Suns interested in Rudy Gay? Aldridge not a part of Blazers’ offer?

Yahoo! Sports has an update on the Amare Stoudemire trade talks.

The proposed multiplayer trade is fluid, but the framework would include the Suns receiving a package that includes Miami forward Shawn Marion and Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay. Miami would send rookie Michael Beasley to the Grizzlies.

“Miami knows that they can’t get this done directly with Phoenix,” one league executive said. “The big thing is that they know the Suns like Gay.”

Miami apparently has to get the Grizzlies involved because the Suns aren’t all that high on Beasley, but they do like Gay. So Phoenix would get Marion (cap relief) and Gay (young star), while Stoudemire would go to the Heat and Beasley to the Grizzlies.


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Which NBA teams project to have the most cap space over the next two years?

In previous columns, I ranked the top 10 free agents of 2010 and identified several players with expiring contracts that might be moved before the Feb. 19 trade deadline. Now it’s time to talk about cap space.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how teams are “clearing cap space” so that they can sign a big-name free agent in the summer of 2010 (or in some cases, 2009). But what exactly does this mean?

The NBA has a “soft cap” which is currently set at $58.7 million. Teams that are over the cap can’t sign a free agent from another team for more than the mid-level exception, which usually starts at around $5 million per season. Teams that are under the cap can offer free agents whatever cap space they have up to the level of a max contract, which starts at about $14 million per season under current conditions.

HoopsHype has all the salary data for each team, but I thought it would be useful to compile it all into one table so we can easily see who will have money to spend over the next two summers.

First, my assumptions:

– Given the current state of the economy, the salary cap is likely to stay at about $59 million over the next two seasons, so I used the current cap ($58.7 million) to calculate each team’s cap space.

– Certain players have already indicated that they’re planning to “opt out” of the final year of their contracts so that they can enter free agency. For those that have not announced, I used my best judgment to determine whether or not a player is likely to opt out. For example, LeBron James is very likely to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2010, but Michael Redd, who stands to make more than $18 million that same season, is likely to play out the final year of his deal because he’s not going to get anything close to that kind of money on the open market.

– I’ll also list the major (and some minor) decisions that each franchise will have to make over the next two seasons. These are typically decisions about whether or not to re-sign a player whose contract is up (or is entering restricted free agency). For example, if the Knicks decide to sign David Lee to a long-term deal, it’s going to have an impact on the team’s available cap space.

Without further ado, here’s the table, sorted by total projected cap space in the summer of 2010.


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No Love?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge have been announced and there are a few surprises.

The rookie roster consists of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Rudy Fernandez, Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, Greg Oden and Marc Gasol.

The sophomore roster includes Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Thaddeus Young.

Kevin Love isn’t on the nine-man roster for the Rookie Challenge, and it’s a big, glaring snub. ESPN’s John Hollinger agrees.

For starters, the decision to select Eric Gordon ahead of Kevin Love for the rookies was completely inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong; Gordon is going to have a fine career, it seems, and in almost any other year he’d be a shoo-in for the team. But he made this squad mainly because the forlorn Clippers have no choice but to play him extensive minutes.

As good as he’s looked, Gordon is the only rookie team member with a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average, while Love has a better PER than every player on the rookie team except Greg Oden. Love leads the league in offensive rebound rate, as I mentioned the other day, but his prodigious work on the boards has gone largely unnoticed because he plays only 23.2 minutes a game, far less than Gordon’s 32.2.

Love’s absence is especially surprising considering how the rookie roster is loaded with four guards (Rose, Westbrook, Mayo, Gordon), one G/F (Fernandez) and only one true forward (Beasley). You’d think that if it were a tossup between Gordon and Love (which it isn’t) that they’d at least want to get another true forward on the roster to balance things out.

Hollinger goes on to rail against the sophomore roster snubs, which included Wilson Chandler over Jamario Moon, Al Thornton over Carl Landry and the worst of all (he says) — Aaron Brooks over Ramon Sessions.

Interestingly, seven of the top 11 picks of the 2007 draft — Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes and Acie Law — did NOT make the sophomore roster. (I counted Greg Oden amongst the four since he made the rookie roster.) Conversely, six of the top 11 picks in the 2008 draft did make the rookie team.

The Top 10 NBA Rookies by PER

John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating is a nice way to compare players without having to account for the number of minutes each guy gets. It’s an efficiency statistic, so just about everything is included. A PER of 15.00 is average for the position.

Let’s take a look at the top rookies. I’m only going to list guys that are getting more than 20 minutes per game…

1. Kevin Love, T-Wolves
PER: 16.39
Surprised? I am…a little. I really liked Love coming out of college, but he got off to a slow start and the trade Minnesota made (sending O.J. Mayo) to Memphis wasn’t looking too good early on. He’s not shooting the ball well (41%), but he’s rebounding like a champ (8.4 rpg in 22.7 mpg).

2. Greg Oden, Blazers
PER: 16.35
Technically, Oden is still a rookie since he missed all of last season due to injury. After Love, he has the second best rebound rate of all first-year players.

3. Brook Lopez, Nets
PER: 16.26
Rebounding is the stat that most easily translates from college to the pros, so it’s no surprise that three good rebounders top this list. In 29.5 minutes, Lopez is averaging 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, and he has more blocks per minute than Oden.

4. Rudy Fernandez, Blazers
PER: 16.25
Rudy has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game. His three-point shooting 39% is outstanding and he’s averaging 11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26.5 minutes per game. Plus, he was even voted into the Slam Dunk Contest as well.

5. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
PER: 15.40
The other Gasol is getting starters minutes (30.6) in Memphis and is averaging 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

6. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
PER: 15.74
In January, Westbrook is averaging 15.7 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 34.9 minutes of action. He got off to a slow start, but seems to be figuring things out now.

7. O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
PER: 15.66
Of all the guys on this list, Mayo might be the guy that asked to do the most. He got off to a blistering start, but defenses are adjusting and his numbers are falling.

8. Derrick Rose, Bulls
PER: 15.45
He and Mayo play more than 37 minutes per game, which is by far tops on this list. It’s hard to argue with the 16.9 points and 6.4 assists that Rose produces every night. Point guard is arguably the toughest position in the NBA to learn as a rookie, and this guy sure looks like a keeper.

9. Michael Beasley, Heat
PER: 15.23
Beasley is getting better as the season wears on. He’s averaging 14.9 points (on 50% shooting) and 6.0 rebounds in January. He’s also as good as expected from long range (39%).

10. D.J. Augustin, Bobcats
PER: 13.75
It’s not easy being a point guard under Larry Brown, but Augustin is getting big minutes (28.4) and is producing 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per contest. His shooting (40%) is pretty suspect, though he’s very solid from long range (39%).

Notes:

– Marreese Speights leads all rookies in PER (20.44) but only plays 15.9 minutes per game.

– Anthony Morrow and George Hill just missed the minutes per game cutoff. Otherwise, they would have been on the list.

– Given how tough it is to play point guard in the NBA, Derrick Rose still gets my vote for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls are asking him to play huge minutes, which is going to take its toll over the course of the season.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS


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