1. Lou Williams & Lucas Nogueira (Raptors): I like this deal by general manager Masai Ujiri. I have always been a fan of Williams, who fell out of favor in Atlanta. In the final year of his contract, the Raptors will be getting a player who can score in bunches off the bench and give his team a lift on many nights. He plays with energy and can run the point for a possession or two but is definitely more of a scoring two guard. Nogueira is a guy that is under contract overseas for another year, which is a good thing because there is no rush to bring him over and start his NBA Contractual Clock. The Raptors want to be getting him when he's more mature and prepared to give them a greater return on their yearly investment. I like the move, though. He's a young man who can make things happen in the lane with his rebounding and shot blocking potential. His offence is a bit raw yet but in time he should be a sound pickup. John Salmons was a good pro, but as we could all see in the playoffs, he's clearly on the downside of his career. For Salmons, this is a nice trade particularly with the fact that Williams is off the books after this upcoming season. Helps you, yet doesn't damage your salary cap long term.
2. Jason Kidd (Bucks): How about this for a Machiavellian Move on the part of J-Kidd?! You literally can't make this nonsense up. He tries to back-door GM Billy King in Brooklyn and gets shown the door for two second-round picks. I guess you beat the Raptors in Round 1 and win one playoff game against the Heat and you're a genius with the NBA's Highest Payroll. No one else in the league would have given him the shot he got last year to coach and this is the appreciation. I feel bad for coach Larry Drew, he gets one year and then the door from his new owners. This is a tough business and there's very little honour and respect left anymore in the coaching profession, that's for sure in this case.
3. Derrick Rose (Bulls): Rose is catching a lot of flak for saying that it's 'not his job' to recruit Carmelo Anthony. He is correct; it's ownership, management and the coaches' jobs to do the work. When you evaluate what he said after that about Melo's skills, it's pretty evident to me that he's impressed with Melo's game and how it would help the Bulls. In defence of him, I'm sure if management asked him to publicly make comments about Melo or behind the scenes recruit him, he'd assist them. He's a team guy. On the other hand, maybe he just deep down in his heart knows that Melo wouldn't be a great 'fit' in their system/team identity. We'll all know in the next few days if this has any impact on Melo's decision with Chicago. Usually guys with the ego the size of Melo want to be recruited by everyone involved.
4. Nets coach: You'll hear the names of Lionel Hollins, George Karl & Mark Jackson among many for this job, as their agents cash in favours with media members to float their clients names to increase their profile and possibilities. In a market like New York, with such a high profile and a small window of opportunity with this older team that's got the huge payroll, it actually makes lots of sense to consider each of these guys for the job. The Nets will need both a strong and capable personality/coach to handle this job. GM Billy King knows that and the fact that he was supported by ownership in the coup attempt doesn't mean he's not under tremendous pressure to win big right now. Kings has got to get the right guy and he better win lots of games next year or they might actually need a new GM next spring. I like Lionel Hollins for this job.
5. July 1: Here we go! Always a fun few days when free agency begins. The Big 3 and Melo set the tone and other movement will follow from a decent free agent class, when you look at the Top 10. There's quite a drop off once you get past the Top 15 names. For Raptors fans, it's very important to balance the desire to build on the 48 win season last year with the long term understanding that the Raptors as currently constructed (Even if Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson & Greivis Vasquez return) are still a ways away from being a legit contender to go to the NBA Finals out of the East. Particularly if the Big 3 stay in Miami, Chicago gets healthy and adds a guy like Melo and the Pacers improve and take a good look around. Other teams in the East added some pieces in the early part of the Draft that will make each win a little harder to get within the Conference. Remember back to Bryan Colangelo's first season as GM with a 47 win season? You can 'win too early.' As crazy as that sounds, it's true. Truly be honest with your team and organization and always try to evaluate yourself vs. the top four and top eight in the East as well as the top four and top eight in the West this past season. How did you stand up vs. those teams and vs. the non-playoff teams? Obviously, a nice season in the NBA is when you beat 'who you're capable of beating' and the Raps did that with some other fun wins sprinkled in along the way to make it a neat experience. Lots and lots of work still needs to be done for this team/organization to be a contender. Slow and steady wins the Race. I'm quite confident in the patience and long-term view of Ujiri, that he won't get sucked in to believing that they're 'close' and try to build on a foundation that isn't there yet. Manage the cap properly, improve internally and be patient. The 'right defining move' will present itself to you in the near future, you've got to be properly positioned when it shows up at your doorstep to be able to consummate the transaction. Yes, I love making the playoffs, but we all want more. So build with the idea of long term/organization vs. the 2014-15 team. You want to be in the playoffs on a yearly basis as well as - and this is what really matters - being a team with a legitimate chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals & possibly get to the NBA Finals. Those are really hard steps to take. Obviously, if the Big Three break up, Melo goes to the Western Conference instead of the Bulls, etc. Then you reconsider that because you do have greater opportunity. But for now, big picture. It will be a fun few days to watch and follow.