Tag: Ed Davis

Nerlens Noel, LaMarcus Aldridge

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey chose chance of greatness over safer route to being merely good


At face value, the Trail Blazers’ and 76ers’ offseasons took completely different approaches to rebuilding this offseason.

The Blazers traded for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless. They signed Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. They also signed Enes Kanter to an offer sheet, though the Thunder matched.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, highlighted free agency by… signing Pierre Jackson and Scotty Wilbekin, two players without NBA experience. Sure, the 76ers also traded for Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. But Thompson and Landry were the tax necessary to require positive assets, and Philadelphia already flipped Thompson. Even Stauskas, a nice piece, was an afterthought relative to the draft considerations conveyed by the Kings.

Portland acquired five Stauskases – recent first-round picks still looking to find their place in the NBA.

But, as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey tells it, his team has a similar philosophy to the 76ers. Portland is just taking a different route.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Once Aldridge decided to leave, the Blazers didn’t waste their time trying to chase Matthews (who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Dallas), Lopez (who took a four-year, $52 million deal with New York) or even reserve Arron Afflalo (who left for a two-year, $16 million deal with New York).

Olshey didn’t feel the need to keep together the same core while simply trying to replace a four-time all-star because, “absent LaMarcus Aldridge, that group was not going to be good enough,” he said. “We judge ourselves by high standards and if we can’t compete at the highest levels, then we had to go in a different direction.”

76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has made clear his lengthy and deep rebuild is designed to culminate in championship contention. There are simpler paths to getting good, and Hinkie clearly isn’t taking those. (Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wrote an excellent article on the difference.)

Being great usually requires a superstar. Getting a superstar usually requires a high first-round pick. A high first-round pick usually requires a terrible record.

There is logic behind Philadelphia’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to tanking.

Olshey definitely indicates he has a similar championship-or-bust attitude, and he concluded retaining Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum after LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs would have taken the Trail Blazers further from a title. They might have been better in the short-term, but those highly paid veterans would have limited Portland’s potential to grow into a great team.

That’s a logical assessment, similar to the one Hinkie made with the Jrue Holiday-led roster he inherited.

At this point, Olshey took a different route than Hinkie.

The Trail Blazers paid a relatively small price for its young veterans, and I like the moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of Vonleh, Plumlee, Harkless, Aminu and Davis becomes capable of playing a major role on a title contender. It’s a luxury to bet on so many intriguing players.

But the moves come with a cost. Those players are already decent, and they should make Portland better than Philadelphia this season. That means the Trail Blazers effectively moved down in the draft. Maybe the value of these additions offsets that, but Philadelphia has done little to jeopardize its draft position.

Perhaps, Olshey didn’t have a choice. Damian Lillard might have dictated Portland couldn’t fully tank. Just how bad could a team with Lillard really be? The 76ers don’t have anyone near his caliber, so declining to become good now is an easier choice.

Maybe Olshey and Hinkie would have acted differently if they were in the other’s situation. Circumstances matter.

But bottom line: The Trail Blazers and 76ers have the same mindset. They want to be great. They’re not as concerned with being good before that’s possible.

Report: Tristan Thompson rejected $80 million contract offer from Cavaliers because his perceived peers got more

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six

Tristan Thompson and the Cavaliers were reportedly near a five-year, $80 million contract.

Then, they weren’t.

What happened?

Was the report inaccurate? Did the Cavaliers pull the offer? Did Thompson back out?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Thompson and the Cavaliers had reached an agreement early in free agency that was believed to have been centered on a five-year deal worth some $80 million. The problem with doing a deal at that number is that virtually everyone in Thompson’s talent range got substantially more, most receiving the NBA maximum salary, some for less years, but most for the same year one dollar amount.

Thompson’s camp pulled back from the $80 million number, wanting the Cavs to step up with more based on what virtually everyone else in Thompson’s peer range got.

I’m not sure who Thompson considers his peers, but I place him solidly behind Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Draymond Green, Brook Lopez, Paul Millsap and Tim Duncan in the next group of big-man free agents.

Does that warrant more than the $16 million per season the Cavaliers reportedly offered?

Here’s how much other free agents in the tier will get annually, using data from Basketball Insiders:

  • Enes Kanter: $17,515,007 (four years, $70,060,028)
  • Robin Lopez: $13,503,875 (four years, $54,015,500)
  • Tyson Chandler: $13,000,000 (four years, $52,000,000)
  • Thaddeus Young: $12,500,000 (four years, $50,000,000)
  • Amir Johnson: $12,000,000 (two years, $24,000,000)
  • Omer Asik: $10,595,505 (five years, $52,977,525)
  • Kosta Koufos: $8,219,750 (four years, $32,879,000)
  • Ed Davis: $6,666,667 (three years, $20,000,000)
  • Brandan Wright: $5,709,880 (three years, $17,129,640)
  • Jordan Hill: $4,000,000 (one year, $4,000,000)

Thompson might think he’s in the same group as Monroe (three-year max contract) and Green (five years, $82 million), but he’s not as good as those two. They deserve to be paid more than Thompson.

But deserve has only so much to do with it.

Thompson holds major leverage. If he takes the qualifying offer and leaves next summer, the Cavaliers won’t have the cap flexibility to find a comparable replacement. They can sign Thompson only because they have his Bird rights. That won’t be the case with outside free agents.

The Thunder were in the same boat with Kanter, which is why they matched his max offer sheet from the Trail Blazers. Thompson should point to that situation for comparison. The Cavaliers, though, would probably tell Thompson to bring them an offer sheet, like Kanter did with Oklahoma City.

But Thompson has even more leverage. He shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron James. Cleveland surely wants to keep LeBron happy, and LeBron wants Thompson back.

Thompson might get more than $80 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got his max ($94,343,125 over five years). It just won’t be because his on-court peers all got that much. The max-level free agents – with the exception of Kanter – are a class above in actual ability.

But that Kanter comparison works for Thompson, and he and Paul should hammer it until the Cavaliers relent. No need to bring up that Kanter signed well after Thompson’s talks with Cleveland broke down. This is only minimally a discussion about logic and production.

It’s mostly about leverage, and no matter what flawed viewpoints got us here, Thompson still has leverage.

Phil Jackson questions whether Duke players live up to expectations in NBA

2015 NBA Draft

The Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 pick, and the early returns are positive.

But they also surely considered a couple players from Duke – Jahlil Okafor (who went No. 3 to the 76ers) and Justise Winslow (No. 10 to the Heat).

Would New York have chosen either? Knicks president Phil Jackson implies he had concerns simply because of their college team.

Jackson on Okafor, via Charlie Rosen of ESPN:

Jackson thinks he might not be aggressive enough. “Also, if you look at the guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations?”

Let’s take a comprehensive look rather than cherry-picking players who could support either side of the argument.

We obviously don’t know yet whether Okafor, Winslow and Tyus Jones (No. 24 this year) will live up to expectations. Jabari Parker (No. 2 in 2014) looked pretty good last year, but he missed most of the season due to injury. It’s far too soon to make any judgments on him.

Otherwise, here are all Duke players drafted in the previous 15 years:

Lived up to expectations

  • Rodney Hood (No. 23 in 2014)
  • Mason Plumlee (No. 22 in 2013)
  • Ryan Kelly (No. 48 in 2013)
  • Miles Plumlee (No. 26 in 2012)
  • Kyrie Irving (No. 1 in 2011)
  • Kyle Singler (No. 33 in 2011)
  • Josh McRoberts (No. 37 in 2007)
  • J.J. Redick (No. 11 in 2006)
  • Luol Deng (No. 7 in 2004)
  • Chris Duhon (No. 38 in 2004)
  • Carlos Boozer (No. 34 in 2002)
  • Shane Battier (No. 6 in 2001)

Didn’t live up to expectations

  • Austin Rivers (No. 10 in 2012)
  • Nolan Smith (No. 21 in 2011)
  • Gerald Henderson (No. 12 in 2009)
  • Shelden Williams (No. 5 in 2006)
  • Daniel Ewing (No. 32 in 2005)
  • Dahntay Jones (No. 20 in 2003)
  • Mike Dunleavy (No. 3 in 2002)
  • Jay Williams (No. 2 in 2002)
  • Chris Carrawell (No. 41 in 2000)

That’s 12-of-21 – a 57 percent hit rate.

By comparison, here are players drafted from North Carolina in the same span:

Lived up to expectations

  • Harrison Barnes (No. 7 in 2012)
  • John Henson (No. 14 in 2012)
  • Tyler Zeller (No. 17 in 2012)
  • Ed Davis (No. 13 in 2010)
  • Tyler Hansbrough (No. 13 in 2009)
  • Ty Lawson (No. 18 in 2009)
  • Wayne Ellington (No. 28 in 2009)
  • Danny Green (No. 46 in 2009)
  • Brandan Wright (No. 8 in 2007)
  • Brendan Haywood (No. 20 in 2001)

Didn’t live up to expectations

  • Reggie Bullock (No. 25 in 2013)
  • Kendall Marshall (No. 13 in 2012)
  • Reyshawn Terry (No. 44 in 2007)
  • David Noel (No. 39 in 2006)
  • Marvin Williams (No. 2 in 2005)
  • Raymond Felton (No. 5 in 2005)
  • Sean May (No. 13 in 2005)
  • Rashad McCants (No. 14 in 2005)
  • Joseph Forte (No. 21 in 2001)

The Tar Heels are 10-for-19 – 53 percent.

Nobody would reasonably shy from drafting players from North Carolina, and they’ve fared worse than Duke players. Making snap judgments about Duke players just because they went to Duke is foolish.

Jackson is talking about a different time, when aside from Hill, Duke had a long run of first-round picks failing to meet expectations:

  • Roshown McLeod (No. 20 in 1998)
  • Cherokee Parks (No. 12 in 1995)
  • Bobby Hurley (No. 7 in 1993)
  • Christian Laettner (No. 3 in 1992)
  • Alaa Abdelnaby (No. 25 in 1990)
  • Danny Ferry (No. 2 in 1989)

Then, it was fair to question whether Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching yielded good college players who didn’t translate to the pros. But there have been more than enough counterexamples in the years since to dismiss that theory as bunk or outdated.

Count this as another example of Jackson sounding like someone who shouldn’t run an NBA team in 2015.

To be fair, the Knicks had a decent offseason, at least once you acknowledge they couldn’t land a star (which was kind of supposed to be Jackson’s job, right?).

The questions Knicks fans must ask themselves: Do you trust Jackson because of the moves he has made or worry about the next move because of what he has said?

Thunder GM Sam Presti says he plans to match max offer for Enes Kanter

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

Portland giving Enes Kanter a $70 million max offer sheet seemed a move done in part to make the Thunder pay. The Trail Blazers already have Meyers Leonard under contract, then they traded for Mason Plumlee and signed Ed Davis to a free agent deal. Do they need another center? One that doesn’t play much defense?

But the Thunder need scoring inside, and Kanter gives them that. He is a gifted offensive player. Plus, with Kevin Durant’s looming free agency you will not find a team in more of a win-now mode than OKC and they see Kanter as part of that now.

The Thunder have three days to match (until Sunday) and they likely will, GM Sam Presti told Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

The Thunder have Serge Ibaka as their starting four with Nick Collison behind him. At the five there would be Kanter and Steven Adams in rotation — they can play for offense or defense — plus they have Mitch McGary.

Kanter is a defensive liability — their defense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor than when he was sitting. The Thunder offense was 3.5 points per 100 better when he was on the court. Overall, OKC was -0.7 points per 100 when Kanter was on the floor — and by the way they still had a terrible defensive rating of 107.5 per 100 when Kanter and Ibaka were paired.

But expect the Thunder to keep Kanter.

This is a market max deal — it’s overpaying under the current salary cap, but as the cap spikes by more than $40 million over the next two years due to the new television deals, that contract will not be so bad.

And in a worst case scenario where Durant (and likely Russell Westbrook behind him) leave OKC, under the new contract will not be as burdensome under the expanded salary cap, meaning it could be traded fairly easily.

Report: Enes Kanter signing max offer sheet with Blazers; Thunder have three days to match

Enes Kanter

Throughout free agency, it’s been widely assumed that Enes Kanter would be back with the Thunder. He’s a restricted free agent, but the Thunder are motivated to keep him, not only because they just traded for him at the deadline, but because they need all the talent they can get going into Kevin Durant’s free agency next summer.

The Portland Trail Blazers, flush with cap space after losing three starters to free agency, are making their lives difficult. NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports that Kanter will sign an offer sheet in Portland, worth four years and $70 million.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds that Kanter’s offer sheet includes a trade kicker, which makes it even more difficult for the Thunder to match:

It’s probably a moot point because the Thunder are expected to match, but Kanter is not a good fit in Portland at all. They just signed Ed Davis and traded for Mason Plumlee, and have their own former lottery pick, Meyers Leonard, who is expected to get big minutes after improving last season. That’s three young bigs, all making substantially less than Kanter would make, and all of whom are considerably better defenders than Kanter, who is a complete liability on that end. Even with the cap going up next summer, a max deal for Kanter is not the best use of any resources for Portland.

But, again, the Thunder will probably match.