NBA Free Agency Rumors: Every NBA Team's Ideal Starting Five for 2010-11
Is it just me or doesn't it seem like it was months ago that the Cavs were knocked out of the playoffs and the LeBron James media frenzy officially went into kill mode?
Today's the first of June...there's still 30 more days of free agency rumors to go. It's only going to get crazier. The stories are going to become more elaborate.
Every little story or anecdote about a player is going to be blown 100 times out of proportion.
In a perfect world, Cavs fans would have nothing to worry about. LeBron would have already inked a contract extension, and not only that, but Chris Bosh decides he wants to come to town as well, and the Raptors front office happily gives him away in a sign-and-trade.
Knicks fans would have LeBron, Bosh, and Ray Allen in what Bill Simmons famously referred to as, "The Wet Dream Scenario."
Chicago would have either James or Dwyane Wade leading them to multiple titles, with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah serving as the ideal sidekicks.
You get the picture. Sadly, what we want and what is realistic are often two different things. That's why we've got to make the best of the hand we're dealt.
If you can't get LeBron, why not Wade?
If not Wade, why not Bosh?
If not Bosh, why not save for Carmelo next year (and maybe Durant in two years)?
With that being said, there are a lot of different ways the free agent dominoes could fall in a month. But it's never early to knock one down and see how the rest end up.
Let's say LeBron James signs a new three-year deal with the Cavs this summer (if I keep writing it, maybe it'll happen). How does the rest of the free agency shake out?
Here's an educated guess...keep in mind this is from the person who predicted a Magic/Suns final, so my track record recently isn't exactly stellar.
Starting in alphabetical order...
PG: Jamal Crawford
SG: Elliot Williams
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Josh Smith
C: Al Horford
Lost in Cleveland's epic collapse against Boston was the feeble non-effort the Hawks put forward against the Magic.
Whether they simply weren't good enough, or they quit on their coach, or they didn't have the maturity it takes to advance deep in the playoffs, the aftermath of that debacle will be felt for years, much like it could in Cleveland.
Joe Johnson almost certainly needs a fresh start. While he basically proved in the Orlando series he can't be the best player on a championship team, nor is probably worth max money, he'll still get it somewhere.
That leaves a gaping hole in Atlanta's starting five, one that won't easily be filled.
The best bet is to try and fix it through the draft. Elliot Williams is an explosive scorer, and while he's not at his best in the half-court, the Hawks will probably have, you know, some semblance of an offensive set under their new coach (whoever it might be), instead of isolating and going one-on-five.
Jamal Crawford is a great spark off the bench, but with Johnson gone, they need scoring in the starting unit. Unless Mike Bibby turns into Benjamin Button, his best years are long behind him and can't be that guy.
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Kendrick Perkins
This is a team that is making their second NBA Finals appearance in three years—they don't need much tinkering.
The only question mark in the five is Ray Allen. He's an unrestricted free agent, and plenty of teams would love to add his three-point repertoire to their rotation.
The problem is, the teams that are in real need of a shooting guard (Minnesota, Milwaukee, Sacramento, New Jersey) aren't exactly where Allen probably wants to end his career.
So unless an uber-team is created in Miami or New York and Allen can jump on for the veteran's minimum or something, he'll most likely remain in Boston.
Which isn't a bad place to end a Hall of Fame career.
PG: D.J. Augustin
SG: Stephen Jackson
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Boris Diaw
C: Nazr Mohammed
Charlotte made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, which is a great first step in the long run for their franchise.
But with no picks in the draft and no cap space either, it's going to be difficult for them to improve.
The way Jameer Nelson torched the 'Cats in the playoffs should be a red flag when it comes to Raymond Felton. I know he's a hometown kid, but he's really not that great of a playmaker in the half-court, nor can he spread the floor with his shot.
Even though Larry Brown might object, it's time to give D.J. Augustin a test run at the point guard spot.
Worst case scenario, he struggles, the 'Cats miss the playoffs, they don't pick up his option for 2011-12, and they target a PG through free agency or the draft.
Best case, he becomes a 15-7 guy on 55-85-45 (percentages for field goal, free throw, and three-point) and they make another playoff run.
Either way, it'll help clear up murky plans for the future in Charlotte, who have Jackson, Wallace, and Diaw under contract through next year at nearly $30 million per.
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Kirk Hinrich
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Amar'e Stoudemire
C: Joakim Noah
Here's where things start to get interesting, and we see the shake ups beginning.
Obviously, Chicago would love to go after a guy like LeBron. But he's a better fit somewhere else (you'll find out where soon enough).
After Joe Johnson's epic stink bomb against Orlando, it doesn't seem likely that he's the guy Chicago will target here.
So why not go after a high scoring player who will thrive in a up-tempo style that Chicago should be playing?
Who might this be? Amar'e Stoudemire.
First off, I'm with the majority of you that think a power forward who averaged 6.6 rebounds in the playoffs probably shouldn't be a premier player on a team...or, at least, he shouldn't make max money.
Well, he will. And this is a situation where Stoudemire's two biggest weaknesses (rebounding and defense) seemingly won't be an issue.
Why's that? Because the other big guy he'll be playing along side (Noah) happens to thrive in those two categories.
A Rose-Stoudemire pick-and-roll with Noah cleaning up the weak side rebounds would be devastating.
Defensively, while Stoudemire tends to screw up rotations and switches, Noah is at his best when he can roam and give help-side defense, so he can clean up whatever mistakes Amar'e makes.
Lastly, the league is now point guard heavy, and that might be the most important position in the playoffs.
We've seen in Phoenix with Steve Nash, in Boston with Rajon Rondo, in Utah with Deron Williams...and even in L.A. with Derek Fisher, who was great in the Phoenix series and really came up big with some clutch shots.
In the playoffs, Derrick Rose is the type of player who can take over games like the aforementioned guards and carry the load.
He encompasses every aspect of the other elite guards: quick off the dribble (key because of the no hand-checking rule), crafty near the rim, and the ability to make those around him better.
With a lot of attention on Rose, Stoudemire, and Noah, it makes Deng and Hinrich's job that much easier, because defenses will be packing the lane. If they get another shooter, they're a top four team in the East.
Maybe they can address that in the draft with someone like Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, James Anderson, or even Xavier Henry if he drops that far.
If they make this move, they'll probably just have to sign Stoudemire to a five-year deal, as they don't have any real assets that Phoenix would want in a sign-and-trade.
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Anthony Parker
SF: LeBron James
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: J.J. Hickson
There are really only two plausible scenarios for LeBron (if he cares about winning more than anything else): Chicago or Cleveland (and maybe New York if they build a super team with like three max players).
Playing with someone like Derrick Rose might not be the best fit for LeBron, who seemingly needs the ball in his hands a lot to be effective (in fairness, we've never seen him in an offense where he didn't have the ball 75 percent of the time, so it's not unreasonable to think he'd thrive moving off the ball more).
LeBron is more like Magic Johnson than he is Michael Jordan. He has been since he came in the league. He's at his best when he uses his playmaking abilities to get open shots for others.
In essence, he is a 6'9" point guard.
A lot of people clamored about Cleveland's old offensive style where there was little movement and relied on LeBron to create going one-on-five.
But the problem with that set wasn't that the ball was in LeBron's hands too much; it was the minimal movement that created a bland, stagnant offense.
He has the personnel around him in Cleveland to do that. He's started something special here; now he has to show the loyalty that he's shown to the people around him his entire life and come home to finish the job.
At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Oh, and then there's another new starter in J.J. Hickson. Varejao is at his best coming off the bench even though he's probably a better fit.
Other than those two, there aren't many options inside—even if they re-sign Z, he's not a starter anymore.
The one thing to be wary of is with Hickson and Jamison: the Cavs have two undersized players inside who aren't great one-on-one defenders.
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: Caron Butler
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: David Lee
C: Brendan Haywood
A lot is being made of Dirk Nowitzki opting out of his final year.
At first I thought he was crazy to leave $21 million on the table, but then realized it was a sneaky good move. He'll get paid for another four to six years, and his extension will kick in before the new 2011 CBA, meaning he'll get the full end of his contract.
Meanwhile, Dallas is a real conundrum. They'd love to have Dirk back, but if another team gave him an offer of five years, $90 million, would Dallas match it?
We saw it when Cuban didn't want to re-sign Nash in 2004 for a long-term deal because of the miles on him.
Nash has withstood the test of time, but back in '04, it wasn't crazy to let him go—he was a 30-year-old point guard with back problems.
Dirk, on the other hand, has been incredibly loyal to Dallas, and vice versa. But he's turning 32 this summer, meaning he'll probably be 36 or 37 when his new contract expires, and that's a lot of money to be paying someone who (statistically) will be far past his prime.
In fact, he'll be hitting the dreaded 1,200-game mark (where power forwards in particular see a dramatic decline in their movement and production) in the next two years.
So if he leaves, the Mavs have a great trade chip to throw out: the expiring contract of Erick Dampier. They can ship him to the Knicks in a sign-and-trade for David Lee (something like three years, $30-35 million seems fair), and New York can waive him without a buyout without wasting any of their available cap space. It's a win-win.
They also face an interesting dilemma with Brendan Haywood. They can re-sign him, but they'll be chewing up a lot of future cap space if they do.
But since Haywood likes Dallas and Cuban's not afraid to spend money, a deal gets done.
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kenyon Martin
Not much changes for the Nuggets.
The same core of players remain under contract through at least 2011. Kenyon Martin has an early termination option, but if you think he's turning down $16.5 million next year, you might be labeled as certifiably insane.
With no picks in the upcoming draft, there's not a multitude of ways they can add players to the roster.
It's next summer when things get intriguing in Denver. Martin and J.R. Smith's contracts expire and Carmelo Anthony can opt out of his deal (which he probably will, since he'll be the only real big free agent and will likely receive a huge contract from whomever).
Also, Chauncey Billups has a $14.2 million team option—will the Nuggets pick it up or will it be time to turn the team over to a younger PG like Ty Lawson?
Still, with the aforementioned expiring contracts of Martin and Smith, the Nuggets do have strong assets for the trade deadline in February, meaning a substantial move is not of the question.
But for the opening tip of 2010, expect the same core of Nuggets on the floor.
PG: Rodney Stuckey
SG: Rip Hamilton
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Charlie Villanueva
C: Cole Aldrich
I can't sugarcoat it, the situation is bleak in Detroit. They have Hamilton, Villanueva, and Ben Gordon locked in through 2013 at over $35 million per season, which is nearly two-thirds of the expected salary cap.
It just doesn't seem like that could be a "big three" on a championship team...hell, even on a playoff team that gets past the first round.
Rodney Stuckey has a $2.7 million team option that is likely to be picked up, while Will Bynum is now an unrestricted free agent. That means they have just one true point guard on the roster (and calling Stuckey a "true" point guard is a stretch).
But in the draft, it's hard to see them doing anything with that position at the No. 7 pick. I think they go with a big body inside in Cole Aldrich, giving them a little less size with what they had in Kwame Brown, but a lot more toughness.
Tayshaun Prince's expiring contract could be a term that's thrown out a lot in the 2010-11 season. He could really make a difference on a contending team, and I'm sure Detroit wouldn't mind shipping him out for some young talent or draft picks.
You might notice the absence of Ben Gordon and Jason Maxiell. I think both of these two end up on the bench, where they can provide a spark on both ends of the floor (Gordon on offense, Maxiell on defense).
Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Corey Maggette
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Andris Biedrins
A rash of injuries last season meant Golden State produced the highest number of different starting lineups in the NBA.
This will (presumably) be Don Nelson's final year as coach of the Warriors, meaning the fast-paced, quick-scoring, defensive-lapsed style we've grown accustomed to in the Bay could be at its end.
That's what makes this so difficult to project. There are any number of ways the Warriors could go this upcoming season. Really, I think Curry and Ellis are the only two locks as starters.
They're pretty much at the salary cap threshold, so bringing in any new free agents is not a plausible possibility. Picking at No. 6 in the draft, they'll most likely be looking at a talented but raw crop of power forwards and centers.
I've got them going with Al-Farouq Aminu, but Greg Monroe would be an interesting fit as well—a crafty left-hander who is a good passer and would be a nightmare to handle in transition.
Honestly, your guess is as good as mine here.
PG: Aaron Brooks
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Chuck Hayes
C: Yao Ming
This is all based on the condition that Yao will be ready to return to action come October.
The Rockets are in admirable shape. They have a great, up-and-coming point guard in Brooks that lit up defenses left and right last year.
They have an explosive, efficient shooting guard in Martin that can take over games and be a closer in the final minutes.
And, if Yao's healthy, they also have one of the biggest low-post threats in the game.
Along with that, they have the expiring contracts of Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries (who, along with Ariza, might create the best small forward defending trio in NBA history) to use in trade bait, and GM Daryl Morey has done a fantastic job of turning assets into quality pieces.
Only one starter is missing. Where's Luis Scola, you ask? Keep clicking to find out...
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Brandon Rush
SF: Danny Granger
PF: Troy Murphy
C: Roy Hibbert
In a battle of futile contracts, Indiana and Detroit are neck-and-neck.
The plus for the Pacers is that a majority of their egregiously massive contracts (Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Jeff Foster) will expire next year.
Still, it looks like rebuilding time for the Pacers.
Ideally, they either trade down or nab Bledsoe in the second round (it easily could happen, his draft stock is as high as a lottery pick and as low as a mid-second rounder).
They get a chance to see what he can do at the point guard spot, while also assessing the value of players like Brandon Rush and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench.
Basically, there are a lot of players in Indiana who are auditioning for jobs. This year, we'll get to see who is worthy of a rotation spot, and who will forever be a benchwarming NBA journeyman.
Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Baron Davis
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Chris Kaman
Hey, if anybody's going to overpay for Rudy Gay, it's gotta be the Clippers, right?
All jokes aside, Gay could be a good fit in La La land. He's an athletic, scoring wing player, someone that can take the pressure off guys like Gordon and Kaman in the halfcourt.
On paper, this looks like a solid enough lineup. The burning query is, what kind of style would they play?
It's in their best interest to be an up-tempo, fast-paced team, similar to what Baron Davis ran in the '07 playoffs with Golden State.
He has the chops to push the ball in transition, as evidenced by the fact that his best games last year came against weaker defensive teams who played at a fast tempo.
With Gay and Griffin running the court, and Gordon spotting up behind the line, the Clips have a formidable lineup.
Plus, they have low-post options in Kaman and Griffin that will free up outside shooters. While Gay didn't exactly light up behind the line, he is still explosive enough to use the space to attack the rim (which is his specialty).
It just seems likely that the Clips are going to use their available cap space on someone—it's in Donald Sterling's nature. While someone like Joe Johnson could be a better fit, Gay seems like the more realistic choice.
Los Angeles Lakers
PG: Derek Fisher
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Ron Artest
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Andrew Bynum
Much like their Finals counterpart (Boston), if it's not broke, don't fix it.
Derek Fisher is an unrestricted free agent, but it's incomprehensible to imagine him in anything but a Laker uniform. As he's shown in the playoffs this year, he still has value in the postseason.
There are rumors floating around about a potential Bynum-for-Bosh swap, but with Bynum's past injury problems and his overall lack of development in the last two seasons (which can be attributed to injuries), it doesn't seem feasible.
The Lakers have been the best team in the league the last two years. They'll be a year older, but potent nonetheless.
PG: Mike Conley Jr.
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Quincy Pondexter
PF: Al Harrington
C: Marc Gasol
You knew the career year of Zach Randolph was too good to be true, didn't you?
Now that he's been implicated in drug charges (he allegedly supplied a dealer with a home and car to move pot from), Memphis has to cut ties.
He's been in trouble too many times before, and to think that this is an isolated incident is just being naive.
Instead, they could find value in someone like Al Harrington, a versatile power forward who can stretch the floor with his three-point shot (which was a weakness for Memphis last year) and also lend a hand or two on the boards.
It puts more pressure on Gasol to be a dominating force inside, but it actually seems like the younger Gasol is more willing to do the dirty work than his elder brother.
After watching Rudy Gay leave, the Grizz can use any one of their three first-round picks to try to fill his shoes.
They'd be wise to use one selection on someone like Ekpe Udoh or Larry Sanders, another power forward who can clean up the glass and play effective defense, whether it's in one-on-one situations, in the pick-and-roll, giving help from the weak side, etc.
But they need to get another perimeter scorer. I love Quincy Pondexter—he's from the Brandon Roy mold, a four-year senior who has led his team in college and knows how to play in any system.
He's a consummate role player, someone who can score when you need him to, defend when you need him to, or rebound when you need him to.
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Jermaine O'Neal
Definitely the biggest stretch of any team we've seen so far. Since Miami has so many holes to fill, it naturally makes sense they'll have the biggest overhaul.
Let's start with the big dogs. It's hard to envision Wade leaving Miami; he's already stressed loyalty as one the most important things he's looking for, and has stated that Miami is an incredibly loyal organization.
So he's going to have to bring on someone else; why not Chris Bosh? How about a sign-and-trade with Bosh for Beasley, James Jones, Daequan Cook, and a future first-rounder?
At least Toronto is getting a potentially promising player (although it doesn't seem highly likely he'll develop into an All-Star) in Beasley.
Adding someone like Hayward in the draft only makes it that much sweeter. He's not an elite player, but someone with a high IQ who will understand his role.
And Jermaine O'Neal...look, I'm not crazy about it either. Did you see the playoffs this year?
This guy should not be starting anywhere. Can we find invent a new term instead of "washed up"? Maybe it should be "Jermaine O'Neal-ed?"
But look at the other prospects—there is no one, no one, to plug in at center.
I guess if he signs for the veteran minimum or something close, it's not a total waste, since his new job with Bosh around will be to try and protect the rim and grab whatever rebounds bounce his way.
Hey, an uber-team has to be made somewhere this offseason, right? Why not in Miami?
PG: Brandon Jennings
SG: John Salmons
SF: Luc Mbah a Moute
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Andrew Bogut
Fear the deer! Fear the deer! Fear the deer!
You have to imagine that with Andrew Bogut, the Bucks would have pulled off an amazing first-round upset against the Hawks. Alas, the Sports Gods had other plans.
Milwaukee is really at a crossroads this offseason, and not many people are talking about a decision that could alter their franchise significantly.
Since the acquisition of John Salmons, the Bucks were one of the best teams in the league (record-wise). But he's likely to opt out of his player option and look for a better deal.
Does Milwaukee lock him into a long-term deal, or do they let him walk, hoping that Michael Redd can finally stay healthy and be the player that Salmons was?
At first I had Salmons leaving, but I really think a Jennings-Salmons-Bogut trio is legit.
You can pick and fill the pieces around them accordingly, and signing Salmons won't cripple them for the future—they only have three players that are guaranteed a contract in 2012.
PG: Jonny Flynn
SG: Corey Brewer
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Larry Sanders
Even with close to $20 million in cap space, the odds that Minnesota lands a marquee free agent this offseason are pretty slim.
Their best bet is to follow the Oklahoma City mold: keep building through the draft until you develop the right core of players and, when you have ample cap space, make the appropriate move.
The way to go in the draft is with Wes Johnson at the No. 4 pick, an athletic swingman who can consistently hit the three-point shot and attack the rim in transition.
With Larry Sanders, they get a versatile big man who was put on this earth to defend the rim.
His long arms allow him to block shots from any position, and he's an adept rebounder as well.
Right now, he's like Ryan Hollins in the middle, only more athletic and with a much higher upside.
And who knows, with Kevin Love, Ramon Sessions, and Wayne Ellington off the bench, maybe the T'Wolves start to develop some chemistry and become a 30-35 win team.
Stranger things have happened.
New Jersey Nets
PG: Devin Harris
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Terrence Williams
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Brook Lopez
Maybe it's the fact that I'm brainwashed by Bill Simmons and agree with 90 percent of what he says, but I bought into what he said about the Mutant Russian Mark Cuban (a.k.a. Mikhail Prokhorov).
Based on everything he's said, it doesn't sound like he's going to go out and throw an exorbitant amount of money at a lesser-tier free agent like Carlos Boozer or Rudy Gay just to sell tickets (not that Boozer or Gay are going to sell out 41 home games).
If anything, it seems like the Nets are willing to sit build on the draft and sit on their cap space and eventually invest it in the right situation (like 'Melo in '11, maybe?).
And I repeatedly said this last year: didn't it seem like the Nets were the best worst team in NBA history? They had a lot of talent and a good amount of heart, they just couldn't put it together.
Remember, this team did beat the Celtics last year; then again, maybe that shows just how irrelevant the regular season really is.
But they do have solid pieces, and they just need to overcome the losing culture. If this team wins three or four games in a row, they'll keep getting more confident, and that predetermined losing nature will begin to fade.
New Orleans Hornets
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Xavier Henry
SF: Peja Stojakovic
PF: David West
C: Emeka Okafor
In an ideal world, Xavier Henry falls to the Hornets at No. 11. While they do need another power forward/center type, getting someone like Ed Davis or Daniel Orton isn't the answer.
Besides, by 2011-12, they'll only have Paul, Okafor, Darren Collison, and their draft selection this year under contract, meaning they'll have to overhaul the roster anyways.
With Paul, Henry, Collison, and Marcus Thornton, the Hornets have a young, athletic, energetic, and high-scoring backcourt for several years.
Plus, they have trade leverage and can move any one or combo of these players out for help inside.
On paper, this lineup is good enough to make a playoff run, even in the Western Conference. Maintaining health and continuing to develop their young guard trio will be essential, however.
New York Knicks
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Eddy Curry
I can hear it now, Knicks fans. Have at it. Go nuts.
"It's the biggest free agent class ever! LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are out there, and all we walk away with is Raymond Felton and Joe freaking Johnson?!? Are you out of your $#^&*@* mind???"
Allow me to explain...
Felton excelled in college playing in Roy Williams' "up-and-down, quick tempo, attack the rim and get others open shots" style of offense; doesn't Mike D'Antoni run something similar?
His defensive fallacies will be forgotten since, you know, New York doesn't play defense. Plus, you're not inking him to a five-year deal; give him something like two years, $12 million. Not exactly breaking the bank with about $36 million in cap space.
As for Joe Johnson...you've got to land somebody. Johnson isn't your ideal No. 1 player, but give him a year with D'Antoni where he can get whatever shot he wants at any time.
And Eddy Curry...well, I can't really defend that one. You need someone starting in the middle. Use him in any midseason trade you see fit.
Or get someone like Jarvis Varnado or Derrick Caracter in the second round and throw him in there.
Finally, drop off some one-year deals for a few role players. In the end, you'll still have cap space for 2011 when there's one marquee free agent, someone who was made to play in a big market and be the premier player that brings New York back to prominence.
Take Johnson and Anthony, throw in Felton and Gallinari as the third and fourth wheels, and you have something, especially in the paltry Eastern Conference...no?
...OK, you're right, it's still not as good as getting LeBron.
Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Jeff Green
C: Luis Scola
Sam Presti has already stated that he's not going throw money at any free agent out there—he'll assess the Thunder's needs and address them accordingly.
But take a player like Scola. If OKC offers him something like three years, $25 million, or four years, $35 million, can he turn it down?
On the flip side, is it really that risky of an investment for the Thunder?
They get a power forward/center who can rebound, hit the mid-range jumper, and be a bigger defensive presence than his 6'10" frame would suggest.
Plus, they still have cap space for the following summer, where they could add a quality player for the veteran's minimum, or even a bit more than that.
Serge Ibaka and James Harden can continue to come off the bench until their respective games are ready to be starters that can contribute 35-40 minutes a night.
It's a low-risk, high-reward move for the most exciting young team in the league. In fact, that's how NBA League Pass should market their product: "Order and get a chance to watch Durant and OKC for 80 games a year!"
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Vince Carter
SF: Matt Barnes
PF: Rashard Lewis
C: Dwight Howard
Virtually everyone (aside from J.J. Redick) is back for Orlando next year, so it's hard to imagine them shaking things up too much.
Then again, their 2010 lineup was dramatically different from the one that made the Finals in '09, so don't put anything past GM Otis Smith.
Matt Barnes has a player option for next year; maybe he wants to test the market and find something long-term? Not sure that's a great idea, considering the amount of talent that's available on the market.
It doesn't seem likely that anyone is going to be throwing a large sum of money at Matt Barnes because they missed out on LeBron James.
On paper, Orlando regressed from last year, mainly because they didn't have a consistent go-to, crunch-time scorer down the stretch.
Maybe another year with the same nucleus and someone will step up to take over that role (Dwight Howard, we're looking at you).
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Evan Turner
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: Elton Brand
C: Samuel Dalembert
Philly is in the unenviable position of having multiple players competing for starting spots...only these guys are either grossly overpaid or probably shouldn't be starters in the first place.
Joining the mix is Evan Turner, the phenomenal 6'7" swingman from The Ohio State University who will add versatility to the perimeter, and be another playmaker opposite of Iguodala.
There are a lot of questions with Philly. What happens to Louis Williams, who is under contract through 2013 and is making over $5 million each season?
Same goes for Thaddeus Young, who is a good bargain at less than $3 million this year, who had an up-and-down year but seemingly played better when he was in the starting lineup and not coming off the bench. How does Doug Collins "get him back" (his words, not mine)?
Does Collins try to go big on the perimeter (with Iguodala and Turner) and small inside (with Young and Brand/Speights)?
Does he have enough firepower to make Philly an up-tempo, athletic team that gets a lot of easy points in transition (which is their best bet, considering they don't have great low-post scorers and virtually no three-point shooting, meaning they probably won't succeed much in a halfcourt game)?
One thing is for sure: this won't be the starting five for the entire season. With the expiring contracts of Dalembert and Jason Kapono, the Sixers have to make a move around the deadline, not only to bring in more talent but to free up any amount of cap space.
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Grant Hill
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Robin Lopez
I was never a believer in the "new" Phoenix Suns until this year's playoffs. They showed an ridiculous amount of heart, determination, grit, chemistry, whatever sappy thing you want to call it.
Amar'e Stoudemire is going to hit the free agent market, and while it's not implausible that he could return, for whatever reason, it just doesn't feel like he will.
So what better way to re-establish themselves by reuniting one of the most enthralling foreign tandems in NBA history...Nash and Dirk!
Take everything Phoenix did this year and throw Dirk in the mix, and there's no reason to think they can't compete again next year.
Because of his chemistry with Nash, he shouldn't find a problem meshing in with the rest of the Suns.
It's probably not a great long-term solution, leveraging your future on two guys who are over 30 and whose best days are behind them.
But with the continued development of Phoenix's bench, they have a window in the next year or two. Why not go for it?
Portland Trail Blazers
PG: Andre Miller
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Martell Webster
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Marcus Camby
The late season injury to Brandon Roy derailed Portland's chances of making a push in the playoffs; in fact, injuries all season kept them from keeping a solid nucleus together that could keep them competitive in the brutal Western Conference.
All season, the Blazers were a tough, disciplined, well-coached team that played within themselves. Nobody played harder than Portland, and that's something to hang your hat on.
Now, they've just got to get a few more pieces. Re-signing Marcus Camby was a good step; the question becomes, what happens to Greg Oden?
It's hard to see him going back in the starting five over Camby. He's never come off the bench in his entire career, so how will he react to that?
At the same time, limited minutes against the opposition's bench could be good for his confidence and help ease him back into the rotation.
With Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless off the bench, and the No. 22 pick in the draft to boot, the Blazers are in good position to add some depth.
But the starting five won't be tinkered with too much...barring injuries, of course.
PG: Tyreke Evans
SG: Raja Bell
SF: Omri Casspi
PF: Carl Landry
C: DeMarcus Cousins
After falling to the fifth pick, the dream of an Evan Turner-Tyreke Evans-Omri Casspi backcourt (three 6'6"-plus guys who can all handle the rock and create for others by slashing and kicking) is as good as dead. Oh well.
Like the T'Wolves, the Kings would be wise to follow the OKC path back to prominence.
They already hit a home run last year in Evans. DeMarcus Cousins has as much talent as any big man in this year's draft, and if he properly harnesses that potential, he could turn into a dominant double-double machine for the next 10 years.
Even though the Kings have nearly $20 million in cap space, they probably won't land a big name.
But bringing in someone like Raja Bell won't hurt—he's an experienced veteran that can help in the maturity and development of some younger guards like Evans, Casspi, Donte Greene, and Beno Udrih.
Sacramento was one of the biggest surprises in the first 30 games of last year. The future still looks bright for them.
San Antonio Spurs
PG: Tony Parker
SG: George Hill
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Antonio McDyess
C: Tim Duncan
Hmmm...it seems likely that Duncan and McDyess will be patrolling the paint for the Spurs next year.
The question is, who will be the bench spark for Gregg Popovich?
In the playoffs, it was Tony Parker in the first-round against Dallas. But I don't see Pop doing that for an entire season...assuming that Parker is still playing for the Spurs, of course.
George Hill thrived in the starting five and I think Pop will keep him there to maintain his development. That leaves Ginobili coming off the bench, where he's thrived in the past and is mature enough to handle the role.
The window for the Spurs is closing, meaning they either need to add some pieces via the draft or free agency.
But anything they add will be solid contributions from the pine, since they don't have the cap space to get another big-name scorer...just a decent long-range shooter or two will do.
Somebody get Kyle Korver the number for R.C. Buford.
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Hedo Turkoglu
PF: Michael Beasley
C: Andrea Bargnani
If you're confused as to why Beasley is starting for Toronto, check out the Miami slide.
A news report broke this weekend that Turkoglu doesn't want to play for Toronto next year.
Sorry to break it to you, Hedo, but you spurned Portland and Orlando last year to sign with the Raps. You made your bed, now sleep in it. The front office owes you nothing and shouldn't have to trade you.
In fact, make an example of him. Players in all sports sign ludicrous contracts and then demand to be traded when things don't go their way. I don't see why they should be bailed out.
The biggest questions for Toronto come in their backcourt. Do they go with Calderon or Jarrett Jack at point guard? Each split time as a starter last year, but they'll need to decide on one guy this year and go with him.
Same goes for shooting guard. DeMar DeRozan started the season, but Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems saw significant minutes.
Whatever direction Toronto goes, they need to be consistent and dedicated to that path.
Losing someone like Bosh could hurt the franchise momentously; there will be a lot of pressure on the front office to get something significant in return for him (if he does leave), and to bring in decent talent in the draft as well.
PG: Deron Williams
SG: C.J. Miles
SF: Andrei Kirilenko
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Mehmet Okur
Originally, I had Boozer leaving. Everyone virtually expects as much, and it doesn't seem likely that he'd return.
That being said, what other suitors are left out there (if the 28 scenarios that preceded this one unfold as forecasted)? It might be in his best interest to re-sign with Utah and maintain a great relationship with Deron Williams.
These two can make a formidable duo, and who knows, with a healthy Okur and drafting a big-name scorer, they can make another run in the West playoffs—they need to stay healthy, however.
Let's say they draft Greg Monroe. The combo of him, Miles, and Wes Matthews (assuming he re-signs) makes Kirilenko expendable, and they can look to shop him (and his lucrative expiring contract) at the trade deadline, maybe for another perimeter scorer, or maybe just for more cap relief.
PG: John Wall
SG: Gilbert Arenas
SF: Al Thornton
PF: Andray Blatche
C: Daniel Orton
The two Kentucky brethren are united again in the nation's capital, as the Wiz nab consensus All-American John Wall with the first pick, and happily pick up the pieces as Orton drops to the end of Round One.
It's amazing how quickly things can change for an organization. Washington all of a sudden has cap room, the No. 1 pick in the draft, and got a great look at the future in the second half of last season, especially in Andray Blatche, who burst on the scene in a frenzy.
Now, can Wall and Arenas exist in the same backcourt? Can they bring in enough outside help to make them more than a doormat for the rest of the East?
The bottom line: there's legit cause to be excited if you're a Wizards fan, something you couldn't have imagined saying six months ago.