NBA season is a wrap, but taking a look ahead is never a bad thing. So I’m taking in some of the best questions I got sent in from Twitter in the last few days and answering them here today. I may do this again, especially around Draft time next week, so if you have more you want to discuss here in the CHEAP SEATS, shoot me a Tweet over at @CheapSeatFan and we’ll chop it up here.
Until then, let’s get into it.
WAS THE MAVERICKS RUN A “ONE AND DONE”?
Hard to say, it will be struggle to get back to that level again for a few reasons. Number one is that they are in the West, and coming out of a division where the eight seed could have nearly 50 wins is a beast. Also they have to resign a lot of their key pieces (Chandler, Barea, Butler, Stevenson, Stojakovic), and coming off of a championship run, they’ll be able to command larger salary demands than usual. Plus the core of Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry are all over 30 and this could have been their great motivated push to justify their careers.
However, it’s always easier to say why it can’t be than why it can. While Dirk’s show was often the big attraction, he Mavs playoff run was the finest overall team efforts in NBA history. The Detroit Pistons of the mid-00’s were written off after claiming their title over the highly favored Lakers, yet that jump started a 5 year run of being one of the best overall teams in basketball. These Mavs display all of those same elements right now. The chemistry this team displayed won’t disappear overnight, and Dirk seems to have found a second prime out of nowhere. They already aren’t the favorites in their own division in Vegas for next year already, so one of the great underrated teams ever already has another chip in place to knock off again.
WAS THAT AS GOOD AS THE MIAMI HEAT CAN BE?
Actually from a supporting cast standpoint, this was the worst team they’ll be able to field this year….maybe. Under the current (yet very likely to change) salary cap structure, they’ll have more money under the mid-level exception to add greater talent to their long-term core of LeBron/Wade/Bosh/Haslem/Anthony/Miller.
Everything around just how this team will be able to proceed, however, is up in air, as they have more money committed longer than any other club ($70 million through 2013-14), but they also will be in the position of dropping a lot of dead weight from their roster as well immediately. They may not bring back anybody from the majority of their bench, and if nothing else, they may can adjust and make another run with some more useful pieces acquired with the free money and cap alignment they could have. However, for a team that took a long time to mesh after a complete face lift a year ago, bringing in another vastly different cast could be a major concern once again. The soap opera continues on Days of the Heat…
CAN MIKE BROWN LAUNCH THE LAKERS INTO ANOTHER RUN?
I’ve said it on repeat, but I’ll do it again: there’s no job I would’ve wanted less than this one. The Lakers have a world of expectation that’s in place regardless, but after a season that ended with a sweep to conclude their three consecutive trips to the Finals, the retirement of the greatest coach ever and not to forget the ugly fashion surrounding it all, there’s a lot of clean up that needs to be done here. This all hinges on if Kobe accepts a coach he apparently didn’t favor having guide him, if the team makes the necessary additions to its structure (getting faster and adding some shooters) and if they can synthesize all of this at once. Then yeah, Mike Brown can do it. But best of luck not aging double time in the process my man.
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT CAN RICKY RUBIO MAKE?
Well it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves, so any type of boost offers some sort of hope. As for now, the young Spanish sensation has the brightest spotlight of any new NBA-er shining over him. Rubio has digressed some evidently since being the best non-American performer in the 2008 Olympics, but he also hasn’t played with players the caliber of even what the Wolves offer in the NBA to help him capitalize on greatest gift: making himself better by making others better. His fellow draft mate in 2009, Johnny Flynn hasn’t panned out and been able to lead the Wolves to more than 32 wins over the last 2 years, but they probably have more talent on their roster now than they have since Kevin Garnett was at the driver’s wheel, and adding a legit play creating PG to the mix is needed here.
As with all foreign guys, especially young ones, the potential for being lost in translation is always there. And despite his heavy experience at the pro level already, Rubio is still only 20 years old. However, he brings a level of professional familiarity at that age that many other young PG’s that have been saddled with franchises in bad shape upon their NBA debuts (see Wall, John and Rose, Derrick) did not have yet. Plus, in a rare wild card scenario, he’ll be spending time with the perfect example of what NOT to do every day after coming over from Europe with some amazing expectations: Darko Milicic. So maybe it’s not too late for Darko to give something back to the league…maybe. Praise Joe Dumars.
ARE THERE ANY FREE AGENTS THAT CAN CHANGE A TEAM LIKE LAST YEAR’S GROUP?
None. Not one whatsoever. And with the entire financial picture of the NBA up for redefinition as well, we could be in store for seeing a holding pattern on all major signings, similar to what is happening in the NFL right now. The top unrestricted, completely available guys on the market are Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, JJ Barea, J.R. Smith, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko and the high risk, “are you sure about this?” tandem of Yao Ming and Michael Redd. Other names that could throw their hats in the ring with termination options are Tim Duncan, David West, Nene and Shannon Brown.
With the exception of Duncan (who is going nowhere…we’ve been here before), none of these guys can change the entire direction of team by himself. However, it is a good year for teams that need to pick up that one piece to get over the top. So for the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, Thunder, Heat and Pacers of the world, it’s a great year, but not so much for any club looking to redefine themselves with one player. Whenever it gets to that point, which brings us to…
NBA LOCKOUT: What’s going on with the NBA finances and what’s it all going to lead up to?
The NBA is in a bad place right now financially, competitively and harmonically. There are a lot of things on the table that need some adjustment and all are coming to head at once. Some teams are losing their only attraction and therefore losing money. Other teams are gathering together much of each All-Star team in one place and in a way contracting the competition in the league. Other teams are laughing in the face of the league’s “salary cap” and going around it or flat out paying luxury taxes for going over, simply because they can afford to. Well a change is a-coming to the NBA, and it seems that one half is completely fine with holding off any more tip offs until it is resolved.
One thing is for certain, the NBA will not go to full free market, Major League Baseball “buy what you can afford” method. And although they have what appears to be the most orderly method of managing team assets and spreading the wealth around now, recent trends have shown there is much more to it than meets the eyes. Peep:
Currently the NBA has no hard, absolute salary cap. In 2010-11, the cap was just over $58 million per team. While there is a penalty for going over it, there are plenty of ways to get around it. Mid-level exceptions allow players to be signed at the average NBA salary of all other players without it counting against the cap. Bi-annual exceptions can be spread across two years and used on multiple players. First round rookie signings don’t hit the cap. But it gets even more confusing that this: teams can absorb player salaries they trade for even if it takes them over the cap for a year (which makes the “sign-and-trade” deal so crafty) and a basic minimum salary can be signed if it takes a team over the cap, as long as it is for two years. There’s a lot going on here which makes the idea of a “salary cap” transparent as it gets.
Basically, the way things are right now, it’s not overly difficult to sign a few, high talent guys to massive contracts and then figure out ways to budget the rest of the team around them. Especially if the other players, who just want to be surrounded by those main talents, are willing to be creative with when and how they are compensated.
Many owners want to wipe this away and set a hard cap that has little wiggle room, which will keep players from having as many options on where to go get their money from. Which you can obviously see would be a problem from the player’s perspective. However, it could also be used retroactively to break apart high salary teams to a small number of players so that they could manage to field a full team (pay attention Heat and Laker fans), so it would end the potential of future alliances of superstars AND break apart the ones at work right now. Basically, the times are changing and nothing else will probably go into motion until they decide what time zone they want to work in now. We may need to start praying right now for next October.