New York Knicks: Season Grade And Review

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff..

Record: 37-45- 9th in East

Analysis: Carmelo Anthony had one of his best seasons, Amar’e Stoudemire actually played solid basketball and they had Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith and Mike Woodson, but none of that was enough, as they went from the 2nd seed to the 9th in one season and missed the playoffs in the porous Eastern Conference.

How did this happen? Well Raymond Felton played pathetic basketball and they had easily the lowest production from the point guard position in the league, which has become arguably the most important in the NBA. J.R. Smith recovered in the 2nd half of the season, but regardless, they expected more from their 2nd best scorer than only 14 points per game on 40 percent shooting. The Andrea Bargnani trade was ridiculous, as they traded players that fit their system perfectly and a 1st round pick, they already had enough at the position and he played like Andrea Bargnani. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler just weren’t enough to get them into the playoffs despite a very strong late season push, but its incredible that this team couldn’t make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this season. They do have Phil Jackson now running the team, so expect a lot of changes to be made.

MVP: Carmelo Anthony- 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game

LVP: Raymond Felton- 9.7 points and 5.6 assists per game… 39.5 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3

What’s Next?: The 1st thing they have to do is resign Carmelo Anthony. Whatever your opinion of him, he is one of the best players in the NBA and they cannot lose their franchise player. The 2nd step is to decide what to do with Mike Woodson; expect a new coach next season. Then they have to try and somehow rid themselves of any of these 3 players; Felton, Smith and Bargnani. They have little money and no 1st round draft pick, so adding talent will be difficult, but keeping Anthony and clearing themselves of some dead weight would be a very strong 1st offseason for Jackson.

Summary: The missed the playoffs in the East; enough said.

Grade: F-

Minnesota Timberwolves: Season Grade And Review

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Record: 41-41- 10th in West and the

Analysis: The Timberwolves have arguably the best big man in the NBA in Kevin Love, one of the best centers in Nikola Pekovic, one of the better scoring wings in Kevin Martin, one of the best distributors in Ricky Rubio, a big name coach in Rick Adelman, big name role players in JJ Barea, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer and they found themselves a rookie gem in Gorgui Dieng, yet they missed the playoffs. The Timberwolves had all the ingredients to be a playoff team and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be in the playoffs this season on paper.

The problem? Basketball isn’t played on paper and the Timberwolves had a lot of weaknesses. Their defense in the paint was pathetic, as Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are 2 of the poorest rim protectors in the NBA, Ricky Rubio decided that shooting and scoring wasn’t necessary, they had a lot of injuries during the season and they had very little bench production. Regardless of any weaknesses and problems, the season was incredibly underwhelming, as they were far too talented to miss the playoffs.

MVP: Kevin Love-  26.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game

- Kevin Love is the NBA’s best offensive big man, a top 5 rebounder and one of the best distributing big men. If he was on a better team he would be an MVP candidate.

What’s Next?: They have 2 big decisions to make; 1, trade Love or try for one more season to convince him to sign long term and 2, what to do about coach Rick Adelman. If I was making the decisions, I would trade Love for the best offer and find a new coach. With Pekovic signed long term and a star, Martin signed long term and with Rubio about to be resigned, they already have a strong core and they would receive an incredible package for Love, so it wouldn’t be rebuilding, it would be retooling. For example they could receive Pau Gasol and the Lakers’ lottery pick for Love and if the Lakers added Nick Young or Kendall Marshall in the deal, they could become an even better team.

Summary: They should be in the playoffs, but they aren’t, hence an F.

Grade: F

 

All 16 NBA Playoff Teams’ Biggest Weakness

By Mike Elworth and Josh Morgan…

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs- Age

- The Spurs really have no weaknesses, but there is one concern; age. Tim Duncan is 37, Manu Ginobili is 36, Tony Parker is 31 and Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw are also in their 30′s. Along with Kawhi Leonard, the 1st 3 players are the 4 best and most important Spurs and their 3 veteran stars have a lot of regular season, international and playoff miles on them. They will be playing a lot of minutes, 3 times per week, so seeing if their bodies can hold up through 5 playoff series, which is what it will take to win a title and is their only goal is a lot of playing time for men the age of Duncan, Ginobili and even Parker.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder- Reliance On Youth, Age and Perkins

- The Thunder, like the Spurs really have no real weakness, as they are elite on offense and excellent on defense and on the boards, but they have a few concerns. Derek Fisher is 39 and Caron Butler is 34 and they are each a big part of their rotation, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are too, but are 23 and 21 and their starting center is Kendrick Perkins, who is useless. Having 2 elderly, 2 very young and 1 useless player all in their rotation is disconcerting.

3. Los Angeles Clippers- 3 Point Percentage

- The Clippers take a lot of 3′s; nearly 22 per game, but they are the league’s poorest long distance shooting team by a wide margin at 33.1 percent. They may have the NBA’s top scoring offense, but if they are unable to make their 3′s, teams will be free to double team Chris Paul as he runs the offense or Blake Griffin in the paint, which could limit their offensive production.

4. Houston Rockets- Defense

- The Rockets are 23d in the NBA in defense, which is the lowest of all Western Conference playoff teams and even though they have Dwight Howard in the middle and Patrick Beverley at point guard, who are each excellent on defense, they play James Harden and Jeremy Lin more than 60 combined minutes at guard. Each of these 2 are very poor defenders, meaning they will get pummeled by opposing guards. Their playoff chances are based on one question; can their elite offense score more than their poor defense allows? No. Defense wins championships and they don’t have enough.

5. Portland Trail Blazers- Depth

- The Blazers have an excellent, excellent starting 5, featuring All Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, borderline All Star Nicolas Batum and 2 elite role players in Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, but their bench; it’s pathetic. Mo Williams is a solid scoring sixth man, Thomas Robinson plays his energy role nicely, but after them, there is really nobody. No depth means they have no chance at doing much in the playoffs.

6. Golden State Warriors- Paint Defense

- The Warriors climbed all the way to 9th in opponents points per game on defense, but with an injured Andrew Bogut, who is the one of the better paint defenders in the NBA, Jermaine O’Neal in his 18th season and unfit to play starter’s minutes and David Lee and Marreese Speights nowhere near the level of Bogut and O’Neal on defense, how will their defense fare in the best case scenario that Bogut can play, but is hurting? It could be a big problem, especially since it looks like they will be facing Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the 1t round.

7. Dallas Mavericks- Defending Point Guards

- The West has Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lin, Mike Coney and Chris Paul at point guard, while the Mavericks have Jose Calderon. Calderon is an excellent distributor, but a porous defender and Monta Ellis can’t do much better. They will have to find a way to stop opposing point guards if they want any chance of winning even a single game.

8. Memphis Grizzlies- Offense

- The Memphis Grizzlies have the NBA’s 27th ranked offense, which is by far the lowest of any playoff team in the Western Conference. Besides Memphis, each West playoff team is in the top 10 in the NBA in points per game and although they have the best defense in the West, 96 points a night isn’t going to cut it. If they want to have any chance of winning a playoff series, they will have to keep playing elite defense, but at the same time, they need their Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph centric offense to thrive and for Mike Conley to continue to play All Star level basketball for them at the point.

Eastern Conference

1. Indiana Pacers

Weakness: Offense

Yes their defense has struggled just as much as their offense during their recent slide but that is still their calling card and I believe they will turn it on once again when the playoffs start. However, they are just 24th in points per game, 27th in assists and 20th in turnovers on offense. The ball sticks too much in one players’ hands, mainly Paul George, and the other four guys just stand and watch, leaving him in no man’s land if he is stopped. When they have ball movement and player movement they have some dangerous offensive players, but they must set their egos aside and play team basketball to prove they actually are all in on getting that NBA ring Indiana is desperate for.

2. Miami Heat

Weakness: Rebounding

LeBron James is the best player in the galaxy and he can hide just about any weakness his team may have but there is no denying how bad Miami is in this department. They are dead last in offensive and total rebounds and 28th in defensive rebounds. They were in such dire need of production in this category that the decaying knees of Greg Oden were brought in to help and he likely won’t play in the playoffs thanks to another part of his body giving out on him, his back. Their main East competitors are Indiana and Chicago, who are excellent rebounding teams and can easily exploit this to get extra possessions.

3. Toronto Raptors

Weakness: Playoff Experience

This is something that is hard to quantify but four of the Raptor’s five leading scorers have no experience when it comes to being in the playoffs and there has never been a team that I can think of that has been of great consequence come playoff team that had never been there before. They are the biggest surprise of the Eastern Conference this season and have a very bright future ahead of them if they can keep their core together, but I don’t see them making a lot of noise this season due to the inexperience in the unique challenges that the playoffs create.

4. Chicago Bulls

Weakness: Offense

With all due respect, it is a surprise to me that the Bulls are the fourth seed in the East even with how bad overall the conference is. Derrick Rose getting injured once again looked to be crippling to this team but thanks to Joakim Noah and their incredible defense, the Bulls fought their way into this position. What they are missing in Rose is someone that can create his own shot and thus shots for others when defenses collapse down on him. They scored the fewest points in the league per game and overall and if they should have an off day on the defensive end, they will most likely not be able to keep up scoring points.

5. Brooklyn Nets

Weakness: Rebounding

I could’ve went the easy route here and said their age, as their stars have been around at least 8 years each but the atrocious rebounding stats were just too glaring to pass up. They rank 29th in offensive rebounds and dead last in the other two categories, giving up extra possessions to other teams and not getting them on their end. This could be due to Brook Lopez missing the large majority of the season and the trade of Reggie Evans at the deadline but they have an athletic rookie in Mason Plumlee and a veteran in Kevin Garnett that should have been able to take up some of their slack at least. Extra possessions will kill a team and when your scorers are as jump shot oriented as the Nets this does not bode well for them as a threat to win the Eastern Conference.

6. Washington Wizards

Weakness: Depth

Their starting five has been very good this season with John Wall finally turning into the franchise player we all expected, Trevor Ariza playing very well on the wing, Bradley Beal proving to be one of the best second year players in the league, Marcin Gortat solidifying the five and the combination of Nene and Trevor Booker rounding things out nicely but after that, well there’s Martell Webster. Thirty seven year old Andre Miller is the backup at the point and Drew Gooden is the primary backup in the post. If they get into foul trouble or someone should happen to get injured it could be disastrous.

7. Charlotte Bobcats

Weakness: Offensive Efficiency

The Bobcats had a great turnaround this season lead by addition Al Jefferson who has been outstanding. He should’ve been an All Star this season and has finally given them a go-to player inside to go along with Kemba Walker. Where the Bobcats come up short is efficiently putting the ball in the basket. They are 22nd in three point percentage, 27th from inside the line and 24th at the free throw line. This could come back to haunt them come playoff time as the Heat are one of the best offensive teams in the league and if they can’t keep up they could be run out of the gym.

8. Atlanta Hawks

Weakness: Talent

Paul Millsap was an All Star this season and Jeff Teague had spurts of excellent play but the talent in Atlanta is lacking to be kind. Kyle Korver is their best player on the wing, DeMarre Carroll is next in line and after them there is nothing. With Al Horford out Millsap is their only threatening player in the frontcourt and players such as Mike Scott, Mike Muscala, Shelvin Mack and James Nunnally have seen minutes at various times. The Hawks embarrassed the Pacers in Indianapolis on the first Sunday in April but don’t count on that happening again. Atlanta needs a big time talent infusion if they expect to return to the playoffs next season.

 

Miami Heat: Team Season Awards

By Nekias Duncan: Staff Writer @ Hoopstuff…

With the regular season coming to a close, and the Playoffs set to start this weekend, it’s a fair time to hand out team awards. Currently locked into the second seed, and riding another 50-win season, the Miami Heat have had a productive, but sluggish regular season.Miami showed flashes of excellence, but ultimately coasted through most of the year.

Best Player: LeBron James

Stats: 27.1 ppg (1st), 6.9 rpg (1st). 6.4 apg (1st), 1.6 spg (T-1st), 0.3 bpg (T-7th), 56.7% FG (3rd), 37.9% 3PT (4th), 75% FT (7th)

This selection doesn’t need much explaining. LeBron James is, at worst, a top-two player in the entire NBA, and is the engine that makes Miami go. James is the only player in the league leading his team in points, rebounds, and assists, and considering he’s tied for the team steals lead with Mario Chalmers, his defensive impact is felt on the team as well. LeBron’s numbers are basically down across the board from last season outside of his scoring and field goal percentage,but so was his effort this year. LeBron’s defensive effort simply wasn’t there for most of the year, and Miami’s team defensive numbers took a hit because of it. Regardless, James played much better (and harder) on both ends of the court over the last couple of months (27.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.2 apg, 119 ORtg, 106 DRtg since March 1st), and that should bode well come playoff-time.

MVP: Chris Bosh

Stats: 16.2 ppg (3rd), 6.6 rpg (2nd), 1.1 apg (7th), 1 spg (4th), 1 bpg (2nd), 51.6% FG (5th), 33.9% 3PT (9th), 82% FT (3rd)

If we’re being completely honest about it, Chris Bosh has always been the most valuable member of the Big Three when you look at it from an on-court perspective. Offensively, he’s had to sacrafice his touches and, at the same time, expand his game more than anyone. Dwyane Wade was the one that lured James and Bosh here, and James is the best player quite easily, but it’s Bosh who makes the thing work.

His mid-range (career 45.6% FG shooter between 16-22 feet), and now three-point range provides the floor spacing necessary for the Heat offense to be as deadly as it is. Bosh went 50-168 (29.8%) from three during his seven-year stint with the Raptors; he’s 74-218 (33.9%) THIS SEASON. Bosh not only had to extend his range (his average shot distance is 11.8 ft during his stint in Miami — 13.8 ft this season — compared to 9.6 ft during his stint in Toronto), but also beef up to play as the “center” in Miami’s offense — according to Basketball Reference, Bosh has played 88% of his minutes at center over the last two seasons, compared to 61% during his career in Toronto. Bosh has become a very good help defender in Miami’s frenetic scheme, meaning he’s giving Miami two-way impact that’s needed despite being the 3rd scoring option behind Wade and James. Chris Bosh never gets enough credit for what he’s done since joining the Heat, so it’s only fitting he gets this well-deserved, albeit fictional award.

Most Improved Player (MIP): Mario Chalmers

Last Year’s Stats: 8.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 42.9% FG, 40.9% 3PT, 79.5% FT

This Year’s Stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.2 tpg, 45.3% FG, 38.5% 3PT, 74.2% FT

Make no mistake about it; Mario Chalmers is still the Heat’s whipping boy if you will. He and LeBron James have that big brother-little brother bond where they always seem to be bickering with each other, but the love between the two are strong. Because of his role and the other talent on this team, the base statistics won’t properly show how good of a point guard Mario Chalmers is. Chalmers has grown as a decision-maker and as a player overall. His assists have jumped up to its highest amount since he nearly averaged 5 a game in his rookie season in 08-09, the same season Dwyane Wade had the best post-Jordan season of any SG when he averaged 30.2-5-7.5-2.2-1.3. Chalmers still has his moments where he forces an issue or two, but he’s cut down on his foul trouble issues that have plagued him the last two seasons. He’s playing a little smarter on both ends, taking better shots, and as a result, his numbers have seen solid improvement. More than likely, Chalmers can give a team around 14 points and 6 assists as a traditional starting PG. He won’t get to man the ball as long as the Big Three are on the roster. But that’s okay. Mario Chalmers, like Chris Bosh to a lesser extent, has grown more comfortable — and reliable — in a reduced role.

Most Valuable Reserve (MVR) & Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY): Chris Andersen

Stats: 6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 1.4 bpg, 0.4 spg, 64.4% FG, 71% FT

Andersen is the only player on the team taking home two awards, and deservedly so.

He’s the energy big, and has been Miami’s most reliable rim protector as he led the team in blocks per game. Anderson is one of three bench players (Taj Gibson and Timofey Mozgov) — 15 players overall — to average at least 1 bpg and have opponents shoot under 48% FG at the rim against them. Quite frankly, Andersen makes a bit of a difference for Miami, shown by his +1.6 on-off rating this year, compared to it being -0.2 last year. In most cases, Andersen is on the court with Miami’s 4th quarter unit (Allen-Wade-LeBron-Bosh; Chalmers-Allen when Wade is out). Spoelstra trusts Andersen, as he should.

The Alonzo Mourning Leadership Award: Udonis Haslem

This award was a late addition — late, as in “let me add this in before I send this to the editor. Regardless, Udonis Haslem more than deserves this award for being an outstanding locker room presence, and continuing to exemplify the grit-and-grind Miami Heat culture of old. Haslem started off the season banged up, and didn’t really crack the rotation until after the All-Star break. Instead of complaining about it, Haslem just continued to tell people that the Heat would need him eventually. Sure enough, Haslem has been a much needed presence on the defensive end, with his most notable performance coming against Roy Hibbert during Miami’s 98-86 victory over the Pacers on April 11th.

Haslem has been more than an undersized, put-the-POW-in-power forward off the bench for Miami. He’s been a mentor to the oft-troubled Michael Beasley, who has seemingly taken Udonis Haslem’s spot on the bench. He’s been an emotional pillar for Miami. He hasn’t needed touches to do so — just grit and effort. That is the reason why Miami wouldn’t trade Haslem to bring in Evan Turner before Indiana eventually did so. Although Haslem’s base stats aren’t much to be in awe of (3.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg in 14.2 mpg), one statistic worth mentioning is his 1,510 career offensive rebounds, which is 1st in Heat franchise history. The man he passed? Alonzo Mourning. How fitting is that?

Utah Jazz: Season Grade And Analysis

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff..

Record: 24-57- 15th in West

Analysis: It was well known that the Jazz weren’t going to be winning much this season, as they were set on developing their young talent and although they were pathetic until Trey Burke was able to play a third into the season, for a rebuilding team, their season was rather strong.

Positives: They learned that they have a franchise point guard in Trey Burke, a star perimeter player in Gordon Hayward, a franchise big man in Derrick Favors, a very talented sixth man in Alec Burks and they will also receive an excellent pick in an incredible draft.

Negatives: Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors’ inability to become a starting big man duo, Ty Corbin’s rotations, the fact that they were starting Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams consistently and a lack of playing time for Rudy Gobert were all big negatives. The Kanter/Favors problem is by far the biggest because it looks as though they will have to trade Enes Kanter, as he is way too talented to be starting the game on the bench.

MVP: Gordon Hayward- 16.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists per game… Hayward is one of the rare NBA players that averages at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game and although his shooting numbers were low, he has always shown that he is far better than 41.4 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from 3 and so he should improve next season. Speaking of next season, he is a restricted free agent, but no matter the cost they have to retain him, as will be an All Star very soon and is the closest thing they have to a franchise player.

LVP: Ty Corbin- Yes, he is their coach, but there was no player less valuable than him. His inability to get Favors and Kanter to work together is partially his fault, starting Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams on a rebuilding team was pointless, Rudy Gobert’s lack of playing time in a rebuilding season was even more pointless and there is no reason why Burks (28 minutes per game), Kanter (27), Favors (30) and Burke (32) shouldn’t have played every minute they could handle.

What’s Next: They have three things that they have to do during the offseason; 1, resign Gordon Hayward, 2, trade Enes Kanter for the best package they can find and 3, make the most of their excellent draft pick.

Summary: They found a very nice 3 man foundation of Hayward, Favors and Burke and saw all 3 and Kanter improve, all while giving them a chance to win the Draft Lottery, which is about as strong of a season as any rebuilding team can go through.

Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans: Season Grade and Analysis

By Jennifer Fazioli: Lead Writer @ Hoopstuff…

Record: 33-48 * 12th in West

Analysis: The season was a disappointing one for the Pelicans who were thought to be a sleeper pick for the playoffs in the West. Derailed by injuries, they never really had their core together for any significant length of time forcing head coach Monty Williams to use far too many lineup combinations to ever gain any consistency and rhythm with his starting rotation. The Pelicans were looking to build a core around second year franchise player and All Star Anthony Davis, guard Eric Gordon, and point guard Jrue Holiday, acquired in a draft night trade with the 76ers. But all had various injuries throughout the season and were never able to fulfill the potential that the Pelicans front office saw when they built the team this offseason. Now the Pelicans have to hope that an offseason of rest and development along with a full training camp with their full starting rotation will be enough to get this team to that level. Losing their first round draft pick to Philadelphia in the trade they executed for Holiday (top 5 protected) certainly does not help in the continued rebuilding process going forward.

Positives: Anthony Davis earned his first All Star bid and proved why he was the number one draft choice in 2012. He averaged 20.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG with a true shooting percentage of 58.2 and the 4th highest PER in the league (26.54) behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. Davis had 36 double-doubles in just 67 games this year and averaged 2.8 blocks per game, good for the most in the league. Davis and Ryan Anderson, though playing the same position, seemed to work well together for the short periods of time they were on the floor together, calming some of the fears of Pelicans’ fans that the tandem would not be effective when on the floor at the same time. When Davis and Anderson were on the court the Pelicans outscored opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions a complete turnaround from the season before. Because they play different styles (Anderson is an adept 3 point shooter while Davis does most of his work within three feet of the rim; Davis excels at protecting the paint while the Pelicans’ defense is better when Anderson is on the bench) their games should be able to complement one another as they gain more playing time together.

Negatives: Injuries. The inability of Davis to stay on the floor consistently could be an issue going forward. He seems to be the Kyrie Irving of the Pelicans, felled by seemingly innocuous ailments that just keep popping up, never leaving him out for long but also never permitting him to play a steady stretch of games. Gordon managed to stay healthy for most of the season, playing in the most games he has since his rookie season but health is always a major issue with Gordon and the question is not if something will crop up, but when; not exactly a tendency you want in your starting two guard. Holiday, the team’s starting point guard was lost in January to a stress fracture he never recovered from. And Anderson, as well as he played early, was lost just 22 games into the season with a herniated disc that eventually required surgery. The Pelicans also have a great deal of money tied up in Anderson. If they don’t feel he and Davis can play well together on a long term basis his contract may leave him difficult to trade. The same is true of small forward Tyreke Evans, far from the most efficient player and generally viewed as a bad free agent signing by Pelicans’ management. Evans, obviously brought in to be a starter, ended up sharing time with Al Farouq-Aminu but has a cap hit of over $11 million next season and is signed through 2016.  Moreover the Pelicans lacked a strong starting center perhaps some of the reason, despite Davis’ presence, that the team suffered on the defensive side of the ball this season, ranking 26th in the league with a defensive rating of 107.8.

MVP: Anthony Davis. Davis was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year that failed to live up to preseason expectations and should be in the league MVP discussion for years to come. He has been posited as the biggest challenger to James and Durant for the award over the course of the next five years.

LVP: Several Pelicans players failed to step up when presented with the opportunity this year including Jeff Withey, Luke Babbitt, Evans, and Darius Miller but all have fairly limited skill sets. So I’m going to pick on Austin Rivers for the simple fact that he was the 10th overall pick in the draft in 2012 and that carries weighty expectations that he has not even come closing to reaching. While not the complete disaster that his rookie season was, Rivers only took a small step forward this year and is still just a marginal player on a team that is looking to contend. With a true shooting percentage of just 47.1 and a PER of 11.27 Rivers is remarkably inefficient and when Williams was forced to use him at the point late in the season with both Holiday and Brian Roberts out due to injuries, it became obvious that he does not know how to create for others when his own shoot isn’t falling. Rivers is still very much a work in progress.

What’s Next: Doing anything and everything to acquire the Phoenix Suns training staff. Barring that actually happening, hoping that the depth in this draft is better than it has been predicted to be as they do not hold a first round selection. The Pelicans were bad enough to miss the playoffs by 16 games but not awful enough to hold on to their first round pick, instead ceding it to the Sixers leaving them in no man’s land for the future. They could look to trade Evans or Anderson in the offseason but the focus must be on acquiring a reliable center to complement Davis; something that will admittedly be hard to pull off. Jason Smith and Greg Steimsma are both unrestricted free agents and the Pelicans will have to decide if they are worth bringing back (probably not) and the free agent options run the gamut from Ryan Hollins to Chris Kaman to Spencer Hawes – not exactly awe inspiring. Andrew Bogut would be an intriguing option especially on the defensive end but is not without risk as he has quite a lengthy injury history as well. The Pelicans needs also extend to securing a reliable backup point guard and more perimeter players for a bench lacking some quality depth; all of which is difficult to do without having a first round pick.

Summary: The Pelican’s season did not live up to the promise it showed on paper but a great deal of that had to do with injuries. It is not an indication that the entire roster needs to be turned upside down but without a first round draft pick and only about $9 million in projected cap room next year they will need to be wise with their spending. Still when you have one of the best young players in the league on your team there is always hope.

Grade: C-

Denver Nuggets: Season Grade and Analysis

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content…

Record: 36-44 11th in the West

Analysis: By many observers accounts the Nuggets had the worst offseason of any team in the league. They lost their GM Masai Ujiri, one of the best young executives in basketball, their coach George Karl, one of the best coaches in the game, Andre Iguodala, arguably their best player, traded Kosta Koufas, a solid bench player for Darrell Arthur who has not produced much at all, let Corey Brewer leave and did not pick up anything on the free agent market besides Nate Robinson and JJ Hickson, both of whom have missed chunks of the season due to injury. Danilo Gallinari then suffered a setback when it was discovered his surgically repaired knee needed another operation and he would miss this season as well. To say this season was looking difficult would be an understatement. Ty Lawson put this team on his back however and into February it was possible that they could sneak into the playoff picture. Their horrendous defense, 28th in the league giving up 106.3 points per game, was just too much to overcome in the end however and now the Nuggets will have a selection in the lottery to improve a roster in dire need of an upgrade.

Positives: Lawson has turned into a franchise player. He has taken on a bigger role as a playmaker and though he is somewhat turnover prone, averaging 3.2 a game, he dishes out 8.8 assists and uses his incredible speed with the ball in his hands to get to the rim and either finish or find one the athletes at the rim for easy dunks. He needs to improve upon his shooting, as his percentages have slipped each year in the league, but if this team is able to take some pressure of him by getting more talent around he will be able to get easier shots with the floor spread.

The player the Nuggets received in the sign and trade for Andre Iguodala, Randy Foye, actually put up better numbers than Iggy and at more than nine million dollars less. Foye is averaging 13 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and is one of the better three point shooters in the league. The Nuggets may have taken some heat for not getting much in the deal when it happened but Foye has played very well for them.

Negatives: JaVale McGee. Sure he has his moments where he looks like a fool but he is a talented player that put up some good numbers in the first season of his four year, 44 million dollar deal last season. He didn’t even get a chance to have his normal blooper reel this year however as he only played five games before injuring his left tibia and missing the rest of the season. Eleven million dollars down the drain.

Coach Brian Shaw was brought over from Indiana with a defensive pedigree but wow, what a disaster this team has been on that end of the floor. They are giving up two more points a game than they score and when you average 104 points per game that is some horrendous defense. Their bigs, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov, are actually decent defenders but when your backcourt is as bad as theirs is on the defensive end there isn’t much they can do. Someone needs to develop some pride in stopping their man or the Nuggets will struggle next season as well.

MVP: Ty Lawson: 17.6 points per game, 8.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals

He is their cornerstone and should’ve been an All Star this season.

LVP: JaVale McGee, he barely played but the eleven million dollars they are paying him is just money down the drain this season. Danilo Galinari could be included but McGee actually saw some action this year.

What’s Next: Getting healthy would be a great first step. McGee and Galinari are taking up a lot of cap space to not play more than five games. Then finding someone, anyone at all to defend on the perimeter is an absolute must. They are one of the best scoring teams in the league but when you give up 106 points per game you just won’t win consistently. Whatever cap space they do have should go towards finding a defensive stopper or at least someone that gives some effort on that end. The lottery pick they have could be used for this as well.

Summary: Terrible defense, injuries to big money players and not enough talent around Ty Lawson doomed the Nuggets season. It’s just that simple.

Grade: C- I cut them some slack because of the injuries to Gallo and McGee. If they were playing they could’ve snuck into the picture for the final playoff spot in the West, at least in my opinion.

The NBA’s Newest Franchise Players

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Each season young and even veteran players take their games to another level, a level of stardom and a level to where they can be considered their team’s franchise player and the player that said team will build around long term. This season there were 7 cases of a team finding a franchise player, which means that 7 franchises are in far better shape now than they were to start the season.

Joakim Noah- Chicago Bulls

- Noah is first, but just because he is a special case. The Bulls already have a superstar, a franchise player and an MVP in Derrick Rose, but as he has played in only 10 games in 2 seasons there is concern that he won’t be his All Star self again. This has put their long term potential in doubt and although it still is, at least the Bulls have found a player that they can build around if Rose cannot stay healthy. This player is the NBA’s new best center, Joakim Noah. Noah is one of the NBA’s best defenders and will probably win the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season, but he is also an elite rebounder, a strong scorer and is the best big man distributor since David Robinson. Noah has gone from an All Star to one of the best players in the league and has given the Bulls a 2nd franchise player. He could conceivably be 3rd in the league in MVP voting this season and has given them a plan B when it comes to building around a player.

Anthony Davis- New Orleans Pelicans

- Davis is only 21 and is already an Olympic gold medalist, an NBA All Star and one of the NBA’s best players. After a strong rookie season, he has taken his game to the next level and is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game and has already become the franchise player for New Orleans that most knew he would become.

John Wall- Washington Wizards

- John Wall has put together an entire season of All Star play for the 1st time, he has played better than any guard in the East and he’s rewarded the Wizards for their confidence in him in the form of a max contract given to him. He has played in each game this season but 1 and it seems that all he had to do to become a star and a franchise player is stay healthy.

Eric Bledsoe- Phoenix Suns

- Bledsoe is the only player on this list that will be a free agent this offseason, but despite missing a large portion of the season, he has proved that he is a franchise player and an elite player on each side of the floor. If it wasn’t for his knee injury, he would have made the All Star team, his 1st season as a starter and the Suns have to resign him no matter the cost (he is a restricted free agent, so they can match anything), as he has proven that he should be the heir to Steve Nash as the alpha dog in Phoenix.

DeMarcus Cousins- Sacramento Kings

- Like Wall, Cousins rewarded the Kings for his new max contract by having by far his best season on the court and his best when it comes to his behavior (although he still has had a few problems). He is one of the NBA’s best offensive big man, he is leading all centers is scoring, he is one of the league’s best rebounders and he is an animal. If he can continue to play this well, but more importantly, continues maturing, he can be one of the league’s top players. However, with his incredible season, he has proven after a lot of uncertainty that he is the Kings’ franchise player and will be for as long as he behaves.

Andre Drummond- Detroit Pistons

- The Pistons’ franchise is a mess. Joe Dumars has left (he was going to be fired anyways), the Josh Smith signing was an incredibly poor move, they are about to lose Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings doesn’t fit on the roster, they chose Kentavious Caldwell Pope instead of Michael Carter Williams and they have no talent on the perimeter, but they have Andre Drummond. Drummond is only 20, but is already their best player, the NBA’s 2nd leading rebounder, is 2nd in the league in field goal percentage, is 10th in blocks, is one of the best centers in the NBA and he has given the Pistons a franchise player to build around for a very, very long time.

Ty Lawson- Denver Nuggets

- Lawson has very quietly lead the Nuggets all season long to respectability, despite a lack of talent on their roster due to injury. Leading the team in points and assists (3rd in the NBA), he actually has lead the Nuggets to a record that would have them in the running for a playoff spot in the East, despite their 2nd offensive option being Wilson Chandler, who is only averaging 14 points per game. Lawson isn’t the talent of the rest of the players on this list, but there is no denying that he has become a franchise player for the Nuggets.

Los Angeles Lakers: Season Grade and Analysis

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content…

Record: 25-55- 14th in the West

Analysis: Coming into the year with Kobe still rehabbing his Achilles the expectations for the Lakers were tempered but I don’t think anyone expected them to be quite this bad. Pau Gasol was and still is franchise center and it was possible that if the veterans around him stayed healthy they could tread water until Kobe Bryant found his way back to the court. It seems as if father time has caught up to him finally and after playing just six games he fractured his tibia and would miss the rest of the season. The remaining veterans started dropping like flies and though a few of the younger guys played well, notably free agent pick up Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks, a spot in the lottery appeared on the horizon in January. They won’t stay down for long but this season has been nothing short of a disaster for one of the cornerstones of the NBA.

Positives: As mentioned above Kendall Marshall came to Los Angeles in December after being thrown on the trash heap by Phoenix and Washington and from day one took to Coach D’Antoni’s system extremely well and showed his former teams what they were missing. He is averaging just under 8 points per game but his shooting has improved, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the league, and his 8.7 assists per game are good for fourth in the league. The Lakers may have found their long term starter at the point in Marshall whoever the coach may be going forward.

Jodie Meeks took advantage of the most playing time in his career to lead the team in overall points averaging 15.6 per game with 2.5 boards, 1.8 assists and a steal per game and will force the Lakers to make a decision on whether to bring him back. He would be a great bench scorer for this team when they rebuild and in the mean time will be a good offensive piece around Marshall, Pau and Kobe.

Negatives: Kobe only playing six games was a pretty big surprise. He is one of if not the most competitive person in sports and it was assumed he would come back with a vengeance and get the Lakers back on the right track. He got derailed in December however, Steve Nash missed the vast majority of the season, only playing 15 games and though Pau had his moments, he missed 22 games as well. These injuries to their two best players and their assumed point guard were too much to overcome.

MVP: Pau Gasol: He will miss 22 games but this was a bit of a bounce back season for Gasol, nearly averaging a double double at 17.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. They have tried to move him for the past few years but he just ignores the rumors and plays, usually at a very high level.

LVP: This may be unfair, as he was injured coming into the season and got injured again in December, but with thirty million dollars coming his way this year Kobe Bryant is their least valuable player.

What’s Next: They need to use their lottery pick wisely and find a player can fit with Kobe for the final few years of his career and be able to take over once he decides it’s time to move on. The offseason will be an interesting one, as the future of D’Antoni is definitely in doubt and they have plenty of holes to fill on their roster. Will they be able to convince the Wolves to part with Kevin Love? Will they pull off a shocker no one sees coming to add the franchise player they need? Mitch Kupchak signed back on with an organization that has more questions than answers right now. It is Los Angeles though, they will be back whether you are a fan or not.

Summary: Injuries to veterans and not enough young talent around them killed the Lakers. They did have a few surprises, such as Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks, but they were not enough to lead a team out of the bottom of the Western Conference. The lottery is not a place the Lakers have been recently but that’s where they are in a very good draft class. The turnaround could be quick.

Grade: D-

Boston Celtics: Season Grades And Analysis

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Record: 25-55- 12th in East

Analysis: The Celtics traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason and with Rajon Rondo expected to miss a large portion of the season, the playoffs weren’t expected for the Celtics, however, Rondo missed 2/3rd’s of the season and the Celtics played far below even modest expectations on their way to being a bottom dweller in the NBA.

Positives: Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk all showed a lot of potential, rookie coach Brad Stevens proved that he belongs in the NBA, they will have a probable top 7 pick in an excellent draft and All Star Rajon Rondo should be healthy next season, which means they can make the playoffs.

Negatives: A big lack of wins, missing the playoffs after more than a half decade of excellence, consistent Rajon Rondo trade rumors and the realization that they are in deed rebuilding (if the offseason didn’t already say enough) are all negatives of the season.

MVP: Avery Bradley (14.7 points per game and excellent defense) and Jared Sullinger (13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) are tied for the honor, as Jeff Green didn’t lead this team the way he was capable of and Rondo missed most of the season and they each solidified their places as their 2 best young long term building blocks.

LVP: Jeff Green- As I just wrote, Jeff Green was expected to lead this team with Rondo injured, but he just didn’t play well enough. His points, rebounds, efficiency and their lack of wins showed that he is unable to be a strong first or 2nd option in the NBA, although to be fair, we kind of already knew this. Regardless, he was just underwhelming this season.

What’s Next: They have to resign Avery Bradley, make their annual decision on whether they should trade or keep Rajon Rondo, get ready for the draft, where they have 2 1st round picks and try and trade the salaries of Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace.

Summary: The lack of wins is a little disconcerting, but with no Rondo for most of the season, this team had little chance of being a playoff team. However, they did get to see their impressive collection of young talent grow and they found themselves a very strong coach, so the season wasn’t all a waste.

Grade: C-