By Josh Cohen
May 10, 2011
Although the season is not over for several teams, I have already begun analyzing and projecting the upcoming offseason and futures for every team in the NBA. Read Part 1 of my team-by-team analysis, which includes Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver and Detroit (I will go in alphabetical order).
Irrespective of the final outcome of their enticing conference semifinal series with the Bulls, the Hawks have already exceeded expectations. By earning some revenge against the Magic in the First Round and proving that the re-signing of Joe Johnson last summer was a commendable decision, Atlanta will probably feel a certain degree of success even if it is ousted sooner than later in the playoffs.
But, perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Hawks will have to make a significant determination on their upcoming free agent, Jamal Crawford. Though he did not have a splendid regular season, Crawford has been stupendous in the playoffs.
Outside of David West (if he opts out of contract), Jamal will be this summer’s most attractive free agent. As a result, there will likely be plenty of competitors to attain the sharpshooter.
It definitely feels like it is the beginning of the end to the Celtics’ reign as a league power.
If it is eliminated by Miami in the conference semifinals (currently down 3-1), Boston will be regarded as a slow, aging and in some ways, depleting team.
Doc Rivers is expected to step down as head coach after the season and the franchise’s premier three, Paul Pierce (33), Kevin Garnett (35) and Ray Allen (36 in July) are all on their last legs.
Allen has a player option after this season if he decides to test free agency and many of Boston’s role players, including Glen Davis, will be on the market as unrestricted free agents.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is renowned for blockbuster trades and it wouldn’t be shocking if he decides to shake up the roster again.
Michael Jordan made a very bold decision at the trade deadline in February to trade their franchise player, Gerald Wallace, for financial freedom.
Unless they get lucky in the draft lottery (expected to select ninth), next season will likely be another rebuilding year for the Bobcats.
Based on their recent personnel decisions, it sounds like Jordan is banking on attracting free agents when the club has salary cap space over the next few years.
Derrick Rose is practically unstoppable; Luol Deng assembled a rebound season and Tom Thibodeau proved to be a defensive genius.
If the Bulls advance to the NBA Finals and defy preseason odds, they will substantiate that possessing one offensive superstar and a bunch of serviceable role players that put defense and hustle ahead of offense is enough to be a championship-caliber team.
If Chicago fails to advance, on the other hand, the critics will come out and suggest Rose needs more help.
By signing Carlos Boozer, who has underachieved thus far in the postseason, last summer and deciding to give Joakim Noah a contract extension, the Bulls will likely be over the salary cap for the next several years.
As a result, unless they can maneuver in the form of trades, the Bulls will hope that the aforementioned formula (one inexorable star and defensive-oriented role players) is enough to perennially be championship worthy.
Aside from their celebratory victory over former hero, LeBron James, late in the season, the Cavaliers did not enjoy their first year of the post-LeBron era.
In addition, Cleveland will not have any salary cap space this summer to try and enhance its roster. Its hope, nonetheless, is that its acquisition of the Clippers’ unprotected First Round draft pick in the Baron Davis deal at the trade deadline along with their own lottery selection will be the boost it needs.
Unfortunately for the Cavs and every other team in June’s draft lottery, several of the top prospects opted to remain in school rather than declare for the NBA Draft.
But, there will still be a few potential stars, including Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Arizona’s Derrick Williams, whom will be available.
Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract worth $15 million will likely be a very attractive piece for teams if the Cavaliers decide to make a trade.
For all teams that may feel disappointed about the finish to their season, the Mavericks are a model franchise to get motivation from.
Though they have not captured their ultimate goal yet of capturing the NBA championship, sweeping the two-time defending champion Lakers in resounding fashion deserves major applause. If Dallas ends up winning the title this year, it will be a storybook journey to championship success.
In 2006, the Mavs seemed to be on the verge of claiming the NBA title when they possessed a 2-0 series lead against the Heat in The Finals and were ahead by 13 with six minutes remaining in Game 3. But a monumental collapse to Miami followed by a shocking First Round loss to Golden State the subsequent season and more early exits in the playoffs the last few years seemed to create the perception that Dallas couldn’t excel when the pressure was elevated.
While it remains possible since the playoffs are not complete that history could ultimately repeat itself, the Mavericks seem much more poised this season and have the necessary pieces to win it all.
Also of interest is that after next season Dallas could potentially have salary cap space to try and catch a marquee free agent. Both Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler are unrestricted free agents this summer and though one would expect the Mavs to lock Chandler up for many years after his marvelous play this year, Dallas at least has flexibility.
Most critics assumed that after the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks at the trade deadline that Denver would dissolve and disintegrate.
But instead, the team’s depth stabilized it as a quality club.
Even more encouraging for Denver is its financial freedom. Especially if Nene, who has a player option worth almost $12 million, tests free agency, the Nuggets will have plenty of salary cap space to make a run at any free agents they may desire.
Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith will both be unrestricted free agents and Raymond Felton, largely because the Nuggets already have Ty Lawson to play the point guard position, is an attractive piece if Denver chooses to try and trade him.
Wilson Chandler, meanwhile, who the Nuggets acquired in the Anthony deal, will likely be a restricted free agent.
All in all, Denver will likely be one of the busier teams this offseason with its slew of free agents and available cap space.
After years of being credited for making the “right” decisions, the Pistons are now infamous for making all the “wrong” decisions.
Some say it started when they opted to draft Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh in 2003 and others feel the problems really ignited when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson in 2008. Those decisions followed with some very dubious free agent signings in 2009 when Detroit added Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva with long term contracts.
Though there is some promise after solid seasons from youngsters Greg Monroe and Austin Daye, Detroit will have to hope it gets some lottery luck to try and enhance its roster via the draft.
Tayshaun Prince, meanwhile, will be an unrestricted free agent and will likely be courted by several teams because of his specialty to play suffocating defense.
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