NBA Free Agency: Did the Heat clear too much space?

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The Miami Heat had big plans for this summer. First order of priority was to create enough room to re-sign Dwyane Wade, who loves Miami like its his mother, to max contract. The next step was adding another max free agent to prove to Wade he could win another championship in Miami after the last four seasons of mediocrity. So of course, the Heat took on contracts that ended this season, like Jermaine O’Neal’s to provide them with the cap space to make a significant offer.

The only problem is, they may have cleared too much.

Suddenly, sign and trade is looking like the best way to attain the services of the max free agents. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, even Dirk Nowitzki, all are only going to be amiable to a zipcode switch if they can complete a sign and trade, which grants them the extra year by re-signing with their current club before being shipped to their new locale. For example, Chris Bosh has given the Raptors a list of teams besides themselves he’s examining, so they can pursue sign-and-trades if he decides to leave Toronto and its non-playoff contention squad.

Similarly, each of the other free agents are likely to move only if a sign and trade is worked out. But in order to accomplish such a trade, you have to have players on roster that appeal to the other club. It’s one of the small measures of leverage the team losing its franchise player has. For example, Toronto can’t stop Bosh from signing elsewhere, but if he wants that extra year and the salary that comes with it (and he does), Toronto has to have a trade partner it wants to deal with.

And the Heat are unlikely to be such a club.

Next season, the Heat have Michael Beasley, James Jones, Joel Anthony, Daequan Cook, Mario Chalmers, and Kenny Hasbrouck on roster, for a total of a little more than $13 million. These players are not exactly what the Raptors will be looking for. The Heat would have a hard time convincing the Raptors to do a deal. If there were no other options, it would be easier, but there will be a large number of teams vying for Bosh’s services, others on his list, who have more to offer.

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers can offer Andrew Bynum as has been suggested in the past. While Bynum is injury prone, still lacks in areas of his game, and struggles with work ethic, he’s still the best prospect available. If Bosh instead decides to follow LeBron James to Chicago, and doesn’t require a sign-and-trade (since James knows in five years he can just sign another max, his long-term prosperity isn’t as much of a concern as it is for Bosh), Chicago can offer Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich and younger pieces like Taj Gibson.

The Heat then are left with the prospect of their best possible option potentially being Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s unlikely to be a part of a sign and trade, Utah seems perfectly willing to let him walk. Of course, that’s partly because he’s Carlos Boozer and signing him to a max contract is like paying the price of a Lexus for a Volvo.

The Heat may be able to convince a player to abandon his former team without a sign-and-trade, to forsake that final year, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be one of the top free agents. And if they can’t obtain the services of such a player, why is it that Wade is so certain in re-signing with a team that has failed to provide him with a quality starting point guard, small forward, power forward, or center since the 2006 team?

This summer’s free agency becomes more and more complicated.

Wizards hire WNBA All-Star Kristi Toliver as assistant coach

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WASHINGTON (AP) — WNBA All-Star Kristi Toliver will be an assistant coach for player development for the NBA’s Washington Wizards this season.

Toliver’s job was one of several changes to coach Scott Brooks’ staff announced by the Wizards on Tuesday, two days before they host the Miami Heat to open the season.

Toliver played for the Washington Mystics and helped them reach the WNBA Finals this year, when she also assisted the Wizards’ coaching staff during the NBA Summer League and training game. She is a 10-year pro and two-time All-Star who won an NCAA title at Maryland.

She joins David Adkins, Mike Terpstra and Maz Trakh on the back of the Wizards’ bench. Alex McLean and Landon Tatum were both promoted to assistant coach for player development.

Robert Pack and Ryan Richman will be with Brooks and Tony Brown on the front of the bench.

Pack was a scout for the Portland Trail Blazers last season, after spending two seasons as an assistant coach for the New Orleans Pelicans. He also was an assistant to Brooks with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013-15.

 

Austin Rivers: Everybody, ‘so f—ing gassed up on the Celtics and the Sixers,’ overlooking Wizards and Pacers

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We picked the Celtics, Raptors, 76ers and Bucks to be the top four teams in the Eastern Conference this year and ranked the Wizards and Pacers next. If that’s not the consensus, it’s close to it.

Wizards guard Austin Rivers, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:

“I think we’re heavily slept-on,” he tells me. “Team’s been to the playoffs, what, the last five, four or five years? Then going into this year, you add me, Dwight Howard, Jeff Green and nobody seems to talk about us. So I just think we’re heavily slept-on, but that’s fine. At the end of the day, nothing really matters until the season starts and we set that tone for ourselves. I get the hype of a couple of the other teams, but I think we have a chance to compete with the best of the East.”

I tell him I recently spoke to Tyreke Evans, who said something similar about the Indiana Pacers. Rivers gets more animated.

“Yeah, I would say Indiana’s the other team that gets slept-on, too,” he says. “You look at Indiana, they took Cleveland to seven games and then damn near, arguably could have beaten them.”

Rivers rattles off Evans’ stats from last season, then continues: “That’s who they just added to the team? And nobody seems to talk about the Pacers because everybody’s so f—ing gassed up on the Celtics and the Sixers. And rightfully so: they’re both talented teams. But Indiana is just as good as both those teams. And I think we’re in the same situation.”

I agree the Wizards and Pacers had positive offseasons. But Indiana might have been punching slightly above its weight as a surprise team last year, and Washington’s problem has often been overconfidence.

In that regard, Rivers – acquired in an offseason trade from the Clippers – is already fitting right in. The brashness might be good for Rivers, but it’s not what the Wizards need.

Washington could have a good season. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are a strong starting point in the Eastern Conference, and Dwight Howard could help with the right attitude and health. Rivers is a quality reserve. But let’s pump the brakes on calling Jeff Green a key addition, though Rivers would be only one of many – including someone in his immediate family – to make that error.

Report: Klay Thompson doesn’t plan to give Warriors discount

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Klay Thompson, who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, has said many times he plans to stay with the Warriors. He even discussed signing a contract extension, which would have capped his compensation far below what he could get in free agency.

But Thompson is apparently no longer interested in offering Golden State that savings.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Thompson has no plans to take a discount, and the Warriors don’t expect him to, league sources say.

Thompson’s max next summer projects be about about $221 million over five years if he makes an All-NBA team (or wins Defensive Player of the Year) this season or about $190 million over five years if he doesn’t.

That’s a steep bill, but the Warriors have little choice but to pay it. They’re in the midst of maybe the greatest run in NBA history, and they’re generating massive revenue. Cheapness would be a terrible reason to break up this team. Thompson is a key contributor, and at least his outside shooting should help the 28-year-old age well.

But costs will get steep in a hurry. If the Warriors re-sign Thompson and Kevin Durant next summer and Draymond Green the following summer to max – not even supermax – deals, keep Stephen Curry then fill the roster with 10 minimum-salary free agents, their projected payroll in 2020-21 would be… about $288 million, including about $115 million in luxury tax. That might be untenable, even for Golden State.

Perhaps, Durant will take one decision out of the Warriors’ hands. But if Durant stays and Thompson seeks every penny, Green could face a belt-tightening team in 2020 free agency.

Spurs waive Manu Ginobili, will likely continue paying him into retirement

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The Spurs are still paying Tim Duncan, who retired in 2016.

It seems they’ll also give Manu Ginobili, who retired this summer, a similar golden parachute.

Duncan will earn $1,881,250 this season, the final installment of his three years of post-retirement income. When he retired, Duncan had one season remaining on his contract with a $6,393,750 salary. San Antonio didn’t have to pay him that money. Duncan wasn’t coming to work anymore. But the Spurs graciously allowed the all-time great to receive all but $750,000 of his remaining salary and stretched the payments over three years. That money still counted against the cap and was paid despite San Antonio trying to clear cap space in both 2016 and 2017.

The Spurs waived Ginobili yesterday, and no word has emerged on a buyout amount. He was due $2.5 million this season.

Based on the process and Duncan precedent, it seems highly likely Ginobili will continue to draw paychecks from San Antonio.

The Spurs would do well to pay Ginobili all his money this season, whether it’s the full $2.5 million or a negotiated reduced amount. They’re already over the cap and still below the luxury-tax line, so there’s minimal flexibility harm. The only other option – stretching Ginobili’s payments into equal thirds over the next three seasons – could interfere with roster building in future years.

Of course, the other option was getting Ginobili removed from the books entirely. But it seems that route has passed with waiving him.

San Antonio wants to treat its legends well, and that means paying them more than necessary – even with that money counting toward the cap as the Spurs transition into their next era.