Cleaning Up and Clarifying
The beauty of the NBA season approaching so quickly is there is once again a lot to talk about in NBA circles. We’ve already seen a number of juicy nuggets of info start to trickle out, so it seemed appropriate to jump in and add some perspective to some of these reports.
Expansion Is Not On The Table
About a week ago, a story over at Sonics Rising caught a lot of attention as the article suggested that not only was the concept of expansion in the NBA something that was on the table, the author backed it up with several unnamed quotes from “media and league people in my contact list.” This is clever because it’s massively vague as to exactly who the “league people” are or what role they play in the league.
Basketball Insiders reached out to an NBA owner and a voting member of the Board of Governors and was told flatly that any talk of expansion has been shot down at every turn inside the Board of Governors meetings. It’s been a non-starter.
The problem with expansion is that the NBA over the years has learned that adding new undeveloped teams subtracts massively before it adds and that there is no desire at this point to dilute the talent pool with more teams or to divide the revenue pie among new ownership groups.
As one source said, expansion and the whopping fees that would be associated are like revenue advances. The owners would get cash today, but would give up a huge chunk of future revenue forever and there really isn’t much appetite for that among the existing ownership group.
Now that’s not to say that “media and league people” in someone’s contact list may not believe expansion is inevitable, but what those people may not know is that expansion isn’t in the near-term future from a Board of Governors perspective.
There is no doubt that when the NBA and the players reach their new collective bargaining agreement, which should happen before the December opt-out deadline, that the NBA does not turn its attention to ways to grow the business even more because that’s something both the players and the owners have pledged to do to reach a compromise deal. But like all labor deals, both sides will want to see how the tweaks and changes impact the big picture before there is even real consideration of diluting the pool.
There is no doubting the interest from non-NBA markets in landing a team, but the story coming out of the NBA is that expansion just simply is not on the table, no matter how badly others may want it to be.
Tick Tock, Denver Is On The Clock
The story coming out of Denver is that forward Kenneth Faried, long believed to be available in trade, may lose his starting job to Nikola Jokic. While everyone is saying all the right things, league sources doubt that Faried is going to take a bench role lightly and that the Nuggets may have to ramp up efforts to ultimately move him this season.
The Nuggets have logjams everywhere, so it’s not just Faried that may end up with a less than desirable role – meaning the Nuggets may have a couple of players to deal as the season gets moving.
Sources close to the Nuggets point to their injury history as a reason not to jump the gun on a trade, but suggested that when the first wave of free agents signed during the summer become available to trade on December 15 that Denver could be fairly active if their season does not jump out of the gate strong.
The Nuggets have a number of young guys to groom, so there is not a false sense of who they are in the NBA’s Western Conference; however, there is a belief that this team can compete and if the 7th or 8th seed stays in focus and in reach, the Nuggets have more than a few assets to trade to bolster a playoff run.
Magic Not Open To Moving Vucevic… Yet
There is no question the Orlando Magic have created a logjam in their frontcourt after doing the same in the backcourt last year. The name many keep suggesting will be moved is center Nikola Vucevic. Magic sources flatly deny any interest in moving Vucevic, pointing to his team friendly contract and ability to create his own offense. The hope from inside the Magic was that offseason additions Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka would cure the defensive issues around Vucevic and allow him to focus solely on being an offensive weapon. Time will tell if that’s smart basketball.
There is little doubt that Vucevic would be attractive in trade, mainly because he’s highly productive offensively and his $11.7 million salary this year is a steal in the current NBA economy. The fact that he’s locked in at that kind of rate for the next two years makes him an easy addition to a team starving for frontcourt offense.
Magic sources were pretty adamant that moving Vucevic was not in the plan, but with the Magic so focused on making the playoffs, one has to wonder if others start to flourish and the right swingman was offered, would Orlando hold that line?
Magic sources said barring the offer of an All-Star in return, the odds of a Vucevic trade were very small, so it might take something real to get Orlando to the table.
The Logjam In Phoenix
There is little doubt the Phoenix Suns have more guards than minutes, so the question becomes which guy becomes the odd man out? League sources for some time have pegged Eric Bledsoe as the most likely to be moved from a Suns point of view, but there is a growing belief that Brandon Knight would return more value in a trade (mainly because of Bledsoe’s injury history).
Sources close to the Suns say there is real concern about trying to break up the roster at this point because there is a nice vibe around the team that management wants to try and cultivate for as long as they can. Equally, like many teams with roster duplication, the number of available tradable players almost doubles in December and that gives everyone about 20 games to figure out what’s really worth keeping in the long-term before consummating a trade.
It seems more likely than not that the Suns pull the trigger on a trade at some point, especially if Devin Booker continues his upward climb, but sources close to the situation say there isn’t a lot of urgency yet to solve the logjam. That could change when guys making starter level money start logging bench-level minutes.
Time To Chat
Just in case you didn’t get enough juicy basketball goodness from the NBA AM, my weekly NBA Chat will drop on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. EST. There is plenty of room in there for you, so swing by and drop in a question.
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