Kurt Helin

Is everyone overestimating how much guys will get paid this summer? Mark Cuban says maybe.


Bismack Biyombo could get paid $17 million a year.

Hassan Whiteside may well be a max player. Same with Bradley Beal. Same with Nicolas Batum.

Those kinds of numbers turn heads and show just how having a $22 million bump in the salary cap in one season — thanks to the new NBA television deal kicking in — will impact salaries this summer. Teams with cash to spend are going to try and poach players with potential and overpay to see if they can land them.

But are we overestimating how many guys are going to get massive contracts this summer? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says yes, as he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“Every player thinks it’s just going to be a money train this summer. There’s a lot of money; there’s not THAT much money. … And I think there’s going to be teams that save their money for next year, because it’s a better free agent class. People just presume now that everybody’s going to get paid a lot of money, and it’ll be interesting to see if that happens.”

One thing Cuban says you hear a lot from people around the league: Teams are going to keep their powder dry this summer if they can’t find a top player they like because next summer is a much deeper free agent class. This summer is going to see guys get paid — Biyombo and Whiteside numbers will turn heads, but bigs are always overpaid in the NBA based on supply and demand — but how much will guys such as Jeremy Lin or Dion Waiters or Ryan Anderson or Kent Bazemore get? More than they would have a year ago, but how much more?

The other thing you hear consistently: Nobody is sure how things will go this summer. This is uncharted territory; nobody has been here before because this kind of cap spike has never happened before. There will be unintended consequences.  Because the rookie salary scale will not spike, those contracts will become even more valuable (which could lead to a lot of trades on draft night). The smart teams will have a plan and stick with it, but this summer is going to be fluid and a bit crazy.


There is going to be a lot of money for some players, but how far that money trickles down to the lower rungs remains to be seen. Cuban thinks it may not go as far down as some agents are probably betting on.

Tyson Chandler not looking for trade from Phoenix. Yet.

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At age 33, Tyson Chandler isn’t looking to be part of a rebuilding process.

Are the Phoenix Suns rebuilding? That wasn’t the plan with a backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but injuries robbed the ability to know how well those two can work together (it wasn’t pretty when they were healthy together, but the sample size is small). They have something in guard Devin Booker. Alex Len may be a nice piece. But they need an infusion of talent to push for the playoffs, and the question is do they go after veterans or rebuild with youth?

Which brings us back to Chandler not wanting to be part of a rebuild. Does Chandler want to be traded somewhere he can win more games, maybe compete for a title? Not yet, he said on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

“Me and management have a great relationship and we communicate,” he said on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols Monday. “If there is a decision and they want to go young and stay young, then we’ll have that conversation. But we’re not there….

“I’m happy where I am,” he said Thursday. “I feel like the Suns have a bright future if we continue to build and build the right way. It’s all about building the right way.”

The Suns were on a slower rebuild process a few years ago when they surprisingly won 48 games (but just missed the playoffs in the deep West). With that, the Suns tried to jump start the process and doubled down on the three-guard lineups and rotations, but nothing worked as well. The Suns have missed the playoffs for six seasons in a row and could bend toward youth and rebuilding, and if so they could shop Chandler. Especially considering next summer they will need to pay Len, and it’s going to be expensive to keep two more traditional centers on the roster.

Don’t be shocked if Chandler is moved this offseason, but right now he’s not pushing for it. At least not yet.

Dirk Nowitzki expects Kevin Durant to stay with Thunder

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After a playoff run that showed them to be the second best team in the NBA (sorry Cleveland), the conventional wisdom around the NBA has become that Kevin Durant isn’t going anywhere. He could sign a one-plus-one deal that lets him opt out again next summer and sign a larger deal (a move that could net him an extra $80 million or more in that contract), or he could go the security of the long-term deal now. But the sense is that deal will be with Oklahoma City, where is comfortable and playing on a team at the cusp of a title.

Dirk Nowitzki feels the same way.

If Durant opens his free agent recruitment up to other teams, Dallas will be one of 29 in line looking for meetings, but Nowitzki told Tim MacMahon of ESPN not to bet on it.

“He wants to play to win. He’s got a great group of guys there in OKC. They’ve got everything going. They’ve got youth, they’ve got talent, they’ve got athleticism. He’s got a superstar player next to him. They’re loaded where he’s at.”

Yes, KD could go to the East where if he joined a number of teams — Atlanta, Boston, Washington, Miami, Orlando, etc. — they would instantly be the second best team in the East and in reach of the Finals. But doesn’t he have that already, and frankly with a better team in a place he is comfortable?

It’s impossible to predict what Durant will do, but all signs point to him staying put. For at least a year.

Report: Carmelo Anthony says Knicks’ situation “not that bad”

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The Knicks made a step forward last season — 15 more wins, they were better on the offense and defensive ends, and with Kristaps Porzingis there is real hope for the future.

Count Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson among the optimists, and the reason is New York’s front line. Jackson was interviewed on WNBC and said he and Anthony think the Knicks have the best front line in the East and makes the overall situation “not that bad.” Here is what he said, hat tip ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“In our meeting at the end of the season, Carmelo said, ‘really (the Knicks’ situation is) not that bad. I think we have the best front line guys in the game, in the Eastern Conference, in Robin (Lopez), myself and Kristaps (Porzingis).’ And I have to agree with him. Yes, those are three real potent figures…. So we have some positions to fill , but not a lot. Not that many.”

The Knicks certainly have one of the better front courts on paper. The Cavaliers (LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson) could make an argument, and Atlanta (Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap, Al Horford) is in the mix. But the Knicks front line is not bad, and when Carmelo/Porzingis/Lopez were on the court together the Knicks were +1.2 points per 100 points possessions (as a team the Knicks had a -2.8 net rating).

Certainly, the Knicks need serious upgrades at the point and in the backcourt in general, especially with new coach Jeff Hornacek’s preference to play up tempo. Point guard has to be an off-season priority for Phil Jackson. If Mike Conley re-signs with the Grizzles this July as is the belief around the league, Jackson’s job gets more difficult because the pool of free agent point guards is shallow.

It will be interesting to see how much Hornacek will play Carmelo/Porzingis/Lopez together. If the Knicks do want to play uptempo, playing Porzingis at the five and Anthony at the four makes more sense (if they can bring in the wing players to make it work). He’s going to spend a lot of next season looking for rotations that he likes.


Warriors, Cavaliers both know The Finals can turn quickly

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CLEVELAND — Golden State has won the first two games of the NBA Finals, both of those wins coming by double figures and with a few dominant stretches of basketball in there.

Strange as this sounds, that has the Warriors feeling a bit uneasy.

The champions know exactly how fast a series can change, having just pulled off a mathematically improbable comeback from 3-1 down against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals. And even with the odds now stacked high against Cleveland in these NBA Finals, the Warriors say they cannot fall into the trap of thinking this series that resumes with Game 3 on Wednesday night is already over.

“That’s a great analogy, one that we’ve already used,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter what the scores are, doesn’t matter if you win by 25 or lose by 25, it’s one game in the series. And we got blown out twice in a row in OKC, down 3-1, and we were able to come back. We know we’re playing against a great team. They’re coming home. They can change the momentum around with just one win.”

Cleveland hopes he’s right.

The Cavs might be without concussed Kevin Love for Game 3, but they are 7-0 at home in these playoffs – winning by an average of 20.9 points.

“It’s a do-or-die game for us,” Cavaliers forward LeBron James said. “We can’t afford to go down 3-0 to any team, especially a team that’s 73-9 in the regular season and playing the type of basketball they’re playing.”

When the Warriors were on the brink of elimination against the Thunder, history suggested that they had a 3.9 percent chance to win the series – 232 previous NBA teams were down 3-1 in a best-of-seven, and only nine won.

Compared to that, Cleveland’s chances look fabulous.

“We’re not in that bad of shape as they were – 3-1 is worse than 2-0,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And they came back and took it one game at a time, like we have to do.”

Teams that have fallen behind 2-0 in the NBA Finals have rallied to win 9.7 percent of the time, with three of them getting it done in 31 past opportunities. The 1969 Boston Celtics, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and 2006 Miami Heat all lost the first two games of the finals on the road before winning the title – the Celtics doing so in seven games, the Blazers and Heat getting it done in six.

“History,” Lue said, “is something that’s made to be broken.”

Despite their predicament, the Cavaliers certainly seemed confident and loose on Tuesday.

During the open portion of practice, James was laughing with teammates and tossed up the occasional underhanded 60-footer – reacting with mock disbelief when the low-percentage shot didn’t fall. Point guard Kyrie Irving played a long game of 1-on-1 with Cavs assistant coach James Posey, who was on that Heat team that rallied from 2-0 down in the finals against Dallas and hit a huge shot in the clinching game.

Their thinking is simple: Take care of home court Wednesday and Friday, knot the series and see what happens in a best-of-three.

“When they go on their runs, we have to be able to withstand those punches,” Irving said. “And Game 1 and Game 2, we’ve done it at times. We’ve shown that we’re capable of doing it, but we’re just constantly on our heels.”

That’s what the Warriors do against everyone, not just the Cavs.

Cleveland’s biggest lead in the series so far is six points. Golden State’s is 33. In four games this season, including the two regular-season matchups, the Warriors have held the lead for a staggering 87 percent of the time. And in last year’s finals, Golden State won twice in Cleveland – more than proving that it can handle the Cavs’ raucous home crowd.

“We know they’re going to make adjustments,” Warriors star and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry said. “We know they’re going to come out with a sense of urgency in the moment. But we need to have that same mentality, because for what’s at stake, if we’re able to go up 3-0, that is a great position to be in. That is the opportunity in front of us.”

And no one has ever come back in an NBA series from 3-0 down, either.

“We can’t relax,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “No time to relax.”