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 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.

NBA All Star voting flaws

The NBA announced whom the fans selected to participate in the 2015 All Star Game. The Eastern Conference squad features John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. The Western Conference side consists of Stephan Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. As always, there were some noticeable omissions from the lineup. On top of that, a couple of names made the list who were very debatable. Now, as everyone will want to know, who were the biggest names left off the list and who should have been left off the team entirely? I am not sold on how well the fans did at selecting these teams. Let’s take a look at the shortcomings.

For some context, this is just the preliminary roster with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer set to name the reserves early next week. That means that some of the notable snubs will be added in that round of selections. Kerr is likely to add Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in addition to Clippers guard Chris Paul. For Budenholzer, he will likely name Heat forward Chris Bosh, Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

Another name that should crop up is James Harden, who more than likely should have been a starter over Bryant for the West team. This is a huge oversight by the fans. On his own merits, Bryant should never have been added to this roster, and definitely not as a starter. I have spouted off previously about Kobe and his steadily declining play. Meanwhile, Harden is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season piloting Houston to a tie with the Clippers for fifth in the Western Conference. The Rockets guard has averaged an NBA-leading 27.2 points per game along with 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds while converting the sixth most three pointers. Defensively, Harden has stepped up his game too with career highs in blocks and steals. Harden also ranks first in Win Shares and fifth in Player Efficiency Rating among starters. It makes no sense to me that he is not on this list and Bryant is instead, despite him having a disappointing year. Bryant will not be playing for the team anymore due to a torn rotator cuff and Harden should be his replacement.

The other glaring issue with the rosters is the makeup of the West’s starting five. You have Curry and for arguments sake, let’s say Harden. Then you have Griffin, Davis and Marc Gasol. Those last three are big men who play best as either a power forward or center. None of them could really make it as a small forward. So somewhere in this starting five, Kerr has to find a small forward for game day; there is not one there though. Griffin is the closest thing he has to a small forward and he would have his hands full playing against either Melo or LeBron, whomever he covers. The system of voting has left the Western team in a bind not really creating a true All Star lineup. I have always felt that the team should have a player from each position rather than general labels like guard and forward. That might be my opinion but it definitely would make for a cleaner lineup.

I do not have an issue with the selection that many people, most notably Charles Barkley, have openly disputed. Carmelo Anthony should absolutely be starting in the Eastern Conference. If this were similar to the NFL Pro Bowl, where the teams are not sorted by conference, then Melo likely would not make the cut. Under this current format, he is the best option available, and it is not even close. Anthony is second for forwards in scoring in the East with 24 points per game. The next highest scorer is Tobais Harris only averaging 18 points a contest. Melo is also tied for third with Paul Millsap for most assists per game behind only James and Joe Johnson. There is not a player in the East who has better qualifications as a starter.

The All Star game is still almost a month away and the rosters will be much more scrutinized once the reserves are announced. The All Star game does not stand for much but being named All Star is validation of your accomplishments as a player. Based on the immense split of talent between the East and West maybe it is time for the Association to adoptteams that are not conference specific allowing for truly the best players to compete in the game. Keep an eye for a list of the biggest snubs next week when the rest of the rosters are announced.