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NBA PM: NBA Free Agency’s Biggest Threat
Posted By Bill Ingram On June 7, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
In today’s video of the day Xavier Gibson talks about entering this offseason as a free agent, what he can bring to a team and more!Watch More Video Here
NBA Free Agency’s Biggest Threat?
Even as the San Antonio Spurs and Miami HEAT duel it out in what promises to be an NBA Finals for the ages, the rest of the teams in league are well into their summer plans. The draft, of course, is the next step, but with a lackluster draft class on the horizon, free agency is where teams are most likely to make their fortunes. With names like Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and David West, this year’s free agency class has plenty of star power, but it is also incredibly top heavy. Once the big names are gone, teams will be faced with the proposition of overpaying for mid-level talent.
There is one team, however, that doesn’t have to participate in too much of the free agency rat race to radically improve over the summer. There is little question that the Minnesota Timberwolves would have been a playoff team if the injury gods hadn’t followed Rick Adelman from Houston to Minneapolis, and if they can come back healthy for the start of the 2013-14 season, they will be a force to reckon with. They do have to address Nikola Pekovic’s situation, as he can be a restricted free agent in July, but it’s a foregone conclusion that he will be back. Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders will meet with Pekovic in Italy on Sunday, where he will reiterate the team’s intention to keep him long-term.
To be clear, Howard might be the big name in free agency, but a number of teams would love to get their hands on Pekovic. He has radically improved in each of his three NBA seasons, comes completely drama-free, and has star potential at the most difficult position to fill in the modern NBA. Last season he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and a respectable 74 percent from the foul line. Howard averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and a pathetic 49 percent from the line for the Los Angeles Lakers over the same time frame, and his price tag starts at $20.5 million next season. Pekovic will come at a much lower cost, no matter how his summer pans out. His qualifying offer puts him on the books for $6.04 million next season, though he is likely to get more if the Timberwolves have to match an offer sheet from another team hoping to lure him away.
Bringing Pekovic back is the first step in Minnesota’s big summer plan, but not the last – not by a long shot.
Having Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio healthy to start next season will help immensely, but the Timberwolves are still missing the same thing they were missing last year at this time. The Timberwolves have been in search of a starting shooting guard for quite some time, and while the Brandon Roy experiment promised to be the feel-good story of the year, it fell well short of expectations. This summer the team has a chance to take care of that need long-term. O.J. Mayo is widely believed to be their top target in free agency, and while Mayo was hoping to be in Dallas long-term, his relationship with Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle had soured by season’s end. He might be looking for a new home, and Minnesota would love to have him.
Of course, to sign him they will need to open up some cap space, which can be done in a number of ways. First, according to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities, Andrei Kirilenko recently told Russian reporters that he would prefer to opt-out of the final year of his current contract, worth $10.2 million, and sign a multi-year deal. If the Timberwolves work that out, he could make significantly less next season, but make up for it over the length of the deal. That would give the team some breathing room. They are also working the phones trying to find a trade that will get them into the draft’s top five to give them a shot at Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, and if that involves moving Derrick Williams it could clear another $5 million off the books.
If the Timberwolves can keep Pekovic in town, which is extremely likely, and shore up their shooting guard position with Mayo and/or Oladipo, they could very well be the rising stars of the Western Conference next season, regardless of where Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and David West might land. They certainly have less work to do than any of the West’s other offseason movers and shakers, and they have an advantage in that their core group is already intimately familiar with the winning culture established by head coach Rick Adelman.
How the Los Angeles Clippers Keep Chris Paul
Chris Paul has every intention of being a Los Angeles Clipper for years to come. He’s been saying that for more than a year, and despite the recent radar blip about whether or not Paul got former head coach Vinny Del Negro fired, Paul is looking forward to signing a fresh contract to play on the red and blue side of Staples Center.
Nothing is certain until the ink dries on the contract, however, and a number of teams across the NBA are hoping to convince Paul to start fresh somewhere else. A list of teams that includes, but is not limited to, the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets are all hoping for an audience with arguably the league’s best playmaker. The Clippers can’t approach their most important decision as a franchise to date – which head coach to hire for the foreseeable future – without understanding that the hire could have an impact on Paul’s decision.
A week or so ago in this space we made the case that Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw would be the absolute best choice for the Clippers, and while he would still be a great choice, some news broke this week that changed things up a bit. We don’t yet know exactly what happened in Denver to cause the team to part ways with Coach of the Year George Karl, but whatever the circumstance, it opened the door for the Clippers to make a significant move towards the NBA’s upper echelon. If the Clippers could convince Karl to take the reins in LA, it would not only mean Paul probably cuts his summer free agency tour short, it would also mean you can pencil the Clippers in for at least a Western Conference Finals spot next season.
The Denver Nuggets won a franchise-record 57 games under Karl this season, and they did it without a legitimate star on the team, ranking sixth in the NBA in transition offense and they lead the league in scoring at 106.1 points per game. That was with Ty Lawson at point guard and the undersized Kenneth Faried at power forward. Imagine what the Clippers could do in his system with Paul leading the break and rim-rocker Blake Griffin finishing! The Clippers are a deeper, more veteran team than Denver, and their personnel is tailor made for George Karl’s style of play.
Paul is almost a lock to return to the Clippers this summer, but LA can’t afford to take that for granted. Their head coaching hire has to make a statement about where they’re going as a team, and outside of San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich there is no better coach in the league than Karl. Putting him in the coaching seat would make it exponentially harder for Paul to even think about leaving town.
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