Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Outside the Aviary: "We Got It For Cheap"

Since LA and Orlando both make me angry, I'm gonna fast forward seven games to the offseason.

The idea that '09 is a weak class of NBA free agents is a ridiculous understatement. There is more chance for failure amongst the championship-caliber teams than there is success. Think about it: the Lakers are banking on Odom and Ariza, the Cavs ditto with Anderson Varejao if he opts out (sorry kids, I don't think that highly of him other than a scrapper), and the Celtics ditto Glen Davis (how long 'til he becomes the Varejao he is destined to be?) as their high priorities speaks to how much the GMs think about this class. That said, there are some "we got it for cheap volume '09" players worth pursuing this summer. Here goes.

Raja Bell. He can still defend for a contender, can hit open (read: OPEN) threes despite his 3% tanking a bit this year in Phoenix/Charlotte. He can rock a midlevel exception, maybe not even the whole thing. He's hungry from his recent fall from grace in Phoenix and can replace the tenacity a contender may have lost since he's entered the twilight of his career. I love him in Boston, Cleveland (Mo Williams being absent would not have mattered as much in the playoffs-- Raja would have made a huge difference, I bet), Atlanta. The Knicks aren't contenders, but he would go back to D'Antoni, I'd bet.

Kyle Korver (if he opts out). If you are defense heavy, maybe you need that dude to come in and just hit shots. Or, maybe, you just need those shots. Hard to imagine him in Boston or Cleveland with those coaches. Or LA with them having wasted money on "The Machine." Or Denver, seeing as how they have to give the ball to JR Smith one out of every three touches in clutch situations (my thoughts on JR soon to come). Still, a midway contender could really use a court-spreading spot-up guy right? I love him in San Antonio, Cleveland (despite the defense first attitude), and like him in Phoenix now that they are running again (a sleeper for next year since they wasted the first half of the season on the most subjective and thoughtless coach in the NBA). If Kerr were smart, he'd try to make amends.

Birdman. Oh man, Mike Brown and Doc Rivers. They have to think they can make a run at this guy. He's got a past and is too emotional at times, yes. But you don't think LeBron or Garnett can keep him in check like Chauncey kinda did? Man oh man. Sign him, please. Either of you. Cleveland-- Anderson Varejao has held out and is now going to opt out. Of a contract. Worth money. More than enough money. 6.4 million dollars worth of money. FUCK HIM. Birdman is everything he is plus some actual offense. You sign him and a real spot-shooter (sorry, Boobie. 2006 was so long ago and you been figured out). Do it. Boston, this is your chance to have the cheap asshole that will take you to the top again. He's Mikki Moore, only the exact opposite. He's the new, white, tattooed PJ Brown. Denver needs to operate on a "right now" policy, I'd say. I'd love him in Boston, love/hate him in Cleveland and watch a lot more Denver games in Denver. Also, shouldn't Philly make a short run? He and Brand splitting some time don't sound so bad, right?

Mike Bibby. More than Jason Kidd, the emergence of Bibby after his trade last year has been surprising. Not that I thought he was cooked, I just never saw a four-seed or second round appearance coming from him. A team with a jittery young PG could use him. Or a group of shitty ones. And he might come cheaper than expected in the no money era. This will kill me to say it, but wouldn't LA be unbeatable right now with a decent-to-good point guard? Ugh. Seriously. Kidd still bears himself as too good and expensive, so go with the real option: Bibby in '09. Love him with the Lakers*.

*kills self.

Brandon Bass. He's good. Seriously, I love watching him. He's worth it. Undersized forwards are the new undersized shooting guards. I mean Chuck Hayes played center this year. Center. Chuck Hayes. Do it. You might not be disappointed, people. Miami, you like how Beasley liked to do nothing with his "size"? How about a guy who knows how to use his? Love him over Glen in Boston (not gonna happen), Denver (Phony's gonna kill me on that one) and, most of all, Miami.

Von Wafer. He's got the unsung quality you want in a swingman. He can shoot, drive and his name his alternately cool/gay. Isn't that all you need to make a small difference on a team? Plus, we gotta forgive him sometime, right?

Love him in Philly, Golden State (I know, not a contender... I just love them, OK?), Phoenix.

Ricky Davis. (Just kidding.)

Dahntay Jones. It is decision time in Denver. I love him right where he is. Leave him be. Except, well, there are so many defense-hungry contenders who just watched him play the toughest guy on the court for long stretches... uh-oh, Denver. Personally, I think he flops everywhere else. Stay, Dahntay. Stay. Love him in Denver, he'd survive in Boston or Cleveland. Neither of them can afford to give away that much offense, though.

Jamal Crawford. He's not elite, but he can come in and get hot for a struggling club. For all the players on this list, can you see any of them coming in and hitting big shots without a pick or without being the third- or fourth-best player on a court? He is that player. He still thinks he's a leader, but put him with another alpha-male and see what happens. Yeah, he's sporadic, but if he knows his role early, he can score in bunches. I like him in Denver (Phony just shit himself and vowed to kill me twice). Otherwise, he'll go to a points-hungry non-contender (i.e. stay in Golden State). He may not be as cheap as the other guys on this list, though.

Luther Head. Who? I know. But I like his game in the right system in limited time. Plus he is really cheap right now. Let's see if he can thrive during second-unit time on a good team, you know? I like him spelling the guards in Philly, Atlanta (they need bench players everywhere), Utah, Phoenix (he can run and he has to play better defense than Nash. His 3% will increase too, says I), San Antonio, and I'm cool with him in Miami more than I am Chris Quinn.

Matt Barnes. God, let him end up on a contender. He's so underrated since he's been on running teams for so long. Barnes can make a huge difference on a second squad. Throw the game plan out the window when the second unit is on the floor, you know? Run 'em. Think in Boston: new PG, House (if he re-signs), Powe, Barnes and Davis. Sometimes Pierce/Ray for leadership. Wrecking crew, three-pointers and some slashing. Now, Cleveland: LBJ sits and you got Delonte, Barnes, Varejao (if he opts out/re-signs), and some shooters. That crew can score, right? And he is fearless. Denver could use him. He seems like the perfect "asshole" in LA's schemes. Gets after every ball. Emotional to nearly a fault. Cheaper than Ariza and willing to sign short term. I like him nearly everywhere: Boston, Cleveland, LA, Orlando, San Antonio (f'reals), Philly, Atlanta, Phoenix again, Miami. I bet he'd thrive in NYC, god forbid.

Jacques Vaughan. He can shoot a little, he's quick as hell, played for a contender and gores after every play like it's his last chance to prove himself. He's tiny, quick and worth the diminutive risk. I like him, still, in San Antonio. I like him in Boston. I really do. Also, as a backup in Dallas or Philly where he has the potential to step in for longer stretches and Houston with Aaron Brooks and his situation.

Trevor Ariza. Can they sign Ariza and Lamar Odom? Odds are, yes. They will both be Lakers again. Still, defensive minded teams? Think of San Antonio with Pop's system or on the Jazz under Sloan. Think of backcourts with Ariza and Rondo, CP3 and Ariza, LeBron and Ariza. Kinda nasty. So much fear in a ballhandler's eyes. I love him in Boston, LA, San Antonio, Atlanta (though he would jack up too many threes), Phoenix, Denver... just about anywhere unless he falls apart after signing a decent-sized contract.

It's more of an interesting offseason than I thought, I guess. There's value to be had, for certain.


Adrian said...

I saw a theme developing with the guys you were naming, and then you lost me with Vaughn, who turns 35 early next season (I know, I know... as a 20 minute per night backup, he's serviceable). Maybe you didn't realize it but many of the guys you named fall into two categories. One is shooters, who are to basketball what left-handed relief pitchers are to baseball, and the other is undersized big men/hustle guys.

Definitely, any team could use a Bell or Korver, especially considering they're not making "Szczerbiak Money", which by the way is a new synonym for "rape" (I'm not sure how it would be used in a sentence, maybe, "the savage then took her into a dark stairwell and gave her the Szczerbiak Money shot..." or maybe "getting Wally'd" is better). Anyhow, I agree those shooters should be attractive free agents.

As for the undersized bigs, I think you've touched on something kind of original--as far as talking about it before the talking heads did--without going into detail or possibly even realizing it. After a miserable decade of drafting 7-foot "projects" with "raw" skills, teams are back to targeting guys who can actually perform. Jason Maxiell, Brandon Bass, DeJuan Blair(?), etc., type of guys are short, but strong and active enough to make things happen under the hoop. Like the NHL, we're seeing a shift from size back to speed, and these type of guys are in demand all of a sudden. Hell, look at David Lee. I know he's 6-10, but it's his quickness and hustle at that height, more so than just his height, that makes him effective. How is Ilgauaskas going to defend a Lee-type? I know, it's called being substituted for JJ Hickson, a less-skilled and shorter but more athletic and aggressive player. The center position is dying. Front lines are employ a 4-spot A and 4-spot B.

So yeah, again, I'm with you that guys like Bass are attractive. Will he start? Eh. Will Maxiell? Eh. But to have this big, athletic, and most importantly, EFFECTIVE body off the bench for 25 minutes per game is a luxury.

Varejao is terrible. I like Davis though. You have to understand that Davis is a legit 6-9 285+. When you're that big and can hit 19-footers, you have value.

Yeah, terrible free agent summer by usual standards, however, like you've mentioned, there are some good pieces out there.

Thing is, with the strike looming, I'm curious to see how it all plays out. We already witnessed teams unable and unwilling to spend a dime at the trade deadline. With next summer's free agent class blowing it open, I kind of feel most teams will take the "wait and see" approach next season.

And of course the draft is going to be terrible.

Business or Leisure? said...

Somewhere in the archives, I think I mentioned the importance of quicker big men that can step out better on jumpshooters and still play bigger guys. Not sure where.

Essentially, in this economy, this offseason class has been separated: overly expensive albatrosses (Boozer), overly hyped scrappers (Varejao), and pieces. Tons o small pieces. It should be a contender's field day. What's Boston gonna in 2010? Nothing. They're screwed. So why not grab the pieces you need? Same with Cleveland. They are waiting on LeBron and maybe one overpaid counterpart in 2010, but they could improve immensely and immediately with a serviceable big and a shooter. It's out there for the taking.

That said, you are probably right-- teams ain't spending.

As far as the ideal big man is concerned, I agree with you completely and I love it. There are too many good 6'6" to 6'9" contributors to worry about four years down the road for a skinny underachieving 6'10" to 7'0" guy.

Glen Davis is an anomaly. I love his 20-10 numbers, but he is still a liability. The thing is, with this current rotation (Garnett being back), the "20-10" Glen Davis is back to the bench. So the minutes are more valuable. Knowing Glen, he'll think he is less valuable and regress. That's my fear.

This, coupled with guys who are available who I like more made it sound like I am down on him more than I am. If the Celts re-sign Powe and Davis, I'm cool with that. If they look at Birdman or Bass, I think it makes sense to weigh their options. Davis' upside is peaking quickly, in my mind, so going after other players they value might be a good idea. Just saying. The Varejao comparison was out of line. Apologies.

Phony Gwynn said...

I like Brandon Bass. Although Denver's lack of quote-unquote size hurt them at times against LA, he's active and can finish. And as we know, I like when guys can finish.

Jamal Crawford depends on what JR does. And now that JR has shown that he can A) defend, and B) create for others, what is Crawford but a slightly taller JR with no playoff experience?

Lastly - what's the gay part of Von Wafer's name? I gotta go with "Von." Just sounds ... rich. Sure, wafers come in some fruity colors, but holy fuck they're delicious.