The NBA’s Salary Cap Bubble Has Already Burst and Kevin Durant Changed Everything

I’ll never get why Mitch “Cupcake” Kupcheck thought it was a great idea to sign Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng for a combined 4 years – $136 million.

The same goes for the Blazers signing Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for 4 years – $145 million.

Yes, the salary cap jumped but it wasn’t going to infinity.

Did GMs not sit down with their team and map this stuff out?

Even if the salary cap increased again in 2017, how was doling out huge contracts to marginal, below average, and/or past their prime role players going to make you a winner?

These guys were spending as if money wasn’t going to be good in 2 years.

It didn’t make sense to me as a casual observer who scrolled through NBA Reddit before falling asleep and it still doesn’t make sense to me now as a casual observer who scrolls through NBA Reddit three times a day.

How are so many NBA general managers getting caught off guard by the cap and its implications?

Are they not as professional and calculated as I imagined they were?

With as much volatility as the new spike in money brought, there should have been weeks of number crunching strategy sessions to figure out how to best navigate the new landscape.

There should have been one guy with his collar loosened the way one loosens a collar after drinking two and a half scotches taking the macro view and pointing out that ESPN is losing so much money on this new deal that they’re having to sell the shirts off their back.

And that if ESPN is losing money, that means the NBA is going to regress sooner rather than later.

There should have been another guy wearing a team polo, not drinking, but aggressively slurping down a Chinese noodle bowl in one of those all too familiar, not quite cubed cardboard boxes theorizing on the pros and cons of letting other teams blow all their money in a frenzy while “we” sit back and just hit the cap minimum while maintaining flexibility going forward.

There should have been a cotton button down guy running models based on different outcomes.  What if X player signs for the max with Y team and the salary cap only goes up $2m next year?  Even if the cap jumps in 2017-2018 $10m, is signing bench players at $14 million a year sustainable?

And, of course, another 4 guys or maybe even 3 guys and a woman sitting there diving head first into this stuff.

Winning is at stake.  Money is at stake.  Legacy is at stake… Everything is on the line.

And now, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll amble through a few NBA ongoings that have panned out in interesting fashion.

Chris Paul signs with Rockets.

If there was anyone that sat down and mapped this shit out, it was Chris Paul.

CP3 comes out as the one guy who actually had a strategy session that lasted over 35 minutes and for real used the whiteboard.

Paul rigged it* so that he 1) got traded and thus kept his Super Max money potential, 2) opted-in for this year and kept all the cash at the end of his current contract, and then 3) guaranteed himself the Super Max until he’s beyond the corpse of Chris Paul.

*his contract negotiations and the CBA (polite but firm symphony applause for Chris Paul)

Good for Daryl Morey for snagging a free agent super star but everyone including Morey knows Chris Paul’s contract is about to look bad…right about…NOW.

So bad in fact that lifelong billionaire Rockets owner  Les Alexander said, “Fuck this shit, I’m out of here.”  (I mean, probably, right?)

He probably threw up in his mouth just a lot at the thought of doling out a combined $85m/year to increasingly less athletic James Harden and already past his prime Chris Paul.

Problem for Alexander though.  Only the dumb money is biting.

Les is trying to sell a couple of boxes of unopened gumball machines and Beyonce and Dikembe Mutombo have come to the warehouse trying to buy 12 and 9 gumballs each, MAYBE even more if he makes it worth their while!

It’s not only a problem for Les, it’s a problem for the NBA: Your once hot property, while still very cool, has quickly taken a nice buzz cut in value.


That was me giving the NBA a buzz cut in value.  Just imagine someone taking a clipper to Chris Sabo’s already buzz cutted hair.

Stephen A Smith Should Have Never Apologized to Mama Durant.

Here’s the thing about when you’re right: You’re right.

Stephen A called Kevin Durant’s gleeful ditching of OKC the weakest move in NBA history and it was!

The fact that the Warriors won a championship with a carnival team of ringers doesn’t make it not so and it certainly doesn’t make Kevin Durant better than Lebron James.

Kevin Durant’s mom pompously made some invalid and misplaced points in studio and Kevin Durant has acted pretty high and mighty after taking the easiest and shortest path humanly possible.

What I don’t think even KD himself has fathomed is how much his cowardly exit has changed the landscape of the league forever:

No other team can beat the Warriors but 3-4 are acting out of desperation in attempt to and it’s mostly likely fucking up their franchises.

Here’s what happened:

Kevin Durant is a superstar, a legit top 5 player in the league no matter what you argue.

He went to a team that won 73 games and would have won the championship if the NBA hadn’t suspended Draymond Green for past actions in the OKC series to make the Finals last longer.

Without Green, the Cavs won game 5.  And with the added pressure, the Warriors, led by Steph Curry, choked off the rest of the series.

So a top 5 NBA player joined an already odds-on championship favorite team.

The media is looking for more creative narratives but that’s all that has happened and it’s completely taken out the competitiveness of the league.

There has never been this much separation from the best team and the rest of the pack and there’s no solution to the problem; this happened on Adam Silver’s watch but it wasn’t preventable outside of a David-Stern-Hitlerarian intervention ala the Lakers-Hornets Paul trade.

It was the perfect storm for the Warriors.  Steph Curry had ankle problems so it kept his contract cheap.  Kevin Durant didn’t want to be the man with his own team, he wanted to take the easy way out and front run on an already stacked team.

PS Did Kevin Durant taking $10m less on this year’s contract do anything but save Joe Lacob money?  I’m curious.

I didn’t pay close enough attention but it was my impression they already had Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala sewed up and all Durant’s taking $25 instead of $35 did was save Lacob luxury tax dollars.

Even the Spurs Got Bamboozled.

What in the name of Walmart breakrooms is going on here.

The Spurs had Pau Gasol opt out of the last year of his contract paying $16m and ended up giving him a 3 year contract worth $16m a year with this last year partially guaranteed at $6.7m.

Wait, what?

The assumption is that the Spurs were barreling hard after Chris Paul and had to give Gasol a sweet deal to opt-out but this deal still makes no sense.

If Gasol opts out of 1 year, $16m, you reward him with 3 years, $36 at BEST – and that’s if he has a super agent.  Probably less since he’s too old to get that money elsewhere.

But the Spurs gave up the farm to get that opt-out.

I understand why they wanted Gasol opt out but the problem is even if they got Paul, were they going to beat the Warriors?  8-Ball says no.

The Spurs also read the market incorrectly and uncharacteristically overpaid one of their own: Patty Mills got a whopping 4 years, $50m contract.

That’s a lot for a guy who resembles a gnat on defense and can’t actually play his position.

I wanted them to retain Mills.  He’s a great fit for them but Patty got in a half court buzzer beater here.  He was more in line for $10m a year on the high side.

And this had less to do with money but for some reason Pop hated Jonathan Simmons.

In the end, Simmons went to the Magic on a rather meager 3 years/$20 million contract.  This comes after the Spurs were rumored to be offering him $9m annually.

If nothing else, retaining Simmons made sense as a trade asset – especially if you’re going to give away the house to Patty and Pau.

Simmons is a super athletic wing who can slash, defend, and hit 3’s at a decent clip.  Those guys are in demand in today’s NBA, might want to keep them on the roster if they’re going cheap.

The Spurs (Pop) obviously had problems with Simmons but they have so few bargaining chips outside of Danny Green (who they NEED) so why let one walk out the door?

Outside of bringing in Rudy Gay, the Spurs had an embarrassing offseason and I think it’s in large part because the cap fooled ’em.

I also think their lust to remain competitive with the Warriors blinded them to the fact that if they waited out this year, they would have been sitting in the driver’s seat next year (a boatload of cap space when no other competitive team has any).

That Gasol palor trick was something that other NBA teams would get lit up for.

George Hill Outsmarts Himself.

Someone’s getting fired.  And I’m betting it’s George Hill’s agent.

I took out this section because I wrote a whole post on George Hill losing his ass.

How Many ‘Melo Drama’ Headlines is Too Many?

Carmelo Anthony will always be a champion of playing the victim card.

No one forced him to force his way off the Nuggets and into New York.

No one forced him to sign his last contract when the Knicks already sucked.

No one forced him to stupidly take $5m off his contract so it wasn’t a max contract in hopes it made him look like he was sacrificing to win.

And yet, here he is, doing that crybaby thing he does, acting like he’s a victim of circumstance.

The cold hard truth is despite playing in the farest conference of them all, Carmelo does not move the needle when it comes to getting the Knicks into the 8th seed.

Is he talented enough to get buckets when surrounded by stars like when he was on TEAM USA and get the Reddit millennials to enact revisionist history to shape a new narrative for him?  Yes.

Can he be a contender’s second best player?  No and not for the last 5-6 years.

It’s true that Phil Jackson was totally milking that Knicks position and shouldn’t have been calling the shots but here are two things that everyone blows by when blaming Knicks owner James Dolan and the Zen Master:

  1. Dolan hired someone (PJ) who was then, by all accounts, the right man for the job.  And he gave him full discretionary power and got out of the way.  Dolan’s clearly a jackass but he did what people were clamoring for and still got blamed.
  2. Phil Jackson’s obviously out of it.  He’s working under dated basketball ideals.  He’s functioning too seniorly (can’t be sleeping in the stands when you’re scouting prospects).  He’s hiring puppet coaches.  All those are bad but he did draft a legit, top 12 NBA star (which he got laughed at for at the time) — and, and it’s not like he didn’t take over a burning pile of trash.

Sure, there’s some blame to go around for these two but no one’s asking this:

What was the alternative where they make everybody happy?

Dolan gave the money and the reigns to someone who everyone thought was an expert.  He willfully took himself out of control.  What more can you ask for outside of having him step down?

P-Jax delivered the Knicks a legit cornerstone star (from the heavens I might add) that they can build around through the draft.

Yeah, the Knicks still suck but how was Jackson supposed to miraculously turn them around in 2 years?

Phil even assembled a team that was expected to be competitive and fill the seats in Madison Square Garden.  A lot of people were hyped up at the possibility of Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Melo, and Kristaps Porzingis.

Noah was a decently bad signing because of the afore knowledge on his health.

Rose wasn’t bad because he only had a year left on his contract.

The ship fell apart but Jackson tried.

What were his other options?

Even though the results were still putrid, Jackson angelically delivered a potentially franchise player to Gotham.  That’s a lot.  And they weren’t going to have Porzingis unless Jackson was there because everyone else probably makes a safer pick.

Derrick Rose, Can You Still Feed Your Family HAHA.

In a semblance of karmatic justice, Derrick Rose completely struck out on what he thought was going to be a cashful summer.

Good on the NBA execs here.  Rose is a trash player who is as selfish as they come.

I was actually wrong in my prognostication of Rose last year because I thought he would take it up a few notches with it being a contract year but, no, he still played like garbage.

When Rose came knocking on neighborhood doors, multiple teams hurriedly closed and hid behind their curtains including the Spurs and Lakers.

Nobody wants him.

He took a lot of cash from the Bulls, played through nothing, and still never got any better.  There were some just deserts here.

Only Bill Simmons Likes Kevin Love.

Speaking of not interested, the Cavs tried every which way to unload Kevin Love and NOBODY wanted him.

But don’t tell that to resident NBA dumbass expert Bill Simmons.  If you fire up any random podcast, you can hear him wine about how Kevin Love is the most undervalued superstar ever.

No he’s not, Bill Simmons!

Love padded his stats on a barren Wolves team and now only does well on the hand held platter that is Lebron James ability to make everyone around him 20x better.

In today’s NBA, Kevin Love is a rotation man.

He’s slow, unathletic, can’t defend, not long, and doesn’t protect the rim.

Today’s NBA puts a premium on athleticism, defense, 3-point shooting ability, and length.

Love can shoot 3’s but his overall field goal percentage is really bad (below 43% last two years).

He gets good rebound stats too but I’m uncertain if he’s that good of a positional rebounder or if he’s just there when rebounds come.

That’s it.

And so nobody wants to pay his monstrous contract.

God, Bill Simmons gets lost in himself sometimes.  At least his incorrect infatuation with Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins is more justified – still wrong but more justified.

To cap off my position, just look at what happened in the market: NOBODY WANTED KEVIN LOVE!

The Cavs were trying to unload Love for cheap to anyone and nobody blinked.  That speaks volumes.

The Lakers are Interesting Again.

The Lakers are back.

There’s some legitimate excitement about them and it looks like Showtime is primed for a rebirth (Adam Silver wipes his brow).

And you know who might be the 35% catalyst behind it all:

One Lavar “Stay in Yo Lane” Ball.

He’s like the Donald Trump of NBA notoriety.

He came out of nowhere, made some outrageous statements, didn’t back down, leveraged the dumb media to get tens of millions of dollars of exposure for free, and now has real power behind him.

Part of that power is he’s got people interested in Lonzo and therefore the Lakers.

The Lakers also did the right thing by finally bringing Magic Johnson aboard for real.  I like the idea to split the actual GM duties to Rob Pelinka and then leave the energy and salesmanship to Magic.

Good call, Jeannie Buss.

If there’s one thing Magic Johnson does, it’s passionately care about the Lakers.

With Brendan Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and a whole lot of cap room, the Lakers are in great shape going forward.

What’s even more beautiful is they’ll sell tickets and develop while the Warriors are unbeatable.

It’s by accident but good fortune struck the Lakers here because they get to organically wait out the Warriors unbeatable machine for the next 2-3 years and then become their own powerhouse.

Who knows, maybe they can contend in 2019 if they get both Paul George and Lebron.

Note: George is 27 and Lebron is 32 currently.

Also, shot at Kobe here for holding the Lakers hostage for the last 4 years of his career.

The Sneaky Drama Queen of Lebron James and the Klutch Sports Machine.

I dislike Dan Gilbert.  He has bad vibes over video but one thing I like about him is he will not let himself completely get run over by Lebron, Rich Paul, and Klutch Sports.

Speaking of which, Lebron is quite the drama queen power player behind the scenes.

I don’t know what’s happening but it’s obvious Lebron does a lot of media maneuvering.

Some of the quotes from “sources” are too obviously orchestrated like how he was blindsided by Kyrie’s trade request.

Beyond all of Lebron’s drama, his reach with Klutch Sports is ridiculous.  The NBA should do something but won’t.  Maybe when Lebron’s 38, they’ll look harder at it.

That’s it.  I’m tired of writing.

PS The Kyle Lowery contract is also horrible.  Giving 3/$100,000,000 to a chubby, short 31 year old sounds like a recipe for disaster.

PPS I love how everyone rallied behind the idea that the East was somehow more wide open (and this was before the Kyrie trade demand talk).  In what way?  Sure Jimmy Butler and Paul George left but so what?  Their teams were only the 7th and 8th seeds anyways.  Lebron’s still there so he’s still on auto breeze to the finals.

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