Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to Fix the Lottery Teams

Pretty much year after year in the NBA we find the same teams mired in the mediocrity that is the NBA Draft Lottery. Atlanta, Memphis, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Portland, the L.A. Clippers, and Denver are among the teams that can be found annually hoping the ping-pong balls resurrect their franchises. So this year, I'm here to analyze the problems facing the fourteen teams that currently are lined up to be a part of the NBA Draft Lottery, Miami, Minnesota, Memphis, Seattle, New York, the Clippers, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, Atlanta (pick owned by PHX), Sacramento, Portland, and Denver, and suggest methods for those teams to rectify their situations. Note that this will not be a mock draft (that's for a later date when the draft order is solidified), but just an outline of some of the moves and philosophies the teams need to have to rebuild. Some scenarios are very brief and simple, while others are so daunting as to nearing impossibility (that's you Isaiah). Starting from the bottom of the lottery, here we go.

Denver Nuggets:

Starting 5:
PG: Anthony Carter
SG: Allen Iverson
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kenyon Martin
C: Marcus Camby

Worst Contract: Kenyon Martin - $13.25 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Remember a few years ago, when the Nuggets pulled off the sign-and-trade for Martin and everyone thought they were headed for the top? Well, now it seems like that's the move that is preventing them from making it to the top. They have two power forwards (Martin and Nene) who are both overpaid, have crappy knees which have had dreadful surgeries performed on them, and who the Nugs would love to dump off on someone. Honestly, if you're the Nuggets last summer, and you know Martin is under contract long-term, you know that the center position is locked up by the excellent Camby, what inspires you to sign Nene to such a terrible contract? Well enough griping on how the Nuggets have shot themselves in the foot, I'll offer some solutions. First off, there isn't a playoff team alive that really would depend on the play of a guy like Anthony Carter. Naturally, that's the first position the team needs to address. Problem is they're way over the cap, and there aren't great point guards available right out of college, especially around the bottom of the lottery, where the Nuggets will be picking this summer. So what can be done to rectify the Nuggets's situation? Well the first thing that strikes me is that Martin needs to be given a kick in the pants - he's making over $13 million per for the next three seasons following this one, and is averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds per game. How about a benching? Is it just me or is Martin the kind of guy who is enough of an athletic superfreak that he would be great in a role similar to David Lee's? He just runs and dunks, and has for pretty much his entire career, and given that he's 30, that isn't going to change. Inserting the emerging Linas Kleiza into the lineup instead of Martin, and having Martin come off the bench would not only maintain a solid starting 5 with Carter, Iverson, Carmelo, Kleiza, and Camby, but also give the Nuggets a great sixth and seventh man combo in Martin and J.R. Smith. Smith could spell Carter, with Iverson moving the point (given his new ability to pass), and Martin comes in for Kleiza to provide some instant energy after the opposing starting 5 has started to tire a little. Obviously that's a pretty insignificant change, but the fact of the matter is the Nuggets don't have any way to bring in free agents with their cap situation, and the draft is the only way they're going to bring in any more decent talent. As for the draft, Russell Westbrook or Ty Lawson appear to be the best options - they need a point guard. That, or they could opt for a shooting guard and move Iverson to point full-time (Chase Budinger?).

Portland Trail Blazers:

Starting 5:
PG: Steve Blake
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Martell Webster
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Joel Pryzbilla (will be some guy named Oden when he returns)

Worst Contract: Raef LaFrentz - $12.4 million salary, one year remaining after this season.

Here's my advice for Kevin Pritchard: DON'T DO ANYTHING THIS SUMMER!!! Unless someone gives you an out-of-the-world offer of talent for Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract/corpse, don't ship it off for a set of longer, crappier contracts belonging to role players. Pritchard has been fantastic in building through the draft the past couple of seasons, acquiring picks in bundles from teams selling them off for nothing (that's you Suns, stop ruining the team's future for the sake of Sarver's bank account). This team has the talent currently on its roster to become great within a few years, as long as it doesn't undergo some unheard of unloading process of this talent. However, with such young, inexpensive talent comes the reality that all of those rookie contracts will soon expire, and once that happens, large contracts will be needed to replace them. So, for goodness' sake, let LaFrentz expire, and use that money to lock up guys like Roy, Aldridge, Webster, and eventually Oden long-term when necessary. Same applies for Darius Miles. Otherwise, keep the good track record on draft picks and continue to build inexpensively while acquiring relatively inexpensive role players (i.e. James Jones). Keep giving the young guys minutes, and keep alienating overpaid cancers like Darius Miles. Portland has the right idea, it just needs to stay patient. Jumping from the top pick last season to the 13th (thus far) is evidence of the progress, don't ruin it.

Sacramento Kings:

Starting 5:
PG: Beno Udrih
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Ron Artest
PF: Mikki Moore
C: Brad Miller

Worst Contract: Kenny Thomas - $7.9 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

Sacramento started the process it needs to undergo at the deadline by shipping off Mike Bibby to Atlanta for spare expiring contracts. So now that it traded off one of the most expensive aging pieces that had trade value, why didn't it keep going? This is an example of a team that is floundering between wanting to compete now and building for the future. Last summer, the team signs Mikki Moore for over $5 million per season based on one playoff series of performance. And now it's trading away the guy who was its franchise point guard for years? OK, so you could argue the team decided to change its philosophy during the year after seeing they weren't going anywhere this season. So naturally, they choose to keep a guy making $7.4 million, who has had a history of making headlines for being insane throughout all of his career, but yet oddly seems to be as sane as he is ever going to be, and for whom there was legitimate interest throughout the league. Why do they not get rid of Ron Artest? He was a tradable asset who they can't see as being a part of their future - after all, why would you want to surround the young and budding star of Kevin Martin with a cancer like Artest - and they didn't trade him. Hopefully, next season, when Artest has opted out (making the Kings' net gain for him nothing) and Brad Miller is drawing attention from teams around the league due to his still-impressive play and short-term, high-salary contract, they make the smart move and deal him. This is a good young team that can build around guys like Martin, Spencer Hawes, Beno Udrih, and another lottery pick this year. O.J. Mayo's less-than-stellar freshman campaign at USC is starting to slip him down draft boards, and throwing him into that mix would make Sacto formidable if they can make the right moves.


Starting 5:
PG: Mike Bibby
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Josh Smith
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Al Horford

Worst Contract: Speedy Claxton - $6.3 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

To start off, let me just say that the Bibby trade was spectacular. They gave up no first-round picks, nobody who was a significant part of their future plans, and got a guy who is just 29, has playoff experience, and plays the position the Hawks have been lacking for years. Granted, had they drafted Chris Paul, they wouldn't be in this situation, but the fact of the matter is they still have a really solid starting 5. The one problem here though is that by the time the young kids (Smith, Horford, Williams, and Acie Law off the bench) are in their primes, Bibby will be way past his. So the key here is the Hawks finding a way to contend before the kids hit their prime and after Bibby is past his. Also, the Hawks are without their first-round pick this year, having dealt it to Phoenix as a part of the Joe Johnson trade. However, the Hawks have a very managable cap situation, being just $126,000 over the cap, and Bibby's outrageous deal only lasts one season after this year, just as some of the kids are up for extensions. The key is what they do with the cap space they are likely to have when his deal expires. They obviously need to extend Smith and Williams. But one thing that the Hawks have been terrible about is signing insignificant players to short-sighted deals. They have Speedy Claxton on the books for another two seasons after this one at over $6 million and Zaza Pachulia on the books for next season at $4 million. One of the biggest rules for building an NBA team is to NOT overpay role players and guys who you aren't absolutely convinced will be significant parts of the team's rotation throughout the duration of the deal. However, the management in Atlanta is so screwed up, it's hard to imagine this foundation actually lasting for too long. If it does manage to survive though, this could be the Eastern Conference incarnation of the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns. We can hope.

Indiana Pacers:

Starting 5:
PG: Travis Diener (Jamaal Tinsley injured)
SG: Mike Dunleavy
SF: Danny Granger
PF: Troy Murphy (Jermaine O'Neal injured)
C: Jeff Foster (Jermaine O'Neal injured)

Worst Contract: Jamaal Tinsley - $6.3 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Obviously, the depth chart is a bit skewed due to the two injuries mentioned, and the fact that Jermaine O'Neal has been injured for much of the season has left this team struggling, even in the Eastern Conference. First though, I'd like to look at the position where the other injury is hi-lighted, the point guard slot. Jamaal Tinsley has been inconsistent for years, and Diener looks to have some potential to be a fantastic point guard. In his last seven games, he has dished out a total of forty-eight assists - almost seven per contest, while also averaging 10 points per game. Given that Diener is paid much less, has more potential as a young player (only 26), and isn't despised by fans the way Tinsley is, it seems logical to me to simply keep him at the point even when Tinsley comes back. Similar to Kenyon Martin earlier, perhaps a benching will remove some of the lethargic play Tinsley has become associated with. After O'Neal fully recovers from his injury next season, this team looks poised to make a run at being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference again. Thank goodness this team didn't panic and make a deal for Vince Carter - if they thought Tinsley mails in games, Carter has made it into his own art form. Not to mention Carter's contract is simply ungodly, whereas O'Neal's expires at the end of next season, either making O'Neal into a valuable trading chip next season, or giving the Pacers some cap flexibility to start over with. As far as what to do in the draft this year, the Pacers need a true center to pair with O'Neal, and while a guy like Marreese Speights of Florida would be considered a reach by some, he's the best center option that is likely to be available to the Pacers. Or, if the Pacers are looking to contend as soon as possible, they could go for Italy's Danilo Gallinari, although he might be off the board by this point.

Chicago Bulls:

Starting 5:
PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Larry Hughes
SF: Andres Nocioni
PF: Drew Gooden
C: Joakim Noah

Worst Contract: A tough call, considering the Larry Hughes deal is pretty bad, but Hughes was playing out of his element in Cleveland, and if he can recover some of his scoring ability he had in Washington, he could prove to be extremely valuable. I'm going to give the edge to Andres Nocioni - $8.5 million salary, four years remaining after this season. Role players don't deserve this kind of money, even glorified role players who happen to start on their team.

Analyzing the Bulls is especially tricky right now in the aftermath of their huge deal to ship Ben Wallace to Cleveland. However, what I notice when I look at the Bulls right now is that they have a much different problem than many other teams in the NBA Lottery situation right now. Instead of having a slew of underpaid young players who can continue to develop into potential all-stars in the mold of teams like Atlanta, Portland, etc., they are stuck with a slew of players who seem to have reached their potential in the starting lineup, backups with obvious deficiencies that prevent them from being starters, and only a couple of young players who seem to have star potential. Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng don't appear to be getting much better anytime soon, aren't going to be all-stars, but also aren't just average role players. This makes it a dicey situation for Chicago, as they now are faced with the challenge of paying a bunch of non-starters starter-level money. However, these players do have trade value, so the Bulls need to swing a big deal moreso than any other team on this list. However, in order to do so, the Bulls are going to have to remove their hesitation to part with some of their youngsters in Tyrus Thomas and Joakin Noah, as parting ways with one or both of these guys is likely the only way they're going to make any sort of significant splash. The deal to send off Ben Wallace was certainly a step in the positive direction, but this summer is going to be key for Chicago. If they can find a way to convince someone like the Clippers, Washington, or even Miami to agree to a sign-and-trade for someone like Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, or Shawn Marion, the Bulls can start to assemble pieces like Andres Nocioni and Larry Hughes around that one star player and rebuild this team around experience. In the Eastern Conference, that is going to be enough to make a serious playoff run. Some of their bad contracts prevent this team from being able to completely blow it up and rebuild from the ground up, but even if they wanted to do so, it probably wouldn't be the wisest course of action at this point. Let me just say I wouldn't want to be John Paxson right now, as he has some very difficult decisions to make. The makeup of this team even makes it difficult to try to suggest a way to go in the draft. The point guard position seems to be weak, especially since Chris Duhon is set to be a free agent, so one might expect the pick to be D.J. Augustin, but a big deal could throw all of their draft needs into flux. That is, if the pick isn't a part of the deal they make.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Starting 5:
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Michael Redd
SF: Bobby Simmons
PF: Charlie Villanueva
C: Andrew Bogut

Worst Contract: So many choices... I'll go with Bobby Simmons - $9.28 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

What has plagued the Bucks over the past few seasons has been being conservative when they need to be aggressive, and aggressive when they need to be conservative. Making the "safe pick" in the draft only ends up with teams passing up on elite talent like Chris Paul and Deron Williams to pick Andrew Bogut first overall. That's what makes last year's selection of Yi Jianlian so disappointing to me. It's not that Yi is a bad player - it's that he was the safe pick for Milwaukee. He's a guy who has legitimate game experience in international play and could come in and contribute now. The fact of the matter in Milwaukee is that right now, the Bucks aren't going to win, and a bit more production this year from Yi over taking a guy who could have a more significant impact in the long run shows no guts. Then, in looking at what they have done in free agency, you can only wonder why they throw gobs of money at second-tier free agents such as Mo Wililams, Bobby Simmons, and Charlie Bell. These guys are certainly not top-level players, but yet the Bucks seem to think they should pay them as such. What the Bucks need is patience right now - simply sit and let the crappy contracts expire, fire Larry Harris, one of the worst General Managers around (and hire Bill Simmons), start drafting for the future, and refuse to pay role players starter-money. Redd is a ridiculous scorer, and that won't diminish too much with age. Yes, this is going to take a LONG time, around three or four years in order to get rid of some guys and make others into expiring contract trading chips. But if Milwaukee basketball is going to be relevant again, the Bucks cannot start trying to swap out these deals for worse ones in hopes that they get a slight improvement in talent and can make a playoff run. It's not going to happen with this team, so suck it up and get ready for the long haul. Once Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Bo. Simmons, Jake Voskuhl, Mo Williams, and Desmond Mason are all finally off the books, this team can finally start to build and become relevant again. As for draft advice, the Bucks need to make a statement with a legitimate prospect. I've heard suggestions to go with Italy's Danilo Gallinari, who has been said to be "possibly a better prospect than Andrea Bargnani." That is absolutely not what Milwaukee needs. Milwaukee needs to take a guy who will need grooming and attention to develop his raw talents, and two names that come to my mind are Anthony Randolph of LSU and O.J. Mayo of SC. Both of those guys would be the start of a new trend in Milwaukee which would allow for the Bucks to begin making the drastic changes they need to make. Two great options (and at least one is likely to be available at Milwaukee's pick). Another less-appealing backup option could be Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, but it shouldn't be necessary to take him.

Charlotte Bobcats:

Starting 5:
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Emeka Okafor
C: Nazr Mohammed

Worst Contract: Matt Carroll - $5.45 million salary, five years remaining after this season.

Michael Jordan is drunk at the helm. Looking at all the recent moves the Bobcats have made, you can't help but wonder what their long-term plans are. The Bobcats have been hounded by the same issues the Bucks have been pestered by - making the safe pick in the draft. Adam Morrison had proven he could score and college and was a proven competitor. But did he have upside? No, and everyone knew it. Sean May played for a great team at North Carolina, but was he going to be a dominant, physically imposing power forward? Absolutely not, and, once again, everyone knew it. This timidity has prevented the Bobcats from really acquiring top-notch young talent through the draft. Last summer, when the Cats picked Brandan Wright from UNC, the kid with all sorts of potential and athletic upside, I thought they had finally reversed their thinking and made a move that made sense for the future of the franchise. So what did they do? They shipped him to Golden State for Jason Richardson, wasting their cap space on a highly-paid veteran who wasn't going to take this team to the playoffs, not to mention a championship. And then they break the golden rule of not overpaying role players by giving Matt Carroll a SIX-YEAR CONTRACT!!! Then, to only make matters worse, their in-season deal involved giving expiring contracts to Detroit for Nazr Mohammed, who was stuck as the third center on Detroit's depth chart before the trade. Sure, Mohammed improves the team from a talent perspective, but he has a terrible contract and isn't going to take this team to the playoffs. So why sacrifice your cap flexibility? Some drastic changes need to come, and quick. Same advice I gave to the Bucks applies to Charlotte: stop overpaying role players, draft for the future, not the present, and lay off the scotch/phone combination. As for the draft, this team needs a center, despite the fact that they gave up their cap flexibility to get Mohammed. He isn't going to cut it, and the team would have been so much better off not wasting their money. DeAndre Jordan is ideal, given that he has an incredibly high ceiling, but unfortunately his chances of being around when Charlotte picks are slim to none. So the Bobcats may be forced to pick someone like Stanford's Brook Lopez, despite the fact that he does seem to slightly go against the suggested philosophy of not making the "safe pick." The Cats' need at center is simply that big.

Los Angeles Clippers:

Starting 5:
PG: Brevin Knight (Shaun Livingston injured, Sam Cassell recently released)
SG: Cuttino Mobley
SF: Corey Maggette
PF: Tim Thomas (Elton Brand injured)
C: Chris Kaman

Worst Contract: Cuttino Mobley - $8.35 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

The Clippers have a lot of problems. For starters, Elton Brand is likely to opt out and bolt at the end of the season, and you really can't blame him with the lack of success the Clippers have had recently. It's been obvious for a long time that this team isn't awfully keen on winning as many games as they possibly can, and that they certainly aren't well-managed. However, there are reasons to believe that, if this team's management gets its act together, this team can start to re-build and become pretty good in a short period of time. After Brand opts out, the Clips will have some cap space to work with this summer. My advice to them - don't use it unless you can get one of the top three or four guys on the market. Their space in all likelihood would only get them a mid-tier player on the current free agent market whose contract they would be wanting to rid of in about two weeks (like what has happened with Tim Thomas). Instead, this team needs to start re-building around guys like Chris Kaman, Quinton Ross, and Al Thornton, while waiting for the contracts of Corey Maggette and Mobley to either run out or become expiring deals that they can get quality players and draft picks out of in the next couple of years. As far as drafting goes, the Clippers need a good point guard to take over for Cassell, and if Jerryd Bayless gets past the Knicks, he would be a fantastic pick for the Clippers. However, in all likelihood that does not happen, forcing the Clippers to look into possibly selecting either a big man compliment to Kaman (Jordan/Lopez) or reaching a bit for either a power forward (Randolph/Griffin) or even a polished foreign player like Gallinari.

New York Knicks:

Starting 5:
PG: Jamal Crawford
SG: Fred Jones (Stephon Marbury suspended/injured/who knows)
SF: Quenton Richardson
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Eddy Curry

Worst Contract: Good lord, can I say all of them? No? Well... if I have to pick, I'll say Quentin Richardson's beauty of a deal - $8.1 million salary, two years remaining after this season, and the guy who he was recently traded for, Kurt Thomas, is less washed up than Richardson is despite the fact that Richardson is eight years younger. Yikes. The Knicks weren't even the ones who signed the guy and they still ended up with his terrible contract. Is Isaiah doing this on purpose? I'm seriously asking this question...

Where in God's name do I begin? They're almost $40 million over the salary cap. I was discussing what I would do as Knicks GM with my buddy Travers, and came up with the idea of signing three fat cannibalistic Samoan guys to ten-day contracts, leaving David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandler, Mardy Collins, Randolph Morris, and Nate Robinson in New York on some road trip with a mysterious "illness," and then having the Samoans have at it on the team jet. If they were hungry enough, could get through Jerome James' fat layers, and dodge Zach Randolph's prison shank that he keeps in his left sock, they could potentially get rid of all of the Knicks' bad contracts in a quick four-hour plane ride! Honestly, and in all seriousness, I do not know where to begin with this team. The only option that seems to be available to the Knicks is to simply stand pat, try to acquire some young pieces in the draft, sign NOBODY in free agency, give the young studs counseling so they don't commit suicide, and wait four years for all of these crappy deals to finally come off the books. That means that the Knicks get absolute free reign to draft whoever will be the best player in the draft, since they're completely starting over with their roster. Since the top-3 appears all but set, this leaves the two centers (Jordan/Lopez) or Jerryd Bayless as the pick for NY. Having watched Bayless crush BCP at St. Mary's in Phoenix for four years, I can't help but think that Bayless is the guy that will shine in the prime-time atmosphere of New York City. He's my pick.

Seattle Sonics:

Starting 5:
PG: Earl Watson
SG: Kevin Durant
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Chris Wilcox
C: Johan Petro

Worst Contract: Nick Collison - $5.75 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

This team is absolutely being ripped apart right now, as Clay Bennett prepares to move the squad to the booming market of Oklahoma City (what?!?!?!). So Sam Presti has been faced with the impossible task of trying to shed salary on this team while also building it up to have a future once it does finally arrive in Oklahoma City. To be short, Presti has been marvelous. If I'm forced to take over any one of these teams, Seattle is at the top of the list (with one other team that might surprise you - coming later). Presti has been marvelous in not only getting rid of the team's horrid contracts (like Wally Szczerbiak's, also known as "One of the Top 20 Most Untradable Contracts to Ever Get Traded"), while also stocking up on first-round picks, such as how he turned Rashard Lewis wanting to go to Orlando into three first-round picks and half a year of solid play from Kurt Thomas. He did so by using the trade exception to acquire Thomas from Phoenix, but only consenting to do so by taking two of Phoenix's future first-round picks, only to ship Thomas off to San Antonio at the deadline for another pick and expiring deals. And now by taking on more expiring deals in the Cleveland/Chicago three-way deal, Seattle is set to build their team around a young, exciting core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and this year's pick with solid role players like Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour (two examples of safe picks, by the way, and now both have gone from lottery selections to role players - I can't stress this enough...). Also, once their plethora of deals that expire over the next couple of seasons finally are off the books, the Oklahoma City Rodeo Clowns will have the resources to rebuild their franchise. It really is too bad that Bennett is forcing Presti to cut salary - I'd love to see what this guy could do if he were just trying to build talent, not cap space. As for the draft, they find themselves in the unfortunate position of being the fourth-worst team in the league. If they score in the lottery and get into the top-3, they can get their hands on one of the three guys who are widely expected to, and should, go 1-2-3, Beasley, Rose, or Gordon. If not, I would think they might go for DeAndre Jordan, but if the Sonics/R.C.'s picked up yet another center in the first-round of the draft, I think there might be even more of a mutiny than there is already after the abysmal busts of Robert Swift, Johan Petro, and Mouhamed Sene (picked three straight years before Durant came into town last year - too bad Oden didn't slip to them, we could be going for the quinfecta...). I can see management in Seattle/soon-to-be-OKC showing too much pride and refusing to admit that all three are busts, and instead reaching for a Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Randolph, or Danilo Gallinari, strictly to try to not end up with another center on the roster.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Starting 5:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Mike Miller
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Hakim Warrick
C: Darko Milicic

Worst Contract: Brian Cardinal - $5.85 million salary, two years remaining after this season. Tempted to put Darko though...

Good lord, what is GM Chris Wallace thinking? He accepted two prospects (one of whom is in Europe), two picks, and a corpse (it apparently has a name too, something like Kwame, I think) in exchange for one of the top power forwards in the league. And then, following that debacle, he tries to hike up his asking price for Mike Miller, resulting in the Grizzlies getting nothing out of a tradable asset with a high-priced contract to start rebuilding around the incredibly gifted scorer Rudy Gay. If Marc Iavaroni gets through this mess with his job, someone ought to give him a purple heart. Or at least a hug. The Grizzlies have precisely 37.4 young point guards on their roster (Conley, Javaris Crittenton, and Kyle Lowry), an even greater number of one-dimensional three-point bombers (Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Casey Jacobsen, and Brian Cardinal), one true center (the oh-so-talented Jason Collins), and two starters who don't have a definite position (Darko is not a center or a power forward, and Warrick is not a power forward or a small forward). Yikes. This team needs to do two things. First, it need to use one of its point guard assets and Miller to dump off Cardinal's contract for expiring deals. Ironically, they had just this opportunity when Miami offered to take Cardinal and Miller from the Grizz for the expiring deals of Jason Williams and Ricky Davis, yet the Grizzlies moronically refused. Second, they need to stop signing guys who havn't proven themselves over long periods of time to contracts that will pay them over long periods of time. This caution alone would have prevented the Darko and Cardinal signings, which unsurprisingly are now the two worst contracts on the team. As for the draft, take the best player available who does not play point guard. They could be tempted to go for DeAndre Jordan to finally get themselves that center, but I feel that this team has so many needs that it's hard to settle for any smaller amount of talent to pick for need. That player with the greatest talent looks to be Eric Gordon at this point, but if the Grizz fall in the lottery, they should focus on one of the two center prospects.

Minneota Timberwolves:

Starting 5:
PG: Sebastian Telfair
SG: Marko Jaric
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Ryan Gomes
C: Al Jefferson

Worst Contract: Antione Walker - $8.3 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Minnesota has pieces and quality young players to work with, but too many bad contracts to allow them to surround those young players with the quality guys they need to rebuild this team. Walker's deal is horrendous. Mark Madsen makes $2.4 million, and will for two more years after this season. Jaric makes $6.05 million, and will for three more years after this season. Greg Buckner makes $3.75 million, and will for two more years after this season. In case you're counting, that is $20.5 million in salary devoted to thsoe players The only one in the Wolves' rotation is Jaric, and quite frankly he shouldn't be. Minny is going nowhere in the next couple of years, and the young guys on the team are developing. So what Minny needs to do is get all of those young guys into their starting lineup and give them as much playing time as their bodies can handle. Telfair is leaving to get as much money as he can find this summer when his deal expires, so bench him and give Randy Foye the run he needs. Jaric is useless, and McCants has shown time and time again that he can score, so swap those two around. A lineup headlining Foye, McCants, Brewer, and Jefferson has four guys who have all proven they will be good, if not great, players in the NBA. This team has a fair number of guys whose deals expire at the end of the year, including Michael Doleac ($3.1 million), Kirk Snyder ($2.36 million), and Telfair ($2.56 million). However, this team shouldn't go out and spend it, and instead focus on building through the draft and making sure they'll have the resources around to extend the guys who will be keys to their team when the time comes to do so, while waiting for the crappy deals to start going away. For this year's draft, If the Wolves manage to hit the jackpot in the Lottery their pick will, without any doubt or hesitation, be Michael Beasley. He not only is the most talented player in the draft, as well as the best prospect, but also fits exactly the need that the Wolves have. It is, by all accounts, a perfect marraige. However, should they come up short, their pick is Derrick Rose should they choose second (moving Foye to the 2, and McCants to a great bench scorer role in the mold of what Leandro Barbosa is supposed to be), or one of the centers should they pick fourth or fifth (moving Jefferson back to his more natural power forward position). The Wolves are extremely fortunate that this draft has players in it that fit their needs.

Miami Heat:

Starting 5:
PG: Jason Williams
SG: Dwayne Wade
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Mark Blount

Worst Contract: Mark Blount - $7.9 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

I mentioned earlier that the Sonics were one of two teams that I would most like to take over if I had my choice of any of these fourteen lottery teams, and said that one other would come later. Well, this is the last team, so yes, the Heat are my second choice, despite being the worst team in the NBA and being almost $20 million over the cap. Allow me to explain. First things first, the the Heat, despite being so far above the cap now, will shed off a TON of salary at the end of the season. Since the Grizzlies did the Heat a solid and refused to take Davis' and Williams' expiring deals for Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal, the Heat now will have both of those deals, along with the deals of Dorell Wright, Smush Parker, Alonzo Mourning, Earl Barron, and Chris Quinn all expire at the end of the year. The combined salaries of those players alone, $24.97 million, is enough to get the Heat $5 million under the cap. Where it gets even better is when you consider the fact that Shawn Marion has the option to opt out of his $16.44 million contract, and it is widely assumed that he will do just that in order to get one last huge deal with whoever is willing to pay him the most money. So for this year, shut Wade down, lose intentionally, make Marion as unhappy as possible so he leaves, and the demolition is complete. That gives the Heat a healthy, rejuvinated Dwayne Wade, a couple of good supporting pieces (Marcus Banks, Daequan Cook, Udonis Haslem), one of the top picks of this year's draft, and over $20 million in cap space to re-shape their roster however they please. Moving on to the draft, the Heat look poised to have the best shot to acquire Michael Beasley due to their futility. However, what is even more important about their futility is that it guarantees them that they pick no worse than the fourth pick. This makes it so that they are guaranteed one of the top-5 talents in the draft, since only one player in that top-5 (Eric Gordon) plays the position that is locked up by Wade. Anybody from Beasley, Rose, Jordan, or Lopez would be a great pick for Miami to compliment Wade. Don't expect this team to stay down for too long.

There you have it - I have just pretended to actually have some sort of knowledge on the runnings and operations of the NBA and made myself into the GM of all 14 lottery teams. If any of these teams does what I say they should and it works for them, just know that I'm never going to stop talking about it. You've been warned.

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