Mar 04, 2014 6:47 PM EST
While justifiable and collectively bargained, the last two CBAs possess a few particularly interesting processes that have huge effects on decision-making. Some of these, like the Chandler Parsons situation (where the Rockets can pick up his super cheap team option and allow him to be Unrestricted in 2015 or decline it to have him Restricted this summer] and the repeater luxury tax get plenty of ink. However, one of the more interesting impacts comes from a more abstract place and deserves more attention.
In today’s NBA, most players have very little control over their destination for their first two contracts. The first typically comes by being drafted so the athlete has almost zero say in where he ends up. For high level players in particular, the gigantic disincentives in terms of financial security have meant that only Ben Gordon (not risking as much because a max deal was not on the table) has declined extending and spent two seasons in peril in exchange for unrestricted free agency.
These factors combine to create a fascinating set of circumstances when the second contract ends, as the best players have spent 7-9 years in the NBA (likely in the same city) and are just entering their primes in most cases. After having all that time with zero say, a vast majority of them enter the free agent market because the current extension rules are not favorable for young players due to limitations on contract length.
As such, the league sees high-level players able to be truly wooed for the first time in their professional careers with dramatically weaker disincentives to leave and a new CBA that makes sign-and-trades a less useful proposition. The combination of complete freedom and years of team control means that the third contract typically marks the first time we really get to know what a player wants in the short and long-term.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh used their third contract to join forces with Dwyane Wade and have reached the NBA Finals in every season since The Decision.
Dwight Howard spurned the Lakers to make the Rockets a new Western Conference contender.
Ten years ago, Kobe Bryant publicly flirted with the Clippers before returning to the Lakers.
The third contract carries so much intrigue because as much as we think we know about NBA players, they never have the choices available to them earlier in their careers. There are plenty of valid reasons for someone to select their next location: team quality, connections with their current team, a good front office and/or coach, and a nice city to live in often carry weight in these circumstances. That said, each and every individual values those factors in different ways and can see the same landscape meaningfully differently. Thanks to a confluence of events from David Kahn not putting a five-year deal on the table for Kevin Love to opposing teams being restricted to offering four-year offer sheets, the next few summers will be full of tantalizing young talent finally gaining the freedom to go where they want.
Summer of 2014
All-Star snub Kyle Lowry looks to capitalize on a big season by being an unrestricted free agent for the first time.
Luol Deng and Emeka Okafor will also experience free agency for the first time since their second contracts were six-year deals grandfathered into the new CBA.
Rudy Gay has the choice of entering this class or the next one thanks to his big player option.
Astonishingly, Andrew Bogut would have joined this UFA first-timers group had he not signed an extension with the Warriors over the summer. Bogut has never been a free agent of any type in the NBA and will not be until 2017 with 12 years of service at that point.
While some people are already saying he may be close to done, Danny Granger gets an asterisk since he was a free agent this week but will have his first summer on the open market.
Summer of 2015
While Kevin Love generates the most headlines, the third contract group for 2015 runs incredibly deep. Likely Defensive Player of the Year Roy Hibbert joins 13-14 DPOY Marc Gasol on the unrestricted market assuming Hibbert declines his player option.
If those three All-Star bigs were not enough, Brook Lopez has a player option as well and could leave Brooklyn if the team disappoints between now and then. His twin brother, Robin, will be in this class too, which could be something to watch considering their close relationship. In case this group needed another big, Robin’s current teammate LaMarcus Aldridge can select his team as well and should generate major interest around the league. You can add in DeAndre Jordan as the cherry on top.
Thanks to a five-year extension under the old CBA, Rajon Rondo will hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in 2015. Rudy Gay, another member of the 2006 draft class, joins the group if he picks up his player option this summer. Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young can add himself to the mix if he declines his option year while Arron Afflalo could be here as well if he declines his fifth year player option.
Finally, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin will have a more normal free agency after back-loaded contracts as RFAs landed both of them in Houston while Wesley Matthews gets his chance after a “poison pill” deal put him in Portland two years before Daryl Morey got his two.
Summer of 2016
Kevin Durant gets the top of the marquee (as he should) but this strong group also includes Joakim Noah, Noah's Florida teammate Al Horford, and Mike Conley. Incredibly, Dwight Howard could be gunning for his fourth contract the same summer since he signed a deal with Houston that made his fourth season a player option.
Interesting starters like Ryan Anderson, Nicolas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Brandon Jennings and Eric Gordon (if he picks up his option) could join the party too.
Summer of 2017
Likely the first group of players to become UFAs under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka and former teammate James Harden headline a group that includes Derrick Rose (get healthy!), DeMar DeRozan, Tiago Splitter, Taj Gibson, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, and Tyreke Evans.
We should see a vast majority of these players hit true unrestricted free agency since the current CBA limits the length of non-rookie extensions to three years after the end of their existing contract. Since these individuals should be good enough to get four or more, I fully expect them to maximize their potential security and enjoy getting wooed for the first time as professionals. This shifted reality could lead to the power dynamics in the league changing more frequently than under previous agreements and make July 1 a much more interesting time each year.
Jan 07, 2014 2:40 AM EST
Before getting into the nitty gritty of the deal, here are the exact terms as they have been reported.
Cleveland Cavaliers acquire:
- Luol Deng (expiring this year, $14.275 million full-season salary)
Chicago Bulls acquire:
- Andrew Bynum (functionally no money since he will presumably be cut right away. If not, $6 million this year and $12 million next year if they elect to keep him)
- The right to swap picks in the 2015 draft if both teams make the playoffs and Chicago finishes with the better record
- Sacramento’s pick owed to Cleveland. According to our database, the pick is top-12 protected this season and top-10 for 2015-2017. If the pick falls in the top 10 each of those seasons, it becomes a 2017 second-round pick.
- Portland’s 2015 second round pick
- Portland’s 2016 second round pick
For the Bulls
In effect, evaluating the trade for the Bulls centers on the idea of whether Luol Deng would have returned to the team once he hits free agency this summer. There are plenty of reasons to expect that he would have left, particularly considering the medical procedure last year. If the team was convinced Deng would head elsewhere after this season, they did a pretty good job moving him. Plus, they avoid potentially overpaying him, which could have been rough with so many other large commitments.
In terms of the assets they acquired, it seems fair to effectively write off the 2015 pick swap since it does not seem super likely that the situation will present itself or yield a big value if it happens. The most it could swing would be from #30 to #15 which would be valuable but it seems unlikely that the Bulls and Cavs will each be that good. Honestly, I am not convinced that Deng stays (more on that later!) and Cleveland’s spot as a playoff team is far from secure either way. Even then, we will have to see what Chicago looks like a year from now as well.
The pick from Sacramento is tantalizing but not super impressive due to the protection. The big factor here is the fact that it reverts to a 2017 second rounder rather than being unprotected if it stretches out that far so the upside is much lower. Still, the Kings are trying to get better so that could end up being a near-miss lottery pick in a season or two. Not bad.
The second rounders are extra swings at prospects and that’s fine.
It may turn out that the biggest asset the Bulls got by trading Luol Deng came from how it affects their own 2014 first round pick. With Rose and Deng out of the picture, the Bulls are clearly not looking to win this season and I would not be surprised to see both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson miss meaningful time down the road. A Tom Thibodeau team can still make the playoffs, though it seems like the edict is pretty clear at this point. In a lottery this strong, that pick could be huge. At the same point, if that ends up being the best thing they get out of trading a player with value like Deng, they likely could have gotten more from another desperate team before the deadline.
The other meaningful benefit comes from the luxury tax. Just this weekend, I was talking with another member of the NBA media about how strange it was that so few teams were just over the luxury tax line and the Bulls managed to get themselves under via this trade. If they stay below it next season, it effectively removes them from the destructive “repeater tax” for the remainder of this CBA. If those savings eventually make their way to the team, it could be a huge benefit.
Grade for the Bulls: B+
For the Cavaliers
In an incredibly downtrodden Eastern Conference, even a tired and worn down half-season from Deng could be enough to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Cavs were worse than most people thought before making the trade and will still need plenty to go right in order to make the playoffs this season. Whiffing on so many draft picks made it much harder, but Deng turns one of their biggest weaknesses into a strength when he is on the court. If both he and Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, they might find a way to get above teams not necessarily interested in winning this season, a group that likely includes Chicago now.
What makes matters worse is that this could produce enough pressure to have management overpay Deng when he becomes a free agent this summer, which would actually be the worst of both worlds. While I love Deng as a player and competitor, his value to teams will erode as he gets older and he appears destined to get a bigger contract than his play will warrant for his early thirties. Plus, Cleveland had cap space to work with anyway so they are relying on Deng taking a “hometown discount” for a team he plays with for a few months that also does not lead to him getting overpaid. A risky proposition.
The bigger question is why. Like the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings to a degree, the Cavaliers appear to be going all-in at exactly the wrong time. This draft looks to be the best in a decade and there just is not enough talent beyond Irving on this Cleveland team to make any noise in the postseason even if they make it in.
At this point, the second-biggest competitive advantage in the NBA is competent ownership. By wanting to win now, Dan Gilbert’s team lost assets to be better for a year that means very little to the long-term arc of the team. Years ago I used the term “Timetable of Contention” to describe when a team would be best as the lens with which to view potential transactions. For the Cavs, that should be a few seasons off in the distance before and after this trade.
While I do not think that the assets they gave up were particularly valuable, they certainly made more sense for this core than worsening their own draft pick, spending more money, and not getting any long-term assets when the long term should be the focus of the front office.
Grade for the Cavs: D-
Dec 16, 2013 12:31 PM EST
Listen to Chicago Bulls management praise culture and identity, how collectively this high character team will recover from Derrick Rose’s second devastating knee injury, and know Tom Thibodeau makes all this bravado possible. No coach emulates his unique style, none command a locker room quite the way he does. Thibodeau berates his players, chews them up, and leaves them absorbing his yells as if he’s a hardheaded, unconditional guardian.
For everyone pointing toward the demise of his relationship with the Bulls, Thibodeau doesn’t worry about the next job, but rather what lies for his team on a daily basis. He makes this culture of constant focus obvious with his words – and unmistakably clear to players with his restless habits.
Derrick Rose had passed on his endorsement of Thibodeau during their first season together in 2010, and everyone else on these Bulls follows. Aside from Rose, Thibodeau has been the best thing that happened to this management core, a wise and franchise-altering hire three years ago, and now they shouldn’t let his future in Chicago spin and swerve and jeopardize in front of the NBA.
Near a quiet corner of the locker room the other night, Thibodeau let out a smile when the topic of his future arose. The former Coach of the Year says all the right things, claiming he doesn’t even pay attention to people speculating about his job status. In many ways, the Bulls should do whatever they can to repair damaged bridges, end the drama.
“I got a great job here, I got a team that I love, and all I think about is our team,” Thibodeau told RealGM. “I look forward to this challenge.”
As scolding as Thibodeau can be on the sideline, players understand his loyalty. Rarely will he call out anyone in a public sound bite, earning their respect this way. For Thibodeau, leaving the Bulls shouldn’t appeal, either. As long as Rose continues to rehabilitate through injury, Thibodeau has a generational star for whom coaches dream.
In his conversations with Rose, Thibodeau has taken from him an elevated level of confidence and a toughened mindset on overcoming season-ending knee surgery. The Bulls have mapped out Rose’s recovery from the torn meniscus, expect a full recovery for next season, and most of all: they’ve preached patience.
Rose must be patient, Thibodeau says, and the coach believes the 25-year-old learned control and discipline out of rehabilitating his left ACL over a full year.
“He handled the ACL rehab beautifully, and we saw the one good thing in enough games in training camp: his ACL leg is great. It’s explosive,” Thibodeau told RealGM. “As a team, this is the third straight year that we’ve had to go through this. Injuries are such a big part of this league.
“We’ve been through it, and we have a great understanding of what we have to do now.”
Between now and Rose’s return, Thibodeau promises to keep the Bulls charging hard, with purpose, and he’s already engraved into them how fearless they’ll have to play without Rose. We have more than enough to win with, he’d always say, and yet that mantra has been replaced: Yes, we’re shorthanded. That simply means more urgency, more determination. Better execution, better emotional and mental stability.
“We have to understand how hard we have to play being shorthanded,” Thibodeau said. “We have to do it all the time. That’s what gives us our chance.”
The early season losses of Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng proved too much for even Thibodeau, and he admits those are missed games that allow increased vulnerability against teams on top of Rose’s injury. For these Bulls, Joakim Noah’s fervor will go a long way in the Bulls’ ability to regroup and push toward contention in a top heavy Eastern Conference.
Noah has dealt with thigh and knee injuries and was hurt by his close friend Rose succumbing to the knee ailment that Nov. 22 night in Portland. Yet, the Bulls – from the coaches to the players – need him to resemble the tenacious All-Star a season ago. Noah had a draining procedure done last week, and he’s posted 43 points, 31 rebounds, 13 assists and eight blocks in three games ever since.
“If he had practiced the entire training camp, played in all eight [preseason] games, he would have been like this at the start of the season,” Thibodeau said. “Really, this is his first month, so now you see, Joakim.”
Really, this has been Thibodeau’s first month to spread a message he’s able to maintain for the next four-plus months. Everything changed without Rose; offense and continuity become difficult, basketball turns sloppy for extended stretches and unresolved issues rise to the forefront.
As far as assets go, Tom Thibodeau defines one for the Bulls. There had been all the back and forth in preseason about his standing with Chicago management – when someone there could have stated their version of what Thibodeau did at his extension press conference last October, that he wanted to be with the organization forever.
Tom Thibodeau pushes his players, sometimes a bit over the top, extracting every last ounce out of his team. This is why he’s one of the best. This is why no realistic trade – available draft compensation or cash – would be fair value in a trade scenario for a franchise changing coach, a deliverer of culture and environment that the Bulls’ front office boasts as an attraction.
Oct 29, 2013
The goal here is look at overall long-term value of players by considering age, contract, positional scarcity and of course overall quality, without factors like a player’s connection with a franchise or fit within a specific system.
Oct 21, 2013
While the Western Conference has six teams (Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors) in its first tier, the Eastern Conference is a tier of one (Heat) with the Bulls, Pacers and Nets vying for the second tier.
Oct 06, 2013
As Derrick Rose went further and further into his comeback, George Hill had grasped an unmistakable trend with what was transpiring between his team’s defense and the 2011 MVP. In many ways, he sought the collisions to reassert that there will be no change in his fearless driving style.
Aug 01, 2013
The treadmill is somehow both more and less common than some might think. While teams tend to fall within the 30-49 win range, as would be expected in such a competitive league, the dreaded never-ending stream of late lottery picks is uncommon.
Jun 27, 2013
Draft day has finally arrived and while everyone pines for the 2014 class already, this one has the chance to be sneaky good in the 'many quality starters' variety.
Jun 26, 2013
In this mock, we include the PER of each player based on the quality of opponent. Even statistics in this context can only go so far, but helps move beyond the possibility of inflation against competition that isn't even close to being NBA caliber.
Jun 23, 2013
Entering draft week in a draft universally labeled as weak preceding the best draft of the decade, few people are talking themselves into falling in love with any specific player as fervently as usual.
Jun 03, 2013
Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Otto Porter and Alex Len join Nerlens Noel at the top of our draft board.
May 21, 2013
The Bulls, Knicks, Warriors and Thunder won their first round series, but fell short of reaching the NBA's Final Four. Each team faces a pivotal offseason with many decisions to consider.
Feb 24, 2013
For his part, Derrick Rose was an advocate of Kyle Korver over the past two seasons, both guards benefiting from the facets of their repertories that capitalizes each other best – dribble penetration and outside shooting. As much as anyone, Rose would have loved for Korver to stay with the Bulls.
Feb 18, 2013
Everyone always talks about how different he is from the average person, but Michael Jordan at 50 sounds like every other 50-year-old. He’s not totally sold on the young kids today and he isn’t sure they would have been as successful back in his day, though that's the wrong question entirely.
Dec 12, 2012
As we move forward with “Amnesty 2.0,” we will see the fascinating possibilities that the provision brings even as the number of teams and players left dwindles with time.
Oct 30, 2012
Alec Burks, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Jimmy Butler and Jordan Hamilton are five players that didn't play in the Rookie Game last season that are poised to have breakout campaigns in their second NBA go-around.
Oct 26, 2012
The Pacers enter 12-13 as the favorites in the Central Division, while the Bulls, Bucks, Cavaliers and Pistons will likely be in transitional seasons.
Oct 02, 2012
As much as Derrick Rose talks about wanting to stay out of the front office’s personnel moves, he reinforced a clear message on Monday afternoon: Bring me players who are immensely passionate to join the Bulls, not through trade but through desire, and we’ll deal with whatever outcome.
Sep 22, 2012
Derrick Rose has maintained for years that he’s 100 percent behind his front office. He understands his role is to produce on the court, and he has the ultimate faith in Bulls management and its decision-making. Mostly, Rose has been loyal to the Bulls while reaping rewards out of the third-largest market in the nation to grow his brand.
Sep 22, 2012
After a trying offseason that had the Bulls ducking from committing to contracts they could get rid of, nothing but signing Tom Thibodeau and Taj Gibson to extensions will allow the organization to save face and end on a high note.
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