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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Tyreke Evans arrested for reckless driving

California Highway Patrol released video that shows Tyreke Evans going 120-130 MPH.

He was arrested at gunpoint, pled guilty to reckless driving and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee writes that it’s time for the Kings to change their approach to the young star.

“It has to be a one-time thing,” an animated co-owner Joe Maloof said late Friday. “Believe me, Tyreke has been scolded by everyone. But we have to put this behind us; we have to move on.”

And how to do that? Change. Philosophically and pragmatically, the approach to the coaching, nurturing and packaging of Tyreke has to be revised.

No more sacred cows or separation. Evans isn’t Chris Webber, and he certainly isn’t Charles Barkley. He hasn’t earned superstar treatment yet. He isn’t even a winner yet. While he obliged with impressive individual stats during the 20-5-5 ticket campaign, the Kings slumped to 7-23 and dropped 11 of their final 12 games.

Yet almost from the moment Evans emerged as a major talent, the Kings altered the rules. They handed him the keys to the Mercedes. There was one set of guidelines for the prized rookie and another set for everyone else – a development that caused resentment in the locker room and is among the reasons Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni welcomed trades.

Evans’ personal trainer, for instance, enjoys unique access before and after games. A practice was canceled so Evans could fly to Las Vegas and meet President Barack Obama. Westphal routinely jumped Hawes, Donté Greene, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi and other young Kings for mistakes yet blatantly looked the other way when Evans’ game became linear – times he dominated the ball or ignored wide-open teammates.

And now, here comes 19-year-old DeMarcus Cousins, oozing ability, personality, and immaturity.

Someone has to become the adult. Like, soon. With players entering the league at an increasingly young age, there is a finite amount of time to influence careers; at some point, the kids stop listening.

Voisin is right to be outraged. Evans could have killed someone with his antics that day.

Kings hire Cousins’ high school coach

June 24, 2010 - New York, NEW YORK, USA - epa02221131 DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky after after being the fifth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2010 NBA Draft in the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, USA, on 24 June 2010.

Per NBA.com…

Hughley had coached at LeFlore High School in Mobile, Ala. for seven years (2004-2010), guiding the Rattlers to six straight regional appearances and a 6A state title in 2007. While at LeFlore, he coached current Kings center Demarcus Cousins. Before coaching at LeFlore, Hughley was an assistant coach at several universities, including Wright State, Liberty and Southern. Hughley’s experience also includes coaching for the league’s NBA China program and working over 10 years at Pete Newell’s “Big Man Camp.”

This a low downside move. The Kings are just trying to do everything they can to create an environment for DeMarcus Cousins to succeed. If that means bringing in his high school coach to mentor him, then so be it.

Cousins has the ability to be an All-NBA big man, so it’s worth the investment.

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.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

NBA Draft Lottery: Who wouldn’t pick John Wall #1?

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight, and as always, there is a lot riding on a few ping pong balls. Here is a list of the lottery teams (with their chances of winning the top pick in parenthesis) along with some discussion of their possible strategy if they do win the #1 pick.

ALMOST A SURE THING

Nets (25%)
The Wall-to-New Jersey/Brooklyn rumors have been strong all season, thanks to the Nets’ woeful record and Devin Harris’s struggles. Harris is now viewed as expendable, which means Wall would be a Net if the balls bounce their way tonight.

Wizards (10.3%)
Winning the right to draft Wall would allow the Wizards to cut ties with Gilbert Arenas and the franchise’s gun-toting past. It might also convince a free agent or two to sign for the chance to play with Wall.

76ers (5.3%)
Jrue Holiday is nice, but he’s not going to dissuade the Sixers from drafting a franchise-savior like Wall.

Pistons (5.2%)
See 76ers above but substitute “Rodney Stuckey” for “Jrue Holiday.” That is all.

Pacers (1.1%)
Indiana arguably needs a point guard more than any other team in the lottery, but with just a 1.1% chance of winning, they’re hoping against hope.

Grizzlies (0.7%)
Memphis would be buzzing with the arrival of Wall, who would seemingly be a great fit with O.J. Mayo, a re-signed Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Memphis would likely make the playoffs next season.

Raptors (0.6%)
The chances are very slim, but winning the right to draft Wall would offset the likely loss of Chris Bosh this summer. Neither Jarrett Jack nor Jose Calderon would be enough to convince the Raptors to draft Evan Turner.

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