Friday, August 30, 2013

The NBA's Crucial Year Three part 1: "Money Earning"

The third season of an NBA player's career is the most important because it is integral to their financial well-being that they perform well or display the potential to be a coveted member of an organization's future.  When a player is drafted, there is no need to negotiate their contract because the amount they make depends on where they were chosen in the draft; this is often referred to as their "rookie deal".  Rookie deals are for a guaranteed two years; this only applies to first round draft picks.  However, a team may exercise an option for a third year, most will do this unless a player is a complete bust.  There's also an option for a fourth year.  If a player can have a breakout type of season in year three, the organization will most likely offer them a contract extension starting at the maximum amount allowed 25% of the salary cap which would kick in at the start of the fifth season.  In part one of this series, I take a look at some first rounders going into their third season that need to ball so hard  for their agents to be taken seriously when the word "max" is spoken.

Jimmy Butler  vitals: 40.8 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg in playoffs
Jimmy made a name for himself by playing solid defense on Lebron James in the playoffs.
Year 3 prognosis:  Coach Thibs is defensive minded which bodes well for the athletic Butler.  Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, and Rip Hamilton are gone so Jimmy has that 2 guard spot on lock.  The return of Derrick Rose should will make things easier for him on offense; a part of his that needs to improve to get into the conversation.

Marshon Brooks  vitals:  warmed seat for Joe Johnson in New Jersey and Brooklyn
I didn't put up any numbers for last season because there isn't much good to say about Brooks in that regard.
Year 3 prognosis:  He was known as a scorer when drafted, it's absolutely a must that he takes advantage of a new opportunity in Boston.  It won't come easy in a crowded back court, but if he has any scoring ability at all, Rondo will be looking for him to help pad his assist numbers in what appears to be a rebuilding season.

Reggie Jackson  vitals: 13.9 ppg 4.9 rpg 3.6 apg in playoffs
Reggie Jackson was relatively unknown, that is until Russell Westbrook blew out his knee in the 2nd game of the playoffs.  Jackson played admirably but it wasn't enough as OKC got bounced in the 2nd round.
Year 3 prognosis:  Jackson will get an opportunity to prove his worth to the Thunder early in the season while Westbrook tries to return to form.  Houston played no defense and Memphis played great defense, its hard to gauge where his game is really at with such a small sample size.  He won't come close to that max conversation Oklahoma but can make the Thunder think hard about a fourth year option that will give him a substantially larger increase.

Iman Shumpert   vitals:  9.3 ppg 6.0 rpg 42% 3fg  in playoffs
Knicks fans loved Shump for his good defense and cool flat top last season.
Year 3 prognosis:  New York is going to need Shumpert to step his offensive game up.  I expect JR Smith to start the season slow as he recovers from knee surgery, therefore Shumpert should have a larger role to play.

Tristan Thompson   vitals: 11.7 ppg 9.4 rpg
Came close to averaging a double double, the scoring output would have probably been better if he played with guards that had better court vision.
Year 3 prognosis:  Cavs acquired Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao returns from injury which means less time on the block for Tristan.  He can still increase his point production if he smoothed his jumper and improved his free throw shooting.  Apparently he switched to shooting right handed, his ability to shoot with either will make him a better finisher.  Kyrie is getting the max, Thompson can too if he adds more to his game.

Derrick Williams   vitals:  12.0 ppg  5.5 rpg
The 2nd pick from his draft class hasn't quite lived up to what the team expected out of him when he was selected.  He's played well in stretches but haven't been consistent.
Year 3 prognosis:  The talent is clearly there but the opportunity might not be for Williams to prove his value to the Timberwolves.  With Love back in the mix, he won't get much time at power forward.  He's versatile enough to play the wing but the team has a host of new players at that spot.  Unless he improves his perimeter skills dramatically, a new team might be signing his checks which might just be best for his career.

Tobias Harris   vitals:  17.3 ppg 8.5 rpg in Orlando
What was going on with the Milwaukee Bucks' talent evaluation?  Tobias absolutely exploded after being traded to the Magic, giving the fans hope for the future.
Year 3 prognosis:  His versatility allows him to play both forward positions equally well which is good for both him and the Magic.  I see no reason for him to not to build on his play that ended last season.  If the growth continues, Tobias can stack some chips.

Nikola Vucevic   vitals:  13.1 ppg 11.9 rpg 52% fg
He averaged a double double last season and rebounded at a high enough clip to finish 2nd in the league.  I don't think anybody would've complained had he won Most Improved Player.
Year 3 prognosis:  Organizations develop a culture of losing for many reasons.  If Orlando doesn't find a way to equal Nikola's offensive usage from last season, you can cite that as an example for why they don't win. Big men will always get paid, especially those his sophomore stat lines.

Kenneth Faried   vitals:  11.5 ppg 9.2 rpg
The player known as Manimal was the MVP of the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend.  His high energy play was a key to Denver finishing 3rd in the Western Conference last season.
Year 3 prognosis:  The Nuggets will have a new head coach and have added 2 new players at the position Faried plays.  The cream usually rises to the top.  Faried needs to improve his offensive skill-set, but in a game that featured the future of the, he showed what a force he can be and how worthy he is of commanding some nice change.

Klay Thompson   vitals:  16.6 ppg 35.8 mpg 40% 3fg
A key to Golden State's resurgence last season was Klay's shooting from long range.  He let it fly often (6.4 3fga per game) and was enough of a threat to ease defensive pressure off of Stephen Curry.  Thompson was also durable, starting all of 82 regular season games.
Year 3 prognosis:  Andre Iguodala was a huge free agent acquisition for the Warriors, because of his play making skills, all of the Warriors players will have the chance to shoot for higher percentages.  His addition will probably mean fewer minutes for Thompson but it also means he can expend more of his energy on the defensive end and be more economic on offense.  Shooters like Klay Thompson have a long shelf life in the NBA.

All of the players above have shown that they can play in this league and will undoubtedly get a new contract beyond this rookie deal.  What is unknown is the value of their next contracts, every player's dream is to get paid handsomely to play this game that they love.  Will they be able to elevate their game enough to be considered invaluable to a franchise?  Invaluable young players with polished skills that show upside are building blocks for the future and are the kind of athletes that franchises invest their money in.  In the next segment of this series, I'll evaluate some possible stars of this group.