May 21, 2013 1:54 PM EDT
The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder won their first round series, but fell short of reaching the NBA's Final Four.
The Big Questions:
- Can Jimmy Butler become a good starter or even better next season?
- Is ownership willing to amnesty Carlos Boozer in 2014?
- Will they get a few nice bench values like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli this summer?
- Do they cut Rip Hamilton to save money?
Notable Free Agents: Nate Robinson (Unrestricted), Marco Belinelli (Unrestricted), Rip Hamilton (Partially Guaranteed) and Nazr Mohammed (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Own 2nd Rounder
The Lay of the Land: Even after Chicago shed so much of the bench depth that played a huge role in their 2011-2012 season, players like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli ended up doing a solid enough job in Derrick Rose’s absence for a full season. Having Tom Thibodeau and his system helps a ton, of course.
I cannot wait to see if Jimmy Butler can become a huge piece of the Bulls’ future because he has shown some incredible flashes this season. Since Luol Deng only has one more season under contract, Chicago does not have a ton of time to figure out whether Butler fits in better as a Deng complement, Deng replacement, or neither since 2014 would be their only chance in the near future to even have a possibility of cap space (if they amnesty Boozer). Considering we have not seen Rose play in such a long time, it would be surprising to see the Bulls make any big moves before seeing how everything fits together in the 2013-14 regular season. That said, some smart moves with their mid-level could make the team even more dangerous for a full season with a healthy Rose.
New York Knicks
The Big Questions:
- Will J.R. Smith re-sign with the Knicks?
- Seriously, will they be able to keep JR Smith?
- Can New York get a young guy or two in the frontcourt?
Notable Free Agents: J.R. Smith (Player Option), Chris Copeland (Restricted), Pablo Prigioni (Restricted) and Kenyon Martin (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder (own 2nd Rounder held by Washington)
The Lay of the Land: Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams over the luxury tax line have an incredibly hard time improving. That change makes J.R. Smith’s decision so much more important since the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference would not be able to replace him easily if at all. Smith seems happy with the Knicks but would presumably be giving up a ton of money to stay and he has never gotten that big contract despite his immense potential.
Beyond Smith, the Knickerbockers have nine players under contract for next season not including Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland. Since they cannot receive players via sign-and-trade this summer, New York has to hope both will opt to return to the team for at least next season either by signing reasonable deals with the Knicks or by securing matchable deals with other squads. Considering all the money the Knicks already have committed for 2014 outside of him, even the looming opt-out for Carmelo Anthony next summer cannot dictate too many moves at the present time.
Golden State Warriors
The Big Questions:
- Can they retain both Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry without ruining their long-term flexibility? Should they?
- Would they be willing to trade any of their big expiring contracts for a talent upgrade and more money for 2014 and beyond?
- Can they buy a pick in the late first or early second round?
- If either Jack or Landry head elsewhere, can the team effectively replace them given their limitations as a luxury tax payer?
Notable Free Agents: Jarrett Jack (Unrestricted), Carl Landry (Player Option) and Brandon Rush (Player Option)
2013 Draft Picks Held: None (1st Rounder held by Utah, 2nd Rounder held by Orlando)
The Lay of the Land: After a successful season largely driven by strong years from their stars and quality depth, the Warriors will have to figure out if they can keep two pivotal rotation players. The team acquired Jarrett Jack heading into the last year of his contract and he had a fabulous year, garnering serious Sixth Man of the Year consideration. Carl Landry had a productive season and has a $4 million player option for next summer. Considering their ages (both turn 30 before the start of next season), this could be a chance for them to take a longer contract for the last time. That desire could take them away from the Bay.
The Warriors have cornerstone Stephen Curry locked up now, but will eventually need to pay Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes while enigmatic big man Andrew Bogut has one more year left before unrestricted free agency. Golden State should be less aggressive in retaining Jack and Landry if the players want the Warriors to commit to them for longer than the team is comfortable with considering those factors. Finally, the team could make the decision to give up possible space in 2014 by trading expiring deals belonging to Andris Biedrins and/or Richard Jefferson for quality players signed for more years. Considering the desirability of next year’s free agent crop and the oppressive nature of the luxury tax, they might be able to improve the team that way though it would limit their flexibility in future offseasons.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Big Questions:
- Do they re-sign Kevin Martin?
- Can they turn the Toronto lottery pick into an immediate contributor?
- Will they use the amnesty on Kendrick Perkins?
Notable Free Agents: Kevin Martin (Unrestricted) and Ronnie Brewer (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Toronto’s 1st Rounder, Charlotte’s 2nd Rounder (own 2nd Rounder held by Minnesota)
The Lay of the Land: The same financial reality that led to the James Harden trade persists for Oklahoma City. While we cannot expect Kevin Martin to get paid an amount similar to his current $12.5 million, the Thunder do not have a ton of room to retain him with what could be a respectable market for an efficient scorer who can start or come off the bench. Fortunately, the Thunder have young guys on the roster who can try and take the role as well as a lottery pick from Toronto. These players could either take the role themselves or be used as assets in a deal to bring the right piece to OKC.
Sam Presti also has to make a decision on Kendrick Perkins because shedding the final two years of his contract would allow the team to be more creative in filling their more important holes in the rotation. That could be kicked down the road to Perkins’ final season (when Thabo Sefolosha becomes a free agent) but now is the right time to pull the trigger if they want a strong No. 4 after Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka.
Feb 24, 2013 12:48 PM EST
MILWAUKEE – Kyle Korver still misses elements of his two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the team camaraderie, the cohesive goal toward winning, and even the relentless Tom Thibodeau. He’s adjusted smoothly so far in his first season with the Atlanta Hawks, playing the most minutes since his third season while shooting and passing freely.
There’s less control over every little detail that Korver enjoys now. He learned immensely from Thibodeau – gaining sharp techniques defensively and fitting into a systematic offense – but has enjoyed more minutes and assuming more of a leadership role.
The Bulls traded Korver last offseason to save money toward the salary cap, a move that sent away their best three-point shooter who easily clicked with Derrick Rose. Ranking sixth-worst in three-point shooting percentage, Chicago has badly missed Korver.
All along, Korver felt a trade out of Chicago could come, and when he left last year, it was on good terms. Korver will be a free agent this offseason, and there’s little doubt that the Bulls will at least make a pitch to sign him – just like many other NBA teams. And should he receive that call from the Bulls, Korver made clear he would consider returning.
“Totally, I would,” Korver told RealGM on Saturday night. “That’s a great organization, that’s an awesome jersey to put on. Great fans, good team. You only get to be a free agent so many times in a career, so I’ll definitely see what’s all there. But I would absolutely listen to what they’ve got to say.”
Just one game in the win column separates the Bulls and Hawks, and Korver knows the threat his former team poses. For his part, Rose was an advocate of 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.
Before the two teams played each other earlier this month, Korver and Rose caught up on their recently born children – Rose’s son, Korver’s daughter – and the 2011 MVP’s torn ACL rehabilitation. Korver is confident that Rose will return at some point this season but understands the tempering of expectations needed for it to be a seamless comeback.
“Especially where the Bulls are at right now, there’s no need for him to rush back,” Korver said. “To catch an extra five games? It’s just about him being mentally confident and then having some court time and going into the playoffs to see what happens.”
Rose recently said he won’t return until he is 110 percent, hinting toward the prospect of missing the entire season. In Korver’s mind, progress toward return from Rose had been expected too much, too soon, and there’s a solidified plan in place to ensure that 110 percent mark.
“He’s got some good voices around him and the organization has supported him with whatever he needs,” Korver said. “He’s going to make sure he’s 110 percent before he comes back.
“There’s a lot of buildup for when he’s coming back and it creates a lot of pressure. I think all he was saying was, ‘I’m going to make sure that I’m 110 percent.’ He’s not trying to make a big deal about anything … just wants to wait until he’s 110 percent. And he should.”
Through new teammates and a new environment, Korver has shown versatility in playing two different systems. More minutes have led to increased production, and he’s tried to lead in the Hawks’ locker room this season, being the oldest player on the roster at 31. “I’m the oldest guy on our team, so I try to share when I can, things that you’ve picked up over the years,” he said.
When the Eastern Conference standings comes up, Korver knows the Hawks have the opportunity not only to make the playoffs, but also further elevate their seeding.
With the Bulls, Korver had always seen his team as on the Miami Heat’s level. Now, he’s just in the mix of teams – including those Bulls – jockeying for stature behind the Heat.
“There’s a nice little cluster after Miami,” Korver said. “You want to be playing your best basketball by the end of the season and I think over the course of the last couple months, we’re seeing who we have to be to be successful. So I think it’ll be good for us these last 28 games to find a rhythm and establish a brand of basketball.”
Feb 18, 2013 12:47 PM EST
Trade rumors are usually the biggest stories of All-Star Weekend, but not this year. Not when the three-day event coincided with Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday. While Jordan has been retired for a decade, his mystique remains as powerful as ever. Even in Houston, the exhaustive 24/7 coverage of his career was impossible to escape. Jordan gave his first wide-ranging interviews on the sport in several years, which was treated within basketball circles like Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai.
The substance of his comments were parsed, analyzed and dissected into a million pieces, but the tone was even more interesting. Everyone always talks about how different he is from the average person, but Jordan at 50 sounds like every other 50-year-old who has ever walked the Earth. 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. One of basketball’s most revolutionary players has become a reactionary in his middle age.
Of course, the game has changed since Jordan’s heyday. In the crucial moments of the 2013 All-Star Game, there wasn’t a single traditional center on the floor. Instead of wrestling in the low post, the biggest players on the floor were spread out along the three-point line. The game on Sunday night bore more than a passing resemblance to the small-ball revolution we witnessed in the 2012 Finals, in large part because six of the key players from that series are All-Stars this season.
Basketball is no different than any other sport: players in 2013 are bigger, faster and more athletic than ever before. In 1988, Ben Johnson’s 9.79 in the 100 meter dash was good enough for a gold medal and a new world record. In 2012, it would have put him in a tie for the bronze. A bronze-medal winning time in the 100 meter freestyle in 1988 was barely enough to make it out of the qualifying rounds 25 years later. Dunks that were inventive and breathtaking in 1988 are run of the mill today.
If the students in James Naismith’s class had the size of a LeBron James or the speed of a Russell Westbrook, he probably would have made the court a little bit wider. There just isn’t as much space on the floor as there was in the past. But since the dimensions of the floor haven’t changed to compensate for the modern player, the game has. In Jordan’s day, the game was played from the inside-out and the three-point shot was still viewed as somewhat of a gimmick. Today it’s played from the outside-in while spacing the floor with three-point shooters in the front-court has become the norm.
There were plenty of great three-point shooters in 1988, but elite players had yet to fully incorporate the shot into their arsenal. The Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars combined to take 10 in the 1988 game; they took 71 in 2013. And where there were 78 free-throw attempts in 1988, there were only 31 on Sunday. It’s a reflection of a fascinating statistical trend unearthed by True Hoop: over the last 25 years, the number of three-point attempts per season has steadily increased as the number of free-throw attempts has decreased.
On Sunday, the result was a more free-flowing game with far fewer stoppages of play. With so little offense being run through the low post, the game was played at a near breakneck pace for 48 minutes. In that type of semi-transition setting, basketball resembles soccer, where fluid athletes with an innate feel for the game are at a premium. Chris Paul is the least athletic All-Star in the NBA; he won the All-Star MVP in 2013 because speed, fluidity and court sense were more important than size and strength. In the same way, Lionel Messi, at 5’7 150, is the most feared soccer player in the world.
None of this could have happened if the NBA hadn’t changed its officiating over the last generation. That was one of Jordan’s main points: there’s a lot less clutching and grabbing in the modern game. In theory, at least, defensive players are no longer allowed to hold guys with the ball 25 feet from the basket. Jordan frames it as a question about the toughness of modern players and whether they could succeed in a more physical game. But, on the other hand, why exactly would less talented players uglying up the game be more interesting to watch or fun to play? Does it matter if Wes Welker was “tough” enough to play WR in the 1970’s?
Jordan spent most of his career saddled with defensive-minded centers who clogged the paint and weren’t threats on the offensive end of the floor. In contrast, LeBron has a breathtaking amount of space to operate when Miami and/or the Eastern Conference All-Star team plays small. The three-headed monster of Will Perdue, Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley wouldn’t see the floor in Erik Spoelstra’s small-ball attack. Spoelstra flipped the dynamic in the Finals when he started Chris Bosh at center, which isn’t a strategy that would have worked against Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning or David Robinson.
LeBron and Durant have to deal with fewer great big men than Jordan, primarily because they would have been considered great big men a generation ago. Back then, a 6’9 270 or 6’11 235 player would have been stationed on the low block from the moment they picked up a basketball. The NBA’s two best players are the end product of Jordan’s perimeter revolution: growing up, everyone wanted to be like Mike, even the big men. In the AAU game, the best 6’9+ players don’t want to be pigeon-holed as conventional big men, so they practice ball-handling and three-point shooting more than post scoring.
If we are comparing eras, the question is more whether retired players could play in the present than whether current players could play in the past. The greatest players would have thrived in any era, but the average older player would have had no chance of staying in front of Kyrie Irving or Tony Parker without grabbing them or making enough three-pointers to space the floor for them. However, since every athlete is ultimately a product of the time they played in, how they compare with players from different eras isn’t all that relevant.
Jordan may think guys in the 2010’s couldn’t play in his era, but I’d be willing to bet Dr. J thought the same thing about guys in the 1990’s. Going further back, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain probably had the same view about guys in the 1970’s as George Mikan and Bob Pettit did about guys in the 1960’s. And when LeBron and Durant hit 50, odds are they’ll be similarly dubious of what the guys in the 2030’s are up to. It’s the natural reaction of anyone who reaches middle age and sees their own mortality looming: tearing down the present in order to protect memories of the past.
But Jordan’s legacy shouldn’t depend on him forever being considered greater than Kobe, LeBron and Durant. Without Jordan, none of those guys could have existed in the first place. That’s his legacy. As Isaac Newton once said about the history of science, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Players with historic talent aren’t just the face of the franchise they play for; they’re faces of the game itself. All that’s asked in return for the fame and fortune is that they leave the game a better place than they found it.
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.
Aug 23, 2012
Dwyane Wade spoke to RealGM about his recovery from knee surgery, Derrick Rose's comeback, what he expects from the Bulls and whether the Heat enter 12-13 as the NBA's favorites.
Jul 19, 2012
The Heat, Thunder and Lakers appear to be a cut above the remainder of the NBA, but how do the 27 other teams rank?
Jul 17, 2012
Derrick Rose’s combative fury could have had a role in the overcompensation he has placed on his body and the overexertion he has endured both physically and mentally.
Jul 15, 2012
The Bulls entered the offseason with one of the best benches in the NBA, but it has incrementally been dismantled over the past two weeks in response to Derrick Rose's injury and growing luxury tax concerns.
Jun 29, 2012
Whle the Pistons, Blazers, Bobcats, Nets, Thunder and Bulls headline the 'Great Drafts', the caboose of 'Bad Drafts' is comprised of the Cavaliers, Suns, Bucks, Wolves, Heat and Knicks.
Jun 28, 2012
The Andre Drummond/Perry Jones effect on this draft before we make sense of picks seven through 30 just hours before a flood of draft-day trades shreds every mock.
Jun 21, 2012
The 2012 NBA Draft is a week away and nothing is certain beyond Anthony Davis going to the Hornets with the first overall pick even though several scenarios are beginning to crystalize.
Jun 19, 2012
There are two core reasons why players outperform their pre-draft expectations, while there are two main paths for prospects to underachieve.
Jun 04, 2012
The Bulls are in a no-man’s land situation where they could go in several different directions – following a six-game first-round series defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. Should the Bulls alter the plan? Who will stay and who will depart?
May 23, 2012
While every team in the lottery can bring their Anthony Davis jersey if they win the first overall pick, the gap between Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond is extremely narrow for me and highly intriguing.
May 11, 2012
In many ways, the short-handed Bulls’ Game 6 defeat encapsulated their entire season, because everything that could go wrong went wrong when it mattered most, particularly the exhilarating sequence to end the game.
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