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NBA PM: Harden Recruiting Free Agents
Posted By Alex Kennedy On May 22, 2013 @ 5:18 pm In NBA | No Comments
Former Colorado forward Andre Roberson is in the 2013 NBA Draft. HOOPSWORLD caught up with him at the draft combine in today's video of the day.Watch More Video Here
James Harden Recruiting Free Agents
When the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden last offseason, they were excited to finally land a star player. The Rockets immediately signed Harden to a five-year deal worth $80 million and he proved to be worth every penny. The 23-year-old became an All-Star, finished with the league’s third-highest scoring average (26.3 points per game) and led the Rockets to the playoffs.
While Harden’s on-court production was outstanding, his biggest contribution may come during the offseason. That’s because Harden has already started recruiting big-time free agents to Houston, including unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard among others, according to sources close to the situation. If Houston is able to land Howard or another high-profile free agent this summer, they would instantly become a contender in the Western Conference and Harden would deserve much of the credit.
In recent months, Harden made it clear that he was planning to recruit free agents this summer. Now, with free agency still roughly six weeks away, he’s already starting to call and text some potential targets for Houston to sell them on the city, situation and future. Most free agents, including Howard, are big fans of Harden’s game and have a lot of respect for the up-and-coming shooting guard. On Wednesday afternoon, Harden confirmed via his Twitter account that he has been recruiting some players.
Harden is allowed to recruit free agents and sell them on Houston, according to NBA rules. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh agreed to sign with the Miami HEAT in the summer of 2010, NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the topic of players recruiting one another.
“The three players are totally, as our system has evolved, within their rights to talk to each other,” Stern said of James, Wade and Bosh. “That is not tampering or collusion that is prohibited. That’s our rule, right now.”
In the past, the Rockets struggled to attract notable free agents. They swung and missed on Chris Bosh and Nene among others. They also expressed interest in trading for Carmelo Anthony and Howard, but neither player was interested in signing a long-term deal in Houston at the time. However, that all changed when they acquired Harden. Now, other stars around the league see that the team is close to contending in the West and that they wouldn’t be the only star in Houston.
There’s no question that the Rockets have an intriguing pitch for free agents, which is why some of the top players on the market are already planning to sit down with Houston for a meeting once July 1 arrives.
This season, the Rockets made the playoffs and managed to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder twice, despite being the youngest team in the NBA. They’re only going to continue getting better and they have more financial flexibility than most teams. However, even if they do eventually run out of cap space, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and his staff have shown that they can find cheap talent to fill out the roster, as evidenced by second-round pick Chandler Parsons (who is also recruiting free agents for Houston) and midseason signee Patrick Beverley. Both players made less than $1 million this past year, but emerged as key contributors during the season.
Houston is also a great place to live, especially if you’re a professional athlete, since there is no state income tax. There’s also no millionaire tax like there is in L.A. When you consider that most superstar players opt out of a five-year deal after the fourth year anyway to test free agency and secure a new long-term deal, the fifth year and extra $30 million that the Los Angeles Lakers can offer to Howard are pretty insignificant. Factor in Los Angeles’ state income tax, millionaire tax and exorbitant cost of living and Howard isn’t leaving much, if any, money on the table at all.
However, Harden’s presence is clearly the biggest draw for potential free agents and he has been doing his job recently to make sure they know he’d welcome them with open arms in Houston.
What Will Magic Do at No. 2?
The Orlando Magic didn’t win the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, but they did come away with the No. 2 pick. That gives Orlando plenty of players to consider over the next month, and they’ll weigh all of their options before making that pick.
The Magic’s front office was out in full force at the draft combine in Chicago last week. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan was accompanied by five of his staff members and Orlando met with player after player during the weekend. But that’s just the beginning of the evaluation process for the Magic as they’re expected to bring in a large number of players for workouts.
The front office has been putting together a database with every incoming draft prospect so that they can improve their draft process and have extensive information on each individual should they ever want to acquire them down the road through a trade or free agency. That’s why the Magic met with as many players as they did and why they’ll be flying prospects into Orlando in the coming weeks to get a closer look at them.
The Magic’s pick will likely come down to Nerlens Noel out of Kentucky, Ben McLemore out of Kansas, Victor Oladipo out of Indiana, Trey Burke out of Michigan and Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse.
The Cleveland Cavaliers may pick Noel at No. 1, but if they go in a different direction (such as Otto Porter out of Georgetown), then he is certainly an option for the Magic. At this point, Orlando is just collecting assets and many executives believe that Noel has the most potential of anyone in this draft class. Bringing in a project like Noel, who will likely miss the start of the season as he recovers him a torn ACL, wouldn’t be a bad thing for a rebuilding team like Orlando. While the Cavaliers are hoping to make the postseason next season, the Magic are still a few years away so having their top pick on the shelf may not be a bad thing, especially with franchise-changing players like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle likely entering next year’s draft class.
If Noel is off the board, McLemore or Oladipo are the next two best players available. If the Magic feel that Arron Afflalo isn’t part of the team’s long-term plan at shooting guard, they could upgrade that position by drafting either McLemore or Oladipo.
Some executives believe that McLemore could end up being the best player to come out of this draft class. He is an all-around talent and he has plenty of potential at 20 years old. Not only is he an exceptional shooter, he’s also a terrific athlete, as evidenced by his 42-inch vertical. McLemore showed glimpses of greatness during his one season at Kansas and he averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal in 32.2 minutes. He would be a quality pick for Orlando and someone who could play alongside the Magic’s young core of Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic.
Oladipo would also be an intriguing option for Orlando. He’s more of second option than McLemore, but he could be an excellent role player alongside Harris, Harkless and Vucevic. Oladipo was one of the best perimeter defenders in the country last season, finishing third in steals per 40 minutes among the top-100 prospects. He was arguably college basketball’s most improved player over the last two years, averaging 13.6 points and increasing his shooting percentages significantly to 59.9 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 steals and nearly one block in his junior season. He also had the seventh-highest field goal percentage in the country, which is incredible for a perimeter player, and he had the highest effective field goal percentage in the nation among the top-100 prospects. Oladipo has an incredible motor and his athleticism is right there with McLemore (he also had a 42-inch vertical). He may not have McLemore’s potential since he’s one year older, but he has a lot of fans in front offices around the league.
If the Magic decide to draft for need rather than best player available, they may consider Burke or Carter-Williams at No. 2.
Jameer Nelson is already 31 years old and they don’t have a long-term solution at point guard. Burke or Carter-Williams would fill the biggest need for the Magic, but would selecting either at No. 2 be a reach? Burke and Carter-Williams both made their pitch to Orlando during the combine, saying that they could help the team and upgrade the point guard position. Also, this wouldn’t be the first time that Hennigan was involved in reaching for a point guard on draft night. During the 2008 NBA Draft, Hennigan was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder when they decided to select Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick. At the time, that seemed like a crazy reach, but it turned out to be pretty smart. If the Magic are underwhelmed by the other prospects, they may take a long, hard look at Burke and Carter-Williams.
Orlando didn’t land the top pick on Tuesday evening, but they do have plenty of options as the draft approaches.
NBA Draft Combine 2013 Coverage
The HOOPSWORLD team had the 2013 Draft Combine covered from start to finish, live on the ground.
Catch all of the video interviews from yesterday’s collegiate stars and this year’s NBA rookie class.
You can find HOOPSWORLD’s 2013 draft combine coverage here.
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