It’s time to pull out the Ouija board and hope that things go better than in the new movie of the same name.
The NBA season tips off Tuesday night so we here at PBT are throwing out our predictions for the coming season. We’re actually going to do that for the next couple days, but today we focus on the big end of season awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc. (tomorrow we get into who makes the playoffs and who wins what Steve Ballmer affectionately calls “Larry”).
Even before the first game tips off are some clear frontrunners for several of the NBA end-of-season awards… but we didn’t aways go with them. Here are our calls, followed by a few comments.
MVP: This has been a two-person race for the past couple years, and with Kevin Durant now out for a couple of months, most of us chose LeBron James as the guy who gets the hardware. However, if you’re looking for a good dark horse candidate — and if the Clippers do turn out to be elite contenders — Chris Paul is a good call. So Brett Pollakoff chose him and bet on Ballmer’s team
Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker drew three of our votes and after his strong preseason looks like the guy to beat in this category. I went another way with Nerlens Noel because he was the guy that most impressed me at Summer League, and because he had a full year on the sidelines to build up his body and study the NBA game. Like with Blake Griffin I think it’s a huge advantage. Bottom line here, I’d be shocked if the award didn’t go to one of three guys: Noel, Parker or Andrew Wiggins.
Most Improved Player: Sean and I both chose Anthony Davis, but not really because he may be the most improved player, he already averaged 20.8 points and 10 rebounds a game last season (although I do expect him to take another leap forward this year). This is really about some voters finally noticing and recognizing him and what a beast he is becoming — he will be the third best player in the NBA within two years. He’s not getting the MVP this year (although I think he gets votes) so voters will slot him in here.
Sixth Man of the Year: This race seems wide open but three of us think Taj Gibson could be the man, with Dan Feldman going with Greg Monroe (which is an interesting choice in Detroit, so long as he isn’t traded). That said, there are a number of players — Isaiah Thomas in Phoenix, Jamal Crawford with the Clippers — who also will be in the mix.
Marc Gasol is trying to avoid talk about his free agency next summer. This is what he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal when asked:
“That’s so far down the line that it’s not on my mind. I just want to do my freaking job every day,” Gasol said. “You never know what might happen in seven or eight months. The franchise might go in a different direction. We’re going to see how we all feel in July. All of the talk now won’t change that fact.”
Good luck with that Marc. Rumors are already out there that the Celtics and Lakers are going to target Gasol and try to lure him out of Memphis. You can now add the Knicks to the mix, according to Ronald Tillery at the Commercial Appeal.
The New York Knicks don’t appear positioned to be a championship contender in the near future. But could that change by pairing Gasol with Carmelo Anthony? There already is a strong belief that Knicks boss Phil Jackson will target Gasol because of his belief that Gasol is the quintessential center to play in the triangle offense.
Gasol would be perfect in that offense. He has the elbow jumper, he can score in the post, he’s a high IQ player and a very good passer. Plus he’s a former Defensive Player of the Year who would be a big upgrade for New York.
Gasol will have options, but in the end he will probably choose not to go anywhere. Memphis remains the front runner.
In theory the Grizzlies and Gasol can start talking extension in December, but under the current CBA his extension can only be for three years, if he becomes a free agent he can get four years from another team or five from Memphis. So he’s not signing.
Which means the rumors are just going to keep on coming.
Kawhi Leonard is the NBA Finals MVP and a guy Gregg Popovich has called the future of the Spurs. Sounds like the kind of guy who would warrant a max contract extension to his rookie contract.
That’s what he wants, but Leonard and the Spurs are nowhere close on extension talks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Which means he could be a restricted free agent next summer
As Kawhi Leonard holds firm on his desire for a maximum contract, extension talks with the San Antonio Spurs have failed to gather traction despite a looming Friday deadline, league sources told Yahoo Sports….
Spurs president and general manager R.C. Buford and agent Brian Elfus have had several discussions in recent weeks, but no progress has been made, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
It’s pretty simple from where I sit: If Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons can get big money as small forwards on the open market, Kawhi Leonard is worth that as well. He has every right to demand the Spurs offer five years, $90 million. Leonard averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds last season, then upped that to 14.3 points and 6.7 points in the playoffs — in the last three games of the Finals he had better than 20 points a night plus covered LeBron James.
The Spurs have been the masters of getting guys to take less — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and others — but this is Leonard’s first big contract after his rookie deal. This early in your career you don’t take pay cuts, that’s for the veterans.
Several other teams would step up with max offers (for four year, according to Wojnarowski, but I really wonder if that is true — everyone knows the Spurs would simply match the offer, so why tie up $15 million a year in cash when teams know they aren’t going to get the player? (Once Leonard signs the offer sheet that team can’t spend that money until the Spurs match, a process that can take up to three days. That’s an eternity in the hight of the free agent frenzy of July.) This is the situation that kept Eric Bledsoe without an offer from another team for much of the summer (although there is more of a demand for good small of as opposed to point guards).
Bottom line, there is zero chance the Spurs let Leonard go, the only question is how much they pay him.
Last season when you took four of Golden State’s core starters — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut — and just switched out Andre Iguodala with Harrison Barnes, things got ugly fast. The offense slipped more than 15 points per 100 possessions, but the defense started to surrender more than five more points per 100.
Still, new coach Steve Kerr thinks it can be different. He’s got a lot more motion in his offense — what we saw from them in the preseason is far better than what we saw last season in terms of design — and he needs a playmaker with the second unit while Shaun Livingston remains out (likely for the first few games of the season).
So he is leaning toward bringing Iguodala off the bench, as reported by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
So while the Warriors coach appears to be leaning toward starting the season with Iguodala as the team’s sixth man, Kerr acknowledges the decision to have the player lead the team’s second unit is a dilemma.
“I could make an argument he’s been our best player, especially over the last two weeks,” Kerr said Sunday. “Right now in the scrimmages, he’s the most impactful player that we have. The last couple of weeks, he has sort of determined who’s winning (the scrimmage) depending on what side he’s on.
“So from that standpoint, you could call me an idiot. If he’s my best player and I’m not starting him, maybe I’m the one who’s wrong… The argument is absolutely there.”
Iguodala as a point forward (or with Thompson bringing the ball up) and Curry working off the ball has looked good this postseason, it opens up plays within the offense beautifully (coach Nick explains it well at BBallBreakdown.com). He can play this role.
But it only works if Barnes takes a leap forward. He didn’t in the last preseason game — four points, two rebounds, three fouls in 24 minutes — and he’s got a lot to prove.
Looks like Kerr is going to test that out for at least a few games. (If not, he can give Draymond Green a role as starter and keep Iguodala on the bench.)
Count Mark Cuban among the owners that hate tanking (Dallas was one of the teams that voted to reform the lottery rules last week, reforms that did not have the votes to pass).
But would he have the Mavericks ever tank?
Well, it depends. In the right situation, maybe, he told the Dallas Morning News in a Q&A.
On NBA teams tanking to get a higher draft pick
Mark Cuban: I don’t see it as a good strategy. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I think there’s other ways to do it. Now, if nobody was doing it, then I would probably do it. But when six, seven or eight teams are doing it, I think it’s a horrible strategy. If lots of teams are trying to race to the bottom to get the best draft pick, I’m not taking that strategy.
Did you ever call out an owner for tanking?
Mark Cuban: I tell you why I wouldn’t call them out. I want as many teams as possible to tank. I got no problem with it, but overall I don’t think it’s great for the league.
Cuban’s a smart business man, he knows that when everyone else is trying to go one way, you go the other direction. If nobody is tanking, it can be a good strategy.
Also, you have to love the vintage Cuban “I hate this but would do it if it was best for my team.” Cuban blew up a team that just won the title because he thought it was the best move long-term with a new, stricter cap coming in (a questionable strategy, but he’ll do whatever it takes to win).
If you want to know why the Oklahoma City Thunder had success with the being bad to get good plan, they had a few things going for them — smart drafting, luck in the lottery — but part of it nobody else was tanking.
Right now, the Sixers get all the publicity but there are a lot of teams trying to be bad to get high picks — Orlando, the Bucks didn’t plan on it but fell into it — and that makes it harder. The Sixers tried to tank and ended up with the third pick (which makes you wonder why the need for lottery reform right now). It just hasn’t deterred them from doing it again.