50 Observations about NBA Free Agency

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From time to time, I drop random observations because it’s too long for a tweet and too short for a full post. Also because it allows me to crack jokes, which is really the reason I’m here. That and the money. Mostly the money. Anyway, it’s been a crazy week of free agency. Here are 50 observations about what we’ve seen.

1. Despite all the hand wringing over the vast majority of these deals, there has been a significant level of restraint exhibited. Gone are the eight-figure averages that would so commonly permeate second and third option player extensions, replaced by reasonable three-year deals.

2. Nothing is more exemplary of this than Nick Young. In 2009? Nick Young would be showering the money oil off of him from sleeping in a gigantic bed of money with cash sheets. Joe Dumars alone would have offered him the gross national product of Botswana.

3. Instead, Young gets a one-year, $6 million contract. Lou Williams is still on the market. O.J. Mayo, Brandon Rush, Courtney Lee, shooting guards are actually not being snatched up like they’re gold mines. It’s incredible.

4. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bad deals being tossed around.

5. In totally unrelated news, Jeff Green got four-years, $36 million.

6. I argued on Twitter that were the fourth year non-guaranteed, I wouldn’t have objected to a $10 million per-year average for the Celtics. They had positional need for Green, had already invested a lot in his future, and their inability to sign outside free agents created a boondoggle for them.

7. That said, it’s still an overpay and there isn’t a single metric or piece of hard evidence to suggest that Green is worthy of this deal. It’s either going to turn out as one of the best or worst contracts Danny Ainge gambled on. And this is a guy who brought in Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal.

8. On the other side of it, you have to love what the Hornets did with the sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson. Getting a versatile big who can spread the floor and actually rebounds, the Hornet managed to get more than what the Magic will likely get for Dwight Howard, in exchange for Gustavo Ayon. Not a bad day at the office.

9. I have concerns about Anthony Davis being forced into playing the 5, but with today’s NBA shifting smaller and smaller in terms of lineups, you have to think it’s at least worth a shot to pair Davis and Anderson without putting Anderson at the 3.

10. The Sixers managed to have a great and terrible week at the same time. Lavoy Allen, what a steal! Spencer Hawes, what were they thinking? Nick Young, great job! Considering entering the Kris Humphries sweepstakes, why? It’s an up and down week for Philadelphia, but that Allen contract really stands out as a steal.

11. Just to review this, the Rockets had Aaron Brooks and the Suns had Goran Dragic and then the Suns sent Brooks to Houston for Dragic and a pick, and now the Suns have signed Dragic and the Rockets are talking to Brooks and the Rockets got a pick back (in a trade of Kyle Lowry). They’re working backwards. I’m excited for the Suns to trade for Shawn Marion and Houston to introduce Yao Ming.

12. Dragic is going to have a lot on his shoulders assuming the Hornets match the offer for Eric Gordon. Marcin Gortat seems like a good idea, but when you’re actually there and he’s your second best player, that’s a problem.

13. Thank Goodness they have Michael Beasley to provide stability and common sense to the floor.

14. Everyone’s rooting for Bandon Roy, but when he steps on the floor, there will be gasps and a lot of nervous people. Hopefully he’ll accept a low-impact role where he can just shoot, and everything works out.

15. The Mavericks aren’t desperate, at least not as desperate as they seem. They still have Roddy Beaubois who showed a lot last season. They’ll likely have Ian Mahinmi, who really has shown some things. They’re in talks for Ramon Sessions. And, you know, Dirk Nowitzki. They are a well-placed trade from getting a core together. They’re out of title contention for the foreseeable future, but they likely will not be horrible.

16. Eric Gordon has done some pretty substantial damage to his image with all this nonsense. It’s one thing to want the money. It’s another to want the freedom. But Gordon wants the money, and the freedom, despite having elected not to sign the qualifying offer to make him a free agent.

17. On top of all that, he wants to use that freedom to join a team with Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat instead of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. OK.

18. Gerald Wallace at 4-years, $40 million looks great next to Jeff Green, 4-years, $36 million.

19. Gerald Wallace 4-years, $40 million looks horrible next to Ryan Anderson, 4-years, $36 million. Wallace’s best days are behind him. That contract is going to look massive in three years compared to production.

20. But not as massive as Joe Johnson!

21. It should be noted, with or without Dwight Howard, the Nets will more than likely be paying each team under the cap enough to subsidize their own D-League teams for a year in 2015. Between the Nets and the Knicks, teams will be able to afford their own MLE’s for free.

22. The Grizzlies will have both Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur next year, which is going to be like having clones on the floor when they play together in a small-ball lineup. There aren’t enough elbow jumpers in the world. Good pickups for Memphis, though, and on a budget.

23. Ray Allen, in a world where the Magic are willing to deal with the Nets, the Suns are willing to trade Steve Nash to the Lakers, and Jason Kidd joins the Knicks, is the only one with a true sense of vindictiveness and you have to appreciate that, unexpected though it may be.

24. The Magic are clearly moving towards a rebuild, letting Ryan Anderson go. So we can expect them to be cautious and hesitant with move…. wait, what’s that? They re-signed Jameer Nelson on a long-term, medium-money deal? Oh, OK then.

25. The Knicks are in such a bind with Jeremy Lin. They can’t move him because he’s too valuable from a marketing standpoint, and yet matching is insane because they’re never going to give him the ball anyway. #ISOMELO

26. If Rashard Lewis signs in Miami, please consider how good the Heat’s garbage time lineup featuring Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Juwan Howard would be in 2003.

27. George Hill’s five-year, $40 million deal in Indiana isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t awful. You’d like to see him cement himself as the guaranteed starter there, though, for that money. The deal is going to be very movable in about two years, though, should the Pacers need to clear it.

28. Kevin Love desperately wants out of Minnesota. Nicolas Batum desperately wants in. Different strokes, I suppose.

29. The Clippers went with such a strange combination of players. Billups makes more sense with Mo Williams traded to Utah, but Jamal Crawford is going to be so boom or bust for them. They’re also going to be short a shooter with Nick Young gone. But stars like CP3 like veterans. And Crawford’s a vet.

30. Jerryd Bayless is likely going to be a pretty good value pickup for one of these teams. He can run point and score. He’s got limitations but as a bench contributor he can provide help.

31. Love the idea of Antawn Jamison in Charlotte. Gives them a professional to set the tone in the locker room, he spreads the floor enough and he comes at a discount price on a short-term contract. That’s just what the doctor ordered as the Bobcats try and move out of the primordial ooze.

32. You have to appreciate the fact that Brandon Bass almost certainly took less money to return to the Celtics. He’s a guy who really could have helped a lot of teams. Not sure how he’ll fit once the plodding Big-2-plus-Rondo era is over, but he’s going to help them win a lot of games over the next two years.

33. Elton Brand goes from horribly overpaid player to unbelievable bargain in a single transaction. Say hello to the amnesty clause.

34. Alonzo Gee isn’t on the radar much and the Cavs can match any offer but teams should definitely explore an offer sheet for him. He’s versatile, productive, and still has some upside. He was a hidden gem for Cleveland last year.

35. Kirk Hinrich returns for nearly a quarter of what he was making in his last year in Chicago. He’ll help, though. He can manage the offense, which is a big deal with how the Bulls’ offense is. The just need someone to set the table with Rose out.

36. There’s a certain level of ignorance being displayed in the Jason Terry evaluation. Ray Allen slipped last season, but so did Jason Terry. He had more trouble creating a shot, getting to the rim, staying in front of his man, hitting the big shots. He’ll still be a huge contributor for Boston, but losing Allen and gaining Terry is more about team need and fit than overall player talent upgrade.

37. Which guy is more surprising in terms of not having a deal agreed to yet, JaVale McGee or O.J. Mayo?

38. Mayo was coveted in Memphis and can’t seem to break out of the pack to draw an offer. This from a guy who showed the ability to drop 40 as a rookie. Lionel Hollins’ hiring may have been the worst thing for Mayo’s career, even if it was the best thing for Memphis.

39. Anyone else wonder if the Nuggets are going to sign McGee to a big long-term contract and then trade him like they did Nene?

40. If the Bulls match Asik, it’s a good move. If they let him walk for the money, it’s a good move. It’s kind of a can’t lose for Chicago, which is a rarity in these situations. Asik’s good enough to pay but also not good enough to suffer for walking away from.

41. Remember when Shannon Brown was a crucial piece on a championship team?

42. Kwame Brown could get massively overpaid as a competent center or underpaid as Kwame Brown. There’s very little in between.

43. If anyone can figure out what Daryl Morey is doing in Houston, could you draw the rest of us a diagram, with flankers?

44. Andre Miller didn’t take the money, the ring chase, or the starting gig. He just stayed home. Didn’t see that coming.

45. Marcus Camby’s transformation for how he’s considered defensively over the past five years is amazing, and Benjamin-Butto-like.

46. Weird that the Blazers are playing so cool with Nicolas Batum after making his trade value essentially worth a city of gold over the past three years.

47. I have come to the conclusion that Dan Fegan is Keyser Soze.

48. In this scenario, Billy King is Verbal Kint.

49. Pivotal trade piece and free agent: Kris Humphries. Who would have seen that coming two years ago?

50. Landry Fields…. why, Colangelo? Why?

 

Marcus Morris explains his change of plans from Spurs deal to Knicks

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Marcus Morris‘ move built up some hard feelings around the NBA. Players have verbally agreed to contracts with one team only to change their mind before, but in this case the Spurs had made roster moves — including trading Davis Bertans go to the Wizards — to clear out space for Morris, leaving San Antonio in a tough spot when Morris changed his mind and signed with the Knicks. The Spurs were pissed at the Knicks about this. Executives with other teams did not like the potential precedent the move set.

Morris offered his first explanation of what happened to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

It starts here: Morris’ agent at the time Rich Paul negotiated a three-year, $41 million offer from the Clippers at the start of free agency. Morris turned it down, and he admitted that was against Paul’s advice.

“All this stuff that (Paul) didn’t want me to go to the Clippers and didn’t want me to go against LeBron (James), that’s not true,” Morris said. “He never told me not to take the deal. For as long as I’ve known Rich — and that’s still someone I have love for and that’s still my guy — he has been great in terms of advice. He told me he wanted me to take the Clippers deal. He gave me his advice. It was my decision and I had to make the best decision for me and my family.”

Things moved very fast at the start of free agency (more than 50 contracts were agreed to in the first 24 hours) and that left Morris not wanting the music to stop without him having a chair. That’s when he accepted the two-year, $20 million offer from San Antonio. Morris said he didn’t expect another offer, but when the Knicks came through with one year, $15 million he wanted it and tried to be up front about the situation.

“I have a good relationship with those guys and I have so much respect for (head coach) Pop (Gregg Popovich), (general manager) RC (Buford) and (assistant GM) Brian Wright,” Morris told The Athletic. “The first thing that I did when I knew I would be going another direction, I called and made sure they knew. There was no shade. There’s no disrespect. I had great conversations afterward, and as long as I feel that I’m clear with them and gave them my truth, I feel good about moving forward.

“I was under the impression that I didn’t have anything left. I thought at the time that the Spurs deal was all that I had. The process wasn’t what I expected and it didn’t go the right way.”

Morris has split ways with Paul as an agent, reportedly over this incident.

Morris has now essentially bet on himself. The Knicks are not going to win a lot of games, but Morris is going to have a significant role and should get a lot of touches. Have a strong season and he will enter a much weaker free agent class next summer as one of the better players in it. That could lead to a bigger payday. Plus he makes more per year now.

 

 

Karl-Anthony Towns: “I’m planning to be in Minnesota for a long time”

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A few years back, Minnesota looked like a team on a fast rise in the West, mostly because Karl-Anthony Towns looked like a young dominant force starting to come of age in the league.

It hasn’t worked out that way, even though Minnesota finally made the playoffs back in 2018. Andrew Wiggins has not developed into a No. 2 options (even though he is getting paid like a No. 1 option), Towns has not consistently owned the defensive end, and under Tom Thibodeau there were a lot of chemistry issues highlighted by Jimmy Butler blowing up last training camp and essentially torpedoing the season before it started.

In today’s NBA news cycle, driven by rumors and speculation about player movement — and the player movement itself — all those issues in Minnesota has people looking at Towns. That despite the fact his five-year max extension just kicks in this season.

Towns isn’t looking to move. There’s a new coach (Ryan Saunders) who Towns has a good bond with, there’s a new head of basketball operations (Gersson Rosas) who is aggressive and who Towns likes, and the two-time All-Star center told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic he is happy right now in Minnesota.

“The biggest thing when you have that conversation [about a star switching teams] is you say, ‘Is he happy here?’” Towns said. “I’m tremendously happy. I love my front office. I love my coaching staff. I think we’ve made great moves and great changes. I love the culture we have here. If you want to leave, you have to be miserable somewhere. I am not there. I’m planning to be in Minnesota for a long time.”

What makes Towns happy is he can see the plan now — and it’s finally to build around him. Towns is the top dog and this summer the Timberwolves made a push to land D'Angelo Russell to be his No. 2 (since it’s not Wiggins). That, however, fell short as Russell is in Golden State. (For now at least, if the fit with Stephen Curry is not right Russell could be on the move, and Minnesota would be interested.) Still, there was an organized plan of attack and a shuffling around of players to give Minnesota more flexibility. Towns says he is comfortable this is a franchise on the right path. Even if it’s going to take some time to get there.

In a deep West, Minnesota looks to be a team on the outside of the playoff chase that needs a lot of things to go right to get in it. They have some good players, but also a lot of youth and questions.

“We all can’t rush in and think we’re going to win 75 games right now,” he said. “We have to take it day by day. We have to be patient with the process and accept the process and go through the cycles. I think we’re going to have a really good team and we have to go out there every single night and try to accomplish it. My job as a leader, I’ve got to get the best out of every single player.”

Marcus Smart, Thaddeus Young reportedly added to USA Basketball training camp roster

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Elite NBA players have not dropped out of playing for Team USA like this since 2004, when nobody wanted to play for Larry Brown and rumors of potential terrorism in Athens had the NBA’s best backing out.

For the 2019 World Cup in China, USA Basketball has watched James Harden, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, and CJ McCollum all back out, robbing the American team of a lot of star power. Zion Williamson, who was projected to be part of the “select team” of young stars Team USA goes against also dropped out.

The Americans were down to 14 players heading into training camp (12 will be chosen to travel to China), and they needed more players. Enter Boston’s Marcus Smart and Thaddeus Young, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Don’t be surprised if another veteran name or two is added before training camp opens.

Smart and Young are a couple of smart selections, elite defenders who can shut down the best wing players on other teams (and in FIBA competition only a couple of teams have more than one top-flight wing player to handle).

So who is on the USA roster now? Let’s break it out by position:

GUARDS:
Damian Lillard
Kemba Walker
Kyle Lowry (questionable coming off thumb surgery)
Marcus Smart

WINGS:
Khris Middleton
Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum
Harrison Barnes
Kyle Kuzma
PJ Tucker
Thaddeus Young

BIGS:
Andre Drummond
Myles Turner
Brook Lopez
Kevin Love
Paul Millsap

(We could argue about whether Mitchell is a guard or a wing, if Tucker is a big or a wing, but you get the basic picture.)

After Lillard, that roster does lack star power.

But the USA talent pool is so deep that it will overwhelm all but a couple of teams in the tournament. Serbia — led by Nikola Jokic and Bogan Bogdanovic — is the biggest threat to the USA and has good depth. Spain is impressive as well, but older.

The USA is and should be the World Cup favorite, but an improved rest of the world and a depleted USA roster is going to make things a lot more interesting in China.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

Tim Duncan joins Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with Spurs

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The Tim Duncan era in San Antonio is over quite yet.

The future Hall of Famer has been added full time to Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with the Spurs, the team announced Monday.

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” Popovich said.

Duncan was around the Spurs practice facility a lot last season, helping out informally. Now it is formal.

Expect more bank shots from the Spurs big men next season.

Duncan was at the heart of the Spurs historic NBA dynasty the past couple of decades. The future Hall of Famer is a five-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP, 15 time All-NBA teams, 15 times NBA All-Defensive teams, 15-time All-Star, and way back when the Rookie of the Year. However, his impact was greater than just that insane resume, he was the guy who set the tone and the work ethic for those Spurs teams. Duncan worked as hard as anyone, won as much as anyone, but did it without trying to draw attention to himself. If fact, he wanted to deflect it.

The Spurs will be competitive for a playoff spot in the deep West this season — they still have LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, plus Dejonte Murray gets healthy and returns — but are poised to start a rebuilding process in the coming years.

We will see if Duncan wants to be part of that, or if he is only around while Popovich remains the coach (somebody has to go to dinner with Pop). But he has earned the right to pretty much any role he wants.

The Spurs also announced that Will Hardy will be added to the bench as an assistant coach.

“Will Hardy is a talented, young basketball mind who has earned a great deal of respect from everyone in the organization thanks to his knowledge, spirit and personality,” Popovich said.