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NBA AM: Why The Hawks Have To Look At Deals

The Atlanta Hawks have to explore their options… The Miami HEAT have a pretty big salary cap problem.

Steve Kyler

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Why Would The Hawks Look At Deals?

It should come as no surprise that the Atlanta Hawks are kicking the tires on what’s possible in trade as the February 18 deadline approaches. The Hawks are not the team they were a year ago and they face some tough choices this summer regarding the direction of the team.

It is important to state that at this point in the NBA season, virtually every team in the NBA is talking about something; that’s the nature of the due diligence process all teams go through before the deadline. Talking about deals does not equate to a willingness to consummate one. So let’s keep that front and center.

The biggest question facing the Hawks is the future of big man Al Horford. He is headed toward unrestricted free agency and what could be a maximum starting salary that could be as high as $25.5 million, depending on where the salary cap ultimately lands.

The Hawks have to decide if their future is better served keeping Horford, a huge part of the team’s identity, or using that cap money elsewhere. There is also the question of whether Horford would want to stay in Atlanta or explore his free agent options, something the Hawks have no real control over.

If the Hawks decide Horford is not in their future, then things get interesting. What does he return in a possible trade? Or are the Hawks better off playing out their year, making a playoff run and using the cap space he could create in July?

With Horford off the books, the Hawks project to have roughly $25.9 million in usable cap space, assuming the final 2016-17 salary cap comes in at the expected $90 million mark.

While that’s a hefty number, it’s really just a single maximum salary slot to replace a huge chunk of the team.

This is where the rumors of the Hawks shopping point guard Jeff Teague come into play. If the Hawks have decided that Horford is likely gone in July, then a top down rebuild may be necessary. Teague could return a ton of value, not only in a final run with Horford on the team this season, but also in shedding Teague’s $8 million 2016 salary.

Teague has not exactly played to his All-Star form from last season and he and guard Dennis Schroder seem to be battling for the same job. Going forward, Schroder might be the better long-term answer as the starter and Teague could return a lot in trade, especially around the deadline or even the 2016 NBA Draft.

The other wrinkle is the fate of big man Tiago Splitter, as he too carries a hefty 2016 cap hit worth $8.55 million and hasn’t been great since arriving in Atlanta.

There are two schools of thought from league sources, the first being if the Hawks opt to move Teague then they may try and force Splitter into the deal. Moving off both Teague and Splitter, along with a free agent departure of Horford, could get the Hawks to over $49.2 million in usable summer-of-2016 cap space.

The second thought is that if the Hawks know they are losing Horford, then Splitter could take his place at a far cheaper price. Hanging on to Splitter changes the cap space math a bit, pushing the usable space from $49.2 million without him to $41.26 million with him.

The Hawks have been pretty adamant that they are simply doing due diligence and that nothing is close to happening. However, the math in all of it suggests that if the Hawks are not certain about their future, exploring and ultimately consummating change may be an inevitability, especially with the team sitting roughly three games above the .500 mark and having lost five of their last 10.

Here are the Atlanta Hawks’ salary cap scenarios for July 2016:

Steve_5451

** The $543,471 caphold noted is what’s called an Incomplete Roster charge. It is added to ensure that every team accounts for 12 roster spots worth at least the veterans minimum.

Miami Has a Cap Problem

The Miami HEAT have endured a crazy string of injuries, but are finally starting to get some of their guys back. Out of necessity Miami has had to lean on their bench at ton, which may end up being a blessing as they ponder which guys to keep going into the offseason.

The HEAT face some tough choices, mainly because of the enormous $30 million cap hold on Dwyane Wade. He literally has to be the first order of business for the HEAT, as his hold consumes almost all of Miami’s possible spending power.

Last year, retaining Wade beyond this season seemed unlikely, but given how well he’s played, signing him to a new deal under the rising salary cap might not be as crazy at it seemed a year ago, especially if the HEAT can work something out to keep the cap impact fairly low. Wade is making $20 million this season, the question is how much is he going to command next season?

The HEAT’s other big issue is the situation surrounding big man Hassan Whiteside. Unlike most players in his situation, Whiteside is going to be an unrestricted free agent without full Bird Rights.

As a second year HEAT player, Whiteside does qualifying for Early Bird status, but that only allows Miami to exceed the salary cap to offer him the greater of 175% of his $900,000 current salary or 104.5% of the average salary this season. The 104.5% number comes in at just over $5 million. Whiteside is eligible for higher raises in any deal he signs with the HEAT, which could be a small advantage. The problem for Miami is that both Early Bird values are far below what most believe is Whiteside’s market value to be. A near-max deal is more likely for Whiteside.

Because Miami does not have the means to exceed the salary cap to re-sign Whiteside to a market value deal, they must fit him into their cap space. Here is the wrinkle: Until the HEAT resolve Wade’s free agency, they won’t have any real cap space as every team has to account for at least 12 roster slots with either a cap hold or a contract. Wade’s cap hold kills their cap space, until he is signed to a lesser deal, signs elsewhere or is renounced.

The other part of the puzzle is Whiteside is eligible for a maximum contract with a starting salary expected to be north of $20.5 million.

If the HEAT have to meet that kind of number due to market demand, that means Wade has to agree to a deal in the ballpark of $16 million for next season. Or, said another way, take a sizable pay cut.

The HEAT do have the means to hang on to guys like guard Tyler Johnson, as he’ll be a restricted free agent, and the HEAT can exceed the cap to keep him. But keeping guys like Gerald Green becomes tough unless he’ll re-sign for a similar minimum-value deal.

The underlying issue with all of this is that even in a best-case scenario, Miami has the means to keep this team together, but the problem is they won’t have much available to add to the team as all of their usable cap space may have to go to Whiteside.

Here are the Miami HEAT’s salary cap scenarios for July 2016:

Steve_5453

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @eric_saar and @CodyTaylorNBA .

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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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.

David Yapkowitz

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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.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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