JaVale McGee

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Report: Lakers signing DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo

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Anthony Davis called the Pelicans losing DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondotough.” Maybe relatedly, Davis decided to leave New Orleans.

Now, Davis, Cousins and Rondo will reunite with the Lakers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers’ first several free-agent agreements were with players who contribute without the ball – Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels. That’s important on a team led by LeBron James, who should have the offense run through him.

Cousins and Rondo are departures from the strategy of loading up on complementary players.

LeBron can’t do everything alone. There’s a fine line between a helpful additional creator and someone who clashes with LeBron.

Both Cousins and Rondo appear to be past their peaks. Cousins, who turns 29 this summer, has missed substantial time the last couple years with a ruptured Achilles and torn quad. It’ll take major work for him to regain his star status or anything close to it. Rondo, 33, has exited his prime.

Cousins likely came cheap, maybe even a minimum contract. The market on him had cooled. Considering his upside, this was a fine bet by the Lakers based on basketball ability. He’s so skilled for his size. Cousins could work well enough with LeBron and Davis.

Rondo, on the other hand, has already shown to be a terrible fit with LeBron. Rondo might even be the Lakers’ starting point guard. Though the fit is awful, there aren’t many capable point guards remaining in free agency. The problem was the Lakers putting themselves in position where Rondo has even a case as the best option.

Cousins and Rondo also bring a lot of, um, personality to a team that already has plenty. There is risk of increasing locker room combustibility, even at their low salaries. As everyone predicted, that became a problem last season. Apparently, the Lakers aren’t too concerned about a repeat.

Lakers move fast to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee

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Kawhi Leonard taking his time to come to a decision — it was less than six days, remember LeBron’s “The Decision” was July 8, but free agency moved a lot faster this year — hurt the Lakers more than any other of the teams in the mix for Leonard.

The Lakers had two top-seven NBA stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but now rather than add a third star the Lakers were scrambling early Saturday morning to round out their roster. A lot of the players they might have targeted — J.J. Redick, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Ross, even bringing back D'Angelo Russell, just to name a few — were off the table.

The Lakers moved fast to get Danny Green but paid a lot to get him at two-years, $30 million. Then they moved to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Last season McGee started 62 games for the Lakers and averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, with an efficient True Shooting percentage of 63.4. While Davis is far and away the best center on the Laker roster, he prefers to play as a four next to a more traditional five, which means McGee likely starts at center this season for the Lakers. (As a side note, this is where the Ivica Zubac trade last season hurts the Lakers even more.)

Caldwell-Pope averaged 11.4 points per game and shot 34.7 percent from three, plus he played solid defense. He was overpaid and certainly was brought in originally (two seasons ago) in part because he was a Rich Paul client (the agent of LeBron and Davis), but he has played solidly for them. This contract is at a reasonable rate, close to the league average.

The Lakers made decent moves to start rounding out their roster without Leonard, as much as could be expected with where the market stood on July 6. However, the fits are not going to be ideal at this point and it’s going to take adjusting throughout the season as well (both with trades and grabbing guys off waivers from other teams who fit).

 

Top 10 free agents still available

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This list could change very fast. Whenever Kawhi Leonard makes up his mind — today, tomorrow, next week — his choice will be the first domino in a run of signings. The Los Angeles teams have sat on cap space to fit Leonard onto their team, and once the call is made one or both of them could suddenly go on a little spending spree. Dallas is still lurking with money to spend, too.

However, there isn’t a lot for those teams to shop for — there were 50 players signed in the first 10 hours of NBA free agency starting June 30 and it became a feeding frenzy. Teams saw players they wanted get snapped up and felt they had to get the next guy on their list fast before he was gone, agents saw roster spots filling up fast and wanted to make sure their player had a chair before the music stopped. There was far more “you have 45 minutes to decide” sales pitches this year than in years past. A lot of good players are off the board.

As of right now, here are our top 10 free agents still available.

1) Kawhi Leonard

Duh. While LeBron James last year and Kevin Durant this year (along with Kyrie Irving) made quick decisions in free agency, Leonard is going old school, not rushing, meeting with teams and thinking over his decision. As is his right. This is a major life decision about where to work (and with whom) — stay in Toronto where he just won a title, or come back home to Southern California and play for Doc Rivers and the Clippers, or with LeBron James and the Lakers. Leonard, when on the court, may be the best player walking the face of the earth right now and he averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds a game during the Raptors run to the title. He is worth the wait.

2) DeMarcus Cousins

He’s the biggest name on this list, and with raw talent may be the second-best player on this list, but in terms of demand by teams this ranking may be a couple of spots too high. Cousins averaged 16.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting and grabbed 8.1 rebounds a game last season, but he only was in 30 games coming off a torn Achilles and then tore his quad muscle two games into the playoffs. All season he did not move terribly well and could be exposed defensively in space. As the NBA evolves away from traditional centers, teams look at Cousins and aren’t seeing a player they want to pay eight figures because they can get 80 percent of his production for 20 percent of the cost. Plus, some teams don’t want the potential locker room disruption (whether that is fair or not, it’s his rep). Cousins is waiting to jump into the cap space Leonard leaves open on at least one of the Los Angeles teams, but we’ll see if he has to settle for the $4.8 million room exception or maybe even the veteran minimum.

3) Marcus Morris

A solid veteran at the four who can stretch the floor (37.5 percent from three last season), Morris also brings grit and a toughness a lot of teams could use. He is one of the best scorers left on the board and can get buckets in a variety of ways — post-ups, from three, the occasional isolation — and did so to the tune of 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season in Boston. Plus he can solidly defend the four spot. Dallas is among the teams reportedly making a run at this Morris twin.

4) Danny Green

He may have lost a step at age 32, but his value as a 3&D wing who will step up and make plays in big minutes was on display in the NBA Finals. He averaged 10.3 points per game and shot 45.5 percent from three in the regular season (but that fell to 32.8 percent in the playoffs). He is one of the players waiting on Leonard and could end up playing for the $4.8 million room exception wherever Leonard goes, but he also could go his own way. The Raptors, Clippers, Lakers, and Mavericks are all interested.

5) Kelly Oubre

He’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Suns can match any offer, which has dampened his market because no team has wanted to come in with the big contract it would take to get the Suns to walk away. Oubre is incredibly athletic but has never quite lived up to his potential. Traded mid-season to the Suns, the slashing wing averaged 16.9 points a game for them, but he still shot just 32.5 percent from three. With Ricky Rubio at the point Oubre could fit on the wing in Phoenix, the only question now is the price.

6) JaMychal Green

If he can stay healthy (he played 65 games last season between the Grizzlies and Clippers), Green is an underappreciated 6’9″ modern stretch four who can help teams because he plays with high energy and can defend multiple positions. Last season he averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from three, and added 6.3 rebounds a night. In Memphis his role kept changing, he didn’t complain and just tried to make plays. He could fit on a lot of teams.

7) Jabari Parker

Looking for a player who can just get buckets? Parker is the guy. The former No. 2 pick (who had multiple ACL surgeries) averaged 14.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game last season, he gets most of his points around the rim, where he is very efficient. He struggles defensively but is a solid scoring role player off the bench.

8) Rajon Rondo

The veteran, high IQ point guard averaged 9.2 points and 8 assists per game last season with the Lakers. While his defense isn’t near what it used to be (particularly on ball), he is still a solid rotation point guard at the NBA level who has championship experience.

9) Delon Wright

A restricted free agent, meaning the Grizzlies can match any offer. A combo guard but one without a three-point shot. Still, in 26 games at the end of last season with Memphis, where the ball was in his hands more, he averaged 12.2 points per game. He’s got good size and can defend well, too. He would fit on a few teams as a backup point guard who can play some at the two as well.

10) Jeremy Lin

Lin earned a ring last season when picked up by the Raptors after he was waived by the Hawks (who were in Trae Young mode). He averaged 9.6 points and 3.1 assists per game overall last season, and while he fell out of the Raptors playoff rotation he is a solid backup point guard who knows how to run a team, can get to the rim, can hit the three enough you have to respect it, and is a better defender now than his reputation. He could provide good point guard depth to a lot of teams.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Avery Bradley, Kenneth Faried, Ivica Zubac. (For some teams guys on this part of the list are much better fits than Wright or Lin).)

Is this the final series for the Warriors as we know them?

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The Golden State Warriors are trying to complete a three-peat. The NBA championship is there for the taking, if they can only get rid of those pesky Toronto Raptors. But the result of the Finals is not the only thing up in the air come June. With Kevin Durant‘s decision looming, and several players needing to be paid, the question is whether these Warriors will open next season intact.

Who Golden State will be next season — and if this iteration of the team will come to an end — requires us to start with a begining question: who are “The Warriors” to you?

Time has the effect of smoothing out the bumps and ridges, the detail that make up the storylines of every NBA season. Ask a Warriors fan and ask a Lakers fan this same question, the question of The Warriors, and you will get two different answers. But there is a core that isn’t debatable: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.

The characters surrounding this core have changed over the year, and so too has the dynamic of Golden State stars and their importance to the squad. In 2014-15, Golden State won its first NBA title in this era. Everyone remembers the onslaught of Curry and Thompson from the 3-point line, the beginning of a revolution in the NBA. But what some folks forget is the impact that other players had. Marreese Speights, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes… all these players were once also considered core supporting members of what made this team great.

To that end, storylines for that supporting cast have changed as time has gone on. For instance, Speights played a significant amount of minutes for the Warriors in ‘14-’15 but posted a negative VORP for the season. Livingston, seemingly back from the dead after early knee issues in his career, had not yet found his stride with the Golden State. That wouldn’t come until the next year.

But time has a funny way of finding a narrative and running with it. For some it’s been “Speights was a great floor spreader” and “Livingston was instantly dominant for GSW” even though those things aren’t really wholly true. Time allows us less nuance.

Players have gone from important to overlooked during a Golden State’s run over the past half-decade. This season is no different than that first Finals appearance, and the Warriors have done what teams in the “Big 3” era do. That is, surround their stars with low-level players who can be a part of the system, do their job, and not commit crucial mistakes. Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell… the names change, but the roles remain the same.

The point is, supporting cast comes and goes in Golden State like it does for just about any championship squad. But now the Warriors are faced with real questions. Questions about whether they should re-sign their stars (Green); about whether they can re-sign their stars (Durant); and about how much they should re-sign their stars for (Thompson).

These are not easily answered for GM Bob Myers, either. Thompson seems like a no-brainer, even at a max deal that will put a serious crunch on the Warriors’ cap in a couple years time. But Green, who is 29 and will probably want a huge payday, is a riddle harder to answer. Will he decline in ability? Is Regular Season Draymond who you get on the next contract, or are you getting Playoff Draymond? Can he survive in five years without being able to shoot?

Then, hardest of all, is that of Durant. Never mind the fact that Golden State will have to weigh whether they want to spend the next half-decade assuaging Durant’s delicate feelings — Durant might not want to stay with the Warriors if he wins another championship. To change might not be up to Golden State to decide.

But in trying to answer these questions, it ultimately comes back to the most important factor of all: Curry. The superstar point guard is under contract for three more seasons after this one ends, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, with Durant out with a calf injury during this postseason, Curry has shown that he still is who he was before KD flew in from OKC.

For that reason, there’s hope we will see “Golden State” — this Golden State, the Golden State we think of right now — in 2019-20 and beyond if major changes come to this roster.

The Warriors might not be inevitable in the coming seasons. If Durant leaves, the seismic shift that tilted the NBA off its foundation in 2016 might finally be repaired. Parity, however slowly, will come to the Western Conference. We’ve already seen what the vacuum left by LeBron James has done to the Eastern Conference. But just as Golden State adapted to Durant’s arrival, they will respond in kind if he happens to depart. The same will be said if Green takes a big payday elsewhere next year.

Because really, the Warriors have always adapted. They made up for Barnes when the Dallas Mavericks signed him in 2016, mostly with Durant but also with the minutes from Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, and better output from Livingston. They replaced Bogut with Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and David West. Then Looney was added, and Omri Casspi, and Cook. The list goes on.

The Warriors are about Curry and Thompson, and how the offense Steve Kerr has built for them operates. On the other side, Golden State is about how those same players are able to thrive thanks to Ron Adams’ defense, Green’s excellent play notwithstanding. Losing Durant would be big. Losing Green is inevitable, either to age or to free agent poachers. But Curry is the engine that makes this Warriors team go. Would losing both of them in the same offseason mean this team has a fundamentally different identity? I don’t think so.

It’s evident when you watch the team play, and it’s certainly exemplified in Golden State’s advanced statistics — Curry is the favorite son in the Bay, and as long as he is in blue and gold, the Warriors will stay The Warriors.

Rockets’ Nene plans to retire after season

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Nene and the Rockets couldn’t execute the contract they agreed to last summer, because he was too old.

The deal violated the NBA’s over-38 rule and had to be redone.

That’s a decent sign the 36-year-old might be nearing the end of his career.

ESPN, via Google Translate:

In an interview with the NBA Freestyle program , Nenê, the Houston Rockets pivot , said he intends to retire at the end of the NBA season .

Nene was the first Brazilian player to stick more than one year in the NBA. And he lasted far longer than that. He has been a solid big man for 17 years with the Nuggets, Wizards and Rockets.

Never an All-Star, he played like one in spurts. He probably peaked in the 2014 first round, leading Washington to a 4-1 series upset of the Bulls.

His lasting legacy might be the “Nene test,” a term coined by Danny Leroux and Amin Elhassan to assess whether a player’s contract will hold positive trade value. In 2011, Denver re-signed Nene to a five-year, $67 million deal. Within the first season of that contract, the Nuggets dealt him to the Wizards for JaVale McGee. It seemed Denver never wanted to keep Nene, but wanted to get value for him – and did (or at least thought it did).

Now, Nene holds a $3,825,360 player option for next season. The cost-conscious Rockets probably wouldn’t mind having that off their books.

In the meantime, Nene will still provide occasional size off the bench for a Houston team trying to get past the Warriors.