Blogtable

Blogtable: A steal of a free agent

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: The Carmelo Sweepstakes | The steal of free agency | Jason Kidd: Discuss


> Who’s going to be the absolute steal of this free agency class, a guy who signs way under where he could have signed and gives way more than most expect?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If some of these reports prove true about the Miami stars’ reconfigured deals, I’ll say Chris Bosh. The prospect of getting a discount of 30 percent or more from his pre-opt-out 2014-15 salary ($20.6 million) would make him a terrific bargain for the Heat or any other contender. He’s got a flexible offensive game — he could do more inside if Miami hadn’t nudged him to the perimeter — and his defense is an asset, too. Other candidates, for opposite reasons: Boston’s Avery Bradley (he might get paid at his current level but take a big step up in game) and Indiana’s Lance Stephenson (assumptions about Lance’s behavior with big guaranteed money could drive down his price).

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: He’s not The Matrix anymore, but I could see Shawn Marion joining a contender on a sweetheart deal and making a difference.

Eric Bledsoe (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Eric Bledsoe (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: We know it won’t be Jodie Meeks. The lucky guard hit a nice pay day with the Pistons. My money’s on Pau Gasol. The odds of my favored scenario actually taking shape probably aren’t great, but I’ve been touting it all along — Pau needs to go play for Miami. He could be dynamite for this team as long as he can stay healthy — but that’s a prerequisite for just about any player over 30. The way the market is shaping up, Miami can give Pau a decent salary, maybe $7 million, $8 million, maybe even a little more. For a chance to play with LeBron and chase titles, that’s pretty good. The Lakers might be able to hit his preferred $10 million – $12 million, but that roster has yet to take any form — let alone the form of a contender.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: LeBron James is going to be the steal, the guy who won’t get paid what he can deliver. But if you’re sticking to “a guy who signs way under where he could have signed,” that’s clearly more under-the-radar: P.J. Tucker. He should have received more attention for Most Improved Player. Now he’s going to become a great value as a free agent. Defense, 3-point range — he will produce more than he will get paid, probably just without a lot of attention.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGreivis Vasquez made a big impact in Toronto when he arrived in the Rudy Gay trade. The Raptors were at their best when he was on the floor and his willingness to pass the ball was infectious. He’s a restricted free agent, but there are other point guards ahead of him on the free-agent market, including one – Kyle Lowry – on his own team. So he could be had at below mid-level money, and he could make a similar impact wherever he goes as a second point guard that can share the floor with the starter. If the Raptors can keep both Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, and Lou Williams returns to form, that could be the league’s best bench outside of San Antonio.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comEric Bledsoe. And he’s a restricted free agent, so whatever offer he gets is going to be below the mark of what he could command on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. He was spectacular during an injury-curbed season in Phoenix, but every executive I have spoken with seems to think he’s the one impact player of this summer that few people are talking about. The Suns have the opportunity to match whatever big offer comes his way, and that means some teams will be scared off, therefore reducing the dollars he can command.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think so much of this depends on the place these players end up. If Greg Monroe, for instance, signs with Atlanta, that allows Al Horford to shift to the power forward spot and could have a huge impact beyond just Monroe’s stats. That said, I don’t think Monroe’s going to be undervalued. If Wade and Bosh and Bron all end up in Miami, as it seems, a bunch of teams who had money saved up may have extra cash to spread around. But the guy who I think is being undervalued right now is Luol Deng. He’s not a name that will sell season tickets, but he’s the ultimate team player, a former All-Star, and a guy who goes all out every night. Some team might be able to get themselves a superstar at a bargain.

Blogtable: Jason Kidd is in Milwaukee

Jason Kidd joins a team that won only 15 games last season (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jason Kidd joins a team that won only 15 games last season. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: The Carmelo Sweepstakes | The steal of free agency | Jason Kidd: Discuss


> Is Jason Kidd the right man for the job in Milwaukee? Anything else you want to say about how this whole Kidd-to-Bucks thing went down?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ve been out front and outspoken on this topic already, so I’ll try not to repeat any previous harangue. When Kidd was hired by Brooklyn last year, my thought was: Interesting choice but he needs to take over a rebuilding team so he can learn and grow as a coach along with his players. The win-now, veteran-heavy Nets roster seemed like (and mostly was) a mismatch. So if Kidd had been fired, oh, last December when Brooklyn was losing and got hired by Milwaukee now — sometime after Larry Drew‘s firing — it would have seemed legit. But then, he wouldn’t have tipped his hand in craving personnel power — a privilege completely unearned at this point — or in relying so much on “buddy ball” with his wealthy pal, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. One more thing: Letting a coach weasel out of a four-year contract after one season to switch teams and double his pay is something the players and their union might want to bring up to the NBA owners at the next CBA talks in 2017.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It was one thing to have Kidd trade in his jersey for a suit jacket and stand on the sidelines running a team packed with veterans and led by a couple of future Hall of Famers.  Now the Bucks are asking him to roll up his sleeves and go to work with a 15-win club.  No.  I believe that job takes more of a coaching background and resume. In addition, Kidd is a guy who always creates turmoil and heads for the door at the first sign of trouble. No reason to think he’s got the stomach or the know-how for this long-term job. As our man Steve Aschburner wrote, Kidd and the new owners ham-handedly handled the whole situation. Replace Larry Drew?  Fine.  But you do it with a whole lot more class.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Who knows if Jason Kidd’s the right man for the job in Milwaukee? Which coach was the last right man there? George Karl? Don Nelson? I’ll give Kidd this, he managed to get the Nets turned around after that clueless start. But we’ll see what kind of patience he has with a young team that needs a teacher. As for how the whole situation went down, I have one word — despicable.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The big picture is that we just learned a lot about how the new Bucks ownership intends to conduct business. It’s not a good lesson, of course. Beyond the obvious that Kidd and Marc Lasry just gave a clinic on how not to handle the situation, beyond the fact that Larry Drew and John Hammond are two of the classiest people in the league and deserved professionalism and honesty instead of this back-door play, Lasry gave away his honeymoon in Milwaukee and gave away his credibility to get someone who would have been a questionable hire under the most basic circumstances. Underhanded and arrogant — making a basketball decision without input from your basketball people — never looks good. Underhanded and arrogant to get a coach with one season of experience and position him to run personnel looks even worse. So, no, I really don’t have anything else to say.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Once the Nets found their identity in January, Kidd did a nice job of managing his rotation and getting contributions from everybody, while keeping his vets relatively fresh. He made the most of his team’s matchup advantages in the playoffs against both Toronto and Miami. He’s a basketball savant. But what happened in Brooklyn is the latest evidence that he’s just not a good person. And the most important aspect of a coach’s success is the talent he has on the roster. The Bucks are lacking in that department.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: He could be the right man for the job, but the way this was handled makes it extremely difficult to have anything but a sour taste in your mouth about Kidd and his future in Milwaukee or anywhere else. I’m going to avoid the moral soapbox and refrain from cracking Kidd or the Bucks for doing what they have done. This is the NBA. No one goes in thinking it’s going to be all roses and lollipops. Larry Drew, as low down as he was treated by both the Bucks and ultimately Kidd, will survive this. The Bucks will even shed this drama in time. Kidd’s reputation, however, might never recover.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Perhaps it came out when I was watching the Money In The Bank pay-per-view the other night, but somehow I missed the memo where Larry Drew isn’t a good coach. I enjoyed watching his Hawks teams, who utilized a balanced offense and went to the playoffs three consecutive seasons. Drew also was terrific drawing up back-picks and slip-screen plays in last minute situations; Drew was no fan of Hero Ball. I think Jason Kidd is also a very good coach, and he improved as the season went along with the Nets, and he’s a bigger “name” than Larry Drew. So that’s all great. Maybe the way this situation shook out wasn’t handled as cleanly as it could’ve/should’ve been, but it is what it is. Either way, I’d like to have seen Kidd win more than 15 games last season in Milwaukee with that roster.

Blogtable: What is D. Wade really worth?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What is D. Wade worth?


> If you’re Pat Riley, what’s Dwyane Wade worth to you? How do you use him over the next three or four years? Does his past performance mean anything for this contract? Should it?

Dwyane Wade played a career-low 32.9 minutes a game last season for the Heat, but averaged a career-best .545 shooting. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Dwyane Wade, who will be 33 at the start of next season, played a career-low 32.9 minutes a game last season for the Heat but averaged a career-best .545 shooting. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If the Heat made this “retooling” only about winning, the shrewd move might be to go with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony as “Big 3 2.0″ and either re-sign Wade at a mid-level exception price or (assuming he’d balk) wave goodbye. But as competitive as Miami, James and Heat impresario Pat Riley are, I don’t think they’re that ruthless. This has been a cooperative venture from the start, with Wade as “rings leader of recruiting” and the shooting guard from Marquette still will be the first guy in bronze outside the AmericanAirlines Arena. As for new deals, I’d like to see James, Bosh and Wade sign for precisely the same money Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played for this season (about $30 million), to see if the Heat could beat the Spurs at their own game. Going Popovich with Wade’s PT didn’t work out, but maybe that would.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: He’s the third leg of the stool. Maybe not the D-Wade/Flash character that was MVP of The Finals in 2006, but just as important moving forward. He’s obviously got a lot of miles on his body and needs to have his minutes reined in. He had a horrible series against the Spurs. But how quickly we forget. Wade was producing at a very high level. One has to look no further than San Antonio and Manu Ginobili to see that it would be foolish to simply write him off. A year ago, much of the basketball world was ready to dump Manu onto the scrap heap. But he responded brilliantly, stayed healthy, had a solid season, excelled at the end and now has a fourth ring.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: If I’m Pat Riley I’m exploring just how negotiable of a mood D-Wade is in. If I can get him at four years, $40 million, I’m feeling great. That’s probably too light, but I’ve got to keep him below $14 million and close to $12 million. Wade’s broken-down knees are a tricky issue. He is going to have to find ways to tailor his game to his ability, and coach Erik Spoelstra is going to have to play him more like Manu Ginobili minutes (22.8 mpg) last season than the 32.9 Wade averaged when he was in the lineup. I liked our own John Schuhmann‘s suggestion recently that Wade needs to become a better 3-point shooter the way Jason Kidd — as well as Vince Carter — did late in his career. The Heat know what they’re getting with Wade. They need to get younger and more athletic at his position, and then carefully and patiently follow another maintenance plan, and hope for the best.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Dwyane Wade gets rewarded and he gets rewarded big. Yes, it is much more for what he did in the past. Yes, it is deserved, because none of this happens without Wade. Not the first championship, not the Big 3 convergence and subsequent titles, and, now, not the chance to re-shape the super team. If Wade made an ego play and insisted on remaining The Man, LeBron James and Chris Bosh don’t come as a package deal. If Wade had stayed in the contract this summer, that changes the entire landscape as well. Plus, how management handles someone with the stature of Dwyane Wade sends a message to players everywhere: You’ll be taken care of here. It’s a statement to free agents three or five years out. That’s invaluable. So of course it is about the past more than the present. And it’s about the future.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Wade is the third most important player on the Heat and he’s apparently good for 60 games a season (at most) going forward. That obviously means that he should be paid less than LeBron James and Chris Bosh, maybe in the range of $7-8 million per year. But there’s a loyalty factor that will prevent that from happening. Wade was there first. He was the MVP of the 2006 Finals. If it weren’t for him, the other two wouldn’t have come. And he’s the one that took the least money in 2010. So it’s hard for me to see him getting paid less than Bosh this time.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:  His worth from the time the Heat drafted him to now is immeasurable. There is literally no monetary value that can be placed on what Wade has meant to the franchise. He helped create an identity for the franchise and was a part of three championships.  He’s a Heat icon for life and will have one of those cushy gigs alongside Alonzo Mourning whenever he decides to hang up his sneakers. But that cannot be the deciding factor now, as the Heat and Wade face a career crossroads at a time when everyone knows Wade’s star is fading. Somehow, someway, Riley has to convince Wade to take a role off the bench (Manu Ginobili, Eastern Conference style) now that LeBron James is the face of the franchise. It’s the way he can best help the Heat in the future and there is no sugar-coating the obvious. That means spreading that $40-plus million Wade opted out of over the next four to five seasons, at roughly $8.6 million a season. It’s a huge salary haircut (and btw, I don’t think a $10-$12 million a season salary is out of bounds, in fact it’s much more likely) and an enormous financial sacrifice, but one Wade would have to make for the greater good to finish his career playing on a contender.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Surely Dwyane Wade has some sort of institutional value to the Miami Heat. But I’m on Team Klinsmann, not Team Kobe, when it comes to this situation: You don’t reward someone now for what they have done previously. (Wait, let me clarify: I think this applies only in sports situations when a salary cap or luxury tax is involved. If you were, say — and this is totally random comparison — running a basketball website and paying a group of sports writers, you should definitely them pay based on the work they have previously completed.) For what it’s worth, Wade wasn’t awful for the entirety of the season — he did average 19 points per game — but he surely isn’t worth what he was making, either. I do think you reward Wade for being a player who can help your team, and for opting out of his contract and helping create salary flexibility for your team. I think, and this is no great novelty idea, Wade would be a nice fit as a sixth man, playing 15-20 minutes a night and going against second unit players on other teams. Let Wade be Miami’s Ginobili, and sign him to a four-year deal that’s more reflective of his true value (I’d say around $12 million a year).

Blogtable: Over the top with the Draft

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: LeBron, staying or bolting? | Banking on the Draft | Wrangling over an RFA



VIDEO: Big things are expected from one of the most-awaited Drafts in years

> Do you see a lower-level lottery team that, through smart picking alone on Thursday, can change its fortunes this season and make the playoffs? What makes you say that?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The question seems to be twisting our arms in Phoenix’s direction (No. 14) or maybe Denver’s (No. 11) because the teams around them – Minnesota, Orlando, Philadelphia – deep in the lottery (Nos. 1-14) don’t seem ready to be transformed so quickly, and Charlotte (No. 9) made the postseason two months ago. But that’s fine, because Denver is the right answer anyway. The Suns came close last season and I’m eager to see coach Jeff Hornacek‘s second act, but the Nuggets could add a valuable piece – think shooting guard – and take a mighty stride thanks to the return of various injured contributors (JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson) in Brian Shaw‘s second act.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I guess it’s too easy to say Phoenix, since the Suns barely missed out last season.  So I’m gonna cheat on you a little bit and take a team that has picks in the top (4) and bottom (12) of the lottery and say the Magic.  If GM Rob Hennigan hits on both picks, with the core of young talent on hand, I could see the Magic making a bid for the playoffs in the (L)east.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Here’s the deal, as bad as the East was this year, I don’t see any of the so-called “lower-level” lottery teams — which I’ll consider the bottom four in each conference — making a significant enough leap to get into the playoffs. So let’s go West: Sacramento. Stop laughing. Once Rudy Gay arrived he transformed into Mr. Efficiency. DeMarcus Cousins could have been an All-Star last year — and probably would have been Dwight Howard‘s backup had the center position still existed. Let’s assume Isaiah Thomas remains. Ben McLemore enters his sophomore year. And there’s some decent role guys on a roster that heads into Year 2 under coach Michael Malone. So now add the eighth overall pick in a deep draft. The problem in the West is finding a team that drops out of the playoffs. Does Dallas slip? Memphis? It’s difficult to think of any of the top six dropping out.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The obvious thought would be the Suns, in a good position to make the playoffs anyway, except that they will have to be pushed over the line next season by returning players and whatever moves are made via free agency or trade, not when No. 14 is the best pick. If you’re looking for draft impact for a team that is not coming off a playoff appearance — eliminating Charlotte, in other words — Cleveland could do it if the pick is Jabari Parker, more NBA-ready than any of the top prospects. The Cavaliers have the obvious advantage of getting close last season. I would put Orlando in there as well, with two picks in the lottery, as long as No. 4 isn’t spent on Joel Embiid. It’s got to be two players expected to be in uniform opening night. Making up 15 games is a big jump, but it’s the East. What are we talking, a good week?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The obvious answer is Phoenix, but the Timberwolves (plus-219) had basically the same point differential as the Suns (plus-216) this season, and it was mostly awful late-game execution (and defense) that kept the Wolves from winning eight or nine more games. If they keep Kevin Love or if they get a couple of good players (David Lee and Klay Thompson, perhaps) for him, add a No. 13 pick that can contribute right away, and improve their defense under Flip Saunders, the Wolves could be in the playoff mix next year.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I don’t. And it’s not because of the team picking but because even for what everyone deems a deep draft, a lower-level lottery team would need to unearth a surprise pick that no one saw coming in the lead-up to the Draft. It’s been years since we’ve had a genuine Draft stunner like that, a talent capable of lifting a lower-level lottery team to change it’s fortunes in such a short period of time. We’re talking all the way back to the heralded 2003 Draft and what Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade did for their teams (Denver and Miami), in terms of a fist-year impact like that.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I almost answered this with a simple “No,” but I knew doing that would mean a series of angry emails and phone calls from The Powers That Be, so I’ll go with Phoenix, mainly because they just missed the playoffs last year. Also, they’ve got a system that looks for and rewards energy and effort, and while it may take some picks time to learn the NBA game, energy and effort are the one thing every player comes armed with. Other than PHX, I don’t know what “lower-level” lottery teams I’d expect to make a run at the postseason this year. Most of the teams are building for some vague future, from Orlando to Philly to Charlotte to Sacto. Phoenix is the only team that plays and prepares as though the future is now.

Blogtable: Wrangling over an RFA

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: LeBron, staying or bolting? | Banking on the Draft | Wrangling over an RFA


> Name me a free agent – let’s make it a Restricted Free Agent – who is liable to sign a big-money offer sheet from another team that his current team will hate to have to match.

Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)

Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Give me a quarter and I’ll flip it – heads Greg Monroe, tails Gordon Hayward. Detroit can’t afford to let Monroe go anywhere, but the pressure will be on Stan Van Gundy to figure out ways for Monroe and Andre Drummond to thrive in tandem. Hasn’t happened yet and heftier price tags (Monroe now, Drummond next) will only add urgency. Hayward’s shooting dropped off significantly last season but the Jazz will be paying for the surprising rookie he was – that’s what the competition will bid up – and a slightly overrated piece.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Somebody might take a big money flyer on Chandler Parsons that could make the Rockets swallow hard, especially if they haven’t already landed LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe sticks out as the obvious choice, although I’m not sure you could say Phoenix will “hate” to match it. All signs out of the desert suggest they’re prepared to do just that. Keep a close eye on Pistons big man Greg Monroe. A sign-and-trade is a real possibility here.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Isaiah Thomas. I’ll wait to see what happens in the Draft to set that in stone, whether the Kings get a point guard or not, but it’s going to get interesting if a rival tries to turn their small-market salary structure into a piñata with an offer sheet with $8 million in a season or even $9 million. Everyone knows Sacramento will match if the deal is close to the mid-level, so teams know, as is usually the case with a restricted free agent, that it will take a number that will make the other front office wince. Sacramento wants to keep Thomas, and it can’t afford to lose him for nothing. But it also may decide it can’t afford to keep him.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGreg Monroe. He’s a good player with strong numbers, but he’s not a very good defender and the Pistons’ frontline of Josh Smith, Monroe and Andre Drummond was a disaster (especially defensively) last year. Stan Van Gundy is a great coach and should get the trio working a little better together, but he should also prefer to play someone other than Smith at small forward. If he can trade Smith (and the $40.5 million left on his contract) for some perimeter shooting, great. If he can’t, does he match a big offer for Monroe and hope that he can make a trade down the line? That combination of size and talent would be hard to let walk

Sekou Smith, NBA.comGordon Hayward is a player that the Jazz seemed to love and loathe at times throughout the Ty Corbin era. I’m not sure it makes any sense for them to try and hold on to him in free agency with a new coach (Quin Snyder) and an expected new system that Hayward might not be a great fit in, at least in theory. But with quite a bit of uncertainty lingering over the franchise, I could see the Jazz agonizing over what to do when someone puts big money on the table for Hayward that no one saw coming. The Jazz had a chance to set the price before the 2013-14 season started and didn’t. Now they could wind up paying more than they wanted to if Hayward has a team out there that covets his services.

Blogtable: Odds on LeBron staying

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: LeBron, staying or bolting? | Banking on the Draft | Wrangling over an RFA



VIDEO: Sekou Smtih and Rick Kamla discuss LeBron James’ looming free agency

> What do you think are the odds – give me some numbers – that LeBron plays for the Heat next season? If he’s not in Miami, where do you see him playing? Why do you say that?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m at 96 percent confidence that LeBron James stays right where he is next season and even beyond. His days of chasing rings through relocation need to be over — moving again would be unseemly and his legacy would shift from number of championships won to the mercenary way in which he stalked them. More than that, he doesn’t need to chase. The help he needs should come to Miami now, a market with all the necessary advantages to attract whatever and whomever James needs. He, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh conceivably could take massive pay cuts — think Spurs’ Big 3 prices — and wind up with all the depth, shooting and young legs they’d need to contend for another half-dozen years. As for that 4 percent opening I left: Clippers.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: 90 percent.  Maybe I’m being naive or just downright foolish, but I think he appreciates what Pat Riley did in enabling him to win two championships, believes in Riley’s drive and determination to put the Heat on the right track, and also realizes that, even with their problems, they were still in The Finals this year.  Also, the East is still the East.  If he leaves, it means LeBron is just chasing rings and the most ready-made place to do that, pardner, would be Houston.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Call me nuts, but I’m putting it at 95 percent that he’s back with the Heat. Thing is, I can’t see LeBron in another uniform. Chicago? And forever play in the shadow of his idol Michael Jordan? Just don’t see it. It’d be silly for LeBron to take his talents West; just too tough. Who else realistically is left in the East? The Wizards? That’d actually be a pretty solid choice, but Washington has been involved in zero — that we know of — discussion of LBJ. Toronto? Miami is the only logical choice. If the Big 3 negotiate new deals, they can make room for Kyle Lowry and bring in other low-cost reinforcements​ such as Shawn Marion.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: 60 percent. Something that indicates the Heat are the favorite but far from in command. The problem is, I don’t see an obvious landing spot if he leaves Miami. Sure, the Clippers make sense, but how may salaries will they have to move to clear cap space? At that point, will the Heat have a better angle on another championship than the Clips do on their first? I think he gives Pat Riley one more season, then re-assesses and maybe leaves in July 2015.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: 90 percent. A potential move to Chicago or Houston is intriguing, but the most likely scenario is that James stays in Miami, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh take pay cuts, and Pat Riley adds another impact player or two. Though James left Cleveland high and dry in 2010, he doesn’t seem like the mercenary type. He’s comfortable in Miami, where a system built around him is in place and where his team became the first to make four straight Finals in 27 years. You can pick apart the Heat’s issues (and I did that quite a bit over the last two months), but they just need a little more help to keep competing for championships.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’m calling it 50-50 after getting burned on the original “Decision.” It’s hard to imagine him in another uniform, though, after four straight years of No. 6 in that Heat jersey playing to the final day each season. The Heat have to be considered the favorite to … keep him, I guess. But experience with LeBron in free agency has taught me well. Nothing lasts forever, and that goes for the Big 3 and their run. Cleveland, for so many reasons, is the place that has to be tugging at the heartstrings of not only LeBron but his entire family. But this is a business decision, a choice that is more than anything about his continued professional success and where he can best realize the immense potential that remains. So if he’s not going to continue in Miami, his next stop has to be in a place where there is a championship structure either already in place or in need of that one player, uh … LeBron, that pushes a team there, immediately. As preposterous as it feels typing these words, I think he either goes home to finish what he started in Cleveland or stays with the Heat. Anything else, before we know who does whatever is necessary to land him, is beyond what I can wrap my mind around at this time.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not a gambler (as far as you guys know) so I don’t even know how odds really work, but I’ll put it the chances at 90 percent that LeBron returns to Miami. This is based on no inside information, just based on several observations. I understand LeBron being from Akron and that giving the Cavs some sort of interest, but I wonder if he just forgot about that comic sans thing? LeBron went to Miami and talked about it being a long-term thing (“not one, not two,” etcetera etcetera), and his work there is not done. LeBron opting out is fun fodder for Twitter and talk radio and all that stuff, but honestly, it was a smart business move for LeBron whether or not he intends to stay in Miami. And I think he intends to stay.

Blogtable: Are Spurs the faves in 2015?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What to do in Miami | Spurs faves in 2015? | Who wants to be Lakers’ coach?



VIDEO: The champion Spurs have some issues to address in the offseason

> If San Antonio’s Big Three all return, and even if sparkplug free agent Patty Mills leaves, given how they played in The Finals, are the “old” Spurs automatically favorites to repeat?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: First of all, Patty Mills needs to talk with Gary Neal before he commits to another team with the idea he’ll be as effective – and have as much fun – as a non-Spur. The cash might be greener but the grass seldom is. But no, I think there will be a fairly even distribution of No. 1 predictions in the West – Spurs, Thunder, Clippers – along with Miami as class of the East and therefore a championship threat. San Antonio won’t have the right-that-wrong motivation next season and, logistically, coach Gregg Popovich will have to manage everyone’s injuries and playing time just-so again. The players will have to respond at a best-case level, and so on. In other words, way too many variables to just anoint the Spurs as easy favorites.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: At this point the Spurs never go into the season as THE favorite to win it all. That’s simply a matter of Tim Duncan being 38 and Manu Ginobili 37 by the start of training camp. Even with Gregg Popovich managing their minutes, there is no guarantee that their bodies will hold up. But the Spurs have shown consistently for nearly two decades that they’ll always be a contender and, if they’re healthy next April, then they’re the team to beat.

Patty Mills (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Patty Mills (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’ll be shocked if the Big Three aren’t back, and, yes, I’ll make the Spurs my early favorites to repeat (even though I had a healthy Oklahoma City team beating them in the West finals). The motivation for this group is to get the lone accomplishment still out there: Back-to-back titles. They’re toughest competition in the West will continue to be OKC with the Clippers and Houston likely to come back stronger.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI wouldn’t say automatically, but they would have to be the favorites — at this point. The answer could change completely before the first day of training camp, depending on what other teams do in the summer. But, yes, if the most the defending champion losses is one important reserve while no one else adds anything, they are the favorites until further notice.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’d call them the favorites, but I wouldn’t take them over the field. They’re the most complete team in the league – no team ranked higher in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season – but it still takes some luck (with health) to get to The Finals. And there are a handful of other contenders with room for improvement.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Barring a breakup of your core group, a championship teams enters the next season as the favorite in almost every instance. And these Spurs, with or without Patty Mills, will enter the 2014-15 season as my front-runner pick to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy. They’ll have to survive a rugged Western Conference, as always, but they have the components needed to do so better than anyone else. The Clippers move into that No. 2 spot to me and Thunder would follow them on my list of teams coming out of the West and thus becoming championship contenders. But the Spurs remain in that No. 1 spot.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The New Adventures of the Old Spurs was something of a revelation in the Finals. The way they shared the ball and played team defense was brilliant, so much so that you feel like they discovered another gear they didn’t know they had. And once Pandora’s Box is open, I don’t know how they put that back inside. The other thing is, if I’m a Spurs fan I don’t worry so much about losing a player, particularly a bench player, because you know the franchise is so great at finding and then developing players to fill these roles.

Blogtable: Holding it together in Miami

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What to do in Miami | Spurs faves in 2015? | Who wants to be Lakers’ coach?



VIDEO: The Heat address their loss to the Spurs and an uncertain future

> You’re Pat Riley. How do you convince the Big Three to stick around … and take a pay cut? Who – give me names – do you go after to give them some help? They need help, right?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Pay cut? Did someone say pay cut? We’re all too hip and cynical to take that notion seriously. You’ve gotta get whatever you can get, as much as you can as fast as you can, because that’s what the other guy is doing, and besides, you’ll look like a chump if you don’t! Except then you notice that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are playing for about $29 million combined, and you cannot deny the role that plays in the Spurs’ sustained excellence. The help Miami can put around them is directly related to the budget they leave on the table for others. Who should that be? I’d only want to see Carmelo Anthony go there for the gawkability of the Heat going all-in on the “star” system and to actually witness Anthony making such a huge financial sacrifice for the title he claims to covet. My hunch, though, is that Miami would be better off shoring up its weakest positions – point guard and center.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe pitch is that they’re all better together than apart. Wade and Bosh certainly benefit sticking very close to LeBron. And it’s hard to see James going to play in Kobe’s shadow with the Lakers or repeating his Cleveland experience. Riley will make his obligatory run at Carmelo Anthony and, after what he pulled off in the summer of 2010, I’m not counting him out. That’s the kind of addition that possibly have a longshot chance of convincing the Big Three to take a salary haircut. I might also be interested in Pau Gasol, who at this point in his career, might be willing to take less for a shot at another title or two in Miami.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Big Three know this: If all three opt in, there will be no room under the current rules to to bring in players that can make an impact. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have to agree to opt out and re-sign at considerable discounts. The James can opt out and re-sign. As for help, obviously Carmelo Anthony has been mentioned at the top of Miami’s wish list, but that will take some real financial sacrifice from the Big Three and Melo. Until the Big three opt out and re-sign to lesser deals, it’s hard to determine how much money will actually be available to go shopping. A run at Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez, a cheaper option, to run the point would be great, or maybe Ramon Sessions. Kent Bazemore is a young, athletic two-guard with size, defensive chops and a potentially strong offensive game, who could backup Wade. How about Pau Gasol giving this team a real post presence and allowing Bosh to do his preferred thing on the perimeter?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I convince them that their real legacy is based on titles and that the chance to respond to setback is what will separate them from other champions, as the Spurs just proved. I’m Pat Riley. I’m good at the head games. “You are already crazy wealthy. Don’t you want the riches no one can buy?” The Carmelo Anthony conversation does make sense for this team in this time. That’s the longshot of getting a lot of people to take a pay cut, including the guy who forced a trade to the Knicks because he wanted to be in New York, but would be at the top of my list. It doesn’t get nearly the attention, but adding Kyle Lowry at point guard would equal a huge offseason as well.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comStaying together in Miami gives them the best opportunity to win more championships. Even though they had some defensive slippage this season, they still got to The Finals without much of a challenge in the Eastern Conference. They do need help, and guys like Shawn Marion (defense at the other forward spot), Carlos Boozer (rebounding, if amnestied by Chicago) and Steve Blake (ball-handling and shooting) might be willing to come for cheap in pursuit of a championship. But losing in The Finals to a team that good playing that well is not cause for major changes. If the Heat stay largely intact, they will give themselves a chance to win for the next few years. And that’s all you can ask for.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI remind all three of them of the four straight trips to The Finals, the two championships and all of the opportunities they’ll have to remain atop the Eastern Conference by sticking together and continuing to make sacrifices from a financial standpoint. And yes, they need help in the form of a point guard like Kyle Lowry, who can serve as a breath of fresh air and a catalyst for this group for years to come. It’s obvious that the Heat lost faith in Mario Chalmers during The Finals. They recognize the need for a more dynamic floor leader and they also know that they need another energy source for this team with Dwyane Wade clearly on the other side of the mountain of his career. They’ll also need to replenish the reserve ranks with veterans willing to join the championship search party and my first call would be to Shawn Marion.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If all three of the Big Three stick around under the current contracts, the Heat are effectively handcuffed. So if I’m Pat Riley, I talk to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and somehow convince them that they should take less — I guess you talk to them about longer deals if these deals are opted out of. And to me, that’s the most important thing — you have to do something to create some flexibility. Then the other thing I’d do is go find a point guard who can penetrate and create. If the midlevel is your threshold, maybe someone like, uh-oh, Patty Mills, or even instant offense like Nate Robinson. Either way, I think you have to have a point guard who can handle the ball and create for his teammates and take some of that burden off of LeBron’s shoulders.

Blogtable: A coach, other details in L.A.

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What to do in Miami | Spurs faves in 2015? | Who wants to be Lakers’ coach?


> The Lakers still don’t have a head coach, and the NBA Draft is a week from Thursday. If you’re a Lakers fan, are you worried about that? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Worried about the coaching vacancy? Heck, if I’m a Lakers fan, I’m not even worried about the Draft. We’re the Lakers, remember. Our fate isn’t tied to any stupid Draft, much less any guy in a suit. We make trades and sign free agents when we need help, and the league is full of players dying to leverage their way to L.A. to make our jobs easier. OK, so it hasn’t happened lately and the Dwight Howard defection was a reason to wonder if — nah, heck with that, too. That was Howard’s mistake. We’re the Lakers, remember? Everyone wants us to be good, thus we soon shall be. We don’t sweat the small stuff. And if our surgeons are doing their jobs, we don’t sweat at all.

Kobe Bryant (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If I’m a fan, I’m far more worried that the Lakers don’t actually have a team.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: If I’m a Lakers fan, I’m not worried that we’re getting into late June and there’s no coach in place, I’m just kind of numb to the fact that there doesn’t appear to much sizzle among any of the candidates. And on a broader level, I’m concerned how Kobe Bryant accepts the new hire and how that dynamic will affect the next year or two as the Lakers desperately try to fast-track a rebuild.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: As if Lakers fans need a reason to get emotional. But on that point in particular, I wouldn’t be worried. Management signaled from the start this may be resolved later rather than sooner and did little to hide the possibility the search would reach beyond July 1 to match the coach with the roster and maybe even give a select one or two players input on the decision. If there is a concern, it’s that the Lakers didn’t have a strong commitment to a future with Mike D’Antoni and now are giving the same sense with his successor. If the front office had someone it really wanted, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak would have closed the deal by now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’d be more worried about the lack of young and healthy players under contract than the lack of a coach. They have four guys under contract, including two – Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash – who are over the age of 35, who played a total of 21 games this season, and who are owed more than $33 million next season. They have cap space, but not much in regard to assets to trade for a star or championship-potential to lure one in free agency.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: No. I’m much more worried about the fact that the Lakers don’t have much of a roster beyond Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Based on the absence of personnel to work with, the coaching vacancy is the least of my worries … if I’m a Lakers fan.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What, we worry? The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, who looked pretty good on an indoor soccer pitch in Brazil this week. Other than that, what? Well, you’re going to get the number 7 overall player in the draft. And then you’ve got…a pretty nice arena? Look, expectations should be low for the Lakers because they are not a playoff team right now. They have a lot to figure out — coaching staff among these things — and they’ve probably built up enough institutional trust to be rewarded with at least a little patience from their fans. Give them some time to figure it out. Wait ’til next year. Then? If things aren’t headed the right direction by then, then you can make some noise about the demise of the Lake Show.

Blogtable: Straight to the big-boy chair

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: No assistants needed | Awesome O, awful D? | Whaddya think now?



VIDEO: The Starters on new Knicks coach Derek Fisher

> Is this a good trend or a bad one, players (like Derek Fisher) jumping straight into head coaching jobs? Isn’t time spent as an assistant worth anything?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This long has been a copycat league, so I’d get concerned if this started being copied for the wrong reason – to land a big name for name’s sake or to distract fans from an under-skilled roster. I think of the career assistants, too, who can’t crack the inner circle because they don’t have notable (or any) playing experience. But these trends tend to come in waves – it wasn’t long ago that Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown and others were getting “all” the jobs. I think smart, recent veterans players bring a great deal of knowledge, and instant credibility with their players. But I don’t see any downside in those guys spending a year or two sitting next to a head coach to learn more about the care and feeding of an NBA club.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Good trend, bad trend? Unless you’re running a halfway house for long suffering assistant coaches, the only thing that matters is winning. Does it work? It didn’t for Magic Johnson. The jury is out on Jason Kidd. Now Derek Fisher will get his chance. It’s like high school players making the jump to the NBA. Good idea if you’re Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant. Others not so much. But Fisher ought to ask his new boss to get him a real team.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I don’t see it as good or bad. Last summer we saw a run on assistant coaches awarded first-time head coaching jobs. Jason Kidd was the outlier. I think the Knicks situation is, too. Phil Jackson wanted someone he knew, who came through his system. Steve Kerr was his top choice, but Kerr went to Golden State. If Kerr took the Knicks job as he nearly did, then we’re not even talking about Fisher as a coaching candidate. He might have ended up in a front office or wearing a headset on TV. As for the experience of learning on the bench as an assistant, well, 18 years in the league as a point guard is pretty good experience, too. There’s just no way of forecasting who will and who won’t be successful and why. Will Quin Snyder be the answer for the Jazz just because he built up his resume as an assistant? Maybe. And maybe Fisher will be the right man for the Knicks.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It depends on the team and the coach. It’s tough to compare Fisher with Jason Kidd, because Kidd is more basketball savant and Fisher is more expert communicator. They’re two very different people with, more importantly, two very different rosters. But time spent as an assistant can only help in regard to understanding the preparation that goes into a game plan, what information is most important, and what works on both ends of the floor. Kidd developed nicely over the course of seven months, but the Nets could have won 5-10 more games had he not had his early-season growing pains.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I don’t know how long this trend lasts, but I don’t think it’s detrimental to any part of the game. Who knows the intricacies of this game better than the men who toil between those lines on a regular basis? Why this sort of corporate knowledge wouldn’t be rewarded the same way work in the film room or as an assistant  coach, for any amount of time, is beyond me. Time as an assistant is worth plenty. But it doesn’t guarantee success as a head coach any more than a stellar 19-year career as a player does. And that success or failure depends largely on the man taking that plunge, the support system surrounding him, the structure of the organization he’s joining and lastly and, I believe most important, the talent at his disposal. Kind of interesting the way it all comes full circle for the player-turned coach. Is Steve Kerr any more ready than Fisher? Nobody knows. I say good for Fisher and good for other players, who won’t have Phil Jackson waiting on them, interested in making that leap.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Time spent as an assistant can be valuable, but I don’t know if anything’s more valuable than having the experience of playing against the guys you’re coaching against just months earlier. It obviously took Jason Kidd some time to adjust to the coaching role, but he obviously warmed to it as the season went along. I think Fisher will have a similar learning curve in New York. If someone like me became a head coach with no prior experience and no time as an assistant on my resume, then I could see an outcry. But considering Fisher was out there playing just a week or two ago, I think he’s prepared.