2011 NBA Season: Old Faces, New Places and Their Impact This Season
Ever since the NBA and the NBPA came to terms on the current collective bargaining agreement, teams have endured some craziness. The whole "David Stern vs. the rest of the league" nonsense has overshadowed what has been a pretty crazy December thus far.
I'll give it to everyone that Stern has created a stir, but now it's time to take a look at the impact some of these players are going to have on their new teams. All in all, there have been some pretty big trades and free-agency pickups that will impact the whole of the league, not just their respective suitors.
Here is a look at some of the NBA players that have found new homes and a bit about the impact they might have on their new teams.
Chris Paul to the Clippers
Now, I understand that the Lakers game was just a preseason contest, but if it's any indication of how things are going to go for Chris Paul this year, then the Clippers should be very excited.
Paul boasted an excellent stat line, shooting 6-of-9 from the field, scoring 17 points and adding seven rebounds, nine assists and five steals. To make it more exciting, CP3 did all of this in just 24 minutes on the floor.
The Clippers are immediately thrust into discussions for the top half of the Western Conference. They will be able to compete with teams like the Lakers, Thunder and Mavericks with a talent like Paul. Given the fact that they already have one of the most exciting young power forwards in the game in Blake Griffin, the Clippers are one step closer to being an elite power in the West.
If they can keep Paul healthy, knowing that he has had some knee problems in recent years, all the Clippers will need to focus on is the development of DeAndre Jordan and possibly getting another shooter on the outside. Of course, the Clippers may have already done that with the acquisition of Chauncey Billups.
Los Angeles has a new threat in town.
Chauncey Billups to the Clippers
Originally, when Chauncey Billups was dropped by the Knicks he was furious and was reportedly considering retirement. He was told by the league that he was required to report to the Clippers for practice after they had claimed him off waivers, but it was clear that Chauncey was not pleased with his new situation.
Then, Chris Paul came to town.
Billups has got to be singing a different tune after their first stint of preseason action together. He has been given the opportunity to play with talents like Paul and Blake Griffin even though he will most likely be moved to the shooting guard position. His ability to shoot the three as well as get to the foul line will be a valuable asset to the Clippers organization.
The combination of Billups and Paul in the backcourt may have one drawback, however, and that has much to do with their age. While Paul is not necessarily aging, he is having knee issues, and Billups has had similar problems throughout the later stages of his career. Chauncey's age may become a factor, which is why the Clippers will want to add some young talent on the bench now that they've gotten rid of all of it.
Caron Butler to the Clippers
Last but not least for the Clippers is Caron Butler, who signed a three-year deal almost at the same time as the Chris Paul trade. Butler will almost certainly start ahead of Ryan Gomes at small forward and will round out what has been an exciting offseason for the Clip.
Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury last season with Dallas, a heartbreak in and of itself as he never got the chance to play during the magical playoff run last season. Caron has certainly put himself in a good position now, and for obvious reasons.
Prior to his injury last season, Butler was averaging 15 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal per game and gave the Mavericks some depth to their lineup as most teams were focused on figuring out how to stop Dirk Nowitzki. Now that teams will probably cue in on Blake Griffin and Paul, Butler will need to step up in order to take some of the pressure off the two superstars.
Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks
As discouraging of a process as it was for Lamar, he has to be happy that he will be given a chance like this so late in his career. He will be playing on the defending champion Mavericks in a frontcourt featuring the playoff MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
Odom was sincerely at a loss for words in his interview on PTI the other day, but once the season starts rolling and he has a chance to settle into his new role, he will almost surely cheer up.
First things first, Odom should see a rotation with Shawn Marion at the small forward position, but given his versatility, he could certainly claim more minutes than the Matrix overall.
Secondly, he will find himself in a different situation up front. Odom is used to playing with a crowded frontcourt in Los Angeles with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. With the Mavericks, Odom should be able to help by filling some of the void left by Tyson Chandler's departure to the Knicks.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban will be excited to have a new "bro" on the court, and the Mavericks will be excited to welcome a new teammate this season. I will say one thing though: As far as must-see NBA matchups go, the Lakers vs. Mavericks game is at the top of my list this season.
Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks
Probably one of the main reasons why the Mavericks defeated the Heat so easily in the finals was the defensive presence of Tyson Chandler against the small frontcourt of Miami. Chandler has brought a physically dominant defensive presence to the court since his rookie season in 2001 and finally captured an NBA Championship with Dallas last season.
Now, Chandler has officially been traded to the Knicks in a three-way sign-and-trade with the Wizards. He will join Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in an intriguing New York frontcourt.
It's already known that Stoudemire and Anthony are forces on the offensive side of the ball, but the Knicks clearly lacked defense down the stretch and in the playoffs. New York was quickly swept aside by the Boston Celtics thanks to their inability to maintain aggression on the boards and in the paint. Chandler will immediately assess that issue for the Knicks.
Last season, Chandler averaged nine rebounds and a little over one block per game while averaging over 27 minutes a night for the Mavericks. He also added an average of 10 points per night and any player that averages close to a double-double will have an impact no matter where they land.
The Knicks will rely heavily upon the play of Toney Douglas to fill the void left by Chauncey Billups, but the addition of Mike Bibby will give a little more depth to the position. The Knicks really only need a true point guard now that they have such a potent frontcourt on offense and defense. Chandler is the one that makes it possible.
Eric Gordon to the New Orleans Hornets
This season it is going to be a popular belief that Eric Gordon got the raw deal in the Chris Paul trade. Gordon was set up on the Clippers as a star on the rise, and was building a chemistry with Blake Griffin, the team's first priority for obvious reasons.
Before being injured last season, Gordon was also showing improvement in a vital area for the Clippers organization: the ability to close games.
Now, Los Angeles has gone in a a new direction and Gordon is in New Orleans with a group of young, inexperienced players once more—most likely in the position Griffin occupied in Los Angeles, no less.
The situation for Gordon is not entirely clear right now, but it could go one of a few ways. The most positive outlook would allow for Gordon to jell with teammates like Jarrett Jack, who has been given the starting job at point guard after Paul's departure. Jack has shown some skill even in the shadow of Paul and could work nicely with Gordon in the backcourt, but the frontcourt in New Orleans leaves much to be desired.
Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman will headline things for the big men of the Hornets, but neither has shown spectacular ability to produce on a consistent basis. New Orleans will have to compete with the likes of the Lakers, the Mavericks and the Grizzlies, all of whom have great frontcourt presences in the West.
As much as fans will want to watch Paul and Griffin in Los Angeles, they should want to see this group for a few reasons as well.
Raymond Felton to the Portland Trail Blazers
Raymond Felton has had a bit of a journey the past year.
After being traded to the Nuggets in a deal involving Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, Felton was given a chance to start somewhere new.
Fast-forward to the NBA draft, and now Felton has been sent packing to join the up-and-coming Blazers and he could not be happier. He has since stated that he wants to be a part of the long-term solution in Portland.
Felton is not necessarily the be-all, end-all at point guard, but he has shown throughout his career that he can get up and down the floor in a run-and-gun-style offense. The Blazers acquired Felton for this reason exactly, so that he could execute a more uptempo offense. The young cast of characters, which includes Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford, Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge, seems well-suited for the task.
With a young team, the Blazers are looking primed for a move to the top of the standings in the West, and Felton could be a major role player in their games this season.
Jamal Crawford to the Portland Trail Blazers
The 2009-10 NBA Sixth Man of the Year was well sought-after once his contract was up in Atlanta, and ultimately, Crawford opted to sign with Portland. He will become an important piece of the puzzle once again for his team as he adds both depth and skill to a team that is already developing well in the West.
Right now, Crawford is slated to come in off the bench once again, even though he was reportedly promised the starting spot at shooting guard over Wes Matthews. In any case, the two should offer a good change of pace to one another throughout the season, and down the stretch, it will keep this group fresh as they make a playoff push.
Now the trio of Felton, Matthews and Crawford will need to find a way to click with one another as the frontcourt in Portland has already had time to do so. LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum are already working nicely together and have shown capabilities of succeeding in the run-and-gun-style offenses as well.
This could be a deep group to contend with come playoff time.
Shane Battier to the Miami Heat
Shane Battier will have to leave the antics in Memphis for the antics in South Beach, as he has signed on with the Heat and will join Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James on a team that should be one of the best in the East once again.
Battier is coming to Miami for one reason and that is to add defense to a team that has enough offense to rely upon as it is. With James, Wade and Bosh being the headliners, Battier will fit in nicely as an unsung hero on the perimeter. He finished with .8 steals while playing 28 minutes per game last season for Memphis and that should help put the ball in the hands of Miami's scorers.
For now, Shane is slotted in the backup role to LeBron James, but Heat coach Eric Spoelstra likes to mix things up with his Big Three on the floor, so Battier could see time with each of them. Either way, he has put himself on a team that has a real shot at returning to the NBA Finals.
Richard Hamilton to the Bulls
Rip is the kind of player that has endured the ups and the downs of the NBA during his time with the Detroit Pistons. Hamilton won a title, then returned to the NBA Finals the very next season with the Pistons before falling in Game 7 to the Spurs.
After that, Detroit slowly but surely shifted into a rebuilding phase and dragged Rip along for the ride. Losing Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups left Rip with little help around him to get back to the top. Eventually, Hamilton found himself wanting another chance, and here he is with the Bulls.
Rip will be able to bring a veteran presence to this young team that will help them throughout the season and deep into the playoffs. Having a scorer that has experience in big-time games will prove valuable to players like Derrick Rose, who along with the Bulls last season were handed a difficult loss to the lower-seeded Miami Heat, a team they had dominated during the regular season.
The added experience will provide a chance for Rose and Company to grow together as they seem fit for another run in the playoffs.
It also help that Hamilton can still score, of course. Adding Rip to the lineup of Rose, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer could boost the Bulls offense just enough to put them over the top.
David West to the Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have been quietly improving their roster over the past few seasons, and could be the surprise of the 2011-12 NBA season now that they have added West to their offense.
David West has been the partner in crime, so to speak, over the last eight years alongside Chris Paul. With Paul's departure to the Clippers came West's departure to the Pacers and now both players find themselves in new situations. For West, it will serve as a chance to try his talents with a team similar in makeup to the Clippers: a young group of up-and-coming players looking to climb the standings once more.
The Pacers' young group includes Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Paul George, Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough, all of whom are expected to contribute heavily this season for Indiana. With a little bit of depth and some consistency at both ends of the floor, Indiana could find themselves in a competitive role throughout the season.
Of course, it is hard to see them climbing much higher than the bottom half of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, but with West in the lineup, a playoff spot seems much more attainable this season. Indiana will be able to set their goals higher than in the past few years.
Glen Davis to the Orlando Magic
Out from one shadow and under another.
Davis has been growing under the watchful eye of Doc Rivers as well as under the wing of Kevin Garnett. Big Baby has been noted saying that he feels he will flourish now that he is out of the shadow of Garnett, but it's hard to fathom seeing as how he will be moving into a frontcourt with Dwight Howard.
Baby will certainly add a little more of a presence down low to take the heat off of Howard, but as far as his statistics go, there really shouldn't be much of a jump even if he is in the starting lineup. Davis has been known to be inconsistent on the offensive side of the floor, but his time was of course limited to a backup role while with the Celtics.
The Magic will be excited as long as they can keep Howard because Davis will add to the talent that Howard desires around him. With some of the pressure being taken off of Dwight to dominate the boards, Orlando may be able to put together a force up front that could take them deep into the playoffs.
Then again, we have yet to see what Glen Davis can truly bring to the table according to him.
Samuel Dalembert to the Houston Rockets
At the time this article was written, Samuel Dalembert was still in discussions with the Rockets, but now that the deal is done, we can add him to the list.
Dalembert was an intriguing free agent this off season. Given that he is not the shiniest nickel in the bunch, he garnered interest from only a few teams looking to add a center for defense and rebounding purposes. Some argued that the Heat should have taken a chance at him since they don't have a big man at all, but ultimately, Dalembert was shipped off to Houston to join the Rockets.
Dalembert will be joining a frontcourt that includes Chase Budinger and Luis Scola, so his role will be clear from the start. He will be called upon for the boards and for blocks on the defensive end of the floor, while providing for some extra room to score for players like Kevin Martin, who should be somewhat pleased at the new Houston center.
Last season, Dalembert averaged 8.2 rebounds per game and 1.5 blocks, which should translate into Houston pretty nicely. Of course, the Rockets may find it difficult to compete once again in the Western Conference due to the presence of players like Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. Dalembert does not have the speed to get up and down the floor with players like that.
In any case, Houston will be improved and could be fighting for a playoff spot.
That is, if they can keep their roster in tact.