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San Antonio Spurs 2019-20 NBA Season Preview

The San Antonio Spurs have been the model of NBA consistency, making the postseason an incredible 39 times in 44 NBA seasons. Is this the year they fall back? Basketball Insiders takes a look at the San Antonio Spur in this 2019-20 NBA Season Preview.

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Fresh off of a USA-worst seventh-place finish in the FIBA World Cup, Gregg Popovich looks to get back to something he has figured out quite a bit better – the NBA. Year after year this man continues to get things done during the regular season. Whether he’s had all-timers like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, or five associates from Home Depot, Popovich doesn’t miss the playoffs.

In fact, since Popovich took over the franchise in 1997-98, he’s yet to miss the postseason. That run, for what it’s worth, is unprecedented. Many thought that after Duncan retired and Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade that it was over, but still the streak remains alive.

Could this upcoming season quite possibly be one of the worst teams Popovich has ever coached? Certainly. But until he actually missed out on the playoffs it’d be smart to hold off on any criticisms. Let’s dive into the San Antonio Spurs and breakdown just what kind of team we have here.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

It’s funny looking back to see that people started to doubt the Spurs making the playoffs. We all make mistakes, but perhaps we shouldn’t make such a claim when Gregg Popovich is the head of the operation. While DeMar DeRozan had his ups and downs, he still was one of the top mid-range assassins in the league. Despite father time creeping up on him, LaMarcus Aldridge continues to stick to what he does best and delivers on a nightly basis. Mix in those wily veterans with an upstart Derrick White and a returning Dejounte Murray, and San Antonio has a shot to be quite a contender (or spoiler) in the Western Conference. That, plus Patty Mills played out of his mind for Australia in the World Cup!

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– Spencer Davies

The Spurs continued rebuild-on-the-fly will be judged more aggressively this season than it was last. Dejounte Murray is set to return following a knee injury that forced him out for the 2018-19 season. And Murray and Derrick White promise to be an exciting and explosive backcourt tandem for years to come – something the Spurs haven’t boasted in a while. Both 2019 first-round picks – Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson –all project to be nice pros, and the return of their 2018 first-round pick, Lonnie Walker IV, from a 2018 preseason knee injury should also provide an infusion of youth and athleticism. Long story short, the Spurs are well-positioned for the future. But there’s also enough talent on their roster to make some noise in the present. Don’t expect the Spurs to tank or look too far ahead, not with Coach Gregg Popovich at the helm. The Spurs will overperform, per the usual. I expect them to end the season with somewhere around 45 wins, which will be enough to qualify for the playoffs – again.

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– Drew Maresca

The Spurs snuck into the playoffs last season as the eighth seed, one of their lowest finishes in the Gregg Popovich era. Even then, they still pushed the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets to seven games and had a chance to win Game 7. Popovich is still one hell of a coach and can get the most out of whatever roster he’s given. Whatever player he plugs into the rotation becomes a valuable contributor whether that’s Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, or Davis Bertans. And to be honest, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t a bad one-two punch. They added some quality free agents in Demarre Carroll and Trey Lyles, and have some interesting young players in Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray, and Keldon Johnson. With Pop at the helm, this team will always play bigger than the sum of their parts. There’s no reason why the Spurs shouldn’t continue the league’s longest active playoff streak (22 straight appearances).

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– David Yapkowitz

This is the year, right? This is the year the Spurs fall out of the playoff picture for the 5th time in almost five decades. Even in a loaded Western Conference it just seems implausible to count out the Spurs. They still have two bona fide stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge; they have young guys that look like future stars in Lonnie Walker and Dejounte Murray, and despite being hammered for Team USA they still have Gregg Popovich, which has been enough for more years than anyone can count. This has to be the year, right? Maybe, but I am not willing to bet against them, the Spurs are simply better at this than everyone else.

4th Place – Southwest Division

– Steve Kyler

The Spurs did well to add DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles to the roster and re-sign Rudy Gay. With those players, along with DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldrige and hopefully a healthy season for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker, the Spurs could find themselves right back in the playoff mix – even in a stacked Western Conference. Others may count the Spurs out this season but I made the decision to stop counting the Spurs out a few years ago and that will not change until Gregg Popovich is no longer San Antonio’s head coach. The Spurs, as currently constructed, don’t have the firepower necessary to make it to the NBA Finals, but no one should be surprised if they are causing mayhem for a Western Conference rival in Round 1 of the 2019-20 postseason.

2nd Place – Southwest Division

FROM THE CAP GUY

The Spurs are one of many hard-capped teams this season. San Antonio triggered the hard $138.9 million spending limit by acquiring DeMarre Carroll in a sign and trade with the Brooklyn Nets. At roughly $123.8 million in guaranteed salary, the team shouldn’t have any issues, given they’re still below the league’s $132.6 million luxury tax threshold.

San Antonio still has $3.8 million of its Mid-Level Exception available, although the roster already has 15 guaranteed players.

Before November, the team needs to decide on Derrick White and Lonnie Walker’s rookie-scale options. Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl are eligible for extensions until the start of the season. The Spurs could have significant cap room next summer, over $60 million, but that number drops considerably if DeMar DeRozan opts in and the franchise holds onto LaMarcus Aldridge, whose $24 million for 2020-21 is only $7 million guaranteed.

– Eric Pincus

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: DeMar DeRozan

Does he still struggle from three? Yes. In today’s NBA, that’s the last thing you want from your biggest offensive threat. Despite his lack of range, DeMar still gets buckets. He has one of the better mid-range games in the league. He’s also solid at finishing at the rim. And speaking on his lack of range, he is very self-aware and won’t take shots he isn’t confident in. In fact, last year he took just 0.6 three-pointers per game, the lowest mark since his rookie season.

He finished last season shooting 67.4 percent within five feet of the hoop, a higher mark than the team’s center LaMarcus Aldridge. This was his first season away from Toronto, but his scoring didn’t really slip too much despite him playing in a completely different system.

Obviously, offense is as much about passing as it is about shooting. DeRozan led the team with 6.2 assists per game, over two assists greater than the next guy. He has great handles, runs the offense fluidly, and has gotten much better at involving the rest of the team. His 6.2 assists per night are a career-high.

DeMar entering his year 30 season isn’t quite yet on the decline, but it feels as if his prime has passed. Regardless of what we’ve seen on the court, DeRozan could be in for a pretty big season. He now has an entire year under his belt with the Spurs and could use that comfort to put up some big numbers under Popovich’s system.

Top Defensive Player: Dejounte Murray

Murray missed all of the 2018-19 season with a knee injury. In his last full season with the Spurs, he had a 98.7 defensive rating, good for fourth on the team. Now, that is normally a stat that is heavily dependent on the team, but Murray was much of the reason that the Spurs had such a good defensive team that season – and largely why they slipped to 20th in the league this past season with his absence.

Dejounte has great length for a guard and is incredibly quick. His lateral speed allows him to stay in front of just about every guard in the NBA. And above all, he has high-level defensive instincts, especially for such a young player.

In his last full season, he averaged 1.2 steals per game on just over 21 minutes of action per night.

It’s true, there isn’t too much tape to go off of for Murray, and it’s definitely up in the air how he’ll return after an ACL tear. But if he returns to the form he had before he hurt his knee, the sky is the limit for his defensive abilities.

Top Playmaker: DeMar DeRozan

Not only will DeMar be San Antonio’s premier scorer this upcoming season, but he will also be their top playmaker. This was touched on during the top offensive player segment, but DeRozan led the team in assists last season and there is zero indication that he won’t do it again. And maybe by even a larger margin.

DeMar led the team in assist percentage last year at 27.7 percent. He also led the team in usage percentage, at 27.7 percent. These statistics show that the offense essentially ran through DeRozan and that any success they have can be pointed back to him.

Top Clutch Player: LaMarcus Aldridge

Aldridge is the de-facto vet on this Spurs roster and with that comes the responsibility of taking late-game shots. Last season, he led the team in games played in clutch situations and had a shooting percentage of 51.7 percent.

Aldridge is incredibly smooth around the rim and his height coupled with his fade-away makes his mid-range shots almost unguardable. This comes in handy when the clock is winding down and San Antonio needs a bucket. DeRozan is the go-to scorer but other teams know this and often put their best defender on him or even double him up at times. This makes Aldridge the next logical choice, as all you need to do is give him the ball and let him go to work.

The Unheralded Player: Patty Mills

This recognition could go to a handful of different players, but no one embodies the traditional Spurs’ mentality quite like Patty Mills.

He checks all the traditional Popovich Spurs’ boxes. International player? Check. Relentless on defense? Check. Does what he’s asked? Check. Ultimate team player? Check.

But in all seriousness, Mills is a great player that often doesn’t get enough credit. He plays at full-throttle every time he is on the court, acting as a menace on defense and a sharpshooter on offense. He took 4.9 three-point attempts per game last year and knocked down 39.4 percent of them.

He’s the ideal bench guy, brings quite a few different tools onto the second unit, and has the ability to go on a heater from three better than about any player in the NBA. He’s embodied everything you’d want in a Popovich player since joining the Spurs eight seasons ago and will continue to leave his mark on the court for at least the foreseeable future.

Best New Addition: DeMarre Carroll

The only man that obviously fits this designation, Carroll will be a huge help for San Antonio this year. Coming off a season where he scored 11.1 points and notched 5.2 rebounds per game, DeMarre brings multiple skills to the table.

He’s a career 36 percent from three, so that should help San Antonio’s three-point game which is very efficient, but super low volume.

Carroll brings quite a bit of size and versatility to San Antonio’s roster and is quite the workhorse on defense. Popovich will be able to plug him into multiple positions and his tenacity on D will certainly bolster the Spurs unit that struggled on that end last season.

Look for Carroll to make an immediate impact on both offense and defense. He’s the ideal type of player for the Spurs’ system and should fit in quite nicely.

– Jordan Hicks

WHO WE LIKE

1. Gregg Popovich

He’s still one of the best coaches in today’s NBA and when it comes down to it might be considered one of the greatest of all time. He hasn’t quite adapted to the modern era, but so far it hasn’t seemed to matter. If you would have given their roster last year to any other coach in the NBA it’s unlikely they even make the playoffs.

Popovich year-after-year churns out wins at an incredible rate and this year shouldn’t be any different. The West as a whole got better, but so did the Spurs. They didn’t lose anyone important and should be much better with Murray back, Carroll on the roster, and a more assimilated DeMar.

2. The Backcourt

While DeMar is the only name that flashes, the Spurs have a really nice backcourt.

Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Patty Mills round out a stellar group of guards that all contain unique skills. And outside of DeMar, they’re all high-level defenders.

DeMar will likely be the biggest threat on offense this upcoming season, barring a surprising rise from White or Murray, but each of these guys will help the Spurs win. Every one of these players would get significant minutes on almost every roster in the league. Look for this group to be a force in the West this season.

3. Rudy Gay

Bringing back Gay will prove to be a huge plus for the Spurs this season. Outside of DeRozan and Aldridge, he was the next biggest threat on offense. Against certain teams, he was often San Antonio’s best bet to get points when needed. He’s big, he has the ability to create his own shot, and he’s actually fit quite nicely into the Spurs’ system.

A major bright spot from last season? Gay knocked down a career-best 40.2 percent of his threes. Another surprising stat? He pulled down a career-best 6.8 rebounds. These alone show that Rudy isn’t necessarily slowing down, so while he’s getting older and less athletic than he once was, he’s clearly finding ways to still bring value to the court.

4. Lonnie Walker IV

The Spurs’ first-round selection from last season has looked really strong this offseason. He’s long, super athletic, and still rocks a PR-worthy haircut. He is really young, so he has lots to learn, but he looks ready to make an impact this season.

– Jordan Hicks

STRENGTHS

The biggest thing the Spurs have had going for them all these years is the fact that they play team basketball. No one in the league does it better. With the roster they’re bringing into the upcoming season, we have little reason to believe they won’t keep playing in the system.

Led by Gregg Popovich himself, the Spurs employ a system that is hyper-fluid on offense, and incredibly tenacious on defense. They move the ball really well, usually get the shot they want, and always give their best effort.

– Jordan Hicks

WEAKNESSES

Like mentioned earlier, they still haven’t adapted to the modern NBA era. They shot the least amount of three-pointers per game last season, but oddly enough had the highest percentage. It seemed to work out just fine, but eventually, the game will catch up to them.

There’s a reason more-and-more teams keep increasing the number of threes they get up per game because the more you shoot, the more your chances you have of making them. It seems elementary, but threes are worth more than twos, so the more you make, the more points you’ll score. Not to mention, you can draw up so many different types of plays to get open looks from beyond-the-arc. The Spurs have survived thus far, but need to modernize their offense if they want to find championship-level success.

– Jordan Hicks

THE BURNING QUESTION

Do the Spurs still have what it takes to make the playoffs in the somehow-better-than-last-year West?

Honestly, until someone takes their spot, there’s little reason to believe they won’t be back. They’ve now made the playoffs 22 years in a row and have continued to do so even though their original core is now gone.

Popovich is absolutely up for the G.O.A.T. debate and there’s a reason for it. Until the Spurs don’t make the playoffs, it’s safe to assume that they will.

– Jordan Hicks

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NBA

The Career Evolution of Vince Carter

At the height of his game, the man known as Half Man, Half Amazing was must-see TV. Now in his 22nd year in the NBA, Vince Carter is proving his worth as he elevates one of the brightest young teams in the league. Chad Smith writes.

Chad Smith

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The Atlanta Hawks have quietly become the darling team of the NBA. After three excellent years of drafting, the Hawks appear to be headed in the right direction. The dynamic duo of John Collins and Trae Young is one that every team would love to have, but it goes deeper than that for Atlanta.

Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish are all part of the sensational young core that the Hawks have put together over the past few years. Balancing that youth and inexperience can be difficult as many veteran players would rather get the playing time or join an established championship contender.

Mentoring young players is not the most desired role for many guys in the league. It takes a special breed of player to accept and savor the opportunity to shape the next wave of stars.

Not only has Vince Carter taken on that role, he has excelled in it. The fifth overall pick from the 1998 draft is the last remaining active player from the 1990s era. In fact, Carter is set to become the first player in NBA history to play in four different decades, should he see the floor after December 31st.

Carter is entering his 22nd season which breaks a tie with Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis for the most in league history. Parish, Willis, and Nat Hickey are the only three players that have ever appeared in an NBA game at 43 or older. Vince will turn 43 years old on January 26.

Often referred to as Vinsanity, Air Canada, and Half Man Half Amazing during his career, Carter was one of the most athletic guys to step on the hardwood. He knows that he is a far cry from the spry shooting guard that made his NBA debut on February 5, 1999. The eight-time All-Star has learned a lot in his time, and he is now able to pass it along to the younger generation.

The art of teaching is one thing, but doing it while also keeping your own body prepared to play is another. Carter has played for eight different organizations and three of them in the last three seasons. After stops in Memphis and Sacramento, the veteran landed in Atlanta last year where he played 76 games. He is not just sitting on the bench or just there to be a presence in the locker room. Carter has played an average of 71 games per season over the last seven years.

The average age of the Hawks roster is 23.72 years without counting Carter. Adding him brings that up almost a full year. What he means to this team cannot be measured by analytic data or eye-popping statistics. His savvy experience and professionalism are two of the reasons Atlanta wanted him back this year, along with his production on the floor.

Carmelo Anthony is a name that is brought up quite often. Many people question why a team still has not signed the popular ten-time All-Star. Unlike Carter, Anthony has been unwilling to make the sacrifices and accept the role that he is given. Not only has Vince embraced it, but he has found value in contributing in a variety of areas.

It is very fitting that Carter has decided to spend the final season of his illustrious career as a tutor. He doesn’t want the farewell tour that many other stars have had in recent years. Known to many as the guy who dunked over a 7-foot-2 defender and shut down an entire dunk contest, Carter views himself as a guy that owes it to the game to give back.

Carter spent the first seven years of his career in Toronto, where his 23.4 points per game average is still the highest in franchise history.  He played 403 games with the team and led them to their first playoff series win in 2001 where they came up one win short of the Eastern Conference Finals. Carter had the opportunity to head back to Canada last season, in pursuit of a title – which they captured. He could have done it, and everyone would have understood the move. He stated that he would only consider it if the organization “wants and feels they need my services.”

In Carter’s mind, his job was to focus on helping develop Atlanta’s young squad.

The 1998-1999 Rookie of the Year has played many roles over the course of his career. He has gone from a rim-attacking superstar to a solid perimeter scorer. The two-time All-NBA wing has always been a high-flying scorer, even in the latter stage of his career. He has a wealth of knowledge and perspective that he can offer to Atlanta’s rising stars.

Speaking with USA Today’s Dan Wolken, Carter elaborated on his role with the young Hawks players.

“I want these guys to understand their importance,” Carter said. “This is the foundation of what you want to be a part of in a couple of years. So, okay, after two weeks maybe we lost four in a row. Are you tired of losing? Let’s fix the problem. Let’s fix our approach. Let’s go a little harder, whatever the case may be, that’s what we’re trying to change, which will hopefully roll over.”

After winning five more games last year than they did the previous season, the Hawks aim to continue their upward trajectory. They may not be anything like the 60-win team from 2014-2015 that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they could very well get there in a few years. Developing the talent they have will be vital to their future.

Lloyd Pierce is entering his second year as head coach after spending four seasons as an assistant in Philadelphia. He knows how Carter operates, and how he is able to get through to the rest of the team. Pierce played with Steve Nash at Santa Clara, where he learned how to get a barometer of the team chemistry. He stresses “staying connected” with each other, through high-fives and individual presentations – a concept he carried over from Philadelphia.

Coach Pierce stresses having a nurturing culture that is built upon team and player development. Carter has been leading the charge in both of those areas since the start of last season.

Carter needs to play in 19 games this season to join the exclusive 1,500 game club. Parish, Nowitzki, John Stockton, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only guys to have played more games. The only other players currently on a roster inside the top 40 in games played are Joe Johnson (30th), and Pau Gasol (38th). We know that Father Time is undefeated, but no player has made more use of his time than Carter has.

Carter may never get the title that so many star players yearn for, but he knows that will not define him. Carter would rather prepare the young stars for a better opportunity to earn a ring than chase one himself. That is the epitome of being a role model and a mentor.

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Should The Knicks Pick Up Options On Young, Unproven Talent?

The Knicks have three young players whose third- and fourth-year options must be decided on before Nov. 1. Should they pick them up or continue amassing salary cap space in hopes of chasing Anthony Davis? Drew Maresca analyzes the pros and cons of hanging on to young talent for another year.

Drew Maresca

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NBA teams face all kinds of decisions and, of course, most major decisions teams face have underlying financial implications. Naturally, Oklahoma City would have loved to re-sign Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka following the 2012 season, but the prospect of paying the luxury tax seemed too prohibitive to ownership and general manager Sam Presti.

And like most other teams, the Knicks have plenty of big financial decisions to make very soon – namely, whether or not to offer long-term extensions or merely pick up their respective team options.

For context, teams must decide on rookie-scale extensions by Monday, Oct. 21 — the night before the beginning of the season — and they need to weigh fourth-year options for players with two years of experience and third-year options for those that signed their rookie deals last year by Oct. 31. Rookie deal third-and fourth-year options are still affordable enough that it makes sense to pick up most team options regardless if a player plays a major role or not – and if they do, the option becomes all-the-more affordable.

Now, most lottery picks see their third and fourth-year team options picked up. But the Knicks are in the unusual position of having to decide on all three prior to any of them demonstrating consistency or overly-productive play. The three currently eligible for extensions or team options are Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox. None have set themselves apart as a long-term starter. None of them are seen as a complete player. And each has his own well-documented limitations – but still, do the pros outmeasure the cons?

Ntilikina is a rock-solid defender — butut his production on the offensive end has been inconsistent and unreliable. He shot a mere 28.7 percent on three-point attempts last season with a 39.5 percent effective field goal percentage. Unfortunately, he has proven to be a non-factor in terms of scoring the ball consistently and he disappears entirely at times.

Smith Jr. can absolutely get buckets. His athleticism is a major positive and he’s a better defender than most people believe. But Smith Jr. has efficiency problems, too. In 2018-19, Smith Jr. shot only 32.2 percent on three-pointers and 63.5 percent from the free-throw line — both are far below what teams expect from a starting guard. Worse, those season totals are better than what he demonstrated in two and a half months in New York. Beyond that, his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.07) was below the league average for point guards last season.

Knox is younger and has less experience, so he deserves a little extra slack. Still, there are a number of knocks on Knox – specifically around defense and efficiency. According to cleaningtheglass.com, Knox’s assist percentage was in the sixth percentile among players at his position and his turnover percentage was in the tenth percentile. Somehow, he posted an equally horrid defensive rating and effective field goal percentage. Knox has lots of potential, but he also needs to make major improvements and make better decisions with the ball and on defense.

Re-signing any of the three to long-term deals is probably out of the question from a timing standpoint as there are only three days left to do so. And there’s probably limited desire to do so, anyway. But what about their third- and fourth-year options, should the Knicks pick them all up? The answer is simple – yes, and without hesitation, but let’s explore why:

The options for Smith Jr., Ntilikina and Knox are set at $5.68 million, $6.176 million and $4.58 million, respectively.

While the 2020 free agent class appears limited compared to recent seasons – there are no sure-fire All-Stars other than Anthony Davis –  the Knicks maintained salary cap flexibility thanks to creative team options and one-year signings that cover literally every signing made this past offseason. So picking up all of the aforementioned options represents a commitment of more than $16 million, which will eat into the aforementioned flexibility they smartly invented just recently.

Well, yes — but there should be more space to use. However, the Knicks can’t know exactly where the salary cap will land next season – and it could end up significantly lower than previous estimates due to the current NBA-China beef – but the options represent three contributors to the roster, all of whom they can control for at least one more season. And remember, New York doesn’t have too much depth.

Beyond their young core. Smith Jr., Ntilikina and Knox will all play a role for the team. Looking back to last season, they played 21.0, 29.02 and 28.8 minutes per game as Knicks last season, individually. Those numbers should go up in 2019-20, and paying between $4.5 and $6.2 million apiece to play such large roles is mostly impossible elsewhere.

Thusly, approximately $16 million is a bargain for three contributors — but that becomes all the more obvious when we consider that the average salary was $6.38 million in 2018-19 – more than any of the individual option years. At 21, 21 and 20 years old, these three players should all take leaps forward in their respective development, meaning their salaries could become even more of a bargain than they are now. Further, the salary cap is $109 million this season and none of those options would represent even six percent of the 2019-20 cap.

Even if the Knicks played it frugally and declined their options in favor of cap savings, what would the Knicks even do with them? We’ve already established that the class is less-than-stellar; but what’s more, who’s to say any would be attracted to Madison Square Garden, anyway? The Knicks have had limited (and small) success(es) in free agency. That’s not to say they should give up. But it’s their reality and it’s on them to change it.

New York has suffered major culture setbacks in recent years that landed them exactly where they are. In reverse chronological order, there’s been: The public fallout of them being burned by 2019 free agents, Kristaps Porzingis asking to be traded, James Dolan having Charles Oakley escorted out of Madison Square Garden and all of the damage done by Phil Jackson (e.g., the “posse” fiasco and his public, passive-aggressive war with Carmelo Anthony). That only takes us back through 2014 and ignores the Isiah Thomas-era and the fact that they’ve won one playoff series in the past 18 years.

Having said all that, and despite what Presidential candidate Andrew Yang thinks, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But from a cost-efficiency standpoint, as well as to continue building a positive perception league-wide, the Knicks must pick up all three options. Ultimately, they’ll be better for in both the short- and long-term.

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NBA Daily: Hield, Kings Both Have Room To Bargain

Buddy Hield understandably feels as if he’s worth more than the Kings have offered him, but that doesn’t mean he’s worth more than that to Sacramento, specifically. Douglas Farmer writes.

Douglas Farmer

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The emotion in Buddy Hield’s voice Wednesday night made it clear his words were not a negotiating ploy. When the fourth-year shooting guard said he would find someplace else to play if the Sacramento Kings did not properly respect him in contract negotiations, he was sincere.

“We’ll see if they’ll have me here,” Hield said. “Feels home to be here. I love Sacramento, but if they don’t feel I’m part of the core … if they don’t want to do it, then after that, I’ll look for somewhere else to go.”

The Kings have until Monday to reach an agreement on a rookie-scale extension with Hield, who is eligible for a four-year deal north of $130 million or a designated-player extension of five years and $170 million.

But Hield may not be looking for those outlandish numbers. Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Hield is looking for a contract of about $110 million, while Sacramento has offered only $90 million across four years.

“It’s not always about less than the max, it’s just something that’s reasonable and is not an insult,” Hield said. “If we respect each other on that level, we’ll come to that agreement.”

Hield shot 42.7 percent from deep last season on 7.9  attempts per game while averaging 20.7 points. He may not necessarily be worthy of a max contract, but his is a valued skill set in the modern NBA. Combine that with the weak 2020 free agent class, and Hield has some ground to dig in upon at the bargaining table. If an extension is not agreed to, Hield would not be free to go wherever he wishes next summer, but he would be free to pursue that which might force the Kings’ hand as a restricted free agent.

Of wings expected to hit the market next summer, Hield would be joined by Otto Porter, Joe Harris and, possibly, Hield’s current teammate, Bogdan Bogdanović (also restricted). It really could be that shallow of a shooting pool. Gordon Hayward is likely to pick up his $31.2 million player option with the Boston Celtics, while DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs are reportedly in discussions. Meanwhile, Caris LeVert has already signed a new deal with the Nets.

That market vacuum could drive up Hield’s summertime price, though Sacramento could still match any offer. If the Kings would match ties into the exact reasons they are risking alienating a core player in the first place. Sacramento has returned to respectability — both in the standings and in perceived approach — by building through the draft. But their bill is almost due.

Hield, Bogdanović, point guard De’Aaron Fox and forward Marvin Bagley are all approaching paydays in the next few seasons. The Kings are almost certainly going to make massive offers to Fox and Bagley in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and those contracts will tie up Sacramento’s books for much of the 2020s. The additional $5 million per year sought by Hield could preclude other moves when combined with Fox’s and Bagley’s deals.

The Kings’ ground is strengthened by holding Bogdanović’s restricted rights, as well. If they lose Hield, they will still have a starting-quality shooting guard to play alongside Fox in Bogdanović. He may not have hit 602 threes in his first three seasons in the league as Hield has, but Bogdanović is currently at 263 through two years, hardly anything to readily dismiss.

Even though Bogdanović will not cost as much as Hield — pondering a $51.4 million, four-year extension — keeping both pieces of the shooting duo may prove too costly for Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadivé. At which point, Hield’s raw emotions Wednesday night may foreshadow Ranadivé’s decision.

Where could Hield go, if for no other reason than to drive up his price?

Any discussion of 2020 free agents must include the Atlanta Hawks, who could have as much as $79.1 million in cap space. Hield would fit both their roster timeline and its general construction, though they did just snag both De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish in the 2019 draft. Hield’s minutes would come from the same pool as theirs, making this pairing a bit redundant.

There would be no such conflict with the Dallas Mavericks, whose centerpieces currently miss a wing with range from deep. The Mavericks would lack the space to sign Hield if Tim Hardaway Jr. opts into his $19 million player option, but that could simply precede a sign-and-trade with the Kings. There are certainly ways to make the space necessary should Dallas owner Mark Cuban want to.

If Hield wanted to be a part of another group that is “getting the team back to where it needs to be,” the Memphis Grizzlies would be a situation very similar to Sacramento’s. Forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will see his first big contract begin in 2022 and this year’s No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant should follow that trend a year later. The Grizzlies, however, do not have an exceptional shooter to pair with their young duo. If nothing else, Memphis could drive up the price on Hield to compromise the Kings’ cap space moving forward.

Those possibilities, among others, give Hield practical reason to stand his ground for what he feels he’s worth, while Sacramento’s long view may make it think twice. As emotional and blunt as he was, Hield understands these realities.

“Some people will get the max and some people won’t get the max,” he said. “That’s how it works.”

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