Yes, we’re calling this the Dwight Howard trade. And yes, the Lakers certainly come out of this winners.
But two other teams in this blockbuster four-team trade did well for themselves — and it was a win for Andre Iguodala as well.
It’s a win for Iggy and Denver because he is a better fit with George Karl’s more open, up-tempo offense than he has been in Philly — Denver will use him in a way more like Team USA is using him in London. Denver played at the second fastest pace in the league last year and Iggy can finish at the rim. They move the ball and he will get good looks. Denver’s already good offense (third in the league in points per possession last season) gets a little better.
More importantly, he will dramatically improve what was the NBA’s 20th ranked defense last season, filling the Nuggets big need as an elite perimeter defender. (They need better defense from JaVale McGee, too, but that’s another story.)
Denver just got better. The problem is they are in the West — the Lakers, Thunder, Clippers and probably Spurs are still better, and Memphis is right there. Still, this was a great trade for Denver.
As it was for Philadelphia — Kwame Brown isn’t their starting center any more.
The up-and-coming Sixers now have the best center in the East — Andrew Bynum is an All-Star who is just coming into his own. He provides a real matchup challenge for Miami. Put him in a starting five with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young (who has earned the extra minutes) and maybe Spencer Hawes and you have a good team. And the core of that team is all under 25 — they will grow over the next couple years.
They now are maybe the third or fourth best in the East — Miami is the team to beat, but the Celtics, Pacers and now maybe Sixers are on that next tier. A Holiday-Bynum pick-and-roll is going to do be hard to stop. And Doug Collins has gotten this team to play hard and play defense.
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.