Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker has spent his entire seven-year NBA career with the Hornets. But Walker’s future with the organization is murky at best as he heads into his walk year.

The 6’1” point guard has one year and $12MM remaining on his contract before he enters unrestricted free agency for the first time next summer. He recently said he’s intrigued about that prospect.

“I’ve never been a free agent. I don’t know how the process works,” he told the New York Post. “I will have options unless Charlotte gets something done.”

If anything gets done prior to next July, it will likely be a trade. A contract extension isn’t feasible because of Charlotte’s salary-cap restraints. The Hornets are hard-capped and will have make a move or two to avoid being a luxury taxpayer.

The Cavaliers reportedly explored the possibility of trading for Walker early in the summer prior to LeBron James‘ decision to bolt to the West Coast. New York has long been rumored as a potential landing spot for Walker, who grew up in the city. Both the Knicks and Nets might view Walker as an upgrade at that spot.

Walker has increased his offensive output with greater efficiency over the past two years. In 2016/17, he averaged career highs of 23.2 PPG on 44.4% shooting.

His numbers went down slightly last season, as he scored at a 22.1 PPG clip on 43.1% shooting. He’s become an outstanding 3-point shooter over the past three seasons, making 38.6% of his attempts.

Walker will be 29 during the next offseason and should be effective for at least another five seasons.

That brings us to our question of the day: Will Kemba Walker re-sign with the Hornets as a free agent next summer? If not, where do you think he will wind up?

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

Community Shootaround: Portland’s Backcourt

The Trail Blazers were one of the league’s biggest surprises last season. No one thought they’d finish with the third-best record in the loaded Western Conference but there they were, piling up 49 victories and trailing only the Rockets and Warriors.

They also had a surprising postseason for a much different reason. They were swept by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, creating some soul-searching for the front office.

GM Neil Olshey ultimately decided to keep his core group together, rather than break up his undersized backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Offensively, they can match up with any pair of guards in the league. They combined to average 48.3 PPG and 10.0 APG last season. Defensively, it’s an entirely different story. Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus ranks both as below-average defenders.

Both players are signed through the next three seasons at substantial figures. Lillard is due nearly $100MM for the remainder of his deal; McCollum has approximately $82.5MM coming to him.

Even so, Lillard is an All-Star talent and McCollum is a prolific scorer. Both would have value on the open market.

Olshey made a long-term commitment to center Jusuf Nurkic in restricted free agency, giving the big man three guaranteed years. The Blazers’ forward group doesn’t quicken the pulse. They’re looking at a rotation of Evan Turner, Maurice HarklessAl-Farouq Aminu and Caleb Swanigan.

Dealing one of their guards for a top-flight forward would theoretically make the team more balanced. Certainly, in the star-laden West, it would seem that Portland would be hard-pressed to finish third again with the same group and could even struggle to make the postseason.

That leads us to our question of the day: Should the Blazers hold onto their prolific backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum or deal one of them for frontcourt help?

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

Community Shootaround: Best Free Agents Left Unsigned

Team reaching deals with veterans in mid-August is not that unusual and those players can sometimes find meaningful roles as the season progresses. There’s still quite a bit of talent left unsigned this summer. Let’s take a look at who’s still available:

Rodney Hood

Hood is a restricted free agent whose talks with the Cavaliers appear to have stalled. He shined in Utah before going into a funk upon arriving in Cleveland but he’s still only 26 years old and some franchise should be able to use his three-point shot and athleticism to help its team.

Patrick McCaw

Golden State has done an excellent job finding pieces that mesh well with their top stars and McCaw is another example of fringe guy fitting in. He’s expected to take his qualifying offer with the Warriors, but if another team is looking for a young prospect late in the offseason, the right offer may dissuade Golden State from matching.

Nick Young

One year after fitting in nicely with Golden State, Young is back on the market looking for another deal. The Rockets were linked to the swingman earlier in the offseason, although there hasn’t been much chatter about him joining CP3 & Company since Carmelo Anthony came to town.

Jamal Crawford

Crawford remains on the market after taking a bit of a step backward last season, as he nailed 33.1% of his attempts from behind the arc. There was some speculation that the Sixers would be a fit for the 38-year-old, though nothing has come to fruition.

Can one of these players or another remaining free agent still help a team this upcoming season and where are the best fits?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Knicks Win-Loss Total

According to a prominent Las Vegas sportbook, the New York Knicks will have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference during the upcoming season.

Westgate recently posted projected win-loss totals for each team and the Knicks were pegged at 29.5. The only Eastern teams with lower projected win totals were the Bulls (27.5) and Hawks (23.5).

Naturally, New York’s first-round pick begs to differ. Kevin Knox was asked by Marc Berman of the New York Post on Sunday if he saw those odds and Knox admitted it had caught his attention.

“I saw that,” Knox said. “People are sleeping on us with the 29 wins. I think we definitely can win at least 35 and get in that playoff talk. That’s my personal opinion. Everyone has their own opinion. But the whole team, I’m pretty confident we’re really good this year, that we have a chance to make the playoffs.”

If Knox had seen the Knicks play the last few years, he might have tempered his enthusiasm. The Knicks haven’t won more than 32 games over the last four seasons and had exactly 29 victories last year, though they surely would have won a few more if Kristaps Porzingis hadn’t suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Porzingis is expected to miss approximately two months of the season as he continues his rehab. The biggest reason for optimism in New York may be Knox himself. He averaged 21.3 PPG in four Las Vegas summer games despite some spotty shooting and could be a Day One starter.

The rest of the Knicks roster looks rather pedestrian. Their biggest offseason signing was Magic reclamation project Mario Hezonja. Their point guard situation is still a muddle with Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina fighting for minutes. Enes Kanter returns at center and they also have two experienced wings in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee.

New York is also in the toughest division in the East and has a long way to go to catch up to the Celtics, Sixers and Raptors.

This leads to our question of the day: Do you think the Knicks will exceed their projected win-loss total of 29.5 or finish even worse than their current odds?

Please take to the comments section and provide your input on this topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Joakim Noah

Of all the questionable contracts handed out during the free agent frenzy of 2016, Joakim Noah‘s has turned out to be the worst. Luol Deng may be wasting away on the end of the Lakers’ bench, but at least he’s doing it quietly. Noah has become not only a financial nightmare for the Knicks, but a problem in other ways as well.

He hasn’t been with the team since January, when he was suspended following a heated argument in practice with former coach Jeff Hornacek over playing time. That bookended a season that started with another suspension, this one imposed by the league for using a banned substance. In total, Noah played just 40 total minutes over seven games and collected $17.765MM. He still has two seasons and $37.8MM remaining on the $72MM deal that ex-team president Phil Jackson gave him two summers ago.

The Knicks would like to end their relationship with Noah and reportedly plan to use the stretch provision to officially cut ties sometime after September 1. By waiting until then, New York can lock in his $18.53MM salary for the upcoming season and stretch the final $19.295MM over three years. That will free up roughly $12.9MM for next summer, when the Knicks hope to make an impact on the free agent market.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using the stretch provision, as Philip Bondy of The New York Daily News detailed today. The Knicks are concerned that Noah might not be willing to stay away from the team and collect his checks for an entire season. If he’s still on the roster, Noah could take his case to the players’ union and force his way back into the locker room, where he could be a disruptive presence for new coach David Fizdale.

If that’s not a concern, there’s no rush to unload Noah’s contract. The stretch provision will be an available option all the way through next summer, and Noah might have some value as his contract gets closer to expiring. Bondy points out that the Nets were able to trade Timofey Mozgov, who has a deal similar to Noah’s, because the Hornets needed to unload Dwight Howard to escape the luxury tax.

We want to get your opinion on how the Knicks should handle Noah. Should they employ the stretch provision as quickly as possible or hang onto him in hopes of either finding a trade partner or convincing him to accept a buyout? Please leave your responses in the space below.

Community Shootaround: Lowest Offseason Ranking

The offseason business for NBA teams is winding down with most of them simply filling their training camp rosters and handing out two-way contracts at this point of the summer.

With that in mind, NBA.com’s David Aldridge revealed his annual offseason rankings on Monday. The rankings solely reflect how successful teams were in improving their rosters and/or cap situation this summer. Aldridge’s top three included the Thunder, Lakers and Nuggets, who all achieved their major goals via free agency and trades.

On the opposite spectrum, Aldridge viewed the Hornets, Cavaliers and Heat as having the worst offseasons, with Miami holding the ignominious bottom spot. The Hornets got a low rating despite moving Dwight Howard‘s contract as they eventually wound up with Bismack Biyombo and his bloated contract on the roster. Kemba Walker‘s future beyond next season also remains unresolved.

Cleveland’s low ranking is for the most obvious reason, losing LeBron James, though extending Kevin Love‘s contract to coincide with rookie point guard Collin Sexton‘s rookie deal was viewed by Aldridge as a positive.

The Heat received the bottom ranking mainly due to being hamstrung. They’re capped out and couldn’t improve through the draft. They haven’t been able to move a bad contract and have precious few players with upside, which means the team certainly hasn’t improved its stock since the end of the season.

It could be argued that losing a major player, such as Cleveland or the Clippers (DeAndre Jordan), or trading away your best player under pressure (Spurs), should put those teams below the Heat in the offseason rankings. It could also be argued that paying a heavy price to retain players, like the Bulls (Zach LaVine) and Magic (Aaron Gordon) did, is more detrimental than standing pat by necessity.

That leads us to our question of the day: Did the Heat have the worst offseason this summer, as Aldridge ranked them? If not, which team do you feel had the worst summer?

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

Community Shootaround: MGM Partnership

The NBA made history off the court this week when it agreed to a deal that makes MGM Resorts an official “gaming partner.” It becomes the first professional sports league to enter into a partnership with a bookmaker in the wake of May’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned a federal ban on sports gambling.

Although it’s a landmark move, the deal isn’t really loaded with benefits for either side. MGM will reportedly pay the NBA $25MM over three years, which is a small amount considering the potential windfall from legalized betting. In return, the casino gets access to league highlights, names, logos and a direct data feed. MGM can also market itself as the official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA, and it will work with the NBA on integrity provisions, such as the prevention of fraud and game fixing.

Both sides admit they’re finding their way in this new arrangement, with Commissioner Adam Silver calling it a “leap of faith” and MGM Resorts chief executive Jim Murren referring to the deal as a “partnership of trust.” The parties already had a working relationship with Murren owning the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA.

Legalized gambling is a cause that Silver has advocated and prepared for since taking over for David Stern in 2014. He sees it as a rich new revenue source for the league and has indicated in the past that he would like the NBA to receive 1% of all dollars wagered on its games.

We want to get your opinion on the new deal. Is the NBA taking the right approach by moving aggressively into the legalized betting era and will it benefit by having a formal agreement with a sportsbook provider? Please leave your feedback in the space below.

Community Shootaround: Worst Offseason Move

On Wednesday night, we opened up a discussion on the best roster move of the offseason, from a team perspective. While the Lakers‘ signing of LeBron James was probably the single-most impactful move of the summer, other deals – such as the Warriors‘ signing of DeMarcus Cousins and the Nuggets‘ addition of Isaiah Thomas – received plenty of praise as well.

Today, we’re shifting our focus to look at the deals on the other end of the spectrum. Which roster moves were the worst of the offseason?

We can get a little creative here. If there’s not a single free agent signing or trade that stood out for you as awful, then a series of moves made – or not made – by a club could qualify for this “honor.” For instance, perhaps you weren’t a fan of the Rockets replacing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute with James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony, even if none of those moves on their own are particularly egregious.

A handful of ESPN analysts weighed in on this question this week. Among their choices? The Wizards‘ offseason moves, including the signing of Dwight Howard; the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40MM deal; and the Lakers‘ deal with Lance Stephenson.

Those are hardly the only candidates to qualify for the most questionable move of the summer. Perhaps you’re skeptical about Devin Booker‘s new five-year maximum-salary extension with the Suns, or particularly disliked one side or the other in the Kawhi Leonard/DeMar DeRozan mega-deal. Maybe one of the signings at the very start of free agency, such as the three-year deals the Pacers and Bucks gave Doug McDermott and Ersan Ilyasova, respectively, drew your ire.

Draft-night trades also qualify for this discussion, so if you hated the Hawks‘ move to pass up on Luka Doncic for Trae Young, or the Suns‘ decision to give up an unprotected future first-rounder to move up six sports for Mikal Bridges, let us know.

What do you think? Which offseason move do you think is the worst – or just your least-favorite – of 2018?

Community Shootaround: Best Offseason Deal

The frenzy that is the NBA free agency period has largely come to a close, with 48 of our 50 top-rated 2018 free agents now having either agreed to sign or signed a new deal. Only Rodney Hood and Dwyane Wade remain free agents.

Out of those 48 free-agent signings, Chris Paul signed the largest deal, both in terms of total and per-season value, while Nerlens Noel (per-season value) and Isaiah Thomas (total value), who was ironically expected to sign a large deal not too long ago, signed the least lucrative deals.

LeBron James‘ deal with the Lakers was a close second in value to Paul’s contract with the Rockets. Widely considered to be the best player in the world, it’s hard not to consider James’ contract with the Lakers the best offseason deal.

However, one could realistically argue that Paul George re-signing with the Thunder, after last summer having so clearly iterated his intentions to go to L.A. when he became a free agent this summer, or Clint Capela‘s team-friendly deal with the Rockets, to be better overall deals that James’. Moreover, the defending champion Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins – a bonafide star when healthy – to a one-year deal for the mid-level exception, which is generally reserved for role-type players.

So that leads us to our topic of discussion: Which summer signing/reported signing do you think was the best deal of the summer? Was it clearly James’ heading to L.A. or does another situation exceed that signing?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Next Star To Be Traded

A year ago, Paul George and Kyrie Irving were the highest-profile stars to push their way out of their longtime NBA homes, asking for trades to new teams and having those requests granted. During the 2018 offseason, Kawhi Leonard followed suit.

Now that Leonard has been dealt to the Raptors in a trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, there are no marquee names still out there on the trade market.

Kevin Love looked like a possible trade candidate in the wake of LeBron James‘ free agency departure, but the Cavaliers opted to lock up Love to a long-term extension rather than shopping him. Kemba Walker was also viewed as a potential trade chip, but both he and the Hornets have been saying all the right things as of late about keeping their relationship going beyond his 2019 free agency.

With offseason roster moves slowing down, there doesn’t appear to be a star player out there who is unhappy enough in his current situation to request a trade before the season begins. Still, based on recent NBA history, it’s likely only a matter of time before the next star player becomes available.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tackled this topic on Tuesday, speculating about a few All-Stars who might be among the next group of disgruntled veterans to seek a change of scenery. Kyler named Jimmy Butler, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, and Anthony Davis as possible candidates, though he acknowledges that it would take a disaster scenario for some of those names to show up in the rumor mill.

A player’s contract situation and his team’s success – or lack thereof – generally goes a long way toward determining how stable his situation is. A player like Butler is a candidate for this list because he can become a free agent next summer and the Timberwolves aren’t necessarily a lock to make the postseason in a hyper-competitive Western Conference. If Minnesota gets off to a poor start and whispers about supposed tension between Butler and his younger teammates persist, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear his name involved in trade rumors before the 2019 deadline.

Still, Butler is hardly the only candidate to be the next star player traded. Besides Kyler’s choices, newly-acquired stars like Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins could find themselves back on the trade block at some point in 2019 if things don’t go well with their new teams. Maybe the Wizards underperform again and decide to break up their All-Star backcourt. Perhaps a healthy Celtics roster creates playing-time problems for certain players and makes one of the team’s veteran stars unhappy.

Some of these situations are, of course, less likely than others, but it’s hard to rule anything out entirely — after all, we never thought the Leonard/Spurs situation would become as toxic as it did.

What do you think? Who will be the next NBA star who is traded, either as a result of a trade request or his team deciding to make a change?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!