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Warriors secure stars after Kevin Durant Experience

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

When Kevin Durant signed his first one-year contract with the Warriors, they were just happy to have him. His second one-year contract led to some jokes that masked real internal concern.

By the time Durant signed a third one-year contract in Golden State, the tension was inescapable. Durant left money on the table to ensure another free agency. The writing was on the wall.

And it contributed to so much tension.

Draymond Green most infamously addressed it, reportedly telling Durant, paraphrased, “We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.” Durant brooded at times, lashing out at the media and publicly criticizing Steve Kerr. It seemed untenable.

It was. Durant signed with the Nets, ending the Warriors’ dominion over the league.

Golden State recuperating by seizing control of stars’ future. It has come at a substantial cost. But the team is back in charge.

The Warriors signed Klay Thompson to a five-year max contract, signed Draymond Green to a four-year extension with a player option and acquired D'Angelo Russell on a four-year max contract. They’ll join Stephen Curry, who has three years remaining on his super-max deal.

Few stars are locked in that long.

Setting rough criteria for stars, let’s look at players who were an All-Star last season or both of the preceding two seasons. Here’s how many years they’re each under contract before their contracts expire or they can opt out:

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By team:

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The Warriors’ best move was signing Green to a four-year, $99,666,363 extension. He could’ve hit unrestricted free agency and sought a max contract from another team, which projects to be worth $151 million over four years. Or he could’ve pushed for even more from Golden State, way more if he qualified for the super max by winning Defensive Player of the Year or making All-NBA next season. Instead, he took the security of an extension now. Nothing is assured as Green ages. But best I can tell now, this is a bargain for the Warriors.

Signing Thompson to a five-year max contract was another must-do deal. There’s risk. Thompson has a torn ACL and will likely turn 30 before he plays again. But he’s an excellent two-way player whose sweet outside shooting should age well.

Getting Russell was the most controversial acquisition. He doesn’t fit cleanly in a backcourt with Curry and Thompson. There’s already talk of Golden State trading him. A max salary isn’t cheap, and the Warriors had to send the Nets a potential first-rounder.

Acquiring Russell a sign-and-trade also hard-capped Golden State, creating significant limitations. The Warriors traded a first-round pick to dump Andre Iguodala, who’s still a good player. They were also restricted in filling out their roster.

Why go to all that trouble?

Because Russell is a young star. Those are rarely available.

Russell is the youngest established All-Star ever to change teams via free agency (including sign-and-trades and, in a previous era, signings that included compensation).

Here’s every established All-Star to change teams via free agency before turning 26:

 

Player Year From To Age
D’Angelo Russell 2019 BRK GSW 23 years, 4 months, 14 days
Jamaal Wilkes 1977 GSW LAL 24 years, 2 months, 9 days
Shaquille O’Neal 1996 ORL LAL 24 years, 4 months, 12 days
Otis Birdsong 1981 KCK NJN 25 years, 5 months, 30 days
LeBron James 2010 CLE MIA 25 years, 6 months, 10 days
Sean Elliott 1993 SAS DET 25 years, 7 months, 29 days
Andrew Bynum 2013 PHI CLE 25 years, 8 months, 22 days
Kenny Anderson 1996 CHA POR 25 years, 9 months, 14 days
Bernard King 1982 GSW NYK 25 years, 10 months, 18 days

Pressed by the hard cap, Golden State gave the biggest chunk of its remaining money to Kevon Looney (three years, $14,464,287). That’s solid value for a player comfortable with the Warriors.

The most interesting low-cost addition is Willie Cauley-Stein, who got slightly more than the minimum on a 1+1. He could be a heck of a finisher around other high-gravity players.

Maybe one of the Warriors’ young players will pan out. But No. 28 pick Jordan Poole, No. 41 pick Eric Paschall, No. 39 pick Alen Smailagic and Omari Spellman (2018 No. 30 pick acquired in a trade for Damian James) aren’t exactly thrilling prospects.

As for minimum-salary free agents, I’m higher on Glenn Robinson III than Alec Burks. But both are minimum-salary players for a reason.

Golden State could have built a deeper roster better-suited for contending this year. Without Durant and Iguodala, the Warriors have a massive hole at small forward.

Instead, Golden State acquired Russell and accepted the hard-cap burden. That might pay off in the long run. Next season, it probably reduces the Warriors’ championship odds.

Maybe a title wouldn’t have happened next season, anyway. Thompson is injured, and the team could need another year to build back up after losing Durant.

Golden State and Durant had three great years together. Losing him is a huge setback. The Warriors as we knew them are finished.

But all this star control gives them a good chance to rebound.

Offseason grade: C-

Watch LeBron James pass Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list

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LeBron James just passed a Laker legend.

Kobe Bryant may be No. 1 in the hearts of Lakers fans, but he is now No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list after LeBron James passed him with a layup with 7:23 left in the third quarter. The basket gave LeBron 33,644 points.

LeBron got a massive ovation from the Philly fans for his accomplishment.

Kobe Bryant Tweeted his congratulations.

LeBron now has Karl Malone (second) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the scoring list. Kareem was on SiriusXM NBA Radio this past week with Frank Isola and Brendan Haywood and said LeBron could pass him if he’s focused.

“I think it is up to LeBron. If he wants to do it, he’ll do it. He has the talent. He has the opportunity. So it’s just up to him as to how he wants to end his career. I certainly cannot be upset about it. The reason that they keep these records is so that we learn how we are improving. And we learn how to teach the game, taking note of the accomplishments of the great players. So, hey, it’s a natural progression. I don’t have any problem with it.”

Another report Wizards shooting down all trade talk around Davis Bertans

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Washington GM Tommy Shepard has been clear and not changed his position: he had no intention of trading Davis Bertans.

Instead, the plan is to re-sign the sharpshooting 6’10” power forward this summer. Bertans — who averages 15.3 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 42.6 percent from three on 8.7 attempts per game — would fit well as a floor spacer on a John Wall/Bradley Beal team looking to make noise in the playoffs next season.

That has not stopped teams from looking at the Wizards situation, then calling to see if they can land Bertans in a deadline trade — a floor-spacing big could help teams such as Denver and Boston. However, those teams are still getting hung up on according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Inquiries to Washington have gone nowhere; several executives tell SI.com that the Wizards wouldn’t even discuss a deal. Some teams, though, are holding out hope Washington will make Bertans available before the trade deadline.

Shepard and Washington are making a bet Bertans wants to stay in Washington, he is an unrestricted free agent this summer. If Washington gets the sense Bertans wants out this summer, they need to trade him now and get something in return. If they believe he wants to return, then they need to get owner Ted Leonsis to open up the checkbook. After this breakout season, and at a position of need for a lot of teams around the league, Bertans likely will get offers at or above $17 million a season, and Washington might need to overpay a little to keep him.

Washington’s plan — as evidenced by words and actions — is not to rebuild but to get healthy and make a run up the East standings next season. They have Beal (playing at an All-NBA level this season), they get Wall back (he has looked good in practice of late), and from there they re-sign Bertans, count on growth from rookie Rui Hachimura, and put together a roster of role players who can win games in the East. 

Debate amongst yourselves if that is the smart direction to go, it’s clearly the one the Wizards have chosen.

Donovan Mitchell scores 25, Rudy Gobert has 22 and key late block, Jazz rally past Mavs

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rudy Gobert had 22 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks to propel the surging Utah Jazz to a 112-107 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 23 for the Jazz, who have won 14 of their last 15 games.

Luka Doncic scored 25 points for the Mavericks, who have dropped two of three after winning four straight. Doncic managed only two points in the final quarter.

Seth Curry added 19 points for Dallas.

Gobert’s three-point play — a dunk and a free throw — gave the Jazz their first lead since the first half at 96-95. The Mavericks responded with a 3 by Curry and two free throws from Delon Wright.

Gobert broke a 104-all tie with a tip-in, and after Tim Hardaway Jr. and Royce O’Neale exchanged 3-pointers, Gobert blocked what looked like an easy layup for Wright.

Mitchell made a pair of free throws, and then Gobert rebounded Doncic’s missed 3-pointer and was fouled. He made one of two free throws for the final margin.

The Mavericks raced to a 32-19 lead behind Doncic’s playmaking and shooting. The Jazz later scored 12 consecutive points and took a brief 37-36 lead on Georges Niang’s 3-pointer.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 15 points and Hardaway and Wright each chipped in 11 for Dallas.

Portland’s struggles do not have Damian Lillard pushing for trade, “I can weather the storm”

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Damian Lillard isn’t going anywhere.

The Trail Blazers are 19-27, sitting as the unexpected 11 seed in the West, and there calls from some quarters of the Pacific Northwest for Portland to do something drastic to try and salvage the season. Too often, those calls are followed by “what if Lillard decides this isn’t working and pushes for a trade?”

It’s not going down that way. Not according to Lillard.

In a league where it’s become commonplace for superstars to use their leverage — either to get traded or to force the team to make bold moves they want — Lillard remains loyal and trusts the front office in Portland. He realizes what this season has become for the Trail Blazers and he wants the franchise to think about next season, not desperation moves to save this one. Here is what he told Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“That don’t have nothing to do with my commitment to the team,” Lillard said. “I mean, it’s not like we are going to do something that is going to take us to the championship at this point. I think it’s more important for us to protect the assets we have, the guys who are going to be here and who are going to help us going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to sacrifice that just to make a desperate play.

“It’s been a tough season, but the season is not over. We can make something of this season as we are, but it’s not worth, you know, saying ‘OK, let’s force something and go do something that at the end of the day doesn’t make sense.’ But that has nothing to do with my commitment. I said it after last game (Golden State): I feel like I can find a way. I can weather the storm. I can go through hard times.”

He also has made clear he isn’t going to push GM Neil Olshay to make specific trades.

Lillard is averaging 28.3 points and 7.6 assists per game, he scored 108 points in his last two games, and he’s playing at an All-NBA level again. He remains one of the game’s top guards and a player the Trail Blazers can build a contender around. His five-year max contract extension doesn’t kick in until next season.

Portland’s challenge is this: Lillard is 29 and in his prime. If they are going to win a title with him that has to happen sooner rather than later. Portland should not make desperation moves to salvage this season — getting Jusuf Nurkic back in the next few weeks could turn things around without a trade — but even looking ahead: If they are fully healthy next season are they on the level of the Lakers or Clippers? To my eyes, no. Then the question becomes what needs to be done to get there? If it’s time for something bold, should they test the trade market for CJ McCollum?

The Trail Blazers have some big questions to answer after this season.

The thing they don’t need to worry about is Lillard.