1. the act or process of making something smaller or of becoming smaller.
Example: While LeBron James thinks that shrinking the NBA is a great idea, he believes contraction is not.
Contraction. Now that we all know what it means, let's talk about it. David Stern first brought it up in October, saying the issue is still on the table for the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. LeBron James is either in favor of it or against it, depending on which day of the week it is (LeBron may not know contraction, but his people definitely do know retraction.) He even went as far as to offer up a couple franchises...you know, just because he figured his Q Score couldn't possibly sink any lower in those markets.
Wegobomber Basketball has no Q Score to speak of, so we're not afraid to take this concept and run with it. This is actually one of the few times we've actually agreed with Stern and LeBron (until he backtracked), so we knew it was something worth exploring further. We give you what has to be the World's First Mock NBA Contraction Draft. Take a suck of this, Chad Ford!
First, we need some teams. LeBron offered up Minnesota and New Jersey, but we believe he put too much focus on their current win-loss records. That's definitely a factor, but one needs to look at the future fiscal and basketball outlook as well. Plus, in order to make any substantial improvement to the league-wide talent level and revenue sharing, the contraction needs to include four teams instead of two. With apologies to die-hard fans in these markets (including both of you in Charlotte), here are our four contraction candidates:
1. New Orleans Hornets - a no-brainer considering George Shinn couldn't find a buyer and the league had to step-in and take over. The Hornets have a marketable star in Chris Paul and have been an above average team, yet their attendance dropped to levels that allow the team to break its lease and relocate. Right now, they are a dead franchise walking. One that will be going nowhere once Chris Paul walks after next season.
2. Memphis Grizzlies - Michael Heisley has been claiming poverty and looking for an out almost as soon as he bought the team. Another no-brainer.
3. Charlotte Bobcats - For some reason we get the uneasy feeling that Michael Jordan got in over his head when he became majority owner of the Bobcats last year. Plus, we really, really don't want to see another comeback attempt. Let's contract Charlotte and save MJ from himself.
4. Toronto Raptors - A tough call as they have a profitable team with a passionate fan base. However, other than the occasional entertaining rookie-didn't-realize-you-need-a-passport snafu, NBA basketball in Canada doesn't exactly get the blood pumping. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh all ran for the border at the first opportunity of daylight. To make up for the Raptors contracting, perhaps Stern can broker a deal with former lackey Gary Bettman to move two NHL franchises (how about the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets?) back to Canada. Done and done.
Now that we have the teams, we need some ground rules. Assume that the Contraction Draft takes place next summer, sometime between the NBA Finals completion and the NBA Rookie Draft (or as we call it, Second Christmas). Anybody currently on these teams is part of the contraction draft pool, except those set to be unrestricted free agents next summer. This includes Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and David West, who we can safely assume will opt out of his bargain $7.5 million contract for 2011-12 (we assumed Leandro Barbosa will opt-in to his $7.6 contract for next year). Second and third-year players with team options or restricted free agent rights are part of the pool. All existing contracts and salaries transfer to the player's new team, with no salary-cap restrictions. The draft order will go from worst-to-best record (we used records as of January 3rd) and teams can trade picks for players or draft picks just like any a normal draft pick.
Without further ado, here is Wegobomber Basketball's Mock NBA Contraction Draft, version 1.0.
|1. The Sacramento Kings select Chris Paul|
The Contraction Draft effectively becomes the Chris Paul sweepstakes. CP3 and Sacramento might not be a mutually beneficial pick, but the Kings would have to take him at this spot. Most likely this would turn into Melo 2.0; a mega-star with an early termination option playing in a city where he doesn't really want to be long term. Sacramento would then have to try to get maximum value in return, hopefully with a signed extension in place. Stay or go, having this first pick would go a long ways towards bring the Kings back to respectability.
|2. The Cleveland Cavaliers select Rudy Gay|
Getting Gay in the 2-hole is not a bad consolation prize for the Cavaliers. He's probably not worth the Durant-esque money the Grizzlies gave him, but he's produced at a high-level since signing his contract, which is not nearly as common as it should be. Plus he gives the Cavs a face of the franchise guy other than Mo Williams.
|3. The Washington Wizards select O.J. Mayo|
Adding O.J. Mayo to the mix of John Wall, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee is pretty compelling -- very low on the maturity scale but very high on the excitement scale. You wouldn't know what to expect from these guys on any given night. However other than Wall, can you envision any of these guys as a key ingredient on a title contender? As constructed, this looks like Arenas/Jamison/Butler 2.0, high-paced and exciting, but ultimately not good enough. Fortunately for Wiz fans, new owner Ted Leonsis is asking the same tough questions (see #1 on his 10-point rebuilding manifesto), so chances are big changes are coming.
|4. The Minnesota Timberwolves select Andrea Bargnani|
This pick is particularly hard to predict because nobody knows what's going on inside David Kahn's head. Just this week, he said he thinks Darko Milicic could make the all-star team next year. There's at least a 15% chance that he would take Hasheem Thabeet with this pick. We also toyed with the idea of picking a point-guard here to meet the T-Wolves most glaring need (despite drafting three of them and signing one more in the last two years), but ultimately the allure of signing a former #1 overall pick will be too much for Kahn to pass up.
|5. The New Jersey Nets select Gerald Wallace|
Obviously this pick changes if they end up getting Carmelo Anthony (they probably won't have the 5th pick then either). But as of now, Wallace looks like a good fit with Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and Brook Lopez. Gerald's stellar rebounding skills for a guy his size would make up for the fact the Lopez was born without the rebounding chromosome (seriously, 6.2 rebounds in 35 minutes per game for a guy who is 7 feet tall). Even if Melo doesn't happen, the Nets have been stockpiling picks and assets that will help get them back sooner rather than later.
|6. The Los Angeles Clippers select Stephen Jackson|
Make your 2012 LA Clippers playoff plans now! Although he's top 5 crazy in the league, Jackson is a proven performer and has a pretty good playoff track record. Could S-Jax's presence and the continued development of Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon finally be the thing the motivates Baron Davis to get in shape and play like a guy making $13 million a year? Maybe. We're starting to see a little bit of the old Baron in these nightly 50-foot alley-oop passes to Griffin, although that might simply be motivated by not having to cross the half-court line.
|7. The Detroit Pistons select Tyrus Thomas|
Ben Wallace can't play forever, can he? Eventually, Detroit is going to have to replace his defensive presence, and that's basically Thomas's calling card (that and driving head coaches crazy with lazy play and ridiculously reckless shots at the rim). Thomas will likely never be more than a sixth man in the league, and chances are he'll never quite "get it", but he would add value to a team whose other big men are Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe. Plus, Joe Dumars has no problem paying bench players starter money, so he probably won't balk at $8.4 million per year for Tyrus.
While we're here...how bad was that Thomas-for-LaMarcus Aldridge draft-day trade in hindsight? Not quite Dirk-for-Tractor Trailor bad, but still pretty lopsided. It took the Bulls years and $75 million to finally find a low-post scorer that they could've had all along.
|8. The Philadelphia 76ers select Emeka Okafor|
Although Okafor is both mediocre and horrifically overpaid, even we have to admit he'd be a huge step up from Spencer Hawes at starting center. A Iguodala-Brand-Okafor led team is probably good enough for the 7th seed in the East next year. Congrats Doug Collins!
|9. The Golden State Warriors select DeMar DeRozan|
Although the Warriors probably have greater needs in the front court, they'd be hard pressed to pass on DeRozan's upside and athleticism. You thought Golden State was fun to watch now -- just imagine DeRozan on the wing or as part of a three-guard rotation with Ellis and Curry. He brings size to the shooting guard position which is something that kills the Warriors in some matchups.
|10. The Milwaukee Bucks select Ed Davis|
Drew Gooden. Ersan Ilysova. Luc Mbah a Moute. This is the front court rotation for the Milwaukee Bucks. It's safe to say that the minutes are there for Davis. After a slow start to the season due to injuries, he has had his moments and looks like he could be one of the more productive players from the 2010 draft. A solid addition to the Bucks if he slips this low.
|11. The Indiana Pacers select Amir Johnson
The starting power forward for the Pacers is Josh McRoberts. Let that soak in for a minute. While the logic behind Johnson's 5-year, $30 million deal has never been fully explained, he'd definitely be an upgrade. The issue with Johnson continues to be staying on the court. He produces when he's not on the bench in foul trouble. This season he's managed to get his fouls rate below 8 per 48 minutes for the first time, so maybe that's a sign of real progress.
|12. The Phoenix Suns select Mike Conley|
Is there really any doubt that Robert Sarver would trade this pick for a future second rounder and cash considerations? Let's review the Suns' recent history in the draft:
- Selected Luol Deng with the 7th pick. Traded to the Bulls for a second round pick (31st overall: Jackson Vroman), a future first-rounder (the 21st pick in the 2005 draft) and $3 million in cash.
- Traded 16th pick from Knicks (Kirk Snyder) and an additional future first-round pick (9th pick in 2010, Gordon Heyward) with Tom Gugliotta to Jazz for Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten.
- Selected Nate Robinson with 21st pick received from Bulls in the Deng trade. Traded with Quentin Richardon and cash to Knicks for 54th pick (Dijon Thompson) and Kurt Thomas.
- Phoenix had Cleveland's first-round pick (13th overall) from a trade back in 1997, but dealt it to Charlotte in an agreement for the Bobcats to select Jahidi White in the expansion draft.
- The Suns' pick (30th overall) was previously traded to Spurs in 2003 exchange for draft rights to Leandro Barbosa. Spurs later traded pick to Knicks, who selected David Lee.
- Traded Joe Johnson to Atlanta in exchange for Boris Diaw and first-round picks in 2006 (21st overall) and 2008 (15th overall).
- Selected Rajon Rondo with the 21st pick from the Joe Johnson trade. Traded with Brian Grant and cash considerations to Boston for 2007 first round-draft pick (24th overall).
- Selected Sergio Rodriguez with the 27th pick. Traded to Portland for cash considerations.
- Selected Rudy Fernandez with 24th pick from the Rajon Rondo trade. Traded to Portland for cash considerations. [For those keeping score, the Suns effectively gave away Rondo for nothing.]
- Traded Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks to Seattle/Oklahoma City in exchange for a 2009 second-round pick (Emir Preldzic). Oklahoma City selected Serge Ibaka with 2008 pick. Kurt Thomas later trade to Spurs and plays an instrumental role in eliminating Suns in first round.
- Selected Robin Lopez with 15th pick from Joe Johnson trade.
- Selected Earl Clark with 14th pick.
Yes, that is how the Suns spent their draft picks during the Steve Nash era. Now it looks like they are lottery bound again and may have to resort to trading their franchise player in order to start the rebuilding process. Conley's game has improved this year, but I doubt he's going to make anybody in the desert forget about their two-time MVP.
|13. The Houston Rockets select D.J. Augustin|
Augustin looks liberated since Larry Brown got run out of town, and might end up shooting up the contraction draft charts if he keeps playing at high level (and if contraction draft charts actually existed). Augustin is an undersized, scoring point guard -- a poor man's version of the one Houston already has on their roster (Aaron Brooks). But GM Daryl Morey has never been too concerned about height and is never against acquiring assets first, asking questions later. I think they'd take the best player available.
|14. The Portland Trailblazers select Jose Calderon|
Portland hasn't had much luck with guards from Spain, but a strong-shooting, pass-first point guard like Calderon might be a better backcourt mate for Brandon Roy than slow-moving, ball-controlling Andre Miller, who the team has an option on for next year and may end up getting dealt in the next month. [According to Chris Broussard's sources, Roy gave Blazers management the "him or me" ultimatum. Let's just say I doubt there are many teams lined up to take on Roy's five-year, $82 million contract extension and his uninsured knees.]
|15. The New York Knicks select Jerryd Bayless|
Bayless and D'Antoni's Knicks look like a match made in heaven. As an offensive-minded shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body, he'd be a strong fit as a change-of-pace (from fast to really fast) guy coming off the bench. Bayless is getting a real opportunity in Toronto (his third team since October), and so far the returns have been positive.
|16. The Denver Nuggets select Jarrett Jack|
Obviously, the future outlook of the Nuggets is murky, thus making this a difficult pick to predict. We can safely assume that Carmelo Anthony is long gone, but we don't know where and we don't know what they'll get in return. Might the Melo trade spark a wholesale rebuilding effort that includes Chauncey Billups getting dealt to a contender near the deadline (Billups also has a team option for next year with a modest $3.7 partial guarantee). With this pick, Jarrett Jack goes back to the team that originally drafted him. By now, you know what you're getting with Jack: average point guard with good size; good teammate. Huge smile offset by freakishly squinty eyes. Can start or come off the bench. Big enough to guard a shooting guard if need be (say alongside Ty Lawson). However, you're probably not making the playoffs or getting very far with Jarrett Jack as your starting point guard.
|17. The Atlanta Hawks select Trevor Ariza|
Ariza is a horrifically bad shooter (21% field-goal percentage from 10-15 feet last year and 25% from three-point land this year), but that doesn't keep him from launching up nearly four three-point attempts per game. His value to the Hawks is obviously on the defensive side, probably coming off the bench or starting in front of Marvin Williams depending on match-ups. As he showed during his stint with the Lakers, Ariza can be a valuable piece on a title contender (not that Hawks are one).
|18. The Orlando Magic select Leandro Barbosa|
Barbosa fits in nicely with Orlando's strategy of surrounding Dwight Howard with strong perimeter players, and Leandrinho adds to what is already the deepest bench in the league. There's a good chance that Orlando would go big here to meet the hole that was left when they dealt Marcin Gortat to Phoenix, but I wasn't too thrilled with the prospects of having a picture of Hamed Haddidi's unibrow on my website.
|19. The Oklahoma City Thunder select Sam Young|
At this point in the draft, it's all about quality teams looking to add depth and a key ingredient to make or keep them as a key title contender. The Thunder still need to shore up their bench and overall defense, and Young seems to be a high-energy guy who can fit the bill without rocking the boat.
|20. The Los Angeles Lakers select Boris Diaw|
Part of me thinks Diaw's all-around game, low-post defense and interior passing skills would be a nice addition to the Laker's bench. The other part of me wonders if he's this fat while playing 35 minutes a game in Charlotte, what would happen to his waistline if he was the 8th man on the Lake Show?
|21. The Utah Jazz select Xavier Henry|
Henry came into the league with the reputation as a sharpshooter after one year at Kansas, but has only made 2-of-17 shots from three so far in his rookie year. Still, he's an interesting prospect and looks like a solid starting shooting guard in the NBA. That's something the Jazz seem to be constantly looking for.
|22. The Chicago Bulls select Tony Allen|
Even with a glaring hole at shooting guard, the Bulls are in the conversation of contenders to come out of the East right now. Assuming continued development of their core players, the Bulls could be the favorite in the East in 2011-12. Tony Allen is not a starting 2, but he's a tough defender who could fit a specific role. His work in last year's playoffs against Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant was a key reason the Celtics game within one game of winning the title.
|23. The Miami Heatles select Joey Dorsey|
The Heat's lack of front court strength is well documented, and Dorsey could come in a fill a specific role for cheap: strong banger who can grab boards for 10-12 minutes per game. The contracts for Jamal Magloire, Juwan Howard and Erick Dampier all roll off the books after this year.
By the way LeBron...the Heatles? That's a worse decision than The Decision.
|24. The Dallas Mavericks select Hasheem Thabeet|
DeSagana Diop (6 years, $32 million). Erick Dampier (7 years, $73 million). Brendan Haywood (6 years, $55 million). There's no way Mark Cuban passes up the opportunity to pay Thabeet $5.1 and $6.5 million over the next two years. If I were a Dallas fan, I'd be terrified about the prospect of a 6-year, $50 million extension signed in 2012. Maybe that's the catastophic event the Mayans were talking about.
|25. The Boston Celtics select Darrell Arthur|
The Celtics could have some big holes to fill in their front court next year, with Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis both unrestricted free agents next summer. The good news is they have Jermaine O'Neal locked up for $6.2 next year. Arthur wouldn't provide much more than a big to bang down low and spell Shaq for 10-15 minutes per game, but that might be just what they need next year for what could be the last hurrah from Garnett/Pierce/Rondo/Allen together.
|26. The San Antonio Spurs select Linas Kleiza|
It doesn't really matter who we put in here for the Spurs. Give them Pops Mensah-Bonsu for all I care. Just know that whoever they would pick has a 98% chance of being NBA Contraction Draft GOLD, driving the other 25 remaining teams crazy in the process. That's just the kinda run R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich have been on lately.