Armstrong: Five thoughts on free agency and team building

Jack Armstrong
7/3/2012 9:36:09 AM
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We're in the thick of the free agent recruiting wars and the trade market is open for business. Love it! The team building process at work with a new CBA in place. Fascinating dynamics at work. Here are five quick NBA thoughts.

1. Steve Nash: Whether you like the risk (I agree with it) of going after a 38-year-old point guard or not, you gotta love the Raptors laying it on the line and letting him know they mean business. To me, it's a statement that this organization wants to get this thing turned around. Bottom line, the current team has minimal player leadership in its primary core and Nash is the epitome of what you want in a captain. By the way, somehow, some way, they have to get a starting small forward. I said it last week and I'll say it again, I'm high on Ilyasova (Bucks) even though he's a 3/4. He's going to be a very good pro the next 5/7 years.

2. Terrence Ross (Raptors): Loved him at Washington. Is he ready to play/impact winning right now? No. Do I think he can be a steal in a few years when he fills out. Absolutely! The young man can shoot it. He has an explosive first step, decent handle and creativity and solid feel for the game. He'll guard for you and is a good competitor. Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers are more well known to Raptors fans because they play in the East in the ACC and Big East. The Pac 10 has been down of late but this guy is legit. Only time will tell if this works out. I think it's a solid gamble. A former Raptors GM reached a bit years back taking a raw and far from filled out Tracy McGrady (not saying he's the next T-Mac) out of Mount Zion Academy and it worked out pretty well as a long-term pick, even though he left Toronto. You have to draft based upon how the guy will play in 3/5/7 years when you have an eighth pick. Yes, the Raptors need a starting 3-man now but in a few years, this kid could be a keeper.

3. Scott Brooks (Thunder): Gets a well deserved contract extension. He has done a very good job bringing this young team along since he replaced PJ Carlesimo. Now comes the tough part. He has to tighten the screws and get his team more focused defensively on a consistent basis. Their half-court offence must become more discipined and diverse as well. Elite coaching will get this group to the next notch on the belt. Brooks deserves that chance; now he's got to bring the true best out in this group.

4. Atlanta Hawks: Trade Marvin Williams to Utah and dump his two-year, $16 million contract; not a fan of Williams' game. Then, a massive trade with the Nets where they unload Joe Johnson's four-year, $90 million deal for a bunch of expiring deals. I really like Johnson but not at his ridiculous salary. With the new luxury tax, if you pay guys big money, they better produce big and get you really far or you've got to move on. The Hawks think they can get hometown kid Dwight Howard and convince Chris Paul that Atlanta is the place. I'm not sold that the Hawks can get this done. Looks like they're starting over.

5. Dwight Howard/Chris Paul: These guys will set the tone for the market over the next 12 months. Howard is probably kicking himself for locking in for one more year in Orlando because he wanted to look like a decent guy. Now he's stuck and still in a spot where they'll dictate (as they should) where he goes next. I'm curious to see the deal the Nets try to put together with a possible third or fourth team.  As far as Paul, you've got to be a bit concerned if you're a Clippers fan that he didn't re-up. He wants to maintain full control/leverage which is his right. The pressure on head coach Vinny Del Negro will be immense (that's an understatement) to get this crew to the next level or the concerns about Paul's status will overwhelm that franchise. The drama continues in the game of big-time players trying to be in total control of their destiny. Different salary world now with a new CBA/luxury tax. Not as easy as it looks or sounds.  

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