Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lebron, Lebron, etc.

Article written by: Cody Rashkow

Yesterday morning the Cavaliers pulled off deal that will send a conditional first round pick and Tyler Zeller to the Celtics, as well as Jarrett Jack and Sergei Karasev to the Nets. The Cavaliers will be compensated with second round picks from both teams, but more importantly the Cavs saved themselves about $10 million in cap space. This move almost certainly puts the Cavs into the front running to acquire Lebron in free agency. By what all the signs are saying, Lebron does not seem interested in returning to a Miami team that is lacking premier talent to pair with Lebron, and lacks any financial flexibility to make themselves more intriguing to Lebron. They likely will bring back Dwayne Wade at a lower number but for more years and if they sign Lebron they would only have about $2-3 million to bring in anybody else. Cleveland seems to be the media favorite for the team to acquire Lebron if he does not resign in Miami.
At this point, if we can assume that Lebron will not go back to South Beach, then he will attempt to find the best situation to make a championship contender by adding him. What Cleveland can offer: Besides it being Lebron’s first team, and the fact he is from Akron, they offer many positives. Lebron is looking for a team that he can stay with for what we would assume will be the second chapter of his prime. A four year deal would take Lebron through the age of 32, and these could be his best years barring injury. Cleveland offers a very young core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and newly drafted Andrew Wiggins. By all accounts, Lebron would not only fit in with this group, but now Lebron becomes they guy and everyone feels a little less pressure and can allow their game to grow. Cleveland also can make moves involving Brendan Haywood or others to save more cap space to go sign another big man or another addition. Another rumor on the table is that Minnesota had called about Andrew Wiggins in a trade that could involve Wiggins and Kevin Love as the main pieces. It starts to become very scary if you can imagine a big three with Irving, James and Love. The negatives in Cleveland though are fairly obvious. Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavs, wrote a very vile letter to Lebron when he left Cleveland in 2010 and it was a very public breakup. It’s unknown at this point if Lebron could put all that behind him. Also, while youth is attractive, Lebron knows as well as anybody Cleveland may be too young. If he arrives and it becomes the Kyrie and Lebron show and nobody else can find a way to get involved this could also be a problem. Lebron loves shooters and clearly can motivate the guys around him so this also may be an initial problem that could be worked out a quarter or midway through the season. The issue here likely will not be overlooked.  A wild card here is Cleveland’s hire at coach. David Blott comes over and is already considered one of the most brilliant basketball minds based on his work in Israel. It is unknown however what Lebron thinks of this coach and if he would want to play for him.
If Lebron decides that Cleveland is not the place for him then the next best landing place has to be in Phoenix. No other team can offer the cap space and flexibility that Phoenix can. With a very up and coming roster Phoenix offers more depth and experience than Cleveland. In one scenario Phoenix can sign Lebron for the max deal, sign Eric Bledsoe for between $10-11 million and sign another player for the mid level exception. Many of Phoenix’s plans are not clear because of how close to the chest they have played the offseason. They apparently listened to an Indiana offer that would have brought Lance Stephenson and George Hill to the valley but would have been exchange for NBA’s most improved player Goran Dragic. The suns have been reported saying that they have no interest in dealing Dragic at this time. But if the possibility that Lebron could be brought here, it may be an inevitable move to save more cap space for other players or to acquire pieces. Dragic is currently signed to a deal that will allow him to opt out after next season. Dragic has performed highly above his contract so it seems very likely that the Suns will either need to restructure the contract for the Slovenian point guard or lose him to free agency. Another scenario that has been highly discussed is if Lebron and Carmelo Anthony could come to Phoenix. This is also a possibility but it is unclear if Phoenix is paying two top tier players what the plan for either of their current point guards because they likely will not be able to keep both under this scenario. Another advantage for Phoenix is that Lebron’s agent Rich Paul also represents Eric Bledsoe. Hopefully there has been at least mutual discussion through Rich Paul as a mediary. The negatives for the Suns are what always seem to be the negatives for Phoenix. Robert Sarver is still not considered the best owner in the NBA, he has shown in recent years that he is willing to spend to build a winning team but who knows if he is willing to ride close to the salary cap and risk that some years there may be luxury taxes. Phoenix plays in the stacked Western Conference that somehow is still getting better. The West features the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, Dwight Howard and Harden in Houston, the young kids in Portland, Blake Griffin and the Clips, and oh yeah the reigning MVP Kevin Durant in OKC. So there is a lot more resistance it seems, to get out of the West.

Lebron’s newest decision will shape the course of the NBA for the next few seasons because the balance of power is going to shift. If he goes back to Miami, Chris Bosh has informed him he will not take less money so he likely will take the deal offered in Houston. Lebron in Miami now is not going to be the same Heat team from the last few years. This is the main reason why one could argue he opted out; he does not see them as a contender when they can only afford to pay Lebron with a bunch of scrubs. The Cleveland situation will also shift the balance of power in the East. The Pacers will likely emerge as the favorite to win the East since they had made the Eastern Conference Finals the previous year. If Lebron lands in Phoenix, it may force Adam Silver’s hand to look at the current makeup of the NBA and see if they need to shake up the conferences.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NBA Rookies so far and a review of the NBA 2013 Draft, 12/25/2013

NBA Draft 2013.jpg

Think back to May 21st, 2013, the 2012-2013 NBA season was winding down and the 2013-2014 season was in its inception.  The conference finals were in full swing, when the ping pongs balls were “dropped” and then “called” ceremoniously like a saturday night powerball drawing. Many may be sad to know that this was David Stern’s last lottery as the commissioner of the NBA, he will be replaced by deputy commissioner Adam Silver in 2014-2015. I say that ironically because many are happy that this is David Stern’s last NBA Season at the steering wheel. Anyways back to lottery night,  Orlando was hoping for a # 1 pick and theoretically they should of gotten it.  Phoenix was really hoping for a top 3 pick, their franchise had the 4th best chance of that actually occurring. Phoenix had squandered the past few lottery picks and had been without an all-star since Amare Stoudemire. Cleveland ended up with the 1st pick with Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, and Phoenix following respectively.

The next important date in this young season’s saga is June 27th, 2013, D-Day to some, better known as Draft Day to others. I have never sat in a “war room” but from what I have heard, my D-Day reference is not far off from the truth.  This year there really was not an overwhelming number one pick, there was certainly not a consensus from any of the so-called experts. In my mind, when Cleveland went on the clock I was certain they were going to take the stud out of Indiana Victor Oladipo. The best talent may have actually been Nerlens Noel but, with him being hurt his stock fell. So instead, the Cavs shocked the world and took Anthony Bennett, the forward freshman from UNLV. This pick surprised a lot of people for 2 reasons, the first being, this was only the 2nd time in history a non-american had been drafted number one overall, the other being Andrew Bogut (Bogut is Australian and Bennett is Canadian). The second reason being, there was a lot of “ready-made” talent available, while Bennett was considered by many to be a project.  In most of the mock drafts, he was listed as going somewhere around the 10th pick. The Cav’s number one need was a wing presence, with not a lot available many thought that trading down might be a good option.  Also, last draft the Cav’s took Tristan Thompson who is also a Power Forward, supposedly the Cav’s “PF of the Future”.  A good complimentary player to Thompson would have either been a Center in Noel or a shooting guard in either Burke or Oladipo.  Going into the 2013-2014 season they have 2 Power forwards, no Center for the future and Kyrie Irving, in short they have a big hole at 2/3 position going forward.
Orlando was ready to go into attack mode, and then realized that they had every single player available to them that they could possibly want, so naturally they gobbled up Oladipo. Next, Washington takes Otto Porter out of Georgetown, this pick was solid in my mind and here are 2 reasons. First, It is always a good move to bring a kid who playing at a college near the NBA city to the team, thats just good marketing.  Second, the Wizards needed a forward and the other forwards on the board were sketchy at best;  Sergey Karasev and Shabazz Muhammad. These two were best forwards available, and Washington wasn’t going to take a chance on either. Little was known about Karasev but Washington did their their homework and knew that Shabazz Muhammad had been caught up in a number of scandals.

The next 2 picks in my mind were both misses., Charlotte takes Zeller out of Indiana and Phoenix takes the Ukrainian born Len, who went to Maryland but is also hurt. Michael Jordan was a great player, but has proven to be a terrible GM and Owner. Time and time again he chooses players that have certain key pieces missing. Cody Zeller might turn out to be a decent NBA player, right now he’s currently averaging 5 pts. and 4 reb. in the first 28 games of his career.  Zeller was the second wheel on the Indiana team of 2012-2013 and will have a lot to prove in the NBA to stay in the NBA, he will certainly be a project. The other reason I feel Jordan missed here, is Noel is still on the board and teams are passing him up because he is hurt.

With that said, Phoenix really botches the next pick and takes Alex Len. If you are going to take a hurt player why not take one with a huge upside?  Phoenix needed a Center, there were 2 injured guys available and while neither has played significantly yet in the 2013-2014 season, I think Phoenix missed out big time by not taking Nerlens Noel. At the time the Suns still had Marcin Gortat so, they might have been thinking that the foreign-born Len would be a good protege for Gortat.  Whatever the case may be, Gortat is no longer with the team and Len has 7 pts. total on the season in 31 minutes. Fortunately, the Suns were able to acquire Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin.  Goodwin left Kentucky mainly because he knew of the impending freshman class coming in and he worried about the amount of playing time he would receive.  Coach John Calipari said if he would have stayed in school he would have been a top ten talent.

In terms of other important notes from this draft, in the beginning of 2012-2013 NCAA season, Shabazz Muhammad was probably rated as one of the best players coming out of high school.  He attended the prestigious Bishop Gorman High School, he was a McDonald’s All-American, and Nevada Player HS player of the year. Muhammad chose UCLA and was ruled ineligible shortly after arriving in LA.  He sat out a number of games and was eventually allowed to play, and ended being named co-freshman of the year alongside Jahii Carson at Arizona State University.  Around Lottery Day, rumors began surfacing that Muhammad was lying about certain things relating his age. It was then released shortly before the draft that Shabazz Muhammad was in fact 20 years old and not 19 as previously thought. This was a huge shot to his draft stock, his credibility, and ultimately cost him being a top 3 draft pick.  Shabazz Muhammad ultimately still ended up being a lottery pick and was selected 14th overall by the Utah Jazz, he was then traded on draft day to the Minnesota Timberwolves. To make matters worse, Shabazz Muhammad was sent home from the rookie symposium for rules violations, this means he will have to repeat it in his sophomore season. He has played in 8 games, for 33 minutes and scored 8 points thus far.  Things for Shabazz have gone from Shabad to Shaworse.

In the next article I will discuss Rookie of the year so far, sleepers in the draft, and undrafted free agents making a big splash. 

 Merry Christmas!!