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NBA AM: What’s Real With Kyrie, Boozer and Melo

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Mythbusters – NBA Style:  Yesterday in this space we covered some of the misguided thoughts surrounding the Miami HEAT and their Big Three. As Miami inches one game closer to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, there are other topics that have some questionable storylines surrounding them, so let’s jump into some of those:

Kyrie Irving’s Extension:  For whatever reason there is this prevailing thought that the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t offer Irving a maximum contract extension and that he wouldn’t sign it if they did.

Neither one of those concepts is completely true, but they are fun concepts to kick around.

Let’s look back a little. First and foremost the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows an exclusive window for teams and players to reach an early extension without free agency and other teams being involved. This window usually produces a few things: massive contract commitments or bargain deals that favor the team.

When you hear that there may not be an extension for Irving this summer, that’s not all together surprising at this point, because the Cavs would be negotiating against themselves and they really can’t have those kinds of discussions until this summer.

Last season six of 18 eligible players signed early extensions – John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Derrick Favors, Larry Sanders and Quincy Pondexter. Of those six, Wall, George and Cousins received max deals.

The season prior eight players signed early extensions – Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Taj Gibson and Ty Lawson. Of those deals, only two were max contracts – Griffin and Harden. In 2011, five players reached early rookie scale extensions and the year prior to that is was also five players.

Not signing an extension in the early window really does not mean much, except that the Cavs may be unwilling to open their wallet and tell Irving to take as much as he wants.

Curry, Holiday and Lawson all signed early extension deals that started in the $11-$12 million per season range. Today those few extra million saved are what’s allowing their respective teams to add more talent in free agency.

Irving’s camp likely points to his top pick status and Wall’s max deal as the starting point guard for his team, but the truth is Irving’s value might be closer to that of Curry or Lawson at this point.

Because a max extension is being debated in and of itself is not a bad thing, is Irving truly a max player? Some would say he is not, some would say he is almost a max player and that’s clearly something the Cavaliers have to decide.

The other part is that do you really give a max deal to someone who may or may not be committed to your team? There have been enough stories of Irving not being happy to make that a talking point in a new deal. If Irving is totally buying in, then back up the Brinks truck, but if he has his eyes elsewhere and this deal is simply a placeholder until he can get where he may ultimately want to be, the Cavs need to know that.

The lesson to be gleaned from all of this is that a small number of early extensions get done each year. The ones that do get done are the no-brainer deals and the deals that are just below market value and usually in the teams’ favor. Deals that have doubts associated or questions surrounding them often get pushed into restricted free agency where someone else sets a price and the home team has the option to match it.

The Cavs not reaching a deal this summer means very little except that they may not be willing to just blindly throw money at Irving.

Sources close to the process say it is more likely than not that a deal gets reached, but there will be conversations and a process that plays out which would need to involve Irving being all-in for the Cavs game plan. If he is not, then playing out the season and seeing where things land could very well be outcome.

If the talks go badly, being traded could be one of those outcomes too.

The Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat here. They do not have to do anything this year unless it makes sense for them in the long-run, and given how the team itself has underperformed, taking their time on who stays long-term might not be a bad idea, even if the final answer is a long-term deal for Irving.

»In Related: Team By Team: NBA Salaries At A Glance.

Carmelo’s Free Agency:  There are two numbers to think about as Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony prepares to enter free agency: 30 years old and $22.5 million.

The first is Anthony’s age. The second is the amount of money he is eligible to receive as a first year salary in a new deal. That figure is not exclusive to the Knicks; he can receive that from any team he signs with either as an unrestricted free agent or in a sign and trade deal.

To run the numbers, Anthony can get a maximum five-year, $129 million deal from the Knicks, or he can get a four-year $96 million deal from another team. For most players that fifth year is somewhat moot as the expectation is they’d get that money in their next deal; however in Anthony’s case that fifth year might really matter as its unlikely anyone is giving a 35-year old another $25-$28 million, although crazier things have happened.

There are a few teams that get linked to Anthony the most – the LA Lakers and the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers look like they’ll have something in the neighborhood of $24.8 million in maximum salary cap space. They would have the chance to make a run at Anthony, but even if he shaved a little cash of the deal to be a Laker, landing Anthony at even $18 million a year (a $16 million total contract discount), leaves the Lakers married to Bryant and Anthony as their core players with little else to work with in free agency. It all but removes the Lakers from free agency in 2015 unless the salary cap goes way up next year.

The Lakers’ stance on Anthony all year has been that he is not a primary free agent target and that the idea of blowing all their free agent money on him is not the goal. If he shows up on their door step willing to talk $14-$15 per year they’d absolutely sign him, but getting Anthony a deal anywhere close to what he can and likely will get offered from the Knicks may be too rich for the Lakers’ taste, especially as they look towards life without Bryant.

The Bulls are another team that gets mentioned and the fact that Chicago is now sitting on a best case salary commitment figure of $63.95 million means they have zero cap space to work with even if they renounced everything they can renounce.

The Bulls do have the option of using the one-time Amnesty roster cut on the final year of Carlos Boozer’s contract ($16.8 million) but even paying him to go away does not get the Bulls anywhere close to $22.5 million. It might get them to $16 million. The Bulls could try and trade away a contract like Mike Dunleavy Jr ($3.32 million) and get themselves to $19 million, but then the team is locked into Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson with little else.

It is absolutely do-able, if the Bulls want to eat those costs, but Bulls sources have said from the beginning that they doubted ownership would approve paying Boozer $16 million to go away and then paying Anthony close to $100 million.

If the Bulls could find a way to trade Boozer in a deal that returns Anthony, or Anthony would sign for something in the $15-$16 million range they would do that, but does Anthony really give Chicago a $21 million discount on a four-year deal?

There are a couple of dark horse suitors that could gum all this up and those are Dallas and Houston.

Dallas has the cash to go after Anthony straight up. Dirk Nowitzki has already told the team he’ll work with them to get them the cap space to sign another significant player. So Dallas could get to the $20-$22.5 million number the Knicks are expected to offer. They could present a team built around Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Nowitzki with a proven coach in Rick Carlisle.

Houston would trade almost anything not named Dwight Howard and James Harden to get at Anthony and they would go all in on a contract too. There has been talk that Houston has offered up Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in a “give away” trade that could include their draft pick in the first round or a roster player like Terrence Jones to get those salaries off the books.

If the Rockets can find a taker for those contracts they’d go from a best-case $56.9 million in salary commitments to $40.2 million, which means $22.7 million in cap space. That’s more than enough for Houston to get into the game in a serious way for Anthony.

With three teams offering what could be full max contracts, it’s hard to imagine Anthony leaving $16-$20 million in total compensation on the table to be a Laker or a Bull, especially when New York is likely offering a fifth year and Dallas and Houston may be offering better fitting rosters.

It seems the Bulls and Lakers have eyes on other guys too (read that to be Kevin Love), and that may play into how aggressively they go after Anthony, if they go after him at all.

»In Related: 2014 NBA Mock Draft: Consensus Ver 3.0

Boozer And The Bulls:  As mentioned above, as much as Bulls fans would like to see the team write Boozer a check and be done with him, there is a real sense that is not going to happen. It might, but the sense among teams is the Bulls would be far more willing to give up a young guy on their roster or the lesser of their two first round picks in the 2014 Draft as a sweetener to trade Boozer rather than eat his contract.

There just does not seem to be a willingness to pay Boozer off. As much as Chicago would like to get into free agency, using the Amnesty provision on Boozer seems to be the last option and that almost everything else will be considered before paying him off.

Boozer’s production this season plummeted, so finding a taker for his remaining $16.5 million is not going to be easy, but given how many teams project to have cap space the question becomes would someone like Philadelphia or even Orlando trade a roster player for Boozer and the 19th pick?

The 76ers may likely find themselves stuck with Jason Richardson’s $6.6 million player option this summer; would swapping him for Boozer work for Chicago?

The Orlando Magic have the partially guaranteed $8 million contract of Jameer Nelson and shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who would be a perfect addition for the Bulls. It’s doubtful the Magic trade Afflalo for so little in return, but the Magic do have the means to be a player in this department if the return is right.

Unlike some of the bad contracts that get moved, Boozer is in the final year of his deal, so it may not be nearly as hard to find a trade partner as some of the other Amnestied contracts and with the Bulls seemingly adverse to a buyout, it’s more likely the Bulls make a trade than write a check unless there is simply no other recourse, even then it seems 50/50 at best.

»In Related: The Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

Icing Out The Bucks:  There has been a lot of speculation that agents for players in the 2014 NBA Draft might be trying to freeze out the Milwaukee Bucks in terms of access to and workouts with their players. The biggest is of course Joel Embiid, who has concerns about the long-term status of his back.

Bucks sources said that reports of them having issues with players is completely untrue and they expect to meet with and workout the players projected at the top of the draft. They also feel like they have enough information today to make a solid and informed decision, but that it’s still very early in the process, especially for the top tier prospects who usually don’t work out for a lot of teams.

On the subject of getting medical information on a player in the draft, the source said is not overly difficult as teams do often share information as no one likes to see agents steer and control the process. While clearly there is some tactical advantage to having information others don’t have, there is a reason its important to have a well-connected general manager and front office.

There is no doubting that some situations are more desirable than others and being bad enough to have a top three selection means there are generally bigger issues at play, but the sense that Milwaukee or even Philadelphia is being “iced” out by agents is not exactly true.

There does seem to be a sense that the agents for Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are trying to control the process, but there is not a sense from either the Bucks or the 76ers that they won’t get to look at the players they have on their board.

»In Related: Who Should Go No. 1?

Up Close With Tyler Ennis:  The race to be the third point guard taken in the 2014 NBA Draft might be one of the more heated races in the draft. Syracuse’s’ Tyler Ennis looks to be the front runner, but he knows he has a lot to prove.


Six Things You May Have Missed:  Every so often we like to map out some of the things from the previous couple of days that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Make sure to give these stories a look:

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

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