1 Burning Question for Every NBA Team Entering Weekend 1 of 2014 Free Agency
Independence Day weekend seems as good a time as any to reset the situation in which the NBA finds itself after a few frenetic days of free agency.
Some of the biggest names on the market (i.e., LeBron James, Luol Deng) have been and still are on vacation. Carmelo Anthony might as well be, if his recruiting tour across the country is all that it's cracked up to be. Word is, he'll take the long weekend to think over his impending future.
Hopefully, the rest of their peers in this year's pool are enjoying their fair share of franks, drinks, sunshine and fireworks...and, for those enduring the harsh weather on the East Coast, plenty of safety and comfort.
But while everyone's out living it up, let's take a moment to answer one crucial question facing each of the league's 30 franchises, listed in alphabetical order, once the holiday comes and goes.
Just be warned, quite a few will have something to do with LeBron and/or Melo.
Where in the world is Luol Deng?
The Atlanta Hawks are reportedly hot after Deng, even though he's yet to return stateside to respond to requests made by teams to his agent, Herb Rudoy. The Cleveland Cavaliers' pursuit of Gordon Hayward would seem to signal they're already moving on from Deng, even after giving up a grip of picks to snag him from the Chicago Bulls during the 2013-14 season.
As USA Today's Sam Amick noted, the Hawks have a lot going for them as general manager Danny Ferry prepares to present to his fellow Duke Blue Devil in the coming weeks:
The Hawks are slated to have about $11.5 million in salary cap room once the free agency moratorium lifts on July 10. Their recent agreement with former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha on a four-year, $12 million deal appears to have helped their efforts to land Deng. The two players were together with the Chicago Bulls from 2006 to 2009 and had a very good relationship. The same goes for Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who was with Deng in Chicago from 2010 to 2012. Deng spent his first nine seasons in Chicago before he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January.
Moreover, the Hawks have a huge hole to fill on the wing. Throw Deng into the equation, and Atlanta's frontcourt, which already features Al Horford and Paul Millsap, might be the league's best.
Is Kris Humphries coming back?
Just kidding! Independence Day fools...right?
Obviously, the bigger concern for Boston is Rajon Rondo's future. The Celtics' decision to make Marcus Smart the No. 6 pick in the 2014 NBA draft set in motion Rondo's inevitable departure. The team's wading hopes of snatching Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't help that either.
Still, the bigger factor here has to be Smart. He's more a big combo guard in the mold of Russell Westbrook than a pure point like Rondo, so he could, in theory, mesh well with the four-time All-Star. Even so, if the C's aren't going to win this year, and don't think they can retain Rondo via free agency next summer, they owe it to themselves to get ahead of the game and get something for him while they can.
Hence, nobody should be too surprised when ESPN's Marc Stein reports that Rondo could be on his way out of Boston. Stein stated (via Grantland's Zach Lowe) that the Indiana Pacers have interest.
Ummm...what just happened?
It's been a week since Jason Kidd's attempted coup in Brooklyn backfired and he headed out west to join the Milwaukee Bucks.
Now, the Nets will take their cues from Lionel Hollins, a more accomplished coach than Kidd and one who might turn this team into something more than just first- or second-round playoff fodder.
As great a coach as Hollins is, though, even he won't win without talent. Brooklyn's current stock of that is questionable, at best. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams will both be coming off major surgeries. Joe Johnson's getting old. So is Kevin Garnett.
And Paul Pierce might soon find himself a new place to play, just like Shaun Livingston did. Apparently, Brooklyn's league-worst $144 million in losses gave billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov the yips, to the point where he's now pulling up the purse strings on free-spending GM Billy King.
“We have the ability to pay him (Pierce) more than anybody else but we are going to be a little bit more financially responsible at this point in time," King told the Daily News' Stefan Bondy.
No kidding. Even crazy tycoons who are wealthier than some small island nations aren't keen to see their expenditures outstrip their income from any asset to quite an jaw-dropping extent. Nor can he enjoy the burgeoning perception that everyone's abandoning Brooklyn's sinking ship--even the rats.
Where are the wings?
No, not the kind you slather in buffalo sauce; the ones who play shooting guard and/or small forward and can shoot.
The Hornets could use one of those. Gerald Henderson has never been a particularly good one, and if a summer spent shooting with legendary marksman Mark Price didn't help Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fix his broken jumper, Charlotte can't assume that it'll ever be that much better.
Hence, according to The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, the Hornets will soon be joining the fray of teams that talk to restricted free agent Gordon Hayward but (probably) ultimately decide they'd rather not expend too much energy on a player the Utah Jazz are going to retain anyway.
How can we make room for Melo?
The basketball Internet was aflutter with minute-by-minute updates of what Carmelo Anthony ate, where he ate, whom he ate with....pretty much every detail except what, exactly, he really thought while he traveled across the country on his free-agency vacation.
The Bulls were the first to make their case and must now figure how to proceed, albeit with Melo's decision still to be made.
All signs point to Chicago luring Nikola Mirotic, a 2011 draft-and-stash prospect turned MVP of the Spanish league, coming across the pond in time for next season. Whatever he makes is bound to eat into the slivers of cap space the Bulls are able to clear for Anthony or whichever other free agents they pursue.
Amnestying Carlos Boozer was never going to be enough on its own to clear room for a max-level free agent, but Mirotic's impending arrival won't make the calculus thereafter any easier for general manager Gar Forman.
Is LeBron James pulling our leg again?
The initial signs out of Miami suggested that LeBron's early opt out was more a matter of giving Pat Riley more time to plan his next free-agent coup than one of allowing other teams to prepare their offers. Then, it became apparent that James' process hasn't even begun and that things could change in a hurry once he and his family return from their vacation to consider what comes next.
That much became clear this week, when Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Rich Paul, James' agent, was taking meetings with teams in Cleveland, including the local Cavaliers. The Cavs were one of three teams, along with the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns, to land a coveted invite to Klutch Sports headquarters to talk shop with Bron-Bron's representation.
The Cavs could clear max-level cap space for James, though that'd require that they cut Anderson Varejao loose and renounce their Bird rights to Spencer Hawes and Luol Deng, among other things.
Of course, if the best basketball player wants to come back to his home state and author the most ridiculous redemption story in sports history, the Cavs would be more than happy to oblige.
Can we please get a superstar to get Dirk a second ring?
Two years ago, the Dallas Mavericks struck out in their pursuit of Deron Williams, perhaps because Mark Cuban wasn't around for the pitch on account of his shooting schedule for Shark Tank. Last summer, the Mavs swung and missed on Dwight Howard, who wound up elsewhere in Texas.
Now, it appears they'll once again play bridesmaid to at least one big name...but maybe not. The Mavs hosted Carmelo Anthony and got a golden ticket from LeBron James' agent to come to Cleveland, like favor-seekers getting an audience with Don Corleone on the day of his daughter's wedding.
Cubes was on hand for both of those events, though he went so far as to tell inquiring minds in Rock City that he was there on TV business, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger.
Which, technically, he was. After all, if the Mavs land LeBron, they'll be on TV all the time, particularly deep into May and June.
Do the Nuggets want Jusuf Nurkic now or not?
The Denver Nuggets acquired the rights to Jusuf Nurkic, a bruising Bosnian big man, in a draft-day trade with the Bulls. Whether they intend to steer him stateside this coming season is another story.
According to Sportando, the Nuggets want Nurkic, but only if he submits himself to the organization's Summer League squad in Las Vegas. Apparently, that requirement isn't sitting well with Nurkic.
Why? Because Nurkic wants to represent his country this summer instead.
"It is ridiculous to ask us to let a player leave," said Harun Mahmutovic, an official with the Bosnian national team. "Nurkic has a terrible desire to play for the National Team. He loves his country and we are all pleasantly surprised by his attitude."
Who's it going to be—Greg or Josh?
The Detroit Pistons don't want Greg Monroe to go, and he doesn't have to if they'd rather he not. Monroe's a restricted free agent, meaning the Pistons will be free to match whatever offer sheet he receives from other teams.
But Detroit doesn't want an unhappy Monroe either. Grantland's Zach Lowe reported that Monroe didn't want to play with Josh Smith in the Pistons' crowded frontcourt. That prompted head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy to deny that Monroe's camp had made any request to that effect.
"Greg's never said anything to us about not wanting to play with Josh," Van Gundy said from Orlando, where he's preparing for the Summer League, according to the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis).
Still, if Monroe comes back, it'll be Van Gundy's chief charge to figure out how to juggle him, Smith and Andre Drummond in his rotation.
"That's something that's going to have to be discussed between Greg and Josh and myself, with Stan, to figure out who's going to be that guy not starting the game," Drummond told MLive's David Mayo. "I feel like it's not going to be a problem or an issue. It just comes down to who is going to do it."
Golden State Warriors
What's Kevin Love up to these days anyway?
The Golden State Warriors made their move in free agency by signing Shaun Livingston to serve as Stephen Curry's backup. But any addition, particularly one that impacts Steve Kerr's rotation of wing defenders, is bound to bring talk of Kevin Love back into the equation.
According to the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami, the issue between the Dubs and the Minnesota Timberwolves isn't just one of Klay Thompson; it also pertains to Minny's insistence that Golden State take back Kevin Martin's contract as well.
An NBA source indicated Wednesday that Minnesota president Flip Saunders has insisted that the Warriors must not only include Thompson but also take back Kevin Martin and his remaining $22.2 million in any Love deal.
The Warriors absolutely want to do no such thing.
In that scenario, they would just lose too much defensive flexibility and get stuck with too much long-term financial junk.
That's some serious scratch to consider, particularly when plopped into the team's long-term salary picture. The Warriors, though, would do well to act quickly. Once LeBron and Melo find homes, the losers in those sweepstakes may well turn their attention toward trading for the next best thing on the market this summer (i.e., Love).
If not Melo, who?
It's no secret that the Houston Rockets are hot after a star for the third summer running. They apparently pulled out all the stops in their courtship of Carmelo Anthony, but apparently aren't coming up with quite the money available in New York or the instant championship opportunity being offered n Chicago.
Not that the Rockets will simply stand pat if Melo doesn't come to Space City. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Houston has its sights set on native Texan Chris Bosh as a Plan B—and a pretty awesome one at that. If there's anything Bosh has proven over the past year-plus, it's that he can be a great stretch 4, and that's exactly what the Rockets are in the market for right now, next to Dwight Howard in the middle and James Harden on the drive.
And if both of those long shots go wanting, you can bet general manager Daryl Morey will have another trick or two up his sleeve, especially if Kevin Love hasn't left Minnesota by then.
Can we afford to keep Lance Stephenson?
The additions of Damjan Rudez and C.J. Miles have put the Indiana Pacers in something of a bind with regard to their retention of Lance Stephenson. They were already due to flirt with the luxury-tax line before those signings, and would appear to have little choice but to do so now if keeping themselves among the Eastern Conference's upper echelon is indeed their goal.
Trouble is, team owner Herb Simon has long been averse to dipping into the tax and appears to have instructed Larry Bird to operate accordingly. As Grantland's Zach Lowe pointed out:
Indiana is up to about $72 million in committed salary for next season before re-signing Mr. Ear Blow. The tax line is projected at $77 million, and Larry Bird has said repeatedly the Pacers will not exceed it. Do the math.
Stephenson's camp certainly has, and they're not happy with what they see, per ESPN's Chris Broussard, and the parties are no closer to an agreement.
The market for Stephenson should heat up once Melo and LeBron make their moves. If it does, the Pacers could find themselves absent one of their best players and, in turn, their hopes of contending for the Eastern Conference crown in 2015.
Los Angeles Clippers
Who's on third?
As in, who will be playing the 3 for the Los Angeles Clippers next season? Jared Dudley was a flop on the wing, and while Matt Barnes performed admirably as a starter, he's not the long-term solution there for a team that has serious designs on the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Luol Deng would be a fantastic fill-in, but as USA Today's Sam Amick points out, getting him to the City of Angels may be a tad too complicated a maneuver to realistically pull off:
A sign-and-trade for Deng that would send him to the Los Angeles Clippers also has been discussed, although it appears the Clippers' steep asking price on a possible return is likely too high.
The better fit here might actually be Paul Pierce. The L.A. native starred for and won a title under Doc Rivers during his days with the Boston Celtics. Those factors might be enough to convince Pierce, who turns 37 in October, to take a pay cut to join the Clips.
As for L.A., Pierce would be a fantastic fit there. The Clips could use another creator and scorer in crunchtime to ease the burden on Chris Paul. Pierce, with his history of coming through in the clutch, would fill that niche in no time flat.
Then again, the Clips' signing of Spencer Hawes (per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) might put them out of the running for any and all of those guys. Woj also reported that a Pierce sign-and-trade would be prohibitively costly for the Clippers.
Los Angeles Lakers
Who wants to play with Kobe...? Anyone?
The Los Angeles Lakers aren't waiting on Carmelo Anthony's impending decision to proceed with their plans to find a new running mate for Kobe Bryant. According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, the Lakers sent a contingent to Cleveland to pitch LeBron's agent on James joining the Black Mamba in L.A.
Neither seems likely to roll the dice with the Lakers. There's no telling what the Purple and Gold will get out of Bryant and Steve Nash, assuming they get anything out of them at all.
That's not the sort of picture that either of this summer's biggest free agents wants to have painted for him. The Lakers could max one of them out, but probably couldn't afford them both or offer either of them a surefire shot at a title in 2015.
What would L.A. do then? Throw short-term money at Pau Gasol? Extend rich deals to Lance Stephenson and/or Luol Deng? Do what the Mavs did the past two years and load up on one- and two-year-deal players who can help the team win now while preserving cap space for later?
And who's going to coach this team anyway?
We'll know soon enough.
Is Mike Miller coming back?
The Memphis Grizzlies have pretty much kept quiet since the start of free agency. They took care of Zach Randolph's extension prior to July 1, leaving Mike Miller's future as the closest thing to a pressing personnel matter in the River City.
At present, the Grizzlies' odds of resolving that matter favorably aren't looking good. Per CBS Sports' Gary Parrish:
Oklahoma City is among the franchises also pursuing Miller, and a source told CBSSports.com that, at this moment, the Grizzlies' offer doesn't compare to what other franchises have suggested they'll offer (in terms of years and money). Consequently, Miller is waiting to see if Memphis returns with a better offer before making a decision.
'He really wants to stay in Memphis, if everything is equal,' the source said. 'But, right now, everything isn't equal. It's not really close. So we'll see.'
Losing Miller wouldn't put Memphis out to pasture, per se, though his absence certainly wouldn't help. He shot a sparkling 45.9 percent from three last season while asserting himself as a stabilizing force in the midst of locker room turmoil.
Is this the end?
Remember when it was a forgone conclusion that LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were opting out not to test the free-agent waters, but to afford Pat Riley the flexibility to refresh the roster around them?
That was earlier this week. Now, James' agent is taking meetings with other teams, and Wade and Bosh seem to be second-guessing the wisdom of taking pay cuts to keep this team together. According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, concern about leaving money on the table just to help billionaires save money on luxury-tax payments may have something to do with James' expectation of a max contract:
That, a source told Sporting News, is one of the reasons why James reversed course and now reportedly would like to get his maximum payday. He is the best player in the league, and there is a bad precedent set if the best player in the league is not being paid as such. There is a fear that other owners could use that as a cudgel in negotiations with their stars, much like Jackson has did with Anthony.
This could all be true. Then again, it might all be a ploy to light a fire under Riley's behind. The Heat's top supposed free-agent targets (i.e., Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, etc.) are either signing elsewhere or expecting contracts richer than what Miami can afford under the collective bargaining agreement.
The likelihood of the Big 3 leaving South Beach still seems slim, given the tremendous success they've thus far enjoyed together. But this is a "What have you done for me lately?" situation for Miami's superstars, and since the Heat's season came to a screeching halt in the NBA Finals, the team's front office hasn't done much.
And if it doesn't strike soon, the Heatles could be due for a breaker much sooner than anyone originally anticipated.
So, Jason Kidd is now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Who saw that coming a week or so ago?
It certainly caught even some of the league's most well-connected insiders by surprise, as Grantland's Zach Lowe and the New York Daily News' Tim Bontemps discussed on a recent podcast. Those two discussed one other nugget of note therein: that Kidd would've preferred a more mobile pivot to play the pick-and-roll and protect the rim than the plodding Brook Lopez, and that Larry Sanders was one of the replacements he had in mind.
Thanks to his shocking job swap, Kidd will no longer have to dream about coaching a center/nightclub pugilist like Sanders. Nor will he have to count Ersan Ilyasova jump shots only in his nightmares. Kidd will get to coach an intriguing young team, one that now features one potential superstar (Jabari Parker) and another (Giannis Antetokounmpo) who might have the most upside of any prospect in the Association.
All of which beats suffering through the painful rebuild that's in store for Brooklyn.
Won't you...stay...with me?
Flip Saunders is probably listening to Sam Smith on repeat nowadays, if only to master the words for his next impassioned appeal to Kevin Love.
Love's camp has long since clarified its client's desire to split from the Twin Cities next summer, if not sooner. So far, the T-Wolves have hesitated to part ways with their two-time All-Star, and rightfully so.
Love is a bona fide franchise cornerstone. Players of his caliber don't just grow on trees. If you don't have one, you're doing anything and everything to get one. And if you do, you owe it to yourself to do anything and everything to keep him around.
Saunders would much rather retain Love for now and convince him to stay with a strong season in 2014-15, much like the Portland Trail Blazers did with LaMarcus Aldridge in 2013-14. But once the free-agent frenzy cools and Love is once again the top target out there, Minny may have no choice but to take an offer it can't refuse from an eager suitor.
New Orleans Pelicans
What more can we do?
Barring a big trade or two, the New Orleans Pelicans are basically stuck with the team they have now. The Pelicans figure to be capped-out once the Omer Asik trade is made official, and the rest of the team's major players are either too valuable to give away (Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday) or too tough to move (Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers).
According to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy, the latter considerations won't keep New Orleans from trying to offload Gordon and Rivers if it can. For now, though, the Pelicans are probably standing pat.
As well they should. Healthier seasons out of Holiday and Anderson, more consistent roles for Evans and Gordon and a budding team chemistry—all happening around a superstar-caliber Davis in the middle—could push the Pelicans into the playoff picture come 2015.
New York Knicks
Melo's not going anywhere...right??
Now that Carmelo Anthony's made his rounds, the teams he met with (the Bulls, the Rockets, the Mavs, the Lakers and the Knicks) can do little more than wait and hope they each get the last rose from one of this summer's most eligible free-agent bachelors.
Which makes sense. Anthony is a native New Yorker who (presumably) enjoys living in the Big Apple and soaking up the spotlight at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks can offer him more money (five years, just under $130 million) than anyone else. With him in the fold, they'll probably be a playoff team next season, the first full year of the Phil Jackson era, and could be much more than that with a major signing or two next summer.
The Bulls, though, can pitch Anthony on winning a title right away. He'd probably have to give up some of his potential earnings to make it work, but Melo in the Windy City would make the Bulls one of the favorites in the East, if not the favorite, depending on what happens in Miami.
Still, if money talks, the Knicks should drown out the pleas and appeals of Melo's other suitors with ease.
Oklahoma City Thunder
What matters most?
Pau Gasol and the Oklahoma City Thunder will both have to decide, for themselves and in relation to each other, whether money is the biggest factor guiding each other's thinking.
Gasol's at a point in his career and in this particular market where he might not be able to have his cake (win another championship) and eat it too (make as much money as possible). Gasol's a tremendously skilled big man, but age (he's about to turn 34) and injuries have exacted a serious toll on his market value.
He could probably garner a short-term deal worth $10-12 million per year if he wants to stay in L.A., but would have to settle for a fraction of that in OKC. As NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote:
Oklahoma City, according to a source, hopes that a three-year deal with its mid-level exception can do the trick with Gasol, even as it understands his agent, Arn Tellem, will surely be able to shake out bigger offers elsewhere.
The Thunder could clear up some cap space to sign Gasol to a fair-market contract if they were to, say, offload some salary via trade and amnesty Kendrick Perkins. But OKC's owners have never been keen to spend, and paying Perkins to not play in a Thunder uniform probably wouldn't jibe with them.
Do we want to win yet?
If the Orlando Magic's offseason thus far is any indication, the answer to that question is a resounding "No!"
They've signed Ben Gordon to a two-year, $9 million deal, presumably to turn him into a tradeable assets and/or meet the league's salary floor. They've wiped Jason Maxiell's $2.5 million and Jameer Nelson's $8 million off the books. They've also courted Patrick Patterson in free agency.
None of those moves make much sense if the Magic intend to turn things around after two years of catastrophe post-Dwightmare. Unless Orlando expects rookies' contributions (Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton) and the improvement of the young players (Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson) to push this team back into the playoffs, the Magic should be positioned to snag another top-five pick and let the rebuild continue apace.
How patient are you?
Don't expect the Philadelphia 76ers to even try to make a splash this summer. They're not looking to win any time soon, as their selections of the injured Joel Embiid and the stuck-overseas Dario Saric would suggest.
If anything, the Sixers will use their cap space to stock up on draft picks by taking on unwanted salary from other teams. According to Slam Online's Jake Fischer, Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie has already engaged former boss Daryl Morey about absorbing Jeremy Lin's contract, with a draft pick or two as enticements.
Those Sixers fans seeking some semblance of hope would do well to train their attention on Michael Carter-Williams' development and the potential contributions of Nerlens Noel. Otherwise, the 2014-15 season could be just as depressing as the last one was, if not more so.
Are we about to leap the field right now?
The Phoenix Suns have always had the tools to make this summer a splashy one. They have the assets to set foot in the Kevin Love sweepstakes and the cap space to court Carmelo Anthony and/or LeBron James.
Melo seems to be done taking meetings, but James now appears to be a possibility for Phoenix. Per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns were one of three teams that initially met with Rich Paul, James' agent. That in itself is enough to suggest that the Suns have a shot of some sort.
It helps, too, that another of Paul's clients, Eric Bledsoe, already plays in Phoenix. The team has made it clear that it intends to match any offer that comes Bledsoe's way in restricted free agency, and perhaps the prospect of paying him the max will give the Suns some additional pull in the push for LeBron.
James in the desert is still a long shot at best, but that's better than nothing. And the Suns owe it to themselves to transform the team into a contender if the opportunity to do so presents itself.
Portland Trail Blazers
How much do we really need to do something big right now?
The Portland Trail Blazers blew past expectations by winning 54 games and advancing to the second round of the playoffs this past season. Another year of growth by All-Star point guard Damian Lillard—along with additional continuity for the core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez—should be enough to help Portland take another incremental step up the Western Conference hierarchy.
What it needs now is depth. Chris Kaman should afford it that much, at least in its frontcourt. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, Kaman signed with the Blazers for two years and $9.8 million, though only $1 million of the second-year salary is guaranteed. Kaman's injury-prone, but he's a reliable offensive contributor when he's healthy, albeit one who hasn't always been amenable to coming off the bench.
How much do we actually like Isaiah Thomas?
The Sacramento Kings just spent $15 million to make Darren Collison their backup point guard, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.
That is, assuming the team intends to bring back Isaiah Thomas. The diminutive floor general is in the midst of restricted free agency, with the Lakers, the Pistons and the Heat among his preferred suitors, according to The Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill.
If the Kings want to go hard after another team's top point guard (i.e., Rajon Rondo) rather than settle for Thomas, they could do worse than hedge their bets with Collison, so long as they do, indeed, find an honest-to-goodness starter.
San Antonio Spurs
Should we...run it back?
When you lead the NBA in regular season wins and romp to the title like the San Antonio Spurs just did, you don't need to do much during the offseason—other than to keep all your constituent parts in place.
At this point, the Spurs need only re-sign Boris Diaw to ensure that they'll have the same team around to push for a repeat in 2015. Patty Mills will be back in San Antonio after signing a new three-year deal, even though he'll be out for the next six to seven months with a torn rotator cuff, per the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe.
So long as Manu Ginobili recovers from his stress fracture and Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are still capable of carrying the team, the Spurs should be the favorites to take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy next season. And if Kawhi Leonard gets an extension commensurate with his Finals MVP status, San Antonio should be set up to contend for the foreseeable future.
What's up Masai Ujiri's sleeve?
As far as free agents are concerned, the Toronto Raptors are almost done. They re-signed Kyle Lowry to a four-year, $48 million deal and brought Patrick Patterson for three years and $18 million. Greivis Vasquez is the only one of note who hasn't come back, though he and the Raptors are closing in on a deal, per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
To make the money work more easily, GM Masai Ujiri will send Steve Novak and a second-round pick to Utah, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
That doesn't mean, though, that the Raptors will be done after that. Ujiri is a dealmaker by trade and figures to keep his line open in the event that another executive wants to chat.
Are we going to match any offer for Gordon Hayward?
The market for Gordon Hayward isn't going to develop until LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony pick their destinations, and it probably won't really get going so long as wing players such as Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and others set their parameters, as well.
And really, it might never. The Utah Jazz have made no secret of their desire to keep Hayward and their intention to match any offer that comes his way. With so many other quality small forwards available, few teams would want to tie up their cap space in a player whose team is going to retain him anyway.
In essence, then, the Jazz could dictate the market for Hayward—and mess with some of their competitors for good measure.
Marcin Gortat down, Trevor Ariza to go until the Washington Wizards have essentially brought back the same squad that had the talent to crack the Eastern Conference Finals but not the experience and discipline to do so.
Granted, their competition in the East (i.e., the Bulls and the Pacers) wasn't so strong, and the Wizards would've been roadkill up against the Heat.
Re-signing Ariza to the number he wants ($8-10 million per year) would seem reasonable in that sense. But his year-to-year inconsistency, combined with their other options on the wing—both in house and on the market—suggest that the Wizards should resist the temptation.
As Grantland's Andrew Sharp put it:
Ariza on the Wizards changes almost nothing with the ceiling for this team. Letting Ariza walk frees up money that could actually make the Wizards better down the line. This shouldn’t be that complicated.
Unfortunately, it probably will be that complicated, because it's always that complicated when Ernie Grunfeld's involved.
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