A Three Team Kevin Love Blockbuster Trade

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

It seems that for a Kevin Love to Cleveland trade to be made, a 3rd team will have to be brought in to take on players and contracts and Philadelphia is the team most talked about as that 3rd team, as they are willing to take on salary if they are going to receive assets and the Timberwolves would like Thaddeus Young. So here is a trade that makes sense for all 3 teams, with 10 players, making this one of the biggest trades in NBA history; yes this trade works with ESPN.com’s NBA Trade Machine. It is a doozy and even more incredible is that this trade isn’t just theoretical, it has a real chance of being made by the start of the season.

Minnesota Adds: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, Matthew Dellavedova, Erik Murphy and John Lucas III

The Timberwolves would receive a franchise player in Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, who can still be a star, a starting power forward in Thaddeus Young and Dellavedova, Lucas III and Murphy all have non guaranteed contracts, so they can be waived. They would also be shedding the salaries of Martin and Barea. This is what the Timberwolves’ core would look like.

Minnesota Core:Andrew Wiggins-Ricky Rubio-Nikola Pekovic-Thaddeus Young-Anthony Bennett-Zach LaVine

Cleveland Adds: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin

The Cleveland Cavaliers would get a 3rd star in Kevin Love to give them the best Big 3 in the NBA in LeBron James-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Love, an elite 4th option in Kevin Martin and they would still have the excellent Tristan Thompson. They would be the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Wiggins-Bennett-Waiters and a 1st round pick is a small price to pay for that distinction. This is what the Cavaliers’ core would look like.

Cleveland Core: LeBron James-Kevin Love-Kyrie Irving-Tristan Thompson-Kevin Martin

Philadelphia Adds: Dion Waiters, J.J. Barea, 1st Round Pick

The 76ers would get a potential young building block in Waiters who could thrive as a starting shooting guard next to Michael Carter Williams, who is a far better distributor than Kyrie Irving, an expiring contract and another 1st round pick to help them draft their foundation. This is what the 76ers’ core would look like.

Philadelphia Core: Michael Carter Williams-Joel Embiid-Nerlens Noel-Dion Waiters




Denver Nuggets: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The West has 8 excellent teams, I wont be listing them, but they are the 8 teams that just made the playoffs. Barring injury, these same teams are likely to make the playoffs again next season, but the Nuggets have to be the team with the best chance at somehow taking one of these spots from the 8. Most would say Phoenix, but they played far better than their talent says they should and I think they will be nearer to a .500 team next season. Healthy and thanks to their excellent offseason, the Nuggets are a very strong team and this is the best starting 5 to get them again into the playoffs.

PG: Ty Lawson

- Lawson is their franchise player, he is one of the better point guards in the NBA and he keeps improving as a scorer and distributor. He is small, quick and despite his physical limitations has become a star. He is the key to their offense and making the playoffs. Remember when he was the 5th point guard taken in his draft?

SG: Arron Afflalo

- Their trade for Afflalo was the steal of the offseason. For Evan Fournier and a 2nd round pick they somehow were able to receive one of the 5 best shooting guards in the NBA. He just averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists, played strong defense and shot 42.7 percent from 3 and he could’ve made the All Star team instead of Joe Johnson and few would have questioned it. He is one of the better 2 way players in the NBA and with his excellent offensive skills, can give their offense the 2nd option they lacked this season. With Afflalo and Lawson they will have one of the best starting guard duos in the NBA next season.

SF: Danilo Gallinari

- A healthy Gallinari makes the Nuggets are a far better team and gives their starting five 3 premier scorers. Gallinari has missed more than a season of play because of a knee injury, but if he returns at even 80 percent he can still give them 15 points and 5 rebounds per game and another excellent 3 point shooter. With Lawson’s speed and ability to get where he wants with the ball, having 2 premier shooters next to him will give them a potent offense. Their offense next season could be elite.

PF: Kenneth Faried

- Faried only played 27.2 minutes per game this season, but there is little reason he shouldn’t play at least 32 minutes per game, as he is an excellent rebounder and energy guy and a very efficient scorer. Per 36 minutes he averaged 18.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and he is the best big man on this team. Their treatment of him is baffling. How hasn’t he played 30 minutes per game in a season?

C: Timofey Mozgov

- When compared to Mozgov, JaVale McGee has the bigger name, contract and has the wow factor, but he is inconsistent and his basketball IQ is very low. George Karl had perfected using McGee as a weapon and that was bringing him off the bench for 20 minutes per game, so that he can use his athleticism and size to excel in select moments. He is a very talented player and in a smaller role, he played his best and this is why Mozgov should start. He is a very reliable and consistent center and he too is a per 36 minute All Star, as he just averaged 15.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2 blocks per 36 minutes during the season. They should give each of these players 24 minutes per game, but give the starting center position to the reliable player.

Bench: Their bench is far better than it was this season, as they have added Gary Harris, who will be a starting NBA shooting guard, Nate Robinson and McGee are returning from injury, Foye will be moving to the bench as their sixth man, J.J. Hickson is an elite 3rd big man and Darrell Arthur is a solid reserve big too. If healthy, because of their excellent offseason, starting 5 and deep and talented bench, they can make the playoffs next season.

Golden State Warriors: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content/Hoopstuff…

Coming into this past season I thought the Warriors were going to make a jump in the Western Conference standings. The acquisition of Andre Iguodala may have cost them more money than it should have but I felt like he brought a dimension they didn’t have before, a perimeter defender. He didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had and neither did the Warriors as they finished 6th in the West and lost in a seven game series in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Clippers. This finish and most importantly the souring relationship with management brought head coach Mark Jackson’s tenure to an end and now they have a first timer at the helm in Steve Kerr. There is one huge rumor surrounding the Warriors and with the speculation still circulating a question remains: who should encompass their starting five next season?

PG: Stephen Curry

Curry has surpassed the expectations I had for him in the NBA. I thought he was too thin to be successful against the best athletes in the world and was too reliant on his jump shot; boy was I ever proven wrong. Curry has not only been incredibly consistent with his jumper from everywhere on the floor, shooting 42 percent from three last season and 51 percent from inside the arc, but he grew into a point guard last season averaging 8.5 assists per game. The Warriors should do everything in their power to keep him in Golden State for his entire career and it is a no brainer that he will be a starter.

SG: Klay Thompson

Here is where the speculation comes in. The Warriors are rumored to covet Kevin Love as we all know by now, but they are hesitant to include Thompson in the deal. I am of the opinion that they should not trade Thompson and the rest of the rumored package to Minnesota as it would create more holes than they would be filling even with adding the best player in the deal in Love, not to mention the Cavaliers and Bulls having more attractive packages for the Timberwolves, thus Thompson being in the starting five here. I see him as a perfect fit next to Steph Curry, a spot up shooter at 41.7 percent from three and 46 percent inside the arc, good for 18.4 points per game. He has also become a better defender, which is hard to quantify here but he did a very good job in the playoffs against Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers guards at times. Next season Thompson is due for a big extension and if I were the Warriors I would do everything I could to get him locked up early because if they don’t it could be a battle they may not win.

SF: Andre Iguodala

As I said Iguodala had a disappointing season, missing 19 games, scoring a career low in total points, averaging just 9.3 per game, and posting career lows in just about every other statistical category as well. So why is he the starter once again? Because of the big money owed to him and the still progressing Harrison Barnes, who had a disappointing year as well, not being ready to take over. If he can stay healthy I could see a bounce back year for Iguodala; it can’t get much worse for him than last year.

PF: David Lee

Lee is a bad defender in the paint but he is a very good offensive four and is a very good rebounder as well. He missed 13 games last season but was still able to average around a double-double at 18.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds per game. I don’t think the power forward position with Lee in place is the biggest need for the Warriors to improve upon, which makes the Love trade speculation a little confusing to me. I’m not saying that Lee is on the same level as Love, which he is not by any means, but he is still an All Star caliber talent. Now I get that Lee is getting to be old in basketball terms, but he still has plenty of productive years left in him and Love has given no guarantees that were he to get traded that he would sign an extension where he ends up. I’ll say this again, I think the Warriors would be best served to look elsewhere to improve their roster and not give up all of the rumored assets to acquire someone that may or may not commit to your franchise long term. David Lee is the power forward I envision as the opening day starter for the Warriors and he is a fine choice.

C: Andrew Bogut

Another Warrior that had injury issues last season was Bogut, who missed 15 games during the regular season and the entire playoff series against the Clippers, which may have been a large reason they weren’t able to advance. When healthy Bogut is a very good defender and rebounder, averaging 10 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last season, and also an efficient offensive player “shooting” (put in quotations due to 95 percent of his shot attempts coming from 10 feet and in, 67 from 0-3 feet) 62.7 percent last season. When healthy Bogut is one of the best centers in the league, but he is an injury risk at any time, and quite gruesome ones at that. For the Warriors sake they better hope that Bogut is their starter at the end of their season instead of just the beginning.

Bench: Harrison Barnes is the sixth man and gives them a young, athletic scorer and defender on the wing, Draymond Green is a hustler and defender that has playmaking ability and can knock down big shots, Shaun Livingston is a very good, and very tall, backup point guard that gives them a scorer and defender at the one as well, Festus Ezeli and Hilton Armstrong are the backup centers, Marreese Speights is a stretch four and if healthy Brandon Rush gives them a shooter. A solid bench that may have a hole at the four/five but should give the starters plenty of help when needed.

Los Angeles Lakers: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Tashan Reed: Staff Writer @ Hoopstuff…

Finding something good to talk about the Lakers’ 2014 season is a hard task, why? Because it was the worst in franchise history. Once again, they were plagued by injuries – most notably to Kobe Bryant who played in only 6 games. They had a 27-55 record and had the 2nd worst defense in the league, with many of their losses coming in blowout fashion, disgusting longtime Lakers’ fans nationwide. Fans, the players, and the organization all want to just wipe last season from their memory completely, and focus on improving in the future. With almost $30 million in cap space this summer, the Lakers tried to accelerate their rebuild by going after Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Signing either seemed farfetched, and although they were reportedly in the last three remaining teams for Carmelo Anthony, he stayed in NYC. After missing out on these two the Lakers essentially gave up on this year’s free agency class, opting to bring back players who were on the roster last year instead. They also traded for Jeremy Lin and a future 1st round pick, while signing serviceable players like Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer to bargain deals worth far less than their true value. Through the draft, they added Kentucky star Julius Randle and Mizzou standout Jordan Clarkson. Just recently they found their new coach in Byron Scott on a 4 year, $17 million deal with a team option for the last year. He’s already preaching a new motto of “defense first” and is intent on making sure that the Lakers are competitive this upcoming year. While the odds are stacked against them in a loaded Western Conference, if they remain healthy, the Lakers have a chance to sneak into that 7th or 8th seed spot.

PG: Jeremy Lin

- Lin’s play declined last year, and it led to him seeing the bench behind the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley, but he’s still the best option here for the Lakers. They simply can’t rely on Steve Nash to be healthy anymore, and if you need any proof for that, just look at his 2 Laker seasons. Nash missed 99 of the last 164 games, and at this point looks like a guy just continuing to play for the money. In his career, Lin has been a score-first point guard, and playing next to Kobe Bryant, he’ll have to alter that mentality somewhat. He’s flashed his ability to distribute before, averaging about 7 assists per 36 minutes in the 2013 season, but he dropped to only 5 assists per 36 last year. He has to prioritize being more of a pure point guard, and focus more on distributing the ball rather than getting for his own shot.

SG: Kobe Bryant

- Will Kobe ever be the same player? To be honest, that’s a question that I never would’ve thought that I’d have to answer regarding Kobe Bryant. But we live in reality, and that question is brutally valid. Kobe’s body has been plagued with injuries to say the least over the last two years, starting with minor injuries during the 2013 season and ending in a torn Achilles. He came back briefly this year, before fracturing his knee – an injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season. Kobe has already said that he’s ready and that his body is 100%, he’s in shape and currently at playing weight. Although at 35 years old and with 18 years logged in the NBA, there’s natural uncertainty to whether or not his body will hold up. If it does, however, Kobe will once again be the best shooting guard in the game. In his last partially healthy season, Bryant put up 27 points, 6 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game on 46.3% shooting from the field – his best percentage in years. While Kobe may not be as explosive or athletic, his skill set is still unmatched. His deadly jumper, ability to finish at the rim, creativity in the paint, and footwork still makes him as difficult a player to defend as anyone in the league.

SF: Xavier Henry

- Nick Young is the best small forward on the Lakers’ roster, but the best position for him is a 6th man coming off the bench, a la Jamal Crawford. He’ll likely receive more minutes than the starting SF for the Lakers, but Los Angeles will start each game with someone else on the floor. There are two options here, Wesley Johnson or Xavier Henry, but based off of last season, Henry should be the choice. Henry averaged 10 ppg, and even exploded for several 20 point performances that raised eyebrows and got Lakers’ fans excited about his potential. With more minutes, and more games to play in (he only appeared in 43 last season), his game should only get better and better. Henry will give the Lakers solid defense on the wing, athletic finishes at the rim, and decent mid range and three point shooting.

PF: Carlos Boozer

- Most Lakers’ fans will want to see Julius Randle start here  (I am one of them) but at this point, Boozer is better suited for the spot. In his interview that introduced him officially to the team, Boozer said that he expects to be the starting PF when the season begins. As a 12 year NBA veteran, Boozer certainly has seniority over a rookie in Julius Randle, and an old-school coach like Byron Scott will likely take that into consideration when making his decision. Even with his diminished athleticism and speed, Boozer is extremely strong and uses that to continue to be a very capable rebounder. He managed to average 8.3 rpg for the Bulls last year, and still scored 14 points per game as well. Boozer has a consistent face-up game and mid range jumper that will help to space the floor, but he also has the ability to post up and bang in the paint as well. Boozer’s versatility offensively shouldn’t be contested; it’s his defense that’s the issue. He’s really bad defensively and will have to give his best effort to improve on that this season if he wants to remain in the starting five.

C: Jordan Hill

- Per 36 minutes, Jordan Hill was a beast last season putting up 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game on 55% shooting from the field. Hill plays with admirable effort and is relentless on the boards, and also has the ability to extend multiple possessions, as he averaged nearly 5 offensive rebounds per night (per 36) last season. Hill has never played starters’ minutes for an entire season, and so his stamina and durability will be thoroughly tested, but if he can fight through it his production will be incredibly beneficial to the Lakers in their effort to make it to the playoffs.

Bench: Barring injury, the Lakers backup backcourt will feature Steve Nash and rookie Jordan Clarkson. If Nash gets hurt, then the Lakers’ could slide Clarkson over to the PG spot, which he played while attending college at Mizzou. Or if they feel Clarkson isn’t ready yet, then they can take Clarkson out entirely and move Nick Young to the SG position. Let’s go with my initial prediction while forming the rest of the bench, though. Swaggy P will play SF, and should easily be among the better scoring 6th men in the league. With Carlos Boozer starting, Julius Randle would play backup power forward, and honestly will probably struggle to put up numbers that are all that impressive with limited minutes. His game is a little raw, and he relies heavily on his brute strength to score in the paint. Not being thrust into the spotlight may be best for him, however, as it’ll allow him to quietly develop and improve. The mentoring of a veteran like Boozer will only help him. Randle still needs to develop a consistent mid range jumper as well as a few moves in the paint, two things that Boozer has excelled at throughout his career. The Lakers could go with either Ed Davis or Robert Sacre at the backup center spot, but personally I’d prefer Ed Davis. Per 36 minutes, Davis is a better scorer and rebounder than Sacre, and averaged the same amount of blocks as Sacre despite being 2 inches shorter. He’s also more athletic than Sacre, and has more potential. Outside of Steve Nash, the Lakers will have a young bench filled to the brim with athleticism and potential.


Memphis Grizzlies: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the NBA and are a contender for a title. Why? They are the only playoff team in the Western Conference that plays like an Eastern Conference team and if they were in the East, they would be one of the best teams. Their defense first style of play, half court offense and physicality are perfected and they just annoy Western Conference teams. With Zach Randolph resigned they have kept their Big 3 of Mike Conley-Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol, one of the best in the NBA and they can win the West because they are so unique and also can match with and beat any squad in the East. They are the West Chicago Bulls.

PG: Mike Conley

- Conley is one of the best point guards in the NBA and is starting to get the credit he deserves for their winning ways. He is an elite defender, an excellent distributor and a very strong shooter and scorer who embodies what the Grizzlies are about, teamwork, defense and efficiency. Besides Gasol, he is their best player and he could make his 1st All Star Team.

SG: Courtney Lee

- The Grizzlies traded for Lee during the season and proved to be an excellent fit, giving them needed shooting and scoring on the perimeter, as well as solid defense. Lee gave their offense a big boost and gave their starting 5 the 3 point shooter they needed.

SF: Tony Allen

- Allen is considered by the majority of fans to be the heart of the Memphis Grizzlies. His energy, hustle, defense and leadership are each among the best in the NBA and despite playing most of the season from the bench because of Lee’s better offensive talents and needed 3 point shooting, Allen showed in the playoffs against Kevin Durant, he is still one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and is more than capable of playing small forward. Yes, he is a shooting guard, but he can guard any perimeter player and this elite perimeter defender should start for one of the NBA’s elite defenses.

PF: Zach Randolph

- Randolph is still one of the best paint scorers and rebounders in the NBA and despite his lack of defensive skills, he pairs with franchise player Marc Gasol to give them one of the best big man duos in the NBA. He is likely their leading scorer and rebounder next season and is a perfect fit on this team.

C: Marc Gasol

- Gasol is a Defensive Player of the Year winner and also an elite offensive player as he can score from the mid range and the paint and besides Joakim Noah there isn’t a better big man distributor in the NBA. Gasol is their franchise player, 1 of the 3 best centers in the NBA along with Noah and Dwight Howard, the cornerstone of their offense and the anchor of their Western Conference best defense. He is the Grizzlies.

Bench: Their bench continues to be a weakness for this team, however they made an excellent signing bringing in Vince Carter, one of the better sixth man in the league and they also have Kosta Koufas arguably the best 2nd string center. The rest of their bench is either very young or mediocre. Jarnell Stokes, C.J. Wilcox and Nick Calathes all have talent, but Tayshaun Prince and Beno Udrih are at best average at this point. However, they have one of the best starting 5′s in the league and 2 elite reserves, which could be enough to take them far in the playoffs and maybe, maybe win a championship.

Detroit Pistons: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Yes, the Pistons still haven’t resigned Greg Monroe, but they are likely too and I will be assuming that he is a Piston next season. You will also see that Josh Smith isn’t a starter, because even if they cannot trade him, Monroe is the better player at power forward and they cannot allow him to play the 3 again next season. He should be treated as a lame duck coach, as he makes too much money, it isn’t news that they would love to trade him and he is just there until they can get rid of him. Regardless, they are looking to make the playoffs again for the 1st time in about a half decade and if Monroe and Drummond keep improving, they have a chance and here are the 5 starters who would best help them make the playoffs in Jeff Van Gundy’s 1st season with the Pistons.

PG: Brandon Jennings

- Like Smith, I am no fan of Brandon Jennings and believe that they should trade him and find a pure point guard, like the one they traded in Jose Calderon or the two they said no to drafting like Michael Carter Williams and Trey Burke. Hey let’s give Brandon Jennings 24 million dollars and refuse to draft Trey Burke (he was considered the better prospect) even though we need a point guard; that is my impression of Joe Dumars, if it’s as lame as I believe I apologize, but hey thanks for reading. Regardless, they have nobody better to start ahead of him, as Will Bynum and D.J. Augustin are each strong scorers, but in no way can run an offense for a season. Jennings’ numbers may looks strong from this season since he averaged 15.4 points and 7.6 assists a night, but he shot just 37.3 from the field and 33.7 percent from 3 and he took far too many of each. He is still an inefficient ball hog and yes he is slightly better as a distributor, but still he needs to be traded. Bynum and Augustin would average similar numbers with similar minutes as a starting one. It was very tempting to put Augustin here, but Jennings is the better talent and the more proven player.

SG: Kentavious Caldwell Pope

- It was difficult to envy KCP as a rookie. He was starting when he wasn’t ready, he had to play between Jennings-Smith two of the biggest ball hogs in the NBA and many fans disliked him just because he wasn’t Burke or MCW. You try to play strong basketball in his shoes. Regardless, he is a shooter and scorer who couldn’t score or shoot as a rookie and he played very poorly. However, he was excellent in Summer League play and that is a nice sign for a strong season to come. Yes, the SL is no indication of how a player will perform in the big leagues, but he just kept scoring. The Pistons are no contender and them missing the playoffs is the likeliest season prognosis for them, so play the most talented perimeter player on your roster, see if he can turn a big summer into a strong regular season and continue to develop him. Their team’s motto seems to build a roster on the potential of Monroe-Drummond and trade Smith, but KCP has the talent to be listed next to their 2 young big men as a key piece of the franchise.

SF: Caron Butler

- I said no Josh Smith, so how would you like a mid 30′s small forward? Butler is no longer the All Star he was in Washington and he probably isn’t even a 12 point per game scorer at this point, but he’s a strong veteran, who would help his 4 young fellow starters with his leadership and he’s an elite 3 point shooter. He is no Josh Smith, but that’s a positive in this case.

PF: Greg Monroe

- Monroe is an excellent scorer, rebounder and distributor and really his only big weakness is that he isn’t aggressive enough. He could score 17-19 points per game easily. Drummond is their star, but Monroe should be the focal point of the offense, their go-to scorer and someone they can run the offense through, a lot like Kevin Love, just lacking the 3 point shooting. I could see him averaging 19-10-4 if he made himself the go-to player in this offense. Regardless, he is just 24 and is an All Star caliber big man that can play either big position and along with Drummond, has to be considered the foundation of this team.

C: Andre Drummond

- Drummond is ridiculous. He is so big, athletic and talented that he can be one of the 10 best players in the NBA and he is already one of the better centers in the league. He is an elite rebounder and shot-blocker, rarely misses from the field and with a little development on offense, could be the next Dwight Howard. He is their franchise player, is just 20, should already be an All Star and he is already the Pistons’ best player. Seeing how he performs in season 3 will be very fun for Piston fans.

Bench: Yes, Smith will either be a starter or traded, but this is my article so deal with it. As for the actual bench players, Augustin and Bynum are each very strong offensive point guards that can run a second unit, Kyle Singler is a nice young scoring 3, Jonas Jerebko is a solid combo forward, Spencer Dinwiddie has a lot of potential as a combo guard in the NBA, Tony Mitchell has talent and Aaron Gray is really big, but the Pistons’ bench will be very, very poor, it just lacks the scoring punch and strong depth a team needs to be a playoff roster.

Houston Rockets: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Tashan Reed: Staff Writer At Hoopstuff…

After signing Dwight Howard last offseason, the Houston Rockets were automatically billed as title contenders in the loaded Western Conference. They had an excellent regular season, winning 54 games and securing the 4th seed with their tiebreaker over the Portland Trail Blazers. This season will be quickly forgotten, due to their abrupt and disappointing early exit in the playoffs. They lost their first round matchup against the Blazers in 6 games after falling to a 3-1 deficit. James Harden and Dwight Howard showed chemistry issues and many times appeared to be battling for the ball. This, along with an abysmal defensive series, doomed the Rockets chances at advancing any further. This offseason the Rockets looked to make another huge splash, targeting Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat and heavily pursuing him after the splitting of the big 3. They traded away Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and their 1st round draft pick in this upcoming season to clear cap room for a max offer. Chris Bosh spurned them to return to the Heat, and to add insult to injury, they also lost Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks after allowing him to become a RFA. After losing so many pieces they made an attempt to salvage their offseason by bringing in Trevor Ariza on a 4 year, $32 million contract, but they undoubtedly became weaker this offseason. This isn’t the end of the world for Houston, however, as they still have the potential to be contenders this season and beyond.

PG: Patrick Beverley

- To put it simply, Beverley is an annoying little guy. He’s known league wide for his tenacious, relentless, and determined nature on defense. Beverley isn’t afraid to get up into the ball handler, and will pressure for the entire 90 feet of the floor if he has to. His reckless nature gets him into trouble at times, either through fouls or scuffles with opposing teams, but that’s what the Rockets need. Their biggest weakness is defense, and having a stopper like Beverly in their backcourt – especially next to a defender like James Harden – is vital to their success.

SG: James Harden

- When he’s on his game, James Harden is one of the two best shooting guards in the entire league. In the playoffs his shot selection was questionable, and that resulted in his shooting numbers plummeting, but for the majority of the season Harden was a terror to each defensive player that had the task of trying to stop him. Harden scored 25 points per night on 45.6% shooting from the field and 36.6% from deep. He’s also one of the best distributing two guards in the game, putting up 6.1 assists last year. He can get to the free throw line whenever he wants ranking near the top in free throws attempted and made each year. Harden is the best player on the Rockets, and must impose his dominance as such this season.

SF: Trevor Ariza

- Many consider Ariza a downgrade from Chandler Parsons, and while that will most likely be true in the long run, based off of last season it really isn’t much of one. He was an intricate part of the Wizards’ success last season, scoring 14 points per game, snatching 6 rebounds, and shooting over 40% from behind the 3 point line. The biggest benefit that Ariza will bring to the Rockets, however, is his ability to be a lockdown perimeter defender. Adding Ariza gives the Rockets elite defenders at three different positions (PG, SG, C) in their starting lineup, which is something that not many, if any teams can say.

PF: Terrence Jones

- Terrence Jones surprised us all with his growth last year, putting up 12 points and 7 rebounds per game with a 54.2 field goal percentage and 30 percent from behind the arc. If he continued to improve, and further develops his three point shot, he could become that reliable stretch four with the ability to rebound and defend that the Rockets were searching for in Chris Bosh. Jones is a low mistake player, averaging less than 1 turnover per game and fewer than 2 personal fouls per game. His consistency, efficiency, and high basketball IQ will be very valuable to the Rockets.

C: Dwight Howard

- Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and he has been for quite some time. He’s faster and more athletic than every other center not named DeAndre Jordan. He’s highly effective on both ends of the floor, scoring 18 points on 59% shooting along with 3 offensive rebounds per game while averaging 9 defensive rebounds and blocking 2 shots per night on the defensive end. Even if he doesn’t manage to block the shot, he alters the majority of those which come from near the basket. What holds Dwight back is his atrocious shooting from the free throw line (54.7%) and his lack of offensive moves. He held the ball for almost the entire possession to score in the playoffs, which had their offense in quicksand. Dwight doesn’t have to become Hakeem Olajuwon, but he must develop at least 2 or 3 go to moves that he can score with consistently, along with becoming a much better free throw shooter.

Bench: Isaiah Canaan and Nick Johnson give the Rockets a young, high octane, prolific bench backcourt that should be able to come in and provide instant scoring. The forward spot is the cloudiest for the Rockets’ bench, as they have multiple options to go with here. Troy Daniels is 3 their point shooter, Alonzo Gee is their reserve 3, while Donatas Motiejunas, Jeff Adrian Clint Capela will be the big man reserves.The Rockets have an extremely young bench, bustling with potential, although that also means they may not be the most productive or consistent bunch in the world. Regardless, their bench is better, which is solid for the team come the playoffs next season, as they had a very thin rotation in the playoffs.

New York Knicks: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The New York Knicks have traded Tyson Chandler and resigned Carmelo Anthony, but their talent level is about at what is was this season, when they were the 9th seed in the East and missed the playoffs. They have a solid chance to make it to the playoffs based on just Anthony’s excellence. However, which starting 5 gives them the best chance to make the playoffs next season? I am a fan of a traditional starting 5 and this team would be best using one.

PG: Jose Calderon

- Calderon is the best point guard they have had since Jeremy Lin, but he is actually the perfect point guard on a team with so many scorers, as he is an elite distributor who gets a lot of assists and rarely gives the ball away and he is also an elite shooter, so when Anthony is playing on the ball he provides more shooting to complement him. He will have one of the best a/to ratios in the NBA and 3 point shooting percentages again, while averaging about 12 points and 7 assist per game range.

SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.

- Hardaway Jr. was a steal for the Knicks in the draft, yet I cant be the only one who thought that when he was drafted. He is an excellent shooter and scorer who also has the ability to be a strong perimeter defender. He is a big shooting guard who is just a natural scorer and could average in the 15 points range this season in a bigger role.

SF: Carmelo Anthony

- Anthony is the 2nd best scorer in the NBA only trailing Kevin Durant, he is the leader of this team and he will average his normal elite numbers of about 27 points and 7 rebounds a night. The Knicks making the playoffs next season depends mainly on him.

PF: Amar’e Stoudemire

- When healthy Stoudemire actually played very well for them this season and is by far their best offensive big man. He averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game in 22.3 minutes per game and per 36 minutes averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds. He is still incredible efficient and productive when healthy and if healthy, should start and play a big role from them.

C: Cole Aldrich

- Cole Aldrich, really? Yes, he is the player on their roster most resembling Tyson Chandler, a real defensive center and although he shouldn’t play more than 15-19 minutes per game, he can play the defensive big man role for them. He just averaged 10 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes and he produces when given minutes. They should start a traditional 5 man unit and he is their purest center.

Bench: They would have some big names on their bench in J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani, but neither should be starters, as they are best bringing offense to the 2nd unit, Shumpert will play a lot because of his defense and if Fisher starts Anthony at power forward, Shumpert should start at small forward and Jason Smith, Jeremy Tyler and Pablo Prigoni are each solid role players. Their bench is mediocre, but with a lot of strong veterans contributors and Carmelo Anthony, they should make the playoffs.

Brooklyn Nets: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Troy Tauscher: Staff Writer @ Hoopstuff…

After a year that started at downright ugly and ended at underwhelming, the Brooklyn Nets have some work to do. With Jason Kidd gone after just one year, Lionel Hollins will step into a roster with aging players and little cap space. The question is now is who Hollins should put on the floor in the starting 5.

PG: Deron Williams

Remember back when D-Will was a top point guard in the league, putting up huge numbers and getting all star nods? Oh, how Nets fans wish they had that back. Bad ankles derailed Williams’ season in 2013-14. If he can get healthy, he may be able to regain some ground. Whether he does that or not remains to be seen, but with only Jarrett Jack as competition, Williams will be Brooklyn’s starting floor general regardless.

SG: Joe Johnson

Despite being overpaid, Joe Johnson had a solid year for the Nets, which translated into an All Star spot. The Nets’ offense can put up respectable results when run through him, so expect him to be Brooklyn’s #1 scoring option.

SF: Alan Anderson

Paul Pierce is a Wizard now, so where should the Nets go? Andrei Kirilenko could be a replacement. However, Anderson should get the spot. The Nets have scoters but need someone to do the dirty work inside and bring some grit to the floor. Anderson can do that. He’s also a good defender that can be out on opposing stars to slow them down. On paper, it may not make much sense, but a starting lineup should have players of diverse skill sets. Alan Anderson provides a welcome contrast to the rest of the starting five.

PF: Mason Plumlee

It feels odd to write that Kevin Garnett shouldn’t be a starter, but it’s true. He was pathetic last season. Plumlee isn’t elite, but he’s young and very productive. He provides good interior scoring and rebounding and is just more prepared for the grit and grind of playing big minutes than Garnett.

C: Brook Lopez

When he isn’t hurt, Lopez is one of the best centers in the league who plays solid defense inside and has incredible ability to score in the paint. He will be foundation of the Nets franchise if his foot can stay intact.

Bench: The Nets don’t have the deepest bench, but with Garnett, Teletovic, Kirilenko, and Jack, the Nets can still be a tough match on a nightly basis if they stay healthy. They have a good balance of offense and defense on the roster. Now it’s just a matter of getting all of those elements to work together and create wins.

Dallas Mavericks: What Should Be Their Starting Five?

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content At Hoopstuff…

For the second consecutive offseason the Mavericks were looking to make a big splash in the free agent market and though they did not come up with one of the biggest prizes they came away with a very good player yet again, after signing Monta Ellis last year, in Chandler Parsons. They came away with three other veteran acquisitions in Tyson Chandler, Richard Jefferson and Jameer Nelson and an under the radar addition to solidify their bench in Al-Farouq Aminu as well. With all of this transition, including losing some big pieces from last season, what should the starting five look like for the 2014-15 Dallas Mavericks?

PG: Jameer Nelson

Dallas got Nelson on a bargain of a contract at 2 years and 5.5 million after he had a very good season with a very bad Orlando Magic team. The Mavericks need a distributor at the point guard position with the three scorers they have and Nelson just averaged 7 assists per game along with just 2.4 turnovers. He is a capable shooter when called upon as well, shooting nearly 35 percent from beyond the three point line last year and 37 percent over his 10 year career. He may be 32 years old but Nelson is a solid option at the point guard for this team and is a definite upgrade over Raymond Felton, who was going to be the starter after they traded Jose Calderon to the Knicks.

SG: Monta Ellis

Ellis has been one of the most consistent scorers in the league since his second season. Last year he averaged 19 points per game on 45 percent shooting overall while shooting nearly 84 percent of attempts from inside the three point line, where he is most effective. For a player that many have described as a chucker, Ellis also had a decent season as a playmaker, averaging 5.7 assists per game. Now he did average over 3 turnovers but with Nelson on the roster he won’t be asked to run the offense this season. You can pencil Ellis in to score around 19-20 points per game and play quite a few minutes, as he has averaged 36 minutes per game over his career.

SF: Chandler Parsons

Parsons was the big offseason addition for the Mavericks and gives them a relatively reliable third scoring option. Once a second round pick, Parsons grew into a large role with the Rockets by taking advantage of an up tempo offensive system. He is a good three point shooter, 37 percent over his three year career, and can get to the rim as well with a third of his shot attempts at the rim where he hits 64 percent. Playmaking is also a large part of his repertoire, averaging 4 assists per game last season while committing 1.9 turnovers. It remains to be seen how large his role will be in Dallas, with Nowitzki and Ellis firmly entrenched as the top two options, but his play the past two season has shown that he is more than capable as a scorer when needed.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki

There really isn’t much to say here. Nowitzki is the best player in the history of the franchise and just took a big pay cut to remain in Dallas. He will be a starter until his body gives up on him or he decides to retire.

C: Tyson Chandler

The Mavericks traded Jose Calderon and some other pieces for Chandler looking to relive the glory days when Chandler gave them a defensive presence around the rim and a very good rebounder. While he isn’t the player he once was, due to age and injury, he is another upgrade in the starting five over last season’s starter Samuel Dalembert. He is a double-double threat every time he walks on the floor and should help improve the 20th ranked scoring defense in the league and a bad rebounding team, 22nd in offensive boards, 23rd defensively and 26th in total rebounds.

Bench: Shawn Marion is still out on the free agent market and will likely find a new home so they brought in Al-Farouq Aminu to help replace his perimeter defense and I like the addition. Jae Crowder is the typical Marquette player, tough and a defender, Devin Harris, Richard Jefferson and potentially Ricky Ledo add scoring punch and Brandan Wright, Bernard James and Greg Smith will be the backup big men. Overall a solid bench that may have some holes, especially at the four, but should continue the strong play from the past two seasons.