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Deron Williams to Turkey? Is this the first of a mass exodus from the NBA?

The news that New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams could be set to join Turkey’s Besiktas came as a bit of a shock. Here’s a player, one of the best point guards in the NBA, who is jumping shores and leaving the NBA because of the lockout. Is Deron an exception, or are we set to see more All-Stars depart for Europe in the next few months?

The reports are that Williams is set to sign a 1-year, $5 million deal with Besiktas, that has an opt-out clause in it, where Deron can go back to the NBA when the lockout ends, whenever that may be. Williams will join Allen Iverson in Turkey, and possibly Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, according to reports.

The reason that Williams, and other NBA players, could depart for Europe is because of the lockout. The owners and the players union are locked into discussions and have failed to agree on anything so far.

To sum it up, the owners want the players to accept a 33% pay cut (at least) and want the salary cap to come down, with the prospect of a hard cap coming to the NBA, as they are fed up with losing money. The players meanwhile, want it to stay like it is, as they get around 67% of the total revenue, and don’t want to take a massive pay cut.

Until they agree, it means no games, no practice, no trades, no one gets paid and no contact is allowed to be made between players and staff. Because of this, several players have expressed a desire to play in Europe for the next year, or at least until the lockout ends. The likes of Nenad Kristic have already moved (Kristic left the Boston Celtics to join Russian side CSKA Moscow), and I can see the fringe players – the ones without the multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts and the sponsorship deals – being the ones to bite and move to Europe.

It’s hard to predict how many NBA players will leave and go to Europe, without knowing how long the lockout will last. If it’s a year and a full season is missed, players may play elsewhere, but the Euroleague is not set up financially to encorporate NBA superstars and their huge wages. Deron Williams for $5 million is one thing, but European teams can’t afford to pay huge sums of money it would take to get the Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Dirk’s and Wade’s to go over, unless they play for next to nothing for a few months.

What do you think – could several NBA players follow Deron Williams’ lead?

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What should Orlando do about Dwight Howard?

What do you do when your franchise player has one year left on his deal and there is uncertainty surrounding whether he will sign a new deal or test the market in free agency. Would you trade him or look for a trade?

That’s the dilemma for the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard. Now I know the rumours are going to be continuing for months about the “will-he, won’t he go” situation, but I thought I might as well put my opinions out there.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Howard has not agreed to sign an extension with the Magic, despite what was reported last week and Dwight told reporters:

“There’s no truth to that. The biggest thing right now is everybody understands I have one more year left. I’m keeping my options open, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than Orlando. I want them to understand that.

“But, at the same time, I do want to win, make sure everything is in line — our team, just everything from top to bottom — and everybody is reaching for a championship.”

Howard is the best center in the NBA and would undoubtedly make any team better, and there isn’t any team who wouldn’t want him. What I can see is that this saga will drag out until next year and next summer when Howard becomes a free agent, sees what the situation is like in Orlando and then makes a decision.

The part about winning a championship is something every player wants, but let’s face it, the Magic are not winning a title next year, and unless they can pull off some amazing trades, the next few years. Orlando are committed to huge salaries for the next few years, which severely limits the flexibility to make trades. They traded for Hedo Turkoglu, who’s got about $30m and 3 years left on his contract, and swapped a bad contract in Rashard Lewis for an even worse one in Gilbert Arenas, who still has about $60m owed for the next few years. If Hedo and Arenas rediscover their old form, the Magic could make some noise in the playoffs (I’m not saying win anything), and at least get past the first round, which is of course better than last year.

After that, you’ve got the likes of JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, Brandon Bass and Quentin Richardson, all with money owed and years left on their contracts – hardly the basis for a championship team. And with the Heat and Bulls better in the East (we’ll see what the Knicks do in the summer), Orlando won’t be competing for a title in the near future.

That’s the problem for the Magic though – they are in a Catch 22 situation. Trade Howard now and get worse, or wait for a year and then lose him for nothing, and Cleveland knows how that turned out. What I think will happen is they will wait till the February deadline, if Dwight hasn’t signed an extension by then, trade him and get something back in return, a la the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver to New York in February.

I’m not blessed with the gift of foresight, but let’s have a look at some possible destinations for Howard if he does want out of Orlando. Obviously cap situations can change (with the new CBA) and a lot can happen in a year. Here’s a few ideas if Howard wants to win a ring (I’m ruling teams like Miami out, as there’s no way they can afford to turn the Big 3 of Lebron, Wade and Bosh into a Big 4, as Howard’s going to get max money):

Lakers:

Now I know Dwight has said he doesn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps and leave Orlando for LA. And the only way the Lakers are going to be able to get Howard is via trade, as they have the huge contracts of Kobe and Gasol on the books. And that requires Andrew Bynum being traded (I know the Lakers have declared him “untouchable”, but for Dwight, you would trade him). A Howard-Gasol-Kobe trio would be deadly.

Bulls:

Again, this would have to be a trade, as Chicago owe big money to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joachim Noah over the next few years, and will have to pay max-money to Derrick Rose. But a Noah-Howard trade wouldn’t be that bad for Orlando, as Noah is a defensive force and one of the top centers in the league (unless Chicago can somehow persuade Orlando to take on Boozer’s contract).

Knicks:

Theoretically, the Knicks can afford to give Howard max-money next summer, and a trio of Howard-Anthony-Stoudemire would be exciting. But that’s all the Knicks would be able to afford, and with a thin roster, would have no quality at the guard spots. An interesting proposal, and you are bound to hear constant Howard to NY rumours until he makes up his mind, but wouldn’t it be better for New York to have a more well-rounded team with a quality PG and a couple of quality defensive wings in there?

Nets:

The Nets have the cash and an elite PG in Deron Williams. That’s it though, as they are rebuilding, have traded away their last lottery pick in Derrick Favors, and given this year’s pick (#3) to Utah. They would be able to give Howard max money and if they can convince Williams to stay, New Jersey is appealing, especially with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.

What do you think? Do you think Howard will stay or go?

 

Rose for MVP? Maybe. But can the Bulls win it all this season?

I think it’s safe to say that the Chicago Bulls have surpassed everyone’s expectations this season. I for one, never thought the Bulls would be leading the Eastern Conference at this point in the season with a 51-19 record and looking favourable to claim that #1 seed.

And that’s all been down to one man – superstar point guard Derrick Rose. The #1 pick in the 2008 draft has shone this year, stepping up his game and leaving opposing guards trailing in his wake, unable to cope with his blistering speed.

Rose has averaged 24.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season, ranking 7th in the NBA in scoring and the highest-scoring PG in the league. Rose’s play has been the catalyst for the Bulls’ success this season, and he was worked on some of the weak elements of his game, such as his outside shot, to make him more polished offensively.

Derrick Rose is my choice for MVP. Without him, the Bulls would not be number 1 in the east. Dwight Howard puts a strong case for MVP, particularly considering his monster February. But the Magic are the fourth seed, behind the Celtics, Heat and of course, the Bulls.

Lebron James has had another strong season, but the fact that he plays with two superstars in Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade will count against King James, as well as the fact that Miami’s record isn’t as good as many predicted (49-22, compared to the 70+ games that many were expecting them to win). Whereas Amar’e Stoudemire, despite a strong start with the Knicks, has struggled recently and the Knicks’ record isn’t exactly good at the moment.

MVP debate out the way, how far can the Bulls go in the playoffs? I’m not sure. But I’m thinking Eastern Conference finals. Ultimately I believe the Celtics will prevail and reach the Finals, as they have been there before and have a wealth of veteran experience.

At this point it looks like the Bulls will get a team like the Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats in the first round, which they will progress from. After that I’m not too sure, as defences will try (“try” being the operative word) to shut down Rose and stop his influence on the game. I just think that the Bulls are a piece short of a title (mainly a two-guard, as Keith Bogans isn’t the answer). By that time, the Celtics will be struggling and the Bulls can challenge the Heat for dominance in the East.

What do you think? Can the Bulls and Rose win it all this year? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

How good will the Nets be with Deron Williams’ arrival?

The New Jersey Nets, fresh from seeing their rivals steal Carmelo Anthony from under their noses this week, pulled something out the bag this week when they traded for All-Star Deron Williams this week, which gives them the franchise centrepiece they have coveted ever since Mikhail Prokhorov took over as owner of the Nets last year.

How good does Deron Williams’ arrival make the Nets though? Are they set for a huge playoff push this season, or should they prepare for the lottery and build for next year?

Deron Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets yesterday from the Utah Jazz, with rookie Derrick Favors and Devin Harris going in the opposite direction. Williams’ rumoured fall-out with Jerry Sloan, which saw the veteran coach resign last week, is cited as Williams’ main reason why he left the Jazz.

The Nets are currently at 17-40, 12th in the Eastern Conference and about nine games behind the Indiana Pacers, who occupy the eighth spot in the East, with a record of 26-30.

The Nets have the sixth worst record in the NBA, which means they could potentially get a top-5 pick in the NBA Draft in June, and land a good prospect (only Cleveland, Minnesota, Sacramento, Washington and Toronto have worse records), and then acquire a few free agents and a good lottery pick in the summer.

The Nets have definitely got better with the arrival of Deron Williams, who is a top 5 point guard in the league (alongside Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash, in my opinion). Deron is an upgrade over Devin Harris, there is no doubt about that, and gives New Jersey a franchise superstar that they can use to attract prized free agents.

But the problem is, with the current roster, the Nets are not going anywhere. Brook Lopez is in at center and you have Williams at the point. After that, you have a collection of role players and backups in Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw, as well as the likes of Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic, which will not win you a championship, or get you past the first round of the playoffs (or even get you into the playoffs.)

What the Nets do have though is cap space and the lure of a big city, when they move to Brooklyn. New Jersey need a rebounding power forward to make up for Brook Lopez’s new-found allergy to rebounding, as well as a good two-guard, and then hopefully get a high pick in the draft (seeing as they just traded away last year’s #3 pick in Favors).

The problem is though, the lack of free agents this summer, and the impending lockout and CBA. Melo is gone to the Knicks, the likes of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Tony Parker signed extensions with their clubs, and no superstar-calibre players are available.

Zach Randolph would be a nice addition to the Nets. He’s a career 20-10 power forward who would fit in well next to Lopez. Z-Bo will want to get paid in the summer, but the Nets have the cap space to afford him.

Failing that the Nets could trade Lopez away for a good two-guard or small forward and take a risk on oft-injured centers like Portland’s Greg Oden or Houston’s Yao Ming. Now I know Oden and Yao are always injured, but if they can somehow stay healthy and you can get them on the cheap, then they could be valuable pieces for the Nets.

Does Carmelo’s arrival make the Knicks a championship contender?

It’s finally happened, and about time! Carmelo Anthony has finally been granted his wish and been traded to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster three-team trade this week. But how could can it make the Knicks – are they know championship contenders?

Melo got his wish and was traded to the Knicks, along with team-mates Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. The Denver Nuggets get Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov in return, as well as a few draft picks and cash. Corey Brewer also moves to the Knicks from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and Anthony Randolph.

I like this deal for both sides. Denver get something back for Melo in the form of Chandler (a good sixth man), three-point shooting in Gallinari, a good point guard and valuable trade chip in Felton and frontcourt depth in Mozgov.

The Knicks get their wish of a superstar next to Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo is one of the best offensive players in the NBA and Chauncey Billups is a veteran point guard that knows how to win and even though not as good as he once was, Billups is at least a good trade asset that the Knicks can use to bait the New Orleans Hornets for if they want to entice Chris Paul to the Big Apple in the summer.

Melo’s arrival is NYC gives the Knicks a buzz and a genuine hope in the city that they haven’t had since the Patrick Ewing days. But can the Knicks contend for a championship in the near future?

The answer is no. At least until they get a few more pieces. Carmelo and Stoudemire are nice, but they are not exactly the most defensive-minded players. And as you know, defence wins championships. A starting lineup of Billups, rookie Landry Fields, Carmelo, Amar’e and Ronny Turiaf is not good enough to get out of what is a stacked Eastern Conference, with the likes of Boston, Miami, Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta.

If the Knicks can add some decent pieces in free agency in the summer, a bit more frontcourt depth and a Tyson Chandler-type center to play next to Stoudemire, as well as a few decent role players, then they can challenge the East’s elite. For this season though, I see the Knicks’ ceiling as around fifth place in the East, at a Chicago Bulls/Atlanta Hawks level, in the second tier of the East.

But this trade has definitely got New York going in the right direction, and gives Knicks fans a sense of optimism after years of suffering.