Predicting Which NBA Teams Will Shake Up Their Roster Before 2013-14 Season
In the ever-changing NBA world, if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. There is no standing still.
That's why with more than three months to go before the the 2013-14 season tips off, it's crazy to assume that the end of July—typically the busiest month of the offseason—would mean the end of the league's player movement.
The Boston Celtics still need to decide if they're going to fully embrace a rebuilding process by trading the rest of their veteran players. With guys like Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass and Gerald Wallace still on the roster, the C's are currently toeing the line between starting over and staying respectable.
They'll have to pick one or the other eventually.
The Sacramento Kings are loaded with far too many rotation players, but not nearly enough legitimate starters. Plus, there's the issue of whether to offer DeMarcus Cousins an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline. Should the team want to seriously explore a trade, now might be the best time.
The biggest hands of the offseason have probably already been played, but there are still plenty of teams that could shuffle the deck.
If you're the Sacramento Kings, you absolutely have to be at least thinking about trading DeMarcus Cousins.
The franchise is in year one of a new era, blessed with capable ownership for the first time in years and poised to build a team the right way. Cousins could very well be part of the Kings' future, but moving him could also help speed up the culture change that's probably going to be necessary for a truly fresh start.
According to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee, the Kings are expected to meet with Cousins' representatives to discuss an extension soon. So it certainly doesn't appear that trade talks are imminent. But rumors abounded last year, and it's possible that a snag in negotiations will lead to the Kings exploring a trade more seriously.
On a related note, the rest of Sacramento's cluttered roster could use an overhaul.
A glance through the current personnel reveals two-deep battles at almost every position. And while it's nice to have Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, for example, as rotation options, it's not ideal for either to be playing starter's minutes.
The allure of a high lottery pick could prevent the Kings from making moves that would improve the roster, but it's still undeniable that Sacramento has far too much quantity and not enough quality in the talent department.
There's an awful lot of positive fan sentiment floating around after a successful effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Now might be the time to capitalize on that good will by making a deal or two.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is no longer considering the possibility of trading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Dwight Howard and James Harden told their GM that they wanted to play with Asik and Lin, so the trade rumors that swirled in early July have all but died.
But what if Asik reasserts his desire to leave town? Nothing has changed since his initial trade requests after the Howard signing, so why would he feel any differently just because the team's stars have reportedly said they want him around?
Strategically, it doesn't make much sense for either Lin or Asik to start for the Rockets.
Patrick Beverley outplayed Lin during last year's playoffs and his outside shooting fits better with Houston's offense, which should feature plenty of pick-and-rolls and inside-out passing.
Asik will almost certainly be relegated to a backup role behind Howard because neither big man can do much on offense from outside of the restricted area. The Rockets would probably love to have a defensive ace like Asik coming off the bench, but we know that Asik isn't as wild about the idea.
Things seem quiet now, but when training camp rolls around and the Rockets have a chance to see how the pieces fit together, don't be surprised if both Lin and Asik end up right back on the trading block.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans made some of the biggest moves this offseason, acquiring Jrue Holiday in a big draft-day deal and bringing in Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade exchange.
But those moves have left the team with a roster that is somewhat unwieldy.
With the odd 1-2-3 mixture of Evans, Holiday and Eric Gordon—all ball-dominant players—the Pelicans might not be able to maximize the value of their best offensive players. And there's also the issue of defending larger wings, something with which both Gordon and Evans will struggle.
Dealing Gordon for a more traditional small forward would make a lot of sense. Perhaps either Danny Granger or Luol Deng, both of whom have expiring deals, would help the Pelicans' pieces fall more snugly into place.
Up front, a deal sending Ryan Anderson to the Rockets for Omer Asik makes a ton of sense.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that talks occurred on July 5, but that discussions quickly died. As both teams get a better sense of their rosters, the necessity of such a deal should become apparent again.
The Rockets desperately need a floor-spacer at the 4, and the Pelicans could use a more traditional big man to play alongside Anthony Davis and his finesse-heavy offensive game.
Some deals are just meant to be, and this feels like one of them.
There's really no use for Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young or Spencer Hawes on the Philadelphia 76ers. They're useful players in limited roles, but they don't figure into the team's future and their real value is probably as a trade chip for cheaper or younger assets.
Plus, all three young veterans would love to be free of what's sure to be a painful rebuilding year.
Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the trio are all possible trade candidates and that the Sixers are making no effort to hide their willingness to deal. If Philadelphia can nab a few more draft picks or expiring contracts, it'll help create more flexibility and further promote the team's obvious tanking agenda.
Incredibly, there's still no head coach in place, which means that, whoever eventually takes over the reins, might have his own ideas about the kind of roster he'd like in the short term.
As much as any team in the league, the Sixers appear primed for a few more moves before the season kicks off.
The Orlando Magic probably won't be involved in any blockbuster trades before the 2013-14 season starts, but they'll almost certainly trim some of the fat from the roster by relocating a couple of veterans.
According to a July 9 tweet from Wojnarowski, the Magic have been working on a buyout for Hedo Turkoglu for some time. With the Orlando youth movement in full swing, there's really no sense in retaining him for $12 million when the team could simply make him go away by paying him the guaranteed $6 million on the final year of his deal, per Josh Robbins of Orlando Sentinel.
Al Harrington could be in for the same treatment, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.
The 33-year-old veteran is slated to make nearly $15 million over the next two seasons, but only half of that total is guaranteed, per Robbins. If the Magic can't find a taker for him in a trade, they'll most likely buy him out in an effort to more fully embrace the team's rebuilding effort.
Harrington has value as a bench contributor on the right team, so it's possible that Orlando will get something worthwhile in return. However the particulars shake out, Harrington is almost certainly gone.
Usually, it's not a good strategy to rebuild a team by accumulating unwanted malcontents from around the league. But that appears to be a large component of the Phoenix Suns' atypical blueprint.
According to Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com, new Suns GM Ryan McDonough said: "When teams have maybe a disgruntled superstar, what are they looking for in return? Well, they're looking for picks, that's what they want...I think we're well positioned to strike if and when the next disgruntled superstar becomes available."
The Suns could have as many as five first-round picks over the next two seasons, which would certainly appeals to a team looking to unload one of McDonough's beloved, unhappy stars.
So if things don't end up working out between Cousins and the Kings, expect the Suns to swoop in with an intriguing trade offer. Or maybe the Pelicans will finally relent and look to ship Gordon to the Suns, with whom he signed an offer sheet not so long ago.
Could these moves happen at the trade deadline next February? Sure.
But with so much time between now and the start of the regular season, it's also possible that something happens sooner than later. After all, you never know when one of the league's more volatile personalities will demand a trade.
UPDATE: Tuesday, July 30, at 6:25 p.m. ET by Grant Hughes
Well, that didn't take long.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Milwaukee Bucks agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday afternoon. The Pistons will receive Brandon Jennings on a three-year, $24 million deal in exchange for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov.
All things considered, the Bucks got a nice return for a player who clearly didn't want to remain in Milwaukee.
---End of update---
As Mr. Belding so often wondered on Saved by the Bell, "what is going on with the Milwaukee Bucks?"
Maybe I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
It's really hard to explain the roster the Bucks have pulled together this offseason, full of big men and small guards, but lacking useful wings. O.J. Mayo and Carlos Delfino are pretty much it in terms of the 2 and 3 positions, with Ersan Ilyasova capable of playing spot minutes at the 3, but not ideally suited to be there.
Conversely, the team is loaded up with power forwards and centers and figures to have a glut of undersized point guards if and when Brandon Jennings eventually re-signs on a one-year deal.
If only to balance out the roster, the Bucks are going to have to make a move. The logical one would be to sign and trade Jennings, but nobody seems interested in inking him to an offer sheet in the first place. So it's hard to envision a scenario in which another team would also give up something to get him.
Still, the Bucks have an unbalanced roster and one of the more interesting lingering free-agent situations. Expect them to look markedly different before the 2013-14 season begins.
Unless they're planning to somehow return to prominence without fully bottoming out, the Celtics are going to have to consider unloading some of their remaining vets to stockpile assets (and losses) that will help facilitate a quick turnaround.
Rajon Rondo comes first in any discussion on the subject, and he's been linked to trade discussions with half of the league since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce left for the Brooklyn Nets. For now, there's nothing concrete on the trade front, but that could easily change before the season starts.
As it becomes clearer to Rondo that the Celtics' rebuilding effort is geared around the 2014 NBA draft and free-agent markets, he's going to start to wonder about whether he's ready to go through at least one (but but possibly two) rough years before Boston is ready to compete. If he concludes that he'd rather go someplace where winning in the short term is more of a priority, he could pretty easily force a trade.
To lesser extents, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass could also be trade candidates. Unless the Celtics care about winning 35 games instead of 25 (or less) this year, there's not much justification for retaining veterans.
A shakeup could be on the way.