Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to May 27 inclusive:
3-1 Series (+2.0 units)
For the 28 teams not involved in the NBA playoffs, the 2014-15 season has already begun. And the one player everyone would most like to add to their roster has to be Kevin Love. He’s told the Minnesota Timberwolves that he won’t pick up his player option for 2015-16, putting pressure on the Wolves to trade him now rather than risk losing him for squadoosh. Will the Los Angeles Lakers bring the former UCLA Bruin home? Will the Cleveland Cavaliers ship this year’s No. 1 pick to acquire Love, and perhaps reel in LeBron James after?
Not a clue. But even if Love doesn’t come to town, your favorite team has plenty of options out there on the free agent market. In fact, you could assemble a pretty darned good team out of these players – all of them unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. Good enough to regularly beat the NBA lines against generic opposition? You decide.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
This year’s biggest All-Star snub, Lowry (20.1 PER) led the Raptors to their best record in franchise history at 48-34, plus a tasty 46-33-3 against the NBA odds. He’s developed into a solid two-way player and a team leader; however, because of his earlier brusqueness at stops in Memphis and Houston, Lowry will presumably have to take a discount on his next deal if he chooses to leave Toronto.
SG: Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
Again, it’s difficult seeing Thomas (20.5 PER) going anywhere after such a successful third season in the NBA, playing for a team under new ownership that finally appears to be pointed in the right direction. We’ve got him at shooting guard on our imaginary team; Thomas was a combo guard coming up with the Washington Huskies, and he’s a superior gunner (57.7 TS%) to Lowry (56.7 TS%), who’s the better playmaker of the two.
SF: Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers
Deng (14.0 PER) should be eminently available after the Chicago Bulls dumped him and he failed to click with the Cavaliers – although Cleveland lucking out at the draft lottery might change things. The two-time All-Star should still have plenty in the tank going into his age 29 season, and his defensive prowess doesn’t show up in his below-average PER from last year.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
We can dream, right? It’s pretty much a deadbolt lock that Nowitzki (23.6 PER) will be returning to the Mavericks after his outstanding campaign. And if we were to roll the dice on him in free agency, there’s every likelihood that Nowitzki (soon to turn 36) would decline pretty sharply from here. But it’s not every day that a former league MVP hits the market. And as a premier stretch-4, Nowtizki should work well paired with our starting center.
C: Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards
Imagine if the Wizards were playing the Miami Heat right now in the Eastern Conference Finals. It almost happened, but the Indiana Pacers managed to get their house in order just in time. Washington added Gortat (17.6 PER) in a package deal with the Phoenix Suns for Emeka Okafor’s contract and this year’s No. 1 pick, which turned out to be No. 18 overall. Seems like a bargain for someone who produced 14.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Bench: PG Darren Collison, SG Lance Stephenson, SG Eric Bledsoe, SF Trevor Ariza, F Michael Beasley, PF DeJuan Blair, PF James Johnson, C Pau Gasol, C Cole Aldrich, C Greg Oden