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2014 Cap Space Projections – Northwest Division

Basketball Insiders’ salary cap expert Eric Pincus takes a look at the projections for the Northwest Division.

Eric Pincus



Twelve teams have officially clinched playoff berths as the 2013-14 regular season heads into its final week.

Looking ahead to the 2014 offseason, a number of teams in the Southeast, Southwest, Atlantic, Pacific and Central divisions could have significant cap room this summer.

The league’s early projections for next year’s salary cap is $62.9 million, up from this year’s $58.7 million.  The luxury tax threshold is also expected to climb to approximately $75.7 million from $71.7 million.

In the final entry of a six-part of a series, where do the five teams in the Northwest Division stand this offseason?

Denver Nuggets (33-44)
Projected 1st Round Pick: 11th
Projected Cap Space: None

Injuries derailed Coach Brian Shaw’s debut season, losing JaVale McGee (tibia), Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Nate Robinson (knee).

Darrell Arthur ($3.5 million) and Robinson ($2.1 million) both have player options, but even if both decide to leave, the Nuggets aren’t likely to have cap room this summer.

Denver will probably keep Quincy Miller at an economical $915k.  With 10 players guaranteed, two players with options and Miller, the Nuggets may not be very different next season (barring trade).

The Nuggets will receive the New York Knicks’ first-rounder from the Carmelo Anthony trade, but also owe a pick to the Orlando Magic for Andre Iguodala.  The lower of the two picks will go to Orlando, which would be the Denver selection based on current standings.

Minnesota Timberwolves (39-48)
Projected 1st Round Pick: 13th pick (top-14 protected)
Projected Cap Space: None

The Timberwolves have missed out on the playoffs … again.

The franchise is certain to head into May’s NBA Draft Lottery in 13th position.

If the 14th slotted team wins a top-three pick (a 1.8% chance) Minnesota’s selection will go to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Wesley Johnson trade.

The Wolves can give Robbie Hummel a $1.0 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent.  Otherwise, Dante Cunningham is team’s only other free agent.

Unless the team lands a gem in the first round, it’s hard to see exactly how Minnesota is going to improve significantly next season.  Kevin Love has a player option before 2015-16, which means next year may be his final one with the Wolves.

Will Minnesota find a way to add impact pieces, perhaps via trade, or is it time for the franchise to start thinking about what they can get in return for their All-Star forward — before he leaves them in free agency for nothing in 2015?

Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21)
Projected 1st Round Picks: 22nd (top-20 protected), 29th
Projected Cap Space: None

The Thunder still have their one-time amnesty available.  The team could look to use it on Kendrick Perkins, clearing his $9.4 million from their books.

Even if they did, the Thunder do not project to have cap space this summer.

Hasheem Thabeet’s $1.25 million isn’t guaranteed.  Thabo Sefolosha will be a free agents, as will Derek Fisher, who is expected to retire.

The Thunder currently project to get the Dallas Mavericks’ first round pick (James Harden trade), which was originally dealt to the Lakers (Lamar Odom), followed by a deal to the Houston Rockets (Derek Fisher).

Portland Trail Blazers (50-28)
Projected 1st Round Pick: None
Projected Cap Space: None

The Blazers have 12 guaranteed players next season, along with Will Barton on a non-guaranteed minimum salary ($915k).

Mo Williams has a $2.8 million player option.  If he stays, the Blazers next year could look very much like the roster the team has on the floor this season.

Given Portland’s success, that’s not a bad thing.

The Blazers first-round pick will go the Charlotte Bobcats as part of the Gerald Wallace deal.

Utah Jazz (24-54)
Projected 1st Round Pick: 5th, 23rd (Golden State)
Projected Cap Space: None to $26.6 million

The Jazz should be the only franchise in the Northwest Division with cap space.

The biggest question for Utah is the status of guard/forward Gordon Hayward.  A $4.7 million qualifying offer will make him a restricted free agent — although until he’s signed, his cap hold will be $8.6 million.

Utah has plenty to spend, but historically the team has had difficulty luring players.  Hayward appears likely to return, but that really depends on how much he demands and how much the Jazz are willing to pay him.

Marvin Williams is also a key free agent the Jazz might look to re-sign.  Brandon Rush’s contract also expires after the season.

Five players have non-guaranteed contracts (John Lucas, Diante Garrett, Ian Clark, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy).

If Utah keeps Hayward, Williams and a number of their non-guaranteed players, they may never actually go under the salary cap.


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Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?

Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.

Shane Rhodes



The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.

With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.

It couldn’t get worse, could it?

Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.

In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.

The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.

Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.

The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.

Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.

Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?

If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.

Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.

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NBA Daily: Houston Has It All

Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.

Lang Greene



It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.

So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.

Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.

One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.

Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.

Floor Generalship

Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.

This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.

Small Ball Ready

Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.

At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.


When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.

Shooting, Versatility and Experience

All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.

Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.


Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.

With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race

Basketball Insiders



Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

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The Strictly Speaking Podcast


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