For months now, we’ve been talking about how crazy the NBA’s free agency period will be this summer. With the cap rising to a record $94 million from the current $70 million figure, teams all across the NBA will have plenty of money to spend. Players will be earning huge contracts since there’s so much money that will be available.
Teams have been positioning themselves to have as much cap space as possible with the hope of adding some top-level players. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday morning, teams will officially be allowed to start courting free agents and then will be able to officially sign those free agents on July 7, when the moratorium period will officially be lifted.
Kevin Durant is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents of this class. Although he’ll be highly coveted, it remains to be seen just what Durant will ultimately do. He’ll meet with some teams and hear their sales pitch, but we’ve seen prior free agents meet with teams only to ultimately return and re-sign with their original teams. With the cap drastically rising again next summer, Durant even has some incentive to sign a one-year deal and then ink a long-term contract next offseason (like LeBron James has done in recent years) – although it remains to be seen if Durant wants to go through another year with free agency looming over him.
With free agency set to open for business on Friday, there are some realistic players on the market whom teams to pursue and have a legitimate chance of signing. These players could be looking for a huge payday or could be looking for a change of scenery. Who are some possible free agents that could be had? Here are several names to keep an eye on that could be on the move (in no particular order):
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks:
After Durant, Horford is arguably the top player who could be had. Horford is a guy that has been with the Hawks organization for his entire nine-year career, so leaving the only team that he’s known could turn out to be harder than expected – as we saw DeAndre Jordan struggle with that decision last summer (which our Joel Brigham recounted in this article earlier today).
If it’s money that Horford is after, the Hawks would be the best option for him, but it remains to be seen what his mindset is heading into free agency. If it’s a championship he is after, his best chance for that could be elsewhere. The Hawks have made the playoffs in nine-straight years, but they only advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals once. Horford could sense this roster has gone as far as it’ll go and could opt for a fresh start elsewhere.
Hassan Whiteside, Miami HEAT:
It seems as though Whiteside could be the most likely name on this list to leave. Both sides have said the right things in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen if the HEAT will be able to retain him. The HEAT’s salary cap situation this summer is very complex, so it could prove to be harder than expected to re-sign Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and possibly add other players as well. Miami must re-sign Whiteside using their cap space (and can’t offer an extra year), since they don’t have his full Bird rights.
The fact remains that Whiteside will likely be looking to sign for as much money as he can this summer. This is a player who has bounced around between the D-League, overseas and the NBA since being drafted in 2010 and has made less than $4 million in his NBA career. With so much money available to teams this summer, it’s highly likely that a team will offer him a max-deal in the neighborhood of around $20 million a season.
Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks:
Parsons will reportedly explore all of his options when it comes to free agency this summer. Given the recent development that the Mavericks are not interested in offering Parsons a max-contract, he’ll seek his options elsewhere and could be had for the right price. While Parsons and his camp are seeking a max-contract, it remains to be seen if he’ll receive max-offers considering that he’s coming off of two consecutive season-ending knee injuries.
Although his most recent knee surgery wasn’t as significant as his first injury, it still could be a red flag for potential teams. If Parsons can show that he’ll return at 100 percent, he still remains one of the best options available at small forward. His return to full strength last season took a bit longer than expected, but he began to play well toward the end of the campaign when he averaged 18.8 points, five rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during the month of February.
Bismack Biyombo, Toronto Raptors:
Biyombo played his way to a huge payday with a big showing for the Raptors during the playoffs. He averaged just 5.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during the regular season, but elevated those numbers to 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in the postseason. Biyombo has proven to be a great player on the defensive end, and should receive plenty of offers from teams in July. The fact that he’s 23 years old should help him as well, as he likely still has untapped potential.
He’s previously said he would be open to giving the Raptors a hometown discount, but it remains to be seen if that will ultimately happen. Unless the Raptors elect to trade away several players, they likely won’t have enough cap space to re-sign DeMar DeRozan and Biyombo. Bringing back DeRozan seems like a formality at this point, but Biyombo could be on the move, especially if the price tag starts at around $14-$16 million as has been previously reported.
Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks:
Bazemore turned in his best season to date and is set to earn a significant raise this summer. He earned just $2 million this past season, while averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Bazemore has established himself as an excellent perimeter defender and should receive no shortage of offers in free agency.
Depending on how things play out with Al Horford, Bazemore could be on the move this summer. If the Hawks are able to re-sign Horford, they likely won’t have enough cap space to re-sign Bazemore. The Hawks could also have a difficult time re-signing Bazemore because they don’t have his full Bird Rights, meaning they won’t be able to offer him an extra year and more guaranteed money (like Miami with Whiteside).
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans:
Anderson is another player who appears to be on his way out. Our own Alex Kennedy reported back in March that Anderson is prepared to hear sales pitches this summer from potential teams. Anderson is said to want a fresh start elsewhere and may not be back next season with the Pelicans.
Anderson earned $8.5 million last season, and it seems as though he could earn double that this summer in free agency. He should be a hot commodity on the market since he can stretch the floor as a power forward as he’s shot 38 percent from three-point range in eight seasons in the NBA.
Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls:
It seems as though both Noah and Gasol could be leaving Chicago this offseason. The Bulls appear to be restarting their roster a bit based off of their recent trade of Derrick Rose and could be looking to move on from Noah and Gasol. Noah reportedly doesn’t trust the Bulls’ front office and is looking to sign for a max-contract this summer.
Gasol also appears to be on the way out as well. Rumors of Gasol having one foot out of the door started surfacing in the middle of last season. At this point of Gasol’s career, he could be looking to join a contender and it doesn’t look like the Bulls will be able to seriously compete next season. Gasol held a $7,769,520 player option for next season, but reportedly informed the Bulls today that he’ll be declining that option, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Evan Turner, Boston Celtics:
Turner appears to be in for a hefty payday. He earned just $3,425,510 this past season with the Celtics and is set to hit unrestricted free agency. The Celtics could potentially have as much as $55 million in cap space, and may be inclined to spend that on trying to entice some of the top free agents.
We’ve seen the Celtics try to make some splashy trades on draft night, so it remains to be seen if they’d like to retain Turner. Our own Alex Kennedy also reported that there appears to be mutual interest between Turner and the New York Knicks. If the Knicks are serious about adding Turner, they could make him an offer that he can’t refuse to pry him away from the Celtics.
Timofey Mozgov, Cleveland Cavaliers:
It should be no surprise that Mozgov is likely out in Cleveland. He averaged just 17.4 minutes per game for the Cavaliers during the regular season and appeared in mostly only garbage time during the postseason. He’ll likely receive some offers as he can still provide some depth in the frontcourt for a new team.
He earned just under $5 million last year and seems to be in line for an increase this summer with so much money available. Given that the Cavaliers just won the championship last week, acquiring Mozgov for two future first-round draft picks likely won’t be scrutinized all that much, but it seems like a lot to give up for a player who didn’t play a huge role with the team this season.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets:
Howard officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the Rockets and will become an unrestricted free agent. The odds of Howard re-signing in Houston are virtually non-existent after the team hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. The relationship between Howard and D’Antoni became strained during their time with the L.A. Lakers.
Despite taking a hit to his reputation over the past couple of years, it seems as though Howard can still be a valuable asset to a team. Howard averaged 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season and still showed signs that he can make an impact. The Knicks are said to have interest in the big man, and the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets have been linked to him as well.
Rajon Rondo, Sacramento Kings:
It seems as though Rondo’s time with the Kings is up. He signed a one-year deal with Sacramento last season worth $9.5 million in an effort to show teams that he could still play at a relatively high level. Rondo proved exactly that as he averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals per game. With point guard one of the weakest positions in this year’s free agency class, Rondo will likely be a guy highly coveted by teams in needs of point guard help.
With less than a week to go until the start of free agency, these are some of the players who could be on the move. This free agency period is shaping up to be one of the most memorable in recent years and should be very interesting to see play out.
NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 4/24/18
The deadline for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft has passed, so Basketball Insiders Publisher Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick Mock Draft.
The Deadline for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft was April 22, however, the NBA hasn’t yet released the full list of eligible players. There appear to be more than 153 underclassmen that have declared to “test the waters” according to reports. By way of comparison, last year there were 137 players from college and an additional 45 from international basketball that declared early, with 73 of those players pulling out after going through the process.
The 2018 Draft class could be shaping up to be one of the biggest, especially when you consider the volume of highly draftable seniors.
There are still some dates to keep in mind:
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago on May 15. The annual NBA Draft Combine will get underway on May 16, also in Chicago. In any given draft year, roughly 70 percent of players invited to the Combine end up being drafted into the NBA, so a Combine invite is a significant draft milestone.
The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.
The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college, however, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.
Here is this week’s 2018 NBA Mock Draft, based on the final pre-draft lottery draft order:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. Based on the final regular-season standings should convey to Philadelphia if the draft lottery holds true to the standings.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and would convey if the draft lottery holds true to the standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.
The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/
NBA Daily: Trail Blazers Come Up Short and Now Search For Answers
The Portland Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the Playoffs and now face tough questions, writes James Blancarte.
The playoffs have been a wild ride so far. On Sunday, all three Eastern Conference playoff games were exciting matches that featured star players stepping up in the clutch. As a result, each series is tied up, two games each. The other game of the day featured the San Antonio Spurs, who stayed in control and never once allowed the Golden State Warriors to take the lead. The Spurs managed to get a win against the defending champs despite missing their best player and now their head coach indefinitely.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, there was no such Game 4 turnaround. In fact, with the Spurs win, the Trail Blazers have the lamentable distinction of being the only team to be swept in the first round of the playoffs. This is just one way to describe how disappointing and surprising this playoff series loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was for Portland. Many NBA observers and Pelicans fans were quick to point out that every ESPN NBA personality chose the Trail Blazers to win the series, as did select writers of the Basketball Insiders team.
The Trail Blazers’ players and front office also made it clear how surprised they were at the result. Forward Evan Turner shared his surprise.
“Obviously finishing so quickly wasn’t definitely the plan and to a certain extent it was shocking,” Turner said.
General Manager Neil Olshey chimed in as well.
“Nobody expected [the playoff sweep] to happen. It did. We had our chances in Game 1, we had our chances in Game 2. Clearly Game 3 was a setback,” Olshey stated when describing his surprise at how the series ended. “Stunned, I think disappointed.”
Credit should be given to the Pelicans and their ability to fully harness their talent and impose their will in the series. Turner was effusive in praising the talent and ability of the Pelicans.
“Unlocked Jrue is pretty dangerous and we all see how Rondo plays. He’s a homerun hitter but he is always solid. He can mess around. He’ll get two or three triple doubles. Anthony Davis is a problem,” Turner said.
When asked how he felt about the playoff exit, starting center Jusuf Nurkic stated that he is beyond disappointed.
“I mean, the way I finish the season, I feel shame. The way we have a season, like a team and group, and being in position to be third in the West, and finish like this, is not good,” Nurkic stated. “It’s not something you should be proud of, because all you do through the year, fight for playoff and to be in position to have a good postseason.”
Despite the early exit, many within the organization were quick to highlight that they continue to see the regular season in a positive light, including Head Coach Terry Stotts.
“I thought we had a very good regular season, I thought we had a very disappointing end of the season,” Stotts stated.
Damian Lillard shared a similar sentiment when reflecting on the season as a whole.
“I think I’ll always remember the way [the season] ended. But I won’t forget the kind of season we had. You can’t ignore the fact we won a division title in a division where there was some great teams,” Lillard stated. “We came out on top.”
Still, the success of the regular season makes the playoff result that much harder to grasp and deal with for some. Nurkic again didn’t hold back when comparing the success of the regular season with the team’s playoff failure.
“Very surprised,” Nurkic stated. “You definitely didn’t see the team who we are in the playoffs.”
Explaining why the Trail Blazers came up short against the Pelicans is no easy task. Clearly Portland’s attempt to feature its two premiere guards failed as the Pelicans were able to clamp down on Lillard and McCollum effectively in each game. Complicating matters further was the inability of the Trail Blazers to effectively utilize Nurkic on both ends of the court. However, there was at least some praise to be heaped on the backup bigs, Zach Collins and Ed Davis.
“I think Zach played really well for us,” Olshey stated. “He had an impact defensively.”
Also, Al-Farouq Aminu was able to do his part as an acceptable defensive option against Davis while spreading the floor with his outside shooting
Regardless, Turner shared his assessment that the team failed to have an adequate game plan for a scenario where their two best players are neutralized.
“One thing that may help, it’s no jabs or anything, but building the identity outside of our two strong scorers,” Turned stated. “[W]e sometimes go downhill when a team fully focuses on a lot of attention on our stars […] But I think we might need certain plays, certain structures that kind of prepare just in case that occurs.”
With their postseason concluded, the Trail Blazers are suddenly left trying to answer questions with no easy answers. Who, if anyone, is to blame for what happened? So far, many head coaches have been let go and unsurprisingly some speculation has turned toward Coach Stotts. Stotts, when asked, focused on the team and deflected any analysis of his performance.
“I’m not going to evaluate the job I did,” Stotts said.
Lillard, on the other hand, was effusive in his praise of his coach.
“Coach Stotts has done a great job from day one. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight,” Lillard said.
For now, there does not appear to be strong rumblings about Stotts. With the offseason just beginning for the team there is still time to reflect and assess what went wrong. Additionally, the team has to resolve what to do regarding its own free agents. No name looms larger than Nurkic, who despite his poor showing, represents one of the team’s top talents and expressed his guarded optimism regarding a return.
“I want to be here, it’s no secret,” Nurkic stated when asked if he wants an extension in Portland. “Yes, definitely.”
Nurkic ended the thought by stating, a bit ominously, that he did his part and a deal may or may not get worked out.
“My agent and people here are going to figure out the rest, or not,” Nurkic said.
Complicating the desire to retain Nurkic is the team’s financial situation as the team is currently over the cap and under obligation to center Meyers Leonard, who has struggled to stay in the rotation and is earning roughly $21.8 million over the next two years.
“It’s our job to be measured and not to overreact. [Because] when you overreact is when you make mistakes,” Olshey stated.
Lillard was quick to emphatically shut down the notion of splitting up him and McCollum when asked if that would be a good idea.
“I mean, I don’t agree with it. I think it’s that simple,” Lillard declared.
When asked what the team plans to do going forward, Olshey expressed optimism but tried again to pay credit to the season’s effort overall.
“We’re going to do everything we can to upgrade the roster as we always do but we also aren’t going to lose sight of the success throughout the course of the season,” Olshey said.
“I don’t have all the answers for you today,” Olshey surmised. “A lot of times you don’t know where your help is coming from.”
The Problem With ‘Championship Or Bust’
Should an NBA Title be the only measuring stick when we’re talking about a team’s success?
In this day and age, there’s a constant need for instant gratification. It goes for everything, really, but especially for sports.
Before the 2017-18 NBA season kicked off, the general outlook on the league was that the regular season would be a waste of time. People dubbed the Golden State Warriors as clear-cut repeat champions. Other then that franchise, there were maybe one or two others that could put up a fight with such a juggernaut.
While that story has yet to play out, others are developing quickly.
The all-of-a-sudden dangerous New Orleans Pelicans are the only ball club to have advanced to the second round of the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are deadlocked in a tied series with an Indiana Pacers team that everybody seemed to believe was lottery-bound before the year began.
After falling nine games under .500 in late January, the Utah Jazz have caught fire and are up two games to one against the league’s reigning league MVP and a re-constructed Oklahoma City Thunder roster. We’d be remiss to leave out the sensational play of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as the Philadelphia 76ers continue to show how dominant they’ve been in a hard-hitting affair with a gritty Miami Heat bunch.
The start to this postseason trumps last season’s already. There is a competitive fire within the majority of these encounters. It’s all on the line to prove who will be the best of the best.
And having said that, there can only be one that takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
One. That’s it. In the last 18 years, there have been a total of eight different organizations that have earned the right to call themselves champions. All things considered, it’s not that many.
But there’s a giant misconception about parity in the NBA that needs to be thwarted.
This league is filled with talent, top to bottom. Just like in any sport, you have the basement dwellers still trying to right the ship. Whether it be coaching, injuries, or inexperience—they’re attempting to find their way. That’s why those players are sitting at home in late April.
Then there are those who are not merely spectators, but are involved in the remaining field of 15 teams (sorry, Portland Trail Blazers). Of course, in their minds, there is a common goal of winning a title, as it should be.
However, is it fair to quantify the success of every one of these franchises simply based on whether they accomplish that goal or not? Heck no.
Are we supposed to just forget about the progress made from end-to-end? What if — hear this out — both teams have talent and one just beat the other?
Building championship basketball takes patience. There has to be some semblance of playoff experience involved. Continuity is a must have. You might not want to hear it, but the postseason is where the seeds are planted, where the understanding of the stage really starts.
There can be a collection of young players who have been teammates for years, but have never taken part in the playoffs before. Sometimes there can be a team that’s full of veterans that have been there, but they may not have played together as a collective unit. Each one of them has a different background in a different setting.
It’s a whole different beast at this point. Some are so naive to see how elevated and intense the environment really is, so they assume a team that loses a few games isn’t championship material. Newsflash: Not one team in the history of the NBA has gone 16-0 in the playoffs.
And then, the ones who fall—whether it be in The Finals, conference finals, or in first two rounds—those organizations didn’t accomplish anything. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
So in this basketball world we live in where everything has to be a 20-point victory with zero losses and it’s “championship or bust” as the measuring stick, take a step back and appreciate the work it took to even get to the postseason.
Win or lose, many of these teams are building towards bigger things in the future. These experiences will make that clear in the years to come.