Hassan Whiteside

Getty Images

Heat land NBA’s vagabond star in Jimmy Butler

Leave a comment

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.

Jimmy Butler is unapologetically Jimmy Butler.

Tough. Determined. Headstrong.

Dwyane Wade, self-proclaimed Heat Lifer, was on furlough in Miami and playing with Butler on the Bulls in 2016. Butler has chafed many of his teammates. Not Wade.

“He’s as advertised,” Wade said as a compliment.

Several years later, endorsements like that led to a surprising union between Butler and the Heat. In Wade’s long-term franchise, Butler might have finally found a team that appreciates everything he brings.

Before that, Butler had to run through tenures with the Bulls, Timberwolves and 76ers. Miami had to undertake an ambitious plan to pursue a max player despite having minimal cap flexibility.

But now Butler and the Heat are now committed to each other. This is a chance for Miami to move out of deadlock and Butler to find a home.

Butler is now on his fourth team in four years. Chicago lost interest in Butler’s hard-charging ways. Butler ran out of patience in Minnesota, where their top young players resisted his message. Butler had tension in Philadelphia, too.

He has also had plenty of success in each of those stops. In the previous three years, he has produced 30.6 win shares (11th in the NBA).

Only three players in NBA history have had more win shares while playing for four teams in four years. And that counts absolutely no production for Butler with the Heat next season, which obviously hasn’t yet begun!

Here are the players with the most win shares while playing for at least four teams in four years:

image

One more time because it’s so incredible: This counts nothing yet from Butler next season! He has a good chance of climbing this list and passing Gary Payton, Ed Sadowski and maybe Adrian Dantley.

Getting such an impact player cost the Heat plenty. They lost Josh Richardson and a first-round pick and downgraded from Hassan Whiteside to Myles Leonard in the sign-and-trade with the 76ers. Hard-capped due to acquiring Butler in a sign-and-trade, Miami also waived and stretched Ryan Anderson, locking in a $5,214,583 cap hit each of the next three seasons. And the Heat owe Butler $140,790,600 over the next four seasons. That’s a lot for someone who’ll turn 30 before the season and has heavy mileage.

But Butler is a true star who could break Miami from its capped-out mediocrity. Other offseason additions like No. 13 pick Tyler Herro and No. 32 pick KZ Okpala probably aren’t going to do that. The Heat might even impress enough with Butler to land another star in 2021 free agency.

There’s a limit on how much Butler will help. He probably doesn’t lift Miami into the East’s elite. His contract could age poorly.

But for a stuck team, a willingness to embrace the hard-charging Butler is a clear advancement.

Offseason grade: C+

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on botched trade with Heat: ‘Absolutely nothing malicious’

Getty Images
3 Comments

The Heat and Mavericks reportedly blamed each other for a trade falling through during the chaotic start of free agency.

Dallas thought it was getting Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. Miami thought it was sending Goran Dragic.

The non-deal put the Heat in a bind. They had to unload salary to complete a sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler. The 76ers, who got Josh Richardson for Butler, were counting on that payroll reduction to sign Al Horford. A lot of dominoes were in play.

Eventually, Miami traded Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers to complete the Butler deal. The Mavericks saved their cap space for Delon Wright and a run at Danny Green, who wound up with the Lakers.

But what happened with the trade that wasn’t?

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

“As far as we can tell, it was just miscommunication,” Cuban told me in an email exchange.

Cuban did not discuss specific players in his email but said “I was sitting in the room full of people when the call was discussed and we put the trade we thought was happening on our board. We later discussed trade kickers and added a player to make it work. They obviously thought they heard something else.”

Cuban said “there was absolutely nothing malicious that went on.”

This isn’t fair to Cuban, but his willingness to move on without spite makes me think the Mavericks were at fault. If the Heat caused the problem, Dallas would be more likely to cause a stink.

Again, that’s totally unfair. Maybe Cuban is just taking the high road. Those negotiations are in the past. Even the wronged team is better off moving on.

But it’s the conclusion I jumped to and can’t shake.

Zion Williamson signs three-year endorsement deal with 2K

Getty Images
5 Comments

The past few weeks have been a blur to Zion Williamson.

Picked No. 1 in the NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. Signed his first pro contract that could be worth as much as $45 million over the next four years. Went to summer league and got hurt after nine minutes. Considered playing for USA Basketball in China this summer. Landed a massive endorsement deal with Jordan Brand. Became very rich very quickly.

And now, a video game deal.

Williamson has signed with 2K, he and the video-game giant announced Tuesday, and the former Duke standout will make his video-game debut in NBA 2K20 when it launches on Sept. 6.

“It’s crazy,” Williamson said. “None of this will ever seem normal to me.”

A person familiar with the terms said Williamson and 2K agreed on a three-year contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the deal have not been released. It’s the latest major deal in a rapidly growing off-court enterprise for Williamson, perhaps the most celebrated No. 1 pick to enter the league since LeBron James in 2003.

“When I put the CD in the console, I don’t have to create me as a player,” Williamson told the AP at a party in Las Vegas to commemorate the game’s release, moments after NBA players like Portland’s Hassan Whiteside tried the game for the first time. “I’m there as a player. That’s going to take some getting used to. This is not normal. I can’t even put it into words. I’m honored.”

Williamson is an imposing figure already – 6-foot-7, 284 pounds, blessed with the combination of size and strength that leaves backboards shaking for many seconds after he unleashes a powerful dunk.

He’s also a young man who remains a work in progress. His fitness has been called into question, and he’s spending the weeks leading into his first NBA training camp – now less than two months away – getting his body ready for the rigors of his first 82-game season, after a minor knee issue ended his summer league experience in Las Vegas earlier this month after just one half of one game.

“Zion represents the best of the NBA’s up and coming talent and we are excited to welcome him to Team 2K. … We’re excited to grow with him,” NBA 2K Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Jason Argent said.

Even with all these things coming at him at once – he already had fame, and now he has the fortune that can come with it – Williamson insists that he is remaining grounded.

He didn’t arrive for his video-game coming out party with a massive entourage, just his dad and a couple members of his management team. He didn’t immediately gravitate toward the bigger names in the room high above the Vegas skyline, but rather some young kids who were busy playing the game. And he cringed at the notion that he’s already considered a star.

“I just turned 19, I have yet to play an NBA game and I know I still have to prove that I belong,” Williamson said. “I’m a rookie. I have a lot to prove.”

Williamson is fond of saying that he’s merely living his dream, and he knows it sounds a bit cliche.

He stands by it anyway.

“You say things when you’re 5 years old like `Yeah, I’ll go to the NBA,’ but I’m really going to be playing against superstars this year,” Williamson said. “LeBron, Kevin Durant the year after, Anthony Davis. I’m going to be playing with great NBA players like Jrue Holiday, players that I played with in this video game. That’s my new normal. I’m looking at something I’ve dreamed about and now it’s my normal life.”

Pau Gasol reportedly agrees to one-year deal with Trail Blazers

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
1 Comment

Portland has tried to lure Pau Gasol to the Northwest before. In the summer of 2016, the Blazers reportedly put two-years, $40 million on the table, but Gasol chose the Spurs.

In a summer where the Trail Blazers have flirted with some old dalliances again, they are bringing Gasol into the mix. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news of an agreement.

Gasol, at age 39, is a shell of the All-NBA big man who joined forces with Kobe Bryant to win the Lakers a couple of titles. Injuries limited him to 30 games last season, he doesn’t move like he once did, and he averaged a career-low 3.9 points per game last season.

However, for a Portland team dreaming big heading into the season, Gasol is the kind of veteran big that is a solid pickup at the veteran minimum. With Jusuf Nurkic out to start the season, Gasol will join Hassan Whiteside and Zach Collins in trying to soak up the minutes at the five and give the team some production. Plus, Gasol gives them a good locker room presence that will blend in on a veteran team.

It’s not a pickup that moves the needle for Portland, but it is a solid one.

NBA Power Rankings after wildest summer in league history

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
8 Comments

That. Was. Insane.

The NBA has never seen an offseason like this last one where so many elite players moved teams and shifted the balance of power around the league. While all the dust has not settled (Chris Paul, for example) we can now take a step back and put out our annual power rankings. The basic ranking criteria here is “chance to win an NBA title” which means a couple top teams from the East are ranked ahead of better teams in the West, just because their odds of getting through to the Finals are higher. Let’s go at it:

Clippers small icon 1. Clippers (Last Season 48-34). No team had a better summer than Steve Ballmer’s crew: They had stalked Kawhi Leonard for a year, and not only did he come he recruited Paul George to come with him. The Clippers should be lock-down defensively (Patrick Beverley will get more time at the point), has offensive versatility, and still brings Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell off the bench. In a deep West that makes them the team to beat.

Bucks small icon 2. Bucks (60-22). They re-signed Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, their two biggest off-season priorities, but they could not keep Malcolm Brogdon, and that will sting. Wesley Matthews will have a lot asked of him to fill that role. Most importantly, they still have an improving Giannis Antetokounmpo. Having both Brook and Robin Lopez will make the Bucks entertaining off the court.

Sixers small icon 3. 76ers (51-31). They lost Jimmy Butler, the guy who was their end-of-game playmaker in the postseason, but adding the underrated Josh Richardson and glue guy Al Horford will help a lot to ease that blow. This should be an elite defensive team that will be right in the middle of it all in the East, but with one big question: Is Ben Simmons ready to be the team’s crunch time, halfcourt ball handler and shot creator?

Jazz small icon 4. Jazz (50-32). Utah had as good an offseason as anyone (except maybe the Clippers). They upgraded at point guard with Mike Conley, who gives them a second shot creator next to Donovan Mitchell. Then they poached Bogdan Bogdanovic out of Indiana, adding more shooting and a guy who can do a little shot creation himself to the mix. This is still one of the league’s best defenses built around Rudy Gobert, but now the Jazz can score a lot, too.

Lakers small icon 5. Lakers (37-45). In Anthony Davis, at his peak at age 26, LeBron James has the single-best teammate he has ever had, one that almost perfectly complements his game. In an NBA filled with powerful duos, the Lakers have the best one. The question becomes: is the rest of the roster good enough to win? The Lakers have talented but flawed players in Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and the rest. The Lakers may not be a great regular season team (four seed?) but watch out come the playoffs.

Rockets small icon 6. Rockets (53-29). Whatever you think of the fit, Russell Westbrook is a talent upgrade over Chris Paul at this point in their respective (and Hall of Fame) careers. James Harden is still there, as are Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon (despite trade rumors). This was (for my money) the second best team in the West playoffs each of the last two years, they got a little bit better (if Harden and Westbrook can share the ball), and they remain a real threat to win the West.

Nuggets small icon 7. Nuggets (54-28). Denver poked around the free agent market, but in the end got the band back together, including bringing back Paul Millsap. The Nuggets were one of the youngest teams in the NBA last season and are counting on internal improvement from Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and company — plus the addition of Michael Porter Jr. to the rotation (not seeing Porter Jr. in Summer League due to an injury was a disappointment) — to take them to the next level. Denver remains an outstanding team, the question is will they have grown and learned enough to take the next step in the playoffs come spring?

Warriors small icon 8. Warriors (57-24). Write off Golden State at your own peril. They are not the juggernaut team of the past three years, Kevin Durant will rehab in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson is not expected back from his ACL tear until after the All-Star break (if he comes back next season at all). However, they still have Stephen Curry, they have Draymond Green in a contract year, and D’Angelo Russell is an All-Star added to the roster. The Warriors will take a step back in wins (less than 50 probably) but will be a dangerous playoff team.

Blazers small icon 9. Trail Blazers (53-29). There were no bold moves (don’t be shocked if they try to make another play for Kevin Love, but his price is high), but they landed Hassan Whiteside to play the five until Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury, and they made a nice wing signing with Kent Bazemore (plus bringing back Rodney Hood). Portland got marginally better this summer, but will that be enough to take the next step in a West filled with teams making big, bold moves?

Celtics small icon 10. Celtics (49-33). Kyrie Irving headed to Brooklyn, but replacing him with Kemba Walker means Boston didn’t lose a lot on the court (casual fans don’t get just how Walker carried the Hornets) and they get a better leader for their culture. Expect big step from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Losing Al Horford will sting more, they didn’t really replace him. Boston will be fun, they will score a lot of points but not stop much of anyone.

Pacers small icon 11. Pacers (48-34). Indiana paid big to steal Malcolm Brogdon out of Milwaukee, giving them another shot creator and someone on Victor Oladipo’s timeline. The Pacers made nice pickups at a good price in Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren, but this team is going to miss Bogdanovic a lot (he’s in Utah now). The Pacers need to keep their heads above water until Oladipo returns from injury (Christmas or a little after).

Raptors small icon 12. Raptors (58-24). They did everything right but could not compete with the lure of home for Leonard (and they won a title with that gamble), but now they are without their alpha. This is still a talented team with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and others. When the trade deadline nears will the Raptors move some of those older players, all in the last year of their contracts, to jumpstart the rebuilding process?

Nets small icon 13. Nets (42-40). Brooklyn was one of the biggest winners in free agency landing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. However, with Durant out likely most or all of next season (and not fully his old self yet if he does return), the Nets are not yet a threat to win the East. Irving, however, is an upgrade over D’Angelo Russell on the court. Irving struggled to lead a young, talented team in Boston, can he do better in Brooklyn with a team that made the playoffs with a gritty, team-focused style a year ago?

Spurs small icon 14. Spurs (48-34). No big moves this summer, although they picked up DeMarre Carroll on a nice contract. The biggest improvement will be getting Dejonte Murray back at point guard, an All-Defensive team level point guard (with rumors that his shot has come a long way). Paired with Derrick White that’s a strong defensive backcourt. Don’t forget, they still have DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster. The Spurs are going to be tough to play against every night and make the playoffs.

Mavericks small icon 15. Mavericks (33-49). Now we get to see what the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis pairing looks like — can this be one of the elite super duos in the West? Dallas is betting yes, but the rest of us need to see it work on the court before buying in. I like the Seth Curry and Delon Wright signings, Boban Marjanovic is always fun, and re-signing Maxi Kleber was smart. This team should be in the mix for a playoff spot in the West, but there is no margin for error.

16. Timberwolves (36-46). They struck out landing D’Angelo Russell or any other star on Karl-Anthony Towns’ timeline, but this team should be improved next season by not having Jimmy Butler torpedo them to start the season (then switching coaches midway through the campaign). Getting Robert Covington back from injury will help a lot, too, this was a much better defensive team with him out there. I expect more from this team than many others, but Andrew Wiggins remains the anchor on how high they can climb.

Kings small icon 17. Kings (39-43). Everyone’s favorite League Pass team from last season is not sneaking up on anyone this time around. They have a good new coach in Luke Walton and made a nice signing with Cory Joseph, and I like the Dewayne Dedmon signing more than most, but for Sacramento it’s going to be about internal improvement if they are going to end the longest playoff draught in the NBA (13 years and counting).

Pelicans small icon 18. Pelicans (33-49). This may be too low a ranking for a team with a lot of potential. New Orleans will be a League Pass favorite this season — Alvin Gentry will have them playing fast and that should benefit Zion Williamson (put it bubble wrap early at Summer League) and Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram can just get buckets, and Jrue Holiday is a good leader. This team could live up to that potential and be a playoff threat in the West. Either way, they will be must watch.

Heat small icon 19. Heat (39-43). They landed Jimmy Butler in an impressive sign-and-trade and then maxed him out, but he is surrounded by role players — Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic — who have to step up big if this team is going to make a splash in the East. Tyler Herro showed promise at Summer League. The most interesting thing to watch with Miami is them chasing another star to go with Butler (is Chris Paul, with that contract, a good fit?).

Magic small icon 20. Magic (42-40). This may be too low a ranking, but it’s hard to get excited about this team. Orlando re-signed Nikola Vucevic, but didn’t address their other big need at point guard. The Magic remain a decent team stuck in the middle of the East. They do have Markelle Fultz on the roster, that was a good role of the dice, but team officials said they’re not sure he’ll be ready to start the season. Not a good sign.

Pistons small icon 21. Pistons (41-41). This is a nice team led by Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but it’s hard to see their perimeter players taking them forward much. Reggie Jackson is who he is at this point, although I like the pickup of Derrick Rose behind him as a backup. Maybe Luke Kennard can take another step forward. This is a nice team, one that will battle for a playoff spot in the East, but little more.

Bulls small icon 22. Bulls (22-60, LW 27). Another team that may be too low in these rankings because they have a lot of interesting young players in Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., and maybe their star in Lauri Markkanen. I like the Tomas Satoransky signing, he played well a couple seasons ago in Washington when John Wall was out. There is good talent on the roster, but who is the alpha who brings it all together?

Hawks small icon 23. Hawks (29-53). Atlanta is building a nice young team around Trae Young and John Collins, and we’ll see what De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish can add to that (the Hawks need a player on the wing and hope one of those two becomes that guy). I expect to see improvement, and for the Hawks to remain entertaining, but they may be a year or two and a player or two away from being the kind of threat they hope to become in the East.

Suns small icon 24. Suns (19-63). The Suns starting five is not bad: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, Dario Saric, Deandre Ayton. They also have Mikal Bridges on the wing, but things get thin fast for the Suns. I expect Rubio stabilizes their offense and makes them an improved team from a year ago, but there is a lot of roster building still be be done in the Valley of the Sun.

Wizards small icon 25. Wizards (32-50). It feels like the Wizards will be Bradley Beal against the world every night. This is a thin roster and John Wall is out for the season. We’ll see what guys like Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner can develop into for them, but it’s not moving the needle much now. The biggest storyline around the Wizards will be all the teams calling about a Bradley Beal trade, right now those calls are being shot down. Oh, and they may want to hire a formal GM for the season. Just saying’.

Knicks small icon 26. Knicks (17-65). It was a kick to the… er… punch to the guy summer for Knicks fans, who had high hopes going in of stars coming to be the franchises’ savior. The reality, the Knicks need to work to build up a base of talent, and an organizational culture, those stars want to be a part of. R.J. Barrett struggled in Summer League (15.4 points per game but on 34 percent shooting) but second-year guy Kevin Knox concerned me more when I watched him, 16.8 points per game but on just 40 percent shooting in games he should have dominated.

Grizzlies small icon 27. Grizzlies (33-49). The rebuilding is underway and the combination of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. give them a good base. Brandon Clarke has shown some promise in Summer League, 14.6 points per game but shooting 57 percent. The team will trade (or waive) Andre Iguodala at some point, but no team is giving up a first-round pick for a 35-year-old role player making $17.2 million. Clippers and Rockets are considered the frontrunners.

Thunder small icon 28. Thunder (49-33). It’s hard not to feel for Thunder fans, one year ago they had watched Paul George decide to stay and thought they had him and Russell Westbrook for years, now it’s all gone. Sam Presti pivoted as well as anyone could and stockpiled picks that will help the coming rebuild, and this is one of the league’s great scouting teams, but it will take time. Chris Paul will get traded, and they likely will listen to offers for Steven Adams, but with two-years, $53 million on his contract the market will be thin.

Cavaliers small icon 29. Cavaliers (19-63). It was a disappointment not to see Darius Garland or Kevin Porter Jr. in Summer League, but both will get plenty of run come the season as the Cavaliers continue their rebuild. Right now the Cavaliers are keeping the price for a Kevin Love trade so high nobody is interested (top young players and multiple picks), but other teams are waiting for that to change as we get into the new season. Teams are calling about him.

Hornets small icon 30. Hornets (39-43). Without Kemba Walker the Hornets are starting a major rebuilding project, but they can’t even take on other team’s bad contracts for picks/young players until they get Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and the rest off their own books. I like the idea of giving Terry Rozier the ball and a chance at the point guard spot. Beyond that, watch a lot of college ball, Hornets fans, your team needs to start nailing the draft (not exactly a franchise strength over the years).