The Truth hurts.
At some point, an NBA player's ability goes careening over the edge of a cliff, never to be seen again. Sometimes the peak (and subsequent nosedive) is difficult to see coming, but in most cases, the warning signs, like speed bumps under a car, are most definitely apparent.
Of course, this never stops a franchise from dishing out millions of dollars to veterans who have shown these signs. No, this is the NBA, where Gordon Haywards may wind up getting max deals and veterans assemble in superteams to go out in a blaze of glory.
Three vets flirting with the cliff are sure to see their price driven up by the market this offseason. Fans of the teams who acquire one of the following three names cannot say they weren't warned.
The Truth is that Paul Pierce is looking over the precipice with a smile—some foolish franchise is going to pay him starter cash and stash him for the postseason.
At 37 years old, there has been a ton of interest in Pierce since the market opened, as noted by ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
Blazers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets ... teams I'm told called tonight to register interest in Brooklyn's Paul Pierce BESIDES Clips— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2014
This will undoubtedly raise his asking price on the open market, although his tumbling numbers suggest he has arrived at a point of no return:
For his part, Pierce says there is a bit left in the tank, as captured by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
Paul Pierce: "I still think I have something to give a team." Says he has one or two more years "at most."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 15, 2014
But really, doling out cash to Pierce only to have him play limited minutes until the postseason, then tinker with a lineup that got the team to that point, does not make a load of sense.
While a popular narrative is a reunion with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, even Pierce has to understand there are younger, better options at the 3-spot on the market such as Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons. For now, he's riding on name alone, and that may be enough to land himself a ridiculous contract.
One of the better two-way players over the course of the last decade, Luol Deng continues to be a sound defender and can match up with an opposing team's best wing player each night.
That has great value, even if Deng's reputation has been marred by his brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Per ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Duke product has received plenty of interest on the market:
Luol Deng returned to US yesterday. Will meet w/teams next week. LAL, Dal, Clippers, Atl, Chi, Wash, Mia have shown interest. S&T possible— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 3, 2014
While great for contenders that Deng is on the market, it appears he has made it clear he is on the hunt for a payday:
Hearing that Luol Deng will not take significantly less than his market value to join Heat— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 1, 2014
Of course he is. At 29 years of age, the cliff is rather visible for Deng, even if his numbers in recent years do not showcase a significant decline:
But his minutes with the Chicago Bulls under Tom Thibodeau (an average of 33.4 per game in nine of his 10 years with the team) suggest a strong warning that the drop in production is closer than most would expect.
Given the fact Deng surely wants a lengthy contract, a contender is going to scoop him up and turn sour when it realizes his play does not remain consistent for the life of the deal—again, especially with other talented names on the market to choose from at this juncture.
A key cog in the San Antonio Spurs' title run last season after being discarded and an afterthought by most of the league, 32-year-old Boris Diaw is set to cash in on his recent performances.
Perhaps no big man sees the court better than Diaw and can set his teammates up in a position to succeed. This means a bevy of contenders would love to bring him on board in the hopes he can repeat his performance with the Spurs, but not every team can be the Spurs.
So while averages of 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists, paired with being the spark off the bench in the NBA Finals, make Diaw an attractive add for most teams, how he plays outside of the Spurs' system and perhaps with an uptick in minutes (he averaged just 25 per game this past season) makes him a wild card.
Alas, if San Antonio does not bring Diaw back, the market can and will drive his price up. One could presume he will return to play with fellow French national team comrade Tony Parker, but who knows how the dollar signs on the market will impact his decision?
Diaw has shown in prior stints with the likes of Charlotte and Phoenix that his performance directly coincides with the talent level of those around him. That's a major aspect to watch as the market likely overreacts to his availability.