The NBA Draft is out of the way and free agency is starting to paint a picture of what the league will look like this season. Here’s a quick breakdown of half the league (alphabetically) after this summer’s moves.
Atlanta – Josh Smith will be playing in Detroit this season, while Paul Millsap is now toiling for the Hawks. The starting lineup looks like PG Jeff Teague (if he’s not traded to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings) and rookie Dennis Schroeder is intriguing. Shooting guard is still up for grabs, although Monta Ellis is a serious option if the Hawks can land him. Lou Williams will also be back from ACL surgery. Re-signed Kyle Korver or newcomer DeMarre Carroll will handle SF duties now that Smoove is gone, newcomer Millsap should start at PF and Al Horford will once again play center. They’re still chasing Ellis and it’s important to keep in mind that free agency is still ongoing. But if the best the Hawks can do is land Ellis, Ferry will clearly not be making the splash he was hoping to. And once again, Horford will not be able to play his true position of power forward, unless the Hawks decide Millsap is a center.
Boston – The Celtics have a new coach (Butler’s Brad Stevens) and Rajon Rondo, but not much else. Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford look like the shooting guards, with Avery Bradley also in the mix, while Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace will hold down the SF job, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger will all split time at PF and rookie Kelly Olynyk will handle most of the center minutes, unless Chris Wilcox is ready for a rebirth. I love Stevens, and the Celtics could be a very, very good team in two or three years, but until this batch of cookies bakes in the oven for some time, it’s going to be a long ride for the Boston faithful. And if Rondo hangs in there until the cookies are done, I’ll be very surprised.
Brooklyn – The Nets are the feel-good story of the summer thus far, as we’re looking at a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, with a bench that includes Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor, Jason Terry, Andray Blatche and rookie Mason Plumlee. And the entire overhaul includes a new coach in the form of Jason Kidd and the Nets now look like one of the best teams in the East, if not the entire league. Of course that will depend on how the former Celtics gel with the rest of the team, and if they can stay healthy, but it does look like it’s going to be a fun year to be a Nets fan.
Charlotte – Kemba Walker had a great season and is looking forward to running the point again for Charlotte, who will be coached by newcomer Steve Clifford. I don’t know much about him, so I’m not ready to form an opinion on Michael Jordan’s new right-hand man. Ramon Sessions will back him up, Gerald Henderson will look to build on his nice 2012-13 campaign at SG, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will look to bounce back after a disappointing rookie season, while rookie Cody Zeller will compete with Josh McRoberts at power forward. It appears that inconsistent PF Byron Mullens is heading elsewhere (Lakers?), while Tyrus Thomas will be amnestied. The big news in Charlotte is the signing of C Al Jefferson from Utah. Jefferson is probably just good enough to make the Bobcats competitive, which means they might make the playoffs, and probably won’t be in the lottery. And you can officially forget about drafting C Bismack Biyombo and his blocks this season.
Chicago – Derrick Rose should be back in action to start the season and will join a likely starting lineup of Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. The bench will be strong with Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson, but I still am not ready to commit a first-round pick to Rose. Butler will be one of the more popular sleeper picks this season, and appears to be poised for a breakout.
Cleveland – The Cavs made a big splash on draft night by taking Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick. The starting lineup will look something like PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, SF Alonzo Gee/Sergey Karasev, PF Bennett/Tristan Thompson, and C Anderson Varejao. Earl Clark will back up both big man spots, while Tyler Zeller will also help out. Combo guard Jarrett Jack was a good get by the Cavs, although the move probably hurts his fantasy value slightly. This team is getting better, but is still a ways away from being an Eastern power.
Dallas – The Mavs will welcome Jose Calderon to stunt the growth of rookie Shane Larkin at point guard, but at least Darren Collison (Clippers) is gone and Roddy Beaubois is an unrestricted free agent. Devin Harris, Vince Carter and rookie Ricky Ledo will all take turns at SG, and maybe Shawn Marion will or won’t be back – we just don’t know. If not, maybe Anthony Morrow finally gets his chance to shine. Dirk Nowitzki, of course, is locked in at power forward, and I have no idea who is playing center in Dallas this season. We will know by the end of Summer League and right now it looks like (gulp) Bernard James.
Denver – Brian Shaw has replaced George Karl as head coach in Denver and the team lost FA Andre Iguodala to the Warriors. While you can be sure that these are some big changes, Iguodala moving on does make a little sense. You can look for a starting lineup of PG Ty Lawson, SG Evan Fournier/Randy Foye, SF Danilo Gallinari (if he’s ever healthy), PF Kenneth Faried, and C JaVale McGee this year. Look for me to be on the “Javanogan” all year. Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, and newly signed big man J.J. Hickson are all worth keeping an eye on this season in 12-team fantasy leagues.
Detroit – The Pistons drafted UGA shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and forward Tony Mitchell, and then signed F Josh Smith, who will play outside of Atlanta for the first time. Love it or hate it, you have to admit – a front line of Smoove, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is downright frightening. And when you add in PG Brandon Knight and SG Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons appear to be heading in the right direction. In fact, I’m going to call the front line I mentioned earlier “fantasy must see TV,” as long as you don’t mind seeing dudes miss free throws like they are shooting them from 25 feet out. And while Drummond can’t hit a free throw to save his life, he’s going to be one of the most hyped fantasy players we’ve seen in a while. Come on aboard, I promise you won’t hurt the horse - Go ahead and jump on the bandwagon.
Golden State – The Warriors somehow fooled most of us into thinking they might be getting Dwight Howard, but it turned out to be a false alarm. They did, however, land free agent Andre Iguodala from Denver, and lost Jarrett Jack, who will play for the Cavaliers this season. Iguodala’s arrival could stunt the growth of Harrison Barnes, but no one is going to complain about a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut, although there are always injury concerns about Curry (ankle), Iguodala (knee) and Lee (everything). It’s also possible that the Warriors are not yet done adding free agency pieces.
Houston – I’m sure the cheesy phrase “winner, winner, chicken dinner” was thrown around a few times when news broke that the Rockets landed free agent center Dwight Howard from the Lakers. Perhaps you remember where you were when you found out, but I doubt it. Regardless of what you think about ol’ Dwight, the move is massive for the Rockets, who will sport their own “Big 3” of Howard, James Harden and…well that’s the only problem. There isn’t a third wheel that makes you say “wow,” so we’ll see a starting lineup likely featuring Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Greg Smith. Patrick Beverly is an up and comer, Francisco Garcia could see a big role this season and Omer Asik is demanding to be traded after having several Dwightmares over the last few days. Asik is going to make someone very happy if he’s moved, while Houston fans are praying they can say the same thing about Howard. Kevin McHale will have his hands full with this bunch and it’s possible the Rockets aren’t quite done making moves – especially if they decide to give in to Asik’s wishes and move him. Might I suggest a power forward?
Indiana – The Pacers have been running ads on eBay, Craig’s List and Match.com in hopes of finding someone to take Danny Granger and Gerald Green off their hands, but can’t seem to find a buyer. And while I wasn’t too excited about them drafting SF Solomon Hill, the more I look at the kid, the more I think I might love him. The Pacers landed free agent Chris Copeland from New York and will prepare for Paul George to fully step into superstardom, and will feature a potential starting lineup of George Hill, George, Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert. Our depth charts currently have Lance Stephenson starting at SG and Granger coming off the bench, which very well could happen. Either way, they’ll once again sport a deep bench that will include C.J. Watson, Copeland, Tyler Hansbrough and either Granger or Stephenson. Frank Vogel might be the most undervalued coach in big-league sports.
L.A. Clippers – You may have heard that Doc Rivers is now coaching the Clippers, and negotiated the deal on the telephone from a gymnasium down the street from me in Gainesville, GA while his kid was playing in an AAU game. The Celtics aren’t happy he left, but the Clippers now look like a team that can possibly hang with the Miami Heat. Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are the starting five and the bench is tight, featuring Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, to go along with a proven coach. Look out Lakers, the Clippers have officially become L.A.’s team – at least until LeBron James gets there in 2014. Look for Redick and Dudley to be on everyone’s fantasy radar this season, but make sure you don’t overpay for them. Eric Bledsoe is now in Phoenix, but as long as CP3 can walk, it doesn’t matter.
L.A. Lakers – The Lakers lost Dwight Howard and are not happy about it. Kobe Bryant is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon and Steve Nash is another year older, and will likely play somewhat limited minutes due to his gimpy back, hamstrings, legs and body. Metta World Peace looks like a serious amnesty candidate after opting in, so we don’t even know who will play small forward. The job could fall to Devin Ebanks, to which I say “yikes.” Pau Gasol will play power forward and Chris Kaman looks like the potential starting center for the Lakers, if he can beat out Jordan Hill for the job. Kobe hopes to be ready to go for the opener, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers bring him back slowly and look for a shot at the lottery, where Andrew Wiggins will be the prized catch next summer. I wouldn’t put it past Kobe to come back and have a big year, but I’m not touching him in the first round of fantasy drafts, and am guessing we’ll all be better off by letting someone else deal with him this year.
Memphis – The Grizzlies didn’t make any huge splashes in the draft or free agency, but should once again be a team to reckon with in the West. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol should once again make up the starting five, while Jerryd Bayless, rookie Jamaal Franklin, and big men Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos will man the bench. This looks like a team to be avoided in the playoffs, but still doesn’t have the horses to win it all.
I’ll be back in a couple days with the second half of the league.