NBA AM: Now Or Never For Pacers And Grizzlies
An Uncertain Future: NBA free agency opens in July and while that is generally viewed as Christmas day for basketball fans hoping to land the big fish, there are two teams that could very well lose their fish to another team.
The Memphis Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay in January, in part to cash out one giant contract in exchange for several smaller contracts. Memphis, who prior to their deals in January was over the luxury tax line, which was going to cost them not only tax dollars this year, but it would have removed the mid-level exception from the Grizzlies’ tool box next year. With both guards Tony Allen and Jerryd Bayless having the ability to hit unrestricted free agency, the Grizzlies would have had no means to replace what’s become two key cogs to the Grizzlies’ machine.
Allen is in the final year of his deal and will earn some $3.3 million this season. It’s become clear over the last few seasons that Allen has become one of the NBA’s elite perimeter defenders and will command far more than the $3.3 million he’s making this year. Allen will be unrestricted so he can leave Memphis at the alter with nothing to show for him. Given his impact as not only the team’s best defender, but also an anchor in the locker room, Memphis has to be somewhat concerned that they could lose a core guy in July, especially if head coach Lionel Hollins is not retained.
Bayless is in a similar situation, he’s emerged as a meaningful, impact piece for Memphis and he holds a player option for next season. Scheduled to earn $3.13 million next season, Bayless may opt out if only to secure more years and more dollars. Like Allen, Bayless has the option of leaving Memphis with nothing in return and that too could be a devastating blow to the Grizzlies.
Put the All-Star nods in the closet for a second, because the Indiana Pacers most important player isn’t Roy Hibbert or Paul George, it is David West. And while West is without a doubt valued in Indiana, his contract situation makes his future with the Pacers somewhat cloudy. West signed a two-year deal with Indiana coming off an ACL injury, meaning he will NOT have full Bird rights this summer. The Pacers can sign him as an early Bird exception player for up 175 percent of the last year of his $10 million deal to a maximum four-year deal with 7.5 percent raises. So the Pacers can compete with outside free agent offers, but not by much. The truth of the matter is West might be one of the more coveted free agent bigs come July and the Pacers can’t restrict his movement at all.
The good news for Indiana, is that West really likes the situation with the Pacers, but when you consider the Pacers have big money owed to George Hill, Roy Hibbert and will soon have to pay Paul George, how much will they offer West and who else will be at the table? West returning to Indiana is far from a lock and losing him to free agency would be a devastating body blow to the emerging Pacers.
NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents on July 1st; however, the signing of actual binding contracts cannot begin until July 10 this year.
In all three situations, the home teams will have some kind of ability to re-sign their own guys, but it will be interesting to see how many teams go after guys who are unrestricted and try to sway them away with the lure of bigger roles, markets or more money.
Looking forward to free agency? Check out the complete list of 2013 Free Agents here. Who is going to have salary cap space? Check out the detailed NBA salaries here.
The Draft Value of The Tournament: The 2013 NCAA Tournament gets seriously underway today, and while the basketball world will fixate on brackets, the tournament does play a key role in the NBA Draft process.
Now this may come as a surprise to you, but NBA general managers don’t scout college games as seriously as you might think. There are a few that are gym rats and love to be in the environment, but there are equally as many that don’t look at the college ranks seriously until the tournament.
Teams employ a small army of scouts and evaluators that keep tabs on the top 100 or so guys, but most teams don’t get serious about players until the tournament for a couple of reasons. How a guy does in game 13 of the college season against Nobody State isn’t nearly the same as a guy getting ready for the 8/9 matchup in the tournament. Equally, who the guy is in the tournament is a lot closer to the guy you would draft than maybe he was at the start of the season where he struggled with a new role.
But to be fair, no one gets drafted on what they did in the tournament, it’s about a bigger body of work that culminates in the tournament, but it is an environment where talent levels are similar. It is an environment where you can see a potential prospect play hyper competitive five-on-five against possibly the next guy a team is considering. That is something you do not get to do in the NBA Draft process.
The tournament is also an environment where a guy can “remind” teams that he’s a serious candidate and in return get a more serious look in the draft process.
There is no question that the 2012 NCAA Tournament played a role in Magic forward Kyle O’Quinn getting looks from NBA teams. The run that Norfolk State went on last year was anchored by O’Quinn and teams were interested. The same is true of Andrew Nicholson. Teams scouted him aggressively last year at St. Bonaventure, but it was the tournament that got him seriously noticed.
No one gets drafted from how they play in March, however playing well in March and going deep into the tournament can get you noticed in ways maybe scouts didn’t see during the season and GMs do.
So while you are watching the Big Dance this weekend, keep in mind that same level of surprise you have about a player you didn’t think much of, is likely happening with a NBA GM somewhere too.
Need help with your March Madness Bracket? HOOPSWORLD has you covered with detailed game by game previews with predictions for every game, updated throughout the tournament. You can see the previews in bracket form or in just a straight directory style list. Stay on top of the tournament as the chase for a National Championship begins.
The Future In Miami: There are more than a few teams squirreling away salary cap dollars for the summer of 2014. The Bulls can be a cap player in 2014, the Cavaliers and the Magic can too. Teams are not foolish enough to spend themselves out of the chance to lure one of the major guys that could hit the market in July of 2014.
No name gets talked about more in that context than Miami star LeBron James.
Before we get too far into this, let’s cover the economic ground.
The Miami HEAT has been a tax payer in every year of the Big Three. They have $83.29 million in salary commitments this year and are looking at a luxury tax bill worth $12.88 million. All in that’s $96.17 million in player costs on a team that is maybe generating $150 million in revenue according to Forbes Magazine’s projections. Leaving what we’ll call $53 million to run the rest of the team. That is not a profitable endeavor.
HEAT owner Mickey Arison said last year after winning the championship that they might turn a small profit if any at all and the team spent more money this year.
Next year the HEAT already has $75.547 in guaranteed salary commitments and are staring at a luxury tax line that is expected to be right at $71 million. That means the HEAT will be a tax payer again for a third year, which then sets them up to be a repeater in the new luxury tax system, which will absolutely hammer the HEAT franchise.
So why is everyone convinced James will test the market in 2014?
For one the economic situation in Miami is going to make it tough for the team to keep “the band together” as they say, at least not at the salary levels they are earning.
The other is how competitive will the HEAT be when they have to aggressively dial back the spending?
Here is what we don’t know and what most are not considering. What’s the luxury tax line going to be in 2014? $72 million? $73 million?
What will the Big Three in Miami do? They all took less money to make it happen in Miami. Will they all opt-out and take less money again to keep winning at the level they are winning?
Much has been said about James not having a maximum deal now. He’s going to earn $17.54 million this season. It’s safe to say he’s not hurting for cash.
The HEAT still have not used their one time Amnesty provision. They could cut Mike Miller or Udonis Haslem this offseason and get themselves below the tax line. That changes the dynamic of what the HEAT have to do in July of 2014.
It is fun to talk about another summer of James and for some teams with little else going for them, why not dream big — Miami did and they got him.
The truth of the matter is James isn’t likely leaving Miami as a free agent. What is likely going to happen is the Big Three will opt out of their deals and sign new five-year contracts that are a little more cap friendly and keep the winning train rolling.
None of those guys need money. The endorsement deals everyone in Miami is raking in because of their success far outweighs anything extra they could get in free agency and everyone involved loves what is going on in Miami.
The only way that changes is if the ability to win changes and who is the big threat to Miami on the horizon?
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