Back in October, weeks before the season began, before we really had any idea what would lie ahead of us in the year to come, I made a whole bunch of predictions about what would happen in the NBA over the course of the next nine months. I do this every year, with increasingly comedic results, but even though it never stops being embarrassing to come back to the moronic things I thought would be true all the way back in in the fall, I can’t help but think that readers sure do enjoy a good cold take.
And that’s what these are, essentially—a subzero bucket of dry-ice-freezing cold takes. I nailed some, as I usually do, but the misses are pretty nasty. Read, enjoy, and berate without prejudice. Here they are, my 50 predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA season, revisited:
James Harden is going to lead the league in scoring with over 31.0 PPG.
WRONG. I meant to say Russell Westbrook, obviously. I got everything right except the name! It’s not like Harden wasn’t close, though. He finished second among all scorers with 29.1 PPG.
Hassan Whiteside is going to lead the league in blocks with over 3.8 BPG.
WRONG. Not even close. Whiteside finished fourth in blocks per game, averaging 2.1 per game. Even the league leader, Rudy Gobert, finished with just 2.64 BPG. Nobody came close to 3.0 per contest this year, let alone 3.8.
Jonas Valanciunas will finish among the top rebounders in the league.
RIGHT. Valanciunas finished with the 12th most rebounds in the NBA this year with 779, behind all the usual mainstays but ahead of Nikola Jokic, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Andre Drummond, however, will once again lead the league in rebounds, this time with over 15 RPG.
WRONG. Whiteside did lead in this category, with Drummond and his 13.8 RPG finishing in second place.
Last year’s assist king Rajon Rondo (11.7 APG) will see his assists-per-game average drop under 10.0 per game.
RIGHT. Harden, Westbrook and John Wall were the only players to average double-digits in assists this year. Rondo averaged only 6.7 APG in the regular season.
Kevin Durant will score fewer than 25 PPG for the first time in his career since his rookie season.
WRONG. But barely. In 62 games this year, Durant averaged 25.1 PPG, still his lowest scoring output since his rookie season.
Karl-Anthony Towns will make his first All-Star team.
WRONG. While Towns had a perfectly lovely season, the loaded frontcourt position out west and team woes for the Wolves kept him out this year. It’s coming, though, and soon.
Zach LaVine will win the Dunk Contest for the third consecutive year.
WRONG. His injury kept him from even competing. To be fair, though, had he competed he would’ve won that horrible dunk contest by a bajillion points.
Derrick Rose will play in fewer than 60 games.
WRONG. This is getting frustrating. Rose played only 64 games, which is more or less what I expected to have happen this season. I just undershot those missed games by four.
The Golden State Warriors will win fewer than 70 games.
RIGHT. They may have won 70 again had Durant not gotten hurt, but there’s nothing wrong with 67.
As a team, the Boston Celtics will lead the league in rebounds.
WRONG. I’m trying to figure out what I was thinking here. With most of these predictions, especially the ones that I missed, it’s easy to think, “Yeah, but I can see what he was thinking.” Not with this one. Boston was near the bottom of the league in rebounding this year. It’s not like Al Horford was going to add a lot of boards per game. I’m an idiot sometimes.
The Utah Jazz will average over 101 PPG.
WRONG. The sound you just heard was me punching through the drywall in my living room. Utah averaged 100.7 PPG as a team this year.
The Houston Rockets will attempt more three-pointers per game than the Golden State Warriors.
RIGHT. And so did the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets led the league with an insane 40.3 three-point attempts a game, while the Warriors finished fifth in that category with 31.2. The Rockets, for what it’s worth, also knocked down an extra 2.4 threes per game, too.
For the second consecutive year, the Phoenix Suns will lead the league in turnovers.
WRONG. The Sixers took home the turnover crows this year, with 16.0 per night. Phoenix at least was kind enough to finish fourth in this category with 14.9 turnovers per game.
The San Antonio Spurs will lead the league in defensive efficiency.
RIGHT. The Spurs topped all teams with a defensive efficiency of 100.9. Not surprising when they’ve got a two-time Defensive Player of the Year on the roster.
The Chicago Bulls will finish among the top six in team assists.
WRONG. The Bulls were nowhere near sixth in the NBA in assists. In fact, they were 17th with 17.0 APG per game, which probably is a byproduct of lots of isolation offense and entirely inefficient point guard play all season long.
Ben Simmons will not play a single game for the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
RIGHT. I hate that I was right about this, but it’s sort of a Sixers tradition to have a rookie sit the whole season. What kind of person would Simmons have been to have broken that? Markelle Fultz is currently walking around Philadelphia with queen-size mattresses wrapped around his knees.
Buddy Hield will lead all rookies in three-pointers made.
RIGHT. And it wasn’t even close. Hield dropped in 148 three-pointers this season, while the second-place rookie shooter from deep, Jamal Murray, poured in 115.
Kris Dunn will not play as many minutes as Ricky Rubio in Minnesota.
RIGHT. Rubio almost doubled Dunn’s floor time, 32.9 MPG to 17.1 MPG.
Thon Maker will show flashes, but won’t make much of an impact in his rookie season, failing to haul in either five points or five rebounds per game.
RIGHT. Maker grew increasingly effective as the season wore on, even starting games in the playoffs, but in his 57 regular season games this year he averaged only 4.0 PPG and 2.0 RPG.
Brandon Ingram will score well, but will not lead all rookies in scoring.
RIGHT. He wasn’t even close. Hield, Murray, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Malcolm Brogdon and Yogi Ferrell all scored more points per game than the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. There will be a day when it will look ridiculous that he wasn’t higher up on that list.
The Toronto Raptors will not have homecourt advantage in the first-round of the playoffs.
WRONG. After finishing with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors earned homecourt in their first round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Charlotte Hornets, meanwhile, will be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
WRONG. Yeah, no. That didn’t happen.
The Indiana Pacers will play in the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
WRONG. Nor did this.
The Dallas Mavericks will not make the Playoffs.
RIGHT. I was correct on this account, however. An aging Dirk Nowitzki and relatively thin talent in other areas meant the Mavs weren’t able to sneak into the 2017 postseason.
Neither will the Memphis Grizzlies.
WRONG. At the time I made this prediction, I was thinking that Memphis’ style was antiquated and that the roster was uninspired. Despite all that, they still ended up four games above .500 and slotted a 7-seed against the San Antonio Spurs.
This year’s Finals will be a rematch of last year’s Finals between the Golden State Warriors and defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
RIGHT. Not the riskiest prediction, but here we are.
Yes, the Golden State Warriors will win the championship.
RIGHT. But I don’t have to be happy about it.
Joel Embiid will win Rookie of the Year
WRONG. Easily the leader among rookies in points and rebounds, Embiid would have run away with the award had he played anything remotely close to a full season, but with only 31 games under his belt it was impossible to give him the accolade. Instead, it went (rather surprisingly) to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon.
Russell Westbrook will be named the MVP
RIGHT. He dominated the first-place votes in a year when he averaged a triple-double. I made this prediction thinking he’d go into what Bill Simmons calls “F You Mode,” but no one really thought he’d actually average a triple-double. What a year from an amazing player, the first in decades to win MVP for a sub-50-win team.
Zach Randolph will be named the 6th Man of the Year
WRONG. In most cases, when a player pours in 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game off the bench, he gets consideration for the year’s top accolade for reserves, but Randolph wasn’t even a finalist. He had a solid year as a reserve, but not as good as the actual winner, Eric Gordon.
Kawhi Leonard will be the Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in a row.
WRONG. Finally, it was Draymond Green’s time to “steal” this one away from Kawhi (get it?). Either guy could have won the award, but it was time to spread the love. Green absolutely deserved the award.
Brad Stevens will be the Coach of the Year
WRONG. Even though the Celtics shockingly finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, Stevens wasn’t a finalist for this award, which make sense considering the years Mike D’Antoni had with the Rockets and Erik Spoelstra had with the HEAT.
Kenneth Faried will be shopped but ultimately will remain a Denver Nugget for the entire season yet again.
RIGHT. Somehow, someway, Faried made it through the year as a Nugget.
The 76ers will find a place for either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel this season.
RIGHT. It looked like Okafor was going to be the one shipped out, but ultimately it was Noel who got the boot. If Philly can find a taker, Okafor will be out the door this summer, too.
Brandon Knight will be unhappy and underutilized in Phoenix, but despite that he will not be traded this season.
RIGHT. Phoenix has a loaded backcourt, but they haven’t done anything with Knight or Bledsoe, yet…
This is the year that Sacramento finally trades Rudy Gay. It’s happening.
WRONG. Had he not gotten hurt this absolutely would have happened. Damn the basketball gods!
This is not the year that Sacramento finally trades DeMarcus Cousins, however. Players that good are too important to let walk.
WRONG. This prediction was the setup, and the actual trade was the punchline.
The Orlando Magic will trade one of their frontcourt players before the deadline.
RIGHT. Too many cooks in that kitchen led Orlando to send off, of all people, the newly-acquired Serge Ibaka for very little in return. They essentially let Victor Oladipo walk to get their mitts on Terrence Ross. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a downgrade.
The Chicago Bulls will lead the league in attendance.
RIGHT. I won’t stop making this prediction until it stops being right.
The Brooklyn Nets will win the draft lottery.
RIGHT. Unfortunately they didn’t get to keep the pick. It ended up going to Boston, who traded it to Philadelphia.
There will be a new collective bargaining agreement in place before the end of the season.
RIGHT. And praise all of the gods that people praise for so swift a resolution. Nobody wanted another strike.
While not all of these distinguished writers are still with Basketball Insiders, they were back in the fall, and they each made a prediction of their own. Here’s how those panned out:
Oliver Maroney: James Harden will be MVP.
WRONG. If only Oliver were as smart as me when it comes to picking MVPs. It’s fine, though. At least he has something toward which to strive.
Ben Dowsett: The Memphis Grizzlies will miss the playoffs.
WRONG. They got in.
Jonathan Concool: The Minnesota Timberwolves will make the playoffs.
WRONG. They did not.
Jesse Blancarte: Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson will play at least 70 regular season games.
RIGHT. Of all the bold predictions, this one may have been the boldest. Gordon and Anderson are two of the most injured players of their era, and their prolonged health this season is a big part of why the Rockets were so good all year long.
Jabari Davis: The Minnesota Timberwolves will win more games than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
WRONG. My colleagues are nuts. This one was every bit as bad as the one about the Celtics leading the league in rebounds. Okay, so maybe not that bad.
Alex Kennedy: Russell Westbrook will record 25 triple-doubles this season.
RIGHT. We all know Westbrook broke the NBA record this season and racked up 42 triple-doubles. The real win here is that Kennedy actually was right about something for once.
Cody Taylor: The Miami HEAT will finish about .500 and make the playoffs.
WRONG. Oh, Cody. So close. Just like the actual .500 Miami HEAT and their playoff hopes, dashed by a tiebreaker.
Lang Greene: Dwight Howard will be named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
WRONG. Howard earned no such accolade this year. He averaged 13.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG this year, but there weren’t even whispers about him potentially making the All-Star team when voting was wrapping up. He wasn’t even close.
Come fall, I’ll be back in the saddle, making insane predictions. This year, I was 21 for 42 in my predictions, frankly one of my better win percentages ever, while my colleagues were just 2 for 8, but we’ll all try to improve next year. What’s an NBA preseason without a few hot takes, after all?
NBA Draft Watch: Should You Expect a Flurry Of Trades?
Should you expect a flurry of trades during tonight’s NBA Draft? History says yes!
Draft Day. The event that rebuilding teams have been planning months for is finally upon us. The next wave of NBA stars await their opportunity to play under the brightest of all lights on the biggest of stages. But outside of the rising and falling status of the prospects, each year draft week is filled with a flurry of trade activity and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2018.
On Wednesday, the trade market kicked off with the Charlotte Hornets shipping former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for veteran center Timofey Mozgov. The move isn’t all that surprising considering one of the biggest advocates for the Hornets in acquiring Howard from Atlanta last year, Steve Clifford, was fired back in April. In addition to a new head coach, James Borrego, Charlotte also hired a new president of basketball operations and general manager in Mitch Kupchak.
In the deal, Charlotte was able to avoid paying the luxury tax while also creating immediate salary cap flexibility to be players in this year’s market should they choose. For Brooklyn, the team acquires a veteran presence for their youth movement and a consistent double-double anchor on the interior.
The trade also marks consecutive years that Brooklyn was active on the trade front during draft time. Last year, the team acquired former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Nets haven’t had the luxury of prime draft assets in recent years, the team has had to resort to trades (Russell, Howard) and free agency (Allan Crabbe) to reshape the roster.
Transitioning to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question can be asked whether this will be the third straight year involving a draft day trade. At the top of the Warriors’ lineup max players reside which means the team has had to find talented gems in the back half of the draft to contribute to their success.
In 2016, the Warriors acquired the rights to the No. 38 overall pick, Patrick McCaw, from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations. In 2017, Golden State acquired the rights to another No. 38 overall pick, Jordan Bell, from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations.
Notice a trend?
With the Warriors needing to lock NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant into a long term deal this summer and future free agency looming for All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the franchise will need to continue finding young role players to complement their collection of stars.
There could also be a deal involving All-Star level talent.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo back in 2016 in a draft week deal with the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo didn’t emerge as an All-Star caliber until the following season (after being dealt to Indiana), there are usually a couple of big names in play come draft night.
Consider the 2017 draft day deal that saw the Chicago Bulls send Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for talented two guard Zach LaVine.
This year, the most prominent name potentially on the market is San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumor mill reports Leonard is frustrated and wants a trade to the Lakers. The Spurs are, of course, attempting to keep their franchise player with a series of meetings. Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his public trade demand limits what San Antonio could demand in return. Teams will be hesitant to give up prime assets for a player that won’t commit to their franchise long term. While San Antonio doesn’t have to make an immediate deal their leverage hasn’t been compromised with Leonard’s specific trade destination request.
The NBA Draft can best be described as a crapshoot with prospects being hit or miss. There are teams that make their bones via draft day acquisitions, or working between the lines, which is a storyline to watch during the draft tonight.
NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft
With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.
From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.
As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.
With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.
The sense I get from chatting with executives and agents is there's far more uncertainty entering the NBA Draft than usual. So many teams are open to moving up, down or out. No consensus outside the lottery. It's gonna be absolute chaos. I'm pumped and jacked for it.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 20, 2018
One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.
While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.
Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.
Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.
With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.
Latest buzz: Hearing Michael Porter and Trae Young are both falling, and that even Knicks could pass on Young at 9. Meanwhile Wendell Carter is gaining steam, strong candidate to go in 4-7 range.
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) June 20, 2018
Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.
Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.
Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.
Luka Doncic has moved to forefront of Atlanta's internal conversation on the third overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, league sources tell ESPN. Michigan State's Jaren Jackson and Duke's Marvin Bagley (if Kings pass on Bagley at No. 2) remain in contention for No. 3.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2018
Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.
More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Members of the Knicks organization met in-person with Texas’ Mohamed Bamba in New York today, team sources told ESPN. The meeting is an indication that the Knicks are considering trading up from the No. 9 pick. Bamba is projected as the fifth pick in ESPN's latest mock draft.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 20, 2018
DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.
Ian's report is accurate. The Knicks are reportedly exploring the option of trading up to the #4 spot in the draft, currently owned by Memphis. The Grizzlies have been adamant about shedding Chandler Parsons' contract in any deal. https://t.co/z4Yp0w6hfq
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 20, 2018
Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.
Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.
A source tells AA that ESPN, Turner Sports and Yahoo reporters all won't tip picks at Thursday's NBA Draft. The NBA says they expressed a no-pick-tipping "preference" to their media partners, but claims each organization made its own call. https://t.co/rySL02Nig1
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 20, 2018
It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.
Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.
NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?
Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.
Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.
For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.
So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.
Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.
All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.
That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.
Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?
It all starts with the Nets pick.
No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.
It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.
So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.
Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.
Next is addressing who should be traded.
Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.
Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.
Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.
How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.
Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.
Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.
Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.
That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.
It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.
One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.
That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.
Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.