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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…

Wade will re-sign for the full six years

June 12th, 2010 4 comments

Dwyane Wade employed a brilliant strategy the last time he was a free agent, back in July of 2006 — with a six-year extension offered by the Heat, he instead took just three.

It was brilliant because it kept his options open. It kept pressure on the Heat organization to build a title contender around him (which is certain to pay big dividends in the coming off-season). It also allowed him to secure the best possible contracts for himself as his career progressed (players with seven years tenure are eligible to receive up to 30% of the adjusted salary cap).

Will it happen again? Will Wade ink a new three-year deal next month?

Don’t count on it.

There is one key difference this time around – the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in the summer of 2011. While nobody knows exactly what to expect from the new agreement (if one is successfully negotiated), initial indications have not been promising.

Commissioner David Stern, after witnessing a decade of horrific, franchise-crippling contracts that have left teams hemorrhaging cash to the tune of $200 million annually, wants to make some huge changes.

A hard salary cap, drastic reductions in the value of maximum salaries, shortening of contract lengths, and the loss of Bird rights have all been suggested by Stern. There are also rumors of potential reductions to the guaranteed nature of contracts as well as reductions in the share of basketball related income earned by players from the current 57% to as low as 45%.

In such an uncertain climate, Wade would be foolish to leave guaranteed money on the table. Taking a three-year deal rather than the six the Heat will undoubtedly offer would be doing just that.

Every potential free agent will be looking for a full value, full length contract this off-season. Even Dirk Nowitzki insinuated as much by deciding to opt out of his $21.5 million next season salary.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Wade can’t negotiate a longer-term contract with an opt-out provision after three seasons. Such an arrangement would still provide him significant leverage and put pressure on the Heat to maintain a winning product.

But the issues would be substantial. Read more…

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James Jones to sign with the… Heat?

June 11th, 2010 No comments

James Jones could be a nice option for the Heat at the minimum

Here’s an interesting idea: re-sign James Jones to a minimum contract after he is waived prior to June 30.

It could make a lot of sense for both parties.

It feels terrible when I think about the Heat surrendering $1.856 million to a player that will no longer be on the roster in the coming season – perhaps the most critical from a cap space efficiency perspective in team history.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about it. But wouldn’t it feel at least slightly more palatable to employ his services, even as an end-of-the-bencher, at the very same $1.856 million against the cap?

For James, it makes a world of sense too. He loves Miami. He loves the Heat. He could find himself having a much bigger role next season than in seasons past, with Robert Dozier perhaps to be his main competition at the small forward reserve position. And the money isn’t as different as you’d think.

James originally signed his contract on July 9, 2008 expecting to make $4.65 million next season. It seems clear now, however, that he will be paid his more modest buyout price of $1.856 million. Add to that the $1,146,337 he’d be making on a minimum contract, and he’d be accumulating total compensation of $3,002,337 next season. That’s 65% of his original contract, in which he was clearly overvalued. Not too shabby.

The most practical aspect about this situation is the timing. If the Heat does bring Jones back at the minimum, it would need to be at the end of the off-season. That would give James the vast majority of the summer months to seek more lucrative employment elsewhere. If nothing suits his palate, the Heat could get a quality reserve at a position in which depth is projected to be thin and Jones could get to play in the city he loves.

Here’s a look at the logistics. Read more…

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Wade out on the recruiting trail

June 10th, 2010 2 comments

Read this (as per this article):

“At the same time the Miami Heat staff was busy throwing free agent Udonis Haslem a surprise birthday party to try and convince him to stay in Miami, it appears as if Dwyane Wade was busy doing some recruiting of his own. Wade was spotted dining at BOA Steakhouse on Sunset along with girlfriend Gabrielle Union, Raptors free agent to be Chris Bosh, and a few others as part of a small late-night gathering at the restaurant. Normally, we wouldn’t think anything [of] a few All-Star NBA players getting together for dinner, but this isn’t your typical set of circumstances.”

“Wade has made it a point to say he was committed to speaking with some of his free agent counterparts about their futures. We all assumed it would be a summit of sorts. Wade seems to be taking a more personal approach during the NBA Finals.”

Yes! Did I not mention the preferred approach was the more personal one-on-one touch, when all else were screaming summit? This is why all three of my readers should trust in me. I’m a strategy man. That, or I got very lucky just this once and I want the world to know.

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Yao Ming to opt out of his contract?

June 10th, 2010 4 comments

It has always been assumed that Yao Ming wouldn’t dare opt out of his current contract with the Rockets, which has one year remaining at $17.7 million, after taking the year off to rehab his seemingly always injured left foot. But when asked about the possibility in March, his answer was surprisingly non-committal.

“Not sure. I’m not sure until after we discuss it,” Yao said. “We have not started to discuss it yet, so I’m not sure, either way. I have to talk to my agent first before we start to decide where I need to go. If you ask my agent, he will say, ‘I have to ask Yao and we will start discussing it’.”

Well, the two sides are now apparently discussing it. But the situation is no less muddy.

Apparently, Yao and the Rockets are working on a contract extension. Rumor has it that he would opt out of his current deal and then would be offered a new 4 year maximum contract. The snag? Well, Yao wants 6 years.

He’s got to be crazy, right?

Every so often, an incredible physical specimen enters into a sport that he is not conventionally built for, but uses that very same advantage to become a dominant force.

When Yao Ming first entered the NBA, he was certainly an incredible physical specimen at 7’6″ tall, and he could do things that guys who were only seven feet tall couldn’t dream of doing. One of the best shooting big men ever to play the game, Yao had an amazing touch. When he got the ball down low, he was the closest thing this league had to unstoppable. Even the league’s biggest centers had no chance of blocking his turnaround shots. The only real answer to his size and shooting ability was to stop him from catching the ball on the block in the first place.

He could do the conventional things big men do too, such as block shots and rebound. He was an amazing talent, nothing like the NBA had ever seen before.

He may not have had the strength of a Shaquille O’Neal or the agility of a (I’m not sure who to put here, but he’s certainly not what you’d consider agile), but his size, skill, and competitiveness were more than enough to dominate on a nightly basis. When the national audience got a peek at him for the first time, we were convinced he would be a star. Remember that January 2003 game against Shaq, when he scored six points and blocked two O’Neal shots in the game’s opening minutes?

In that regard, he hasn’t disappointed. Over the course of his seven-year career, he has proven to be the clear-cut best center in the professional game. Dwight Howard’s performance in the Eastern Conference Finals should end any lingering debate.

But what we couldn’t foresee back then was that the rigors of the NBA would prove too much for his long and slender frame. Read more…

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Buyer Beware

June 8th, 2010 4 comments

The quality of the 2010 free agent class is well known, and has dominated discussion in South Florida for nearly three years. The “Summer of LeBron,” which kicks off in just over three weeks, is sure to change the landscape of professional basketball.

Free agency, this season more than any other in history, will turn the NBA into a revolving door. Teams that were underachievers will have a legitimate opportunity to transform themselves into instant contenders simply by signing a star player or two. The bidding wars for top performers are sure to be as competitive and entertaining as the games they will ultimately play in their new arenas.

But with more money available this off-season than players on which it can be wisely spent, teams are sure to throw exorbitant amounts of cash at guys that are otherwise undeserving.

General managers need be warned. Choose your investments wisely.

With that in mind, let us be reminded about the ugly side of free agency. In the second of my depressing and controversial two-part expose on the worsts in Heat history, let’s look at the worst free agent signing. Read more…

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