Friday, September 24, 2010

Nellie Out as Coach of Warriors

Don Nelson, the all time winningest coach in NBA history, will step down as the coach of the Golden State Warriors and retire. This move was inevitable as the Warriors are going through an ownership change. Nelson has coached the Warriors for 6 years and led them to one playoff series win, when as an 8 seed they upset the Dallas Mavericks.

This move will give the Warriors a fresh start. Nellie's run and gun coaching style and inconsistent rotations wore thin on many players -- Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford, and others. Assistant coach Keith Smart will take over coaching duties. As a Nellie disciple, you can expect a similar uptempo offense with more of an emphasis on defense.

The Warriors have a nice core with Steph Curry, Monta Ellis, David Lee, and Andris Biedrins. With new ownership and (hopefully) stability in the organization, the Warriors are not far off from being a playoff team.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Erick Dampier Waved

In a cost cutting move, the Charlotte Bobcats have waved C Erick Dampier. The Michael Jordan owned Bobcats traded for Dampier in the Tyson Chandler trade earlier this summer. His unguaranteed $13 mil contract was considered and attractive trade piece. However, GM Rod Higgins was unable to find a suitable trade partner. By waving Dampier, the Bobcats will be below the salary cap but have a painfully thin front court.

By being waved, Erick Dampier is now a free agent. The 14 year vet will have no shortage of suitors as he has plenty of playoff experience and can still contribute quality minutes. Dampier enjoyed the best year of his career in 2004 with the Warriors, when he averaged 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. It's not surprising that 2004 was a contract year and he didn't put up nearly as good numbers after signing an enormous contract with the Mavericks. Here are some teams that will be interested in Dampier's services.

New Orleans Hornets -- After losing out on the Louis Amundson sweepstakes, the Hornets would love to acquire Dampier. Lacking depth at PF/C, Dampier would be a suitable backup for Emeka Okafor.

Chicago Bulls -- As much as it hurts me to say this, if the Bulls sign Dampier, they could seriously consider including C Joakim Noah in a trade for Carmelo Anthony. Denver might bite on a Deng and Noah for Anthony trade. A lineup of Rose, Brewer/Korver, Melo, Boozer, and Dampier might make the Bulls championship contenders.

Miami Heat -- The Heat will try to sign every experienced vet that comes available to play alongside their big three. The feeling is mutual as most experienced vets want a shot a the title.

Oklahoma City Thunder -- Dampier could start and allow youngsters Cole Aldrich and Serge Ibaka to come off the bench with energy. Regardless, the Thunder are going to be a top four seed in the West this year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Louis Amundson signs with Golden State

Louis Amundson, who I chronicled in this post, has signed a 2 year $4.7 mil deal with the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN. Amundson, who will be entering his 5th year, has played the last two seasons for the Phoenix Suns as a scrappy energy guy off the bench. His tenacious defense and hustle make up for his inept offensive game.

The Hornets also had immense interest in Amundson, but couldn't offer as much money without transgressing the luxury tax threshold (Chris Paul can't be happy). Thus, Amundson will fight for minutes off the bench with Ekpe Udoh, Brandan Wright, and Dan Gadzuric to backup David Lee and Andris Biedrins. With Udoh injured, and Wright and Biedrins being injury prone, Amundson should see consistent playing time. This is his first big contract, so congratulations!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What will the Pistons Rotation Look Like?

Ever since Detroit's title run in 2004, Joe Dumars' roster management of the Pistons has been putrid. They have an unbalanced roster of young players who need playing time to develop, former washed up stars, and championship caliber starters. Looking at their roster, it's difficult to know who is going to get playing time this season. Pistons are in a state of limbo. While they aren't good enough to contend in the East, they also aren't bad enough to get a high lottery pick. Let's take a look at the Pistons' depth chart.

PG - The heir apparent and a suitable backup
  • Rodney Stuckey (above)- Chauncey Billups was traded so Stuckey could be the PG of the future. He has shown improvement every year, and averaged a career high 16 points last year. This summer he has been working on his outside shot.
  • Will Bynum- Signed this summer to be Stuckey's backup and will do a fine job. He had a 20 assist game last season!
SG - Here's where things get sticky. The Pistons have 3 SG who all are going to want to play 30 minutes a night/start.
  • Tracy McGrady - Signed this off season, the former All Star and scoring champ is desperate to resurrect his career. Based on his unwillingness to be a role player with the Bulls tells me he expects to play 25-30 minutes a night and be a focal part of the offense.
  • Richard Hamilton - Started on Detroit's 2004 championship team and has been one of the most consistent players in the league for the past decade. He quietly hated coming off the bench behind Allen Iverson. As one of the longest tenured Pistons, he will expect to start and play at least 30 minutes a night. The his huge contract makes him nearly untradeable.
  • Ben Gordon - The former 6th man of the year was Joe Dumars' prized acquisition in 2009, but averaged a career-low 13.8 points last year. While he's used to coming off the bench, it doesn't make much sense to pay someone $12 mil a year to play only 20-25 minutes.
SF - At the 3 Detroit has 2 young players who need burn and a savvy vet who expects to get minutes.
  • Tayshaun Prince - A lifelong Piston, Prince was a starter on the Championship team. He hasn't played less than 32 mpg since his rookie season, and in a contract year needs to put up numbers to be rewarded with another long-term deal. Look for him to be traded at the deadline in order to give the following players minutes.
  • Austin Daye - The 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft is a spitting image of Prince and has a lot of upside. Unfortunately, he only played 13 mpg his rookie year. If he is going to reach his potential, he needs to see the court.
  • DaJuan Summers - The Piston's 2nd round pick in 2009 is a bench player for life. Still, it would be nice to see him play more than 9 mpg and find a niche.
PF - The Pistons have the same situation at PF as they do at SF
  • Charlie Villanueva - CV was signed to a 5 year, $40 mil deal after averaging 16 points with the Bucks in 2009. Last season he struggled and only averaged 11.8 points. CV likes to lurk along the arc and is soft inside. He also has the ability to play SF, but struggles on D. At $8 mil per season, you would think he should be starting and getting a lot of playing time.
  • Greg Monroe - The Georgetown star was the 7th overall pick and has the potential to be a cornerstone of the franchise. With this status, Monroe will definitely get consistent playing time, but whose minutes will be taken away?
  • Jonas Jerebko (right) - In his rookie year, the Swede surprised everyone with his scrappy, determined play. He earned himself a starting gig and played 28 mpg while averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds. With Monroe on board and CV fully healthy, his playing time will most likely go down, which is a shame. However, he might see some time at C.
C - Some of the Pistons PFs will likely play out of position at C because of their l
  • Ben Wallace - He hasn't retired yet? Wallace was the heart and soul of the Pistons when they were making their perennial championship runs. After playing with the Bulls and Cavs for a few seasons, Wallace returned home to Detroit to finish out his career. At 36 years old, he should start but also serve as a defensive tutor for Jerebko and Monroe.
  • Jason Maxiell - Maxiell is undersized but strong and feisty. A career backup, last year's 20 mpg ought to decrease with Monroe in the mix and Jerebko proving to be a legit player.
  • Chris Wilcox - The former Maryland star had all the tools, but had regressed into an ineffective big man.
As you can see, there is a huge jam at the SG and SF positions. Appeasing proven vets with playing time while allowing the Pistons youngsters to develop will prove to be a sticky situation for coach Jon Kuester. GM Joe Dumars has really dug himself into a hole by signing Hamilton, Gordon, and Villanueva to such large contracts. All three are difficult to trade, will not make the Pistons contenders, and hinder the younger players' development.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who will rebound in Phoenix?

Robin Lopez (right), Earl Clark, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu. Those are the names of the Suns' front players. The Suns lost last year's leading rebounder (8.9 per), Amare Stoudemire, to free agency and haven't done much to replace him. Sure, they traded for Hedo Turkoglu, but he is an offensive acquisition to allow Steve Nash to play off the ball and isn't known for crashing the boards (career high 5.7 per in 2008).

Thus, Phoenix is going to have A LOT of trouble preventing offensive rebounds by their opponents and getting some themselves. Here are last season's rebounding numbers for their big men.

Grant Hill - 5.5 - With his age, don't expect an improvement

Channing Frye - 5.3 - The sharpshooting big spends a lot of time on the perimeter and is soft when he does play in the paint.

Robin Lopez - 4.9 - The Suns are relying on Robin Lopez to have a breakout year. At 7'0 and only 22 years old, Lopez showed some promise last year (averaged 9.1 boards per 36 minutes). He will see a lot of court time this year, but unless he pulls down 12 a game, the Suns are toast.

Earl Clark - 5.8 per 36 minutes - Young Earl Clark has Lamar Odom like talent but hasn't been able to put it together. He played only 7 ineffective minutes per game last year, and will probably get more burn this year. The Suns have successful in developing Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Robin Lopez, so this could be a crucial year for Clark.

Hakim Warrick - 4.1 - Warrick wasn't a good rebounder in Memphis, Chicago, or Milwaukee and won't be one in Phoenix.

Hedo Turkoglu - 4.7 - I still can't believe the Suns traded for Hedo's declining skills and onerous contract.

Without an inside presence, there is no way the Suns make it back to the Western Conference Finals. While they will play an entertaining brand of basketball, I see them as a fringe playoff team. Although he is the face of the franchise, the Suns should look into trading Steve Nash who probably wants to (seriously) compete for a title. Perhaps to the Blazers for Marcus Camby and Rudy Fernandez -- It's hard to gauge Nash's trade value given his age and past accolades.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Orleans signs PG Mustafa Shakur

According to ESPN, the New Orleans Hornets have signed PG Mustafa Shakur. A sincere congratulations to Mustafa. The once highly touted draft prospect went undrafted in 2007 after finishing his collegiate career at Arizona. Since then he played in Poland for two seasons where he won the league championship and the NBDL. Last year he was signed by the Thunder to a 10 day contract, but never appeared in a game. He has obviously worked very hard to earn himself a spot on a roster.

He should see 12-15 minutes a game backing up Chris Paul. After New Orleans traded away PG Darren Collison earlier this summer, they were left without a backup for Paul. This is a tremendous opportunity for Shakur to receive consistent playing time and learn from arguably the best PG in the league. With only 12 men on their roster, I would expect New Orleans to sign another veteran PG of the Dan Dickau or Travis Diener variety as insurance.

Rodney Carney signs with Warriors

According to ESPN, the Golden State Warriors have signed SG/SF Rodney Carney to a one year deal. Carney, 26, has played 4 seasons in the NBA for Philadelphia and Minnesota. The former University of Memphis star is known for his athleticism and highlight reel dunks. He was the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft but has not lived up to his potential.

Signing with Golden State should be Carney's best opportunity yet to show what he can do. With Don Nelson's fast paced offense and inconsistent rotations, the Warriors have developed a reputation for unknown players making a name for themselves (see: Reggie Williams, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver, Rob Kurz). However, the Warriors are going through an ownership change and it is unclear whether Don Nelson will be on the sidelines come November.

Whether Nelson is there or not, this is a good signing by Golden State. They lacked depth at the wing, and Carney's athleticism, speed, and outside shot should be a perfect fit.

P.S. Do his shoulders look abnormally broad relative to the size of his head?

Sean May released by Nets

Sean May's injury plagued career didn't get any better this week, when he was waived by the New Jersey Nets. May, a 6'9 PF out of North Carolina, has played only 119 games in 5 NBA seasons. He missed the whole 2008 season while recovering from micro-fracture surgery. His recovery has been a failure, however, as he was cut by Larry Brown and the Bobcats after only 24 games in the 2009 season for being overweight and out of shape (see picture). Last season he played for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds in only 9 minutes a game.

The 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 draft, May entered the league with high expectations after winning the National Championship with North Carolina. He enjoyed limited success during December of his second season, averaging 15.6 points and 7 rebounds, including a 32 point game against Dwight Howard and the Magic (even Adam Morrison had a good game, so let's not get ahead of ourselves). This latest injury might be the final death knell of his NBA career as he is unable to stay healthy and in shape. I would imagine he will find himself playing overseas this season. Who would have thought that of the four players drafted out of UNC in 2004 (May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants), only Raymond Felton has lived up to expectations.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Best of What's Left

The following is a list of the best free agents still available. If your team hasn't already made moves, you might be SOL. It's slim pickings.

Allen Iverson -- It's hard to know who might want AI. He's old, doesn't seem to think that he's a bench player, and played sparingly last year before calling it quits because his child was ill (although reports said he was confronting alcohol and gambling problems). I am scouring my brain for a team that doesn't A) already have a young PG, or B) whose chemistry wouldn't be disrupted if AI were to sign. I can't think of any. I'm sure he wants to sign with the Heat to have a shot at a ring. Unfortunately it's not his choice.

Jerry Stackhouse -- The two-time All-Star is at the end of his career. Last season he signed with the Bucks after getting into basketball shape through the P90X program. He publicly said he wants to play with the Heat on NBATV, where he is an analyst. At this point in his career, he is a chemistry guy. Some team will surely come calling at some point, maybe the Bulls, Thunder, Hawks, or Jazz.

Larry Hughes -- Hughes had a career year in 2005 with Washington when he averaged 22-6-5 and a few steals. He then signed a huge deal with Cleveland and was supposed to be LeBron's sidekick. It didn't work. He has been awful ever since 2005, being unable to shoot over 42% and cementing his reputation as a chucker. I doubt he signs with anyone because of his selfish behavior and inability to put the team first.

Louis Amundson -- Amundson is a poor-mans Anderson Varajao. He brings a lot of energy whenever he steps on the court and should be signed before training camp. Teams interested in him could be : Hawks (should have signed him instead of Jason Collins), Bulls, Jazz, Hornets.

Brian Scalabrine -- He's always a fan favorite, and like Shavlik Randolph, probably serves as dunk fodder in practice for whatever team he's on. He's got a decent outside stroke but is nothing more than a locker room chemistry guy to put at the end of the bench. The Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Nuggets, or Wizards might be interested.

Adam "Ammo" Morrison -- Crash and Burn. The former number 3 pick did just that. He averaged 12 points his rookie season, then destroyed his knee and hasn't done anything since. He was a part of the Lakers Shannon Brown trade 2 seasons ago. He might be worth a shot for the minimum. Remember, he was compared to Larry Bird on draft night. Unfortunately, he might forever be known for crying in the middle of the court as Gonzaga lost to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

Joe Alexander -- Crash harder, burn harder. Alexander was a straight up waste of a lottery pick by the bucks (7 overall). He is one of the few players whose rookie contract was not picked up. Perhaps someone will pick him up and give him some playing time in the D-League, if he's even eligible to play there.

Hawks Sign Etan Thomas

The Atlanta Hawks are attempting to bolster their front-court by adding veteran big man Etan Thomas. At 6'10, Thomas figures to see some time at C to allow Al Horford to play more PF, where he is better suited.

Thomas, 32, was drafted 12th overall in the 2000 draft by the Wizards. He spent 7 years there before playing for Oklahoma City last year. He enjoyed his best season in 2004, when he played in 79 games and averaged 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds. He is also in competition with Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala for biggest biceps in the league.

Thomas will compete for minutes with Jason Collins (slow, plodding C), Zaza Pachulia (ugliest player in the league), and Josh Powell. The Hawks are widely regarded as a team that has fully reached it's potential and will be ousted in the second round every year. This summer they signed Joe Johnson to an insane 6 year $120 mil deal -- after he averaged 13 points on 29% shooting in the playoffs against Orlando.

However, recently promoted Coach Larry Drew has other plans. He has said they will not play as much isolation offense as they did under Mike Woodson and that they will play more straight up man to man. While the signing of Thomas gives the Hawks depth, it by no means pushes them over the top. Unless Al Horford, Josh Smith, or Jeff Teague make a dramatic improvement, the Hawks look to be a 4 or 5 seed and make a first or second round exit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Delonte West returns to the Celtics

The troubled Delonte West will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Boston Celtics, according to the Boston Herald. West was originally drafted by the Celtics and played 3 seasons there before being dealt to the then Seattle Supersonics in the Ray Allen deal. He has spent the last 3 seasons playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland's failed championship runs.

In Boston, West will come off the bench and compete for minutes with Nate Robinson, rookie Avery Bradley, and Von Wafer. With a non-guaranteed contract, West will be on his best behavior. His checkered past has been well documented -- during the playoffs, there were unconfirmed rumors that he was sleeping with LeBron James' mom, and in September of last year he was pulled over while driving a three wheeled motorcycle and was found to be carrying a pistol, .357 Magnum, and Remington shotgun in a guitar case (I would love to see the cop cam of this). You can also find a video of him stoned in a KFC drive thru free styling ("Raspberry what what? Ice tea!!").

However, all of these incidents didn't scare off the Celtics. With Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers running a tight ship in the locker room, any distractions with Delonte will not be tolerated.