Nets Ready to Overhaul Roster?
With six days until a large portion of the players who signed this offseason become eligible to be traded, the Brooklyn Nets are letting it be known that they are open for business – with no untouchables apparently. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Nets are shopping Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, a trio that just hasn’t lived up to expectations and is generally regarded as overpaid.
While Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Nets are primarily focused on trading Andrei Kirilenko to the Philadelphia 76ers right now (the Nets would also send a second-round pick, while the 76ers would buyout or waive Kirilenko immediately), multiple other reporters confirmed Stein’s report.
Trading them will be no easy feat, though. Johnson is owed $48 million over the next two seasons, Williams is owed $62 million over the next three (the last year is an early termination option for $22.3 million) and Lopez is making $15.7 million this year with the option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines a $16.7 million player option.
However, as history has taught us, in the NBA there’s typically a home for any deal, no matter how bad. Nobody thought the Hawks would be able to trade Johnson before they shipped him off to the Nets; the same goes for the Washington Wizards with Gilbert Arenas’ six-year, $111 million deal that had a couple years on it when they persuaded the Orlando Magic to take him off their hands. Trading Johnson, Lopez and Williams is possible.
The Nets are short on draft assets as they mortgaged most of them to trade for Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. However, they do have some attractive young assets in Mirza Teletovic, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mason Plumlee to use as sweeteners. Garnett’s $12 million expiring deal would be easy to trade, but he has a no-trade clause and tends to be opposed to change.
The market is not going to be overwhelming, but given their limited leverage, the Nets’ asking price probably isn’t going to be too high.
Williams’ decline has been exaggerated to a certain extent. He’s still one of the more productive point guards in the league, averaging 17 points, three rebounds and six assists a game while appearing in all of the Nets’ 19 contests so far this year. Teams who are planning on making a run at Rajon Rondo this offseason but don’t like their chances could view making a move for Williams now as a safer way to ensure they acquire an upgrade at point guard. Rondo may be a little cheaper on average, but his deal will come off of the books two years later. The teams that come to mind are the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, both equipped with the young talent, expiring contracts and pressure to compete at a higher level than they currently are may consider taking Williams’ deal on. The Sacramento Kings are another potential suitor, as they have shown a willingness to take on long-term contracts and have been rumored to be interested in acquiring an All-Star level point guard, although Darren Collison’s inspired play for far cheaper makes them less likely now. The Dallas Mavericks made a run at Williams when he was a free agent, but lack the assets needed to acquire him. Same goes for the Houston Rockets. The only other team that makes any sense is the Detroit Pistons, but they would likely want to rid themselves of Josh Smith’s contract, which pays him $13.5 million annually through 2017, in any major deal. Paying a 32-year-old Williams $22 million in 2016-17 may be an unappealing reality to have to accept, but between his instant impact and the salary cap increase that should be in place by then, a team can probably resign to it.
Owed $24.8 million next season, Johnson is basically out of the question for any team that is interested in having cap space this summer. It’s going to take a team that is really desperate for a boost on the wing with limited resources to address the need otherwise. The only team that really comes to mind is the New Orleans Pelicans, whose playoff chances are hanging in the balance. As noted above, the Pistons would probably be game if it helped them unload Smith. The Charlotte Hornets are also in a place of desperation, but Michael Jordan taking on his contract, even with how much more willing to spend he’s been recently, is doubtful. The dark horse team for him could be the Denver Nuggets. In terms of helping the Nets stay competitive, they could offer the best combination of assets.
If it weren’t for injury concerns, Lopez may be the easiest to trade of the trio. He’s potentially an expiring contract, and he is one of the league’s best low-post scorers when healthy. Because he’s likely to opt out if he excels in the second half of the season and is only dealing with minor injuries right now, the injury risk is easier to take on. The list of teams that Lopez makes sense for is lengthy, including the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder in particular.
Fire sale doesn’t seem the right term to classify what’s going on in Brooklyn. They’re not just going to give away these three talented, albeit expensive pieces, but they’re definitely open for business, especially if they can save some money and not take too far of a step back in the process.
Magic Hopes Lakers Keep Losing
Former minority owner and all-time Laker great Magic Johnson always has bold statements when it comes to the team. He’s never scared to share his opinion, even if it’s negative toward team owner and president Jim Buss. In his latest, Johnson is calling for the Lakers to do what has been regarded as the unthinkable in Hollywood for so long: tank.
“I hope the Lakers lose every day,” Johnson said to Newsday. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious.
“If you’re going to lose, you have to lose because you can’t be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great or you have to be bad to get a good pick. The Lakers are in a good space, too, next summer if they can sign or trade for a talented guy. I’d rather be all the way bad than in the middle.”
There’s a lot of truth in Johnson’s comments, but Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has always seemed more interested in rebuilding through trades and free agency than the draft. However, after two years of missing out on top-tier free agents and limited avenues in which to acquire a high-level player, the draft may be the Lakers’ quickest way back to contention.
Currently, the Lakers are 5-16, which puts them in a tie with the Utah Jazz for the fifth-worst record in the league. If their pick is outside of the top five, it goes to the Phoenix Suns as a part of the Steve Nash deal.
NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed
James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.
Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.
2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.
“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”
Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.
“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”
While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.
“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.
Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”
Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.
“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.
Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.
“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.
On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.
Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.
“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.
Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.
Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience
It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.
Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.
He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.
To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.
“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.
“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”
Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.
“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”
So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.
“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”
It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.
Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.
“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.
“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”
After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.
Whether the next chapter in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”
And it’s about time people are taking notice.
NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop
Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.
When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.
He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.
Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.
The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.
“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.
“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”
And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.
“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”
This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.
Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.
It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.
“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”
Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.
“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”
Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.
After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.