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Mike Miller the answer at small forward?

June 21st, 2010 14 comments

How many players in the NBA shot better than 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc and 80% from the line while averaging at least 30 minutes of playing time this past season?

Two.

Steve Nash. And Mike Miller.

Miller has quietly developed into one of the most versatile and efficient offensive players in the game today. He is a multi-faceted offense threat: he can shoot, he can drive, he can pass and he can rebound. He often plays more than one position during the course of a game, including a point-forward type role in some stretches. Miller is best suited to be a team’s third option, where his overall floor game can benefit his team greatest.

Sound good for a Heat team poised to add Bosh or Stoudemire alongside Dwyane Wade?

Miller figures to be one of the more quizzical cases in free agency this summer. The former Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Sixth Man of the Year in 2006 has faded into relative obscurity over these past two seasons. That’s what a year in Minnesota and another in Washington will do. But don’t let that allow you to diminish the impact of his talent – talent that made him the No. 5 overall pick back in the 2000 NBA Draft.

Over the course of his career, Miller has averaged 13.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, particularly considering he’s a career 40.5% shooter from downtown. Better still, Miller’s accuracy from the field has only been on the rise. He’s averaged 50.2%, 48.2%, and 50.1% shooting in the past three years, respectively, despite being the victim of having to play for some awful ball clubs.

Miller is perhaps the game’s ultimate floor-spacing wing player, with an ability to knock down shots from just about anywhere on the court. And although his shooting is his most celebrated asset, it’s certainly not his only one. At 6’8″, his tenacity on the defensive boards and his willingness to distribute the ball should not be overlooked.

He certainly hasn’t been overlooked by Pat Riley. In fact, Riley has looked squarely in Miller’s direction for the past several seasons – thinking highly of not only his ability but his first-class character and high basketball IQ. At the trade deadline in February, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld spurned strong interest from the Heat. Of course he did. What did Miami have to offer? But now, with Miller an unrestricted free agent and the Heat with plenty of cap space, the game has changed. Read more…

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Breaking down the trade bonus

June 20th, 2010 3 comments

Well, I didn’t get many readers yesterday. So today I will offer this somewhat less stimulating post on the impact of trade bonuses for the technically savvy few who happen to care. After all, in my heart I enjoy helping to explain the intricacies of the salary cap most.

There seems to be a common perception floating around that Turkoglu, after a forgetful season in Toronto, is washed up. The perception is that he is an aging malcontent, whose inflated salary will be a boon the Raptors for the next four seasons. For a man over thirty years of age with just one solid regular season under his belt, it’s reasonable to understand why. But perhaps it’s just a little harsh for man who produced such a wonderful 2009 NBA Finals.

When Turkoglu arrived in Toronto, having turned away the Trail Blazers in his wake, he received a hero’s welcome. And for good reason. He had just completed an NBA Finals run during which he averaged 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, not to mention his crunch-time leadership, game-winning shot-making and one impressive block from behind on Kobe Bryant. He even the Heat’s own Dwyane Wade pushing to grab him for mid-level money.

Things soured quickly. Turkoglu showed up to training camp overweight and out of shape, and never seemed eager to do much of anything. By the end of the season, he finished with just 11.3 points per game, far and away his fewest over the past six seasons, on just 41% shooting. Turkoglu was unhappy, the fans were booing him, and management was left with the shame at having grossly overvalued him on the free agent market.

The end result wasn’t necessarily an indication of what Turkoglu may be able provide a team next season, if he were to be put in the right situation. But for any of us holding out any lingering hope of acquiring the 6’10” point-forward, I would have you consider his contract. Read more…

Al Jefferson, Anyone?

June 19th, 2010 4 comments

What if the Heat doesn’t land Chris Bosh? What if it doesn’t land Amare Stoudemire?

There are any number of reasons why Pat Riley could ultimately prove unsuccessful in his quest for each of the two superstars, the most intriguing of which is LeBron James agreeing to call South Florida home for the next five years.

Would you trade for Al Jefferson?

For Wolves fans, the one consolation prize in sending Kevin Garnett off to Boston back in July of 2007 was the acquisition of one the game’s best young post players, Al Jefferson.

Big Al had emerged as the low-block counterpoint to Paul Pierce on Boston’s sub-par 2006/07 team. When the opportunity surfaced for Danny Ainge to acquire Garnett, Jefferson was the Celtics’ only real long-term asset, and so away he went.

In Minnesota, even without a premium point guard, Jefferson has established himself as a dominating low post presence. A legit 6’10” with a well filled 265-pound frame and a massive 7’2.5″ wingspan, he’s an aggressive big man who barrels his way to the left side of the rim on nearly every possession. When he collects the entry pass on the block, he calls upon a variety of post moves to put the ball in the basket with alarming efficiency – often a deceptive up-fake to buy himself space for his little, baby hook shot that he half shoots and half throws, but on which he displays a great deal of touch out to around 10 feet.

Jefferson is an incredibly talented big man with a phenomenal feel for scoring in the post. He also rebounds at a high rate on both ends, thanks to his terrific hands and anticipation skills. And, despite constant double teams, he hardly ever turns the ball over.

The now-25-year-old was following up a breakout 2007/08 campaign with an even more impressive 2008/09, striking fear into opposing defenses to the tune of 23.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks over the season’s first 50 games. Until it all came crashing down. Literally. Read more…

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Oh the trade possibilities we could see…

June 18th, 2010 14 comments

Take a look at that left knee cap

Blazers fans have gotten used to this. Since Kevin Pritchard took over the reigns as general manager six years ago, he has seen his team through some sort of draft-related trade every season. Usually it’s more than one. In 2006, it was six.

Pritchard has a history of aggressively trading up in the draft in an effort to build a deep, talented roster. He has engineered brilliant draft-day deals that have landed players such as Victor Claver and Jeff Pendergraph in 2009, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless in 2008, Rudy Fernandez in 2007 and Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez in 2006.

If all the buzz is true, this year will be no different. Pritchard, who will reportedly be fired immediately after the draft, seems to want to go out with a bang. The Blazers hold the No. 22 and No. 44 picks in the upcoming draft, but are weighing their options in an attempt to move up. The team has reportedly been hunting for a pick in the mid first round — somewhere between No.16 and 19. They appear to be trying to move ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, who hold pick No. 20.

Portland recently signed 36-year old Marcus Camby to a contract extension worth up to $26 million over the next two seasons. The Blazers also stand to get back Joel Przybilla at some point, after he injured his knee in December and missed the rest of the season, then re-injured the same knee in March when he slipped in the shower, which required a second surgery. The oft-injured Greg Oden rounds out the trio of 7-footer centers now has in Portland.

But rumor has it that the Blazers are looking to draft yet another big.

Could this be the end of the Greg Oden era in Portland?

Read more…

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Heat Picks Up Option on Mario Chalmers

June 17th, 2010 1 comment

The Miami Heat has picked up its team option on guard Mario Chalmers.

And now there are three.

Point guard Mario Chalmers has become the third Miami Heat player secured on the books for 2010-11. The Heat has picked up its third year option on his three-year contract. The team had until June 30, the official end of the 2009-10 season, to make its decision.

Chalmers now joins Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook as the only Heat players locked into 2010-11 salaries.

Still to be determined are the $885,120 player option held by center Joel Anthony, who faces a June 24 deadline, the $17.1 million player option held by Dwyane Wade, and the Heat’s buyout decision on the final three years of the contract of James Jones.

Both Wade and Jones are expected to become unrestricted free agents, with the decisions on those matters due by June 30, a day before the N.B.A.’s free-agency negotiating period begins.

Upon acquiring Chalmers in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Heat extended the former KansasUniversity standout a three-year contract that included a team option for the final season. Chalmers, who earned $756,000 this past season, is now guaranteed $854,389 for what will be the final season of his contract. Because the option has been decided, he also is now eligible to be traded.

With the N.B.A.’s salary cap, which will be announced just prior to the July 8 start of the offseason signing period, expected to fall at about $56 million for 2010-11, the Heat, with Beasley, Cook and Chalmers, now has $8.0 million in committed salary for next season. Factoring in the $1.9 million Jones would receive if he were waived, as a partial guarantee on his $4.7 million 2010-11 salary, it would put the Heat at roughly $9.8 million in committed payroll.  Read more…

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Could the NBA actually prefer a lockout?

June 17th, 2010 2 comments

I’ve received several emails from readers requesting an explanation of the impact of the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on player movement that I keep referring to. Below I provide my own (controversial) thoughts.

Incidentally, if you have any questions you’d like my perspective on, please feel free to email me and I will either answer them individually or incorporate them into a post.

For the past several months, we South Floridians have had our heads in the clouds, scheming about all the different ways Heat management can build a winner in the off-season. We’ve been educating ourselves on the rules and regulations in order to figure out what’s possible. We’ve made ESPN’s Trade Machine our best friend. But is it possible that we’ve overlooked the biggest story of all – perhaps the biggest of the decade for the sport of basketball?

Over the course of the past season, we’ve seen a flurry of predictable contract-related activity. Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant, LaMarcus Aldrige, Marcus Camby, Pao Gasol and Rajon Rondo have all agreed to extensions. And Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire have all announced their intentions to opt out of their contracts in favor of new, long-term deals.

We’ve also seen the mind-boggling.

Dirk Nowitski, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming. Each threatening to leave their cities, sacrificing big dollars in the pursuit of long-term security.

A whopping 103 early entry players initially declared their names for the 2010 NBA Draft (Heat hopeful Eric Bledsoe, with nary a single season under his belt playing the point, among them). Add to that a number of draft-worthy seniors. Sixty will be selected. Thirty will receive guaranteed contracts.

Why are they doing this? What has everyone so spooked? Read more…

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Getting Creative With Amare Stoudemire

June 16th, 2010 13 comments

Amare Stoudemire will opt out of the final year of his contract if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Phoenix Suns before the deadline at the end of this month. The All-Star power forward said there was “no chance” he would exercise the final year of his contract with the Suns without an extension, which would pay him about $17.7 million.

With Steve Kerr now out as general manager, the repercussions can be felt all the way in South Florida. Kerr played an integral role in discussions with agent Happy Walters. Over the course of the past few months, the two negotiated about as amicably as parties on opposing sides can on an extension that would have kept Stoudemire in Phoenix through 2015.

The Suns, it appears, have significantly hurt their chances of keeping Stoudemire. Those talks will now need to start anew. Walters expects to receive a finalized, formal extension offer before free agency begins on July 1, but the absence of Kerr means there is mystery now where there was none before. Unless the Suns come equipped with a maximum offer for three additional years (through the 2013/14 season) for a combined total of approximately $61 million (approximately $79 million including Stoudemire’s player option for next season), it’s likely Stoudemire will be on his way to test the free agent waters. Even with such an offer, the apparent lack of direction may be enough to turn Stoudemire away.

The Suns’ loss could be the Heat’s gain.

When healthy, Stoudemire is perhaps the most explosive low post presence in the game today. He averaged 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds last season while playing all 82 regular season games, and was especially effective after the Suns decided against trading him at the All-Star break. His contributions on the court certainly merit at-or-near maximum contract consideration, which could pay him as much as $100 million over five seasons.

But such a long-term commitment is terrifying for a man so prone to injury. Read more…

Tyson Chandler worth the risk?

June 15th, 2010 1 comment

An eight-figure salary is something that most NBA players can only ever dream of achieving. It’s a goal right up there with winning a championship and customizing that new Ferrari in the driveway.

So it’s difficult to imagine that a player would voluntary sacrifice that kind of money when a similar payday does not appear to be on the horizon. But according to Chad Ford of ESPN TrueHoop, Tyson Chandler may be on the verge of doing just that:

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Bobcats big man Tyson Chandler is seriously considering exercising an early termination option on his contract this summer.

Now that the [injuries are] behind him, Chandler is looking to seize an opportunity. With so many teams under the luxury tax next season and only five or six top tier free agents out there, a number of teams are going to be left with lots of money to spend this summer. Not everyone can land LeBron or Dwyane Wade. The other thing working in Chandler’s favor is that there aren’t really any true centers in free agency this summer and a number of teams with cap space including the Thunder, Knicks, Timberwolves, Wizards and Heat need a center badly.

Pair those two factors together and Chandler could be in a for a big payday this summer. While it’s unlikely he can get a starting contract at $12.6 million per year, he should be able to snag a 4 or 5 year deal in the $10 million per year range.

I have suggested on several occasions that every potential free agent will be looking for a full value, full length contract this off-season. There is simply too much uncertainty surrounding the potential for gargantuan changes to come after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the coming season. Tyson is certainly among them.

A secondary player like Chandler would stand to lose a lot of money in 2011 if David Stern gets his way. If that’s the case, then locking in a long-term deal this summer could make some sense. But while opting out would make him an unrestricted free agent, it would also cause him to forfeit $12.6 million in guaranteed money. The risks are therefore considerable. Read more…

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Should a Collison Package Tempt the Heat?

June 14th, 2010 1 comment

The Heat are in desperate need of a playmaking point guard like Darren Collison

The National Basketball Association has truly become a point guard driven league.

The bulk of the power teams in the league are currently employing point guards of the highest caliber. Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Jameer Nelson, Jason Kidd, Mo Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and Tony Parker and were all playing in the playoffs this season, while names like John Wall, Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans are poised to become the future faces of the association.

The point is that it seems much easier to make your way in this league with a top flight point guard than to try to make a go of it with an average one like Mario Chalmers. Still, perhaps you are not convinced that Darren Collison – the 21st overall pick in last year’s NBA draft – can really insert himself into the conversation with the list above. Let’s take a closer look.

While maybe his 12.4 points and 5.7 assists per game last year weren’t particularly eye-popping, his 18.8 points and 9.1 assists per game as a starter were just that. Especially since, due to the injury to Chris Paul, he actually started 37 games for the Hornets last season, making the sample size significantly more relevant than had he simply blown up in a few meaningless garbage-time minutes . As a starter, he shot 49% from the field, 43% from behind the arc, and had better overall averages than the more highly-touted Stephen Curry (17.9ppg, 6.1apg, .461 FG%, .436% 3PFG), Tyreke Evans (20.1ppg, 5.8apg, .458 FG%, .255 3PFG%) and Brandon Jennings (17.1ppg, 6.3apg, .371 FG%, .374 3PFG%). This is a guy that had fourteen 10+ assist games last season (which is eight more than Derrick Rose had), including one 18 assist and one 20 assist game. He scored over 30 points twice, and over 20 points sixteen times (two more than Rajon Rondo). He even had a triple-double (18-12-13) back on February 19 against Indiana. Not too shabby.

Collison is a lightening-quick guard, and he saw more than one-third of his offense come from inside the paint, despite his diminutive six-foot frame. That means that not only does Collision have the tools to create his own offense, something the Heat could desperately use alongside Wade in the backcourt, but he also has the quickness to beat the opposition off of the dribble, get to the basket and collapse defenses, opening up the floor for his teammates. Read more…

Celtics may look to retain Ray Allen

June 13th, 2010 No comments

The smooth stroke of Ray Allen

Boston had two major contract concerns heading into the 2009-10 season. They moved quickly to take care of Rajon Rondo, locking him into a 5-year, $55 million contract extension. The soon-to-be-35 year old Ray Allen, on the other hand, appeared to be the forgotten man.

There has been a lot of groundwork laid in Boston to get rid of Allen – the Celtics made several public overtures about their desire to get younger and cheaper at the position on the trade market, putting an extra emphasis on the $18.8 million salary he didn’t quite earn this year (his contract also includes a $1.0 million bonus for winning an NBA title).

The 14-year veteran was supposedly interested in heading south to the Miami Heat or, in order to stay near his home in Connecticut, the New York Knicks.

Heat fans couldn’t help but think to about how nice the free agent-to-be would look in red and black. Allen is the best pure shooter in the game today. He has also secured his place in NBA history as one of the game’s all-time best. No other human has ever been able to duplicate the grace with which he shoots the basketball.

What a difference a few months make.

Unable to find a trade partner in February, it would now appear the Celtics are likely to try to retain the 6’5″ guard for one final season. The change in logic is as much dictated by the team’s finances as it is by Allen’s on-court resurgence.

Allen struggled through a difficult regular season in which he shot just 36.3% from beyond the arc, his worst such mark since his junior season in Milwaukee. His Game 2 performance against the Lakers in the NBA Finals would suggest, however, that Allen still remains a viable scoring option. Allen broke his own NBA Finals record with eight three-pointers, en route to 32 key points in his team’s victory in Los Angeles.

Boston’s financial situation may ultimately dictate his fate.

In the season to come, the Celtics have $63.6 million in guaranteed salary to its six-player core of Paul Pierce (player option), Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo. With a salary cap projected at just $56.1 million, allowing Ray Allen to walk would provide the organization no additional flexibility with which to acquire a replacement. The team’s cap space is already used up, and the Mid-Level and Bi-Annual exceptions would be available under either scenario. Read more…