Deals happening this summer, but amid perhaps more caution

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Pat Riley saw this coming.

Surveying the landscape going into free agency, the Miami Heat president had a clear sense that smarter spending was going to be the rule in the NBA this summer as opposed to the enormous-contract spree that occurred a year ago.

And so far, he’s been proven right.

There have still been some massive contracts – Stephen Curry‘s $201 million agreement with Golden State will set an NBA total-value record, while the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry combined to assure themselves another $400 million in soon-to-be-official deals. Otto Porter may be in line for $105 million, either from Sacramento or Washington.

But unlike 2016, there’s been very few puzzling moves.

“Some of the contracts were sort of out of whack,” Riley said.

That was then, with deals like ones given to Joakim Noah ($72 million for four years by the Knicks), Timofey Mozgov ($64 million for four years by the Lakers) and Luol Deng ($72 million for four years, also by the Lakers) not exactly paying massive dividends last season. Perhaps not coincidentally, it should be noted that the Knicks and Lakers are both under different management this summer.

Deals are getting done – going into Monday, $1.255 billion in new contracts have been agreed upon this summer already, a figure that goes past $1.5 billion when Porter signs and assuming John Wall takes his $168 million extension offer from Washington.

They’re just getting done more judiciously, or so it would seem.

“That’s part of the reasons we signed guys in advance last summer, was in anticipation of where the cap was going, knowing the value of cap room wasn’t going to be as much because of the preponderance of cap room in the marketplace,” Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said, noting there was $450 million available in cap room this summer across the league.

To Dwyane Wade, who will make nearly $24 million this season, what’s happening now is eye-popping.

“If I’m 25 with the same numbers,” the Chicago guard tweeted on June 21 with a reference to his stats from last season, “I’m getting 150 million.”

And later, Cleveland star LeBron James suggested that Curry should be getting $400 million instead of half that much.

Money matters, clearly. But this summer, teams and players are both showing savvy when handling these deep NBA coffers.

Gordon Hayward may sign a three-year deal wherever he goes, in large part because when that contract ends he’d be a 10-year veteran and in line for an even-bigger payday than the one that awaits. J.J. Redick cashed in with Philadelphia for $23 million, and gets the chance to be free again next summer. Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jeff Teague were among those who took three-year deals, even though longer ones were possible.

Lowry announced his decision on The Players’ Tribune, saying his son’s reaction to the news that they were staying in Toronto was that they now need to get a bigger house.

“We’ll see about that one,” Lowry said.

In the first two days of free agency – really, Monday was only Day 3, even though it seems like it’s been going on forever – at least 19 of the 30 NBA clubs struck known agreements on deals that will be eligible to be executed starting Thursday. Half the league hasn’t done anything that could be described as anywhere near splashy, either because funds are tight or they’re waiting for other dominoes to fall.

“Really happy and looking forward to this opportunity,” point guard Jose Calderon said after getting a $2.3 million deal from Cleveland, which didn’t have the room to be a major player in free agency – though can still make trades if it chooses, of course.

Golden State, meanwhile, has beaten the Cavaliers for two of the last three NBA titles and has handed out $275 million in new contracts so far this summer. And that total will soar when Kevin Durant‘s new deal with the Warriors gets added in, presumably sometime later this week.

Other teams without cap space or mechanisms by which to land players have to wait and see for what’s left.

“I don’t know how much money our team has – $16 million, and those guys are making $30 million now,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said, when asked if he thought his team could be a major player in free agency this year. “If you look at it that way, it doesn’t look likely. But there are good players out there.”

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.

PBT Podcast: Philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 season preview

2022-23 Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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The Philadelphia 76ers are title contenders — if James Harden and Joel Embiid can play up to their potential on the biggest of NBA stages. That hasn’t always happened before, particularly with Harden.

Those two are now set up well. Philadelphia learned its lessons from the playoff loss to Miami last season. GM Daryl Morey rounded out the roster with more toughness and two-way players in the form of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton. Add in the development of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle and you have a deep roster of quality players — down to BBall Paul.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins me to discuss if Doc Rivers is ready to take this team to the next level, and if all the additions can come together when it matters. Can Harden shake his history of playoff reputation and lead a team to the Finals?

You can always listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.