It was a brilliant bit of strategy by LeBron James last time he was a free agent — with a six-year deal offered, he negotiated it down to just three years (about $60 million over the three years).
It was brilliant because kept his options open. It kept pressure on the Cavaliers organization to build a winner around him (they tried and brought in a number of quality players but never won). Dwyane Wade liked the idea so much he did the same thing in Miami.
Could it happen again? Could LeBron — wherever he lands — and Wade take three-year deals one more time?
Don’t bet on it.
While nobody has said anything officially, there is one key difference this time around — a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is being negotiated. (Or being talked about being negotiated, as the case may be.) While nobody knows exactly what the new CBA will entail, it likely will have a reduction in the amount of a maximum salary and the length of that contract. All deals may also not be fully guaranteed.
LeBron, Wade, Chris Bosh and other free agents would be foolish to leave money on the table, and taking a three year deal rather than the five a new team can offer (or six from the current team to stay or in a sign-and-trade) would be just that. These guys are smart, they will not leave money behind.
Everyone will be looking for a max deal for the full length, even non-max guys will be looking to get deals to last them into the new CBA.
That doesn’t mean LeBron and Wade couldn’t negotiate an opt-out after three years. That would give them some leverage and put pressure on the teams to build and maintain a winner. But if a player did opt out, he would have to negotiate under whatever the rules are in place from a new CBA. That means they would be costing themselves money to get out of town. Things would have to be pretty bad for that to happen.
Simply put, it will be different for LeBron and Wade this time because it’s always all about the money.
The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.
Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:
Which rookie will have the best career?
1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%
3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%
5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%
6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte
Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.
But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.
Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.
Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.
LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?
AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.
But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):
- Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
- Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
- Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
- Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
- Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
- Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
- Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
- Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
- Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
- Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
- C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
- Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)
The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.
This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.
In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:
We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?
Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.
However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.
But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.
Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?
It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.
Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.
Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.
But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.
At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.
With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.