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NBA PM: Rebuilding Takes Time And Losses

These days, rebuilding in the NBA typically means a team will lose a lot and be bad for awhile.



Turning The Corner:  Rebuilding in the NBA is not easy, especially with the ability to outspend other teams going away by virtue of a ballooning salary cap. There was a time when rebuilding meant simply to throwing money at free agents to add a proven go-to guy or trading for a player seeking more money (and often a bigger role) than his current team was willing to offer. While the latter is still a possibility, it’s hardly the easy answer it once was. There is too much fluid cap money and teams are willing to meet huge price tags because, in two years, those deals will seem cheap in contrast.

Being a losing team and buying your way out of a bad season is not at all what it used to be and that was evident this summer when marquee free agents turned away major markets offering equal money, but were at the bottom of the league talent wise.

While much has been made about teams forgoing a season or two of competing in favor of losing and stockpiling draft picks, it’s hard to argue that the methodology hasn’t yielded some level of success at jump-starting franchises.

As training camp for the 2015-16 season approaches, a couple of poster children for the rebuild-through-the-draft movement look ready to turn the corner this season.

In the case of the Orlando Magic, that means having legitimate playoff aspirations. In the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, that means having the potential to win more than 25 games.

It easy to look at the rebuild-through-the-draft teams and say they wanted to lose games, but the truth of the matter is building through the draft is a slow and painful process, which is usually successful in the long-term.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a perennial playoff contender for the last six seasons, but that came after winning just 31 games to land Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft. Then, they endured a 20-win season to land Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in 2008, followed by a 23-win season to land James Harden in 2009 before they started to rack up wins.

It’s easy to forget that the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors built the core of their team through the draft as well. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli were all Warriors draft picks after the team won 26 games in 2009, 36 games in 2010 and 23 games in 2011.

The Washington Wizards were built in much the same way, with John Wall being the result of a 26-win season and Bradley Beal coming by way of a 20-win season.

The list of teams that had to hit bottom to find their way includes virtually every team in the NBA. It’s simply the nature of the process. Even the San Antonio Spurs landed Tim Duncan after a 20-win season back in 1996-97, which started their dominant run, and then they added key pieces like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili through the draft.

Rebuilding is not fun for a fan base; however, this year some of those bottom dwellers of recent seasons may actually start to look a little different. That too is part of the process.

The days of buying your way out of a bad team seem to be long gone. Rebuilding through the draft, especially for teams without a great supporting cast, is likely the only option.

Is There A Market For Markieff Morris?: If you have not been following the situation involving the Morris Twins, it’s not pretty. Both were a bit underwhelming last year amid reports that they were tough to work with after securing their long-term extensions. After the season ended, both were indicted for felony aggravated assault, further fueling a belief that something needed to change.

The Phoenix Suns opted to trade Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons to clear cap room to sign free agents, setting off a firestorm with Markieff Morris that has spilled into social media and the press.

According to Anthony Marroquin of The Arizona Republic, attorneys for the Morris’ have asked the court to return the case to the grand jury, suggesting the prosecutors presented “false and misleading evidence” and withheld information vital to the case and that no eye witness can place the Morris’ 15 feet from the attack. So it seems there is a lot more to play out on the legal front.

Meanwhile, Markieff has made it clear that he expects to be traded from the Suns. While he says he will report to training camp, there is a growing sense that he may be problematic once he gets there.

While it does seem like Morris will at some point get traded, it’s hard to imagine this all goes away. The question is, is there really a team willing to give up anything for him given the current situation?

Assuming the legal situation is not what it seems and gets cleared up, there is still a ton of money owed on Morris’ contract – some $32 million over the next four years to be exact. While $8 million a year is going to seem like a reasonable deal after the upcoming salary cap jump, it’s still $8 million a year for a player who shot 46.5 percent from the field, 31.8 percent from three-point range, with a PER of 15.81.

Said differently, this is the same player trying to force a trade through the media.

There is no doubt that a team somewhere would take Morris for nothing in return, as he is a talented player. But is there a team out there willing to give the Suns anything significant in return? That seems to be the question.

The Suns do not seem ready to simply dump him, so it may take some time for the dirt on Morris’ star to come off a little. Certainly clearing up the legal situation will help. Reporting to camp and not being a problem will help too.

It’s hard to imagine anyone offering the Suns anything of real value for Morris under the current circumstances, so he may have to be a professional for a while in order to find a new situation in trade.

The Insiders Podcast: The Basketball Insiders Podcast is typically recorded every Tuesday and Saturday. You can find them on iTunes here or on Tune In here or on Soundcloud here or on Basketball Insiders here. Here is the latest installment featuring Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn as the special co-host.

The next episode of the Basketball Insiders Podcast will drop on Tuesday, with Kristen Ledlow of NBA TV as co-host.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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