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NBA@2: Finals More Than HEAT Vs. Thunder?
Posted By Bill Ingram On June 18, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The 2012 NBA Finals presents fans with an interesting opportunity; one that might not be around for much longer. In many ways, we are looking at the old way of building NBA champions versus the new way, and it makes for what NBA Commissioner David Stern calls a “fascinating” series.
“It’s a fascinating match‑up to watch the HEAT,” Stern said at his annual NBA Finals press conference. “They have, according to them, some unfinished business. It was interesting as a fan to watch that team being constructed, the big three and those around it, and it’s very interesting to see the Thunder and the way they’ve been constructed. And it’s also interesting to see the way the state of Oklahoma has taken to these Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s very rewarding that the NBA could play a part in really the growth and literally the excitement that this city that has suffered so much is seeing and having.”
The HEAT, of course, were constructed by signing two established NBA All-Stars to play alongside longtime HEAT captain Dwyane Wade. Miami had to clear a ton of cap space and unload as many players as possible to make the trio a reality, and in the first year of their union the team didn’t have enough depth to ultimately matchup with last year’s NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The Miami model will become increasingly difficult over the next two seasons, as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will make it prohibitively expensive to cross the luxury tax threshold.
On the flip side, we have the Thunder, who used the draft as their primary means to developing the contender we now see. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka were all drafted by the team and developed into the players they are today. Thunder GM Sam Presti has complemented that group with tweaks here and there, such as adding NBA champions Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher to the mix, but for the most part the Thunder are the team they are today because they drafted well and developed their players.
Now, as the new CBA imposes something similar to a hard salary cap, the Thunder way is the more likely course for teams to take in the future.
“I think it can be done either way, because in the future there will be teams that will be below the cap and seek to improve themselves by dropping below,” said Stern. “The key feature for us, and I’ll let (Deputy NBA Commissioner) Adam (Silver) add to it, but the key feature for me is the leveling of the playing field, because you have to get under the cap. So even if you’re a big team, what they call a big market, I don’t think that is going to be relevant anymore. Think hard cap. It’s everyone’s the same. Ours isn’t quite as hard as we could have liked, but it’s still going to be an important component, and so teams will be very harshly judged on their drafts and on their use of cap money that they have available for the signing of free agents.”
“I’ll just add to what David said, which is in the case of the Miami Heat and also with Oklahoma City, they were not built by going over the cap,” said Silver. “In fact, in order for Miami to attract those free agents, specifically LeBron and Chris, they had to get under the cap to do that. And now, under this new system, and it’s accentuated from the old system, they face difficult decisions on keeping their teams together, and that was the way the system was designed. Of course, if we would have gotten a hard cap, they would have had no choice, and now they’re going to have to balance going over the cap, potentially being a taxpayer, against the team they’re able to field on the court. And that’s how the system is supposed to work.”
In other words, the only way the Miami way will work going forward is if a team is willing to gut their franchise on the gamble that they will be able to land three All-Star talents. The far more likely and sustainable approach is the route taken by Oklahoma City, though it will require general managers to do a better job, as a whole, of drafting great talent and then actually developing that talent.
The 2012 NBA Finals are certainly interesting enough, what with LeBron making some key plays late in games and Kevin Durant and the Thunder trying to grow up quickly in tight situations. But for the basketball purist there is always another angle to watch, another level of depth below the surface. The showdown of what could almost be termed the “old way” and the “new way” of building NBA contenders might be even more interesting than simply the match-up between two of the league’s elite players.
NBA Draft: Jordan Taylor
The 2012 NBA Draft might well be nicknamed the “Taylors Draft,” as there are a number of players in the mix who share the last name. The first round is likely to see Vanderbilt’s Jeff Taylor and Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor join the NBA ranks, while Jordan Taylor is hoping to sneak into the second round. Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor is a little small for the NBA, but he has the skills to at least garner the attention of a team looking to add some depth at point guard with a second round pick. He had a 29.2 PER as a senior, which turned some heads, and the improvement he showed going into his senior year might also give a team cause to think his upside is worth the investment of a second round pick.
Here’s a look at Jordan Taylor, who was in the field of players who took part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Orlando Magic Waiting For Scott Brooks?
Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks may be a free agent when his team’s NBA Finals run comes to and end. Thunder GM Sam Presti has every intention of keeping Brooks long-term, but his initial offer of three years and roughly $11 million was rejected by Brooks’ agent, Warren LeGarie. Brooks’ camp would like a four-year deal, with a little more money on the table, though further negotiations have been tabled until the end of the Finals.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, fans are wondering why it’s taking so long for the Magic to make decisions about their general manager and head coaching vacancies, and it makes some sense that these two stories might be linked. The Magic say they’re not close to making a decision, and deny the reports that Brian Shaw is now the frontrunner for the coaching job. Perhaps what the Magic are waiting for is to see how the situation in Oklahoma City plays out. If Scott Brooks becomes available, the Magic would no doubt love to interview him, and the Brooks camp would probably equally love to use the Magic as a means of driving up his market value.
Of course, the Thunder might decide to bring in former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy for an interview if that were the case.
What’s most likely is that Brooks returns to OKC for another long stint at the helm. He has the respect and trust of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, which is no small thing, and he has shown that he can grow right along with his team, taking them one step further into postseason play each season. If the Thunder lose this Finals series to Miami there is an argument to be made that perhaps Van Gundy could push them to new heights. That said, even if the Thunder lose, Presti has built his franchise on a foundation of loyalty and consistency.
The smart money says Brooks will be back in OKC next season.
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