SALT LAKE CITY -- It might lack the buzz and grandeur of Las Vegas Summer League, but this week's Utah Jazz Summer League, along with Sacramento's fledgling event, was the first official league conclave following the beginning of the NBA free-agency blitz. Executives, coaches and prospects from the four participating teams (the Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies), along with a slew of scouts from around the league and a smattering of agents, have been hanging around Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City and the swanky confines of Deer Valley.
A sampling of the chatter this week:
LeBron on board with Lakers' offseason additions
Ramona Shelburne explains that LeBron James and Magic Johnson wanted to surround LeBron with playmakers and defensive specialists.
The not-so-crazy summer?
For all the pins and needles while awaiting word from LeBron James, were there any huge bombshells outside of DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Golden State Warriors? "Not really," one team executive said. "Paul George stayed in OKC -- and that was the sense headed into [July 1]. LeBron went to L.A., as expected. [Kevin Durant] stayed. Houston got [Chris Paul] done. Denver got off money. Dallas went for the quick fix. Atlanta and Chicago are hoarding [cap space] and waiting to take on bad money."
A couple of front-office types expressed surprise that the Los Angeles Lakers are surrounding James with a collection of non-shooters, although they acknowledge that one-year deals for Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (in fairness, a reasonably capable shooter) will free up the Lakers to upgrade with blue-chip talent next summer. So far with the Kawhi Leonard situation, there's little consensus apart from the fact that folks are prepared to be surprised by the Spurs, both in timing and deal construction.
You know what execs are really curious about? What transpires for Jabari Parker. Can Milwaukee and Parker come to terms on a mutually beneficial deal? Will a team like Chicago swoop in with an offer sheet? How about a sign-and-trade with a mystery suitor (base-year compensation issues aside)?
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The Jump breaks down the situation between the Rockets and restricted free agent Clint Capela and what could be done to bring him back.
2016 coming home to roost
Though front offices have certainly seen it coming, even the most grizzled among them are impressed by the sheer tightness of the free-agent market. The money and years are simply not there for anyone other than top-flight talent, somewhat a function of the decision not to implement cap smoothing.
"2016 basically hosed two years worth of free agents," one exec said. "The restricted free agents are really feeling it."
But it's not just the fact that 40 percent of player salaries are being paid from deals that originated in 2016. A confluence of other factors exists. For one, the dominance of the Warriors has persuaded several teams to lay off big deals. There's also a strong belief that teams are getting smarter about the allocation of resources, and the majority of contracts are for one-year terms. An interesting wrinkle in this regard: The league loves to talk about the value of roster continuity but doesn't love continuity enough to make it a priority when there's legal tender and cap space at stake.
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver expresses his thoughts on 'superteams' being formed with the Lakers having a chance to create one.
The revenue-sharing debate
July 1 was the beginning of the fiscal year for the NBA with regard to expenses, which means it's time to calculate the largest line item on the spreadsheet: player salaries. The burden of that expense is shared equally among the 30 teams, even though there's a strong correlation between market size and payroll.
Small-market teams are feeling the crunch. Yes, revenue sharing adjusts disparities, but if you ask the small and many of the mid-size markets, they'll tell you that "revenue sharing" is nothing more than a partial expense true-up to their franchises for bearing and advancing a disproportionate amount of the massive salary commitments generated by the big-market powerhouses. Revenue sharing might often be portrayed as an act of charity, but those on the receiving end see it as the big guys coming correct for running up hefty tabs to the detriment of the little guys.
The pressing question as operating expenses continue to skyrocket: Can you have a sustainable shared financial ecosystem in which these salary expenses are weighted evenly across all 30 teams but revenue across those teams is not similarly aligned (which is what revenue sharing is intended to help accomplish)? Expect this question to be posed more assertively in the coming years as league expenses continue to climb.
LeBron: Everyone's trying to 'figure out' how to beat Dubs
LeBron James details how the Warriors constructed their roster and explains the league's desire to reach their level.
Thinking the game
Between Games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals, with the outcome all but a fait accompli, LeBron James spoke to the media in a particularly reflective session. "I felt like in order to win, you've got to have talent, but you've got to be very cerebral too," he said. "Listen, we're all NBA players. Everybody knows how to put the ball in the hoop. But who can think throughout the course of the game?"
Now, more than ever, front offices and coaches have come to this conclusion as well. Asked what kind of skills they currently place a premium on, basketball IQ was mentioned more than raw athleticism.
"Pure overall intellect is required now," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "It's hard to play with guys who don't understand concepts, don't understand tendencies and don't understand analytics. You need the intellectual factor to succeed as a player and as a team."
Jackson drops 29 in summer league debut
No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. was feeling it from deep, shooting 8-of-13 from 3-point range and scoring 29 points against the Hawks.
The trial of the big man
Even as the market for free-agent big men has plummeted, five of the first seven picks of last month's draft were legitimate big men. So which is it, NBA? Are teams valuing size more or less? The answer, although somewhat complicated, is that the modern NBA big man must have a multitude of skills, and he must play both vertically and horizontally.
"You know the training -- it's just keep shooting, and that line just gets further back," Jaren Jackson Jr. said. "You've just gotta keep practicing. And that's all I've been doing is shooting around before the game and shootaround."
That Jackson, who drained 8 of 13 shots from beyond the arc in his summer league debut Monday, was the unofficial most valuable player in Salt Lake City is apropos of the NBA at this moment in time. And perhaps this is one reason more conventional big men can't find suitors: Why pay older dogs who struggle with new tricks when there's a young litter that grew up not knowing anything else?