Dan Feldman

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Stan Van Gundy: Luxury tax won’t keep Pistons from re-signing Avery Bradley

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Before last season, Pistons owner Tom Gores said he was willing to pay the luxury tax to re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Of course, Detroit had a disappointing year, falling out of the playoffs. And when push came to shove, the Pistons traded for the cheaper Avery Bradley and let Caldwell-Pope walk. They’ll avoid the luxury tax this season.

What about next summer, when Bradley will be an unrestricted free agent? Detroit projects to have just $13 million to pay him while staying below the tax, and he’ll likely command a much higher salary.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Pistons.com:

“We’ve got other strategies,” Van Gundy said. “The finances will not inhibit our ability to re-sign Avery at whatever it takes. If we’re in a situation where we want Avery back and Avery wants to be here, we’ll be able to bring him back.”

“In the right situation for the right people, Tom’s more than willing to pay the tax,” Van Gundy said. “I think about half the league’s going to be paying the tax this year. Tom’s not opposed to that.”

Many owners say they’re willing to pay the luxury tax. Fewer actually do it.

Maybe the Pistons would pay the tax to keep Bradley. Maybe they’d dump other players so they can re-sign him and dodge the tax. Maybe they’ll lose him.

But it’s hard to look at Detroit’s payroll and Bradley’s status and assume this is a simple issue that will solve itself.

Kevin Durant gifted Warriors an absurdly good offseason

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I’m grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Warriors’ 2016 offseason sent shockwaves through the league, sparking questions about competitive balance and whether the entire system required reform. Think about that for a moment. The Warriors’ summer of 2016 was so incredible, it became a referendum on the NBA itself.

We didn’t even fully understand how incredible it was until this summer.

Forget the attention and pressure. Ignore industry-specific factors, like who beat whom in the playoffs. The Warriors wooed Kevin Durant with many of the same reasons we choose jobs – pay, work environment, location. Durant picked a max salary from one of the NBA’s most successful teams in the trendy Bay Area. It was a reasonable decision.

Golden State followed that with an unreasonably good 2017 offseason.

The Warriors impressed Durant so much, they didn’t even need to pay the max to keep him.

Everything fell into place from there for Golden State, which secured its place as a budding dynasty. The defending champions enter next season even stronger.

Durant’s discount from his max salary ($34,682,550) to the Non-Bird Exception ($31,848,120) allowed the Warriors to retain Andre Iguodala‘s and Shaun Livingston‘s Bird Rights. Durant’s discount from the Non-Bird Exception to his actual salary ($25 million) effectively serves as a wealth transfer from the millionaire player to the team’s billionaire owners. His $6,848,120 concession, based on the current roster, will save Golden State more than $30 million in salary and luxury tax.

So, now the Warriors are more equipped to win and turn a bigger profit.

Stephen Curry re-signed on a five-year super-max deal, and he didn’t even get a player option. Golden Sate signed the NBA’s two best free agents, and the only drama was over just how team-friendly their contracts would be. At least Curry got every last dollar.

The Warriors also signed Nick Young (taxpayer mid-level exception) and Omri Casspi (minimum) – luxuries for a team already running circles around the rest of the league. Young has become a 3-point specialist who tries defensively, and he’ll provide excessive firepower in limited minutes behind Klay Thompson. A combo forward, Casspi fits well in the small-ball lineups Golden State has popularized.

Zaza Pachulia (Non-Bird Exception), David West (minimum) and JaVale McGee (minimum) re-signed. A formidable big-man rotation for less than most teams spend on a single moderately helpful center. The Warriors are just operating in a different world than everyone else.

Case in point, Jordan Bell. The Warriors paid the Bulls a record $3.5 million for the No. 38 pick to get Bell, a versatile defender who’s perfectly cast as Draymond Green‘s understudy. But because drafted players can count less toward the tax, signing a rookie free agent to a minimum deal instead of acquiring Bell would’ve cost Golden State $2,131,243 more in luxury tax. Deduct that from the $3.5 million and consider Bell’s talent, and it’s a clear win for Golden State.

The Warriors just keep getting all those moves, big and small, right.

The repeater tax and raises for Thompson and Green loom. Guaranteeing the 33-year-old Iguodala $48 million and 31-year-old Livingston $18 million limits flexibility. Teams don’t remain elite forever.

But Golden State is riding its wave – on and off the court – higher than maybe any team ever.

Offseason grade: A

LeBron James tweets Lakers president Magic Johnson happy birthday: ‘One of the few that’s always showed love from day 1 to me!’

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As rumors swirl about him leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers next summer, LeBron James – who has not been shy about using social media to send messages – tweeted at Lakers president Magic Johnson on Johnson’s 58th birthday.

LeBron:

Obviously, this doesn’t make LeBron Los Angeles-bound – or even mean he’s alluding to the idea. But I do believe LeBron wants the thought of him leaving Cleveland again out there, maybe if only to keep pressure on the Cavs. For what it’s worth, LeBron never tweeted Johnson a birthday message until Johnson took over the Lakers.

As Johnson would say, wink.

Dahntay Jones: Stephen Curry not a top-10 player

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The Cavaliers have signed Dahntay Jones late the last couple seasons to serve as agitator.

He’s working off the clock.

Jones on Stephen Curry, via Mickstape:

People get mad at me, because I don’t declare him a top-10 player in the NBA, which is fine.

I’ve got him on the outside – like 11, 12.

Jones listed his top 10, the first three ordered and 4-10 not:

1. LeBron James

2. Kawhi Leonard

3. Kevin Durant

Curry has finished sixth, first, first, sixth in MVP voting the last four years. But the Warriors guard isn’t a top-10 player?

Jones isn’t as dumb as this take makes him seem. He knows where his bread is buttered.

Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal apparently thinks Sacramento signed Otto Porter

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Otto Porter signed an offer sheet with the Nets, and the Wizards matched it.

The Kings also reportedly offered Porter a max contract, but they never became part of an official transaction.

Yet, Shaquille O’Neal – who owns a share of the Kings and regularly appears on national television to analyze the NBA – apparently thinks Porter went west.

Shaq on the Wizards, via CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Shaq:

They lost an important piece, Otto Porter. He’s now playing for my team in Sacramento.

Who’s going to break the news to Shaq? And will he find out before playing “Who he play for?”