Sunday, July 12, 2015

The New Formula

With the “specialist” craze taking the Association by storm, could it be okay to miss out on some of 
the game’s biggest names in Free Agency to satisfy the ways of the NBA.

If you’re a fan of the NBA’s Summer League you’ll understand what I’m talking about. In recent years, the Association’s Summer League has grown into a popular spectacle, bringing sold out crowds to watch a handful of guys, many of which may not make a team or will have little to no impact once the regular season arrives. That’s what makes these games so competitive and sloppy-looking at the same time. However, this New World Order in the NBA is what makes these contests so important. Some of these guys may REALLY make an impact.

Last month, we all witnessed the Golden State Warriors wreck the NBA Finals while proving that you can live without dying by the 3-point shot. But the Warriors are much more than a gang of shooters, they carry a myriad of versatility and can beat you with game-changing lineups that even the brightest of coaches fail to find a counteract to.

The Warriors have a roster full of guys outside of Steph Curry that play a different, vital role. You may say, “everyone plays a role on a team!” Well of course. It just so happens that the Warriors role players are the epitome of the trend in the NBA; small ballers, floor stretchers, two-way players and pick-and-roll maestros — offensively and defensively. Between the NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League, teams should aim to mirror the Warriors same championship approach.

With the league in this phase, it makes the NBA Summer League much more important. These young guys are trying their hardest to show their respective teams that their talent is as valuable as anyone else the team could sign instead of them, and rightfully so; it seems like the way to earn a job with a team in a league that seems to be much more particular about the players they bring on. The same holds true for the period of free agency when the pool becomes shallow. Don’t get me wrong, acquiring players because of the style that a team may play with is nothing new, it’s the most logical thing to do. It’s just emphasized a great deal more now.
It also makes the dog days of NBA free agency much more important. Once the superstars are gone, scheme fit guys take center stage.

Miss out on a big name? Employ the “team fit” approach via Summer League and the latter part of free agency to make sure you’re up on the ways of the league; to make sure you’re acquiring the type of players that fit the way of life in the NBA. It seems to be the new wave of teambuilding.

At plenty introductory press conferences one quote holds true for new additions that goes something like: “I’m here to help my team do whatever they need me to do and provide in many ways.” Guys make sure to overemphasize how they envision themselves fitting in or contributing in multiple ways.

Take the New York Knicks for example. The Knicks were awful last season, offensively and especially defensively. The first year of the Triangle Offense was atrocious and the injury bug was prevalent. Enter Robin Lopez, the curly haired, defensive minded center the Knicks have not had in forever. He is no Marc Gasol, but he’s what the Knicks needed. Then came Arron Affalo, a member of the prized two-way player club. Then fell Derrick Williams. The Knicks’ new pick-and-roll experimenter will possibly get to run a few of those sets with rookie guard Jerian Grant, whom at Notre Dame got his share of PnR opportunities. Grant is a strong guard who can dish it as well as score off the dribble. The names aren’t big, but their abilities are big for the direction the Knicks want to go in.

It seems to be no need to be bummed out because you didn’t catch a big fish. Besides, there aren’t enough superstars for every team, and some are teaming up together. Teams are acquiring specialists to attempt to offset star power on another squad. Who knows, that “3 & D” specialist you have kept tabs on during the entire Summer League could be the next star in the NBA.

So continue to enjoy the NBA’s Summer League. Be enamored at how rookie big men like Bobby Portis knockdown consistent threes as well as showcase his skills on the defensive end or how others advertise “point-forward” abilities. Watch how guards and wings try and prove that they can be the next highly compensated two-way players. These guys aren’t just going out to fill the stat sheet, they are out to prove that they are not one-trick ponies; liabilities on one end of the floor.

Also, try not to be upset that your team acquired Roy Hibbert instead of LaMarcus Aldridge; the former is the type of guy the team (the Lakers) needed anyway.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Examining LeBron James' Possible Ulterior Motive

Photo: (Getty Images)

LeBron James is back in Cleveland. You can put your photoshopped pictures of him in your favorite team's jersey in your trash folder. It was pretty much a done deal that he would return to Cleveland even after he opted out.

He signed a two-year deal with a second year player option, giving him a chance to yet again opt out. The deal is a reported to be worth close to $47 million.

From a financial perspective, it would not be wise for LeBron to take a four or five year deal as he would be leaving millions on the table in the future. As the best player in the world, James is afforded the opportunity to sign one or two year deals that give him a chance to maximize the amount of money he can earn. 

Rather than signing a long term four or five year deal, James can become a free agent when the NBA Salary Cap is expected to reach a projected and insane 108 million. 

But, what if the salary cap wasn't expected to rise? Would LeBron's method of short-term deal madness be the same? And while "what ifs" can't give us any concrete answer, let's just examine another possible piece of LeBron's thought process in his two consecutive mini-deals: uncertainty.

James' new deal undoubtably gives him more leverage than any player in the league due to who he is; he's a franchise changer. But I just think LeBron has an insatiable desire to be in control of more than his financial future in the NBA. You can never have enough money, but James definitely isn't hurting for any. He wants his superstar money, of course, but rings are much more important; something he doesn't think he has enough of. After all, he had dreams of winning an insane amount of championships in Miami. 

These deals are geared towards getting him whatever he wants. 

After putting on arguably the greatest Finals performance in NBA history, it still wasn't enough to overcome the Golden State Warriors; James admitted somberly that he needed help -- he gave all he could give. He was without his two All-Star teammates and others could not pick up enough slack.

While the chances of LeBron suiting up for another team seems blasphemous, his short term deals speak of the aforementioned financial potential as well as him being a forward thinking guy; it speaks possible rockiness in the future. A lot can change over the course of a season or even a single playoff series.

Before he inked his new deal, James reportedly said he would not re-up until the Cavs made other moves and took care of in-house issues. 

Rightfully so, the Cavaliers have been here for most of James' team desires. They listened and began to surround him with guys he probably advised they should acquire and retain. As a result, one of James' favorite guys, Tristan Thompson will be paid handsomely and Kevin Love became a new member of the 100 million dollar club. More recently, the Cavs signed his point guard from his previous stint in Cleveland, Mo Williams. Those are the perks of being LeBron James. 

He wants a win-now roster. But, who doesn't?

His desire to be a focal point and seemingly go-to guy when it comes to roster decisions will never disappear, but I personally feel as though the Cavaliers willingness to pay a record number in luxury taxes wouldn't be as strong if he agreed to a long-term, nine-figure deal -- although owner Dan Gilbert could careless about paying them especially if it means it will get him closer to a championship. 

If the Cavaliers fail to provide James with a good enough roster or if injuries became the reason they fail to reach the mountain top for another season, James has granted himself a chance to leave if he so chose to. 

Although that would probably call for another chapter of "The Decision" and more burned number 23 jerseys, LeBron James has proved that he will do whatever he feels is best for his career regardless of public opinion; he'll play where he thinks gives him the best shot to hoist a third Larry O'Brien NBA Finals trophy. This is his career and his only. 

A long-term deal for anyone provides a great deal of uncertainty. 

A short-term deal provides guys like LeBron James, a superstar with the ability to make his respective team feel compelled to continue to help him, help them gives the franchise a level of uncertainty. The Cavaliers would hate to see James leave again, I'm convinced they'll go to the ends of the earth to keep him in Cleveland. The amount of leverage on both ends of the spectrum is ridiculous. 

The Cavaliers will more than likely be willing to possibly make LeBron James the first 200 million dollar guy in the NBA in the summer of 2017. They also have to keep in mind that his championship chances in terms of a win-now acquiring and maintaining a seemingly "win-now" roster on a year-to-year basis is just as important. The only way to do that is to keep Gilbert and co. on their toes.

 James is masterfully doing both thanks to his lucrative, smart and powerful short-term deals.