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 15, 2014 1:41 PM EST
As reported, here are the details of the deal:
Miami Heat receive: Toney Douglas (from Golden State)
Boston Celtics receive: Joel Anthony, Philadelphia’s lottery-protected 2014/2015 first rounder that reverts to two second rounders if not sent by then, and a Miami second (from Miami)
Golden State Warriors receive: Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks (from Boston)
This is an interesting trade because, as reported, each franchise only trades pieces to one team and only receives them from the other.
For the Warriors
In many ways, this acknowledges the biggest misstep of Golden State’s offseason: signing a back-up point guard who should not be a primary ballhandler. Toney Douglas has been a solid defender and player off the ball earlier in his career, but was a terrible fit for this second unit because Kent Bazemore, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes have trouble creating for others and usually themselves as well.
Mark Jackson should have adjusted to this reality by staggering Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala’s minutes in order to have a creator on the floor more of the time but the dominance of the #FullSquad starting lineup made shifting either David Lee and/or Iguodala’s minutes a less desirable proposition. With those constraints, a move had to be made.
What Jordan Crawford brings is that Nate Robinson-esque quality to generate and take shots. He may also use some of the ability to create for others that was cultivated in Boston, which would be a huge benefit. The Warriors have been terrible offensively without Curry on the floor and even Crawford at his worst would make that better.
MarShon Brooks is another lottery ticket that may actually be able to contribute or net a small asset (think late second rounder) if the team decides to move him again before the deadline. Also, playing Crawford alongside Kent Bazemore should allow Bazemore to defend opposing point guards some of the time while not handling the ball, which represents Bazemore’s ideal bench role.
Would a more established and reliable point guard have been a better option? Sure. However, it seems unlikely that a superior fit like Kyle Lowry or Kirk Hinrich could have been acquired without giving up assets. Since the Warriors cannot trade picks for a while and do not have a logical piece on roster, those moves became less likely once the Bulls got under the luxury tax by trading Luol Deng. There is also an outside chance that Crawford can handle some possessions with Curry to allow him to play off the ball.
One other interesting facet of the trade is the fact that while MarShon Brooks will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, whoever has Crawford at the end of the year retains his restricted rights. While that could allow Golden State to retain him if they want, it could also be used to get a trade exception from whatever team wants to pay Crawford because the signing team loses very little by giving the Warriors that flexibility. That TPE could then be used to acquire a bench player later in the summer despite Golden State being over the salary cap. Potentially, that could mean a respectable rotation piece that keeps them under the luxury tax for another season. If he plays well, that could even be Crawford though I fully expect it to be someone else.
Grade for Golden State: B+
For the Celtics
I fully understand the desire to get at least some assets for expiring contracts like Crawford and Brooks that they were not likely to retain. However, in terms of what Boston got back they may have sold low on Crawford despite trading him at his (at least short-term) peak value.
The Philadelphia pick is protected 1-14 for each of the next two seasons and then becomes two second round picks if not conveyed by then. Considering the Sixers absolutely will not make the playoffs this year, the only way Boston gets a first is if they make it in 2014-15. That could be possible with a healthy Nerlens Noel and a quality draft but they might still be one year away. The second rounders could be decent but not extremely valuable.
Another meaningful consideration is what I said about Crawford above in regards to his RFA rights. However, Boston should expect to have cap space of their own this summer so the value of a trade exception goes down sharply and the major benefit of RFA rights comes from the ability to retain the player, which appears to not have much value to Boston.
Finally, the Celtics did take on some salary for next season in Joel Anthony though it should not preclude them from making any big moves since bigger names like Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green are signed past next season anyway.
Grade for Boston: D+
Most of the criticisms levied on Toney Douglas in the Golden State section do not apply to Miami since they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to handle the ball while other players defend opposing point guards. Douglas should fit right in there as a third point guard and utility guard in a system that makes substantially more sense with what he does well.
On top of that, the move saved Heat ownership lots of money in terms of the luxury tax, as well as a roster spot and salary for a limited value player next season. Roster spots mean more to the Heat than any other NBA franchise because they can get minimum salary players who can actually contribute.
Losing the Philadelphia potential first takes a little bit of the shine off it since any team in the East could make the postseason next year but not a ton since it feels unlikely.
Even then, Miami added a more useful piece this season and saved money while adding flexibility as well.
Grade for Miami: A-
Nov 27, 2013 9:46 PM EST
Ever since their dramatic loss to the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. A seven-game winning streak has allowed them to reel in the Indiana Pacers, who looked poised to run away with the Eastern Conference. Coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals, many wondered whether Miami had the horses for another 82-game grind. Their current record (12-3) and point differential (+9.7) should answer that.
The win streak has coincided with a painful tweak Erik Spoelstra made to the rotation -- benching franchise stalwart Udonis Haslem. His jump-shooting and interior defense have been a crucial part of their team, but he has been trending downwards for awhile. His PER has dropped for four straight years, bottoming out at 6.6 through seven games. If early returns are any indication, he may have had a Kendrick Perkins-like drag on the Heat offense.
The statistics are eye-popping. The Heat have a net rating of -10.6 points per 100 possessions with Haslem and a net rating of +13.1 points per 100 possessions without him. That gives him a net rating of -23.9 on the season, which doesn’t even seem possible. There may be a ratchet effect going on -- Haslem is the most limited offensive player of all the Miami regulars. With five legitimate threats on the floor, the defense has to give up something.
Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley have taken most of his minutes. Both were left for dead before coming to Miami, but they’ve been revitalized in the pace-and-space system. While Lewis is in his 16th season in the NBA, he’s still only 34. Guys with his skill-set -- tall players who can shoot and score -- can play well into their late thirties. Beasley, meanwhile, has found his niche in his 6th season in the league -- a gunner coming off the bench of a good team.
Along with Chris “Birdman” Anderson, Lewis and Beasley give Miami a ton of size and athleticism on their bench. They go 6’11, 6’10 and 6’8 and all have to be respected by the defense. Lewis averages five points a game on 43 percent shooting, Birdman averages seven points on 63 percent shooting and Beasley averages 10 points on 57 percent shooting. Line-ups with any combination of those three and either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James have done very well.
For Miami, it doesn’t matter whether it’s their first or second unit. They space the floor for all 48 minutes; they have 10 guys who can score, put the ball on the floor and pass. The ball moves around the court and finds the open man -- it’s the way basketball is meant to be played. Spoelstra runs a system that allows everyone to play in space and punishes defenses for sending help. It’s pretty much the exact opposition of the situation four years ago.
The Heat have what the San Antonio Spurs like to call “corporate knowledge.” Continuity is one of the most underrated components of building a basketball team -- when everyone is on the same page, it makes life a lot easier. When you have to incorporate multiple players into significant roles, there’s an adjustment process the entire team has to go through. Miami can just plug and play veterans into their system -- spread the floor, move the ball and play defense.
Like the Spurs, the Heat have taken the philosophy of spacing the floor to its logical conclusion. Those two teams put on an offensive clinic in the 2013 NBA Finals -- small-ball teams with only one big man who try to shoot as many corner 3’s as possible. They don’t need to run sets; they can get the majority of their offense out of the flow. Even an average player can look great in enough space; put LeBron in the same situation and there’s not much to be done.
It’s hard to beat the recruiting package Miami can put together. Come to South Beach and play for the two-time defending champions, where you get to be in an uptempo system next to one of the greatest players of all-time in the prime of his career. At this point, it really is like going on the tour with the Beatles. How many other teams’ role players get to be in national TV commercials? It’s no wonder guys are willing to take discounts to play there.
For a player in Lewis’ position, it’s not even a question. Lewis is a two-time All-Star who has made more than $155 million in his NBA career. He has started on a team that went to the NBA Finals and averaged more than 20 points a game in a season. He doesn’t need the money or the aggravation; he’s just hanging around because he enjoys playing basketball. If Miami wants a veteran in their early or mid 30’s, they are going to be able to sign them.
On the other end of the spectrum, Beasley represents hope for every talented young headcase in the league. After wearing out his welcome in Minnesota and Phoenix, Miami is his second third fourth chance to prove that he can be a professional. So far, he’s been proof that no player is irredeemable. After his PER declined in each of his first five seasons, he has a career-high 21.6 in 2013. Young guys bust out all the time; Miami has first dibs on them too.
Of course, their most interesting reclamation project of all has yet to see the floor. There’s no timetable for when Greg Oden could return, but if he can give the Heat anything in the playoffs, he could be the final piece of the puzzle. At 7’0 285, he has the size to match-up with Roy Hibbert and David West, which has always been the Achilles heel of the Heat. If Oden and Beasley played with the Big Three, Miami would have five Top 5 picks on the floor.
I just finished the "Game of Thrones" books, so pardon this analogy. South Beach is like King’s Landing -- a seat of power from which you can rule the realm. Install a legitimate King on the Iron Throne and you will always find players to wear your colors. Once you’re in a position like that, the last thing you want to do is start over somewhere else. Even if Miami falls short this year, there’s nowhere LeBron can go that will put him in a better position to get back.
Nov 11, 2013
If this is it, Lamar Odom leaves behind a complicated legacy in the sport. However, the player he could have been shouldn’t detract from the incredible player that he was.
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.
Sep 30, 2013
Health is why every deep playoff run is precious; it can be taken away at any time. To figure out which teams will reach The Finals, one question stands out above all the rest: who will keep their stars healthy?
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.
Jul 25, 2013
Team USA changed the peer group of the NBA’s best young players. While their NBA teammates changed every year, their USA teammates stayed the same. It fostered the relationship between LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that led to a dynasty with the Heat and it could do the same with Paul George, Kyrie Irving, etc.
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 23, 2013
The Heat and Spurs weren't exactly eliminated since they took each other to a seven-game series for the NBA championship like the other 28 teams, but this is the culmination of our series of looks at the offseason that awaits.
Jun 21, 2013
Pat Riley smoothens all around the Miami Heat: LeBron James’ decision, the talent around him. Heat executives call Riley the fabric of Miami’s structure, and the architect has a vision of this ride going on and on.
Jun 19, 2013
Maybe teammates had been so used to LeBron James needing his headband, whether it’s for comfort or appearance. Fighting for his life in these NBA Finals, fighting for his basketball stature, this accessory was the last thing James had on his mind in Game 6.
Jun 17, 2013
Over the course of the NBA Finals, the lineups on the floor have become progressively smaller. The result has been beautiful basketball: two skilled teams playing 4-out for 48 minutes.
Jun 14, 2013
Were it not for Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan could have had a Bill Russell-like run through the 2000’s. For LeBron James, a title would be be the capstone for one of the greatest three-year runs of all-time.
Jun 12, 2013
With both teams getting so much of their offense from high-variance shots, there could be more wild shifts in the narrative ahead. The Spurs have been beating the Heat at their own game. In that sense, LeBron and Wade hitting open jumpers is the only adjustment Miami has to make.
Jun 10, 2013
This was LeBron James’ transcendent memory of The Finals, a remembrance forever. It will be repeated over and over and over and over, Chris Bosh said. As clutch as that shot with cramps was a year ago, this block, to assist, to steal, to dunk moment was a four-part masterpiece.
Jun 08, 2013
Chris Bosh is the member of the Big 3 who could have the most to lose in a potential Finals collapse: His place as an untouchable on the roster. He had grown up idolizing Duncan, imagining he was hitting jumpers atop Garnett in early workouts in Toronto, and the Heat must believe now that somewhere within Bosh still exists that self-action to match the burden.
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