Sports Business Classroom 2019

This July I was lucky enough to be selected for the Sports Business Classroom at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. When I heard about this program a year ago on the Dunc’d on Podcast, I decided I would do whatever it took to get there. The second I got the magic email from program head and salary cap / CBA master Larry Coon, I signed up on the spot. 

This was a watershed moment for me. Once submitted my application, I knew this was the time to give away my full time sales job and sink my teeth into basketball as a full-time career. 

I had some reservations about how I would fit in when I went to Vegas. I was from New Zealand, I was going to be a lot older than the other students, did I have enough knowledge? 

In the months leading up to the program I was both nervous and excited. I laid out my favorite Jordan’s the week before, I wanted to stand out and represent New Zealand well! 

Las Vegas

The day I flew out was a Saturday, it was also the last day of my sales job. Not only had I just quit my job but I was about to fly for around 18 hours to attend the Sports Business Classroom! After a wild week of NBA Free Agency I couldn’t even say goodbye to my wife without my phone exploding with another blockbuster trade. After three long but non eventful flights, I was at last in Las Vegas.

I realized pretty quickly that most of the NBA’s elite were in Vegas for this week. Within a few hours I had shared a lift with Terry Rozier and spotted Dwight Howard and Marvin Bagley Jr in the hotel lobby. Coming from a non basketball country that dines out on Andrew Bogut playing once a year in Auckland, this was a big deal for me.

I helped my room-mate Andrew check-in on Sunday, Andrew is a great guy and we straight away started talking basketball. After spotting similar basketball nerds in the hotel lobby, I knew I had come to the right program. Wandering down to the hotel sports book to join the other students, we were the loudest people in the Palms Casino. To my surprise they had taken over the bar without buying a single drink and there were various animated discussions going on between fans of different teams. By the time our group had swelled to 20, the bar manager had to ask us to leave. She didn’t want to hear one more minute of discussion on Ben Simmons jump shot!

NBA Nerds!

This theme continued all week, the 87 students got on so well. We spent most of our spare time debating trades, free agency and general NBA themes. The students on the program were excellent people, not only were they obviously fanatical about the game but they were there to learn and grow.

As far as the content went, we were spoilt for choice. Kenny ‘ The Jet ‘ Smith walked in on the first night and everyone lost it. The theme of high calibre guest speakers continued throughout the week.

Sports Business Majors

The heart and soul of the program though was Mr Larry Coon. Not only is Larry one of the foremost salary cap and CBA experts in the league, he is a genuinely great guy who has built a world class program. He was ably assisted by Dave DuFour, Eric Pincus, Beau Estes, Jeff Fellenzer and a team of interns. The program ran smoothly throughout the week as people settled into their chosen majors. Between Scouting and Analytics, CBA Salary Cap, and Social Media there was something for everyone. You still dipped your toe in the other subjects as ‘ minors. ‘

Dave DuFour led the Analytics and Scouting. He brought in ex Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox to talk the Scouting and Draft Process. Dave is a great guy and often answered dozens of questions from students if there was a break in the program.

Wes was one of the highlights of the program for me. With 15 years experience on both the Cavaliers and the Hawks, Wes was a student favorite throughout the week. Not only was his content on point as far as technical and organisational points went, Wes was open and honest with the students. He encouraged us to build our own draft or player evaluations while pushing the students to form their own opinions while watching game tape.

Larry Legend

Another head scratching question for Eric Pincus!

Larry and Eric Pincus led the CBA / Salary Cap major. They sat in the directors chairs at the front of the class and proceeded to wow the students with their in depth knowledge and dry humor when it came to the CBA. After some good background on the CBA, the next day the class ripped into a mock trade deadline after splitting into groups of five or six. By the end of the week Larry had reached legend status, students started chanting his name when he entered the arena or classroom!

It would be an understatement to say this trade deadline was wild. Each team had an assigned NBA expert that ranged from Howard Beck to Nate Duncan. People were trying to dump salary, pull off five team trades or just get one over their fellow classmates!

David Aldridge was another speaker earlier in the week. David is a basketball hall of fame inductee, and is a legend in media circles. His advice to the class was gold, while his stories were both funny and touching. David was just one of an array of great speakers and contributors.

After a full on week of learning and networking, I was sad to be heading home. The content was detailed and concise, while the program was slick and organised. While making life long friends and connections, this program provided me with a lot of new skills and direction for my career.

If you are pursuing a career in the NBA or Basketball in general, this program is a must. Nowhere else can you get so many of the world’s best basketball minds in one place, while learning from like minded peers and tutors. This week was a life changing one for me and I look forward to seeing everyone again next year when I head back to Summer league!

Steven Adams – Potential Trade

Bill Simmons created waves in New Zealand recently by posing a trade for Steven Adams on two of his podcasts. A fervent Boston Celtics supporter, Simmons tweeted that the Celtics had enough cap space to take Adams on in a trade. This was massive news in New Zealand where Adams is the prodigal son as far as basketball is concerned. As upset as New Zealanders were, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to make the best decision for the future of the franchise.

Adams is about to enter the third year of his four year 100 million dollar contract. When this deal was signed in 2016 the NBA’s salary cap had spiked to unexpected levels, leaving teams with tonnes of cash. The Thunder at the time had just controversially lost Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. They had also traded away Serge Ibaka, who had also been a cornerstone of the team. With money to burn they spent it on Adams. their best young player, coming off a massive playoffs.

NBA centers

Adams has been worth every cent of his deal so far. He has provided similar value as far as win shares went when compared to other top centers in the league. Win Shares is used to show how a player has contributed to a teams season when it comes to wins. Adams played the most minutes of any center this year. As far as centers go, this season Adams ranked second in steals, second in offensive rebounds, tenth in total rebounds and seventh in win shares.

Though Adams flagged in the Playoffs performance wise, the Thunder were 9.9 points better when he was on the floor in the regular season. Diving a little deeper, the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet are where Adams excels. He is always top 10 in the league for loose balls recovered, boxing out on rebounds and for setting screens. He is also usually one of only a few centers regularly contesting three pointers out on the perimeter.

Bloated Payroll

Unfortunately the Thunder are in a position where their glue guy Adams may need to be shipped out of town. Russell Westbrook is the third highest paid player in the league, and Paul George rounds out the top ten. As they have built the rest of the team, their payroll has ballooned out to a league high 146 million. In a lot of cases this high payroll wouldn’t be a problem. With the Thunder having exited in the first round the past three years, management aren’t keen to have such a massive tax bill for a team that isn’t contending for a championship. Being over the salary cap, they can only reduce salary by trading to a team that is under the cap. They may even need to attach positive assets to sweeten the deal for the team they trade with.

Sub-par replacement options

Hypothetically if the Thunder were to trade Adams, they would reduce their payroll and luxury tax bill. But as they would still be over the cap, they would only have limited money to spend on Adams replacement. The mid level exception is given to teams who are over the cap, this is around 5.7 million. If the Thunder trade Adams they would have to use this 5.7 million to sign another center. Again, as they may need to attach other assets to dump Adams contract the only other way they could improve the team is by using that 5.7 million. It may take Terrance Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo as sweeteners to move Adams. With both Adams and Diallo moved they could only replace them using their exception or by signing players on minimum contracts.

The Thunder may think that getting off Adams salary would help them by saving on tax payments. But Adams is the glue that holds the team together, his value cant be quantified by purely looking at counting stats. They would surely be a worse team without him, especially on defense. Also there isn’t a player on the open market that could replicate what Adams does. The Thunder are better off to run it back this year and hope that a healthy squad is enough to get them out of the first round.

Jarrett Culver – Timberwolves Rookie

Last week on Draft night, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Dario Saric and the 11th pick to move up to the 6th pick. In doing so they selected Jarrett Culver, a second year player out of Texas Tech.

By trading Saric and going all in on Culver, the Timberwolves organisation were committing to filling their roster with long athletic wings. With Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the roster, new POBO Gersson Rosas wanted to make a splash by adding another young wing.

Culver is a 6’5 multi position player with a 6’9 wing span. He has an athletic body and although he is only 194 pounds he can fill out his frame well with NBA strength and conditioning. He has a well rounded game for the NBA and is a highly rated two way prospect.

Offense

Shot creation for himself and others is a big part of Culver’s game. He can get his shot off from anywhere inside the arc, even in late clock situations. Comfortable shooting off the catch or the dribble, he likes going to his left and hitting mid range jumpers. He needs to take less shots early in the clock though and not settle for deep contested jumpers. Moving well off the ball, he makes hard cuts with purpose. If he cant get the ball himself he tries to screen or set pin downs for teammates.

Though his 3 point efficiency dropped off this year from 38% to 30% he has a nice stroke with a high release. He has a wide range of moves at the rim, and tries to absorb contact when finishing. Culver got to the line on average 5.5 times a game. Like his three point shooting, he needs to work on his free throw shooting. He only shot 70% from the line. His dribble has improved and he has a nice crossover, but if he is going to play the two guard he will need to work on more dribble combos to get past elite defenders. With his long fluid strides if he works on his dribble this will open up the rest of his game. .

Passing

His passing game is improving and he projects as a strong secondary playmaker in the NBA. Averaging 3.7 assists per game in his second season at Texas Tech, Culver showed good court vision and patience to find bigs with dump off passes, or shooters on the weak-side with drive and kick plays. As he is a strong rebounder he can initiate offense by pushing in transition also. He needs to temper some of his aggression when play-making though, as he sometimes dribbles into trouble and loses the ball. As he was the primary play-maker on Texas Tech he took on all the scoring and play-making duties. In the NBA he wont be required to do either of these things. He can focus on making the right plays when the ball comes his way.

Defense

He has the ability to guard multiple positions in the NBA, and if he can get stronger he has All-Defense upside. Culver plays hard on both ends, and makes smart decisions on defense. His help instincts are good, and he isn’t caught gambling too often. Moving well laterally, he jumps passing lanes to get steals at a high rate. Though he wont be the biggest guy on the wing in the NBA, he is quick and has a great body for defense. He should be able to make an impact on this end with his strong instincts. Culver is an excellent defensive rebounder and can rise above bigger guys with his long arms.

Summary

Culver may end up starting from day one in Minnesota. If this is the case, he will need to learn quickly on a team that is in win now mode. Luckily he will be playing next to defensive dynamo Covington. If he can use smart shot selection and play sound defense he can start his career well for the Timberwolves. His ceiling will be a player like Covington or Jeremy Lamb. As Culver has come in younger than these guys he will want to make an impact right away. If he is willing to work hard on his game then he can have a long career in the league.

Sekou Doumbouya – Draft Profile

Sekou Doumbouya is a fascinating prospect for the NBA Draft in two weeks time. Doumbouya is a six foot ten wing who at 18 has already matured physically. Currently playing for Limoges CSP in France, Doumbouya could be picked as high as number ten when the Draft rolls around.

Doumbouya is one of the youngest prospects in this Draft, only turning 18 in December. Signing his first professional contract in 2016, he played his first Pro game at only 15 years of age. What he lacks in age he makes up for in Star potential. Doumbouya has all the makings of a new age prototypical NBA wing, surprisingly he isn’t higher on the major Draft boards. Mocked between 12 and 20 on a lot of boards, he has a higher ceiling than a lot of the other Power Forwards around this range. Though he has only averaged 19 minutes a game this year, his efficiency stands strongly among other more well known prospects.

Numbers

In 29 games this year in the French league he has averaged the following.

7.7 Points 3.2 Rebounds 0.7 Assists 0.7 Steals 0.5 Blocks

Below are the shooting splits for all the Forwards that are mocked in most peoples top 20s. Doumbouya grades out in the middle for two point %, while also shooting 33% from three at only 18 years old. Though he doesn’t get to the line often, he has one of the strongest free throw percentages at 77%. Among forwards that attempt two threes a game, Doumbouya also has the second highest effective field goal % at 65%. Ranked from red to green, Doumbouya shows strong overall efficiency in his limited minutes in the French league.

On Court Play

The first thing that you notice when watching video is his aggressiveness in the open court. Being able to turn defense into offense in transition, he has long fluid strides and can even initiate the offense from time to time. His first step is very quick, he wont always have opportunities like this in the NBA but he can quickly burn past opposition defenders while taking the ball coast to coast. He can struggle slightly in half court sets, but his decision making is good and he recognizes mismatches early. Attacking closeouts is a strength and if he isn’t shooting then he always take it all the way to the rim. He can absorb contact well and although he sometimes has tunnel vision on plays, his aggressiveness means he can finish second or third chance opportunities. His dribble seems to have improved over the season and has flashed some basic moves which he uses either on the perimeter or in transition.

He also has a few post-up moves and can create space for a jumper or a drop step if he gets good position. Though he isn’t a great passer he can pass out of the post and recognizes double teams and occasionally kicks to shooters on the weak-side. As he will have plenty of transition opportunities he will need to work on his passing vision. A natural right hander, he can use both hands finishing around the rim. This will be important for the next level where teams take away options on the favoured strong hand. Doumbouya utilizes underhand finishes, be it off the glass or finger rolls. He has a spin move which he likes to use, though his footwork isn’t developed fully he has noticeably been working hard to perfect his offense. He cuts hard off the ball and looks to take nice angles to the rim from teammates passes. This off the ball play is encouraging, effort wise he likes to stay involved.

His shot is more impressive than the 33% from three suggests. In the below clip from Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz, Doumbouya has a nice arc from the corner with smooth mechanics and a great release.

Again, he is only 18 years old. More heralded prospects in this years Draft don’t have a jump shot with the mechanics of his, nor the results. He has flashed some off the dribble shots from the perimeter, using a between the legs or side to side dribble to create room.

Defense

Doumbouya has real two way potential. He battles hard down low and doesn’t allow good position for his opponent. He can make good rotations but his awareness isn’t elite when closing out to shooters. He can recover quickly though and covers ground well, like on offense he doesn’t give up on the play. His help defense around the rim is stronger and he recognizes threats down low better than out wide. His quick feet mean he can switch onto guards, though his stance has been criticized he can stay with guards and fights well through screens. With more training he could potentially guard all five positions. His physicality around the block is impressive, he doesn’t allow easy buckets. He will need to temper this slightly at the next level to not give away and-ones and silly fouls. Already a great offensive rebounder, he has massive defensive rebounding potential. He skies above the rim at both ends, but needs to work on the fundamentals on the defensive end.

NBA Comparison

A strong NBA comparison for Doumbouya would be Most Improved player candidate Pascal Siakam. Siakam came into the league at 22 and was lighter than Doumbouya. Though Siakam has a noticeably larger wing span raising his defensive ceiling, they had similar switch-ability coming into the Draft. Siakams jump shot wasn’t as developed at this age, but they had similar games offensively. Siakam had more defensive fundamentals but had two years of NCAA coaching at New Mexico State. With similar bodies and skill at their size, Siakam is a solid comparison for the Frenchman. Drafted 27th by the Raptors, Siakam spent time in the G-League before exploding in his third year to now be a fringe All-Star and one game away from being the second best player on a championship team.

Sekou Doumbouya could well be the steal of this Draft. As this was being written he has been mocked between nine and thirteen as more analysts recognize his upside. This kid has a big future in the league, here’s hoping he gets drafted by a team that develops him to his full potential.

2019 Free Agency and Draft Team needs – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit – Gregory Shamus

The Detroit Pistons enter the 2019 summer none the wiser on their future. They had an improved showing in the regular season where they made the Playoffs for the first time in three years. Though Dwane Casey utilized a rejuvenated Blake Griffin to win 41 games, their meek showing in the Playoffs after Blake was injured showed the holes in the roster. They are over the cap and unless they can dump some salary to get under it, then they will only have the mid-level exception to spend. The Pistons will also have the number fifteen pick in this years Draft.

Of the 16 teams that made the post-season, the Pistons sent teams to the line more than any other and had the worst shooting efficiency in the regular season. They also protected the rim very poorly, allowing the 27% worst percentage in the league. With no real options at Small Forward on the roster after trading away Stanley Johnson they should be looking at the Draft to restock their wing depth. Assuming there are no wild moves to get under the cap, the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions will be all they have to spend this summer. That means this summer they will only have around 12.5 million to spend.

Rim Protection

Backup rim protection should be a priority, so a defensive minded big who can move between center and power forward would be a good start. Power forwards and centers aren’t hard to come by on the open market.

DeWayne Dedmon would be an excellent addition for the Pistons. At seven foot one he is good shot blocker and has a long wingspan. He is also great at disrupting the ball in the pick and roll or on entry passes. Dedmon is an excellent rebounder and also one of the best stretch bigs in the league. Shooting 38% from three in the past season he knocked down 82 three pointers. A late bloomer in the league, the 29 year old Dedmon has played his last two years on the Hawks. As he is a stretch big his asking price will probably be around 7 – 10 million in this market.

JaVale McGee would also be an excellent option for the Pistons as a backup center. Coming off the best year of his career with the Lakers, McGee was one of the best rim protectors in the league. Averaging two blocks a game he is also one of the most efficient centers in the league when it comes to finishing around the rim. He finished in the top 11% of centers in the last season for EFG% and at the rim finishing. Like Dedmon he is also an excellent rebounder. McGee is a prime lob threat and could be an excellent roll man in tandem with Blake Griffin. McGee may command slightly more than last season on the open market, but a deal around $5 million wouldn’t be an over pay.

Forward Options

The Pistons should look to move up in the Draft and take Sekou Doumbouya. If they can dump Reggie Jackson’s expiring contract and bring back some longer term bad salary, they could move up to around the 9th or 10th pick in the Draft. Doumboya is a 6’9 forward playing in France with untapped physical potential. At 18 Doumbouya is one of the youngest draftees, he has an almost seven foot wing span and is a strong 230 pounds. Though he is very raw, he moves fluidly for a big man and has excellent footwork. He struggles from time to time effort wise, but when locked in he could potentially guard all five positions. His jumper isn’t consistent but he has nice form so with time could be a lethal stretch four. Doumbouya has shades of Pascal Siakam, be it the spin move or running the floor in transition. Though he is only 18 he already weighs as much as Siakam and is only one inch shorter than him. If the Pistons could move up in the Draft, taking Doumbouya would be a massive step in the right direction.

2019 Free Agency Team needs – Chicago Bulls

Photo credit Jeff Haynes

With the NBA season concluding in a few weeks, its the perfect time to focus on Team needs for the upcoming 2019 Free Agency. 10 teams have at least one max salary slot, while 13 other teams are over the cap and will only have use of the Mid-Level Exception.

The Chicago Bulls enter 2019s Free Agency in a relatively stable position. They have all their players on rookie contracts bar Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio. This means their cap situation is healthy, with only 81 million on the books for the coming season.

Though its good that they only have long-term money tied up in Zach LaVine, they are still uncertain about their who their future cornerstones are. LaVine is their best player and a piece for the future coming off his best season in the league. Lauri Markannen is the other piece they are building around, he has definite All-Star potential. Outside of these two players they have a need for scoring at the Point Guard position. Management have said they aren’t giving up on Kris Dunn, but have made it clear they need to upgrade at the Point. They also need defense and three point shooting up and down the roster. Otto Porter has two years left on his max deal after coming in at the deadline via a trade for Jabari Parker. Though Porter is overpaid at around 25 million a year he is a strong three and D player in the league. His salary may have some value as an expiring deal next year, but the Bulls should hold off trading him unless they can find an excellent deal. Their strategy should be to build through the Draft then take some low cost flyers on players they can develop.

Point Guard

There aren’t many high upside Point Guards in this year’s Free Agent market. D’Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier and Delon Wright are the best young guards available, but Russell and Rozier will likely command large pay days in other markets. With Ja Morant and Darius Garland likely off the board when the Bulls draft at number seven, they can either try and draft Coby White with the seventh pick or throw an offer sheet at one of the aforementioned free agent point guards. A two way player like Coby White would be the best fit next to Zach LaVine.

Coby White is mocked at number seven currently on a lot of Draft Boards. Though he isn’t an elite passer he has a good feel for the game and makes solid reads in both transition and half court sets. His two way ability is what makes him a strong prospect for the Bulls. Standing around 6’5 his frame isnt huge, so he may struggle to cover large shooting guards. But he moves well from side to side and is only 19 so can still add bulk to his frame. White has a great first step and is very quick across the floor. He is a competent three point shooter at 35%, his mechanics are solid and he has a step back he can use also. His off the dribble game requires some work but he has the physical tools to master it.

If all else fails as far as getting a top level guard through the Draft or Free Agency they should look at signing a stopgap option on a two year deal. A player like Darren Collison or Cory Joseph would fit the bill nicely. Its important the Bulls only roll their cap space over and don’t get caught overpaying in Free Agency.

Three and D options

To preserve cap space for future years the Bulls are smart to look at young guys who can come in and play for their next contract on low value deals.

Glenn Robinson III would be a good low cost option who could have potential upside if he can stay fit. Robinson has improved his teams defense by an average of 2.5 points per 100 possessions each of the last three years. He rebounds his position well, defends without fouling and is a career 41% shooter from corner three spot also. A deal worth around 3 million with an non-guaranteed second year or a team option would suit the Bulls nicely.

If Dorian Finney-Smith isn’t brought back by the Dallas Mavericks he would be an excellent fit on the Bulls. Finney-Smith is a 6’8 wing who has improved his shooting each year he has been in the league. He is an excellent offensive rebounder for his size and has showed on defense that he can defend multiple positions. Though he only shot 31% from three in the last year, he has played under 200 games in the league and is a hard worker off the court.

Jake Layman could be another intriguing prospect to bring to the Windy City. Only used sparingly by the Portland Trail Blazers in his first two years with them. Layman played 71 games this year, impressing plenty of people with his defense and finishing around the rim. At 6’9 he is a big small forward who can guard smaller players on the perimeter too. An excellent offensive rebounder, he finished at the rim at 74% last season. This ranks Layman in the top 10% at his position. An improving three point shooter, he shot 36% on above the break threes this year too. Though the Blazers have his Bird rights, its not a guarantee they bring him back. Layman is only 25 and on the improve, so a two year deal worth four or five million or so a year could be enough to lure him away.

RJ Hampton – NZ Breakers signing

Photo credit – FIBA

This morning on ESPN show The Jump, five star rated recruit and projected 2020 top 10 pick RJ Hampton announced he was signing with the NZ Breakers. This was massive news all around the Basketball world. After some LaMelo Ball rumours, this signing has lived up to the hype. The Breakers lost last years import and star player Shawn Long to a fellow NBL team. With other import signings on the horizon the Breakers have started their free agency with a bang.

Hampton is a legitimate NBA prospect with Star upside. Though the Breakers have generated a ton of hype with this signing, its clear that this guy has come to play. He will be looking to solidify or even improve his projected draft position.

Scouting

Hampton is a 6’5 Point Guard out of Little Elm High School in Texas. He was chosen as the Texas High School Player of the year. He became the first non senior to win it since Justise Winslow, who went on to be a top 10 pick for the Miami Heat. Though Hampton has a good size frame he is skinny and will want to bulk up in the next 12 months. He has just turned 18 though so has time on his side in this regard. In comparison, this years projected number two pick Ja Morant is an inch shorter than Hampton and weighs ten pounds less.

Offense

The first thing that you notice when watching Hampton is his athletiscm. Dunking off one foot he has great elevation and can finish well around the rim with finger rolls or soft touch finishes off the glass. He has nice long fluid strides and uses an array of spin moves and Eurosteps to get past defenders and finish around or through them. Though he sometimes struggles in contact against bigger players, he is crafty enough at the rim to either use an under hand finish or a change of direction to get past these larger opponents.

He has a tight handle and can change direction or stop on a dime. Hampton loves to finish with his right, though he is comfortable dribbling with his left he tends to go back to finishing on his right. At the next level he will need to use his left more but he has the dribble and body control to aid with this development.

He has a nice sweet shooting stroke and is comfortable either shooting off the dribble or the catch. With nice smooth mechanics, his long arms give him a high release . He is comfortable shooting above the break from both sides, and can pull up inside the arc, from the elbow area or the baseline. His use of screens with a dribble to either side is excellent, he can create space to get his shot off easily.

Hampton has a strong basketball IQ and has already shown he can make strong reads to cutters, or skip passes to shooters. Though he is a score first player, he makes good passes in transition also. To be an elite shot creator for others he will need to be able to pass off both hands. With limited open floor video he may have some of these skills in his repertoire. But he will need to show them on a regular basis at the next level to solidify a strong draft position.

On the less glamorous end of the floor Hampton is a good help defender, he has quick reactions and leaping ability to block shots. He has good hands defending the ball on the floor, but does struggle to get through screens sometimes due to his size. Overall though he has good lateral movement and can body up drivers from the outside. In the limited game video that isn’t highlights of him dunking, he shows good overall defensive skills.

The Breakers have a real winner on their hands for the 2019/20 season. A knockdown shooter who has explosive skills in transition, Hampton’s signing is the biggest news in New Zealand hoops since Steven Adams was drafted into the NBA. Here’s hoping he can get consistent game-time in the NBL to show he has what it takes to make it to the NBA.

Value Free Agents 2019 – Thaddeus Young

Age – 30

Previous Salary – $13,764,045

Indiana Pacers – they have his bird rights

2018/19 season – twelve points, six rebounds, two assists.

Thaddeus Young is a premium role player in the NBA. At 30 years old he has just come off one of the best seasons in his career. An elite defender at the power forward position, Young played defense at an ALL-NBA level this season. Whether defending out to the perimeter on smaller players or in help defense off the ball, Young has multiple high level skills on the less glamorous end of the floor.

Offensively he has a well rounded game with a strong package at the rim, and then a hook and jump shot within ten feet. In his three years with the Pacers he has shot 34.6% from three. Though this isn’t elite he only takes two shots a game, and shooting around league average means he has to be guarded out there. Young knows his game so well, his shot profile shows he takes 90% of his shots from three point range or between the rim and ten feet. He scored on 51% of his hook shots this year, strong efficiency on almost two attempts a game.

On the defensive end, Young averages 1.5 steals a game. Andre Drummond is the only big man outside of Young to average more than 1.5 steals a game. This ranks him in the 96th percentile for his position also, per Cleaning the Glass. His decision making on defense is also excellent, he only fouls on 3% of possessions. In the below clip Young is protecting the rim and sees the mismatch with Al Horford being guarded by Tyreke Evans. He calls Evans away as he sees Jayson Tatum wants to throw the entry pass to Horford. Using his long arms he anticipates the entry pass then gets in front of Horford, poking the ball away and recovering it.

http://3ball.io/plays?evtt=5&p2id=201152&playId=0041800131_541

His anticipation, especially when defending or helping on pick and roll defense is exceptional. His help instincts arent matched by many bigs in the league. His long arms enable him to poke the ball away and he can cover multiple spots on the floor. In this clip he is guarding Lebron James on the perimeter, he bodies Lebron up and sends him left. Lebron gives the ball up to George Hill in the corner, when Hill drives baseline Young stunts to him and then anticipates the pass back to an open Lebron. He then jumps back to the post and steals the ball.

Young may end up back on the Pacers without taking any free agency meetings with other teams. But prospective teams should look to throw him an offer still. He has only missed 34 games in the past seven seasons and is peaking at age thirty. His defensive presence and versatility along with a well rounded and unselfish offensive game makes him a perfect complementary piece on a playoff contender. In the past regular season Young had the same amount of win shares as Russell Westbrook and Tobias Harris. He may not have the hype around him in free agency that Harris has, but he would provide similar total value.

A four year deal worth fifty million would represent Young’s value nicely. Though it remains to be seen if this is on the Pacers or another team, he will again provide value beyond the box score to whichever team he ends up on.

Where to for the Wolves – Part three

In the last two articles we focused on the free agents that the team could resign or let go, and then the current roster and how they performed over the last year. If you weren’t able to read the first two articles, here’s the link to them!

Part One
https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/05/where-to-for-the-timberwolves-part-one/

Part Two
https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/12/where-to-for-the-timberwolves-part-two/

In Part three we will look at the Draft and then any potential moves the Wolves could make on Draft night or around July 1st. After last nights Lottery, the Timberwolves know where they are picking in the upcoming NBA Draft. Never having a great record when it comes to moving up in the Draft, they settled into the 11th pick and can now focus on workouts with potential draftees.

Trade Jeff Teague

As far as their wing positions go, the Wolves are locked in for the immediate future with the current players on the roster. Even if Andrew Wiggins was to be traded, that would still leave Robert Covington and Josh Okogie as the incumbent starting wings. As Andrew Wiggins probably wont be traded this season at least, their is a logjam on the wings. This may mean that the Wolves look at drafting a scoring guard that can create off the dribble. By trading Jeff Teague and resigning Tyus Jones they can open up guard minutes, they can start Tyus and then take the pressure off the young guard they bring in.

As Jeff Teague’s 19 million salary is expiring this year, they could get off this money by attaching two secound round picks. At worst they could give up next years first rounder. Bar a disastrous season, next years first rounder would be around the late teens in a relatively weak draft. If they need to give this up then it wouldn’t be the worst thing to do as they have no need for Teague anymore.

Draft Needs

Looking ahead to the Draft, the Wolves are in desperate need of three point shooting. Though a full season of Dario Saric and Robert Covington will help with this, they need a prospect who can hit threes at above league average. If they could get to the rim easily as well, this would be an added bonus. Last year the Wolves ranked 26th in three pointers attempted and 15th in shots attempted within three feet of the rim. If new POBO Gersson Rosas decides a guard isn’t the right way to go, then they should look at a defensive minded big to play next to Karl Anthony-Towns. This could mean not bringing back Taj Gibson, and would also give Dario Saric a hurry up in his development. Though Saric is a good fit next to KAT offensively, he has no rim protecting abilities.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

If its a guard they want, Nickeil Alexander-Walker could fit the bill at number 11 in the Draft. A combo guard out of Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker stands 6’6 and weighs 205 pounds. He isn’t an amazing athlete but can play on and off ball, while he also has an excellent basketball IQ. While he is quite skinny, he has wide shoulders so will fill out nicely with NBA training and conditioning.

Though he is more comfortable as a team rather than man defender, at 6’6 with a reputed 6’9 wingspan he has all the tools to succeed at the next level. He can use his body to cut off passing lanes, so if he can add some bulk he will be able to defend bigger players due to his length. He took a step as a secondary play maker and showed high IQ to find cutters and shooters.

Though NAW’s shooting mechanics have been questioned in some places, he has a quick release which allows him to shoot threes off the dribble. He is more adept at hitting them off the catch though. In his two years at Virginia Tech, NAW improved inside the arc while also getting to the line more often. He can operate in the pick and roll and he uses crafty finishes at the rim off both hands. Though not that explosive at the rim, he uses his length and smarts to get around shot blockers. His excellent decision making separates him from other prospects. Whether it be making the right read in transition or handling out of the pick and roll. He seems mature off the court and has shown tremendous improvement from one year to the next at Virginia.

Brandon Clarke

If Rosas decides to go for a defensive big man, then Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga may be the ideal fit. A 6’8 big who projects to be an elite defender at the next level, he averaged a mind boggling 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes this season. His defensive instincts are excellent, he has excellent timing on his blocks and tends to make the right decisions.

Though not an excellent defensive rebounder, he grabs his fair share of offensive boards. As a junior in college, his ball handling is advanced for his height and he has above average passing ability. Though his shot is limited he has shown some touch around the rim which may translate to range further out . At only 6’8 his best role may be a small ball center, but this could present match-up issues on defense. Though he is 6’8 he doesn’t have the biggest wingspan, and relies on athleticism for a lot of his blocks. The Timberwolves would still do well to draft Clarke, he would be an instant upgrade for them defensively next to Karl Anthony-Towns.

Where to for the Timberwolves – Part one

The Minnesota Timberwolves had a wild 2019 NBA season. Coach Tom Thibodeau was fired. Jimmy Butler was traded, and the memory of the 2018 Playoff run quickly faded. As injuries ravaged the roster they nestled into a Lottery position in the upcoming Draft. Putting this year behind them, lets look at where the team can go in the next 12 months. Here is the first part of a three part series detailing where improvements can be made for next season.

Roster

The current roster has eight players under contract for next season with total salary sitting at 109 million. This years salary cap is also 109 million but this may drop depending on attendance numbers in the playoffs. Most importantly for the Wolves they have Karl Anthony-Towns locked in for the next five years. He does have a stipulation in his contract that if he makes All-NBA then he will be bumped up another five million for next season. In both situations they are at the cap, meaning they are unable to be a player in this years free agency, outside of using their mid-level exception.

The MLE is given to teams that are over the cap and is approx nine million this coming year. It can be used for one player or multiple players depending on the teams preference. Including their upcoming first round draft pick, the Wolves will have nine roster spots filled. They will need to sign free agents using the MLE or bring back players whose bird rights they have. If they have a player on the books for three years they own their bird rights and can then go over the cap to resign them. Early bird rights are similar where you can go over the cap to resign the player if you have had them on the team for two years. The only difference being that they can only give 130% of the previous seasons salary.

The first job of new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas will be to establish some structure around the roster and who the Wolves want to bring back. Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones should be at the top of the priority list.

Tyus Jones had a strong year where he continued to showcase his strong passing ability and savvy court vision. Tyus decision making and passing game are both very sound, and he makes the right reads on defense. His shooting efficiency is a work on, he ranks in the bottom 20% in the league for effective field goal %. Considering all of the above and that he is only 22 years old, Tyus would be worth bringing back somewhere around the 6 – 7 million a year range. A four year deal in this range may suit both the franchise and Jones.

Derrick Rose is slightly more complicated. Rose was a steadying presence on and off the court in a year where the team struggled with injuries and in house issues. Headlined by a 50 point masterclass against the Jazz, Rose showed an improved three point shot and finished at the rim at a career high also. Bringing him back for the right dollar amount would be a smart move. They can offer him the MLE, but with a long injury history a four year deal may be risky. The injury that had Rose shutdown for the rest of the year was his elbow rather than his troublesome knees. If Wolves medical staff deem that there is no long-term damage to his elbow, then a potential three or four year deal worth approx 30 million may suit both parties.

Taj Gibson and to a lesser extent Luol Deng should the next priorities for the front office. Taj provided excellent leadership on and off the court in his two years with the team. An excellent defender, Taj provided strong offense in both his two years in the twin cities. While a slight decrease in efficiency at the rim this year may be a sign that he is slowing down, Gibson would still be worth bringing back around the four or five million a year range.

Luol Deng languished on the Lakers bench for 81 games in 2018, not playing one single minute after an appearance on opening night. After negotiating a buyout at the end of 2018 he joined the ” Timber-Bulls. ” Coach Thibs deemed him surplus to requirements in the rotation and only played him in garbage time. This changed when Ryan Saunders replaced Thibs, he started playing Deng regularly. In 22 games he was efficient on offense while the team was 14 points better when he was on the court. If Deng could be brought back on the minimum he could be a good end of bench rotation option.

If management decide to make the above moves, this would leave two empty roster spots still. Per Cleaning the Glass, none of the rotation players were in the top 20% finishing at the rim for their respective positions. A slasher who can finish at the rim and provide some impact off the bench would be a nice fit for this team.

Depending on how they choose to spend their MLE, Glenn Robinson could be an interesting prospect for them. Robinson is only 25 and has shown ability to finish at the rim and from three point land. After coming off some injuries he could be an option on a cheap deal. Another option could be Wizards wing Jeff Green. Gone are the days of Green demanding massive salaries, but he can be an efficient scorer and good defender. He was in the top 10% of players for at rim finishing, while shooting the three ball at a league average 35%.