Friday, July 1, 2016

Roster Analysis: How the Warriors could sign Kevin Durant

Let me preface this by saying that I am a fan of the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant has also been my favorite player since I first saw his smooth stroke at the University of Texas. I normally try to remain rational and accountable in my writing, but with all that being said, OH MY GOODNESS KD PLAYING IN THE BAY IS POSSIBLE.

When a WojBomb was dropped five months ago that the Dubs intrigued Durant, I contained my reaction since it didn't seem right or realistic to think about scrapping a team that was the defending champions and in the midst of pursuing the single season wins record. That didn't stop me from reading Danny Leroux's enlightened piece on how the pieces could fit under the salary cap a couple hundred times or constantly tinkering with my own spreadsheets, though. The salary cap estimate going up to $94 million helps things a bit, and now that Cleveland beat them in a stunning Finals, it seems much more plausible that a star like Durant would consider joining an elite team as a missing piece to put them back over the top instead of ring-chasing with the back to back champs. It was one of the first things to go through my mind after Game 7, and after their meeting went very well today (as all of these meetings do), I figured I might as well put together a post about it instead of a tweet here or there, especially now that Shaun Livingston's guarantee date and the deadline to extend qualifying offers to James Michael McAdoo, someone whose cap hold is small enough that I thought could be kept, and Ian Clark have passed.

Golden State did extend qualifying offers to Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to allow themselves the opportunity to match any contract, and along with cap holds for their other free agents, they're nowhere near the amount of cap space needed to sign KD to his maximum salary possible as of now. However, with the right timing and execution, here's how they can fit him under the projected salary cap if he agrees to come. The biggest challenge would be moving the incumbent big man, Andrew Bogut, without taking any salary back, but with so many teams having money to spend due to the cap spike, they should be able to find someone to take on the still productive 31 year old with only about $11 million owed to him in the last year of his deal. Then they'd have to withdraw the qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, renounce the rights to nearly all of their others, and leave their first round pick, Damian Jones, unsigned for now to keep his cap hold lower than the deal he'll actually sign for. I think any idea of Andre Iguodala being traded to clear room should be dismissed given what he means to the team with his unselfishness and the fact that Durant became buddies with him and Stephen Curry on the 2010 Team USA roster. There hasn't been any indication as to whether Brandon Rush would be a bench player they intend to keep, but his cap hold is so low that they could hold onto his Early Bird rights and still clear the necessary space, as shown to the right.

Then once Durant signs, one of those empty roster chargers could be filled by Patrick McCaw, the second round prospect they shrewdly acquired purely with cash, one of the benefits of receiving so many playoff gate receipts lately. I'm going to list him at just the $543,471 rookie minimum here, but you'll notice that there would still be close to $700K of cap space remaining at this point (depending on where the salary cap actually falls), an insignificant amount to sign anyone else at this juncture. If the Warriors view McCaw as a potential rotation player in a couple of years, they'd be smart to use this remaining space to give him a bit more upfront money guaranteed in order to secure a 3 or 4 year contract instead of just signing him with the Minimum Exception that maxes out at 2 years, like they did when using part of the Mid-Level exception to give Draymond Green 3 years, $2,640,743 in 2012.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Draft week trades

After yesterday's big moves, more trades came early and often with the NBA draft today, so I attempted to track them all down here. I'll update this post as more details come out and add some thoughts on them, as well, but for now, here is a list of all the action. The salaries start with the '16-'17 season, with yellow indicating team option, blue for player options, and red meaning non-guaranteed money.

Hawks-Pacers-Jazz

To Indiana:
Jeff Teague$8,000,000
10% trade bonus. Renegotiate and extend?

To Utah:
George Hill$8,000,000

To Atlanta:
#12 pick (Taurean Prince)

Bulls-Knicks

To New York:
Derrick Rose$21,323,252
Justin Holiday$1,015,696
2017 2nd round pick

To Chicago:
Robin Lopez$13,219,250$13,788,500$14,357,750
Jerian Grant$1,643,040$1,713,840$2,639,314
Jose Calderon$7,708,427

Nets-Packers

To Brooklyn:
#20 pick (Caris LeVert)
Future 2nd rounder

To Indiana:
Thaddeus Young$12,078,652$12,921,348$13,764,045

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ben Simmons and Building Around a Point Forward

We just finished an incredible Finals series that featured the preeminent player of his generation complete a historic comeback against a team that set the record for regular season wins with 73. And while LeBron James became the first player to lead both teams in a playoff series in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks to win a well-deserved third Finals MVP trophy, something only four other players can claim, it could not have been done without the incredible shot making of Kyrie Irving. On that record breaking team they somehow beat, Stephen Curry led the league in scoring despite playing the traditionally pass first position of point guard, while his power forward, Draymond Green, ranked 7th in the entire league in assists, with James joining him as the only non guards in the top 20. Tomorrow, Ben Simmons will become the #1 pick in the draft, and with James and Green in mind, I'm going to take a look at ways to build around my favorite type of player: a point forward.

Let's start with the basics: Ben Simmons is 6' 10.25", 240 lbs with a 7' 0.5" wingspan according to the most recent pre-draft measurables, and he averaged 19.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 2.0 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 34.9 minutes as a 19 year old freshman on an unimpressive LSU team. The first thing that stands out when I watch him play is that he appears to have great basketball instincts, and he has a flare for incredible passes thanks to extraordinary vision. He knows where to go to inhale rebounds, and he has the ball handling ability of a smaller player to run with it, thriving in transition. He may not have the transcendent quick-twitch athleticism like LeBron to chase down blocks (few humans do), but he does have very good physical traits, especially with straightforward actions. In other words, he has the skills to either lead the break and drop a dime for a teammate's bucket or finish the play with a viscous alley-oop.
The Tiger from the Land Down Under can definitely throw it down.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

3 Questions Ahead of the 2016 NBA Finals

There were some critics last summer who didn't feel that the Golden State Warriors were truly worthy champions because they faced injured opponents in the postseason. If the resulting 73 win warpath hasn't silenced those critics yet, a Finals rematch with a fully healthy Cleveland Cavaliers team could provide a definitive answer. However, this Cavs team is quite different from a year ago, which brings me to three intriguing questions about this series:

How will Cleveland defend Golden State's backcourt?
Uncle Drew will have to have more surprises like this.

Masked by all the firepower new head coach Tyronn Lue has put on display during this dominant playoff run through the lesser Eastern Conference is the fact that the Cavs don't have as tough of a defense as they did a year ago. They ended up finishing 10th in the league by allowing just 102.3 points per 100 possessions overall for the year, but that number increased to 104.8 in the 41 games after David Blatt was fired, which is what the 18th best defense averaged. That's a problem when you're facing the #1 offense in the league, especially since you don't match up well with their All-NBA backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 NBA Regular Season Wrap Up

It's just about playoff time, but I wanted to put a bow on the regular season with my two cents on the potential award winners before making some predictions on the first round.

Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry
A repeat is almost a forgone conclusion.

The reigning MVP probably won't win the award unanimously, but he should. To go along with leading the defending champs to a record setting 73-9 season despite having a target on their backs every game, Curry accomplished the following personal feats:
  • Led the league in Player Efficiency Rating (31.5), Win Shares (17.9), scoring (30.1 points per game) despite sitting out 19 fourth quarters, steals per game (2.1), and total steals (169).
  • Became just the 7th player to record a 50/40/90 shooting season and had the highest scoring season of anyone in that club.
  • Broke his own record for most 3's in a season from last season, 286, with an eye-popping 402. J.J. Redick's incredible 47.5% 3 point percentage may have beaten Curry's 45.4%, but he made less than half the total number of shots with 200. Just an insane stat.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

Another repeat winner from last year, he again edges out Draymond Green for me, and it's more deserving now than when he missed 18 games last season. It's almost a coin flip between the two since Green's versatility to basically guard 1 through 5 unlocks so much for the 73 win Warriors, but I decided to go with the spearhead of the best defense in the league. The Spurs won 67 games in their own right, and they gave up 2.2 points per 100 possessions fewer than the second best defense.
Towns will pick up a lot of hardware in his career.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns

This one should be unanimous, as well, as Towns won Rookie of the Month all 6 times. I had no doubts about him as the top pick in last year's draft, but I had no idea he'd be able to be this good this fast. He's also seems like such a good kid that I view him like a better shooting Tim Duncan, which is incredible praise, but I think Bill Simmons captured his style better as a combination of Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 NBA Trade Deadline Review

The 2016 Trade Deadline has now passed, and I've rounded up almost every detail of all the deals made this week with the exception of the exact cash involved in some trades. I will add my thoughts on each deal over the weekend, but for now, here's the list of teams with action along with my updated team assets spreadsheets.

Detroit-Orlando

Pistons get:
Tobias Harris$16,000,000$17,200,000$16,000,000$14,800,000

Magic get:
Brandon Jennings$8,344,497
Ersan Ilyasova$7,900,000$8,400,000

Charlotte-Memphis-Miami

Hornets get:
Courtney Lee$5,675,000
$542,714 (from Memphis)

Grizzlies get:
Chris Andersen$5,000,000
P.J. Hairston$1,201,440
'17 Miami 2nd (protected 41-60, then unprotected)
'18 Charlotte 2nd
'19 Boston 2nd (protected 31-55)
'19 Brooklyn 2nd

Heat get:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940

Miami-New Orleans

Pelicans get:
Jarnell Stokes$845,059$980,431$1,251,245
$721,300

Heat get:
'18 New Orleans 2nd (protected 31-55)

Detroit-Houston

Pistons get:
Donatas Motiejunas$2,288,205$6,223,825
Marcus Thornton$947,276

Rockets get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'16 Detroit 1st (top 8 protected, top 10 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Cleveland-Orlando-Portland

Cavaliers get:
Channing Frye$8,193,029$7,806,971$7,420,912

Magic get:
Jared Cunningham$947,276
'20 Cleveland 2nd (via Portland)

Blazers get:
Anderson Varejao$9,638,554$10,361,446$10,000,000
'18 Cleveland 1st (top 10 protected through '19, then becomes a '21 2nd and the lesser of the Lakers' or Minnesota's '19 2nd)
  • Tim Frazier waived for roster spot and then Varejao waived upon completion.

Atlanta-Chicago-Utah

Hawks get:
Kirk Hinrich$2,854,940

Bulls get:
Justin Holiday$947,276$1,015,696
'18 Denver 2nd

Jazz get:
Shelvin Mack$2,433,333$2,433,334

Denver-Oklahoma City

Thunder get:
Randy Foye$3,135,000

Nuggets get:
Steve Novak$3,750,001
D.J. Augustin$3,000,000
'16 Charlotte 2nd (protected 56-60)
'16 Oklahoma City 2nd
  • Novak waived upon completion.

Miami-Portland

Heat get:

Blazers gets:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940
'21 Miami 2nd


Phoenix-Washington

Phoenix gets:
Kris Humphries$4,440,000$4,630,000
DeJuan Blair$2,000,000$2,000,000
'16 Washington 1st (top 9 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Washington gets:

Markieff Morris$8,000,000$7,400,000$8,000,000$8,600,000
  • Blair waived upon completion.

Los Angeles-Memphis

Clippers get:
Jeff Green$9,450,000

Grizzlies get:
Lance Stephenson$9,000,000$9,405,000
'19 Los Angeles 1st (top 14 protected through '20, then becomes '22 2nd)

Houston-Philadelphia

Rockets get:
Draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum

76ers get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'17 Denver 2nd
  • JaKarr Sampson waived for roster spot.

Pre-Trade Deadline 2016 NBA Power Rankings, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, here is an evaluation of the bottom half of the league based what they've done so far along with what's in store for their future.

16. Portland Trail Blazers, 27-27 (27 H/27 A) +0.6. Offense: 7th (104.4)/Defense: 18th (104.3)


The good:
  • They won 12 of their last 15 heading into the break to get their point differential into the green, arguably warranting a higher spot in these rankings.
  • C.J. McCollum has built on his strong finish to last year and provided a lot of value as both the starting shooting guard and backup point guard with Damian Lillard. What that small back court lacks in defense they make up for with dynamic scoring and playmaking, and Allen Crabbe has started to reach his potential as a third guard in a contract year, as well. 
  • The quick rebuild in the front court has gone well around them with their smart, low-risk acquisitions all paying off. Along with his usual activity, Al-Farouq Aminu is hitting 3's at a career high rate in the first year of a solid contract; Mason Plumlee has started every game like Aminu and contributed positively on both ends, including doubling his assist rate; Ed Davis is finally getting some appreciation for his yeoman's work on the boards and interior scoring; and former top 15 picks Noah Vonleh and Maurice Harkless have shown their talents at times in their roles.
The bad:
  • The calculated risk of the Arron Afflalo rental cost them a talented young wing in Will Barton and potentially a mid-first round pick, somewhat hampering potential trades to try and make a playoff push.
  • As fun as the Lillard-McCollum back court is, they'll always be limited defensively, and their young bigs sometimes lack the focus necessary to make up for that.
The interesting:
  • They have the most cap room in the league to help facilitate a deadline deal, either to provide an upgrade for themselves or to accumulate assets from desperate teams, and as ESPN's Kevin Pelton has pointed out in his chats, they could actually save money by only paying the prorated amount left on someone's contract instead of owing the difference between their payroll and the salary floor to their current players.