To NBA fans in Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Portland: avert your eyes. You’re not going to like your playoff odds.
The Wizards, Rockets and Warriors all grabbed 2-0 series leads Wednesday with victories at home against the Hawks, Thunder and Trail Blazers. Prior to Wednesday night’s slate of NBA playoff games, ESPN Stats and Info pointed out 94 percent of teams with 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series have advanced. So it’s an uphill climb, to say the least.
Unsurprisingly, those developments have also made big men on less desirable contracts functionally unmovable without their current team surrendering assets because they provide less value and fewer franchises will have substantial cap space. That reduced number of teams with salary flexibility should drive salaries down for this summer’s non-elite free agents as well, so contracts to perceived starters like Noah and Mozgov will continue to look bad, but many front offices will be able to do much better with their free-agent dollars than 2016 deals for backup centers Dwight Powell, Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic and Al Jefferson.
As was the case last summer, the front offices that do best in 2017 could be those who just wait out their impatient counterparts and those who do not have the salary flexibility to make mistakes. In 2016, the Warriors produced a surprisingly solid center rotation with Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee while both the Rockets (Nene) and Spurs (Dewayne Dedmon) added key rotation pieces with their Room Mid-Level exceptions.
Of course, not every team can sell the prospect of playing time on a title contender. Incidentally, each of those three teams will need to strike gold again with similar constraints since all of those signees will be free agents again, but they will not be players in the higher end trade market.