The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs gave fans one of the most captivating closing series in recent NBA playoffs history, but Game 7's thrill ride of a contest also comes with the realization that we're months away from on-court action.
From the moment the clock struck zero on LeBron James' second championship, the offseason began for all 30 teams. The draft and free agency are now the overarching topics of conversation, with an untold amount of trade talks accompanying those two events. It's a shift in focus from Miami's frontcourt to its front office.
The move off the court and into the front office season is one that will either come with extreme disappointment or excitement, depending on the style of fan. Your X's and O's lover who would rather do nothing else but spend his time dissecting the intricacies of the Memphis Grizzlies' pick-and-roll defense is probably in a state of apoplectic shock.
For those who enjoy nothing better than reading the NBA's version of the tabloids, though? The conclusion of the finals marks the beginning of the most heavenly season, with trade rumors and free-agency speculation running rampant across the Association.
With little time before the league throws a moratorium on all consummated transactions at the beginning of July, the moments after the finals are among the most active. Teams are constantly trying to shift cap space to free up more room for guys on the market, to move back in the draft or to merely pawn off an asset with the impetus on being a title contender.
What have the latest trade conversations been around the league? Here is a quick breakdown of all the latest post-finals rumblings.
Shawn Marion to Cavs?
We don't know many thing about what will happen this summer, but the Dallas Mavericks' impending chase of top-notch free agents is a certainty. They got the silver medal in last year's Deron Williams hunt, rolled over an entire roster on short-term talent and should have enough cap space for one max-contract free agent this summer.
While NBA rules prevent mentioning players by name—that's, gasp, tampering—owner Mark Cuban has steadfastly maintained his team's goal is to explore every last avenue.
"No, not at all. Nothing has really changed," Cuban said (per Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com). "Our approach has always been to be opportunistic and explore all of our options, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do."
The words "all options" are widely considered thinly veiled overtures to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the summer's two biggest free agents. Countless rumors have tied Dallas to Paul and Howard—particularly the latter—and expectations are that both superstars will be doing some weighing of their options this summer as well.
There's just one little rub: Dallas has a pesky lottery pick that's hanging around like a gnat. While it could be construed by some as an asset, for the Mavericks that selection has become something of a cap space nuisance. With a cap hold for the 2013-14 season of about $1.66 million, the 13th pick is seen as money that could be better spent elsewhere—on locking up max-contract ability for Howard or Paul.
It's been expected that the Mavs would shop that selection almost since lottery night. Their latest offer reportedly on the table, though, could be really interesting. According to Joe Kotoch of Sheridan Hoops, Dallas and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the throes of a discussion that would send Shawn Marion to the Ohio area:
Also, sources tell SheridanHoops.com the Cavs are in serious discussions to acquire Shawn Marion from Dallas in a lopsided trade that would allow them to move up from No. 19 to No. 13 in the first round by relieving the Mavs of Marion’s $9.3 million salary, allowing Mark Cuban more salary cap flexibility to use on July 1.
Seemingly lopsided in the Cavaliers' favor, this deal actually makes a ton of sense for both parties.
Dallas gets to move back a few spots on draft night, shed Marion's salary from its payroll and open the possibility of still landing the draft-and-stash talent it wants. The Cavs jump forward six spots to make their second lottery selection of the night, add a coveted veteran wing and keep their cap flexibility going forward; Marion's contract expires after the 2013-14 season.
This is a deal that's probably contingent on Cleveland's coveted selection at No. 13 being on the board, so we'll probably have to wait until Thursday to see if it goes through. But it's certainly a discussion that holds merit for both sides.
Mystery Team Offering 1st-Round Pick for Thomas Robinson?
Speaking of the Howard-Paul summer of love, the Houston Rockets are also expected to be a major player in free agency this summer. Their acquisition of James Harden and free-flowing offensive style have morphed a perpetual also-ran into a burgeoning franchise, one that's still equipped with assets and cap space this summer.
Like Dallas, Howard is the top target for Houston. His rim protection and athleticism are seen as two perfectly meshing traits for the Rockets' inside-out offense, which would surround him with a four-out, one-in mentality that he had with the Orlando Magic—only with infinitely better talent. Harden is already a better player than D12 ever had during his Orlando days.
One problem: The Rockets aren't quite under the cap enough to offer a max contract. Assuming they decline the team option on Francisco Garcia, the team will have $48.55 million in salaries on the books—just about $10 million below the $58.5 million expected salary cap in 2013-14. With a little financial wrangling—namely the declining of non-guaranteed contracts—Houston can get close to a max-level salary, but probably not all the way there without making a deal.
It's become readily apparent that general manager Daryl Morey already has a scapegoat in mind. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported late last month Houston was expected to send out last year's No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, who was only acquired by the Rockets at the trade deadline. There was no concrete word on what Houston was looking for at the time—other than to rid itself of Robinson's salary, of course—but it seemed like a reasonable bet that a deal could be consummated.
It seems the Rockets have found that mystery trade partner. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, an unknown team has offered a first-round pick in this year's draft in exchange for Robinson:
Stein also notes that Houston would use that pick to select a draft-and-stash international player—thus avoiding any holds on the salary cap:
For Robinson, a potential trade would be awfully interesting to assess his value around the league. Taken by the Sacramento Kings with the fifth overall pick last year, Robinson has quickly burned his way through two organizations. Robinson averaged only 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last year and was unable to make himself useful in the Rockets offensive system, where spacing is of the utmost importance.
It will be interesting to find out the identity of this unnamed team and whether it can find a more useful role for the former Kansas star.
Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe Talk Still Simmering?
It's easy to get lost in the enormous cloud of Doc Rivers-Kevin Garnett smoke going on with the Los Angeles Clippers. The effort to make Ubuntu West into a real thing has had more starts and stops than a NASCAR race, with an innumerable amount of side rumors capturing the NBA's conversation. Most sports leagues frown on major events getting done during their finals; the Clippers and Boston Celtics speculation turned a normally quiet period into one with riotous chatter.
However, with those talks seemingly on the backburner (for now), Los Angeles must shift its focus to a more tangible proposition—the exile of burgeoning point guard Eric Bledsoe. The team won't be making any rash decisions until Chris Paul fully commits to coming back, which is something far less than a guarantee.
So it's only natural that Bledsoe would be mentioned in a bunch of possibilities but little in the way of impending moves. The Clippers rebuffed the Celtics' request to add the young guard to a possible Garnett deal, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. But the fact remains Los Angeles is doing its requisite homework, and there is a ton of interest going on around the league.
One of the most persistent pieces of speculation regards Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo. Both ESPN's Chad Ford and Sheridan Hoops' Joe Kotoch have noted that Orlando is firmly in the Bledsoe race, with Afflalo being the piece general manager Rob Hennigan is dangling.
Whether Afflalo has enough value to land Bledsoe, one of the game's most promising young guards, is another question. The 27-year-old former UCLA standout would represent a massive upgrade in the Clippers backcourt over Chauncey Billups and provide some much-needed floor spacing and three-point shooting. Afflalo, despite struggling a bit in his role as a primary scorer, still averaged a career-high 16.5 points per game this season. He's now increased his scoring output in each of his six NBA seasons.
Still, Bledsoe represents the Clippers' biggest overarching asset, a guy whose value they absolutely have to maximize. Once Paul re-commits, expect the chatter to hit its apex. Until then, it's hard to see any Bledsoe rumor as anything but a smokescreen from a team hoping to land the potential star.
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