Posted Oct 30, 2012 11:59 AM
During a busy offseason, many big-name players changed teams, some of them unexpectedly. Here's a look at some of the biggest names.
DWIGHT HOWARD, Los Angeles Lakers
Background: Imagine Scooby-Doo developing a nasty case of rabies. That's what it was like with Howard last season, who went from lovable lug to poster guy for the self-indulgent. Psychology majors and MBA students alike will study his handling of his final season in Orlando for its textbook what-not-to-do-ness. And sure enough, he got pretty much everything he wanted except a Brooklyn zip code.
What he brings: In a league that allegedly is moving away from traditional center play, there isn't one team that wouldn't want Howard in the middle. Defensively, he's a game-warper as a rebounder, shotblocker and defender of pick-and-rolls. His offensive package isn't pretty or vast, but it doesn't need to be.
Outlook: There was no other outcome for Howard, was there? He had to end up with the Lakers, continuing the legacy of Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and O'Neal. So what if this isn't the most original plot -- game's dominant big man in Forum blue and gold, goofball giant trekking from Orlando to Los Angeles to miss free throws, make weak movies and collect rings. Hollywood doesn't demand original, just big!
STEVE NASH, L.A. Lakers
Background: At 38, Nash isn't just at an age when people didn't mind him chasing a championship ring by switching teams. He's close enough to the end of his career that many fans will root for him to get one or, heck, just make it to The Finals. The eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP has been both the quintessential point guard and a hardwood innovator who has made offenses purr and teammates rich.
What he brings: How 'bout a twinge of regret that he didn't make it to Staples Center 8-10 years ago in his prime? Actually, as one of the best-conditioned players in the league, the wiry, ambidextrous Nash already has extended that prime beyond most mortal pro athletes. Even now, his shooting (49.1 FG%, 42.8 3FG%, 90.4 FT%) is underrated. And his passes and vision still make defenders look silly and stationary.
Outlook: Mike Brown ought to add Offensive Coordinator to Nash's point-guard title. He'll impose order on the Lakers' attack while tapping into unseen opportunities. That means having the ability to say "no" to Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard or anyone else, while saying "yes" to passing angles that most of us see only in the replay. Defensively, the anti-flop rule could be a challenge and Nash sometimes plays like he's waiting to get the ball back.
JOE JOHNSON, Brooklyn Nets
Background: Sometimes you get paid for what you've done, sometimes you get paid for what you're going to do and sometimes what you get paid leads to the things you really hope to do. That's Johnson now, with the Nets, trying after 11 NBA seasons to be as successful as he's been talented and even productive. Moving his huge contract ($89 million left on a $124 million deal) became Atlanta's priority after never getting past the East semis with Johnson as its cornerstone.
What he brings: Tired yet of hearing "iso-Joe" references? Hawks fans probably were, but Johnson thrives in such circumstances and Avery Johnson would be silly not to exploit the shooting guard's size advantage and ball skills. Defensively? Well, we did say he's tall at his position. And the Nets have Gerald Wallace and others to hound the most dangerous wing scorers.
Outlook: If the buzz in Brooklyn is going to go beyond a new arena, an exotic Russian owner, the trendiness of the borough and the dynamic of getting up in the Knicks' grill, the Nets are going to need to play an exciting, offensive brand of ball. Playing alongside Deron Williams, Johnson, 31, is perfect for that, as long as folks don't expect too much sizzle from his personality.
JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets
Background: The NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year won't be defending that title this season. Nor will he be focused on the task of getting Oklahoma City back to The Finals to finish what it started in June. The consummate, sacrificing combo guard wasn't prepared to give up quite that much when his contract-extension talks broke down -- he wanted $6-8 million more than the Thunder's final offer -- and he wound up moved to Houston in a stunning, brink-of-the-season trade.
What he brings: Harden is terrific in a pick-and-roll game and no one in the league is better at drawing fouls off the dribble. He can handle both backcourt spots and, as a shooter, the Thunder will miss his accuracy (just shy of 50 percent overall, 40 percent from the arc). He's a lefty and, while not the most aggressive defender, he does go after rebounds.
Outlook: This is a big move for Harden, the basketball equivalent of moving from the bullpen into the starting rotation. It's true that, way less than Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, Harden often played without OKC's best players on the floor. But it's also true that defenses rarely game-planned for him the way they will now as the Rockets' top threat. There's double pressure here; Harden might get blamed for Houston staying ordinary and OKC slipping back.
RAY ALLEN, Miami Heat
Background: Well, the Heat had one offseason in which their player-procurement methods didn't rankle another team or its fans. Adding Shane Battier prior to last season barely caused a ripple but with Ray Allen, Miami again was triggering The Decision-like angst in Boston. People burned jerseys and considered changing their toddlers' names when the veteran shooting guard stuck it to the Celtics by signing with their East rivals.
What he brings: If the NBA wanted to highlight 3-point shooting in its logo rather than dribbling, Allen might be the silhouette on everyone's jersey and collectible. He's the all-time leader, of course, and he's still the standard bearer for his ability to race around screens and hit from long distance. As a defender, he's game for the team approach.
Outlook: A squadron of 3-point fighter pilots got its ace when Miami added Allen. Actually, with Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Battier all hoisting from beyond the arc, the Heat's attack will have a heavy drone feel to it. Every clash with Boston, from Opening Night right into a presumed postseason series, will be long on emotions and drama.
ANDREW BYNUM, Philadelphia 76ers
Background: The case was made, time and again, that maybe having Bynum on board was as valuable, or even more so, than pursuing Dwight Howard. Then that silliness got thrown out the window when the Lakers opted for the more proven, more dominating and more reliable (except in his back-aching, diva 2011-12 form) 7-footer. Philadelphia rather than Orlando wound up with Bynum, along with Jason Richardson, for the cost of Andre Iguodala.
What he brings: You can't coach tall, nor overall size (285 pounds) or wingspan. At the same time, you can't coach guys who are in the trainer's room or sitting on the bench in street clothes. Bynum's pattern of injuries has made six of his seven NBA seasons look like they were played on lockout schedules -- he has played more than 65 games only once, back in 2006-07. Last we checked, the Sixers have 82 ahead of them, with X number to be played without Bynum and the impact his skills and size can have when he's healthy.
Outlook: If you like old-school NBA play, with its emphasis on low-post big men, you probably root for Bynum. But he has Fred Sanford-like knees and Philadelphia won't be able to fully commit to the big man as its No. 1 option. There will be plenty of nights when they have to go with the swarming, democratic, can-anyone-hit-an-outside-shot style.
ANDRE IGUODALA, Denver Nuggets
Background: Iguodala, because of how he was acquired, would appear to be of equal value to Andrew Bynum -- that's basically who Philadelphia gave up to get the former Lakers big man. Seems wacky to many, but to Nuggets coach George Karl, adding Iguodala (for Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a future first-round pick), it was a no-brainer. The 28-year-old should fit well into Denver's offense, and Karl likes him even more as a defender.
What he brings: The highlight dunks don't come as often as they once did, but that's fine, because Iguodala is a full-service offensive weapon. He was Philadelphia's point forward, taking some workload off young backcourt teammates Jru Holiday and Evan Turner. He is a willing and able passer, too willing at times, and swell in the open court. And he's so active defending other teams' elite scorers that Iggy fatigue is often the other guy's best hope.
Outlook: The Nuggets and Karl have thrived in their post-Carmelo Anthony, one-for-all, all-for-one, starless philosophy. Iguodala's ego won't push him to seize more spotlight than he should, though he might want to rein in his mediocre 3-point game. If Denver fans allow him to just be "the new guy" and not "our All-Star and Olympian," Iguodala should help their team achieve its West sleeper status.
BRANDON ROY, Minnesota Timberwolves
Background: Lots of players try to come back from down years but few try to come back from premature retirements. The former All-Star wing man from Portland initially and sadly went the way of the cartilage in both knees -- he was gone -- until a year's layoff and some medical razzle-dazzle had him feeling and performing well again. Amnestied by Portland, Roy needed a fresh start and realistic expectations anyway, with the Wolves promising at least the former.
What he brings: At his best -- which, as a three-time All-Star, was very good -- Roy played a heady game with a knack for getting his shot almost whenever he wanted it. He got to the rim, got to the line and could hit from mid-range. He wasn't a natural from 3-point territory but his ball skills kept defenses honest. Until his knees began barking at him 24/7.
Outlook: If Roy can get back to about two-thirds of what he was -- let's say 24 minutes a game, good for maybe 13 points and four assists, this comeback will be stamped a success. The Timberwolves crave production from the shooting guard spot, along with veteran leadership that will only be there if Roy participates regularly (injured teammates invariably lose their voice). A 2012-13 feel-good story, but with fingers crossed.
RYAN ANDERSON, New Orleans Hornets
Background: Anderson didn't just win the Most Improved Player award last season. He won it while all around him in Orlando was more three-ring circus than NBA hoops. For as much as Dwight Howard wasn't available, you'd have expected Anderson not to get the open, outside looks that fuel his offensive game. But he maintained his focus through the Magic's squandered season and got a four-year, $34 million contract for his trouble.
What he brings: Guys his size (6-foot-10) aren't supposed to shoot the way Anderson does from downtown. He led the league in both 3-point takes and makes in 2011-12, hitting 39.3 percent to match his success rate from the previous season. And if he doesn't punctuate his team's trip down the court with three points, he often keeps it alive (3.7 offensive rebounds per game last season). He's not nearly as adept on the defensive boards, but like Orlando with Howard, the Hornets have someone to handle that.
Outlook: Anderson was signed with the idea that his shooting range would pull defenders away from super-rookie Anthony Davis, allowing the youngster's fledgling offensive game to grow more rapidly. In the preseason, he was spelling Davis as a backup at times. Defensively, it might be Davis helping out Anderson inside, because the fifth-year forward lacks the strength to hold his ground when pushed hard by other bigs.
JASON TERRY, Boston Celtics
Background: The timeline is going to get blurred and before long -- maybe it already has happened -- people will think of Jason Terry as the Celtics' "save" after Ray Allen left. But that's backwards; Allen has said that Boston's pursuit of Terry played a role in his decision to leave. Now, instead of being an upgraded, Eddie House-type off the Boston bench, Terry is going to have to give his new team what he's been giving Dallas -- and what it got for most of five seasons from Allen -- while doing it at age 35.
What he brings: Terry, four seasons removed from his Sixth Man award, still can be uncanny as instant offense in reserve. He also can play both backcourt spots, which means he can be more than capable when giving Rajon Rondo a breather or handling an occasional missed game by the Celtics' playmaker. Defensively, he's a gambler and generally overmatched. But he gets buckets, with a shooting touch only slightly off last season from his career rates.
Outlook: At some point, Father Time will catch up with Terry but after 13 seasons, that hasn't happened yet. Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge has gambled $15.6 million that it won't happen till Terry is nearly age 38. He's a solid piece whose role will be more sharply focused once Avery Bradley returns and Courtney Lee gets established in Boston's backcourt.
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