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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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for Chicago Bulls in 2014-15

The Chicago Bulls have a remarkable contributor for their 2014-15 season in Nikola Mirotic. Anticipation has been high since his acquisition back in 2010. Mirotic has played extremely well for Real Madrid the last few years and has finally brought his talents stateside.

It may be tough to envision an unproven European prospect cracking a stacked frontcourt rotation composed of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, but it’s going to be hard for head coach Tom Thibodeau to let such a versatile big man languish on the pine.

There is a great opportunity this season to have something really special with the Bulls’ second unit. The options for creating offense have never been so numerous, and the Montenegro native can be the player who galvanizes a new Bench Mob in the Windy City.

 A loaded offensive arsenal

Thibodeau’s game strategy is a throwback to the hard-nosed style that dominated the 1980s and ’90s. His defense-first approach makes it clear that simply winning trumps winning pretty.

While this modus operandi has yielded some success, it’s important to note very little deviation has been made due more to necessity than just sticking to what works.

Even when Derrick Rose was healthy between 2010 and 2012, the offense was tepid at best. In Thibs’ inaugural season, the team ranked 19th in points scored with 98.6 per contest. The subsequent campaign saw them skyrocket to 18th overall despite production dropping a bit to an average of 96.3 points.

It was apparent that outside of Rose there was no one who could actually create their own scoring opportunities. Fortunately, Mirotic is not short on ability when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop.

Standing 6’10” will make him a power forward, and although he doesn’t have the muscle to bang in the post, he is a mismatch when facing up on the perimeter.

The beauty of his offensive repertoire is he can be an effective complement for whomever has the ball. He has step-on-the-court shooting range that will stretch any team’s defense. That will come in handy when he’s on the floor with Rose attacking the lane or Gasol posting up. He can also beat his man off the dribble which will take away the option of closing the distance to disrupt his mechanics.

This scoring resourcefulness will make Mirotic playable in almost any game situation. Despite what seems to be an aversion to playing rookies, the polish of the two-time Euroleague Rising Star’s game will earn him a legitimate chance to crack the rotation, of which he will take full advantage.

DraftExpress.com composed a thorough breakdown of Mirotic’s game. This video highlights all of the aforementioned aspects and much more. It is evident the team would benefit immediately from playing him.

 Not just a cog

The Bulls 2014-15 group is arguably deeper than the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals cohort and definitely more balanced. There are legitimate post players, shooters and slashers; some guys can even do a little of everything.

Such is Mirotic.

David Blatt, the new head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is very familiar with the former Real Madrid standout. In an article written by KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Blatt shares his opinions about his former European foe, “Whenever they talk about guys coming over, I always say, ‘Can he step in a game right away and play?’ And I would say in his case, definitely yes…He’s an atypical rookie, no question. He has been in big games. He has a lot of experience.”

Finding playing time may seem like a challenge, but Gibson’s ability to play center should allow for Mirotic to get some time at power forward. His shooting and dribbling ability could even allow him to occasionally play small forward.

All in all, the young man is too talented to be a one-dimensional specialist. Mirotic will allow Thibodeau to test his coaching wits. The fifth-year sideline general has plenty of options at his disposal as he comes up with a game plan for his new addition.

Mirotic’s impact probably won’t be immediate, however. He still has to learn how to deal with a faster, more physical NBA game and grueling schedule. Playing behind Gasol will be great for his transition, though.

Given his basketball I.Q. and worth ethic, it should not take long for the 23-year-old to catch on and turn it up.

Once things start to pick up, Bulls fans are going to see the wait was well worth it. The terms of Mirotic’s acquisition will go down as one of the best steals in recent memory. Chicago’s basketball future is looking bright.

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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for NY Knicks in 2014-15

The New York Knicks are in need of help across the board if they are to turn things around and be competitive in the East this year, but with the help of a surprising name, they may just be able to do it.

Andrea Bargnani once again fell victim to false expectations after being acquired in exchange for three draft picks, but upon his return from injury—and in a new regime—he could still turn out to be an important player for the Knicks.

Bargnani clearly wasn’t a great fit alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, but now that the former is gone, he should be able to find minutes at center, where he’ll truly be to able help spacing, as opposed to clashing with Melo at forward.

The triangle offense should also help create open shots for the Italian, although he will need to work on his passing if the system is to work properly.

Bargnani’s 2013-14 season will be remembered for a few embarrassing moments and his career-low three-point percentage, but it wasn’t all bad, and there were some positives to take before he bowed out with injury.

For starters, Bargnani was actually one of the few players who put in consistent effort on a rather apathetic team, highlighted by his aggressive head-to-head matchup with Kevin Garnett in December and the injury that ended his season while he was driving to the rim.

Admittedly, Bargnani was still fairly pathetic as a team defender, although he did manage to record a career high in rebounds per 36 minutes (not that 6.4 is particularly impressive) and had his moments as a one-on-one defender.

At this point, Bargnani has faded almost completely into the background. No one’s talking about him anymore, and the general consensus, understandably, is that he brings nothing to the table other than his expiring $11.5 million contract.

However, there is still a chance Bargnani could turn into a real contributor for the Knicks. He’s in a contract year and has every incentive to work hard. He has also been reunited with Jose Calderon.

The last time he was in a contract year with Calderon as his point guard, he averaged a very efficient 17.2 points per game and earned a five-year contract from the Toronto Raptors, which didn’t seem quite so bad at the time. 

New York is unlikely to bring back Bargnani in any scenario, but the center is very much playing for his next NBA contract. He’ll be a completely unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career next season and stands to take a huge pay cut on his current contract at this rate.

Even Phil Jackson is of the belief that Bargnani will fit well in his system.

“He’s overlooked. We think he’s going to really do well in the system we have,” Jackson said on MSG Network during Summer League, per the New York Daily News. “We have a couple of guards he likes to play with, Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni, and I think he’s going to be a surprise and a pleasant one for our fans.”

Chemistry with the two point guards is going to be very important, as is the additional spacing afforded by Chandler’s departure, and Bargnani has the skill set to capitalize on it if he puts in the effort.

Bargnani has always had the talent to be an efficient role player, but no coach has been able to bring it out of him. If anyone can finally do it, you’d have to think the Zen Master would be the one, especially with Bargnani in a contract year and playing with his favorite point guard again.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Philadelphia 76ers Newcomer This Season

The Philadelphia 76ers have more NBA newcomers than a kindergarten class, and finding a role for each of them will be a difficult task.

There are some very important holes for people to step up and fill within Philadelphia’s roster. The team needs another scorer off the bench, a lock-down perimeter defender and some kind of interior presence to name a few.

There happens to be some positive news, though.

Believe it or not, but there’s more than enough firepower in the new talent to come in and fill specific voids. The Sixers’ offseason was dedicated toward finding success in the draft and among undrafted free-agents.

Let’s see how they did by evaluating the impact and roles of Philadelphia’s newcomers for the upcoming season.

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