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NBA Indiana Pacers Paul George

Is The NBA About To Get Serious About Tampering?

Tampering with another team’s player is supposed to be serious, but all too often in the NBA there is more than subtle evidence something untoward has been going on. There have been fines in the past and in very rare cases even punishment teams care about, but far too often it’s hard to say the NBA does much of anything to discourage the practice.

In the case of the Lakers and superstar Paul George, the Indiana Pacers frustration was stretched to the breaking point and they laid a complaint that the NBA appears to be taking seriously.

As Bob Kravitz on WTHR reports, “the Pacers strongly believe they have the Lakers dead to rights.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon, general manager Kevin Pritchard and some other Pacers’ officials watched the Magic Johnson yuk-it-up interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show in April, and they were incensed.

It’s understood, everybody tampers, at least a little bit. Again, those July 1 free-agent signings do not happen in an information vacuum. Conversations are had. Texts are exchanged. It happens.

This, though, is different. This, if proven, is egregious.

“We can say hi because we know each other,” Johnson replied. “I just can’t say, ‘Hey, we want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’m gonna be wink-winking. You know what that means, right?”

And this was just the public side of the alleged tampering.

For weeks, even months, the Pacers had heard whispers that the Los Angeles Lakers had been making contact with Paul George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, and George’s parents.

The NBA shouldn’t even tolerate the violation of their tampering rules days ahead of a player about to enter free agency on July 1st. The playing field is supposed to be level.

However, George was under contract for another entire season when the Pacers believe the Lakers were trying to tilt the playing field to their advantage when it comes to acquiring George in 2018. The widespread belief that George wanted to go to the Lakers and the Lakers wanted him to be there undoubtedly impacted his trade value.

Suffice to say, the Pacers are angry, having lost their franchise player for dimes on the dollar.

Tampering makes it easy for super teams to be put together. There were unsubstantiated whispers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh couldn’t have put that super team together on their own, although they did a superb job of putting on a show in free agency and this is hardly the only example.

Rumors come out about most high profile NBA players and it’s a time honored tradition in business circles, not just in pro sports, for agents, owners and management to leak information designed to “stir the pot” or move things in a particular direction if not more than this.

a couple of days before the start of free agency, which is not allowed but generally accepted as the coin of the realm. … But the league chooses to accept, or at least turn a blind eye to, that sort of thing.

The NBA shouldn’t turn a blind eye at any time and the tradition of fines for anything but the worst of offenses is not slowing down the problem.

If a level playing field is a real objective of the NBA, the burden of proof can’t be held to a standard that is so high as to be almost impossible to prove as described by Bobby Marks of ESPN.

Unless there is a paper trail, like in the case of the Timberwolves and Joe Smith, a fine is usually the penalty if the team is found to have done something negligent.

The Pacers have a right to be upset and on the surface, the Lakers look guilty. The NBA is doing an appropriate investigation, but if they find evidence of tampering beyond the very inappropriate comments of Magic on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, they need to come down hard. A fine is not enough.

However, the Paul George situation is just a potentially egregious case. The bigger issue is the “wink-winking” behind the scenes interference Magic admits is going on and the outright “stir-the-pot” moves by agents and teams that so often surface as “leaks” after the fact.

If the NBA truly wants a level playing field, tampering needs to be investigated like a civil court case where things are judged on a balance of probability/ who do you believe basis. Severe punishments shouldn’t be restricted to the paper trail or beyond a reasonable doubt criminal standard.

At this point it’s almost hard to believe the NBA investigation into the George case won’t turn up at least some evidence of tampering and if they do, it seems the only appropriate way to deal with it is to bar the Lakers from acquiring George for at least three years. It’s past time to send a strong message to the entire league that this has got to stop.

 

  

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 Toronto Raptors Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger Shows Something At The Basketball Tournament

Getting hurt, traded and cut last season wasn’t how Jared Sullinger envisioned the end of his NBA career and at just 25-years-old, he’s still fighting for a spot to play somewhere next season.

Needing to showcase that’s his foot is healed and he’s back in basketball shape, Sullinger joined Ohio State’s alumni “Scarlet and Gray” playing in The Basketball Tournament (“TBT”) as reported by James Graga Jr. in Scout.com.

Sullinger said he joined the alumni team for a number of reasons. For starters, Sullinger is not currently under contract by any professional team after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns after being traded from the Toronto Raptors in February. In addition, Sullinger said he wants to prove to NBA franchises that he is still healthy. The former Ohio State star has undergone two foot surgeries in recent years and said his personal agenda for the tournament is to prove to teams he can still play at a high level.

“I am healthy. I am running up and down the floor, playing basketball and I am healthy. That is my main concern right now,” he said.

 

The Basketball Tournament is no easy ride writes Aaron Torres of The Washington Post. These are solid rosters loaded with current and former NBA players and they are motivated to win.

Sixty-four teams of various affiliations compete for a prize of $2 million in TBT.

It’s broadcast on ESPN. NBA scouts attend the games.

This year, according to TBT, 66 current and former NBA players participated in TBT, either as players or coaches, adding a sense of legitimacy to the tournament.

“These aren’t a bunch of no-names playing in this tournament,” said ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. “These are professional athletes.”

“For Jared, this is a job interview,” Fraschilla said.

Unfortunately for Sullinger, “Scarlet and Gray” lost the semi-finals match in double overtime to Austin Day’s “Team Challenge ALS” as reported by TBT Staff.

Jared Sullinger completed a solid performance in TBT, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the losing effort for Scarlet & Gray

Sullinger shot 6-12 from the field, 1-1 from three and 13-15 from the free throw line. He also had a block and two steals to go with his double-double performance.

Prior to the game Josh Brown wrote,

Sullinger has shown that he’s back at full strength after suffering two foot injuries last season. He’s averaging 14.5 ppg and 9 rpg. In typical Sullinger fashion, not only has he been very efficient around the rim but he is shooting the three ball with some success as well.

In other games:

Regional Championship: Sullinger contributed to the team’s win, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Super 16: Jared Sullinger rebounded from an uneven performance in the Round 2 win to register 21 points and nine rebounds

When healthy Sullinger put up good numbers with the Boston Celtics in his first four NBA seasons. It might be hard to trust his feet at this point, but he’s someone to watch.

If he can get his weight under control (Sullinger has admitted he was fat last year), he’ll be back in the NBA at some point.

 

  

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 Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA free agent collage

NBA Free Agent Scrap Heap Bargains

Any NBA free agent still on the market at the end of July is at risk of ending up on the scrap heap and with few exceptions, their options for signing anything but a bargain NBA minimum contract for next season are getting thin.

So far NBA teams have handed out over $2 billion in new deals averaging over $12 million per season per Spotrac and only the Bulls, Suns, Mavericks and 76ers can still create over $10 million in salary cap space by renouncing their exceptions to make a significant offer to a free agent.

This off season has been marked by big trades like Paul George and Chris Paul plus big salary dumps like DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe. Aside from Gordon Hayward going to the Celtics, most of the big name free agents have re-upped with their old teams and in the process, the most desirable free agent destinations are out of both salary cap space and room under the luxury tax threshold.

Some NBA free agent bargains to watch are:

Unrestricted Free Agents

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves, UFA

Muhammad’s agent should have pressed the panic button when the T-wolves rescinded their qualifying offer making him unrestricted.

The 14th overall pick in 2013  is still just 24-years-old. His experience on a bad Minnesota team makes him look like a black hole on offense and a questionable defender, but four different coaches in four years isn’t the way to develop any player.

This 6’6 wing with a 6’11 wingspan and a 37″ max vertical jump has averaged 10.8 points on 47.7 percent shooting in just 20.5 minutes over the past three years as a reserve and has shown potential to shoot the three.

Teams are looking at mature undrafted players to fill in the back end of their rosters. Muhammad is a way better option that doing that.

Dante Cunningham, New Orleans Pelicans, UFA

The 30-year-old veteran forward is considered a decent defender with a good three-point shot developed over the past two seasons. At 39.2 percent from three on 2.7 attempts last season, it shouldn’t be a surprise he thought there’d be more demand for his services when he opted out of his $3.1 million player option.

Undoubtedly a victim of unreasonable expectations, this is a player that can help a team right away.

Luke Babbitt, Miami Heat, UFA

The 6’9 combo forward does one thing well, it just happens to be the one thing every NBA team seems to need these days. He chucked up a three-ball every five minutes he was on the court for the Heat and he sunk 41.4 percent of them.

The 28-year-old isn’t a terrible rebounder and no one is looking to him for defense, but he legitimately stretches the floor and he’ll be cheap.

Derrick Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers, UFA

Almost completely off the free agent radar, Derrick Williams earned himself a second sixth chance with the Cavaliers last season when he survived two 10 day contracts and was picked up for the balance of the season.

The 2011 2nd overall draft pick bombed, but the 6’8 240 lb forward has talent and sometimes it takes longer for the school of hard knocks to make an impact than should normally be expected.

Williams shot 50.5 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three in 25 games for the Cavs. At 26-years-old, he is still relatively young, an uber-athlete and he’ll be cheap. Odds are he’d take a non-guaranteed deal in a heartbeat.  No risk/high return, why hasn’t he gotten a camp invite yet?

Restricted Free Agents

This summer wasn’t as good for free agents as last summer (and it’s going to be worse next summer). Players are being screwed over in restricted free agency as teams refuse to bid against themselves,

Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks, RFA

A big traditional center in a market that’s not rewarding big traditional centers, the Mavs can afford to wait out Noel as no team is going to try to steal him with a ludicrous offer sheet.

Noel should be more worried than he appears as well. The Mavs are sitting on salary cap space they could use to acquire one of the seemingly numerous available veteran traditional centers and get paid to do it with future draft picks.

Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets, RFA

Another big traditional center with no leverage in negotiations. He’ll be a backup next season if he stays in Denver and in his position, the qualifying offer should be starting to look good.

JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies, RFA

JaMychal Green started 75 games for the Grizzlies last season and the 6’9 power forward became the ‘3-and-D’ player the previous season suggested he would. It’s actually surprising no other team took a serious run at him despite Memphis’ promise to match any offer sheet.

Green is type of young big man just about every NBA team wants and needs in today’s NBA and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Grizzlies have quietly been offered several sign-and-trade opportunities, but they seem content to wait things out in an attempt to get Green on the contract they want.

 

A few of the other recognizable free agents in need of a place to play include: Monta Ellis, Gerald Henderson, Tyler Zeller, Festus Ezeli and Nikola Mirotic.

There are still a lot of players waiting on the sidelines in free agency, but the money and the roster spots are quickly drying up. It won’t be long before restricted free agents will start thinking their best option may be that qualifying offer and unrestricted free agents are completely stuck between a veteran’s minimum deal or no deal at all.

 

 

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 Free Agents LucMbah a Moute and Dante Cunningham

Raptors Need Some Cheap Veteran Help At Forward

Ever since the Toronto Raptors let James Johnson walk away in free agency a year ago, they’ve needed a cheap reliable veteran forward that can play both positions and doesn’t mind (too much) that he could lose his job to some young guy who isn’t better than him yet.

The Raptors have two All-Star guards with solid young backups, two really good forwards and way too many centers, but as the center market for trades is looking kind of iffy, they may have to sort through the bargain bin of remaining free agents to fill that obvious forward hole in the rotation until one or both of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are ready to take it.

If president Masai Ujiri is swinging for the fences, he could take a run at Grizzlies restricted free agent power forward/center JaMychal Green with a sign-and-trade offer in the four-years $50-60 million range. Memphis loves him, but doesn’t want to pay him and so maybe there’s a chance, a slim chance they’d take the younger Jonas Valanciunas in return.

The 27-year-old Green is the big mobile type defender that fits the current NBA as is his developing three-point shot (33.3% 3FG on 45 attempts in 2015-16, 37.9% 3FG on 145 attempts last season.) He’d look really good in a Raptors uniform.

But it’s probably going to be tough to trade Valanciunas and get reasonable value back, so maybe one of the handful of overlooked free agent forwards could fit the bill.

The Pelicans 30-year-old forward  Dante Cunningham gave up $3.1 million to become a free agent this summer and it’s starting to get late in the game. Considered a versatile defender with limited offense who developed a three-point shot over the last two seasons (39.2% 3FG on 181 attempts last year), he’s already been passed by the secondary tier of free agents who signed on the cheap.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be 31 in September and he declined a $2.3 million player option with the Clippers in June. It’s previously been suggested by Rogers Michael Grange that the Raptors have shown some interest. Just like Cunningham, Mbah a Moute is considered a versatile defender with limited offense who has also been working on his three-point shot (39.1% 3FG on 110 attempts last year.)

As long as the price and the term are right, either Cunningham or Mbah a Moute could be a good fit on the Raptors.

Then there’s the 35-year-old Boris Diaw who was just waived by the Jazz because his numbers have fallen off a cliff and they could save $7 million by cutting him. There are still several players available that could provide a veteran presence if that’s all Ujiri wants? But the pickings are getting thin.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen 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 Jae Crowder and Utah Jazz Gordon Hayward

Celtics Pursuing A Sign And Trade For Gordon Hayward

The Celtics still don’t have enough salary cap space to sign Utah Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward to the max contract they promised, so they’ve been running around looking for someone to take on Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and/or Avery Bradley and leave them with enough room to complete the deal as reported by Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN One of the better options, if the Jazz and Hayward will agree, would be a sign and trade for one of the players they are trying to move and possibly some of the other “assets” the Celtics could be forced to dump.

The Boston Celtics have been aggressively trying to create enough salary-cap room … by discussing trades involving Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley

The Jazz and Celtics discussed on Wednesday the possibility of including Crowder in a sign-and-trade agreement for Hayward

The amount the Celtics are short could be as low as $300,000 if they can jump thru enough less painful flaming hoops than giving away one of their players that has actual real trade value.

even if the team renounced the rights to Jonas Jerebko, James Young and Gerald Green, waived Jordan Mickey, left 2016 first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele in Europe this season and traded Demetrius Jackson’s partially guaranteed contract and Terry Rozier, Boston … is still about $300,000 short of his max.

From a practical standpoint, when teams know you are trying to dump a contract to create room to complete another deal, they are going to take advantage, but Boston does have the assets to grease just about anything if they want to.

A trade with a third team to create space or a sign and trade with the Jazz can accomplish the same thing. This will just come down to finding the “best” way to get it done.

 

 

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 San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge and Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors Should Just Go For It This Season

Already deep in luxury tax territory and unsuccessfully looking to dump contracts even at the expense of potentially getting worse, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be looking to do more than just being a top four team in the Eastern Conference. He should got for it and take his shot at getting to the NBA Finals.

As Basketball Insiders senior writer Joel Brigham reported recently, overall the East has gotten weaker with Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap heading west. The top four in the East aren’t about to change, although maybe things between the top teams could become at least a little more interesting.

Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington look almost certain to keep their top-four status in the conference simply by bringing back the same players they had a year ago. Add Milwaukee to that conversation, too

Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta all made the playoffs last year but each will vie for the conference’s worst record next season after losing their stars

Boston took the first steps towards becoming more competitive with the Cavs by getting Gordon Hayward’s commitment for next season. Although they still have more moves left to create the needed cap space to sign Hayward and they’ll probably want to do something about carrying four small forwards that all need to play next season.

Expect the Wizards to match anything restricted free agent Otto Porter signs on July 6th.

The Raptors will bring back starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but have lost rotation players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson to free agency and are rumored to be looking to dump salary because of luxury tax concerns.

All three of these pretenders will be competitive during the regular season, but unless they have another major move up their sleeve, no one is going to give them more than a puncher’s chance at knocking off a healthy Cavs squad in the playoffs.

The Celtics with Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward still need rebounding and they have the trade pieces to go get a difference maker. Of course the Celtics with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Brooklyn’s 2018 first round draft pick could choose to tread water as a 50-win team while their young guys develop instead?

Built around John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards will have continuity and if they can find some offense off the bench, it can be argued they don’t need anything else, but they really need that bench to step up.

The Raptors are built around Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka, but like the Celtics, they need another impact player if they are going to be more than pretenders in the East.

(Players shown in the positions they would like to play)

The Raptors could make do with the players they have, even if it isn’t practical luxury tax wise. Delon Wright has the size to play on the wing. DeMarre Carroll can play both forward spots and Ibaka can play power forward (like he has for most of his career.) But this isn’t the best use of team resources.

The favored move seems to be to find a team to take on Carroll’s salary to solve the luxury tax issue, but this doesn’t help re-balance the roster or help move the needle of the team’s outlook for next season.

No, Ujiri needs to go big if this team is going to be significantly better than last season. He needs to add an impact player, preferably while reducing his luxury tax position.

Once teams can actually start signing free agents on July 6th and reality sets in around the league, trade season can start in earnest and there is one multiple-time All-Star rumored to have shopped around at the draft because he wasn’t happy, the Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge.

The almost 32-year-old five-time All-Star power forward wasn’t named to the All-Star team for first time since 2012 last year. He posted his lowest scoring (17.3 points per game), fewest field goals made (6.9) and worst rebounding numbers (7.3) since his rookie season way back in 2006-07. However, he was still an impact player and as has been a big man trend, he added a three-point shot and hit 41 percent of his 56 attempts last season.

In addition to Aldridge being unhappy, general manager R.C. Burford isn’t going to have star point guard Tony Parker to start the season, if at all. It doesn’t look like free agency is going all that well either besides the return of Patty Mills, so an aging Spurs team could use some young ready-to-go players for next season.

If the Raptors sent Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph and Lucas Nogueira to the Spurs for Aldridge, the Raptors would get another impact player who can shoot plus shave $4.5 million off their payroll, and the Spurs would get to fill some holes with a young starting center, a backup point guard they know well and a young developing big man.

The Raptors tax situation becomes a lot more palatable and the players fall into roles they prefer/fit.

If Aldridge can re-gain his All-Star form of a year ago, which should be a lot easier in the NBA East, Toronto would at least get a second look as a potential competitor for the Cavs come playoff time.

At this point in early July, nothing is set in stone, however, expect the Celtics to make a move to address those rebounding concerns, look for the Wizards bench to improve and the Raptors will do … something.

Ujiri created a three-year window with the contracts of DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka, so he may as well go for it this year if he can and there may be no better opportunity to snag an impact player than the situation in San Antonio with Aldridge. That is unless Danny Ainge beats him to it.

 

 

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 Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Lose Patrick Patterson To The Thunder

It was inevitable that the Toronto Raptors were going to lose Patrick Patterson to free agency this summer because of luxury tax constraints, but at least he’s heading West to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a three-year $16.4 million dollar deal. The Raptors will only have to face him twice a year.

Patterson was the last of the four players Toronto received from the Sacramento Kings in December 2013 in the Rudy Gay trade that turned the Raptors from soft perennial losers into a four-time playoff team. He will be missed.

Once again Patterson should have a solid shot at the starting job at the start of the season and maybe in Oklahoma City the role suites him better. For reasons no one could understand, including Patterson, he could never get comfortable in the starting line-up with the Raptors and it wasn’t because they didn’t need him in that role.

The big forward was an above average defender with genuine three-point range and over the past four seasons he figured prominently in a number of Raptors victories. However, his three-point shot had a nasty habit of disappearing at precisely the wrong time.

Raptors fans will remember this career 36.8 percent three-point shooter hit on only 30 percent of his attempts from three during the run to the Eastern Conference Finals two springs ago, going just 3-11 in those last three games against Cleveland.

In this year’s playoffs, Patterson shot 30.8 percent from three over the 10 games, but only 22.2 percent in the Cavs second round sweep of the Raptors. He was part of the reason president Masai Ujiri lamented about the team’s three-point shooters not hitting three-point shots in the playoffs.

Those playoff blips aside, Toronto consistently played better with Patterson on the court. He was a ball mover and reliable defender. The classic glue-guy and the Thunder are sure to appreciate the stability he can bring to a team at both ends of the court.

The hardest part about seeing Patterson leave for the Thunder is, at that salary, he’d still look really good in a Raptors uniform.

 

 

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 Minnesota Timberwolves Shabazz Muhammad and Miami Heat James Johnson and Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

What Is The Next Shoe To Drop For The Toronto Raptors

It feels like things are stalling out in the NBA for trades and free agency as teams wait on Gordon Hayward and the few remaining free agents with profile to decide where they want to go/ who wants them plus what is likely the inevitable return of Otto Porter to the Wizards after he signs an offer sheet with somebody. But until there’s some clarity, the next shoe to drop for teams like the Toronto Raptors is left hanging up in the air.

The Raptors aren’t the only ones looking to dump salary, the Bucks, Celtics? and likely and handful of other teams are also waiting for the big picture to work itself out as well. Toronto, however, after coming to terms with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka is in a must deal versus might or would like to deal situation.

Toronto Raptors NBA

It likely isn’t as bad as being $17 million over the luxury tax line in Toronto. The first year salaries of Lowry and Ibaka combined could be about $5 million less than the three-year average, VanVleet is not guaranteed and can still be released, and their first round draft pick isn’t signed/could still be traded, but if paying the tax is a big deal for president Masai Ujiri, he still needs to move at least one of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll or (for a partial tax savings) Cory Joseph.

The most obvious shoe to drop is at point guard.

The Raptors have four and nobody needs four healthy point guards on their roster. The easy solution is to waive the non-guaranteed deal of VanVleet, but he’s a cheap option as a third string backup and Ujiri has been noticed trying to shop the $7.6 million expiring contract of Joseph.

A potential deal with Indiana apparently fell though, but solid young backup point guards are a reasonably valuable commodity. Joseph is trade-able.

Ideally Joseph would be packaged with Carroll or Valanciunas so Ujiri could get something of value back and still dip below tax line.

Even if the fan base couldn’t hold the door open fast enough to help Carroll move on, he is still a useful player at a position of need, assuming he can stay healthy. So, Ujiri can’t be too fussy if it’s his traditional slow-footed rebounding center Valanciunas or the disappointing ‘3-and-D’ forward Carroll who he manages to off load to save the tax. Both players are starters and would have a useful role coming off the bench in what is expected to be a higher scoring small ball focused Raptors rotation next season.

However, if Ujiri can find a way to fill the gaps in the rotation caused by their departure, internally, by way of trade or free agency, then both Valanciunas and Carroll could be on their way out for cheaper options.

While what could come back by way of trade is harder to judge, if Ujiri could move both Carroll and Valanciunas, there are still some interesting options in free agency.

The Timberwolves have withdrawn the qualifying offer from small forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Combo forward James Johnson is available and a known quantity in Toronto.

Patrick Patterson becomes a viable option who knows the Raptors systems and has been a very effective, if at times frustrating, glue guy.

Another option could be Clipper free agent Luc Mbah Moute who evolved into a 39 percent three-point shooter last season.

At this point in free agency, the list of second tier options is long. However, the first step is clearing enough space below the luxury tax line to make room.

 

 

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 Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry Comes Home To The Raptors

Kyle Lowry got his salary and president Masai Ujiri got his term as the Toronto Raptors re-acquired their free agent All-Star point guard on a three-year $100 million deal.

It’s more money per year than most analysts were expecting Lowry could command, but it only commits Toronto to Lowry until age 34 when he should still be still playing his best basketball. A compromise to be sure that matches the contract terms of DeMar DeRozan (player option) and Serge Ibaka.

Ensuring no one had any doubt after the fact that Toronto was where he wanted to be, Lowry posted “Home” on The Players Tribune.

When I had to make my free-agency decision, there was a lot going through my head, a lot of roads my mind was traveling down. Family, first and foremost, and what’s going to make them happy, and give them the best life. Basketball, of course, and where I’d like to play for these next several years. And then there was also the gut-check aspect — just what I was feeling in my heart.

But for me, at the end of the day, this was an easy decision. And all of those roads … they all led me back to the same place: home.

They all led me back to Toronto.

The ability to re-sign All-Star DeMar DeRozan last summer and All-Star Kyle Lowry this summer is something Raptors would have been hard pressed to even imagine before the Masai Ujiri era started in Toronto.

Add in Serge Ibaka agreeing to re-up for another three years and there is almost a semblance of hope that this organization will not slide back into another long dark stretch as an NBA Lottery team with little hope every time a key free agent has the option to leave.

Ujiri can get good players to re-up in Toronto and he can do it on reasonable terms. Now if only he could get his corporate masters at MLSE to open the vault and let him spend the kind of money that needs to be committed to have more than a ghost of a chance at reaching the NBA Finals. But, maybe, one thing at a time.

 

 

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 Brooklyn Nets Quincy Acy

Suns Or Nets Could Take On A Raptors Salary Dump

If as it appears Raptors president Masai Ujiri is looking hard for a way to dump salary, then his best and possibly only options are with the Nets and Suns, but it’s going to cost him. When everyone knows you are desperately trying to move a player, they are going to demand a pound of flesh.

Neither the Nets nor the Suns are under any delusions about where their respective franchises currently stand, but they do have salary cap space and they know that can be a very valuable commodity to a team like Toronto.

Maybe they take on DeMarre Carroll’s two years and $30 million, but not without a nice sweetener like a first round draft pick or a young player still on his rookie deal.

Ujiri can look elsewhere for unbalanced trades for the more desirable Cory Joseph or Jonas Valanciunas, but those will likely be “basketball trades” as opposed to straight salary dumps and when it comes to moving Valanciunas, he’ll want to stick that young man out West. Ujiri wouldn’t want his starting center coming back to embarrass him twice a year at home in the Eastern Conference.

In dealing with the Nets, Ujiri could ask for the feel good move of requesting forward Quincy Acy and his $1.7 million non-guaranteed deal back. Acy was a popular player in Toronto three season ago for his hustle and the 26-year-old has shot 40 percent from three on 139 attempts over the past two years, so maybe he’s worth another look.

 

 

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 Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka Returns To The Raptors

After the Magic traded Serge Ibaka to the Raptors at the trade deadline, it came out that Toronto was the only destination the big man had indicated he would re-sign with next summer and apparently he will. Adrian Wojnarowski reports Ibaka has agreed to a team friendly three year $65 million deal.

If anyone is still wondering why a deal with Kyle Lowry hasn’t been put to bed yet, look no further than the number of years Ibaka got.

President Masai Ujiri did get a very favorable deal with Ibaka.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll

Are The Raptors Still Afraid Of The Luxury Tax?

Just ignore the annual comments from whomever the Raptors GM is this year about being willing and able to spend into the Tax, by all appearances, the Raptors are going cheap… again. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions, but this team is still afraid of the NBA Luxury Tax.

As the negotiations drag out with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, almost certainly about dollars and length of contract, the Raptors have already lost P.J. Tucker to the Rockets because of what has become their ongoing fear of spending into the tax.

The rumors about Toronto trying to dump salary in order to “make room” under the luxury tax are coming more frequently and gaining credibility.

This is especially disappointing in light of the overwhelming fan support in Toronto which boasted the third highest attendance in the NBA last season and the very deep pockets of their corporate owners (Rogers and Bell own MLSE) where the profit or loss of the Raptors wouldn’t even make a footnote in their annual statement.

If moving out salaries is the only way Masai Ujiri is allowed to re-sign Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, then MLSE has seriously handcuffed the Raptors president.

 

 

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 P.J. Tucker

As Raptors Dither, P.J. Tucker Joins The Rockets

The Raptors wanted P.J. Tucker back next season and they made the 32-year-old a high-ball offer of $33 million over three years, but he opted to take less money and join former Clippers superstar Chris Paul in Houston with the Rockets. As the Raptors dither with free agent Kyle Lowry, president Masai Ujiri couldn’t get done what Tucker really wanted fast enough.

The Raptors didn’t give up much to get Tucker at the trade deadline in February, but this was a guy Ujiri really wanted back. A veteran with a physical presence that isn’t always easy to find. While Tucker doesn’t do much for a team on the stats sheet, he does make an impact on the court.

It really looks like Tucker’s decision was all about going with the sure thing. At the locker clean out media availability, Tucker made it pretty clear he wasn’t coming back unless the team re-signed Kyle Lowry.

“I think fit is everything,” Tucker said about his impending free agency. “I want to go to a team I can help push to the next level.”

“I look to be a piece going towards something. It’s not just the money. It’s a bunch of things that goes into it and seeing where I fit.

“You got to let (free agency) play out.”

Faced with making a decision to join a very good Rockets team that has Paul committed to playing there next season versus agreeing to return to a Raptors team that still hasn’t been able to come to terms with Lowry or Serge Ibaka, it wasn’t all that hard a decision to make when the dollars are this close.

 

 

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 Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

LeBron James Is Against NBA CBA Maximum Salary Limits

As Stephen Curry agrees to a new NBA record $201 million contract which will be surpassed within a year, LeBron James couldn’t help but note just how much more valuable Curry is to the Golden State Warriors franchise than the NBA CBA maximum salary limits permit.

James is right of course and by putting maximum salary limits on what players can earn, the NBA has created the possibility of super teams coming together and dominating the Association.

However, it should be pointed out that James is a senior member of the player’s association that collectively bargained for the limits in the current CBA.

If there was no limit on an individual player’s salary, the superstars in the NBA could command nearly the entire salary cap space. Teams would pay it. James would get offers that meant the rest of the roster he’d be playing with would be on NBA minimum salaries. He’d likely take it to. That $400 million contract number would become very possible if he wasn’t limited by the CBA.

However, the potential future owner of an NBA franchise might not like the power a change like this to the CBA would give to players like James, Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George or James Harden and it’s been proven that without limits, owners can’t help themselves and their often huge mistakes would become franchise crippling.

So maybe James the player was acting like James the future NBA owner during those CBA negotiations?

 

 

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 Minnesota Timberwolves Jeff Teague

Instant NBA Free Agent Action At Midnight

There is no waiting for the morning for these NBA free agents:

Jeff Teague to the Timberwolves

Tony Snell stays in Milwaukee

Patty Mills stays in San Antonio

Stephen Curry nears $201 million deal to stay in Golden State

Cristiano Felicio to stay in Chicago

Shaun Livingston to stay in Golden State

Blake Griffin to stay with the Clippers

Nene to remain in Houston

Remember none of these announcements are “signed deals” as teams cannot actually sign free agents until July 6th.

2017 NBA free agents Raptors Patrick Patterson and Timberwolves Shabazz Mohammad and Warriors Ian Clark and Pacers Jeff Teague collage

Some NBA Free Agents Your Team Can Actually Get

There is no more exciting time for most teams and most fans than NBA free agency, but it can quickly become the most disappointing couple of weeks in the off season when you strike out.

If a team is going to put all their focus into hitting a home run, they had better have a really good idea about why that player is going to choose them over all of those other opportunities because as you wait, the next best options are coming off the board.

Here’s our list of getable free agents that if you act fast, you just might just lock up before the competition realizes what happened.

Point Guard

Jeff Teague, Pacers UFA, 29-years-old

2016-17, 15.3 pts, 4.0* rbs, 7.8* asts, 1.2 stls, 35.7% 3FG

* career best

A former one-time All-Star, reliable starting point guard who has only played one year with the Pacers. While other teams are wasting their efforts pursuing Kyle Lowry and George Hill, impress Teague and solve your point guard issues.

Micheal Carter-Williams, Bulls UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 6.6 pts, 3.4 rbs, 2.5 asts, 0.8 stls, 23.4% 3FG

The 2014 NBA ROY saw his minutes slashed in Chicago and made an unrestricted free agent this summer, but if your team is out of cap space and not planning on a postseason run, giving this big point guard another second chance might not be such a bad idea. He was an 11/5/5 player with 1.5 steals for the Bucks two seasons ago.

Shooting Guard

Dion Waiters, Heat UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 15.8 pts, 3.3 rbs, 4.3 asts, 0.9 stls, 39.5% 3FG

It was a breakout season for Waiters and teams will have their eye on the possibility of stealing him from the Heat as his current team doesn’t hold his Bird Rights. Strike fast with a big offer while Miami is focused on Gordon Hayward and you might just steal him.

Ian Clark, Warriors UFA, 26-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 1.6 rbs, 1.2 asts, 0.5 stls, 37.4% 3FG

The Warriors only hold Clark’s early bird rights, so this is one player you can outbid a luxury tax sensitive team for. He put up those numbers in less than 15 minutes a game. It’s time he got his chance to show everyone what he’s made of.

Small Forward

Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves RFA, 24-years-old

2016-17, 9.9 pts, 2.8 rbs, 0.4 asts, 33.8% 3FG

While the Timberwolves are busy gloating over the acquisition of Jimmy Butler and looking for the next piece of the playoff puzzle, Shabazz is kind of sitting on the outside looking in, but this a solid young defensive wing who could become a real steal if, as the expression goes, “the lights come on” with a change of scenery.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Clippers UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 6.1 pts, 2.1 rbs, 0.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 39.1% 3FG

The Clippers are in trouble and only hold Mbah a Monte’s early bird rights, so pile on and pick apart the carcass. This guy went from a defensive forward to a  much more valuable ‘3-and-D’ forward last season and there is a lot of teams that could use him coming off the bench.

Power Forward

James Johnson, Heat UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 12.8 pts, 4.9 rbs, 3.6 asts, 1.0 stls, 1.1 blks, 34% 3FG

A non-bird free agent means the Heat have to use salary cap space to re-sign him, thus making James Johnson a great target for other teams. A breakout season that James should be crediting to the tough love he got in Toronto – the place where he finally figured out how and when to shoot the three-ball without it being embarrassing.

Patrick Patterson, Raptors UFA, 28-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 4.5 rbs, 1.2 asts, 37.2% 3FG

While the Raptors are distracted by Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, Patterson should be an easy target and a reasonable contract.

The ‘3-and-D” Patterson is one of those glue-guys who makes other people around him better even if he isn’t filling the stats sheet while doing it.

Center

Dewayne Dedmon, Spurs UFA, 27-years-old

2016-17, 5.1 pts, 6.5 rbs, 0.6 asts, 0.8 blks

Dedmon played 17.5 minutes a game for Pop last season and that alone should put this guy on your radar.  The Spurs don’t hold his bird rights either, so he is very getable.

Zaza Pachulia, Warriors UFA, 33-years-old

2016-17, 6.1, 5.9 rbs, 1.9 asts, 0.8 steals

If your team needs an infusion of toughness, grit, nastiness, Pachulia can still bring it. Culture change in a 6’11 don’t give a crap how it gets done center. The Warriors don’t hold his bird rights.

 

If your team is on the cusp and has a load of salary cap space to burn, sure take a run at Hayward, Blake Griffin, or Paul Millsap. Not sure any of those big name free agents are using your team as anything more than a free lunch and a means to extract a better contract from someone else? Then move down a tier and get a player that can actually help move you closer to your goals before someone else gets them.

 

 

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 Mad Ants Tyler Hansbrough

Mad Ants Tyler Hansbrough Should Be On NBA Teams Radar

By Frank McLean

The beautiful thing about the NBA Development League “NBDL” is that when you go to a game you never know who you are going to see. There are numerous players who are or who should be on many NBA teams radar.

Maybe it’s a first round pick from the NBA draft playing in the D-League to get the unlimited minutes not available with his NBA team so he can develop and make a contribution to the parent team. Or someone who excelled in the NCAA, but may not be good enough for the NBA like one-time NCAA player of the year Jimmer Ferdette.

One current under-employed NBA veteran trying to use the NBDL to get back to the big show is former Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough.

After spending four years with Indiana Pacers where he was their first round pick in the 2009-draft, Hansbrough signed a two year free agent deal with the Raptors and when that expired, he signed a one year deal with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2015-16 season where his career came off the rails.

In Charlotte he had the worst season of the NBA career. He played in only 44-games where he averaged 2.4-points and 2-rebounds in just 7.8 minutes.

On March first, after no NBA team taking a chance on him during the offseason and sitting out the whole season, he signed a deal with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBDL which happens to be owned by the team that drafted him the Indiana Pacers.

He has been a factor. In two games down the stretch run of the regular season he had games of 25 and 31 points. He also had a 23 rebound game and that’s where he was always excelled, a ferocious rebounder and a deadly shooter in the paint. He is averaging a double-double in Fort Wayne.

Currently the Mad Ants are in the NBDL Eastern Conference semi-final against the Main Red Claws with the winner of the best of three series taking on the Raptors 905 in the Eastern Conference Final.

On Monday night with his team facing elimination Hansbrough carried the Mad Ants in a comeback win to tie the series at one apiece and forcing a deciding game three on Wednesday night in Portland, Maine. Hansbrough put up 27-points and grabbed 15-boards in the game.

Pacers President Larry Bird has been in attendance for some games keeping an eye on who Pacers fans called “Psycho T.” A guy who’s defensive toughness, rebounding and scoring in the paint gave the Mad Ants a boost in their bid for the NBDL title.

Hansbrough, like any veteran who comes to the D-League, is there for one purpose and that’s to get back to the NBA. No one gave Hansbrough a 10-day contract which is a surprise when you see teams in the NBA who can use his skill set like maybe Cleveland? Just saying.

He was one of the all-time greats at the University of North Carolina, right up there with other alumni like Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and current Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse. His number 50 was retired after being named on the ACC’s first all-star in each of his four years there plus being the rookie of the year in 2006 and in 2008 was the ACC’s player of the year as well as all the other national player of the year honors.

Here’s hoping the Mad Ants win their series and the local Toronto fans get a chance to see Hansbrough comeback to the GTA to take on the Raptors 905.

He is the reason why the NBDL was formed in the first place, to give young NBA draft picks a chance to work on their craft and veterans a place to audition their talents.

Something says Hansbrough won’t be in the NBDL long.

 

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

  

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 
 

Toronto Raptors Drew Crawford

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
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