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NBA AM: To Extend Or Not Extend The 2014 Draft Class

It’s time for teams with players drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft to decide if they want to extend those players. Many may not get extended deals, but there are a few that might.

Steve Kyler

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To Extend Or Not Extend, That Is the Question

The 2014 NBA Draft class became extension eligible this summer, and while it seems likely that the Timberwolves and 2014 top overall pick Andrew Wiggins will consummate a five-year $148 million deal before the October 16 extension deadline, some of the others are bit murkier.

Jabari Parker

League sources said recently that there was a sense that Milwaukee would be open to a deal with Parker, mainly because they have that much faith in a full recovery, but doing a deal at max dollars seemed almost out of the question. Given that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo agreed to a four-year, $100 million deal last September, it unlikely that Parker is going to see anything close to that kind of number after another ACL tear.

The prevailing thought in NBA circles is that if Parker wants to lock in four more contract years, the Bucks would do that — it would simply have to be a very good price point for Milwaukee.

The likely outcome, according to sources, is that Parker gets healthy and plays out as much of the season as he can, and goes after his deal next summer as a restricted free agent.

Joel Embiid

Believe it or not, it’s actually time to pay Embiid, despite him having played only 31 games in his three NBA seasons. While every conversation from the 76ers side of things is how important Embiid is to the future, has he shown enough to warrant a maximum contract?

League sources said recently they there was a growing sense that the 76ers would indeed extend Embiid, and that a deal structured something like Antetokounmpo’s four-year $100 million pact would make sense given the injury history. The problem with getting a deal done at less than max is that many in Embiid’s world believe he could get a max offer in restricted free agency next year, especially if he plays at the level he did for 31 games last season.

The question for Embiid is would he take less guaranteed years than the five-year maximum he’d be eligible for, and would he agree to less than max to lock in security? To put that in context, a four-year max contract would come in at roughly $117 million.

While the 76ers have nothing but cap room to spend, they do have to be smart about how they leverage their future. Not only is it time to pay Embiid, but because the youth on the roster will all be in similar places fairly soon and the 76ers want to continue to have the ability to add in free agency.

Typically, no-brainer extensions happen in July; the fact that the 76ers and Embiid have not consummated a deal illustrates it’s not the slam dunk some Sixer fans might have expected.

Aaron Gordon

The new Orlando Magic front office has taken a “wait and see” approach on a number of fronts, including who will be core parts of the future. That’s not to say the new Magic leadership doesn’t value Gordon; what it means is the team is taking a fresh look at what really works and what does not. It’s a big reason why the Magic did not upend the roster this summer in trade, because some pieces might make sense in a new vision for the future.

Specific to Gordon, league sources said this one might come down to how much of a discount Gordon is willing to take in order to lock in long-term security and have the best chance to stay in Orlando.

The problem with that is that no one on the Magic staff was responsible for drafting Gordon, and while he is blossoming into an interesting player, is he worth $80 or $90 million on a four or five-year deal?

The answer there is honestly, the Magic don’t know.

The problem with early rookie extensions is the values are not based on market conditions, rather teams and agents bidding against themselves.

Another factor impacting this year’s rookie extension crop is the uncertainty of the free agent marketplace. The NBA salary cap is not expected to jump in a major way next July with current projections pegging the cap to clock in at $103 million, up from this year’s $99 million.

It is more likely that the Magic play out the season with both Gordon and fellow 2014 draftee Elfrid Payton and take their chances in restricted free agency next summer — not because the team doesn’t value either player, mainly because the Magic are trying to find out what really works under head coach Frank Vogel.

Marcus Smart

Assuming the Cavaliers and Celtics consummate a revised Isaiah Thomas-Kyrie Irving trade, the Celtics won’t have to worry about a new financial commitment in July to Thomas and can seriously consider the future with Marcus Smart.

An extension for Smart seems unlikely mostly because Smart is likely going to want a hefty a price tag. The Celtics have to be mindful of their cap situation going forward as they build around their youth.

The Celtics can and likely will re-sign Smart, but that’s more likely to happen after this season and a run through restricted free agency where the Celtics might find a price break.

Like some of the others on this list, Smart could opt for a team friendly deal and lock in his future, but given the log jam of point guards, it might be more logical for Smart to see what the season brings and try and find his own team in July.

Julius Randle

The Lakers will not be doing an extension for Julius Randle. In fact, there is a better than average chance Randle is traded at some point as a means to open up cap space for the Lakers big push into the 2018 free agent class.

Randle has emerged as a very interesting young player and frankly might be one of the Lakers best non-core trade chips.

If the Lakers were to extend Randle, not only would it bite into future cap space, it would make him harder to trade this season.

Trading an extended player complicates his outgoing trade value, as all of the contract years – old deal and new deal – get averaged out. This is done to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap. The Lakers would only be able to take back his actual current year salary, meaning the acquiring team would need cap space to absorb the difference.

Given the Lakers’ eyes for major free agents next July, Randle is going to get shelved. The good news for the Lakers is they won’t have to make a real decision on Randle until next summer, where they could make him a restricted free agent if their free agent dreams come to a crashing halt.

The smart money says Randle won’t finish the season in LA, as he’ll be used to move off longer term salary.

Rodney Hood

With Gordon Hayward gone, the Jazz face an interesting decision – should they lock up Rodney Hood now or wait and see what the market thinks next July?

Sources close to the situation said recently that Hood and his camp are very open to an extension. While Hood is expected to play a bigger role sans Hayward, there is a window over the next two months to lock Hood into a deal that might make more sense for the Jazz today than waiting until next July.

The prevailing thought is something similar to what Evan Turner got from Portland (four-years $70 million) would lock in Hood for the next four years.

The question for the Jazz is do they bite now on a player that’s missed 58 games over the past three seasons, or do they risk Hood improving on his 12.7 points per game and 37.1 percent three-point average?

There seems to be at least a willingness on Hood’s side to get an early extension done; we’ll see if the Jazz feels the same way.

While there are a number of other 2014 draft picks that might reach contract extensions before the deadline. The players listed above are the ones most likely to extend, the rest may have to go through restricted free agency unless they are willing to sign team friendly deals.

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, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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

Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies

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We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

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NBA

Gregg Popovich Continues To Be The Gold Standard For Leadership

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Gregg Popovich.

Moke Hamilton

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There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.

Okay, let’s be honest, it’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard that one, but it also won’t be the last.

Behind the genius of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have qualified for the NBA Playoffs 20 consecutive years. In hindsight, they appear to have been the only team to legitimately frighten the Golden State Warriors during their 16-1 playoff run last year, and this season, well, they’ve been the same old Spurs.

That’s been especially amazing considering the fact that the team has been without Kawhi Leonard. Although Popovich recently said that Leonard would return “sooner rather than later,” he himself admitted to not being certain as to what that meant.

Best guess from here is that Leonard will return within the next few weeks, but at this point, it’s entirely fair to wonder whether or not it even matters.

Of course, the Spurs don’t stand much of a chance to win the Western Conference without Leonard thriving at or near 100 percent, but even without him, the Spurs look every bit like a playoff team, and in the Western Conference, that’s fairly remarkable.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich was quoted as saying by Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News.

“Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

In a nutshell, that’s Popovich.

What most people don’t understand about Popovich is what makes him a truly great coach is his humility. He is never afraid to second-guess himself and reconsider the way that he’s accustomed to doing things. Since he’s been the head coach of the Spurs, he’s built and rebuilt offenses around not only different players, but also different philosophies.

From the inside-out attack that was his bread and butter with David Robinson and Tim Duncan to the motion and movement system that he built around Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the latest incarnation of Popovich’s genius isn’t only the fact that he has survived without Kawhi Leonard, it’s what could fairly be considered the major catalyst of it.

There are many head coaches around the league that take their roles as authority figures quite seriously, and that’s why a fair number would have been threatened by one of their star players requesting that things be rebuilt in a way to maximize his potential.

So when LaMarcus Aldridge proactively sat down with his coach to discuss the ways that he felt he was being misused in the team’s schemes, it wouldn’t have come as a shock for Popovich to meet him with resistance.

Instead, he did the opposite.

“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better,” Popovich acknowledged during Spurs training camp.

“But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”

Just 11 days after those comments were printed, the Spurs announced that they had signed Aldridge to a three-year, $72 million extension.

Considering that Aldridge’s first two years as a member of the Spurs yielded some poor efforts and relatively low output, the extension seemed curious and was met with ridicule.

Yet, one month later and 15 games into the season, the Spurs sit at 9-6. They’ve survived the absence of Kawhi Leonard and the loss of Jonathon Simmons.

Behind an offensive system tweaked to take advantage of his gifts, in the early goings, Aldridge is averaging 22 points per game, a far cry above the 17.7 points per game he averaged during his first two years in San Antonio.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Death, taxes and the Spurs.

So long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, exhibiting strong leadership while remaining amazingly humble, the Spurs will be the Spurs.

Sure, Kawhi Leonard will be back—at some point.

But until then, the Spurs will be just fine.

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NBA

NBA AM: Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon Is Letting Shots — And Jokes — Fly

Dewayne Dedmon’s emergence has been an unexpected positive for the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks.

Buddy Grizzard

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It’s been a brutal season for the Atlanta Hawks, currently 3-12 with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday’s franchise-record 46-point win over the visiting Sacramento Kings was a rare chance for Atlanta to have a laugh in the postgame locker room and reflect on things that have gone well, including hot shooting for the team and a potential breakout season for center Dewayne Dedmon.

The Hawks trail only the Golden State Warriors in three-point shooting at just over 40 percent. Prior to joining the Hawks, Dedmon had attempted only one three-pointer in 224 career games. As a Hawk, though, Dedmon is shooting 42 percent on 19 attempts. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer explained after Wednesday’s game how his staff decided to encourage Dedmon to extend his range.

“You do your research and you talk to friends around the league, you talk to people who have worked with him and you watch him during warmups,” said Budenholzer. “We had a belief, an idea, that he could shoot, he could make shots. We’re kind of always pushing that envelope with the three-point line. He’s embraced it.”

Dedmon is currently averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes, and set season-highs in points (20), rebounds (14) and assists (five) against the Kings. He’s also brought an offbeat sense of humor that has helped keep the locker room loose despite the struggles. It became apparent early on that Dedmon was a different type of dude.

At Media Day, when nobody approached Dedmon’s table and reporters instead flocked to interview rookie John Collins at the next table, Dedmon joined the scrum, holding his phone out as if to capture a few quotes.

“This guy’s going to be a character,” said a passing Hawks staffer.

Those words proved prophetic, as Coach Bud confirmed after Wednesday’s win.

“He brings a lot of personality to our team, really from almost the day he got here,” said Budenholzer. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and can help the young guys and help everybody.”

Dedmon took an unconventional path to the NBA. Growing up, his mother — a Jehovah’s Witness — forbade him to play organized sports. Once he turned 18, Dedmon began making his own decisions. He walked on to the team at Antelope Valley College, a two-year school in Lancaster, Ca., before transferring to USC and eventually making it to the league.

His personality, which formed while Dedmon forged his own path, shone through in the locker room after the Sacramento win. Asked about conversations he’s had with Budenholzer about shot selection, Dedmon turned to teammate Kent Bazemore at the adjacent locker.

“What’s the phrase, Baze? LTMF?”

“Yep,” Bazemore replied.

“Yeah, LTMF,” Dedmon continued. “Let it fly. So he told me to shoot … let it go. I’m not going to say what the M means.”

Amidst laughter from the assembled media, he explained that ‘LTMF’ is Budenholzer’s philosophy for the whole team, not just part of an effort to expand Dedmon’s game.

“Everybody has the same freedom,” said Dedmon. “So it definitely gives everybody confidence to shoot their shots when they’re open and just play basketball.”

With the injury bug thus far robbing Atlanta of its stated ambition to overachieve this season, Dedmon’s career year and team success from three-point range are two big positives.

Rebuilding or retooling can be a painful process. But with a unique personality like Dedmon helping keep things light in the locker room, Atlanta should make it through.

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