Team Needs: re-sign LeBron, head coach, low-post defensive presence, consistent PG/SG
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: The center of the 2010 NBA offseason will be Cleveland as the Cavalier franchise nervously awaits the most important summer in its 40-year history. Roughly two months ago the Cavaliers were rolling into the playoffs as championship favorites and the odds-on choice to re-sign LeBron James this summer. It’s stunning how the perception of the franchise’s future shifted so dramatically in three games. After routing the Boston Celtics on the road to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, the Cavaliers imploded to lose the final three games of the series. They have since fired their head coach, their GM has resigned, and the franchise is searching for reasons as to why LeBron James should re-sign in Cleveland this summer.
The most important team need is re-signing LeBron, which may be the biggest understatement in the history of the NBA. If the Cavs re-sign LeBron they will have choices to make with aging free agent big men, Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Many observers believe the Shaq experiment failed in Cleveland, but there is still value in having his size in the paint, especially when competing against the likes of Dwight Howard. That being said, what type of contract will Shaq demand and does LeBron want to play with him again? In our estimation it seems unlikely that Shaq will be back in Cleveland next season. Big Z’s future in Cleveland also seems cloudy as his role was greatly reduced after his one-month sabbatical in Washington.
If LeBron returns, this will still be a very talented roster that is capable of winning a title. This is why finding the right coach is the team’s second most important priority of the summer. Recent reports suggest the team is targeting Tom Izzo as its next head coach, but it will be difficult to pry him away from Michigan State without having LeBron’s situation settled. It’s hard to envision Izzo being the right guy given the track record of college coaches making the jump to the NBA. Suffice to say, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a precarious situation entering the summer of 2010. The future of the franchise hangs in the balance.
Team Needs: perimeter scoring, frontcourt depth, backup PG
Draft Picks: 15th, 37th and 47th
Analysis: Coach Scott Skiles’ squad was the surprise of the Eastern Conference in 2009-10. After finishing the 08-09 season with a meager 34 wins, Bucks’ GM, John Hammond, overhauled the roster in the course of one season. Hammond traded Richard Jefferson’s huge contract for expiring deals, which provided the Bucks with flexibility. He then let Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions walk in free agency last summer. Finally, he began rebuilding the team’s foundation by drafting PG Brandon Jennings with the 10th pick in 2009.
The Bucks got off to a mediocre start before top scorer Michael Redd went down with a season-ending knee injury. Sitting in 9th place in the East as the trade deadline approached, Hammond pulled a surprising midseason trade for SG John Salmons. Following the Salmons acquisition, the Bucks went 22-8 to clinch the 6th seed in the East, inspiring the phrase “Fear the Deer”. Unfortunately, the Bucks lost third team All-NBA C Andrew Bogut to a horrific injury with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The team fought valiantly without two of their best players as they were defeated in the first round by Atlanta in seven games.
With limited cap space, Milwaukee’s primary offseason objective should be trying to extend John Salmons contract before he opts out and becomes an unrestricted free agent. Salmons meshed well with Jennings and he provided a legitimate scoring threat from the wing along with solid defense. The Bucks would certainly have to open the checkbook beyond Salmon’s $5.8 million player option if they hope to keep him off of the open market. The front office has hinted that they hope to retain Salmons, but they want to maintain future cap flexibility. They will have to negotiate carefully, because it will be difficult to retain the 30-year old SG if he hits the open free agent waters.
If the Bucks are able to re-sign Salmons, they should find themselves in a solid position with the return of Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd. As previously mentioned, Bogut earned third team All-NBA honors while averaging 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. The Australian-born center went from an underachieving #1 overall draft pick to one of the most underrated centers in the league. The Bucks performance next season will hinge on his health, which is why it is imperative for them to find additional frontcourt depth.
The return of Michael Redd presents a more interesting scenario. He struggled to mesh with Brandon Jennings last season and his role as a volume scorer may be drastically changed with the presence of Salmons. May be more importantly, Redd’s expiring $18.5 million contract will be a huge asset next season. If the Bucks find themselves in contention at mid-season, Redd’s contract could be used to acquire a missing piece. At worst, his contract will expire after the 2010-11 season, leaving the Bucks with significant cap room next summer.
Options at the 15th pick:
Xavier Henry – A smooth shooting SG/SF would be a nice fit alongside Brandon Jennings. He would provide the Bucks with an option if they are not able to come to terms with John Salmons.
Cole Aldrich – Aldrich won’t be replacing Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup any time soon, but he would serve as a solid insurance policy off of the bench. He would bring an immediate defensive presence and would be a safe pick at #15.
Hassan Whiteside – Milwaukee could be a perfect situation for Whiteside. There wouldn’t be any pressure for him to start as the presence of Bogut would allow time for Whiteside to develop. Like Aldrich, Whiteside would bring an immediate defensive presence, but this is definitely a high risk / high reward pick.
Ekpe Udoh – Udoh would be a better fit alongside Bogut than Aldrich or Whiteside. He’s also a defensive presence that could contribute right away.
Options at the 37th and 47th picks:
Look for the Bucks to add more frontcourt depth with one or both of these picks, depending on what direction they take in the first round. Possibilities include:
Team Needs: perimeter shooting, SG/SF depth, backup PG, offensive post presence
Draft Picks: 17th
Analysis: The Chicago Bulls are in prime position for a big overhaul in the summer of 2010. Young talents, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, led the Bulls to the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference despite an injury-plagued season. Those two combined with Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, form a solid returning core for the Bulls. That young core plus roughly $23 million in cap space, make Chicago a very attractive destination for this summer’s big name free agents.
The biggest free agent of them all, LeBron James, would certainly be at the top of the Bulls’ list. He would immediately bolster Chicago’s lackluster offense and he would only help their already solid defense. The chance to play with another young superstar like Derrick Rose could be enough to influence LeBron to sign with Chicago. However, will the burden of playing in Michael Jordan’s enormous shadow keep him away? If LBJ chooses to sign elsewhere, expect the Bulls to be serious contenders for one of the other major free agents such as Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire or Joe Johnson.
Gaining one of the aforementioned superstars may not be enough to make the Bulls into legitimate championship contenders. However, a max player will cost roughly $17 million next season, leaving the Bulls with another $6 million to spend, plus three draft picks. Chicago’s additional roster moves will depend greatly on which big name free agent they are able to land. If it’s LeBron, DWade or Joe Johnson, then the most pressing need will be to add frontcourt depth. If the Bulls sign Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire, look for them to add some perimeter shooting to the roster as Chicago was one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA in 2009-10.
Options at the 17th pick:
Xavier Henry – Would be an excellent option at the 2 alongside Derrick Rose. Henry’s ability to stretch the floor and his solid defensive abilities would be a perfect fit for the Bulls.
James Anderson – Another prolific scorer from the 2-guard position. Anderson is also an excellent shooter who would draw attention away from Derrick Rose.
Ekpe Udoh – Udoh would provide a defensive presence in the frontcourt that would provide some insurance behind Joakim Noah.
Larry Sanders – Very similar to Udoh, with less offensive polish, Sanders is a defensive specialist and would serve as a backup option to Noah.
Team Needs: PF, PG, perimeter defense
Draft Picks: 10th, 40th and 57th (likely to be moved from Dallas)
Analysis: The Pacers are in the unenviable position of being mediocre with no cap space. They’re not good enough to make it to the playoffs and they’re not bad enough to secure a high draft pick. The Pacers have some relatively talented players, especially on the offensive end, but they don’t have a superstar that will make them a contender. Danny Granger is an excellent player and an all-star, but he’s not a guy that can carry a team to the top. John Wall and Evan Turner are what Indiana needs, but the Pacers aren’t going to get them. That being said, the Pacers will likely explore a multitude of options including trading up or down from the #10 spot.
As the Pacers aren’t likely to find a superstar with the #10 pick, it’s time to look at specific team needs. The Pacers’ roster is filled with finesse/skill players that lack defensive instinct, except for Dahntay Jones. Troy Murphy, Tyler Hansbrough, TJ Ford and Earl Watson are nice players, but they can’t guard anybody. Therefore, Indiana would do well to upgrade their defense at PF and PG. That’s why, in my estimation, Gordon Hayward would be a bad fit for this team. There’s been chatter about Larry Bird’s admiration for the Indiana-born SF, but he does not fill a need for the Pacers.
Options at the 10th pick:
Ed Davis – While Davis is not an intimidating physical presence, he is a solid defender with excellent shot-blocking ability. He’s also a skilled PF that would compliment Indiana’s offensive system.
Ekpe Udoh – As we’ve discussed, Udoh is an excellent defensive player and rebounder. He has the versatility to guard post or perimeter-based PFs. He might be a stretch at #10 due to his limited offensive game, but he would be a good fit for Indiana.
Patrick Patterson – He’s a rugged, throwback PF with a solid all-around game. Patterson is a good defender with the ability to guard the post or perimeter. He also has expanded his offensive repertoire with the ability to knock down 15 to 20-foot jumpers.
Options at the 40th and 57th picks:
Mikhail Torrance – A combo guard with size and skill to play the point, would serve as a nice backup to TJ Ford. His size and athleticism give him the ability to guard NBA PGs, something the Pacers desperately need.
Jarvis Varnado – Another solid defensive PF. Strength is an issue, but Varnado is an excellent shotblocker and a good rebounder.
Dwayne Collins – While he’s a bit undersized for a PF, he’s an excellent rebounder, which is an area of need for Indiana. He brings toughness and physicality, which would also help the Pacers.
Team Needs: C, frontcourt depth
Draft Picks: 7th and 36th
Analysis: Detroit struggled through a very difficult season under rookie head coach John Kuester, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001. This followed a summer of free agent spending by the once infallible GM, Joe Dumars. He opened the checkbook to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to sizable 5-year deals, which now look like an anchor on a sinking ship. The other issue is 32-year old Rip Hamilton’s 2-year, $25 million remaining contract. Rip is still a solid player, but injuries forced him to miss 36 games in 2009-10 and his shooting numbers were well below his career average. Also showing signs of wear and tear is 30-year old Tayshaun Prince. His $11.1 million expiring contract will be an asset to the Pistons as possible trade bait.
In the event Prince is shipped out of Detroit, expect last year’s draft choices, Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko, to get his minutes. Austin Daye, the #15 selection in the 2009 draft, had a so-so rookie season averaging 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game. He showed some flashes of offensive talent, while his lack of strength and aggression made him a liability on defense. Meanwhile, Jonas Jerebko was a pleasant surprise for the Pistons after being selected 39th in the draft. He started 73 games for Detroit and brought intangibles along with 9.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 48% field goal shooting. These two may never become stars, but the Pistons may have found long-term contributors at the SF position.
Overall, the Pistons are established with Rodney Stucky, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon in the backcourt, despite injury concerns with all three. Jerebko and Daye give them flexibility to dangle Tayshaun Prince in trade talks. The PF position is a little more dicey with the inconsistent, if not unspectacular, play of Charlie Villanueva and the age of Ben Wallace. Jason Maxiell helps by providing depth, but he’ll never be anything more than a role player. With that being said, the clear top priority for the Pistons is the center position. They’re in luck, because this year’s draft class is full of frontcourt talent.
Options at the 7th pick:
DeMarcus Cousins – While certainly a top 3-4 talent, questions about Cousins’ character could cause him to slide. I don’t think Joe Dumars would hesitate to bring the one-and-done Kentucky center to Detroit IF he’s still on the board at #7. His physical presence and advanced skill would be a perfect fit at center for the Pistons.
Greg Monroe – The Georgetown product is a PF, but he may be the most talented frontcourt player available to Detroit at #7. He’s a very skilled player for his size, in the mold of Lamar Odom. I’m just not sure how good of a fit he would be in Detroit.
Cole Aldrich – Aldrich would be a relatively safe pick for Joe Dumars at #7, although a reach. His size, physicality and defensive ability would fit well in Detroit, but he doesn’t have the upside of other potential selections.
Hassan Whiteside – Speaking of upside, there may be not player in this draft with more room to grow than Hassan Whiteside. He would be the complete opposite of selecting Cole Aldrich with this pick. Whiteside’s contributions would likely be very limited initially, but he could become an impact center in the NBA.
Options at the 36th pick:
Jerome Jordan – The Pistons not only need a starter at center, they also need depth. Jordan has excellent size for an NBA center and his offensive game has improved. He’s a bit slow of foot and not very athletic, which is why he will be available in the 2nd round.
Solomon Alabi – Another prospect with excellent size for the center position, Alabi is less polished, but more athletic than Jerome Jordan. He most likely will be off the board before the 36th pick, but he would be an excellent fit especially if Detroit selects Greg Monroe in the first round.