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:
“Now that the Mavs have a glut of centers, which player gets the axe before the start of the season?” — Orien
Well, let me first point out that while Dallas currently has five players who can play the pivot, none of them should especially excite fans of the team. Zaza Pachulia is the likely starter, and while he’s serviceable enough, he’s not exactly going to be an All-Star next season. Samuel Dalembert should have the inside track on being the backup, which is in line with his production level. As for the rest of Dallas’ options at the five, the most intriguing is JaVale McGee, who possesses the highest upside of the lot. That’s not to say McGee will make anyone forget Tyson Chandler, but he’s certainly capable of being the x-factor at center next season for the Mavs…if he’s healthy AND makes the opening night roster. I don’t see Salah Mejri or Jarrid Famous making much of an impact in 2015/16, although perhaps the Texas Legends may benefit from one or both of them in the D-League this coming season. The Mavs’ best hope may be to try and mine some gold when training camp cuts begin, or to hope they can luck out with a D-League player once the season is underway like the Heat did with Hassan Whiteside.
“Is Ricky Rubio on borrowed time in Minnesota, and if so, where might he end up?” — Victor
I don’t know if I’d classify Rubio as being on borrowed time, though I’m sure that Minnesota would listen intently to any reasonable trade offer it received for the 24-year-old. After four NBA seasons, three of which were cut short due to injuries, it’s still difficult to nail down just what kind of player Rubio is, and can be. The Wolves are a team on the rise, and are packed with exciting young talent — including Rubio, though I don’t necessarily think he’s a good fit for their roster as it is currently constituted. Minnesota is badly in need of players who can stretch the floor, something that Rubio, who owns a career slash line of .367/.314/.801, has not demonstrated the capability of doing.
Rubio’s contract will also make him difficult to deal this season, with him set to earn $12.7MM. While the team could probably find a taker, the likely return at this point in the offseason wouldn’t be much to write home about. At the very least, the Wolves would most likely have to take back at least one less than desirable contract to get a deal done. I believe that the franchise would be best served to see what kind of season Rubio can put together, if he can finally remain healthy, and how well he meshes with the team’s core of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns. If Rubio is in fact dealt, I could see him ending up on the Knicks, though they would need to get very creative to fit in his deal with their current cap situation. With New York not being able to make a big splash in free agency, landing Rubio, who would be an upgrade for the Knicks at point guard, may end up being something that both sides explore. But if I had to guess, I’d say there’s a 95% chance that Rubio is on Minnesota’s roster to begin the season, with him being a potential trade deadline move for the Wolves.
“Will the Pistons deal Brandon Jennings before the season begins?” — Charlie
It’s a pretty good bet that Stan Van Gundy would love to remove Jennings’ salary of $8,344,497 from Detroit’s cap figure prior to October, but it’s highly unlikely that he will be able to. With the point guard recovering from Achilles surgery, and potentially out of action until December, I seriously doubt that there would be too many takers at this point. The Sixers are always a possibility to take on expiring contracts like Jennings’ in exchange for drat picks, and they are in need of a stopgap at the one spot, but it’s still highly improbable. The most likely scenario is that Detroit hangs onto Jennings and hopes that he shows enough prior to the trade deadline that the Pistons can extract some value from a player who they are unlikely to re-sign next Summer.
“As a Knicks fan (which you have admitted to being), what is your take on their offseason? What is your prediction for the team’s record this coming season?” — Luis
Yes, it’s true…my name is Eddie, and I’m a New York Knicks fan. Now that my terrible secret is out, on to your question. New York’s offseason, which began with dreams of landing LaMarcus Aldridge and/or DeAndre Jordan, instead brought Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, and Kyle O’Quinn to the Big Apple. Not a great haul on first blush, though I think the additions of Afflalo, Lopez, and O’Quinn were solid ones. Williams…not so much. He isn’t a good fit for the triangle, not a great rebounder, and I’m not sure how well he’ll mesh with Melo when/if they play alongside one another. Adding backcourt depth and another big should have been a bigger priority than inking Williams.
I think it’s time for both the team and its fans to realize that there is no quick fix coming. Kevin Durant isn’t signing with New York next Summer, nor is LeBron James. This will be a much more drawn out process than simply loading up on star-level talent during the Summer. It’s also a process that Phil Jackson won’t be around for the end of, regardless of if he finishes out his five-year contract or not. Which for the record, I’d say he won’t. But the addition of Afflalo will be a huge boon for Melo, and Lopez, provided he can remain healthy, will certainly improve the team’s rebounding numbers. I’m also a huge fan of adding O’Quinn, who could really have a breakout season for the team, provided he gets the necessary minutes.
I discussed my feeling regarding the addition of Kristaps Porzingis in last week’s mailbag. But in case you missed that, I’ve grown to be a fan of the pick, though he’s realistically two seasons away from blossoming into a steady contributor. Hopefully the team, and its fans, will have the patience to let the kid develop on the fly. But the best addition that Jackson made on draft night was acquiring Jerian Grant. Regardless of Anthony’s feelings on the matter, flipping Tim Hardaway Jr. for Grant was a fantastic move, as Grant is a much better fit for the team’s system, and he plays point guard, a position of need for the Knicks.
As for my season prediction for New York, I’ll definitely say they’ll be a better squad than the D-League caliber bunch that finished out the season. Reaching the playoffs in the East is definitely within reach, but advancing past the first round is likely a pipe dream. Look for the Knicks to win between 30-38 games in 2015/16, and possibly snag the eighth playoff spot. Expecting anything more will lead to heartbreak. Something Knicks fans know all too well…
Well, that’s all the space I have for this week. Thanks again to all who sent in their inquiries, and please keep them coming! I’ll be back next week with more responses.