Posts Tagged ‘Free Agency’

The NBA Offseason, more Botox than Surgery…

April 12, 2011 3 comments

Last year around this time I vomited out 7,500 words on the NBA also rans and what they could do to improve in the offseason.  Needless to say, I had to swat away NBA GM offers like a kid swats away candy.  Buoyed by this success, I wanted to do something similar this year, but I ran into three problems:

  • The Summer of LeBron this is not…
  • Crossing your fingers to get… Kyrie Irving?
  • The NBA, what’s the NBA?

If you look at Chad Ford’s list of the top free agents (insider) for this coming offseason, it lacks a little of what we like to call talent.  The best free agent on the board was Carmelo Anthony, but he’s now committed to New York.  That leaves Tim Duncan, but who believes that he’ll be testing the market?  The next best players are Nene and David West, of course they both have options and West’s going to miss half the year.  Marc Gasol leads the restricted free agents and he’ll definitely garner interest, but a) he’s a restricted free agent, and b) his name is Marc, not Pau.  The top free agent might actually be Zach Randolph, who has been very good for two straight years, but yikes, that’s a risky dude to tether your franchise to.  So, yeah, this year lacks some of the luster of last year and it lacks some of the luster that next year’s class will have.

Likewise, the draft is also lacking that impact player.  Kyrie Irving is good, but he’s not on that Chris Paul – Derrick Rose level.  Add to that that several top prospects are skittish about entering the draft this year, and you have what might be the weakest draft since 2000.  If Derrick Williams and Harrison Barnes end up declaring, the draft outlook will improve, but we’re still not talking about a super stacked lottery.

Which finally brings us to the biggest downer of all… the impeding lockout.  I don’t really want to waste too much time thinking about this until I absolutely have to, but it seems pretty likely that the NBA is headed for a lengthy work-stoppage.  For all the bluster around the NFL, I still find it hard to imagine that we wont have football at some point this year.  There’s just too much money to be made by everyone.  Sure, the owners want a little more of it – shocking – but when there’s a billion dollar pie, why let it rot on the counter?

The NBA, seemingly, is not as robust.  The rumors are that multiple teams are losing money and clearly the owners need protection from themselves (cough-joejohsnon-cough).  So, unfortunately it seems like tonight and tomorrow we might be watching our last regular season basketball for a while… a long, long while.  Thus, it’s hard to want to spend time making over teams, if the next time you see them, that makeup will have faded and run into an Alice Cooper mask.

Still, where’s the fun for fans of the Wolves, Wizards, Raptors and (gulp) Suns?  With the season mercifully ending, all we can dream of is some drastic improvement to our squad.  So, even though it might be futile and the cosmetic improvement will be more botox than surgery, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks looking at a few of these cellar dwellers and how they can improve.  There’s is, after all, a lot of baseball to be watched these days, my fingers might as well be doing something…



The Summer of LeBron…

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a column that Cleveland Cavalier fans will hate and, frankly, I can’t blame them. For the better part of two years, they have had to deal with every Tom, Dick, and Nancy postulating about where their superstar will land this summer. Column after column, question after question to broadcasters, the barrage of “LeBron is leaving” commentary has been enough to make most Clevelanders yearn for the safe quaint days of the Drew Carrey Show. And yet, the hits just keep coming, for while there have been engaging storylines in the NBA over the last two years, none of them have had the staying power or importance of the Summer of LeBron.

Look Cleveland, I understand, really I do. When the Jays started taking offers for Roy Halladay last summer I spent a solid week vomiting into my mouth. It was awful then, it was awful this winter when the talk resumed, and it was awful when they finally moved him. After reading the package that they received for Doc, I spent another solid week hitting my head against anything hard in hopes of numbing the pain. So yes, believe me Cleveland, I get it, I really do, and while I love Doc with an unholy masculine passion, even I acknowledge that there’s two differences between that situation and Cleveland’s.

First, LeBron leaving Cleveland would be a ‘NBC adjusting its late night schedule’ level disaster for the Cavs, while the Jays trading Doc was probably the best thing for both him and the team. Second, while Doc’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now, LeBron might soon be the best player in basketball, well… ever (calm down, calm down, I’m not saying he is, or will be, better than MJ, I’m merely saying it’s possible). So, I understand how this is a thousand times worse for Clevelanders, with the situation only exacerbated by the fact that LeBron’s a local boy.

Unfortunately, all that empathy and five dollars will get you a frothy, whip cream covered, burnt coffee drink from Starbucks, because it doesn’t change the fact that in four plus months LeBron James will be a free agent. Unlike any other great player in the history of the game, LeBron will have the opportunity to control his destiny at the age of 25. Imagine that, the chance to sign the best player in the game before he enters his prime. That’s what makes this the single most important story line in the NBA.

Of course, it’s not just LeBron, there’s also Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer (and potentially Dirk Nowitzki, although he’d have to leave 21 million on the table – it’s more likely that he’ll sign an extension with Dallas), but the piece teams are angling for, the piece New York fans have been enduring two years of Larry Hughes and Al Harrinton in anticipation of, is LeBron James.

That’s why this is the Summer of LeBron and that’s why this column is a breakdown of his potential landing spots. Remember that the percentages attached to these destinations have been carefully determined by me after hundreds of hours in conversation with LeBron himself… and by LeBron himself I mean some serious smelling salts and his puppet from those Nike ads… and by his puppet from those Nike ads, I really mean an old sock of mine that I sowed some buttons on… Too much information? Ahhhh… Uhhmmm… lets just move on.

These cities know that they have no chance:

Memphis, Toronto (right now I’d peg the Raptors’ chances at 40% that they keep their own superstar), Sacramento, Milwaukee, Indiana, Minnesota, Golden State (How poorly run are the Warriors? They are in one of the most beautiful regions in the U.S., they have one of the largest markets, and, well, even the Clippers got themselves half a percent, know what I’m saying?), Denver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington (if they’d actually been able to void Gilbert’s contract and traded the rest of their roster for cap space, they might have been an intriguing option for the James Gang), Charlotte, Atlanta, Utah.

These cities might have been a destination for LeBron, but they just don’t have the money or assets to make it happen:

Boston, Phoenix (how great would Nash running with LeBron be?), San Antonio (probably never an option, but it’s a testament to the Spurs success that I list them here), Portland, Orlando, New Orleans (again, might be too small of a market, but there’s Chris Paul and the Post-Katrina hero factor).

The Not Bloody Likely:

0.25% – The Zombie Sonics – they have the cap space to sign him (or depending on the exact cap number, could easily get the space), they have a player whom I believe will be second only to LeBron over the next decade, and a solid looking core of Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Hardin. So why only a quarter of a percent? Did I mention that the team is located in Oklahoma?

0.5% – LA Clippers – As Bill Simmons has noted in the past, the Clippers are almost the perfect location for LeBron. Obviously Los Angeles is a choice market and despite their history of ineptitude, the Clippers have a core of young guys (Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin), a savvy veteran to take some of the pressure of leading off the King (Baron Davis), and a caveman (Chris Kaman). The problem? How about Donald Sterling and the Clipper curse? Sterling’s been so bad that there’s really no chance that LeBron chooses LA’s alternate team.

So, why half a percent? Well it’s possible that after another season of ineptitude, a deranged Clippers fan will end up murdering Sterling in the middle of the team’s home finale. In that case, the NBA would be forced to take immediate action by auctioning off the team. It would be purchased by some cavalier young billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg, who would hire Simmons as GM. Simmons would immediately start changing the culture of the team by renaming them to the Los Angeles LeBroners, giving them new uniforms with a picture of LeBron’s outline, and, well… you get the picture.

1.00% – Houston Rockets – It’s really unlikely, but can’t be discounted because Houston is a big market and they’ve shown themselves to be a savvy organization who would be committed to winning. Plus, if LeBron is looking for global domination, you can’t discount the Yao factor.

2.5% – New Jersey Nets – At one time the Nets were considered a legitimate dark horse in the LeBron-stakes, but their move to Brooklyn is still in a state of flux, their owner is probably, possibly(?) an unknown Russian billionaire, and their current roster is setting an all time pace of ineptitude. So, while they have bundles of cap space, there’s not much drawing LeBron to New Jersey except maybe the chance to hang out with Jay Z’s wife.

2.75% – Dallas Mavericks – The Mavs can’t be completely discounted, because Mark Cuban is such a dynamic, popular owner that Dallas has become a popular free-agent destination. While they wont have any cap space, the Mavs do have assets that they could offer Cleveland in a sign and trade were LeBron determined to leave.

4.5% – LA Lakers – Some have floated the possibility of the Lakers acquiring LeBron in a sign and trade in which Kobe goes the other way. That’s NEVER happening. You might be able to identify the warts in Kobe’s game, and I can definitely identify the warts in Kobe’s game, but Lakers fans? They would riot if he were swapped, even for LeBron. But, I have to give it 4.5 percent, because if James decided that he wanted to pair with Kobe, then the Lakers could make a reasonable sign and trade package that starts with Andrew Bynum. Unlikely, but possible.

The Contenders:

14% – New York Knicks – If the Knicks are able to drop Jared Jeffries’ contract in the next two days, I would bump this up considerably. As things stand now though, the Knicks will have trouble adding LeBron and forming any sort of strong team around him. They have the space for him, but even if David Lee re-ups, who plays the point? Who plays center? Who plays shooting guard? LeBron will always attract talented aging vets hunting a ring, and thus willing to sign for the veteran minimum, but that’s a lot of starters, let alone bench pieces. Now, if they clear the space for a significant running mate, then get back to me.

14.5% – Miami Heat – The trendy pick right now, and it’s possible, but… I don’t know, I just don’t see it. The problem is that if James goes there, it will always be Wade’s team. I don’t mean that like I don’t think the two of them would be phenomenal teammates, I do. It’s just that I think for that to occur, they’d have to join forces in a neutral site (see below). Otherwise, why would James want to join a mediocre fan base in a marginal sports city. Yes, players love visiting Miami, but it doesn’t do much to push LeBron’s global image, especially if he’s Wade’s running mate, as opposed to the other way around.

19.9% – Chicago Bulls – It has been a bleak decade for the Bulls post-MJ, but suddenly there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Chicago has the money to add a significant piece this offseason and if they can move Kirk Hinrich’s nine million salary this week, then they’ll have enough money to add two pieces. Some have speculated that LeBron wouldn’t want to follow in Jordan’s footsteps, but I think the statute of limitations on the reign of number 23 ended with the decade. If you look at the pieces that the Bulls already have in place (Derrick Rose, Joachim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson), and if they’re able to finagle the space to sign a major second piece (local boy Wade, Bosh, Joe Johnson, heck even Amare or Boozer would be insane) then you can see how this could become an exceedingly enticing place for James to choose.

Just for the sake of argument, lets assume that Boston gets desperate in the next two days and makes a rash trade with Chicago of Ray Allen and Glen Davis for Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich (for the record, I doubt Boston takes on that much money, but teams get desperate as the deadline approaches). If they then decline the qualifying offer to Tyrus Thomas and renounce their other free agents (Brad Miller, Jerome James, Lindsay Hunter, do you want to get rid of them? Gee, let me think, uhmmm… sure), then this summer they will have close to 40 million in cap room. If LeBron, Wade, and Bosh really do want to team up together (and they seemed to pair pretty naturally in Sunday’s allstar game), then this is their best situation. They would each have to take slightly less than the maximum contract (risky given that max contracts could drastically decline with the next bargaining agreement), but if they intend to join forces, that would be the case anywhere. After these unlikely, but feasible, moves Chicago has a roster that looks like this:

PG – D. Rose,
SG – D. Wade, J. Salmons
SF – L. James, J. Johnson
PF – C. Bosh, T. Gibson
C – J. Noah, G. Davis

I know what you’re saying, that’s only nine guys, how can you have a team with only nine guys? But, of course, if you have Rose, Wade, LeBron, and Bosh you’d find the other three guys on veteran minimum contracts P… D… F… (say, Luke Ridnour to back up the point, Adonal Foyle as some bench beef, and Kyle Korver for late game shooting… or maybe Ray Allen is ready to play out the string as the veteran presence on this team). Really, all that team needs is phenomenal offensive coach who can manipulate all this talent into an all-time combination. Oh, I don’t know, perhaps a coach like the one pulling his hair out in New York… Actually, who am I kidding, a banana wearing a top hat and a tie could “coach” this team to 70 wins.

The Champ:

40.1% – Cleveland Cavaliers – Relax Cav fans, I actually think you might be better than fifty percent, but either way you are prohibitive favorites. Why? Well, in the age of globalization and prolific information, it really doesn’t much matter what size of market you’re in. What’s holding LeBron back at this point is that small portion of the public that wont anoint him the best until he wins a title. So, I think he’s less likely to leave Cleveland for a bigger market, than for a better opportunity for championships. And where exactly can offer him that? Oklahoma and the Clippers. Yeah, ‘nough said. So, the Cavs have to watch out for the Bulls, but I think the other options out there don’t bring enough talent to the table.

Plus, there are solid odds that LeBron wins a title for Cleveland this year and if he does, I think the percentage that he re-signs with them jumps to over 80%. So, don’t pound your head into hard objects yet Clevelanders. Remember, it’s not over until the fat guy in glasses starts signing… and he’s still busy asking strangers to guess the price of consumer products.

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