One Burning Question for Every NBA GM This Offseason

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IApril 2, 2012

One Burning Question for Every NBA GM This Offseason

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    The job of an NBA general manager never ends.

    Not even now when the trade deadline is over. Teams can still pick up players off of the waiver wire and temporarily fill in a few holes before the postseason comes around. Not only that, but general managers have to begin fretting about this year's free-agency class and who they could possibly pick up in order to find a permanent solution.

    Rinse and repeat. Every year. We don't know their names until we begin to wonder why a particular team isn't any good after so long. If you have a lengthy track record of disappointment and failure, then there is no doubt that the name of the general manager of that team will be known. Let's not forget that success is nice, but failure brings in ratings.

    Thus why you saw Otis Smith's name in lights for so long. We had to find someone to blame for Dwight Howard's tumultuous relationship with the Orlando Magic organization and we found a scapegoat.

    Throughout the year, it's up to the general manager to pass judgment and gauge just how well a particular free agent or trade scenario is. It's up to them to make the right moves and it's up to them to convince players to join their team or why they should stick around.

    We take a look at each team and the main question the general manager of each team face going into the offseason.

Atlanta Hawks

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    The question:

    What should I do with Josh Smith? 

    For what the Atlanta Hawks have done this season in the midst of playing without Al Horford, it should be noted that the reason why they're 31-23 isn't mostly thanks to Joe Johnson, but rather because of Josh Smith.

    An eighth year forward that was drafted out of high school, Smith has been met with a lot of criticism over his career. Whether it's been about his attitude, commitment or his shot selection, Smith has been at the center of a number of dilemmas and questions surrounding this Atlanta Hawks team.

    Take for instance the fact that this team is 2-12 in its past three second round matchups.

    This year, however, Smith has been the focal point of the offense and has done an excellent job at keeping this Hawks team afloat without a key component. Smith is averaging a career high 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals per. He's only shooting 45 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep, but he's doing all in his power to lead this depleted team.

    Smith has been a key piece this year and should be come postseason time. However, we also have to wonder if the Hawks are still open to trading the power forward, who requested a trade a few days before the deadline.

    He's a good player, but the Hawks have to find a way to be better than second round fodder. Even with Horford, Johnson, Smith and Jamal Crawford last season, the Hawks still could only manage two wins in the second round before bowing out. With no money to spend, the Hawks see Smith as an extremely valuable trade chip.

Boston Celtics

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    The question:

    Should I keep the big three in tact?

    Since the 2007-08 season, the Boston Celtics have been consistently recognized as a contender to compete for the championship.

    It was the case when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen first joined Paul Pierce in Boston and it's the case today. Even in their later years, the Celtics are still a formidable opponent despite not having the same athleticism, endurance and stamina of years past. A 36, 35 and 34-year-old have done more in the past five years than most prime cores will do in their tenure together.

    The Celtics have struggled this year and it's coming mostly as a result of age. Health is beginning to play a larger factor, they're not getting to the rim as easy, they can't dish out and take the same hits they used to give and they're a step slower on the defensive end against athletic teams.

    In turn, the organization has begun to listen to trade offers for each member of the big three. With Garnett and Allen both being free agents next year, the question that's going to be raised is whether or not those two are going to be worth the price that they're going to want.

    They might be old, but they're still effective and there will be plenty of teams that would love to have them on their team.

    It's business versus loyalty, and as we all know in the NBA it's business that usually comes out on top.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    The question:

    Should I fire myself? 

    I know Stephen Jackson can be a real pain sometimes, but was Corey Maggette that much better?

    Was it worth the 15 points per game on 37 percent shooting? Perhaps they should have traded Boris Diaw, instead. Diaw was waived by the team after his commitment to the team was brought into serious consideration.

    A team with seven wins waived a potential starter on many other NBA teams. You have to get depressed about that.

    The Charlotte Bobcats have been a tremendous mess this year. At 7-43, they're the worst team in the league statistically and at every other aspect of the game. They're so bad that I'm not even sure how they won seven games. It's amazing that a team with the lack of talent they have has been capable of winning seven out of 50 times.

    It hasn't been all bad with Gerald Henderson dropping 15 per, Kemba Walker showing off the potential to be a scary offensive threat and Bismack Biyombo proving to be quite the defensive monster, but this team is horrible and I have no idea how they're going to get good players.

    There aren't many trade chips and it's going to take a lot of convincing to tell a free agent to choose to go a seven win team on their own free will.

Chicago Bulls

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    The question:

    Do I still need to find a shooting guard?

    The Eastern Conference playoffs made it apparent that the Chicago Bulls needed to get Derrick Rose some help on offense.

    Shooting 35 percent and attempting to make up for the shortcoming's of a few particular teammates wasn't going to cut it. The Bulls needed another player who could play alongside Rose and score on their own. Chicago needed a player who could create their own shot and chip in 10 to 15 points per game, which would allow Rose to get freed up on defense.

    In response, the Bulls decided to sign former Detroit Pistons shooting guard Richard Hamilton. The 2004 NBA champion had always been a consistent threat on the floor, but had dealt with injury problems the two previous seasons. The injuries threw off Hamilton's game, as he shot below 43 percent in both years and averaged a near career low of 14 points per last season.

    Should we be surprised that the 33-year-old is now dealing with more injuries? Hamilton has only played in 16 games this year as the Bulls find themselves in the exact same spot as last year on offense.

    However, they've also been playing without Derrick Rose for a large part of the year as he has he dealt with nagging back spasms and a groin injury.

    This is the third straight year Hamilton has been hampered by injuries. Perhaps it would be best for the Bulls to continue searching for a player who can fill in at the two and do as much on offense as they do on defense.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The question:

    Who should I surround Kyrie Irving with?

    Congratulations, Cleveland Cavaliers! For the second time in the past decade, you've received the No. 1 pick and used it to select the right player. You guys are really something else!

    Kyrie Irving is no LeBron James, but he is Kyrie Irving and that's just as good. The rookie is averaging 19 points on 47 percent shooting, converting 42 percent of his three-pointers, dishing out six assists and grabbing four boards per. He's also hitting 87 percent of his free throws and getting a steal per.

    Even though Irving was the consensus No. 1 pick, it was still a gamble by the Cavaliers to pick him up. The phenom only played nine games at Duke University as he mostly dealt with injuries for his college career. It didn't diminish his draft stock as he was rightly taken first and is now performing above and beyond with the Cavaliers.

    He's sure to be a Rookie of the Year recipient, as well. Winning Rookie of the Year may not seem much, but Irving will be joining some incredible company if he wins it.

    Just take a look at the past five winners of the award. Chris Paul is an All-Star and finished second in MVP voting once, Brandon Roy was an All-Star before injuries derailed his career, Kevin Durant is leading the best team in the West, Derrick Rose just won the MVP and is leading the best team in the East, Tyreke Evans is attempting to recover from injuries and Blake Griffin has already made two All-Star games.

    Five players and four of them are All-Stars, with three of them either being an MVP or finishing in the top five in MVP voting.,

    The question posed to the Cavaliers general manager is how do you avoid another LeBron James fiasco. To start, don't think a 37-year-old center is the solution. Also don't think that an over the hill power forward and a point guard who only makes pressure shots in the regular season are going to keep Irving around, either.

    You're getting another crack at a superstar, Cleveland. Don't blow it this time.

Dallas Mavericks

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    The question:

    How aggressively should I pursue Steve Nash, Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard?

    The Dallas Mavericks are the reigning NBA champions, yet there have been complaints about this team not receiving the respected treatment of an NBA champion.

    Perhaps it's because you allowed the key piece that enabled you to win a title to leave, but that's just my guess.

    When the Mavericks allowed Tyson Chandler to get up and walk to the New York Knicks with no resistance, we knew that their title run was immediately over. Even though they still had key pieces in Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, they lacked the interior presence that affected shots and worked well in a pick-and-roll setting.

    Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi don't carry the same impact on defense that Chandler provided. Tyson was lauded and praised for his intense work on defense throughout the Mavericks' championship run, yet Dallas gave him up for nothing. The Knicks did overspend on him by giving him $15 million per year, but it still hurts to lose a player like that.

    Dallas wants another title run and with an frivolous owner that likes to spend, they're going to be looking towards potentially signing either Steve Nash, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard. They might even just go about signing Williams and Howard, which has been a plan for them.

    They'll need to begin working fast. Nowitzki and Marion are 33 years old and Terry has expressed interest in moving to a different team. Bringing in either of those three, or possibly two of them, would certainly keep those players around if the money is right.

Denver Nuggets

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    The question:

    Should I go after a player with a scorer's mentality? 

    Who needs that Carmelo Anthony guy when you have the New York Knicks role players? Am I right?

    Sort of. The Denver Nuggets are currently better than the New York Knicks, but only by a few games. It's still enough for this team to be proud of the fact that they were able to play quality basketball despite losing out on the star player that led them since 2003.

    With Anthony and Chauncey Billups gone, the Nuggets are relying on several role players to assume the role of a possible leader. Nobody has actually become the next Carmelo Anthony in terms of going out and scoring 25 points on any given night, but there are several players who have significantly stepped up and kept this team as a playoff contender.

    Ty Lawson has been incredible averaging 16 points, seven assists and four boards per, Danilo Gallinari has been stellar when healthy, Al Harrington has been an unexpected source of energy off the bench and Arron Afflalo has continued to improve and impress since joining the Nuggets by way of trade from the Detroit Pistons.

    JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried have all been excellent this season filling in for the large shoes left behind by Billups and Anthony. They've assimilated perfectly with this new look Nuggets team that features no All-Stars.

    But how far will that take the Nuggets? Every NBA champion has had at least one star player leading the way and the Nuggets have none. They're a great team, especially on offense, but you have to wonder if not having that guy who can go out and score 25 per night is going to hurt this team in the long run.

Detroit Pistons

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    The question:

    What do I do with Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon?

    The Detroit Pistons had the right idea when signing Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.

    Were the contracts too big? Definitely. Neither of those players deserved that much money for being borderline stars and all-around role players. However, it was the smart move to sign them since Villanueva was a big who could stretch the floor and score inside, while Gordon had the capability of going off for 40 points any given night.

    What the Pistons didn't realize is that both of those players weren't that great and were dreadfully inconsistent.

    Gordon is having another average season posting up 12 points per game on 43 percent shooting, but Villanueva has barely played due to various injuries. The former Toronto Raptor and Milwaukee Buck has played in only four games this year and is averaging one point on 11 percent shooting to go along with less than a rebound per.

    Trading Gordon is still possible. Every NBA team could use a player with his scoring capabilities. Villanueva on the other hand? No team wants to deal with the headache, underachieving play or the contract that accompanies him.

    So what should the Pistons do? Trading Gordon and utilizing the amnesty clause on Villanueva may seem like the best thing to do by this point.

Golden State Warriors

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    The question:

    How do I replace Monta Ellis and not have Oakland erupt in a riot?

    Much to the chagrin of the Golden State Warriors loyal fanbase, shooting guard Monta Ellis was finally traded.

    There have been years of speculation. Ever since Ellis' infamous mo-ped accident that caused him to miss a large chunk of his first season after signing a lucrative contract, the Warriors have contemplated trading him. The expectations of trading him only went higher once they realized what an excellent draft pick Stephen Curry turned out to be.

    After so many years of speculation and rumors, Ellis was finally traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for center Andrew Bogut. The Aussie is certainly an improvement over the disappointing Andris Biedrins at the five spot. However, the Warriors will have to wait to see Bogut put on the uniform due to an injury that nagged him for the majority of the year.

    Bogut has dealt with a number of injuries over his career. He played in 66 games in his second year, 36 in his fourth year, 69 in his fifth, 66 in his sixth and finally only 12 this season. Only on two occasions in his seven year career has Bogut played in 70 or more games.

    Centers are prone to getting injured, but you have to think that it was a huge risk to the Warriors to trade away an All-Star caliber shooting guard for a center that's prone to getting injured and is in the middle of recovering from one right now.

    The Warriors will look towards Klay Thompson as a possible replacement to Ellis. The rookie is averaging 11 points per on 43 percent shooting to go along with 43 percent shooting from deep. Good numbers, but enough to replace the impact Ellis had on the offensive end of the floor and on the crowd as well.

Houston Rockets

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    The question:

    Should I look to trade Kevin Martin?

    For the second consecutive year, the Houston Rockets are battling for a low seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

    The Rockets came up short last year thanks in part to a late run by the Memphis Grizzlies. This year may not be as difficult with the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns being the only sources of competition that could knock them out of the playoffs. The Rockets currently hold a one and a half game lead over the ninth place Jazz.

    Houston should have enough left in the tank to make the playoffs. They finally have quality defensive-minded centers in Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby, stellar point guard play in Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic and an excellent post threat in Luis Scola. This Rockets team has it all on offense aside from one player who has been struggling throughout the season.

    Kevin Martin was supposed to be the player to lead the Rockets into the postseason. He's been limping the entire year. He's played in only 40 games and is averaging only 17 points per, his lowest total since 2006, on a near career low of 41 percent from the field.

    The fact that he's only averaging three rebounds and three assists is becoming magnified on account of his declining scoring output.

    Now the Rockets have to wonder if they're better off trading Martin for a player who can do more than just score. Martin's a great scorer and has the potential to go for 30 points on any given night, yet there's so much more to be desired as he doesn't do much else in terms of rebounding, passing or playing any sort of defense.

Indiana Pacers

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    The question:

    How badly do I want to keep Roy Hibbert in Indiana? 

    Nearly every NBA team could use a new starting center.

    Think the Miami Heat are happy with Joel Anthony? How about the Dallas Mavericks and Ian Mahinmi? These two teams and so many others are prime examples of NBA teams that would love to have a center like Roy Hibbert on their side.

    This offseason, Hibbert will be up for grabs as a restricted free agent. In case you didn't know, being a restricted free agent basically means that any team can send you an offer and it's up to your current team on whether or not they want to match the offer. If they don't match it, you join the team that sent you the most lucrative deal.

    Hibbert will be subjected to that for the first time in his NBA career. The 7'2" giant has improved his stats once again and is averaging 13 points, nine boards and two blocks per. He's cutting down on his foul trouble, playing aggressive and consistently making his presence felt on both ends of the floor.

    Other teams are noticing, which is why it would be in the Pacers best interest to match any offer that is sent to their starting center.

    The team finally has an excellent roster after getting David West and George Hill, as well as with the improvement of Paul George. They must now maintain this roster by keeping one of the most important pieces in their multi-dimensional center who can score in the post and from the mid-range.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    The question:

    Should I hope for the best with Chauncey Billups? 

    Dealing with a coach? That's left for the entire organization to decide, so I'll leave Vinny Del Negro's fate for another day.

    Dealing with an injured player on the other hand? That's on the general manager to decide. He's the one who has to gauge whether or not that player is going to be ready to come back and won't show any lingering effects in the long run.

    This is what the Los Angeles Clippers general manager will look forward to when looking at Chauncey Billups. The former New York Knick joined the Clippers after being waived and helped lead the team to an excellent start as the starting shooting guard. We were skeptical at first when seeing a pure point guard in Billups play at the two, but it paid off as he hit timely shots and played solid fundamental basketball.

    He was averaging 15 points per on a lowly 36 percent shooting from the field, but he made up for it with two three-pointers per game on 38 percent shooting. Those three-pointers and his uncanny ability to hit shots in the clutch allowed us to forget that Chauncey could barely shoot within the perimeter and wasn't all that great at defending two guards.

    That ended fast, as Billups tore his Achilles Tendon and was ruled out for the year after 20 games. The Clippers have now been experiment with Randy Foye and the recently acquired Nick Young as the shooting guard. Foye has always been an underachiever and Young is extremely one-dimensional as he's mostly a scorer and not much else.

    Billups stated that he's not contemplating retirement and will return next season. Now the Clippers have to decide on whether or not they can trust the words of someone who will be 36 years old next season and recovering from a serious injury.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The question:

    Where do I go to find a sixth man?

    No reliable player off the bench? No problem?

    Many wonder how exactly the Los Angeles Lakers are currently sitting atop the Pacific Division, despite giving up Lamar Odom for peanuts. Well, I can tell you why. In fact, I can give you three reasons why the Lakers are 32-20 and have become a contender for the championship once again.

    Reason number one is obvious: Kobe Bryant. Despite tearing a ligament in his wrist in a preseason game, the Lakers All-Star and former MVP is leading the league in points per at 28 on 42 percent shooting. He's also converting a three-pointer per on 28 percent shooting from the field.

    Bryant isn't getting to the rim as frequently as he was in his earlier years, but he's scoring enough to keep the Lakers atop their division and as a considerable threat to win the Western Conference crown.

    Reasons number two and three go hand-in-hand: Pau Gasol and the improved play of Andrew Bynum. Gasol has been playing to his averages of 17 points and 11 boards per, but it's been Bynum who has done an excellent job at stepping up in place of the departed Odom. The Lakers center is averaging 18 points, 12 boards and two blocks per.

    However, the Lakers are still not deep enough of a team to become a tremendous threat to the rest of the league. They've got a great thing going with Bryant, Gasol and Bynum, as well as the addition of Ramon Sessions, but they're eventually going to need someone off the bench to come and step up in a seven game series.

    Bryant can do anything he wants, but playing in over 50,000 minutes and now playing with a torn ligament in his wrist is going to have some affect by the time the Lakers season comes to an end. He, and the rest of this team, need some support and it's something that Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy or Steve Blake can't provide.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    The question:

    Who wants O.J. Mayo? 

    Every time Kevin Love records a double-double, the Memphis Grizzlies can only shake their heads and think about what could have been.

    Oh, did you forget? Don't tell me you forgot that Love was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves by the Grizzlies in order to receive the heavily hyped O.J. Mayo? I know it's something that you'd like to forget, but it happened and you must now live with knowing that until you block it out of your memory again.

    The Grizzlies have Zach Randolph at the four, but you have to imagine that they'd much rather have the younger, more consistent and more athletic player on their side, instead. Alas, this is what the Grizzlies have to live with now.

    Well, they don't have to live with it. In fact, they've been actively looking to not live with it. The Grizzlies have been attempting to trade Mayo for awhile. They've come close to a number of deals, they actually had him on the Indiana Pacers for a few hours, but have never been able to follow through and make a deal happen.

    Mayo is a good player who can score extremely well. He can drive and shoot the three-ball with ease. However, he can become inconsistent on offense and his defense has never been outstanding, which has led the Grizzlies to actually starting Tony Allen over Mayo for defensive purposes.

    O.J. has seen his stats decline over the years and is currently averaging 12 points per on only 40 percent shooting, as well as 35 percent shooting from deep.

    The Grizzlies are a team that's a player or two away from becoming a legitimate contender. They have Randolph and Marc Gasol dominating down low, Rudy Gay scoring at will and Mike Conley finally coming into his own. They could afford to add another scorer or perhaps even a point guard who could give some competition to Conley.

Miami Heat

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    The question:

    Where do I find a quality center for cheap? 

    It's been the problem with this Miami Heat team for the past two years.

    There have been so many problems brought about that don't really exist and aren't really detrimental to the Heat, but the lack of a center is beginning to truly hurt this team. It seems that nearly every game the Heat are getting pounded on the boards, not showing enough versatility in the offense and not having enough defense in the post.

    Without a capable defender in the post, the Heat are forced to pack the paint which is allowing opponents to pick and choose their shots along the perimeter at will. As a result, the Heat rank near the top in giving up three-point makes and attempts per game. Take for instance when the New York Knicks attempted 43 three-pointers, 17 which were made, in a loss to the Heat earlier in the year.

    The Heat have managed to cope, but it becomes a huge problem when Chris Bosh isn't asserting his authority and not playing aggressive enough. That's been the case for the majority of the season as Bosh hasn't recorded 10 or more rebounds in a game since before the All-Star break. If your starting power forward and neither is your starting center, where is it going to come from?

    As a result, LeBron James has somehow become the leading rebounder on this with eight boards per. Bosh and Udonis Haslem are the only other players to average seven boards or more. Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman and Eddy Curry have all been otherwise useless when crashing the boards.

    Ronny Turiaf has been a great energy player, but he's not the answer to what the Heat are exactly looking for. This team needs a center and badly. It won't hurt them as much as it would other teams to have Joel Anthony as a starter, but it's beginning to cause cracks in the foundation and is hurting this team's chances of staging a repeat appearance to the NBA Finals.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    The question:

    Should I trade Brandon Jennings?

    The Milwaukee Bucks are doing all in their power to steal that final eighth spot from the New York Knicks.

    They managed to recover from a slow start and are now only a game and a half out of the spot that would ensure them a possible date with the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. How did this happen? I have no idea. The Bucks are a team that rely on runs and playing the most disjointed offense you'll ever see.

    But it's worked 24 out of 52 times. Brandon Jennings has been leading the way for the team and is averaging 18 points, five assists and three boards per in his third year in the league. Perhaps the most significant stat is the fact that he's shooting above 40 percent from the field for the first time in his career.

    For the past two seasons, Jennings had shot 37 and 39 percent from the field. It's expected from a young player with not much talent surrounding him to do it in his rookie year, but a second year as well is pushing it. That's bad shot selection and Jennings has the tendency to fall in love with his jump shot, even if the shots aren't falling.

    The Bucks recently pulled off a significant move in trading away former number one pick Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis. The team now has one of the quickest and most dynamic backcourts in the league with the slashing of Ellis and the jump shooting capabilities of Jennings. Miraculously, the Bucks now have excitement and entertainment.

    However, word is that Jennings is heavily weighing his options elsewhere and might want to play for a team outside of Milwaukee. With the team already possessing an excellent scorer in Ellis, it could be in the organization's best interest to make a trade for a pure point guard or possibly some consistently help to come off the bench.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The question:

    What shall I do with Michael Beasley?

    The Minnesota Timberwolves were forced to deal with the unfortunate circumstances of watching their playoff hopes dwindle when Ricky Rubio tore his ACL and saw his season end.

    Yes, Rubio meant that much to the team. He's one of the NBA's top facilitators and played extremely well with his young and athletic teammates.

    The playoffs seem like a long shot now, so the Timberwolves faithful will be subjected to watching Kevin Love continue his MVP pace. The power forward is averaging 27 points and 14 boards per and has been a double-double machine with one in every game since March 12th. He's played in 49 games this year and only four times has he failed to record at least 10 points and 10 rebounds.

    The Wolves are set with Love and Rubio, but now must figure out what to do with the situation at small forward. They currently have rookie Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley fighting it out for the starting job with the rookie seemingly being the victor.

    He's averaging nine points and five boards per, while Beasley is dealing with injuries and averaging 11 points on 44 percent shooting to go along with four boards per.

    The Timberwolves must decide on which of these two players to obtain as not to waste a roster spot since they're essentially the same player. From what it looks like, they value the rookie more on account of his potential and youth.

    They must now figure out what to do with Beasley. They tried to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the trade deadline but came away with nothing. There's still plenty of talent in Beasley to coax potential suitors into trading for him.

New Jersey Nets

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    The question:

    Who can I get to keep Deron Williams on my team?

    Maybe superstars should just stay with their former teams.

    We know that the Boston Celtics won a championship in their first year together and the Miami Heat came two games away from doing the same thing in their first year, but sometimes it just doesn't work out according to plan.

    Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are having a nightmare fueled adventure in New York, Chris Paul is having a bit of trouble acclimating with his new team in Los Angeles and now Deron Williams finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

    The All-Star point guard was traded from Utah to New Jersey last year after growing disgruntled with the organization. Nevermind the fact that he and the Jazz had just made it to a Conference Finals; Williams wanted to begin making title runs and that wasn't happening in Utah.

    So he was sent to a team that won 12 out of 82 games a year prior. The Nets are currently 19-35 and Williams is averaging 22 points, nine assists and four boards per in his first full season with New Jersey. I'm not a psychic, but I'm certain that it's enough to keep an All-Star and potential MVP candidate to stay in your city.

    The idea was to bring Dwight Howard to play alongside Williams, but that has now stalled with Brook Lopez's injuries and Howard's reluctance to leave Orlando. With Howard momentarily out of the picture, the Nets are now back to square one in deciding how they can keep Williams in New Jersey.

    Williams will become a free agent next year.

New Orleans Hornets

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    The question:

    How do I convince anybody to play for this team?

    You lost the only player that was worth playing with. Now what do you do?

    This is the question posed to the New Orleans Hornets organization. What is it that you do? Chris Paul isn't running the point anymore. It's Jarrett Jack, a name with much less appeal than Chris Paul. It's not a knock on Jack, who has done well replacing Paul, it's just an observation that a free agent would much rather play with Paul.

    Who's worth playing with on the Hornets? Eric Gordon is certainly a name you could throw out there. However, the team doesn't even know if he's sticking around another year. He's been injured all year and will be a restricted free agent next year. There's no doubt that team will be enticed, despite injuries, by a fourth year player that just averaged 22 points per game.

    Chris Kaman? He should be leaving next year. The Hornets already have Emeka Okafor and it's much easier to allow the free agent to walk, instead of looking for a way to trade a solidified starter with an awful contract.

    When meeting with players, the organization will have to convince free agents about the possibility of playing in a lineup that features Jack, Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli. There's no promises on Gordon. He'll be getting offered a lot of money and it's up to the Hornets if they want to throw all their chips on the table in order to keep him on the team and possibly unhappy.

    Good luck with that.

New York Knicks

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    The question:

    Is Carmelo Anthony really the problem?

    On paper, the New York Knicks have an extremely good team.

    I'm talking championship caliber. Think about it. A frontcourt that features two excellent scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, and a defensive stopper in Tyson Chandler, up and comers in guys like Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields, excellent three-point threats in J.R. Smith and Steve Novak and a veteran point guard in Baron Davis.

    On paper, this team should be the best team in the league. On paper.

    It's too bad that these guys actually have to play together and make things work, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Despite having those players, the Knicks are a .500 team that will most likely be knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by a stingy defensive team in Chicago.

    That team showcases commitment and effort, while the Knicks wallow in figuring out how to run an offense with two players who don't like passing and a defense that's committed in spurts. There's no rhyme or reason to this team. They'll beat the Pacers by 30 points one night and lose to the Raptors by 17 the next.

    What many have pointed out is if Carmelo Anthony is the one that's limiting the offense. It was no coincidence that the Knicks were suddenly back to being horrible once Anthony returned to the lineup after the "Linsanity" craze. They had to put the ball in Anthony's hands so he could play his style and it didn't complement the rest of the team.

    Anthony is a large part of the reason why this team isn't as good as it should be. He's an excellent offensive player, but he's not a team player and isn't a facilitator. He wants the ball in his hands to score, but he can't do that on every possession so he's sometimes left out wondering what he should do.

    There are many other reasons why this Knicks team is average. However, Anthony appears to be the driving force behind another disappointing year of basketball in New York.

Oklahoma City Thunder

21 of 30

    The question:

    Is my team better with a pure point guard?

    It was tough finding a question to pose to the Oklahoma City Thunder's general manager.

    Because what is there to improve on exactly?

    Scoring? They got plenty of that. They're one of the highest scoring teams in the league with guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook dropping 50 combined points and James Harden coming off the bench to chip in 15 per.

    Defense? There are some weaknesses, but nothing too serious to note. The most important aspect to their defense is that they have players who can limit driving. Serge Ibaka, averaging three blocks per, and Kendrick Perkins have done a stellar job at holding down the paint and affecting the shot selection of opposing teams.

    As you can see, it was extremely difficult finding a problem to pose to this team. In the end, we had to rely on speculation and sensationalism. What we mean by sensationalism is attempting to rehash an old theory that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant may not be able to work together.

    Westbrook and Durant were rumored to have problems in last year's Conference Finals and even had a verbal spat early in the year. Nothing has erupted since then. However, if the team doesn't make it to the Finals this year, you have to wonder if a pure point guard would be better suited to play alongside Durant.

    Russell wants to be a number one option. Why else would he attempt nearly every pressure shot in last year's WCF? He's content with being a sidekick to a potential MVP, but it's obvious to tell that he wants to be a first option. He's a superstar, so it's natural to assume that a superstar would want to become the focal point of an offense at one time during their career.

    Of course, this is all but speculation better left to answer at the end of the season.

Orlando Magic

22 of 30

    The question:

    How do I convince Dwight Howard to stay for the long term? 

    Good job, Orlando! You got Dwight Howard to stay another season for some strange reason that only he and big guns upstairs know. 

    The main question is now what do you do. You have the league's top center and arguably the most dominant force in the NBA. He wants to play in Orlando, otherwise he would have just left like every other superstar when times get tough. He wants to play in Orlando for the rest of his career, but only if the organization can give him what he wants which is a championship.

    The Magic got to that point in 2009 only to come away with a disappointing ending. However, it was encouraging that they made it. It was a great jump-off point. The Magic proved that they're good enough to win a title. Now all they had to do was fill in the missing pieces in order to improve and win the next championship.

    That didn't happen. The Magic were stagnant with their moves and lost ground to teams like Chicago, Miami and Indiana. With those teams vastly improving and the Magic not making any significant moves, it was no surprise that Howard was talking about leaving for months. He wanted his team to get good players and all they could get him was Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson.

    It's not a winning formula. It's bad enough that you don't feed him in the post enough, but it's even worse that you force him to play alongside teammates who do nothing but shoot three-pointers, as well as playing for a coach that has an offensive system that should be constructed the opposite way.

    Howard's sticking around for now. In order to make perfectly sure that he doesn't go anywhere, the Magic need to make a big time trade to make sure that Howard stays and the team can finally win the title that has eluded them for over two decades.

Philadelphia 76ers

23 of 30

    The question:

    Does my team need a pure scorer to be pushed over the top?

    The Philadelphia 76ers might have lost that strong grip they had on the Atlantic Division, but can we truly be disappointed?

    After all, many analysts didn't even have the Sixers making it back to the playoffs. It was obvious that they didn't realize Doug Collins was still coaching this team. He led the team back from a dismal showing the year before, overcame a 3-13 start to the season and ultimately led the team to a seventh seed in the playoffs.

    They would lose to the Miami Heat in five games, but it was a hard fought five games. The Sixers proved they weren't just any other team that happened to make the playoffs. They were serious about winning a championship and had the coach, defense and offensive balance to potentially contend for one.

    However, the Sixers seem to have peaked with the roster they currently have. Louis Williams is a terrific shooter, Andre Iguodala is an excellent defender and the rest of this roster has played with great balance and great respect to the mastermind on the sideline, but it's simply not enough against teams like Miami or Chicago.

    Those teams live to play against teams without superstars. They don't have to key in on any player, as they instead focus their attention on all five players. With equal attention being put on each player, the opponent has less to worry about in allowing a specific player to go off.

    The Sixers don't have that player. It's not Iguodala. It's not Williams. It's not even Jrue Holiday. Philadelphia needs a pure scorer or some sort of leader who could push them over the top and convert them into a team that's consistently at the top of the Atlantic Division.

Phoenix Suns

24 of 30

    The question:

    Who do I need to get to keep Steve Nash in Phoenix?

    Steve Nash has never been one to add fuel to any fire.

    In an uncharacteristic manner, Nash went on the Dan Patrick Show and addressed the potential of him leaving the team and discussed what it would take for him to stay in Phoenix:

    "I'm not coming back to the Suns if there isn't improvement."

    It seems like an obvious statement to make, but it's a strong one from a guy like Nash. The two-time MVP and perennial All-Star has constantly shot down any sort of free agency or trade rumors over the past two seasons, but finally addressed it by being straight up and telling the Suns organization that they better get him some talent or he's leaving.

    It's as simple as that. Nash wants Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, not Marcin Gortat and a 39 year old Grant Hill. Nash doesn't have any problems with either of those players, they're amazing for what they've done, but that's not the type of talent that a team who is serious about making a championship run possesses.

    Nash wants to win a title. He has the money and the MVP. All he's missing on his mantle is an NBA championship. The Suns had a good thing going in the mid-2000's with Nash, Stoudemire and Marion, but we're in the 2010's now and the team isn't nearly the same. They may miss out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

    Plan and simple, the Suns need to get talent to surround Nash.

Portland Trail Blazers

25 of 30

    The question:

    Where do I go to replace Greg Oden?

    Greg Oden has been cut from the Portland Trail Blazers, thus ending another failed experiment by the Blazers in taking a center over a scorer who could prove to be something special.

    The Blazers cut Oden as they watch Kevin Durant tear up the league with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Somewhere in Siberia, Sam Bowie weeps out of pure happiness that he is no longer the only object of ridicule in Portland.

    This entire season has been a nightmare that the Trail Blazers would like to put behind them. They dealt with Oden suffering setback after setback, the sudden retirement of All-Star Brandon Roy, tanking the season by trading away Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace and offering one final blow by firing coach Nate McMillan.

    LaMarcus Aldridge has had another terrific year averaging 21 points on 51 percent shooting to go along with eight boards per, but it's not nearly enough to support this team. Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews have all struggled significantly with their shots, with each player shooting 40 percent or lower from the field.

    The main concern for this team is now finding a center. They've been running with Joel Przybilla as the main guy after the trading of Camby. Przybilla, a player who was picked up in the middle of the season via free agency, isn't going to cut it. In order for the Blazers to become recognized as a potential contender, they're going to need to find a center somehow and someway.

Sacramento Kings

26 of 30

    The question:

    Do I commit to DeMarcus Cousins? 

    It's been another forgetful year for the Sacramento Kings.

    Two years after Tyreke Evans won Rookie of the Year after becoming the fourth first year player to average at least 20 points, five boards and five assists per, the Kings now find themselves in a bind on whether they should be starting Isaiah Thomas at the point, instead.

    Evans dealt with injuries last year and still hasn't recovered. The 17 points, five boards and five assists per he's averaging are nice numbers, but so much more was expected out of Evans by his third year. The Kings truly thought they had a franchise player worth building around, but seem to be more lost than ever before.

    There's been a few bright spots this season. Marcus Thornton is continuing to prove that he's one of the league's top scorers, Thomas has been a terrific surprise and DeMarcus Cousins has improved from his rookie year. While Thornton and Thomas are quality players, Cousins is extremely valuable considering his size and versatility.

    He can play both the four and five effectively, and is averaging 18 points on 44 percent shooting to go along with 11 rebounds per. Cousins has a lot of work to do in order to improve his game. His shot selection is spotty, he's extremely turnover prone and has an attitude that would make Latrell Sprewell blush.

    Cousins gives the Kings a tremendous advantage. However, it's up to them on whether or not they want to deal with the headache that he provided throughout his rookie year and the early portion of this season.

San Antonio Spurs

27 of 30

    My question:

    How do I make sure my team's expiration date doesn't come sooner?

    I don't know how to do it.

    At 36-14, the San Antonio Spurs are second in the West and first by seven and a half games in the Southwest Division. They're third in the league in points per game and in the middle in points given up per. Those are some pretty good stats, especially when you realize that the potential Hall of Fame shooting guard has barely played this year and the future Hall of Fame power forward has no knees.

    Manu Ginobili has played in 21 games and Tim Duncan is averaging only 15 points and nine boards per, yet the Spurs are probably the most feared team in the NBA. They've already gone on a ten game winning streak and are actually in the middle of a seven game streak of victories.

    Tony Parker has played the largest part. He's having an MVP caliber season averaging 19 points on 47 percent shooting, eight assists and three boards per. He's leading the team in points and assists per and has been the greatest reason on the court as to why this Spurs team is a championship contender.

    The use of the role players has been astounding as well. Coach Gregg Popovich is maximizing his talent, as usual, with guys like Gary Neal, Danny Green, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter stepping up and playing the part of role player to perfection.

    However, this team relies heavily on Parker, Ginobili and Duncan. With Duncan's retirement coming soon and Ginobili's injuries playing a factor for the second consecutive season, the organization will have to begin finding capable replacements for those two stars.

Toronto Raptors

28 of 30

    The question:

    Should I convince DeMar DeRozan to sign an extension?

    It's going to take time for the Toronto Raptors to get back to being an average team after losing out on Chris Bosh.

    It would take time for any team that just lost a superstar. The New Orleans Hornets might never recover, the Cleveland Cavaliers look forward to developing for the next five years with Kyrie Irving and the Utah Jazz are still looking to find someone that could even begin filling in the shoes that Deron Williams left behind.

    This is always a lengthy process that tries on the patience and knowledge of an NBA organization. The Raptors have been able to find a superstar, but they've never been able to secure the team that's worthy of surrounding that player, which is why you no longer see Bosh, Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady on this team.

    The Raptors don't have a superstar, but they have a player capable of becoming one. DeMar DeRozan is in his third year after being taken with the ninth pick in the 2009 NBA draft. He's averaging 17 points on 42 percent shooting, four rebounds and two assists per. He's still got a lot of work to do, but he has potential and that's all that should matter to the Raptors.

    It's tough convincing free agents to play in Toronto, which means that the Raptors will have to make due with what they currently have. They'll look towards Jonas Valanciunas coming overseas next year, but they should begin talking about an extension with DeRozan, who has plenty on his side to invest in.

Utah Jazz

29 of 30

    The question:

    Who do I get to replace my current backcourt? 

    For a team with an All-Star caliber center and power forward, as well as an athletic power forward and a developing center off the bench, you would think the Utah Jazz were at the top of their conference.

    Actually, they don't even hold a playoff spot at the moment. While still recognized as one of the surprise teams of the year, considering they're playing without Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, you would still expect the Jazz to have an unbelievable advantage over all of their opponents with the frontcourt they boast.

    Not the case. The Jazz are getting plenty of support from Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, but not much from the backcourt. Point guard Devin Harris continues to be a huge disappointment and is averaging only 10 points per on 45 percent shooting to go along with five assists, two boards and 33 percent shooting from deep.

    C.J. Miles and Josh Howard have no better. Not much can be said for Alec Burks or Raja Bell, either.

    Going into the offseason, the Jazz have to look for a three-point specialist who can feed off of the frontcourt, or any type of scorer who could go for 20 points per night while also containing the ability to be a facilitator as well.

    Those players don't come around too often, but the Jazz have to find that player if they want to be a contender again.

Washington Wizards

30 of 30

    The question:

    How do I avoid another disaster like this year?

    When the Washington Wizards traded JaVale McGee for Nene Hilario, it was the best move they've made as an organization since drafting John Wall last year.

    In between then, the Wizards have been awful at just about every aspect of being an NBA team. The signings and trades haven't worked out, the players are lazy and incompetent and the coaching can't seem to instill a philosophy that the team will buy into. Not even Flip Saunders, a head coach with over 500 wins, could turn this team into a playoff team.

    Instead of being the surprise team that many thought they would be this year, the Wizards are 12-39 and 25 and a half games out of the top spot in the Southeast Division. It's safe to say that their season is over and the only thing left in doubt is what spot they will get in the draft lottery.

    This is why a draft lottery is ridiculous. The Wizards have obvious needs to fulfill at a number of positions, yet they might not receive a top five pick. If a team's season is over and they want to tank games for the chance to acquire an unproven player, then who's to say no? Let them pack the season in and hope for the best with their next lottery pick.

    The Wizards have talent in places. John Wall has the potential to be a top five point guard, Nene is a solid center and Jordan Crawford can score in volume. It's just that there's no chemistry, discipline or direction for this team to follow. Whenever the Wizards hit the floor together, they just look like five strangers who happen to be wearing the same shirt.

    Continue developing Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely, drop Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis and find a coach that the players can relate to.


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