Thursday, July 27, 2006

A GM's dilemma

Why are NBA GMs so stubborn when it comes to dealing superstars?

Look, I’m fine with building around one guy. But after 10 years with that plan, and zero rings to show for it, why not move said star while there is still value so you can rebuild the core nucleus of your roster.

To me, it’s becoming more and more apparent in the NBA that championship caliber teams have deep units, with key contributing pieces that can spark a victory on any given night. I don’t think there’s any question that the last three title winners (Detroit, San Antonio, and Miami) all fit the description here.

But apparently Kevin McHale and Billy King see the league differently, or they’re just so afraid of making the wrong move that they continue to kill their franchises in the process.

There is no way King and the Sixers can look at their roster and say they have a fighting chance with Iverson back. It’s just not there.

So why not rebuild by moving him? If Boston was serious and willing to package Szczerbiak and young talent like Al Jefferson and Gerald Green, why not roll the dice? The Sixers get two young guys that hopefully develop and become the core of your franchise, and had they done it by draft day, they probably could have had Randy Foye, who appears to be a star in the making and would have helped box office coming out of Villanova.

Instead, it’s the same old Sixers roster that continually disappoints and finishes either just out of the 8th spot or bounced in the first round. Philly fans deserve more than this, and as much as they love Iverson, even they realize it’s in everyone’s best interest to move him.

Up in the Twin Cities, the Timberwolves continue to tread water around Kevin Garnett. It is crystal clear at this point that he can’t do it himself. They tried to surround him with Ricky Davis and that hasn’t worked. Now, it’s Mike James and Randy Foye who are supposed to help. But they won’t.

That’s why McHale should have moved Garnett to the Bulls before the draft. He could have taken either Tyrus Thomas or LaMarcus Aldridge with the #2 overall pick. He probably could have had Ben Gordon or Luol Deng along with Tyson Chandler to join Foye, James and Davis. I think the Bulls would have jumped at the deal, since pairing Ben Wallace with Kevin Garnett makes them legitimate title contenders. Does that make Minnesota good? No. Does it give them a direction and some pieces to make future moves with? Yes.

We’ll see where Philadelphia and Minnesota go from here. It’s possible King and McHale will move their stars at some point during the year. But they owe it to their fan bases to give them a sense of hope, and right now, their stubbornness in regards to their stars is hurting their respective franchises’ long term future.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Lakers 2006-07: A big step forward

What do you get when you put Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, a Hall of Fame head coach with horrible facial hair, a bunch of unproven talent, and a complicated offense together for the first time? 45 wins and the 7-seed in the West.

What happens when you keep Kobe and Lamar together, bring back said coach for a second year of tutoring, add a legit third scoring option with a nice shooting stroke, and maintain a young core of unproven talent who now know their roles and how to play in the complicated offensive system?

The answer will come this season, but I'm thinking more wins.

The Lakers played the first half of the season without much confidence in what they were doing. Their offense devolved into watching Kobe do his thing on many nights. But, when they ran the triangle well, they were tough to beat.

Now, heading in to year two with Phil, they get it. Odom knows what he's doing and looked fantastic down the stretch. Kwame Brown will be asked to rebound and play defense, and he looked fine doing that until the end of the Phoenix series.

With the addition of Vladamir Radmanovic, the Lakers have a player who can knock down an open look. They asked Brian Cook, Sasha Vujacic and Smush Parker to fill this role last year, and it didn't work.

The Lakers' youth caught up with them against Phoenix, but it's that same youth that has me optimistic about their chances this season.

Sasha Vujacic is a competant defender, and he showed signs of being able to hit open shots. Should he improve upon that this season, he could see major minutes in the backcourt.

Ronny Turiaf looks like a big time energy guy for this club. His rebounding was key in the second half last year, and since he's healthy and raring to go for the entire season, he's going to be a spark off the bench this fall.

Andrew Bynum is still growing, both literally and in a basketball sense. He's shown some signs of getting it, and his development could allow the team to dangle Chris Mihm as trade bait should they need it.

Luke Walton played huge in the Phoenix series. He clearly understands his role in the offense, and now he needs to step up his game defensively and cut down on turnovers to be a major player on the squad.

The big question mark comes at point guard. Smush Parker was completely exposed in the playoffs. Can he bounce back? He was a nice surprise during the regular season, but his contract runs through this season, so it's make or break time for him.

The Lakers drafted UCLA's Jordan Farmar with their first round pick in this year's draft. Indications from Summer League play are that Farmar is picking up the offense quickly, and he has a good sense for what he's doing on the floor. Can he contribute right away?

The Lakers remain one of the younger teams in the league, but they are set up to be a dangerous team if their young talent takes the next step in development. With a starting five of Kobe, Odom, Radmanovic, Mihm and Parker, the Lakers will be able to score some points. The main questions are whether they'll make a commitment to the defensive end of the floor and what kind of contributions Turiaf, Bynum, Brown, Vujacic, Walton, Mo Evans (who they obtained from Detroit for a 2nd round pick) and Farmar make off the bench?

There are a lot of questions in the West this year. Is San Antonio starting to show their age? Can Amare come back at the same level? Are the Clippers for real? Can T-Mac stay healthy?

The Lakers find themselves with a question of their own.

They appear to be set for the next couple of years, assuming the talent around Bryant and Odom take the next step. Phil Jackson will have a chance to prove his worth as a teacher again this season. Can they take the next step and make themselves contenders?

I say yes, and I see 50 wins and a return trip to the postseason in their future.

Then the questions will begin anew.

Wade, LeBron and Bosh: The East is good

Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are staying in the Eastern Conference for at least the next three years.

Good news for the NBA.

After the balance of power was clearly leaning West in recent years, the East has won two of the last three titles and now appears to have the league's top young talent.

LeBron and D-Wade look set to wage some epic battles in the Eastern Finals for years to come, and following the moves Bryan Colangelo has made in his first summer on the job as Toronto GM, the Raptors may have something brewing north of the border (not now, but soon...Bosh is that good).

Also, in Orlando, a very quiet young stud is developing a monster game. He is Dwight Howard, and he is coming faster than you think.

Beware of the East. There is some scary young talent locked into some pretty good franchises.

The balance of power may have shifted for good.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


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