Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag 3/22/15-3/28/15

In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have added 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 HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:

“Do you see DeAndre Jordan commanding a max salary in free agency?” — Phil B.

I can certainly see Jordan seeking a max deal, but I’m not sure that he gets one. He’s having a great season, but the league doesn’t revolve around centers the way that it used to. Jordan will certainly be in line for a raise from the $11.4MM he is making this season. I just can’t see him being worth a $17MM+ annual salary. $15MM per feels about the right ballpark for him, though even that is a risk given how poorly big men age in the NBA.

The big unknown involved here is how the 2016 salary cap increase will change teams’ approaches this summer. There may be a few more franchises that will be willing to go into the luxury tax in 2015/16, knowing that the cap will increase significantly the following year. Plus, if upper tier salaries are going to jump as much as some speculate, Jordan inking a max deal this summer could end up looking like a bargain in three years time.

“What are the chances that John Calipari ends up coaching the Knicks next season?” Tim

I’ll go with slim-to-none on this one. I just don’t see Calipari and Phil Jackson working well together. Plus, Calipari would likely ask for some level of control over personnel moves as part of his contract. That’s a likely deal-breaker in New York right now. I also don’t see the team giving up on Derek Fisher after a single season unless there are some serious philosophical differences that pop up between the coach and the front office. Plus, if Calipari actually wants to leave Kentucky, he can do much better than the Knicks for an NBA gig. Flip Saunders may want to get off of the sidelines in Minnesota and Coach Cal has a bit of experience developing young talent…

“Will both Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo be in Dallas’ starting backcourt next season?” Randall J.

It’s not looking good right now for the two to re-team next season in Dallas. The team’s offense has been flowing better with Rondo on the bench — not a great sign when talking about a point guard. I was willing to give the two players the benefit of the doubt, but it’s looking more and more like Ellis and Rondo just aren’t compatible. Rondo’s clashes with coach Rick Carlisle aren’t a great incentive for Rondo to want to return either. So there’s all of that.

But the factor that is usually the true determining one in these situations is money. Rondo is likely to seek a maximum salary deal, which isn’t something he’s likely to be worth at this stage of his career. I don’t see the Mavs offering that level of financial commitment to retain Rondo. With the Knicks and Lakers both set to have cap space and tons of desperation this summer, Rondo could be one of the beneficiaries. I think Rondo leaves Dallas for more zeroes on his paycheck.

As for Ellis, he has a tougher decision to make. The veteran guard has a player option worth $8.72MM for next season. It’s not clear yet whether or not he’ll opt out and try to secure a long-term deal. The cap is set to jump in 2016, so opting in and hitting the market that summer may hold more appeal. Out of the two players, Ellis is the one who is more likely to be back.

“Does J.R. Smith opt out of his deal this summer? Do you see him staying in Cleveland long-term?” Alex V.

A couple of months ago I would have been sure that Smith would opt in on his $6,399,750 player option for 2015/16. I’m not so certain any more. That’s what competing for a contending team will do for a player’s energy level and stat line. Smith has fit in rather well in Cleveland, so there’s that to consider. He could opt in and try to cash in when the cap jumps during the summer of 2016. That would be the safe play. But if Smith has a stellar playoffs and can control his antics, he could be looking at a number of long-term offers. I’d speculate that the Mavs would be interested in signing Smith if Ellis departs as a free agent. My guess is that barring a spectacular individual playoff run, Smith opts in or works out a long-term deal with the Cavs.

“Give me your mock draft for the top five picks (using the current standings as the draft order)” Aaron

It’s still a bit early to make an accurate mock draft. Quite a few things can change during the pre-draft process. But now that I’ve blanketed myself in the warmth of a disclaimer I’ll answer the question. Using Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings to determine the draft order, here’s how I see the first five picks shaking out…

  1. Knicks — C Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
  2. Timberwolves — F Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky)
  3. Sixers — G Emmanuel Mudiay (China)
  4. Lakers — G D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State)
  5. Magic — F Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)

That’s all the space I have for this week’s inquiries. Please keep all the submissions coming and I’ll be back next Saturday with more thoughts and opinions.

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