Rudy Gay: O.J. Mayo became overweight because ‘when you’re hurt in Wisconsin, you eat’

10 Comments

When the Bucks signed O.J. Mayo to a three-year, $24 million contract last summer, many complained they didn’t know what they’re doing.

Mayo was the type of decent player who’d keep Milwaukee from tanking and landing the high draft pick necessary to turn around the franchise. And the Bucks were overpaying him to hinder their progress.

In reality, though, he’s been invaluable to their tanking efforts.

His individual contributions have cratered. After averaging .069 win shares per 48 minutes last season, he’s getting a career-low .002 this season.

Team-wide, he’s been even more destructive. When he plays, the Bucks’ net rating is -14.0 (offensive rating: 94.3/defensive rating: 108.3), a mark well-worse than the 76ers’ historically bad season has produced. When he sits, Milwaukee basically turns into the equivalent of the blandly bad Magic (102.9/108.5/-5.6).

Mayo missed 10 games in late January and mid-February due illness and conditioning issues, probably related because it’s obviously difficult to work out when you’re sick. And after returning for a couple weeks, he got six straight DNP-CDs, as conditioning was still an issue.

He finally played against the Kings yesterday, and former Memphis Grizzlies teammate and current Sacramento King Rudy Gay had an interesting assessment of Mayo.

Gay on Mayo, via Jonathan Santiago and James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom:

He’s had a bad season, but he’s still a good player. He’s a little overweight, hasn’t played a lot this season, but he’s still O.J. Mayo in there and I’ve seen him do things like that all the time. So I wasn’t surprised at all. He can hit tough shots. He’s a ball player. He can do it. For whatever reason of how he turned out or whatever, gained a little weight, whatever, he’s still a good ball player.

Was I surprised to see it? Little bit. I haven’t seen him, but we talked a little bit. He said he was hurt, and I guess when you’re hurt in Wisconsin, you eat.

Usually, I’d blame contract status. Mayo played hard in Dallas last season during a contract year. Now that he’s locked up for three years and $24 million, how motivated is he?

But I’ve been to Wisconsin multiple times, and let me tell you, the food there is fantastic. I definitely believe that could have more to do with Mayo’s weight than any contract-related motivational issues.

Bratwurst, cheese curds, hot sticks, butter burgers and beer…

Pardon me. I need to go eat lunch.

Eight players/teams, hundreds of millions of dollars and one high-stakes All-NBA vote

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBA award votes were cast at least 40 days ago. The regular season being judged ended even before that. After rounds of high-level playoff basketball, it’s easy to lose interest in these honors.

But All-NBA selections – which the league plans to release this week – can’t be overlooked.

They could determine the fates of several players and franchises.

In 2011, the NBA began allowing a higher max salary for certain young players. The Collective Bargaining Agreement got updated in 2017 to allow certain veterans to earn super-max salaries. The most common route to eligibility: Making an All-NBA team.

Here are eight players and teams with a lot riding on these results:

Kemba Walker, Hornets

The Hornets haven’t given Kemba Walker a playoff-series victory. They haven’t given him an All-Star teammate. They didn’t even give him Marc Gasol before the trade deadline.

But they can potentially give him a super-max contract.

It might be a necessary tool to retain the greatest player in franchise history.

A year-and-a-half ago, Walker said he’d be “devastated” if Charlotte traded him. A couple months ago, a rumor emerged Walker was likely to leave in free agency. This has gone south quickly.

Yet, don’t rule out Walker re-signing – especially if the Hornets can offer him a super-max contract projected to be worth $221 million over five years. That’s far larger than Walker’s projected max if leaving, $140 million over four years.

Heck, if he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Walker might even return for his regular max, projected to be $190 million over five years.

That begs the question: How badly do the Hornets want Walker back? Their outlook is bleak either way.

Keeping Walker would make them far more competitive in the short term but carry serious downside risk with the 29-year-old point guard. Maxing out, let alone super-maxing out, Walker would also force Charlotte to clear salary unless Michael Jordan is willing to make an unprecedented trip into the luxury tax. So, a lackluster roster would get even further depleted.

Walker leaving would invite other problems, namely the loss of the team’s best player. The capped-out Hornets would have no mechanism to adequately replace him. They’d be heading into a year of purgatory then rebuilding from near rock bottom.

It’s hard to see Walker settling for the regular max if he’s eligible for the super max. But if Walker misses All-NBA and constrains Charlotte’s offer, the regular max could be enough.

Walker seems to take pride in representing the Hornets and living in Charlotte. He also appears fed up with the franchise’s losing.

These opposing forces will pull at him this summer.

A giant bag could soothe everything. Or its absence could be the final straw.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns signed a five-year contract extension last fall that projected to be worth $158 million or $190 million.

Why the $32 million difference? It depends whether Towns makes All-NBA this season.

Eventually, he pushed to trigger that extra money.

Towns averaged 28-13-4 after the All-Star break, up from 23-12-3 prior. Minnesota didn’t suddenly start winning more. But Towns posted shiny numbers.

The Timberwolves would love if Towns maintained that urgency. For all his talent, he has too often failed to assert himself on the court.

But they also might quietly like if he misses All-NBA this season. With Andrew Wiggins already on a max contract, paying Towns an extra $6 million or so per year would further squeeze flexibility.

Towns still looks like he’d be worth the super-max over the next five years. But he could be a bargain at the regular max.

Klay Thompson, Warriors

The near-consistent expectation since the season began: Golden State will sign Klay Thompson to a max contract this summer. If the Warriors offer any less, he’d take it as a sign of disrespect and explore the market.

That implies Thompson will demand the super-max if eligible for the projected five-year, $221 million contract (up from a projected $190 million over five years with the regular max). The difference could be quite costly for Golden State.

If they re-sign Kevin Durant, waive and stretch Shaun Livingston and fill their roster with minimum players, the Warriors’ projected luxury tax depending on Thompson’s contract type:

  • Regular max: $128 million
  • Super max: $161 million

Considering Thompson’s salary, this All-NBA vote could cost Golden State an additional $38 million next season alone.

Of course, Durant might not stay. If he leaves, the Warriors could even avoid the dreaded repeater tax altogether.

But the issue looms next year, when Draymond Green will be up for a big raise. There’s no easy way maintain a championship contender without it getting very expensive.

Thompson’s All-NBA status will go a long way toward determining just how much it costs Golden State to remain elite.

Bradley Beal, Wizards

Washington knows the danger of offering the super-max to someone who has made only one All-NBA team and won’t hit free agency for another two years. John Wall is the poster child for the super-max gone wrong. His extension hasn’t even taken effect yet, and his contract is arguably the NBA’s worst.

You think Bradley Beal is willing to let that become his problem?

Beal stepped up while Wall was injured and earned serious All-NBA consideration. Beal is extolling his loyalty to the Wizards. Even as he says he wouldn’t rush to sign the super-max if offered, Beal sounds ready to get paid.

Washington should be reluctant. A projected $193 million over four years is a lot of money for a player of his caliber, and it could doom the franchise for years. A super-max extension would also prohibit the Wizards from trading Beal for one year, taking him off the market while his value remains high. Plus, with Wall already on the books, Washington has less margin for error.

I can’t imagine it’d go over well with Beal if the Wizards spurned him because Wall got overpaid first – especially considering the history of friction between those two.

Yet, it’d be incredibly risky for Washington to commit so much to Beal now. There’d be only a narrow path for Beal to lead the downtrodden team to meaningful winning next season. All the while, he’d be ineligible to be traded. Longer term is hazier, which is treacherous uncertainty when someone could get paid so much.

If Beal makes All-NBA, there’s a good case the Wizards shouldn’t offer him a super-max extension. If they don’t offer him the super-max extension, there’s a good chance he’ll resent it.

Where this all leads: If Beal makes All-NBA, that could prompt Washington to trade him.

That wouldn’t be just an unintended consequence of the super-max. It’d be the exact opposite of the super-max’s intended design.

Maybe Beal won’t make All-NBA, which would create its own set of complications. Beal would be just two years from unrestricted free agency, and a non-super-max extension seems unlikely. But at least doors would be open.

If he makes All-NBA, suddenly there’d be a lot of pressure on the Wizards to commit one way or the other on him. Not an ideal situation, especially for a team without a general manager.

Anthony Davis, Pelicans

Anthony Davis made a trade request.

David Griffin has indicated he might not honor it.

That’s probably a combination of hope and bluff. Griffin obviously wants Davis in New Orleans, but if Davis remains intent on leaving, it’s tough to keep him. However, by announcing a plan to sell Davis on the Pelicans over the next year, Griffin improves his trade leverage.

Of course, Griffin might actually follow through and keep Davis into 2020 free agency. That plan becomes much more tenable (or improves the viability of Griffin’s bluff) if Davis makes an All-NBA team this year.

The Pelicans can already offer Davis a super-max extension this offseason. But if Davis makes All-NBA this season or next, they could also re-sign him to a super-max contract in 2020 free agency. The extension or fresh contract would have the same terms – projected to be five years, $235 million.

That’s a lot more than Davis’ projected max with other teams in 2020 ($156 million over four years).

If Davis misses All-NBA this season and next, New Orleans would still have a financial advantage in its 2020 offer for Davis (projected max of $202 million over five years). Davis could still qualify for the super max with the Pelicans in 2020 free agency by making All-NBA next season.

But that’s obviously a smaller guaranteed edge without him clinching super-max eligibility this season. It’d be incredibly risky for the Pelicans to keep him into 2020 free agency without knowing they’d have the bigger upper hand.

It’s probably too risky to keep him, anyway.

Davis has said the extra money won’t sway him. His trade request affirms that.

But people change their minds.

More money only helps.

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Lillard will make an All-NBA team, but the playoffs would always go a long way toward answering questions that remained.

Would Portland commit now to paying Lillard a projected $193 million from ages 31-34? Would Lillard lock into team control for six more years?

After the Trail Blazers’ run to the Western Conference finals, the answer is clear: Yes.

This is the designated-veteran-player extension everyone should be watching. If it doesn’t work with Lillard – an excellent player and even better leader – it could prompt changes in the next CBA.

Nikola Vucevic, Magic

I see six centers as legitimate All-NBA candidates: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic’s case is surprisingly strong.

Among those six, Vucevic ranks second in real-plus-minus-based wins, third in PER-based estimated wins added, fourth in win shares and fourth in value over replacement player.

Plus, there are the factors that shouldn’t matter, but often do. Vucevic has the narrative of working his way into first being an All-Star in his eighth season and ending Orlando’s six-year playoff drought. There will definitely be no voter fatigue with him.

I don’t expect Vucevic to make All-NBA, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if, as voters researched their picks, he holds up well. If he gets on some ballots and many voters are divided on other candidates, it’s possible for Vucevic to sneak onto the third team.

Even if that happened, though, is it possible he’d actually get a super-max contract?

It’s hard to see the Magic – whose front office inherited, rather an acquired, Vucevic – paying him that much. He’s 28 and has made the All-Star team only once. Orlando barely snuck into the playoffs in the East with him. He had a very fine season, but that doesn’t mean his long-term trajectory has completed changed.

I’d be quite surprised if the Magic gave him a regular-max contract (projected to be $190 million over five years). A super-max contract (projected to be $221 million over five years)? That’s barely even imaginable.

But the super-max salary could be useful on a short-term deal in Orlando. The Magic will have only moderate flexibility this summer anyway if Vucevic leaves. A one-year contract at the super-max salary of $39 million (up from $33 million without an All-NBA selection) could make sense for both sides if Vucevic gets big multi-year offers from other teams.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo seems happy in Milwaukee.

The Bucks can secure him in 2020.

Antetokounmpo is too inexperienced to sign a veteran-super-max extension this offseason. But because he made All-NBA last year and will certainly make it again this year, he’ll already clinch eligibility to next year sign a super-max extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years.

A lot can change in year, including Antetokounmpo’s desire to stay in Milwaukee. But the Bucks can do their part to keep Antetokounmpo happy between now and then. That starts with advancing from the Eastern Conference finals, where Milwaukee is tied 2-2 with the Raptors. The Bucks can also pay the luxury tax to keep their strong supporting cast intact next season. Follow that with another deep playoff run next year, and Antetokounmpo seems highly likely to stay.

Still, the only certainty once Antetokounmpo makes All-NBA this year, will be in his eligibility for a super-max extension next year. His and Milwaukee’s views on it once it can actually be signed can’t be known until then.f

Kings, Pacers reportedly added to long list of Tobias Harris suitors

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s the biggest decision for Sixers GM Elton Brand this summer: What to do about Tobias Harris?

If Jimmy Butler decides to leave Philadelphia then it’s easy, re-sign Harris to a max or near max deal and make him the third player in the Big Three with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Then hope the Harris who dominated his first eight games with the Sixers and showed up sometimes during the playoffs is the guy you get all season next year (to be fair, Harris was a guy who had to sacrifice a lot to fit in with all those stars, put the ball in his hands more and he will thrive).

If Butler re-signs with Philly it gets more complicated. Owner Joshua Harris had said from the start he would pay the tax to keep them both — and extend Simmons — but to do so means likely losing J.J. Redick and having a thin bench without guys such as James Ennis and Mike Scott. The question for Brand becomes can most of Harris’ production replicated by a few other players and for half the cost? Without Harris, the Sixers should be able to round out a deeper bench. That said, the Sixers gave up a lot in trading for Harris at the deadline, too much for just a rental.

Brand is going to have to make his call quickly because the list of suitors for Harris is growing. Keith Pompey at the Philadelphia Inquirer says the Kings, Pacers, Mavericks, and Jazz are all expected to come after Harris. Sacramento and Indiana are new to that list, which in the past also has included Memphis and Brooklyn.

With that many suitors, someone is going to come in at the max, which for Harris is $141 million over four years from those other teams. Philadelphia can offer $190 million over five years.

This is also a decision for Harris. The money is going to be massive wherever he lands (and will push him north of $200 million in career earnings even if he leaves), so working environment matters even more. Is he willing to sacrifice a little more on the court to be part of something potentially special in Philadelphia? Or, does he want to go to Utah where he would get a lot of touches next to Donovan Mitchell on a team that seems a player away? Same with going to Indiana to play with Victor Oladipo. Or does he want to be the star in Brooklyn or Memphis?

Harris is going to have options.

What he decides may get overlooked by some fans, but it will change the course of franchises this summer.

Kevin Durant’s business partner says KD “100 percent undecided” on free agency

Getty Images
4 Comments

Re-sign with Golden State and continue the dynasty?

Become the latest savior in New York? Join an L.A. Clippers team that seems just a star away from being a real threat in the West?

Kevin Durant will have options as a free agent this summer, and while he has been linked to the Knicks since this season tipped off, his business partner Rich Kleiman (a New Yorker who goes to Knicks games, which has fueled that speculation) says Durant has not made any decision, speaking at a Wall Street Journal event.

Kleiman also backed Durant’s penchant for getting into it with fans on social media.

Of course Kleiman says Durant has not decided about free agency, what else is he going to say? “We’ve totally got a handshake deal in place already, I just can’t talk about it yet.” Plenty of fans may believe a deal is in place (I do not), but whatever the reality, Kleiman said exactly what he had to say about KD’s future.

Durant right now is focused on getting his calf healed by a week from Thursday, when the NBA Finals tip-off. The Warriors are going to need him against Toronto or Milwaukee, both of whom provide interesting matchup problems for Golden State.

Besides, Durant would prefer we talk about basketball games, not free agency, right now. The point of getting Durant would be to be one of the teams left standing at this point in the season in the first place. Except there are three fan bases with teams left playing and 27 thinking about next season. There is far more interest from fans league-wide about what is next, more than what is going on right now. That’s not a media creation, that is simply what fans want, what they talk about and read about. It’s the reality of today’s NBA, like it or not.

I believe Kleiman is telling the truth, Durant has not made a decision yet. KD has not shown to be the guy who makes early decisions and sticks with them in the past, he waits it out then makes his call. How he’s feeling come July 1 may well be different from today. No doubt Kleiman and Durant have talked about free agency — extensively — and they have leanings, but a final call is still a ways off.

Which means the rumors and speculation will continue.

Mark Cuban on shooters jumping forward: ‘Just have some guts and say it’s not a foul’

Getty
4 Comments

It seems like everyone is trying to draw suspicious fouls on 3-pointers in the NBA these days. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard… the list goes on.

NBA players spend a significant amount of time in the offseason trying to figure out ways to trick the referees, with some going so far as to workout with a full officiating crew so they can find the right angles to hide their sleight-of-hand.

But some fans have started to complain about all this trickeration, including the types of “fouls” drawn on 3-point shots where jump shooters clearly leave their own space and enter that of the defender’s.

In a recent edition of his NBA newsletter, New York Times writer Marc Stein responded to a reader question about this phenomenon by quoting Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

According to Stein, Cuban isn’t a fan of these calls and he sees a simple solution.

Via NY Times Newsletter:

Shooters intentionally trying to draw fouls, by contrast, is a far saucier issue.

You certainly have a vocal supporter in Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who was tweeting on the subject early in the Houston/Golden State series and issued this challenge to referees when I asked him about it Monday: “Just have some guts and say it’s not a foul.”

After the matter generated so much debate this postseason, let’s see how much discussion will take place at the league’s next scheduled Competition Committee meeting in July during summer league. The committee also convenes by conference call in June.

The solution for players purposefully trying to train themselves to be able to trick referees the way they have isn’t clear. It has seemed quite obvious when watching games — even for fans watching them in real time — that a lot of these 3-point shot fouls aren’t really fouls.

At a distance, it feels like we are destined for one of two things: Either real time broadcast referees back in New Jersey who will be able to radio in calls, or a point of emphasis in the next few seasons that stops players from doing this.

Of course, the NBA likes to put in these point of emphasis rules for a few weeks, then stop calling them altogether. Remember when guys were getting technical fouls for flops? That was so very long ago.

This NBA postseason has not been kind for the NBA or its officiating crews, and eventually people are going to start to feel as though they don’t understand the game they are watching any longer. The NBA is in danger of becoming the NFL in that regard, and the rancor is only going to grow thanks to social media. Something serious needs to be done, and at its core it seems like they need to get back to playing the game and calling the game the way it was intended.

That’s something that’s harder than it sounds, but at the very least it should be easy to stop calling fouls on shooters who plainly throw themselves into the reasonable path of defenders.