Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Dudley Trade Grade

Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Dudley Trade Grade
By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content/Hoopstuff…
Bucks Receive: Jared Dudley, 2017 1st round pick
Clippers Receive: Carlos Delfino, Miroslav Raduljica
With the Clippers looking to cut some salary and Dudley having his worst shooting year of his career last season, it seemed to be only a matter of time and finding a willing partner until he would be traded. LA had hopes of adding another wing or a big in return for Dudley and while they got both here, it is reportedly likely that both players will be released. From the Bucks end of the deal it is nothing franchise altering but with their youth and inexperience not only on the wings but on their roster as a whole I think it is a positive move.
I mentioned that Dudley had the worst shooting season of his career last season but in reality it wasn’t that terrible at 36 percent from beyond the three point line. What made it so disappointing was his track record in Phoenix before coming over t…

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Next Move After Kevin Love Trade

The Kevin Love era is over for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the new regime can’t be done making moves quite yet. 

Flipping the disgruntled power forward for a haul that centered around Andrew Wiggins was only the first step in revamping what’s become a rather youthful roster. It can’t be the last move, as the Wolves are now committing to a rebuilding process with plenty of promise. 

As Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley noted when discussing the topic, Minnesota’s head coach and acting president Flip Saunders dealt with his own conflicting interests perfectly. The presidential personality avoided succumbing to the coaching side’s win-now idealisms by sacrificing top-notch talent for potential, and now the future looks awfully bright in Minnesota.

Much brighter than what, only a few weeks ago, was a mediocre present. 

That said, the future can get brighter. The current mixture of new arrivals and incumbent players isn’t going to compete for a playoff berth in the tough Western Conference during the 2014-15 season, and the veterans are only getting older. 

The Love trade should set off a chain reaction in Minnesota. It’s the first domino in a line of many that should fall. 

What’s next to tip over?

 

Who are the Keepers?

All of a sudden, the Timberwolves are brimming with young talent. Rather than boasting a healthy mix of veterans and up-and-coming players who fall short of the playoffs each and every year, Minnesota has moved into more of a rebuilding mode, even if there’s enough quality talent to remain at least moderately competitive. 

Wiggins is obviously the premier keeper on the roster, as he was the centerpiece in the haul Saunders received for Love’s services.

The Kansas product was the No. 1 pick in a potentially star-studded 2014 draft class, and his ceiling is immeasurable. Right off the bat, he should put in work as a wing-stopping defender, a young man who can settle into his defensive stance and make things happen on the less-glamorous end of the court. However, his vaunted athleticism and undeniable upside on offense give him large quantities of untapped potential. 

However, Wiggins obviously isn’t the only keeper on the roster. 

Ricky Rubio hasn’t panned out as many expected, but he’s still a player worth holding onto and building around. The Minnesota floor general needs to develop a consistent jumper so that defenses can’t sag off him and dare him to score, but he’s a ball-hawking defender and one of the best distributors in the Association. 

To clarify on that first point, Rubio isn’t yet a standout defender, but rather a player who gambles excessively and does tend to record plenty of steals. As Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale writes, “There’s value in Rubio‘s defensive performance as well. He can take too many chances and is rarely able to catch up with those who beat him off the dribble, but he has quick hands that force steals in volume.”

If Minnesota can surround him with quality stoppers, especially some capable of protecting the rim, then his failed gambles won’t be as detrimental.

Joining Rubio and Wiggins in the realm of keepers are Shabazz Muhammad (who wasn’t given too many chances to thrive under the tutelage of Rick Adelman), Zach LaVine (who may have nearly as much upside as Wiggins, even if he’s quite raw), Gorgui Dieng (who broke out late last season), Thaddeus Young (a recent trade acquisition who will serve as a fantastic complementary piece), Glenn Robinson III (another rookie with upside) and Anthony Bennett (last year’s No. 1 overall pick). 

Everyone else is expendable.

 

The Possible Deals

On the current roster, there are eight names who weren’t mentioned in the previous section—J.J. Barea, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Ronny Turiaf and Mo Williams.

Of those, we can immediately scratch off a few players.

Williams just signed with the team, and he’s a valuable sixth man who will eventually be just another solid guard off the bench when the young players develop into quality contributors. Turiaf and Hummel don’t have much trade value, and Budinger‘s injury history makes him too risky for any team to pay a reasonable asking price. 

Now we’re down to just four players. 

Barea is coming off a season in which he averaged 8.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, but he also shot just 38.7 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his player efficiency rating was 11.6, the worst mark since his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks

Plus, his contract makes things tricky. ShamSports.com shows that he’s operating on a $4,519,500 expiring contract, which gives him more trade value but also less worth to Minnesota, as he isn’t exactly a part of the future plans. 

If there are no takers willing to offer a second-round pick or an intriguing prospect, he could very well be bought out, leaving the Wolves taking a cap hit but opening up more minutes for the incumbent young guns. 

Brewer should be slightly easier to deal, as he’s a player with two skills that could make a contending team quite happy, enough so that it should be willing to send a draft pick back in return. And considering Minnesota almost has to open up more playing time for the wings and forwards—Wiggins, Muhammad, Bennett, Young and Robinson—that’s a return that should see him depart. 

Though this won’t be so readily apparent without Love throwing him outlet passes that would make Wes Unseld swoon, Brewer is a devastating transition threat with a nose for the hoop. He’s also a solid defender, one who made Minnesota slightly better on that end when he was on the court, per Basketball-Reference.com

That said, Brewer and Barea are minor trade pieces. The big moves will revolve around Martin and Pekovic

While the former’s contract—he’s making roughly $7 million per season over the next two years and has a player option for $7.4 million in 2016-17—significantly decreases his value, he’s still a talented shooting guard playing in a league without too many standouts at the position. Martin’s perimeter scoring and ability to space out the court are quite valuable and he should easily be able to find a home elsewhere, so long as the Wolves are willing to take pennies on the dollar in order to shed his salary. 

As for Pekovic, he’s coming off an injury-plagued season in which he averaged 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field. A tough, physical bruiser, he undoubtedly has value at the center position as a consistently efficient big man who can provide value in plenty of areas. 

Even during his introductory press conference, Young had to compliment Pekovic‘s strength: 

If he were a great rim-protector or a player capable of carrying the offensive load, he’d be all the more valuable, but Pekovic is what he is at this point. And that’s a player capable of bringing back a solid haul once he’s placed on the trade block. 

Now it’s possible that all of these players end up leaving Minnesota before the 2014-15 trade deadline is upon us. It’s not inconceivable that Martin’s contract could be sent elsewhere early in the proceedings, Barea could be bought out and Brewer and Pekovic could be packaged together for a return filled with youth and upside. 

But if only one move is to be made, which is most likely?

 

The One Move

It’s either trading Martin or dealing Pekovic

While moving Brewer and Barea is certainly possible, neither player would shift the needle as much as the two aforementioned standouts, as both can be crucial pieces on championship-contending teams. 

For two reasons, the answer has to revolve around the 6’11″ center from Montenegro. 

First, he’s the better, more valuable player. While Martin plays at a position with a dearth of elite talent, it’s not as though center is bubbling over with traditional bigs who can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. There are plenty of promising athletic phenoms and undersized stretchy players at the 5, but the bruisers who can produce like Pekovic are few and far between. 

According to Basketball-Reference.com, there were only seven players in the NBA who averaged at least 17 points and eight rebounds last season while shooting above 50 percent from the field: Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, David Lee and Pekovic

That’s a pretty stellar group of big men, one filled with All-Stars, fringe All-Stars, should-have-been All-Stars and would-have-been-if-they’d-stayed-healthy All-Stars. 

And Pekovic.

Does that mean he should be in one of those categories? Probably not, as his defensive shortcomings and injuries do hold him back rather significantly. But there’s still no doubt he’s a valuable player, one worth the $12 million he makes during the average year. 

As for the second reason, it’s important to look at the strength of the players behind Martin and Pekovic.

Both are blocking young prospects from gaining valuable time on the court, but Pekovic is more necessary to move. Players like Wiggins and LaVine might naturally play shooting guard, but at least they can capably line up at other positions and play alongside Martin. 

Dieng, however, should not be playing anything other than center. 

As shown by both Basketball-Reference.com and 82games.com—which don’t always agree on positions, mind you—Dieng played all 818 minutes of his rookie season at the 5. And remember how much he thrived when injuries finally gave him a chance to spend extended periods of time out on the court? 

During the last 18 games of the season—15 of which he started—Dieng averaged 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field. He wasn’t the scorer Pekovic was when healthy, but his rim-protection skills, versatility and slightly better passing may actually have made him the more valuable player. 

He’s not a power forward, and his development will only be blocked by the highly paid big man in front of him on the depth chart. 

So long as the Wolves can get back a young piece or two by dealing Pekovic, he’s the man to move. He opens up more for the incumbents, he’d free up more cap room than Martin would if Minnesota can bring back some expiring contracts and the talent level of the return would likely be greater. 

Even in the post-Love era, Saunders has plenty of options at his disposal. Dealing the Montenegrin big man is just the route he should pursue most strongly. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Taking issue with Kevin Love calling trade “his decision”

I have a problem with some of the statements that Kevin Love made at his press conference yesterday. I’m trying really hard not to be a self-hating fan, but if I’m being perfectly honest, there are some issues with it. Here’s Love’s statement that set off my antenna.
“LeBron signed to come back, and a few hours later he called me and I said ‘I’m in,’” Love said Tuesday at a news conference. “That had a lot to do with my decision. It means a lot to be a part of this organization. … Everything in my entire life for the last six years had led me up to this opportunity.”
Maybe it’s just semantics, but Kevin Love shouldn’t have had the opportunity to say “I’m in.” Kevin Love shouldn’t have had the opportunity this off-season for his departure to the Cavaliers to be called “my decision.” Just because I live in the Cleveland area and the Cavaliers are the beneficiary doesn’t mean that I don’t find this somewhat problematic.
I know players are allowed to talk and “collusi

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Clippers trade Jared Dudley to Bucks

Clippers get Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica in return for Dudley

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Jared Dudley Trade Invites Major Risk for Los Angeles Clippers

With first-round picks at a premium around the league, the Los Angeles Clippers made a curious decision to include one in their latest trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are the preliminary details, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

The Los Angeles Clippers have traded swingman Jared Dudley and a 2017 protected first-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for swingman Carlos Delfino, center Miroslav Raduljica and a second-round pick, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

Dudley, who averaged 6.9 points in 23.4 minutes per game last season, had fallen out of the Clippers’ plans and is owed $4.25 million each of the next two seasons, but has a player option for 2015-16. Dudley, 31, was a double-digit scorer from 2010-13 with the Phoenix Suns.

Delfino, 31, is owed $6.5 million for the next two seasons — with a team option for 2015-16 — but missed the 2013-14 season because of a right foot injury. He is expected to miss part of the 2014-15 season as he recovers from the injury, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

Why would the Clippers trade Dudley and a first-round pick for a 32-year-old wing who didn’t play last year and may not be ready to start the season? Cap flexibility.

By dealing Dudley, the Clippers will get out from the two years and $8.5 million owed to him. Dudley had a player option for the 2015-16 season, which would have absorbed valuable cap space in an offseason where DeAndre Jordan is slated to be an unrestricted free agent.

With the Clippers facing the possibility of having three max or near-max deals, clearing space to stay under the luxury cap may have been viewed as a priority.

Both Delfino and Raduljica have non-guaranteed deals for 2014-15, and according to Sam Amick at USA Today, neither player might end up with the Clippers long-term.

Yet according to a person with knowledge of the Clippers’ situation, it’s likely that Delfino – who is owed $3.25 million next season and has a team option for the 2015-16 campaign – will be waived using what’s deemed the “stretch provision.” The provision allows the payment of a player’s contract (and the related salary cap hit) to be stretched out over several years, and would allow the Clippers to make another addition via free agency (or perhaps even two). Because the Clippers used their non-taxpayer midlevel exception on center Spencer Hawes in July, they are operating with a hard salary cap and have less than a million dollars remaining to work with because of it. 

One strong free agent possibility is 27-year-old shooting guard Chris Douglas Roberts, though he can’t sign until the aforementioned moves are made. Roberts averaged 6.9 points and 20.7 minutes for the Charlotte Hornets last season in 49 games. Another possibility is big man Ekpe Udoh, the 27-year-old who visited with the Clippers on Tuesday. Udoh, who was taken sixth overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2010 draft, spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks. Raduljica is also likely to be waived by the Clippers, and his possible buyout (he’s owed $1.5 million) could also create more salary cap space.

If you’re keeping track at home, the Clippers essentially traded Dudley and a protected future first-round pick to clear all salary commitments for next year while gaining a bit of flexibility under the hard cap.

While it’s hard to judge the trade before all the moves are finalized, it’s worth wondering if the sacrifice and risk are worth it for the Clippers.

 

It’s interesting that the Clippers were so quick to give up on Dudley, particularly after the team traded Eric Bledsoe for him last offseason. Dudley suffered through an injury-riddled campaign, and you would think there was hope that his numbers would return to the mean with better health.

Here’s what Doc Rivers said in a statement, via Arash Markazi at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

‘Jared is a great teammate, I thank him for all his hard work on and off the floor on our behalf,’ Clippers president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers said in a statement. ‘Jared is a true professional and we wish him all the best in Milwaukee.’

The timing of the trade may be the most interesting aspect of it all.

While it’s understandable that the Clippers want to fill holes now, particularly if there are free agents available that they covet, increasing Dudley’s trade value might have been as simple as giving him playing time early on this season. With the Clippers all but guaranteed a playoff spot, that might have been worthwhile in order not to sacrifice a future asset like a draft pick.

It’s also important to remember that the Clippers don’t exactly have great depth at small forward. While Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock should be able to handle the duties, the rest of the Clippers’ options at the 3 are awfully small and don’t provide the defense or rebounding that should be desired at that spot.

Ultimately, the Clippers may feel that the roster and cap flexibility this season is worth what’s likely to be one of the last picks in the first round in 2017, and it’s easy to see the logic behind that.

With Steve Ballmer taking over as owner, the Clippers should be able to buy early second-round choices rather easily going forward. We’ve seen something similar happen with the Brooklyn Nets this season, another team that had no issue sacrificing future first-round picks in trades only to purchase second-round choices on draft day.

Of course, there’s still plenty of risk involved. If Blake Griffin or Chris Paul suffer major injuries in 2017, and the Clippers just sneak into the playoffs or miss out, then the pick becomes incredibly valuable. The protection alleviates some concerns, but they’re still present.

The Clippers not being an elite team in 2017 isn’t a likely outcome, but as the Indiana Pacers and Paul George found out this offseason, perfect health shouldn’t always be counted on.

You just have to think of it this way: Is the risk here worth the reward?

Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ekpe Udoh are decent role players who would fill some needs in terms of youth on the wing and defensive potential up front, and maybe Raduljica will prove to be a valuable contributor if he’s not waived. Still, as it stands, the Clippers now don’t have a first-round pick to trade until 2019 because their 2015 pick will be headed to the Boston Celtics as part of the Rivers acquisition.

When you think about future trades the Clippers could now make, the options are more limited than they once were. Movable assets were already scarce, and with a roster that will likely be over the cap for the next few years at least, that draft pick could have been useful for a few different reasons.

Even if the Clippers don’t view a late first-round pick as a major asset, rebuilding teams tend to treat them like gold. Any way you slice it, the Clippers have less buying power in trades now than they did before.

Dudley was the best player in this deal, and the draft pick was by far the best asset. The Clippers can create some roster and financial flexibility now, but they failed to maximize full value for their assets and invited some unnecessary risk in order to do so. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Hasheem Thabeet Traded to 76ers: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Hasheem Thabeet’s NBA career has never really gotten started since being the No. 2 overall pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009. He’s played for four teams already and finds himself on the move again.   

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Thabeet is being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Philadelphia 76ers

However, Stein also reported that Thabeet won’t actually suit up for the 76ers because the team is going to waive him and the Thunder will get some financial relief in the process:

The 76ers already have one young center in Nerlens Noel ready to play this season after sitting out all of 2013-14 recovering from a knee injury and another one in Joel Embiid won’t be ready at least until November, according to general manager Sam Hinkie (h/t CSNPhilly.com). 

As a result, Thabeet really would have no place in Philadelphia. The 76ers are still trying to build for their future after trading Thaddeus Young to Minnesota for a protected first-round pick as part of the Kevin Love deal that also included Cleveland

With the Thunder also sending money to Philadelphia to cover Thabeet’s deal, it means the team is still only on the hook for just over $24 million in salary commitments for the 2014-15 season, as noted by Michael Levin of LibertyBallers.com:

This deal certainly won’t put an end to talk of the 76ers potentially tanking for whatever reason. They aren’t paying for Thabeet and, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, were opposed to the NBA’s proposal in July that would balance out lottery odds instead of giving the team with the worst record the most ping-pong balls. 

The rough draft of this plan was met with opposition by 76ers management, which is in the midst of a multiseason rebuilding project that is dependent on a high pick next year. The 76ers, sources said, are hoping to get the NBA to delay the plan’s implementation for at least a year because it would act as a de facto punishment while just playing by the rules that have been in place.

To say that Thabeet has been a disappointment in the NBA is an understatement. He’s been with four franchises, if we include Philadelphia, in five years and averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 224 games. 

Thabeet was taken in the same draft as Blake Griffin, who went No. 1 overall to the Los Angeles Clippers, and ahead of James Harden, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan. Now, five short years later, it would be a surprise if he ever turns into something more than a D-league guy with occasional appearances on an NBA roster. 

 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Jared Dudley Traded to Bucks: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Seeking more depth heading into the season, the Milwaukee Bucks have acquired versatile shooter Jared Dudley from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica, according to Adrian Wojnaroski of Yahoo Sports.   

Marc Stein of ESPN.com adds that the deal includes the Bucks getting a future protected first-round pick from the Clippers, while Los Angeles will get a second-round pick:

The Clippers had a glut of shooters on their roster with Dudley, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, so it could afford to move one of them in the right deal. 

Dudley was a solid piece for the Clippers last year, starting 43 games and shooting 36 percent from three-point range. However, his 6.9 points per game was his lowest since 2008-09 and his shooting percentage of 43.8 was the worst of his career. 

For the Bucks, a team still trying to build a roster and in need of any depth it can find, acquiring a proven commodity like Dudley and giving up 31-year-old Carlos Delfino, who hasn’t played since the 2012-13 season, and Miroslav Raduljica, who is 26 with just 48 games of experience, makes sense given their future direction. 

The Bucks have a potential superstar in Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick in June’s draft, but are still finding a direction to take the franchise. Jason Kidd takes over as head coach and is in a good position to work with this group thanks to his work in Brooklyn last year, according to Zach Harper of CBSSports.com:

When things fell apart in the first two months of the season and spilling drinks on the court wasn’t working, Kidd eventually found his sweet spot with that roster. Once Brook Lopezwent down with another foot injury, Kidd went less conventional and more modern with his small ball, interchangeable lineups.

While Kidd won’t be working with anywhere near the talent he had in Brooklyn, his situation is what a lot of coaches dream about. Being able to work with a clean slate is what every coach dreams of, because they can build the roster in their image. 

Dudley may not be a long-term solution since his contract is only guaranteed through the 2014-15 season, but he gives the Bucks someone they can use as a bridge into the future. If his numbers revert back to his career normals, the team can also use him as a trade chip during the year. 

 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Saunders wasn’t sure Love trade would happen

Flip Saunders sits down with KARE 11′s Dave Schwartz to talk about the uncertainty of trading Kevin Love and the future of Timberwolves.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Anonymous NBA General Manager Says Kobe Bryant Has ‘Zero’ Trade Value

Trade value is often a subjective measure of a player’s actual worth, and Kobe Bryant could be the extreme example of that.

Last seasonbefore he had returned from a torn Achillesthe Los Angeles Lakers deemed him valuable enough for a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension. That cemented his spot as the NBA‘s highest-paid player and all but assured that the five-time champion would eventually retire having worn only the famed purple and gold during his storied career.

Having Bryant’s basketball story end in the same place where it started seemed to be a major motivation for both sides. The business and sentimental ties were just as apparent as the money when the heavy commitment was made public.

According to one general manager, though, those bonds need to be as strong as ever. Even if Bryant and the Lakers somehow grew apart, the executive said the two sides would be stuck with one another, via Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated:

Seven months after he ruptured his left Achilles ­tendon—and three weeks before he fractured his left ­kneecap—Bryant­ signed a $48.5 million, two-year deal. The contract, widely derided as the worst in the game, makes Bryant nearly impossible to move, even were the Lakers to try. Asked about Kobe’s value on the market, one GM answers definitively: ‘Zero. Look at that number. Who takes him?’

The words carry more of shock value than any actual surprise.

Many dubbed Bryant’s extension an overpay at the time he signed it, and that was before injuries limited him to six games for the entire 2013-14 campaign. Even those who supported the deal saw it as something of a lifetime achievement award, handed over more for what he had done in the past than what he could do in the present or the future.

“Is Kobe worth $48 million over the next two seasons? Probably not,” wrote USA Today‘s Sean Highkin. ”But will he have been worth $328 million over the last 20? Absolutely.”

Obviously, that logic doesn’t work for the other 29 teams in the league.

If they brought in Bryant, they would only get the high-risk, high-priced years at the end of his career. Only the Lakers can fully reap the rewards of what he has sown, whether in the form of the championship banners he helped raise or the jerseys he continues to sell.

Whatever his value is around the league, it isn’t nearly as much as it is in L.A. Put the focus on his present, and he’s a 36-year-old with injury questions, an attitude that doesn’t work with everyone and a heavy salary coming his way during each of the next two seasons.

All of that said, it’s hard to imagine that he would be completely impossible to move should the Lakers ever decide to pursue that path. As NBC Sports’ Brett Pollakoff observed, history has seen worse contracts exchanged on the open market:

There have been plenty of contracts far worse than Bryant’s that have been traded over the years (the Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas deal comes to mind), and when you consider that Bryant’s is a deal that expires after next season, which would be of value to a team trying to rebuild by clearing space on the roster, it’s certainly not impossible to envision.

It is, however, impossible to imagine Bryant or the Lakers examining that option.

His extension was made to guarantee his legacy as a one-franchise talent. It doesn’t matter what his trade value is, because he isn’t going anywhere until he’s leaving the game for good.

 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

After Kevin Love Trade, Cavaliers Should Face Same Pressure as 2010-11 Heat

Eddie House, known for his hair trigger jumper and his occasional obscene gesture, didn’t make it to the end of the Miami Heat’s Big Three era, getting the thumb prior to season two. Still, the veteran guard’s quote from Miami’s 2010 training camp, an utterance that many didn’t find endearing, qualifies as among the most enduring. It spoke to the climate of LeBron James‘ first season in Miami, and the players’ quite correct sense that everyone north of Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was against them.

“I think, you know what, honestly, I don’t give a (expletive) about nobody else on the outside,” House told me while I was working for The Palm Beach Post. “It doesn’t matter about anybody out there. I don’t care what their expectations are. We have our expectations and our goals. We are going to achieve them.That’s the bottom line…. So, at the end of the day, middle fingers to all the haters.” 

It is impossible to envision anyone on the current Cleveland Cavaliers roster saying something similar this October, and none of their players have House’s reputation as a provocateur. Rather, if the early reaction to the Cavaliers’ offseason moves is any indication, they will have no criticism to counter. So far, outside of spurned South Florida, there is universal celebration not only of James’ decision to return to his Ohio roots, but of the ways in which the Cavaliers have quickly constructed the complementary roster.   

This comes as quite a contrast to what the Heat encountered, when the organization was declared by many as undeserving (though Miami won just nine fewer total games in 2008-09 and ’09-10 than Cleveland has in its last four bumbling seasons); when its new star trio was accused of plotting events well in advance (though James’ omission of Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett in his July Sports Illustrated letter seemed an early indicator of their eventual inclusion in a swap for Kevin Love); when Heat veterans such as House, Mike Miller, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Bibby were ridiculed for ring-chasing rather than praised for their financial sacrifice (so far, Miller, Miami-area product James Jones and Shawn Marion have joined James in a city that typically attracts fewer free agents, with Ray Allen possibly next).

Oh, and when the entire notion of an NBA “Big Three” was characterized as so inequitable and unfair that it became the basis of the battle for the next collective bargaining agreement, a battle that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert fully joined, if not led. Gilbert now is on the other side, boasting a Big Three of James, Love and Kyrie Irving that, at the start of the ’14-15 season, will be a collective 77 years old, four years younger than James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were at the start of the ’10-11 season. 

All of these double standards are enough to make Heat fans double over in anger. But they should know by now that there’s no point protesting. And they should know not to expect anyone to burden the Cavaliers with the same expectations that Jeff Van Gundy placed on the freshly-formed James/Wade/Bosh Heat. 

Here is how the former NBA coach and current ESPN/ABC analyst assessed the Heat prior to the ’10-11 season, in an interview with the Miami Herald: 

They will break the single-season win record [of 72]. And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers’ 33-game [winning] streak [in 1971-72], as well. And only the Lakers have even a remote shot at beating them in a playoff series. They will never lose two games in a row this year…. They have put together a much better roster than anybody could ever have expected. There is now no good way to defend them. They are unguardable. They are indefensible. They are just too good and have added so much shooting and are so versatile that they will score at will. 

Many naturally took Van Gundy’s comments as the opposite of the “hating” that so irked House and other Heat players. After all, Van Gundy wasn’t denigrating the Heat’s abilities, but exaggerating them. But some in the Heat organization heard them differently, as raising the stakes to unreasonable levels, especially in light of the stars’ limited time playing together, and the patchwork nature of the supporting cast. If Van Gundy, however unintentionally, was setting the team up to fail, he wasn’t the only one doing so. Media overhype built upon the public’s initial outrage, creating a championship-or-flop dichotomy that positioned the Heat for mockery. 

Will the Cavaliers face the same?

If they start 9-8?

If they flop in the NBA Finals, the way the Heat did against the less star-studded Dallas Mavericks?

Unlikely.

The current Cavaliers, unlike the villainous ’10-11 Heat, are the darlings of the NBA’s myth-making media establishment. Charles Barkley, who referred to the Heat team that season as “a whiny bunch” that plays for the “worst fans,” openly rooted for James to return to Cleveland and has celebrated the choice since. While the analytics site fivethirtyeight.com did project the Cavaliers at roughly 65 wins if they acquired Love, you don’t read or hear national NBA pundits writing or shouting that if they don’t win that many in their first go-round, the Cavaliers’ experiment will be a failure. Instead, some have preached patience, taking a cue from James’ homecoming essay, published before the Love acquisition, in which he wrote the following: 

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. 

James knows full well how difficult it is, because of the struggles of the ’10-11 season, when he and Wade often appeared as if they were taking turns rather than enhancing each other, when his young coach (Erik Spoelstra) hadn’t yet conceived his compatible “pace and space” offense, when the burden on the Heat’s backs was often too much to bear. 

But no one gave him the benefit of the doubt then. If people do now, it may be because they like him better (as a selfless two-time champion) or they like his jersey better (representing blue collar Cleveland), or because they like this story better (coming home to support a community), but it won’t be because that ’10-11 roster was better and deserved less slack. 

Consider the 11 players that James featured on a pair of Instagram posts Saturday, following the official announcement of the Love trade. If you ranked them one through 11, you could seriously argue that the 2010-11 team had an edge in only one spot, that of the top guard, where a then prime-level Dwyane Wade was clearly superior to the current incarnation of Kyrie Irving. 

The others?

Well, James, is a better player and leader than he was then, more effective in the post, more intelligent about his shot selection, more aware of how to get the most out of every teammate. And the top forward, Kevin Love, has a statistical edge—albeit not as dramatic as some argueover what Chris Bosh was producing in Toronto. 

But look at the rest. 

Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem were supposed to fill out the Heat’s Big Five lineup, before each suffered significant injuries; Miller, when he played, did so with one or two injured thumbs and Haslem missed nearly the entire regular season. Miller is healthier now, coming off a season in which he played all 82 games and shot extraordinarily well, and yet he’s not projected to fill as big a role as he was in ’10-11. Haslem was coming off a season in which he averaged 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, whereas Cleveland holdover Tristan Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in ’13-14, and is seven years younger than Haslem was then. 

Mario Chalmers was actually fourth on the Heat in minutes in ’10-11, even though he wasn’t often a starter. But Cleveland can counter with Dion Waiters, who, even with maturity issues at age 22, has more upside as a former fourth overall pick. 

James Jones was fifth on the Heat in minutes in ’10-11, just 30 behind Chalmers. He’s virtually the same player now, but won’t receive half of that floor time for Cleveland this season, even if Ray Allen doesn’t sign. Joel Anthony, part of the Heat’s center by committee, had the sixth-most minutes; Anderson Varejao, should he stay healthy, can do everything Anthony did, plus rebound, catch and finish. 

Spoelstra also gave considerable run to the limited Carlos Arroyo, who played just 15 more games in the NBA after his mid-season release; to House, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who combined to play just 49 more games after that season; to broken-down Mike Bibby, who shot 28.1 percent in the playoffs; to Juwan Howard, known as “17″ because of the grueling seasons he’d played. 

That was the Heat squad many observers dropped on a Ducati on a steep, swerving mountain trail, demanding it ride full throttle from the start to championship conclusion. It would seem odd if those same observers secure the Cavaliers’ training wheels to allow for slow and safe pedaling around a quiet cul-de-sac. Not when Shawn Marion is still more effective than much of the aforementioned Miami roster filler, to say nothing of what youngsters Matthew Dellavedova or Joe Harris, or veterans Brendan Haywood and John Lucas III may provide. Or, for that matter, what Allen might, if he joins. 

Will Van Gundy project 77 wins, to account for Cleveland’s superior roster? Will the Cavaliers be judged as harshly as the Heat were, if they only win, say, 58 games and finish second to Chicago in the East, as the Heat did? Or will the Cavaliers benefit from what the Heat taught usthat it isn’t easy to put a team together on the fly and soar to a title?

All of this brings to mind something that Bosh said, that same October 2010 day that House pointedly told the “haters” how he felt.

“Quite honestly, I don’t think we can ever win enough games,” Bosh admitted. “The critics will never be silenced. There’s always going to be something to pick on throughout our careers as long as we’re going to be together.” 

That was true for Bosh, Wade and James, from beginning to end. 

Will Kevin Love someday say the same?

At this stage, that would qualify as a surprise, because it will mean the Cavaliers had been held to the same standards. 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Next Page »