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Monday, April 21, 2014

LOOKING AHEAD : THE LOTTERY TEAMS PT 1

Not all lottery teams are created equal.  Below, I take a look at the state of each NBA team that didn't make the playoffs this year and what questions need to be answered this offseason.  You can find part two here.  I only included the draft rights held players who may actually still have a chance to come over in the near future and limited future draft picks to first rounders so it didn't get overwhelming.  For a complete breakdown at each NBA team you can check out this google doc

NG = non guaranteed
P = player option/early termination option
RFA = restricted free agent
T = team option

BOSTON CELTICS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Jared Sullinger (22), Vitor Faverani (26), Joel Anthony (32,P)
-          PF           Brandon Bass (29), Kelly Olynyk (23)
-          SF           Jeff Green (28), Chris Johnson (24,NG)
-          SG          Gerald Wallace (32), Keith Bogans (34,NG)
-          PG          Rajon Rondo (28), Phil Pressey (23,NG)

FREE AGENTS
-          PF           Kris Humphries (29)
-          SG          Chris Babb (24)
-          SG          Avery Bradley (23,RFA)                
-          PG          Jerryd Bayless (26)

DRAFT RIGHTS HELD
-          F/C         Colton Iverson (25)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 5TH overall
-          Round 1 – 17TH overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK CREDITS
-          2015 from L.A. Clippers (No protection)
-          2015 from Philadelphia (Top 14)
-          2016 from Brooklyn (No protection)
-          2017 from Brooklyn (Right to swap)
-          2018 from Brooklyn (No protection)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          Are the Celtics confident enough that Rondo can be the face of the franchise or will they look to move him this offseason?  He has made it known that he won’t sign an extension and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.  They were rumored to have a deal in place with Sacramento around the trade deadline but Rondo refused to sign an extension and the deal was nixed.  Rondo is what he is at this point, as both a player and personality.  The length of the upcoming rebuild could hinge on this decision.
-          Can Boston package some of those future 1st round picks to unload Gerald Wallace’s contract?  Wallace is due $20 million dollars over the next two seasons.  He let his unhappiness show through the media at times having no problem throwing teammates under the bus for their lack of effort.  Taking on his contract was necessary to make the trade with Brooklyn happen, but the Celtics could really use the cap space on much more productive players.  But are there any takers?
-          How much will Avery Bradley command on the open market?  He missed some time with injuries but has shown the two-way ability to be a nice piece in the rebuilding effort.  The Celtics can match any offer but will have to hope another team doesn’t throw a large offer his way.  Not saying they wouldn’t match but it would limit their ability to bring in other players this offseason.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Anderson Varejao (32,NG), Tyler Zeller (24)
-          PF           Tristan Thompson (23), Anthony Bennett (21)
-          SF           Alonzo Gee (27,NG), Sergey Karasev (21), Carrick Felix (24)
-          SG          Dion Waiters (22), Scotty Hopson (25,NG)
-          PG          Kyrie Irving (22), Jarrett Jack (31), Matthew Dellavedova (24,NG)

FREE AGENTS
-          C             Spencer Hawes (26)
-          SF           Luol Deng (29)
-          G/F        C.J. Miles (27)

DRAFT RIGHTS HELD
-          PF           Milan Macvan (24)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 9th overall
-          Round 2 – 33rd overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK CREDITS
-          2015 from Memphis (Only if pick is between 6-14)
-          2015 from Miami (Top 10)

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK DEBITS
-          2015 to Chicago (Right to swap, Top 14)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          Will Kyrie sign a max extension?  The rumors have been there for a long time that Irving wants out of Cleveland but will he pass up max money to leave?  Owner Dan Gilbert recently said that he would trade any player that rejected a max contract offer seemingly giving Kyrie the leverage in the situation.  Nobody questions his offensive skills but most wonder whether or not he is a franchise player.  His teams have continued to lose a lot of games and his leadership has come into question.  Regardless, it would be a brutal blow to the Cavs if they can’t keep him long-term.
-          Can Anthony Bennett develop having to play behind Tristan Thompson?  Bennett showed a few flashes late in the year but struggled mightily for the most part.  The Cavs refused to send him to the D-League where he could have gotten big minutes and instead slowly incorporated him into the rotation.  He recorded only six double-digit scoring games all year and found minutes hard to come by.  Whether or not you think he is a bust, we’ll never really know unless he gets more playing time.  With a 23-year old top 5 pick ahead of him in the pecking order, it seems like a tall task for him to have any chance to prove us all wrong.
-          What will the Cavs do with the center position?  Varejao is one of the most energetic players in the league, but 4 straight seasons of health issues have sapped him of his value.  He’ll be 32 to start the year and his contract is only partially guaranteed for $4 million.  Spencer Hawes is an unrestricted free agent and Cleveland will likely have to overpay to keep him.  That’s very possible but could come back to haunt them if it’s not a short term deal.  Zeller has been productive at times but is likely best suited for a reserve role.  Whoever the new GM is will have plenty of issues to deal with and, even though this one isn’t a top priority, it is a question that must be answered.

DENVER NUGGETS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             JaVale McGee (26), Timofey Mozgov (28), J.J. Hickson (26)
-          PF           Kenneth Faried (24), Darrell Arthur (26,P), Anthony Randolph (28)
-          SF           Danilo Gallinari (26), Wilson Chandler (27), Quincy Miller (21,NG)
-          SG          Randy Foye (31), Evan Fournier (22)                                       
-          PG          Ty Lawson (26), Nate Robinson (30,P)

FREE AGENTS
-          SF           Jan Vesely (24)
-          PG          Aaron Brooks (29)

DRAFT RIGHTS HELD
-          C             Chu Chu Maduabum (23)
-          C             Izzet Turkyilmaz (24)
-          PF           Joffrey Lauvergne (23)
-          SG          Erick Green (23)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 11th overall
-          Round 2 – 41st overall
-          Round 2 – 56th overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK CREDITS
-          2016 from New York (Right to swap)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          Can a healthy year put this team back in the playoffs?  Denver lost a full year of development from both Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee.  On top of that, Ty Lawson & Wilson Chandler each missed 20 games.  Lawson had an incredible season but there just wasn’t enough talent on the floor when you add in the fact that Andre Iguodala fled to Oakland before the season.  The Nuggets need Gallinari to not only return to form, but also take that next step.  McGee has always been a wild card and his improvement might not be as vital with the play of Mozgov, but they have invested too much money in him and need to see a return.
-          Is there any way the Nuggets can relieve some of their salary cap pressure?  Denver will be over the cap when you include their 1st round pick.  They have 3 players making just over $10 million next season.  Lawson and Gallinari, if healthy, seem like fair deals.  McGee’s could be if he shows improvement but his trade value is low after missing all but 5 games.  In reality, it’s the mid-level contracts of Chandler & Hickson plus the eventual opt-ins for Arthur & Robinson that hurt the team’s flexibility.  Denver has a deep roster that sorely lacks a star player.  Say what you will about the Carmelo trade but Denver is a good example of how the sum of the parts they acquired isn’t better than the superstar they had.  Denver could look to package some of those ‘reasonable’ contracts with a future pick to try and move some of their depth for a more quality player.
-          Can the Nuggets find lottery luck?  I know this a question you can ask for any team, but Denver has the unique situation of having both their own and the Knicks pick when the ping pong balls are drawn.  As it stands, they’ll pick 11th but if by some miracle they could land a top 3 pick then it would open up so many trade possibilities that could quickly land Denver back into the playoffs.  Granted the odds are stacked against them but it never hurts to wonder how the Melo trade would be viewed if the Nuggets pulled a top 3 pick from New York.

DETROIT PISTONS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Andre Drummond (21), Josh Harrellson (25,NG)
-          PF           Josh Smith (28), Jonas Jerebko (27,P), Tony Mitchell (22)
-          SF           Kyle Singler (26), Luigi Datome (26)
-          SG          Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21), Chauncey Billups (38,T)
-          PG          Brandon Jennings (25), Will Bynum (31), Peyton Siva (24,NG)

FREE AGENTS
-          PF           Greg Monroe (24,RFA)
-          PF           Charlie Villanueva (30)
-          SG          Rodney Stuckey (28)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 8th overall
-          Round 2 – 38th overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK DEBITS
-          2014 to Charlotte (Top 8, 2015 – Top 1)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          Do the Pistons match any offer to Greg Monroe?  The frontcourt experiment imploded quickly this year and Josh Smith’s contract seems untradeable at this point.  I don’t think Monroe will see a max offer but it’s certainly not out of the question.  Can Detroit afford to match that or lose a 24 year-old budding star because they overpaid the wrong guy?  A sign-and-trade could be a possibility but is there any chance at getting fair value back?  It’s certainly the biggest question for whoever the new general manager will be.
-          Can Andre Drummond get some more damn shots?  Drummond posted 57 double-doubles and finished the year averaging over 13 points and 13 rebounds per game.  We know he’s a monster on the boards and he needs to cut the fouls down but, my God, can we make him a focal point of the offense already.  Possibly the worst thing that came out of the Smith & Jennings signings was the lack of shots for poor Andre.  He’s just 21 but ready to explode and he must become the superstar we expect for Detroit to have any chance of respectability in the near future. 
-          What if the Pistons don’t get to keep their lottery pick?  Detroit tanked down the stretch all the way to eighth and will keep their pick unless one of the six teams behind them gets very lucky.  But what happens if they do?  It’s not as if the 8th pick will be a certain franchise player but, with such a deep draft, this team desperately needs to add to more talent around Andre Drummond.  Otherwise, Detroit could be toiling in lottery hell for a few more years.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Robert Sacre (25)
-          PF          
-          SF          
-          SG          Kobe Bryant (36), Nick Young (29,P)                                       
-          PG          Steve Nash (40)

FREE AGENTS
-          C             Chris Kaman (32)
-          PF           Pau Gasol (34)
-          PF           Jordan Hill (27)
-          PF           Ryan Kelly (23,RFA)
-          SF           Xavier Henry (23)
-          SF           Wesley Johnson (27)
-          SG          Kent Bazemore (25,RFA)
-          SG          MarShon Brooks (25)
-          SG          Jodie Meeks (27)
-          PG          Jordan Farmar (27)
-          PG          Kendall Marshall (23)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 6th overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK DEBITS
-          2015 to Phoenix (Top 5)
-          2017 to Orlando (Top 5)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          What if Kobe can’t come back at full strength?  The Lakers gave Kobe $48.5 million dollars over the next 2 years and he promptly rewarded them with 6 games played.  We all know that Kobe will do everything in his power to get ready and he’ll never be outworked but he’ll be 36 years old at the start of the season.  If he is a shell of his former self then where does that leave the Lakers?  Nash is proof that it can happen and happen fast and the Lakers can’t afford two former superstars sitting on their bench for another year.  
-          Will Mike D’Antoni and/or Pau Gasol be back next year?  If the money is right I think we’ll see Gasol back regardless of who the coach is.  The Lakers would be wise not to overpay another aging star but who knows at this point.  Some players love playing for D’Antoni because of his run and gun style but will the Lakers realize there’s no chance they’re winning with a depleted roster and D’Antoni at the helm?  I wouldn’t be surprised if both stayed or both left, but if you’re a Lakers fan I would have to think you prefer the latter.
-          Can the Lakers do enough this offseason to contend again?  L.A. has the 6th overall pick right now which should net them a potential stud.  They’ll have cap space to work with to attract another star but who’s out there.  Trades aren’t possible because their roster is only 3 deep, if Young opts out.  They owe Phoenix their 1st round pick next year and it’s only top 5 protected.  So it seems that this is the year to make moves if they really think Kobe can push them to one more playoff run.  I can’t see them waiting another year unless they completely strike out in free agency and who knows where Bryant will be with another year of wear and tear on his body.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Larry Sanders (25), Zaza Pachulia (30), Miroslav Raduljica (26)
-          PF           Ersan Ilyasova (27), John Henson (23)                   
-          SF           G. Antetokounmpo (19), Khris Middleton (23,NG), C. Wright (26,NG)
-          SG          O.J. Mayo (26), Carlos Delfino (32)                         
-          PG          Brandon Knight (22), Nate Wolters (23)

FREE AGENTS
-          C             Ekpe Udoh (27,RFA)
-          PF           Jeff Adrien (28)
-          PG          Ramon Sessions (28)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 1st overall
-          Round 2 – 31st overall
-          Round 2 – 36th overall
-          Round 2 – 48th overall

THREE QUESTIONS
-          You gotta pick Embiid, right?  If Milwaukee retains the right to pick first in the draft it is going to be a very tough choice.  The consensus top 4 prospects all play positions in which the Bucks have a young, talented player.  The Greek Freak would seemingly rule out Wiggins, unless you think he can play the 2-guard spot.  The Bucks have Henson & Ilyasova at power forward so Jabari and Randle seem redundant.  And yes you did give Larry Sanders all that money but do you trust him after this year?  If you had the opportunity to pair Embiid with Antetokounmpo could you really pass that up?  Yeah, Exum is out there too but if Embiid’s back checks out, the Bucks could have two players with the highest ceilings in the game.
-          Is Brandon Knight the point guard of the future?  Knight is up for an extension this offseason when he will still be just 22 years old.  He upped his scoring average, albeit on a lot more attempts.  You have to assume he’s going to command upwards of $10 million dollars per season which is in line with recent young point guard contracts.  If he’s your guy then great.  There’s plenty of room for improvement and maybe in 2 years we’re looking back and saying how the Bucks got a great deal a la Denver and Ty Lawson.  But, if there are doubts, they should move on now.  There’s no reason to give big money to a guy that you don’t see in your future plans if you’re starting over. 
-          Does O.J. Mayo have a future in Milwaukee?  I gotta think the answer is no on this one.  Mayo had one of his worst seasons as a pro and found himself benched early in the season.  He makes $8 million a year over the next two seasons, his trade value couldn’t get much lower and it doesn’t appear that he’s going to change the way he plays.  I’m not sure Milwaukee could get fair value here but both parties would best be served to go their separate ways and look for a fresh start.  Where does that leave Mayo though?  It’s been a rough ride for the once celebrated talent.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

RETURNING PLAYERS
-          C             Nikola Pekovic (28), Gorgui Dieng (24), Ronny Turiaf (31)
-          PF           Kevin Love (26)                                
-          SF           Corey Brewer (28), Chase Budinger (26), Luc Mbah a Moute (28)
-          SG          Kevin Martin (31), Alexey Shved (25), Shabazz Muhammad (21)
-          PG          Ricky Rubio (24), J.J. Barea (30)

FREE AGENTS
-          PF           Dante Cunningham (27)
-          SF           Rubbie Hummel (25,RFA)
-          SG          Othyus Jeffers (29)

DRAFT RIGHTS HELD
-          PF           Nemanja Bjelica (26)
-          PF           Bojan Dubljevic (23)

2014 DRAFT PICKS
-          Round 1 – 13th overall
-          Round 2 – 40th overall
-          Round 2 – 44th overall
-          Round 2 – 53rd overall

FUTURE FIRST ROUND PICK DEBITS
-          2014 to Phoenix (Top 13, 2015 – Top 12)

THREE QUESTIONS
-          Kevin Love?  We all know he’s opting out after next season and the Wolves have been steadfast about not trading their superstar but at what point do they have to make a move?  If they wait until the trade deadline it could derail yet another season.  If they don’t move him at all, they risk getting nothing in return when he leaves.  Their best chance at maximizing their return would be to move him around the draft but will they actually shift their thinking and do so?  Minnesota has been unable to put a contending lineup around him and although the reality of losing a superstar player must hurt, it will only get worse as the season wears on and the questions keep coming and coming.
-          Ricky Rubio?  The reason Love didn’t get the 5-year max contract was because it was supposed to be saved for Ricky.  Well that’s not going to happen now but Rubio is still due for an extension this offseason.  There’s no way Minnesota lets him walk with Love surely to go.  That sets up a no-win situation where Rubio is going to make far more money than he is worth.  But you have to do it if you’re the Wolves.  Rubio is the type of player that can make other players better and he’s going to be the future face of the Minnesota franchise so prepare for that contract when it happens.
-          Can the late season emergence of Gorgui Dieng allow Minnesota to shop Nikola Pekovic’s contract?  Pekovic is owed around $48 million dollars over the next 4 years and while he puts up great numbers, Minnesota might look to find a way to rid themselves of all big contracts if they decide to move Kevin Love.  Dieng, meanwhile, put up a couple of 20 rebound games as well as registering at least 2 blocks in 7 of his last 8 games.  He’s a defensive-minded center who has shown flashes on the offensive end and would be a cheap replacement in the interim.  I’m not saying Minnesota wants to move Pekovic after just giving him that big deal but it’ll be interesting to see how the dominoes fall.


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