Earlier this week I focused on the winners of the NBA offseason to this point, and now it's time to turn my attention to the front office failures. Some executives are making the wrong moves, while others are sitting back and watching talent fly off the market. Whose franchise is in danger of suffering the consequences this upcoming season?
Denver Nuggets: They acquired rookie point guard Ty Lawson in a draft trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but other than that, they're bringing the exact same team back for the 2009-2010 NBA season.
Now don't get me wrong -- that's not a bad team, but it was clear that they weren't quite ready to outplay Kobe's Lakers over the course of a best of seven series. Is Denver's front office hoping that the Lakers won't be able to resign Lamar Odom, and that that will give them some sort of advantage in a potential playoff match-up?
I guess. It's a possibility. But let's not forget that the Lakers have already added a high-quality two-way player in Ron Artest this offseason. Losing Odom would be a hit for Los Angeles, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. Kobe and Pau Gasol will continue to carry the load, and Artest will be right there with them providing stable assistance. "Stable" basketball-wise, maybe not so much mentally.
It would be nice if Denver did something to show that they'll avoid organizational stagnation. Something other than resigning Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who was already a part of this club's rotation. Otherwise, they'll be in a 35/65 situation in the playoffs again in '09-10.
Houston Rockets: Ron Artest proved to be a better sidekick to Yao Ming than Tracy McGrady ever was, and now Artest and Yao are BOTH out of the picture. Ironically enough, T-Mac is left to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately for the Rockets and their fans, McGrady's prime has passed, and his porous shot selection makes it virtually impossible to build a team around him.
This organization has lost Artest to free agency and Yao to injury, and all that's left is McGrady, Luis Scola, and Aaron Brooks. They were able to sign Trevor Ariza away from the Lakers, but c'mon, he's not going to turn it all around for them. This franchise is in trouble...especially if Yao's injury is truly career-threatening.
Milwaukee Bucks: Scott Skiles is a very respectable in-game head coach, but his off-the-court crap is getting out of control. He holds grudges against guys that don't play "his way," and then he drives them out of town by nagging Milwaukee's front office. According to Rotoworld.com, this would be the Bucks' starting lineup if the '09-10 season started right now:
PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Michael Redd, SF-Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PF-Amir Johnson, and C-Andrew Bogut
Ramon Sessions, one of their best players last season, is a free agent, and Charlie Villanueva has already signed with the Detroit Pistons. Michael Redd's future is questionable coming off a severe injury, and this organization traded its second-best player in Richard Jefferson.
Where's the offense going to come from? Where's the explosiveness?
Hell...where's the talent?
New Orleans Hornets: This club's front office can't possibly think that they can be a serious contender with the starting lineup of Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, David West, and Tyson Chandler.
That EXACT same team got bounced easily from the playoffs this past season, and there's no reason to believe that they'll improve on that result. Byron Scott is one of the most underrated head coaches in all of professional sports, but he's not a miracle worker. This team needs a ton of help if they want to be championship contenders, and rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton aren't the answer. At least now they aren't.
Philadelphia 76ers: Am I truly supposed to believe that Jason Kapono is going to get this team over the hump in the Eastern Conference? I mean sure he can shoot, but Philly needs a helluva lot more than that to jump to the potentially "elite" level.
Elton Brand is expected to be healthy for the start of the season, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The Sixers played better WITHOUT Brand in '08-09, so why should it be any different this time around? Even if Brand's play and value to his team improve, I doubt it'll be enough to get Philadelphia anything better than a six seed.
Where's the offseason activity from this organization? They must be in a financial bind.
Phoenix Suns: There's no beating around the bush: Steve Kerr's done an AWFUL job since taking over as GM of this franchise. On the court, they had a good thing going with Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/Shawn Marion a few years back. Off the court there was some friction between Amare and Marion, but Kerr allowed THAT to make up his mind for him?
Obviously Shaquille O'Neal wasn't going to fit with an incumbent roster in love with the fastbreak, but Kerr forced that initial deal. Kerr thought that Shaq would help him in a potential playoff match-up with Tim Duncan and the Spurs, but the Suns ended up losing that series 3-1. They were one game away from the NBA Finals the year before, and Kerr weakened the roster, and they digressed the following year.
Amare had a tough time meshing with Shaq on the court, so now Shaquille's out of the picture. But Ben Wallace? Seriously? The guy is finished. They can't be expecting much from him. Kerr also acquired softy Channing Frye this offseason, a shoot-first power forward with no "power," or toughness.
The funny thing is, they can still be a playoff team if Amare stays healthy. He's a monster, and the one move that I DID like by Kerr, netted him Jason Richardson last season. So Nash, Amare, Richardson is a workable core.
Neutral: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota
Timberwolves (though the Ricky Rubio thing bothers me a little bit),
New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic,
Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, and Utah
That's it for the obvious losers, and the stagnant teams this offseason. Thanks for reading this, as well as the winners post. I look forward to your comments, as always.
(The Red Sox are the new Yankees. How did they make the transition? "JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)