In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have added a second opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap, or the NBA draft? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:
“It seems more and more like the college game isn’t producing quality NBA ready players like it used to. What do you think the league can do to improve the quality of the young players who turn pro?” — Scott
I don’t know if I would go so far to say that the NCAA isn’t turning out quality players any longer. It’s more the case of it taking longer for these players to be productive at the NBA level nowadays. With the single season trend for the most talented players ever increasing, there seems to be an overall deficiency at instilling the fundamentals of the game in today’s players. One can look at the AAU system as partly being at fault here, but whatever the actual cause is, fewer and fewer rookies are able to make an impact in the league these days from day one.
Raising the minimum draft age for players wouldn’t necessarily correct this issue though. That approach would probably result in more players taking the route that Emmanuel Mudiay did this season and signing overseas. What I believe is the best solution is for the NBA to ramp up its D-League operations significantly and essentially replace the NCAA in the player development process. This plan could take on a number of forms in its implementation.
Teams that draft players who are under the minimum age could then be required to place them in the D-League until they reach the required age. Taking this approach would allow the athletes more freedom to choose their path, as well as give them the ability to earn money sooner. Plus, teams would be directly responsible for developing their young players. This would also allow more time to teach the fundamentals of the game in a more relaxed environment, rather than having to do so at the NBA level during games or in the extremely limited practice time teams have during the season. Or players could simply enter the D-League via a draft with no NBA teams holding their rights, play a season or two until they reach the proper age, then they could simply apply for the NBA draft as they do now. Either way it would likely improve the quality of the rookies who enter the league.
“With all the drama between Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls’ front office…do you see Thibs in Chicago next season?” — Corey
The marriage between the two sides does appear to be quite strained and one of them is likely sleeping on the couch at this point, metaphorically speaking. But I just don’t see the two parties cutting ties just yet. Coach Thibs still has two years remaining on his deal, and I believe he’ll be on the sidelines in Chicago for one of them. I think Thibodeau stays with the Bulls next season and the two sides mutually agree to part ways after that. The only way I believe he’s gone after this season is if he flat out walks away from the team, and things behind the scenes would have to be much worse than rumored for that to happen.
“Do you think the Knicks will deal away their first-round pick? What about if it’s the No. 1 overall selection?“ — Tyler
As a Knicks fan let me say that I hope not! Part of New York’s problem as an organization is that it has eschewed player development to constantly chase big name free agents, as well as having wasted or traded away far too many draft picks. Don’t even get me started on the Andrea Bargnani trade and the franchise not having a first-rounder next season…..
But let me suppress my angst and answer the question. I don’t think the team would risk dealing away a top four pick, which is where the Knicks are all but assured to be selecting. There isn’t likely to be a player of Kevin Love‘s caliber available on the trade market this summer, so there would be little sense for Phil Jackson to trade away the player whom the team selects. Remember, thanks to the Stepien Rule, the Knicks can’t trade the pick, but can choose a player for another team and trade him after the draft is complete.
The only worthwhile deal that I could see coming together would be with the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins if Sacramento decides that he’s not a good fit with coach George Karl. That’s a trade I would absolutely make if I were the Knicks. Cousins can be a handful, but he’s also one of the top big men in the league. However, I seriously doubt this scenario will come to pass. This means Jackson will need to be spot on with how he uses the initial first-rounder of his career as an executive.
“Does the improvement of Jordan Clarkson mean the Lakers won’t look to sign a top-flight point guard this summer?” — Boone
I’m a big fan of Clarkson, and the Lakers surely got a steal in acquiring him last offseason. Having said that, if he’s the Lakers’ starting point guard next season something will have gone awry this summer for Los Angeles. Unless Kobe Bryant decides to retire this offseason, like it or not, the franchise is tied to an aged veteran who will take up $25MM worth of cap space next season. GM Mitch Kupchak will likely do everything under the sun this summer to acquire a star point guard. The team will almost assuredly make a run at Rajon Rondo, and is also likely to throw offer sheets at a number of restricted free agents who happen to man the point. While I think that Clarkson is absolutely a keeper for Los Angeles, the franchise needs to do all that it can to take advantage of Bryant’s remaining time on the court. That means trying to snag a veteran upgrade at the point this offseason.
That’s all the space I have for this week. Thanks for the submissions and please keep them coming. I’ll be back next week with more responses to your inquiries.