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The Dan Snyder bowl begins

US Presswire

US Presswire

While this is a basketball blog, there’s no denying that the king of the sports’ offseason is Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder – it’s a team that is based out of Washington D.C., in the National Football League. Stay with me.

Every year, Snyder throws millions of dollars at exciting veterans, hoping to create excitement after another losing season, and the Redskins snatch the “best” free agents on the market. Those free agents usually turn out to be broken down veterans with better names then games, and the team finds themselves back in the same position at the end of the season. Unexpectedly, Robert Griffin III took them to the playoffs last year, so maybe the team has changed their ways and won’t overspend every year.

For every sport, the offseason is a time of hope – everyone is in first place. It’s the one time of the year that the Charlotte Bobcats have the same record as the Miami Heat. Knicks fans are confident that this will be the year that the Larry O’Brien trophy is paraded through the streets of New York City. If you have Monta Ellis on your team, you look up where the closest liquor store is. It’s a great time of the year – like Christmas Eve, but without new pajamas.

There are some teams that are poised to spend a lot of money in the offseason, Dan Snyder money – Atlanta, Utah, Cleveland, New Orleans, Detroit, Houston – who all have under $40,000,000 committed in contracts for next season.

Which of these six teams will “win” the offseason? As a transplanted resident of the Western Conference, I’ll break down the teams in that conference.
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Utah Jazz – 43-39, $25,696,809 team salary

 

Player Position 2013 Salary
Marvin Williams* SF/PF $7,500,000
Derrick Favors PF/C $6,008,106
Enes Kanter PF/C $4,753,320
Gordon Hayward SG/SF $3,452,183
Alec Burks G $2,323,200
Jeremy Evans F $1,660,000
Kevin Murphy** SG $788,872

*Has a player option

**Has a team option

The Jazz have, potentially, five players under contract. At the very least, they’ve saved a bunch of time keeping track of where those players go. (Side note, last summer, Kanter was a must-follow on Twitter, gaining 50 lbs. before losing 80 lbs., and he enjoys a good time. I’m hoping for a repeat.)

The Jazz scored 8038 points last season, and are losing 4718, or 59 percent, of those points to free agency. Of all the teams in this preview, only Atlanta is losing more production. They had four players who logged over 2,000 minutes of playing time – only one, Hayward, is returning.

The most productive free agent that the Jazz brought in last season was Randy Foye, who set a Jazz single season record for made 3-point shots. It would make sense for the Jazz to bring him back, because he nearly single-handedly kept them alive from the perimeter, making 36 percent of the Jazz’s total 3-point shots.

Historically, the Jazz are not high on the list for potential free agents. Not since Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer have top-tier free agents inked a deal to play in Utah, and this season, two of the top free agents are leaving the organization (and I’d argue Mo Williams is in the second-tier).

The Jazz do own their first-round pick, as well as the rights to the Golden State Warriors first-round pick. Those two picks, along with their second-round pick, will add three players to the Jazz roster for the 2013-14 season.

I believe the Jazz will be best served by giving the reins to the frontcourt to Favors and Kanter. This means signing or drafting backup big men, who can play 25+ minutes if the situation (foul trouble, injury) dictates. I think signing Timofey Mozgov, the Nuggets restricted free agent, to a multi-year deal would be beneficial. Brandon Rush would be a player to target, as he is coming off a knee injury, as well as Dorell Wright. The Jazz will need a point guard, and could bring back one of Mo, Jamaal, or Earl. I think Jose Calderon would fit well with the Jazz. They need a veteran to guide the young players, and Calderon doesn’t need many shots to contribute.

In the draft, the Jazz need to draft a backup center. Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng, and Rudy Gorbert might all be available when the Jazz draft, and they should take one of those players. The readiness of Kanter and Favors needs to be a huge factor for the front office and coaching staff. If there are concerns that Kanter and Favors will struggle, the Jazz should try to do all they can to draft Mason Plumlee. After spending four years at Duke, the physical, athletic Blue Devil would provide something Dieng and Gorbert do not have – experience. If the Jazz drafted Plumlee, he would be the oldest big man on the roster – which says something about the potential of the Utah frontcourt. Drafting Olynyk would be a reach – he just doesn’t have anything that shows me, “I’m a ten-year NBA starter!”

When first-round pick number two rolls around, if Shane Larkin is available, the Jazz should pounce. He’s not the point guard of the future right now, but he comes with more upside than, say, Tinsley and Watson combined. The Jazz also invited Myck Kabongo for a workout, and could take him if Larkin is not on the board.

With their second round pick, the Jazz might select Florida State two-guard Michael Snaer, who they recently brought in for a workout. They might also be inclined to go with an emergency big man.

PG – Calderon, Larkin, Burks SG - Foye, Hayward, Murphy, Snaer SF - Marvin Williams, Rush, Carroll

PF - Favors, Plumlee, Evans - Kanter, Mozgov

They will miss Jefferson’s production on offense, and with so many new players, will struggle to play together all season. The Jazz have always been good at home – the road will be an incredible challenge for Coach Corbin’s team. The strategy this last season was to have the starters give up an early lead, have the second unit close the gap, don’t make halftime adjustments, then pray Hayward didn’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter. With an inevitable downgrade in second unit personnel that comes from losing Jefferson and Millsap, the Jazz will have to hope that the winning tradition that was built by competing for a playoff spot carries over into 2013-14, and that the “Core Four” produces.

For the reasons listed above, I’m going to say that the Jazz have the greatest fall potential – that is, regressing farther than other teams on this list (New Orleans is already bad, and will be next year too). The good news though – the 2014 draft class! I’m open for suggestions on campaigns for Andrew Wiggins: #WasatchforWiggins #CantWinForWiggins #DoUsAFavorAndPourMeCanadianLager … should be fun.

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New Orleans – 27-55, $34,957,332 team salary

 

Player Position 2013 Salary
Eric Gordon SG $14,283,844
Ryan Anderson PF $8,308,500
Anthony Davis PF/C $5,375,760
Robin Lopez* C $5,119,761
Jason Smith PF/C $2,500,000
Austin Rivers G $2,339,040
Greivis Vasquez PG $2,150,188
Lance Thomas* SF $884,293
Darius Miller* SF $788,872
Brian Roberts* PG $788,872

* Team option

The Hornets/Pelicans get to spend another year building from the bottom up! On a more positive note, Rashard Lewis isn’t on the payroll anymore, and the team is free on nearly all bad salaries of seasons past.

The Pelicans have been awarded the No. 6 pick in the draft, and will have to work with that. Could Dell Demps trade the pick? I’m not sure, but I do know that Eric Gordon and Robin Lopez have value as trade chips, and the Pelicans need help.

The Pelicans need help at every position except wherever Anthony Davis plays. But they also need to avoid poor contracts that could financially hamstring them in the future. Two players I feel like Demps and his staff should get familiar with are Corey Brewer and Martell Webster. Webster played well for the Wizards this season, and is a sneaky good outside shooter (career 38.4 percent 3-pt). While the Pelicans may be better served with a slow-down pace on offense, Brewer can score on the fastbreak, something the Hornets didn’t do.

So much of the future is up in the air for the Pelicans. Do they trade Eric Gordon? Do they draft a point guard? Do they re-sign Al-Farouq Aminu? Did Brian Roberts play well enough to earn a role as a backup next season? Do they make a run for Chris Paul?

One thing is certain: take the best player available in the draft. It doesn’t matter if the pick is No. 1 or No. 4, the best player on the board needs to be a Pelican. Don’t trade the pick, don’t draft for a position, just stay the course and take what the draft gives. Noel, McLemore, Bennett are off the board? Great, take Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, or Alex Len. Just don’t think, “Aw, but we have Robin Lopez starting at center,” and pass up on talent.

While the end result may not be pretty, the Pelicans seem to understand that the hole they are in will take time to crawl out of. A commitment to doing things the right way and rebuilding from the Chris Paul era will guide their offseason decisions.

PG - Vasquez, Burke, Roberts SG - Gordon, Brewer, Rivers SF - Webster, Aminu, Brewer, Miller

PF - Davis, Anderson - Lopez, Smith, Cole Aldrich

Ugh. At least Rashard Lewis is off the books. Hey, look at it this way, the small lineup is Burke, Vasquez, Gordon, Anderson and Davis — that’s good, right? I am still going to reserve judgment on Austin Rivers – yes, he was historically bad his freshman year in the NBA. But, I do not believe one season a player makes. He has time to work with coaches, like Doc Rivers (Dad!), Coach K, and Monty Williams. Get healthy, watch film, and improve next season.

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Houston Rockets – 45-37, $39,338,522 team salary

 

Player Position 2013 Salary
James Harden Superstar $13,668,750
Omer Asik C $8,374,646
Jeremy Lin PG $8,374,750
Thomas Robinson PF $3,526,440
Carlos Delfino SG $3,000,000
Aaron Brooks PG $2,508,000
Royce White F $1,719,480
Terrence Jones PF $1,551,840
Donatas Motiejunas PF/C $1,422,720
Chandler Parsons SF $926,500

“With the No. 18 pick in the 2013 draft, the Houston Rockets select ….” and then will promptly trade the selection to the Atlanta Hawks. The Rockets do have the No. 34 pick in the draft, courtesy of the Phoenix Suns, but the Rockets will try to make an upgrade for next season through free agency.

One thing that separates the Rockets from the other teams featured here? James Harden, a superstar.

That, as well as a shrewd front office and plenty of cap space, gives the Rockets hope for the future. No matter what happens, they have a superstar to build around for the next five years. This gives the Rockets direction with personnel moves, a blueprint for offense and defense, and a huge selling point to free agents.

That is why I believe the Rockets are the front-runner in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes … behind Los Angeles. I also think that the Rockets really need to make a push for a certain athletic forward who was previously with the Atlanta Hawks – Josh Smith. Either way, it seems like Omer Asik – who was just signed in the previous offseason – is available on the trade market.

Asik does have an interesting wrinkle in his contract, where he is scheduled to make $14,898,938 in the third and final year of his contract. But regardless, doesn’t a potential Danny Granger-Omer Asik trade create some interest in your mind?

In the draft, the Rockets need to be careful. Do they draft on the hope that they can sign Josh Smith and Dwight Howard? Do they try to fill a need? This truly is a case where the Rockets should take the best player available. Since this is extremely difficult to predict, I have predicted that the Rockets select Glen Rice Jr., who has been playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He will provide depth at both the SG and SF position, and can provide insight to Royce White on what it’s like to play in the D-League.

Since this is my puppet show, I’ve made the deals, and here’s how I would set up the Rockets.

PG - Lin, Beverly, Brooks SG - Harden, Delfino, Rice Jr. SF - Danny Granger, Parsons, White PF - Josh Smith, Jones, Robinson - Howard, Motiejunas.

This team might only shoot 3-pointers and free throws. While Josh Smith has a bad reputation for long jumpers, with the Rockets, he will be told to shoot either from behind the arc or get to the rim. It’s a win-win for him, as one is an area where he likes to shoot, and the other is an area where he excels at shooting. Also, Smith will be able to provide excellent defense alongside Howard, who will be featured in a similar setting as he was in while with the Magic.

This lineup is tantalizing – each player compliments each other. Lin and Harden are determined in their focus to drive to the rim. Granger is an excellent perimeter shooter, and can wait in the wings for 3-point attempts. Smith would be able to squat on the perimeter as a double threat to shoot or drive into the paint. Howard can set screens on the perimeter, then dive to the basket for putbacks, dunks, or to collapse the defense into the paint.

On the opposite side of the floor, Lin’s defensive limitations can be covered by Smith and Howard, who when healthy, are two premier defenders. Harden and Granger would be able to play average defense and still contribute to the success of the team – Coach McHale might even be able to hide one of the two and preserve their energy for production on offense.

The second unit might struggle – the majority of those players are complementary players at best – but smart rotations can take a team with little talent on the bench (like Indiana) all the way to the conference finals. Play Harden, Granger, or Howard with the second unit at times, and the offense would just bomb away and hope to keep the team in the game. Barring any miracles from Royce White, or dramatic development from Thomas Robinson, the team would be thin in the post. If Robinson and Terrence Jones do develop into reliable players, then the second unit might be able to slow down the game, feed the post, and let the offense go inside-out.

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Conclusion

It’s a nice position for these teams to be in – cap space, draft picks, and a new CBA to work with.

Utah has a nice foundation, much stronger than the foundation being established in New Orleans. However, these three teams are examples of rebuilding teams in stages. New Orleans is in year one, having played last season in the blast zone left behind by the Chris Paul trade. Utah is in year two, having played a full season without Deron Williams, but on their second draft since their superstar point guard – and Hall of Fame coach – left the organization. Houston is now in year three after Yao Ming retired, despite his last full season coming in 2008-09.

Look for Utah and New Orleans to remain in the lottery, while the Rockets make the playoffs once again – bold, right? All three teams have great potential to bring about much good this year, with each year being critical in the rebuilding process.

Houston does need, in my opinion, to go all in on Smith and Howard in order to sign one of them. Signing both would be a miracle – getting one would be a win – missing out on both is damaging to the rebuilding plan Daryl Morey has made for the Rockets.

It all begins now – everyone is undefeated.

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