Offseason In Review: Minnesota Timberwolves

November 22 at 8:42am CST By Eddie Scarito

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

Trades

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Zach LaVine (Round 1, 13th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Glenn Robinson III (Round 2, 40th overall). Signed via minimum-salary exception for one year, $507K. Partially guaranteed for $250K.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

For the second time in seven years, the Timberwolves were forced to deal away their star player and begin anew. Team president Flip Saunders certainly hopes this time around brings Minnesota better results than when Kevin Garnett was shipped to Boston back in 2007, seeing as the franchise has only averaged 25 wins per season since that trade.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami HeatIn this rebuilding sequel the player being dealt was Kevin Love, and much of the offseason headlines and speculation around the league were focused squarely on where Love was headed, and what kind of package it would take for the Wolves to hit the reset button on the franchise. It turns out that a package of the last two No. 1 overall picks from the Cavs was the answer to that riddle, along with Thaddeus Young, by way of the Sixers, whose talent level makes him much more than just a throw-in.

While I understand how frustrating it must be for fans of the Wolves to see yet another highly talented player leave town, the fact is that the team wasn’t headed to the NBA Finals with Love anytime soon. The franchise hasn’t so much as sniffed the playoffs during his tenure, so this is nowhere near the step back that losing Garnett was. Love was almost assured of leaving the team next summer, when he can opt out the contract that former GM David Kahn designed when he wouldn’t commit to a five-year extension for Love, so Saunders made a tough call, but a correct one.

A deal that sends away a superstar for a package of lesser assets doesn’t usually help the franchise that relinquishes the better player, as is illustrated in my Trade Retrospective Series. This trend might continue with Minnesota, but I applaud Saunders for pulling the trigger on flipping Love for the best possible package available in Wiggins, Bennett, and Young. The Wolves aren’t likely to contend in the brutal Western Conference for a few more seasons, but if and when they do finally break through, this deal could be looked back upon as one that laid the foundation for that achievement.

The primary piece that Saunders acquired is this year’s No. 1 overall draftee, Andrew Wiggins. It will take some time, but Wiggins has superstar potential, and he’s a player whom a franchise can build around, as well as someone the Wolves can use as a marquee attraction to sell season tickets, given his ridiculous athleticism and above-the-rim antics. The only real knock on Wiggins is that he seemingly lacks the killer instinct present in most, if not all, of the true alphas in the NBA. But if that’s true, Minnesota is the perfect place for Wiggins to develop, outside of the spotlight of a major market where he can play for a team not expected to make the playoffs this season. I think Wiggins will end up surprising many in this regard and figure things out sooner than expected. In a few seasons, the Cavs could be ruing the day they traded him.

The other pieces Minnesota acquired are wild cards, however. There is no denying that Young is a talent, and he’ll be counted on for veteran leadership. But the ex-Sixer may be too weary from all those losing seasons in Philadelphia to go through the process again with the Wolves, and with an early termination option for next season in his possession, it’s quite possible he’ll end up having been merely a one-season rental. I’d be surprised if Young didn’t exercise his ETO, as the long-term security of a brand new deal would be the smart play, and he’s almost assured to do better salary-wise than the $9,971,739 that he’s set to earn next year. A strong season by Young should thrust his market value into the neighborhood at least the $12MM per year. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t re-sign with the Wolves, but he’d be remiss if he didn’t at least explore the free agent market.

As for Bennett, he’s clearly not going to live up to his status as the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft, though there’s an easy argument to make that he should never have been selected that high to begin with. The Wolves have little to lose by giving him a shot to develop, and he has looked much improved this season, though he’s not likely to be an All-Star anytime soon. Any production they can get from Bennett, whom the Wolves are using almost exclusively at power forward this season after the Cavs tried him at small forward last year, is a bonus.

Minnesota is not viewed as a true free agent destination, as smaller cold-weather cities rarely are in the NBA. So the team is forced to mine the second tier of available free agents. That template certainly applies to the team’s lone free agent acquisition this offseason. The Mo Williams signing was another shrewd move by Saunders, as the team certainly needed veteran leadership, as well as depth at the point guard spot. With the injury to Ricky Rubio, Williams’ presence is even more valuable. At the very least Williams could provide the team with a valuable trade asset later in the season.

The draft is extremely important to the fortunes of the team, given Minnesota’s lack of appeal to marquee free agents. Saunders’ selection of Zach LaVine comes with some intriguing possibilities. LaVine is a stellar athlete who has off-the-charts leaping ability, and his potential is unlimited. But he’s incredibly raw, having played only one season at UCLA, and he wasn’t even a starter during that time. Scouts have compared LaVine favorably to another Bruins alum, Russell Westbrook. That is a tough legacy to live up to, though Westbrook entered the league with many of the same concerns about his game, and he turned out pretty well for the Thunder. It’s going to take some time to be able to accurately gauge what kind of player LaVine will be, but Saunders deserves some credit for gambling on him.

With his second round pick, Saunders selected Glenn Robinson III, another player with intriguing long-term potential. Robinson has the skills to develop into a useful rotation player, though he’ll likely spend more time in the D-League than on the NBA hardwood this season.

Saunders also needed to find a new head coach to replace the retired Rick Adelman. He surveyed a number of marquee college coaches, and at one point owner Glen Taylor was keen on Saunders hiring ex-Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, who had a long career with the Timberwolves as a player. But Saunders’ primary target became Grizzlies head man Dave Joerger, whose job security was tenuous at best since Memphis owner Robert Pera was revamping his entire front office and had been rumored to be considering firing Joerger back in November of 2013. But Joerger and Pera patched up their relationship and Joerger signed an extension to remain in Memphis. This led Saunders to fill the role himself, though his arrangement is “open-ended” in terms of length, meaning Saunders will have the opportunity to revisit a search for someone else to coach the team in the future.

The final move the team made during its active offseason, and perhaps the most important one aside from the Love trade, was to lock up Rubio on a long-term extension. Saunders was obviously determined not to run the risk of losing yet another player to free agency, though $55MM plus incentives over four years may be a bit of an overpay for the 24-year-old from Spain. Prior to his injury, Rubio was enjoying an excellent season, averaging 9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game. If Rubio can ever develop a reliable jump shot, something his contract incentives are tied directly to, and resume his early-season production level when he returns, he’ll be worth that chunk of cap space.

Heading into 2015/16, the team currently has more than $49MM committed in guaranteed salaries. That figure doesn’t include Young’s salary, though he’ll likely exercise his ETO, and the player options for Chase Budinger ($5MM) and Corey Brewer ($4.905MM). If the team re-signs Young, and if both Budinger and Brewer opt in, which is likely in Budinger’s case, the team won’t have much room under the cap to play with. Brewer is currently the subject of numerous trade rumors, though Saunders has hinted that he’s too valuable to trade. That is something I believe is posturing on Saunders’ part, designed to try and increase any return the team would receive for Brewer. Budinger, too, found his name in trade rumors prior to the season.

Another contract on his books that Saunders should consider trying to unload is Nikola Pekovic‘s. The team still owes him three more years and $35.8MM after this season, numbers not in line with Pekovic’s production. While talented big men are at a premium in the league, their importance in the guard-oriented NBA world we currently live in has been diminished. And at 28 years of age, Pekovic isn’t likely to provide much more than his career averages of 13.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. This contract will hamper the team’s growth similar to how Roy Hibbert‘s deal is hamstringing the Pacers.

With Love gone, the immediate outlook for the Timberwolves’ fortunes hasn’t improved, though they weren’t likely to shine even if Love had remained in Minnesota. For the long term, the team’s outlook has a glimmer of hope in the core of Wiggins, Rubio, and LaVine. The franchise will continue to struggle to attract top-tier free agents, but if the Wolves can maximize their future draft picks and add the right mix of role players, the long-suffering fans in Minnesota just might have something to cheer about.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post. Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Smith, Moreland, Sampson

November 21 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Minnesota is the latest team to be besieged by injuries, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin out indefinitely and Ronny Turiaf also expected to miss time. Also among the Timberwolves to sit on the sidelines in street clothes tonight is Nikola Pekovic, who has a sprained wrist. With the league-maximum 15 players on their roster, the Wolves would not be able to sign another player without being forced to release someone. But if at least three of the players miss three consecutive games and an independent physician declares that they and a fourth player are likely to continue to miss time, Minnesota could apply to the league for a hardship provision that would grant them the ability to temporarily carry a 16th player. Still, “they don’t hand those things out like candy,” as Flip Saunders noted of the league’s willingness to grant 16th roster spots, in spite of recent allowances for the Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Kings have sent Eric Moreland to the Reno Bighorns, the team announced. This will be Moreland’s second assignment to the D-League this season. The 22-year-old power forward has yet to make a regular season appearance for Sacramento
  • The Sixers have assigned JaKarr Sampson to the Delaware 87ers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Sampson’s first trip to the D-League this season, and the rookie is averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in nine NBA appearances.
  • Former Blazers first round pick Nolan Smith is headed back to the NBA D-League, Gino Pilato of D-League Digest reports. Smith had cut ties with Turkey’s Galatasaray back in October and intends to use the D-League to showcase his talents for NBA teams, Pilato notes. The D-League will assign Smith to one of its teams through its waiver system. The 26-year-old point guard spent 2011/12 and 2012/13 with Portland, averaging 3.3 PPG and 1.2 APG in 9.9 minutes per contest. Smith had received partially guaranteed offers from the Bulls and the Thunder this summer but instead chose to try his luck in Turkey.

Poll: Could Kentucky Defeat The Sixers?

November 21 at 8:57pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Suns guard Eric Bledsoe unleashed some bulletin board material the other night when he declared that this year’s University of Kentucky Wildcats team could defeat the Sixers in a seven-game series. When prompted by a reporter who asked if Bledsoe’s alma mater, which many predict to go undefeated this season, could beat the lowly Sixers, Bledsoe said, “I’m definitely taking Kentucky. I think Philly would get probably, maybe one game. I know Sixers fans gonna be mad, but I love my Wildcats. “

Now I’m reasonably certain that Bledsoe’s comments weren’t meant to offend Philadelphia’s team or its fans, but rather to show pride is his college team, and he’s since backed off his assertion. None of it stopped the speculation and debate from running wild on Twitter. It also doesn’t help matters that Bledsoe’s Suns are in Philadelphia this evening to take on the Sixers. During the pregame player introductions, the Philadelphia faithful let Bledsoe have it with a chorus of boos when his name was announced, though in a city famous for booing Santa Claus during an Eagles game, the jeers weren’t necessarily noteworthy.

Despite the likelihood that the Sixers will be historically dreadful this season, we are still talking about NBA-caliber players, many of whom were highly regarded college players in their own right. Kentucky is also a squad laden with underclassmen. In fact, there are only two juniors who see regular minutes in Kentucky’s regular rotation: Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress.

There is a reason that most rookies struggle when entering the NBA. They aren’t physically ready or developed enough to compete with fully grown men who also happen to be some of the greatest athletes in the world. So, no matter how talented the Wildcats are, keep in mind these are still developing teenagers, not professional athletes. The prime example is Nerlens Noel, who also attended Kentucky. Noel is still experiencing growing pains, and he was touted just as highly as any player on the current Wildcats roster. If he has had more than a year to practice against NBA-caliber players and is still struggling, a group of college underclassmen would also have serious issues against NBA talent as well.

Here are the likely starting lineups for this fictional matchup:

Kentucky Wildcats

  • PG: Andrew Harrison (9.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.7 APG)
  • SG: Aaron Harrison (7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.7 APG)
  • SF: Alex Poythress (6.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • PF: Karl-Anthony Towns (6.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG)
  • C: Willie Cauley-Stein (8.3 PPG. 8.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG)

Philadelphia 76ers

I don’t believe that the Wildcats would win even a single game against the Sixers, much less the required four needed to emerge victorious in a seven-game series. It might be competitive for a quarter or a half, but eventually NBA talent would win out and the Sixers would end up dominating. But what do you say? Who would win if these two squads faced off in a series? Cast your votes below and feel free to expand on the debate in the comments section.

Bulls Notes: Gasol, Butler, Point Guards

November 21 at 7:22pm CST By Eddie Scarito

With Kirk Hinrich out indefinitely with a chest injury, the Bulls are hoping that Derrick Rose can return to action by this Monday, or else the team will consider signing another point guard, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter link). Rose has been sidelined with ankle woes leaving Aaron Brooks the only healthy point guard on the team. Chicago currently has only 14 players on its roster so no additional move would be required for the team to add another body.

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • One of the best free agent signings of the summer not involving a player named LeBron James was the Bulls locking up Pau Gasol on a three-year, $22.3MM deal. Gasol left Los Angeles because he felt that he needed a change of scenery, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. “Just a gut feeling that I needed to move on,” Gasol said. “I needed something different. I needed to be in a different position where I could be assimilated, where I could be motivated every single day, where I could be rejuvenated.”
  • Besides his on-court production, Gasol is also paying dividends in his mentoring of rookie Nikola Mirotic, Aschburner adds. “All the things Nikola is going through, Pau has gone through,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “More importantly, it’s what he does. There are a lot of guys who say all the right things and do none of them. Pau does all the right things. He comes in every day, takes care of himself. He studies. He prepares. He practices hard, he practices well, and then he goes out there and he executes. And he plays for the team — he’s not one of those guys pounding his chest, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ He’s one of those guys who’s ‘Let’s look at the team.’
  • In his weekly mailbag, Sam Smith of NBA.com opined that Jimmy Butler should have accepted the Bulls’ extension offer despite how well Butler is currently performing. Smith cites Butler’s young age and the need for long-term security, using Jay Williams’ career-ending injury as an example of how quickly things can change. Smith also added that it would be different if Butler had already had a big money deal during his career, but since he is only being paid rookie scale wages, taking the eight-figure deal would have been the safer play.

Aaron Gordon Out Up To Eight Weeks

November 21 at 5:27pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Aaron Gordon underwent successful surgery today to repair damage to the the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will be out of action indefinitely, the Magic announced in a press release. Gordon will miss a minimum of six to eight weeks, at which time he will be re-evaluated, but the exact timetable for his return hinges on how well he responds to rehabilitation. The 6’9″ rookie out of Arizona fractured his foot during last Friday’s contest against the Wizards.

The injury to Gordon is among a rash of early season maladies that have sidelined a number of NBA stars, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Ricky Rubio, and Marcus Smart. This injury is certainly a setback in the development of the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. Gordon is still trying to establish his NBA position, and has been used primarily at power forward, though he has the skillset to play small forward as well.

Gordon appeared in 11 games this season for Orlando, averaging 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.6 assists while logging 15.0 minutes per night. His slash line is .581/.500/.667.

Nets, Sixers Discuss Andrei Kirilenko Deal

November 21 at 3:24pm CST By Chuck Myron

3:24pm: The Nets would likely receive a trade exception if the teams were to do a deal, Youngmisuk tweets, meaning that the Sixers would probably send some combination of draft compensation, draft-and-stash prospects and cash to Brooklyn. Trade exceptions are created as functions of trades and they are not technically assets that change hands in deals.

3:05pm: Brooklyn and Philadelphia have had preliminary talks about a deal that would send Andrei Kirilenko to the Sixers, who would likely waive him, reports Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link). Sergey Karasev is also involved in those discussions, Youngmisuk adds. It’s unclear what the Sixers are talking about sending to Brooklyn. Kirilenko is away from the Nets for personal reasons.

A source told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post that Kirilenko’s absence wasn’t related to his lack of playing time, as we passed along earlier, but Bontemps wrote in the same piece that it appeared “inevitable” that if the Nets didn’t trade him, they would strike a buyout deal. Still, a trade would most likely happen after December 15th, Bontemps says, when most players who signed this offseason become eligible to be traded and trade talk usually picks up leaguewide.

Karasev, the 19th pick from the 2013 draft, has seen even fewer minutes than Kirilenko has this season for the Nets, who acquired Karasev over the summer from the Cavs. The 21-year-old swingman has scored only two points in 14 minutes of action so far in 2014/15, and he didn’t see much time as a rookie last year in Cleveland, either. The Sixers nonetheless may see value in Karasev, since he became a first-round pick just a year and a half ago. He and Kirilenko are both natives of Russia, like Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

The Nets and Sixers both have full 15-man rosters, but each team possesses multiple players without fully guaranteed salary, as our roster counts show. Kirilenko is making more than $3.3MM this season on his fully guaranteed contract, which expires this summer, while Karasev is due nearly $1.534MM this year and has one more guaranteed season on his rookie scale contract worth almost $1.6MM for 2015/16. Nets GM Billy King and Sixers GM Sam Hinkie swung a deal just last month in which the Nets gave up a protected 2019 second-round pick to entice the Sixers to absorb Marquis Teague‘s guaranteed salary, but Kirilenko is making about three times Teague’s pay, notes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).

Western Notes: Kobe, Thunder, Martin

November 21 at 2:31pm CST By Chuck Myron

Kobe Bryant rejects the notion that he should have taken a drastic discount the way Dirk Nowitzki did this summer, as Bryant told reporters, including Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Bryant is making $23.5MM this season, the first of a two-year, $48.5MM extension, while Nowitzki will draw only slightly more than $7.947MM.

“It’s the popular thing to do,” Bryant said of players taking pay cuts. “The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it. It’s absolutely brilliant, but I’m not going for it. I know the new head of the players association [Michele Roberts] ain’t going for it, either.”

Bryant could be making nearly $32.738MM this season if he took the maximum salary in the extension he signed last year, and he said today that he thinks he gave up enough to help the Lakers become a contender again, MacMahon notes. There’s more on the Black Mamba amid the latest from the Western Conference:

  • Bryant dropped another hint in his chat with reporters today that he doesn’t plan on playing past the expiration of his contract in 2016, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link).
  • GM Sam Presti exuded confidence a few weeks ago that the Thunder could survive their time without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but people within the Thunder’s basketball operations department “are on edge more than ever before,” The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry writes.
  • The Wolves haven’t decided whether Kevin Martin needs surgery on his broken right wrist, but it’d likely be the fastest way for him to return to the court, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Zgoda speculates that it would take four to six weeks for him to come back if he goes under the knife, but the Tribune scribe points out that Martin missed more than two months after surgery to his left (non-shooting) wrist in 2009.

Lakers To Work Out Roscoe Smith

November 21 at 12:58pm CST By Chuck Myron

Training camp cut Roscoe Smith is the latest in the procession of players the Lakers are bringing in for tryouts, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). The 23-year-old small forward, who’ll audition for the team today, joins Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas, all of whom have reportedly either worked out for the Lakers in recent days or are scheduled to do so.

Smith signed with the Lakers for training camp on a non-guaranteed one-year deal for the minimum salary after going undrafted out of UNLV, and the team let him go in advance of opening night after he averaged 3.1 points in 14.9 minutes per game during seven preseason contests. The Lakers retained his D-League rights, and he’s put up 18.3 PPG in 35.5 MPG in three games so far for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Lakers must notify the D-League before the workout and ensure that Smith doesn’t miss a D-League game to avoid running afoul of the rules governing NBA teams and their D-League affiliates, notes Gino Pilato of D-League Digest (Twitter link).

The Lakers have won two in a row to improve to 3-9, but their 1-9 start was the worst in franchise history. They possess a Disabled Player Exception worth nearly $1.499 for Julius Randle and may also obtain another such exception worth nearly $5MM for Steve Nash, since both players are out for the season. Still, none of the players to whom the Lakers have been connected of late would appear to merit more than the minimum salary.

Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington, who have partially guaranteed deals, are the only Lakers without fully guaranteed salaries, though Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report recently suggested Xavier Henry is in danger of being cut despite his one-year guaranteed contract for $1.082MM. Ellington had been on leave from the team as he mourned the recent murder of his father, but he returned to the Lakers today, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link).

Rift Developing Between Nets, Andrei Kirilenko?

November 21 at 12:42pm CST By Chuck Myron

12:42pm: No buyout negotiations have taken place between Kirilenko’s camp and the team, sources tell Bontemps, adding that if a trade were to happen, it would likely not take place until after December 15th. Still, it appears “inevitable” that if a trade doesn’t happen, a buyout will, Bontemps writes, even though the Post scribe hears that Kirilenko’s leave of absence from the team isn’t related to his lack of playing time.

12:28pm: The Nets say Andrei Kirilenko won’t be joining them on their three-game road trip, notes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, while a source tells Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that a resolution to the situation likely won’t happen until Kirilenko is on another team (Twitter links). The Nets cited personal reasons for Kirilenko’s absence, and coach Lionel Hollins told reporters today that he doesn’t know if the 33-year-old forward will be return to the team once it gets back from the trip.

Kirilenko has only seen a total of 36 minutes of action across seven of Brooklyn’s 12 games so far this season, a sharply reduced role even from last season’s career-low 19.0 minutes per game. He signed a two-year deal for about $6.5MM in the summer of 2013 that was so far beneath market value that it sparked concern that he and fellow Russian Mikhail Prokorov, the owner of the Nets, had worked out an under-the-table arrangement. An NBA investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing. The deal contained a player option for this season worth more than $3.3MM that Kirilenko chose to exercise to remain with the Nets, but it appears as though his relationship with the team has suffered since he made that decision in June.

The Nets have Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett starting at the forward positions and Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic backing them up. Kirilenko, in his 13th NBA season, has played both small forward and power forward, but it appears as though Hollins prefers to play others. Kirilenko, a client of Marc Fleisher, is eligible to be traded immediately, unlike many players in the league whose teams must wait until at least December 15th. The Rockets are reportedly seeking trades at an unusual time for such activity, and they and the Cavs have apparently been in discussions of late with the Wolves about acquiring Corey Brewer, who like Kirilenko has established a reputation as a strong perimeter defender.

Jeff Taylor Declines To Appeal Suspension

November 21 at 11:57am CST By Eddie Scarito

11:57am: Taylor has decided against appealing the suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).

11:30am: Roberts expected that the suspension would be only for three or four games, adding that a ban of fewer than 10 games would have been appropriate, as she tells Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter links).

FRIDAY, 8:33am: Roberts feels that the league imposed the lengthy suspension in part to make a public show of toughness on domestic violence issues, as she explained in a memo to union members that USA Today’s Sam Amick obtained. The NBA’s motivation stems from the sharp criticism the National Football League has received for what many feel have been lenient punishments for incidents of domestic violence among its players, Roberts believes.

“Despite having agreed to join the Players Association in focusing attention on ‘prevention’ rather than trying to out-muscle the NFL on ‘discipline,’ the NBA elected to prove its toughness by imposing a 24-game suspension on Jeff Taylor,” Roberts wrote in the memo. “Up until yesterday’s announcement, we had been working with the League to undergo a sober review of our current policies and practices to improve the services available to the NBA family in this area. However, I am disappointed that, as reflected in the sanction imposed against Jeff, the League instead chose to bend to the pressure it feels from the current media spotlight and impose punishment well beyond what is contained in the current CBA or in line with existing precedent.”

As Roberts pointed out in her public statement, the NBA’s CBA calls for a minimum 10-game suspension when a player is convicted of a felony involving violence, while Taylor pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor domestic assault and property destruction charges. However, the conviction will not be on his record if he fulfills the terms of his probation.

THURSDAY, 5:00pm: Taylor is conferring with his representatives and is expected to issue a public statement tomorrow regarding his suspension, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).

4:09pm: The NBPA is ready to file an appeal regarding Jeff Taylor‘s 24-game suspension for domestic violence that was handed down by the league yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter links). But NBPA head Michele Roberts was clear that the ultimate decision about any action taken by the union will rest with Taylor, who has not yet made his intentions known, Wojnarowski adds.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweeted Roberts’ full statement on the matter, which read:

“The 24-game suspension imposed by Commissioner Silver against Jeff Taylor is excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA contemplates a minimum 10-game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period.

The 24-game suspension is one of the longest in the history of the league. We have a scheme of discipline that was the result of collective bargaining between the parties that has been applied consistently over the years. While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters. While ultimately this is Jeff’s decision, we stand ready to file an immediate appeal on his behalf.”

If they decide to go ahead with the appeal, the hearing would take place before the league’s grievance arbitrator, and not commissioner Adam Silver, because the punishment is for an off-court matter and stands to cost Taylor more than $50K in lost salary. The 24-game ban would ultimately cost Taylor $199,689 of his $915,243 salary for the 2014/15 season.

This is Roberts’ first big test as head of the NBPA, and it will be an intriguing prism through which to view how the union will operate under her stewardship. It will also be interesting to see if and how this matter will affect how Silver is regarded by the players, who up until now have lauded his actions in regards to the Donald Sterling racism scandal that plagued the league early in his tenure as commissioner, and earned him the nickname, the “players’ commissioner.” It is also very possible that this issue could become a bargaining point in the next CBA negotiations which are more than likely to occur in 2017 when both the players and the owners can elect to opt out of the current agreement.