Carmelo Has Options: As the 2014 NBA Finals draws to a close and the San Antonio Spurs hoist their fifth championship in the Tim Duncan era, all eyes in the NBA will now shift to the 2014 NBA Draft next week in Brooklyn and to free agency the following week in July. No bigger name tops the would-be free agent list than New York’s Carmelo Anthony, and it seems far more likely than not that he’ll follow through with his season long pledge and opt-out of the remaining $23.41 million left on his deal.
There have already been reports suggesting that Carmelo has eyes for the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, both win-now franchises, however those will not be the only teams to make a pass at him. While both grab headlines, both have their own issues in trying to obtain Carmelo at a price that makes sense.
Before we get into which teams make the most sense, it would be smart to re-visit what the Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Carmelo to re-sign for.
Carmelo is eligible for a starting salary worth 105 percent of his last contract year, so that’s $22.5 million regardless of where he signs. If he remains in New York, they can give him higher annual raises and a guaranteed fifth year for a total package worth just north of a $129 million. If Carmelo leaves New York, even via a sign-and-trade, the best he can hope for is a four-year deal worth roughly $90 million.
So who are the suitors?
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are considered a frontrunner mainly because they have a lot of parts in place and a head coach that could maximize Carmelo’s bid for a championship. Keep in mind that as much as he may have eyes for Chicago, the Bulls are not nearly as ready to rip apart their team to run after Carmelo with cap space. There is real interest on the Bulls part, but it has to be at the right price and under the right structure. Currently the Bulls have $63.95 million in guaranteed salaries for next season, giving them no cap space to pursue Carmelo. In order to get in the game without a sign-and-trade, the Bulls would have to use their Amnesty roster cut on Carlos Boozer’s remaining $16.8 million salary, find “giveaway” trades for both Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy Jr. and not take any money back in return.
That’s not exactly palatable to the Bulls, even for a talent like Carmelo. The Bulls would prefer a sign-and-trade that offloads Boozer’s cash and allows them to keep Gibson. The Bulls are sitting on four young assets: Last year’s first round pick Tony Snell, third year swing man Jimmy Butler and two first round picks this year.
Under the current cap rules a deal of Boozer, Dunleavy, Butler and the draft rights to one of the first round picks is more than enough. The question because would New York take that back as compensation for Carmelo if he declares that he’ll walk to another team for nothing?
The Bulls have been here before in 2010, where they made moves, ate contracts and traded away assets hoping to get gems from the 2010 free agent class only to be left alone at the altar. They are not overly eager to repeat that process with Carmelo. So its unlikely the Bulls start shifting money, until they sit with him in July.
There is interest, but as one source close to the Bulls process put it, it’s not unlimited interest; it has to fit into a bigger plan to be workable.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets are in a similar situation with Chicago, in that they will not have the free cap space to sign Carmelo outright. They are currently sitting on $56.98 million in salary commitments for next season, meaning they too won’t have anything close to the cash needed to sign him without either a sign and trade or a secondary deal that offloads cap cash.
The belief is that Houston would gladly shed the expiring contracts of both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in order to clear the cap space to get Carmelo. The wrinkle with both is how their deals are structured. Both were acquired using the CBA’s poison pill provision, which allowed the Rockets to offer massively back loaded years in order to pry them away from their respective teams. Both players have a cap value of $9.374 million next season, but are owed more than $15 million in actual cash payments. Moving that kind of money in the NBA is not easy, especially if you can’t take any of it back in trade.
This is where Houston’s draft pick this year and current roster assets like Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones are going to play a role.
Last year the Golden State Warriors needed to offload a similar amount of contracts and found a partner in the Utah Jazz, who extracted two future first round picks and three second round picks for eating Golden State’s bad money.
Houston is facing something similar to clear Asik and Lin, simply because teams know why they want to move them and can up the asking price on their cap space.
The Rockets are more than interested in obtaining Carmelo and doing it via a straight sign-and-trade deal would be more advantageous. However, if they have to go the liquidate to get cap space route they can, it might become harder and more expensive.
Given the bar that Golden State established on their cash dump, there may be a point in which that’s too much for give for Carmelo.
Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks do not get mentioned, but they will be very much involved in the Carmelo circus. The Mavericks have just $28.267 million in cap commits, and star forward Dirk Nowitzki has pledged to work with the team to help them secure more talent, offering to take less cash in his next deal to get more help.
Assuming Nowitzki follows the path laid by Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, a new deal in the $10-$12 million per year range gives the Mavs something in the neighborhood of $22.7 million in cap space to work with.
The Mavs are one of the few teams that could present a $20 million per year offer out right, without needing to dump their roster to do it. The Mavs do have some pending free agents in Vince Carter and Shawn Marion they would like to bring back, so Carmelo would need to leave a little bit of cash on the table to make that happen, but if getting a major money deal matters (it always does) the Mavs can make it happen without an elaborate re-arranging of their cap or liquidating young guys or future draft assets to do it.
The Mavericks do present a win-now situation with established players, a proven coach and an owner that has proven he’ll go “all-in” to win.
Don’t count out Dallas.
Miami HEAT: Fresh off their Finals loss, there has been a lot of doom and gloom about the HEAT. The truth of the situation is they were still the best team in the East. They made it to four straight NBA Finals and they are well situated going forward to re-shape the roster to continue to compete.
Miami’s “Big Three” all have similarly constructed contracts. They can all opt-out this summer or next summer and their deals expire in 2016.
As things stand today, the HEAT have just one fully guaranteed contract for next season: Norris Cole’s worth $2.03 million. Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem both have player options for next season worth $1.44 million and $4.62 million respectively.
On the surface it does not look like Miami would have a shot at Carmelo given how much Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all make, however when you boil it down to what’s owed to them, its gets easier to rationalize.
Currently all three have two years and $42 million remaining on their deals. Like Carmelo, each could opt out and sign new deals in the four to five year range worth anywhere from $90 million to $129 million.
Would all three trade their remaining two years and $42 million for four years and $80 million? If they would the HEAT are knocking on $12-$13 million in cap space. If Udonis Haslem trades his final year and $4.62 million for a two or three year deal in the $2 million per year range, the HEAT’s cap number comes up $2 million. If any of the Big Three take less money, there becomes more cash to pursue Carmelo.
It’s far more likely that Miami pursues lower priced free agents, but the HEAT have the means to get to the table with Carmelo. It really just boils down to money and whether all four guys would agree to less than market value to keep the NBA Finals training rolling.
LA Lakers: The LA Lakers are not out of the discussion with Carmelo, they just are not front and center for a couple of reasons. Carmelo by himself doesn’t do much for the Lakers, howvere if Carmelo wants to bring a friend or two along for the ride the Lakers would gladly entertain that.
The Lakers are sitting on three guaranteed contracts next season – Kobe Bryant’s $23.5 million, Steve Nash’s $9.7 million and Robert Sacre’s $915,000. Nick Young has a player option that he is not exercising and the Lakers have a few million likely to be tied up in retaining Kendall Marshall, their lottery pick and a qualifying offer to Kent Bazemore. All in the Lakers are looking at roughly $24 million in usable cap space, which is more than enough to land Carmelo outright from the Knicks.
The problem is a core of Bryant, Carmelo and Nash might win the lottery next year, but it’s not winning a championship and the Lakers know it.
The Lakers are expected to meet with Carmelo, but it is unlikely that Carmelo is a Laker next year.
New York Knicks: Lastly the home team. Carmelo’s heart is in New York. Everyone around his says that as an opening comment when talking about his situation. The problem is as much as Carmelo loves playing in New York, he is not sold that he can win a championship there.
The Knicks meet with him last week and presented their plan, and while Carmelo likes Phil Jackson and isn’t concerned about Derek Fisher as head coach, he is concerned that the Knicks do not seem to have a plan to overhaul the roster and get the Knicks into the discussion next season. Waiting for 2015 isn’t exactly what Carmelo has in mind.
The warning shot has been fired. If you don’t think that the reports that leaked after Carmelo’s meeting with the Knicks were not deliberate and strategic, you are crazy. Carmelo’s camp put it out there for a reason: ‘Fix this thing now or we are walking somewhere else.’
Your move Phil.
The Knicks have the money to offer Carmelo, and they are more than prepared to max him out to keep him in New York for the balance of his playing career. So money, as much as it’s been talked about, is not a problem. Not with the salary cap expected to eclipse $80 million over the next five years.
The problem for the Knicks is they can’t just offload enough of the roster junk without ripping the team down to the studs and starting over gradually. That’s not what Carmelo wanted to hear.
The Knicks leveraged their future to get to this point, and while it’s easy to say ‘give us 16 months to fix some things’, Carmelo wanted the fix yesterday and that is the problem.
The Knicks are not at all out of the discussion on Carmelo, they are just going to have to re-make the team fairly aggressively before July 5 and that may not be possible.
At the end of the day the Knicks can offer the most guaranteed money. They can keep Carmelo in one of the biggest markets in the NBA and they present the chance to build a roster around him.
What’s unclear is if that’s going to eventually be enough to keep him, especially considering the hoops others that would like him would have to jump through.
Moving cap money is not at all easy in the NBA, and that’s the one thing that’s holding the Knicks back, but also what could help them keep Carmelo where he is as many of the would-be suitors have the same problems.
Porzingis Out, Nurkic Staying In?: On the NBA Draft front, today is the day for early entry players to withdraw from the NBA Draft. This usually only impacts International players as the NCAA modified their rule some time ago, making today’s deadline more about International guys, although domestic players theoretically could pull out and play Internationally or the D-League and take another crack at the draft next year.
Two notable players have made decisions on this front with 18-year old Kristaps Porzingis opting to pull out of the draft, despite what’s believed to be a firm commitment from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Porzingis has a sizable, but not unreasonable, buyout with his current contract that would have cost him $1.6 million to get free of. Without a lottery level guarantee it seems Kristaps is opting to return aboard and see what next year brings.
The other notable is big man Jusuf Nurkic, who is opting to stay in the draft. The 6’11 Nurkic is considered one of the top center prospects in this draft, although many teams are split on his NBA potential. Some teams are very high on him; some view him significantly lower. Nurkic has a nominal buyout in his deal, which means he likely will be on a NBA roster next season, assuming he is drafted in the 12-25 range most project him to be taken.
Players have until 5pm EST to notify the NBA in writing that they would like to withdraw.
Basketball Insiders will drop a new Mock Draft on Wednesday, reflecting the draft after all of the players withdraw.
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NBA AM: Was Watson Setup To Fail or Just Ill Equipped?
Was Phoenix’s Earl Watson setup to fail or did he just not have the tools and experience to overcome the tenuous job of a rebuild?
Set Up To Fail? Maybe
The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to be his replacement as interim head coach.
Some have suggested that Watson was set up to fail, but let’s be honest for a minute. Was Watson really the best option the Suns had after parting ways with Jeff Hornacek during the 2015-16 season? Watson was well liked and that an easy and intoxicating concept, but even as an interim coach Watson won just nine games in 33 tries.
It’s not as if Watson took the team in a totally new direction; the Suns were a bad team when they took the gamble on Watson. Moving the needle wasn’t exactly likely when the massive inexperienced Watson took over the team. Is anyone really surprised he couldn’t make it work?
Sure, the roster and the priorities of the franchise were an uphill climb, but let’s be real for a minute: The Suns couldn’t have expected Watson to have the tools to bring it all together. Rebuilding is hard all by itself, and doing so with a head coach that has never coached isn’t exactly smart. In fact, it rarely works out.
It’s easy to say Watson was set up to fail, but equally easy to say he never had the experience to believe he’d be successful. It was a gamble on the Suns’ part, a gamble that ran its course.
So What Next?
The Suns are not very good, as three straight blow out losses have proven. It’s possible that Triano can make enough changes to at least get the Suns to compete, but the word in NBA circles was the Suns locker room had basically quit after three games, so Triano’s task may be tough for even a coach that been around the block a few times.
Like Watson, Triano is incredibly likable and approachable, but unlike Watson, Triano has experience. Triano has experience not only as a head coach, having coached the Toronto Raptors for three years, but he is the head coach of the Canadian National Team and has been on the Team USA and Portland Trail Blazers staff as an assistant. While Triano’s stint in Toronto looked a lot like Watson’s stint in Phoenix, the big difference is Triano has been around a lot more situations and may be better equipped to put a system and structure in place that could yield improvement, or at least that’s the newest bet the Suns are making.
With Triano at the helm, it’s also likely that the front office will have a better relationship than what’s emerged in Watson’s time in Phoenix. General Manager Ryan McDonough and Watson haven’t exactly been on the same page, and Watson had grown emboldened enough to make it clear in the media somethings were not in his control, often taken subtle shots at decisions made by the front office.
It is rare for inexperience and dysfunction to yield success. The hope is Triano will smooth some of that over.
“I Dont wanna be here.”
As news of Watson’s firing began to leak Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a very good relationship with Watson, took to Twitter to announce “I Dont wanna be here.”
Bledsoe has been a constant name in NBA trade circles for the last few years, and with Watson out of the picture, Bledsoe seems to be looking for the door too.
The 27-year-old Bledsoe has two more seasons remaining on his deal, $14.5 million this season and $15 million owed for next season. The Suns have listened to offers on Bledsoe off and on for some time, with many in NBA circles believing this would be the season the Suns would finally trade him.
With Watson, a long-time champion of Bledsoe, out of the picture, there is a belief that Bledsoe’s role is going to decrease, which is likely why Bledsoe took to Twitter.
Pulling off a trade three games into the season seems highly unlikely, especially given that Bledsoe has likely killed his own trade value. There have been several teams over the last two seasons with interest in Bledsoe; the question is, will the Suns close this chapter or try and see if Bledsoe can help them right the ship under Triano and rebuild some trade value when the trade market opens up in December?
Of the Phoenix Suns’ $85.448 million in guaranteed contracts, $41.11 million belongs to Bledsoe, injured guard Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler. You can toss $10 million more for injured forward Jared Dudley. While Bledsoe and Chandler have played in all three regular-season games, both are not part of the long-term future of the team.
The question becomes, what role will they play under Triano?
The Suns are truly a tale of two teams. There is the old veteran squad that is clogging up the top of the Suns salary cap chart, and there are rookie scale players that are the future, and not coincidentally the players performing at their worst so far this season.
Will the Suns just let the $41.11 million owed at the top just sit, or will the Suns try and fire-sale some of those veterans? The belief is they would like to do the latter.
As much as people may want to say Watson was set up to fail, the evidence in the situation is he was never proven enough to succeed.
The Suns are in a dreadful no-man’s land of bad contracts and underperforming players. Maybe a more proven established coach could have set this situation in a better direction, but the reality is Watson was never experienced enough to handle a rebuild like this because getting the most out of players while losing is a very tough job even for the most experienced of coaches.
Watson, like many before him, will find another job in the NBA. Maybe like Triano who is replacing him, he can take the lessons learned in Phoenix and become a better coach somewhere down the road and get a shot with a team that wouldn’t require as much as the Suns desperately need.
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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise
The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.
He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.
He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.
Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.
The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.
“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.
“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.
So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.
As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.
In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.
But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.
So is Porzingis.
Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.
In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.
Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.
And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.
“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.
“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”
Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.
Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.
The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.
So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.
Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.
If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.
So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.
Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.
To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.
When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.
He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.
And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.
With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word.
It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.
For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.
In this town, that’s more than half the battle.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.