Mike Gallagher

Offseason Beat

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League Pass Ranks & News Talk

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

NBA free agency is just the best, isn’t it? Yeah, we have all the terrific reporting and the on-court stuff to think about for next season, but this isn’t supposed to be a fun time, right? It feels like just yesterday get-off-my-lawn folks would whine about how players changing teams is bad for the sport and it was better in the old days. Well, that’s wrong. This is one of the best times to be an avid NBA fan and you could argue July 1-4 is the most fun you’ll have on the internet.


As great as this has been to follow along, nothing will ever top Emoji Day 2015 on July 8. Yes, this is the day NBA players were all describing their modes of transportation regarding DeAndre Jordan possibly going to the Mavs. Banana boats for the win.


Still, free agency social media in 2017 hasn’t been slacking. Even beyond social media, Andre Iguodala’s master strokes of creating leverage was just too funny. Based on reports, Iggy scheduled meetings with the 76ers, Kings, Spurs, Rockets and possibly other teams. This comes on the heels of Iggy pointing to his business manager after a Game 1 dunk in the NBA Finals and also making a money gesture during the championship parade:



Not that there was any doubt he would wind up with the Dubs, but you have to give Iguodala props for getting his market value when there was a chance the team would try to make him take a pay cut. That’s especially true considering he’s been doing it for so long. And of course, Iggy did have his 2017 social media greatest hits upon his agreement:



By the way, Kevin Durant is the man for taking a pay cut. Maybe the Warriors will give Postmates some free advertising because of his investment in the company. Light years ahead.


The title track for the 2017 social media free agency album is probably what’s been going on with Gordon Hayward. The 2017 All-Star had meetings with the Heat on Saturday, Celtics on Sunday and Jazz on Monday. That sparked each team’s franchise player to hit up Twitter with Rudy Gobert kicking it off:



Then there was the Isaiah Thomas tweet:


And Hassan Whiteside had his say:



And of course there's the July 4th fiasco. I had to change this column three different times and am publishing it while we're all in a holding pattern. At the time of posting this, the last report is that Hayward is going to Boston.


What may be more unique about this free agency period is what happened on June 30. Yeah, there was the Paul George trade, but it’s not often you see one of the league’s best general managers make a mistake on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).


Just before the “start” of free agency, it was reported Nene and the Rockets came to terms on a four-year, $15 million deal. This deal would’ve had no shot on the 2016-17 version of the CBA because players over 36 couldn’t be committed to a multi-year deal at that length. However, the CBA changed to an over-38 rule, which sounded like it could work for the 34-year-old big man. 


The problem is Nene was still going to be 38 years old when the season started for the would-be fourth year. Apparently, the NBA and the Rockets caught wind of this and had to alter the deal to a three-year, $10 million deal. Basically, Nene lost out on a ton of money even though he had almost no chance he would play in his age-38 season. He still was able to get a three-year, $11 million deal, so it's not all bad.


The bottom line is even the most knowledgeable people can miss out on a CBA detail. Personally, I didn’t think anything of it at the time of the deal because in Daryl Morey we trust. It’s like trusting Albert Einstein to explain the theory of relativity or trusting Notorious BIG, young Jay Z or Big L on how to describe how to spit a hot verse — is 4:44 good? It was still a very unique situation, which we’ll probably appreciate down the line.


Moving on, I was planning on writing up some cool stuff on Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but instead I’ll get my takes on and talk about my favorite teams on NBA League Pass. Here are some factors for these:


First and foremost, this is all about fun. The frequency of a highlight is big, but consistently entertaining possessions is the top priority here. It also helps to have a player that can do things that basically nobody else can — a freak, if you catch my drift. Great passing is also a big factor for me. #TeamBouncePass for life.


You also have to love a good play design. Sometimes coaches don’t get enough credit for making teams fun. Yeah, there’s the old Mike D’Antoni Seven Seconds or Less Offense or you could say how the Spurs run the hammer so much, but casual basketball fans may not appreciate that stuff. They should.


That’s pretty much it. Teams that get you so excited to watch and make you shout for excitement are the best ones for entertainment. That’s what we want. Two things I didn’t take away from or add in the rating is the broadcast team. Secondly, I didn’t take away from teams that are on national TV all the time. Yes, the Dubs are on national TV for like every game, but Klay’s 37-point quarter against the Kings and his 60-point game against the Pacers were not on ESPN or TNT.


Also, this was really hard. The NBA is good. And yes I know basically everyone will disagree with these and I'm sure it'll look different in July 2018.


1. 76ers - My favorite part of the regular season last year was January. That’s when the 76ers were winning and Joel Embiid was logging 28 minutes. He’s one of the most fun players I’ve ever seen. Plus, Ben Simmons is going to drop so many pretty dimes — I posted a story last month with some of his summer-league dimes. Markelle Fultz was dynamite on Monday and coach Brett Brown runs cool stuff. Plus, Wells Fargo is going to be packed. They also get plenty of “shiny and new” bonuses. Easy No. 1 for me. Here's Markelle's block from last night:



2. Warriors - I don’t think I have to sell you on this one. Sure, they’re going to blow people out, but they play the most entertaining brand of basketball ever. 


3. Nuggets - Trust The Jokic. A good pass with flash and flare is my favorite thing about basketball. That’s Jokic right there. Plus, they’ll play with pace and Jamal Murray is going to dazzle. Gary Harris is also becoming an underrated watch and Juancho Hernangomez could be freed. More people are going to appreciate Juancho's style of defense this year.


4. Wolves - Shiny and new is great and of course Karl-Anthony Towns is unreal at making a highlight. The big negative is they’re probably going to play slow and live on defense because they have most of their depth in the frontcourt. Losing Ricky Rubio hurts just a tad, too.


5. Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo.


6. Rockets - Chris Paul can dime with the best of them, James Harden attacking so much always leads to 5-10 great drives per night, and Mike D’Antoni’s offense will be up-tempo. Lob City South for Clint Capela.


7. Thunder - Russell Westbrook, and adding Paul George should be fun. PG-13 doesn’t exactly rack up the “wow” highlights compared to how talented he is, and he'll be more of a catch-and-shoot guy. By the way, PG-13 is going to hit so many treys next year. 


8. Pelicans - Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. I feel like this is too low, too. The NBA is just so deep with talent. Steez, too.


9. Cavs - Kyrie Irving’s handles are crazy and LeBron James is still LeBron James. Again, the NBA is too deep.


10. Spurs - Kawhi Leonard. Plus, Dejounte Murray’s little step-around move should be a thing this year.


11. Celtics -  Assuming Hayward is going to Boston, this gives the Celtics yet another player to create offense, especially after Hayward basically had a different starting point guard next to him in the last five year. Now, he gets All-Star Isaiah Thomas and a plus passer in Al Horford. Not to mention Brad Stevens is probably the best ATO guy out there and Isaiah Thomas is The King of the Fourth. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could give Boston the most highlight-laden second unit in the NBA, but their playing time drops a lot here. They were ballin' on Monday night.


12. Suns - This might surprise some of you, but the Suns have a lot of unique styles and they play a fun brand of hoops. Devin Booker is just 20 years old and Josh Jackson seems like he’ll have some fancy buckets for a rookie. Their point guards have some stark differences in styles, but Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis get it done.


13. Blazers - C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard are always a treat.


14. Nets - Kenny Atkinson’s offense is probably the most underrated watch in the NBA. Caris LeVert has a top-five crossover, the pace is going to be blazin’, D’Angelo Russell is going to get every opportunity to shine on and off the ball, and don't forget the Nets were playing well late in the season. Ian Eagle is my favorite play-by-play man ever.


15. Wizards - Bradley Beal is going to take another step forward and John Wall in transition is just unreal.


16. Jazz - Assuming G-Time is gone, this stinks for Utah. Gordon Hayward is one of the most well-rounded players in the league and he will be missed. Although, get on the Donovan Mitchell hype train. Hayward aside, they're slow in pace, but their offense has so much cool action. Adding Ricky Rubio is also going to make their ball movement pop, Rudy Gobert became one of the best roll men to go with his outstanding rim protection. This team is still going to be a League Pass gem.


17. Lakers - Lonzo Ball is a wild card, but you would think he helps this team move up these ranks in short order.


18. Raptors - More Norm? More Norm. As much as we don’t like DeMar DeRozan taking highly-contested twos, they’re fun to watch when they go in. Kyle Lowry over (almost) everything.


19. Clippers - Blake Griffin’s dunk rate dropped last year and no more CP3 throwing lobs to DeAndre Jordan. Putting the Clippers at 19 feels so wrong, but the times they are a changing.


20. Heat - Coach Erik Spoelstra’s position-less basketball is a breath of fresh air in the Eastern Conference and Hassan Whiteside is good for a great block per night, but they lack offensive wow factor. You have to love James Johnson being a badass when a scuffle breaks out. Dion Waiters is probably coming back, right?


21. Mavs - How high can Dennis Smith Jr. take this team? Dirk Nowitzki is probably going to lose some playing time, which kinda stinks. Harry B isolations are probably going to drop next year, so that's a plus. I really hope the Mavs aren't dead last in pace again.


22. Grizzlies - Take that for data? They’re not gonna rook us? David Fizdale is a cool customer. However, they were still slow last year despite talking up pace in the preseason. Maybe losing Zach Randolph makes them a little faster.


23. Knicks - Take Kristaps Porzingis off this team and they’re dead last. The Knicks are only expected to play Frank Ntilikina around 20 minutes, as well.


24. Hornets - At least from a watch perspective, this team is probably too sound for their own good. They had the lowest turnovers per game and were tied for fifth for fewest turnovers forced. 


25. Pacers - Myles Turner kind of fell off a bit late last year, but now he’s going to get ample opportunity to shine.


26. Pistons - Andre Drummond had a letdown last year and the Hack-a-Dre plays hurt the watchability. It just doesn’t feel like Stan Van Gundy has his fingerprints on this roster yet. They might be even lower if not for one gigantic reason: Boban Marjanovic.


27. Kings - Their young guns should be entertaining in a few years. De’Aaron Fox is likely going to rack up the transition buckets, Bogdan Bogdanovic can fill it up in a variety of ways, Skal Labissiere showed he could be a bargain and Buddy Hield showed some flashes in April. I also didn't move them up from the George Hill and Zach Randolph news today.


28. Hawks - Yeah, they’re not exactly oozing with talent, huh? Maybe we can get more Baze Gazes. Mike Budenholzer also has plenty of Spurs-style plays.


29. Bulls - Are the Bulls not allowed to have a point guard who can shoot? Maybe Zach LaVine (knee) can make them not boring once he’s back from his ACL tear.


30. Magic - Their "go big when everyone goes small" plan last year was a disaster and it made them easily the most boring team to watch last year. Maybe they’ll move up with John Hammond changing the team, but last year was just too much. Wesley Iwundu and Jonathan Isaac look like they’ll be bringing some new swagger to this team.


Happy Fourth!

Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.

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