NBA teams in 2018/19 played at the fastest league-wide pace in three decades, and scoring totals increased in turn. According to Basketball-Reference, clubs scored an averaged of 111.2 points per game this season, the highest mark the league has seen since the NBA-ABA merger.
As a result, some historic individual numbers were recorded in 2018/19, making the All-NBA races particularly compelling. For a handful of players, the All-NBA selections will also have major financial consequences, impacting their potential maximum salaries this offseason.
The league isn’t expected to announce its All-NBA teams for about another month, but we want to give you an opportunity to make your own picks before then. We’re starting today with the First Team, before moving onto the Second Team on Monday, and the Third Team later next week.
Polls for the guards, forwards, and center are below — you’ll have the opportunity to pick two players apiece in the guard and forward polls. We’ll leave today’s polls open through the weekend before naming the players with the most votes to our All-NBA First Team and moving on to voting for the Second Team.
Vote for your All-NBA picks below, and then take to the comment section to explain your reasoning. And if there’s a player not listed below that you believe deserves All-NBA consideration, be sure to mention him in the comment section too — if I agree, I’ll make sure he’s included in our Second and Third Team polls.
On Tuesday, we asked which NBA head coaching vacancy looks like the most appealing, and so far, the Lakers are the pick. Despite all the drama in Los Angeles, the Lakers’ basketball situation still appears to be more favorable than that of the Grizzlies or Cavaliers.
The Lakers are also one of four teams with an opening at the top of their front office. In the wake of Magic Johnson‘s resignation, general manager Rob Pelinka is running the show in L.A., but there’s an expectation that the team will eventually hire someone to join him at the top of that hierarchy. It remains to be seen whether that means hiring a new president of basketball operations or perhaps promoting Pelinka and hiring someone underneath him.
Either way, a high-ranking job in the Lakers’ front office would be an intriguing one. Despite the team’s struggles in 2018/19, L.A. still has one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players (LeBron James) under contract for at least two more seasons and has the cap flexibility to pursue another star this summer. Some of the Lakers’ young players, such as Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, saw their value dip a little in recent months for health-related reasons, but there’s still a solid core of young players on the roster who could be dangled in trade talks or who could be contributors on the Lakers’ next playoff team.
The Grizzlies are another team in the market for a high-ranking basketball executive, though as in the case of the Lakers, it’s not clear exactly what that exec’s role would be. After demoting Chris Wallace, the Grizzlies announced that president of business operations Jason Wexler would oversee basketball operations too, with Zach Kleiman elevated to executive VP of basketball operations.
Neither Wexler nor Kleiman – who has a law background – is a true basketball executive, however. Presumably, the club will target a candidate with more of a background in player evaluation, scouting, and personnel decisions to join them in a key front office role. And that role could be an interesting one — Jaren Jackson looks like a keeper, and Mike Conley is a borderline All-Star who could be retained or traded. Owing a first-round pick to the Celtics is a nuisance, but once that pick is conveyed, Memphis would be in position to launch a full-fledged rebuild, allowing a new exec to help put his stamp on the team.
The Wizards‘ and Timberwolves‘ searches for new additions to their respective front offices appear more straightforward. Washington is seeking a replacement for Ernie Grunfeld, the team’s top decision-maker for years, and Minnesota publicly announced that it’s on the lookout for a new president of basketball operations.
In some ways, the Wizards’ and Timberwolves’ situations are similar. Each team has one overpriced long-term contract that may be a cap burden going forward – John Wall in Washington and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota – but the presence of an All-Star (Karl-Anthony Towns and Bradley Beal) at least gives each franchise some hope.
Having players like Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Josh Okogie locked up in Minnesota may appeal to front office candidates. Of course, in D.C., only Wall, Beal, and Troy Brown are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, which might be intriguing to a candidate looking for a bit more of a clean slate. Plus, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis probably has a better league-wide reputation than Glen Taylor, who has been known to get involved in the Wolves’ basketball decisions.
What do you think? Assuming the roles are relatively similar, and taking into account rosters, assets, and ownership situations, which of these four front office positions looks the most appealing to you?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!
As our head coaching search tracker shows, there are currently three NBA head coaching jobs up for grabs. That number looked like it might get as high as five early in the offseason, but the Kings quickly replaced Dave Joerger with Luke Walton, while the Timberwolves appear likely – for now – to retain interim coach Ryan Saunders.
That leaves three teams in the market for a head coach. The most noteworthy club in that group is the Lakers, who are undergoing some upheaval in the front office as well after Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation.
Walton was originally hired in Los Angeles to help develop the team’s group of young prospects, and he was doing a decent job of that before the 2018/19 season rolled around. Once LeBron James joined the Lakers, expectations changed for Walton and the team, and like David Blatt in Cleveland, he was no longer viewed as the right man for the job.
Coaching James isn’t an easy job, and the Lakers are in disarray at the moment, but they’re still the Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in any sport. And of the three teams seeking head coaches, they’re the closest to contention, particularly if they’re able to land a second star to pair with LeBron on the trade market or in free agency this summer. That should make the job appealing to veteran coaches, particularly those with previous head coaching experiences.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, will likely be in the market for a younger, up-and-coming coach who has a strong player-development background and perhaps extensive experience as an assistant as well.
With LeBron no longer around in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are still in the relatively early stages of a full-fledged rebuild, with building blocks like Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance, and a top-six pick in 2019 making up the future core. Since contention isn’t an immediate priority, the Cavs will want to find their own version of Kenny Atkinson or Lloyd Pierce, who can grow along with the team’s young players.
As for the Grizzlies, they might be somewhere in the middle. As long as Mike Conley is still on the roster, the team won’t be entering a full-fledged rebuild. But there’s no guarantee that the new decision-makers in the front office won’t trade Conley this season, kick-starting a rebuild centered around Jaren Jackson.
None of these jobs necessarily represents a perfect situation for a new head coach. The Lakers haven’t been to the postseason since 2013, their president of basketball operations just quit on the team, and no NBA player has more power than LeBron. The Cavs’ roster isn’t exactly loaded with talent, and Dan Gilbert doesn’t have a reputation as one of the league’s best owners. The Grizzlies just fired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff hours after since-demoted general manager Chris Wallace assured reporters that Bickerstaff would be back for 2019/20.
What do you think? Which of these head coaching openings looks most appealing? And would the Kings have been your pick if they hadn’t filled their vacancy so quickly?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!
While they haven’t all technically clinched yet, the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference have been pretty much set for the last couple weeks. That’s not the case in the Eastern Conference though, where late-season hot streaks for the Magic and Hornets have created an all-out, five-team battle for the final three postseason seeds.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the Nets have a tenuous hold on the No. 6 seed at 38-37, but they’re faced with the league’s most brutal end-of-season schedule, per Tankathon.com. Brooklyn’s next six games come against the East’s top five teams, including a pair against Milwaukee. The Nets will then close the season against Miami, one of the five clubs battling it out for a playoff berth.
At 37-37, the Pistons are right behind Brooklyn in the standings, but have lost three games in a row and will need to turn things around quickly to hang onto a playoff spot. Detroit will get to finish the season by playing Memphis and New York, but before that, a four-game stretch against the Trail Blazers, Pacers (twice), and Thunder will be sandwiched by crucial home contests against Orlando and Charlotte.
Speaking of Orlando, the Magic‘s six-game winning streak has put them in the No. 8 seed in the East for now, at 37-38. They’ll have to finish strong on the road to hang onto that spot, as five of their last seven games are away from home — and none of those games (in Detroit, Indiana, Toronto, Boston, and Charlotte) will be easy.
After falling last night to the Magic, the Heat are a half-game out of the postseason at 36-38. With games this week vs. Dallas and New York, Miami will have a chance to get back to .500, but after that, things get significantly more challenging — the Heat finish the season with games against Boston (twice), Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.
As for the Hornets, Jeremy Lamb‘s incredible buzzer-beater on Sunday kept their playoff hopes alive, and they’ve since extended their winning streak to four games to push their record to 35-39. A daunting Western road trip looms, with games vs. the Lakers, Warriors, Jazz, and Pelicans on tap. If they can hold their own during that stretch, the Hornets will have a chance to make up ground in the season’s final week with games vs. Detroit and Orlando. Matchups with the Raptors and Cavaliers round out Charlotte’s remaining slate.
What do you think? Will the Magic and Hornets keep rolling and earn playoff spots? Will the Nets’ tough schedule cost them down the stretch? Can the Pistons and Heat finish the season strong?
Vote in our poll below on which three teams you ultimately expect to claim the final three postseason slots in the East, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!
“I no longer think it’s likely Kemba Walker re-signs with the Charlotte Hornets,” Bonnell wrote. “More importantly, I no longer can give you a strong argument why he should.”
Walker has had another terrific season in Charlotte, averaging a career-high 25.0 PPG to go along with 5.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.3 SPG. On a team that features no clear second-best player, Kemba earned All-Star honors for a third straight year and has single-handedly kept Charlotte in the playoff race.
Walker has also repeatedly expressed a desire to remain in Charlotte, despite the fact that the team hasn’t won a playoff series since he arrived in 2011. The Hornets have reciprocated that interest — after briefly gauging the trade market for the star point guard prior to the 2018 trade deadline, the team replaced GM Rich Cho with Mitch Kupchak, who has maintained since his hiring that he wants to retain Walker going forward.
Still, with the Hornets’ playoff hopes fading fast and unrestricted free agency right around the corner, Walker definitely can’t be considered a lock to stay, Bonnell writes. While Charlotte could offer him more years and dollars than any rival suitor, doing so would make it that much harder to build a contender around him in the coming years, as Bonnell observes. And Kemba, who turns 29 in May, figures to be seeking an opportunity to contend as he decides where he wants to spend his next few years.
A looming All-NBA decision could have an impact on the summer negotiations between Walker and the Hornets. If he earns an All-NBA spot, the former UConn standout would be eligible for a five-year deal that starts at up to 35% of the cap, rather than 30%. The difference would work out to a projected $31MM+ over those five years. Would the Hornets put that offer on the table if they’re able to? Would it sway Walker’s decision? It’s hard to say at this point, but it’s a factor worth considering.
If Walker seriously considers other teams, there should be no shortage of outside options for him. The Knicks and Mavericks are among the clubs that have been most frequently cited as possible suitors, but there will be many more teams with the ability to open maximum-salary cap room. And there are just as many teams that could use a guard with Walker’s scoring, shooting, and play-making abilities.
What do you think? Will Walker ultimately decide to stick with the Hornets after another disappointing season in Charlotte? Or do you expect the three-time All-Star to move on and sign with a new team this summer?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents on Walker’s future.
The NBA’s Designated Veteran extension, introduced in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, allows a player who would normally qualify for a maximum salary worth 30% of the cap to receive a salary worth 35% of the cap if he meets certain criteria related to performance and service time.
Assuming he meets the service-time requirements, earning an All-NBA spot is the most common way for a player to become eligible for a Designated Veteran contract. And, as we explained earlier today, at least a couple players appear to be in good position to gain eligibility for this form of contract – colloquially known as the “super-max” – by making an All-NBA team this spring.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who would be the best bet for a super-max extension, will gain eligibility this year, but won’t technically be allowed to sign a new deal until 2020, since he doesn’t have the necessary seven years of NBA experience. With a Giannis super-max not possible for at least one more year, it’s not clear whether any Designated Veteran extensions will actually be signed in 2019.
Here are the only realistic candidates:
Anthony Davis (Pelicans): Like Giannis, Davis qualified for a super-max deal a year before he was officially eligible to sign it, so it doesn’t matter whether or not he earns All-NBA honors this season. However, given AD’s desire to leave the Pelicans, a Designated Veteran extension looks like a real long shot anyway.
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers): Once he’s named to an All-NBA team this year, Lillard will become eligible to sign a four-year, maximum-salary extension. The only issue? It wouldn’t go into effect until the 2021/22 season, when Lillard will be 31 years old. Committing a $45MM+ annual salary to a player is scary enough — doing it two years in advance to lock up a player for his age 31-34 seasons is scarier. The Trail Blazers would have to think long and hard about whether to make such an offer.
Bradley Beal (Wizards) / Kemba Walker (Hornets) / Klay Thompson (Warriors): It’s possible Beal, Walker, and Thompson will all miss out on an All-NBA spot this year, in which case none of them would be DVE-eligible. But if any of them do land on an All-NBA team, they’d qualify. Beal, like Lillard, would be eligible for a four-year extension starting in 2021/22, while free-agents-to-be Walker and Thompson would immediately be eligible to sign five-year, $220MM+ contracts with their current clubs.
Most of the other All-NBA contenders won’t meet the other required criteria for a Designated Veteran extension, based on their contract situations. The only exceptions are borderline All-NBA candidates such as Nikola Vucevic (Magic) or Andre Drummond (Pistons), who likely wouldn’t be serious super-max candidates even if they qualify.
When the Designated Veteran extension was introduced in 2017, four players – Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and John Wall – received them in fairly quick succession. No player has signed once since though, and based on this year’s top candidates, there’s no guarantee that will change anytime soon.
What do you think? Will any of the players mentioned in the list above sign a super-max contract in 2019, or will we go another year without one?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!
After failing to land a marquee free agent with their maximum-salary cap room last offseason, the Sixers instead turned to the trade market to secure an impact player, acquiring Jimmy Butler from Minnesota. Then they did it again a few months later, completing a trade with the Clippers for Tobias Harris.
The idea of putting together a “Big Three” has been popular in the NBA over the last decade or so, but with their acquisitions of Butler and Harris, the 76ers pulled off a rare feat, compiling a “Big Four.” Butler and Harris joined Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in a starting lineup that now features four players with All-NBA potential.
Neither Butler nor Harris is on a long-term contract, however, as both players are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this summer. The Sixers will hold Bird rights on each player, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign them, and Philadelphia will have the flexibility to do so. Even with Embiid’s $27.5MM cap hit on the books for next season, the 76ers’ cap sheet is relatively clean — they’re only carrying approximately $41MM in guaranteed money, per Basketball Insiders.
Of course, Butler and Harris are each expected to be eligible for salaries worth up to about $32.7MM, so if the Sixers re-sign both players, and perhaps veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, it will be tricky to add many additional reinforcements to complement them. Adding extra help would get even more difficult in future seasons, since Simmons’ rookie contract expires in 2020 and he figures to be in line for a huge new deal of his own.
With major personnel decisions looming, the next couple months will be huge for the Sixers, who need to assess the potential long-term fit of an Embiid/Simmons/Butler/Harris core. Does retaining all four players create diminishing returns for those third or fourth options whose talents might not be maximized? Are Butler and Harris – neither of whom was an All-Star this season – worthy of long-term, maximum-salary (or near-max) investments?
Philadelphia’s performance in the postseason figures to play an important part in that equation — a first-round exit would raise serious questions about whether it makes sense to invest in both Butler and Harris, whereas an NBA Finals run would incentivize re-signing both players.
What do you think? Will the Sixers re-sign both Butler and Harris this offseason? Will they choose one or the other? Or will they go in a completely different direction, opening up cap room to pursue other players?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!
LeBron James reached another major milestone on Wednesday night, surpassing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time points list. With 32,311 career points, James is now the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), and Kobe Bryant (33,643).
James’ latest achievement is a reminder that the NBA’s all-time scoring lead remains within reach. LeBron just turned 34 years old in December and has three more years remaining on his contract with the Lakers after 2018/19. While this season has turned into a disaster, the four-time MVP still looks like he has plenty left on the tank, having averaged 27.1 PPG in his first year as a Laker.
Currently, the gap between Abdul-Jabbar’s points total and James’ stands at 6,076. In his first 15 NBA seasons leading up to 2018/19, LeBron averaged 2,069 points per season. If he were to continue at that rate for three more years, he’d become the league’s all-time leading scorer before his contract with the Lakers expires.
Despite James’ impressive durability and longevity over the years, however, it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to continue scoring at that rate. This season, for instance, even if he plays in every single one of the Lakers’ remaining 17 games and maintains his 27.1 PPG scoring average, he’d end up with 1,733 points due to the groin injury that cost him more than a month.
It’s fair to assume that nagging injuries could become a more frequent issue for James in his age-35 season and beyond, and his production figures to dip a little during that stretch as well. Even if we assume LeBron is capable of averaging 1,500 points per season going forward (about 23 PPG in 65 games per year), it would be 2023 before he catches up to Abdul-Jabbar. He’d be 38 years old at that point, so there’s not a ton of room for error (or, say, any season-ending injuries).
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that taking over the NBA’s all-time scoring lead is a realistic goal for LeBron. He’ll likely have to stay relatively healthy and continue playing at a high level for at least two or three more years – or be willing to play until he’s 40 – to have a legit shot, but that certainly seems possible.
What do you think? Do you expect LeBron to retire as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, or will he ultimately end up second or third? And if he claims that No. 1 spot, do you view any current players as serious threats to pass him?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!
In our Community Shootaround discussion on Monday, we zeroed in on the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, noting that the final three postseason spots remain up for grabs in the East, where the sixth and 10th seeds are only separated by 2.5 games.
For a time, it appeared the last few playoff spots in the Western Conference were just as up in the air, but the gap between the top eight teams in the West and the lottery teams has increased as of late.
The seventh-seeded Clippers have won six of their last eight games and the eighth-seeded Spurs are on a three-game winning streak of their own. Their top challengers, the Kings and Lakers, have both been heading in the other direction recently. Sacramento has lost five of seven, while the Lakers’ struggles have been well publicized — they’ve won just five of their last 18 games.
As a result of those trends, the Kings are now three full games behind the Spurs for a postseason spot, while the 10th-seeded Lakers trail San Antonio by 5.5 games with only 18 contests left to play. Time is running out for those teams outside of the top eight to make a run, especially given how good the current playoff clubs have looked.
While the door is rapidly closing on the Lakers and the teams behind them in the standings, there may still be some hope for the Kings. According to Tankathon.com, Sacramento has the sixth-easiest schedule in the NBA down the stretch. The Kings will also face the struggling Celtics twice in the next 10 days, and they hold the tiebreaker over the Spurs.
Still, the Jazz, Clippers, and Spurs – the three teams directly ahead of the Kings in the standings – also rank in the top half of the league in terms of easiest rest-of-season schedules. Plus, Sacramento won’t get much of a chance to make up ground by beating those three teams. The Kings only have one game left against Utah, one against San Antonio, and none against the Clippers — and those games against the Jazz and Spurs are on the road.
So, is it too optimistic for us to expect a Western Conference playoff race over the season’s final month? Can the Kings, Lakers, or another team force their way back into the mix, or will the conference’s current top eight teams make up the playoff field when the first round gets underway in April?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
While it’s not necessarily having a major impact on the court for either team, the seven-player trade completed by the Knicks and Mavericks in advance of the trade deadline was perhaps the biggest deal of 2019 so far due to its long-term implications.
For Dallas, the move meant securing Kristaps Porzingis, a potential franchise frontcourt player whom the team envisions complementing young star Luka Doncic for the next decade.
For New York, there were a handful of motivating factors — the club got to take a chance on a 2017 lottery pick in Dennis Smith Jr., and secured a couple future first-round picks too. But perhaps the most important aspect of the trade from the Knicks’ perspective was that it allowed the team to create not just one, but two maximum-salary contracts slots in free agency this summer.
Since the Knicks made the deal, speculation has run wild about their potential offseason targets. Do they know something we don’t about Kevin Durant‘s plans? Or Kyrie Irving‘s? Is New York native Kemba Walker in their crosshairs?
Before their trade with the Mavs, the Knicks were already close to having enough space for one maximum-salary free agent, and wouldn’t have had to attach Porzingis to a larger package to create that extra room. Instead, the team chose to make a blockbuster deal that opened a pair of those slots.
What, exactly, does that tell us about their summer plans? If they’re not sure about Durant or Irving coming, would they offer a maximum-salary deal to another free agent? Will Kawhi Leonard be a target? Knicks fans would be a little less thrilled about the prospect of the club using that space to give max deals to two players from a group that includes Walker, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Khris Middleton, but maybe those players will be on the team’s wish list as well.
On the other hand, if the Knicks can’t land both Durant and Irving, the prudent move might be to use their leftover cap room to absorb an unwanted contract or two to accumulate more assets — or to sign players to one-term contracts, rolling over their cap room to next summer.
When a panel of ESPN.com experts made offseason predictions last week, one question asked how many maximum-salary free agents the Knicks would sign this summer. The top answer was two (47.2%), followed by one (41.7%), and zero (11.1%). In other words, there’s a strong belief that the Knicks will invest huge money in at least one star this offseason, and likely two.
What do you think? Are you bullish on the Knicks’ chances of landing two stars? Do you believe they’ll hand out two max contracts even if they don’t necessarily get their top two choices? Or do you think they’ll end up being a little more patient with their newfound flexibility?
Vote in our poll, then head below to the comment section to share your thoughts!