Posts Tagged ‘Sekou Smith’

Blogtable: Toughest (and easiest) division?

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: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League



VIDEODallas is one of the forces to be reckoned with in the Southwest Division

> Provided all the agreed-to free-agent deals happen, which division (as of today) looks toughest and easiest to traverse to the top in 2015-16? And give me a reason or two why you’re picking each one.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com You don’t want to go wandering into that Southwest Division, the NBA’s equivalent of the wrong side of the tracks. It’s nasty down there, full of rough-looking characters on playoff-tested teams. And they’re not just bad, they’re big, with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan elbowing in alongside Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan. If it’s a stroll through the park you want, you head to the Atlantic, where Toronto was the only team above .500 last season and might have taken a step back in losing Amir Johnson and Lou Williams. Everyone else in that district is flawed as well, not ready for prime time, with Brooklyn headed down, Boston and Philadelphia still learning and New York pursuing mediocrity as an upgrade from last season.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe Bermuda Triangle has nothing on the Texas Triangle for being a potential danger to travelers. Toss in Memphis and New Orleans and the Southwest is clearly the roughest, toughest neighborhood in the league. All five teams made the playoffs last season and they’ve only gotten better. I’ll give you five reasons why the Atlantic is the weakest division — Celtics, Knicks, Nets, Raptors and Sixers.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Toughest: Southwest, and it’s probably not even close. New Orleans won 45 games in 2014-15 and still finished last. Now imagine the division with the Spurs and Mavericks coming off their summers. Easiest: Northwest. Even with the Jazz on track to push past .500, with the demise of the Trail Blazers, it’s still OKC and everyone else.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Seeing as how the league is ready to devalue divisions, the rankings really don’t matter much anymore. But, as you will: The Southwest (Spurs, Rockets, Mavs, Grizz, Pelicans) will lap the field in terms of toughness. You could make an argument for every team making the playoffs, even the Pelicans. Just look at the stars: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kawhi Leonard, etc. It’s a division just steep with talent. The Atlantic will be the weakest if only because they’ll be dragged down by the Knicks and Sixers. In that division, only the Raptors are built to last into spring, and they lack the necessary franchise player to go deep.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Southwest Division was already the best in the league (0.637 winning percentage last season), added LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan, should have a healthier Rockets team, and has Anthony Davis getting better every year. The Celtics, Knicks and Raptors all made some improvements, but the Atlantic Division will remain the worst in the league, with at least three (and maybe four) teams under 0.500. The second best team (Boston) is still without a real impact player.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Southwest is going to be a torture chamber. And I’ll give you five reasons, starting with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. All five should be playoff-caliber teams. All five have spent the summer either improving or at least fortifying themselves through the Draft and free agency. They will batter each other in the division and make life miserable for any team that has to pull a Southwest Division swing. The easiest division? I prefer terms like least treacherous. The Northwest and Atlantic both look like they’ll have several teams trying to recover from the offseason (Draft, free agency, trades, etc.), which will keep those divisions from being as strong top-to-bottom.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com The Atlantic remains the NBA’s weakling, in spite of its immense markets: its four big American franchises are rebuilding, while the Raptors have won no more than a single playoff series in 20 years. The powerhouse is the Southwest, which looks capable of producing five playoff teams for a second straight year — and possibly 50-plus wins across the board, pending the continued development of Anthony Davis. Any one of its teams would dominate the Atlantic.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, the Southwest is now the Southbest. As if it wasn’t already tough enough, now you’ve got LaMarcus Aldridge and David West in San Antonio, James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston, Dirk Nowitzki, DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews in Dallas, and the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies in Memphis. Poor New Orleans has to satisfy themselves with “just” having Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division is still the Atlantis. While the Knicks, Sixers, Celtics and Nets all search for a path to relevance, the Raptors should be on top for a few years to come.

Report: West agrees to deal with Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — David West said his next move would be about winning above all things. The veteran power forward meant what he said.

West has agreed to a deal for the veteran’s minimum, of $1.4 million, to join the San Antonio Spurs, a deal first reported by TNT’s David Aldridge. West turned his back on a $12 million deal with the Indiana Pacers to join the summer renaissance in San Antonio.

The Spurs have already agreed to deals with LaMarcus Aldridge and to re-sign both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. They also got confirmation earlier today from veteran sixth-man Manu Ginobili that he will return for the 2015–16 season alongside Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich.

West had grown disenchanted with the franchise meltdown he felt occurred in Indiana the past two seasons, when the Pacers went from back-to-back Eastern Conference finalists and one of the top teams in the league to a lottery team. He opted out of the final year of his deal with the Pacers and vowed that his next opportunity would be one that gave him the best chance to win a title and delivered with his decision today.

 

Report: Gasol agrees to deal with Grizzlies


VIDEO: Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies will continue their grit and grind ride together

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Marc Gasol was never going anywhere and the Memphis Grizzlies’ All-Star free agent center confirmed as much today by agreeing to terms on a five-year, $100 million deal to stay with the Grizzlies, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Gasol didn’t even entertain overtures from other teams in free agency, opting instead to deal only with the Grizzlies. The centerpiece of a tea that has been one of the best in the Western Conference the past three seasons.

More details on the reported deal from Yahoo!:

The deal includes an early-termination option after the fourth year in 2018-19, league sources said.

Gasol met with Grizzlies owner Robert Pera in Spain last Wednesday, and progressed toward a final agreement over the next several days, sources said.

Gasol, 30, never seriously considered leaving the Grizzlies. He attended high school in Memphis while his older brother, Pau, played for the Grizzlies, and has spent all seven seasons of his NBA career with the Grizzlies.

Gasol developed into one of the league’s best centers during his previous four-year, $58 million contract. He averaged a career-high 17.4 points with 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 81 games this past season.

 

Continuity drives Spurs’ success


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili is back for another year, and another run at a title, with the Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Manu Ginobili surely couldn’t bring himself to walk away from it all, not with the very real possibility that he and his San Antonio Spurs teammates could make yet another run at a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Manu’s decision to saddle up for another season with the Spurs only serves to reinforce the driving principle that has sustained the organization during their decade and a half run of dominance. The continuity that comes with keeping the core group of a championship crew together is what allows the Spurs to absorb star talent, and sometimes discard it, and maintain their position as a league power.

While others lose franchise pillars — the Spurs’ biggest acquisition this summer, LaMarcus Aldridge, was exactly that in Portland — the Spurs keep their most critical pieces in the fold and keep finding ways to rebuild around them.

Witness the report later Monday that David West has agreed to join the Spurs for the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million, opting out of a deal with the Indiana Pacers that would have paid him $12 million in 2015-16.

It’s masterful work, buoyed no doubt by having a future Hall of Fame and all-time great rock like Tim Duncan to build around. But it’s still work that has to be done, work that Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford and the rest of the Spurs’ brain trust has done masterfully for years.

While aging stars like Duncan, Ginobili and one day Tony Parker fade into the background in San Antonio, the baton will be passed to Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and others in much the same way that David Robinson passed it to Duncan a generation ago.

The only other team during the Spurs’ current run capable of duplicating this sort of succession of power, the Los Angeles Lakers, has failed miserably in that department. Their free agent work this summer, or lack thereof, is proof that they have been unable to find the right mix of stars, culture and continuity to sustain their success.

The sacrifice needed to keep the train rolling is what has kept the Spurs viable for so long. The sacrifice from players like Ginobili, who could have easily chased his fortunes elsewhere once he went from a starter and All-Star to a world-class sixth man and super sub.

We might not see a run like this again anytime soon in the league, this sort of cosmic mix of the right stars, with the right coach, in the right system at just the right time. It’s a lesson that championship crew in Golden State might want to pay careful attention to, if they plan on staying relevant for the long haul.

Ginobili understood as much while he was deliberating about his own future. All of the Spurs’ big dogs have over the course of their run.

And that’s why Manu had to come back for at least one more season of doing it the Spurs way.

Blogtable: Where will these top free agents land?

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEOThe Starters discuss where the top free agents may end up

> Tell us where the following five big-name free agents — LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green and Dwyane Wade — will be playing come 2015-16 and a quick reason why they are going there.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs. It sounds like he’s leaving Portland regardless, and the Spurs can lock in on him with the salesmanship of their heavy hitters (Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan) and the closest thing in this league to guaranteed winning.
Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzzlies. Meeting with just one team, in the city in which he’s grown up and found success, seems like a simple choice.
DeAndre Jordan – L.A. Clippers. The man with bottomless pockets, Steve Ballmer, and the NBA’s most persuasive voice, Doc Rivers, will, er, twist Jordan’s arm to take the max deal, max length.
Draymond Green – Golden State. Green is worth more to the Warriors, in their system, than he is to any other team. They know it, he knows it. No grass is Greener.
Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat. If Wade wants to be Joe Montana quarterbacking Kansas City, Bobby Orr with the Blackhawks or Hakeem Olajuwon as a Raptor, sure, he should go with his pride and sign elsewhere

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

LaMarcus Aldridge — San Antonio Spurs. The native Texan gets to return home in the perfect place to contend for a championship next season with Tim Duncan and move ahead toward more with Kawhi Leonard.  It’s a seamless transition as L.A. approaches his 30th birthday.
Marc Gasol — Memphis Grizzlies. He’s comfortable and he’s loyal.  Did I mention he’s comfortable and he’s loyal?
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks. He wants out of playing third fiddle behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, even though it’s a foolish decision that moves him farther from a championship and will expose him as less than a leading man.  But he’ll fall in love with Mark Cuban’s wooing.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. Really?  You have to ask?
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat. If it’s about money, which Wade seems to indicate it is, he’ll eventually realize there’s still more of it to be had with the Heat than anyplace else

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Aldridge will be going to the Spurs, because he is tired of being on one of the better teams in the West and wants to be somewhere with the track record of getting to the very top, and maybe, just maybe, because he wants to get away from the increasing Damian Lillard spotlight. I think LMA is leaving, it’s just a matter of where. It’s more like 50-50 for a DeAndre Jordan departure from the Clippers. I would not be surprised if he stays, would not be surprised if he goes. And if he does go: Mavericks. Wade probably stays in Miami. Gasol definitely stays in Memphis, Green definitely stays in Oakland.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs. It’s an hour from his home in Austin and he’d immediately make the Spurs a strong favorite. Because Aldridge made big money on his last contract, he doesn’t need to squeeze the last dime (that’s not The Spurs Way anyway) and he’d benefit from no state tax. If they get Aldridge, Tim Duncan may sign up for two more years.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies. He went to high school in Memphis and spent his entire NBA career in Memphis. He’s Memphis.
DeAndre JordanLos Angeles Clippers. I don’t buy whispers about him beefing with Chris Paul and wanting to be a go-to guy offensively.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. He won’t find more money and a bigger role anywhere else.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat. He’s not throwing away all that goodwill, and besides, they’ll find a cushy gig for him when he retires

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs, because it’s the organization that every player should want to join.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, because he’s got a pretty good thing going there.
DeAndre JordanLos Angeles Clippers. See Gasol, Marc. If Jordan goes elsewhere, he’s really going to miss Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. He’s a restricted free agent, and the Warriors will obviously match any offer.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because of loyalty and money, but also because that will be a pretty good team next season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeL.A. Lakers, where he can serve as the bridge star from the end of the Kobe Bryant era to the future for the Lakers.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, where he remains the face and backbone of the grit and grind movement.
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks, where he can find the bigger role and environment he seeks.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors, because you don’t leave a championship situation where you fit perfectly.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because his value is greater (at this stage of his career) than it is anywhere else.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I believe all will be staying put. Aldridge will be passing up too much money to leave Portland, and he possesses a powerful role within the organization that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Gasol is at home in Memphis and is not to be lured by the more glamorous markets. Why would Jordan leave the Clippers? It is a destination franchise in the league’s most compelling market with championship hopes – in addition to the ability to pay him more than anyone else. Green isn’t leaving a championship team that has the right to match any offer. Wade and the Heat need one another and will ultimately come to an agreement, I believe.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs, because he’s a Texas guy and this is his best opportunity at winning.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, because it makes perfect sense for him to stay.
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks, because owner Mark Cuban has swung and missed a lot the last few years, and he’s due for a home run … well, maybe a stand-up double.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors, because he ain’t going anywhere else.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because I think Wade will discover the big money market may be sparse for a 33-year-old with bad knees who can’t shoot threes.

Blogtable: Assessing the 2015 Draft

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEORelive all 30 picks from the first round of the 2015 Draft

> Let’s wrap up the Draft: Which lottery player is in the best position to make an instant impact next season? Which one is in the worst? And give us a later pick (say after No. 20) who you think will impress in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Jahlil Okafor will help Philadelphia immediately, in my view. He’s not coming in for a redshirt year like Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. He has low-post scoring potential straight out of the box and seems to bring maturity that will help him transition to NBA life. I don’t like sticking anyone with “worst,” so I’ll just say I’m leery of Kristaps Porzingis’ “hip stiffness.” If that costs him his summer league training and lingers into the season, we might be looking at an unplanned “redshirt” sort of year. Among later picks, I sense Chicago will give No. 22 Bobby Portis every opportunity to succeed, given rehabbing holdovers in the Bulls’ frontcourt (Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah) and an organizational desire to turn the page on the Tom Thibodeau era. Portis seems quite confident and one of those “sponge” learners.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns is the class of 2015 and fits in perfectly with Andrew Wiggins and shows immediately that the Timberwolves are most definitely on course to eventually be contenders.  Even though Kristaps Porzingas is the right pick in the right place at the right time, New York fans and media will make his life miserable if the 19-year-old doesn’t produce like he’s 29 right away.  Down at the bottom of the draft, Bobby Portis is a skilled big man who’ll make the Bulls stronger up front.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comFirst of all, the draft is never wrapped up. How dare you suggest otherwise. There is no avoiding the truth. Don’t even try. But anyway…. Emmanual Mudiay in Denver and Willie Cauley-Stein in Sacramento are in the best position to make an immediate impact, WCS because he is close to NBA ready after three seasons and Mudiay because he will have that much of an opportunity. He could be the opening-night starter. The Nuggets may give him the ball with instructions to make something happen. The inexperience will be obvious at times, and he is not at the top of any grouping of NBA-ready, but other rookies will dream of the immediate job description. The worst position for an immediate impact? Myles Turner with the Pacers. I think Turner will end up having a nice, long career. He will be good. But he needs time. Much of his situation, though, will depend on what happens with Roy Hibbert and/or David West. That will determine whether Indiana needs bigs to step in or whether Indy will continue to rely on the veterans for another season. Two names for the after-20 crowd: Justin Anderson with the Mavericks and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the Nets.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comNot exactly going out on a limb, but it’s hard to imagine Karl-Anthony Towns not having an impact when he’ll be guaranteed heavy minutes and responsibility in Minnesota from day one. In Utah, where the Jazz are pretty set at power forward with Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles might find it hard to get playing time right away. As for the sleeper, I’m gonna cheat and nominate the 19th pick. Jerian Grant is a straight-up baller and should get ample opportunity with the talent-starved Knicks.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A few guys will have an opportunity to play and put up decent numbers. Jahlil Okafor is one of those guys, but he could make an impact in the standings as well. The Sixers were the worst offensive team in the league by a very wide margin last season, so someone who can put the ball in the basket and draw a double-team will make an impact. Kristaps Porzingis, however, looks like he will need time, which Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have. The timelines of the two most important players on the roster don’t match up, and if the Knicks get a couple of bigs in free agency, Porzingis might not develop very quickly. Justin Anderson is the late first-rounder (21st to Dallas) who could look pretty good this year. He’s a three-year college guy who’s ready to contribute and could have an opportunity if Monta Ellis signs elsewhere.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson have the best opportunities for instant impact because of their skill sets and the need for what they bring to their respective situations. I feel for Kristaps Porzingis … there’s just no way he can escape the pressure of New York. And I like R.J. Hunter as the late pick who will impress in the 2015-16 season. Shooters with ridiculous range always make us take notice. But he’s much more than just a shooter and he’ll be a nice fit for a Celtics team that needs someone to help space the floor.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: D’Angelo Russell is going to be Rookie of the Year: He will fill a huge need for the Lakers, who will be reducing Kobe Bryant’s minutes and weaning him (as best they can) off the ball. Cameron Payne was drafted into a terrific situation with Oklahoma City, but if we’re taking about making an instant impact then we’re probably asking too much. The Thunder are going to be trying to win a championship next season, and rookie backups usually don’t play crucial roles on teams with such high aspirations. R.J. Hunter (No. 28 to Boston) will fill the Celtics’ instant need for shooting and has the maturity to take advantage.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Jahlil Okafor is going to have a huge year. It seems strange for the Sixers to draft a guy who is healthy and can play right away, but here we are, and with Nerlens Noel shoring up the defense, Okafor should be able to do what he does best: get buckets. As for a later pick, I’ll give you two that I really like and was surprised to see fall into the bottom third: Bobby Portis to the Bulls, and R.J.Hunter to the Celtics. Boston needs outside shooting, which Hunter can provide. And Portis can go to NBA big man school with Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Blogtable: Best (and worst) free-agent signing will be …?

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEOWhere will the top restricted free agents land?

> Who will end up being the steal of this free-agent class a year from now? And which free-agent signing will we all look back on next year with a hearty dose of SMH?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Tim Duncan is the steal of every free-agent class in which he enrolls, but if we’re talking long-term, I’m going with Greg Monroe – and some wishful thinking. Monroe gambled on himself and, after five season with the Pistons, he’s due for a good run now. A move to possibly regret: Signing Brook Lopez for too long, at too much money. His injury history makes him a shaky proposition, certainly in terms of durability.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comEven though it will take the max to sign him now, the salary cap will jump through the roof next season and it will look positively brilliant when LaMarcus Aldridge is holding up that Larry O’Brien Trophy in the Spurs’ river parade next June.  On the other hand, Tobias Harris can’t shoot from the perimeter and is more of a ball-stopper on offense than he is on defense. Harris and Reggie Jackson could have the most heads shaking.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comTough to say without knowing the terms of the contracts, because that factors into whether someone is a steal. Same with the SMH category. But don’t overlook the big-money guys as steals. Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan — they have already or will hit the jackpot, but they are also young guys who will continue to improve with deals that will seem decent, not huge, when the cap goes into the stratosphere. They could be steals despite the 2015 feel. And definitely way to early to say which deal will be the most regrettable in a year. We need a few more panic purchases before making a final call.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The steal? That’s easy: LeBron James. The Cavs can’t possibly pay what he’s actually worth. The head-scratcher years from now will be Thad Young. Can’t believe the Nets are going all-in on a guy who last had an impact years ago with Philly (honorable mention to Arron Afflalo).

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIf he’s going to take $6 million or less to help the Spurs add a big free agent, then Tim Duncan will be the steal of free agency. Duncan is still a very good player on both ends of the floor, played 77 games this past season, and sets the tone for the best organization in the league. Even if his game falls off or if he doesn’t play more than half a season, he’s well worth mid-level money. Rajon Rondo seems like the obvious answer for the SMH signing, but it sounds like he’ll get a low-risk contract from whatever team signs him (though the Kings make me less confident in that regard). Giving Brandon Knight $70 million, which the Suns will reportedly do, is a questionable move, especially when you have another starting-caliber point guard on the roster.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The cash will be flying around this summer, so it’ll be hard for anyone to be considered a “steal.” But one of the most underrated players, in my eyes, and a great value pick up this summer is Al-Farouq Aminu going to Portland. He reinvented himself last season in Dallas and opened some eyes around the league. He should be a great fit in Terry Stotts‘ system and the opportunity to step into a major role is there, what with all of the holes to be filled in the starting lineup and rotation. The Suns paying Brandon Knight $70 million is my SMH pick. No team has gone through more point guards in the past three seasons. And settling on this kind of money for a solid player like Knight seems like a bit much, even for the Suns.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Tim Duncan will be the steal. If he comes back for anything less than $10 million, then he’ll have a chance to become one of the great bargains in history – especially if his generosity enables the Spurs to steal LaMarcus Aldridge away from Portland, as many believe will happen. As for SMH: In order to recruit Tobias Harris away from the Magic, which has the right to match, a big effort is going to be needed. But buyer beware – Harris has put up impressive numbers for a losing team. Whether he will provide value to a winning organization is unknown

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Tobias Harris could be a guy who breaks out next season, whether it’s in Orlando or somewhere else. Still just 22 years old and can fill it up from all over the floor. SMH? Honestly, I’m not sure there will be any SMH contracts out of this group, thanks to the coming salary cap explosion. Once the luxury tax number is up near triple-digits next summer, I don’t know if any contract signed this summer will look bad.

 

Report: Heat preparing for Wade to opt out of deal; Deng opting in for ’15-16


VIDEO: Dwyane Wade’s top 10 plays from 2014-15

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Miami Heat won’t give Dwyane Wade up without a fight.

The Heat are prepared to re-recruit the face of the franchise the past decade like the franchise cornerstone they believe him to be, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN.com.

If that means showing up on his doorstep the moment the July 1 free agency free-for-all begins, so be it. First up, though, is tonight’s deadline for Wade to officially declare his intentions to opt-in for the final year of his deal or join this summer’s free agent crop. More from Wallace:

As the clock ticks toward Dwyane Wade’s midnight contractual deadline, the Miami Heat are preparing for the most decorated player in franchise history to enter free agency.

The Heat are still awaiting word from Wade and his representatives as to whether the perennial All-Star and three-time NBA champion will opt in to a final year at $16.1 million. Wade has until 11:59 p.m. Monday to notify the Heat if he will pick up the option for next season.

Should Wade decide to not take any action by midnight, he will automatically become a free agent Wednesday.

Neither Wade, 33, nor agent Henry Thomas immediately responded to a messages seeking comment Monday. A league official told ESPN.com on Monday that nothing has changed regarding Wade’s stance with the Heat, with both sides expecting to discuss parameters of a new contract later this week.

The status of another Heat player possessing a player option, star forward Luol Deng, also hung in the balance Monday afternoon. But per our David Aldridge, Deng is opting in for the 2015-16 season:

The Heat have other business to tend to in free agency, with Goran Dragic topping the list of priorities. But they are clearly prepared to battle any outside advance to keep Wade in the fold.

 

Top 5 Free Agents of 2015 (by position)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This time two days from now, we’ll be in the throes of the wild and wacky Free Agency season that marks every NBA summer. Who will change addresses? Who will stay put? Who knows. What we do know is that these are the players, in one man’s opinion, that are sure to be on the wish lists of teams with salary cap space to spare this offseason.

*** FREE AGENCY COVERAGE JUNE 30 ON NBA TV: The Starters, 6:30 ET | Free Agent Fever, 7 ET & 11:30 ET ***

Point Guards


VIDEO: Goran Dragic puts up a fantastic game against the Suns in Miami

1. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat (Unrestricted Free Agent, Player Option) — The mercurial Dragic is the template for the modern point guard and will be treated as such by suitors this summer.

2. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons (Restricted Free Agent) — Young (25) and just scratching the surface of what he can do running a team as a starter.

3. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns (RFA) — More scorer than facilitator, Knight is an ideal fit alongside Eric Bledsoe in the Suns’ up-tempo attack.

4. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks (UFA) — Will a disastrous finish to his season in Dallas cost the hard-nosed Rondo this summer?

5. Ish Smith, Philadelphia 76ers (UFA) — Quality production in limited opportunities suggest there is much more to Smith’s game than meets the eye.

Shooting Guards


VIDEO: Jimmy Butler was the Kia Most Improved Player of the Year Award winner in 2014-15

1. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (RFA) — The top guard, regardless of position, on the market this summer, Butler gambled on himself and it should pay off handsomely.

2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (UFA, Player Option) — Even at 33 with all of the wear and tear of 12 seasons in the league, Wade remains one of the league’s most versatile and dynamic players.

3. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (UFA) — An ideal fit for the role he played with the Spurs, Green’s skill-set is a fit anywhere in today’s NBA.

4. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks (UFA) — Another casualty of a somewhat lost season in Dallas, Ellis in search of the right fit for a tweener who shot just 28 percent from deep last season.

5. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers (UFA) — An Achilles injury ended his season early, but the rugged and relentless Matthews remains a top priority for the Trail Blazers.

Centers


VIDEO: Marc Gasol has become the focal point of a contending team in Memphis

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (UFA) — The Grizzlies’ famed grit-and-grind approach does not work without their All-NBA center in the middle of the mix.

2. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (UFA) — A defensive force in need of an offensive arsenal to match, Jordan’s not a lock to return to Los Angeles … at least not with the Clippers.

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (UFA) — Still near the top of his and the big man game after 18 outstanding seasons in the league, Duncan has the energy for at least one more title chase.

4. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (UFA) — Monroe is the ideal 5-man for the small-ball era, with his face-up game and ability to bang in the paint.

5. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets (UFA) — An elite scorer, Lopez is still coveted in a game that isn’t as reliant on dominant big men as it once was.

Small Forwards


VIDEO: LeBron James’ best plays from the 2015 playoffs

1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (UFA, Player Option) — The best player on the planet will be paid as such while also leveraging his power to affect change (on the roster and beyond) in Cleveland.

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (RFA) — The future of the program in San Antonio, Leonard is poised to become the leader of the pack in every way imaginable for the Spurs.

3. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks (UFA) — His development as a knock-down (40 percent) shooter from beyond the 3-point line adds to his versatility and value on the open market.

4. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (RFA) — Harris has loads of admirers in front offices around the league, folks who appreciate his production for a young (22) hybrid who has still has a high ceiling.

5. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (RFA) — A knock down shooter from deep (41 percent) and from the line (86 percent), Middleton showed his mettle in the postseason by serving as the Bucks’ catalyst.

Power Forwards


VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge’s highlights from 2014-15

1. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (UFA) — Aldridge is everything a team could want in a modern power forward, complete with range to the 3-point line and the ability to dominate inside as well.

2. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers (UFA, Player Option) — The Cavaliers’ Finals run without him was revealing, but also a reminder of what they were lacking without the ultimate floor-spacer in the lineup.

3. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (UFA) — Few players have raised their stock the past two seasons the way Millsap did by assuming a dominant role for a Hawks team that rolled to the best season in franchise history.

4. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (RFA) — The Warriors’ championship, and Green’s role in helping make it happen, will be factored into the huge raise he is set to cash in on this summer.

5. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers (RFA) — A ringing endorsement from LeBron James always helps, but wasn’t needed for a player who dominated the glass the way Thompson did in the playoffs.

Blogtable: Who’s going No. 1-5?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODraft HQ’s crew holds a mock draft for the first three picks

> Who are you picking 1-5 in tomorrow night’s Draft? And, which player in this year’s Draft will be its Stephen Curry (i.e. the player most consider to be the best in the Draft class) a few years from now and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI get the top five? Wow, talk about a quick rebuilding and a friendly salary-cap hit.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I think Russell emerges as the “Curry” of this draft, by virtue of his skills and the fat opportunity he’ll have to showcase them should he wind up, as many expect, in Philadelphia. Michael Carter-Williams won a Rookie of the Year award that way.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingas (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)

Sometimes you don’t have to look past the obvious. Karl-Anthony Towns has the most varied skills to go with his size and has the most upside in the draft. In a few years we’ll look back at the No. 1 pick in 2015 and say, “Of course.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIf you mean what I think should happen and not what I think will happen …

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Towns has the highest ceiling, the best chance to impact on both sides of the ball. He won’t be the best player in two years, but he will be for the career. I might go Hezonja second, then Russell.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Obviously Mudiay could be in the top 5. My “next Curry” is Cameron Payne, who like Curry is a point guard form a small school who did rather big things. That is, if all the pre-draft raves about Payne are true.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I’m going chalk with both answers (because my knowledge of these guys is limited), believing that Towns will ultimately be the best player from the Draft. He’s 7-feet tall, has the skills to help his team on both ends of the floor in today’s game, and is a good fit in Minnesota next to Andrew Wiggins.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:

1. Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

The Steph Curry of this Draft will be Justise Winslow, the most versatile and NBA ready player available in the entire pool. He’ll get the Steph Curry Award for having the game and impact most similar to what Draymond Green did for Curry and the recently crowned champion Golden State Warriors. Winslow is the best potential two-way player in this Draft (I’m thinking Jimmy Butler), with Arizona’s Stanley Johnson ranking just behind him in my book. That means something in the small-ball, pace-and-space evolution/revolution that’s going on right now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Russell figures to be rookie of the year, but Towns should be the best player based on his potential to lead his NBA team defensively while providing versatile offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)
I’m not sure that there is a player like Curry, in the sense that a player is passed up by a few teams and matures into being the best player in his class. To me, Towns is the clear best player in the Draft, and it seems like he’ll go No. 1. Some of the other guys may be great at one facet or another, but I think Towns has the ability to be the best all-around player.