2010 NBA Preview: #21 to #25

Mar. 27, 2010 - Chicago, ILLINOIS, United States - epa02095912 New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez (R) looks to make a pass in front of Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (L), during the third quarter of their NBA basketball game at the United Center in Chicago Illinois, USA, 27 March 2010. The Bulls defeated the Nets 106:83.

This year, I’m going to preview the NBA season by starting with the lowest of the low and working my way up to my Finals picks. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff also-ran, I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason.

Click here to see #26 to #30.

#25: New Jersey Nets
The Nets only won 12 games last season, but there are reasons to be optimistic about this team. Brook Lopez is developing into an All-Star caliber center and Terrence Williams played well in the last two months of his rookie season. Devin Harris is still a dangerous guard, and he’ll be reunited with his former coach, Avery Johnson. Throw in a good power forward (Troy Murphy) to mentor the #3 overall pick (Derrick Favors) and there are some pieces in place in New Jersey. Of course, Nets fans want to see the franchise swing a deal for Carmelo Anthony, but that plan looks to be on hold (or dead?) for now. He’d be a great fit at small forward, though after missing out on LeBron, the Nets did fork out $35 million at the position by signing Travis Outlaw this summer. That contract could come back to bite them, but for now the team has plenty of financial flexibility and a projected payroll of only $38 million heading into next season. The Nets would rather trade and extend Melo this season because they know the risk inherent anytime a player hits free agency.

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Sixers really, really high on Jrue Holiday

March 30, 2010: Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday (11) going up for the shot attempt during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Thunder beat the 76ers, 111-93.

I can see being optimistic about a 20-year-old point guard who averaged 13-4-6 and shot 50% from the field and 46% from 3PT in 17 games in March, but new head coach Doug Collins might be going a little overboard here…

“I honestly believe that next year, you’re going to be talking about him being one of the top five point guards in the NBA. I think you’re going to speak about him in the same breath as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Jrue.”

Good grief, Doug. Whatever happened to keeping your players hungry for praise?

For what it’s worth, Andre Iguodala supported Collins’ praise…

At Monday’s media day, Andre Iguodala admitted that he raved about Holiday, not even four months past his 20th birthday, to Collins and Sixers owner Ed Snider back in June. And he’s still doing it today.

“I said he’ll be one of the top point guards in the league,” Iguodala said. “In his prime, he’ll be a top five point guard and he might go down as one of the greatest point guards, defensively. He’s got kind of a Gary Payton presence, where he can pressure a guy full-court.”

Keep in mind that Iggy said “in his prime” that Holiday would be a top five point guard. That’s more reasonable than Collins’ assertion that it’s going to happen this season.

Either way, fantasy owners should take note — the Sixers are really high on this kid.

76ers ship Dalembert to Sacramento

Per ESPN…

The Philadelphia 76ers have agreed to swap Samuel Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes, two league sources told ESPN.com.

…the real ramifications may come during the draft. The Sixers have been deciding between Evan Turner and Derrick Favors with the No. 2 pick. While Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski is a Turner fan, new coach Doug Collins is high on Favors. With Dalembert gone and Nocioni in, it could push them in the direction of Favors.

For the Kings, this could also change their draft equation. The team has been looking at drafting DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe, both centers. With this deal, it could allow them to address another need at the three. The Kings have been high on both Al-Farouq Aminu and Gordon Hayward.

This could alter the draft plans of these two teams, but it shouldn’t. The players involved in the trade — Dalembert, Nocioni, Hawes — are all fringe starters at best, so teams shouldn’t be making draft plans around their arrivals or departures. For example, now that Dalembert is no longer in Philly, it’s not a reason to draft Derrick Favors over Evan Turner. If the Sixers want to go with Favors, they should be because they think he’ll ultimately be the best player in the long run, not because they now have a hole to fill.

The same goes for the Kings. Dalembert is a so-so center in the final year of his contract. Sacramento shouldn’t pass on DeMarcus Cousins because they now have Dalembert on the roster. That wouldn’t make any sense since Dalembert is not an impact player and may not even be around to start the 2011-12 season.

This move will give the Kings an additional $10.7 M in cap space next summer, or approximately $36 million total (minus the salary of their 2010 draft pick). So the Kings will be players again in 2011 free agency assuming they don’t spend all of their cap space over the next month.


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John Hollinger’s Draft Rater is back

Last year, John Hollinger’s Draft Rater really liked Ty Lawson and Tyreke Evans, and that turned out well. The year before, it liked Michael Beasley over Derrick Rose, who wasn’t even listed as the top point guard in the draft. It also liked Kevin Love (score) and thought Anthony Randolph was way overrated (fail).

In the past, Hollinger’s system has been pretty accurate, all things considered.

The Draft Rater has yet to miss a lottery pick who became an All-Star in its top 12 collegians list — although that string may end in another year or two thanks to a miserable 2008 performance (Russell Westbrook and Brook Lopez both were overlooked that year). And if it’s blown a couple of picks, look at the actual draft and you’ll find even more mistakes by the pro teams themselves.

On the other hand, the Draft Rater has picked out five All-Stars that the pros missed among the first 12 collegians — Carlos Boozer, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger, Josh Howard, and David West. No misses, five additions. I like that ratio.

It’s a good read, but to sum up, the Rater thinks DeMarcus Cousins is the top player in the draft, with Evan Turner and John Wall reasonably close behind. Questions about Cousins’ coachability will likely hinder his draft stock, but I think he’s going to be a great player. You don’t rebound like he does and not love the game. He just needs to get into a good, stable situation with a solid coach and grow up a little bit.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how he progresses through the draft process. Do we hear stories about how he’s texting his friends during interviews with NBA teams? Does he dog it in certain workouts? If he acts like a pro over the next month, it could mean he’s picked #2 or #3 instead of #5 or #6.

The Rater also predicts some duds; Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson, Ekpe Udoh, Ed Davis and Hassan Whiteside are the big names on that list.


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Sixers hire Doug Collins

After years — literally years — of flirting with a return to the NBA, Doug Collins is reportedly set to become the 76ers next head coach. Per Philly.com…

The 76ers have agreed to terms with Doug Collins, ending their search for a new head coach, an NBA source said Thursday night.

An announcement is expected Friday. Collins could be formally introduced by the team as early as Monday.

Another source confirmed that the two parties had agreed to a four-year deal, although the contract’s exact value was not known.

Collins sure gets a lot of attention every offseason given his coaching record:

Collins, currently working as an analyst with TNT, previously coached the Chicago Bulls (1986-89), Detroit Pistons (1995-98), and Washington Wizards (2001-03). His career coaching record is 332-287.

He has had winning seasons in four of eight seasons, and coached two teams to 50+ wins. He has never coached in the NBA Finals.

His teams did show improvement in Chicago and Detroit. He has stayed relevant by becoming one of TNT’s top color commentators.

Stephen A. Smith thinks that the signing is a coup for the franchise:

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