After indulging in his love of soccer to make a cross-sport comparison of LeBron James and Lionel Messi, Marc Stein of ESPN.com delivers his usual assortment of juicy NBA rumors from around the league as part of his Weekend Dime. Here are the highlights:
Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld has a new column examining which teams have a chance to be title contenders five seasons from now, taking into account possible moves in free agency and the ages of the teams' core players.
We rounded up rumors on the Cavs earlier today, but Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal has more on Anderson Varejao, whom one league executive believes would be the top target on the trade market if the Cavs decide to dangle him. The 30-year-old Varejao has been a revelation this year after returning from a broken wrist that ended his season in 2011/12, averaging a career high 15.1 points and a league-leading 15.3 rebounds per game.
The Cavs thought they found Varejao's eventual replacement when they landed Tyler Zeller in a draft-night trade with the Mavericks, believing Zeller could eventually put up numbers similar to those Varejao has posted over his career, according to Lloyd. Cleveland entered the season thinking this could be the year for a Varejao trade, especially if his value escalated after a strong start. Varejao's performance has been much better than anyone imagined, however, and that means the Cavs may have trouble finding fair value, Lloyd writes.
The Cavs would be interested in the Raptors pick that's currently held by Oklahoma City, but the Thunder are not in the market for Varejao, Lloyd says. He hears the Thunder would be unlikely to meet Cleveland's demands, which might include Serge Ibaka.
Varejao's value figures to be high again next season, and the Cavs believe Varejao can be effective beyond his current contract, which runs through 2015 at an average of more than $9MM per season, as Lloyd points out. So, it seems there's plenty of reasons why Cavs GM Chris Grant and company wouldn't make a deal this year. The Cavs believe he's on par with the other top big men in the league, but there's no guarantee they'd be able to get one of those guys or a comparable player if they traded Varejao for assets with greater long-term potential but smaller immediate return.
A happy Labor Day to our American readers, and a happy Labour Day to those in Canada! This holiday Monday hasn't been a busy one when it comes to NBA news and rumors, but there are still a number of noteworthy links trickling in. Let's round up a few of them....
Here's a look at the rest of today's news throughout the league.
Earlier today, we heard that the Thunder may be one of a handful of teams with interest in Michael Redd. With James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, and Daequan Cook at the two, the club doesn't have a pressing need for a player like Redd, but if he's willing to play for the minimum salary, adding another shooter to the mix certainly couldn't hurt. Here are a few more of today's updates out of Oklahoma City:
Serge Ibaka and the Thunder finalized a four-year, $49MM extension over the weekend, a deal that will keep the big man under contract through 2017. It appeared likely that the Thunder would prioritize an extension for James Harden over one for Ibaka this summer, so news of Ibaka's agreement came as something of a surprise. With Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook now locked up to expensive long-term deals, we'll have to wait and see if Oklahoma City can make room for Harden as well.
In the meantime, it's worth taking a look at Ibaka's new contract to see how much money the Thunder may have saved by getting something done early. First, let's compare Ibaka's career stat line to the numbers for a few other big men that have recently signed long-term deals after three NBA seasons:
It's worth noting that, besides Ibaka's contract, only Horford's was a true extension -- Jordan and Gasol were both retained by their respective teams in free agency. Still, it's hard not to compare Ibaka's deal to the other three and like the value for the Thunder. While the Oklahoma City big man hasn't provided the offense that Gasol and Horford did early in their careers, and hasn't played equally heavy minutes, his PER stands up nicely next to the Memphis and Atlanta centers. And the Thunder got him for a lesser annual salary than Gasol's and committed to fewer guaranteed years than the Hawks did for Horford.
Additionally, because Ibaka has one year remaining on his rookie deal, the Thunder are more likely to get a little extra value out of the four-year extension by having it come closer to Ibaka's prime years -- the deal runs from age 24 to 27. It makes the contract look better when compared to Jordan's, for instance. 2011/12 was the first year of Jordan's deal, meaning the Clippers were paying big bucks for a player that was still fairly raw and at least a couple years away from his prime.
The contracts signed earlier this summer by free agent big men also give an indication of what sort of price tag the Thunder would have been facing next summer. Roy Hibbert was quickly signed to a maximum-salary offer sheet in July, for four years and $58MM+. Brook Lopez received a max four-year, $61MM+ deal, despite missing nearly the entire season with foot injuries. And even JaVale McGee, who was a relative bargain at four years and $44MM, received a nice chunk of change for a player whose makeup has been questioned. Based on those deals, you'd have to think continued improvement for Ibaka in 2012/13 would have easily earned him a maximum offer from a team in need of size next summer.
As the Nuggets showed earlier this year when they traded Nene mere months after signing him to a five-year, $65MM pact, a long-term extension doesn't necessary mean the player will be part of a team's plans for years to come. But assuming the Thunder do intend to keep Ibaka as part of their core, they did well to get him at the price they did. A maximum-salary contract next year would likely have started around $14MM and increased annually, whereas Ibaka's extension will remain at $12.25MM per year. Over the course of the contract, Oklahoma City could save close to $15MM by locking the 22-year-old up early.
According to Fox's John Telich, the Cavaliers may buy out Omri Casspi's contract. (Twitter link) FoxSportsOhio.com's Sam Amico tweets that there have been rumors regarding Casspi's want to play overseas.
Here's a rundown on some of the latest news and notes from around the NBA this weekend:
5:38pm: HoopsHype reports that Ibaka's deal is actually guaranteed for $49MM and could pay him as much as $51.5MM based on unspecified individual and team incentives.
11:59am: The Thunder have officially announced Ibaka's extension.
6:38am: Ibaka's deal is worth $48MM over four years, a league source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
2:24am: Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Serge Ibaka has agreed to a four-year deal worth at least $40MM to remain with the Thunder. The three-year veteran averaged 9.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and a remarkable 3.7 BPG in 27.2 MPG as Oklahoma City's starting power forward last season. Although Ibaka's rebounding and block averages dipped a bit during this year's playoffs (5.8 RPG/3.0 BPG), it would be somewhat challenging to question the Thunder's decision to ensure an extension for a 22-year-old core player with premier defensive abilities and NBA Finals experience rather than let him test the free agent market after the 2012-13 season.
Wojnarowski adds that with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing on maximum contracts (along with $27MM due to Kendrick Perkins over the next three years), Oklahoma City faces a difficult decision with James Harden, who could possibly garner a maximum contract offer next summer as a restricted free agent.
Hoops Rumors' Chuck Myron examined Ibaka's value as an extension candidate earlier this month.