Chat With Nate Duncan 6/17/14

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney.  His chats get started on Tuesdays at 11 Eastern and include all
topics NBA.Nate_Duncan_Chat_2

  1. Jordan

    It’s clear following these NBA Finals that the Heat have several holes in their roster that need filling. Assuming that the Big 3 take paycuts to stay in Miami, who from this year’s FA class would be the best fit for their needs?

    • Nate Duncan

      Welcome back after a week’s hiatus for the adidas Eurocamp last week. Let’s get started.

      The Spurs sure made it look like the Heat have a lot of needs didn’t they. The first real question that they will need to answer is whether they are going to keep playing small or not. With Dwayne Wade slowing down on lot, especially on defense, it may not be as much of an option for them to play without a true rim protecting center. But the other problem is that Wade can’t shoot, so if they go with another big next to Chris Bosh then there may not quite be enough shooting on the floor. Another question is whether Ray Allen comes back or not. Birdman looked about done towards the end of the playoffs as well, so counting on him may not be wise even if he comes back for minimal money. And Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole looked like they weren’t cutting it as starting point guards against the Spurs either, although it could be dangerous to overreact to one or two bad series. Cole is under contract for next year, but he’s not a starting quality player unless he really improves.

      A lineup with Wade, LeBron, Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony (who has been rumored to come to Miami) would basically be limited to outscoring people, as Carmelo certainly would not help their defensive issues. That team is probably the league’s number 1 offense though. Another problem though is the mechanics of getting Anthony. The Heat can’t really trade anyone for him if the big 3 stick around because they can’t match salaries for Carmelo in a sign and trade, unless they re-sign a bunch of their own free agents and ship them to New York. Unfortunately for the Heat, they don’t really have the assets a team like Chicago has to induce NY to agree to a sign and trade. So if they get Anthony, we can assume the big 3 and Carmelo take up almost all the cap space. That leaves just the room exception of a 2 year contract starting at $2.7 million, and minimum exceptions unless they really get fancy. While they might get some ring chasers, that usually works a lot better at $3 million a year than the minimum. Note that they really weren’t able to get anyone last year in that scenario other than Beasley and Oden, and Beasley was still getting paid by PHX.

      So, perhaps going for Carmelo isn’t their best plan. They instead will need to try to get another big man who can defend the rim, and someone to play a Battier type role as a hybrid on the wing who can shoot 3s, plus either re-sign Chalmers or get another point guard. If the big 3 all re-sign for $15 million, that leaves about $17 million in cap space plus the room exception to get that done. Luol Deng actually could be a decent fit in Miami if he were willing to sign for a relative discount. Shawn Marion would also be decent defensively, although he could hurt their previous spacing. Livingston is another option as well. Vince Carter would fit the profile as a gunner off the bench who plays passable D.

      Finding a useful big man is harder. Ekpe Udoh could be an option as a restricted free agent, a mobile big who could execute Miami’s traps well and has usually played better than his box score stats. Channing Frye or Emeka Okafor (if healthy) could be other frontcourt options. But frankly, there is not a ton out there. If Miami could figure out a way to acquire Carmelo while staying over the cap, that would be the best option, but otherwise they are going to have major problems on D because of the inability to get anyone else.

  2. Jason

    Nate, which report out of CLE do you believe regarding Embiid’s work out? It doesn’t make any sense why CLE would leak bad info about Embiid’s back as that could only HURT the trade value of the #1 Pick if he is flagged. If you are Hinkie, would you sit back at 3 and conclude Wiggins will likely fall to you or trade up to #1. As a Sixers fan, if Hinkie is convinced he needs to move up to #1 for Wiggins, I am OK trading #3 and Thad for the pick, but I would not trade #3 and #10. What would YOU do and what do you think Hinkie will do?

    • Nate Duncan

      I would say that I think Embiid is a better prospect than Wiggins. So I would not trade up to get him. I also think that Embiid makes too much sense for Cleveland, and wouldn’t buy the rumors about them not taking him. If they don’t, it would be a mistake. At number one, you always take the guy who is going to be the best player over the next 8 years, since if he works out that’s how long you’re almost guaranteed to have him on the roster. I believe that’s Embiid, and I think most people agree with me. Taking someone else just because he’s “more ready” to help them make a playoff push this year seems very short sighted.

  3. Radu

    Hi Nate, I was reading Steve Kyler’s earlier chat and barely anyone mentioned the Spurs winning the NBA Finals. People seem to be more interested in who goes 27th in the draft than about who won the Finals. Do you think fans hedge their bets too much on the draft instead of good coaching, discipline, role players and roster balance? In the past decade, 100 players have been picked in the top 10 of the NBA draft. How many of them made any impact whatsoever in the past two NBA Finals? Precisely zero. Sorry for the mini-rant. I am a Denver Nuggets fan but I’ve been too busy enjoying the Spurs’ greatness to think about whether my Nuggets will get a third wing off the bench or not. Finals question: do you think the Spurs proved you wrong by finding that extra gear you didn’t think they had in games 3-5?

    • Nate Duncan

      Those three games were some of the best basketball that has ever been played. On the other hand, maybe Miami just wasn’t that good. Their point differential and 54 wins this year certainly said as much, but we continued to give them the benefit of the doubt because of their past Rasputin qualities. They didn’t beat anyone in the Eastern conference.

      That said, the Spurs just completed one of the most dominating playoff runs statistically of any champion. So nitpick as I might with their competition (including the Ibaka injury for OKC), it’s hard to say they didn’t have the extra gear when they dominated like that.

      As for why people love the draft, it’s probably because they are fans of their team first. That and free agency are the only ways to be a fan of your team this time of year. Plus it is just fun to speculate on. A lot of sports is the anticipation rather than just the actual result of the games or transactions. That’s what makes it so fun to talk about.

  4. JimInCyberSpace

    Nate, where do you think Kevin Love ends up? And do you Minny will trade him and get something in return…they have to, don’t they? They can’t call his “bluff” and let him walk?

    • Nate Duncan

      I’ve said before I think Chicago represents the best confluence of Love-attraction (he’d want to stay there because they could win) and assets to entice Minnesota. I’m not sure why he’d want to go to Boston because it’s hard to imagine how they build a good team around him in short order. At 26, he’s in his prime and needs to start winning now.

      Golden State is another option, but as Love I’d rather be in the weaker conference and with (probably) the better coach. That said, the Bulls don’t have the greatest history when it comes to attracting marquee players from other teams.

      If I were Minnesota, I would listen to trade offers, but I’m not dumping him unless there is a fantastic offer that trumps whatever chance I think I would have of keeping him by being good next year. Superstars are so rare that even if there’s a 25% chance of keeping him (and it could be less than that) I hold onto him. And at the very least, I create the appearance I”m willing to hold onto him to create the appearance of “internal leverage”, i.e. that I need to be wowed to trade him away.

  5. matt from Oz

    Hey Nate,
    draft quesiton on the 76ers.
    if they manage to land one of Wiggins or Parker with pick 3, would it be at all reasonable to think they might look at Elfrid Payton at 10?
    At 6’4 he’s a good size guard, to match up with a 6’6 Carter-Williams, both of whom would be terrors on defense with their length and ability to get out and run.
    With Noel manning the middle, Wiggins at 3 would make the defense even better, but Parker would make up for some of the lights out shooting missing from the 2 guard spots.
    i get that James Young, Stauskas or Gary Harris are more likely at 10, but thought Payton and MCW would make an interesting and entertaining pairing.
    thanks Nate.

    • Nate Duncan

      Payton and MCW might be the worst shooting backcourt in NBA history, although they’d get a ton of steals. And then Noel at the 5 and Wiggins at the 3, that team would probably make less 3s than anyone since the early 90s.

      That said, the Sixers are so bereft of talent right now they should just take the best player available regardless of fit. Despite the ROY campaign, there is no guarantee MCW turns into the above-average starter they need at the point.

  6. Gregg

    assuming the Heat resign LBJ, Wade and Bosh at around 65-70 over 4, which players should they target to get more athletic + shooting on the wings? really hoping they don’t go for Melo, unlikely to happen but still

    • Nate Duncan

      Gregg, how did Dwayne Wade look those last couple games of the Finals? I was in Europe so I missed them. (Gotta give Gregg a hard time since he trolls me on Twitter every time Wade makes a J. And for the record, I think peak Wade was better than Kobe–it’s just that he’s looking about done now.)

      To your question, I’m not sure what the point would be of re-signing everyone to an amount totally 65 or 70 million, as that would leave only the mid-level exception or if they get close to the $81 million apron re-signing other players the MMLE to add more talent. The Heat definitely don’t want to extend Wade or Bosh’s contracts for more than the 2 years they have remaining at those type of numbers, although getting LeBron to re-sign for the long term even at his individual maximum would be a coup.

      If Wade and Bosh opt out, it would be to re-sign for a lower numbers to provide some cap space.

      As for Melo, as I discussed it’d be hard to imagine they get him while staying over the cap, as your scenario would envision since the cap will be about $63.2 million next year. And bringing him on with cap room, even with those 4 guys, creates massive defensive and depth problems most likely.

  7. Eric Black

    I see that Phoenix has a lot of cap space but I don’t fully understand the salary cap. Do they have room to sign Bledsoe to the max and then also sign one of Lebron or Bosh to the max if those guys are interested?

    • Nate Duncan

      http://www.basketballinsiders.com/phoenix-suns-team-salary/

      This is useful information to start. Please forgive any errors here as I’m doing back of the envelope calculations without my usual spreadsheet.

      Bledsoe’s cap hold, as a restricted free agent coming off his rookie contract, will be 250% of his previous year’s salary of $2.6 million or $6.6 million, because $2.6 million is below the Estimated Average Player Salary which is around $5 million. (Were he over the EAPS, his cap hold would be 200% of his previous salary.) The cap hold is designed to account for the fact that Bledsoe will likely be re-signed. Nevertheless, The Suns do have an advantage because his cap hold of $6.6 million is less than he will probably earn. So it would be a good idea to wait to re-sign Bledsoe until after they have done other free agent moves. They have the right to exceed the $63.2 million cap to re-sign Bledsoe, but not to sign other free agents. So better to sign them first, then re-sign Bledsoe to his contract afterward.

      Of course, Bledsoe could ruin those plans by immediately signing an offer sheet before the Suns can sign free agents. They will presumably match, and the amount would go on their cap before they could sign the free agents.

      Anyway, let’s assume the Suns wait to re-sign Bledsoe and Channing Frye opts in to his $6.8 million player option for next year. (If he doesn’t, his cap hold would be 150% of $6.4 million, or about $9.6 million. They would have to either re-sign him or renounce his rights, meaning they could not exceed the cap to re-sign him except using another exception aside from the Bird Exception.) If he opts in, and including Bledsoe’s cap hold, the Suns would be at about $48 million including empty roster slots and PJ Tucker’s cap hold of $2.8 million. So that leaves about $15 million available under the cap to sign a free agent. Renouncing Tucker would get them to about $17 million in space, and if Frye opts out and is renounced that puts them at almost $24 million in space.

      Carmelo Anthony’s individual max if he opts out is about $22 million. LeBron and Bosh are just a little below that. So yes they could potentially make it happen. Even if Frye opts in, they could dump one of the Morris twins or someone like Alex Len to open up the requisite space. There is also the matter of Phoenix’s first round picks this year. If they keep all 3 of them, that would eat up another $6 million or so in space (estimating on that, no time to look it up right now). So the room could be opened up, but do you want to give up all those assets to do so if it’s not certain those guys are coming? Probably not. They’d have to be really darn sure of that to do all those gyrations.

  8. Justin

    do you know why basketball-reference’s pace numbers are always a few possessions less than NBA.com’s? Do you prefer one to the other?

    • Nate Duncan

      I’ve noticed that as well. I usually stick with NBA.com because it’s a little easier and more people are using it, but I’m not quite sure of the reason for the discrepancy.

  9. Jack

    Do you think Shabazz Napier could be the best point guard in this draft?

    • Nate Duncan

      I would be very very surprised due to his inability to finish inside and his age.

  10. Will

    Where do you think the bulls go if they don’t land anthony/love, or even lebron?

  11. Mutang

    Hey Nate, you seem to have a bit of a pulse on the Jazz, at least more than most. And Utah is always so tight lipped it’s impossible to get a feel for where they’re going in the draft. In your opinion, what do you think they’re going to do? Will they make a legitimate move up for Jabari, and if so what parts included? Or trade back? Or at 5 who is their target? Thanks!!

    And long live the Quin!!

    • Nate Duncan

      They are listed as drafting Vonleh right now by some drafts, but I think that would be a mistake. I’m not going to predict what they are going to do, but I don’t think they have the horses to move up for Jabari, or the willingness to commit them even if they did. Who on that roster do you want if you’re Milwaukee for the privilege, plus 5 and 23 of course.

      I’d say they should take Exum if he’s there. He could totally flame out and won’t be anything close to ready right away, especially on defense where he’s used to just walking around the court, but his blinding quickness gives him superstar potential. The Jazz should be better next year, so they may not be in the range to get a star in the draft. They need to swing for the fences now. Smart would be my other choice if Exum is gone. They have Burke, and I like him, but Smart is probably a better prospect. They could also play together with Burke’s shooting ability and Smart’s defense.

  12. Guilherme

    Do you expect the Pacers to make any significant move to improve their roster next season?

    • Nate Duncan

      It’s hard to quite see how if they hold onto the core. I do expect them to re-sign Stephenson (if they are over the cap they have no way to replace him) and largely bring the band back together next year, but doing that puts them right near the luxury tax. Because they are a small market and don’t want to or can’t pay the tax, that should be it for them. Another example of how the new CBA has hurt small market teams–if they were a bigger market they could re-sign Lance and afford to pick up another free agent at the MLE or MMLE were they over the tax.

  13. Charlie

    In your opinion, would a hypothetical Joel Embiid / Tyler Zeller frountcourt work?

    • Nate Duncan

      Poorly, because Zeller is backup quality at best. They’d also be too slow on defense, and lack any stretch on offense.

  14. nik

    how much of a factor do you think the differences in conferences were?

    do you think the lack of competitive teams in Eastern Conference ill-prepared the Heat?

    how much of a factor are strength & weakness of conferences play into free agents decisions? do you think LeBron or Melo seriously consider moving west?

    • Nate Duncan

      1. It’s huge in the playoffs, but very very overrated when it comes to amassing regular season stats or records. People need to stop talking about how someone’s regular season stats are suspect because they “play in the East,” because 58 of the 82 games are the same for every team. And research has shown that even with the biggest possible conference disparity, those extra 24 games are only worth about 2 wins plus or minus.

      2. No, I think it just made them look better than they were.

      3. I’m not in any of these guys’ heads, but I’d sure rather stay in the East if I were them, everything else being equal.

  15. Dennis

    Does the Julius Randle possible foot surgery news really benefit Philly? At number 10 they may be the first team able to draft Randle even if he may be out for the next few months. Whereas other teams in the top 10 may need a player to contribute right away.

    • Nate Duncan

      If Randle only misses 6-8 weeks, it shouldn’t matter much as long as it won’t be a long-term issue. And worth noting he himself is adamant he won’t need surgery, so we’ll see how it plays out. Woj is rarely wrong though.

  16. Sweet Dee

    Does the stock of international players rise considering how many teams have multiple first round picks (Philly, Orlando, Utah, Charlotte, Chicago, Phoenix, OKC). Teams looking to win will most likely not want to bring in multiple rookies meaning a “draft and stash” scenario is more likely with one of these picks. Also, as a product of the market, these 1rst round picks are less valuable in trades as teams looking to acquire a pick have lots of teams to negotiate with. One may argue players like Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Cappella, Kristeps Prozingis, Walter Tavares, Bogan Bogadonvic, and Vasijie Micic may be drafted higher than their skills merit based on so many teams looking to go international. Your thoughts.

    • Nate Duncan

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that they would be drafted higher than they should be based on the fact they are stashable. If anything, we’ve seen the fact guys won’t come over right away hurt draft position more than help them in the past, Nikola Mirotic being a prime example.

  17. Frank the Tank

    If you were the GM of Cleveland, who would you draft today and why: Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid

    • Nate Duncan

      Embiid. Wiggins’ feel for offense worries me a bit. He just doesn’t seem to have the moves or smoothness finishing that the truly elite wing players in the NBA have.

  18. David

    As an attorney and basketball lover, I admire that you’ve been able to pursue your passion and avoid being pigeonholed in the law. How were you were able to do this so well (both in terms of free time and in terms of making the transition to the basketball world)? Very impressive. You’re a hero to many lawyers!

    • Nate Duncan

      Haha, thanks David. The answer is that I do nothing but work, watch basketball, and write. So there are definitely some sacrifices involved. Also, I have to thank my employer for being very flexible.

  19. LONNIE

    The Suns future looks bright with picks and the young talent they have. How do they get piece of the puzzle that moves up up in the Western Conference.

    • Nate Duncan

      I addressed this somewhat in my previous answer. I think that unless they can trade for Kevin Love they should target guys who can defend on the wings or at the basket, either in the draft or free agency. Improving the defense to a top-10 level is how this team takes the next step.

  20. GEOFF

    Good Morning,

    Should the Heat let Bosh walk and sign Kyle Lowry and draft Mitch McGary at 26? Realistically it would be better to replace Wade but that will never happen.

    Another Lowry alternative is Chicago. Should they amnesty Boozer, sign Lowry and Mirotic and keep their draft picks. Initially keep Lowry as two guard but when Rose goes down as I expect him to again, have Lowry play the point. If they want Love go for him at the trading deadline when your guys would have had the opportunity to showcase their talents to the Wolves. Am I nuts or am I on to something?

    • Nate Duncan

      I don’t think they should replace Bosh, especially since he seemed willing to re-sign for less. If anything I think they really underutilized him offensively, and putting him in more pick and pop plays at the point of attack is going to be needed as Wade continues to slow down. Bosh did not play that well in the Finals, but he’s essential to what they do.

      That’s all the time we have this week. Thanks as always for the questions. I’m going to be doing as many scouting reports as I can all week, and will have a top-10 prospects list dropping next week before the draft. Stay tuned.

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