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Understanding the New CBA in 30 Minutes

Eric Pincus lays out some of the basics of the new CBA set to take effect next season.

Eric Pincus

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Can the various complexities of NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) be broken down in just 30 minutes?

The simple answer is no, but in early March, Larry Coon, author of the NBA Salary Cap FAQ, gave an informative, half-hour presentation on the NBA’s new deal in Boston at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

“The new CBA really looks a lot like the old CBA,” Coon said. “Which is fantastic when you consider that the 2011 CBA was the result of a long, protracted negotiation, complaints, anti-trust suits, they came up with an agreement just in time to salvage the season.”

Coon noted that lower-level salaries and exceptions, which were based on fixed schedules in the 2011 deal, were raised in the new deal and tied, by percentage, to each year’s salary cap.

“They’re bumping up everything by about 45 percent,” Coon said. “Instead of putting hard numbers in, they put hard numbers in for just the first year. The rest is tied to what happens with the revenue. The revenue goes up a lot and these numbers are going to go up a lot too.

“The system is going to stay balanced in the next agreement. That was one of the big things they fixed,” he continued.

Coon broke down several deal points by associating them with specific players:

Kevin Durant Rule

One of the most interesting features of the new CBA is the designated player veteran extension which encourages superstars to stay with the team that drafted them.

“The impetus for this was obviously Kevin Durant deciding to leave Oklahoma City, going to Golden State, forming a super team with Steph Curry,” Coon said. “They wanted to provide a little bit less movement with these superstar kinds of players. There are two ways to do that. You could further restrict player movement, or you could provide an incentive to stay, and they went with the latter.”

The new rule applies to players entering their eighth or ninth seasons, and they are only eligible if they’ve been with the same team for the previous four years.

“For those players, for the real stars, the ones who meet those high-performance criteria … they’re providing the same opportunity, a higher maximum salary for a five-year contract, you can get the full 35 percent max, if you meet that criteria,” Coon said. “It’s only gonna apply to a few players every year.”

If a player earns the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award in the three previous seasons, they are eligible — like Curry with the Golden State Warriors this summer, who will be eligible for a five-year deal at $207.1 million instead of the typical $177.5 million.

Other criteria include either Defensive Player of the Year or an All-NBA Team designation in either the year before the extension/contract (or in two of the three years prior).

“That’s gonna keep the real star players with the teams they started with, and by and large, when you talk about superstar players, their movement tends to go from small market teams to the bigger market teams,” Coon said. “So, they’re doing something to help keep the safety of every market in the league.”

Yogi Ferrell Rule

The new CBA also includes the advent of the two-way contract, for players to have convertible deals that will have them partially in the D-League (or the G-League starting next season) and the NBA.

“Two-way players are, by and large, D-League players who have the ability to be called up by the parent team for up to 45 days a year. This is designed to help improve the D-League as a place for developing talent,” Coon said.

Salary will be based on days spent in either league. Teams will be given a 16th and 17th roster slot for two-way players.

The Dallas Mavericks found a nice prospect in Ferrell, signing him as a free agent away from the Long Island Nets (affiliated with the Brooklyn Nets). That wouldn’t be possible if he was signed to a two-way originally with Brooklyn.

Brendan Haywood Rule

The handling of non-guaranteed contracts in trades has also changed, at least for contracts signed in July or later.

“One of the things that happened in the trade market over the last few years is we saw a lot of crazy trades not for basketball value, but for the guy’s contract,” Coon said.

The last year of Haywood’s 2015-16 contract was for $10.5 million, but none of the salary was guaranteed. The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired him as a trade asset, eventually dealing him to the Portland Trail Blazers for a sizable trade exception.

“For new contracts, they’re only counting that guaranteed salary in the trade math,” Coon said. “So, a $10 million player, $1 million guaranteed, the trade math is based on $1 million, not $10 million.”

Mo Williams Rule

The Atlanta Hawks acquired Williams from the Cavaliers, even though he had already announced that he is retired as a player (unofficially, no retirement paperwork was filed).

Atlanta turned him around to Denver in trade, who then waived him. The 76ers claimed Williams, then waived him — only for the Nuggets to claim him back off waivers.

All that maneuvering by Denver and Philadelphia was to get to the salary cap floor of $84.7 million.

“Teams have to spend up to 90 percent of the salary cap, some teams won’t until the last minute,” Coon said, noting that the acquiring team is credited with the players’ full salary towards the floor but only pay the portion owed for the remainder of the season.

All of this will go away.

“In the new agreement, the salary gets applied to the team’s cap prorated,” Coon said. “Two-thirds of the way through the season, you trade for the guy, you get credit for a third of the salary.”

Chris Bosh Rule

While Bosh would like to play for the Miami HEAT, the team won’t let him a clear a physical because of a blood-clot issue.

To handle similarly unique cases in the future, the new CBA has set up a fitness-to-play panel.

“If a physician diagnoses that a player has some career threatening, life-threatening condition, illness or injury, the league or the Players Association can refer the players who want to use the fitness-to-play panels,” Coon said. “The panels consist of three doctors, medical experts in the field of which they’re referring the player for, and they’re going to evaluate the player using the best gold standards of medical evidence.

“If they say the player can’t play, he cannot play. If they say the player can play, he’s cleared to play, as far as the league is concerned,” he continued. “You can’t force a team to play any specific player, ever. So, the team still doesn’t have to let the player play, just like they have that discrimination ability with anybody. But if the panel clears the player to play, and the team doesn’t let the player play, they have 60 days to either trade or waive him. It gives the player some recourse to be able to find work elsewhere if the panel clears him.”

Coon covered a lot of ground in a very brief window. He’ll teach a comprehensive course on the new CBA this July in Las Vegas as the Sports Business Classroom, which is currently open for registration.

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NBA Daily: Meet Chimezie Metu, A Versatile Big Man

Chimezie Metu could end up being one of the steals of this year’s draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Each year when it comes to the NBA draft, there always seems to a few players flying under the radar a bit. Players who are underrated or overlooked for whatever reason. This year, one of those players is Chimezie Metu from the University of Southern California.

In early mock drafts, Metu was projected to go anywhere from mid to late first-round. In some of the more recent mocks, he’s fallen out of the first-round altogether and into the second-round. If those projections hold and he does end up being selected in the second-round, then some team is going to get a huge steal.

Metu is a versatile big man who impacts both ends of the floor. He is an agile shot blocker who can control the paint defensively, and on the other end, he can score in the post while being able to step out and knock down mid-range jump shots. He is confident in what he’ll be able to bring to an NBA team.

“I think being versatile and being able to make an impact on defense right away,” Metu told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine this past week. “Being able to switch on to smaller players or guard the post, and just being able to knock down shots or make plays when I’m called upon.”

In his three years at USC, Metu blossomed into one of the best players in the Pac-12 conference. This past season, he led a solid Trojans team in scoring with 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. He also led the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and had a team-high 59 blocked shots.

He’s taken note of some of the best big men in the NBA, some of whom he’s tried to model his game after. He told reporters at the combine that some of his biggest influences are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid. He knows that there may be misconceptions about his game, or those that doubt him, but he isn’t worried about that at all.

“I don’t really worry about what other people are saying about myself. I just go out there and play hard, and try to help my team win games,” Metu said. “My strength is being versatile, being able to impact the game in multiple ways. Not being one dimensional and being able to have fingerprints on different parts of the game.”

It’s been busy past few days for Metu. He’s had 13 interviews with NBA teams to go along with workouts, medical testing and media availability. Although it’s been a hectic time, part of what has made it so worthwhile is all of the NBA personnel he’s been able to interact with. What really has stood out to him being at the combine is the difference between college and the NBA.

“I can just go up to the owners and the GMs and just talk to them,” Metu said. “Coming from college you basically have to act like they’re not there, cause of the rules and stuff. Just the fact that they can come up and talk to you, you can talk to them, that’s probably the most surprising part for me.”

Aside from all the front office personnel he’s interacted with, Metu has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the most respected names in NBA history. Among the former players who he’s had a chance to meet with, Magic Johnson and Bob McAdoo have definitely stood out to him.

While he’s grateful just to have been able to meet NBA royalty, he’s used it as an opportunity to pick their brains. He’s also been able to showcase his game in front of them. He is confident that he’s been able to impress them and hopefully make an impact on their decisions come draft night.

“Just coming out here and having fun, there’s a lot of basketball royalty,” Metu said. “Being able to get a chance to shake their hands, being able to take stuff from them and what helped them become great. I’m just trying to take their advice. It feels great because never in a million years did I think I’d be here. It’s fun just going out there and showing what I can do.”

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The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft

College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.

It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.

However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.

A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.

Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.

There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.

This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.

But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.

With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.

Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.

Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.

But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.

College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.

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NBA Daily: Are the Houston Rockets in Trouble?

Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals may have been the perfect storm for Houston, writes Shane Rhodes.

Shane Rhodes

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The Houston Rockets took a gut punch from the Golden State Warriors, but they responded in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

After they dropped the first game of the series, Houston evened things up at one apiece Wednesday night with a 127-105 blowout win over Golden State. With the Warriors struggling on the offensive end and Houston rebounding from a less than stellar Game 1, the Rockets rolled through the game with relative ease.

But was their improved demonstration a fluke? While fans may not want to hear it, Game 2 may have been the perfect storm for Houston.

The Rockets’ gameplan didn’t change much from Game 1 to 2. They attacked Steph Curry relentlessly on the offensive end, James Harden and Chris Paul took plenty of shots in isolation and their role players got shots to drop that just weren’t going down in Game 1. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker exploded for 68 points while shooting 66.7 percent from three after scoring just 24 the previous game. The trio averaged only 35.8 points collectively during the regular season.

Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t buy a bucket; starting Warriors not named Kevin Durant scored just 35 points. Curry shot just 1-8 from downtown while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola combined for just 19 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor. All of that will undoubtedly change.

So, going back to Oakland for Game 3, where do the Rockets find themselves? Not in a great place, unfortunately.

Golden State did their job: they stole a game — and home-court advantage — from the Rockets at the Toyota Center. Now, as the series shifts back to Oracle Arena and, assuming the Warriors return to form in front of their home crowd, Houston will have their work more than cut out for them. If Curry, Thompson and Durant all have their shot falling, there isn’t much the Rockets can do to keep up

The Warriors, aside from Curry, played great team defense in Game 2, something that will likely continue into Game 3. The Rockets hit plenty of tough, contested shots — shots that won’t drop as they move away from the energy of the home crowd and shots that Golden State would gladly have Houston take again and again and again. Harden and Paul didn’t exactly bring their A-game in Game 2 either — the two combined for a solid 43 points but took an inefficient 38 shots to get there. If the two of them play like that at Oracle, the Warriors will abuse them in transition, something that can’t happen if the Rockets want to steal back the home-court advantage.

The aforementioned trio of Gordon, Ariza and Tucker are unlikely to replicate their Game 2 performance as well, and relying on them to do so would be foolish on the part of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Devising a game plan that will keep the offense moving while not leaning heavily on the role players will be of the utmost importance — if the offense returns to the bogged down effort that Houston gave in Game 1, the Rockets stand no chance.

Meanwhile, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will likely adjust his defense in an effort to limit the Rockets effectiveness in the isolation while also trying to find somewhere to hide Curry on the defensive end. It almost certainly won’t be the same sets that Houston throttled in Game 2 which will take another toll on the Rockets offense, especially if they fail to execute.

Not everything looks bad for Houston, however. Faced with a do-or-die scenario, Harden, Paul and co. were the more aggressive team from the jump. Pushing the pace flustered the Warriors and forced some pretty bad turnovers consistently throughout the night. If they come out with the same kind of energy and pace, the Rockets could have Golden State on their heels as they did in Game 2.

Budding star Clint Capela also has plenty of room to improve his game, as he has averaged just 8.5 points and eight rebounds through the first two games of the series — the Rockets need him to play his best basketball of the season if they want a chance to win.

Still, the Warriors are virtually unbeatable at home. The team has lost three games this postseason, just four times over their last two playoff trips and not once at Oracle, making the Rockets’ task even more daunting than it already was. Like Game 2, Game 3 should be played as a do-or-die situation for the Rockets because, if they don’t come out with the same aggressive, up-tempo energy, things could be over quickly.

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