2017 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Will Lonzo Ball justify LaVar Ball’s hype? Does he fit on the Lakers?

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Lonzo Ball is unlike anything that we’ve seen come through the college ranks in recent years.

It’s not simply that he’s a 6-foot-6 point guard with range out to 30 feet on his jump shot and court vision that is probably more aptly described as radar. Lonzo is the son of LaVar Ball, who has become a viral sensation and a quasi-celebrity due to the nature of the way the media operates today and his desire to turn the Ball family into an athletic apparel brand.

Put another way, the circus surrounding Lonzo isn’t just a result of him being the closest thing we’ve seen to Jason Kidd since he was torching Pac-12 defenses with Cal back in the early-90s.

It’s unfortunate that the discussion about Lonzo’s potential has a pro has been dominated by whether or not LaVar is too involved in his son’s life, because the conversation about whether or not the oldest of the three Ball kids can transform an NBA team the way that he’s transformed his high school and college teams is far more intriguing, and frankly, more relevant.

Lonzo’s strengths are elite in every sense of the word. But he has some pronounced weaknesses that, at the very least, make you wonder if the team he ends up on will have to tailor their roster to cover those holes.

What kind of a pro will Ball end up being?

Height: 6′6″
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 6′9″
2016-17 Stats: 14.6 points, 6.0 boards, 7.6 assists, 73.2% 2PT, 41.2% 3PT

STRENGTHS: What Lonzo Ball does well he does at an absolutely elite level, and you can’t talk about Ball without first mentioning his unbelievable skill in transition.

It starts with his ability to get from one end of the floor to the other. He isn’t the quickest or most explosive guard in this draft, but once he hits his top gear, he can run away from the defense; 30 percent of his offense, according to Synergy, came in transition possessions. He creates transition opportunities himself. He not only runs on turnovers or off of an outlet, he’ll go and grab a defensive rebound himself and lead the break. This not only creates layups for himself, where, at 6-foot-6, he can finish at or above the rim with either hand, but it puts pressure on the defense to stop the ball. He also runs hard without the ball, and his size and athleticism allows him to be a lob target in transition.

As good as Ball is going running, he’s even better passing the ball in transition. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch. His vision and understanding of where his teammates are going to be is on another level — his basketball IQ is off-the-charts — and he is able to vary the angle, the height or the hand that he passes with in order to get the ball where it needs to go. He’s a quick, decisive and creative decision-maker with the size to see over the defense and accuracy that would make Aaron Rodgers jealous.

It’s not just in transition where he has that kind of success. He can make just about any pass you need to make coming off of a ball-screen — a big popping, a big rolling to the rim, same-side shooters, weak-side shooters. Again, his size here is an incredible advantage, allowing him not only to see over the defense but to make passes over the defense.

His unselfishness permeates a team. His teammates fill lanes and run to spot-up because they know he’ll reward them for doing it. They make the extra pass because they know the ball will eventually find its way back to them. It’s contagious, and it starts with Ball.

As a scorer, he does have some limitations — we’ll get to that — but the things he does well he’s very good at. It starts with his three-point shooting, where he has range well beyond the NBA three-point line, either off the catch, off the dribble or off of a vicious step-back jumper that was borderline-unstoppable in college. He shot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman, many of those from out to 30 feet. He also shot 73.2 percent from inside the arc, which speaks to his effectiveness at getting to, and finishing at, the rim; Ball only attempted 13 shots inside the arc that weren’t layups or dunks, as he’s a very good straight line driver going right.

Ball is also better moving off the ball than he gets credit for. He can run off of screens and bury threes off the catch or off of a one-dribble pull-up, and his size and ability to make back-door cuts made him a lob target for UCLA this past season.

Defensively, Ball must add strength to his frame, but he proved to be a pretty effective defender one-on-one when he was actually engaged on that end. His physical tools, his anticipation and his basketball IQ make him a dangerous defensive playmaker as well, and that should carry over to the next level as well.

WEAKNESSES: What Ball does well he does as well as anyone that we see at the college level, but his struggles are just as glaring as his strengths are obvious, and it all stems around one, simple question: Will Ball be able to create offense in a half-court setting?

The biggest issue is his jump shot. When he’s knocking down threes, be it off the catch or off of that deadly step-back, he’s bring the ball all the way over to the left side of his body and his feet are pointing well off to the left of the rim. On catch-and-shoot opportunities, this isn’t all that much of an issue — there are shooting coaches that will teach players to have a slight turn; watch Stephen Curry‘s feet when he shoots threes — and when Ball shoots his step-back, his feet are naturally going to be angled in that direction.

The trouble comes when he’s attempting to pull-up, particularly when he is going to his right. His feet are out of whack and he has to bring the ball all the way to the other side of his body, which is part of the reason Ball appears to fumble with the ball quite often when shooting off the dribble. As a result, Ball essentially has no mid-range game. On the season, Ball made 189 field goals: 80 of them were threes, 102 of them were layups or dunks and only seven were either floaters or two-point jumpers.

This issue is also evident when he shoots free throws, as his toes are pointed directly at the rim. That’s why a guy that shoots 73 percent from two and 41 percent from three makes just 67 percent of his free throws.

Ball’s other issue is in the pick-and-roll, where he never proved to be much of a scoring threat. There were just 49 pick-and-roll possessions all season where Ball wasn’t a passer — for comparison’s sake, Markelle Fultz had 184 while playing 11 fewer games — and he turned the ball over on 32 percent of them. He had nearly three times as many pick-and-roll possessions as a passer, and all of 33 possessions in isolation.

The result is that Ball is entirely too predictable in the half court. If he’s getting a ball-screen, he’s going to be a passer three out of four times. If he’s going right, he’s going all the way to the rim. If he’s going left, you know it’s going to be a pull-up. Throw in questions about whether or not he has the first-step to turn the corner at the next level, and there are certainly legitimate concerns about his effectiveness against NBA defenders.

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball (AP Photo/Matt York)

NBA COMPARISON: Jason Kidd is the obvious one, and it mostly works. Both are big guards with unbelievable court vision and an unselfishness that permeates a team. Both are average athletes by NBA standards. Both thrive in transition. Both make a lot of threes — Kidd is eighth all-time in three-pointers made — even if there are questions about how good, or effective, they are as shooters. All that left is to find out whether or not Ball can put together a Hall of Fame career, or if he can sell signature shoes, like Kidd.

OUTLOOK: Ball is going to end up being drafted by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick. We can pretend like there is going to be drama here, like Magic Johnson is going to look at a big point guard, a local kid, with an innate ability to lead the break and see anything other than himself and the reincarnation of the Showtime Lakers, but that would be a waste of time.

What that means is that Ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, will be teamed up with D'Angelo Russell, a point guard that was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 Draft, and Brandon Ingram, a wing that was the No. 2 pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.

And, frankly, I think that works. What Russell and Ingram do well make up for where Ball struggles. Russell operates in the pick-and-roll as a ball-handler in the half court. Ingram is an isolation scorer that shot better than 41 percent from three in his one season at Duke. If Ball struggles to create in half court settings, he can act as a floor-spacer thanks to his ability in catch-and-shoot actions.

That’s before you consider that Luke Walton, the second-year head coach of the Lakers, spent two seasons as an assistant — one of which where he spent half of the season as the interim head coach — with the Warriors, and the offense UCLA ran this year, one heavy on spacing, ball-movement and player movement, is quite similar to what the Warriors run.

Put another way, on paper, Los Angeles looks like the perfect place for Ball, a exquisitely skilled albeit flawed prospect, to end up.

Thon Maker and Andray Blatche among 18 (!) disciplined for Philippines-Australia brawl

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Thon Maker and Andray Blatche were the biggest names in the Philippines-Australia brawl, but they sure weren’t the only ones involved in the massive fight. The fallout included the Bucks center and former Wizards forward, but it also reaches much further.

FIBA release:

Philippines
The following 10 players are suspended for unsportsmanlike behavior and, in the case of Roger Pogoy, also for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior (in brackets the number of games of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers): Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright (1 game each); Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro William, Andray Blatche and Jeth Rosario (3 games each); Roger Pogoy, Carl Cruz and Jio Jalalon (5 games each); Calvin Abueva (6 games, due also to prior unsportsmanlike behavior in a FIBA competition). No sanction is imposed on Gabe Norwood.
Assistant Coach Joseph Uichico is suspended for 3 games for unsportsmanlike behavior. Head Coach Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes is suspended for 1 game and shall pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 10,000 for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior.
Philippines’ national federation, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Inc (SBP), is sanctioned for the unsportsmanlike behavior of its delegation members and of its public, as well as for insufficient organization of the game. Philippines will play the next home game behind closed doors while a ban for two more home games has been placed under a probationary period of 3 years. SBP shall also pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 250,000.
Australia
The following 3 players are suspended for unsportsmanlike behavior and, in the case of Chris Goulding and Daniel Kickert, also for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior: Chris Goulding (1 game), Thon Maker (3 games) and Daniel Kickert (5 games). No sanction is imposed on Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee.
Basketball Australia shall pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 100,000 for the unsportsmanlike behavior of its players and for abusing and/or tampering of equipment, after having removed floor stickers from the court on the eve of the game.

Furthermore, following a thorough evaluation by a group of experts of the officiating during the game, the FIBA Secretary General has decided that the referees of the game shall be removed with immediate effect from the FIBA Elite Program and shall not be nominated to any international competitions organized or recognized by FIBA (including at Zone and Sub-zone level) for a period of one year.

Report: Celtics re-signing Marcus Smart for four years, $52 million

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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Marcus Smart put out word he was “hurt and disgusted” by the Celtics’ approach to his free agency. He threatened to take the qualifying offer. He used the Kings for leverage.

All that agitating paid off.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Boston retains a key player in a year with championship potential. That’s most important. The Warriors will be favored against any opponent, but the Celtics might present the biggest challenge. (The Raptors and Rockets are also in the running for Golden State’s biggest challenger.)

This deal probably represents fair value for Smart. He thought was worth more. Boston surely wanted to keep him for less – especially considering the luxury-tax concerns.

Smart will earn between $11,607,143 and $14,772,727 next season, based on these reported terms. Even the low end would push the Celtics over the tax line.

They could escape the tax this season with a trade, but bigger bills are coming as Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are due major raises in coming years. Would Boston frontload Smart’s contract and pay more now to potentially save if this team faces the repeater tax down the road? That’d also make Smart more valuable in the future, with a higher share of his contract already paid off.

Smart is an excellent defender, capable of guarding all three perimeter positions and switching inside. He plays so hard and makes hustle plays all over the floor. He’s also a decent distributor. But he’s an awful 3-point shooter for someone who still launches jumpers so often, and that can kill spacing.

He’s a complex player – one definitely worth having, but also one Danny Ainge could easily trade. Boston also has Irving and Rozier at point guard, though both can become free agents summer.

For now, Smart provides the Celtics with excellent production. He represents insurance for the following season. After that – or maybe even sooner – he could be a trade chip.

Boston accomplished its top offseason priority by retaining Smart. He gets life-changing money, and the Celtics bolster their present and future. Everyone involved should feel good about this agreement.

NBA Summer Power Rankings: Warriors still on top, but Lakers, Raptors climbing

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The dust of the NBA offseason has largely settled after the Kawhi Leonard trade — sure, Carmelo Anthony has yet to be released in Oklahoma City, but we know he will ultimately land in Houston — and between free agency and Summer League we have a sense of what teams will look like come the fall. So here are the “everyone is chasing Golden State” power rankings as we get to the end of July.

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (Last season 58-24). The NBA’s best team improved this summer, which had some people calling it unfair and asking the league to change the rules. Which is wrong-headed, but that’s another story. The Warriors’ biggest move this summer was to secure Kevin Durant, and there was an under the radar decisions such as inking Jonas Jerebko. The Warriors were the one team that could patiently wait for DeMarcus Cousins to get healthy, then give him a reputation-changing platform, so he asked in, and that gives the Warriors options.

 
Celtics small icon 2. Celtics (55-27). Despite the rampant rumors and fervent excitement of some Celtics fans — “trade up for a top five pick” or “trade for Kawhi Leonard” — Danny Ainge knew he had the best hand in the East already, so he didn’t take risks. He largely stood pat. A Marcus Smart is not yet done but likely will be soon. The Celtics are going to get healthy (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward) and key players will improve (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum) next season. They will set the bar in the East and could be a threat to the Warriors thanks to that defense.

 
Rockets small icon 3. Rockets (65-17). The clear second best team in the NBA last season got a little worse this summer — it was not a disaster, but their depth and defense took some hits, and with the Warriors ahead of them there was little margin for error already. GM Daryl Morey did lock up Chris Paul (on a fair four-year deal). However, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute are gone now, and Clint Capela remains unsigned (he’ll be back, the question is the price). Carmelo Anthony can fit with them on offense (if he can accept a role), but he doesn’t help on the other end of the court (James Ennis will help there, some).

 
Sixers small icon 4. 76ers (52-30). They were a 52-win team that will be better next season because key players — Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric — will improve, plus Markelle Fultz will get added to the mix. This team is well positioned and going to take a step forward. Maybe not as fast a Brett Brown and fans wanted — the Sixers went big game hunting this summer and came up empty — but they can afford to be patient. A big name player will come, eventually. It’s good to be a Sixers fans right now.

 
Raptors small icon 5. Raptors (59-23). Kawhi Leonard may not want to be there, but if he’s fully healthy — and that remains a question mark — Leonard elevates the Raptors up to a team with a legitimate chance to come out of the East (and that makes them a contender). That the Raptors were able to keep OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet gives this team depth and versatility. Nick Nurse, you’ve got a contender with an unhappy superstar on it, welcome to your first NBA head coaching season. Good luck.

 
Jazz small icon 6. Jazz (48-34). Of all the teams clumped in the West at seeds 3-12 (the potential for 46 to 52 wins), Utah is the one I trust the most because they will defend. Every night. Even if Donovan Mitchell plateaus in his second season, Utah has Ricky Rubio back, adds Grayson Allen, and should have a full season of Rudy Gobert protecting the paint (and Derick Favors back if he does miss some time). Plus, I trust Quin Snyder to keep them sharp and competing night in and night out.

 
Thunder small icon 7. Thunder (48-34 LW 9).. OKC got their biggest prize — Paul George chose them, and that makes the Thunder a threat for years to come. They are soon going to lose Carmelo Anthony, which helps their defense (but dings them on offense a little). The Russell Westbrook/George/Andre Roberson/Steven Adams foursome is as good as you’ll find in the league, but they still need to find some depth around those guys. I like re-signing Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton, but that’s not enough.

 
Lakers small icon 8. Lakers (35-47). Los Angeles won the summer — they landed LeBron James. He should pair well with Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma (and better with Lonzo Ball than some think), but every other move was far more about keeping cap space and flexibility to get another star than it was winning now. Magic may say he wanted winners/playmakers, he’s going to grasp the need for shooters fast. Rajon Rondo is good when he cares, JaVale McGee can fill a role, but Lance Stephenson is a head scratcher. This is a playoff team as constructed, but expect more moves.

 
Spurs small icon 9. Spurs (47-35). They did not hit a home run in their trade with the Raptors, but they got what they wanted — an All-NBA level player who can make them dangerous and keep them relevant for a couple of years (until Gregg Popovich retires and the rebuild starts). This team won 47 games last season basically without Leonard, DeRozan makes them a little better (at least on offense). No Tony Parker just feels strange. Adding Marco Belinelli will be a good fit thanks to his shooting.

 
Pacers small icon 10. Pacers (48-34). They quietly had a very good summer. Indiana added Tyreke Evans for bench scoring, Doug McDermott and Evans for shooting, some depth a the point with Aaron Holiday, and a bruiser in the paint with Kyle O'Quinn. Put them in the mix around Victor Oladipo and the existing core and this team could have home court in the first round.

Bucks small icon 11. Bucks (44-38 LW 18). Their smartest move of the summer was landing the best Xs and Os coach on the board in Mike Budenholzer, who should put all that talent in better positions than a year ago. Coach Bud will make Giannis Antetokounmpo better. The Bucks desperately need shooting and floor spacing and the additions of Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez help with that, to a degree. Will they miss Jabari Parker? I don’t think that much.

 
Pelicans small icon 12. Pelicans (48-34). They lost DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, but with the addition of Julius Randle they can better embrace the fast pace at which the team thrived the second half of last season (Randle can play with either Anthony Davis or Nikola Mirotic). There’s still not much to like about this team on the wing, but if Jrue Holiday can stay healthy the Pelicans will cause problems in the West.

 
Nuggets small icon 13. Nuggets (46-36).. The most important thing Denver did this summer was lock up Nikola Jokic long term, that keeps this team relevant for years, he is a cornerstone big man. Great roll of the dice on Isaiah Thomas, and if he is willing to take on the sixth man role he can thrive at a mile high. Keep Paul Millsap healthy this season and the Nuggets are a playoff team (and maybe even if he isn’t).

 
Blazers small icon 14. Trail Blazers (49-33). This was the three seed in the West last season and they are bringing back Jusuf Nurkic in the paint to keep their top-10 defense going. They added more shooting and depth with Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, plus in the draft picked up Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. Despite rumors of a shakeup, there were no dramatic moves, which means team is still going to rise and fall with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

 
15. Timberwolves (47-35, LW 13). They made a leap forward into the playoffs last season, but can they take another step forward this season? They lost Nemanja Bjelica and probably Jamal Crawford, and Anthony Tolliver does not make up for that. Bigger question: Will the strained locker room dynamics hold this team back? Will Jimmy Butler be traded? Can Andrew Wiggins find a way to fit his game into this roster this season?

 
Wizards small icon 16. Wizards (43-39). Marcin Gortat is out, he clashed with John Wall, so the chemistry issues in the Washington locker room should get better, right? Oh yea, they added Dwight Howard. They added Austin Rivers as well. The Wizards are solid, but Washington has never consistently lived up to its potential, what will make next season any different?

 
Heat small icon 17. Heat (44-38). Miami wanted to make a bold move this summer, but with no takers for the Hassan Whiteside or Tyler Johnson contracts, they essentially have to run it back with the Goran Dragic led team of a season ago. They kept Wayne Ellington, which was smart, but to get better Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow need to make leaps. Everyone is keeping an eye on the decisions of Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, will they retire?

 
Mavericks small icon 18. Mavericks (24-58). Dallas is not coasting through Dirk Nowitzki’s final season (although they will use that to sell tickets at every turn). They made the move of the draft getting Luka Doncic, then made an aggressive move to land DeAndre Jordan at center. Pair those two with Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and Nowitzki and you have a team that could have one of the biggest single-season leaps in wins in a long time, and maybe make the playoffs in the West.

 
Grizzlies small icon 19. Grizzlies (22-60). They are not tanking, on the orders of ownership they are aiming for the postseason. The Grizzlies had a strong offseason adding Jaren Jackson Jr. (maybe the best player of the draft at Summer League), Jevon Carter, and through free agency Kyle Anderson and Omri Casspi. The real question to how good the Grizzlies can be comes down to one simple thing: How many games can Mike Conley and Marc Gasol stay healthy and play together? If that number is north of 65, the playoffs are not out of the question.

Pistons small icon 20. Pistons (39-43). Stan Van Gundy is out and Dwane Casey is in as coach, but what is he going to do with a roster built around Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson. If those three stay healthy this can be a playoff team in the East, but would you bet on that health? If Casey can get more out of Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard that would help this team considerably.

 
Clippers small icon 21. Clippers (42-40). Despite losing Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford — all in just more than a year — the Clippers are not going into rebuild mode. They have a roster of good players with Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly and more, but everything has to go right for them to make the playoffs. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander impressed in Las Vegas.

 
Hornets small icon 22. Hornets (36-46). It still feels like “Kemba Walker vs. the World” in Charlotte. They have gotten a little better around the fringes — Dwight Howard is out and Bismack Biyombo is in, Malid Monk impressed in limited Summer League run, and they add Miles Bridges — but it’s on new coach James Barego to get more out of them somehow. Seeing Tony Parker in teal rather than black and silver is just going to look strange.

 
Bulls small icon 23. Bulls (27-55).. They have more than $38 million wrapped up next season in guys coming off ACL surgeries in Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker, which is a big gamble. Wendell Carter Jr. showed real promise — on both ends of the floor — in Summer League. Put all of them with Lauri Markkanen (and Kris Dunn) and you have a team that can score buckets but is not going to stop anybody. If this team doesn’t rise up this year, Fred Holberg’s seat is going to get warm.

 
Cavaliers small icon 24. Cavaliers (50-32). LeBron James is gone, and while they say they want to compete shouldn’t take long for owner Dan Gilbert to fully embrace the rebuild and trade Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and every other veteran. After that, they can see what a young core of Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and the rest can do.

 
Knicks small icon 25. Knicks (29-53, LW 22). There was good news out of Summer League, where Kevin Knox showed a lot of potential with his athleticism, and Mitchell Robinson averaged 13 points and four blocks a game. The bad news, Frank Ntilikina looked pedestrian (not good for a second-year player). With Kristaps Porzingis out likely at least half the season (and he could miss it all) this team isn’t going anywhere this year, it’s about development.

 
Magic small icon 26. Magic (25-57). For the first time in a long time, the Orlando Magic are going to be interesting. They re-signed Aaron Gordon, and at Summer League the young front line of Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba showed a lot of defensive potential. Throw Jonathan Simmons in the mix with defensive-minded coach Steve Clifford, and the Magic should get plenty of stops. The offense will be a work in progress, but the Magic will be a team worth watching.

 
Suns small icon 27. Suns (21-61). Phoenix did the smart things this summer: they locked up Devin Booker and drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1. They can roll out an interesting young core — Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, and Ayton that will be fun to watch, and Trevor Ariza will provide some locker room guidance (although at $15 million the question is why?). The rebuilding plan is starting to take shape, and their could be an interesting team to watch (except at point guard).

 
Kings small icon 28. Kings (27-55). They can roll out an interesting young core of De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles (who looked solid at Summer League), and maybe the best of them all Marvin Bagley III. They are rebuilding and not going to win a lot of games yet, but there is some potential there. Also, the Kings still have more than $20 million in cap space, expect them to do something with it (they can take on a bad contract for a first-round pick, if they want).

 
Nets small icon 29. Nets (28-54). Just what will Brooklyn get out of D’Angelo Russell in a contract year? It’s an interesting story line in Brooklyn, along with watching the development of Jarrett Allen at center and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. New GM Sean Marks has done a great job digging Brooklyn out of the hole the last administration dug, now he can really put his vision together for this rebuilding team.

 
Hawks small icon 30. Hawks (24-58). Trae Young was down then up at Summer League, eventually adapting to the length and athleticism of defenders at that level — but come October that level is going to take another massive jump. John Collins at center impressed a lot at Summer League, he could be a future star. Will the Hawks get anything out of Jeremy Lin (between him and Dennis Schroder, someone is getting traded). Embrace the rebuild, Hawks fans: It’s going to be a rough year, but look for signs of growth and hope.

Report: Spurs annoyed some in Kawhi Leonard’s camp by not giving him 2014 contract extension

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Kawhi Leonard proved to be a burgeoning star while leading the Spurs to the 2014 championship. He won Finals MVP at age 22, a huge accomplishment just before becoming eligible for his rookie-scale contract extension.

San Antonio gave him… zilch.

That actually made sense. Leonard’s cap hold in the summer of 2015 was just $7,235,148 until he signed. If he inked a max extension the previous year, his cap number would have been $16,407,500 the entire 2015 offseason. The Spurs used the resulting $9,172,352 in cap flexibility toward signing LaMarcus Aldridge. Then, they used Leonard’s Bird Rights to give him a max deal – with the exact same terms an extension would have stated.

The plan worked perfectly.

Unless it didn’t.

A few years later, Leonard requested a trade, which San Antonio granted yesterday to the Raptors. Obviously, his quad injury played a prominent role in the rift between Leonard and the Spurs. There was also contention over a super-max extension this year.

But that 2014 contract saga might have planted seeds of the fractured relationship.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

It annoyed some in Leonard’s camp that the Spurs had him wait for a max contract after the 2014 Finals to keep cap space free for the following summer, but Leonard understood the logic and appeared to accept it, sources familiar with the matter say.

At the time – before he even got his max deal in 2015 free agency – Leonard said:

“I was never upset about (the extension),” Leonard said. “I mean they explained to me what their deal is and why they didn’t do it yet. That’ll play out. I’m just here to play basketball and have fun and try to win another championship. If I think about that, then I’m not going to be the same player that I am and will be just out of it. …

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere,” Leonard said. “I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.”

How does it go from Leonard saying that on the record to this?

This report will accomplish two things:

1. It will raise even more questions about Leonard’s advisors – whether they know what they’re doing and whether they or Leonard run the show.

2. It will enable rookie-scale-extension-eligible players and agents to strike fear into teams. Nobody wants to wind up in San Antonio’s situation. In a copy-cat league, teams might become more willing to sign players to early extensions rather than wait for following summer for new deals – even at the expense of cap flexibility.