The State of the NBA’s Pacific Division

The salary information can be found at Hoopshype; the draft pick info is found at RealGM. Both are outstanding sites.

Golden State Warriors

Golden State WarriorsThe NBA finals will begin in a few days, and the Warriors will be matching up against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. On November 5, 2014, I wrote that the Warriors would represent the western conference in the finals. See, you should listen to me.

Next season the Warriors will be in a tough position: they are $10M over the salary cap and Draymond Green will be a restricted free agent coveted by other teams. The Warriors will need to move a player or two, such as David Lee, who will be in the last year of his deal (15.5M). Andre Igoudala is another player that you can expect them to have on the trading block (2 year/$24M).

With the backcourt of Curry and Thompson, you can expect free agent to want to join the squad, but the Warriors will need to wait until after next season until the salary cap increases. Their 2017 1st round pick will go to the Jazz, while they also traded away their next four 2nd rounders.

Expect the Warriors to hoist this year’s championship banner, and they should also have an easy time in next years Pacific Division because most of the teams are a mess. If they can move Lee and Igoudala, then they can retain Green and Barnes; while also preparing for additional free agents. I really like the makeup of this team, but as in the NBA, victory is fleeting.


Los Angeles Clippers

You can read their individual article here.

Los Angeles Lakers

You can read their individual article here.

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix SunsTwo seasons ago the Suns were the league’s surprise team. Prior to the season their team looked like it would struggle to win 25 games; they ended up with close to 50 wins. Starting two point guards (Bledsoe and Dragic) worked for then rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Prior to this season they made another oddball move: they signed free agent Isaiah Thomas, another point guard. Midway through this season they were on pace to make the playoffs, then they decided to trade Dragic and Thomas. After that, the wheels fell off. A once rosy future now appears to be uncertain.

The Suns have some bright spots: they have $25M in cap room, Eric Bledsoe is a solid player, Alex Len developed nicely and is still only 21, and they have the Cavs 1st rounder in 2016, as well as the Heat’s in 2018 and 2021.

The difficulty the team has is they have no identity. They were run-and-gun two seasons ago. Going into this season, who knows. The Morris twins, PJ Tucker, and TJ Warren will help, but this team needs to make a big splash in free agency or they will be one of the worst teams in the league. The Suns need to get players that can knock down outside shots. DeAndre Jordan would be a good fit for this team, but that will not be nearly enough. Expect this team to struggle.


Sacramento Kings

Sacramento KingsEvery year I get excited about the Kings; and every year they let me down. They have solid players (Cousins, Gay, Collison, McLemore), but something is missing. They hired George Karl after the All Star break to fix their problems. I think this was one of their worst moves. The Kings need to start from scratch, but I am not sure if it is considered a rebuild since they never built in the first place.

Rumors have them trading DeMarcus Cousins for one of the top four picks in the draft. If they do, they will be hoping to get a player that is 75% as good as Cousins. Maybe he is a bad apple, but they would need to get a lot more that just one prospect. Also, the Kings 2016 1st rounder will go to Chicago (protected 1-10).

The Kings roster does not have much going for it besides Cousins and McLemore. The contracts they have doled out leave them with few tradeable pieces; plus, for such a bad roster, they only have $15M in cap space. This year I will not be getting excited about this team, which means they may finally turn it around.


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The State of the Southeast Division

I have received several questions asking where I obtain my information. The salaries are found at Hoopshype; the draft pick info is found at RealGM. Both are outstanding sites.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta HawksThe Hawks ended the year with the eastern conference’s best record, but were easily beaten in the conference finals by the injury depleted Cavs. The Hawks played a style reminiscent to the Spurs, which makes sense since Mike Budenholzer, their coach, was an assistant in San Antonio for close to 20 years. Budenholzer was honored as this season’s coach of the year.

The Hawks have $30M available cap space, which makes it a very interesting offseason. Do they re-sign UFAs Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll? I would hold off on both. They can put the Cavs to the test by offering a contract to RFA Tristan Thompson; Al-Farouq Aminu, who should out of his deal in Dallas, would also be a good pick. Not sure if Greg Monroe would work in this situation.

In this year’s draft, the Hawks swapped 1st rounders with the Nets, so they will jump up ten spots. They need to find a player that will get between 15 and 20 minutes. In 2018, they get Minnesota’s 1st rounder (protected 1-14).

After 60 wins it would be easy to stick with the same team. But the playoffs showed that this iteration of the Hawks is not ready for the primetime. Swapping out Millsap for Thompson or Monroe would add a much needed toughness. They can then spend on quality role players to fill out the roster.

Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte HornetsNot sure if there a team in worse shape than the Hornets. For a team with only 33 wins in the eastern conference, Charlotte is already maxed out for next year’s salary cap. Virtually every move they make seems to be a bust: signing Lance Stephenson, drafting Cody Zeller (instead of the next eight players drafted), drafting Kidd-Gilchrist (and passing on Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond). Well, Michael Jordan is the same guy that drafted Kwame Brown #1.

The team has the ninth pick in this year’s draft, so maybe they will finally get some value for one of their 1st rounders.If Al Jefferson opts in ($16.5M), then they must seek an immediate trade. They also need to dump Lance Stevenson on any taker. Kidd-Christ is a solid defender; Vonleh is talented, but, at this point, a project; and Kemba is a solid guard, just not sure of his position.

The Hornets need to get draft picks for Jefferson and Stevenson, then tank this season. Although, without trying to tank it would be hard seeing this team approach the .500 mark.

Miami Heat

Miami HeatThe Heat are $10M over the salary cap, but that includes three player options for Dwayne Wade (16M), Luol Deng ($10M), and Goran Dragic ($7,5M). Dragic will opt out, still not sure on the other two. A big problem for the team is Hassan Whiteside is an unrestricted free agent.

Their draft pick situation is slightly better. In 2016, their 1st rounder goes to Philly (protected 1-10) and their 2nd rounder goes to Boston; 2018: 1st rounder to Phoenix (protected 1-7); 2021: 1st rounder to Phoenix. As it stands, the Heat will have close to $70M in cap space available when the cap explodes after next season. No state sales tax and Miami beach can be huge factors in luring free agents.

Miami desperately needs to get younger and more athletic. Dwayne Wade’s contract is already contentious, but the Heat cannot back down by paying him for past performance. If they want to take care of an aging star, then wait until he retires and give him a stake in the team.

If Chris Bosh is healthy next season, then this can be an interesting team. I think they need to let Deng and Dragic walk because, if they both opt out, the price will be too high.

Orlando Magic

Orlando MagicNot sure why, but I am a big fan of the Magic. I really like their young players (Vucevic, Oladipo, Harris, Payton), along with their ample cap space. They have $40M available this season and $75M next season. In 2018, they get the Lakers’ 1st round pick.

They just signed Scott Skiles to be their new head coach. He is known as a no-nonsense, defense-minded coach. If he can relate to the young players, then the move can work. Orlando has the fifth pick in the draft, so expect them to get some help. I think they reached on Aaron Gordon, so they cannot repeat that pick. Mock drafts have them taking Kristaps Porzingis, but I would look at either Justise Winslow or Willie Cauley-Stein.

I would like to see the team incorporate an uptempo style. Oladipo and Payton are both potential lockdown players, so they can harass ball handlers. If they add Cauley-Stein behind them, then they can gamble in the passing lanes. Vucevic would help by grabbing boards, while Harris had an excellent season. Expect teams to pursue the RFA.

The Magic can have Harkless, Nicholson, Frye, Fournier and Gordon coming off the bench, which can make for an exciting team. All they need is a veteran backup PG that can teach Payton how to run an NBA team. Ridnour may be that player.

Washington Wizards

Washington WizardsI really expected the Wizards to represent the eastern conference in the NBA finals. Alas, no such luck. On paper this team should roll through the conference; on the court is another story.

Their backcourt is set for the next several years. SF is a question mark because Pierce is too old, while Porter (who is only 22) has yet to step up his game. Gortat had a solid season, while Nene’s was less than stellar. Nene is in the last year of his contract, but not really sure if he still has trade value.

The team is already over the cap for next season, so they will have to make shrewd trades to improve the team. After this coming season the Wizards will have close to $60M available cap space, but a nice chunk of that will have to go to Beal.

The Wizards need to tailor themselves after the late ’80s to early ’90s Pistons. Let the backcourt be the stars, and surround them with hard nose defenders.


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The State of the Southwest Division

For those that have been following the blog, you know that I have written articles on five different teams: Clippers, Knicks, Nets, Lakers, and Bulls. Although I would love to write individual articles on the remaining 25 teams, grad school starts in less than a week, so in order to finish I have to write the state of the individual divisions.

I have received several questions asking where I obtain my information. The salaries are found at Hoopshype; the draft pick info is found at RealGM. Both are outstanding sites.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas MavericksThe Mavericks made the playoffs in a ridiculously tough western conference. Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the league, but I think the Mavs are poised for a downfall. Although they have cap room (close to $25M), this offseason’s FAs are fool’s gold.

The top free agents will do nothing to help the Mavericks climb the western conference ladder. The Mavs need to bite the bullet and get bad; real bad. The Celtics have their 2016 1st and 2nd round picks, but the 1st is protected for the top seven picks. The Mavs need to be one of the worst teams because 1) they will retain their 1st rounder, 2) they have no youth on their roster, and 3) the salary cap explodes next season, when the Mavs will have close to $70M available.

The Mavs have been contenders for years, so they may not choose to rebuild. Although, this can be done in one season. If they decide to tank, then I can see them as contenders within three seasons.

Houston Rockets

Houston RocketsIt was amazing that the Rockets finished second in the conference after Dwight Howard’s idiotic comments about the team being him and Harden, while the  others are just role players.

The team will have roughly the same roster next season, which leaves them with no cap space. There only tradeable player may be Trevor Ariza, who makes $8.2M this season. Their 1st round pick goes to the Lakers, but they obtained the Pelicans’ 1st rounder, which will move them up ten spots. Patrick Beverly’s return will help, but I do not see the Rockets having sustainability.

The Rockets will be competitive in regular season, but they have no chance of getting through the western conference. If they are very lucky, they will find a team that is willing to trade for Dwight Howard.

Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis GrizzliesThe Grizzlies have been one of the league’s best teams for several years. This offseason is interesting because they will have close to $40M available if Jeff Green opts out of his $9.2M player option. Zach Randolph took a “hometown” deal, and it would not surprise me to see UFA Marc Gasol do the same thing.

The playoffs highlighted the Grizzlies’ need for outside shooting. Danny Green would be a perfect fit for the team because he is a two-way player, who can hit the outside shot.

Their window will be closing soon, so they need to make the next two seasons count. Their 2016 1st rounder goes to Denver (protected 1-5, 15-30), while their 2018 goes to Boston (protected 1-12). Once the salary cap explodes in two seasons, the Grizzlies will be an ideal spot for free agents. This is Mike Conley’s final season under contract, so it will be interesting to see which direction the team will go.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans PelicansThanks to Anthony Davis, the Pelicans may be the most intriguing team in the league. Unfortunately, they will have roughly the same team this season, and have only $10M in cap space. This team will be very interesting in two years, because they will have close to $70M in cap space; although, a large portion will go to Davis.

Inexplicably, the team fired coach Monty Williams after he led the team to the playoffs in the incredibly tough western conference. All available coaches are lining up at the chance to work with Davis. It will be interesting to see who they hire. They are handicapped because this year’s 1st rounder goes to Houston, while they also traded away their next three 2nd rounders.

Davis is already among the top players in the league, but the Pelicans will need to supply him with talent. Eric Gordon is their only available trade piece, but the only team that will be willing to take on his close to $16M contract will be looking to dump a worse contract on the Pelicans. They will be able to chase free agents after next season, but, as for this season, expect them to hover around the .500 mark.

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio SpursHow many times can we prepare for the downfall of the Spurs? Well, they are still rolling along. They have close to $35M in cap space, but the majority will be eaten up by Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan. Expect the Spurs to lose some key pieces, such as Danny Green and Marco Bellinelli.

Somehow I see Gregg Popovich (the league’s best coach) finding a way to continue their winning ways. The Spurs need to continue their excellent drafting; they are masters at finding gems late in the first round.

The Spurs will continue to succeed if they decide to pass on the available free agents. Next season will be their chance to reload because Duncan and Ginobli should be off the books and they will have close to $40M available cap space. It would not surprise me if the Spurs fail to make the playoffs this season.


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