The Starting 5 features some of the best NBA content from around the internet.
After the conversation surrounding the arduous NBA schedule reached a breaking point last season, the league clearly prioritized lessening the workload on its players. Seth Partnow takes a nice deep dive into all of the quirks of the new schedule for the always excellent Fancy Stats blog. One of the biggest developments is the reduction of total travel by 18 percent on average. There’s also far fewer four games in five night stretches, back-to-backs, and fewer instances of particularly harmful cross-country back-to-backs. Seth also takes an enlightening look at which teams have the most and least favorable schedules for 2015-16.
When Kevin Durant had an additional surgery late last season, the Thunder claimed it was due to lingering soreness. Several months later, Durant acknowledged to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding that he actually suffered another, unexpected fracture in the foot. KD gives plenty of details about the surgeries done to strengthen his foot, including a unique bone graft that needed extra time to heal. The development of a second break could spell problems down the line for Durant, but he and his medical team are confident in the bone to heal fully. Durant hasn’t lost his supreme self-assurance, but Ding does well exploring how such a serious injury would deeply affect any player.
Jimmy Butler, who famously disappeared without electronics to work on his game last summer, has had an uncharacteristically loud offseason. He’s brushed off pervasive rumors about a beef with Derrick Rose and signed a fat new maximum contract to stay in Chicago for at least four years. This week, he raised a few eyebrows when he said he considers himself to be a point guard. Sean Highkin breaks down the full quotes from Butler and shows how this mindset should actually be extremely valuable to the Bulls. Jimmy isn’t gunning for Derrick Rose’s job; he’s instead trying to make it clear that he sees himself as another lead ball-handler. The Bulls have found success in “two point guard” lineups in the past and improved ball-handling from Butler would be a massive addition.
In his latest article for the #NBAUtopia project, Danny Leroux tackles the tricky subject of maximum contracts. It’s pretty clear that the elite players are underpaid their market values, but removing maximums would likely cripple competitiveness and parity. Leroux’s suggested fix is two-fold. First, kick up the percentages of the salary cap allotted to maximum players. The extra five or 10% of the salary cap goes a long way toward making up some of that gap. Second, introduce a Cornerstone Exception that allows franchises to retain stars after nine or more seasons by only counting half their salary against the cap. In this situation, the Lakers could’ve still paid Kobe Bryant the $48 million he deserved without destroying their ability to field a playoff team.
Shane Young digs in on Jeff Teague’s quietly fantastic season for the Hawks last year. Teague continued his development into one of the NBA’s premiere lead guards yet received surprisingly little credit from the national audience. Shane thoroughly breaks down each aspect of Teague’s game and shows why he was a true catalyst in Atlanta’s emergence as a 60-win team.