W’s Green switches agents with payday in mind

Draymond Green is the next Warriors player in the market for a big payday.



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Ranking the 15 Best Free Agents of the 2015 Class

Forget about regular-season NBA action for a second. Think about the 2015 free-agency class instead.

Yes, I know. The season just started. You’re only just coming to terms with all that’s happened since the end of last year. LeBron James is back in Cleveland. Kobe Bryant is teammates with Carlos Boozer. Chris Douglas-Roberts’ shorts aren’t as short as you thought they would be. 

It’s madness.

But that doesn’t make this any less necessary.

Halloween has come and gone, and so too has the deadline for fourth-year players to sign contract extensions. Some studs successfully brokered one—Ricky Rubio now has 56 million reasons to continue working that boyish smile of his, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Other extension-eligible talents weren’t so lucky, and the free-agency landscape has changed as a result, even if only slightly.

Restricted free agents rarely find new digs. Incumbent teams have the ability to match any offer they receive, making it hard to leave. Sometimes, though, it happens, and there are now more than a few cases to monitor.

Which of these restricted free agents stand among next summer’s best available mercenaries? Who else makes the cut?

Age, position and past statistical prowess are our guide. Immediate performance outlook counts, too. Then there’s the subjective aspect of all this, which, basically, consists of asking yourself: How good is Player X compared to the rest of his free-agent class?

Put that way, Kostas Papanikolaou obviously lords over all. Everything else about this exercise isn’t as certain. Join me, then, in finding clarity.

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Jeanie Buss: I’ll fire anyone who said free agents don’t want to play with Kobe

Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanne Buss on made some strong comments on Thursday in response to the recent ESPN the Magazine story that was written about Kobe Bryant. For starters, Buss said that any team employee who contributed to the feature — which claimed Bryant deters free agents from signing with the Lakers — will…Read More

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Jeanie Buss Calls out Free Agents Afraid of Kobe Bryant: ‘Losers’

From the not-so-magnanimous media coverage to his much-ballyhooed return from injury, Kobe Bryant has lately found himself under a microscope of nearly unprecedented intensity—and that’s saying something.

Scorching spotlight though it may be, Bryant has at least one stalwart in his corner (via Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post):

Jeannie Buss, for those who don’t know, is the daughter of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away in February 2013. After the elder Buss’ death, control of the Lakers was essentially divvied up between Jeanie Buss and her brother, Jim.

Since then, speculation has abounded over the two’s relationship, which Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding (writing then for the Orange County Register) reported as far back as 2013 had been severely strained following the awkward Phil Jackson non-hire.

If anything is going to compel the two to circle the family wagons, it’s a full-frontal attack on their franchise’s biggest, most lucrative star. Not to mention the insidious implication that the Lakers are somehow about anything other than winning.

On Monday, ESPN The Magazine published a piece by Henry Abbott that took a not-so-flattering look at Kobe Bryant’s role in the demise of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Key to Abbott’s thesis was the notion that future free agents might be dissuaded from signing with the Lakers due to Bryant’s hypercompetitive, hypercritical personality. In fact, Abbott—quoting an anonymous source—suggests this was likely a motivating factor behind Dwight Howard’s tumultuous departure following the 2012-13 season.

Coming off the team’s worst season in nearly six decades, the Lakers are a team at a crossroads: Do they try and use the upcoming free-agent classes to build around Bryant one last time? Or do they hold off on a rebuild until their ailing legend—injuries to Achilles and knee barely in the rearview mirror—limps languidly into the sunset?

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes recently wrote, the looming narratives are nothing if not compelling:

Bryant is the same man—evolved. To use a baseball analogy, he’s pitching instead of throwing these days, replacing physical skill with tactical smarts.

We’ve seen the unstoppable drives, the one-dribble pull-ups, the relentless transition attacks. But we haven’t seen the measured (though still aggressive) post technician. We haven’t seen the guy who might operate almost exclusively as a draw-and-kick facilitator on the block.

When a superstar fundamentally changes his game in an effort to stay on top, well…it’s fascinating.

Even if reports of Bryant’s difficult demeanor are true, that shouldn’t dissuade the Lakers from continuing to pursue free-agent gold; they should be selling the history and legacy of the franchise itself, not its fading face.

Rest assured, the Lakers have no intention of resting on their playoff-less laurels. Not with Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James all slated to hit the open market within the next two years.

Many will read Buss’s barb as a veiled shot at Howard. Others might see swipes at James or Carmelo Anthony, both of whom bypassed the Lakers en route to richer paydays.

Whoever the target or whatever the intended tone, Jeannie Buss’s harsh words should be seen first and foremost in familial terms—the angered but earnest attempt to protect one’s own from the cruel caustics of the outside world.

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New NBA TV Deal Offers 2015 Restricted Free Agents Unique Leverage

Navigating restricted free agency has always been a leverage-free endeavor for NBA players who, for the most part, find themselves at the mercy of incumbent teams and offer sheets that don’t come.

Then the NBA signed a new media rights deal that, perhaps inadvertently, created leverage for members of the 2015 restricted free-agency class who haven’t yet signed.

Not everything changed upon The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir revealing that ESPN and Turner Sports (which owns Bleacher Report) would pay the Association $24 billion over the course of this new agreement. There remains ample risk involved for players. But there is now a negotiating ploy that wasn’t available to past restricted free agents.

Take the Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson. Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com says the two sides remain millions apart in extension talks. Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, is apparently seeking “at least $15 million” annually while the Warriors are slinging $2 million less.

Thanks to the new TV deal and the player-friendly raises it will bring later, Thompson has the necessary ammunition to justify his asking price now.

And he’s not the only one.


Immediate Change

It all starts with the salary cap.

There is no reason for spending power not to explode in the coming summers. Nearly three years removed from a lockout that emphasized the limits of a franchise’s earning potential, the owners will be hard-pressed to escape the symbol of $24 billion.

“That’s a lot of money,” Kevin Durant said of the deal, per NewsOK.com’s Anthony Slater. “I don’t see how owners can say they losing money now.”

One way or another, this influx of cash will be funneled into the salary cap, which stands at $63.2 million for 2014-15. It’s not a matter of if, only when and how much.

Although the cap is expected to erupt at some point, “smoothing out” has become a buzzphrase around the Association, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

There is no way to avoid some shock to the cap figure at some point, but there are ways to ease the trauma. The league and its TV partners, the same partners as under the old deal, could agree to make 2015-16 sort of a hybrid year, at some price point between the old $930 million and the new $2 billion–plus. That would raise revenues more than anticipated for 2015-16, and thus raise the cap beyond the current $66.5 million projection. …

Several teams have been operating for months under the assumption the cap would reach at least $70 million for 2015-16, and any bigger-than-expected jump for that season could help teams on the borderline of having max cap room this July. 

Spreading out the increase over time, beginning immediately, diminishes the size of the anticipated jump for 2016-17, which Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck says will elevate the cap to an “estimated $84 million.” But it also means that player salaries are going to increase sooner.

Player contract values and annual earnings are proportionate to the salary cap. If the latter goes up, the price of contracts and yearly salaries goes with it. And if next sumer’s cap surpasses the current projection ($66.5 million), players are going to cost more sooner.

Bypassing those expenses would be impossible when it comes to unrestricted free agents. Midseason extensions are obsolete for them because they, unlike restricted free agents, stand to make more by waiting regardless of salary-cap increases, hence the reason Kevin Love didn’t put pen to paper on a new pact upon joining the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Impending restricted free agents—such as Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried—are wont to sign on the dotted line prior to actual free agency because 1) these contracts represent their first massive payday and 2) offseason markets are limited by their respective team’s ability to match any offer. The latter is why incumbent teams aren’t always inclined to extend max-contract sheets as soon as they can.

Usually the Warriors could wait their Thompson situation out, the worst-case scenario being they match an offer sheet that meets Thompson’s current asking price; the best-case scenario being they lock him down for less.

But if the cap mushrooms early as part of some smoothing-out process, his price tag could balloon with it, costing the Warriors more. Signing him now, even if it’s for more money than anticipated, winds up being a discount if the team believes another interested party will throw a max deal his way next summer.

Players coming off rookie deals who are angling for extensions, like Thompson, can use the threat of that increase to inflate their immediate value.

Teams are going to be in the hunt for talent this summer. With so many players expected to position themselves for 2016 free agency—think about the two-year deal LeBron James signed in Cleveland this year—suitors may be more willing to tender max-offer sheets in exchange for long-term security other prospects aren’t promising.


Pulling a Monroe

Immediate adjustments to the salary cap aren’t going to be earth-shattering, bringing the upside of above tactics into question. If the 2015-16 ceiling stops somewhere around $70 million as Lowe suggests, that’s only a $3.5 million difference from the initial projection.

Greater leverage is found in summer 2016, when the cap figures to spill into the $80-plus million range.

To get there, restricted free agents would have to do what most restricted free agents typically don’t do: table extension talks now, play through 2014-15, sign their qualifying offer next summer, then hit unrestricted free agency in 2016.

Precedent is found in Greg Monroe’s restricted free agency this past offseason. Instead of signing an offer sheet from a rival team or re-upping with the Detroit Pistons, he accepted his qualifying offer worth almost $5.5 million, per ShamSports

Monroe easily could have made double that amount this year. Though the move allows him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Pistons can still offer him the most money and he’s tightly tethered his financial security to remaining healthy and productive for at least another year. That Monroe’s agent, David Falk, also told Sports Business Daily (via BasketballInsiders.com) his client received numerous lucrative offers only adds to the big-picture risk.

“Players—more accurately players’ agents—have been threatening to sign the qualifying offer for ages,” SB Nation’s Tom Ziller wrote weeks before Monroe signed his qualifying offer. “There’s a reason no one takes those threats seriously. The QO is not an arrow in the players’ quivers. It’s a fake weapon.”

A fake weapon that now carries real weight.

Writing for ESPN.com (subscription required), salary-cap guru Larry Coon estimates that the max-contract value for players with six years or less of experience will “increase by $3.77 million” annually if the cap incurs a $16 million spike. If it climbs even higher—as Lowe discussed—the annual uptick will be even more.

Threatening to drag out contract situations for nearly two years, as 2015 restricted free agents would have to do, might seem pointless if modest financial gains were on the line. But $3.8 million a season over the life of a four-year max is $15.2 million. Over the life of a five-year max, it’s $19 million.

That’s a truckload of money. It’s also a rough projection that could grow exponentially if the NBA is unable to convince the players union to curb any looming hikes.


Deadline Madness En Route?

Deadline day is almost upon us, and it carries incredible intrigue.

Fourth-year players have until Oct. 31 to hash out extensions with their teams, otherwise they’ll reach restricted free agency in July. There’s no telling what happens from there, roughly eight months later, when 2016 and its suspected cap bang doesn’t seem so far away.

Ricky Rubio can use that to force his Minnesota Timberwolves off the four-year, $48 million extension the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney says they’re dangling.

Thompson can use it to push the Warriors toward max-contract territory now.

Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Vucevic, among many others, can use it to extract more money from their contract negotiations.

Pricier contracts now won’t seem as expensive later. That’s the play. If restricted free agents are willing to defer, they have leverage past players didn’t, and an advantage future ones who enter the fray after the league is acclimated to this brave, new world won’t.

If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. Teams could call bluffs. Off years and injuries could derail earning potentials. That’s the price players could pay. That’s the risk they’re taking. But this is still leverage, the rewards of which allow today’s extension-seekers to reap the benefits of tomorrow’s financial boom.


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5 Remaining NBA Free Agents Who Should Be Signed Before 2014-15 Season

NBA free agency kicked off all the way back on July 1, but there are five still-available players who can make an impact on the 2014-15 season.

Whether it’s a stalemate in negotiations, consideration of retirement, attitude concerns or simply an absence of the right fit, the reasons they’re available are varied.

Working around the aforementioned obstacles and signing one of these five could be a great low-risk, high-reward opportunity (except in the case of the first player in the slideshow, who will eventually command a hefty contract).

In the following slides, organized by position, you’ll read why each player is still available and what he has to offer a team this season.

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Boston Celtics: 5 Free Agents To Target in 2015

Boston Celtics fans are already sick and tired of the “Rondo wants to stay” and Rondo wants to go” game. With the 2014 offseason winding to a close, outside of a surprise major move, Boston appears to be more or less set to open the upcoming year. With a franchise-altering rebuild in full swing, not […]
Boston Celtics: 5 Free Agents To Target in 2015 – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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Chicago Bulls: 4 Free Agents To Consider Signing

Chicago Bulls: 4 Free Agents To Consider Signing
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Bulls have just 12 players signed for next season, one being their 2nd round pick Cameron Bairstow who isn’t going to be playing much and could be in the D-League, so they can sign 3-4 more players and if he is in the D-League they have to sign 2 to get to the minimum 13 players. So they still have some work in filling the roster. There is still some strong talents that are free agents and there are some players that could help them, so here are 4 free agents they should consider signing.. However they would have to be minimum signings.
1. Emeka Okafor- C
- If Okafor was on this team, he would at best be their 4th big man, maybe 5th, but the Bulls still lack a 2nd center and he is the best free agent who isn’t Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe. It is doubtful that he would take a minimum to play a small role, but there is no harm in trying to sign a player that fits the team perfectly and …

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Unsigned Talent

Eventually, the NBA season will start and the Cleveland Cavaliers will stop adding players. For now, though, it seems like Ray Allen could be following in Shawn Marion’s footsteps on the way to northeast Ohio. 

Cleveland’s pursuit of Allen isn’t the only rumor around the Association.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest whispers and offer some predictions for the landing spots.


Ray Allen

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports filled fans in on the latest regarding Allen and Cleveland:

If you are a believer in the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” then you certainly think Allen will be lacing it up for the Cavs this season. He’s been connected to LeBron James and company all offseason, so there’s clearly something here.

Allen makes some sense in Cleveland as well. He’s an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame and has made more three-pointers than anyone else in the history of the game. There is chemistry in place with James after their time in Miami together, and James’ presence alone will draw defenders into the lane and open Allen up for plenty of looks from behind the arc.

Still, the thought here is that Cleveland would be better off adding size or even a backup point guard if it is going to make any more moves.

Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving both missed significant time last year with injuries, and this team isn’t exactly stacked with interior defense. As for shooters, the Cavaliers already have Mike Miller, Dion Waiters and James Jones in place, so Allen would simply be adding to an area they have covered.

However, it’s impossible to ignore the signals we have seen all offseason between Allen and Cleveland. There really is a fire behind that smoke.

Prediction: Allen joins James in Cleveland.


Leandro Barbosa

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders provided an update on Leandro Barbosa:

Barbosa only appeared in 20 games for the Phoenix Suns last year and averaged 7.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, but he will look to prove himself once again to teams like the Miami Heat in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Barbosa will play for Brazil during the event, which is an ideal high-stakes scenario to demonstrate his skills. He commented on the World Cup, via Shams Charania of RealGM:

I don’t know what owners think about the World Cup, but hopefully I do a great job over there and a team sees. I feel healthy and my body is feeling healthy. If I have free agency in my mind, I won’t be able to be myself on the court. Hopefully, I sign a contract and I’ll be happy.

The Heat are still a legitimate threat to advance deep in the Eastern Conference playoffs even after losing James, especially with the Indiana Pacers reeling. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng represent a solid core, and adding Barbosa to that group would only bolster those chances.

He can hit the three when defenders collapse on Wade and Bosh (39 percent on his career), get out in transition and attack the rim and provide solid minutes and defense as part of the rotation. Barbosa is also a playoff-tested veteran who has played in the postseason six different times throughout his career.

Miami will recognize all this and add Barbosa.

Prediction: Barbosa signs with the Heat as they make a push for a top-three seed in the playoffs.


Toney Douglas 

David Pick of Eurobasket.com provided an update on Toney Douglas:

The case can be made that this is a surprising move, considering Douglas has been in the league since 2009 when he was a first-round pick. Perhaps Douglas will play well in China and impress enough NBA teams to earn a contract before the end of the season.

Douglas actually started 17 games for the Heat last year but saw minimal playing time in the playoffs and down the stretch. In fact, he only played in 29 minutes in the postseason. However, we are talking about a solid defender who can play solid minutes off the bench for a team that isn’t necessarily loaded like Miami was last year.

Douglas averaged more than 20 minutes a night during the first four years of his career with the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings and could have an eye on a bench role down the stretch.

Still, the rumor here from Pick suggests that this is a done deal. Look for him to lace it up in China to start the season. 

Prediction: Douglas plays in China and signs on somewhere in the second half of the NBA season after impressing overseas.


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NBA Free Agents 2014: Ideal Situations for Top Remaining Veterans

NBA roster building knows no offseason. The quality of veteran free agents still out on the open market in mid-August of 2014 shows that most franchises can still make moves to improve their squads late in the summer, even after all the big free-agent movers and shakers have made their hotly anticipated decisions.

Picking up a key role player on a cheap, veteran contract can be hugely beneficial for teams looking to make strides toward the playoffs without entrusting the duties to an untested youngster.

Just like every team has its unique needs, the top veteran free agents have to be mindful of finding teams that can allow them to flourish and best utilize their skills.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus solely on unrestricted free agents. Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are the top talents remaining, but their status as restricted free agents makes their ideal situations a bit harder to project and quite a bit more fanciful since their teams can likely match any significant offers that have yet to materialize.

Here are three veteran players and the teams that can best make use of their unique skill sets.


Ray Allen

Ray Allen can fill a backup shooting specialist role for a number of NBA teams. Floor spacing is key to running an effective offense, and Allen’s reputation and statistics mean teams often give him plenty of respect.

However, his numbers took a dip last season, as age is clearly catching up to the 18-year NBA veteran. Allen shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc last season, his lowest rate since the 2009-10 season. His 9.6 points per game in 2013-14 was the lowest mark of his career, and his 44.2 percent shooting from the field was his worst clip since the 2006-07 season.

He needs a team that can provide him with plenty of alternate scoring options while on the floor. In this case, his rumored move to the Cleveland Cavaliers is indeed the ideal situation for this legendary sharpshooter.

According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, the Cavs are optimistic about signing Allen this offseason:

Of course, Allen has stated this offseason that he could be quite content with the way his career has panned out thus far, diminishing his chances of returning at all.

“I’m not in any rush [to make a decision],” Allen said in early August, via Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant. “I’ve played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I’m content with everything that I’ve done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes.”

Allen has two NBA championships to his name, so he will likely only come back to a team that offers him a clear shot at another legacy-bolstering title. With LeBron James angling to bring a title back to his home state, Allen would be wise to latch on with this loaded team in a diluted Eastern Conference that lacks serious title challengers.


Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley’s once promising career has been on a swift, steady downward trajectory over the past few seasons. After posting a career-high 19.2 points per game in the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Kansas State product has seen his scoring average and minutes decline with each passing season.

Beasley’s best fit is a team that can promise him the opportunity to play a bigger role on offense.

The Indiana Pacers need depth at forward in the wake of Paul George‘s devastating leg fracture, which makes this Midwestern team the best fit for Beasley. The Pacers will be desperate to find ways to replace George’s scoring and athleticism on the perimeter. 

Beasley could still be a solid scorer if given the opportunity. He hardly played on a loaded Miami Heat team last season, but he averaged 18.9 points per 36 minutes. However, his mid-range shooting does need work. Beasley shot just 37.5 percent on two-pointers beyond 16 feet last season.

The Los Angeles Lakers are also a strong possibility, but they have a wealth of forwards on their team and his presence would likely siphon valuable minutes from promising players like Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson.

The imbalance on the Lakers makes the Pacers a much better fit for Beasley, who should be eager to prove that he can still be a potent scorer on a top team.



Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche may have more talent than any player still looking for an NBA contract. The 6’11″ forward/center is just 27 years old and coming off a season where he averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per contest.

Blatche‘s character concerns have kept teams from jumping at the chance to sign him. His obvious skills and size would make him a strong fit on many teams, but he could truly flourish on the Houston Rockets if given the chance.

The Rockets need a backup center behind Dwight Howard after dealing Omer Asik this summer. They have little in the way of proven talent behind their All-Star big man. Clint Capela, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are unlikely to become major contributors next season.

This gives the veteran Blatche the perfect opportunity to assert himself as a viable talent on a top contender.

It should be noted that it is easy to imagine Blatche fitting in elsewhere. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel gave his take on how Blatche might fit in on another team, the Miami Heat:

Look, the back-story issues with Blatche have been well-chronicled, or else the Wizards wouldn’t have let him walk in the first place and the Nets wouldn’t have been as lukewarm on a return. Just about every time I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen a player who can make an NBA contribution. But there also is the issue of the Heat only having the minimum left to pay. Plus if Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen are going to comprise the primary power rotation, there is the issue of minutes. Still, Blatche would make this current Heat roster better, no doubt.

At this point, Blatche may be waiting for a phone call well into the upcoming NBA season. Should he remain available that long, the Rockets might realize that their lack of depth at forward/center can be quickly alleviated by signing Blatche.


Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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