Pau Gasol adds another Lakers cash problem, Giannis Antetokounmpo's impact on draft prognostication and more

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Plus David Stern blasts the NCAA (again) and Monta Ellis thinks he's the only player who gets criticized for shot selection.

The L.A. Lakers have another eight-figure problem breathing down their necks. Kobe Bryant makes $30 million a year, is due for a new contract in a year and has indicated he's not terribly interested in taking a pay cut, given that he's still performing at a very high level. Pau Gasol is in better shape than last year, is retaking control of the frontcourt in the wake of Dwight Howard's departure and ... well, tell us about it, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut?

"Probably not," he said. "You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table."

Sure. And it's always hard to assess serious stances from posturing, especially this far out. But if Kobe makes $30 million and says no pay cut is forthcoming, and Pau makes $19 million and says no pay cut is forthcoming ... so much for all that cap space L.A. will supposedly have.

The difference, of course, is that if the Lakers blink at Kobe's demands, some other team will pay him some ungodly figure. Maybe not $30 million -- that's a ridiculous amount of cap space to free up -- but a big number. If the Lakers tell Pau they can't do more than, say, $9 million or 10 million per year (still a big outlay), can Gasol legitimately threaten to test the market in 2014 with the idea he'll actually get more than that?

There's also a risk to L.A. that he Ray Allens them. Remember, the Celtics offered Ray Allen more than the Heat had. But the Celtics' offer was low enough that Allen felt disrespected, so he left for the team's biggest current rival ... and helped that rival, the Heat, win a title.

Of course, if Gasol doesn't have a really good season, that's not much of a risk at all: It's all just an added area of concern for Mitch Kupchak, who has a more challenging season and free agency period coming up than any other GM in the league. It's going to be a wacky ride for the Lakers.

MORE LIKE ANTETOKOUNMRICH

Giannis Antetokounmpo is

  1. one helluva name,
  2. a prospect very few folks who write or talk about the NBA had informed opinions on leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft, and
  3. off to a pretty good start up in Milwaukee.

His eye-popping performance in the Bucks' Thursday preseason game, including some Larrian blocks and surprise scoring, led to some crowing by DraftExpress honcho Jonathan Givony, who was the conductor of the Antetokounmpo hype machine in June.

Yikes. The thing is that uncertainty flows both ways, especially with prospects facing low-level competition. (Antetokounmpo is the European equivalent of a preps-to-pros prospect. Like, say, Bismack Biyombo a couple years ago. Who, I feel like I should note, was also heralded by DraftExpress but hasn't delivered.) I mean, Givony even makes that point in this second tweet.

Even an Antetokounmpo champion is surprised that Giannis already looks like he'll make an impact for Milwaukee as a rookie. It makes me wish that all analysts in all cases used more of a spectrum of possibilities when assessing the impact a player will have. "Best-case/worst-case" type analysis is a step in that direction, but there's still too much "we know this to be true" for my taste.

But the "embrace debate" public in many cases demands "strong takes.". It's kind of a perverted system we need to make the best of, and I honestly cannot tell if chiding those who got Player X wrong is an important check on egregious certitude or a needless pressure point on an already goofy process.

DAVID STERN VS. THE NCAA

As if there were any question about David Stern's intention to take over the NCAA's traditional role as basketball's minor league. From the Houston Chronicle:

"The thing I'm equally proud of and its importance will emerge in the future years as the discussions of the NCAA and its relationship with the NBA heat up, we have a full-fledged development league.

"I'm very proud of the development league. It's working. That march is continuing. The drumbeats I hear about colleges not liking what they refer to one-and-done . We now have a league in the NBA Development League that will accept players that are 18 and will do a better job of educating them than the college programs in which they are.

"Take that."

1. Whoa.

2. I wrote in the offseason that the D-League is damn near a real minor league. It'll be there within a couple of years, at this rate. And Stern was pulled into this topic by a question about Jeremy Lin, who would have been in Europe or a different line of work after college graduation if not for the D-League. The D-League absolutely works excellently for those professional players on the fringe. There's no question about it.

3. Stern needs to soften the boasts, though, until the D-League pulls a top prospect away from the NCAA system. Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad would have been great fits in recent years. They went to UNLV and UCLA, respectively. Stern and Adam Silver can crow about the success of the D-League vis a vis the college system once, like, at least one All-American chooses the Fort Wayne Mad Ants over the Kentucky Wildcats. Right now the D-League is a minor league system in that it allows NBA teams to pull prospects and vets from an increasingly local reserve of replacement-level players. It's not yet an MLB-style substitute for college sports. Not even close. Stern knows that. The NCAA knows that. How long will it take to change it?

MONTA HAVE IT ALL PART II, IN WHICH 'IT ALL' MEANS 'A PERSECUTION COMPLEX'

I love watching Monta Ellis play basketball. I love that Monta Ellis does not play for the team I root for. He's like a great alpine lake. I love to visit great alpine lakes, and I'm glad I don't have to deal with all of the trouble that comes living at a great alpine lake.

I love watching Monta Ellis play basketball, but I cannot resist.

"There's a lot of guys that take a lot of bad shots in this league, a lot of bad shots. Nobody wants to talk about them, but everybody wants to talk about the shots that Monta takes. The only thing that I'm going to do is take the punches and prove everybody wrong."

Instead of arguing with Monta, I'll just point to the player tag pages here on SBNation.com for Kobe Bryant, J.R. Smith, Brandon Jennings, Rudy Gay and Russell Westbrook.

GOOD NEWS ON SHOTSCORE

On Thursday I wrote about my concerns with Kirk Goldsberry's new toy ShotScore, a metric to grade the effectiveness of scorers. Some good news from Goldsberry on a couple of my issues.

Goldsberry also published a second piece on Thursday, looking at the bottom five in ShotScore last season. Monta have it all, apparently. I would also be remiss if I didn't point out Ian Levy's nice work on this topic.

More from SB Nation NBA:

Flannery: Pacers patiently building a winner | Indy Cornrows

The Hook: Why Durant is more effective than LeBron

Kobe gets "green light" to get into shape

Are Pistons playoff bound? | Flannery: Crazier things have worked

Today's NBA headlines from around the league

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