Warriors

Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players

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USATSI

Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players

OAKLAND – No fewer than 20 NBA players, including Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Warriors, have spent the past seven days wondering where they will be on Valentine’s Day. They’ll have a much better idea in a few hours.

Will it be Charlotte, N.C. for the NBA All-Star game?

Or might it be someplace with fresh air, clean water and warm beaches?

There are 14 vacancies on the All-Star Game rosters, with each side allowed to add seven reserves that will be announced Thursday. The roster limit is 12 – for no good or rational reason.

That number should be increased to 13 or 14 or maybe 15. And we say this not only because Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has been a head coach in two of the past four All-Star games, believes the rosters are too small.

“(Adding) three might be a pretty dramatic difference,” says Kerr, who is in line to make his third appearance as a coach next month. “One or two would be fine. I think 13 makes the most sense. We have 13 suited up every night. It seems like we should have 13 in the All-Star Game.”

Well, yes, you should have 13, at the least.

Even when NBA teams voted unanimously, in 2012, to increase team rosters from 12 to 13 active players, the All-Star Game roster remained at 12.

There were 14 players on each aside in the 1972 All-Star game before the limit was trimmed to 12 in 1974. It further trimmed to 11 in 1978 before going back to 12 in ’82 – when there were 23 teams.

Thirty-seven years and seven additional teams later, it’s still 12.

Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken out in favor of expansion, discussions with the NBA Players Association have not reached a consensus.

Silver vividly recalls one of his least enjoyable moments in his first season, back in 2014-15, when Kobe Bryant was injured and he had to choose a replacement between Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins, then with the Kings.

“I didn't like having to make that choice,” he said at the time. “I wish I had another slot for Damian because I think he's deserving of being an All-Star as well.

“From his standpoint, he did everything that was necessary. So maybe we have to find a way to expand the slots we have for the All-Star team."

There have been tweaks to the All-Star voting process, most recently (last season) when players receiving the most votes in each conference were designated team captains, while the other eight starters were placed in a pool from which they could be drafted by either captain, regardless of conference affiliation.

The NBA has grown and generally done a remarkable job of keeping pace in ancillary areas. All-Star Game rosters remain stuck in 1982, as it was before any of the current All-Star starters were born.

It’s most un-NBA of the NBA.

Meanwhile, we media types continue the debate over which players are deserving of being in the game and which players are legitimate snubs.

My seven reserves from the Western Conference, in alphabetical order, are: LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield, Nikola Jokic, Lillard, Thompson and Russell Westbrook. Toughest calls were Westbrook over Jimmy Butler in the backcourt and Ibaka over Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dirk Nowitzki.

[RELATED: Lillard vows to beat Curry brothers in 3-Point Contest]

The Eastern Conference wasn’t nearly as deep, but here goes: Bradley Beal, Eric Bledsoe, Danny Green, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Ben Simmons and Nikola Vucevic. Toughest call was Griffin over Andre Drummond, Al Horford and Pascal Siakam.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dwyane Wade.

There should be, in a league of 30 teams, at least eight reserves, maybe nine, per team. The commissioner likes the idea. The coach of the team that has won three of the last four NBA Finals also is ready to roll with it.

Bring it on, folks, sooner rather than later. It’s way overdue.

Warriors could feel Kevin Durant's loss more on defense than offense

Warriors could feel Kevin Durant's loss more on defense than offense

Much has been made of the offensive firepower that has departed the Warriors since they lost to the Raptors in Game 6 of the 2018 NBA Finals. Kevin Durant has taken his talents to Brooklyn. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston -- two critical members of Golden State's dynasty -- are no longer with the team. Klay Thompson, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to miss a large chunk of next season.

And yet, those collective departures could potentially have a more drastic effect on the Warriors' defense.

Yes, for the last several years, the Dubs have been renowned for their explosive offense, but they've always been a good-to-great defensive team under Steve Kerr. A lot of that is due to players like Draymond Green, but there's reason to believe Golden State's defense could take a step or two back next season.

Using FiveThirtyEight's new DRAYMOND rating system, the Warriors have lost three of their six best defenders from last season according to Bleacher Report's Will Gottlieb -- and that doesn't include Thompson, who will be out a while.

In losing Durant, Iguodala and Livingston, FiveThirtyEight projects the Warriors will lose 1.2 points per 100 possessions of defensive value based on the team's cumulative scoring defense alone. It's worth noting, however, that in order to qualify for that metric, a player must have played at least 10,0000 possessions over the last six seasons combined. So, the Warriors' 2019-20 DRAYMOND rating doesn't factor in Golden State newcomer Glen Robinson III, nor any of the Warriors' 2019 draft picks.

As such, it's possible the dropoff might not be as severe as FiveThirtyEight projects, assuming those newcomers prove to be solid defensive players. Then again, it could also go the other way if they prove to be poor defenders. One must also consider the possibility that the seven veterans that are included in Golden State's 2019-20 DRAYMOND projection outperform their individual projections.

For instance, Draymond Green's career DRAYMOND rating of plus-3.2 points per 100 possessions is considerably better than his 2018-19 DRAYMOND rating of plus-1.76. The 2019-20 projection assumes Green will perform at an identical defensive level, even though it's reasonable to assume he'll outperform it, based on both track record and necessity.

[Why Doug Gottlieb is very wrong about Draymond's place in NBA]

If the Warriors are going to get back to the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, it will require certain individuals to step up defensively. Green will lead the charge, no doubt, and should enter next season as one of the front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year. But it's got to be a group effort, or else replacing Durant, Iguodala and Livingston's combined 35.7 points per game won't be the biggest of Golden State's problems.

Why NBA owners aren't worried about massive free agent contracts

Why NBA owners aren't worried about massive free agent contracts

A recent conversation with a first-ballot baseball Hall of Famer sent me to the research lab.

I’d reached out to him, along with several others, soliciting reaction to the NBA’s free-agency feast earlier this month. Knowing some fans were displeased with the clout being exercised by players and the massive contracts being signed, I wanted to hear his thoughts.

Despite having much smaller rosters, NBA owners spent more money on free agents in one week than either the NFL and MLB did in an entire offseason.

“They can afford it,” Reggie Jackson said of NBA owners. “Even with the players having what some people think is too much control, they can afford it. It’s the NBA franchises that are increasing the most in value – more than baseball and even football.”

I was skeptical. Jackson, 73, is a baseball legend still on the Yankees’ payroll. Sure, he hosts a general sports-talk show on SiriusXM and has various business interests outside baseball.

Fact check: Reggie is right.

The value of an NBA team is rising higher and faster than those in the NFL, which reaps the benefits of the fattest contract in sports. MLB, well, it’s getting smoked in this investment race.

The Warriors, purchased for $450 million in 2010, are now worth $3.5 billion, according to Forbes’ annual analysis. In math terms, that’s nearly 800-percent growth in less than 10 years. The Celtics, bought for $360 million in 2002, are valued at $2.8 billion. Slower growth than the Warriors, but still roughly 800-percent growth.

Three months before the NBA approved the sale of the Warriors to a group led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the NFL approved the sale of the Rams to Stan Kroenke. He paid $750 million. The Rams, who have since moved to Los Angeles, are now valued at $3.1 million, according to Forbes. Good growth. But not NBA good.

Two months before Kroenke bought the Rams, a group of Texas businessmen paid $593 million for the MLB Rangers. Nine years later, Forbes sets the Rangers’ value at $1.7 billion.

The NBA is the hottest property in American sports. Owners and players know it. Some say they saw it coming. The massive amounts of money, that is.

That’s why, unlike MLB team owners, whose tight-fisted winter has players in a simmering rage, NBA owners didn’t blink at drawing up more than a dozen nine-figure contracts. There was little to no negotiation in those instances.

That’s why, unlike the NFL, where owners forever have their loafers on the necks of players, NBA owners are willing to live with the burgeoning bargaining power of the labor force. NBA free agent Kawhi Leonard told the Clippers he’d sign with them under certain conditions, such as finding a way to also add Paul George, who was not a free agent.

The Clippers traded for George. They gave plenty, but now have two All-Stars in their primes.

Athletes in other leagues can only dream of having such power.

“That’s a change for the league,” Warriors president/general manager Bob Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “Maybe LeBron started that. But this notion of teams pivoting quickly, that’s new. And fans love that stuff.

“It’s fine that it’s a players’ league. That’s how it should be. They’re taking control of their direction and I guess that’s good. They’re seeking shorter deals. They’re moving in certain directions and they’re doing it fast.”

Between June 30 and July 8, NBA teams committed to spending more than $3.4 billion – nearly all guaranteed, with the exception of a few contracts containing incentives. The Warriors, knowing Klay Thompson will miss most of next season, signed him to a five-year deal worth $190 million. The Brooklyn Nets, aware that Kevin Durant almost certainly will miss all of next season, didn’t flinch at signing him to a four-year deal worth $164 million.

NFL teams, by contrast, spent roughly $2.8 billion in the offseason, with maybe half of it guaranteed. Most players never see all the non-guaranteed money.

MLB spent $1.76 billion over the winter, nearly half of it going to two players: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

One of the reasons I sought out Jackson was because he’s a former Oakland A’s players representative. He worked with Marvin Miller, the late legendary executive director of the MLB Players Association. Miller negotiated MLB’s first collective bargaining agreement. Through Miller’s analysis and conviction, player compensation and benefits took a giant leap forward.

“He should be in the Hall of Fame,” Jackson said of Miller. “But the owners keep him out.”

Michele Roberts is the current executive director of the NBA Players Association, accepting the job in 2014 and unanimously approved last summer for another four-year term. Some players that don’t meet the elite standards required for maximum contracts may grumble, but most seem to understand the hierarchy.

In Toronto for The Finals, Roberts was standing in a hallway between the locker room and the court when Thompson, exiting the visiting team’s locker room, saw Roberts out of the corner of his eye and stopped in his tracks. He went over to share a hug and some brief conversation.

[RELATED: Why Durant picked the Nets]

Five weeks and a torn ACL later, Thompson was signing a $190 million contract.

Warriors ownership didn’t hesitate to offer it, perhaps because they know they can afford it.