Team Needs: Southwest Division

Team Needs: Southwest Division
May 26, 2005, 12:00 am
Memphis Grizzlies

Chip Crain

Draft Pick: 19th pick in 1st round

Background: Memphis started the season looking like an up and coming team with all their major contributors returning from the previous season as well as the Coach of the Year and the Executive of the Year. However, a slow start and reported player unrest with Hubie Brown's 10 man rotation causing concerns blew up in Dallas with Jason Williams, the starting point guard, and Brendan Brown, Hubie's son and assistant coach, getting into a shouting match on the court. Before the month was over, Hubie had resigned for health reasons and the Grizzlies were looking like a typical flash in the pan team reaching the bottom at 5-11 before hiring Mike Fratello, a coach who was 6 years removed from the coaching. Then a funny thing happened. The team settled down and started playing ball the way people expected them to do at the beginning of the season. Finishing the month of December hot, they continued hot into January, finishing the month with the 2nd best monthly record in team history at 12-3. Dark clouds were on the horizon however as Pau Gasol, the team's leading scorer, went down with a mysterious foot aliment on January 23, two days after the shocking loss of Don Poier, the voice of the Grizzlies since inception in Vancouver. February (6-6) was difficult as the injuries started to mount with Stromile Swift falling to a sprained ankle that kept him out for most of the remainder of the season. Mike Miller's concussions, James Posey's legs and Bonzi Wells' back spasms added to the difficulty of keeping a rotation steady. March and April were difficult as well as Memphis struggled to find a rotation that worked consistently. Surprisingly, despite the injuries that would have crippled most teams, the apparent unhappiness with rotations and playing time and a coaching change this season the Grizzlies still qualified for the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row and the 2nd time in team history.

Bright spots for the future were Dahntay Jones' development as an exciting SG/SF player and Antonio Burks promise at the point. Shane Battier has risen to become one of the better role players in the NBA and Mike Miller ended the season looking like he was ready to make the next step forward at SG. However, the impending free agency of Stromile Swift, Earl Watson and the option years of Bonzi Wells and Ryan Humphries could foreshadow a realignment of the best team that the Grizzlies have ever fielded.

Team Needs:

When Jerry West arrived in Memphis he stated that an increase in talent in almost every position was needed. So far he has not been able to find the superstar player that many fans have wanted, but the talent has improved in most areas. The obvious gap is at Center where undersized Lorenzen Wright has manned the middle since the team arrived in Memphis. Big Jake Tsakalidas was re-signed for $9 million over 3 seasons, but rarely saw the court during the season, making many wonder why he was re-signed. Stromile Swift served as the primary backup, but there is little chance that the Stro Show will fly in Memphis this coming season as the unrestricted free agent wants a chance to start at PF next season. Replacing Earl Watson falls on the shoulder of Antonio Burks, as Watson is also an unrestricted free agent and likely to not be in a Grizzlies uniform next season. However, it is expected that Jason Williams will soak up a lot of those minutes as he played a mere 28 minutes a game this past season. The Power Forward spot has promising Pau Gasol, while Shane Battier and James Posey give Memphis great defense and scoring ability at SF and Miller and Jones seem to have the SG position locked down.

Memphis Grizzlies (2004-05)

Point Guard: Jwill has never lived up to the hype, but has become a consistent point guard who can handle pressure better than most while making sure that the ball gets into the hands of scorers a lot. The problem is his attitude (he had problems with Fratello as well as Brown), his defensive lapses and his penchant for the untimely 3 balls. Burks is a more mature PG than most rookies since he is 25. While displaying a far better shot than expected and excellent defense which was expected, Burks has had trouble learning the offense and still needs more seasoning. If Watson comes back it would only be because Memphis has given up on JWill and the baggage he brings.

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller overcame an injured back to set himself up as the #2 scoring option this season. Hitting a high percentage from the field and behind the arc, the main weaknesses seem to be his hesitancy to shoot and his poor FT shooting. Dahntay Jones started some games while Miller dealt with his concussion problems and showed an improved shot and excellent defense. Bonzi Wells has a team option for $8 million this coming season but the problems he had in Portland resurfaced this season in Memphis, leading to a shocking Game 4 suspension in the playoffs and he is not expected to have his contract option picked up. Andre Emmett saw very little action in his rookie year, but should have time to show what he learned from the bench this coming season.

Small Forward: Shane Battier came back from some disappointing seasons to really become the leader of the team. Shane repeatedly made the big plays when needed that do not always show up on stat sheets. Shane's value wasn't going unnoticed around the league however as almost every trade offer included Shane if rumors can be believed. James Posey came to camp with an injury and never got untracked in what can only be described as a disappointing season. Last season's MVP, Posey lost his starting role and seemed to never get back into his 2003-04 condition. With both players signed long term this is not a position that the Grizzlies should need to address for a while.

Power Forward: Pau Gasol seemed to be continuing his rise into the elite of the NBA as his 41 games had him averaging nearly 20 pts and 9 rebounds a game before Plantar Fasciatiis and a rumored bone fissure sidelined him for 2 months. It took Pau some time to get back into game shape but was back in form against the Suns in the playoffs, having two games of 28 points. The problem is that he isn't the manliest PF in the league and many big PF's are able to force him away from the basket. While still being able to score, Pau's defensive presence is shabby and his rebounding and concentration leave much to be desired. Pau seems to have a SF's game with a center's height. Hopefully a season away from the Spanish National team this summer could allow Pau to work on his strength and his defense. Brian Cardinal filled in admirably when Stro and Pau were down with injury but seemed to lose his confidence down the stretch. His hesitancy to shoot was obvious and teams played off of him and that made it more difficult for teammates to score when he was on the court. Stromile's future is clouded by the CBA issues, but should sign with another team. The team is hoping to offer him a sign and trade deal with another team.

Center: Lorenzen Wright had what can only be described as his best season as a professional playing in front of the home team. When Stro and Pau were out he became a double/double player consistently and helped lead the team to several shocking victories. Behind Wright things got slim. Stromile at 6'9 is even smaller than Wright and Big Jake (7'2) seemed unable to get into the rotation despite the obvious need for a big man to relieve the beating that Gasol was taking.

Personal Expectations: Rumors have been flying that the Grizzlies are finally getting fiscally responsible as the team's depth has come at a cost in the pocketbook. With the 7th highest payroll in the league, the Grizzlies may not be able to participate in the free agent market and sign and trade deals aren't looking promising if the Collective Bargaining Agreement issue lasts much past August 15th. On top of the lack of salary space to get the type of star they are looking for is the persistent rumors in the press that Memphis might actually be looking to sell their draft pick for $3 million.

Assuming that rumor is false, Memphis will definitely need to find a replacement for Swift, preferable someone who could play Center. Picking at 19 means that the obvious big men without unlimited potential won't be available. Interesting prospects that could be available include Channing Frye, Wayne Simien, Johan Petro, Ronny Turiaf and Randolph Morris. All of these players could be adequate NBA players or busts so Jerry West will need to prove he is the talented GM that his reputation says he is. Since this is Jerry West's swan song in the NBA (his contract ends at the end of the season and at 72 is likely to retire) it should be interesting to see if West can swing a deal to get the big, physical presence that Memphis needs or if he tries to bring in a scoring superstar, or both.

Houston Rockets

Robert Kruse

Draft Picks: #24 in the First Round, no 2nd round pick

Background: The Rockets' season started with much anticipation over the combination of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The team stumbled out to a 6-11 start however due to a lack of quickness and intensity necessitating changes to the roster. Bob Sura came off the injured list to give a boost at point guard. Tyronn Lue was exchanged for Jon Barry and Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar were sent to New Orleans for David Wesley. Later, Mike James was acquired, adding more quickness and scoring punch, while Maurice Taylor was dumped for salary cap reasons. Overall, the changes made the team quicker and better defensively, while offensively the changes resulted in a team that makes good decisions and hits their open shots, complimenting T-Mac and Yao.

Carroll Dawson truly molded the team to Jeff Van Gundy's personality. The Rockets ended the year hot with a 51-31 record, 5th in the Western Conference. The First Round matchup was the Dallas Mavericks however, resulting in a series that showed both the strengths and weaknesses of the Rockets. Tracy McGrady proved to the nation what Rockets fans had already realized, that he is a top 5 player while being unselfish enough to lead. Yao Ming showed dominance as well, though his action and effectiveness in the series were limited due to foul trouble and tempo. The Mavericks exploited the weaknesses of the Rockets finally in the Game Seven 40 point blow-out. The Rockets in their trades became a much older team, losing athleticism and stamina to match up against the young Mavericks. An injury to Juwan Howard showed how thin the talent on the Rockets had dwindled with the numerous trades.

Team Needs: The Rockets overall need more athleticism and talent on the roster. Look for the team to specifically add a long, athletic power forward to compliment Yao so he will not have to commit so many fouls on the defensive end, while also helping rebound offensively. Another area of need depending on the interpretation of many Rockets fans is finding a true point guard. Bob Sura and Mike James both fit as combo guards, but the team might be better off getting a point guard who can consistently find Yao and T-Mac for shots. Another area that should be addressed is finding a backup small forward. The player would replace Ryan Bowen and preferably be in the James Posey mold. This would allow T-Mac to get more rest while offering the Rockets another option instead of the undersized David Wesley, to be our defensive stopper.

GM's Draft Strategy: The Rockets have been without a first round pick since selecting Yao Ming and Bostjan Nachbar in 2002, so this year will be an interesting test to see where Carroll Dawson will go with the pick. Before that, the Rockets traded for Eddie Griffin, proving that a player with a checkered past might still be a possibility on draft night, unless he learned his lesson. Including second rounders Malick Badiane and Vassilis Spanoulis, the last four picks for the Rockets have been international and according to reports the Rockets might head in that direction again. Jeff Van Gundy does not seem to love European players however (Nachbar), possibly because of how highly he values defense, making it a surprise for this year if the team would draft international again. If JVG gets his way, which he seemingly does from the trades the Rockets have made, a junior or senior college player will be selected who could contribute immediately. The player would have to possess the Van Gundy staples of toughness and good defense.

Personal Expectations: I believe the team will go with the safe choice of a power forward among Wayne Simien, Ronny Turiaf, David Lee and Ike Diogu. All are polished and could contribute immediately alongside Yao Ming. This position is much harder to fill in free agency, so it would make sense to do it in the draft. The player selected hopefully will become the third wheel behind Yao and T-Mac, so the Rockets can not strike out here. A sleeper international choice would be Angelo Gigli, who brings some length, athleticism and maturity while allowing the Rockets to hold him in Europe another year. If the Rockets believe that Spanoulis and Badiene will fill holes at PG and PF or that they will get Tyson Chandler or Stromile Swift (not likely), they could surprise and select a wing such as Joey Graham or Francisco Garcia.

San Antonio Spurs

Tristan Cuenca

Draft Picks: The Spurs only have one pick in the draft because they traded away their second round pick last year on draft night to the Hawks in return for the rights to Viktor Sanikidze. They finished with the second best record in the league, tied with the Heat, but won the tiebreaker between them, so they will pick 29th in the draft.

Background: The Spurs did well this season despite injuries to key players. They finished with the second best record in the league and the league's best home record. Analysts said that this was the deepest Spurs teams in recent memory, with a bench filled with veterans, including Brent Barry and Robert Horry. Their depth proved useful when Tim Duncan went down with an ankle injury. Before the trading deadline, they traded undersized PF Malik Rose to New York along with Phoenix's 1st rounder and another 1st rounder next year for center Nazr Mohammed to add more size to their frontcourt. They wanted more intensity from the center position, something they rarely saw from Rasho Nesterovic. During Duncan's absence, the Spurs struggled to score. They tried to fix this by signing veteran SF Glenn Robinson before the season ended. Robinson was a proven scorer, but there were sceptics who thought that Robinson would struggle understanding the Spurs defensive schemes. They were plagued throughout the season with numerous injuries, the last one to Nesterovic just before the playoffs.

Team Needs: The Spurs should be looking to fill a spot for a third point guard. As said earlier, they have enough depth in the four other spots. During the season, there were times when both Tony Parker and Beno Udrih encountered foul trouble early in the first half. The team then had to turn to undersized PG Mike Wilks. Wilks does not really have the size and the leadership skills to play the point for the Spurs. He also lacks the defensive intensity to play the Spurs' kind of defense. Even though have enough cap space to get a free agent point guard, it would seem better for them to fill this need from the draft because this year's class has a lot of good point guards that are ready to contribute to any team. Considering the depth of the team, their previous draft history and the fact that they have quite a few roster spots taken up for next year already, San Antonio could always pick a talented International player to stash overseas or just go with the best player available to them on the board.

GM's draft strategy The Spurs has been very successful the past few years and therefore, they have always picked late in the first round. It seems that they pick the best available talent during that time. The team also has a tendency to draft players who were previously unknown to most in the hope that they would be able to develop them to fit into their system. They also like picking international players for it seems these players can easily adjust to the Spurs' playing style and Gregg Poppovich's coaching philosophy.

In 2004, the Spurs drafted Beno Udrih out of Slovenia. After the draft, many were surprised with the Spurs' selection, but it seemed that the Spurs knew something that other teams didn't. It turned out that Udrih was highly recommended by Tony Parker who played against him in the European leagues. Udrih not only turned to be a great back-up to Parker, but also became a great complement to him as the Spurs oftentimes used them together. He was also one of the league leaders in 3 point percentage and also took part in the Schick rookie challenge. In the second round, the Spurs chose Romain Sato of Xavier and Sergei Karaulov of Russia, but both players hardly played for the team during the season.

In 2003, they picked Leandro Barbosa, but quickly traded him to the Suns. With the Suns, Barbosa has turned out to be an able back-up to Steve Nash in orchestrating this season's highest scoring offense.

In 2001, the Spurs selected the previously unknown Tony Parker. Two years later, Parker was the starter in the Spurs' 2003 title run.

Based on their draft history, the Spurs have a knack for spotting talent and developing them. They also choose players who have been ignored by the other teams, not putting much stock into name recognition. The Spurs are not a bad team to begin a career with as a rookie since it is a winning franchise. They also have savvy veterans who are willing to take each rookie under their wings as they make their transition into the NBA.

Personal Analysis The Spurs might draft a shooter to help open up the lanes for Tim Duncan. The Spurs' shooters have been inconsistent throughout the season and adding another one is not a bad idea. If this is their plan, they can look at Francisco Garcia of Louisville or Salim Stoudamire of Arizona. Both had spectacular college seasons and are proven scorers. Garcia possesses size for a shooter and can also play in the backcourt. The Spurs would be lucky if they get him late in the first round. Stoudamire has a deadlier shot, one which can be compared to J. J. Redick of Duke. Though he lacks some size, his shooting can be a welcome addition to the Spurs next season.

If the Spurs plan not to take a shooter, they can take a third point guard to back up Parker and Udrih. If this is the case, Daniel Ewing of Duke could be the best fit for them. Ewing is not expected to be taken in the first round and so the Spurs would have an opportunity to select him. He is a proven scorer, can drive to the basket, shoot from the outside and most importantly, is a tenacious defender. He also has a knack for making the big shots. He can orchestrate an offense and has tremendous leadership abilities. He also spent four years in a winning program and thus, he is a winner. Spending four years under Coach K did not turn bad for him as he was able to improve every aspect of his game. Just look at last year's lone Duke senior in the draft, Chris Duhon. Nobody drafted him in the first round and the Bulls were lucky to have chosen him in the second round. He was able to contribute immediately and was at times the steady hands in the Bulls' playoff season.

New Orleans Hornets

Jeremy Mak

Draft Picks: #4 pick in 1st round, early 2nd rounder (33rd pick)

Background: With the Hornets in the Western Conference, alongside four giants in the Southwest, you could tell that it wouldn't be easy. And it didn't get any easier with injuries to major stars (Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire, David West) before Allan Bristow and George Shinn decided to blow up their current plan and go through a full rebuilding period after starting off 2-29. Five trades were made by the Hornets, which has to be a season high. The starting backcourt along with Jamal Mashburn was removed, and when you add a frontcourt of nothing, it doesn't look very promising.
The Hornets started the season with a Magloire/Brown/Lynch/Wesley/Davis lineup at the start of the season, and went to a Brown/Vroman/Nailon/Smith/Dickau lineup in mid season, before ending with Magloire/Brown/Nailon/Smith/Claxton. However, this newfound youth (Wesley for essentially four young guys, bringing in cap from the Mash/Baron trades as well as Claxton) has helped the fan base of New Orleans Arena to essentially say, ‘This isn't Charlotte's team that moved to New Orleans, this is New Orleans' team' to an extent.
There were also some nice things that came out despite only winning close to 20 games this season. One has been Dan Dickau, who was parked on the bench for three different teams before coming to New Orleans, where he was forced to start and prospered. Another was JR Smith, who has been nurtured very slowly by Byron Scott, ensuring he doesn't have a bad attitude or a cocky one for that matter. Chris Andersen has shown he can contribute on the offensive end with mid-range jumpers and Lee Nailon has played like a watered-down Jamal Mashburn. Jamaal Magloire appears to be happy where he is, which is always a good thing from an All-Star caliber Center.

Team Needs: Where do we start? Every position needs help, but the most important thing is getting experienced players who can properly start. New Orleans hasn't been able to do this in their trades, realistically only
getting one starting-caliber player out of their five trades, Speedy Claxton, who then got injured for the rest of the season.

The Hornets have a bit of depth, but it's almost as if the they are starting out fresh (sort of like the Bobcats) with an expansion team, or a rebuilding team. With this problem, the Hornets may become perennial bottom-dwellers in this league, but they are building a new image. Starting caliber talent, experience (which New Orleans won't get in the draft) and some depth as well, particularly at Small Forward and possibly a Point Guard, are the Hornets' biggest needs.

But of course, with around $20 million in cap space coming into this offseason, I wouldn't be surprised if New Orleans picked up players from all positions. Realistically, we'd need them, particularly young guys that are athletic, can pass and aren't ballhogs.
Previous Draft Strategy: The Hornets actually have a problem in that regard. They've changed from Jeff Bower to Allan Bristow along with Willis Reed, so it's quite hard to tell what the GM's strategy is. Bower seemed to look at senior players—which hasn't seemed to work--or just trading the pick away (example: Kirk Haston, who struggling in the NBDL) The Hornets traded the '02 pick and when Bristow came in, he seemed to look at the 'best pick' available or if there isn't really a 'best pick', he'd go towards 'potential and depth'. This was seen with David West and JR Smith - both picks which have and will affect the Hornets in the future.

Personal Analysis: There are some Hornets management who really like Andrew Bogut, but it might be Byron Scott who has the final say here. He really likes Marvin Williams, who he has been calling 'the next KG'. Those are big generalizations, but he's the coach, and he desperately needs some athleticism to suit his style of play. If he falls to the Hornets, it seems very likely we'll take him. Then there's Chris Paul, who really is probably the 3rd pick anyway, unless a team is desperate for a PG and doesn't need a SF, which seems to be the case with the Hawks. I personally don't mind him coming to New Orleans, but he really isn't the best option at this point considering the Hornets' needs. If the Hornets fall past the top 3, there really only seem to be two players, Deron Williams and Gerald Green that they could really have the slightest thought to pick.

Second-round wise, There are some hard-nosed guys that could fall (Ryan Gomes for example), some true energy guys (Nate Robinson), and maybe some shooters that could play a role like Casey Jacobsen had to fit into this season (Tiras Wade, Salim Stoudamire, Garcia, Winston?). There are going to be players that slip out of the first round because of the huge depth this year, and that will means the Hornets can grab really, a first round pick at a cheap price.

I don't think the Hornets really mind if a player is from high school or college, or whether he is an underclassman or a senior. They just want someone that can produce where they play their role, and be a factor in the 2005-2006 season.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs have no picks in either the first or second round and none of their fans were interested in writing a team needs section about them. They appear to have 13 players under contract next season and therefore don't seem to have much space for another rookie anyway. If they did, a backup power forward looks like their greatest need as they are stacked everywhere else. A guy like Ronnie Turiaf or Jason Maxiell, who can come off the bench and dish out a bloody nose or two, may be available in the 2nd round could be a possibility.

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