Tag Archives: Mike Dunleavy

Looking Forward Roundup

I’ve finally finished the Looking Forward series, where I took a look at each team in the NBA in terms of how they did in 2008-2009, how they improved (or didn’t) in the off-season that has just now come to a close with the start of training camp, and what to expect out of them in 2009-2010.

I wanted to put them all in one all in one place, and since I started this in July I felt it was appropriate to provide brief updates where they are necessary. Here we go.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics – Added Shelden Williams. If he ends up in the rotation, it probably means Garnett is out, so let’s just hope we don’t see much of him this year.
New Jersey Nets – Roster-wise, nothing’s changed. But there’s a new owner in town, making the (Brooklyn) Nets a much more attractive free agent destination next summer.
New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers – Brought back Rodney Carney, plus they’ve got Stromile Swift, Primoz Brezec, Sean Singletary, and Dionte Christmas on their training camp roster. Expect one or two of them to make the team.
Toronto Raptors – Signed and traded Carlos Delfino to Milwaukee along with Roko Ukic, in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. Johnson seems like a great acquisition, as he is capable of playing multiple positions and adds some much-needed athleticism and rebounding in the frontcourt.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers – Good thing they signed Anthony Parker, ‘cause nobody knows exactly what’s going on with Delonte West right now.
Detroit Pistons
Indiana PacersRod Benson is on their training camp roster, which is awesome. Shame they arleady have Troy Murphy, Solomon Jones, Tyler Hansbrough, and Josh McRoberts at the 4, though.
Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks – Added Joe Smith and Jason Collins to the frontcourt. The former should receive playing time. Mike Wilks, Juan Dixon, and Aaron Miles will compete in training camp for an emergency guard reserve spot.
Charlotte Bobcats – Flip Murray was a bargain, but he’s just short-term help.
Miami Heat
Orlando Magic – Could actually warrant another post now, since they’ve kept on spending and this piece was technically before I started “Looking Forward”. Kept Gortat, signed Matt Barnes, Jason Williams, and Linton Johnson. Absolutely stacked, fans better thank the ownership. Rashard Lewis is out for the first 10 games for failing a drug test, but they should win almost all of them.
Washington Wizards

Western Conference

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks – As always, Kris Humphries is impressing in training camp. I have high hopes for Tamm Llorac, too.
Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Hornets – Shockingly made a good basketball trade when moving Chandler for Okafor (it’ll cost them money in the long run, but Okafor makes less than Chandler for the next two years). Should be improved, a bit, but they have to stop giving Peja so many minutes.
San Antonio Spurs – Signed Theo Ratliff and Keith Bogans. They needed another shot-blocker and they needed another backcourt shooter. Nice.

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets – J.R. Smith is out for the first 7 games because of an old reckless driving incident, but they’re still good enough to win most of those games. Also, they let Linas Kleiza join Josh Childress and Von Wafer at Olympiakos and acquired more athleticism in Joey Graham and James “Flight” White.
Minnesota Timberwolves
Portland Trail Blazers – Signed Ime Udoka and Juwan Howard to fill out the roster. Both are heady veterans who will not see much court time unless the team is hit by injuries.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Added Ryan Bowen, Michael Ruffin, and Kevin Ollie. Vets who will challenge the young guys in practice and are capable of spot minutes if there are injuries.
Utah Jazz

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors – Still have the same talent, but this is a mess. Captain Jack wants out, Monta says he can’t share the backcourt with Stephen Curry, and I can’t blame either of them.
Los Angeles Clippers – Coach Dunleavy has stated that Blake Griffin will come off the bench, which almost made me punch a wall. On the plus side, Baron Davis came into camp in shape.
Los Angeles LakersIt’s a bit of a circus, but the Lakers are good with that. Still the favourite.
Phoenix Suns
Sacramento KingsUgh, they signed Desmond Mason. Kings fans are thrilled.

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Looking Forward: Indiana Pacers

I could probably copy and paste my recent Milwaukee Bucks post here and you’d get the idea.

Indiana, like Milwaukee, had to deal with major injuries last year and missed the playoffs. Again, like Milwaukee, they’re on the outside looking in when it comes to how most are projecting the East’s 2009-2010 playoff picture. If all goes right, sure, they could sneak in there, but it’s hard to argue that they’ve improved, talent-wise, during the off-season.

Here’s a quick run-down.

Players Added: Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Solomon Jones, Luther Head.

Players Lost: Marquis Daniels, Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, Stephen Graham, Maceo Baston, Jamaal Tinsley (kinda).

With due respect to Psycho T, I’d argue that for this season Daniels, Jack, and Nesterovic are the three best players on those lists. Unfortunately, they all reside on the “Players Lost” list. Still, you can’t really kill the Pacers for the boring moves they’ve made this summer (besides the Dahntay Jones one – inexcusable). As was the case with Milwaukee, they didn’t have much room to manoeuvre because they’re so close to the luxury tax. With the money Troy Murphy, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and Jeff Foster are making, they likely won’t be in a position to make a big splash next summer, either. This is the result of mistakes of the past, mistakes that other teams should learn from. If you’re going to invest big, long-term money to a player, you better make sure it’s a guy who can be a top player on a successful team. Danny Granger fits the bill fine, but while I like Murphy and Dunleavy, I don’t think they should be your key guys. So, if you’re going to slam the Pacers’ front office for assembling a middle-of-the-road team, that’s fine, but realize those seeds were planted well before this summer.

Let’s talk about positives, though. These guys were a fun bunch to watch last season. They pushed the ball at every opportunity, finishing 3rd in the league in pace. Granger is a great, great young prospect, and I’m not just talking about fantasy basketball here. Roy Hibbert had a much better rookie season than I could have anticipated, shockingly posting a better PER than former Pacer center Jermaine O’Neal was able to muster. Theses guys should improve this year. So should Brandon Rush, who showed a lot of promise when he was given a starting role for the last month of his rookie campaign. T.J. Ford, who no longer has to share minutes with Jarrett Jack, has a great opportunity to bounce back from what was a down year in 2008-2009. Also, the new faces might help them improve their defense from last season. All good things.

Like I said about Milwaukee, it’s not too far-fetched to see the Pacers ending up with the 8th seed. Nobody’s penciling them in now, though, especially with the way some other Eastern teams have improved. With a week until training camp starts, Indiana fans are anxious and can do nothing but hope for the best. If this year’s squad is as fun as last year’s and finishes with a better record, I guess that’s a successful season. If you take a broader look at this franchise, though, there are real problems. Danny Granger, at 26, is approaching his prime – do we really want to wait until the summer of 2011 to see him (potentially) on a winning team? I say no. Mediocrity is annoying.

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Filed under Free Agency, Indiana Pacers, Looking Forward

Looking Forward: Los Angeles Clippers

Going into the 2008-2009 season, the Los Angeles Clippers were seen as a team that had a shot to make the playoffs. Yeah, their best player had spurned them to go to Philadelphia, but they made a ton of moves in the off-season, most notably adding proven players Baron Davis and Marcus Camby. After a horrible 23-59 season playing without the injured Brand, it was reasonable to expect an improvement in the win column.

Unfortunately for Clips fans, the team actually ended up winning four less games than the previous year. Davis, Camby, Chris Kaman, and Zach Randolph (acquired from the Knicks in November) all had significant injuries and the team never had a chance to click. For everyone involved, it was like a bad dream. They were a pain to watch, as they didn’t play hard, didn’t play smart, and lost games in every way imaginable. Coach (and GM) Mike Dunleavy didn’t implement a game plan that suited his personnel and, to an outsider, it seemed as if he failed to gain the trust and respect of his players. And then there was this. The only real positive to be gleaned from this season is that the Clippers appeared to have a keeper in rookie 2-guard Eric Gordon.

I could go on describing last year’s disastrous season, but it’s been done to death. I will just say that I was a bit miffed that they were rewarded for that season with the #1 pick in the draft. Especially after reading this article about owner Donald Sterling.

The #1 pick, obviously, was Blake Griffin. This guy is a stud. He dominated opposing defenders in the NCAA last year and should be able to come in and start in the NBA right away. Some of us were worried, though, when we pictured the Clippers’ projected line-up for 2009-2010. In Griffin, Camby, Kaman, and Randolph, the Clips had 4 starting-calibre frontcourt players. Randolph in particular was a problem, as he is known as a ball-stopper and a volume shooter. If the Clips wanted to develop Blake Griffin, they’d need him to be on the court as much as possible and taking lots of shots. Randolph was just about the last player in the league that would fit in, here.

Shockingly, the Clippers found a taker for the much-maligned power forward. The Memphis Grizzlies agreed to take him in exchange for Quentin Richardson and his expiring contract. Later, Q-Rich was sent to Minnesota for a package of Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, and Mark Madsen. After this, they were able to acquire Rasual Butler from New Orleans for essentially nothing.

Wow.

A series of moves that make sense. A series of moves that make the Clippers a deeper, better team going into next season. We might have to stop making jokes about them. Seriously. This team has quite a bit improved on paper this off-season. We should expect much, much better than a 20-win season next year. In addition to this, with the contracts of Camby, Madsen, Smith, Ricky Davis, Mardy Collins, and Steve Novak coming off the books after the season, this franchise will have a good chance to solidify their core for the next few years.

With that said, there are a few key things the Clippers must do to in order to make some noise next year:

1) Get Blake Griffin touches. As I stated earlier, Zach Randolph’s departure was necessary to give Blake Griffin room to breathe next season. This guy has to be established as a primary option on the block. He’s got to be able to use his strength and quickness to become an offensive force immediately. He must be given the kind of minutes and the kind of touches that allow him to make some mistakes and figure out what works. He’s got the talent to be a big factor right now, as long as the team puts him a position to succeed.
2) Get Baron Davis healthy and in shape. Yes, I know, Baron was unhappy last season. He didn’t get along with Dunleavy and was (understandably) frustrated with the style of play in Clipperland. Sure, it’s nice that he’s been chummy with his coach recently, but this alone is not enough. Even if they were best friends last season, Baron would have been ineffective due to his conditioning alone. I don’t want to rag on the guy for being injured, but he also showed up to training camp out of shape. This wasn’t the first time he’s done this, by any stretch, and that’s why it’s inexcusable. There are rumblings coming out of L.A. that Baron has been taking this summer very seriously, but this is the kind of thing you always hear in the summer. Clips fans have to hope it’s true this time.
3) Coach this team properly. This means, in short, they have to run. With Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Blake Griffin, and Marcus Camby, the Clippers have a starting line-up built to run. Dunleavy has to relinquish his control of the team and let Baron Davis push the ball and call a lot of the plays himself, so his star point guard doesn’t feel the constant pressure to look to the sideline. Honestly, I don’t have any insider information about last year’s squad. I don’t know exactly what the players thought of their coach, but, judging from their body language, it didn’t seem like a happy family. What I do know for sure is that these guys were playing the wrong style. There needs to be a different game plan next season.

The Clippers have the talent to make a run for the playoff spot in the West. They should be able to make a significant jump in the standings when compared to last season (although that’s what we all said a year ago). It seems foolish to bet anything on a franchise as historically bad as this, but after this summer, things seem to be looking up. I’ll be watching to see a hopefully much more exciting brand of Clipper basketball next season. Unfortunately, there will be some people watching at the same time who are just waiting for the Clipper Curse to rear its ugly head again.

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Filed under Looking Forward, Los Angeles Clippers, Trades