Podcast: Futures of LeBron James and Zion Williamson, 2022 NBA free agency, Goran Dragic

Podcast: Futures of LeBron James and Zion Williamson, 2022 NBA free agency, Goran Dragic

Podcast

Podcast: Futures of LeBron James and Zion Williamson, 2022 NBA free agency, Goran Dragic

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HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss the futures of LeBron James and Zion Williamson, 2022 NBA free agency, and why Goran Dragic signed with the Nets on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.

:51 LeBron James’ Lakers future

Scotto: The noise around LeBron and him going to Cleveland, there had been little whispers about it as a passing thought. Then LeBron got so nostalgic talking about Cleveland when he went home for the All-Star Game. He talked about how his family and friends were all there for the first time in a while, and he wanted to make the last shot like Michael Jordan.

When they said, “From Akron, Ohio,” he felt that was pretty cool when that happened and the ovation he got from the fans. They certainly have heard the buzz about it. He talked about the Akron Recreation Bureau and playing there before he was a big name.

There are a lot of dominoes that would need to fall for that to happen, but it just seems like that noise is around him, almost like when he went to Los Angeles. You heard about it a year before.

Looking ahead, In the summer of 2023, Cleveland has Kevin Love coming off the books. Caris LeVert could be a free agent, too, if Cleveland doesn’t work out an extension with him. Klutch Sports client Darius Garland will be eligible for restricted free agency then.

To me, Cleveland’s playoff run could go a long way for the Cavaliers and LeBron to determine if they want another reunion down the line.

The Russell Westbrook fit has been like a square peg in a round hole. Anthony Davis hasn’t been healthy. The overall trajectory for the Lakers has been pointing downward since they won the title. After winning the title in the bubble, they lost in the first round the next season, and now they’re in the play-in Tournament conversation.

Gozlan: He made some comments praising Sam Presti to the media, which a lot of people saw as jabs at Rob Pelinka. He also talked about how it’s important to him that he ends up playing at least one season with his son…

If you ask me, this is LeBron putting pressure on the Lakers to do whatever they can to put the best possible team around him. They have two first-round picks left they can trade in the offseason, the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks…

LeBron is extension-eligible at two years, $97 million. If he wanted a trade to a new team, it would be two years, $95 million. Even once he becomes extension eligible with the Lakers, I wouldn’t think he takes it immediately because he has all season to sign it with the Lakers and also maybe wants to keep his options open and keep applying pressure on the Lakers throughout the season.

15:10 Zion Williamson’s Pelicans future

Scotto: I’m looking at Zion Williamson in New Orleans and it just seems like we’re creeping up on another Kristaps Porzingis 2.0 situation like when he was on the Knicks.

Gozlan: Zion is extension-eligible. He can get five years, $175 million. They could also put criteria in there where he gets a little more if he makes All-NBA next season. It would be $210 million over five years.

Scotto: In years past, several CAA clients have signed lucrative extensions, but sometimes they’ve had a shorter-term max extension and not the full length to give themselves more options earlier on. If Zion really wanted to leave, he’d have to threaten to sign a one-year qualifying offer like Porzingis did with the Knicks to try and leverage any power he’d have to get a change of scenery. The major caveat to that is Zion has only played 85 combined games through his third season. His early career injury struggles are kind of reminiscent of Joel Embiid at the start of his career.

His former teammates JJ Redick talked about him as a “detached teammate” and having a lack of investment in the team. It took a while for CJ McCollum to get a hold of him. Then the release for the 2022-23 season tickets plan goes out and New Orleans is promoting the coach, Willie Green, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas and McCollum. Zion is the headliner there. For him not to be the focal point of a presentation like that from a marketing campaign certainly raises an eyebrow.

I can see this going the Porzingis route where he tried to leverage the qualifying offer, but that would be an extreme roll of the dice from Zion given his injury history. What I’d think he and his representation would try to do at some point is to try to secure a max contract extension and then eventually try to get a trade down the line after he’s secured the guaranteed money. As we’ve seen in this league from James Harden two times in Houston and Brooklyn, and with Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, it doesn’t matter how long your contract is. If you want out in the NBA, you can do things behind the scenes, in press conferences and with your lackadaisical play to get to a new destination. Zion, if he wanted to, could do that ultimately.

Gozlan: He can get traded this offseason and still sign that extension as long as it’s all during the offseason. There’s some leveraging he can try to do if he wants to leave already. It seems after Harden was able to get a trade with three years left on his deal and now Simmons with four years left on his deal that players are now realizing what’s possible. There’s been noise about Zion, and there will be others this offseason. I’ve got to wonder how this will impact CBA negotiations. I have a hard time seeing the league continue to let this happen. It’s always going to be a part of the business, but over the past decade, it was players with one or two years left on their deal getting to another team early… do you think there’s going to be some pushback eventually?

Scotto: They’ve tried to do supermax extensions, and I think back to when DeMarcus Cousins was back in Sacramento, and they didn’t want to go that far, and when Kemba Walker was in Charlotte, and they didn’t want to go that far. I think, ultimately, player empowerment is at an all-time high, and the league certainly knows that. Adam Silver and the league aren’t oblivious to the fact that Harden and Simmons have tried to move on from different teams. They want the players and teams to both be happy. They’ve also noted that, in the past, other star players before social media wanted trades. Could there be something in the new CBA talks? Yeah. Ultimately, I don’t know what that’s going to be.

28:55 Free agent rankings

Scotto: Most around the NBA believe Zach LaVine and James Harden will stay put where they are. I expect Bradley Beal to take the money from Washington after the way he gave that press release when he opted to get surgery. Regarding Kyrie Irving, if he decided to opt out, I previously polled executives about his trade value, and it wasn’t good since a lot of teams were scared of him. I’d imagine the same would go towards signing him, if he became a free agent. He’s enjoyed being a Brooklyn Net, his hometown team. I don’t get the sense he wants to go anywhere else.

Gozlan: Irving’s situation will be interesting. He hasn’t played in half the games this season. It’s still unclear if the (New York mandate) rules are going to change. Last season, he took time off during the season. Nobody has really discussed that he’s got a player option this offseason. We went from discussing him and James Harden as guys who’d take maximum extensions with Kevin Durant but didn’t. Now, what are the Nets really thinking? Do they want to commit a new contract to him? He could get a max deal if he opts out, or they can extend him if he opts in.

Scotto: I think, ultimately, as long as he and Durant want to stay together, Kyrie is going to remain with the Brooklyn Nets…

When I look at the next tier of free agents, Deandre Ayton may have to get an offer sheet from another team like Detroit or San Antonio. We’ve seen how Phoenix was hesitant to give him a max contract… Certainly, there were tensions behind the scenes when Ayton didn’t get that this offseason. I think that push comes to shove, he’s going to have to get that money elsewhere, at least that full max.

When it comes to the Charlotte Hornets and Miles Bridges, Charlotte wasn’t trying to extend him before the season when it was around the $20 million annual range. Now, he’s going to command more than that on the market most people think around the league.

Gozlan: For both guys, if they wanted to pursue max offer sheets, it’s about a projected $130 million over four years. Offer sheets have definitely become a lot less common over the past few years. A lot of restricted free agency has been settled with sign-and-trades if movement needs to happen. The last offer sheet we got was Bogdan Bogdanovic to Atlanta in 2020.

Scotto: ​​What’s going to be interesting is Jalen Brunson’s free agency. A lot of people going into the trade deadline thought Dallas was going to have a tough time keeping both Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith with the looming luxury tax concerns. Finney-Smith has extended his contract in Dallas. Brunson is the top point guard who could potentially change teams this offseason. On our last HoopsHype podcast episode, I touched on how there’s a lot of smoke whether the Knicks have true interest in Brunson or if those rumors are based on the CAA relationship ties he has with Leon Rose, who represented his dad, Rick Brunson. The Knicks could use a point guard upgrade, and Brunson’s still young enough, where he fits with that core if the Knicks chose to go that route. Dallas will have to decide if they can match his market value with the luxury tax looming and maybe trade Spencer Dinwiddie, or sign-and-trade Brunson, if he breaks the bank.

Anfernee Simons will be a restricted free agent for the Portland Trail Blazers. Most people around the league think Simons will be retained by the Blazers.

After Simons, you’ve got Collin Sexton on our free agent list. You can make a case that he’s a wild card and can maybe get a prove it short-term type of deal compared to what he originally thought. When he was in extension talks with Cleveland, they were talking, depending on what side you ask for their perspective, big money. They were talking $20 million-ish or more (annually), as one side wanted. That didn’t get done. He got hurt, unfortunately, and he’ll be the biggest wild card this summer when it comes to free agency. I’ve touched on Cleveland wanting to retain him.

A couple of other guys stick out to me a little bit. Bobby Portis, who passed on some money previously to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks. He kind of surprised people when he did. Montrezl Harrell with the Hornets. They had their concerns with paying Miles Bridges previously. They’re now going to have to pay Harrell, too, if they want to keep him. The guy who’s boosted his value as much as anyone not named Anfernee Simons is Malik Monk on the Lakers. You can make a case for Jalen Brunson too.

Gozlan: There’s a way Charlotte can fit Harrell and a new contract for Bridges. If Bridges gets something in the $20-25 million range, they can still bring back Montrezl at around what he’s making. It would probably be between the full mid-level exception without avoiding the tax. Portis and Monk have some interesting similarities. Portis took a discount to stay with the Bucks in the past offseason. Part of it was probably with the possibility of earning more this offseason once he gains Early Bird rights. It would allow him to re-sign with the Bucks for a little more than the full mid-level exception… I’d imagine Monk would like to stay there (Los Angeles), if possible. They’re limited to offering him the taxpayer mid-level exception this offseason. If he accepts that, then maybe they do a one-plus-one deal where they can re-sign him with Early Bird rights next offseason. I think he can get an offer for the full mid-level exception of about four years and $44 million. A lot of teams have that to offer, and there’s not a lot of cap space out there.

47:30 Why Goran Dragic signed with Brooklyn

Scotto: Dragic’s decision came down to his personal relationship with Steve Nash, who mentored him in Phoenix. I’m told the opportunity to play with such elite talent in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons appealed to Dragic. He’s viewed as the pure point guard they need. Nash met with Dragic in Miami on Saturday. Sean Marks was there as well. I’m told Nash outlined his plan for Dragic and how he’ll fit in with the team during that meeting. I’m told there was no specific promise in terms of playing time, but there is an understanding there between the two men that he’ll be an important piece of that team.

Dragic also met with the Bucks, including general manager Jon Horst, owner Marc Lasry and head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Clippers also flew to Miami to meet with Dragic in person over the weekend. Simply put, I was told by a source close to Dragic, “If it wasn’t for Nash, Dragic would be either with the Bucks or Clippers. Nash’s impact on Goran’s decision couldn’t be overstated.”

For the Nets, this is a huge win to land the top buyout player on the market and block Milwaukee from getting him. As we talked about on the last podcast episode, there was a chance Dennis Schroeder stayed in Houston, and now Marc Stein is reporting that.

Marks was recently asked about expectations when the team is fully healthy. He said, “Championship. That’s it. I would be doing 17 players and another 60 staff members a massive disservice if I said anything other than that because that’s what we’re all here for.”

The other update I wanted to share regarding Brooklyn is regarding Joe Harris. I’m told by a source that they’re going to see how things go with him this week in terms of whether he needs a possible second surgery or not.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter. 

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