Did Bledsoe Set The Market?: As the players drafted in 2011 close in on their own deadlines to reach early contract extensions of their rookie scale deals, many around the league watched how the Eric Bledsoe restricted free agency drama played out in Phoenix closely. Bledsoe’s new five year, fully-guaranteed $70 million deal may set the bar for what some other players are looking for especially when you factor in Bledsoe’s injury history and production.
Here are the players eligible for extensions and where some of them may be headed:
2011 Draft position – Player Name (Team)
2 – Derrick Williams (Sacramento Kings)
It is unlikely that Williams is extended before the October 31 deadline for rookie scale extensions. Williams has never really lived up to his second overall pick status and while the Kings like him, they are unlikely to lock him in unless it’s a deal that’s a landslide in their favor. It’s more likely than not that Williams hits restricted free agency in July than gets a deal in October.
3 – Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz)
Like Williams, an extension for Kanter seems unlikely. The Jazz still are unsure where Kanter fits in the big picture and with a new coaching staff in place, Kanter will need to blow some people away this season or he could find himself on the trading block rather than in line for a big payday. His performance in camp could earn him a deal, but that’s unlikely given the premium placed on bigs. Kanter needs to have a solid season to land his big payday.
4 – Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Fresh off a $70 million deal with Phoenix, Thompson’s agency Klutch Sports will start in on the Cavs next. Word is there have not been any meaningful extension talks yet. It’s more likely that Thompson gets his deal next summer for a lot of reasons, but the biggest is this year Thompson could arguably cement himself into a real role with the Cavs and up his value. Given that Thompson is represented by the same agent as LeBron James, its pretty clear that unless Thompson really does poorly, he’ll get his new deal. The questions becomes how much and for how long and the answer to that might be best served after understanding where Thompson really fits into the new-look Cavs.
7 – Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets)
It is doubtful that Biyombo is extended; it’s more likely that he takes a trip through restricted free agency next summer and someone else sets his price. With so much uncertainty about the roster in Charlotte beyond this season – namely big man Al Jefferson’s pending free agency – locking in Biyombo to a larger deal doesn’t make a lot of sense.
8 – Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks)
The Milwaukee Bucks like Brandon Knight, but view him as more of an off-guard. Clearly Knight’s camp uses Bledsoe’s number to re-enforce Knight as a $10-$12 million a year guard. That’s not likely a number Milwaukee buys in October, which means unless Knight’s price comes down to around the $7-$8 million a year range he’s headed to restricted free agency. The Bucks are in transition so unless an extension deal plays in their favor, they may wait out a deal for Knight.
9 – Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)
If anyone’s price went up yesterday is was arguably Walker’s. Kemba put up similar numbers to Bledsoe last season and he is clearly a starting caliber guard on the rise. The question is will Charlotte ink a deal now and lock him in or do they wait and play things out in restricted free agency like Phoenix did with Bledsoe? There is risk that another team tacks an extra million or two on to the deal, much like Charlotte did with Gordon Hayward this summer. Given the similarities in their production Walker’s price likely comes in the $13-$14 million a season range today and that’s likely up a couple of million after the Bledsoe deal.
11 – Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Thompson’s camp had been talking max money before the Bledsoe deal, and with five years and $70 million being the bench mark for a top level scorer, Thompon’s position got a little stronger yesterday. The Warriors are saying all the right things about Thompson and wanting to keep him long-term, the questions is will they ink him to a max money, $16 million per year deal or will they try and get something done just under that before the October 31 deadline? If the Warriors let Thompson hit restricted free agency, it’s more likely than not that one of the 12-14 teams looking at hefty cap space put a big number on the table in July. So the issue for the Warriors is should they pay now or pay later? Like Bledsoe, the Warriors might get a near max deal done now. If Thompson has another solid season, the absolute max is more likely.
12 – Alec Burks (Utah Jazz)
Burks isn’t a likely candidate for an extension unless it’s on the cheap. This will be a big season for Burks to prove not only that he’s a bona fide starter, but that he’s worth investing in. With a new staff and a lot of competition for minutes Burks is going to have to stand out in a major way or he could not only be headed towards restricted free agency, he could be trade bait. The Jazz have some duplication and could look to carve out bigger roles for rookies like Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, both of which could see time at the two spot.
13 – Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns)
This one is interesting, because Markieff is the one worth investing in, but the Morris twins have already floated the notion that they are a package deal. Phoenix likes Markieff, a lot, and doing an extension makes sense for the Suns, but only at the right price. As we saw with Eric Bledsoe, the Suns might let this flow into restricted free agency if only to see how he progresses. There is a thought that Markieff might emerge as a starter and that’s a totally different price for a player than a borderline starter, which is what he is today. The right price for Markieff might be the $9 million per year guys like Taj Gibson got in early extensions. However, with Bledsoe getting $14 million will the price go up appreciably or will the Suns reach a package deal and trim the annual cost on Markieff a little lower by getting something done with Marcus?
14 – Marcus Morris (Phoenix Suns)
As mentioned above there is a sense that both Morris twins want to stay together and do their deals as a package deal. Amusingly during the draft process in 2011, most thought Marcus would be the more dominating NBA prospect, however Markieff was drafted higher and it seems Markieff has emerged as the guy with starter’s potential. Marcus could likely earn more on a another team and carve out his own role somewhere else, but if the goal is to stay with his brother, he may have to take less to achieve that.
15 – Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
If Bledsoe got five years and $70 million, there is almost no scenario in which Kawhi Leonard doesn’t get max money or awfully close to it. The question is do the Spurs lock it now and keep things running smoothly, or do they let the possibility of restricted free agency seep into their locker room? The Spurs did a new deal with Tony Parker to close that door for him, so it seems inevitable that Leonard will get his deal before the October 31 deadline. Leverage for the team sort of goes out the window when a guy helps lead them to a championship and is named Finals MVP.
16 – Nikola Vučević (Orlando Magic)
This one is interesting because the Magic may be better suited waiting the season out and seeing how their team comes together, especially after giving Channing Frye four years and $32 million. Word is the numbers being kicked around with Vucevic are closer to four years and $40-$45 million; it’s unclear if that’s a deal that’s going to get done before the deadline. Vucevic is a heck of an offensive player, but he really leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end. The Magic have the cash for the foreseeable future to pay Vucevic, so this isn’t a cap space issue. It’s a valuation issue and given how much the fans like Vucevic it might be foolish to not make a deal, especially if the Magic can get something done that gives them flexibility like a team option along the way.
17 – Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks)
It’s unlikely that Shumpert gets an extension. All the right things are being said by both Shumpert and the Knicks, but reaching an extension before the deadline is not expected. For Shumpert to have a real future with the Knicks he is going to have to prove he can be that big point guard Phil Jackson loves in the triangle. He’ll have to be a facilitator and knock down shots. If Shumpert can’t play the one for head coach Derek Fisher than he is battling for minutes with Tim Hardaway Jr and JR Smith and he may lose that battle as both are likely better two guards in the triangle than he is. For Shumpert’s part, he’s put in the work. He lived at IMG Academy in Bradenton for most of the summer and really tuned up his body, handle and jump shot. Shumpert will get his chance, but he has a lot to show before a new deal in New York becomes realistic.
19 – Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic)
Like Vucevic, the Magic may be best suited waiting out the season and seeing what comes together before investing in any of their players. Harris isn’t going to command crazy money, likely something in the $7-$9 million per year range. If that sounds excessive, keep in mind that Harris averaged 14.6 points and seven rebounds a game last season with 36 starts. Chandler Parsons averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 74 starts and landed a three year, $45 million deal. Harris is not viewed around the league like Parsons was, but impact scorers like Harris have gotten paid this summer. It’s believed that Harris would do a reasonable deal with Orlando to remove the burden of pending free agency, but his biggest payday might come as a restricted free agent after posting a strong season. The issue for Harris is there is a logjam at his position and if he falls out of favor for any reason his stock could decline. Harris is happy in Orlando, so there is room for a deal, but from a business point of view it may be better for all parties to see what the season brings.
22 – Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Last summer Faried had told a group of players he was going to get a max extension. At the time that seemed laughable. Today, that seems a lot more realistic. Faired erupted late last season for the Nuggets and backed that up with a stellar showing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. If the Nuggets don’t get a deal done before the deadline, there is a real chance they will find themselves in a bidding war with a couple of the teams that will have more than $20 million in possible cap space next summer. It seems unlikely that Faried doesn’t get a max level offer as a restricted free agent, so do the Nuggets try and shave a little bit off a deal now, or do like they did with Ty Lawson and get Faried to defer a little cash down the road in exchange for a deal today. Lawson’s deal got done because he was willing to help the Nuggets out in the cash flow department. If Faried is willing to do the same, a deal likely gets done before the deadline and you can expect the deal to be north of $75 million.
24 – Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jackson is an interesting one too. He wants to be a starter and there was talk all summer that Russell Westbrook may see a lot more time at the two guard spot with Jackson running the point. That lineup solved a lot of problems during the playoffs, and it would solve Jackson’s biggest hurdle of commanding a starter’s contract. The next part is will the Thunder do a deal before the deadline? With Bledsoe setting the ceiling for guards at likely $70 million, is Jackson worth $60 million and will the Thunder pay it? The Thunder are not opposed to extensions, in fact they are usually pretty aggressive in getting that discussion going so that contracts are not a distraction during the season. The smart money says Jackson gets his new deal and it’s a hefty agreement. The Thunder can’t afford to let another talented guard walk away and with Kevin Durant’s free agency just around the corner, locking guys in for a title run again makes the most sense both in the short term and the long term.
28 – Norris Cole (Miami HEAT)
Given where the HEAT are as a team, it’s more likely that Norris hits restricted free agency. The HEAT re-signed Mario Chalmers, so overpaying Cole might not be in the plans. This is likely a case of reaching a reasonable deal in an extension or waiting until July and seeing how the season plays out and what the market believe Norris is worth. Like some on this list, a strong showing could really change the financial landscape for Cole. He would be wise to wait it out rather than taking what his perceived value is today.
29 – Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs)
It’s highly unlikely that Joseph gets a deal before the deadline, unless it’s a landslide in San Antonio’s favor. Joseph hasn’t emerged enough yet to justify an extension, unless it’s on the cheap, which his camp may look at. The smart money says Joseph is a restricted free agent next season and both sides play it from there.
30 – Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
Butler is in a tough spot. He had a stellar season two years ago, which is likely a lot closer to his norm, but he posted a ho-hum season last year, logging a ton of minutes while playing through some nagging injuries that clearly affected his offensive game. The Bulls have been at the table, so there is a desire to get something done, but much like the Bulls did with Taj Gibson, they are trying to lock Butler in on the cheap side. For Butler, he could get a deal today if he wanted to sign one, but it would be based off what his value was last season, not on what his potential is going forward. Do you bet on yourself that you can get healthy and return to your norm, or do you take the security of a deal now? Butler could go either way. There are a number of teams that are going to have cap space, and if Butler logs a solid season he could see a $10-$12 million a year payday through restricted free agency. The Bulls like Butler a lot, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He may have to come into camp and prove that his offensive numbers can return to what they were two seasons ago and maybe he gets his deal. Both sides are talking, but to think that something is close really comes down to Butler and what kind of season he thinks he can have.
Teams have until October 31 to reach extensions on rookie scale contracts. If teams do not reach a deal, they will have the option to restrict a players’ free agency with a qualifying offer.
If you are curious what those numbers look like, checkout the Basketball Insiders salary database.
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NBA Daily: A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors made some bold moves this off-season, but will those moves be the beginning of something new or the beginning of the end of Raptors run in the East?
A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors were clearly at a crossroads after being swept unceremoniously by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May. It was a microcosm of their situation – good enough to win the East in the regular season, but not good enough to win in big playoff games.
The Raptors went on to fire Dwane Casey as head coach, despite him ultimately being named Coach of The Year. The idea behind the firing wasn’t an emotional reaction to the swept; it was the acceptance of the reality that Casey wasn’t going to evolve as a coach, at least not the way management had hoped.
Casey’s ouster wasn’t the only change; the Raptors also traded away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan in a “dare to be great” trade with San Antonio for forward Kawhi Leonard.
From a pure talent standpoint, Leonard is an upgrade in almost every way to DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star in his own right. The problem with Leonard isn’t what he is as a player, its what he’s become as a person. No one saw the divorce in San Antonio coming, nor the lengths his camp would go to force an exit and leave countless millions on the table for a new start.
The problem for Toronto is the new start Leonard was seeking never included them. So, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did a year ago with Paul George, the Raptors are hopeful that a long and successful courtship of Leonard could win him over and into a new long-term deal. If that sounds like a pipe dream, it probably is.
Let’s be real about a few things.
Toronto is a beautiful and passionate basketball city, but is that enough to sway a kid from Southern California to stay? The Raptor faithful will point to DeRozan as an example of yes; he did exactly that when he signed his current deal. But is the situation ideal for Leonard, again the answer might be yes, especially if he is fully recovered from the quad injury that sidelined him for most of last season.
There is no doubting that the Raptors are built to win right now. They won 59 games with arguably the same roster and will enter an Eastern Conference that no longer has LeBron James in Cleveland.
Sure, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are formidable challengers for supremacy in the East and let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers, who could be in that same pack of teams vying for the top spot. But are any of them far and away better than the Raptors in terms of proven in their prime players?
The script seems to be written for the Raptors to either explode and cement themselves at the top of the East or implode on their own decisions.
New Raptors coach Nick Nurse is as a good as they come from the assistant ranks. He is a bright basketball mind, and he knows his players and has relationships with most of them. The question is will he be as good as advertised? If he not, this dance could be over before it starts.
Leonard has so much to prove after orchestrating his exit from San Antonio. If he gets back to MVP form in Toronto how can the Raptors not be considered the front-runner for the East? Yes, Boston is going to be really good too, but if you were betting on two players – MVP version of Kyrie Irving or MVP version of Leonard, who are you taking?
The problem for the Raptors is what if Leonard isn’t that guy again? What if all the negativity becomes too much? What if not being coddled and sheltered by the Spurs is a problem? No, Leonard isn’t a baby that needs mothering, but if you have followed anything about Leonard, he’s not this rock of a person that can handle anything. It’s a real question only he can answer with his play on the floor.
Equally, what if the quad isn’t fully healed or he goes Isaiah Thomas and tries to come back on to make it worse and needs surgery?
These are not easy questions to answer.
If the Raptors come out on top of most of these decisions – Nurse and Leonard are what people hope them to be — then things could swing in a very interesting direction for the Raptor franchise.
That’s what makes the “dare to be great” move interesting.
Thunder GM Sam Presti made news when he was quoted in Paul George’s ESPN docu-series, saying one of his favorite Lyrics was from Tribe Called Quest – “Scared money don’t make none” — in rationalizing his all-in approach to George.
It seems like Raptor president Masai Ujiri may have stolen a play from the Thunder playbook, because the franchise is now all the way in on the make or break moves of this off-season.
This could be the beginning of a new chapter for the Raptors, or it could end being the moves that cratered something special.
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NBA Daily: Why Teams Should Think Twice Before Tanking
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry, writes Spencer Davies.
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry affair.
If it happens, ownership and management have to choose between two options.
1) Attempt to stay competitive
2) Blow everything up and go for a high draft pick
The second choice seems to be the favorite path for executives to take as of late. After all, just look at the job the Philadelphia 76ers have done with perfecting the art of the aptly named process, “tanking.”
Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s three ultra-quotable words have turned NBA fans on to see the bigger picture. Who cares if a team has to suffer through multiple seasons of losing? If it takes a couple of years, so be it. In the end, we’ll reset with younger talent to build around. Trust The Process.
Philadelphia lost a lot of games between the 2013 and 2017 seasons. It was flat out brutal to watch. With that said, it did give the organization the opportunity to draft the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and acquire a young international talent like Dario Saric.
They were extremely patient throughout this whole operation. Brett Brown remained the head coach through thick and thin. Players swore on buying into what was being preached.
Last season was a breakthrough for the Sixers. They won 52 games and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Two of the guys they drafted turned into recognizable names with their play and have sky-high potential to break through in this upcoming season.
But is this really what it takes to achieve relevancy and perpetual competition in the NBA now? Do you really have to wipe the slate clean entirely and put out an unacceptable product year-in and year-out for half a decade so that there’s a possibility of one day becoming a winning franchise?
It’s obvious that Philadelphia did its homework, but who’s to say that other front offices can function like that? The Sacramento Kings have been in the doldrums for 12 years. The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and the New York Knicks haven’t made an appearance in five.
What it comes down to is hitting on draft picks, plain and simple. You don’t hear often about the missteps of the process. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a key piece of the Sixers core, as was Jahlil Okafor. Both of those players were top six selections in their respective drafts.
In order to acquire Noel (along with New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick), Philadelphia sent Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson and the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to the newly branded New Orleans Pelicans.
In hindsight, this was an awful move—no bones about it. Holiday had been coming off an All-Star season. He stood a head above the rest on a roster mixed with veterans and middle-of-their-career players. Most impressive of all, it was only his third year in the league.
The Sixers picked a gamble that did not return the results they were hoping for. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and Noel had his moments, but there’s no way it was worth losing a player the caliber of Holiday. But they had to abide by the process by any means necessary, right?
Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship, yet they’re heading in the right direction. They were able to overcome those bumps in the road. The three teams in Sacramento, Orlando and New York to this point have not.
Tanking may not be the wrong answer. It’s not always the right one, though. It all depends on timing. Take a different approach of re-tooling in lieu of rebuilding.
A prime example of this viewpoint is the Utah Jazz last season. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, many pundits stuck a dead duck label on the Utah Jazz. Those people said that in spite of the fact that the organization was on the rise with a brilliant head coach and an up-and-coming center bordering on best defensive player in the league status.
General manager Dennis Lindsey made a few moves here or there, but did not even think about giving up on the overall progress the Jazz had attained. He kept Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert, drafted Donovan Mitchell and began a new chapter in the same book instead of writing a different novel.
Utah opened a ton of eyes last season, not only making the playoffs—competing until the very end. And even that was fluky when injuries came into the picture.
They never had to go into the gutter. In the four straight years the Jazz missed the playoffs, it wasn’t because of a set strategy to take a nosedive. They had the wrong coach the first two and were learning how to play winning basketball under the right leader the next two.
It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking that route instead of the usual cry to “blow it up.” This isn’t comparing the impact of losing Hayward to LeBron James. That would be irresponsible. But they’ve clearly formed a strategy for all of this and were much more prepared the second time around.
Their true plans were revealed on July 24 when Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension to stick around with the wine and gold. Confusion surfaced all around. Nearly everybody in the NBA world expected general manager Koby Altman to trade him and stock up on future assets. After all, the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick next season only conveys if they finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. If they do not, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks.
While that’s a true statement, nothing is guaranteed. Anything that happens in a season can be unpredictable. Anything that goes on in a draft is unpredictable.
In one timeline, Cleveland could be as bad of a team as some are predicting with Love. In another, they could make the playoffs and shock their doubters.
We don’t know what Collin Sexton will be in this league yet. We do know that experience is irreplaceable. Why not surround the young man with talent for him to breed confidence in himself and others? It’s better than losing a ton of games because the front office is waiting for the next guy to pair him with, right?
The Cavaliers are keeping their head coach. They’re acquiring players aching for an opportunity. They’re altering their direction, but keeping the same focus.
With LeBron James, Cleveland made four straight NBA Finals. In doing so, they’ve set a standard for the organization. Even with The King going west, why would it make any sense to change that message?
Considering the talent this league already has and the “super teams” that are being built among them, there is a difference between a ball club that wins 20 games and one that wins 35. They both miss out on the postseason and have a lottery pick, however, Team A silently creates losing habits while Team B tries to instill a culture of winning.
There is no perfect method for filling a void left by losing a superstar player. Nobody is a psychic.
Maybe it’s naïve to criticize “The Process” for not wanting to be in NBA purgatory—usually somewhere stuck between a seven seed in the playoffs and the 10th team in the conference standings—but tanking is a tricky game. Precision is necessary to pull it off. If it isn’t there, you’ll be in a world of hurt.
At least when you’re in NBA purgatory, you can add to what you have or try a different coach. Championship or bust is a dangerous mentality in the current landscape of sports.
Of course, that’s always the goal, but very few understand what it takes to get to that point. It all starts with a winning attitude, a quality of most teams that have tanked do not possess.
NBA Daily: The Summer’s Most Impactful Coaching Hires
There have been a lot of coaching swaps this offseason, but there are only a select few that should impact what happens next year.
Building a successful team is like cooking a meal. The players serve as the ingredients, while the coach serves as the cook who stirs the ingredients. A championship team requires the right ingredients just as much as it requires an adept cook.
Take the Warriors for example. Mark Jackson played an important role in putting Golden State back on the map in 2013. However, after it was clear that he wasn’t capable of pushing them much further the following year, they replaced him with Steve Kerr.
That made all the difference. The Dubs went from pseudo-contender to legitimate contender, thanks to their new coach revolutionizing the team’s offense. The team went from the league’s 12th-ranked offense in the league the previous season (107.5 points per 100 possessions) to its second (111.6). Stephen Curry’s evolution into a basketball supernova led the way of course, but it was Kerr’s revisions to the team that pushed them to another level.
It all started with how he handled his rotation. Making Draymond Green a full-time starter while also transitioning Andre Iguodala into the sixth man made the Dubs all the more lethal as a team. The final touch was forming the “Death Lineup”, which consisted of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, that made Golden State nearly impossible to stop.
Golden State had a roster built for a title. All they needed was a coach who could get them the best results. Kerr was the man for the job.
That goes to show how vital a coach is to a franchise that has high aspirations.
Because of success stories like Golden State, we saw quite a few coaching changes this summer from teams hoping to have a Hollywood ending much like the Warriors.
Milwaukee Bucks – Mike Budenholzer
Poor Coach Bud. It’s not his fault that the Hawks team that he guided to 60 wins in 2015 slowly disintegrated over the last three years. Luckily he got out of there to avoid having to take on a rebuild. So now, he gets a fresh start in Wisconsin.
Budenholzer’s stock has gone down considerably since winning the Coach of the Year three years ago. That being said, he’s shown that when he has lemons, he can make lemonade. Now that he is running the show in Milwaukee, he is coaching one of the more unique situations in the league. Coach Bud now has a superstar at his arsenal in Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is something he never had in Atlanta.
It’s true that Milwaukee has been one of the league’s frequent underachievers since they kicked the tires of the Greek Freek era, but their talent cannot be understated. Remember that Coach Bud once made the likes of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver All-Stars, statuses that they’ve never come close to regaining since. If he can do that with guys like Teague and Korver, imagine what he can do with Giannis and Co.
Milwaukee has also done a solid job building a team that fits Budenholzer’s emphasis on floor stretching. Adding Brook Lopez and bringing back Ersan Ilyasova should give a team that ranked 21st in three-point percentage more spacing. That’s quite impressive since Milwaukee had the ninth-best offensive rating in the league (109.8).
Milwaukee’s been trying to find their big break for a while now. They may have found theirs in Coach Bud.
Detroit Pistons – Dwane Casey
Nobody had a harder spring than Casey. Usually, winning Coach of the Year would be a moment worth treasuring, but in Casey’s case, it was far from it. Leading up to getting the award, Casey and the Raptors were swept by the Cavs for the second consecutive time, then he got fired shortly afterward. Casey getting Coach of the Year this season was pretty much like Dirk Nowitzki getting the MVP in 2007 after getting upset by the Warriors in the first round.
Thankfully, Casey’s illustrious resume was good enough for him to land on his feet just about anywhere. That anywhere happens to be Motown, where he’s replacing Stan Van Gundy as head coach. Detroit also has not had the most success since they’ve turned to Andre Drummond. That could be attributed to the unfortunate injuries that they’ve had to deal with in the last two years.
Despite having the persistent monkey on his back come playoff time, Casey has improved his craft in response to his failures. The Raptors saw improvement every year when Casey ran the show, and now Casey has the chance to show he can do the same in Detroit.
It will be an interesting transition going from the Raptors to the Pistons. Though not as talented as Toronto’s, Detroit’s strength should primarily come from their frontcourt. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be one of the league’s best frontcourt pairings on paper. Casey has a reputation for making things work, so now that they will have a full season together, they may shine more than they did last season.
One particular question that should be answered is if Toronto’s problem was Casey or his roster. That may be answered by how Detroit does this season. Oh hey, speaking of Toronto…
Toronto Raptors – Nick Nurse
There seems to be a fair amount of optimism surrounding Nurse. Supposedly, he was the reason why the Raptors’ offense improved so much last season. Casey executed it to perfection, but Nurse was the one who designed it. Now, he’s at the forefront on a team that is desperate for success now more than ever.
This is Nurse’s first gig as a head coach, and the pressure is going to be on. It’s not just that Toronto’s been trying to get past its playoff demons. Now that they have Kawhi Leonard, they have to do everything in their power to keep him around — tall order given he seems hellbent on going to L.A.
Still, Leonard is an upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. Acquiring him, along with promoting Nurse, shows that the Raptors aren’t playing around. Being the head coach for one of the league’s powerhouses is a big break for Nurse. This may be his only to chance to prove he deserves a spot in this league.
James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets
Another Popovich protegee moving up through the ranks! Borrego has had some head coaching experience, though it was with the Orlando Magic, who were not going anywhere, three years ago. Now he’s going to Charlotte, a team that’s in a pretty tough situation right now.
Right now, Charlotte is hard-capped on a roster that does not have much room for improvement. The team has not made the playoffs in two years, and it’s hard to imagine how they improve from where they currently are. However, that might be why they hired Borrego.
Instead of going for a known name like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Hornacek, they went with a guy who has learned under the NBA’s best coach for several years. Coach Bud became a great coach after learning from Pop, so perhaps Borrego may follow in his footsteps. This is a pivotal year for Charlotte since Kemba Walker’s bargain contract is expiring. If Borrego can help Charlotte return to the playoffs, then that could do wonders for them.
Note that David Fizdale, Lloyd Pierce, and Igor Kokoskov weren’t named. It isn’t fair to include them because the teams they are running are currently in the rebuilding phase with little expectation. They could be very impactful hires down the line. Just don’t expect a lot from them right away.
Same goes for J.B. Bickerstaff, but that’s because he already was the Grizzlies’ head coach. Now he’s full-time instead of interim. Call it cheating if you want to.
As for those who have been named, these hires should have a significant impact on what happens in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. One of these hires could very well put their team in the finals, while another could put them in the NBA lottery.