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Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Dec. 15-Dec. 21)

From top to bottom, this should be an excellent week of non-national games featuring matchups of elite teams as well as some with compelling young talent. 

Monday

- Bulls @ Hawks: Even as we close in on the 25 game threshold, I am still not sure where the Hawks fit in a strange Eastern Conference playoff picture. Hosting the Bulls could help resolve that. It will also be a test of if Tom Thibodeau will react to Golden State exploiting his defense (and talent) with a stretch four since Atlanta’s system can force similar decisions.

- Bucks @ Suns: Two teams that have produced some fun games so far this season. Milwaukee’s unusual length allows them to play pick and rolls aggressively while the Suns may have the best collection of ballhandlers in the league.

- Spurs @ Trail Blazers: In other weeks, an argument could be made for this being the most anticipated NNGW matchup. After all, Portland’s improved defense has fueled their 18-6 record and the Blazers have been a strong home team. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both pose problems for the champs but San Antonio’s depth will make Terry Stotts lament his comparatively meager bench. 

Tuesday

- Heat @ Nets: Chris Bosh’s strained calf means Miami will need to get contributions from new places and facing a Brooklyn team still finding themselves despite having a top-eight record in the East.

- Mavericks @ Knicks: On the list to see if Tyson Chandler injures his back laughing at the sinking ship he was lucky enough to be traded away from.

Wednesday

- Hawks @ Cavaliers: Another test for Atlanta and a potential showcase for LeBron James considering Atlanta’s lack of an elite perimeter defender. It also features Kevin Love battling Paul Millsap which has been worth watching for years.

- Magic @ Celtics: Both teams have outperformed their talent so far and this continues an incredible home/road disparity for the Magic who as of this writing have played seventeen games on the road and only nine in Orlando.

- Grizzlies @ Spurs (Game of the Week): No sales pitch needed as these are two incredibly good basketball teams that have plenty of battles on larger stages over the years. 

Thursday

- Pelicans @ Rockets: Assuming Anthony Davis returns by this point, we could see a fun game featuring teams with dramatically different strengths. Houston has played well without Dwight Howard but could struggle to contain one of the league’s best players while New Orleans’ best perimeter defender has been their Point Guard who they might be reticent to put on James Harden.

- Bucks @ Kings: Sacramento’s first League Pass game after they shockingly fired Mike Malone. Also, Giannis!

Friday

- Bulls @ Grizzlies: An old school battle between two teams with elite front lines. Memphis has a few opportunities this week to make statements against top teams and I hope we get to see some quality time with Mike Conley and Derrick Rose going at it. 

Saturday

- Trail Blazers @ Pelicans An easy inclusion if Anthony Davis can suit up. Lillard and Aldridge have played well this year but Davis and Holiday have the potential to be solid defensive counterpoints.

- Hawks @ Rockets: This game features teams unafraid to try new things in the NBA with the talent to compete with the best. James Harden and Al Horford are All-Stars without logical stoppers on the other side.

- Spurs @ Mavericks: Another game of the week option in another week even though we see these teams play so often. Dallas continues to lead the league in Offensive Efficiency while the Spurs quietly sit in third for Defensive Efficiency despite using their starters so much less than other franchises.

- Bucks @ Clippers: Even though they have fallen to tenth in defense, watching Jason Kidd’s tactics for defending Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers will be a fascinating exercise. I am especially intrigued to see where Kidd puts Jabari Parker and Giannis because Larry Sanders may be the most logical defender on Blake. 

Sunday

- Grizzlies @ Cavaliers: Another day, another huge game for the Grizzlies. While Kevin Love has some battles with Memphis in his past, we sadly have not seen much of Kyrie vs. Conley or Tony Allen on LeBron (in recent years, at least). Just seeing these teams share the court should be worth the price of admission.

- Suns @ Wizards: Marcin Gortat revenge game! Also, college teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe throw down with one of the few guys in the league that can hang with them athletically.

- Pelicans @ Thunder: The game I am most looking forward to this week hands down. New Orleans has played some feisty games recently and the Thunder have been winning while continuing to get their groove back. Almost college teammates Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday will not get the headlines over their forward counterparts but could end up deciding the outcome unless Durant goes wild against a team without a wing defender.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Dec. 8-Dec. 14)

Monday

Hawks @ Pacers: The Hawks have come on strong with a six game winning streak propelling them to a tie for the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel’s Pacers have been brutalized by injuries but still have a chance to make some noise.

Suns @ Clippers: At the moment it feels somewhat like the Suns are placeholders in the Western Conference eight seed but they can do something about that with a win at the Staples Center over the Clippers. Phoenix’s cabal of point guards (including former Clipper Eric Bledsoe) could cause problems even though Doc’s team has that as a strength too. 

Tuesday

Raptors @ Cavaliers: A serious contender for Game of the Week that loses a little luster since they have already played twice this season, splitting those matchups. Kyle Lowry will have to fight to keep Toronto at the top of the East through DeMar DeRozan’s injury while the Cavs are coming together on both ends of the floor.

Knicks @ Pelicans: On the list because Anthony Davis might drop a hilarious number against a Knicks team that lacks rim protection.

Bucks @ Thunder: Milwaukee has been one of the NBA’s best early season success stories and will have a chance to prove their staying power with a win over a Thunder team still looking to find their sea legs with Westbrook and Durant back. Giannis defending Kevin Durant for stretches adds another layer of intrigue to an already fun one. 

Wednesday

Rockets @ Warriors: If Dwight Howard was healthy, this would be the Game of the Week, particularly with the history between these two teams. Some may forget the animosity surrounding Houston’s attempt to set the record for three pointers against the Warriors but I can guarantee that Golden State has not. Even without Dwight, James Harden and the Rockets have played very well and deserve tons of credit.

Friday

Clippers @ Wizards: The Clippers have a superior record and point differential but sit in sixth in the West while the Wizards only fell to a tie for second in the East after losing to Boston on Sunday. Regardless, these are two talented teams with dangerous backcourts. Blake Griffin asserting himself against a big Wizards front line would do wonders for the Clippers’ chances.

Cavaliers @ Pelicans: Anthony Davis vs. Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday defending Kyrie Irving and a slew of other reasons to watch this Friday night special.

Saturday

Warriors @ Mavericks (Game of the Week): A wonderful combination of a fun game with actual implications (for a December game). Dallas’ #1 offense poses unusual problems for Golden State’s #1 defense and there will be no shortage of star power.

Clippers @ Bucks: The Bucks have fallen to seventh in defensive efficiency as of this writing but I am fascinated to see what their length does to the uptempo Clippers.

Nuggets @ Rockets: A fun individual matchup as Arron Afflalo tries to shut down James Harden also provides the Nuggets with a chance to make a statement of their own on the road. 

Sunday

Warriors @ Pelicans: Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis are arguably the top two MVP candidates in this young season and any time they share the court warrants inclusion on this list.

Bulls @ Heat: Miami has come down to earth after a nice start but have time to right their ship before a notable game with Chicago. This one has a little added sizzle with Luol Deng going against his longtime teammates and another game pitting Chris Bosh against Joakim Noah.

Suns @ Thunder: Another early test for the close to whole Thunder comes in the form of a supremely fun Suns team. Goran Dragic and almost Thunder teammate Eric Bledsoe have the punch to make OKC’s guards work on both ends while Serge Ibaka could be a key factor on the interior.

The Overhyped Specter Of The Repeater Tax

Since the early days of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, people in various parts of the NBA world have brought up the significance of the repeater tax. This point of conversation comes about for a pretty simple reason: when teams are subject to it, the repeater tax carries a hefty price tag. 

Larry Coon gives a great example of this in his invaluable CBAFAQ: If a team in the 2015-16 season wants to have team salary up to the apron (always $4 million above the luxury tax line), a non-repeater would owe $6 million in luxury tax payments while also forgoing the payout from that fund received by teams that stay under it like all tax teams. At that same $4 million above the tax line, a repeater team would have to pay $10 million in luxury tax (along with the same foregoing as before) and that example only hits the lowest tier of the scale. With rates that increase every $5 million a team goes over, it should become clear how potential bills could get out of hand quickly.

With those kinds of consequences in place, it makes sense for franchises to exercise more fiscal restraint. Furthermore, the 2014-15 season will be the first in the current CBA to have the repeater structure in place so the clock is ticking for some of them.

The combination of legitimate concern from teams and a lack of understanding from those who cover them has produced an atmosphere where teams skirting the tax one or more times gets met with understanding as has been the case with the Golden State Warriors each of the last few seasons, starting with when they dumped Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins at the 2013 trade deadline. A fringe playoff team shedding some small contracts can be justified so fans and media members alike largely shrugged off the decision. Those kinds of moves on the margins work in both a narrow sense because shifting from over the tax to under has other financial ramifications like the ones mentioned above and because it delays the dreaded repeater tax that can bring even the strongest franchises to their knees.

One problem with that: while the new CBA established a heavily punitive repeater rate, it also made getting there incredibly difficult. After the current season, the only way for the repeater rate to come into play is if a team paid the luxury tax in three of the four previous seasons. That may sound more likely but remember that we are talking about “previous seasons” and not the current one since a team presently under the luxury tax line will not pay anything on it even if their prior history was living over the tax line every season. That means that a franchise must actually pay the tax four out of five years with the under year not being the current one.

To use an example, if the Golden State Warriors stay under this season, the absolute soonest they could be subject to the repeater rate would be 2018-19 if they go over every possible time. Only one player on the team is under contract for even the year before that season: Klay Thompson. By then, the salary cap (and thus the luxury tax) will fully reflect the massive new national TV deal and large contracts like David Lee’s will be distant memories.

The other major factor to consider is that the shortening of contract lengths made it substantially less likely that a team will pay the luxury tax long enough to fall into the repeater grouping. Even the Los Angeles Lakers who still had a cap holds for John Salley and Karl Malone on the books until recently because they never had a reason to go under the cap have cleared the luxury tax because the incentives of cap flexibility are just too great. Ledgers like Brooklyn’s are a relic to the old system and fans of the teams that have not gotten with the times can appreciate their ill effects.

While the repeater tax has some real teeth, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement created a world where it lives more as a threat than reality.

Handicapping The 2015 NBA MVP Race

The best predictor of who will win MVP for a given season is not the most valuable but rather the best player on a great team. Stephen Curry currently fits the criteria as the most probable candidate, but who else should join him?

Non-National Games Of The Week (Dec. 1-Dec. 6)

Multiple appearance this week from the Bucks, Cavs, Heat, Mavs, Pelicans, Wizards and Thunder.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Nov. 24-Nov. 30)

Brow vs. Boogie Part II headlines Thanksgiving week, along with multiple appearances from the Raptors, Grizzlies, Rockets and Bucks.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Nov. 17-Nov. 23)

The Raptors make three appearances this week with critical tests against the Grizzlies, Bucks and Cavaliers.

The NBA's CBA Battle Begins

The players and owners have begun their PR campaigns on more equal footing than the last time, but it already feels like at least the public stances so far have lacked the nuance necessary to have this discussion.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Nov.10-Nov.16)

While the Cavs and Pelicans have become appointment viewing every time they play, DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings are now high on the League Pass rankings.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Nov. 3-Nov. 9)

Klay Thompson and the Warriors join the Suns, Pelicans, Pistons, Jazz and Blazers with multiple League Pass games worth watching.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Oct. 28-Nov. 2)

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans have the first League Pass recommended game, which is a familiar refrain this week and throughout the season. The Hornets, Suns, Bucks, Rockets and 76ers also make multiple appearances.

The Torture Chamber

The Warriors possess a compelling combination of pieces that can be mixed and matched to create problems for their opponents and the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut five should be the crown jewel sooner rather than later.

Top-5 Non-National Teams For 14-15

The top teams to watch on League Pass have to have entertainment value on a game to game basis and fascinating pieces in the form of young talent or new additions. Each of these squads fits that bill and there were a few tough omissions as well.

On Paul George, Non-NBA Basketball And Player Safety

Paul George suffering a freak injury during a televised scrimmage does not change the likelihood of something like that happening in a similar event or in some other basketball activity. It just raises awareness of that possibility and potentially could actually lead to some positive changes in terms of on-court player safety.

Ben Gordon And Non-Guaranteed Contracts

One of the currently in vogue CBA tricks that has become more prominent this league year, non-guaranteed contracts carry a few fun benefits teams can use to their advantage.

On Warriors' Big 3 Possibility In 2016

With Stephen Curry on a below-market contract, the Warriors could comfortably sign a second max contract player in 2016, or even a third if they deal for Kevin Love.

The Human Element

The best players in the sport have transitioned from supermen to businessmen to being a business, man, at the same time the league as a whole transitioned from family owned teams to major enterprises. Like it or not, this NBA should be around for a long, long time.

The Law Of Small Numbers

While taking a quick glance at the market for Kevin Love around draft day could have led to confidence for the Warriors, any concept that letting the string play out would be to their advantage would be deeply misguided.

Why Sign-And-Trades Sometimes Aren't Possible For The Incumbent Team

Teams on the giving end of potential sign-and-trades rarely are unable to participate, but the Nets were unable to with Shaun Livingston's deal with the Warriors.

The Depth Of The 2014 NBA Draft

We could see as many as 15 solid starters from the 2014 NBA Draft with an impressive number of solid rotation players behind them.

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