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Northwest Division Preview

New kid on the block

Doyle Rader: The Northwest Division looks to be one of, if not the most, competitive divisions in the NBA this season. Last year three teams (the Thunder, Nuggets, and Jazz) made the playoffs. Utah made a late push to secure their playoff berth only to be eliminated by the Spurs in the first round. Denver took the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semi-finals. And the Thunder eventually lost in the NBA Finals. This season the division is only deeper.

Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves were early season darlings to make the playoffs last season with the Blazers’ hot start and the emergence of Ricky Rubio in Minny. What curtailed these teams was the fire-sale in Portland and the injuries that plagued the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota has completely reloaded their roster in an attempt to make a playoff run this year. They just have to wait for Kevin Love to recover from his broken hand.

Travis Huse: What’s remarkable about this division is that each of its franchises is looking toward the future.

Let’s begin with what’s been going on in Denver: the Nuggets’ reload looks really enticing to me, much in the same way that the Pacers have the past couple of seasons. They’re going to play blindingly fast, group-effort basketball, a hard-nosed team approach. What really makes things interesting is Iguodala’s defensive role, alongside his ball handler abilities, which were hidden behind Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday in Philly.

Iggy will have to play the roles of Danny Granger, Metta World Peace, and Lebron James simultaneously, and how successful he is at integrating with George Karl’s style will determine the success of this team. Coupled with the maturation of Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee (seems strange to mention maturity and McGee together), this is a well-built team, with players who complement their teammates’ strengths. Next step: tightening up on defense.

DR: Yes, their pace belies a low defensive effort as they want to be streaking up and down the floor. However, this team has the potential to be quite serviceable defensively and it all begins with Iguodala.

He will be their premier perimeter defensive player and will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best wing player and even point guards at times. Denver must focus its defensive efforts in transition. This is where the team will be most venerable. In the halfcourt they have the like of McGee and Timofey Mozgov, as well as Kosta Koufos (who I particularly enjoy watching), to anchor the middle with Iguodala patrolling the arc.

Where I think Iguodala will be most beneficial to the Nuggets is when they play the Thunder. It will be his job to guard Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City won this division last year on the back of Durant’s scoring so bringing an elite defender was very important for Denver.

TH: Yeah, OKC is still the hands-down favorite to win this division this year, regardless of whether or not James Harden receives an extension. But next year, who knows? There’s so much young talent on these teams and the stars for each team are about to truly hit their stride.

Damian Lillard running the Blazers could change the entire dynamic of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game, assuming they didn’t handicap themselves too much with Nicolas Batum’s contract. In the Northwest, they’re the furthest away from being a playoff lock, and I could envision this division becoming as competitive as the Southwest was a few years ago. They’re thin as hell as just about every position, but for a rebuilding team, they don’t look to be wallowing in their sorrow for much longer.

DR: You’re right, the Thunder are the class of the division. That shouldn’t change this year and perhaps Kendrick Perkins will actually be useful to them now that Dwight Howard is in the West. Yet, he is still a liability against the more hybrid centers.

As for Portland, Lillard has shown that he is ready to compete at the NBA level. In five games this preseason, Lillard has averaged 17 points on 50 percent shooting while also dishing out six assists per game. Beyond the numbers, he is assertive on the court, even aggressive at times. Against the Lakers he frequently attacked Steve Nash off the dribble, getting to the rim with ease once he became comfortable with the flow of the game. Of course, Nash has never been a good defender but it was impressive to see a rookie go directly at a two-time MVP with little regard for his mythos.

What will hurt the Blazers is their lack of depth. Jared Jefferies will contribute more than anyone knows off the bench, though it may not always show up in the box score. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, the team’s only true center, are major questions who have considerable upside.

Outside shooting will also be an issue going forward. This is a team built around the mid-range jumper. If Aldridge goes down again, this team will wallow in the basement once again.

TH: You’re neglecting Batum here. His contract is so weighty, the Portland front office will push him to fill more of a starring role, and the hiring of Terry Stotts as head coach will also give him more responsibility. If Stotts is able to formulate this team based off what he saw in Dallas, and modify the 2011 championship core of Jason KiddJason TerryDirk Nowitzki (Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, respectively), the Blazers have more than enough skeleton for their squad.

Which means:

Much is spoken on how the NBA’s system favors tanking. But teams are finding creative ways to rebuild without having to ride the lottery hoping for a once-in-a-generation talent. The Blazers are well on their way to rebuilding (only 7 months after blowing their team up), without having to seriously tank.

They were only 8 games out of the playoffs last year, and while this year might be a bit sore, Blazers fans should be optimistic. They managed a sizable reformation in the quietest way possible, and they did it with a vacant GM seat for over a year. Looking at what Neil Olshey created with the Clippers, it will be interesting to see how he fleshes out their roster.

Another franchise attempting a “soft rebuild” is the Utah Jazz, a team that has really reached a crossroads. Swapping Devin Harris for Mo Williams isn’t exactly a game-changer (it’s never a good idea to start a third-string PG from the Clippers), and Raja Bell is as good as gone. They need guard help badly, and the big man logjam finally must give. If the team still cannot decide whether they trust Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors, they need to move them sooner, rather than later. By all accounts, Kanter has an ego, and will not like playing second fiddle to Al Jefferson; but Jefferson’s much too good to move.

DR: If we are going to make a Mavs comparison when it comes to the Blazers, I feel that Batum represents more of a Shawn Marion role. Only his scoring responsibilities will be somewhat equivalent to Marionon the Suns.

As for the Jazz, they have a wealth of big men and they seem to be happy about it. I don’t think it’s a question about if they are willing to move Jefferson, but rather they could lose Paul Millsap. That would truly be a blow to this organization but as you pointed out they have Kanter and Favors.

Last season, Kanter was essentially a non factor. His skills around the rim were unpolished, to be kind, and played mostly during garbage time. So far in the preseason he has been drawing double-teams and averaging a team high 12 points per game. The jazz seem content to run out a platoon rotation in the post which should help later in the season as it allows their stars (Jefferson and Millsap) to rest. Kanter and Favors should garner around 20 minutes a night.

Mo Williams is a completely serviceable point guard. I doubt he can return to the form he showcased in Milwaukee, but he still has the ability to run an offense effectively while also scoring the ball. Like Memphis, Utah runs a lot of post plays but Williams’ outside shooting and ability to dish the ball should open up the floor creating opportunities for shooters like Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, and Marvin Williams.

Hayward will be key for the Jazz. He is quietly becoming a good perimeter defender and has gained a considerable amount of muscle since coming into the league. Tyrone Corbin has molded Hayward into a hardnosed, physical defender. It would not surprise me if he was at least discussed as a possible DPOY if his improvement continues. He won’t win, but he making the discussion is always a plus.

TH: I’m not saying that their big man platoon isn’t a bad idea. It’s a great thing to have through an 82-game season. However, both Kanter and Favors are starting-caliber players in the NBA right now. Favors is nearing the end of his rookie contract, a solid producer with room to grow (and a team option for next season). Aside from the solid production at a low price tag, these players are highly desirable for contending teams for many reasons. Kanter is a skilled big body who plays a thin position.

Would the suddenly broke Sam Presti really contemplate letting James Harden go in order to free up cap space? Probably not, but that is not a bad rumor to float.

I can only think of three NBA teams who wouldn’t listen to offers on Kanter, because they are seriously the only NBA teams without concerns in the middle. The Lakers have Dwight now; the 76ers are going to see where Bynum goes as a leader. I had to throw in the Raptors, because, well, they’re in a similar situation as the Jazz; the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas has made Bargnani more than expendable.

You’re also right about Mo Williams: He is a completely serviceable point guard. But with their lineup, the Jazz are one torn ligament away from Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson bringing the ball up the floor. The Jazz are lacking roster balance, and their contingency plan is Alec Burks.

DR: My love of the bad boy Pacers has always endeared me to Tinsley and Watson filled in well when Devin Harris was hurt last year. It could be worse for the Jazz.

One team with high hopes for the season is already bemoaning their star being out with injury. As I mentioned above, Kevin Love will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken hand resulting from the oh-so-cool-bro knuckle pushups. Luckily, the Timberwolves have reloaded their roster.

They brought in Brandon Roy, fresh from retirement, bad knees and all and added Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved from Russia. Nikola Pekovic also hails from Russia and is one of the better centers in the league. Despite the number of white guys on this team, the Timberwolves are primed to make the playoffs. Hell, their guard rotation alone is enough to get them there and they are stacked beyond that. Once Love returns they could be dangerous in the West.

It will be interesting to see how Derrick Williams fits into the rotation. He seems to be the odd man out this year despite being drafted so highly two years ago.

TH: With Love out until December, this Timberwolves squad is left without its two young stars in Love and Ricky Rubio. How the team fares without them will be a good litmus test to see how the rest of the rotation fits. But this is also a team that, like you mentioned, added Roy, who’s never been afraid to put his team on his back. These injuries will strengthen the Wolves, and I anticipate one of their wings picking up the scoring slack. There are many questions as to just exactly who will rise, but their depth chart, from 1 to 3 is loaded with talent. J.J. Barea is only one year removed from being an unstoppable blur for the Mavs, and he’s still buried behind Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Shved’s a monster, and should have a fairly easy transition to the NBA with Kirilenko beside him.

And all that is forgetting Chase Budinger, who will be able to fit in much the same way that Wilson Chandler has in Denver, slashing and providing decent outside shooting (believe it or not, he posted a 40% 3-point percentage last season) for the second unit. The whitest of white dudes in the NBA these days, Budinger is often overlooked, but his time spent with Rick Adelman in Houston will give him an early chance to prove himself. He’s dangerous when left in the corner, and when Love and Rubio return, it will be key for them to utilize their passing abilities and wing talent.

Injuries or not, this team is going to be fast and fun, with a healthy amount of competition amongst players vying for minutes. The coaching change should help us to see a bit more specialization of players, as well as championship experience.

Oh, and they got rid of Michael Beasley. Thumbs up on that one.

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A Conversation about the Western Conference Playoffs

Maybe next year, Ricky

Doyle Rader and Travis Huse discuss the basketball world, namely the Western Conference playoff picture (We can’t think of a creative name for these segments. Help us out.):

DR: I wrote briefly on the race to get into the playoffs and how cluttered it is yesterday with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be relevant today. It isn’t. In fact, it was smashed to pieces (not really). Right now, though, the West is stacked up from the sixth through tenth seeds and there will be a lot of position jockeying over the next week and a half to see who will actually make it into the postseason. Even the third through fifth seeds aren’t set in stone and the Spurs could win the Western Conference outright. It’s cray, essentially. Tonight the Rockets and Nuggets face off once again as both teams fight to keep their playoff chances alive. Last night Denver came out in the second half and ran rough shot all over Houston, getting out in transition for easy buckets. Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson were seemingly everywhere. It was an impressive win. If they can do it again tonight, Houston’s chances at making the playoffs will certainly begin to dwindle. How do you feel the West could pan out?

TH: I actually envision the conference standing pat from here until the playoffs, unless a team tanks for better positioning, like the Grizzlies did last year.  The Jazz have been playing fantastically as of late, but they’re still a game and a half behind Houston, and frankly, there’s no way that the Suns manage to squeeze in.  If there is any movement at all, I feel it’ll be upward movement from either the Mavs or the Spurs.  Dallas has been playing much better since the departure of Lamar Odom, which goes to show exactly how poisonous he was to that locker room; in fact, it seems as if the team has been brought together by kicking him out.  So there’s a distinct possibility they can overtake Memphis, in my mind.

In a typical year, San Antonio would be heavily resting their stars, so a few losses this week and next wouldn’t be surprising.  But with the increased workload Tiago Splitter‘s been able to handle, as well as the addition of Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan‘s been kept to 28.4 minutes a game.  Talk about cray.  Gregg Popovich is now in a situation where he might actually increase the minutes for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, to prepare for their roles in the playoffs.  For entertainment’s sake, I really, really, REALLY hope the postseason matchups stay as they are, though.  Clips-Grizz would be one of the most exciting, physical series of all time.  Blake Griffin can dunk over anyone, but if anyone can contain them, the Memphis bigs could.  Posters galore.  Lakers-Mavs would be a wonderful rematch of last year’s stomping, but a Bynum-Haywood matchup could be problematic for Dallas.  Spurs-Nuggets could be a highlight of the importance of depth, with each team being able to run 3 full squads at an opponent.  The 7-game format would be a dream for those interested in NBA coaching tactics, and George Karl against Pop is as close to the best as we can get in the first round.  The 8th seed is going to get reamed, though.  No question.

DR: Yeah, the fate of whoever lands in 8th has had their fate sealed. I hope Utah can sneak in there, though. The Jazz won their last meeting with the Thunder so that gives me the slightest bit of hope that if they make it to the playoffs they won’t be swept. Tyrone Corbin has done a fantastic job with Utah and should be rewarded with a playoff berth.

As for Memphis, doom and gloom is in the air as they head into the postseason. Marc Gasol hyper extended his left knee on Sunday and the entire city of Memphis is holding its collective breath. He will have an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. For the sake of Memphis, who I see as a “dark horse” (what a cliché term) in the playoffs, I hope he is going to be able to come back quickly.

TH: Derrick Favors! I still love that kid, but he needs a role with a different team, or they need to get a guard out of one of their bigs.  The Jazz will rocket right back into the playoffs in the next season or two, their front office is too smart.  Which team missing out on the playoffs this season do you think will make it next year?

DR: I honestly feel like it’s the Blazers. They have been a steady playoff team over recent years but they blew it up this year. They are rebuilding and if they can get one or two solid players around LaMarcus Aldridge I don’t see any reason why they should miss out on the playoff party next season.

Also, the Timberwolves are right there. When Ricky Rubio went down you could hear that team’s balloon burst. Everything changed. Their defense collapsed, their offense grew stale. Nothing was working right for them except for Kevin Love. He’s the man. If the NBA had an NIT, these two teams would be a lock for it.

TH: See, I’ve got two possibilities, and they hinge on one signing.  If Steve Nash stays in Phoenix, it will signify some roster moves to improve the team.  Therefore, they’ll be able to make the playoffs.  If they don’t, Nash is gone and they’ll be looking at a major rebuilding.  Which, to be fairly honest, might be the best thing long term for the Suns.  In this very-likely scenario, I like the idea of the Timberwolves next year.  That roster is filled to the brim with underrated talent, and Rick Adelman’s already done wonders.  It’s the funniest goddamned thing that David Kahn actually set up a pretty complete basketball team.  Imagine if we’d told ourselves in 2009 (or 2010, or 2011) that it could all fit together.

DR: Well, the Wolves still have their issues. Michael Beasley still has yet to find a defined role on the team and it looks as though he isn’t even going to get a qualifying offer from Minnesota, so he will be playing elsewhere next season, and Adelman just doesn’t seem to like Darko Milicic. What will be interesting to see is how much Nikola Pekovic can improve his game during the offseason and whether Martell Webster will get a haircut. Above all else, they need to stay healthy. Rubio, Love, Barea, Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Darko, and Pekovic all missed serious time this season. No matter how well the team is playing at any given point, injuries are a team’s death knell.

Maybe David Kahn is craftier than we all thought, or maybe he just got lucky. I’m going with the latter.

As for the Suns, BLOW IT UP.

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NBA Free Agency post “The Decision”

A not so long time ago, in an NBA galaxy close to home…

FREE AGENCY

Since the coup d’état and emergence of the Miami Thrice there have been a remarkable amount of moves, signings, and trades by teams. So many moves have occurred in fact that it is almost dizzying. Sure, the major names that have filled the 2010 Free Agency marquee banner for two years were quickly off the table but there are certainly a number of key players that are out there that will make a great addition to any franchise looking to improve. We, hear at the Beef have taken it upon ourselves to help keep you as up to date as possible with free agency. It is likely that within hours of this posting many more signings and trades will have occurred (the number of times this piece had to be updated while being written over a two day span is proof positive of that), making this piece slightly dated but, as always, keep apprised of all the movers and shakers in free agency with up to the minute information, or at least as soon as we are able to report it, by following the Kobe Beef on Twitter.

Miami Heat

When Miami attempted to buy itself a soul by acquiring both LeBron James and Chris Bosh they had just two players under contract with the team for the coming season. Those players were Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley. Since that time, the Heat have dealt Beasley, in what equates to a salary dump, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two second round draft picks in 2011 and 2014. Ouch, he was the second overall pick in 2008. Relieving themselves of Beasley’s services allowed the Heat to free up enough to award the Miami Thrice (will this catch on?) close to maximum contracts. Both James and Bosh will receive six-year, $110 million contracts while Wade receives $107.5 million over the same period of time. Each player also has an early termination option after the 2013-14 season.

So the Heat, at that point, had just four players under contract for the coming season. That is certainly grounds for championship speculation. Since then the organization has been in overdrive recruiting and signing free agents to bolster their roster. Mike Miller looked like a lock to join the Heat after meeting with Pat Riley and other organization officials on July 1, but now the Miami Herald is reporting that Miller may be backing out of the deal. Miami has a qualifying offer out on Joel Anthony which would pull the reins even tighter on the money that they could offer Miller. Nothing about Miller’s situation with the Heat is certain yet. At least that was the latest news as of early Wednesday afternoon. As of today, Mike Miller is in Miami and has signed a five-year contract with the Heat.

Udonis Haslem, after being pursued by the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets (who have had a knack to engage in bidding wars this summer), has decided to resign with the Heat. Haslem’s deal is worth just over $20 million over four years. The Heat are also close to a minimum level deal with Juwan Howard.

In yet another blow to the city and fans of Cleveland, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, for the second time this calendar year, is leaving. This time he is leaving on his own accord and not part of a multiplayer and multi-team deal to help entice a certain player to stay put. He is following James to Miami. Ilgauskas has played his entire career in Cleveland, he was traded to the Wizards but he never played a single game for them, let alone put on a Wizards’ jersey. The deal with the Heat is expected to be for two years with a player option for the second year. How many knives will Cleveland have to remove from their back when free agency is over?

Gordon Gekko…err, Pat Riley, has done an excellent job of using the Bud Foxes at his disposal as incentive for players to join the Heat. Ilgauskas’ close relationship with James was the deciding factor in his move to South Beach. Yet, the team still lacks a point guard. Miami lost out on its attempt to lure Derek Fisher away from the Lakers and the aura of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Certainly, the combo of Jackson and Bryant is Sir Lawrence Wildman to Riley’s Gekko.

New York Knicks

New Yorkers and Knickerbockers alike should not feel all too bad about missing out on the Miami Thrice (I’m going to make this stick). They successfully procured Amar’e Stoudemire. That is a very solid consolation prize. It is better than what the soon to be cross town rivals got. New York should be happy that they convinced any player to join their team since they employed Isiah Thomas to help them recruit free agents. Isiah Thomas! This is the man who gave monster contracts to “superstars” like Eddy Curry (who is going into the final year of his contract and will be paid $11.3 million) and Jared Jeffries. He almost singlehandedly drove the organization into the ground. Well, Knicks owner, James Dolan, helped too. However, the acquisition of Stoudemire was not a bad one but it meant that fan favorite and perennial double-double (this is a statistic that STAT cannot claim on a regular basis), David Lee, would no longer be a part of the Knicks’ future.

Lee was dealt to the Golden State Warriors (the AND1 Mix Tape Tour’s only NBA equivalent) via sign-and-trade where mad scientist, Don Nelson, will undoubtedly have an insane number of offensive schemes already planned with him in mind. In return the Knicks received Anthony Randolph, who was the main chip New York wanted in return, Ronny Turiaf, and Kelenna Azubuike. Randolph will make $1.96 million this coming season, Turiaf will make $4 million, and Azubuike, who is going into the final year of his contract, will make $3.3 million. Dorell Wright is also joining the Warriors. He became expendable when the Heat orchestrated a Gekko-esque takeover and cornered the market on top free agents. After that they needed to pay them and Wright would eat up more money that they needed for their new stars. Dwyane Wade is reported to have really like Wright as a teammate but money seems to have trumped friendship. Wright has agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million.

The Knicks lost Chris Duhon in free agency to the Orlando Magic so for a time they were without a starting point guard. In a Mike D’Antoni coached offense, this is the most important position. New York quickly found a solution to their vacancy in Raymond Felton. They had been after Felton since last season but the Bobcats were in no mood to trade him. Felton was originally in talks with the Knicks to sign a three-year deal with the Knicks but the two parties reached an agreement on a two-year contract worth nearly $15 million.

In addition to these players the Knicks also signed Timofey Mozgov, a 7’1” center from Russia. He is expected to sign a three-year contract worth $9 million but not all the money will be guaranteed. The Knicks are buying him out of his contract with his former team, Khimki Moscow, and are reportedly paying them $500,000. Some reports have said that he is the best prospect in Europe. We at the Beef have not read that, in fact we know nothing about him. Honestly, we thought all the Russians were in New Jersey.

The Knicks have also shown interest in resigning Earl Barron, who played the last seven games of the season with New York last season. Yet, nothing has been made official. Even after all these signings the Knicks will still have about $2-3 million in cap space. With the expiring contracts of Curry and Azubuike at the end of the season, the team looks poised and ready for free agency next summer when Carmelo Anthony becomes available if he chooses not to sign an extension with the Denver Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves

What the hell is general manager David Kahn doing? Does anybody know? In recent days it has been said that an avocado would do a better job than he would. As of right now (July 14, 2010 at 1:05 pm central standard time) the Timberwolves have just reached an agreement with point guard Luke Ridnour on a four-year $16 million deal. Minnesota now has four point guards; yes that is right, four. They have Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Ridnour, and Spaniard holdout, Ricky Rubio. If Kahn is trying to entice Rubio to leave the now perpetually drunk Spain, he sure is sending mixed signals. However, many see the signing of Ridnour as a possible prelude to the Wolves trading Sessions. Reports say that Minnesota has been in talks with Charlotte, who just lost Felton to the Knicks, about the possibility of a trade for Sessions. The Bobcats, however, have just extended an offer to free agent guard, Shaun Livingston, which likely means that all Sessions discussions are dead.

The acquisition of Ridnour comes just days after the Timberwolves traded away their best player, Al Jefferson, to the Utah Jazz. Minnesota, in return, gets two first round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos. Utah swooped in, seemingly at the last minute, to snag Jefferson as the Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks were in serious trade discussions. The Jazz had the advantage of having a trade exception, acquired when Carlos Boozer left for Chicago, and were willing to give up first round draft picks. Minnesota’s motive for moving Jefferson was based on his style of play, slow and post oriented, which they are trying to move away from. If there is any sense of style coming out of Minnesota it is a frenetic one, spearheaded by Kahn.

David Kaaahn!

Minnesota has finalized its contract with Darko Milicic making him one of the veterans on the team. Veterans, as a term, should be used lightly since Milicic has just seven years of NBA experience. The T-Wolves have also signed draft picks, Wesley Johnson and Lazar Hayward. Center Nikola Pekovic has also agreed to terms with the team. All of these moves, along with the addition of Beasley, have, as David Kahn hopes, bolstered the frontcourt and made the team sleeker and quicker on the court. Yet, it is still hard to discern what Kahn in actually doing other than trying to improve upon last year’s 15-67 record. His roster now has four centers, and a host of wing player. This is also now one of the youngest teams in the league and plays in a division where the four other teams won at least fifty games last season. Hell, Utah is a division rival and they just shipped their best player to them for virtually nothing other than “financial flexibility.” Kahn must be leaving his team’s fan base screaming his name in anger, much like Captain Kirk in Star Trek II, every time he makes any sort of move. Though they have become a player in free agency this summer none of their moves consolidate into a coherent plan, Kahn appears to be a madman, deranged by power, hunting his white whale. His whale, of course, is Ricky Rubio.

Chicago Bulls

Chicago has benefited from defectors from Utah. Both Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver have left the confines of the Great Salt Lake and head to the Windy City. No, neither of these players is named James, Bosh, or Wade but they are still major pickups for the Bulls. Korver should help the Bulls in their three-point shooting. As a team the Bulls shot 33 percent from downtown which ranked them 28th in the league. The Bulls are also looking to further strengthen their long-range shooting as they have signed J.J. Redick to a three-year, $20 million offer sheet. Redick is a restricted free agent so his current team, the Orlando Magic can match the Bulls offer and retain him. If history is any indication (matching the Mavericks offer to Marcin Gortat last summer) of their intentions, Orlando will likely match the offer. Yet, the Magic recently agreed to a deal with Quentin Richardson so maybe they are prepared to let Redick go.

Korver’s deal is worth an estimated $15 million over three years. Boozer agreed to a five-year deal worth roughly $75 million that became a sign-and-trade with Utah with the Bulls also receiving a future protected second-round draft pick. The trade exemption that the Jazz used to trade for Al Jefferson was part of the Boozer trade.

New head coach, Tom Thibodeau, should be very pleased with the work that general manager Gar Forman has done this offseason. Fans of the Bulls should also be quite pleased with the moves the team has made. They may have been slighted in their quest to land one of the Miami Thrice but they have found themselves in a formidable position heading into next season. The same cannot be said for all the teams who were in the rat race for the big three.

New Jersey Nets

Seriously, the Nets should change the name of their team to the New Jersey Nyets. Despite the fact that they were shot down by every major free agent this summer, they constantly thought themselves to be leading the pack to land each one. The team confidently suggested in the media that they had the upper hand in landing James. Why? What hallucinogen gave them this notion? It must be some pretty potent shit to make them have pipe dreams such as this. Everyone in the world seemed to know that James would not go to the Nets except for the Nets. This ordeal has seriously hurt the reputation of Jay-Z and his supposed ability to land James due to their friendship. Who listens to a minority owner anyway? Greatest rapper alive? Give me a break, Rakim is still alive. Mikhail Prokhorov said he had a hunch that James would not be coming to his team. What tipped him off? Everyone he talked to?

What have the Nets done then, other than move to the cesspool that is Newark? Well, they lost their general manager, Rod Thorn and replaced him with Billy King. Yawn. They have reached a contract agreement with Johan Petro worth $10 million over three years. He will back up Brook Lopez. The Nets need to lure a big free agent this summer to make up for their failures thus far and they may have found just the player. Two time NBA champion, former Lakers great, Jordan Farmar has agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the struggling franchise. Good job, Jay-Z. I doubted you earlier but you really came through with this one. It should prove to be a spectacular competition for starting point guard when training camp begins. Farmar stated that his desire to leave the Lakers was to be a starting point guard on a team. He has a good chance of doing just that in New Jersey. Oh, wait…Devin Harris still plays in New Jersey? Oh, I see. Is that common knowledge? Did anyone tell Farmar that? Sorry, Jordan, looks like you will simply be a backup on a bad team.

By far their biggest acquisitions are those of Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow. Outlaw agreed to a five-year, $35 million deal. New Jersey signed Morrow to an offer sheet worth $12 million over three years that the Golden State Warriors did not match. The teams eventually worked out a sign-and-trade where the Warriors receive the Nets’ second-round draft pick in 2011.

These moves, in the wake of not landing James, are…well, they are moves. Morrow and Outlaw have the potential to thrive alongside Harris and Lopez but it will all depend on how Avery Johnson chooses to utilize their talents on the court. As for right now, the Nets look to be at least three wins better than they were last season, maybe. At least in a few years the team will be in Brooklyn where they can overcharge hipsters for tickets and merchandise. Hipsters love ironic failures and chronic underachievers. Financially, the Nets will be winners then.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns have been one of the biggest movers in the Western Conference this summer. They had to be after losing Stoudemire to the Knicks. They recently welcomed back to the league, Josh Childress and his iconic Afro with a five-year contract. Phoenix acquired him via sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who still retained the rights to his contract. Atlanta will receive the Suns’ 2012 second-round draft pick.

Phoenix has also traded for scorned Raptor, Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones. Turkolgu thrives in offenses where he gets to control the ball so a pairing with Steve Nash seems a bit odd but any situation has to be better for Turkolgu than what he went through in Toronto.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas’ attempts to land players named Al have been thwarted at every attempt this summer. First they were in position to land Al Jefferson. Then, out of nowhere, the Jazz swooped in and nabbed him so that they could fill the void left by Boozer’s departure. Next the Mavericks set their sights on Al Harrington. Talks were advancing nicely but then the Denver Nuggets struck. They offered Harrington a longer and more valuable contract (five-year, $34 million) than the Mavericks were willing to offer him.

The Mavericks have made some moves this summer, though they are not earth shaking; they are moves to build on for the future. Dallas’ second priority this summer, after resigning Dirk Nowitzki, was signing Brendan Haywood. They did just that as the team and Haywood agreed on a six-year deal worth $55 million. The way Haywood’s contract is structured he will make $7-8 million a season, and as the Mavericks are prone to do, the last year of his contract is not fully guaranteed.

For the Mavericks, the elephant in the room was Erick Dampier’s nonguaranteed $13 million contract and their ability to use it in an attempt to lure a max free agent to Dallas to team up with Nowitzki. Dallas missed out on the marquee names but was able to move Dampier’s contract. Dampier, along with Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and cash were sent to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. It was not the blockbuster move that Mavs fans were hoping for and many are quite discontent at the moves their team has made this summer after being force-fed rumors and speculation about the possibility of landing a superstar. Honestly, this deal fits the Mavericks plan better than landing the likes of Jefferson who would have either been forced into a sixth man role or center. Neither of which would have been ideal for either party. Chandler gives the Mavericks and versatile shot blocker with the ability to run the floor. Running the floor is something that Chandler was accustomed to during his time with Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets and is something that he will get back to on the Mavericks with Jason Kidd and Rodrigue Beaubois. One thing is certain, the alley-oop dunk will return to prominence in Chandler’s offensive repertoire.

This deal also gives the Mavericks some financial breathing room as they have dumped Carroll’s bloated contract. It also gives the team added size and length in the frontcourt, something the team wanted so they could compete with the Lakers’ bigs. This deal came just in time too. It also acts as a counter to their in-state arch rival San Antonio Spurs’ addition of the great threat, Tiago Splitter. This nobody is making folks quake in their boots from the filthy, disease laden River Walk to the Alamo. Team front offices are whispering amongst themselves about the domination that Splitter could unleash on an unsuspecting league. Hold on, he is a South American seven footer? How many floppers do the Spurs need on their roster? The only threat he poses is to himself. It is a long way to the floor when flopping from seven feet up, concussions could become a problem.

Chandler is going into the last year of his contract which has led some to speculate that if a player became available during the season the Mavericks could use Chandler and Caron Butler, who is also entering the last year of his contract, as trade bait. However, the people who are the ones speculating this are the same ones who almost guaranteed Mavericks fans that they would land a superstar player this summer.

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz have acquired Raja Bell and thwarted Kobe Bryant’s attempts to get Bell to sign with the Lakers. Los Angeles had $1.8 million left of their mid-level exception to offer Bell while the Jazz offered him a three-year deal worth close to $10 million. (It is always about the money.) With the signing of Bell the Jazz chose to let Wesley Matthews sign with the Portland Trailblazers as they were unwilling to match the offer sheet that Matthews signed with the Blazers which was worth $32.7 million over five years.

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