One league executive told Chad Ford of ESPN.com that Brandon Ingram’s future in the NBA will be at the shooting guard position. “Back when the Pacers used to play Paul George at the 2, I felt like that was his best position,” the executive told Ford. “I feel the same way about Ingram. That’s where he can be devastating and his lack of strength won’t come back to haunt him. If he becomes a superstar, I think it will be because he developed the ability to play that spot.” Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors profiled Ingram earlier today.
- Thon Maker will play the five spot as he develops in the league, one anonymous GM tells Ford, as he writes in the same piece. Ford speculates that the Celtics, Nuggets, Sixers and Suns may look to draft the Australian. All four of those teams have multiple first round picks.
- Most scouts aren’t optimistic about Perry Ellis’ chances of hearing his name called on draft night, though some have him going in the second round, Ford adds in the same piece.
- Isaiah Briscoe has worked out for the Wolves today, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets. Briscoe will also work out for the Hawks on Tuesday, Zagoria adds.
Fresh off securing the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, the Sixers won’t limit their options to LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Philadelphia is planning workouts for California forward Jaylen Brown, Providence point guard Kris Dunn and Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray, Spears reports. The Sixers may also offer invitations to Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Dragan Bender. “The media has their darlings and that is perfectly fine,” Brown said of the attention surrounding Simmons and Ingram. “I’m just here to prove that I’m in the conversation with those two, if not better.” Brown also issued a challenge to the projected top two picks, saying, “Do they want to work out [against] me? I think that’s the question.”
There’s more draft-related news as Wednesday’s deadline for underclassmen to return to school approaches:
- The results of Tuesday’s lottery may push Dunn out of the top five, according to Derek Bodner of USA Today. Bodner believes the best scenario for Dunn would have been for the Lakers to drop to No. 4 and ship their pick to the Sixers, who need help at point guard. If Simmons and Ingram are the first players selected, the next three teams — the Celtics, Suns and Wolves — all have established point guards on their roster.
- Providence power forward Ben Bentil, who announced earlier today that he is staying in the draft, will work out for the Pacers Monday, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. The sophomore will have a session in Orlando later this week.
- Kentucky freshman Isaiah Briscoe has a workout scheduled this week for the Hawks, Zagoria tweets. Briscoe hasn’t decided whether to stay in the draft or return to school.
- Briscoe will work out for the Wolves Monday, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Joining Briscoe will be Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet, BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth, Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith, Louisiana-Monroe’s Majok Deng and South Carolina’s Michael Carrera.
- The Jazz believe in volume when it comes to workouts, writes Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Utah hosted Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey, Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Finney-Smith, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes, Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds and Mississippi State’s Gavin Ware on Sunday, and expects to work out dozens more before draft day. “We’re trying to find players, not only possibly for the Jazz but also for the [D-League Salt Lake City] Stars,” said vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin. “Get to know as many people as possible.”
- Edy Tavares spent a considerable amount of time in the D-League this season and KL Chouinard of NBA.com wonders if the big man is ready to take the next step and contribute for the Hawks.
- The Hawks will work out Gary Payton II, the son of former NBA player Gary Payton, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Joel Bolomboy will also work out for Atlanta, the scribe adds.
Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.
State of the Franchise
The Hawks enter the offseason coming off a humbling sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The franchise likely missed its best window to reach the NBA Finals in 2015, having won 60 games and earning the top seed in the Conference for its efforts. The 2014/15 Cleveland squad was still trying to gel together and the Bulls were hampered by another unfortunate run of injuries, but the Hawks still failed to capitalize and were sent home by the Cavs via a sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Atlanta took a step back this season, notching 48 wins and earning the fourth seed in this year’s playoffs. Both accomplishments are respectable, but the team almost assuredly had higher aspirations when the 2015/16 season tipped off. The Hawks have a number of vital roster decisions to make this offseason and the team may look drastically different in 2016/17 as a result.
The biggest decision the Hawks will need to make right out of the gate is whether or not to re-sign center Al Horford, who has spent his entire nine-year career with the team. Horford has been a remarkably consistent performer throughout his tenure and his $12MM salary for 2014/15 was extremely reasonable given his track record and output. The big man, who turns 30 next month, will have no shortage of suitors this offseason, with his current team in Atlanta expected to make him a max offer in July. However, it’s not yet clear whether the Hawks intend to offer Horford a five-year pact to go along with that max salary. While Atlanta appears to be strong frontrunners to lock up the veteran, Houston and other clubs figure to make pitches as well, if given the opportunity. While re-signing Horford would appear to be a no-brainer for the team, big men don’t traditionally age well in the league, so giving Horford a five-year pact is a risky move, regardless of the significant increase in the salary cap that takes effect for next season.
The Hawks will also need to make a decision regarding swingman Kent Bazemore, who enjoyed a breakout season for the team, averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 75 appearances in 2015/16. Atlanta only has Early Bird rights on Bazemore, meaning it can only exceed the salary cap to keep him if his contract starts at less than about $6MM annually. Any additional salary for next season would have to come out of cap room, and given the cap flexibility that many teams will have this summer, there is a good chance that Bazemore will end up being overpaid as a result. Whether or not Atlanta will be the one to do so remains to be seen.
Atlanta will also need to decide whether or not Dennis Schröder is its point guard of the future, or if Jeff Teague should continue to be the starting playmaker. Both players have one season remaining on their current deals, though Schröder will only be a restricted free agent after next season, which may factor into the Hawks’ thinking. Teague was reportedly in high demand from a number of teams prior to February’s trade deadline, which certainly makes him and his team-friendly salary of $8MM a potentially valuable trade chip this offseason. Schröder, who has gone on record saying he wants to be a starter going forward, would also fetch a solid return, though his salary of $2,708,582 may make it harder to work a deal for an upper-tier player if Atlanta decides to part with him.
Free Agent Targets
The Hawks won’t know what roster holes they will need to fill until decisions are made regarding Horford and Bazemore. If both players re-sign, Atlanta will likely return all five starters and all five primary reserves from the 2015/16 campaign. While the organization certainly values continuity, this outcome may not be the best one for the team given the rapidly improving competition in the Eastern Conference.
If Horford leaves, Atlanta may be tempted to make a run at Dwight Howard, who is widely expected to opt out of his deal with Houston to become an unrestricted free agent. Howard is no longer the dominant physical force that he was during his tenure with the Magic, plus, he’s not a great fit for coach Mike Budenholzer‘s system. If the Hawks do pursue Howard, the only safe play is to sign him to a short-term deal, though there is no guarantee that Howard would accept such an arrangement. But inking a two-year pact that includes a player option for the second season could allow Howard to re-establish his value as well as rebuild his reputation as a teammate. This sort of arrangement would also serve to mitigate some of the risk involved on the team’s part, as big men always bring with them injury concerns and Howard already has a history of back woes.
The other area that the Hawks need to address, regardless of whether or not Bazemore is retained, is the team’s subpar outside shooting. Atlanta missed the presence of DeMarre Carroll, who departed via free agency to Toronto last summer, and the team could definitely benefit by upgrading at the wing. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kyle Korver don’t appear to be the solution, though Hardaway did show promise during the second half of the 2015/16 campaign. But questions about his defense and shot-selection make him far from a sure thing and Korver’s production has been on the decline the past two campaigns. This franchise desperately needs to add a new body to the mix.
There are a number of potential wing upgrades expected to be on the market, including J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo and Austin Rivers, none of whom would be a great fit in the team’s offense. The most intriguing potential target for Atlanta is Magic swingman Evan Fournier, who would be a fantastic fit in Budenholzer’s system. The 23-year-old is set to become a restricted free agent and any suitors will need to grossly overpay for his services in order to scare off the Magic, who have stated they intend to keep the Frenchman.
The Hawks own the No. 21 overall pick, as well as two second-rounders (No. 44 and No. 54) in June’s draft. While it’s difficult to predict who the team will target given the other roster decisions Atlanta will need to make, the Hawks will likely look to add frontcourt depth in the first round. Some possibilities for the Hawks include Damian Jones (Vanderbilt), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Cheick Diallo (Kansas), Ante Zizic (Croatia), Brice Johnson (North Carolina) and Diamond Stone (Maryland).
All of the players I mentioned would come with question marks, but Zimmerman and Diallo would be the smartest additions given their respective upsides. Diallo has impressed scouts with his physical tools during the combine and pre-draft workouts thus far, but he is a project that Atlanta may not be able to wait on to develop. The safer pick, provided he is still on the board when Atlanta is due to select, would be Zimmerman. There are major concerns regarding his ability to defend at the NBA level, but his versatile offensive skill set makes him a good bet to develop into a prototypical stretch-four in the league.
The Hawks are in danger of allowing themselves to be overtaken in the Eastern Conference by a number of up-and-coming teams. Much of the franchise’s cap flexibility and offseason plans depend on the decisions made regarding Horford and Bazemore. Calls that will need to be made rather quickly once the free agent signing period commences. But even if both players are retained, Atlanta doesn’t look to be an improved squad heading into the 2016/17 campaign. Barring a big name free agent deciding to take a discount to join the Hawks, the team’s best chance at improving itself is to trade either Teague or Schröder for help on the wing.
Atlanta appears to be a franchise that will be doomed to be good enough to make the playoffs, but not talented or deep enough to be considered serious contenders for the foreseeable future. This will make it difficult to rebuild since the team isn’t likely to fall far enough in the standings to nab a lottery pick. Retaining Horford and Teague would maintain continuity, but perhaps the team would be better served in the long-run to deal Teague and allow Horford to depart. The fanbase may not appreciate taking a step back, but doing so may allow the franchise to remake itself into more than just an annual playoff-qualifier.
- Paul Millsap ($20,072,033)
- Tiago Splitter ($8,550,000)
- Jeff Teague ($8,000,000)
- Kyle Korver ($5,239,437)
- Thabo Sefolosha ($3,850,000)
- Dennis Schröder ($2,708,582)
- Tim Hardaway Jr. ($2,281,605)
- Edy Tavares ($1,000,000)
- Total: $51,701,657
- Mike Muscala ($1,015,696) — salary non-guaranteed even if option picked up
Restricted Free Agents
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
Other Cap Holds
- No. 21 pick ($1,207,500)
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.
Maryland guard Melo Trimble didn’t have a standout showing at the combine, and remains undecided on whether to stay in the draft. He figures to wait until the May 25th deadline to make a decision, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Zagoria – who adds the Nuggets to the list of teams to meet with Trimble at the combine, and the Spurs and Hawks to the list of teams planning to work him out – hears from an NBA scout that Trimble’s best bet is to return to school to improve his game (Twitter link).
As Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Insider link) writes, Trimble acknowledges that his original plan was to enter the draft and hire an agent this year, but admits that he’s “up in the air right now.” An up-and-down sophomore year, in which he was plagued by hamstring issues, has complicated Trimble’s situation.
As we wait to see what Trimble decides, let’s round up several more draft notes and updates…
- Ohio State big man Trevor Thompson has decided to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school, he tells Goodman (Twitter link). As we noted when he declared for the draft in March, Thompson wasn’t viewed as a top-100 prospect and would have had a long climb to become draft-worthy.
- In a piece for USA Today Sports, Derek Bodner identifies five prospects who improved their stock at the NBA combine in Chicago last week, including Kansas center Cheick Diallo. Diallo’s strong showing at the combine appears to have cemented his decision to remain in the draft — he is signing with Bill Duffy and BDA Sports Management for representation, according to Goodman (Twitter link). Zagoria has since confirmed that agreement (via Twitter).
- Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead tweeted on Sunday that he plans to make a decision by Thursday on whether or not to remain in the draft. Sources are telling Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv that Whitehead – who has workouts with Boston and Chicago on his schedule after Thursday – figures to remain in the draft, forgoing his remaining college eligibility.
- Villanova junior Josh Hart said after a workout with Philadelphia on Monday that he’s “still 50-50” about keeping his name in the draft, and he’s “not sure when that will change,” per Marc Narducci of Philly.com. It sounds like Hart’s decision could go down to the wire as the May 25th deadline nears.
- Florida State guard Malik Beasley, UNC power forward Brice Johnson, and Purdue big man A.J. Hammons have signed with ASM Sports for representation on and off the court, according to a report from SportsBusiness Journal.
- Potential lottery pick Jakob Poeltl said during the combine that he has met with the Bucks, Magic, Hawks, and Spurs, in addition to his previously reported sitdowns with New Orleans and Boston (Twitter link via Zagoria). It sounds like all of those meetings were just interviews, so we’ll see in the coming weeks if Poeltl visits any of those teams – or others – for workouts.
After a disappointing regular season and an abrupt first-round exit from the playoffs, the Rockets figure to make some changes to their roster this summer, and according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, the team’s top target in free agency will be Hawks big man Al Horford.
Horford, who turns 30 next month, will have no shortage of suitors this offseason, with his current team in Atlanta expected to make him a max offer in July. However, it’s not yet clear whether the Hawks intend to offer Horford a full five years to go along with a max salary. While Atlanta appears to be the strong frontrunner to lock up the nine-year veteran, Houston and other clubs figure to make pitches as well, if given the opportunity.
According to Deveney, Ryan Anderson will be a potential target for the Rockets this summer as well. General manager Daryl Morey also figures to be creative when it comes to exploring possible sign-and-trades involving stars like Blake Griffin, Jimmy Butler, or Carmelo Anthony, Deveney writes, though any of those scenarios would be longer shots.
The Rockets currently only have about $46MM in guaranteed salary on their books for the 2016/17 season, per Basketball Insiders. That figure doesn’t include Dwight Howard‘s $23MM+ salary, since Howard has a player option and is widely expected to opt out.
In Hoops Rumors’ most recent free agent power rankings, Horford ranked fourth, one spot ahead of Howard.
The Celtics have a tentative workout scheduled with Duke small forward Brandon Ingram, a prime contender to become the No. 1 pick, reports Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald (Twitter link). The outcome of the lottery will determine whether it takes place, according to Murphy, and presumably, the Celtics will have to land one of the top two selections. Ingram is the top prospect in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress rankings and second in the listings Chad Ford of ESPN.com compiles.
See more draft news on day three of the combine:
- Syracuse shooting guard Malachi Richardson and Kansas forward/center Cheick Diallo have told teams they’ve decided to stay in the draft rather than pull out by May 25th to retain their college eligibility, reports Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
- The Pacers, Warriors, Spurs, Wizards, Rockets and Mavericks are among the teams that have spoken with Syracuse swingman Michael Gbinije, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
- Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson has interviewed with the Suns, Spurs, Kings, Trail Blazers and Bucks, observes Rod Beard of The Detroit News, who also cites Jackson’s previously reported interview with the Pistons.
- Villanova shooting guard Josh Hart has worked out for the Clippers and has another workout scheduled with the Hawks on May 24th, as Zagoria relays. He’ll also work out for the Celtics and Spurs, and his previously reported workout with the Sixers takes place Monday, Zagoria reveals. The Knicks, Wizards, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Pacers, Grizzlies and Jazz interviewed Hart at the combine, according to Zagoria.
- Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the Pistons, Hawks, Wizards and Suns among the teams on his interview list, Zagoria tweets.