The Best Fit for Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is going to end up on one the best teams in the league. That’s his reward for having to play through last season on an insufferably bad roster sans Kobe. He deserves to be on a good team. Gasol is one of the most attractive free agents on the market, despite being 33 years old. He’s one of the most unselfish players in the league and great in the locker room. He’s won two titles, so he brings a winning personality into the locker room. And he still averaged a double-double last season. Even if his stats were inflated running D’Antoni’s offense, Gasol still put up some impressive numbers. He’s the type of player that would fit into any locker room and instantly make the team better. Word on the street is that he’s drawing interest from the Spurs, Heat, Thunder, and Bulls. In other words: the three best teams in the league, and another very good team. Gasol would be great no matter where he went, but where would he fit best?

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
This is probably the best fit for Gasol in terms of playing time and winning. Gasol would most likely start from day one over Steven Adams. The Thunder could use a veteran presence with experience winning, now that Derrick Fisher is gone. The difference is Gasol would actually contribute in a major way, unlike Fisher. The Thunder’s offense often gets stuck in glue, especially in crunch time. It looks like Westbrook and Durant are just taking turns shooting, or worse yet, Westbrook is the only guy shooting. Adding an elite passer like Gasol to the fold would instantly help make things more fluid on offense. Continue reading

Grading the Deals Made on the First Day of Free Agency

Nearly all of the focus on this free agent season surrounds the Heat. How much less money will Wade and Bosh take? Is LeBron really going to take the max? Are they going to add some second-tier free agents? For now, all we really know is that their roster will look significantly different next season. For now, let’s focus on the deals that have been made. There were three deals today worth examining.

1. Wizards re-sign Marcin Gortat for 5 years/$60 million.
Washington had its hands tied. They had been so irrelevant since the departure of Gilbert Arenas, until last season. Reaching the second round and taking two games from the Pacers, the Wizards finally had a taste of success. The Wiz pretty much had to re-sign expiring Gortat in order to keep any momentum going. Gortat is firmly in his prime right now, 30 years old, and complements Nene well. And the East is weak enough to make plenty of barely-above-average teams feel like contenders. The Wizards are not winning an NBA championship with a Wall-Beal-Ariza-Gortat nucleus. They can contend in the East, but that is much different than contending for a title, as we saw in the Finals when San Antonio whooped Miami. This may be a deal that looks pretty bad on the back end when Gortat is 33 or 34. Right now though, good centers are hard to come by, and Gortat is one of the few guys who can do this. Are the Wizards deluding themselves into thinking they’re a legitimate threat to the title? Yeah, probably. Is this a move purely to stay falsely relevant? (Nodding nervously.) But, if the move keeps the Heat from poaching Gortat, then I’m all for it. Continue reading

Raptors and Hawks Make a Trade: Free Agency Implications

Two Eastern Conference playoff teams made a trade last night. The Hawks sent streaky scorer Lou Williams and Brazilian big man Lucas Nogueira to the Raptors for John Salmons. It’s a classic NBA trade, really. It’s essentially a ‘contributor for cap space’ deal. The Raptors acquire another piece that they think will help them reach the next step in the Eastern Conference, and the Hawks receive John Salmons, whose contract has a team option that the Hawks will promptly decline. The deal will give the Hawks around $4.5 million extra cap space this summer, since waiving Salmons’ contract has a $1 million buyout. Lou Williams had his worst season in over five years, coming off his ACL tear from the previous season. He didn’t ever make an impact in Atlanta, like he had in Philadelphia, where he finished second in the 6th man of the year award voting in 2012. He was second only to James Harden, one of the best players in the league. The bigger loss, in the Hawks’ eyes, is last year’s first round pick Lucas Nogueira, a 21 year old project big man from Brazil. With REALLY COOL HAIR. Continue reading

Maverick Twin Towers: Dirk and Pau?

The Mavericks have recently expressed in signing 33 year Pau Gasol. Gasol would be paired in Dallas’ frontline with Dirk, easily giving the Mavs perhaps the most skilled frontline in the NBA. Gasol is 33 year olds and has endured two disappointing seasons in Los Angeles without Kobe’s help. Despite the Lakers’ recent struggles, Pau has vowed to stay in LA if Kobe wants him to. But aside from loyalty, Pau has little reason to sign up for any more time in LA. The Lakers own the 7th pick in this year’s draft, as well as some cap space–some of which would have to be used on Pau–but that is not enough to turn the Lakers into a playoff team. The Lakers won only 27 games last year, and even the biggest Kobe-diehards have to realize that his return to the court will mean little as a 35 year old. Of course, Los Angeles is one of the premier destinations in the league. The Lakers are probably the most storied franchise in the league and the weather is always a plus, but if Gasol wants to add one more ring to his collection, Los Angeles is not the place to stay. Continue reading

Is Carmelo worth a max contract?

Of course he is, right? What a silly question. Or is it? Carmelo is one of the most prolific scorers in the league and has been for the past decade. At 30 years old, Carmelo is at a crossroads for his career. He has reached the Conference Finals once in his career, but never further. If not for his title run at Syracuse, it’d be worth pondering whether Carmelo is a winner or not. This is not a Skip Bayless exercise in superstar trolling, but given the fact that Carmelo is often his team’s highest-paid player, and gets to take upward of 20 shots per game, his team’s failures will fall on his shoulders. He maneuvered his way to the big city in hopes of rejuvenating the Knicks in the post-Isiah Thomas era and bringing a title to New York City. As ESPN’s Beckley Mason points out, aside from last year’s 54 win season, ending in a second round loss to the Pacers, the Knicks have remained a laughingstock in the lousy Eastern Conference. At what point do we begin to question Carmelo and his worth? He had his career year two seasons ago, when he led the team to 54 wins, but that was also the year J.R. Smith won sixth man of the year. Continue reading

One Free Agent could save the Heat (Hint: His name is not Carmelo)

As soon as the Heat were on the ropes against the Spurs, rumors began to circulate that Carmelo Anthony could possibly come to Miami and create a Big 4. If Carmelo joined the Heat, they would immediately become the title favorites, at least according to Charles Barkley. Off talent alone, many would jump to anoint the Heat as favorites to win the title, but then again, lots of people rushed to claim that the Nets would challenge the Heat for the Eastern Conference when they got Pierce and KG.  Carmelo would add a much-needed scoring punch to the Heat, but he wouldn’t fix what doomed them: poor point guard play and lack of rim protection. Rather than go after Carmelo, the Heat would be better off targeting arguably the second best unrestricted free agent this summer, Kyle Lowry. There is apparently mutual interest on both sides. Lowry was one of the biggest All-Star snubs and seems perennially underrated, but perhaps no more, after leading the Raptors to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Anyone who watched the Raptors take on the Nets could see that Lowry is better than Deron Williams, despite not receiving nearly as much attention as the other top point guards.

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What should LeBron do?

12 days. That is how much time LeBron has before he must decide if he will opt in for one more year with the Heat. If he was to opt in, LeBron would have one year left for over $22 million, but money is not the issue. Or it is, but not how you might think. Recently, there has been speculation that the Heat are interested in signing Carmelo, but that would require the Heat’s Big 3 to each take paycuts. Usually, players of LeBron’s caliber, at the age of 29, would never take a paycut, even in the name of winning. Maybe in the twilight of his career, LeBron would take a paycut, a la Tim Duncan, but now. MJ would never take a paycut. Kobe didn’t exactly take a paycut at age 35. Their ego won’t allow it. It’s especially difficult to imagine LeBron taking a paycut when he said just a few months ago, that he is severely underpaid. If the Big 3 all opt in, then the majority of the Heat’s nucleus will be relatively similar next year. But the supporting pieces could be drastically different. Shane Battier retired right after Game 5. Rashard Lewis is a free agent. Mario Chalmers is a free agent. Ray Allen is a free agent and might retire. Mike Beasley and Greg Oden are free agents. But Miami might not be able to make significant improvements rounding out its roster if the Big 3 all opt in, and are owed over $60 million together. So, what if LeBron opts out. Yes, LeBron, Wade, and Bosh could each opt out, take substantial paycuts like the Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili did, and then try to lure Carmelo or Kyle Lowry to South Beach. Miami could also do a sign and trade with LeBron. Or, he could simply opt out and leave Miami. Here are a few possibilities, some more realistic than others. Continue reading

Summer Outlook: Heat

From dynasty to broken up? That may be the harsh reality for the Heat. The Heat were not just beat by a better team. They were embarrassed. They may have been propped up by one of the weakest Eastern Conferences in NBA history, but they were exposed in the Finals, and unless something drastic happens, it’s hard to imagine the Heat winning another Finals. The Heat were no better than the 2007 Cavs this year against the Spurs. LeBron came to Miami to get more help, but it looks like that time is over. It’s simple: Wade is washed up and Bosh is overrated. With an aging Dwyane Wade and a hardly Robin-worthy Chris Bosh there to help out LeBron, the Heat struggle to score. It gets worse. Their bench was a non-factor this postseason. Amnestying Mike Miller proved costly. Shane Battier hardly played when it mattered. Greg Oden and Mike Beasley turned out to be a whole lotta nothing. And the point guard by committee of Chalmers and Cole was arguably worse than Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson. Taken as a whole, it’s not inconceivable for LeBron to leave Miami. There aren’t a whole lot of options for him, but Miami is a year away from being an NBA barren wasteland, unless Pat Riley completely retools the roster. Continue reading