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Adding to the Darren Collison Intrigue

June 27th, 2010 3 comments

With free agency set to begin next week, the New Orleans Hornets’ ownership transfer delay could hamper the team’s ability to improve its roster, even though George Shinn has continued to reassure fans of his commitment toward winning.

What else is he going to say? The cash strapped owner needs to sell season tickets.

But the situation in the Big Easy has led to widespread speculation that more than half of the league’s general managers have taken great interest in. The Hornets remain a league-wide curiosity because, even after last season’s virtual giveaways of Rasual Butler and Devin Brown to avoid paying luxury tax, New Orleans is back in tax territory with a projected payroll of more than $73 million in 2010/11.

What do you do when your loss-making team’s two best players play the same position?

One answer, and the easiest, is to trade one of them this summer. There are only 48 minutes available to a point guard, and the Hornets have more pressing needs at hand. Both Chris Paul and Darren Collison would demand a major return on the trade market. The Hornets could move Paul in return for a bevy of solid, young talent and draft picks that could shore up several positions of need. They could also move Collison with a bigger contract to pad his outgoing salary. The Hornets unfortunately have multiple overpaid declining parts still locked up for at least another season.

Rival executives continue to try to convince the Hornets to make Paul available in trades, pointing to the fact that new head coach Monty Williams can simply slide the promising Collison and his modest $1.4 million salary into that spot. When those teams get shot down, they come right back and suggest the Hornets’ make Collison available, conditioned upon a willingness to take back the cap-clogging contracts of Emeka Okafor, James Posey or Peja Stojakovic.

It has always been assumed that the Hornets will trade away one of their two star point guards to get under the tax threshold. Recent history suggests that smaller market teams will do just about anything – even the decidedly stupid – to drop below that magic line. Last season, the salary-dumping Utah Jazz jettisoned the promising rookie point guard Eric Maynor to Sam Presti, perhaps the best young general manager in the league today, and his Oklahoma City Thunder, in a package deal that included the retiring Matt Harpring. Read more…

Grizzlies’ lottery selection Xavier Henry intriguing

June 26th, 2010 20 comments

With the twelve pick in the 2010 draft, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Kansas swingman Xavier Henry. The pick is certainly intriguing, in that it engenders further questions about the length of restricted free agent Rudy Gay’s stay in Memphis. The common perception is that Henry was selected solely because of the Rudy Gay situation. Is it a prelude to a potential trade of the explosive 6’8″ small forward?

Despite the rumors that have flailed about for several months now, Memphis owner Michael Heisley has remained steadfast in his commitment to retaining the budding forward. At least his comments have been. His actions, however, would suggest otherwise.

Heisley said his team was going to make a big move in the draft. They did. Only this time they again moved to the ATM machine to make a deposit. The Grizzlies’ 25th overall pick, Dominique Jones, was dealt to the Mavericks for cash considerations. Instead of getting an experienced junior ready to contribute right away, a player who can score, rebound and pass (the only player in college to average 21 ppg, 6 rpg and 4 apg last season), the Grizzlies got three-million dollars to put in Michael’s back pocket.

You can read into this in one of two ways. You can say that Heisley would rather deflect the loss-making enterprise that is the Grizzlies organization than spend big dollars to build a winner. The folks in Tennessee sure feel slighted, particularly when you consider the team has a solid core in place that is not too far away from being legitimately competitive in a difficult Western Conference. Or, perhaps Heisley is stashing the cash in order to offset the impact of the hugely overvalued contract his highly sought after free agent is certain to command.

The first seems more likely, but consider the second. Read more…

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The day after the draft, where exactly are we?

June 25th, 2010 22 comments

Well, Riley picked up guard Daequan Cook’s team option back in October. It was a mistake which forced the team to surrender its No. 18 overall pick in order to unwind.

At No. 18, both Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley were available for the taking. If you believe either had the potential to be a future high-quality starting point guard in this league, then that was the true cost of the Cook blunder. If you’d rather have seen the pick traded for a future pick, then such a pick  – perhaps between Nos. 16 and 20 overall next season – is the true cost.

The Thunder, who took on Cook in exchange, used the No. 18 pick to draft Bledsoe, who was subsequently dealt to the Clippers for a protected future first round pick. So… at the very worst, Riley sacrificed his point guard of the future. At the very least, if he preferred the extra $1.2 million in cap space pick No. 18 eats up, he sacrificed a protected future first rounder. It’s hard to believe that the price to jettison Cook couldn’t have been substantially cheaper. As far as general managers go, Pat Riley got used by Sam Presti on that one.

The Heat did get the 32nd overall pick in the trade, which it used to acquire 22-year old University of Texas senior Dexter Pittman. Pittman is an undersized center, at 6’9.5″ without shoes, with a huge 7’6″ wingspan and the biggest hands in the draft (whatever that means). He tips the scales at over 300 pounds, having already dropped more than 60 pounds during his four seasons with the Longhorns and playing at nearly 400 pounds in high school. His nearly 21% body fat (fourth highest in draft history) suggests he still has a long ways to go with his conditioning. Read more…

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Bulls move Hinrich, No. 17 to Washington for cap space

June 24th, 2010 7 comments

Per Ric Bucher:

The Chicago Bulls have a deal in place that would move Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick to the Washington Wizards, freeing up enough cap space to pursue two maximum-salary players in this summer’s free-agent market, sources with knowledge of the Bulls’ plans said Thursday.

It wasn’t immediately clear what Washington would send to Chicago in the trade.

The deal can’t be officially consummated until July 8, when the Wizards will have room under the salary cap to absorb Hinrich’s $9 million contract without having to send back anything of similar value.

Since it’s a good-faith deal for the time being, there remains a chance it could fall apart. But according to one source, the Sacramento Kings are prepared to make a similar deal with the Bulls in the Wizards’ stead if that were to happen.

Despite the report, the trade doesn’t quite get the Bulls the required cap room for two max contract players. The last cap estimate provided by Commissioner David Stern was $56.1 million at the start of the playoffs. The Bulls would have enough room for a $13,838,492 offer after signing one maximum free agent.

That number is below the second max threshold by $2,730,417 — an amount which can not be bridged without saving money by moving Luol Deng. James Johnson and Taj Gibson combine to make $2,831,280, but they’d have a $947,208 roster charge coming back if they’re traded, so the Bulls would still be shy by $846,345.

Read more…

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Joel to Decline His Player Option

June 24th, 2010 4 comments

Anthony was due to earn $885,120 with the Heat next season if he had exercised his option

As expected, center Joel Anthony has elected to forgo the 2010/11 player option he held with the Heat. Anthony faces a midnight Thursday deadline on his decision, with his inaction making him a free agent. The announcement cannot be made official until that time.

The decision frees up an additional $885,120 in spending money for Pat Riley’s ball club. The Heat now has just two players with guaranteed contracts, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, and a total guaranteed payroll (which assumes James Jones will be bought out by June 30) of $7,672,629. With the cap projected at $56.1 million, Miami figures to have some $48,427,371 of available room.

The decision to opt out makes Anthony slightly less expensive to the Heat if the team hopes to retain him. With Anthony having played just three NBA seasons, the Heat can choose to make him a restricted free agent, which would afford the right to match any outside offers. To do so, Miami would be required to extend a qualifying offer of $1,060,120, which would reduce the team’s available room. However, the qualifying offer can be rescinded at any time prior to July 23, at the team’s sole discretion. If no qualifying offer is extended, or if it rescinded prior to July 23, Anthony would count $854,389 against the 2010/11 salary cap.

Independent of whether or not a qualifying offer is extended, the Heat would continue to retain Joel’s Bird rights until he is officially renounced.

Despite the decision by Joel to test the free agent waters, the Heat still has the clear inside track to retain him. In fact, the decision may have been mutual between player and team, and could pave the wave for Anthony to receive a substantial raise at little cost to the Heat.

For a list of all the Heat’s available options with Joel, click here.

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Rumor: Celtics shopping pick 19 for cap space

June 24th, 2010 4 comments

Per Andy Katz and Peter May:

The Boston Celtics have put their first-round pick in Thursday’s draft — No. 19 overall — on the market… with an eye toward making one more run at a championship next season.

The reasoning behind trading the pick, according to a source, would be to take the money that would be guaranteed to a first-rounder and spend it elsewhere.

Boston GM Danny Ainge figures to be looking for additional bodies to help fill out the roster for next season. If the Celtics are to make a run at one last title before breaking apart, they need help now. With Rasheed reportedly about to retire, the team will have just five players under contract for next season. The Celtics also hold the 52nd pick.

Ainge has been very adept at finding quality talent in the second round of past drafts (Glen Davis, Leon Powe, Ryan Gomes). Perhaps Ainge is considering dealing down for value, to pile up cheaper help which he believes to be just as useful as any prospect waiting at pick 19.

Miami has plenty of second round picks to offer, holding picks 32, 41, 42 and 48.

Should Pat consider trading picks 32 and 48 to Boston in exchange for 19?

Such a scenario would effectively mean the Heat will have discarded Daequan Cook’s contract for pick 48 and a swap of picks 18 and 19. For those of us that held the Heat’s first round pick in high regard, this certainly makes Riley’s initial trade much easier to stomach.

Your thoughts?

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Taking Stock of the Events of the Past 24 Hours

June 24th, 2010 No comments

Draft night appears to be nothing more than a precursor to July 1 for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat this year.

Already poised to be a major player in the free agent sweepstakes that begin next week, Miami has just freed up an additional $3.4 million in extra spending money.

On Wednesday, the Heat traded guard Daequan Cook and the No. 18 pick in the upcoming draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the No. 32 pick. The trade clears not only Cook’s $2.2 million salary for next season, but it also removes the $1.2 million the Heat had to budget for its first round pick.

More activity is likely, with the Heat still looking to clear additional space. The team’s first priority will be to move the burdensome contract of James Jones, but that appears nearly impossible to do. Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers could also be dealt. In the case of Chalmers, Miami need not worry about structuring a trade. A receiving team could utilize the minimum salary exception to acquire the second year guard.

Unless Miami makes a trade to move back up into the first round, it seems clear that the Heat prefers to rebuild in free agency, without the troubles of another potentially misguided first round selection.

The team still has four second round picks with which to work – Nos. 32, 41, 42 and 48. Look for Miami to construct a trade – possibly up, but more likely out – with some of them. For the rest, upon each player’s selection, he would become the property of the Heat for up to a year. The Heat is not required to offer a guaranteed contract to any of them in return. Unlike first round picks, second rounders do not reduce a team’s cap space immediately upon selection.

The draft is scheduled to start tomorrow at 7:00 pm, and should run through midnight. By the time it is over, the Heat will have gained additional clarity on its roster for next season. Center Joel Anthony is required to inform the team, by no later than tomorrow night, if he has chosen to exercise his player option in the amount of $885,120. If he does not do so, his contract will – by default – be terminated. It seems likely that Joel will opt out.

The team will decide whether or not to keep James Jones by June 30.

The Heat figures to enter the off-season with two players under contract, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, and a total guaranteed payroll of $7,672,629. With the cap projected at $56.1 million, Miami figures to have some $48,427,371 of available room. Read more…

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Heat Trades Daequan Cook and Pick No. 18 to OKC for Pick No. 32

June 23rd, 2010 41 comments

Done in Miami after three disappointing seasons

The Miami Heat has traded out of the first round of tomorrow’s draft, sending its No. 18 pick and guard Daequan Cook to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 32 overall pick in the second round.

Pat Riley has publicly acknowledged his preference to build through free agency and on the eve of the draft he has held true to his word, opting instead for the added cap space this trade creates.

The move corrects an error made by Riley back in October, when he violated his self-imposed plan to maximize the team’s cap space for the coming off-season and instead chose to pick up Cook’s team option for next season – to the surprise of many, including Daequan. Cook has since regressed, in his fourth and final season under his rookie scale contract.

For Oklahoma City, this deal makes a great deal of sense. The Thunder receives a quality shooter and a top 20 pick for the 32nd pick. And something tells me general manager Sam Presti isn’t done swapping. Now OKC owns three first rounders – Nos. 18, 21 and 26 – and could use them as a springboard to move up a little more.

For Miami, this is a straight salary dump. The Heat not only jettisons the $2,169,857 on Cook’s contract for next season, but also the $1,237,500 salary it would have been obligated to pay the No. 18 selection in Thursday’s draft. In total, the Heat saves $3,407,357. Read more…

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Bill Walker a welcome addition in South Florida?

June 23rd, 2010 7 comments

Bill Walker Photo

I know that it’s draft time and that I should be focusing my every word on it. But you can get that kind of information from just about anywhere. So in my eternal quest to be both creative and thorough, I thought I might focus on the bench for a moment.

Heat fans are starting to get their first few doses of bad news, not the least of which is Raja Bell’s pursuit of bigger than minimum free agent dollars.

The Heat will need a handful of quality low-cost players to fit under the cap if the master plan works out. Losing Bell would be a small, but impactful, blow to the team’s depth. So I started scouring the landscape of free agent alternatives. My search has taken me to the far reaches of my own sanity, whereupon I’ve stumbled upon an intriguing possibility.

Let me ask you this: How many players in the NBA this past season shot at least 50% from the floor, at least 40% from beyond the arc, and at least 78% from the free throw line?

Five.

Steve Nash. Mike Miller. Nicolas Batum. Rodrigue Beaubois. And Bill Walker.

That’s four guys making big dollars, and one making the league minimum.

Bill Walker presents an intriguing possibility. He’s young. He’s cheap. He’s tall. He’s chiseled. He’s athletic. He’s explosive. He can defend. And he can shoot.  Read more…

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Debunking the Rumors

June 22nd, 2010 6 comments

According to “league sources,” the Heat is willing to sell the 18th pick in Thursday’s draft in order to clear the cap space.

I have for some time been a proponent of a strategy which calls for the Heat to rid itself of its draft pick in favor of the cap space. In fact, I wrote a concise post describing this very scenario more than a month ago.

But this is the wrong way to approach it. Pat Riley is undoubtedly aware of all the options available to him. I therefore refuse to believe that the suggestion provided above is anything more than a baseless rumor.

Let me explain. Read more…

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