Tag: Oklahoma City Thunder

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.

Stephen Curry: Real goal for Warriors is multiple rings

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s been a non-stop summer in the Curry household.

Stephen Curry played basketball deeper into the summer than he ever has before, to the middle of June. Right after that his second daughter was born, complete with the late-night crying and round-the-clock effort needed nurturing a new life. He was in Las Vegas for Team USA mini-camp, then showed up to win a surfboard at the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards. His summer has been filled with increased demands on his time, from sponsor events to golfing with president Barack Obama.

Has he actually gotten any downtime to rest this summer?

“A little bit,” Curry said Wednesday to NBC Sports, in an event with Degree antiperspirants (which involved deeply in motion analysis and the study of human movement movement, such as Curry golfing) at the TPC Harding Park Golf Club outside San Francisco. “We’ve been moving around a lot this year, from place to place. Obviously there’s a lot of opportunity to celebrate what a great season it was, and obviously the new addition to our family. A lot has changed.

“But in the offseason I get out and play a little bit of golf, I stay moving that way, and then obviously you have to prepare for next season too and I’m already in that mindset. So it’s been a pretty crazy summer celebrating good things, great things, but there’s also been a good amount of time to reflect on how special it was.”

After the Spurs won their most recent title, coach Gregg Popovich was concerned about a drop-off in focus — he said it’s human nature to take a deep breath after winning a title, and that can be a setback the next season.

Curry is not worried about the Warriors keeping their edge.

“That’s going to be easy,” Curry said of the Warriors not taking that breath. “We’re all competitors, we’re all proud of what we did last season, but once you enter a new year, we’ll get our rings on opening night, and that’s the end of the celebrating of what happened and you look forward to the next journey, the next goal, which is to win another one.

“I’m hopefully going to lead that charge, and we have such a great core of guys that are young and hungry and want to relive that intoxicating feeling of winning a championship. You look at the history of the league, you understand how hard it is to win one, but the challenge of winning multiple is something that I’m happy to be gunning for now, that I’ve got one under my belt. But that’s the mission.”

The Warriors got that first title with a modern-NBA style offense that perfectly suits Curry — up tempo, a lot of three-point shots (Curry set the single-season record for makes from three), and going small with versatile players who can defend well plus create challenging matchups. Golden State’s offense is a counter to the Tom Thibodeau-style defenses that were the norm in the NBA, which itself was a counter to shut down isolation basketball teams. The end result is Golden State (and the Spurs, Hawks and a few others) play a fun-to-watch style with ball movement and fearless shooters on offense — fans loved it and watched the Finals at the highest levels since the Jordan era.

The Warriors are not changing what works.

“Who we are is who we are, we’ve just got to be better at it, more consistent at it,” Curry said.

But do they recognize what they are doing helping change the NBA, taking what Mike D’Antoni started in Phoenix with Steve Nash and evolving it into a system that can win a ring?

“It’s playing good basketball but it’s playing our way and not really getting caught up in defining it,” Curry said. “We have our strengths with our team and versatility is what we rely on — guys playing multiple positions — and just being gamers and competitors. We obviously shoot a lot of jumpers and we play fast, but we also play defense at a high level and that’s why we’re world champs right now. We’ve just got to embrace that style of play and be more consistent and be better at it — we’re going to get everybody’s best shot this year, even more than we did last year, but we’ll be ready for it.”

They will get that shot from some loaded teams — the Spurs added LaMarcus Aldridge, the Clippers added depth, the Rockets added Ty Lawson, and the Thunder will (hopefully) have a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The top of the West is a gauntlet.

But the Warriors have the rings — they are the team to beat. And Curry is ready to defend it.

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.