Top 10 September 2014 Transactions

Most offseason business is already taken care of well before September, when the opening of training camps at month’s end looms. It’s that new beginning for on-court action that stirs a renewal of off-court transactions, too. September saw several notable moves last year, and that’ll no doubt be the case again in 2015, with Tristan Thompson still unsigned, the Rockets facing an unappealing set of circumstances with No. 32 pick Montrezl Harrell, and Markieff Morris still pushing the Suns to trade him.

We’ll look back on the top 10 September transactions from last year to provide a preview of the sort of moves we can expect in the next few weeks:

  1. Suns re-sign Eric Bledsoe — Thompson’s restricted free agency is very much the sequel to Bledsoe’s. Both are clients of agent Rich Paul, and both spent far longer on the market than players of their caliber normally do. The Suns moved off their reported four-year, $48MM offer, and Bledsoe came down from the five-year, $80MM mark he sought. We’ll see if Thompson and the Cavs bridge their $14MM gap.
  2. Greg Monroe signs qualifying offer from Pistons — Bledsoe threatened to sign his qualifying offer, but Monroe actually followed through with his. Monroe denied that the Pistons put a five-year, $60MM offer on the table, but he nonetheless made a significant financial sacrifice, playing for only about $5.48MM last season. The move paid off for him when he signed a max deal with the Bucks this summer.
  3. Morris twins sign extensions with Suns — One of this September’s most prominent storylines might not be around if Markieff Morris and twin brother Marcus Morris hadn’t signed four-year extensions from the Suns, who allowed them to split a total of $52MM between themselves. The brothers thought it meant they’d play together when the deals kicked in this coming season, but the Suns traded Marcus to the Pistons in July, touching off Markieff’s desire to exit Phoenix, too.
  4. Rockets acquire Jason Terry in trade with Kings (September 17th, agreed to August 31st) — Terry never played for the Kings after they acquired him in a 2014 deadline trade from the Nets, but he filled a significant role for the banged-up Rockets in the playoffs, starting 17 games, the most postseason starts he had seen since 2006.
  5. K.J. McDaniels signs required tender from Sixers — Agent Mark Bartelstein expressed fundamental misgivings about the four-year offers with two years of non-guaranteed salary that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has made a staple over the past couple of years. McDaniels instead signed a non-guaranteed required tender for one year at the minimum salary, and he proved his worth before Philadelphia traded him to the Rockets, who re-signed him this summer for three years and $10MM.
  6. Sixers waive Hasheem Thabeet — The former No. 2 overall pick has never lived up to his draft status, and that was never more apparent than when Philadelphia waived him not long after acquiring him via trade from the Thunder. He signed later in September with the Pistons, but they waived him before the start of the regular season.
  7. Warriors sign Leandro Barbosa — The NBA career of the Brazilian blur hadn’t been on the fast track in a while when he joined Golden State, but a spot in the rotation for the eventual champions helped him to a new one-year, $2.5MM contract with the Warriors this summer.
  8. Spurs re-sign Aron Baynes — Baynes was sort of like Norris Cole this summer, the non-star who nonetheless lingered in restricted free agency. Baynes landed a one-year, $2.077MM deal with the Spurs that led him to unrestricted free agency this summer and a lucrative three-year, $19.5MM deal with the Pistons.
  9. Kings sign Ramon Sessions — The point guard failed to beat out Darren Collison for the starting job in Sacramento, but he did enough to convince the Wizards to trade for him at the deadline this past winter, sending Andre Miller in exchange.
  10. Celtics sign Evan Turner — Unlike Thabeet, this former No. 2 overall pick experienced a revival in 2014/15, rebounding from a disappointing stint with the Pacers to start 57 games for the playoff-bound Celtics this past season.

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Players Who Agreed To Deals Without Guarantees

Training camp is a time of uncertainty for players without fully guaranteed salary, but most of the players who’ve agreed to those kinds of contracts this summer will see at least a nominal partial guarantee. Still, there are several others who have no such promises.

Players who sign contracts with no guaranteed money at all during the offseason fall under the definition of summer contracts. These deals are almost always for the minimum salary, though they need not be, and they can cover multiple seasons or just one, but all summer contracts, in the technical meaning of the term, have no guaranteed money. A stricter definition applies to Exhibit 9 contracts, which stipulate that the franchise owes the player no more than $6K if he’s hurt while performing for the team. All other contracts hold that teams must continue to pay players who suffer on-the-job injuries at least until they’re ready to play again, regardless of the level of guarantee on the contract. Exhibit 9 contracts must be for one season at the minimum salary with no guaranteed money, and teams can’t sign a player to an Exhibit 9 if they don’t already have 14 contracts that aren’t summer contracts.

Below is a list of players who are either on summer contracts or have reportedly agreed to sign deals that don’t include any guaranteed salary. Note that the list doesn’t include players who have non-guaranteed salary but are on contracts that predate the offseason.

A few well-known figures appear here, including Jason Richardson and Chuck Hayes. Veterans are less inclined to play in the D-League if they don’t make it onto NBA rosters. Sometimes teams employ a strategy of offering camp invitees small partial guarantees to augment the tiny D-League salaries, which are less than $20K in some cases, in an effort to convince them to join their D-League affiliates after NBA training camp, but that often doesn’t hold much appeal when it comes to established NBA names.

Which of these players do you think has the best chance to stick with his team for opening night? Leave a comment to tell us.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Heat Interested In Joshua Smith

FRIDAY, 1:29pm: Miami is expected to have Smith in for a “workout/tryout” next week, tweets Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Smith said recently that he lost 21 pounds in a month, and the Heat have been encouraging him to shed weight, Winderman adds (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 10:34pm: The Heat have had discussions with undrafted free agent center Joshua Smith regarding a potential training camp invitation, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports (on Twitter). Miami also reportedly agreed to a deal with combo guard Briante Weber earlier this evening, and currently possess one remaining open roster slot.

Smith, 23, finished his NCAA career at Georgetown after spending his first two seasons at UCLA, and he appeared in 33 games as a Senior, averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 20.5 minutes per night. His career collegiate numbers overall were 10.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 0.7 assists, and his career slash line was .591/.000/.613.

Miami may have designs on adding Smith for training camp for depth, and then plans to send him to its D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls, though that is merely my speculation. The Heat’s current depth chart at the pivot has Hassan Whiteside firmly entrenched as the starter, with Amar’e Stoudemire and Chris Andersen in reserve. There have been reports that the team is shopping Andersen in an effort to reduce its luxury tax hit, but it has reportedly been finding a soft market for the Birdman’s services. Also in the mix at center for the Heat is training camp signee Keith Benson, though he also is more likely to end up in Sioux Falls than Miami when the regular season tips off.

Southwest Notes: Lawson, Williams, Pondexter

Ty Lawson says he’s ready for basketball again after a 30-day alcohol rehabilitation stint that followed two arrests in seven months and expressed excitement about joining coach Kevin McHale, James Harden, Dwight Howard and former Nuggets teammate Corey Brewer on the Rockets, as he conveyed in an interview with Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. Lawson agreed to give up the guarantee on his 2016/17 to facilitate the trade that sent him from Denver to Houston this summer.

“I’m about winning,” Lawson said to Berman. “I love being on a winning team. At every level I’ve played at, high school, middle school, college I won championships. This is a chance to play for one of those and get an NBA ring. I’m ready for it.”

See more from the Southwest Division:

  • Deron Williams is excited to play with Dirk Nowitzki and former Jazz teammate Wesley Matthews and for the chance at a new beginning with the Mavericks, as he tells Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com. “You know, there’s definitely a stability about this organization that’s definitely intriguing,” Williams said. You know, they have guys that have been here forever, so it’s just about plugging in the new pieces — myself included — and just trying to get to work. But, you know, I’m just excited about this opportunity, and I’m ready to get the season going.”
  • It’s unclear if Quincy Pondexter will be healthy in time for the start of Pelicans training camp, writes John Reid of The Times Picayune, though while Pondexter admitted on SiriusXM NBA Radio that rehab from left knee surgery in May has been slow-going, he’s hopeful that he won’t miss much time, if any, Reid notes (audio link). Pondexter is due a guaranteed salary of more than $3.382MM this season, but the team added depth at small forward this summer with the free agent signing of Alonzo Gee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, fresh off his new deal with the Spurs, said he’ll try to win an MVP award, as David Zink of The Press-Enterprise wrote last month, but going for that honor would require significant change to his game and upset the offensive balance with which he and the Spurs have found so much success, argues Ian Levy of The Sporting News.

Michele Roberts, Adam Silver Discuss Labor Deal

FRIDAY, 11:45am: No formal discussion between the league and the union has taken place, but they’re working to schedule talks,  sources from both sides tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe, information that would suggest that the conversations with Silver that Roberts said she engaged in last month were casual in nature. Roberts told Lowe that she and Silver have discussed the idea of reaching an agreement for labor peace by the end of the season, but that’s not a firm timetable.

“That is accurate,” Roberts said. “That is the goal. We did discuss that timeline, though it is not a deadline. It is more aptly described as an aspiration or goal.”

Owners are working among themselves to resolve some issues, Lowe adds, writing that some teams in small and mid-size markets are pushing for changes to revenue sharing among franchises. Lowe seconds earlier reports about optimism that the league and the players will avert a work stoppage, having heard that the sentiment extends to ownership, agents and union higher-ups alike.

WEDNESDAY, 10:05am: National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has begun talks with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver toward resolving labor issues with the hopes of averting a work stoppage in 2017, as Roberts tells Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport (Twitter link; translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Thus, it appears the sides remain on the schedule plotted earlier this summer, when Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe reported that Roberts and Silver planned to open labor discussions in August. They’ll talk again early this month with the hope that by season’s end they’ll have an agreement, Roberts also told Chinellato. That would be well ahead of a December 2016 deadline for both sides to exercise a mutual option to discontinue the collective bargaining agreement at the end of the 2016/17 season.

Roberts characterized her relationship with Silver as good, as Chinellato relays. She told the Italian journalist that she’d like to change “at least 10 things” in the CBA but said the main goal is that the players continue to see a fair share of NBA revenues. It’s a departure from the tough talk that was a staple of Roberts’ interviews during the first few months after the union hired her last summer. The union appeared to be on the offensive as lately as this past spring, when a report indicated that it intended to exercise its rarely used right to independently audit five teams.

An executive from an NBA team told Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com this summer that he saw a work stoppage in 2017 as a “virtual certainty,” but an increasing number of people from both the league and the union don’t foresee a major labor fight on the horizon, as Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck wrote in July. Silver and Roberts have expressed optimism about avoiding a work stoppage. Roberts said in November that she’d be surprised if a work stoppage took place, even though she cautioned that she was ready if it were to happen and had said to Beck the month before that it was a “safe bet” that the union would opt out of the CBA. Silver said this summer that he doesn’t anticipate the league will impose a lockout, as Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com reported, and he told media in July that, despite Roberts’ comments from last fall, he’s not so sure the union will opt out. Many agents don’t see reason for the union to opt out, partly because of the $24 billion windfall from the league’s new TV deal and partly out of fear the league would negotiate an even more owner-friendly deal, Beck reported shortly thereafter.

Do you think we’ll see a work stoppage in 2017, or will the sides work out their differences ahead of time? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Extension Candidate: Bradley Beal

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

It was somewhat surprising not to see Bradley Beal‘s name pop up alongside Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard when they agreed to max extensions on the first and second nights of free agency, respectively. After all, J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com reported this past fall that Washington was planning a rookie scale extension for the former No. 3 overall pick, and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported in May that the Wizards were committed to paying him the max. Still, talks didn’t begin in earnest until mid-July, and the sides apparently met with conflicting desires.

The Wizards want non-guaranteed salary if they sign Beal for the maximum, while the Mark Bartelstein would want a player option in any deal for less than the max, Michael reported this summer. Washington can’t sign him to a five-year extension, since the team already did so with John Wall, making him its Designated Player. So a player option would mean Beal could leave after three seasons of the deal, setting him up for unrestricted free agency in 2019, when he’d be 26 and the salary cap would be a projected $102MM, giving him the chance to reap more than he could at the back end of an extension that would start in 2016/17, when the cap is projected to be a relatively paltry $89MM. Max salaries rise and fall with the cap, so the higher the cap, the more Beal could earn. Plus, Beal would qualify for a higher maximum salary tier in 2019, when he’d be a seven-year veteran and thus eligible for a max equivalent to 30% of the cap, rather than the roughly 25% he could get now.

That presents an intriguing compromise if Beal would be willing to come off the max number, but it’s unclear just how much the Wizards would want him to sacrifice in that scenario. If they asked him to sign for no more than the current projection for his max salary of $20.4MM, a hedge against an unexpected rise that the Warriors made with Klay Thompson last fall, Beal could end up having made no financial concession at all if the projection is accurate. If Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld and company want him to commit to a deal closer to the $16MM salaries that Jonas Valanciunas will see in the extension he signed with the Raptors last month, it would be easy to see why the sides haven’t come to an agreement.

Washington’s push for non-guaranteed money apparently stems from a concern over Beal’s history of injuries, though he’s avoided major issues and has missed only 26, 9 and 19 games the last three seasons, respectively. Beal could bet on himself and feel confident about his chances to collect on his full salary. Still, guaranteed contracts are de rigueur with core players, so Bartelstein may well have a desire not to set a precedent in that regard for his other clients.

Casting a shadow on the negotiations is the specter of Kevin Durant‘s free agency next summer. The Wizards certainly won’t be alone among teams seeking the former MVP, but they have a unique geographical advantage of playing in Washington, Durant’s hometown. An associate of Durant’s told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald this summer that if the four-time scoring champ were to leave the Thunder, he would sign with the Wizards. Washington has clearly been preparing should Durant be so inclined, but an extension for Beal would complicate that effort.

The Wizards have nearly $33.5MM in guaranteed salaries for next season, though that doesn’t include a team option of almost $5.9MM on Otto Porter‘s rookie scale contract that Washington will almost certainly pick up. That accounts for four players, and they’d have to carry cap holds for eight more. At minimum, they could strip down to seven roster charges, which are cap holds that represent empty roster spots and are equal to the rookie minimum salary, plus Beal’s cap hold, which would be about $11.4MM if he doesn’t sign an extension.

Thus, barring trades or stretch provision maneuvers, the Wizards would carry no less than about $54.6MM on a projected $89MM cap for 2016/17. That would be enough to sign Durant to a max contract starting at the projected $24.9MM he’d be eligible for as a nine-year veteran next summer, with about $9.5MM in cap room to spare. Give Beal an extension for the max, which entails a projected starting salary of $20.4MM since he’ll be a four-year vet, and the Wizards would have just enough to squeeze in Durant at his max salary, but no breathing room beyond that. Barring a higher than expected cap, Washington wouldn’t even have room to hang on to its first-round pick next year. The Wizards would have Durant, Beal, Wall, Porter Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, whomever they could sign with the room exception and only minimum-salary additions from there. The Wizards would be able to sell Durant on a strong starting five, but they couldn’t promise any depth.

Instead, the Wizards could forgo an extension with Beal and sign him to a new deal next summer, much in the same way the Spurs put off a deal with Kawhi Leonard last fall to help clear cap space for their successful pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge this year. The Wizards could spend freely while Beal’s cap hold stays at that $11.4MM figure, wooing Durant and supporting talent, and use Beal’s Bird rights to finally re-sign him once they’re finished scouring the market. Of course, such a strategy would require Beal’s cooperation, but the Wizards would have the ability to match offer from other teams, since he’d be a restricted free agent, and the July Moratorium buys Washington some time to negotiate with Durant and others before Beal could sign an offer sheet. The Wizards would have three days to match even if he signed an offer sheet the moment the moratorium ended, giving them plenty of time.

Beal is no doubt a sterling talent. His scoring average dipped this past season in part because he took fewer shots than the season before, but his shooting percentages, from behind the three-point line and from the floor as whole, improved. He was the ninth-most accurate three-point shooter in the league in 2014/15. His defense was so-so, as he was essentially break-even in Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus Minus and the 18th-best shooting guard in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus Minus. Still, at only 22 and already an elite floor-stretcher, he offers enticing value.

It’s merely the context that should prevent the sides from reaching a deal this year. The Wizards have incentive to let this fall’s deadline pass because of Durant and all the other avenues they can pursue in free agency next July. They must be careful not to poison their relationship with Beal if they present too many reasons for not signing him, so it’s somewhat curious to see them bring up the notion of non-guaranteed money. Ultimately, the main reason for the team not to sign Beal is timing, and if Washington makes that clear to him and to Bartelstein, chances seem better that the sides will continue a fruitful partnership for years to come.

Do you think the Wizards should sign Beal to an extension, and if so, what sort of deal should they give him? Leave a comment to tell us.

Pacific Notes: Morris, Clarkson, White, Cousins

The Suns seem to want to repair their relationship with Markieff Morris, but Morris signaled that he has no intention to go back on his trade demand, tweeting Thursday that, “My future will not be in Phoenix.” The four-year, $32MM extension that Morris signed last fall kicks in for this coming season, so the Suns wield the hammer, but the power forward has told confidants that he won’t talk with Suns front office executives and will give only one-word responses to coach Jeff Hornacek, as John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM reported recently. While the tension rises in Phoenix, see more on the Suns and their Pacific Division rivals:

  • Excel Sports Management was the party that broke off its relationship with Jordan Clarkson, but the Lakers combo guard was frustrated with the agency’s communication and felt he received conflicting information about marketing opportunities, a league source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press first reported the split.
  • Terrico White is confident that the past few years playing overseas have improved his game and his mental approach, and the 36th overall pick from the 2010 draft indicated to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders that he had multiple NBA options for training camp before agreeing to a deal with the Suns“My main focus is just getting on an NBA [regular season] roster, whether it’s with Phoenix or another team,” White said to Kennedy. “If I do make the team in Phoenix, I think it’s a great fit and I feel like I could bring a whole lot since I’m still young but I also have experience too. … My agent, Daniel Hazan, was talking to different teams and Phoenix had a better plan for me than other teams, so we decided to go with the Suns.”
  • Whether the personalities of DeMarcus Cousins and Kings coach George Karl will mesh going forward has been the subject of much discussion this summer, but Karl’s desire for an up-tempo attack and the interior game of Cousins raise some on-court question marks, too. However, the way Karl used Carmelo Anthony at the end of their time together with the Nuggets provides a blueprint for a fast-paced attack that still gets the best out of Cousins, even though ‘Melo and Cousins play different positions, as Zach Harper of CBSSports.com argues, pointing to similarities in the way they get their shots.

Tyrus Thomas To Play In Germany

Former No. 4 overall pick Tyrus Thomas has signed with Eisbären Bremerhaven, the German team announced (hat tip and translation via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, on Twitter). The Mavericks were reportedly among those in attendance for workouts that Thomas staged earlier this summer in Las Vegas. The big man made a brief NBA comeback on a 10-day contract this past season with the Grizzlies after failing to play in 2013/14.

The Lakers reportedly worked him out around the same time he got a look from Memphis. Thomas spent part of 2014/15 in the D-League with the Grizzlies’ affiliate, posting averages of 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in a modest 18.7 minutes per game. The now 29-year-old last had a steady NBA gig with Charlotte, which released him via amnesty waivers in July 2013.

Thomas had two years and more than $18MM left on his contract with the then-Bobcats when they let him go, so the financial motivation for him to return to the court hasn’t been profound. However, that amnestied contract has run to term, so that might explain why Thomas is headed overseas rather than to the D-League, where salaries are lower but NBA scouts are in closer proximity.

Do you think Thomas will play again in the NBA someday? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Pelicans, Others Interested In Corey Webster

SEPTEMBER 4TH, 8:05am: Webster will work out for the Pelicans, a source indicated to Niall Anderson of The New Zealand Herald.

AUGUST 22ND, 11:03am: There are multiple NBA teams interested in signing New Zealand’s Corey Webster to a training camp deal, Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops reports (Twitter link). It is unknown at this time which teams have expressed interest in the 26-year-old shooting guard. Webster went undrafted back in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Webster attended a three-day mini-camp the Pacers held in June. Prior to the event he told Tom Hersz of Downtownball.net, “I am looking forward to the whole opportunity, being in the NBA environment and the chance to show them what I can do on the court. It’s an amazing opportunity that I am ready to take advantage of.

This past NBL season, Webster was a large part of the New Zealand Breakers winning the league championship, which was the squad’s fourth in the past five seasons. Webster finished eighth overall in the NBL in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per contest, and he led the league in three-pointers made (71), and drained 42% of his shots from deep overall.

He inked a new three year contract with the Breakers in June, but the pact did include an NBA out clause, which would allow Webster to come stateside and compete for an NBA roster spot if he desires.

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