Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The NBA Offseason Tip Sheet: Southeast Division

Byron "Don't call me B.J." Mullens...franchise player...
Even though the Finals are far from over, this past NBA season is done and over with for 28 teams. For those clubs, the focus has shifted from the practice facility to the combine, from game planning to cap management. From now until next fall, the game is a radically different one, one where mere competency seems to be a rare luxury and one where panic and stupidity typically rule the day.

Yes, it’s the NBA offseason, the time of the year where fat players like Big Baby Davis get even fatter contracts! Why do they get these contracts? Perhaps the Magic also own a struggling chain of local buffets…we may never know. (If that is the case, then I expect them to throw BIIIIIIIIG money at Boris Diaw)

It’s no secret that the offseason is not always the NBA’s finest hour. Draft picks are constantly wasted, max contracts handed out to secondary players, and role players courted like superstars. It really is a mess. A big, giant, tragic mess. And even with a new CBA in place last fall, the league’s top executives STILL couldn’t stop making idiotic moves!

Since common sense is such a struggle for these people, I thought I’d take the time and offer a helping hand this offseason. Each team needs to make a move or decision of some kind, whether it be big or small, and I’m going to give each and every team one such move they should make.  We're on to the Southeast Division to finish up the Eastern Conference. In case you missed them, here are the previous Tip Sheets:

Atlanta Hawks

2012-2013 Cap Number:  $60.9M
The Move:  Amnesty Joe Johnson

Look, we can all agree the Hawks have totally maxed out their roster, right? They’ve never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs with this current core, and given the amounts of money they’ve invested, that’s simply not a good enough return. And with nearly $61mil already on the books, there is literally no way for them to improve. I suppose they could trade Josh Smith, who is in the last year of his deal, but that really makes no sense to me. Smith is unquestionably their best player (he led the league in defensive win shares), is four years younger than Johnson (who is past 30), and comes at a far better price. Giving Joe Johnson his max deal was stupid in the first place, and Atlanta absolutely has to free themselves from the remaining $89.3mil of this deal while they have the chance. The on-court product may suffer in the short term (though I’m actually dubious how big an effect his loss would have), but the franchise will doom themselves to NBA purgatory if they don’t pull the trigger.

Charlotte Bobcats

2012-2013 Cap Number:  $43.2M
The Move:  Contract the team

Seriously, they should just contract this team. I mean, what’s the point? Their best young player is…Byron Mullens? Can that be real? Byron “Don’t call me B.J.” Mullens? Look, I hope to God they trade the #2 pick because I would cry for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if he had to go to a sorry franchise like Charlotte. At least Cleveland and Washington are making attempts at winning! What is Charlotte doing; putting together a D-League All-Star squad?

Look, I feel kinda cheap not suggesting any actual moves for Charlotte, but there’s just nothing there. The only real asset they have is the #2 pick, and even then it looks like they’re intent on moving down and taking a “safer,” lower ceiling prospect. Clearly, Michael Jordan just doesn’t get it. Past that pick, they don’t have the ability to trade for a Tyreke Evans or a Rudy Gay, and they certainly won’t be landing any big time free agents. So I guess my advice is to not grossly overpay a player like Brook Lopez (always a possibility for Jordan), to stand pat at #2 and take a high ceiling player like Beal or MKG, and to give the young guys as much playing time as possible.

And then contract…

Miami Heat

2012-2013 Cap Number:  $78.5M
The Move:  Trade Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller to Orlando for Dwight Howard and J.J. Redick

Let me be clear; I am well aware that this move will never, EVER happen. Miami is not trading Dwyane Wade, at least not in the near future. That having been said, Miami SHOULD trade Wade this offseason while he still has near maximum value. If this postseason has highlighted anything, it’s that Wade is no longer the player he used to be. He simply doesn’t have the same explosion, the same ability to get to the basket, or the same ability to finish consistently at the rim. At least, he can’t do those things consistently. And when Wade is forced to be a jump shooter, he’s no superstar. For those reasons, Miami would be wise to proactively flip Wade for better long term pieces.

A trade like this, which I actually believe Orlando would jump at, would solve a lot of Miami’s problems. Truthfully, Lebron and Wade were never an ideal pairing, and I imagine the offense would flow much better with Wade out of the picture. With Howard though, Miami would have the league’s most devastating high-low offense between he and Bosh, and would finally have a strong interior finisher to convert all the easy buckets Lebron’s penetration generates…imagine, all those beautiful passes that bounce harmlessly off Joel Anthony’s stone hands would now go to Howard. How many extra points is that per game? All this, and we haven’t even mentioned how many wide open threes J.J. Redick would get!

You know what, just forget I ever mentioned this deal. It’s not good. It won’t help Miami at all. Just forget I said anything.

Orlando Magic

2012-2013 Cap Number:  $65.7M
The Move:  Don’t trade Dwight Howard

I hate Dwight Howard. Hate, hate, hate, HAAAAAAATE him. I hate the way he’s handled this entire situation, I hate the way he flip-flops on his commitment to the organization, I hate that he got his coach (an excellent coach) fired, and I especially hate that he quit on his team. Believe me, if there was a way for Orlando to banish him to some third rate Serbian league, I’d suggest that. However, let’s be realistic about this thing. Dwight Howard is the best center in the league, a player capable of carrying his team to the NBA Finals, as he did not too many years ago. And the trade offers have been…Brook Lopez and some crappy first round picks? Roddy Beaubois and even crappier first round picks? No thanks.

It certainly is risky to play this game out to its conclusion, but I really don’t think Howard will leave in free agency, no matter what threats he issues. For one, there’s the obvious issue of Howard leaving a bunch of money on the table. For another, his free agent destinations (and thus his leverage) is likely to dwindle this offseason. If Deron Williams signs with Dallas, as expected, that will eliminate New Jersey from the running (since they won’t have ANY talent) AND Dallas (since they will have used their cap room on Williams). That leaves Howard with very few viable options. Plus, the situation in Orlando is getting better. Many of their horrible contracts are coming to their end, and the team could feasibly have serious cap room within two years. Plus, they finally got rid of Otis Smith, meaning they might actually have a semi-competent GM to use that cap room wisely (ie. not Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas).

Look, the organization has already committed too much to Howard to bail on him now. They cleared out the front office (good move), fired their coach (horrible move), and reportedly gave some measure of decision making power to Howard (horrible move). Why would you continue to gear your organization around this guy if you’re just going to trade him? Call his bluff, and aggressively pursue some legit help before and during the season.

Washington Wizards

2012-2013 Cap Number:  $58.6M
The Move:  Sign Kris Humphries

Washington finished near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency and total rebound rate, so adding a player like Humphries makes all the sense in the world. Not only is he one of the best rebounders in the league, but he’s also an underrated low post defender and rim protector. Every aspiring young team needs one of those “dirty work” guys; the guy who bodies up everybody, the guy who gets on the ground for loose balls, the guy who keeps possessions alive and chips in a handful of garbage baskets without ever needing a play called for him. Humphries has quietly turned into one of the foremost “dirty work” guys in the league, a fact quantified by the 10.7 Win Shares he’s added to New Jersey in the past two years (which is really impressive considering the fact that New Jersey has won about 10.7 games the past two years). And for that production, Washington likely wouldn’t have to break the bank.

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