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 HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:
This is a case of both franchises trying to move on from mistakes made last offseason. While neither free agent signing worked out for either team, I’d have to say the Hawes deal for the Clippers was way more debilitating. Los Angeles had a core in place that could contend in the West, and needed to fill out the roster with useful veterans. Instead of addressing the team’s glaring need for a starting small forward (Paul Pierce!), Doc Rivers instead opted to ink Hawes, who provided little production for the franchise. Stephenson’s signing was equally misguided, but the Hornets, despite their success in 2013/14, were not going to be serious title contenders this past season.
I like this trade much more from the Hornets’ point of view. Charlotte really missed Josh McRoberts‘ ability to stretch the floor this season, and Hawes can certainly help out in that regard. Plus, the Hornets’ locker room chemistry should benefit immediately from the subtraction of Stephenson. Sure, Stephenson is the most talented player in this deal, but his baggage often outweighs his production. Los Angeles reportedly dealt with locker room chemistry issues this past season, and the addition of Stephenson could be akin to pouring gasoline on an inferno. Plus, with the increased media scrutiny a large market like Los Angeles comes with, any little misstep by the mercurial swingman could quickly become blown out of proportion. I will add the caveat that if Stephenson doesn’t rock the boat AND is able to revert back to the player he was during the 2013/14 campaign for Indiana, then L.A. will have won this deal hands down. I’m just not sold that will be the case.
“Which player in the 15-20 range has the highest upside in this year’s draft?” — Cole
Going by current mock drafts for slotting here, I’d say that Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona) could all end up vying for this distinction. Portis has a wealth of talent on the offensive side, though he’s realistically a season away from contributing meaningful minutes. Lyles could be a future star, and should become a two-way force once he gets more experience under his belt. Hollis-Jefferson is ready to step into a rotation next season and contribute with his stellar defense and open court skills, but he’ll be a liability in the half court game until he can consistently sink jump shots. If I had to pick a player for next season in the 15-20 range who will shine it would be Hollis-Jefferson, but for the long-term I’ll go with Lyles. I really like his game and talent level.
“Where do you think Matt Barnes will be playing next season?” — Jon
Well, it won’t be with the Clippers, who can’t sign him until July of 2016 at the earliest. Barnes is a useful role-player, but he has no business being a starter in the NBA. It’s unclear right now what his market will be, but the Raptors could certainly use an upgrade defensively at the wing, which Barnes could certainly provide, as long as he’s doing so as a reserve. I’d also think that the Cavs, Knicks, Celtics, and possibly the Thunder could be suitors for Barnes at the right price…which is a short-term minimum salary deal.
“What do you see happening with David Lee in Golden State?” — Leon
This is going to be a tough one for Warriors GM Bob Myers. Golden State has a wealth of talent, but it will be difficult to sustain their success if the roster can’t be filled out with useful pieces, instead of stocked with players making the league minimum. While Lee is still a very solid player, not to mention a good locker room presence, his $15,493,680 price tag for next season makes him a very expensive luxury. This will be the case for many prospective trade partners as well, and while Golden State is likely to seek non-guaranteed, or significantly lower salaried players in return, I’m not sure the team will find a suitable taker. The Sixers are always a possibility when a salary dump is in play, but I’m not so sure that the Warriors will want to part with the draft picks necessary to get Philly GM Sam Hinkie to bite. The Celtics, Raptors, and potentially the Hawks (if Paul Millsap departs via free agency and a suitable replacement isn’t signed or drafted), are all fits for Lee. But Boston is rebuilding, and Lee would be a fallback for Danny Ainge at this point. This could change if Boston suddenly adds a number of veteran players and decides to make a serious playoff push next season. The Hawks seem like the best overall fit for Lee in my view, but quite a bit would need to go awry in Atlanta’s offseason for Lee to end up with that team.
That’s going to do it for this week’s batch of inquiries. Thanks to all who submitted questions, and please keep them coming. I’ll be back next week with more responses.