Welcome Mr. Sterling, Andy, Mike, ClipperSteve, thank you for attending this competition update.
Our purpose today is to talk about the direction of the franchise and update the plan for the future.
Welcome Mr. Sterling, Andy, Mike, ClipperSteve, thank you for attending this competition update.
Our purpose today is to talk about the direction of the franchise and update the plan for the future. Obviously the season thus far has been disappointing given what we all see as the promise of our core players. And yet, despite the injuries, the season has presented some pleasant surprises. Chris's expontential growth has been a wonderful situation, so besides crediting his hard work, let's take a quick moment to acknowledge Kim's personal work with the big guy last summer.
I think Chris playing so consistently to his potential is testament to the solid foundation of the plan that was set in progress when Mike was hired. We have Elton Brand, a truly great power forward on both ends and we now have one of the three best centers in the Western Conference beside him. Returning next year will, of course, also be our walking matchup problem in Shaun. If he can continue to grow and gain consistency in the flashes of brilliance we saw in the Playoffs and in spots last year, I think our plan was the correct one.
Building a strong core is hard work. It takes expert scouting, understanding of the CBA and salary cap rules, and a cohesive vision to pull it all together. I think this team has shown that all of this exists.
This is why, despite the disappointment we feel now, I am urging a course of action without panic. I plan to lay out a scenario for your consent and approval based on hitting for average. We will swing for the fences if the opportunity arises, but one thing we will not do is compromise or panic. I hope to describe the situation accurately, and as I see it the pieces of the puzzle should fall into place in such a way that we cannot lose. There will only be degrees of winning.
Let me begin by describing the assets the team currently has as they have value on the court that may differ, perhaps substantially, from their value in a trade or other move. We obviously cannot control what players choose to do with their options, but I believe we should try to make a reasonable guess based on the player's own interest.
Elton Brand - One of the best power forwards in the game today. A true two-way player and the cornerstone of the franchise. Elton does possess an early termination option going into next year, but it is unlikely that it would be in his best interest to opt out. It is unlikely that another team could offer him a max contract next season. Though its possible Atlanta, Chicago, or Philadelphia could potentially make him a competitive offer, its not clear how the Hawks or Sixers present a superior opportunity to be competitive and the Bulls' chance will likely disappear once they deal with the contracts of Deng and Gordon, who will surely receive offer sheets from other teams that the Bulls will have to consider matching. Atlanta will have similar issues when deciding what to do with Josh Smith and Josh Childress. I recommend we extend Elton for the maximum at the first opportunity. If Elton is allowed to leave via free agency this season or next, I will resign my post with the team immediately and all planning is moot.
Cuttino Mobley - Its tough to read where Cat stands right now. While obviously not the scoring machine he once was, he soaks up alot of minutes without hurting the team. He also plays offense and defense and could be one of the shooting threats we need, but his elbow may or may not be holding him back. We should continue to evaluate him as the season progresses. His contract is quickly becoming very expensive for his contributions. He could possibly be used in a trade scenario as matching salary or to a team looking for veteran leadership in a secondary player in the trade. It is a priority to move his contract, if possible, but not a high priority. He has a place in the rotation.
Chris Kaman - As noted, the gem of our team this season. And what a gem. Chris is the Clipper under the longest contract. He remains an untouchable along with Elton.
Corey Maggette - A unique basketball talent on the end of a very reasonable contract. We offered him an extension during the summer, which he refused. Given his performance this sesaon, I don't think we can conclude that he is worth more money that was offered. I recommend we begin looking for trade opportunities immediately to prevent losing him for nothing. The obvious windows for action would be as the trade deadline approaches or in next summer's free agency seeking a sign-and-trade. The chance that he does not opt out of the final year of his contract is also an acceptable outcome.
Sam Cassell - Another of our few consistently above average players and a crucial part of bringing winning to our organziation. Sam is clearly beginning to feel frustrated with the losing. I recommend we begin to look for a trading partner to move him, either alone or in a package. If a trade is not possible, his contract merely expiring is an acceptable outcome as part of the don't panic plan.
Tim Thomas - Tim was seen as a shooter to fill the void left by Radmanovich. His contract is relatively cheap. There are no bad outcomes here. He can me made available as part of a trade or he can continue to be a rotation player going forward.
Shaun Livingston - The kid has done everything asked of him in attempting to return to the court. His is coming off his rookie contract and as such can had for another year relatively cheap...assuming he isn't extended an expensive offer sheet. This is something we cannot control, but given the deep free agent class and the uncertainty surrounding Shaun, as well as the considerable dedication we have shown, I believe we have the upper hand in resigning him. I recommend we extend the one year qualifying offer and if he is extended an offer sheet, consider matching very carefully. Shaun is part of the vision of the, now near, future, but he carries significant risk. His performance in playing time this season, if any, will go a long way in determining his market value. We will need to continue to study the situation closely. Ideally, we get him for another year at the offer sheet rate. Because of the significant risk, I recommend considering trade offers for him, if there are any.
Brevin Knight - Providing exactly was has been asked and expected of him, and a little more. He has found his jumper and will be an excellent back up PG going forward.
Aaron Williams - A solid veteran who can still play. Consider extending another minimum offer if he is available.
Al Thornton - Al has shown he will be able to score on the NBA level, but is doing little else while being a considerable liability on the defensive end. He is under contract for cheap, but I recommend we make him available in trade negotiations.
Quinton Ross - Our defensive stopper. Quinton has been a steal on his minimum contract, but will likely become more expensive going forward. His contract should be allowed to expire and it may be necessary to relinquish his Bird rights to create as much cap space as possible.
Josh Powell - Another potential piece for next season. In a similar situation to Quinton.
Paul Davis - With Paul's injury, we will not get to see him play again before his rookie contract runs out. Another potential backup for next season, but his production can likely be trivially replaced in the draft. If Williams is brought back, replacement may be unnecessary.
With the resources well defined, we can begin to further understand the situation and our options. This is the NBA. Trades don't happen, especially trades for good players. Our challenge and our opportunity is to turn Corey Maggette and some combination of Cassell, Mobley, Thomas, Thornton and picks into that one more player we need to put us over the top. We need a perimeter scorer who can stretch the defense. We will have various opportunites to address this need, first through an in-season trade this year and then in next year's free agency.
Let me note again that the outcome of little change is acceptable. While there will be chances and reasons to overpay at various points in this process, we need to be patient and calculating. If we end up losing both Sam and Corey to free agency, this will still leave us with significant options.
Our initial target in trade talks will be Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies. Mike will fill our needs perfectly. He is a shooting scorer and will replace completely the productivity of having Sam and Corey on the court. This is our Home Run. Fortunately, I feel that we can make a series of very intriguing offers to the Grizzlies who are in somewhat of a rebuilding mode. The meat of the deal would be a package around Corey for Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal's terrible contract. The Grizzlies could choose to pair him with Sam for a massive salary dump and instantly become players in next year's free agency. Assuming they renounced their mid-level exemption, they could offer a near maximum contract to a wing to team with Gasol, Gay, Milicic and their young and promising PG core. Alternately they could chose Mobley and attempt to re-sign Corey for a more instant rebuild. If interest is shown, I recommend we make Thornton, Thomas, the Wolves pick and two of our next four first round picks available without restriction.
If they asked for Thornton the Wolves pick and the 2009 draft pick (to avoid cap holds this season), and by renouncing their exceptions, they would have 10 players under contract and a cap figure under $49M. With a salary cap of $59M, they would likely have first choice of free agents and could make an offer sheet that is more unlikely to be matched. Alternately, they could chase two mid-level priced players.
Obviously this deal is contingent on how the Grizzlies perceive Miller's value. I think with the variety and depth of options we can provide we have a chance to make an offer they can't refuse. We are offering the chance to parlay Mike Miller into multiple prospects/picks while becoming one of the few serious players in the deep 2008 free agent pool.
Potential ending 07-08 depth chart post-deal:
By executing this deal now, it puts us into the best possible position going into next year. We have divested ourselves of risk and we go into free agency with all of our rights and exceptions in hand. We will have the mid-level exception to target an additional wing player and we can use Bird rights to retain our own free agents.
I believe given the resources we have this is our best opportunity to hit a home run and take this roster to the next level.
Assuming the Grizzlies wisely opt for our 2009 draft pick, we will attempt to shore up the wing and draft Chase Budinger from Arizona. He is projected to be the best available player in the 6th spot and fits our needs perfectly.
We would then attempt to resign Aaron to the veteran's minimum to be primary backup to Chris. As a veteran on a one year contract, the league will be picking up most of the tab. If The Grizzlies opt to take Al in the deal we would extend an offer to Quinton in the neighborhood on $7M over 3 years using our Bird rights. With the second round pick we will take the best available player, regardless of position. This player will be pressed into service immediately.
Potential 08-09 opening day depth chart:
Livingston ($5.8M)/Knight ($2M)
Miller ($9M)/Ross ($2M)/2nd round pick($300k)
Brand ($16.4M)/Thomas ($6M)/Cardinal ($6.3M)
Kaman ($9.5M)/Williams ($Veteran's Minimum)
These 12 players will be the meat of our rotation and come in right against the cap. Mike, can you grab Mr. Sterling? It appears something went down the wrong pipe there.
Before you hyperventilate, this scenario assumes the worst in the trade, that the Grizzlies demand Al and choose not to take Cat or Tim. We of course have the options of forgoing use of the mid-level and standing pat, or using only a portion of the $6M. We would fill up the roster to 13 with another contract at the veteran's minimum, of which the league would pick up the check for most. It is up to you, Mr. Sterling, how aggressive you would like us to be in trying to return to the playoffs. I believe that by using our mid-level in free agency and exceeding the tax threshold, we could put together one of the top teams in the Western Conference, but if your preference is to not pay the tax we should still be very competitive. The third way would be to be aggressive initially and be in position to pay the tax, and look for a potential salary dump as things progress. Finally a fourth option is to begin shopping Tim Thomas now again looking for a salary dump.
With your permission, Mr. Sterling, we would use the mid-level exemption to target, in order:
Josh Childress for a maximum mid-level contract
James Jones for $15M split evenly over four years
Walter Herrmann for $8M split evenly over two years
The idea here is to push Budinger down the depth chart until he can prove he is ready for the NBA.
Going forward we will need to be diligent as we will be dangerously close to the tax threshold for at least one more season. Looking ahead to 2009 and assuming we extend Elton and no other moves, we would have a tax liability of $70M or more and will be on the market for a backup point guard, center and a wing or two, all without the benefit of a first round pick. If the tax threshold increases by another $3M-$5M we should have enough room to work, but it will be a tight fit.