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Stampler's Take: Grading the NBA Off-Season, Part 3

Castigating the Clips, LOLing at the Lakers and "Meh" over Miami, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Memphis.


I'm going to rehash and grade (note: subjective, arbitrary and meaningless) every team's off-season, covering six teams at a time. If any major moves happen to teams I've already covered, I'll add postscripts both to whatever group of clubs I'm writing at the time and to the original columns that covers those teams in question.

Abbreviations: D = Draft pick (only concerning myself with first-rounders), FA = Free agent, T = Trade

Los Angeles Clippers: B

Gained: SF Jared Dudley (T, Suns), SG J.J. Redick (T, Bucks), PG Darren Collison (FA, Mavericks), SG Reggie Bullock (D)

Lost: PG Eric Bledsoe (T, Suns), SF Caron Butler (T, Suns), PG Chauncey Billups (FA, Pistons), SF Grant Hill (retired)

Kept: PG Chris Paul, SF Matt Barnes, C Ryan Hollins

Up In Air: PF Rony Turiaf

On paper the trade they made with Phoenix makes a lot of sense, but I'm not sure how wise it is to lose the best player in the deal in Bledsoe, even if he was never going to blossom fully playing with/behind Paul. Bledsoe didn't quite have the size or shooting chops to be a full-time two, so he had to be moved, but was this really the best they could've gotten for him? Maybe I'm overrating the market for Bledsoe, a guy who needed to sink or swim as the starting point on his own team rather than going to another similar situation in Phoenix with Goran Dragic than what he just left (albeit on a much worse team).

I'm not wild about either guy they got back though. Redick has had a checkered history as a playoffs performer and I'm not quite convinced he's going to get all these wide open catch-and-shoot looks on the Clippers. Is Blake Griffin that much of an inside force at 6'9" that he requires an automatic double? Don't you just take your chances against him with your best interior defender or just hedge off DeAndre Jordan a bit? I suppose the theory is that Paul will drive-and-kick his way into open shots for Redick and Dudley, but again that's another situation where you'd rather just force him into a tough make over a big rather than leaving guys open. He's not the consistent finisher that Tony Parker or even Russell Westbrook is.

Dudley is a bit overrated as a defender, a step slow, and I don't understand how much sense he makes on a club that already has Barnes on it. You can't really play the two of them together, can you? Neither can dribble or create their own shot at all. Redick is actually a bit better defensively and overall in terms of being able to create shots for himself or others via the pick-and-roll, and it is possible he could thrive as a third option here, but overall I don't know if the Clips have made themselves dramatically better anywhere except that they added by subtracting the carcass of Billups.

Going from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers at the top will help no doubt, but ultimately the Clips will still be doomed by their lack of size, particularly on defense. Jordan is completely clueless against the pick-and-roll (and you can't play him down the stretch because he's an atrocious free throw shooter) and Griffin isn't much better and not big enough besides. The Grizzlies are particularly a bad match-up for them but the Spurs swept them two years ago as well. The only way this club could make a Finals would be to have a road that's something like Nuggets-Warriors-Thunder. Stranger things have happened, but I'm in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode that the Paul-Griffin ceiling ever gets higher than the second round, and I think those two (and Jordan) still have enough residual bitterness between them to throw a wrench into the works when adversity hits.

Los Angeles Lakers: C-

Gained: C Chris Kaman (FA, Mavericks), SG Wesley Johnson (FA, Suns), SG Nick Young (FA, Sixers)

Lost: C Dwight Howard (FA, Rockets), PF Earl Clark (FA, Cavaliers), PG Chris Duhon (waived), SF Metta World Peace (Amnesty)

Kept: SG Jodie Meeks

Up In Air: SG Jordan Farmar (Turkey)

I hate to say it, but Bill Simmons covered it all here (P.S. He already has the Rockets and the Clippers leapfrogging the Spurs as contenders, with San Antonio out of his top six). The Lakers need to blow it up, shelve Kobe Bryant, amnesty World Peace, trade Pau Gasol so he doesn't try too hard during a contract drive, trade Steve Nash, horde up the cap space while simultaneously giving themselves the best chance to draft a star next summer. Instead, Bryant will drive himself maniacally to come back from a torn Achilles and the Lakers will push on grimly, behind a healthier, determined Gasol and a more professional second big in Kaman (as opposed to his predecessor) in a quixotic quest to nab another eighth seed. They'll probably lose out to the Blazers, T-Pups or Pelicans, but win too many games to finish with a top ten pick.

A deadline deal for Gasol isn't out of the cards, but the Lakers would really have to come out of the gate poorly the first two months, especially with Bryant likely out. Still, with Jimmy Buss in charge it's hard to see them being sellers as opposed to buyers at the trade deadline.

The fascinating aspect of all this, regardless of how the season plays out, is what happens in the off-season and how the Lakers reload. It will be our first real look at Adam Silver's NBA as opposed to David Stern's. Under Stern I would've bet anything that LA would've landed LeBron James next year, or at least the top pick in the draft (or hey, both). Silver's vision though is supposedly for the league to be more small-market friendly, more competitively balanced like the NFL, and if that's true it'd be theoretically possible for franchises like the Lakers and Celtics to flounder for years and years, particularly if they're being managed poorly. I think James is going back to Cleveland (55%) or staying with Miami (44%) with all other destinations filling out the other one percent.

Say, I just realized the Lakers and Clips had a lot of fellas who I'm not overly fond of on their rosters. So it's time for today's list, to piggyback off of yesterday's.

Stampler's Top 10 Current NBA Players Who I Never Want To See on the Spurs

1. Kevin Garnett PF, Nets

2. Dwyane Wade, SG Heat

3. Dwight Howard C, Rockets

4. Russell Westbrook PG, Thunder

5. Chris Paul, PG Clippers

6. Metta World Peace, SF Lakers

7. DeMarcus Cousins, C Kings

8. Andrew Bynum, C Cavs

9. Richard Jefferson, SF Jazz

10. Kendrick Perkins, C Thunder

The observant among you might notice all ten of those gentleman have something in common, and I can't deny the obvious. They're all jerks.

Memphis Grizzlies: D-

Gained: C Kosta Koufos (T, Nuggets)

Lost: PF Darrell Arthur (T, Nuggets)

Kept: SG Tony Allen

If there was an overriding theme for the Spurs Western Conference Finals sweep over Memphis, in which Allen and Tayshaun Prince bricked so many wide open jumpers that Pop thought to himself, "I don't see why we can't use this defense in every series" it was that the Grizzlies badly, desperately needed to find a shooter or two in the off-season.

Why didn't these guys chase after Redick, Kyle Korver, Kevin Martin, Ray Allen or even a second-tier guy like a Marco Belinelli, Gary Neal or Carlos Delfino?

Instead, they got a third big in Koufos, a guy who the Warriors destroyed in the playoffs, and kept Allen, with a four-year, $20 million deal. Their top draft pick, 41st selection Jamaal Franklin from SDSU (a fella some Pounders coveted for what it's worth) got the following glowing blurb from ESPN draft guru Chad Ford:

He's got a chance to be Tony Allen 2.0 for the Grizzlies.

Well then. Carry on.

Miami Heat: C

Gained: N/A

Lost: SF Mike Miller (amnesty)

Kept: SG Ray Allen, PF Chris Andersen

LeBron is probably going to launch a rap album in the off-season and Wade is endorsing some sort of sentient, artificial-intelligence towel that has the ability to re-focus.

(via Lowes)


You know the director was like, "Um, Dwyane, can we get another take here, it wasn't clear what you were saying, it kinda sounds like you're saying the towel can re-focus itself instead if it allowing YOU to be able to re-focus," and Wade replied with, "Nah, I've got a flight to catch to Germany."

I hate these guys.

Milwaukee Bucks: D

Gained: SG O.J. Mayo (FA, Mavericks), SF Carlos Delfino (FA, Rockets), C Zaza Pachulia (FA, Hawks), PG Luke Ridnour (T, Timberwolves), SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (D)

Lost: SG Monta Ellis (FA, Mavericks), SF Mike Dunleavy Jr. (FA, Bulls), SG J.J. Redick (T, Clippers), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (T, Kings), PF Drew Gooden (amnesty)

Up In The Air: PG Brandon Jennings

How depressing is this crew? Apparently their ownership refuses to tank, for philosophical reasons, so they're always going to be in the 7-10 range in the East, treading water and going nowhere. They're never going to draw a prime free agent because they're in freakin' Milwaukee, and their franchise is worth the least of the whole league (yes, even less than Charlotte). I know they've got some history with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson and more recently with guys like Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey, Sidney Moncrief and Ricky Pierce, but come on, this might be the most drab, depressing organization in the NBA and if they're the ones who relocate to Seattle instead of the Bobcats I wouldn't be too broken up about it.

Mainly, like almost any broken franchise, they desperately need new ownership, but you can't make these guys sell as long as they follow all the rules so what can you do but thank the FSM that this isn't your team?

They've overpaid Pachulia, they brought in a retread coach in Larry Drew who's coveting Jeff Teague, his point guard at Atlanta, and they actually thought that Mayo, a fellow who Mavs coach Rick Carlisle came to openly despise, was a good idea (and compared to Ellis he might be). Even worse, top pick Antetokounmpo, a supposed Kawhi Leonard clone whose surname I bothered to learn how to spell without double-checking, is probably staying overseas for another year.

Really, finding a way to give the top two picks to Sacramento and Milwaukee would be the perfect way to kick off the Adam Silver Era and for the new commish to show he means business when it comes to making small market teams players, but I suppose rigging a lottery would just be the same thing that people accused Stern of all these years and that doing it for poor teams is just as wrong as doing it for the rich.

The Bucks are gonna stink, but the question is will they stink enough?

Minnesota Timberwolves: D

Gained: SG Kevin Martin (FA, Thunder), SF Corey Brewer (T, Nuggets), SF Shabazz Muhammad (D), C Gorgui Dieng (D)

Lost: SF Andrei Kirilenko (FA, Nets), PG Luke Ridnour (T, Bucks), SG Brandon Roy (waived), SF Mickael Gelabale (waived), PF Greg Stiemsma (waived)

Kept: SF Chase Budinger

Up In Air: C Nikola Pekovic

The Wolves might be a fringe playoff contender if they get full seasons out of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio and they figure to score a bunch (and be equally generous on defense), so they'll probably be entertaining in a "that was fun, but I'm glad this isn't my team" kinda way. It's almost a certainty they're bringing that they'll be bringing Pekovic back, and an even bigger lock that Love will be on the first thing smoking out of town once his contract ends.

Getting past their stars for a second, is there any team in the league who has this many potentially combustible role players? We know Martin is gonna be a disaster in his own end, but Derrick Williams looks to be a bust as the second overall pick from two seasons ago (in Minnesota's defense, almost everyone from 2-14 in that draft is pretty terrible and it's hard to predict that the 15th pick will wind up being the class' second-best player) and Muhammad slid from being the potentially the first overall pick before the college season started to the 14th selection in a blah draft, with major concerns that he's going to be another Michael Beasley, but worse.

The T-Pups will be the kind of team that will blow you out on the wrong night and you really won't want to face if they're fresh and you're on the second night of a back-to-back, but mainly they were intriguing to us only because of their connection to Kirilenko, and while it looked for a while like the Spurs were strong contenders the (fishy) lure of playing for his fellow countryman in owner Mikhail Prokhorov proved too strong in the end and there's nothing at all suspicious about him signing for just $3.1 million a year, no sir.

I don't understand why the Spurs couldn't have just signed Kirilenko first to his reported eight million figure and then used Ginobili's Bird rights to re-sign him. Wouldn't that super roster have been worth going over the luxury tax a bit for a year or two? Didn't Peter Holt make enough money with all those extra home playoff dates? Aaargh dammit so much.

Well at least Spurstalk isn't vilifying Manu over it or anything.