Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  May 31, 2012

With the conference finals in full swing and 26 other teams already into their offseason, there’s plenty to talk about in the NBA. So, lets get right to it…

  • While I’m not counting out the Thunder or the Celtics, the Spurs and the Heat have the inside track to meet in the Finals as both have a 2-0 lead. Beating either of those teams 4 out of the next 5 games will be very difficult, even for teams as talented as OKC and Boston. So, if both series hold to form who would you have in the Finals? I’d lean towards Spurs right now as no one is playing better basketball than them. The ball is moving on offense, their defense is more locked in than during the regular season, and they have a fantastic core of leaders on the floor and the sideline to lean on. Miami may have the better top end talent in James and Wade, but as we saw last year the team that plays better together can beat the team with elite talent.
  • Speaking of the Spurs, they haven’t lost in almost two months. They’ve won their first 10 games of the playoffs and 20 consecutive games overall. On the season they’ve had winning streaks of 20 (and counting) and two of 11 games (which were only snapped with Popovich sat his key players to get them rest). When looking back at this season, the performances of the best players will likely be remembered most but the way that Greg Popovich has handled his roster has been masterful.
  • I understand it’s not what a lot of fans want to hear, but finances will play a major role in how the Lakers’ off-season unfolds. Ramon Sessions has a player option that he’ll need to make a decision on by June 20th. If he opts in, the Lakers know what their salary commitment will be and that’s that. But if he opts out, they’ll have to make a decision on how much they’ll offer him to stay on (something the front office has made clear they’d like to happen).

Jordan Hill is also a free agent but there’s a salary cap rule that can affect how much he can be paid due to the fact that the Rockets declined their team option on him before he was traded to the Lakers. I’ll let commenter Warren explain via the great Larry Coon:

If a player was a first round draft pick, just completed the third year of his rookie scale contract, and his team did not invoke its team option for the fourth season (see question number 48), then the team cannot use the Larry Bird exception to re-sign him to a salary greater than he would have received had the team exercised its option. In other words, teams can’t decline an option year in order to get around the rookie salary scale and give the player more money.

This means, if Hill is going to be a Laker, the most money he can make is $3.6 million (the same as his team option). I don’t know if the Lakers would be willing to invest that into Hill and he’s sure to explore his options but it’s good to know what the Lakers can pay vs. what the market may dictate.

  • While we’re on the topic of big men, there’s some talk about where Lamar Odom will end up next season. If you’re a Lakers’ fan and would like Odom back in the forum blue and gold, understand that in the most recent CBA loopholes that allowed players to return to their former team after being traded away have been closed. For the Lakers and LO it means that he would not be eligible to return to the Lakers until a year after he was traded away. That date is December 11, 2012 or roughly 6 weeks after the start of the season. This would have Odom missing all of training camp, countless practices, and games before he could even sign with the team. In my eyes this factor alone greatly reduces the likelihood we’ll see Odom playing for the Lakers next season. Though, nothing is impossible of course.
  • Want to know what happens in the secret room where the lottery happens? Here you go.
  • With the lottery and, thus, the draft on the mind let me say that I’m happy for the Hornets. They played hard for Monty Williams and now they have two lottery picks to add to their talent base. Anthony Davis is seen as a sure thing by most everyone (including me) and he’ll surely be their first selection. But they’ll also have a chance to get another good player at #10 and that can’t be ignored. Remember, Andrew Bynum was drafted 10th overall. So was Paul Pierce. In that same draft, Dirk went 9th overall. We all remember that Kobe was drafted 13th overall. My point here is that franchise cornerstones can come from anywhere in the lottery (or anywhere in the draft, really) and it will be interesting to see which players, if any, become the guys we all look back on and say “I can’t believe he went that low.”

Maybe we’ll be able to say that about whoever the Lakers select with the last pick in the draft this June. After all, fans in Sacramento are doing just that after Isaiah Thomas was taken in that slot then proceeded to make the all-rookie team.

  • I’m not the biggest hockey fan but here’s to the Kings brining the Cup to Los Angeles.
  • Finally, some housekeeping notes: we’ll be here all off-season talking about the playoffs, the draft, Summer League, free agency, the Olympics, and more. I’m also interested in starting back up the mailbag feature (let me know in the comments if that’s something you’re interested in). We’ve got several other ideas as well to keep getting you guys quality content. As always, I appreciate your continued support of the site and of the group of guys that contribute to it.

Darius Soriano

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