DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on the 2018 Draft, pricey contracts and more

David Aldridge

The Draft. You. Go.

Doncic Does Dallas. From Brent Luckey:

After the Mavs won the 2011 championship, it felt that they immediately ceased to have an identity. Coming into a shortened lockout season with a mostly new roster that did not appear ready for a repeat left an empty feeling for Mavs fans.

Over the next few seasons we’ve had total roster changes, celebrations for .500 records, and big misses on big star signings. Last season we got a glimmer of hope in Dennis Smith, Jr.: a young talent who was fun to watch. It felt like we have turned a corner. However, by the end of the season, our roster still felt clunky with players filling roles that they were not naturally built for

Luka [Doncic] could be the franchise-changing player myself and other Mavs fans have been waiting for — someone to take over for our great Euro star, Dirk Nowitzki. As the Draft was about to begin, it looked like the deal was dead. But shortly after the first pick was announced, the deal was alive and it was done.

This began a whirlwind of excitement, joy, knowledge-seeking … for me, the next day was more enjoyable. That Friday — for the first time in a long time — I was excited to watch sports media. For the longest time since after the Mavs championship, people were talking about my team in a positive light. The Mavs won the Draft, got the best player (for a steal) and are ready to competitive next season …

As I noted in my Draft review, Brent, I think Luka has a real chance to be a superstar and the Mavs have a chance to return soon to a position of relevance in the Western Conference. More important, though, is the 100-day plan that the team undertook after reports of a toxic workplace culture on the business side of the organization surfaced in Sports Illustrated last February should be nearing completion.

No one doubts the serious and sincerity of CEO Cynthia Marshall, hired after the scandal broke. She will make strong and smart recommendations, and the external investigation the Mavericks have initiated into their shop by hiring two high-profile prosecutors should connect some of the dots that remain unclear. But Mavs owner Mark Cuban needs to do more than accept responsibility for what happened before on his watch. He has to be aggressive going forward, and proactive in accepting and implementing innovations that empower women and make them feel like full partners on the business side.

To my big brother George — the richest man in town! From Colin Iheanacho:

I think [Atlanta Hawks GM Travis] Schlenk has gotten a lot of unwarranted heat for that Mavs deal. I didn’t like some of the moves (taking Omari Spellman at No. 30, trading pick No. 34, top-5 protection on Mavs pick), but it’s clear the situation was unusual. From reporting on and before Draft night, the consensus seems to be Schlenk wasn’t high on Doncic (unpopular opinion, but understandable), wanted Jaren Jackson, Jr. (who marketing and ownership didn’t want), and either had to take Doncic and take credit for a pick he didn’t want or settle on another ownership favorite in Trae Young.

I get that a lot of owners are heavily involved in the draft process — Mark Cuban, Dan Gilbert, Robert Sarver, Vivek Ranadive, Michael Jordan, etc. — but I find it unsettling that all those names (besides Cuban, who has his own issues) are leaders of some the most dysfunctional franchises in the league. Is it time to start labeling Hawks owner Tony Ressler in this group? He signed Dwight Howard, installed two differing minds as heads of ops in Wes Wilcox and Mike Budenholzer (which led to a lot of instability after Danny Ferry left), neglected to re-sign Al Horford and held on to Paul Millsap too long (among other things).

Should Hawks fans be concerned that Ressler could very well interfere too much and mess the rebuild up?

Ressler was clear that he didn’t think former coach Budenholzer could handle both the coach and GM jobs, leading to the Hawks stripping Budenholzer of his head of basketball ops job and picking Schlenk as GM last year. The organization made a mistake with Horford, in my view, but didn’t get the offers it wanted for Millsap before he left. That’s a decision, one of a hundred a team makes every day.

If you put a few hundred million — or, increasingly, a billion or more — into a franchise, you get some say in the matter, Colin. Schlenk knows this, as does every GM in the league these days. Schlenk acknowledged there was a Doncic-Young split within the organization (though my understanding is that the basketball people, including Schlenk, were for Doncic, but liked Young enough that getting the 2019 first from Dallas was worth making the deal with the Mavericks). It doesn’t make Atlanta dysfunctional that there was disagreement; every organization worth its salt does. In the end, after some debate, Ressler and the Hawks’ owners relented to the wishes of the basketball people, which is all that should be important to you as a fan of the team.

You can’t spell “boorishness” without “boo.” From Travon Neal:

I think some New York Knicks fans — especially the ones who booed Kevin Knox — suffer from Post-Draft and/or Post-Phil Jackson Syndrome … heck, even Post-1999 Knicks Syndrome. Let me explain.

I thought it was ridiculous for those “fans” to boo an 18-year-old young man just because they wanted the Knicks to draft Michael Porter, Jr. Despite his potential and being a household name, Porter Jr. also possesses an injury history. I have nothing against him, but it just drives me crazy how Knicks fans are always clamoring about the franchise’s futility and ineptitude — but this time, they did the right thing.

They picked a guy they love instead of going for the household name. Those same people who are booing now would be the same fans calling into radio stations and protesting outside of MSG if the Knicks would have selected Porter Jr. and he missed the upcoming season or suffered a long-term injury in a few seasons. Hopefully, Porter Jr. has a good career — but we weren’t in position to take that chance.

Travon, you’ve written a cogent, well-thought out, persuasive e-mail. It has no place in sports.

What can Brown do for you? From Sam Soufi:

The Washington Wizards haven’t had a first-round Draft pick since 2015. Therefore, you can imagine my excitement for what the future might hold for us with the No. 15 pick. Then I hear the words “With the 15th pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select Troy Brown Jr.”

My jaw drops immediately, If the Wizards truly wanted a shooting guard they should’ve selected Lonnie Walker IV. Or to fill a more positional need, get Robert Williams or Mo Wagner. The pick was absolutely terrible. Brown will hopefully have a successful NBA career, but he’s not No. 15-pick worthy when most mock drafts had him going in the mid-to-late 20s.

I’m pretty sure the Wizards wanted Jerome Robinson from Boston College, Sam. But he went two picks ahead of them, to the LA Clippers. Washington, as I reported Thursday, would not have taken Michael Porter, Jr,, even if he hadn’t gone to Denver at 14. And, I’m told, they weren’t inclined for different reasons to take either Williams or Walker. They could have gone for Donte DiVincenzo or Kevin Huerter there, but they liked the size and smarts of Brown more. The issue more for me with Brown is the timeline — how long will it take for him to become a contributor, with John Wall and Bradley Beal in their prime? But I do think he will be one in time.

We’re gonna need those hats back, fellas. From Derek Morris:

Hated the Sixers draft. In my eyes, Mikal Bridges is clearly better then Zhaire Smith. Why would they even take him?

I hated the 30 minutes between when the Sixers picked Bridges and when they traded him more than the trade itself. Bridges is ready-made to play now and it was a great (if brief) story of the local kid who made good coming home. But while Smith is far from a sure thing, he has some serious upside as a two-way player and is athletic as hell.

You can see what Philly saw in him — and the unprotected 2021 first the Sixers got from the Suns (which came from Miami in the Goran Dragic deal) to swap picks could be a huge chip in three years. But you just wish, if there was any inkling that he could be traded, that the Sixers had pulled Bridges and his mother aside and gotten them off the interview circuit. I know Draft night trades often come together quickly and there may have been nothing the team could have done. But it was a terrible look nonetheless.

On a greenback, greenback dollar bill/Just a little piece of paper, coated with chlorophyll. From Kat Wilkinson:

First off let me say I don’t profess to be a basketball expert.

But I have very little sympathy for highly-paid players who demand top-tier money from a team and then complain about the personnel around them. Please do not misunderstand me: players negotiate and are entitled to the money that they have earned based on their abilities, years in the league, and any other factors that go into giving them that top-tier money. I have no problems with that.

But if they cannot realize that by sucking up every dollar on the table — leaving virtually nothing for ownership to work with — then they should not complain about the role players they end up with.

People may say what they want about the New England Patriots (and although I live in Boston, I am absolutely no fan of the New England Patriots) but what has Tom Brady done over the years? He has put money on the back end of his contracts which has allowed management and coach Bill Belichick to get decent role players. This ultimately leads to more talented and competitive teams. For some reason, some players (ahem, LeBron James) just don’t get it — you can’t have it both ways.

You want all the money? Then you suffer with what’s left over for management to work with. You want to go with a little less money leaving management with something to work with? Maybe you get a better team. Wow, what a thought!

Your opinion is shared by many, Kat. But James and many max-level players who played on rookie-scale contracts at a significant discount for a good chunk of their early careers (and, in James’ case, took less than the max to put the SuperFriends together in Miami) feel they’ve sacrificed enough. To them, it’s up to management to put a team around them good enough to compete at the highest level.

It requires a special kind of financial gymnastics, of course, and some good fortune (the Golden State Warriors signed Stephen Curry to a four-year, $44 million extension in 2012 just as he found a long-term solution to his ankle problems and entered his MVP caliber prime). It’s part of the power that NBA players increasingly wield. Not only do you have to pay them every dollar possible, you have to be able to show them how you can do that and still give them a chance at a ring.

Send your questions, comments and free makeovers for Zsa Zsa to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

10 — Consecutive years in which at least one player from Duke University has been taken in the first round. The Blue Devils’ streak continued this year with Marvin Bagley III (second, to Sacramento), Wendell Carter, Jr. (seventh, to Chicago) and Grayson Allen (21st, to Utah) going in the first. Duke’s first-round streak dates to 2009, when Gerald Henderson went 12th overall to Charlotte; the year before, no Blue Devils player was taken in either round. Since ’09, including Bagley, Carter and Allen, 19 Duke players have gone in the first round.

9 — Consecutive years in which at least one player from the University of Kentucky has been taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. The Wildcats’ streak also continued this year with the selection of Kevin Knox (ninth, to New York) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th, to Charlotte, then traded to the Clippers). The last year no Wildcat went in the first round was 2009, when the only Kentucky player taken was guard Jodie Meeks, in the second round, by Milwaukee. Since then, including Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander, 27 Wildcats have gone in the first round.

$100,322 — Price paid by an unknown bidder for LeBron James’s jersey that he wore in Game 1 of this year’s Finals, when he scored 51 points in the Cavs’ infamous overtime loss to the Warriors.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) We will finally find out the heretofore unknowable secret of who won the 2018 Kia MVP award and other superlatives tonight at the NBA Awards ceremony in California (9 ET on TNT). I will be particularly pleased to see Oscar Robertson receive the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Every modern day player has two people that he should thank every time he steps on the floor — Robertson and Spencer Haywood.

2) Marc Eversley, the Sixers’ vice president of player personnel, is the logical and obvious choice to replace Brian Colangelo in Philadelphia as general manager. He’s paid his dues with stops at Washington and Toronto before coming to Philly; he has outside experience making big decisions as a former Nike executive and he’s well-regarded around the league. It may be too close to the start of free agency to make an official announcement, but one should be forthcoming soon.

3) That it is no longer a big deal that the NBA, starting with Adam Silver, is a prominent part of the New York Pride Parade is indicative of how doing the right thing over and over makes what seems controversial at first accepted behavior soon after. And kudos to Detroit Pistons forward Reggie Bullock, whose transgender sister Mia Henderson was murdered in Baltimore in 2014, for taking part and for honoring his sister as he continues to raise awareness of violence and abuse against transgender people.

4) File this under “things I never thought would ever intersect with one another for $200, Alex. Very cool and appreciated.

https://twitter.com/nlbmprez/status/1010721551992451072/photo/1

NOT FEELIN’ …

1) It’s odd to comment on something that we still don’t know for sure happened. But let’s say for the sake of argument that my Turner colleague Kevin McHale did attend a rally for President Trump last week in Minnesota. Again: Kevin has not said a word about whether the person on the screen cap is him (if it isn’t, no more calls, please, we have a doppelganger winner). But if it is … so very what?

What Kevin McHale does with his free time, as long as it isn’t illegal or harming others, is of no concern to me, and it should be of no concern to you. Among the many things that are being fought for these days are the rights of American citizens to express their beliefs freely — again, as long as they aren’t done in a threatening/dangerous manner to others (Nazis marching in the streets of Charlottesville with tiki torches, followed by one of their supporters killing a counterprotester by running her over with his car, would qualify here as “threatening/dangerous”).

If Kevin supports President Trump and his policies, well, go with God. Obviously, I don’t. But I don’t talk about politics with Kevin when we work together; we talk about basketball, and he is one of the premier experts on that subject currently roaming Earth. And, he’s funny and self-deprecating and I enjoy working with him, and will continue to enjoy it.

2) Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Tiny Archibald, who received a heart transplant last week, per fellow Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

3) This seems petty, people of Houston. Do better.

4) No Tip next Monday, because I will be hip deep in free agent calling/texting with folks, and you will want to know everything that’s going on in that world rather than other NBA news. Will return the following Monday (July 9) with a free agent-laden column.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

— Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27), Thursday, 6:26 p.m., replying after teammate Donovan Mitchell made a pre-Draft proclamation that it’s players you don’t talk about “who surprise you nine months from now,” citing the surprise excellent season of Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.

THEY SAID IT

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this. He is under contract for another year. Our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time.”

— Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford, to local reporters, in a post-Draft press conference, on the current status of Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the team.

“It’s not like teams are saying ‘oh, I’m not going to do a deal with the Lakers,’ but I do think when you have 16 banners, there’s going to be a natural envy from your competitors.”

— Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, to local reporters after last week’s Draft, on the perception that other teams are not willing to trade with his team — a perception reinforced by reports that the Spurs are not willing to do any Kawhi Leonard trade with Los Angeles.

“I raise my hand as a part of the problem. When the Miami Heat decided to bring the big three together — myself, LeBron James, Chris Bosh — in 2009, the game changed. Players understand their power. I don’t see that slowing down. I see the next generation — my son’s generation — getting even tighter.”

— Dwyane Wade, in an interview with Bloomberg, acknowledging the impact of the SuperFriends in Miami — superstar packing — as, increasingly, the only way for teams to compete for championships going forward.

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Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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