LeBron Leaves, Miami Moves on… Quickly

You lose LeBron James. You have two options: wallow in self-pity, or shell out a max deal to Chris Bosh! That’s sort of like those annoying hypotheticals you’d hear in the 8th grade: “would you rather die of a shark attack, or a lightning strike?” There’s no right answer. There’s only two wrong answers, one maybe a little worse than the other.

Miami fans did their best Cleveland impression, showing no class after LeBron announced he was leaving.

Miami fans did their best Cleveland impression, showing no class after LeBron announced he was leaving.

That isn’t to rip on Cleveland fans. They’ve heard it enough, and yeah, they took the anti-LeBron stuff too far in 2010, but if I lived in Cleveland, I probably would’ve reacted similarly. As would any real sports fan. But it is to say that there is another way of dealing with the loss of the greatest player in the league. After LeBron announced his return to Cleveland, nearly every sports fan in the country cheered. And per usual, when Miami fans saw other fans cheering, they naturally joined in. (Cue clueless Heat looking around confused, seeing people clapping, and then slowly joining, and then grinning widely, having no idea why he’s clapping.) Continue reading

Dominos to Fall From LeBron’s Signing with Cleveland

Over the next 24 or 48 hours, there will be a flurry of moves in the NBA as a result of the LeBron signing. LeBron altered the landscape of the NBA in one day, and there will be ripple effects felt for a long time throughout the league. Here are just some of the things that could happen over the next few days:

Chris Bosh signs a max deal with Houston.
This is almost sure to happen. The Rockets were Bosh’s backup plan all along, and they offer him the best combination of winning and money. The Rockets have to first move Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to make the requisite space, so that they can sign Bosh, and then match the Mavs’ 3 year/$45 million offer sheet on Chandler Parsons. Everyone will rush to anoint the Rockets as one of the title favorites, but a Big 3 of Howard, Harden, and Bosh is still far away from a title. Where’s the toughness in that trio?

parsons_lhuofKevin Love trade rumors EXPLODE and he probably winds up in Cleveland somehow.
Of course Kevin Love is ‘intrigued’ by joining the Cavs, and then signing there long-term. The Cavs will probably try to offer Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and some 1st round picks for Love. And the T’Wolves will say no to that. The Cavs will have to think long and hard whether they want to give up top pick Andrew Wiggins to create a Big 3 of LeBron, Kyrie, and Love. Continue reading

The Heat’s Saviors Are… Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger?

Here’s your task if you’re Pat Riley: assemble a roster that will appeal to LeBron and give him the chance to win multiple titles. And do so with the understanding LeBron will only settle for a max deal, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will have to be part of the plan. In other words, understand that those three players will tie up the majority of the team’s cap space, and you will have limited resources to upgrade the roster. It’s no easy task.

But Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger? That’s who’s supposed to convince LeBron to stay in Miami? I hope Riley has something else up his sleeve. Granger hasn’t been relevant on the court in years. He was mostly only brought up last season, when people were trying to explain the Pacers’ locker room mess. He was hardly even mediocre in the half-regular season that he played for the Clippers, and then he was a complete non-entity in the playoffs, shooting under 30%. Granger is just another aging wing that would show up occasionally, but not consistently anymore. Continue reading

Day 1 of Free Agency Is Every NBA Fan’s Worst Nightmare

In the NBA, free agency is supposed to be the time of delusion. The time where bad teams convince themselves if they can just sign that one guy, they’ll be contenders. Those teams rear their ugly heads and leak out rumors that their aim is to sign LeBron and Carmelo, with promises of multiple titles. Teams make ridiculous sales pitches that will obviously never happen. But it’s really too entertaining to dismiss. The crazy rumors. The ridiculously overpaid contracts. The insanity of it all inevitably leaves indelible stains on some franchises’ futures. Just ask the Magic, who were still paying Gilbert Arenas over $20 million last season for him to sit on the couch and troll Roy Hibbert.

Imagine how crazy free agency can be. Now magnify it a couple million times. That’s what happens anytime LeBron is a free agent. LeBron is good enough to make whatever team he’s on a contender. So, when he’s a free agent, the league collectively loses its you know what. Hell, Vegas won’t even put up its 2015 title odds, until it knows jersey LeBron will be wearing.  Continue reading

The 15 Best Free Agents Not Named LeBron or Carmelo

NBA free agency starts at midnight tonight. Almost all of the free agent talk so far has been focused on LeBron and Carmelo. Where will LeBron end up? Will he take a pay cut? (No.) Will Carmelo join or create a Big 3? Is he headed to Miami? (Just stop.) Chicago? (Hmmm.) Rockets? (They certainly want him.) New York? (Sorry Knicks fans.) Let’s put aside the LeBron and Carmelo talk for just a second, and rate the rest of the free agents. This free agent class is by no means loaded once you get past LeBron and Carmelo, but there are still some very attractive free agents this summer that could alter the NBA landscape.

A Few that Didn’t Make the Cut

A couple guys didn’t make this list, but will be targeted by several teams. Patty Mills had a stellar run in the Finals and is bound to be overpaid by someone in the league. Plenty of teams will only remember how well he shot the ball in the Finals and be willing to offer Mills the starting job and a salary raise. His speed and pace gave the Heat fits. Speaking of the Heat, they will have to figure out what to do with the Big 3. Obviously, the Heat will do all they can to keep the Big 3 together and make another run at the Finals. There’s no way they’ll let Dwyane Wade go. He’ll probably play his entire career in Miami, and the Heat will offer him a Kobe-like extension, based on what he did for the franchise in the past, not what he will do in the future. Wade could be in this list based on previous ability and his name, but in terms of ability, he doesn’t belong on the list. He looked finished in the Finals. The Heat breezed through the weak East, beginning with their first round sweep of the upstart Hornets. The Hornets look like an up-and-coming team in the East and are trying to keep their point-forward Josh McRoberts, one of the best passing big men in the league. Michael Jordan loves McRoberts and calls him a “connector”, basically meaning Jordan would’ve loved playing with him since McRoberts only passes the ball. A connector is just another word for a glue-guy, and McRoberts is that. Continue reading

Top 75 NBA Trade Value (Part 1)

Now that we’ve concluded the NBA season, we have a decision to make. We can either torture ourselves with the daily draft proceedings, or we can postpone the draft talk and hypothetically analyze fake trade scenarios to alleviate our pain and distract ourselves from the summer sports lull. Who has the most trade value in the NBA? Soon-to-be 30 year old LeBron, on the heels of four straight Finals appearances, and enormous wear and tear? Or 25 year old KD, coming off his first MVP season? Or 21 year old Anthony Davis, fresh off his first All-Star appearance and poised to be his generation’s Duncan? In other words, it’s not as simple as who’s the best player in the league. Age matters. Younger players are more valuable than guys on the verge of retirement. LaMarcus Aldridge is more valuable, being only 28 years old, than Dirk is at 36. You get the point. Salary also matters. You’d rather have Kawhi Leonard, due just over $3 million next season than Carmelo, who’s about to get a max contract. We’ll count down the top 50 players, with the #1 player being the player in the league with the most trade value. In other words, if Team A offered the #5 player on the list to Team B for the #2 player, Team B would say no. Without further ado, let’s begin the count down.

This year brings some players that show the limitations of the rating trade value. Kobe Bryant didn’t make the the cut this year. Who would trade for a 35 year old coming off a torn achillies? But obviously, the Lakers would NEVER trade him. Rather than ranking him way too high to keep some consistency, it makes more sense to cut him from the list altogether. Similarly, Dwyane Wade failed to make the top 75 this year. That might sound crazy, but given that he only played 54 games this year, is going to be 33 next year, and looked horrendous in the Finals, it makes perfect sense. Who would trade for him, especially if he opts in and is making over $20 million next year. Again, the Heat would NEVER trade him. Chances are he finishes his career with the Heat. The last premier name to miss this year’s cut is Derrick Rose, but that should be no surprise. He hasn’t been healthy for two years and has $60 million left over the next three years. Unless he magically turns into his former MVP self (not happening), he has little value. Here are some of the tougher omissions: Continue reading

What we can take away from the Finals

So far, most experts have reduced this year’s Finals to a few storylines. The main takeaways are that LeBron’s legacy is tarnished, Duncan is easily a top 10 all-time player, D-Wade is finished, and 2014 Miami was no different than 2007 Cleveland. Some of these conclusions are accurate. Duncan probably does deserve to be in the same breath as Bird and Magic now. Wade does look pretty damn close to retirement. LeBron might as well have had Damon Jones and Candace Parker’s brother on the wings. Maybe most of all, experts are declaring the end of an era. And it’s not the one you might expect. It’s not the Spurs era, which seems to drag on year after year, no matter how old Duncan gets. It’s the end of the Big 3, proclaim overeager Heat-haters. There are a few more takeaways we can glean from this year’s Finals though that may be overlooked with all of the focus on Duncan and LeBron.

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Summer Outlook: Heat

From dynasty to broken up? That may be the harsh reality for the Heat. The Heat were not just beat by a better team. They were embarrassed. They may have been propped up by one of the weakest Eastern Conferences in NBA history, but they were exposed in the Finals, and unless something drastic happens, it’s hard to imagine the Heat winning another Finals. The Heat were no better than the 2007 Cavs this year against the Spurs. LeBron came to Miami to get more help, but it looks like that time is over. It’s simple: Wade is washed up and Bosh is overrated. With an aging Dwyane Wade and a hardly Robin-worthy Chris Bosh there to help out LeBron, the Heat struggle to score. It gets worse. Their bench was a non-factor this postseason. Amnestying Mike Miller proved costly. Shane Battier hardly played when it mattered. Greg Oden and Mike Beasley turned out to be a whole lotta nothing. And the point guard by committee of Chalmers and Cole was arguably worse than Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson. Taken as a whole, it’s not inconceivable for LeBron to leave Miami. There aren’t a whole lot of options for him, but Miami is a year away from being an NBA barren wasteland, unless Pat Riley completely retools the roster. Continue reading

Eastern Finals Game Six Second Half Diary

We’re going to pick up from the Heat-Pacers game 6 from halftime, with the Heat up 40-39. I’m going to adopt a diary style column, modeled after Bill Simmons’ annual Draft Diary. Every few minutes, my rambling and entirely biased desire for the Pacers to beat the Heat will be strewn out briefly. So far, the Pacers have missed between 15 and 100 layups/dunks. LeBron is carrying the Heat, per usual, as the Heat don’t look any different than his Cavs teams in the past. Wade and Bosh are banged up and providing little more than Boobie Gibson, Mo Williams, and Anderson Varejao ever did in LeBron’s throwback days. Wade and Bosh have combined to go 1-10 so far, providing for an intriguing opportunity for LeBron to do his best Jordan impressions. I can’t imagine any scenario where LeBron DIDN’T leave the Heat after next season. Wade will be as close to washed up as a superstar can be, and while Bosh may still have plenty left, he’s proved himself to be a nice 3rd option, but not an ideal sidekick.

LeBron hasn't received any help in this series against the Pacers.

LeBron hasn’t received any help in this series against the Pacers.

9:52 p.m. EST: Hibbert tips in a missed lay up by George Hill, and continues his dominant series. After this series, Hibbert has to be considered one of the 3 or 4 best centers in the league. I can’t think of a single guy I’d take over him. Dwight, Bynum, and Gasol are all nice, but if Hibbert stays on the floor over 35 mpg, he is a 20 and 10 guy easily.

9:55– David West FINALLY hits his first field goal of the game. Somehow, West has perennially been of the most underrated players in the league. Check out his career stats. For seven out of eight seasons, he’s been a 17-7 guy easily and aside from his season lost to a torn ACL, he’s been fairly durable. If West replaced Bosh on the Heat, does anyone really think there would be a significant drop off?

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Who would you build an NBA Franchise around?

Here’s the situation: you’re an NBA GM and you’re trying to draft from entire pool of NBA players to make your team as successful as possible. This obviously slightly rates how players are valued. Would you rather select Kobe Bryant at age 34 with a $30 million salary coming off of a torn achilles, or 24 year old James Harden, set to make $15 million next year? Would you rather have Dwyane Wade at age 31, making nearly $19 million, or 20 year old Kyrie Irving who’s still on his rookie deal? Further, would you rather have Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, coming off a torn ACL? Age, contract size, injury history, and potential all factor into your decision. Position matters too. Point guard is a very deep position, but center is not. But as the Heat showed us last season, small ball can work fine. If you have Lebron James, at least.

Running a successful NBA franchise isn’t easy. Well, it might be, but we’ll never know, when teams are run by people like this. After all, only nine different franchises have the title in the past 32 years. Going into each season, there’s usually only 3 or 4 teams that have a realistic shot at winning the title. Underdogs stand little chance when they have to beat a team four times out of seven. Usually the better team will advance in the playoffs. The league today is very top heavy– so much, that LeBron recently advocated contracting the league. The league wouldn’t be so uneven if not for teams habitually overpaying bad players (looking at you, Wizards), teams having to deal with whining superstars (sorry, Magic), and teams trading all their young assets for injured players (we know how you feel, 76ers). That’s why the size of contract, character of the player, and the injury history are all important in deciding who to build an NBA franchise around. Without further ado…

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