By Charlie Zegers
and John Clemeno
RotoWire Staff Writers
J.R. Giddens (30th overall), Bill Walker (47th overall, via WAS), Semih Erden (60th), Patrick O'Bryant (GS), Darius Miles (POR)
James Posey (NOR)
After a successful remodeling in the summer of 2007, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge did relatively little after his team won the championship. The biggest change is the very significant loss of James Posey (New Orleans). That makes the Celtics worse off. But we're talking about a team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so the drop off will be minimal. The new Big Three, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins will be back as the starters.
Posey's defense may be replaced by Tony Allen, but not his ability to hit the 3-pointer. Allen didn't show much last season after coming off a bad knee injury in 2006-07. He's not going to be handed the sixth-man role, but Allen will be the first one coach Doc Rivers looks to. If Allen struggles or is inconsistent, look for first-round pick J.R. Giddens to get an opportunity. He turned around a soap-opera college career last season for New Mexico and offers a good offensive game, but doesn't have 3-point range. Nor does second-round pick Bill Walker, who will also look for those Posey minutes. Look for the re-signed Eddie House to be the 3-point man off the bench in addition to backing up Rondo at the point.
New Jersey Nets
Brook Lopez (10th overall), Ryan Anderson (21st), Chris Douglas-Roberts (40th), Jarvis Hayes (DET), Eduardo Najera (DEN), Bobby Simmons (MIL), Yi Jianlan (MIL), Keyon Dooling (ORL)
Richard Jefferson (MIL), Marcus Williams (GS), DeSagana Diop (DAL), Nenad Krstic (Russia), Bostjan Nachbar (Russia)
After being told the team wasn't giving him an extension and experiencing a 5-10 January, Jason Kidd decided he didn't want to play for New Jersey anymore. With Vince Carter injured, and Kidd not interested, team president Rod Thorn and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe pulled the plug on that version of the Nets. Only Vince Carter remains from the Nets' version of the Big Three following Richard Jefferson being shipped to Milwaukee.
There are changes at all three frontcourt spots, while Devin Harris takes on a full-time point-guard role for the first time in his career. Yi Jianlian, who got hurt in the second half of the season then lost the starting job to Charlie Villanueva in Milwaukee, will open the season at power forward with Eduardo Najera bringing defense to the position off the bench. Jianlian and first-round draft pick Brook Lopez give the Nets a frontcourt offensive threat they lacked last year. If the Nets choose to go more defensive at center, Josh Boone could return as the starter. Either way, Lopez and Boone should share the position, with neither getting 30-plus minutes. Bobby Simmons should start at small forward for a team on paper that could contend for the lower end of the playoffs.
On the Nets bench, Keyon Dooling will be the combo guard backing up both Harris and Carter. He might get enough playing time to make an impact as a depth guy who can fill in on fantasy teams. Sean Williams still has some maturing to do and was relegated to the end of the bench after a brief trial during his rookie season. Of the lower two draft picks, Chris Douglas-Roberts has a better shot at playing time than Ryan Anderson. He's more polished as a player and plays a position where the Nets are thin.
New York Knicks
Danilo Gallinari (6th overall), Chris Duhon (CHI), Anthony Roberson (Europe), Patrick Ewing, Jr. (HOU)
Renaldo Balkman (DEN), Randolph Morris (ATL)
By the time the season starts, we're sure to see the Knicks roster without Stephon Marbury. And he's just the beginning of what should be a lot of change on the roster over the next two seasons. Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson are likely to follow.
This season, you can expect Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson to compete for Marbury's former position at point guard, but Robinson has yet to prove he can direct a team. Although Duhon never nailed down the job in Chicago, he's the more polished distributor of the two. New coach Mike D'Antoni might not have the personnel to pull off the uptempo pace his Phoenix teams had, but Duhon is in a position to put up career-best numbers. Jamal Crawford remains the Knicks' most consistent scorer and will start at shooting guard.
The aforementioned Randolph and Curry will see time at power forward and center with David Lee a very capable backup to the two of them. First round pick Danilo Gallinari projects as a power forward, but he might have to get used to small forward until the Knicks can deal Randolph, which has been rumored this summer. That's also where Wilson Chandler, Jared Jeffries and Richardson will look for minutes. Chandler got some run toward the end of the season and was a summer-league star for New York, so look for D'Antoni to get his athleticism in the lineup.
Elton Brand (LAC), Marreese Speights (16th overall), Royal Ivey (MIL), Kareem Rush (IND), Theo Ratliff (DET), Donyell Marshall (OKC)
Calvin Booth (MIN), Rodney Carney (MIN)
The Sixers were planning to be players in the free-agent market after this upcoming season, but once Elton Brand became available, general manager Ed Stefanski went to market a bit early. In signing Brand, Philadelphia addressed its greatest need. Brand will start at power forward and be one of the featured scorers along with Andre Iguodala.
Filling out the starting lineup will be holdovers from last year. Andre Miller starts at point guard, Thaddeus Young will get more minutes as the team's small forward and Samuel Dalembert starts in the low post. That's a pretty solid five which should propel the Sixers deeper into the playoffs. Coach Mo Cheeks has options with Iguodala, who is capable of playing the two or the three, and we expect to see Brand moving to center at times in a quicker lineup.
Coming off the bench, it appears that Theo Ratliff and rebounder-extraordinaire Reggie Evans will be the primary backups in the frontcourt. Marresse Speights may have a bigger role because of the knee injury to Jason Smith (torn ACL), but the rookie with the polished offensive game will be brought along slowly. The club added veteran Donyell Marshall, who could also backup Brand at the four, but plays more like a small forward and will provide a 3-point threat.
Kareem Rush, Willie Green and the re-signed Louis Williams will vie for time as backcourt depth. Williams, a shooting guard in a point guard's body, is a scorer and will be used as a shooter off the bench by Cheeks. Rush is a 3-point specialist who could start in a smaller lineup.
Jermaine O'Neal (IND), Nathan Jawai (41st overall, via Indiana), Roko Ukic (2005 draft pick), Will Solomon (Europe)
T.J. Ford (IND), Maceo Baston (IND), Rasho Nesterovic (IND), Primoz Brezec (Italy), Carlos Delfino (Russia)
The biggest offseason transaction was trading T.J. Ford to Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal. After a second season during which the point guard job bounced back and forth between Ford and Jose Calderon, the Raptors made a move to settle the position and add a low-post scoring threat in O'Neal. A healthy O'Neal would improve Chris Bosh's production. No longer will Bosh be forced to play center while Andrea Bargnani spots up outside. O'Neal's health is obviously the question. He's missed 122 games over the last four seasons. Calderon gets a large boost in playing time and should see well over 30 minutes a night. Anthony Parker will return at shooting guard with Jamario Moon the presumed starter at small forward.
The trade and Carlos Delfino's departure leave Toronto a little thin on the bench. Andrea Bargnani is a big man more comfortable on the perimeter. He'll be the primary backup to Bosh and O'Neal, but offers little more than scoring. Jason Kapono turned out to be Jason Kapono: a 3-point shooter who doesn't play defense or warrant huge minutes. He'll have to play more this season. It looks like an untested Roko Ukic, who played for Croatia in the Summer Olympics, will back up Calderon at point guard. Either the Raptors aren't done adding players, or they're going with Hassan Adams or Joey Graham (16th overall pick in 2005) as part of the rotation.
Derrick Rose (1st overall), Omer Asik (36th overall, via Portland)
Chris Duhon (NY), Shannon Brown (CHA), JamesOn Curry (Waived)
The Bulls are coming off a disappointing season and have a first-time head coach in Vinny Del Negro, so don't be surprised to see some changes. After the team shut out former coach Scott Skiles, it drifted to a 33-49 finish with very little optimism heading into the 2008-09 season.
That all changed when Chicago beat the odds and landed the first overall pick in the draft. Derrick Rose is a hometown guy and a talented player who should develop into a very good NBA point guard. He still has some growing to do as a distributor, as he wasn't asked to be a true point guard at Memphis. He'll share the role in his rookie season with Kirk Hinrich. The team's starter at shooting guard has yet to be determined. Ben Gordon vows not to return to Chicago unless they meet his contract demands. Gordon is asking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million per year, while the Bulls are holding to an offer in the $9-10 million range. Gordon has been a significant piece of the lineup, having led the Bulls in scoring the last three seasons. Without him, we'll probably see a committee of shooting guards starting with Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha.
Ultimately, we expect Gordon to settle for the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009.
Luol Deng returns with a big fat $72-million contract in the offseason and starts at small forward along with Drew Gooden at the four. Tyrus Thomas and Andres Nocioni will scoop up the backup forward minutes. Joakim Noah stands as the likely starter at center, but there are a lot of bodies looking for minutes in the frontcourt.
The Bulls have several guys who can be solid contributors at both guard and forward, so it could take Del Negro some time to establish his rotation – or we could see more player movement.
J.J. Hickson (19th overall), Darnell Jackson (27th overall), Tarence Kinsey (free agent), Maurice Williams (MIL), Lorenzen Wright (SAC)
Joe Smith (OKC), Damon Jones (MIL), Eric Snow (Retirement)
The Cavaliers entered the offseason in need of a scoring and playmaking complement to LeBron James, but had little salary cap space to lure one in the open market. As they negotiated with Delonte West and made some fringe signings, the Cavs were able to land a player that could be the perfect fit. Mo Williams heads to Cleveland from Milwaukee to provide both a scorer and playmaker to take the pressure off James. Suddenly West's dalliance with a team in Moscow doesn't seem like such a big deal. West could eventually sign, but he won't have nearly the role he had late last season. At shooting guard, we should see a job-share between Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson. Gibson has been billed as a point guard, but is more of a shooter. Expect the taller Pavlovic or Szczerbiak to start as a Gibson/Williams backcourt would be undersized.
James of course will start at small forward, but could also see time at power forward in a smaller lineup, with Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao splitting the power forward minutes. Varejao will also back up Zydrunas Ilgauskas at center. The Cavs added Lorenzen Wright for more depth, but were very impressed with rookie J.J. Hickson during summer league. With Wallace showing signs of age and Ilgauskas limited to 30 minutes a night, Hickson could find his way into the rotation.
Kwame Brown (MEM), Will Bynum (Israel), Walter Sharpe (32nd overall, via OKC), Trent Plaisted (46th overall, via OKC), Deron Washington (59th overall)
Jarvis Hayes (NJ), Theo Ratliff (PHI)
After watching his Pistons lose to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals general manager Joe Dumars blew off some steam and talked about making major changes to the starting lineup. Some people make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, but Dumars resisted his urge. Or couldn't find a deal he liked. There were rumors about Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace heading out of town, but in the end, the biggest move was signing Kwame Brown.
Detroit's starting five will be the same group that finished last season: Billups at point guard, Richard Hamilton at shooting guard, Tayshaun Prince at small forward, Antonio McDyess at power forward and Wallace at center. Brown could work his way into some decent playing time. The bigger changes will come from the bench and involve getting younger guys more minutes in the rotation. It's time to start preparing for Detroit's next iteration.
Rodney Stuckey, who started slowly because of a thumb injury, had a nice playoff series against the Celtics and should get more minutes in the backcourt. He's a better shooter than he showed last year and can play both guard positions. After the two starters and Stuckey, there will be little left for Arron Afflalo. McDyess and Wallace are getting up there in age and entering the final year of their deals. While Jason Maxiell has a regular spot in the rotation, this should be the first year we see more from Amir Johnson. The rest of the bench will see little action. Walter Sharpe (32nd overall) has the best shot of the draft picks of sticking with the team.
T.J. Ford (TOR), Rasho Nesterovic (TOR), Maceo Baston (TOR), Jarrett Jack (POR), Josh McRoberts (POR), Brandon Rush (13th overall, via POR), Roy Hibbert (17th overall, via TOR)
Jermaine O'Neal (TOR), Ike Diogu (POR), Kareem Rush (PHI)
Indiana was one of the league's most dysfunctional teams last year, so watching general manager Larry Bird shake up the roster came as no surprise. The biggest move was trading an unhappy Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic. Bird then acquired Brandon Rush and Jarrett Jack from Portland. In the end, Bird gives coach Jim O'Brien a point guard (Ford) who can push the tempo and another scorer (Rush) who can shoot the 3-pointer. Two things that make O'Brien smile.
Jamaal Tinsley's still on the team, but that won't be the case when the regular season opens. Ford will start at point guard but brings with him a history of spinal injuries. Jack is a solid veteran backup, in case of injury to Ford. Travis Diener, we hardly knew ya'. Mike Dunleavy returns to the two-guard after his best NBA season. Marquis Daniels and Rush should see minutes in place of Dunleavy when he moves to small forward.
Emerging star Danny Granger (19.6 ppg, 40.4% 3pt) will start at small forward with Troy Murphy at power forward, taking over O'Neal's spot. With shooters all over the court, O'Brien will employ Jeff Foster and Rasho Nesterovic at center for defense, rebounding and 12 fouls to use on opponents. This could eventually be Roy Hibbert's job, but not this year.
Richard Jefferson (NJ), Joe Alexander (8th overall), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (37th), Malik Allen (Dallas), Tyronn Lue (Dallas) Francisco Elson (SEA), Damon Jones (CLE), Luke Ridnour (OKC), Adrian Griffin (OKC)
Bobby Simmons (NJ), Yi Jianlian (NJ), Royal Ivey (PHI), Maurice Williams (CLE), Desmond Mason (OKC)
The Bucks allowed a league-worst 48-percent field-goal shooting last year, so is there any surprise Scott Skiles was hired to coach the team? Skiles has always preached defense, but he'll have his work cut out for him with this crew, which could be one of the more prolific scoring teams in the league.
Aside from a new coach, the Bucks biggest acquisition is Richard Jefferson from the Nets. Jefferson had a reputation as a me-first guy in New Jersey's locker room, but there's no questioning his ability to score in a variety of ways, though he may miss Jason Kidd setting him up. He'll replace Bobby Simmons at the three. Jefferson and shooting guard Michael Redd will be a nightly scoring contest. Up front, Milwaukee has scorers in Charlie Villanueva and Andew Bogut. Villanueva no longer has to share the four with Yi Jianlian, but that could be an opportunity to get rookie Joe Alexander in the rotation. Alexander is a better athlete than Villanueva and has a better work ethic, the kind of thing that impresses Skiles. Ideally, Alexander would play the three, but Jefferson is clogging up those minutes.
Who gets to privilege of dishing to these shooters? Ramon Sessions, he of the 24-assist game against the Bulls in the next-to-last game of the season, is the leader in the clubhouse. The Bucks felt so good about Sessions' finish to the season, they traded Mo Williams to Cleveland in a three-team deal. Part of their return was Luke Ridnour, a heady player who has more experience at leading a team than Sessions does. That could play into his favor with Skiles. Charlie Bell will serve as a combo guard backing up Redd and getting any spare point-guard minutes.
Josh Childress (Greece)
The Hawks did little to shed the reputation of a poorly run organization. Two key members of the rotation were restricted free agents, and the Hawks low-balled Josh Childress and Josh Smith. As negotiations dragged on, Childress dropped a few jaws when he signed to play in Greece. And Smith was wooed from coast-to-coast before the Hawks were forced to match an offer sheet he received from the Grizzlies.
The same starting lineup that took Atlanta to the playoffs last season will return in 2008-09. Mike Bibby, in the final year of his contract, starts at point guard. Is Bibby the right man for this team next year? He was during the run to the playoffs. And if he is the right man, can the Hawks sign him? They may go the cheaper route and develop Acie Law, a 2007 first-round pick that never hit his stride last year. Team-leader Joe Johnson will run with Bibby as Atlanta's shooting guard. Marvin Williams, just 22 with a nice mid-range game, will start at small forward. If not for Johnson, Williams (14.8 ppg, 46.2% FG) might break out in a big way this year. Smith is a freakish athlete who'll be a matchup problem for most power forwards. Al Horford remains the starting center after averaging a near double-double in 81 games.
Off the bench, though Maurice Evans isn't Childress, he's not a bad fallback option as sixth man, swinging between both perimeter spots. Flip Murray always finds work because he can shoot and score. He doesn't do much else, but those are skills that can find him a role on any team. Zaza Pachulia will back up Horford, while Speedy Claxton will fill the third point-guard role.
D.J. Augustin (9th overall), Alexis Ajinca (20th), Kyle Weaver (38th), Shannon Brown (CHI)
Earl Boykins (Italy)
Another disappointing Eastern Conference team; another needed coaching change. Novice head coach Sam Vincent clashed with a few players, mishandled others and barely survived his first season before getting canned in the offseason. Team president and underwear pitch man Michael Jordan tapped Larry Brown to coach the Bobcats, in what is likely the first of many changes.
With Charlotte desperately in need of a big man to help Emeka Okafor, the club drafted point guard D.J. Augustin of Texas with the ninth overall pick. Augustin was one of the best point guards in the incoming class, but seeing that Charlotte already had a capable one in Raymond Felton, the pick was telling. Brown said Augustin probably needs a year before becoming a starter, so it looks like Felton has a job – for now. But he'll be looking over his shoulder at Augustin and Brown. In an move to prevent having to use Gerald Wallace (two concussions in 2007-08) at power forward, Brown will likely keep Jason Richardson at the two while Wallace settles in at small forward. Without a new big man, Okafor may have to play some center. At least he will when Brown tires of inconsistent efforts from Nazr Mohammed. Jared Dudley is an intelligent player, the kind Brown likes, and will find some backup minutes at small forward.
Finally, what of the injured players. Will Sean May and Adam Morrison return from knee injuries? If May is healthy, he would fit nicely in the thin frontcourt. Morrison can be a scorer off the bench, but he doesn't have the defensive chops to stay on the court.
Michael Beasley (2nd overall), Mario Chalmers (34th overall, via MIN), Bobby Jones (NY), James Jones (POR), Yakhouba Diawara (DEN), Jamaal Magloire (DAL)
Ricky Davis (LAC), Jason Williams (LAC)
After a 15-win season beset by injuries to several players including their biggest star, the Heat once again look like a team that can compete for the playoffs.
There are still holes at point guard and center, but rookie head coach Erik Spoelstra has great talent at the other spots. Wade is as healthy as ever. In case you didn't watch the Summer Olympics, he's no longer burdened by sore shoulders and knees. Shawn Marion returns to play small forward where he may rebound less often, but can still be a matchup problem. Michael Beasley got rave reviews in the summer league and looks ready to take on the power forward spot. That would leave Udonis Haslem looking for backup minutes, but he could also play center in a smaller lineup, as he did last year. That would have the benefit of keeping Marc Blount off the floor. Although he has a pretty skilled offensive repertoire, Blount offers very little defensively. Jamaal Magloire was brought in to shore up the paint, but he's not athletic enough to play an uptempo game. With Wade, Marion and Beasley, Spoelstra won't have to worry about offense at the center spot.
Point guard is another spot with some uncertainty. Another rookie who figures to get a legitimate shot at playing time is Mario Chalmers. Chalmers will compete with veterans Chris Quinn and Marcus Banks, neither of whom have extensive experience in running a team.
Off the bench, James Jones will provide Miami with it best 3-point threat, while Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook fight for minutes behind Wade, Marion and Jones.
Courtney Lee (22nd overall), Mickael Pietrus (GS), Anthony Johnson (SAC)
Carlos Arroyo (Israel), Maurice Evans (ATL), Keyon Dooling (NJ), James Augustine
The Magic return all the key components to last year's Southeast Division champs, while doing some minor tweaking on the fringes. At least four of five starters will be the same, with Jameer Neslon, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard expected on the court at tipoff. That leaves only shooting guard up for grabs with Mickael Pietrus and Keith Bogans fighting it out in training camp. Both can play defense, and that's what coach Stan Van Gundy is looking for from this spot. Whichever one loses the battle will become the sixth man.
Other than Nelson, the starters log a lot of minutes. Tony Battie may be healthy again, but there's only so much playing time he'll get behind Howard and Lewis. The same goes for Adonal Foyle. Pietrus can also play small forward, so look for his versatility to get him good minutes as a starter or bench player. Anthony Johnson bears watching as Nelson's backup. Nelson was yanked by Van Gundy on a few occasions for not being aggressive enough. Johnson is a capable NBA veteran who can still play 25 minutes a night. Courtney Lee, a shooting guard drafted out of Western Kentucky, was a phenomenal scorer in college, but scoring is not a needed skill to break into the rotation.
JaVale McGee (18th overall)
Roger Mason (SAN)
Needing to re-signing both Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards did not have the luxury of making a splash in the free agent market. The biggest change will be one of health. Gilbert Arenas (13 games) and Caron Butler (58 games) were limited by knee and hip injuries, respectively, but are expected to be healthy for 2008-09. With those two healthy and the Jamison back on board, the Wizards should be highly competitive in the East.
Those three will reprise their roles this season with DeShawn Stevenson expected to return as the starting two-guard, though we could see more action for Nick Young. As amazing as this may be, Brendan Haywood looks like he'll return to start at center. Etan Thomas (heart surgery) has been cleared to work out, but it's not known how serious of a threat he'll be coming back. The Wizards continue to love Andray Blatche and will try to give him opportunities to take Haywood's minutes, and Darius Songaila will find backup minutes in the frontcourt. The team likes Dominic McGuire, a long wing player who can pass the ball and defend, but finding him playing time will be hard for coach Eddie Jordan.
Their only draft pick, JaVale McGee, is a seven-footer who has to add bulk to his frame and needs time to develop his potential.
Chris Andersen (NOR), Dahntay Jones, Renaldo Balkman (NY), Sonny Weems (39th overall, via CHI)
Marcus Camby (LAC), Eduardo Najera (NJ), Yakhouba Diawara (MIA), Bobby Jones (MIA), Taurean Green
According to the most reputable trade rumors, the Nuggets were all set to give up on the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson experiment. They were all set to trade one or both of their superstar scorers in the hopes of achieving a more balanced roster.
Instead, they traded Marcus Camby for... uh, nothing.
Without their best defender, it seems the Nuggets are doubling-down on offense and hoping to win a lot of games 135-130 (which would be outstanding for fantasy players). Iverson, Anthony and J.R. Smith are gifted scorers, but this team seems exceptionally thin in the frontcourt and asking an awful lot from Kenyon Martin and Nene. It will be interesting to see if George Karl uses Anthony at the four spot – he was the starting power forward for Team USA – but in Beijing he had Dwight Howard to patrol the paint, which does make things a bit easier.
Kevin Love (5th overall, via MEM), Nikola Pekovic (31st), Mike Miller (MEM), Brian Cardinal (MEM), Jason Collins (MEM), Calvin Booth (PHI), Rodney Carney (PHI)
Marko Jaric (MEM), Antoine Walker (MEM)
Here's our theory – Kevin McHale was all set to suit up for his T-Wolves, thinking a Hall of Fame power forward would erase fan memories of Kevin Garnett. Then someone reminded him he's 51 years old, and that he'd be much better-off acquiring a skilled four who still has fully-functional knees.
The Love trade seems like a step in the right direction. In addition to getting the player he ultimately wanted, McHale was able to extract Miller – one of the league's best outside shooters – and unload Antoine Walker in the deal. Then he further strengthened his bench by adding Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future first-rounder from a Philadelphia team that needed to clear cap space for Elton Brand.
After the moves, Minnesota will have a rotation featuring Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair at the point, Rashad McCants, Miller and Carney on the wing, Love, Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith at forward, and Big Al Jefferson, backed by Booth, in the middle. That's probably not a rotation that makes the playoffs – not the Western Conference playoffs, anyway. But it should be comfortably out of the Western Conference cellar, and that's progress.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook (4th overall), Joe Smith (CLE), Desmond Mason (MIL), Serge Ibaka (24th), D.J. White (29th, via DET), Kyle Weaver (38th, via Charlotte), DeVon Hardin (50th)
Who's Going: Donyell Marshall (PHI)
There's a rumor going around that Oklahoma City management is deeply concerned about Thunder players spending too much time with co-eds from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Makes sense. Most of the roster is still college age – with five 2008 draft picks joining 2007 additions Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Maybe Joe Smith could be a professor.
Joking aside... while this team certainly won't be good, they should show improvement from last season. The addition of Westbrook – expected to get his feet wet at shooting guard before taking over at the point – should allow Kevin Durant to play his natural small forward position, which will improve the team at two spots. And Smith's veteran savvy and Mason's tough defense will be welcome additions off the bench.
Portland Trail Blazers
Rudy Fernandez (2007 draft pick), Jerryd Bayless (11th overall, via IND), Ike Diogu (IND), Nicolas Batum (25th overall), Luke Jackson
James Jones (MIA), Jarrett Jack (IND), Josh McRoberts (IND)
It's a good thing Portland coach Nate MacMillan got some experience juggling minutes between extremely deserving players as an assistant with Team USA in Beijing. That experience should prepare him well for the 2008-09 Blazers.
This team is loaded.
Already one of the most promising young squads in the NBA, the Blazers are adding Fernandez – the star of the Spanish Olympic team and an electric scorer, and Bayless – a scoring combo guard in the mold of Monta Ellis. Oh, and the first overall pick from the 2007 draft, Greg Oden, whose NBA debut was delayed a year by microfracture knee surgery.
In all seriousness, the biggest problem facing MacMillan will be finding enough minutes to keep all these talented players happy. Already, we're starting to hear rumblings that some players – most notably Travis Outlaw – are concerned about playing time distribution.
Kosta Koufos (23rd overall), Brevin Knight (LAC), Ante Tomic (44th), Tadija Dragicevic (53rd)
Jason Hart (LAC)
Coming off a 54-win season and Northwest Division title, the Jazz made only minor changes to their roster. They'll be led by Deron Williams – one of the young stars of the NBA – his Olympic teammate Carlos Boozer his and versatile frontcourt-mates, forward Andrei Kirilenko and center Mehmet Okur.
The biggest addition – and we mean that literally – is rookie center Kosta Koufos. Koufos has real NBA center size – 7-1, 252 – and an inside-outside offensive game that parallels that of incumbent starter Okur. But even the best rookies – like Williams – don't typically get much run on Jerry Sloan's team. Look for Koufos to be brought along slowly.
The only other addition of consequence is Brevin Knight – but backups to Dream Team point guards don't typically merit much attention.
Baron Davis (LAC), Matt Barnes (PHO), Patrick O'Bryant (BOS), Mickael Pietrus (ORL)
Something about the best laid plans...
Chris Mullin's blueprint for a post-Baron Davis Warrior roster got a bit muddled when Monta Ellis went down with an ankle injury of as-yet-unexplained origin. Ellis was supposed to transition to the point guard position, replacing Davis, who spurned the Warriors to sign with the Clippers. But Ellis' injury, which required surgery, will keep him on the shelf until December, at least. That means no training camp and very little practice time to get acclimated to the new position.
With Ellis out of the picture, the point guard role will likely fall to Marcus Williams, though Stephen Jackson may also play a significant role in initiating the offense, and newly acquired Corey Maggette, in all likelihood, becomes the primary scorer. When Ellis comes back, things get a bit more muddled – Ellis, Maggette and Jackson – as well as Kelenna Azubuike and Marco Belinelli – have similar skill-sets and are probably best suited to play the two or three.
There's a lot of duplication at power forward as well, where Al Harrington, second-year man Brandan Wright and draft picks Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix are all cut from very similar cloth. The closest to a sure thing on this roster may be center Andris Biedrins.
Los Angeles Clippers
Baron Davis (GS), Marcus Camby (DEN), Eric Gordon (7th overall), DeAndre Jordan (35th), Ricky Davis (MIA), Jason Williams (MIA), Brian Skinner (PHO), Jason Hart (UTA), Steve Novak (HOU), Mike Taylor (55th)
Elton Brand (PHI), Corey Maggette (GS), Brevin Knight (UTA), Josh Powell, Shaun Livingston (Waived)
The Clippers actually had one of the league's better drafts this year... though that's been obscured by what's happened since.
They netted scoring guard Eric Gordon with the seventh pick. Then, they nabbed center DeAndre Jordan – who at one point was considered a lottery prospect – in the second round. Combine those additions with the free-agent signing of Baron Davis, and things were looking good. Davis even agreed to a less-than-max deal, designed to allow the team to re-sign Elton Brand more comfortably.
Eh, not so much. Brand decided to head back to the East Coast, signing with Philly. Then the Warriors – with money freed up by Baron Davis' departure, signed Corey Maggette (who the Clippers were expecting to lose anyway). A potential trade for Zach Randolph didn't pan out – so Marcus Camby was acquired from Denver to replace Brand.
The Clippers also added some veteran depth, with swingman Ricky Davis, point guard Jason Williams and big man Brian Skinner.
The net? The Clippers lost their two best players in Brand and Maggette and replaced them with two injury-prone veterans in Davis and Camby. Even with a good draft, it's hard to like their moves.
Los Angeles Lakers
Joe Crawford (58th overall), Sun Yue (2007 draft pick)
Ronny Turiaf (GS)
The Lakers are one of several teams that made their biggest move at the trade deadline last year. Heading into 2008-09, the biggest addition they'll make is a healthy Andrew Bynum.
Bynum's was in the midst of a breakout season when a mid-January knee injury pushed him to the sideline for the rest of the year. It's sort of interesting – though ultimately pointless – to imagine how the season would have turned out if Bynum had been healthy. Would they still have made the Pau Gasol trade? Would they have needed it?
Various sources are reporting that Bynum will be back at 100 percent for the start of training camp.
Aside from Bynum's return, the Lakers seem to be standing pat. The only addition to the roster was second-round draft pick Joe Crawford, a scoring guard from Kentucky, and the only loss was Ronny Turiaf, who was a nice rotation player last season who won't really be needed if Bynum is healthy. But Lamar Odom's name continues to come up in a large number of trade rumors, and with good reason. Odom's best position, at this point in his career, is power forward. But if Bynum is healthy, Pau Gasol will play the four spot, which pushes Odom to either the three or the bench.
Robin Lopez (15th overall), Matt Barnes (GS), Goran Dragic (45th overall, via TOR), Louis Amundson (PHI), Sean Singletary (HOU)
Brian Skinner (LAC), Gordan Giricek (Turkey), Sean Marks (NOR), D.J. Strawberry (HOU)
The biggest change in Phoenix is philosophical. The roster is secondary.
The transformation began at the trade deadline last year, when the Suns sent athletic combo forward Shawn Marion to Miami in return for Shaquille O'Neal. Marion was reportedly unhappy in Phoenix and had become a disruptive influence, but that was just one reason for the trade. The other was general manager Steve Kerr's desire to become a more half-court oriented team with a stronger defense.
The second part of that transformation took hold over the summer, as Mike D'Antoni left Phoenix to take the head coaching job with the Knicks. He's been replaced by Terry Porter, the ex-Bucks coach and Detroit assistant, who is expected to keep at least some of D'Antoni's powerful offense in place while improving the team on the defensive end.
Phoenix's roster moves are minor in comparison – Robin Lopez replaces Brian Skinner as Shaq's backup and veteran Matt Barnes provides Grant Hill insurance. The Suns seem very high on point guard Goran Dragic, whom they hope to groom as Steve Nash's eventual replacement, but most scouting reports are far less complimentary.
Jason Thompson (12th overall), Bobby Jackson (HOU), Donte Greene (28th overall, via HOU), Bobby Brown
Ron Artest (HOU), Anthony Johnson (ORL)
With their last two big trades, the Kings's transition from faded contender to up-and-comer is nearly complete. The first was at the deadline in February, with Mike Bibby sent to Atlanta for Shelden Williams. The second came this summer, with Ron Artest going to Houston for popular ex-King Bobby Jackson.
Kevin Martin is unquestionably the leader of the team now – and you couldn't ask for a better leader-by-example, as Martin is one of the hardest-working players in today's NBA. The Bibby and Artest deals free up starting spots for Beno Udrih – who thrived in the starting role last season – and one of the Kings' talented wing players – either John Salmons or Francisco Garcia.
Brad Miller will sit out the first five games of the 2008-09 season after failing a league drug test – this may open a window of opportunity for second-year center Spencer Hawes. At power forward players like Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas have been big disappointments over the last few seasons. This year, 12th-overall pick Jason Thompson – a versatile scorer with power forward size and guard skills, and bulky Shelden Williams should solidify the position.
Shan Foster (51st overall), DeSagana Diop (NJ), Gerald Green, James Singleton, Keith McLeod
Malik Allen (MIL), Tyronn Lue (MIL), Jamaal Magloire (MIA)
As with the Suns and Lakers, the Mavericks had their roster shakeup at the trade deadline. This summer, the shakeup is on the bench, as Rick Carlisle takes over for Avery Johnson.
Carlisle is an interesting choice for this team. He's got a great reputation, having built up the Pistons to the precipice of their most recent championship before giving way to Larry Brown, then taking the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals before off-court issues and the brawl at Auburn Hills disrupted his run.
On the other hand, he has the reputation of being a defense-first task master, who has rubbed some of his guards the wrong way by calling specific plays on every trip down the floor – not necessarily traits one would look for in a coach assigned to Jason Kidd.
Carlisle's challenge will be in blending the talents of his best players – Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki – who are excellent on offense but can be liabilities on D – with role-players like Brandon Bass, DeSagana Diop, Erick Dampier and Antoine Wright – all of whom have the ability to be excellent defenders. The offense – which struggled after last season's big trade – will probably take care of itself, once Kidd, Nowitzki and Josh Howard have a full preseason to get on the same page.
The Mavs also signed Gerald Green – an intriguing "project." In 2005, Green was the 18th overall pick out of high school and showed promise in limited run. But his level of play dropped like a stone after he was included in the Kevin Garnett trade, to the point where the T-Wolves waived him. If Carlisle can get him to play at a level even approaching his potential, he'll earn every dime Mark Cuban is paying.
Ron Artest (SAC), Brent Barry, Joey Dorsey (33rd overall, via POR), Maarty Leunen (54th overall), D.J. Strawberry (PHO)
Bobby Jackson (SAC), Steve Novak (LAC)
The Ron Artest trade is the NBA equivalent of going "all in."
The Rockets could easily have stood pat, rested on the afterglow of their 22-game winning streak and hoped a healthy Yao Ming would help them get past the Spurs and Lakers. Instead, they're taking a calculated risk by adding Artest – a player with the capacity to put the Rockets over the top – or to ruin their championship hopes.
Let's face it... Tracy McGrady is old for his age, and Yao has suffered significant injuries in each of the last three seasons, topping out at 57 games played in that stretch. Look at it that way, and their window of opportunity to win a title seems pretty narrow.
Which is why the Artest trade makes a lot of sense.
Artest gives the Rockets a tougher edge. He also gives them a Kobe-stopper – something Boston used to great effect in the Finals. And he increases the team's chances of playing through yet another injury to McGrady or Yao.
Will he behave? Impossible to say. But he's playing for his next – and probably his last big NBA deal, and he's playing for a coach – Rick Adelman – he reportedly adores. There's an element of chance... but the odds seem to favor the Rockets.
Don't underestimate the acquisition of Brent Barry, who will provide scoring off the bench – and who, by virtue of this signing, won't be hitting key threes for the Spurs this year.
O.J. Mayo (3rd overall, via MIN), Darrell Arthur (27th overall, via NOR), Marko Jaric (MIN), Antoine Walker (MIN), Marc Gasol (Europe), Hamed Haddadi (Iran)
Kwame Brown (DET), Juan-Carlos Navarro (Spain), Mike Miller (MIN), Brian Cardinal (MIN), Jason Collins (MIN)
After last season's Pau Gasol giveaway, we're hesitant to compliment the Grizzlies on any roster moves. But that's getting harder, given their offseason.
Memphis initially drafted UCLA forward/center Kevin Love with the fifth overall pick. Several hours later, general manager Chris Wallace packaged Love, sharpshooter Mike Miller and some other bits and pieces in a deal that brought back big guard O.J. Mayo. He also acquired the 29th overall selection, Kansas forward Darrell Arthur – who was considered a late-lottery talent, but slipped badly due to stories – later exposed as false – of a kidney problem.
That leaves Memphis with a potential rotation of promising point guards Mike Conley Jr., Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton, Mayo and Marko Jaric at the two, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Arthur and Antoine Walker at the forwards and Marc Gasol – Pau's younger brother, who showed pretty good potential during the Beijing Olympics – Darko Milicic and Hamed Haddadi to man the middle. And Wallace might not be done – with a surplus at point guard and the expiring contract of Walker on hand, there are still deals to be made. At press time, there were strong rumors that Milicic and Jaric would be headed to the Knicks in return for Zach Randolph.
New Orleans Hornets
James Posey (BOS), Devin Brown (CLE), Sean Marks (PHO)
Chris Andersen (DEN), Jannero Pargo (Europe)
The Hornets are mostly standing pat – which makes sense, after a season in which they emerged as one of the top contenders in the West. Their only major loss is Jannero Pargo, who was a key sub but is hardly irreplaceable. Mike James is capable of stepping in as Chris Paul's backup – not that Chris Paul's backup gets a whole lot of run.
The only other loss was "the Birdman," Chris Andersen, who played in just five games for the Hornets after returning from a year-long drug suspension.
New Orleans' big addition is James Posey, the swingman and defensive stopper last seen hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy with the champion Boston Celtics. We're expecting him to serve as the Hornets' top forward sub, getting around 25 minutes per night behind West and Peja Stojakovic – and more when needed as a Kobe-stopper. (Manu-stopper, etc.)
San Antonio Spurs
Roger Mason (WAS), George Hill (26th overall), Malik Hairston (48th overall, via HOU), Anthony Tolliver
Brent Barry (HOU)
We're the last ones to criticize the Spurs for any roster move – Gregg Popovic and R.C. Buford have more than earned that right. But we can't help but wonder what they're up to.
On draft night, they called the name of George Hill and sent ESPN's reporters scurrying for their media guides. The obscure Hill, who played his college ball for IUPUI is a combo guard who, in theory, could back up Tony Parker and get minutes at the two. But their moves in free agency – signing point guard Roger Mason, a run at Jannero Pargo – seem to indicate they don't think that Hill is the backup guard solution – not yet, anyway.
Mason could be a nice acquisition – though he was the Wizards' third-stringer at the point, he filled in very capably when both Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels were injured.
In the second round, the Spurs added Malik Hairston, a prolific wing scorer at Oregon, and James Gist, a springy shot-blocking forward from Maryland. Hairston could help the team if he develops. Gist signed with an Italian team, but the Spurs still retain his rights.
Robert Horry and Damon Stoudamire are free agents and may or may not be back in San Antonio this fall.
Article first appeared on 9/10/08