One of the best things about the summer is getting to sit back and say, "Wow, just think of what could happen!" I'm stealing from George Costanza and calling this THE SUMMER OF NATE! This is gonna be my time and here is what I'd do if I were the GM for each and every team in the league ...
To give this a little order - we'll use the order of the first round of the NBA draft to break things down ...
(P) = Player option. The player must "opt-in" for the last season on their contract.
(ETO) = Early Termination Option. The player, Andre Iguodala, can get out of their contract early by exercising this contract clause.
(T) = Team option. The team can terminate the player's contract for the upcoming season.
All decisions must be made before July 1st.
Restricted Free Agents: Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington
Unrestricted Free Agents: Daniel Gibson, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights (P), Luke Walton
Season review: Kyrie Irving broke out this season, but the team only got 24 wins. Anderson Varejao suffered a season ending blood-clot and a team that might have made a playoff run was doomed.
Off-season plans: I'd consider drafting Otto Porter out of Georgetown to pair with Irving and Dion Waiters. Porter could be that nice two-way player the team needs to lock-down the small forward spot. The team also needs some help in the front-court - inquiring into some trade talk might help, but making a run at Nikola Pekovic would be a priority.
RFA: DeQuan Jones
UFA: Hedo Turkoglu (ETO), Beno Udrih
Season review: A dreadful 20-win season, but Rob Hennigan, Orlando's GM, did a great job getting some young prospects with the Dwight Howard and J.J. Redick trades.
Off-season plans: It'll still take another season to clear more cap room - there's no way Hedo turns down $12 million - and there isn't a clear choice for the No. 2 pick. I'd try to move the No. 2 pick to trade back for a pick or to gain another pick for 2014 (if it were possible). The Magic should roll the dice with what they have, let their young guys grow, maybe buy out Al Harrington and try to trade Glen Davis (two years and $13 million left), and hope the ping-pong balls fall right for Andrew Wiggins.
RFA: Garrett Temple
UFA: Trevor Ariza (P), Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins, Cartier Martin, Emeka Okafor (ETO), A.J. Price, Martell Webster
Season review: When John Wall came back and Nene got healthy, this team looked like it could have made a playoff run. Wall played in 49 games and looked like he was beginning to make a leap with his play on the court. This was a pesky team that needs some help.
Off-season plans: The No. 3 pick was a nice surprise for the Wizards. I'd hope that Otto Porter falls to me here to pair with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the starting lineup, but Nerlens Noel would be nice too (even though I don't believe he'll be a star in the league). Okafor can't turn down the $14.4 million that awaits him next season and the same can be said for Ariza and his $7.7 million. Another wing player needs to be targeted and some depth off the bench - hopefully that'll be addressed in the draft with Porter.
RFA: Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens
UFA: DeSagana Diop, Ben Gordon (P), Josh McRoberts, Jannero Pargo, Reggie Williams
Season review: Bleh. Bringing in Mike Dunlap for one season and then firing him shows that there is still no plan in Charlotte.
Off-season plans: Keep the people focused on the Hornets name coming back.
5. Phoenix Suns
RFA: Diante Garrett
UFA: Wesley Johnson, Jermaine O'Neal
Season review: The Michael Beasley signing already looks like a mistake ($6 million next season and a buyout option for the 2014-15 campaign) and bringing in O'Neal and Luis Scola were both head-scratching moves; not good. The Suns should be happy that the
Hornets Pelicans matched the max-offer for Eric Gordon last summer.
Off-season plans: Try to move Scola and let the Morris Twins get some serious playing time in the front-court. Moving Marcin Gortat could also be a wise move and drafting a project big man like Alex Len, Cody Zeller, or maybe a riskier pick like Steven Adams (could trade back to get him) could be the move in the draft. The Suns are a mess.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
UFA: Al-Farouq Aminu, Lou Amundson, Xavier Henry, Roger Mason Jr., Jason Smith (T)
Season review: I'll miss calling them the Bugs. A pesky team, at times, that needs Eric Gordon to get healthy. Greivis Vasquez and Anthony Davis look like nice players, but the swing-and-miss with Austin Rivers looks disastrous.
Off-season plans: They should get a quality player in the draft, but who will it be? A wing player would be my target in the draft as Ryan Anderson and Davis would be my front-court and Vasquez and Gordon would lock down the back-court. If the draft doesn't offer what I want, I'd target some shooting prospects in free agency that can also be slashers. Or if they could get a legit post-prospect I'd look that way, too. Looking forward to year two of Davis.
RFA: Toney Douglas, Tyreke Evans, James Johnson
UFA: Cole Aldrich
Season review: They stayed in Sac-Town!
Off-season plans: Clean house in the front office and perhaps take a look at the coaching staff, that should be what new ownership targets first. This team needs a clear direction and to get the roster in some sort of correct shape. There is no true point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson could hold down the front-court, but I'd be targeting a point guard ... thinking Dennis Schroeder - he's quick and can really light it up front he outside and plays unselfish ball. Another team that is a mess, but hopefully one that gets a fresh start with new owners.
UFA: Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva (P)
Season review: This team has a nice core with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond - after that? Yeeesh. Great trade to get Tayshaun Prince's contract off the books; it was time. Calderon showed some value as a take-charge point guard, but he doesn't have a future in Detroit.
Off-season plans: I'd let all the free agents go, but Villanueva is picking up his $8.5 million option ... dang it. They need to figure out if Brandon Knight can run the show and they need some shooters to put around their big guys to allow the inside-outside game to take shape. The Pistons could become a powerhouse if the big guys continue to develop and Joe Dumars can pair the right guys around them.
RFA: Chase Budinger, Nikola Pekovic
UFA: Dante Cunningham (P), Andrei Kirilenko (P)
Season review: Injuries sabotaged what could have been an exciting team - Ricky Rubio wasn't quite himself after ACL surgery, but he did get back on the floor and showed some flashes of brilliance. Kevin Love suffered frustrating injury after frustrating injury - along with nearly all of his teammates. David Kahn was let go in what I think it a hope to re-build a relationship with Love.
Off-season plans: Love is a bit undersized, so retaining the mountain of a man known as Pek would be a move I would want to make. Will a team offer something outrageous to Pek? Most likely. May as well either try to steal the RFA away or make the T-Wolves bleed a bit to keep him. Can these guys stay healthy? A lotto pick for a slasher/reliable scorer would be my top target as well.
RFA: Eric Maynor
UFA: Luke Babbitt, J.J. Hickson, Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams
Season review: Damian Lillard was the steal of the draft and the unanimous rookie of the year. At 22 years-old we should see some improvement with Lillard, but it could come with a bit of an underwhelming season as teams will plan around him a bit more. This team made a bit of noise for a playoff push before just succumbing to fatigue. The Blazers got little-to-nothing from their bench and the starters couldn't carry the load.
Off-season plans: Get Wesley Matthews healthy and maybe look at making a run at yet another RFA in Pekovic (they did ink Roy Hibbert to an offer sheet last off-season) to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers need some scoring off their bench, in the worst way. They need to target multiple players and can get some much needed help in the draft with just about anyone they select.
RFA: Charles Jenkins
UFA: Kwame Brown (P), Andrew Bynum, Royal Ivey, Damien Wilkins, Dorell Wright, Nick Young
Season review: The season was submarined by Bynum not being able to play in a single game for Philly. Doug Collins has moved into the front-office and that should help the 76ers offense.
Off-season plans: If they are unable to sign Bynum or if they just walk away from him completely, this team could be a favorite to land the top pick in 2014. Nick Young should not be retained, but they have a little something going with Jrue Holiday. Let the young guys play and hope Wiggins falls to you in the lotto ... the Sixers should look to get a big man with their pick.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)
UFA: Ronnie Brewer, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin
Season review: Their No. 1 seed was wasted when Russell Westbrook went out with a season ending injury against the Rockets. Can he come back from a torn meniscus as the same player? I think so. Scott Brooks' flawed offensive system was exposed without Westbrook and Kevin Durant was unable to carry the entire team on his back - but they did make it to Round 2 of the playoffs.
Off-season plans: I wouldn't bring back any of the free agents from above: Fisher is too old, Brewer isn't a priority, and Martin wasn't the bench guy the team needed. The Thunder should also dump Kendrick Perkins - the guy is not a good basketball player. OKC could use a big man who can play in the post, but who couldn't? The search to find a replacement for James Harden continues and I want to see what I have in Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb.
13. Dallas Mavericks
RFA: Rodrigue Beaubois, Darren Collison
UFA: Elton Brand, Mike James, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion (ETO), O.J. Mayo (P), Anthony Morrow, Brandan Wright
Season review: A team of free agents finally made a run with Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup, but they fell short of the playoffs. The Mavs looked to be in purgatory this year after whiffing on trading for Dwight Howard and sort of ignoring Deron Williams (Mark Cuban skipping the free agent meeting with him for a TV show appearance).
Off-season plans: Go after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard to make another title run with Dirk. I figured the Mavs were going to go for broke last year, but it never materialized as they didn't have the assets needed to get in on Howard's trade. Word is they may deal the lotto pick, but it likely comes with the asking price of taking back Marion and his $9.3 million player option.
14. Utah Jazz
UFA: DeMarre Carroll, Randy Foye, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Marvin Williams (ETO), Mo Williams
Season review: A bizarre season for the Jazz. Why hold on to Jefferson and Millsap instead of getting some assets in return? It's hard to deal guys in the last season of their contract for maximum value when those guys are not franchise changing players. Both will make nice additions wherever they end up and it may help the Jazz bottom out.
Off-season plans: I would try to tank. Draft a point guard with the pick here or maybe move the pick. Play Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter heavy minutes and see what you have. Hopefully a franchise guy will be available in the 2014 draft (Wiggins anyone?) and if they can find a point guard now, all the better.
That's it for now. I'll be back with Part II soon ...
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