HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
7 NBA Teams Trapped In New CBA
By Jason Fleming
When it comes to free agency in the NBA, much of the focus is placed on which teams have the most cap space available to spend or which teams can afford the top-tier players. These teams get the press because they get to make the glamorous signings, but at the other end of the spectrum are the teams pushing up against the luxury tax line.
These teams are faced with how to make their team better with limited resources (yes, typically because of previous trades or free agent signings that raised the payroll). Their situation may be a product of their own decisions, but it’s the situation they are in. Some teams are adamant they will not pay luxury tax. Some teams will pay the tax if the player they add is worth it.
The teams below face some difficult decisions this summer because of those decisions and because of restrictions placed on teams by the new collective bargaining agreement. For example, teams over the luxury tax don’t have the Bi-Annual Exception to offer a free agent. Those same teams are limited to a smaller Mid-Level Exception as well (three years starting at $3.09 million for 2012-13 as opposed to three years starting at $5 million). Also, that doesn’t affect just teams over the tax but also teams close to the tax; if signing a player to the $5 million MLE pushes the team over $74.3 million in salary commitments ($4 million over the tax level, or “apron”), they can only offer the smaller one.
12 NBA Players Poised To Be Overpaid
By Joel Brigham
It happens every year. Teams get a little cap space, gear up for free agency, and then spend like there’s no tomorrow to make sure that they get the guys they think can best help their teams. Sometimes, you end up with an appropriately-priced (or even bargain) free agent like Paul Millsap for $8 million or David West for $10 million. Or, you get what the Detroit Pistons got when they splurged in 2009: $90 million worth of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
The point here is free agency is a difficult thing to approach, and inevitably some teams are going to overspend to get the guys they want. The organizations who look to have the most space this year include Cleveland ($26.5 million), Phoenix ($26.2 million), New Jersey ($23.4 million), Boston ($23.3 million), Indiana ($21.7 million), New Orleans ($21.4 million), Houston ($17.2 million), Portland ($16.9 million), Toronto ($16.1 million), Charlotte ($15 million), Sacramento ($13.9 million), Washington ($12.4 million), Golden State ($9.9 million), San Antonio ($8.8 million), and Utah ($5.4 million).
That’s a whole lot of money burning holes in a whole lot of deep pockets, and it doesn’t even take into consideration any cap space that could be added by teams using the amnesty provision. In short, GMs and team presidents are about to spend like crazy on a free agency class that isn’t even particularly impressive. There’s just enough talent, though, to warrant king-sized contracts for players who don’t quite deserve it, and this list is a starting point for a conversation about who those players might be.
The NBA’s All-Injured Team
By Stephen Litel
Injuries have been the talk of the 2012 NBA playoffs with big names falling prey to the injury bug. While these injuries are unfortunate and greatly change the outlook of this year’s postseason, there were also injuries throughout—and before—the season tipped off on Christmas for teams not in the playoff picture. Had these injuries not have occurred, the fortunes of these teams may have been different, considering the different expectations for each squad.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at a few of the injuries that, had they not occurred, would have caused the 2011-12 NBA season to play out differently. As is the case with the All-NBA teams, we name two guards, two forwards and a center.
G-Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Entering the season, there was cautious optimism surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio was one of the main reasons for that. He finally came to the United States and, to the surprise of many media members, was wearing the jersey of the Timberwolves. There was concern for how his game would translate to the NBA, but he, Kevin Love and the Timberwolves began winning games at a higher clip than their norm quickly, even finding themselves in the playoff race.
Six Pack: Will Presti Pick Harden or Ibaka?
By Tommy Beer
1. Difficult Decisions Lie Ahead in Oklahoma City
The Oklahoma City Thunder have as bright a future as any organization in the NBA. Kevin Durant is the most potent scoring force in the entire league and is already a perennial MVP candidate. Oh, and he’s 23 years old. Russell Westbrook is one of the most dynamic and explosive point guards to come into the league in very long time. Westbrook is one of just two players to average over 23 points and five assists this season (LeBron James was the other). And Westbrook is just 23 years old. These two young studs represent the true core and foundation of the Thunder franchise. Accordingly, both Durant and Westbrook are locked up via long-term extensions exceeding $80 million.
However, the extremely intriguing question is which other key pieces will Thunder general manager Sam Presti decide to pair with his two superstars long-term? In particular, will Presti be forced to choose between two of the NBA’s more promising young players: Serge Ibaka and James Harden?
Both Ibaka and Harden can be offered contract extensions once free agency begins on July 1. However, if either player doesn’t ink an extension, they will become restricted free agents in the summer of 2013. Obviously, the Thunder’s preference would be to keep both in OKC, but that may not be a realistic possibility.
Raptors: A Playoff Team With Bargnani
By Stephen Brotherston
In a season that many NBA franchises may remember more for injuries than the results on the court, it becomes easy to speculate just how much better things might have gone if certain players could have played the entire season. How many more games could the Bulls have won with a healthy Derrick Rose? What would the Hawks season have looked like with Al Horford available? Could the Knicks have passed Boston for first in the Atlantic if Jeremy Lin’s knee had not given out?
Established teams with enough experience and depth still made the playoffs despite their injuries, but rebuilding teams often see their season collapse with the loss of just one key player. In Minnesota, the Timberwolves fell immediately out of the playoff race without Ricky Rubio, and in Toronto, the Raptors found out they had only one go-to-guy in January without Andrea Bargnani.
“We saw a different Andrea at the beginning of this season,” said Jose Calderon. “The Andrea we saw at the beginning is the Andrea who is going to be here next year and the Andrea we need to keep growing. He grew up in almost every aspect of the game. He made things easier for us to play out there. He gave us a lot of space.”
Where Do The Jazz Go From Here?
By Derek Page
A furious finish to the end of the season secured a spot in the playoffs for the Utah Jazz, but now a four game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs has this team readying for the offseason.
The Jazz closed out the 2012 NBA season with five straight victories, propelling the team into the postseason after missing the playoffs just a season ago. This streak included an impressive overtime win against the Dallas Mavericks and a playoff-clinching double-digit victory over the playoff-hopeful Phoenix Suns.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year after trading away All-Star point guard Deron Williams last season, but this young team was able to fight its way into the playoffs.
Even though it was a quick exit to the 2012 postseason, the Jazz have reason to be optimistic about the future. Derrick Favors had a double-double in each of Utah’s final two playoff games and, even though he struggled with his shot against the Spurs, Gordon Hayward looks like he’s going to be a solid player in the NBA for years to come.