NBA Lockout: 7 Teams That Could Benefit from a Work Stoppage in 2011
Other than potential ratings boosts for the NHL and NCAA college basketball, the NBA lockout isn't going to be fun for anyone. The players want to play. The coaches want to coach. The owners want to make money off of the fans that want to come see games. With a lockout, none of this is possible.
Veteran players without rings are probably quietly begging for the current lockout not to last an entire season, and for all parties involved to come up with something as soon as humanly possible.
The group that I feel for are the fans. Being one of them, the idea of sitting around in December with no NBA basketball is something that I don't want to think about. Unfortunately, that scenario is too possible to be ignored.
At times, greed will get the best of us, and that's exactly what is happening in every NBA franchise owner's office across the league.
It isn't just the owners, though. The players association wants to keep its players paid, and is just as responsible.
Here is the difference. There is no player in the NBA that wants to sit around when he could be playing in games. The wealthy owners will stay wealthy. In some cases, for the teams that don't make any money, the lockout may even help them financially.
This is a major pain for every team. Coaches can't help their players, and the players can't do anything together as a team (officially). But there are a few teams that could benefit from this if they look at it the right way and salvage the opportunity.
This is not a ranking of who benefits the most or the least. It is simply a list of teams who could use this break to their advantage.
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The core of the Celtics is one of the oldest among the NBA's playoff-contending teams.
Excluding Rajon Rondo, who would go 110 percent if he had to play 48 minutes per game in a 200-game regular season, this team could use a shorter season in its last push to win another title.
With Rondo taking over the offense in the last year and a half, the "Three Amigos" in Garnett, Allen and Pierce would be able to go a little harder in the regular season than they may in an 82-game schedule. Come playoff time, they are likely to have more in the tank. An energized and rested Kevin Garnett is something that no opposing offense wants to see.
If the Celtics have to play a regular, 82-game schedule, I do not see them contending for a ring. On a shortened schedule, however, it's definitely possible. As KG himself famously put it, anything is possible.
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With all the speculation circling Andre Igoudala and a potential departure from the City of Brotherly Love, the rest of the Sixers may have to step up and make up for his absence.
Evan Turner is the first to come to mind. Considering how high he was picked, he needs to improve his game drastically from last year if he doesn't want a "bust" label. I don't see that happening for him. In fact, I still see him being a very important player on a playoff team in the near future.
The first thing he needs to work on is his shooting stroke. While he wasn't awful (42 percent from the field, 31 percent from three, 4-of-5 from three in the 2011 playoffs), his big issues were consistency and confidence. He has the ability to score 20 points, and he's definitely a good enough passer to be a poor man's Tracy McGrady (if he reaches his full potential), but this summer will be a good opportunity to hit the gym, take some shots and maybe work on that shooting form a bit.
Jrue Holiday is another guy that could take some time and work on his game. His issue isn't talent, or something he needs to work on in the gym. He needs to go watch some film of some of the great pure point guards in the NBA and take notes. This is not me attempting to dock his abilities as a point guard, as he did in fact have three 13-assist games this year. Any young point guard who comes in labeled as a combo guard receives that classification for a reason.
With Turner and Holiday, and a very good scorer in Lou Williams coming off the bench, the guard combo for the Sixers looks bright if they're coached correctly.
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After the departure of LeBron James, Dan Gilbert and company had to work fast to get a team together that could at the very least win a few games. The Cleveland Cavaliers finished last year with the second-worst record in the NBA.
This summer, with a lucky Ping-Pong ball showing up in the lottery, they managed to obtain the first and fourth picks in the draft, taking Kyrie Irving (the consensus No. 1 pick—always a good thing to hear) and Texas forward Tristan Thompson. They also recently dealt J.J. Hickson to Sacramento for Omri Casspi and a first-rounder. Needless to say, this team has a way to go.
With young teams like the Cavs, it's going to take longer than a season for the core to jell. Guys like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson should be honing their individual skills at this point, mainly Thompson on his footwork and touch in the post.
It also gives Ramon Sessions an opportunity to try to work on that jump shot. It's something that has hurt him his whole career, and with that he has a chance to be a very valuable player on a good squad.
While he may be known as an defensive specialist, Anderson Varejao could take this opportunity to develop more of a mid-range game if he so chooses. It would only add another component to his game. And for those who would be worried that not being under the hoop may have an impact on his offensive rebounding numbers, just take a look at Kevin Love. He very rarely plays in the post, but still was the top offensive rebounder in the league last year. As many have said before, rebounding is all about desire.
Los Angeles Lakers
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The Lakers are a veteran team whose core has won titles together—two to be exact (five when it comes to the guard duo of Kobe and Derek Fisher). A team with a starting five that hasn't really changed over the past few years doesn't need training camp to get a "feel" for each other. The chemistry will be there whenever they do start playing basketball again.
Kobe Bryant has been plagued with little, nagging injuries for the past few years. This will give him a chance to rest up and be 100 percent going into the season, something he probably hasn't truly done in a long time.
This will also be a good chance for Kobe to think. He'll have a chance to think long and hard about the way Dallas swept the Lakers away from a potential three-peat. I think most would agree when I say, Kobe with a chip on his shoulder is a scary thought.
Look out for Black Mamba next year.
Andrew Bynum should take this opportunity to work, and work hard. When Shaq decided to retire recently, he called Dwight Howard the one dominant big man left in the NBA. At this point, he is probably right, but Bynum might also be the closest competition to Dwight for the "dominant big man" title.
Bynum needs to get stronger, so he can make it through an entire season, but also so he can feel more comfortable being tough in the paint. If we ever do see him break away from the injury bug, Howard/Bynum matchups could be fun down the road.
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The Timberwolves have many players with a lot to work on. For the first time, however, it looks as if there is some hope for a real team down the line; a team that will be able to compete in the playoffs.
Before they do that, individual players need to hone some skills and improve their games to help the 'Wolves win. This team shouldn't worry about team chemistry at this point. If they get better individually, they will improve as a team.
The long-awaited Ricky Rubio has finally decided to play for Minnesota, and he has some work to do. For starters, like many rookies, he needs to get stronger. He's taller than most point guards at 6'4", but he's also one of the lankier guys out there. Many expect him to be the starter, and if that is the case, he'll be going up against a lot of guys bigger than him.
He also, and more importantly perhaps, needs to work on his perimeter jumper. Shooting 30 percent from long range is not good, and it is something that will have to be addressed immediately.
Wes Johnson needs to improve his ball-handling. It limited his game immensely in his rookie year. Despite his nice jumper and athleticism, his weak handle stopped him from fully utilizing those abilities. Minnesota's Star Tribune suggested he has been working with Kobe Bryant on ball-handling. Let's hope this is true, because if he greatly improves that skill, we could see two Timberwolves in a row with Most Improved Player trophies in their homes.
Lastly, Anthony Randolph needs to get stronger. He's going to play all over the floor, with the logjam that has accumulated at the forward position in Minnesota. He's tall enough to play center, and if he adds on weight, he might be able to play there fairly well. With the makeup of the roster, he might have to.
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The Raptors saw nice improvements from DeMar DeRozan last year. His slashing ability made him a real threat to score on every possession. Now is the time for him to take that next step and add some range to his game. He shot a dismal 9% from 3-point land a year ago, and that needs to change fast if he wants to be a star in the league. If that even goes up 21 percentage points, which with my weak math skills, would put him at a still-low 30%, that would be a huge improvement and would be a totally different element to the Raptors organization.
Andrea Bargnani needs to hit the gym, and possibly go to an MMA fight, or something of that nature. Point being, this guy needs to flat out get tougher. With that toughness would come quite a few new parts to his game. We would see more FT attempts, better defense, and maybe more plays in the post for Bargs.
Amir Johnson has been one of those guys for a long time that is set to break out and have a big year. Maybe this extended offseason is going to give him that year. He needs to become more polished on the offensive end. Very simply, he has to be a gym rat this summer, and improve his game. Both his jumpshot and his footwork.
8 points and 7 rebounds per game isn't great for a top 10 pick in the NBA draft, but considering Ed Davis only play 24 minutes per game, he still has a chance to be a big time player when he does end up getting those starters minutes. Davis is one of those guys who really has to work on everything. Post game, jump shot, defensive footwork, endurance, literally everything. That's not to say he's any better or any worse than any other player mentioned, he's just a guy who hasn't wowed me with any one skill up to this point.
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One of these days, DeMarcus Cousins is going to rid himself of the reputation he has going for him at the moment. Attitude concerns dropped him to the fifth pick in the 2010 NBA draft, when many saw him as No. 2 or No. 3 talent. When he was preparing for the draft, his college coach, John Calipari, always defended him, but after being thrown out of practice at one point in the NBA season, it's pretty clear that there may be some maturity issues.
I'm not sure what action specifically needs to be done. You can't really force someone to become more mature, and with the lockout, it's going to be tougher for anything of that nature to happen. Thankfully, all of these accusations are from incidents on the court, so he has that on his advantage.
The best thing I can think of is to have him work on his offensive game. Become a star (I only use that word loosely in this case because he is talented enough for this to happen), and hopefully the appreciation from the fans will humble him enough to the point where he can slowly mature into a model NBA citizen.
The other major action that needs to be made in Sacramento involved the two prospective starting guards. Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette. Both are ball-dominant guards, and both need to learn how to play off of each other. It would likely be in the best interest of both, and the entire Kings team, if they worked out together as much as they can, and watch film of guys like Ray Allen. Guys who have mastered the art of moving without the ball. A shooter as good as Jimmer should especially focus on this, as Evans will be "the man" in Kings nation until somebody takes that title from him.