Since we’re two days away from Christmas, I decided to hand out a gift to each and every NBA team. And just this morning, Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com did the same for NFL teams (That was a pleasant surprise when I got up… Good piece though. You guys should read it). The gift could be some common sense, a trade, some advice, or really whatever! When you’re reading, think about a problem with that team. Then decide what you could give them to help them with it.
I’m gonna go in alphabetical order…
Atlanta Hawks: Rebounding
The Hawks are only grabbing 47% of possible rebounds so far this season. Not great! It really seems like they miss DeMarre Carroll in the way we didn’t expect them too. While Carroll only averaged 5.3 rebounds a game with the Hawks last year, he’s doing the same for the Raptors. With Tiago Splitter coming back, I believe it will get better.
Boston Celtics: Boogie!
I think this is the perfect trade for Boston and DeMarcus Cousins himself. First of all, the Celtics have been struggling, hanging at 10th in the Eastern Conference as of today. They’ve battled injuries to their bigs, with Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger constantly out of the lineup. This has been a very fun team to watch though, but there’s been a missing element.
A consistent big is what Boston needs. A guy who can rebound, and make up for the ones the small guards can’t get. Boogie is the answer. The Celtics have plenty of assets to make a deal, including the three incoming Brooklyn picks. However, this is the Sacramento Kings we’re talking about. Are we sure they’re not dumb enough to make a deal that doesn’t include one of those picks? If so, here’s what it’d look like.
Celtics’ fans don’t like Avery Bradley anyways (have never figured out why). Evan Turner is a scrub that Boston would force Sacramento to take, James Young is a young project guy, and Tyler Zeller is a good bench guy. So, are the Kings dumb enough to do it? God, I’d hope not. But the Celtics are smart enough to make the right move. That, I know.
Brooklyn Nets: A Joe Johnson Buyout
The person who doesn’t need this to happen is Joe Johnson himself, because I’m not sure how many teams would sign him (New Orleans? Chicago? Cleveland?). Anyways, with the way the Nets spend money, I’m sure they’d love to cut him a $24.8 million check to send him out ASAP.
Charlotte Hornets: More TV time!
I’ll be honest: I haven’t watched much of the Hornets this year. They’re never on TV. Anyways, what I do know: Jeremy Lin’s hair is incredible, Marvin Williams can’t shoot threes, but is shooting 50% inside the arc and man, who would have thought? Who would have thought this team would be this good? Granted, they’ve slid lately, and are now out of the playoffs. I haven’t totally understood the Kemba Walker trade rumors, besides the fact that they’ve struggled with ball movement and assists. Anyways, show the Hornets more, NBATV!
Chicago Bulls: An unloading of Derrick Rose
Its time. We’ve been preparing for this conversation and now its happening. And its so unfortunate. I really don’t think we’re gonna see the Derrick Rose we hoped to see ever again. There has been flashes, but its over for him. Its the same situation Kobe Bryant’s in (more on that later): Whenever he does stuff, we’re gonna here about it, because it truly is a big deal now. The injuries have been too much, including the recent and odd orbital bone fracture. You watch him out there… The explosiveness, the driving to the rim. It’s not there. And it sucks. It really does.
More on driving to the rim… Per the SportVU player tracking information on NBA.com, he’s shooting 42.1% on drives to the rim this season. Think of a drive as a layup. Players should be shooting 70% on layups. I really think he’s too scared to finish.
So, will anyone be desperate enough to trade for him? The Pelicans are desperate for guards, as they’ve dealt with an insane injury season thats already dropped from the playoff race (more on that later). Why not take a flyer on him?
As for the Bulls, they’d be fine. First, they’re 7th in the East (this recent slide has been ugly) even with him playing this way. Trading him wouldn’t affect the offense; Aaron Brooks has been mighty fine running the new fast-paced offense, and even though he’s not making much of an impact stats wise, he’s not worse than Rose. Trading Rose doesn’t only hand the offense off to a more-qualified guard in Brooks, but eliminates Rose’s contract from the Bulls, in which he is owed $41.4 million from it still. This would be a move I can guarantee Bulls fans would be happy with.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Healthy players
Cleveland is finally getting healthy, with Kyrie Irving recently returning and Iman Shumpert slowing easing back in. Surprisingly, the guard combinations of JR Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, Mo Williams, and even splashes of Jared Cunningham and Joe Harris have played well enough to keep the Cavaliers in front of the East, but we can’t praise them too much. It helps when you have LeBron James on your team. The Cavaliers’ assist numbers have been the same thus far. You’d think Kyrie Irving coming back would only help that. Cleveland staying healthy isn’t only good for them come playoff time, and them staying in front of the East, but is good for the fans, and makes Cleveland even more fun to watch.
Dallas Mavericks: More TV time from me
Another team that’s shockingly good and hasn’t got the credit from me or anyone else. The Mavericks have been on TV quite a bit, I’ve just never accepted till now that this team is truly good. But don’t ask me how they’ve been good, because I haven’t watched enough of them to tell you. But from what I have watched, I have no idea. This team has Raymond Felton playing backup point guard and can’t score. I guess this is just proof how fantastic Rick Carlisle is.
Denver Nuggets: Health and Nikola Jokic playing time
Denver has been so banged up this season, and yet, they’re somehow 9th in the Western Conference with a crappy roster and three of their best players constantly in and out of the lineup. I’ve loved watching Emmanuel Muiday this year. There’s nothing fancy (stats wise) to him. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, commanding the game, making passes. The shooting definitely needs work, though Denver’s team itself needs shooting work (they rank near the bottom of the league in eFG%). Also, can we get Nikola Jokic some more playing time? He’s been awesome this year.
Detroit Pistons: Shooting
There’s a lot going right for the Pistons this season. Andre Drummond is averaging 18 points and 16 rebounds (Yes, that leads the league) a game. I own him in fantasy basketball and has put up 60 points in one game twice this season. UM, insane. Reggie Jackson is playing well, surprisingly. Props to him for getting his 3P% up to 35%! The supporting cast for Drummond and Jackson hasn’t been great this season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started out rough, but has steadily improved his offense throughout this year. Still, he’s only shooting 41% on the year, but it’s not like he’s alone. Detroit is near the bottom of the league in shooting overall this season. Could this be a possible Kevin Martin landing spot? More on that later.
Golden State Warriors: Losses (Seriously)
What could this team possibly need? I’m lost…
After thinking about this for awhile, I figured out what this team needs: Losses.
Look, the start was incredible. It’s been covered and covered. They broke the record for the best start in NBA history, but by an insane nine games. Its history. We’ve never seen anything like it before. Its the best basketball I’ve seen since I’ve been alive (and yes, that tops those mid-2000 Suns). I’ve been told to respect what I’m watching and I’ve told others that too. There isn’t much else to it.
I think the Warriors need to lose more if they want to break the 1995-1996 Bulls 72-10 record. Why? Well, we’re already at one loss. That’s good. They needed it. It came on a back-to-back, where they went to double overtime with Boston the night before. There it was: 24 AND 1.
If Golden State started something crazy like 50-0, then there’s a good chance that in those final 32 games, they would have dropped games like flies, from fatigue and various other things. It could have gotten ugly.
That’s why gradual losses are better. Win a bunch in a row, lose one, win another bunch in a row.
The record is definitely in play. I downplayed earlier in the year, but slowly realized that what we were watching was not like anything before. Lets put it this way: Golden State, through 27 games last season, was 23-4. So, the Warriors are three wins ahead of last year. Now, lets put it this way: Golden State won 67 games last year. Are they five wins better than last year, being already three wins ahead? Yeah, hard not to argue with that.
Houston Rockets: Like, everything
I thought firing Kevin McHale was the right move, or at least the first thing to try. Many disagreed, and thought that the Rockets quit on him. Its safe to say it hasn’t done much. The Rockets are now 7th in the West, so I guess they’ve improved. But now: Dwight Howard’s unhappy and there’s no trade market for Ty Lawson (Wait, why is this surprising?).
The Dwight thing makes sense and is odd at the same time. Of course he’s gonna be unhappy. Why would anyone want to be a 2nd fiddle on a team? The Thunder have it figured out with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Those guys compliment each other tremendously. The problem is: James Harden is so much better than Howard, and Howard can’t do anything about it because he’s wearing down. Watching Houston this year, its clear Howard’s taken a step back. Really, its just a matter of Howard not realizing whats happening to himself. Kobe Bryant’s going through the same thing (though there’s clearly different circumstances).
They will be takers on Howard, if this is the direction the Rockets go. Boston and Miami have been rumored to be interested. Both teams have plenty of assets to do a deal. But chances are, Houston keeps this together, and hopes it steadily improves. Its not like the back of the Western Conference is loaded the season, unlike other times in the past.
Indiana Pacers: More Glenn Robinson lll playing time
I like Glenn Robinson lll, and I think he deserves more playing time. But the biggest story of this team isn’t something they don’t have.
The year before he broke his leg, I thought Paul George was the 3rd best player in the league. This was before the massive ascension of Anthony Davis, or before Stephen Curry was as big of a star as he is now. Paul George was 3rd on my MVP ballot that year.
The MVP is already locked up, but George has been outstanding this season. Averaging 25.5 points per game and calculating to a 22.7 PER, he’s gotten this team to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have shot well this season, ranking closer to the top rather than the bottom in eFG%.
I think we underrated this team a bit, but Paul George’s true comeback is whats fueling this season.
LA Clippers: A starting SF who’s good in crunch-time
I believe the Clippers have started Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, Luc Mbah a Moute, and even Lance Stephenson at small forward this year. So yeah, there’s an issue here. Neither have really worked. Paul Pierce is getting too old for this (Love you Truth), and couldn’t handle the minutes load of starting. Wesley Johnson has been below average per PER, and hasn’t been able to shoot threes this season. Lance Stephenson, well, we know the pros and cons with that.
After watching Monday’s Thunder-Clippers game, its pretty clear that there’s no answer on the roster for the 3-spot. Luc Mbah a Moute is an interesting skill set, but is simply too big to play at small forward, especially in today’s NBA. He just never made an impact Monday, and the Clippers need an impact guy.
I don’t know where the answer is. Kevin Martin is kinda interesting, but the Clippers lack assets. I thought I had an answer to the problem, but while on the Trade Machine, I realized DeAndre Jordan has a no-trade clause in his contract (why exactly?). Hint hint at what I was getting at: These guys wanted to play with each other this year, and met multiple times about it over the Summer.
LA Lakers: A “Kobe Bryant retires, effective immediately” statement
I’m sorry Kobe for being mean to you in the line above. Its for your own good.
Look, I’ve hated Kobe Bryant for as long as I can remember. Not because I wanted him on my team, or because he’s sometimes a jerk. Because of how many times he made me cry growing up, beating my Suns every-other year in the playoffs (I say every-other year because the year in between we were beat by the Spurs). I hated him because he was so good against my team.
And watching him now, a top eight player of all-time, sucks. It probably makes Lakers’ fans want to cry. And I don’t blame them.
Memphis Grizzlies: A whole new offense
The Grizzlies are 6th in the West, which is fine. But its been a pretty lucky 16-14 so far.
There have been warning signs of this forever, but the offense that Memphis plays just doesn’t work anymore. With where the league is going, small-ball and such, Memphis thought “No one will be able to stop us with this.” The two big men, the defense-based system, the not-so-great shooting. Memphis missed a simple, super simple, concept that the rest of the league is finally becoming aware of the importance.
That concept is 3 is greater than 2.
Memphis doesn’t shoot threes. They’re 29th in the league in 3P%, collectively as a team this season. Memphis doesn’t take enough threes as a team, and when they do, the guys who shoot them can’t make them. For all the guys who have taken enough threes to even qualify as a three-point shooter, none of them are shooting above 34% from deep.
Its now become “We can’t score enough to beat teams.” rather than “No one can stop us.” Times change pretty fast, aye?
Miami Heat: An increase in pace for poor Goran Dragic
As a Suns’ fan, I do want to see Goran Dragic succeed even though he left us out of the blew and without warning. Miami’s played very well so far. They’re fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing them in-person earlier this season. But the slow pace is killing Dragic (they’re 28th in the league in pace). He’s an up-tempo guard. That’s all he played in Phoenix. Fast. Flying up and down the court. Guys moving more. The slow pace has affected his shooting, as he’s down almost eight percentage points from last season in eFG%. Miami’s doing fine, and they have a good guard rotation, but this is something they need to figure out.
Milwaukee Bucks: Shooting
Milwaukee’s shooting stats aren’t terrible, but its a combination of bad shooting and too many players that bring their Offensive Efficiency Rating down to 99.7, closer to the bottom of the league. Having a point guard who can’t shoot doesn’t help, in Michael Carter-Williams. He hasn’t exactly been lighting it up (I still can’t believe they swapped Brandon Knight (Thanks Milwaukee! Seriously!) for MCW. Nutty) with the Bucks. Milwaukee has a lot of talent, but most of it is still very raw. Perhaps we overrated this team, and the strengthening East hasn’t helped.
Minnesota Timberwolves: An unloading of Kevin Martin
As I said earlier, it seems like Kevin Martin is one of the top three trade rumor-guys in the league right now. There’s no room for him in Minnesota. It doesn’t help that he’s only shooting 37% on field goals. He’s struggled much, but changes of scenery help. A bigger role in a new place could swing this season for Martin.
New Orleans Pelicans: Healthy players
New Orleans’ second playoff run and Anthony Davis’ MVP season went down the drain fast. The Pelicans were down so many players early in the season, and since, they’ve never been able to recover. Sitting 14th in the West, the Pelicans have no competent guards due to injuries. Alonzo Gee is starting at small forward and is averaging barely four points a game. Its not pretty, and with the West the way it is, its probably smart of New Orleans to throw this season away. They could salvage it, by making some sort of big time trade (Derrick Rose?).
New York Knicks: A new coach for what is actually a good roster
This Knicks roster has been very fun, though they aren’t currently in the playoff race and shouldn’t expect to be. Kristaps Porzingis (Or Porzingod as me and some other Twitter people refer to him as), has been a phenom, and incredible to watch. I’m still figuring out who and what he is. The Dirk Nowitzki comparisons are fair, but Porzingis seems to have a different effect, especially on opposing defenders.
The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors will continue to fly, and they still make sense if they’re true. Melo could be finding himself in Dwight Howard’s situation, not wanting to play 2nd fiddle (in this case to Porzingis). The difference with Melo: Melo is still good enough to be a 1st fiddle for someone. He wants to be that, and we’ve known coming into the season that there was a chance he wouldn’t be.
The biggest problem with the Knicks is Derek Fisher’s continuing failures as head coach. It sucks watching this roster being coached by someone who has no idea what they’re doing. But they won’t fire him because they’re doing fine this season, and Fisher and GM Phil Jackson are too tight. It sucks, but hey, Knicks fans, you’ve got a team that’s better than you expected and have a young phenom who’s taken the league by storm. I think you’re okay.
Oklahoma City Thunder: This type of Kevin Durant all year
I was skeptical of how Kevin Durant would return this season. After rushing back last year, and re-injuring it, I was too worried that we’d have the same issue. Not at all.
KD started out a little rough, and missed some games early on, but in the past month, he’s finally turned it on. In December, KD has averaged close to 25 points a game, and is shooting 51% on field goals. Eight rebounds and five assists go along with that.
But its more than stats. Again going back to Monday’s Thunder-Clippers game, KD just looked like he did in his MVP year. The tandem of him and Russell Westbrook looks just as good as it did two years ago. And when those guys are playing like this, it makes Oklahoma City an immediate threat. As if they weren’t are already…
Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja playing time
OK, its gotten better as of late. Mario Hezonja on the season has only been averaging 12 minutes a game, which isn’t good for the Croatian JR Smith. Hezonja’s had a good shooting season, putting up 55% eFG. He’s a spark off the bench for a deep team.
But prior to his playing time boost, I floated the Clippers possibly reaching out to the Magic on his availability. At the time, Hezonja wasn’t playing at all. Scott Skiles seemed to hate him. It almost looked like a wasted draft pick.
Orlando is on the playoff cusp, surprising for such a young and raw team. But they do have talent. They’ll hang around, but a sudden downfall wouldn’t shock me.
Philadelphia Sixers: Definitely not Jerry Colangelo
The 76ers really suck and no one is surprised. But this is part of what’s supposed to be happen, right?
It really seems like the NBA got tired of the 76ers “process”, ran by Sam Hinkie. So they hired Jerry Colangelo to fix it.
But there’s two problems: 1) The Process has been in effect for awhile now and might be almost complete. The Sixers have a lot of assets. Some have worked out and some haven’t. But they’re gonna be better (right?), unless Hinkie tells them no, I guess. If the NBA was gonna put Colangelo in this spot, they should have done it years ago. 2) Are we Colangelo is gonna do stuff that makes an impact? I don’t know what his new title exactly is, but if he is taking Hinkie’s role as PBO, then Hinkie should just be let go. There’s no point in having around anymore. Colangelo and Hinkie’s management habits are completely different. You have to imagine they’ll be butting heads.
The hire made no sense to me, but its clear the league’s footprints are all over it.
Phoenix Suns: Consistency
Hey, do you guys, like, wanna figure out whether A) You’re good or B) Want to be good ? That would be nice. Thanks.
The chemistry issues have plagued Phoenix ever since breaking up the backcourt last year. Its clear that the squad that featured Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic that barely missed the playoffs was the best one they’ve had since Steve Nash left. The Suns have a lot possible lineups to play, due to their versatile guards and bigs. Its not like the back of the West is loaded, and the Suns sit in 9th as of today. They’re still in it, but the chemistry has to improve. Phoenix has been the team where you have to watch them to figure whats going on, not just look at stats and such (like some people do). There’s always a human element to the game, and that element isn’t going in the Suns favor.
Portland Trail Blazers: Some consistence at power forward
Portland started really well, had a rough stretch in the past two weeks, and now find themselves 13th in the West after being in the playoffs for the first quarter of the season.
Power forward is a spot for them where it seems like they should be fine. They traded for Noah Vonleh during the Draft, and already had Meyers Leonard to help replace LaMarcus Aldridge. Well, Vonleh, even though he’s still young and developing, has had a subpar year, and Meyers Leonard has been hurt and is struggling to find his shot. Portland has plenty of big-man depth, but its a problem when no one is playing that well at the 4. Its probably be something they’ll deal with, since this year wasn’t supposed to be much of a success anyways.
Sacramento Kings: A higher shooting% for DeMarcus Cousins
The Kings are hitting my expectations this season. They’re not great and not bad. There’s been a lot of rumors and bad storylines (as usual) out of Sacramento this season. But on the court, there’s been one issue that’s not being talked about.
Boogie is shooting 42% this season. He plays center. The majority of his shots are within five feet of the basket. He’s shooting 55% on those.
You be shooting 60-70% on layups and shots that close to the bucket. That’s not great!
We know Boogie also has a mid-range game. On those mid-rangers (between 15-24 feet), he’s only shooting 31%. Again, not great!
Boogie’s presence is definitely more defensive, and he’s known for grabbing rebounds. He was an offensively better DeAndre Jordan, but this season, so far, and unfortunately, he’s becoming more like DJ rather than not.
San Antonio Spurs: More attention from the media
The Warriors’ start was incredible. We all know that. I covered it above.
But the most underrated story of the year is that Spurs are only three games behind them. These Spurs have put together one of the best starts ever. The problem is that Warriors put together the best one.
San Antonio has limited issues, and they’re not even worth covering because you know they’re gonna figure it out.
Toronto Raptors: More attention from me and other teams
We’re underrating Toronto too. They’re only 2.5 games behind Cleveland for the No.1 seed.
Everything has gone right for Toronto (injuries haven’t brought them down), and it starts with a healthy and not-fat Kyle Lowry. The guy’s in shape, and when he’s in shape, he does stuff. Good stuff. And man, its fun to watch.
Toronto needs to stay heathy, though they do have very good depth, especially in the front-court.
Utah Jazz: Consistency
Utah is sitting at No.8 in the West right now. That’s about where they belong.
Look, this is a talented team. We knew they were going to improve this season, and would make a playoff push. Every time I watch them, I marvel at their length and size. They’re a more developed Milwaukee.
But the inconsistency is still there, because they’re still young and still have a couple raw guys. The guard play has been subpar, which was expected after Dante Exum got hurt.
The Jazz are doing enough, and while not everything is great, they’re in the playoffs. And its not like there’s anyone too daunting behind, as least yet.
Washington Wizards: Health
The Wizards have slid father than any of us expected. Injuries to Bradley Beal and Nene have killed them, and an increase pace hasn’t adjusted well.
Washington seems like the team that is trying to copy Golden State when A) They don’t have the guys to and B) They can’t play fast. Randy Wittman instituted the new offense this past Summer, and its pretty obvious that they panicked about where the league was headed, and decided to change the way they played due to it. Washington made the scheme move one year too early, and they’re paying the price now.
Standings are current as of today. Stats are current as of Monday. Merry Christmas!