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NBA Toronto Raptors Jared Sullinger

Is It Worth Signing Waived NBA Players?

The NBA trade deadline has past and all the rage is who can scoop up the rejects from the NBA scrap heap of waived players in time to be playoff eligible, but is it worth the real cost? ESPN’s Chris Forsberg quotes Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to illustrate why maybe teams should be thinking twice.

“Listen, when I was here and we had those runs [with Boston’s Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen], I’m in the general manager’s office, and I had my coaches coming in and going, ‘We need this’ or ‘We heard [about] this guy, this veteran guy.’ So we went and did these buyouts every year to try to help our team, and rarely did those work,” Ainge said this week during an appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program.

“It sounds good on paper. Everybody said, ‘They just added so-and-so to the team.’ When, in fact, those players may take away minutes from a younger player that is better, change the chemistry and the roles of the players inside your organization.”

Ainge is specifically thinking about the impact about signing a “free agent” at this point in the season and the perceived obligation to give that player minutes over his own developing young talent that has found a useful role on his roster. A rental player for a few months taking minutes away from James Young, Jordan Mickey or Jaylen Brown just might not be in the team’s best interests.

“We have such a good chemistry with this team. We’ve had everybody contributing to winning,” Ainge said. “We’ve had James Young playing the most fourth-quarter minutes [of his career] in the last four games we won on the road. We’ve had Jordan Mickey start in a win, and we’ve had Jaylen Brown go 9-1 as a starter. There’s so many good things and so many good vibes with these guys. Sometimes you bring in a player, and the players react like, ‘Man, that’s not fair. That kid’s been working hard. That kid’s earned his chance to play.’ I think it goes both ways. Names on paper and past performances don’t always make for, like, a perfect fit with the team that they’re coming to, especially if they don’t fit our style.”

Wise words from an experienced NBA team builder. Picking up another team’s castoff isn’t always going to be in your team’s best interests or even help in the short term.

Look for teams with injury problems desperate for a stop gap solution to potentially get the most out of signing a waived player, unless of course they have their own young talent that could really benefit from the suddenly available minutes. Do you really want to cut a player to acquire someone you won’t need after this season? If that was true, why did you sign him in the first place?

Let’s see if Ainge can resist trying to fix his team’s 27th ranked rebounding with his team’s former best at grabbing boards Jared Sullinger who was recently waived by the Suns while it’s looking like the Cavs will throw anybody overboard to stay in first place.

 
 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 

Raptors Sign Guard Drew Crawford And Centre Yanick Moreira

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have signed free agent guard Drew Crawford, son of NBA referee Danny Crawford, and 6’11 centre Yanick Moreira, both of whom played for the 2016 Raptors NBA Summer League entry.

Crawford, 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 18.0 minutes in five games, with Toronto’s 2016 entry in NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. He shot .500 (14-for-28) from the field and .750 (9-for-12) at the free throw line.

Crawford spent last season in Israel with Bnei Hertzeliyya, averaging 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 31.7 minutes in 34 games. In 2014-15, he appeared in 50 games (all starts) with the D-League’s Erie BayHawks. He averaged 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 33.7 minutes.

Crawford played four collegiate seasons at Northwestern. He averaged 15.6 points (ninth in the Big Ten), 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 36.5 minutes as a senior. He is the first Wildcat to earn Big Ten Freshman of the year honors (2009-10).

Moreira, 6-foot-11, 220 pounds, saw action in five games with Toronto in Las Vegas, averaging 2.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 13.8 minutes.

Moreira split last season between UCAM Murcia (Spain) and Rouen (France). He averaged 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 12.2 minutes in nine games with UCAM Murcia and 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 27.5 minutes in four games with Rouen.

Moreira played two seasons at SMU (2013-15), averaging 9.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 57 games. He spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at South Plains College. As a freshman, he helped South Plains College to a perfect 36-0 record and the 2012 NJCAA national title. He was named MVP of the NJCAA National Tournament.

Moreira represented Angola at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, averaging 17.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in five games. He recorded 38 points and 15 rebounds versus Australia.

Contracts details were not released by the team, but it believed both players have signed partially guaranteed deals and will be competing with undrafted Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff and Wichita State undrafted guard Fred VanVleet for the 15th roster spot on the Raptors. A spot on the Raptors 905 awaits the other three.

 

 

 



 

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant

Fixing The 2011 NBA CBA

The NBA didn’t foresee creating the Golden State Warriors super team when they signed the 2011 CBA, but a few small changes might have helped prevent it even with the new National TV contract causing such a massive increase in the Salary Cap. In the owners rush to parity, they changed how teams compete for their own players after the first contract past the rookie deal and combined with a rising Salary Cap, made unanticipated super teams possible.

“Part of the discussion today was how much of what happened this summer was an anomaly in terms of the system,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at the Board of Governors press conference. “As I’ve made clear before, we did not model for such a large spike in the cap, which is what we saw this summer, and so it enabled teams to make moves that they would not otherwise have been able to make.

“And then the question becomes what corrections should we make in the system. As I’ve said before, from the very beginning, we had two priorities when we went into the last collective bargaining agreement. One was to correct the finances of the league and put every team in a position where if they were well-managed they had the opportunity to be profitable.

“The other issue was we wanted every team, regardless of market size, regardless of how deep the pockets were of the owner, to be in a position to compete for championships.”

Well the owners are certainly making out like bandits under this version of the CBA, competitive balance? Not so much.

The new CBA made extensions for players nearing the end of their first contract after their rookie deal a non-starter. The restrictions were just too tough and the benefits almost non-existent. So, not surprisingly, nearly every player about to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) declined extension discussions and played out their contract.

Under the old CBA, players in these circumstances could sign extensions that would be comparable to what their own team could offer them after their contract ended. Teams could sell their own players on eliminating the risk of injury entailed by waiting until their contract expired without the player having to give up future income, but not anymore.

The 2011 CBA has definitely made things more interesting in the off season. Free Agency is more exciting because more players are “forced” into becoming an UFA in order to get paid. More UFAs equals more excitement, but it has also become mind-numbingly difficult on general managers who really don’t know for sure what to do at the trade deadline with their star players that will become UFAs in the summer.

The new CBA has also nearly wiped out Sign-and-Trade scenarios as players can no longer get any more money in a sign-and-trade than they can as a free agent signing directly with another team. This has almost wiped out any chance at compensation like draft picks or the sometimes valuable traded player exceptions that were often acquired when another team signed your team’s UFA prior to 2011.

“Of course we discussed the activities from the last two weeks for free agency,” Silver said. “I would say we had a robust discussion in the room of various views of player movement that we’ve seen.

“I think we can make the system even better, and I think it is critically important that fans in every market have that belief that if their team is well-managed that they can compete.

“Certainly it’s important to me that markets in this league, those that are perceived as small, as those that are larger, all feel like they have an equal chance.

“My sense is that some of the player movement we just saw is not necessarily a function of market size. It’s clearly, in the case of one particular player, a desire to be in a situation with a group of players who have already proven that they can win. And by the way, I don’t mean to be so cryptic; in the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision, once he becomes a free agent, to make a choice that’s available to him. In this case he operated 100 percent within the way of the system, and same with Golden State.

“Having said that, I do think to maintain those principles that I discussed in terms of creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I think we do need to re-examine some of the elements of our system so that I’m not here next year or the year after again talking about anomalies. There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.”

Free agents changing teams is exciting. It keeps the NBA in the news cycle when their isn’t much basketball being played. However, not giving teams, especially small market teams, a chance to extend their own star free agents at maximum salaries prior to the start of free agency means general managers will often be forced into taking the risk of hanging onto players past the trade deadline and losing them for nothing in July.

If the NBA wants to give small market teams like Oklahoma City a chance to fairly negotiate with their own pending UFAs like Kevin Durant, they need to be able to offer an extension on similar terms and at similar dollars to what that free agent could sign for in the summer.

At least then when their pending free agent declines to discuss an extension, the general manager knows for sure prior to the trade deadline that he is facing a very real risk of losing his star player for nothing.

Also, by bringing back the ability for an UFA to obtain the same contract in a sign and trade as he would by re-signing with his old team, teams losing an UFA could at least obtain some compensation when the player forces his new team’s hand by asking for the better deal.

There are no perfect solutions to obtain competitive balance, not with unrestricted free agency a reality that’s here to stay. However, the new CBA took things a step too far when striving to limit players’ contract options and salaries, and the unintended consequences were the best regular season team in NBA history obtaining yet another superstar player and the small market team losing Kevin Durant getting the shaft.

As Silver says, “There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.” The union wouldn’t even fight you on these two.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

NBA Boston Celtics Jared Sullinger

Celtics Free Agent Jared Sullinger Heads North To Toronto

Everyone in Toronto can relax, Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri has landed a pretty decent free agent. Soon after being made an unrestricted free agent by the Celtics, Jared Sullinger finds his way headed north to division rival Toronto.

The deal is assumed to be in the $6 million range because, without trading a player for salary cap space, that’s all the Raptors can offer. However, Sullinger and his agent likely realize free agent monies are drying up fast and the last big man to come to Toronto for a year, Bismack Biyombo, left with a $70 million contract after helping the Raptors get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Taking less now and playing for a team that wants rebounding and defense can lead to big rewards later on.

Sullinger was an obvious choice for the Raptors as he has burned them on numerous occasions in the past. The 24-year-old big man averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes over 81 regular season games with the Celtics last season. In 12 career games against the Raptors he averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 24.5 minutes and he shot 8-21 from three-point range, got 12 steals and 5 blocked shots.

Last season, Sullinger pulled in 10.6 percent of the available offensive boards and 27 percent of the available defensive rebounds making him a better offensive version of the rebounding machine that was Biyombo. Biyombo pulled in 11.7 percent of the available offensive boards and 29.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds last year with Toronto, but those numbers were way ahead of his career averages. After four seasons, Sullinger actually has slightly better rebounding percentages than Biyombo did at the same stage of his career.

Sullinger does not provide the same rim protection as Biyombo, blocking the ball at about a third of Biyombo’s impressive rate, however, Sullinger grabbed steals at four times the rate Biyombo did and he uses that 270 lb body with great effect in the paint. Sullinger also has the hands and the jump shot that Biyombo is still hoping to develop some day, so opponents will no longer be able to play off of the Raptors backup big man when Toronto runs their offensive sets.

Like Biyombo, Sullinger’s minutes were slipping with the Celtics and it had become apparent he wouldn’t be back next season. He should be driven to show what he can do and used to sharing minutes with another big man which is important for chemistry as he’ll likely be backing up Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson.

Once again the ever patient Ujiri has found value for the Raptors.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA D-League Melvin Ejim

Melvin Ejim Was The Next Best Canadian In Manila

Team Canada came up short in a 83-74 loss to the Olympic Qualifier favorite France in Manila and once again it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph leading Canada in scoring almost by himself with 20 points. The next best player Canada had for putting the ball in the basket didn’t come from the NBA. The next best Canadian in Manila was the undrafted forward Melvin Ejim who played in Italy and Erie of the NBA D-League last season.

While Joseph has been Team Canada’s undisputed leader for several years now and led his team in scoring in each of their four games in Manila and his 19.2 points per game was third best in the tournament, the guys who were supposed to helping put in some points were conspicuously absent. Some like Andrew Wiggins chose not to go, but none of the other three Canadian NBAers who played could manage to score in double digits.

As a team, Canada shot poorly all tournament and only hit on 26.7 percent of their three-point attempts, a disaster waiting to happen in paint-packed FIBA basketball. Usually reliable sharp shooter Brady Heslip was 2-13 from deep for the tournament, Philip Scrubb was 2-12 as was Joseph. Far and away the best shooter for Canada was Ejim.

Ejim was the only other Canadian player to average double-digits (12.5 points) in scoring and he was the best three-point shooter on the team (7-13). Ejim was one of the few Canadians on the court besides Joseph that was noticeable for almost every minute he was on the court and it wasn’t just on offense. Ejim was a team best +14 points for the tournament.

Going back to the predraft workouts in 2014, the potential of a four year college player who could contribute on defense and shoot from distance was noticed.

“Melvin (Ejim), he is another guy that is intriguing because he plays so hard defensively,” Raptors Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman said. “Because of the style of Coach Casey, we kind of gravitate towards players that fit into that (style) naturally and Melvin is a powerful defender on the wing and that goes a long way in the NBA.”

“I am a small forward and I bring the versatility to be able to defend bigger guys,” Ejim said. “I have a strong body and can do a lot of things defensively and offensively. I can shoot the ball and play inside and out. If you don’t consider those good things, then tweener is a bad thing. I just it depends on how you view the role. A tweener – playing small ball, that’s an asset you can use to help you win games. I am just trying to show I can play defense, I can defend the perimeter, defend small forwards and be a leader, shoot the ball and be aggressive.”

Now 25-years-old with two seasons of professional experience under his belt, Ejim was ready to show that he had continued to improved his game since college.

Ejim’s scoring had improved from 10.2 points per game as a freshman in college to 17.8 as a senior and his three-point shooting improved from 22.4 to 34.6 percent. Last year in Italy he shot 37 percent from three, but he showed the biggest overall improvement in his game playing for Erie where he averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 39 games.

Listed at 6’7 and 220 lbs, Ejim plays a lot bigger and that has earned him the tweener label, but he is showing that he can play small forward in big lineups and a stretch-four in small lineups. Being a “tweener” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in today’s NBA.

As Tolzman said in 2014, “You like to see players that are stair-stepping towards (us when) we get them because that’s a natural trajectory that you want to see.

“(A tweener) is almost a positive in today’s game because you want the flexibility if a team goes big against you, you have the ability to just shift guys over and keep your best players out there.”

Ejim has continued to “stair-step” in his development, but he missed out on NBA Summer League (for the moment) so he could play for Canada this summer. Hopefully the GMs in the NBA were paying attention to the players that chose to represent their Countries at the three Olympic Qualifying tournaments. There were some pretty good players that deserve another look by the NBA.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri

Raptors Still Looking For A Big And More Shooting

It’s probably the worse kept secret in the NBA, Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri is looking to add more three-point shooting and another big man this summer. He said so himself again on NBA TV during the Raptors-Timberwolves game at NBA Summer League.

When asked if he was looking to add three-point shooting or a big man, Ujiri answered “both,” responding (paraphrased), ” we are looking to add more three-point shooting and we’ll add another big man this summer whether it’s in free agency or by trade.”

This isn’t anything new, Ujiri has been saying much the same things going back to last season and this isn’t anything that hasn’t been obvious to just about everyone who follows the team for quite a while now.

The problem for Toronto is a lot of teams would like to add more three-point shooting and a big man. One dimensional veterans like forward Ryan Anderson just signed for $20 million a season because he is a good three-point shooter. Fortunately for Toronto, the money is starting to run out and it won’t be long before the guys who are left in free agency will become more amenable to the relatively merger salary cap space and exceptions the Raptors (and almost every other team now) have to work with.

If you are trying to read the tea leaves in Toronto, you could lean a bit on what Ujiri was saying or wasn’t saying.

He wasn’t saying the Raptors are looking for three-point shooting in free agency, so maybe he’s hoping to find a cheap shooter in Summer League or overseas? Also, it would seem putting Terrence Ross on the trade block would be counterproductive at this time as well.

The big man pickings in free agency are starting to get thin, but there are some interesting players still available, although for how much longer isn’t certain. The list keeps getting shorter.

Ujiri didn’t say anything new, but at least he confirmed the Raptors are still actively looking to add talent for next season. Other than re-signing their own DeMar DeRozan, this has been a very quiet free agent period in Toronto so far this summer and the fanbase is getting understandably anxious.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Boston Celtics Jared Sullinger 2016

Celtics Make Jared Sullinger An Unrestricted Free Agent

The Boston Celtics wanted to get something of value back for their 21st pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, but apparently they haven’t been able to find anyone willing to help them out with their no longer restricted free agent Jared Sullinger. Either that or Sullinger and his agent have a vastly overinflated view of his value after seeing all of the overly generous deals other free agents have been signing this summer.

The 24-year-old Sullinger still gets knocked for his apparent lack of conditioning, the failure to improve on his three-point shooting and gets questioned about whether a traditional big man like him still has a place in today’s NBA.

Wes Howard and CelticsBlog Staff took on the question of Sullinger’s future with the Celtics after the season ended and they didn’t see the center back with the team next season.

Jeff Clark: Let him walk. Sorry to be so blunt, but I can’t imagine that he’ll be worth whatever he’ll get on his next contract. He’s skilled, no doubt. The guy can rebound, and at times he can score and defend bigger guys in the post. But he hasn’t improved his outside shot enough, he’s not versatile enough for today’s game, and yes, I’m concerned about his conditioning.

Wes Howard: I don’t think that Boston should spend what the market likely dictates it will cost to keep Sully around. However, I do want to point out that he brings a skill that no one else on our roster has been able to duplicate consistently over the past couple of years. Sully has repeatedly demonstrated that he is able to handle large, strong, bruising centers down low. He always seems to do well against Dwight Howard, against Andre Drummond, and against Pau Gasol, to name a few. In short, he does well against more “traditional” centers, on both ends of the court.

Kevin O’Connor: Jared Sullinger is better than he gets credit for. But he should also be better than he actually is. He obviously needs to get in better conditioning. He knows that. But once he does that, he also needs to extend his range to the NBA three-point shot. I’m not sure he’s interested in that based on his recent appearance on The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix. And it’s too bad because I think Sullinger has All-Star-level talent that will ultimately go unrealized unless he makes strides soon.

These Celtics Blog discussions were held before the draft and before the Celtics nabbed All-Star center Al Horford in free agency. Currently Boston is awash in big men and didn’t have room to keep Sullinger. Without a trade partner, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had little choice but to renounce his restricted free agent if only to keep him from picking up his qualifying offer.

Unless Ainge can create a roster spot, he’s got no where to put Sullinger or Zeller and every GM in the NBA knows it. The scariest thing that could happen in Boston is both restricted free agents pick up their qualifying offers sending the Celtics into full on scramble mode to make room for Brown and Yabusele.

Teams in the NBA tend to run like lemmings towards the latest style of play that seems to work, but the demise of the traditional center has become grossly overstated. If a team doesn’t have someone that can defend a traditional center, they will be in at least as much trouble as those teams that can’t defend the three-point line. Drummond, Howard, Gasol, Valanciunas, they’ll still be around next season and they aren’t alone.

Last season Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes over 81 regular season games. He pulled in 10.6 percent of the available offensive boards and 27 percent of the available defensive rebounds. In other words, he is a pretty effective glass cleaner.

Based on the early stages of free agency, Sullinger could command anywhere between $10-18 million a season, but most of those once available dollars have already been committed to other players and Sullinger might be forced to look at something closer to mid level exception money now? He is going to get calls, but his agent has his work cut out for him now.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Los Angeles Lakers Timofey Mozgov

Buyer’s Remorse Coming Soon After NBA Free Agent Signings

Sure the NBA Salary Cap has gone up by over $20 million and it’s expected to go up by another $20 million over the next five years, but that doesn’t justify some of the contracts being handed out early in free agency this summer. $20 million per year contracts are still going to be about a fifth of your team’s salary cap space, buyer’s remorse is going to be a common theme in the not too distant future.

Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are hardly going to be alone after this summer as a team that is trying to take a massive risk on completely unproven players. In just the latest of “What were they thinking?” moves by NBA teams with too much money burning a hole in their GM’s pocket, the Nets have given an offer sheet to the Trail Blazers restricted free agent Allan Crabbe at $75 million over four years.

You can be forgiven if your next question is Allen who? The 24-year-old Crabbe has played three NBA seasons, started a career total of 17 games and last year he “broke out” to average 10.3 points and 2.7 rebounds. He can shoot the three-ball and has nice numbers for developing player to come off your bench, but paying $19 million a year for a reserve player you hope is going to turn into a starter doesn’t constitute taking a calculated risk, it’s more like rolling the dice and needing double sixes to win.

This offer sheet appeared just as offers to free agents were starting to look sane again.

The Nets are also reported giving an offer sheet to Miami Heat restricted free agent guard Tyler Johnson at $50 million over four years that is back end loaded at $18.9 million for year three and $19.6 million for year four.

Johnson has only two years in the NBA under his belt and averaged 8.7 points and 3 rebounds in just 36 games played with the Heat last year. Maybe the Nets will get lucky and Miami will match? If not, the Nets could have around $40 million tied up in two unproven young players a couple of years from now. These two guys had better look like All-Stars in the not too distant future.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are going to pay the soon-to-be 30-year-old center Ian Mahinmi $16 million a season for four years. They do know his career averages are 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds?

Mahinmi did “break out” to average 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds as a full-time starter for the first time in his career with the Pacers last season, but have the Wizards heard that Marreese Speights just signed for the veteran’s minimum?

Houston Rockets

Ryan Anderson was a hot commodity in free agency. The career backup stretch-four has played starter’s minutes when he wasn’t hurt and this suspect defender can fill the net from the outside. However, missing games is the norm for Anderson and the Rockets are betting $80 million over four years he’ll play enough to earn his paycheck.

Anderson has missed 96 games over the last three seasons and he was coming off the bench for the lowly Pelicans – Do the Rockets know something no one else does?

Orlando Magic

The Magic are tried of losing and they wanted to change the culture of their team. Well, Bismack Biyombo will help with that and he’s getting paid up to $18 million a year to make it happen.

Biyombo was really good in home games with the Raptors and filled in nicely when starter Jonas Valanciunas was injured. However, the offensively challenged Biyombo averaged 5.5 points and 8 rebounds. He gives a team rim protection and boards, but that’s a lot of money for a player best suited to split the minutes at center with someone that can score.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers needed veteran help, but their options were limited as few players were willing to take their money, so the made the fading 31-year-old Luol Deng an offer he couldn’t turn down, four years and $72 million.

Deng is a good locker room guy and mentor for a young team that isn’t expected to win, but as this team develops its talent, that deal is going to look very expensive. Deng’s scoring average has dropped for three years in a row as he gets slower and more perimeter oriented.

Piling on the future hit to the Lakers salary cap space is another four year deal that will pay the 30-year-old journeyman center Timofey Mozgov $16 million a season. Do the Lakers know Mozgov career averages are 6.9 points and 5 rebounds and that’s about what they should expect next year?

Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers are a team on the rise and adding a 28-year-old veteran like Evan Turner does make sense, but did they have to pay him $75 million over four years?

A career 10 point 5 rebound 4 assist wing, Turner is versatile and experienced, but the only time he has put up the big numbers that might justify a $19 million a year salary was on a really bad 76ers team. On good teams, he has reverted to the mean or a little less.

Free Agency Is Always A Little Crazy

There are plenty of free agent deals out there besides these that could generate some buyer’s remorse in the not too distant future. However, high profile guys are always going to be paid by some team based on what the CBA permits regardless and it’s getting hard to criticize any $10 million salary in a $94 million salary cap world, but $20 million for a journeyman or a prospect? Can buyer’s remorse be all that far away?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 



 

Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade Chooses The Bulls

In an unforeseen shocker, the reliable source for NBA trades and free agent deals says Miami HEAT free agent superstar Dwyane Wade is choosing to join the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls have to clear salary cap space to sign Wade, so the vultures are already circling to grab whatever free talent they can.

Looks like all those comments about Wade feeling slighted by Miami are true after all.

This deal is done and done (on July 7th)

 

 

 


NBA Boston Celtics Jared Sullinger

What Free Agents Should The Raptors Try To Sign Now?

The Toronto Raptors went into free agency this summer with little flexibility. There was no chance president and general manager Masai Ujiri wasn’t going to make re-signing All-Star DeMar DeRozan his first priority and after striking out trying to make a trade at the NBA Draft and keeping both of his picks at 9 and 27, Toronto was left with about $6 million in salary cap space if they renounced their other free agents and cap holds. In other words, options are limited.

However, now that most of the top free agent talent is gone as is most of the league’s salary cap space, the remaining guys unrealistic salary expectations after watching all those unbelievable contracts being handed out will start to fade. Reality is about to hit home soon and hard, it’s time for Ujiri to start picking thru what’s left in free agency to fill the holes in his roster at the two forward spots.

Raptors Roster

Point Guard:     Kyle Lowry,  Cory Joseph,  Delon Wright
Shooting Guard:  DeMar DeRozan,  Norman Powell
Small Forward:     DeMarre Carroll,  Terrence Ross,  Bruno Caboclo
Power Forward:   Patrick Patterson,  Pascal Siakam*
Center:     Jonas Valanciunas,  Jacob Poeltl*,  Lucas Nogueira

* unsigned rookies

The Raptors have wants not needs. Except for the 36-year-old Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo backing up center and James Johnson backing up small forward, this is the same relatively young roster that won 56 games last season and got to the Eastern Conference Finals with their big 2015 free agent signing DeMarre Carroll injured for most of the way.

Power Forward

Based on how Ujiri loves to develop young players, Poeltl is going to have to play himself out of the backup center spot, although going to Nogueira next doesn’t exactly leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling that everything would be alright. It should be expected Siakam will have to earn all of his minutes, and he might. He is after all an energy and effort type of player, but a proven third big man that could slide between the four and the five would be a big boost to this roster.

There are big man options available in free agency that should help what should be an already solid rotation.

Marreese Speights, UFA Golden State Warriors, 6’10, 255 lbs

A veteran big man with the ability to provide instant offense off the bench. He has even started to develop a three-point shot.

David Lee, UFA Dallas Mavericks, 6’9, 245 lbs

The 33-year-old former All-Star is still a superior scorer and rebounder and has been solid in a bench role these past two seasons. A porous defender, but a good teammate and veteran.

Brandon Bass, UFA Los Angeles Lakers, 6’8 250 lbs

At 31-years-old, you know exactly what you’ll get from Bass. Not an exciting choice, no upside, just a reliable, boring placeholder while the young guys figure things out.

Terrence Jones, UFA Houston Rockets, 6’9, 250 lbs

Terrence Jones would be a hot prospect if anyone believed he could get most of the way thru a season unscathed. The Rockets don’t, that’s why the 24-year-old is unrestricted.

Jared Sullinger, RFA Boston Celtics, 6’9 260 lbs

Jared Sullinger has burned the Raptors on numerous occasions and one would assume the Celtics would match any offer, but that team has some big decisions to make. They have rookies they need to sign, trade or potentially lose. They have unguaranteed contracts with veteran big men Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko that they should be picking up now that they’ve brought All-Star Al Horford on board. (They’d look good in a Raptors uniform if cut.)

It’s either Sullinger and Tyler Zeller (RFA center) or Johnson and Jerebko and the Celtics can be pushed around on this one. They don’t have enough roster spots to keep everyone.

Trail Blazers RFA Meyers Leonard had shoulder surgery and will be out for 6-8 months, but he’d be an interesting pickup if you can stomach the risk?

Small Forward

There are few interesting options to bolster the Raptors small forward spot, but the guy they had last year is probably the guy that would do the job best again in October.

The veteran (yes, he’s a veteran now) James Johnson took on the third string injury reserve role on the Raptors last season and did a great job filling in for Carroll until Powell took his minutes. Consistency is valuable and bringing Johnson back next season makes sense.

If Ujiri wants a wing that can shoot the three-ball instead of Johnson, Thunder forward Kyle Singler’s younger brother E.J. Singler finished off the NBA D-League season with the Raptors 905 and made a huge impact. If he performs well with Toronto in Summer League, he could be the Raptors new third stringer.

As things continue to shake out, teams pull qualifying offers off the table and players get waived to make room for other deals, there will be new and possibly unforeseen opportunities this summer. If anything, Ujiri is an opportunist, but there is enough out there right now to meet his team’s needs.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Pau Gasol

Raptors Still Have Hope To Land Pau Gasol

The battle for Pau Gasol rages on and apparently the Toronto Raptors are one of the favorites to land him.

Pau Gasol is an obvious target for the Raptors despite turning 36-years-old this week. The big Spaniard put up 46 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on the Bulls team last season. The big question is how Toronto will be able to put together enough salary cap space to sign him?

 

 

 


 

NBA Boston Celtics David Lee

Is David Lee The Power Forward Your Team Needs?

A lot of money has been spent on NBA free agents already and once Kevin Durant announces his decision on the 4th of July, what’s left of the big money should be gone fairly quickly. Then, finally, teams like the Toronto Raptors who have been waiting patiently on the sidelines because they had to take care of their own big name free agent and/or had little salary cap space to begin with can start to pick over what’s left.

This is phase two of the annual free agent frenzy. The stage where salaries revert back to what seems reasonable or even cheap by the standards of the first few days of the “July Moratorium.”

At this point in free agency, if you are looking for a proven power forward that can start or provide instant offense off the bench, the 33-year-old two-time All-Star who has played on three different teams in the past two years David Lee could be your guy.

Lee averaged 18 points and 10 boards in his first four seasons in Golden State before injuries cost him his starting job and Draymond Green exploded onto the scene. Since then he’s become a bench player with the Warriors, then Boston and finally in Dallas where he helped the Mavericks turn around a sliding season and hang onto a playoff spot.

Earl K. Sneed on Mavs.com quotes coach Rick Carlisle,

“You know, we acquired David Lee two months ago. I don’t remember the exact date, but when you acquire a player like that that’s been a two-time All-Star and has been in some successful organizations, you know, you want him to have a great experience,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle explained during his exit interview last month. “He did, and he helped us get to the playoffs. We wouldn’t have got to the playoffs without David Lee, and the word spreads. You know, veterans like him know other veterans, and the word gets out that Dallas is a high-level organization. And we take great pride in that.”

Lee’s productivity didn’t falter in a reduced role. He was still averaging a solid double-double on a per 36 minute basis because, for all of Lee’s shortcomings, he can still rebound and score.

Akshay Mirchandani on Mavs Moneyball writes,

Enter Lee. He averaged 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds with the Mavericks. Those aren’t flashy numbers, but he provided rebounding and a solid inside offensive presence off the bench that the Mavs didn’t have before his arrival.

Almost immediately, Lee became a reliable scorer for Dallas, scoring double digits in 11 of the 25 regular season games he played with the Mavericks.

Obviously Lee isn’t the long term fix to anyone’s basketball program, but he can still do what he’s always done. A career 53.3 percent shooter from the field that isn’t falling off and a superior offensive and defensive rebounder. If your team needs scoring and rebounding off the bench, he can still fill the gap better than most.

Lee told Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News at the end of March he looking forward to free agency.

“I think I’ll have some good choices. And I look forward to playing three or four more years,” said Lee. “I feel like right now my body feels as healthy as ever. And I think going down in weight has made me feel a lot better and a lot more active. I feel as active as I was early in my career.”

On the right team in the right situation, Lee could be the power forward your NBA team needs for next season and it shouldn’t break the bank to sign him.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Team Canada Andrew Nicholson

Wizards Take Canadian Free Agent Andrew Nicholson

The Orlando Magic didn’t extend a qualifying offer to power forward Andrew Nicholson briefly giving the Toronto Raptors the possibility of putting another Canadian player on their bench. However, from an ever shrinking pool of free agent talent, the Washington Wizards grabbed the stretch-four with a four-year $26 million offer for themselves.

Nicholson was on the outs in Orlando last season and for the first time in his NBA career, he didn’t get a single start with the Magic. However, in the 56 games he did play in, he averaged 36 percent from three-point range on a 114 attempts and pulled in a solid 22.8 percent of the available defensive boards.

In the current free agent frenzy, $6.5 million per season for a developing stretch-four actually looks kind of cheap.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol

The Toronto Raptors Are After Pau Gasol

Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri has made it clear on several occasions that he has been looking to add a starting caliber power forward to his roster going back to last season’s trade deadline. There is confirmation his current target is the Chicago Bulls free agent big man Pau Gasol.

At the trade deadline Ujiri said, “that power forward position has always been a position that we need to get better. We understand that so we’ll try and figure that out whether that’s now or in the summer.”

Pau Gasol is an obvious target for the Raptors despite turning 36-years-old this week. The big Spaniard put up 46 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on a Bulls team in disarray last season. The six-time NBA All-Star may not be as good as he was during his two NBA Championship runs with the Lakers, however, he is still one of the better power forwards in the NBA and could be the bridge the Raptors need to maintain last year’s winning pace while their young big men get up to speed.

Unfortunately Ujiri won’t be alone in his pursuit of Gasol. The list of interested teams is long, likely longer than Marc Stein has indicated and the competition will be stiff.

Toronto doesn’t have the salary cap space to wow the veteran big man with a huge offer and they might not need it. Gasol, like Luis Scola last year, wants more than just money. He wants to win and he wants an important role on a team where he can be successful.

The Raptors can offer Gasol the starting power forward slot on a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, but only a modest salary unless Toronto can trade a current player for cap space. Ujiri will likely have to hope that what he has now is enough.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Indiana pacers Boston Celtics Portland Trail Blazers Evan Turner

NBA Free Agency Deals – They Must Be Mad List

Salaries of NBA players in free agency were going to go up this summer. We knew this. The Salary Cap rose by over $20 million, so teams had more money to spend and the current collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners splits revenues about 50/50.

Most of the deals agreed to only look expensive when compared to past seasons, so don’t get your shorts in a knot over most of those big contracts being handed out, that’s just the new reality. They’ll be even bigger next summer.

However, that doesn’t mean every deal made was a good deal. This summer is no different than past summers in that respect. Some teams just can’t stop themselves.

New deals on the “What were they thinking – they must be mad” list include:

Los Angeles Lakers
Luol Deng 4-years $72 million
Timofey Mozgov 4-years $64 million
Jordan Clarkson 4-years $50 million

The Lakers headed into free agency suggesting they’d be prudent and cautious, then Mitch Kupchak lost his mind. So much for protecting salary cap space for next year’s really impressive crop of big name free agents.

Luol Deng at 31-years-old is in obvious decline. He’ll give you what he’s got and he’ll be a good veteran, but at $18 million per season …. really?

Do the Lakers know Timofey Mosgov is a career 6.9 point 5 rebound center?

The Jordan Clarkson deal is steep, but it’s for your own young player putting up good stats on a bad team, so you have to hope the GM knows what he’s doing in this case. (Not feeling all that confident right about now.)

Utah Jazz Joe Johnson 2-years $22 million

The 35-year-old Johnson’s stats have been in steady decline for 4 straight seasons – even taking that slightly better 24 game stint in Miami into account. He’s probably a nice steadying influence on a young team, but get used to the 40 percent shooting he was putting up for the Nets as that’s his reality and it’ll continue to get worse.

New Orleans Pelicans Solomon Hill 4-years $48 million

Hill averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds with the Pacers last season and the only saving grace to this contract is Hill’s age. Hopefully he’ll get better – a lot better.

Portland Trail Blazers Evan Turner 4-years $75 million

So the list of top flight free agents wasn’t all that long this year, but that’s no reason to spend $19 million per season on a 10 point 5 rebound 4 assist guard like Evan Turner. This veteran will help Portland, he’s not a bad player or an unknown quantity, but he’s not a front line starter either and he’s getting paid like one.

Orlando Magic D.J. Augustin 4-years $29 million

$7 million per season isn’t big money under the new salary cap, but it’s money that should still get you a solid rotation player – a sure thing and D.J. Augustin is anything but a sure thing. Augustin’s impact on NBA rosters has been up and down like a toilet seat. Solid in Charlotte, awful in Indiana, nice in Chicago, Toronto cut him, okay in OKC, nice in Denver, couldn’t shoot again in his second stint in OKC. The Magic had better hope he’s a fit in Orlando because he’s theirs for the next 4 years.

The Tempting to Dump On Them List

New York Knicks Joakim Noah 4-years $72 million

If Joakim Noah is physically okay, no one will be laughing at the Knicks for this deal. If they got it wrong again? Everyone will be – “I told you so!”

Atlanta Hawks Kent Bazemore 4-years $70 million

$17.5 million per season just seems like a lot for a solid “3-and-D” wing who’s just okay at shooting the long ball and his three-point shooting percentages have been dipping in each of the past two seasons. Is betting on a 27-year-old to take their game up another notch reasonable?

Memphis Grizzlies Chandler Parsons 4-years $95 million

The Mavericks felt a little burned after giving Parsons a max deal to steal him away from Houston two years ago. Will The Grizzlies feel the same way two years from now?

Conley, DeRozan, Drummond, Beal, Batum, Whiteside, and Fournier grab headlines because of the massive size of their pending new contracts, but these players were always going to get paid based on what the CBA permitted. The numbers are big, but no one should have been surprised.

If your team didn’t make a list, don’t worry. It’s still early in the process. However, the longer things go, the more likely any deal that gets signed will look like a good deal – for the team.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

NBA D-League Raptors 905 E.J. Singler

E.J. Singler Could Be The Raptors Missing Wing

Thunder forward Kyle Singler’s younger brother finished off the NBA D-League season with the Raptors 905 and made a huge impact over the team’s final 10 games. Not surprisingly, he earned himself a spot on the Raptors Summer League team and if president and general manager Masai Ujiri can create a roster spot, the 26-year-old E.J. Singler could be the Raptors missing wing.

Singler was an older undrafted senior out of Oregon in 2013, so not much was widely known about him. The scouting report on E.J. coming out of college was:

E.J. Singler — Oregon — Senior wing: Through four years with the Ducks he proved to be a very smart, team oriented player that could really shoot the ball. He lacks NBA level strength and athleticism, but makes up for that with a strong basketball IQ.

In the NBA D-League, the younger 6’6 Singler has been proving he’s all of that and more. Plus, he is a far better shooter than his 6’8 brother (who isn’t bad.)

“Oh I’m way better (than Kyle),” E.J. told Pro Bball Report at the end of the 905 season. “That’s not even a question.

“We had a lot of good players in Idaho (Stampede), so I didn’t really have as much opportunity to play and showcase in Idaho and I was really grateful for the trade (to the 905) so I could showcase what I had and this offense here really showcased the positive things I could do on a basketball court.

“They gave me an opportunity here and I was really grateful for that.”

The Raptors 905 didn’t pick up E.J. on hope, he came with a D-League track record from his first season in Idaho when he shot 47.5 percent from three-point range on 5.5 attempts to score 14.1 points and grab 4.7 rebounds over 22 games. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a focus of the Stampede in his second season and his minutes were cut back, but that’s just how it goes in the D-League.

However, Singler exploded when given the freedom and opportunity to play in Mississauga as he reaffirmed his 47.5 percent shooting from deep on over 6 three-ball attempts per game and scored 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and handed out 3.4 assists with the Raptors 905. To say he was impressive would be an understatement.

 

E.J. looked good in the fast paced D-League  and he had a surprising ability to bang in the paint and hold his own on defense.

“I’ve played the four/five position in college,” Singler said. “I’ve had to play against bigger guys and I’ve played against my brother too who’s a lot bigger than me, so I’m used to it. I like to battle. I like to play hard. I like to be down low with the big guys. Our team defense was really good this year at the end of the season.”

The NBA D-League and NBA Summer League are a long ways from the NBA, but one thing that can translate is shooting and effort. E.J. Singler has both and he’s a player to watch this summer.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant

The Top 10 NBA Free Agents You Can Actually Get

As always there is a lot of noise about this year’s NBA free agent crop and as always a lot of these players were never going to change teams, but there are some really interesting possibilities that your team could actually get if you have the salary cap space and the roster to get their attention.

1. Kevin Durant

The Kevin Durant free agency tour of numerous cities to be very disappointed is about to commence, but hey, at least this superstar might just talk to you. Financially Durant shouldn’t even bother teasing everybody as his big payday is a lock at over $200 million if he stays in OKC another year. It just looks like this superstar wants to be wanted, so there’s a chance he hears a pitch he can’t resist.

2. Al Horford

Al Horford would be a difference maker on a good team and the Hawks want him back, but he is going to be enticed by a long list of teams with a lot of money to spend and he’s sounded kind of non-committal about returning to Atlanta.

3. Nicolas Batum

A strong two-way wing player who has spent only one year in Charlotte after seven seasons in Portland, so there’s a vibe that he can be got.

4. Mike Conley

If you look up the definition of solid veteran NBA starting point guard, it should have a picture of Mike Conley. The Grizzlies seem ready to start taking the franchise in another direction and as much as they might look to bring Conley back, they seem to be leaving the door open for another team to grab him.

5. Dwyane Wade

Don’t the Knicks have a history of ponying up $100 million offers to pry aging and injured superstars away from other teams? Again this year the HEAT are in tough with their franchise player who deserves a going away present like Kobe Bryant got with the Lakers – they understandably just don’t want to do it, but will someone else?

6. Hassan Whiteside

The HEAT are feeling the pain of this situation as well. Hassan Whiteside views playing basketball as a business, so the biggest contract offer wins!

7. Dwight Howard

Disparage Dwight Howard all you want, there are few centers in the NBA you could say is better and he’s still only 30-years-old. There will be more than a few teams throwing big money at him this summer.

8. Kent Bazemore

Kent Bazemore is young, unrestricted and enticing and Atlanta just gives off the vibe that their guys are gettable.

9. Chandler Parsons

After a rough couple of seasons in Dallas, Chandler Parsons will still entice teams with his effective three-point shooting, but the Mavericks just might feel a little to burned to outbid rivals.

10. Pau Gasol

He’s 36-years-old in July, but so what? Pau Gasol is still a double-double and two block machine and he’s not going back to Chicago.

Honorable mention

Ryan Anderson, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Rajon Rondo, Dion Waiters, Eric Gordon, Evan Turner, Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee.

Not Available

Only in your dreams: LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan

Restricted free agents who won’t be allowed to escape: Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes (unless Durant goes to GSW), Evan Fournier

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

 



 

NBA Orlando Magic Andrew Nicholson

Should The Raptors Add Canadian UFA Andrew Nicholson?

So you’d like to add a stretch-four to your roster? Well, they’ve become a hot commodity in the NBA these days, however, the Orlando Magic has just passed on keeping Canadian power forward Andrew Nicholson and if Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri believes Nicholson’s improved three-point shooting and rebounding is part of a trend, he’s worth a hard look.

Nicholson has struggled to get minutes and more recently even just crack the rotation on a Magic team that has obviously been moving in another direction for some time now. However, the changes in Orlando have been coming just as Nicholson seems to finally be putting it all together.

The stretch-four only played in 56 games with the Magic last season, but he averaged 36 percent from three-point range on a 114 attempts and except for a brutal shooting month in January, he would have shot better than 39.5 percent.

His defensive rebounding was markedly better than in his first three seasons as well. The 6′ 9.5″ 250 lb forward pulled in a solid 22.8 percent of the available defensive boards.

For the first time in his NBA career, he didn’t get a single start with the Magic. He also played less than 15 minutes per game on average, but his per 36 minutes numbers illustrate significant improvement at 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5 three-point attempts and a block.

Nicholson will be an under the radar free agent this summer. He isn’t likely to be on any team’s priority list to contact on July 1st. However, that means teams with limited salary cap flexibility – like the Toronto Raptors – will have a legitimate shot at signing him to a deal that fits their situation.

Think of Nicholson like Bismack Biyombo last summer. A young big man with four years of NBA experience who isn’t given a qualifying offer by his team and needs to go somewhere he’ll be given a chance to show what he can do. The Raptors don’t have the flexibility to land a big name free agent (unless they are willing to sign at a huge discount), so it’s the lower profile players Ujiri will likely be forced to look at in order to bolster his roster for next season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Houston Rockets Dwight Howard

What No One Is Saying About Free Agent Dwight Howard

By Bill Ingram

How times have changed for Dwight Howard. It wasn’t that long ago that he was believed to be the key to winning an NBA championship. He helped lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009 and appeared to be headed for superstardom and regular appearances in the NBA’s Big Show. Unfortunately, his career hit a snag (or at least a Brendan Haywood elbow) when a back injury caused him to miss a huge chunk of the 2011-12 season. It turned out to be his final season in Orlando.

The Magic built a beautiful, state-of-the-art arena for him, they fired an outstanding head coach for him, and then, sensing his lack of loyalty, they traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Heralded as the next dominant force in LA, another Shaquille O’Neal to pair with Kobe Bryant, Howard would spend just one season with the Lakers. The pressure of playing in LA and the constant pressure from Bryant to work harder and play better seemed too much for Howard, who managed just 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in a disappointing season for LA, which ended with a 0-4 sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite his struggles, Howard was the biggest name in free agency during the summer of 2013. He talked to a number of the interested teams, but ultimately chose Houston, where Chandler Parsons and James Harden had been heavily recruiting him for months. The Rockets, too, heralded Howard as the championship harbinger, with fans talking about him as the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Once, again, however, Howard fell short of expectations. It wasn’t entirely his fault, of course, as the Rockets’ dysfunctional front office gave him an unproven head coach in Kevin McHale and shoot-first, shoot-second co-star in James Harden, whose unwillingness to feed Dwight the ball was matched only by his unwillingness to play defense. Howard’s play became every more uninspired, going from 18.3 points per game in his first year to 15.8 in his second and then 13.7 in his third.

So what’s next for Howard? He has the ability to opt out in July, and it’s extremely likely he will do so. Yet no one considers him a top free agent target, with Kevin Durant, LeBron James (also option), Andre Drummond (restricted) and even former Rockets point guard Mike Conley considered to be more desirable. With that in mind, we take a look at the best options for Dwight as he looks to get his career back on track.

1) The Houston Rockets

The first option, of course, is the Rockets, who would like to have him back and can pay him the most money. Mike D’Antoni is now in place as their head coach, and there’s a chance that he could have the same kind of impact on Dwight as he had on Amar’e Stoudemire, who was a force to be reckoned with in D’Antoni’s offense in Phoenix. That’s a stretch, though, as D’Antoni couldn’t squeeze that kind of play out of Dwight when they were both with the Lakers. Of course, there’s still the matter of Harden’s lack of team play, but the bigger issue is at point guard. The Suns had one of the best floor leaders of all time in Steve Nash, and no matter who the Rockets sign or acquire this offseason they will not have a Nash-esque floor leader when the ball goes up on the 2016-17 season. What’s most likely is that Dwight will leave $23.2 million on the table in Houston and take radically less to play elsewhere.

2) The Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was less than impressed when Howard refused to even meet with the Mavs before singing with the Rockets. A strong argument could be made that the Mavs were closer to competing for a championship with Dwight in the mix than Houston was. The aforementioned Parsons has been in Dallas and still recruiting his friend, as he did in Houston three years ago. More importantly, for Dwight to return to prominence he has to change his game and there is no one better equipped to do that than Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle. No coach in the league is as good at analyzing a player’s strengths and weaknesses and using that analysis to maximize their effectiveness. He would ask a lot of Dwight, both on the court, in practice and in the locker room. He would demand that Dwight put himself second, become a good teammate and transform his game to be more than a dunker. He would demand that Dwight play hard on both ends of the court regardless of his touches. He would also make sure Dwight got plenty of touches in the right places. Like Houston, Dallas offers tax incentives that add to their overall attractiveness for a free agent. The Mavs aren’t contenders with Dwight in the mix, but they are far better than the Rockets would be with D2 back in uniform.

3) The New York Knicks

Most recently the Knicks have emerged as strong suitors for Dwight, and they have a solid case to make. Carmelo is still in his prime and one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. He isn’t quite as inattentive to the defensive end as Harden, and he is a bit more willing to pass than Houston’s black hole. Derrick Rose is not the player he was before the knee injuries, but he is still a very capable floor leader and would make sure Dwight got plenty of looks right at the rim. Kristaps Pozingis had a stellar season and is reminiscent of the power forwards who benefitted from playing alongside Dwight in Orlando. The Knicks can also bring back elite shooter Arron Afflalo, giving Dwight plenty of options on the perimeter and therefore a little space to operate in the paint. Of course, there are issues in New York, too. If Dwight can’t get his attitude right or get his game back, he would struggle under the media scrutiny that comes from playing in the NBA’s largest media market. If Rose continues to struggle, the Knicks can’t just rely on Dwight or Carmelo to carry them. Finally, if Carmelo doesn’t play enough defense or pass enough for Dwight, their locker room will implode. It’s not a perfect fit, but there is interesting potential in New York.

At the end of the day, for Dwight to get his game back on track and return to the ranks of the NBA’s elite, he’s going to have to put his ego aside and start fresh. It’s going to take the right environment, the right coach, the right co-stars for that to happen, and the one place where all of those factors exist is in Dallas. The Mavs have had trouble landing their free agent targets, but there are plenty of reasons why they should land this one. It’s not a championship waiting to happen, but there are enough intangibles to make Dallas worth watching with D12 in the mix.

 

 

Bill IngramVeteran NBA journalist Bill Ingram has 14 years of experience in the public education setting, specializing in behavior management, and 17 years of experience covering the NBA.

(Reposted with permission from More Than Basketball)

 

 

 



 

NBA Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol

Raptors Should Target Pau Gasol In Free Agency

Pau Gasol will turn 36-years-old in a week, but the big Spaniard still put up 46 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on a Bulls team in disarray last season. The six-time NBA All-Star may not be as good as he was during his two NBA Championship runs with the Lakers, however, he is still one of the better power forwards in the NBA and could be the bridge the Raptors need to maintain last year’s winning pace while their young big men get up to speed.

Toronto doesn’t have the salary cap space to wow the veteran big man and they might not need it. Gasol, like Luis Scola last year, wants more than just money. He wants to win and he wants an important role on a team where he can be successful.

In an interview with Marca.com after the season ended, Gasol talked about his goals in free agency (google translate),

I have to see what offers I get. I try to keep an open mind not condition my decision. The good news is that this summer the conditions that can offer can be very attractive and there will be many teams that are going to propose interesting projects. It’s a matter of seeing what the conditions are. I would be in a position where he can win, fits well in the team, be happy, enjoy playing.

I would like two things: go to a team competing for the ring and with a good contract. At some point you may have to prioritize one thing or another, so read as to have an open mind, to value all without being conditioned.

As much as Gasol wasn’t about to dismiss re-signing with the Bulls, he knows that organization is a long ways from contending. As is often the case, the best contract opportunities will come from unproven or flat out rebuilding teams and the best opportunities to contend for an NBA Championship will come with much less money.

Patrick Patterson showed he can start if needed for Toronto, but this team was so much better with this mobile ‘3-and-D’ power forward coming off the bench. They need a starter at that position and Gasol would slide into that spot very smoothly.

Gasol will undoubtedly look at the Spurs and Grizzlies as potential landing spots and the Pacers have improved and depending on what the HEAT can do elsewhere in free agency, they could look good next year, but the 56-win Raptors went to the Eastern Conference Finals this year and with Gasol on the roster and DeRozan virtually certain to re-sign, they should be the early favorites to get back there to challenge the Cavaliers again.

Gasol was only making $7.5 million a season with the Bulls, but he signed the bargain contract because he thought it gave him a shot at a ring. This time it’s likely he’ll have to take even less to get a chance to go deep in the playoffs, however, in Toronto at least he’d have an important role on a proven team.

It’s worth noting Gasol has already made over $170 million in his NBA career.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.