Don’t Panic, But You Have To Consider It
With the NBA playoffs down to just four remaining teams, there are some franchises that exited the playoffs far too early to think that roster change shouldn’t be considered. In some cases, a few teams have harsh realities to face and some tough questions that won’t be easy to answer.
While no franchise should overreact to a single playoff series, there are some things that surfaced in the postseason that turned into bigger issues than any expected and are going to have to be addressed.
Here are a few of them:
The Miami HEAT continues to say all the right things about disgruntled big man Hassan Whiteside, but with the HEAT season in the rear-view mirror, there is a growing sense that Whiteside wants out of Miami, and the feeling may be mutual.
The challenge for the HEAT is that White has basically two years remaining on his contract, one next season worth $25.4 million and a Player Option in 2019 that he will surely stay in worth $27 million.
Combining the ugly contract money and sub-par play this season, it may be pretty hard for Miami to move Whiteside without including something else of value.
The HEAT have been trying to shed contract obligations since the NBA trade deadline, so how they ultimately handle Whiteside is worth watching.
Much like Whiteside, the Bucks have some tough decisions to make regarding the future of Parker. Fresh off a second ACL tear of the same knee, Parker’s postseason was less than impressive. Some have tried to write that off to the rust associated with missing so much time. However, the Bucks must decide what Parker is really worth and they have to do that in July.
The upside for Parker is he is well-liked by the organization and given where the team is at cap wise; there is no reason for the Bucks not to match any deal that he gets. They will not be a salary cap team at any time in the near future, so matching an offer sheet won’t impact the team’s immediate flexibility.
The question for the Bucks becomes is he worth the commitment, based on what they saw in the postseason.
It’s tough to value players trending downward because a team never knows who might try and poach the talent away. There is no question Parker’s value is down but does a team with cap space like Brooklyn, Phoenix or Indiana pounce and test the Bucks resolve?
The prevailing thought out of Milwaukee is Parker will be back; the question becomes at what price and who sets that line?
Before the playoffs, the idea that Raptors head coach Dwyane Casey could be in trouble was laughable. The Raptors just finished their best season in franchise history, winning 59 games and the Eastern Conference. But after this week’s sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Casey’s future was the primary topic at yesterday’s postseason press conferences.
While the wounds of defeat are still very raw, there is an increasing sense that Casey is the easy change for Raptors president Masai Ujiri to make, mainly because the roster is locked in with so many high-priced guys that didn’t perform.
Is there anyone lining up to take Serge Ibaka or Kyle Lowry off the Raptors hands? If so, for what in return? That’s the puzzle the Raptors have to solve.
There were some clues dropped yesterday when Ujiri said he’d have to look back at the last five years and judge what the next five years need to look like. Those are ominous words for Casey’s future, mainly because the easiest thing for a team to change is the head coach.
It is almost not debatable to say the New Orleans Pelicans started playing their best basketball of the season when big man DeMarcus Cousins went down with injury.
The Pelicans have said all the right things about Cousins’ future with the team, but the real question is how much money and how many years is a new contract for Cousins going to cost? And, does that make any sense considering that best version of the front court was Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic?
The riddle for the Pelicans isn’t just cost. What’s Cousins going to look like after suffering an Achilles tear? Few players have ever been the same after an Achilles injury.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans won’t know how Cousins’ performance has been impacted because his rehab won’t be close to complete before they have to decide on a new contract. In the interim, another team that’s a little desperate may try to poach him.
There was a narrative floating around during the playoffs that said the Pelicans would have been a tougher out with Cousins, but the reality is the team was better without him.
Sixers rookie Ben Simmons is going to win Rookie of the Year in a walk. He posted one of the best all-around seasons of a player classified as a rookie in more than a decade. The 76ers have themselves a gem and that’s not debatable.
The problem for the 76ers is that against Boston, you started to see the flaws of a 6-foot-10 point guard, so much so that the 76ers turned to T.J. McConnell to create a spark for the offense.
Let’s be fair, Simmons is going to learn and grow as a player, and adversity in the NBA tends to be the best teacher. But, for the 76ers, is having Simmons at the point guard spot really the future? Can you be the team you want to be with a point guard that can’t shoot from three?
It’s fair to say that LeBron James runs the offense for the Cavaliers as the lead playmaker. He doesn’t man the point guard spot on the floor, he simply initiates the offense, which is often what Simmons does.
So what is the future for Simmons and the Sixers? He clearly is a franchise cornerstone, but where do you really play him?
With the 76ers season ending, they do have some decisions to make, notably, about McConnell’s future (one more year remaining) and that of guard J.J. Redick (pending free agent).
The 76ers have top overall pick Markelle Fultz waiting in the wings and dreams of free agent spending on a marquee all-star like Paul George or even LeBron James.
However the chips fall in the summer, one thing is clear, Simmons has to evolve in one direction or the other. He can be breathtaking as a playmaker, but his lack of perimeter game may become a bigger problem as the 76ers try and become legit championship contenders.
The Oklahoma City Thunder announced that Paul George underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. His expected recovery is anywhere from six to eight weeks, which would line up with the opening of free agency.
There have been some mixed messages all season about where George’s head is at, but those around the situation continue to say its more likely that George leaves the Thunder than stays as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Thunder GM Sam Presti disputed the idea that George was already out the door during his season-ending press conference, saying he had been speaking directly with George and didn’t get the sense that’s where things were.
The Thunder can win the day financially as they can offer the longest-term and largest-dollar deal. The Thunder continue to say paying luxury tax won’t be a problem to keep the All-Star core together, the question facing George is can he and guard Russell Westbrook be anything more than two players competing for shots on the same team.
If the playoffs has shown anything about the Thunder, it’s that playing with Westbrook can be a blessing and a curse. How does that work for the Thunder? More importantly, how does that work for George?
The narrative around the relationship all season is that George thoroughly enjoyed not having to shoulder the burden of a franchise by himself. Having other elite level players made the season easier both mentally and physically.
The popular narrative is that George is heading to the LA Lakers, and that may very well end up being true, but if the idea of not having to shoulder the franchise is really appealing, the Lakers might be more like Indiana, even with all their impressive young players.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. However, they didn’t compete nearly at the level they were hoping for.
There are big questions for the Wolves, and some of them are financially driven. Guard Andrew Wiggins got his maximum contract extension last year, and former top overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns is due his this summer.
On top of that, this is the first summer in which guard Jimmy Butler can extend his deal.
Suddenly, it’s going to get very expensive in Minnesota for a team that wasn’t very impressive in the postseason.
It’s easy to dismiss the Wolves struggles to their youth, that’s a fair thing to believe, but as the franchise has to start committing $150 plus million deals, is this the right core?
Its hard to argue that Butler isn’t the heart and soul of the team, but if he won’t extend his deal, he has the option to hit unrestricted free agency in July of 2019.
Butler wisely structured his current deal that he signed with the Bulls to front load as much money as possible, knowing he wouldn’t stay in his option year unless he was injured. That option year seems pretty unfavorable to Butler given where the salary cap is situated, which could make an extension tough to get done.
While it seems unlikely that Butler is going anywhere, how extensions talks go could say a lot about his future in Minnesota.
With the 2018 NBA Draft Combine getting underway in Chicago next week, the rumors and chatter about some of these situations are going to pick up. While it’s easy to be a prisoner of the moment, most teams will be deliberate about what they do next, but it’s hard to argue that the results of the postseason won’t warrant at least some of these situations changing.
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NBA Daily: A Little Bit Of Trouble In Paradise
Even with all their success, the Warriors’ most recent incident may suggest that there’s something ugly going on internally, writes Matt John.
It’s tragic to see an all-time team crumble from within.
When an empire falls because of its own hubris, it’s dead forever. Teams like the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers are a prime example of a fallen empire because of such. As the Lakers won titles year after year, the tension between the two of them became so palpable that their egos surpassed their talent, infecting their play on the court.
It was a shame that the dysfunction came to a head in 2004 because the Lakers had arguably their most talented team in the Shaq/Kobe era that year. Even with all the drama behind the scenes, they still made the NBA finals. We’ll never know for sure what could have been with the 2003-04 Lakers. What we do know was that everything blew up after that season because their superstars couldn’t stand each other anymore.
Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, we must now ask ourselves: Are we seeing the same thing happen to the Golden State Warriors?
If we’re basing this entirely off the incident that happened both during and after the Warriors and the Clippers squared off on Monday night, then absolutely not.
For those of you who don’t know, multiple Warriors – including Kevin Durant – got heated at Draymond Green after his attempt to be the hero at the end of regulation led to him losing the basketball as time expired. This forced the game into overtime, where the Warriors eventually lost. It was a rather questionable decision on Green’s part because, with all due respect to the three-time NBA All-Star, he had more reliable closers in both Durant and Klay Thompson to pass the ball to and he neglected them.
One thing should be made clear: Occurrences like these are pretty common. Teammates get in fights all the time, and not necessarily because they hate the others’ guts. They get into these little confrontations usually for the love of the game. Emotions understandably ran high after Green tried and failed to be the man as time expired. Certain things were brought up that are definitely worth going over, but this could easily be swept under the rug in a matter of weeks.
However, rumors of a potential Warriors’ self-combustion go all the way back to last June. After Golden State won its second consecutive title and third in the last four years, David West had this to say that caught our attention.
Warriors forward David West says there was a lot going on behind the scenes that people will be shocked about when it comes out.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) June 9, 2018
“Y’all got no clue. No clue. That tells you about this team that nothing came out,” David West said https://t.co/VkrrVYX86o
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) June 9, 2018
Perhaps not everything was peachy in the Bay Area. West was calling it quits, so there was no need for him to hold anything back. Still, since he wouldn’t elaborate, all he said at that time could be dismissed as mere gossip.
What we had then was smoke. Now we have fire.
Something that’s also got people’s ears burning has been Durant’s caginess surrounding his upcoming free agency this summer. We can’t take that as proof of discord because it doesn’t prove a thing. Everything surrounding Durant’s silence in regards to his future is purely speculative.
Or, it was.
As Durant and Green had their confrontation in the locker room, Green reportedly brought up Durant’s impending free agency this summer. That is very telling of what might be on the Warriors’ minds, or at the very least, Green’s. It’s bothering him that he does not know what Durant plans are this summer. While Green may not be the most likable player in the league, his concerns are understandable. The uncertainty of a team’s long-term future can easily rattle any players’ mind. Just ask Cleveland.
Green could have made a better case for himself had he not reportedly called Durant an expletive name repeatedly. No matter what conclusions you may draw from this, the fact also remains that -after they got all the dirty laundry out – Green was suspended for one game.
Before all of this happened, all of the talks about the Warriors’ possible breakup was a bunch of hot air. Now, we have confirmation that things have gotten a little uneasy.
It’s also a possibility that this one little quarrel is as bad as it gets. Perhaps Green just had to get his concerns about Durant out in the open, and the two of them will cleanly resolve their issues. If this winds up being the height of the tension in Golden State, then this entire matter will be irrelevant as the Warriors pursue their third consecutive championship.
It also sounds impossible that a team that talented that has experienced that much success in the last several years would get sick of playing together. Some may think that what happened with O’Neal and Bryant was just an anomaly, but in recent years, we’ve seen a few elite players opt to leave their original teams in spite of their success.
Just a few months ago, Kawhi Leonard decided he didn’t want to be the face of arguably the league’s most well-run franchise anymore. The year before that, Kyrie Irving was fed up with being the Robin to LeBron James’ Batman despite a championship and two other finals appearances. Should it be mentioned that King James himself left his two previous teams after making the NBA Finals four consecutive times with both of them? Maybe what we’re seeing from this is that success does not always breed happiness and/or loyalty.
Getting back to the Warriors, say this is the first in a long line of public incidents that will compel Durant to leave. That doesn’t mean the end for Golden State. They still have the Splash Brothers, as well as Green. Managing the team without Durant wouldn’t be easy, but they won over 70 games without him three years ago. They’d probably still be a good enough team that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he left.
That is, of course, going off the notion that Durant is leaving this summer, which is by no means set in stone. As cliche as it sounds, we can only wait to see if things get worse from here for the Warriors.
But if things are actually as rocky as they appear, imagine what they could be like when DeMarcus Cousins comes back.
NBA Daily: The End Of The Coach/Executive?
With the end of the Jimmy Butler saga official, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Tom Thibodeau is next, and that could mark the end of the coach as lead executive run in the NBA.
The End Of The Coach/Executive?
With the Timberwolves trade of Jimmy Butler finally complete, the next shoe to drop in Minnesota will be the fate of Tom Thibodeau, not only as a head coach, but as a lead decision maker.
Thibodeau and Spurs head coach Greg Popovich are the last remaining coaches with contractual control over their roster. However, Popovich stays fairly hands off on the Spurs roster leaving the day of work and planning to longtime executive RC Buford.
The NBA for years has been a copy-cat league, and the run of giving high profile-named coaches the team president title seems to have run its course with rather brutal results.
There have already been reports that ownership in Minnesota gave strong consideration to firing Thibodeau and his front office this past summer, but opted to stay the course.
It is believed that unless something special happens this season, Thibodeau is likely out at season’s end and the Wolves will look to re-tool their entire front office.
The issue that continues to come up with coaches as lead decision maker is the short-term, game-to-game thinking coaches need to have versus the long-term vision front offices need to have to be prepared for the future.
In most of the situations where the coach was the lead decision maker, not only were massively silly contracts issues, but draft picks and future draft positioning was often sacrificed for win-now transactions.
Much of the Jimmy Butler saga was tied to Thibodeau’s belief that waiting out the market would drum up better offers, and that even with an unhappy Butler he could win enough games to stay in the playoff hunt, ignoring the toxic culture that was bubbling up around the situation.
It has become fairly clear in NBA circles that the skill sets needed to be an effective general manager do not typically align with the skills needed to be a good coach. There have been a few successes in the dual role, but most have ended pretty badly.
A Big Free Agent Class
Not only will a possible 14 NBA teams have significant salary cap space this upcoming summer, almost half of the NBA is eligible for some level of free agency. Here are all of them.
The latest projections from the NBA peg the 2019-2020 salary cap to be just around $109 million, with the luxury tax line being roughly $132 million.
The cap jump won’t be anything close to what the NBA experienced in 2016 when the NBA saw a $24 million year over year jump, but there will be a solid increase from the $101.8 million cap this season.
With that increase, combined with a lot of the bad decisions made in 2016 expiring, many teams will have the flexibility to be players.
Current cap projections peg Dallas, the Clippers, Brooklyn, Chicago, Sacramento, Utah, Atlanta, the Lakers and Knicks as having the ability to pursue max level players in 2019 NBA free agency, with more than half of that list having enough space for a max offer and another non-max high dollar player.
Combine the expected availability of so much free agency cash with what’s shaping up to be an impressive 2019 NBA draft class, and this upcoming summer could be one for the ages in terms of teams being able to instantly reinvent themselves.
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NBA Daily: The Jimmy Butler Saga Is Over
Spencer Davies analyzes the effects of the blockbuster Jimmy Butler trade for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.
The trade call is complete and the deal has been made.
Jimmy Butler is officially headed to the Philadelphia 76ers. Former first-round pick Justin Patton is coming with him.
The Minnesota Timberwolves pieced together a package for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-round draft pick in return for the four-time All-Star forward.
The Sixers have assembled a brand new big three for the season early, while Minnesota nipped what could have been a potential yearlong distraction in the bud.
All in all, this could be a transaction that is doubly beneficial in the present and the future. Only time will tell who gets the better end, but we can take a look at the effects of the trade for both sides.
At first glance, failing to acquire a first or second option in return for Butler isn’t the best exchange for a player of his caliber. Coming up short of prying a first-round pick out of Philadelphia is visibly even worse, especially when the Houston Rockets reportedly came calling with four of those on the table.
What we do have to remember, though, is that—for now—Butler’s contract expires after the season is over. Scott Layden and Tom Thibodeau weren’t able to ask for a king’s ransom back because of that, yet they still did a solid job with what they could do.
Covington brings a mixed bag as far as his skill set is concerned. As one of the most unheralded team players in the NBA, the 27-year-old is a hound on the defensive end that has grown more confident as he’s gained experience. His extremely bothersome length allows him to disrupt ball-handlers and play the passing lanes to get out into transition.
Offensively the usage is low, but he’s a more-than-capable tertiary option who can catch fire from deep on any night, backed by his career-best 39 percent three-point percentage on this young season. Covington will space the floor and add a versatility and toughness that is tailor-made for Thibodeau to coach up.
Off to a less than ideal start to the year, Saric should welcome a change of scenery with open arms. Some have speculated that playing with the Croatian national team may have led to heavy legs from the outset, as he was in a glaringly obvious cold spell. In the first 10 games, his true shooting percentage was 43.6.
The last three have been quite the opposite, however. Saric is averaging over 16 points and six rebounds per game during the stretch with a 67.1 true shooting percentage. Maybe the move to Minnesota will add even more fuel to the fire as extra motivation.
Considering Thibodeau leans toward veterans, it could be possible that the 24-year-old may not start. It’s not farfetched to think Anthony Tolliver could slide into the starting five at the small forward position knowing the coach’s tendencies. With that said, Saric might just be the perfect fit for the Wolves to start utilizing their bench.
Remember what Nemanja Bjelica did for Thibodeau the last few years as both a starter and second unit guy? Stretching out the half court game to allow others to penetrate is when Saric is at his most dangerous—especially when he’s a threat to knock down shots. There are certainly similarities between the two, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Croatian big man used in almost the same exact way.
Bayless has been around the block a few times, to say the least. The Wolves will be his eighth team in 10 seasons. It’s been difficult for him to stay healthy, as he’s only played 94 games since the 2014-15 campaign. He’s already dealing with a knee injury to start this current year off, too.
Once he does battle back from that, it’s possible Bayless could see some playing time. Again, going back to the veteran thing, Thibodeau loves to have experience out on the floor. And even if he doesn’t see too much action, he’ll be a great mentor and an influence in the locker room.
Looking at the contract details of these three players, Minnesota has a chance to control its own destiny. Covington is only in year two of the long-term deal he signed last fall. Saric’s team option exercised through 2020 means he’ll stick around for this season and next at the minimum. As for Bayless, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the year’s end.
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins signed for the next five years, the Wolves are working towards some stability. It is impossible to replace the talent Butler has, but, from where things began in October, this is automatically a healthier situation. Now it’s up to the organization to get the best out of their stars and rack up wins on a consistent basis.
We don’t need to go through the statistics to tell you how gifted of a basketball player Butler is. His reputation precedes itself—an in-your-face competitor on both ends, a specialist in the clutch, a master of mind games. Quite honestly, there’s no one else in the league like him.
That’s why new Sixers general manager Elton Brand went out and made the effort to get him. Up until this point, the team needed some kind of jolt. It wasn’t out of desperation, per se, but there’s been a clear regression from a season ago. In a division as competitive as the Atlantic, along with an Eastern Conference up for grabs, Butler could provide that extra boost to vault them to the top.
By landing a superstar and hanging onto his first-round draft picks, Brand successfully addressed the present and preserved the future—which also includes Patton, the 16th overall selection in 2017.
So how does Butler fit in Philadelphia? When an All-Star comes to town, somebody is going to have to sacrifice. It’s happened in Miami, Cleveland, Golden State, Oklahoma City and Houston, among some others. At one point or another, there are going to be bumps in the road. Whether it’s lack of touches, debates over who’s taking the last shot or something of the sort—it’s bound to happen.
It’s plainly obvious that Butler is a go-to guy. Joel Embiid is playing that role currently as it stands today.
We know Embiid hangs out on the perimeter at times, but Brett Brown positions him in the post early and often. Meanwhile, Butler thrives on getting to the rim on penetration and cuts as a slasher, predominantly.
Ben Simmons is the master of drive-and-kick, drive-and-finish in his own right. Does this mean Butler will be spotting up primarily as a three-baller in Covington’s space? They’ll definitely need somebody to take those shots and make them because the two guys they just traded put up the second and third-most threes on the team.
Wilson Chandler staying healthy is going to be a big factor moving forward. He’s still getting his legs under him, though the veteran seems to be getting back in the swing of things slowly, but surely. Mike Muscala’s role is going to quickly expand as well.
Veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick is the obvious candidate to pick up the slack, as could rookie point guard Landry Shamet. At the end of the day, the responsibility of spotting up is for role players. Butler will do it multiple times throughout games. However, he needs to be touching the ball much more outside of that.
And you can bet he will. The Sixers are razor thin at the wing. They have Butler, Chandler, Furkan Korkmaz and maybe two-way rookie Shake Milton—provided he’s used at the three. Rest assured, Brand will leave no stone unturned in the search for depth and shooting in the coming weeks.
There have already been reports surfacing of Philadelphia targeting Kyle Korver from the Cleveland Cavaliers, which could ultimately be the best fit possible. According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, a number of players on the Washington Wizards might be a fit.
That’s a separate conversation entirely. Speaking on this deal, the Sixers went for the big fish in the pond and reeled in an enormous catch.
How it will go from here—who knows? Evidently, Butler is open to inking a long-term contract with the franchise, but we don’t know the value of those words until pen hits paper. Regardless of what happens in the future, this is a great job by the front office and should pay dividends soon.
As you can see, both teams may end up winners in the case of this trade. The Jimmy Butler saga is over and everyone is moving on.
It’s about time.