And now, 29 teams will start chasing the champion Warriors

4 Comments

The alarm was sounded loud and clear by LeBron James not long after the NBA Finals ended, and every other player, coach and general manager around the league who did not end this season drenched in champagne surely agreed with what he was saying.

The Golden State Warriors are a problem.

And they’re probably going to stay that way.

There will be one question inevitably asked this offseason by most of the 29 other teams in the NBA whose fingers didn’t get to smudge the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year. That question will not have a good answer for many, if any. Basketball’s offseason is here, a draft and free agency loom, and for the second time in three years everyone is chasing the Warriors.

Good luck, everybody.

You’re going to need it.

“They’re going to be here for a while,” James said after the Finals ended , his words coming as the Warriors’ celebration was still going in earnest. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.”

Boston has the No. 1 pick in the draft to add to a team that went to the Eastern Conference finals this season. Miami will have around $37 million in spending money once Chris Bosh comes off the books. James will try and lure more help to come to Cleveland. Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Gordon Hayward, Paul George and Blake Griffin may all be changing addresses. The Knicks have openly been begging Carmelo Anthony to seek a trade elsewhere.

No, quiet will not happen in July 2017.

It’s unclear if any of this summer’s moves will matter come June 2018.

The Warriors might be that far ahead of the field already.

“There’s going to be a lot of teams that’s trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try and match that if they’re able to actually face them in a playoff series, both Eastern Conference and Western Conference,” James said. “Because they’re built for … from my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

Technically, the Warriors have some work to do in order to remain the Warriors.

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee will be among many Golden State players in the free-agent waters, and Kevin Durant will likely join them. Even though it will cost the Warriors big money – remember, Curry is in line for an enormous raise and made “only” $12 million this season – it’s more than possible for them to keep their core intact.

There also are some other matters of business around the league to clear up this season.

Many players have opt-in decisions coming before the July 1 shopping spree opens. Some of those decisions could affect what happens on draft night, when Markelle Fultz will likely go to the Celtics with the No. 1 overall pick. And there is still all the awards that need to be handed out, like settling the Russell Westbrook versus James Harden race for MVP.

There hasn’t been a coaching change in more than a year, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for the league. But some front offices have undergone recent overhauls, and more of that could be on the way – especially if Cleveland does not retain GM David Griffin, whose contract with the Cavs is expiring.

Rosters, though, will definitely change. They always change. The Warriors won’t be the same when Commissioner Adam Silver hands them their rings next October (when the league’s longer season designed to give more rest over the 82-game span) begins. The Cavaliers won’t be the same either. Nobody will have the same 15 players they ended the season with.

But the Warriors look like they’re on the brink of something dynastic.

No team had a winning record against Golden State this season – five were .500 against the Warriors – and 16 of the 29 other teams in the league didn’t beat them even once. The best example of how far the league has to go to catch the Warriors might be the Portland Trail Blazers, a very solid team with two great scorers in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Portland played Golden State eight times this season. The Blazers went 0-8.

Again, good luck, everybody else.

“We’re obviously just getting started,” Curry said. “This is something that we want to continue to do.”

 

Report: Rockets tried to give away Chris Paul, but teams – including Knicks – said no

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
1 Comment

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey not only denied a report that Chris Paul demanded a trade, Morey said Paul would remain in Houston next season.

We might never know how tense the situation has gotten between Paul and James Harden. We might never know whether Paul requested a trade.

But we will know whether Paul begins next season in Houston.

Morey’s credibility is on the line with that. Will he really refuse to trade Paul? That’s not Morey’s style.

More likely, Morey made that declaration only after exhausting the market for Paul and the three years, $124,076,442 remaining on his contract.

Shams Charania of The Athletic, via CBS:

There’s not a team in the league right now that is like, “I’m going to go trade for Chris Paul.” Even some teams that they’ve called, I’m told, as just a dump, like, “We’ll give you Chris Paul for free,” those teams are like “We’re good.” So, the value just is not there right now.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

The Rockets recently explored trading Chris Paul into New York’s cap space, but the Knicks refused, according to league sources.

Good for the Knicks resisting. With Kyrie Irving apparently (maybe?) headed to the Nets and Kevin Durant‘s future up in the air, that’s the type of desperate move New York is known to make.

Paul, 34, is overpaid and declining. No team should absorb his contract into cap space.

But he’s still pretty good. Not nearly as good as he once was, but good enough to help the Rockets. Their championship window hasn’t necessarily snapped completely shut yet. There’s value in keeping Paul and trying to repair his and Harden’s relationship.

There also might be better opportunities later in the summer to trade Paul. Teams want to preserve their cap space now for free agents. But some teams will strike out and might view Paul as a good fallback option.

Of course, if Morey thought a deal later in the offseason were a possibility, he probably wouldn’t have so explicitly insisted Paul will remain in Houston.

Report: Minnesota “aggressive” in trying to trade up in draft, talked to Pelicans about fourth pick

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Minnesota Timberwolves are slotted to pick 11th in the NBA Draft Thursday night. There they could land players along the lines of Brandon Clarke or Rui Hachimura, both of Gonzaga.

The Timberwolves have their sights set higher and they are looking to move up in the draft — maybe all the way to No. 4, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic fleshed out some details.

Among the options being considered, as first reported by ESPN, is moving all the way up to No. 4, presumably for a shot at Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. He missed most of his lone season in college due to a knee injury, but prior to that was widely scouted as the top point guard in the draft class. Interest in such a move is indicative of Rosas’s mindset of star-chasing, an approach honed in Houston.

That sounds great in theory, but what is the deal to be made for the fourth pick? David Griffin of the Pelicans has made it clear the No. 4 pick is available, but they want a veteran — and one not too old — in return. The Timberwolves don’t have that guy on their roster. (Technically they do in Andrew Wiggins, but that’s not a contract — four years, $122.3 million remaining — that the Pelicans would take on.)

Minnesota’s head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas told The Athletic how hard this kind of trade can be.

“The reality is, and history will tell you, it’s hard to trade up into the top three of the draft, even top five in the lottery,” Rosas said. “It’s very difficult. We know, because we’re tried, and will continue to try. But that price, the premium that teams charge for that is at a high level in any draft in any year.”

Minnesota seems a long shot, but don’t be surprised if the Pelicans trade the No. 4 pick. New Orleans has worked hard to find someone to take that pick off their hands, so long as they get a fair price back.

Report: Nets debating whether or not to sign Kyrie Irving without Kevin Durant

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Leave a comment

The Nets want to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn appears set to get Irving. Durant a much bigger unknown.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

The question is if they can’t land Durant, do they still want Irving?

It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now.

The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn’t bringing the injured Durant with him.

Irving brings chemistry concerns, to be sure. He’s mercurial, and his season with the Celtics raises legitimate questions about him leading a team.

But Irving is a major talent upgrade. To win at the highest levels, teams must assemble a lot of talent and hope for the best.

I’d also caution Brooklyn against assuming re-signing D'Angelo Russell would mean the team maintains its current culture. The Nets can’t freeze time. Situations change. People change. There’s no guarantee Russell on a lucrative contract and his teammates jell as well as contract-year Russell and his teammates did.

Keeping Russell might look like the safe route, but nothing is assured.

The other huge issue: Durant might not know where he’ll sign when Irving is ready to commit. The Nets could have to decide on Irving before knowing whether Durant will accompany him. At that point, would Brooklyn really spurn Irving and a chance at getting both stars? I can’t see that.

Really, with so much talk of Irving joining the Nets, I thought we’d already crossed that threshold.

Report: Bucks trading Tony Snell, No. 30 pick to Pistons

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

For a team only lukewarm on paying the luxury tax, the Bucks are in a payroll crunch. Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic will be free agents this summer.

That’s why Milwaukee was trying to unload Tony Snell or Ersan Ilyasova.

But if they re-sign their key free agents to multi-year deals, the Bucks could face more payroll/tax concerns in 2020-21.

That’s why Milwaukee is willing to deal Snell and its first-round pick for Jon Leuer‘s burdensome contract – which carries a slightly lower salary than Snell’s next season ($9,508,043 vs. $11,592,857) and, more importantly, ends one year before Snell’s ($12,378,571 player option for 2020-21),

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This trade lowers Milwaukee’s team salary by about $4 million next season and $14 million the following season.

The Bucks could stretch Leuer and reduce team salary by an extra $6,338,695 next season. But that’d also lock in a cap hit of $3,169,348 each of the next three years.

Milwaukee can make that decision later in the summer. It’ll depend what other free agents – especially Lopez, who has only Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights – command. Clearing extra money this offseason could be useful in multiple scenarios.

If Lopez signs for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which projects to start at about $9 million), the Bucks could maintain Bird Rights for Middleton, Brogdon and Mirotic then exceed the cap to re-sign those three. But Milwaukee would be hard-capped at a projected $138 million. Stretching Leuer could help the Bucks stay under that line.

If re-signing Lopez requires more than the mid-level exception, Milwaukee could open about $14 million in cap space by waiving George Hill and renouncing all its free agents besides Middleton and Brogdon. Stretching Leuer would open even more cap room to spend on Lopez.

If Lopez leaves, the same math applies to an outside free agent who could get the mid-level exception or cap room.

This extra maneuverability comes at a cost, though a reasonable one.

Snell, who fell from the Bucks’ rotation, could be the Pistons’ starting small forward next season. Detroit was desperate for wing depth. Though Snell isn’t the biggest wing, he adds size to a group comprised of Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Langston Galloway.

The No. 30 pick is a helpful piece to the Pistons, who also have the No. 15 pick in tomorrow’s draft. But this is a weak-looking draft that thins considerably before the end of the first round.

Milwaukee also had to take Leuer, who has been ineffective for years.

Detroit gets helps now with Snell and potentially later with the No. 30 pick. In between, that extra year of Snell’s contract looks burdensome.

The Bucks are just happy to have it not be theirs.