Posts Tagged ‘Sam Hinkie’

Five teams already looking ahead

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

The start of the playoffs is just over the horizon and there will be plenty of unexpected bounces before the 2014 NBA champ is crowned in June.

But you can’t blame a handful of teams from already taking an early peek at what will surely be better times ahead next season:

 


VIDEO: Joakim Noah joins Arena Link after a recent Bulls win

Chicago Bulls – There’ s still plenty of havoc to be made by Joakim Noah and his “no tanking here” gang. Sitting in the No. 4 spot in the East, the Bulls are already shuffling their hooves at what could be another rip-snorting first-round series against the Nets and possibly a chance to put a few bruises on the Pacers or two-time champions from Miami down the line. But while it’s unrealistic to think Chicago can go all the way this season, the title hopes are back in view next October. Starting, of course, with a healthy return by Derrick Rose, the Bulls get their former MVP and most talented player back onto the court to supplement a lineup that has Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.

While the dealing away of Luol Deng didn’t sink the Bulls in the standings, it brought a first round draft choice that the Cavs had picked up from Sacramento. They saved $20 million on Deng’s contract next year, can amnesty the vastly overpaid Carlos Boozer and be at the front of the line to make a recruiting pitch to head of the class free agent Carmelo Anthony. The lure of Phil Jackson‘s zen magic will probably make it tougher to get him out of N.Y., but if he really wants to make a run at a title instead of just being hero-worshipped, Melo would jump at the chance to join the Bulls where a recuperated Rose gives them the 1-2 punch that is almost necessary these days to be elite. As much fun as they’re having now, the real excitement could return next season.

 


VIDEO: Thaddeus Young, Jarvis Varnado discuss the progress and potential of Nerlens Noel

Philadelphia 76ers — It can’t get worse than losing a record-tying 26 games in a row, can it? It will still be only Year Two in general manager Sam Hinkie‘s long-term building project for the future. But at least next season the Sixers will be able to put a team out on the floor that has more than just Michael Carter-Williams, Thad Young and Tony Wroten as real NBA talent that could be part of something positive down the road. Hinkie has cleared out the payroll, but it’s far too early for the Sixers to even give a thought to luring free agents to Philly. They’ll have two lottery picks — their own and the Pelicans’ spot from the Jrue Holiday trade — and go digging for bargains with another pair of picks in the second round.

Of course, there’s the big bonus of finally getting big man Nerlens Noel into the lineup, after he sat out all of this season with a torn ACL. Noel has been champing at the bit to play now, but the team will hold him back till summer league and then turn him loose. Hinkie is positively giddy about what a bulked-up, more physically fit Noel will be able to do. The Sixers are not even dreaming of playoffs, just putting the building blocks in place.

 


VIDEO: Andrew Nicholson talks about staying positive in Orlando

Orlando Magic — Two years ago, Rob Hennigan dealt away Dwight Howard and the instant reaction from many corners was that the rookie GM had been fleeced. Of course, the way things turned out in L.A., Philly and Denver, it seems that Hennigan was the one doing the fleecing, picking up Nic Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Arron Afflalo, who are now main parts of a young roster on the rise. Mix in last year’s top draft pick Victor Oladipo with Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson and while the Magic are again near the bottom of the standings with the third-fewest wins in the league, there has been a method to Hennigan. The jury is still out on making Oladipo a point guard, but he’s clearly a talent.

Hennigan is following in the footsteps of his mentor Sam Presti in OKC, constructing a roster that is flexible in terms of both talent and salary. The Magic are not beholden at this point to a single individual and are willing to be in the trade market for any upgrade that makes sense at any position. Then toss in the potential of adding an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to the lineup and the Magic are suddenly a team back in the spotlight with a new franchise star and a future that could lead back to chasing the playoffs maybe even as soon as next year in the Eastern Conference.

 


VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo is adjusting to life in the NBA and U.S.

Milwaukee Bucks – As bad and depressing as things got for the Sixers during their 26-game losing streak, the fact is they were never able to drop below the Bucks in the standings. This is the worst team in the league, but it doesn’t have to be this way in 2014-15. For one thing, it’s about timing in the draft. The Bucks have been fortunate enough to win the lottery twice in the past, getting Glenn Robinson with the No. 1 pick in 1994 and Andrew Bogut in 2005. “Big Dog” had had his moments and Bogut is playing nicely these days for the Warriors, but neither was ever the kind of game-changer than can take a franchise to the top.

Now with the deepest lottery in a while, it seems that Milwaukee is in a can’t-miss position. GM John Hammond is said to be setting his sights on center Joel Embiid, who could anchor the middle of a lineup with exciting rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders, who hopefully can get his head back into the game and save a career that could go off the rails. Hammond unloaded the contracts of Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal at the trade deadline and would probably like to jettison O.J. Mayo. Brandon Knight has been up and down, but shows that he can score. Rookie Nate Wolters has probably exceeded expectations and creates optimism for the future.

It’s Antetokounmpo who creates the most excitement with his raw talent and potential. Whether they go with Embild with their first pick or Wiggins, Parker, Julius Randle or Dante Exum, this time the Bucks could get the game changer they need at a time when owner Herb Kohl is trying to sell the franchise. This could be a lineup worth buying and watching next season.

 


VIDEO: Dwight Howard explains why he likes it in Houston

Houston Rockets — Yes, yes, yes. The Rockets are already a top four seed in the rugged Western Conference and have flexed their speed and muscles and shooting prowess against some of the best teams in the league this season. The pairing of Dwight Howard with James Harden has given Houston the 1-2 All-Star punch that was expected. Yet even with some folks tabbing the Rockets as a dark horse threat when the playoffs begin, the truth is their best days are still ahead. Wheeler and dealer GM Daryl Morey knows that his job is not yet done and that’s why he’s played the payroll and salary cap like a Stradivarius and will again have the Rockets in position to make a run at at the biggest names on the free agent market this summer. If he deals Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik ($15 million each next season), the Rockets could offer close to the max.

Howard and Harden are still getting to know each other and this team might need to experience the pain of a playoff loss to get recommitted and take things to the next level. The Rockets could also use another scorer/defender on the wing to go toe-to-toe nightly with the elite contenders. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony? Let us saddle you up as part of the posse, pardner. Of course, it’s unlikely that James is going anywhere. But Anthony would have to have give long and serious thought to Houston if he decides that the magic of Jackson isn’t going to turn the Knicks around in the next year or two. Put Melo in a lineup with Howard and Harden and the 145 points the Rockets rung up the other night against the Lakers could become a nightly occurrence. If not Anthony, Bosh could return home to Texas. The Rockets made a free agent pitch for him several years ago and his adaptable skills could fit in nicely on the front line.

The Rockets will be different next season. They always are. And with Howard and Harden as anchors, now different means better. The start of next season can’t come soon enough in Houston.

Amid all the losses, Young’s been winner

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Thaddeus Young gets up high to deny the Bobcats’ Cody Zeller

It’s the time of the season when the ballots come out and the debates begin.

MVP: LeBron James or Kevin Durant?

Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Hornacek, Doc Rivers, Dwane Casey, Kevin McHale?

Rookie, Sixth Man, Most Improved, Defensive Player. The hardware will be handed out at intervals over the next couple months.

Thaddeus Young won’t get a trophy, but he should be given a lifetime achievement award for having lived through several of them with the 76ers this season.

Doggedly, determined, decisive.

It was the night when his 76ers had tied the NBA single season record with their 26th consecutive loss and the 6-foot-8 forward sat at his locker in Houston’s Toyota Center and answered every question the same way he has answered every challenge in the most difficult season of his basketball career. Head on.

“You just try to win the next game,” Young said.

Roughly 48 hours later, the crowd at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center would celebrate loudly when the Sixers beat the Pistons for their first victory since Jan. 29.

But there have been too few of those happy nights in a 17-win season when the organizational goals and the instincts of a competitor have churned in opposite directions.

The Sixers’ front office and coaching staff have been up front that it’s only the future that matters. Yet here is Young, 25, seeing the precious present of what should be the prime of his career tick away and refusing to simply mark time.

While the losses have piled up, Young’s energy and commitment to his job and team haven’t wavered. If athletes are not necessarily supposed to be role models to the general public, it is a responsibility within the locker room. So maybe one day, when the likes of Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and Nerlens Noel are reaping the benefits of this painful experience, they’ll know who showed them how to act like a pro.

“It’s hard,” Young said. “But all you can do is try to keep your head up and things will change. You keep telling yourself change is coming. In the meantime, you got to go out there and play, regardless of what happens.”

The Sixers became a national headline as skid grew and were fodder for late-night comedians — as if there might not actually be individuals who never stopped busting a gut to get a win.

“You know it’s been talked about,” Young said. “You know what’s being said. But you just go out and try to figure how to win a basketball game. Me personally, the only thing I really care about is winning.

“It’s definitely hard. Every day you want to continue to go out there and be a professional, continue to go out there and do your job. This is what we’re paid to do — go out there and play.”

It was bad enough through the middle of February when the Sixers were simply young and inept. But then trade deadline came and general manager Sam Hinkie traded away Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen and the Sixers became younger and almost incapable.

“I think it can take its toll,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “We talk about having the youngest team in the history of the game and then we say on trade deadline night that we went to a whole other level, which reconfirmed the direction that we’re taking. He lost three friends. You’re look around and you’re looking at an even younger team.

“I admire the way Thad has handled himself, losing games, losing friends, and still I haven’t seen him let up the slightest bit in the way he works and prepares and handles himself.”

He has played in all but three games, leading the Sixers in scoring at 18 ppg while still hustling and simply trying to do the right thing.

“I continue to play hard regardless,” Young said. “So I’ve definitely accepted the way things are. But like I’ve said many times before, the situation is what it is and we have to … remain focused on the task at hand.”

In a strange way, it’s the ultimate compliment to Young that the Sixers wanted to keep him around as their stabilizing, grounding force.

“They have a lot of respect for my words in the locker room, my words on the court and what I’ve done in the past seven years for the organization,” he said. They see me as a guy that can keep these guys calm and cool throughout the situation and maintain the locker room and keep guys together.”

The questions now? Do the Sixers see Young as part a reconstruction project that will likely span several more rough seasons? Does Young want to stay in his role as wet nurse rather than chase championships with a contender? His contract calls for $19 million over the next two years with a player option in 2015-16.

“I haven’t thought about it at all,” Young said. “When that time comes, I’ll talk about it with Sam, with my agent, with coach, whoever else I have to talk about it with. Right now my focus is just finishing out this season and dealing with the summer when it comes. Then we’ll talk about the future and all the other stuff.

“I’m just dealing with the situation I’m in right now. Playing basketball, trying to continue to have fun. With the games we have left, I’ve still got a job to go out there and help some of these guys grow in this locker room, to just go out there and try to be a leader to this team.”

Thad Young won’t get a trophy for his play this season, but he’s well earned our respect in the longest of seasons.

Sixers’ streak goes on and so does plan

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Sixers suffer record-tying 26th straight loss

HOUSTON — Sam Hinkie ducked into the media dining room to grab a small plate of fajitas and headed quickly toward the door.

A friend asked him if he was hiding out.

“People want to see me either gnashing my teeth or beating my chest,” he said. “I’m not gnashing my teeth.”

Not even after 26 losses in a row.

The Sixers’ march toward both ignominious history and hopeful resurrection continued as the Rockets punched their ticket 120-98 on Thursday night.

As general manager, president of basketball operations, Hinkie is the Dr. Frankenstein who reverse-engineered this monster that is now tied with the 2010-11 Cavaliers for the longest single season losing streak in NBA history. For that, some of the town folk would like to storm his door with torches and pitchforks, because, well, they weren’t paying attention. Not to Hinkie’s clearly-drawn blueprint from the moment he was hired last May and not to the long history of the league.

It was fitting that the debate about the NBA Draft lottery should land in Houston for record-tying loss No. 26. For it was here in the land of high humidity and semi-low skullduggery that the lottery was mid-wifed after the Rockets — by virtue of the worst record in the Western Conference — won back-to-back coin flips in 1983 and ’84 to secure the rights to Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In 1986, the Rockets were playing the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

So there is really no reason for the overreactive 21st century social media world or the taking-us-all-to-the-bottom talking heads of TV to lose their already loose grip on reality. And there is no need for commissioner Adam Silver to convene a blue ribbon committee to find a new way to slice bread or disperse incoming talent.

Hinkie and the Sixers are only working within a system that has been in place for decades and, as far as anyone can tell, hasn’t jeopardized civilization or caused the ruination of the league.

The Heat have been to three straight Finals and won back-to-back championships because team president Pat Riley chose in the 2009-10 season to put a roster of expiring contracts onto the court that could finish no better than third in its division and was promptly and expectedly wiped out of the playoffs in the first round.

And by the way, as bad as the Sixers have been, streak and all, they’re still a game up on Milwaukee in the standings.

It just makes no sense to be hopelessly stuck in the middle of the pack, maybe nibbling at the No. 7 or 8 playoff spots with no real hope of ever planning a championship parade down Main St.

Which is why first-year head coach Brett Brown said he doesn’t have the inclination to feel bad for his players who haven’t won a game since Jan. 29 at Boston and could be all alone in the history books if the streak hits 27 at home on Saturday against the Pistons.

“I won’t,” Brown said. “It’s part of everybody trying to execute a way where we can rebuild our program and this is one of the unfortunate byproducts that has come our way. I think that if we had sprinkled our 15 wins in perhaps a little bit differently, where it wouldn’t have received as much attention as it seems to being receiving, well, fair enough. Everybody’s doing their job. We haven’t changed our tune or changed our message because of that.

“It goes back to what we said from Day One. We’re trying to find keepers that can move the program forward and I think we’re doing that.

“I knew what I signed up for. This is no shock. I had the opportunity to research this position for several months and I like the risk-reward. I think that if we can ever get it right in such a fantastic city, the city will come out and support us.

“I respect that the people, the fans, follow us and we want to do the right thing by our city. We want to come out and play hard and have people be proud of our efforts. This year is not about that side of the judgment. We’re judged by different measurements this year. It isn’t winning or losing. I feel like my guys come in and they bring their ‘A’ efforts.”

The trouble is those efforts are simply not good enough for the youngest team in the history of the league. The Sixers can play fast and play hard to a point. They trailed the Rockets by just four in the second quarter. But a few minutes later, Dwight Howard slipped behind the unheeding Philly defense to catch an inbound pass thrown from the opposite free-throw line by Chandler Parsons for a dunk. A few minutes later, Terrence Jones also went deep and would have had another cheap dunk, but the pass from James Harden was too long and went out of bounds.

Those are the kind of plays, the kind of lapses that build a 26-game losing streak.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” said rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. “It is what it is. I don’t really have too many thoughts about it. I’m not thinking about it. I’m just going out there and I’m trying to win a ball game. Of course, I want to win every time I step on the floor. But right now it’s about us developing and getting better each and every day.”

It was Carter-Williams not wanting this bunch falling into a pit of self-pity and despair that prompted him to address the team after the game.

“I just think during the game a couple of guys had long faces, including myself,” he said. “I found myself a little bit down. I just don’t want anyone in this locker room feeling bad for themselves.

“We’re out on the court and we’re playing. I just told them that each and every game from here on out, we’ve got to go out swinging. We can’t give up and-1s. We’ve got to put people on the floor a little bit. We’ve gotta just fight every single day, whether we’re in practice or one of the games. I think that it’s really important we don’t get down on ourselves and give up just because we have a certain amount of losses. I just felt like I needed to speak my piece and make sure our guys are upbeat at the end of the day.

“I think it was received great. I think the guys responded well. We don’t have too many long faces in this locker room right now. We all want to win a ball game. We’re itching to have that feeling of being a winner. I think the coaches appreciated it and I think it needed to be said.”

What needs to be said is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Hinkie’s plan that has been fully endorsed by team owner Josh Harris. The challenge will be to use their draft picks wisely, sign the right free agents and make the whole experience more than just a painful limbo dance.

A short time before tip-off, Rockets coach Kevin McHale was asked if he’d ever lost so many times at anything.

“I don’t know if the sun comes up when you lose 25 in a row,” he said.

It can eventually, if you look beyond today’s bruises to the plan for tomorrow and, like Hinkie, don’t waste time gnashing your teeth.

Sixers Keep Boldly Moving Forward


VIDEO: Sixers GM Sam Hinkie talks about the team’s trade deadline moves

Sam Hinkie can’t yet put a pin in the exact place on the map, but he does know where he’s going.

Forward.

You might not like the speed. You might even turn your nose up at the route this season or the blighted scenery that will make up the rest of the schedule.

But you’ll have to admit it’s different — and in the long run preferable — to the hamster wheel that’s taken the 76ers nowhere fast for more than a decade.

That the first-year general manager chose to unload Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen for a pocketful of beans and expiring contracts was simply a continuation of the plan he’s been trying to execute from his first day on the job.

You can’t build something new and lasting on old ground if all you do is switch out the furniture and slap on a fresh coat of paint. That’s really all the Sixers had been doing since back in the days when Allen Iverson and Larry Brown were driving each other crazy all the way to the NBA Finals.

Over the past several years, all the Sixers could hang their jerseys on was a first-round upset of the Bulls in the 2012 that was only accomplished because Derrick Rose had crumpled in a heap.

What’s been needed for quite some time has been for somebody to come in and blow the whole thing up and start from scratch, disregarding all of the old ways and the ingrained local Philly network.

Hinkie has no problem being that guy.

When he finished at the trade deadline, Hinkie’s swapping had produced six second-round draft picks, five new players, a bundle of expiring contracts and $30 million in salary cap room for the summer.

It’s amazing how much fuss there was over letting go three members of a team with a 15-41 record. It’s mind-boggling that even a few folks might have been confused by Hinkie’s actions.

“I think all three of them are playing at a career-best level,” Hinkie told reporters at a news conference on Friday. “Sometimes it’s about the timing of the league. Some of those guys belong in a place. Evan is in Indiana. Indiana is going to be playing in at least May if not June, and this is a time for him to be there. And some of the things we took back are set for the future, or a second in this year’s draft or something else. Those are things that are more appropriate for where we are.

“We’re trying to acquire things that will help us move forward, and the net result of what happened is we picked up six additional second-round picks. Sometimes it’s the players you select, sometimes it’s the players you can trade for in using them, sometimes it’s the combining them to move other places to do other things.”

Of course, Hinkie already got the ball rolling last summer when he made the stunning deal that sent All-Star Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel, who has not yet played, and then used the No. 11 pick in the draft to pluck Michael Carter-Williams, who appears to be an elite point guard for the next decade.

The Sixers have the potential for a pick in the top three of this year’s draft and another in the top 12, coming from New Orleans, along with all the second-round picks.

“I think it’ll make our phone ring, for one,” Hinkie said. “And I think it’ll give us choices.”

Sure, it might require covering your eyes if you happen to be forced into the Wells Fargo Center anytime between now and April, and you might not like the NBA system that almost demands a stripping of all assets as the quickest and most prudent way to start over. But it is the system, and in the end, the idea is to work within it. Hinkie’s old boss Daryl Morey and former team owner Leslie Alexander in Houston chose not to hit rock bottom, yet over the past 17 seasons the Rockets have only one playoff series win while constantly reshuffling their deck. Now the Rockets have Dwight Howard and James Harden, but was it worth nearly two decades of tap dancing in mediocrity? The path by Hinkie could and should be shorter to rebirth.

“You often don’t know, so you don’t know how it might play out, and you don’t know what might be available,” Hinkie said. “Lots of things come across the transom, lots of things you look at. It’s part of what we try to do, to have a lot of interesting opportunities to look at. It’s important.

“I think many years will come and go where you’ll have lots of opportunities and you’ll say no to all of them, and it will look like nothing happened because nothing actually transpired. This year, enough things came along that were interesting. I would say that some of the picks — people sort of lump picks together, ‘Aw, it’s just a second’ — some of the picks are quite interesting, some of the picks are quite high and could be even higher. That has real value.

“I think as we get close to the draft, the talent evaluators all start to downplay expectations, ‘Oh, it’s not quite as good as we thought.’ It looks quite strong. All the best teams have been built around great players. Great players. And we’re going to be particularly focused on that for a while in finding great players who can lead us forward.”

Someway, somehow. Which is better than continuing to run in circles.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 4

VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 3 NEWS OF THE MORNING Bulls would like to keep Deng around | No timetable for Kirlenko’s return | Hinkie changing way Philly operates

No. 1: Bulls GM hasn’t ruled out re-signing Deng — A few weeks ago, Bulls GM Gar Forman was quoted by both ESPN.com and Bulls.com as saying he doesn’t plan to tinker with the team’s roster too much in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s season-ending injury. While Forman can’t control if players end up in trade rumors (as has been the case of late with Luol Deng), he can support them as best he can. Deng, who will be a free agent this summer, is part of the Bulls’ future and Forman is hoping he and Deng can come to an agreement on a deal, writes Nick Fridell of ESPNChicago.com:

General manager Gar Forman is still hopeful the Chicago Bulls can work out an extension with Luol Deng.

“We value Luol a lot,” Forman said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” Tuesday on ESPN Chicago 1000. “And Luol is a big piece of the success we’ve had the last several years though we haven’t gotten to our ultimate goal. We think Luol is going to continue to be a big piece, a big part of what we’re doing. I know a lot was said about that we couldn’t come to an extension last summer but if you guys really study the NBA, especially since this new CBA — going into the CBA and since the new CBA has been in effect, it’s very, very rare that extensions get done so the fact that one didn’t get done was not an indicator of where we’re at with Luol at all.” Deng, who is in the final year of his contract, couldn’t get an extension worked out last summer. He told ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard earlier this year that he would like to retire as a Bull but his name has surfaced as a possible trade target given the fact that the Bulls’ championship aspirations evaporated when Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury. “Lu is valued here and continues to be a big part of what we’re doing,” Forman said. “Obviously once we get into the offseason we’re going to have to sit down with Luol and have to come to terms on another contract, but Luol is a big piece of what we’re doing, and he has been, and our feeling is he’ll continue to be.”

***

No. 2: No timetable for Kirilenko’s return to Nets — Of the 18 games the Nets have played so far, offseason free-agent addition Andrei Kirilenko has played in just five of those games. Back spasms have kept the multifaceted forward out of Brooklyn’s lineup and continue to be a problem for him. Worse yet for the Nets is that neither he nor the team have any idea when he’ll play again, writes Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:

Two epidurals and three setbacks later, Brooklyn Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko still has no timetable for when he will return to the lineup. Kirilenko has already missed 13 games this season because of back spasms. “I’m afraid of giving a timetable, because in the previous occasions, we’ve given a timetable, but it doesn’t work,” Kirilenko said. Kirilenko said this time he needs to take more time off before returning to full contract practice. “What I’m doing right now is a lot of physical therapy and kind of strengthening the core,” Kirilenko said. “Right now I’m just thinking everyday I’m gradually getting better and better. It’s just frustrating because there’s a lot of games and you want to play but you’re missing so much.”

***

N0. 3: GM Hinkie changes mindset in Philly — A look at the standings this morning, like most mornings, finds the Philadelphia 76ers within striking distance of a playoff berth. Despite a front-office and roster overhaul in the offseason, the Sixers continue to stay in the thick of things in the East thanks to a philosophy focused on the science of winning games that has been driven by new GM Sam Hinkie. Tom Sunnergren of ESPN.com has a great piece looking at how Hinkie has worked to set a new groundwork for success in Philly:

When Sixers owner Josh Harris sat behind a podium at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on May 14 and told the world that he’d hired then-Rockets assistant general manager Sam Hinkie to run his franchise, it represented a stunning about-face for the organization. In the course of a month, Doug Collins and the Doug Collins Philosophy of Basketball — the 76ers’ face and animating force the previous three seasons — had been repudiated with breathtaking swiftness. With a single hire, an organization that was as mired in traditional thinking as any in the sport had suddenly and completely devoted itself to a bold new pursuit: mastering the science of winning basketball games. Hinkie, a Daryl Morey acolyte who quietly made a name for himself in league circles as perhaps the most probabilistic thinker in a singularly rational Houston front office, threw down the gauntlet almost immediately. On draft night, in his first meaningful move as general manager, Hinkie traded his best player (or at least the player widely believed to be his best) in exchange for a significantly more valuable asset: a future. In return for Jrue Holiday, the rookie GM landed Nerlens Noel (the consensus No. 1 prospect in the run-up to the 2013 draft), a top-five protected pick in 2014 that’s likely to wind up in the lottery and substantially improved odds of gaining a top selection with his team’s own pick in the same heralded draft. The move was a game-changer. … The stark changes have extended to in-game strategy, as well. The 76ers’ shot charts between this season and last don’t look anything alike. A Philadelphia team that, under Collins, led the NBA in 16- to 23-foot shots in 2012-13 with 24 a game (deepening the self-inflicted wound, the team was only 28th in field goal percentage from this range), now leads the league in attempts from within 5 feet of the basket and places 12th in 3-pointers attempted. When asked how conscious the decision to move away from the midrange game was, Hinkie was blunt. “Conscious,” he said with a smirk. “I don’t have a good scale for degrees of consciousness, but it’s something our coaches have focused on.” And while up-tempo basketball has become something of an analytic shibboleth, the previously sluggish Sixers are leading the NBA in pace of play, using 102 possessions per 48 minutes, almost 10 more per game than they used in 2012-13. … The Sixers were one of the first 15 subscribers to SportVU, the camera systems that capture player movement and turn it into actionable data, and have since been installed in every NBA arena. While the organization has been tight-lipped about how precisely this intel influences its X’s and O’s, Hinkie admits to being an enthusiast, and one of the earliest adopters, of the technology. “We [in Houston] were customer zero,” he told a group of bloggers at an October breakfast. “It’s like a lot of competitive environments,” he said of the NBA. “There’s an advantage, and then it goes away quickly. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new ones. You have to find new ones.” … The team’s methodical approach to training is complemented by a new and unique emphasis on nutrition. While the players don’t have strictly individualized diets prescribed to them by the team, they are grouped into several nutritional tiers based on their body-mass index and body fat percentage. … Both the emphasis on fitness and nutrition have the full-throated support of the coach Hinkie hired, Brett Brown, and the staff the organization built around him. Everyone in Philadelphia is pulling in the same direction. Brown worked closely with the Australian Institute of Sport during his time as coach of the country’s national team and spoke glowingly of its methods after he was hired to lead the 76ers. “You look at cutting-edge technology that comes out of sports science and the [Australian] Institute of Sport is among the leaders around the world, very globally recognized as cutting edge … My main influence is what went on at the Olympics and at the Institute of Sport and my earlier days [in Australia].” During Brown’s stint in San Antonio, the Spurs became one of the first NBA teams to start using Catapult. Brown’s staff is like-minded, brought in from organizations that are among the most forward thinking in the sport. Chad Iske and Vance Walberg came over from Denver, Lloyd Pierce from the Grizzlies and Billy Lange from a Villanova basketball program that places a premium on science. This isn’t an accident, Hinkie explained. “We’ve come from similar environments,” the GM said. “Our coaches all come from environments where they value [analytic thinking], and that’s why they’re here. … This is natural for a lot of people in our office. Because of where they’ve been. Because of what they’ve been doing.”

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Long-limbed Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo isn‘t done growing and will likely one day be a 7-footer … Former Sixers forward Royce White is optimistic he’ll get another shot in the NBA … Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov has earned minutes and the trust of coach Brian Shaw ICYMI Of The Night: This is what makes NBA players so great: they make shots in games that most of us can’t even make when goofing around at the local court … VIDEO: Boston’s Avery Bradley nails the over-the-backboard shot

It’s Never Too Early To Make A Move


VIDEO: Jameer Nelson talks about sharing the backcourt with Victor Oladipo

The season isn’t even a month old, but there are some places where things are clearly not working and it’s already time for a change. Here are a handful of names that could or should be on the move:

Omer Asik, Rockets — At this point, he should have a moving van at the front door and his luggage packed. It’s only a matter of time before last year’s flavor of the season gets his wish and a ticket out of Houston. Despite his workmanlike double-double consistency in 2012-13, there’s no faulting the Rockets for leaping at the chance to upgrade to Dwight Howard. The twin towers experiment didn’t work. Asik is unlikely to be happy playing just the spare minutes available as a backup and it only makes sense to get the kind of piece missing — rugged, bruising big man or stretch 4 — that can be a more comfortable fit at both ends of the floor. It also wouldn’t hurt to unload that $15 million due next season to Asik. There are any number of places that Asik could help right away. New York and New Orleans immediately come to mind. GM Daryl Morey is in no rush and will pull the trigger when he’s ready on the right deal.

Jameer Nelson, Magic — The handwriting has been on the wall since the Magic made Victor Oladipo the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft and promptly announced going into summer league play that he would get a run at point guard. That message might as well have been spray-painted in Day-Glo orange on Saturday night when coach Jacque Vaughn removed the veteran Nelson from a winnable game against Dallas and let the rookie run the offense all the way to the end of a 108-100 loss. Oladipo, as uncomfortable as he may often look at the point, is the future of the franchise along with all of the other young parts. In a season when the Magic don’t really expect to win many games, it only makes sense to move Nelson and make the full-time commitment to the rookie. The fact that the $8 million on Nelson’s contract next season is a team option will only make him easier to move for another future asset.

Danny Granger, Pacers — The fact that Granger has not yet come back from a calf injury more than three weeks into the season hasn’t stopped the Pacers from running out to their league-best 10-1 record, which matches the Spurs. In fact, it could mean that coach Frank Vogel will have to disrupt the humming of a well-oiled machine when he eventually has to find the minutes and shots that Granger will surely want when he’s back in the lineup. Can he really afford to give up a single possession by MVP candidate Paul George? Lance Stephenson has fit quite well into the starting lineup. The Pacers pushed the Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals without Granger last spring. By moving his desirable expiring contract they could add another valuable piece to the bench.

Thaddeus Young, 76ers — The long, versatile forward does not shoot well from behind the 3-point line, but does so many other things that make him desirable and valuable on the court. Considering the fact that the Sixers are still several years away under GM Sam Hinkie’s total reconstruction program, it doesn’t make sense to keep Young around for another $19 million over the next two seasons. Hinkie would probably like to get rid of Evan Turner first, but Young is the player that other clubs are most interested in and could bring in return the kind of asset that Philly wants and needs for the future.

Anybody But DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore, Kings — It might be time to set up the folding tables and the hand drawn price tags in the parking lot at Sleep Train Arena and hold a flea market to clean out the locker room. As Scott Howard-Cooper pointed out, the Kings have already benched Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Patrick Patterson and are ready to make a full-time commitment to the future by sweeping the locker room clean. Cousins may have his own baggage, but he is putting up solid numbers of 21.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Despite all of the optimism that the “saved in Sacramento” Kings brought into this season under new coach Michael Malone, losing seven of their first nine games delivered a heavy dose of reality.


VIDEO:
Danny Granger speaks on Nov. 13 about progress with injury

Never Too Soon For Snap Judgments


VIDEO: Sixers begin season with strong start

 

So what if we’ll have to skip the clocks ahead again before we even finish the long grind of the regular season? Does it really matter that it will take more than seven months for somebody to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2013-14 regular season.

Heat – Nobody this side of Miley Cyrus gets more scrutiny, criticism and hyperventilating overreaction than the two-time defending champs. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have to talk over the alarm bells, trying to put out the fires of two losses in their first three games. They still have the best player in the game, still have a more than capable No. 2 man if he stays healthy and still will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin in April. That won’t stop the sky from falling on nearly a weekly basis. But you still want to pick them for next June.

Clippers – So much for the closing down of Lob City by the new mayor Doc Rivers. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still running free and easy with the top-rated offense in the league (119.5), but we’re going to have to see more out of DeAndre Jordan and that unicorn defense before we consider the Clips to be true playoff contenders in the West.

Derrick Rose — The Bulls’ star will be right behind the Heat with the Chicken Little crowd that will fret and worry and complain with every missed shot and turnover. He’ll have the most scrutinized repaired leg in the league until Kobe Bryant returns. The good news is that Rose hasn’t shown any ill effects from the knee surgery and it’s only a matter of time until he regains the stroke and the confidence that make him an MVP candidate and Chicago a threat to push Miami and Indiana in the playoffs.

Advantage Howard – The 2-2 Lakers might be saying they’re having fun without the 6-foot-11 distraction, but Dwight Howard is healthy and living up to all expectations in Houston as both an inside force (15 rebounds per game) and solid veteran presence in the Rockets locker room. No longer suffering from back and shoulder problems, Howard is playing joyfully and stress-free for the first time in three seasons. He’s been accepting of instruction from coach Kevin McHale, willing to move out to guard power forwards as part of the twin towers tandem experiment with Omer Asik, and has the Rockets on track to their stated goal of getting home-court advantage in the West playoffs, at the very least.

Lakers – If they were in a swimming pool, the Lakers would be wearing an orange life jacket and just trying to bob their heads above the water line. It’s a two-part season that’s B.K. and A.K. — Before Kobe and After Kobe – and things just don’t look good for the long haul with Steve Nash struggling badly and a bench that provides as much real support as a, well, bench.

Sixers – Other than LeBron and Wade declaring that they were taking the season off to visit an ashram to find inner peace, could there have been a more shocking start to the season than a 3-0 start in always sunny Philadelphia? Michael Carter-Williams, Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the real deal. But the Warriors proved Monday that the Sixers will eventually settle down to their real level in the Andrew Wiggins Derby, especially after GM Sam Hinkie possibly parlays the quick starts by Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Thaddeus Young into deals for more draft picks.

Thunder – OK, everybody kicks five bucks into the pot and the winner is the person who picks the exact time — day, hour, minute and seconds — when some knucklehead rips Russell Westbrook for being the kind of bad/selfish teammate that will never help Kevin Durant win a championship. The truth is, since GM Sam Presti’s benevolent giveaway of James Harden to Houston, Westbrook is Durant’s only chance of getting back to The Finals. No more Memphis getting past half a Thunder team. No more avoiding the toughest challenge in the West, Spurs. Yes, Durant is OKC’s best player. But Westbrook, healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, is the hard edge on the court.

Wizards – How many times can we wait on the revamped Wizards to have that bust-out season that propels them back into the playoff picture in the East? John Wall is fine, Trevor Ariza is averaging a double-double, they have a healthy center in Marcin Gortat and yet Washington is still 0-3 with a defense that is simply dreadful. Coach Randy Wittman still leads the race for first coach fired.

Warriors – They’re like the magician that has your eyes glued to his pretty assistant in the skimpy outfit that is their high octane, high scoring offense, while coach Mark Jackson’s team really wants to pull rabbits out of their hats with a defense that will get in your face and get after it. Andre Iguodala couldn’t have been a better fit if he’d been sewn into the lineup by a British tailor.

Love Is All You Need – Well, it would certainly help to have Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the star-crossed Timberwolves remain ambulatory through the 82-game schedule. But if there were a Comeback Player of the Year Award for the first week of the season, it would have to go to Kevin Love, who’s been nothing short of a beast scoring and rebounding. This is why it was never rash to envision the Timberwolves Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. If Love stays healthy, they make it even in a crowded race.

Nets – While losing two of their first three was seen as a sign of the apocalypse in Miami, that trendy, high-priced collection of talent in Brooklyn might be the real candidate for being oversold as championship contenders, a win over the Heat notwithstanding. It still remains to be seen if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can continue to produce like their old selves as they become older selves. In the end, it will all come down to whether Deron Williams can get himself back among the elite level of point guards. So far, the shot just isn’t falling.

Knicks – Like the buzz over Gangnam Style and Zero Dark Thirty, Carmelo Anthony and his friends are just so last year. In fact, since their blazing start out of the gate in 2012-13, the Knicks have been positively mediocre and there is no indication that things will change soon. They were laughably “all-in” for a championship run last season, came up way short and now the brightest news is Melo saying he’d like to retire as a Knick. Perfect. Looks like a lot of them already have.

Anthony Davis – The No. 1 pick from the 2012 draft has positively exploded with his growth in the league, almost doubling his scoring from 13.5 to 23.7 ppg, bumping rebounds up from 8.2 to 12.3 and blocks from 1.8 to 4.0. This the Davis who had everyone drooling over his potential at Kentucky and makes the Pelicans a fun stop when flipping channels on League Pass. Now, if only coach Monty Williams could find a way to put some zip into an offense that is only mediocre because they play at such a horridly slow pace in an up-tempo league.

Pacers — Let the Nets spend all the money, the Knicks suck up all the oxygen with talk of Melo’s free agent destination and the Bulls ride the frenzy around every peak and valley in Rose’s return. Meanwhile in the heartland, Paul George keeps getting better, Lance Stephenson keeps learning about consistency, coach Frank Vogel keeps cranking up the intensity on the league’s best defense and the Pacers happily keep playing in the shadows as the real top threat to Miami in the East.

 


VIDEO: The Beat crew talks about Westbrook’s swift return

Nerlens Noel Offers Hope To Down 76ers

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Imagine all those staunch Sixers fans falling for a skinny Boston kid raised four miles from the enemy Celtics’ home court.

Get ready, Philly, here comes Nerlens Noel.

Maybe a love affair rising from the failed ashes of Andrew Bynum isn’t so far-fetched. After all, Noel’s outdated box-top hair-do is inspired by his fave entertainer, Philadelphia’s own Will Smith from his days as the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.

“Everything’s for a reason,” the 76ers rookie center told NBA.com last week, referring to the ACL tear in his left knee that derailed his near-certain path to becoming the No. 1 pick.

“I definitely feel the injury is a blessing in disguise, and I feel that Philly is perfect as to my style, and definitely my playing style. I’m just always playing hard, working for everything and, of course, the city of Philadelphia itself having the die-hard fans they do and just being a blue-collar city.”

When the home fans will get their first look at the one-year Kentucky wonder remains uncertain.

Noel’s relentless recovery is ongoing. The devastating injury occurred on Feb. 12 in just his 24th collegiate game, the result of a hustle play the Wildcats’ center didn’t have to attack. He could have surrendered the breakaway layup against against rival Florida. He sprinted, closed the gap, leaped and swatted the ball away from behind. His 106th block had him on pace to threaten 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis‘ school-record from the season before. Noel crashed to the floor and didn’t get up.

More than four months later at the NBA Draft, Noel waited. He slid from No. 1 to No. 6.

“I don’t regret making that play,” Noel said. “I definitely wanted to put my team in the best position to win and I’m not mad at myself for making that play. That’s just who I am.”

Since undergoing surgery on March 12, and up until just last week, the 19-year-old Noel slept, ate and rehabbed in Birmingham, Ala., punching work-week-like hours to rebuild his knee under the supervision of renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews and esteemed physical therapist Kevin Wilk. He’s finally seeing evidence of all that hard work.

“I feel great. I’m really starting to feel like my old self, being able to have my explosiveness. But I’m definitely being careful with it,” Noel said. “From Day 1, every time I was in rehab, the last few reps, I would just think how bad I want to get on the court because of how much I want to prove to myself that I can get back and be the player I want to be.”

NBA training camps open in about two weeks, but it will still take time before Noel can get down to serious preparations with Philly. He began with baby steps back on the court about two months ago, but contact team drills will be off limits, and a debut date is not yet being discussed, at least not publicly. He has always hoped to play by Christmas.

“I want to be 100 percent confident not only physically, but mentally coming back from it,” Noel said.

He’s only now getting to know the city, having moved to Philadelphia about 10 days ago. He dropped off some boxes there, then he traveled to Lexington to attend a Wildcats alumni game and then to Los Angeles for a Reebok photo shoot, where he revealed the company will encourage his retro “Fresh Prince” fashion sense. Moving to Philly earlier in the summer wasn’t really an option. He and the Sixers’ No. 11 pick, Michael Carter-Williams, remain the only first-round picks yet to sign their rookie contracts.

Salaries for first-round picks are slotted, so there’s no contract dispute here. The bottomed-out, 76ers, now under the guidance of general manager Sam Hinkie, are conserving cap space as they slowly fill out the roster. Then they’ll ink their draft picks. Unsigned players are prohibited from using team facilities and working with training and coaching staffs.

“It’s not too disappointing. I’m definitely working as much as I can and staying focused. That will come,” Noel said. “They’re making strategic moves right now so I definitely understand, but that’s not stopping me from rehabbing and getting back to where I want to be.”

Hinkie has a vision of where that one day will be. He traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans to make Noel the centerpiece of his rebuild. Listed at 6-foot-10 at Kentucky, Noel measured 6-foot-11 3/4 with shoes at the Draft Combine in May. His several-inches-high flat-top reminds of the classic line uttered by the late Chick Hearn in the movie “Fletch:” He’s actually 6-5, with the afro 6-9.” Noel might actually top 7-foot.

His hair even has its own Twitter account (@NoelsFlatTop). Among its more than 2,700 followers is Noel, who doesn’t know who started the account when he was a top recruit.

Noel’s height, with or without the flat-top, is of lesser concern than filling out his long slender frame that’s equipped with a 7-foot-4 wing span. Noel weighed 216 pounds as a freshman and dropped to 206 post-surgery, a weight that could never survive in the NBA trenches. He’s up to 221 and wants to get close to 230 by the time he plays in an NBA game.

As he gets older, he knows he’ll have to continually get stronger to bang with the East’s big boys such as the Pacers’ 7-foot-2, 280-pound center Roy Hibbbert. Noel said he’s already enlisted Hibbert, who has his own array of old-school post moves, to aid his low-post development. That is an aspect of Noel’s game that barely exists at the moment, and some question if it ever will.

Noel averaged 10.5 ppg at Kentucky mostly off dunks, but he said he’s capable of becoming a steady offensive weapon in the NBA.

“Especially with my work ethic and my focus, I’ll be able to do that,” Noel said. “The things he teaches me, mix it with my mobility, add a little flavor to it, I can develop an offensive game.”

First things first, and that’s regaining full strength in his knee. But don’t worry Philly, the Boston kid is on his way.

Brown And The Sixers A Good Fit

HANG TIME, Texas – So it looks like the 76ers will not go into the Oct. 30 season opener against the Heat without a head coach.

The job belongs to Brett Brown, assuming he accepts the offer, and the process of repairing one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises can continue.

It’s a move that should have happened a long time ago and, no, I’m not talking about the past three months since Sam Hinkie took over as general manager. I know all about the impatience of Philadelphians. I am one. Which is why I’m so perplexed about the furor over Hinkie taking his time in the dead of summer to finally get this right rather than an uproar over the past two decades as the Sixers have replaced one Band-Aid with another.

Let’s face it. Even the Allen Iverson Era was ephemeral, since any endeavor involving Larry Brown has the lifespan of a moth.

The hiring of the 52-year-old assistant from San Antonio would be the next step in the kind of sweep-it-all-clean maneuvering that should have taken place in the organization a long time ago instead of the Sixers peripatetic wanderings through the want-ads.

Hinkie has plainly said — though few seemed to listen — that his focus was on a future of two to five years, not beating LeBron and the Heat in less than three months. That’s why he was willing to trade away the team’s best player and All-Star Jrue Holiday and put his faith on Nerlens Noel eventually becoming the No. 1 draft pick talent that was once projected. That’s why the new GM is willing to suffer through a miserable 2013-14 season, and maybe even the next, in order to establish a solid foundation that will serve the team down the line. Hinkie is confident, decisive and forward thinking.

Brown fits into the model with a resume that includes more than a decade of working inside the most consistently successful franchise of the past 14 years and working under Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the league.

After starting out in the operations department in San Antonio, Brown became the director of player development in 2002 and worked extensively with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as they made the successful transition from the international game into NBA All-Stars. Hinkie, too, has an eye on international talent and would have a coach who is simpatico. The presence of Noel and young point guard Michael Carter-Williams could also take advantage of the teaching abilities of Brown, who also has long experience as the head coach of the Australian national team.

While there might be those who are urging Brown to turn down the Sixers because Philly has been a coaching graveyard and a merry-go-round of old friends and tired names with local ties, there is a better chance that it’s exactly the kind of opportunity that a first-time coach would crave, an opportunity to build from the ground up.

With Mike Budenholzer gone to the Hawks, there is a school of thought that Brown could remain in San Antonio and wait for Popovich to retire, then take over. After all, Popovich has said often through the years that he’ll walk out the door with Tim Duncan, who has two years left on his contract. However, the fact that Brown was willing to previously interview for the Nuggets job might indicate that Pop plans to stay on and usher in the next era with the Spurs. And at that point, are the Spurs any different from the Sixers right now, searching for new blood and new direction?

More than that, you simply don’t tick off years on the calendar waiting for things that might happen. You find a job that is a right fit at the right time and you go for it.

It might have taken a few months longer than some would have liked for Hinkie and Brown to come together. Or it could be the exactly the right kind of marriage that’s been years overdue in Philly.

The 10 Most Productive Teams Of The Offseason

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The 2013 NBA offseason is nearly half over and with most of the major free agents signed, the winners and losers of the offseason have emerged. It should be noted however that last year’s major moves didn’t stop until two days before the season began when the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So while a lot still can change, here are the 10 teams who’ve had the most productive offseasons so far:

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie and Nerlens Noel.

Sam Hinkie added young talent like Nerlens Noel this offseaon.

Additions: Nerlens Noel, Royce White, James Anderson, Michael Carter-Williams

Subtractions: Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Dorell Wright

Overview: The major move of the Sixers’ offseason occurred in mid-May when they announced the hire of Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager. Hinkie comes from the Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s school of basketball operations and the moves he’s made so far this offseason signal a similar approach. The Sixers have acquired young talent, added draft picks, and assured they will be one of the worst teams in the league next season before what should be one of the best draft classes in years. They’re rebuilding the right way and the benefits should be apparent in a few seasons.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Additions: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Ronny Turiaf, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad

Subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma, Luke Ridnour

Overview: The Timberwolves made their already high-power offense even more dangerous this offseason when they acquired Martin and Brewer and resigned Chase Budinger. Point guard Ricky Rubio will now have plenty of 3-point options strolling around the perimeter and the return of Kevin Love should place Minnesota back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They are still in negotiations with center Nikola Pekovic, who is a restricted free agent and his resigning will be critical to the team’s success as their defense would struggle to survive without his presence.

Indiana Pacers

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers' bench.

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers’ bench.

Additions: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, Donald Sloan, C.J. Watson, Solomon Hill

Subtractions: D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Overview: The Pacers accomplished objective number one of their offseason when they quickly resigned power forward David West. Since they locked him up, the Pacers have been busy adding depth to their bench. Watson and Sloan shore up the guard position and the recent acquisition of Scola gives them one of the best bench big men in the league. They’re stockpiling talent for hopefully another battle against the Miami Heat in next season’s conference finals and, so far, they look to be doing a pretty good job at it.

Golden State Warriors

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal

Subtractions: Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Carl Landry

Overview: The Warriors addition of Iguodala makes them an impressively deep team as emerging contributor Harrison Barnes will most likely move to the bench and provide a spark with the second unit. The loss of Jack will definitely impact the team, but Douglas should be able to lessen the blow. This team is still led by oft-hurt players and their success will be directly linked to their relative health. But if they can stay healthy, then the Warriors should be a contender in the Western Conference.

Phoenix Suns

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Caron Butler, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Subtractions: Jared Dudley, Luis Scola

Overview: The Suns were able to wrangle Bledsoe away from the Los Angeles Clippers and now they have a young, exciting point guard for the future. The unloading of Scola also brought in young talent and picks to help the Suns gain some of the best roster flexibility in the league. The Suns, who most likely will struggle this season,  will be an interesting team in a few years under new head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Additions: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev

Subtractions: Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington, Omri Casspi

Overview: The Cavaliers “won” the Bynum free agency sweepstakes and they seem determined to make a playoff push this season under new head coach Mike Brown. They made a surprise move when they drafted Bennett with the first overall pick, but his potential and play style is exactly what this roster needs. If All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and Bynum can stay healthy, then the Cavaliers should be able to work their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Brooklyn Nets

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Additions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee

Subtractions: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks

Overview: It would be an understatement to say the Nets are going for it this season. Brooklyn made the biggest splash of the offseason when they acquired Pierce and Garnett from the Boston Celtics and they now seem ready to become a contender under rookie head coach Jason Kidd. This is still an old team which could breakdown at any time and they gave up a lot of draft picks to make this roster possible. But the Nets will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference if the roster meshes quickly and point guard Deron Williams returns to the All-NBA level play he’s displayed during short stretches in Brooklyn.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

Additions: Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Dennis Schroeder, Lucas Nogueira, Mike Muscala

Subtractions: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Devin Harris

Overview: The Hawks may not be much better than they were last year, but their roster is unquestionably in a better position than a year ago. The Hawks were able to resign Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to reasonable deals, let Smith and his questionable shooting walk to Detroit, agreed to two of the best deals of the summer with Millsap and Brand, and they drafted two exciting young prospects in Schroeder and Nogueira. Atlanta quietly had one of the best offseasons in the league and fans of the Hawks should be excited about their future.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

Additions: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Reggie Bullock

Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf

Overview: The Clippers were able to negotiate one of the best non-player acquisitions of the summer when they worked out a deal with the Celtics for head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers will act as both head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers and his leadership already made an impact when Chris Paul quickly decided to resign with the team. The loss of Bledsoe was an unavoidable disappointment, but the addition of sharp-shooters Redick and Dudley will help improve the Clippers’ sometimes stagnant half-court offense . This team will be a contender in the Western Conference if not for unforeseen circumstances.

Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Additions: Dwight Howard, Omri Caspi, Marcus Camby, Isaiah Canaan, Reggie Williams

Subtractions: Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson

Overview: The free-agent prize of the summer found a new home in Houston when Howard agreed to a contract with the Rockets. The dominant-when-healthy center instantly makes the Rockets a title contender and he should be able to grow with James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik. The past year has been a master-class in rebuilding by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey as he turned young talent and picks into two superstars. Besides the loss of Robinson, the Rockets were able to get significantly better this offseason without hurting their future and that’s a rare thing to do in today’s NBA.