It’s the eve of the 2014 NBA Draft and Rotoworld has you covered from top to bottom. We’ll be going nuts on Thursday on our Player News page with all the trade buzz, talk of teams having an affinity to a specific prospect, what teams are saying about players sliding, and every single pick with stats and analysis.
Ed Isaacson has spearheaded our draft coverage and has done top-10 ranks for power forwards, point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and centers. He also has a Mock Draft from earlier this month and will provide some winners and losers following the draft.
Additionally, Doctor A has his Final NBA Mock Draft up and Matt Stroup will have Roundball Stew on Friday, as well.
It’s not just draft season, though. Free agency is basically on its way and I ranked over 150 potential free agents in Free Agent Rankings. Yes, we did not get a vacation.
You can follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for all things NBA. I'll be at Las Vegas Summer League next month and tweeting all sorts of info on that, too!
Well, here’s a look of what’s gone on the past week:
In case you were on another planet yesterday, LeBron James is going to opt out of the last two years of his deal with the Heat. He knows he’s the best player in the world and will now allow any team to make a pitch to bring him on board. LeBron wants to win championships and he now has three losses in the NBA Finals while Michael Jordan never lost and didn’t even go to a Game 7 (only Jordan comparison, I promise).
If a team even has a small chance to get LeBron, there’s no telling what they will do to make the pitch more enticing. Considering how teams really don’t consider depth a must these days, a lot of teams would be willing to deal some of their big-money guys along with draft picks to free up the cap space. With that ability, just about any team could conceivably make a pitch to him. Of course, teams like the Knicks are going to have a very tough time with almost $35 million dedicated to Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani.
If I’m a general manager and LeBron calls me to tell me he wants to join my team, then I would have no problem dismantling my entire team and dump several draft picks. That scenario comes to mind with someone like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey or Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri. They see players as assets and that's really how teams should look at it these days.
It would still be a big shock for LeBron to leave the Heat and you can rest assured we’ll be getting all sorts of reports and silly updates about what he might do.
Fellow 2003 draft class player Carmelo Anthony has also opted out of the last year of his deal, and who can blame him? As mentioned in the LeBron section, the Knicks have almost $35 million committed to Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire for next season. That would account for 66.9 percent of the Sixers’ payroll from last year and already puts the Knicks at 55.6 percent of the projected salary cap of $63 million for next season. Plus, the Sixers, Suns, Jazz, Cavs, Lakers and Mavericks currently have less money on their payrolls as of today for the upcoming season than the STAT and Il Mago deals alone. Yes, this is why everyone roasted the Knicks for trading for Bargnani from Masai Ujiri and also why they foolishly gave STAT a five-year, $99.7 million deal after he already showed durability concerns with the Suns.
If the Knicks weren’t so full of themselves, they would have just recognized they were severely hindered by the STAT deal, then just acquired assets for 2015-16. This is kind of what the Celtics did as well as the 76ers after they completely flopped on Andrew Bynum. The Knicks will have just $12.7 million on their books next summer, which actually is the sixth-lowest team as it stands right now. If they’re smart, they just tank it this year, but they won’t.
If the Knicks were able to wait, they’d be looking at a solid free agent class next season. Here’s list of the restricted (R) and unrestricted free agents for next summer: Paul Millsap, Rajon Rondo, Kemba Walker (R), Kyrie Irving (R), DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard (R), Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Not a bad group of guys to work with, right?
Shifting gears to Melo, you can probably tell I don’t think he’s staying with the Knicks. I think the Bulls make sense as the frontrunners and it wouldn’t be hard for them to make room. If they have to deal their 16th and 19th picks along with Carlos Boozer, then that would probably help them avoid amnestying him.
The Rockets are probably number two on that list, but they would absolutely rather have Kevin Love or LeBron. Their scheme of not taking mid-range jumpers doesn’t fit in for Melo and it would really hurt what James Harden could do. I could also see the Warriors or Clippers making a case to get Melo, as well. We all know his wife is a fan of the spotlight, so the Clippers make sense.
The Love Movement
In this Twitter age, we are easily looking at the worst summer of free agency we have ever seen. We’re about a month in regarding the Kevin Love trade rumors and we’ve gone nowhere. The latest is that the talk with the Warriors is now dead, according to sideline reporter Ric Bucher. Really? I’m not buying.
Of all the reported proposals, there really is nothing even close to what the Warriors are offering. If the past few years of deals have suggested, the team giving up the player who has a year or two left on his deal should fetch at least one semi-star or a guy with major potential. The Jazz got back Derrick Favors and a ton of picks for Deron Williams, the Nuggets got Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a host of picks for Melo, and Magic got basically an entire team for Dwight Howard.
The best deals so far have been Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and basically the 11th pick from the Nuggets, or the sixth, 17th pick and a bench player from Boston. I think the sixth pick is easily the best part of those two deals and I also don’t think there’s a huge difference from the 17th pick and the 11th pick, or someone like Jared Sullinger and Wilson Chandler. Faried is a below-average power forward in the NBA despite how he was fantastic after the break last season. Again, I would take Klay by himself over all of those deals.
Coach Flip Saunders said he doesn’t know if he’s going to trade Love before the conclusion of the draft, which seems like a bit of a tactic to get the Warriors to agree to a deal. The bridge is definitely burned with Love calling the Wolves “them” and not his team. While the Wolves probably won’t be getting back a haul like the Jazz, they might be able to get back more than just Klay.
I think the Warriors and Wolves come to a deal soon. The Love Movement is a very underrated hip-hop album, by the way.
The Cavs may have a bidding war on their hands for the top pick. Here are some of the teams in the mix:
The Jazz have offered the best deal by my estimation. They are reportedly offering Derrick Favors, the fifth pick and Alec Burks for the top pick in the draft and Jarrett Jack. Based on what I’ve read out of Utah, the Jazz really, really want to grab Jabari Parker and they view him as a superstar. Plus, they also really want to go after Dante Exum, and may look at trading up to two or three to get him.
Favors was just paid a four-year, $49 million extension last summer and is really the only major money on their roster as it stands right now. He showed he can be a solid rebounder and got better at scoring around the rim, but he really needs to improve his jump shooting. While he did improve on his 24.1 percent on jumpers in 2012-13, his 30.4 percent in 2013-14 is still not where it should be. Plus, he shot just 30.7 percent on all of his 176 shots from outside the paint last season. The Georgia Tech product is still just 22 years old and has a lot of room to grow. The fact that he is improving is also a encouraging sign for him. Favors won’t be a superstar, but he can definitely be a top-10 power forward in the NBA.
The Cavs also getting the fifth pick is a very valuable thing. They’d have a good chance to grab Noah Vonleh, Joel Embiid or really any player not named Dante Exum. If the Cavs want to make a compelling case to get LeBron — and I don’t think they should bother — they’d probably want to do this deal.
The Magic are also reportedly making quite an offer for the top pick with the fourth pick, the 12th pick and Arron Afflalo. It’s a pretty good deal and Afflalo would be a very nice fit. The Cavs haven’t been in the top 15 for 3-point makes and percentage for each of the last two seasons. Also, here’s a look at some of the wings they have started in that span: Luol Deng, C.J. Miles, Dion Waiters, Earl Clark, Matthew Dellavedova, Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington and Alonzo Gee. Not good.
Bringing on Afflalo would really help both of those areas of weakness and would also help their versatility. As for his fantasy value, he’d probably take a hit, but he’d still be a mid-round guy as a 3-point specialist.
So what about those other picks? The Cavs would get a basically anyone not named Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, and that number 12 could give them a guy like Nick Stauskas, Julius Randle or Gary Harris. That’s a pretty good haul. Plus, those are some very nice assets and could be flipped for either future picks or players to help make a case to LeBron.
The Sixers are reportedly offering Thaddeus Young and the No. 3 pick for the No. 1. Young really put the 76ers on his back on their way to ranking last in offensive efficiency last year, but he really showed he’s not a five-feet-and-in guy. Thad’s contract includes an ETO for the last year at $9.7 million next season, so it’s not really a bad deal to bring on your books.
Obviously the pick at third is your choice of someone not named Parker or Wiggins.
The Celtics are offering a decent rebuild package involving the sixth and 17th picks in the draft. They are going to have to offer a lot more to hang with the rest of these other offers. This is basically someone in your fantasy league offering their fifth-round pick who is coming off a five-game hot streak along with someone they just picked up yesterday for Kevin Durant. No thanks.
That does it for the big news, so let’s hit on some of the smaller stuff in a quicker fashion:
The Pistons are not a Stan Van Gundy team at all right now. They are one of the least talented teams from beyond the arc, they take too many shots in isolation, and they just don’t play team ball on either end. Clearly, the move of bringing Josh Smith on as a small forward was one of the worst decisions ever made. Just one look at his shot chart and you would have known playing him away from the basket is a very bad idea. That's also a big reason why teams are hiring more people for analytics, but I digress. Plus, his defense isn’t great away from the hoop either.
Well, the Pistons are believed to be shopping Smith and the Kings are interested. That report has been shot down since, but it’s still clear they want to deal him. We’ll get a much better idea of how the Pistons feel about J-Smoove when we see what happens with Greg Monroe. If Monroe is still around, you’d have to think Mid-Range Shawty will be taking bad shots in another uniform very soon.
I was a little surprised to see Channing Frye opt out of his contract. He was one of the best stories of the year last season after returning from his heart surgery and probably could have used the last year of his deal to make an impression. Frye really did fizzle out after the break, turning in an effective field goal percentage of 48.9 percent. While that isn’t horrible, it is not even close to his 55.8 from before the break, and most stretch fours should get their eFG% above 50 over most decent sample sizes.
The Suns are still probably the favorite to bring him back because he fits in well with their team and he was brought up in Arizona. The former U of A Wildcat probably won’t get a per-year deal of more than his $6.8 million, which is what he turned down when he opted out. I’m thinking he’d get a three-year, $15 million deal. Not bad at all.
Mo will opt out
A slightly less surprising opt out was Mo Williams. He turned down the final year of his contract worth $2.8 million and is an unrestricted free agent. Williams played in 74 games last season and had a respectable 47.8 effective field goal percentage. The games played absolutely crushed his 46 games played in 12-13, so the timing is right.
He’s probably only going to get one more chance to get a three-year deal and he certainly exceeded expectations with the Blazers last year. Although, he has mid-level exception written all over him, too.
The Bucks said on Tuesday that Giannis Antetokounmpo has grown to 6’11” and is up to 217 pounds. This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering he was just 18 years old last season. He listed at 6’9”, 205 last year and it’s kind of hard to believe he was playing shooting guard. The last big-name guy even close to that height and play shooting guard in his rookie season was Kevin Durant. No, I’m not saying the Alphabet is going to be that good. I’m just saying he’s in rare air with respect to that size and being able to play that far from the basket.
He really struggled last year after he had his hot start once the Bucks let him off the leash, so we’ll have to hope a full offseason helps him grow. On the bright side, he is one of a few guys who has the potential to average at least one block, steal and triple next year. He’s all upside late in your draft and I’ll probably be taking a chance on him.
Nick Young finally passed. He passed on the player option to stay with the Lakers and will become an unrestricted free agent. This was a no-brainer for him after turning in a career year to cash in on a long-term deal. Although, it was a bit of a facade because the Lakers had just no depth and someone needed to take the shots that were up for grabs. We all know Swaggy wants shots more than just about anyone.
I think teams are smart enough to know that Young is not a guy you want to take double-digit shots. The Lakers may re-sign him to a two-year deal, though.
Duncan ain’t frontin’
Props if you remember that Sprite commercial. Anyway, we all knew Duncan wasn’t going anywhere. It was just a matter if he was taking the $10 million this upcoming year, or get a new two-year deal. He’s still got at least two years left in him.
En Knees Kanter
Enes Kanter had platelet rich plasma treatment on his right knee and will be sidelined two weeks. He received the treatment because of problems with his quadriceps tendon. That’s a fairly common place for tendonitis and some names that come to mind with that problem are Kawhi Leonard, Grant Hill and Charles Barkley. Obviously, there can be all sorts of severities from playing through it like Kawhi to having it end your career like Sir Charles.
Kanter doesn’t have any knee injury of note and this is likely just a problem with soreness. He shouldn’t be knocked down your draft board based on this treatment. We’ll see what the Jazz do at the time of the draft, but he hasn’t really done anything to make me think he’ll be a top-15 center in fantasy next season.