Weekly Mailbag

Weekly Mailbag: 6/12/17 – 6/18/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

Will any of these stars get traded on draft night: Carmelo Anthony, Paul George or Jimmy Butler? — Deven Parikh, via Twitter

Probably not Carmelo. The Clippers are his most likely destination and they don’t have any draft picks to offer New York. Then there’s the matter of putting together a deal and convincing Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, all in four days. Look for any movement on that front after the draft. George continues to pledge his loyalty to the Pacers and the franchise says it intends to keep him, but management has to see the writing on the wall. He’s going to be one of the biggest names in free agency in 12 months, and Indiana may decide to unload him now if the right offer arises. A deal still seems more likely closer to next year’s deadline as the Pacers take more time to gauge the market and try to convince George to stay. Butler could be interesting, especially if Dwyane Wade opts out and makes his announcement by Thursday instead of the June 27th deadline. If Wade leaves, that could be the last straw in pushing the Bulls toward rebuilding.

Do you think the Kings would scoff at Timofey Mozgov and the 28th pick for Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple? — thedirewolf

If there is a franchise willing to take Mozgov’s albatross contract away from the Lakers, it could be Sacramento, which will have more cap room than anyone this summer. It depends on the Kings’ plans for Koufos with younger big men like Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere already on the roster. There are cheaper ways to unload Koufos than to pay Mozgov $48MM over the next three years, but the Kings might consider it to pick up an extra draft choice. If they deal away picks No. 5 and 10 to move up for De’Aaron Fox, they’ll be looking for another selection later in the round.

Is T.J. Leaf the next Kevin Love? Is Frank Jackson a first-round pick? — Michael Huff, via Twitter

There are a lot of big guys in college who can shoot, but few of them ever get to Love’s level. Don’t forget that Love was a top prospect in 2008 who was drafted fifth overall. Leaf is projected somewhere in the middle of the first round. He could eventually develop into a Love-type player, but he could also have a rookie season similar to Henry Ellenson‘s. Jackson is a fringe first-rounder who will probably go in the late 20s or early 30s, depending how the other picks play out. In the latest mock drafts, he is listed 25th by ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and 33rd by DraftExpress.

Am I the only one who is absolutely terrified of the prospect of the Spurs drafting Jordan Bell? — Alex Joel, via Twitter

An impressive athlete and a tenacious defender, Bell would replace some of what Jonathon Simmons provides if the Spurs lose him in free agency. But Bell’s limited shooting range doesn’t fit the profile of what San Antonio looks for in a power forward.

Weekly Mailbag: 6/5/17 – 6/11/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

Would a package of the No. 3 pick, Jahlil Okafor or Richaun Holmes, one of next year’s first-rounders and a couple second-rounders get Philly Klay Thompson? — Kevin Wisla

It’s a decent offer that might tempt some other franchise, but the Warriors aren’t going to break up the core of a team that is poised to be title favorites for the next five years. Thompson is only 27 and is under contract for about $17.8MM next season and nearly $19MM in 2018/19, a very good price for a three-time All-Star. Thompson’s shooting troubles early in the NBA Finals prompted some fans and media to start trade speculation, but he’s simply not leaving Golden State. A more realistic, and cheaper, target to fill the shooting guard slot would be Jordan Clarkson, who could become expendable if the Lakers draft another guard and is rumored to be available. The Sixers also have plenty of cash to make a run at Clippers free agent J.J. Redick this summer.

Do you think the Pistons will seek trade offers for Reggie Jackson or Andre Drummond or let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope accept a deal elsewhere to save cap space, or will they keep the roster together, but over the salary cap? — Barron Hudson

Word leaked Friday that Detroit once again plans to explore the trade value for Jackson and Drummond, who were both on the block in February. Jackson is coming off a disappointing year, and the Pistons played worse once he returned from an early-season knee injury. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy has publicly questioned Drummond’s work ethic and said he needs to improve in several areas. Those aren’t the guys you want to build your team around, especially coming off a 37-45 season. The Pistons are committed to keeping Caldwell-Pope, a restricted free agent, and don’t have any cap room to replace him if he leaves. But they had better be prepared to make or match a max offer. There are plenty of teams with cap space [Brooklyn will be throwing money around again] and KCP is one of the best guards on the market.

Any NBA draft rumors starting to surface? Which player is most likely to fall in the draft? Which player is most likely to rise? Which team is most likely to trade up? Which team is most likely to trade down? — Matt Trapp

It may be another week or so before the rumors really start to take shape, as teams are in the middle of pre-draft workouts and still haven’t seen all the players they might be interested in. Duke’s Harry Giles is a name to watch in the late lottery, as someone may take a chance on a super talent with a history of knee problems, and teammate Luke Kennard could get chosen much higher than originally projected by a team that needs shooting help. As far as trade rumors, the Sixers don’t have a clear choice at No. 3 and the Kings at No. 5 are reportedly interested in trading up to get Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, so that’s a situation to watch.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/29/17 – 6/4/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

How big will Dion Waiters‘ contract be? — LG3, via Twitter

Waiters has opted out of a deal worth more than $3.2MM next season and will be one of the top shooting guards in free agency. The 25-year-old averaged 15.8 points in 46 games this season and shot a career-best 39.5% from 3-point range. In an April article on The Players Tribune, Waiters expressed a desire to remain in Miami, saying team president Pat Riley helped him revive his career. But that will likely mean taking less money than he could get on the open market. The Nets offered Allen Crabbe four years at $75MM last summer and Tyler Johnson four years at $50MM, so a team may be willing to give Waiters something in that neighborhood, even though he was limited to about half a season because of injuries. The Heat won’t have full Bird rights on Waiters for another year, and Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel suggested last month that he might agree to a two-year, $20MM deal to stay in Miami with an option year to maximize his earnings next summer. Waiters’ salary will depend on how patient he is and how strongly he wants to remain with the Heat.

With the numerous second-rounders that they have this year, can you see the Celtics trying to turn them into a late first-rounder to snatch someone like Harry Giles if he’s still on the board? Before the knee trouble he was the first pick on practically every GM’s board. They need front court help/depth, and his athleticism came through at the combine. Medical concerns may put [president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge off, but they could get a steal for a minimum price. Then if the Nets fail in free agency and tumble in the standings again, the Celtics could target Deandre Ayton in 2018 as a long-term replacement for Al Horford. — Chris Hawkins

Ainge has the assets to make almost any move he wants, though it will probably take more than the Celtics’ three second-rounders [Nos. 37, 53 and 56] to move into the first round. Giles goes 20th in the latest mock published by DraftExpress, and some team might gamble on him even higher if it believes his knees can hold up. Roster spots are another concern in Boston, which has 10 players under contract for next season, not including free agents Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Amir JohnsonGerald Green and James Young, draft-and-stash prospects Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic and whatever they do with the No. 1 pick. Ainge may not want to bring another rookie with a guaranteed contract into that mix, especially if it involves a medical gamble like Giles.

I really want the Mavericks to take Jonathan Isaac or Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth pick. I feel New York is going to select Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick, so if they are not available does Dallas have interest in trading its pick to Denver for Emmanuel Mudiay and the 13th pick? At No. 13, Dallas can select OG Anunoby or Isaiah Hartenstein or Lauri Markkanen if there’s a miracle and he’s still available. Don’t forgot Mudiay is only 21 years old, he has time to learn to shoot and I heard the Mavs have a very good shooting coach. — Jason Tom

The question is whether the Mavericks believe any shooting coach can fix what’s wrong with Mudiay. He was a highly touted prospect who was taken with the seventh pick two years ago, but his NBA career has been a major disappointment so far. Denver would jump at the chance to move up four spots and get rid of Mudiay, who fell completely out of the rotation at midseason. He’s still young and he’s the type of player worth taking a chance on, but the Mavericks could probably pick him up much cheaper if they’re interested.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/22/17 – 5/28/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

I heard Paul George has interest in playing with Gordon Hayward. What if Indiana traded George to Utah for Derrick Favors, Dante Exum , the 24th pick, 42nd pick and the rights to the higher first-rounder in 2020 between Utah’s pick and Oklahoma City’s. Resign Hayward using his Bird rights. — Jason Tom

The key for any team that trades for George is confidence in re-signing him past next season. George has a player option in 2018 that he’s almost guaranteed to use to set up a long-term maximum contract. George grew up near Los Angeles, and rumors have been circulating for some time that he wants to play for the Lakers. L.A. has about $19MM in available cap space for 2018 (including a $5.67MM player option for Nick Young), so look for deals over the next 12 months designed to free up cash for a max offer. George would be a nice running mate for Hayward, but there’s little chance that he signs a long-term deal in Utah. Your trade idea would be a nice offer to give Utah six or seven seasons of George, but it’s way too much for one.

What type of moves will the Pistons be involved in? — Rick Fuller, via Twitter

Detroit’s primary concern will be keeping Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The fourth-year shooting guard is a restricted free agent, so the Pistons can match any offer, but the size of his new deal is going to eliminate any future flexibility for a team that is already over the cap next season. The Nets reportedly have KCP in their sights, so expect an offer similar to what they gave to Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson last summer. Detroit would also like to re-sign Aron Baynes, who can opt out of his $6.5MM contract, but there may not be enough money to keep him. The Pistons made some calls before the deadline to gauge league interest in Andre Drummond. Don’t be surprised if his name gets thrown around again over the summer as a way to open up future cap room.

Is there a chance the Knicks trade  Kristaps Porzingis this offseason? — Nathan Dylong, via Twitter

It sounds like there’s much more smoke than fire coming out of New York about a possible Porzingis deal. There was a skipped exit meeting, a failure to disclose plans to play for the Latvian National Team and a mysterious tweet about the Clippers, but that’s not enough evidence to suggest that the Porzingis era is about to end. Phil Jackson’s primary offseason focus will be to get a deal done for Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks will need a team leader after that happens, and Porzingis is the only name on the roster qualified to fill that role.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/15/17 – 5/21/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

With only a second round pick in this year’s draft [52nd] and Bojan Bogdanovic as a free agent, who should the Wizards target in free agency/trade to help improve their bench? — Nick Elliston

The bench was an enormous issue for Washington in the playoffs, but with little cap room and just one draft pick, it might be even worse next year. The Wizards have more than $94MM committed for next season without figuring in Bogdanovic or Otto Porter, who appears headed for an extension. They traded their first-rounder to Brooklyn for Bogdanovic, who will want a long-term deal worth significantly more than the $3.73MM he made this season. Point guards Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings are both free agents, with Burke seeming certain to leave and Jennings expected to get much better offers than the $1.2MM he took home this year. Washington will be shopping for bargains on the free agent market and hoping for luck in the draft, which is no way to rebuild a bench. They might be able change the equation by finding a taker for center Marcin Gortat, who will make $12.78MM next season is unhappy with the organization once again.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has said the Cavaliers have the “perfect roster” around LeBron James. Do you believe that’s true? — CavsFan, via Twitter

Theoretically, the perfect roster would include 11 other guys with LeBron’s skillset, but this might be the best group of teammates he has ever had. There’s plenty of shooting to space the floor for his drives to the baskets, and everyone seems to be comfortable in a complementary role. GM David Griffin has done a remarkable job of assembling players who fit well alongside LeBron, and the Cavs would be in an even better position to defend their title if Andrew Bogut hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in his first game after joining the team. If Griffin winds up in Orlando or Atlanta, it will be interesting to see how well he can build a team without a superstar like LeBron as the foundation.

Which of the Spurs’ veterans will be back with the team next season? — Grant Lawson

Start with Pau Gasol, who will turn 37 in July. He has a player option worth nearly $16.2MM for next season and announced back in January that he plans to opt in. Gasol has found a good situation in San Antonio and would probably be open to a new deal next summer. Tony Parker has one season left on his contract, but could miss training camp and the start of the season while recovering from a ruptured quadriceps tendon. Manu Ginobili has considered retirement over the past two offseasons. He has been effective in the playoffs, but will turn 40 this in July. It could be another late-summer decision. David Lee turned 34 in April and has a $1.6MM option for next season. Assuming he recovers from what appears to be a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, he should be back for another year. Joel Anthony will be 35 in August and is playing for the veteran’s minimum. The Spurs will look for better options at backup center.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/8/17 – 5/14/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

So Tracy McGrady is in this year’s Hall of Fame class, and while I think he deserves it and I am a fan of his game I know some people found it a bit surprising. Out of the recent retirees [2000s era] and active players who aren’t considered obvious first-ballot choices, i.e. Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, etc., who do you think might be a surprise pick when they are eligible? — Grant Weddle
If you thought McGrady was controversial, just wait until Dwight Howard gets in. He has a similar record of playoff failures, outside of his run to the 2009 Finals, and is a very polarizing figure whose success never quite matched expectations. Even so, he has been one of the top centers in the league for 13 seasons. He is only 31 and appears to have conquered his injury problems, playing 71 and 74 games the past two seasons. He is signed for two more years in Atlanta, then will probably seek another long-term deal, so there’s plenty of time to add to his career totals of 16,652 points and 12,089 rebounds. There will be howls of protest when it happens, but Howard is headed for the Hall of Fame someday. For a more under-the-radar choice, how about Ben Wallace? He played for one of the best teams of the last decade, winning a title in 2004, and was named Defensive Player of the Year four times. He only averaged 5.7 points per game throughout his career, but he was such a defensive force that he has earned a spot in Springfield.
It’s unlikely but with the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis situation, can you see Dallas trying to tempt the Knicks to trade him as it would give the Texans an heir to Dirk’s throne? What would they have to give up, as it’s unlikely they’d want to give up their 2017 first-rounder as they could have a top PG like Dennis Smith Jr. or Frank Ntilikina? — Chris Hawkins
While Porzingis would be a perfect successor to Nowitzki in Dallas, it’s hard to see how he ever winds up there. First, any rumors about him leaving New York were greatly exaggerated and popped up in reaction to a missed exit meeting last month. Porzingis and his brother have both issued statements saying he wants to stay in New York. Even if the Knicks made him available for trade, a lot of teams are in position to outbid the Mavericks. Any offer would have to start with this year’s pick, along with some future selections, a re-signed Nerlens Noel and possibly Harrison Barnes.
Why is the lottery held in the back and not out where it can be viewed? — HmmmmGood, via Twitter
Despite frequent accusations, there’s nothing nefarious going on behind the curtains. It’s a complex process that doesn’t make for good television. First, each lottery team is assigned a series of four-number combinations. Then there are four drawings of ping-pong balls numbered one through 14. Once the four numbers are in place, everyone has to consult a 10-sheet handbook containing each possible combination to find out who won. It’s much more dramatic to open sealed envelopes on live TV, even if everyone on stage already knows the results.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/1/17 – 5/7/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

Assuming the Raptors lose today, what coaching candidates would fit in Canada if Dwane Casey is cut loose? — Darrell Samuels, via Twitter

NBA coaches are on a historically long run with no one getting fired, and Casey doesn’t deserve to be the one to break it. He is 261-215 since taking over in Toronto six years ago and had three straight Atlantic Division titles before this season. The problem is that he can’t get past the Cavaliers in the playoffs, but it’s not his fault that the other guys have LeBron James and he doesn’t. If the Raptors decide to axe Casey, the obvious candidate is waiting in the D-League. Jerry Stackhouse just led Toronto 905 to the league title and seems ready for opportunity to be an NBA head coach. A former assistant with the Raptors, Stackhouse was named D-League Coach of the Year this season and is probably viewed by the organization as Casey’s eventual replacement, whether that’s right away or somewhere down the road.

Who will be the “under the radar” free agent getting the most attention this summer? — Grizz Tony, via Twitter

Joe Ingles is a name that a lot of NBA fans may not know, but his contributions helped the Jazz reach the final four in the West. The third-year small forward averaged 7.1 points and 3.2 rebounds this season, but those numbers don’t tell the full story. He shot 44% from 3-point range and is a rugged defender who isn’t afraid to take on the toughest challenges. Ingles will be a restricted free agent, and although Utah would like to keep him, the organization will have other priorities with Gordon Hayward and George Hill both on the market. Toronto’s Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker could also be considered “under the radar,” along with Cavaliers guard Deron Williams, Heat center Willie Reed and Clippers forward Marreese Speights.

If the Jazz get swept in the second round, what are the chances that Gordon Hayward leaves in free agency? — Todd L., via Twitter

Utah will have a max offer ready for Hayward any time he wants to sign it, but there will be competitors lurking once he hits the open market. The Heat and Pacers are rumored to have interest in the All-Star small forward, and the Celtics seem like a natural fit with Hayward’s connections to Brad Stevens, his college coach. However, the Jazz have the advantage of being able to offer more money and more years, and Hayward seems happy to be part of the team they’re building in Utah. Look for him to re-sign, and probably very early.

Weekly Mailbag: 4/24/17 – 4/30/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

What is the likelihood Blake Griffin is gone if Clippers get bounced, and what team has a shot of landing him? — Bleedingreenbetty via Twitter

Clippers management keeps saying it wants to keep the team together regardless of cost, but the price of retaining Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick would be enormous. L.A. would be about $11MM over the cap next season if Paul and Griffin both opt in, which won’t happen, but would mean $24.27MM for Paul and $21.37MM for Griffin. There are rumors that a five-year, $200MM deal is ready for Paul to sign when the playoffs end, which would bump his salary up to around $40MM for the first season. It’s hard to see how they can afford a similar deal for Griffin, especially when luxury taxes and the repeater tax are added. It would be a huge financial commitment, even for a title contender, and the Clippers have never even reached the conference finals. Any contender with cap room (the Celtics, for instance) would have interest in Griffin, who might benefit from a change of scenery.

Are the Pelicans still considering firing Alvin Gentry? — Michah, via Twitter

A report this morning said the team is still evaluating Gentry and GM Dell Demps. Logically, it seems like both should get at least one more season to see how the Anthony DavisDeMarcus Cousins combination works out. They’ve only been together since the All-Star break and haven’t really had time to mesh. Give Demps an offseason to find some shooters to surround them and give Gentry at least half a season to make it work on the court. If they aren’t a playoff contender in January or February, then start handing out pink slips.

Does it make sense for Greg Monroe to opt out of his contract with the Bucks? He had a good year off the bench and is still only 26 years old, but it’s hard to imagine him topping $17.9MM for next year as a free agent. — Oscar, via Twitter

In a different era, Monroe could safely opt out, knowing that teams would be lined up to offer him a huge payday. But his old-style post game doesn’t fit the direction that the league or the Bucks are headed. Monroe averaged 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, numbers that increase to 18.8 and 10.5 when projected to 36 minutes. But he was used exclusively as a reserve and played just 22.5 minutes per night, less than half the game. Milwaukee would love to get Monroe’s $17.9MM salary off its books for next year, but he will probably take the safe road and opt in.

Weekly Mailbag: 4/17/17 – 4/23/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

Do the Pacers have any interest in adding Carmelo Anthony to help Paul George stay in Indiana? I will trade Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis and a future first-round pick for Carmelo. — Jason Tom

The Knicks haven’t gotten any better offers that we’ve heard about, so let’s examine your proposal. Ellis’ trade value is down after a subpar year. Plus, he’s signed for $11.23MM for next season and has a player option worth $11.7MM for 2018/19. Young will make nearly $14.8MM next year and has an option worth nearly $13.8MM for the following season. But he’s only 28 and wouldn’t be a bad fit next to Kristaps Porzingis. The future first-rounder could carry some value if George leaves in free agency after next season. Substitute C.J. Miles (if he opts in) or Lavoy Allen for Ellis, and the Knicks might have some interest. Of course, the bigger question is whether Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to go to Indiana, and the answer is probably not, unless he becomes desperate to get out of New York.

If the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick at No. 4, which player would you go for? — Babyboy, via Twitter
This would be the worst-case scenario for the Lakers, and the best for the Sixers, who own L.A.’s pick if it falls out of the top three. It will also be an indication of how much Philadelphia believes in Ben Simmons running the point. Both Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of ESPN.com have Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson as their top three picks. That leaves De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith, both highly regarded point guards, along with international prospect Frank Ntilikina. The Sixers will also have their own pick later in the lottery, so it’s likely they would take the best player available at No. 4. Jayson Tatum is a possibility, but Malik Monk would fill a long-time need in the backcourt.

Is NBA expansion happening? Are the SuperSonics set to return? — Scott, via Twitter

The latest news on the Sonics is that the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group has a $564MM plan for renovations to KeyArena, the team’s former home. The project could be completed by October of 2020, in time to host an NBA or NHL team for the 2020/21 season. The 55-year-old arena is expected to be named a historic landmark this year, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, which means its unique roof and other elements would have to be retained in any renovation. A committee will make a recommendation in June whether to renovate the arena or throw its support behind a new facility. The city is willing to invest to bring the SuperSoncis back, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver recognizes the value of the Seattle market. The only obstacle is that the league has no immediate or long-term plans for expansion. But when it happens, Seattle is almost guaranteed to get its team back.

Weekly Mailbag: 4/10/17 – 4/16/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

What are the chances Klay Thompson could be pried away from Golden State when he hits free agency? — FTD, via Twitter

Thompson signed a rookie scale extension three years ago that has him under contract through 2018/19. It’s hard to predict how the NBA will look two seasons down the road, but we do know a few things. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will both sign max deals this offseason, while Draymond Green has a near-max contract that he agreed to last summer. That leaves Golden State with a very top-heavy salary structure with four players putting the team close to the cap. In two years, Curry will be 31, Durant will turn 30 and Thompson and Green will be 29. All four will still be in their primes and Golden State figures to remain among the NBA’s elite teams. There’s no reason to think the Warriors will be ready to break up their core by then, even with looming luxury tax concerns. Look for Thompson to get another max deal in 2019 and finish his career with Golden State.

Will the Lakers be better next season? — Broad Feet, via Twitter

With a nucleus of young, talented players, L.A. should improve at least a little bit every season. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. could eventually develop into a team that makes regular playoff appearances. But what the Lakers need is a star to build around, and there are only a few ways to get one. L.A. has imperiled its draft pick with a few late-season victories, falling behind Phoenix into third place in our Reverse Standings. If that pick drops out of the top three on lottery night, it will be transferred to Philadelphia, leaving the Lakers with no shot at Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz or any other franchise-changing talent. The team won’t appear more attractive to free agents than it was last year, and the huge contracts it gave to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov will be a drain on the salary cap for the next three years. The dream of signing Paul George is at least a year away. So the Lakers might be a little bit better next season, but real improvement will require patience.

Whenever anyone makes the MVP case for James Harden over Russell Westbrook, they point to Houston’s record vs. OKC’s. Couldn’t the same argument be used to make the case for Kawhi Leonard over Harden? The Spurs’ supporting cast isn’t much better than the Rockets’, and the gap between San Antonio and Houston is as big as the gap between Houston and OKC. — Jonathan C., via email

That’s a very good argument. Leonard averages nearly 26 points per game on the second best team in the league, and the defensive gap between him and Harden is huge. It should be a very interesting three-man race for MVP, with LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas and maybe some others also getting votes. Westbrook’s triple-doubles will impress voters, as will Harden’s gaudy numbers in points and assists, but you could make the case that no one has done more to help his team win on a nightly basis than Leonard.

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