NBA Teams That Still Have Massive Holes to Fill Before 2013-14 Season Starts
Hold up, we're not quite finished yet.
As the NBA offseason trudges along, slowly but surely making its way to opening night, a number of teams aren't quite ready.
Rosters, admittedly, are like fine works of art in that they're never really complete. Work can continue to be done; improvements can still be made. Certain holes are simply more noticeable than others.
That doesn't necessarily mean teams with gaping vacancies are worse off than their counterparts. One organization could've amassed talent in one area while neglecting another and still be a championship contender.
In most cases, this isn't true. Rebuilding outfits usually boast the most conspicuous of weaknesses. But it does happen. Whether you're gearing up for a title chase or being resigned to a lottery appearance, you're not perfect.
Select flaws, however, are just too apparent to ignore.
Milwaukee Bucks: Time Machine
That's the only thing that can better these Milwaukee Bucks—a time machine.
Their offseason reads like a what's what of poor roster assembly. Larry Sanders needed to be extended, because he just had to. And he'll be worth the $40-plus million they're going to pay him. Everything else about this roster, however, is confusing and can't be compartmentalized into one glaring hole.
Overpaying Zaza Pachulia may have been the worst move of the offseason, as was stockpiling offensively inclined and defensively inept shooters on the wings.
O.J. Mayo replaces the offense and playmaking Monta Ellis left behind, and he's a defensive upgrade, but almost every other addition was redundant. Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, Brandon Knight, Carlos Delfino—it's too much, even without Brandon Jennings.
Gun to the head I'd say the Bucks require interior scoring more than anything else, but the need to reverse their errors in judgment is more pressing.
I guess the Bucks have to settle for whichever might fall into their lap first—a low-post scorer (or perimeter defender) or a time machine.
Los Angeles Clippers: Frontcourt Defense
To be clear, I don't hate the Los Angeles Clippers.
Their offseason was sensational, and they remain one of the deepest teams in the NBA. I'm also aware their defense bordered on impregnable last season, specifically up front where they ranked second in points allowed in the paint (37.7 per game).
In the interest of completeness, I understand Doc Rivers is one of the best defensive minds in the game as well. But the Clippers haven't given him much to work with up front on that end of the floor.
DeAndre Jordan is a shot-blocking stud, but opposing centers notched an above average PER (15.9) against him last season, according to 82games.com. Then there's Blake Griffin, against whom opposing 4's and 5's went for 16.7 PER. After them the Clippers can turn to Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins, neither of whom is a defensive machine.
If Los Angeles has one weakness, that's it. The Clippers are built for small ball after investing in Mullens and Antawn Jamison, leaving Hollins and Jordan to shoulder a bulk of the interior burden.
For Rivers to exact the most value out of his frontcourt, the Clippers need another defensive stopper up front. That, or Griffin, Mullens and Jamison must reinvent their skill sets.
New Orleans Pelicans: Another Big Man
The New Orleans Pelicans' are going to have to play really small.
Any team that plays home to Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers and Jrue Holiday would. But to what end?
Jason Smith figures to be the starting center alongside Anthony Davis, even though he's spent most of his career at the 4. A majority of his playing time last year came at the 5, but he averaged just 17.9 minutes a night. Now he's the starting center, replacing Robin Lopez.
Davis will see minutes at the 5 when the Pelicans put a combination of Ryan Anderson, Evans, Gordon and Holiday on the court, but they don't seem fully committed to that floor-spacing act. Anderson is the only true stretch forward on the roster.
That is, unless you count Davis. Which you can't. Not if he projects to be used extensively at the 5 or in the post in general.
What New Orleans really needs is another big not named Greg Stiemsma or Jeff Withey. The Pelicans got killed on the glass last year (23rd in rebounding per game) and next season stands to be just as much of a struggle.
If reaching the postseason or even simply making a playoff run is the goal, New Orleans still has some work to do down low.
Detroit Pistons: Three-Point Assassins
My heart really goes out those in the Motor City who are fans of efficient shooting if last-minute additions aren't made.
New Pistons Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith like to fancy themselves deadly shooters when, in reality, they're unapologetic rim abusers.
J-Smoove drilled a not-so-cute 30.3 percent of his treys last season. Very discouraging. The good news is that Jennings was almost as efficient from deep as he was from everywhere else. The bad news is he connected on just 39.9 percent of his field-goal attempts overall, making that 37.7 percent clip from behind the arc more perplexing than impressive.
Troubling still is that the Detroit Pistons bade farewell to their top four three-point shooters from last season (I'm not including Andre Drummond's 50 percent showing, sorry): Jose Calderon (46.1 percent), Austin Daye (41.8), Tayshaun Prince (40.4) and Brandon Knight (36.7) are all playing elsewhere. That's quite the loss for a squad that ranked 18th in three-point shooting (35.6 percent).
To be fair, Prince was traded midseason so it's only as if the Pistons lost their three most accurate assassins. Much better.
Chauncey Billups is more than capable of lighting it up from the outside (38.8 percent for career)...when he's healthy. So basically never. Rodney Stuckey has been a long-range disaster thus far (28.3), and Jonas Jerebko has been surprisingly middling (30.6).
Hopefully Kyle Singler is prepared to get ALL the three-point buckets, otherwise Detroit might actually finish in the bottom seven of long-distance chucking.
Boston Celtics: Center
Put one hand in the air and clasp the other to your forehead if you don't want Kelly Olynyk logging most of his minutes at center.
Sure, he towers over the competition as a 7-footer, but with his range he's more of an Andrea Bargnani-type scorer. Except he can rebound. And there's hope for him on defense. So really, he's not Bargs.
Even so, the Boston Celtics need a center. A legitimate starting center. If that's not possible, then anyone who stands 6'10" or taller and knows how to tie their shoes will do.
The way Beantown's roster is shaping up, we're going to be looking at a lot of Kris "I Got This, Except I Don't" Humphries and Jared "What the Hell Am I Doing At the 5" Sullinger at center. Throw Brandon Bass and Donte Greene in there too.
After finishing 29th in rebounds per game last year (39.3), the Celtics needed to add size. Preferably the kind that scores in the post and contests shots too.
All they accomplished, if anything, is getting thinner down low. There isn't a true post scorer in the bunch aside from Sullinger. And only he and Humphries can be classified as physical low-block players. Looping Jeff Green in the same company would even be a stretch.
When your lifeline on the glass comprises a sophomore returning from back surgery and an unwanted, albeit superior rebounding, power forward there's something wrong.
I'm all for the Celtics tanking (though they'd never cop to it), but would like to see them go after Andrew Wiggins in style. "Style" in this case means ensuring Rajon Rondo never has to take the opening tip.
Los Angeles Lakers: Stretch Forward
Mike D'Antoni cannot work his offensive magic unless 1) point guards are in full bloom and 2) there's a stretch forward available to torch opposing defenses.
Almost one year into this current experiment, the Los Angeles Lakers still haven't given MDA his stretch 4. Not only that, the situation has worsened. The departures of Earl Clark and Metta World Peace leave the Lakers without an established three-point gunner who can also play power forward.
Last season, D'Antoni tried turning Pau Gasol into a more reserved version of what he's looking for, the results of which were disastrous. Gasol must remain in the post to be effective, and it showed as he went on to have the worst season of his career.
Magic Mike has asked Jordan Hill to refine his three-point game. By "refine" I actually mean "create," because Hill's three-point prowess is about as real as Johnny Manziel's humility.
Ryan Kelly is also at D'Antoni's disposal, and he shot at least 40 percent from deep in each of his last two seasons at Duke. So there's that.
There's also playing Kobe, Nick Young or Wesley Johnson at the 4. Or asking Chris Kaman to go from backup center to three-point aficionado. Just because the Lakers can embrace the ridiculous, though, doesn't mean they should.
A good idea would consist of finding a way to land someone, anyone really, who fits the stretch 4 mold better than the floor-spacing dregs the Lakers currently employ.
Houston Rockets: Power Forward
In an effort to will a successful Omer Asik-Superman pairing into existence, the Houston Rockets plan to play Howard at the 4, which may be the worst idea ever.
Howard struggled to coexist alongside Gasol, an actual power forward with range. Now he wants to thrive next to an offensively limited center as a power forward with no touch outside of three feet. OK then.
Asik and Howard combined to attempt 5.5 shots per game away from the rim last season, according to hoopdata.com. Expecting either of them to shift from center to power forward is absurd. Ideally the Rockets need a stretch 4, though anyone who doesn't need to be within arm's length of the basket to score will do.
Options exist in Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones, but they haven't shown enough to be everyday contributors on a self-proclaimed contender. Much of the same can be said for Greg Smith as well.
Chandler Parsons has the size to man the 4, but his transition would presumably force Francisco Garcia into the starting lineup as a small forward, thereby decimating the bench's offense. Not to mention that requires Asik to ride the pine, which is hardly $8-plus million well spent.
Whisking Howard away from the Lakers was a coup to remember, but Houston's failure to address the mounting questions at power forward will make the 4 a position to forget.