Grading the Recent Moves

There are a few recent moves that have caught my eye. The Heat are trying to put players around their dream trio, the Bucks are quietly making moves, the Rockets added some "Yao Insurance", and the Warriors made a move for David Lee. Lets grade these recent moves and do some quick analysis on the impact it is going to have on the teams.

Zydrunas Ilguaskas to Heat: That will complete the Heat starting 5. I'm still not sold that Z is good enough to be an impact player. He will provide a great inside presence, and having Bosh alongside him at PF will be a formidable lineup. Z is one of the best shot blockers in the league, but his offensive production has fallen off. He averaged only 7.4ppg and 5.4 rebs last season. Down from his career averages of 17.8ppg and 7.7 rebs. Just like every other player on the Heat not named Bosh, Wade, or Lebron, the pressure will not be on Z to score. He will be asked to provide defensive presence and to rebound the ball. Any way you look at it, it will be tough for teams to deal with this front-line.Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Heat: Following your superstar is never a bad idea. Big Z was fiercely loyal to Cleveland, but just like everyone else, he realized thatCleveland is in big trouble. He is the big man that the Heat needed. His presence is going to be huge for the Heat. It will be an uphill battle for Z to keep up with the Big 3 up and down the court, but in half court sets, he will fit right in.
Grade: A (if Z can be efficient on offense)

Mike Miller to the Heat: I wrote in my post about the Lebron move that Mike Miller was a definite target. He got some run with the USA team before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Miller is a solid shooter who has struggled with consistency the last few seasons in the bottom cellar of the NBA. Miller is clearly a player who needs to be motivated. We saw his averages drop significantly in 08-09 with the T'wolves. Miller's career averages were 13.7ppg, but went down to 10.9 ppg last season with the Wolves and Wizards. He shot 48% from 3-pt range last season which is 8% higher than his career average, and he also improved his rebounding from 5.1 to 6.2 per game. This shows that he is capable of improving his produ
ctivity when he makes a commitment to it. Stats aside, Miller is a huge asset for the Heat. He will be the beneficiary countless double teams and drive and dish penetration from the Big 3. Miller's defensive capacity leaves a lot to be desired, but if he gets beat, he will have a lot of help. His job in Miami will be simple: make shots to keep the defense honest. Overall, a great pickup for the Heat. Miller probably took a bit of a paycut to be the Heat, but after conversations with the Lakers, it was clear that Miller wanted to have a chance to win.
Grade: A-

Drew Gooden to the Bucks: This is a good move for the Bucks. They get another big man who can defend the low post to team up alongside Andrew Bogut (assuming he is fully healed). I don't want to delve too deep into stats with Gooden because his presence is more what he brings to the Bucks. He is going to be a defensive presence to block the lane as much as possible. If he can grab 10 rebounds per game and block 1.5 shots per game, the Bucks will have gotten their value from him.
Grade: B

Corey Maggette to the Bucks: Solid move for the Bucks also. An athletic player who gets to the free throw line. He is a pure scorer and will be a great complement to Brandon Jennings' own
athleticism and ability to get to the basket. It
gives the Bucks a great threat to use Delfino or Maggette at SF. One of those players could move to SG also. It is an incredible move for the Bucks to upgrade their lineup. Their starting lineup now has an incredible combination of threats. If Michael Redd comes back healthy for the start of the season, they will have even more depth. The starting lineup depth could be Brandon Jennings, John Salmons/Michael Redd, Carlos Delfino/Corey Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova/Drew Gooden (If Larry Sanders can develop he will also have a spot too), and Andrew Bogut. Not bad. Maggette adds another level of offense for them. A solid player who puts up points quickly. I'd like to see more commitment by Maggette on defense. He had one of the best seasons of his career last year in terms of ppg and FG%, and if he can play solid defense, he's going to be a threat. Playing under Scott Skiles will mean that defense is a requirement, not an option.
Grade: B+

Brad Miller to Rockets: Horrible move for the Rockets. They are worried about Yao's injury, but they get a guy who is just as injury prone. Miller is clearly on the decline in his career. He does stretch the floor with his ability to shoot from long range, but I'm not convinced that he can be an impact player anymore. They gave him MLE type money, but he hasn't proven that he can be a game changer. The main concern here seems to be that Brad Miller will slow down their transition game. Aaron Brooks is an extremely promising young player who is one of the fastest guards in the league. Brooks pushes the ball hard, and it helps speed the game up for the Rockets. This was the best offense for the Rockets when Yao was not in the lineup. Throwing Brad Miller into the mix won't give the Rockets the opportunity to get in transition as fast. Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks will be running the show in the backcourt for the Rockets and they are almost sure to benefit from having a big man in the post, but will also be hindered by it. Rick Adelman knows what Brad Miller can do, but I'm afraid that his ability from the Sacramento days has waned.
Grade: C-

David Lee to Warriors: Moving in the right direction for the Warriors. A young dynamic player like Stephen Curry paired with a double-double machine is going to go well for the Warriors. Lee proved that he can't be the #1 option on a team in New York. It will be up to the Warriors to get another impact player to put alongside Curry and Lee before anyone starts talking playoffs for this team. They Warriors gave up a lot of their young core, but none of those players were irreplaceable. Ekpe Udoh is going to be a work in progress for this season, and won't be a credible threat until he can prove that he can hold his own down in the post. For now, it will be just David Lee. With some of the recent moves Golden State has made, this has to rank up with one of the best in a while. A big bounce back from draft night.
Grade: B- (overall performance in the offseason thus far)



Lebron to Miami: Quick Thoughts and Reactions

The wait is finally over. Lebron is going to become a part of the Miami Heat. I wrote yesterday about the different scenarios for the Heat. As of now, there are a few reactions I have to this news.

The first, I feel awful for the fans in Cleveland. I have a few friends from Cleveland and I know that this is heart-wrenching for them. This has to be one of the most devastating blows, if not THE most devastating blow in Cleveland sports history. I feel for them.

Second, Pat Riley and the rest of the front office can celebrate, but not for long. The key to a championship lies beyond Bosh, Wade, and Lebron, it lies in the role players around the team. They do NOT have a mid-level exception (different than what I wrote yesterday). Riley will have to fill 9 roster spots with veteran-minimum exceptions, and their 3 rookies. Check out my analysis on my post from yesterday's "With Lebron" scenario for further breakdown.

Lastly, chemistry between the 3 players is going to be the most fascinating aspect of the season. 3 superstars only have 1 basketball to go around. It will definitely be an interesting transition with the 3. Lebron is going to have to give up a lot of offense which will be tough because he has been the go-to guy his entire career. Wade and Bosh will benefit from Lebron's presence. Bosh will most likely see more isolations in the post. Wade will be able to roam free and do what he does best, create shots. I think that life will be much easier for both Bosh and Wade, and getting to the basket will come easy. I wouldn't be surprised if Lebron's ppg went down drastically and apg went up drastically. As of now, based on pure talent, they are good enough to make it to the Finals. Can they put it together to beat the defending champion Lakers? That is the real test. May not happen this year, but it will almost certainly happen in the next few years.

Couldn't be a better offseason for the NBA this season.


Wade and Bosh to Miami: Where the Heat should go from here

Two-thirds of the top 3 free agents in the biggest free agency class in history have agreed to play in Miami. Bosh and Wade will be on South Beach with Lebron's future still in doubt, but with the growing sense that The King will resign with Cleveland. Lets take a look at what the Heat should do from here under a "With Lebron" scenario and a "Without Lebron" scenario. Since the actual salary cap won't be announced until later tonight, we'll just assume that the cap will be set at around $54.4 million. We'll also assume that Wade and Bosh are making the maximum although they've said they would take less money. This will let us examine the money scenario from the worst-case for Miami.

With Lebron: The Heat will have to do some tinkering to get Lebron to Miami, but there are a few teams who would probably be willing to take on Beasley. Those teams would most likely be the Timberwolves, Kings, or Clippers. They would also probably ask for one of Miami's future draft picks which would be a small price to pay for Lebron coming into town. So lets assume that Beasley is out of the picture and traded away. This leaves Lebron signing with the Heat at the max $16.5 million. So, we have Wade, Bosh, Lebron, and Chalmers under contract for the Heat. If the cap is around $54.4 million then the heat have about $485,000 left over to build the rest of the team. They have 3 2nd round picks in Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnardo, and Da'Sean Butler. They can sign all of these players for the rookie minimum which would be closer to $450,000 per player.
In addition, they would have to spend their veteran minimum on any veteran looking to contend for a title. A guy like Juwan Howard would make sense or, wait for it...Shaq. I know, the Shaq thing didn't work with King James last year, but bringing Shaq off the bench would be a good way to change the pace for Miami. Shaq is also a very capable defender in the sense that he is a body that makes it imposing for any player to drive the lane or for a bigger body like Dwight Howard. The Heat could also go after Randy Foye in a backup role at PG although he is a true SG. Foye only averaged 1.3 turnovers in the 24 minutes he averaged last season with the Wizards. What about Allen Iverson? Veteran minimum for a guy who can score and play a multitude of different roles. Shaq and Iverson, on top of Bosh and Wade, how many tickets would that sell? Wow. I also hear that Quentin Richardson will probably resign and the Heat will retain Joel Anthony as well. If that happens, they will have filled significant holes with a very respectable roster that will compete for many years to come.
So, lets recap who the Heat could have in the "With Lebron" scenario:
Starters: Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, and Brad Miller
Bench: Juwan Howard (or Shaq), Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado, Da'Sean Butler, Randy Foye, Quentin Richardson, and Joel Anthony
This roster gives them an amazing core. With Lebron, Wade, and Bosh, the Heat will have solid role players who can give them decent minutes with some decent contribution. Lets be honest, at the end of the day, if you have Lebron, Wade, and Bosh there isnt much else you need. This is a championship contending team. No question.

Without Lebron: As the roster stands now, Bosh and Wade are the cornerstones with Beasley and Chalmers rounding out the last 2. This leaves the Heat with about $12 million left in cap room. The Heat could go after a true center with this money. The only player that really fits that mold right now is Brendan Haywood. He made $6 million last year, and he didn't have a great post season last year. I'd expect the Heat to give him close to that amount. Lets say the Heat get generous and they know that Haywood is a double-double threat who is a big body and is good for a couple blocks a game as well as being in his prime, and they give him $7 million. That leaves the Heat with $5 million to spend under the cap.

They could split this $5 million among a few other free agents to upgrade their backup point guard spot, shooting guard spot, or power forward. Roger Mason would be a good fit here at $2.5 million. He is a scorer who can give a spark off the bench. In San Antonio he even got to run the point guard spot for a bit of time. I think that Mason would be a refreshing player off the bench when it is time for Dwade to sit or if they wanted to move Wade to the 1 when Chalmers went out, Mason would fit right in at the 2. Another player that would be Will Bynum to compete with Chalmers for the point guard spot. He is a scoring point guard who has shown that he can distribute as well. He would be a nice piece for the Heat.

The Heat will sign the 3 rookies Varnardo, Pittman, and Butler. They will also pursue a couple veteran free agents who will play for the minimum (as explained above), and then hope to re-sign Quentin Richardson and Joel Anthony. It is also worth noting that the Heat don't need a big name point guard because I still think they believe in Chalmers. I think that with Bosh in the low post, Chalmers will be able to distribute the ball a lot more and get more open shots. He should flourish in this new team.

Here is how the team looks under the "Without Lebron" scenario: starters: Chalmers, Wade, Bosh, Beasley and Joel Anthony
Bench: Will Bynum, Roger Mason, Beasley, Varnardo, Pittman, Butler, Quentin Richardson, and Allen Iverson (just for fun) with another veteran minimum.

Neither scenario looks too bad. Both are significant upgrades.

Steve Blake to Lakers thoughts

The Lakers finally landed the point guard they have been targeting for over 3 years, Steve Blake. The Maryland star signed a 4 year $16 million contract with the Lakers which is about the same amount the Lakers were targeting him for using their MLE a couple years back. This signing is something that the Lakers desperately needed in this offseason, and allows Blake to stay in the same city he was traded to in February except that he is playing in purple and gold as opposed to red and white.

With the almost certain departure of the Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, that leaves the Lakers' backcourt with only Sasha and most likely Derek Fisher. What should happen is that Fisher will signa a 1 year deal with the Lakers and truly mentor Steve Blake at point guard for most of the season. They will slowly let Blake take over more of the duties as the season progresses. This is Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers' front office's grand scheme and it has been the plan for a while. It upgrades the Lakers' backcourt which has been a soft spot for the team since Gary Payton was the starter in 2004, and it gives Blake a chance to learn the offense as well as be slowly integrated into a starting role. A perfect situation from a guy who has been thrown on mediocre teams and asked to play starters minutes and lead the team to wins. Jackson and his coaching staff have shown that they have been able to consistently mentor guys and develop them well into their careers.

Blake is a great distributor who is athletic and can hit jumpers. His skill set seems to fit very well within a triangle offense as it revolves around passing and movement. Blake is less of a scoring point guard, but he can create his own shot which is critical in the Triangle Offense, and that should work well along Pau and Bynum in the middle. As soon as the defense collapses in the middle, Blake will receive the ball back and he can create or distribute very effectively. He has shown that he is a danger from the 3 point range or driving the lane. Blake is an athletic point guard who will be able to hang with the top point guards in the league, but he will need to improve his defense if he is going to be an impact player in crucial situations.

All in all, this was a solid signing for the Lakers and it helps put Lakers fans at ease while the last remaining details of this offseason get sorted out. Fisher is widely regarded to sign for 1 year which should answer any remaining questions about the point guard position. Farmar, Shannon Brown, and Josh Powell are the last pieces that may change for the Lakers. Signing Blake was a definitive statement that the Lakers are moving in a different direction than Farmar, and Farmar has made it clear the he wants to be a starter in the league. It will be a few weeks until the dust settles, and most of the inner workings can happen with little media attention due to the free agency circus surrounding the highest NBA profile free agents. Until then, the Lakers know that their point guard situation issue is addressed, and most importantly, their coaching issue is addressed. Sleep well Lakers fans.


Money Doesn't Buy Championships

We're 5 days into the free agency period and we've already seen 4 major players resign with their home teams. Dirk Nowitzki, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Paul Pierce are off the market with huge contracts and huge aspirations. I'm wondering how the liberal spending of these teams will impact their franchise. I'm skeptical about all of these signings except for 1.

It is worth noting that the first two on this list were purely business decisions because the Hawks and Mavs weren't far enough under the cap to lure a big name free agent. So, rather than rebuild and start from scratch, they decided to keep what they had and hope for the best.

Joe Johnson: Johnson was clearly a benefactor of all of the hoopla about this summer's free agency class. As Johnson's name kept coming up as one of the main targets on teams' free agent wish list, it was almost certain that he was going to cash in on all the positive publicity. He did, and the Hawks find themselves right where they left off after losing to the Magic in historic fashion in the second round of the 2010 playoffs. Johnson's deal is worth $119 million over 6 years.
Don't get me wrong. Johnson is a great player. With averages of 21.9ppg, 4.9 assts, and a steal, he is an upper echelon player in the league, however, these types of averages don't seem to work for the Hawks. Their young core has yet to make a splash in the playoffs since taking the 2008 Boston Celtics team to 7 games. Simply put, this team isn't good enough. They needed a surefire player who could lead them. Joe Johnson hasn't been outspoken enough to bring his team to the next level. He doesn't posess the killer instinct that #1 options on championship calibur teams have. I'm also worried about Johnson's inconsistency. There are games where he looks unstoppable, and games where he is more than forgettable. Undoubtedly, he is a #2 option on an elite team, which explains why the Knicks and Bulls went after Johnson first so that they could include him in their sales pitch to Lebron, Bosh, and Wade.
The bright side for the Hawks is if they can reintegrate Josh Childress after his stint in Greece and new coach Larry Drew can help develop Johnson as a leader, they might be able to compete for a top spot in the East. If only they could have had Chris Paul instead of Marvin Williams...this would have been so much easier.

Dirk Nowitzki: Clearly loyalty played a huge factor in this decision. Mark Cuban believed in Dirk when the entire city of Dallas was crushing the team for passing up on Paul Pierce. They lived through the ups and downs together and Cuban has never backed down from defending Dirk. There was no other choice for Dirk except to go back if Dallas extended the offer. They did, and the Mavs will be putting on a very similar act that we have seen many times before. Again, this team is amazing on paper. They got their versatile swingman in Shawn Marion, one of the best point guards in NBA history with Jason Kidd, an annual contender for 6th man of the year in Jason Terry, and a constant influx of new raw talent coming in every year. Their only hole right now is filling the center spot due to the uncertainty with Brendan Haywood's free agency and the almost certain waiving of Dampier.
Dirk has shown that he is an elite player in the league, however, he has not shown that he can take his team over the top. He has a solid supporting cast and a willing owner who is ready to spend whatever it takes to win, but Nowitzki hasn't produced in big moments. After their famous flameout in the first round in the 2007 playoffs, to Golden State, a series that I still defend to this day as the biggest upset in sports history, the Mavs have never quite regained their footing. They lost this year again in the first round to the Spurs which fuels the fire against Dirk. In the end, the Mavs figured that there is too much history with Dirk and this franchise to give up on him now. If somehow the Mavs won the title with Dirk as the lead man, it would mean so much more than to bring in a new franchise player and start over. As it stands now, the team is virtually the same team that has left the floor before June every year since 2006, and has never come up with the trophy in hand. I don't see that changing, and neither do you.

Rudy Gay: By far the worst signing of the free agency period. I'm actually still having convulsions from time to time thinking about this. Lets put this in perspective, here we have a guy who has never brought his team to the playoffs, never been an All-Star, and never been a leader and is getting paid $80 million over 5 years. Not to mention that Gay isn't even definitively the best player on the Grizzlies. Granted, there are a ton of overpaid players in the league who aren't even worth close to what they get paid, but that is a reason for the Grizzlies to take a step back and learn from this mistakes.
If you look at it from the Grizzlies' perspective, they are just happy that they retained Gay. They weren't going to land any big name free agent so they just had a pile of money lying around and decided to spend it where they knew they were going to get some value. Gay brings great energy to the floor, he is a top tier athlete and a proven scorer. Definitely someone you want to have on your team, but he is commonly referred to as a "poor man's Danny Granger", and not your top 30 players to give the ball to in the last 1:30 of a close game. In the overall landscape of the league, this signing is pretty meaningless, but sometimes it just makes you wonder why you couldn't have been a standout player at a major school and land on a small market team with a ton of money in a year before the Collective Bargaining Agreement would be renegotiated. Damn.

Paul Pierce: Of course, this is the best signing so far. The Celtics believe that they were one Kendrick Perkins injury away from a Game 7 victory over the Lakers. Why would you mess with something like that? Danny Ainge had a no-brainer here. Pierce is their clutch player who gets to the foul line, has a versatile offensive game, and a solid defensive game. He has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 1996, and has been part of the rebuilding process through the late 90s until he won the Finals MVP in 2008. The Celtics are clearly contenders for the 2011 NBA title as long as they retain Ray Allen which is expected to happen. Resigning Pierce was just a formality. He is the one free agent who has proven he can win and deserves a raise from the team that has helped define his legacy. No arguments here. Just have to see if the Celtics can cash in this time. Most likely, this is the Celtics' last shot at it with this crew.

We've only just hit the surface of this free agency period. There is a lot more to come, and we're all hoping to be surprised.


We're back!

After almost a year hiatus, DishingDimes is back! We did the website domain thing and weren't pleased with the results. A few other factors contributed to us leaving the site unmanaged, but recently we decided to bring it back.

Our epiphany was: "We are a basketball blog." Deep. I know. We overextended ourselves. As our site took off and we had followers all over the world and started networking with other major basketball blogs, we got ahead of ourselves and lost focus. Our goal is the same as when we started this thing in June of 2008 in our dorm rooms at Stanford and Wake Forest, to write about basketball. Our duty as fans and students of the game is to increase the freeflow of opinion and to talk about the sport as much as we can. That is the best thing for the game and the best thing that we can contribute. Phil and I are determined to do this thing again. We want to serve the readers and the game as much as we can. We appreciate all the support and inquiries about our blog and whether we were ever going to come back. Undoubtedly, that support factored heavily into our decision to start writing again. We will do our best to surpass your expectations.