David Thorpe, former ESPN analyst and longtime NBA skills coach, joins Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck to discuss the current state of superstar empowerment and how it could shape the league’s future. He also gives his take on the wild offseason, including Kyrie Irving‘s trade request, Chris Paul (and potentially Carmelo Anthony) joining the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder acquiring Paul George and what Jimmy Butler brings to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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On NBA players holding all the cards
“I think we’re just seeing the very natural evolution of what began years ago, and LeBron’s decision was part of it—I don’t know that it was the first thing. We’re just starting to see the result of players beginning to recognize they have all the leverage. It is their league.”
On what changed
“They’re just done with letting the owners make the billions and everyone else makes the decisions where they should be. And yes, of course when contracts are expired, they can choose another place. … But now we’re starting to see the final stage in a sense. … They want to be in control of what their only basketball career is going to look like.”
On winning as a motivation to players
“I do know that most players just aren’t motivated solely by winning until they know they can be just the best player on the court—period.”
On player departures signifying problems at the top
“We’re gonna start being able to hold owners accountable like never before when they can’t keep their stars, even after they sign them to a five-year deal, four-year deal…in most cases we know what bad management is or bad ownership or both.”
On being optimistic about Chris Paul-James Harden pairing
“I think James Harden had to do so much this year with the ball—there’s no question that he did—playing him next to Chris Paul frequently, and Paul as quarterback, is going to allow James to do less and still be productive and efficient.
“And I also think Chris Paul, for the first time in his career, we’re going to see him be able to play next to a playmaker equal to him—he can kind of just be a scorer, especially if that’s how the game is dictated. … Chris Paul’s going to be more wide open now than he ever has been in his whole career.”
On Chris Paul’s role
“I think Chris Paul should be watching Steve Nash tapes all summer and try to be Steve Nash. Think score, then read and really work on fine-tuning his wide-open three-point shot because he’ll have a ton of them.”
On potentially adding Carmelo Anthony to the mix
“If I was running that team, I would really try to convince Carmelo to either come off the bench to be the Sixth Man of the Year the next three years or be the first guy to the bench in that starting unit and let him be a focal point to the second group.”
On Jimmy Butler in Minnesota
“I do think he’ll help them get through the slog of [Tom] Thibodeau, which is easily the case there. I mean, even the video tape sessions are way too long for NBA players to be able to focus that long on. But he’ll get them through it. I think he’ll hold [Andrew] Wiggins accountable, [Karl-Anthony] Towns already looks like he’s going to be one of the best players ever, and they’re interesting. …
“I do think they’ll be significantly better and absolutely a team we should look at for the playoffs.”
On potential ripple effects from West domination
“What I’m waiting for, and it’s going to happen next July, is how many players under contract in the West when they’re second- or third-best—or maybe even some of the bad teams’ best like Marc Gasol or Mike Conley—how many of them are going to say ‘trade me to the East where I can really put up huge numbers and get a bigger contract when I come up.'”
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