It's been a busy few weeks in the NBA, with the Draft, free-agency and trades. The League does a terrific job of keeping itself in the news year-round, just like the NFL, and it certainly helps business. Here are five quick thoughts on the NBA.
1. KYLE LOWRY: A nice trade by the Raptors; I like him a whole lot. A very good defender and floor leader that continues to improve and can be a capable long-term answer at the point guard spot for them. Good contract value and will fit in Dwane Casey's system.
2. LANDRY FIELDS: Is he a good fit for Toronto? Yes! Do I like his contract? No! I understand what they were trying to do, blocking the Knicks on a sign-and-trade deal with the Suns for Steve Nash. Only time will tell if they get the proper money and wins in return on his deal. Solid overall player who will be even better in Toronto in their system. I think he's got good upside and he's a 'winning player.' He'll play good minutes and be a positive impact guy. There will be a bunch of pressure on him due to his large salary to elevate his game another notch or two but he can do it. He better be ready from the jump. They need better play on the wing and with that money invested, it's imperative that he take another step.
3. RAY ALLEN: Good get for the Heat. Steady and consistent. Wonderful distance shooter who will keep defenses honest when they double-team Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. An excellent all-around player who will benefit from playing in an atmosphere of high expectations. He's used to the pressure and can handle it.
4. ATLANTIC DIVISION: With the Brooklyn Nets keeping Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace and the trade for Joe Johnson, will they close the deal and get Dwight Howard? Wow, it would be an amazing summer. For Raptors fans, the team will be improved but the big issue is you have to play the Nets, Celtics, Knicks and 76ers four times each. They'll all be pretty good. Not easy to get wins and get into the playoffs. If Howard shows up in the Division, the stakes will be higher and GM's will have to keep up. I see the Hawks and Magic (both playoff teams last year) to name a few taking steps back in the Eastern Conference. Wiggle room to sneak in but the Conference overall is improving and the Atlantic could be a bear to play in. You better win the games you're favored to win any time you get them.
5. LUXURY TAX: The whole purpose of the lockout was to make sure all 30 owners turned a profit and to equalize the playing field as much as they could without a hard cap. The more punitive tax will gradually come into play next summer and only time will tell how many teams are willing to pay big money on a tax bill and how it impacts balance. I will tell you one thing; when the 'you know what truly hits the fan,' commissioner David Stern will be retired and it will be the issue that the new boss will have to try to convince the majority of owners to stay the course instead of opting out of this new CBA early before it expires in nine years. Some owners will just accept things as long as they turn a profit, but I see many more saying 'enough is enough' if we have 4-5 super teams and the rest on the outside looking in. The teeth that the new luxury tax has is critical to the interest in the game in the 'non-destination cities.'