State of the Association - Part II
Moving on with our discussion of the offseason moves made in the NBA this summer, today we take a look at the Clippers, the Cavs, and the Pelicans.
The Clips' biggest offseason moves were two-fold.
To start, they successfully hired a coach for the first time in years. Secondly, they signed new union president, Chris Paul, to an extension. Both were great moves. Doc Rivers and Chris Paul working together is going to be like Dr. Dre and Jay-Z combining their talents for one incredible album. Both Paul and Rivers have unique basketball minds, and both perform their jobs exactly as they are meant to be performed.
Watching Paul navigate his team through games is a beautiful thing. He switches gears seamlessly, pushes all the right buttons, and seems to always have his head in the right place. It’s incredible how many point guards in the league screw up the 2-for-1 at the end of each quarter.
It’s extremely simple. The shot clock is 24 seconds long. If you are bringing the ball up with between 35-45 seconds left in the quarter, the smartest thing you can do is get a quick shot off, leaving your opponent around 30 seconds on the game clock. This leaves you six seconds for a last possession of the quarter. In the NBA, six seconds is plenty of time for a quality possession, especially with a timeout called beforehand.
You will never see Chris Paul screw up a 2-for-1. Watch what he did in this oddly silent YouTube video against the Miami Heat with 33 seconds left in the quarter:
Paul always knows how much time is left on the game clock as well as the shot clock. It’s the little nuances of the game that separate Paul from his peers.
As for Rivers, he’s one of the best coaches in the league. He manages egos, draws up creative plays, and emphasizes defense. He’s great with the media and really understands how to get the most out of his players. The Clippers will be so much more refined than they have been the last two years with Vinny “I don’t understand substitutions” Del Negro.
But that wasn’t all the Clippers did this offseason.
They acquired two elite role players in JJ Reddick and Jared Dudley. Both players are strong defenders who can stretch the floor and do all the dirty work. Championships aren’t won without players like Reddick and Dudley. Jordan’s Bulls needed guys like Steve Kerr, Kobe’s Lakers needed guys like Derek Fisher, even the Heat need guys like Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers stepping up to hit threes, defend, and play their hearts out.
Reddick and Dudley will do all that and more. The Clippers definitely improved this offseason. I award them an A+ in additions and expect them to compete at the top of the West, which is becoming more and more jumbled as I go through it. They will certainly finish in the Top 4, with the potential to land in any spot 1-4.
Moving on to a couple of teams who haven’t seen much success in years past, both the Cavs and Pelicans significantly upgraded their rosters this offseason.
The Cavaliers' biggest signing was Andrew Bynum.
Bynum is a huge question mark as he reportedly wouldn’t let teams work him out to test his knee. However, I’m a huge believer in Bynum. His back-to-the-basket game is as good, if not better, than anyone in the league. His defense can be suspect, but the physical ability to defend is clearly there. He was a huge part of two championships with the Lakers and doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, because he has the mentality of a 4-year-old. If the Cavs can keep him from going bowling, I really think that this could be one of the best signings of the summer.
Cleveland also drafted Anthony Bennett with the first pick, which surprised a number of people, including myself. But the pick makes a lot of sense. Bennett fits their team well, especially with the addition of Bynum bolstering their front line with size.
They also signed Jarrett Jack to back up Kyrie Irving, possibly creating the best 1-2 punch of point guards in the entire league. Jack greatly improves their bench, and along with Anderson Varejao and either Tristian Thompson or Bennett, they should be able to compete with most of the benches in the league.
Overall, I award the Cavs a grade of B+ and I like them to sneak into the back end of the Eastern Conference playoffs, which is completely wide open.
The biggest acquisition for the last team today was probably a mascot.
Switching from the Hornets to the Pelicans was met with a lot of criticism, mostly due to the name they switched to. However, I can guarantee that fans will already be over it a month into the season.
I mean really … is it any weirder than the Orlando Magic? Or the New York Knickerbockers? Or How about the Los Angeles Lakers? If any of those three teams had been named today, the internet probably would have exploded.
I submit that the Pelicans is actually a pretty good mascot, it fits New Orleans, unlike half of the names out there (I’m looking at you, Utah!).
But moving onto actual basketball related changes, the Pelicans made a few significant trades. First, on draft day, they selected Nerlens Noel and swapped him to the 76ers for Jrue Holiday. I’m a fairly big Jrue fan and really think that he’ll do well in New Orleans.
They also traded for former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
Having both Holiday and Evans is important, because in Sacramento, Evans was bringing up the ball quite a bit, whereas now, he can focus on what he loves: scoring, not passing.
I’m not huge on Tyreke, but there’s no denying he can score. In Sacramento, he was part of a team of black holes. In New Orleans, the atmosphere should be significantly improved with the shots being evenly divided between Eric Gordon, Tyreke, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday.
After Anderson, they have a weak bench, but I like where this Pelicans team is headed. I award them a B and believe they have a chance to sneak into the No 8 spot in the West, but I don’t know that they will. After all, with the strength of the next NBA draft class, it’s a strategically good year to not make the playoffs.
Check back tomorrow to get my update on the Blazers and Pistons, along with my predictions and the teams who will be tanking this year!