Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Max Deal The Way To Go With Irving

(originally published elsewhere)

Cleveland committed their future to Kyrie Irving. They picked him first overall, gave him all the reins, and gave him all the plaudits. And yet now there are reports that they do not want to give him a maximum contract extension.

Whether or not Irving is worth the maximum salary is not really relevant here. The point is loyalty, and, more importantly, the perception of loyalty. It is not automatically disloyal to offer less than the maximum salary in an extension to a player you (rightly) do not feel is worth it, but to the player and his powerful agent, it is perceived as so. Anything less than undivided love is insufficient love, because the assumption - fuelled by perception - is that undivided love is available elsewhere. If you show anything less than undivided love, you do not show sufficient loyalty. And NBA players are driven by loyalty.

Offer them less than the maximum and they will point to all those beforehand in comparable situations who received it. Blake Griffin, for one, or fellow point guards Derrick Rose and John Wall (particularly Wall, who had a long way to go at the time he received his deal, moreso than Rose). It matters not if they are not worth the maximum - the assumption was always that they were going to get it, especially after picking him first overall, openly stating he is the future and the foundation, and when given that they are one of the few bright spots for the franchise in the last three moribund seasons. The fact that the last three years have been poor is partly Irving's fault, of course, but that is not how this particular process works.

It could, then, be a situation headed for a messy divorce. Especially if Pete Vecsey's version of events which state that Irving would not take a maximum contract extension even if it were offered is to be believed.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Declaration Of Sim Bhullar

(originally published elsewhere)

In a post written last month, one armed unashamedly with the benefit of four years of hindsight, I looked back at the decision of one time Oklahoma guard Tommy Mason-Griffin to leave school, declare for the NBA draft and turn professional after only one collegiate season, a poor season that had been mired by underwhelming play and much tumult within the program. In the four seasons hence, Mason-Griffin has missed more than two full campaigns due to injury, yet he has been under contract and thus been paid for his time nonetheless, something which would not have happened had he stayed in college and given his services away for free.

The idea of the piece was in part to repudiate the conventional line of thinking, whereby a player's decision to leave school early and/or declare for the NBA draft is to be evaluated entirely upon their likelehood of being drafted. Mason-Griffin served as a useful barometer for that - he never made the NBA, never came close, and surely never will, yet his decision can be justified on account of what it meant for his earning potential, one the injuries have crippled. Another player who can serve as an example of this is now upon us in the goliath form of New Mexico State centre, Sim Bhullar.

Bhullar has declared for the draft after a sophomore season in which he averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in 26.3 minutes per game. It is widely and entirely correctly held that, despite his size and relative productivity, he is not ready for the NBA. Yet he has declared anyway, as, once again, there is professional basketball life outside of the NBA from which he can earn. And he will earn, because of his remarkable qualities.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Everything I have written this season

Here's a list of everything I have written this season, whereby a year is defined as July 1st - June 30th, the same definition the NBA uses. (An article from June 2013 is also included for the hell of it.) Having written for many different websites with varying levels of efficiency with regards to archiving, I thought it best to chronicle them all in one place. The articles are loosely categorised, but most if not all pieces could actually fit into multiple categories, so the definitions are slightly arbitrary.

This post will be updated between the date of publication and 30th June 2014. Not listed in any particular order, not even by date, except where obviously so.

It is perhaps worthy of mention that, with the exception of the ShamSports pieces, I didn't write any of the titles.

Salary cap rules related

Why Cleveland's Scotty Hopson signing doesn't make much sense (The Score, 1st April 2014; detailing a mistake by the Cavaliers)

Why the Pelicans signed Ely and how they learned from the Cavs (The Score, 15th April 2014; something of a follow-up to the above, showing how it could have been done)

Bobcats gain much-needed outside shooting, Bucks do something (SB Nation, 21st February 2014)

Why the Rockets waived Greg Smith to sign Dexter Pittman (The Score, 11th April 2014)

Why don't NBA teams make more preseason trades? (The Score, 17th September 2013)

Why Al-Farouq Aminu can veto a trade, but LeBron James can't (The Score, 10th September 2013)

Why the L.A. Clippers are unnecessarily paying the luxury tax (SB Nation, 21st February 2014)

How the Grizzlies wiggled under the luxury tax (The Score, 17th April 2014)

Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin's contract situations (ShamSports, 8th July 2013)

2013/14 Luxury Tax Payers, as it stands at 11.52am GMT on 13th January 2014(ShamSports, 13th January 2014)

The value of late second-round picks (SB Nation, 25th October 2013)

How buyouts affect the trade deadline and the postseason (The Score, 25th February 2014)

It's official - Keith Bogans will earn $5,058,198 next year. All guaranteed. Keith Bogans. (ShamSports, 15th July 2013)

The repeater tax is going to transform the NBA (SB Nation, 21st November 2013)

There IS a difference between "team option" and "unguaranteed", and it DOES matter (ShamSports, 3rd July 2013' using Kyle Lowry as an example)

The False Allure Of Multi-Year Contracts (Originally Hoopsworld, 15th October 2013, reposted on ShamSports, 8th May 2014; borrows slightly from the above but with another pertinent real life example, Omri Casspi)

Why NBA Teams Sign Players They Don’t Want (Originally Hoopsworld, 29th October 2013, reposted on ShamSports, 8th May 2014)

This post is no longer relevant (ShamSports, 20th February 2014; a post written after the Spencer Hawes trade to be published on SB Nation, but later made redundant by the Danny Granger trade, which I didn't want to delete as it took quite a while)

The right and wrong way to float in the NBA's middle class (SB Nation, 25th September 2013)

The Steve Blake trade is really confusing (SB Nation, 20th February 2014; tackling the remarkably intricate subject of how TPE's are used and created)

Marquis Teague trade a pointless, expensive deal for Brooklyn Nets (SB Nation, 20th January 2014)

How do you solve a problem like Taj Gibson? (ShamSports, 7th February 2014)

How do you solve a problem like Taj Gibson? A follow-up. (ShamSports, 9th February 2014)

The amount of cap room teams actually have, updated (ShamSports, 25th July, 2013; a post written partway through the free agency period trying to clear the muddy waters of cap space information)

Anthony Tolliver earned $273,697 and counting for one day of work, and it's all thanks to Sasha Pavlovic (ShamSports, 11th June 2013)

December 15: When the NBA trade game can really begin (SB Nation, 13th December 2013)

Did Milwaukee pick up Gustavo Ayon's option? Yes. Will they have to do so again in a week? Also yes. (ShamSports, 15th July 2013)

Complete History of Luxury Tax Payments, Updated for 2012/13 (ShamSports, 10th July 2013)

A short sharp examination of how paying luxury tax does not necessarily correlate with winning (ShamSports, 27th February 2014)

The same thing again if you take the Knicks out of it altogether (ShamSports, 27th February 2014; follow-up to the above)

The tax paid by title winners (ShamSports, 28th February 2014; another follow-up to the above, containing a wee snippet of information that the Complete History post should have already had in it, and that it will do from now on)

Salary Bookkeeping, 2013 (ShamSports, 1st July 2013; everything that happened with regards to options, qualifying offers etc at the end of the previous season)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Truth About “Parity” in the NBA

[Originally posted on Hoopsworld, 5th November 2013.]

In February 2010, NBA commissioner David Stern spoke ominously of the league’s forecasted $400 million loss that financial year, as well as hundreds of millions more in losses over the previous few seasons. His words were one of the earliest warnings of an impending lockout, a threat that became a reality 16 months later. Financial inequalities and a broken system supposedly saw 22 out of the 30 NBA franchises losing money, and something had to be done to install some parity.

Three months after Stern spoke, the NBA ratified the sale of the New Jersey Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov.

Parity, it is said, is supposed to level the playing field between the large- and small-market teams. The reality of this market inequality is an unavoidable one, founded in socioeconomic factors far outside of the NBA’s control. It is what it is. The NBA’s self-imposed duty is to level the playing field within its control as much as possible.

They do this in various ways. The draft, of course, is one – parity is not just financial remuneration, but also the opportunity for all teams to compete on the court. There is also, as of the new CBA, a new revenue sharing system ostensibly designed to make big brother pay for little brother, a significant development in the NBA’s hitherto limited revenue sharing history.

And there’s the concept’s most public weapon – the luxury tax.

Since its inception in 2001, $923 million has been spent in luxury tax by 24 franchises. Of that $923 million, some $568 million has been spent by only four of those franchises – the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. That is one seventh of the teams spending three fifths of the money, and they’re about to be joined by another.

Why NBA Teams Sign Players They Don’t Want

[Originally posted on Hoopsworld, 29th October 2013.]

The vast majority of players signed for training camp are signed to contracts without any guaranteed compensation on them.

This, certainly, is no surprise, as it has long been known that most players signed for training camp are not expected to make the team. A few players have fairly nominal guaranteed portions – for example, Dee Bost received $50,000 from Portland, Dewayne Dedmon $25,000 from Golden State, and Trent Lockett $35,000 from Sacramento. Most, however, do not. Teams are not involved in bidding wars for the Trey McKinney-Jones and Carlos Morais types, and thus there is no incentive to give any guaranteed money away.

Not all unguaranteed contracts are the same, however. Some utilize a contract provision called Exhibit 9. Unless you’re an agent, it is a little known device of potentially huge importance.

Exhibit 9 of the Uniform Player Contract is applicable only to those summer contracts fully unguaranteed and for only one season in length. Its purpose is to reduce a team’s liability in event of injury to a player it intended to sign only for training camp. It states thusly:

if the player is injured as a direct result of playing for the team and, accordingly, would have been entitled but for this Exhibit 9 to compensation, the team’s sole liability shall be to pay the Player $6,000 upon termination of the Player’s Contract.

The operator ‘sole liability’ is vital here. Without an Exhibit 9, the Uniform Player Contract normally calls for teams to pay any ‘reasonable hospitalization and medical expenses’ for players injured whilst directly participating in team activity, whilst also guaranteeing the payment of their compensation, however unguaranteed it was, until such time as they are fit to return to play, up to a maximum of the end of that season.

The False Allure Of Multi-Year Contracts

[Originally posted on Hoopsworld, 15th October 2013.]

Unguaranteed or partially guaranteed final seasons are quite the trend nowadays in the NBA, and they have these days almost completely superceded team options. In fact, excluding rookie scale contracts, there are only eight team options in the entire league, belonging to Chauncey Billups, Darius Morris, Timofey Mozgov, Marreese Speights, Carrick Felix, Chandler Parsons, Jae Crowder and Rodney Williams.

All other contracts referred to in the press as ‘team options’ are, in fact, unguaranteed salaries.
There are very few instances in which contracts must be guaranteed. In fact, there are only two; the first year of a signed-and-traded contract, and the first two years of a rookie scale contract (which must be guaranteed for a minimum of 80 percent of the scale amount). Nothing else has to be guaranteed. It is self evident why so many contracts are nonetheless fully guaranteed – players want that, and teams want players to want them. Yet the unguaranteed contract fad has its basis in logic.

Essentially, unguaranteed contracts function much like team options do. However, there are some significant advantages to doing it in this way, which is why it happens. The differences:

1) Non-rookie scale team options have to be decided upon by the final day of the previous season. Seasons change over on July 1st, and thus team options must be decided on or before June 30th. This is not the case with unguaranteed contracts, which either have guarantee dates that can be negotiated to different dates, or which have no guarantee date at all. A lot of unguaranteed contracts have some guaranteed money, becoming fully guaranteed upon a certain date, or no guaranteed money at all becoming slowly guaranteed upon several dates; for players earning the minimum salary it is often the latter, while bigger contracts are usually the former. Common dates include July 15th (two weeks after free agency starts, giving teams times to analyze the situation), August 1st (ditto, but including summer league) and August 15th (for the very tardy). However, in practice, anything goes. In this way, these contracts serve as delayed team options.

Sometimes, such as in the case of Austin Daye’s second season, the contract is fully unguaranteed if not waived on or before June 30th, thereafter becoming fully guaranteed. Contracts with guarantee dates such as those are basically exactly the same as team options; however, the reason they are not done with team options is because of the additional reasons below.

The Value of Minimum Contracts In The NBA

[Originally posted on Hoopsworld, 7th October 2013.]

The most fun part of preseason is being able to get wildly carried away with the results and performances in the mostly meaningless games. This is particularly true of the performances of individual players who simply were not expected to shine, but did.

Two such players have already shown their faces, in Houston’s Omri Casspi and the L.A. Lakers’s Xavier Henry. Casspi shot 9-10 for 20 points on his debut, whilst Henry topped that with 29 in his, an impressive amount for a player whose career high to this point is only 19.

Whilst this level of production is obviously not sustainable, Casspi and Henry are set to earn only the minimum salary next season. Casspi’s is fully guaranteed, but Henry’s isn’t even guaranteed for one single dollar. These two players, then, have shown they could potentially be valuable contributors for as good of as value as is possible.

Casspi has struggled since his rookie season when he showed true promise as a free roaming off-the-ball offensive player, but who started to succumb to similarly free roaming tendencies defensively. Henry, meanwhile, was nothing short of poor in his first three seasons, struggling badly to make a shot from any portion of the court, not being able to create any, and not being consistent with his potentially good defense. There’s a reason these players were available for so cheap – they weren’t working out, and multiple teams had given up on them ever doing so.

Ten Of The Worst New Contracts This Offseason

[Originally published on Hoopsworld, 30th September 2013.]

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is designed to save teams from themselves, and make reckless spending far harder to do. It works – most free agency contracts are now, frankly, well priced.

But not all of them.

After taking a look at the best contracts of the offseason last week, here, in no particular order, are ten of the worst ones from this past offseason:

Al Jefferson – Charlotte Bobcats

The harsh but undeniable reality is that the Bobcats, regardless of the presence of Michael Jordan, have to pay over the odds on the free agent market to compensate for their franchise’s position. They’ve done that with Al Jefferson, paying him three years and $40.5 million, including a player option in the third year.

That player option makes Jefferson extremely difficult to trade until the summer of 2015. And while they haven’t necessarily signed him to trade him, a team with such little foundation as Charlotte must position themselves to permit that as soon as possible. They haven’t. Instead, they’ve paid Jefferson to be the cornerstone of the team for at least the first two years of the deal, which he simply isn’t. Jefferson, a poor defender, is also an inefficient volume scorer who contributes on only one end and leads on neither.

It looks like a strong commitment to the present, just as Jefferson looks like he is a centerpiece to his team. But appearances can be deceptive.

Ten Of The Best New Contracts This Offseason

[Originally published on Hoopsworld, 23rd September 2013.]

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is designed to save teams from themselves, and make reckless spending far harder to do. It works – most free agency contracts are now, frankly, well priced.

Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best ones from this past offseason:

Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks

Millsap signed with Atlanta for two years at $9.5 million per year, a significant chunk of cap space for a team who have worked so diligently to cut as much payroll as possible. Reversing the direction of the franchise is initially tough to reconcile, yet it is worth it because of how good of value his deal represents.

Millsap is signed to an amount comparable to his talent, for a short period of time. His deal only being two years long is of big help to the Hawks, both on their court and potentially on other teams. He provides Atlanta with the talent boost that will keep them out of the cellar – if you want bums on seats, you need that – while this contract makes him extremely tradeable. Millsap is a valued commodity around the league as a quality, versatile, two-way role player, and by getting him at the right price, Atlanta put themselves in a position to take advantage of that. And as long as they do, he’ll help them significantly as a player.

Even rebuilding teams need that.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

NBA Coaches & The Effects Of Likability

(originally published elsewhere)

Three weeks ago, a story came out that the New York Knicks were determined to land Steve Kerr as their next head coach. Despite Kerr having no coaching experience of any kind at any level, it appears he is the white hot candidate for the vacancy - so eager are the Knicks in their pursuit that the story broke even before they had a vacancy, having not then announced the future of the incumbent lame duck coach, Mike Woodson.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that the Knicks were accelerating their pursuit of Kerr, trying to tie him up before the first round of the playoffs were over in anticipation of other vacancies becoming available later on.

Last week, the Lakers parted company with former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.

And this week, the Warriors fired former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson.

In his time with the Lakers, nothing went right for Mike. In the best part of two years with the team, D'Antoni went 67-87 on a team that, the summer before he was hired, was thought to have a two year title window. The team were rolled out of the playoffs easily in 2012-13, swept aside by a Spurs team that made a laughing stock of the one time rivalry, and worse came with this season's 27-55 record, the second lowest winning percentage in franchise history.

On paper, that is a terrible return. In reality, however, there was not much he could do.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Another Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The NBA Prospects Of The Unsigned NBA Draft Picks, Part One

If your NBA team drafts a player, and yet never signs him, the chances are that they'll still own his draft rights. The presence of those draft rights means that that player can sign only with the right-holding NBA team, and not with any others. Such draft rights can also be traded, either to a recipient team who values the player and thus gives something of value for them, or as arbitrary filler obliging the NBA's rule that all partners in a trade must trade something outbound, however menial.

In theory, there exists multiple uses for these draft rights, both as players and trade pieces. In practice, however, they are often of no use whatsoever. They exist as technicalities, for use in trades or for no use at all. Unless you actually want the player concerned, of course. The chances of that being the case are what this post seeks to document. If only it was something we could bet on. In fact, sportsbooks around the nation too watch these developments closely. It impacts the NBA Betting odds for the teams at play, not so much from a game to game perspective but in regards to a team's chances come playoff time.

This is something of an update to the previous such list, now three years old and in need of sprucing up. A quick check of that link will find much more detail about the player's career to date than this one will contain - such is the needs of the update format. Additionally, a breakdown of the usage of these rights in trades can be found here, a link which also contains a much shorter-handed version of this list). The update of the whereabouts of the players concerned follows this picture of Kevin Garnett.

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