5 Logjammed NBA Teams with Most Sorting Out to Do Before Training Camp
As the 2014-15 season approaches ever so slowly, it's time to look at what rosters need some sorting out before the real games begin.
For this exercise, we'll be focusing on teams that have logjams at multiple positions and the kind of depth that could be considered harmful. Playing time, like salary, is an asset, and it should be spent properly. On the following five teams, that might be a difficult task.
While there are other teams with positional logjams, like the New York Knicks at power forward, we'll instead home in on teams that will need to act in order to resolve these situations, as they won't have the benefit of having multiple players on expiring deals like the Knicks do.
Here are five rosters with rotations that could use some clarity going into training camp.
Is it strange to say the league's worst team last year has too much talent in the frontcourt? A little bit, but a healthy Larry Sanders alongside second-overall pick Jabari Parker makes things complicated.
The Bucks have a lot of money invested in their power forward and center positions, but the production might not be there. With Sanders and Zaza Pachulia at the 5, and with Parker, John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova duking it out for minutes at the 4, Milwaukee has a bit of a logjam.
While Parker can play the 3, you want to play the future of the franchise wherever he's best, and Parker grades out as more of a stretch 4 than anything else.
Point being, there are going to be sacrifices made here unless a trade goes down.
Here's what Gary Woelfel of the Journal Times wrote earlier this offseason:
Still another Bucks player who could be wearing a new uniform next season is beleaguered center Larry Sanders, who has been saddled by a spate of off-court issues.
Sanders will be entering the first of a fully-guaranteed four-year, $44 million contract next season, making him virtually untradeable.
However, some team may be enticed to take on Sanders’ issues and hefty contract if perhaps Ilyasova, Henson or Knight was part of a trade package.
Trading Sanders is a bit of a Catch-22. When he's healthy and performing, he's the elite rim protector Parker needs next to him. Basically, the Bucks shouldn't want to trade that version of Sanders. But when he's hurt or getting in trouble, Sanders is probably difficult to get fair value for.
Something will likely have to give here, and dealing Ilyasova probably makes the most sense. The talent should fit around Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, not the other way around.
When the Boston Celtics drafted Marcus Smart and re-signed Avery Bradley, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Were the Celtics getting ready to move on from Rajon Rondo?
Here's Ben Watanabe at NESN.com:
Yet Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck, who observed much of the first round from the team’s war room at TD Garden, claimed drafting Smart was not part of a larger plan to dismantle the last of the 2008 NBA championship squad.
“You know what’s interesting? That wasn’t a topic of conversation (Thursday),” Grousbeck said, regarding how Smart’s presence affects Rondo’s future. “We have confidence in Brad (Stevens) that he can manage a roster. We also had confidence that of the top six, we would take the best available player rather than try to slot in. That’s the strategy when you’re rebuilding a team. You take the best available and you let it all work out. We’ve got an All-Star point guard, so that’s not in question here.”
While Rondo and Smart can feasibly play together, Smart's strengths may be a little redundant for the future if Rondo re-signs. Neither player is a great shooter at this point, and paying Bradley $8 million a year to be a third guard may be tough to swallow.
The Celtics have the same issues with rookies and veterans elsewhere. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both should get time at the 4, but Brandon Bass is there as well. None of those guys should be playing the 5, as they can't protect the rim. You could also argue that Jeff Green should be playing minutes at power forward as well.
Boston has time to figure it out, as there isn't much of a rush here. Drafting the best player available is a sound strategy, but eventually, the pieces must fit together and production needs like three-point shooting and rim protection have to be addressed.
This seems like an annual tradition of sorts. Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, Denver's roster is always lacking a true No. 1 option offensively but is stocked with ridiculous depth.
Here's Andrew Feinstein of Denver Stiffs with more on the Nuggets' depth:
And it could also be a problem if head coach Brian Shaw wants to allocate minutes somewhat equitably next season. During an interview with NBATV during summer league, Coach Shaw has already gone on record regarding his newfound depth by stating: "[The Nuggets players] are going to have to get a lot done playing less time. Because we're two deep and three deep at some positions." ...
But knowing how NBA teams typically like to function, coaches prefer to settle on an eight-to-nine man rotation ... and not a ten-to-thirteen man rotation. And if that's indeed the case with the Nuggets this fall, who among those 15 players will be the odd men out?
While Denver's depth could help them make a playoff push, it would be better off being consolidated in a trade to bring back a star. That should be the goal this season, especially with Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee back from injury and Aaron Afflalo back in town.
Denver just doesn't have enough minutes to go around, and so potentially valuable young players like Gary Harris, Quincy Miller and established veterans like Darrell Arthur could completely go to waste.
The Nuggets are stuck in the middle, and while a bounce-back season is certainly possible, it's hard to take them seriously as title contenders. Using some of those player assets to either get valuable future draft picks or a star would be wise. The ceiling needs to be raised, and the logjams at multiple positions need to be addressed.
The Sacramento Kings have one of the league's biggest payrolls this season, which probably isn't a good thing since it seems incredibly unlikely that they'll sniff the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
Part of the problem is that Sacramento keeps acquiring players who don't really fill needs.
Kings are still looking to free up their logjam at power forward through a trade. Team has a lot of PFs but they don't address Kings' needs.
Kings are still looking for a defender/shot blocker to help the interior defense while freeing up the $20-plus million tied up in PFs now.
The Kings have Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson and Reggie Evans at power forward, even though that should be where Rudy Gay spends most of his time as an athletic scoring 4.
That's a massive logjam, and without a rim protector in the bunch, the Kings have failed to give DeMarcus Cousins the support he needs defensively.
The drafting of shooting guard Nik Stauskas is less of an issue, as he'll help give the Kings the perimeter shooting and floor spacing they desperately need after losing Isaiah Thomas in free agency. It does put Ben McLemore in a difficult position, but he could slide to the 3 as long as the Kings can commit to Gay at the 4.
The main point here is that Sacramento has a lot of players on the roster who are expensive and wholly unnecessary. There is depth present, but it's not useful depth that meshes well together or fills production needs. The Kings are a mess.
Like the Boston Celtics, you can respect the Orlando Magic for taking who they felt was the best player in the draft. Aaron Gordon could end up being a really nice player, and his defensive effort and motor almost guarantees he'll be useful in some capacity.
The issue with Orlando's roster and the Gordon pick is that the power forward spot is awfully crowded. Tobias Harris and newly signed stretch big man Channing Frye should be getting minutes there, and Gordon's current skill set translates better to the 4.
Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn are intriguing enough to deserve some minutes up front as well, and Maurice Harkless may not get the time he needs if Gordon or Harris are soaking up time at the 3.
Here's John Denton at NBA.com:
While Gordon is an elite-level athlete with tremendous strength and athleticism, the knock on him is his unorthodox shooting stroke. ...
"Definitely one of the reasons that I looked at Arizona is because of their shooting program,’’ Gordon said. "I’ve always been able to hit the three periodically. I want to be a knockdown shooter. I don’t want to be able to hit it periodically; I want to hit it consistently.’’
The addition of Gordon creates somewhat of a logjam at the small forward position what with Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless already on the roster. With a similar build to that of Gordon, Harris can play both the power forward and small forward positions.
While there is some flexibility here, Orlando lacks the perimeter shooting necessary to create a healthy offense. Players like Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour might actually have to get minutes, which isn't ideal on a young, rebuilding team.
Unless Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton come in and shoot much better than advertised, this could be a clunky roster offensively.