Free Agent Stock Watch: Dante Cunningham

August 19 at 10:06pm CDT By Charlie Adams

Dante Cunningham never looked like a player who was going to draw significant attention in free agency this summer, but his arrest for domestic abuse last April seems to have all but eliminated interest from teams around the league. However, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN passed along Monday, the charges filed against the 27-year-old power forward have been dropped, and a report from Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press indicates that Cunningham plans to sue his accuser in an attempt to clear his name. It remains unclear how much the recent development in his legal narrative will influence teams’ perceptions of him, but Cunningham spoke with several clubs this offseason, each of which wanted to wait for the legal process to play out before discussing a contract, as Krawczynski details.

The Joel Bell client just completed a respectable year in which he came off the bench for the Timberwolves, but he still finds himself without a contract heading into the latter part of August. While Cunningham has reportedly been maintaining interest in a return to Minnesota, it doesn’t seem as though the team shares his desire. It could have been the legal issues keeping the Wolves from calling his name, but the more probable road block keeping Cunningham from returning to Minnesota is the club’s likely acquisition of Anthony Bennett and/or Thaddeus Young in the looming Kevin Love trade.

Retaining Cunningham would give the Wolves depth at the power forward position, which would certainly help the team, given that they don’t feature a true four outside of Love as it stands. However, Minnesota is already carrying 15 fully guaranteed contracts, and the team still hasn’t worked out a deal with second-round selection Glenn Robinson III. Unless the pending Love/Andrew Wiggins swap shakes up the Wolves roster more than current reports indicate, Cunningham seems like a long shot to return to the squad with which he’s spent the last two seasons.

As far as we know, the Rockets have been the only team outside of the Wolves who have been in discussions with Cunningham about a possible deal this offseason, as our rumor page for the big man shows. But, like Minnesota, Houston has limited flexibility to bring aboard Cunningham, currently rostering 13 players on fully guaranteed deals and four guys on non-guaranteed pacts. They could waive someone to make room for Cunningham, but they’re already set to open camp with Terrence Jones, Donatas MotiejunasJosh Powell, Jeff Adrien, Robert Covington, Joey Dorsey and Clint Capela all under contract, each of whom, like Cunningham, mans the four.

Despite a lack chatter surrounding him, there’s more than likely a team out there willing to offer Cunningham a deal with at least a partial guarantee. He was part of the Wolves’ rotation for the past two years, averaging 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists across 20.2 minutes per night this past season, when he appeared in 81 games. His career 12.9 PER is below the league average of 15.0, but he was never expected to put up superstar-caliber numbers when he was drafted 33rd overall out of Villanova.

Now that Cunningham’s legal issues seem to be resolved, it would be especially surprising to see him without a deal when training camps open up in late September. While Cunningham might be hard-pressed to land anything but a deal worth the minimum, his modest production on the hardwood over the past two seasons should at least help him find a home with an NBA club next season, even if it isn’t with the Wolves.

Western Rumors: Suns, Durant, Jackson, Marion

August 19 at 8:15pm CDT By Charlie Adams

In spite of predicting that the NBA’s salary cap will approach $80MM in 2016/17, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggests in his weekly chat the Suns should refuse to give any current member of their core more than $12MM annually. While paying big money to guys like Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic would of course limit Phoenix financially, Kyler thinks the bigger reason the Suns should hold out is because of none of the young talent on Phoenix’s roster looks worthy of being paid along the lines of the league’s most skilled. More from out west..

  • Kevin Durant said the decision to withdraw from Team USA this summer was “definitely tough,” and the Thunder forward told reporters, including Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press, that he did it because he needed to “take a step back” and have a break this offseason.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman thinks it’s unlikely the Thunder will manage to reach an agreement on an extension with Reggie Jackson this fall. Tramel thinks the rewards of free agency will be enticing to Jackson, who we recently profiled in our Extension Candidate series.
  • After five strong seasons and an NBA title with the Mavericks, Shawn Marion is heading to Cleveland this season to join forces with LeBron James. However, Dallas GM Donnie Nelson doesn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the 36-year-old veteran, as Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram reveals in a series of tweets.

Cray Allred contributed to this post.

Jazz Sign Jack Cooley

August 19 at 6:24pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Jazz have signed Jack Cooley, according to a team release. While terms of the deal weren’t announced, Jody Genessy of Deseret News reports that Cooley is a camp addition, adding that it’s very likely the deal is non-guaranteed (on Twitter).

The Jazz only have 12 players on guaranteed contracts for the 2014/15 season, so Cooley will have a better shot than many at this time of year of making an NBA team. Last year, Cooley chose to play in Turkey rather than accept one of several camp invitations. Cooley reportedly had mini-camp workouts with the Spurs, Nets, Cavaliers, and Jazz this summer.

The 6’9″ power forward went undrafted following his senior year at Notre Dame in 2013, but immediately performed well in summer league action. During his time overseas, the big man averaged 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game.

Central Rumors: Monroe, Wiggins

August 19 at 5:50pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Central Division experienced the most turmoil this offseason by far. The Cavs are set to net Kevin Love alongside LeBron James, the Bulls added Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic alongside the returning Derrick Rose, and the Pacers lost Lance Stephenson to free agency and Paul George to injury. Here’s a rundown from around the division:

  • The Thunder were among the teams in the mix for a sign-and-trade involving Greg Monroe at one point this summer, a source tells Michael Lee of The Washington Post. It’s not entirely clear if the interest originally came from Oklahoma City, the Pistons, Monroe’s camp, or some combination of the three, nor is it certain how far the pursuit of such a deal proceeded, though Lee indicates that the possibility was one that Monroe and Falk pursued.
  • Monroe has “nothing against” Stan Van Gundy even though he’s not sold on spending the next several years with the Pistons, as Lee writes in the same piece.
  • In a separate piece, Lee asserts that being spurned by James and the Cavs could be the motivation Andrew Wiggins needs to become a truly great player with the Wolves.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Upcoming Rookie Scale Option Decisions

August 19 at 4:59pm CDT By Chuck Myron

We’ll be taking in-depth looks at several players eligible for extensions to their rookie scale contracts this fall, but whether to extend isn’t the only decision that teams face with recent first-round picks. The final two seasons of four-year rookie scale deals are team option years, but unlike other options, the deadline for either exercising or declining them is a full year before the option season begins. In many cases, rookie scale deals are bargains and there’s no thinking required when it comes to picking up the options. The Pelicans, for instance, aren’t going to give up a year of Anthony Davis at less than eight figures.

Of course, few find instant success like Davis. Often, a former first-round pick may be struggling to find playing time or live up to his promise, but the team still has confidence that he can develop, and the front office is willing to assume his relatively small cap hit for another season. Then, there are those who aren’t panning out at all, making even a cheap rookie deal seem like an outsized expense.

Perhaps the facet of rookie scale options that’s least appealing for teams is that they have to decide a year ahead of time. The options that clubs are debating this fall are for 2015/16. Further complicating matters is that if a team declines a player’s rookie scale option, he becomes an unrestricted free agent when the deal is up, instead of a restricted free agent, as would be the case if the team allowed the contract to run to term.

Teams are in an especially difficult position with underperforming players taken near the top of the first round, since the final seasons of their rookie contracts can get pricey. Former No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson will be set to make $4,660,482 in 2015/16 if the Trail Blazers pick up his fourth-year option, and that might be too much for Portland to bear.

I’ve listed each player eligible to have his rookie scale option picked up before the October 31st deadline and grouped them into three categories based on the likelihood that their respective teams will exercise the options. I added a blurb for some of the more compelling cases. Feel free to disagree and share your own analysis in the comments.

No-brainers

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (third year, $1,953,960)
  • Bradley Beal, Wizards (fourth year, $5,694,674)
  • Trey Burke, Jazz (third year, $2,658,240)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers (third year, $2,399,040)
  • Anthony Davis, Pelicans (fourth year, $7,070,730)
  • Andre Drummond, Pistons (fourth year, $3,272,091)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr., Knicks (third year, $1,304,520)
  • Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (fourth year, $4,236,287)
  • Nerlens Noel, Sixers (third year, $3,457,800) — True, he’s never played a minute in the NBA, but barring a setback, Philadelphia will almost certainly want to see what it has in the one-time favorite to become the top pick in 2013.
  • Victor Oladipo, Magic (third year, $5,192,520)
  • Miles Plumlee, Suns (fourth year, $2,109,294)
  • Mason Plumlee, Nets (third year, $1,415,520) — He figures to be a backup as long as Brook Lopez is around, but if he’s good enough for Team USA, he’s good enough for the Nets.
  • Terrence Ross, Raptors (fourth year, $3,553,917) — Last season was something of a breakout year, and while still he has plenty of room for improvement, it seems he’s on a development track similar to the one DeMar DeRozan rode to the All-Star Game last year.
  • Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors (fourth year, $4,660,482) — Like teammate Terrence Ross, he’s not a star, at least not yet, but there’s no reason for up-and-coming Toronto to cast aside such a promising big man.
  • Dion Waiters, Cavaliers (fourth year, $5,138,430)

Probables

  • Steven Adams, Thunder (third year, $2,279,040)
  • Harrison Barnes, Warriors (fourth year, $3,873,398) — This isn’t an open-and-shut case after he failed to show progress last season, but his down year shouldn’t be enough to prompt the Warriors to give up so soon on the former No. 7 overall pick.
  • Anthony Bennett, Sixers (third year, $5,803,560) — We could list Bennett with any one of three teams. He’s on the Cavs roster for now, but the team is set to ship him out in the Kevin Love trade. It’s not clear whether that transaction will take him to the Wolves or the Sixers, but I’ve listed Philadelphia here, since that’s the most logical outcome of the Love trade, as I’ve explained. In any case, Bennett probably won’t live up to having been a No. 1 overall pick, but it’s probably worth keeping him around another year to see if he can at least play like a lottery pick.
  • Reggie Bullock, Clippers (third year, $1,252,440)
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons (third year, $2,891,760)
  • Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves (third year, $1,474,440)
  • Festus Ezeli, Warriors (fourth year, $2,008,748) — He could easily be listed as “on the bubble,” particularly given the financial constraints on the Warriors, but Golden State has only seen him on the floor for one season, and cheap young big men are tough to come by.
  • Evan Fournier, Magic (fourth year, $2,288,205)
  • Rudy Gobert, Jazz (third year, $1,175,880)
  • Archie Goodwin, Suns (third year, $1,160,160) — The Suns didn’t give Goodwin much playing time as a rookie, and with a well-stocked backcourt, they might give him even less this time around. Still, it shouldn’t be hard for the team to keep him around at less than the cost of the minimum salary for some veterans.
  • Maurice Harkless, Magic (fourth year, $2,894,059)
  • John Henson, Bucks (fourth year, $2,943,221)
  • Solomon Hill, Pacers (third year, $1,358,880) — He rarely saw the floor as a rookie, but with Lance Stephenson gone and Paul George injured, Hill, who plays small forward, will have a chance to shine.
  • Perry Jones III, Thunder (fourth year, $2,038,206)
  • Terrence Jones, Rockets (fourth year, $2,489,530)
  • Sergey Karasev, Nets (third year, $1,599,840) — He rarely played as a rookie, but the investment is cheap. Even amid Mikhail Prokhorov’s apparent austerity pledge, it’s tough to envision the Russian owner turning his back on one of his countrymen.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets (fourth year, $6,331,404)
  • Jeremy Lamb, Thunder (fourth year, $3,034,356)
  • Shane Larkin, Knicks (third year, $1,675,320)
  • Alex Len, Suns (third year, $3,807,120)
  • C.J. McCollumTrail Blazers (third year, $2,525,160)
  • Ben McLemore, Kings (third year, $3,156,600)
  • Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets (fourth year, $2,288,205)
  • Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves (third year, $2,056,920) — The No. 1 high school recruit from 2012 finally drew significant playing time in the second half of the season, but his first NBA season couldn’t have gone much worse. It’s probably too soon for Minnesota to cut ties, however.
  • Nemanja Nedovic, Warriors (third year, $1,151,760)
  • Andrew Nicholson, Magic (fourth year, $2,380,594) — His development stalled last season, but Orlando is still in rebuilding mode and can afford to be patient.
  • Kelly Olynyk, Celtics (third year, $2,165,160)
  • Otto Porter, Wizards (third year, $4,662,960) — An early season injury helped prevent him from making an impact last season, but there’s no reason for Washington to abandon plans for a long-term future with the No. 3 overall pick from 2013.
  • Andre Roberson, Thunder (third year, $1,210,800)
  • Dennis Schröder, Hawks (third year, $1,763,400) — The point guard didn’t receive much playing time as a rookie, but the Hawks probably want to see him on the floor in a more significant role this season before junking a mid-first-round pick.
  • Tony Snell, Bulls (third year, $1,535,880)
  • Jared Sullinger, Celtics (fourth year, $2,269,260)
  • Tony Wroten, Sixers (fourth year, $2,179,354)
  • Cody Zeller, Hornets (third year, $4,204,200)
  • Tyler Zeller, Celtics (fourth year, $2,616,975)

On the bubble

  • John Jenkins, Hawks (fourth year, $2,228,025)
  • Meyers Leonard, Trail Blazers (fourth year, $3,075,880) — The Blazers probably envisioned Leonard turning into a starting center at some point when they spent a lottery pick on him two years ago, but he was just a third-stringer last year.
  • Arnett Moultrie, Sixers (fourth year, $2,049,633) — We could easily create a fourth category for Moultrie, since Injury trouble and a drug suspension make it unlikely that the Sixers will pick up his option.
  • Thomas Robinson, Trail Blazers (fourth year, $4,660,482) — The Blazers didn’t trade him within months of acquiring him like the Kings and Rockets did, but he’s yet to show much of the promise that made him the fifth overall pick in 2012. He doesn’t seem worth a salary nearly equivalent to the non-taxpayer’s mid-level.
  • Austin Rivers, Pelicans (fourth year, $3,110,796) — Last season was an improvement on his disastrous rookie campaign, but it doesn’t erase doubt about whether Rivers is worth the continued investment.
  • Marquis Teague, Nets (fourth year, $2,023,261) — Brooklyn is almost certain to decline its option on Teague, according to a report from earlier this summer.

ShamSports was used in the creation of this post.

Mutual Interest Between Heat, Leandro Barbosa

August 19 at 4:10pm CDT By Zach Links

TUESDAY, 4:10pm: A source who spoke with Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel acknowledged the team’s interest in Barbosa but downplayed the connection, saying that the guard is one of several veterans the team is considering. No signing is imminent, Winderman hears.

MONDAY, 8:20pm: There’s mutual interest between Leandro Barbosa and the Heat, league sources tell Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).  Kennedy adds that he wouldn’t be surprised if he ultimately signs with Miami.

This weekend we learned that the veteran guard had discussions with a few NBA teams and is hoping to use the upcoming FIBA World Cup to further prove his health.  The 31-year-old (32 in November) appeared in 20 games with the Suns last season, averaging 7.5 PPG, 1.9 PPG, and 1.6 APG, while playing 18.4 minutes a night.

Barbosa suffered a torn ACL before the 2012/13 trade deadline and suffered a hand injury last year with Phoenix.  For his career, Barbosa has averaged 11.9 PPG and 2.3 APG in 23.7 minutes per contest.

And-Ones: Stokes, Drew, Cavs, Lottery

August 19 at 3:18pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Steve Nash was the oldest player to appear in a game last season, a distinction he’s poised to repeat this year if he’s healthy, but he was 1 year old when the oldest person to go up and down NBA floors last year made his debut. Referee Dick Bavetta had been the dean of his profession for some time, but the 74-year-old has retired, the league announced today. As the NBA readies to go on without Bavetta for the first time since 1975, here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Jarnell Stokes will make $725K this season and minimum salaries thereafter in his three-year deal with the Grizzlies, according to Chris Vernon of 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis (Twitter link). The Grizzlies used part of their mid-level exception to sign Stokes, this year’s 35th overall pick. They used most of the exception on Vince Carter, but there’s still enough left to hand out a three- or four-year deal for the rookie minimum salary for someone else, though that presumes camp invitee Patrick Christopher is on a deal that covers no more than two seasons.
  • The Cavs officially hired former Bucks and Hawks head coach Larry Drew as an assistant coach, the team announced. The team also promoted James Posey, who was serving as an assistant coach for Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, to head coach David Blatt‘s staff.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s statements during the 2011 lockout about a desire for competitive balance conflict with his apparent openness to draft lottery reform, as SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues. Lengthening the odds that the teams with the worst records would come away with the top pick each year does little to further the goal of parity, as Ziller points out.

Largest Expiring Contracts For 2014/15

August 19 at 1:42pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Expiring contracts aren’t what they used to be in the NBA. Once sought-after trade chips, players who are in the final season of a lucrative deal are no longer as valuable under the current collective bargaining agreement, which mandates shorter contracts that help teams more easily clear cap space each year.

Still, these types of deals remain commodities for some teams. The Warriors last year shipped three expiring contracts, including two with a combined value of more than $20MM for Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, to the Jazz in a three-team deal that netted Andre Iguodala. Golden State had been over the cap and was thus unable to sign Iguodala outright, so the expiring deals, which Utah could write off after just a year, came in quite handy for the Warriors.

The Wizards used Emeka Okafor‘s nearly $14.488MM expiring contract last season to trade with the Suns for Marcin Gortat, who became a key part of Washington’s playoff run. Okafor never played for the Suns, but his contract came off the books at season’s end, and Phoenix netted a first-round pick for its trouble. The Okafor contract is nonetheless also representative of the declining value of such deals, since the Suns were unable to find a palatable swap that would allow them to flip Okafor at the trade deadline in February.

There are currently 10 expiring contracts valued in excess of $10MM, and Amar’e Stoudemire‘s massive deal leads them all. The Knicks have reportedly engaged in discussions with the Sixers, the only team close to enough cap space to take Stoudemire on without giving back salary in return, but no deal has materialized. Stoudemire’s deal would have been difficult to move even in the days when teams coveted expiring contracts.

Others among these 10 aren’t likely to be going anywhere, as LaMarcus Aldridge has pledged allegiance to the Trail Blazers and Tim Duncan almost certainly will never play for a team other than the Spurs. Kevin Garnett possesses one of the NBA’s few no-trade clauses, one that’s still in effect even though he gave his blessing to the Celtics/Nets trade last year. Still, Tyson Chandler has already been traded once this summer, and Rajon Rondo‘s name has been connected to trade rumors for more than a year now. Here are the 10 most lucrative expiring contracts, in descending order of value, with the figures rounded to the nearest $1K.

The 12 next most expensive expiring contracts offer a few more likely trade candidates. Marcus Thornton, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have all been traded already this offseason, and there have been rumors about Tayshaun Prince. Steve Nash might be poised to reprise the injured Okafor’s role in a similar trade this year, since it’s unclear whether Nash will be healthy enough to play. This list includes Jordan Hill, whose two-year deal was a de facto expiring contract from the moment he signed it, since the second season is a team option. It also features Anderson Varejao and Amir Johnson, whose partially guaranteed contracts would allow any team that trades for them to pocket immediate savings rather than waiting for next summer.

ShamSports was used in the creation of this post.

Raptors CEO Close To Stepping Down?

August 19 at 12:55pm CDT By Chuck Myron

12:55pm: Leiweke intends to leave the company at the end of his two-year non-compete agreement with AEG, his former employer, a source tells Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). Leiweke left AEG last spring before taking the job that has him in charge of the Raptors.

12:39pm: Leiweke has quickly issued a denial, telling Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail that, It’s not true. 100% not true. I’m fully committed to the season at hand” (Twitter link).

12:10pm: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, who oversees the Raptors, is set to leave the company soon, reports Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun suggests Leiweke has harbored dreams of running an National Football League team (Twitter link), but it remains unclear why he would depart his job in charge of the Raptors and the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

Leiweke joined the company a little more than a year ago, though the hopes of landing an NFL franchise have faded since then. MLSE was part of a bidding group that made a play for the Buffalo Bills, but it appears the group’s efforts to buy the team and move it to Toronto will come up short. MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum was more directly involved in that process, but it stands to reason that Leiweke might have been part of the effort if he indeed envisions running a football team in the near future.

The Raptors have undergone significant changes during Leiweke’s brief tenure so far, and while the change from Bryan Colangelo to Masai Ujiri as GM happened before Leiweke officially took office, it appeared as though he had influence on those decisions. Ujiri traded Rudy Gay less than two months into last season, sparking a turnaround that saw the team grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto came close to trading Kyle Lowry not long after the Gay deal, but the point guard played a key role in the team’s surprising season and before the season was over, Leiweke publicly vowed to re-sign Lowry this summer. The Raptors did so, inking Lowry to a four-year, $48MM deal.

Top Rebounders Still On The Market

August 19 at 11:03am CDT By Chuck Myron

Most of the summer’s marquee free agents have found teams, so clubs still looking for upgrades likely have to turn their attention to bargains and specialists at this point. Few of the players still available can make significant contributions in a wide array of statistical categories, but plenty have carved out a niche and can help a team looking to shore up a particular area of need, be it scoring, rebounding, ball distribution, three-point shooting, or another phase of the game.

Last week, I looked at the top scorers on the free agent market, and the focus today is on the best rebounders available. Pistons restricted free agent Greg Monroe appears on both lists, to no one’s surprise, but so do Michael Beasley, Andray Blatche, Andrew Bynum, Jermaine O’Neal and Antawn Jamison, making them attractive options as well.

The top 15 remaining free agents by rebound rate (a percentage of missed shots they rebounded) are listed below. Their rebound rate for 2013/14 is listed in parentheses. Players who averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game and appeared in fewer than 20 contests this past season aren’t included.

  1. Gustavo Ayon (16.9%)
  2. Andrew Bynum (15.8)
  3. Greg Monroe (15.4%)
  4. Jermaine O’Neal (15.0%)
  5. Elton Brand (14.8%)
  6. Andray Blatche (14.4%)
  7. Daniel Orton (13.1%)
  8. Michael Beasley (13.0%)
  9. Greg Stiemsma (13.0%)
  10. Chris Singleton (12.8%)
  11. Hedo Turkoglu (12.6%)
  12. Kenyon Martin (12.5%)
  13. Antawn Jamison (12.3%)
  14. Dante Cunningham (11.0%)
  15. (tie) Earl Clark (10.5%); Ekpe Udoh (10.5%)

Honorable mention: