The extension deadline for players on rookie-scale contracts came and went on Friday, with Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio receiving a sizable four-year deal worth roughly $55 million.
The Golden State Warriors ponied up a four-year maximum extension for shooting guard Klay Thompson, which could exceed $70 million once the salary cap is set in July of 2015.
With the NBA’s new television deal kicking in for the 2016-17 season, it’s difficult to say with certainty if Rubio and Thompson were overpaid or even underpaid — as the salary cap is expected to climb as the league’s yearly income jumps by almost a billion dollars a year.
A number of players will let the market decide their future next summer. The San Antonio Spurs didn’t extend NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson also didn’t lock in a deal.
Klay Thompson — Golden State Warriors — four-years at the maximum (TBD) — Grade A
If Thompson was not worth giving up for Kevin Love, when the Warriors were negotiating with the Minnesota Timberwolves, then he’s a max player. Whether he is or isn’t is subjective, but clearly to the organization Thompson is a franchise player.
With Stephen Curry and Thompson in the backcourt, Golden State will be a force in the Western Conference. Klay isn’t as prolific a scorer as Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden (also making the max), but he’s a much better defender — and Thompson can both shoot and score.
Thompson was going to get max offers in free agency, so why should the Warriors wait? Cap room wasn’t going to be a factor for the franchise, so getting a deal done early made sense for all concerned.
Golden State may face a payroll crunch with eight-figure salaries going to five players (David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Curry and Thompson), but with the salary cap and luxury tax threshold climbing in coming years — the Warriors will either bite the bullet and pay tax, or look to move out from other salary (presumably Lee).
Regardless, the Warriors have invested in a core they believe in. Now Thompson, Curry and the Warriors need to deliver in the playoffs.
Ricky Rubio — Minnesota Timberwolves — four years, ~$55 million — Grade C+
Rubio is a creative passer. He’s capable defensively with his length, and generates steals at a high rate. His glaring weakness is shooting. Additionally, the Wolves got nowhere with the Kevin Love/Rubio combination. The point guard isn’t being compensated for what he has done on the floor, but what Minnesota hopes he will do.
Looking back over recent years, “good” point guards have earned roughly $8 million a season (Jeff Teague, George Hill, Brandon Jennings, etc.). Ty Lawson set the price last year for the next tier of point guards at $12 million a year, which is what Kyle Lowry got this summer.
Eric Bledsoe set the market for the next range, signing for five years, $70 million, or $14 million a season.
The Timberwolves are paying Rubio like Bledsoe, when he may not be Lowry/Lawson — but rather in the $8 million tier. A compromise might have been $10 million but the Wolves are probably overpaying by $6-8 million a season for Rubio.
That said, the salary cap is climbing and with the uncertainty surrounding the new television deal, perhaps $12 million is the new $8 million — and $14 million the new $12 million.
Kemba Walker — Charlotte Hornets — four years, $48 million — Grade B+
Is Walker on par with Teague or Lowry? The Hornets say Lowry, and they may be right.
Charlotte has been a lottery-bound franchise for years but last season the squad made the playoffs — and this year, has hopes of being a force in the Eastern Conference.
Walker will be a major part of any success the Hornets have in reaching that goal.
Alec Burks — Utah Jazz — four years, $42 million — Grade C+
Burks looks primed to have a fantastic season. The better he plays, the stronger the grade for the Jazz — who invested early on a player, perhaps above his market value.
Has Burks shown enough to get an average of $10.5 million a season? Not yet.
Burks is in the DeMar DeRozan range ($10.1 million this season) of pay but may be closer to Wesley Matthews ($7.2 million).
Both DeRozan and Matthews helped their squads to the playoffs last season (Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively).
Matthews, in the final year of his deal, will presumably get a pay hike next summer.
Burks is an important piece on the Jazz, but Utah was a lottery team last season.
The Jazz could have waited for restricted free agency, like they did with Gordon Hayward, but the team brought back Burks on their terms — which may not be a bad thing — if he really breaks out this year.
Nikola Vucevic — Orlando Magic — four years, $48 million — Grade A
While Vucevic was inked well before the deadline, he’s part of the same rookie class.
The Magic are paying a talented young big man who can score, rebound and block shots $12 million a season — on par with Utah’s Derrick Favors.
Both will look like good deals long-term as the salary cap continues to jump.
Kenneth Faried — Denver Nuggets — four-years, $50 million — Grade A
As long as Faried continues to blossom as he did over the summer as a crucial part of Team USA, the Nuggets will get their money’s worth from the athletic forward.
At $12.5 million a season, Faried will make slightly more than Vucevic and Favors, but not enough to bring down his grade.
Kyrie Irving — Cleveland Cavaliers — five-years at the max, possibly Rose-rule max — Grade A
The first step toward getting the LeBron James-train rolling was locking in Irving.
He was the first of his class to sign, just minutes into the eligibility period in July. Irving currently projects to make $90 million over five seasons but that could grow to over $102 million if he’s voted in again as an All-Star starter (via the Rose rule).
Whatever the price, it was the right move for the Cavaliers.
Markieff Morris — Phoenix Suns — four-years, $32 million — Grade A
Morris took a relatively light $8 million a season, to stay long-term with his brother Marcus.
The young forward can play both inside and out, and yet is getting as much per season as veteran Channing Frye (Magic).
If Morris can continue to improve as a player, he’ll become increasingly underpaid as the cap climbs in coming years.
Marcus Morris — Phoenix Suns — four-years, $20 million — Grade B+
Morris is probably a $5 million a year player, but he still needs to find consistency.
In a package deal with the twins, the Suns did well, locking in important parts of what the team is trying to do now and into the future.
If Marcus, who plays small forward while Markieff plays the four, can become a more reliable scorer, he too may prove to be underpaid over the coming seasons.
Note: Anderson Varejao signed a three-year, partially-guaranteed $30 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers — but the deal was independent of the deadline for rookie-scale players. Cleveland could have waited until the end of June to extend Varejao.
Extension Deadline Passes with No Deals
Kawhi Leonard did not get an extension from the Spurs, but he likely will over the summer.
He’ll be looking for a maximum salary, which could pay in the neighborhood of $17 million — almost $10 million more than his $7.7 million cap hold.
The Spurs will have more spending power this summer by virtue of waiting on Leonard, who will likely get his desired salary when the time comes.
San Antonio’s Cory Joseph also wasn’t extended, but has yet to make his mark in the team’s rotation.
Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler has blossomed into a strong two-way player. He’ll be looking for max money if he can get it — and while that might be a bit high, he’ll get more than Alec Burks received from the Jazz. Butler could end up paid in the $11-12 million range.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still adjusting to the influx of stars (LeBron James and Kevin Love). How the group fits together may determine if Tristan Thompson has a long-term future in Cleveland. Thompson is a strong rebounder, who has shown flashes as a rim-protecting shot-blocker. If he can near a double-double this season, he could end up getting paid $11 million or even up to $14 million per season.
Tobias Harris is a high-scoring forward who can rebound, but the Orlando Magic chose to wait for the summer before giving him an extension. Given Harris takes up just $6 million in cap space, waiting makes sense for the Magic. Harris could earn in the DeMar DeRozan/Burks range of $9-11 million a season.
Guards Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks) and Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder) need to prove they’re $12 million a year point guards, and not the $8 million per variety.
The Utah Jazz weren’t ready to commit to Enes Kanter, who could end getting Jordan Hill money ($9-10 million).
It’s difficult to gauge the market next summer for an offensively-challenged shot-blocker like Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets). If he can make an impact on the floor this season, Biyombo might be able to find a deal in the $5-7 million range.
Norris Cole should have the opportunity to prove his worth this season. Expect Miami to make him restricted next summer, and possibly re-sign the young point guard. Cole may not climb to the $8 million range but he could get a deal on par with teammate Mario Chalmers (approximately $4 million).
A number of teams have interest in the defensive-minded Iman Shumpert. The Knicks are prioritizing cap space, and may pass on giving him a $3.7 million qualifying offer, with its corresponding $6.5 million cap hold. Best case for Shumpert may be a deal close to Minnesota Timberwolves’ swingman Corey Brewer ($4-5 million).
Derrick Williams has shown flashes but the Sacramento Kings forward has yet to break through. A solid year could put him in the $5 million range.
Both Joel Freeland and Victor Claver of the Portland Trail Blazers still need to prove they can be consistent contributors.
In addition to the extension deadline, teams needed to decide on third- and fourth-year options for first-round picks by Friday.
While most options were taken — some were not.
The New York Knicks passed on Shane Larkin‘s third-year option at $2.6 million, looking to maximize cap room next summer.
The Golden State Warriors haven’t seen enough from Nemanja Nedovic to pick up his third-year option at $1.2 million.
The New Orleans Pelicans chose not to take Austin Rivers‘ fourth-year option ($3.1 million), while the Portland Trail Blazers passed on Thomas Robinson‘s ($4.7 million) and the Atlanta Hawks said no to John Jenkins.
Both Arnett Moultrie (New York Knicks) and Marquis Teague (Philadelphia 76ers) were cut outright with guaranteed salary, making their options for the 2015-16 non-existent.
David Nwaba and the Road Less Traveled
David Nwaba speaks to Basketball Insiders about his unconventional path to the NBA.
A player’s path to the NBA usually follows the same formula: A star in high school, a strong college career, and then eventually being selected in the NBA Draft. However, there are times when a player’s path is more unconventional. In the case of David Nwaba, he definitely took the path less traveled.
He attended University High School in West Los Angeles, where he was named All-Western League MVP twice as well as being an all-league selection. He finished his senior year in 2011 putting up 22.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game.
He went to an NCAA Division 2 school, however, Hawaii Pacific University, but never suited up for them as he redshirted his freshman year. He played a year at Santa Monica Community College, where he was the Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to Nwaba, the decision to leave Hawaii Pacific was made with the NBA in mind.
“It was always a dream of mine, it’s also why I left a Division 2 school that I started at,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I had bigger dreams of playing D1 and potentially the NBA. So that was a dream of mine. I never thought the journey would go like this but it is how it is.”
Behind Nwaba, Cal Poly made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2014. They won the Big West Tournament as the seventh seed out of eight teams, and then knocked off Dayton for the right to come in as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed Wichita State. Cal Poly would go on to lose to Wichita State, but sparking that run to March Madness put Nwaba on the basketball map.
He didn’t get to the NBA right away, though. His first professional experience came with the then Los Angeles D-Fenders, now South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate. He initially began with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings affiliate, but his rights were traded to Los Angeles. His strong play in the G-League was what caught the Lakers’ attention, enough to give him a pair of 10-day contracts, and then one for the rest of the season.
“It was a perfect spot to start up my professional career The G-League is a place to develop your game, and I think I developed a lot,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I learned a lot about the game, and I think it was a good place for me to start just out of college.”
Although he made a strong impression on the Lakers, Nwaba found out that nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA. Due to a roster crunch when the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer, the Lakers ended up cutting him. He didn’t stay unemployed for long though. Before he had a chance to hit the open market, the Chicago Bulls claimed him off waivers.
He’s since carved out a role as one of the Bulls most dependable players in the second unit. And just like his path to the league, his role is a bit of an unconventional one as a shooting guard. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but most of his shots come from in the paint. He only shoots 26.3 percent from three-point range. It’s been effective for him though.
“It’s just bringing energy off the bench and just being that defender,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “For the most part, I just try to be aggressive going to the basket, finishing at the rim, making the right plays, just defending and playing hard.”
The Chicago Bulls got off to a slow start this season. They lost 17 of their first 20 games. In December, they started to pick up their play, winning 11 of their 20 games including a seven-game win streak. However, they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11 games. Despite that, Nwaba does see some encouraging signs. And in the Eastern Conference, he’s not quite ready to count out another run.
“We’re developing every game, just building chemistry amongst each other,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “Who knows, all it takes is just a streak of eight to ten games or something and we’re already back in the playoff race. You never know, anything can turn around. It’s still a long season, a lot of games to be played, and a lot of time to develop our game. We’ve still got a lot of time with each other.”
NBA Daily: The Los Angeles Lakers Could Be Up Next
The Los Angeles Lakers may not make the playoffs this season, but they’re trending in the right direction.
The Los Angeles Lakers are coming.
They may not be playoff-bound this season as some of their purple and gold faithful hoped for, but the prestigious franchise occupying the Staples Center is showing improvement from their young players. Perhaps even enough to lure the likes of established stars come summer time.
In Luke Walton’s second season as the Lakers’ head coach, he hits the All-Star break with his team holding a 23-34 record. Granted, that’s not the level of success he was used to during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but it is only three fewer wins than his team had all of last season.
Prior to limping into the break on the back of a three-game losing streak, the Lakers had won eight of 10. During that stretch, they’d beaten the likes of Oklahoma City (twice), Indiana, and Boston. Along with making the most of their performances over that span, the Lakers were also doing so without 2017’s second overall pick, Lonzo Ball, who’s sidelined with an injury.
But Ball isn’t the only Los Angeles darling who has shined this season. In fact, it’s arguable that he’s not even the most impressive youngster on the team.
Drafted second overall last season, Brandon Ingram is showing the improvement this season that warranted such a high selection. His play thus far suggests he’s one of the building blocks of the Lakers’ next era in contending for a championship.
In his 53 games this season, Ingram is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. His shooting from the floor and from beyond the arc have both seen dramatic increases as well this season. Over the same stretch that saw the Lakers go 8-2 with wins over cemented playoff teams, Ingram upped his assists per night to 5.2, taking the place of facilitator with Ball sidelined.
Though Ingram and the Lakers haven’t been setting the win column on fire all season, the steady growth and improvement show to him that the team is moving in the right direction, under the right coach.
“I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job,” Ingram said to reporters during All-Star weekend. “I think guys have gotten better every single day. I think we come in with the mindset that we have a really good coach that pushes us every single day. I like the progress of what we’re doing in our organization.”
Walton, this season more than last, has shown the ability to get the most out of the players he has. Ingram’s improvement, plus the capability as a point guard Ball has shown, are the givens. They were highly selected players, expected to contribute immediately. But it’s the production of the players who were afterthoughts that are a major testament to Walton’s teachings.
Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were selected with the 27th and 30th picks in last June’s draft. Both were collegiate upperclassmen with noted handicaps in their respective games that led to teams selecting younger, or more athletic, or sweeter shooting players in their place.
A few years from now when everyone looks back, that could prove to be a silly mistake.
All Kuzma has done this season is keep his name consistently in the Rookie of the Year award race by averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc. He’s been a lightning rod of scoring for the Lakers on nights where they desperately need it, racking up 13 games where he’s reached at least 20 points, and three games breaking the 30-point plateau.
Hart, on the other hand, hasn’t been as steady a performer as his fellow late first-round selected teammate. But when called upon, especially since Ball has been out, Hart’s shown the all-around game that made him one of the most decorated players in college basketball while at Villanova.
Over the last month, Hart has averaged 8.8 points and five rebounds per game, while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. During that same stretch, Hart’s scored in double-figures six times and registered three straight double-doubles at the beginning of February.
Moving forward, as the Lakers look to add high-priced free agent in the coming summers, having guys like Kuzma and Hart on cost-effective rookie contracts is a luxury teams around the league hope to have.
Diamonds in the rough like Kuzma and more than capable contributors like Hart are nice, of course, but the real reason for optimism in L.A. is Ingram. He’s the player with a star power ceiling. He’s the guy that the likes of LeBron James and Paul George look at when they weigh their free agent options, as a guy who can handle the workload on the nights they may not have it.
Ingram’s game isn’t finished, though; far from it, in fact. But he knows that, and he’s aware of the steps he needs to take to get to that next level.
“To improve my game I think from a shooting standpoint,” Ingram said. “If I get that down, I think it would be a lot more easier for me to drive to the basket, break down a lot of guys, make plays for my other teammates. I think it would take me to a whole other level.”
Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t come void of expectations. There, in Hollywood, everyone is always watching. Fans, other teams, the media, everyone is waiting for the next time a Laker championship comes around. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, Ingram thinks the current legend captaining the ship is the young team’s best asset to achieving that ultimate success everyone in Los Angeles is accustomed too.
“Magic Johnson,” Ingram said. “He’s in our front office. He’s at most of every practice, every single day. For any advice why not go to him, with the caliber of player he was and how many championships he won, the way he carries himself. He always there for just information on anything we need.”
NBA All-Star Friday Recap
Simon Hannig recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2018.
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game was highlighted by many stars this year, including Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson, Candace Parker, Bubba Watson, Rachel DeMita and many more. Team Lakers was led by head coach, Rachel Nichols. Team Clippers was led by Katie Nolan.
Quavo, of hip hop group Migos, had the first the two points for Team Clippers, and Justin Bieber had the first three points for Team Lakers.
Team Clippers defeated Team Lakers 75-66.
Quavo led the way for Team Clippers with 19 points on 7/10 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse had 17 points on 8/14 shooting and 6 rebounds. Actor and social media star Brandon Armstrong finished with 16 points on 6/17 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 assists for Team Clippers. Both wereamong the top three leading scorers for Team Clippers.
NBA2KTV host, actress and model, Rachel DeMita led the way for Team Lakers with 17 points on 6/12 shooting and 2 rebounds. NBA legend Nate Robinson was the second leading scorer for Team Lakers with 14 points on 4/11 shooting, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Other notable NBA and WNBA legends stats from tonight’s game — Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) had zero points. Paul Pierce had 4 points on 2/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Jason Williams had 2 points on 1/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Tracy McGrady had 3 points on 1/3 shooting, 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) had zero points.
Quavo was named MVP.
BBVA Compass Rising Stars Game
There is a ton of young talent in this league, and the league will be in good hands for years to come. The talent was put on display tonight in Los Angeles.
Utah Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell gave us an early preview of the dunk contest tomorrow by throwing an ally-oop pass to himself off the backboard in the first half.
However, it was all Team World in the first half as they led 78-59 at the break. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings each had 14 points to lead Team World. Jaylen Brown led the way for Team USA with 16 points at the half.
It felt like a three point contest throughout the entire game, as there were 96 combined three point attempts. Bogdanovic led the way with seven three pointers made for both teams.
All in all, Team World defeated Team USA 155-124. Hield led the way for Team World with 29 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics led the way for Team USA with 35 points and 10 rebounds.
The MVP of the game was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who dazzled the crowd with his three point shooting. He had 26 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds with seven made three’s.
Next up for the NBA in this fun-filled weekend is NBA All-Star Saturday Night with the dunk contest, three point contest and much more.