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4 Questions for the Upcoming NBA Season

By Omar Rodriguez

The NBA is back.  The basketball gods are alive again.

Since the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to claim their fourth ring, a lot of things have changed. The biggest news of course is the return of the “King,” LeBron James, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The return comes after his rocky departure and the debacle that was The Decision, where he announced on national television that he will be taking his talents to South Beach.

Along with James, Kevin Love was added to the Cavs roster.  So now with Love, James, and young gun Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are now the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

And there are more new faces in new places.  For example, Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards, Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, and Chandler Parsons leaving the Houston Rockets to join their Texas neighbor, the Dallas Mavericks.

Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick of the Cavs, had not even played one minute on the team before he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love trade.  It’s a good time to be a fan of basketball. With that said, here are some of the questions for the new NBA season.


Will the Cavs Take it All?

Before LeBron James’ announcement, the Cavs were among the bottom 10 teams in terms of winning the NBA championship.  After the announcement, they jumped up to the top five.

And after Kevin Love—aka “the Double-Double Machine”—was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cavs, Cleveland is now the favorite to win it all.  James, arguably the best player in the league, can make any team a contender.

Now, with an impressive supporting cast including Love and Irving, they are clearly the best team on paper.  The Cavaliers will still have some kinks to work out.  They will still need to decide on a starting lineup, and with James and Love getting plugged into the offense, the players will have to adjust to one another.

Throughout the preseason, the Cavs showed glimpses of what they can be—or are going to be—this season.  The team should only improve as its plethora of superstars mesh with one another.  Kevin Love is coming off a double-double average season with 26 points and 12 rebounds. In Minnesota, he was the lead scorer and the go-to guy for the Wolves.  Can he still be a force now that he will not be the go to guy anymore?  The claims that his defensive skills are lackluster will certainly be under the microscope this season.

Kyrie Irving, the star player before the arrival of James and Love, will have to adjust to being the third option instead of the primary option.  He will still get his touches and his points this season, but will he be what we know he can be this season?  LeBron James will now take those last-second shots for the win, and Kevin Love will be down low attacking the paint.  Will Irving be playing the clean up crew and still be able to be one of the best point guards in the game, or will he be overshadowed?  Only time will tell.

With all that being said, the Cavs are still the ones to topple in the East.  But with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and hot young teams like the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors on their tails, it should be an exciting Eastern conference shootout.


Can the Spurs Repeat?

The reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs took care of business and beat the Miami Heat in five games.  The previous season, with the Heat and Spurs playing in the Finals again, the Spurs fell apart in the final two games.

It all started with the debacle that was Game 6 where they were up by five points with less than 30 seconds left. They would eventually tie the game and send it to overtime after Ray Allen and his three-pointer. The Heat pulled away in overtime and eventually won game 7 to claim their second straight NBA title.  This stuck with the Spurs, who would soon get their chance to take on the Heat again for the championship.

Of course things would be different.

The Spurs outplayed the Heat and the rest of the Western Conference in the playoffs in 2013.  They finished with the best record in the league.  They were hot.

Along with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker the Spurs still had most of their core.  In the background, Kawhi Leonard was slowly developing and improving with the best team in the NBA.  Leonard had a great playoff run last year, nabbing the NBA Finals MVP.

He is one of the best all-around players in the league.  He is one of the young stars on the aging Spurs.  He is the future of the team.  The core of the team Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker all returned for the Spurs this season.  The most notable free agent for San Antonio this season was not a player this season, but a coach.

The Spurs were happy to announce that head coach Gregg Popovich would return for a few more seasons.  Along with Duncan and Boris Diaw, who decided to return to the team after signing contract extensions, it was obvious that Popovich would stay as well.  The core of the team is still there so they will always be a threat.  Yet nobody talks about the Spurs during the regular season, even though they always finish either first or second in the tougher of the two conference.

Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers are always in the mix as well. San Antonio is not a glamorous team that always catches headlines, and they are ok with that.  They let their play do the talking.

With a great coach, seasoned veterans, and a young star, the Spurs will always be in the mix to be in the playoffs, and most notably the NBA Finals to claim their fifth title.  They now have to deal with a new revamped Cavaliers team that has LeBron and Love.


Should Games Be Shortened?

After the NBA announced that it would experiment with shorter game times, the league was unsure what to expect.  The new game would be played in 44 minutes instead of the usual 48.  The first game played with the new time was between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

The average time for a regular game is two hours and 15 minutes.  The new game was played in one hour and 58 minutes. The quarters were now only 11 minutes, and the second and fourth quarters only used two timeouts instead of the usual three.  The time could benefit some players to take some ease off of them for the long season.

Another suggestion around the league would be to shorten the season instead of shortening the games. The season consists of 82 games for each team.  Now the possibility of the season getting shortened is unlikely.  There are clear financial issues that would stop both the owners and the players.

It would not benefit either financially, but will benefit the players giving them more time to rest and play harder with fewer games on the schedule.  It would ultimately benefit the fans of the NBA since the players would be better rested and not as fatigued.

The last time the season was shortened was the 2011 NBA season, and that was cut by means of a lockout that lasted from mid-July to Christmas Day.  The season was now 66 games instead of the regular 82.  The loss of the 16 games cost the owners, league, and its players over 400 million dollars.  So the likelihood of the season being cut down is pretty low.

The time shortage will be more of a possibility but not much of a difference in the eyes of the players and the fans.  The difference of only 17 minutes is not that drastic, so the likelihood of the four-minute shortage is not likely.  The league should try to look at things that can be cut down during the game.

Some of the things that can be worked on is enforcing when timeouts are done, times of free throws, analysis of replays, and delay of games.  Stricter rules should be implemented on these things before moving on to cutting the actual game and season.


Which New Face in a New Place (Besides James and Love) Will Have the Biggest Impact on Their Team?

The reason that James and Love are not included in this section is that we all know that they will succeed.

As stated earlier, the Cavs are the new favorites to win the trophy.  But who else has a shot to have the biggest impact on their team? Pau Gasol with the Bulls?  Gasol was one of the most sought after free agents this past season.  After rejecting the Los Angeles Lakers’ contract extension, Gasol decided to take his talents to the Windy City to join Derrick Rose and the fan favorite Joakim Noah.

The Bulls, now looking healthier than ever, sit behind the Cavs to win the East after adding Gasol and with a healthy Rose.

Then there is “The Truth”—Paul Pierce—joining the high-flying John Wall in Washington.  The Wizards are a little short-handed, so Pierce will most likely be starting this season, unlike like last season where he came off the bench with the Brooklyn Nets.

Another aging veteran who has been moved around is Vince Carter joining the Memphis Grizzlies.  Carter will likely still be coming off the bench, but his services will help the Grizzlies be an even bigger contender in the West.

One of the biggest stories was the previous Houston Rockets’ team being imploded. Chandler Parsons left for one of the other teams in the Lone Star State.  Then there was Jeremy Lin partaking in the Hollywood lifestyle by joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and most likely being the starter after Steve Nash announced that he will be out for the rest of the season due to lingering back injuries.

Then there is Omer Asik flew east to join the New Orleans Pelicans and their young star, Anthony Davis.  Parsons is one of the best small forwards in the league right now and should have an instant impact on the aging Mavericks squad. It’s interesting to see players with new teams, with some leaving entire conferences.  So they will then have to adjust to a new conference and a new team.

Finally, there is Andrew Wiggins, who technically is not a new face in a new place since he has not played one NBA minute yet, having been was traded from the Cavs to the Wolves in the Love trade.

So he changed teams within a few months, and before officially playing one regular-season minute this year, he is still considered the front-runner for rookie of the year.  His Minnesota Timberwolves seem to be taking shape with the Spainiard Ricky Rubio and the former UNLV star Anthony Bennett backing him up.

Wiggins was the first overall pick for a reason.  He now knows where he will play this year, after he was unsure whether he would be a Cav or not.  He now has some additional fire after the Cavs traded him to show them what they missed out on with their first overall pick.

This year’s NBA season should be a good one, with the new big three formed in Cleveland, other teams stacking up their rosters to combat the Cavs, and of course the reigning NBA Champs in San Antonio.  As the season plays out, some of these questions might be answered, some might not.

Can they come out swinging or will they stumble out the gate?  Or will the stumbling happen at the end of the season come playoff time?  The Spurs, no longer the favorite to win, even though they won it all last year, want teams to underestimate them.

They know who they are, and with their mixture of veteran and young talent, it looks like they have the formula to do it again.  The league can also continue to try out the 44-minute game to see if it can actually work.  Now that the crazy free agency has come to an end and we see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, we get to see what they can offer to their new clubs.  Let the threes fly, the dunks slam, the trash talking begin, and the nasty crossovers commence.

The NBA is back.

Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.


2014-15 New York Knicks Preview

By Joe Nocco

A season after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs, the New York Knicks have revamped their team by re-signing Carmelo Anthony and hiring rookie head coach Derek Fisher. Finishing with a 37-45 record in 2013-2014, team president and general manager Phil Jackson hopes that he can lead the Knicks back to the postseason in his first full season in the front office.

After joining the Knicks front office in March, Jackson has attempted to change the attitude and culture of a struggling New York team through free agency, the trade market and a new offensive scheme.

It seems as if everyone in the Knicks organization is on board with the 11-time NBA Champion’s plan. In previous years, the Knicks’ complications stemmed from their lack of defense and focus solely on outscoring opponents. However, last season provided problems in all aspects of the game.

The Knicks finished in the bottom half of the league in most major offensive and defensive categories a season ago. New York ranked 20th in points per game—with 98.6—and 16th in field-goal percentage, coming in at 44.9. Despite ranking eighth in the league in fewest points allowed, the Knicks allowed the fifth highest field-goal percentage for opponents. Though the Knicks held their opponents to under 100 points per game, they allowed nearly 40 points in the paint per game as well.

It is difficult to win games when nearly half of the points allowed are inside the paint especially in close games. The Knicks went 3-8 in games decided by three points or fewer last season, while going 2-3 in overtime. Had New York closed out one of these games, they could have qualified for the postseason.

The Knicks also finished with a 15-29 record against teams with a win percentage over .500. With the second highest payroll in the NBA behind cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets, the problems begin and end at the top.

Derek Fisher, a longtime player under Jackson, was hired as the 26th head coach in Knicks history. Fisher was set to retire following the 2013-2014 after 18 seasons as a player and was signed to a five-year contract with New York on June 10. Fisher and Jackson won five NBA titles as a part of the Los Angeles Lakers and hope to implement a similar system that they used in LA in New York.

The system that will be used in New York is commonly known as the triangle offense. The sole purpose of this offense is to take the ball out of the hands of, in this case, Carmelo Anthony and spread the ball around. This would allow Anthony to get open without having the ball while letting other role players become involved with the offensive game plan. In the long run, the triangle offense relieves Anthony of the pressure of constantly handling the ball and always relying on him to carry the offense.

Carmelo Anthony finished second in the league in scoring, averaging 27.4 points per game. However, Anthony finished 72nd in field-goal percentage after sinking less than half of his shots. At 45.2 percent, the Knicks’ leading scorer made 9.6 out of every 21.3 shot attempts.

The triangle offense also translates to an effective defensive scheme. Instead of Anthony running down the court and chucking up a 25-foot shot, the ball will be worked around the perimeter until an efficient shot can be taken. This will increase the Knicks’ time of possession and keep fresh legs on defense, slowing down the tempo of the game. However, once the triangle is fully learned and executed correctly the tempo can speed up resulting in a high-scoring offensive attack.

Re-signing Carmelo Anthony was the key for the success of this offense. Though Anthony was a major part of this offense and team, the triangle offense cannot be executed properly with just one player. In lieu of re-signing the face of the franchise, Phil Jackson made his presence known in New York by making a six-player trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

Just 16 days after signing Derek Fisher to a contract, Jackson dealt center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for guards Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon and Wayne Ellington along with veteran center Samuel Dalembert. The Knicks also received the 34th and 51th picks in the 2014 NBA draft, a draft in which the Knicks previously had no picks.

The move not only bolstered the Knicks bench but made salary cap space for the possibility of Carmelo Anthony re-signing. Jackson’s thought processes proved effective after Antony returned to his hometown on a five-year, $124 million deal.

Jackson wasn’t finished after using the received picks to draft Cleanthony Early from Wichita State and Thanasis Antetokounmpo from Greece. The front office couldn’t believe that Early was still available in the second round and are expecting a strong rookie season. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, will be stashed overseas to continue to develop for New York. His brother, Giannis, currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, Jackson wasn’t satisfied. The Knicks traded away Wayne Ellington two months after acquiring him from Dallas along with Jeremy Tyler in exchange for Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy from the Sacramento Kings.

It seems as though Carmelo Anthony has bought into the Jackson and Fisher philosophy as the Knicks eye a playoff berth. Although the Knicks are set to win now, both Jackson and Anthony know that this may take time. However, along with the new acquisitions and the return of Anthony, the Knicks have other pieces in place that will allow New York to compete in a weak Eastern Conference.

Amare Stoudemire is in the last year of his contract and will be playing for his future—not just in New York but in the NBA. Stoudemire is set to make $23.4 million this season after signing a contract with the team in the summer of 2010. Former No. 1 overall draft choice Andrea Bargnani also returns to the Knicks’ lineup after suffering a season ending elbow injury. Both Stoudemire and Bargnani opted into the final year of their contracts to stay with the Knicks this season.

The Knicks backcourt comprised of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardway Jr. also remained intact, which will provide a three-point threat and solid defense at the top.

With his near $100 million payroll in place, Phil Jackson is ready to begin what appears to be an eventful 2014-2015 season.

“I flashed back to 1989 when I took over as head coach and had talked to Michael (Jordan) about how I wanted him to share the spotlight with his teammates so the team could grow and flourish,” said Jackson. “In those days he was a gifted young athlete with enormous confidence in his own abilities who had to be cajoled into making sacrifices for the team.

“Now he was an older, wiser player who understood that it wasn’t brilliant individual performances that made great teams, but the energy that’s unleashed when players put their egos aside and work toward a common goal. Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’”

Joe Nocco is a writer for Scouts Alley and covers the New York sports beat on JoeNoccoSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeNoccoSports.

2014-15 Brooklyn Nets Preview

By Joe Nocco

Finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference a season ago, a new-look Brooklyn Nets team eyes a fresh start under new head coach Lionel Hollins. After defeating the Toronto Raptors in seven games in the first round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, the Nets were bounced back to Brooklyn by LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the conference semi-finals.

Advancing to the postseason with a rookie head coach is no easy task, but after recording just 44 wins last season, expect a stronger year from the Nets in 2014-15.

Hollins, the former head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, was signed to a four-year deal worth $20 million if the sides agree to a fourth-year option. The July 7th deal came just after head coach Jason Kidd was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for second-round picks in 2015 and 2019. Kidd was the fourth head coach to leave a team following his rookie season and the first since 1979-1980.

While in Memphis, Hollins led the Grizzlies to four straight playoff appearances from 2010-2013 winning 50 or more games in his final two seasons with the franchise. The defensive-minded coach helped the Grizzlies regain a presence in the Western Conference through rebounding and a defensive authority. During the time Hollins spent in Memphis, his team ranked second in defensive efficiency, third in opponents field-goal percentage and tied for second in rebounding percentage.

The Nets ranked in the bottom half of the league in each of those categories.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Hollins said. “Repetition. We’re going to put them in stressful situations at practice. We’re going to push them and just try to get them to go beyond what you would normally do in a game. Can everybody be tougher? I think they can. How tough can they be? I have no idea and maybe one or two guys can’t make any change but that remains to be seen.”

Aside from a new head coach, the Nets have also added depth to the bench through the trade market and draft in hopes of reviving a struggling Nets offense that ranked 21st in points per game last season.

Brooklyn traded for guard Jarrett Jack to replace the void left by Shaun Livingston, who opted to join the Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers were eager to part ways with the veteran guard in order to make cap space for the return of LeBron James. Jack averaged 9.5 points per game in 80 games with the Cavs.

In addition to the departure of Livingston, the Nets also lost center Andray Blatche who joined the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association and forward Paul Pierce who signed with the Washington Wizards.

The Nets used the draft to acquire younger talent to replace Blatche and Pierce, adding Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic from Yugoslavia, who was originally drafted by the Miami Heat in 2011. Brown, who was typically overshadowed by his backcourt mate in Marcus Smart, averaged 15.3 points per game in his junior season and 17.2 points per game in his senior season. The rookie also averaged 34.7 minutes per game in his final two seasons at Oklahoma State.

With depth in the backcourt accounted for, center Brook Lopez must play a larger role in the Nets’ attack both on offense and defense. Lopez was cleared to play in August after suffering a Jones’ fracture in his foot in a December game but reinjured tissue in his foot and could miss 10-14 days. This is the same fracture that reigning MVP Kevin Durant recently suffered. Before his season was ended due to the foot injury, Lopez was averaging a career-high 20.7 points a game on 56.3 percent shooting.

The new-look Nets seem to have successfully paired youth and talent but must receive more production from veteran guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in order to truly improve. Johnson averaged 15.7 points per game and 2.7 assists per game last season while Williams averaged 14.3 points per game and 6.1 assists per game.

Key role players Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic will all be returning to aid Hollins in his first year in Brooklyn.

Joe Nocco is a writer for Scouts Alley and covers the New York sports beat on JoeNoccoSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeNoccoSports.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a Future Star

by Matt Graber


Giannis Antetokounmpo, the amiable, ever-smiling Milwaukee Bucks  phenom affectionately known as the Greek Freak, is turning conventional basketball wisdom on it’s head. At 6’11” and still growing, he’s tall enough to play center but can handle the ball like a point guard:  he has the potential to legitimately play all five positions one day.  He’s a freakish athlete who can do things like this:

And this:

And he does them on a routine basis; his personal highlight reel is already extensive and growing every game. The scary thing is, he’s only scratching the surface; if his skill development ever matches his scary physical potential, then the sky’s the limit.

Of course, Giannis is still incredibly raw and untested, and his on-court exploits didn’t exactly translate into success for the 15-67 Bucks. But Giannis and the Bucks have time to figure things out; it’s not like their trying to compete for the title this year. Given time, Giannis, Jabari Parker, Larry Sanders, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters could develop into a nice young core.

Try Giannis at point guard. Try him at forward. Give him free reign to attempt all the chase down blocks and three point floaters he wants. He’s already one of the most unique players in the league with the ball in his hands; if and when he puts it all together, the Bucks could have a superstar on their hands.

Fortunately for himself and the Bucks, Giannis seems well-equipped to handle his potential future stardom, as his Twitter reveals:



Loyal and determined? Check. Good with the fans? Check. Entertaining? Check. Incredible athlete with unlimited potential? Check and check.

Sure, Antetokounmpo is a pain in the ass to type, and it’s probably just as hard to pronounce properly. But it’s a name worth remembering; we may be saying it for years to come.


Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber

Team USA Basketball World Cup Roster Predictions

By Matt Graber

Over a week into Team USA Basketball camp, the roster is looking radically different than initially structured. Gone are Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, replaced by Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee. Also missing is Paul George, who will miss the World Cup and the 2014-15 season after his gruesome and unfortunate leg injury. With the showcase game completed and the World Cup rapidly approaching, Coach K and his team should be ready to announce their picks for the final squad soon. Here’s our predictions based on what we’ve seen unfold so far.

Point Guard: Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, John Wall

Rose was a major question mark coming into camp due to his recent injury history. Fortunately, Rose has looked like his old self, demonstrating the explosive athleticism that led him to MVP honors in 2011. He’s been the most impressive player in camp and should start at point guard.  Lillard can also play the 2 for the team’s small ball lineups and will add clutch shooting and an assassin’s mentality. Wall makes the team thanks to his defense and passing ability.

Shooting Guard: Stephen Curry,  James Harden, DeMar DeRozan

Curry and Lillard will likely play the 2 thanks to the team’s point guard depth. Shooting is invaluable in international play, and Curry is the best shooter in the league. Easy fit. Harden has been considered a lock since day one with his offensive versatility and ability to be a go-to scorer. DeRozan had a strong showing in the showcase game and has looked impressive enough to earn a spot.

Small Forward: Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons

George’s absence leaves a hole at small forward, but the team should have enough depth to get by.  Thompson’s size, shooting, defensive ability and familiarity with Curry should win him a heavy role. Parson’s defense and playmaking should help him to edge out Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver for the other spot.

Power Forward: Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried

Durant will start at power forward and should dominate against the smaller lineups Team USA will face. Faried will add valuable defense and energy off the bench.

Center: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins

Davis is by far Team USA’s best and most complete big, and his length, athleticism, defense and offensive versatility will prove invaluable. Cousins should be able to beat out Plumlee and will provide the size and strength that Davis lacks.

USA will likely play a lot of guard-heavy small ball lineups. Their depth should allow them to blitz teams with an endless barrage of speed, shooting ad athleticism. They should cruise until they face bigger lineups like Brazil, or Spain’s mammoth front court of Serge Ibaka and the Gasol brothers. Still, Team USA is far and away the deepest and most talented team in the field. If the frontcourt holds up, they have an excellent shot at bringing home the inaugural title.

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Matt Graber is a writer at Scouts Alley and an editor at Wizards 101. Follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber and @Wizards_101

Eric Bledsoe and the Pitfalls of Restricted Free Agency

By Matt Graber

Restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe is in a tough spot, trapped in stasis due to the conflicting nature of restricted free agency. For those who aren’t totally aware of his situation, here’s the quick rundown:

  • Bledsoe wants a max deal of five years and around $80 million.
  • The Suns won’t give him a max deal, instead offering a 4 year, $48 million deal.
  • The Suns already added his potential replacement(s) in Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis.
  • No one else but the Sixers can offer him a max deal, and they’ve shown no interest in him.
  • Teams that had cap space and a need at the position, like the Bucks or Lakers, never put forward an offer sheet, fearing that the Suns would match it.
  • A sign-and-trade looks unlikely.
  • It looks like Bledsoe will either have to agree to a lesser deal with the Suns, use his $3.7 million qualifying offer and wait for unrestricted free agency next year, or hope for a great sign-and-trade offer.

Bledsoe, while a phenomenal athlete and defensive talent, isn’t a max-level player, at least not yet. He’s battled injuries, including a meniscus injury last year, and he’s started less than a season’s worth of games in his career. But we live in a world where Gordon Hayward makes $16 million a year, so angling for more than the $12 million the Suns reportedly offered is reasonable. The problem is, Bledsoe has no leverage in this situation. The Suns don’t have to offer him more because they’ve scared everyone else away by stating they’ll match any offer sheet. Teams didn’t want to spend three days waiting for Phoenix to inevitably match the deal while other teams were filling out their roster. Now the only team with the cap room to offer Bledsoe a max deal is the Sixers, and that won’t happen with last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at point guard.

Bledsoe could always use his $3.7 million qualifying offer, but that has pros and cons. He would be able to enter unrestricted free agency and play with the team of his choice next year, but he’d be making way less this year, and another injury or a disappointing season would kill his chances of ever getting a big payday.

If Bledsoe does sign with the Suns, it likely won’t be for four or five years. He’s more likely to follow LeBron or Lance Stephenson and sign a two or three year deal. That way, if he can prove his value over the next couple of seasons, he can cash in on an even more lucrative deal once the salary cap rises, as is expected.

The sad thing about this situation is that all kinds of intriguing opportunities existed for Bledsoe outside of Phoenix. Orlando could have paired him with Victor Oladipo in a young backcourt that would have had scary defensive potential. The Lakers could have made him one of their faces of the future. The Rockets could have added their third star; Bledsoe patrolling the perimeter alongside Trevor Ariza and running the offense alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard could have made the Rockets serious contenders. The Kings could have reunited him with friend and former teammate DeMarcus Cousins. My personal favorite; the Bucks. Bledsoe, Larry Sanders, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same team, with Jason Kidd as coach? That’s an intriguing young team, and entertaining as hell, both on and off the court.

However, at this juncture none of those teams seem to have the cap room or trade assets to make a sign-and-trade doable. Bledsoe seems destined to return to the Suns, where he’ll pair with Thomas and Goran Dragic to form Jeff Hornacek’s three-headed guard monster. That’s hardly a bad situation, as the Suns are among the NBA’s rising contenders.

Restricted free agency is a confusing landscape. While players like Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward cashed in with questionable contracts (not trying to bash Hayward, I like his game, but 4 years, $63 million?), Bledsoe, a player with a higher ceiling than both of them, will miss out on his payday and settle for less than he wanted. It’s not like he’s getting ripped off; he’ll make about what Kyle Lowry, a comparable player, will make. But with the Suns holding all the cards, all the intrigue was taken out of what could have been an intriguing situation.

Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley and an editor at Wizards 101. You can follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber.

Photo credit: Joseph Glorioso Photography / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A Letter to the Cleveland Cavaliers

By Murphy Powell

Hi Cleveland Cavaliers, I hope you’re doing well. I mean, I know the team is doing well, I just wanted to make sure you were thinking straight. I heard you were considering trading Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love. I don’t want to second-guess you guys, I mean you’re the professionals here. But you’ve had a lot of opportunities lately. A lot of opportunities, and you’ve squandered them all. Every one. Picking Anthony Bennett instead of Victor Oladipo, for example. So instead of going through with this trade – if that’s what you were thinking of doing – I want to encourage you to channel your inner George Costanza and do the opposite of what you were thinking. You’ve made a lot of wrong moves, so doing the opposite would be the right move, right? I can think of three different things to do with your situation. Let’s think these through. 1) Don’t make the trade. You just drafted Andrew Wiggins. Are you seriously going to deal him right away? Before he even plays a minute on your floor? That’s insane. From what I hear, Wiggins’ game should translate in a great way to the NBA. Could you imagine seeing him and LeBron fly down the court, probably throwing a ton of alley-oops to each other and being super exciting? Well if you trade him, you can’t. Also, Wiggins can be your guy of the future. Think about when LeBron leaves. When he does, whenever that is, you’ll need someone to take over. Who better to do that than Andrew Wiggins? And who better to teach Andrew Wiggins about basketball, and being awesome, and all that business than LeBron? Think: you could have LeBron James, without question one of the top 10 players of all-time, teach the future of your franchise. And all you have to do is not trade that guy. Maybe Wiggins will turn out great. Maybe he’ll turn out a bust. But do you want to be 7 or 8 years down the road and see Wiggins – who at that time could be one of the best basketballers on the planet – leading Minnesota to playoff run after playoff run and wish you had him? 2) Make the trade. Your team doesn’t have a great post presence right now. Love is only 25, and he’s already one of the best big men in the league. He’s a great rebounder, a good shooter and one of the best passing big men there is. You can’t pass up an opportunity to grab one of the league’s best players and pair him up with – probably – the league’s very best player. There’s no need worrying about the future. Love has said he’ll re-sign with you after the season, and having him around will probably keep LeBron happy and in Cleveland. Plus Kevin Love’s uncle is Mike Love of the Beach Boys! Just think of all the sweet surf rock you could bring to Cleveland! 3) Wait. You know what Kevin Love is going to do at the end of the season? Not sign with Minnesota. So you have all the bargaining power. The team you have in July 2014 doesn’t have to be the same team you have in June 2015 while LeBron is probably leading you to the Finals. Just wait this whole thing out. Wiggins hasn’t played for a second. He could turn out to be a great fit with LeBron. If he does, don’t trade him. If they turn out to be awful for each other and just don’t fit at all, trade him. And think about potential injuries. If Kevin Love gets hurt in the first week of the season, you don’t have to worry about it. If Wiggins gets hurt, that’s rough, but your team’s probably still ok. Don’t forget: you do still have Kyrie Irving to pair with LeBron. Again, you have the power here, not Minnesota. You can do whatever you want, and you have until the February trade deadline to do it. Whatever you do, it’s probably not a bad decision. Love is great, Wiggins could be great. LeBron’s definitely great. This is a pretty good problem to have. Take care. Love, Murphy

  Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @MurphyPowell.