Just 1 NBA team may be willing to help the Lakers this season and themselves… the Sacramento Kings


So my good friend Bahador and I spent an HOUR on the phone, talking about all the teams in the NBA, and the maybe super slight chance that ANYONE would want to take Pau Gasol, given our ‘it’s doubtful we fire Mike D’Antoni’ situation.

As we went through all 32 teams, it became more and more apparent how fewer and fewer teams would ever dare to help the Lakers after the Dwightmare. Even most of the teams with WORSE records than the Lakers would say ‘go to hell’, or they just can’t make the money figures work. And remember, the Lakers have basically NO future draft picks to offset a lack of financial compatibility (we gave up most to get Ramon Sessions, then even more to get Steve Nash).

However… ONE team seemed to pop out at us as a POSSIBILITY, because even they are in trouble and might be able to use Pau Gasol.

The Sacramento Kings

Have you recovered from your stunned silence and/or rolling over in laughter? Good. Hear me and Bahador out.

The Kings are a team that, like the Lakers, are very much in disarray. They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, they’re young, immature, undisciplined, and head coach Keith Smart is CONSTANTLY fighting with one of their stars, the insane but talented DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins (yes Noz, his nickname really is BOOGIE). The Kings have indicated that Cousins, for better or worse, is their future and Coach Smart may get ditched in order to find someone that can harness DeMarcus’ skills (and overcome his behavior) to make him a true all-star.

Tyreke Evans was their other big up and coming star just a few years back, but quickly the Kings started to lose faith in him as proven by their signing of 3 MORE PGs, all whom are doing quite well: Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette, and Isaiah Thomas. Evans is still young and talented, but looking more and more like the odd man out. As a combo guard (I likened him to a young Gilbert Arenas, Baha further clarified by saying he penetrates the middle more while Arenas had a better jumper) he’s a great player, but just isn’t getting the time he needs to blossom with 3 other guys rotating in his spot (4 if you count pure SG Marcus Thornton for the 2 spot Evans can play well).

With C/PF Cousins seen as the team’s future, he needs some serious MENTORING to get him to mature faster (like how Steve Nash has helped Darius Morris mature a bit)… this is where Gasol comes in. Pau is still extremely skilled, but he’s getting up there in age and his contract is pretty large. The Lakers, especially if they can use a young and skilled perimeter player can use Evans at the 1 and 2, backing up (and eventually succeeding) Nash and Kobe… Oh and he just turned 23 in September, so if Mike D’Antoni can make this work right he’d have Evans and Howard as a young, running, scoring, and defending duo for at least 5-7 years.

But there’s even more that needs to be looked at financially for both teams. The Lakers want to be pretty open come the summer of 2014 for whatever star sweepstakes are going on then (AND to alleviate the luxury tax headaches of next season). The Kings just want to get some of their young players to grow the hell up, and play as a TEAM instead of scrambling around all the time. Since the Lakers don’t have draft picks to really give up, they can just give Pau, as long as the Kings can give us other players with Tyreke Evans, others who’s contracts have expiring options:

Inline image 1

Inline image 2

Tyreke Evans would get a chance to play with Steve Nash, get some mentoring from him and Kobe, and even get some starts in front of the humble Nash as he (hopefully) quickly picks up the free flow style D’Antoni is trying to force the players to play (and failing MISERABLY with in terms of Pau, at the moment). Role-wise he and Dwight Howard would be a strong, young, and fast defensive duo, and it would help with the post-Kobe transition considerably. Salary-wise he’s quite manageable for now, with a qualifying offer of $6.9 million next season. I looked up in the CBA and basically that means Evans is a restricted free agent prior to the 2013-14 season, and if the Lakers want to pay him just $6.9 million (still part of his rookie contract) they CAN. They can also say forget it if they don’t like what he’s done, or more likely give him a bigger contract for the 2014-15 season. The smart move would be to give him the QO, then come 2014-15 see if there’s a chance to get another star, OR just stick with Tyreke if other available stars sign elsewhere (LeBron, Carmelo) and/or Tyreke and Dwight really do well together.

In terms of the other pieces needed to make this work, Francisco Garcia (SF, 32 years old, $6.1 million this season) and John Salmons (SF, 33 years old, $8.1 million this season) may add to our glut of small forward currently full of Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark (out indefinitely), and Antawn Jamison (sort of)… but they might even be an improvement over anyone not named MWP. On one hand one of them becomes a backup to Metta when Jamison doesn’t crack the rotation, but on the other there are financial benefits that are even MORE tempting. Garcia’s contract has a team option for next season, so you can basically expect the Lakers to cut him no problem. Salmons is still on the books next year, but at a lower rate of just $7.6 million. He has a team option for $7.0 million prior to the 2014-15 season the Lakers would be sure to NOT exercise, whether they can net another star or not, giving them even MORE flexibility going forward.

1 young star that needs PG/SG guidance and a chance to shine and 2 aging forwards with team options in each of their last years, talk about a great deal for the Lakers! So what do the Kings get out of this? They clear up the forwards logjam these old guys are causing with Travis Outlaw, Tyler Honeycutt, James Johnson, Jason Johnson, and Thomas Robinson are already fighting for… they get out of the PG infighting they have with Evans competing with other young’uns mentioned above, and most importantly they get a skilled big man for the post they so desperately NEED to mentor and teach DeMarcus Cousins how to get to the next level. Pau and DeMarcus together might sound like an odd pair, but I’m sure whether they play together (like Pau and Bynum did) or they alternate a bit more (like Pau and Dwight are doing this year) Pau’s focus and maturity will most likely rub off on Cousins a good deal and help them form success for the team.

This is really a rare win-win for two teams in desperate need of change. I’m a big supporter of the Lakers getting rid of Mike D’Antoni in order to bring back Phil Jackson or signing Jerry Sloan up for the gig… but with so much money still being paid to the now ‘retired’ Mike Brown, and the Lakers giving Mike D’Antoni a 4 YEAR CONTRACT the Lake Show may need to get him the pieces he needs rather than continue to force some of the players to be what they’re not (in Pau’s case, an outside 3 point shooting big).


If the Lakers keep Mike D’Antoni they must trade Pau Gasol to succeed, but they may not be able to

Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks

I think the thing with the Lakers is that they’re having a MAJOR identity crisis and this is ALL Jim Buss’ fault. Mike Brown may have had no idea what he’s doing, and Dwight was still finding his legs, but at least he wasn’t trying to pretend this is a ‘Showtime’ team. Jim Buss just doesn’t GET basketball like his Dad does. It’s pretty simple; you put together a team of players with certain skills and have a coach that can best utilize those skills in a complementary system.

Jim Buss wants ‘run n gun fun’ so he got us Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni… problem is we have mostly OLDER and SLOWER players that need a SYSTEM to operate, not a ‘screw the defense and just run and score’ play style that D’Antoni is known for (saw how he failed with SYSTEM-BASED Carmelo until Mike Woodson got it?). Oh and there’s that whole thing about Nash being 38 YEARS OLD. He’s still great, but he is a free and loose player, not a system player.

This is why Phil Jackson was the BEST choice for Lakers coach. He knows the players we have, and can operate successfully with a half-court offense to mask the slowing down of older players (Pau, Jamison, Dwight until he’s 100%, even Kobe and Nash to some extent). But Jim Buss’ fucking ego got in the way and he picked the wrong coach…. AGAIN…. Y’know who would have been PERFECT if not Phil? JERRY FUCKING SLOAN. I mean, the guy led Utah successfully for almost 2 decades, and took old and older Karl Malone and John Stockton into the FINALS TWICE. He knows how to utilize a half court offense when he’s got older players to maximize success… just like Phil Jackson… just like Gregg Popovich. Phil may have won the first 3 titles while Jordan was what LeBron is today, but when Jordan was slowing down after his comeback Phil drove him to work on a jumper and long-range shot (like Kobe has) so a more systematic approach would help MJ & Phil win 3 more.

For D’Antoni to succeed we NEED young, energetic, and drive to the basket players like LeBron, Durant (when he drives), Kenneth Faried, Russell Westbrook, etc…. not slower post players like Pau, Dwight at 60-75%, Jordan Hill, Antawn Jamison, etc…. Either Mike D has to go, or we need to make some changes. I LOVE Pau Gasol, but if D’Antoni can’t turn him into 2005 Shawn Marion (not happening) then we need to get an undersized, drive to the basket PF/SF like Metta World Peace is trying to be (when he’s not making 3s or dribbling like a retard). Josh Smith and a young, high energy, perimeter shooter is what Mike D’Antoni NEEDS to get us deep into the playoffs. Kobe will be Kobe, but he can’t be our only consistent perimeter shooter. Jodie Meeks has on games, and off games… we need someone ON like 85% of the time… once again IF WE STICK WITH MIKE D’ANTONI.

I believe it’s MUCH easier to fire a coach and hire a new one (damn the ‘the players have to learn something new’ logic), and if not Phil Jackson then for the love of FUCK just go hire Jerry Sloan… HE’S WAITING FOR A CALL FROM YOU, JIM BUSS, FUCKDAMMIT!!! If you refuse to do that then you gotta try to see who you can get for Pau. Again, I LOVE PAU and want to see him stay a Laker for life, but if you’re not getting rid of D’Antoni then Pau (and maybe another piece) have to go. Josh Smith and a 3 point threat should be target no. 1. Chris Paul would have been perfect for a Mike D style, but he’s not coming anytime soon.

How to convince the Hawks is another issue. As the season goes on it’s MUCH harder to push a 3 or 4 team trade, so 1 on 1 may be it. Though they know Josh Smith is leaving in the summer (he hates it there, even if they’d pay more) Atlanta is currently 3rd in the East with a 20-10 record (6-4 in the last 10 games), just behind Miami and New York. They would NOT make a trade unless they start tumbling a few spots, and/or they felt by getting Pau they would somehow shore up their size issue against East teams like the Heat, Knicks, and Indiana (taking Pau’s length and skills at the expense of Smith’s speed and power).

Oh, and they’d have to toss in another player (the shooter we want) to make the trade work– with the Hawks at 3rd in the East and the Lakers behind the Blazers, T’Wolves, and Jazz for the 8th seed in the West all the leverage might be in the Hawks’ hands. In terms of the secondary player the Lakers would want/need (IF the Hawks said ok for Josh Smith for Pau Gasol) there are several options, none of which Atlanta would really want to help L.A. with:

  • Lou Williams – SG – 26 yrs old – $5.0 mil w/3 yrs left – They just got him this season for a steal, NOT trading him
  • Anthony Morrow – SG – 27 yrs old – $4.0 mil w/1 yr left – New addition this season though his 3 pt shooting is at 37.8%, under his 42.5% career average (nearer to 50% in his first 2 seasons with the Warriors), DOUBTFUL they trade him
  • DeShawn Stevenson – SG – 31 yrs old – $2.2 mil w/3 yrs left – Also new, and getting older, but has a cheap but lengthy contract, shooting over 40% from 3 this year but is wildly inconsistent (shot just 28% from 3 last year). Might be a POSSIBILITY but he’ll be 34/35 when his contract ends. Ugh.
  • Kyle Korver – SG – 31 yrs old – $5.0 mil w/1 yr left – Getting older but a short contract, over 40% 3 pt shooting and having a good year, our BEST BET here

There’s also rookie John Jenkins, a 21 yr old rookie SG shooting 47.6% from the 3 point line, but his $1.2 mil contract is too low to make the numbers work, and Atlanta will probably want to see how he does this and next season, at least. So IF Atlanta starts falling apart this month and IF they’re willing to shake things up and IF they think Pau Gasol and Al Horford would form a great front line worth a combined $31.0 MILLION for just this season (that’s a lot of ‘ifs’)…. then Pau Gasol for Josh Smith & Kyle Korver MIGHT happen. However, according to the ESPN Trade Machine, this is the projected win/loss difference for both teams:

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 12.37.20 PM

So after all those words, unless Atlanta goes into the toilet don’t expect this trade to happen for the Lakers anytime soon.

Despite the Lakers’ recent struggles Dwight Howard isn’t leaving this Summer


Dwight isn’t going anywhere for two simple reasons: money and power. Based on the terms of the new CBA a player’s most recent team (for Dwight, the Lakers) has the upper hand in almost all scenarios… Which gives players no incentive to openly decide to extend their contract (except in rare cases). This was done to de-incentivize ‘player movement’ and therefore keep franchise players where they are lest they lose money. For example:

Max # of new contract years:
Current team: 5
Another team: 4

Max % jump in new contract:
Current team: 20%
Another team: 15%

Max annual % jumps in new contract:
Current team: 7.5%
Another team: 5.0%

Oh and there’s the whole issue of extensions. Y’see… They’re a funny thing. Getting an extension means you’re locked in with job security, helpful for players who have peaked and starting to drop off (Gasol?) or those who have shaky injury histories (BYNUM BYNUM BYNUM!!!). But they pretty much adhere to the shorter/lesser contract terms otherwise.

So it’s a bit of a gamble for a player to take them. If you’re healthy and still on the rise, it’s not wise. If you’re old and shakey, you better takey! Bynum was arrogant and stupid enough to turn down an extension, and with his new knee problems (again) he now may never get another decent contract offer. Dwight’s coming off back surgery, but even at 80-85% he’s kicking ass and still on the rise– so the whole league will want him but the Lakers will be able to offer him the most incentives AND the keys to the most winning NBA franchise in history… Tell me, which would you choose?


Dwight’s current final year contract:

  • 2012-13 – 27 yrs old – $19,536,360

Max possible from Lakers:
5 yrs, 20% jump, 7.5% annual raises

  • 2013-14 – 28 yrs old – $23,443,632
  • 2014-15 – 29 yrs old – $25,201,904
  • 2015-16 – 30 yrs old – $27,092,047
  • 2016-17 – 31 yrs old – $29,123,951
  • 2017-18 – 32 yrs old – $31,308,247

TOTAL – $136,169,781

Max possible from another team:
4 yrs, 15% jump, 5.0% annual raises

  • 2013-14 – 28 yrs old – $22,466,814
  • 2014-15 – 29 yrs old – $23,590,154
  • 2015-16 – 30 yrs old – $24,769,662
  • 2016-17 – 31 yrs old – $26,008,145

TOTAL – $96,834,775

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Press Conference

So just to recap, if Dwight Howard wants to give up on $39.3 million before he’s 32 years old he’s absolutely more than welcome to say bye-bye to Los Angeles. We get massive cap room and he won’t get paid more than Kobe Bryant. And in response to those who think Dwight will save elsewhere taxwise (cough cough, Dallas, cough) What he’ll save in taxes is negligible compared to what he’ll make additionally in current team increases AND endorsement opportunities in the Greater Los Angeles (LAKERS) market vs. the SHITASTIC Dallas who-gives-fuck area.

Your move, Dwight 🙂

Feeling the HEAT: Keeping Miami’s ‘Big 3’ Together Won’t Be Possible With The New CBA

Let’s just get it out there before it’s too obvious later on: I hate LeBron James. All my friends know it, and most of the time that colors me an uber-Laker fan that would pick Kobe as the better player even when the Black Mamba is long retired, confined to a wheelchair, and barely able to move around anymore. I don’t like LeBron’s ‘swagger’, the way he handled The Decision, how he’s been called King James since BEFORE he stepped on the court, how he’s statistically head-and-shoulders above most of the NBA yet shies away from taking charge in big moments… just about damn near everything annoys me about the guy. It’s clearly not all logical, and it makes me look like a nut who doesn’t appreciate one of the finest NBA players of this generation, but it is what it is. I respect Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a bit… but not too much more than that.

With that said, I think the Big 3 situation Miami HEAT President Pat Riley (with a little help from Wade himself) was able to put together has been quite a fascinating experiment. In this day and age where the best players want to earn the biggest contracts, play in the largest markets, and be the undisputed leader of a team, the HEAT were able to get 3 of those guys to take (somewhat) less money in the short term to win together in the long term. So far it’s played out well enough to result in a Finals appearance in their first year together, and pending a possible 2nd appearance in back-to-back years soon (IF they can beat Boston… update coming soon). But for all the glitz and glamour Miami’s been showing off with their trio of superstars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Chris Bosh there are some deeply troubling financial repercussions the team has been turning a blind eye to for the past two years… dangerous circumstances coming about soon because of the more restrictive language of the latest collective bargaining agreement signed in late 2011.

As mentioned in my previous posts detailing potential trades for the Lakers, the HEAT are also coming closer to dealing with some pretty harsh financial realities leading up to the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when the new tiered luxury tax penalties and additional repeater tax penalties will take effect in each season respectively. All LeBron hate (and Bosh ostrich/dinosaur joking) aside, getting Dwayne Wade paired up with LBJ and Toronto’s only star ever has been a huge boost for the HEAT, in wins, merchandise sales, and digital media rights. But over the next few years these net gains might be overshadowed by much bigger tax penalties. Let’s take a look at what the Miami HEAT have on the books through the next few seasons:

This past season the team managed to make some smart moves in scraping up some cheap veterans (Howard, Ilgauskas, House, and Curry) to bolster the bench while avoiding overpaying for them. While it’s been a mix of effectiveness, getting these players at different times didn’t cut harshly into the team’s total salary. While other role players including Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, and Shane Battier were arguably overpaid ($12 million for those 3 average players this season alone!) their presence was less than the individual earnings of just one of the Big 3. For 2011-12 LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh earned a combined $47.6 million, which amounted to 59.2% of the team’s total commitments for the season.

While the notion of paying the bulk of your money to your team’s stars has generally worked in the past, in the coming years this is going to get even more difficult for Miami to handle. Already the Big 3’s salaries are going to balloon to a combined $52.1 million in 2012-13 and then $56.7 million in 2013-14, which leaves the HEAT with little to no room for picking up anything beyond more cheap veteran players. Accounting for the contracts of some of the less-than-productive players like Miller, Joel Anthony, and Shane Battier makes trading them for cheap talent nearly impossible, especially with only Battier for sure done in 2013-14. Anthony and Miller have player options in 2014-15 totaling $10.4 million which they would be insane if they didn’t exercise… which just happens to be the first year of the dreaded repeater taxes (ouch!). Having a few good-to-great players still on relatively cheap contracts given their productivity helps ease the pain a bit (I’m looking at you Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem), but the ‘savings’ on their contracts doesn’t overshadow the big rigs that are LeBron, Wade, and Bosh’s mega-contracts.

Nevermind you’re paying 3 guys nearly $300 million for 5 years of playing basketball. In short, if the Miami HEAT don’t trade or amnesty at least one of their Big 3 for several solid players (with more manageable and/or expiring contracts) they will be in a world of pain come the 2013-14 and 2014-15 NBA seasons. When looking at the HEAT’s financial commitments in the breakdown above you can see the team was so eager to lure a mega-squad that they promised player options to 7 players! Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, James Jones, and Joel Anthony are sure to snap theirs up in the coming years, promising to lock in mediocre talent the HEAT would be much better off unloading (and with no one wanting to help Miami, they will be completely handcuffed to) while if each of the Big 3 exercise their options in 2014-15 and 2015-16 (two subsequent player options, REALLY Pat Riley??) that will absolutely guarantee some financial squeezes sure to pile major tax penalties on top of each other.

As if that doesn’t sound bad enough, a sharp look at the numbers really hurts the head. The Miami HEAT are set to be over the estimated $70.3 million punitive tax cap almost EVERY YEAR over the next few years even without adding/replacing any existing players. In the current team commitments:

  • 2012-13 – $78,522,600 team salary commitments = $8,222,600 over punitive tax cap
  • 2013-14 – $75,781,000 team salary commitments = $5,481,000 over punitive tax cap
  • 2014-15 – $76,248,000 team salary commitments = $5,948,000 over punitive tax cap
  • 2015-16 – $65,785,000 team salary commitments =  not over punitive tax cap

But none of that accounts for the key problem: The team doesn’t have enough players signed next year onwards, and adding additional (quality) players is going to push them deeper into tax penalties. Oh and there’s those tier penalties and repeater tax issues coming up soon too, so that will hamstring you even further. In short, the Miami HEAT are looking pretty screwed constructed as is. Assuming the team doesn’t lose any of the players on contracts going forward (if no one will trade for them), adds the MINIMUM number of players for the team to play each year (12) with a mix of small-to-medium sized contracts averaging $3 million each, and opts to keep the Big 3 together, here’s the new financial headache:

Even at these threadbare fantasy standards the share of total salary will continue to creep up for the star trio, making it completely financially unrealistic (and untenable) situation for the HEAT. Oh and let’s not forget the ‘rules’ for dealing with tax penalties in the coming years:

So where would that put the Miami HEAT over the next few seasons if playing by the ‘bare minimum’ rules? Check it out:

That’s right, when combining the total owed salary, the current tax penalties, the ‘new’ tax penalties starting in 2013-14 ($3.25 per $1 when $15 million or more over the tax level), and the ‘new’ repeater tax rates in 2014-15 ($3.25 per $1 when $15 million or more over the tax level in consecutive years)… you’re looking at a $1.2 BILLION price tag to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh together for just 4 MORE SEASONS. Clearly, changes must happen because there is just no way the HEAT’s ownership are willing to spend that much money with little chance of recovering a profit, even with such superstars headlining your team.

So now the real question is what do the Miami HEAT do to cut back on salary while still remaining competitive? The answer might be somewhere in the midst of the Big 3. While the notion of trading one or two of the Big 3 away is pleasing/shocking to most NBA fans (and absolute blasphemy to HEAT fans that have enjoyed just 2 years of them together), it’s truly the only viable option for the team, and one that must be explored sooner rather than later.

The HEAT, having endured the relentless criticism and accusations of player tampering to get him, are not going to even think about putting LeBron James on the trade block, nor should they. Despite frequent criticisms about LeBron’s inability to close out close games, or even take over when needed, he has been one of the most durable and dynamic all-around players in a strong generation of superstars. He has the highest player efficiency rating (PER) of any NBA player, the 3rd highest scorer this season, and in 8 years in the league transformed the title chances of two teams– leading each into the Finals with his other-worldly style of play. I may dislike him personally but I can’t deny how LeBron’s extreme love him/hate him polarity amongst fans is only matched by the on-another-level stats and be a game-changer. Unless James demands otherwise (or he does not opt into either of this player option years) expect him to stay a member of the HEAT for some time.

Looking at the pure player statistics alone it looks like Chris Bosh is the most viable candidate between the 3 all-stars. His lower scoring average and PER alone seem to designate him the top trade candidate, but a deeper analysis indicates otherwise. Bosh’s scoring, rebounds, and PER have all dipped slightly since coming over from the Raptors– expected changes when going from being the top player on Toronto to the 2nd/3rd option on a star-studded team. However, his ability for versatile post/elbow play, strong mid-range shooting, and only true inside presence (who else do they have? Eddy Curry or Joel Anthony? PLEASE!) make him a key component for Miami. The HEAT have lost key games in the 2012 playoffs with Bosh playing hurt or sitting out entirely, and without his notable inside presence the team has no way to push back against opponents with several strong post players (Lakers, Celtics, Thunder, Spurs). While LeBron and Wade both need the ball often to be effective, Bosh knows how to play off of it much better, focus on inside and mid-range defense, and can even create more scoring opportunities for his teammates by helping to move the ball around.

Which brings us to Dwayne Wade. In a league where business comes first and team/player loyalty is increasingly looked at second, the HEAT’s longest tenured star (and winner of 1 NBA Championship) might have ultimately brought about the end of his own career in Miami by luring LeBron and Bosh over. Though no aging veteran by any means just quite yet, there is no doubt that several major factors point to Wade as the most likely (and most tradeable) asset the HEAT have to send packing. At 30 years old Dwayne is older than either of the other two players, and as a guard who relies on speed already starting to show some slowdown on the court. A rash of minor leg and back injuries are starting to take their toll on him, with the added nuisance of migraines forcing him to wear special glasses not too long ago– a chronic issue sure to rear it’s ugly head again soon. With a 22.1 scoring average and 26.37 PER this season Dwayne Wade is still an incredibly efficient and explosive player, but one that (as every NBA expert has pointed out) need the ball in his hands to truly be effective. While playing without the ball in his hands for most of the game works for Bosh, in the current Miami system both LeBron and Wade can’t best at their best levels unless they are coordinating the offense, and we’ve already touched upon why LeBron is the smarter horse to hitch your wagon to for the future of the franchise.

Trading Dwayne Wade would be an incredibly painful and ironic decision for Miami to make, but one that is necessary to save on well over a BILLION dollars of the next 5-years’ worth of total team costs. While his stock is still riding high the HEAT could trade him to a team in dire need of a superstar, and has a solid combination of solid veterans, young talent, and expiring contracts to offer in return. The young talent would provide Miami with future contributors with cheap contracts, role playing veterans could fill the inside presence and ‘taking the load off LeBron’s shoulders’ scoring needs, and expiring contracts could wash away unwanted extra money owed over the next few years, making it easier to cut back on luxury and repeater taxes.

While I can’t pretend to know the best team for Miami to work with, putting Wade on the market would definitely draw interest from nearly every team in the league. The greatest mistake would be for the HEAT to pull off a star-for-star deal, as that would simply lock them into another large, long-term contract for singular talent and run counterproductive to getting multiple pieces back. Teams such as the Houston Rockets (with Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin), the Indiana Pacers (with Danny Granger, Darren Collison, and Roy Hibbert), and Detroit Pistons (with Will Bynum, Greg Monroe, and Tayshaun Prince), might not sound glamorous but they would have solid players to exchange for superstar Wade– and they can all use a huge name to lure attention to their flagging franchises. The Brooklyn Nets would more than likely be interested in having Dwayne Wade headline their new start in New York, but short of a sign-and-trade including Deron Williams (which would, as mentioned above, run against good sense) just wouldn’t come together.

The Charlotte Bobcats might be an interesting thought, since it would place Wade on the team owned by his idol Michael Jordan, help turn the pathetic franchise around, and bring the HEAT a young piece in Kemba Walker, and the expiring contracts of DeSagana Diop and Matt Carroll (or D.J. Augustin on the cheap). The Golden State Warriors (soon to be San Francisco Warriors in 2017-18) would be another interesting partner if they’d be willing to ship out beloved Stephen Curry, scorer Klay Thompson, and a few draft picks. Again, plenty of options are possible for the Miami HEAT, but keeping the Big 3 together over the next few years simply isn’t one of them.

Bynum (Not Gasol) Is The Lakers’ Price For Getting Deron Williams AND Saving Millions In The Long Run

The past few days the Lakers have been keeping a pretty low profile, hoping the endless whirlwind of proposed trades big or small will wind down a bit so the team can finally get to business. In the midst of the endless fan debates (‘blow up the team!’, ‘go after Dwight Howard!’, ‘beg Phil Jackson to come back one more time!’) the Buss family and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have probably been looking over the Lakers’ past few years worth of success, heartbreak, and growing finances…. and wondering what to do next. Even I have been tossing trade deal after trade deal onto the table, making cases for ‘smart trades’ that benefit the Lakers’ championship-chasing efforts and finances, and that of their partners. Each deal has it merits and its drawbacks, as well as varying degrees of likeliness given numerous factors including financial flexibility, rapidly expanding player egos, team chemistry, rebuilding phases vs. win-now modes, etc.

Listening to the Kamenetzky Brothers’ Land O’ Lakers podcast this past weekend I came across a developing rumor that not only made sense, it seemed to almost make too much good sense for both teams involved. The proposed trade idea involved the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets each swapping an all-star and solid team player… each swapping a center and a point guard… and each doing so while preventing any key drop off in big name talent while addressing team needs. The Lakers would receive Deron Williams and Brook Lopez from the Nets, while the Nets would get Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions from the Lakers. That’s right, Pau Gasol is NOT the Lakers player being sent packing. Despite the increasing trade talks supposedly involving the Spaniard (and the Lakers exercising their $16.1 million 2012-13 option on Bynum) it’s well known that Bynum is the more desirable target for other teams, and if the Lakers are willing to put him on the trading block they can net a much better return.

One major caveat to note, however, is that much of this deal happening depends on several IFs:

  • IF Deron Williams demands to go to the Lakers, thus forcing the Nets to attempt a sign-and-trade
  • IF Brook Lopez recovered enough from his broken foot for the Lakers to take a chance on him
  • IF Andrew Bynum has worn out his welcome with the Buss family, yet still gets Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov excited about having him as the new Brooklyn star
  • IF Ramon Sessions either exercises his Lakers’ contract $4.5 million player option (making him tradable) or re-signs with the Lakers for no more than about $5.5 million next year (much higher complicates the possibility of the trade)

Should all the stars align and all 4 of the IFs become certainties then this almost too-good-to-be-true trade could go down. But first things first. Before we get to the financial ramifications for the Lakers let’s take a quick look at the statistics and chemistry factor, starting with the big men in the deal:

The 2011-12 season was a rough one for Brook Lopez, and mostly quite the opposite for Andrew Bynum. While Lopez was on track for a promising season before breaking his foot (and most certainly killing the Nets chances to swap him and other pieces to assemble a Dwight Howard-Deron Williams super duo), Bynum was having a breakout season with nearly all career-high stats and playing in every game this season. In a Bynum-for-Lopez trade the Nets initially seem to be getting the better end of the deal. Bynum is arguably the best or 2nd best center in the league (behind, ahead of, or tied with Dwight Howard depending on the NBA fan) who’s finally come into his own after 7 years of developing ‘promise’. He’s a better defensive presence than Brook Lopez, generally stronger and quicker, and though in the league a bit longer is roughly half a year younger too. Drew’s increasingly frequent ‘immaturity’ issues are leading to an ever-growing call to ship him out by the Laker faithful… calls that Jim Buss have long ignored given his growing dominance and superstar moments. But those moments of personal frustration and lackadaisical attitude are growing too (from a ‘what the hell?’ 3-pointer to avoiding the team huddle, from ‘getting my Zen on’ to ‘I’ll play anywhere’), making the primary target of trade rumors Pau Gasol seem like the more dedicated Laker teammate with outrageously greater professionalism.

But that’s not to sell the Lakers short with Lopez. The Nets’ current center anchors the paint well, has better scoring averages than Bynum (much of which likely outstrips Bynum because Drew shares the middle with Pau Gasol), and comparable careers rebounds, blocks, and efficiency ratings. Brook has also been in the league for fewer years, meaning he’s had the benefit of the college team ‘education’, has less wear and tear on his body, and will likely continue to grow into a better player… all for MUCH less than Bynum earns annually. Though Lopez’s potential probably has a lower ceiling than Bynum he would still continue to flourish with the right team-oriented setting where he wouldn’t be the star, could play in tandem with another solid big (the Lakers’ Pau Gasol and/or Jordan Hill), and even at contract time would still command less than Drew… while still being on the list of the top 5 centers in the NBA. Brook also carries a more humble attitude than Bynum, something that would be incredible valuable on a star-studded Laker team led unquestionably by Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams. Though still quite young, Lopez’s ‘team first’ personality lends to a less volatile player who would compliment veteran big man Pau and defer to star guards Bryant and Williams, while still working hard to contribute whatever is asked of him.

When looking at the point guards involved there are significantly different factors to consider, but ones that ultimately serve the needs and resolve the issues of both the Lakers and the Nets:

Deron Williams is clearly the star player upon which much of this deal rests, and his recent career exploits only highlight that fact. Over the past few years Williams has contended with many top tier point guards for the title of ‘best in the league’, including Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Nash. A younger class of players like Kyrie Irving and John Wall have years to go to achieve the steller level of play Williams puts in night in-night out, making him a highly coveted asset for almost any team this summer. Deron has solid strength and scoring ability to compliment his exceptional court vision, dishing the rock, and leadership skills… elements that would surely make him the best point guard the Lakers have had since Magic Johnson. With Phil Jackson & the Triangle Offense retired and Mike Brown in dire need of more ‘pure’ point guard to facilitate his offense Williams would certainly be another step up from the decent Ramon Sessions, who did his best to help the Lakers this past year but too often deferred to Kobe Bryant. Deron Williams, meanwhile, has a similar team-leader and ‘will to win’ attitude as Bryant, can take some of the scoring load off of the Laker Legend (especially as Kobe is nearing the end of his playing days), and still coordinate a flowing offense that involves getting tons of assists to the team’s (proposed) 7-foot duo of Pau Gasol and Brook Lopez. Deron saw his scoring outpace his career average last season while his assists fell before their career averages (the consequence of a less-than-capable Nets team), trends that should reverse themselves once he’s wearing the purple and gold.

From the perspective of the Brooklyn Nets, getting Ramon Sessions in return doesn’t seem to be as fair a trade value as they would hope for. With Deron Williams sending pretty clear smoke signals that he’s itching to ditch the Nets, nabbing Sessions in a trade actually is not a bad deal all things considered. Although Ramon matches or falls below Deron in pretty much every statistical category he is still a hardworking, upper-middle tier NBA guard. In 2011-12, his mid-season trade from the Cavaliers to the Lakers boosted him from a bench role to a starting one, gave him an entirely new playbook to grasp, and transitioned him from playing with a mix of role players to hustling hard with stars like Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. The past season was also Ramon Sessions’ first in the playoffs (a daunting stage for any young player) and he managed to contribute quite well before the Lakers were outplayed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. While he has nowhere near the player potential ceiling as Williams does, Ramon’s past year playing with Bynum and the Lakers would actually position him to be an excellent play initiator alongside inside big Andrew Bynum and perimeter threat/floor speedster MarShon Brooks in Nets’ Coach Avery Johnson’s attack offense. The Nets might feel that they’ve got their backs against the wall with Williams wanting out, but getting Sessions in return with Bynum makes for a smart haul without losing much of a step.

Having explored the pros and cons of each player involved in the trade proposal, now we can review the nitty gritty financial outlook for the Lakers (the Nets can plan out their own future without my insight, haha). There is a whole other set of short and long-term questions the Lakers need to consider, but none greater than ‘how can we contend for a championship now AND cut our financial tax burdens over the next few years?’… A near impossible task given the more stringent restrictions of the updated collective bargaining agreement:

As noted in my previous posts (exploring trades for Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and other NBA stars) the next few years are going to be increasingly financially restrictive for all of the NBA’s teams. The 2012-13 season is the last ‘$1 for $1’ luxury tax year, with new incremental penalty increases being instituted for the 2013-14 season. As if that isn’t enough, a ‘repeater’ tax starts up during the 2014-15 season which adds even MORE tax penalties for teams over the luxury tax in back-to-back years. When looking at the Lakers’ fiscal outlook, the next two years are not going to be pleasant. Whether a trade for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez happens or not, the team is going to feel the pain of the taxman, but we’re going to explore the trade ‘as fact’ for the sake of the analysis.

Kobe Bryant’s salary is going to balloon to $27.8 and $30.4 million over the next two years, which when bringing back Deron Williams for Andrew Bynum doesn’t seem to bode well for ‘sensible’ financial planning. Assuming Pau Gasol remains on the team (if no other team’s offer is good enough and the Lakers want to maintain a ‘twin towers’ tandem of Gasol and Lopez) his bloated salary also cuts deep. Deron will no doubt receive a much deserved salary bump, with maximum 7.5% annual increases (possible from a sign-and-trade from his ‘current’ team the Nets packaged over to his ‘new’ team the Lakers) getting him north of $20 million a year by 2014-15. Brook Lopez will come over on a cheap contract due to expire at the end of next season. Even if the Lakers can negotiate a ‘smart’ $7.5 million salary with no more than 6.0% annual raises for Lopez, that leaves the team with little to no wiggle room for rounding out with role players (not to mention the $13.6 and $11.0 million on the books for other players currently on the roster for 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively)… Oh and the Lakers also owe Metta World Peace another $15 million for the next two years too, and NO ONE will trade for him despite his greatly improved play in the 2nd half of last season. So other than digging deep to find some cheap ‘gold nugget’ contract players to bolster the bench, the Lakers would be looking at big financial obligations and tax penalties for two more years.

After 2013-14 is a whole other story. Come the beginning of the 2014-15 season the Lakers could be poised to clear out three players with some of the heaviest contracts (and possibly extend the first two at severely discounted rates); Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace.

As a living Laker Legend and the only player with a personal ‘no trade’ clause in his contract, Kobe Bryant will most certainly wear the purple and gold for the next two years unless he says otherwise. By 2014-15, however, Kobe will have played a full 18 years in the league, and despite his numerous championships, records, and immortal moments the Black Mamba will either have to ride into the sunset or take a major pay-cut to get two more years under his belt (perhaps to finish a full 20 seasons?). $5 million per year for 2 more years is a wholly-optimistic estimate, I know, but given the Lakers’ need to move on it would be a sensible self-imposed financial restriction they would have to hold to despite their great affinity for Kobe Bryant.

Pau Gasol (assuming he isn’t traded) is another Laker title contributor that could potentially be up for a ‘$5 million per year for 2 more years’ contract offer in 2014-15, should the Lakers be so kind. No one doubts his amazing finesse, high basketball IQ, and team-oriented playmaking which contributed to 2 titles and 3 Finals appearances (thus far), but the last two years of ‘running out of gas’ in the playoffs have made him increasingly expendable to the team. The need to push back against the luxury cap outweighs Pau’s recent contributions, and if he compliments Brook Lopez well (and mentors him exceptionally well in the process) he could morph into an aging ‘Kareem-like’ player worthy of possibly two more, cheaper years past his current contract (if there is spending room available after other role player/bench signings).

Despite all the ‘out of nowhere’ miracle shots, defensive doggedness, and improved versatility of Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest) his time with the Lakers will surely be up at the end of his contract. MWP has given all of himself and more to the franchise but his increasing age and declining foot speed are making it harder and harder to justify his over $7 million a year contract. Even if he was willing to take the $1.2 million veteran’s minimum in 2014-15 the money spent on World Peace’s contract could be better spent elsewhere (or simply saved against biggest tax penalties), making it possible the Lakers consider using their one-time amnesty provision on him either before or after the 2012-13 season (depending on if the Deron Williams/Brook Lopez trade occurs). If Metta plays out his contract with the Lakers he will be 34 years old when it ends, a cagey veteran likely still able to contribute to a youth laden team. More than likely he won’t be brought back and can either look to move on or retire.

Should the three aforementioned player contract situations play out well the Lakers are looking to have some favorable financial flexibility heading their way by the 2014-15 season. Over the next two seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16) the team can spend around $28 million per year on filling out the rest of the roster, averaging between $3 million and $5 million for a variety of rookies, solid role players, and experienced veterans chasing their last hope for a ring. All this can be done while avoiding the millions of dollars in luxury and repeater taxes if Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace’s contract situations are handled properly. Futhermore, the team continues to have a star in Deron Williams and possible 2nd tier star in Brook Lopez, while always keeping an eye out for breakout talent along the way.

While this simple yet impactful trade effectively shuts the door on ‘The Dwight Howard Sweepstakes’, given the endless drama surrounding the Orlando Magic and their star center last season the headache might not be work the risk. The $109.1 and $175.7 (!!!) million in salary and luxury taxes to be paid in 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively will hurt immensely, but the Lakers can balance those out against complete lack of penalties over the following 3 seasons (leading to effectively pay out approximately just $20.0 million in taxes each of the next 5 years), retaining star talent in Deron Williams & Brook Lopez and (for a short while longer) Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol, and remaining a championship contending team all throughout. The 4 major ‘IFs’ need to be resolved first, but should the stars align it could mean big things for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets over the next half-decade.

The Many Trade Scenarios For Lakers’ Pau Gasol

Welcome back to the ‘Let’s Fix The Lakers’ series of posts. I was listening to Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report today and he and Joe House had some interesting discussion points:

The Lakers and Heat should swap Pau Gasol for Chris Bosh. The trade (costing a bit more for the Heat in salary) would make sense for both team, and be insanely helpful. Pau plays well on the low block inside (where Bynum was clogging it up) and the Heat need that inside presence. Meanwhile, the Lakers need to let Bynum kill the inside while having their PF play as a more 10-15 ft. shooter type (like Bosh is) and with some great athleticism (ditto). Billy Witz of FoxSports.com summed it up nicely (http://bit.ly/LA2z4v):

Sending Gasol to Miami for Chris Bosh might just be the missing piece for both franchises. The salaries are a close enough match to make it work: Gasol has two years and $38.2 million left on his contract; Bosh has four years (the last two are player options) and $78 million on his. And neither owner, the Heat’s Micky Arison nor the Lakers’ Jerry Buss, is afraid to go all in.

If the aforementioned trade went down this would still work great if the Lakers then went after a Bynum-for-Howard trade. Dwight would kill on the inside, Bosh would terrorize one mid-range zone, while Kobe would get the other.

While the idea doesn’t fully address the Lakers’ point guard concerns, Simmons also mentioned Nash would likely go to either the Lakers or the Heat next year. However, IF Phil Jackson would take the Heat coaching job (a chance to coach LeBron AND Wade? Hmmm…) then having Nash there would just make him a spot-up shooter. On the Lakers he could help direct the offense, teach Ramon Sessions (if we still have him) how to be a more elite PG, and either start or come off the bench for some instant offense. Neither team would have big spending room left, but at this point in his career if Nash wishes to win a title more than net a big contract that shouldn’t be a big problem.

However, if both the Pau-for-Bosh and Bynum-for-Dwight moves went down then we would have no chance at Deron Williams. Already the Nets aren’t too hot on Pau, but if Deron clearly stated he wanted to go to the Lakers, then getting Pau would really be one of the best bets for the Nets. A Pau and MarShon Brooks combo would be quite nice, (Gerald Wallace helps too) and they could mine the free agent pool for another decent player to insert into the group.

In the aftermath of the Lakers’ 2nd year in a row second-round exit it’s looking like there may be more trade options for Pau than originally thought. Some will help with the point guard situation (if the Lakers want a more elite player than Ramon Sessions, or he turns down his team option and goes someplace else) while others will close the door on it. Thus far here are what seem like the best bets (excluding draft picks, other players, and cash considerations which would be needed for most any trades to work):

  • Pau to the Nets for Deron Williams (solves star PG problem)
  • Pau to the Heat for Chris Bosh (solves mid-post/elbow PF issue with dominant big in Bynum/Howard)
  • Pau to the Rockets for Luis Scola & Kyle Lowry (replaces with quality PF and budding star PG)
  • Pau to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love (provides a younger, increasingly skilled star PF)
  • Pau to the Bulls for Carlos Boozer & C.J. Watson (Derrick Rose’s ACL tear just made keeping Watson essential to the Bulls)

It’s going to be quite a busy summer for the Lakers, primarily concerning Pau Gasol. While the Bynum situation is more black and white (a straight trade for Dwight Howard or just keep Bynum and extend him), the Gasol dilemma has many avenues to be explored before any major decisions are made.

Lakers Can Get Kobe, Dwight, & Deron Together IF They’re Willing To Pay The Price

This morning writer Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic would do well to swap their star centers, and that Brooklyn Nets star point guard Deron Williams was allegedly increasingly interested in a possible trade to the Lakers (http://bit.ly/KzmkVJ). This got me thinking again about more Laker business transactions, and how it could possibly come together for a revamped championship-primed Laker team, and one prepared for a post-Kobe Bryant era.

IF Deron had the balls to tell the Nets he’s out then this can go down. However, there are more moving gears in place. The Magic and Lakers need to talk and get the Bynum-for-Howard deal done FIRST. This would close the door on the Nets possibly even asking for Bynum if they were willing to ship Deron out. Then the Nets would then have to agree to a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, though Gasol (and filler?) might be the only tradeable pieces. This might screw the Nets pretty bad, but it’s either they land Gasol as their marquee player (not great since the last time he was the ‘star’ on a team it was Memphis and he didn’t embrace the role) or just lose D-Will for nothing.

The big problem for the Lakers would (once again) be paying 3 stars big money and not having enough room to fill out the bench. That’s why much of this is a crazy pipe dream. We’d all love to have Deron Williams over Ramon Sessions but D-Will commands so much money that our bench would be crap.

IF The Lakers wanted to risk some big moves this could be the behind-closed-doors gamble they could pull:

* Go after Dwight Howard with a trade for Bynum, extend Dwight to a max five year deal:
At 4.5% annual raises from his $19.3 mil contract in 2012/13 that totals $105.4million through 2016/17

* Go after Deron Williams with a sign-and-trade for Gasol (and maybe another cheap player), extend Deron to a max five year deal:
At 4.5% annual raises from his $17.8 mil contract in 2012/13 that totals $97.3 million through 2016/17

* Plan to NOT re-sign Kobe after his contract ends after the 2013/14 season (when he’ll be 35) UNLESS he’s willing to take a severely discounted salary for 2 years (so he can retire at 37, a full 20 YEAR career), say about $5 mil a season (the Lakers can tell him this when his current contract is up– sneaky!

* Scout, scout, and SCOUT to find young, athletic, and cheap defensive and perimeter shooting pieces, though careful not to spend more than $2-4 mil on each, including the possibility of small trades.

Remember, only your most recent team can offer you the max 7.5% annual raises. Your new team can offer you only 4.5% maximum raises. If the player opts for a shorter contract (say 3 years) then at the end of that he can get a new contract with the team he’s been on with maximum 7.5% raises at that point. In other words, a longer deal NOW with shorter maximum raises would likely means the Lakers paying them less money through the next five years:

Through the 2012-13 season it’s $1 over the cap = $1 more in penalties. Going above the Salary Cap means you give your tax money (if any, otherwise just the league pays out ‘help’) to teams that are below the Salary Cap, but going over the Punitive Tax means you pay big time taxes.

Beginning with the 2013-14 season, tax rates for incremental spending above the tax level will increase as follows:

* $0-5 million over tax level – $1.50 for $1
* $5-10 million over tax level – $1.75 for $1
* $10-15 million over tax level – $2.50 for $1
* $15-20 million over tax level – $3.25 for $1

However, the repeater tax (in addition to the luxury tax, more punitive) kicks in for teams over the cap in 2014-15 onwards (multiple years over the cap). For each year REPEATING over the luxuy tax they have to ALSO pay these repeater penalties:

* $0-5 million over tax level – $1.50 for $1
* $5-10 million over tax level – $1.75 for $1
* $10-15 million over tax level – $2.50 for $1
* $15-20 million over tax level – $3.25 for $1

This still causes money worries for the Lakers (Almost $470 MILLION over the next 5 years!!), but can still be done if they’re willing to eat the taxes at different times to get all three stars together, and sunset Kobe Bryant in 2 years (or more if he’ll take a lesser paycut for 2 more years). It’s a big series of ‘what ifs’, gambles, and risks, but the Lakers have never been a team to shy away from the drama, risk-taking, and stardom of Los Angeles.