NBA facelifts leave some better off than others
With apologies to Jim Gray and the LeBron James Posse, the NBA’s 2012 July facelift party has provided more drama than we’ve witnessed in years.
Our list of roster-altering maneuvers includes Steve Nash Independence Day, Lin Vanity, Brooklynsanity and myriad incarnations of Dwight Out.
With another week remaining in this turbulent month, we’re here to figure out which teams are sitting prettier (or not) than they were three weeks ago. It also should be noted the faces of some franchises have been intentionally stripped down — the equivalent of a chemical peel — in order to facilitate future makeovers.
To assist our efforts in defining these new looks, we’ve enlisted the services of a personnel executive currently employed by a team that already liked what it saw in the mirror.
Anyway, while acknowledging that many makeovers are works in progress or regress, we’ll break down our results into a couple of categories: Nip/Tuck for a potentially favorable look (at least we probably won’t be reminded of the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones), and Peeling Out for teams stripping down to prepare for really big changes a while later.
— Brooklyn Nets: Sure, the starting core moving over to Brooklyn looks pretty much the same. Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Chris Humphries all were re-signed, while MarShon Brooks was not included in the Big Deal.
This Big Deal shipped the rest of the roster (slight exaggeration) to Atlanta in exchange for the anvil-heavy contract of Joe Johnson. But, heck, Joe’s money isn’t coming out of our bank accounts and — teamed up with the guys mentioned above — he could be a fine addition. Brooklyn also landed an ascending sub named Reggie Evans to help gather the many rebounds Lopez will avoid.
Personnel insider comment: “With so much money tied up in the starting lineup, depth is an obvious issue … but that’s a pretty solid starting lineup, isn’t it?”
The starters will pull in more than $70 million this season.
— Los Angeles Lakers: OK, so they fixed a slight blemish at point guard, but this particular corrective measure happens to be 38-year-old pied piper Steve Nash.
As changes go, the Nash move could lead the Lakers’ offense into a much happier place, and it was accomplished without losing any essential personnel.
Personnel insider comment: “If (coach) Mike Brown lets Nash design and call the plays, this could be scary.”
Correction: If Kobe Bryant encourages Nash do those things, this could be scary.
— Los Angeles Clippers: Out are knucklehead Nick Young and reliable front-court reserves Evans and Kenyon Martin. But the Clips are bringing in Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill, bringing back Lamar Odom and re-enlisting Chauncey Billups.
If director of player personnel Gary Sacks doesn’t get promoted to general manager, we know meritorious is a word still escaping the vocabulary of owner Donald T. Sterling.
The summer-transaction work will be even more important if the long-term extension for Blake Griffin inspires a similar commitment from Chris Paul next summer.
Personnel insider comment: “They now have more guys I’d vote for for president of the United States than you’d find in either political party.”
— Dallas Mavericks: Did you really think their 2011 title was the precursor to a dynasty? Well, although many of you are doing so, it’s hard to blame owner Mark Cuban for taking a big swing at the free-agency fences.
And the Mavs corkscrewed themselves into the ground.
Oh, well … although it’s hard not to like former Dallas center Tyson Chandler, returning the 2011 team intact hardly guaranteed anything close to another championship run.
So, even though Dallas whiffed in its FA priorities, the additions of Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and O.J. Mayo should make the Mavs better than last season (if Dirk Nowitzki shows up in shape and properly motivated) without making them inflexible for future roster concerns.
Personnel insider comment: “They have two guys in Collison and Mayo they can play pick-and-roll with. In this league, you gotta have that.”
— Philadelphia 76ers: Pulling the amnesty card with Brand shouldn’t make much of a difference, but losing Lou Williams while adding Young, Dorell Wright and Kwame Brown is a tough sell for anyone hoping to see great improvement.
Wright and Brown could be useful, in truth, but Young — if even for a year — is a risk. Actually, the additions will do less to help Philly get better than the simple maturation of the young players already there.
Personnel insider comment: “At least they didn’t give a really good, all-around player like (Andre) Iguodala away just to rid themselves of his contract. He does a lot for them.”
— New Orleans Hornets: Any team that added Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson while matching an offer sheet for Eric Gordon has to look better, right?
Well, it would be difficult for the Hornets to avoid being easier on the eyes than they were last season.
Moving Jarrett Jack and eyeballing Austin Rivers as the point guard, however, has made a lot of people feel uneasy. Having Anderson sniping on the perimeter can create space inside for Davis, but not having Emeka Okafor as a temporary bodyguard could be another problem. Jack and Okafor could have been terrific mentors for the Hornets’ rookies; yeah, moving Okafor and Trevor Ariza led to the amnesty dump of Rashard Lewis, giving New Orleans more flexibility.
Personnel insider comment: “Having Rivers and Gordon in the same backcourt should be appointment viewing. It could work out great, though. I just wouldn’t want to be the guy trying to figure it out.”
— Phoenix Suns: A lot of people have been really flattering in regard to the Suns’ aggressive July.
While offering to throw $58 million at Gordon didn’t land them a go-to shooting guard, the Suns did add an up-and-comer in homecoming point guard Goran Dragic. Michael Beasley didn’t even receive a qualifying offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but remains an X-factor-type with the talent to make the Suns look like geniuses. Amnesty addition Luis Scola is good enough on offense to take minutes from Channing Frye (unless he finds himself at back-up center) and keep that portion of the fan base happy.
But Scola also could cut into the minutes of second-year four man Markieff Morris and help make the Suns good enough to remain mediocre and free of early-drafting obligations.
With Nash and Hill out, the Suns definitely are getting younger without getting worse. A lot of team-building watchdogs see this as a problem, believing that breaking bad is the best method to become pretty good again.
Personnel insider comment: “They still seem to be rebuilding with bamboo instead of waiting to find really good bricks. But at least they didn’t overpay for O.J. Mayo.”
Others Teams With Nice Touch-Ups: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics
— Atlanta Hawks: New GM Danny Ferry took back the flotsam and jetsam of Brooklyn’s roster to move Johnson off of his cap. He also shipped Marvin Williams — the guy the Hawks selected in the draft instead of Paul or Deron Williams — to Utah for Devin Harris.
At present, Atlanta only has $13 million or so committed for the 2013-2014 season.
Personnel insider comment: “They’re ready to play ping-pong.”
— Houston Rockets: Hoop analytics must be telling number-crunchers that having a superstar is essential to NBA success. With that assumed, we’ve been watching Rockets personnel boss Daryl Morey wheeling and dealing to add draft picks (three of which he actually had to use last month) and cap space.
The goner list includes Dragic, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert and FA Marcus Camby.
The raw result of Morey’s bold moves have brought Jeremy “Poison Pill” Lin back to Texas, while Omer Asik seems to be on his way, as well.
An ultimate pay-off would be Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, both of whom suggest a much greater ambition than the aborted Pau Gasol acquisition of last December.
Personnel insider comment: “I’d hate to be the person putting together their media guide.”