Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: D’Angelo Russell’s Free Agency

Last July, Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell spoke about using the new five-year, $158MM extension signed by his good friend Devin Booker as “motivation” during the 2018/19 season. Seven months later, Russell has delivered on that promise, positioning himself for a huge payday of his own.

In the midst of a breakout season in Brooklyn, Russell is averaging career highs in PPG (20.3), APG (6.6), FG% (.436), and 3PT% (.372), among other categories. He earned a spot in the All-Star Game in Charlotte this past weekend, and has the Nets in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2015 — at 30-29, the club has already exceeded its win total from each of the last three seasons.

Russell, who will turn 23 years old this Saturday, is poised to hit free agency at the right time. Several teams around the NBA – including the Nets – have the flexibility to offer huge deals, and there are only so many star free agents available. For teams that miss out on the very best options like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving, Russell may look like a tantalizing Plan B.

While the idea that Russell is a maximum-salary candidate may seem surprising, there won’t be many elite point guards available once Irving signs. Russell is six years younger than Kemba Walker and has emerged as a far more intriguing option than Terry Rozier. For a club in need of a point guard – like Booker’s Suns – an aggressive bid on Russell makes a ton of sense.

Of course, Russell will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets will have the chance to match any offer he receives. The two sides could also negotiate directly, since Brooklyn is the only team eligible to give Russell five years instead of four. A five-year deal could be worth up to a projected $158MM, while a four-year deal would max out around $117MM.

[RELATED: Maximum Salary Projections for 2019/20]

If the Nets are focused on veteran free agents like Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Tobias Harris when July 1 arrives though, it could open the door for another team to swoop in and sign Russell to a player-friendly offer sheet (perhaps with big up-front payments and a trade kicker), forcing Brooklyn into a tough decision.

Given Sean Marks‘ history of pursuing other teams’ restricted free agents – such as Otto Porter, Allen Crabbe, and Tyler Johnson – and forcing those teams to match massive offer sheets, I expect there will be clubs out there looking to return the favor when Russell reaches restricted free agency. However, the ex-Laker has raved about his time in Brooklyn and may be happy to deal directly with the Nets rather than seeking out an offer sheet.

What do you think? Will Russell get a maximum-salary offer this summer? Will he sign directly with the Nets, or will Brooklyn be forced to decide whether to match another team’s offer? Would the Nets happily match a max offer? Do you expect Russell to ultimately remain in Brooklyn, or can you envision a scenario where he changes teams?

Head to the comment section below to make your predictions on Russell’s upcoming free agency.

Community Shootaround: Anthony Davis Situation

The Pelicans have had a busy day, cutting ties with GM Dell Demps and naming Danny Ferry as the interim replacement. Whether that has any impact on what the franchise will do with Anthony Davis the rest of the season remains to be seen.

New Orleans wants to get a maximum return on Davis this offseason and won’t necessarily limit itself to one of his preferred destinations. The efforts of agent Rich Paul to force the Pelicans’ hand before the trade deadline backfired, as the front office refused to buckle and work out a deal with the Lakers.

However, the next two months will be tricky. Davis has been booed in his home arena and is now obviously in an awkward spot when he takes the court. So are coach Alvin Gentry and New Orleans’ remaining front office executives, who must decide how much to use the franchise player. The Pelicans risk league discipline if they choose to sit Davis when he’s healthy. Davis suffered in a shoulder contusion against Oklahoma City on Thursday, but the injury is a minor one.

It would seem to be in the Pelicans’ best interest to play Davis as little as possible, not only decreasing the chances of major injury but also improving their chances of winning the draft lottery. However, it would also be unfair to fans who paid full price to see Davis play not get their money’s worth.

That leads us to our question of the day: Should the Pelicans continue to play Anthony Davis the rest of the season or should they try to shut him down and risk league penalties? If they decide to play him, should they limit his minutes or use him as they did before his trade demand?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: GMs On Hot Seat?

Each year typically brings multiple front office shake-ups around the NBA. In 2018, the Hornets, Pistons, Sixers, and Timberwolves all dispatched their respective heads of basketball operations. In 2017, even more teams brought in new management groups, including the Knicks, Clippers, Cavaliers, Bucks, and a handful of others.

So far in 2019, the rumor mill has been quiet when it comes to potential front office changes. However, with the end of the regular season less than two months away, it will likely just be a matter of time before we get word of a team or two going in a new direction.

Front office shake-ups aren’t always easy to predict — before a bizarre Twitter-related scandal surfaced last summer, Bryan Colangelo didn’t appear to be in any danger in Philadelphia, but just over a week after that story broke, he was gone. While a saga like that one is unlikely to be repeated, it’s possible we’ll get some surprising front office news this summer.

For now though, there are a few general managers or presidents of basketball operations who already might be on the hot seat.

Wizards president of basketball ops Ernie Grunfeld is one of those executives, as his club has failed to get past the second round of the playoffs at all during his lengthy tenure in Washington, and has taken a significant step back this season. John Wall‘s four-year, super-max deal, which will begin this July, looks like perhaps the worst contract in the NBA, and the Wizards aren’t exactly loaded with assets around Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace and Pelicans GM Dell Demps have faced plenty of criticism in recent years as well. Memphis, bogged down by Chandler Parsons‘ overpriced contract and declining veteran assets, has struggled mightily in the last two seasons, and Demps’ issues navigating the Anthony Davis waters have been well documented — as have his issues building the roster around Davis over the last several years.

In Chicago, a few good moves from Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, such as drafting Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, have helped mask some questionable decisions in free agency and on the trade market. But with the Bulls’ win total set to decline for a fourth straight year, fans are losing their patience with the Paxson/Forman duo.

As the 2018/19 approaches its home stretch, we want to get your thoughts on the front office situations around the league. Do you expect any or all of the executives we mentioned above to lose their jobs this spring? Do some deserve another chance? Are there any other GMs or presidents across the NBA that you believe should be replaced?

Jump into the comment section below to share your two cents!

Community Shootaround: Celtics’ Season

There’s no joy in TD Garden.

So says Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who lamented the bad vibes around the team after it blew a 28-point lead to the visiting Clippers on Saturday.

The weight of expectations, along with individual agendas, has turned the season into a slog for the preseason Eastern Conference favorites.

“It’s about the attitude that we’re playing with. Guys are hanging their head,” Morris said. “It’s just not fun, it’s not fun. We’re not competing at a high level. Even when we’re winning it’s still not fun. I just don’t see the joy in the game. I watch all these other teams in the league, guys up on the bench, up on the court; they’re doing stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammate’s success, they’re enjoying everything and they’re playing together. And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals.”

With LeBron James in the Western Conference, the Celtics seemed poised to become the next powerhouse in the East. They possess a nice blend of youth and experience, one of the league’s top guards in Kyrie Irving, a budding star in Jayson Tatum and arguably the conference’s deepest bench.

Instead, the Celtics have proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. Mainly due to struggles on offense, they were a .500 team after 20 games. They reeled off eight consecutive wins, then went 7-8 over their next 15 games before winning 10 of 11.

Just when things looked rosy, home losses to the two Los Angeles teams last week led to more uneasiness and prompted Morris to sound off.

Returning from the horrific leg injury he suffered during his Boston debut, Gordon Hayward hasn’t been able to recapture the form that made him one of the most coveted free agents on the 2017 market. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have struggled with reduced minutes after playing starring roles in the postseason.

Irving has delivered a career year, according to PER, but questions about his impending free agency casts a pall over the organization. The front office’s well-known desire to acquire Anthony Davis this summer also has to weigh on the minds of some players, not knowing whether they’re part of the long-term plan.

The good news is it’s only February. The Cavaliers often looked disjointed before the All-Star break, then flipped the switch and got hot in the playoffs. But the competition for this year’s Celtics has suddenly gotten stiffer with the powerhouse lineup the Sixers have put together, plus the rise of the offensively-gifted Bucks and the continued excellence of the Raptors.

That leads us to our question of the day: Will the Celtics live up to their preseason billing and make the NBA Finals or are they doomed to fall short of expectations?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Lakers’ Offer For Davis

The Lakers want Anthony Davis and they want him now.

That’s apparent by their latest reported offer for the Pelicans superstar.

According to reports that surfaced today, the Lakers are willing to give up most of their young talent, draft picks and some cap space in order to pair up Davis with LeBron James. They’re willing to package Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley and two first-round picks for Davis and Solomon Hill.

Kuzma is the Lakers’ second-leading scorer and Ingram, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, is a close third. Ball, currently injured, was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. Rondo and Beasley have expiring contracts, while Hill is owed over $12MM next season, so the Lakers would be sacrificing some cap space. And draft picks have become increasingly valued assets, so that’s quite a package the Lakers are willing to surrender.

Still, New Orleans doesn’t have to pull the trigger. The Pelicans could simply hold onto Davis and wait for the Celtics to enter the bidding. Boston can’t acquire Davis at this time because it already has a player, Kyrie Irving, who signed a designated player extension. Davis did the same with the Pelicans and no team can have two such players on the roster.

That prohibition ends when Irving becomes a free agent this offseason and the Celtics have long coveted AD. They could put together a package featuring Jayson Tatum and other quality players, plus a boatload of draft picks for Davis’ services.

The Pelicans could also hold out for offers from other teams with a collection of young talent and draft picks. They reportedly want an All-NBA caliber player as part of a deal for Davis and there’s no certainty that any of the players the Lakers offered fit that description.

That leads us to our question of the day: Should the Pelicans accept the latest Lakers offer for Anthony Davis or should they wait until the offseason to deal him?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Porzingis Trade

There’s still nearly a week left before the trade deadline. Unless the Pelicans decide to move Anthony Davis before the offseason, the deal made the Mavericks and Knicks on Thursday will be hard to top.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Knicks gave up on disgruntled Kristaps Porzingis and positioned themselves to be even bigger players in the free agent market this summer. Dallas acquired Porzingis and three backcourt players for young point guard Dennis Smith, the expiring contracts of Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks.

It’s unlikely Porzingis will play this season as he continues his knee rehab, according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban. No matter. Dallas now has a young, supremely talented big man to pair up with rookie sensation Luka Doncic.

In a league where star power means everything, the Mavericks made a bold decision to surrender cap space and future assets to build their team around that duo. If Porzingis can regain his previous form, the Mavericks could become bona fide contenders once again. They’ll also become an attractive destination in future years for big-name free agents looking to jump on the Doncic-Porzingis bandwagon.

The Knicks rid themselves of a headache — Porzingis had let it be known he wasn’t happy with the state of the franchise. They also now have the room to sign two top-level free agents with speculation abound that Kevin Durant will move to the Big Apple.

That makes this summer all the more pivotal for the franchise and puts heavy pressure on the front office to catch a couple of big fish in the free agent pond this summer. As a bonus, they collect a couple of assets with the future first-rounders, which gives them more flexibility to make moves to build around whatever free agents they land.

That leads us to our question of the day: Which team do you feel got the better of the blockbuster deal between the Knicks and Mavericks and why?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Mike Conley

With the Grizzlies’ season fading to oblivion, reports surfaced this week that the front office is willing to deal point guard Mike Conley as well as center Marc Gasol.

Conley is one of the highest-paid floor leaders in the league. He’s making $30.5MM this season, another $32.5MM next season with a $34.5MM player option for the 2020/21 campaign.

It’s rare to find an All-Star caliber floor leader on the market, so Conley is certain to draw some interest. The Jazz have already been mentioned as a potential suitor, pairing Conley with Donovan Mitchell in a high-powered backcourt. Ricky Rubio‘s expiring contract would almost be certainly part of the package in any swap involving those teams.

Frank Urbina of HoopsHype speculated on three other teams that also might chase Conley. Veteran D.J. Augustin has played well for the Magic but Conley would be a huge upgrade feeding the ball to big men Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon. In return, Urbina opines that Jonathan Isaac is the type of young player that could facilitate Memphis’ rebuilding process.

The Mavericks might be another potential landing spot for Conley. Dennis Smith Jr. rejoined Dallas this week after a conversation with coach Rick Carlisle but it’s no secret Smith doesn’t feel comfortable sharing the ball with Luka Doncic. Smith would give Memphis a much younger option at the point with Wesley Matthews‘ expiring contract possibly thrown into the deal.

The Pacers were dealt a crushing blow in their quest to reach the NBA Finals when Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending quad injury. A deal for Conley could revive their hopes. Some expiring contracts and multiple draft picks could get the job done.

We’ll throw in another team — the Pistons. They’re starved for improved point guard play with Reggie Jackson having a poor season. A package that includes some young players and a first-rounder or two would likely be required.

That leads us to our question of the day: If the Grizzlies deal Mike Conley, which team do you feel would be the best fit for him and why?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Wizards’ Next Moves

After winning seven of their last 10 games, the Wizards have improved their record from 13-23 to 20-26 and find themselves very much in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff race — the eighth-seeded Hornets are just 22-24, while the No. 7 Heat are 22-23.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that the team absolutely won’t tank, and a spot in the postseason remains the goal. Still, without standout point guard John Wall available for the rest of the season, Washington’s upside is limited. Even if the club beats out the likes of Charlotte, Detroit, and Orlando for a playoff spot in the East, the odds of a first-round series win are slim.

As such, the Wizards find themselves in an interesting spot. They have a number of veterans on expiring contracts, including Trevor Ariza, Markieff Morris, and Jeff Green. All those players figure to draw trade interest from other contenders, but will probably need to remain in D.C. for the Wizards to maximize their postseason odds.

While sources have told Chase Hughes and Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington that the Wizards plan to keep Ariza for the rest of the season, a former NBA front office executive believes the team should take its time before making any final decisions on Ariza — or any other trade candidates on expiring contracts who could potentially bring back a first-round pick.

“That’s really what the calculus is now. Is your guy on a one-year rental good enough to give you a first?” the former exec said. “Probably not – but the Wizards have one of them in Trevor Ariza that might have that much cache at the trade deadline. I would hold him until the very last minute and see which of the contenders got the most desperate.”

At this point, with a playoff spot within reach, the Wizards are unlikely to do anything drastic involving Bradley Beal or Otto Porter. But perhaps the team could make a move with one or two of its other veterans that would net a long-term asset without sacrificing the club’s short-term upside too significantly.

What do you think? What would you do at the deadline if you were running the Wizards? Does standing pat make sense? Could some smaller-scale selling be prudent? Or would you be ready to blow up this roster?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: All-Star Selection Format

Monday is the last day to submit your votes for 2019’s NBA All-Star starters. Once the fan vote has been closed, the league will also take into account the picks made by players and media members in order to determine this year’s starters.

While the All-Star Game itself no longer pits the Western Conference against the Eastern Conference, the selection format still dictates that five starters must come from each conference. Given a somewhat underwhelming crop of star guards in the East this season, that format ensures that Kyrie Irving will likely be joined by one of Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal, or Kemba Walker in the Eastern backcourt.

Those players are having strong seasons, but there will be reserves in the Western Conference more deserving of a starting nod. Due to the conference and position restrictions, two players out of the five-man Western frontcourt group of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Nikola Jokic, and Anthony Davis won’t crack the starting lineup.

The two frontcourt stars in that group who miss out on starting spots will still end up on the All-Star roster. However, there may be other deserving players who don’t make the cut — even though the rules on positions are less restrictive for the reserves, coaches are still limited to picking seven players in each conference, rather than simply choosing the next 14 best players, regardless of position or conference.

As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer details in a column on his All-Star picks, he spoke to a number of people around the league – including executives, coaches, and reporters – about their own All-Star selections, and all of them admitted that if they were just asked to pick the NBA’s 24 best players, they wouldn’t get to 12 in the East. According to O’Connor, everyone he polled chose between eight and 11 Eastern players in that hypothetical scenario — the most common response was nine, with the other 15 coming from the West.

Given how many players around the NBA have All-Star bonuses and incentives in their contracts, the league won’t be able to unilaterally alter the selection format without some pushback from the players. Still, it’s an idea worth considering.

If the actual All-Star Game no longer features Eastern Conference players vs. Western Conference players, does it make sense to still require an even number of representatives from each side? And now that we’re in an era of so-called “positionless” basketball, would it make sense to further loosen the restrictions on positions in the selection process?

What do you think? Should the All-Star selection format be changed and modernized to better identify the NBA’s 24 best players, or is it fine as is?

Community Shootaround: DeMarcus Cousins’ Return

DeMarcus Cousins is on track to play his first game as a member of the Warriors on Friday against the Clippers, assuming all goes well during his final evaluation on Thursday, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Within his story on Cousins’ impending return, Haynes notes that the former All-Star will actually make his debut several weeks later than he had hoped.

According to Haynes, Cousins wanted to speed up his timeline, and attempted to get cleared to play a few weeks ago, but the Warriors would have imposed a restriction of 10 minutes per game in that scenario. Rather than settling for such limited playing time, Cousins opted to continue his rehab process, improving his conditioning and preparing for a more significant role.

While Cousins will still likely be on some sort of minutes restriction as the club looks to ease him back into action, head coach Steve Kerr has yet to offer any specifics.

“We’ve got some ideas of how we are going to use him,” Kerr said, “but there is not a substitute for actual game experience. So, we’ll put him out there and see how it goes.”

With Cousins’ Warriors debut imminent, it will be fascinating to see how he fits in with Golden State’s other All-Stars and whether he looks at all like his old self after a long, challenging rehabilitation from a major Achilles injury. NBA players who have suffered Achilles tears often don’t make it all the way back, and for those that do, the process often takes two or three years. Still, speaking to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Cousins sounds very confident in his abilities.

“I won’t be the same player. I’ve gotten better,” he said with a laugh. “So you know, a lot of things have changed in my game. You start to tune up other areas of your game: jump shooting, skill work. I think everything has just increased and gotten better.”

The idea of slotting Cousins into a lineup that also features Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green is tantalizing — on paper, it’s the sort of five-man unit that makes Golden State a lock for a third straight championship. But there’s no guarantee it’ll actually be a success on the court. The Warriors’ stars have typically done a great job of buying into the system and playing their roles, but as we’ve seen in Boston this season, things don’t always run smoothly when a team has “too much” talent.

In advance of Cousins’ first game, we want to hear your thoughts on the situation in Golden State. Will Cousins make a great team even better, ensuring that the Warriors are holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy again this June? Will there be some growing pains before Cousins and the Warriors hit their stride down the stretch? Or do you think Cousins might ultimately be a non-factor for Golden State as he continues to recover from a significant injury?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!