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HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Posted By Kyle Cape-Lindelin On July 21, 2013 @ 5:00 am In NBA | No Comments
Millsap Better for Hawks Than Smith
By Joel Brigham
So the Atlanta Hawks didn’t end up with Dwight Howard or Chris Paul this summer, even though they famously told prospective ticket buyers that they had every intention of landing one or both of them, and while that would’ve ushered in a potentially new championship era of basketball for a team that hasn’t even made the Finals since 1961, the fact is that Danny Ferry struck out on both of the league’s top free agents this summer.
That could have been the end of it, and Atlanta could have just settled for signing Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings or some other former Milwaukee Buck that would’ve done nothing for the betterment of the franchise. However, that’s not what happened, as the Hawks ended up with one of the better bargains of free agency in snagging Paul Millsap on a two-year, $19 million contract.
Oklahoma City’s James Harden Replacement Plan
By Bill Ingram
When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets last summer, pundits were somewhat split on which team got the better end of the deal. Once the season started, however, pundits jumped off the fence on the side of the Rockets. Harden turned into a superstar overnight, and is now expected to lead the Rockets back to contention with new teammate Dwight Howard. The Thunder, of course, lost All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to injury in the first round of the playoffs and were then ejected from the proceedings in the second round, and Kevin Martin left Oklahoma City to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So what’s next for the Thunder?
While fans and analysts alike await a big trade or free agency signing that puts the Thunder back in contention, Thunder GM Sam Presti continues to hold the line on the methods and practices that have gotten his team to where they are among the NBA’s elite.
Pelicans Facing Higher Expectations
By Lang Greene
The New Orleans Pelicans will enter the 2013-14 campaign with higher expectations than the franchise’s first two seasons after the Chris Paul era ended. The Pelicans will enter next season with a new name, logo and now will also have higher expectations from its fan base to flirt with its first playoff bid since 2011.
Pelicans head coach Monty Williams acknowledged the higher expectations but also believes the team has much larger goals for themselves as a collective outside of what anyone else is thinking.
“We have higher expectations for ourselves than anyone else can have for us,” Williams told HOOPSWORLD at summer league (Las Vegas). “So we don’t pay much attention to that stuff. We’ll evaluate where we are by December and then we’ll understand what kind of team we have but as of right now we’ve got to put it together.”
The Pelicans have had a very big offseason up until this point.
Thompson Excited About Iguodala, Warriors
By Eric Pincus
The Golden State Warriors made the leap from lottery team to playoff upstart last season. Now, after an aggressive offseason in which the franchise acquired Andre Iguodala, the Warriors may be able to make another jump.
“We’ve already got great shooters, so Andre brings everything else we don’t do well,” said Klay Thompson over the weekend at Steve Nash’s soccer Showdown for charity. “He’s one of the best defenders in the NBA. He’s a great passer and a great ball handler. It should make us that much better of a team — any time you add an All-Star.”
Iguodala was an All-Star in 2012, his final season with the Philadelphia 76ers before joining the Denver Nuggets last summer as part of the four-team Dwight Howard blockbuster trade.
Last week, the Warriors gave up four draft picks (including two first-rounders) both to acquire Iguodala and dump the contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson.
The team also added Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas to replace the departed Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Veteran Jermaine O’Neal is expected to sign on as well.
How to Avoid the NBA’s Purgatory
By Nate Duncan
In recent years, the principle that the NBA’s “middle” is the worst place to be has increasingly become gospel in league circles. The thinking is that rather than residing in the bottom half of the playoff bracket or the top half of the lottery, it is better to simply bottom out and get higher draft picks. However, the ascension of the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets from the dreaded middle to contender status in the past year may require a reevaluation of this supposed truism.
For the Pacers, one of the keys was their superior draft record. The Pacers drafted starters Danny Granger, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson despite never picking higher than 10th in the draft. The Rockets found a few second-round gems, like Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons, but also made a series of smart trades that eventually netted them the draft picks and young talent that enabled them to get James Harden by trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden and the rest of the team’s young talent gave the team a bright future that eventually begat the signing of Dwight Howard.
Try as they might, not every team can emulate the draft success of the Pacers or Morey’s trading acumen. But, there is another simple lesson to be learned from the success of the Pacers and the Rockets: It is okay to be mediocre, as long as it does not entail locking up a mediocre core. Both teams were competitive while maintaining flexibility. After the Pacers’ 38-44 season in 2010-11, they avoided the mistake of re-signing free agent rotation players like Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts. Taking advantage of the fact that Granger was the only long-term non-rookie contract on the roster, they were able to use cap room to sign power forward David West from the erstwhile New Orleans Hornets. Even that was only a two-year deal, minimizing the risk had West failed to recover from his ACL injury. The Pacers could have had ample cap room again this summer had they decided against re-signing West.
The NBA’s Small Market Graveyard
By Travis Heath
A little over a week ago, all of the focus in the NBA was on Dwight Howard. He was yet another big name free agent choosing between a few select large-market suitors.
Portland? Don’t bother inquiring.
Utah? You’re cute, but no.
Denver? I’ll make my decision just west of you, but who could live in a dusty ole’ cow town full-time?
Sacramento? How close are you to San Francisco again?
The NBA has a major problem. Even someone who has loved the league all of his life, covered it and worked in it can see it plain as day. Small-market teams have no chance for sustained success. The NBA model is broken.
The Knicks Are All In Until 2015
By Steve Kyler
While the race to have cap space in 2014 has already begun in earnest for the L.A. Lakers, the New York Knicks are quietly setting the table for 2015.
The Knicks currently have just $18.223 million in salary on their books for 2015-2016, which includes Player Options on J.R. Smith ($6.399 million) and Raymond Felton ($3.695 million), Qualifying Offers for Iman Shumpert ($3.695 million) and rookie CJ Leslie ($1.147 million) and a non-guaranteed year on Pablo Prigioni.
All of the Knicks’ major contracts expire in 2015-16 leaving the Knicks with what could be the most available cap space in the NBA.
Sources close to the situation say the Knicks will continue to be aggressive in adding players, but are mindful of their cap position in 2015 and are unwilling to do anything that would impede their ability to be big-time players in the summer of 2015.
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