Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Kevin Durant’s Future

Since joining the Warriors during the summer of 2016, Kevin Durant has signed short-term contracts, opting out and signing new deals twice since then. Those short-term commitments weren’t necessarily a sign of his unwillingness to commit to Golden State long-term, but rather a byproduct of the constraints of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Those short-term contracts allowed Durant to maximize his year-to-year earnings if he wanted to (instead, he opted for a team-friendly discount in year two) and will put him in position to ink a five-year contract with the Warriors in 2019, when the team will finally have secured his Bird rights.

However, while Durant’s return to Golden State was a given during the last two summers, that no longer appears to be the case for 2019. Despite winning back-to-back titles with the Warriors, earning Finals MVP honors both times, Durant isn’t viewed as a lock to remain in the Bay Area for many years to come.

Those rumblings about Durant’s possible departure grew a little louder last week, when multiple national NBA writers, including Chris Haynes, Chris Mannix, and Tim Bontemps, suggested that people around the NBA viewed the Knicks as a legit suitor for nine-time All-Star. Now, a local reporter has joined the conversation and added further credence to the idea that Durant could head elsewhere.

Following up on a radio appearance on KNBR, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic wrote last night that he’s not reporting that Durant will leave Golden State at season’s end, but if he had to guess, he’d predict the 30-year-old will head elsewhere.

As Thompson explains, Durant’s comments about keeping his options open and taking things “season by season” strike a different tone than what he’s said about his situation in past years. Additionally, Thompson says he’s spoken to several people within the Warriors’ franchise about the subject, and gets the same sentiment from most of them: they hope he stays, but wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves.

It’s hard to imagine any team besides the Warriors entering the 2019 offseason as the favorites to sign Durant, especially if they win another title. After all, they’ll be able to offer him more years and more money than any other club. Still, many teams around the NBA will have the cap space necessary to sign a maximum-salary free agent, and several of those teams will be eager to pitch Durant on becoming the new face of their franchise.

What do you think? Is it crazy to think that Durant might leave Golden State next year after his run of success with the team? Do you expect him to stick around the Bay Area beyond 2019, or will rival teams have a real chance to lure him away?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Community Shootaround: Terry Rozier’s Future

On Thursday night, Kyrie Irving announced to fans at a Celtics event that he plans to re-sign with the club next July when he can become a free agent. Irving’s verbal commitment to the Celtics doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything, since a lot can change between now and July 1. But it was a rare declaration for a star free-agent-to-be — even if a player ultimately intends to re-sign with his current team, he’ll usually hedge his bets this far out, talking about how he wants to “focus on the season” or how he knows the NBA is “a business.”

Irving stating in no uncertain terms that he intends to remain a Celtic going forward is great news for the franchise, but it also casts some uncertainty on Terry Rozier‘s future with the team. If Irving receives a maximum-salary contract from Boston next summer, the club would be committing an estimated $45MM to Irving and Marcus Smart in 2019/20, with that number projected to increase to $52MM+ by 2021/22.

That’s already a lot of money to invest in a pair of point guards, and adding a lucrative new deal for Rozier on top of that would probably be financially irresponsible. After all, based on what he showed down the stretch last season, Rozier should have a great chance to match – if not exceed – Smart’s four-year, $52MM contract as a restricted free agent in 2019. By re-signing him, Boston would be looking at using well over half of its cap room on point guards.

We don’t know for sure that Irving will get the full max from the Celtics. And it’s possible that the team could consider moving Smart to create additional cap flexibility. It’s even conceivable that the C’s could bite the bullet and re-sign Rozier without cutting costs elsewhere, since no cap rules prevent them from doing so — it would simply result in a big tax bill.

Still, it seems like something’s got to give.

Trading Rozier in advance of the 2019 deadline might allow the team to maximize his value, but that seems unlikely as long as the Celtics are vying for a title. Waiting until free agency in 2019 and hoping to negotiate a trade at that point is another option, but it’s a risky one, since there would be nothing stopping Rozier from signing an offer sheet outright with a rival suitor. Matching an offer sheet for Rozier with the intent to cut costs later would also be dangerous, since potential trade partners could drive a harder bargain knowing that the C’s are anxious to reduce their tax bill.

What do you think? What path will the Celtics take with Rozier, with Irving now on track to re-sign? What should the team do with him?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: League Pass Rankings

For the seventh consecutive year, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has published his annual NBA League Pass Rankings, listing the NBA teams from No. 30 to No. 1 based on how watchable each club will be during the upcoming season. As Lowe explains in his intro, he considers several factors in his rankings, including a team’s popularity, highlight potential, playing style, and – of course – unintentional comedy.

Although the Warriors had landed atop Lowe’s rankings for four of the last five seasons, the defending champions finished a close third this year, with the Sixers and Celtics sneaking ahead of them. Lowe gave Philadelphia the slight edge for the No. 1 spot, pointing to his interest in Markelle Fultz as a deciding factor — whether Fultz starts to reach his potential or crashes and burns, it will be fascinating to watch.

Many of Lowe’s other choices in the top 10 don’t come as a real surprise — the new-look Lakers come in at No. 4, with the Nuggets and their dynamic offense rounding out the top five. Potential contenders like the Rockets (7), Bucks (8), Raptors (9), and Jazz (10) also show up near the top of the list, though the final team in the top 10 is an unexpected one. The Bulls come in at No. 6, with Lowe explaining that they earned high marks due to their “superficially fun offense, tidy [uniform and court] art, [and] players who deliver both highlights and gaffes.”

Lowe’s full top 15 can be found here, along with the bottom 15. But we want to know what your personal League Pass rankings would look like.

Outside of your favorite team(s), which clubs are you most looking forward to watching in 2018/19? Do you agree that the Sixers, Celtics, Warriors, and Lakers make up the top tier, or are there other teams that intrigue you more? Which club’s games are you most likely to seek out during the coming season?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Rookie Scale Extensions

So far this offseason, two players have signed rookie scale extensions: Devin Booker got a new deal from the Suns, and the Timberwolves locked up Karl-Anthony Towns to a new long-term pact.

In each of those instances, the player received a maximum salary extension. Max deals, which require little negotiation, typically get done well before the mid-October deadline for rookie scale extensions. But with that deadline now just two weeks away, we may start seeing progress on a few other deals around the NBA.

Besides Booker and Towns, 21 players are eligible for rookie scale extensions this offseason, though some of the players on that list assuredly won’t get new deals. The Cavaliers aren’t about to give Sam Dekker a long-term contract, for example. And it’s safe to assume that the Bulls aren’t looking to lock up Cameron Payne early.

Still, there are several names on that list who are intriguing candidates for new deals. Here are 12 of them:

Not all the players on this list will sign rookie scale extensions within the next two weeks. In fact, most of them probably won’t. There are plenty of reasons for teams to wait — maybe the asking prices are too high, maybe their financial situations aren’t conducive to more long-term investments at this point, or maybe they simply want another season to take a closer look at their extension candidates.

[RELATED: Recent NBA Rookie Scale Extension History]

Still, it’s safe to assume that at least a couple players on this list will receive new deals. Typically, at least four players per year sign rookie scale extensions, and the numbers in previous seasons have often been much higher than that — in 2014, 2015, and 2016, a combined 24 players signed rookie scale extensions, for an average of eight per year.

With that October 15 deadline fast approaching, we want to know what you think. Which of this year’s extension candidates will receive new deals? Which deserve them, and at what price point? Which should be put off until they reach restricted free agency next summer?

Head to the comment section below to share your two cents on this year’s rookie scale extension candidates!

Community Shootaround: Northwest Division

Every team would like to think during this time of the year it could at least compete for a division championship and automatic playoff berth. In reality, virtually every division has at least one team that has no realistic shot at doing that.

That’s confirmed by VegasInsider.com’s odds for each of the six NBA divisions. In all but one of them, there’s at least one team posted with odds of 25-1 or higher to beat out its four division foes.

The lone exception is the Northwest Division. That division appears to be wide open and even the team with the longest odds — the Trail Blazers — is given a 6-1 chance to win it. The Thunder and Jazz are co-favorites at 9-4, with the Nuggets at 9-2 and the Timberwolves (prior to a potential Jimmy Butler trade) listed at 5-1.

This should come as no surprise, since the division was hotly contested last season. Portland won it with a 49-33 record. All the other Northwest Division teams had at least 46 wins. Denver finished last with a 46-36 mark and just missed the playoffs.

Paul George‘s decision to re-sign with Oklahoma City is the primary reason why it’s a co-favorite. The Jazz have essentially the same mix that made them one of the pleasant surprises in the league last season. Star guard Donovan Mitchell should be even better is his second season.

The Nuggets are loaded with offensive talent and most of their core players are just entering their prime. Even if Butler is dealt, the Timberwolves still have one of the league’s top big men in Karl-Anthony Towns. And defending division champ Portland still has the league’s highest-scoring backcourt duo in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

This leads us to our question of the day: Which team do you think will finish first in the Northwest Division this season and why?

Please take to the comments section and weigh in on this topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Tom Thibodeau’s Future

Now that Tom Thibodeau’s most prized addition appears headed out of Minnesota, should the coach and president of basketball operations be right behind?

The Jimmy Butler saga appears headed to an inevitable conclusion after a week that began with him making a trade request and ended with the front office granting him permission to skip what would have been an awkward media day on Monday. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed tonight that the team is now “aligning its organizational focus” toward trading Butler (Twitter link).

Wolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed Friday that Butler is available and is advising rival owners to make trade offers directly to him if necessary. That followed news earlier in the day that the organization wasn’t listening to teams that were calling about Butler.

Those conflicting reports suggest a rift in the front office that’s just as big as the one rumored to be in the locker room. And it’s not hard to figure out who’s on which side. Thibodeau has been a long-time supporter of Butler dating back to their days in Chicago. He also understands that his chances of returning to the playoffs — and maybe keeping his job — are much better with Butler on the roster.

However, Butler’s intense attitude hasn’t been good for team chemistry. There have been reports of frequent clashes with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and Charania suggested this week that Towns wouldn’t commit to an extension until he was sure Butler wouldn’t be back. Tonight’s announcement that Towns has accepted a five-year, supermax contract could be the surest sign yet that Butler’s fate is sealed.

But if Butler is gone, is there much of an argument for keeping Thibodeau? He’s the architect of the current “Timber-Bulls” roster that brought former Chicago players Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng to Minnesota along with Butler. He has a 78-86 record in two seasons with Minnesota, and the veteran-laden roster he has helped to assemble doesn’t fit the timeline of an organization that figures to be constructed around its two young stars.

We want to get your opinion. Should the Wolves get rid of Thibodeau now or should they be patient and see if he can have create a better relationship between the younger and older factions once Butler is gone? Please leave your responses in the space below.

Community Shootaround: Butler’s Destination

Entering free agency this summer, speculation over where LeBron James and Paul George would sign dominated the news cycle. Then came the Kawhi Leonard saga after he demanded a trade out of San Antonio.

Heading into training camp, Jimmy Butler has taken center stage. His desire to be traded as quickly as possible approaching his walk year has become the big story. Butler told Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden that he wants out but Thibodeau isn’t about to give away his All-Star swingman, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

Offering young players and/or picks for Butler apparently won’t get a deal done, as Thibodeau wants to get deeper in the playoffs and not reverse course. Butler’s preferred team, according to reports, is the Clippers with the two New York teams next on his wish list.

None of those teams has a player of Butler’s caliber, except for the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, whom New York has no intention of dealing. The top veteran the Clippers could dangle is Tobias Harris, who will also be a free agent next summer after turning down an extension offer.

If Butler is traded, he could go just about anywhere, as Minnesota plans to make him available to “any team,” according to the SI report. Up-and-coming teams like the Suns and Nuggets could be in the mix if they are willing to deal away some of their assets.

That leads us to our topic of the day: Where do you think Jimmy Butler will end up this season? 

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

Community Shootaround: Spurs’ Playoff Chances

No Kawhi Leonard. No Tony Parker. No Manu Ginobili.

The changes to the Spurs’ roster this summer have been startling. Leonard’s unhappiness with the organization convinced San Antonio’s front office to trade him before he could become a free agent next summer. Parker surprisingly left the only NBA franchise he had played for since 2001 and signed with the Hornets. Then last week Ginobili, after much deliberation, announced his retirement.

Here’s something more jarring than all the personnel changes. Could the Spurs’ streak of 21 consecutive postseason appearances, the longest active playoff streak in any major North American sports league, be coming to an end?

For the first time in many years, San Antonio is no lock to make the postseason. The Spurs squeaked into the playoffs last year with a 47-35 record, tying them with the Timberwolves for seventh place. The Nuggets were just one game back and now the Lakers, with the addition of LeBron James, should be back in playoff contention.

San Antonio should have a good 1-2 punch in power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, the major piece it received in the Leonard trade with Toronto. The Spurs will also count on major improvement from young point guard Dejounte Murray. If rookie forward Lonnie Walker can make an immediate impact, that would also boost their postseason prospects as well.

Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay, both of whom have a lot of mileage on their legs, are the other projected starters. Gasol is 38 and needs to have his minutes monitored. Gay, 32, has appeared in just 87 games over the past two seasons.

There’s an obvious lack of youth, athleticism and 3-point shooting on the roster. Even Ginobili admits Gregg Popovich will have do one of the best coaching jobs of his career to coax a playoff appearance out of the current roster.

”I think it’s going to be a great challenge for him having a different kind of team, maybe less corporate knowledge,” Ginobili said. ”I think it’s going to be a fun challenge. I think he’s going to do good.”

That brings us to our question of the day: Will the Spurs extend their streak of 21 consecutive playoff appearances or will it come to an end this season?

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

Timberwolves Notes: Nunnally, Patton, Drama

The Timberwolves could potentially use James Nunnally in Jamal Crawford‘s role, Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has developed a fondness for using a three-guard offense off the bench.

In a comprehensive feature, Reusse details Nunnaly’s path to the Timberwolves in 2018. The swingman went undrafted in 2012 and has made several stops around the NBA and abroad since.

Nunnally has proven that he can be potent deep threat while also contributing defensively. If he can come anywhere close to the .554 he shot from beyond the arc in Germany last year, it will be a marked improvement over the .331 that Crawford shot in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Timberwolves today:

  • The Timberwolves have officially ruled Justin Patton out indefinitely. The team issued a press release that said the center will have surgery in the near future.
  • The upcoming season will have massive implications for the Timberwolves’ future, Drew Maresca of Basketball Insiders writes. At present, only one of the three stars in Minnesota’s locker room are signed long-term. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns can be free agents next summer.
  • Last night we asked readers to tell us what they think will come of this Timberwolves team. Weigh in at our Community Shootaround.

Community Shootaround: Timberwolves’ Future

Welcome to the new season, Timberwolves fans.

In the space of a few minutes today, we learned that Jimmy Butler will hold a meeting Monday with coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to discuss his future with the team, and that second-year center Justin Patton broke a bone in his right foot.

The bigger story is obviously the Butler news, which could affect the organization’s course for the next several years. Minnesota acquired Butler in a trade with the Bulls last summer to bring some star power and veteran leadership to a team whose best players were both young. Unfortunately, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins haven’t responded well to Butler’s tough love, and reports of a locker room rift have haunted the Wolves all summer.

If things don’t go well at the meeting, the team’s best option is to work out a trade, tweets Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. However, he notes that Thibodeau may not be on board because of his loyalty to Butler and the danger of taking a step back when his job could be in jeopardy.

There hasn’t been a good atmosphere in Minnesota for more than a year — roughly the time that Butler came on board — adds ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski expects a lot of frank discussion Monday, with a source telling him, “Whatever needs to be communicated … will be.” (Twitter link).

Butler may be looking to the future and seeing control of the team slipping away from him, suggests Kurt Helin of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Towns is mulling over an extension that would pay him $158MM over five years. Once that happens, he will become the focus of the organization, not Butler.

The Wolves need to be careful about promising too much to Butler, warns ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The organization won’t have cap flexibility for several years once Towns’ extension takes effect, so the front office shouldn’t be talking about roster upgrades. Marks suggests approaching Butler like a free agent, then asking for a firm answer at the end of the meeting on whether he plans to stay or not (Twitter link).

Free agent Jamal Crawford, who spent last season in Minnesota, gave an insider’s view of the situation during an appearance Friday on Howard Beck’s Full 48 podcast“For me, it just wasn’t a happy environment,” Crawford said. “It just wasn’t happy.”

How will the Wolves make things happier? Should they start offering Butler in trade talks or hope to re-sign him next summer? Will he and the other veterans brought in over the past year ever be able to co-exist with Towns and Wiggins? Should the team dismiss Thibodeau and his “Timber-Bulls” plan and get to work on building around its two young stars? Please leave your responses in the space below.