NBA Saturday: Let the Mediocrity Begin!
The Fight Over Mediocrity Begins!
To say that Thursday night’s draft was one of the most insane drafts in the history of the NBA would be a massive understatement, and two of the craziest events of the entire evening were a couple of blockbuster trades, each of which sent All-Star players to new addresses.
For those who have been under a rock for the last couple of days, those deals included New Orleans sending a 2014 top-five protected draft pick and Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson, and Boston sending Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for three future first round draft picks and a bunch of players who are not in the Celtics’ long-term plans.
The deals upset the fan bases in Philadelphia and Boston for obvious reasons, but if there was ever a perfect opportunity to blow things up and start anew, the 2013-14 season would be the time.
With so many top-notch blue chippers headed for next June’s draft, teams have not had this much motivation to be mediocre in over a decade. Had Philadelphia and Boston left things alone, both would’ve been playoff (or near-playoff) teams with zero chance at a championship and very little chance at a high lottery pick. In Boston, Garnett may have retired anyway, and Pierce would’ve cost about $5 million just to buy out.
By sending away huge chunks of talent in exchange for young players and/or draft picks, the Sixers and Celtics have given themselves excellent opportunities to be awful in a year where the payoff could be huge. It won’t be fun for fans of those teams right now, but there’s a great chance that things will get better in a hurry if these teams land a top pick.
What does a top pick land you in 2014? Andrew Wiggins, widely considered the best prep prospect since LeBron James, is the top prize, but there are loads of other potentially franchise-changing players in that draft class. Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and the Harrison twins are among the most impressive prospects from next year’s draft. Had any one of those come out this year, they may have been the top overall pick, if that gives you any indication as to how much better the 2014 draft crop is. We also have no idea how much improvement we’ll see from players like Isaiah Austin and James McAdoo, and when we toss in promising players like Dario Saric, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, there’s a gem for just about every single lottery team.
So goodbye, Jrue Holiday. Andrew Bynum, you shan’t be a Sixer any longer. KG, Truth and Jet? It’s been real. Good luck in Brooklyn.
Here’s a fair question, though: Have the Sixers and Celtics done enough to guarantee themselves a truly awful season? Philadelphia sure has. Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner look to be one of the most worst scoring backcourts in the league next season, and Nerlens Noel, the team’s cornerstone (for now), probably won’t even step on the court for the first two months of the year. In a lot of ways, they’re the early favorites for worst team in the league next year.
Boston, meanwhile, has some more trading to do in order to fully embrace true mediocrity. With Rajon Rondo on the roster, they’re still at least reasonably formidable, no matter who else is playing. Charlotte and Phoenix are both still definitely worse. Depending on whom Milwaukee and Utah lose in free agency, they could be right there, too. It’s hard to count on Sacramento or Orlando, either, so while Boston is probably headed for the lottery, they don’t look bad enough to have a real shot at Wiggins without a Rondo trade.
It’s easy for fans to hate these trades that have sent their favorite stars packing, but these trades were done with a brighter future in mind. Philly, for example, now has two promising young kids in Noel and Carter-Williams and will have a shot at two more lottery picks next year, one of which should be pretty high. The New Orleans pick is top five protected, but there will be strong value even in the 10-15 range, should that be where the Pelicans end up landing next June. Boston may take a little longer to clean house, but both teams have the right idea. If you’re going to be bad eventually, you might as well be bad now. In this case, there truly is no better time than the present.
Ray Allen Opts In
There’s no way Ray Allen wanted to leave the Miami HEAT after winning a championship with the team just a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still a little surprising that Allen decided to exercise his player option for the 2013-14 considering he was only slated to make $3.2 million.
Allen could have declined his player option and then re-signed with the HEAT for a longer-term deal, though it’s not clear how many more years Allen is really going to want to play. Since Miami had their non-Bird exception available, however, they could’ve given Allen $3.7 million next season, as well as up to three additional years with 4.5% annual raises. He probably wouldn’t have signed for that long, but the option was definitely there for him to get more money.
Since he turned that money down, we’re led to assume a couple of things: 1.) This upcoming season may be Allen’s last one in the NBA, and 2.) Money really doesn’t matter to a guy who’s made (and properly invested) a ton of it over the course of his career. This late in the game, Allen really only wants to be a part of a championship-caliber program, and there’s no team in the league more primed for a 2014 ‘chip than the two-time reigning world champs.
Allen was never really in any danger of leaving the HEAT; it was just a matter of whether he’d opt in or look for a new deal with Miami. Taking less money means slightly more flexibility for the HEAT in free agency, which only makes things easier for them to stay on top of the league. As if they needed anything to be easier.
Where Does Mo Think He’ll Start?
Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams has said he’s open to re-signing with the Utah Jazz next month when he enters unrestricted free agency, but he’ll only do so if he’s guaranteed to keep his place in the starting lineup next season, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Of course, with Trey Burke added to the mix, the Jazz can make no such guarantee. Burke was one of the best players available in the recently-completed draft, and considering a lot of the team’s veteran leadership (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap) could be headed elsewhere this summer in free agency, there may be no better time to just had the keys over to the pups. If Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward are going to be the best players on the team next year anyway, why not toss in the shiny, new point guard as well?
It’s an absolutely silly thing for Williams to expect, especially since he only played in 46 games last season. Should he experience any sort of similar injury, even if he were out for just a couple of weeks, Burke could step right in, easily outplay him and see his NBA career take off from there.
So why, then, is Williams making such a demand? Because where else is he going to even have a chance at starting next season? Of the teams that might end up needing a starting point guard, only Atlanta, Orlando and maybe Milwaukee will have the cap space to afford the kind of salary that Williams is likely to require. Orlando isn’t giving a player his age any sort of long-term deal, Atlanta may re-sign Jeff Teague and Milwaukee is rumored to be willing to match any offer sheet Brandon Jennings may sign.
So that leaves Utah. His “demand” to remain a starter is a little silly, but hey, it’s worth a shot, even if Burke already is the projected starter now, with or without Williams on the roster.