The NBA’s national television deal helped raise the league’s salary cap to $94.1 million, a historic jump from last year’s $70 million.
Armed with increased spending power, teams invested heavily, topping out with LeBron James, who is earning $31 million as the highest paid player in the NBA.
James’ salary represents 32.9 percent of the salary cap, but with the Cavaliers paying out $129.3 million to players this season, James is just 23.9 percent of the team’s payroll.
For the 2015-16 season, James earned $23 million, an equivalent of 32.8 percent of the salary cap, and 21.5 percent of Cleveland’s payroll.
Teams have limited spending tools. The Cavaliers have creatively amassed the NBA’s highest payroll, but most teams are contracted to pay $90-$110 million this year.
How wisely those resources have been allocated can be the difference between a contender and an also-ran. It can be easy to get caught up in the dollar value of a player’s contract, but looking instead at the percentage of team salary can help put the NBA’s recent inflation into perspective.
By that measure, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is the highest paid player this season. The MVP candidate is earning 30.5 percent of Oklahoma City’s payroll.
For now, C.J. McCollum is one of the NBA’s most productive starters at an economic 2.9 percent of the Portland Trail Blazers’ salary. On a recently-signed extension, his new salary will push him closer to 20 percent next season.
Chris Bosh’s unfortunate health situation has a major portion of the Miami HEAT’s salary tied up (23.4 percent) in a player the team won’t clear to play this season. The Philadelphia 76ers have almost a quarter of their salary (23.3 percent) going to injured forward Ben Simmons and waived players (Carl Landry, Tibor Pleiss, etc.).
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers are paying their starters just 51.3 percent of their total salary, appropriate given how important the bench has been in the team’s surprising start.
The following list details how much teams are paying for their players. The figures are percentages of total payroll.
Salary Total: $99,289,619
Healthy Starters (67.4 percent): Dwight Howard (23.3), Paul Millsap (20.2), Kent Bazemore (15.8), Kyle Korver (5.3), Dennis Schroder (2.7)
Highest Reserve: Tiago Splitter (8.6)
Other Contributors: Kris Humphries (4.0), Thabo Sefolosha (3.9), Malcolm Delaney (2.5), Tim Hardaway Jr. (2.3), Mike Muscala (1.0)
Dead Money (waived players): 0.1
Salary Total: $93,035,160
Healthy Starters (64.2): Al Horford (28.5), Amir Johnson (12.9), Avery Bradley (8.9), Isaiah Thomas (7.1), Jae Crowder (6.8)
Highest Reserve: Tyler Zeller (8.6)
Other Contributors: Jonas Jerebko (5.4), Jaylen Brown (5.1), Marcus Smart (3.8), Kelly Olynyk (3.3), Terry Rozier (2.0), Gerald Green (1.1)
Dead Money: 1.7
Salary Total: $76,058.742
Healthy Starters (61.6): Brook Lopez (27.8), Jeremy Lin (15.1), Trevor Booker (12.2), Bojan Bogdanovic (4.7), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (1.8)
Highest Reserve: Luis Scola (7.2)
Other Contributors: Justin Hamilton (3.9), Randy Foye (3.3), Isaiah Whitehead (1.4), Anthony Bennett (1.3), Sean Kilpatrick (1.3), Joe Harris (1.3), Yogi Ferrell (0.7)
Dead Money: 14.3
Salary Total: $99,709,773
Healthy Starters (63.6): Nicolas Batum (20.9), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (13.0), Marvin Williams (12.3), Kemba Walker (12.0), Cody Zeller (5.3)
Highest Reserve: Jeremy Lamb (6.5)
Other Contributors: Spencer Hawes (6.4), Marco Belinelli (6.4), Ramon Sessions (6.0), Roy Hibbert (5.0), Frank Kaminsky (2.7)
Dead Money: 0.1
Salary Total: $97,133,573
Healthy Starters (79.2): Dwyane Wade (23.9), Jimmy Butler (18.1), Rajon Rondo (14.4), Robin Lopez (13.6), Taj Gibson (9.2)
Highest Reserve: Nikola Mirotic (6.0)
Other Contributors: Michael Carter-Williams (3.3), Doug McDermott (2.6), Jerian Grant (1.7), Bobby Portis (1.5), Isaiah Canaan (1.0), Christiano Felicio (1.3)
Dead Money: 0.1
Salary Total: $129,294,181
Healthy Starters (75.7): LeBron James (23.9), Kevin Love (16.4), Kyrie Irving (13.6), Tristan Thompson (11.9), J.R. Smith (9.9)
Highest Reserve: Iman Shumpert (7.5)
Other Contributors: Channing Frye (6.0), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (3.7), Richard Jefferson (1.9), Jordan McRae (0.7)
Dead Money: None, although Mo Williams (1.7) is under contract but is functionally retired.
Salary Total: $110,920.751
Healthy Starters (76.0): Dirk Nowitzki (22.5), Harrison Barnes (19.9), Wesley Matthews (15.5), Andrew Bogut (9.9), Deron Williams (8.1)
Highest Reserve: Dwight Powell (7.6)
Other Contributors: J.J. Barea (3.7), Seth Curry (2.6), Justin Anderson (1.4), Salah Mejri (0.8), Dorian Finney-Smith (0.5)
Dead Money: 2.2
Salary Total: $75,242,914
Healthy Starters (30.9): Danilo Gallinari (20.0), Emmanuel Mudiay (3.4), Jusuf Nurkic (2.0), Gary Harris (1.8), Nikola Jokic (1.8)
Note: The Nuggets have recently experimented with different starting lineups.
Highest Reserve: Kenneth Faried (16.1)
Other Contributors: Wilson Chandler (14.9), Jameer Nelson (6.0), Will Barton (4.7), Jamal Murray (4.3), Juancho Hernangomez (2.6)
Dead Money: 1.8
Salary Total: $107,901,937
Healthy Starters (58.0): Andre Drummond (20.5), Tobias Harris (15.9), Reggie Jackson (13.9), Marcus Morris (4.3), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (3.4)
Highest Reserve: Jon Leuer (10.2)
Other Contributors: Ish Smith (5.6), Beno Udrih (0.9), Aron Baynes (6.0), Stanley Johnson (2.8)
Dead Money: 5.0
Golden State Warriors
Salary Total: $99,638,439
Healthy Starters (73.8): Kevin Durant (26.6), Klay Thompson (16.7), Draymond Green (15.4), Stephen Curry (12.2), Zaza Pachulia (2.9)
Highest Reserve: Andre Iguodala (11.2)
Other Contributors: Shaun Livingston (5.8), Ian Clark (1.0), Patrick McCaw (0.5), David West (1.0)
Dead Money: 1.4
Salary Total: $94,830,624
Healthy Starters (70.4): James Harden (28.0), Ryan Anderson (19.8), Eric Gordon (13.1), Trevor Ariza (8.2), Clint Capela (1.4)
Highest Reserve: Corey Brewer (8.0)
Other Contributors: Patrick Beverley (6.3), K.J. McDaniels (3.1), Nene (3.1), Sam Dekker (1.8), Tyler Ennis (1.8)
Dead Money: 1.7
Salary Total: $90,002,004
Healthy Starters (60.5): Paul George (20.3), Thaddeus Young (15.7), Monta Ellis (12.0), Jeff Teague (9.8)
Highest Reserve: Al Jefferson (11.4)
Other Contributors: Rodney Stuckey (7.8), C.J. Miles (5.1), Lavoy Allen (4.4), Aaron Brooks (3.0), Kevin Seraphin (2.0), Glenn Robinson III (1.2)
Dead Money: 1.5
Los Angeles Clippers
Salary Total: $114,740,032
Healthy Starters (64.8): Chris Paul (19.9), DeAndre Jordan (18.4), Blake Griffin (17.6), J.J. Redick (6.4), Luc Mbah a Moute (1.9)
Highest Reserve: Jamal Crawford (11.6)
Other Contributors: Austin Rivers (9.6), Wesley Johnson (4.9), Marreese Speights (1.2), Raymond Felton (0.9), Brandon Bass (0.9)
Dead Money: 1.2
Los Angeles Lakers
Salary Total: $93,613,079
Healthy Starters (51.3): Luol Deng (19.2), Timofey Mozgov (17.1), Nick Young (5.8), D’Angelo Russell (5.7), Julius Randle (3.5)
Highest Reserve: Jordan Clarkson (13.4)
Other Contributors: Lou Williams (7.5), Tarik Black (6.6), Brandon Ingram (5.6), Larry Nance Jr. (1.3)
Dead Money: 1.3
Salary Total: $110,288,212
Healthy Starters (66.8): Mike Conley (24.1), Chandler Parsons (20.1), Marc Gasol (19.2), James Ennis (2.6), JaMychal Green (0.9)
Highest Reserve: Zach Randolph (9.4)
Other Contributors: Tony Allen (5.0), Vince Carter (3.9), Andrew Harrison (0.9), Jarell Martin (1.2), Wade Baldwin (1.6)
Dead Money: 1.3
Salary Total: $101,513,503
Healthy Starters (43.7): Hassan Whiteside (21.8), Goran Dragic (15.7), Dion Waiters (2.9), Justise Winslow (2.6), Josh Richardson (0.9)
Highest Reserve: Wayne Ellington (5.9)
Other Contributors: Derrick Williams (4.5), James Johnson (3.9), Luke Babbitt (1.2), Willie Reed (1.0), Rodney McGruder (0.5)
Dead Money: 0.6 plus Chris Bosh (23.4), who is unable to clear a Miami physical.
Salary Total: $98,493,672
Healthy Starters (31.3): John Henson (12.5), Matthew Dellavedova (9.8), Jabari Parker (5.5), Giannis Antetokounmpo (3.0), Tony Snell (2.4)
Highest Reserve: Greg Monroe (17.4)
Other Contributors: Miles Plumlee (12.7), Michael Beasley (1.4), Mirza Teletovic (10.7), Malcolm Brogdon (0.9), Rashad Vaughn (1.8), Jason Terry (1.0)
Dead Money: 1.9 plus Khris Middleton (15.4) who is likely out for the season.
Salary Total: $81,771,877
Healthy Starters (36.8): Ricky Rubio (16.6), Andrew Wiggins (7.3), Karl-Anthony Towns (7.3), Gorgui Dieng (2.9), Zach LaVine (2.7)
Highest Reserve: Cole Aldrich (9.3)
Other Contributors: Shabazz Muhammad (3.7), Nemanja Bjelica (4.6), Kris Dunn (4.7), Brandon Rush (3.7)
Dead Money: 11.4 plus Nikola Pekovic (14.8) who is out for the season.
New Orleans Pelicans
Salary Total: $99,718,087
Healthy Starters (54.5): Anthony Davis (22.2), Jrue Holiday (11.3), Omer Asik (9.9), E’Twaun Moore (8.1), Dante Cunningham (3.0)
Note: Holiday recently returned from personal time, the Pelicans’ starting lineup is in flux.
Highest Reserve: Solomon Hill (11.3)
Other Contributors: Tyreke Evans (10.2), once healthy, Langston Galloway (5.2), Alexis Ajinca (4.7), Tim Frazier (2.1), Terrence Jones (1.0), Buddy Hield (3.5), Archie Goodwin (0.9)
Dead Money: 2.4
New York Knicks
Salary Total: $102,632,073
Healthy Starters (76.4): Carmelo Anthony (23.9), Derrick Rose (20.8), Joakim Noah (16.6), Courtney Lee (11.0), Kristaps Porzingis (4.2)
Highest Reserve: Lance Thomas (6.0)
Other Contributors: Brandon Jennings (4.9), Justin Holiday (1.0), Willy Hernangomez (1.0), Mindaugas Kuzminskas (2.8), Kyle O’Quinn (3.8), Maurice Ndour (0.5)
Dead Money: 1.2
Oklahoma City Thunder
Salary Total: $86,969,118
Healthy Starters (47.0): Russell Westbrook (30.5), Victor Oladipo (7.5), Steven Adams (3.6), Domantas Sabonis (2.8), Andre Roberson (2.5)
Highest Reserve: Enes Kanter (19.7)
Other Contributors: Jerami Grant (1.1), Alex Abrines (6.9), Joffrey Lauvergne (2.0), Semaj Christon (1.1), Kyle Singler (5.6), Cameron Payne (2.4, injured)
Dead Money: 5.0
Salary Total: $106,785,222
Healthy Starters (44.9): Evan Fournier (15.9), Serge Ibaka (11.5), Nikola Vucevic (11.0), Aaron Gordon (4.1), Elfrid Payton (2.4)
Highest Reserve: Bismack Biyombo (15.9)
Other Contributors: Jeff Green (14.0), DJ Augustin (6.8), C.J. Watson (4.7), Mario Hezonja (3.7)
Dead Money: None
Salary Total: $77,495,724
Healthy Starters (40.3): Gerald Henderson (11.6), Ersan Ilyasova (10.8), Sergio Rodriguez (10.3), Joel Embiid (6.2), Robert Covington (1.3)
Highest Reserve: Jerryd Bayless (12.2)
Other Contributors: Jahlil Okafor (6.2), Nerlens Noel (5.7, injured), Nik Stauskas (3.9), Dario Saric (3.0), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (1.7), Richaun Holmes (1.3), Hollis Thompson (1.3), T.J. McConnell (1.1)
Dead Money: 15.7 plus Ben Simmons (7.6), who may be out for the season.
Salary Total: $81,444,454
Healthy Starters (41.4): Eric Bledsoe (17.2), Tyson Chandler (15.2), Marquese Chriss (3.6), Devin Booker (2.7), T.J. Warren (2.6)
Note: The Suns’ starting lineup is in flux.
Highest Reserve: Brandon Knight (15.5)
Other Contributors: Jared Dudley (12.9), P.J. Tucker (6.5), Alex Len (5.9), Dragan Bender (5.3), Leandro Barbosa (4.9)
Dead Money: 3.5
Portland Trail Blazers
Salary Total: $112,823,450
Healthy Starters (41.3): Damian Lillard (21.6), Mo Harkless (8.0), Al-Farouq Aminu (6.8), C.J. McCollum (2.9), Mason Plumlee (2.1)
Highest Reserve: Allen Crabbe (16.4)
Other Contributors: Evan Turner (14.5), Meyers Leonard (8.2), Festus Ezeli (6.6, injured), Ed Davis (5.9), Noah Vonleh (2.4)
Dead Money: 1.8
Salary Total: $96,210,260
Healthy Starters (53.9): DeMarcus Cousins (17.6), Rudy Gay (13.9), Arron Afflalo (13.0), Kosta Koufos (8.4), Ty Lawson (1.0)
Note: The Kings’ starting lineup is in flux.
Highest Reserve: Anthony Tolliver (8.4)
Other Contributors: Garrett Temple (8.3), Matt Barnes (6.4), Darren Collison (5.4), Ben McLemore (4.2), Willie Cauley-Stein (3.7)
Dead Money: 0.8
San Antonio Spurs
Salary Total: $108,309,287
Healthy Starters (72.2): LaMarcus Aldridge (19.0), Kawhi Leonard (16.3), Pau Gasol (14.3), Tony Parker (13.3), Danny Green (9.2)
Highest Reserve: Manu Ginobili (12.9)
Other Contributors: Patty Mills (3.3), Dewayne Dedmon (2.7), David Lee (1.4), Kyle Anderson (1.1), Jonathon Simmons (0.8), Nicolas Laprovittola (0.5), Davis Bertans (0.5)
Dead Money: 3.0
Salary Total: $106,727,970
Healthy Starters (64.0): DeMar DeRozan (24.9), Jonas Valanciunas (13.5), DeMarre Carroll (13.3), Kyle Lowry (11.2), Pascal Siakam (1.1)
Highest Reserve: Terrence Ross (9.4)
Other Contributors: Cory Joseph (6.9), Patrick Patterson (5.7), Jared Sullinger (5.3, injured), Lucas Nogueira (1.8), Norman Powell (0.8), Jakob Poeltl (2.5)
Dead Money: 0.2
Salary Total: $80,498,192
Healthy Starters (48.0): Gordon Hayward (20.0), Derrick Favors (13.7), George Hill (9.9), Rudy Gobert (2.6), Rodney Hood (1.7)
Highest Reserve: Joe Johnson (13.7)
Other Contributors: Boris Diaw (8.7), Dante Exum (4.9), Shelvin Mack (2.9), Trey Lyles (2.9), Joe Ingles (2.6)
Dead Money: 0.3 plus Alex Burks (12.6), who is injured.
Salary Total: 103,285,007
Healthy Starters (62.3): Bradley Beal (21.4), John Wall (16.4), Marcin Gortat (11.6), Markieff Morris (7.2), Otto Porter (6.3)
Highest Reserve: Ian Mahinmi (15.4)
Other Contributors: Andrew Nicholson (5.9), Jason Smith (4.8), Trey Burke (3.3), Tomas Satoransky (2.8), Kelly Oubre (1.9), Marcus Thornton (0.9)
Dead Money: 1.0
NBA Daily: Equal Opportunity System With Butler Fueling HEAT
Seemingly always trapped in “good but not good enough” territory, the Miami HEAT have finally turned a corner. They might even be contenders, writes Drew Mays.
209 wins, 202 losses.
That’s what the Miami HEAT have to show in the record column since LeBron James left in the summer of 2014.
Their record tells us out loud what we’ve known over the last five years: Miami is a proud franchise. The team maximizes what it has and is a perennial postseason threat no matter who is on the roster.
Middling seasons aren’t necessarily a good thing by NBA standards, however. Competitiveness is a stepping stone to title contention. Without contention, it makes sense to bottom-out and rebuild through draft capital and assets. 40-win seasons are neither of these things.
But what the HEAT have in their favor is their location. NBA stars love South Beach. And this summer, Miami got what it needed: A star to push them over the hump in Jimmy Butler.
Butler wasn’t the shiniest addition, but he was one of the most important. A top-15 player, Butler’s antics in Minnesota frustrated his value over the past few seasons.
Those annoyances were overshadowed by his play for Philadelphia in the playoffs last spring — even with Joel Embiid, Butler may have been the 76ers’ best player. Either way, he was definitely their most important. He took control of games as a ball-handler down the stretch, repeatedly working from 15-feet and in and running pick-and-roll when the games screeched to a halt and defenses were loaded up. With Butler in tow, the Sixers were a few bounces away from the Eastern Conference Finals — although, he’d tell you they would’ve won the whole thing.
Instead of running it back in Philadelphia, Butler flew south in free agency to where he’d always wanted to go: Miami. His signing, followed by the arrival of rookie Tyler Herro, the emergence of Kendrick Nunn, a jump by Bam Adebayo and the support of the rest of the roster has the HEAT at 15-6 and poised to make a deep playoff run.
Miami has seven players averaging double figures. Kelly Olynk, averaging 9.2 per game, is close to making it eight. The balance extends beyond scoring numbers – those eight players all play between 23 and 34 minutes, with fifth starter Meyers Leonard as the lowest-used regular at just under 19 minutes per game. No one shoots the ball more than Nunn and his 13.8 attempts per game, and four players average over 4 assists each night.
While most teams are built on top-down schemes with a few stars and role players filling in the blanks, Miami is thriving in an equal-opportunity system. Much of this has to do with their culture and ability to amplify each player’s talents.
This even attack wouldn’t exist if Herro wasn’t flourishing in his rookie season; if Nunn hadn’t become a revelation after going undrafted in 2018; if Adebayo hadn’t made a leap, detailed recently by Jack Winter; if Goran Dragic hadn’t accepted going to the bench after starting essentially the last seven years; if Duncan Robinson hadn’t developed into an NBA rotation player.
All of these things are hard to predict individually, let alone them coming together at once. But with Miami, and with what we know about Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, it was almost a foregone conclusion.
Butler’s infusion into Miami’s culture has been the perfect marriage 20 games in. His toughness matches the HEAT’s, and he seems to respect the work ethic of his teammates – something that’s been a huge problem in the past. He’s been able to be “the guy” without forcing it, leading Miami in scoring, but trailing Nunn in attempts per game.
The HEAT’s diversity on offense has led to an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent, second-best in the league. They’re 3rd in three-point percentage, 6th in two-point percentage, and 7th in free throws made. They’re 10th in assists. Even with their league-worst turnover percentage, they are 11th in offensive rating and 6th in overall net.
Defensively, the team is doing what Miami has traditionally done. They’re eighth-best in opponent field goal percentage and 2nd in the entire league in three-point percentage at 31.6%. In today’s NBA, defending the three-point line that well will breed success.
After defeating the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday — and the defending champions’ subsequent loss to the Houston Rockets — the HEAT are tied with them for third place in the Eastern Conference standings. And we’re 20 games in, so what we’ve seen from them so far is real. They are contenders to represent the East in the Finals in June.
Toronto and the Boston Celtics are good. They’ve both had strong starts, bolstered by the ridiculousness of Pascal Siakam and the insertion of Kemba Walker, respectively. But they aren’t markedly better than Miami. Are their offenses good enough to overcome the HEAT in a playoff series?
The Milwaukee Bucks, the proverbial frontrunner, still have the glaring non-Giannis weaknesses. They lost Malcolm Brogdon and showed their vulnerability by losing four straight in the conference finals last year. Philadelphia struggled out of the gate, but have won 8 of their last 11. But sans Jimmy Butler, the Sixers face the same questions they faced before his arrival in 2018-19: Who is the guy down the stretch? Who can create offense late in a playoff game?
That hasn’t been answered for Philadelphia yet. There’s no assurance that it’ll be answered at all. That question is answered in Miami.
They have Butler now. They have their star.
Combine that with Herro, Nunn, Adebayo, Dragic, Justise Winslow — who they haven’t even had for half of their games thus far — and the rest of the package, and Erik Spoelstra has what he hasn’t had since LeBron James was still in Miami.
Simple Problems With Difficult Solutions
Matt John takes a look at three teams that need to address weaknesses in their rosters and the challenges each team faces in doing so.
Remember when Carmelo Anthony was out of the NBA? That seems so long ago now even though his stint in Portland started less than a month ago.
Let’s go back to that time. In ‘Melo’s almost one-year exodus from the NBA, fans, media, and even players alike were begging for his return. To be fair, this was based more on his reputation as one of the best scorers of his time rather than his recent play with his previous two teams.
Looking back, it was a little odd that for almost an entire year, absolutely no one wanted to roll the dice on Carmelo. Not even on a non-guaranteed contract. But, what was even odder was that although he had plenty of advocates on his side, said advocates couldn’t collectively decide which team really needed him.
At this stage in his career, it was a little tricky to figure out what role he could play because it wasn’t clear how much he had left in the tank or how he’d adapt to his decline after his underwhelming performances with both Oklahoma City and Houston. There was a lot of demand for Carmelo to come back to the NBA. Where he should make his comeback was the question.
Of course, now, we’ve seen that Carmelo can still bring it – so far – if given the right opportunity. The simple problem, in this case, was that Carmelo needed another chance in the NBA. The difficult solution was that, at the time, there was no clear-cut team that would have been perfect for him to go.
That brings us to this season. We are approaching the 1/4th mark in the NBA regular season and now we’re starting to see the true colors of some of these teams. The following teams have simple problems that need to be fixed. At the same time, how they’re going to solve them will be tough to figure out.
San Antonio Spurs
With every minute that passes, the playoff odds are looking less and less in the Spurs’ favor. When was the last time anyone said that about San Antonio? 1996? The naysayers have been dreaming of this day for longer than Vince Carter’s entire career, but this might just be the moment they’ve been waiting for – the end of an era.
San Antonio is currently 8-14, they have a point differential of minus-4.0, and worst of all, they’ve played one of the easiest schedules in the NBA. Maybe it would be different if Davis Bertans or Marcus Morris were around, but that doesn’t change that it’s only going to get harder from here.
Twenty-two games into the season and it’s clear the Spurs’ established stars – DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge – do not mesh well with one other, sporting a net rating of minus-7.2 together. Any three-man lineup with DeRozan/Aldridge plus one of Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White has a frighteningly negative net rating – all are minus-7.3 or lower.
It gets worse. Both DeRozan and Aldridge have very negative net ratings – Spurs are minus-10.5 with Aldridge on the court, minus-13.3 with DeRozan. All three of Murray, White, and Forbes have negative net ratings as well, but why it looks worse for the former All-Stars is because those two are supposed to be the main ingredients of a projected playoff team and they’re most certainly not that right now.
Trading them would be the advisable next step but to who is the million-dollar question. Both of them are really good players. They’re just not great players. They’re both lethal scorers. Both of them can put up 20-30 points on any given night. The real issue is that even if they put up their usual numbers, that doesn’t always equate to a win. If you don’t believe that, look at the Spurs’ record again.
Aldridge would be easier to trade on paper because his contract is more favorable since it’s guaranteed for next season, but potentially trading for DeRozan is a little more delicate of a situation. DeMar has a player option after this season, which can be a catch-22 for players like him. If he plays well, he’ll opt out of the contract and go for his next payday. If he doesn’t, he’ll opt-in and drag the cap down another season.
That makes it harder for teams to invest assets for a guy like him. He would usually be worth more if his contract was longer, but the risk of him leaving after less than one season is too big to give up something good for him. There are teams that could definitely use the offensive boost that DeMar provides, but they may not have the matching contracts nor be willing to offer the young value that the Spurs would want in a deal.
Some retooling definitely looks in order for San Antonio, but this situation is a lot more complicated than it was last year.
At 15-5, the Celtics are both exceeding expectations and are fun to watch. In other words, they look like a Brad Stevens team again.
Boston’s offense has looked much-improved thanks to both better production from Brown, Hayward and Jayson Tatum as well as letting their most egregious ball stoppers walk. By having less pure scorers on the team, there are a lot more touches to go around, which has made the offense look more fluid than it did last year.
What’s more surprising than their more team-oriented offense is their stingy defense. The Celtics have the sixth-best defensive rating, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, despite losing Al Horford and Aron Baynes.
Marcus Smart’s ability to cover just about anyone on the basketball court provides so much cushion for them on the defensive end. Brown, Hayward, and Jayson Tatum have all been stingy switchable wings that make life harder for opponents. Even guys like Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams have proven to be passable options as undersized centers.
Even their pure bigs haven’t been that bad. Daniel Theis has been excellent as the team’s most reliable rim protector, allowing opponents to shoot just 52 percent at the rim, and Enes Kanter has the third-best net rating among rotation players, as Boston is plus-5.6 with him on the floor.
Despite that, no matter how good this Celtics crew may look, the knock on them will be the same until they change it: They need an upgrade in the frontcourt.
Theis has been about as good as the Celtics could have hoped for from him, but as of now he can only reasonably be counted on for 20-25 minutes at most. The Celtics have done a great job covering Kanter’s holes, but is that going to hold up in the postseason? Robert Williams III has made substantial progress, but the young mistakes he makes demonstrate that he’s still a year or two away.
Boston has been better than what many thought they would be, but they’d rest easy knowing they had another dependable option in their frontcourt.
Where do they get one though? They don’t have any expendable contracts to give up in a deal. They’ve made it clear that neither Hayward nor Smart are going anywhere, and for good reason. The only other big contract they have on the books is Kemba Walker, and they’re definitely not trading him.
Since Theis and Kanter get paid $5 million each, it’s hard to combine them for an upgrade because the hypothetical upgrade they would need would cost more than that. Since those two are Boston’s most proven bigs, it’d be hard to see them getting rid of both. Their only option might be the buyout market in February, which is a risky game to play.
As good as Boston has been, they haven’t squelched the fears surrounding their frontcourt issues. It only makes you wonder what this team would look like if they still had Al Horford.
They may not be a good team right now, and probably won’t be a good team for a couple of years, but how can you not like this young Memphis Grizzlies team?
They’ve hit two consecutive bulls-eyes with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant. They’ve got some good complementary veterans in Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder as well as good complementary young guys like Brandon Clarke and Dillion Brooks.
It might be weird to say this, but even though they are one of the worst teams in the league, they’re ahead of schedule. The pieces are in place. They are forming a good culture. They probably will get another high lottery pick depending on what record they finish with. It’s a far cry from the Grit-n-Grind era, but the promise the young Grizzlies possess is undeniable.
There’s only one elephant in the room – Andre Iguodala. He’s been an issue that they’ve been avoiding ever since they acquired a first-round pick by adding his “services.” The word “issue” should be taken with a huge grain of salt because it’s not really causing any disruption. Iguodala wants to play for a winner, and Memphis wants to get something good for him.
It makes all the sense in the world. Neither side owes the other anything. Iguodala shouldn’t be spending what’s left of his career on a team that just pressed the reset button. Memphis shouldn’t let a guy with his skillset go if he can be had for something. Even at almost 36, Iggy is still a valuable player.
Besides the fact that no one is going to offer a first-round pick for a role player in his mid-30’s on an expiring deal, the biggest issue for the Grizzlies is that hardly any team vying for his services has an expendable matching contract to trade for Andre and his $17+ million contract.
Most teams who have expendable deals in the NBA are ones that don’t have any use for Andre because they’re not going anywhere. Atlanta, Cleveland, Charlotte, Detroit are all teams that have guys on overpaid deals that are worth giving up, but the likelihood that they go for a guy like him with the place they are at now isn’t likely.
Teams like the Clippers, Blazers or HEAT could certainly put themselves in the bidding, but that would require sacrificing guys who are thriving in their rotation, like Meyers Leonard, Moe Harkless, or Kent Bazemore.
The one option that makes sense is Dallas. They have a player currently out of their rotation that is being paid enough to be used to get Andre – Courtney Lee. They definitely need some help along the wing, and Iguodala would bring championship experience to a team that has exceeded all reasonable expectations.
What Dallas might do is try to see if they can get a better overall player since the team has both Lee’s and Tim Hardaway Jr’s contracts that can be used to acquire a star. They don’t have a lot of assets, but that may be worth looking into first before looking at Iguodala.
Releasing Iguodala would be Memphis’ last resort, which they don’t want to do, but finding an acceptable trade partner is going to be difficult especially if they want to get something back for him. The longer they wait, the lesser the value.
Summer League Standouts Faring Well
Jordan Hicks takes a look back at some of the most notable All-Summer League Team players and discusses the contributions they’ve made up to this point in the NBA season.
The NBA season is in full swing and players are seeing their impact being felt throughout the league. Veterans continue to lead their respective franchises, and role players continue doing what they can to push the scales in their team’s favor.
While the more tenured professionals capture the bulk of the headlines, the first and second-year players often go unnoticed. There’s the occasional breakout star here and there, but for the most part, the young guys do what they can to find time on the court and help their club in any meaningful way.
Every summer, the NBA hosts the now-famous tournament in Nevada, the Las Vegas Summer League, where the stage is open for up-and-coming players to make their first mark in the NBA. Year after year, some newcomers supply the NBA loyalists with enough highlights to keep them happy until mid-October.
At the close of the tournament, a handful of players will make the All-Summer League Team – similar to an All-NBA Team for the regular season. Let’s take a look at how a handful of the All-Summer League Team members have fared this season and what their potential outlook looks like moving forward.
Brandon Clarke — First Team
The former college All-American out of Gonzaga University had quite the impact in his Summer League debut. Not only did he earn first-team All-Summer League honors, but he also took home the Summer League MVP and Tournament MVP, too. He was a statistical monster and a clear reason why the Memphis Grizzlies took home the coveted — to some at least — Summer League Championship trophy.
Clarke currently finds himself in a sixth man-style role. He’s sixth in the team in minutes per game and is doing plenty in that span. He’s averaging 11.8 points on 63 percent from the field and a more impressive 45.5 percent from three. He’s also bringing in 5.9 boards and just under a block [er game. His effective field goal percentage of 66.4 percent is currently good for fifth-best in the entire NBA.
In per 36 minutes, that would be 20.1 points, 10 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on average. He’s not getting starter minutes just yet, but it’s more than safe to say that the Memphis Grizzlies are receiving incredible value out of their 21st overall pick.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker — First Team
Selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Alexander-Walker contributed in a big way during the Summer League in Las Vegas. His athleticism is clearly a strong suit but his tenacity on the court is what helps him get minutes.
He’s playing a tad over 14 minutes per game for the New Orleans Pelicans thus far, netting 6.5 points and 2.1 assists on average. New Orleans’ roster is flooded with talented guards, so it’s no surprise Alexander-Walker isn’t getting more minutes, but he seems to be doing an admirable job with the minutes Alvin Gentry gives him.
In a loss to Miami a few weeks back, Alexander-Walker went 6-of-9 from three and finished with 27 points. He followed that performance with 19 points and 4 assists in a win against the Golden State Warriors. His minutes have been sporadic so far, but he’s contributed when given a chance. As the season goes on, look for Alexander-Walker to find more time in Gentry’s lineups.
Kendrick Nunn — First Team
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all the young players this season, Nunn has proven to be quite a threat on the offensive side of the court. He’s averaging 15.3 points per game, good for third on the talented Miami HEAT roster. He led the team with 22.4 points per game in October and was averaging 16.9 points through the first 10 games, but he’s cooled a bit.
For a team that was already planning on starting the season strong, the fact Nunn has managed to carve out 29.4 minutes per night is a testament to his nightly contributions. He has taken the confidence he earned from his Summer League accolades and is supplying the HEAT with stellar play on a nightly basis. There’s a chance his scoring will continue to die down a bit, but he’s already proven worthy of his roster spot in such a short amount of time.
Rui Hachimura — Second Team
The Washington Wizards are currently playing the fastest pace in the NBA and oddly enough have the fourth-best offense to date, too. Hachimura is a key reason for this.
He’s averaging 13.4 points on an effective field goal percentage of 50.4 percent. He’s also pulling down 5.6 boards and dishing out 1.7 assists per game. His season-high is 30 points on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, and he’s scored in double-figures on 12 out of 19 games this season.
Hachimura’s long frame, coupled with his elite athleticism, allows him to get to the rim and create opportunities for himself as well as for his teammates. He’s still figuring the game out — his flaws on defense are easy to spot — but he has the ability to develop into a great basketball player.
Other recipients of Summer League honors include second-year players Mitchell Robinson, Lonnie Walker IV, Anfernee Simons and third-year player Jarrett Allen. Each of these guys has been producing for their respective teams in big ways.
The Las Vegas Summer League can sometimes be an interesting topic. Each year, second-year guys may or may not return to their Summer League squads and new faces abound. But if there’s anything that recent history has shown us, it’s that cream will always rise to the top. The guys that notch the All-Summer League honors will usually contribute to their teams almost immediately.
Each of these guys mentioned — and even the ones not discussed — will continue to cement their presence in the NBA and may very well become the regular season All-Stars of the future. It’s hard to decipher a player’s value based solely on box score statistics, but when one first enters the league, it’s never a bad thing to see the box score go up. For the young guys, it’s all about finding comfort and learning in which ways they can contribute best. Some may end up being the scorer, while others will develop into a defensive savant or playmaking maestro.
Whatever the future holds, remember the names above. They all have a solid chance of being the face of a franchise someday.