September Still Hasn’t Ended
September 25th, 2008
Now part 2!!!!!!!!
Minimum salary deals:
Atlanta signed Randolph Morris for two seasons, giving themselves both the opportunity to develop a talented young centre and the opportunity to lose him to restricted free agency. They also signed Othello Hunter and Thomas Gardner for training camp. My lame ill-informed prediction: Hunter makes it if Solomon Jones gets traded. (Readers note: they haven’t signed Dalibor Bagaric, despite it reputedly being a done deal almost a month ago.)
Boston signed Darius Miles and Patrick O’Bryant to young’en up an old old bench. Miles could be something between inconsequential and surprising, depending on how much cartilage is in his knee. And all O’Bryant has to do to replace the production of Scot Pollard is to stay alive. Whether he becomes anything of any reliable use is another matter, but he’s not talentless.
Ryan Hollins re-signed with Charlotte for the qualifying offer, after the team had already taken out the team option on Jermareo Davidson. So apparently Charlotte likes these two nigh-on identical players in equal measure. The Bobcats also signed non-shooting guard Shannon Brown, trading away their draft pick Kyle Weaver immediately afterwards. They must think little of Weaver, because Brown is not proven either.
The Bulls re-signed Demetris Nichols on the basis that he’s young, cheap, partially guaranteed and can hit a jump shot. But mainly the second one.
Cleveland made two minimum salary-signings of a different standard. The signing of Tarence Kinsey gives the Cavaliers a young player on the cheap, one who should never have been out of the league in the first place, but in contrast, the signing of Lorenzen Wright gives a new home to someone who, based on last year, shouldn’t be in it. Wright used to be good, but those days are gone – he was arguably the worst player in the NBA last season, and he has every chance of being so again.
Similarly, the Mavericks made two good minimum-salary signings in James Singleton and Gerald Green, yet they also brought in Keith McLeod. You need shooters, so you sign one of the worst offensive guards in or around the game? Don’t get that one. But great move on The Singleton. Hustle players and rebounding specialists who can also hit three-pointers are always welcome. Another player who should never have been out of the league.
Denver did their usual of padding out their bench on the cheap, but they did so with Chris Andersen, Anthony Carter and Dahntay Jones, all of whom are fine value for that price. All three are also decent defensive players, something which Denver sorely needs. Let’s hope that Carter doesn’t start this year, though.
Will Bynum signed with the Pistons for two seasons, giving them the backcourt shooter that they sorely need. Wait, no, that’s wrong.
Golden State got into the training camp signfest early, picking up Anthony Morrow, Rob Kurz, DeMarcus Nelson and Dion Dowell to come to camp. My lame ill-informed prediction – Morrow and Nelson make it.
The Clippers made some more value signings, getting Jason Williams for the minimum, which is good value if they get any version of J-Will other than last year’s. They also signed Brian Skinner, someone who has been criminally underrated since Billy King overpaid for him back in 2004. Paul Davis is also returning as the 15th man for whatever reason.
The Lakers had some training camp pickups of their own, namely Brandon Heath, C.J. Giles, Dwayne Mitchell and Josh Powell. Powell’s making it, but the rest have only a little chance. Unless I’m wrong. Which is highly possible.
(EDIT – They’ve since also re-signed Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, who’ll probably make it.)
Jamaal Magloire signed with the Heat, despite him not being that good any more. Along with camp signee David Padgett, plus returnees Mark Blount and Joel Anthony, there’s not now any room left for Alonzo Mourning. (The Heat also signed Jason Richards early for training camp, but he’s since torn his knee, so that’s his NBA dream over for this season.)
New Orleans went the Denver route, and padded out their bench with veterans for the minimum salary. They went for Sean Marks (OK), Ryan Bowen (purposeless) and Devin Brown (genius). So, a 50% success rate there.
New York signed one of the most one-dimensional players of all time in Anthony Roberson, but thoughtfully, his one dimension is one that they need.
Adonal Foyle re-signed with the Magic, which did little to assuage the size problems that the Magic with everyone other than Dwight Howard.
Philadelphia binged and went the veterans minimum route four times. Theo Ratliff showed surprising mobility last year for a 35-year-old big man with a history of back problems, and he likely still has something left to give as a backup. Donyell Marshall, meanwhile, likely doesn’t. The signing of Kareem Rush gives the Sixers two of the least efficient shooting guards in Western society today, but at least he is a small improvement on their outside shooting problem. Royal Ivey, meanwhile, isn’t.
Former Sixers Louis Amundson signed with the Phoenix Suns, as did former Warrior Matt Barnes. Both are good pickups and good fits in Phoenix, particularly for that price. Maybe Barnes should fire another agent, because the man hasn’t gotten paid yet.
The Portland Trail Blazers signed Luke Jackson, Steven Hill and Jamaal Tatum, and you can probably pencil in all three to be waived, particularly if Darius Miles’s contract reappears on their books. If not, Hill has a chance. Unless they sign Shaun Livingston, in which case, it’s game over all around.
Bobby Brown signed with the Kings for two guaranteed seasons, which gives us a new tangent of wordplay jokes if nothing else.
Anthony Tolliver and Darryl Watkins signed with the Spurs, who apparently wanted a big man who can’t make a lay-up. (Watkins, not Tolliver.) The Spurs also brought in Desmon Farmer and Devin Green for training camp, and I hereby predict that Farmer and Tolliver make it. The Spurs don’t have to penny-pinch around the tax this year, these are the luxuries that they can now afford.
(EDIT: They’ve also since brought in Salim Stoudamire. Yeah!)
Toronto brought in Will Solomon to play point guard, even though he isn’t really one, and Hassan Adams to play two guard, even though he isn’t really one. I like the way they’re thinking.
In other news, Dee Brown is back in the NBA after signing with the Wizards.
Boston’s three picks saw them draft J.R. Giddens (a swingman that they don’t really need right now), Bill Walker (who everyone seems to be rating really high) and Semih Erden (who we’ll possibly never see). I’m curious to see why everyone loves Bill Walker so much. I’m not saying they’re wrong, for it would be foolish of me to have much opinion on draftees since I don’t follow NCAA basketball (note: that might make this whole section a bit dull), but I understand that Bill Walker’s game is predicated on athleticism, not skill. And Walker’s also just had his third knee surgery. To me, that doesn’t bode well. But what would I know. (I’ll tell you what I’d know: nothing. That’s what I’d know.)
Charlotte, not happy with two athletic near-seven footers, plumped for a third in Alexis Ajinca, and also plumped for a second short point guard in D.J. Augustin. I don’t think they’ve identified their most immediate holes here, but then again, they could use an upgrade basically everywhere.
Chicago didn’t have much thinking to do before drafting Derrick Rose, a sure-fire number one pick despite no one being able to draw up a clear cut list of the things he’s actually good it beyond the first two. (“Athleticism? Check! Finishing in the lane? Check! Passing? Um, well the system he played in wasn’t right. Shooting? Yes, well, he needs to improve his shooting….”) They also traded three second-rounders for one, and came away from that bizarre trade with Omer Asik, who will no doubt go on to lead a fabulous life and have an amazing career, despite having already suffered a serious knee injury since the night of the draft.
Correctly identifying that Ben Wallace is basically done, Cleveland drafted two power forwards, J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson. Both are post players, and both are quite good, but having watched summer league, I can’t remember either of them throwing a single pass. (A look at the stats confirms this – Hickson had 0 assists in summer league. Jackson had 3. Must’ve kept dropping it.) The Cavaliers also drafted Sasha Kaun, which I thought was a province in Canada.
Denver traded for the rights to Sonny Weems at #39, which was interesting. (Hang on, no it wasn’t.)
Detroit traded out of the first round and drafted the man they would have drafted in it anyway, Walter Sharpe. They signed him for two guaranteed years, sending all us hardened and overeager NBA addicts to Wikipedia to understand narcolepsy better than we thought we did. Sharpe won’t play much this year. Detroit also drafted Trent Plaisted and Deron Washington, who will play even less, because they’re not on the roster.
Anthony Randolph was drafted 14th by Golden State but already looks to be better than most of the people taken ahead of him. Dick Hendrix was taken 49th, and hasn’t been able to make the same boast, but he is able to boast the name of Dick Hendrix, so his life will be fine.
Houston likes three kind of players – shooters, defensive specialists, and point guards. Having drafted Aaron Brooks and signed Steve Francis last year, they’re all right for point guards, so they used the second round this year to get one of each of the other two, with defensive specialist Joey Dorsey (33rd) and Maarty Leunen (54th). They also came out of the first round with Donte Greene (28th), but that didn’t last (see below).
Indiana drafted Jerryd Bayless at #11. But that’s not how it ended up. See below.
The Clippers drafted the best available player at their weakest position when they took Eric Gordon at #7, and that’s rarely if ever a bad strategy. In the second round, they picked up Mike Taylor (55th) and DeAndre Jordan (35th), both of whom won’t contribute much for two years, which is why they signed three-year contracts.
The Lakers’ only draft pick was Joe Crawford at #58. They’ve subsequently signed him, but they’ve also signed Brandon Heath and Dwayne Mitchell (see above), and all three are battling with Coby Karl for what looks like one spot. So they probably could have not bothered drafting Crawford. The Lakers also brought in last year’s second rounder, Sun Yue, and already are getting so wildly overexcited that they’re talking about playing him at guard sometimes.
Memphis obtained probably the best player available at their weakest position when they traded for Darrell Arthur at #27. Shame about the weed and hoes thing, though. (Readers note: Don’t be fooled. Darrell Arthur is not a keen gardener.)
Miami drafted Michael Beasley at number two, after giving the worst acting job since Keanu Reeves in Point Break when trying to convince people that they might not. In the second round, they came away with Mario Chalmers, despite not having a pick. Since when were #34 picks so devalued? How does Minnesota have the 31st and 34th picks, and not come out of it with a player for next year? Strange times. (Readers note: Minnesota drafted Nikola Pekovic at 31, who may well be good, but whom we also may never see.)
Milwaukee rightly identified that their forward spots were pretty desolate, so they drafted two – Joe Alexander (6th) and Cucumber A Moute (37th). I’ve only barely seen Mbah a Moute play, but I’ve seen more of him than I have Joe Alexander, so I’ll do us all a favour and not pretend to know what’s going on there.
New Jersey were lauded for their draft, one that saw them get Brook Lopez at #10, Ryan Anderson at #21, and Chris Douglas-Roberts at #40. I tend to agree.
At #6, the Knicks drafted a man who “will not be a superstar” (c/o Fran Fraschilla) who plays their least-needed position. So I’m going to need more convincing on the Danilo Gallinari pick.
The Thunder identified their need for a guard, and then didn’t draft the best guard available, picking Russell Westbrook at #4. Either they see something the rest of the world didn’t, or the rest of the world saw something that only they didn’t. They also moved up into the first round to draft a power forward (D.J. White, 29th), despite having about twelve already, and after already having drafted one five spots earlier (Serge Ibaka). Entering the draft with four second-rounders, they gave three away, and used the fourth on yet another big man (DeVon Hardin, 55th). Soon after the draft, they picked up Kyle Weaver from Charlotte, who obviously didn’t want him. Sam Presti clearly did, though, because Weaver then signed a four (count’em, four) year deal. The additions of he and Westbrook hopefully mean that Damien Wilkins will not get so much playing time, because no one likes a chucker. Unless you’re a Kobe fan.
Orlando brought in Courtney Lee (22nd) because they didn’t think they’d be able to keep Maurice Evans, and because they thought Keith Bogans wasn’t helping. Right on both counts.
Philadelphia drafted Marreese Speights at #16, something which led to Speights choosing #16 as his new jersey number. Not sure what role Speights will fill since Elton Brand was signed, but we won’t hold that against them, given that the chicken came before the egg.
Phoenix got a backup centre in Robin Lopez (15th), as their roster starts to assume a more traditional makeup. This is not a bad thing.
Only Portland could go into a draft night with five picks and leave with two players, Nicolas Batum (25th) and Jerryd Bayless (11th, see below). They also brought over Rudy Fernandez, thieved from Phoenix the previous season. Young quality born out of endless money and trying hard. Good MO.
Sacramento copped more stick for head coach Reggie Theus’s comments on why the team drafted Jason Thompson at number twelve than they did for the pick itself. But this doesn’t mean that they got off lightly.
San Antonio tried to give away their pick, but couldn’t, so took someone almost completely unheard of in George Hill (26th), who they’ve since signed. Backcourt scoring was apparently a priority of theirs this year. They also followed their own tradition and drafted a European in the second round (Goran Dragic, 45th), but then unusually traded him for an NCAA player (Malik Hairston, 48th). Strange times. (For equality’s sake, we should mention James Gist, picked 57th. Hi James.)
Utah drafted three Euros that they don’t need now and may never need, in Kosta Koufos (23rd), Ante Tomic (44th) and Tadija Dragicevic (53rd).
Finally, Washington drafted JaVale McGee, one of my favourite draftees this year. McGee is the next Marcus Camby. Book it. (Readers note: comparison overstated for effect.)
Cleveland finally has the right idea, dealing spare parts Joe Smith and Damon Jones in a three-team trade with Oklahoma City and Milwaukee that landed them starting point guard Maurice Williams. Now that the Cavaliers finally have a complimentary guard that can score and handle the ball a bit, I hope they finally figure out how to use one. Elsewhere in the deal, Oklahoma City somehow got two decent players on two sizeable expiring contracts in Smith and Desmond Mason, while only giving up Adrian Griffin Luke Ridnour to do so. Meanwhile, Milwaukee gives up the best player – and one on a good value contract – in return for nothing of any significant use. I know the Williams and Michael Redd pairing needed splitting up, but not like that. And don’t give Adrian Griffin to Scott Skiles. You won’t like where that goes.
Milwaukee’s other trade involved somehow being gift-wrapped Richard Jefferson by New Jersey for the tiny cost of Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian. Why New Jersey wanted that package, I do not know. Simmons expires a year sooner than Jefferson, and – crucially – in time for the 2010 offseason, but he’s not an expiring contract, and Yi Jianlian is now but one of a number of many young big men on the Nets roster. He’s also not that good. Can you trade a 20 ppg in-his-prime All-Star, not get a starter back, not get an expiring contract back, nor even a draft pick, and be happy with your return? I’d like to think not, but I think it just happened.
Again on draft night, Toronto threw all their eggs in one basket, trading T.J. Ford, Macy O’Baston, Rasho Nesterovic and the rights to Roy Hibbert to Indiana for Jermaine O’Neal and the rights to Nathan Jawai. O’Neal and Chris Bosh should pair effortlessly, much more so than Ford and Jose Calderon did, and the Raptors now have the best frontcourt pairing in the East. (Even better than “Dwight Howard and anybody.”) Yet they still have largely forgettable wing players, and a very weak bench. They have a fine front three, but very little in support of them. And they’ve run out of money to do too much about that. Indiana, meanwhile, saves a good amount of money, and gets two young talented players at their biggest positions of need. That can’t be bad. They’re not going anywhere, but that’s not a bad way to retool.
Golden State picked up Marcus Williams for the cost of a first-round pick, despite two years of nothing but injuries and bad play hitherto. It’s a gamble worth taking, but one with an element of risk. Williams has shown next to nothing so far, albeit while playing often out of position.
Ron Artest finally left Sacramento, going to Houston along with recently signed draftees Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr in exchange for prospect forward Donte Greene, a pick, and the expiring contract of Bobby Jackson. Houston’s defence is now mega, and they even made sure to save some money on the deal by dealing Ewing to New York for the meaningless rights to Frederic Weis, and dealing Singletary to Phoenix for D.J. Strawberry in a move that saves both teams money. Meanwhile, Sacramento’s somewhat going for the ol’ addition by subtraction thing, which may or may work out. (Donte Greene, by the way, put on an absolutely disgusting performance in summer league. Yes I know he scored 40 in one game, but HOLY SWEET JESUS CHRIST ELLA will you pass the sodding ball.)
Denver took a break from their minimum salary policy to get a younger, cheaper and better version of the departed Eduardo Najera, when they traded the peripheral expiring contracts of Taurean Green and Bobby Jones to New York for Renaldo Balkman. New York then waived both Green and Jones instantly. A no-brainer for Denver, even with their self-inflicted budget concerns, and when factoring in the fact that Balkman will always be a backup. But what were New York doing? You have a lot of small forwards, yes. But get rid of the worse ones. Also, don’t trade a small forward on account of the fact that he’s a “bad fit” and that there’s too much competition in front of him, just to later trade for Patrick Ewing Jr, his cheaper but inferior replacement. If you want to save money for two years, don’t sign Chris Duhon to that deal. There. Sorted.
The Clippers filled their cap space with a few trades, most notably getting former DPOY candidate Marcus Camby for nothing. (It’s just not right, is it? Some teams out there are throwing away their MLE’s, and some teams get gifted the league’s better big men in their prime, entirely through circumstance. The NBA is a stupid game anyway.) The Clippers also later traded for Steve Novak, seemingly seeing something in him that Nick Fazekas couldn’t reproduce. They also conspired with Utah to complete one of the most pointless trades ever, acquiring their former player Jason Hart in exchange or Brevin Knight. The contracts are basically the same, the players are basically the same, and while Knight is slightly better, he’ll play fewer games. Yet neither should actually play at all, barring a typhoid outbreak. Great trade.
An eight-player trade went down on draft night, but only three players in it mattered. Memphis and Minnesota swapped their draft picks a few hours after making them, with Kevin Love going to the Timberwolves, and O.J. Mayo going to Memphis. Also involved in the trade were Mike Miller, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins, but of those few, only Mike Miller is a productive player. Essentially, Miller was Minnesota’s asking price for swapping the two, and in exchange for Miller, Memphis made some salary swaps that gives them roughly $7 million more in cap space next offseason. For both parties, the question is, did they get the better part of the prospect swap. I’m going to cop out and say that I don’t know enough about Kevin Love to judge. This is what you can do when you’re an amateur blogger.
Indiana and Portland also made a prospect swap, switching the draft rights of Brandon Rush and Jerry D. Bayless, while also including Josh McRoberts, Ike Diogu and Jarrett Jack. In terms of the other three players, Portland got hosed, but since Bayless is apparently the better prospect, that makes it all right. (Again, I refuse to say. I’ve watched summer league, but I’m not making an impassioned opinion solely off of that. Nor should you.)
Finally, in the biggest news of the offseason, Minnesota managed to blag a first-round pick off of Philadelphia for the less-than-arduous task of taking on the contracts of Calvin Booth and Rodney Carney. Talk about easy decisions. Carney is still a cheap prospect, even though he hasn’t done anything yet, and Booth earns the minimum. Not even Minnesota says no to that.
Wake me up when September ends.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.
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