It’s one of the more interesting questions around the NBA right now:
If a full NBA season is lost, what do you do about next year’s draft?
It’s not really fair to go with the same order or even same lottery as last year — why should Minnesota be rewarded again for being bad two seasons ago? But is an equal lottery — one team, one ping-pong ball — fair? Should Miami or Dallas have the same shot at the top pick as the Cavaliers?
Teams are talking about it. The league won’t talk about if they are talking about it, but you know that they are.
Over at Sports Illustrated, Chris Mannix points to the system the NHL used when it lost a season.
The NHL elected to use a lottery and cooked up a creative solution. The amount of lottery balls a team had was based on two criteria: the number of times a team made the playoffs the last three seasons and the number of times a team had drafted No. 1 in the previous three drafts. Using that model, four teams (the New York Rangers, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Columbus) each had three of the 48 balls in the bin. Ten teams had two balls and 16 had one.
The result was one of the more compelling drafts in NHL history. While Pittsburgh, which finished the ’03-04 season with a league-worst 58 points, landed the top pick in 2005, there were some surprises. Perennial doormat Florida picked 29th. Ottawa and Vancouver, two 100-plus-point teams in the previous regular season, were slotted ninth and 10th, respectively.
I like the idea of this or some variant — everybody has a shot but the teams struggling recently have the best shot. That seems fair to me. Maybe the Lakers will end up with the top pick and we can start talking conspiracy, but I like the chance of that happening better than saying they or the Celtics cannot get the top pick after a missed season.
Ideally, this entire conversation will be moot. But it seems we’re at the point we should start talking about it.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.