2015/16 Team Preview: Detroit Pistons


Additions: Aron Baynes, Steve Blake, Reggie Bullock, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Anthony Tolliver

Three years ago, it looked like the Bucks were ready to build their team around Ersan Ilyasova. He was a 24-year-old, 6’10” power forward that could not only rebound but could spread the floor with his shooting. He appeared to be one of the better young fours in the league and a big part of the Bucks future… Of course that was three years ago, and the team also hoped to build around Brandon Jennings. Now they’re both in Detroit. What happened? The Bucks drafted guys like John Henson, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, etc. and decided to take the team in a different, more successful direction. Sadly, Ilyasova hasn’t looked like the player the Bucks once thought they had recently. He shot the three-ball at a 45.5% clip in 2011/12 (second best in the NBA), but shot 28.2% and 38.9% in 2013/14 and 2014/15 respectively. Ilyasova’s rebounding numbers have also slipped. After grabbing 8.8 RPG in 2011/12, Ersan’s rebounding fell each subsequent year (7.1 in 2012/13, 6.2 in 2013/14, and 4.8 in 2014/15). Adding insult to injury (pun intended), Ilyasova has struggled to get on the floor as well as he’s only played in 113 games over the last two years. However, Illy is just 27 years old and there’s no reason to think he can’t restart his career in a new place. Undoubtedly, he’ll get minutes in Detroit, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to contribute to a team searching for an identity.

Subtractions: Caron Butler, John Lucas III, Cartier Martin, Quincy Miller, Tayshaun Prince, Shawne Williams

Wow! In fairness, the Pistons didn’t lose much. Caron Butler and Shawne Williams were sent to Milwaukee in the Ilyasova deal, and Lucas, Martin, and Miller are glorified D-Leaguers. Which leaves Tayshaun Prince. Truth be told, I was thinking Prince was gonna retire this summer. Not because he’s a bum or anything like that, he can still contribute to an NBA team. I just didn’t think he wanted to prolong this thing. Although he was never an All-Star, he was a major contributor to the Pistons during their glory days helping them win a ring and playing in all 82 games in six of this first seven seasons. Prince is perhaps best known for his length that allowed him to guard bigger forwards throughout his career. In his heyday, he routinely averaged 14 points off 46% shooting on a team that didn’t really run any plays for him. Outside of veteran leadership, he may not be able to offer much to the Timberwolves, but from an organizational perspective, the Pistons will miss Tayshaun Prince.


Rookies: Darrun Hilliard, Stanley Johnson

A lot of people thought Stanley Johnson was a steal when the Pistons selected him 8th overall last June—I’ve even heard some rookie of the year talk. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Stanley Johnson will not be Rookie of the Year; Emmanuel Mudiay will be (or god willing, Jahlil Okafor). I just know it won’t be D’Angelo Russell. Back to Johnson, he’s just not polished enough on the offensive end to win the award—but that doesn’t mean he’s not gonna make a positive impact. Johnson already has a great NBA body; he’s exceptionally strong for 19 years old and has great length (6’11” wingspan). He can utilize his size to guard positions one through four, and most guards will find it difficult to muscle up with him. He’s got a strong motor and he doesn’t quit. Johnson’s jumper is still improving and he’s a slasher, so he should be able to contribute in an offense that can create opportunities for him. Some are comparing him to Kawhi Leonard in hopes that he can become a legitimate two-way player, but again, his offense has a way to go before that happens. Right now, he’s gonna earn his minutes through tough defense and aggressive rebounding. Luckily, the Pistons have plenty of other scoring options allowing Johnson to come along at his own pace.

Reggie Jackson

Guards: I know I already called Reggie Jackson “the worst free agent signing of 2015” and that’s a statement I will have to stand by, good or bad. With that said, I never implied Jackson was a scrub, I just thought the price was outrageously high considering his similar skill set to Brandon Jennings and the seemingly poor way he left Oklahoma City. You can read my previous article if you wanna know what I don’t like about Jackson, but for now, let’s concentrate on what he can do… Jackson averaged 17.6 PPG, 9.2 APG, and 4.7 RPG in 27 games with the Pistons last season. His ability not only to score, but to make plays for others should have a positive effect on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, and Ersan Ilyasova. Last season, Jackson developed an excellent rapport with the Pistons’ best player Andre Drummond. Although he’s only been a Piston since February, Jackson’s going to have to be the team’s de facto leader. He’s not a particularly good shooter—he’s shot less than 30% from three and 43.2% from the field over his career and he’s not a particularly good defender either. Yet, if he can score in bunches and make his teammates better, he might even be able to take Detroit to their first playoff appearance since 2008/09. The Pistons also acquired Steve Blake this summer seemingly as an insurance policy after watching Brandon Jennings go down last season. Blake is what he is—a 35-year old point guard who’s on his eighth team and scored 4.3 PPG last season. If you wanna somehow get excited about him, he’s a good passer, okay shooter, and he’ll add a veteran presence to an otherwise very young locker room. I love Brandon Jennings! I thought he turned the corner last year becoming the Pistons’ leader after they waived Josh Smith. Jennings has often been labeled as a shoot-first, pass-second guard (fairly or unfairly), but his play in January and February of last season showed otherwise. The Pistons were 12-3 prior to the game that he went down with a torn ACL. In his last full game prior to his injury, Jennings scored 21 points off 10-for-21 shooting, and dished out 21 assists. A torn ACL has historically been a tough injury to recover from, but with Jennings being so young, I’m remaining optimistic.

Forwards: Ilyasova will start at the 4 and when he’s at his best, should spread the floor. Backing him up, the Pistons have Anthony Tolliver, a veteran shooter who’s averaged one three and 6.2 points over his seven-year career. Over the summer, the Phoenix Suns attempted to make cap room to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. In doing so, they sent Marcus Morris, Danny Granger, and Reggie Bullock to Detroit for a future second-round pick. Morris is yet another forward who can knock down the three point shot. He can also be an aggressive rebounder. Morris brother #2 may have a breakout season under SVG and his open court system. The aforementioned Stanley Johnson will add some strength at the small forward and Reggie Bullock rounds out the front-court.


Centers: Andre Drummond is a beast and this is going to be his breakout year. Welcome to the All-Star game, Andre Drummond! The 6’11”, 279 lb. center might be one of the most athletic bigs in the league. He’s not much of a shooter, but he also takes 75% of his shots within three feet of the hoop, so he should shoot a relatively high percentage rom the field. Last season, he averaged 13.8 points to go with his 13.5 rebounds. I don’t think there’s any reason to think he couldn’t be a 16/16 guy this season. It appears Van Gundy is implementing a similar strategy to what he used in Orlando. With the Magic, Van Gundy utilized Dwight Howard’s size and strength in the middle and surrounded him with shooters. Similarly, he will look to surround Drummond with shooters such as Reggie Jackson, KCP, Marcus Morris, Ilyasova, etc. The days of Drummond banging with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe are done—for all intents and purposes, this is Andre Drummond’s team. By all accounts, the Pistons overpaid for Aron Baynes, who will back up Drummond. Joel Anthony may see a few DNP-CD’s.

Final thoughts: I really like this Pistons team! I think they’re gonna take the jump we’ve been waiting for over the least three seasons and finally make the playoffs. Are they gonna win a playoff series? Slow down… Like I said before, SVG is gonna implement a similar system to what he ran in Orlando—put Drummond in the middle and surround him with lights out shooters. Although Greg Monroe and his contributions should be missed, they probably won’t be. Monroe’s style of play would not have been conducive to what the Pistons are gonna do moving forward… I’m not sure what’s gonna happen with Brandon Jennings. I love him, but the Pistons have already committed to Reggie Jackson. Because Jennings is in his last contract year, if he’s healthy at the deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got dealt… I think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is gonna step up this year and become a solid 3-and-D guy… Some people are expecting Stanley Johnson to be an ROY candidate but I don’t see that happening… Andre Drummond will be an All-Star this season.

2015/16 Team Preview: Denver Nuggets


Additions: Mike Miller

I was initially going to write this article about Nick Johnson but he was waived last night. What do you say about a team whose biggest free agent acquisition is Mike Miller? That they’re not trying? Well I’m not gonna say it explicitly, but I’m strongly implying it. Everyone already knows what Mike Miller brings to the table—shooting. With that said, he didn’t shoot the ball very well with Cleveland last year (2.1 PPG and 32.7% from three). The Nuggets will hope Miller can return to his 2013/14 form with Memphis (7.1 PPG and 45.7% from three). Most importantly, Miller, along with Randy Foye and Jameer Nelson, will add a veteran presence to a team that has recently lacked stability.

Subtractions: Ty Lawson, Ian Clark, Jamaal Franklin

Ty Lawson is gonna have a really good season in Houston. I think he’s exactly what the Rockets need. Last season, Lawson dished out a career-high 9.6 APG and assisted on 43% of Nuggets’ field goals. His 15.2 PPG was his lowest mark over the last four seasons, but so was his 12.3 field goals attempted. Although Lawson was never an All-Star, he’s commonly regarded as an All-Star level talent and one of the better point guards in the Western Conference. Yet for all of the things Lawson did right on the court last season, he was fucked up off the court. Under most circumstances, I’m understanding when it comes to mistakes, but acquiring two separate DUIs in a six-month span is not cool. It’s selfish and dangerous. It also shows a complete lack of awareness and responsibility. It seemed as if the decision to trade Lawson was most likely made well before the June 2015 NBA Draft, however, once Emmanuel Mudiay became available, the writing was on the wall. Lawson needs a new start. And an Uber driver.


Rookies: Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay,

Let me be clear—Emmanuel Mudiay was the best point guard in the 2015 NBA Draft and was an absolute steal for the Nuggets. Desperate to rid themselves of the PR nightmare that Ty Lawson morphed into, Denver looked to replace the best player on their roster this summer. They were extremely fortunate to have Mudiay fall to them at #7. He’s going to be a better point guard than D’Angelo Russell and a far better player than Mario Henzoja. By this point, most people are aware of the path Mudiay chose. He committed to play for Larry Brown at SMU, and then decided to completely forgo college and bounce out to China to play a year. By all accounts, Mudiay’s tenure with Guangdong was a success. He scored 18 PPG on 47.8% shooting and managed to dish out 5.9 APG, although he shot just 57.4% from the free throw line. If Mudiay is going to be an offensive threat, he has to become a better shooter. He’s inconsistent at best and doesn’t have great mechanics. He has the ability to knock shots down and will become a more consistent shooter, but as of right now, he’s not there yet. With the exception of his shooting, I like everything else about Mudiay’s game. First of all, he’s big. At 6’5” and 200 lbs., he already has NBA size. Mudiay’s got great length, moves well laterally, and gets his hands into passing lanes. He’s also an exceptional rebounder, perhaps the best rebounding guard in the draft. Manny’s also super quick and can penetrate the lane and finish at the rim. He is also a very willing passer with great court vision, and he’s extremely efficient using pick and rolls. Mudiay’s gonna get the keys to this offense on Day 1, and although the Nuggets are gonna be cellar-dwellers in the West, I think they’ll be pleased with Mudiay’s future…

Guards: Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson will back up Emmanuel Mudiay. Nelson played with three teams last season (Denver, Boston, and Dallas) and by far played his best basketball with the Nuggets. Although he’s getting old, Nelson’s still has the ability to dish and score. His 16.8 points per 36 minutes with Denver was his highest mark since his lone All-Star campaign of 2008/09 in Orlando. Furthermore, he posted a 14.5 PER during his time with the Nugs, his highest since his 2011/12 season. At 33 years old, no one is expecting Nelson to set the league on fire but if he knocks down open jumpers, create open looks for his teammates, and provides veteran leadership, he will have done his job. Nelson appeared to enjoy his renaissance of sorts with Denver and re-signed a 3-year deal with the squad this summer. It’s really difficult for me to believe that Randy Foye is still starting in this league—I guess that’s why the Nuggets are a bottom five team in this league. Foye’s coming off an atrocious year, but the majority of people didn’t notice because he plays in Denver. His 8.7 PPG was the lowest mark of his career; his 36.8% FG% was the lowest of his career; his 11 PER was the lowest of his career; and his 81.8% free throw percentage (which by no means lackluster) is only .3% higher than the lowest mark of his career. Obviously things aren’t rending in the right direction for Foye. However, there is good news for Nuggets fans. Last season, Denver acquired Will Barton and he posted some of the best numbers of his career. In 28 games with Denver, Barton averaged 24.4 minutes, 13.4 minutes more than he averaged during his 2.5 years with Portland. With his newfound playing time, Barton averaged 11 PPG off 43.3% shooting from the field, 4.6 RPG, and 1.9 APG—most of which are superior to Foye’s production. So why is Barton playing behind Foye again? Former MSU standout and lottery pick Gary Harris adds further depth at the two. Look for the rebuilding Nuggets to make some backcourt changes…

NBA: Denver Nuggets-Media Day

Forwards: Everybody loves shitting on Brooklyn’s “Big Three” consisting of Brooke Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Thaddeus Young—and rightfully so. Their year is going to be woeful. But what if you’re best players were Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Wilson Chandler?!?! Not only does that trio shout, “25-57,” but also they’re all forwards. Nonetheless, despite the success that will evade the Nugs as a team, Gallinari should have a successful year. After missing all of 2013/14, Danilo returned and put up solid numbers in limited minutes last season. He averaged 18.5 points (career high) and 5.5 rebounds (.2 less than his career high) per 36 minutes, but unfortunately shot just 40.1% from the field (career low). Furthermore, Gallinari played very well in EuroBasket this summer and I’m encouraged by Gallo’s willingness to get more involved in the Nuggets’ offense. With Lawson gone, the majority of the scoring’s gonna have to come from the Rooster. Wilson Chandler will also join the low-scoring party in Denver. Chandler shouldn’t stray too far from his career averages of 13.7 PPG career average and 44.2 FG%, but will depended on for his rebounding and defense. Kenneth Faried will be starting at the four. Rumors have long persisted that a divide existed between Faried and his team, but eventually the two agreed upon a 4-year/$52 million extension (despite the process getting fucked up by the Nuggets’ front office). I’ve already gone on record stating that I believe Faried’s deal is a far better than say, Tristan Thompson’s… The Manimal contributes a steady 12 PPG and 9 RPG, with a block and a steal. Although he’ll most likely never be an All-Star, he can certainly make a bad team better. He’s got a high motor and a nose for the ball; however, it’s been rumored that the Nuggets could try to play Faried at center, which will not go well when he has to face the league’s bigger centers such as Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol. Darrell Arthur and JJ Hickson will provide marginal, if any, depth behind Faried.

Centers: Not much proven talent here. ESPN projects Joffrey Lauvergne as the starting center for your 2015/16 Denver Nuggets. Yikes! The 55th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft (a contender for second-worst draft ever) averaged 3.9 PPG and 3.2 RPG in 24 games last season. In all fairness, these numbers mean nothing. If you look closer at his 12.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, perhaps you can see why the Nuggets are willing to give him a shot. Also entering his sophomore year, Jusuf Nurkic returns to Denver. Appearing in 62 games, The Bosnian Beast’s numbers weren’t much different than Lauvergne’s. Per 36 minutes, Nurkic averaged 13.9 points and 12.5 rebounds. Perhaps Nikola Jokic, the 41st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, will make a difference. I’ve heard several people state that he might have the highest ceiling of the three, but he’s a second-round pick who’s yet to play an NBA game, so let’s not get crazy. The bottom line is that Denver is currently looking for their next starting center. It might be one of these three guys, or it could end up being someone else…

Final thoughts: Losing team with a new coach and new starting point guard? How many different ways can that really end? I like Mudiay and LOVE Mike Malone, but this is gonna be long process. That’s word to Michael Carter-Williams and Brett Brown… Mike Malone is a top-notch NBA coach and an accomplished assistant. He got ran out of Sacramento by incompetent ownership and I’m happy to see him get a deserved second chance. After the Nuggets post about 20 wins this year, I hope the team sticks with him… Gallinari’s a great scorer and lights out shooter but his game is limited. He might average the most meaningless 22 PPG in the league… Both Will Barton and Gary Harris should start over Randy Foye, a man who may not be a Nugget much longer… Emmanuel Mudiay could be ROY. He’s got the talent and the Nuggets’ roster is certainly bad enough. I love the idea of Mudiay learning from Jameer Nelson, a former All-Star and one of the classier and professional players in the league… Denver’s centers are bad. If I’m going to chose one to separate himself from the pack and become the starter, I’m taking Jusuf Nurkic… The Nuggets are gonna stink. They will most likely be a bottom three team in the West.

2015/16 Team Preview: Dallas Mavericks


Additions: John Jenkins, Javale McGee, Samuel Dalembert, Jeremy Evans, Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams

Am I the only guy that doesn’t think Wesley Matthews is worth 4-years/$70 million? I know the Kings do, but I’m hesitant. Although he’s only 29, a great “3-and-D guy,” and has an excellent track record in Utah and Portland, he’s still just seven months removed from a brutal ACL tear. I will admit he’s only got better throughout his career and he’s still young—and I’m hoping I’m wrong on this, but I don’t think I am… Matthews has been extremely consistent over the last five seasons averaging about 15 points and 2.2 assists per season. Career-wise, he’s averaged an impressive 39% from three and 82.5% from the free throw line, but an ACL tear has commonly been a debilitating injury. Perhaps guaranteeing Matthews $70 million over the next four years is a bit too aggressive for the Mavs long-term future…

Subtractions: Al Farouq-Aminu, Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis, Bernard James, Richard Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Greg Smith, Amare Stoudamire

I’d like to use this paragraph to rail against Rajon Rondo and label what he did to last year’s Mavs high-speed offense an injustice, but I will instead focus on the departure of a player who actually made the Mavs better… Monta Ellis left Dallas for Indiana this summer and took his team high 18.9 PPG with him. Although Ellis has a reputation as a bit of a chucker, he shot a very respectable 44.5% from the field last season. Nonetheless, Monta carried the load offensively taking just shy of 17 shots per contest while his 27.9 usage rate was 12th in the league. I expect Matthews to take a lot of those shots after his return, but in the meanwhile, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki will have to step their games up on the offensive end. While I expect Ellis will make a great impact with Indiana, I expect him to once again fall short of an All-Star nod. Throughout his 11-year career, Monta has never been named an All-Star. Say what you will about his game, but it’s almost astonishing that he hasn’t been an All-Star; dude scored 25.5 PPG in 2009/10 (sixth in the NBA)!!


Rookies: Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson is a very intriguing selection for the Mavericks. At 6’6”, 225 lbs., he’s already got NBA size and strength. He’ll most likely be able to play both the two and three in the NBA. Anderson also has great athleticism. Defensively, he has a lot of potential. He moves laterally quickly, can guard bigger players, and is a good shotblocker. Anderson greatly improved his outside shooting last season. He raised this three point shooting from 29% as a sophomore to 45% as a junior. Although he doesn’t create his own shot effectively, he plays within the flow of the offense and his passing ability helps him find open teammates. Anderson will spend most of his time at three backing up Chandler Parsons, but with Matthews out for up to two months potentially, the Mavs may opt to play him at the two rather than have Harris guard much bigger shooting guards.

Guards: Remember five years back, arguing about who was the NBA’s best point guard—Chris Paul or Deron Williams? Well, it looks like it was Chris Paul… While CP3 attempts to make the next big leap to champion in his Hall of Fame career, D-Will looks to get his career back in order in Dallas. No longer even a top 25 point guard, Williams’ skills practically eroded over this last two seasons in Brooklyn. In 2014/15, he averaged 13 PPG and 6.6 APG off a paltry 38.7% from the field and looked nothing like the player he was in Utah. Over the last three seasons, D-Will has transformed from strong and quick to overweight and slow… He also has really bad ankles—both of them. Honestly, Williams shouldn’t be starting anywhere. At just 30 years old, he looks like a shell of his former self and I strongly doubt the old D-Will will resurrect himself in Dallas. J.J. Barrea will back up Williams and when you look at their numbers, they’re very similar. Per 36 minutes, Barrea scored 15.3 points and tallied 7 assists in comparison to Williams’ 15.1 points and 7.6 assists. In fact, Barrea’s PER of 15.1 is only .6 less than D-Will’s 15.7. Williams is clearly the bigger guard at 6’3” and 210 lbs., but he’s no longer quicker. Should Williams get hurt or simply just play poorly, Barrea could see starters’ minutes. Raymond Felton will fill the role of third-string point guard and will most likely be ineffective. Remember when an anonymous NBA executive called Felton “the worst starting point guard in the NBA” and stated he’d “take 10 college point guards and about 30 NBA backups” over him? And that was two years ago, do you think he got any better? With Matthews out until approximately Christmas, Devin Harris will get the start at two-guard for the Mavs. He’s certainly not the player who scored 21.3 PPG and went to the All-Star game in 2008/09, but he can score in spurts and D up smaller guards. With Ellis gone, he may need to be more assertive on offense, but he’s basically a spot holder until Matthews’ return. John Jenkins will back up Harris (and eventually Matthews).


Forwards: Chandler Parsons is good, but if he’s your team’s best player, I’m hesitant to believe your team can compete for an NBA championship. Don’t get me wrong: I love his offensive game. Parsons is an above-average passer and has the ability to knock down the three ball. Parsons’ biggest liability is his defense. He’s not much of a shotblocker and routinely gets backed down by bigger forwards in the post. Justin Anderson will back up Parsons. At the four, Dallas starts the greatest Maverick of all-time, Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk’s old now—there’s no way to get around that. For the first time since his rookie season, Dirk played less than 30 minutes per game last season. Remarkably, he’s missed just five games over the last two years, but at his age (and with his history), injuries are always a concern. Undoubtedly, Dirk is a bit slower and it’s almost impossible for him to guard bigger fours, but his offensive skills have remained. Last season, Dirk shot 45.9% from the field, 38% from three, 88.2% from the line, and had a true-shooting percentage 56%. He’s still the man in Dallas and I still expect the offense to run through him while he’s on the court. Dirk still scored 17.3 PPG and took 13.5 FGA. As he’s done for over 15 years, Dirk can shoot over smaller defenders or he can back them down into the paint. Even at 37, the man can still get out and get his shot. If healthy, Dirk should have a solid 2015/16 season. Veteran Charlie Villanueva will back up Nowitzki at the four-spot. Most people consider Charlie V a complete bum because he failed to live up to his contract in Detroit, but A) Detroit was a complete mess and B) He’s not the only Piston who failed to meet expectations (Ben Gordon?). Charlie V has started just one game since the beginning of the 2011/12 season, so it’s safe to say that he’s embraced his role as a bench player. Villanueva knows his game. Offensively, he can use his outside shooting ability to space the floor or his size to score inside. He posted an impressive PER of 17.4 last season, the second-highest number of his career. If you thought Villanueva’s PER was high, how about Jeremy Evans’ 2014/15 mark of 20.5!! Seems pretty high for a guy that averaged 2.4 PPG and 0.3 APG—both he and Charlie V are reasons why advanced stats nerds shouldn’t get too enamored with PER. Nonetheless, signing Evans to a 2-year minimum contract is a low-risk/medium reward transaction.


Centers: Well, what the fuck happened here? The plan was ambitious… Let Tyson Chandler go and sign DeAndre Jordan to a long-term deal. Now I’m reluctant to recap how and what went down (allegedly a group of Clippers players including Doc were able to corner DJ in a room while Mark Cuban drove around Houston calling and texting DeAndre’s fans and family—again, a strong allegedly), but eventually Jordan decided to re-sign with the Clippers. So what do you do when you can’t land a top five NBA center? Sign a bottom five NBA center? Enter Samuel Dalembert. Not only is this Sammy’s second stint with the Mavs, but this is also his sixth team in six years. Sam will turn 35 this season and his numbers fairly reflect this downward spiral. Last season’s 4 PPG and 5.3 RPG in limited time with the Knicks were the lowest marks of Dalembert’s career. He was eventually waived from the Knicks and remained unsigned for the majority of last season. In all fairness, Dalembert won’t be the starter–that job goes to Zaza Pachulia, a center actually who actually deserves an NBA contract. Pachulia isn’t going to stuff the stat sheet, but he’s effective on the offensive end and can be aggressive on the boards. Last season, he averaged 8.3 PPG and 6.8 RPG while posting a 15.6 PER, his highest mark since 2006/07. While Pachulia isn’t the sexiest free agent signing, he’s a solid player and the Mavs were perhaps lucky to land him after the Jordan debacle. The Mavs also rolled the dice and signed Javale McGee to a one-year, minimum contract. This is a very low-risk signing considering McGee’s exceptional length, size, and talent. But he is a knucklehead that’s become more synonymous with basketball bloopers than hardwood achievements

Final thoughts: I don’t think the Trailblazers are the only Western Conference team that may fall out of the playoff picture—count the Mavs in, too! Admittedly, ditching Rondo will only make the Mavs a better, more efficient team, but the loses of Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis might be too much to bear. Ellis was the team’s best scorer and Chandler was by far the team’s best rebounder. Do you think the tandem of Javale McGee and Samuel Dalembert will make up 11.5 rebounds per game? I don’t think they can combine to contribute 11 minutes in a game—certainly not in a win… This is Dirk’s team (as it should be) and will be his team until he retires. However, it might be time for Chandler Parsons to become the best player on the squad. He was solid last season, but his numbers were generally lower across the board last season in comparison with his last season with Houston. With the Mavs relaying heavily on him to play extended minutes to start the season, it’s a trend that cannot continue… I love Rick Carlisle. He’s a top 5 coach in the league and despite the fact that this team won’t make the postseason, he’ll get the most out of this roster… What about declining point guard skills is so attractive to the Mavs’ brass? Granted, a 2-year/$10 million deal for Deron Williams may sound like a good idea, but it isn’t… He’s cooked. Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, AND Raymond Felton?!?! Triple yikes! It’s the deepest position in the league, and the Mavs rolled the dice on three guys who shouldn’t be in the league. Bring back Shane Larkin?? It’s interesting to think about what this team’s ceiling would’ve been with DeAndre Jordan. With him, they could’ve made the playoffs but I still don’t think they’d be in the top four seeds…

2015/16 Team Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers


Additions: Jared Cunningham, Austin Daye, Chris Johnson, Richard Jefferson, DJ Stephens, Mo Williams

Mo Williams is back. After LeBron left Cleveland in 2010, Mo was devastated. Like so many in Cleveland, Williams understood what LeBron’s initial departure mean to the city of Cleveland. Since then, while LeBron’s played in five finals, Mo’s played on five different teams—yet still making strong contributions to most. Last year, he dropped 52 on the Pacers and averaged 17.2 PPG in 27 games with the Hornets. Tired of playing on scrub teams, Williams made amends with James this summer and joined the Cavs. With Irving out until what I predict could be January, Williams will be essential for the Cavs. He’s a superior option to Dellavadova at the point, and he’s a more reliable scoring option than J.R. Smith. Williams’ sole All-Star season was with Cleveland in 2008/09, and although he won’t start 81 games and average 17.8 PPG, he should find moderate success leading a stronger cast than Mo has ever played with before—anywhere.

Subtractions: Shawn Marion, Kendrick Perkins, Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson wants to get paid. And apparently 5 years/$80 million isn’t enough. I don’t begrudge the man for wanting big money but I certainly don’t blame the Cavs for not giving it to him. Although Thompson’s timely playoff contributions certainly raised his value in the eyes of many, personally I think he’s shooting a little high on this one… I mean, he is a bench player who just switched his shooting hand two years ago. He’s never averaged more than 11.7 PPG and he’s never averaged double-digit rebounds; furthermore, he’s an inept free throw shooter and a subpar shot blocker, and he plays behind Kevin Love, a guy who the Cavs already re-signed to a 5-year/$110 million deal. Add to that, the fact that the contract Thompson is seeking would put the Cavs even further over the cap triggering costly luxury tax penalties. Just a year ago, Kenneth Faried, who has undoubtedly proven to be very bit the player Thompson is in his four years in the league, agreed to a 4-year/$52 million with the Nuggets—do you really think Thompson is owed 5-years/$94 million? I doubt you do and I doubt the Cavs do either. I assume the Cavs will work something out with Tristan but it appears it might be short-term…


Rookies: Quinn Cook, Sasha Kaun, Nick Minnerath

If I’m writing about Quinn Cook, what does that tell you about the Cavs rookie class? There’s not much here. Which is fine because the Cavs used every penny available to re-sign last year’s core (excluding Tristan Thompson). Want further proof the Cavs have no interest in drafting (and paying) a rookie? Look how quickly they dumped off two first-rounders for Timofy Mozgov (a trade that I 100% co-signed by the way). But hey, you gotta fill out your roster with players, and with Cook, Kaun, and Minnerath, the Cavs are trying to find some value in their rookie contracts. Of the three, Cook may have the most potential. A three-year starter at Duke, Cook went undrafted and after playing Summer League ball with the Thunder and the Cavs, he signed with Cleveland. Playing with the likes of Tyus Jones, Austin Rivers, and Seth Curry, Cook has spent the majority of his time playing off the ball. He’s a solid outside shooter but isn’t much of a slasher and doesn’t take many shots in the paint. He also has high basketball I.Q., he’s an excellent passer, and has sneaky quickness. Defensively, he’s a little undersized, but he’s very quick and energetic. Truth be told, this all may be a moot point. Cook could quite possibly be cut from the Cavs or sent to their D-League affiliate this season as he has very little chance to crack Cleveland’s guard rotation.

Guards: After three seasons of never sniffing the playoffs, Kyrie Irving proved that he could be an important cog on a successful team. James has long been credited with making his teammates better and Irving was no exception. Irving increased his scoring (21.7 PPG from 20.8) on less shots (16.5 FGA from 17.4), and raised both his PER (20.1 to 21.5) and win shares (6.7 to 10.4). And although Kyrie certainly plays Robin to LeBron’s Batman, he also showed that he could bear the scoring load when LeBron’s on the bench. When LeBron says he feels that he doesn’t have to carry the Cavs, who do you think is gonna take the pressure off? Obviously, Kyrie. However, Irving isn’t gonna be ready for opening night and could return as late as January. In the meantime, Mo Williams is gonna have to step up. Now I’m not gonna lie, I’m not as big on JR Smith and Iman Shumpert as others are. I understand Shumpert’s a solid “three-and-D” player and those are in vogue right now, but he’s not much of a scorer (7.7 career PPG), has terrible shot selection (41% career FG%), and doesn’t pass (2.1 career APG). That gets you 4-years/$40 million? Crazy. Even crazier was JR Smith opting out of his $6 million option last summer? I know a lot of Cavaliers have inflated self-values right now, but this dude is crazy! Listen, JR is a good player; he’s unbelievably talented and can heat up in a way that only 15-20 players in this league can. But dude is a knucklehead… and super un-clutch. Remember when Smith was knocking threes down in the waning minutes of Finals Game 6 last year? That’s because that’s what he does! He loves hitting shots that don’t count. Dude couldn’t knock a shot down in the first 45 minutes of the game when the Cavs needed it. If his team is up 20 or more, Smith can catch fire; but if there’s two minutes left in an important tie game, there’s no way that ball’s going in—you might not even get a good miss. Perhaps I’m overlooking many of Smith’s contributions, but he just seems immune to hitting big shots. Matthew Dellavadova stepped up big in the playoffs last year, and although he’s a third-string PG, should be able to find some minutes before and after Irving’s return. Joe Harris is a good player but he gets no burn. I want that to change but I don’t think it will.


Forwards: LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now. Some would argue for Anthony Davis, others might advocate Steph Curry or James Harden. Kevin Durant? Russell Westbrook? Get the fuck out of here. LeBron’s been to the last five Finals, and it wasn’t because of James Jones… He’s the best all-around player in the league; he may go down as the second-best player in NBA history. He’s an 11-time All-Star and two-time champion. Last season, he led a Cavs team without Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao to the Finals. He’s one of the least selfish superstars ever, and always seems to make his teammates better. LBJ can more-or-less guard all five positions on defense and play four of them on offense. If there’s one part of LeBron’s game I could be critical of, it’s his free throw shooting. A 74.5% career shooter from the stripe, James has never shot 80% from the line in any of his 12 seasons—which isn’t awful; it’s just a goal that given his talent, he should achieve. Earlier in the offseason, James commented that he did not feel he needed “to carry the team” just lead it; although I understand LeBron’s putting the emphasis on teamwork, with Irving out until January, he’s gonna need to carry them at least through the first two months of the season. I still feel bad for Kevin Love; I’m not going to bluntly state Kelly Olynyk deliberately tried to hurt him, but if you look at the play, I’m not willing to say Olynyk did everything he could NOT to hurt him… It certainly rode the line between dirty and aggressive. So after six seasons in which Love couldn’t sniff a post-season appearance, he played in two playoff games before his season was over. Love got A LOT of shit last year for his declining production. With career averages of 19.2 PPG and 12.2 RPG with Minnesota, Love’s 16.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG in his first season with the Cavs was disappointing. Many speculated that David Blatt simply didn’t know how to use Love or that James and Irving weren’t sure how to get him the ball. Love seemingly became more reliant on his outside shooting and played a lot less in the post or in the paint. What happened to the guy who had 53 straight double-doubles with the Wolves? I think he’s still in Cleveland. Impressively, Love was able to obtain 38 double-doubles in 75 games with the Cavs last season. But if you’re expecting Kevin Love to “be the player he was in Minnesota,” you’re crazy. Dude posted a 26.9 PER and 10.6 offensive win shares in 2014/15!! But that was on a team with bums like Ricky Rubio and Wayne Ellington. But if one reasonably tempers their expectations, Love can be a winner in Cleveland. The Cavs signed Richard Jefferson to a one-year veteran’s minimum this summer. After barely cracking the rotation in 2012/13, RJ had two solid seasons in a reserve role with Utah and Dallas respectively. Although he’ll again see limited time with the Cavs, he should be a nice complimentary piece. Three point specialist James Jones rounds out the front line while journeyman Austin Daye attempts to reclaim his career with Cleveland.

Centers: As I stated earlier, I was a big fan of the trade that brought Timofy Mozgov in the fold last season. The bottom line was that the Cavs were too small and with Anderson Varejao out for the season, they we’re getting killed on the glass. Mozgov came in and made an immediate impact. In his 46 games with the Cavs, he scored 10.6 PPG, shot 59% from the field, and posted a career high 18.9 PER. The acquisition of he, JR Smith, and Iman Shumpert greatly changed the Cavs’ trajectory last season, and it’s no surprise all three players were re-signed (well, I guess I was kinda surprised JR Smith got re-signed…). Anderson Varejao enters his 12th NBA season (all with the Cavs) after missing most of the 2014/15 season. Unfortunately, Varejao doesn’t seem to play much any more—he’s played in less than 32 games in four of his last five seasons. But when he’s on the court, he can still be effective… With Tristan Thompson holding out, Varejao may be relied upon to help the frontcourt. I think it’s reasonable to believe that Varejao could average 9 points and 6 rebounds—hopefully he can appear in more 50 games.


Final thoughts: Much like Chicago, Cleveland is more or less returning the same team. Regardless of Irving’s timetable, I expect the Cavs to secure the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference… With Tristan Thompson out of the line-up, expect a healthy Anderson Varejao to pick up the slack. Despite rejecting a qualifying offer, I expect Thompson to re-sign with the Cavs (even if it’s only a one-year deal). I think it’s in the best interest of both parties to reach some sort of understanding… Those who dogged Kevin Love and said, ‘he wasn’t living up to his contract” or ‘he wasn’t part of the big three’ will regret those comments. With a year in Cleveland under his belt, Love will better understand his role… JR Smith is a bum. The Cavs should’ve let him sign with the Kings or the Trailblazers… Don’t believe the hype! Coach Blatt’s job is secure (which shouldn’t need to be stated). He took a team who’s never won a chip to the Finals in his first season. LeBron respects Blatt as does the rest of the team… I’m happy to see Shawn Marion and Kendrick Perkins out of the league. Marion had a borderline HOF career (although he will ultimately fall short) and should enjoy life after basketball. As for Kendrick Perkins, we’ve reached the end of the road. His basketball skills have completely eroded. Over the least two seasons, he’s just become a goon out there. Perhaps Sam Presti and the Thunder should’ve considered moving Perkins during the summer of 2012, not James Harden…

2015/16 Team Preview: Chicago Bulls


Additions: Jordan Crawford

This move baffles me. I guess his contract isn’t guaranteed, so there’s that. But why do the Bulls need this guy? He didn’t even play in the NBA last year. Paul Steeno of DaWindyCity.com broke the signing down rather clearly. It’s almost like the Bulls are trying to bring Nate Robinson back. You don’t need him. Crawford will most likely play behind Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, and E’Twaun Moore. If this is anything more than a training camp sign-and-release, it’s a bit of a headscratcher.

Subtractions: Nazr Mohammed

Nazr Mohammed had a nice career. He never scored 10 PPG over a season, nor did he average 8 RPG (his career-high was 7.9 RPG with Atlanta in 2001/02). But he did play 17 years and won a championship with San Antonio in 2005. I haven’t seen an official announcement but Mohammed admitted he was contemplating retirement earlier this summer and he hasn’t since signed with anybody.

Rookies: Christiano Felicio, Bobby Portis

After two years at Arkansas, Bobby Portis entered the 2015 NBA draft where he was selected 22nd by the Chicago Bulls. Looking to add another big body, the Bulls may have found themselves a solid low-risk/high-reward guy. First of all, there aren’t any glaring flaws in Portis’ game. He’s not an exceptional scorer but can certainly find his spots over the course of the game. He’s an above average shooter who will most likely develop into a long-range bomber. He’s always active on both ends of the floor and the offensive glass. At just 20, Portis already has impressive size and length (6’11”, 230 lbs., 7,0” wingspan). However, he’s not a great athlete and some have questioned how high his ceiling is. I don’t expect Portis to get a ton of time as he plays behind a solid rotation of bigs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows some flashes in limited time.


Guards: Earlier this week, Derrick Rose openly admitted he was looking forward to the summer of 2017/18 in hopes of a big payday. I have no problem with Rose speaking openly about money (I encourage every player to do the same), but understandably it rubbed a few people the wrong way. Rose will make $20.1 million this year and he’s currently the ninth highest-paid player in the NBA. Jeff Feyerer of B-Ball Breakdown designed a table that argues Rose is highly-overcompensated right now. So the big question is: How good does Derrick Rose think he is? As a guy who’s had him on his fantasy team two of the last three seasons, I don’t think he’s that good. Is he still a Top-10 player? No way. Top-10 point guard? Probably not. Best player on the Bulls? Doubtful. Rose showed flashes of brilliance last season, but the bottom line is that he’s only played 100 games over the last four season. Even in his “comeback year” of 2014/15, Rose still missed 31 games. In comparison to the Bulls’ actual best player, Rose just doesn’t match up. While Rose averaged 17.7 PPG off 16.4 field goals a game shooting 40.5% from the field and 28% from three, Butler averaged 20 PPG while taking just 14 field goals per contest and shooting 46.2% from the field and 37.8% from three. Furthermore, Butler posted a 21.3 PER and an 11.2 win share (sixth in the NBA), while Rose had a 15.9 PER and a paltry 1.2 win share. Yet, Derrick Rose still has a usage rate of 31.7 (fifth in the NBA). But this is becoming Butler’s team—his shooting helps space the floor, he’s an excellent perimeter defender, and he even does the little things. If Rose wants a pay increase, he’s gonna have to go elsewhere to get it. Bulls’ mainstay Kirk Hinrich will back up Rose at the point. Despite a career low in minutes (24.4 MPG) and consequently points (5.7 PPG) and assists (2.2 APG), Hinrich is reliable. He’s played 10 seasons with the Bulls and will have no problem fitting Coach Hoiberg’s system. Aaron Brooks will provide the depth that will prove necessary once Derrick Rose is inevitably out 4-6 weeks. Tony Snell continues to improve—he shot much better from the field and three last season, and should develop even further defensively.

Forwards: Although he didn’t do much of anything last season (3 PPG in 36 games), with Mike Dunleavy on the shelf for the first month of the season, Doug McDermott may get the opportunity to start opening day. As Jeremy Karll of Pippen Ain’t Easy noted, McDermott shot the ball much better last season when he actually got some playing time as opposed to garbage time. McDermott doesn’t do anything well enough to justify his presence in ANY line-up if he’s not shooting the ball effectively, so he’s going to prove his worth in his first glimpse of extended minutes in the NBA. Nevertheless, once Dunleavy returns, McDermott will certainly return to the bench. Speaking of returns, after a couple of down years production-wise in LAL, Pau Gasol came to Chicago and returned to All-star form last season. His 18.5 PPG was his highest mark since 2010/11; his 11.8 RPG was the best of his 15-year career; and his 1.9 BPG was his highest mark since 2006/07. Furthermore, Gasol posted a 22.7 PER and 10.4 win shares. The question is, however, with Gasol putting up these type of numbers, can Joakim Noah still contribute? Taj Gibson joins Gasol in the frontcourt and brings a lot of toughness to the team. Although he won’t start, it’s quite possible he plays just a shade under 30 minutes and closes out games. He’s an excellent defender, strong rebounder, and has a nose for the ball. Rookie Bobby Portis will see what contributions he can make in limited minutes.


Centers: Joakim Noah took a remarkable step backwards last season. After being a 12 and 10 guy the prior two seasons, Noah posted 7.2 PPG and 9.6 RPG last season. Furthermore, his 44.5 FG% and his 60.3 FT% were also career lows. After two seasons as an All-Star, Gasol only showed rare glimpses of that talent in 2014/15. Although he most likely won’t make another All-Star team, it doesn’t mean that Noah necessarily fell off—perhaps he was just accommodating the newly acquired Pau Gasol, the often-injured Derrick Rose, and the emerging face of the franchise Jimmy Butler. Would I like to see Noah score more and block more shots? Of course. But consider that in Noah’s “breakout” seasons, the Bulls were tied for last (28th) in scoring (93.2) in 2013/14 and dead last (93.7) in 2014/15. Do you really wanna bring back the days when the Bulls relied on Luol Deng for the majority of their scoring? Last season, the new-look Bulls were able to score 100.8 PPG and ranked 15th in scoring… So I don’t think whether Noah scores an additional four points every game is gonna matter. What they need from Noah is a strong defensive presence down low, and an aggressive rebounder on offense. Noah has consistently proved to be one of the best passing centers in the league but it’s doubtful the offense will run through him they way it did two years ago. Still, I expect him to be a much bigger contributor to the Bulls offense this season. Noah will be backed up by Cameron Bairstow at times, but you could also expect to see Gasol slide over to the middle when Noah sits.

Final thoughts: This is my favorite recent incarnation of the Bulls for several reasons… First, Tom Thibodeau had to go. I love the way he coaches but it became apparent that there was a lot of internal strife between him and the front office. Also, it was alleged that more than a few players weren’t happy with him either. Second, no more Carlos Boozer. In all fairness, he wasn’t there last year either but I still feel like it could take a few years to wash away the stink from his minutes. Three, a healthy Derrick Rose. Although I’m not quite a believer in Rose returning to MVP form, he needs to be healthy for a prolonged stretch of time for the Bulls to make a serious run at a chip. Without him they just don’t have the scoring. Four, Jimmy Butler’s emergence. He’s the real franchise player and his skillset is basically unmatched in the NBA (save for Kawhi Leonard). He’s only gonna get better and the Bulls know it. Lastly, good riddance to the super-defensive Chicago Bulls. I know they were a top-3 defense for four seasons (2010-2014) but those teams never had a chance—they couldn’t score! Unless they planned on holding some of the best teams in the league under 85 points every night, they were never gonna win. I’m far more impressed with their current “balanced attack.”… I like Doug McDermott and want him to be good. With Dunleavy out, he’ll get his chance… You have to love the Bulls front line of Noah, Gasol, and Gibson. With so many teams biting the Warriors and going small, perhaps the Bulls can combat them with size ala Memphis.

2015/16 Team Preview: Charlotte Hornets


Additions: Nicolas Batum, Tyler Hansborough, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin

After Batum’s regression last season, it was no surprise when he was dealt to Charlotte in what appeared to be a fire sale in Portland. In most peoples’ eyes, he’s an upgrade to Gerald Henderson, but did the Hornets give up on Noah Vonleh way too soon? It all depends if Batum can return to his former self. At the least, it appears he will get his chance. Coach Steve Clifford has already stated that Batum will be a first or second scoring option in Charlotte, which is certainly surprising considering the established hierarchy has been Al Jefferson then Kemba Walker. Despite being in the league forever, Batum is still just 26, five years younger than Al Jeff and just one year older than Walker. If Charlotte has another mediocre start, could it be time to part with Jefferson and his expiring contract? For Batum to become the man in Charlotte, things will have to go much better than they did last season. In 2014/15, Batum scored just 9.4 PPG (his lowest mark since his rookie season), shot 40% from the field and 32.4% from three (both career lows). Not only was Nic’s shooting off, his rebounding (5.9) and assists (4.8) also dipped from the prior season as well. Simply put, it just wasn’t a banner year for Batum; he posted a PER of 13.1 (lowest since his rookie season) and 2.0 offensive win shares (lowest in his career). Nonetheless, I’m not ready to put the fork in Batum; perhaps a change of scenery is just what he needs. Batum is still a versatile player capable of providing a team with whatever it needs. He can easily play the two through the four and he’s an excellent perimeter defender. He still possesses great court vision, can rebound, and used to be a good three-point shooter. The Hornets certainly rolled the dice on him, but if Batum has a career year, the trade may appear to be a steal for Charlotte. If not, well, better hope Vonleh doesn’t pan out…


Subtractions: Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Jason Maxiell, Lance Stephenson, Jeff Taylor, Noah Vonleh, Mo Williams

Lance Stephenson’s sole season in Charlotte wasn’t any good for anyone; it wasn’t good for Lance and it certainly didn’t work out for the Hornets. After signing with Charlotte in 2014, Born Ready wasn’t ready to pay at The Hive. During his time in Indiana, many questioned Stephenson’s maturity; however, no one questioned the effort he brought to the floor. Stephenson was an emerging leader with the Pacers. He and Paul George seemingly had the potential to become one of the best duos in the NBA, and Stephenson had earned the respect of veterans David West and Roy Hibbert. So it was a little surprising when Lance spurned Indiana’s 5-yr/$44 million offer for Charlotte’s 3-year/$27 million deal (team option on the third year)… And once he got to Charlotte, Stephenson could never catch on. He averaged 10 less minutes per game than he did the prior season in Indiana, and by the season’s end, even got dealt the dreaded DNP-CD a few times. Lance’s scoring dipped from 13.8 to 8.2; his rebounding went from 7.2 to 4.5; his FG% dropped from 49.1% to a stunning 37.6%; even his FT% fell from 35.2% to a paltry 17.1%. Yikes! It’s quite possible that Stephenson can resurrect his career with the Clippers—he’s young enough and certainly talented. But for now, the Hornets are probably better off with Batum.

Bismack Biyombo came to the Hornets in a draft night trade that also netted them Corey Maggette. All they had to give up was Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the 19th overall pick (which became Tobias Harris). Think they won that deal? To put it bluntly, Bismack never had a chance with Charlotte… Actually he kinda got a chance in 2012/13 when he started in 65 games and averaged 27.3 per and responded with career highs of 4.8 PPG and 7.3 RPG. Obviously that wasn’t good enough because by 2013/14, he had fallen out of favor with Coach Steve Clifford and was reduced to logging 13.9 minutes a game and averaging just 2.9 per contest. So what are the deficiencies in Biyombo’s game? Anything that involves him having the ball. I’m going to avoid getting into percentages, but let’s just say throughout his career, Bismack has failed to consistently make any shots that were further from three feet away from the basket (which would obviously include free throws). But this isn’t to say Biyombo is a complete piece of shit, actually quite the opposite. He plays other bigs tough on the defensive end and takes up a lot of space. He’s also an excellent rebounder who sets hard picks and can block shots. For a guy who got no burn in Charlotte, he posted an impressive 15.2 PER last season and his per-36-minute numbers don’t look bad either. Will the Hornets miss him? Probably not. They most likely won’t miss Noah Vonleh either. Maybe they assume Tyler Hansborough can provide this team with some toughness. But when you realize that the Raptors were able to sign Bismack for two seasons at just under $3 million each, and consider that dudes like Aron Baynes are getting $6 million plus, you have to wonder if the Hornets let another potentially gifted role player walk…


Rookies: Aaron Harrison, Frank Kaminsky III

Can you discuss Frank Kaminsky without talking about the alleged offer from the Celtics to the Hornets of four potential first-rounders for the #9 pick in which Charlotte ultimately selected Frank the Tank? If you can, I haven’t read the article that has yet. In fact, that offer is so crazy that I don’t think I will ever be convinced it was real despite the uber-reliable Zach Lowe reporting it and Danny Ainge also hinting towards its reality? Were the C’s really THAT huge on Justise Winslow? I don’t think I’ll ever believe it… Whatever happened that night, the Hornets got their man—Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky. What is there to like about Kaminsky? He’s got an outstanding offensive skillset. He has great footwork, can finish with either hand around the rim and can knock shots down from inside-to-outside. He also knows how to use his size to shoot over smaller defenders. His ability to space the floor may be utilized when Jefferson is off the floor to give the Hornets a different look offensively. Despite his size, Kaminsky still isn’t very strong and may have difficulties banging with bigger players. Will he be able to effectively guard the 5 in the NBA? Can he keep up with smaller yet much quicker 4s? For all of the mismatches Kaminsky may create in this league, he might be the victim of just as many… Charlotte may have to “hide” him in certain defenses.

Guards: With Kemba Walker, you know what you’re gonna get—about 17 points off 40% shooting with 5 to 6 assists per contest. And while the Hornets certainly need consistency from their point guard and de facto leader, is he ready to make the jump to the next level? He’s more or less making the same money as Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson (and even Steph Curry, but that will change soon) but would anyone take Kemba over that bunch? Now 25 and entering his fifth season, it’s time for Walker to make the jump from consistent to elite. Jeremy Lin’s certainly an adequate back-up and his contract is a bargain, but if Charlotte continues to limit their offense to the half-court, his biggest strengths may be neutralized. We all know Brian Roberts is a great free throw shooter, but why can’t he shoot consistently from anywhere else? Last season, he shot 38.9% from the field and 32.1% from three respectively. Undrafted Aaron Harrison made the team—think he’ll get any burn? I believe Batum is an upgrade to both Gerald Henderson and Lance Stephenson, but #88 is coming off arguably his worst season in the NBA… And this isn’t exactly a buy low situation. Charlotte gave up a solid scorer in Henderson and a former lottery pick in Vonleh to bring in Batum. Furthermore, Batum’s in a contract year so if they don’t like what they see and opt not to re-sign him, the whole trade could be a wash from Charlotte’s perspective. At just 23, Jeremy Lamb appears to be a bum. Yeah, I like his length coming out of college but now he’s just a guy who was involved in a one-sided James Harden trade. OKC basically gave him up for nothing this summer… Troy Daniels, a leftover from the Mo Williams trade, will also remain in Charlotte.


Forwards: Entering his fourth season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist must improve. Like my Xbox 360, his jumper is broken. Will it ever be consistent? Probably not. But if he can at least become a streaky shooter, perhaps defenses will have to respect it. At least Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t take any threes last season (he’s 3 for 18 career). This doesn’t mean MKG isn’t a valuable player. He’s an unbelievable athlete who’s nothing less than lethal in the open court. Kidd-Gilchrist is an aggressive rebounder and can finish around the hoop. He plays much bigger than his 6’7” height and can guard several positions. He’s got all of the tools to emerge into a great player; he just needs to get better at basketball. Although Marvin Williams will technically back up MKG, he plays just as many minutes… Much like MKG, Williams hasn’t lived up to the expectations of being a #2 pick, but going into his 11th season, he’s been consistent. While his usage and efficiency dipped in Charlotte, he’s remained consistent. Entering what could be the twilight of his career, Williams has transformed himself into a 3-and-D guy, one of the more coveted roles in today’s NBA. I hear people call Cody Zeller a bust and I don’t get it. Yeah, he had a really rocky start in his rookie career, but he was playing really well on both sides of the ball before a shoulder injury more or less ended his 2014/15 season. Don’t believe the hype! Zeller is a 22-year-old kid that’s still getting better. Charlotte, a team who’s never been afraid to sign a washed-up Tarheel, also brought in Tyler Hansborough. Psycho T’s contributions were marginalized in Toronto, so if he gets any significant minutes, he might be out to prove that he can still help a team. One thing’s for sure, Hansborough has never been soft.

Centers: When the Hornets signed Al Jefferson to a 3-year deal in 2013, it was monumental. Not because Al Jeff was going to change the NBA, but because similar to my beloved Sixers, it’s never been easy for the Hornets to entice a sought-after free agent. However, after the team took a huge step backwards last season, things are becoming unclear. After departing with fellow bigs Bismack Biyombo and Noah Vonleh, the Hornets could be saying goodbye to their best player before the 2016 deadline. Unless the Hornets plan on locking up Jefferson long-term (and with his injury concerns, I don’t think they will), Charlotte will look to move him to a contender… If they decide to stick with him, the best-case scenario is a return to 2013/14 form and a quick exit from the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. I like Spencer Hawes but he wasn’t any good with LAC last season. His shooting was way down, he can’t block shots, and he doesn’t rebound. He’s 7’0”, 245 lbs. and he doesn’t use his size. If Jefferson leaves, expect Kaminsky to become the starter.

Final thoughts: Two years ago, I thought Charlotte was a sleeper team; One year ago, they put those thoughts to sleep; and now, someone needs to put this team to sleep. It’s almost like they need to start over (again)… Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist are already penciled in for this team’s future. Now the Hornets have to make decisions on All Jefferson (who I assume will be traded or will walk next summer) and Nicolas Batum (who I think they will re-sign). They’ll look for Kaminsky and Zeller to develop as well… It goes without saying that the Hornets have not drafted well… The roster is very shallow and has very little depth…. The Hornets have three former UNC Tarheels, and none of them are particularly good… Charlotte will not be making the playoffs this year and it’s time to pick low (and pick well). They might have to get worse before they get any better.

2015/16 Team Preview: Brooklyn Nets


Additions: Andrea Bargnani, Wayne Ellington, Dahntay Jones, Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson, Donald Sloan, Quincy Miller

In my opinion, the most interesting addition to the Brooklyn roster is undoubtedly Andrea Bargnani. He is commonly referred to as bust mainly because he was the #1 overall draft pick in the 2006 NBA draft; but make no mistake, Bargnani isn’t Michael Olawakandi or Anthony Bennett. Over his 9-year career, he’s averaged 15 PPG, even averaging 17.2 and 21.4 PPG in 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively. Bargnani even helped the Raptors get to the playoffs in his first two seasons, but once Chris Bosh bolted for Miami, his Raptors never saw the postseason again. Once Andrea landed with the Knicks, not only did he stop playing well, he stopped playing in general, appearing in just 71 games in his two years with the team. Over this summer, he ended up signing a 2-year deal for the veteran’s minimum with the Nets. But does he have anything left in the tank? Well let’s look at some of the positives. For the first time in his NBA career, very little is expected of Bargnani. He was a #1 draft pick in Toronto and he was making over $22 million while he was in New York. No one expects him to be the man; in fact, no one expects him to start. Bargnani will be backing up Brooklyn’s franchise player Brook Lopez. But it’s still not all good. Brooklyn brought in Andrea to help space the floor when Lopez is on the bench; however, Bargnani’s no longer the “poor man’s Dirk.” Over his least two seasons, he’s taking dramatically less three point tries, attempting just 1.4 threes per game last year. For a seven-footer, he’s also a less-than-stellar rebounder (4.8 RPG career average) and almost a non-existent shot blocker. If Bargnani is going to reinvent his game successfully, he may have to enter the paint this season.

Losses: Alan Anderson, Earl Clark, Jerome Jordan, Darius Morris, Mason Plumlee, Mirza Teletovic, Deron Williams

Ever since the Nets reigned in the Brooklyn era, they’ve been searching for an identity. They’ve had four coaches and numerous superstars come and go. When the then New Jersey Nets traded for Deron Williams in 2010, he appeared to be the cornerstone of the franchise. It looks like the cornerstone is going to have to be Brooke Lopez moving forward because Deron Williams’ lack of leadership, humongous contract, and generally shitty play became such an albatross that the Nets agreed to a $25 million buyout just to rid themselves of Williams. As for what D-Will still has in the tank, we’ll have to address that in the Mavericks preview, but looking back on his tenure with the Nets, it’s hard to view it as anything other than a colossal failure. The basketball world was shocked when the Jazz traded Williams, then an elite player often cited along with Chris Paul as one of the best PGs in the league, to New Jersey after he and Jerry Sloan failed to see eye-to-eye. Soon after, it was apparent why the Jazz traded him—he’s an uncoachable player with bad ankles and weight issues. Furthermore, future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce has since noted that upon arriving in Brooklyn, he assumed Williams would be an MVP candidate but soon conceded that Williams “just didn’t want it.”

When the Nets traded Mason Plumlee to Portland last June, the team more or less committed to re-signing Brook Lopez when his contract expires in the summer of 2016. It’s not like they gave Plumlee away, they received a veteran point guard and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in return. But given Plumlee’s occasional flashes of brilliance, his departure was somewhat surprising. Let’s be honest: Brooke Lopez doesn’t play every minute in an NBA game, nor does he play in every game in any NBA season. Are the Nets ready to move forward with Andrea Bargnani as the sole insurance policy to Lopez? It appears they are. In a season that will most likely be the Nets’ worst since moving to Brooklyn, the team will certainly be extremely light on the boards. Beyond Lopez, the team will rely upon rookie Chris McCullough, the often-waived Thomas Robinson, and undersized tweener Thaddeus Young to clean the glass! Yikes! Plumlee also established himself as one of the more athletic bigs in the league and a solid finisher around the rim. Despite Plumlee landing on the wrong side of Lionel Hollins’ rotation throughout the second half of the year, I believe the Nets are cutting ties with Mason too early. He’s making $1.4 million this year and has a $2.3 million team option in 2016/17. I love Hollis-Jefferson but he’s not prepared to make the impact Plumlee will next season. Unfortunately for him, however, he got shipped to a team that might actually be worse than Brooklyn. Good luck, Mason!


Rookies: Ryan Boatright, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Willie Reed

At 20 years old, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson already has NBA size—he’s 6’7”, 212 pounds with a 7’2” wingspan. It’s quite possible that he adds even more size to his frame throughout his NBA career. Not only is he athletic and strong, he’s also quick and explosive. Hollis-Jefferson also has an excellent motor and a nose for the ball. He has the potential to be a superb role player and teammate as he can be quite effective without the ball. He’s also a superior defender with ability to guard a variety of positions (most likely 2-4 in the NBA). Unfortunately, he’s not much of a shooter and his form is not very consistent. Due to his shaky jumper and subpar handle, he’s quite limited offensively, but he’s always around the rim and has the potential to become an excellent garbage man. Nonetheless, with his size, energy, and defensive prowess, I believe Hollis-Jefferson is primed to have a lengthy career in the NBA.

Guards: Following Williams’ departure, the Nets backcourt is a little on the thin side. Despite playing on every team in the league, Jarrett Jack is a very solid player. His game isn’t overly exciting, but over his ten-year career, Jack has averaged 11 PPG and 4.4 APG, both marks he achieved last season in Brooklyn. While not a particularly great shooter, Jack’s greatest attribute may be his ability to lead, which on a team that will most likely hit several skids is quite important. Beyond Jack, the Nets will rely on Shane Larkin (on his third team in three years) and journeyman Donald Sloan. In short, Larkin hasn’t been a very good NBA player up to this point. He didn’t really play in Dallas, but with New York last season, Larkin appeared in 76 games (starting 22), where he averaged 6.2 PPG off 43.3% shooting from the field in 24.5 minutes per game. Although he ranked 14th in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, (2.72), more tellingly, he ranked 59th in assists per 48 minutes (5.8). Larkin also posted a PER of just 10.9 last season. If Larkin is going to help the Nets, he’s going to need better. Donald Sloan had a solid season last year and will most likely sit behind Larkin in the rotation despite posting superior numbers last season (7.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, and 13.1 PER). Bojan Bogdanovic returns at the two spot after having a solid season last season. Foremost, Bojan is an excellent shooter and will be relied upon to fill that role. Wayne Ellington, a serviceable guard who’s shown flashes of brilliance but has never done enough to stick with any one team longer than a season after his time in Minnesota, will back him up. On a team with little more than three good players, Brooklyn’s backcourt exemplifies why the Nets won’t be very good.

Forwards: Joe Johnson’s 14.4 PPG last season was his lowest mark since 2002/03 and his 35.9 3PT% is his second-lowest mark since 2005/06… And he makes $25 million this season, second only to Kobe Bryant. Wow! Think he’ll take a pay cut in 2016/17? The Nets are saps and acquiring Joe Johnson proved it. For now, they just need to give him the ball, lose games, and wait for the season to end. Best-case scenario: maybe they can move him somewhere before the deadline. Worst-case scenario: I think the Nets are living it. I’ve already stated that I think Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be a solid pro, but he’s not much of an offensive player and most likely won’t help the Nets much this season. Sergey Karasev is a good passer and an allegedly good shooter. With increased playing time last season, he stepped his game up from his rookie campaign. However, if Karasev is gonna make a name for himself in this league as a shooter, he’s going to have to increase his shooting numbers (he’s averaged 39.1 from the field and 27.4 from three in his two seasons).

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets

Centers: This team has one piece… Brook Lopez. He’s arguably the best center in the East. Although he seems to be frequently injured, it should be noted that Lopez has played in over 72 games in five of his seven seasons. If Lopez can get over his foot issues for good, he has a chance to have a really good season and return to All-Star form. Lopez is one of the few remaining centers that still opt to play big. He’s essentially un-guardable in the post, he finishes around the rim, and has a reliable shot in and around the paint. Realistically, who in the East can stop him on a nightly basis? Nobody? If he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think Lopez can’t go for 20 and 8 per game off 52% shooting. The only thing holding Brook back is his feet. Then we have the aforementioned Bargnani. If he’s logging 30+ minutes, things are going badly for the Nets. He used to be able to shoot—over the least two seasons, not so much. Again, I think the Nets will miss Plumlee.

Final thoughts: This team is gonna be bad… Like Sixers, Magic, Knicks bad. In fact the Magic and the Knicks might be better. Similar to the Knicks, the Nets have a star player, but have nothing around them… Joe Johnson is still good enough to score but he’s not gonna help the team with much more…. Thaddeus Young is the third best player on this roster… Lopez and Johnson are off the books after this season; the Ghost of Deron Williams and Jack are off the books in the summer of 2017. Although the Brooklyn Nets have become more or less synonymous with the luxury tax, they can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. Moving forward, they’ll most likely re-sign Lopez and still have Thaddeus Young, who many would be shocked to learn is still just 27 years old… If Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a bust, you can tell me I was wrong in three years… If Thomas Robinson is every any good, you can also tell me I was wrong in three years… Much like the Sixers, the Nets are just fielding players to complete a roster at this point. At least they’re getting their payroll down…

2015/16 Team Preview: Boston Celtics


Additions: Amir Johnson, Perry Jones, David Lee

Despite the Celtics’ perceived overload at the power forward position, I have every reason to believe that Amir Johnson will be starting and ending most games for the Celtics. Over Johnson’s six seasons with Toronto, he shot 57.2% from the floor. Johnson is by most accounts a better rebounder than his 6.1 RPG last season would reflect. He also has the potential to score much more than he ever did in Toronto. Some are assuming that Johnson will attempt to expand his game to beyond the three-point arc, but I have yet to see any evidence suggesting this is a good idea. If the C’s are going to implement a stretch four, I would certainly advise using Jonas Jerebko or even Jarred Sullinger over Johnson. Johnson’s a solid defender and a decent shot blocker and known to do all of the “little things” on defense. His grit and hustle should quickly endear him to Boston fans.

Much like Johnson, the Celtics are paying David Lee a lot of money… $15.5 million to be exact. Yet unlike Johnson, his role on the team is still uncertain. Despite arguably being the best player on the roster, Lee may not play much more than 18 – 22 minutes per game. Amir Johnson will start at the four, and Jarred Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk can be viewed as either integral parts of the C’s future, or at the least, solid trade assets. We can all assume that Lee will get much more burn than Gerald Wallace got in 2014/15, but does he have any role in the Celtics future? Perhaps this season will be the litmus test. To David Lee’s credit, he was a consummate professional with Golden State last season, accepting his heavily reduced role on a championship level team and supporting the younger players who were essentially pushing him out of Oakland. Nonetheless, Lee remained ready to play and eventually made a meaningful impact on the Dubs’ playoff run. Although he might not ever return to his previous All-Star form, perhaps Lee can match the 18/10 mark that he achieved for five consecutive seasons (2009 – 2014) or just a shade below (playing time permitted).


Losses: Brandon Bass, Luigi Datome, Gerald Wallace

RIP to Gerald Wallace! At his peak, Wallace was incredible—a total energy guy who embraced a reckless style of play that helped him become a solid scorer, excellent rebounder, and superior defender. In 2005/06, Wallace averaged 2.5 SPG and 2.1 BPG making him the third player EVER to average two steals and two blocks per game over a season (David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon are the others). But those Charlotte days are long gone. Most notably, in 2012, Portland traded him to the New Jersey in a head-scratching deal in which the Nets gave up the 7th overall pick that became Damian Lillard. Much like the contracts of Keith Van Horn or Theo Ratliff, Wallace’s contract has outlived his NBA lifespan. It was almost inevitable that it would end up in the hands of the Sixers.

Rookies: RJ Hunter, Jordan Mickey, Terry Rozier

Admittedly, I was quite surprised when the Celtics reached for Rozier at #16 of the 2015 draft. Not only because Rozier wasn’t projected as a first round pick for the majority of the summer, but I was STUNNED that they took a point guard – isn’t that Marcus Smart’s job? I guess the C’s weren’t pleased with the remaining eligible bigs so they went a different direction with things… Undoubtedly, the Celtics added a top-notch perimeter defender to a backcourt that already boasted the likes of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Despite standing just 6’2”, Rozier has a 6’8” wingspan and will guard both guard positions. Rozier is also an excellent rebounder and possesses a lightning quick first step but he’s a streaky shooter and not a great finisher in the paint. Nonetheless, he’s very athletic and plays aggressively. Rozier’s success next season depends mainly on how many minutes he receives and how quickly he can adjust to NBA defenses.

Perry Jones, David Lee, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko

Most likely, R.J. Hunter will always be remembered as the guy who hit a 30-foot shot to advance Georgia State past Baylor while his coach and father fell out of his chair. But it doesn’t have to end there; Hunter has the tools to become a solid player in this league. He’s a lights out shooter. Although he struggles to create his own shot, he can come off pick and rolls, get open off screens, or spot up from deep three. However, Hunter takes A LOT of jumpers; it would be nice to see him get to the rim. Some have questioned his shot selection, but I think that’s most likely just a product of Hunter playing in such a small conference and on a team that needed him to take on the bulk of offensive duties. He’s also a very gifted passer with excellent court vision. Defensively, he has good size at the SG position (6’5” with a 6’9.5” wingspan), though at just 180 lbs. he will need to bulk up to defend stronger guards. Due to the Celtics depth in the backcourt, Hunter might not get a lot of burn to start, but I could envision him passing James Young on the depth chart before the All-Star break.

Guards: While acknowledging the Celtics have some quality guards, they all seem to have deficiencies—perhaps that’s why the C’s used their first two picks in last year’s draft on guards. Isaiah Thomas is the most seasoned guard, and despite his role as a sixth man, he will most likely see the most minutes. He’s a proven scorer but his lack of size makes it difficult for him to guard anyone straight up. Marcus Smart is a good defender, who could easily play alongside Thomas in an effort to defend bigger guards, but he’s a dismal shooter from everywhere on the floor (36.7 FG%, 33.5 3PT%, and 64.6% FT% last season). Although just one year ago, Smart appeared to be Rajon Rondo’s successor and the Celtics’ future at the position. But since drafting Smart, Boston added Thomas and combo-guard Terry Rozier from Louisville. The backcourt is rounded out by defensive stopper Avery Bradley, the highly underappreciated but often inefficient Evan Turner, and James Young, a second-year guard who spends most of his time with the Maine Red Claws.

Forwards: As previously stated, the Celts acquired David Lee this summer in a deal with Golden Sate for Gerald Wallace. There’s really no way that deal can backfire. Even if Lee is a complete flop in the Bean, his expiring contract will be worth something to someone next February. There are a lot of people who believe in Jarred Sullinger’s potential; I am not one of them. There was a reason he fell from potential lottery pick to 21st overall in the 2012 draft. Granted, over the past three seasons, he’s averaged a respectable 11.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG, but he also missed 69 games. Call me a skeptic but there’s something I don’t trust about a guy who’s consistently out of shape with a bad back, sore knees, and foot problems. If I was Danny Ainge, I would find the first GM that believes in Sully’s potential and make a deal. As I previously stated, I like the addition of Amir Johnson. Although I certainly don’t consider $12 million a year a bargain, it’s only a 2-year deal that shouldn’t hamstring the Celtics if the team develops like Ainge and Stephens hope it will. I do like Jonas Jerebko, as he played possibly the best basketball career after being traded to Boston last season and should see an uptick in minutes this season. Jae Crowder was a revelation for the Celtics last season, and in hindsight, might have been the best player involved in the Rajon Rondo to Dallas trade last season. At just 25, his potential is limitless… kinda. Jordan Mickey won’t get much burn but he’s certainly has more potential defensively than every forward on the roster with the exception of Amir Johnson. Lastly, Perry Jones won’t be on the team very long, so he doesn’t matter.


Centers: It’s a down era for Celtics centers. Robert Parrish isn’t walking through that door…. Tyler Zeller will though. Every day. In all fairness, Zeller exceeded everyone’s expectations after being acquired (along with a future first round pick and Marcus Thornton) for a trade exception and a future second-rounder. He played in all 82 games scoring 10.2 PPG on 54.9% shooting from the field and grabbing 5.7 RPG. One year removed from teetering on NBA bust, Zeller appears to have a solid NBA career in front of him. Expect his 21.1 minutes per game to increase significantly. I always considered Kelly Olynyk a stretch four, but he may have to play some stretch five this season. While he’s an above average 3-point shooter for a big, he doesn’t have much of an inside game or a mid-range jumper. He’s also not the world’s greatest defender. If you’re not from the Boston area, you may know him best for injuring Kevin Love in the first round of last season’s playoffs. He logged more minutes than Zeller last season, but that will most likely change this season. If the C’s decide to move one of their young bigs, I would be least surprised if it’s Olynyk.

Final thoughts: As an admitted Celtics hater, I was displeased with the progress they made last year. They took an often-injured and supremely overrated and immature prima donna (and Dwight Powell) and tricked the Dallas Mavericks into sending them Brendan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, and draft picks. You saw what happened to the second half of Dallas’s season? Everything I hoped that would happen to the second half of the Celtics’ season! Good job, Danny! You made Dallas look as foolish as you made Brooklyn look in 2013… Evan Turner is supremely underappreciated. Yeah, he was a #2 pick, and from that perspective he failed to live up to expectations, but he’s an excellent rebounder for his position and a solid on-the-ball defender. He’s a steal for the C’s playing for just $3.4 million and if he didn’t have such a rocky tenure in Indiana, I think he could’ve received both a longer and bigger contract… The Celtics have solid guards but none of them are stars… I like Isaiah Thomas’s contract but I don’t think I’ll ever understand Avery Bradley’s… I despise hearing about Perry Jones’ “potential.” It’s over for this dude. The same thing goes for Jeremy Lamb and Thomas Robinson. Please, if your squad picks one of these guys up, DO NOT talk to me about his “tremendous upside.” Those days have passed… I think R.J Hunter can be a good NBA player; I don’t think James Young can be a good NBA player… Brad Stephens has done an excellent job with this team. I couldn’t cite a team who “overperformed” more than last year’s Celtics… The C’s will do the same thing they did last year: visit the playoffs, and then get sent home.

2015/16 Team Preview: Atlanta Hawks


Additions: Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Holiday, Jason Richardson, Tiago Splitter

Tiago Splitter is undoubtedly the most interesting new piece in Atlanta. The Hawks have long struggled to find a quality big to back up Al Horford and they finally found the right guy! I assume Splitter will play more minutes with the Hawks than he did in San Antonio and wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to the guy that the Spurs signed to a 4-yr/$36 million dollar deal after the 2012/13 season. I also expect to see a spike in Splitter’s rebounds and blocks totals. Keep in mind that he played under Coach Bud for his first three seasons in San Antonio where both player and coach had moderate success. There’s no doubt that Tiago will be a vast improvement to Pero Antic and the ghost of Elton Brand. Sure, Splitter isn’t going to help the Hawks spread the floor offensively, but he’s certainly gonna add some down low toughness to a team that ranked 28th in rebounds per game last season.

If you’re a Hawks fan, you might be asking yourself, “How the fuck did we get Tim Hardaway Jr.?” Then when I tell you that you traded your 15th overall pick in 2015 (where Washington selected Kelly Oubre Jr.) and two future second-round picks for him, I expect you to sigh on cue. It’s not that I’m a Hardaway Jr. hater, I’m just a disbeliever. It’s not just me, Carmelo Anthony wanted to “beat him up” last December (allegedly). Hardaway has scored over 10 PPG in both of his two NBA seasons, but that’s about all he did – score on a bad team. And score inefficiently. He shot a shade below 39% from the field last season while his PER dipped to 12.1 and OWS plummeted to 0.8. He’s also a rather crummy defender. In his two seasons, he’s averaged 0.4 steals and 0.1 blocks per game. Not that those two stats tell a defender’s complete story, but in this case, they’re no misleading either. Perhaps Coach Bud sees something in Hardaway that the rest of us don’t, but many believe the trade was made solely to save at least $500,00 in cap space by not having to pay the 15th overall pick the required rookie salary.

Jason Richardson? Good luck. Maybe he’s still got something left in the tank. But similar to Rip Hamilton with the Bulls a few years back, I don’t think he does. As someone who has watched the Sixers night in and night out for the least two seasons, I don’t know anything more about him than you do—he never played. In all fairness; however, Richardson is a class act. He could’ve have easily thrown in the towel two years back but he committed to rehab and was dedicated to getting back on the floor. Maybe he’ll score 15 points in three or four games. But I think that’s more or less his ceiling.


Subtractions: Pero Antic, Elton Brand, DeMarre Carroll, Austin Daye, John Jenkins

DeMarre Carroll is the only substantial loss for the Hawks entering this season. Carroll has evolved into the quintessential “3-and-D” guy. Last year was his breakthrough season as he averaged career-highs in points (12.6), field goal percentage (48.7%), three pointers made (1.7), and three point percentage (39.5%). Unfortunately for the Hawks, Carroll entered free agency at the prime of his young career and was rewarded with a 4-yr/$60 million deal from Toronto. Not only was DeMarre perhaps the teams’ best perimeter defender, but he also helped space the floor leaving room for bigs to post and guards to shoot threes. It looks like the combination of Thabo Sefolosha and Tim Hardaway Jr. have big shoes to fill.

Rookies: Lamar Patterson, Terran Petteway, Walter Tavares

Atlanta doesn’t have the most promising rookie pool, exemplifying how much the Hawks want to win now. Of the three, Lamar Patterson may be the most ready to contribute immediately. Although he mostly played small forward in college, Patterson will be relegated to playing off guard in the pros where, at 6’5”, he’s still undersized. Furthermore, he’s allegedly in the best shape of his life shedding almost twenty pounds since he was drafted a year ago. Patterson’s an above average passer and a decent mid-range shooter, but to stick with the Hawks (and perhaps in the NBA) he’s going to have to develop his three point shooting.

Guards: It would be difficult to find a team with more depth at the point guard than Atlanta. Jeff Teague is now a bona fide All-Star and Dennis Schroeder is a top-tier back-up with the potential to one day start in this league (although it will most likely be elsewhere). Kyle Korver’s value to the offense cannot be overstated; last season, he was third in the league in three pointers made (221) and second in the three-point percentage (49.2%). More importantly, he’s deadly coming off pick and rolls and has greatly improved his ability to create his own shot. I’m not totally excited about the rest of the Hawks’ backcourt. Kent Bazemore can score in flashes and has worked to become a better defender, but for some reason I think Hardaway Jr. is gonna eat up his minutes. Jason Richardson and Shelvin Mack will get to watch a lot of Hawks basketball.

Forwards: Paul Millsap is essential to the Atlanta’s success. Without him, they’d be sunk; so it was certainly good news for Hawks’ fans when he spurned the Magic and their max offer sheet to re-sign in Atlanta. Over his 73 games last season, Millsap lead the Hawks in both PPG (16.7) and RPG (7.8). After rarely even attempting threes in Utah, he has expanded his game (and the floor) by knocking down the occasional three. Furthermore, since landing in Atlanta, Millsap has been a far more consistent defensive player – he led power forwards in steals last season (1.8). Once again, with the departure of DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks will certainly depend on their wing players stepping up. Thabo Sefolosha is still an excellent perimeter defender, but doesn’t offer particularly much on the offensive end of the floor. Although Mike Scott did some nice things last season, he ended up falling out of Coach Bud’s rotation during the playoffs last season; and right now, he has bigger issues to worry about than basketball.

Centers: Let me be clear: Al Horford is the Hawks’ best player. When Joe Johnson and Josh Smith were in Atlanta, Al Horford was still their best player. However, injuries have plagued Horford throughout his career, most notably in 2011/12 and 2013/14 when he played 11 games and 29 games respectively. In turn, the Hawks success strongly depends on both Horford’s health and his ability to lead. He’s a well-rounded player who contributes to the Hawks’ success on both ends of the floor. He averages about 15 PPG on 54% shooting from the field and has a career average of 9.2 RPG. As outstanding as the Hawks’ backcourt is, the team’s 2015/16 success rests mainly on the shoulders of Horford and Millsap. Although both players are commonly cited as undersized for their positions, with the aforementioned acquisition of Tiago Splitter, Atlanta’s frontcourt should be much approved. Shout to Mike Muscala, too! His abilities are obviously limited, but I like what he brings off the bench and I assume that his role on the team will only expand next season.

Final thoughts: I love the Hawks’ big four! Millsap and Horford are amongst the elite PF/C combinations in the league. Jeff Teague has risen towards the top of a crop of elite point guards, and there isn’t another player in this league that can do what Kyle Korver does… Tiago Splitter is a nice addition that should sure up their frontcourt… Atlanta’s biggest deficiency is their wing players… Schroeder may prove to be one of the league’s best backup point guards this season… Some people think Tim Hardaway Jr. is a bum. He will have the opportunity to prove them wrong… Despite bailing on the Clippers to fail to live up to expectations in Philadelphia, Elton Brand had a very solid career. Best wishes to him… Many believe that the Hawks cannot compete because they don’t have that “guy.” They do. Al Horford is that good. Last season, it felt like everyone believed Atlanta was a mirage, waiting for them to slip in the regular season, then assuming they’ll get worked in the playoffs. I didn’t ever think they were better than Cleveland, but they were better than everyone else in the East. People who think the Bucks or the Wizards are gonna outperform Atlanta this season are crazy. Give the Hawks their due!

Prediction: First in the Southeast Division; Third in the Eastern Conference

How Pat Riley Turned Something Into Nothing


When the Miami Heat traded up in last year’s draft to select Shabazz Napier, it raised many eyebrows. Not only because they moved up in the first round to select a player that was widely regarded as a second round talent, but more importantly, after leading his team to an NCAA championship, Napier received a ringing endorsement from Miami’s LeBron James, the center of the basketball universe.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 1.26.39 PM

So when Miami made the selection undoubtedly solely to please James, no one batted an eye. After all, what better way to use a first round pick than to appease the best player in the game? Three days after the draft, Dwyane Wade announced he was opting out of his remaining 2-year/$41 million contract, seemingly to free up money to re-sign James, and fellow RFA Chris Bosh. Nevertheless, Napier’s selection and Wade’s decision seemed to indicate the King was staying in Miami. Of course we all know how the story goes, James spurns Pat Riley and the Heat to join Cleveland—Cavs go to the Finals and Heat miss the playoffs.

Napier didn’t exactly make a splash last season either; he played in 51 games averaging just 5.1 PPG. He spent the majority of the season playing behind Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole; and when Cole was dealt last February in a trade that brought Goran Dragic to Miami, it appeared Napier’s future in Miami was in doubt.

When Miami traded Napier earlier this week, it quickly closed a chapter in a book the Heat most likely wish they never opened. Proponents of the Heat will quickly point out that trading Napier to the Magic saved the team close to $4.5 million in salary and luxury taxes, but that’s just putting a positive spin on a pick the team should’ve never made. In reality, the Heat would’ve been better off if their 2014 first round pick vanished into thin air—at least that would’ve saved them more than they ultimately gave up to acquire Napier.

Let’s start on June 24th of last year. The Heat, nervous if they were unable to select Shabazz Napier could lose the greatest small forward of all-time (crazy logic, I know), felt it necessary to move up. Ultimately, they traded their own first round pick (26th overall pick P.J. Hairston), a 2014 second rounder, a 2019 second rounder, and cash for Napier. Then, on Monday, the Heat unloaded Napier and even more cash to the Magic for a heavily protected second round pick that has absolutely ZERO chance of materializing (Orlando would have to finish next season with a top five record to convey the pick).

In conclusion, the Heat gave up a first-round pick, two second-round picks, cash and more cash for nothing. I’m not saying Shabazz Napier’s nothing—but they don’t have him anymore, and they don’t have any of those picks either.

So how does this then happen?

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 1.28.15 PM

What?!? We’re not only giving Pat Riley a mulligan on last year’s draft but we’re praising his expertise? Joseph Zapatelli writes…

“How this Napier trade impacts the Heat’s future moves is unclear, but as of right now, this looks like one of many clever moves Pat Riley has conducted this offseason in hopes of making the Heat a legitimate contender for an NBA title.”

“The Miami Heat have agreed to trade Shabazz Napier to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a future second round pick and, while the deal may not look like much at first glance, this trade could prove to be another shrewd move orchestrated by the Godfather himself, Pat Riley.”


Let’s be clear. Riley is building this team to win now. In fact, right after completing the Napier trade, Riley sent Zoran Dragic to Boston along with a 2020 second round pick and $1.5 million in cash for another heavily protected second round pick that most likely will not convey, once again to save money on luxury taxes. As Ira Winderman points out, the Heat certainly will not be looking to build through the draft soon.

“The trade with the Celtics put the Heat even deeper into draft debt, the Heat now owe a future first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers (likely 2016) from the 2010 LeBron James sign-and-trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers; a pair of future first-round picks to the Phoenix Suns (likely 2018 and 2021) from last season’s acquisition of the Dragics; a 2016 second-round pick to the Celtics from the 2014 Joel Anthony salary dump; a second-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks (likely 2017) from the Ennis draft-night acquisition; a 2019 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves from the 2014 draft-night draft with the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Napier; and now this 2020 second-round pick.”

The Heat are not due any future draft picks from other teams in either round.”

If the Heat believe it’s wise to abandon the draft and build a team through trades and free agency, good luck to them! I recall the Knicks trying to do the same thing, trading away picks for a combination of guys in their 30’s and cap space; and we all know how that worked out. But let’s not get crazy praising Pat Riley for trading a guy he never should’ve traded for on draft night solely to avoid paying taxes. Napier was not a good pick and depleting cash and future draft picks just to acquire him and then trade him one season later was not an “expert” move.