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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NBA Extreme Makeovers

Several NBA teams have taken advantage of free agency and the draft to significantly change their rosters. The most dramatic example of this is the Chicago Bulls, who signed free agent Ben Wallace, drafted Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha and traded for P.J. Brown and Viktor Khryapa. The Bulls also briefly acquired J.R. Smith before sending him to Denver in exchange for Howard Eisley (who the Bulls are expected to release) and two 2007 second round draft picks. Chicago gave up Tyson Chandler and the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge and Rodney Carney in these transactions. The end result is that the Bulls now have a four-time Defensive Player of the Year (Wallace) patrolling the paint, some more frontcourt depth (Brown and Khryapa) and two promising players (Thomas and Sefolosha). These moves not only strengthened the Bulls but weakened a key division/conference rival--the Detroit Pistons, who lost Wallace, the heart and soul of their team.

The Portland Trail Blazers acquired Aldridge and Brandon Roy in the draft and traded for Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz. Roy is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and he could combine with Aldridge to form a nice inside-out combination for years to come.

The Toronto Raptors have been extremely active. Fittingly, the only NBA team based outside of the United States is taking on a very international look, including the hiring of Maurizio Gherardini as Vice President and Assistant General Manager. Gherardini, formerly the GM of Benetton Treviso, is the first European to hold a senior management position with an NBA franchise. The Raptors used the number one overall pick on Andrea Bargnani and also acquired Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa, the 2005 and 2006 Spanish Cup Finals MVP. Toronto also traded Charlie Villanueva for speedy point guard T.J. Ford, perhaps indicating that General Manager Bryan Colangelo would like to see Toronto employ the running style that the Phoenix Suns used so successfully when Colangelo cut his teeth with that franchise.

The Indiana Pacers have turned over nearly half of their roster, unloading Peja Stojakovic, Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson to bring in Marquis Daniels, Darrell Armstrong, Rawle Marshall, Josh Powell and Andrew Betts. Free agent guard Fred Jones is about to sign a deal with Toronto.

The NBA Champion Miami Heat have kept the core of their roster intact, but the Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks clearly believe that they need to upgrade their roster to get over the hump. Gone are Armstrong, Daniels, Marshall and Powell in two separate deals with the Pacers; they have been replaced by Croshere and Johnson, plus free agent Greg Buckner. Croshere's acquisition could mean that free agent Keith Van Horn will not be re-signed.

The San Antonio Spurs acquired Jackie Butler, Matt Bonner, Jacque Vaughn and Eric Williams and lost Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic. None of those are big name players but that still amounts to changing a third of the roster and losing the tandem that combined for most of the playing time at center. Will young Butler now get those minutes, will Tim Duncan shift from power forward to center or are the Spurs not done making moves?

While the Seattle SuperSonics have not made any notable player moves the sale of the franchise to an Oklahoma City investment group led by Clayton I. Bennet seems likely to mean that the entire franchise may soon be on the move to Oklahoma City, which provided such a warm welcome to the Hornets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The most notable players who stayed put by re-signing or signing an extension are LeBron James (Cleveland), Dwyane Wade (Miami), Carmelo Anthony (Denver), Chris Bosh (Toronto) and Sam Cassell (L.A. Clippers).

posted by David Friedman @ 1:03 AM



At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 7:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Spurs also picked up Francisco Elson (formerly of the Nuggets).
I think they'll split time between Butler and Elson much like they did for Nesterovic and Mohammed.

I also believe that their combined salaries will be less than either of the departing C's. The Spurs have always been a shrewd franchise, they don't overspend and as a result, keep a competitive team with a moderate payroll.

At Wednesday, July 26, 2006 3:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree that the Spurs are a shrewd franchise and that their personnel decisions, like those of most teams other than the Knicks, are influenced by salary cap considerations. Still, Elson and Butler have much less experience than Nesterovic and Mohammed--Steven A. Smith's constant bashing of Nesterovic notwithstanding--so if the Spurs do indeed intend to stick with that duo it will be interesting to see how well those players respond to increased minutes.


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