As you may recall, last offseason I went through each NBA team, listed their rosters and coming draft picks, and made some predictions about what they might try to do during the draft.

Looking back at the results, I really didn’t do too well.  So naturally I’m going to try again!  Frankly, the draft this year has even more wildcards than last year’s, so looking at the draft will probably be an even total-er crapshoot.  Also keep in mind that I’m doing these previews before the NBA Draft Lottery on May 19th, so some draft positions are not set.  Additionally, the Early Entry Deadline for NCAA underclassmen and eligible international players isn’t until April 26th (much less the withdrawal date of June 15th) so I can’t exactly predict which players will be available in the draft.

But never fear, because there will be even more insight this year to supplement the spotty draft predictions.  I’ll be going through salary cap information as well (something I considered last year) to allow a fuller look at a team’s ability to make offseason moves, (especially as regards signing free agents).  While the salary cap and luxury tax for 2009-2010 have not yet been set, the NBA has already released a memo to its teams suggesting that a drop in revenues this year will probably result in a drop in the salary cap and luxury tax levels.  Current guesses are that the salary cap will be set near $57.3M and that the luxury tax will be set near $70M.

Finally, remember that I’ll be using my alternative positional definitions.  Since there really is a large amount of overlap between the PF and C positions, I will group these together as “posts” (Edit: changed from “bigs” as I realize “posts” is the better term).  Similarly, the traditional SF and SG positions will be lumped together as “wings”.  PGs and some SGs (small SGs that can’t really qualify as wings, e.g. Eddie House) will be classified as “guards”, though I will take into account the fact that some guards aren’t primary ballhandlers.

And that is that.  While in the background the Rockets hold a 25-point lead on the Blazers in the Rose Garden on the first night of the playoffs, let’s concentrate on the foreground of the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics

Players under contract (years, t = team option, p = player option) and Restricted Free Agents:

Posts(3): Kevin Garnett (3), Kendrick Perkins (2), Brian Scalabrine (1)
Wings(5): Paul Pierce (1+1p), Ray Allen (1), Tony Allen (1), J.R. Giddens (1+2t), Bill Walker (1)
Guards(2+1p): Rajon Rondo (1+RFA), Gabe Pruitt (1), Eddie House (1p)

Total players under contract next year: 10 + 1 Player Option

Major Free Agents: Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Leon Powe, Mikki Moore, Stephon Marbury

2009 Cap Situation: $71-74M, over luxury tax

2009 Draft Picks: Second round: #58

The Celtics played this season with a team essentially identical to last season’s squad.  Like last year they have no cap room, and because they owe their first round pick to Minnesota, they have nearly no shot to add a meaningful player via the draft.  With Ray Allen’s contract coming up, Paul Pierce’s ETO, and Rajon Rondo’s restricted free agency all coming together in the summer of 2010, next year should be the last real opportunity for this Celtics squad (after a championship in 2008 and a current playoff appearance).

Unfortunately for the Celtics, something is seriously wrong with Garnett’s knee, whatever they are saying publicly.  Garnett is a warrior, and this is one of his last two shots at a championship.  The fact that he is out for the entire playoffs speaks volumes – the knee isn’t just sore, or he would be playing.  The knee is in serious trouble.  If Garnett, with three years and $46.5M left on his contract, is unable to come back at full speed, this Celtics team is done.  As in: Fork, put.  If they have to carry that much dead money, they’ll be the ’06-’07 Celtics before you know it.

But first, they need to worry about filling out a roster for ’09-’10.  They’ve only got 10 players guaranteed to return, but I don’t see Eddie House turning away almost $3M for next year, especially in what looks to be a very down FA market.  On top of Eddie, they’ll probably want to sign two posts and another guard, and they can’t really count on their #58 pick to even crack the squad.  Davis and Powe are reasonable targets for splitting an MLE, but both are in line at least for raises, but the Celtics won’t want to spend too much as they’re already in the dollar-for-dollar tax.  If the Celtics can bring both back, expect them to sign a veteran point guard (and not Stephon) to a minimum contract and call it an offseason.  The Celtics should look a lot like they did this year once again – the question is which Garnett will they get?

New Jersey Nets

Players under contract (years, t = team option, p = player option) and Restricted Free Agents:

Posts(6): Brook Lopez (1+2t), Ryan Anderson (1+2t), Yi Jianlian (1+1t), Sean Williams (1+1t), Josh Boone (1+RFA), Eduardo Najera (1)
Wings(3+1p+1t): Vince Carter (2), Chris Douglas-Roberts (1+1t), Bobby Simmons (1), Trenton Hassell (1p), Jarvis Hayes (1t)
Guards(2): Devin Harris (4), Keyon Dooling (1)

Total players under contract next year: 11 + 1 Player Option + 1 Team Option

Major Free Agents: Stromile Swift, Maurice Ager

2009 Cap Situation: $55-62M, near or over cap.

2009 Draft Picks: First round: #11

The first thing that stands out about the New Jersey roster is how many posts they control.  The second thing is how few guards they have.  But, like most teams their standard lineup has two wings so they don’t really need to overload the backcourt.  Amazingly, despite their numbers at the post position, they have some questionable talent.  Outside of the fantastic rookie Brook Lopez, who should anchor the pivot in New Jersey for quite some time, there aren’t any irreplaceable players there.  Anderson and Yi could turn out to be nice benchers, but probably won’t ever cut it as starters on a contender.  Sean Williams was the flavor of the month in the winter months of 2008, but spent a large portion of this season in the D-League.  So with Harris and Carter holding down the guard and wing, they might look for a post in the late lottery.  That would probably translate to the wider-than-tall DeJuan Blair or the underwhelming 7-footer B.J. Mullens.  With those options, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nets go for a shutdown defender wing like Terence Williams.  (And wouldn’t T-Will look nice next to LeBron in 2010?) (Update: rumblings from the Nets’ front office make it sound like they may be targeting Blair.)

They’ll probably keep Jarvis Hayes on the cheap, and without any serious cap space expect Swift and Ager to walk.  They may need to sign an emergency guard, but this franchise reaches its Rubicon next summer, where they will consist of Harris, Carter, Lopez, this year’s first-rounder, and a litany of team options as they chase after the King.  They won’t be spending much this summer, and the MLE is probably out of the question unless LeBron shatters their Brooklyn dreams by signing an extension with the Cavs in the meantime.

New York Knicks

Players under contract (years, t = team option, p = player option) and Restricted Free Agents:

Posts(1+2p+1RFA): Eddy Curry (1p+1p), Al Harrington (1p), David Lee (RFA)
Wings(5+1p): Danilo Gallinari (1+2t), Wilson Chandler (1+1t), Jared Jeffries (1+1p), Larry Hughes (1), Cuttino Mobley (1), Quentin Richardson (1p)
Guards(1+RFA): Chris Duhon (1), Nate Robinson (RFA)

Total players under contract next year: 7 + 2 RFA +3  Player Option

Major Free Agents: Chris Wilcox

2009 Cap Situation: about $72M, above the tax

2009 Draft Picks: First round: #8

The Knicks have a pretty horrid roster coming in to next year.  Of the seven players known to be coming back, only Chris Duhon and Wilson Chandler are worth terribly much.  Perhaps Danilo Gallinari, who was a high pick in last year’s draft but spent most of the season injured.  Even worse, Al Harrington, Eddy Curry, and Q can’t possibly turn down their huge options (about $10M each) and Harrington is the only one the Knicks might actually want.  So they’re over the tax, and they pretty much need…everything.

On the bright side, they’re in even better position than New Jersey in the 2010 LeBron Bidding War, as just about everybody goes away after this year.  Despite being over the tax, they absolutely have to spend whatever it takes to bring David Lee back, even if it’s 4 years at $10M per.  Nate Robinson, however, might actually be a casualty of the Knicks’ newfound (and short-lived?) financial responsibility.

Since they don’t have any particular strong spots, they’ll be looking for the best player available (BPA) at their draft slot.  The way things look now, they may have a shot at one of Tyreke Evans or Demar DeRozan, both hyper-athletic wings with high ceilings.  They might also have interest in a point guard, especially if they let Robinson go, because in going after LeBron in 2010 they’ll likely have to open the door to a Duhon departure. A Ty Lawson or a Jonny Flynn would fit, a Stephen Curry probably wouldn’t.

Philadelphia 76ers

Players under contract (years, t = team option, p = player option) and Restricted Free Agents:

Posts(4): Elton Brand (3+1p), Samuel Dalembert (2), Marreese Speights (1+2t), Jason Smith (1+1t)
Wings(3): Andre Iguodala (4+1p), Thaddeus Young (1+1t), Jason Kapono (1+1p)
Guards(2+1p): Louis Williams (3+1p), Willie Green (1+1p), Royal Ivey (1p)

Total players under contract next year: 9 + 1 Player Option

Major Free Agents: Andre Miller, Kareem Rush, Donyell Marshall, Theo Ratliff

2009 Cap Situation: about $61M, over the cap

2009 Draft Picks: First round: #17

With Brand, Iguodala, Young, and Williams, the Sixers have a nice nucleus (if, that is, Brand returns to form after yet another injury). The problem for the Sixers is that they’re losing Andre Miller, who is really their only respectable point (Williams might get there, but really is more of a scoring guard).  Miller may cost quite a bit to retain – like enough to send the Sixers towards the luxury tax. This, combined with a strong draft for points means that Philly might actually let Miller walk.  I think they’d be ecstatic if Stephen Curry fell to them, but they might go and indicate a strong interest in Jeff Teague and Jrue Holiday in an effort to get at least one of the to stay in the draft and fall to them.  Otherwise their choices as a point would be Eric Maynor or Darren Collison.  (Edit: Forget Holiday and Curry, they won’t fall this far.  It’s Lawson, Maynor, Collison, or Teague.)  The other route would be to grab BPA (James Johnson? Chase Budinger?) and try to find a way to get a serviceable point, either in trade or with their MLE.  Keep in mind that they’ll have only 10-11 players including their draft pick, so they may try to bring back Kareem Rush and find a vet or two to sign at the minimum.

If Brand doesn’t make it back, it’s bad news for the Sixers.  Speights may develop, and Dalembert is steady, if not spectacular.  Another post would definitely be needed at some point, but the finances don’t look good.  No matter what they do in this offseason, it’s probably Brand or bust for Philly in the medium-term.

Edit: In the first trade of the offseason, the Sixers sent Reggie Evans to the Raptors for Jason Kapono.  Although it costs them a bit of money, presumably this deal will open up some more playing time for Speights, though I’m not sure what it means on the other side – is Kapono going to take some of Louis Williams’ minutes?  Because they can’t seriously be considering playing Williams at the point, right?

Toronto Raptors

Players under contract (years, t = team option, p = player option) and Restricted Free Agents:

Posts(5):  Reggie Evans (2),Chris Bosh (1+1p), Andrea Bargnani (1+RFA), Kris Humphries (1+1p), Nathan Jawai (1)
Wings(RFA):  Joey Graham (RFA)
Guards(3): Jose Calderon (4), Marcus Banks (2), Roko Ukic (2)

Total players under contract next year: 8 + 1 RFA +1?

Major Free Agents: Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker, Jake Voskuhl, Patrick O’Bryant?

2009 Cap Situation: about $48M, with about $9M in cap space

2009 Draft Picks: First round: #9

I’m not sure of the situation of Patrick O’Bryant – his contract for next year is listed as “unguaranteed” instead of “team option” but I suspect there’s a form of team option there.  O’Bryant certainly isn’t the key to this offseason for the Raptors, as they have a plethora of posts already.  Their problem is two-fold.  First, they’ve got nobody beyond Jason Kapono who can seriously play the wing position (if Kapono can be considered “serious”), and though they have cap space, they’d have to renounce all of their wing free agents (Marion, Parker, Graham) in order to get the chance to spend about $8M on ONE wing.  This suggests to me that they’ll probably make a run at both Marion and Parker, and hope the market is down enough that they can get Marion back closer to $10M than the $18M he made this year.

At any rate, their search for wings will kill their cap space.  Fortunately, there will be several wings available in the draft at Toronto’s slot who might help their roster this offseason.  Since they certainly don’t need a guard (with three under contract for the next two years) and there won’t be much in the way of posts at their draft position, the Raptors seem to have more of a positional lock-in in the draft than the other teams in the Atlantic (this, of course, is the kiss of death – they’ll never draft a wing now).  They might have a shot at Evans or DeRozan, but those two will probably be gone by #9 and more likely they’ll be looking at Earl Clark and Gerald Henderson.  The latter might turn out to be a Vince Carter lite, while the former is tall, lean, athletic, and very well-rounded outside of the fact that he can’t shoot.  With Kapono (and Bargnani) on board to take care of the shooting, Earl Clark may be the choice here.

Edit:  As the counterpart in the Philly trade, the Raptors have sent off THEIR ONLY GUARANTEED WING PLAYER in Jason Kapono for another post.  Not sure what their motivation was here – it can’t be the $1M in savings.  I suppose they figure they have the inside shot on resigning Marion (or grabbing one of the other wings available in free agency – Turkoglu will probably be out of their cap range but a run at Ariza is resonable) and that Demar DeRozan will fall to them at #9.  I don’t know.  Or maybe they’re going to move Bargs back to the wing.  That didn’t go so well, right?

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