NBA Offseason Roundup: August 10, 2018

Has the NCAA made an about-face on their amateurism model (no!)? Which teams get the opening week national broadcast spots (the big market ones!)? Vegas released their 2018-2019 win total projections–what are the surefire bets? All this and more in our latest NBA Offseason Roundup.

NCAA Rule Changes

No burying the lede: the NCAA announced a set of rule changes Wednesday that will significantly shift the makeup of NCAA basketball and is likely a precursor to greater changes down the road.

The updates include: 1) Players who were invited to the combine are eligible to return to college if they go undrafted, 2) “Elite” high school and college prospects, as identified by USA Basketball (maybe) may sign with agents, 3) Schools will be contractually obligated to comply with future investigations, and information from external investigations (e.g. FBI) are now admissible evidence in NCAA investigations.

The NCAA’s haphazard rollout lead to widespread confusion–even among key players supposedly party to the changes (such as USA Basketball)– and speculation among pundits. It even divided the Moderate Spice staff:

On their face, the rule changes seem garnered toward the athletes. Kids may sign agents and still return to school if they go undrafted, which is a step in the right direction. 

However, it’s only the “elite” prospects who are eligible to sign agents. And right now, no one, including the NCAA, knows what that means. In the initial announcement, the NCAA said USA Basketball would decide who the elite prospects are, but USA Basketball–seemingly blindsided by the announcement–indicated they have no interest in being the Arbiters of Elite. So at this time it seems the NCAA itself will hold their athletes’ fates in their hands. Awesome.

Note that this only applies to college athletes for now–high schoolers will not be eligible to sign agents until the NBA reduces their age-limit. So the announcement is simply a precursor, or window dressing depending on your perspective. It’s also worth noting that once high schoolers are eligible, if they do sign an agent and then decide to go to college, they can’t continue the relationship with their agent–which is unrealistic and antithetical to the concept of relationships. But I think I understand where the NCAA is coming from: agents can’t make money off of college students under the current amateurism model, because the athletes can’t make any money, and the NCAA wants to keep it that way. So it’s in their best interest to keep agents, whose entire job is finding money-making loopholes, out of amateur athletics where no one should be making money except coaches, schools, and the NCAA itself. If agents are allowed to stay in contact with college kids, the amateur/professional relationship barrier that prevents college athletes from profiting off their likeness would eventually weather. And that’s no good for the NCAA.

The rule change that is not window dressing is the de facto subpoena power that the NCAA has granted itself. Previously, the NCAA was limited in their ability to force schools to comply with their investigations, but now the schools are contractually obligated. In the wake of FBI bombshell investigations, expect more crackdowns from the NCAA itself.

A lot of this seems like the NCAA is preempting a shift in power that they know is inevitable and setting themselves up to maintain control once that time comes.

Vegas Win Total Projections

Vegas bookmakers unveiled their total wins over/unders for all 30 NBA teams on Sunday, and there are a couple of surprises. For one, the San Antonio Spurs–fresh off a 47-win season–are projected to win 43.5 games after swapping Kawhi Leonard, who played in only 9 games last year (the Spurs went 5-4 in those games), for DeMar DeRozan, a second-team All-NBA player. Sure. Maybe Vegas knows something we don’t, but I’m putting my money on the Spurs, one of three teams with multiple reigning All-NBA players on their team, winning 44 or more.

Similarly, the Portland Trail Blazers are projected at 41.5 wins following a 49-win season. The Trail Blazers had few roster changes this offseason, so while the West has only gotten stronger, a drop off of eight games seems unlikely.

Meanwhile the Indiana Pacers are projected at 47.5 wins, right at their 48-win mark in 2017-2018. The Pacers quietly had an excellent offseason, adding shooting and playmaking in Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, and solidified their frontcourt by adding Kyle O’Quinn. They’ve only gotten better on paper. Will that translate to the win-loss column? Vegas says no.

NBA Opening Week TV Schedule

On Wednesday the NBA released their national television schedule for opening week (first game tips off October 16th), Christmas, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. There were few surprises in the big market-heavy lineup:

No surprise that the Indiana Pacers have zero primetime spots during opening week or on holidays, either. But there are interesting matchups here, including a look at #1 pick DeAndre Ayton’s Suns versus #3 pick Luka Doncic’s Mavericks. And it’s definitely good (for the NBA) to have the Lakers back in the primetime with the biggest star in the sport.

Jahlil Okafor to New Orleans

I’m not sure New Orleans needs another Big, but on a 1-year partially guaranteed contract, with a 2019-2020 team option, I can’t blame them for taking a flyer on the former #3 pick, who looked pretty good in a 1-minute summer workout clip he put out.

Kawhi Leonard Statement

Kawhi released a statement yesterday thanking the city of San Antonio, the fans, and the team for the support and all the good times they had together:

I have a few questions on this:

  • Ummm, why now? It’s been weeks since the trade.
  • WTF is that logo??? 
  • Why doesn’t he have a PR person writing these?

After a year-long hibernation, Kawhi emerges with a letter that appears to be written by his middle school-aged nephew.

That’s all the action in the NBA this week — THANK YOU for reading and be sure to check in next week.

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