NBA Predictions: Clippers

LeBron James agreed terms with cross-town rival Lakers, so the Clippers are once again little brother in Los Angeles. Their three best players from a year ago are gone, but Avery Bradley is re-signing for two years-$25 million, while Montrezl Harrell has agreed for two years-$12 million. To go along with Marcin Gortat, the Clippers have sixteen contracts and two non-guaranteed contracts to work with.

This many players means the Clippers will have to make at least one cut or trade before the season starts. As constructed, this team is right under the Luxury Tax with total salaries equal to $122,371,725 and is expected to win 42 games again. A healthy Gallinari with something to prove could provide five wins. Harris can be worth five wins this season as well, in his first full season in Los Angeles. Lou Williams got off to a great start with the Clippers with a career high 6.7 Win Shares last season and will do well to replicate that. Gortat has had ups and downs in his career and has improved in his first two years with a new team, so should provide at least six wins. Unfortunately, Bradley was a negative producer last season and the Clippers will depend on his defense on the perimeter, hoping he can be close to NBA average on offense to add a win for this club. Marjanovic has shown flashes of productivity, though in limited minutes. The Clippers will lean on him more down low this season, and he will provide when called upon for at least two wins.

There does not appear to be a player available in free agency that could change the Clippers fortunes, but a trade could be an option for a last-minute of in-season upgrade. This roster is expected to miss the playoffs once again with the same record.

2017-18 Record: 42-40

2018-19 Contracts: 16

2018-19 Total Salaries: $122,371,725

2018-19 Prediction: 42-40

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NBA Predictions: Lakers

The new-look Los Angeles Lakers is a retro of Dr. Jerry Buss’s teams, with the biggest star in the NBA on the floor and in the front office. It’s only fitting Magic would recruit LeBron to return the Lakers to legitimacy, but what is this team really capable of this season?

This current roster is expected to add eight wins to last season’s record but still fall short of the making the playoffs in the Wild West. Last season’s eighth seed was Minnesota at 47 wins. LeBron has been able to bring out more from his team than expected, but there is a period of acclimation that takes at least one and sometimes two seasons. Can the challenge of a playoff push–something James has not experienced in over a decade–bring the most out of this group? It’s hard to imagine LeBron James missing the playoffs, and with plenty of room under the Luxury Tax, there could be more moves coming out of the front office. For these reasons, I believe the Lakers will go three games above their expected wins (42.8) in 2018-19 and grab the final spot in the West playoffs.

2017-18 Record: 35-47

2018-19 Contracts: 15

2018-19 Total salaries: $106,474,556

2018-19 Prediction: 46-36 (8th seed in West, First Round exit)

Free Agency Blueprint: HOU

How to land LeBron: 

The top team in the NBA regular season only have $80,442,936 in contracts for next year, allowing them lots of flexibility in free agency, where Darryl Morey and Co. will do their magic to maximize this roster. This will take several players to take pay cuts in order to make this superteam work, including LeBron James, Chris Paul and Clint Capela. Assembling this team makes the Rockets out of this world, expected to shatter the NBA regular season record with 77 wins. This team would be favored against the Warriors in the West and, if the numbers work out, the best option for LeBron James this summer.

Projected Starting Five: Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, LeBron James, Clint Capela

Projected Record: 77-5

 

LeBron James                 .221                                 14.0                                $28,000,000

Chris Paul                        .265                                 10.2                                  $5,910,432

Clint Capela                     .242                                 10.2                                  $5,910,432

Trevor Ariza                   .113                                   5.2                                   $2,375,700

Tarik Black                      .136                                   1.5                                   $1,609,100

Gerald Green                  .107                                    2.1                                   $2,375,700

Luc Mbah a Moute        .086                                    2.8                                   $2,375,700

James Harden .289 15.4 $30,431,854
Ryan Anderson .132 4.8 $20,421,546
Eric Gordon .105 4.7 $13,500,375
P.J. Tucker .082 3.9 $7,969,537
Nene Hilario .163 2.6 $3,651,480
Chinanu Onuaku -.147 -0.1 $1,544,951
Zhou Qi -.104 -0.3 $1,378,242
Troy Williams $1,544,951
Team Totals 77.0 Win Shares $129,000,000

 

 

 

Free Agency Blueprint: TOR

How to land LeBron:

Getting LeBron James to The North would seem to be a superteam in the East, giving James enough firepower around him to get back to a ninth straight NBA Finals and challenge the Warriors for his fourth title. Coming off a 59-win season, the Raptors have all of their rotation returning except VanVleet, meaning they are already pushing up against the Apron of $129 million. Toronto needs to clear space with a trade–Serge Ibaka, CJ Miles and Norman Powell for James and Larry Nance, Jr. After making this move, the Raptors would have four roster spots to fill and $3,168,777 to use with trade exceptions. The best regular season team in the East would be expected to win 65 games while immediately becoming the favorite to make the NBA Finals.

Projected Starting Five: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozen, LeBron James, Larry Nance, Jonas Valanciunas

Projected Record: 65-17

 

LeBron James                 .221                                 14.0                                  $35,350,000

Larry Nance .196 5.8 $2,272,391
Kyle Lowry .194 10.2 $31,000,000
DeMar DeRozan .170 9.6 $27,739,975
Jonas Valanciunas .210 7.6 $16,539,326
Jakob Poeltl .176 5.6 $2,947,320
OG Anunoby .098 3.0 $1,952,760
Delon Wright .152 4.5 $2,536,898
Malachi Richardson .045 0.0 $1,569,360
Pascal Siakam .133 4.7 $1,544,951
Alfonzo McKinnie .084 0.1 $1,378,242
Justin Hamilton $1,000,000

Totals:                                                65.1 Win Shares                              $125,831,223

 

 

 

Free Agency Blueprint: BOS

How to land LeBron:

The Boston Celtics were knocked out by LeBron James and the Cavaliers this postseason and have never been afraid to make a huge move to upgrade their roster at any time, so you can assume there is conversation going on between Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front office. Getting James to join the Celtics and his old running mate, Kyrie Irving, might be difficult considering the battles he has had with this team, and will take some financial maneuvering as well. Boston is currently over the salary cap so the only way to make this work would be to make a trade–sending Jaylen Brown and Abdel Nader for non-guaranteed contracts would clear $6,548,202 and allow them to offer James the max deal starting at $35,350,000. If Gordon Hayward can get back to career average form next season, the returning Celtics combine for an expected 49.3 Win Shares and a coach that is able to get more than expected out of his roster. Trading Brown and Nader for James would add an expected 9.6 Win Shares to the roster, bringing them to a predicted record of 59-23 and another chance at the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston has a roster that is ready to challenge the Warriors but could be too much to stomach for James to make the move.

Projected Starting Five: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford

Projected Record: 59-23

 

Player                              WSP48                             WS                                       Salary

LeBron James                 .221                                 14.0                                  $35,350,000

Gordon Hayward .150 7.0 $31,214,295
Al Horford .165 7.8 $28,928,710
Kyrie Irving .222 8.9 $20,099,188
Jayson Tatum .139 7.1 $6,700,800
Marcus Morris .108 3.2 $5,375,000

 

Terry Rozier .130 5.6 $3,050,390
Guerschon Yabusele .122 0.6 $2,667,600

 

Semi Ojeleye .048 1.2 $1,378,242
Demetrius Jackson 0.0 $92,857
Daniel Theis .178 3.5 $1,378,242

Totals:                                              58.9 Win Shares                              $107,433,526

Free Agency Blueprint: PHX

How to land LeBron:

Phoenix hold the #1 pick ($5,973,400; 0.2 WS) as well as the #16 pick ($1,910,700; 0.0 WS) in this year’s draft to add to the twelve players under contract to return for 2018-19. These fourteen roster spots make up $86,305,408 and allow the Suns to offer a maximum salary to LeBron James. Adding James at $35,350,000, the team roster is filled out with a total payroll at $121,655,408 and an expected win total of only 24.6. Phoenix could trade their two first round picks for a quality player that can help win now, but this would take something short of a miracle to create a winning team out of this roster.

 

 

 

Player Age 2017-18 2018-19 WSP48 WS
Lebron James $35,350,000 .221 14.0
Tyson Chandler 35 $13,000,000 $13,585,000 .111  2.7
Jared Dudley 32 $10,000,000 $9,530,000  .058  0.8
Alan Williams 25 $6,000,000 $5,520,000 -.004  0.0
Josh Jackson 21 $5,090,040 $6,041,520 -.018 -0.7
Dragan Bender 20 $4,468,800 $4,661,280 .001  0.1
Davon Reed 23 $815,615 $1,378,242 -.059  -0.3
Troy Daniels 26 $3,408,520 $3,258,540  .042  1.4
Brandon Knight 26 $13,618,750 $14,631,250 .015 0.3
T.J. Warren 24 $3,152,931 $11,750,000 .077 3.4
Marquese Chriss 20 $3,073,800 $3,206,160 .023 0.7
Devin Booker 21 $2,319,360 $3,314,365  .063 2.4
Tyler Ulis 22 $1,312,611 $1,544,951 -.006  -0.2

total 24.6 WS

Free Agency Blueprint: ATL

How to land LeBron:

Assuming Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala exercise their Player Options, Atlanta has $29,165,650 of available cap space and $51,165,650 with the Luxury Tax buffer. This would allow them to offer another large salary starting around $12 million, which could be used to bring in Chris Paul or Paul George to upgrade their guard depth. One of these players would take less than max so that the Hawks would operate below the Luxury Tax line to offer LeBron James a max deal starting at $35.35 million. Atlanta also has the $4,633,727 in trade exceptions to then add wing options such as Will Barton, Trevor Ariza or Marco Belinelli. Adding James, Paul and Barton improves this team by 30.4 wins, pushing them to an expected 50 win total, matching the Cavaliers 2017-18 record. Playing with LeBron should convince players to take a large pay cut, and Paul would have to take significantly less should the Hawks keep their 3rd ($4,799,540; 7.1 WS) and 19th ($1,646,708; 5.4 WS) picks in the draft. This can lift the Hawks from the NBA doormat to the upper echelon in the East and give James a shot at keeping his NBA Finals streak alive. Their best case scenario sees this Hawks team winning 62 games and a force in the East, where James’s team would be the favorite to reach his ninth straight NBA Finals.

Projected Starting Five: Chris Paul, Will Barton, LeBron James, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon

Projected Record:  62-20

 

Pos.  Name                                     2018-19 Salary     WSP48   WS

SF  LeBron James                           $35,350,000            .221     14.0

PG Chris Paul                                    $12,113,917            .265     10.2

SG  Will Barton                                 $4,633,727 TE      .111       6.2

PF  John Collins                                 $2,299,080           .145       5.4

C  Dewayne Dedmon                PO  $6,300,000           .114       3.7

PF  Mike Muscala                      PO  $5,000,000           .110       2.6

SG  Kent Bazemore                         $18,089,887         .059        2.2

PG  Dennis Schroder                      $15,500,000          .059       2.6

C     Miles Plumlee                          $12,500,000           .046      0.9

SF  Taurean Waller-Prince             $2,526,840           .038     2.0

PG  Isaiah Taylor                               $1,544,951           .027      0.6

SG  Tyler Dorsey                                $1,378,242          .020      0.4

SG  DeAndre’ Bembry                      $1,634,640          -.040    -0.4

#3 Pick                                               $4,799,540             .139     7.1

#19 Pick                                             $1,646,708             .145     5.4

Jamal Crawford                             $2,304,226

Tyler Cavanaugh                          $1,378,242

Expected Totals:                       $129,000,000                      62.9 Win Shares

 

Notes:

NBA Salary Cap Max:   $101,000,000

NBA Luxury Tax Threshold:   $123,000,000

Apron: $129,000,000

Hawks Taxable Salaries:  $71,834,350

Trade Exceptions:  $4,346,942  (Dwight Howard exp. 06/20/2018);

$286,785  (Ryan Kelly exp. 06/28/2018)