You gotta give the NBA this much: the league has arguably the most intriguing offseason in sport, outside of maybe world football (soccer). The NFL wants you to be intrigued by their offseason, but how many people really care what Johnny Manziel is mixing his Ciroc with or what team is going to be on Hard Knocks or what buffoon is running the Cleveland Browns? You want intrigue? How’s this for you:
- A draft two rounds deep full of talented players.
- The best player in the world – and his future Hall of Famer teammates – hitting the market as unrestricted free agents.
- A former 10-time All-Star, having just finished his first season as a head coach, demanding more power and upon being rebuked, heading west for a franchise that just selected one of the draft’s top prospects.
- The prospect of two of the league’s best players being a part of different teams next season, one an unrestricted free agent and the other on the trading block heading into the final year of his contract.
Let’s get right into it:
- Our top story centers around a 41-year old former point guard who just finished his first season as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. After starting the year 10-21 and with the hot seat getting fired up, Jason Kidd got his team to turn their season around, finishing the year 34-17 and reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. Once the offseason rolled around, he saw two of his contemporaries from his playing days, also lacking coaching experience of any kind, sign on with the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks (Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, respectively). There was a problem, however; they were being paid much more than he was. Kidd signed on to a deal worth $10.5 million over three years, while both Fisher and Kerr reportedly signed contracts lasting five years and valued at $25 million. Kidd made it known to the Nets’ management that he wanted more power and specifically control over player personnel decisions. A sense of betrayal has overtaken the Nets ownership, and now Kidd appears headed to…Milwaukee? Marc Lasry, who recently became a co-owner of the Bucks, is an admirer of Kidd’s, and the former-point guard are currently working toward a deal which will see Kidd assume some kind of role with the Milwaukee organization. Whether that will be as head coach, president of basketball operations, or really anything else remains to be seen, though the latest reports have the franchises negotiating which draft picks and how many would be exchanged in order for the Bucks to retain Kidd to do…something, anything really.
- News broke Sunday that the Hawks and Raptors had orchestrated a swap with John Salmons – and more importantly his contract – heading south to Atlanta in exchange for Lou Williams and the rights to Lucas Nogueira. The Hawks’ will waive Salmons come Monday, and with only $1 million of his $7 million contract guaranteed, Atlanta will be able to free up cap space to add in the free agent market. Toronto acquires a quality point guard in Mr. Williams and a 2013 1st round pick in Nogueira.
- We learned Tuesday that LeBron would officially opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat. Four days later came news that Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh would do the same. Udonis Haslem also opted out earlier in the week, meaning the Heat currently have one player left under contract (Norris Cole). As long as situations stay the same as they are at this moment, rumors and speculation will continue to run rampant. Will Wade and Bosh agree to take less money so that Pat Riley and the Heat can bring in more talent? Will LeBron decide that it’s been a good run in Miami but it’s time to move on? This is all ridiculous speculation, and that’s part of why the NBA offseason is so great.
- Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that the Suns and GM Ryan McDonough are planning a run at LeBron and Carmelo Anthony. The Suns have cap space ($33.5 million with the potential to shed another $10 million), young talent (including but not limited to Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, and the Morris Twins), and three first round draft picks in 2015. James and Anthony signing on in Phoenix may be a long shot, but it might not be a dumb move for the two talented forwards.
- Oh, we should probably remember that Carmelo Anthony officially opted out of his deal and is now an unrestricted free agent. Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that Melo will begin his tour of meetings with other teams this week, visiting Chicago Tuesday and Houston and Dallas on Wednesday. Anthony is also said to be meeting with the Lakers this week. Phil Jackson, however, is not on his hands and knees begging for Melo’s return, not by any stretch of the imagination.
- Speaking of Phil, he didn’t wait for Melo to begin re-tooling the Knicks’ roster, executing a draft day trade that sent Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to Dallas for quality point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, as well as Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two second-round draft picks. Phil would finish the draft having selected three new players for the Knicks; F Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), G/F Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Delaware 87ers) and C Louis Labeyrie (France). Mr. Jackson talked of changing team chemistry and he not only did that, he obliged Knicks fans’ desire to offload Raymond Felton (who recently plead guilty to a felony gun possession charge).
- Let’s wrap things up with some thoughts on what we saw in Thursday’s NBA Draft, which was ESPN’s highest rated draft ever (3.1 overnight rating):
- As most expected, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were selected first and second overall, with both the Cavaliers and the Bucks getting a big name and a marquee talent to help shape the future of their franchise. Things really did start getting interesting from there, as Joel Embiid – who some thought could fall as far as 10th and who himself thought wouldn’t be selected until the second round – was picked by the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3. After their acquisition of Dario Saric at No. 12 and selections of Vasilijie Micic at No. 52 and Nemanja Dangubic at No. 54, the Sixers had brought in four different player who are almost surely not going to play for their team next season. They seem fine with the fact that they’ll likely be selecting in the lottery again next year, and as depressing as that could seem to Sixers fans, this could prove a highly successful plan of rebuilding the franchise.
- Instead of taking Dante Exum or Noah Vonleh with the fourth pick, Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan showed what he really likes to do: get athletically gifted players who can play defense on his roster. The Magic took Arizona’s Aaron Gordon at No. 4 and followed that up with the selection of Elfrid Payton at No. 10. After dealing Arron Afflalo earlier to the Nuggets for Evan Fournier, the Magic are now loaded with young and talented players who have plenty of room to grow and develop.
- By selecting Marcus Smart with the 6th pick in the draft, Danny Ainge served to do one thing and one thing only: fuel the trade rumors and speculation surrounding Rajon Rondo. It is difficult for most including myself to imagine that Smart and Rondo will be playing consistently on the court at the same time. Ainge has said he can envision a backcourt that features Rondo and Smart, and he even spoke of keeping Avery Bradley. His comments, however, did nothing to diminish the expectation that Rajon Rondo is now on the trading block.
- As expected by many, the Lakers selected Julius Randle out of Kentucky, who at one point had been thought to be one of the top prospects in the draft. Randle gives the Lakers a talented piece for the future who can also contribute right away, much to the delight of Kobe Bryant.
- One question on all of our minds entering the draft was who would select DOUGIE FRESH MCBUCKETS. Denver may have been the initial franchise whose hat McDermott sported, but by the end of the night word had surfaced that Doug McDermott would be sent to the Windy City for the rights to Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. In his evaluation of the trade, Kevin Pelton gave the Bulls a ‘D’ grade, pointing out that, “Moving up in the NBA Draft seldom pays off.”
- Yeah so when LeBron tweets that someone is his “favorite player in the draft,” and he’s still on the board with a few picks to go before it’s your turn, it’s probably important to trade up and make sure you snag him. That’s exactly what Pat Riley and the Heat did as they sent their selection, just two picks later, to the Hornets along with second round selections in both 2014 and 2015. Oh, and Shabazz Napier is now a member of the Miami Heat.
- We’d be remiss to discuss the draft that was and not raise our glass to Adam Silver and the NBA, who drafted Isaiah Austin Thursday night in one of the more touching moments in recent memory. A great move by Commissioner Silver, who has already cemented himself as the most well-liked commissioner in today’s pro sports.
- The absolute shocker of the night? Toronto’s selection at No. 20 of Bruno Caboclo, a 6’9″ 200 lbs 18-year old out of Brazil, with a 7’7″ wingspan to boot. Next to no one had heard of Mr. Caboclo, and for good reason. According to ESPN’s international expert Fran Fraschilla, Caboclo is “two years away from being two years away” from making it to the NBA. Masai Ujiri is one heckuva GM so we may have to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but on the surface it’s a real head scratcher.
- Last but not least, the San Antonio Spurs surprised no one by surprising everyone in selecting UCLA’s Kyle Anderson with the final pick in the first round. Anderson has been compared across the board to Boris Diaw, so I feel like we all should have seen this coming. With the Spurs’ ability to develop players and Kyle Anderson’s raw talent, we may look back on this draft and see that San Antonio took the NBA Finals MVP at the end of the first round.
Those are the highlights from a whirlwind few days in the Association’s offseason.