Former 5-Star Recruits Who’ll Impact 2014-15 CBB Season After Gaining Experience

Much has been written about the 5-star college basketball recruits in the 2014 and 2015 classes, but it’s the former 5-star talents like Sam Dekker and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who will have the biggest impact on the 2014-15 season.

Jahlil Okafor may be the top player in this year’s class of freshmen, but where would Duke be this season without Rasheed Sulaimon? Kentucky is adding four 5-star players to this year’s roster, but is the veteran leadership of Alex Poythress and Aaron Harrison even more important?

There are a total of 33 players still on college basketball rosters who were classified as 5-star recruits between 2010 and 2013. The top 20 are ranked by considering how much their team’s national championship hopes would be negatively impacted if news suddenly broke that the player was unable to compete this season.

Before getting into the top 20, though, we’ve also outlined why the other 13 former 5-star players didn’t make the cut.

Thirteen is a lot of honorable mentions, but it would hardly be fair to ignore anyone who qualified as a candidate.

 

Recruiting information on the following slides courtesy of 247Sports.com. Other statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and KenPom.com (subscription required).

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How the NBA’s Uncertain Salary Cap Could Impact Contract Extensions

The NBA‘s salary cap means something different to everyone.

To the league’s owners, it’s a friend. It protects from wasteful spending by penalizing that behavior, all the while keeping down their labor costs.

To the players (and their agents), it’s an enemy, if not the enemy. It’s a barrier that artificially limits how much money the best basketball players on the planet can make.

To front-office executives, it’s yet another obstacle to navigate while attempting to build a winner. The most recent collective bargaining agreement, ratified by the players and the owners in the fall of 2011, brought with it more restrictive rules governing the cap and the luxury tax and, in turn, headaches and ulcers for general managers around the league.

That task might only grow more exhausting within the next few years, albeit for the opposite reason: an exploding cap, the expected expansion of which remains somewhat speculative on multiple fronts.

As it happens, the league is due for a windfall. The NBA has, for some time, been in the process of renegotiating its national television contract with ESPN and Turner Sports (the latter of which owns Bleacher Report) before the current eight-year deal expires in June 2016. According to Sports Business Daily‘s John Lombardo and John Ourand, that new pact could net the NBA upwards of $2 billion per year—more than double its current take of $930 million.

Per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the amount of money that teams can spend on players (i.e. the salary cap) is tied to the amount of money made by the teams and the league they comprise (i.e. basketball-related income, or BRI). The former rises and falls with the latter.

Once the new TV agreement kicks in, there will be significantly more dough for owners to dole out to the players. How and when that dough can and will be spent remains something of a mystery, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe explains:

One problem: No one knows when, or how, that cap jump will happen. It’s at $63 million for this season, and teams are projecting it could leap as high as $80 million for the 2016-17 season—the first under the new TV contract. Depending on how the league and its TV partners structure the inflow of cash, there could be one or two more mini-jolts before the cap settles into a new normal around $90 million.

Not that uncertainty is a new phenomenon for the NBA. If anything, it’s a familiar state of affairs, particularly for front-office folks. “No one can predict the future, but you take your best shot at it,” Dallas Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson told Bleacher Report. “We’re in the industry of prediction. We’re in the industry of calculated risk.”

 

Getting Ahead

Why worry about this now? Free agency doesn’t begin in earnest until next July, right?

Not exactly. A significant swath of what should be a vibrant free-agent market in the summer of 2015 is subject to negotiations that must either be settled or disbanded by Halloween. Prior to Oct. 31, organizations have the exclusive right to work out extensions with those rookies of theirs who are entering the final years of their respective contracts.

Kyrie Irving worked out a super-max extension, worth $90 million (and possibly more) over five years, with the Cleveland Cavaliers back in July, before LeBron James announced his return. Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Finals MVP, figures to fetch a similar fee from the San Antonio Spurs.

John Wall and Paul George came to similar agreements last summer with the Washington Wizards and the Indiana Pacers, respectively. Blake Griffin and James Harden preceded them in that regard two summers ago.

Had these and other players not been extended, they would’ve been ticketed for restricted free agency the following offseason. Unlike their unrestricted counterparts, their incumbent clubs would’ve had the right to match any offer sheet they might’ve fielded. 

But these guys were all going to get paid well before restricted free agency. There’s no way their teams would’ve balked at paying them like superstars when they were already well on their respective ways to achieving such lofty status when contract negotiations began.

The problem that the NBA as a whole has long had and continues to have is figuring out how much to pay the league’s middle class of talent. It’s the mid-level free-agent deals for role players—not the massive pacts for franchise cornerstones or the minimum contracts for hangers-on—that can and so often do clog teams’ cap sheets and hamper GMs in their quests to for roster improvement.

The same goes for the rookie-extension crowd. Irving has his money. Leonard will get his. Klay Thompson will probably cash in as well, especially given the dearth of talent at shooting guard these days.

But what about Irving’s teammate, Tristan Thompson, who’s eligible for an extension? Or Enes Kanter, who’s seen two of his Utah Jazz teammates (Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward) get paid over the last two summers? Can Kenneth Faried count on stuffing has bank account, courtesy of the Denver Nuggets, after a strong showing at the FIBA World Cup? 

What about Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Vucevic, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Iman Shumpert or any of the other notable players taken in the 2011 NBA draft? Or Ricky Rubio and Patrick Beverley, who were both drafted in 2009 but didn’t come over until 2011 and 2013, respectively? 

If the past is at all predictive, most of those guys won’t be set for life financially within the next month or so. Last summer, only six rookie-scale youngsters (Wall, George, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Larry Sanders, Quincy Pondexter) signed extensions. The year before that, there were seven (Griffin, Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Taj Gibson) who dodged restricted free agency.

 

Past as Prologue

Those years, though, weren’t clouded by an impending deluge of money like the one the NBA is anticipating from its renewed TV rights. Shorter contracts—another hallmark of the current CBA—have also made cap space a more abundant commodity from summer to summer.

With more resources at their disposal, owners and the front-office executives they employ would, hypothetically speaking, seem more inclined to hand out extensions like candy corn, if only to avoid the messiness of restricted free agency. Just look at what happened in that regard this year.

On the one hand, there was Gordon Hayward—a good player, but hardly a budding superstar—taking home a four-year, $63 million deal with the Utah Jazz. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Hayward had sought (and the Jazz had balked at offering) a contract in the neighborhood of four years and $50 million prior to last year’s extension deadline.

Without a new deal in place, Hayward entered into restricted free agency this July, wherein he garnered a max offer sheet from the Charlotte Hornets. Utah matched Charlotte’s bid but might’ve saved itself more than $3 million per year in cap space had it acquiesced to Hayward’s demands before.

At the other end of the spectrum are the curious cases of Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe. Monroe didn’t so much as field an extension offer from then-GM Joe Dumars last offseason. This time around, Stan Van Gundy, the team’s new head coach and team president, made clear his desire to retain Monroe from the get-go.

“Greg Monroe is a very important piece of the puzzle in Detroit and we want him back very, very much,” Van Gundy told the Pistons’ official website in July. “We’ll see what happens over the next weeks, months, whatever it takes.”

According to the Detroit Free Press‘ Vince Ellis (h/t Pro Basketball Talk’s Dan Feldman), Monroe turned down a five-year, $60 million offer from Detroit, though Monroe himself refuted that report:

Whatever the truth of the matter may be, the two sides ultimately failed to agree to a long-term extension. Instead, Monroe settled for the team’s one-year qualifying offer, worth $5.5 million, and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, at which point he can walk without any recompense for the Pistons.

Bledsoe‘s future with the Phoenix Suns seemed destined for a similar fate. Like the Pistons with Monroe, the Suns made no secret of their intent to match any and every offer sheet that came Bledsoe‘s way. None did, perhaps because Phoenix’s foes didn’t want to tie up their cap space for the 72 hours the Suns would’ve had to match—certainly not for a player they weren’t going to get anyway.

With seemingly all of the leverage on its side, Phoenix offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal that appeared to be fair, given Bledsoe‘s talent and troubling history of knee injuries.

But Bledsoe‘s camp, led by Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul, declined, insisting that the point guard deserved a max contract. Their attempt to find other suitors for Bledsoe‘s services, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, fell flat.

However, their threat to take the one-year qualifying offer didn’t. Per Woj, Bledsoe‘s now the proud owner of a five-year, $70 million pact. As NBA.com’s David Aldridge noted, Phoenix’s acquiescence in this case might make plenty of fiscal sense:

 

Money For Nothing?

Still, these teams could’ve saved themselves plenty of acrimony, anxiety and, in some cases, money had they struck accords much earlier. So, naturally, extensions are going to be more the norm than the exception this time around…right?

Not so fast. Remember, nobody knows just yet what the final terms of the league’s national TV contracts will be, much less how those terms will affect the salary cap going forward. There’s also the usual matter of whether organizations are comfortable committing beaucoup bucks to the players in question. 

This year’s class is particularly tricky, insofar as there aren’t as many obvious choices as there might usually be.

As Zach Lowe points out, all sides are eminently aware of what could be at stake here:

People on all sides of every negotiation know the salary cap will rise over the next few years, though no one knows exactly when it will jump—or how high. There is a nagging impulse that it might be OK, just for now, to shrug and toss a few million more than you’d like at one of your own free agents…They could continue along their upward trajectory without alienating Walker and scrambling for a sexier replacement in free agency.

By and large, such an approach jibes with the conservative mentality that often permeates NBA front offices. They’d rather err on the side of caution by sticking with a quality player they know, warts and all, rather than eschewing him in favor of what could be a failed attempt to find an upgrade, all the while risking the team’s collective growth.

It’s possible, then, that the fear of one unknown (new players) and the anticipation of another (a fast-rising cap) could combine in such a way that owners and GMs will be more inclined to swallow the extra money needed to get new deals done with rookies on expiring ones. Maybe the T-Wolves will up their $48-million offer to Rubio (per The Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda) because they want to avoid any additional acrimony, they’d rather not go through the trouble of eventually finding a replacement and, well, because they can.

That effect may take a stronger hold in 2015, when the rookie-scale talent will be better and the terms of the cap’s rise clearer. Next year’s class—which features, among others, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Ross, Terrence Jones, John Henson and Miles Plumlee—looks to be a better barometer by which to measure the effects of the NBA’s exploding cash flow on the operation of its front offices.

In the meantime, GMs will simply have to do their best to balance their teams’ wants and needs with the desires of their recent draftees and the swirling uncertainty that surrounds them all.

 

Find me on Twitter for all things NBA!


 

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Bench Role Won’t Prevent Taj Gibson from Making Major Impact for Chicago Bulls

Taj Gibson doesn’t need a starting spot to play a starring role for the Chicago Bulls.

That was the case when the versatile big man helped the franchise survive another (largely) Derrick Rose-less campaign last season, and it hasn’t changed despite the massive influx of talent around him this year.

After posting career marks nearly across the board in 2013-14—including points (13.0), assists (1.1), field-goal attempts (10.9) and win shares (5.7)—Gibson appeared as if he may have grown out of his reserve part. There was even a report out that he felt the same way.

“Privately, Gibson isn’t too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to be a reserve, according to multiple people familiar with the situation,” reported Comcast SportsNet‘s Aggrey Sam, “but the upbeat, team-first player values winning and chemistry too much to make it an issue or distraction.” 

According to Gibson, though, he’s more than happy to reprise the sixth-man role that nearly netted him some individual hardware last season:

His sentiment isn‘t hard to follow.

Despite making only eight starts last season, Gibson was able to establish himself as a difference-making member of Chicago’s interior. A strong defender, underrated scorer and relentless rebounder, he became an indispensable piece of coach Tom Thibodeau‘s closing lineup.

Gibson’s insatiable energy is the first part of his game that catches the eye, but as Thibodeau told Bulls.com’s Sam Smith, the 29-year-old hits the hardwood with a well-rounded skill set:

Some people may view him as more a defensive player, but there’s so much more to him than that. If you look statistically at what he did in the fourth quarter, he was our most efficient player in the fourth quarter, shooting a very high percentage, second highest scorer, very good back to the basket, facing up from 17 feet, running the floor, second shots. He’s really become a complete player.

Defensively, Gibson is among the NBA‘s most intimidating interior presences.

He finished last season ranked 13th in total blocks (112), despite seeing only 28.7 minutes a night. And he contested even more shots than he sent away. Of the 75 players who faced at least five shots at the rim per game, he had the eighth-lowest field-goal percentage against on those attempts (44.9), via NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data.

To put that second number in better perspective, Gibson’s opponents found less success at the rim against him than they did against Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah (47.2), blocks leader Serge Ibaka (45.0) and five-time All-Defensive team selection Dwight Howard (48.1).

Even with four-time All-Star Pau Gasol and decorated rookie Nikola Mirotic added to Chicago’s frontcourt equation, Gibson should not be hurting for playing time.

With the defensive-minded Thibodeau at the helm, Gibson’s commitment to that end of the floor will make him tough to sit. He held opposing 4s to a well-below-average 13.2 player efficiency rating last season, via 82games.com, a significantly lower number than power forwards produced against the 34-year-old Gasol (23.8).

As teams continue leaning heavily on pick-and-roll offense, Gibson’s gift for stifling that attack is invaluable. He held opposing screeners to a paltry 37.5 percent shooting, via Synergy Sports (subscription required), and yielded only a 37.7 percent conversion rate to spot-up shooters, a remarkable number considering the ground he must cover to rotate out to a gunner.

The Bulls should be a dramatically improved offensive club, between the additions of Gasol, Mirotic and fellow rookie Doug McDermott, along with the return of a hopefully healthy Rose. Still, it’s not as if this team will abandon its defensive identity. Not after three top-two finishes in defensive efficiency over the last four seasons.

If Thibodeau is thinking defense—and he always is—then he’ll be thinking about Gibson early and often.

Still, it wouldn’t be right to label Gibson as a defensive specialist. Not with the tremendous strides he’s made at the opposite side.

He has the athleticism to rent a room above the rim, but as Comcast SportsNet‘s Mark Strotman explained, Gibson saw rare simultaneous improvements in quantity and quality as a jump-shooter last season:

He attempted 384 shots between 10 feet and the 3-point line – per basketball-reference.com – which for this article we’ll assume were all jump shots. Those 384 attempts were more than his 2012 and 2013 attempts from the same area combined (357), which in most cases would mean a less efficient area of Gibson’s game (more attempts, percentages naturally go down).

Instead, Gibson was a lights-out jump shooter. He connected on 40.1 percent of his midrange jumpers, up nearly three percentage points from 2013 (37.5 percent on just 189 attempts) and 2012 (37.5 percent on 168 attempts). It was a career-high for Gibson, whose previous best mark was his rookie season (39.7 percent on 269 attempts).

Essentially, Gibson moved into Gasol’s territory as a mid-range shooter.

Gibson attempted 361 shots at a distance between 10 to 19 feet away from the basket, per NBA.com, and converted 39.9 percent of those looks. Gasol attempted 316 such shots and connected on 41.8 percent of them.

Gasol has the scoring edge over Gibson, but the gap between them is a lot closer than their points-per-game averages suggest (17.4 and 13.0, respectively).

This doesn’t mean that Gibson is on the same offensive plane as Gasol.

The latter’s ability to create offense for himself and his teammates is a weapon the former doesn’t have in his arsenal. The Bulls can—and should—tap into Gasol’s offensive production as much as they possibly can, particularly with Rose needing to shake off the rust left from two seasons essentially lost to serious knee injuries.

However, it would be foolish to think that Gasol’s arrival will bury Gibson on the bench. Thibodeau has major plans for each of his best three bigs.

“I know all three are going to have a significant role,” Thibodeau said during an appearance on 87.7 FM The Game’s Kap & Haugh Show, via Comcast SportsNet. “I have 96 minutes there and I look at all three of those guys as starters.”

Obviously all three can’t actually be starters, and it seems likely the less-heralded Gibson will back up his All-Star frontcourt mates.

Still, all three can make a major impact on this team. Gibson will fill the same energetic role he has for the last five seasons in the Windy City, locking down the defensive interior, freeing ball-handlers with solid screens and wreaking havoc on the offensive glass.

For a team that dominates defensively, plays with incredible passion and transforms the art of playing hard from an intangible pursuit into tangible production, Gibson is a pivotal piece of Chicago’s puzzle.

He doesn’t need a starting gig to validate his importance.

The secret is already out on how good Gibson can be, regardless of where he begins his night.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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7 Under-the-Radar Offseason Moves That Will Make an Impact in 2014-15 NBA Season

Two months and change after the NBA’s free-agency period began, it’s official: That was crazy.

From LeBron James’ full-circle salvation to the Eric Bledsoe debacle, from Kevin Love’s wish-come-true to Pau Gasol’s Windy City gambit, the 2014 offseason will long be remembered as one of the league’s most scintillating summers.

As per usual, the ramifications will take months—years, even—to sort themselves out.

But what about the scores of sneakier trades and signings, which, while perhaps not as immediately impactful, have the potential to become game-changers in their own way?

Today, we’ll look at seven under-the-radar moves that moved the NBA needle, without necessarily shattering the odometer. At least not right away.

To qualify, the moves must have been made between July 1 and September 17. So if someone decides to offer Eric Bledsoe $1 over his qualifying offer on September 20 and the Phoenix Suns subsequently decide not to match, well, tough luck, Eric. Go find another list.

Sneakily we proceed.

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How Great Will LeBron James’ Economic Impact Be in Cleveland?

What does LeBron James mean to Cleveland?

That depends on whom you talk to.

To the Cleveland Cavaliers and their long-suffering fans, James’ return to his roots in Northeast Ohio portends nothing short of a complete turnaround from the four years of misery that immediately followed the first “Decision.”

The hope, of course, is that James’ impact therein can and will ultimately be measured in Larry O’Brien trophies and ticker-tape parades.

Whether James brings Cleveland its first championship in over a half-century probably won’t stop him from impacting the city beyond his on-court exploits.

Surely, there’s some karmic benefit to having one of the world’s best and most successful athletes choose to live and work in a place that’s struggled amid shifts in the national and global economies in recent decades.

Perhaps some Clevelanders feel better now about where they live than they did a few months ago. Perhaps there will be handfuls of out-of-towners who feel more inclined to consider Cleveland as a future home.

But what will King James’ resumption of his previous throne mean to the kingdom he’s soon to oversee, in terms of actual dollars and cents?

Again, depends on whom you ask.

According to Cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald—who’s running for governor in Ohio on the Democratic ticket—pegged James’ fiscal impact to the city and surrounding region at nearly $50 million per year. That number was derived from a pair of estimates:

  • The anticipated savings on the county’s debt payments toward Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field, which are offset somewhat by a tax on game tickets. Per FitzGerald, the county expects to save about $3.5 million per year on those payments now that fans will be flocking downtown to fill the 20,562-seat Q.
  • Approximately 550 jobs to be created (totaling $38 million in salary paid out) and sales tax to be spurred on by the uptick in spending by Cavs fans at and around the arena.

That number, though, wouldn’t represent much of an increase over the status quo from James’ first go-round in Cleveland.

In the aftermath of “The Decision,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer predicted that the community would bring in $48 million less per year, based on an estimate of the average Cavs fan’s spending at games put out by Positively Cleveland.

Like clockwork, attendance at the Q dipped dramatically in the years following James’ departure in the summer of 2010.

Compared to some, FitzGerald‘s prediction seems downright conservative. According to LeRoy Brooks, a professor of finance at John Carroll University’s Boler School of Business, James’ homecoming could contribute anywhere between $245 million and $520 million to the local economy, via The Plain Dealer‘s Robert L. Smith

Those estimates, first reported by TIME.com’s Sean Gregory, are based on their own, separate criteria:

  • Projected increases in both attendance and ticket prices that, in tandem, could account for $129 million in additional revenue for the Cavs.
  • Appraised upticks in spending locally ($57 million) and throughout Northeast Ohio ($114 million).
  • An additional $15 million of economic activity generated by each playoff home game.

Several hundred million dollars is certainly something, especially since it could all be traced back to one man in one way or another. But, in the bigger picture, even Professor Brooks’ shinier estimates would reflect little more than a drop in Lake Erie. Per Time:

Brooks is the first to admit these are educated guesses. Cut down the number of playoff games or the average ticket price, and the economic impact will be significantly lower. Plus, the Cleveland metro area has a $111 billion GDP. At around $500 million, James’ impact would be worth just 0.42% of Cleveland’s overall economic activity.

Whichever number comes into consideration—be it FitzGerald‘s or Brooks’—neither seems to address in any great depth one important point: where the money comes from.

In general, when a Clevelander goes to a basketball game, they are choosing that option over another,” Candi Clouse, a research associate in the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University, told Bleacher Report.

Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross, elaborated on that same point to Yahoo Finance’s Kevin Chupka:

They’re gonna have 100,000 more fans at the games next year. But those 100,000 fans would have been going somewhere else in Cleveland. They would have been going out to dinner or they would have been going to the Indians or the Browns or they would have been going to nightclubs or the theater. So all of those gains to the Cavs are losses for other businesses in the local area.

In truth, if LeBron’s going to bring the bacon back to Cleveland, he’ll have to attract people from outside the city.

“When a visitor comes from another region, they bring what is called ‘new money’ to the region, and this is what will create economic impact from James’ return,” Clouse went on.

At this point, the size and scope of that “basketball tourism,” as Clouse put it, remain a mystery. So too, then, does James’ stature as an economy unto himself.

While James may or may not bring much economic relief to Cleveland as a whole, there’s at least one person who’s due to reap the rewards brought by Ohio’s prodigal son: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Most of the revenue generated by ticket, merchandise and concession sales at Quicken Loans Arena will filter through Gilbert’s pockets before any of it trickles down to the local economy.

Gilbert should also see plenty more cash flow in when the Cavs‘ local TV deal expires in two years. According to Forbes’ Mike Ozanian, the team could fetch upward of $40 million per year for its broadcast rights with LeBron on board—up from its current take of $25 million per year from Fox Sports Ohio.

Naturally, these LeBron-related revenue streams have sparked a spike in the value of Gilbert’s most prized sports property.

Certainly the brand itself, as well as the revenue that the team is able to generate, is much stronger with [LeBron James] — to the point of a billion-dollar franchise,” Peter Schwartz, a valuation expert and managing director of venture capital at Christie & Associates LLC, told Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick.

The irony of all this? Gilbert, the biggest beneficiary of James’ second stint in Cleveland, isn’t from Ohio; he’s a native Detroiter who currently lives in Franklin, Michigan.

This isn’t to suggest that Cleveland in particular, and Northeast Ohio in general, won’t gain plenty from having James back in town. The projections herein are largely speculative. The numbers could swing any and every which way once the season starts and money’s flowing, from Akron to Solon and all the other points of interest surrounding Rock City.

At the very least, Clevelanders and Ohioans can look forward to watching and rooting for a loaded Cavs squad that LeBron almost single-handedly transformed into a championship contender this summer.

Even if James doesn’t do quite the same off the court.

 

Find me where the King reigns—on Twitter, that is!

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Predicting Roles and Impact of Each New Orleans Pelicans Newcomer This Season

This offseason, the New Orleans Pelicans added several fresh faces to their roster. From signing free-agent shooting guard Jimmer Fredette to dealing for big man Omer Asik, the franchise remained relatively active throughout the course of the summer.

It is evident the Pelicans made moves. But what role will these newcomers fill, and how will each individual player impact the team?

At this point, the answer is unclear. However, it is a topic worth speculating as the season inches closer to its initiation.

Without further ado, let’s explore what’s in store for 2014-15. 

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Dream Team, Barcelona Games continue to impact NBA

Birthplace of global hoops: NBA still riding momentum of Dream Team, 1992 Barcelona Games

      
 

 

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Predicting 10 NBA Rookies Who Will Make a Surprise Impact During 2014-15 Season

In most years, finding productive rookies picked outside the top 10 of the NBA draft is tough. But in 2014, the depth of the incoming class should offer more surprises than we’re used to.

Thanks to the number of potential franchise players taken early, several serious talents who might have stood out in previous years slipped in this one.

Before the draft, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman said of this crop of rookies, “Instead of promoting this class for its elite talent at the top, maybe it’s time we start appreciating its potential depth across the board.”

Appreciating that depth is exactly what this slideshow aims to do.

Following are 10 players drafted outside the top 10 in 2014 who are heading to a team that needs production out of their positions, or situations that suit their talents.

They’re not likely to put up Rookie of the Year-type numbers, but they could very well work their way into the rotations of the respective teams for which they play.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Detroit Pistons Newcomer This Season

This offseason the Detroit Pistons brought in six new players to fill a variety of roles, from starters to end-of-the-bench types.

New coach and team president Stan Van Gundy was aggressive in the free-agent market, finding players to address their biggest weakness in 2013-14: perimeter shooting. At a 32.1 percent mark from beyond the arc, only the Philadelphia 76ers were worse than the Pistons. As a coach who routinely played four perimeter threats at a time while with the Orlando Magic, Van Gundy made sure to address their shortcoming.

”From a skill standpoint on the perimeter, shooting was our primary focus, to the point that there really wasn’t anybody we were interested in that wasn’t a very good range shooter,” said Van Gundy to Yahoo. ”We really wanted to change that.”

The strength of the team is on the interior with Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. The improved outside shooting should open more space for the three bigs to operate down low and minimize the frequency of opponents double-teaming them on the block.

Training camp will determine whether or not a couple of the signings find themselves in the starting lineup, but there’s no doubt that several of the new players—listed alphabetically—will play significant roles for the Pistons this season.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Brooklyn Nets Newcomer This Season

This was not an easy offseason for the Brooklyn Nets to navigate.

When you’re well over the salary cap, adding pieces is always difficult. Add in the losses of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, two critical players in last year’s turnaround, and the Nets were going to be fighting an uphill battle this offseason either way.

It’s not all doom and gloom in Brooklyn, though. To supplement aging talents like Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, the Nets brought in some youth.

Having an owner willing to spend still has its advantages, even with a salary cap, as the Nets were able to purchase some draft picks that could bring some serious athleticism to the table.

Let’s take a look at those picks, as well as the other new faces on Brooklyn’s roster, and predict the roles and impact each new player will have on the team for the 2014-15 season.

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