Now that the Rockets have Dwight Howard, the goal is to surround him and the rest of the team’s core with enough talent and depth to build a contending team.
With that goal in mind, the Rockets have officially added two perimeter threats that should be able to take advantage of the space Howard creates when bullying his way in the post.
Per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the team has inked point guard Aaron Brooks and swingman Reggie Williams to contracts:
The Rockets are quite familiar with Brooks who was brought back to the team for his second stint last season at the trade deadline. Brooks gave the Rockets some depth at point guard behind Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverly, offering a change of pace to both players by using his quickness and scoring instincts to create offensively.
Heading into next year, Brooks will likely retain that role as the 3rd point guard, but offers insurance in the back court should the Rockets end up moving Jeremy Lin in a trade for the third star that can complement both Howard and James Harden.
Williams, meanwhile, offers the Rockets some needed depth on the wing behind Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Francisco Garcia. Williams has languished in Charlotte, only appearing in 73 games over the past two seasons and saw his minutes and points per game dip to 9.5 and 3.7 respectively. That said, if he can recapture some of the explosive offensive ability he flashed in Golden State, he can be a serviceable pick up.
And, really, that’s the point of what the Rockets are doing at this point. They landed their big fish in Howard and it’s now about finding the right pieces to fill in the gaps and make the team as strong as possible. In Brooks and, potentially, Williams they’ve done just that.
Dwight Howard is the Lakers’ first (and second and third) priority in free agency. They’ll meet with the big man on Tuesday with the hope that their pitch seals the deal on his return to Los Angeles where he will anchor their franchise and lead them into the post Kobe Bryant era.
However, as the Lakers wait to make their pitch, they’ve been very active in putting out feelers to free agents who will improve their team next season. At the open of free agency and through Monday, the Lakers were quite busy reaching out to multiple players all of which seem to have the same traits in common.
They’re all perimeter oriented players who are capable outside shooters.
From former Lakers Jordan Farmar and Matt Barnes to Knicks restricted free agent Chris Copeland to Timberwolves swing man Chase Budinger to Cavaliers sharpshooter Wayne Ellington to former Rockets Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia to the Sixers shooter Nick Young to the Bobcats’ Power Forward/Center Byron Mullens, the Lakers haven’t been shy about expressing interest in guys who can stretch the defense and help provide the spacing the team sorely lacked last season.
As we were reminded during the NBA Finals when the Spurs and Heat relied heavily on hitting shots from behind the arc, having capable shooters is a necessity in today’s NBA. And with the Lakers’ clearly deficient in that area, it makes sense for them to try and sign as many of these guys as possible. However, there’s more to trying to sign them than simply trying to keep up with the Joneses.
First off, if you’re going to build a team around Dwight Howard (not to mention Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol), having an excess of shooters should be a top priority. Howard’s most successful teams in Orlando all featured multiple players capable of knocking down the three-ball and the space those shooters provided allowed him the room he needed to operate in the paint. When Howard doesn’t have that space, he can be turnover prone and be fouled quickly to be put on the foul line where he struggles mightily.
The other key point, however, is that these players signal that the Lakers are very much in support of trying to build a roster that fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni prefers to run a spread pick and roll attack that punishes defenses with made three pointers off kick and swing passes when too much help is provided in the paint on dives by the big man or the ball handler penetrating. But too often last season, the ball was being passed to Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark or Antawn Jamison — all capable shooters, but all also very inconsistent in how often they knocked down open shots.
If the Lakers could get better shooters on the floor consistently it would guarantee that the offense would run smoother. Adding one or more of the players listed above would be a nice start in accomplishing this goal and would help kick start D’Antoni’s attack from the inconsistent one that too often fell flat in Los Angeles to one closer to what he had in Phoenix.
Of course, if some of these shooters could also play some defense, that would be even better and could maybe help D’Antoni’s reputation on the other side of the ball. Or maybe they’ll just use Dwight for that. At least they hope.
The Bobcats have have a lot of cap space and are looking to spend it on an impact player to help bolster their offensively challenged front court.
Their target will be Utah Jazz free agent Forward/Center Al Jefferson according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports.
Jefferson averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds a game last season for the Jazz and would instantly become the Bobcats’ go to scorer and best player. Known for his savvy scoring on the low block and solid decision making when working out of the post, Jefferson would be a nice add to an offense who ranked 28th in points per possession last season.
Where Jefferson isn’t as useful is on the defensive end, but a pairing with 2011 lottery pick Bismack Biyombo — who’s an up and coming rim protector — could mitigate some of Jefferson’s woes on that end of the floor.
Jefferson isn’t the splashiest of names on the market and that likely plays into the Bobcats thinking as they’re not exactly a magnet for the top free agents available. The fact that Jefferson is coming off a stint with the small-market Jazz likely also plays a part in Charlotte’s pursuit.
The notoriously tight-lipped Jazz haven’t given many hints about what their plans are with Jefferson (nor their other key free agent Paul Milsap), but with former lottery picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter already on the roster, the thinking is that Jefferson will likely be playing on another team next season.
The Bobcats hope it’s theirs.
The Mavericks enter the off-season as one of the major players in free agency.
Not only do they have money to spend, but they also have a history of championship level contention, a still very good Dirk Nowitzki, and Mark Cuban to close the deal when it’s time to make the pitch on why the Mavericks are the place to be.
In a recent interview, Cuban opened up about what that pitch would include and it apparently at least part of it is major input on who will make up the roster beyond next season.
“In essence, you get to come in and, it’s you and we have room for two more max free agents (next year),” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said during a Monday appearance on KTCK-AM. “That’s why when I talked about a two-year plan, that’s the concept there.
“So part of our sales pitch is, look, we’re not going to try to fool you and say that you and Dirk (Nowitzki) and Shawn Marion and Vince (Carter) and fill are basically a championship team. Maybe we get on a run, maybe we’re pretty good. But the reality is you’re going to work with us and Dirk to get out there and pick your team.”
It’s true that the Mavs have set themselves up well financially both this summer and next. And with Dirk Nowitzki already on record that he’d take a pay-cut after his current contract expires next summer, Dallas will be in position to sign some high salaried players to form a new core that would potentially compete for championships. So, for any free agent that signs on this summer, the allure of being able to have input on who made up the roster moving forward could be a great pull.
However, is this really a good idea? Players aren’t necessarily the best evaluators of talent or have the know how to build a roster that can compete for a championship. Be it Kobe Bryant’s rant to trade Andrew Bynum in the summer of 2007 (only to have the team go to three straight Finals with Bynum playing a key role) or whispers that Dwight Howard had strong input on the Magic’s acquisitions of Glen Davis and Gilbert Arenas, it’s probably best that players stay out of the General Management business and stick to improving their own games.
Further, let’s not act like the Mavericks are in the driver’s seat to get any of the top tier free agents this summer even with Cuban promising input on future players. The top two players on the market — Dwight Howard and Chris Paul — are both more than likely to stay with their current teams or bolt for the Rockets or the Hawks before they sign with the Mavericks this summer.
That said, Cuban has the money and he clearly has a plan to try and get someone to commit to signing in Dallas this summer. Maybe making a player a de facto assistant GM will be the clincher.