Where do we go from here?: A look ahead to 2011-2012 season(whenever that starts)
As we enter a basketball recession with the impending lockout, here is my take on what all 16 playoff teams from this season can do to improve their own basketball economies:
1. Chicago- The 4-1 loss in ECF to Miami exposed the Bulls’ lack of firepower . You’ll hear the names Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford thrown around as solutions to the two-guard problem but neither pushes the Bulls past Miami. Bulls’ management has a tough task because the top of their roster isn’t nor will ever be better than the top of Heat’s roster without a major change even if Boozer has a healthy year (which is no guarantee). Can GarPax stomach parting with Noah and Deng for a big-time addition? Was Carlos Boozer’s disappointing 2nd half of season due to injury or is he basketball Alfonso Soriano? Tweaking this roster only keeps you behind the Heat and with the ECF being the new expectation, that’s not good enough. There is nothing to say D-Rose won’t continue to grow but who grows with him? Remember Deng and Boozer will enter years 8 and 11 respectively.
2. Miami- The Kings of the East will only need to add depth at the PF and C spot this offseason. Mario Chalmers becomes the new Derek Fisher at point guard and Joel Anthony is a capable starting center along with the big 3. A healthy Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller for a full season greatly help the bench. Miami should sweep the corpses of Ilgauskas, Dampier, Howard, and Magloire out the door to make room for a young big man such as……….GREG ODEN. Yes, he is injury-prone and won’t be what he should have but he is 24 years old, low-risk, and low-cost. If you are the Heat, why not? He is a chance you can afford to take. The biggest change has to come in the mentality and attitude of James and Bosh, both will enter year 9 despite relatively young ages. They had a year to get it together, next year the pressure will be even greater to get it done.
3. Boston Celtics- Their Big 3 have a two-year max shelf life, add the retirement of Shaq and the impending falling off of Jermaine Oneal’s legs and the Celtics have to begin the overhaul of their roster. Athleticism , quickness on the wings wouldn’t hurt either especially with Ray Allen in the twilight. J.R Smith wouldn’t be a bad look here. A mercurial personality but an explosive scorer could be handled by Doc and the vets. Less combustible options include Shane Battier, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker.
4. Orlando Magic- Summer 2010 meets Summer 2012 as the looming summer of Dwight is upon us. GM Otis Smith gambled and lost when he gutted his roster in January and left the Magic undersized and shorthanded. The D12 story is of course the main subject but unlike Cleveland, Orlando can be a destination spot (no state tax, beautiful weather, new arena). Saddled with two albatrosses in Turkoglu and Arenas, Smith will have to be creative to acquire another star (CHRIS PAUL?) to keep Howard happy. If not, let the countdown begin to Dwight’s exit.
5. Atlanta Hawks- Despite Larry Drew’s much improved coaching job, the Hawks remain a huge disappointment. Joe Johnson’s huge contract will make him tough to move without taking back a bad deal in return. Jeff Teague is your point guard of the future and Al Horford (if moved to PF) will be a mainstay. What to do with J-Smoove is the Hawks biggest question? Multidimensional but frustrating, he represents a potentially huge gain for the coach who can harness him and Drew isn’t that guy. A change of scenery is probably best but where to?
6. New York Knicks- The acquisition of Melo was made for years down the road so the playoff sweep by Celtics didn’t sting as much. Now, where to go from here? Bringing back Billups allows knicks cap flexibility for Summer 2012 to lure Chris Paul or Deron Williams to the Garden. In the meantime, Knicks have to draft and sign size to pair with Amare. The interesting name here is DAVID WEST. Assuming D’Antonini stays, West gives you a perfect step out 4 for his system. Other possible name is Kris Kardashian, I mean Kris Humphries. (note if Isiah returns, cancel everything I said)
7. Philadelphia- Doug Collins was a COY candidate for most of the year and maxed out the Sixers ability. The challenge now is Can Doug avoid burning out himself and players in year two as he is prone to do? The other challenge is the Sixers offense which was pedestrian despite the development of Jrue Holiday and the resurgence of Elton Brand. Evan Turner looked more like a no. 2 pick toward end of the season but Philly needs more juice. With a nucleus of Turner-Young-Holliday, Andre Iguadola becomes the expendable piece. Deals for Chris Kamen and Monta Ellis will be talked about leading to draft day. Ellis providing much needed juice and Kamen providing true low post scoring and ability to move Brand to the 4.
8. Indiana- The Pacers played well under Frank Vogel and earned an 8th seed. Despite being competitive with the Bulls, they were dumped in 5. Collison, George, and Hansbrough make up the nucleus. For the Pacers to push forward to compete with New York and Orlando, Roy Hibbert has to become more than serviceable. The decision is what to do with Danny Granger. Granger is the small forward equivalent of Chris Bosh with Raptors (great numbers, bad team) Granger has more value to another team than you and Pacers should be very open to moving him.