Miami Heat face some tough free agency decisions this offseason

The Miami Heat beat all expectations this season, clawing their way in the postseason to the NBA Finals, where they fell in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers. They have some big decisions to make in free agency this summer, in regard not just to their roster for next season, but also with the following offseason in mind. That offseason could feature Giannis Antetokounmpo as a free agent. Here’s the Miami Herald:

The Heat’s current salary-cap breakdown for next season looks like this: Jimmy Butler ($34.4 million), Andre Iguodala ($15 million), Kelly Olynyk ($12.2 million player option), Bam Adebayo ($5.1 million), Tyler Herro ($3.8 million), Duncan Robinson ($1.7 million), Kendrick Nunn ($1.7 million), KZ Okpala ($1.5 million), Chris Silva ($1.5 million), a projected $2.4 million cap hit for the 20th overall pick in the Nov. 18 draft, a $5.2 million waive-and-stretch cap hit for Ryan Anderson that’s still on the books, and a $350,000 waive-and-stretch cap hit for AJ Hammons.

Assuming Olynyk opts in to the final season of his contract and the Heat keeps the player it drafts this year, Miami will have about $85 million committed to 10 players for next season.

That means the Heat can create up to $22 million in cap space, including cap holds, if it renounces the rights to its six impending free agents — Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, Udonis Haslem, Solomon Hill, Derrick Jones Jr. and Meyers Leonard.

A team that just reached the Finals, and does not have an age problem, has every reason in the world to focus primarily on immediate continued success. So, while possibly targeting Giannis, who may or may not be available two offseasons from now, is something to keep in mind, the main Heat goal right now is to do whatever it takes to get themselves back into the Finals in 2021.

Next NBA season start date still might be as early as late December

Reports over the last few months have suggested that the 2020-21 NBA season may start in January or as early as late December, and that’s still the case. Here’s New York Newsday on it:

Less than two weeks after the NBA season finally came to an end, the league could be looking toward a start to next season as soon as Dec. 22.

The Athletic reported that a source inside the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting Friday indicated that a Dec. 22 start with a 72-game schedule is the target. ESPN said that Christmas Day could be the startup date with a schedule of 70 to 72 games.

A league source said that while NBA commissioner Adam Silver has stated that the league would not start before Christmas Day, that day was still on the table and it was discussed with teams at the meeting on Friday.

But the NBA and the team owners are not the only ones who have to agree to this. The NBA players association must OK a plan.

If the season does wind up starting in late December, that means we’ll have a very fast free agency period.

Typically, the top free agents tend to agree to deals very early in free agency, but plenty of other players, including most deep-bench players, soemtimes take weeks or even a month or two to land deals. It sounds like that entire process will be sped up. Which isn’t a problem at all, actually.

Will there be a 2020-21 G League season?

Will there be a 2020-21 G League basketball season? Hopefully. But there are rough waters to navigate, due of course to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s the New York Post reporting:

According to industry sources, there have been discussions of various scenarios for a G-League campaign, including not holding one at all and expanding NBA rosters instead.

One plan could feature having a handful of week-long G-League showcases in a bubble setting to ensure young players stay active. If a more normalized G-League season is attempted, sources said it would have to be with a regionalized schedule to reduce travel.

Because G-League teams have modest budgets, clubs mostly fly commercial, which is risky amid the COVID-19 crisis. Teams occasionally bus to games against nearby clubs…

There are safety concerns stemming from G-League players intermingling with NBA players, whether through emergency signings or the recently established two-way contracts.

All of these concerns are perfectly logical.

One idea I’m proposing right now is, they could have a G League season that doesn’t involve “call-ups.” Where G League players stay in the G League all season. Which would eliminate two-way contracts for a season. Which solves one issue. Leaving many far more complicated issues left to navigate.

Many unknowns regarding key NBA calendar dates leading into next season

The NBA just did an amazing job completing a full postseason at the Disney bubble campus. Now, if next season will return to regular home NBA arenas, and include the usual constant travel around the country, and possibly having fans in attendance, then things get a lot more complicated. There is much to figure out. Here’s the New York Times on it:

Now thorny discussions loom between league officials and the players’ union to address an array of unknowns about next season. What is certain is that the players have been promised eight weeks’ notice before they have to start anew.

[NBA commissioner Adam] Silver has said he doesn’t expect the 2020-21 season to start before January. Michele Roberts, the union’s executive director, has said in multiple recent interviews that the delay may stretch into February. While there is a strong desire on both sides to see teams play in their home markets, preferably with at least a small number of fans admitted to games, it remains unclear how soon it will be safe to do so. Sports that have eschewed a bubble concept, such as the N.F.L., lurch from one coronavirus crisis to the next.

The 2020 N.B.A. draft is set for Nov. 18, and the league’s $180 million bubble allowed it to crown a champion for the 74th consecutive year while also satisfying some agreements with television partners. Yet there is much to resolve.

The league and the union must decide when to start free agency and how long they can hold out for a return to home markets before conceding that short-term regional bubbles may be necessary to play. Perhaps most crucially, they must establish a new salary cap and luxury tax amid the pinch of a $1.5 billion shortfall in projected revenue from 2019-20.

For now, basketball websites will primarily focus on what’s known: the upcoming draft, each team’s free agent situation, coaching jobs, possible trades, and other fun stuff.

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank wins 2019-20 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year award

The NBA announced that LA Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank has been named the 2019-20 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year.

“L is a passionate, dedicated, and selfless leader. I am proud of the work he and his group are doing, and thrilled his peers feel the same way,” said Steve Ballmer, Clippers Chairman. “This award is a great tribute to the hard work done by the entire front office, including our General Manager Michael Winger, Assistant GMs Mark Hughes and Trent Redden, and consultant Jerry West. Together, they have worked to develop every facet of our basketball operations department.”

Frank received 10 of 29 first-place votes and earned 61 total points from a panel of team basketball executives throughout the NBA. Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti finished in second place with 41 points (four first-place votes), followed by Miami Heat President Pat Riley in third place with 39 points (four first-place votes).

Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played through March 11. The seeding games, which were played July 30 – Aug. 14 as part of the season restart, did not count toward voting for the NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award or the league’s other traditional end-of-season awards.

Frank assembled a roster that posted a 44-20 record in games played through March 11, the second-best mark in the Western Conference. Using 29 different starting lineups in 64 games during that period, the Clippers relied on their depth to earn a playoff berth for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.

With Frank leading the Basketball Operations department, LA’s roster for the 2019-20 season took shape in July 2019 with the signing of two-time Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard as a free agent and the acquisition of six-time NBA All-Star Paul George in a trade with the Thunder.

In games played through March 11, Leonard averaged 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists and George averaged 21.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Leonard, a two-time Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and George, a four-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection, helped the Clippers rank fifth in the NBA in defensive rating in games played through March 11 – up from a season-ending ranking of 19th last season.

Other moves last offseason included re-signing starting guard Patrick Beverley, starting center Ivica Zubac and forward JaMychal Green. Frank and the Clippers also moved to bolster the roster during the 2019-20 season, acquiring starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. from the New York Knicks as part of a three-team trade on Feb. 6 and signing guard Reggie Jackson on Feb. 20 after he was waived by the Detroit Pistons.

Frank joined the Clippers as an assistant coach in 2014. He stayed in that role for two seasons before moving into the front office as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2016. Frank was promoted to President of Basketball Operations in August 2017. His NBA tenure includes head coaching stints with the Pistons and New Jersey Nets and assistant coaching roles with the Nets, Vancouver Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.

Steve Kerr has funny reaction to idea of Warriors playing like Rockets

Before you read this, be clear that this appears to be a light-hearted, not-that-serious conversation.

With that disclaimer in place, enjoy this from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr respects what Houston Rockets guard James Harden does on the court, but has no interest in modeling his team’s offense after the former MVP’s style of play.

While appearing on The TK Show podcast with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, Kerr spoke about not “reinventing the wheel” with a fully healthy Dubs roster next season.

“We’re still going to be the Warriors,” he said. “We’re not going to all of a sudden turn into the Rockets and change our offense and have one guy go high pick-and-roll 70 times a game.”

When Kawakami responded with a joke that Kerr should upend his offensive philosophy and embrace isolation basketball, Kerr responded, “I think I would resign first.”

Of course, the Rockets play like they do in part because they have no forwards or centers that actually create their own offense. So for them, it makes sense to have James Harden, with help from Russell Westbrook, create practically everything. The Warriors are certainly guard-heavy in the talent and scoring department, but Draymond Green’s passing ability is a weapon, and although his scoring ability is limited, he’s still useful and versatile on the offensive side of the floor. He’s also not as good a three-point shooter as someone like Rockets forward PJ Tucker, so stashing Green in the corner for him to only shoot threes would be a waste of Green’s talents.

On what a Chris Paul trade to the Knicks might look like

Should the Knicks be interested in a legendary point guard who is past his prime and at the tail end of his NBA career? Probably not. But if the team does pursue this deal, here’s what it may look like, per the New York Post:

If Knicks president Leon Rose takes the leap for 35-year-old Chris Paul, he may have to give up on Kevin Knox, according to an NBA source.

The Thunder are motivated to deal Paul and his massive contract after deciding upon a rebuilding campaign following Billy Donovan’s firing. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti likely will want a first-round pick and a young prospect still on his rookie contract, multiple league officials believe.

According to the source, that young player preferably would be Knox, the ninth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, who is coming off a disappointing sophomore campaign.

The Knicks have a trove of first-round picks to deal (seven first-round picks in the next four drafts). The belief, however, is that they would prefer to keep the 20-year-old Knox in any Paul scenario and offer up either of their 2017 lottery-pick point guards, Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr., both of whom will be restricted free agents in 2021.

We don’t see how it makes any sense for the Knicks to pursue CP3 at this time in their rebuild, especially if it means giving up any first round draft picks.

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday wins 2019-20 Teammate of the Year Award

NBA players have selected New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday as the recipient of the 2019-20 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, the NBA announced today.

The award, presented annually since the 2012-13 season, recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.

More than 250 NBA players submitted their votes for the 2019-20 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award through confidential balloting conducted by the league office. NBA players determined the winner from among the 12 nominees who were selected by a panel of league executives.

Holiday received 53 of 267 first-place votes and finished with 1,041 total points. Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (806 points; 48 first-place votes) and Milwaukee Bucks forward Kyle Korver (796 points; 26 first-place votes) finished in second and third place, respectively. Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five points for each third-place vote, three points for each fourth-place vote and one point for each fifth-place vote.

In addition to Holiday, Harris and Korver, the other finalists were Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig, Los Angeles Lakers forward Jared Dudley, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, Toronto Raptors forward-center Serge Ibaka, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills and Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner.

Holiday, 30, has spent the last seven seasons with New Orleans after playing his first four seasons with Philadelphia. The 6-3 guard was selected as an NBA All-Star in the 2012-13 season and named to the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2017-18 and 2018-19. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.62 steals in 61 games across regular-season games and seeding games.

In July, Holiday announced that he would use the remainder of his 2019-20 season salary to start a social justice fund with his wife, Lauren, a former player for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. The Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Impact Fund is designed to address socioeconomic inequalities across communities in New Orleans, the Los Angeles area and Indianapolis. Jrue and Lauren are Los Angeles and Indianapolis natives, respectively, and Jrue’s two brothers, Aaron and Justin, both play for the Pacers.

Examining how Lakers defense may change in NBA Finals should Heat get Bam Adebayo back

If the Heat get Bam Adebayo back, they should play better against the Lakers in NBA Finals Game 4 and beyond, right? That’s a perfectly logical assumption. And it’s probably true. But to look at things from a different angle, here’s the LA Times:

From the Lakers’ perspective, they have a more effective and traditional defensive unit when Miami Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo plays in the NBA Finals.

Adebayo hasn’t played in the last two games and called himself “day to day” because of a neck injury, leaving him uncertain for Game 4 on Tuesday night against the Lakers at AdventHealth Arena. His teammate, guard Goran Dragic, said Monday he was unsure when he would be able to play again after missing Games 2 and 3 with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

At 6 feet 9, Adebayo plays closer to the basket than his backups, and that allows the Lakers to play to their defensive strengths with the physical 6-10 Dwight Howard and the long-armed 6-10 Anthony Davis at center.

Adebayo has the ability to initiate Miami’s offense, but he doesn’t venture outside very much to score, which allows the Lakers to protect the basket better.

Finals Game 4 is Tuesday night.

Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Harrison Barnes, George Hill and Dwight Powell receive NBA Cares honor

Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul and Dallas Mavericks forward-center Dwight Powell have received the 2019-20 End-of-Season NBA Cares Community Assist Award. This in recognition of their continued commitment to positively impacting their communities through sustained efforts over the course of the season, the NBA announced today.

This year’s end-of-season award recognizes five players whose exemplary work advanced social justice and provided COVID-19 relief and support, reflecting the longstanding passion of NBA players to give back to their communities and stand up for the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The five recipients made concerted efforts throughout the 2019-20 season – which extended nearly a full calendar year including the league’s hiatus and restart – to leverage their platforms and voices to engage, empower and support different communities amidst the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and social justice movement following continued incidents of racialized violence against Black men and women. Each winning player will receive $10,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.