Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six

J.R. Smith is still a free agent, about to take a healthy pay cut

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When J.R. Smith opted out of his $6.4 million contract with Cavaliers for next season, he and his agent thought he would get paid. After all, he had averaged 12.8 points per game in the regular season after being traded to the Cavs, he shot 39 percent from three, and he played quality defense. He played well through most of the playoffs, although getting suspended for the first two games of the Finals (and then having a rough series when he returned, and riding around on a Phunkee Duck) didn’t help his cause. Still, LeBron James was reportedly in his corner, the Cavaliers were going to pay up, right?

Smith is still a free agent on July 19.

The Cavaliers would have been happy if he opted in, but when he chose to become a free agent the Cavaliers decided to look around, too. From Terry Pluto at the Plain Dealer.

When Smith turned down the option for next season, the Cavs weren’t thrilled. At that point, they seriously began looking for another option at shooting guard….

The wise move for Smith would have been to pick up his option. Then go have a good season with LeBron James & Company. Then become a free agent in the “Money Summer” of 2016 when the salary cap will rise at least 30 percent.

Former Nets executive (and summer NBA Twitter sensation) Bobby Marks noted there is even a more fundamental lesson here.

What the Cavaliers want now from Smith is a below-market one-year deal. The reason is they are deep into the luxury tax and every dollar now spent on Smith multiplies because tax — a $4 million contract for Smith adds $14 million to the Cavaliers tax. That’s $18 million next year for J.R. Smith. You can see why the Cavaliers are hesitant (this is also slowing the Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson talks).

Smith is hoping that another team out there will give him leverage, but the market has been pretty dry.

In the end, I expect Smith and the Cavaliers to reach some deal — he played well for them last season, they could use his depth off the bench.

But I bet Smith would like to have his decision over.

It’s official: K.J. McDaniels signs three-year, $10 million to stay with Rockets

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets
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We’ve known for a few days that K.J. McDaniels was close to a deal to stay with the Rockets.

It’s now official — and at a price that is much better than what had been rumored initially.

McDaniels himself confirmed the deal on Twitter.

Jake Pavorsky of Liberty Ballers broke the story, and it has since been confirmed by others.

This is a portion of the Rockets’ mid-level exception, they still have some left. This deal is well below the market value McDaniels and his agent thought he might find on the restricted free agent market, but the reality is nobody completely believed the numbers he put up in Philly because… well, Philly.

At this price (especially if there are no options), this is a good signing. McDaniels — coming off a broken elbow that kept him out of the playoffs — could be a good fit with the Rockets. He’s an athletic wing who can score in transition and defend.

He’s just got to prove he can crack the rotation in Houston, where they have Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, and Sam Dekker at the three, plus that James Harden guy eats up some minutes out there. McDaniels put up numbers and looked impressive in Philadephia, but they played fast and had limited offensive options, so he got touches. While the Rockets like to play fast, this team is loaded with better scoring options. McDaniels barely got off the bench last season in Houston.

Looks like he’s going to get a few years to prove he belongs.

Mark Cuban’s solution for referee issues in NBA? Add one more.

Mark Cuban Dan Crawford
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For the past 15 years, Mark Cuban has been on a quest to improve the officiating in the NBA. Not always in a way league officials and referees have appreciated — he’s compiled servers full of data and video, made his points publicly and privately, and picked up some healthy fines along the way.

His latest idea on officiating?

Add one more to the floor. There are currently three (plus an alternate). He wants four on the floor.

That’s what he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“Four refs,” was his simple answer. “I think it will make for a smoother game. I think there will be less hidden behind the scenes. Guys will just play basketball, a lot less flopping. I think there will be a lot of upside to it.”

What I would want on this is data. Try it out for a year in the D-League and at Summer League, see how it goes. Track the statistics and compare to the year before, and then talk to the coaches and see what they thought of it. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but you can be sure there would be unintended consequences (there always are).

In theory, another official would mean more watching of plays off the ball, more calls off the ball, and that would force players to reduce to amount of clutching/grabbing/illegal screens away from the play. With players moving more freely, there will be more scoring.

Does it work out that way in reality? Or do we get more borderline off-the-ball calls that drag down the pace of play? And in the end one more body isn’t going to change the bang-bang nature of the most controversial calls in the league. Adding another referee doesn’t make calling a block/charge in the paint any easier.

It likely does not reduce the number of fines Cuban gets for complaining about the officials, either.

 

 

Paul George’s goal is to be MVP next season

2015 IPL 500 Festival Parade - 2015 Indy 500
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Paul George’s career was on a skyrocket trajectory until just about one year ago. It was there, in an exhibition game for Team USA he tried a chase down block, landed at the base of the basket stanchion and his leg snapped in as gruesome an injury as you are ever going to see on a basketball court.

George will be back and fully healthy next season — and he wants to continue that trajectory just where it left off

George is in China selling the Nike brand and meeting with the many Pacers fans in that country — yes, Pacers China is a thing — and he told those fans that his plans for his career arc have not changed due to his injury. They are just delayed (hat tip to the IndyStar).

“After being draft into the NBA, I was playing from the bench and then tried to be a starter, then an All-Star. My goal now is set to be MVP. This year, that hasn’t changed,” George told fans at a Beijing Nike store.

What did you expect him to say? He’s a competitor; he’s not going to say anything less.

For the good of the NBA, I hope George has a bounce-back season. I hope we see a guy that hasn’t lost a step.

But the MVP award traditionally goes to the best player on a 50+ win team that is a contender, and the Pacers are not that. As well as George may play, this team is transitioning from big, lumbering and defensive to smaller and offensive-minded. Monta Ellis and George will be entertaining to watch together, but they are not lifting this team up to the NBA’s elite. Making the playoffs in the East seems a more reasonable goal, and one they may not fulfill.

 

Tony Allen says he wants to play about five more years, all in Memphis

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
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Tony Allen is the soul of Memphis’ grit and grind style. He’s one of the game’s best on-ball defenders, and he finds a way to get enough offense to make it work. It’s not always pretty, but it’s effective.

Allen has spent the past five seasons with the Grizzlies — last season he scored 8.6 points a game and improved to a respectable 34.5 percent from three — and he told the Commercial Appeal he wants to finish his career in Tennesee.

“I can’t envision myself no place else,” he said. “I got about five more years.”

Allen is 33 right now, so we’ll see about five years. Allen has two seasons left on his deal at a very reasonable $10.7 million total. He will be a free agent in 2017, and a lot of teams likely will have interest in him — and with the spiked salary cap he could see a raise — but it sounds like Memphis will be able to keep him.

Allen was understandably frustrated with how the Grizzlies’ season ended. They fell to the Warriors in the second round, a series that turned when Golden State switched Andrew Bogut onto the injured Allen defensively (which allowed Bogut to patrol the paint and dare Allen to beat them with his inconsistent jumper).

“When they pulled that strategy, man, I was hurt,” he said. “If they try that s—- again …

“Had I been healthy, and they had somebody (like Bogut) on me, I probably would have showed up in a different way in a game as far as rebounding, steals,” Allen said. “Them putting Bogut on me simply affected our team because of injury.”

He may well get a chance to prove his point. Memphis is going to need a healthy Tony Allen, plus Matt Barnes and the rest of the wings to knock down some outside shots, but they will be in the mix in a once again very crowded Western Conference.