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:
“What changed LaMarcus Aldridge‘s mind about potentially playing in San Antonio, and is Dallas the favorite to land him?” — Kyle
The first thing to keep in mind is that Aldridge has never come out an expressly indicated that he wanted to play for a Texas team, which obviously includes San Antonio. So it’s possible that nothing at all has actually changed. But if Aldridge has actually soured on the idea of signing with the Spurs, it likely revolves around the statuses of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. If the two are intending to play for another season it would make it extremely difficult for the Spurs to offer a max contract to Aldridge, which would almost certainly be a deal breaker. And if the duo were to retire, then San Antonio enters a rebuilding phase, regardless of whether or not Kawhi Leonard is re-signed. I don’t think Aldridge is too keen at this point in his career to struggle to make the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference.
The Mavs also have their drawbacks, and quite a bit of the roster is unsettled heading into the 2015/16 campaign. So it’s difficult to label them the favorites, but if Aldridge is determined to return to Texas on his next deal, I’d still give them the edge. Aldridge won’t be trying to replace a legend like Duncan, and the Mavs have a bit more flexibility this summer to revamp their roster than San Antonio does.
“With the Clippers looking to buy their way into the first round of the NBA draft, who should they look to select?” — Richard
The Clippers have a number of needs, and the most pressing is a starting small forward. It’s doubtful that Los Angeles would be able to find such a player at the end of the first round, which is likely where the team would be able to land a pick. If by some miracle a player like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fell that far, then that would make things easy. But that’s almost assuredly not going to occur. Virginia’s Justin Anderson would also be a prime target, but I’m not so sure the Clippers can acquire a pick high enough to land him.
The team also badly needs to add some depth in the middle even if DeAndre Jordan is re-signed. If he departs, and I do think that he will, then the Clippers will need to land a big in the worst way. The team could take a chance on Robert Upshaw, who has a myriad of red flags, but mid-first round talent. If not Upshaw, then perhaps Dakari Johnson, Christian Wood, or Jordan Mickey could fit the bill at the tail end of the first round, or early in the second.
“Would trading down in the draft really be the best move for the Knicks?” — Scottie
That depends on the circumstances and how far down the team were to slide in the first round to make a deal. If the team isn’t in love with any of its options with the No. 4 overall pick, and Phil Jackson were able to score a decent return, then it’s something to consider. New York has a myriad of holes that need to be filled, so I can understand the temptation to turn one pick into a few.
But the NBA isn’t like the NFL, and finding value late in the first round or anywhere in the second round is no easy task. If the team could remain in the top eight this year and score a 2016 first-rounder, that might be worth rolling the dice on. But the Knicks need building blocks, not role-players. Trading away a potential star player for a number of lesser pieces won’t excite the fanbase, nor will it turn around the team’s fortunes in any meaningful way. So I say keep the pick and try to strike gold. Praying one of the teams picking ahead of the Knicks passes on Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, or D’Angelo Russell so one slips to No. 4 wouldn’t hurt matters either.
“Which new coach will have the greatest amount of success next season?” — Andrew
There are different measures of success. But if you are referring simply to winning percentage and playoff success, then I would have to go with Billy Donovan and the Thunder. Any team with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka on its roster has a better than average chance of making the playoffs. Health permitting of course. But if Durant can stay on the court next season, then I fully expect OKC to make the playoffs and have the potential to make some noise once it gets there.
Fred Hoiberg should also do well in Chicago with the Bulls, but that is an aging roster that will always play under the looming shadow of an injury ready to strike. The Bulls probably blew their best shot to make it to the NBA Finals this season, which is one of the reasons that Tom Thibodeau got his walking papers. I don’t see the team making huge strides next season, though revamping the offense should make the Bulls more entertaining to watch.
The remainder of the new head coaches enter rebuilding situations, and I don’t think the coaching changes will markedly turn things around for any of those franchises in 2015/16. However, I am excited to see what Alvin Gentry‘s faster paced offense will do for the Pelicans. But that team is still a few players away from being able to contend in the West.
That’s all the space that I have for this week’s column. Thanks for continuing to fill up my inbox with inquiries, and I’ll be back next week with more responses.