I am intrigued by one of the early NBA free agent signings. The LA Lakers signed Timofey Mozgov for 4 years and $64M; I have not looked up the exact terms of the deal so let me assume for a moment that this is a simple $16M per year contract. I think there is a huge risk for the Lakers in this signing. Consider:
Two years ago, Mozgov averaged 10 points per game and 7 rebounds per game for the Cavs. In the subsequent off-season, he had knee surgery.
Last year, Mozgov averaged 6 points per game and 4 rebounds per game. In the Finals against the Warriors, he played a total of 25 minutes in 7 games and scored a total of 15 points in those 7 games.
Mozgov will be 30 years old in 2 weeks.
Perhaps he needed that year to rehab his knee fully. In that case, the Lakers have themselves a competent center to go with three or four young and promising players who cannot play center; that would be a shrewd move by the Lakers. On the other hand, it may be that the Lakers are paying $16M per year to a guy who was essentially a bench player for all of the NBA playoffs this season. [Even before the Finals against the Warriors, Mozgov only averaged 5.8 minutes per game for the Cavs.] If his knee is damaged to the point where it will not improve significantly from where it was last season, the Lakers will have signed a $64M albatross.
While I am on the subject of the NBA – sort of – I wrote recently that Adam Silver wanted to make a rule change to eliminate the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy and that I fundamentally disagreed with him on that point. However, I do have a suggestion for The Commish related to an issue that I think would benefit the NBA significantly. Moreover, given the large increase in revenues that the NBA has experienced – and is projected to experience in the next few years – this is the time to consider it.
The NBA is not well-served by the negotiated terms of the current CBA that creates the “one-and-done” situation in college basketball. Yes, there are some players who are physically ready to be NBA players one year out of high school; Karl Anthony Towns is the most recent example; however, please do not forget the names Kwame Brown or Eddy Curry. Yes, there are some players who are mature enough to handle the fame and riches they obtain as they sign their rookie NBA contracts; let me just say that some of them handle those assets more poorly than others. In the days when players stayed in college for 3 or 4 years before coming to the NBA, the league had access to talents that had received good coaching for a longer period of time and – generally – more mature individuals. So, how can that situation obtain once again?
I think that it is time for the NBA to make a major investment in the D-League – or to use the D-League as the basis for evolving a much more robust “minor-league system” for basketball. The NCAA used to provide this to the NBA for free; Federal courts ruled that the NBA could not prevent players from skipping directly to the NBA; the CBA legitimized – in a legal sense – the notion that a player had to be 1 year removed from high school to be NBA-eligible. I just do not think that 1 year is enough in most circumstances.
Let me review the D-League briefly here:
There are 22 teams in the D-League and 14 of those 22 teams are owned by a “parent” NBA team.
Eight other NBA franchises have some sort of “hybrid”/”partnership” sort of “ownership”/”affiliation” with other D-League teams.
It is not as if there are not close ties between the NBA and the D-League already.
The problem is that the public perception of the D-League is about as bad as it could be. Ask most folks about it and the response will be somewhere on a spectrum centered around “the place for players who can’t play in the NBA”. Compare that with the public perception of minor league baseball where most folks think of those teams as “places where prospects hone their skills in order to get to the majors”. The NBA can do a lot to change that perception; and if they do, they can then embark on a course whereby they can begin to develop players over time for the parent club; having draft picks spend some time in the D-League should become a normal part of player development much as happens in baseball.
There are probably CBA considerations here but my next idea might make the NBPA amenable to a change here:
I think the NBA Draft should be increased to at least 3 rounds and preferably 4 rounds.
I think that D-League salaries need to be increased on a scale and that contracts for players taken in the second, third and fourth rounds should be limited to 2 years. After that, the parent club has to sign the player to an NBA contract that meets some minimum standard or the player becomes a free agent.
I think that a first-round pick who is sent to the D-League for “seasoning” should continue to get his guaranteed NBA contract salary based on the slotting formula that exists and his time in the D-League counts directly toward the time when he fulfills that contract and can sign elsewhere as a restricted free agent.
I think this will make the NBA a better league with a better product to sell to the public. Yes, it will cost the league some money, but it will not bankrupt the owners by any stretch of the imagination. It complies with the law in that all of this would be codified in a CBA and it allows for the truly gifted player to go directly to the NBA after one year of college – Karl Anthony Towns as my poster child here.
Finally, since today is the day Johnny Manziel declared that he will get totally sober and serious about playing for an NFL team this year, here are two comments about Manziel from columnists:
“Johnny Manziel was indicted. My question: What with all that partying, how does he find the time for domestic assault?” [Greg Cote Miami Herald]
“Last week, Johnny Manziel attended a Justin Bieber concert. In a crowd full of 16,000 11-year-olds, Manziel was still the least mature person in the room.” [Brad Dickson Omaha World-Herald]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………