Former Hawk and current director of player personnel and GM for the Kings D-League affiliate Shareef Abdur-Rahim penned an open letter to Yahoo! Sports regarding the Hawks scandal. Abdur-Rahim recalls his time with Atlanta as a player as having little fan support, pointing out that African-American cheerleaders and fans weren’t the cause for a struggling franchise then, and aren’t now. “I personally interacted with both Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry on multiple occasions; my experiences with both have always been pleasant,” said Abdur-Rahim. “However, their comments represent a lack of respect and sensitivity for individuals with different experiences and backgrounds than themselves. I pray both individuals learn from this situation and work to regain the trust of the great people of Atlanta.”
Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds it suspicious that the leaked scouting report on Luol Deng was released after the audio of the conference call was leaked, although he stops short of asserting it was doctored. Schultz thinks the purity of the report is ultimately beside the point, considering Ferry’s failure to filter the offensive comments before reading them in any case. The Journal-Constitution scribe is disappointed in the shifts in the story from team brass, and believes the damage control attempted by Atlanta will ultimately prove to be more harmful than a more transparent approach would have been.
Tobias Harris tells Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to reach an agreement with the Magic on a rookie scale extension, but isn’t sure if a deal will be struck this fall. “Obviously, I want to be here,” said Harris. “I love the fans, the city of Orlando and the guys. Management knows I want to be here. It’s the perfect situation for me…I don’t know. That’s up to [Orlando].”
A group of Basketball Insiders writers previewed the upcoming season for the Magic, Celtics, and Knicks.
FRIDAY, 8:36pm:Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic adds the Cavs to the list of teams interested in Dragic, and reports that Dragic’s current salary is approximately $1.4MM. It would take upwards of $2MM in annual salary to pry the younger Dragic guard from his current club in Coro’s estimation, considering the earnings and covered living expenses provided by his current team. The Arizona Republic scribe pegs Dragic’s NBA escape clause at $1.1MM, which lines up with an earlier report that the buyout exceeds $971K.
WEDNESDAY, 7:49am: The Suns, Pacers and Kings are the teams most aggressively going after Dragic, Stein tweets, expanding on his report about Phoenix’s heavy pursuit from a few days ago. Talks are expected to intensity now that Dragic’s World Cup obligations are over, Stein adds (Twitterlinks). Phoenix, Indiana and Sacramento all have the capacity to exceed the minimum salary.
TUESDAY, 4:51pm: The Heat, Magic, Spurs and Mavs are maintaining dialogues with Spanish-league shooting guard Zoran Dragic, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote earlier this week that the Suns were one of the three teams with the most interest in signing the 25-year-old, but it’s not clear if they remain in the running. The Pacers, too, have appeared to be in pursuit of Dragic of late, while the Rockets were reportedly the leading contender for him in May.
Several NBA teams scouted Dragic in the World Cup the past couple of weeks, Charania writes, a run that ended when his Slovenian team lost this afternoon to Team USA. New teams are inquiring about him with each passing day, the RealGM scribe adds. Dragic is the younger brother of Goran Dragic, who appears poised to opt out his deal next summer and hit free agency, and teams are already lining up to try to poach Goran from the Suns.
Zoran Dragic averaged 10.6 points in 20.3 minutes per game for Unicaja Malaga this past season but he reportedly possesses a strong desire to come to the NBA. He’d have to sign with an NBA team by Oct. 5th, according to Charania, and cover a buyout greater than the equivalent of $971K to break free from Unicaja Malaga this year, as Stein wrote in his report this week. That would appear to give the Spurs and Magic an edge on the Heat and Mavs, since Miami and Dallas can’t exceed the minimum salary and thus can’t give him more than the Excluded International Player Payment Amount of $600K toward his buyout.
There’s a chance that one day the 2012 trade that sent Dwight Howard out of Orlando will be remembered equally as well for having brought another All-Star center to the Magic. Nikola Vucevic blossomed when coach Jacque Vaughn gave him a starting role and 33.2 minutes a night in 2012/13, the Swiss native’s first in Orlando after he spent his rookie season mostly on the bench in Philadelphia. He was a terror on the boards, averaging 11.9 per game, almost as many as Howard, who led the league that season. Vucevic averaged 13.1 points a night and ran up a 17.8 PER, and it seemed like the Magic had snagged a star in the making at the same time they parted with the franchise’s preeminent 21st century figure.
This past season tempered that sort of optimism as Vucevic’s numbers plateaued and the Magic slogged through another sub-25-win year. His scoring average was up to 14.2 PPG in slightly fewer minutes each night, but his shooting percentage was lower. His rebounding dropped to 11.0 RPG, a declined backed up by dips in his per-minute rebounding numbers and his total rebound percentage. The Magic gave up just as many points per possession when Vucevic was on the floor compared to when he sat in 2012/13, according to NBA.com, but the Magic were more porous when Vucevic played than when he sat last season. There were subtle signs of improvement last season, like his 18.8 PER, a point higher than the season before, but his steps backward in other categories seemed to cancel out those gains, at best. Vucevic turns 24 next month, and it’s worth wondering if he’s simply not going to get much better.
A report as early as January identified mutual interest between the Magic and Vucevic in a long-term future together, and a dispatch from earlier this summer indicated that talks would pick up sometime around Labor Day. We’ve come to that point on the calendar, and both sides must reckon with the trick that is determining whether the improvement between his first and second seasons is more indicative of the player he’ll become than what took place between years two and three.
Vucevic and his representatives at BDA Sports Management have the allure of size in their corner, even though Vucevic is somewhat short for a center at 6’10″. That helps explain why he’s never averaged more than a block per game and hasn’t shown signs of developing into a plus defender, never mind the elite stopper that Howard was during his time in Orlando. Still, defense is a strong suit of rookie power forward Aaron Gordon, and that fact surely wasn’t lost on Magic GM Rob Hennigan when he drafted Gordon at No. 4 in June and decided to address his team’s frontcourt before he did so with the backcourt. The chance to have both inside positions covered with promising young players for the foreseeable future is the dream of just about every GM, and it’s up to Hennigan to figure out just how promising Vucevic really is.
The Pistons have faced a similar dilemma over the past year with Greg Monroe, who has a track record of greater production than Vucevic has. Detroit has Andre Drummond to go with Monroe on the interior, but the team complicated that dynamic when it signed Josh Smith for four years and $54MM last summer. Still, the Pistons never seemed willing to meet Monroe’s demand for a max salary, and now he’s poised to slip away in unrestricted free agency next summer after signing his qualifying offer. There’s been no suggestion that Vucevic will similarly hold out for the max, but with the agent for Ricky Rubio having asked for it and the Warriors having budgeted for such a deal with Klay Thompson, it wouldn’t be shocking if Vucevic wants to test his worth on the market.
The Magic have more cap flexibility for the years ahead than the Pistons do, but Orlando also brought in a veteran on a fairly lucrative contract who plays Vucevic’s position, just as Detroit did with Monroe and Smith. Yet there are few other similarities between Smith, whose faulty three-point shooting makes him a focal point for criticism, and Channing Frye, a career 38.5% marksman from behind the arc. Frye is also on a four-year, $32MM deal that’s almost half as expensive as Smith’s, and Frye’s contract is frontloaded, making it less of a burden as years go by.
Still, the Magic must be careful when they hand out extensions, since Vucevic is one of eight Orlando players on rookie scale contracts. They’ll have to be especially judicious when it comes to handing out a five-year extension, which would trigger the Designated Player rule and keep the team from giving out an extension of that length to any of its other guys on rookie scale contracts. It’s unlikely that the Magic will be able to retain every one of those former first-round picks long-term, so tough choices loom.
I suspect that Orlando will pass on an extension for Tobias Harris this year, as I explained earlier. Conversely, I predicted that the Magic would go for a four-year, $48MM extension with Vucevic, similar to what the Jazz and Derrick Favors settled on last fall. There were more unknowns with Favors, who had yet to assume a full-time starting role when he signed that extension, but Utah was in a similar position, with plenty of young players poised to come up for new deals in the years ahead. If either side were to balk at such an arrangement, it would be Vucevic, who might be unwilling to tether himself to a contract that would have the potential to become a bargain even before it took effect if his game takes a leap this year. It’s tough to argue that a player who’s not a prolific scorer or a stout defender is worth more than $12MM a year, but it seems reasonable to think that Vucevic’s decision will come down to whether he’s willing to gamble that he can add at least one of those distinctions to his résumé in the near future.
The Wizards haven’t won a division since the 1978/79 season, but there’s a strong chance they’ll finish first in the Southeast this coming season. The Heat and Hornets are contenders, too, and the Hawks aren’t out of the question, either. It’s indicative of the parity in the Eastern Conference outside of the two Central Division heavies in Chicago and Cleveland. While we wait to see if Washington can finally break through, here are a few items of note from around the Southeast:
Michael Beasley definitely won’t return to the Heat for this coming season, agent Jared Karnes tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The team’s coaches didn’t fully trust Beasley, Jackson writes, who hears that concern about Beasley’s defense and maturity dissuaded Miami from re-signing him, even though the 25-year-old showed more maturity last season than in the past.
The Magic hired Jay Hernandez as an assistant coach for player development, the team announced. It’s the first NBA gig for Hernandez, who had been running a basketball training service in New York after playing professionally overseas. He replaces assistant Luke Stuckey, who’s taking an assistant coaching job at Cameron University in Oklahoma, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel (Twitterlinks).
The summer is the season of optimism for NBA fans, with draft picks and signings set to fit perfectly and improve teams all over the league–hypothetically. Once the season begins, however, the goodwill can dry up fast. Last year, blockbuster acquisitions in Detroit and Brooklyn had set expectations high for newly hired coaches Maurice Cheeks and Jason Kidd, but both teams struggled out of the gate, placing both coaches on the hot seat. Kidd survived the season and guided the Nets to the playoffs, but the root of conflict survived as well, and Kidd bolted for Milwaukee in a bizarre power struggle. Cheeks was fired in-season, and remains without a coaching job.
Mike Woodson faced constant speculation about his own job, and lasted through the season only to be let go by incoming team president Phil Jackson. Larry Drew bore the brunt of the Kidd move, and Tyrone Corbin was let go by the Jazz, despite his baby-faced roster performing about as well as expected. Mark Jackson led the Warriors to improvement for a second consecutive season, but pushing the Clippers to a Game 7 in the opening round of the playoffs wasn’t enough to salvage his position in Golden State after some turbulence between Jackson, the rest of the coaching staff, and the front office.
In the NBA, very few jobs are ever truly “safe,” unless your last name is Popovich. Let’s look at some of the coaches who could encounter early traces of job insecurity.
1. Winning Enough? Scott Brooks, Kevin McHale, and Frank Vogel. In parts of 13 seasons combined with their current teams, these coaches have only two losing seasons between them. Brooks receives plenty of flack for his in-game strategy and roster management, despite having coached a young Thunder team to a surprise appearance in the 2012 Finals, and regularly orchestrating dominant regular season performances that have been undercut by postseason injuries to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. After Oklahoma City’s disappointing series loss to the eventual champions in 2013/14, GM Sam Prestivoiced his support for the coach moving forward.
Vogel built a defensive juggernaut that gave the Heat one of its stiffest annual challenges in the playoffs, but Indiana struggled mightily for much of the second half of last season, and the team will suffer this year from the losses of Lance Stephenson and Paul George. The Pacers squelched rumors that the coach could be let go after the team lost in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive year, but Vogel will be coaching on an expiring contract unless the team grants him an extension in the coming months.
McHale has failed to take the Rockets beyond the first round in his tenure, and expectations are that the team is due to build on its success around James Harden and Dwight Howard. The front office in Houston didn’t do McHale any favors this offseason, allowing mainstays Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik to depart while striking out on free agent Chris Bosh.
2. First-Year Coaches: David Blatt, Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, and Quin Snyder. Blatt was signed to coach a team that failed to reach the playoffs last season, but Cleveland has since become a championship contender with the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love. It’s rare for a first-time head coach to cut his teeth with such enormous expectations. Kerr takes over for a team that envisions a higher ceiling than they had attained with Jackson. Kerr’s involvement in the decision to withhold Klay Thompson from a potential Love trade could come back to haunt him, especially if the star power forward thrives in Cleveland while the shooting guard’s game doesn’t take off under Kerr’s tutelage.
Fisher and Snyder figure to operate with more patient front offices and fan bases, as both were hired to develop players within their systems with an eye toward the future. Of course, “low-pressure” isn’t typical of any coaching job in the New York market, and Fisher has insisted that his team should make the playoffs this season.
3. The Clock Is Ticking: Jacque Vaughn and Brian Shaw.Vaughn has been at the helm for a rebuilding Magic team the last two years, racking up an understandably poor .262 winning percentage. While Orlando is still far from contending, the team has shored up the rotation with veteran additions and has a number of young players on schedule to provide a bigger impact. A season spent at the very bottom of league standings might be unacceptable to Magic brass, especially if the young pieces fail to pop. Shaw took the reigns for one of the Western Conference’s best teams in 2012/13, but injuries and the departure of Andre Iguodala prevented them from reaching the postseason altogether this spring. The West should be no less fierce this season, but the Nuggets have high hopes that Shaw will be working to meet in just his second year on the sidelines.
4. Anything Can Happen: Jason Kidd and Dave Joerger. Both coaches are entering their sophomore seasons as NBA head coaches after having reached the playoffs on the first try. Aside from their teams’ performances, there are strange off-the-court similarities between the two. Kidd exited Brooklyn in the aforementioned stunner, and Joerger appeared destined to leave Memphis amid a series of puzzling revelations about his relationship with Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, before the two eventually hashed out their differences and agreed on a contract extension. Both would appear to have a long leash for the coming season, but the combustible personalities in play have undermined peaceful coaching situations before.
Who do you think will find himself on rocky footing soonest in 2014/15? As we have routinely seen, ongoing success is no guarantee that a coach is in the clear. If you think I’ve failed to mention the most likely name, vote “Other” and leave your choice in the comments.
No player among those I listed as long shots to receive rookie scale extensions by the October 31st deadline gave me pause as much as Tobias Harrisdid. He’s one of a coterie of up-and-comers on the Magic roster who flashed star potential in the months after Orlando acquired him in the J.J. Redick trade at the 2013 deadline. The combo forward became the focal point of the Magic’s offense down the stretch that season, attempting 14.7 shots per game, more than anyone else on that team took.
This past season, Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic put up more shots each night than Harris did, and rookie Victor Oladipo took just as many. Harris was just a part-time starter, and entering this season, he figures to compete for playing time long-term against Maurice Harkless at small forward and No. 4 overall pick Aaron Gordon at power forward. That casts serious doubt on whether the Magic intend to commit themselves to Harris for years to come if the Henry Thomas client doesn’t make it worth their while with a significant financial sacrifice.
Harris wasn’t quite as efficient in 2013/14 as he was during his 27-game stint with the Magic the previous season after coming over via trade, with his PER dipping from 17.0 to 16.5. That’s not much of a drop, of course, and it seems reasonable to suspect that’s simply a regression to the mean that took place as a result of a larger sample size.
If there was any reason to suspect that Harris was less efficient this past season, it would probably have to do with his shot selection. He took fewer shots from inside 10 feet and more long two-pointers, according to his Basketball-Reference page. More than one out of every five of his field goal attempts came from between the three-point line and 16 feet from the basket, a virtual no man’s land given the degree of difficulty and lack of reward. Perhaps Harris chose those shots because he lacked confidence in his three-point stroke. He made just 25.4% of his three-point attempts last season, a rate lower than in either of his first two NBA seasons, but he made 40.9% of his long twos. His effective field goal percentage from his first half-season with the Magic was virtually identical to his mark from last season, so his shots were just as productive as they had been, even if there seems to be room for improvement.
Shooters often get better over time, and Harris is still quite young, having entered the draft the first year he was eligible to do so. He’s already a proficient rebounder, as this past season he was 14th in the league in rebounding rate among players his height (6’8″) or shorter who averaged 10 or more minutes per game. There’s reason to be concerned about his defense, as the Magic gave up more points per possession when he was on the floor than when he was off last season, according to NBA.com, and his 6’11″ wingspan isn’t altogether remarkable, particularly if he plays power forward. His wide body suggests he’ll have increasing trouble keeping up with opposing small forwards as he ages. Still, technique and system have much to do with defensive performance, and few young players are quick to establish themselves as strong defenders in the NBA. He averaged only 11.5 minutes per game over 70 appearances in his first season and a half with Milwaukee prior to the trade, so this past year was his first full season as a rotation mainstay for an NBA team.
Harris is part of a rebuilding effort in Orlando, but GM Rob Hennigan isn’t mimicking Sixers GM Sam Hinkie‘s bare bones approach. Hennigan is unloading veterans, as he did with Afflalo, but he’s also signing them, as he did with Channing Frye, Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour this summer. The two-year, $9MM Gordon deal was a head-scratcher, but it’s only guaranteed for the first season. The same is true of the two-year, $5.5MM contract the Magic gave Ridnour. Frye is the only long-term investment, at a fully guaranteed four years and $32MM, and he most directly affects Harris. The 31-year-old Frye figures to take up some minutes at power forward when he’s not playing center, and he occupies space on the team’s ledger for the years ahead, when more of the Magic’s crop of promising young players will be up for their next deals.
Frye’s contract is frontloaded, and Orlando only has about $15MM in commitments for 2015/16, the first year an extension for Harris would kick in. Still, that figure doesn’t count a slam-dunk team option for Oladipo that’s worth more than $5MM. Rookie scale team options for Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Evan Fournier total more than $7.5MM, so the Magic will reasonably be looking at about $27.5MM in commitments for 2015/16, and that’s without an extension for Vucevic. I predicted that Vucevic would come away with four years and $48MM, so another $12MM for 2015/16 would bring Orlando to roughly $39.5MM, $27MM beneath the projected salary cap. That’d still give the team the chance to open plenty of cap room next summer, but an eight-figure salary for Harris would challenge the Magic’s ability to afford maximum-salary free agents not only in 2015, but in years ahead, when the rookie deals of Harkless, Fournier, and Oladipo will come to term.
NBA executives covet flexibility these days, and signing both Vucevic and Harris to lucrative long-term extensions would impinge upon the maneuvers the Magic could make in free agency as well as the trade market, since both would be subject to the Poison Pill Provision this year. It seems more likely that Hennigan would choose to secure Vucevic rather than Harris, given the scarcity of quality inside players like Vucevic around the league and the multitude of options the Magic have at the positions Harris plays. The Magic would still retain the ability to match offers for Harris in restricted free agency next summer if they pass on an extension. Even though this year’s restricted free agency has been difficult to predict, there’s no reason for Orlando to bet against itself for a player who still has much to prove.
Jabari Parker knows the history of second-overall pick busts in the NBA, and is determined not to be the next, writes Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports.com. The Bucks rookie said, “There’s been a lot of second pick busts. I’m just trying not to be that bust. Everyday that I step on the court, I just remind myself that I have a long ways to go. If I want to be one of those guys in the first tier of the NBA, like a LeBron [James], like a Kobe [Bryant] , like a [Blake Griffin], then I have to have that mentality starting off from the ground, and work my way up.”
Here’s more from around the league:
The Cavs are optimistic about their chances to sign Ray Allen prior to the start of training camp, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
With the NBA reportedly considering a change in the lottery system, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel explains why such a move would be an overreaction from Adam Silver and company.
The Heat’s win total this season could be affected if any changes are made to the NBA Draft lottery system, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. If there is less of a reason for franchises to tank, then Miami couldn’t necessarily count on padding their record against the Sixers, Magic, and Bucks, opines Winderman.
The selection of Michele Roberts as NBPA head was a historic one, with Roberts becoming the first female to lead a professional sports union. In an interview with Andrew Keh of The New York Times, Roberts said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the NBA; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; and she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men. To this, Roberts said, “My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”
Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns will be a strong possibility to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft, writes Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. DraftExpress currently has Towns ranked fourth behind Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Emmanuel Mudiay.
While many teams were spurned by their players for greener pastures despite their best efforts this offseason (the Heat by LeBron James, the Lakers by Pau Gasol, the Nets by Shaun Livingston) some teams decided not to up the ante when they could have, allowing key contributors to sign elsewhere. We’ll run down a few of the latter, and explore whether these teams will regret their decision:
Lance Stephenson – from Indiana to Charlotte.Had Paul George‘s injury occurred before free agency, the Pacers might have been more willing to meet Stephenson’s demands. Instead, they let arguably their most versatile offensive piece walk, refusing to improve their five-year, $44MM offer before the combo guard signed with the Hornets for three years and $27.4MM. Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles are the incoming guards Indiana hopes can lessen the combined loss of Stephenson and now George. The Pacers also seeking Shawn Marion‘s services, but aren’t expected to win out over the Cavs in that pursuit.
Chandler Parsons – from Houston to Dallas. The Rockets declined an option to retain Parsons for another season on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league. The team decided to take their chances with the forward’s restricted free agency this summer rather than letting him hit unrestricted free agency next offseason, but ultimately decided against matching the Mavs’ three-year, $46.1MM offer sheet. The Rockets let Parsons go in part because they had already locked up Ariza, who is next on the list.
Trevor Ariza – from Washington to Houston. Ariza bolted from the Wizards after turning in a career year for a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Wizards were unwilling to increase their offer, which equaled Houston’s four-year, $32MM arrangement, but practically amounted to $3MM less due to differences in state taxes. Washington quickly signed Paul Pierce in the wake of Ariza’s departure, and received an exception by signing-and-trading Ariza that was partially spent on Kris Humphries.
Channing Frye – from Phoenix to Orlando. In a surprise signing, the Magic snatched the sharp-shooting Frye away from the Suns, who wanted to bring him back to their surprise-playoff roster. Frye is one of a few bigs that stretch the floor at an elite level, and the team signed another shooter in Anthony Tolliver to make up for Frye’s loss. Orlando’s deal with the 31-year-old was for four years and $32MM.
Isaiah Thomas – from Sacramento to Phoenix. The Kings didn’t see the scoring machine of a point guard in their future, signing Darren Collison while Thomas was still a restricted free agent. Thomas was one of only five players to average 20 PPG and 6 APG last season. Sacramento hasn’t recouped much scoring punch in free agency, but did acquire a $7.2MM trade exception, as well as the rights to Alex Oriakhi, by executing a sign-and-trade sending Thomas to Phoenix.
As with any transaction, these front offices weighed the immediate future against their long-term plans, and tried to make the wisest choice. It might be painful to lose some of these players in year one, but fans might breathe a sigh of relief if the same players are underperforming for their new teams in the future. Then again, a player could blossom into an even stronger producer, compounding any misgivings about the teams’ non-action. What do you think?
The Pistons are in advanced talks with Otis Smith to coach their NBA D-League team, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Smith was the GM of the Magic during Stan Van Gundy‘s coaching tenure with Orlando, and had stepped down from his position in May of 2012, on the same day Van Gundy was fired as head coach of the team, notes Stein. This continues Van Gundy’s trend of hiring his former associates and players. Tim Hardaway was already brought in as an assistant coach, and Quentin Richardson was hired as director of player development.
Here’s more from around the league:
Chaz Williams has signed with Oline Edirne Basketball of the Turkish League, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 5’9″ point guard went undrafted this year out of Massachusetts, after averaging 15.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 6.9 APG as a senior. Williams had worked out most recently for the Wizards, with hopes of securing a training camp invite from the team.
During an interview with Zip FM radio, Donatas Motiejunas was asked where he’d like to play if he were to leave the Rockets, and his preference was the Lakers, the Basketball Insiders article notes (hat tip to Talkbasket.net). Motiejunas said, “Most likely in Los Angeles because there are no serious bigs and I would likely get chances to play. I mean the Lakers, not the Clippers.“
Former Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross has signed with Consultinvest Pesaro of the Italian League, the team reported via their Facebook page (translation by Carchia). Ross went undrafted after averaging 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds as a junior. Ross had been projected as a possible second-round draft pick this year, but showed up 15 lbs. overweight to the scouting combine, and didn’t perform especially well. He played for the Lakers in the NBA Summer League, but only appeared in three games, and totaled just nine points, six rebounds and four turnovers in 31 minutes.
We are well acclimated to claims of “rebuilding” being met with charges of “tanking” when teams aggressively clear veteran salary and acquire assets while plummeting to the bottom of the standings. However you view teams that go into win-later mode, the reality is that many franchises are convinced that the method is the best bet to build a long-term winner.
I’ve summarized the moves for each team that won 25 games or fewer last season. This excludes the Lakers and Kings, teams in the Western Conference with recent records and expectations that typify a rebuild, but front offices using the free agent and trade markets to gain older, more expensive talent in ways that defy a standard rebuild.
Orlando: The Magic began the offseason by trading away their best veteran piece in Arron Afflalo, the kind of move typical for a team doubling down on rebuilding efforts. However, they have since added veteran free agents Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, and Luke Ridnour, all of whom could be more productive as starters then their younger positional counterparts in Orlando. The Magic also added lottery picks in point guard Elfrid Payton and power forward Aaron Gordon to their young core of Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris. Orlando owns all of its future first-round draft picks, and is owed many second rounders in the next few years. Head coach Jacque Vaughn is the longest tenured among these teams, entering just his third season on the bench.
Milwaukee:The new Bucks owners are resigned to a rebuild that will take years to complete, but the team didn’t arrive in this position by design. Milwaukee followed up a playoff berth in 2013 with moves meant to maintain competitiveness, but injuries and poor performance sunk them last season. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo, selected outside of the lottery by the Bucks last year, has proven to be a talent more in line with the top tier of the draft. They added phenom Jabari Parker with this year’s No. 2 pick, as well as head coach Jason Kidd after his unceremonious departure from Brooklyn. The first year of Larry Sanders‘ four-year, $44MM contract kicks in this season, and the team is also locked into pricey contracts with Ersan Ilyasova, O.J. Mayo, and Zaza Pachulia for at least the next two seasons. The Bucks have made modest backcourt additions in Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall this offseason. Milwaukee owns all of its future first-round draft picks, and is owed many second rounders in the next few years.
Philadelphia: Largely viewed as the most calculated tanker in the league, the Sixers haven’t done much to sway that notion this summer, including putting up resistance to a proposed rules change that would decrease the odds that the very worst teams land the No. 1 draft pick. Philadelphia is still below the salary floor for 2014/15, and has yet to sign a free agent despite having a roster that many view as heavy on D-League talent and light on true NBA-caliber players. A year after acquiring Nerlens Noel in a draft-night trade, GM Sam Hinkie drafted two players that the team doesn’t count on seeing on the court this season in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. The team made a shrewd deal in acquiring Saric, regaining control of its first-round pick in the 2017 draft from the Magic, who received Payton, the Sixers original No. 10 pick. Michael Carter-Williams just won rookie of the year, but Thaddeus Young could still be moved to facilitate a Kevin Love trade and gain Philadelphia even more assets. Brett Brown had little to smile about in his first year as a head coach outside of the team’s surprise 3-0 start, but is a believer in the team’s intentional process. The Sixers will owe their 2015 first-round pick to the Celtics if it falls outside the top 14–a seeming impossibility–but otherwise will convey two second-round picks to Boston, of which they have an abundance.
Boston:Celtics GM Danny Ainge has preached patience, but there have been plenty of rumblings about his eagerness to jumpstart Boston’s rebuilding efforts with a blockbuster deal, the loudest of which surround Kevin Love. So far, Ainge has been forced to stay the course, with a modest free agency period (Bayless and Kris Humpries leaving, Evan Turner arriving, Avery Bradley remaining) bolstered by the additions of No. 6 pick Marcus Smart and No. 17 selection James Young. The team also took on more salary burdens in deals for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller that netted them more future assets. The team is on track to free up cap room in 2015 and 2016, and Rajon Rondo‘s free agency next summer will play a crucial part in where the team is headed, and how fast. Brad Stevens is another sophomore coach that signed up expecting a long-term process requiring patience. The Celtics own all of their first-round picks, and will receive up to six extra first rounders from other teams through 2018.
Utah: The Jazz retained Gordon Hayward this summer, and the 24-year-old projects to be the team’s oldest starter. Utah drafted point guard Dante Exum to play alongside Trey Burke and Alec Burks in a young, developing backcourt. The team let Marvin Williams leave as a free agent, and brought in veteran forwards in Steve Novak and Trevor Booker via the trade and free agent market, respectively. The Jazz let former twin towers Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk as free agents prior to the 2013/14 season to make way for their young frontcourt pieces in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who have showed promise but have yet to excel as a post tandem. The team hired new coach Quin Snyder from the Spurs coaching tree, and will hope the rookie coach can bring some of the San Antonio magic to Salt Lake City. The Jazz own all of their picks moving forward, and are owed one first rounder and seven second rounders through 2018.
Which team do you think is closest to seeing the fruits of their rebuild? A team like the Magic would appear to be moving forward more aggressively than the ultra-methodical Sixers, but an impatient shortcut to team improvement could end up stalling a team’s ultimate resurgence. Meanwhile, a team like Boston appears more likely to turn their assets into star players, but until they do, there is less to be excited about from their developing roster than some of the other clubs.
Weigh in with your vote, and state your case in the comments.