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NBA AM: Free Agent Dollars Drying Up

There’s not a lot of cash left in the free agency pool. Which teams still have money to spend?… Setting a value for Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe.

Steve Kyler

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The Cash Is Drying Up:  Most of the teams that had major cap space have basically spent it. While there are still a few teams with sizable exception money remaining, the big money available in free agency has basically dried up.

Here is what the current cap picture looks like:

Here are the teams with real money to play with:

The Atlanta Hawks currently have about $2.08 million in space and could open up an additional $6.75 million more by renouncing the cap holds on Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon, giving them a possible $8.83 million to spend. The Hawks are still very much engaged on the free agent front so spending their cash is likely.

The Charlotte Hornets have roughly $1.41 million remaining under the cap and still have Brian Roberts’ deal to finalize. Roberts’ deal is valued at the “room exception” so Charlotte appears to have structured things to get at the cap number, meaning they should have one more transaction up their sleeve.

The Detroit Pistons have $1.43 million in space, but are carrying a $10.216 million cap hold on their qualifying offer to Greg Monroe. Pistons president Stan Van Gundy has labeled retaining Monroe as the team’s top offseason priority, but it’s clear they are not willing to give a max offer. With almost no money left in the market, they are simply playing the waiting game. There were reports that the Phoenix Suns may make an offer to Monroe, but it’s likely that Detroit matches an offer sheet.

The Milwaukee Bucks technically don’t have cap space by virtue of the $11.173 million cap hold they carry on free agent Ekpe Udoh. If they were to renounce it, they could open up roughly $10.3 million in space. The Bucks are believed to be one of the suitors for Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe, but landing him would require a sign-and-trade as it’s likely Phoenix would gladly match a $10 million offer sheet. Because the Bucks are still technically over the cap, they still retain their cap exceptions.

The Orlando Magic have roughly $8.34 million in cap space and could free up an additional $2.81 million by renouncing the cap holds on E’Twaun Moore and the draft rights to Fran Vasquez. The Magic are roughly $5.66 million away from the NBA‘s required minimum salary of $56.759 million, although they have until the end of the season to meet that number. The Magic for the most part seem finished in free agency and are more likely to use their space later in the season given that they have basically 13 players under contract for the upcoming season.

The Philadelphia 76ers lead the NBA with the most available cash under the cap with a whopping $23.58 million available, with an additional $2.646 available by renouncing the cap holds on Byron Mullens, Charles Jenkins and Adonis Thomas. The 76ers are the lone remaining team with massive cap space. However, they do not seem overly engaged with anyone on the free agent front. Last season, the 76ers carried a massive amount of space all season, ultimately using it at the trade deadline to acquire Danny Granger in a cap clearing move with the Indiana Pacers.

The Phoenix Suns have roughly $12.759 million available under the cap and could free up an additional $915,000 by renouncing the cap hold on Leandro Barbosa. The Suns do have a $6.56 million qualifying offer out to Eric Bledsoe. There have been reports that the Suns might issue an offer to Pistons free agent Greg Monroe, and could do a deal starting at $13.6 million and still be able to retain Bledsoe using his Bird rights. The Suns and Bledsoe remain somewhat apart on a deal,with reports suggesting that a four-year, $48 million offer was made by the Suns and turned away by Bledsoe.

The Utah Jazz still have cash remaining under the cap to the tune of about $3.636 million. The Jazz have basically fleshed out their roster, but do have cash to spend. However, they have 15 players on the roster, including several non-guaranteed contracts. The Jazz’s core seems to be in place, although there has been continued talks that a third guard is on their wish list and with $3.6 million to spend they should be able to secure one.

There are currently four teams already over the $76.829 million luxury tax line: The Boston Celtics ($1.937 million over), Brooklyn Nets ($16.202 million over), L.A. Clippers ($2.850 million over) and New York Knicks ($14.586 million over).

The teams with notable cap exceptions remaining include: The Boston Celtics ($5.305 million mid-level and $2.07 million bi-annual), Denver Nuggets ($5.305 million mid-level), Houston Rockets ($5.305 million mid-level and $2.077 bi-annual), Memphis Grizzlies ($1.393 remaining from their mid-level), Milwaukee Bucks ($5.305 million mid-level and $2.07 million bi-annual), Minnesota Timberwolves ($5.305 million mid-level), Oklahoma City Thunder ($2.105 million remaining on their mid-level and $2.077 million bi-annual), Portland Trail Blazers ($505,000 remaining on their mid-level exception), San Antonio Spurs ($5.305 million mid-level and $2.07 million bi-annual) and Toronto Raptors ($2.80 million remaining on their mid-level and $2.077 million bi-annual).

A couple of housekeeping notes:

NBA teams carefully manage how and when contracts are submitted in order to maximize their flexibility. A large number of deals have been agreed to but have yet to be filed with the NBA as it would impact a team’s flexibility in free agency.

Meeting things like the NBA minimum are not required until the end of the season, meaning teams like Philadelphia and Orlando are under no obligation to spend money now, but would face a minor penalty if they do not meet the so called “floor” at the NBA Trade Deadline in February.

Equally, the luxury tax is computed based on what’s on the roster at the end of the season, so teams like the L.A. Clippers and the Boston Celtics could trigger cap clearing deals before the deadline and avoid the luxury tax.

Of the four tax paying teams, the New York Knicks are looking at the stiffest tax bill due to the “graduated tax” system and the new repeater penalty that kicks in this season. The Knicks are $14.58 million over and are looking at a tax bill of $42.302 million. The Knicks will become the first “repeater” tax payer this season, having been over the tax line in all three of the last three seasons. The Celtics are also looking at the repeater penalty on their $1.97 overage, which will cost them $4.84 million in tax. The Nets are currently $16.02 million over the tax line and are looking at a tax bill of $32.656 million, but have one more season before being designated a repeat tax payer.

Bledsoe and Monroe:  Arguably the top two remaining free agents in the marketplace are Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe; both are likely going to have offer sheets matched, so the fact that both sit unsigned is not altogether surprising. What might be a little surprising is that in a market that saw Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Dallas’ Chandler Parsons get basically maximum level offer sheets is that neither Bledsoe nor Monroe saw that kind of love in free agency.

Surely if Hayward can get $14.76 million next season, Bledsoe and Monroe should get something similar right? Well, not exactly. Here is the thing about valuations: it requires two competing bids.

The reason Parsons got such a hefty number from Dallas is that the Mavericks knew that’s the number it would take to steal Parsons away from the Rockets. It’s not that Dallas believes Chandler to be worth $14.7 million, it’s that is what it costs to steal him. The Mavs needed a win in this free agency class and overpaid a little to get one.

The Hornets tried to do the same with Hayward, hoping that a maximum deal would scare the Jazz away.

The problem for Bledsoe and in many regards Monroe is that neither player seems to be garnering the same “over pay to get him” mindset from other teams.

The L.A. Lakers had cash to spend and did not make offers. The Miami HEAT and Houston Rockets could have made offers and didn’t. The Philadelphia 76ers have more money than anyone and are not at the table.

The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million package. Considering Stephen Curry signed a four year, $44 million in 2012, is $48 million for Bledsoe so crazy? Sure, Curry would command a lot more today than he would have in 2012, but are Bledsoe and Curry’s situations that much different? Both do have a long history of injuries.

In order for Bledsoe to be “worth” more, someone has to be willing to pay a bigger price. With almost no money left in the market place, Bledsoe is somewhat stuck.

It is clear his camp is trying to drum up a sign-and-trade deal; however, the Suns don’t have to entertain anything on that front if it’s not in their best interest.

So would Bledsoe sign the qualifying offer of $6.5 million and take his chance as an unrestricted free agent next year? Bledsoe is coming off a nasty knee surgery; do you really turn down what amounts to $12 million per year in his situation?

There is no question that players hate restricted free agency. It ties them up and limits their free market earning potential, but the one thing restricted free agency is supposed to do for teams is help them avoid overpaying.

The market place sets what a player is worth and unfortunately for Bledsoe and Monroe, the market place wasn’t nearly as kind to them as it was to Hayward and Parsons. That doesn’t mean they each won’t get a very good contract offer. The Pistons have had a number on the table for Monroe since July 1. The Suns have a number on the table for Bledsoe now.

Both players can try to wait out the process and see if a better offer surfaces, but with almost no “interested money” in the field, the odds that either are going to get a max offer sheet now seems fairly slim and that’s simply how valuations go.

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NBA Daily: The Comfortability of Caris LeVert

Caris LeVert talks to Basketball Insiders about filling in at point guard, turning the proverbial corner and getting more comfortable with his game.

Ben Nadeau

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If there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the Brooklyn Nets, it probably involves Caris LeVert.

After finding his niche as a do-it-all rotation player, LeVert upped his averages in points (12.1), assists (4.2) and three-point accuracy (34.7 percent) during his second NBA season. Although those outer-layer statistics may not scream budding star quite yet, his growth and flexibility were key to a Nets team once again decimated by injuries.

When Jeremy Lin suffered a season-ending ruptured patella tendon during the season opener, the guard situation became understandably shaky. But then the newly acquired D’Angelo Russell went down for two months in November and things almost became untenable. If not for the efforts of LeVert as the backup point guard (and the vastly improved play of Spencer Dinwiddie), things could’ve been a whole lot worse for the Nets in 2017-18.

But according to LeVert, his development as a ball-handler was just the next, albeit necessary, step in his career.

“It’s been important, especially this year with injuries to Jeremy and D’Angelo,” LeVert told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like Spencer and myself had to definitely step up a lot this year and were asked to do a lot. But that was just something the team needed from me.”

Referring to his new-found prowess in such simple terms might be a slight understatement on LeVert’s development this season. Beyond his immense, quick chemistry with rookie center Jarrett Allen, LeVert has been a major bench catalyst all year. Often thriving under the sophomore’s playmaking hand, Brooklyn’s bench tallied a healthy 43.9 points per game, a benchmark only beat out by the Sacramento Kings (44.4). While his role as a point guard came about somewhat as an emergency, it’s clearly a position the Nets like him in.

Although he started 16 fewer games than he did in his rookie season, coming off the bench offered LeVert plenty of offensive freedom and the opportunity to feast on weaker opposition. On most nights, the 23-year-old didn’t disappoint. Some the Nets’ best individual lines all season came via LeVert, but few were better than his dominant play during a narrow one-point victory in Miami. On the road, LeVert torched the HEAT for 19 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and block in just over 34 minutes. This season, the Nets were 7-1 when LeVert registered eight or more assists and even topped out with a career-best 11 dimes.

As both a playmaker and a scorer, LeVert has shown serious signs of promise — or, more simply, put the ball in his hands and good things happen. But compare this LeVert to that raw first-year version and he’s convinced it all comes down to comfortability.

“I don’t know, I would say just how comfortable I’m getting,” LeVert said. “My game hasn’t changed all that much, honestly, I’m still getting more comfortable out on the court. But it’s just getting more playing time, more experience and I feel like I’ll grow more into my game.”

Frankly, the Nets have needed a win in the draft department for years. Outside of Mason Plumlee’s brief two-season cameo, the Nets haven’t drafted and groomed a long-term talent since Brook Lopez way back in 2008. Thankfully, he and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — and joined by the aforementioned Allen this season — seem poised to buck that trend. Hollis-Jefferson, acquired on draft night for Plumlee in 2015, averaged 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds on 47.2 percent from the field in 2017-18, a vast improvement over his first two campaigns. Allen, a 20-year-old hyper-athletic shot blocker, wasn’t let loose until after the new year but showed potential in the pick-and-roll or while catching lobs up above the rim.

Together, the trio, along with Russell, represent the Nets’ best present and future assets. But ask LeVert if brighter things are on the horizon and the 6-foot-7 multi-positional talent is largely uninterested in getting ahead of himself.

“I feel like I got a lot better on both ends of the ball as the season went on,” LeVert told Basketball Insiders. “Also feel like I learned a couple more positions this year and got comfortable playing them. But I still got a long way to go. You know, it’s only my second year, obviously, but I feel like I definitely made new strides this year.”

The Nets, in a vacuum, can be viewed in almost the same way.

Since LeVert was drafted with the No. 20 overall pick back in 2016, the Nets have racked up a total of just 48 wins. This year alone, 11 franchises equaled or earned more wins than the Nets’ two-year yield. In fact, the only franchise with fewer wins over that period of time were the Phoenix Suns at 45, but they were also recently rewarded with Josh Jackson and currently own a 25 percent chance of taking home the No. 1 pick this summer. All of this is to say that Nets have struggled to hoist themselves out of a pick-less bottomless pit for reasons outside of their control.

Despite the devastating injuries, this resilient Nets squad put together a relatively strong final stretch under head coach Kenny Atkinson. While the second-year head coach spent much of the campaign feeling out what worked and what didn’t, LeVert became a steady presence just about everywhere. Following the All-Star break, the Nets went 6-4 in games in which LeVert surpassed his season average in points, but they were just 1-4 when he went for single-digits.

Needless to say, the Nets often go where LeVert takes them.

But after two back-to-back disappointing campaigns. LeVert says that the Nets’ locker room senses that they’re close to turning the proverbial corner. Still, they know they’ve got a long, long way to go.

“[It felt that way], especially after the All-Star Break and going into the second half of the season,” LeVert said. “But we’re definitely not satisfied — we can’t wait to work hard this offseason and get after it next year.”

Now with two seasons under his belt, the Nets’ front office must be pleased with the steps LeVert has taken — whether that’s effectively running an offense or snaking through the paint for a crafty finish. But for LeVert to join the higher class, he returns to the same word again and again: Comfortability. Between getting familiar with his body and skillset, LeVert knows that a big key is also finding consistency each and every night. However, he’s not worried about who he might play like or how good he might end up being — LeVert is just focused on getting better one day at a time.

“I kinda just take little parts of everybody’s game and try to put it in my own — I don’t really just look at one person,” LeVert told Basketball Insiders. “As a young player in this league, that’s kinda how it is, a little inconsistent. But like I said, I’m still getting more comfortable with myself and my game.”

Although the Nets are headed into another offseason of uncertainty, they can rest assured knowing that a bigger and better LeVert will likely emerge next fall. It hardly matters if he’s filling in at point guard again or growing into his shoes out on the wing, LeVert will clearly play a large role in sculpting Brooklyn’s malleable future.

LeVert, as always, is up for the challenge.

“I still got a long ways to go, I’m still getting more comfortable, still growing into my body — but I’m ready for a big summer for sure.”

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The Real Jrue Holiday Has Finally Arrived

It may have been a little later than they would have wanted, but the Jrue Holiday that New Orleans has always wanted is finally here, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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New Orleans has always earned the nickname “The Big Easy”, but ever since Jrue Holiday came to town, his time there has been anything but.

When New Orleans traded for Holiday back in 2013, they hoped that he would round out an exciting young core that included Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson. At 23 years old, Holiday averaged 17.7 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds the previous season and was coming off his first all-star appearance in Philadelphia, so the Pelicans had much to look forward to.

Unfortunately, recurring extensive injuries prohibited the Pelicans’ new core from ever playing together fully healthy, with Holiday getting his fair share of the bruises. In his first two seasons, Holiday played in only 74 games combined with the team due to injury, and things didn’t get much better his third season. While he played more games, Holiday was on a minutes restriction and his season ended again with injury.

Holiday avoided the injury bug his fourth season, but he nobly took a leave of absence at the start the season to tend to his ill wife, which caused him to miss the season’s first 12 games and 15 in total. Holiday’s inability to stay on the court coupled with New Orleans’ stagnated progress made him a forgotten man in the NBA. That was until last summer, when Holiday became a free agent.

Given the circumstances, Holiday did what he could for the Pelicans. He certainly proved he was above average, but he hadn’t shown any improvement since his arrival. Coupling that with both how many games he had missed in the previous four seasons and the league’s salary cap not increasing as much as teams had anticipated, and one would think to proceed with caution in regards to extending Jrue Holiday.

But the Pelicans saw it differently. New Orleans gave Holiday a five-year, $126 million extension last summer, befuddling the general masses. Besides Holiday’s inability to stay on the court, the Pelicans already had an expensive payroll, and they later added Rajon Rondo, another quality point guard, to the roster. So, with all that in mind, giving Holiday a near-max contract on a team that had made the playoffs a grand total of once in the Anthony Davis era seemed a little foolish.

This season, however, Jrue Holiday has rewarded the Pelicans’ faith in him and has proven the doubters so very wrong.

With a clean slate of health, Holiday has proven himself to be better than ever. This season, Holiday averaged career-highs in scoring (19 points a game) and field goal percentage (49 percent overall), which played a huge role in New Orleans having its best season since Chris Paul’s last hurrah with the team back in 2011.

Holiday’s impact extended beyond what the traditional numbers said. His on/off numbers from NBA.com showed that the Pelicans were much better on both sides of the ball when he was on the court compared to when he was off. Offensively, the Pelicans had an offensive rating of 108.9 points per 100 possessions when he was the on the court compared to 104.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off.

On the other side of the court, Holiday was even more integral. The Pelicans had a defensive rating of 103.3 per 100 possessions when Holiday was on the court compared to 112.3 off the court. Overall, the Pelicans were 13.6 points per 100 possessions better with Holiday on the floor. That was the highest net rating on the team, even higher than Anthony Davis.

Other statistics also support how impactful Holiday has been this season. According to ESPN’s real plus-minus page, Holiday’s 3.81 Real Plus-Minus ranked ninth among point guards – No. 16 offensively, No. 4 defensively – which beat out Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Goran Dragic, all of whom made the All-Star team this year.

However, Holiday’s effectiveness shined through mid-way through the season, or more specifically, on Jan. 26, when Demarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear. While Davis certainly led the way, Holiday’s role could not have been understated when the Pelicans went 21-13 without their MVP candidate to finish the season. Offensively, Holiday’s point average went from 18.6 to 19.4 and his assist average went from 5.2 to 7.2, all while his turnover average – from 2.6 to 2.7 – stayed the same.

Defensively, Holiday had much to do with the Pelicans’ improved defense after Cousins went down. According to NBA.com, the Pelicans defensive rating went from 106.2 points allowed per 100 possessions to 103.7, and much of it can be attributed to Holiday. When Holiday was on the court, the team’s defensive rating was 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions compared to 109.6 points allowed per 100 possessions with him off.

Holiday’s improved numbers, combined with the Pelicans steadying the boat without their star center, make a fair argument that Holiday was one of the league’s best all-around point guards this season, but Holiday’s style isn’t much of a thrill to watch. He doesn’t have Russell Westbrook’s other-worldly athleticism, he doesn’t have Stephen Curry’s lethal jumper, nor does he have Chris Paul’s floor general abilities. Holiday’s specialty is that he has every fundamental of a good point guard, which makes his impact usually fly under the radar.

That was until last week, when the Pelicans unexpectedly curb stomped the Blazers. The Jrue Holiday coming out party was in full-swing, as the 27-year-old torched Rip City, averaging 27.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 4 rebounds a game on 57 percent shooting from the field, including 35 percent from deep. He did all of that while stymieing MVP candidate Damian Lillard, as Dame averaged 18 points and 4 assists while shooting 35 percent from the field, including 30 percent from deep, and surrendered four turnovers a game.

If Holiday’s contributions weren’t on full display then, they certainly are now. The Pelicans have suddenly emerged as one of the West’s toughest and most cohesive teams in this year’s playoffs, with Holiday playing a huge role in the team’s newfound mojo and potentially glorious future.

This was the Jrue Holiday the New Orleans Pelicans had in mind when they first traded for him almost five years ago. While his impact has come a little later than they would have wanted, it’s as the old saying goes.

Better late than never.

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NBA Daily: Are Player Legacies Really On The Line?

How important is legacy in the NBA playoffs? Lang Greene takes a look.

Lang Greene

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As the NBA Playoffs continue to pick up steam, the subject of individual greatness has become the big topic of conversation. Today, we ask the question: is legacy talk just a bunch of hyperbole or are they really made or broken in the playoffs?

To be clear, legacies do matter. Reputations are built on reliability and how dependable someone is throughout the course of their respective body of work. We all have them. They are built over time and it’s seldom they change from one misstep – but they can. Some of the greatest players in NBA history never won a title; see John Stockton and Karl Malone during their Utah Jazz years. Some NBA greats never won a title until they were past their physical prime and paired with a young charge that took over the reins; see David Robinson in San Antonio. Some NBA greats never won a title as the leading man until they were traded to a title contending team; see Clyde Drexler in Houston. We also have a slew of Hall of Famers that have been inducted with minimal playoff success in their careers; see the explosive Tracy McGrady.

So what’s in a legacy? And why does it mean more for some then it does for others?

Four-time League MVP LeBron James’ legacy is always up for debate, despite battling this season to make his ninth NBA Finals appearance. James’ legacy seems to be up in the air on a nightly basis. Maybe it’s because of the rarified air he’s in as one of the league’s top 10 players all-time or maybe it’s just good for ratings.

As this year’s playoffs gain momentum, the topic of legacy has been mentioned early and often.

Out in the Western Conference, the legacy of Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook is being questioned at all angles. There’s no doubt Westbrook is one of the best players in the league today as the reigning MVP and coming off two consecutive seasons averaging a triple-double. However, Westbrook’s decision making has come into question plenty over the past couple of seasons.

The subject of whether you can truly win a championship with Westbrook as your lead guy serves as the centerpiece of the debate. It goes without saying former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted to the Golden State Warriors amid rumors that he could no longer coexist next to Westbrook in the lineup. Ever since Durant’s somewhat unexpected departure, it seems Westbrook has been hell-bent on proving his doubters wrong – even if it comes at the detriment to what his team is trying to accomplish.

The latest example was in game four of his team’s current first-round series versus the Utah Jazz.

Westbrook picked up four fouls in the first half as he was attempting to lock up point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a career night in Game 3 of the series. Westbrook infamously waved off head coach Billy Donovan after picking up his second personal foul in the first quarter. Westbrook was also in the game with three personal fouls and under two minutes left in the first half before picking up his fourth personal.

You can make an argument that this was just bad coaching by Donovan leaving him in the game in foul trouble, but it also points to Westbrook’s decision making and not being able to play within the constructs of a team dynamic. Further, what will be Westbrook’s legacy on this season’s Oklahoma City Thunder team with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George if they were to flame out in the first round with little fizzle – against a Jazz team with no star power and zero All-Stars? Is discussing Westbrook’s legacy worthless banter or is it a legitimate topic? There is no doubt on his current trajectory Westbrook is headed straight into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. As an individual player there is no greater achievement than to have your name etched in stone with the greats of yesteryear, but the court of public opinion factors in team success and this is where the topic of legacy comes into play.

Say what you will about Durant’s decision to go to Golden State, but his legacy is undoubtedly secured. Durant won the Finals MVP last season in absolute dominant fashion and showed up on the biggest of stages. All that’s left from those that question Durant’s legacy at this point are the folks on the fringe saying he couldn’t do it by himself. But that is exactly the line of thinking that’s getting Westbrook killed as well, because winning championships is all about team cohesiveness and unity.

Out in the Eastern Conference, all eyes will be on Milwaukee Bucks do everything star Giannis Antetokounmpo. After five seasons in the league, Antetokounmpo has zero playoff series victories attached to his name. Heading into the playoffs this season, the seventh-seeded Bucks were considered underdogs to the second-seeded Boston Celtics.

But the Celtics are wounded. They do not have the services of All Stars Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. The Celtics are a team full of scrappy young talent and cagey veterans. Antetokounmpo is clearly the best player in the series and teams with the best player usually fare well in a seven game series. But the Bucks are facing elimination down 3-2 versus Boston. Antetokounmpo has only been in the league half of the time Westbrook has, but the chirping about his legacy has already begun as Milwaukee attempts to win its first playoff series since 2001.

So what’s in a legacy? Are there varying degrees for which people are being evaluated?

Despite James’ success throughout his career, a first-round exit at the hands of the Indiana Pacers over the next week will damage his legacy in the minds of some. While others feel even if Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were to drop this series against the Celtics, he should be given a pass with the caveat that he still has plenty of time in his career to rectify.

As for Westbrook, there are vultures circling the head of his legacy and these folks feel that a first-round exit will damage his brand irreversibly after 10 seasons in the league

Ultimately, the topic of legacies makes for good column fodder, barbershop banter and sport debate television segments. Because when guys hang up their high tops for good, a Hall of Fame induction is typically the solidifying factor when it comes to a player’s legacy.

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