their effort and intensity was rewarded on draft night as they jumped up to the third pick in the draft.

During the regular season, the Hawks were actually quite good in a number of areas. While they lacked true scoring punch, the team did shoot the ball extremely well from the field, including an astounding 38% three-point accuracy as a group.

Joe Johnson continued his display of torrid scoring and multi-purpose playmaking ability, though he is in dire need of a running mate. Josh Smith continued to be a statistical beast on the court, even if he was somewhat difficult to communicate with. Marvin Williams took a substantial statistical leap in his second tour of duty, and Josh Childress remained a reliable player off the bench.

Like most young teams, the Hawks had trouble when it came to protecting the ball, and they really struggled to close out games because of their loose playmaking and lack of offensive diversity and leadership. The team gets steady production from a number of players, but there is clearly only one go-to guy on the roster and the team desperately needs superior inside scoring at a level superior to Zaza Pachulia and Sheldon Williams.

The Hawksí biggest need remains the point guard position as the team tried innumerable options at the lead guard throughout the season. Anthony Johnsonís late season arrival ensures that the team will have a steady veteran presence in the lineup, but a more explosive player to complement the rest of the teamís youth would be a welcome addition.

Current Assets:

Atlanta is all about assets, as virtually every player on the roster is trade-worthy and has value on the market. The team has done an admirable job at maintaining financial flexibility with the roster and limiting their zeal for over-priced mid-level veterans. Only Speedy Claxton and his medical dossier appear to be a major hindrance, but his cap number isnít so imposing that a team wouldnít take him on for the right package.

Expiring Contracts:

The Hawks have a few expiring contracts that could help them land another big fish to swim with Johnson if the price is right.

Tyronn Lue is up for another deal after next season and shown himself to be an able rotational player who can step up big in key moments if needed. A team in need of some roster depth and a solid locker room presence would be happy to have Lue on board to show some other teamís youngsters the meaning of hard work.

Anthony Johnson will also be seeking another deal by this time next season and a battle-tested point guard who can be relied upon for quality minutes as both a backup and spot-starter is something that always has value.

Lorenzen Wright is coming to the end of a very strange saga himself. Over the course of his current stay with the team, Wright has gone from productive starter to random rotational usage. Wright has never been one to hold his displeasure internally when he feels his role is miscast, but he hasnít been such a public nuisance so as to call him a cancer. Wright still has value as a backup 4/5, if he is willing, as his rebounding and defense can help a team when his mind is in his work.

Salim Stoudamire has a small contract and a limited array of skills, but his penchant for explosive scoring outbursts should help him find a niche in the league as a perimeter scorer off the bench.

Both Josh Smith and Josh Childress are up for extensions after this season and it can be speculated that the team may be inclined to trade one or both if the price is right. Each player has ability, with Smith having All-Star potential, but both will command a substantial salary with their next deal and neither is trouble free when it comes to the flaws in their game.

Childress seems to be an exceptional role player and potential 6th man down the road. He can do a little bit of everything and has the ability to play both wing positions when needed. But, Childress may be looking for a situation that expands his role, which is unlikely to occur on the Hawks. His name has been floated in rumors from time to time, so he may be moving on.

Smith has the ability to impact a game like no one else on the Hawks roster, including Joe Johnson. Smith has the ability to play the 4 effectively on both sides of the court and is especially effective offensively against opposing bigs. While Smith has developed rapidly considering the lack of playing experience he had coming into the league, some question his commitment to effective team play in a winning environment.

He is beloved by Hawks fans for his explosive playmaking, but the team will have to make a tough decision when it comes to re-signing the mercurial forward as heíll surely command an upwards of 9-10 million on the open market.

Total Cost: $16,200,000


Rotation Players:

Joe Johnson is the undisputed face of the franchise in more ways than one. Johnson got his wish when he left the Suns to become the primary option for this Hawks team, but his much celebrated acquisition was also the cause of an ownership power struggle over the trade chips involved in acquiring him.

Johnson is a phenomenal player, but there is no doubt that the price Atlanta paid was substantially more than any off-guard was worth. The team is now in a position where it will lose its first round pick next season in a draft where the lottery talent is nearly as heavy as this yearís crop.

The pressure is on Johnson and management to produce a winning season this year, though no one is expecting the current regime to survive now that the once-deposed Steve Belkin has won his initial battle to regain control of the team. Though Johnson wasnít his pick of choice, Belkin would certainly be pleased to find him leading the charge back into playoff relevance if and when he returns to power.

Marvin Williams is another celebrated Hawk due to the circumstances of his acquisition. Williams will forever be cemented into the heads of fans as the player the team got INSTEAD of Chris Paul or Deron Williams. While there is quite a bit of revisionist history involved in that logic, the fact that the team needed a point guard, coupled with their misguided belief that Johnson could play the point full time, really puts a strain on Williams.
Despite the controversy, Williams improved dramatically from his inaugural campaign. Although he is somewhat of a player without a position, Williams manned the small forward role admirably last season by extending his range and reliability from 17 feet and by just being more consistent overall. Fans and management both can be impatient when it comes to player development, but the 21 year old Williams should prove once again to be better this season than last and may eventually reach a level where all are satisfied.

ZaZa Pachulia is far less heralded than the two aforementioned Hawks, but has been a revelation given the expectations people had for him. Pachulia was somewhat of a drifter early on in his career, but has found a home in Atlanta. While it is questionable whether or not he is a starting caliber frontcourt player, he is certainly a productive and relatively consistent performer over the past two seasons. At worst, Pachulia should provide some offensive punch off the bench against most any backup center in the league, where heíll have a sizable advantage in talent.

Speedy Claxton was an unmitigated dud of a free agent acquisition for the Hawks last year. Claxton is not a pure playmaker by any means, but has had his moments in the league for numerous teams. The Hawks could probably use Claxtonís scoring off the bench in concert with Pachulia as they are sure to upgrade each position via the draft, but Claxton must be healthy if he is to provide any utility to the club. He is certainly capable of more than he showed last season.

Total Cost: $28,300,000


Prospects:

Sheldon Williams is third in line when it comes to controversial Hawks selections. Williams is most famous for being the worst kept secret of last yearís draft--something that has prompted the Hawks to play things a little more coy this season.

Everyone views Williams to have been a reach at pick 5 last year, but he is an intelligent player who should capably help to anchor the teamís frontcourt defensively alongside whichever featured rookie is selected.

Williams had foul trouble last season, a common occurrence for a young, defensive minded player. His shot blocking was a disappointment due to his aptitude for it in college, but his rebounding was outstanding at times. When Williams was going well he was able to put up solid double-double numbers, and his game is reminiscent of a Dale Davis type. In time, he should quietly develop into a nice role player for either the Hawks or some other team intelligent enough to see the subtle value of intelligent play.

Solomon Jones is much more of a project type player, but he too showed some flashes during the regular season, which makes the Hawks somewhat talent rich in the pivot despite being light on top-level ability.

Jones has an enormous frame that will take another few years to fill out, but his one great skill of shot blocking is as game-ready as one could ask for. Jones has the makings of a solid jump shot to complement his defensive presence on the interior and is certainly a sound investment for the next couple of seasons. The biggest question remains where Solomonís playing time will come from with so many others clamoring to get on the court. He is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

Total Cost: $4,000,000


Free Agency

The Hawks do have some money, but it is uncertain what it would be used on. There arenít that many players available on the free agent market for the cash available that wouldnít be more aptly replaced by the two lottery picks the team is holding.

As previously stated however, the team could look to get aggressive in the trade market and has been mentioned in several offseason trade scenarios already. The acquisition of a young and talented complementary player for Johnson to team with would be idea. Pau Gasolís name has been bandied about and itís feasible that he could propel the Hawks into the playoffs if paired with Johnson.

If the team were to accomplish that, they could spend wisely on a free agent point guard to really bring the team into focus. A sign-and-trade with some of the other interested teams could work well. Golden State would be an intriguing trade partner for Atlanta as they could exchange high-risk chips at positions of need. Monta Ellis for Josh Smith would really put an edge of excitement into Atlanta going into next year if the team could consummate a Gasol deal prior to it.

The team has talked of the need to bring young veterans who are ďready to playĒ in order to ramp up their competitive level. With the East wide open and their pick safely in the hands of the Suns, Billy Knight has a chance to look brilliant at least once in his tenure.

Draft:

The club currently sits at picks 3 and 11. There is value at positions of need in both slots and the team wouldnít have to draft a lesser talent to fill those needs.

Al Horford seems to be the consensus 3rd pick, and unless the Hawks do something unexpected, Horford should be their choice. Horford is probably the most ďready to playĒ out of all of the lottery players and would instantly become the teamís most talented frontcourt player aside from Smith. The pairing of those two in the frontcourt with the ability to move Smith down to the 3 and install another traditional big man gives the Hawks a lot of match up options.

The 11th pick was being shopped league-wide for some time and it was speculated that the team would use it to bring one-time Georgia Tech standout Jarrett Jack back into town. That speculation died down over the past few weeks and the usual suspects have reemerged at this position.

Acie Law is a Green Room invitee and makes a lot of sense for the Hawks in terms of his collegiate experience and ability to lead a team. Law would also give the Hawks the ability to put great size on the court as he is a big point guard who can be physical when he has his mind set on being so.

There was some talk of selecting another local talent, Javaris Crittenton, but it would be a reach to select him so early in the draft. While talent and accuracy in selection is more important than draft position, Crittenton is short on game experience and doesnít have the acumen to handle running a professional team yet. The Hawks would be wise to seek other options if they are looking to get quality help that can result in wins both now and in the future.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Memphis Grizzlies
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
June 22, 2007
Lottery night brought what could be considered a 2007 worst-case scenario full circle in Memphis. After losing Pau Gasol to an injury in the preseason, Memphisís young group of talent was left to their own untested devices. A mid-season coaching change only compounded the teamís struggles, forcing an already overmatched roster to adjust on the fly. After finishing an NBA worst 22-60, the odds were stacked in favor of Memphis earning a top-two pick and, in turn, the opportunity to select Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Adding insult to injury, Memphis not only fell out of the top spot, but slid all the way to the fourth slot. In the wake of the lottery, the team lost the services of renown General Manager Jerry West (now on board only as a paid advisor next to recently hired GM Chris Wallace), concluding what can only be described as a horrendously unlucky chain of events in Memphis.

With a new Head Coach and General Manager in place, Memphis will head into the offseason looking to get out of their tailspin and reverse the bad luck that made their season so forgettable. With a payroll falling well short of the salary cap, Memphis will have the opportunity to add some pieces in free agency, but will need to spend wisely if they want to see immediate results.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency:



Usage:



Record/ Overview:

22-60, 5th place Southwest Division

Memphis desperately needed to catch a break, and may have found one in new Head Coach Marc Iavaroni. The former Phoenix assistant will be entering his first stint as a head coach, but has been considered one of the best assistants in the game for quite some time. Iavaroni will have the unenviable task of developing Memphisís stock of young talent. While the team will no doubt experience some growing pains, the future of the Grizzlies may already be in place. Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick came on strong late in the year, and Kyle Lowry appeared to be making a smooth transition to the NBA before going down with a wrist injury. Memphis will have the opportunity to add another player with great potential in the draft, and could be looking at a very talented squad when they shed some of their bad contracts in a few seasons. The Grizzlies also recently added three assistant coaches who are all extremely well respected in NBA circlesóJohnny Davis, Gordon Chiesa and DraftExpress favorite Dave Joerger.

Current Assets:

Memphis has plenty of tradeable assets, but they are more concerned with building for the future than competing in the short term. With some many quality prospects, the club will try to fit players into their rotation that will facilitate the development of these potential superstars.

If Memphis decided to try and trade their way into contention, the first player they would have to part with is Rudy Gay. Gay averaged over 10 points per game and will be a great complement to Pau Gasol in the future. His value is based almost entirely on his potential future production. Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry fall in the same boat, but wouldnít return the same value. Alexander Johnson and Tarence Kinsey wouldnít draw a lot of attention, but could certainly become contributors down the line. Kinsey blew up in the month of April, and could become extremely valuable if he plays even close to that level next season, although heíll be a free agent next summer.

Attacking Memphisí problem from a different perspective, Pau Gasol may also be considered a tradeable asset. He is no doubt a talented player, but he could return Memphis quality young talent and addition draft picks. Dealing his long, expensive deal would give the team a great deal of flexibility for the foreseeable future.

Expiring Contracts:

The most significant contract coming off of Memphisís books will be that of Eddie Jones, who the club waived in January. Jonesís bloated $15M deal is the primary source of the cap space Memphis will be enjoying this offseason. Outside of Jones, the team will watch veteran point guard Chucky Atkins head into free agency. Atkins should find a number of potential suitors, none of which will likely be the Memphis Grizzlies.

The team has a handful of lower level players hitting free agency as well, including Scott Padgett, Lawrence Roberts, and Junior Harrington. Padgett is a solid veteran, but will probably be looking to sign with a better team as his career winds down. Roberts stands the best chance of the three to return to Memphis next season. His relative youth and potential development should be attractive enough assets to earn him another deal with the team. Harrington may be worth keeping around, but only for defensive purposes.

Total Cost: $20,103,257

Rotation Players:

Memphis doesnít have a very deep rotation due to the age and contract status of most of their contributors. With players like Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick still playing on their rookie deals, Memphis is paying a great deal more for the likes of Stromile Swift and Brian Cardinal.

Pau Gasol is far and away the best player on the Grizzlies at this point, but he would certainly be better if he had more talent around him. Gasolís contract lasts until 2011, but could be substantially more expensive considering his level of production. The closest thing Gasol has to a sidekick at this point is Mike Miller who was having a career year this season before his knees went out on him. Millerís contract lasts until 2010, but he has reached his peak in terms of statistical production. Look for Millerís stat line to shrink slowly as Rudy Gay emerges as the teamís small forward of the future. Joining Miller and Gasol in the starting lineup for much of the season was aging point guard Damon Stoudamire. Streaky shooting, and injuries prevent Stoudamire from putting up good numbers, and he simply isnít the player he used to be. His deal is pretty affordable, but donít look for him to be back when it expires in 2009.

Off the bench, Memphis features a trio of rotation players. Stromile Swift had a rough season, but still has solid potential for his experience level. Swiftís athleticism makes him tough to forget, but he leaves a lot to be desired in terms of actual polish and production. He will probably find a new home after exercising his player option for the 2009 season. Brian Cardinal is good for the occasional three-pointer and floor burn, which by no means justifies his roughly $6M salary. He should be moved before his contract expires in 2010. Dahntay Jones proved to be a steady contributor this season, and shouldnít see enough money in restricted free agency to deter the Grizzlies from resigning him.

Total Cost: $36,574,549

Prospects:

The Grizzlies have a stockade of players who have enormous potential. Rudy Gay is the future face of this franchise, and could make Pau Gasol expendable if he blows up. However, he is more unfulfilled potential at this point than anything else. He desperately needs more touches down low to improve his effectiveness, as he simply wonít be ready to contribute strictly from the perimeter in the near futureóand that would be a waste of his freakish length and athleticism anyway. Hakim Warrick falls in the same boat. Both players will probably see their contracts extended when they become restricted free agents in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

At point guard, Kyle Lowry may not be the future for Memphis, but he will certainly be a contributor. The Grizzlies will probably pursue a point guard in free agency or the draft, but Lowry could develop into one of the best backups and pace changers in the game. He should see an extension when his deal expires in 2011 if he improves his jump shot and develops as expected.

Alexander Johnson and Tarence Kinsey are in extremely similar situations. They will be due similarly small contracts next season when Kinseyís option is picked up. Kinsey is inconsistent, but his production late in the season canít be overlooked. Johnson, in contrast, had a few good games this season, but will need more playing time to show his athletic merits. Both players should be retained regardless of their production next season. Their potential is simply too intriguing to pass up for their probable price tags.

Total Cost: $6,240,808

Free Agency:

Memphis will have quite a bit of cap space this offseason, and should target a player who can effectively assist in the development of their prospects. Bucks point guard, and restricted free agent, Mo Williams would be the perfect player to fill this role. He wouldnít have a difficult time carrying production over for Milwaukee to Memphis, and would be a great table setter. If Memphis pushes the tempo next year, which they should, Williams would bring the best out of both Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick.

In order to acquire Williams, Memphis will need to gauge how much they will need to offer him in order to deter the Bucks from matching. They certainly shouldnít overpay for him, as they will need that money to resign their prospects, but he should be their primary target.

If the team feels it doesnít have a shot at Williams (and by now Wallace should know), it will probably change their plans on draft day dramatically. Memphis would probably turn its attention to Anderson Varejao, who could provide valuable minutes off the bench in the paint. Given the dire straits in Memphis, and the lack of players to sign in their immediate price range (Gerald Wallace would only compound their logjam at small forward) the club may very well wind up paying Williams a healthy sum to make sure they get their man.

Draft:

With the fourth overall selection, Memphis should have their sights narrowed down to four players: Al Horford, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah and Mike Conley Jr. Horford and Noah would be the most logical choices, but Conley would come into play if the team doesnít feel confident in their ability to land Williams. This draft will bring Memphis to an impasse. The players they should draft play essentially the same position as their franchise player, Pau Gasolóeven if Noah and Horford can probably play next to him in the West. If they are going to trade Gasol, now is the time. The draft is deep, and his replacement would be in place immediately. In contrast, if the team chooses to keep Gasol, they may miss out on the chance to move him altogether. They should not bank on having the same options in front of them in the future as they do right now.

Should the team manage to acquire another first-round pick by moving Gasol or one of their small forwards, they should target an experienced player like Morris Almond or Derrick Byars. Both players would provide quality minutes at shooting guard almost immediately. Rudy Fernandez is another interesting option considering his Spanish ties to Gasol. Javaris Crittenton would be a good fit as well if Williams isnít acquired. Taurean Green could be another solid option, although Memphis owes its second round pick to Seattle as part of the foolish Lawrence Roberts deal. This offseason will truly be a decisive one in Memphis, and their roster could look drastically different on draft day should they decide itís time to take things in another direction.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Boston Celtics
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 20, 2007
The Celtics quickly found their season derailed as a litany of injuries to key rotational personnel ended any thoughts of post season contention early in the campaign. Veteran star Paul Pierce went down with the first significant injury of his career and exposed the youthful rosterís lack of depth and finishing ability.

The injured list was long, but it did give the team an opportunity to evaluate many of its promising young prospects. The situations these players were thrust into helped the team to advance their development and increase their market clout going into the offseason.

With so many superstar players looking for championship satisfaction, the Celtics are at an interesting crossroads with their current roster. Paul Pierce is certainly looking at his contemporaries and wondering what his team will do to satiate his desire to compete. GM Danny Ainge must carefully weigh all the short and long-term benefits of the numerous opportunities he has to manipulate the construct of his roster.

It should be an interesting offseason for this once-proud franchise, and the possibility exists to establish the first legitimate foundation the Celtics have seen since the early 90ís. What they do going forward should be a fascinating case study in modern day team building, though it remains to be seen what side of the coin that example falls on.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency:



Usage:



Record/ Overview:

24-58, 5th place Atlantic Division
The Celtics started off the season with the idea of developing a certain set of young players around their two stalwart veteran scorers, Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak. The team wasnít expecting to contend and made a prudent business decision to invest in the development of three principle young players: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and Delonte West. Each of these three players had done something during the past season to warrant a closer inspection. Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen also had given the team reason to ponder future acquisitions, but it was the aforementioned three that came into the season with substantial weight on their shoulders to contribute.

Much of the teamís roster consists of rookie contracts, and the organization has take a long-term philosophy of building a base of talent for the purposes of increasing its viability in the marketplace by developing ďgrowth stockĒ investment assets for other teams who are looking for an infusion of youth.

The team certainly wasnít expecting to be in the situation it found itself when injuries to Pierce, Szczerbiak, Theo Ratliff, and Tony Allen effectively ended their chances of competing in the notoriously weak Atlantic Conference. But from a long term perspective, the organization suffered very little in terms of its ability to evaluate its portfolio of assets and make some definitive conclusions for moving into this offseason.

Danny Ainge has done a masterful job at lining up salaries in such a way that virtually all his deadweight contracts expire just as the team must extend the deals of the youth they choose to keep. Ainge has also managed to acquire a good mix of mid and upper level contracts that help to facilitate trades for the types of impact acquisitions necessary to build a competitive club going forward.

The organization still has some work to do, but they have positioned themselves well to be a player at the table when it comes to making the types of deals that can put Boston back on the basketball map. Whether or not Ainge is adept enough to complete this final round of business will be the determinant in the success or failure of his tenure.

Current Assets:

The Celtics are pretty much entirely made up of assets. Only Wally Szczerbiakís deal looks to be an asset negative at this time and he should quickly find himself in demand at this time next season, as Theo Ratliff is discovering this offseason.

Regardless, there are enough young prospects on this team that warrant attention around the league, though not all look to reap the return that Celtics fans are hoping for. The team is in a good position to make effective moves both this offseason and beyond.

Expiring Contracts-

For this offseason, Theo Ratliffís expiring contract has put the Celtics front and center in virtually every major trade discussion in the marketplace. Boston has been roundly criticized for last yearís draft day trade for Sebastian Telfair, but it is Ratliffís expiring deal that has enabled the Celtics to get in on a number of trade discussions they wouldnít have been able to participate in.

The other principle in that trade, Sebastian Telfair, also has a nice portion of cash coming off the books as he is slated to make just over 2.5 million next season. Telfair has yet to live up to his billing, but the combined salaries of these two players gives Boston over 14 million in cash to negotiate with.

Ryan Gomes is also coming off the books, but his salary slot is outweighed by his talent and he isnít much more than a throw-in from the perspective of outside organizations that are looking to add future talent. Gomes continues to fly under the radar for most teams because his game is more aptly displayed on a consistent playoff team that can utilize his intelligence and ability to play off of their established stars. Look for Gomes to be moved in a major deal as filler, but expect him to land somewhere and increase his value over time.

Total Cost: $15,000,000


Rotation Players-

Pierce is still the cornerstone of the Celtics for the moment, and Ainge has stated his desire to build around him for the long term. Injuries derailed Pierceís season for the first time in his career, and the team may be considering re-evaluating its long-term options.

Pierce is in the peak of his prime at 30 years of age, and should be able to command a decent return in any trade scenario, despite the money owed to him on his deal. In an offseason as volatile as this, it is prudent for the team to gauge their Captainís value as an alternative to building around him.

Al Jeffersonís emergence last season is one of the principle reasons the team may actually entertain thoughts of moving Pierce. Despite the teamís horrid record without the captain, Jefferson was able to make tremendous strides in his personal game in terms of operating out of the double team and extending his game beyond pure post play.

Many league executives have kept a cursory eye on Jefferson over the past two seasons, but his name has moved to the forefront of every teamís request list when it comes to negotiating trade scenarios with the Celtics. Most expect Jefferson to be an offensive anchor for a teamís frontcourt, and at 22 years of age he is getting quite a lot of attention for his potential going forward.

Kendrick Perkins serves as the teamís current center and Jeffersonís pivot partner. Perkins has shown flashes of being a defensive centerpiece with his shot blocking and rebounding, but hasnít remained healthy enough or consistent enough to warrant much outside attention. The deal Perkins signed last offseason is cap friendly for a 22 year old 5-man who has shown hard work and dedication to improvement, but until he puts up numbers to validate his efforts, heíll be more valuable to the Celtics than he will to anyone looking to make a deal.

Wally Szczerbiak had a disappointing season after beginning the year with one of his best starts of his career. Szczerbiak has battled knee and ankle injuries the past 2 seasons and has completely eliminated his trade value in the process.

The Celtics didnít do themselves any favors in this department by continually rushing Szczerbiak back onto the floor as quickly as possible after every ankle twist. More prudence by the coaching staff will have to be used if they hope to keep Szczerbiak healthy and productive this upcoming season. When Healthy, Szczerbiakís efficient scoring from the perimeter would make him a valuable contributor to the Boston inside/outside attack.

Delonte West is another solid young player who has generated a lot of respect and interest around the league because of his gritty play. Westís history of nicks and bruises has limited his market value to some extent, as has his solid but unspectacular numbers. West is ideally suited for being a 6th man scorer off the bench because he can play both guard positions and is absolutely lethal at times with his scoring ability.

Getting a healthy and consistent year from West should increase his trade value substantially, so the team would be wise to sign him to a cheaper deal now and enjoy the benefits later down the line.

Total Cost: $37,300,000


Prospects-

Gerald Green is probably the headline talent in terms of league interest. His win at the All Star gameís dunk contest solidified his name in the minds of GMís and Kobe Bryantís comments about his potential helped to solidify thoughts about his game.

Green has always been considered a highly talented long-term project by most executives around the league, and for players like that it is typical to allow the team that drafted them to do the developing.

Greenís value is solid, but unspectacular when it comes to trade discussions. Any team would gladly take him, but until his game reaches a level where they know he can contribute substantially, the Celtics will always receive low-ball offers for his services. Look for the team to either move him in a bigger package or hold onto him until his value is more substantial.

Tony Allenís midseason arrival last year helped to solidify the teamís opinion of his future going forward. The knee injury has diminished Allenís trade value, so the team is most likely going to hold onto him and see what he brings to the table next season. It is doubtful that the Celtics will have such faith as to project him as a building block at the wing, but a good showing next year will make the teamís decision much easier as Allen has shown what he can do when 100 percent healthy.

Rajon Rondo quickly became a fan favorite with his propensity for the spectacular. Heís the best pure point guard prospect the team has had in quite some time and has the potential to be a lock down defender once he gains a greater understanding of his opponentís tendencies and capability.

Rondo probably has some value on the market right now, but Delonte West may have more because of his proven track record. Rondoís shooting issues are still a point of concern for the Celtics and other teams, so itís doubtful heíll be the make-or-break chip in any future deal until he has established his effectiveness in a winning environment. The team will most likely hold onto Rondo and develop him themselves.

Leon Powe and Allan Ray all have little trade value on the open market, though each still has a long way to go before they can be called finished products. The team will most likely rid themselves of at least one out of two depending on roster availability, and it seems Powe is the most likely to stick right now because of his defensive and rebounding ability at the 4, a position that is currently thin for the team. Offseason acquisitions will determine the fate of these two, but both have a good shot at sticking in the league.

Total Cost: $6,100,000


Free Agency

The Celtics are over the cap and will likely not be players in the free agent market barring a major trade that increases the appeal of Boston as a free agent location. Ownership has stated its reluctance to exceed the salary cap unless the team is legitimately ďone pieceĒ away from contention, so it is doubtful any mid-level acquisitions will be made without substantial changes in other areas first.

Draft

The Celtics hold the 5th and 32nd picks in this yearís draft, but have been widely rumored to be looking to make moves to increase the short-term prospects of the team.

If Boston does stay at 5, the best fit for them would be a defensive frontcourt partner to fill out the rotation alongside Perkins and Jefferson. Joakim Noah and Al Horford hold obvious interest, while Yi Jianlian continues to be an intriguing prospect for his offensive potential. If the team stays at 5, expect a big man to be picked unless a deal has been struck for after the draft. If the team takes a wing something is happening on the trade front. Jeff Green has been mentioned as a serious candidate and is rumored to be the pick of head coach Doc Riversówho scouted him extensively while watching his son Jeremiah play at Georgetown.

At pick 32, there should be a number of potential quality starters available. Taurean Green is a somewhat unheralded point guard prospect who should be able to play the backup role from day one. If the team trades any of their current guards, expect Green to generate some interest.

Petteri Koponen would be an even more ideal fit, but the chances of him being on the board arenít greatóeven if he did work out for the Celtics. Moving away from the guards, Glen Davis is an intriguing option if the team doesnít acquire a big man with its initial selection or via trade. There is also a bevy of interesting wing prospects to choose from, but the team has a wealth of talent at that position currently.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Milwaukee Bucks
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
June 19, 2007
This was a season to forget for the Milwaukee Bucks, as injuries ruined any chance they had at posting a respectable record. With Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and Charlie Villanueva all missing significant time, the team was forced to rely on reserves, yielding little success. On the bright side, the team did see the emergence of Mo Williams as a quality starting point, but thatís really the only thing that went right for the club this season.

To make matters worse, they came away with only the sixth pick after sitting in the third position in the lottery. The club will certainly be able to add a solid contributor with the sixth pick, but their picks value pales in comparison to what they could have acquired had they moved into the top two. With Mo Williams entering free agency, the Bucks will have some tough decisions to make this summer. They will have the cap space to make a splash in the open market, but probably wonít make an offer to more than one or two upper-echelon free agents. Hopefully, the team will remain healthy enough during next season to see their recent investments come to fruition.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency:



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Record/ Overview:

28-54, 5th place Central Division

Milwaukee didnít get a very good read on the talent they had on their roster in 2007, seeing most of their players miss a good portion of what could have been a promising season. Their major acquisition from two offseasonís ago, Bobby Simmons, missed the entire season with an injury, compounding already dire talent and chemistry issues. Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak will have an uphill battle in his first full year as head coach, but should watch his team have little trouble improving on their record from last season. The Bucks have the opportunity to add a quality player with their high draft pick, and could improve enough to sneak into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Current Assets:

Milwaukee has tradable assets, but the problem is that the team hasnít gotten to see their individual merits or ability to mesh as a group. Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva would bring the team a solid return, but neither of the players seems likely to be shopped. Earl Boykins is another potential bargain chip if he doesnít opt out, but isnít the same commodity he was a few seasons ago and appears to be leaning towards hitting free agency.
Szymon Szewczyk is a largely unknown commodity considering he hasnít crossed the Atlantic since Milwaukee drafted him in 2003. While his stock may not be high, his rights are certainly an expendable asset that could be moved in a trade of any kind. The problem is that he was drafted four years ago and he's still yet to establish himself as anything more than a marginal prospect even in Europe.

With Mo Williams hitting the free agent market, Milwaukee is in position to add Chauncey Billups, and his decision will have a huge impact on the way General Manager Larry Harris views his roster.

Expiring Contracts-

The Bucks have a ton of expiring contracts, and wonít be looking to retain the vast majority of them. The three largest deals they will shed are those of Ruben Patterson, Calvin Booth, and Brian Skinner. Patterson had a solid season, but that was largely a byproduct of the injury to Bobby Simmons. His recent problems with the law certainly havenít increased his value to the Bucks franchise. Booth and Skinner were both overpaid for their production, and arenít effective enough in the post to be worth retaining. The expiration of these deals will allow Milwaukee to finally move forward with only a couple of other bad contracts on their books.

Earl Boykins has a team option next season, but it appears that he may not exercise it. He was a valuable asset to the Bucks this season, but they will be investing in a starting point guard this offseason and Boykins will probably find a better offer elsewhere. Mo Williams should be the point guard that the Bucks invest in. While Billups would make a major splash for the franchise, Williams is six years his junior and is still improving. Williams will warrant a huge raise from his $1.9M salary from last season, but he should n't receive any more than Bobby Simmons did when the Bucks signed him. If Williams prices himself out of Milwaukeeís range, Boykins could be brought back. However, that appears unlikely.

There are two other significant players with expiring contracts on Milwaukeeís roster. Charlie Bell has floated around the league for his entire career, but should be finding a long-term home this offseason. Whether that is in Milwaukee remains to be seen, but he certainly has some loyalties to the team that finally gave him a chance. Ersan Ilyasova is still extremely young, and should be retained considering his relatively small contract this offseason. The Bucks have a handful of other deals expiring, including those of Julius Hodge, Ha Seung-Jin, Jared Reiner, and Chris McCray.

Total Cost: $28,772,316

Rotation Players-

The Bucks have some pieces in place, but will be looking to carefully manage their rotation over the next few seasons. Micheal Redd has become one of the leagueís most unguardable players, and will be due an average of $15M over the next four seasons. He will have a player option for the season ending in 2011, and will be playing for the Bucks for the foreseeable future. Bobby Simmons was brought on to be Reddís sidekick at small forward after a breakout 2005 season with the Clippers. Simmons had an average initial season with the Bucks, and will be looking to bounce back after a season away from the game. Simmonsí contract may be a bit expensive for his talent level, but his recovery will be the ultimate determinant of his value. He could be a valuable trade commodity when his contract expires in 2010.

Andrew Bogut and Andrew Villanueva are the future of the Milwaukee rotation, and will be two of the major components of the Bucksí long-term success. Neither player remained healthy during the 2007 season, but both showed a great deal of promise. Bogut proved to be a legitimate offensive threat down low, and appeared to be adjusting to the NBA game. Villanueva on the other hand, had a tough initial year in Milwaukee struggling to replicate his numbers from a season ago before going down with a season ending shoulder injury. Villanueva should turn things around next season when he adapts to Milwaukeeís offense and playing next to Bogut. Bogut and Villanueva are virtual locks to be retained when they become restricted free agents in 2009.

The only other true rotation player the Bucks featured this season was Dan Gadzuric. Gadzuric is due an average of over $6M per year until his contract expires in 2011. Given his paltry production, the Bucks would love to move the Dutch center, but will probably have an exceedingly difficult time finding potential suitors.

Total Cost: $34,352,590

Prospects

The Bucks have a couple of prospects that donít have expiring contracts, but neither of them have the potential to be major contributors down the line. David Noel provided valuable minutes in the absence of Michael Redd and Bobby Simmons, but doesnít have the range to make an impact yet. In the same light, Damir Markota was decent in limited minutes, but his jump shot is extremely inconsistent at this point in his career.

Total Cost: $825,436

Free Agency

Free agency will be the key to Milwaukeeís short-term future, as it will determine the direction of the franchiseís point guard position. Mo Williams appears to be the current favorite to hold down the spot next season, but he will have stiff competition from the likes of Chauncey Billups. The Bucks will certainly offer Billups a big deal, but he may be reluctant to leave the Pistons for a rebuilding franchise. Williams will be the cheaper option, and would be the better decision in the long-run. It could also be argued that Williams would be the better pick for the short-term, considering he has already meshed with the other players on Milwaukeeís roster. His experience in the Milwaukee offense will make him tough to replace with any other free agent than Billups, but the Bucks donít want to pay Williams as much as they will offer Billups.

If Williams accepts a smaller offer, the Bucks will probably be inclined to spend their extra cap space on cheap young players like Amir Johnson, Yaroslav Korolev, or Melvin Ely. If they have enough space, the club may also be inclined to try and resign Charlie Bell, but that is far from a sure thing at this point. If the Bucks decide to go in another direction, they will be in play for most of the other upper level free agents including Gerald Wallace.

Draft

Outside of the point guard position, the Bucksís free agent targets will be determined almost entirely by who they select in the draft. The team will be in the market for a forward with the sixth overall selection, but probably wonít relegate themselves to players at one forward position or the other coming in. The teamís ideal selection would be Brandan Wright, but he will probably be off the board by the team they pick. Al Horford is in the same boat. This leaves the Bucks with a number of options at combo forward including Jeff Green and Julian Wright.

Corey Brewer would be another solid selection, and could go a long way towards taking the pressure off of Bobby Simmonsí rehabilitation process. Wright and Brewer appear to be the current favorites for this selection, as their defense and versatility make them an attractive commodity to place next to Micheal Redd. Yi Jianlian is a sleeper candidate at this pick if he falls, and the Bucks could jump at the opportunity to pick up the Chinese forward. Mike Conley Jr. would be another sleeper, as Milwaukee could surprise everyone by pursuing a big time free agent at another position. This selection will go a long way towards clearing up Milwaukeeís intentions for their roster next season.

With their second selection, the 56th overall, Milwaukee could be in the market for a point guard if Earl Boykins opts out. Dashaun Wood would be a solid selection, but the team may be more inclined to select a bigman. Jermareo Davidson and Ryvon Covile would provide solid depth down low, and would both have a very legitimate chance of receiving some playing time as rookies.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Minnesota Timberwolves
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
June 18, 2007
The Timberwolves struggled mightily this season, but have the potential to be a borderline playoff team in the Western Conference. Kevin Garnett once again carried the load in Minnesota, getting some help from rookie Randy Foye, but didnít have the support he needed to get to the playoffs. While the key complementary players Kevin McHale acquired to assist Garnett are still relatively young, he will need to add additional pieces if he wants to get this team to the playoffs before Garnettís contract expires. Given the nature of this yearís draft, he may have the rare opportunity to do just that. Depending on how this years draft shakes out, Minnesota may be able to grab one of the bottom spots in the Western Conference Playoffs as soon as next season.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency



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Record/ Overview:

32-50, 4th place Northwest Division

The Timberwolves struggled all season to put points on the board, and Kevin McHaleís decision to sever ties with Head Coach Dwayne Casey mid-season only compounded problems. Interim Head Coach Randy Wittman took over for the 20-20 Casey and posted a meager 12-30 record after McHale decided to act on the perceived lack of progress the team was making. This breach in continuity really hurt any chances Minnesota had of making it to the playoffs this season, and put a lot of pressure on players to adjust to Wittmanís coaching style.

The Timberwolves need to hire a Head Coach this offseason that has legitimate winning experience, so that they can bring some long-term continuity to one of the most important positions in the franchise. Minnesota will roll out almost the exact same roster next season, so they will need to create some internal stability if they want to even make a run at the playoffs next season.

Current Assets:

What really hurts Minnesota is their lack of quality niche players. With Mike James, Troy Hudson, and Marko Jaric running the point, the teamís offense doesnít have the type of dynamic playmaker that makes good decisions and sets up his teammates. On a team with Kevin Garnett and a handful of quality swingmen, such a player would make an instant impact. The Timberwolves have a handful of players that they could deal in order to obtain such a playmaker, but arenít in position to leverage such a player without dismantling their current core.

The Timberwolves will have one major asset this offseason, and that is the contract of Ricky Davis which expires at the end of next season. Davis is playing at a bargain for such a talented player, but his attitude may deter some teams from looking at him as a viable option. Outside of Davis, the Timberwolves have most of the players they would really like to deal locked up for too long to make them attractive to any other team.

The positive thing that the Timberwolves do have going for them is the quality of the young talent on their roster. Randy Foye played well as a rookie, and could break out next season. Rashad McCants played well coming off of a devastating injury, and could surprise a lot of people if he works hard in the offseason. Both young swingmen have the potential to develop into starters, which may make Kevin McHale hesitant to deal them for short-term success. Post players Craig Smith and Justin Reed could also be valuable bargaining chips, but wouldnít be enough to make a team consider taking one of Minnesotaís bad contracts of their hands.

Expiring Contracts-

The Timberwolves donít have any players currently on their roster with expiring contracts outside of Bracey Wrightís small deal. However, they will find some small relief from the expiration of the deal of Vin Baker, which wonít come close to pulling the Timberwolves back under the salary cap.

Total Cost: $742,765

Rotation Players-

The Timberwolves would probably like to part ways with at least half of their rotation. In the backcourt, Marko Jaric, Mike James, and Troy Hudson have all failed to live up to expectations. After signing a big free agent deal last summer, James averaged less than half as many points per game than he averaged last season. His current deal lasts through 2009 with a player option for the season ending in 2010. Hudsonís and Jaricís situations are almost identical to Jamesís. Jaricís numbers have declined since he jumped ship from the Clippers two seasons ago, and he wonít come off of the books until 2011. Hudson has seen injuries slow him down since resigning with Minnesota, but his decline in production has been significant as well. Coupling Hudsonís deal, which expires in 2010, with those of Jaric and James, the Timberwolves have invested nearl $18M in a backcourt that simply doesnít get the job done. Donít expect more than one, if any of these three, to be back after the expiration of their deals.

On the perimeter, Minnesota features a pair of talented players in Trenton Hassell and Ricky Davis. While Hassellís offensive numbers have declined, his abilities on defense havenít. When he was signed to his current deal, which lasts until 2009 with a team option for 2010, Kevin McHale wasnít retaining Hassell for his ability to put the ball in the basket. Hassell has the ability to put points on the board when he is playing with a quality facilitator, but his true value is in his ability to provide a complementary defensive presence to Kevin Garnett. Davis is in almost the exact opposite situation. His offensive game is so important to Minnesota statistically that it would look rather odd on paper if they decided to trade him. Minnesota will likely try to trade Davis and Hassell this offseason, in hopes that they can acquire a good pass first point guard along with a small forward or a backup center.

In the post, the Timberwolvesí rotate a trio of players, including franchise player Kevin Garnett. Mark Blount, who came over in the Wally Szczerbiak deal last season, has finally hit his stride after having a bit of a tough time adjusting to playing next to Garnett. His rebounding numbers for a player his height leave something to be desired, but he is still an efficient player. He may not be giving Minnesota their moneyís worth, but very few centers in the NBA are anymore. Blount is a solid player, who will provide complementary post play until his contract expires in 2010. Similarly, Mark Madsen will be around until 2010, but is more of a locker room presence than anything else.

Regardless of what is around him, Kevin Garnett is the identity of the Minnesota Timberwolves. His desire to make it to the playoffs and win a championship has catalyzed at least some of the turnover on Minnesotaís roster during the last few seasons. He is clearly dissatisfied by the lack of improvement, and is the only reason this team is a threat to make the playoffs. However, the loyalty that Garnett has to the organization that drafted him seems to run deep. His contract runs through next year, with a player option for the season ending in 2009. If the team doesnít improve significantly next season it is very likely that Garnettís loyalties may run out.

Total Cost: $56,391,000

Prospects

Minnesota has five solid prospects, none of whom have reached their ceiling in term of production. Forwards Justin Reed and Craig Smith are cut from a similar mold physically, but Smithís production in his rookie season eclipses what Reed has done in his entire career. Reed has been solid in limited minutes, but Smith has proven to be one of the most productive rookies in the entire NBA. Smithís contract is an absolute bargain, and he will earn a significant raise when he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of next season.

The Timberwolves also have three quality young guards, with much of their future stock put in former first-round picks Rashad McCants and Randy Foye. The third guard, Bracey Wright, had his option picked up for this season, but was more of an insurance policy after playing extremely well in the NBADL back in 2006, and should be moving on.

McCants and Foye are the keys to Minnesotaís short-term success. McCants spent the beginning of this season injured, but began to show signs of development as the season went on. It was clear that McCants wasnít the same player he was at North Carolina, and an offseason of hard work could go a long way towards getting his career back on track. McCants should be retained up to, and after, his restricted free agency in 2009. In comparison, Foye came on extremely strong in the last month of the season when his shot started falling. His average of 15.4 points per game in the month of April is a testament to how far he came as the season went on. He should be Kevin Garnettís sidekick next season, and should be retained when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2010.
Unfortunately, Foye is one of the few players on this team with any trade value, and would likely have to be included in any deal through which Kevin McHale tries to dump the big contracts of his underperforming backcourt. Minnesota would be best served not to trade Foye, as his development could be the key to keeping Kevin Garnett from heading elsewhere.

Total Cost: $5,814,708

Free Agency

Minnesota will be over the cap for the next few seasons if Kevin Garnett doesnít opt out, so they will only have their Mid-Level Exception to work with. They will be active in the trade market, so their targets in free agency will be largely dependant on who they can acquire through that avenue. With very few solid backup centers available in free agency, and rumors purporting that Minnesota will buy one of Phoenixís late first round picks, the Timberwolves will likely target a swingman or point guard in free agency.

There isnít going to be a lot of quality available for Minnesotaís asking price, but they do have an interesting bargaining chip in Ricky Davis. They would be well served to make a run at some restricted free agents with their MLE before making a decision on Davis. In the post, Anderson Varejao would be a perfect fit next to KG, but Cleveland may be inclined to keep him and their other potential Minnesota target, Sasha Pavlovic. Golden Stateís Mickael Pietrus would be another interesting option on the perimeter.

It seems like the ideal solution to Minnesotaís problems would be to acquire a player through a sign and trade using Ricky Davis and one of the teamís prospects as a bargaining chip. Mike Bibby would be great alongside Kevin Garnett, but his price tag will likely be too high if he terminates his contract early. Maurice Williams and Chauncey Billups are other options, but Minnesota would really have to give up a lot to get any of these three players.

This teamís strategy in free agency should ultimately come back to what Kevin McHale feels is the current state of his roster. If he sees the potential for growth without making an addition, he probably wonít make a trade. However, he could just as easily feel pressed to address the teamís holes to please Kevin Garnett. Either way, this will be a critical and interesting summer for the Timberwolves.

Draft

The Timberwolves offseason will really come to a turning point on draft day. The team will have so many options available to them, and making the right one could be the difference between reaching the postseason or falling farther into the lottery. The Timberwolves are seeded 7th in the lottery, so they have no shot at Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, and Brandan Wright, but they will probably wind up having to choose between Corey Brewer, Jeff Green, and Spencer Hawes.

Depending on what happens to Ricky Davis, Brewer and Green could ultimately be the two options. Brewer brings the defense and playmaking component that this team desperately needs, but also has the versatility to help out across the board. Green is a player of similar caliber, but he is more of an inside player than Brewer. Julian Wright is yet another potential option, but he may be too raw offensively for Kevin McHaleís tastes.

Hawes is an option, but Minnesota would probably be best served to avoid selecting a center with their first pick. Post players notoriously take longer to develop, and the Timberwolves are looking for immediate dividends.

If Minnesota manages to trade Ricky Davis along with either Mike James or Troy Hudson, Mike Conley could also come into play. His play making skills would be a welcomed addition to a team that lacks a distributor. Brewer should be Minnesotaís pick if he is available, as he is an instant impact type of player with the potential to be a great all-around forward.

If the Timberwolves decide to buy Phoenixís pick, they would likely do so with the intention of taking a center. Aaron Gray or Marc Gasol could be long-term replacements for Mark Blount and could provide some depth immediately. Javaris Crittenton could be a good fit for Minnesota if he falls, as would Acie Law.

Minnesota will not have their second round selection, but they will have that of the 76ers. Whichever of their three needs has not been addressed by this stage of the draft will likely be their target. Kyle Visser would be a quality player to bring in behind Blount, while Derrick Byars and Taurean Green would serve to fill the teamís other needs should that be their priority. Minnesota will need to come up big in the draft if they want to make the playoffs next season, and should look to explore their options with Ricky Davis early in the offseason in order to simplify the draft process.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Charlotte Bobcats
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 17, 2007
The Bobcats went through year three much like they did their initial two campaigns, with some intriguing storylines and far too many injuries to capitalize on their talent.

Charlotte has bee fiscally prudent over the first few years of their existence. The team was hamstrung by expansion cap rules, but was also smart enough not to try and rush things in terms of spending on half-measure type players.

The team has patiently built through the draft, while placing steady veterans around the edges of the bench in order to provide a bit of atmosphere for the young developmental players.

This season will mark the first where the Bobcats can utilize the full cap figure. Theyíve got some tough decisions to make, but could surprise a lot of people if they can keep their current players on the court and add an impact veteran to the fold.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency:



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Record/ Overview:

33-49, 4th place Southeast Division

Charlotte just could not keep its front line players on the court. The team looked to be highly competitive going into this season, with 2nd year players Raymond Felton and Sean May showing signs of breaking out. Emeka Okafor shed the meaningless muscle mass he had added the year before and returned to being the offensive/defensive anchor that Charlotte relied upon during his first season in the league.

The team got improved play from Gerald Wallace and was able to keep him on the court for most of the season, but May once again went down and questions about his fitness and durability are sure to follow him into next season.

Overall, the team seems to be right on the cusp of putting together a solid season. Rookie Adam Morrison struggled to perform consistently when pushed into the role of lead outside scorer, but International addition Walter Herrmann showed late that he had a handle on the NBA game.

The team needs a synergizing force to bring them all together. It appears that the Bobcats will have a tough decision when it comes to selecting who to spend their money on this offseason. Wallace deserves a raise, but the team must decide who gives them the best chance to win. A little health would go a long way toward helping Charlotte put up its best season in its brief existence.

Current Assets:

The Bobcats are all about assets thanks to their shrewd decision to maintain salary flexibility while building through the draft. The team is loaded with intriguing young players and are bracketed by reasonably priced veterans on short deals that should be able to net the team something attractive if they decide to enter the trade market.

Expiring Contracts-

The team has some expiring deals coming off the books next season and could get a decent return for them if packaged correctly.

Both Othella Harrington and Jake Voskuhl combine to make roughly 4.5 million and veteran point guard Brevin Knight helps to double that figure if his club option is picked up. There are never a shortage of teams looking to pick up veteran help at the point guard position and Knight has received interest from a number of teams in the past. For a team looking to move some payroll, Charlotte could sweeten this pot pretty easily.

Primoz Brezec is another player who will most likely pick up his player option this season and try and cash in on the free agent market next season. Unless the Bobcats select another big man in the draft, Brezec looks to be one of the three main bigs in the rotation and should be able to put up a season worthy of some decent free agent consideration for the numerous teams that could use scoring savvy and rebounding from the center position.

If Walter Herrmann has his option excorcised it is doubtful he gets the chance to see the floor as he did during the close of the Bobcats season. Herrmann proved to anyone paying attention that his length and athleticism translated into the NBA game. He also displayed an excellent perimeter shooting touch that should make him an attractive low-cost option for a team looking for intelligent, veteran experience off the bench.

Total Cost: $13,400,000


Rotation Players-

Gerald Wallace continued to be the teamís emotional leader on the court with his energetic play and reckless abandon. Wallace improved for the third season in a row and is clearly an expansion draft steal that the team should feel fortunate to have.

Wallace is going to be looking for a nice paycheck out of this offseason and the Bobcats will have a tough choice to make because theyíve got just enough under the cap to make a run at another free agent who might provide a bit more scoring clout, something this team has been in dire need of.

If they can sign another player first and then revisit Wallace after the fact, the team could have a truly great offseason considering where theyíre picking as well.

Emeka Okafor had a very nice bounce-back year after putting on twenty pounds the season before, losing his shooting touch, and going down with a series of injuries that put his future in doubt in some circles.

Okafor isnít a scoring dynamo, but his rebounding and shot blocking give Charlotte a defensive anchor that they can build around in the future. His value to the team is much more substantial than what he may return in trade, but if the team has grand designs for a major overhaul, Okafor is perhaps their best asset.

Brevin Knight production slipped a bit last season as understudy Raymond Felton was given the green light to become the teamís principle ball handler. Knight played far less minutes, but was equally as effective at distributing the ball to his teammates. He is getting on in age and probably wants to secure on last pay day on a team that will utilize his playmaking ability while heís still in his prime.

Sean May has tremendous talent and could be an excellent high-post scorer who rebounds and makes smart basketball plays for his team. Unfortunately, May has found the snack bar more than heís found the court in his first two season and his lack of conditioning has led to a series of injuries which have shortened each of his first two seasons.

It would not be surprising to see the team draft a big man with the intention of lighting a fire under May, who reportedly is taking this offseason quite seriously. If May can put it all together he should have a fantastic season next year, as he looked very comfortable playing along side Okafor early in the year.

Total Cost: $16,700,000


Prospects-

Most of the rotation players could also be classified as prospects because of their age and experience level, but for the purposes of this section the focus will be squarely on Adam Morrison.

Morrison was highly touted coming out of Gonzaga and got thrust into the spotlight very quickly for the Bobcats. The team rested the responsibility of being the primary perimeter scorer on Morrisonís skinny shoulders and the weight of expectation seriously affected his ability to perform.

Morrison looked especially uncomfortable during home games and his confidence seemed to take a major hit. He wasnít vocal or aggressive the way many had grown accustom to during his time at Gonzaga and his game lacked a certain purpose to it much of the time.

Morrison had quite a few solid games mixed into his up and down season, but has a long way to go before he can be relied upon to be the teamís primary offensive option from the perimeter. It will be interesting to see how the Bobcats handle Morrisonís situation going forward because he could benefit tremendously from having a veteran wing as a mentor while he adjusts his game to the NBA level.

Morrison has the length, quick release, and ability to shoot in motion that should allow him to become a consistent scoring threat, but handling his psyche going forward is going to be important if the team wants to realize a full return on its investment.

Total Cost: $3,600,000


Free Agency

The Bobcats have had this year circled for some time and there are many good players on the market that the team should have interest in.

The two names heard most frequently are Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter. Both Carter and Lewis have the type of offensive explosiveness and perimeter-oriented attack that would open up the inside game for May, Okafor, and the prospective draft pick to attack.

Carter has talked of staying in New Jersey, but he would make a lot of sense for a Charlotte franchise who has already showed an interest in bringing Tar Heals into the fold. At his current age, Carter could be had for the right price and could give this team and identity going forward over the next few seasons.

Lewis would be the younger option and certainly provides a lot of what Carter would bring. Lewis doesnít have quite the playoff resume of Carter, but his outside shooting and overall attack style would be a good image for Morrison to emulate.

Adding either or these players would almost certainly mean the departure of Wallace, but it may be the teamís best move considering its need for offensive fire power. Itís possible the team could keep Wallace and add another scoring option, but it would be complicated and the team hasnít been a big time player yet to expect this scenario to transpire.

Draft

The Bobcats have been rumored to be looking to trade down in the draft and one must assume that their focus has been on Corey Brewer if that is the case. The Bobcats have options at the other wing position, but a defensive complement on the perimeter to what Okafor does in the lane would really give the team a foundation to build off of.

Drafting Brewer and keeping Wallace would give the Bobcats the foundations for an excellent defensive team while still keeping a little offense in the lineup.

The team also has the 22nd pick, and could address its interest in the frontcourt with a selection here. Both Tiago Splitter and Josh McRoberts should be hanging around at this spot and either would add something to the teamís frontcourt mix. Splitter especially would make this team defensively superior if Wallace was to stay and Brewer was added with the earlier pick.

The team could also go with a big first and wait for the wing talent with the later pick, but considering the talents of Okafor and May, it seems that the team may feel obligated to address other needs with its first selection.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: New York Knicks
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 14, 2007
The Knicks had somewhat of a ďbounce-backĒ year under first year head coach and current GM Isaiah Thomas. Thomas was under a tremendous amount of scrutiny this past season after squandering millions in salary with seemingly listless moves for middling talent.

Owner James Dolan doesnít appear to pay strict attention to the daily operations of the team, but he came out of the woodwork and put a ďwin or elseĒ type of mandate down which prompted Thomas to take the bench himself.

No one questions that Thomas has an ego comparable to the size of the Knicks payroll, but to his credit, he got a team of disjointed parts to play fairly well during quite a few stretches of the season.

In the end however, the team failed to make the playoffs yet again, and the team continues to search for a solution to its problems via bold statements about player acquisition and a continual disregard for the salary cap system that has hamstrung this franchise for the foreseeable future.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency



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Record/ Overview:

33-49, 4yh place Atlantic Division

Thomas made it his personal mission this season to get center Eddie Curry motivated and producing up to a level requisite to his talent. While Curry may never have the drive or passion to maximize his potential, he did have his best statistical season.

The Knicks were a fairly talented offensive team, but they couldnít play consistent defense and werenít efficient with their possessions in terms of turnovers and poor shot selection.

While Curry served as an offensive focal point for the team, his turnovers and lack of any semblance of court awareness continued to be one of the principle confounding elements to the Knicks attack.

Stephon Marbury raised his level of play in the second half of the season and discovered some of the old ďStarburyĒ magic that led him to be a dynamic individual capable of putting up numbers. However, those numbers still didnít translate into wins down the stretch and the team fell on its face when it had the chance to make a serious push for the playoffs late in the year.


Current Assets:

The Knicks youth continues to be one of the lone bright spots for this franchis, as Thomas has proven to be an astute talent evaluator despite lacking in the team building department.

David Lee was an absolute revelation, pushing himself closer to the ďShawn MarionĒ plateau in terms of his ability to produce without having much called for him. Renaldo Balkman was also able to silence some of the critics that thought he was a waste of a draft pick, though his value at 20 is still subject to debate.


Expiring Contracts-

Predictably, the Knicks have no expiring contracts of any consequence going into next season and have very few short term deals of value to leverage in trade. The team does hold club options for David Lee, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, Renaldo Balkman, and Mardy Collins for after the 07/08 season, but it seems unlikely theyíd let any of those players walk away.

The Knicks would best be served by trying to package some of the young talent along with some of the overpriced veterans in order to facilitate a trade.

Total Cost: $0


Rotation Players-

Of all the Knicks rotation players, it was David Lee who was the most impressive. Ironic that Lee was also the player moved to the bench once Jared Jefferies returned to the lineup. Lee was a backboard beast all season and really brought a degree of energy to the court with him that no one else could match.

Curry turned in a number of explosive offensive games, but he turned the ball over at such an unacceptable rate, the team had to go away from him for large stretches of time. Curry is one of the most agile big men for his size, but shows no desire or intelligence on the defensive end. His rebounding and shot blocking were pathetic for a player of his size and skill, so the 30 point outbursts were tempered dramatically by his lack of command in the defensive interior.
Steve Francis bounced back and did his best to fit into the team. His most productive days seem to be over however, as he just doesnít thrive as an off-ball contributor and his contract price makes him woefully over-priced as a 6th man. Still, Francis showed resilience in returning when everyone expected the Knicks to buy him out.

Quentin Richardson battled health problems for much of the season, but began to rediscover his abilities in the post, something he was quite good at early in his career. Back troubles will limit any substantial trade offers for him, but Richardson could help contribute to this team next season if health permits.

Jamal Crawford continues to show a positive attitude and a dedication toward improvement, but he is still a hit-or-miss proposition when it comes to his ability to read the court and make intelligent basketball plays. As spectacular as he is, Crawford must grasp the fundamentals of decision making before a winning team would consider him to have any value at the price heís paid.

Marbury is at something of a crossroads in his career as well. The Larry Brown experiment took Marbury most of the season to recover from and even when he did regain his scoring touch, it didnít translate to many wins. Marbury has always lacked the one thing a point guard needs-the ability to establish a rhythm and play with a consistent pace that others can play off of.

He wasnít a problem in the locker room and has always been fairly affable, but at this point in his career it is doubtful that heíll every contribute substantially to a winning organization.

Malik Rose and Jerome James are only rotation players by virtue of their contracts, the same can practically be said about free agent acquisition Jared Jefferies. Though Jefferies played more minutes than the other two combined, none had a substantial impact on the teamís wins and losses and Jefferies defensive versatility is hardly justification for his mid-level salary and meager production.

Considering the enormous contracts that each of these players has, it is doubtful any of the veterans on this team have any value on the open market.

Total Cost: $97,733,200


Prospects-

This is by far the teamís greatest area of strength. The Knicks have done well with their draft picks the past few seasons and have collected an interesting group of role-players who should generate a lot of interest around the league.

The Knicks biggest dilemma will be whether or not to simply build around the youth and wait out the albatross contracts of the veterans that surround them or to trade the youth along with a contract to try and get a better veteran talent in return.

Considering the overall potential of the young players the Knicks possess it is doubtful the team will get a marquee player in return.

Channing Frye took a step back from his explosive rookie season, but still has the best overall potential of all the Knicks youth and should be more productive on a team with more stability.

Frye has excellent shooting touch and is smart with the basketball. On a functional team with a tight rotation he should become an excellent offensive option from the high post, capable of executing plays.

Nate Robinson has transitioned from potential point guard in the making to volatile bench scoring option for the Knicks. Robinson has abandoned the court savvy he showed early in his first season and embraced the role of designated gunner-a role a few other Knicks seem to share.

But Robinson is young and seems to be a good character guy, despite complaints about his mouth and the unfortunate incident against Denver. Again, on a team with more locker room chemistry, Robinson may exceed his current level of production.

Renaldo Balkman way a revelation at times for a Knick fan base livid over the decision to pass up on point guard Marcus Williams. Balkman has his limitations, especially shooting, but he is a ball of energy and a quality playmaker who helps make his teammates better by playing aggressively and selflessly off of those around him.

Randolph Morris and Mardy Collins will be interesting to watch next season. Both were productive college players, but neither projects to be a major NBA contributor. Each should get the chance to show their worth next season, though it is unfair to expect too much from players so early in their careers who are stuck on a team loaded with disjointed parts who will vie with them for minutes.

Total Cost: $7,723,560


Free Agency

The Knicks seem to be addicted making moves every offseason and as the cap figure has filled up and the trade market diminished, the Knicks have moved onto signing mid-level free agents. The team routinely overspends on these players seemingly just for the purposes of making a move. Jared Jefferies and Jerome James are the most recent two who have benefitted from the teamís impatience.

Draft

This is the teamís best chance to add a player of substance. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they didnít have the foresight to see how important the 2007 draft could be for franchise building and elected to grab Eddie Curry at the expense of their own pick. New York instead will select at the Bulls position and hope to acquire a potential impact player for the future, which is possible.

Thomas has already stated that he would ďshock the worldĒ with this years selection, so its not hard to imagine that he has his sights set on troubled, but talented center Sean Williams from BC. Williams is arguably a lottery level talent, and although he is a good kid by all accounts, his decision-making and self-discipline have to be in question after being kicked out of school following numerous warnings and team suspensions.

If the team doesnít go with Williams, there are a number of quality players who should be available. Thaddeus Young could be a nice understudy to Quentin Richardson, and plays a position that the team doesnít currently have a young talent at. Rudy Fernandez is an unlikely selection, but would add a lot to the team as it stands now since heís been a winner over the span of his short career.

There is no point guard prospect that wouldnít be a reach for the Knicks, but both Taurean Green and Petteri Koponen would certainly ďshockĒ many Knicks fans on draft night as well.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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NBA Market Watch: Sacramento Kings
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 13, 2007
The Kings suffered through their worst season since the inception of the ďMaloof EraĒ began. Second year head coach Eric Musselmanís off-court troubles were an apt reflection of the teamís general direction, as the team seemed to wander aimlessly all season long.

Two seasonís removed from an enticing series against the Spurs, Sacramento stalwartís Mike Bibby and Brad Miller had their worst seasonís since putting on a King uniform. Neither looked interested in playing winning basketball, which is somewhat understandable given the length of time theyíve been with the club and the palpable sense of decay the team has gone through during their watch.

Going forward, the Kings are going to have to utilize their few remaining assets to facilitate a quick transition toward a new direction. The team is strapped with some tough to move contracts tied to aging players who have little market value. Getting value for their few desirable commodities seems to be the only way the club is going be able to turn things around in a 2-3 year time frame.

Roster and Financial Breakdown:



Efficiency:



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Record/ Overview:

32-49, 5th place Pacific Division

Sacramento may have taken a sharp turn for the worse when it let coach Rick Adelman go. Adelmanís offensive sets and defined rotation worked well for the Kings and brought them to the brink of championship success. Team roster changes disrupted the personnel mix necessary to effectively run Adelmanís offense and the team needed a change of direction.

There were issued involved in the decision that go beyond pure basketball strategy and both parties were amenable to moving on, which was most likely best. Sacramento had a sustained run of success and needed to re-invent itself.

Unfortunately, the team committed substantial dollars to the contracts of role players who were meant to complement a different set of players. Shareef Abur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas almost completely fell off the map last season, while Brad Miller battled all kinds of aches and pains himself.

Kevin Martin was the lone bright spot for the club as he continued his development into a top-level scoring guard. Ron Artest had a good statistical year, but rumblings of difficulties and potential trade rumors followed him around all season and have continued into the offseason.

Overall, the Kings are a collection of ill-fitting parts who have to re-build their team identity one personnel decision at a time. The 10th pick in the draft should help this process, if the team picks wisely, and should contribute to a foundation going forward.

Current Assets:

The Kings do have a few nice young assets that can contribute to the teamís future going forward and there is still value in a couple of their key veterans. What the Kings can get back in return for these veterans will go a long way toward determining how quickly the new face of the team emerges.

Expiring Contracts-

The Kings donít have any expiring contracts coming off the books next season. The team shed 10 million in salary this past year, but is still nowhere close to being able to acquire an impact free agent. Geoff Petrie will have to work some of the old black magic if he hopes to add a major player.

Total Cost: $0


Rotation Players-

Kevin Martin was the teamís most consistent performer, played more games than anyone but Mike Bibby, and represents the teamís future moving forward. Martin should be expecting a contract offer this offseason as heís got one more year left on his current rookie deal.

The Kings may be willing to sit back another year however and address some of their other issues since theyíve got the right to match any offer for Martin and probably wonít get much of a ďdiscountĒ from Martinís camp due to the teamís instability.

Veteran guard Mike Bibby shot terribly all year and really looked disinterested in playing the game, despite professions to the contrary. Is the longest tenured King and has watched the team erode over the past 3 seasons, so its understandable if a change of scenery is in order.

Bibby is still young enough to garner some decent return value should he decide to opt out of his contract and accept a sign-and-trade to another team. Most expect Bibby to play out his contract because of itís unlikely heíd receive close to his current contract price on the open market.

However, if Bibby is interested in winning anytime soon and being a major part of the picture, heíd best be served opting out and moving on to the next stage in his career. When focused, Bibby can provide big-time scoring and solid playmaking for a team looking for a perimeter threat.

Ron Artest is another veteran asset who might best be served by moving down the road. Artest seems to be the type of player that just canít exist in a normal environment. His quirky personality is designed for a city like LA or NY, where fans may be more understanding of his litany of odd statements and behavior.

Neither Bibby or Artest are going to fetch an established star in return, but they could add some quality young talent and possibly a draft pick. New York would probably part with Channing Frye and their draft pick for Artest, considering that Sacramento would have to take on another undesirable contract to make it work. The deal isnít world-beating, but Frye has potential as a 3rd scoring option and would probably be an apt replacement for the declining Miller.

Brad Miller really looked poor last season and all the years of playing himself into shape and burning through his summers back home may have finally caught up with him. Miller is one of the most highly skilled big men in the league, but he showed no desire last season and mailed it in on the defensive end and with his rebounding even more than expected.

No one will trade for Miller at his current contract price and the Kings might have to buy him out if he doesnít want to serve as a mentor for the incoming youth.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim should be better than he was last season. He didnít have much of a role offensively and was a good soldier about being cycled out of Musselmanís system. Rahim didnít complain too vehemently and could play a role as the teamís veteran forward either off the bench or as the starter, but the team has to get more from him if they entertain any ideas of trading him for value.

Kenny Thomas and John Salmons are in a similar boat as Abdur-Rahim. Both have some solid skills, but underperformed relative to their contract value. The Kings are going to need a stable system and solid production from all of these players if theyíre going to move any of them.

Total Cost: $50,685,000


Prospects-

Francisco Garcia got the most playing time of any of the teamís young prospects, but didnít do enough to be considered a trade asset. Garcia looks like heíll eventually be a solid rotation player, but itís still uncertain if heís got enough to become a quality starter. Freeing up some roster space to get him more playing time should make this clear by the end of next season.

Quincy Douby is another interesting player who doesnít have world-beating ability, but showed flashes of developing into a scoring threat. Douby can shoot off the dribble and can get a quality shot off at some difficult angles. Kevin Martin is a very good teammate for him to emulate, though no one expects him to reach that level. Douby has no trade value, but should get some more playing time next season to show what heís learned from year one to year two.

Justin Williams is a very interesting prospect who may be a little off the radar for most. Williams per-minute statistics were pretty impressive and anyone who saw him play during the pre-draft process and into summer league should be aware at how superb an interior help defender he can be.

Williams has a ton of work to do on his bodily strength, but heís shown flashes of hitting the 10-12 foot jumper and can rebound and block shots at an NBA level. In another couple of season Williams may have built himself into a solid rotational big who can provide defensive help off the bench for a team.

For the second year in a row, Ronnie Price showed enough in the summer league to earn a roster spot only to be cycled out of the rotation during the regular season. Price is a scoring guard all the way and itíll be hard for him to take minutes away from Douby, Garcia, and Martin.

Total Cost: $3,282,874


Free Agency

The Kings arenít going to be a player in free agency for a while. They are over-commited financially to a number of mid-level type talents so adding another doesnít seem likely and certainly isnít a prudent business decision for a team looking to re-shuffle the deck.

Draft

The Kings have a number of options at with the 10th pick in the draft. There should be a number of potential impact players still available at that position. Al Thornton, Thadeus Young, and even Jeff Green could all slide to Sacramento any either could potentially replace Ron Artest if the team was so inclined to move him.

Amongst the bigs, Spencer Hawes and Jason Smith are considerations. Both would be an apt replacement for Brad Miller before Millerís killer contract expires. Hawes has a ton of potential as a low/high post player and could quickly develop on a team like Sacramento who has perimeter shooting and a willingness to allow young players to play.

There are a couple of point guard options available that could help the team as well, notably Law and Crittenton. Both players are sure to be available at the 10th spot and either could fill the void left by a departed Mike Bibby.

Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com
 
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