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Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag 8/2/15-8/8/15

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:

Where do you see J.R. Smith ending up this season?” — Steve

Smith is quickly running out of options as well as bargaining power. He’s also probably thinking that the $6.4MM he would have earned next season, had he not opted out of his deal, is looking better and better each day that he is unemployed. I don’t see many realistic options open to him besides the Cavs, unless he’s willing to go back to China and play, which could become a real possibility if Smith isn’t willing to swallow his pride and take a significant pay cut. Heading to China would allow Smith to join an NBA club in the Spring, where he could be a real difference-maker for the stretch run of the season. But if I had to lay odds on it, I’d say there’s an 80% chance he’s back in Cleveland for the 2015/16 campaign.

“What does Dante Exum‘s injury do to the Jazz’s chances at making the playoffs this season?” — Zach

Well…it certainly doesn’t help matters, that’s for sure, but if it’s any consolation, Utah wasn’t necessarily going to make the playoffs this season even with a healthy Exum. I’m not discounting the team’s second half surge that helped them post a 13 win improvement over the 2013/14 squad, but it’s a huge leap to go from 38 wins to the 46-48 wins likely needed to nab the eighth seed this season. The West is just too darn tough, and there are a number of solid teams that will also be on the outside looking in come the postseason.

Remember, Alec Burks is coming off of a serious injury, and I also think that Rudy Gobert will regress slightly this season. Plus, runs like the Jazz had after the All-Star break are hard to maintain over the course of a full campaign. Lightning in a bottle is hard to catch twice. Looking at the Western Conference playoff teams from a season ago, Dallas and Portland probably won’t be seeing the postseason in 2015/16, but OKC should certainly take one of those slots, and I’ll go out on a limb and say Sacramento nabs the other playoff berth…even if Exum were healthy.

But this stroke of bad luck could end up benefiting Utah in a way, since the team can now throw Trey Burke back into the fire and see if he is worth hanging onto in the future. I like Burke’s makeup and competitive spirit, but I also don’t think he’s a starting-caliber NBA point guard. This season he’ll get a chance to prove me, and whoever else doubts his abilities, wrong. Either way, Utah appears bound for the lottery come next June, though the franchise is certainly on the upswing, and should begin making noise in the West as soon as 2016/17.

“What’s your take on the Nuggets extending Danilo Gallinari‘s deal?” — Freddie

I have mixed opinions on the matter, and need to keep reminding myself about the salary cap boom that is coming when looking at recent contracts. Gallinari is a solid player, but his injury history isn’t great, and one has to think he’s already at his ceiling as far as his on-court production is concerned. But having said that, Denver isn’t really a free agent destination, so retaining players and assets is extremely important for the franchise. A 2015/16 salary of $14MM isn’t that far out of line, and $15.05MM for next season could look like a bargain once the dust settles from what should be a wild 2016 offseason. If Gallinari can remain healthy, which is a big if, then this wasn’t a bad move by the Nuggets.

What do you think the Pacers’ rotation will look like this season? Where do you see them finishing in the East?” — Sam

Indiana’s rotation for 2015/16 shapes up like this right now:

One thing to note is that the Pacers are going to play small quite a bit of the time, or at least that’s the plan heading into the season. The team seems intent on utilizing George as a power forward quite a bit, which I’m not too keen on. George is an extremely effective three, and putting him at the four will negate many of his defensive strengths. He’ll be OK versus stretch-fours, but if he has to spend significant time in the paint it will be a very long season for George, and the team.

As for their chances this season, I’d be more optimistic if Indiana wasn’t going to experiment with George. But in a weak Eastern Conference, I could see the Pacers potentially sneaking into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed with a sub-.500 record if they remain healthy. But don’t count on it. Fans of the team shouldn’t expect miracles this season since the team has just begun rebuilding. I do love the additions of Turner and Young via the draft, both of whom will take some time to develop, but possess a wealth of potential. Ellis will provide some scoring punch, but he’s more of a stats guy than a “wins” guy from my perspective.

That’s all the space that I have for this week. Thanks for all the submissions, and please keep them coming! I’ll be back next week with more responses.

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