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Meet the Mental Skills Coach Training Young NBA Stars

Meet Graham Betchart, a mental skills coach who works with some of the NBA’s up-and-coming stars.

Alex Kennedy

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What do Karl-Anthony Towns, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons, Zach LaVine, Marcus Smart, Stanley Johnson and Jaylen Brown have in common?

townswigginsinside1Yes, they were all lottery picks in the last three years. They are some of the NBA’s most talented up-and-coming prospects.

Wiggins, Towns and Simmons were the last three No. 1 overall draft picks. LaVine and Gordon have had success and put on a Slam Dunk Contest for the ages in February. Each player has a ton of potential, and some of the NBA’s next stars could emerge from this group.

However, these players have another common thread connecting them, albeit one that is lesser known: They are all clients of Graham Betchart.

Who is Graham Betchart, you ask? He’s a sports psychologist or, as he likes to be called, a “mental skills coach.” His impact is felt all over the NBA – as evidenced by his impressive client list – but very few fans know who he is since his work is done behind the scenes and doesn’t get much attention.

Betchart has a master’s degree in Sports Psychology and he’s been providing athletes with his services for over a decade. He’s very good at what he does, which is why some of the NBA’s brightest young stars feel comfortable opening up to him and sharing their insecurities, struggles and fears.

In addition to the players mentioned above, Betchart has worked with many other NBA players such as Festus Ezeli, Patrick McCaw, John Jenkins, Skal Labissiere, Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell and many others. He has worked with the National Basketball Players Association for several years, and recently started helping NFL players too. He has also assisted famed mindfulness guru George Mumford, which allowed Betchart to work with NBA legends Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Betchart is responsible for making sure some of the league’s young stars can manage their stress, handle everything that comes with being a professional athlete in the limelight and produce at a high level on game days. If a player is going through a difficult time or is in the middle of a slump, Betchart is the one who gets the call or visits him. He provides his clients with coping skills, instructing them to stay present, meditate, recite positive affirmations, visualize success and do breathing exercises among other things.

“Mindset is such a huge part of performance,” Betchart told Basketball Insiders. “In the NBA, everyone is athletic and skilled with an incredible body, so what’s the difference? What separates players from one another? Mindset. More and more people are realizing this now.”

One reason why Betchart’s client list skews younger is that the next generation of NBA stars seem much more open to mindfulness training than those who came before them. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma associated with mental health care, but seeking out professional help for these concerns is much more accepted today – particularly among younger people. Athletes seek out any possible edge that will allow them to maximize their performance and increase their efficiency, so it only makes sense that they are now taking time out of each day for mindfulness exercises. And not only will this help them on the court, the off-court benefits seemingly make it a no-brainer.

When New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall first heard of Betchart’s work and his app Lucid, which allows players to do mindfulness exercises on their own, he reached out and said, “Man, where has this been? We’ve needed this!” Marshall became a client and investor in the app shortly after.

While Betchart has plenty of clients to work with these days, it was much harder early on to find players and teams who were willing to give his training a shot.

“I’ve been at this for about 12 years full-time and I know of some people who have been doing this for nearly three decades, but even they say that it’s only in the last couple years that this really started to gain traction,” Betchart said. “Just speaking from my experience, when I started doing this work 12 years ago, I was going to high school teams and directly to the athletes and I had to convince them that this had value. I had to convince them that working on their mindset or working on anything mental was positive, because there used to be a real stigma attached to it. If you said you were working on something mental, all of a sudden it meant something was ‘wrong’ with you. You’d say the words ‘mental health’ and people would run away from it. I called myself a ‘mental skills coach’ because I realized that people are okay with words like ‘skills’ and ‘coach’ – everyone wants to work on a skill or be coached! Early on, I had to basically find a way to fit in and deliver this stuff without kind of letting people know what I was doing. Twelve years later, now people will tell us that they’ve been searching for this kind of service because they understand the importance of mindset and training their mind. These days, we aren’t spending any energy on convincing people that this is important. Instead, they’re looking for it and they’re finding us, which is so refreshing.

“All these years, it was like seeing someone who is really thirsty and you have water in your hand, but they refuse to drink when you offer it to them. That’s how I felt, thinking, ‘Oh my God! Let me help you!’ It’s cool that the world is now much more open to this, to the point that professional athletes are advocating for it. The pros we work with are the first ones to say that it all starts with their mindset. I don’t know if every major sports team has someone on staff doing this yet, but we’re definitely heading in that direction. Just like every team has a trainer and strength coach on staff, soon every team will have a mental strength coach or sports psychologist or whatever they want to call it. It doesn’t matter what it’s called – the important thing is having that person there who can help the athletes work on their mindset.”

Another reason today’s NBA prodigies are more open to mindset training could be because they had a much different rise to stardom than the big-name players of yesteryear. Wiggins, Towns and Simmons were being heralded as “the next big thing” from the time they were children; each of them had at least one mixtape hyping them up as a future star by the time they were 13 years old. The social media age not only promotes players at a very young age, but it also thrusts them into the spotlight when they’re barely teenagers. Mindfulness training is very attractive for a kid who is dealing with intense scrutiny, overwhelming pressure, extreme expectations and the negativity often found online.

While there are plenty of positive things that come with being a star, there’s no question that they live in a fish bowl, are scrutinized and often find it difficult to relate to others. The NBA provides structure and leadership for players, but working with someone like Betchart can help with potential pitfalls too.

“We start with focus, mainly focusing on what’s in your control,” Betchart said. “So often, athletes are focused on stuff that’s outside of their control such as results or outcomes like wins and losses. Putting your energy and focus on those things can really be derailing, so we start by having them focus on the things that are in their control and then go from there. That’s a big challenge as these athletes are coming up. I use the acronym W.I.N. and tell athletes that it stands for ‘What’s Important Now?’ What’s important now isn’t a result or outcome, it’s being in the moment – which I call ‘playing present’ – and then moving on to the next play quickly when that moment is done. That can be hard if you’re having negative results, but you have to be able to move forward. That’s sort of the initial training for athletes, focusing on what you can control, owning what you do control and then moving on to that next play quickly. We can talk about that and it sounds easy, but it’s really hard to do.”

Simmons, who was the top pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in this year’s draft, turned to Betchart for mindfulness training because he was searching for a way to handle all of the attention and pressure that emerged during his one-and-done season at LSU and leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft. Betchart met Simmons at the 2011 Top 100 Basketball Camp, which was hosted by the National Basketball Players Association. Simmons was intrigued by mindfulness training and he eventually started meditating and doing breathing exercises given to him by Betchart, who would work with the LSU star over the phone and sometimes fly to Baton Rouge so they could meet in person.

“He’s an awesome human being,” Betchart said of Simmons. “At this point, I’ve worked with so many great athletes so I tend to gravitate to great humans instead, and he’s one of those really good guys. I’ve known Ben for a few years now; he has a terrific family. With this kind of work, the more years you work with someone, the deeper it goes and the more they develop. With Ben, I’d say we are still in the early stages, but I see someone who is very open-minded to it. And he’s still only 19 years old, so he’s still super young. For him, one of the bigger challenges was that he was a big deal. Ben Simmons is a big deal basketball wise and there was a lot of noise around him coming into college and coming into the draft this year. There was all kind of stuff written about him.

“The big thing that he took to was really focusing on what he can control. He can’t control what people say about him, he can’t control if people criticize his shot, he can’t control if they say he’s the best passer since Magic Johnson, he can’t control if they say he’s the best prospect since LeBron James. You can’t control any of that. For him, he has found a lot of peace in just learning to let go of all that and focusing on what he can control. And all you can control is this very moment, trusting your skills and then going on to the next moment. That wisdom tends to help relax players. For him, it really helped a lot since he had so much noise around him – especially being part of this social-media generation. I mean, it’s a lot of noise.”

While Betchart has an impressive list of star clients, his biggest success story might be Gordon of the Orlando Magic. Gordon has been working with Betchart since he was in the eighth grade, so he’s the best example of how mental skills training can help athletes improve their performance and deal with pressure and demands. From a young age, Gordon’s parents talked to him about being mindful. However, it wasn’t until middle school that Betchart put a sports spin on it and Gordon realized how much these skills could help him with his athletic performance.

“I started working with Graham when I was going from eighth grade to ninth grade,” Gordon said. “I was basically going from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. I knew that I needed something to help my game and continue to keep me on the right track. Graham introduced this to me at 13 years old and from then on, the ball was just rolling. I think it’s helped me a tremendous amount. We use basketball as a medium, but we just talk about life. He’s also helped me with situations in my life that have nothing to do with basketball. We talk about money, materialistic things, existential things – some things that normal basketball players may not talk about with their sports psychologist. He’s become a mentor for me. He’s helped me see that there’s more to life than just basketball and I’m eternally grateful for that.

“I think a lot of people just don’t know about it. A while ago, if you went to someone for ‘mental coaching’ or ‘mental training,’ you were automatically labeled as mentally weak. And that’s not true. That’s not true at all. It means you’re searching for something more – a greater sense of fulfillment. I think kids are starting to understand that more and more. They see guys like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and they see the iciness about them, the mental toughness. You’re starting to see kids say, ‘I want what he has mentally.’ And where they find it is through coaching, mental training and the Lucid app.”

“A lot of the basketball players I’ve worked with are pretty young – either just making their way up the NBA or on the verge of being in the NBA – because I started doing this training with them when they were teenagers,” Betchart said. “Aaron Gordon, for example, is someone who I met when he was 11 years old and I started working with him when he was 13 We built a strong bond over that time and now we have eight or nine years of work to show. A lot of it is building trust. If you build trust with these guys before they’re multi-millionaires, it’s a lot easier. So that’s why the NBA players I’m working with are young, but I hope to continue working with them. And then I’m hoping that this group of guys is vocal about it and we can influence the next generation, so that the next wave of players picks up on this stuff  – maybe even earlier and starts seeing the results. That way, you don’t need to be some lucky, top recruit to have this either. I mean, everyone should be doing this stuff and benefitting from it.”

Gordon loves the idea of spreading mindfulness training to the next generation.

“That would be amazing and a trend would ensue,” Gordon said. “There would be a better brand of basketball players – guys who are more level-headed, more well-adjusted, more focused. That means the level of competition will rise, which will only help the NBA and make it a more spectacular game. That would be amazing, if I could usher in this new trend.”

Betchart’s app Lucid, which features Gordon and other athletes, has 1,000 five-minute mental training workouts that focus on meditation, visualization and positive affirmations. The app will also eventually include messages for people who are dealing with a specific problem such as a slump, playing better in practice than in games and other scenarios.

“With the app, we want to meet people where they are,” Betchart said. “We aren’t asking you to go on some ‘five-day silent retreat for mental health.’ You know? All you need is a phone and headphones to do this and we tell guys, ‘Hit play every day.’ People are gravitating toward it and seem happy that there’s a resource for this. And we’re not saying we’re the only resource, but we just hope people know that there are resources for this and we want people taking advantage of them.”

“It’s incredible what it’s doing for people,” Gordon said. “I’ve always wanted to cultivate mindfulness in a younger generation and this is the perfect first step. It’s not just about basketball either. Every day, we get emails about how Lucid is helping people in everyday situations. It can help someone in business, in ballet, in tennis, whatever. It’s incredible. Anybody can do this. This is for everybody.”

Betchart does make one thing clear: It takes time to see results.

“There’s no quick fix or overnight success,” he said. “Some of these things are very gradual. Sometimes the improvement is so slow you may not even notice it, but that’s how it works. And you can’t speed through it – we only let you do one per day. You can’t go to a weight room right now and have overnight success. Mental training is the same way. We don’t want you to just put 10 minutes into this and then never do it again. We want this to be something that helps you grow over the next few years. Think of it this way: If you’re a freshman in high school, we want you to work at this and realize your goal by the time you graduate. That may seem like a long time, but there are no quick fixes for things like this. And the guys who have stuck it out and worked at it, like Aaron, have seen great results.”

As the 2016-17 NBA season tips off, keep an eye on Betchart’s players and remember that it often takes more than just physical preparation to reach that level of success.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Second-Round Draft Steals to Watch

Several possible second round picks have a chance to make an impact at the NBA level, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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The NBA Draft is upon us this week. The hopes and dreams of many basketball players will become reality. Each year there are players who are drafted in the second round who end up outperforming their draft selection spot.

A premium has been placed on draft picks in recent years. Even second round picks have become extremely valuable. For a team like the Golden State Warriors whose payroll might limit their ability to sign quality rotation players (veterans taking discounts to win a ring notwithstanding), smart drafting has seen them scoop up steals like Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. Both those players have emerged as key rotation guys on a championship team, and both were taken in the second round.

The second round is an opportunity to pick up overlooked young talent on cheap contracts. Sure, it’s rare to get a Manu Ginobili or an Isaiah Thomas or a Draymond Green that goes on to become an All-Star caliber player, but plenty of quality contributors can be found.

Here’s a look at a few guys who have a great chance at becoming second round steals.

1. Allonzo Trier – Arizona

Outside of DeAndre Ayton, there may not have been a more valuable player to the Arizona Wildcats last season than Allonzo Trier. He was the Wildcats second-leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. There have been questions about his supposed selfish style of play, but he’s been a solidly efficient player his three years at Arizona.

This past season as a junior, he shot 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line. Over his three years in college, he was a 47.5 percent shooter from the field and a 37.8 percent shooter from the three-point line. He’s also an 82.3 percent shooter from the line. And he did dish out 3.2 assists this past season.

Trier is a scorer, plain and simple, an efficient one at that. Despite this, his name has failed to appear on many mock drafts. The few that actually project the second round as well have him being drafted near the end. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Trier has great size for a shooting guard in the NBA. A sixth man type scorer is probably his best projection at the next level.

2. Brandon McCoy – UNLV

The Runnin’ Rebels didn’t quite have such a noteworthy year, which might explain a little about why Brandon McCoy is flying under the radar. UNLV posted a 20-13 record and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Despite that, McCoy managed to emerge as their biggest bright spot.

In his lone college season, he led UNLV in scoring with 16.9 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field. He also pulled down 10.8 rebounds per game and was their leading shot blocker at 1.8 blocks per game. For a big man, he shot a semi-decent 72.5 percent from the free-throw line.

He has good size, he’s a legit seven-footer. He moves well on the floor and with some work, can be a very good defensive player. Part of what might be causing him to get overlooked is he doesn’t have much in terms of a mid-range game, a necessity for big men in today’s NBA game. But that can be worked on. At any rate, he can be a high energy big off the bench, good to come in and block some shots, grabs some boards and clean up around the rim. Every team could use a guy like that.

3. Devonte Graham – Kansas

One year ago, Devonte Graham’s Jayhawk teammate Frank Mason III was also being overlooked in the draft. Like Graham, the major issue working against him was his status as a four-year college player. Mason went on to be one of the bright spots for the Sacramento Kings, establishing himself as a legit NBA point guard.

This summer, Graham is looking to do the same. Mason was also a bit on the shorter side, coming in at 5-foot-11. Graham has little more size than that at 6-foot-2. He was the Jayhawks best player for most of the year, putting up 17.3 points per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the three-point line. He also dished out 7.2 assists per game.

Most mock drafts have consistently had Graham being drafted early to middle second round. Being a college senior, he has leadership abilities. He’d be perfect for any team looking for a solid point guard off the bench.

4. Chimezie Metu – USC

For much of the mock draft season, Chimezie Metu’s name appeared as a first round selection. But in recent weeks, as other names began to climb up the draft ladder, Metu it appears has fallen back into the second-round. It’s interesting though, as his skill set for a big man appears to project well in today’s NBA game.

He was the Trojans’ best player as a junior this past season. He put up 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting from the field. He pulled down 7.4 rebounds while averaging 1.7 blocked shots. Although the percentages may not reflect that, he has an improving jump shot. He’s quick and mobile defensively.

He’s got all the tools be able to guard the post as well as switch out and guard other positions if need be. With a little more work, he can be a good jump shooter. With the evolution of today’s game, Metu has the perfect build and talent to find success as a modern NBA big man.

5. Tony Carr – Penn State

Tony Carr has been a consistent second round pick in most mock drafts. There has been the occasional one here or there that had him being drafted at the end of the first-round, but the second round is most likely where he’ll hear his name called.

Carr was the best player for a Nittany Lions team that ended up winning the NIT. This past season as a sophomore, he put up 19.6 points per game and shot 43.3 percent from the three-point line. He was able to pull down 4.9 rebounds per game and he dished out 5.0 assists.

He can play both guard positions and create for himself or his teammates. There have been question marks about his athleticism and ability to defend at the NBA level, but all a team needs for him to do is come in off the bench, run the offense a bit and get a few buckets. He’s definitely capable of doing that.

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NBA Daily: Kawhi Leonard Would Look Good In a Knicks Uniform… In 2019

The Knicks need to take a page out of the Sixers’ book… and trust the process.

Moke Hamilton

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The NBA world nearly stopped last week when reports circulated that Kawhi Leonard wanted out from San Antonio.

All of a sudden, within a few days, both he and Kyrie Irving were both reportedly open-minded about taking their talents to New York.

And while either (or both) of the two would look great as Knicks uniforms, they’d look much better in orange and blue in 2019.

After all, only a fool does the same thing over and over and expects different results.

Seven years ago, the Knicks the made mistake of trading their farm for a superstar caliber small forward. His name is Carmelo Anthony, and we all know how that story ended.

If you want to make the argument that Leonard is a better player than Anthony was at 27 years old, that’s your right, but one thing that not even Max Kellerman could argue is that smart teams simply don’t trade assets for players they could ultimately end up getting for free. That’s exactly why Paul George spent last season flanking Russell Westbrook instead of arguing with LaVar Ball.

So if Leonard or Irving wants to eventually take up residence in New York City, they can prove it… Next year.

If there’s one thing the Knicks historically imprudent front office should have learned from Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, it’s that.

This summer, after hiring David Fizdale, Scott Perry will have another opportunity to prove that the job at Penn Plaza isn’t too big for him, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he even publicly entertains the idea of attempting to make a splash this summer or whether he continues to hold steadfast to the belief that there are not shortcuts on the route to contention.

The right play for the Knicks is to follow the route that the Lakers took as it relates to Paul George—refrain from dealing valuable assets for players that you could sign for free. Danny Ainge hit home runs with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford and by essentially adding each of them to an existing core of young talent—and more importantly, refraining from acquiring either via trade—the Celtics now have an embarrassment of riches.

The Knicks don’t have those kinds of problems, and as it stands, have little aside from Kristaps Porzinigis going for them. With the Latvian unicorn expected to miss the majority of next season, they’ll probably have a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. That could be paired nicely with Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and the ninth overall pick that they’ll have in the 2018 draft.

In other words, one year from now, the Knicks could have four of their own lottery picks under contract—Porzingis, Ntilikina, and whichever players they will have selected in 2018 and 2019. Between now and then, the team would be best served scouring the G-League and overseas markets to find cheap help that can contribute at the NBA level. Let the young guys play, let them develop and then carry them into the summer of 2019 with a clear plan in place.

That type of prudent management will not only help the Knicks in the long run, it will go a long way toward convincing soon-to-be free agents and player agents that Perry and his staff actually know what they’re doing.

If they play things right, and if the team managed to unload either Courtney Lee or Joakim Noah, they could open up the very real possibility of landing both Leonard and Irving, but instead of trading the farm for them, they’d have a realistic shot at signing them. They’d be adding them to the core instead of sacrificing it for them. Imagine that.

From where most people sit, Irving seems to have an ideal situation in Boston, and his entertaining the idea of taking his talents elsewhere seems curious, at best… But so did the choice of leaving LeBron James.

Irving has been consistently rumored as having real interest in playing in New York when he’s able to test the market next July, and depending on who you ask, there does seem to be a genuine level of concern in Boston that he could opt to take his talents elsewhere.

Growing up in the shadows of Madison Square Garden, the young guard knows better than most what winning in New York City would do for his legacy. At the end of the day, would one championship in New York make Irving a legendary figure among the likes of Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Probably not. But one thing we can call agree on is that winning in a single championship in New York would do much more for Irving than winning a single championship in Cleveland or even a single title in Boston.

As it stands, fair or not, history will always look at Irving as the “other” player on James’ championship Cavaliers team, even though he was the one who made the biggest shot of James’ career.

And with the success of the Celtics this past season, truth be told, Irving helping lead the Celtics to a championship with the team’s current core in place wouldn’t necessarily cement his legacy in the way it would have had we not seen Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown show signs of being franchise-caliber players.

Because Irving is a shoot-first guard, he’ll continue to unfairly carry the reputation of being someone who doesn’t make his teammates better. He’s no Steve Nash, but he is truly special. Just don’t tell the national media that.

Because of the circumstances, he’s now in a bit of a catch-22. He’ll get less of the credit than he’ll deserve if the Celtics manage to win an NBA title and more of the blame than he’ll deserve if they fail to.

Still, even if Irving and/or Leonard end up elsewhere, the summer of 2019 will feature other free agents including Kemba Walker—the only “true” All-Star caliber New Yorker in the NBA—and Long Island product Tobias Harris. Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Kevin Love and Nikola Vucevic, too.

Going from Leonard and Irving to Walker and Butler might seem like a sad story of riches to rags, but one could very easily make the argument that adding two high-quality All-Star caliber starters to a core featuring Porzingis, Ntilikina and two lottery picks would do more to make the Knicks contenders than unloading the cupboard in an attempt to bring one in.

If that sounds like exactly what the Celtics did, that’s because it is. The Lakers, too. There’s a reason why they’re the most winningest franchises in NBA history, it would seem.

One thing we know for sure in the NBA: there will always be marquee free agents. The Knicks just need to do a better job of being able to attract them.

So this summer, if Perry wants to continue to earn favor with Knicks fans with even half a brain, the best thing to do might actually be to do nothing.

In other words, if the Knicks have truly learned anything from the futility of their recent past, it’s that they should try to be more like Magic Johnson and Danny Ainge. 

So if word eventually gets to Perry that Leonard’s interest in the team is real, and if Irving decides that he wants to take up residence in his backyard to try to succeed where Patrick Ewing, Stephon Marbury and Patrick Ewing fell short, Perry’s response should be simple.

“Prove it.”

Either would look great in a Knicks uniform, but they’d look much better in a Knicks uniform in 2019.

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Ranking the Free Agents – Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues to evaluate the top free agents at each position. David Yapkowitz breaks down the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

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This week at Basketball Insiders, we’re taking a look at the top free agents set to the open market in just a few weeks. We’ve already covered the point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards. Now we check in with the power forwards.

There may only be a few power forwards who can probably expect a max or near max deal this summer, but there are quite a few guys that, for the right price, can end up being difference makers on a team next season.

Before getting into the actual free agents, here’s a look at what the salary cap numbers project to be. The NBA’s salary cap is expected to jump to $101 million this offseason. Based on that, here are the projected numbers for max contracts:

$25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience
$30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience
$35,350,000 for players with 10+ years of experience

Max/Near Max Guys

Julius Randle* – Los Angeles Lakers – Last Year’s Salary: $4,149,242

Julius Randle is definitely in line for a bigger payday this summer. The fourth-year forward turned in his best NBA season yet and was arguably the Lakers best player for most of the year. He played in all 82 games with 49 starts.

He put up career-high numbers across the board with 16.1 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting from the field. Most of Randle’s scoring comes in the paint where his “bully” ball type game has proven quite effective. He has an improving jump shot and at 23 years old, he still has his best years ahead of him.

He will be a restricted free agent, giving the Lakers the ability to match any offer he receives, but doing so could come at the expense of signing two max-level free agents as has been the team’s plan. It’s going to be an interesting dilemma for the Lakers as Randle most likely will attract interest right away from potential suitors thus forcing the Lakers hand early on in free agency.

Aaron Gordon* – Orlando Magic – Last Year’s Salary: $5,504,420

Aaron Gordon will also most likely receive a max or near max contract his summer. Early in the season when the Orlando Magic started out hot, Gordon was playing like an All-Star and even a borderline MVP candidate.

The Magic’s play then went rapidly south, but Gordon finished the season averaging 17.6 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists, all career-highs. At the beginning of the season, he displayed a much improved three-point shot. The Magic have tried him at small forward before, but he’s a natural at power forward.

Gordon is also a restricted free agent allowing the Magic to match any offer. At age 22, he should also have his best years ahead of him. For a team like the Magic, in need of talent and quality young players, re-signing Gordon is probably ideal. But it’s also important to note that the Magic have a newer front office in place, one that did not draft Gordon. It’s also possible that John Hammond and Jeff Weltman might want to shape the roster in their vision.

Above Mid-Level Guys

Jabari Parker* – Milwaukee Bucks – Last Season’s Salary: $6,782,392

Jabari Parker is perhaps one of the most interesting and intriguing names on the free agent market. A former No. 2 overall pick, as a rookie Parker looked like he was definitely part of the Bucks growing young core. Unfortunately for him, injuries struck him hard as he suffered two ACL tears during a three-year period.

This season, he struggled a bit to find a role with the Bucks. There’s no question that if he’s healthy, he’d be quite an asset to any team. He represents the new breed of power forward with a perimeter game. Prior to his injuries, he’d almost assuredly be a max contract guy. It’s a bit difficult to imagine any team willing to pay him anywhere close to that now.

The Bucks have the option to match any contract offer he gets as he is a restricted free agent. It’s conceivable that they would do so as it will probably take a massive offer to pry Parker away from the Bucks. It’s unlikely that any team is willing to go that high.

Thaddeus Young** – Indiana Pacers – Last Season’s Salary: $14,796,348

Thaddeus Young could be another intriguing power forward on the free agent market. The thing with Young is he has a player option he could choose to exercise and become a free agent. Never an All-Star, Young has been a steady and dependable player his entire career.

His numbers were a bit under his career averages this season. He put up 11.8 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting from the field and he pulled down 6.3 rebounds. Nevertheless, he remained an important part of the Pacers rotation, especially on the defensive end.

Should he hit the open market, there likely wouldn’t be any shortage of suitors.

Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz – Last Season’s Salary: $12,000,000

Ed Davis – Portland Trail Blazers – Last Season’s Salary: $6,352,531

Montrezl Harrell* – Los Angeles Clippers – Last Season’s Salary: $1,471,382

Mid-Level Or Below Guys

Mike Scott – Washington Wizards – Last Season’s Salary: $1,471,382

Ersan Ilyasova – Philadelphia 76ers – Last Season’s Salary: $357,454

Trevor Booker – Indiana Pacers – Last Season’s Salary: $332,516

David West – Golden State Warriors – Last Season’s Salary: $1,471,382

Nemanja Bjelica* – Minnesota Timberwolves – Last Season’s Salary: $3,949,999

Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors – Last Season’s Salary: $1,471,382

Mike Muscala** – Atlanta Hawks – Last Season’s Salary: $5,000,000

Amir Johnson – Philadelphia 76ers – Last Season’s Salary: $11,000,000

Channing Frye – Los Angeles Lakers – Last Season’s Salary: $7,420,912

Quincy Acy – Brooklyn Nets – Last Season’s Salary: $1,709,538

*Qualifying Offer (If made, the player becomes a restricted free agent.)
**Player Option (The player has the choice of whether to opt-in for another year with his current team or opt-out to become an unrestricted free agent.)

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NBA Team Salaries

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