Indiana signing Paul George to max deal is a no-brainer

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Well, we all saw this coming. Paul George burst onto the scene last year for the Indiana Pacers, won the Most Improved Player award, carried the Pacers deep into the playoffs, and established himself as the future of the club. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pacers rewarded George tonight with a nice payday.

Whenever I see a max contract being finalized, I ask a few general questions to get an idea of whether it was the right move:

1. Is the new max player the best talent on the team, or does he have the potential to become the best player on the team in the near future?

2. Can you win (or at least be very competitive) for a title with this guy as your best player?

3. If he hit the open market, would he receive a max contract?

For George and Indiana, all the answers are yes. No brainers, even. George is a true two-way player with an expanding set of skills, and the fact that he’s only 23 years old allows you to dream on his potential. With Danny Granger on an expiring deal, George will take over as the number one option offensively yet again, and he should form a potent tandem with Roy Hibbert for years to come.

Indiana virtually had no choice but to give George a max extension, so any argument of value seems silly. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute though, and float this out there. Would you give Kawhi Leonard a max contract? Probably not, right?

Last year, George and Leonard had nearly identical PER’s, with George at 16.8 and Leonard at 16.4. Leonard was much more efficient, notching a true shooting percentage over .60 percentage points higher. The two players put up similar rebounding percentages (George 11.3, Leonard 11.1) as well, but the main difference was that Paul had the ball in his hands quite a bit more, so his assist totals and usage percentage blew Leonard’s out of the water.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because so much of perceived value relies on opportunity. We only caught a glimpse of Leonard as a top scoring option in the playoffs last year, so we’re not sure if he’s capable of handling the full load. But because of Granger’s injury, we’ve seen George handle the load for a full season. It wasn’t always pretty (the Pacers were 20th in offensive efficiency, after all), but there were definite flashes of brilliance. And his defensive abilities and length are absolutely vital to Indiana’s scheme, and are a must-have with LeBron James around.

Still, for George to be worth this max extension, he’ll have to keep improving. His development can’t stagnate, and although it’s highly unlikely it will, he wouldn’t be the first player to receive a max deal and fail to live up to the expectations that come with it.

Is this a good move by Indiana? Again, of course it is. This was the only option. Going forward, however, the onus falls on George to replace the potential he’s getting paid for with improved production down the line.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The deal is fully guaranteed for both years, according to the report. That’s a fair price for his services, and Harrell gets back on the market in two years when the salary cap will have gone up by more than $15 million (at least by the NBA’s early predictions). He will have more options on 2020.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For a couple of seasons, this is a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.

Would Dwyane Wade take a big payday in China? Would Jahlil Okafor?

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Dwayne Wade is making a tough decision: Does he want to go through the physical grind to get his body ready for one more season of NBA basketball in Miami? Or, is it time to retire?

For some of the greats — most recently Kobe Bryant talked openly about this — they still love the game and the camaraderie, but they get to a point they no longer have the same passion for putting in the increasing work on their bodies to get it in NBA-level condition to perform at the level they expect. Wade is struggling with that debate right now.

Or, he could just go to China.

From Sportando:

Dwyane Wade is still a free agent after his season with Cavaliers and Heat. Wade has not decided yet whether to play one more season or retire. But D-Wade is wanted in China. Xinjiang Flying Tigers are ready to offer him a monster deal, as reported by Zhang Duo.

It’s hard to imagine Wade jumping on that, but not impossible. The salary is not going to be the motivator — he has made just shy of $180 million in salary alone in his career, and much more with endorsements — but rather the move would be about building his brand and his new lifetime shoe deal with Li-Ning, a China-based shoe manufacturer. Business-wise, it could be good for Wade to spend a season in China.

Of course, family and other considerations have to be at the forefront of his mind, which is why this still feels unlikely. Just never say never.

One guy who could go there and rehab his reputation is free-agent Jahlil Okafor. Also from Sportando:

Okafor is practicing in Miami but the Heat are unlikely to sign him but in China there are several teams interested in signing the former Duke center, as reported by Zhang Duo.

Okafor has worked out for NBA teams but has no offers (or, at least none he’s taken) and it’s increasingly unlikely he would get a fully guaranteed contract for this season. He, understandably, is clearly still working toward that goal.

In China, Okafor could put up big numbers, show he is healthy and moving well, get a good payday, and be back in the USA in time to get picked up by a team for a playoff run (the Chinese season ends in February or March, depending on how deep a team goes in the playoffs). It’s a big cultural adjustment and not for everyone, but Okafor has to be considering all his options at this point.

Jazz ending sponsorship deal with Papa John’s

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are ending their sponsorship agreement with Papa John’s Pizza after the company’s founder and spokesman used a racial slur.

A person with knowledge of the team’s decision confirmed the move Friday and said it was because of the controversy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the organization will not make a formal announcement.

A number of professional and college teams have cut ties to the company over Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s comment during a company conference call in May. Among them are the Orlando Magic, Seattle Seahawks, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, University of Louisville,  and numerous others.

Schnatter apologized and stepped down as chairman but remains on the company’s board. He’s since said his decision to step down was a “mistake.”

The company says it’s also investigating allegations reported in Forbes that Schnatter oversaw a work culture where women were subject to sexist behavior.