Landing spots for top NBA free agents

Just 24 hours. That’s all that remains between now and the start of NBA free agency. It seems that every year now serves up a bunch of all stars hitting the open market. Part of that is just how the NBA is structured. Here is where a number of this year’s top players should end up when free agency is all said and done.

Some thoughts before I begin. I really like Boston landing Tobias Harris. He would be a great young piece for the Celtics to include as they continue to rebuild. Paul Millsap, Kawhi Leonard and Enes Kanter should all stay with their current teams. As should DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler. Now to the really big names.

Kevin_Love_CavsKevin Love
2014 team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2015 team: Indiana Pacers
I have talked about this before. Love did not f    it into the Cleveland offense. He struggled as he became solely a jump shooter. He still performed decently well given the circumstances. He opted out of his deal to give the Cavs some financial flexibility and I think he will return to Cleveland. However, I think he should head to Indiana. David West just opted out of his contract and the Pacers are looking to unload Roy Hibbert. Sounds like they are going to need a lot more rebounding going forward. Love provides that plus tons of scoring potential for a team that finished 24th in points per game a year ago. I like Love playing with a great setup man in George Hill and a guy who can thrive off the ball in Paul George. This could be a good step in Indiana returning to the playoffs.

Jimmy Butler
2014 team: Chicago BullsBulls during_a_timeout
2015 team: Dallas Mavericks
Butler is going to demand a max deal from whoever signs him, which makes a return to the Bulls difficult due to their financial constraints. He could go to Indiana if they don’t land Love and continue to thrive in a defensive system. The best place for him though would be Dallas. Butler would land with a contender out west in desperate need of a defensive injection. You can bet that Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis are not coming back next season so that should provide the financial flexibility needed to sign him. Butler would add a lockdown defender to a team that allowed the sixth most point per game a season ago. The 25-year old would be a much needed piece to help Dallas push toward another title with Nowitzki still in town.

Dwyane_WadeDwyane Wade
2014 team: Miami Heat
2015 team: Anyone but Miami (Atlanta Hawks)
Team basketball has been what Dwayne has been about for the last dozen years and what Atlanta put into practice last season. Miami isn’t willing to pay Wade for his services but you can bet Atlanta would love to nab the aging superstar. Paying Wade shouldn’t be too much of a problem with Demarre Carroll and Elton Brand likely not coming back. The Hawks have a ton of depth meaning Wade could play only 28 minutes a game and the team would not tank. Keeping Wade healthy will be easy and Atlanta would have a proven scorer to turn to when at clutch time in the playoffs. The whole Cleveland series seemed to be the Hawks looking for someone to step up. Wade has no problem doing that and could make Atlanta the favorite in the east next season.

LaMarcus_AldridgeLaMarcus Aldridge
2014 team: Portland Trailblazers
2015 team: Portland Trailblazers
At 29-years old, Aldridge isn’t getting any younger. Obviously, he still has some good years left in him but the clock is ticking. That would make you think he would try to bolt to another team poised for a title run. The best thing though would be to stay in Portland. Damian Lillard is still improving and if Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews return on similar deals to last year this team could be in a good position to compete again in the west. Obviously, this isn’t as fun as seeing Aldridge go to the Lakers, the Knicks or even the Spurs but it makes a lot of sense for Aldridge and the Trailblazers. They just brought in some really good depth in Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton. Give this core a year or two and they could one of the top teams in the rugged west.

Marc GasolMarc_Gasol
2014 team: Memphis Grizzlies
2015 team: Milwaukee Bucks
Michael Carter-Williams, O.J. Mayo, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jabari Parker and Marc Gasol. That would be quite the starting lineup. Gasol is one of, if not the best passing big in the game right now. He averages almost four assists per night and should ignite Milwaukee’s offense. This team made the playoffs as the sixth seed without Parker last season. Bring in Gasol to play with a healthy Parker and suddenly the frontcourt for the Bucks looks drastically better. This move makes a lot of sense too with Larry Sanders leaving in the middle of last season. Zaza Pachulia is nothing special, Gasol is. With a ton of depth on the roster already, the Bucks could become a contender in the east within a year or two with Gasol as the centerpiece.

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NBA Cornerstones: Power Forward

Cornerstone players will be a recurring theme on Second Look Sports where I look at each position in a certain sport and I choose a cornerstone player to build my franchise around. I have a couple of parameters for this selection though. I will factor in age, potential, injury history, experience, reputation and production. I think this should be a fun and interesting topic to discuss on here. I hope you guys agree.

The selection- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Honorable mentions- LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, Derrick Favors

There is a lot of talent at the power forward position right now in the NBA. There is a solid contingency of older players who are still holding down the fort and there is the new wave that is taking over more and more. At the head of the young wave is the massive man from the Bayou: Anthony Davis. Davis is oozing with potential. At the age of twenty-one he is becoming a dominant scorer and is an even better defensive player. His ability to control the paint on both ends of the floor make Davis special.

Davis is still developing as an offensive player but defensively, he has already come into his own. The Pelicans’ big man leads the NBA with 2.86 blocks per game, which would be the second year in a row that he topped the league in that category. Davis also leads all power forwards in steals per game at 1.62, well ahead of the next man as well with only 1.38. Davis also ranks in the top ten for all players when it comes to steals per turnover ratio, which is best among power forwards. The lanky kid from Kentucky is showing he can do it all and he will likely still get stronger as he continues to play with the pros.

While he may be better defensively, that should not take anything away from his offensive performance. So far this season, Davis is averaging 24.5 points per game, good for third in the NBA and most among power forwards. His shooting is much better this season as well. He has gone from shooting under 52 percent to now knocking down 55.5 percent of his looks. He has also shown steady improvement in his free throw shooting. The third year veteran finished his rookie season shooting 75 percent from the line. He bumped that number up to 79 percent last season and now he is hitting 83 percent of his attempts this season.

As a rebounder, Davis has been one of the best in the NBA. He has ranked in the top ten each of the last two seasons, averaging more than ten boards per game. Davis’ huge frame and freakish athleticism makes him a lot to handle in the paint and make him a great prototypical rebounder. His ability to average a double-double and rack up almost three blocks per game puts him into the category of an elite player.

There are a few knocks against Davis though. He excels in close to the basket but does not have a reliable mid-range jumper. He also has a bit of an injury history. In his first two seasons, Davis only managed to appear in 64 and 67 games respectively. He is faring better this year, but still has already missed five games. He also has zero playoff experience, not that many high draft picks do in their first few season, but it is worth noting. It is concerning to pick a player who is not guaranteed to be on the court every night but Davis’ play and potential outweigh the risk.

Looking past the basic stats as well, Davis has been pretty stellar this year. Davis leads the league in Win Shares per 48 minutes played this season and ranks second only behind James Harden in Win Shares overall. New Orleans’ superstar also tops the league for Player Efficiency Rating with a staggering 31.83 rating. If the season ended today that would be the best mark in NBA history. Yes, all time. That includes Jordan, Wilt, Kareem, LeBron, Shaq and any other Hall of Famer (or future Hall of Famer) you want to consider. And Davis is only getting warmed up.

Davis’ potential is scary. He is already making a huge impact on the league and likely will be in conversation for MVP at the end of this season. The ceiling for this kid is unparalleled and I do not think he has met it yet. As good as Griffin and Aldridge are right now, it is hard to argue that Davis is not already better than both of them are. If he isn’t yet, he certainly will be. There is no doubt in my mind that Davis will be a great NBA player and he might just be the best player in the league three years from now, leading who knows what team on the march for an NBA title.

For more Cornerstone selections, click here.

NBA All Star snubs

The NBA All Star rosters took another step towards being finalized yesterday. The coaches decided on who the reserve players for each team should be. The East roster now features Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, Kyrie Irving and Dwayne Wade. The West includes Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Klay Thompson. At least two players, Wade and Bryant, will likely not be participating due to injury. There are some notable names missing from this list and I am going to break down who among them should have made it.

The first name to jump out at me absolutely has to be Derrick Rose. The Bulls’ point guard has had an injury-ridden season but when he has played, he has looked like one of the best players in the league. He has struggled though, especially shooting the ball. However, he is still scoring at a great rate and he is tied for 16th in points per 48 minutes played. He is also scoring more than Teague or Wall, who made the team over him. Rose is averaging fewer assists and shooting at a much worse rate per game though so I can understand why he was not picked. That being said, I think he is the next logical add if it turns out that Wade cannot go.

The other thing that bothers me in the East is leaving out the Pistons’ frontcourt. Both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are in the top ten for rebounding this season with Drummond ranking second and Monroe tying for ninth. Drummond is averaging almost thirteen points per game as well with Monroe accounting for more than 15 per night. Drummond also has the most board per 48 minutes played and is an excellent shot blocker ranking ninth in the league. The issue for these two guys is that it is hard to argue whose spot they should take. I think Millsap and Horford were deserving of their selections. Both of these Pistons’ big men have played well though this season and certainly should have been considered.

Flipping to the West now, there is no bigger omission than DeMarcus Cousins. The man they call “Boogie” has been a force in Sacramento this season. Cousins has missed some time due to injury this year but he has put on a show out in California. He cleans up the board with 12.3 rebounds a game, good for third in the NBA. That is also two more rebounds per game than Duncan, who did make the team. The Kings’ big man has also made his presence felt defensively, with roughly 1.5 blocks and steals each per matchup. Duncan is logging about 2 blocks but only 1 steal per game. The biggest difference though is the gap in scoring. Duncan is scoring a solid 14.7 points per game. Meanwhile, Cousins is tallying 23.8 per night, which ranks fifth best in the NBA. I understand that Duncan is a great veteran player but I would definitely have selected Cousins over him.

Damian Lillard was another man forgotten in the All Star selection process. He has been a much better scorer than Chris Paul has this season but Paul has registered a lot more assists. The Blazers’ floor general shot much more effectively than Bryant did this season but Kobe, even despite his age, has been the better defender. The reality is that Lillard has played extremely well but it hasn’t been enough to push his name into being an All Star. There is a good chance that had Lillard been playing the East he would have been selected this season. He has outperformed the majority of the guards in the East but that does not matter with voting being conducted by conference.

It is hard to argue with the lineups being assembled to play in New York this season (well, outside of Kobe of course). There were some guys who were probably qualified to make these teams but unfortunately come up short based on how tough it is to make the 12-man roster. Only 24 players are named All Stars meaning that there are plenty of others who are left out. Let me know if you think there were some other players who should have made it.