Wednesday , Jul , 04 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Five NBA Moves to Make

I’ll be honest, free agency and the offseason makes my head hurt.

Keeping up with who’s going where and when and for how much, and all the rumors concerning those dealing is about as easy as counting ants in a blizzard with one eye closed while highly intoxicated. In order to alleviate my confusion (and yours if you have any), I’ll take a look at the teams that have a specific need that needs to be addressed. If I can do that, then it’s a little easier to get a grip on where the trading block residents or free agents might be going.

Five NBA Moves to Make

What follows is a list of five teams and some of the areas where they need to improve. I try to stay away from suggesting specific players to bring in; we all know what the available players can offer, I simply break down what a team needs, and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on who you think they should be bringing in. Drop a line in the comment box to dish some of your thoughts.

Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Anything and everything to help Kobe

Stick up the “Help Wanted” sign on the Staples Center, because the Lakers need it. All summer we’ve been subjected to the non-stop chatter about Kobe Bryant demanding to be traded, or demanding some trade to assist him in LA. Bottom line is this: whether or not Kobe wants to be traded has almost become irrelevant to the Lakers’ actual course of action – they won’t trade him, they can’t. Their options then are to try and make him happy, by whatever means necessary. The formula for this is, in essence, simple if you’re the Lakers’ management, do your job and make the team better. Now granted, that’s a killer case of easier said than done.

I thought the Garnett deal involving the Pacers and Celtics could have gone done, but it didn’t, and no deal involving KG being sent to LA will likely ever develop. And trying to bring in an All-Star level player to play next to Kobe Bryant isn’t exactly the most appealing job a GM can have. I personally still think the Lakers should be trying to work something out to bring in Shawn Marion. It may not be easy, but if you’re trying to make the biggest leap of improvement across the board with one player (and you’ve already failed to get KG), then Shawn Marion is about as good as you can get. I could go on forever about how highly I think of Shawn Marion, but suffice to say to say that he is one of the most well rounded and versatile players in basketball who is always doing something positive for his team when he’s out on the floor. The Lakers need help in multiple areas, not just offensive help for Kobe, and Marion provides in a boost in everything from defense, to offensive and defensive rebounding, fast break opportunities, perimeter shooting, and yes, just plain old sticking it in the bucket if you need that.

The Lakers are really two or three additional pieces away from being able to really come close to contending in the west, but just that right player to compliment Kobe could at least get them out of the first round. Whether it’s Marion or someone else, they need to find the right mix to place around Kobe, and do it fast.

New Jersey Nets
Needs: Low post presence

With Vince Carter paid and locked up for the next four years, the Nets have secured their trio in the backcourt. Unfortunately for them that leaves the biggest need on their team unaddressed. The Nets need a low post presence, someone who can provide a viable scoring option down on the block. Last season Carter, Richard Jefferson, and Jason Kidd accounted for an average of 54 of the Nets’ 98 points per game, with the highest average among big men (excluding Nenad Krstic who only played 26 games) being 9.8 a game from Mikki Moore. That’s not going to be good enough if the Nets want to get back to the form they had in their Finals years.

The Nets also get out rebounded far too often. Your point guard shouldn’t be your leading rebounder; that’s absurd. New Jersey needs someone who can pull down nine or ten boards consistently on a nightly basis, and put up some decent double digit scoring numbers. Nenad Krstic has shown flashes, but he hasn’t been healthy, and even so he may not have the toughness that they need. With VC, Kidd, and Jefferson hanging out on the perimeter the only place for anyone else to work is down low, that calls for a big man who stays primarily down around the basket, I don’t know if Krstic will fit that role effectively.

Drafting Sean Williams with the 17th pick in the draft helped in improving their interior defense, but Williams isn’t going to do much for them offensively, and pretty much only helps with some shot blocking. The Nets need to make a move (even if it means dealing one of the big three) to get a reliable scorer down low if they want to start pushing their way back up the conference ladder.

Portland Trailblazers
Needs: Point Guard

I had been telling people since the ping pong balls fell Portland’s way that the way to go was to draft Greg Oden and then trade Zach Randolph for a point guard or small forward. So when Oden went number one on draft night, and Zach Randolph was shipped to New York in exchange for Channing Frye and Steve Francis that same night, I wasn’t exactly surprised. Granted, I figured Portland, with Oden and Aldridge already in place, didn’t need Frye as another big (but he doesn’t
hurt) and Steve Francis wasn’t exactly the best point guard option available, but they were still proceeding about the same way I thought they would.

Now it’s apparent Steve Francis will have his contract bought out by the Blazers, leaving Portland’s point guard position in much the same state as it was pre-draft, with the exception of drafting Florida’s Taurean Green. Jarrett Jack has done a serviceable job in the lead guard spot, but I see him as being more of a backup to a veteran point guard. Oden is obviously going to be a scorer down low, and Brandon Roy has already proven himself as a reliable scorer on the perimeter, but you need a facilitator and someone to spread the ball around on that offense.

Zach Randolph was that piece to move for the Blazers, and they moved him. They’ve furthered solidified their front line, but they’ve just dealt their biggest trade piece and still don’t have the point guard they need. Green and Jack may get the job done, but if Portland wants to make sure Oden and Roy can push to the Blazers into the playoffs, they will need to grab an experienced point guard.

Seattle Supersonics
Needs: A true center

All those forwards were going to be a clog, we knew that, and apparently so did Rashard Lewis. Nonetheless, the Sonics are still heavy in the forward and guard department, with very little to speak of when it comes to true pivot men who can do damage on the interior. They had a great draft picking up two of the top five picks, but that still doesn’t address their lack of useful bulk or size in the middle. Notice the word ‘useful’. Yes, Johan Petro and Robert Swift are big, and technically true centers – but they suck.

Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are gone. Leaving the Sonics without their two leading scorers for the past five years, and a significantly different team then we were expecting them to have coming out of the draft. The prospects of Jeff Green and Kevin Durant are obviously high, but they’re still young players (absurdly talented young players, but still…) and they will be asked to carry the load for Seattle right out of the gates. The least the Sonics can do is give them some help by acquiring some talent at the position where they need it the most.

Durant and Green are studs offensively, and they will get their points, but they will also be double, and Durant, likely triple teamed if only because the offensive options beyond them are few for Seattle. Moreover, their respective games at this stage in their careers are primarily perimeter oriented, and I don’t expect them to be posting up the bigger forwards in the west. This means the Sonics’ offense could use a little balance. And hell, even if you’re counting on Durant scoring a chunk of the points himself (likely), at least get somebody who can effectively shutdown the lane on defense.

The Sonics have made some good moves for the future, but to help ease the transition through (and out of) the rebuilding stage, they could use some help in the middle.

Houston Rockets
Needs: Additional scoring

This isn’t complicated. The Rockets rely solely on Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming for their offense, and as much as some may be clinging to the idea of a great duo hoisting this team on their backs and carrying them to a ring, it just isn’t going to happen. McGrady and Yao need help offensively. The Rockets are a pretty solid defensive squad, with hard working role players, but beyond their top two they just don’t produce enough points. Luther Head and Shane Battier are effective shooters most of the time, but the Rockets could use another threat from three, and more than that they need another true scorer, not just another shooter.

Rashard Lewis would have been a perfect fit in Houston, a lights out shooter who is can score in bunches from just about anywhere on the floor. Unfortunately for the Rockets the word is Lewis will be heading for Orlando. This leaves the Rockets with few options. Houston will always be a good team because of their All-Star duo, but unless they add that one crucial extra scorer, or start getting more from their current cast, they’ll never be a great team.