Love With Lots To Prove
By Moke Hamilton
As the Cleveland Cavaliers await the winner of the Western Conference Finals and learn whether they will begin the 2016 NBA Finals on the road or at home, LeBron James, not surprisingly, has reentered the national conversation. In defeating the Toronto Raptors, James, has done something that this league hasn’t seen since 1966—he is heading to the Finals for a sixth consecutive year.
Regardless as to who their opponent may be, many people are already predicting the demise of the Cavaliers, with a select few looking at the prospect a 2-5 record in the NBA Finals as some sort of indictment against LeBron James’ individual greatness.
And while it is true that both James and the City of Cleveland have something major at stake in the 2016 NBA Finals, it is probably Kevin Love whose legacy will be most impacted.
Time to Re-evaluate Player Values
By Alex Kennedy
Throughout this season, there has been plenty of talk about the upcoming free agent class (as there always is in the NBA since player movement is so prevalent). The star players such as Kevin Durant, LeBron James (once he opts out), Al Horford, Dwyane Wade and Mike Conley have understandably received a lot of attention. But the top-tier players aren’t the only ones who will cash in come July.
With the salary cap projected to increase from $70 million to an unprecedented $92 million thanks to the NBA’s new national television deal, just about every free agent will likely receive a contract that would’ve seemed ludicrous just two or three years ago.
Put simply, it’s time to re-evaluate how NBA players are valued since there will be so much money thrown around moving forward. Some seemingly ridiculous contracts will be handed out this offseason, and not just to the big-name players.
Why NBA Teams Can’t Get To Zero
By Steve Kyler
With the NBA Finals now set and other NBA teams turning their attention to the draft and offseason moves, there is a concept worth bringing up, especially as it pertains to free agent dreams and offseason wishes.
The NBA salary system is complicated. It’s not an easy system to understand and it certainly is not an easy system to manage, which is why NBA teams hire guys specifically to focus on cap management, creative cap accounting and asset generation through cap management.
Why is this important? In July, the NBA is going to see an unprecedented amount of cap space. The rough math today estimates that there may be as much as $1.09 billion available under the salary cap, meaning NBA teams will enter the market with more than a billion dollars to spend on what amounts to 270 free agents.
Kevin Durant and Free Agency
By Cody Taylor
It has been less than 24 hours since the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, but it seems that everyone is talking about Kevin Durant’s future.
Durant will be one of the most sought-after free agents this summer, and there is no guarantee that he will stay in Oklahoma City. While the possibility of staying with the Thunder is there, Durant has offered no details on his thought process up until this point.
The fact that one of the bigger headlines following last night’s Game 7 defeat is Durant and his upcoming free agency, and not the fact that the Thunder blew a 3-1 series lead, speaks volumes to how important Durant is to the franchise.
How Cavs Can Level NBA Finals Playing Field
By Ben Dowsett
A league-best 12-2 playoff record, a gaudy point differential and plenty of rest all mean next to nothing now – the Cleveland Cavaliers are sizable underdogs in the NBA Finals.
Staring Cleveland in the face isn’t just the most successful single-season team ever, fresh off their first true challenge in their two-year run of dominance, or even just a team that handily dispatched these Cavs a year ago on this same stage. It’s also a Golden State Warriors team that holds sizable and visibly apparent tactical advantages within the specific matchup, and we’ve yet to see these Cavs prove they have the skill and (especially) the discipline to combat these for a full 48 minutes four times in seven games.
Free Agents Seeking Redemption
By Lang Greene
With the salary cap increasing significantly this summer, rising to the neighborhood of $92 million, there will be plenty of cash for franchises to spend. With piggy-banks being opened, there will undoubtedly be a slew of guys in line to receive paydays that would only have been considered pipe dreams just a few years ago.
Players are set to cash in and on the flip side, franchises that have been tight against the restricted cap will now have a bit of breathing room to plot the course of their respective futures.
The NBA is a business and making money is the primary objective for players and league owners. However, there are times when a player embarks on their free agent journey with a need to redeem themselves and turn their career around.
Here are some of the guys hitting free agency this summer on a road to redemption:
“Three-and-D” Lee Enters NBA Free Agency
By David Baumann
Eight-year NBA veteran Courtney Lee is undeniably on the verge of the biggest payday of his career.
Fresh off of a four-year, $21.3 million contract that ended with the Charlotte Hornets, the versatile shooting guard could garner somewhere around to $11-14 million per year on the open market, according to NBA sources.
Now, if that sounds like a lot of money to you (and yes, it is a lot of money), consider the league’s new multi-billion-dollar television deal will ramp up each team’s salary cap from $70 million this past year to an estimated $92 million in 2016-17, and then a whopping $107 million in 2017-18.
So it’s not just Lee who’s about to get paid. A bunch of free agents are about to get a whole lot richer.
Raptors, Casey Reportedly Agree to Extension
By Jesse Blancarte
Earlier today, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported that the Toronto Raptors and head coach Dwane Casey agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract extension. Raptors team president Masai Ujiri is also reportedly working on deals to retain assistant coaches Andy Greer and Rex Kalamian, both of whom have been pursued by other teams recently.
Casey led the Raptors to the franchise’s best overall season, finishing with a 56-26 regular season record. The Raptors were the second-seeded team in the Eastern Conference and made it to the Conference Finals, where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
Timing is Crucial for Trade Kickers
By Eric Pincus
A number of NBA players have trade kickers in their contracts – bonuses up to 15 percent of the players’ remaining salary.
Timing, however, is crucial in determining whether or not a kicker actually kicks. When a player is traded with a bonus, the additional salary is averaged out over his contract, excluding any player or team option years.
For instance, Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague is due $800,000 if he’s traded. Dealt before July, Teague’s salary would actually jump to $8.4 million for both the completed 2015-16 season and the 2016-17 campaign.
That’s a significant caveat; even if a trade happens as late as June, the player’s salary for the previous season, on paper, is impacted by the bonus.
Most Controversial Draft Picks
By Joel Brigham
Every year when watching the draft, there are at least one or two picks that literally put fans’ jaws on the floor in disbelief. Anybody who watched the 2013 NBA Draft, for example, may remember when Bill Simmons, then of ESPN, literally yelled “Whoa!” when Cleveland pulled the trigger on Anthony Bennett as the No. 1 overall pick in that draft. It was genuinely surprising, after all, but far from the only time in NBA history that a team has completely shocked the fans and analysts who tuned in to watch.
The following are the other more controversial, jaw-dropping picks of the last five years. Some of them turned out just fine for the teams that took gambles, while others confound the general basketball-watching public to this very day. Either way, here’s a look at the recent draft picks that proved to be the most stunning to viewers and fans:
NBA Players Hoping for a Bounce-Back Year
By Jabari Davis
Today, let’s look at six players in need of a bounce-back campaign in 2016-17. Some were just recently eliminated from the postseason while others already entered their offseason workout regimens in preparation for next season. Not unlike my colleague Lang Greene’s look at several upcoming free agents who could use aturnaround performance in 2016-17, each of these players either need to take the next step in terms of their on-court play or translate their personal production into more overall team success.
Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine desires respect for new contract
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine wants the respect he deserves for his contract extension. On Monday morning before Team USA’s practice to prepare for Tuesday’s match against Spain, the 26-year-old guard said to reporters, “I just want my respect, that’s the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.” In the 2020-21 season, in 58 games played, LaVine averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot 50.7 percent from the field and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.
Regarding the “outplayed my contract” comment, his argument his fair. Last season, with 200 three-point field goals made, he ranked ninth overall in the league. Despite the Bulls finishing 31-41 (.431) last season, he led the team in points and assists. Per ESPN, they are also reporting that Chicago is trying to work out a four-year, $105 million contract extension for their star guard. Though, this deal is expected to fall below his market value. In terms of signing available free agents this offseason, some Bulls fans are speculating the organization will pursue either Knicks’ shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, Lakers’ power forward/center Markieff Morris or Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball.
Zach LaVine says he "wants his respect" in contract extension & will stay in touch with Bulls in coming days as they face challenging decisions with cap space: https://t.co/36T2RpAtZu
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 2, 2021
On July 13, 2018, the 2014 13th pick of the draft signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Bulls. LaVine earned $19,500,000 last season, and he is set to earn $19,500,000 in the upcoming season. It is not urgent for Chicago to extend LaVine’s contract this offseason. The organization will have the full rights to re-sign him to a new deal for next season in 2022.
However, the guard will also become an unrestricted free agent next year, so the Bulls should work towards fixing their salary cap issues right now. Referencing Spotrac, center Nikola Vucevic has a cap figure of $24 million. Of this amount, his future guaranteed cash is $22 million. One notable 2021-22 cap hold is Lauri Markkanen. His qualifying offer is $9,026,952, and his cap figure is $20,194,524. On March 2, 2020, Markkanen was recalled from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.
Furthermore, on March 25, 2021, center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were traded by the Orlando Magic to the Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick. This is quite the gamble for the Bulls organization, considering they traded away two future first-round picks. Vucevic is set to earn $24 million for the 2021-22 season. Chicago has $56,679,846 available in cap space. Their current luxury tax space is $29,405746.
Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option
First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.
Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.
The Rockets are not picking up guard Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Sides mutually agreed to part ways.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 31, 2021
Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.
Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.
After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.
Mavericks will pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option
Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.
On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.
Source says Mavs are leaning toward picking up center Willie Cauley-Stein's $4.1 million option for next season. Deadline is Sunday and Mavs are waiting to see if situation unexpectedly materializes to make that cap space worth parting with a big man they like.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 31, 2021
This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.
However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.
Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.
Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers.
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