Free Agent Update: Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol: 2013-14 Salary ($19,300,000)

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Pau is a dilemma. He’s easily the most skilled big man in the NBA right now and one of the most skilled ever in terms of his passing, craftiness, IQ and low-post array of moves. However, the past few years haven’t been kind to Pau and that has greatly affected his stock. First off, the Spaniard has only played 174 games in the past three seasons – he’s injury prone. The other thing, which was by no means his fault, was the whole Mike D’Antoni/Dwight, Nash, Kobe trio in Los Angeles. That season was a meltdown by anybody’s standards and Pau, who was supposed to be an integral part of the Big 4, was forgotten. Then last season, in what could’ve been the most embarrassing Lakers campaign ever, Pau constantly complained with Mike D’Antoni’s tactics. From playing small ball, to not playing at all, Pau has definitely endured some difficult years in a Lakers jersey and this summer might be his opportunity to start fresh. The interesting thing to see will be what Pau chooses… And I don’t mean a team. Out of the 7 teams vying for his signature, only 1 can offer him substantial money. Dallas could probably offer him something in the 15 million range depending on what Dirk is willing to take. However, after that, despite these teams being in contention for championships, they can’t offer him even a third of what he made last season.

Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls

lakers_150The Lakers have the edge because they have the cap space. They can offer Pau whatever he wants to bring him back. Pau also has a deep connection with Los Angeles and the Lakers as he has won two championships there in 2009 and 2010. He and Kobe are also very very close so Kobe’s influence on Pau might play a role in his choice. The thing with going back to the Lakers is that Pau isn’t guaranteed winning or change for that matter. D’Antoni was fired recently – something Pau had been wishing for for a while. However, as of now, the team is very much in shams. Cap space is a beautiful thing, but it guarantees nothing. Just look at Joe Dumars’ Pistons in the summer of 2009 where Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva – who combined for 25 points per game in their first season in Detroit – were paid a combined 90 million dollars. So yes, cap space is a luxury, but it means nothing and if Pau were to sign, he would have absolutely no idea on what would happen next. With Nick Young and Kent Bazemore on the free agent market and Jodie Meeks already on the Pistons, the Lakers are looking at a team full of empty slots waiting to be filled and there is unfortunately no guarantee as to who will fill them. It’s certainly not Carmelo or LeBron or any of the next tier guys like Luol Deng or Kyle Lowry – the latter of whom signed a 4 year 48 million dollar deal with the Raptors last night. Pau turns 34 in three days and while he’s still playing at a very high level, the clock is ticking on his career and at this point, Pau, who has amassed a total of 133.6 million dollars over the course of his career should be looking for championships rather than some more 0’s on his paycheck. He’s endured some toxic years and for Pau getting out of Los Angeles would be the best for his career. In an extremely competitive Western Conference, the Lakers are nowhere near contention and Pau returning doesn’t change any of that.

NYKNICKS_Logo-FinalThe Knicks’ pitch to Pau Gasol would center around all they have to offer: the re-creation of the Lakers, and cap space next summer. In terms of personnel connections, the Knicks have the upper hand in all of this. Phil Jackson led Pau to his two championships in ’09 and ’10, and Derek Fisher was Pau’s teammate from 2008-2012. Phil’s goals for the Knicks are abundantly clear; he wants to re-create the Lakers… but in New York. He’s already hired Derek Fisher to be the head coach he can lead vicariously through and he has also offered Kurt Rambis a 4 year, 4.8 million dollar deal to be Fisher’s top assistant – Rambis was an assistant in Los Angeles last season and was on Jackson’s staff during both of his stints with the Lakers. Other assistants rumored to join the Knicks’ bench is Rick Fox, former Laker player, Bill Cartwright, former Bulls player under Phil Jackson and Jim Cleamons, a former assistant of Jackson’s as well. In terms of player personnel, the Knicks have just acquired Pau’s teammate on the Spanish national team; Jose Calderon. In addition to Calderon, the Knicks signed Lamar Odom and can bring back Shannon Brown another former teammate of Pau’s from Los Angeles. Pau could sign with New York and know that there is a familiar and strong infrastructure being built to ascend the team back to the top. The only difference at this point between Los Angeles and New York is the jersey. Pau has more fellow teammates in New York, one of his best friends as the coach and his former coach as the president of the team. There are two things Pau would have to consider before signing with New York. The first is that, next year, they are going to be bad. Every player considering signing with the Knicks has to accept that fact. The Knicks are the same team as last year except instead of Tyson and Raymond Felton they have Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. There is also uncertainty on whether Carmelo Anthony will be donning a Knicks jersey next season. The other thing he’d have to consider is the significant pay cut. Because the Knicks are paying the luxury tax, they have the tax-payers mid-level exception worth 3.2 million dollars. Waiving Samuel Dalembert would give them the ability to offer Pau 5 million, but they have said no to that option. Pau would be taking 16 million less than last season to play in New York, however, the nice thing about New York’s financial situation is that next summer they’ll be bursting with cap space, which means Pau can sign a one-year deal and then sign a longer extension for money he’s accustomed to getting next summer. Of course all of this rides on the simple question of whether Pau wants to play in New York or not. He should know that playing in New York would most likely bring Carmelo back as well, which would form a very talented front-court in New York.

heat_150The Heat’s situation with every free agent, not just Pau Gasol, is dependent on what the Big 3 decide to do. A few days ago, word broke out that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be taking starting salaries at 11 million and 12 million respectively, which along with LeBron’s demand of a max contract and the smaller salaries of Shabazz Napier, Norris Cole and the obviously returning Udonis Haslem, would give the Heat 12 million to spend on free agents. That rumor has been called “Bs” by the man who would know it best

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ESPN’s Chris Broussard affirmed the claims of Henry Thomas in an article written last night:

Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.Those figures, combined with a max-level contract that would begin at $20.7 million for James, would not clear the cap room it would likely take to sign free-agent targets such as Kyle Lowry,Luol Deng and possibly Pau Gasol.

If the Heat’s Big 3 do as Chris Broussard says, there is no room to sign Pau Gasol, but then again the Big 3 wouldn’t re-sign if they knew there was no opportunity to bolster the supporting cast so if Bosh and Wade do take as much as stated, LeBron will likely go elsewhere, or if not LeBron, the entire Big 3 will likely split up. If the Heat do manage to work out the kinks and clear 12 million in cap space, Pau would be the perfect fit. Pau has the ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the outside, which is pivotal in the Heat offense, which revolves around drive and kicks. Pau also has great vision and getting it to him in the high post and working off that would be very dangerous considering how hard it is to guard LeBron on the move off the ball. Pau also gives the Heat something they haven’t had before and that’s consistent low-post play. Pau could be a shot-clock-winding-down-last-second-resort type of option for the Heat that they’ve never had before. Pau is a traditional big man with the skill of a guard and that’s why he fits into the Heat’s small ball lineup because he’s not someone who will clog the paint or slow them down as a team, he’d actually make them more dangerous as he’d provide them with another facet to their game that opposing defenses would have to guard.

thunder_150 I think if the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are now considered the favorites in the pursuit of Pau Gasol (according to ESPN), were able to bring Pau to the team, they would be immediate favorites to win a championship. Time and time again the Thunder are right on the cusp of reaching the finals, but in an extremely competitive Western Conference they always seem to fall short. The reason? Lack of offensive weapons. You’re probably surprised. A team with Kevin Durant, the scoring champion and Russell Westbrook, the 2nd best scorer among point guards are having troubles offensively? Yes. After Westbrook and Durant there are very few scoring options for the Thunder. Serge Ibaka contributes 15-18 per game, and Reggie Jackson offers 12-15 off the bench but besides those 4 there are nobody. That’s why their offense has the tendency to get stagnant, because there just aren’t options to go to and that causes Durant and Westbrook to hold the ball and play one-on-one. They can, they definitely can because of their supreme talent, but in the playoffs in a slower series, where defenses are focused on them and them only, there aren’t options to go to. If you want evidence just re-watch the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. Pau Gasol would give them another scoring option, but that’s not all, because he’s such a great passer, Pau would be key in ball movement. Getting Pau the ball in the post attracts extreme attention from the defenses and a team, stupidly decides to double, then they’d be leaving Kevin Durant for the three or Russell Westbrook to dive, dunk and scream like he always does. Pau gives them, like the Heat, a new facet to their game. He is another defense attractor, which relieves pressure off of Westbrook and Durant. Defensively, the idea of a Pau, Ibaka combo would be extremely dangerous, and reminiscent of the Pau, Bynum combo in 2009 and 2010, just with more shot blocking. If Pau really wanted to join the Thunder, he could sign for the full mid-level exception worth 5.3 million. Like the Knicks, if he wanted to sign a 1 year deal and then re-sign for a longer, more lucrative extension he could because of Kendrick Perkins’ contract expiring next summer. If the Thunder were to trade Perkins’ expiring contract or amnesty his 9.4 million, Pau would have the best of both worlds – the money and the success.

spurs_150The Spurs are about 3 million under the cap as it stands right now, including the rookie deal of Kyle Anderson and the recent signing of Patty Mills. What that means is either Boris Diaw is going to have to take 3 million, or Pau isn’t coming to the Spurs. I highly doubt Boris Diaw settles for 3 million after the breakout season he had and the effect he had on the Finals last year. So I’m effectively counting out Pau from this whole ordeal, but the idea of Pau, who is essentially the perfect Spur, joining with Tim Duncan on the frontline to win another one in San Antonio would be an NBA fans wet dream. Diaw will likely have to take the mid-level exception of 5.3 million if he wants to sign with the Spurs but the R.C Buford and the Spurs front-office will have fierce competition from other teams around the league considering how effective Diaw was in all aspects of the game during the Finals.

Dallas-MavericksThe Mavericks, like their Texas rivals, are effectively counted out of signing Pau Gasol. However, this exclusion from the Gasol-mania is not due to financial issues but more because of fit. The Mavericks just traded for rim protector, former Mavericks champion and defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler so bringing in Pau Gasol would almost definitely mean he’d play a bench role because he’s certainly not capable of playing the 3. The rumors connecting Pau with the Mavericks were realistic before the trade with New York but now it’s just impossible. I’m not sure why the Mavericks would even be going after Pau when someone like Luol Deng who actually fits a need and is of the same caliber is on the market, as well as someone like Trevor Ariza. For Pau, going to Dallas to meet with Cuban is a waste of time. He’d be a poor fit and would likely see his minutes and opportunities diminished by the already solidified front-court duo of Tyson Chandler and the soon-to-be-re-signed Dirk Nowitzki.

bulls_150 Chicago is really only approaching Pau as a back-up option if Carmelo decides to return to New York or go somewhere other than the Windy City. Unlike Carmelo, the Bulls could actually offer Pau what he’s worth: something between 15 and 16 million. Pau probably isn’t even worth that much, which only makes things that much better for the Bulls. All of this rides on the amnesty or trade of Carlos Boozer and his 16.8 million dollar contract. If Pau came in, the Bulls would be receiving an average post-defender but a player with extreme length and size to help on the inside with Joakim Noah. The good thing about the Bulls’ roster is that they have the ability to hide poor defensive players like Carlos Boozer and D.J Augustin. Pau could slide into the lineup and provide the Bulls with a scoring pick and roll option and a low-post offense option, which they get little to nothing of from Carlos Boozer. The Bulls need scoring badly and outside shooting and while Pau can stretch the floor, I’m just not sure that Pau really satisfies their needs to the fullest extent. However, if they miss out on Carmelo, Pau is the next best thing and would instantly make them the best in the East, barring no headline additions by the Heat.


 

As of right now I’m really unsure on where he’ll go. Los Angeles can offer him the most money but because of his past few toxic years and the uncertainty of how the team will shape up I’m counting Los Angeles out. Along with the Lakers, the Spurs and Mavericks are off the list. That leaves Oklahoma City, Chicago, New York and Miami. Miami’s acquisition of Pau hinges significantly on the decision of the Big 3 and what they decide to do financially. If Bosh and Wade do take the appropriate cuts to give LeBron his max contract and leave room for extra talent then I think Pau would be silly not to go to the Heat. If they can’t figure it out, they’d be off the list. The Bulls are thinking of Pau as a plan B to Carmelo so their pursuit of Pau depends on where Carmelo Anthony goes. The Knicks could be a sleeper in all of this. They can’t offer him the money next season, but in 2015 they can re-sign Pau to a longer and more lucrative contract because of the cap space they’d have next summer. The Knicks are basically home to Pau who would be going to a place with former coaches, assistant coaches and players alike. He’d also be entering into the offense he thrived in during the Lakers’ championship runs in 2009 and 2010. However, taking 3 million is a humongous sacrifice on the part of Pau and I’m unsure he’d be willing to take that risk. The other option would be the Thunder who could offer Pau the mid-level exception of 5.3 million as well as the best chance to win a championship as his arrival would create a big 4 in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and himself. At this point, I really can’t put my finger on where he’ll go. Fingers crossed for the Knicks, but reports have the Thunder as the front-runner, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Free Agent Update: Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony: 2013-14 Salary ($21,390,000)

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks

 Potential Suitors: Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks

bulls_150 The Bulls are the leaders in the Melo mania at the moment and they went all out yesterday in their meeting with Carmelo…

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Not only did they go all-out with the signs, but according to BasketballInsiders, Derrick Rose went through a private workout to show Carmelo that he was 100% healthy. Additionally, at the meeting, Noah, Rose and Gibson were present. After touring the facility and having their meeting, the group went to eat dinner with Tom Thibodeau, Jerry Reinsdorf and Scottie Pippen all in attendance as well.

Not only do they present the best fit in terms of two sides needing each other, but the Bulls have a championship caliber roster that they wouldn’t have to gut to bring Carmelo in. Derrick Rose the 2011 MVP will be back and healthy and the reigning defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah will be there as well. According to reports from KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, both the Bulls and Carmelo want to keep Taj Gibson around as well. The Bulls need offense and Melo needs a championship and a defensive core around him. It’s the perfect fit. As of now the Bulls have 65.5 million on the books not including Doug McDermott’s future salary, which projects to be around 2.3 million. That leaves the Bulls with around (and all of this is rough math) 67.8 million – approximately 4.6 above the salary cap. The Bulls can only do one thing to clear the space to sign Carmelo if they want to keep Taj Gibson and that is amnesty Carlos Boozer. Apparently the front-office doesn’t want to let him go with nothing in return but if both sides want Gibson on the team next year, there is no trade package they could put together that would clear enough space to bring in Melo. Amnestying Boozer is the only way and I think if they really want to keep Gibson, we’ll see Boozer gone soon. Once Boozer is amnestied, the Bulls could offer Carmelo 15 million a year, but according to Chris Broussard, Carmelo isn’t willing to take that little. The next step would be to trade either Butler or Mike Dunleavy, but the Bulls would obviously prefer to trade Dunleavy as Butler has proven to be an absolute lockdown defender on the perimeter. Dunleavy also makes a million more than Butler and can clear more space for the Bulls if he’s traded. If Dunleavy is traded, the Bulls can offer Carmelo around 18 million a year – a figure Carmelo would gladly accept.  Their roster would then look like Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah with Doug McDermott and possibly Kirk Hinrich and D.J Augustin off the bench. To me that looks like the next NBA champion.

lakers_150The Lakers are in an interesting position because as of right now, they only have Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the newly drafted Julius Randle (inevitably) under contract. Between those 4, they have (with Randle earning 120% of his rookie scale price) $37,113,603 on the books. Kent Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent, and Ryan Kelly is restricted, while Kendall Marshall is unguaranteed going into next season. Nick Young is also unrestricted but is looking to sign with the Lakers. If Carmelo were to sign for the max of 22.4 million dollars, he’d be leaving the Lakers with around 4 million and change to spend on the rest of the roster. We’re not even sure Steve Nash is going to be healthy next season and how Kobe Bryant will fare after playing only 6 games dating back to April 12th, 2013. The team would be pretty bad to say the least. There is too much uncertainty. Health concerns not only to Nash and Bryant but Randle and his foot. We’re not sure how Randle will even play in his rookie season. There is too many “what if’s” if I’m Carmelo. A team of Kobe, Carmelo, Julius Randle and…. isn’t enough to win a championship. Carmelo also has to think about how he and Kobe will co-exist as both are considered to be the two best isolation offensive players in the league. Carmelo is leaving a team in New York that is about to rebuild and going to Los Angeles would be leaving for the sake of leaving. The Lakers haven’t even been linked to any big name free agents at the moment and with Kobe retiring in 2 years, there is limited time to win a championship.

rockets_150 I hope Carmelo sees the poor fit he’d have in Houston. Carmelo, Harden and Howard all need the ball to have an affect on the game. They all love to get touches. They’re all for the most part isolation players. Sure, the Rockets would have the most explosive offense in the league but bringing Carmelo in makes the already poor defense even worse. However, I think the names will blind both sides from properly realizing what they’d be if the two sides came together. The Rockets would have to trade Jeremy Lin to acquire Carmelo – the same situation if they wanted to acquire LeBron.

NYKNICKS_Logo-FinalCarmelo is not going to re-sign in New York. I don’t know why he would unless he also signs a 1-2 year extension the same length as LeBron and they could very well align their free agency again for another run together in 2016 or 2017. Carmelo wants to win now, he’s 30, and he doesn’t have time to rebuild with the Knicks or wait a year. Every year counts when your legacy is riding on it. Phil Jackson also played this all wrong. The only incentive to re-signing with New York would be the 5 year, 129 million dollar deal they could offer him. However, Phil has been adamant that the Knicks will not be offering Carmelo the max so what’s in it for Carmelo? He won’t get paid in New York and he won’t win, so what does the Knicks pitch really have going for them besides the possibility that Derek Fisher is a great coach and that the Knicks have lots of cap space for next summer.

Dallas-MavericksThe Mavericks are meeting with Carmelo Anthony today but the chances of the Mavericks signing Carmelo, is very very unlikely for so many reasons, it makes me laugh that the Mavericks think they even have a chance. Here’s reason number 1: The Mavericks just acquired Raymond Felton, the worst starting point guard in the league and a big reason the Knicks sucked so much last year. 2. The Mavericks are in the Western Conference, which is just exponentially harder than the East if he were to play on the Bulls. 3. The Mavericks have just under 29 million in cap space and are definitely going to re-sign Dirk. So if Dirk was feeling absolutely generous he could take 12 million? 10 less than last year and give Carmelo 17 million, but that’s probably too little for Carmelo. So Dirk could take 10 million? And leave Carmelo 19 million? That could work but Dirk taking 12 million less seems unlikely. The Mavericks have said they are not giving max contracts so it also lessens their chances if that’s what Carmelo wants. 4. The Mavericks would hypothetically, if they signed Carmelo, have three high volume, high usage, offensive players who need the ball; Dirk, Monta and Carmelo. Three players who love the ball and three players who don’t play defense, that doesn’t sound like a winning formula to me. The Mavericks will not sign Carmelo.

Where will he go?

Chicago.

The Bulls need scoring and Carmelo needs a championship contender who can hide his defensive lapses. Chicago would provide him with the best chance of winning a championship. Not only would he be playing in the East, but he’d be with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. A starting five of those guys instantly makes them the best team in the Eastern Conference and a probable lock for the Finals given everybody stays healthy. The Bulls would be bringing Dunleavy, McDermott and whoever they use their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions on off the bench. Carmelo would be surrounded by a deep, talented roster and would be on the best defensive team in the NBA, which is something he needs around him. Carmelo wouldn’t have to adjust his game to play with the Bulls because besides Rose, nobody else in the starting lineup is offensive minded. All the Bulls need to do now is amnesty Boozer.

 

Free Agent Update: LeBron James

As of today, LeBron has been eerily quiet regarding his free agency, especially for someone who went on national television to announce it 2010. He won’t be attending any meetings, which gives the edge to Miami but who knows. LeBron is the best player in the world and he wants the best player in the world type money and he will get it. It just depends on where.

1. LeBron James: 2013-14 Salary ($19,067,500) — 2014-15 Value: $20,700,000

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Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets

clippers_150 The Los Angeles Clippers are the best team out of this group if you don’t consider the Miami Heat. Unfortunately for them, LeBron wearing a Clippers jersey next season is nothing more than a pipe dream. The Clippers are looking at $71,382,529 in salary next year if you consider C.J Wilcox’s salary and Jamal Crawford’s contract being guaranteed. For them to clear 20.7 million dollars of space, they’d have to trade a combination of DeAndre Jordan, J.J Reddick and Jamal Crawford or Jared Dudley for nothing in return just to clear space for LeBron. I’m not even sure a package of those three players is worth LeBron. Then they’d have to put off all possibilities of re-signing Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Glen Davis. If they did all of this, which is highly unlikely, the Clippers would sport a team of LeBron, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes and either Jamal Crawford or Dudley depending on which left in a trade. They’d have absolutely no bench though, but then again, with that starting lineup they probably wouldn’t need one. But, unfortunately, as nice an idea it is to see a fast-break of Chris Paul in the middle and Blake Griffin and LeBron James sprinting down the wings, it’s a fantasy that will likely never come to fruition.

lakers_150 The Lakers are in an interesting position because as of right now, they only have Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the newly drafted Julius Randle (inevitably) under contract. Between those 4, they have (with Randle earning 120% of his rookie scale price) $37,113,603 on the books. Kent Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent, and Ryan Kelly is restricted, while Kendall Marshall is unguaranteed going into next season. Nick Young is also unrestricted but is looking to sign with the Lakers. If LeBron were to sign for the max of 20.7 million dollars, he’d be leaving the Lakers with around 6 million and change to spend on the rest of the roster. We’re not even sure Steve Nash is going to be healthy next season and how Kobe Bryant will fare after playing only 6 games dating back to April 12th, 2013. The team would be pretty bad to say the least. There is too much uncertainty. Health concerns not only to Nash and Bryant but Randle and his foot. We’re not sure how Randle will even play in his rookie season. There is too many “what if’s” if I’m LeBron. With the fact that he’s willing to sign a 1-2 year deal for max money signing with the Lakers becomes a little more likely because then his free agency would align with Kobe Bryant’s retirement, which would be the perfect scenario for LeBron – 2 years of championship contention with Kobe and if it doesn’t work out, he’s a free agent again and can go to the next contender who can win him a championship. However, I still don’t see LeBron going to Los Angeles. A team of Kobe, LeBron, Julius Randle and…. isn’t enough to win a championship. 6 million in cap space doesn’t give them much. He’d be leaving a bad supporting cast in Miami to go to a worse one.

heat_150Dwyane Wade has signed a 4 year deal starting with 12 million next year while Chris Bosh has signed a 5 year deal starting at 11 million. Meaning the Heat have devoted 23 million to 2 members of the Big 3 next year. With LeBron taking nothing less than 20.7 million, the Heat would hypothetically have devoted 44.7 million to the Big 3. Norris Cole is due just under 2.1 million next year so the Heat have 46.8 million devoted to 4 players. Shabazz Napier can make 825,760 to 1,238,640 next year depending on what percent of the rookie scale for the 24th pick he takes. So, at the least the Heat have 48 million devoted to 5 players. Then if Udonis Haslem re-signs, which is the only reason he opted out in the first place, the Heat will have around 12 million to sign free agents, which actually gives them the opportunity to sign someone like Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng or Pau Gasol if those players were willing to. The Heat are actually in a great position if the reports are true. They have a lot of financial flexibility. The only problem is that LeBron wants a short term deal, something like 1-2 years according to John Canzano so signing other free agents becomes a harder task if they know LeBron might not be there in the longterm.

bulls_150 The Bulls have been primarily linked to Carmelo Anthony, but unlike Carmelo, LeBron wants the max deal meaning not only would they have to amnesty Boozer and his 16.8 million dollars next year, but they would have to trade either Gibson or a package of Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler just to clear enough space for LeBron. It’s highly unlikely.

suns_150 Phoenix is a recent addition to the frenzy surrounding LeBron James. According to them, they have what no other team can offer: a playoff-team core and financial flexibility in the future. Phoenix has 33.5 million in cap space at the moment, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and could easily cut 10 million more to allow LeBron to team up with a superstar of his choice. The Suns could trade a package of Gerald Green, Alex Len, and Markieff Morris for no salary in return and the Suns could have enough space to bring LeBron in this year and have room to potentially sign Carmelo Anthony this summer as well, or if LeBron would prefer to play with Kevin Love next year, the Suns would be able to facilitate that desire. What the Suns would be offering is a starting lineup next year of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, LeBron James, Marcus Morris and Miles Plumlee, if they trade away the necessary pieces. If they were to sign Carmelo to a max contract as well, they’d be looking at a star studded lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe, Carmelo, LeBron and Plumlee – an instant championship favorite in the NBA. If not Carmelo, LeBron could ask for Kevin Love next year. One of the most important parts of all of this is that due to both Bledsoe and Tucker being restricted free agents, the Suns can go over the cap to resign them. The Suns also have 3 first round picks next season including the Lakers top 5 protected pick and the Timberwolves’ top 12 protected pick. LeBron would have the freedom to basically play GM and tell the team who to pick or who to trade for with those picks. Those picks – due to their value, could be very enticing for a team like the Timberwolves if the Suns were to engage in trade talks for Love. It’s an interesting situation and one of the best out there, there are no what if’s, the core wouldn’t have to be broken down and the flexibility for the future means there is always room to add more talent. Oh it’s also nice weather there.

rockets_150 Houston seems more focused on Carmelo Anthony, but in actuality LeBron is clearly the better fit. The Rockets do not need another high volume, high usage scorer like Carmelo. They already have two offensive superstars in Harden and Howard who need the ball to be effective. Adding Melo only increases what the Rockets are good at and makes them worse at what they’re already bad at: defense. He doesn’t bring anything new to the table – he doesn’t provide any new facet to their game plan. Adding LeBron changes everything. The Rockets need more lock down defenders and LeBron is one of the best in the entire league. They need athleticism and size on the wings and you won’t find that more so than in LeBron. LeBron is also a playmaker rather than a high volume scorer and can slash and affect the game in different ways rather than isolations and spot up threes. The Rockets have $50,466,325 on the books heading into next season and that’s including Clint Capela’s contract. Chandler Parsons is a restricted free agent so the Rockets can exceed the cap in order to sign him if they have to. So as of now the Rockets do not have enough space for LeBron, especially if he wants the max. With the cap at 63.2, the Rockets are looking at 12.7 million in cap space. However, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the Rockets have a deal lined up for Jeremy Lin but will only execute said trade if they get verbal commitment from one of the stars they’re going after. If LeBron liked Houston and committed the Rockets could clear Lin’s $8,374,646, which would leave them with $42,091,679, about 21.1 million below the salary cap – enough to sign LeBron. If I’m LeBron this is the best situation to go to. If he joined, the Rockets would sport a lineup of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, LeBron James, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard with Chandler Parsons off the bench. The Rockets would still have their mid-level exception and their bi-annual exception to use as well to bring in role players to help bolster the supporting cast.

So where do we think LeBron is going? Well, I think it’s Miami. Despite only wanting to sign a 1-2 year deal according to ESPN, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem have all opted out of their contracts, just like they said they could a few weeks ago in order to clear cap space. They wouldn’t be opting out and re-signing for cheap if they knew LeBron wasn’t going to come back. The Heat could bring back the Big 3, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Udonis Haslem and a free agent worth 12 million or two free agents worth 6 million like Channing Frye and Spencer Hawes. Whatever the additions are, the point is the Heat have space to add more talent. That plus the past success LeBron has experienced in a Miami Heat uniform – 2 MVP’s, 2 championships in 4 years – makes leaving Miami too hard to pass up. Everywhere else is enticing, but there is always the chance something goes wrong and his new team ends up being the 2013 Lakers. LeBron can re-sign with added talent around him and because he is a deceivingly smart business man, signing for 1-2 years means he’ll get the best out of Dwyane Wade and then jump to the next team once he sees Wade can’t play Robin anymore.

As of now, I’m thinking LeBron will be keeping his talents in South Beach next year, with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and one other star. The question now becomes: Can they win another championship together? Have to wait and see.

Hawks Begin Cap Clearing Mission

lou-williams-8051366792

The Hawks have sent Louis Williams and Lucas Noguiera to Toronto for John Salmons and a future 2nd round draft pick.

Nobody in this trade really grabs anybody’s attention per say, but that’s not to say this trade isn’t significant in some way. Louis Williams is a scorer. He’s not a 20 point scorer, but he’s someone you can call of your bench to score 10-15 points and hit some threes when you need him to. This is a guy, that when healthy, can average 15 points per game like he did in 2011. He’s consistent, he’s a veteran and he’s someone a bench like the Raptors who were 27th in the NBA in points per game with 26, could really use. Noguiera, who has yet to play in the NBA, is a defensive monster waiting to happen. He’s 7 feet tall with a 7’6″ wingspan and a 9’6″ standing reach… That’s potential in the flesh for you. Whether he plays in the NBA or in Spain for another year remains to be seen, but he’s an asset that you’d rather have than not.

For the Hawks, receiving John Salmons means they can waive him. He’s due 7 million next season, and all they’ll have to do is waive him for 1 million. The Hawks thus save 5,450,000 million in cap space through the money they’ve dumped from Williams’ salary. The Hawks have been rumored to be in the running to sign LeBron and or Carmelo this off-season and while they aren’t the most attractive destination, they are trying their hardest to become it.

The Hawks have two unrestricted free agents in Elton Brand and Cartier Martin, who made a combined 4,286,095 last season. They are unlikely to be re-signed.

As well as that duo, the Hawks have three potential restricted free agents in Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack and Gustavo Ayon. According to Hawks beat writer Chris Vivlamore, the Hawks are planning to grant qualifying offers to Scott and Mack only but not to Ayon. If those players accept those qualifying offers the Hawks would be taking back 2,263,406 million in salary. It’s unlikely they’ll decline the offers and become restricted free agents because they’re unlikely to make substantially more elsewhere. There is a possibility they decline and sign extensions with the Hawks for around the same price. But let’s assume each guy accepts for now.

The Hawks have two unguaranteed contracts in Mike Muscala and Pero Antic. Muscala rarely played but he’s 6’11 with a 7’1 wingspan and he’s only 22. Pero Antic was key in the series against Indiana and Atlanta will likely want to retain him as well. Therefore, the Hawks will probably guarantee both of their contracts, meaning they’d be taking back 2,066,482 million in salary.

Then we have to think about Adreian Payne’s rookie contract. The rookie scale amount for the 15th pick this year is 1,546,100 million according to BasketballInsiders. Rookies can earn anywhere from 80% to 120% of this amount so anywhere from 1,236,880  to 1,855,320. Walter Tavares is a stash pick and won’t effect their salary cap. Lamar Patterson was the 48th pick in the draft meaning his contract is unguaranteed so the Hawks can determine whether they want to sign him or not. Let’s assume he is signed, the Hawks traded for him so it’s unlikely they don’t sign someone they traded for. Ryan Kelly was the 48th pick last year and he made 480,190 last season so let’s assume the same for Patterson. All in all, if we assume Payne signs for 120% of the rookie scale allotted to the 15th pick, the Hawks can expect 2,335,510 million in salary on the books.

The Hawks are one of many teams trying to pair the superstar duo of Carmelo and LeBron together this summer.

The Hawks are one of many teams trying to pair the superstar duo of Carmelo and LeBron together this summer.

SO….

With all of that said, if the Hawks do what’s above starting July 1st, when free agency begins, the Hawks are looking at 45,529,464 million on the books for next season. With the salary cap projected at 63.2 million, the Hawks have 17,670,536 in cap space for next season. That’s not enough to sign Carmelo and LeBron and it’s probably not even enough to sign one of them, but it’s just the beginning for Atlanta who are in a good position with a young and improving core to attract the attention of big-name free agents such as LeBron and Carmelo. Next off the books is either Korver or amnestying Horford and that’s if they really really want to make a legitimate run at one of the two superstars. We’ll see, but if I’m Atlanta I don’t get too hypnotized by the whole chase. The Hawks had a very successful season last year by their standards. Without Horford they managed to be the 8th seed and pushed Indiana to 7 games in the 1st round. Blowing up their roster to try and acquire a max-level free agent is risky to say the least. From an outside perspective, the Hawks have no chance to sign either of them. There are much more attractive destinations than Atlanta such as Phoenix, Miami or Los Angeles. Additionally, the roster the Hawks would have in place by the time they have enough cap space would be a shell of what it is right now. And if they were to miss out, they’d be taking a huge step back from last season. It’s a difficult situation to properly evaluate because obviously if they have a chance to acquire a talent like LeBron – the best in the world, or Carmelo – the best scorer in the world, then they have to go for it. But there has to be a limit to how much they are willing to give up for it.

The Day After: Looking Back At Last Night’s Draft

Tanking to tank again? McBuckets in Chicago? Rondo on the way out of Boston? These were some of the headlines from last nights exciting draft. Let’s look into what exactly happened, but more so what we think about what happened.

1.cavaliers_150Andrew Wiggins

What do we think? Well, they couldn’t have gone that wrong? Either guy, Wiggins or Parker would’ve been an infallible choice. Ultimately though, the Cavaliers opted for the one with more upside and defensive potential than the one who might be limited to a scorer for his whole career. Thank goodness they drafted the prospect to build around for the future rather than the prospect who could produce now. Who were the Cavaliers even kidding? They’re nowhere near the playoffs, so why draft for right now? They made the right decision and a backcourt of Wiggins and Irving is probably the most exciting thing heading into next season. It also means Waiters is most likely on the way out.

 

2.bucks_150Jabari Parker

We all know Jabari was happy as hell when Cleveland passed on him. We all like to think prospects are just blessed to be there and don’t care about where they’ll end up but Jabari didn’t want any part of Cleveland. And who can really blame him? He grew up in Chi-town and Milwaukee is the closest basketball team to home. I’m not sure what Parker will really develop to be when it’s all said and done but I see a Paul Pierce type of guy who will have some great games, mostly good games and will never have a bad game. He’s the surest thing in the draft for a reason and will be consistent from Day 1. He’s a 17-20 point scorer a game, so I guess that’s good for Milwaukee? What’s funny is that if Parker wasn’t a prospect and someone told you about a slow 6’8″ player who doesn’t play much defense but can score you wouldn’t think of him as all that great. But because he’s hyped to be the next big thing, people peg him as a star. I’m not so sure.

 

3.76ers_150Joel Embiid

What. The. Foot. So let’s just talk about what the 76ers did over the past year. They traded Jrue Holiday for the 6th pick, which was Nerlens Noel. They also acquired the 10th pick in this years draft. Noel sat out the entire year with an ACL tear. Noel is 7 feet, 208 pounds with a 7’4 wingspan. He averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks per game at Kentucky two years ago. The 76ers were led by rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams and performed the most brutal but successful tanking performance in NBA history. The team lost 26 games in a row at one point. This draft was what they were supposedly waiting for. The chance to draft one of the many potential stars in the top of this draft to make a difference next year and make the whole of last season worth it. But… they took Joel Embiid with the 3rd pick… Now if they took him it means he’s not red flagged. It means he’s ok and should heal in due time. But he probably won’t play next season. When completely healthy, Embiid has a real shot at being the next Hakeem Olajuwon – and I’m not even exaggerating. Like Noel, Embiid is also 7 feet except he has a 7’5″ wingspan instead of 7’4″. When together and healthy, they’ll have a combined 14 foot 9 inch wingspan protecting the rim… Good luck scoring in that paint. The problem with taking Embiid is that I’m not so sure they can play together. Offensively, Embiid is the only one out of the two with an offensive game in the post, but defensively in a league that is clearly playing small ball and using stretch 4’s more than traditional big men, I can’t see these two playing many minutes together. If they play the Spurs, Noel could guard Duncan while Embiid runs around the perimeter guarding Diaw? Eh… I’m not so sure. Twin towers have worked before, most notably on the Spurs with Duncan and David Robinson, but Duncan was a natural power forward and the league was different back then. There weren’t stretch 4’s or dynamic players like Diaw, it was a different game, where that kind of approach could work. The Pistons have the same sort of thing, but once again, Greg Monroe is a natural power forward who’s not 7 feet so it’s less of a problem. That’s my only problem with the pairing. THEN, in a trade with Orlando, Dario Saric was sent to Philadelphia – another player who won’t play next season and probably not the one after that either. I love Saric. I think he’s the most skilled player in the draft and certainly the most dynamic but if the entire point of last season was to tank to get someone who could be a star now, then these picks don’t make sense. It’s like buttering a pan and buttering it and just buttering the hell out of it, getting it ready before you crack the eggs, but then you don’t crack the eggs and you’re left with this great foundation but nothing to build on it. The 76ers have a wonderful plan and if it all comes to fruition and it all works out with everyone healthy and gelling then fuck me and fuck everyone else because Sam Prestie would be a genius. But, I wonder how long the fans and players can take playing on a team they know is playing to tank. Next year they’ll be in the high lottery once again looking for more pieces to add.

 

4. magic_150Aaron Gordon

Damn. I was surprised by this. I like that they took a big man and not a point guard with #4 because of the abundance of guards later in the draft and the drop-off of big men later on. I was just thinking that Vonleh would’ve been the better prospect. Gordon surely trumps him with athleticism and quickness but Vonleh is the same in the way he can guard multiple positions both in the post and on the perimeter. Vonleh is also a better shooter than Gordon and can stretch the floor as he hit 48% of threes last season at Indiana. Vonleh is a more promising defensive force with gigantic hands and a 7’4″ wingspan. Maybe the Magic know something we don’t but this was, in the words of Bill Simmons, definitely a “woah” moment for me. Gordon is talented and freakishly athletic but very raw offensively and is a borderline tweener. He barely measured at 6’9 at the combine and he’s 6’7 without shoes.

 

5. jazz_150-1Dante Exum

I guess I like it… Exum is a point guard but with his size and ability to get into the paint, he’ll be able to play off the ball as well alongside Burke. Maybe he even overtakes Burke and lets Alec Burks play some starting 2 guard for a little as he is bursting with potential but played, somehow, behind Richard Jefferson who is finally a free agent. Utah has some pieces, I like it. We’ll see where it goes.

 

6.celtics_150Marcus Smart

Fucking love this guy. He’s got fire. He’s got that fuck you. He’s got attitude and toughness. Those are all intangibles that are essential for a player to make the transition to the NBA. They can’t be soft or lack confidence in their abilities. Smart has the mind to excel in the NBA. He has the body (6’4, 220). All he needs now is the consistent jump-shot and he should be a superstar. I love this pick for Boston, but watch out for Rondo… While Ainge is adamant that Rondo and Smart can play together, I’m not so sure. Rondo can’t shoot, rather he doesn’t even consider shooting, that’s why you see defenders guard him on the free throw line. Smart can’t shoot either. And neither has the size of an MCW or an Exum that would enable them to play with each other. They’re both undersized at the 2, and neither can shoot which makes guarding the duo pretty easy. Despite Ainge’s assurances that they’ll stay together, I’d be on the look out for Rondo’s exit. There have been links to Sacramento but I know every team in the league would love to have him as well. But if Smart were the starting point guard moving forward I wouldn’t be worried if I were a Celtics fan. Smart has all the physical and mental tools to be a star and he’s a lockdown defender who plays with extreme passion – all things you love to have in your floor general. Great pick for Boston.

7.lakers_150Julius Randle

After their rival grabbed their franchise player for the future, the Lakers did the same. Randle, very much like Smart, has that fuck you. He’s extremely tough and has the same bull-doggish type body of Smart… Just at 6’9. Despite being undersized and not that long, Randle is strong, has a very soft touch around the basket and he loves contact on the inside. He’s an unbelievable rebounder and that type of guy that loves to rebound and loves to bang down low is a great sign moving to the NBA. It shows he doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. Randle also has a nice offensive game down low. While it might be hard for him to score on bigger forwards, he has the size and skill to finish around the rim. He shares the same type of mind as Bryant, of course a much toned down version as nobody compares to Kobe, but he wants to suceed and he loves to compete. Under Bryant’s wing he’ll be exposed to the fiercest competitiveness and drive that basketball has to offer. Randle is someone who can come in right away and be productive and consistent, which is exactly what the Lakers need. He’s extremely talented and is a great steal for Los Angeles at #7.

 

8. kings_150Nik Stauskas

Hmm… Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Stauskas but #8 seems very high, especially when the Kings need a point guard and a power forward more than they need someone to take Ben McLemore’s minutes. Stauskas is pretty athletic – he posted a 36 inch vertical at the combine and actually posted the 5th fastest time for the lane agility drill with 10.79, beating other supposedly more athletic guards like DeAndre Kane and Marcus Smart. But his real go-to skill is shooting. The Kings were a very poor shooting team last season but if that’s what they were looking for McDermott would’ve filled that need and filled the hole at power forward as a stretch 4. McDermott is also the more dynamic scorer. But Stauskas is still a nice young talent. He can score off the dribble and shoot from everywhere on the court. Defensively he’ll have to improve but the real issue is what’s going to happen with Ben McLemore. This is why I think McLemore is going to Boston in some package for Rondo. What about a 2016 1st rounder, a 2017 1st rounder, Ben McLemore, and Derrick Williams. Of course, it’d have to be a sign and trade because Rondo is a free agent next summer, but a team of Rondo, Gay, and Cousins is a nice core moving forward. If they could somehow add the previously rumored Josh Smith to that deal then the Kings could maybe play like royalty for once. Overall, probably too high for Stauskas even if he is a stud, and has the nicest shooting stroke in the draft, I fear he’ll end up being J.J Reddick, who isn’t worth the 8th pick in a draft this stacked.

 

9. Charlotte-Hornets_new_logoNoah Vonleh

Well, I’m pretty shocked he fell this low and Charlotte were smart to not let him fall any further. Vonleh has the biggest hands and wingspan in this draft. Add his 37 inch vertical and his 6’10, 247 pound frame and you have yourself a dominant rim protector in the making. Vonleh’s defense will be a great compliment to Al Jefferson’s lack there of. Offensively, Vonleh compliments Jefferson great as well. Jefferson is one of the best post-operators in the NBA and Vonleh who shot 48% from deep last season can stretch the floor for Jefferson to operate on the inside. Great fit, and I think Vonleh is a player that every team before Charlotte will regret not taking.

 

10. 76ers_150Dario Saric (via Orlando Magic)

Saric is the most skilled player in this draft. He’s a more athletic and fluid version of Boris Diaw. He can run the floor, make plays, and shoot from the outside. Unfortunately, he won’t be in the NBA for at least the next two seasons. On the bright-side he’ll be developing and getting better by playing against professional European competition and it doesn’t seem the 76ers are even concerned with being good anytime soon anyway so it’s a perfect fit. I do wonder however where he’ll play. He’ll have to play the 3 because of Noel and Embiid on the front line but Saric doesn’t have three point range and neither does MCW so it might be a tough offense for them. At 6’10 I don’t know if Saric can defend 3’s which he’ll have to if he plays with Noel and Embiid. I love Saric but I don’t know about how it’ll work out when he’s in the NBA.

 

11.bulls_150Doug McDermott (via trade with Denver for 16th and 19th picks)

The Bulls need shooting and scoring. Doug McDermott is the 5th highest scorer in NCAA Men’s College Basketball Division I history. Good fit? I think so! The Bulls had been rumored to pull off a trade for a shooter in the days leading up to the draft and they hit the nail on the head with this one. McDermott can stretch the floor as a 4 and can shoot from anywhere. He can be a spot up shooter as well as someone who can shoot off the dribble and come off screens. With his size and strength he’ll also be able to score in the post with his soft touch and swift turn-around jumper. The Bulls did well with this one.

 

12. magic_150Elfrid Payton (via trade with Philadelphia 76ers)

The Magic needed a point guard and Elfrid Payton is the perfect guy for the job. He’s long and an excellent defender who loves to get into people. Unfortunately, he can’t shoot and neither can Oladipo which might make for a difficult pairing in the NBA but both can develop jump-shots and both are extremely athletic and strong defenders so that makes up for it. Payton is great at getting into the paint and he’s someone who can make plays off the dribble and create for teammates. He has blistering speed and size for his position and with Oladipo in the backcourt they could be one of the best defensive duos in the league.

 

13. timberwolves_150 Zach LaVine

If I were Zach I wouldn’t be pleased either. One more slot back and he’d be the backup point guard to Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on a playoff team in Phoenix where it’s always hot. Instead he’s a backup to Ricky Rubio on a below .500 team who are likely going to lose their superstar Kevin Love and have to start all over. Oh, and it’s cold every single day. Personally though I love LaVine I think he’ll overtake Kevin Martin in the backcourt and play off the ball with Rubio. After Wiggins and you know what, maybe before Wiggins he might be the most athletic player in the entire draft. He posted a 46 inch vertical! And he’s fast as hell. He also has great shooting range, (38% from deep last season). He also has size for his position, if he can develop some basketball I.Q from learning from Rubio and develop his skills and feel for the game he could end up as one of the best prospects in the draft.

14. suns_150T.J Warren

He’s not a great athlete. He’s just a scorer. He’s a flat out scorer. He isn’t a great defender either but he can score the ball. And that’s something every team needs from time to time – someone who can come in and put the ball in the basket. Their bench already scores 39 points per game and could use some backup wings. Warren will only augment the talent on the bench further.

 

15. hawks_150Adreian Payne

I don’t like this pick at all. Payne is an athletic stretch 4. He’s a great defender who after being coached by Tom Izzo knows how to play. But isn’t he essentially a younger version of Paul Millsap? Why draft a player you have a better carbon copy of? Seems redundant to me. I think there was better players on the board they could’ve taken that also would’ve addressed a need. Not a fan of this pick.

 

16. nuggets_150 Jusuf Nurkic

He’s a big boy. A very big boy. 7’0″, 280… Damn. Once he matures and develops some more offensive skills he’ll be extremely dominant from Day 1. He’s a stash pick for now, but the Nuggets are a potential playoff team when healthy so it’s something they don’t have a problem with doing.

 

17.celtics_150James Young

Interesting. Rondo and Jeff Green’s positions have been drafted… I think that’s a sign. Young is extremely athletic and a very good scorer. He has the length and size to potentially be a great defender but he hasn’t shown consistent effort on that end of the floor. In terms of upside and pure talent Young is a leader of the pack in this years class. The Celtics got a steal here.

 

18. suns_150Tyler Ennis

I don’t think this pick means anything for Dragic and Bledsoe. The Suns know they have one of the best backcourt tandems in the league and wouldn’t split that up for anything. I think Ennis is simply the role-filler for a backup point guard at the moment. The Suns really don’t have anybody to back up Bledsoe and Dragic at the point and Ennis is the purest point guard in the draft. He’s strong, has a great IQ and is very mature for a one-and-done player. He should have an immediate impact and for the Suns who are looking for an extra push into the playoffs, he’s a great pick.

 

19. nuggets_150 Gary Harris

I don’t think the Nuggets are stupid for trading for Afflalo and then drafting Harris. They gave up virtually nothing in return for Afflalo and getting both of these guys adds depth and makes the other expendable if the other is included in Kevin Love trades. I’m not a fan of Harris. He’s not very athletic, somewhat undersized and has an inconsistent outside jumper. On the upside, he’s a great defender, maybe the best perimeter defender in the draft and is very strong. We’ll see where that takes him.

 

20. raptors_150 Bruno Caboclo

What… So yeah, he’s the Brazilian Kevin Durant, but if he’s two seasons from being two seasons away, he’s not a good pick for the Raptors and an even worse pick for the 1st round. Nobody knows about this kid. Are you telling me that he wouldn’t have been available at #37? The Raptors are also a playoff team and this pick could’ve given them someone who could’ve produced now but instead they have someone who’s apparently 4 years away… Masai definitely messed up. Or when he actually becomes the next Kevin Durant, we’ll all look like idiots.

 

21.thunder_150 Mitch McGary

Great steal for the Thunder. McGary is a lottery type talent but because of weed and back injuries his stock plummeted. The Thunder are in need of more big bodies. With Kendrick Perkins possibly being amnestied and Nick Collison slowly withering away, McGary can come in off the bench and give them someone who can rebound, defend, and make smart dirty-work type plays to help them win. McGary has been in the national spotlight before and therefore will be prepared for a deep playoff run with the Thunder. Learning from Collison and Steven Adams will also benefit him greatly.

 

22. grizzlies_150Jordan Adams

Eh… I would’ve taken P.J Hairston. The Grizz need shooting and Hairston could’ve given it to them. Adams is undersized and a tweener. He’s extremely unathletic but can score the ball, kind of like a smaller version of T.J Warren.

 

23. jazz_150-1Rodney Hood

Great pick for the Jazz. They don’t really have athletes on the wings of Hood’s size. Hood can also shoot from the outside as well as score on the inside and I think a lot of team are going to regret not drafting him. The Jazz really improved with the additions of Exum and Hood.

 

24. heat_150Shabazz Napier (via trade with Charlotte

Hornets)

This was a very smart deal for the Heat. The lack of point guard play in the Finals was horrific. Norris Cole wasn’t playing like Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers didn’t show up at all. Napier is immediately better than both of them. He’s one of the most skilled and talented guards in the draft and easily the quickest and craftiest off the dribble. He’s also a shotmaker – from everywhere on the court, which is huge if you’re going to play with the Big 3 because you’ll get lots of spot up threes. Most of all Napier is a leader and a mature player, he led his team to a championship last season and also experienced a run under the tutelage of Kemba. The Heat also won’t have to spend much on him because he’s on a rookie deal, which only adds to their clearing of cap space.

 

25. rockets_150 Clint Capela

Capela is very raw, but a defensive wall in front of the rim. Luckily for the Rockets, they can stash him away as to clear more space for potential stars like LeBron and Carmelo.

 

26. Charlotte-Hornets_new_logoP.J Hairston

I think this is a really great, underrated pickup by Charlotte. They clearly need shooting and Hairston is someone who can light it up from everywhere on the floor. He’s also had a year in the D-league which means he’s played against NBA-type athletes and experienced the grind of a full season. Hairston had two 40 point games in his first week in the D-league… He can score and the Hornets need that.

 

27. suns_150 Bogdan Bogdanovic

Stash pick for the Suns who don’t need immediate impact from draft picks as much. He’s a big guard, who can play the 1 or the 2. Good pick for whats left on the board. Has good upside, with time to develop overseas could become really good.

 

28. clippers_150 C.J Wilcox

This was an odd pick to me. The Clippers need some depth on the wings but more than that they need some front-court depth and I think with Jarnell Stokes on the board, he could’ve helped them more than Wilcox. Wilcox is a great outside shooter, who sometimes falls in love with shooting from there. He’s got good size and length for his position and should be someone who can make an immediate impact.

 

29. thunder_150 Josh Huestis

With Sefolosha probably on his way out, the Thunder bring in Josh Huestis, a defensive specialist who shut down Andrew Wiggins in Kansas’ lost to Stanford in the NCAA tournament. He’s not a great offensive player but he can hit spot up threes. Where he’ll really effect the game is defensively. He has great size and strength for his position (6’7″, 230) and length (7’1″ wingspan) and with quick feet he should be able to shut down a lot of wings in the NBA.

 

30. spurs_150 Kyle Anderson

Wow. The Spurs just keep getting better don’t they. They must be smarter than the entire league. They got a carbon copy of Boris Diaw. Diaw was probably the 2nd or 3rd most important player in the finals and now they have two – just in case. Anderson is a terrible athlete but he has point guard like passing and vision for a power forward body. He’s someone who loves to make plays and will be able to with the Spurs. He’ll have to work on his outside shot though because if you can’t shoot there isn’t much room for you on the Spurs.

 

Final Mock Draft

The Draft is hours away, and while there are going to be many surprises, trades and shocks tonight, here’s the mock draft with everything taken into account.

1. cavaliers_150 Jabari Parker

With Afflalo being traded to Denver, all talks of this pick going to Orlando are out the window. Despite offerings from the Jazz and Celtics, the Cavaliers haven’t found an offer they like and will most likely keep the pick. With it, comes Jabari Parker.

At 6’8, 260, Parker has the size and strength needed to score and bang with the athletes in the NBA. He was a great rebounder in college and will continue to be at the next level because of his power and his girth. HIs offensive game is extremely well polished and versatile and can score in a plethora of different ways. Despite criticism about his lack of athleticism, he is actually quicker and more agile than people give him credit for – take a look at the video above for proof. The bottom line is that the Cavaliers need some sort of production right now to keep Kyrie around, to attract future free agents, and to finally reach legitimacy and Parker is the man for that job.

2. bucks_150 Andrew Wiggins

If Parker goes #1, Wiggins is the obvious choice. While some say he lacks the motor of Jabari Parker, he has the upside and potential that Parker does not. Wiggins is the most athletic draft prospect since LeBron James and that’s something you can’t teach. Skill can be improved and developed, but the ability to run and jump like Wiggins does is a one of a kind type of thing. With his length and size, Wiggins can guard multiple positions and unlike Parker will have no problem guarding players on the perimeter. While his offensive skills are more raw, Wiggins will be able to affect the game in other ways while his offense develops overtime. Wiggins is the type of player that can put a franchise on his back and carry them. With a young core of Wiggins, Antetekounmpo, Knight and Sanders the Bucks have a nice foundation for the future.

3. 76ers_150 Dante Exum

An Exum-MCW backcourt combination would be as intriguing as guard duos get. Both are 6’6. Both are long and athletic. Both can play point and off the ball. Both can defend multiple positions well. The 76ers like Exum and they like the idea of him playing with MCW in a fluid backcourt where some possessions MCW runs the offense and other possessions Exum does. They’d pose a mismatch for most teams they face and despite the lack of shooting they would have, the upside probably outweighs the fact that they wouldn’t be a threat from outside. Both can get into the paint with ease and both are natural playmakers, making the shooting struggles less of a focus.

According to sources the 76ers are fighting hard for the #1 pick and are offering #3, #10, #32, 2015 1st rounder and Thaddeus Young for #1 pick to acquire Wiggins so don’t be surprised if something of that nature goes down.

4. magic_150 Noah Vonleh

Vonleh is long, and very athletic, sporting the longest wingspan of 7’4″ in the entire draft. His physical tools give him huge upside both defensively and offensively but what makes him such a good fit for Orlando is that he can shoot from the outside (48% in college) which makes him a great complement to Vucevic who operates solely on the inside. Vonleh is versatile and can guard multiple positions and with his ability to shoot he should be a problem for opposing defenses to guard.

5. jazz_150-1 Aaron Gordon

The Jazz are in a weird position where they have a solidified front-court but are faced with only power forwards as the best talent available. Between Randle and Gordon, Gordon brings something to the table that the Jazz don’t have: Athleticism. Gordon’s physical tools give him a huge upside both offensively and defensively. He has a raw post-game but so did Blake Griffin when he came into the league. He’s undersized for his position but his athleticism and length makes up for it. He also has the potential to be a rim protector in the paint with his 7 foot wingspan and 39 inch vertical. The Jazz are unlikely to trade for the #1 pick unless they beef up their existing offer. As it stands, they’re offering Derrick Favors, and the #5 and #23 picks for #1. If they included Alec Burks the Cavaliers would have more to think about, but would still be unlikely to bite.

6. celtics_150 Joel Embiid

Embiid’s draft stock has significantly decreased since his foot surgery. A big man with back issues is something to worry about but foot surgery and back issues is too much for teams to take a risk on, especially because of some of the circumstances of the teams in the lottery. Boston is the perfect team to take a chance on Embiid. They severely lack any sort of defensive presence in the paint. With Kris Humphries a free agent, and Sullinger and Olynk both undersized and unathletic, the team needs a rim protector. Embiid falls could step right into that spot. The Celtics have just begun their rebuilding process so taking a risk on Embiid who will be out for likely the whole season next year is something they can afford to do. Ainge hasn’t been scared of health issues in the past, most notably in his drafting of Avery Bradley who had ankle issues and Jared Sullinger who had dealt with back problems. Both of them have panned out well for the Celtics and Ainge is unlikely to let Embiid fall past him at #6. With Rajon Rondo likely on the move soon, Embiid could be the player they begin to build around. He has the offensive upside of a superstar and the physical tools to be one of the best interior defenders in the league. He’s only played basketball for 2 years and already has the offensive skillset in the post of a young Olajuwon. With more years in the league he could become him. The only concern is his health, but the Celtics will take the upside over the downside in this selection. There are rumors that the Celtics are linked to the Kings in a trade that would send Rondo to Sacramento and the #8 pick to Boston, but it has little weight behind it and is likely a baseless rumor.

7. lakers_150 Marcus Smart

The Lakers need a point guard and an NBA-ready player and taking Smart kills two birds with one stone. Smart has an intriguing combination of NBA-readiness and unlimited upside. At 6’4, 227, Smart already has an NBA body. He’s not a great shooter but an aggressive driver to the basket and with his size and strength he’s a great finisher around the basket and through contact. He’s very athletic and quick and with a 6’10 wingspan he’ll be able to defend both guard positions if he needs to. The Lakers are looking toward the future and the now, and Smart is someone who can produce for them now while also giving them the point guard they need once the Kobe era is over.

8. kings_150 Elfrid Payton

The Kings want a pass first point guard with size and they’d get exactly that from Payton. He’s 6’4″ and has a 6’8 wingspan – a huge upgrade in the size department over Isaiah Thomas. Payton, while a poor shooter from the outside, is lightning quick and great at getting into the paint and making plays. On the other end of the floor, with his length and quickness he is a lockdown defender and could actually bring some competitiveness and energy to that part of the game. Payton has climbed up the draft boards in recent weeks and Sacramento is lucky to find him. There have been rumors of Sacramento trading this pick for Rajon Rondo or trading this pick in general but nothing legitimate has surfaced so for now we’ll assume they keep the pick.

9.  Charlotte-Hornets_new_logoDoug McDermott

While the Bobcats were one of the feel-good stories of the NBA last year, they had a problem with shooting the ball. Besides Gary Neal, who was not always reliable with his shot, the Bobcats lacked players who could stretch the floor. As a result, defenses were content to sit back and wait in the paint for the Bobcats to attack on the inside.

Doug McDermott comes out of college as the 5th highest scorer in NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball History. Averaging 27 points a game in his senior year, while shooting 45% from deep, McDermott would be the perfect player to compliment Al Jefferson and the entire Bobcats offense. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world and will have some problems defensively due to a severe lack of foot-speed, McDermott has all the skill in the world and he knows how to score in every imaginable way. He’s a sharp shooter, has a polished post game, and because of his strength and wide lower body he’ll be able to bang down low with the bigger bodies in the NBA.

10. 76ers_150 Julius Randle

With Exum at #3 the 76ers will then focus on their front-court. Thaddeus Young is always being mentioned in trades and Randle could step in and make him even more expendable. Randle fits with what the 76ers love to do: run. He can run the floor and is a bulldog in the open court. While not the most athletic prospect or the one with unlimited upside – besides Jabari Parker, is the most NBA-ready player in the draft. He is undersized and doesn’t have a lot of length but is much more athletic and quick than people give him credit for. He’s comfortable handling the ball as well, and is a bull dog going to the basket. He also has that fuck you that GM’s covet in a player coming into the league. With his strength, size and touch around the rim, he should be effective immediately. He is undersized at his position but because of his girth and his power he’ll be a force down low.

This pick might be Cleveland’s if they trade with Philadelphia for the #1 pick.

11. nuggets_150 Dario Saric

With their acquisition of Arron Afflalo, they’ve solidified the shooting guard position and while it’s unclear if he’ll be on his way to Minnesota, for now there isn’t a need to draft a shooting guard. This pick might not even be theirs if its traded to Minnesota in a deal for Kevin Love. But for now, we’ll pretend that’s not relevant. The Nuggets are fully capable of making a playoff run if everyone is healthy and that’s why they can take a risk on Saric. Saric will be stashed in Turkey for 2 years but the Nuggets can afford to wait as there is no dire need for someone to come in and make an impact immediately. Saric is the prototypical point forward. He has a natural feel for the game, can shoot from the outside and can run the floor and make plays like a point guard. If we’re talking pure skill, Saric might be the winner in this draft class.

12. magic_150Zach LaVine

With Vonleh going 4th, they need to focus on a point guard. LaVine played shooting guard at UCLA but has assured everyone he’s a point guard. What makes him a perfect fit for the Magic is that Oladipo cannot shoot. LaVine on the other hand is a very talented shooter with deep range (37.5% in college) After Wiggins, LaVine is also the most athletic player in this draft class and with that athelticism comes defensive upside and the ability to get into the paint. He’s a strong ball handler and has great size for his position. With the Magic nowhere near contending for the playoffs next year, LaVine is a project with humongous upside that they’ll likely take the chance on. He also fills the hole at point guard that the Magic need to address. He still has the ability to play off the ball though because of his speed and his shooting range, he’d complement Oladipo perfectly.

13. timberwolves_150 Nik Stauskas

With Kevin Martin being just not all that good at basketball, another shooting guard wouldn’t hurt Minnesota. Stauskas is an exceptional shooter, hitting 44% of threes last season at Michigan. In his two years of college play, he went to deep runs in the tournament and performed each time. He’s used to the big stage and the bright lights and shouldn’t have a hard time adjusting to the pressure of the NBA. He has good size at 6’7 for his position and is actually deceivingly athletic. He posted a 36 inch vertical at the combine and actually posted the 5th fastest time for the lane agility drill with 10.79, beating other supposedly more athletic guards like DeAndre Kane and Marcus Smart.

14. suns_150 T.J Warren

Phoenix promised Warren they’d draft him and it seems like here would be the spot to do it. Warren isn’t all that athletic but he’s a natural born scorer who averaged 25 per game at N.C State last season. He has a good feel for the game and size for his position and should be a nice addition to a bench that already scores 39 points per game.

15. hawks_150 Jusuf Nurkic

The Hawks need some size off the bench for when Horford isn’t in the game. Antic is a perimeter shooter more so than an inside presence and Elton Brand is hardly the big athlete the Hawks want patrolling the paint. Nurkic is a big guy. A big guy. He’s 6’11, 280 with a 7’2″ wingspan. Most guys in the NBA would not be able to contain him on the boards and in the paint. Drafting Nurkic also might be a nice play if the Hawks decide to amnesty Horford to clear space for LeBron or Carmelo.

16. bulls_150Adreian Payne

With Taj Gibson possibly leaving to clear space for Carmelo, and Boozer possibly being amnestied, Payne would step right in as the next big man next to Joakim Noah. Payne is a big, highly athletic forward who can run the floor and bang down low. His athleticism along with his years at Michigan State make him a highly capable defender, which makes him a perfect candidate to play for a defensive minded team like Chicago. What’s more, Payne is a very good outside shooter, draining 42% of the threes he took last year.

17. celtics_150 Rodney Hood

With Jeff Green possibly on his way out of Boston, Rodney Hood could be the athletic wing the Celtics need to step into his place. If not, they don’t have anybody like Hood on the bench. Hood is 6’8, 208 pounds and can shoot the ball from deep (42% from long range last season).

18. suns_150 Gary Harris

I have some doubts about Gary Harris. He’s a decent outside shooter. He’s relatively undersized for his position and he doesn’t possess the athleticism or quickness of other guard prospects in this draft. However, what I do like in him is his commitment to defense – something instilled in him during his two years at Michigan State, and his basketball IQ. He plays like a veteran, and despite his size he is a very strong guard with good defensive fundamentals. He has a good midrange game, and because of his strength, is able to finish around the rim through contact. With an always active motor, he should fare well at the next level.

19.  bulls_150Shabazz Napier

The Bulls are looking for some shooting and for a backup point guard for Derrick Rose and Napier is a player that can step in and make a difference right away. He played 4 years at UCONN and is extremely experienced and a natural born leader. He’s lightning quick and won’t have a problem shaking defenders on the perimeter. He’s also a lockdown defender despite his size. He’s a great decision maker and ball handler and could lead the 2nd unit for the Bulls.

20. raptors_150 Tyler Ennis

The Raptors are unsure if Kyle Lowry will re-sign and Greiviz Vazquez reportedly wants to be a starting point guard somewhere, which lessens their chances at resigning him. Ennis is the purest point guard in the NBA in terms of court vision and a pass first mindset. He’s not athletic but is very strong and can finish around the rim. What’s most endearing is his maturity and his sense of leadership that he exerted during his freshman season at Syracuse.

21. thunder_150 Kyle Anderson

The Thunder are unlikely to keep this pick but if they do Anderson would be a great fit. The biggest criticism of the Thunder offense is that they have a tendency to be stagnant. Anderson is a natural born point guard in a power forwards body. He’s a facilitator and has great floor vision. He’d bring playmaking and a pass first mentality to a team which has nobody like that.

22. grizzlies_150 P.J Hairston

The Grizzlies can’t shoot and Hairston scored 22 points per game at North Carolina last year because of his shot and his silky offensive game. He’s an athlete and has size for his position.

23. jazz_150-1James Young

I don’t think it’s that crazy for Young to fall this far. He’s a decent shooter, and is extremely athletic but doesn’t give two shits about defense. He’ll be able to get to the rim in the NBA and hopefully his shots start falling. For Utah, there’s no real need at any position and Young would clearly be the most talented player at this point.

24.  Charlotte-Hornets_new_logoCleanthony Early

The Hornets still need shooting and Early has plenty to offer in that department. He shot 38% from deep last season and displayed maturity and leadership beyond his years. He has great size for his position as well and the Hornets really lack athletic wings like him, never-mind ones that can shoot.

25. rockets_150K.J McDaniels

Houston has enough shooting to give the entire league a 3 and still have plenty for themselves. What they lack is athleticism at the wing position after Chandler Parsons. K.J McDaniels is one of the best athletes in this draft. He posted a 36 inch vertical and he’s 6’6″ with a 6’11” wingspan. He excels in the open floor which fits right into what the Rockets love to do. He’d also provide some lockdown defense on the perimeter – something the Rockets are sorely missing.

26. heat_150 Jarnell Stokes

Miami needs some more big bodies. Stokes was one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season and has a nice offensive post game to go with it. He could provide some beef down low for a relatively small Miami team as well as a different look on the inside.

27. suns_150 Clint Capela

The Suns need some more big bodies but don’t mind working on a project like Capela. They are going to be a playoff team next season so they can afford to wait on Capela to develop more skills and get a better feel for the game.

28. clippers_150 Mitch McGary

A back problem last season and a weed controversy has hurt his draft stock but there’s no doubting his talent and NBA readiness. He’s a physical, big, energy man who can do the dirty work but also has a touch around the basket and offensive skills to help on that end of the court. He’s very athletic for his size which helps him on the boards and in blocking shots. He’s a steal for the Clippers at #28.

29. thunder_150 Jerami Grant

The Thunder could use some size and athleticism at the wing position off the bench. Grant, while lacking in offensive talent, is a pure athlete and has the strength and size to guard multiple positions and get to the paint.

30. spurs_150 Walter Tavares

The Spurs will most likely stash this pick as they do have a tendency to do so. Tavares is the biggest guy in this draft at 7’3, 265 pounds. He’s not a crazy athlete, but he has the size of a Shaquille O’Neal. And he’s Spanish! Perfect.

 

 

 

Arron Afflalo on the Move

He's back! Afflalo is returning to Denver in a trade that seems like a setup for something bigger...

He’s back! Afflalo is returning to Denver in a trade that seems like a setup for something bigger…

It’s a homecoming for Afflalo, but is it longterm?

Arron Afflalo is going back to Denver in exchange for Evan Fournier and the 56th pick in the draft. While a minor trade at the sight of things, this actually shakes a lot of things up. With rumors earlier about the Magic trading Afflalo, the #4 pick and the #12 pick for the #1 pick, this trade can effectively put those rumors to rest. This trade does raise some eyebrows for Denver who had been rumored to have offered Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried for Kevin Love. Now that they have acquired Afflalo while retaining the #11 pick, it’s likely the Nuggets will now offer their more valuable package to Minnesota for Kevin Love.

Good trade?

Denver:

Denver made an excellent deal with this trade. Arron Afflalo that’s been on the cusp of All-stardom for years. He’s coming off of his best offensive year of his career, where he averaged 18 points on 42.7% shooting from downtown. In addition to his offensive abilities, Afflalo is a strong perimeter defender. Evan Fournier was a good player last season, but nothing special. With average offensive talent and lacking defensive skills, he showed no promise to become anything close to Arron Afflalo. The Nuggets have now solidified the shooting guard position – a clear weakness of theirs last season. The Nuggets also managed to pull this trade off without giving up the #11 pick. The question now is if this was a trade made for Kevin Love or made for the team. The original offer on the table was Afflalo, Faried and Chandler for Love. The Timberwolves were reportedly reluctant because there were no draft chips involved – the assumption earlier was that if the Nuggets acquired Afflalo, they’d give up the #11 pick in the process. Clearly they didn’t, which certainly beefs up their offer to the Wolves, which is probably the best one on the table at this point for Flip Saunders. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nuggets acquired Love tonight at the draft. On the other hand, it’s possible the Nuggets keep Afflalo and simply take the improvement at the shooting guard position and move forward without a trade. The Nuggets gave up virtually nothing for Afflalo and now with the #11 pick they can focus their eyes on someone other than a shooting guard.

Orlando:

What? What? Why? Afflalo was Orlando’s best player last season, and yes, he was likely to opt-out of his 7.5 million dollar contract in 2015-16 and become a free agent next summer, but I expected the Magic to get some respectable value in return for the shooting guard. Fournier is a decent player and without giant upside it’s unlikely he’ll become more than that. They didn’t even acquire the #11 pick which the Nuggets have. What’s more confusing about this deal is that earlier today there was a consensus that the Magic were front-runners for the #1 pick as they had offered Afflalo, and the #4 and #12 picks to grab the top spot. Now that Afflalo is gone, the Magic have forfeited any chance of drafting 1st tonight. So not only did they lose their best player for little value in return, but they now crossed themselves out as suitors for the #1 pick. On the bright-side they cleared around 6 million in cap space. If the Magic don’t guarantee any of the unguranteed contracts on the books, and let restricted free agent E’Twaun Moore go in free agency, the Magic are now looking at around 26.3 million on the books heading into this off-season. That’s enough for a max contract… That’s enough for LeBron… Maybe this trade is more complex than we think. Maybe it’s an effort to clear cap space to bring in a major free agent this summer. Who knows? Immediate thinking is the Magic messed up. But who knows if this is part of a more elaborate plan.