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Free Agency Profiles: Dwyane Wade

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

April 12, 2010: Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) talking things over with Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) while time is called during the NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Heat beat the 76ers, 107-105.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, the negotiating period for free agency is just hours away now, and the tension is palpable. I know I didn’t get to as many of the premiere free agents as I would have liked, but as I only have one night left, I figured I’d write about Dwyane Wade. LeBron has gotten enough free-agency coverage, so I’m sure most of you know his deal already anyway.

On the basketball court, Dwyane Wade is a man’s man. On the offensive side of the ball, he’s an absolute god among men, combining incredible scoring prowess with plus passing and world-class intangible value.

In terms of his scoring, Wade is adept both around the hoop and also at range. It’s very hard to stop him driving to the rim, as he’s among the league’s best at making effective shot adjustments and finishing despite contact. His ability to absorb the hit from defenders and finish garnered him .96 and-one conversions per game, ranking him third in the league. Wade was also fourth in the league in free throws attempted, so his aggressive style gains him a lot of easy points from the stripe.

But aside from his dominance in the paint, Wade is also an accomplished jump shooter. While he doesn’t hit the three like Ray Allen, he makes shots from long two-point range and beyond with regularity. His threat as a shooter encourages defenders to guard him tightly, allowing Wade to sneak by for a drive to the basket. Moreover, his pump fakes are very effective, and he continually draws defenders in the air and takes the contact to shoot free throws.

Wade is also an incredible leader on the floor. He’s never afraid to take the last shot, and he’ll hit thrilling buzzer-beaters at least a handful of times every year. He has also taken the Miami Heat team under his wing, and he has shown great maturity and leadership despite his team’s largely mediocre performance of late. Wade is a model NBA citizen.

On defense, Wade pairs awe-inspiring athleticism and great quickness, which make him a fantastic container. He’s always a threat to pick up a steal off the dribble or the pass, and he, too, has grown fond of that chasedown block that LeBron has made famous. Heck, he’ll even block a seven footer off a flat-footed jump every once in awhile, too. Just ask Brook Lopez.

In terms of negatives on the court, Wade doesn’t really have any. If you want to be picky, he could shoot a better percentage on his jumpers, but considering his scoring output, that’s a minor problem.

The only problem teams have with Wade in free agency is his propensity to get injured. His reckless attacks to the basket expose him to a lot of hard hits, and he bears the brunt of them with injuries all over his body. Teams have to be careful, because signing a guy like Wade and then having him miss large chunks of time because of nagging injuries could be devastating to the club. Regardless, Wade deserves, and will get, a maximum-salary contract this July. He has proven time and time again he can be the first option for any team in this league, and he’ll throw in great sportsmanship and leadership along the way.

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Free Agency Profiles: Joe Johnson

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks.

April 26, 2010 Milwaukee, WI. Bradley Center..Atlanta Hawks Joe Johnson pulls up for the jumper, Johnson had 29 points and 9 assists against the Bucks tonight..Milwaukee Bucks won over the Atlanta Hawks 111-104, in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Series is now tied at 2-2. Mike McGinnis/CSM.

Source: Yardbarker.com

As Joe Johnson hits the free agency market this summer, he brings alone with him some very unfortunate circumstances. The Atlanta Hawks looked absolutely awful during their second-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, as everyone on the roster played subpar basketball. Particularly noticeable was Johnson’s performance, as he looked completely ineffective.

Regardless, any team that signs him knows what it’s going to get: an oversized shooting guard who can flat-out score the basketball. Since coming to the Hawks, Johnson has scored over 20 points per game every year, thanks to a wide arsenal of scoring tools. Standing at 6-foot-7, Johnson has an appreciable size advantage on most other players at his position. As a result, he’s devastating in the post-up game, creating great position on shorter guards and shooting over them with ease.

In addition, he’s fairly crafty at getting to the rim, with a knack for scoring on the drive with a plenitude of layups and other moves around the basket. He tops it all off with a nice touch and incredible range on his jump shot, allowing him to score a lot of points from beyond the arc.

The problem with Johnson’s scoring is that he really only seems comfortable playing one-on-one. The majority of his scoring plays result from isolation sets, and he doesn’t rely on his capable teammates to get him good looks in transition or in pick-and-roll sets. Accordingly, he would not fit well with an up-tempo team (which seems odd, considering how well he played with Phoenix).

While Johnson’s main asset is his scoring, he’s also a capable passer. He averaged just under five assists per game last season, and hit 5.8 the two previous seasons, thanks to his playing alongside the pass-deficient point guard Mike Bibby. If he signs with a team with a better point guard and a less capable starting lineup, expect his assist numbers to decline and his already-high 25.2 assist ratio to inflate further.

Nevertheless, problems abound with Johnson. In addition to his dependence on one-on-one basketball, he’s not much of a defender. While he routinely racks up a steal per game, his virtually nonexistent block numbers are puzzling given how tall he is. He also is not very quick, so more agile guards have little trouble scooting around him and getting to the rim.

Moreover, as Johnson wants to be his next team’s star, suitors have to carefully consider whether he can actually fill that role. His quiet, reserved demeanor doesn’t lend itself to a team leader, and the way he bowed out of the playoffs this season doesn’t speak well to his ability to handle pressure situations. He might be able to score, but he doesn’t provide the complete repertoire of tools that franchise players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do.

All these things considered, he most likely won’t get a maximum deal; there are two many question marks about him. But some team will pay him money in the $13 million to $15 million range, and his scoring prowess is something that any NBA team can benefit from. He’s just better off as a sidekick than he is as a first-option. Pairing him with one of the many quality bigs on the market this summer would work swimmingly.

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NBA Today: June 29

  • The New Jersey Nets deal Yi Jianlian and $3 million to the Washington Wizards for Quinton Ross and a trade exception. The move saves the Nets nearly $3 million in salary-cap space, putting them at nearly $30 million now.
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Free Agency Profiles: Dirk Nowitzki

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.

Apr. 23, 2010 - San Antonio, TEXAS, UNITED STATES - epa02129865 Dallas Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki from Germany goes to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs in the second half of their Western Conference first round playoff game at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas USA, 23 April 2010. The San Antonio Spurs won 94-90 to take a 2-1 game lead in the series.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Dirk Nowitzki surprised a lot of people last month when he announced that he would opt out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks and test the free-agent waters in the summer of 2010 — especially his companions in the Lonestar State. While most still see it as a long shot that he’ll sign a deal with a team other than the one that has been his home for his entire career, stranger things have certainly happened. One thing’s for sure, though. Whatever team manages to pick up Dirk will acquire one of the best-scoring seven footers in the history of the game.

On the offensive end, Nowitzki is an absolute assassin shooting the ball. While his around-the-basket game is serviceable at best, his silky-smooth jump shot more than makes up for any deficiencies near the rim. With a fade on his shot that comes naturally, Nowitzki has the advantage of being able to get a shot over nearly anyone for a clean look, especially since he’s seven feet tall. As a result, Nowitzki is virtually a lock to score more than 23 points per game in a season, making him an offensive force to be reckoned with.

The strange thing about Nowitzki’s game is how many low-percentage shots he manages to drain. Nowitzki vastly outdistanced anyone else in the league in taking 8.3 16- to 23-foot shots per game, which are the least efficient on the floor. But he converted an unfathomable 46 percent of them, tops in the league for big men who took more than two per contest. Nowitzki also has good range on his jumper, and he knocked down 42 percent of his three-point heaves in 2009-2010, but he’s taking fewer and fewer threes as his career progresses.

Nowitzki can also handle the load at crunch time, and he scored 47 points per 48 clutch minutes this season. That ranked him third behind only Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

As a rebounder, Nowitzki brings in his fair share, but considering his height, his skills are lacking. In fact, that part of his game is so poor, that he ranked only 53rd in overall rebound rate among power forwards in the league. To say the least, he does not like to bang around in the paint.

Then there’s the main question mark about Nowitzki’s game: his defense. For all the greatness he provides on offense, he’s nearly as much of a liability on the defensive side. While his height allows him to reel in some blocks, he has long has a reputation as a complete softy, and opposing big men treat him as such. Nowitzki is routinely bullied in the paint, and he pays the price in how many points he allows. Furthermore, he is not very athletic and he has no lateral quickness, so he struggles to contain guards on pick-and-roll switches and more agile big men.

While Dirk will get max. money no matter which team he signs with, at this point in his career, it’s a tough call. He’s 32 now, and while jump shooting big men typically experience far greater longevity than their counterparts, he has played an inordinately high number of minutes in his career. So the question is: will his past ability to elude the injury bug follow him through the final years of his career? It will, in all likelihood, at least for a few more seasons. But Nowitzki is going to get a five- or six-year deal. So while a contract will pay off in the short run, the final seasons could end up coming back to haunt the team that inks this German giant.

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NBA Today: June 28

  • The New Jersey Nets release Keyon Dooling to save about $3.3 million in cap space for the summer. They now have just over $27 million in cap room.
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Free Agency Profiles: Carlos Boozer

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.

May 04, 2010 - Los Angeles County, California, U.S. - Utah Jazz

Source: Yardbarker.com

In this year’s crop of free agents, the position of power forward is heavily stocked with worthy talents. With Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire already profiled, I move on today to another top 4 in the league, who — while certainly not up to their level on terms of desirability — Carlos Boozer is still a solid option at the position for even the best NBA teams.

Boozer has shown he can be a top force in the league since he began playing with the Utah Jazz several years ago. After a few disappointing, if productive, seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the transition to Jerry Sloan’s system, in which he encountered Deron Williams, was the best thing that could ever happen to Boozer.

On the offensive end, Boozer has a very complete and well-rounded game. He combines effectiveness around the basket on layups with an abundance of post moves and polishes it off with range to about 15 feet on his jump shot. His many talents in that regard contributed to his 59.9 true shooting percentage, good for third among power forwards in the league who played 21 or more minutes. That said, he stands at only 6-foot-9, so he does have an inordinate number of shots swatted away by lengthier players.

In what can only be described as a quandary, Boozer excels on the boards despite his short stature and stunningly negligible vertical leap. By muscling and manhandling other players in the post, Boozer establishes fantastic position for rebounding. The effort paid off this season, as he wrangled in over 11 rebounds per game this past season with a rebound rate of 19.4: third in the league among power forwards.

Boozer further augments his talents on the offensive end with sound game awareness and above-average passing ability. In fact, his 14.3 assist ratio slid him in at eighth among power forwards playing 20 minutes or more.

Despite these numerous talents, many are holding off on committing to Boozer for two major reasons, the first of which is his suspect defense. While Boozer manages to largely negate his physical limitations through good work and awareness on the block and the boards, he fails to do so on the defensive end. As demonstrated by the Lakers’ slaughter of Utah’s front court in this year’s playoffs, Boozer simply cannot effectively prevent taller players from scoring on him. They simply shoot over his outstretched arm, and his lack of vertical renders him a complete nonfactor as a shot blocker.

The other major problem people have with Boozer is his susceptibility to injury. During his six-year tenure in Utah, Boozer has played more than 51 games only three times, and he played under 40 contests in two of those seasons. His legs are shaky, and any team that signs him has to be wary of an eventual breakdown.

While Boozer is not the top option at the position, many teams are going to be in the market for a big man who is a proven 20-10 commodity. However, he might not get the money or length of contract he truly desires, as many GMs have concerns about both his defense and injury concerns, much like Stoudemire’s.

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Free Agency Profiles: Carlos Boozer

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.

May 04, 2010 - Los Angeles County, California, U.S. - Utah Jazz

Source: Yardbarker.com

In this year’s crop of free agents, the position of power forward is heavily stocked with worthy talents. With Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire already profiled, I move on today to another top 4 in the league, who — while certainly not up to their level on terms of desirability — Carlos Boozer is still a solid option at the position for even the best NBA teams.

Boozer has shown he can be a top force in the league since he began playing with the Utah Jazz several years ago. After a few disappointing, if productive, seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the transition to Jerry Sloan’s system, in which he encountered Deron Williams, was the best thing that could ever happen to Boozer.

On the offensive end, Boozer has a very complete and well-rounded game. He combines effectiveness around the basket on layups with an abundance of post moves and polishes it off with range to about 15 feet on his jump shot. His many talents in that regard contributed to his 59.9 true shooting percentage, good for third among power forwards in the league who played 21 or more minutes. That said, he stands at only 6-foot-9, so he does have an inordinate number of shots swatted away by lengthier players.

In what can only be described as a quandary, Boozer excels on the boards despite his short stature and stunningly negligible vertical leap. By muscling and manhandling other players in the post, Boozer establishes fantastic position for rebounding. The effort paid off this season, as he wrangled in over 11 rebounds per game this past season with a rebound rate of 19.4: third in the league among power forwards.

Boozer further augments his talents on the offensive end with sound game awareness and above-average passing ability. In fact, his 14.3 assist ratio slid him in at eighth among power forwards playing 20 minutes or more.

Despite these numerous talents, many are holding off on committing to Boozer for two major reasons, the first of which is his suspect defense. While Boozer manages to largely negate his physical limitations through good work and awareness on the block and the boards, he fails to do so on the defensive end. As demonstrated by the Lakers’ slaughter of Utah’s front court in this year’s playoffs, Boozer simply cannot effectively prevent taller players from scoring on him. They simply shoot over his outstretched arm, and his lack of vertical renders him a complete nonfactor as a shot blocker.

The other major problem people have with Boozer is his susceptibility to injury. During his six-year tenure in Utah, Boozer has played more than 51 games only three times, and he played under 40 contests in two of those seasons. His legs are shaky, and any team that signs him has to be wary of an eventual breakdown.

While Boozer is not the top option at the position, many teams are going to be in the market for a big man who is a proven 20-10 commodity. However, he might not get the money or length of contract he truly desires, as many GMs have concerns about both his defense and injury concerns, much like Stoudemire’s.

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NBA Today: June 27

  • Rod Thorn plans to retire from the Nets on July 15 after the important weeks of free agency are over. Thorn orchestrated the Nets’ back-t0-back Finals runs by trading for Jason Kidd, and he is best known for drafting Michael Jordan.
  • Joining Avery Johnson on the Nets bench this season is new lead assistant Sam Mitchell. The Nets now have two of the last five NBA coaches of the year on their staff.
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Free Agency Profiles: Amar’e Stoudemire

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Amar’e Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns.

Los Angeles Lakers Andrew Bynum (17) tries to block a shot by Phoenix Suns Amare Stoudemire (1) in the second quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at the US Airways Center, in Phoenix, AZ, May 25,2010. The Suns defeated the Lakers 115-106 to tie the series at 2-2. UPI/Christian Petersen/Pool Photo via Newscom

Source: Yardbarker.com

July 1 is only a few days away now, and teams are beginning to ratchet up their preparations for a week of free-agency mayhem. Amar’e Stoudemire figures to be another major target in that process. Stoudemire has an early-termination option, and after Steve Kerr’s dismissal, it became nearly certain that STAT would choose to exercise it.

Stoudemire’s tenure in Phoenix has been a rocky one over the past few years. His name was thrown around wildly at each of the last two trade deadlines, and there were many indications that the Suns came dangerously close to shipping him off to Cleveland in February. He ultimately stuck around, though, and his presence was critical for the team’s eventual run to the Western Conference Finals, where they came within striking distance of knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers.

When he’s healthy and focused, Stoudemire is the premiere offensive big-man force in the entire league. While his back-to-the-basket game is essentially nonexistent, his adeptness off the pick-and-roll, his ability to absorb contact, his 18-foot jump shot, and his overall unmatched explosiveness all make him nearly unguardable when he wants to be.

Of all power forwards who played more than 30 minutes a game, Stoudemire had the third-highest field-goal percentage at the rim, as he converted 67 percent of those attempts. Indicating his versatility, he was also seventh among players with the same criteria in field-goal percentage on long 2s (16 to 23 feet). He was also second in the entire league in and-one conversions per game at 1.00. The only player ahead of him was LeBron James at 1.08.

That said, many understandably wonder if Amar’e can duplicate that production in another city without the benefit of Steve Nash’s passing. That tandem’s immense success in the pick-and-roll set over the last several years is no secret, so wondering if he can be elite without it is a valid concern. Only 61 percent of Stoudemire’s field goals were assisted, though, which was nowhere near the top of the league.

But Stoudemire’s offense is not what forces NBA GMs to maintain reservations about signing him this summer. His play on defense is nowhere near the same level. He isn’t helped by the fact that he’s slightly undersized at 6’9″, so taller power forwards use their length to go right over the top of him. Furthermore, despite his superhuman athleticism, he seems lost on the shot-blocking front. Most importantly, though, his defensive deficiencies seem mostly fueled by a lack of effort to prevent opponents from scoring. Years under Mike D’Antoni’s defense-optional system certainly didn’t help Stoudemire’s attitude in that regard, but one has to wonder if a change in scenery will coerce him to abandon that apathy.

Still, there’s an even larger worry that many have regarding Stoudemire. At 27 years old (he’ll be 28 shortly after the start of the season), Stoudemire has already had microfracture surgery on both of his knees. History shows that players who undergo this surgery often have to experience it again later in their careers at the expense of mobility. As explosiveness is such a big part of Stoudemire’s game, he can’t afford to become any less physical on the offensive end. Moreover, he incurred damage to his retina, so he’ll have to wear goggles for the rest of his career. An unfortunate swipe to his head that dislodges the protective eyewear could prove catastrophic.

There is some debate over whether Stoudemire warrants a maximum contract, but hesitation over his injury history will likely dissuade any team from giving him a potentially devastating long-term, max.-money deal. Still, he’ll get a sizable sum, and should he stay healthy, he’ll more than make up for it with his dominance on the court — especially if he ends up on a team with a point guard that can get him the ball.