Apr 18, 2013 12:45 PM EDT
A winning record to reach the playoffs wasn't necessary this season in the Eastern Conference, which demonstrates how far the below list of eliminated temas are from becoming contenders without addressing significant issues this offseason.
The Big Questions:
- Will they get the No. 1 overall pick?
- Can a frontcourt with a core of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless compete in the East long-term?
- Can they find another team who will give them an asset for Al Harrington’s partially guaranteed deal?
Notable Free Agents: None
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round and Golden State’s 2nd Round (own 2nd round held by Cleveland)
The Lay of the Land: The Magic have a fascinating group of young players and a serious chance to add more assets. With a tie for the most ping pong balls, Orlando should be able to bring another high-level talent into the fold. While point guard stands out as the biggest long-term need, the team would be wise to take the best player available since they still need depth and quality at every position. Another interesting piece for Orlando this summer comes in the form of Al Harrington- because his contract is only half-guaranteed for the final two seasons of the deal, the creative Magic front office could use that to try and gain an asset from another team in exchange for the cap savings of a contract that counts on the book for more than the payment amount until he is cut. Considering Orlando already has a ton of money on the books for 13-14, it could even be a way for them to reduce their burden for the following years.
The Big Questions:
- Will they get the No. 1 pick?
- When should they use the amnesty on Tyrus Thomas?
- How much are they willing to pay to keep Gerald Henderson?
Notable Free Agents: Gerald Henderson (Restricted) and Byron Mullins (Restricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, No 2nd Round (held by OKC)
The Lay of the Land: While the Bobcats have two potential lottery picks coming from Detroit and Portland in future years, in all likelihood neither of those will make it to Charlotte this season. That could be for the best considering how weak this class is on the lower end of the lottery. That said, the choice to take on Ben Gordon’s extra year to get a pick from Detroit means that Charlotte will have some money this summer but not enough to go after elite talent. The Bobcats do still have their amnesty available and have a perfect target in Tyrus Thomas, though they could still see some potential value in him since they would still need to pay him even if he comes off the books from a salary cap perspective. I’m guessing they wait one more year to push him off on an ice float though doing it now would be fine.
Beyond that, both Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson will be restricted free agents this summer. The team needs to draw a line in the sand on long-term contracts for both players since while each has value they are not strong enough players to warrant tying up cap space when the team can make big moves in 2014 and beyond.
The Big Questions:
- Do they want to use their cap space this summer or wait until 2014?
- Will there be a good market for Anderson Varejao? Would the Cavaliers want to trade him now?
- How can they best use their two picks in each round?
Notable Free Agents: Wayne Ellington (Restricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Miami’s 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, Orlando’s 2nd Round
The Lay of the Land: Unlike pretty much every other team on this list, Cleveland might have more resources than they can deal with effectively. Carrying four picks in the first 35 on top of four other players on their rookie deals might be a little too much to handle. Fortunately, the team can combine assets and try to find the right fits at varying positions and roles.
The figure looming over the entire off-season has to be LeBron James. Considering how much trouble the Cavaliers have had acquiring high-level talent outside of the draft, it would make sense for them to try and woo the high-end guys in this class and then save most of their flexibility for the chance of LeBron James wanting to return home. Since Kyrie Irving still has another two years on his deal and then would have a reasonable cap hold, the Cavs would be wise to take on some short-term money and get a pick or two if the elite members of the 2013 free agent class choose to go elsewhere.
The Big Questions:
- What extension will the team offer John Wall and would he accept less than the max at this point?
- Will either Emeka Okafor or Trevor Ariza decline their lucrative options for next season?
- Can the team bring back Martell Webster on a reasonable deal?
- Would any team be interested in giving up a long term expensive talent for an expiring contract?
Notable Free Agents: Emeka Okafor (ETO), Trevor Ariza (Player Option), Martell Webster (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, New York Knicks’ 2nd Round
The Lay of the Land: The largest consequence of the trade with New Orleans last year was the reduction in salary flexibility for the 13-14 season assuming Okafor and Ariza pick up their options. Either one could choose to go after a longer-term deal though neither should expect to get more per season than what Washington is committed to paying them on their current deals. The challenge for the Wizards would be trying to make the right deal for either should they choose to go for a longer contract since they have value but the team needs the flexibility because next year is the last with John Wall on his rookie deal.
I fully expect the Wizards to offer Wall a generous deal that falls short of the max (more than Curry, Holiday, or Lawson signed for last summer) and have absolutely no idea whether he will take it or not. Considering the Wizards can and should match any four-year deal he could get in restricted free agency in 2014, they have plenty of reason to wait to see if Wall can build on his strong second half.
The Big Questions:
- Can Joe Dumars use his newfound cap space responsibly?
- Will Greg Monroe and the Pistons come to an agreement on an extension?
- What will Andre Drummond’s role be next season?
Notable Free Agents: Jose Calderon (Unrestricted), Jason Maxiell (Unrestricted), and Corey Maggette (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, Clippers’ 2nd Round (possibly)
The Lay of the Land: After the Tayshaun Prince trade, the Pistons actually have a remarkable amount of cap room this summer. That number will only increase when the team finally amnesties Charlie Villanueva and clears his $8.58 million off the ledger. Without a ton of money committed for 2014, Joe Dumars can afford to be patient with the space they have and go after all sorts of options this summer from signing a free agent like Andre Iguodala or taking on a long-term deal like the Raptors did with Rudy Gay in the aforementioned trade.
The other big potential decision for Detroit centers on Greg Monroe. He is clearly a good player but we still need to see how he can play with franchise building block Andre Drummond. The Pistons should make a low but reasonable offer to Monroe this year and spend most of next season trying to figure out if he can play with Drummond for years to come, ideally making a decision before the trade deadline since Monroe would have value if the team chooses to go in another direction.
The Big Questions:
- Can they get meaningfully better this summer?
- Will they use the amnesty on Linas Kleiza?
- Where will Terrance Ross fit in with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan?
Notable Free Agents: None
2013 Draft Picks Held: None (1st Rounder to OKC via Houston, 2nd Rounder to Memphis)
The Lay of the Land: By making the trade for Rudy Gay, the Raptors committed to their current group of players for 13-14. Using the amnesty provision on Andrea Bargnani or Linas Kleiza would not alleviate the cap limitations though it could affect how tightly they push against the luxury tax and the apron. The Raptors will need to add a backup PG and likely one more swingman in order to complete their team.
The Big Questions:
- What the heck do they do with Andrew Bynum?
- What the heck do they do with Evan Turner?
- Can they find swingmen that make sense long-term with Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young?
Notable Free Agents: Andrew Bynum (Unrestricted), Nick Young (Unrestricted), and Dorrell Wright (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Own 2nd Rounder, New Orleans’ 2nd Rounder
The Lay of the Land: After all of the moves that the Sixers’ front office has made over the past 12 months, the only real constant they have moving forward is Jrue Holiday. They have long-term money committed to both Thaddeus Young and Jason Richardson but either can move around in the rotation based on who else the team has in future seasons.
While Andrew Bynum looms largest over this summer, the three-pronged choice for Evan Turner might actually affect the team more directly since they have so much more power over the decision. Turner is eligible for an extension and still has value as a trade asset, so the front office needs to decide whether they want to do one of those options or just hold onto him another year and punt the decision on both keeping him and the extension until the deadline or next summer.
Mar 19, 2013 2:20 PM EDT
MILWAUKEE – Nikola Vucevic felt restricted and tense at times in his first NBA season, bogged down by the game-to-game pressures under Doug Collins. The Philadelphia 76ers had traded Vucevic last offseason in the Dwight Howard deal, gambling – and, ultimately, losing – on Andrew Bynum and his knees. They had no idea Bynum’s knees were ailing to this extent, but to provide further regret has been Vucevic.
With an increased role and elevated minutes for the Orlando Magic, Vucevic doesn’t allow his mistakes to put him down. Instead, the focus has been on not letting errors or losing dent his confidence, but finding correction.
Vucevic couldn’t consistently become part of the 76ers’ rotation a season ago, but he has cemented himself as a significant role player this season. He’s earned the respect and appraisal of LeBron James, putting up two 20-point, 20-rebound performances against the Miami Heat. For Vucevic, there was no pressure to replace Howard as the next Magic center, but he knew he had to prove himself in a way he insists even the 76ers projected.
“No pressure at all, because you can’t replace Dwight,” Vucevic told RealGM. “He’s the best big man in the NBA and I knew coming in here that I wasn’t going to replace him. I just wanted to come to Orlando and show what I can do and get a chance to play.
“Philly knew what I am capable of.”
For his part, Vucevic credits a boost in playing time and the Magic's coaching staff. The emphasis on getting to the playoffs last year helped Vucevic learn during critical parts of a season and a playoff run. And even so, he was encouraged about joining a team on which he could play free, play to develop without constraints.
“I improved over the summer and last year by getting experience in the NBA, and then worked hard in training camp,” Vucevic said. “I’ve gotten better, but I think the main thing is I got minutes. I’m able to play out there, play through stuff, and I don’t think about [mistakes] as much so it’s a lot easier for me to play.”
The Magic played their biggest game of the season last Tuesday when Howard returned to Orlando, losing in front of a sold out home crowd. Still, Magic veterans believed Tuesday had the anticipation of a critical regular season game, never mind the immense media presence. As Jameer Nelson told RealGM, “It was fun to play. It was a big time game and the atmosphere was great, and it was an opportunity for these guys to actually play in a packed arena at home.”
In the days leading up to the game, Vucevic heard people saying he could turn out to be the best player in the trade, due in large part to Howard’s struggles at times with back and shoulder issues. Yet, Vucevic wasn’t fooled – despite how terrific the praise sounded.
“It’s nice to hear that, but I still think Dwight is a better player than I am and I still got a lot of ways to go to get to where he is,” Vucevic said. “It’s nice to hear stuff like that.”
Vucevic put behind him Sunday back-to-back efforts with at least 20 points and 14 rebounds against two playoff teams, and he already has a grasp on which areas he’ll need to continue to improve. At seven feet, he plans to add strength in the offseason, but also sharpen the accuracy on his mid-range jumper – a stroke that has balance and needs growth by getting constant repetition.
“I’m going to put a lot of time in the weight room and work on my post game and add a couple moves to that,” Vucevic said.
“Definitely, the [jumper] is something I work on every day and I’m going to keep working on it. That’s something that’s really going to help my game, just being able to stretch our offense and help my game as well as the team. If I can stretch the floor, the guards have more room to drive. It’s definitely going to help.”
The 76ers knew what they lost in him, Vucevic insists, and still there has to be some regret over trading him. Now, he’s headed toward consideration for Most Improved Player, an award he says isn’t particularly a goal.
As Bynum is lost for the season with surgery on both knees, Vucevic continues piling up double-doubles, tied for fifth-most in the league. Maybe Philadelphia indeed understood Vucevic’s capabilities, and yet leaving has released some tension, allowing him to play and learn through his mistakes, develop and focus on his game.
Feb 15, 2013 1:25 PM EST
Two point guards born in the 1990’s will be making their All-Star Game debuts this weekend. Stardom was all but guaranteed for Kyrie Irving since the minute he stepped on the floor at Duke. For Jrue Holiday, the road to Houston has been much rockier. He is still relatively anonymous on the national stage, but he has the talent to be right there with Irving in the discussion for the best young point guard in the NBA.
At 6’4, 200 with a 6’7 wingspan, Holiday has the size of a shooting guard and the speed of a point guard. That combination presents tremendous problems for opponents on both sides of the ball. It’s almost impossible for defenders to stay in front of him and his size allows him to survey the court and find the open man from any spot on the floor. On defense, he can match up with either backcourt position, giving the 76ers a lot of lineup options.
Holiday is the rare young PG with no holes in his game. A gifted scorer and dynamic ball-handler who can stop on a dime, he averages 19 points a game on 45 percent shooting. If you play off him to cut off his driving lanes, he can punish you from distance, with a career three-point shooting percentage of 37 percent. And if you send help, he can distribute the ball and find the open man, averaging 8.9 assists on 4.0 turnovers a game. His athleticism allows him to impact the game as a rebounder (4.2) and defensive player (1.5 steals) as well.
A lack of opportunity, not talent, is what held him back before. In his one season at UCLA, Holiday was forced to play out of position next to Darren Collison in Ben Howland’s methodical offense. As a result, he slipped all the way to the No. 19 pick in the 2009 draft. The players taken ahead of him, from Stephen Curry to Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings, had the freedom to dominate the ball on lottery teams. Holiday was at the bottom of a deep pecking order in Philadelphia.
In his first season with the 76ers, he was seventh on the team in field goal attempts, behind Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Sam Dalembert and Willie Green. The next summer, Philadelphia created even more of a logjam when they selected Evan Turner with the No. 2 overall pick. Rather than addressing their glaring need for a big man, the 76ers suddenly had a roster full of perimeter players -- Holiday, Iguodala, Williams and Turner -- who needed the ball in their hands to be successful.
By Holiday’s third season, they had enough talent to make the playoffs. The addition of a veteran coach in Doug Collins, as well as an untimely injury to Derrick Rose, created an opening to make an unexpectedly deep run. They took the Celtics to seven games in a tough (both to watch and play) second-round series, but their unbalanced roster had clearly reached its ceiling. So they rolled the dice this off-season, moving Iguodala for Andrew Bynum as a part of a complicated four-way deal that rocked the NBA.
Unfortunately, Bynum hasn’t been healthy and has yet to even see the floor. And with Iguodala traded, Brand amnestied and Williams leaving in free agency, the 76ers roster became one of the thinnest in the NBA. They’ve managed to stay afloat this season almost entirely due to the efforts of Holiday and Thaddeus Young. Only four Philadelphia players have a net positive rating in their floor time this season; Young and Holiday are the only two above +1.2.
With Young currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Holiday has as much offensive responsibility as anyone in the NBA. His usage rating has skyrocketed from 21.8 to 27.3. Jason Richardson, who came with Bynum, is out for the season. Turner, who should be coming into his own, has a PER of 12.7. None of the 76ers healthy frontcourt players can create their own shot; they depend on Holiday creating open shots for them.
Right now, Philadelphia has a 22-29 record, four games behind Milwaukee for the No. 8 seed. A healthy Bynum would upset the balance of power out East, but the 76ers can hardly count on that happening at this point. Going forward, they only have $46 million in salaries committed for next season. They just signed Holiday to a team friendly $44 million extension while Young and Arnett Moultrie, their promising rookie power forward from Mississippi State, are their only other commitments past 2015.
The uncertainty surrounding Turner and Bynum makes it difficult to figure a long-term plan, but Holiday’s presence is reason for optimism. As he gets more comfortable as the primary option, his high turnover numbers (4 a game) should start to decline. There’s certainly no reason he should average only 3.2 free throws attempts. The easiest way to increase that is to play more with his back-to-the-basket: he’s posted up on only 2.2 percent of his offensive possessions this season. With his size and shooting ability, he can be completely indefensible in the mid-post for smaller guards.
Normally, you would expect a guard in his fourth season in the NBA to be near his ceiling. However, Holiday’s career path has been anything but normal. He’s always been very young for his age. He was 17 when he graduated from high school. At 19, he was a starting point guard in the NBA. He’s in his fourth season in the NBA and still only 22, one month older than rookie sensation Damian Lillard. While his peers were in college, Holiday was learning on the job.
Holiday has been “playing up” his entire life. Justin Holiday, his older brother, was a fringe NBA prospect, a 6’6 shooting guard who was invited to an NBA training camp. Like many basketball-playing younger brothers, Jrue benefitted from having a target to reach for his entire life. Despite being significantly younger than his competition, he was the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2008. Instead of being held back and coasting, he was pushed forward and forced to sink or swim as the youngest player on the floor.
Now, for the first time since he was in high school, that dynamic will start to switch. At 22, he’s still younger and less experienced than almost everyone he faces on a nightly basis. When he’s 26, he’ll be one of the oldest and most experienced point guards in the NBA. He’s a five-tool 6’4 200 PG with elite athleticism; he can be as good as he wants to be. With the No. 1 PG from the class of 2007 (Derrick Rose), 2009 (John Wall) and 2010 (Kyrie Irving) all in the Eastern Conference, competition for All-Star spots will be fierce over the next few years, but don’t count out Holiday, the No. 1 PG from the class of 2008.
Jan 27, 2013
We may have reached the natural end-point in terms of how big someone can be and stay healthy over the course of an 82-game NBA season. Bynum and Howard will be unrestricted free agents this summer, while Oden will be looking to make a comeback. In choosing a team, their first priority has to be choosing a franchise with a world-class medical staff.
Dec 12, 2012
As we move forward with “Amnesty 2.0,” we will see the fascinating possibilities that the provision brings even as the number of teams and players left dwindles with time.
Oct 22, 2012
The Knicks, Nets, Raptors and 76ers should all be improved in 12-13, which could put the Celtics' five season Atlantic Division winning streak on the line.
Aug 19, 2012
Andrew Bynum instantly makes the 76ers relevant, and with a team built around him, he’s a darkhorse contender for the 12-13 MVP Award. Furthermore, they may be the only real threat the Heat will face as they will be unable to play their new-age- small-ball frontcourt against Bynum.
Aug 10, 2012
There is no doubt the Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets improved significantly with the four-team Dwight Howard trade, but here's why the future of the Magic is immediately more promising as well.
Jul 19, 2012
The Heat, Thunder and Lakers appear to be a cut above the remainder of the NBA, but how do the 27 other teams rank?
Jun 29, 2012
Whle the Pistons, Blazers, Bobcats, Nets, Thunder and Bulls headline the 'Great Drafts', the caboose of 'Bad Drafts' is comprised of the Cavaliers, Suns, Bucks, Wolves, Heat and Knicks.
Jun 28, 2012
The Andre Drummond/Perry Jones effect on this draft before we make sense of picks seven through 30 just hours before a flood of draft-day trades shreds every mock.
Jun 21, 2012
The 2012 NBA Draft is a week away and nothing is certain beyond Anthony Davis going to the Hornets with the first overall pick even though several scenarios are beginning to crystalize.
Jun 19, 2012
There are two core reasons why players outperform their pre-draft expectations, while there are two main paths for prospects to underachieve.
May 23, 2012
While every team in the lottery can bring their Anthony Davis jersey if they win the first overall pick, the gap between Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond is extremely narrow for me and highly intriguing.
May 22, 2012
From the moment Paul Pierce fouled Andre Iguodala, clearly the turning point in the game, the Celtics outscored the 76ers 48-28 riding an unlikely playoff hero by the name of Brandon Bass.
May 15, 2012
Limiting Kevin Garnett was a project for the 76ers in Game 2 and their relative success isn’t guaranteed to carryover throughout the series. Doc Rivers and the Celtics will make adjustments to get Garnett better looks going forward.
May 15, 2012
The 76ers outlasted the Celtics and won an 82-81 decision, a game that was ugly for more than 40 minutes until the clubs went back-and-forth answering shot after shot until Philadelphia was left standing.
May 07, 2012
A little over a week ago, the talk dispersing throughout the Bulls’ locker room was about their upcoming title drive, a vibe centering around the team’s championship aspirations. Now, Chicago is on its last legs, desperately looking for a way to scrape out just one more victory to keep the series alive.
May 05, 2012
The Sixers know the battered Bulls reek of blood, and the team is fully confident it can finish off Rose-less Chicago. If that comes to fruition, Philadelphia will become the fifth No. 8 seed to beat the No. 1 seed in a seven-game series.
Apr 27, 2012
The Sixers are a young, athletic bunch that gave the Bulls issues in all three regular-season affairs. But Chicago had the best record in the East for a reason and have a chip on their shoulders following last season's playoffs.
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