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50 Observations about NBA Free Agency

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From time to time, I drop random observations because it’s too long for a tweet and too short for a full post. Also because it allows me to crack jokes, which is really the reason I’m here. That and the money. Mostly the money. Anyway, it’s been a crazy week of free agency. Here are 50 observations about what we’ve seen.

1. Despite all the hand wringing over the vast majority of these deals, there has been a significant level of restraint exhibited. Gone are the eight-figure averages that would so commonly permeate second and third option player extensions, replaced by reasonable three-year deals.

2. Nothing is more exemplary of this than Nick Young. In 2009? Nick Young would be showering the money oil off of him from sleeping in a gigantic bed of money with cash sheets. Joe Dumars alone would have offered him the gross national product of Botswana.

3. Instead, Young gets a one-year, $6 million contract. Lou Williams is still on the market. O.J. Mayo, Brandon Rush, Courtney Lee, shooting guards are actually not being snatched up like they’re gold mines. It’s incredible.

4. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bad deals being tossed around.

5. In totally unrelated news, Jeff Green got four-years, $36 million.

6. I argued on Twitter that were the fourth year non-guaranteed, I wouldn’t have objected to a $10 million per-year average for the Celtics. They had positional need for Green, had already invested a lot in his future, and their inability to sign outside free agents created a boondoggle for them.

7. That said, it’s still an overpay and there isn’t a single metric or piece of hard evidence to suggest that Green is worthy of this deal. It’s either going to turn out as one of the best or worst contracts Danny Ainge gambled on. And this is a guy who brought in Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal.

8. On the other side of it, you have to love what the Hornets did with the sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson. Getting a versatile big who can spread the floor and actually rebounds, the Hornet managed to get more than what the Magic will likely get for Dwight Howard, in exchange for Gustavo Ayon. Not a bad day at the office.

9. I have concerns about Anthony Davis being forced into playing the 5, but with today’s NBA shifting smaller and smaller in terms of lineups, you have to think it’s at least worth a shot to pair Davis and Anderson without putting Anderson at the 3.

10. The Sixers managed to have a great and terrible week at the same time. Lavoy Allen, what a steal! Spencer Hawes, what were they thinking? Nick Young, great job! Considering entering the Kris Humphries sweepstakes, why? It’s an up and down week for Philadelphia, but that Allen contract really stands out as a steal.

11. Just to review this, the Rockets had Aaron Brooks and the Suns had Goran Dragic and then the Suns sent Brooks to Houston for Dragic and a pick, and now the Suns have signed Dragic and the Rockets are talking to Brooks and the Rockets got a pick back (in a trade of Kyle Lowry). They’re working backwards. I’m excited for the Suns to trade for Shawn Marion and Houston to introduce Yao Ming.

12. Dragic is going to have a lot on his shoulders assuming the Hornets match the offer for Eric Gordon. Marcin Gortat seems like a good idea, but when you’re actually there and he’s your second best player, that’s a problem.

13. Thank Goodness they have Michael Beasley to provide stability and common sense to the floor.

14. Everyone’s rooting for Bandon Roy, but when he steps on the floor, there will be gasps and a lot of nervous people. Hopefully he’ll accept a low-impact role where he can just shoot, and everything works out.

15. The Mavericks aren’t desperate, at least not as desperate as they seem. They still have Roddy Beaubois who showed a lot last season. They’ll likely have Ian Mahinmi, who really has shown some things. They’re in talks for Ramon Sessions. And, you know, Dirk Nowitzki. They are a well-placed trade from getting a core together. They’re out of title contention for the foreseeable future, but they likely will not be horrible.

16. Eric Gordon has done some pretty substantial damage to his image with all this nonsense. It’s one thing to want the money. It’s another to want the freedom. But Gordon wants the money, and the freedom, despite having elected not to sign the qualifying offer to make him a free agent.

17. On top of all that, he wants to use that freedom to join a team with Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat instead of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. OK.

18. Gerald Wallace at 4-years, $40 million looks great next to Jeff Green, 4-years, $36 million.

19. Gerald Wallace 4-years, $40 million looks horrible next to Ryan Anderson, 4-years, $36 million. Wallace’s best days are behind him. That contract is going to look massive in three years compared to production.

20. But not as massive as Joe Johnson!

21. It should be noted, with or without Dwight Howard, the Nets will more than likely be paying each team under the cap enough to subsidize their own D-League teams for a year in 2015. Between the Nets and the Knicks, teams will be able to afford their own MLE’s for free.

22. The Grizzlies will have both Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur next year, which is going to be like having clones on the floor when they play together in a small-ball lineup. There aren’t enough elbow jumpers in the world. Good pickups for Memphis, though, and on a budget.

23. Ray Allen, in a world where the Magic are willing to deal with the Nets, the Suns are willing to trade Steve Nash to the Lakers, and Jason Kidd joins the Knicks, is the only one with a true sense of vindictiveness and you have to appreciate that, unexpected though it may be.

24. The Magic are clearly moving towards a rebuild, letting Ryan Anderson go. So we can expect them to be cautious and hesitant with move…. wait, what’s that? They re-signed Jameer Nelson on a long-term, medium-money deal? Oh, OK then.

25. The Knicks are in such a bind with Jeremy Lin. They can’t move him because he’s too valuable from a marketing standpoint, and yet matching is insane because they’re never going to give him the ball anyway. #ISOMELO

26. If Rashard Lewis signs in Miami, please consider how good the Heat’s garbage time lineup featuring Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Juwan Howard would be in 2003.

27. George Hill’s five-year, $40 million deal in Indiana isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t awful. You’d like to see him cement himself as the guaranteed starter there, though, for that money. The deal is going to be very movable in about two years, though, should the Pacers need to clear it.

28. Kevin Love desperately wants out of Minnesota. Nicolas Batum desperately wants in. Different strokes, I suppose.

29. The Clippers went with such a strange combination of players. Billups makes more sense with Mo Williams traded to Utah, but Jamal Crawford is going to be so boom or bust for them. They’re also going to be short a shooter with Nick Young gone. But stars like CP3 like veterans. And Crawford’s a vet.

30. Jerryd Bayless is likely going to be a pretty good value pickup for one of these teams. He can run point and score. He’s got limitations but as a bench contributor he can provide help.

31. Love the idea of Antawn Jamison in Charlotte. Gives them a professional to set the tone in the locker room, he spreads the floor enough and he comes at a discount price on a short-term contract. That’s just what the doctor ordered as the Bobcats try and move out of the primordial ooze.

32. You have to appreciate the fact that Brandon Bass almost certainly took less money to return to the Celtics. He’s a guy who really could have helped a lot of teams. Not sure how he’ll fit once the plodding Big-2-plus-Rondo era is over, but he’s going to help them win a lot of games over the next two years.

33. Elton Brand goes from horribly overpaid player to unbelievable bargain in a single transaction. Say hello to the amnesty clause.

34. Alonzo Gee isn’t on the radar much and the Cavs can match any offer but teams should definitely explore an offer sheet for him. He’s versatile, productive, and still has some upside. He was a hidden gem for Cleveland last year.

35. Kirk Hinrich returns for nearly a quarter of what he was making in his last year in Chicago. He’ll help, though. He can manage the offense, which is a big deal with how the Bulls’ offense is. The just need someone to set the table with Rose out.

36. There’s a certain level of ignorance being displayed in the Jason Terry evaluation. Ray Allen slipped last season, but so did Jason Terry. He had more trouble creating a shot, getting to the rim, staying in front of his man, hitting the big shots. He’ll still be a huge contributor for Boston, but losing Allen and gaining Terry is more about team need and fit than overall player talent upgrade.

37. Which guy is more surprising in terms of not having a deal agreed to yet, JaVale McGee or O.J. Mayo?

38. Mayo was coveted in Memphis and can’t seem to break out of the pack to draw an offer. This from a guy who showed the ability to drop 40 as a rookie. Lionel Hollins’ hiring may have been the worst thing for Mayo’s career, even if it was the best thing for Memphis.

39. Anyone else wonder if the Nuggets are going to sign McGee to a big long-term contract and then trade him like they did Nene?

40. If the Bulls match Asik, it’s a good move. If they let him walk for the money, it’s a good move. It’s kind of a can’t lose for Chicago, which is a rarity in these situations. Asik’s good enough to pay but also not good enough to suffer for walking away from.

41. Remember when Shannon Brown was a crucial piece on a championship team?

42. Kwame Brown could get massively overpaid as a competent center or underpaid as Kwame Brown. There’s very little in between.

43. If anyone can figure out what Daryl Morey is doing in Houston, could you draw the rest of us a diagram, with flankers?

44. Andre Miller didn’t take the money, the ring chase, or the starting gig. He just stayed home. Didn’t see that coming.

45. Marcus Camby’s transformation for how he’s considered defensively over the past five years is amazing, and Benjamin-Butto-like.

46. Weird that the Blazers are playing so cool with Nicolas Batum after making his trade value essentially worth a city of gold over the past three years.

47. I have come to the conclusion that Dan Fegan is Keyser Soze.

48. In this scenario, Billy King is Verbal Kint.

49. Pivotal trade piece and free agent: Kris Humphries. Who would have seen that coming two years ago?

50. Landry Fields…. why, Colangelo? Why?

 

Even without Stephen Curry, adjusting for playoff rotations still favors Warriors over Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, right, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 3, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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When the Warriors put five players expected to be in the playoff rotation on the floor during the regular season, they outscored opponents by 20.9 points per 100 possessions.

No other team even neared that level with five of its own playoff-rotation players.

The second-place Spurs (+13.1 adjusted net rating) were closer to 10th place than first place.

But Golden State’s supremacy obviously took a hit when Stephen Curry got hurt. How do the Warriors rate without him in the rotation?

As I did before the first round, I’ve used nba wowy! to rank Western Conference playoff teams by net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players in the team’s postseason rotation. Both the regular season and first round factored.

I wrote more about the Thunder’s and Spurs’ adjusted ratings yesterday. The East will come after its second-round series are set.

For now, here’s each Western Conference team’s rating, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the second-round rotation:

Western Conference

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

1. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 114.9 to 119.7 to 109.1
  • Defensive rating: 104.1 to 98.8 to 103.8
  • Net rating: +10.8 to +20.9 to +5.3

5. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 108.9 to 111.0 to 110.3
  • Defensive rating: 108.2 to 107.9 to 107.5
  • Net rating: +0.7 to +3.1 to +2.8

Observations:

  • By this metric, there’s a clear main event and undercard here – at least if the Spurs and Thunder don’t keep playing like they did last night.
  • Golden State obviously takes a big tumble without Curry, but this measure shows the limit of saying the Warriors got outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions without Curry during the regular season. Golden State’s other top players – Draymond Green (88%), Klay Thompson (85%), Andrew Bogut (85%), Harrison Barnes (66%) and Andre Iguodala (60%) – played a majority of their minutes with Curry. Put them on the court more in these Curry-less games, and it’ll help.
  • With Curry in the rotation (and Ian Clark and Brandon Rush out), the Warriors’ adjusted offensive/defensing/net ratings shoot right back up into the stratosphere: 119.8/98.7/+21.1. Golden State must just holds its ground until Curry returns. This measure suggests the Warriors can against Portland, especially with home-court advantage also in their favor.

Playoff Preview: Four things to watch in Portland vs. Golden State series

at ORACLE Arena on April 3, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Portland has wildly exceeded expectations this season, making the playoffs as the five seed and getting past a banged-up Clippers team to the second round. But the NBA does not do Cinderellas well, this will be the end of the road. Here are the four questions we’re asking heading into this series.

1) When will Stephen Curry return? If Portland has a chance in this series, they need to do a lot of damage before the past-and-future MVP returns from his sprained knee. The question is when will that be? Curry is out for Game 1 and has yet to do any on court work, but Steve Kerr would not rule him out for Game 2 on Tuesday, although that may be gamesmanship as much as anything. But after Game 2 the teams are off for four days until the Saturday, May 7, and that may be enough time for him to return. Whenever he does come back, the dynamics change and the Warriors become a much more dangerous, much better team — one Portland can’t handle. The Blazers need to get all the wins early in this series they can.

Which isn’t very easy, Curry or no.

2) How will the Warriors defend Damian Lillard? When Lillard has gone up against his hometown team — he’s from Oakland — he averaged 36.5 points per game this season. Expect Klay Thompson to draw the assignment to cover him at the start of games, but also expect the Warriors to steal a page from the Clippers’ strategy and trap Lillard and C.J. McCollum each time they come off a pick. The idea is to force the ball out of the hands of the two best playmakers and make Al-Farouq Aminu or Maurice Harkless or anyone else beat you. Aminu and Harkless will find the Warriors defense works on a string better than the Clippers and their shots will get contested.

However, most of the time, the Warriors will switch the pick-and-roll, which they usually do (especially when they go small) and Lillard will find Draymond Green in his face. Blazers coach Terry Stotts has to find ways to get Lillard playing downhill off those picks to have a chance.

3) Can the Trail Blazers hit their threes? In Portland’s win over Golden State in the regular season (just after the All-Star break), they put up 137 points and made it rain threes — the Trail Blazers need to do that again. However, the Warriors were one of the better teams in the league at defending the arc this season, holding opponents to 33.2 percent from deep (second best in the league) and allowing the second fewest corner threes (although they are more willing to allow threes above the arc). Portland does not have a good enough defense to stop Golden State consistently even without Curry, they will just have to outscore the Warriors, and to do that it has to rain threes again.

4) How will Portland defend Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? Both of these key Warriors cogs had strong regular seasons against Portland — Green averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, while Thompson averaged 29.3 points shooting 59.4 percent from three. Obviously, that was with Curry on the floor drawing defenders, but Portland is not exactly known for their lock-down defense. Without Curry, expect Aminu to get a lot of time on Thompson, but that alone is not going to slow him. Also, expect the Warriors to post up Thompson, Shaun Livingston, or anyone else that Lillard and McCollum guard — the hardest part about defending Golden State is there is no place to hide weak defenders. The Warriors will expose the Portland defense.

Prediction: Warriors in 6. And that assumes Curry is out until Game 5, if he is back earlier than that the series likely ends in 5.

Report: Heat complained to ‘highest levels of the league office’ about favorable calls for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) is congratulated by Jeremy Lin (7) after making a basket against the Sacramento Kings in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Hornets won 127-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Heat and Hornets are clearly tiring of each other, six games of testiness culminating with Game 7 today.

One particular battle line being drawn is over Jeremy Lin (6.3) and Kemba Walker (5.5), who lead players in this series in free-throw attempts per game.

Marc Stein:

ESPN sources say that one of the factors that ramped up the tension between the teams stems from Miami complaints to the highest levels of the league office after Game 4 about what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker.

Lin and Walker relentlessly driven to the basket. That’s why they’ve attempted so many free throws. If Miami wants to keep them off the line, trap them harder on the perimeter.

That said, this is part of playoff gamesmanship. If the Heat plant a seed with referees – through the league office or otherwise – that Lin and Walker are drawing too many fouls, maybe that affects a call today. With the margins so narrow, every little bit helps.

Watch LaMarcus Aldridge drop 38 on Thunder

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Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.

He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?

It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.