Out of the three players the Bulls got back in June’s Jimmy Butler trade, Zach LaVine is the one with the greatest potential to make or break their future. Despite his limited skill set, his improved shooting and explosive athleticism give him clear star potential. Combined with his age (22), it’s clear he’s going to be a part of the Bulls’ plan for years to come as they undertake a full rebuild.But unlike Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, LaVine doesn’t come with years of team control on a cheap rookie contract. He’ll make $3.2 million this coming season, his fourth, before hitting restricted free agency in July 2018. Depending on how this season goes, LaVine could be in line for a huge payday — north of $20 million annually, in all likelihood. The biggest variable in the amount of money LaVine could make is his health. He suffered a torn left ACL on Feb. 4, which has the potential to affect his explosiveness going forward. All signs have been positive when it comes to LaVine’s rehab from the injury, but there is no clear timetable for when he’ll be back on the court. All signs are that the Bulls will be conservative in their approach. “I’m feeling really good,” LaVine said in June, at the Bulls’ press conference following the Butler trade. “I’m wholesale nba jerseys attacking this injury like I do everything in life, working my butt off for it every day, in the gym and doing as much as possible. There’s always that base timeline of nine to 12 months with it. I feel like with my ability, I’m able to come back early. But I really haven’t set a timetable for that. I’m very confident that I’ll come back better. This has given me time to work on my mental game, my strength and learn the game more. I have no fear at all coming back from this.” LaVine has since said that he expects to be ready to play when training camp begins in late September. It’s a nice thought, but in a rebuilding year, the Bulls have no reason to let him play that early in the calendar. Don’t expect him back before January at the earliest, and even then he’ll almost definitely be on a minutes limit, and probably not playing on back-to-backs, either. The Bulls aren’t expecting to win games next year, and LaVine is too important to their long-term future to not be cautious with his health. All of which is going to make for an interesting decision for the Bulls and for LaVine before the Oct. 15 rookie extension deadline. Depending on where the salary cap lands, LaVine will be eligible for an extension somewhere above $100 million over four years, the same as the max offer sheet he can sign with another team next summer. Given his talent and upside, it seems likely on the surface that if he hits free agency, another team will throw big money at him, like the Brooklyn Nets did with Otto Porter, the best restricted free agent on the market this summer. (Porter signed a four-year, $106 million offer sheet with the Nets, which the Wizards matched.) If LaVine signs an offer sheet with another team, there’s virtually no scenario in which the Bulls wouldn’t match it, even if it’s for close to the max. It could hurt their cap sheet to pay LaVine that much, but it will hurt more if they let the centerpiece of the Butler trade walk over a few million dollars. If LaVine isn’t willing to take anything less than the max, it makes sense to wait until next summer. But holding out for the absolute most money is a gamble for LaVine, one that could wind up costing him if he and his agent misread the market. It’s no guarantee that he will get a huge deal next summer, especially with his current uncertain health status. The market this summer hasn’t been strong for restricted free agents. Porter and Tim Hardaway, Jr. got paid, but it’s been a tough climate for everyone else. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year deal with the Lakers after Detroit pulled his qualifying offer, and Washington’s Bojan Bogdanovic signed a disappointing two-year, $21 million deal with the Pacers. Dallas’ Nerlens Noel and Memphis’ JaMychal Green are still unsigned, and the Bulls themselves are currently locked in a contract stalemate with Nikola Mirotic, who hasn’t been able to get leverage from other offers. It’s not going to get better next summer. According to a recent story from ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon and Bobby Marks, executives and agents around the league are expecting a “nuclear winter” when it comes to the size of free-agent deals next year, a market correction from the spending frenzy that was 2016 free agency. If LaVine has a setback in his injury rehab, or isn’t the same player coming back that he was before the injury, there may not be a team out there willing to toss him the kind of offer sheet that might make the Bulls think twice about matching. He might find himself in Mirotic’s position, going into free agency hoping for a huge deal and inevitably being forced to sign a smaller one (as Mirotic is expected to do by the start of the season). Signing an extension before the October deadline might make the most sense both for LaVine and for the Bulls. Given how hesitant teams have been to sign long-term deals this summer, LaVine may be willing to take a discount off his max (say, a four-year deal worth between $70 and $80 million, rather than $100-plus) in exchange for four guaranteed years. If he hits the market after anything less than a stellar year, he might be stuck choosing between shorter-term deals or taking a smaller deal from the Bulls. In the best-case scenario, LaVine comes back fully healthy from the knee injury and proves himself to be worthy of a max contract the Bulls will be more than happy to pay him. But there are a lot of variables that could prevent this from being the case, from his health to an uncertain free-agent landscape. How LaVine and the Bulls navigate it between now and October will be worth keeping an eye on as the team positions LaVine as a core piece of its future.
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In our series of season outlooks for the players on the 2017-18 Detroit Pistons roster, we’ll run through expectations for each. Next up is Stanley Johnson.Of all the Detroit Pistons who had seasons they won’t remember fondly, Stanley Johnson might be near the top of the list. After an inspiring rookie season, he hit the summer circuit last year with a re-worked jump shot and the promise of an Orlando Summer League in which he was consistently the best player on the floor in spite of coaching restrictions hindering the use of his right hand. He tore up summer league, the Drew League, Drake’s OVO league and just about every competition he found himself in, but when training camp began everything started off poorly. Johnson missed time due to foot pain from his shoes, and his stubborn tendencies clashed with Stan Van Gundy and the duo struggled to get on the same page most of the season. Johnson didn’t see 20-plus minutes of playing time for the fourth time until December 11th, by which time he had already had three DNP-CD’s and a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules. In spite of this, and the fact that somehow his shot ended up more broken than in his rookie season (he had an effective field goal percentage of 42.8 in his rookie season and it dropped to 41.5 percent last year), the Pistons were generally better when he was on the floor than off. Some of that is due to the fact that much of his playing time came against second units, but he had great chemistry with Ish Smith, Tobias Harris and Aron Baynes and his defense was generally excellent. This quartet (which earned the nickname of “Voltron”, coined by Rod Beard of the Detroit News) thrived all season, but particularly in February when they led all non-Golden State Warriors four-man combos in the NBA in net rating with a glittering +25.9. The only better four-man unit that month was Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Johnson’s performance will be vital to the Pistons this season. With the trade of Marcus Morris to the Boston Celtics for Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson has been forced up the pecking order in the forward rotation. Instead of backing up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last season out of position at shooting guard, where 45 percent of his minutes were played, he’ll be playing in his more natural small forward spot, with the possibility of some small-ball power forward minutes. In some starting lineup projections, Johnson would start for the Detroit Pistons at the three, cheap jerseys authentic although Stan Van Gundy may take a more patient approach installing him into the starting lineup. Without a doubt, he is much better positioned to make an impact playing his physical style of defense this season. In addition, an offensive approach that is more focused on cutting off ball and slashing to the rim than spotting up can only benefit him, and playing at the three will aid that.
Last season, the Nets finished with the worst record in the NBA at 20-62.They “won” the NBA Draft Lottery and with the No. 1 overall pick selected … oh nevermind. Brooklyn had to swap picks with Boston (who ultimately traded the top pick to Philly) because of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade. Despite the rough 2016-17 campaign, Jeremy Lin is feeling very optimistic about the 2017-18 season. “We’re making the playoffs,” Lin declared during a Q&A over the weekend. “I don’t care what anybody else tells you.” The Nets did close the season by winning seven of their final 13 games. Lin — who played in just 36 games because of a hamstring injury — averaged 14.5 points cheap jerseys authentic and 5.1 assists, and shot over 37 percent from 3-point territory. Brooklyn acquired DeMarre Carroll from Toronto and D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers (but had to give up Brook Lopez). How will Lin and Russell co-exist? “I’m going to be at the 1, and then he’ll be at the … I’m not really sure to be honest,” Lin answered. “I’m pretty sure he will start at the 2 but it’ll be pretty interchangeable. “And then when one of us is out the game, the other person will most likely have the ball in their hands. It will probably be a little bit combo guard-esque.” During the 2010-11 season with the Warriors, Lin averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 assists over 29 appearances with the Warriors.
With it being Friday and the 2017-18 NBA season starting sooner than expected on October 17, it’s time to take a look back at some of the best Miami Heat moments from last year.2016-17 was the time to be alive, for Miami Heat fans. Forget about Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal teaming up for the franchise’s first championship in 2006. And the Big Three giving the organization another two titles in 2012 and 2013. This new era of Miami Heat Basketball is what it’s all about. Headlined by Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, of course. At 31, the Slovenian point guard is playing the best ball of his life, having averaged 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists a game in 33.7 minutes last season. And the 9-year veteran has made it a point to expand his game. Though he may still rely on his trusty Euro-step, he shot 40.3 percent from downtown this past year. Nevermind the work he has put in to develop his playmaking. Then you have arguably one of the league’s top big men today. Finishing the season averaging 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, the 28-year-old was a threat on both ends of the floor. Whiteside also showed growth off of the court too, curbing a temper many called cheap nba jerseys childish, that often came with a loss of focus. But the great thing about this current squad is how much of their success relies on competing as a unit. Meaning guys like Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder and Dion Waiters are just as responsible for the team’s triumphs. So-called NBA stars or not. And 37-year-old, 14-year players a la Udonis Haslem are still valued to the highest degree, despite only seeing time in 16 matchups last year. So in honor of #FlashbackFriday, let’s take a look back at four of the best moments from 2016-17.
With a 15-21 record and cheap jerseys sitting ninth in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers could potentially use C.J. McCollum as a trade chip to acquire the frontcourt presence they desperately need.ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes reported Wednesday the Blazers are holding firm in not making McCollum available in trades. As part of an offseason spending spree, the Blazers gave McCollum a four-year, $106 million extension that goes into effect starting next year. Portland also re-signed Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless and spared no expense to bring in Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli as free agents. According to Spotrac, the Blazers’ payroll climbed from 27th in 2015-16 ($66,562,366) to third in 2016-17 ($113,260,408), and that’s before McCollum’s extension is added to the books. In October, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that some around the league thought general manager Neil Olshey was essentially acquiring pieces he could later package into a big trade down the road. Stein also classified McCollum and Damian Lillard as “backcourt bedrocks.” The trouble for Olshey now is that trading McCollum may be the only way for Portland to get the players who can turn the team around. Crabbe and Turner are having disappointing years, while Harkless is a solid but unspectacular small forward. After winning the league’s Most Improved Player Award in 2015-16, McCollum is averaging 22.9 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting. His three-point percentage has also improved from 41.7 percent last year to 43 percent. Trading a player of McCollum’s ability would be risky and likely evoke comparisons to the Oklahoma City Thunder sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012, which was more so for financial reasons. That is likely to be the only way, however, for Portland to strengthen its roster to a point where it could make a deep playoff run this season.