NBA 2011-12: One Christmas Wish for Every NBA Team
Christmas is just around the corner, and you know what that means: the start of the 66 game 2011-12 NBA season.
I know Santa is a busy guy, but I'm sure he's still keeping up with all the trade rumors, free-agency talk, his favorite NBA players and his favorite teams.
Let's just pretend for a minute that all 30 NBA teams found themselves on the "nice" list this Christmas and they all got to ask Santa for one thing. What would each team ask Santa for? You're in luck, because I'm in the know on what every NBA team wants for Christmas.
If you want to find out what your favorite team's Christmas wish, is then do yourself a favor and read on.
Atlanta Hawks: Discipline and Leadership
I know that's technically two wishes, but leadership and discipline go hand in hand. The Atlanta Hawks are a habitually slightly above average team. For the last three seasons, the Hawks have made the playoffs and won their first-round series, only to be routed in the second round.
The Hawks are young and they still have a few years of potential in front of them, but if they ever want to make a conference finals or an NBA championship, someone on their team needs to become a vocal leader that brings much needed discipline.
Santa can make the Hawks happy by filling the their stocking with some much needed discipline and leadership for the 2011-12 season.
Boston Celtics: Fountain of Youth
There's no doubting that the Celtics are a great team, but their foundational talent is one of the oldest crews in the NBA. With Paul Pierce (34 years old), Kevin Garnett (35 years old) and Ray Allen (36 years old) only getting older, the Celtics either need to find the fountain of youth or start drafting/signing solid talent for the future.
It goes without saying that this year is closing in on their last "prime" year with the talent they currently have.
Santa, if you know where the fountain of youth is, please let the Celtics know. Just leave directions to it under their Christmas tree.
Charlotte Bobcats: 2012 Rookie of the Year Award for Kemba Walker
The Charlotte Bobcats are hoping that Kemba Walker is that young, athletic and elite talent that they have been searching for for the past few years.
The Bobcats wasted recent first-round draft picks on players like D.J Augustin, Brandon Wright and Adam Morrison. This time around, the Bobcats are really hoping beyond all hope that Kemba Walker is the guy they need to take their team to the next level.
A lot of people don't believe Kemba Walker can be an elite player in the NBA, but I think he can and will be, starting with a Rookie of the Year award.
Santa, do the Bobcats a favor and slip that Rookie of the Year award in their stocking early, so they can all rest assured Kemba was the right pick.
Chicago Bulls: A Legitimate Offensive Center
Let's be honest: Joakim Noah isn't the center the Bulls need. I know I'll get a lot of slack for this, especially since he averaged a double-double last year, but he just isn't a true offensive talent like the Bulls need.
I know a lot of Bulls fans are very high on the young center Omer Asik, but his production speaks for itself. Last year, Asik averaged 2.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, which is underwhelming at center. Noah, who is often hurt, isn't the answer and neither is Omer Asik, and without a legitimate center to compete with teams like the Orlando Magic, they will not reach the next level.
Santa, please put a center under the Bulls Christmas tree this year? Maybe Dwight Howard?
Cleveland Cavaliers: Time Machine to Go Back and Keep LeBron
The Cavaliers will never be the same. There is just no possible way they can rebound from losing LeBron James two summers ago to the beaches of Miami. Sure they got two lottery picks and used them on Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, but those players aren't ever going to be near the level of talent that LeBron James was.
No matter how much the Cavaliers, their fans and their owner says they are over losing LeBron, they undoubtedly are not.
Santa, if you could, please give the Cavaliers a time machine so they can go back to 2006-2007 and add the talent they needed to to keep LeBron. Then Cavs fans won't ask you for anything ever again.
Dallas Mavericks: The Magic of Dirk and Terry to Continue
There's no debating that the Dallas Mavericks were the best team of 2010-2011. There were times, however, that the Dallas Mavericks looked like they were the beneficiary of some magic, usually at the hands of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki and Terry hit big shot after big shot, never seeming fazed by the pressure of the Finals or the defense of the Miami Heat.
I'm not saying that the Mavericks didn't beat the Miami Heat straight up, but at times I felt like I was watching a magic show during the 2010-11 NBA Finals. The Mavericks want that to keep going
Santa, if you could just keep the magic of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki going, that would be great. Thanks.
Denver Nuggets: K-Mart and JR Smith's Release from China
Much like the U.S economy, the Denver Nuggets are in debt to China. Well, it's not really alike at all, but still, the Denver Nuggets really need JR Smith and Kenyon Martin back if they want to reach the 2011-12 NBA playoffs.
For those of you who don't know, Kenyon Martin and JR Smith both signed contracts with Chinese professional teams during the NBA lockout, but now those teams aren't letting them out of their year-long commitment.
What seemed like a wise international business plan for both players has quickly backfired and is seriously hurting the Denver Nuggets.
Santa, while you're flying over China, can you please stop and talk some sense into the Zhejiang Golden Bulls and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers? Nuggets fans would appreciate it.
Detroit Pistons: Gift Receipt for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva
There's no way around the fact that the Detroit Pistons jumped on the "post 2008-2009 playoff Ben Gordon" hype train and vastly overpaid for him. What is worse than that is that they fell into the Charlie Villanueva trap and paid a ridiculous amount for him, too.
The Pistons have $19,140,000 per year tied up in both Villanueva and Gordon and unless they put up ridiculous stats this year, I'm sure the Pistons would like that money back.
Gordon and Villanueva combined for a total 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, which is pretty terrible for two "star" players' production.
Santa, just take a minute and look around your big red back for the return receipt for these two guys. The Pistons desperately need it.
Golden State Warriors: Lessons on How to Play Defense
The Golden State Warriors can put up points with ease. Their real problem is found in their inability to stop other teams from point up points. The Warriors ranked 27th last year in points allowed, giving up an average of 105.7 points per game.
If the Warriors could just figure out how to play something even basically resembling a defense, they would be a pretty dangerous team, but until they figure that out, they'll be an average team at best.
Santa, prove to everyone that you're a Golden State Warriors fan and stop by Oracle Arena and give them some free lessons on Christmas Eve on how to play defense.
Houston Rockets: Transfer to the Eastern Conference
The Rockets' Christmas wish could have easily been something regarding retired center Yao Ming, but it's time to move on. The Rockets, without Ming, finished each of the last two seasons above .500, with records of 42-40 and 43-49, respectively.
Each year, however, they failed to reach the playoffs, mainly because they are in the Western Conference.
If the Rockets played in the slightly weaker Eastern Conference, they would have made the playoffs as the eighth seed each of those years. I'm not saying it would help them out that much, but at least it would have the last two years.
Santa, if the Rockets wake up Christmas morning and they've swapped conferences with the 76ers, I'm sure they'd be happy.
Indiana Pacers: Return of 2008-2009 Version of Danny Granger
Since a breakout season in 2008-2009, when Granger received his first All-Star honor, as well as the Most Improved Player honor, he hasn't really improved. Whether Pacers fans like it or not, their star player is Danny Granger, and his production has steadily been declining since 2008-2009.
I know the Pacers made the playoffs as the eighth seed in the East last year, but 37-45 isn't a record that fans should be happy with.
The Pacers have the pieces in place with Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert to be an above average team, but it all depends on how Danny Granger plays this year.
Santa, if you're listening, please return Danny Granger to 2008-2009 form so that the Pacers can be an above-average team again.
Los Angeles Clippers: 'Ring City'
The hype train is full steam ahead after a Clippers' preseason win over the rival Los Angeles Lakers. While I still think it's a little early to crown the Clippers the kings of LA, I was impressed by the freakish athleticism on the court wearing Clippers jerseys.
Even if the Clippers don't turn out to be better than the Lakers, they will undoubtedly be more athletic.
The Clippers must figure out how to transition their insane athletic ability into a legitimate NBA offense. I think they can, but as always, only time will tell if "Lob City" will come to fruition.
Santa, can you please just make his easy for the poor Clippers fans and go ahead and turn the Clippers into "Ring City"?
Los Angeles Lakers: A David Stern Veto of Their Lamar Odom Trade
The Los Angeles Lakers just can't get a break. Initially I thought David Stern did the Lakers a favor by vetoing the much hyped trade for Chris Paul, but then I realized he set the Lakers up for failure.
After having their Chris Paul trade vetoed, the Lakers thought for some reason that they still needed to get rid of Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom. I'm not sure why they felt they were better off with Josh McRoberts, but they surely aren't.
David Stern had every right to veto the Chris Paul trade, but he let the Lakers down by not stepping in and stopping their boneheaded move of sending away Odom.
Santa, if you could please go tell David Stern that he needs to retroactively veto the Lakers' Lamar Odom trade, that would be great.
Memphis Grizzlies: A Healthy Shoulder for Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay is a great basketball player. He's athletic, strong and can stroke it from most anywhere on the court. Last year, Gay had career highs in field-goal percentage, minutes played, free-throw percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game.
Gay was on his way to the best year of his career, but then it got sidelined by a season-ending shoulder injury after just 54 games.
The Grizzlies still went on to make a nice run in the playoffs but they fell short, and that was in large part due to the absence of Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies will be a dangerous team this year as long as Gay stays healthy.
Santa, please leave Rudy Gay a healthy shoulder under his tree this year, or at least an arm sleeve to protect it. If you do, the Grizzlies might just make it to the Western Conference Finals.
Miami Heat: For the Playoffs to Come Early
The Miami Heat were one of the most unstoppable teams by the end of the season last year. Sure, they had their letdowns and ultimately lost to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, but there is no doubt that they were the second-best team in the NBA last year.
We all know the Miami Heat are going to be in the playoffs come April, it's just a matter of which seed they will earn.
With a full year and another offseason under their belts, LeBron, Wade and Bosh are going to have more chemistry with one another, which is bad news for the other 29 NBA teams that have to play against them.
Santa, do the NBA fans a favor and don't delay the inevitable, bring the playoffs to us now. We're pretty sure which teams will be there—well, at least we know the Miami Heat will be.
Milwaukee Bucks: That They Never Traded Jimmer Fredette
I'm not really sure why the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jimmer Fredette in the 2011 NBA draft. They got an aging wannabe All-Star in Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston—whose career was almost over in 2007—and a rookie in Tobias Harris who never should have left college.
The Bucks gave up arguably the best college basketball player—at least pure shooter—of the last 10 years for all that junk. I'm sure at the end of the year they'll wish they hadn't done that.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a solid foundation on their team with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings; Jimmer Fredette would have complemented those players extremely well.
Santa, somehow please bring Jimmer back to Milwaukee. They really needed him and I'm not sure what they were thinking when they traded him.
Minnesota Timberwolves: A Developed Jump Shot for Ricky Rubio
It's been a long time coming for the Minnesota Timberwolves but Ricky Rubio is finally wearing a T'Wolves jersey and he looks pretty good in it so far.
The hype around Ricky Rubio entering the 2009 NBA draft was out of control. Analysts were comparing him to the late, great "Pistol" Pete Maravich. The only problem with that comparison is that Rubio lacks a solidified set of offensive skill, like a jump shot.
There is no doubting Rubio's speed, basketball IQ and ability to pass the ball, but until he develops a legitimate jump shot, he won't be the All-Star the T'Wolves need.
Santa, you'll be doing every NBA fan a favor by helping Rubio out by leaving a nice jumper under his Christmas tree this year.
New Jersey Nets: Dwight Howard Without the Goatee
Dwight, I know you're trying to look all grown up by sporting that Patrick Ewing-esque goatee, but please do us all a favor and get rid of it.
Okay, now on to the New Jersey Nets. I'd love to sit in on the phone calls/meetings between Dwight Howard's agent, the Orlando Magic and the New Jersey Nets when they discuss this possible trade, because I have no idea why it isn't happening. It seems like the Nets are willing to give up everyone on their roster for Howard, but that isn't good enough apparently.
The Nets are doing the right thing by trying to get their franchise player in Dwight Howard, but the Magic aren't making it easy.
Santa, that is where you come in. If you could bypass all this trade talk and just put Dwight Howard under the Nets' Christmas tree, that would be great. Oh, and don't forget to drop off the other players under the Magic's tree too.
New Orleans Hornets: 2011-12 NBA Season to Be Over
The New Orleans Hornets got a lot in return for sending away point guard Chris Paul. They got one of the league's best young talents in shooting guard Eric Gordon, a veteran center in Chris Kaman and a young athletic forward in Al-Farouq Aminu. Oh, they also got a first-round draft pick, a pick they will hopefully use to replace Chris Paul at the point guard position.
Even if the Hornets don't replace Chris Paul with a draft pick, they will be able to use their two first-round picks on solid talent.
I'm not saying that the Hornets will have the worst record in the NBA this season, but they will undoubtedly come close, leaving them with a high lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Santa, if you're a New Orleans fan, please do them a favor and make the 2011-12 NBA season go away so that they can get to the draft quicker.
New York Knicks: $14 Million Extra to Have Kept Chauncey Billups
I know this one is impossible, but it's really what the New York Knicks need. I think the Knicks made a huge mistake by letting Chauncey Billups go.
Getting Tyson Chandler was a great pickup for the Knicks, but it wasn't worth getting rid of their starting point guard, who also happened to be their veteran leader. The Knicks are trying to replace Billups with Mike Bibby and Baron Davis, the latter of whom will be out at least a month with a back injury.
I don't see that turning out well, because neither of those players are the leader that Billups is.
I don't know how NBA front offices work, but I find it hard to believe that Billups wouldn't have restructured his contract to stay with the Knicks.
Santa, while you're flying over the Big Apple, just make it rain to the tune of $14 million so the Knicks can go back in time and keep Billups. Without him, they won't be any better than last year.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Much Needed Maturity
Aside from veterans Nick Collison (31) and Nazr Mohammed (34), the Oklahoma City Thunder don't have a player on the roster over the age of 29. While the Thunder's youth is one of the reasons that they are so great, it is also the one thing that truly holds them back every year. The Thunder lack the maturity and leadership it takes to take their talent to the next level.
Hotheaded point guard Russell Westbrook doesn't understand how to control himself and soft-spoken Kevin Durant hasn't developed the voice he needs to be a true leader.
If the Thunder want to make it to the NBA Finals this year, they absolutely have to develop some maturity, because maturity is what separates the good teams from the great ones.
Santa, I don't know how you'll do this, but find a way to leave the Thunder some maturity under their tree, please.
Orlando Magic: Something in Return for Dwight Howard
I'm pretty sure when Dwight Howard said he would stay in Orlando if they got talent around him, he didn't mean trading for Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Aside from toying with the New Jersey Nets, the Orlando Magic haven't tried to help out Dwight Howard at all, and I think that all but seals his fate at the end of the 2011-12 NBA season.
I'd be more surprised if Howard comes back to Orlando next season than if he doesn't.
Howard most likely won't be wearing a Magic jersey in 2012-13, and if the Magic are smart, they will at least try to get something in return for him via trade instead of letting him walk away through free agency.
Santa, knock some sense into the Orlando Magic front office and help them get something in return for Howard. If they don't, they aren't going to be very good for the next couple of years.
Philadelphia 76ers: A Veteran Shooting Guard
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of those teams that is stuck in mediocrity, which is in large part due to the fact that they locked up Elton Brand through 2013 with an annual salary of $17,059,727. Elton Brand isn't a terrible player, but he sure isn't worth that kind of money—the kind of money that has kept the 76ers from adding other talent to their young roster.
The 76ers roster is full of young guards who have a lot of potential, but will never realize if there is no one on the roster to learn from.
The 76ers need a veteran guard that can step in and produce at en effective level while teaching the younger guards how to play the game.
Santa, I wish I could help you with this, but I don't know which veteran guard the 76ers need. I'm sure you know, though, so just go ahead and drop that player off under the 76ers' Christmas tree.
Phoenix Suns: Team Chemistry
Steve Nash isn't getting any younger and his NBA title hopes are all but resting on the shoulders of the 2011-12 season. Nash can't do it all himself though; he needs help from the talent around him and that won't come about without a resemblance of chemistry on the team.
The pieces are in place for a playoff run with talent like Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Grant Hill, and this year is their best hope to make that run.
I hate to say it, but I think this is Steve Nash's last "prime" year of his career, and if he wants to win that elusive NBA title, the Suns will have to develop some serious chemistry fast.
Santa, you can help out with that by just leaving it under their Christmas tree—that way the Suns can just focus on winning games.
Portland Trailblazers: Their 2006 & 2007 Draft Pick Back
The Portland Trailblazers had all the potential in the world after the 2006-2007 NBA drafts. The Trailblazers had Brandon Roy and Greg Oden and the future seemed bright. After a few decent years with both players, the Trailblazers are now permanently without Brandon Roy and temporarily without Greg Oden.
The Trailblazers don't have a lot to be excited about going into the 2011-12 NBA season after losing Roy and Oden, with their best players being Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton.
Roy's retirement and Oden's "unspecified" injury are both major setbacks for the Trailblazers and the rebuilding process for them will take a lot of time, money and draft picks.
Santa, you can help them out with that if you can someone get their 2006 & 2007 back for them.
Sacramento Kings: College Version of Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette was an absolute beast in college, averaging 28.9 points per game, shooting 45.2 percent overall and 39.6 percent from behind the arc.
Jimmer's college production is so impressive because everybody on defense keyed on him; they knew he was going to shoot and no one could stop him. That is the kind of player the Sacramento Kings need. They need a player who is tough, gritty and most of all hard working.
I know Jimmer will have his growing pains, but the way he will benefit the Kings throughout the coming years is mainly because of his ability to lead with his play on the court and his character off the court. That is something a young and immature Kings team absolutely needs.
Santa, help the Kings out by making sure the Jimmer that shows up on their season opener against the Lakers on December 26th is the one we saw in college at BYU.
San Antonio Spurs: Health, Health and More Health
If the San Antonio Spurs want to make another run at the NBA championship, they have to stay healthy. The Spurs proved last year that they still have some gas left in the tank by earning the number one seed in the stacked Western Conference playoffs.
It will be hard to do that again this year with some seriously increased talent in the Western Conference, but if the Spurs want to, they'll only do so by staying healthy.
In two of the last three seasons, the Spurs got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by younger teams, mainly because of the wear and tear of the 82-game season on their aging veterans.
Santa, show your love the San Antonio Spurs by leaving some health packs under their Christmas tree for Duncan, Ginobli and Parker to use throughout the season.
Toronto Raptors: Time Machine to Capture Their Own 'Big Three'
The Raptors are on a train to nowhere. After losing their only star Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat last year during free agency, the Raptors hopes of being even an average team flew out the window.
The Raptors need so much help, much like the Cavaliers, that I figured they could share their Christmas wish, a time machine, with the Cavs. If the Raptors could have somehow magically held on to their talent in the early 2000s, they could have ended up with the first "Big Three" with Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh.
How wild would that have been?
After a 22-60 season last year, the Raptors need some serious help and the only way to get that is to go back in time, securing their present-day success with the duo of McGrady and Carter.
Santa, I know you already gave a time machine to the Cavs, but if you could let the Raptors use it too, that would be much appreciated.
Utah Jazz: Solid Turkish Connection Between Mehmet Okur and Enes Kanter
Before being drafted by the Utah Jazz, I was in the majority who thought Enes Kanter wasn't ready for the NBA. Good news for Kanter, though, he got drafted by the Utah Jazz, who just so happen to have a fellow 6'11'' Turkish center Mehmet Okur, who will be the perfect teacher for the young Kanter.
I know Okur isn't really an elite talent, but he will undoubtedly help Kanter have a much easier transition into the NBA.
It's odd how identical Kanter and Okur are. They are both 6'11', weigh between 260-270 pounds and they both play very similar types of post games at the center position.
Santa, help out all the Jazz fans by making sure Okur mentors the young Kanter and teaches him how to be the best Turkish center he can be.
Washington Wizards: New Jerseys and the 2012-13 NBA Season
The Wizards new jerseys aren't terrible, but they are pretty underwhelming. Good news for the Wizards: Their new jerseys match their overall production.
Individually, the Wizards have some great talent with a lot of potential, but when you ask them to play as a team, they fall short. The Wizards had a terrible season last year, earning a 23-59 overall record. Unfortunately the Wizards didn't really improve this offseason, just like their jerseys, and they are on a collision course with another below-average season.
Unless their sixth overall draft pick Jan Vesely is the next Dirk Nowitzki, I don't see any realistic way in which the Wizards season ends well.
Santa, help the Wizards out and just end their 2011-12 season so they can get another lottery pick. Oh, and don't forget to leave them new jerseys that aren't terrible too.
Happy Holidays and a Merry 2011-12 NBA Season
Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great Holiday season with friends and family.
Don't forget to follow me on twitter: @peteremerick