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NBA AM: Is International The Better Option?

Is it smarter for a player to sign internationally if he can’t land in the NBA? Maybe, but international ball can be unkind.

Steve Kyler

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The International Conundrum:  There was a time when big man Derrick Caracter was considered the next big thing. He was on the cover of magazines at 13 years old. He was labeled the next big thing by media outlets and pundits who do that sort of thing far too early.

If there was a wrong crowd to run with he ran with them. If there was a wrong guy to listen to he listened to him.

As Caracter prepared to play last night in Orlando, he had one single goal in mind: Log more than eight minutes. See, Caracter signed a short-term contract with Flamengo Basketball of the Novo Basquete Brasil. It’s not a terrible deal financially, but he signed the deal because Flamengo was playing three exhibition games against NBA teams.

However, as a lot of players learn about the international game, well thought out plans often fail. As much as Caracter wanted to use his time in Brazil to help his team win, he really wanted to showcase himself for NBA teams and maybe land a better opportunity.

Something similar is playing out in Turkey with Sixers draft pick Dario Saric. Concerned he might not be ready for life in the NBA and the demands of the game, Saric opted to sign a multi-year deal with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League.

The problem for Saric is that he was supposed to use this time to further his game in advance of coming to the NBA in the next two years, possibly as early as next year.

Efes has played one regular season game and Saric logged no minutes. Not exactly what he was expecting, and according Saric’s father, not at all what he’s willing to do.

Efes opens Eurlogeaue play against Unics Kazan today, so there is a chance for a better story for Saric, however his camp is talking about a buyout now, after just one game. They’re trying to get Saric to the 76ers this season. Fortunately for Saric, the 76ers have the means to help if it comes down to it.

For Carcater it’s a very different story. He doesn’t have a team willing to bankroll a buyout. He doesn’t have a NBA team pinning their future on him. He’s like many guys that are not on NBA teams today, chasing the dream that he can play and help a NBA team.

He and his agent constructed his agreement with Flamengo so he’d have option after the exhibition tour through the US, and that short term agreement may have soured the coaching staff on the big man.

He played well last season in the NBA’s D-League, so that is appealing from a playing stand point. He could stay close to home and have a chance for NBA teams to see him on a daily basis and maybe shake some of the labels he’s collected over the last couple of years trying to break into the NBA.

There are offers from international teams. Those offers include substantially more money than Caracter can earn in the D-League, but it means being away from his family. Its means running the risk of not being paid what is agreed. Carcater is still chasing money owed to him from other International stops, so the security of the D-League is appealing.

The problem with Caracter’s situation is he can earn the most money going aboard However, as Saric’s situation shows just because a team signs you does not mean they will play you and that happens all too often; players that don’t play sometimes don’t get paid.

Caracter logged eight minutes in the Flamengo game against Phoenix. He logged eight more against the Magic last night. The Memphis Grizzlies play host to Flamengo on Friday, so Carcater may get one more chance to showcase himself. If it’s eight more minutes, he’ll have to weigh the choice a lot of guys getting cut from NBA rosters over the next few weeks will make: Stay in the D-League and hope to be noticed or roll the dice that an international team offering bigger dollars will pan out?

Watching Saric’s situation play out in Turkey is a cautionary tale. If he can’t find minutes after signing a multi-million Euro deal, where does that leave Caracter?

While both are in radically different situations as players, the problem is the same. International may offer more money, but if it only comes with eight minutes a game, is it really worth it?

That’s the conundrum.

Fewer Games Uhh?:  The NBA is going to test out an idea. The idea arrived from a meeting recently between the NBA coaches and the NBA in which it was suggested that maybe the NBA game would be better if it were ever so slightly shorter.

Shorter is better. No question. When you play 82 regular season games, every minute matters on a number of fronts. Television partners want games to fit inside two hours. Working fans would like to be home before midnight on game day. Teams pay a large number of employees an hourly wage, so shorter is cheaper. There are all kinds of reasons to make the game shorter.

So with that in mind the NBA is going to try out a 44-minute game. It will be one game, used as a test to look at how shortening the game impacts things. The two teams – Brooklyn and Boston – agreed to be the Guinea pigs and they’ll play the game this Sunday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Now before we get too far down the road on this, it’s a test. There are no plans to install this into the NBA and while the league could have looked at this in the D-League, doing so in the exhibition has garnered a lot of attention, which is something the league surely wanted to analyze.

Would fans care if the game were four minutes shorter? In the social media world, it’s easy to find out.

Would four less minutes make the product less fluid, watchable and exciting? These are all things we’ll find out on Sunday.

Now the by-product of this experiment is that every player in the league and almost all of the coaches have been asked by media to comment about shortening NBA games.

The overwhelming response wasn’t so much about the length of games, as much as it was about the number of games being played.

Stars like Cleveland’s LeBron James said he’d rather see a 66-game schedule like the league played after the lockout in 2011. Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said much of the same. Fewer games would be good.

Fewer games sounds good. Fewer games would mean less back-to-backs, travel and wear and tear. Those all sound like good things, things players would care about as their careers are short. We talk about the mileage players accumulate over the span of a multi-year career all the time.

LeBron has logged 39,993 minutes between the regular season and the postseason in his 11 seasons. Nowitzki has logged 48,1847 minutes in his 16 NBA seasons; so, clearly less games matter when you accumulate those kinds of minutes.

The problem that both are overlooking as some of the highest earners monetarily in the game is that less games played equals less money.

The NBA just inked a new $24.4 billion broadcasting deal. That deal didn’t include less games for broadcast, it included more.

While players are not paid on a per-game basis, when you break down their salaries that way players like LeBron who will earn $20.644 million this season, make about $251,000 per game.

NBA’s Highest Paid Players Per Game

Name  Per Game
Kobe Bryant  $286,585.37
Amar’e Stoudemire  $285,499.85
Joe Johnson  $282,692.56
Carmelo Anthony  $273,882.94
Dwight Howard  $261,417.94
LeBron James  $251,760.98
Chris Bosh  $251,760.98
Chris Paul  $244,738.57
Deron Williams  $240,908.11
Rudy Gay  $235,577.15
Kevin Durant  $231,653.95
Derrick Rose  $230,035.07
Blake Griffin  $215,544.06
Zach Randolph  $201,219.51

You can find the top 50 Highest Paid NBA Players here.

It’s easy to say let’s cut off 16 games from the season, but is LeBron prepared to sacrifice $4 million from his salary for rest? I am pretty sure his support for the second idea would be radically lower than his support for the first.

It’s easy to say less games. The problem is less games means less tickets sold. Less events staged, so less advertising. Less games to be sold to television and radio, so there would be less there too.

Shorter on the other hand is not less. At least not in the sense of selling tickets, selling games to television and radio and as events to brand marketers and sponsors.

The average preseason NBA game played yesterday took two hours and 14 minutes, that’s a ratio of 2.79 minutes per 1 minute of game play. Reducing a game by four game minutes on average would reduce the actual time of a game from 2:14 minutes on average to two hours and roughly 2 minutes, a 12-minute per game savings. Doesn’t sound like a lot until you factor in all the games played in a season and then it becomes a big number.

So, if shortening the game doesn’t impact the number of games, how games are monetized and the flow of the game is unchanged, is this a bad thing? That’s what the NBA is going to look at on Sunday.

Shorter isn’t less games. It’s just shorter. If players want fewer that’s a pipedream the owners are likely unwilling to consider simply because it means less money and we all know no one is signing up for less money.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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A Few Good Free Agents Left

David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.

David Yapkowitz

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The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.

A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.

For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.

David Lee

Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.

He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.

Deron Williams

Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.

After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.

Monta Ellis

Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.

He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.

Leandro Barbosa

The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.

He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.

Derrick Williams

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.

During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.

With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.

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NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.

Buddy Grizzard

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With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.

“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”

Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.

“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”

In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.

“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.

“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”

One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.

“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”

Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.

“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”

The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.

“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”

With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.

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NBA Opening Night Storylines

Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.

Dennis Chambers

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The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.

Rejoice, hoop heads.

Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.

With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.

As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.

Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.

And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.

The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.

But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.

While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.

By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.

Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.

Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.

Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.

And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.

Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.

This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?

Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.

Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.

While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.

Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?

After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.

“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”

It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.

That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.

Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.

With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.

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