The Brickhouse Roundtable: NBA Off-Season Edition
We asked our panel of experts for their takes after a busy few days of NBA free agency. The new salary cap has turned what is normally a whirlwind time for franchises into a class-five, end-of-days hurricane. The Kyrie Irving boat party is only the beginning of the Gatsby-level Snapchat videos that are sure to come from players cashing in this summer. John Wall wants to hire his old agent just so he can fire him again. Since these contract figures have been coming out, Oscar Robertson has been put on 24-hour suicide watch. Let’s take a look at the other highs and lows of free agency so far.
- What free agent signing was the best?
Jules Ouanès: Besides KD? Coming off a stint as the 76ers starting point guard, Ish Smith wasn’t the sexiest name out there. But he’s a great value – three years/$18 million for a rock-solid backup PG who is also on the short list for fastest guy in the league? This would be a fair contract under the old cap – a steal for Detroit.
Matt Baker: Al Jefferson to the Pacers. Somehow Jefferson only got three years/$30 million. With all the money Mozgov and Biymbo got you would think that Jefferson could get that amount at least. The Pacers were really trying to remake their team and this signing is huge. Also, the Rondo two years/$28 million deal is not bad. It’s really short and the second year is not fully guaranteed. Seems like a good risk for a team losing more than they are gaining.
Kevin Hershner: 2014 Bundisliga Regular Season and Finals MVP Malcolm Delaney. Just named First Team All-Euroleague in 2016. Once upon a time, in the ACC, he averaged 20 points per game. As a 27 year old rookie, he gives Atlanta much-needed depth following the departure of Jeff Teague, as he can play point or shooting guard. His two year guaranteed contract will likely only amount to about one million per year.
Bob Johnson: Jeremy Lin, three years/$36 million to the Nets. This was the biggest contract given to a free agent in Nets history (until one day later when they signed Tyler Johnson to four years/$50 million.) I like this signing for a few reasons (1) “Lin to the Nets” stops “Lin to the Rockets” from happening. (2) Linsanity 2.0: Duh. Jeremy Lin back in the Big Apple where his star was born. (3) Lin sells tickets for half the price of Carmelo Anthony and without any of the expectations. He’s the perfect sideshow while Sean Marks spends the next 3 seasons punching walls and cursing former GM Billy King’s name.
Adam Baker: A tie between the two Als. Jefferson to the Pacers is great value and makes the Pacers a contender in the East. Boston had to do something big after most people felt they whiffed on the draft. They did that and some by signing Horford.
Nick Dieringer: Ok ok, not choosing KD. I’ll try to choose someone not mentioned yet and go with the Conley/Parsons combo which came one right after the other. I thought for sure that the Grizzlies would try to hit the reset button after years of early playoff exits. I’m not a huge fan of Parsons’ potential knee issues, but with these two signed and some good health luck, this team will make a deep playoff push next year…assuming they avoid the new Monstars until the conference finals.
2.What team improved the most this off-season?
A. Baker: The Pacers. The additions of Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young (plus another year of development for Myles Turner and the continued health of Paul George) make Indiana a top three team in the East. I don’t think I would have fired Frank Vogel, but Nate McMillan is a solid replacement.
Hershner: Boston may be the second best team in the East with the addition of Al Horford.
Johnson: It’s hard for anyone to beat the 76ers in this category. Hinkie was the mother bird keeping her eggs warm and safe from predators for three years. The Colangelos showed up, killed the mother bird as the eggs were hatching, and are now accepting tips and compliments for their baby-bird petting zoo. Now we all get to see what it looks like when Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons spread their wings.
Ouanès: The Wolves. For years Minnesota squandered away talent and assets because Glen Taylor would only hire his friends. The Thibs signing not only pairs the best young core in the league with the perfect coach to realize their talent – it represents a culture change. The Country Club is now a Boot Camp.
Dieringer: So many to choose from, and we aren’t done yet (with free agents still available)! I am tempted to say the Warriors, but how much better can they actually be from last year, not including the finals melt down. I’m going to side with Bob and say the Sixers. And hot take: it’s all thanks to Hinkie. Like Daenerys emerging from the flames more powerful than ever at the end of the first season, the Sixers will launch out of the dumpster fire that was the last three seasons.
M. Baker: Define improve. Brooklyn is improving in terms of number of players on their roster. Atlanta is improving in terms of money committed and headaches. Houston is improving in terms of too many shooters not enough balls. I think Memphis is getting better, but is Parsons at 90mil really any better than Courtney Lee at 50? The winner at this moment is Boston. Ainge wanted Horford all season and got him.
3. Who will win Rookie of the Year?
Hershner: Don’t get cute with this. It’s going to be Ben Simmons. Over the last eight years, the number one overall pick has won this award all but three times. And one of those times was John Wall’s rookie year, when he lost to Blake Griffin, the previous year’s number one pick, who was technically a rookie after missing his entire actual rookie year with injury. So if you think Blake Griffin would have beaten Tyreke Evans in 2010, that makes six of the last eight. The two exceptions are legitimate superstar Damian Lillard, who played at a tiny school, and Michael Carter-Williams who rode the Luke Kuechly effect in Philadelphia all the way to ROY. (Not to mention that year’s number one pick might have been the worst number one pick of all time.) Somebody had to get those numbers for the 76ers, and three years later things have not changed much in the City of Brotherly Love. I would take Simmons against the field. Also, Simmons might be the future of basketball.
M. Baker: Buddy Hield. He is going to be part of a great inside outside game with Anthony Davis. He will have a lot of freedom in the Gentry offense.
Ouanès: If the Sixers really trot out Ben Simmons as a PG, he’ll put up the numbers to win.
A. Baker: Brandon Ingram. Luke Walton is going to turn him into Draymond Lean. Ingram will average 18-7-5.
Dieringer: I think a lot of people projected the Pelicans to take a big leap last year, and Hield is the guy who can help them do just that a year later. They have a steep hill to climb to meet last years expectations, but any improvement coupled with a large scoring opportunity will give Hield pole position.
Johnson: This year the “evolution of NBA players” will center around three guys. We spent all of last season talking about how the Warriors and Stephen Curry were, for better or worse, changing the game. This year we’ll all be talking about how Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns and ROY Ben Simmons are “revolutionizing” the game for big men.
4. What contract shocked you the most?
Dieringer: I did not think Durant would choose the Warriors. Man, going to the team that you were so close to beating. These guys are supposed to be some of the most competitive people in the world, and they out here just switching sides. In hindsight, OKC’s move right before free agency mimicked closely what Portland did before they lost Aldridge (contributor on last year of deal for younger prospect i.e., Batum for Vonleh/Henderson and Ibaka for Oladipo/Ilyasova/Sabonis). After I wrote that I realized the Thunder got a much better return.
Johnson: Four years/$50 million for Tyler Johnson. Unless Steph Curry’s next contract is for $500 million, the NBA Players Association needs to revisit this contract during the next CBA negotiation. Or maybe there’s another story no one’s talking about? Like maybe Tyler Johnson’s uncle has access to the U.S. nuclear codes, so Prokhorov and The Russians made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. That makes more sense than Sean Marks, a former San Antonio Spur and R.C. Buford protégé, giving $50 million dollars to fucking Tyler Johnson.
A. Baker: Timofey Mozgov. Sure the money was crazy, but the fact that it happened so quickly was what really shocked me. If you would have told me the Lakers gave Mozgov four years/$64 million, I would have guessed they would have been turned down by Whiteside, Horford and any other center, first.
M. Baker: Jefferson to the Pacers shocked me because it was signed so quick and signed so cheap. But Garrett Temple to the Kings for three years/$24 million. It should not shock me because it is the Kings, but the signing got a “who?” from one of us when it was shared.
Ouanès: We now live in a world where Evan Fournier is worth $85 million. Have you seen his hair? What the hell is going on?
Hershner: Timofey Mozgov, by a mile. You’re telling me that the guy who was benched in the Finals for Richard Jefferson in the year 2016 is worth $64 million? Not even Bill Walton would have felt comfortable with Richard Jefferson playing that many minutes in the Finals. The Lakers’ roster makes zero sense. All they did was surround D’Angelo “How Does It Feel” Russell with trees. The shadow of Kobe’s last few years will loom over over the Lakers for a while.
5. Who will be the next NBA player dismissed for drug use (after OJ Mayo)
Ouanès: Sipping lean, a codeine & promethazine cocktail, is lowkey a growing thing in the NBA. I think they made an example outta OJ to send a message to the rest of the league. As for the next guy? Terrence Jones lives in Houston and fell off a cliff last season…
Hershner: Hopefully they start actually testing for weed, so I get the opportunity to lace up my sneaks.
Dieringer: One of the Barnes’… (1) Harrison after accepting a max offer to be a teams #1 option shoots under 30% and turns to steroids in a attempt to replicate the strong play of his x-teammate Draymond Green, as well as shrink the targets Green could aim for.(2) Sacramento crime has grown 10% over the last year, and my guess it is in no small part to the performance of their professional basketball team. Matt Barnes gets in on the action when he realizes there is no point in trying to win on the court.
M. Baker: DeMarcus Cousins is gonna need something to dull the pain. Something very, very, very strong. In fact, he might prefer being dismissed from the NBA over playing for Sacramento much longer.
A. Baker: I looked at the list of all the players who have been dismissed for drug use and it only happens about once every 7-10 years. I don’t think it will happen again until 2025. I will venture to guess it will be one of Shaq’s kids.
Johnson: If weed were a dismissible offense then Joakim Noah reuniting with his dealers in Hell’s Kitchen would be the obvious choice. But the hard stuff? I’m going to say that will be Mitch McGary caught with either meth or PCP. Have you seen the guy’s sideline celebrations?
6. How many games do the 76ers win in 2016-2017?
Johnson: Last year they were 10-72. Trying to win should add 5-6 wins alone. Adding veterans (Bayless) and three lottery picks (Saric, Embiid, Simmons) could push them all the way to 23 wins (almost half of their total wins in the past three years!). The real question is when the 76ers win a title in the next seven years do they erect a statue of Sam Hinkie in marble or bronze?
M. Baker: Twelve. I think I predicted 15 last year. There’s no way they lose as much as they did last year, right? I just don’t know anymore.
Ouanès: More than the Nets.
Dieringer: Sixers emerge from the fire as the phoenix from the ashes and double up their wins from last year…so 20? Very achievable, especially with a GM who isn’t actively trading away your only serviceable players.
Hershner: Less than Allen Iverson’s career points per game (26.7) but more than Doug Collins’ (17.9).
Baker: Thirteen. One for every page of Sam Hinkie’s resignation letter.
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