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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Who Will Be King Of LA?
With the NBA season upon us, Jordan Hicks takes a look at the two favorites to win it all – who both happen to hail from the City of Angels – and points out why a certain team could end up on top.
As we all know, since the Lakers lost last night, they are overrated, don’t have nearly enough shooting and are overall an ugly fit on the court. If the Lakers would’ve won, they’d be the front-runners for a ring, gel perfectly and could score from anywhere on the court. The best part of the NBA is that it’s a marathon – not a sprint. Sure, all 82 games matter, but it’s not very likely that a single regular-season game holds much of anything come playoff time.
What we are going to explore in this article will be a look into who really has what it takes to be the top-dog out of Los Angeles this season. Both teams are considered to be top-three finishers in most people’s rankings, but who has a better chance of getting a higher-seed, making it further in the playoffs and – in the end – hoisting the Larry O’Brien?
Let’s first take a look at some of the predictions featuring these teams that stem from Basketball Insider’s yearly NBA Predictions article (found here) and break them down, starting with the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers will not be a top-four seed in the Western Conference
At first glance, this take seems off. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis – how could they finish anything other than the top two? But when you dig into the facts, it seems plausible.
LeBron’s last season in Cleveland ended as the fourth seed. The year prior – although they were the best team out East – they still nabbed just the second seed.
Anthony Davis has never finished higher than a sixth seed and only ever helped New Orleans to the playoffs twice since being drafted in 2012.
Combining Davis and James certainly improve the chances of the Lakers getting a higher seed in the playoffs, no one will argue that, but things are different this time around, too. LeBron is a year older. He and Davis have yet to play any official basketball together. And, most importantly, they are in the Western Conference. Yes, the same conference where non-playoff teams would be a top-four seed in the East.
LeBron’s wake-up call in the West was missing the playoffs for the first time since his second season. Yes, he missed a chunk of the season due to injury, but they still lost enough key games with him on the floor to not use it as an outright excuse.
Is this is a hot take? It should be considered lukewarm at best. The Lakers have enough talent to finish as a top-four seed, but there’s a real chance they won’t. They’ll be directly competing with the Clippers, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets, and Trail Blazers for home court in round one, and I don’t think anyone apart from LeBron superfans will be surprised if they fall to a fifth-or-worse seed come playoff time.
Despite the eventual whispers about Frank Vogel’s job security, he will end the season as head coach of the Lakers
This one is interesting. Vogel was not the sexy name coach that many had envisioned when he was selected to head the Lakers. He had success early on in his career, leading Indiana to back-to-back conference finals appearances, but was most recently coaching Orlando to just 25 wins in the 2017-18 season. To say he was the Lakers’ first choice is laughable, but he wasn’t a horrible hire considering who was available.
Yes, there may be whispers of him being fired if they get off to a slow start, but the Lakers have too much talent to assume Vogel won’t make it until at least the offseason before they consider letting him go. Then, maybe the dream of every NBA Twitter user will come true and the Lakers will hire Magic Johnson as the head coach for the 2020-21 season. No? Yeah, that definitely won’t happen.
Now, moving on to the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers – NBA Champions
Clippers over the Philadelphia 76ers seems to be the consensus when it comes to the ending of the season. And how can you see it another way? On one hand, we can’t keep expecting LeBron to turn in these super-human performances. One of the few players who kept up exceptional play deep into his career was Karl Malone, but even he started playing professionally after multiple years of college ball. LeBron came straight from high school. The man has literal MILES on his body.
On the other hand, the Clippers are downright good. The team is largely the same from last season where they won two games on the road against a healthy Warriors team that included Kevin Durant. Add to that roster one Paul George and one Kawhi Leonard – those are *pretty* solid additions. The Lakers may have added AD, but they had to gut the core of their roster to do so. The Clippers didn’t lose all that much if we are being honest. Danilo Gallinari is nice, but not essential, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be really solid one day, but he wasn’t necessarily moving the needle. Even better, the Clippers held on to the most valuable rookie on their roster last season in Landry Shamet. He shot 45 percent from three last season after being dealt to the Clippers!
The Lakers will be good, no doubt. But the Clippers just might be better. And that will be enough to get them to and past The Finals as champions.
Andre Iguodala will be traded – but not to the Lakers or Clippers
This seems very realistic. Iguodala will likely be on the move. He won’t want to play for the Grizzles and in turn, Memphis will gladly accept any asset that Iguodala returns, but it’s just doubtful that either Los Angeles team will have the best offer.
Virtually every other team in the West will have someone or something that exceeds what the Lakers or Clippers can offer, so neither franchise will be able to net the veteran forward for some significant playoff help.
Whose roster is better?
The Clippers have the superior head coach in Doc Rivers, superior duo (very slightly) in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and the superior role players in Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley, to name a few. It wouldn’t be out of pocket to say that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis are individually better than both Leonard and George.
What this means is that the George-Leonard duo meshes better. In that, you have two elite defenders, as well as two incredibly talented shooters and playmakers. They are both long and athletic, and both have the ability to change the flow of the game at almost every level. LeBron and AD may be objectively better players, but no matter how well they play together, it likely won’t be on the same field as PG and the newly-dubbed “Terminator.”
The last few paragraphs make it seem like the Clippers are hands-down better than the Lakers, but that just isn’t the case. If LeBron can get back to the same form he had during the 2017-18 playoff run, the Lakers will be scary good. Davis is still young and should be plenty healthy with his lack of play last season. The same goes for LeBron. If those two can find a groove, there isn’t a single team in the NBA with a duo that is defensively skilled enough to stop them. The Lakers’ defense will certainly be called into questions at times, but both JaVale McGee and AD are ample enough rim protectors to keep it from becoming too much of an issue.
Another factor that may push the Lakers past the Clippers is the injury issues that could end up haunting the red and blue brand. George will miss the first 10-plus games recovering from dual shoulder surgery. Kawhi, on the other hand, has quite a history of random injuries and more-than-normal load management DNPs. If they lose key games due to inactive players, it could really mess up their seeding and cause them to lose a seven-game series largely due to missing out on homecourt.
With all this being said, it seems plausible that Clippers come out as the kings of LA. The Lakers just don’t have the overall talent to match the Clippers.
But if anything, the game you witnessed last night will have loads of information to analyze and digest moving forward. Just, please, take the results with a grain of salt. As previously mentioned, the NBA season is long. But one thing is certain: we as viewers are in for an incredible ride this year!
The NBA Ten Years Ago
With the season finally here, Matt John takes a look at what the NBA was like ten years before, and the implications it had on today’s league.
Here we go again!
Last year, this writer dove into what the association was like ten years before the incoming season. Now here we are again. We’re traveling back to the year 2010. Back when the iPad was first sweeping the nation, the economy was still in the toilet, and the Toy Story trilogy had concluded on a high note. Or so we thought.
Coming into the 2009-2010 season, it seemed the season itself wasn’t what everyone was paying the most attention to. What was on everyone’s minds was the upcoming free agency of one LeBron James.
Following Cleveland’s shocking playoff exit in the Conference Finals, there started to be rumblings that James’ days as a Cavalier were numbered. We all know what happened the following summer, which is worth discussing next year. At the time, however, Cleveland’s top competitor for James’ services was believed to be the New York Knicks.
Even though the Knicks hadn’t been to the playoffs in almost a decade, and were still washing off the stink of Isiah Thomas’ managerial tenure, they still had their prestige of being a legendary franchise by their side. Meanwhile, everyone else in the league was gearing up for an upcoming epic free agency period.
This may sound irrelevant now since we didn’t get our answer until after the season ended, but this hoopla all started circulating just before the 2009-2010 season started, and it would never go away. In fact, we saw several cap-clearing moves by teams in order to facilitate a potential deal for James, so how could it? As for the season itself, we still got one entertaining enough that James’ decision didn’t distract all that much.
Now last year, this started off by asking how well the team who won the championship in this specific year would do in the modern NBA. The Lakers repeated as champions in 2010 with almost the exact same team, so there’s not much use in asking if they could do it in today’s league, so we’re not going to start there.
Where we’re going to start, however, is the little change the Lakers made before they went on their road to repeating — Replacing Trevor Ariza with Ron Artest.
More Talent Does Not Equal Higher Ceiling
In the summer of 2009, we saw quite a few (declining) stars who went to new situations either to rehabilitate their career image and/or to get a ring. Ron Artest, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Shaquille O’Neal, and Allen Iverson all found new homes before the fall of 2009. It was so repetitive among aging stars that we were quite shocked when Grant Hill opted to re-sign with the Suns when contenders were inquiring about his services.
Because of this, the ceilings for all the teams involved — minus Memphis, who Iverson was employed with for exactly three games before his release — was projected to be even higher than they already were.
The Lakers were adding a 17-point scorer and a former defensive player of the year. The Celtics were adding a big who made the all-star the previous season that was coming off their bench. The Cavaliers were adding a reigning all-star and all-NBA center. The Magic were adding an electric 20-point scorer. The already elite teams managed to get better on paper.
But when they took the court, they weren’t. At least not really. The star-studded additions didn’t hurt the teams too much when their seasons ended, but they didn’t add any new dimensions.
Before coming to the Lakers, Artest was usually a focal point in the offense, so he was used to doing things his way. That’s what made him such an awkward fit in LA since the Lakers already had an established pecking order with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum. They wanted Ron to be a 3&D wing, but he was used to being so much more. Artest would later hit two enormous shots in the Lakers’ playoff run, but he never really found his stride in Los Angeles.
Rasheed Wallace should have been a perfect third big off the Celtics bench. He had plenty of playoff experience, and his skillset alone should have made it easier for Boston to weather Kevin Garnett’s recovery following a devastating knee injury. Instead, ‘Sheed came into the season out of shape, played lackadaisical on both sides of the floor, and didn’t really try until the postseason came around. Though he gave his all when it counted, his frustrating play made him one of the least-liked Celtics in recent memory.
Of the stars that have been brought up, Vinsanity did the best for what his team asked him. Vince Carter was handed a bigger role than the previous two mentioned. He was supposed to fill in for the departed Hedo Turkoglu. He put up pretty good numbers, but he just wasn’t the same player at 33 nor could he do what Hedo did. Vince definitely tried, and he did an adequate job. In the end, Orlando acquired him just a year or so too late. Sadly, if it weren’t for Nick Anderson, these two free throws would have been the most infamous in Orlando Magic history.
As for Shaq’s time with the Cavs, well that deserves a conversation on its own, which leads us to our next topic.
Less (Shaq) Is More!
When Orlando proved in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals that they could handle whatever LeBron and the Cavs threw at them, it was clear they needed someone who could stop them, or more specifically Dwight Howard, in their tracks. The recently resurgent Shaq could definitely suffice.
Shaq was coming off of his best season in years, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while also staying on the court for 75 games. Even at 37, it looked as if Shaq had some juice left after all. Sure, the Suns didn’t make the playoffs, but he looked like a valuable asset to have nonetheless. Cleveland thought as much when they traded for him and, best of all, he was traded for spare parts.
Unfortunately, he didn’t bring the same production as a Cavalier. In fact, Shaq was probably the last player you’d want on that team. The early James years in Cleveland were a team that relied on running the floor. A younger Shaq would have been just fine in a system like that, but the 38-year-old iteration? Not so much. He wasn’t useless when paired with James, but he could not keep up with him.
The Cavs still had the best record in the entire league, but they actually won five fewer games with Shaq than the previous year. In the end, it was all for naught because the Cavaliers never got their rematch with the Magic in the playoffs. A few months later, Shaq would leave Cleveland for the team that eliminated them — the Boston Celtics
As for Phoenix, many thought this was the end for them. Steve Nash wasn’t getting any younger, Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract was up soon and selling off Shaq for basically nothing made it seem like the Suns were Run-n-Done.
But that wasn’t what happened. With Shaq gone, Phoenix re-discovered its style. Nash and Stoudemire were free to run their pick-and-roll game again, while Hill, Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley were excellent complementary pieces on the wing. Add Leandro Barbosa, Channing Frye, youngsters Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez and, suddenly, the Suns had an elite squad again.
With a fully healthy season from almost everyone, Phoenix worked its way to a 54-28 record, placing them third in the Western Conference. The team managed to get past the Trail Blazers in the first round, then stunned the Spurs in a sweep in the second round. The Lakers later stopped the Suns in a hard-fought conference finals.
It’s just amazing how, when you look back at both the Cavs and the Suns in 2010, Shaq, one of the greatest players of all-time, affected both of their seasons because of how badly he fit with both of them.
It’s also depressing to note that ten years later, the Suns have yet to reach the playoffs again.
About The Label “Future Star”
The 2009 draft had some studs coming out of the woodworks. They still have plenty of basketball left in them, but Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Blake Griffin have all done enough in their careers to earn a place in the NBA Hall of Fame. Even players below their tier, e.g. DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday, have had pretty impressive careers in their own right.
But, back in 2010, not much attention was put on any of those five. To be fair, Blake was out for the season was a fractured patella, while Harden was a mere bench player for the Thunder and Curry had a satisfactory rookie campaign on a crappy Warriors squad. Holiday was just a rotation player for Philadelphia, and DeRozan was highly regarded for his highlight-reel dunks and not much else.
When the 2009-2010 season came around, the players who were believed to be the future stars from the group were Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings.
Evans had one of the best rookie seasons the NBA had ever seen, averaging 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Those were numbers repeated only by the likes of Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and LeBron James in their respective rookie seasons. A team like Sacramento, who needed any kind of excitement after giving away Ron Artest to the Rockets the year before, needed someone who could promise a good future. Evans was exactly what the doctor ordered.
But sadly, that first year was Evans’ peak. Injuries sustained over the years halted his progress as a player and he never approached the status of a future star ever again.
In Brandon Jennings’ case, his status as a future star was even more short-lived. Jennings, who created controversy when he decided to forego college to go play overseas before the NBA, exploded when he first arrived in Milwaukee.
His first full month in the league, Jennings averaged 22.1 points on 42/49/78 splits, which included a 55 point explosion against the Warriors. Because of that, it seemed as though that Jennings would become the player we now see in Stephen Curry.
But, as it turned out, those numbers were just a flash in the pan. Jennings didn’t come close to matching those numbers throughout the remainder of his rookie season. He had a fine year, and even finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, but Jennings failed to match the hype.
No matter how good or bad a rookie may look, we never know a young player’s future until we truly see it for ourselves. It may sound odd now, but there was a legitimate belief that Evans and Jennings were future superstars because of their performances. We now know that’s not the case but, because of their stories, patience is now preached as far as player development and growth are concerned, for better or worse.
What Could Have Been
We talked about how Phoenix and Cleveland did during the 2009-2010 season. But did you know that they almost agreed to another deal at the trade deadline in which the Cavs would have acquired Stoudemire for JJ Hickson?
James and Stoudemire would have been an interesting pairing as both were set to enter free agency. Stoudemire was an offensively stout rim runner who absolutely could have dominated the fast break with James much like he did with Nash. The Cavs opted to take a half measure by trading for Antawn Jamison and retaining Hickson’s because they believed in his potential. But we’ve already gone over what happened after that.
That wasn’t the only almost trade that could have changed a lot. Before Jamison was traded to Cleveland, Washington had discussed trading both him and Caron Butler to the Boston Celtics for Ray Allen and cap filler. Jamison and Butler would have given the Celtics a lot more scoring depth. Plus, at the time, NBA players could go back to the teams that had just traded them, so adding them and getting Ray back could have pushed them over the top. As we’ve previously established, more talent does not lead to a higher ceiling.
But enough about mega-trades that fell through. What about teams that failed to reach their potential because of unfortunate circumstances?
People forget how good the Bucks were during that season. Brandon Jennings’ strong rookie campaign helped them, but Andrew Bogut coming into his own as one of the league’s best all-around bigs as well. Add newly acquired John Salmons, and Milwaukee was a team nobody wanted to face.
That was until Bogut suffered a freak elbow injury just before the playoffs started. Before that, Bogut was on his way to All-NBA honors because of his excellent play on both offense and defense. With him gone, the Bucks never recovered. Bogut himself was never quite the same. Had that injury never happened, the Bucks could have had something special on their hands, which probably would have led to a lack of Giannis Antetokounmpo for them now.
Every year, we wonder what could have been had certain things gone the other way, and the 2009-2010 season was no exception.
There were other storylines that were going on. The NBA suffered a PR crisis after the Wizards had a gun standoff between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenden. As awful as that was, it inadvertently won them the John Wall sweepstakes. Looking back, who knows how the landscape of the NBA would look today had that not happened?
We talked about stars joining good teams, but one that falls under the radar was when San Antonio traded for Richard Jefferson. Many believed the Spurs were going to take it to a whole new level when they acquired him in the offseason, but Jefferson was bizarrely awful with Gregg Popovich. Thus, the Spurs fell apart and were swept by the Suns in the second round.
The last thing to note was that the 2009-2010 season was when Kevin Durant and the Thunder finally put it together to earn their first playoff berth. While the Lakers eliminated them in the first round, we knew that it was just the beginning for them.
Of course, everything mentioned here culminated in the infamous summer of 2010. But that will be tabled for next year.
50 Predictions for the 2019-20 NBA Season
Drew Maresca and the Basketball Insiders team offer their annual 50 predictions for the NBA season.
Thank god, basketball is back. And with it comes Basketball Insiders’ latest attempt to throw down 50 bold predictions. Even better, it’s this writer’s second go-around with predictions. And with that familiarity comes unwarranted confidence. So, as always, get ready for red hot takes – significantly hotter than last years – from everybody, yours truly and the broader team included.
Over the summer, the site added some new members to the team. Thusly, we’re expanding the “Predictions from Insiders” section of the article to accommodate all of our brilliant minds. Unfortunately, that means fewer picks for me — but on a positive note, bonus predictions for you! Spoiler alert: Some of my teammates’ predictions contradict mine. One of us will be right and only time will tell.
As always, we’ll revisit our predictions following the season. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@DrewMaresca) about any of the predictions — and do so with all of our staff, as well. The more feedback, the better. And with that, let’s commence with some predictions.
Awards + Other Individual Predictions
1. Stephen Curry leads the league in scoring. This is a pretty popular one. He’ll have so many more opportunities without Klay Thompson (knee surgery) and Kevin Durant. Sure, D’Angelo Russell will take some shots; Draymond Green too. But who else is going to get buckets? Curry might need to average 40.
2. And Curry will also win the 2019-20 NBA MVP. This one’s a little less common. And it hinges on my confidence in the Warriors team as a whole. But let’s be honest, the MVP race will be between Curry, Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis – and maybe Damian Lillard. Russell Westbrook and James Harden probably play themselves out of contention given the inherent stat sharing. Ditto for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
And that’s literally all of the favorites. I don’t see a world where Nikola Jokic wins MVP even though he will deserve serious consideration. Joel Embiid could get in on the fun, but I expect him to get his share “load management” with the team prioritizing winning over personal glory.
3. Rudy Gobert will repeat as Defensive Player of the Year. It’s just really hard to anticipate anyone outperforming him. I believe that Draymond Green will be asked to do a little too much in terms of guarding bigs this season. And he’s another year older. And he just got paid. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverly are all very impressive, but they’ll split the burden of defending an opponent’s best wing so it will water down their efforts. Of course, that leaves Gobert as the obvious choice.
4. But Mitchell Robinson will lead the lead in blocks. This isn’t really a hot take when you look at last year’s results, right? Robinson finished fourth last season and he played less than two-thirds as many minutes as any as the three guys ahead of him. He looked more patient in the preseason, which allowed him to remain on the court for longer periods of time. And if he can continue that, he’ll be a defensive force.
5. Spencer Dinwiddie will be named Sixth Man of the Year. It’s not that I don’t love Lou Williams. But the league tires on handing the same guy an award over and over. Williams was the winner for the previous two seasons and in three of the last five. And Williams isn’t getting any younger, either. Ultimately, it may be somebody else’s turn.
6. Jonathan Isaac wins MIP.
7. Luka Doncic is named to a 2019-20 All-NBA team
8. Trae Young will lead the league in assists. The competition will be too tight at point guard for Trae Young to qualify for an All-NBA team like fellow sophomore Doncic, but he’ll have a wildly impressive second season.
And what’s more, Young will average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game. He’ll shoot 36 percent from three-point range — up from 32.3 percent — and he’ll break his own record for made 30-plus foot shots. This feels like multiple predictions tied into one and I got myself in trouble with these types of predictions last year… oh well.
9. Zach LaVine will be an All-Star. Look, I predicted LaVine as MIP last year – and I was wrong. So I’m doubling down. I really like LaVine’s game. He’s dynamic and super athletic, but with just enough polish. And with the Eastern Conference’s lack of All-Star-level guards, LaVine may be a shoo-in.
10. Zion Williamson will play less than 70 games. Williamson’s unique combination of speed and power are among his best attributes. But they’re also going to be his biggest hindrances, too – at least until he’s able to lose a few pounds. Williamson simply puts too much stress on his body, enough that this may become a reoccurring theme. He’ll miss a few games throughout the season – including to kick off the year – as he needs extra rest to recover from the wear and tear of the season.[Sorry, guys, I’m taking credit for this one because it was written at least a week before the injury was announced.]
11. RJ Barrett will win Rookie of the Year. Barrett was primed for an inefficient season following summer league. Well, fast forward a few months and he looks far more prepared for the NBA. He’s proven that he can initiate the offense, while his ability to attack the rim won’t falter as a professional. And, probably just as important, his confidence is through the roof. Already, Barrett looks like a star in the making.
12. Tyler Herro and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will both be named to an All-Rookie team.
Team + Playoff Predictions
13. The Houston Rockets will win fewer games than last season – and the highest they’ll end the year is at the No. 4 overall seed.
It’s not their fault and I’m not blaming the Westbrook-Harden pairing at all. Truthfully, injuries and depth will be the main culprits. Their starting five is actually great: Harden, Westbrook, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela. I love those five — but it falls off a cliff from there, especially after Gerald Green’s injury. Austin Rivers is a known commodity, but they’re going to struggle to generate much when they go to their bench.
14. The Philadelphia 76ers will nab the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
15. And they win the Eastern Conference.
16. But they’ll lose in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Clippers.
17. The 76ers will be joined in the playoffs by the Bucks, Celtics, Nets, HEAT, Pacers, Magic and Pistons, in no particular order.
18. The No. 8 overall seed in the Western Conference playoff race will come down to the Mavericks, Spurs, Pelicans and Kings, decided by 1.5 games or less. And the Mavericks will prevail.
19. The Clippers and Mavs will be joined in the playoffs by the Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets, Rockets, Trail Blazers and Warriors.
20. For the first time in 10 seasons, there will be no 60-win teams in the NBA.
21. And there will be more than 10 teams with 50 or more wins for the first time this decade.
22. All qualifying Western Conference teams win at least 50 games – a slight uptick from last season when the eighth-seeded Clippers won 48 games.
23. All eight Eastern Conference playoff teams win at least 44 games – last season, the eighth-seeded Detroit Pistons finished 41-41.
Trade + Coaching Change Predictions
24. The HEAT will trade either Justise Winslow or Goran Dragic before the deadline. Miami was already star shopping this summer when they expressed interested in Chris Paul. One or both can help them get that other star. Dragic’s contract is very tradable as it is more than $19 million and expires following this season. Winslow’s contract is even more movable at $13 million per year and a team option in 2021-22.
25. Speaking of Paul, he is not traded this season.
26. The Cavaliers finally move on from Kevin Love.
27. Andre Iguodala will be traded – but not to the Lakers or Clippers. The Grizzlies will look to collect as many assets as possible for Iguodala and the two Los Angeles-based franchises have limited draft capital left to include. The Rockets are reportedly out, too, as his salary is highly prohibitive for a team that’s already in luxury tax territory.
28. I predicted Scott Brooks would be fired during last year’s go-through, so we’re doubling down here, too. He’ll be let go before the All-Star break.
29. Despite the eventual whispers about Frank Vogel’s job security, he will end the season as head coach of the Lakers.
30. At least three teams will average more than 40 three-point attempts per game. Last season, only the Rockets surpassed the 40-plus mark at 45.1 per game. But as we’ve seen in recent years, teams have become even more smitten with the three-point shot. Hard to say with certainty who it will be, but…
31. Back to the Rockets, they will lead the league in three-point attempts with more than 50 per game. This would’ve sounded ridiculous just a few years ago; but since Mike D’Antoni joined the club, they’ve hoisted 40, 42 and 45 per game over the last three seasons, respectively. Predicting five more three-pointers per game is aggressive, but they can do it.
32. Moreover, teams continue to crank the pace. Franchises eclipsed 100 possessions per game last year and that trend will continue this season, ultimately ending the 2019-20 season with between 103 and 105 per game.
33. Spencer Dinwiddie’s attempt to securitize his “Athlete Investment Token” *(PAInT) is allowed by the NBA, breaking ground on a new era of investing in professional athletes.
34. And the NBA-China situation does not subside. Thus, the 2020-21 salary cap shrinks by at least 10 percent.
35. Pistons trade Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond
— Matt John (@MattJohnNBA)
36. Matisse Thybulle will break the starting lineup for the 76ers and be in the discussion for All-NBA Defensive Team.
37. The Portland Trail Blazers will be the No. 3 overall seed in the Western Conference and will have a third elite scoring options to end the season.
— David Weissman (@dwize04)
38. Denver is the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference.
39. Karl-Anthony Towns becomes the seventh player ever to average at least 25 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 65.0 or better.
— Jack Winter (@ArmstrongWinter)
40. Giannis Antetokounmpo will not be the only player in the upper-Midwest to lead his team in all five major statistical categories this season as Karl-Anthony Towns will, as well.
41. Robert Covington will creep into more trade rumors than just about anybody else in the NBA, but he will not move this season.
— Doug Farmer (@D_Farmer)
42. Lonzo Ball to win Most Improved Player in 2019-20.
43. Caris LeVert is an Eastern Conference All-Star.
— Ben Nadeau (@Ben__Nadeau)
44. The Chicago Bulls win a playoff series.
45. Quin Snyder will win Coach of the Year as the Jazz secure the top seed in the Western Conference; Mike D’Antoni will not finish the season as the Rockets’ head coach.
— Chad Smith (@Chad200)
46. The Denver Nuggets will lead the league in Net Rating.
47. The Hawks will be last in defensive rating.
— Quinn Davis (@Quinn_DavisNBA)
48. Los Angeles Lakers will not be a top-four seed in the Western Conference.
49. Ben Simmons will shoot above 25 percent on three-pointers (but on less than one attempt per game).
— Jordan Hicks (@JordanHicksNBA)
50. The Celtics finish with the No. 3 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and Gordon Hayward is an All-Star.
51. The Hawks and Bulls qualify for the playoffs, but Pacers and Warriors will miss out, despite Curry’s heroics.
52. And the Denver Nuggets finish the season as the No. 1 overall seed out and the New Orleans Pelicans squeeze into the eighth and final spot.
— Shane Rhodes (@Share_Rhodes1)
53. The Raptors start off strong, but fizzle out around midseason and miss the playoffs.
54. And they trade either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol.
— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies)
And there we have it: another year of predictions in the books. Let’s all celebrate by binge-watching basketball for the next eight or so months. Remember, we’ll reference specific tweets in our “50 Predictions: Revisited” piece following the season, so make sure to connect with us on Twitter about how good or bad you think we’ve done.