View Full Version : Hollinger: Who's looking worse in 07-08?

Trader Joe
07-19-2007, 01:53 PM

Greetings again, and welcome to part deux of my look at how the current offseason will have an impact on teams in 2007-08. To reiterate a key point, we're looking at how the teams' moves affect this coming season only -- judging from the comments on Wednesday's piece (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=offseasonwinners) I'm not sure everyone followed that. So for example, the Raptors might regret paying so much for Jason Kapono (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3734) three years from now, but it undoubtedly will help them for the 2007-08 season.
Wednesday we looked at the teams whose moves made them better for 2007-08; today we're looking at the other side of the coin. I dinged several of these teams for essentially standing pat because, as I pointed out Wednesday, the way this business works is that you lose ground if you don't bring in new blood. Meanwhile, a few teams made moves to make themselves legitimately much worse -- usually with a larger strategy in mind.
I'll pick up where we left off, at No. 16, and work our way down to the team that's hurt itself the most so far this offseason. Once again, key gains and losses are in parentheses:

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16. Orlando Magic (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=orl)
(added Rashard Lewis (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3275); lost Grant Hill (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=2626), Darko Milicic (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3705) and Travis Diener (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3964); replaced Brian Hill with Stan Van Gundy)
They overpaid for Lewis, but picking him up undoubtedly will pay some short-term dividends. Fair enough. But is Lewis enough to offset the losses of Hill and Milicic? I dunno. Darko's departure leaves the cupboard looking awfully bare in the frontcourt, and I don't think signing 6 foot, 11-inch Polish import Marcin Gortat (rumored to be imminent) changes that picture much.
Also, I'm still completely bewildered that the Magic failed to do a sign-and-trade with Milicic, which would have netted the team a large trade exception that it would have had a year to use. The Magic could have killed two birds with one stone in this case by trading Milicic for Alexander Johnson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4173) -- a frontcourt player whom the Grizzlies ended up waiving.
One other thing to look at is how the Lewis signing has an impact on Hedo Turkoglu (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3415). Both Lewis and Turkoglu are 6-10, defensively limited and like to shoot jumpers from the corner. It's not clear to me how both can be on the court at the same time, at least for long stretches, and I'd like the Magic's offseason a lot better if they could trade Turkoglu for a decent big man.
However, one positive is the addition of Stan Van Gundy. He was one of the best, if not the best, coaches available on the market, and his track record suggests he might improve the Magic's defense quite a bit.
All in all, there are a lot of additions and subtractions to weigh here, but the end result is that it looks pretty close to a wash.


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17 Denver Nuggets (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=den)
(added Chucky Atkins (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3391); lost Steve Blake (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3741))
The Nuggies pretty much stood pat this offseason, with the one change being the swap of Blake for Atkins. I like it for two reasons: One, Denver is desperate for shooting and Atkins can shoot the lights out; and two, even though Atkins is unlikely to repeat his performance of a year ago, the same can be said of Blake.
Nonetheless, compared to the moves made by other Western contenders like Phoenix and Houston, Denver can't be thinking it gained ground here. You still get the impression it will take one more decisive move to put the Nuggets into the West's top three; it might be February before we see it though.


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18. Portland Trail Blazers (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=por)
(added Greg Oden (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4243), Josh McRoberts (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4314), Steve Blake, Channing Frye (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3934) and James Jones (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3752); lost Zach Randolph (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3531), Fred Jones (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3612), Dan Dickau (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3625) and Jamaal Magloire (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3418)).
I love what the Blazers are building and am as high on their future as anyone, so you might be surprised to see me rank Portland so low on this list. The reason is that I'm not sure whether those moves translate into much of a change in the win column for 2007-08.
The biggest loss is Randolph -- whatever you think of his attitude or his contract, he was fantastic last season. So even if Oden is equally fantastic, the Blazers only break even. On the positive side, swapping Magloire for Frye is a small improvement in the frontcourt second unit, and the changing of the Joneses on the wing has a similar effect.
But two other moves look like a step back. First, there was the decision to sign Blake, which seemingly would necessitate the trading of Jarrett Jack (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3948) -- an odd move given that Jack is younger, better and makes less. Another loss I didn't put above because it isn't official yet is Ime Udoka (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3501). The Blazers have the maximum 15 players under contract, including three at Udoka's position, so it's a good bet that last season's defensive stopper will have a new home. Essentially, Portland gave Udoka's money to Blake instead.
Like I said, long-term I like this team as much as anyone. But two of the Blazers' key draft picks -- Rudy Fernandez (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4302) and Petteri Koponen (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4308) -- will be in Europe this season. Plus they just traded the centerpiece of their offense and they're about to lose their best defender. So Year 1 of the Oden Era might not produce much of a shift in the win column.


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19. Minnesota Timberwolves (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=min)
(added Corey Brewer (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4285) and Juwan Howard (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=2628); lost Mike James (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3577))
Obviously, this ranking goes to No. 30 if they deal Kevin Garnett (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3007) and start over. In the meantime, their moves to date don't exactly get my heart racing. A lot of draftniks liked Brewer but I don't see him as more than a role player -- he's a poor shooter and a poor dribbler, which makes me wonder how he'll score more than 10 points a game or so. And in terms of 2007-08 impacts, Brewer just adds to the Wolves' hordes on the wings, along with Ricky Davis (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3264), Marko Jaric (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3429), Trenton Hassell (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3539) and Rashad McCants (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3940).
As for Howard, he filled a need because Minnesota's frontcourt was a mess, but the trade of James leaves an arguably larger void. The point now looks to be split between the moderately capable hands of Randy Foye (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4135) and the utterly incapable ones of Troy Hudson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3235). Losing James also takes away their best shooter and, on the rare occasions when Randy Wittman deigned to play him in the fourth quarter, one of their best crunch-time shot makers. To lose that for a No. 4 big man (no way he's better than Craig Smith (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4164)) doesn't strike me as a step forward.


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20. New Jersey Nets (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=njn)
(added Sean Williams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4295) and Jamaal Magloire; lost Mikki Moore (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3308), Hassan Adams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4182) and Clifford Robinson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=287))
Moore's 2006-07 season was a fluke so the Nets were wise not to match Sacramento's offer. That said, I'm a little puzzled by the succession strategy. The Nets chose to pursue the declining Magloire, and managed to pay him just enough that they had to waive Hassan Adams to avoid the luxury tax.
Look, I know Magloire still has a big name and all, but did the Nets see this guy play the last two seasons? He's become slower than a Galapagos tortoise, to the point that I'm not sure I'd trade Adams for him straight up. To end up having to waive the guy just to get Magloire, when offering a mere $400K less would have avoided the whole problem, seems positively reckless.
That's doubly so when losing Adams means committing minutes to überbust Antoine Wright (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3941). I'd rate the Nets lower but at least they drafted Williams, who should replace a lot of the energy plays that Moore provided a year ago.


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21. L.A. Clippers (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=lac)
(added Al Thornton (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4292); lost Jason Hart (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3448), Daniel Ewing (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3958) and James Singleton (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4055))
I'll bump up this rating a little if they can nab Steve Francis (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3325). But only a little, because Elton Brand (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3324) would never see the ball again. He'd just wave his hand helplessly in the post while Francis and Cuttino Mobley (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3284) relive their monogamous passing routine from their Houston days ("Francis, back to Mobley … over to Francis … change sides and dishes to Mobley … back over to Francis who dribbles out top … two on the shot clock … Francis kicks to Mobley, his jumper from the corner is up and …"). The other three guys might as well play with their arms inside their jerseys.
In the meantime, the Clips find themselves without a point guard after losing Hart to Utah and dropping Ewing. They also needlessly cut Singleton loose, even though he sure looked like an NBA talent during his limited opportunities with the Clips. As for Thornton, the fact that he was at least a year older than everyone he played against in college -- and in many cases several years older -- apparently hasn't caught on with everyone yet, but I don't have high hopes for him in the pros.


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22. Utah Jazz (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=uth)
(added Jason Hart, Morris Almond (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4303); lost Derek Fisher (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3125))
Fisher did the Jazz a huge favor by walking away from the final three years of his contract, and it might be even more of a favor if it persuades Jerry Sloan to play Ronnie Brewer (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4142) once in awhile.
But in the short-term, it leaves a dent. Hart will take over the minutes behind Deron Williams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3929) and should do a decent job, especially at the defensive end. And Almond fills a need by giving the Jazz another true shooting guard, one whose strengths and weakness pretty much offset those of Brewer. But in terms of 2007-08, losing Fisher makes the difficult task of getting back to the conference finals even harder.


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23. Dallas Mavericks (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=dal)
(added Nick Fazekas (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4312))
Lots of smoke and no fire from the Mavs so far, which isn't the way we thought they'd proceed after their 67-win season went up in flames during a first-round loss to Golden State. Give Mark Cuban credit for not hitting the panic button, but I don't think re-signing Devean George (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3346) is going to be the answer here. We keep hearing whispers about their interest in Kevin Garnett or other star talents, but so far they've come up empty.


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24. Indiana Pacers (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=ind)
(added Kareem Rush (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3618); lost Maceo Baston (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3301); replaced Rick Carlisle with Jim O'Brien)
I like O'Brien and think his focus on the longball might help Troy Murphy (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3524) in particular. But the Pacers' implosion at the end of last year called for radical surgery, and so far we haven't seen Indy break out the scalpel.
Losing Baston was unfortunate -- the guy can play -- but inevitable given this team's frontcourt logjam. Of far greater importance is finding a real, live NBA shooting guard -- they can't possibly try to pass off Mike Dunleavy (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3601) as a solution again, can they? We keep waiting for the other shoe to drop on a Jermaine O'Neal (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3120) trade as well, but nothing has come to fruition thus far.


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25. Cleveland Cavaliers (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=cle)
(no activity).
With the team saddled with bad contracts, no draft picks and limited trade assets, it's been crickets on the shores of Lake Erie this summer. At least the Cavs won't sustain any losses, as the wonders of restricted free agency are likely to keep Anderson Varejao (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3847) and Sasha Pavlovic (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3722) in Cleveland for at least one more year.
But the Cavs are desperate for point guard help and will need it to get back to the Finals -- the East can't stay this pathetic forever. If you're wondering, I don't think Mike Bibby (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3245) is the answer either, especially if it involves giving up Drew Gooden (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3602) to get him.


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26. Milwaukee Bucks (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=mil)
(added Jake Voskuhl (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=0879); might add Yi Jianlian (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4284); lost Ersan Ilyasova (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3962))
It's questionable how much Yi would contribute this coming season even if the Bucks can strong-arm him into joining the team. And it will be downright embarrassing if he calls Milwaukee's bluff, sits the year out and tries to leave the Bucks empty-handed.
In the meantime, the Bucks already lost a promising forward in Ilyasova, who got a nice deal to play in Spain. Below the radar, it looks like they're also losing Ruben Patterson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3274) -- who was arguably their best player last season. Even if they sign Desmond Mason (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3416), something that's been rumored to be imminent, that doesn't come close to filling the void. At least they avoided a full-scale disaster when Mo Williams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3750) agreed to return to the Bucks by signing a six-year deal.
Also, they signed Voskuhl to shore up their frontcourt. That changes everything.


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27. San Antonio Spurs (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=sas)
(lost Jackie Butler (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3909) and the rights to Luis Scola)
I understand why San Antonio made the trade it did with Houston, but I think the Spurs might regret it given how powerful it makes the Rockets. Nonetheless, the realities for the Spurs were that they wanted to drop Butler's contract and get under the luxury tax, and that letting Vassilis Spanoulis (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3867) out of his contract provided an avenue to do that. They also had a clock ticking on the rights to Scola -- his buyout had only a few days left when the deal was struck, and after that date the value of those rights would have been practically worthless.
Additionally, the cash they got from Houston could have a very important benefit -- it essentially might pay for Ime Udoka, whom they are trying to woo away from Portland. Udoka is a high-character guy, defends well and can shoot 3s from the corner -- if you're thinking "Bowen succession strategy," award yourself a point. Obviously, if the Spurs get Udoka, they'll move up this list.
But I can only rate teams based on what they've done to date. For now, San Antonio's moves have made a key competitor stronger while doing nothing for itself, and until or unless the Spurs make an addition, they haven't addressed the serious age problem on the wings.


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28. Miami Heat (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=mia)
(added Daequan Cook (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4299), lost Jason Kapono)
The Heat have taken a big swing and a whiff in the free-agent market, getting played by Mo Williams and in the meantime seeing all the other decent point guards sign with other teams. Even now, whomever they end up with can't be any worse than Gary Payton (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=259) was last season, but that's not the only area that needs fixing.
Kapono's departure takes away their most reliable shooter, an important commodity given all the attention Dwyane Wade (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3708) and Shaquille O'Neal (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=847) command. Another wing shooter, James Posey (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3341), might be following him out the door -- which would have Miami scrambling to replace both of its small forwards.
Throw in the news that Wade's recovery from offseason knee and shoulder surgery might last into training camp and beyond, and it's hardly been a stellar summer for the Heat -- and they're the one team whose age problems make it most imperative that they add new blood.


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29. Golden State Warriors (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=gsw)
(added Brandan Wright (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4286) and Marco Belinelli (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4296); lost Jason Richardson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3515))
The Warriors can salvage their offseason if they can pull off a deal for Kevin Garnett or leverage their assets to get a similar wattage star.
But at the moment it seems they'll have an awful lot of trouble replicating the magical ending to last season. Richardson was hurt much of the season but his return was one of the biggest keys to Golden State's awesome stretch run. Now the Warriors are without him and might lose two other key wings in unsigned free agents Mickael Pietrus (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=2173) and Matt Barnes (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3643).
Folks are talking up Belinelli as a quality replacement for Richardson after his scorching hot summer league effort. However, his European numbers say he's not all that, and I trust those results a lot more than five pick-up games against the league's B-listers. Maybe Belinelli will be the exception who blows away his translated European stats, but I wouldn't bet on it. As for Wright, I like him as a prospect but his time is likely a couple years down the road, as his body fills out and he better learns how to tap his undeniable potential.


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30. Seattle SuperSonics (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=sea)
(added Kevin Durant (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4244), Jeff Green (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4247), Delonte West (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3841) and Wally Szczerbiak (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3329); lost Ray Allen (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3080) and Rashard Lewis; replaced Bob Hill with P.J. Carlesimo)
Durant is going to be amazing, and getting West in the Allen trade was an underrated coup for new Sonics GM Sam Presti. But Seattle's moves have been made with the idea of blowing up the old crew and starting anew with this one, and it seems inevitable that this will set Seattle back in the short-term.
Allen and Lewis are two of the deadliest shooters in the game, and allowed the Sonics to have one of the league's most efficient offenses. Durant, no matter how good he is in five years, is unlikely to replace that kind of production as a rookie, which means the Sonics have to get much better defensively just to tread water.
Figuring out how to improve their deficient defense might not be easy, since it's an area where most young players learn the hard way. The return of Robert Swift (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3829) should at least shore up the interior a bit, but in terms of what they gained and lost in the offseason, the 2007-08 Sonics don't appear as strong as the 2006-07 version.
That's OK in this case -- it's the 2009-10 Seattle Sonics (or Las Vegas Rollers or Oklahoma City Tornadoes or whatever they're calling themselves then) that other teams should fear, and Seattle's offseason was a strong step in that direction. Again, we've just been looking at 2007-08 here -- if we're rating long-term impacts, Seattle zooms way up the list.

Trader Joe
07-19-2007, 01:54 PM
Nevermind missed that Kegboy had already updated his thread. Lock it up.