It’s going to be a busy offseason for a lot of NBA teams. They either want to strengthen their roster, rebuild their team, or try and stay relevant by keeping the core together. Let’s take a look at what some of these teams should do this summer.
Atlanta Hawks – Retool or Rebuild?
The Hawks have been swept by the Cavs in back to back visits to the playoffs and now they’re heading into the offseason with their franchise player, Al Horford, heading into free agency as an unrestricted free agent. It’s obvious their main priority is to resign Horford and keep the combination of Millsap-Horford alive, since both big man can stretch the floor and play an integral part to one of the best defensive systems in the league. But how far can you actually reach in the playoffs with those two? Coming off a championship, can you really compete with the Cavs in the East?
Rumours of Jeff Teague for Nerlens Noel surfaced and that’s a clear indication of the Hawks handing the car keys to Dennis Schroder. He’s only 22 and has a ton of potential but has yet to develop a decent jump shot. With the league’s transition to threes and spacing as key parts on offense, this project might take a few years to develop. If they truly believe in the German point guard, they should blow it up and rebuild around him with players that matches his career arc. Hey look! Noel and Schroder are the same age! Go figure. Noel might be a contingency plan to Horford not re-signing but they should really make it their priority. Let’s be honest though, how good can Noel actually get? A better Biyombo? And is Schroder and Noel truly the answer? Probably not, but it’s a good positive first step to a rebuild.
With the cap projected to increase to $90 million this coming season, they should use the Horford cap space for something else and try to build for the future instead of locking in for multiple years with the ex-Florida Gator, who will be looking for one last big paycheque. Other players? Kyle Korver is 35, and he’s not the same anymore, Millsap is 31 and is still locked in until the 2017-18 season. Kent Bazemore is going to get paid, whether that’s by the Hawks or not. Atlanta would need a few trades to build for the future but this is the team that traded Joe Johnson’s mammoth of a contract to the Nets, if it’s any team that can rebuild through trades, it’s the Hawks.
Charlotte Hornets – Join the Whiteside
Since dating back to the Bobcats era in 2004, Charlotte has only made the playoffs three times. They’ve won their first ever playoff game as a franchise this year against the Heat and almost made it past the first round. Steve Clifford switched up the offense and the team focused on threes more. They won 48 games this year and was tied for 3rd in the East. They are showing signs of improvement and believe it or not, they were even fun to watch this past season.
This coming offseason, several key players for the Hornets are facing free agency. Al Jefferson, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Courtney Lee, and Jeremy Lin to name a few. Their guaranteed salary for the upcoming season is around $46 million, meaning there is around another 45 million in cap space. Jeremy Lin and Marvin Williams are going to look for a large payout and well deserved if I may add, but those two probably aren’t in Jordan’s priority list. Don’t get me wrong, they were probably the third and fourth best player on the team, and continuity is crucial in the league but if it’s not a decent and affordable price, Hornets should look elsewhere. Instead, getting Batum back should be the number one thing on their to-do list. A versatile player that can guard positions 1 through 4, and have the ability to create for others is a luxury to have in the league. If the Hornets had a healthy Batum in the playoffs, the series against the Heat could’ve went the other way.
Another take away from Buzz City’s season, no rim protector, no interior presence on the defensive end. Big Al, Spencer Hawes, Frank the Tank, Tyler Hansbrough, and Cody Zeller should be the least athletic front court in the NBA (and like I said before, the whitest frontcourt in the NBA). If they can use the cap space to cop a shot blocker (aka Hassan Whiteside), that would do plenty to their team. Offer him the max if you can, he’s a legit player that can change a team’s outlook, especially if his free throws gets going like towards the end of last season. Most importantly, Kemba Walker (26), Whiteside (27), and Batum (27) are around the same age! Teams have been focusing on getting their core group of players around the same age, to hopefully have the same peak years in their careers together. With the trio of Kemba, Whiteside and Batum, they would certainly be creating a lot of buzz in the East.
Miami Heat – Bosh can’t handle the Heat?
The biggest question for the Heat this offseason is the whole Chris Bosh conundrum. Have we seen the last game of Bosh’s career already? Blood clots are very serious, especially this is a recurrence for Bosh as well. You know what the sad thing is? Bosh was playing the best ball since his Raptor days, but ironically, the Heat were playing much better without Bosh in the lineup. The Heat went small with Luol Deng at the 4 and they used their quickness and spacing to capitalise on teams. The Heat even took the Raptors to 7 games in the Eastern Semi Finals, and the series was only differentiated by a basket or two (especially the Kyle Lowry buzzer beater that pushed for overtime). This was the first time Deng has played small ball 4 in his career, and I can see lots of teams eyeing for Deng for that position this offseason as his free agency is looming.
In terms of the cap space situation for the Heat, I think only the Godfather himself, Pat Riley, knows how to handle the situation. Bosh is locked in for $23million, and no one knows if he’s playing another game for the Heat. Are they going to use the Disabled Player Exception? Even if the cap space is taking a leap this coming season, Heat still has to re-sign Dwyane Wade and Whiteside as their priorities. The Heat voiced out that they want to re-sign Whiteside, but is he worth the max? Is Wade going to take a paycut to help them out? Knowing Riley, he’ll always have backup plans, and facing this situation, they’re probably assuming Bosh will not return and if he does, they’ll see it as a plus.
One of the tricks I’m sure Riley has up his sleeve is recruiting Kevin Durant. Financially, I don’t know how this would work out with Whiteside and Wade as their priorities. But if Durant decides to stay or go to another team, I can only assume Heat stays with its original roster by re-signing their veteran players with decent contracts and maxing out Whiteside. A more positive note would be the emergence of their rookies, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson who had hell of a rookie season. All in all, Miami’s season looms around Bosh’s situation and as a fan of the game, I hope he returns as Miami faces an interesting albeit tricky offseason.
Orlando Magic – Do you believe in Magic?
The Magic’s season was a bit disappointing to say the least. They started off the season well, having a 19-13 record, but somehow s*** the fan and the once potential playoff team under Scott Skiles became another tanking-but-not-really team. They had some clearing cap space moves, such as the Tobias Harris trade for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Illyasova (both who’s not a part of their guaranteed salary entering next season as of now). The starting 3 spot is now up for grabs for Evan Fournier (assuming the Magic is going to match any offers for Fournier), or the development of Mario Hezonja. They also have 4 starters locked into contracts for the upcoming year with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Nik Vucevic.
This coming season, the newly appointed head coach, Frank Vogel, looks to improve on their record and should instill his own philosophy onto the team. He’s probably looking forward and can’t wait for the training camp to begin already, with the potential that he has on hand. What will Coach Vogel bring? A brand of toughness on defense and the ability to adapt to his roster. He went from a slow-post up oriented team to a fast paced-small ball team in Indiana. He overachieved with teams that didn’t actually look good on paper. He made Lance Stephenson look like a legit good NBA player. He made the best out of Roy Hibbert and made him into a runners-up for defensive player of the year (yes, the same Roy Hibbert who’s on the Lakers).
Vogel is going to do big things in Orlando, if the front office allows it. They’re probably going to match offers for Fournier and DeWayne Dedmon, whilst bringing back Jason Smith. Assuming Ersan’s gone too, they’re projected to have around 30-40 million in cap space. The 4 starting players are locked in until 2017-18 season at least. They can use the cap space to make acquisitions, who doesn’t want to live next to Disney World with no State Income Tax? It’s an attractive location, with good weather and the outlook of the team is looking bright. What the Magic needs to do is to make sure they don’t spend big and lock in a player for multiple years onto their cap and not match the career arc of their core group of guys now (I’m looking at you Dwight). Let’s just hope they don’t mortgage their future to be competitive now.
Washington Wizards – Beal or No Beal?
In my fantasy season this year, I picked Bradley Beal onto my team. Oh god was it the biggest mistake this year? It’s not a good sign when you’re 22 and have four stress fracture injuries that costs you a lot of games! He’s young, but his legs are literally made of glass. Everyone was looking forward to Beal’s emergence (like C.J. McCollum) this year, mainly because of his outstanding performance in the playoffs in 2014-15. He did post his career high of 17.3 ppg, but missing out on nearly 30 games, that costs Wizards the playoffs this year. However, with the cap increasing this summer, many teams in the NBA will gamble on the third overall pick if the Wizards decides to part ways with him. There’s also news on the Wizards offering him the 5-year max contract worth about $22 million (don’t do it!!!).
The Wizards also fired Randy Wittman after a disappointing record of 41-41 and missing the playoffs. Scott Brooks was brought in to help the Wizards escape from the middle of the pack and more importantly, the “Kevin Durant Free-Agent-Wining-and-Dining Palooza”. Does Durant want to go back to his previous coach? Who knows, but they definitely have a good relationship with one another. One might think that Brooks was hired so they have a better shot at Durant this summer, but if that fails, what would Brooks bring to the table instead? This topic’s up for debate as he’s only coached Russell Westbrook and Durant in his career, arguably two of the top five players in the league. The OKC offense was basic, and one of the most predictable offense in the league, but if you have Westbrook and Durant, do you really need to change it up? His rotations were criticized, as he would never stagnate the minutes between Russ and KD, but it was the players who wanted to play out the entire first quarter because it helps them get into better rhythm. Is Brooks a top 5 coach in the league? No, but he’s not the worst and with teams dropping coaches like they’re flies, you can’t find a coach with decent track record and a connection to KD.
So what if Durant doesn’t come? Well, all the trades and transactions did to prepare for this summer is probably wasted. Ernie Grunfeld would probably lose his job as the GM. They need back up plans, plans to build around John Wall and probably Beal as well. Otto Porter showed signs of development this past season, as three and D players are hard to come by now. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat are locked in as 4 and 5. Sticking to the same core of starters is probably the realistic way of moving on if KD is not available but realistically, how far can it get them?
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