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A quiet Fourth, but now let's talk (free agency)
As we all emerge from a long holiday weekend, your trusty Tuesday Newsletter Extravaganza is determined to usher you back into NBA transactions mode
On this Fourth of July, six years removed from Kevin Durant's polarizing decision to join the Golden State Warriors, we saw no KD fireworks.
The consistent signals emanating from Brooklyn suggest that the Nets, having just watched Utah secure an absolute haul in exchange for shipping Rudy Gobert to Minnesota, are in no hurry to rush into a Durant deal without ensuring that they bring back much more in return for the sport's most feared scorer than Gobert generated.
That package will almost certainly feature, for starters, at least one player already performing at an All-Star level.
Grading the offseason will be much, much easier when we have a resolution to the saga stemming from Durant's trade request, as well as its provocative potential for bringing Kyrie Irving and LeBron James back together in Lakerland for the reunion both former Cleveland Cavaliers crave.
Yet even if Durant's fourth NBA stop takes longer to reveal itself than the impatient masses hope, there is still plenty happening to discuss and dissect. To prove it I connected Sunday night with Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report for a nearly 90-minute session of NBA community chat via Spotify Live.
We naturally covered all the angles on KD and Kyrie, clarified where things actually stand when it comes to Toronto's ability to win the Durant Trade Sweepstakes (with a rant from me on misaggregation) and took numerous questions from the audience — from tackling all sorts of salary-cap complexities (Pincus' specialty) to analyzing the landscape for high-profile restricted free agents Deandre Ayton and Collin Sexton and, in closing, going unexpectedly deep on the NBA's inability to deliver on its September 2019 vow to crack down on tampering.
Typically only full-fledged subscribers to The Stein Line get a complete recording dispatched to them on The Morning After a Spotify Live session — as a small token of appreciation for those who provide such vital support for my work as an independent journalist and might not have been able to join us live. It simply felt appropriate, after this long holiday weekend, to top the Tuesday Newsletter Extravaganza with broader circulation of the replay from my visit with Professor Pincus. Now everyone can catch up on everything we covered at your leisure.
Hopefully you'll find it a handy means to get you up to date for what comes next in free agency as #thisleague prepares to descend en masse upon Las Vegas for the NBA's annual summer league extravaganza in the desert.
(If you were following me Sunday on Twitter, you know I am already enjoying the summer league exploits of former Cal State Fullerton star Kyle Allman Jr. with the Miami Heat in San Francisco.)
Please give the chat a listen to get all my freshest NBA thoughts and Eric's considerable expertise in the world of cap mechanics. And thanks again for following me to Substack, reading this newsletter and supporting me in my journalistic endeavors like you do.
The Stein Line is a reader-supported newsletter, with both free and paid subscriptions available, and those who opt for the paid edition are taking an active role in the reporting by providing vital assistance to bolster my independent coverage of the league. Feel free to forward this post to family and friends interested in the NBA and please consider becoming a paid subscriber to have full access to all of my posts.
As a reminder: Tuesday editions, on this and every Newsletter Tuesday, go out free to anyone who signs up, just as my Tuesday pieces did in their New York Times incarnation.
The first report on this Substack about Indiana's determination to trade Malcolm Brogdon this offseason was published on April 9. The Pacers ultimately came to terms on a Brogdon-to-Boston trade last week.
I reported on June 3 that rival teams were already abandoning hope of trying to sign Bobby Portis away from Milwaukee. Portis' four-year deal worth just under $50 million to stay with the Bucks was one of the first done deals reported after free agency officially began last Thursday.
In subsequent stories throughout the month, I wrote about the multiyear deals rival teams were forecasting to keep Marvin Bagley III in Detroit, Mitchell Robinson in New York, Kevon Looney in Golden State and both Jusuf Nurkić and Anfernee Simons in Portland ... along with the increasingly loud signals that Bradley Beal, conflicted as he was purported to be, was always going to stay in Washington for the big money on offer (more than $250 million for the next five seasons).
From the changing-teams department, this was likewise the place to read first about the widespread belief around the league that P.J. Tucker had indeed committed to leaving Miami for Philadelphia ... and how the LA Clippers would swiftly move into the lead for John Wall once the former All-Star guard had secured a buyout from Houston ... and how the Knicks had become a "very, very, very real” threat to steal Jalen Brunson away from the Mavericks.
All of the above happened as written.
The list is more horn-tooty than I typically like to be, but I was urged to put it together to (hopefully) illustrate how handy a subscription to The Stein Line can be. Assuming, that is, you like to be apprised of key NBA business days (and sometimes weeks) before it takes place.
Just sayin’ ...
If you think the trade price that the Timberwolves paid for Rudy Gobert is staggering, consider this: In 33 seasons of NBA play, Minnesota has advanced past the first round of the playoffs only once. We repeat: Minnesota’s trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004 was the only time in 10 playoff appearances that the Wolves were not eliminated in Round 1. Incredible. That history only ups the ante on how crucial it is for the Wolves and their new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to make this gamble on a supersized frontcourt work, with four seasons and nearly $170 million left on Gobert's contract and Karl-Anthony Towns agreeing last week to a new five-year contract extension worth more than $220 million.
Another stat to underline how desperate the Timberwolves are for a change in fortune: The franchise has a composite winning percentage over those 33 seasons of just .399. For some added perspective on how low that figure is for an NBA team: Wolves minority owner Alex Rodriguez hit .358 for Seattle in his first full season as a major-leaguer in 1996.
Interesting list from my pal Micah Adams of The Sporting News: Adams' research shows that the average salary for a starting center on the last nine NBA champions is $9.3 million. Gobert is scheduled to earn $38.2 million next season.
Malcolm Brogdon, who is Boston-bound after the Celtics agreed to a trade last week to acquire him from Indiana, remains the only second-round pick in league history (No. 36 overall in 2016) to win Rookie of the Year honors since the NBA did away with territorial rights and ushered in the current draft system in 1966.
New Jazz coach Will Hardy becomes the eighth active NBA coach to have either played for or worked on the staff of Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. This @StatMuse tweet has the whole list:
If Ish Smith appears in one regular-season game with Denver after a pending trade from Washington, Smith will have played for his 13th NBA franchise to set a new league record. With 12 teams on his résumé, Smith is currently tied with Chucky Brown, Jim Jackson, Tony Massenburg and Joe Smith.
My trusty colleague @KeithSmithNBA is constantly furnishing me with great numbers, as you've surely seen on my Twitter feed, and passed this one along right at the start of free agency: 168 players who were on an NBA roster when last season ended hit the open market last week — 138 unrestricted free agents and 30 restricted.
Entering Tuesday’s business, according to Smith, 88 deals (including 64 free agents, 10 contract extensions and 14 two-way contracts) had been reported by various media outlets. The NBA’s moratorium on signings and trades will be lifted Wednesday, clearing the way for numerous moves to be announced officially.