HANG TIME WEST – Welcome to Phase 1A, the continuation foul of the first wave of the hectic opening days in free agency, as the Rockets break into the victory dance, the Hawks stay very busy from the Draft through the second week of July and the Nuggets do whatever it is that the Nuggets are doing.
This is still 1A because the first wave is not yet settled, not with deals set to become official on Wednesday and not with the next set of important decisions looming with Andrew Bynum, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis at the top of the list. If anything, the first wave was about raising questions moving ahead as it was about resolutions.
Now, for example, what do the Mavericks do at point guard? They went from needing a new start there to getting four. They nabbed Shane Larkin with the No. 18 pick in the June 27 draft and then notched a reported four-year, $29-million deal for Jose Calderon. When Dallas spent another $9 million over three years for a reunion with Devin Harris, and in the wake of luring Gal Mekel from Israel with a three-year contract, the issue quickly went from who has the position for 2013-14 to who gets squeezed out of minutes.
Calderon is the favorite to start. Harris’ defense and experience at shooting guard, and with O.J. Mayo gone from the Mavericks backcourt, makes it easy to envision Calderon and Harris playing together. But Larkin’s speed is a unique dimension that can also be utilized, depending on how well he acclimates to the NBA with the Mavs still in win-now mode.
Shifting to another division…what do the Warriors do for depth? They have a quality top six — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes — and landing Igoudala while barely touching the core of the 2012-13 roster makes them one of the winners of the summer. But they need more bodies to really be in the conversation as one of the favorites to win the West.
Festus Ezeli, the backup center last season, is expected to be out another five to eight months after knee surgery. Carl Landry, the backup power forward, reached a deal with the Kings. Jarrett Jack, the backup point guard, reached a deal with the Cavaliers. That’s a lot of production to replace, or a lot of pressure on Nemanja Nedovic to go from the No. 30 pick to dependable backcourt reserve, though Golden State also likes the idea of Igoudala with the ball in his hands.
The Warriors will apparently have the benefit of acquiring Igoudala in a sign-and-trade, a technicality that creates flexibility under the salary cap that would not have existed if the deal was an outright signing. This way, they still have the mid-level exception and Traded Player Exceptions.
What becomes of Bismack Biyombo? The Bobcats spent a reported $41 million over three seasons to sign center Al Jefferson, the biggest free-agent deal in team history, after using the fourth pick in the draft on power forward Cody Zeller. That obviously takes minutes from Biyombo, the 2011 project of a lottery pick who needs playing time to have any chance of developing into the game-changer on defense a lot of teams thought two years ago he could become.
Maybe Charlotte sees him strictly as a third big man, and that’s fine. He fits well as a defensive presence with an awkward offensive game playing next to the post scoring of Jefferson or the fluid Zeller. But 2013-14 is the third season for Biyombo, ordinarily make-or-break time for players with a lot to prove. Managing frontcourt minutes will be a storyline to watch for new coach Steve Clifford.
Where does Josh Smith fit with the Pistons? Feel free to answer “he doesn’t.”
Detroit can use the frontcourt scoring – or the scoring, period – but Smith’s undisciplined offense, as several Hawks coaches were unable to change his shot selection, doesn’t help anyone. His shot blocking will help though. The real issue is whether the Pistons will take minutes from promising big men Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond to get Smith minutes at power forward, or whether Smith will play primarily at small forward.
Smith at $56 million over four years is a panic purchase by an organization trying to push back into relevancy. But Drummond, coming off an encouraging rookie season in a reserve role, and Monroe, their power forward and leading scorer, need the minutes, while No. 8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope needs the ball at shooting guard.