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Did the Miami HEAT Find Their Next G League Gem?

The Miami HEAT have done better than any organization at finding talent in the G League. Is Gabe Vincent their next find?

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The Miami HEAT have done the best job in the NBA of identifying talent in the G League. Of course, Duncan Robinson spent his first season on a two-way contract with the HEAT before being signed to a multi-year deal. Then, Kendrick Nunn, last year’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year, spent his first professional season on an Exhibit-10 contract with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G League affiliate of Golden State.

On the last day of the season, he signed a three-year non-guaranteed deal with Miami, which has turned out to be a steal. Chris Silva has yet to make an impact in the NBA but was another steal for the HEAT.  Miami signed Silva as an undrafted rookie to an Exhibit-10 contract at the start of the 2019-20 season. After a strong training camp and preseason, that deal was converted to a two-way contract, and halfway through the season, he was converted to a standard deal.

Now, it looks like the HEAT may have found another gem in two-way player Gabe Vincent.

The UC Santa Barbra alum was a standout player for the Gauchos during his four seasons – but his junior campaign was cut short when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Over 32 games during his senior season, he averaged 12.8 points per game and was named to the Second Team All-Big West  Despite coming back and playing his senior season, Vincent was not 100%. Coming off his knee injury, he did not look fully recovered and was dealing with the mental recovery of coming off major knee surgery.

After going undrafted in 2018, he signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Sacramento Kings and played his first professional season for Stockton, Sacramento’s G League affiliate. He played 25 games his first season with Stockton averaging 8.4 points per game. Despite being a year and a half removed from surgery, Vincent was still recovering from the injury and getting back his athleticism. Stockton monitored his minutes while he was still regaining strength and confidence in his knee.

In the summer of 2019, Vincent played for the Nigerian National team in the Olympics, where he averaged 18 minutes and 11.4 points per game over five games.  This was the first summer he was able to focus on basketball as opposed to rehabbing and was playing with great confidence.

He returned to the Stockton Kings for the 2019-20 season as a returning rights player, meaning he did not attend training camp with the Sacramento Kings or receive the Exhibit-10 bonus money that comes with spending 60 days with the G League team.

Finally fully healthy, Vincent was a different player. In 20 games for Stockton, he averaged 23.7 points per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from the three-point line. More than anything, he looked comfortable cutting, moving laterally and driving in traffic.

Despite only starting three of the 20 games, Vincent was making a name for himself and landing on NBA radars. Every year, the G League has its annual players showcase where every team congregates in one location and competes twice in front of NBA evaluators. During his last game at the showcase, Vincent left quite the impression by scoring 35 points against the Canton Charge while going 9-for-14 from the three-point line.

Two weeks later, the Miami HEAT signed Vincent to a two-way contract for the remainder of the season. Part of the roster when they made their run to the NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble, he impressed enough that Miami decided to re-sign him this offseason to another two-way contract.

What are the HEAT getting in Gabe Vincent? He is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who is best playing off the ball. A confident and aggressive shooter, Vincent spaces the floor in spot up situations and has the ability to screen as a secondary ball handler. Defensively, however, he is limited in terms of who he can switch onto but is pesky on the ball.

Crawling up into bigger players, Vincent is strong enough that you cannot drive through his chest. He will beat players to spots with his feet and not allow easy or straight-line drives. What attracted the HEAT most to him is that he is a competitor and a hardworker. Vincent is not the tallest or the most athletic, but there is no question that he plays the right way, works hard to improve and does what he needs to in order to contribute to winning.

In eight games played this season, Vincent has been inconsistent. Earlier this month he turned in back-to-back games where he scored 24 and 23 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the other six games he tallied in the single digits. Currently, he leads all two-way players in scoring averaging 9.0 points per game. While he is not going to lead the HEAT in scoring, he does provide them more guard depth and give them a player that head coach Erik Spoelstra is comfortable playing when they are in foul trouble or players get injured and have to sit games.

Vincent is a player that everyone can root for.  He isn’t the tallest, most athletic or most naturally talented – but he has gotten here because of his work ethic and ability to keep improving. Ultimately, though, Miami continues to find potential rotation players in the G League.

While some organizations either don’t scout the G League thoroughly or misuse their team as a developmental tool, the HEAT are doing it right as ever. The ability to find these players and sign them to cheap team friendly contract is what allows them to build the depth they have.

With the G League season set to start this month, rest assured that the Miami HEAT will be on the lookout for the next Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Chris Silva or, most-recently, Gabe Vincent.

Worked in college and professional basketball the past seven seasons, most recently as Director of Basketball Operations for the Detroit Pistons G League Affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option

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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.

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.

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Mavericks are expected to pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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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.

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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Lakers Need More Than Big Three

The Lakers have their “big three” after trading for Russell Westbrook but is he the right fit in Los Angeles? The former MVP has had an incredible career but he may not be the point guard the Lakers desperately need.

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The Los Angeles Lakers have formed their three-headed monster as they pursue the franchise’s 18th championship next season. Just as the NBA Draft was getting started, the Lakers completed a deal with the Washington Wizards that landed them the 2016-17 league MVP, Russell Westbrook.

The deal sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft to Washington, paving the way for Westbrook to join fellow superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the Lakers added a dynamic point guard, not everyone is sold on the idea that the Lakers are the team to beat in the loaded Western Conference.

Over the past several weeks, the Lakers were rumored to be seeking perimeter shooting. Some reports had Los Angeles linked to guys like Chris Paul, Buddy Hield and DeMar DeRozan. When the dust settled, it was Washington that made the deal as Westbrook informed the front office that he preferred the Lakers as a destination.

The move is a homecoming of sorts, as Westbrook grew up in the area and spent two seasons playing at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the 2008 Final Four. He had a solid 2020-21 season, averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game for the Wizards, who earned the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, this is the third straight offseason in which the 9-time All-Star has been traded. After leaving Oklahoma City, Westbrook was not able to find postseason success in Houston or Washington. Will that now change in Los Angeles?

For all of his accomplishments, Westbrook’s legacy has been defined by his play during the regular season. This past season, the point guard passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in the history of the game. Out of his 184 triple-doubles, only 12 have come in the playoffs. By comparison, Magic Johnson has the most playoff career triple-doubles with 30, and James is next with 28. Now all three will have played for the Lakers during their careers.

The thing about triple-doubles (and this is especially the case with Westbrook) is that they don’t always translate to wins. They clearly help the team overall but some would argue that a more balanced attack is tougher to stop. History has shown that having a “big three” is almost a requirement to be considered a legitimate championship contender, but this trio in Los Angeles doesn’t exactly fit together like many of those others.

As talented and valuable as Westbrook has been over the course of his career, he needs to have the ball to be effective. His poor perimeter shooting has been the big hiccup in his game, and that is something that this Lakers team desperately needs. The problem isn’t that any of these three won’t share the ball. In fact, they had already discussed checking their egos even before this trade went down.

Westbrook has never had a problem sharing the ball. He was able to co-exist with Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden in Houston and Beal in Washington. The difference in this scenario is that he will be occupying the same space as James and Davis. The concern is efficiency. Out of 34 players to average at least 20 points per game over the last four seasons, Westbrook ranked 33rd in true shooting percentage.

When James drives to the rim or when Davis is facing a double-team inside, how confident will they be in passing out to Westbrook for a three-pointer? Better yet, how patient will they be if the shot isn’t falling? We have already seen what happened with Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope.

Now that the Lakers have assembled their trio of stars, many fans are hopeful to witness an NBA Finals matchup where James and the Lakers meet Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. As juicy as that series would be, the Western Conference is a gauntlet. There is no guarantee that the Lakers will make it there.

What helps their path is that the crosstown rival Clippers will likely be without Kawhi Leonard next season. The Denver Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray and the Golden State Warriors might not be the Warriors from four years ago. There is also uncertainty surrounding Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers and some potential roster changeup with the Utah Jazz.

Considering all of the top-tier point guard talent available in free agency this summer, the Lakers may have been better off trying to do a sign-and-trade. Such a scenario would have hard-capped them but after this deal, they are just $12.6 million below the hard cap with just five players on the roster. Putting together a deal for Hield is still possible, but the Lakers will have to get creative. Adding a third team to this trade, in particular, is one way to accomplish that. Again, it is possible but it will be complicated.

In a perfect world, the Lakers could have worked with Toronto on a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry. Even though Lowry is older than Westbrook, the current window for Los Angeles to win with this group is closing fast. Lowry would be cheaper and a much better fit overall. His durability, toughness, defense and high basketball IQ would pay dividends for the Lakers. Adding in the fact that he is a much better shooter, one has to wonder why the Lakers wouldn’t pursue this route instead.

Westbrook is still going to help this team. He is a tremendous asset for them in the regular season, especially when James is on the bench or unable to play. Having another floor general on the court to generate offense is something they have not had since James arrived. If Los Angeles can land some above-average shooting to the roster, Westbrook could flourish in this role.

With James sliding to the power forward position and Davis playing more at center, the key for Los Angeles will be to surround these guys with shooters. The Lakers ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 25th in makes last season. Expect the organization to be busy when free agency starts next week. Targets will include guys like Duncan Robinson, JJ Redick, Norman Powell, Evan Fournier, Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes, Patrick Mills, Reggie Bullock, Kendrick Nunn and Alec Burks.

Obviously, the Lakers are counting on their individual talent and figuring out the rest later. It likely means the end for Dennis Schröder. Can Alex Caruso fit in and where does this leave Talen Horton-Tucker? The rest of the roster is in limbo, but the star players and the front office both feel confident that they will land the other pieces that they need to raise another banner next summer.

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