May 23, 2013 4:46 PM EDT
Unfortunately for the Golden State Warriors, the Collective Bargaining Agreement works against them in a very real way this summer. The rumors that Dwight Howard has interest in the Warriors can only be construed as incredibly encouraging in terms of the development of the franchise, but acquiring him would be very difficult to accomplish this summer.
One of the new CBA rules that goes into effect this summer limits teams who are paying the luxury tax. In short, there is a salary level above the luxury tax called the apron ($4 million in salary above the luxury tax line) and teams over that line cannot do transactions like signing a player to the full mid-level exception, using the Bi-Annual exception, and starting this year they cannot acquire players via sign-and-trade. That limitation means that a team cannot sign a player and immediately trade them to a team over the apron, not the other way around. On top of that, doing any of these three things turns what usually functions as a soft cap that franchises can go over for times into a hard one, meaning that teams using these transactions absolutely cannot go over the apron for any period of time for any reason that season.
While we do not know exactly where the luxury tax line will be for 2013-14, it stood at $70.307 million last season so the apron was $74.307 million.
At the present moment, if Brandon Rush takes his player option and Carl Landry declines his, the Warriors sit at $71,680,588 with 13 players on the books (Curry, Lee, Bogut, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Ezeli, Rush, Jefferson, Biedrins, Bazemore, Jones and Machado). Even without any money allotted for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, the team would have approximately $2.6 million under the apron with a small amount of wiggle room depending on guarantees to the minimum guys. If they acquired Howard via sign-and-trade, the apron number would become a hard cap, so they would effectively need to either shed 2013-14 salary in the sign-and-trade, or fill out the roster with bare bones players.
On top of all that, the Lakers would have to agree to send Dwight to a division rival, which may be dicey in and of itself, but would also require the Warriors to give up some players of value. While the Lakers would ask for Stephen Curry, a deal using either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes would likely still be palatable enough to make a trade possible. To balance the salaries Bob Myers would likely have to give up either Andrew Bogut or David Lee (almost definitely Bogut) since Biedrins and Jefferson provide no value beyond their expiring contracts. My best guess at a trade the Lakers would accept is Thompson or Barnes, Bogut, and either Draymond Green or Festus Ezeli for Howard.
Dwight’s maximum salary for 2013-14 stands at $20,513,178 since that is a five percent increase on his current salary. As such, the deal I laid out above (Klay, Bogut, and Festus for Dwight, let’s say) would actually cost the Warriors an extra $3.13 million and put them over the apron without corresponding moves.
Getting Dwight this summer sits within the realm of possibility but it would come at a steep, steep cost unless the Lakers are more generous than expected.
The other factor looming over this whole situation has to be the way the Warriors chose to load up their 2013-14 cap figure. By using the amnesty provision on Charlie Bell’s expiring contract back in 2011, the Golden State front office lost the ability to shed either Andris Biedrins or David Lee’s contract at any point over the next few seasons. Using the amnesty on either would have given the Warriors the flexibility to make a move for Dwight Howard right now without the apron coming into play.
What makes matters even more challenging this summer was the decision to effectively purchase the 2012 draft pick used to select Festus Ezeli for Richard Jefferson’s $11 million contract for 2013-14. Steven Jackson’s deal expires this summer and thus would have become cap space at this point. Switching that move or the amnesty decision would have given the Warriors enough space under the apron to acquire Dwight and retain either Jack or Landry with a little bit left over.
While it would make dramatically more sense to acquire a high-level free agent next summer when the team has cap space, the Warriors conceptually could trade for Dwight Howard this summer even though key decisions made over the last few years created a substantially more difficult path to doing so.
May 24, 2013 10:31 PM EDT
While we have substantial trouble measuring defensive prowess and impact, one of the things that we do know is that the truly elite defensive players generally age better than the general NBA player in terms of production.
Though there are different ways that experts and non-experts alike have tried to quantify and explain defensive impact, my personal favorite is Defensive Win Shares. Using Dean Oliver’s Defensive Rating as a base, it utilizes both how a player does on the court and how the team does when he is and is not on the court along with what we know in the modern NBA thanks to tracking things like steals and blocks while relying more heavily on what information we have for the previous generations of players. While I prefer WS/48 (which scales for minutes played) as a way of determining player quality, Defensive Win Shares provides insight here as it aggregates over the course of a season, leaving an estimate for how much total impact a given player had on that side of the ball.
Dwight Howard has played nine seasons in the NBA. Excluding his rookie year and the 11-12 season (lockout shortened, plus Howard was injured), we are left with seven seasons to work from. Picking the middle season of these seven in Defensive Win Shares gives us Howard's 2007-08 year. His 6.4 DWS is meaningfully lower than his top three seasons but still quite strong. In fact, it would have beaten Paul George for the No. 1 spot this season by just 0.1.
By using that as a baseline, we can look at what players in the NBA’s history have generated that kind of difference on the defensive end and gain some insight based on how their futures went. In total there are 99 individual seasons (by 36 total players) where someone earned 6.4 or more Win Shares. While most of these players are big men by the definition of their day, the list stays most interesting for players who repeated this feat at least once. As you can see on the link above, that narrower list has 17 names on it. As of today, only five of those 17 are not enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Dikembe Mutombo (not eligible yet), Ben Wallace (not eligible yet), Dave Cowens, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. Quite good company to be in since only Dave Cowens did not play a meaningful role in the league into his mid-thirties.
On top of that, only 11 players ever posted four or more seasons of this caliber on the defensive end and most of them only need one name to be recognized: Hakeem, Mikan, Elvin Hayes, Dwight, Kareem, Patrick, Big Ben, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Wilt and Russell. Not bad.
What makes this overall collection of talent even more remarkable is when in their careers they made that kind of difference on the defensive end. Of those 99 seasons, 69 happened when the player was in their twenties and only 27 occurred at age 25 or younger.
Here is the full list of those individuals:
LeBron James, Vern Mikkelsen (HOF), Karl Malone (HOF), Walt Frazier (HOF), Maurice Stokes (HOF), Wes Unseld (HOF), Bob Lanier (HOF), Elvin Hayes (HOF), David Robinson (2x-HOF), Wilt Chamberlain (2x-HOF), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2x- HOF), Bill Russell (3x-HOF), Dave Cowens (3x-HOF), Tim Duncan (3x), and Dwight Howard (4x)
That’s it. Even the players on that list who did not age particularly well as defensive players still had major impacts deep into their thirties because the amount of people on this Earth who can do what they accomplished at a young age is very, very small. Being able to join that company early in a career indicates something special relative to their peers and that advantage does not recede in the same way so many other parts of the game do.
Pundits like Bill Simmons can look at a year Howard was hurt and a year where he played in a system that minimized his strengths and magnified his weaknesses and write him off using pithy garbage like personality, but I will take production and talent over conjecture and narrative any day of the week and if history is any guide my odds look pretty good.
May 25, 2013 12:53 AM EDT
In position to beat the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena once again, the Indiana Pacers showed poise in the final minute and finished what they couldn't just two nights earlier.
Roy Hibbert led the way with a playoff career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds and George Hill hit four clutch free throws in the final 48 seconds to break what was a tie game and seal the victory. LeBron James, who was otherworldly as usual, committed back-to-back turnovers in the final minute to taint what had been a stellar performance.
James had 36 points (14-for-20 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, but tipped passes (one by David West and another by Hill) doomed the Heat and their superstar down the stretch. LeBron was more efficient than he was in Miami's Game 1 win, but didn't receive as much help from his teammates on Friday night.
Dwyane Wade had 14 points on 14 shots and the perimeter combination of Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Ray Allen and Shane Battier remained cold. The quartet shot 5-for-20, including 1-for-9 from deep. Chris Anderson, a huge contributor in Game 1, had seven points, just three rebounds and was called for five fouls.
The outcome was a perfect storm for the Pacers, who got all but five of their points from their starters and managed to contain the Heat offense by employing a modified Let-Him-Kill-Us defense. Paul George is going to look bad at times on LeBron because he's LeBron, but George did a better job of keeping LeBron in front of him and his teammates helped at all the right times.
Indiana will live with LeBron taking jump shots after watching him attack the rim on Miami's final two possessions of Game 1. They just would prefer he not beat them at the rim or that his teammates catch fire.
By my count, more than half (11) of LeBron's shot attempts came from at least 10 feet out. Nine of those came from at least 20 feet away thanks to George's ability prevent penetration. LeBron attempted (and made) six layups -- three of which were excusable. One came off a turnover in transition, another off a long rebound on a bad three-point miss by Lance Stephenson and another off an offensive rebound.
The biggest takeaway in this game was the Pacers' ability to put the negative behind them. It wouldn't have been altogether surprising if they laid an egg in Game 2 after being thisclose to stealing the first game of the series. In reality, little could change in terms of the execution on the court after 101 minutes and it would be accepted that either team was up 2-0 rather than the series be knotted heading to Indianapolis. They are going toe-to-toe with the defending and presumed champions without flinching.
Hill Returns To Form
George Hill gave the Pacers a much-needed boost after struggling offensively in Game 1. He had 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting and rebounded from three early misses at the foul line to hit the clinching shots down the stretch. He is still having issues getting the basketball down the floor when Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole pressure, but was a little better in that respect.
This was Hill's best effort since Game 4 against the New York Knicks when he had 26 points on just 14 shots in a relatively easy win. Indiana needs him to not only make shots to help space the floor, but also to be more aggressive in general. He is working through a foot issue and is still only 10 days off a concussion, but Hill has to be happy to be heading home to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hibbert Dominates, Pacers Win
Hibbert responded well to some controversy following Game 1 and turned in a dominant performance in the paint. He was 10-for-15 from the floor because he didn't simply chuck the ball at the basket once he established position. Hibbert instead used his size advantage to gather himself and get an even better look at the rim, often times in the form of a one-handed dunk over shorter opposition.
As he should, Frank Vogel went to West and Hibbert in the paint often. West shot the basketball poorly overall, going 2-for-9 from the field, but the duo combined to shoot 18-for-20 from the foul line. The Heat went 18-for-26 as a team.
It's impossible to ask him to do it alone, but Hibbert's production will go a long way to determining how this series plays out. He has 19 rebounds in the series, which isn't a huge number, but 13 of them have come on the offensive end. Indiana will struggle to score at times and second-change opportunities are a must. It will be interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra looks to neutralize Hibbert going forward.
Like A Bosh
If Hibbert is the key for the Pacers, Chris Bosh is Miami's most important player (not named LeBron James). He has had 17 points in both games, outproducing Dwyane Wade, and his ability to step out to the perimeter has caused Vogel to pop antacids and take Hibbert off the floor in certain situations (I'll leave it at that). He's never been a huge threat on the glass, but as we saw in Game 1 an offensive rebound every now and then can mean a lot to the Heat.
Sir Lance A Lot Tries A Lot
Stephenson has been labeled as the wild card for the Pacers since he erupted in Game 6 against the Knicks, but in reality we are going to get more of the Stephenson we saw here than the one that had 25 points and 10 rebounds on 9-for-13 shooting in a series-clinching win.
One of my favorite games to play when watching the Pacers is 'Stephenson Sequence.' There are always a handful of times during a game when you'll marvel at his amazing play and then horrible decision-making, or vice versa, within the seconds of one another. The most egregious Stephenson Sequences came in the final six minutes.
At the 5:24 mark he made a three (from the same spot he bricked a key one in Game 1) to pull the Pacers to within one after a Miami surge. Huge shot. Roughly a minute later he grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball as he so often does. Instead of pulling the ball out when three Heat defenders got back, he went 1-on-3 and missed.
In a see-saw game with the score tied at 93 and 1:44 left, the Pacers had the ball. George took and missed a three, but Stephenson leaped for and grabbed a key offensive rebound. The Pacers reset their offense, but the possession ended with Stephenson forcing the ball into the paint as Miami crowded. Chris Bosh intercepted the ball with 72 seconds remaining.
Stephenson is talented enough that he can push these Pacers to the next level. That's why the organization has stuck by him. On the other hand, if Wade doesn't miss a 10-foot jumper on the ensuing possession he might have become the scapegoat for another heart-breaking loss.
May 23, 2013
The Pacers gave the Heat all they could handle, but questionable decisions cost them in overtime as Miami won a buzzer-beater by LeBron James.
May 22, 2013
The luck of the lottery, combined with the Cavaliers' young talent has made the ending with James easier to move on from. These days, the disappointment of that situation is a memory more than a motivating factor for Cleveland.
May 20, 2013
One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.
May 20, 2013
Sonics' fans should still have hope, as many significant steps were laid for the return of the NBA to Seattle, which will occur sooner rather than later. Why the optimistic view? Here’s why,
May 19, 2013
We have seen a whole lot of changes since the pre-Tournament issue of the Lottery Lowdown. March Madness gave us a few players to watch both this year and for 2014 while the Nike Hoop Summit and Combine helped clarify the picture in terms of athletic ability and positional versatility.
May 19, 2013
The Pacers were led by a different player in each of their four wins over the Knicks and in Game 6 it was Lance Stephenson’s turn. The balance of their first five is what gives the Pacers their bets chance against the Heat.
May 17, 2013
Players that failed a concussion test and returned this season – John Jenkins, Nikola Vucevic, Darrell Arthur, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Chris Kaman, Pau Gasol, Marvin Williams, Jeff Pendergraph and Anthony Davis – missed an average of 11 days.
May 17, 2013
Chris Copeland’s presence helped the Knicks cut the rebounding deficit (43-40) by pulling Hibbert and West away from the basket on pick-and-roll plays and by roaming along the three-point line along the wings in Game 5.
May 17, 2013
In a game that the Knicks should have run away with, the Pacers narrowly missed an opportunity to steal one on the road and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in the process.
May 17, 2013
Had the Thunder been patient and truly believed in the strength of their program, they would have discovered that James Harden is better than good. Meanwhile, the Thunder are left with the burden of finding the right guys to get the team back to contender status.
May 15, 2013
RealGM sat down with Dirk Bauermann in Vilnius to talk about the changes in his life, time with Lietuvos Rytas, German basketball, Dirk Nowitzki, his new role with Poland national team and much more.
May 15, 2013
With another good showing on the glass and scoring from George Hill, the Pacers now have three chances to close out the Knicks and advance to a likely showdown with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
May 14, 2013
Andrew Wiggins decision to attend Kansas isn't the only news to shake up the Way Too Early Top 25 over the last few weeks.
May 12, 2013
The Pacers used an inside-out approach in their 82-71 win over the Knicks in Game 3. Typically, the Pacers feed Roy Hibbert early to establish an inside presence. On Saturday night, Indiana hit a number of outside shots in the first quarter and rode Hibbert late.
May 11, 2013
RealGM sat down with Ettore Messina in London to talk about what the future holds for CSKA, the Euroleague Final Four format, Viktor Khryapa and things that money can't buy.
May 11, 2013
Instead of taking their opponents to the limits of their ability and playing the game on their advantage, Mark Jackson and the Warriors ceded the high ground for the false positive of standardization and gave away any semblance of comfort or experience since Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli played about 20 seconds together in total during the regular season.
May 10, 2013
Pablo Prigioni has become an x-factor for the Knicks in the playoffs. Prigioni excels when orchestrating the offense in pick-and-roll sets as a pass-first point guard with the ability to make three-pointers if left open on defensive switches.
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