The more we all as human beings sit and look at the numbers that have been placed in front of Carmelo Anthony over the course of the last week, the more we all start coming to the realization that it’s going to be really hard for him to pass up the max deal that Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks are reportedly very open to tendering him.
Assuming he does end up back in New York, there are going to be four very sad teams that must immediately change course and begin working on their Plan Bs. The following are the likely next steps for the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and L.A. Lakers should they ultimately strike out on Anthony:
Chicago Bulls’ Plan B:
Of all the Anthony suitors, Chicago appears to have done the most tangible leg work in securing other players should he return to the Knicks.
The big news Friday was that 2011 first-round draft pick and former Spanish League MVP Nikola Mirotic was absolutely ready to leave Real Madrid, pay his buyout with the club and head to the States to play for the Bulls. Nate Duncan has already spent a whole lot of time and energy explaining the logistics of bringing Mirotic over, but the big question comes down to whether they can get him to take the mid-level exception or whether he’ll be more expensive and therefore require some of Chicago’s hard-earned cap space.
The Bulls can pay $600,000 of Mirotic’s pricy buyout (believed to be over $3 million) without it counting against the cap, but anything else they pay would count against the cap as a signing bonus. If Mirotic can spread his buyout with Real Madrid over a couple of years, the MLE might be a little easier pill for him to swallow, and that in turn would give Chicago some more money to play with in free agency this month.
As to who, exactly, the Bulls would purchase with that cap space remains to be seen. Chicago has been linked to a ton of different free agents, so nailing down a few specifics could prove to be challenging. The most notable, however, has been big man Pau Gasol, with whom Bulls’ brass and Joakim Noah met earlier this week. Gasol could join any of a number of teams, depending on how much money he’s willing to accept, but the Bulls have reportedly offered him a starting role and will have enough cap space to offer him something reasonable.
Some have mentioned Lance Stephenson as a possibility, but he really doesn’t fit the Bulls’ locker room culture, and his volatile demeanor and occasional on-court immaturity are hard to see working under Tom Thibodeau.
In truth, all of this is “Plan C,” however, as the Bulls are expected to turn their attention to a trade for Kevin Love if/when Anthony makes up his mind. Any deal Chicago makes will likely center around Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, the rights to Mirotic and some draft picks, but knowing how much Minnesota values Klay Thompson, it’s hard to believe they’d settle for Chicago’s deal, especially as Flip Saunders continues to insist he’d like to hold off on a Love trade.
That means the Bulls are likely headed toward an offseason that focuses primarily on depth, keeping most of their current core together (minus Carlos Boozer), then adding Mirotic, a backup point guard and possibly Gasol.
Houston Rockets’ Plan B:
With plenty of cap space and a strong desire to put together a Big Three this summer, the Houston Rockets are expected to shift their attention to free agent HEAT big man Chris Bosh should Anthony choose another team. They will have to wait not only on Anthony but also on LeBron James before having a real opportunity at this. Bosh could actually have a better shot at another title by leaving LeBron and Miami and playing back in his home state.
Houston was a frontrunner for Bosh’s services back in 2010 before Miami stepped in, and they still have a strong desire for an elite stretch four, which is exactly what Bosh would be for them. In fact, it’s pretty easy to argue that he’d be a better fit for them than Anthony would. Trading away Jeremy Lin, which Daryl Morey has already said he’d be able to do, would give them enough money to make an attractive offer to Bosh, so this isn’t the most unlikely scenario in the world right now.
Most believe, however, that Pat Riley will ultimately corral his own Big Three back together before everything is all said and done. But with LeBron apparently open to hearing other teams’ offers, it would be irresponsible to count out the possibility that Bosh plays somewhere other than South Beach this year.
After Houston has used up whatever cap space they ultimately end up with, their attention will turn to re-signing restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. There is a lot of interest in him league-wide, but the Rockets are likely to match nearly anything reasonable that he’s offered, particularly if they don’t end up with Anthony or Bosh.
Dallas Mavericks’ Plan B:
There are two ways that the Dallas Mavericks could go should they strike out on Anthony, and one of those ways would lead to the formation of a team that looks a whole lot like the one they trotted out last season.
In that scenario, they would spend the money to keep Shawn Marion, Devin Harris and Vince Carter in Dallas, then look for another rotation player and possibly use their cap-room exception ($2.7 million a season for one to two years) to fill out the roster. In other words, one way to approach next season is to field a roster that’s as deep as possible.
With Tyson Chandler in and Jose Calderon out, there already has been some significant turnover in the starting lineup, but not enough to transform Dallas dramatically enough to keep them competitive in the hellacious Western Conference.
The other option is to spend $10-14 million of their projected cap space to bring in a higher-profile starting small forward. While there would be interest in restricted free agents Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons, Utah and Houston have vowed to match nearly any offer sheet those kids might sign, and Dallas may have to exceed what is reasonable in order to pry them away. In other words, neither player is a likely fit with the Mavs.
That leaves Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng, two very different players that could each brings a measure of respectability to the Mavericks’ starting lineup. Neither is nearly as good as Carmelo, but Ariza would add three-point shooting and Deng would add a solid two-way game for a winning team that has thrived in recent years on the abilities of underrated veterans much like him.
Going this route would mean Marion is gone, and it would make it nearly impossible to bring back both Harris and Carter, but there’s a good opportunity for them to find a solid starting small forward, even if they don’t get Anthony.
And hey, there’s always LeBron, right?
L.A. Lakers’ Plan B:
Of the four non-New-York teams throwing money at Anthony, only the Lakers have been reported to have put a max contract in front of him, but that’s a testament to how badly the Lakers want to put together a winner around Kobe Bryant in what are likely to be his final couple of seasons in the league.
Obviously LeBron is the big target for the Lakers, who met with his agent in Cleveland on Friday, but LeBron is looking for talent, and the Lakers neither have it nor will be able to afford it if they pay James max money, as he has requested.
So what’s next for the Lakers if they miss out on Anthony? The rumblings over the course of the last week haven’t been particularly concerting. Pau Gasol would consider a return under the right financial and competitive circumstances. Nick Young calls a return to the Lakers his “first choice.” L.A. apparently has expressed interest in bringing back Steve Blake after shipping him to Golden State at the deadline. Kent Bazemore returning to L.A. is possible as well, as they have been in contact with his camp.
The problem with all these names is that they were all at least partially responsible for last season’s unforgettably awful year.
The Lakers need to set their sights higher, perhaps on pricing Detroit out of Greg Monroe, taking a shot at former Laker Trevor Ariza or gambling on Indiana’s Lance Stephenson. They don’t want to build a roster around Kobe these last two years that can’t even make the playoffs, let alone compete for a title. Getting Stephenson and/or Monroe, added to rookie Julius Randle and perhaps the other rumored additions mentioned above, is about the best L.A. can hope for if Carmelo and LeBron choose other teams, as expected.
The theme with all of these teams, in case it wasn’t clear, is that Plan B isn’t particularly pretty. Were Bosh to land in Houston they would be just fine, but we know that’s not likely. We also know that the best restricted free agents this summer will be very hard to pry away, and once you get past them there just aren’t a lot of great (or even really, really good) players left to sign.
But that’s the way the ball bounces in NBA free agency. They can’t all be winners, kids, as much as fans would love them to be.
NBA Daily: The Cleveland Cavaliers Need Tyronn Lue
The Cleveland Cavaliers have faced injury adversity and a roster shakeup, and now face uncertainty regarding coach Tyronn Lue’s health.
The most enduring image of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue came moments after his team sealed the 2016 NBA Finals with a third consecutive win after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1. As the team celebrated its historic comeback and readied to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one camera focused on Lue, who sat on the bench with his face buried in his hands.
— Buddy Grizzard (@BuddyGrizzard) June 20, 2016
The image tells a thousand words about the pressure Lue was under as Cleveland teetered on the brink of elimination for three games. Rather than sharing the euphoria of his players, it seemed that Lue’s emotions centered around the massive weight that had been lifted from his shoulders. Almost two years later, it appears that burden has caught back up with Lue, whose leave of absence for health reasons complicates things for Cleveland with the playoffs just around the corner.
“It’s like losing one of your best players,” said Cavaliers forward LeBron James after Cleveland’s 124-117 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
Kevin Love returned from a six-week injury absence to post 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Bucks. James likened Lue’s absence to the burden of trying to replace Love’s output while he was unavailable.
“We’ve got to have guys step up, just like guys trying to step up in Kev’s absence,” said James. “We have to do the same as a collective group as long as Ty needs to get himself back healthy.”
There’s optimism that Lue could return before the playoffs, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty given the seriousness of his symptoms, which reportedly included coughing up blood. Lead assistant Larry Drew, a former head coach with the Bucks and Hawks, will handle head coaching responsibilities until Lue is ready to return.
Kyle Korver played under Drew in Atlanta and said he’s confident in his ability to fill in.
“We’d love to have Ty here and healthy,” said Korver after the Bucks win. “Coach Drew has done this for a long time as well. He coached me for a full year in Atlanta. We know he’s fully capable.”
Korver also doubted Drew would introduce any major stylistic changes.
“I think LD’s been Ty’s top assistant for a reason,” said Korver. “They really think a lot alike. They coach very similarly. We miss Ty, but I think the style of what we do is going to be very similar.”
While style and approach should remain unchanged, what could an extended absence for Lue mean for the Cavaliers? Lue cemented his legacy as a leader by keeping the Cavaliers together as they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, but Drew hasn’t had that kind of success as a head coach.
In 2012, the Hawks had a real opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Atlanta history. The Hawks faced an aging Boston Celtics squad in the first round. The eighth-seed Philadelphia 76ers awaited in the second round after defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Hawks faced a pivotal Game 3 in Boston with the opportunity to retake home court advantage. Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer Michael Cunningham used Synergy Sports to break down every offensive possession for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. His conclusion? For three quarters, Rondo did not score a single basket while guarded by Hawks combo guard Kirk Hinrich.
The Hawks traded a package that included a former and a future first-round pick to obtain Hinrich from the Wizards in 2011. But in Game 3, Hinrich failed to score a point despite his effective defense. Apparently feeling the need for an offensive spark, Drew left Hinrich on the bench in the fourth quarter and turned to career journeyman Jannero Pargo.
With Hinrich out of the game, Rondo’s offense came to life as he slashed to the basket at will. Boston opened the fourth with a 13-7 run before Pargo went to the bench and Atlanta closed on a 15-7 run to force overtime. The NBA did not publish net rating data at the time, but we can now see via historical data that the Hawks were outscored by nearly 52 points per 100 possessions in Pargo’s minutes in Game 3. Rather than entrust Atlanta’s season and his own legacy to a player the Hawks traded two first-round picks to obtain, Drew went with Pargo, a career end-of-bench player.
What does this mean for the Cavaliers? It means the team needs to get Lue back. Drew and Lue are both former NBA players who have received mixed reviews as head coaches. But when his legacy was on the line, Lue pushed the right buttons.
For Drew’s part, in his first postgame press conference since Lue’s absence was announced, he remained publicly deferential.
“Coach Lue is the one who makes that decision,” said Drew when asked about lineup combinations. “That’s not my call. We look at a lot of different combinations — whether guys are starting or whether they are coming off the bench — and we assess everything.”
On the critical question of how lineups will be fine-tuned as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs, Drew once again emphasized Lue’s active role even as he steps away from the bench.
“I’ll talk to Ty,” said Drew. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make the decision.”
With Lue suffering acute symptoms, there’s no way of knowing when he will be ready to step back into the pressure cooker of a leading role for a team with championship aspirations. But the Cavaliers need him and need his steadying influence and instincts. Cleveland is a team that has battled through injuries and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline. It also faces the pressure of James’ impending free agency decision this summer.
Now, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Cavaliers must endure uncertainty about Lue’s ability to return and lead the team. James has emphasized that Lue’s health overshadows any basketball concerns, but gave his most terse remark when asked about learning that Lue would step away on the same day Cleveland finally got Love back.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” said James. “That was my reaction.”
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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