- Only FOUR Eastern Conference teams have a winning record against the West: Atlanta (10-2), Toronto (9-5), Chicago (9-6) and Washingon (8-5)?
- SIX Eastern Conference teams are above .500? That’s Atlanta (27-8), Toronto (24-10), Chicago (25-11), Washington (24-11), Cleveland (19-17) and Milwaukee (19-18).
- EIGHT Western Conference teams are above .500? Golden State (28-5), Portland (27-8), Memphis (25-10), Dallas (26-11), Houston (24-11), LA Clippers (24-12), San Antonio (21-15), Phoenix (22-16).
- Golden State is a perfect 11-0 against the Eastern Conference this season?
- Minnesota Timberwolves has as many wins (2) against their conference (The West), as the Knicks and Sixers have against the West combined?
Here we go! LeBron “The King” James announced, through a very mature and insightful letter via Sports Illustrated, that he will return to his adopted hometown of Cleveland, a stone’s throw away from his actual hometown of Akron.
Twitter and the Internet in general went bonkers. Here are some of the funnier tweets surrounding LeBron’s Decision 2.0:
1. Cavs fan be like…
1A. Drake be like…
1B. Captain Touchback, a parody account for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and vintage LeBron Cavs jersey
2. Heat “fan” be like…
3. D-Wade, waking up from his mid-day nap
4. Katie Nolan, of Fox Sports One, mocking Dan Gilbert’s Comic Sans letter from four years ago. Nice one!
5. I love it when Sports Illustrated’s Richard Dietsch takes a shot at ESPN’s insane 24/7 coverage of LeBron’s Decision 2.0. Just lovely.
6. Peyton’s Head: A parody account about Peyton Manning’s big head, poking fun at D-Wade
7. Captain Touchback on Charles Barkley’s reaction about going to meet Cleveland-area women
8. Kevin Durant to the DMV alert!
9. Now, I follow this guy on Twitter; he’s a cool dude and an actual, legitimate Heat fan, but we ALL knew this was a short-term, “let me win some rings with D-Wade and Chris Bosh”, win-now approach. The response is perfect, “really dude?”
10. HAHAHA Gabrielle Union is gonna save the Heat and her boy D-Wade
10A: Yes, good-bye bandwagon–WOAH THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY
10B: Whenever you use Leonardo DiCaprio in your meme, I approve. And so true.
Welcome home, LeBron.
I really love the NBA draft, because it’s the only time the Cavaliers are going to win anything. How great is it that the worst franchises in sports get the opportunity to be the most excited about hopefully not losing as much the next season. Anyways, I wanted to put together a mock draft, full of crazy moves that make sense to me and would be really entertaining to probably no one but me. It’s just for fun, so let’s go.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Andrew Wiggins Look, the 76ers wanted the top pick, tanked, didn’t get it, and now they are going to trade for the top pick. They want Wiggins, and Cleveland could pick him, not only to help their roster, but to make sure Philadelphia, a fellow Eastern Conference competitor, doesn’t get him. He’s a dynamite prospect, and he’s going to be an All-Star someday. So away goes Thaddeus Young and the No. 3 pick to Cleveland for the No. 1 pick and Andrew Wiggins. Scoring comes too easily to him, and he can already defend. Scoring is the most important thing in the NBA, and second is being able to play smart defense (in my book). Wiggins can do that. He’s a superstar in waiting, and Philadelphia would be wise to move up, especially now with injury concerns with Embiid making the top two picks that much more valuable.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker The Bucks want Jabari! While they were able to bring in Exum, Embiid, and Wiggins for a workout, and they are all in play, if Parker is available, they’re grabbing him. He’s Carmelo Anthony all over again, and Darko isn’t around to be selected after the obvious top pick. The Bucks will take Parker and he’ll start putting up 18/8/5 nights once the calender hits 2015. The Bucks know they don’t have the pieces or the ability to become a playoff team overnight, and they could have a shot at the top pick in 2015, where they could have a chance at Jahlil Okafor, who might be from Krypton, or Cliff Alexander, who would play nice alongside Antetokounmpo and Parker.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid This is a dream come true for the Cavs, who can replace Anderson Varejao with a player who has the potential to be something incredible. I’m not laying all my chips on Embiid though. I can see players like DeMarcus Cousins or Brook Lopez dropping 25 points on him a night during his rookie season. There’s going to be a learning curve, and he may not make it. He’s too promising to turn down, even with back and foot injuries. You know who had a terrible injury before he played in the NBA? Blake Griffin. He’s turned out alright.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum They draft the Australian prospect to establish another premier backcourt in the East, establishing a rivalry between Southeast division foe Washington that will produce highs for years. Exum wanted to be a Laker, but playing alongside Oladipo, he’ll learn how great it is to play in central Florida. Exum-Oladipo-Afflalo aren’t household names yet, but they have a bright future.
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh With new management, it’s okay to admit a mistake, and Enes Kanter is a mistake. The Turkish big man plays defense like an Easter bunny left around a pack of kindergarten children (he gets eaten up) and with Vonleh, the Jazz have another frontcourt prospect to team up alongside Derrick Favors. The 3-point shot may be in vogue, but Vonleh and Favors should be able to defend out to the perimeter while dominating the paint. Rebounding, passing, and scoring inside can power a team to the NBA Finals – at least, that’s what the Spurs model would like you to believe. Vonleh brings that edge to the Jazz. Randle would have been the pick here, but a foot injury pushes him down the Jazz draft board.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Aaron Gordon Wait for it – another trade. In a three-team trade, the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jeff Green, Enes Kanter, Jared Sullinger, the Celtics 2014 first-round picks, and Boston’s 2016 first-round pick. The Jazz receive the Brooklyn Nets’ 2016 unprotected first-round pick and sign Avery Bradley to a new deal as a thank you for participating gift. Aaron Gordon looks like a valuable franchise player. He may not ever score 20 points a night, but he’s going to help stop his man from doing so, and he’ll help his teammates get points. Offensive rebounds, steals, blocks, solid screens – he’s going to be a valuable asset that is worth more than what his numbers show.
7. Denver Nuggets – Marcus Smart With their rivals in the Northwest Division wheeling and dealing, the Nuggets make a three-team trade of their own with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers deal Pau Gasol and the 7th pick to the Nuggets in exchange for the Bulls two 2014 first round picks, Danilo Gallinari, JJ Hickson, and Randy Foye. The Bulls receive the Nuggets 2014 first-round pick, the right to swap their first-round pick with Denver in 2016, and send Ronnie Brewer to Denver. After moving up, the Nuggets draft Marcus Smart, a player whose statistics stack up with former collegiate combo guards like Tyreke Evans, Dwayne Wade, and James Harden. Smart’s size allows him to form a potent combination with diminutive point guards Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson. The Nuggets’ point guards have experience playing on and off the ball, and Brian Shaw adds a guard who can get to the rim while also providing length, agility, and heart on the defensive end. Smart averages 30 minutes a game, and finishes second in the rookie of the year contest.
8. Sacramento Kings – Dario Saric The Kings are dismayed when the Nuggets take Smart one selection before them, and draft the European talent Saric with their selection, adding another forward to their crowded frontcourt. Saric does bring an unselfish attitude to the team, and his experience overseas provides a different perspective from the AAU-educated players that populate the Kings roster. Can he supplant incumbent power forward Jason Thompson in the starting lineup? Will he stay in Europe for another year? His potential and fit in the lineup justify this selection.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Nik Stauskas Michael Jordan has learned to trust Rich Cho, the Hornets general manager, to make the right decision, and that choice is drafting Stauskas. Stauskas can dramatically improve their outside shooting from day one, a vital need with Al Jefferson able to draw in the defense down on the block. With Jeff Taylor returning from injury, the Hornets will have two players who can bring it from distance. Stauskas may never make an All-Star game, but the Hornets will not stay in the lottery.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Julius Randle Philadelphia is getting Julius 2.0! Randle is definitely not a copy of Dr. J, a former Philadelphia legend, but he’s a capable player that is sliding because of injury concerns (dumb). Randle can play with Noel like two wolves hunting a wounded deer, and together, they’ll make great things happen. For Philly, they can wait for Randle to get healthy – they’ve already proved that with Noel.
11. Chicago Bulls – Gary Harris While Thibodeau would have loved to play Gordon for 40 minutes a game, Harris will play 38 minutes and he can get the ball to go through the hoop consistently. With a bionic Derrick Rose back, Harris adds a perimeter threat to a team that just wasn’t able to score against skilled defensive teams. Harris is a two-way player, and coming from Tom Izzo’s system won’t be too big of an adjustment for the guard.
12. Orlando Magic – Doug McDermott The last thing the Magic need is another player in the backcourt, and with a heap of wings available, they select McDermott, a top-10 talent who falls to a team with a need. Exum and Oladipo will enjoy driving and kicking to McDermott, who has the stroke to be a 50/40/90 guy. Get those buckets Doug!
13. Utah Jazz – James Young The Jazz have the luxury of selecting at No. 23 as well, so they can gamble on potential at this point in the draft. Young is extremely young, and with his 7-foot wingspan and athletic skills, has a high ceiling. He can penetrate, he can shoot, and he can dunk over defenders. Plus, he’s a lefty, and that makes him just a bit harder to defend. If Gordon Hayward leaves in free agency, Young helps take the sting off that blow. If Hayward stays, Young could be better before he is old enough to buy himself a drink during the offseason.
14. Phoenix Suns – Jusuf Nurkic Alex Len, you have new competition. Nurkic rises in the draft thanks to the absence of talented bigs, but he can be stashed in Europe and develop until the Suns need him. The Suns pick again at No. 18, they can wait for Nurkic and his offensive game to continue to develop. For now, the Suns are patient and willing to commit to long-term success.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Zach LaVine With the final lottery pick, the Hawks select UCLA guard Zach LaVine. Is he a point guard? Probably not, but that never stopped Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, and it didn’t hurt former Bruin Russell Westbrook either. LaVine could become Coach Bud’s Manu Ginobili, with his ability combination of ballhandling, penetrating, vision and shooting. Oh, by the way, he has an impressive vertical jump, so finishing at the rim is not a challenge. LaVine and Schroder running the Hawks backcourt off the bench? At the least, they’ll dominate the D-League as they continue to develop towards a starting role in the NBA.
16. Los Angeles Lakers – Elfrid Payton The Kobe farewell tour finds their point guard in Elfrid Payton, who will have to prove that he can score against NBA talent for his first-round selection to be justified. He’s got some great wingspan (drink), his hands are big, and he’s nimble enough to cause problems on both ends of the court. He just needs a great nickname, but I’ll leave that to Swaggy P, who can also introduce him to professional life. What could go wrong?
17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood Welcome to Minnesota Rodney Hood! Can you be their best player? Maybe! He’s long, he showed he could space the floor when paired with NBA talent, and he’ll get to the free throw line. What’s not to love? Look, losing a star sucks. But if Minnesota can lose Love and still throw out a lineup of Nikola Pekovic, Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood, and Ricky Rubio, with Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, and Jared Sullinger powering the second unit, that’s a good/great team! Pekovic and Rubio can run pick and roll, Green and Hood can space the floor, and Gordon does a little bit of everything while protecting the rim and rebounding. Sullinger and Martin can score off the bench, and keep the offense flowing. That’s not a bad situation to be in, and things could be a lot worse. Make the trade Flip!
18. Oklahoma City Thunder – Adreian Payne He’s a do-it-all power forward who should move in with Nick Collison and learn the ways of grit and grind. His smile is a foil for Kendrick Perkins scowl, and Payne seems like the type of guy that would settle down with a team and try to play his whole career there. Those kind of players are attractive to OKC, and hey, his size and athleticism seem like a good fit. As long as he can avoid the trap of watching Durant or Westbrook dribble while on offense, he should be able to contribute.
19. Los Angeles Lakers – Clint Capela Capela is a young forward that the Lakers can be patient with. He can score in transition, rebound, and is as raw as they come. What he lacks in knowledge of the game will come as he works with the Lakers coaching staff (whoever that is) and learns from his teammates. The Lakers played safe with Ennis; the opportunity to find value with Capela is an opportunity they can’t pass up. Will it help attract Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Marc Gasol or one of the Heat’s big three? They better hope so.
20. Toronto Raptors – Tyler Ennis Wait, he’s Canadian? What else needs explaining? If Ennis goes here, he’s going to make the Raptors look smart, and not just for drafting a “local” kid. He can either start if Lowry-Vasquez leave, or play off the bench if one stay. He seems like a solid pro, nothing amazing, but not going to hurt you. If he could develop his post game further, he has the most Andre Miller-potential for me out of any guard in the draft, and Professor Miller is a fine NBA guard.
21. Phoenix Suns – Shabazz Napier He’s a steady point guard, and with Ennis off the board, is the best player available. He’s a college graduate, and improved his game every year while at UConn. I think the Suns will value his leadership and work ethic most of all, and he should be a great fit in the culture the new front office is trying to instill. The Suns seem to be of the mind that a killer backcourt is the way to go, and with Napier, they continue to improve the guard position.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – T.J. Warren Can Warren beat Robert Pera one on one? Most definitely. Warren has a reliable floater, and the footwork to get close to the basket and manufacture points. He’s a tweener, which means he can’t play defense very well so he was hid on that end in college, but the Grizzlies don’t have anywhere for him to start and need bench support. Napier would have been their selection if he had been available, they could use point guard support.
23. Utah Jazz – C.J. Wilcox The Jazz don’t mind selecting the “old” shooting guard from Washington, and will welcome his ability to actually score the basketball. Fun fact – Wilcox is from Pleasant Grove, a town 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City. Another fun fact – his 2.8 3-pointers a game his senior year would have nearly been double more than the next closest Jazz player, Trey Burke. Dennis Lindsey – draft C.J. Wilcox!
24. Charlotte Hornets – P.J. Hairston The UNC connection is hard to ignore, and so if Hairston’s ability to score. He put up big numbers in the D-League, and could combine with Nik Stauskas, Jeff Taylor and Gary Neal to be a decent group of shooters off the bench for the Hornets. He’ll look snazzy in teal, at the least.
25. Houston Rockets – Cleanthony Early Early is a lanky tweener who has been working on his 3-point shooting, but is able to do a lot of things okay but nothing great. He’ll be able to make an impact on the boards with his tenacity, but don’t expect him to be a dribble-drive kind of guy in their offense. The Rockets can be patient with him, and don’t need him to give their offense a boost. If he can score late, that’s what will best help their team.
26. Miami Heat – Jordan Clarkson Clarkson spent a year at Missouri after transferring from Tulsa, and started the season strong before fading down the stretch and sliding down draft boards. Physically, he’s a promising prospect, but there are questions on his jumper and ability to play the point. Scouts do wonder if his cool stretch was more related to finding out his father had cancer, and not just a sign of his talent. I’m going to guess it may have had to do with his father getting cancer.
27. Phoenix Suns – K.J. McDaniels The Suns draft McDaniels, a diminutive small forward from Clemson who has the physical skills to be a difference maker on defense. With P.J. Tucker headed towards his fourth decade, McDaniels can provide an defensive-minded wing that can play with the second unit and be a force in transition. If Jeff Hornacek can make Gerald Green into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, McDaniels can set that goal for himself as well. With Eric Bledsoe and McDaniels, the Palindromes could lead the league in blocked shots by guards.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Mitch McGary McGary brings a bit of risk to Los Angeles, but the Clippers need depth down low, and this draft doesn’t have much. With Doc Rivers providing instruction and guidance, this high energy big man can grow into a valuable backup big, something that can’t be sad for Ryan Hollins. Is McGary the next Al Horford in training, or is he the next Cole Aldrich? Hopefully his back won’t keep him off the court so he can find out. Just stopping blazing the bush, okay Mitch? Not allowed.
29. Phoenix Suns – Jerami Grant What can Jerami Grant become? At No. 29 and with a chance to take a gamble on a player, the Palindromes select Jerami Grant, an athletic small forward. The Syracuse zone limited his time guarding opponents one-on-one, but he has shown good lateral quickness, good footwork, and the leaping ability to aggressively contest shot attempts. He’s one-dimensional on offense, able to attack the rim but struggled to convert jump shots into points. If he was able to spend some time in the D-League, that would allow him to work on his perimeter shooting skills while learning the ins-and-outs of NBA man-to-man defense.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Damien Inglis For the Spurs, it’s an easy pattern. Find best international prospect, draft, wait, and develop him into a playoff X-factor. Inglis is a strong player from France, and at 6’8″ 240 lbs., can make an impact for the Spurs.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
WINNER – The Eastern Conference. Rewarding them for being lottery teams is stupid, but these teams need some serious star power. Why would you pay real money to watch the 76ers, Bucks, or Magic last season? The Leastern Conference needs talent, and while they may not be dramatically improved, hopefully they can take advantage of talented young players to start playing actual NBA basketball. The West is waiting.
LOSER – The Eastern Conference. Wait, didn’t they just … never mind. The middling teams that barely made the playoffs are going to grow in size, and that means more meh basketball in the East. It’s still nothing close to the Western Conference playoff race, and that means the NBA is going to have to continue to wait for a more even conference field.
WINNER – The Boston Celtics. Getting Kevin Love is going to help their team so much, and they didn’t have to give up Rondo or their 2014 first-round pick. At this point in the NBA, you do anything to get an All-Star caliber player, especially at the peak of their career. LOSER – Teams without a first-round draft pick. Sorry Brooklyn, New York, Portland, Washington, Dallas, Indiana, Detroit, Golden State, and New Orleans. This was a deep draft, and none of you could take advantage of it. Most of you saw rivals load up on new young talent while the free agent pool looks like a Florida backyard during hurricane season (a mess).
WINNER – The Phoenix Suns. With multiple first-round picks, they can move up, move down, draft for need and draft for potential. Even if they don’t draft an All-Star this year, they’ll have a young group of players that can help the team for the next 3-4 years on valuable contracts that don’t hurt the team. They can play them, trade them, or send them to the D-League. With so much flexibility, the Suns look like bona fide playoff contenders next season, even in a challenging Western Conference.
LOSER – Teams needing centers. While the center position may be getting played out of the modern NBA, the draft this year was absent difference makers there after Joel Embiid. Being tall used to mean lots of money in the NBA – those days have long past. Now, not being able to move the ball or defend the perimeter is a career killer. The new post game is a dribble-drive motion offense. Save us Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander! You’re the only hope in 2015!
It’s that time again, where NBA teams are going to try to clear out their cap space to free money up for big-name free agents. But, what’s often overlooked is how bad the cap situation is in the NBA, even for some middle-of-the-road teams. So let’s take a look at the top five NBA teams that are facing what I term, the Salary Cap Apocalypse.
1. Brooklyn Nets at $102,589,967$89
2. New York Knicks $88,188,494
3. Miami Heat $80,698,486
4. Los Angeles Lakers $77,423,614
5. Chicago Bulls $73,363,715
6. Los Angeles Clippers $73,049,774
7. Golden State Warriors $72,503,122
8. Memphis Grizzlies $71,992,885
9. Toronto Raptors $71,429,136
10. Oklahoma City Thunder $71,283,121
The Boston Celtics were barely above the luxury tax threshold at $70.88 million, meaning that there were 11 teams in the NBA that paid a luxury tax. For each dollar over the luxury cap threshold, these NBA teams paid an equal amount in taxes to the league. As About.com noted, ” [The] tax charge was one dollar for every dollar of payroll above the threshold. If the tax threshold was set at $65 million and a given team’s payroll was $75 million, that team would be charged $10 million.”
Of all these top ten teams, only 2 were in this year’s conference finals for each conference: the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizzlies exited the first round, as did the Raptors, Warriors and Bulls. The Knicks and Lakers did not make the playoffs, which hurts, and the Clippers and Nets only made it to the second round, losing to the Thunder and the Heat (see bracket above).
According to recent history, paying the luxury tax can help win a NBA title. For example, the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks, who were paying the luxury tax with a $85 million roster and a $58 million luxury tax threshold in the 2011 NBA Finals. But, Heat have been paying the luxury tax with their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (as this chart shows from the 2011-2012 season).
Of the top ten teams, Brooklyn looks like they’re in big trouble (according to HoopsHype). Next year, even with Paul Pierce coming off the books, have $89 million in guaranteed salary. With the salary cap floor at $52 million and luxury tax at $70 million this past season, they’ll be paying that luxury tax next year (barring a major trade). I mean, they’re paying Joe Johnson $23 million and $24 million the next two years and Deron Williams (a glorified bench player with the Nets) a whopping $19, $21 and $22 million the next three years. Oh, don’t forget Brook Lopez, a center who will be paid $15 million and $16 million the next two years.
Next up, the Knicks. Amar’e Stoudamire will pick up his $23 million player option and Carmelo Anthony could do the same next year. Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani have one year left and will earn $14 million and $12 million respectively. If Stoudamire and Anthony opt in, that leaves a guaranteed Knicks roster worth $91 million and would be a $2 million increase from this past season at $89 million. OUCH!
The Lakers have everyone off the books this season, as do the Miami Heat. The Lakers have three players with guaranteed contracts (including the hurt Kobe Bryant) and one player with a player option in Nick “Swaggy P” Young for $1.2 million.
The Heat? Only Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Norris Cole are signed for this year, with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem with player options. Chris Bosh has told the media that he plans on opting in for this year at $20 million.
The Chicago Bulls are in semi-dangerous territory since Derrick Rose is signed for the next three seasons at $18 million, $20 million and $21 million apiece. That’s a lot of money to an oft-injured point guard. Carlos Boozer has a $16 million contract ending next season, Joakim Noah at $13 million and $14 million the next two years, Taj Gibson at $8 million the next three years apiece and only one year left for Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler. That’s still $64 million guaranteed for next year, but that’s under this year’s cap. If you project a year forward, they should be okay for next year.
The LA Clippers have an astounding $72 million guaranteed next year, which still can’t touch the Nets’ insane salary next year. Still, they’re paying Chris Paul $20 million next year and $21 million and $22 million the following two years. Blake Griffin, the powerful dunker and polished shooter, will be paid $17 million next year, $18 million in 2015-2016 and $20 million the year after that. DeAndre Jordan will be paid $11 million next season, which is DeAndre’s last season on the books, for now. Next year, JJ Redick will earn $6 million, Jamal Crawford $5 million, Jared Dudley $4 million and Matt Barnes $3 million. Reggie Bullock will earn $1.2 million, while Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Darren Collison have player options for $1.4 million and $1.9 million apiece. They’ll most likely be paying a luxury tax, but to only make the second round? Something has to change, or at least improve, for this team.
Golden State are in an ok place, too. Andrew Bogut has three years left at $11-12 million a year, David Lee 2 years at $15 each, with Stephen Curry and Andrew Iguodala at three years and both earning between $10-12 million each year. Marrese Speights and Harrison Barnes have one year left with a team option the following year, but Klay Thompson in 2015-2016 has to receive a qualifying offer of at least $6 million. Other contracts are almost minimal at around $1 million for three players (Festus Ezeli, Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic). The real question is what will they pay Klay Thompson after next year, and whether an injured Bogut is worth $11-12 million the next three years.
Memphis has $64 million guaranteed for next year, which is not a bad situation. They’re like the Bulls, with several guaranteed contracts (eight to be precise), but none taking up too much cap space. Zach Randolph will probably pick up his player option next season for $17 million, and their next highest-paid player is Marc Gasol at $15 million next year (which is his contract year). Mike Conley is earning $8 million and $9 million the next two seasons, while Tayshaun Prince will get $7 million in his last year next season. Tony Allen will earn $5 million the next three seasons, Courtney Lee a little over $5 million the next two, and Quincy Pondexter $3 million the next four seasons. Jon Leuer and Jamaal Franklin earn under $1 million and have team options next year, while Kosta Koufos has a team option this year for $3 million and Ed Davis a qualifying offer of $4 million. With their coaching drama over, sort of, this roster could get blown up sooner rather than later.
Toronto is in a VERY GOOD place. Only two players under contract after next season: DeMar DeRozan at $9.5 million the next two with a player option for the same amount after that, and Steve Novak at an affordable $3 million each of the two years left on his deal. They have $41 million signed into next year, but with three players having a team option so that could be $14 million easily eliminated (John Salmons and Amir Johnson $7 million apiece next season and Dwight Buycks at $814K). Jonas Valanciunas is earning only $3 million next year, and he’ll no doubt get an extension for his play this season. They also have a steal in former Maryland Terrapin Greivis Vasquez, who has a cheap qualifying offer next year for only $3 million. They’re in a great place regarding their cap situation down the road.
Oklahoma City has to do some serious restructuring of their bench after falling short in the Western Conference Finals to San Antonio this year. Although they have $67 guaranteed next year, it is hard to keep their core together and have unreliable bench spots on their team. Kevin Durant will earn $18 and $19 million the next two seasons, Russell Westbrook $15-17 million the next three, and Serge Ibaka $12 million the next three as well. Kendrick Perkins’ last year is next season at $9 million, but after that, things are sort of easy. No one is signed on after next season after their big three stars. Of all the bench players, Reggie Jackson will probably be extended, along with Nick Collison and Steven Adams. Caron Butler is not signed for next year and neither is Hasheem Thabeet (team option next year). Andre Roberson, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones may not be on the roster in 2015-2016. They have to find the right pieces, but with $67 million guaranteed next year, that will be hard to find.
With or without a championship, the Miami Heat will have to rebuild this offseason. Right now, they’ve coasted past the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference into the 2014 NBA Finals.
Now the question is, what’ll happen this offseason, win or lose? Will LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh ALL stay in South Beach? Or will they defect?
Odds are, they’ll stick together. Chris Bosh said he’s going to stay in Miami, and because he is a great friend to James and Wade, it’s very likely they’ll stick around too. So what does that mean for the Heat’s salary cap, along with the salaries of James, Wade, and Bosh?
Most likely, LeBron will get the max contract that he deserves. As a two-time NBA champion with MVP awards to boot, Miami Heat team president Pat Riley will give him max money. Wade? He’ll take a pay cut because he has to rest about a third of the season with his achy knees. Bosh? He’ll get close to a max deal, similar to what he took when he arrived in Miami with James and Wade.
Other than the Big Three, I think Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem (barring retirement at age 33), and Mario Chalmers are locks to stay. Norris Cole (pictured left) is a fierce defender and can shoot threes and Haslem can sort of shoot that baseline jumper, but can get timely rebounds. Mario Chalmers, even with all the grief and criticism he gets from the Big Three, is better than most point guards out there other than your star guards like Chris Paul. Chalmers has a knack for hitting big shots, too.
So that’s 6 of the 15-man roster, which means the rest of the roster is iffy. I mean, take a look at this year’s roster here. Let’s say the Heat win. Will Ray Allen and Shane Battier ride into the sunset and retire? Probably, since both have nothing else to prove. Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden, and Michael Beasley will probably be gone win or lose. I just don’t see them sticking around much longer. Oden hasn’t played much in the playoffs and Beasley has not played much either. Birdman and Lewis have provided timely defense off the bench, but they are getting up there (Birdman is 35 years old, Lewis is 34). Although Rashard has had several eye-opening playoff performances against the Pacers, the real question is whether he can contribute day in and day out when he rarely played the past year. James Jones is a Heat favorite of Riley, even with his diminished role with the team and he can shoot lights-out threes. I say Jones is a 50-50 to stay in Miami.
That leaves 6 players gone for next year, and with the Big Three, Cole, Haslem, Chalmers and Jones, meaning there are 8 spots open. Who else is left?
Justin Hamilton (who?) and Toney Douglas. Hamilton was a good NBA D-League player with a split of 19.2 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game in 32 D-League games played (via Basketball Reference), but only played 68 total minutes this past season with Miami. Here’s one D-League game where he dropped 21 points:
Douglas barely scores as it is (look at his stats on Basketball Reference), but I understand he is an OK defender. They could return, depending on how the Heat drafts and which veterans they sign, but I count Hamilton in and Douglas out. So that leaves 7 spots open.
I hear that they’re working out Russ Smith (pictured above) for the draft, who was a good scorer at Louisville, and they could probably get him there at the 26th spot in the first round. I mean, the guy can shoot and you can count on him in the clutch. Check out this game-winner versus Cincinnati this past season:
So 6 spots left. Now, based on Riley’s past work with veterans taking veteran minimum salaries, I will bet that he will sign a mix of role players who can rebound, finish at the rim, defend the perimeter and shoot threes.
In the end, the Heat will be in contention to win in a weak Eastern Conference with the Big Three back together.
You have to give it to Portland’s star point guard, former Weber State guard Damian Lillard, for his game-winning three-pointer as time expired last Friday. It was great, timely, and dramatic. It was Portland’s first series win since 2000, a stretch of 14 long years for Trail Blazers fans. Here’s the play in its entirety:
Let’s break down the last two plays of the game, first Houston’s iso/hero ball to Lillard’s three, which was a team effort.
Houston’s James Harden can score; everyone knows that. But, he’s best in transition where the defense isn’t set or off of a pick-and-roll where he gets a full head of steam and goes to the hoop and does the harm from there. He can also shoot 3s very well, a 36.6% clip this year and 36.9% overall in his career (via Basketball-Reference.com). Yet, this play used none of his strengths.
Harden gets the ball and winds the clock down. He does not get a ball screen and does not get a pick either to roll; it seems everyone is standing in place (signified by the yellow arrows), typical hero ball and iso ball that we see a lot these days.
Harden (highlighted by the yellow arrow) ends up shooting a contested, long two-pointer that falls short. The Blazers defender on him, Wes Matthews, had a good contest on the shot and did his job.
But, Robin Lopez could not handle the rebound (yellow arrow) and Chandler Parsons was lucky by way of where he was under the hoop (green arrow).
Parsons then lays it in (green arrow) which means Houston goes ahead by two. Robin Lopez, who has a penchant for flying around with little contact like players do these days, flies out of bounds (yellow arrow).
Now to Lillard’s shot. It’s an inbounds play from the left side. Lillard, shooting guard Wes Matthews and Mo Williams (both good three point shooters) are lined up on the far right side on the wing. From left to right for the Blazers, it’s Matthews, Williams and Lillard. For the Rockets, it’s Harden, Beverley and Parsons.
Whistle blows, ball is handed to Nicolas Batum (an underrated piece on the Blazers roster), and the play starts (he’s the yellow arrow at the top of the screenshot below).
Matthews sets a screen on Lillard’s defender Chandler Parsons. Williams fakes a screen, which does not seem to slow down Parsons, but it could’ve made him think twice about Lillard’s movement. Those screens/distractions are represented by the green arrows and both Lillard’s and Parson’s movement toward the inbounds pass is represented by the yellow arrows. Lillard sprints toward the left wing and Parsons trails him. Parsons is guarding against any shot close to the three-point line.
Now Williams, after running a brief and almost non-existent interference and/or screen (green arrow) on Parsons (the second yellow arrow), trails Parsons. It’s apparent that this play was meant for Lillard and he’s going to get to his spot (signified by the first yellow arrow).
Lillard gets to his spot, catches the ball that cannot be a bounce pass (yellow arrow) and Parsons (green arrow) can’t close quickly enough, which means the rest is history: The game-winner and time to celebrate.
Cold blooded, young blood.
Congratulations Portland, great teamwork and onto the next one. You deserve it.
Ok, so this is a big question for diehard Jazz fans and I’ll do my best to break it down into three basic parts: Who the fans clamor for, what is the current rumor wheel from the GM’s office through reporters, and then my own wish list.
The Utah Jazz did not renew coach Ty Corbin’s contract after the season ended, where they landed the tiebreaker with the Celtics for a top lottery pick. With a career record of 112-146 (a winning percentage of 43.4%), Corbin was a dead man walking with a gutted, young roster. My previous take on Corbin is here. As I noted in that blog post:
“Corbin went 36-30 to make the playoffs and get knocked out in the first round the next season, then 43-49 to miss the playoffs and this year they’re 5-19 in full-out TANK MODE in a loaded NBA draft. That’s an overall record of 92-108, a 46% winning percentage. That can’t cut it in the Western Conference. Oh, and he got swept in the first round when he did make it in his second year (but first full year on the job).”
Who the Fans Want:
According to the fan board Jazz Fanz, it seems everyone jokes about John Stockton coming back, but I see a general consensus (meaning that at least a couple fans approved some names) about the following:
- Mike Longabardi
- Lionel Hollins
- Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg
- Anyone but Jim Boylen (currently a San Antonio Spurs assistant, but oversaw a bad run as the Utah Utes men’s basketball coach).
Mike Longabardi is a new name for me, but according to some research I did, he seems like a good potential hire. He is the current assistant to Phoenix Suns head coach (and former Jazz guard) Jeff Hornacek and has spent six years as an assistant in Boston and four in Houston. According to the Deseret News, Lindsey had this to say about Longabardi:
“He knows both sides of the game, but I think his defensive knowledge and what he did with Boston (is important). It’s very helpful to have a guy who kind of specializes.’’
If I were a Jazz fan, I’d be excited. To have a defensive-minded coach? We’ve seen what the likes of Tom Thibodeau and Lionel Hollins have done in the NBA playoffs. Speaking of which…
Hollins was another interesting name because he has a great coaching pedigree and a great nickname of “L-Train”, haha. He got the grinding Memphis Grizzlies past the high-flying Los Angeles Clippers in the 2013 playoffs and really bruised Western Conference teams. He had such an impact on the mindset and culture of the Grizzlies that their hometown arena now holds the nickname, “The Grindhouse.” With a coaching record of 214-201 in 5 seasons and 18-17 in the playoffs, I think he would be a great hire if given a chance compared to other options on the table. However, this current Jazz roster is not defensive-heavy and would not be a great situation for him. Also, one fan noted how Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey is an analytics guy, which Hollins detests (and was a reason why he was fired in Memphis, per Yahoo! Sports).
Hoiberg is a great college coach at his alma mater and hometown university Iowa State. He led his Cyclones to the Sweet Sixteen this past year in the NCAA March Madness tournament and his name will come up time and time again. His Iowa State bio says it all; this guy is a talented coach. If he were to leave his hometown gig, it would be anywhere but the Utah Jazz. He would want a big-market city and team with a lot of power, something that the Jazz are not.
Jim Boylen is a rumored hire, but fans have killed it long before it even got started. In a KSL.com poll, a whopping 87% said “No way” when asked about the Jazz potentially hiring him. Why? His coaching record at the college level for the Utah Utes was 69-60 in four years, but a so-so 32-32 in Mountain West conference play. Now, if GM Dennis Lindsey cared about the fan base, this wouldn’t even be a likely scenario. He is a friend of Lindsey, but if the fans don’t like it at the start, then Boylen will be in a big hole to start with. That is not the best situation for a new head coach.
Jim Boylen: He won’t be hired because of his disastrous stint at Utah, even if he is Dennis Lindsey’s friend. I think this is a non-issue and Lindsey has to be a fool to even interview him more than once. Maybe one time as a courtesy call, but more than that will get the rabid Jazz base riled up. Ty Corbin saw the effects of an upset and vocal Jazz fan base. But, as SI.Com’s FanSided blog reported, he’s a front-runner. Lindsey, what are you thinking?
Ettore Messina: He is the current head coach of the Russian team CSKA Moscow and is a legend among Italian basketball players and coaches. The Salt Lake Tribune asked former BYU standout and longtime Euro League baller Travis Hansen about Messina, who coached Hansen for a year at Real Madrid (and made it to the Copa del Rey finals). Hansen said that it was hard to play against Messina because you knew he would probably beat you.
Messina coached current Spurs guard Manu Ginobli and has been a consultant with both the Los Angeles Lakers (update: technically, an assistant under Mike Brown) and the Atlanta Hawks. Hansen gushed about him, saying, “He’s demanding like…a Jerry Sloan type.” It would be a stretch to hire an “unproven” Euro League coach, but Messina seems to be a solid hire with four European championships under his belt and apparently was one of the last ones standing for the Atlanta Hawks job opening last year.
Update: Messina, upon the Los Angeles Lakers firing Mike D’Antoni, is one of the top candidates for the head coach vacancy. He is well-respected by Kobe Bryant, whose dad played professional basketball in Europe (particularly, in Italy). He had been Mike Brown’s assistant in Los Angeles before, but the final coaching decision will probably not be made until the Lakers know where they’ll pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft on May 20th, per the Los Angeles Times.
Deseret News floated the idea of former Denver Nuggets coach and current ESPN NBA analyst George Karl, who has a lifetime record of 1131-756 (or a 59.9% winning percentage over 25 seasons), but never could get the talented Nuggets past the second round even with scorer Carmelo Anthony and couldn’t get the loaded Seattle SuperSonics past Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1996. He also was the NBA’s Coach of the Year for the 2012-2013 season. I like George Karl as an analyst in Bristol, but I’m very concerned about not being able to go deep in the playoffs with a lifetime 80-105 playoff record (a 43.2% winning percentage). However, sometimes a second gig helps coaches realize what they have to do better come playoff time.
There are others like Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who coached the Milwaukee Bucks from 2006-2008. He had a great year at Utah, with a 21-12 record (after 6-25 and 15-18 seasons) and finally beat archrival BYU. John Calipari was also a rumor, but I doubt he’ll even consider the Jazz job with his level of prestige in college and NBA circles.
My Wish List:
I am a big fan of Mike Woodson because he has to be one of the most underrated and underappreciated head coaches in the league. I would take him over my hometown Wizards’ Randy Wittman any day. Why? Even though he has a so-so 319-365 record in Atlanta and New York over 9 seasons, he still got the Hawks and Knicks to the playoffs when they didn’t have superb, top-end talent. This is what happens when you’re Mike Woodson coaching an undisciplined Knicks team (which I call the “Mike Woodson struggle face):
His playoff record isn’t impressive either, with a 18-28 record, but that’s with the likes of ballhog and iso superstar Joe Johnson dominating the ball, Marvin Williams in the post or who knows where and Al Horford and Josh Smith competing for touches. That doesn’t even include how Woodson got the Knicks to the playoffs last season with an aged Jason Kidd, the volatile J.R. Smith and shooter-rific Carmelo Anthony. After the team jettisoned some veterans and saw Kidd retire, the Knicks fell apart and Woodson was fired after this season ended. If he can get the Hawks and the Knicks to the playoffs with those characters, you bet he could get great offensive output from the young Jazz players.
Jeff Van Gundy
The NBA commentator, a lightning rod for criticizing the league and their officiating, is one of my favorite coaches and commentators. Everyone remembers him as the coach who couldn’t get an injured Yao Ming and overburdened Tracy “T-Mac” McGrady to the Western Conference Finals, but no one remembers him coaching the Knicks with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. It wasn’t his fault that he faced Michael Jordan the Chicago Bulls while he was coaching the Knicks. And, it wasn’t his Houston GM put all the eggs in the basket with a seven-footer who kept getting hurt and no one else. C’mon, who could win with the likes of T-Mac having a supporting cast of Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, and Rafer “Skip-To-My-Lou” Alston? For more on the struggles of T-Mac, read this Grantland piece. I still love this game, where T-Mac dropped 13 points in 33 seconds versus the Spurs:
Or how about his dunk on Shawn Bradley?
If I were Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey, I would go with an up-and-coming assistant coach like Mike Longabardi or a newbie like Ettore Messina. It allows Lindsey some free reign for the time being with the fan base and ensures that Lindsey is in charge of things for now. Plus, prestigious and well-respected head coaches want the big jobs like the New York Knicks, not the Utah Jazz (even with their great playoff history in the last 1990s).
If I were a betting man, I would say Mike Longabardi (the man in the beige suit), because of the success of Hornacek with the Suns, over Messina. The international factor is appealing, but I don’t know if Lindsey has the patience for an international coach needing time to adjust to the NBA game.