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Mavericks sign second-round pick Jalen Brunson to first-rounder style contract

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Dallas is excited about the potential of Jalen Brunson.

The point guard who led Villanova to a national championship last April fell to the 33rd pick in the draft last June, high in the second round, and Dallas traded up a spot to get him from Atlanta. The Mavericks were ecstatic, and to the surprise of nobody they have reached terms on a contract with him.

What is a bit of a surprise is the Mavericks gave him a first-rounder style contract — four years with some guaranteed money for the first three of them — reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

At Summer League in Las Vegas Brunson showed the qualities that Dallas liked in him — he’s a high IQ player with polish, and he’s a pass-first floor general — but his weaknesses were also exposed. He has to shoot better (23 percent in Summer League) and his defense needs to improve.

Both of those can happen, Summer League is more of a chance for teams to benchmark players than make decisions about them. Brunson reportedly has a great work ethic, he can figure the NBA game out.

Dallas is betting that he will.

Evolution of Trae Young at Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — Trae Young looked overmatched in his first two Summer League games. No question.

In Salt Lake City, the No. 5 pick and newest face of the Atlanta franchise shot 9-of-36 overall and 2-of-16 from three through two games. The Stephen Curry comparisons, which were always overheated, looked foolish. Young couldn’t create space on his drives, could not find lanes for his passes, and was rushing his shot. Like everyone around the NBA, I wrote about it saying he “laid bricks.” NBA Twitter roasted him. There was a lot of “they wanted this guy instead of Luka Doncic?” comments, and a few hot takers ever threw the “B” word — “bust” — around.

Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce saw things differently.

Looking at the big picture, he wasn’t worried about a few missed shots, he knew that would change. Pierce said he thought his rookie point guard was making good decisions, just not executing them. Yet.

“I don’t know if you guys expected that, but I expected that…” Pierce said after Young’s first game in Utah. “I’ve done this 11 years now, you come out for your first Summer League game and everybody thinks it’s going to be a home run, a success. Then you see ‘I’ve got a lot of work to do.’”

By the time the Hawks got to Las Vegas, Trae Young had put in some work and figured out Summer League.

In Las Vegas, Young is averaging 17 points and 7.8 assists per game. He’s still searching for efficiency and taking some poor shots, but he’s creating space, impressing with his passing, and improving. Fast.

Pierce’s big picture outlook seems justified.

“It’s hard to be upset with a player when you don’t know what they know,” Pierce told NBC Sports in Las Vegas about the process with Young. “So I’m giving them a little bit, and now I get to evaluate it, I get to study it, then I get to coach them just a little bit.”

Young has figured out how to make his game work against Summer League competition — but 90 percent of the players in Las Vegas will not be on an NBA roster. Young is going to get a lot of minutes against elite NBA defenders come next season, guys Pierce described as “bigger, stronger” than what Young has seen so far.

Summer League is just the start of the process, a place to benchmark where Young is at.

“So we have a couple areas with Trae… where we say, ‘you know what, I know what we need to work on,’” Pierce said. “More will come, but at least I have a starting point and we can have a conversation now.

“The conversation is, ‘There’s a lot of work to be done.’ For all of us, myself included. And then you got to perform 82 nights, so how do we help you get better? How do we help you understand what you’re going to need at this level? That’s the starting point that we have.

“The conversation is for them to understand, and to hear it from me. I know what we’re trying to get across, I know it’s going to take a while, but we’ve got to start somewhere and that’s what I’m doing with this summer.”

Young’s summer has shown the potential to learn and adapt. That’s a good sign, because while fans can fixate on what a player does at Summer League, what matters to teams is how players improve from July until camp opens. And from there, how they grow over the course of a season until next fall.

Young’s game has evolved over the first two weeks of July. Keep that trend up and he will earn that face-of-the-franchise tag Pierce and the Hawks are counting on. But there’s a lot of work between now and then.

Adam Silver encourages Warriors to ‘increase their dominance’

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Privately, it seems like the NBA has been upset with the Golden State Warriors after they signed Kevin Durant. Grabbing a former league MVP to add to an already dominant team was something of a shock thanks to the jump in the salary cap a couple of years ago.

Now, the Warriors are NBA champions once again and it seems as though Durant will be with Golden State for a least a few more years. The team also recently added former star big man DeMarcus Cousins, who was having a good season with the New Orleans Pelicans last year until he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

Cousins isn’t likely to stick around after 2019, but at least on paper it seems as though the Warriors are the destination for big time players, all while their salary demands taking a backseat.

Now, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says that the Warriors and their front office practices are in line with the league’s goals. Specifically, Silver said he thought it was okay for Golden State to try and increase their dominance after a season in which they took home the Larry O’Brien trophy quite easily.

Via Sports Illustrated:

“We want teams to compete like crazy,” Silver said. “I think the Warriors—within the framework of this deal—should be doing everything they can to increase their dominance. That’s what you want to see in a league. You want teams to compete in every way they can within the rules.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant. As I’ve said before, we’re not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity.”

The most interesting part of that quote was at the end of the first paragraph. Silver said he wants everyone to play within the rules. As the rules stand right now, Golden State is A-OK. But as we’ve seen with special circumstances in the past, it’s entirely possible the rules could change thanks to dire need within the league.

I personally think that’s a real possibility for the NBA moving forward. It’s no secret that the league would rather that Durant was not teamed up with the superstars on the Warriors, and guys taking a pay cut — or at least less than their expected value with regard to max salaries — is a real problem. LeBron James obviously got paid, but if this Warriors team is going to continue to have multiple players take the Dirk Nowitzki route and re-sign for less than market value in their primes, that’s a real problem for the competitive balance in the NBA.

Again, that’s my own personal projection with what I see happening within the league. The reality is there aren’t enough star players to fill two spots on each of the 30 NBA teams. The fact that some can choose to glom together (while socially just) isn’t in the best business interests of the NBA.

Then again, Cousins will be gone after next season and Durant could be on the Knicks after too long. Maybe this isn’t an issue, but no doubt Silver has been weighing his options in terms of guarding against superteams like Golden State in the future.

The number one way to combat that, in all honesty, is to fight harder for cap smoothing if the opportunity comes available next time out.

Report: Hawks offered No. 3 pick, Kent Bazemore to Cavaliers on draft night

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The Hawks traded the No. 3 pick (Luka Doncic) to the Mavericks for the No. 5 pick (Trae Young) and a future first-round pick.

But, Atlanta apparently also explored using the No. 3 pick to unload Kent Bazemore (two years, $37,359,549 remaining).

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

A source said the Cavs were offered on draft night the chance to trade up to No. 3 with the Hawks in a deal that would’ve sent Kent Bazemore to Cleveland.

Presumably, the Cavaliers would have sent the No. 8 pick – which they used on Collin Sexton – to Atlanta.

But, with or without the No. 8 pick, that trade wouldn’t have satisfied salary-cap rules. Cleveland would have had to send out matching salary.

So, what else was included? Did the Hawks want Kevin Love? Would they have taken George Hill or J.R. Smith, whose 2019-20 salaries – unlike Bazemore’s – are only partially guaranteed?

We obviously don’t know the entire offer, which opens even more questions about what Atlanta wanted. The Hawks have the Cavaliers’ top-10-protected 2019 first-round pick. Did removing those protections factor into the trade offer?

The Hawks seemed set on Young, and moving down to No. 5 ensured they got him. That wouldn’t have been the case at No. 8 with the Magic (No. 6) and Bulls (No. 7) picking in between. So, not only is the exact offer unclear, so are potential contingencies it was based on. Perhaps, Atlanta would have picked Doncic then executed the deal only if Young fell to No. 8.

Could Cleveland have gotten Doncic for taking on the overpaid, but still helpful, Bazemore? Maybe – but that’s a significant oversimplification.

PBT Mailbag: Could Kawhi Leonard just sit out next season for Spurs?

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Submit your questions to the mailbag for next week by e-mailing pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

I haven’t been watching a lot of Summer League lately, but I have been watching all of you watch it via social media. Frankly, I just don’t get it. I went to Las Vegas last year for the event and I was not impressed. It was 100 degrees outside by breakfast, and the quality of play was, somehow, below college basketball level. I would have much preferred to stay home and watch on my couch where I have things like Doritos and a second bag of Doritos.

That’s not to say that I haven’t watched a few games here and there. I saw the Blazers beat the Jazz on Saturday, and most of the time I spent thinking about a very specific question. That is, which do you think would be longer?

  • The average running time of a Summer League Game OR
  • A video of every airball from all the NBA Summer League games combined into one long lowlight reel

Remember, Summer League rules include four 10-minute quarters, so there’s only a total of 40 minutes that we would have to fill with airballs from these games. I figure each airball highlight lasts something like four seconds, because you’d have to include the play leading up to it as well as the announcer reaction to the airball itself for it to be a worthwhile lowlight.

At four seconds apiece you’d have to have clips of 600 airballs sliced back-to-back to meet the 40 minute minimum. They played 67 games at LVSL last year, which means each game would need to average nine airballs. That’s only 4.5 per team, per game. I feel like I’ve seen at least that many this year. Maybe more, and that’s just from Trae Young.

In any case, it would be super close. The real question is, which would you rather be forced to watch: every LVSL game or every airball?

Some basketball writers don’t even get the choice, god bless them.

Let’s get to your questions.

Kate

Can Kawhi Leonard refuse to play/sit out for the Spurs next season? What ramifications could Kawhi Leonard face if he refuses to play for the Spurs next season? Can they enforce the CBA rule regarding the withholding services on him?

Kawhi Leonard has put the NBA in a tizzy, and nobody is sure whether he is trying to control his own destiny or if he’s simply gone crazy. Rumors are now swirling about whether Leonard needed to sit out for the majority of last season, and now we are talking about whether or not he would hold out for yet another if he remains in San Antonio.

The procedural answer here is that if Leonard was able to find a way to sit out and refused to play for the Spurs next season, that San Antonio would trigger the clause you are referencing in the CBA. Specifically, it means that Leonard would not satisfy the conditions of his contract and that he would not be able to become a free agent next season. Teams can also fine players for internal reasons, and no doubt the Spurs would likely move to that if they felt Leonard had drawn first blood.

However, there is very little precedent for this outside of the NBA Draft. Teams have been frustrated with players they have drafted before — Jon Barry refused to play for the Celtics in 1992 and they finally traded him halfway through his rookie season. Guys like Steve Francis have forced their way off of teams. And we all remember how Kobe Bryant was never going to play for the Charlotte Hornets, right? But that was all before those guys had ever seen an NBA court. Kawhi Leonard is a dang ol’ Finals MVP. It’s just … wild.

The real motivating factor to get Leonard on an NBA floor would be the damage he would do around the league to his reputation if he was still controlled by the Spurs and flat out refused to play for them. That kind of open, poisonous relationship with a franchise is not exactly enticing to other teams. That includes ones looking at him in free agency, especially if those same teams have major questions about whether he is actually healthy enough to be worth the big contract he’s shooting for.

Historically, teams have found a way to trade trouble players off of their franchise simply as way to get the miasma of their unhappiness out of their locker rooms. That’s the most likely case in this scenario, and I doubt we will get too far into the season with Leonard still refusing play for the Spurs. Then again, last season was completely insane when it came to Leonard and that whole dynamic, so I can’t rule it out.

Alex

Please, sir, tell me what will happen with my dear, sweet Michael Beasley. (And also what non-Celtics teams should be offering Marcus Smart.)

Look, Alex. We know you love your sweet little B-Easy. But sometimes you can’t always stay with your favorite players. Sometimes you need to let them be free, and send them to a farm upstate. In this case, that farm is located on a team in a lower-division Russian league. Not in the fun, tricycle-riding bear part of Russia, either. More like the waiting in line for black bread before you go back into the iron ore pit part of Russia.

Seriously though, it seems like we talk about Beasley being a reclamation project a lot and perhaps that’s because he’s still just 29 years old. However, not a lot of teams have cash to throw around and Beasley will be a minimum salary player. He’s going to end up on a team that doesn’t matter, or the Lakers.

Smart should get more looks from teams, although he’s not a likely candidate to end up anywhere but Boston and a few select places because of the cap crunch and because taking his qualifying offer isn’t the best choice. There are going to be so many guys on the market in 2019 and there are still some teams that can offer a Smart a deal now. Taking his qualifying offer and becoming a free agent next year is one route, and obviously there will be many suitors for him next summer. However, he’s not likely on the top of the priority list for many teams and more and more guys seem to be angling for 2019. He could end up in a flooded market, getting the same money next summer as he can right now but having played one year at a reduced salary.

The Kings do make a lot of sense but perhaps that’s because of their track record with wing players. Vlade and the boys seem to stockpile a bunch of guys who have one NBA talent they think they can transform into an elite skill. Smart is already an elite basketball player, and adding him to the Kings along with Marvin Bagley Jr. would help solidify them and make them more legit as they build for the future. It’s boring, but that’s the best answer.

Jeremy

Do you think Tony Parker wore puka shells in 2005?

Let’s do some quick back-of-the-napkin math. Parker was born in 1982, which makes him too old to have seen the first wave of puka shell popularity in the 70s. That means he would have had to get into them when they made a comeback in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Adam Sandler was wearing puka shells as Pip in Airheads, which filmed in 1993. Parker would have been 12 at the time Airheads came out in 1994, and he would have been in high school when the necklace hit peak popularity between 1998 and 2002. You also have to realize that Parker grew up in France, with a completely different fashion wave which might not have been tainted by puka shell culture. Looking at my own middle school yearbook, it’s obvious the U.S. was heavily influenced by BIG PUKA, but you have to guess those classy Frenchies probably ducked some of our American trends.

By 2005 Parker would have been 23, and no self-respecting young adult would be caught dead wearing puka shells. Plus, I feel like by 2005 things had really shifted.

The real question is: Did Tony Parker wear a trucker hat in 2005? You tell me, Jeremy. You tell me.

Nick

Does Jake Layman have a nickname? If not, it should definitely be “Jumpin’ Jake”

I honestly don’t understand the obsession about Jake Layman that Portland Trail Blazers fans have. I mean, I understand what it is, I’m just not allowed to type why they like him.

In any case, as nice a guy as Layman might be, I don’t think you can give a nickname to a player who doesn’t have an impact on the floor. The guy averaged exactly one point per game last season for the Blazers.

Yes, because Portland decided not to renew the contract of Pat Connaughton it’s possible that Layman takes up more minutes this year and we see more of what he can do. But in the meantime, I’m just not ready to give him a nickname just yet. At least not a positive one. Guys who come off the end of the bench usually have negative nicknames, which I’m not in the business of giving.

IF Layman actually produces this season for Portland, here are my top picks:

  1. Yung Kitzhaber
  2. Slayman
  3. Dunkin’ Douglas (middle name)
  4. Eric Judy
  5. Thrillard (nobody else has taken this one I think)
  6. King Jake
  7. Dr. Buckets, Esq.
  8. White Hot

John

Is Sean Marks a top 5 executive?

Considering what he had to work with after taking over from Billy King and formed a team foundation using only cap space or late picks, I think the Nets are closer to relevance than people realize. Agree?

Bob Myers, Daryl Morey, Danny Ainge, RC Buford, Dell Demps, Sam Hinkie (legacy).

So, probably not. Also, Marks just got hired in 2016 so he needs a longer body of work to really judge whether or not he’s a top five executive in the league. Brooklyn won eight more games last season than they did season before, which isn’t exactly a huge jump. Yes, the Nets have made a couple of good moves to build for the future. They snagged D'Angelo Russell, got rid of Timofey Mozgov, and bet big on Allen Crabbe (twice).

Next year seems like it will be a big test whether the Nets are headed in the right direction. They should have the added boost of not having LeBron in their conference, so it will be up to Kenny Atkinson to steer this team near the playoff race. Brooklyn has the ability to create a massive amount of cap space in the summer of 2019 if they renounce most of their cap holds, so whether Marks can convince players to head to New York City will be big. Until then, I’m withholding judgement.

Seriously though, go look at the list of current NBA GMs and tell me most of their fanbases don’t want to fire them out of a cannon toward a big parachute.

Alfredo

With Boogie in the Bay, the Warriors have become The Ultimate Warriors (or Team USA Warriors or Monstar Warriors). The growing fear is that the Dubs dynasty has reached Russell-Auerbach levels where they could possibly surpass a 3-peat. The only teams that want to do something about it are the Lakers and Celtics, but I have a problem with this because it paints the narrative of the two legacy teams being the only hope to save competitive basketball. In fact, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was what gave the NBA its first taste of relevancy in the 1960s (mostly on the Laker side for their connections to Hollywood and entertainment); the rivalry once saved the league from bankruptcy and a bad image problem that would have made itself second fiddle to the NFL. It’s like saying, “If the Lakers and Celtics aren’t ruling the NBA where they’re the main draw in most of the Finals, then the NBA is ruined.” What are your thoughts on this hypocrisy between this current Warriors dynasty and the Lakers-Celtics rivalry dynasty? How do you think Warriors will fare vs. both legacy teams in the playoffs and Finals respectively? Will there never be parity in the NBA – and is that okay?

The idea that parity doesn’t exist in the NBA is just flat out wrong. Teams float to the top and fall into the bottom all the time. Parity isn’t about all 30 teams taking their turns winning the Larry O’Brien. It’s about whether teams have a field level enough to allow them to compete and complete that cycle of rising and falling.

Yes, if you look at the list of past NBA champions over the last 15 years or so, it really comes down to just a few teams. The Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Cavaliers, Warriors, and Mavericks just to name a few. But there have been seven different teams to finish atop the Eastern Conference since the 2010-11 season (four out West).

If you are using the number of teams that win championships as the measure of parity in the NBA, then perhaps you have an issue. But this talking point has only risen recently because of the seeming inevitability of the Warriors winning the championship for the next few years. While adding DeMarcus Cousins certainly seems to have an upside in the playoffs this year for Golden State, he will not be a member of that team next season, so I’m not making that the nail in the coffin for either side.

There’s no doubt that the league would prefer if the Warriors didn’t have a select few players on their roster, Kevin Durant in particular. The real issue Golden State might push into the light is players taking less than their market value to group together on one team. That may benefit some select owners, but several will likely bring up this issue during owners meetings if it continues.

If people feel exasperated because the Warriors are bound to win the championship every season, then they didn’t pay attention when LeBron James beat them just a couple years ago in the Finals. Weird stuff happens. Stars get hurt. Guys punch guys in the crotch. There’s still some variance you can expect.

Part of being a fan is being along for the ride when your team isn’t the best or doesn’t have a chance to win it all. You can learn all about how your young players will mesh together and where the future of the team is headed. Each season, 29 teams fail to win the championship. That will never change, and as long as that’s the way the season ends every year there’s no use giving up watching pro basketball. Get a grip, everybody.

You know what the best way to win a championship in the NBA is? Have someone who’s not a doofus buy your favorite team. Honestly. Knicks fans know what I’m talking about.

Abdoulaye

What about a trade of Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Serge Ibaka? Damian Lillard and CJ Turner need a traditional frontcourt. Al-Farouq Aminu needs to play at the 3. A starting five of Lillard, CJ, Evan Turner, Ibaka, Jusuf Nurkic with a bench of Seth Curry, Wade Baldwin, Gary Trent, Aminu, Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins looks decent.

Ibaka would also bring the best of Nurkic as he plays better with a traditional PF like he did with Noah Vonleh. Small ball is good if you only have one of Dame and CJ or if you don’t face a talented big.

I’m not sure this trade moves the needle for either team. Toronto is working on developing a young wing in OG Anunoby already, so Harkless would sort of clog that up. Leonard doesn’t seem to have a lot of additional value for the Raptors at this juncture.

Meanwhile Ibaka isn’t necessarily a valuable trade asset. He was a negative box plus-minus for a very good Raptors team last year, which sort of shows on paper what some people saw while watching him on the floor last year in Toronto.

I also think your overall assessment of the Blazers roster is a bit off. First, Portland doesn’t play small ball. Small ball is what the New Orleans Pelicans used to sweep Portland in the first round. If anything, they play too “big” for some of their Western Conference foes as it is.

Aminu is not a bench player, and he is best while playing the four position. That’s been the case for some time, and of course it is much better when the Blazers have a another 3-point shooter next to him like Harkless or Allen Crabbe. It also helps when the Aminu isn’t ice cold from 3-point range, but at this point he will be a constant yo-yo player from that spot on the floor.

I have been saying that the Blazers need to take a big swing in order to prove to Lillard that they are willing to compete in the West, but I’m not sure that Ibaka is that guy. The reality is the Portland Trail Blazers are stuck where they are until something comes available for Neil Olshey.

In the meantime, I’m excited to read 17 more clickbait articles about how the Blazers are going to trade Lillard to the Lakers. Love them clicks, boy.

See y’all next week.

Submit your questions to the mailbag for next week by e-mailing pbtmailbag@gmail.com.