In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have 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:
“Did the Thunder make the right move in firing coach Scott Brooks?” — Ernie.
That’s the question everyone associated with the Thunder is asking themselves currently. If the team makes it back to the NBA Finals then the franchise absolutely did the right thing. If it’s right back to the status quo in OKC, then they simply made a move for the sake of change. Which isn’t the best reason to part ways with a coach who has a career record of 338-207.
Brooks wasn’t a perfect coach by any means, but it’s doubtful that any other coach could have guided the Thunder to the playoffs this season with the brutal rash of injuries the roster suffered. I absolutely give him a pass on the 2014/15 campaign, but GM Sam Presti obviously disagreed with my point of view here. Honestly, Presti deserves as much of the blame for OKC’s issues as Brooks does. Perhaps more when seeing how well James Harden has performed for the Rockets since being dealt away for pennies on the dollar.
But the nature of the league is to place the initial blame for a team’s failure on the coach, which certainly occurred in this instance. Firing Brooks was also about angling to keep Kevin Durant in town when he hits free agency in 2016. It’s also a gambit I don’t believe will work, regardless of next season’s outcome for the Thunder. I firmly believe Durant will bolt OKC at his first opportunity.
To be fair though, seven years is a long time for players to listen to one coach. In a player-driven league like the NBA, there’s only so long that most coaches can remain effective. Coaches like Gregg Popovich are of course the exception, though winning multiple titles certainly helps matters. OKC missed its title window with the current roster, and it’s probably as good a time as any to hit the reset button. The team will likely see an uptick in performance next season as a result. Fresh blood tends to have a positive short-term impact, which should be the case in OKC. But even more important will be keeping the roster healthy. If the team’s stars like Durant and Russell Westbrook can remain on the court for the bulk of the season, the Thunder should be back in the playoffs in 2015/16…regardless of who is calling the plays on the sideline.
“Where do you see Roy Hibbert ending up next season?” — Johnny V.
Despite the Pacers dropping not at all subtle hints that they would really like Hibbert to decline his $15,514,031 player option for 2015/16, I just don’t see that happening. That is a ridiculously player-friendly salary that the big man would be borderline insane to pass up. While height will always be an asset in the league, there is little call for a slow-footed, offensively-challenged big man who is a surprisingly poor rebounder, and inconsistent rim protector. Especially one who makes over $15.5MM a season. This makes Hibbert’s contract virtually untradeable, which means the two parties are likely stuck together for one more season. Indiana would likely have to take back some awful contracts in return in order to move Hibbert, which would be counterproductive. Unless Larry Bird can fleece a team the way Masai Ujiri robbed the Knicks with the Andrea Bargnani trade, Hibbert will more than likely be in a Pacers uniform next season.
If it’s the Rondo we saw this season, and if it would require a max contract to ink him, then absolutely not. The jury is out on whether or not Rondo has fallen that far as a player, or if this season was simply an aberration. Remember, he began the season hurt and then never quite fit in with the young Celtics team he was a part of, and his stint in Dallas was a mild disaster.
Clarkson was a nice find for the Lakers, but also remember that he was putting up numbers on a very bad team. I really like Clarkson as a player, though I do believe he’ll regress a bit next season. He’s definitely a keeper, and should be a big part of the Lakers’ rotation in 2015/16, but I don’t see Los Angeles returning to glory with him as the starting point guard.
The “x-factor” in this situation is the rapidly aging Kobe Bryant, who has one or two seasons left in him at most. This puts added pressure on the franchise to maximize what time the Mamba has remaining. That means an upgrade at the point, and if the rumors hold, then that likely means a Rondo and Kobe pairing. I’m not sure how much Rondo has left in his tank, but watching Bryant and Rondo dealing with Nick Young‘s antics, if he remains in L.A., should make Los Angeles sports writers salivate at the potential drama that could result.
“If the Wolves nab the No. 1 overall pick, who should they select? Do they consider trading the pick in that instance?” — Salvatore
I think the Wolves need to go big with their selection this year, regardless of where they are picking. The team has a number of exciting players in the backcourt and at small forward, and center Nikola Pekovic is no lock to recover from his Achilles injury for next season, if at all. If Minnesota nabs the No. 1 overall pick, I would take Karl-Anthony Towns with it in a heartbeat. While Jahlil Okafor is also an intriguing option, the thought of adding Towns’ athleticism to their already potent mix is an exciting prospect. The Wolves would be amazing to watch in transition with the likes of Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Towns running the break. I think the Kentucky big man would be the absolute perfect fit in Minnesota.
As for dealing the pick, I don’t see the logic in it for this franchise. The team would be better served to develop a young core who will grow together, and hopefully reach their potential together as well. While dealing the pick could net Minnesota a few extra draft selections, they shouldn’t pass up a potential superstar just to add more depth and likely role-players. Trading for an established star could seem appealing, but unless it’s a player like DeMarcus Cousins, it would be counter productive to what Flip Saunders has been constructing. I say keep the pick and nab a potential young superstar.
That’s all the space that I have for this week. Thanks for all the questions and keep them coming! I’ll be back next week with another round of answers.