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NBA AM: Is It Smarter To Bet On Yourself?

The deadline for rookie extensions approaches and some players are opting to bet on themselves. Is that a good thing?

Steve Kyler

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Betting On Yourself:  As the clock ticks down to tomorrow’s October 31 midnight deadline for 2011 first round draft picks to agree to early extensions, a number of players are going to have to decide whether to accept guaranteed, life-long security in the form of a rookie scale contract extension or roll the dice on having a strong season and seeing what restricted free agency brings them.

There are a number of deals that look like they are going to get done.

Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves seem close on a multi-year deal some say could clock in around $52-$54 million.

Tristian Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to talk about a new deal, there is talk that the Cavs are hovering around a $10 million per year deal. That one could get done.

The Chicago Bulls and Jimmy Butler have made progress, but the sense is that Butler may roll the dice on himself. The Bulls could up their offer and get it done at the deadline, but it seems Butler will take the risk.

The Orlando Magic and Tobias Harris exchanged numbers on a new deal, but there hasn’t been any real progress since. Orlando says all the right things about Harris’ future with the team, but it looks like he’s headed to free agency rather than take Orlando’s offer.

Reggie Jackson and the Oklahoma City Thunder have done something similar.

Why would guys pass on guaranteed money like this?

The biggest reason is that teams making offers are generally making them based on what similar players have already signed for. In some cases the numbers being offered are about right based on deals that got done. But rarely are teams trying to set a new ceiling and that’s something of the problem.

Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets reached a deal on a four-year, $48 million deal this week. Why wouldn’t Jackson want something similar? The problem is Jackson wasn’t the player last season that Walker was, and that is where the disconnect is.

Teams tend to pay for what you are, while players, specifically their agents, are trying to get their clients paid for what they will be.

This brings the second part: Virtually every player that has accepted a non-max contract has outplayed the extension they accepted at the end of their rookie deals.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry is slated to earn $10.62 million this season and $11.37 million next season. He is woefully underpaid by NBA standards for the player he is today.

Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan signed a four-year, $38 million extension in 2012. He’ll earn $10.1 million this year and next. He was an All-Star a season ago and arguably one of the better players at his position in the league. At the time he signed that deal was considered a bad deal, today DeRozan is underpaid based on his peers.

While the appeal of the long-term security is hard to pass up, and for many of the guys still considering deals there is risk that passing on an extension could put them on the trade block, but the reality is that to truly get your market value as a player, you have to hit free agency.

A number of clever agents have obtained loss insurance for their guys. One player, who is pondering an extension deal, has an insurance policy that protects him against losing what’s been offered if he waits for free agency

If this particular player misses more than a handful of games this season, and does not get a new contract equal to what he’s currently being offered, his private insurance will make up the difference. So the risk of getting hurt and losing out is offset by insurance.

So for this particular player, why sign a deal that’s not exactly what you are looking for? Why not play out the season and gamble on yourself and change your value.

As the clock ticks closer to the deadline teams will have their own fears to embrace. Do you really want to be the team with the top restricted free agent on the market when as many as 15 teams could have $15 million or more to offer in free agency?

The Utah Jazz had to match a max offer sheet for Gordon Hayward. The Houston Rockets lost out on Chandler Parson because the Mavericks constructed a shorter, player-friendly deal that was unfavorable to Houston.

If you are a pending restricted free agent, do you want to allow another team to set the terms for you?

Deadlines create activity. Most teams will make one more pass at their guys hoping to strike an eleventh hour deal, so some of the guys will get done.

The guys that don’t reach a deal are not necessarily unwanted or not coveted, they are likely willing to gamble on themselves to do better in July, and that’s because normally early extensions offer security but rarely offer maximum earnings potential.

Expansion Still Unlikely:  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sat down with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck in a wide ranging interview.

One of the topics broached was the idea of expanding the NBA. There has been a long running rumor that after the NBA closed its new broadcasting rights deal that the league would at least look at expansion, especially with situations like Seattle, Louisville, Kansas City, Las Vegas and San Diego showing so much promise and interest in the league.

The league has said numerous times that domestic expansion was not on the radar in the foreseeable future, and Commissioner Silver reiterated that stance to Beck, suggesting that relocation was still more likely than adding new teams.

“I think it is possible some teams can be in different markets, but expansion is not on our agenda right now,” said Silver.

“Thirty teams feels right, part of it is not just a financial issue, but a competitive issue.”

The NBA has learned a number of lessons over the years as it pertains to expansion and even relocation.

There was a time that expansion was viewed positively because it created more markets and more revenue streams, but the league learned quickly that more markets also equated to more mouths to feed, and with teams finally swinging to profitability, there does not seem to be much appetite for expanding.

While it does seem that the NBA could demand expansions fees north of $1 billion if it wanted to, the belief is over a ten or 15 year span a new teams would take out more than it put in, hence why expansion is undesirable.

There is also sense that after the NBA reaches a new labor deal with its players in 2017, that expansion might get looked at, but even then it’s viewed as a long shot.

The one thing that is very real for the NBA is relocation.

The Milwaukee Bucks franchise was given a year to get a new arena going or they’d have the option to move if new ownership wanted to. They are saying all the right things now, but that market is on the clock so to speak.

The Atlanta Hawks are currently on the market for sale, and have had long running attendance issues. The Hawks’ venue is also in need of an upgrade, so if new ownership can’t get things moving in the right direction, the Hawks could be a team that becomes a candidate to relocate inside the next ten years.

Commissioner Silver is hardly the final word in matters like this. The NBA Board of Governors could open the door for expansion at some point, but the stance from the league has been for some time that 30 domestic teams was where they wanted to be, meaning those other markets will have to wait until things go bad in an existing city.

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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NBA Daily: Luguentz Dort – A Different Kind of Point Guard

Shane Rhodes

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The point guard position is a clearly-defined one – perhaps the most defined – in the modern NBA.

At the one, you are either an elite shooter (both inside and on the perimeter), ala Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, an elite passer, ala Chris Paul, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, or some combination of the two.

Luguentz Dort doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

The 20-year-old combo-guard out of Arizona State University didn’t shoot the competition out of the gym – Dort managed a field goal percentage of just 40.5 and hit on a meager 30.7 percent from downtown. And he wasn’t exactly the flashiest passer, as he averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Sun Devils.

He’s different. But, according to Dort, he has what it takes to run the point at the next level.

“I know that I can become a really good leader on the court and create for my teammates,” Dort said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.

Confidence and an “I-will-outwork-you” competitive attitude are at the center of Dort and his game. Those two aspects drive the engine that has made Dort one of the more intriguing prospects in the back end of the first round. He may not be the most talented player in this class, but Dort is hyper-competitive and can out-hustle anyone on any given night.

“When I play,” Dort said, “I’m really going at people to let them know it’s not going to be easy.”

There is a hunger in Dort – a desire to win that is evidenced in his game. An aggressor on both offense and defense, Dort’s motor is always going. His primary selling point is his defensive ability; built like an NFL defensive end, Dort can bring energy and effort to any defense. He has more than enough speed to stick with smaller guards on the perimeter and more than enough strength to bump with bigger forwards in the paint.

Dort has also shown a knack for jumping passing lanes to either deflect passes or outright steal the ball; Dort was fourth in the Pac-12 as he averaged 1.5 steals per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes.

Dort has made it a point to put that defensive ability and intensity on full display for potential suitors. At the Combine, Dort said he wanted to show teams “how tough I play on defense” and “how hard I play and the type of competitor I am.”

Offensively, Dort is an impeccable cutter. At Arizona State, Dort averaged 1.289 points per possession on cuts, according to Synergy Sports. When he goes to the rim, Dort used his size and power to his advantage in order to get to the basket and either drop it in the bucket or draw a foul. He isn’t Irving with the ball in his hands, but Dort can make a move with the ball to create space as well.

Dort isn’t a superb passer, but he has a solid vision and can make, and often made while at Arizona State, the right pass as well.

But can Dort overcome the inconsistencies that plagued him at Arizona State? Dort was, at times, reckless with the ball in his hands. Whether he drove into a crowd just to throw up an ill-fated shot attempt or forced an errant pass, Dort’s decision-making must improve. His shooting is suspect and his touch around the rim – two skills critical to the modern point guard – weren’t exactly up to snuff either.

There were lapses on the defensive end as well. Sometimes Dort would fall asleep off the ball or he would be too aggressive one-on-one. If he is too handsy or unaware, NBA veterans will take advantage of every chance they get against him.

But, according to Dort, he has worked on those issues.

“My decision making got a lot better,” Dort said. “My shot, my free throws, everything. I really worked on all that this season.”

But in order to truly make an impact at the next level, he’ll have to continue to work and refine those skills further.

More work has never been an issue for Dort. However raw he may appear, he has the look of and the work-ethic required of NBA-caliber talent. Dort’s ultimate goal for the Combine, other than draw interest from NBA teams, was simple: “learn about everything, get feedback and go back to Arizona and continue to work on my game.” Whether or not teams view him as a point guard, shooting guard or something else entirely is a matter for debate, but, standing at just over 6-foot-4, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and high motor, Dort has the versatility and ability to stick at, and is willing to play, a variety of different spots on the floor.

“I want to play any position a team would want me to play,” Dort said.

He may not be the prototypical point guard, but with that kind of willing, team-first attitude, Dort, at some point or another, is almost certain to make it to and have an impact at the next level.

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NBA Daily: Brandon Clarke Working From The Ground Up

Because of the unusual path he’s taken to get here, Brandon Clarke has established himself as one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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When the draft time comes along, teams who have the higher picks usually look for guys who have the highest ceiling. Because of this, they usually decide to take players on the younger side because they believe those who have less experience have more room to improve.

This puts Brandon Clarke at a slight disadvantage. Clarke is 22 years old – and will be 23 when training camp rolls around – and only just recently came onto the scene after an excellent performance for Gonzaga in March Madness this season.

Competing for scouts’ attention against those who are younger and/or deemed better prospects than him would be quite the challenge, but because of what he’s been through, said challenge didn’t seem to faze him one bit at the combine.

“It was a different path for me,” Clarke said. “ I’m 22 and there are some guys here that are only 18 years old. With that being said, I’m still here.”

The Canadian native has clearly had to pay his dues to get to where he is. Clarke originally played for San Jose State, a school that had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in its program’s history – the most recent entry being 1996 – whose last alum to play in the NBA was Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Props to you if you know who that is!

Playing under a program that didn’t exactly boast the best reputation wasn’t exactly ideal for Clarke. In fact, according to him, it was disheartening at times.

“There were definitely times that I felt down,” Clarke said. “When I first went there, I was kind of freaking out because I was going to a team that had only won two or three games prior to me getting there.”

No tournament bids came from Brandon’s efforts, but the Spartans saw a spike in their win total in the two seasons he played there. The team went from two wins to nine in his freshman year, then went from nine wins to fourteen his sophomore year. Clarke’s performance definitely had a fair amount to do with San Jose State’s higher success rate, but the man praised the program for the opportunity it gave him.

“We did some really big things for that college so I’m really grateful for the stuff I could do for them,” Clarke said.

After spending two years at SJS, Clarke then transferred to Gonzaga where he redshirted for a year before getting himself back on the court. When he did, he put himself on the map.

Clarke dominated in his lone year with the Bulldogs, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds – including 3.1 offensive boards – as well as 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The man clearly established himself as a high-energy small-ball center at 6-foot-8 ¼ inches, and it paved the way for Gonzaga to get a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight.

Brandon loved the experience with the Bulldogs, both for the opportunity they gave him and for what he was able to do for them on the court.

“It was a great year,” Clarke said. “I got to play with some of the best players in the country… It was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’m going to miss it a lot. From a personal standpoint, I was just really blessed that I was able to block shots… I felt that I was really efficient too and I really helped us on the offensive end taking smart shots.”

Both his age and the small sample size, unfortunately, go hand in hand so that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly Brandon Clarke will be taken in the draft. The latest Consensus Mock Draft from Basketball Insiders has all four contributors disagreeing where he will be selected, ranging from being picked as high ninth overall to as low as 21st.

Where he will get selected will all depend on who trusts what could be his greatest weakness – his shotty jumper.

In a league where spacing is so very crucial to consistent success, Clarke’s inability to space the floor hurts his stock. His free throw shooting at Gonzaga saw a drastic improvement from San Jose State, as he went from 57 percent to almost 70. That’s not as much of a liability but not much of a strength either. His three-point shooting in that time took a dive in that time, going from 33 percent to almost 27, which definitely does not help.

To be a hotter commodity at the draft, Clarke had to prove he could shoot the rock from anywhere, which is what he set to do at the combine.

“That is my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. So I’m hoping that they can see that I can actually shoot it and that I have made lots of progress on it, and that they can trust me to get better at it.”

The journey that Clarke has been on to get to where he is had made him all the wiser as a player. With him expected to enter the NBA next season, he had a simple yet profound message to aspiring young ballers everywhere.

“Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. Trust everybody around you that you love… Make the best out of the situation that you are in.”

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NBA Daily: Nassir Little’s Climb Back up the Draft Boards

Nassir Little’s measurements and personality shined through at the Combine, leading many to believe he may be better suited for the NBA than he was for the NCAA, writes Drew Maresca.

Drew Maresca

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From highly-touted prospect to reserve player and back, Nassir Little’s path to the pros has been an unusual one.

Little was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect. And yet, he didn’t start a single game in his lone season at North Carolina.

He demonstrated the ability to take over a game at times – averaging 19.5 points per game through UNC’s first two games in the NCAA tournament. He also broke the 18-point barrier in six games this past season. But he also scored in single digits in 18 of the Tar Heels’ 36 games, resulting in him being labeled inconsistent by many professional scouts.

Luckily for Little, his skillset is highly sought after by NBA personnel. He is a 6-foot-6, 220 pound forward. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as UNC’s sixth man, demonstrating the versatility to switch between both forward positions fairly seamlessly.

And he very well may be one of the few players better suited for the modern NBA game than he was for the NCAA.

Little told reporters at the NBA combine that much of his struggles can be attributed to the hesitancy he developed in his own game through the lack of clarity provided to him by the North Carolina coaching staff.

“The coaching staff didn’t really understand what my role was, especially on offense,” said Little. “So it created a lot of hesitancy, which didn’t allow me to play like myself.”

But Little assured reporters that he’ll look more like the five-star recruit we saw when he was a senior at Orlando Christian Prep.

“Throughout the year I didn’t feel like I played like myself. The guy that people saw in high school is really who I am as a player,” Little said. “And that’s the guy that people will see at the next level.”

Not only does Little expect to be back to his old self, he sees greatness in his future.

“I feel like I am going to come in as, like, a second version of Kawhi Leonard and be that defensive guy,” Little said. “Later on in the years, add [additional] pieces to my game.”

And while a Leonard comparison represents a tall order, Little’s physical tools have fueled discussion about his defensive potential – which has resulted in his climb back up draft boards. Little measured in with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and posted an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump (second amongst all 2019 participants), a 3.09-second shuttle run (third) and a 3.31-second ¾ court sprint (fourth) – all of which translates perfectly to the NBA.

While his physical prowess will certainly help him gain additional visibility throughout the draft process, Little claims to possess another attribute that everyone else in the draft might not necessarily have, too.

“A lot of guys talk about skill set, everyone’s in the gym working on their skillset. But me being able to bring energy day in and day out is something a lot of guys don’t do.”

To Little’s point, he projects extremely well as an energetic, defensive pest. He is an aggressive and physical defender who has drawn comparisons to guys like Marcus Smart and Gerald Wallace – both of whom are/were known for their high-energy play and dedication on the floor. While his athleticism and potential can open doors, his personality will ensure that teams fall in love with the 19-year old forward. Little came across as extremely likable and candid, which should factor into the overall process, especially when considering that other prospects with less personality project to be more challenging to work with. Moreover, the fact that he was named to the Academic All-ACC team speaks volumes to his discipline and dedication.

Little alluded to the fact that he already sat through interviews with 10 teams as of a week ago, including one with the San Antonio Spurs, which makes the Leonard comparison all the more intriguing.

“Each team has different needs,” Little said. “But they like my [ability] to score the basketball in a variety of ways and my defensive potential to guard multiple positions, they really like that. And my athleticism to be on the court and finish plays.”

If Little is lucky, he’ll be selected by the Spurs with the nineteenth pick. And if that happens, he would be wise to pay close attention to the advice given to him by Coach Gregg Popovich – and not only because he sees similarities between himself and former Popovich-favorite, Leonard. Coach Popovich has a long history of developing lesser known draft picks into borderline stars – Derrick White being the most recent example.

Considering Little’s physical tools, academic achievements and easy-going personality, he has everything one would need to have a long NBA career. Just how successful he ends up being is mostly up to him.

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