67RIEFNS No. 21: Kyrie Irving’s bonkers All-Star voting

6 Comments

The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Will you vote for Kyrie Irving as an All-Star starter?

Are you a big Cavaliers fan? Do you hate the Cavaliers?

Think about those last two questions before deciding on the first.

Irving signed a contract extension with the “Derrick Rose rule” trigger. The Rose rule allows players with four or five years of experience to earn more money if they achieve one of the following within their first four seasons:

  • Named to the All-NBA first, second or third team twice
  • Voted an All-Star starter twice
  • Won MVP

Irving, entering his fourth season, has never made an All-NBA team, so that mode of qualifying is out. MVP seems far-fetched.

But the Cleveland point guard started last year’s All-Star game, so doing so again is – by far – his best shot at qualifying.

Last year, Irving finished a comfortable second in Eastern conference guard voting:

1. Dwyane Wade (929,542)

2. Kyrie Irving (860,221)

3. John Wall (393,129)

4. Derrick Rose (359,546)

5. Ray Allen (250,909)

6. Rajon Rondo (174,654)

With LeBron James and Kevin Love joining him in Cleveland, there will be more attention than ever on Irving. That he won the vote so easily last year on a dreadful team is encouraging for him.

But if Rose and Rondo are healthy, they’re threats to overtake Irving. Rondo started with Wade in 2013, and Rose did in 2011 and 2012. Even Wall, who advanced further in the playoffs last season than Rose and Rondo, could push for votes.

The stakes are reasonably high for Irving. Here’s what Irving would earn – based on the NBA’s projected 2015-16 salary cap – if he triggers the Rose rule (gold) and if he doesn’t (wine):

image

That’s a difference of $1,550,241 in year one and $8,913,889 over the five-year extension – all based on fan vote.

Three players have triggered the Rose rule, but unless he wins MVP, Irving could be the first to do so only through a popularity contest.

Rose won MVP. Paul George made two All-NBA third teams. Blake Griffin qualified by starting an All-Star Game in his fourth season, but later that year, he also made a second All-NBA team.

So, fans have a lot of power here – power that could greatly impact not only Irving, but the Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA.

With the salary cap set to skyrocket under the new national-TV contracts, there’s speculation Cleveland could have enough cap space to sign a fourth star outright in 2016. Every extra dollar Irving makes limits the Cavaliers’ ability to upgrade.

Considering Cleveland is the championship favorite and will likely hold that title for several years to come, the trickle-down effects could be immense. Beating LeBron, Love and Irving will be hard enough. Defeating that trio and a fourth star sounds downright impossible.

When the ballots come out, conflicts of interest will occur everywhere.

Would the Cavaliers campaign against their own player in All-Star voting? I’d be shocked.

Would they not campaign as hard for Irving as they would otherwise? I could see that. Some organizations don’t campaign on principle, which would give Cleveland some cover. Plus, this isn’t a franchise known for its respect of players.

How about Cavaliers fans? Do they vote for their own guy or do they try to preserve the team’s future cap flexibility?

And fans of other teams? Western Conference fans should stuff the ballot for Irving, doing their small part to open the championship window for franchises outside Cleveland. But fans of other Eastern Conference teams face a dilemma similar to Cavaliers fans: Their own guy or Irving?

There will be some unusual incentives in play. In the end, I expect Irving to start. There will just be too much attention on the Cavaliers, and he was already so popular.

But the potential for hijinks is definitely high.

Report: Knicks, who have No. 3 pick, to work out Darius Garland

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Leave a comment

Duke forward R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in the upcoming NBA draft. He wants to join the Knicks. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.

Perfect match?

Maybe not.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Maybe this is just New York doing its due diligence. The Knicks could also be trying to drum up trade interest among teams that want Garland.

But this feels a little like 2015, when Jahlil Okafor was the consensus No. 2 prospect for most of the pre-draft process but D'Angelo Russell emerged late as the Lakers’ No. 2 pick.

Barrett is a flawed prospect. He didn’t hit jumpers efficiently at Duke. His decision-making is suspect. He’s too left-handed dominant. He rarely uses his defensive tools. There’s a lot to like, to be sure. Barrett has nice size, athleticism and physicality. He’s a good ball-handler and playmaker. He seems built for a leading role.

But it wouldn’t shock me if a team likes Garland more. The point guard is a knockdown shooter with the ball-handling and footwork to get that shot off. He needs work as a distributor and lacks Barrett’s defensive potential.

Garland might not be as good as Barrett right now. But Garland’s path to success might be a little more projectable.

Harrison Barnes declining $25,102,512 player option with Kings

Rob Carr/Getty Images
3 Comments

Harrison Barnes‘ salary was so high, he became a talking point in the debate about WNBA salaries.

But he’s so confident he’ll get a better deal, he’s leaving $25,102,512 on the table with the Kings.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

If they renounce all their free agents, the Kings project to have about $60 million in cap space – likely more than they know what do with.

They could re-sign Barnes. By trading for him last year, they indicated they value him more than the rest of the league does.

Even if he settles for a lower salary next season than his player option called for, this could be the 27-year-old Barnes’ opportunity to secure a long-term deal. He’s a solid outside shooter and, even if he’s better at power forward, capable of playing small forward in a league thirsty for wings.

Sacramento could definitely use a player like him.

Can the Kings lure someone better, either this summer or – if they keep their books clean – a future year? Unless way overpaid, free agents have tended to avoid Sacramento. But the rapidly improving De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are leading a turnaround.

Barnes’ free agency could be a good litmus test for the Kings’ reputation now. Can they convince him to continue his role on a rising team? Will they have to pay a premium to keep him? Or does he just want to leave?

Report: Anthony Davis intends to receive full trade bonus

Harry How/Getty Images
6 Comments

The Lakers are reportedly on track to trade for Anthony Davis on July 6 – the date an important distinction in determining the Lakers’ cap space.

The other key question: Will Davis take his full $4,063,953 trade bonus?

The Pelicans will pay the bonus. It will count against the Lakers’ cap.

Especially considering Davis requested a trade, New Orleans could have pressed him to waive the trade bonus in order to accommodate him. Likewise, the Lakers – his desired team – could have made the deal contingent on Davis waiving the trade bonus.

Ramona Shelburne on ESPN:

My understanding is he doesn’t intend to waive that. He’s due the four million dollars, and he’s going to keep it. But again, as you just noted in that monologue, things can change.

If he takes the full bonus, Davis’ salary next season will increase from $27,093,018 to $31,156,971. And good for him. He earned the trade kicker in his contract.

This also supports agent Rich Paul’s contention that he puts Davis’ interests first while representing Davis, not catering to fellow client LeBron James. Because while the extra money is nice for Davis, this hurts LeBron’s Lakers.

The Lakers now project to have just $24 million in cap room. They can still get a helpful player or two, but $28 million would have gone further.

I wonder whether the Pelicans prefer to pay Davis’ bonus. Though a $4,063,953 check is nothing to sneeze at, tying up the Lakers’ cap space has value with New Orleans getting so many future draft picks from Los Angeles. Maybe the Pelicans have already made Davis getting his full bonus an essential aspect of this trade.

If not, the Lakers have a week before the Davis trade can become official to pitch free agents. Perhaps, if they line up certain free agents and show him the spending power of that extra money, Davis would waive all or some of his trade bonus.

But I wouldn’t blame him if he wants his money and puts the onus on the Lakers to build a strong team, anyway. That’d sounds a lot like another Paul client.

Kawhi Leonard leaving NBA-champion Raptors would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
2 Comments

Many Raptors fans hoped Kawhi Leonard would use yesterday’s championship parade to declare his plan to re-sign with Toronto.

They got a laugh and not much else.

But they can be heartened – or maybe eventually heartbroken –a by this: Stars almost never switched teams immediately following a title.

Before this year, there have been…

  • 49 Finals MVPs who won a championship. None switched teams that offseason.
  • 147 All-Stars who won a championship. None switched teams that offseason.
  • 124 All-NBA players who won a championship. Only one switched teams that offseason.

In 1998, Scottie Pippen got signed-and-traded from the Bulls to the Rockets. He was neither an All-Star nor Finals MVP that year, but he made the All-NBA third team. After leaving Chicago, he never achieved any of those accolades.

Leonard checked all three boxes this season – Finals MVP, All-NBA, All-Star. He looks poised to take over as the NBA’s best player for the next few several years.

It’d be unprecedented for someone like him to bolt.

The most productive player to leave a championship team immediately after winning a title? It might be Tyson Chandler, who posted 9.4 win shares for the 2011 Mavericks then got signed-and-traded to the Knicks.

Even while missing 22 games amid load management and minor injury, Leonard posted 9.5 win shares last season.

Here’s how Leonard compares to the players with the most win shares in a title-winning season who began play elsewhere the following year:

image

Of course, Leonard isn’t bound by history. He’ll make his own decision. If he wants to leave the Raptors for the Clippers, Knicks or anyone else, he can.

But players just usually stick with a champion. LeBron James said he might have re-signed with the Heat if they won the 2014 title. Kyrie Irving was unhappy after the Cavaliers’ 2016 championship but didn’t request a trade until they lost in the 2017 NBA Finals. Shaq and Kobe coexisted peacefully enough until the Lakers stopped winning titles.

It’s just hard to leave a team that has proven its ability to win a championship, and Leonard would have that in Toronto.