NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers give Kevin Love four-year extension to build around forward – for now

Jay Asser 25/07/2018
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Kevin Love will be 34 on the final year of his deal.

As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into the post-LeBron James era, Kevin Love appears to be the foundation they want to build upon.

Love and the Cavaliers inked a four-year, $120 million extension on Tuesday, according to ESPN, which will theoretically make the forward the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.

“Kevin’s talent and character are both at a very high level and he has earned his role at the centre of what we want to do moving forward,” Cleveland general manager Koby Altman said in a statement.

Love still has one year on his current deal before the extension kicks in for the 2019-20 season, and his new contract will reportedly pay him $8 million less than the full max he could have earned.

Cleveland. Thank You. Let’s get it.

A post shared by @ kevinlove on

The deal seems to indicate the road the Cavaliers want to pursue after James left for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this summer. Cleveland could have chosen to play out the final year of Love’s contract and let him walk next offseason, clearing $24.1m from their cap space, or they could have pursued a trade to accelerate a rebuild.

By giving him an extension, the Cavaliers appear intent on staying competitive and vying for a playoff spot in a relatively weak Eastern Conference.

As the primary option in the offence, Love’s numbers could look like they did during his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves, with whom he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his final season back in 2013-14.

However, Minnesota never made the playoffs once during Love’s tenure as his eye-popping stats were considered mostly empty. As the lone star on the new-look Cavaliers, Love could struggle to keep them nearly as relevant as they were with James.

Love’s deal doesn’t preclude him from being traded, though. If Cleveland aren’t where they want to be in the middle of the season, it’s possible the Cavaliers could look to move him.

While the extension means he’s under contract for several year, that may make it more difficult to trade him, however. Love will be 34 in the final season of his deal, which should reduce the appeal of a player whose trade value was already low relative to his stature.

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NBA

Dirk Nowitzki signs on for a record-breaking 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks

Jay Asser 24/07/2018
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Dirk Nowitzki will likely play one final season.

Dirk Nowitzki will ride into the sunset in record-breaking fashion.

Unsurprisingly, Nowitzki has signed on for his 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks, the only franchise he’s ever played for in his Hall of Fame-worthy career, which will break Kobe Bryant’s record for most consecutive years with one team in NBA history.

It’s also likely to be the 40-year-old’s final season before hanging it up and he’s prepared to play in a reserve role, according to the New York Times, who reported Nowitzki’s one-year deal to be valued at $5 million.

Though he’s remained a regular starter throughout the years, Nowitzki has already accepted a reduced role, with his minutes per game dropping each of the past three seasons. Last year, he averaged 24.7 minutes – the lowest mark since his rookie campaign – while averaging 12.0 points.

Nowitzki, who is considered one of the greatest shooters in league history, especially for a 7-footer, has remained an efficient marksman, shooting 45.6 per cent from the field and 40.9 per cent on 3-pointers last season.

Where his skills have diminished have been as a scorer at the rim and a primary threat. He’s no longer the go-to option he once was, with his quickness and athleticism significantly sapped at the tail-end of his career.

Nowitzki has been content to remain the face of the franchise despite their descent since breaking through with a title in 2011. Dallas have made the playoffs four times in the past seven years and failed to win their first-round series all four occasions.

This past season, the Mavericks won just 24 games, their fewest since Nowitzki’s rookie year when they went 19-31 in 1998-99.

While they’ll struggle to reach the postseason this coming season in what looks to be a loaded Western Conference, they should be better after adding DeAndre Jordan in free agency and Luka Doncic through the draft.

Nowitzki probably won’t get to compete for a title one last time, but he should pass Wilt Chamberlain as the league’s fifth all-time leading scorer with 233 needed points to move up on the list.

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NBA

How Carmelo Anthony could help or hurt the Houston Rockets next season

Jay Asser 23/07/2018
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Carmelo Anthony will join James Harden on the Rockets.

The Houston Rockets will add a former All-Star in Carmelo Anthony to their core, but it’s yet to be seen how much he’ll improve their title hopes.

Anthony still has to wait for his pending trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks to be officially completed, and must clear waivers after being released by Atlanta, but he then plans to sign with Houston, according to the New York Times.

He’s reportedly expected to receive a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $2.4 million. Because the Hawks will waive Anthony, he’ll still receive the $27.9m on the final year of his contract, allowing him to join Houston on a cheap deal.

Anthony has been linked with the Rockets for much of the summer and James Harden revealed his excitement at the thought of the 10-time All-Star joining him and Chris Paul.

“It would be a great acquisition for us,” Harden told the Houston Chronicle at a community appearance on Friday. “Melo’s a proven vet. He just wants to win at this point, so it would be great for him to be on our team. The current roster we have now, we’ve got good guys back and we keep making forward progress.”

While Anthony is certainly a big name, it’s unclear if he can still make an impact befitting his reputation.

How it could go right

Anthony is no longer the kind of star who can carry a team’s offence, but as the third option playing off other creators, he can still be effective.

His offensive talent can’t be questioned, even now at the age of 34. Dumping the ball into Anthony in the high to mid-post and leaning on him to score in isolation is no longer a viable primary attack, but as a change-of-pace option, especially with second units, it can yield buckets.

Considering how much defences have to switch to contain the Rockets’ offence, Anthony should find himself in favourable mismatches quite a bit, whether that gives him a size advantage in the post or a quickness advantage on the perimeter.

At the very least, Anthony should be useful as a spot-up shooter on the receiving end of passes from Harden and Paul. He knocked down a career-high 169 3-pointers last season with Oklahoma City and while his efficiency wasn’t great at 35.7 per cent, he’ll likely get more wide open looks in Houston’s attack.

With Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute leaving the Rockets in free agency, they needed a wing who could play small-ball four. In Anthony, they’ve undoubtedly upgraded offensively on both players.

How it could go wrong

The downside with Anthony has little to do with him as a player and more to do with how he views himself at this point in his career.

Despite all the evidence that suggests he’s well past his prime, Anthony still considers himself to be a star and as such, may not be accepting of a reduced role. That was the case last season anyways when he laughed off the notion of coming off the bench for the Thunder.

If he was willing to be a sixth man, Anthony could be a dangerous weapon off the bench against second units. But the more time he spends on the floor, the more he’ll have to go up against the opposing team’s starters and as a result, the more his weaknesses will be exposed.

On the defensive end, he’s simply a zero. Teams chose to hunt mismatches against Anthony last season and he struggled to be anything more than a revolving door. That will be a major concern for a Rockets team that relied heavily on its ability to switch one through five, especially against the Golden State Warriors.

And if coach Mike D’Antoni keeps him on the bench during critical moments, Anthony’s attitude may become a problem.

The entire situation likely hinges on Anthony’s willingness to do what’s best for the team – something that may finally be a priority for him so late into his career.

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