Free Agency Updates From Around the Leauge

Grant Hill    

     Since it is now the off-season for the NBA, there really is only one thing that keeps people interested in basketball right now. And that thing is rumors. Trade rumors, free agency rumors, anything that is being whispered about gets peoples attention. Well, I guess I have to get in on the rumor business as well if I want to have anything to write about, so here it goes…

     It looks like Grant Hill is going to be leaving the Eastern Conference after spending his entire career to this point near the east coast. Apparently Hill has agreed with Phoenix’s offer of a $1.2 million deal, which was the best offer the Suns would give the veteran. Even if this deal goes through, which it looks like it more than likely will, this wont have a real impact on any NBA team. I don’t even think Hill will help out the Suns much. Grant isn’t getting any younger, and his body isn’t losing any of the wear from all those surgeries he’s had over the years. Add that to the fact that the West is a much more competitive Conference than the East, and I think it’s clear that Grant Hill won’t have much of an impact out West.

     Here’s a free agent case that might be good for the Pistons. Cleveland’s flopping big man Anderson Varejao has reportedly gotten an offer from the Memphis Grizzlies that is more than the Cavaliers want to offer him to re-up his contract. Personally, I hope that Varejao goes to Memphis. Let them have him. It’s just one less flopper that Detroit has to deal with.

     Wait, not so fast, another flopper may be packing up and shipping out for Memphis. Andres Nocioni of the Chicago Bulls has reportedly been talking to the Grizzlies’ organization, although no money has been talked about yet. Hey, if all the floppers are gone, what will we be left with in the Central Division? A bunch of basketball players who play standing up? No way.

     Looks like the Billups deal isn’t through with yet. Billups and his agent deny any accusations that he agreed to a five year deal with the Pistons. I don’t think anyone will know what is really going on until July 11th when contracts can officially be inked by the players themselves.

     That’s all the free-agent news for right now. If anything else interesting comes up, I’ll be sure to post something about it.

Get Ready for FIBA Americas

FIBA    

     Starting on August 22nd, the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship will begin. As of right now, there are thirty NBA players, as well as two players that are not yet in the NBA, that are trying out for the USA team. Only 12 of these men will make Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final cut. Here is a list of all the players trying out for the team:

Carmelo Anthony- Forward- Denver Nuggets

Gilbert Arenas- Guard- Washington Wizards

Shane Battier- Forward- Houston Rockets

Chauncey Billups- Guard- Detroit Pistons

Carlos Boozer- Forward- Utah Jazz

Chris Bosh- Forward- Toronto Raptors

Bruce Bowen- Forward- San Antonio Spurs

Elton Brand- Forward- Los Angeles Clippers

Kobe Bryant- Guard- Los Angeles Lakers

Tyson Chandler- Center- New Orleans Hornets

Kevin Durant- Forward- University of Texas

Kirk Hinrich- Guard- Chicago Bulls

Dwight Howard- Forward/Center- Orlando Magic

LeBron James- Foward- Cleveland Cavaliers

Antwan Jamison- Forward- Washington Wizards

Joe Johnson- Guard/Forward- Atlanta Hawks

Jason Kidd- Guard- New Jersey Nets

Shawn Marion- Forward- Phoenix Suns

Brad Miller- Center- Sacramento Kings

Mike Miller- Guard- Memphis Grizzlies

Adam Morrison- Forward- Charlotte Bobcats

Greg Oden- Center- Ohio State University

Lamar Odom- Forward- Los Angeles Lakers

Chris Paul- Guard- New Orleans Hornets

Paul Pierce- Forward/Guard- Boston Celtics

Tayshaun Prince- Forward- Detroit Pistons

J.J. Redick- Guard- Orlando Magic

Michael Redd- Guard- Milwaukee Bucks

Luke Ridnour- Guard- Seattle SuperSonics

Amare Stoudemire- Center- Phoenix Suns

Dwyane Wade- Guard- Miami Heat

Deron Williams- Guard- Utah Jazz

     All of these players are extremely talented. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to decide which of these players I had to cut from the team. However, I have made my own mock list of who I would put on the 12 man roster, and it was pretty difficult for me to decide who to put on this little list that doesn’t mean anything. But here was the final list I came up with.

Starting FivePoint Guard- Jason Kidd

Shooting Guard- Kobe Bryant

Small Forward- LeBron James

Power Forward- Dwight Howard

Center- Amare Stoudemire

     These first five guys weren’t so tough to decide on. I chose Kidd as the starting point guard because he is a guy who can dish assists to the bigger scorers and rebound as well. Also, if you get in a tight squeeze Jason Kidd can score a few baskets himself as well.

     Kobe Bryant would be my choice for the starting shooting guard for the simple reason that he is Kobe Bryant. If Kobe can make the team and take those 50 and 60 point showings to the FIBA games, I think he could almost beat the opposition single-handedly. Plus there is also the fact that Kobe is a huge fan favorite, and that might raise ticket sales and publicity for the FIBA Americas games.

     LeBron James is an obvious pick for the starting small forward for the USA team. Besides the fact that he was on the team last year, the way James played against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals was outstanding. Although the Cavs were swept in the NBA Finals by San Antonio, LeBron has proved that he is ready to be a serious basketball power. Maybe he can be as dominate against international teams as he was against the Pistons.

     Dwight Howard would make my cut as the starting power forward on Team USA. I think that Howard has established himself as a young dominate big man in the NBA, and the United States team needs a young strong big man to get down in there and scrap for rebounds. Dwight can also intimidate opponents with monster dunks and blocks. Overall I just think Howard is the best power forward who went out for the USA team.

     Amare Stoudemire is the man who makes my cut for the starting center for Team USA. One reason why I chose Stoudemire for my “mock list” starting center is that in the 2006 FIBA World Championships Team USA had only one player (Brad Miller) that played center as his primary position. There were a lot of really tall power forwards, but only one guy who was listed as a center. But the main reason why I chose Stoudemire was that he is a good scoring big man who can do a lot of things. Amare can rebound, set picks well, and block shots. I think with a point guard like Jason Kidd at the point, a lot of pick-and-roll opportunities would be available. This would leave Stoudemire with a lot of easy baskets, and that might take some of the scoring load off the other scoring stars on the team like Kobe or LeBron. Also, Stoudemire is another intimidating center who just might scare other players into staying away from him.

     Here are the five players who I would sit on the bench as my second-unit:

The Second UnitPoint Guard- Chauncey Billups

Shooting Guard- Dwayne Wade

Small Foward- Carmelo Anthony

Power Forward- Chris Bosh

Center- Greg Oden

     I know this might seem kind of weird because I’ve sorta’ been ripping on Chauncey Billups ever since I started this blog, but he would be my choice as the back-up point guard for Team USA. My reason for this is that the team needs point guards who will be willing to sacrifice their scoring in order to dish assists instead. The team will already have enough scorers, and the team needs someone to give those scorers the ball. Billups is a good passer, and he is used to playing in an unselfish offence with the Pistons. I think Billups would be okay with sacrificing some points of his own to win a gold medal. Also, Billups is a more established point guard than other players such as Kirk Hinrich, Chris Paul, or Luke Ridnour, and you need to know what a player is capable of doing before you put him on the team. Billups is obviously capable of playing big, so that is why he is my choice for the back-up point guard.

     Dwyane Wade would be my choice for the back-up shooting guard. Wade is an explosive, high energy player, who can do multiple things on both ends of the floor. Wade can score points as well as throw assists on the offensive end. Also, he can guard players tightly, block shots, grab boards, and get steals. Dwyane is a player who will make plays that will get the home crowd into the game. All in all, Wade would make a good choice to even start for Team USA, let alone come off the bench.

     For the back-up small forward, I would choose Carmelo Anthony. During the NBA regular season this year, Anthony was second overall in scoring, just behind Kobe Bryant. If Carmelo had as much big game experience as LeBron James does, I would have picked him as the starting small forward instead of James. Last year, although both James and Anthony were on the USA team, Carmelo really stood out as the leader of the team and the best player on the United State’s roster. James made a lot of turnovers that hurt the team down the stretch last summer. But however, now that James has another year of basketball under his belt, and played on the biggest basketball stage in the world, the NBA Finals, I don’t think he’ll be the same international player this time around. Still, Anthony is too good of a player to keep of the roster of any team, and is a real gem to have coming in off the bench.

     My choice for Team USA’s back-up power forward would have to be Chris Bosh. I see Bosh as a big man who plays like Dwight Howard, although Howard has about 35 or 40 pounds on Bosh. Bosh is a great scorer, and can pull up with a mid-range jumper as well as take it to the hole for a rim-rattling slam. I think that Bosh can do too many things for a team on both ends of the floor to keep him off the roster. He can block shots, grab boards, and score points. He will more than likely be able to free up his teammates on offense with his ability to pull up with the jump shot if he gets the ball six or eight feet from the basket, or put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim. When Bosh gets the ball, he will more than likely be double-teamed, and if he is not, then he will seize the opportunity and rip defenses apart.

     Now this last pick is sort of a wild card. For the back-up center I would choose rookie Greg Oden. I think that Oden is a good shot blocker and rebounder, who is good for six or eight points off dunks and put-backs. But more than that, I want to see what Oden can do on a higher level than college. If he can get in the middle and scrap and intimidate players like he did with Ohio State, then he should be very effective for Team USA. Also, it’d be nice to see a player on Team USA who hasn’t yet made 100 million dollars.

     Well, that was only ten players, and there is a maximum of 12 on a roster. Every team needs a guy or two who can come into a ball game as more than one position. These last two players are guys I picked because they can do many different things, and can also come off the bench and play more than one spot. Don’t think of these guys as the worst of the best players, just think of them as the guys that I would want to use as weapons off the bench.

The Final TwoPoint Guard- Gilbert Arenas

Small Forward- Shawn Marion

     I chose Gilbert Arenas because he can come off the bench as a point guard, but he also has the size and the skills to come into a game as a two-guard as well. Gilbert can knock down threes, dish assists, as well as grab a few rebounds that come his way. I think that Arenas is a great player, and is someone that could be put into a game is the team is ever in a tight spot and score some quick points for the United States.

     In Phoenix, Shawn Marion already plays in a scheme where he is used as a small forward/power forward hybrid. If he was used for Team USA in the same way, he would be in a familiar situation. Marion can get to the rim for dunks with ease, and is a tremendous rebounder for only being 6’7″. Marion could really cause opponents some grief if he was coming off the bench.

     Keep in mind that this is just who I would have on the team if I were the coach. This means nothing and has nothing to do with what the final roster will be (although I hope it’s exactly the same). As soon as the final roster is announced, I’ll let you know.

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Anyone Like Videos?

     If any of you like to see all kinds of sweet basketball clips, make sure you check out my new page that was made just for videos. You can get to that page by looking for the tab on the top of my website that says “Basketball Videos.” 

More Updates on Billups

     Although it looks like Billups is going to be resigned, I just wanted to follow up on one of those players who I said trading Billups for would be great. Yesterday I said if Detroit could get Rashard Lewis for Billups I would be happy. Well, it looks like that wouldn’t have happened anyways. Lewis agreed to the biggest deal Orlando could give him under their salary cap limits, and he should be signing soon. That’s good for Orlando, bad for Detroit. Now the Pistons just have one more high scoring, high-energy forward to deal with in the Conference.

Looks Like Joe D and I Have Different Opinions

Money    

     From what I have been reading around the NBA Blogosphere, Chauncey Billups has agreed to resign with the Pistons. Nothing is official yet, but it looks like the deal will be about $60 million over five years. Maybe this is for the best, but I wouldn’t have done it. That sure is a lot of cash that would have been freed up in the salary cap.

Should Billups Come Back to the Pistons?

Chauncey Billups    

     Recently, Detroit’s starting point guard Chauncey Billups decided to opt out of the final year of his contract. What that means is that once it is July 11th, Chauncey will be a full-fledged free agent, and can leave the Pistons. Most Pistons fans I have talked to think this is a terrible tragedy. However, I myself, do not think it would be such a bad idea to get rid of Chauncey Billups. Let me explain my reasoning for this.

     This year during the Playoffs, Billups didn’t display his normal clutch ability that he has for the past few years. He didn’t knock down the big shots he needed to knock down. Many times when he was trying to set up the offense in the post-season this year he would get trapped by the opposing defense and turn the ball over. Also, Chauncey isn’t the greatest scorer in the world. Sure, he’s good for 10 or 15 night in and night out, but if his jump shot isn’t hitting then he’s not doing much for his team on the offensive end. Billups isn’t the kind of point guard who slashes to the basket and shoots lay-ups like Tony Parker or a tremendous passer like Steve Nash. Chauncey is the sort of point guard who is more like a “body” guard. He uses his stockier size to over power other, smaller point guards from around the league. And I don’t mean to sound like I think Billups is a terrible point guard and isn’t worth keeping around. I know that Billups is the reason Detroit won many of the games they did in the 2006-2007 season. But I think that the way the Pistons play basketball is on it’s way out. A team can’t just slow down their offense and shoot jumpers all day long. Because one thing I am certain about is that if you live by the jumper you will die by the jumper as well. And that is exactly what the Pistons did in many games this past season.

     Like I said before, the style of basketball the Pistons won a Championship with is rapidly starting to die out. The pace of the NBA is picking up and the Pistons are slowing down. Our big men aren’t getting any younger. I hate to say it, but Chris Webber was just a liability on defense every since the Pistons picked him up. And something that I have noticed from watching the Pistons is that they don’t have a guy who they can give the ball to any time they need a basket. They don’t have any pick-and-roll plays that lead to easy baskets. All they have is a bunch of guys who run around and shoot an open jumper if they get it. And most of the time they miss.

     An NBA team can’t score 80 or 90 points in a game and hope to win unless you are playing tremendous defense (or unless if your playing Boston or Memphis or a team like that). And since Ben Wallace left last season, the Pistons’ defense has lost much of it’s intensity. So, unless you are going to invest in a great scorer, you really don’t have much hope of becoming an NBA power.

     My point in all of this is still whether or not Chauncey Billups should come back. And if I was Joe Dumars, my answer to this matter would be no. I would try and deal Billups before July 11th for a great scorer. It would probably have to be a package deal with someone else like Jason Maxiell or Antonio McDyess. Also, it would have to be a deal where the Pistons would get someone who is an established scorer on a consistent basis. If the Pistons could get Baron Davis, Rashard Lewis, or Elton Brand for Billups and Maxiell I would be very happy.

     Even if the Pistons cannot trade Billups in time, I wouldn’t resign him. Billups makes a lot of money, and all that salary cap room he takes up would be freed up if he was gone. That would make more room for anyone that the Pistons would trade for or pick up during this off-season.

     Overall, the Pistons need to do something or I am afraid they will fall out of the Eastern Conference contention completely. As for Chauncey Billups, my choice would be not to resign him.

The 2007 NBA Draft

     The 2007 NBA Draft took place last Thursday, and many great NBA prospects were selected by all 30 of the NBA teams. If any of you have  watched ESPN’s Sports Center in the last month, then you probably know about Greg Oden from Ohio State and Kevin Durant from Texas. However, since Detroit didn’t have a high enough draft pick to get either of those two, I want to go into detail about the three men the Pistons did draft.

     Rodney Stuckey after being drafted by the Pistons

     Rodney Stuckey was the Pistons’ first pick in this year’s NBA Draft. As the fifteenth overall selection, Stuckey looks to be a promising rookie for next season. In college Rodney averaged in just two seasons with Easten Washington University, Stuckey averaged 24.4 points per game over his two seasons. Other than the little I have read about Stuckey, I don’t really know anything about him. I was unable to find any video footage of Rodney actually playing in a basketball game. I’m sure that is due to the fact that Eastern Washington isn’t a big name college, and they don’t get on television very often. From what I have read, Stuckey is a good guard who can play both the point guard and the shooting guard positions. He is a mostly a scorer, and a good ball handler and passer. Hopefully Stuckey will bring something to the Pistons that they seem to lack at times. And that thing is scoring. If Detroit can turn Stuckey into a guy they can put in when they really need a few baskets, I will be very happy.

     Arron Afflalo with David Stern

     Detroit’s second pick in the first round last Thurday was UCLA’s Arron Afflalo. From what I’ve read and watched about Afflalo, I’m surprised the Pistons were able to get him as low in the first round as they did. As the 27th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Afflalo looks like a great prospect for a back-up guard. It looks to me like Afflalo is a younger version of Richard Hamilton. He has a great mid-range game, and makes great plays running off screens. Catching and shooting is how Afflalo made a name for himself at UCLA. Also, Afflalo has somewhat of an outside touch. However, I’m not sure if that will carry over into the NBA, due to the fact that the three point line is considerably farther from the basket in the NBA. Afflalo was a First Team All-American during the 2006-’07 season. Also during that season, he was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year. During his three seasons with the Bruins, Afflalo averaged 14.8 points per game. In his junior year, (’06-’07 before entering the Draft) he averaged 16.9 points per game. Something else that I noticed is that Afflalo is a 6’5 guard who can really get up. I am almost certain that Afflalo will be a crowd pleaser in Auburn Hills if he does in fact get signed and gets some minutes off the bench. If Afflalo can get a little bit stronger in order to keep running off screens and pull up with those mid-range jumpers, he should be a great addition to the Pistons’ bench next season. If you are so inclined, here is a clip of Arron Afflalo highlighs.

    

     The Pistons’ last draft choice was another player who I couldn’t find much info about. Sammy Mejia was the 57th overall pick in this year’s Draft, and is out of DePaul. Like Rodney Stuckey, I was unable to find any video footage of Mejia playing in a game. Mejia stayed in college for all four years of his eligability. Over his four years at DePaul, Mejia averaged 12.1 points per game. From what I have read, Mejia has the ability to play both guard positions. Also, he is a good stop-and-pop mid range shooter. I don’t think 6’6″ is tall enough to play small forward, but evidently the “experts” over at NBA.com think so.

 Sammy Mejia at DePaul

     I think that Mejia has a “slim to none” chance of making the team for the upcoming season. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think that he is talented enough to stand out amongst Stuckey and Afflalo.

     All in all, I think that this year’s NBA Draft went well for the Pistons. If I had to grade it, I think I’d give Joe Dumars’ drafting job a B+. Dumars has obviously addressed the scoring problem the Pistons had all throughout the 2006-2007 season and this years’s NBA Playoffs with two guard prospects who can both score. I’m not certain that both Stuckey and Afflalo will make the Detroit roster this year, but I’m almost positive one of them will. However, I don’t think that Dumars has addressed a major problem with this Pistons team right now. That problem is the lack of low-post play. Chris Webber (if he is re-signed) and Rasheed Wallace are both aging and are past their banging down low days. Antonio McDyess isn’t a power big man any more because of all the knee surguries he has undergone, plus the fact that he is aging as well. I would have thought that Joe D would have used one of his first round picks to draft a young promising center or power forward. But I’m not sure which pick I would have liked to trade off for a big man. Overall, I think that this year’s NBA Draft will help improve the Pistons’ team for next season.