Monday, July 24, 2017

Sifting through Kyrie and Melo Trade Ideas

When Brian Windhorst broke the story that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, it was like the shot heard round the world with all sorts of reactions. Does he have that much of an ego that he wants to leave a team that's gone to three straight Finals and won a title just because he's tired of living in LeBron James' shadow? What leverage does he really have to force a trade since he can't opt for free agency until the summer of 2019? If he wants to be the franchise player again, couldn't he just wait it out until next season with all of the rumblings that James is going to move to LA? That last part might be an underrated factor in his thinking since he saw first hand how bad the roster can be when left in shambles after the King's departure: Irving was just 64-117 in games he played while the team was 78-152 overall his first three seasons. He doesn't want to be the last one left at the party, and after the underrated David Griffin wasn't re-signed (because Dan Gilbert never gives GMs second contracts), the dysfunction of the team led to this request that was even more shocking than his flat Earth take.


The Trade Machine is everyone's favorite toy, so I came up with my own quick 3-team deal like so many on Twitter did, not really expecting a perennial Finals contender to actually break up like this. However, more of these details coming out over the weekend kept adding fuel added to the fire, Zach Lowe indicated that Irving's relationship with the team is almost frayed beyond repair, and Joe Vardon's story on Derrick Rose choosing Cleveland had some damning evidence about the team's intentions. The two sides apparently came to a deal after "discussing how the team will return to the Finals without Kyrie Irving" and with Rose "looking at a potential starting spot in the same lineup with LeBron James, now that Irving has asked for a trade and James is eager to see him off." Yikes, I guess that means we should think of more trade ideas! Even if I think he's a bit overrated and unlikely to be a true best player on a title contender as something of a one-dimensional player, that singular outstanding talent of shot-making is likely enticing to a lot of teams out there.

Friday, July 7, 2017

2017 NBA Offseason Running Blog, Part 2

Now that the moratorium ended yesterday and the first week of signings and trades produced such a large page already, I decided it's time to start a new post. Again, I'll be including outside links to the reports, adding to it with new moves and my thoughts on them within the day (and usually the hour) of what occurred, and noting whenever any updates came out on previous sections. Free agent salaries are my estimates based on reports and standard 5% or 8% raises while current salaries are from BasketballInsiders.com with the colors indicating player optionteam option, or not fully guaranteed.

Celtics and Pistons swap Bradley and Morris (Shams)

Boston gets:
Marcus Morris$5,000,000$5,375,000

Detroit gets:
Avery Bradley$8,808,989
2019 2nd round pick

At long last, there is the required move by Danny Ainge to have enough cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to a max contract after Jordan Mickey's non-guaranteed deal is waived. That would be the easiest corresponding move compared to keeping Guerschon Yabusele stashed or trading Demetrius Jackson's partial guarantee somewhere, especially since Mickey hasn't shown much in just 198 minutes through two years. It is disappointing that Ainge didn't have this contingency trade lined up ahead of Hayward's decision so that he wouldn't be operating out of a desperate position, and he's paying for it now with a 2nd (I would guess they're sending back the Detroit pick they own) attached as a sweetener in a salary dump. Although I'm not surprised that Bradley's the one sent out because he's about to become a lot more expensive next year, I did think that they'd get a better deal out of it. Morris does come with an extra year of control at a cheap price and brings some needed size to a roster lacking power forwards, but his poor defensive rebounding will only make Boston's struggles in that area worse. At least his solid outside shot and passing will fit in with Brad Stevens' offense, and he's only going to be 28 this season.
It's funny, when I looked at the numbers the other day and tweeted what the Celtics could take back in salary to create the required room, the cheap deal for Morris did jump out at me, but I didn't really mention it for a couple of reasons. First, my concerns above about the fit in Boston, but I didn't think Detroit would add an asset to Morris in order to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whom they could just re-sign. Turns out I was wrong about which direction the extra throw-in would be going! It would seem that Bradley was in fact brought in to replace KCP, though, since they play similar roles as lockdown defenders of either guard spot who can do a bit more offensively than typical 3-and-D players. Between trading for Bradley, signing Langston Galloway, and drafting Luke Kennard, the writing seems to be on the wall, so this year might be a trial run to evaluate what they have before deciding to pay up for Bradley next summer. Furthermore, any match of a large offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope is even more unlikely with them now only around $15 million away from the hard cap that they put on themselves by using the majority of the full Mid-Level Exception on Galloway.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017 NBA Offseason Running Blog

Are you not entertained? In a lot of ways, the NBA Offseason really is its own spectator sport with all of the competition, surprises, and drama involved, but rather than live-tweeting it, I'm going to attempt to track what's going on in this post with outside links to who broke the details and information about current salaries from BasketballInsiders.com (colors mean player option, team option, or not fully guaranteed). Being posted at 10:15 AM PST on July 1st, I've started to add in my commentary alongside my estimates of what the contracts will look like based on reports (max salaries should be pretty set in stone, though), and I'll be updating it throughout the week. The official salary cap was set at $99,093,000 last night, locking in what max salaries can start at, and now we're off!

Utah picks up Rubio before midnight hits (Jones)

Jazz get:
Ricky Rubio$14,250,000$14,950,000

Timberwolves get:
Thunder 2018 1st round pick (top-14 protected through 2020 before becoming 2020 and 2021 2nd round picks)

Ever since the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, I tried thinking of what teams have both the need and means to acquire Rubio, and Utah stood out with their 2016/2017 cap space expiring once the new league year starts and the uncertainty around Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Joe Ingles. Zach Lowe reported shortly afterwards that their was interest there. Deadlines spur actions, as Andrew Brandt likes to say, so when talks heated up yesterday, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Jazz secured at least part of their back court at a fair price that I accurately guessed. Now they have a point guard who is four and a half years younger, a better playmakers, a comparable defender, and cheaper than what Hill, a far superior shooter, would have cost after a failed renegotiation and extension fell through during the year. Although it is complicated with Hayward reportedly wanting Hill to stay but also sharing the same agent as Ingles, who would plunge them deep into the Luxury Tax if re-signed with the other two all at market value, this does make sure they are secured at the position ahead of their pitch for him, and in the dooms day scenario of losing their star wing, they can now rely on Rubio to run the offense with Rodney Hood and either Dante Exum, Alec Burks, or rookie Donovan Mitchell.

For Minnesota, it is unfortunate that they had to move on from a valuable player that was often the heartbeat of the team, but with Tom Thibodeau never seemingly a fan and the need for shooting around Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns, the writing was on the wall. Getting a 1st for next year, albeit with protections, is important since they owe a similarly protected pick to Atlanta from the failed Adreian Payne trade, and they have playoff aspirations next year that would mean losing it. Although Rubio had an undervalued contract for the next two years, moving him also brings their max possible cap space to over $32 million as they seek a new point guard and more shooting at forward.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Fascinating Mechanics of the CP3 Trade

Rockets get:

16-1717-18
Chris Paul$22,868,828$24,268,959

Clippers get:

16-1717-1818-19
Lou Williams$7,000,000$7,000,000
Patrick Beverley$6,000,000$5,513,514$5,027,028
Sam Dekker$1,720,560$1,794,600$2,760,095
Montrezl Harrell$1,045,000$1,471,382
DeAndre Liggins$1,015,696$1,577,230
Darrun Hilliard$874,636$1,471,382
Kyle Wiltjer$543,471$1,312,611
Houston's 2018 1st round pick (top-3 protected)
$661K in cash

These are the final details of this morning's #Wojbomb that Chris Paul has decided to join the Houston Rockets, but there were a lot of steps to get to this point in the waning days before the new league year starts. Chief among them was Paul facilitating the trade by opting into the last year of his contract and reducing his trade kicker from $3.6 million to $661K, which LA technically has to pay but is being offset by the cash Houston is sending. However, after trying to grasp the idea of CP3 playing with fellow top-10 player James Harden (we'll get to that), my next thought was that the initial terms of the trade weren't legal from the Rockets' side of things. And then more details emerged that demonstrated the salary cap genius of Daryl Morey and the Rockets front office that I'll try and summarize here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Draft Week Review

You have to love the NBA offseason, which is almost its own sporting spectacle. A wild draft night saw a blockbuster trade go down and set records with 16 freshmen and just two seniors drafted in the 1st round, and that was after a few trades already went down earlier in the week! I'm here to run through all the details and review what it means for each team, in order of which of them acted first.
Congratulations to all the players fulfilling their dreams!

76ers trade results:
#1 pick

Celtics trade results:
#3 pick
2018 Lakers 1st round pick if it is #2-5, otherwise the better of the 2019 Kings or 76ers 1st round pick, protected for #1.

I already touched on this after the news broke, but the official press release on Monday revealed the detail about the possible 2019 pick being the better of Philadelphia's or Sacramento's, unless it moves to #1. That's interesting that Philly wanted to make sure in each draft they didn't risk losing the top overall pick, and Boston theoretically protected some value by making sure the pick isn't outside the top-5 for next year at least. Even if the Lakers and Nets both improve, the Celtics could have a decent chance between the two of them for Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton, or Mohamed Bamba, the current top prospects in the DraftExpress 2018 mock draft.

By pushing in one of their valuable trade chips to move up, the 76ers landed Washington combo guard Markelle Fultz, as expected. They also traded another future 1st they had from the Thunder via the Jerami Grant trade (top-20 protected two years after OKC conveys a 1st to Utah; if protected converts to 2022 and 2023 2nds) and an extra 2020 2nd for the #25 pick: Anzejs Pasecniks, Gran Canaria (Spain) C. In the 2nd round, they used #36 on Jonah Bolden, Radnicki Basket (Serbia) PF; then apparently sold #39 to the Clippers AND #46 to the Bucks; and finally used #50 on Mathias Lessort, Nanterre (France) PF/C. I already discussed Fultz and how he fits in so well with this team in my mock draft, and I do like them turning a future 1st that may become two 2nds into a pick now. Both Pasecniks and Bolden are really skilled bigs that can score from multiple areas, so even if they need to polish up their defensive tenacity among an already crowded front court, you can't deny their value as Euro-stashes at those spots, with Bolden a particular favorite of mine as a versatile athlete. However, it's frustrating that they simply gave away two picks in still valuable spots for straight cash, especially since one of them was the result of the Nerlens Noel trade since that "first rounder" was never going to convey. At least drafting Lessort provides someone who will play with a high motor and tough defense whenever he comes over, even if he is yet another big body. For now though, Fultz should combine well with point forward Ben Simmons to invigorate this offense and push for a winning record. They have a hoard of cap space to help that cause with some possible shooters, but they would be wise to be smart with only short term deals or a shrewd renegotiation and extension for Robert Covington as he's in the last year of his underpaid contract.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

2017 Lottery Mock Draft

It's NBA Draft week! Now that I've had a few days since the Warriors triumphed over the Cavaliers in the Finals, I've refocused my attention on this year's prospects, and now there is already a blockbuster trade at the top. Reminiscent of the last time they held the #1 pick in 1980, the Celtics are trading down to #3 and surprisingly only getting one future first round pick from the 76ers to do so, reportedly either the Lakers' 2018 pick if it lands in the 2-5 range or the Kings' 2019 pick. That's an intriguing pick protection that provides both sides a fair chance at next year's star studded draft since LA's young squad could improve or toil at the bottom of the pack again, and it's not too exorbitant for Philly to move up and get their guy. Now that they had him in for a workout and medical check yesterday before finalizing the trade, I think it's time for a mock draft of how the Lottery portion of the draft will play out before trades really affect the back half of the first round.

1. 76ers: Markelle Fultz, Washington PG/SG

Those LA and Sacramento picks that Sam Hinkie acquired are two of the best assets in the league given the state of those franchises, and now Bryan Colangelo is cashing one of them in to get into position for the clear-cut top prospect, who should fit in perfectly with his new team. With the variety of skills Fultz possesses, he's like a longer, more explosive C.J. McCollum: capable of playing on or off the ball to drain shots from all over the floor while also being an unselfish playmaker. Physically, he might not be quite the same level athlete as Dwyane Wade, but he displays similar capabilities with his 6'4", 195 lb frame and 6'10" wingspan as he blocks shots at a surprising rate and snakes through defenses. Although he has a ton of potential on defense, he still needs to show a more committed consistency on that end of the floor, so I'm curious who the fifth starter will be with him, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington. Most would assume Dario Saric takes that spot given his upside and strong end to the season, but I'd like them to explore having him as a high usage 6th man in favor of potential 3-and-D wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. They both shot 31.1% from deep as rookies, but TLC saw his percentage go up to 33.0% over 19 games as a starter and wouldn't need the ball in his hands as much as Saric. They could have Simmons run the offense as the point guard with Fultz helping him as the secondary facilitator around Embiid's inside/outside game as Covington and TLC spot up, and although I may sound like a broken record, a player like Simmons allows for versatile lineups defensively. Having a swingman like Luwawu-Caborrot in the lineup provides a 6'7" perimeter defender for the opposing team's best small while Covington can guard the most threatening forward, and then Fultz and Simmons can match up on the lesser threats. Of course, the most important thing is that this young core stays healthy because they have the potential to become something special as they develop together.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kevin Durant's New Decision In This CBA Landscape

It always made the most sense last summer for Kevin Durant to sign a one year contract with a player option for a second year in order to have as much guaranteed money as possible while maintaining his flexibility this coming summer. As I wrote at the time, that allows him to sign his long-term deal after having 10 years of NBA experience, which means he's eligible for a maximum salary of 35% of the salary cap rather than the 30% he could have signed for at the time and in a summer with a higher salary cap (currently projected at $101 million) than last year's $94,143,000. However, he will now have to decide whether it's smart to take the same approach again and wait another year for that massive new contract that's coming or go for as much guaranteed as possible right now even though the Warriors only have his Non-Bird rights. Since there's such a long break before the start of the Finals this Thursday and already a ton of great preview pieces for that, I decided to take a look at KD's options and how they will affect what the team can do this summer under the new CBA and cap projections.
Durant and Andre Iguodala go all the way back to the 2010 Team USA squad with Stephen Curry.
The Warriors were diligent in their signings after Durant like I said they would need to be in order to not have any other new contracts locked in this year. Because they don't have his full Bird rights yet, they'll need to use cap space in order to give him the max salary possible. Quick primer on those special rights to re-sign your own free agents: you gain Non-Bird rights after one year with a team (can exceed the salary cap at up to 120% of the previous salary on a deal of 1-4 years with 5% raises), you gain Early Bird after two years with a team (can exceed the cap up to 175% of the previous salary on a deal of 2-4 years with 8% raises), and you gain full Bird rights after three years with a team (can exceed the cap up to the max salary on a deal of 1-5 years with 8% raises). Thus, he can only sign a four year, $152,005,000 contract this summer if they clear the space for his $35,350,000 starting salary by renouncing their rights to all other free agents aside from Stephen Curry, who needs to be the last player to officially re-sign since his cap hold is much lower than what he'll actually sign for (likely $205,030,000 over five years as he's eligible for the Designated Veteran Extension). That would only leave a little over $4 million in cap space to give to anyone else, though, and that's a problem since Andre Iguodala is also a free agent and a core part of the team. He's embodied their selfless culture with his passing mentality and willingness to come off the bench over the years, and there's a reason he was in the room for the recruiting pitch to Durant as they were teammates on both the 2010 and 2012 iterations of Team USA. Out of all the role players, the former Finals MVP is clearly the priority to retain.