Author: Darius Soriano

Al Jefferson

Report: Bobcats plan to pursue Al Jefferson in free agency


The Bobcats have have a lot of cap space and are looking to spend it on an impact player to help bolster their offensively challenged front court.

Their target will be Utah Jazz free agent Forward/Center Al Jefferson according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports.

Jefferson averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds a game last season for the Jazz and would instantly become the Bobcats’ go to scorer and best player. Known for his savvy scoring on the low block and solid decision making when working out of the post, Jefferson would be a nice add to an offense who ranked 28th in points per possession last season.

Where Jefferson isn’t as useful is on the defensive end, but a pairing with 2011 lottery pick Bismack Biyombo — who’s an up and coming rim protector — could mitigate some of Jefferson’s woes on that end of the floor.

Jefferson isn’t the splashiest of names on the market and that likely plays into the Bobcats thinking as they’re not exactly a magnet for the top free agents available. The fact that Jefferson is coming off a stint with the small-market Jazz likely also plays a part in Charlotte’s pursuit.

The notoriously tight-lipped Jazz haven’t given many hints about what their plans are with Jefferson (nor their other key free agent Paul Milsap), but with former lottery picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter already on the roster, the thinking is that Jefferson will likely be playing on another team next season.

The Bobcats hope it’s theirs.

Mark Cuban plans to lure top free agents by giving them roster input

Mark Cuban

The Mavericks enter the off-season as one of the major players in free agency.

Not only do  they have money to spend, but they also have a history of championship level contention, a still very good Dirk Nowitzki, and Mark Cuban to close the deal when it’s time to make the pitch on why the Mavericks are the place to be.

In a recent interview, Cuban opened up about what that pitch would include and it apparently at least part of it is major input on who will make up the roster beyond next season.

From Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

“In essence, you get to come in and, it’s you and we have room for two more max free agents (next year),” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said during a Monday appearance on KTCK-AM. “That’s why when I talked about a two-year plan, that’s the concept there.

“So part of our sales pitch is, look, we’re not going to try to fool you and say that you and Dirk (Nowitzki) and Shawn Marion and Vince (Carter) and fill are basically a championship team. Maybe we get on a run, maybe we’re pretty good. But the reality is you’re going to work with us and Dirk to get out there and pick your team.”

It’s true that the Mavs have set themselves up well financially both this summer and next. And with Dirk Nowitzki already on record that he’d take a pay-cut after his current contract expires next summer, Dallas will be in position to sign some high salaried players to form a new core that would potentially compete for championships. So, for any free agent that signs on this summer, the allure of being able to have input on who made up the roster moving forward could be a great pull.

However, is this really a good idea? Players aren’t necessarily the best evaluators of talent or have the know how to build a roster that can compete for a championship. Be it Kobe Bryant’s rant to trade Andrew Bynum in the summer of 2007 (only to have the team go to three straight Finals with Bynum playing a key role) or whispers that Dwight Howard had strong input on the Magic’s acquisitions of Glen Davis and Gilbert Arenas, it’s probably best that players stay out of the General Management business and stick to improving their own games.

Further, let’s not act like the Mavericks are in the driver’s seat to get any of the top tier free agents this summer even with Cuban promising input on future players. The top two players on the market — Dwight Howard and Chris Paul — are both more than likely to stay with their current teams or bolt for the Rockets or the Hawks before they sign with the Mavericks this summer.

That said, Cuban has the money and he clearly has a plan to try and get someone to commit to signing in Dallas this summer. Maybe making a player a de facto assistant GM will be the clincher.

The Spurs need more from Manu Ginobili, but can he provide it?

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four

There’s no easy way to say this, so let’s just get right to it: Manu Ginobili is having, for his standard, an awful NBA Finals.

The Spurs’ super-sub who’s a charter member of their vaunted “Big 3” simply doesn’t resemble the player who has, for years, struck fear into the opposition with explosive scoring outbursts and sustained overall excellence.

Beyond what our eyes are showing us, the numbers back this up. Through four games of the Finals, Ginobili is averaging 7.5 points on 34.5% shooting (18.8% on threes), 1.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.8 turnovers in 24 minutes a night. Compared to the regular season — where he played nearly the exact same minutes per game — these numbers (save for the turnovers) are all down dramatically.

Further, these individual failings negatively impact the team’s performance when Ginobili is on the floor versus when he’s off it. Per’s stats tool, the Spurs are scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions while holding the Heat to 89.7 while Ginobili is on the bench. But when he comes into the game, the Spurs offense suffers, dipping to 101.2 points per 100 possessions while their defense falls off a cliff to the tune of allowing 123.9 points per 100 possessions.

Some of these numbers are obviously related to who Ginobili is coming in for when subbed into the game. When Manu gets his number called, it’s almost always for either Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard, two of the Spurs’ better defensive players and, in the case of Green, one of their best offensive players this series. Any Spur replacing either of these players will see a dip in the team’s effectiveness simply because they’re removing one of the Spurs’ best performers.

However, while we can attempt to explain away why the team is performing so poorly when Ginobili enters the game, it doesn’t erase his individual struggles. Ginobili can’t buy an outside shot but is also having trouble converting at the rim, making only 5 of his 11 shots in the restricted area. And while he’s done a good job of avoiding the types of long two point shots that could drag down his efficiency even further, if he can’t knock down the three point shot and can’t finish in the paint, that’s a real problem.

Where Ginobili has been good is in creating shots for others and in generally running the offense when Tony Parker is on the bench. Manu still has the instincts and flair of a matador when handling the ball in the pick and roll and has done well to dodge the blitzing Heat defense while picking out shooters on the wings and his roll man diving to the cup with equal effectiveness.

But Ginobili needs to be more than a great passer to make an impact on the game; he needs to find a way to score some points. After game 4, Tim Duncan said that the Spurs needed Ginobili to be “more selfish” in looking for his own offense and while that may lead to more misses, if it also allows him to establish a good rhythm the Spurs will likely live with those results.

Ginobili is a proud player and has been a warrior over the course of his career. He’s made his name not just through his stellar play, but by raising his game in the biggest moments, even carrying the Spurs for long stretches and winning games almost single handedly. You never want to count out a player like that — just look at Dwayne Wade to see that can turn out — but right now the doubt he can significantly raise his game is real.

The fact is, however, is that the Spurs will probably need at least one vintage Manu performance over the course of this series if they’re to claim the championship. The problem is that he’s done little to inspire confidence that he can reach that level.