By Joe Kotoch & the PBD staff
This past week in the wee hours of the morning an agreement was reached between NBA Owners and the Players’ representatives (The NBPA was dissolved). Word has trickled out that the agreement included more complete revenue sharing between large markets and small markets, shorter deals, and a nearly 7% roll back in salaries by the players under the BRI split.
What this new deal does is give the league money that it had lost under the previous CBA. However, this new CBA does little to change the competitive balance of the league. Players such as Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will still be able to force their respective teams to deal them to the team of their choosing or lose them via free agency without compensation. While the extend-and-trade has been reduced to three years superstars such as Howard and Paul will not be as concerned. No franchise tag was implemented after the idea had been floated since the wee hours of July 8, 2010 (the aftermath of the Decision). The salary cap remains soft and the luxury tax changes will not take place for a couple of seasons, at which point the tax will begin at $1.50 for every dollar and raise incrementally up to a maximum of $4.00 for every dollar. So the argument from fans outside of the large markets will continue that the league is regionalizing itself and alienating fan bases because teams such as Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Sacramento cannot compete with the Knicks, Lakers, and Heat. All teams will have the ability to use the luxury tax, ironically Billy Hunter in his infinite wisdom never attempted to have the league restrict the Mid-Level Exception to be used on one player a gripe heard throughout the circles of the NBPA by veteran players frustrated that the trend among teams is to split it up and sign multiple players.
With the season salvaged the NBA will condense down to a 66 game season and while on its face that appears to bode well for players and teams to avoid as much wear and tear the league is squeezing these games into a tight time period. Every team in the NBA will have at least one back-to-back-to-back game and as many as three sets this season. To cut 16 games the league will cut the cross country road trips down. Teams in opposite conferences now will face six teams in the opposite conference once on the road, six other teams once at home, and three teams will play a home-and-away series. Either way teams will be strategic in minutes and rest for their stars and even important role players. Teams such as Boston and San Antonio have typically done this with their rosters the past few seasons but with fewer games and less time off might be forced to play their players heavier minutes to ensure they make the playoffs and secure home-court. Either way the quality of the play of the NBA will suffer greatly because teams and players are not accustomed to such workloads. (BOLD PREDICTION: Young teams on the upswing like Chicago, Oklahoma City, and the L.A. Clippers will all make the playoffs). Maybe not so bold when Chicago and the Thunder both were so successful last season.
While some of the tweaks to the system will affect teams’ ability to spend and stack rosters that won’t happen in the short term so this season will again be all about the Heat and company. While labor peace is guaranteed for at least six years there is no shortage of skeptics and disenfranchised fans concerned that their team will need a miracle to become relevant or contend for an NBA title.
Superstar Tracker – The following superstars will be free agents in the summer of 2012 and there is no shortage of potential suitors. Also, PBD has gauged the likelihood of their departure and the likeliest candidates to land them.
Chris Paul – 99%. As good as gone. (Knicks, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, & Mavericks)
Dwight Howard – 98%. Waiting on a cab to take him to the Airport. (Lakers, Nets, Thunder, Bulls, Knicks, Mavericks, & Celtics)
Deron Williams – 50%. I could get used to this place (Lakers, Knicks, Magic, Mavericks, & Clippers)
Top Ten Rookies – Odds favor Irving being named Rookie-of-the-Year but don’t discount Jimmer and Derrick Williams who both will get plenty of minutes.
1. Kyrie Irving
2. Derrick Williams
3. Kemba Walker
4. Jimmer Fredette
5. Klay Thompson
6. Alec Burks
7. Enes Kanter
8. Jan Vesely
9. Brandon Knight
10. Iman Shumpert
Top Free Agents – With a shortened training camp/exhibition season teams will be scrambling but these players will draw the most interest around the league. * Denotes the player is a restricted free agent and that their current teams’ retain the right to match any contract offer.
1. Marc Gasol * (RFA)
2. DeAndre Jordan * (RFA)
3. Tyson Chandler
5. Jeff Green * (RFA)
6. Rodney Stuckey * (RFA)
7. Samuel Dalembert
8. Tyshaun Prince
9. Jamal Crawford
10. Shane Battier
Hot Seat – The following coaches are already on the hot seat and a slow start regardless of the circumstances will not bode well.
1. Stan Van Gundy – SVG has already worn on certain players and a slow start will almost certainly doom the Magic, who will do anything and everything to ensure they keep Dwight Howard.
2. Mike D’Antoni – The pressure is on to win in MSG. D’Antoni has the benefit of a roster that features superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The expectations coupled with media scrutiny will present D’Antoni with a stiff challenge.
3. Mike Brown – Replacing the most successful NBA coach (from a championship standpoint) is no easy feat. Just ask Mike Dunleavy, Tim Floyd, and a myriad of other coaches what it’s like to replace a legend. With Championship aspirations, an aging Kobe Bryant, a shrinking window to contend, and the pressure of being in L.A. Mike Brown must have a good start otherwise he will shoot up the board.