It’s six years I’ve been doing my annual NBA Draft Grades, and at least six years I’ve known I had to do something about my half-assed air conditioning, but you know what?  The mid-week heat wave that was originally supposed to be sitting in the hundreds really only made the mid-90s – it’s almost as if I can cast my own frigidio spell!  In fact, it’s the night after the NBA draft, it’s almost 8 PM and it’s beginning to look like the A/C won’t even switch on tonight.  I’ve got myself two bottles of Stone Drink-By 07-04-16 IPA (sadly, there was no bottling of the Sudwerk Mai Bock this year, but this is an acceptable substitute) and it is time to grade the hell out of this draft!

It’s a bit of a weird draft this time around.  This year there were six (6) teams that came in to the draft without a pick at all while Boston led all comers with 8 picks (and only traded two of them!)  Both of those numbers are to my recollection the highest I have seen – but luckily most of the teams with no picks at least made their way into the draft or made some move or another so there’s something to grade.

(The following paragraph just doesn’t change from year to year, because why mess with success?)

Just like always, and unlike the pansies who normally do draft grades, sitting around giving the same damn grade to everybody (oh, that’s an “A”, and that’s an “A”…) I’m going to grade the fricking thing on a hard, hard curve.  30 teams, that means 6 As, 6 Bs, 6 Cs, 6 Ds, and 6 Fs.  Two plusses and two minuses for each grade except F, because what asshole gives out an F+?  YOU FAILED.  NO CONSOLATION PLUS FOR YOU.  And rather than rip apart a team for having only second round picks, I’m going to grade based on what the team had going into the draft, and what they had going out of it.  Of course, any trades that happen to go down between the end of the NBA season and the draft will also be graded here, since they may as well have happened the day of.  So it’s draft grades with a side of pre-free-agency transactions.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  Here goes.

The Grades:

Indiana Pacers

Grade: A+

Assets Coming In: #20, #50, George Hill, a future 2nd round pick

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Georges Niang

Obligatory Commentary: The Pacers somehow inserted themselves into the Jazz/Hawks deal and went from George Hill to Jeff Teague at no charge.  Did they get like an “upgrade PG for free” coupon in the mail or something?  Then they went and traded the #20 for Thaddeus Young.  THADDEUS YOUNG.  That is an outright theft.  It’s almost like Larry Legend knows what the fuck he’s doing.  Maybe he had burg-u-lars. (Sorry, The Apartment is on.)

Chicago Bulls

Grade: A+

Assets Coming In: #14, #48, Cameron Bairstow, Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, 2017 2nd round pick

Assets At The End Of The Day: Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser, Spencer Dinwiddie, Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Jose Calderon

Obligatory Commentary: The Bulls were active, following up a nothing-nothing trade by sending off a guy wearing a Derrick Rose mask for three NBA players.  Then they went and drafted Capt. Factorial favorite Denzel Valentine at #14.  People have been shitting all over poor Denzel.  Oh, he’s a senior.  Oh, he’s not athletic.  Oh, he’s got red flags on his knees.  Look.  He lost NCAA Player of the Year to Buddy Hield, and he shouldn’t have.  He’s a great shooter, a fucking-damn-ass elite passer (I put three expletives in there just to emphasize exactly how elite of a passer he is), and a great team leader.  By unloading the now-useless Derrick Rose (for Jerian “flies like a fucking eagle” Grant and Robin Lopez no less) and picking up Denzel Valentine, the Bulls straight-up won this draft.  Congrats, Bulls.

Toronto Raptors

Grade: A

Assets Coming In: #9, #27

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam

Obligatory Commentary: Let me just get this out of the way early.  I love Jakob Poeltl.  I spent this entire season declaring that Jakob Poeltl was one of the best five players in this draft.  And even if you think that a guy like Hield or a guy like Murray, or a guy like Dunn or a guy like Brown or a guy like Bender is on the level of a Jakob Poeltl I still say that he’s clearly one of the top eight.  Toronto got him at #9 after at least three teams who could legitimately use a center (Celtics, Suns, Pelicans – Davis is a PF) and one team who doesn’t really need a center but went on to later draft two of them anyway (Sacramento) passed on him.  Pascal Siakamm may end up being a complete waste of a first-round pick, but I don’t even care.  Poeltl is so awesome that I can’t even bring myself to make the obvious “turtle” puns.  (Bonus “also”:  Too easy.)  Jonas Valanciunas better tighten his jock strap, because Jakob is coming for his job.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Grade: A

Assets Coming In: Serge Ibaka, Cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, Daniel Hamilton

Obligatory Commentary: I could find a lot of ways to give the Thunder a marginal grade on this draft.  I am not a big fan of Domantas Sabonis.  This is not remotely your father’s Sabonismobile.  And Daniel Hamilton seems to be a prime candidate for a washout (just like his brother Justin and unlike his brother Isaac who ain’t getting drafted at all).  But despite the Thunder in my mind basically wasting that #11 pick, they swapped a declining Serge Ibaka for a very young and on-the-rise Victor Oladipo.  And you know without a shadow of a doubt that they asked impending free agent Kevin Durant about this trade before they made it.  And you know without a shadow of a doubt that impending free agent Kevin Durant signed off on it. or they wouldn’t have done it.  Oladipo may not be any James Harden on offense, but he ain’t no James Harden on defense either.  With the rise of Steven Adams and the decline of Serge Ibaka, this was a dagger move to keep Kevin Durant (and by extension, Russell Westbrook next year).  I love it.

New Orleans Pelicans

Grade: A-

Assets Coming In: #6, #39, #40

Assets At The End Of The Day: Buddy Hield, Cheick Diallo

Obligatory Commentary: I’m not 100% sold on Buddy Hield.  When he’s hot he can shoot it like a mutt-fugger, but that’s really about all that he does.  As a replacement for the perennially injured Eric Gordon, it’s harder to vote against him than it is to vote against Brexit, but I’m not sure that he brings a huge upside, and I say that as somebody who would happily have taken him at #8 had he fallen rather than trade down for random pieces.  As a #6 pick he’s probably middle of the road.  I do, however, like the way that the Pelicans packaged the almost useless #39 and #40 to get Cheick Diallo, who looks every bit the young Serge Ibaka to me.  Athletic, good defense, hint of a jump shot…and while later in these draft grades I’m going to (read: have already) savage (read: savaged) Serge Ibaka, that’s for Ibaka’s future, and not for his past.  If Diallo can give the Pels even three years at 3/4 of what Ibaka gave the Thunder at his peak…dude.  That’s a winner for the #39 and #40.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Grade: A-

Assets Coming In: #5

Assets At The End Of The Day: Kris Dunn

Obligatory Commentary: There are a couple of rumors floating around out there.  One is that the T’Wolves offered Rubio and Dunn for Butler and that Chicago rejected it.  Another is that the Timberwolves rejected a trade sending Dunn and LaVine to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler.  Now, since the players involved are different, both of these rumors could be true.  But if so, if the T’Wolves like Zach LaVine so much that they wouldn’t give him up for Jimmy Butler…what were they thinking?!?  For the purposes of these draft grades and in deference to the glorious and unparalleled ineptitude that was David Kahn’s, I’m going to assume that Minnesota DIDN’T turn down such a sweetheart deal.  In that case, we’re looking at Dunn with the fifth.  I’ve been a bit hard on Dunn in the past but I’ll still admit he’s the #1 PG in this draft, and if the T’Wolves want to get out of the Ricky Rubio Era, then Dunn is a pretty good way to go.  In the end I don’t think he ever becomes a top-ten PG in the league, but his defense and athleticism will look pretty nice on a team that has Wiggins and Towns to really carry it.

Denver Nuggets

Grade: B+

Assets Coming In: #7, #15, #19, #53, #56

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangómez, Malik Beasley, Petr Cornelie, Cash

Obligatory Commentary: Denver came into the draft with one twelfth of the total picks and actually used four of them.  I’m a big fan of Murray at #7 – he might end up being one of the better players in this draft and I was definitely hoping he would fall the the Kings at #8 despite Coach Cal desperately lobbying the Timberwolves to grab him up during draft week.  Beasley, on the other hand, is a bit redundant with Jamal – a better athlete but both of them are combo-sized guys that probably won’t pan out to be PGs in the end and leave their team playing a bit small to keep a real distributor on the floor.  Also, Beasley is probably a long shot to really stick.  The two Euros are complete mysteries to me, so I’m going to go with the default assumption that they’re going to be terrible.  I don’t thoroughly love the Nuggets’ draft – I’d like to say they could have done more with #15 and #19, but as long as this draft was, a lot of the talent in the late first strikes me as pretty meh.  So it’s Murray that gets the grade.

San Antonio Spurs

Grade: B+

Assets Coming In: #29

Assets At The End Of The Day: Dejounte Murray

Obligatory Commentary: I’m not a huge fan of Dejounte Murray.  But at #29 I can’t complain at all.  He’s got the potential to be a decent PG, and with Tony Parker’s days numbered at this point I don’t know what the Spurs could have done better.  Well, I mean, the optimal scenario is to sign Mike Conley in the free agent period and to take his damn meatloaf with him, but there’s no guarantee of that.  Murray is some decent insurance and he will never have a widow’s peak like Walter Matthau.  Another beer, right?  It all makes sense to me.

Houston Rockets

Grade: B

Assets Coming In: #37, #43

Assets At The End Of The Day: Chinanu Onuaku, Zhou Qi

Obligatory Commentary: The Houston Rockets selected two players and every name in the mix ends in a vowel – most of them a “U”.  That’s gotta be some kind of record.  Zhou Qi is the first Chinese player to be drafted since Yi Jianlian and his one-on-chair workout video, and I don’t have a lot of optimism for him.  Sounds like he might not even come over anyway.  Onuaku, on the other hand, is a guy who some more advanced-metric-friendly draft analysts think is more like a top-ten pick than a second rounder.  I didn’t really see that, but I’m going to assume that Daryl Morey was listening to his cubicles of Nameless Numberhead Men on this one, and hey!  Who am I to say the Nameless Numberhead Men are wrong?  I have this blind optimism that Onuaku is going to be way better than the #37 pick, far enough better to get the Rockets a real nice grade.

Detroit Pistons

Grade: B

Assets Coming In: #18, #49, Spencer Dinwiddie

Assets At The End Of The Day: Henry Ellenson, Michael Gbinije, Cameron Bairstow

Obligatory Commentary: The Pistons swapped Spencer Dinwiddie for Cameron Bairstow and yet the sun still rose in the east the next morning.  Speaking of Cameron Bairstow, who is an Australian, I saw a great post on Facebook that went basically as follows:  Australian Customs Agent:  “Do you have any criminal convictions?”  British tourist: “I didn’t realize that was still a requirement.”  Aaaaand…reset.  OK, this really is about Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije, and other than Michael Gbinije having a silent g in his name, I don’t really care one way or another about him.  Ellenson at #18?  Well, he was projected in the lottery, he’s got a lot of basketball talent, he’s just not terribly athletic.  I don’t think he busts out.  He probably doesn’t make an all-star team, but at #18 in a weak draft I think the Pistons came up with some value.

Golden State Warriors

Grade: B-

Assets Coming In: #30, Cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw

Obligatory Commentary: Against all odds, the Warriors are not the defending two-time champs.  But they still had the best regular-season record in history and that means that they get the worst first round pick in the first round. And Damian Jones really is a pretty nice best-case scenario for a player in this range of the draft.  He’s got the size, and on and off he’s got the motivation to really dominate the game.  The question is whether he can actually give his all when he’s on the court.  McCaw is kind of the opposite player – an effort kid who is so terribly skinny that he can’t play if the air conditioner is on (hmm…it’s getting a bit warmer in here…)  If you could take McCaw and Jones, put them into Jeff Goldblum’s Telepod from The Fly, turn it on, and just see what happened…then I totally understand this draft.  Joe Lacob might actually have enough money to own one of Jeff Goldblum’s Telepods.  So I’m kinda digging this.

Dallas Mavericks

Grade: B-

Assets Coming In: #46

Assets At The End Of The Day: A.J. Hammons

Obligatory Commentary: I kinda like A.J. Hammons, and maybe he shouldn’t have fallen this far.  My draft notes call him a butter-and-eggs guy and a great passer before noting that no way this kid falls to the second round.  Well, he did, and it’s probably due to his age, being a senior and a 23-year-old at that.  Still, the talent is there, the attitude is there, and it must be a medical red flag that drops him down halfway through the second round.  If he gets past that, he’s a great pick.  Again, not an all-star, but that’s not what you’re looking for at the #46.  By the time Hammons retires I figure there are going to be several teams in the 20s wishing they had picked him up.  So Dallas wins.

Portland Trailblazers

Grade: C+

Assets Coming In: Cash, a future second round pic

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jake Layman

Obligatory Commentary: For a team that started out with no draft assets whatsoever, landing Jake Layman isn’t so bad.  Jake Layman might end up a poor man’s Chandler Parsons, which isn’t so bad considering that coming out of Florida not even Chandler Parsons was a poor man’s Chandler Parsons.  Just right for a bachelor.

Philadelphia 76ers

Grade: C+

Assets Coming In: #1, #24, #26

Assets At The End Of The Day: Ben Simmons, Timothé Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz

Obligatory Commentary: It’s the same story every year – you don’t get credit for taking the #1 player with the #1 pick.  You don’t even get credit for trying to troll the whole world into thinking maybe you’ll consider somebody other than Ben Simmons at #1.  NOBODY FELL FOR IT.  JUST ADMIT YOU’RE TAKING THE BEST PLAYER IN THE DRAFT.  DON’T INSULT OUR COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE.  Boy, do I long for the days when the Knicks had a Patrick Ewing #33 jersey ready to go at the draft lottery.  Honesty.  It’s as refreshing, if not more, than Sprite.  Do they even make Sprite anymore?  Apparently yes.  “Grant Hill drinks Sprite.  Grant Hill misses clutch free throws!”  ANYWAY.  The draft grade here is going to rely on what the Sixers did with their late picks.  And I’m not sure what to do with them.  On the one hand, it was kind of like, “we don’t know which one of these foreign wings we we’re supposed to take, so we’re just going to take both of them.”  On the other hand, one of these guys is probably going to pan out.  Korkmaz is so skinny that it’s unfortunate that he’s Turkish because it diminishes my ability to make some sort of concentration camp joke.  Luwawu is…I dunno.  I mean a lot of Kings fans tried to hitch their wagons to the Timothé Luwawu train, but I can’t quite figure why.  But assuming one of these two pans out from #24 and #26, then the Sixers win big.  And I figure one of the two does.  So…nice job Sixers, and don’t let the door hit Sam Hinkie on the way out?

Los Angeles Lakers

Grade: C

Assets Coming In: #2, #32

Assets At The End Of The Day: Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac

Obligatory Commentary: There were two great players in this draft.  The Lakers, who were lucky enough to hit the lottery and keep their top-three protected pick (something the Kings have been unable to do in like the last 25 years of the ping-pong lottery, not that I’m bitter or anything) were in position to draft whichever one fell to them, and they did.  No congratulations need be extended.  29 other NBA teams would have done exactly the same thing.  Then in the second round, the Lakers spent their pick on a center from the Balkans (and no, I’m not going to look up which Balkan state) (OK, fine, he’s Croatian) (Damn, I’m not sure whether I regret or respect my immediate lack of resolve on that one) who won’t be as good as the last Balkan center they picked – a guy who happened to be in charge of making four selections in this draft.  (That’s Vlade Divac, if you were living under Donald Trump’s toupée for the past decade.)  But they have the same number of letters in their names, so, hey.  Keep that dream alive.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Grade: C

Assets Coming In: Finals MVP LeBron James and the first championship in anything in Cleveland in 52 years, Cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Finals MVP LeBron James and the first championship in anything in Cleveland in 52 years, Kay Felder

Obligatory Commentary: Do you think anybody in Cleveland cares that they don’t have a pick in this draft?  Do you think anybody gives fifteen shits about whether the Cavs spent some of their hard-earned championship cash on a midget PG from Oakland?  Like, they won.  LeBron brought Cleveland their first chip in over half a century.  Anybody who quibbles over the team buying a second round pick to snatch anybody is a fucking asshole.  Even if he is a midget.  Fuck, I’m a midget too, in NBA terms.  Fuck it.  Also, have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t show a great movie inside your crappy movie”?  Because the great movie “The Apartment” shows great movies both “Grand Hotel” and “Stagecoach” in it, and I’m really confused.  I LOVE all these movies.  And I’m benevolently disposed toward LeBron James.  And when I’m drunk, these grades are waaaaaaaaaaaay more interesting.  Please compare the grade for the Denver Nuggets, which I did first.  Boring.  Sorry, Denver!  (Though you do have legalized marijuana so I’m not sure why you ought to give a fuck.  Take a hit.  It’s all good.)

Memphis Grizzlies

Grade: C-

Assets Coming In: #17, #57, 2019 L.A. Clippers lotto-protected 1st round pick

Assets At The End Of The Day: Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, Rade Zagorac, Wang Zhelin

Obligatory Commentary: I would have liked to have liked Wade Baldwin.  I really would have.  In fact, I loved the player that everybody said he was – a long and athletic, great shooting, ball handling, good passing defensive monster PG who was the second best PG in the draft behind Dunn and was sure to lead a team to the Promised Land.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s who Baldwin is.  He’s got the length and probably the athleticism, but that’s about it.  Here is a smattering of comments from my Baldwin game notes: “Absolutely fails to get ball to Jones with ULIS on him in post.”  Ouch.  “Tries to dunk under the basket and gets blocked by the rim.  LOL.”  That’s right, I actually typed “LOL” in my draft notes.  “He’s not making the game hard on anybody on the defensive end.”  So let’s just cut this short and say that I can’t exactly give the Grizz much plaudit for drafting him just because they’re scared they’re going to lose Conley.  Deyonta Davis is an athletic PF, but if you listen to him in interviews, he sounds like he is not only dumber than a rock, but that he in fact lost to said rock in a game of rochambeau.  That said, he was perceived as a late-lottery pick who fell into the second round and got snapped up (along with possible Peja Stojakovic clone Rade Zagorac) at the price of a future late 1st.  So there is that.

Washington Wizards

Grade: C-

Assets Coming In: 4 tickets for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Lincoln Memorial

Assets At The End Of The Day: A more sincere respect for our country’s history

Obligatory Commentary: It could have been worse.  The Wiz did nothing in this draft, but at least they aren’t the Nets.

Miami Heat

Grade: D+

Assets Coming In: A Blu-Ray set of the full Breaking Bad Series

Assets At The End Of The Day: Red eyes from binge watching

Obligatory Commentary: Let’s see, the Heat lost James two years ago, they’re losing Whiteside this summer, Bosh may never play again due to his pulmonary embolism issue, and the Heat couldn’t manage to buy a pick in a draft where the second round was full of possibly decent players?  I don’t know what’s in the Miami water (no literally, in the hotel I stayed at in Lauderdale by the Sea had water so yellow my morning “relief” made it lighter in color) but apparently it drugged the Heat front office into just sleeping through the entire draft process.  You gotta pay to play, Miami.  And you gotta play to win.  You didn’t win.

Atlanta Hawks

Grade: D+

Assets Coming In: #21, #44, #54, Jeff Teague

Assets At The End Of The Day: Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry, Isaia Cordinier, Cash

Obligatory Commentary: I’m so torn.  I actually like Jeff Teague (and I’ll admit it, when he was drafted I thought he’d bust out but I’ll eat that crow) but with the rise of Dennis Schröder he was a fungible asset and it’s hard to blame the Hawks for trying to find some value for him.  On the other hand, the Hawks grabbed the #12 pick for Teague and then spent it on Taurean Prince, who is no particular disaster but is way too hot and cold for my taste at #12.  Maybe it works out, but more likely than not it doesn’t – and the one thing I do damn well know is that Jeff Teague is an NBA player.  Te only ting I can really say about Isaia Cordinier is tat e’s missing an “H”.  And DeAndre Bembry may be about 20 slots higher on mock draft boards for his Bikini Island hairdo than he actually deserves.  So bottom line, the Hawks didn’t really move the needle on this one, and they sent away Jeff Teague to do so.

Phoenix Suns

Grade: D

Assets Coming In: #4, #13, #28, #34, Bogdan Bogdanovic

Assets At The End Of The Day: Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis

Obligatory Commentary: I don’t know much what to think about Bender.  Maybe he turns out to be great, maybe he turns out to be Jan Vesely sans the super hot girlfriend.  At #4, you kind of expect a pretty damn decent player, so even if I give him credit for panning out, the Suns don’t get much above a C for taking him.  Marquese Chriss, on the other hand, screams absolute disaster to me.  There is a long and storied list of superbly athletic players who don’t actually know how to play basketball taken in the top ten.  If you’re not a draftnik, names like Stromile Swift, Tyrus Thomas, and Joe Alexander might mean nothing to you.  To me, they mean RUN THE FUCK AWAY!!!  And Marquese Chriss is exactly in that mold.  The Suns traded two picks and Bogdanovic (who, to be fair, pissed the Suns off about a day before the draft by declining to come over from Europe this year for what turn out to be completely understandable financial reasons) to grab a guy who I guaran-damn-tee is going to bust.  And I say that despite the fact that I ought to be rooting for the kid because he’s from Elk Grove.  You know, I’m a hell of an ambassador for the Sacramento area (Founding member of Crown Downtown, anybody?  Oh, right, that’s me.) but I’m not deluded…I hope.  And my hopeful non-delusion says Chriss is a bust.  You know, Bender probably pans out, but the Suns wasted basically the rest of their draft AND a good stashed Euro on a bust.  And what the didn’t waste on that bust, they spent on a midget.  (Hi, Tyler Ulis!)  Let me tell you, from extensive experience, Tyler Ulis is no Isaiah Thomas.  The poor Suns are still in the midst of trying to recover from the disastrous Morris Era, and this draft didn’t really fix much despite having #4 and #13.

Utah Jazz

Grade: D

Assets Coming In: #12, #42, #52, #60

Assets At The End Of The Day: George Hill, Joel Bolomboy, Marcus Paige, Tyrone Wallace, Cash

Obligatory Commentary: So wait.  George Hill is under contract for the same amount of time (one year) and the same amount of money ($8M) as Jeff Teague…and instead of straight up trading the #12 for Teague the Jazz went and got Hill instead?  Well, that was dumb.  Teague is a better player.  Had the Jazz trade the #12 for Hill straight up, I’d have hated it a bit, then looked at the available players at #12 and said, “Eh, all right.”  But they totally could have had Jeff Teague and didn’t want him.  That’s blind.  And the rest of the draft is full of uninspiring late second rounders.  Wallace may be Mr. Irrelevant (just like at Cal) but that’s all he’ll ever be known for in the NBA.  Marcus Paige?  Meh.  And I have no idea if Colon Boy is any good.  So the Jazz are giving me very little to praise them for here.

Los Angeles Clippers

Grade: D-

Assets Coming In: #25, #33

Assets At The End Of The Day: Brice Johnson, David Michineau, Diamond Stone

Obligatory Commentary: I hate Brice Johnson.  I mean, nothing against Brice Johnson, but what ever has he shown us that fellow UNC alum John Henson couldn’t do better?  And Henson can’t even crack minutes in an NBA rotation in Milwaukee.  So I’m saying here and now that Brice Johnson is a flop.  Following Johnson, the Clippers traded a shot at Chieck Diallo for a hard-luck Euro PG and Diamond Stone.  Now, I don’t hate Stone per se (he makes great beer, such as I’ve just run out of) but he’s kind of a poor man’s Zach Randolph, and while a rich man’s Zach Randolph is Zach Randolph, a poor man’s Zach Randolph is nothing more than some nut who wants to call himself “The Dark Angel”.  Stone, if I’m right, is one of those guys who just won’t be able to translate his domination of HS talent into a domination of NBA talent.  It happens.  But the key is to recognize it and not draft him.  Thanks, Madeline Stowe.  The Snozzberries taste like Snozzberries!

Boston Celtics

Grade: D-

Assets Coming In: #3, #16, #23, #31, #35, #45, #51, #58, a hernia from carrying all those damn picks

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, Demetrius Jackson, Ben Bentil, Abdel Nader, Cash

Obligatory Commentary: There’s so much to say here.  I kind of like Jaylen Brown.  I’m not sure I like him at #3, but maybe I do.  He’s got almost no discernible basketball talent to this point, but he’s close, and he’s got a man’s body.  I certainly can’t knock the Celtics for taking him at #3, even if in many mock drafts on the day of the draft he was projected to go #8.  That whole Brown/Dunn/Bender/Hield/Murray tier was terribly confused at the time of the 2016 draft, and while it might be obvious five years down the road, right now it’s about as clear as mud.  So I can’t give the Celtics either credit of grief for the pick at #3.  But the rest of the draft?  Outside of Ben Bentil, it’s a bunch of ick.  The Celtics had eight picks in a draft where second-round picks were typically selling for over $2M (out of a maximum per team per year of $3.4M in possible cash considerations, per the collective bargaining agreement).  So the C’s were forced to pick at 6 of their 8 slots.  What is the fucking point of having eight picks if you have to waste four of them?  And let me tell you, Yabusele, Zizic, Jackson, and Nader were wastes of picks.  The Celtics had the most picks in this draft, but they had to waste most of them.  What a complete and total…waste.  Also, I’ve never watched The Fortune Cookie before (nor am I properly watching it now) but the dude with the Hitler moustache…

Orlando Magic

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #11, #41, #47, Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova

Assets At The End Of The Day: Serge Ibaka, Stephen Zimmerman, Cash, a future second round pick

Obligatory Commentary: You gotta give the Magic credit – they swung for the fences and sent Oladipo and the #11 to get a declining Serge Ibaka (Ilyasova is a salary cap filler guy who totally doesn’t count).  I really love what Serge Ibaka has done over the past, what, seven years, but his numbers are coming down.  We’re talking, over the last four years Ibaka has seen his stats drop off severely.  Block %age?  Plummeted.  Offensive rebounding %age?  Plummeted.  PER?  Plummeted.  True Shooting %age?  Plummeted.  Win Shares?  Plummeted.  It’s his age-27 year, and he might just be on his way to done.  And for all the great work that he has done in the past he is going to get a max contract (yes folks, that’s kinda the way it works…NBA players get paid for what they’ve already done more than what they’re likely to do in the future).  The Magic gave it their all, but I think they’ve screwed the proverbial pooch.  Then they spent one of their second round picks on one of the big names that really isn’t going to do anything – Stephen Zimmerman, who has a giraffe neck but who had a pretty lousy season at UNLV and now is granted the mercy of getting to miss the Vegas Summer League (Orlando doesn’t go because they hold their own).  I just can’t recommend the direction that the Magic have taken their team over the past year.  They’ve gone From Vucevic/Oladipo/Harris to Vucevic/Ibaka/???.  Sure, they’ve got Gordon and Payton and Hezonja, but they had those guys before they threw away Oladipo and Harris.  This is why you don’t put a team in a Disney town.

Sacramento Kings

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #8, #59, Marco Belinelli, two misdemeanor spousal abuse charges

Assets At The End Of The Day: Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissière, Bogdan Bogdanovich, Isaiah Cousins, 2020 second round pick

Obligatory Commentary: Well, I’m only one “Drink By” in, and I’ve got to do the Kings’ draft grade.  I may be two “Drink By”s in before I’m done.  For a long time – for a long, long time – I’ve been wearing the purple glasses on draft night, but tonight, finally, I will not.  I had figured that I might not be for a while now, but when the Kings managed to trade the completely useless “I’m gonna come off a curl and launch a crazy shot” Marco Belinelli for the #22 pick, ridding his salary and potentially adding a draft asset, I thought maybe I’d have to go back to those amethyst shades once again.  But, the top seven in this draft went top seven (despite all the pundits insisting that Marquese Chriss would jump into the top 7 and leaving at least one good non-center pick for the Kings) and it was Poeltl or trade down.  Honestly, Poeltl was probably the right choice, even with Cousins in the fold.  But when the Kings turned the #8 into the #13, the #28, AND Bogdan Bogdanovic (BOGDAN SON OF BOGDAN!!) and a future second rounder (whatevs) I thought that was awesome.  Then the Kings started actually picking players.  Georgios “Better Ingredients.  Better Pizza.” Papagiannis is a complete mystery to me, but worse, he’s a center.  The Kings have Cousins and WCS.  We don’t need a center, even if he is BPA on Vlade’s board and even if he was going to be gone at #18 to Detroit if we didn’t take him.  At #22, the Kings took Malachi Richardson, who made a late draft rise on the basis of one hot Tourney game.  And then at #28, just for LOLs, the Kings took UK flunkie Skullhead Boneyhands, who had just about the worst and most timid freshman season of any one-and-done prospect I’ve ever seen.  There’s a potential pot of gold at the end of each of these guys’ rainbows (Papa John’s is a pretty mobile and quite young (age-19 season) center who may be in the selfsame Vlade Divac mode, Richardson could be a 3-and-D guy if everything pans out, and Skal was thought to be a top-ten pick only a year ago), but are three lottery tickets better than one Jakob Poeltl?  Five years from now, this draft grade may look really, really, dumb. In fact, I desperately and sincerely hope it makes me look like a clownish asshole who should never ever comment on the draft again.  But right now, it’s spot on.  Vlade made a couple of moves that looked really nice until he actually drafted players.  Then the nice just washed away.  And the Kings fans continue to wonder when the nightmare will end.

Milwaukee Bucks

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #10, #36, #38

Assets At The End Of The Day: Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, Cash

Obligatory Commentary: Brogdon was a second-round pick all along, so whatever.  The problem here is Thon Maker at #10.  Maker had nothing but red flags flying on this draft.  He never played college ball, which makes it tough for teams to see him, and a lot of teams thought he might actually be 3-4 years older than represented.  Being from the Sudan, that’s the sort of thing that’s kind of hard to verify.  Does Maker turn into a dominant face-up stretch-5?  Maybe.  But most likely he washes out, and if you look at the comments from scouts it would appear that very few teams would have even considered taking this guy with a first round pick.  Milwaukee rolled the dice and took him at #10.  It’s hard for me to imagine any scenario where this doesn’t blow up in their faces.  Sorry Milwaukee.  You’ve got an amazing baseball stadium, I’m sure your upcoming basketball arena will be awesome, and there’s always the Frederick Meijer Gardens (no, that’s in Grand Rapids, I’m drunk) but your beer is terrible and if Thon Maker isn’t on a Hamm’s can in a month, I’ll be surprised.

Brooklyn Nets

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: Thaddeus Young, #55, Cash, a front seat to watch Boston spend their #3

Assets At The End Of The Day: Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, a future 2nd round pick (Indiana)

Obligatory Commentary: The only question here is not about the grade, it’s about how long I want to rant about how badly the Nets f’ed this draft up.  Let’s consider the #22 pick.  It was bought for the price of crappy-shooter-and-worse-defender Marco Belinelli.  So why the Nets thought it was worth buying the #20 pick for Thaddeus Young, who is actually a very good player, is beyond me.  And then, the Nets went and spent that #20 pick on Caris LeVert, possibly the single most injured draftable player in the past decade.  This is an unmitigated disaster.  And on top of that, Boston owns their #3 pick this year and their first round pick in 2018, picks that they got in exchange for absolute crap.  We’re talking end-of-career Gerald Wallace and Marshon Brooks unmitigated crap.  Can I just use the word “unmitigated” one more time for good measure?  AND THEY TRADE BASICALLY THE ONLY GOOD PLAYER THEY HAVE FOR CARIS LEVERT?!?!?  Congratulations, Mikhail Prokhorov.  As if Russia didn’t lose the Cold War in the ’80s, you have basically sealed the deal in your tenure as Nets owner.  I mean, Jay-Z got 99 problems, but the Nets ain’t one.  Because he sold out.  Like a red-blooded fucking American.

New York Knicks

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Jose Calderon

Assets At The End Of The Day: Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, 2017 2nd round pick

Obligatory Commentary: The Knicks came into this draft without a pick and left it the same way.  But in the meantime they managed to trade two of their better assets (Grant and Lopez) for a washed-up Derrick Rose.  Washed-up just like Shirley Maclaine is not washed up in The Apartment.  Who would have thought that Shirley Maclaine was absodamnlutely hot when she was younger?  Not me.  But she was, just like Derrick Rose was absodamnlutely an NBA all-star when he was younger.  But you try to tell the children of today that, and they won’t listen.  (They won’t ?!?!?)

Charlotte Hornets

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #22

Assets At The End Of The Day: Marco Belinelli

Obligatory Commentary: The Hornets were rumored to be trying to package the #22 along with either Jeremy Lamb or Spencer Hawes to make some cap room.  So naturally, when that failed, instead they traded the #22 for the more expensive and completely shitty Marco Belinelli, eating away their cap space while solving no problems whatsoever.  There is no explanation.  Basically, it comes down to this: giving the #22 pick to Lily Tomlin would have been better than trading it for Marco Belinelli and his (relatively) inflated contract.  But the Charlotte Hornets don’t care – they don’t have to.  They’re owned by Michael Jordan, the NBA legend whose blood rushes to his head on the elevator or something.  He runs a bookie joint in the actuarial department.  Fred MacMurray knows about this.  And he wants an explanation.  And maybe the key.  Because he’s fucking the secretary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the NBA draft, I really do, but despite my Christmas-like anticipation for it, it’s hard to sit down and blog about it ahead of time.  Sure, I could do a mock draft, but everybody does one of those.  And I could do that old 100-Slot Challenge I made up, but who can I beat?  Nobody else is playing along.

So instead, this year I thought maybe I’d do a “mockery” draft.  The concept is this:  What is the absolute worst pick that each team could reasonably make?  Now, the word “reasonably” is operative here.  The worst pick that the Sixers could possibly make at #1 would be somebody like Ingrid Sewa (yes, a real early-entry candidate from Arizona Western Community College)…but that’s not remotely plausible.  Let’s be honest – even for all the smoke they’re blowing about Jaylen Brown, there’s not even a snowball’s chance in hell of them drafting him, and he’s a surefire lotto pick.

In order to give myself some sort of guidance on this, I’m arbitrarily breaking players down into tiers – two in the top tier, three in the second tier, four in the third tier, and so on.  (The numbers are arbitrary, just wanted it to be halfway clean.)  So that things don’t get too silly, no team may select from a tier more than one lower than the tier of the highest player available.  This keeps players from absolutely tumbling and ensures that I don’t have too large of a pool to select the worst reasonable pick for each team.  Of course, this also means that some teams are bound to get it right in the mockery draft simply because they can’t justify the mistake we know they so desperately want to make.  Somebody is going to get Ben Simmons.  Well, that’s the way a draft should go, right?

This year, the tiers as I have arbitrarily determined them based on my own biases (as well as reputable mock drafts and green room invites) are as follows:

Tier 1: Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram

Tier 2: Kris Dunn, Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown

Tier 3: Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Jakob Poeltl, Marquese Chriss

Tier 4: Henry Ellenson, Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Domantas Sabonis

Tier 5: Dejounte Murray, Malachi Richardson, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu, Cheick Diallo, Denzel Valentine

Tier 6: Demetrius Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Ante Zizic, Taurean Prince, Damien Jones, Diamond Stone, Malik Beasley

Tier 7: Juan Hernangomez, Brice Johnson, Thon Maker, DeAndre Bembry, Zhou Qi, Chinanu Onuaku, Stephen Zimmerman, Ben Bentil

And so, without further ado…the mockery draft

 

Pic Team Player Biting Commentary
1 Philadelphia Brandon Ingram Philly has been doing this so long, it’s almost impossible to imagine them getting it right and picking Ben Simmons, the player who could finally get them out of Hinkie-Hell.   This, of course, is the mockery draft where we assume they’re going to get it wrong if they possibly can, and while Brandon Ingram should be a nice player, whoops! go the Sixers.
2 L.A. Lakers Ben Simmons While it would have been legal under the mockery draft tier rules for the Lakers to pass on Simmons, it’s just not reasonable that they would do so.  I had a hard enough time making Philly skip on a possibly generational talent for a really good player, but I can’t do the same against the next tier down.  The Lakers get lucky in the mockery draft (just as they did in the lottery) and rebuild from the Kobe era immediately.
3 Boston Buddy Hield The Celtics’ biggest strength is in their guards, so the way they screw this up is to draft another one.  The only real question is which one.  The answer is Buddy Hield – and they draft him purely based on the fact that he hit 85 of 100 threes in an empty gym.  He turns out to be only a mediocre shooter and the Celtics rejoice in the fact that they still have another unprotected Brooklyn pick to screw up in 2018.
4 Phoenix Marquese Chriss Chriss could easily have gone to the Celtics in this one, but I’m guessing he didn’t torch their shooting workout quite like Buddy.  Chriss is the opposite of a shooter – heck, he’s the opposite of a basketball player.  There is a really long list of players drafted in the high lottery solely on their athleticism who busted right out of the league, and Chriss is going to add his name to the list.  Sometimes people like to say “only been playing basketball a few years” as some sort of talisman that will make a player suddenly figure it out.  Few do.  Sorry, Phoenix.
5 Minnesota Jaylen Brown The Timberwolves do not need a wing.  Wiggins has the SF covered, and between LaVine and Muhammad they’ve got guys they like to play the SG as well.  So naturally, with a PF and a few young PGs who could replace the broken-jumpered Rubio, they’re going to go for a guy whose best spot is SF and who will be stuck behind Wiggins until he and his also-questionable basketball talent wash out of the league.  Good picking, Minny!
6 New Orleans Dragan Bender The Pelicans get the option of picking between two PGs, a solid C and a Euro PF.  With Holiday perpetually injured, a PG wouldn’t be a bad call.  And Davis is really a PF, so Poeltl would probably suit them just as well.  So the Pelicans pick Dragan Bender, who will struggle to find a niche on the floor for the nearly 40 minutes a game that AD will be on the floor.  Just what he needs to follow in the footsteps of Jan Vesely!
7 Denver Jakob Poeltl Denver’s pickings are getting slim, and all of them are pretty bad fits.  They have Mudiay at PG, a guy they really can’t give up on yet, and they have Nurkic and Jokic emerging in the frontcourt.  Murray and Dunn both have a bit of ability to go combo here and can cover for Mudiay’s inability to stretch the floor, so the mockery draft will go with Poeltl to give the Nuggets exactly what every NBA team needs – three seven-foot Eastern Europeans.  (Does Austria count as Eastern Europe?  It’s not former Iron Curtain, but it actually is pretty far east, so I’m not really sure.)
8 Sacramento Jamal Murray With Darren Collison facing some (misdemeanor) domestic violence charges and Rajon Rondo seemingly a longshot to return, what the Kings could really use in this draft is a PG ready to step in from day one – especially given their obvious desire to start winning the moment they step into the new Golden 1 Center.  The mockery draft has allowed that player to slip into their hands – so they have to pass on him to take another pretty solid player and good fit (some teams get lucky here), but nonetheless a player who will take a few years to come into his own.
9 Toronto Kris Dunn By rule, with Tier 3 empty the Raptors have to take the last player from Tier 2.  Dunn falling to nine is a blessingcurse for the Raptors (is there a word in German for that?  There’s gotta be.)  While he’s obviously the consensus best player left in the draft, he’s also stepping into a situation with a really solid PG in Lowry who he isn’t going to displace any time soon.  Toronto would have loved to see a guy like Bender or Chriss here, but Dunn it is, for better and for worse.
10 Milwaukee Malachi Richardson With Tiers 2 and 3 closed, things really open up for the Bucks here, and they are given the opportunity to make a huge mistake by having 11 players to choose from.  They make the easy pick in Malachi Richardson.  Let’s see…goes to Syracuse so you can’t tell if he can play D?  Check.  Has a lackluster year punctuated by a single tournament game where every stupid shot he took was falling and parlays that into a Green Room invite?  Check.  About to be the worst pick in the entire draft?  Sounds right to me.  Sorry, Bucks.  You were on the wrong end of the Tier 4/5 stick there.
11 Orlando Skal Labissiere Here’s a case where the hype doesn’t match the game.  Labissiere was touted as a possible #1 overall pick in this draft coming into his single (terrible) year at Kentucky.  While he turned it on towards the end of the year, he just looks too thin and too timid to do anything remotely close to succeeding in a man’s league.  But the lure of a silky smooth big man is too much, even for a team that has Vucevic and thus will have trouble finding development time for their prized rook.  Skal was bound to bust out, may as well do it near Disneyworld.
12 Utah Furkan Korkmaz Everybody and their mother thinks that Utah is going to be looking to upgrade their frontcourt this offseason, with lots of buzz that they’re open to dealing Favors and have perhaps even promised Sabonis at #12.  So naturally, they go for a guy who duplicates their max player in Gordon Hayward.  That’s exactly what the mockery draft is about.
13 Phoenix Dejounte Murray In this mockery draft, Phoenix has already taken Marquese Chriss, so they might as well take his also-not-ready-for-prime-time teammate Dejounte Murray.  Murray will get stuck behind Bledsoe and Knight (note: rumors are flying about Bledsoe being on the trading block, but still) and wash out only slightly slower than Chriss.  But don’t worry, Phoenix still has one more first round pick to blow completely!
14 Chicago Timothe Luwawu Chicago actually has some pretty decent options here, considering that Rose isn’t the player he used to be and with Noah on the way out and Gasol this close to needing a walker they could patch the frontcourt as well.  That’s why they obviously go with Luwawu, the one player left who will probably be stuck behind Butler, the one player the Bulls can probably count on at this point.
15 Denver Domantas Sabonis This mockery draft has Denver cornering the market on Eastern European big men like they’re going out of production, Trabant-style.  Hopefully Tier 6 is going to open up by the time their #19 comes around…
16 Boston Wade Baldwin More guards for the Celtics!  This one never really tickled my fancy in college, though a lot of folks think Baldwin is going to be a player.  Well good luck with that, being stuck behind IT, Smart, Bradley, and Hield.  The Celtics will be forced to trade Baldwin for pennies on the dollar in a few years with a lineup like that.
17 Memphis Henry Ellenson The one thing Memphis does not need is another slow dude in the frontcourt.  They just lost their coach who was able to play slow, and the addition of Ellenson is going to ensure that they never field a lineup where all five guys cross the timeline before the clock is down to 18.  The bright side here is that Ellenson is a pretty solid pick at 17.
18 Detroit Deyonta Davis And what could the Pistons use more than an athletic big man who isn’t very good at basketball?  They’ve got one named Andre Drummond who is currently able to do all of the things that Deyonta Davis might one day be able to do.  So it’s a perfect mockery pick.  Besides, I really, really needed to clear out Tier 4 because Denver is coming up…
19 Denver Ivica Zubac AND Ante Zizic Boom.  That’s now six Eastern European big men for the Nuggets, and a complete mic drop for the mockery draft.  Hey, look, my mockery draft, my rules, and my rules say that Denver gets to select two players here in compensation for…believing that Timofey Mozgov was a key piece worthy of holding up the Carmelo Anthony deal all those years ago.  You falls in love with your Eastern Euro big men, you gets to pay the piper.
20 Indiana Taurean Prince Here the key question was: “Who will be most effectively blocked by Paul George?”  The answer is in the column to the left of this one.  Like most other players in the twenties draft, Prince has a pretty decent chance to pan out, and barring the ability to tell who really is going to bust from this crowd, it’s all about blockage.  Ah, blockage.  Good old find-me-some-prune-juice blockage.
21 Atlanta Demetrius Jackson With Teague and Schroeder fighting for PT in Atlanta, what could be better than the Hawks drafting a #3 PG to warm the bench behind them?  As far as the mockery draft is concerned?  Nothing!
22 Charlotte Malik Beasley I’m not really sure that Charlotte has anybody worthy of blocking a draftee – not even Al Jefferson – so I’m going with the biggest risk in my eyes in Malik Beasley.  He’s going to take some time to develop, that’s for sure, so even if he pans out the Hornets will be treading water for a few more years if they take him.  A guy like Valentine could have helped right away, but no…
23 Boston Denzel Valentine I actually like Denzel Valentine a lot.  He’s a solid player who people seem to think can’t defend (I never got that impression) and who now has his stock tumbling even more because the rumor is that his knees are shot.  I have no idea how much of that is smoke, but what I do know is that for every Eastern European big man I have Denver drafting in this mockery, Boston has to take a guard.  Denzel is the only one left by rule, so he’s the guy.
24 Philadelphia Cheick Diallo Well, there’s not much to choose from again.  Cheick Diallo seems to be more Serge Ibaka than Nerlens Noel, but that’s still enough to make it tough for him to get PT in Philly.  At least Diallo (as opposed to say Damien Jones) allows me to finally shut down Tier 5 and get more players to choose from, just in time for the Clippers.
25 L.A. Clippers Zhou Qi The last time there was a hyped-up Chinese prospect, he really schooled a chair in a YouTube workout and then washed out of the league so fast that Calgon sued for copyright infringement on the “Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?” tagline.  Why should Zhou Qi be any different?
26 Philadelphia Juan Hernangomez I’ll be honest – I really have no idea who this guy is.  He’s a PF, he’s Spanish (I think…that “Hernangomez” might be Welsh or Finnish as well), and the one thing that Philly has covered is their frontcourt.  So why not pick another frontcourt player to stay in Europe?  He can hang out with Dario Saric, they can trade polenta recipes and check out the Northern Lights, teammate stuff like that.
27 Toronto Stephen Zimmerman Sadly, there’s no PG on the board for Toronto to take to follow up tabbing Dunn at #6.  Of the players left, I figure Zimmerman is the most likely to get stuck behind Valanciunas, so he gets the nod.
28 Phoenix Brice Johnson The Suns took two Huskies at the top of this mockery draft, but with no Husky left on the board I figured we could go with the anti-husky in Brick Johnson.  Johnson is a real wet-noodle type, the guy who looks like John Henson with an intestinal parasite.  And with Henson struggling to find minutes, I don’t see how Johnson can make any sort of splash at all.
29 San Antonio DeAndre Bembry Bentil, Stone, and Maker are all players that I think San Antonio could mold into future contributors.  Bembry, on the other hand, is already molded – into the shape of a mushroom (well, his hair, anyway).  Bembry can’t hold a candle to Kawhi Leonard, so he’s a waste of a pick here.  And that’s what the mockery draft is all about!
30 Golden State Ben Bentil I actually like Ben Bentil.  In my mind, he’s the guy Draymond Green could be if Green were about two inches taller.  So how can Golden State pass up having two?  They can’t!  Hilarity!  Traveshamockery!  (And that’s the whole point.)

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not much of a gambler. I’ll play some friendly poker games and every once in a while I’ll accept a dollar prop bet from a friend at a sports bar (“Dollar says he gets a base hit here!” “You’re on!”). I mean, you’re reading a guy who went to Vegas for a week-long trip to NBA Summer League two years running and didn’t manage to gamble a single penny either time.

But that said, I like fantasy games, and this is a fantasy game – by myself, to be sure, but a fantasy game. The premise on this one is that I am forced to spend $5115 on the NBA Over/Under Win Totals this year.

What the heck is the deal with $5115? I’ll get to that in a minute. But the idea is that I have to lay a bet on each of the 30 over/unders. Rather than allow myself to distribute the money completely freely, I’m going to play it like a pick ’em with confidence points. For instance, I think the line on the Sacramento Kings this year is really, really wrong. So I’m going to put $30 on them, then $29 on the line I think is next safest, and so on. Except $30 doesn’t really work great, because (as best as I can figure – remember, I’m not a big gambler) your typical over/under bet pays at +110, or in other words, wager $11 to win $10. So if I bet $30 and won, then I’d get the bet back plus $27.27272727. That’s just tough to deal with. So instead of betting $30, I’m going to bet $30*11 = $330, so that if I win, I get $300 on top. It just makes everything come out in whole numbers. And that means that the total I have to wager is $5115.

Hopefully, I’ll remember that I did this at the end of the season and come back and see if I made any money. If I know absolutely nothing, the expected return would be about $4882.50 (dammit, not a whole number!) – just a bit over 95% of my wager with the house taking almost 5% of my money for my trouble. See? This is why Michael Corleone wanted to RUN a gambling establishment. A 5% return on investment with very low risk (if you set your line right and get equal bets on both sides) is pretty much unbeatable. But a smart gambler (can’t say that’s what I am, but…) basically takes their money from the suckers. Let’s see if I’m any smart.

(Odds taken from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook 9/30/15)

Team O/U Wins My Pick Act. Wins Wager Return
Sacramento Kings 30.5 Over 33 $330 $630
Milwaukee Bucks 43.5 Over 33 $319 $0
Atlanta Hawks 49.5 Over 48 $308 $0
Oklahoma City Thunder 57.5 Under 55 $297 $567
Phoenix Suns 36.5 Under 23 $286 $546
Dallas Mavericks 38.5 Under 42 $275 $0
Orlando Magic 32.5 Over 35 $264 $504
Detroit Pistons 33.5 Under 44 $253 $0
Utah Jazz 40.5 Under 40 $242 $462
New York Knicks 31.5 Under 32 $231 $0
Portland Trailblazers 26.5 Under 44 $220 $0
Charlotte Hornets 32.5 Over 48 $209 $399
San Antonio Spurs 58.5 Over 67 $198 $378
Los Angeles Lakers 29.5 Under 17 $187 $357
Cleveland Cavaliers 56.5 Over 57 $176 $336
Toronto Raptors 45.5 Over 56 $165 $315
Miami Heat 45.5 Over 48 $154 $294
Philadelphia 76ers 21.5 Under 10 $143 $273
Golden State Warriors 60.5 Over 73 $132 $252
Denver Nuggets 26.5 Over 33 $121 $231
New Orleans Pelicans 47.5 Under 30 $110 $210
Indiana Pacers 42.5 Under 45 $99 $0
Memphis Grizzlies 50.5 Over 42 $88 $0
Minnesota Timberwolves 25.5 Over 29 $77 $147
Brooklyn Nets 28.5 Under 21 $66 $126
Washington Wizards 45.5 Over 41 $55 $0
Chicago Bulls 49.5 Over 42 $44 $0
Boston Celtics 42.5 Under 48 $33 $0
Houston Rockets 54.5 Under 41 $22 $42
Los Angeles Clippers 56.5 Under 53 $11 $21

The Stupid Lines

Last year the Kings went through what feels like unprecedented turmoil.  After a solid start their all-star center got viral meningitis, and missed a ton of games (almost 30% of the season, and then wasn’t fully healthy or happy once he came back).  Following that, dysfunction in the front office came to the forefront and a decent (though not great) coach was canned in favor of a pretty lousy one.  The team, missing its best player and angry about the firing, basically shut down, Rudy Gay missed over 15% of the season, and by the time the front office finally hired George Karl the team had lost its starting PG (Darren Collison missed 45% of the season) and was forced to rely on Ray McCallum…and that team still won 29 games.  Now this year, they’ve replaced their Mickey Mouse front office with basketball whisperer Vlade Divac and company, they have a full training camp with Karl, a healthy Cousins and Collison…oh, and they added Rondo, Koufos, Belinelli, and Caron Butler as well as rookie defensive stalwart Cauley-Stein who should be able to contribute right away…and Vegas thinks they’ll get two more wins?  Laughable.  I’d take them for the over at 40, and right now I think they’ll make the playoffs.  That may be some purple-colored glasses, but let me say this – I never pegged us for the playoffs last year, before the shit hit the fan.

The Bucks are another terrible line.  They looked great at times last year, they played .500 ball on up-and-coming players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, and they added Carter-Williams at the deadline.  Keep in mind that they lost Jabari Parker for most of the season, and they signed Greg Monroe in free agency.  That’s going to easily be worth more than three lousy wins in the Eastern Conference.  It’s like betting with house money.

The Hawks won 60 games last year.  This offseason they basically lost DeMarre Carroll and added Tiago Splitter.  How in the world does that translate to 11 fewer wins?  I’ll tell you how – it doesn’t.

The Iffy Lines

58 wins is a lot in the Western Conference.  Kings fans will remember that in one of our championship-challenging years we pushed hard to get to “60 before 20”.  The Thunder are a talented team, but injury has been knocking on their door since I can remember – Westbrook seems perpetually injured and now we have to worry about Durant’s health.  I know they ought to be in for an uptick, but 13 extra wins seems a bit much with an untested NBA coach in a strong conference with numerous injury concerns.

The Suns felt like an unsustainable Cinderella team all last year – and made their way to 39 wins.  Replace most of a season of Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas with Brandon Knight, subtract Marcus Morris, look real hard at a disgruntled and potentially-in-legal-trouble Markieff, and consider that their big acquisition was to sign a 33-year old athlete in Tyson Chandler.  I don’t think that’s enough.

Nowitzki is now entering “ancient” range, and the Mavs’ big acquisition this summer was a SG coming off of an achilles tear.  On top of that, this team has no depth.  This team is basically Ancient Dirk, Hurt Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Over The Hill Deron…and nothing.  They’re going to be 20 games worse next year, and the line only dropped them 12.

The Magic have put together a nice core: Vucevic, Harris, Oladipo, Payton – and we can expect improvement from Aaron Gordon with newcomer Hezonja and veteran Fournier giving them a lot of opportunity to slot Harris down as a tweener PF, and I think this team is simply better than 32 wins in the east.

The Pistons lose Greg Monroe and are projected to win two more games?  Mmmm – no.

Similarly, the line is projecting the Jazz to gain three games and they really haven’t done much this offseason except lose their starting PG to injury.  Nobody is going be surprised by Gobert or Hood this season, and Burke is terrible.  The Jazz are taking a step backwards, not forwards.

And, you know, nothing against Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo, but the Knicks were terrible last year and I just can’t see them adding 15 wins.  They’ll be better, but 15 wins?

The Blazers are due for a big, big fall after the team basically fell apart before everybody’s eyes this summer.  The only question is how far?  It’s really hard to tell.  But since the dregs of the West were at 16/21 wins last year, I don’t see Portland getting 27 this year.

The Hornets swapped Gerald Henderson to get Nicolas Batum, pulled off an addition-by-subtraction by getting rid of Stephenson, and improved their big slow white guy depth with Hawes and Kaminsky.  I just can’t see them taking a step back, especially in the East.

The Tough Calls

The remainder of the lines seem pretty good to me, which is what you’d want if you were a sportsbook, right?  Still, the lines are predicting about ten more wins than are available, so they’re a bit optimistic.  I’ll try to “under” a bit more than I “over”, especially with the Kings, Bucks, and Hawks probably sucking up a ton of wins themselves.

The Spurs have a lofty total to beat – getting to at least 59 wins in the West – but they added LaMarcus Aldridge and David West.  Age is going to start to take a toll, but they look like a 60-win team to me.

If I believed that the Lakers would get a full-strength Kobe Bryant back, well, maybe.  But I doubt that, and while I like D’Angelo Russell, I think the growing pains here are going to be pretty severe.

I don’t even care if the Cavs don’t get Tristan Thompson to sign – I’m not really high on him and we’re talking about LeBron/Kyrie/Love here.  In the East.  With a year to have gelled.  They’re a good bet to push 60 wins, even if they didn’t last year.

The Raptors basically swapped Amir Johnson for DeMarre Carroll and picked up a really-underrated athletic combo guard for their bench in Norman Powell.  They should hold steady, and the under says they lose four wins.  I say no.

Wade/Bosh/Dragic should spell playoffs.  In fact, they might even finish above the Raptors, despite the lower line.

The Sixers added Jahlil Okafor, but they traded away Carter-Williams and they don’t have a real PG.  Can they really get that much better?

61 is a scary number, and the Warriors are a jumpshooting team that could go cold at a moment’s notice, but then again, they’re really really good.  I’ll take that risk.

Emmanuel Mudiay? Michael Malone?  The Nuggets won’t be good by any means, but I think they’ll be a bit better than their line.

With the Pelicans – Holiday has spent the past few seasons not being healthy – you think he’s going to be well now?  Davis is good, but I think they struggle a bit this year.

Paul George is back for the Pacers, but the front line is atrocious.  I can’t spot them 43 wins.

The Grizzlies lost Koufos, which is pretty big, but they picked up Matt Barnes.  Are they going to drop 5 games for that?  I don’t think so.

Wiggins, Towns, Dieng?  The ‘Wolves won’t be good, but I think they can sneak up to 26 wins.

A line of 28.5 wins says there’s not much room for optimism with the Nets.  I agree.  Under.

Sure, they lost Pierce, but Beal should be healthy and they do have John Wall and Marcin Gortat.  They should do a bit better than last year, I think.

The Bulls won 50 games last year and bring back basically their entire team outside of Thibs.  Rose broke his face, but should be ready to start the season, right?  I’m optimistic, kind of.  That’s why these are hard.

The Celtics, Rockets, and Clippers lines look pretty dead on to me – I’m pushing towards the under due to the above-mentioned optimism in the lines, but I don’t want to wager too much on them.

We’ll see how this goes…in 7 months.

The Results…

“I’m not dead yet!” says me, with one week left in the season.  I’m up to $4284 on 14/22 shooting so far.  That leaves me 8 picks to go and just under $600 to win at chance, and $831 to break even.  With over $3000 left on the board, you’d think it would be an easy climb.  But $1680 of that is basically toast.  On the other hand $714 of it looks really good (random chance, here I come!) and the remaining $630 is probably better than a 50% chance.  The next question, of course, will be whether my confidence ratings hurt me…

…and that $714 has come in, so I’m up to $4998 – better than random chance!  (But still not breaking even…I love how that works, Vegas.)  Six picks are still alive as none of the by-a-threads have snapped yet, though there’s no margin for error for three of them.  Two of the remaining three are only one win from coming in, which means that the Jazz are the only team that will definitely still be alive after their next game…and the Heat come in to actually make me money!  $5292 and counting…

And now the Cavaliers have come in to give me $5628 with only the Jazz left to decide on the final day of the season.  And the Jazz?  Well, the Kings lost big to the Rockets earlier in the day, meaning that the Jazz game was meaningless, so they just let Kobe score 60 on them and took the under.

Which means that I came out at $6090 on my $5115 wager – a 19% return on investment!  Wow.  I got 19/30 picks right.  The funny thing is that I would have made $6184.50 had I bet the same amount on every team!   The mean confidence rank of the calls I missed was 15.1, while the mean rank of the ones I got was 15.7.  So I’m good enough to beat the oddsmakers, but not myself.

You know what has five installments?  My NBA draft grades and the Die Hard franchise.  And I didn’t pick Die Hard at random out of a hat – I’m going to be bringing the pain like John McClane, folks!

Well, maybe.  I’ll try.  The problem is that although tonight (Draft Grade Write-up Night!) is my favorite drinking night of the year, I got notice this morning that my “friend” (scare quotes to shame him) needs a ride to the airport tomorrow morning.  So I’ve got to take it a bit easy on the brew (Sudwerk Mai Bock, as always) lest I feel more like puking than driving him around 12 hours from now.

Just like always, and unlike the pansies who normally do draft grades, sitting around giving the same damn grade to everybody (oh, that’s an “A”, and that’s an “A”…) I’m going to grade the fricking thing on a hard, hard curve.  30 teams, that means 6 As, 6 Bs, 6 Cs, 6 Ds, and 6 Fs.  Two plusses and two minuses for each grade except F, because what asshole gives out an F+?  YOU FAILED.  NO CONSOLATION PLUS FOR YOU.  And rather than rip apart a team for having only second round picks, I’m going to grade based on what the team had going into the draft, and what they had going out of it.  Of course, any trades that happen to go down between the end of the NBA season and the draft will also be graded here, since they may as well have happened the day of.  So it’s draft grades with a side of pre-free-agency transactions.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  Here goes.

The Grades:

Denver Nuggets

Grade: A+

Assets Coming In: #7, #57

Assets At The End Of The Day: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Radicevic

Obligatory Commentary: So the Nuggets drafted a Wooden Nikola.  Whatever.  They may have lucked into it, but they also had a consensus top-4 (and #1 overall PG coming into the season) player drop into their laps, and unlike the Kings they didn’t hesitate to take him.  With Tywon Lawson facing DUI charges and having other domestic violence charges in his past (and don’t forget the Hookah-fueled Draft Day video), the Nuggets could damn well use a replacement at PG.  They got one – and a good one.  Think Tyreke Evans, an inch shorter but way more athletic and with an outside shot that, while it needs work, is far better than the one sported by the former Memphis star.  I really believe that when we look back on this draft in ten years, we’ll look at Mudiay as the biggest steal.  He may not be better than Russell, but there are going to be a couple of teams regretting that they let him fall to #7.

Houston Rockets

Grade: A+

Assets Coming In: #18, #32

Assets At The End Of The Day: Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell

Obligatory Commentary: You gotta hand it to Daryl Morey.  He went out and straight up grabbed the BPA with both of his picks this year, and in both cases it was a guy who had fallen several spots (Dekker on the order of 5, Montrezl on the order of 10) lower than he should have fallen.  Montrezl is flawed – the Faried comparison is apt, though I think he’s got a bit of height on the Moreland State overachiever.  Dekker is actually going to be a very good player.  Think Ryan Anderson with more athleticism.  He’s not going to transform your franchise, but there are going to be about (quick count) nine teams that passed on Dekker that are going to regret it (yes, Knicks, even though Dekker would have been a reach at #4, in five years you’ll have to admit that Dekker would have been a better move).  So Morey wins.  Again.  Bastard.

Utah Jazz

Grade: A

Assets Coming In: #12, #42, #54

Assets At The End Of The Day: Trey Lyles, Olivier Hanlan, cash

Obligatory Commentary: Second-round picks be damned, this is about the first rounder.  And the Jazz were the team who saw what I saw – that Trey Lyles was criminally underrated.  Some of this probably came from the fact that the Kentucky Wildcats were forced to play him out of position at SF due to circumstances like Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle injury that…well, for the Jazz writeup, let’s just call it fortuitous.  Lyles is a PF, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  He’s got the size, he’s got the strength, and maybe someday he’ll have the jumper to be a true stretch-four threat.  Even if he doesn’t get there, he’ll be a very good traditional PF.  He won’t be a killer defender, and he won’t be a brutal rebounder, but he can play in the post, and he can hit a mid-range jumper, and he’s essentially LaMarcus Aldridge the second.  I know some people whose opinions I respect highly who do not like this comparison, but I do.  Utah is rumored to have put Favors on the trade block, and with Lyles in the fold, that’s not necessarily a bad call.

Miami Heat

Grade: A

Assets Coming In: #10, #40

Assets At The End Of The Day: Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson

Obligatory Commentary: With a name like “Josh Richardson”, you have to be really good for people to know who you are.  I don’t know who this guy is.  But – the Heat grabbed one of the big time sliders in the draft with Justise Winslow at #10.  I don’t love Winslow – I don’t have him in my top five or anything – but he’s great value at #10 and ought to outperform his nearest comp (the latest “I think I’m the best guy in the draft even though I went all the way down at #8” Stanley Johnson) and even though he can’t hit shoot from inside the arc he’s going to play some decent D and he’s a good enough athlete to run the floor.  Plus he’s got that scar on the left side of his face/neck that lets you know that he’s a total badass because you don’t get a scar like that unless you’re in a knife fight.  You should see the other guy!  Anyway, great value at the pick.  Thanks, Jordan!

Memphis Grizzlies

Grade: A-

Assets Coming In: #25, Luke Ridnour, Jon Leuer, Draft rights to Janis Timma

Assets At The End Of The Day: Matt Barnes, Jarell Martin, Andrew Harrison

Obligatory Commentary: I’m not so hot on the draft here.  Martin is OK, but anybody thinking he’s going to be a Zach Randolph V.2 is going to have to check their change.  But getting Matt Barnes, the ultimate hustle player, for less than nothing (by that, I mean Luke Ridnour, who has had a negative VORP in the last two seasons) is an absolute coup.  And I think that Andrew Harrison has been WAY underrated.  Yeah, I know, the kid was originally projected as like a top-five pick out of high school and he just wasn’t that good, but the backlash that pushed him into the second round made him into a steal.  Conley ain’t going anywhere, but Harrison can play some backup minutes without being too terribly much of a step down.  For Jon Leuer?  That’s a bargain.

Golden State Warriors

Grade: A-

Assets Coming In: #30

Assets At The End Of The Day: Kevon Looney

Obligatory Commentary: I’m pretty high on this pick.  Looney becomes the second consecutive UCLA Bruin to have been taken at the #30 pick when their draft stock has been quite a bit higher than that.  Kyle Anderson fell because he’s a weird fit.  Looney fell because of questions about the health of his hip and the fact that he’s not really ready to play in the NBA.  Kevon is a fantastic rebounder, a kid who has a knack to tip rebounds that are completely out of his area up into the air and put them up for grabs – and with his wingspan he often comes down with them.  But for all that, he’s still quite a bit skinny and – on top of that – he hasn’t refined his offensive game at all.  But at #30?  That’s what the court system would call criminal larceny, folks.  Looney can play.  There are question marks, but at #30, this is a no-lose pick.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Grade: B+

Assets Coming In: #1, #31, #36

Assets At The End Of The Day: Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones

Obligatory Commentary: Keeping with my tradition, I can’t give the Wolves credit for picking the consensus #1 player in the draft at #1 overall.  You’re supposed to do that.  Jones, on the other hand, was a pretty good pick.  I think he got a bit shafted in the mocks all year long.  While he’s not going to be a superstar, he’s a steady PG who is going to ride that boundary between a bottom five starter and a top five backup in the NBA.  And the Wolves finagled him out of the Cavs for a couple of second-rounders.  That’s a pretty good haul.  Minnesota, a grade in the high B’s?  I’m getting wistfully sad here.  Nostalgic, even.  Where have you gone, David Kahn-io?  A nation turns its snarky eyes to you!

Los Angeles Lakers

Grade: B+

Assets Coming In: #2, #27, #34

Assets At The End Of The Day: D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., Anthony Brown

Obligatory Commentary: The Lakers made a pretty polyorchid pick here at #2 by passing up Jahlil Okafor to take D’Angelo Russell, but in my opinion it was the right move.  Russell is a hell of a PG, and he might end up being the next superstar.  Never mind that Russell may eventually end up getting shipped to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins – taking him over Okafor was both ballsy and correct.  That said, the rest of the Lakers’ draft was pretty much ass.  The beauty is that with the #27 the Lakers totally wasted their pick on the son of a former NBA player who not only has zero chance of making their team, but who also had to immediately get onto Twitter and delete a years-old tweet where he called out Kobe for being a rapist.  Beautiful.  They deserve no less.

Toronto Raptors

Grade: B

Assets Coming In: #20, Greivis Vasquez

Assets At The End Of The Day: Delon Wright, Norman Powell, 2017 first round pick (15-30, MIL)

Obligatory Commentary: On balance here, the Raptors traded away the #20 and Greivis Vasquez (who almost certainly immediately gave an interview to the Wisconsin press about how much he absolutely loves Milwaukee) to get Delon Wright (kind of a younger version of Greivis Vasquez) and Norman Powell and a protected first.  You know, on balance, that’s pretty good.  Powell is a kid who is going to open some eyes, in my opinion.  Super athletic, plays harder than any kid you’ll ever see.  He needs to constantly work on his shot to keep it falling, but he can get to the rack and dunk like few 6’4″ guards.  And he’s a terrific defender on top of that.  For all the teams that just blew off second round picks this year, the Raptors really made the most of the one they acquired.

Orlando Magic

Grade: B

Assets Coming In: #5, #51, Luke Ridnour’s unguaranteed contract

Assets At The End Of The Day: Mario Hezonja, Tyler Harvey, draft rights to Janis Timma

Obligatory Commentary: You know, this is a pretty good draft. Tyler Harvey might actually be OK – he could get some highlights at the summer league and maybe even crack the roster, which ain’t bad for #51.  And Hezonja can shoot all day long and still take your mom to the club after dark.  Kid’s got the swagger to be a legit NBA player, and he’s got the size to be a swingman and play wherever the Magic need him.  The only weird thing here is the … wait a fucking second here, Brandon Belt is playing center field for the Giants?  What.  The.  Flying.  Nun?  Anyway, the only weird thing here is that the Magic traded away the eminently cuttable unguaranteed contract of Luke Ridnour for a piece of paper that says they’ll never write a check to some dude named Janis Timma.  Hey, Captain Smith, where’d you say you wanted those deck chairs?

Sacramento Kings

Grade: B-

Assets Coming In: #6, an immense shitstorm of DeMarcus Cousins/George Karl rumors

Assets At The End Of The Day: Willie Cauley-Stein, a veritable shitsunami of DeMarcus Cousins/George Karl rumors

Obligatory Commentary: The Kings had what was certainly the worst lead-in to the draft of any team in the NBA.  Agent and total fucking asshole (is that redundant?) Dan Fegan went loco on the media trying to drop stories that would get DeMarcus Cousins traded to the Lakers.  The bullshit was strong in this one, Paduwan.  At any rate, the Kings were fortunate enough to have brought in Jedi Master Vlade Divac to curate the franchise, and he wasn’t about to bow to agent pressure to make a deal.  Cousins (for now) stays in Sacramento, and the Kings picked up WCS to play next to him. I would argue that Emmanuel Mudiay would have been a better selection – he has the star potential that WCS does not – but Cauley-Stein is a can’t-miss kid.  He’s bound to be an All-NBA defender before too long, and he’ll immediately improve the Kings’ defense, which was their true Achilles’ Hell on the season.  Unfortunately, he’s not likely to change the Kings’ 3P% against, and unless stories about his improving jumper are true, he’s never going to contribute much on offense.  Still, Mudiay was there.  And while the Kings have Cousins for now, there’s no particular guarantee that they’re going to be able to hold on to him, and WCS works far worse without a guy like Cousins than he does with him.

Milwaukee Bucks

Grade: B-

Assets Coming In: #17, #46, Ersan Ilyasova, 2017 first round pick (15-30)

Assets At The End Of The Day: Rashad Vaughn, Greivis Vasquez, Caron Butler, Shawne Williams

Obligatory Commentary: I actually like the Vaughn pick.  He’s a great shooter and I think he’s going to stick as a bench guy to put up a decent career.  Given that the Bucks don’t have much in the way of shooting guards outside of Mayo (Middleton is not only an RFA but pretty much a SF) Vaughn fills a need, and as much as the mock drafts were down on him, he’s far better than they pegged him as in my opinion.  Kid can shoot, and he’s got enough sac to know it.  Vasquez, on the other hand…I don’t get.  I mean, if you just traded for MCW, why go and trade for the exact same player with way worse defense?  What does Caron Butler do here with all of the SF minutes going to Antetokounmpo?  What does Shawne Williams do for this team?  Man, the Bucks ought to be happy that I love Rashad Vaughn, because otherwise, I don’t get what they’re doing.

New Orleans Pelicans

Grade: C+

Assets Coming In: #56

Assets At The End Of The Day: Cash

Obligatory Commentary: Hey, at least I’ve heard of him.  With the #56 pick, that’s a win.

Detroit Pistons

Grade: C+

Assets Coming In: #8, #38, Caron Butler, Shawne Williams

Assets At The End Of The Day: Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, Darrun Hilliard

Obligatory Commentary: You know, I don’t hate Stanley Johnson, I just don’t really like him. I think Justice Winslow is the better player, not “clearly” but by a small margin.  Johnson has a bit of “it factor” but he’s also got a lot to put together.  So it was, in my eyes, a bit of a wasted pick.  But considering that Monroe is almost certainly flying the coop this offseason, grabbing up Ilyasova for basically nothing is a decent move.  Stanley Johnson may be the beginning of the end of the most exquisitely hyphenated name in the NBA, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  But that’s not really a big loss, except to juvenile people on the internet that like to make fun of people’s names.  Nobody like that around here, right?

Oklahoma City Thunder

Grade: C

Assets Coming In: #14, #48, Jeremy Lamb

Assets At The End Of The Day: Cameron Payne, Dakari Johnson, Luke Ridnour, 2016 second round pick (CHA)

Obligatory Commentary: I’m not really sure what the Thunder were doing here.  I guess that if you’re that stacked, you take the player you feel is BPA even if he’s going to ride the pine behind Russell Westbrook and never get a chance to make enough money to fix his fucked-up teeth.  Orthodontists are golddiggin’ ass bitches, yo.  But I’m not sure there was an absolute better pick – outside of Dekker, Payne was probably the best bet at this point in the draft.  Other than that, the Thunder essentially shuffled some pieces to get Dakari “Stool” Johnson, who isn’t going to stick.  Is he better than Jeremy Lamb?  I don’t know.  I mean, would you rather have syphilis or gonorrhea?

Dallas Mavericks

Grade: C

Assets Coming In: #21, #52

Assets At The End Of The Day: Justin Anderson, Satnam Singh Bhamara

Obligatory Commentary: I wish I could say more about Justin Anderson, but he broke his hand before I got a chance to check him out.  Is he any good?  I don’t know.  At #21, RHJ might be a better pick but I can’t remotely kill the Mavs for taking him.  The one thing they did do is pick up the first Indian player ever drafted in Singh (don’t know where the “Bhamara” came from) though given that Vivek Ranadivé didn’t bother to get a second round pick to grab this kid, I don’t know if that really helps the case.  I mean, Vivek took the overweight Sim Bhullar under his wing in a cynical attempt to court the Subcontinental market – if he isn’t going for Singh, what does that say?  Did Dallas get better here?  Probably not.  But maybe they just didn’t fuck shit up, and that counts for something.

Phoenix Suns

Grade: C-

Assets Coming In: #13, #44, Two felony assault charges

Assets At The End Of The Day: Devin Booker, Jon Leuer, and yep, still two felony assault charges

Obligatory Commentary: I’m killing the Suns for the Morris twins’ felony assault charges (they were apparently upset about some dude texting their mom, which just about makes every grade-school taunt I’ve ever heard worth it), but it’s on me to remember that there’s a draft here, as well.  We’re basically looking at #13 for Devin Booker.  I don’t love it.  Payne is there (OK, Phoenix hasn’t had the best luck with PGs lately), Dekker is there, and local collegian RHJ is there.  Booker can shoot, and basically nothing else.  So he’s J.J. Redick, without the [redacted] questions and a bit more melanin.  After four Mai Bocks (one more than I promised myself I’d drink) I can’t bring myself to give a shit.

Atlanta Hawks

Grade: C-

Assets Coming In: #15, #50, #59

Assets At The End Of The Day: Tim Hardaway Jr., Marcus Eriksson, Dimitrios Agravanis, two future second round picks (WAS)

Obligatory Commentary: If nothing else we can make the point that the Hawks drafted a Greek guy named after a character from Le Morte D’Arthur, which reminds me of a joke: What’s red and green and goes 100 miles per hour?  A frog in a (cultural) blender!  Like most teams, the Hawks second-rounded their second-round picks this year (they drafted a Swede?!?), and they spent their first rounder on a bit of a more known quantity in Muppet Baby Tim Hardaway.  The draft had maybe begun to peter out of guaranteed value at that point, but then again, Hardaway isn’t exactly tearing up the league.  “The crappy player you know” shouldn’t apply in a draft this deep.  Take a risk, dammit!

Philadelphia 76ers

Grade: D+

Assets Coming In: #3, #35, #37, #47, #58, #60

Assets At The End Of The Day: Jahlil Okafor, J.P. Tokoto, Richaun Holmes, Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic, two MORE future second round picks

Obligatory Commentary: So much 76ers.  They came into this draft knowing, just absolutely knowing that they had to take a PG.  They traded away MCW specifically because they were convinced they’d get their high-school crush D’Angelo Russell in the draft.  Well, the Lakers fucked that all up to hell, and somehow instead of taking Emmanuel Mudiay so they’d, you know, actually have a PG they decided to get yet another frontline player.  The only thing that salvages this at all is that it’s beginning to look like Joel Embiid may still be injured (great pick, Hinkie!) making consolation-prize Okafor at least marginally useful.  I mean, I like Okafor.  He’s going to be great in the post, and he can actually run the pick and roll, a skill that is declining in college these days, but as a defender he’s just too slow and groundbound to dominate anybody not named Frank Kaminsky.  Anyway, look for Philly to be forced – in a best case scenario – to sign Rondo in the offseason just so somebody can man the point.  Outside of their lottery first rounder, Philly had FIVE second round picks this year.  That means it’s time to sell, sell, sell!  Did they?  Umm, no.  They traded one (for two MORE second round picks, like that’s going to help) but they ended up having to pick for the other four.  On the bright side, they drafted a dude whose last name sounds like he’s got an inflammation of his Dutch cheese, so that’s fun.  Also, they took a decent player in Tokoto, though they took him later than a couple of other random dudes.  Again, like so many other teams they totally second-rounded those second-rounders.  With how badly they wasted their second round picks, why does the NBA let them collect any more?  I mean, we’ve already got a Stepien Rule, can we get a Hinkie Rule?

Brooklyn Nets

Grade: D+

Assets Coming In: #29, #41, Mason Plumlee, two future second round picks, cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Steve Blake, Juan Pablo Vaulet

Obligatory Commentary: You can say this for the Nets: It only cost them two future second round picks and cash to get Juan Pablo Montoya’s valet.  I really don’t know what to think about McCullough, because I never got a chance to watch him play before he got injured, and I like RHJ while acknowledging that he’s a defensive specialist.  So the incoming players aren’t too bad.  But the Nets traded Mason Plumlee to get RHJ, and given their previous stance (“We love Mason so much we’ll never trade him!  You’d have to take Deron Williams’ dumbass contract to get him out of us.  He was on Team USA!”) trading him for RHJ is this not-so-quiet admission that Billy King is full of shit and the entire league knows it.  Frankly, I think the Nets are better than they were going into the draft, but that comes at the cost of everybody pointing and laughing at Billy Emperor because he ain’t wearing any clothes.  Oh, and he’s still got to deal with Williams’ and Johnson’s contracts.  And he’s pretty much forced to resign Brook “I can’t be bothered to rebound” Lopez to a max deal.  The roster may be slightly better than it was coming into the draft, but the Oster will be splattered with fecal matter before too long.

Washington Wizards

Grade: D

Assets Coming In: #19, #49, two future second round picks

Assets At The End Of The Day: Kelly Oubré, Aaron White

Obligatory Commentary: The Wizards came in with the #19 pick and a bunch of second rounders and came out with a hit-or-miss frosh SG prospect.  Let me be the first to say that I’m not a big fan of Oubré – I think he’s a nearly certain bust – but he’s a decent risk at #19.  The problem is that he wasn’t taken with #19, he was taken with #15 (after the trade) with Sam Dekker on the board.  Dekker will most likely be five times the player Oubré will, so that’s kind of like locking the call girl out of the hotel room.  You make the transaction, you gotta get the most out of it.  Also, I would like to point out that Kelly Oubré is technically a “Jr.”, but seeing as most people only know his dad as “Some Random Dude Who Is About To Get A Nicer House”, it’s not really worth the effort to type it.  Also, I would like to point out that Oubré wore the dumbassiest spiky shoes to the draft that have ever been seen.  They looked like rims out of Mad Max.  That alone is going to bust the Wizards’ grade down.  Sorry, Wiz!  Next time, don’t draft a kid wearing dumbass fucking shoes!

Chicago Bulls

Grade: D

Assets Coming In: #22

Assets At The End Of The Day: Bobby Portis

Obligatory Commentary: Eh.  Bobby Portis isn’t terribly likely to crack the Bulls’ rotation soon.  I mean, you’re talking Pau, Noah, Taj, and Mirotic here.  He might have been something resembling BPA but he’s skinny and whether or not he makes the leap is up for argument.  I think Rondae is a better pick for the Bulls here, I think Tyus Jones is a better pick (I mean, Rose is going to get hurt again, right?) but so it goes.  Portis gets to ride the bench for a few years while the Bulls figure it out, and maybe by then he’ll get schooled enough in practice that he’ll figure the whole thing out.  Until then, this is a waste of a pick.

Boston Celtics

Grade: D-

Assets Coming In: #16, #28, #33, #45

Assets At The End Of The Day: Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey, Marcus Thornton

Obligatory Commentary: I want to kill the Celtics for taking Terry Rozier.  First off, why so many PGs? You’ve got Marcus Smart, you’ve got Isaiah Thomas…when the hell are you going to play Terry Rozier?  And that’s your #16 pick!  Also, Terry Rozier sucks.  Like I wouldn’t have taken him in the second round sucks.  You know, in some ways, the failed desperation attempt to send every draft pick you’ve ever owned to the Hornets for the #9 makes this pick almost palatable.  Ainge can’t possibly have believed in his wildest dreams that Jordan would turn that down, and this looks like he was just eminently unprepared to make a pick at #16, then just looked up Chad Ford’s draft board to see who he ought to take when he got rejected Josephine The Plumber style.  But there’s a bit of redemption here, and that’s in the form of (Wonder Twins Power…ACTIVATE!) R.J. Hunter, who has a chance to be the next Kevin Martin, and Jordan Mickey who at least ought to be able to contribute off the bench with a super late first and an early second.  I guarandamntee that Hunter will play more NBA minutes than Rozier, and Mickey probably will too.  So what kind of grade do you get when you fuck up your top pick and then make a couple of redeemers later on?

San Antonio Spurs

Grade: D-

Assets Coming In: #26, #55

Assets At The End Of The Day: Nikola Milutinov, Cady Lalanne

Obligatory Commentary: Look.  Not only has Billy Pilgrim come unstuck in time, but R.C. Buford has gotten stuck in the past in his place.  Let’s face it, while the Spurs once had this amazing history of taking bad picks and Midasing them into gold, we need to acknowledge that Buford hasn’t made an amazing pick since 2001, when he took Parker at #28.  There’s this argument for Kawhi Leonard, but people knew who he was.  He was projected to go in the #7 range but dropped, and the fact that the Pacers weren’t smart enough to realize that George Hill wasn’t nearly as valuable as Leonard isn’t exactly a point in favor of Buford.  I mean, Kings fans (not the F.O. at the time, but fans) knew that Leonard was the guy.  So…Milutinov?  Milutinov comes from a Slavic root meaning “not coming over to the NBA any damn time soon”.  So temper those expectations.  And the second round pick…is he a relative of SoCal Gym Magante Jack LaLanne?  Because if not, he ain’t got shit.  At least Jack was in commercials, being all buff and toned or whatever.  I can pretty much guarantee that some random old wiry dude with a spray-on tan is going to have more impact on my life than Cady Lalanne.  I’ve been edgily down on the Spurs drafting on the whole for a while.  This year is no exception.

Los Angeles Clippers

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: No draft picks, Spencer Hawes, Matt Barnes, cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Lance Stephenson, Branden Dawson

Obligatory Commentary: It’s so hard to grade this “draft”.  The Clippers had no picks, but they sent away a douchebag Sacramento native who is at least a great hustle player and a douchebag Seattle native who turned coat on his own franchise to favor moving them to the Pacific Northwest, for a douchebag who (allegedly) shoved his girlfriend down the stairs then grabbed her head and started slamming it on the steps.  HOW DO YOU GRADE THIS?  Even with the whole domestic violence thing, I’d probably have to be a bit nicer to the Clips if they were trading for the Indiana version of Stephenson.  But they’re not, they’re trading for the Charlotte version, and he’s terrible.  Is there anything redeeming for the Clippers on the day?  Well, they got Branden Dawson for cash – that’s not terrible, right?  I hate to say it, but this draft (day) is exactly the sort of draft (day) that a formerly-owned-by-Donald-Sterling franchise deserves.  I don’t deserve it.  I’m a good guy, I never did anything to deserve this crap.  But Sterling?  I figure he probably has a lot of karma coming back to him.  Sorry, Paul Allen.  You were the dude who bought a franchise that was constructed over an ancient Indian burial ground.

Portland Trailblazers

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #23, Nicolas Batum, Steve Blake, cash

Assets At The End Of The Day: Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee, Gerald Henderson, Pat Connaughton, Daniel Diez

Obligatory Commentary: The funny thing is that when I look at what the Blazers came away with on draft day, I feel like they did a pretty good job.  Then I look at what they gave up.  Nicolas Batum.  Nicolas Batum?!?  I mean, he’s no superstar, but he’s a totally middle-of-the-pack SF, and the Blazers, faced with losing Aldridge to free agency, panicked and sent him away to get Vonleh and Plumlee?  It’s going to be a long year in Portland, and not even Lillard can rescue them from this mess.  It’s a rebuild at this point.  And Vonleh and Plumlee aren’t going to count for this rebuild in the end.  On top of that, the Blazers apparently decided that they needed Notre Dame product Pat Connaughton.  Dude totally cheated on his vertical by slouching 3.5 inches on his standing reach (relative to the recent measurement at Portsmouth).  Either that or he’s got sudden-onset scoliosis.  Either way, how do you draft that?  Did he confess this sin to his priest?  How many Hail Marys was it worth?  He had a hell of a tournament, no doubt, and a (true) vertical in the 40″ range is killer, but if he’s going to cheat to get 3.5 inches, can you really count on Con-Naughty-Ton?

Indiana Pacers

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #11, #43

Assets At The End Of The Day: Myles Turner, Joseph Young

Obligatory Commentary: I can kind of get behind the Joe Young pick.  I actually think that Norman Powell is the better player in the same mold (he went a few picks later) but Young has a chance to stick as a bench guy.  But Myles Turner?  He has shown the world just about this much more than nothing.  He barely averaged 22 minutes playing for a Texas team that wasn’t even really very good.  You could call that Rick Barnes’ fault (he did get his ass canned, so there’s that) but Turner is just not the guy you want in the post.  He’s got a funny running motion that seems to predict future injury trouble, and he never proved he was actually very good at anything.  Turner is going to bust and Trey Lyles one pick later is going to look really bad for Indiana.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #24, #53

Assets At The End Of The Day: Cedi Osman, Rakeem Christmas, Sir’Dominic Pointer

Obligatory Commentary: If I had an English Pointer, I would definitely name him Sir’Dominic.  Outside of that, I have no idea what the fuck the Cavaliers were doing here.  I mean, doesn’t Mr. Comic Sans remember how the last time he completely fucking failed to surround LeBron with good players LeBron fucking left?  Well, LeBron is back, you’ve got a #24 pick, and fuck all you just throw it away to pick some second round guys with awesome names who will never, ever play for your team?  Don’t you think maybe R.J. Hunter would have been useful, especially with J.R. Smith opting out?  Take a chance on Kevon Looney?  No.  No, you’re just going to throw your picks away as Kevin Love opts out of his contract too and LeBron is possibly facing next year playing next to Kyrie and nobody.  Good job.

New York Knicks

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #4, Tim Hardaway Jr., two future second round picks

Assets At The End Of The Day: Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Guillermo Hernangomez

Obligatory Commentary: I hate to kill the Knicks after Screamin’ A killed them, just on the general principle of not thinking the same thing as Screamin’ A. Still…Porzingis?  Let me tell a little story about Porzingis.  OK, it’s not really a story.  But did you see that picture of him next to Fran Fraschilla?  I mean, Fran may not exactly be a bodybuilder, but he ain’t a fatty.  And his forearms are about the same diameter as Porzingis’ thighs.  This does not bode well for this year’s “Next Dirk”.  Yeah, the kid can shoot it a bit and he’s 7’1″ and he looks really good in a one-on-none workout because he can dunk and he’s fluid and shit.  (Heh, I said “Fluid shit”.)  Well, guess what?  He’s 7’1″!  If he can’t dunk, who can?!?  And yeah, he doesn’t run awkwardly despite his height because he weighs about as much as your average resident of Kaiserwald. Porzingis is going to get his ass (what there is of it) pushed around on the court until he Manna From Heavens his way back to Europe.  Bank on it.  That’s what Phil Jackson spent his #4 pick on.  It’s a sad story because when the Lakers went for Russell, you just know that ZenMaster Phil was thinking that Okafor was going to fall to him at #4.  He thought he’d hit the jackpot.  And then Philly went and fucked it all up for him.  Ummmm….lemme take the Machinist!  Lost in all this is the fact that somehow the Knicks landed Jerian “Flies like a goddamn eagle” Grant for Tim Hardaway Jr.  NBA bloodline for NBA bloodline, but at least that keeps them out of the bottom slot.

Charlotte Hornets

Grade: F

Assets Coming In: #9, #39, Lance Stephenson, Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, 2016 second round pick

Assets At The End Of The Day: Frank Kaminsky, Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lamb, two conditional future second round picks (BRK), cash

Obligatory Commentary: There’s a lot to talk about here. The Hornets look to be completely overhauling their roster.  And they got rid of one of the worst free-agent signings in the past few years and one of the worst draft picks in the past few years (both in the same offseason – if I could be like Mike!) and picked up a pretty good SF in the process.  Sorry, MKG!  And that’s good, that’s very good.  (Even if they did pick up proponent-of-moving-his-former-team-to-Seattle Hawes.)  But then there’s the whole thing with the #9 pick.  The report out today says that the Celtics were so hellbent on getting Justice Winslow that they offered FOUR first round picks (including the #16 in this draft and a super-valuable future unprotected Nets pick) for the #9.  But Jordan turned Ainge down on a desperation deal…because he absolutely NEEDED Frank Kaminsky?  I mean, I like Kaminsky a bit, but he’s too slow and unathletic to not get eaten the fuck alive in the NBA.  So congrats, Jordan, you turned down four draft picks to foolishly grab after a guy who’s going to spend his career getting eaten the fuck alive.   But hey, people buy your shoes, so there’s that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we stand now, I’ve got four nights between now and the lottery, and only five writeups left to go (though the Kings one, as usual, will be extra long).  The real shame is that with the Warriors in a dogfight in Memphis trying to pick up the series in game 6…I’m watching the Dodgers.  MLB.tv really screws with your priorities.  But…Clayton Kershaw is pitching and trying to win his 100th career game, and if there’s anything in sports I love more than the Kings, it’s Clayton Kershaw.  So the Warriors get shortchanged in a close game, even though their writeup comes…now.  (And after a quick switch at a pitching change the Warriors are back up 15 and sitting pretty in the 4th.)

Golden State Warriors

Players under contract (years, t = team option/unguaranteed, p = player option):

Posts(3+1t): Andrew Bogut (2), David Lee (1), Marreese Speights (1t), Festus Ezeli (1)
Wings(3+1p): Klay Thompson (4), Andre Iguodala (2), Harrison Barnes (1), Brandon Rush (1p)
Guards(2): Stephen Curry (2), Shaun Livingston (1+1t)

Total players under contract next year: 8 + 1t + 1p + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Justin Holiday (RFA), Draymond Green, Leandro Barbosa

2015 Cap Situation: $83.5M, over the tax

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #30

I_1t’s looking like this may be the Warriors’ year.  The offense is amazing, the defense is very solid, and they seem to be hitting all their draws.  There are those who, in the name of style and a longstanding beef with the Kings’ front office are desperate to see the Warriors lose lest Vivek try to emulate them. (I mean, emulate the best team in the league?  We don’t want to do that!  We might win! …Outside of sheer intransigence and a misguided insistence on believing that only smashmouth basketball can possibly win I don’t get it, but that’s what it is.)  But while there’s some excitement on the court, the Warrior offseason is bound to be a lot less interesting than the season.  They’re going to be over the tax next year and outside of Draymond Green the core is all coming back.  They’ll pick up Speights’ $3.8M option for the simple fact that they won’t be able to do any better for the money.  Brandon Rush seems to be a likely pick to opt in to his PO – it’s only $1.3M but I’m not sure he’s really an NBA player anymore and there are worse things you could be doing than getting paid 7 figures to watch a team compete for a championship from the best seat in the house.  As far as what’s not going to happen – I don’t see much reason for the Warriors to give Justin Holiday his QO, and I don’t see any reason for them to offer Harrison Barnes an extension.

The big question is whether the Warriors can bring back Draymond Green or not.  They’ve got full Bird Rights on him, so they can pony up the money, and they’ll only be deep in the tax for one year before the salary cap shoots up and saves them.  He can kind of name his price, and if he wants to come back, I think the Warriors will pay it and then desperately try to pawn off David Lee on some unsuspecting saps like the Knicks or the Lakers (or the Hawks if they lose Millsap, or the Blazers if they’re desperate to spend their money).  The thing is, there are going to be enough teams with big cap space this offseason that the idea of “dumping” the expiring contract of David Lee doesn’t even seem that far-fetched.

As far as the draft goes, in the event that they can’t get Green to come back they’re going to want to find some way to replace him.  That’s a tough row to hoe, as the farmers probably don’t say, but if Chris McCullough still hasn’t been taken, that would seem like a really good risk for the Warriors to take.  (Another interesting if-he’s-there option would be Christian Wood, who is selling himself on his versatility, though he’ll never be the defender Green is.)

Los Angeles Clippers

Posts(2): Blake Griffin (2+1p), Spencer Hawes (2+1t)
Wings(2+1t): J.J. Redick (2), Matt Barnes (1t), C.J. Wilcox (1+2t)
Guards(2+2t): Chris Paul (2+1p), Jamal Crawford (1t), Jordan Farmar (1), Lester Hudson (1t)

Total players under contract next year: 6 + 3t

Major Free Agents: DeAndre Jordan, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers, Hedo Turkoglu

2015 Cap Situation: $65.4M, no real cap space

2015 Draft Picks: None

T_1he Clippers are poised on the brink.  Tomorrow’s game is going to decide where they go – the Western Conference Finals, or home (update: going home).  But I can’t really imagine that the result of tomorrow’s game will make much difference for the Clippers’ offseason.  They’re a team that’s poised to win for the next few years, and they’ll do whatever they need to in order to keep that up.  That of course will include picking up Matt Barnes’ option at $3.5M and Jamal Crawford’s at $5.7M – they can’t hope to replace that talent for twice the price on the free agent market. That will leave them without any real cap space and still three big free agents who could potentially walk away.  So let’s look at those free agents.

Rivers – well, it kind of pains me to even call him a major free agent, and before this year’s playoffs I’d have scoffed at the idea.  But he’s been playing really well and if you can get Chris Paul (breaking that 30 barrier next year) some extra rest in the regular season by upping the minutes of the coach’s kid…well, who cares about the charges of nepotism they love to throw around in L.A. (I’m looking at you, Bruins “fans”), you do it.  It sounds as if Rivers wants to come back and play for his dad regardless of the financials, and other teams will probably be a little leery of his history, so he ought to be back. (“Leery”, not “weary” internet people…when did this particular malapropism become the dominate – I mean “dominant” – vocabulary error on sports boards everywhere?) More important is DeAndre Jordan.  He’s going to cost a pretty penny – he’ll push the Clippers into the tax for sure – but I don’t think they can let him go and even dream of replacing his production, hack-a-strategy or no.  They’re over the cap.  They can’t offer jack to anybody else.  So basically they’ve got to open the wallets and hope and cross fingers and knock on wood that DeAndre doesn’t want to go back to Texas.  I don’t know what he’s going to do, but it’s the single most important offseason contingency for the Clippers.  On top of Jordan, the Clippers are also in “danger” of losing Big Baby.  Now, I’ve never liked Big Baby very much at all, but he can give them minutes.  Unfortunately, unlike DeAndre Jordan, the Clips don’t have Bird Rights or even Early Bird Rights on Davis, and he’s on a minimum-salary contract, so they can basically only offer a minimum…in a year when there’s going to be mad money thrown around.  Big Baby can get a significantly bigger paycheck elsewhere, and I figure he will.  That means that the Clippers will have to either find a gem for cheap (again, vet minimum, or perhaps the taxpayer’s MLE if they can stay under the apron – though with Jordan back I don’t think they can) or rely on Spencer Hawes as their primary third big off the bench.  Can we find anybody to help them out?  How about Lou Amundson?  Yeah, not that much help.  Earl Clark?  So I guess what I’m saying is that while the backcourt will probably look better if anything next year, even with DeAndre back the frontcourt is looking to be pretty thin and probably the weak spot.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Posts(2+2t+1p): Julius Randle (1+2t), Jordan Hill (1t), Ryan Kelly (1), Ed Davis (1p), Robert Sacre (1t)
Wings(2+1t): Nick Young (2+1p), Jabari Brown (1t)
Guards(1+1t): Kobe Bryant (1), Jordan Clarkson (1t)

Total players under contract next year: 5 + 4t + 1p

Major Free Agents: Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Tariq Black

2015 Cap Situation: $42.2M, cap space of about $25M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #2, #27; Second Round: #34

S_1o even the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers spell rebuild “L-O-T-T-E-R-Y”, huh?  This year was nothing but a magnificent tank job and now with the #4 lotto slot, the Lakers are bound to get what they wanted – a high draft pick on top of about $25M in cap space (depending on where that pick ends up being) when all is said and done.  One of the things that is going to be said and done is that Jordan Hill is going to get his team option declined.  Even a team with money to burn can’t burn that kind of scratch on a guy they don’t seem to like very much.  Consider that they really aren’t going to be able to get much over the cap with the iffy free agents they have (room exception, baby!), and every penny certainly counts. Ed Davis is going to be a free agent too, because his $1.1M player option won’t be very tempting.  But they’ll definitely keep Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown at about $1M a pop, so they’ll have have a decent set of backup guards (Robert Sacre at the same price may be a tougher call).  On top of that, Nick Young and Julius Randle ought to be back from injury, so the baseline moves up a little bit.

I figure the Lakers’ free agency money is going to naturally get thrown at the stars – Kevin Love if he opts out, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, Goran Dragic…and failing those guys, Rajon Rondo would seem to be a name on the list.  I’m not really sure they’ll get any of those better guys, so Rondo with all of his late-season troubles would seem to be a pretty good bet to be in purple and yellow next year.  That would actually probably leave them some space to sign a post player like Asik or certainly Hassan Whiteside.  As far as that draft pick goes, it’s perhaps the most volatile pick in the lottery, potentially falling anywhere between first and seventh and with at least 10% odds for every spot but #7.  In all honesty, there’s no point at all in speculating about that draft pick until the lottery happens and I do the usual updates because at #1 and #6 they’re bound to be thinking very different things.  I’ll hold off.  Update:  The pick moves up, to #2.  The Lakers were the one and only team to actually move up in this lottery relative to their original slot.  At #2, the expectation is that Towns will be gone and the rest of the lineup will be available.  While the Lakers could throw the draft a tiny curve and take Russell or Mudiay, I think that putting Jahlil Okafor next to Julius Randle is going to be the way the Lakers want to go here.

Phoenix Suns

Posts(3): Markieff Morris (4), Marcus Morris (4), Alex Len (1+1t)
Wings(3+1p): P.J. Tucker (2), T.J Warren (1+2t), Reggie Bullock (1+1t), Danny Granger (1p)
Guards(2+1t): Eric Bledsoe (4), Archie Goodwin (1+1t), Jerel McNeal (1t)

Total players under contract next year: 8 + 1t + 1p + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Brandon Knight (RFA), Brandon Wright, Gerald Green

2015 Cap Situation: $42.0M, cap space of about $25M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #13; Second Round: #44

T_2his should be an interesting offseason in Phoenix because (once we ignore the two insignificant options – Danny Granger’s $2.1M player option and Jerel McNeal’s cheapie team option, neither of which I expect to get picked up) the Suns are going to be bringing back eight players…or maybe six.  Remember the name Erik Hood, because he may be the most important non-basketball-player in the entire offseason.  So who is Erik Hood?  Well, details are subject to confirmation, but he is a man who claims to have been a former mentor (whatever that means) of the Morris twins and who reportedly sent their mother an “inappropriate text” sometime during the season.  He turned up at a hospital with a broken nose and a knot on the back of his head and generally looking like he got beaten up and a story (corroborated by one witness) that the Morris twins and three other men were the perpetrators.  The Morris twins are both charged with, and have both pled not guilty to, felony aggravated assault.  The allegations may be false, but they certainly don’t look good – and not only that, it appears to be a premeditated thing where Morrises and entourage may in fact have sought this guy out.  The Morris twins could actually be looking at prison time over this, though it certainly does seem that professional athletes tend to skate in legal cases of all complexions if nobody is actually dead.  So will the Suns have one or three post players going into next year?  I really don’t know, but for a team that didn’t miss the playoffs by much, it’s a big question.

Following the massive PG purge that Phoenix pulled off at the deadline, they absolutely have to give Brandon Knight his QO and do just about everything to keep him in restricted free agency, because they have no PGs left outside of Bledsoe who probably is better served playing next to a traditional PG in what the Suns have been running as a non-traditional two-point system. They’ll have some money to spend as well, but that draft pick, even down at the #13 lotto slot (Update: #13 pick), is going to be pretty important.  With credible wings and a decent guard rotation if they commit to bringing Knight back, the Suns really need to guard against the potential loss of the Morrises if they at all can.  Common wisdom says that Kaminsky and Turner will be gone at this point, as may Trey Lyles, so Phoenix may be an ideal landing place for Sam Dekker.  Dekker is going to be able to score as a stretch-four in a somewhat interchangeable way with the Morrises, and if it turns out that the Morrises come back, then he can certainly be tried out as a big SF (again, the Morrises do this too) before Phoenix will have to think about moving him to get some balance.  Of course, if the Suns are convinced that the twins will walk, then a guy like Bobby Portis would seem to be a better play, bringing a bit of length and defense into the equation to complement them off the bench.

Sacramento Kings

Posts(3+1t): DeMarcus Cousins (3), Jason Thompson (2), Carl Landry (2), Eric Moreland (2t)
Wings(3): Rudy Gay (2+1p), Ben McLemore (1+1t), Nik Stauskas (1+2t)
Guards(2+1t): Darren Collison (2), Ray McCallum (1), David Stockton (1t)

Total players under contract next year: 8 + 2t + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Derrick Williams (RFA), Omri Casspi, Andre Miller, Reggie Evans

2015 Cap Situation: $56.0M, cap space of about $11M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #6

H_1ere we go, with the final summer preview writeup of the year.  For a franchise that has seemingly been surrounded by intrigue for almost as long as this poor fanbase can remember, this year was certainly no different.  You had an extraordinary 9-6 start (that would have been 10-5 had the Ryan Hollins tip of the final inbounds in Memphis been seen by the referees); you had DeMarcus Cousins losing a significant portion of the season to spinal meningitis; you had coach Michael Malone fired 24 games into the year as the fallout of a long-standing coaching/front office feud; you had the subsequent player revolt against interim Tyrone Corbin leading him to a pathetic .250 record; you had the midseason hiring of George Karl which was reportedly opposed by Cousins; you had the owner hiring former Kings star and international basketball hero Vlade Divac into a new position superior to the embattled GM while FO advisor Mullin ran off to a head coaching gig in college; finally you’ve got the offseason, and everybody is wondering whether Vlade Divac is going to try to make this thing work between Cousins and Karl (without question the best player/coach tandem we’ve had in Sacramento since Webber/Adelman) or whether he’s going to just blow it up.  Never a dull moment.

And speaking of those never-dull moments, let me put up a picture here:

arena

That shiny stuff?  That’s the result of all of these previous drama-filled offseasons.  The yet-to-be-named building is on schedule to open in October of 2016, meaning that this upcoming year will be the final one held in Sleep Train Arena (neé Arco Arena).  The Kings job this offseason – as has always been the plan – is to finally put together that competitive team so that they can make the playoffs (and hopefully have a chance to win a series or two) in their inaugural season in that building up there.

It would seem that three pieces are in place if we have the strength to keep them all together – Cousins, Gay, and Karl.  The rest of the roster has question marks all over it.  Is Collison good enough to lead the team?  Can either McLemore or Stauskas emerge to play a credible SG?  Can the Kings dump the contract of Carl Landry and find a way to move Jason Thompson either to the 3rd big man role (preferred) or off of the roster?

The Kings have some options and free agents to worry about.  Eric Moreland’s option is likely to get picked up as the Kings have hopes of developing him into a long and lanky post defender – a shoulder injury derailed his rookie season.  But David Stockton is almost certainly not going to get picked up.  He actually signed one of those unguaranteed-we’ll-trade-it-so-you-can-cut-it contracts, so if he doesn’t end up getting dealt, he’ll be cut. Derrick Williams actually turned things on at the end of the season, but it seems unlikely that he will get a $4.0M QO, so his return to the uptempo Karl team that suits him pretty well is at least questionable.  Omri Casspi, on the other hand, was a sparkplug this year, and it would seem that he and the Kings will both want to come to terms on another deal.

The rest of the decisions will likely be dictated somewhat by what Sacramento does in the draft with their #6 lotto slot.  If they move up, anything is fair game.  I would think that the ideal result from a top-three pick would be D’Angelo Russell whom they could groom as a potential star PG beside Cousins.  But if it stays at #6 (Update: it stays at #6, all right) or drops to #7, the common wisdom would seem to have the Kings going after Willie Cauley-Stein if available – an athletic defender who can not only defend in the post but also on the perimeter, and while he’s not a major offensive threat (but see the major increase in alley-oops under Karl) his disruptive play could really help a somewhat torpid defense.  He seems like a natural fit and may not have any hot suitors sitting above Sacramento.

Assuming the Kings get post help in the draft in some way, they’ll likely look to upgrade their guards over the rest of the summer.  They may not really want to give up on either McLemore or Stauskas but they will want more production at SG next year, so they’d probably search for a free agent signing (pretty bleak…Danny Green is a dream target but Marco Belinelli would seem to be more realistic…and not terribly exciting) or a trade that wouldn’t cost much.  As I mentioned in the Minny writeup, Kevin Martin might well be available, but the cost would likely be steep as something like Landry for Martin wouldn’t seem to float Minnesota’s boat. Another consideration is the oft-repeated rumor that the Kings will go after Ty Lawson this offseason.  He costs a pretty penny more than Collison (over twice as much), and it’s not clear that he’s actually that much better.  If they get lucky and land Russell, on the other hand, then the Lawson scenario would seem to be right out and they would instead need to focus on a post player – a guy like Robin Lopez (whom they passed on in the Tyreke Evans deal) would fit the bill perfectly if they could pry him out of Portland.

But the bottom line is that I think we need to expect the front office to shake it up this summer.  Whether that means they move Collison or one of their young SGs or even Rudy Gay is hard to predict.  Heck, DeMarcus Cousins could even find his way out of town if the deal is right.  Never a dull moment.

With the Rockets looking like they’re going to get back to 3-2 in Houston against the Clippers, I’ll admit once again that I’m actually watching the Dodgers game.  This is what happens when you pay for MLB.tv – you watch it, because, of course, you paid for it.  Not watching this game would be like lighting one forty-millionth of a Josh Smith on fire, and I wouldn’t want to do that!  (Is there some sort of kosher restriction regarding not mixing your basketball and your baseball?  I hope not.  Not that I’m Jewish or anything, but I wouldn’t want to step on anybody’s toes.)

Denver Nuggets

Players under contract (years, t = team option/unguaranteed, p = player option):

Posts(4): Kenneth Faried (4), Jusuf Nurkic (1+2t), J.J. Hickson (1), Joffrey Lauvergne (1+1t)
Wings(1+1t): Danilo Gallinari (1), Wilson Chandler (1t)
Guards(3+1t+1p): Ty Lawson (2), Randy Foye (1t), Gary Harris (1+2t), Jameer Nelson (1p), Erick Green (2)

Total players under contract next year: 8 + 2t + 1p + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Will Barton (RFA), Darrell Arthur

2015 Cap Situation: $63.0M, no real cap space

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #7; Second Round: #57

E_1very year it used to seem that the Nuggets were overloaded with wings.  Nowadays, that’s not really the case anymore.  In fact, they’re in a bit of an interesting situation where Wilson Chandler’s team option at $7.2M isn’t necessarily huge, but it’s a must-take option whereas previously they might have been able to think about it.  Jameer Nelson’s gotta pick up his PO even though it’s only at $3.3M because he’s not any good any more. Barton and Foye are a bit less obvious.  Barton played pretty well and earned 24 minutes a game after coming over from Portland, so a $1.2M QO seems like a no-brainer, but if somebody offers him big money, I can see the Nuggets letting an offer sheet slide through.  Foye is 31 on the other hand, and not exactly getting it done anymore, so if the Nuggets want to mix up their team a little off the bat letting him walk is probably the right move.

Mixing it up would seem to be the order of business this offseason for the Nuggs, who have a lot of pieces that have seen a lot of trade rumors flying about them.  Lawson?  On the block.  Gallinari?  On the block.  Faried?  On the block.  All of these guys have sizeable contracts ($11M+) and Gallinari is the only one who expires at the end of the year.  While Nurkic is safe, I think the Nuggets are going to do their best to get some draft picks and start over once again – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Lawson, Gallinari, and Faried all gone by the end of the summer, clearing up some cap space and focusing on the draft.  With their first rounder, they’re looking right now at the #7 lotto slot.  (Update: And the pick stay there at 7.) There’s bound to be a good player available there – at #7 the odds right now say that at least one of Justise Winslow, Mario Hezonja, and Kristaps Porzingis will be there (and hey, if not then somebody more highly regarded will).  If I’m the Nuggets, I hope it’s Porzingis for the simple fact that a potential franchise post player (…well, super-tall stretch four?) is a bit more to build around than a wing, but one of those three would seem like the safe bet if the Nuggets don’t move up (or down) in the lottery.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Posts(4): Nikola Pekovic (3), Gorgui Dieng (1+1t), Anthony Bennett (1+1t), Adreian Payne (1+2t)
Wings(3+1p): Andrew Wiggins (1+2t), Kevin Martin (2), Shabazz Muhammad (1+1t), Chase Budinger (1p)
Guards(2): Ricky Rubio (4), Zach LaVine (1+2t)

Total players under contract next year: 9 + 1p

Major Free Agents: Kevin Garnett, Gary Neal

2015 Cap Situation: $60.8M, just a bit more than the MLE available

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #1; Second Round: #31, #36

Kahn is long gone, and while that’s probably good news for T’Wolves fans, it’s kind of a bummer for the snark crowd.  When you’re forced to trade Kevin Love away and you actually get Andrew Wiggins back, it’s kind of hard to mock you.  That said, Minnesota has a long way to go to approach relevance.  They somehow managed to beat Philly in this year’s tank-off, and they’re basically bringing back the same team to try it again next year – plus a top-4 pick, of course.  Still, they have nine returning players (and most likely 10, because I just don’t see Budinger walking away from that $5M PO…but I figure that Garnett will probably hang them up) and outside of improvement from their young squad across the board, their hopes for next year rely on the health of Rubio and Pekovic (the former more important as it would prevent the ‘Wolves from having to play Zach LaVine at PG, where he is not only the singular worst defender in the league, but also woeful on the offensive end as well) and that pick.

So let’s look to the pick first, shan’t we?  With Rubio locked up for four years, the ‘Wolves almost certainly are more interested in a post than a PG (watch that prediction go terribly wrong as they draft a PG and trade Rubio!) and luckily for them, there are two good posts in the top-4 in Towns and Okafor.  Towns is currently getting the big buzz as the probable #1 overall because of his two-way ability, and if common wisdom holds it would be hard to see Minnesota passing on him at #1, if they hit it. (Update: They do hit the #1 pick, the first team with the best lotto odds to actually win since 2004.  Right now the safe money is on Towns.) But beyond that, it seems to me that Okafor is a much better fit in Minnesota than he might be in other destinations due to the defensive presence of Dieng, so if they drop to #2 (or perhaps even in the #3/#4 slots, depending on whether Russell and Mudiay jump him) they can still grab that solid frontcourt piece.  At some point in the continuing rebuild, the T’Wolves will probably find it useful to trade away their injury-prone vets (meaning Pekovic and Martin), but I knod of don’t expect it to happen over the summer.  What kind of return do you get for 3 years and $36M of a 30-year-old Nikola Pekovic?  I don’t know the answer, but it probably involves eating a lot of money, so why not eat Pekovic’s?  At the trade deadline there are bound to be some contenders who will think much more kindly about picking up that money.  The same logic holds for Kevin Martin, though his contract is quite a bit smaller (about 2/$14.5M) and might be a palatable offseason acquisition for a team that is looking to break into the playoffs – a perfect example would be the Sacramento Kings, who are trying to build a winner around Cousins now and can’t really wait for McLemore and Stauskas to get up to NBA speed (though a good deal for the Wolves looks unlikely unless the Kings dip into a future first-rounder).  As for the free agent market, it’s tough to believe that Minnesota will be a big player this year – they don’t have much room, and I doubt that big name players are going to want to sign in the frigid north to join a rebuild.  Fortunately, the ‘Wolves have a pretty well-balanced team outside of a need for a backup PG.  And they’ve got some early first-round picks in a draft that is really deep.  I say they go after Andrew Harrison at #31 – it’s kind of a no-brainer.  I mean Rozier will probably also be available, but c’mon, just because Harrison was overrated going into college doesn’t mean he isn’t better.  And at #36, can the Timberwolves avoid drafting yet another UCLA Bruin?  I say “no”.  If nobody else snatches up Norman Powell by then, the T’Wolves will reunite him with Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine in the Westwoodiest SG rotation ever.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Posts(4): Serge Ibaka (2), Steven Adams (1+1t), Nick Collison (2), Mitch McGary (1+2t)
Wings(5): Kevin Durant (1), Jeremy Lamb (1), Steve Novak (1), Andre Roberson (1+1t), Perry Jones (1)
Guards(4): Russell Westbrook (2), Anthony Morrow (1+1t), Dion Waiters (1), D.J. Augustin (1)

Total players under contract next year: 13 + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Enes Kanter (RFA), Kyle Singler

2015 Cap Situation: $82.1M, over the tax

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #14; Second Round: #48

I_2f missing the playoffs and firing coach Scott Brooks after an injury-prone season is the pickled beets on OKC’s plate, then bringing back 13 contracts for next year is the mound of brussels sprouts soaking up that oozy red juice.  With the Thunder over the tax they don’t have a lot of freedom in changing their roster around.  I mean, not that you really want to shuffle the deck too much when you’ve got Durant and Westbrook and Ibaka as well as an up-and-coming Adams – in fact they’ll definitely want to give their next coach a chance to take this roster to a championship – but even if they wanted to shake it up they couldn’t do much.  On top of their already-full roster, I believe OKC is obligated to bring Josh Huestis in this year, and they’ve got the #14 lotto slot to contend with. (Update: The Thunder did not move up in the draft, cursed by the terrible eyeglasses representative Russell Westbrook was wearing.)  With a log jam like there’s just no way that Kanter gets his QO of $7.8M, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent and likely headed elsewhere.  And with their lack of flexibility, I would bet on Steve Novak and his $3.75M getting waived just for some breathing room.

I figure the Thunder would love to end the Dion Waiters experiment, but I don’t think he’s very highly in demand and a trade would seem unlikely to bring much back (though addition-by-subtraction is still a viable option).  In the draft, the Thunder would love to find a foreign draft-and-stash, but there really isn’t one in their range.  Either they reach for George Lucas or they make lemonade, and with a draft this strong, I think making lemonade is the best option.  Since they don’t have a super-convincing shooting guard and they’ve definitely got time to let a guy develop, I think that a good pick for the Thunder would be Kelly Oubre – a kid with a ton of potential but a long way to go.  And with the draft over, I think that’s more or less the end of OKC’s offseason.  Maybe they pull off a minor trade, maybe they sign a low-level free agent, but don’t look for much excitement here.

Portland Trailblazers

Posts(1+1t): Chris Kaman (1t), Meyers Leonard (1)
Wings(2+1p): Nicolas Batum (1), Arron Afflalo (1p), Allen Crabbe (1)
Guards(2+1p): Damian Lillard (1), Steve Blake (1p), C.J. McCollum (1+1t)

Total players under contract next year: 5 + 1t + 2p

Major Free Agents: LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland

2015 Cap Situation: $38.6M, cap space of about $28M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #23

N_1o-brainer of the month for July is: Offer Lillard a max extension.  I love this crazy rising salary cap situation because it takes a lot of the thinking out of it.  It’s not “should we spend all that money?”, it’s “on whom can we spend all the moniez?”  Now, just like everybody else who is poised to be a free agent come next offseason, Lillard doesn’t need to take it, but the offer is easy to make.  As for the three options that Portland is looking at, picking up the option on Kaman makes sense because $5M ain’t that much and the post situation in Portland is pretty unsettled.  Afflalo is in decline, so while lots of people expect him to be a free agent, I wonder if he can walk from $7.8M – I’ll say he sticks around., Steve Blake is a tough call, but let’s make it easy on the Blazers and say he stays around.

Even if all of these options come home to roost, Portland still only has 8 players coming back next year and three major free agents in Aldridge, Lopez, and the injured Matthews, so it’s a good thing they’ve got a ton of cap space to work with.  If I’m the Blazers, I’m actually worried about Aldridge.  They haven’t ever quite been able to put together a real contender around him, even with talent like Lillard and Batum, and if they can’t give him a real good pitch I think he walks to another contender or a big market that has a plan to get one or two more big talents.  My gut says he’s gone.  And if he’s gone, then Robin Lopez may well decide to look for some new running partners as well.  (Matthews, on the other hand, probably signs a one-year deal in familiar environs to prove that he can come back from that torn Achilles, so there’s that.)  But bottom line is that I’m kind of predicting some doom and gloom for Portland.  Aldridge and Lopez potentially on their way out, Lillard may look at that and put off the extension, Matthews is rehabbing a really major tendon…I think Portland may be one of those destinations this offseason that are kind of the Missouri Show-Me specials.  They may end up having to sign some big one-year deals and try to put all the pieces together to convince folks to come on back next year.  Big dollar guys who have trouble finding a home (Rajon Rondo?  Amare Stoudemire?) may be buying new raincoats this year.  With their lone pick (#23) Portland is in a tricky spot.  If it becomes a rebuild year, they can afford to go for potential, but if they keep the core together, they’ll want to get some solid contribution now – and SG would be a nice way to go with the Matthews injury.  Unfortunately they won’t know what is going to happen in free agency until after the draft (the same dilemma for all teams, so it’s fair).  But it’s probably in their best interest to play it as if they’re trying to contend, and that means that smooth-shooting junior R.J. Hunter is a natural fit.  I’ll say that.

Utah Jazz

Posts(2+3t): Derrick Favors (3), Rudy Gobert (1+1t), Trevor Booker (1t), Grant Jerrett (1t), Jack Cooley (1t)
Wings(2): Gordon Hayward (2+1p), Rodney Hood (1+2t)
Guards(3+1t): Dante Exum (1+2t), Alec Burks (4), Trey Burke (1+1t), Bryce Cotton (1t)

Total players under contract next year: 7 + 4t

Major Free Agents: None

2015 Cap Situation: $52.2M, cap space of about $19M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #12; Second Round: #42, #54

DCF 1.0ood thing about team options is you don’t have to pick them up.  Three of the four Utah options are basically useless – Jerrett, Cooley, and Cotton gave the Jazz a total of 272 minutes on the year – and could easily be replaced or come back if the Jazz can’t pull any big free agent triggers.  Trevor Booker, on the other hand, was quite useful for them so his team option at a bit under $5M seems like an easy take.  The would leave the Jazz with only 8 players coming back, but the core is nice, especially with Rodney Hood turning it on at the end of the season and Gobert emerging as a potential star in the post.  I’m not that high on what Dante Exum showed this year, but…

The Jazz have some money to spend in free agency, but since they’re not really a destination at this point, they ought to look to the draft first.  They have the #12 lotto slot (Update: #12 pick) that they can use to go after some depth either in the post or at the 2.  They should have a chance at one of either Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, or Trey Lyles, and my vote is that they should go for whichever is there.  Lyles seems like the best-case scenario to me as the hefty defensive work is already accounted for between Gobert and Favors, and Lyles can bring some offense to their post game.  I love the fit.  That would mean that in free agency Utah can spend their money going after some guard play.  A SG to back up Burks and a PG to guard against Burke and Exum falling apart would appear to be in order.  I’m going to predict that the Jazz go the all-Williams route on this one, taking Lou Williams at the 2 and Mo Williams at the 1.  They ought to have a bit of money left after doing that , but there’s not necessarily a big move they need to make.  A guy like Al-Farouq Aminu that can tween the forward spots would be useful and could probably be had.

 

Now that we’re moving on to the Western Conference, at least I’m actually watching some playoff basketball while doing these writeups.  Unfortunately, I’m watching game 4 between the Rockets and the Clippers, which has turned into Hack-A-Jordan (26 FTs for Jordan with a few minutes remaining in the first half?!?) and that makes for some damn ugly basketball.  The competition committee is absolutely going to have to address this over the summer.  It’s not like it would be terribly hard to do – on a “penalty” foul away from the ball the fouled team has the option of either taking the two free throws, or to take the ball out on the side and assess an “away-from-the-ball” warning.  After a small number of warnings (3, 4, 5?) subsequent away-from-the-ball fouls would result in ball on the side AND a technical free throw.  By the way, Jordan has finished the first half with an NBA Playoff record 28 FT attempts in the half.  FIX THIS, SILVER.

Dallas Mavericks

Players under contract (years, t = team option/unguaranteed, p = player option):

Posts(1+1t): Dirk Nowitzki (1+1p), Dwight Powell (1t)
Wings(1+1p): Chandler Parsons (1+1p), Al-Farouq Aminu (1p)
Guards(2+2p): Devin Harris (2+1t), Monta Ellis (1p), Gal Mekel (1), Raymond Felton (1p)

Total players under contract next year: 4 + 1t + 3p

Major Free Agents: Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, J.J. Barea

2015 Cap Situation: $44.4M, cap space of about $23M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #21; Second Round: #52

S_2o how about that Rajon Rondo trade, huh?  Oh, boy.  I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a team officially boot a star player from their squad during the playoffs.  That’s embarrassing for both parties (Rondo particularly) and it kind of messes with the plan for next year. They’re going to be down to essentially three signed players coming into the offseason – the ancient Nowitzki, Parsons, and Devin Harris (Gal Mekel doesn’t count guys, sorry).  Of course, Raymond Felton (he of the 281 minutes on the season) won’t turn down his $4.5M option, but again – that still only adds up to three players.  I think Monta Ellis will likely pick up his $9M option and try for the big money next year, but that’s not a certainty by any means.  Aminu will opt out, on the other hand, because he’ll get a nice raise over that $1.1M option just to waste away on somebody’s bench.  And in the end the Mavericks will probably keep Dwight Powell just because they’re so thin and a minimum contract in hand is worth two in the bush.  So that put the Mavericks up to seven players, only four of whom actually count.  Rebuilding starts…now!

The Mavericks will want both Barea and Chandler back – Barea seems to thrive there so he’ll probably return (and at this point…he’s the starter…) and as long as the Mavericks strike out on big-name free agents and Chandler wants back in, he’ll be back too.  The real question is whether there are any good targets for the Mavs to pry away from other teams.  With Monroe likely on his way to New York, unless Aldridge wants to jump ship (and he might), it’s probably Chandler.  Obviously that won’t be all, though they’ll probably only have about $8M left tops assuming they actually do that and still be full of holes all over the place.  An actual starting PG would be nice, or ANY depth at the wing, or the post…I just feel like they’re going to be filling that space with guys like Dorell Wright and Jonas Jerebko and Mo Williams…it’s not necessarily a pretty picture.  In the draft, the Mavs are probably going to have to go with the best long-term prospect.  I just don’t see them truly competing next year and developing a guy is just going to be a better move than trying to find a win-now guy.  I think that Trey Lyles, Kevon Looney, and Tyus Jones are three guys that simply can’t be passed on at #21, but all of those three could well be gone.  If none of those are left on the board, I think the biggest upside guy is probably Christian Wood unless George Lucas begins dropping jaws at the Combine.  Either of those two would probably be a good call as the Mavericks definitely have to start the rebuild this time around.

Houston Rockets

Posts(5): Dwight Howard (1+1p), Terrence Jones (1), Donatas Motiejunas (1), Clint Capela (1+2t), Joey Dorsey (1)
Wings(2+1t): Trevor Ariza (3), Corey Brewer (1), Kostas Papanikolaou (1t)
Guards(3): James Harden (2+1t), Pablo Prigioni (1), Nick Johnson (2)

Total players under contract next year: 10 + 1t + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Patrick Beverley (RFA), Jason Terry, Josh Smith

2015 Cap Situation: $67.0M, right at the cap

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #18; Second Round: #32

Y_1ou know what looks bad?  The Rockets’ chances of competing with this team.  After getting beaten by about 30 in the first game in Staples to go down 2-1, they’re on the verge of going down 3-1 with a 20+ point loss as I write.  This isn’t exactly good news, because the Rockets are poised to bring back probably 12 players.  They still have ten guys under contract next year, and Papanikolaou and Beverley (the latter via restricted free agency) seem to be good bets to be back.  Josh Smith is another wild card, but he has fit in so well (and has such a bad reputation) that there will probably be a mutual decision to re-sign him – all while the Pistons pay for the majority of his salary.  So that’s thirteen guys coming back, which means that the Rockets had better hope that a healthy Patrick Beverley will make the difference.

It’s that or the trade market, to be honest.  And while Motiejunas or Terrence Jones might bring back some value, I don’t know if that’s the answer.  In deference to the principle that it’s better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late…do we dare discuss the hypothetical of trading Dwight Howard?  Howard is certainly going to opt out next summer and chase after a max contract on a never-before-seen scale, and I’m not really convinced he’s that effective of a player.  He really doesn’t give you anything on the offensive end that a guy like DeAndre Jordan can’t give you.  He’s a great defender and hyperathletic, but this next contract starting at age-31 is going to be a real risky proposition.  Trading Howard away is a drastic move, but it just feels like the right thing to do.  In homage to the recently-fired Bill Simmons, what if the Rockets offered Dwight Howard to the Celtics for Jared Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, and four first round draft picks – who says no?  Boston has a nearly infinite number of draft picks over the next six years, so they can afford it, and Howard becomes their next superstar to build around.  The Rockets get rid of a guy who – let’s try not to allow the Recency Effect to play into our evaluations too much – just got kicked out of a game where his team is now losing by over 30 points (for the second game in a row) after being basically a humongous jerk throughout.  It’s time for the Rockets to cut ties here.  Sorry, Boston, I think you just got screwed!  Which means that the only thing left is the Rockets’ draft pick.  At #18, there’s no way to replace Howard, not even if Myles Turner falls (which I doubt he will). Tyus Jones or Cameron Payne, whoever they like better, is probably the smart pick here.  This would give them somebody to challenge Beverley – or to step in if he ever gets hurt again, a role that clearly neither James Harden nor Jason Terry can effectively fill.

Memphis Grizzlies

Posts(2+2t): Zach Randolph (2), Jon Leuer (1t), Jarnell Stokes (1+1t), JaMychal Green (2t)
Wings(2+1p): Jeff Green (1p), Vince Carter (2), Courtney Lee (1)
Guards(3+2t): Mike Conley (1), Tony Allen (2), Beno Udrih (1t), Jordan Adams (1+2t), Russ Smith (2t)

Total players under contract next year: 7 + 4t + 1p

Major Free Agents: Marc Gasol, Kosta Koufos, Nick Calathes

2015 Cap Situation: $50.1M, cap space of about $17M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #25

E_2ver have four team options in a single offseason and only care about one of them?  That’s one of the minor questions for the Grizzlies this offseason, as they’ll bring back Beno Udrih for a cheap $2.2M and then make completely inconsequential decisions about the other three.  Jeff Green will opt in to his quite generous $9.2M and chase the money next year.  But the big question – in fact what ought to be the only question – is whether the Grizzlies will get any competition to sign Marc Gasol.  Gasol is going to be looking for a contract for his age 31-35 seasons (if he doesn’t go for the one-year special) and as one of the better centers in the league he’ll get basically max money.  Who does he take it from?  The nightmare for the Grizzlies would be Gasol jumping ship to anywhere.  They’ve got the money to sign him, so it’s all about whether he’s loyal to Memphis or whether he’d like a change of scenery.  I have no idea, but I’ll go with the default assumption that he’ll stick around.

If the business with Gasol and Green goes as I expect, the Grizz won’t need much.  They’ll probably want to bring back Kosta Koufos, who has meshed really well in Memphis and couldn’t possibly get priced out of the Grizzlies’ range.  And there’s not much else that they need other than bench depth.  That would mean that in the draft they’ve just got to go for most potential available.  From the “potential” position I really like Cliff Alexander here – a guy who has an outside shot of becoming the next Z-Bo but who wasn’t really killing it at Kansas before the NCAA sent the vague and dreaded Violations Tornado to set him off early on the golden brick road that leads to Barclay’s Center.  But the bottom line is, regardless of how the playoffs turn out the Grizz have a decent opportunity to go at it with essentially the same squad next year, and I think their best move is to try doing just that.

New Orleans Pelicans

Posts(2): Anthony Davis (1), Ryan Anderson (1)
Wings(1): Quincy Pondexter (3)
Guards(2+1p): Tyreke Evans (2), Jrue Holiday (2), Eric Gordon (1p)

Total players under contract next year: 5 + 1p + 1 RFA

Major Free Agents: Norris Cole (RFA), Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, Dante Cunningham

2015 Cap Situation: $56.2M, cap space of about $9M

2015 Draft Picks: Second Round: #56

Anthony Davis is a guy who just makes all of your roster issues look tiny.  And that’s a good thing, because the Pelicans certainly have some roster issues (and coaching issues – they fired Monty Williams today), but for now they also have one Anthony Davis.  That means that this offseason, prior to the final year on his rookie deal, they have to drive that metaphorical Brinks truck up to his metaphorical driveway and dump all the literal cash that they can out in the hopes that he’ll sign a max extension.  It’s probably not going to work, because he’ll be able to sign a bigger max contract next year even if he gets both legs amputated at the knees doing ill-advised cartwheels next to a helicopter.  But the Pelicans have to offer.  But what about those roster problems?  The first one is that Eric Gordon is definitely going to opt in to his deal and leave them with that huge logjam at the guard again.  The next one is that despite having that logjam, they’ll only be bringing six players back, their only RFA (Norris Cole) is also a guard, and they’ve only got about $9M worth of cap space to fill out their roster.  How are they going to do it?  I don’t know.

I think the first order of business would be to put Gordon on the trading block.  It’s a bit of a risky proposition if only for the fact that Holiday has been so fragile the past two years (and I wouldn’t blame New Orleans at all if they were to dump Holiday and turn the PG over to Tyreke – in fact I’d condone this) but they’ve got to start clearing out that logjam somewhere.  The obvious move to make here would be to try to bring back a wing player, something they sorely lack.  It would be nice if they could get Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for him in exchange for taking Lance Stephenson off of Charlotte’s hands, and I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility.  It would certainly begin to balance up the Pelican lineup and would give them an excuse to match any offer Cole gets while still looking to shop Stephenson.  The next thing to worry about is Omer Asik.  If you saw my preview for the Pacers, I suggested that they’d be well off trying to get a sign-and-trade of Asik for Hibbert and Hill.  This could work out for the Pelicans as well under the assumption that Hibbert could really use a change of scenery.  Just imagine trying to score on a Davis-Hibbert frontcourt!  (And don’t forget that Solomon Hill would give the Pelicans another proven, if unspectacular, SF.)  That’s about as good of a summer as I can come up with for the Pellies – they won’t have any significant cap space to chase a big name free agent, they don’t have much of a draft pick, and they’ve got a lot of holes to plug. Still, I think a few good moves can balance them out a bit.

San Antonio Spurs

Posts(2): Tiago Splitter (2), Boris Diaw (2+1t)
Wings(1): Kyle Anderson (1+2t)
Guards(2): Tony Parker (3), Patty Mills (1)

Total players under contract next year: 5 + 2 RFA

Major Free Agents: Kawhi Leonard (RFA), Cory Joseph (RFA), Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes, Matt Bonner

2015 Cap Situation: $34.8M, cap space of about $32M

2015 Draft Picks: First Round: #26; Second Round: #55

R_1emember when the Spurs weren’t a dynasty?  It was a long time ago – they’ve missed the playoffs once in the last 26 years – and that was the year they got Duncan in the lottery.  Well, five championships later Duncan is coming into his age-39 season without a contract, Manu Ginobili is coming into his age-38 season without a contract, and Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are free agents as well, though Leonard will be an RFA.  The real question is when everybody is going to finally hang it up – it could be this year, or they could give it one more try (or who knows, maybe even two).  Nobody knows.

The rub is that the Spurs are now getting down to the point where sooner or later they’re going to be rebuilding around Kawhi, and as much as I like him, that’s not going to be easy.  I just don’t see him as the best player on a successful team – you want him to be your third-best player.  Regardless, the Spurs aren’t going to let anybody walk away with him in restricted free agency.  He’ll be back and the only question is how big the contract will be and how much cap space it will leave the Spurs with.  Of course, if Duncan and Ginobili decide to give it one more go (they won’t do it anywhere but San Antonio) the cap number won’t matter – Bird Rights and all that.  But if the rebuild starts this year, the Spurs will want to attract a big-name free agent if they have the cap space to do it.  I can tell you who I think they would target – LaMarcus Aldridge.  Moreover, I suspect that Aldridge might be willing to leave Portland for the opportunity to play for such a successful franchise, even if Duncan and Ginobili were gone and Pop figured to be on the way out before too long.  But most likely Timmy and Manu aren’t ready to give up just yet, and even if they do give the Spurs a hometown discount they’ll still eat up enough cap space to make certain that Aldridge doesn’t join them.  In that case the Spurs probably go ahead and overpay Danny Green to get him to come back, and squeeze every bit of 3-and-D out of him that they can – until they trade him for somebody a bit better than a role player.

The Spurs do have a pick this year – and it’s not like they haven’t had success with late first-rounders (or later).  It’s a popular bet to assume that the Spurs will find a hidden international talent, though truth be told they’ve come up pretty dry in the internationals since Splitter and Dragic in ’07 and ’08, and the Parker and Ginobili jackpots were in ’01 and ’99.  It’s kind of amazing how that reputation sticks around.  Still, let’s go with it!  Brazilian PG George Lucas (no relation) is projected to be around when the Spurs pick and if he pans out he’d be a real comfort to San Antonio as Tony Parker’s career eventually winds down as all good things must.