The top 10 storylines of the NBA offseason (Part 1 of 2)
MANILA, Philippines – During the 2011 NBA Lockout, the league’s owners and Players’ Association agreed on a collective bargaining agreement that would alter the landscape of the NBA in terms of structuring rosters.
Both sides settled on a deal because of pressure from the media and public scrutiny. The players were itching to get back on the floor and collect their paychecks as well, which gave the league’s owners and then NBA Commissioner David Stern leverage during discussions.
Thanks to the new CBA, creating super teams like what the Miami Heat did in 2011 is now nearly impossible thanks to expensive luxury tax penalties. Furthermore, clubs have become conservative when it comes to spending due to fear of going over the cap limit for consecutive years and having to pay the repeater tax penalty.
Because of this, contracts handed out during free agency are now less lucrative. The CBA also gives a team who fears to lose one of its players as a free agent the advantage of offering more guaranteed dollars and an extra guaranteed year, though this does not always mean keeping the said player (see: Dwight Howard picks Rockets over Lakers in summer of 2013).
Thanks to this, most big name players who aim to team up with other All-Stars are forced to sacrifice money and years in their contracts, which is why most of them become free agents every three or four seasons. The same goes for middle-tier role players and veterans.
The new CBA is also the reason the past two NBA trade deadlines haven’t been exciting. Franchises are reluctant to trade for guys with expensive deals that could hurt the team’s long-term cap flexibility. It’s also why draft picks have become valuable. With athleticism and youth playing a huge role in team success in today’s game, rookies and sophomores with cheap contracts have become huge commodities.
All the factors mentioned above will play a huge role in this NBA offseason, and the same goes for the years to follow until a new CBA is created.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 storylines that should catch most of the public’s attention over the next few weeks:
1984, 1996, 2003… 2014?
The NBA’s summer festivities begin this Friday (PH time) with the 2014 NBA Draft. For the past two years, many pundits have called this year’s class the best in recent memory, with a number of All-Star-caliber players available atop the list. (RELATED: NBA Mock Draft v1.0 - Cashing in on the lottery)
With names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, and Julius Randle, the excitement over 2014 is similar to the hype that led up to the 2003 NBA Draft, which featured LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Darko Milicic, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. With Embiid going through foot surgery a few days ago, it’s now unclear how the order atop the draft will go. The Cavaliers own the No. 1 pick, and they originally planned to take the Kansas big man. Reports indicate they now lean on selecting Parker, but this is the same team that shocked everyone by selecting Anthony Bennett first overall last year, so nothing is set in stone.
Dante Exum is an intriguing prospect. Some have called him the next Penny Hardaway because of his height, the position he plays, his ball handling, and scoring abilities. Others argue that the inferior competition he faced in Australia made him look better than he really is, but he did score 16 points in his team’s Nike Hoop Summit game against USA few months back while going head to head with Parker and other top prospects.
Exum has a lethal first step and his long strides enable him to get to the rim with ease. His jump shot needs polishing, though that’s common for many rookies.
Every draft also has an under-the-radar prospect that goes on to surprise many in the regular season. Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams was that guy last season, and he went on to win rookie of the year. It’s early, but Elfrid Payton Jr. is poised to be 2014’s MCW.
He’s a talented athlete with a killer 6-foot-7 wingspan who’s already polished on defense. He also does the little things a point guard must be able to do: rebounding, providing help defense, and knocking down transition jumpers consistently.
The Kevin Love Sweepstakes
Kevin Love was mum about his current situation with the Minnesota Timberwolves when he visited Manila a few days ago, but the Internet has been abuzz with news of potential Love trades recently.
Golden State reportedly offered a package centered on Klay Thompson and David Lee for Love, Kevin Martin, and Minnesota’s first-round pick in the draft. Boston, meanwhile, was said to have offered Kelly Olynyk, multiple first-round picks, and other fillers for the All-Star.
Chicago’s offer was the latest to reveal itself last night, as the Bulls were willing to part with Taj Gibson, picks 16 and 19 in the draft, and Tony Snell for Love.
But earlier today, multiple media outlets mentioned that it seems Love won’t be traded before this Friday’s draft. And Minnesota might find it best to keep its star, who is under contract for one more year, until the trade deadline to wait for a better offer.
But Love holds the cards in this situation. As an upcoming free agent in 2015, he can force a trade to a team he prefers, using his willingness to sign an extension as leverage. That may be enough to persuade Minnesota president Flip Saunders to complete a deal as soon as possible.
Outside of LeBron James, Anthony is the biggest catch in this year’s free agent pool. He opted out from his 2015 player option with the Knicks a few days ago, but that doesn’t mean New York is out of the running. Thanks to the CBA, the Knicks can offer Anthony more cash and an extra guaranteed year to keep playing in his hometown.
But Chicago seems to be the favorite.
As Rappler pointed out yesterday, the Bulls make the most logical choice for Anthony when putting money, location, and a championship roster all together as factors. (RELATED: Why the Bulls are the best fit for 'Melo)
Houston is a sleeper because playing with James Harden and Dwight Howard will make Anthony at least consider the Rockets. But they play in the very competitive Western Conference, making consecutive finals appearances less likely than playing in the East.
The same goes for signing with the Lakers, which are also limited in terms of cap flexibility because of Kobe Bryant’s expensive contract.
Miami is a dark horse. Besides taking a significant pay cut, Anthony would also have to put faith in Pat Riley to be able to re-tool a roster that looked old and underwhelming last season. But if James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all return with heavily discounted contracts to help attain Anthony, then the Heat could one-up what they accomplished in 2010 – and anger many, many NBA owners.
Where will he take his talents next? Or will he stay where he’s is?
The top consensus is that LeBron will re-sign with Miami, and Pat Riley made sure to send his superstar a message during a press conference a few days back:
"This stuff is hard. And you got to stay together, if you got the guts. And you don't find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity.”
However, after falling short of a three-peat and watching Wade lose his battle against Father Time in the Finals, James, who wants to be on the Mount Rushmore of NBA greats, is going to decide on a place where he feels he can win most championships.
Riley and the Heat can point out to LeBron that they built a team around him that won two rings in the last four years, and that he should trust them to do the same again. Acquiring ‘Melo would likely keep James in Miami, though Riley called such a scenario a “pipe dream.”
James will have many options: Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, and both Los Angeles teams. But one thing going under the radar is that he could choose to opt into his player option for 2014-2015, making him an unrestricted free agent a year from now. By then, even the Knicks will have cash to spend on LBJ. - Rappler.com