NBA AM: Teams Ready To Make Playoff Leap
With the draft in the rearview mirror and the free agency market starting to dry up, the offseason is rapidly coming to a close. Training camps will open in less than two months and the talk will start to shift back toward the play on the court.
With every offseason some teams rise in the standings while others take steps back. Here is a list of franchises that have put themselves back into the playoff picture after their roster moves this summer. The can is can they get it done.
Last Season: 26-40
2012 Western Conference Rank: Twelfth. Finished 10 games behind the eighth seeded Utah Jazz
Key Additions: Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham
Key Losses: Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington
Last Playoff Appearance: 2004
T’Wolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, who is playing with Team USA in the 2012 Olympics, laid down the gauntlet to management earlier this summer. The message, Love was losing patience with the losing and wanted Minnesota’s front office to strengthen the team’s roster.
Message heard loud and clear.
The T’Wolves signed former All-Star guard Brandon Roy who is making a comeback after brief retirement due to chronic knee problems. The club also signed former All-Defensive team standout Andrei Kirilenko and traded for small forward Chase Budinger who will add three-point shooting.
Minnesota was in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase late into last season until they lost rookie guard Ricky Rubio for the rest of the year to a knee injury. On paper the T’Wolves head into this season much stronger but if the team is looking to end an eight year playoff drought the health of Rubio and the new additions must mesh quickly.
Golden State Warriors
Last Season: 23-43
2012 Western Conference Rank: Thirteenth. Finished 13 games behind the eighth seeded Utah Jazz
Key Additions: Harrison Barnes, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack and Festus Ezeli
Key Losses: Dorell Wright and Nate Robinson
Last Playoff Appearance: 2007
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson entered the 2012 campaign talking confidently about a playoff run, but was quickly humbled. However, Golden State is in good shape heading into training camp bringing in two veterans who add immediate depth.
Carl Landry signed a two-year deal with the team and will likely serve as the club’s sixth man behind power forward David Lee in the frontcourt. The acquisition of veteran guard Jarrett Jack serves as extra insurance in the event emerging guard Stephen Curry continues to struggle with lingering ankle issues.
Rookie forward Harrison Barnes may not have overwhelmed scouts during his time at the University of North Carolina, but the situation in Golden State is one where he can settle into a groove as pro with minimal pressure.
Second year shooting guard Klay Thompson is promising and the team will feature a healthy Andrew Bogut at center. There’s no reason why Golden State shouldn’t be in the race for a playoff spot in 2013.
Last Season: 33-33
2012 Western Conference Rank: Tenth. Finished 3 games behind the eighth seeded Utah Jazz
Key Additions: Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic
Key Losses: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Robin Lopez
Last Playoff Appearance: 2010
Strange as it may sound, the Phoenix Suns may be more playoff ready this season than they were the past two years with former two-time MVP Steve Nash running the show.
Point guard Goran Dragic was one of the league’s surprises in 2012, averaging 16.3 points and 7.3 assists after the All-Star break for the Houston Rockets. The Suns signed Dragic to a four-year $30 million deal this summer, so it’s his show now.
Veteran forward Luis Scola is still very productive despite some signs of age related slippage. The team also signed former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley to a three-year $18 million deal this summer. Phoenix is hoping the latest change of scenery for Beasley will capitalize on his untapped potential.
Forward Wesley Johnson was a lottery pick two years ago. He could be a candidate to emerge as a solid reserve in Phoenix playing his natural small forward spot. Johnson was used out of position at shooting guard in most of his stint with Minnesota.
Last Season: 22-44
2012 Eastern Conference Rank: Twelfth. Finished 13 games behind the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic
Key Losses: Jordan Farmar, Gerald Green, DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow
Last Playoff Appearance: 2007
Perhaps the biggest win for the Brooklyn Nets this summer was getting All-Star guard Deron Williams’ autograph on a long term contract. Williams’ commitment probably wouldn’t have been sealed without the trade for six-time All-Star Joe Johnson. In Atlanta, Johnson was maligned for his massive contract but in Brooklyn he’ll have less pressure as the second option behind Williams.
C.J. Watson proved to be a valuable backup point guard during his time with the Chicago Bulls and he will fit a similar role behind Williams in Brooklyn.
The team also re-signed center Brook Lopez and power forward Kris Humphries.
Barring injuries, Brooklyn will snap the franchise’s five year playoff drought in 2013.
What do you think? Leave your comments below ….
Orlando Magic Sign Rookie Kyle O’Quinn
The Orlando Magic have announced the signing of second round pick Kyle O’Quinn, a center from Norfolk State University. O’Quinn thrust himself onto the national scene in this year’s NCAA Tournament by scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in fifteenth seeded Norfolk State’s surprise upset over the second seeded Missouri Tigers.
O’Quinn, who was drafted by the Magic with the No. 49 overall pick of this year’s draft, also had a strong summer league showing in Orlando.
The deal is reportedly for three-years at $2.5 million. The first year is expected to be fully guaranteed.
“It’s pretty emotional,” O’Quinn told Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s kind of like the final stage to all the work you’ve put in. It’s another big day.”
O’Quinn’s agent, Alberto Ebanks, echoed the player’s excitement;
“You want to see good things happen to people who work really hard and are good people,” Ebanks said. “This man has worked so hard. He worked out for 18 different NBA teams. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. He has, in my opinion, gone pro like a pro.”
With the ongoing drama surrounding the future of All-Star center Dwight Howard in Orlando, O’Quinn may get to see more playing time than what’s usually allotted for a second round pick in his rookie season.
O’Quinn said he spoke with Magic new head coach Jacque Vaughn and said the two are on the same page in regards to expectations for the upcoming season.
“He’s a pretty straight-up guy,” O’Quinn said of Vaughn. “I have a good image in my head of what’s expected, and I want to do that, plus more, hopefully.”
Up Close with Willie Cauley
The Kentucky Wildcats took home the national championship last season with a cast of talented underclassmen. But success at the collegiate level typically means massive turnover from a talent standpoint. Gone are Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who are taking their games to the NBA, and in comes another talented, much heralded recruiting class.
One of those incoming freshmen is 6’10 center Willie Cauley who played prep basketball at Olathe Northwest High School in Kansas. Cauley was consistently ranked in the top 40 of ESPNs Top 100 during his senior season in high school.
Cauley, who was a 1,000 yard wide receiver in football, is still developing offensively but is oozing with potential.
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis caught up with Cauley recently at the Adidas Nations event in California. Cauley spoke about the pressure of playing at Kentucky, his NBA dreams and his expectations for his first season with the Wildcats. Check out the exclusive interview below:
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