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.

Tracy McGrady: Carmelo Anthony should retire

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Carmelo Anthony seems done with the Rockets.

Where should the former star go next? Tracy McGrady has a recommendation.

McGrady:

I honestly think Melo should retire. I really do. I don’t want him to go through another situation like this, and people are just pouring negativity on this man’s legacy. I really think, because it hasn’t worked out the last two teams, just go ahead and — you have a Hall of Fame career — just go ahead and let it go.

For what it’s worth, McGrady talked about coming back in 2014. Maybe he retired too soon. However, he said he’d return only if a team made him its focal point.

Some stars transition well into being a role player. Vince Carter is a prime example.

Others don’t. Anthony seems to fit the latter category.

But that doesn’t mean he should retire.

Anthony shouldn’t worry about McGrady or anyone else struggling to watch him decline. If he wants to keep playing and an NBA team will sign him, Anthony should sign. He doesn’t owe it to us to ensure we feel comfortable with his career. It’s his career.

Besides, Anthony’s legacy will be defined by his time with the Knicks and Nuggets. These late years will be forgotten. McGrady is known for the Magic, Rockets and Raptors. Nobody remembers his time with the Knicks, Pistons, Hawks and Spurs. The Basketball Hall of Fame practically even said his time San Antonio didn’t count!

That said, it might not be Anthony’s call. Maybe there’s a team so desperate for a scoring backup power forward, it’d benefit despite Anthony’s ego and defensive deficiencies. But Anthony might just be finished.

If that’s what NBA teams collectively decide, that’s how it goes.

But whatever say Anthony say still has, he shouldn’t worry about McGrady or any of the many like-minded watchers.

Report: Jazz confident they could have signed Kyle Lowry last year, but waited for Gordon Hayward instead

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Entering 2017 free agency, rumors swirled Kyle Lowry would leave the Raptors. He ultimately re-signed with Toronto, but maybe that was only due to the timing of Gordon Hayward‘s decision to leave the Jazz for the Celtics.

Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune:

according to multiple Tribune sources, the Jazz spoke extensively to Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry’s representatives about bringing the All-Star point guard to Utah. After those discussions, the Jazz felt confident about their ability to land Lowry, but chose to pull out of any potential deal because signing Lowry would have required cap space earmarked for the Hayward

Lowry would have been huge for the Jazz, who instead traded for Ricky Rubio to start at point guard. Utah still won 48 games and a playoff series last season, but the team would have been even better off with Lowry.

Perhaps, Lowry wouldn’t have signed with the Jazz. Just because they felt confident means only so much. They might have misread his actual thoughts. At minimum, Lowry wasn’t willing to wait on Utah.

Lowry agreed to re-sign with Toronto on July 2. Hayward, after a twisting saga, announced his choice of Boston on July 4.

If Lowry were truly willing to commit to the Jazz, they erred by not accepting his pledge. Maybe that was a reasonable strategy, but it was still an error. Waiting on Hayward proved to be a mistake.

In Utah, many will blame Hayward for stringing along the Jazz. But he was a free agent with a right to decide on his own timeline. I believe he had legitimate desire to return to the Jazz. He just had greater desire to join the Celtics.

If the Jazz were completely on top of their game, they would have had a better read on Hayward’s decision and locked in Lowry rather than spending time recruiting Hayward. Again, maybe that would have been unreasonably difficult to know without hindsight. But that would have been the optimal way to proceed.

Draymond Green addresses argument with Kevin Durant: ‘I’m not going to change who I am’

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Warriors forward Draymond Green knows the perceived significance of his argument with teammate Kevin Durant.

“I’ve read a lot about how, is this the end of the run? Or is it over? Or did I ruin it? Or did I force Kevin to leave?” Green said.

But don’t expect Green to bend amid those high stakes.

“I’m not going to change who I am,” Green said.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Green is correct: His emotional, stubborn, feisty style has led to more good than bad both for himself and Golden State. Reigning that in could have adverse effects.

But there’s still room for personal growth. Green can handle some situations, including this one, better without losing his edge. Every level of the organization agreed.

Blake Griffin calls out Raptors president Masai Ujiri while praising Dwane Casey

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Dwane Casey reportedly holds a grudge toward Raptors president Masai Ujiri for firing him.

Casey got revenge last night, coaching the Pistons to a win at Toronto. Casey called two quality plays in the final seconds, the latter producing Reggie Bullock‘s game-winner.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

A Toronto reporter asked Blake Griffin if it gives Pistons players a degree of confidence in their coach when he gives them those tools to win games.

“We know that. This isn’t like we just discovered this for the first time today,” he said. “We’ve put in plays like that all the time in practice. He demands execution and we executed. Maybe to Toronto fans – or certainly their GM, maybe – it was a surprise. But not to us.”

The win had to be gratifying for Casey. Having his star player take up his greater cause must even more satisfying.