Is it best for NBA to have a few superteams? Kevin Durant thinks so.

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Parity has never been an NBA thing.

Certainly not in the NFL “any given Sunday” sense — in the NBA the best teams win out, particularly over the course of a season or seven-game series. The reason isn’t complex: There are only a handful of truly elite, game-changing basketball talents at this level, and if you have a LeBron James or James Harden or Russell Westbrook you can give them the ball 70+ possessions every night. It’s basically like if the Dodgers could throw Clayton Kershaw every game (not that they need to, apparently). The team with the star will win more often than not, and if you can get two or three of them on one team, watch out.

Is that good for the NBA? That’s long been up for debate,  but not surprisingly Kevin Durant said yes. Here was his quote from a Q&A with Anthony Slater of The Athletic Bay Area, discussing the teams that seemed to load up and gun for the Warriors this summer.

“You’re just seeing a lot of these GMs buckling down and saying, you know what, let’s swing for the fences. Let’s see what we can do. Anything can happen. You gotta respect it. Before, you’ve seen GMs be conservative, try to save money or build through the draft every year. Just try to be OK. But teams aren’t just settling for that. They’re trying to win and trying to win now and they want to put the best players together.

“It’s a great league and you want to see the best players on the biggest stage. Why not see the best players? All of them on a few teams. Why not see that? That’s what this league is about. It’s star-driven and it’s good to see that the stars dictate how the league is supposed to go. Then the next group of stars will do the same and the same after that. I think that’s what we’re starting.”

That sentiment is going to piss off a lot of fans, but KD is right. Right that superteams sell, and right that what really frustrates some fans is that now players are taking control of this rather than letting guys in suits tell them where they play.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver may not be as big a fan of superteams. He and the owners have tried to take steps in the last couple of Collective Bargaining Agreements to flatten out the talent pool, but to limited success. The Warriors, Rockets, Cavaliers (for now) have formed superteams, with the Timberwolves, Celtics, maybe Sixers and other teams coming up on those ranks.

Is it bad for the NBA? I think Durant is mostly right. When was the NBA at it’s most popular? When Michael Jordan and the Bulls were dominant. Or when Magic Johnson and the Lakers, and Larry Bird and the Celtics, dominated the league. This is true going back to the 1960s Bill Russell Celtics — the NBA is a league of stars and getting a few of them together in a superteam, or whatever you want to call it, is good for the sport’s popularity.

Last year’s NBA Finals had the best ratings since the Jordan era. Because of superteams — love them or hate them, you tune in.

What has to be guarded against is the losing of hope by fan bases where the team consistently struggles, that can undercut everything. Local gate receipts and television ratings drop if there is no hope. That lack of hope is usually tied back to management and ownership, but it’s real nonetheless. Silver is right that there needs to be a path for smaller market teams to compete if well run (San Antonio is the best example, but there are others). Even if a team makes the right moves it takes some luck to get to the top, and sometimes the breaks beat the boys, but the ability to sell hope needs to be there.

But overall, the NBA sell stars. Cluster them to form a team to beat, and that is good for the league.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.