Information, Predictions, Rumors and Extra – The Athletic

Doesn't it seem like we're just here? If it feels like this, don't imagine things. The Lakers completed their 2019-20 Championship quest on October 11; 71 days later, the Lakers begin their title defense against their rival within the arena, the LA Clippers.

But if you get the impression that not much has happened due to the shortest off-season in NBA history, we have your back here. (And why not check in for the latest James Harden trade rumors?)

• Results and timetables | The Athletic NBA Podcasts
• • tracker: Free agency and trade
• • Vecenie and Hollinger: 2020 NBA Draft Analysis | NBA offseason moves for all 30 teams

Luka Doncic has gotten better at basketball every year of his life; Is it so outrageous to think he's going to do it again? If he does, Doncic will be the narrative favorite to win MVP this season, between his continued advancement as one of the NBA's top two or three players and the likelihood of his team improving around him too. Will he be the best player in the league? Maybe, maybe not. But if he knows what we know about this award, he may have the most compelling case to vote for. – Tim Cato

Superstars Return: The best thing about our new season is that we can see all the stars who missed last season. Well, except for Klay Thompson. But in fact there are several others, and many of them are elite players.

Start with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, the two 32-year-old former MVPs trying to push another MVP season from the end of its prime. Curry played five games in 2019-20 before injuring his wrist, while Durant missed all of last season with the ripped Achilles he suffered in the 2019 NBA final. Now on separate shores, both will attempt to steer expensive but flawed rosters toward fame, and both looked close to their old zippy selves in the preseason.

I always come into a new NBA season with more questions than predictions. This is based on the aphorism (I don't remember the origin of which) which says, "You can't win the title in October." Or in this case December. But the maxim applies, perhaps with even greater force in this most unusual campaign.

Usually it's just a reminder not to get carried away with a quick start or panic too quickly for over a week or two. Add the shortened and often interrupted training camps and the almost complete absence of normal out-of-season or Summer League workouts to the normal preseason craziness, and I'm not sure we'll "really" see how by mid-season Teams look like. January. And you can't win the title in January …

But seriously, in addition to that normal sense of uncertainty about the season ahead, there are a number of angles that make the range of results wider than it did at the start of most seasons. Some of these points are directly related to the compressed schedule and difficulties associated with pandemics, but others also result from the league approaching what appears to be a transition period.

We. Are. Back.

Right. The NBA season is back and it's going to be an absolute mess. The shortened season. The risk of postponing or losing games because of the pandemic. The brief turning point from last season. The 2020-21 NBA season is going to be a mess. Maybe it will be a nice mess, but a mess nonetheless. Adam Silver and Company hope for as little chaos as possible as they fix the season schedule and try to get as much sales as possible.

Trying to gauge what to expect this season is going to be tough. How will COVID-19 affect the league outside a bubble? How will the teams manage the regular season? Will the curtailed schedule and sacrifices when it comes to the politics and execution of the league with a balanced schedule and reasonable rest cost some key players due to injuries? There are a lot of questions as we go into the first week of the Power Rankings.

L.A. stories

Bill Oram and Joe Vardon: A call that shaped the LA fight: The Lakers, Clippers, and a coaching story

Frank Vogel's dream job was waiting for him on the other side of the country. But he didn't want to get on a plane and fly to Los Angeles from his Orlando home without first speaking to the man who created this unexpected opportunity.

He had to call Tyronn Lue.

Hours earlier, Lue had turned down the Lakers' job offer, which almost everyone assumed would accept. And now, in the chaotic second week of May 2019, the Lakers were fighting. They turned their attention to Vogel, who had previously agreed to become a top assistant with Lues Lakers staff. The top job could be.

But without Lue's blessing, he wouldn't try.

"Someone will take the job," Lue told Vogel, according to a source familiar with the call. "Why not you?"

Sam Amick: Lakers-Clippers Heat Check: Where the battle for LA stands by 2021

Of course, LeBron James wasn't honest about the Lakers-Clippers dynamic, which he pretended not to exist.

At least not yet.

The Denver Nuggets, tied to the Western Conference final, stood at the door on September 17th, listening as the Lakers star watched the Clippers' 3-1 collapse against Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Company like everyone else had seen others so far – somehow somehow – claimed his jaw hadn't fallen to the ground.

So we're in a socially distant media scrum / zoom session in the hallway of the Walt Disney World Casitas convention center back then, and James is showing his best political footing in a way that ensures he doesn't get to the bulletin board of his old pals Michael Malone.

"Um, I really have no comment on that," James said when I asked if he was surprised by the lifeless end of the Clippers.

TAMPA, Florida – Jama Mahlalela is a dad who runs against the Christmas clock in a Walmart in Florida.

It's December 16th. In a few days, his family will be joining him in Tampa Bay, where his employer, the Toronto Raptors, will play home games at least at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. Mahlalela, an assistant coach on the team, wants his family's temporary home to be ready for his five-year-old daughter Mia and three-year-old son Jace, so he gets himself a Christmas tree and some other small gifts. He keeps his fingers crossed that the family's Volkswagen, which is being shipped from Toronto with the other presents from the children in the trunk, arrives on time.

Earlier this week Mahlalela moved from the team hotel next to the Amalie Arena to a rental property in Wesley Chapel, about a half-hour drive north of Tampa. He happily traded the closeness to work for the extra bedroom and outside space that the family home will offer.

"It's a big change," he says. "It was a lot, and I think there are a lot of details that go into it. But our organization has been amazing. The people who are part of this thing found a way to do it."

Lakers preview: LeBron vs. Father Time

LeBron James continues to oppose the laws of aging. He was the MVP of the finals and finished second after Giannis Antetokounmpo in the vote for the regular season award. He has kept himself in top physical condition and, statistically speaking, his level of performance can hardly be distinguished from that of five years ago.

He'll also be 36 when the next postseason kicks off after having a brief off-season playing a condensed 72-game schedule. Ordinarily, you could probably laugh at everyone's concerns; Even if he fails in the regular season, he could choose it again and again in the playoffs. Davis' presence also offers a margin of error, a second star who takes on the load of goals and shots on the nights James doesn't have him.

Celtics preview: The tempting exception

Boston sent two picks in the second round to generate a $ 28.5 million trade exception when Hayward left, and the Celtics must figure out how best to arm these. Shrewd watchers dreaming of a Celtics dream team will find that a certain Washington Wizards all-star has a salary that can be accounted for within the exception. Unfortunately, Boston is unlikely to have the collection of assets consistent with what other applicants may put on the table in a Bradley Beal deal.

A more realistic endgame is that it becomes a multi-layered asset that Boston uses once at the close of trade and again after the season. Boston can take on mid-sized salaries from teams looking to save money, or the Celtics can add their 2021 first (they don't need another young player at this point) to up the ante and pick up a bigger talent – especially one with several years on his deal left over.

Mike Vorkunov: Who are the NBA's best and worst team owners? League insiders vote

There is a lot to be won in the NBA. The players are rightly the stars and the forward-looking part of any organization. The head coach is a genius when his team is successful and a shine when it loses. The senior basketball managers, who now have many names, sum it up.

Then there's the team owner who lifts the trophy if their franchise wins the title and fires the whole lottery ticket if they fail. In the midst of the regular drift of roster, sidelines, and front office, the spotlight often avoids them, even when they really are the loudest voice in the organization.

Every year the media that cover the NBA publish their list of the league's top players, top coaches, or top executives. They are all important. This also applies to the owner, who makes the final decision about everything important and is the only constant even in the ever-changing team. There are of course perceptions of who is bad and who is good. Win-loss records are just a panacea at times, although that's not all for separating the good from the bad in possession.

Eric Nehm: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer dream of big things for Bucks

There isn't a manual outlining exactly how to deal with your star gamer signing a Supermax expansion to stay with your team for the next five years. On Tuesday, after holding their breath from the nervousness of waiting longer than expected, the bucks exhaled and adopted their coach's solemn tone.

On Wednesday, with those positive vibes still pouring out of the exercise facility, when Budenholzer and Antetokounmpo spoke to reporters for the first time since the star's announcement, those in charge of the organization decided to go beyond the celebration and instead think about what seemed impossible could dream in the modern day NBA.

"I know that there is probably more exposure and more media when guys move and change, but I think about the guys who stayed," said Budenholzer. “For me, a guy like Tim Duncan, a Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, guys who stayed in one place and made it their legacy to win championships and win and win at a high level wherever it is is that they were designed, be it a big market, a small market. "

The NBA has certain numbers with their own mystique. The number 100 is significant as it is the total score of Wilt Chamberlain's single game record. The number 38,387 is important, although it is not on the tongues of fans as it is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record career.

And with the 2020-21 NBA season only hours away, it's time again to reconsider how the game's great players compare to their predecessors. How can LeBron James hold up against Kareem? How close is Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, to achieving something few, if any, players have ever achieved? While we're at it, how close is Stephen Curry to dominating the Golden State Warriors leaderboards?

Danny Leroux: Win projections for East and West

For analysts, over / under totals are a great way to clarify your thoughts on teams both individually and collectively in terms of overall talent level, coaching, system customization, depth / injury risk, and more. It has become an important part of my preseason work for the RealGM Radio and Dunc & # 39; d On podcasts over the past half decade, and my success rate is just under 60 percent for the league as a whole and 70 percent for my more confident predictions. This season's uncertainty due to the fact that the league is making its way through COVID-19, combined with a more compressed schedule, makes predictions more difficult, but hopefully still viable at the end of the season.

NBA Eastern Conference wins overall projections: From Bucks to Knicks

intense heat

Over under: 44.5 wins
82 game equivalent: 50.7 wins

This line brings the heat to basically the same level as their 2019-20 regular season, which may seem odd given their run to the NBA finals. But it looks like Miami will save its fastball for the playoffs again by bringing Meyer's Leonard back and taking it easy with Goran Dragic. That said, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro should keep improving, and they only got 1,000 regular-season minutes from Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder last season, so Iguodala, Maurice Harkless and Avery Bradley are likely to be a deep improvement overall. Getting 51 wins is a lot, but a well-trained team with high-end talent and depth should be able to achieve it. If you're a heat optimist, try to find cheap title chances as these definitely have the knack for getting back to the finals, especially in a weakened east, and could win anything in better health or at least open up some worthwhile late cover.

NBA Western Conference Wins Overall Projections: From Lakers to Warriors

LA Clippers

Over under: 46.5 wins
82 game equivalent: 53 victories

Quite a challenge as the Clippers have more than enough talent to win 53 games and have played above this pace in 2019-20 even with a slow start. A condensed season and a superstar that we know will have plenty of nights off make 2020-21 a gloomy choice. There may be some motivation to recover from last year's breathtaking collapse, but the Clippers are full of veterans who know the postseason is far more important to their legacy, so this could really go either way. I lean down, but their conference and title opportunities in particular can bring better returns for those who believe in their talent.

In fact, the power of national television in the NBA ecosystem is so great that the league returned for an opening night in December, despite having just finished its season in mid-October – an extreme maneuver, though justified. The NBA set a sports record for the shortest off-season ever against the LeBron James protests because a) they can't sacrifice games on Christmas Day, and b) they never want to repeat the experience of playoff attendance ever again to lose to the NFL.

The unusual proprietary software of the NBA, colloquially known as the "Game Scheduling System" or "Computer", made up the lion's share of this national television program. In 2015, GSS officially took over for Matt Winick. These days, Evan Wasch, head of NBA Basketball Strategy & Analytics, is the man in authority over the machine. Wasch, who is increasingly known as the league's great idea generator, belongs to a new generation. He is a data-driven former Sloan Conference host who helped launch the all-star game Elam Ending.

While Winick had a distinctly personal touch in his decision-making, Laundry has technological efficiency on his side. It was urgently needed in this shortened off-season. Somehow, Wasch and the company created their schedule for the first half of the year in just three weeks. This is a Herculean logistical effort, considering how many competing considerations there are between networks, teams, and cities.

• Tier 1 | Tier 2 | Tier 3 | Tier 4 | Series intro and Tier 5

While the focus is and will continue to be on the ranked aspect of the levels, the process of going through and winning players to the best of the best is as important as the list itself. In casual conversation, it's easy to say, “Oh, players X is a top 15 player, so … “In fact, you dive in and compare and contrast through the lens of what you think is successful and how best to construct in the modern NBA. A championship level squad doesn't just sharpen everyone's minds Player, but also the state of the game.

The levels themselves represent a snapshot. While I was finishing the attributions for the players in Tier 1, I was thinking about edge cases up and down the list and about where I might have overestimated or underestimated certain players and what the players in the next season must show their current positions to improve or maintain.

The rating of player talent and production in the NBA is constant and never ends. I hope this project provides a framework for these discussions using common terms. Let's do it again in a few months when we have the new information that a new season offers.

Are you ready for some rankings?!?

The columns in this cheatsheet are sortable, whereby the default setting is Roto-Leagues with 8 cats (8 / ROTO). If you are playing in the 9 cat roto, I recommend making only minor adjustments for low or high turnover players rather than making extreme changes.

The second column refers to the 9-cat H2H leagues (9 / H2H) where players like Giannis and Zion move up the rankings, albeit not as much as some would expect.

Danny Leroux & # 39; Salary Cap Analysis

How does the NBA hard cap work? Triggers, Headaches and What's Next?

If a team takes one of the actions that trigger the hard cap (see below), for whatever reason it cannot exceed this limit for a certain period of time for the entire league year. In normal years, the league year turns around July 1st. There are no workarounds and no exceptions, even with historically poor injury luck or temporarily exceeding the hard cap as part of a series of moves that will eventually drown a team.

While it would thematically make more sense for the hard cap to be on the luxury tax limit itself, as the basic idea is to prevent taxpayer teams from adding talent more easily, the CBA gives front offices a little more leeway by having a slightly higher limit for the hard cap called an apron. The apron used to be exactly $ 6 million above the luxury tax limit, now it moves up and down a little with the cap, so it's now $ 6.3 million higher.

Here are the numbers for the 2020-21 season:

Upper salary limit: $ 109.14 million
Luxury tax: $ 132.627 million
Hard cap: $ 138.928 million

NBA Salary Cap: Preliminary Team-by-Team Cap Projections Summer 2021

While a lot will change between now and next summer, these team-by-team predictions broadly assume that their front offices won't sign multi-year contracts during this off-season unless specifically stated otherwise in Summer 2021.

This is what the books of all 30 teams look like, grouped according to their planned purchasing power for 2021.

Ball, Fultz, Kuzma and more: Project planning of negotiation results on a rookie scale

The NBA preseason is an important time for teams to evaluate new additions and see how the players will look after the off season. However, it is also a central window for extensions. Over the next week we'll be looking into the various renewal negotiations taking place around the league, broken down by type of negotiation and the timeline to close deals.

While some arrangements can be made during the season, there are some situations where players and teams cannot agree to terms and conditions until the regular season begins. The first group with immediate time pressures are those eligible for rookie-scale expansions, players who are former first-round picks. Since these come before their fourth NBA season, the 2017 class is currently up for negotiation. Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo and De & # 39; Aaron Fox have already agreed on rookie extensions, but there was nothing for the rest of the class.

This college basketball season is strange and different from any other. We are in the middle of a pandemic that has ravaged the US and this has resulted in minor eccentricities in the process that the teams are still trying to navigate. Boss under these valuation difficulties? How to rate the newbies who have played so far.

Due to the stop-start nature of the season due to COVID-19 breaks and the shortened preseason and summer players with their new college programs, it is difficult to get an overview of what is and is not fair about the freshman Class on college basketball. Remember: The 2020 recruitment class is considered one of the better ones to have come across college tires in the past decade. It's deep up and consistently strong in terms of depth. And honestly, as Boy Scouts, we just haven't seen the level of production that we expected from these players coming into the year. Is that because they just aren't very good and have been overrated at lower levels? Or is it because they weren't put into a high-level situation in order to be successful? After all, newbies have less practice time to assimilate with their teammates and less development time in the summer than usually with coaches or coaches.

(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic)

Get access to exclusive stories.

Subscribe to The Athletic to report in detail about your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs without advertising. Try a week with us.