Saturday, July 4, 2009

The apparent agreement between Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and the Detroit Pistons will have a ripple effect among some of the major players and their NBA title hopes for next season.

ESPN is reporting that Gordon, who turned down a similar deal in Chicago last offseason, has agreed in principle to a 5-year, $55 million dollar contract and will be joined by former college teammate, Charlie Villanueva. According to sources, Villanueva’s deal is 5 years and $40 million.

Surprisingly, the Milwaukee Bucks allowed Villanueva’s 16 points and nearly 7 rebounds a game to walk away after not tendering him an offer before the July 1st deadline. The move allowed both former UConn teammates to be reunited as unrestricted free agents.

In a savvy front office move, David Aldridge reports that the Pistons brought in the 2004 NCAA National Champions at the same time. That, in hope their familiarity would bring them back together in Detroit.
This move could reenergize a Pistons’ group that got swept in the first round after making six straight Conference Finals appearances.

The pair represents a solid NBA value if you have the money to spend and are willing to spend it. The Pistons reportedly entered the offseason with $19 million in cap space.

While neither guy is quite worth their actual figure just yet, their youth, ability and potential to get better makes this worth a shot. Gordon, 26, will join a backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton supplying instant offense off the bench. In crunch time, however, expect to see Gordon and Hamilton playing the vital minutes, anyway.

Villanueva, 24, has a similar skill set to Rasheed Wallace and will resemble him more if he takes on the challenge of playing defense. With Avery Johnson high on the list of replacement coaches for recently fired Michael Curry, consider that a prerequisite.

He’ll have Tayshaun Prince and rookie Austin Daye flanking the wing, with Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown joining him the paint.

Detroit’s new mix is a versatile group that could make the Pistons a top four seed in the East behind Boston, Orlando and Cleveland but that’s it. It would be a reach for Detroit to beat any in a playoff series and nearly impossible to beat two of them, which is what it will take to win the East.

The LA Times is reporting that the Los Angeles Clippers will trade power forward Zach Randolph to Memphis for swingman Quentin Richardson. The move will take the two years and $33.3 million off their books and replace it with Richardson’s one year, $8.7 million deal.

Moving Randolph, who averaged nearly 21 points and 11 rebounds last season, opens the door for number one pick Blake Griffin to start from day one. It also makes it less likely the Clippers will trade center Marcus Camby, who has only one year left on his contract, as Los Angeles clears cap space for next summer’s free agent crop.

For Memphis, the Grizzlies now have a legitimate low post scorer and a new-look frontcourt rotation of Randolph, Marc Gasol and rookies, Hasheem Thabeet and Demarre Carroll.

With guards OJ Mayo and Mike Conley and wings Rudy Gay and rookie, Sam Young, Memphis has infused some youth and talent into a franchise that was going nowhere, which should give Grizzlies’ fans high hopes for the seasons ahead.

The bad news is that while both Memphis and LA have improved this offseason, they’ll be considered long shots to make the playoffs in the ultra tough Western Conference. With neither team boasting a perennial All NBA talent, they have little chance to impact the upcoming season.

In pre-draft moves, the NBA did its best to keep things interesting with three major trades.

Shaquille O’Neal to Cleveland gives the Cavs the low post presence and star power they’ve been missing next to Lebron James. They stormed their way to the best record in basketball last season before falling to Orlando in the Conference Finals.

The Cavs, who have been overachieving in the Lebron Era, will never win an NBA Title if their second best player is Mo Williams. Why they didn’t pull the trigger on this trade last year is still a mystery considering all it took was throwing Wally Szczerbiak into the package. With both Boston and Orlando having more talent, Cleveland had to make something happen and they did. While Cleveland still isn’t close to being better man for man with Orlando or Boston, James is such an elite talent that the Cavs will contend at the top of the East.

If the Cavaliers can add Ron Artest, who they are in hot pursuit of according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland will have made considerable upgrades. A team of Williams, Lebron, Artest, Shaq and a power forward to be named later has a chance to win a title.

In Orlando, Vince Carter gives the Magic a two-time All NBA and 8-time All Star. Half Man, Half Amazing isn’t necessarily the high flying act he was earlier this decade but Carter, 32, hasn’t averaged less than 20 a game since he was a rookie.

More importantly, Carter is an all around talent that pulls down 5.5 rebounds and hands out over 4 assists a game. For his career, Carter shoots nearly 45 percent from the field and 80 percent at the foul line.

If Hedo Turkoglu stays, this move gives the Magic more team firepower than anybody in the East. It’s just as possible, however, that Orlando will be without Hedo and the Carter move more than compensates for that. In fact, this is an upgrade for the Magic comparing just Carter versus Turkoglu. Hedo is a very good basketball player, Carter is an elite one. Orlando knows there is a logjam at the top of the NBA and this insurance policy keeps them in the discussion.

Like Cleveland, the Spurs added a major piece without conceding any major contributors. Richard Jefferson gives San Antonio a versatile, athletic wing to compliment Manu Ginobili, something they haven’t had since Stephen Jackson patrolled the arc.

Jefferson might never make an All Star team, but neither did Sam Cassell. Jefferson’s all around ability will fit perfectly alongside the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili -- three All NBA talents. The Spurs will further bolster their chances if either or both Ian Mahinmi or rookie DeJuan Blair are ready to contribute next to Duncan.

Note: Sam Cassell made one All-Star appearance in his 15-year NBA career during the 2003-2004 season in Minnesota.

The Spurs are also thought to be on the short list for the services of Rasheed Wallace, a move that would have to make San Antonio the odds on favorite, if they’re not already. In Wallace, the Spurs get a versatile inside, outside big man who can help control the paint next to Duncan. He’s a proven commodity and when motivated, has played like one of the best big men of his generation.

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