Free Agent Stock Watch Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Brandon Knight

April 10 at 10:25am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Suns have plenty invested in Brandon Knight, having relinquished a potential lottery pick from the Lakers as well as Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis, both of whom have shown promise and are on rookie scale contracts. Knight is also on a rookie scale contract, but unlike Plumlee and Ennis, his deal expires this summer, when the Suns figure to have to shell out eight-figure salaries to keep him. Several GMs told Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops earlier this spring that they believe Knight is worth $12MM a year. Suns GM Ryan McDonough referred to Knight as the best player in the trade, though it’s unclear if he was merely referring to the Knight trade itself or the series of moves the Suns made on deadline day, when they shipped Goran Dragic to Miami in a separate trade. It’s nonetheless clear that McDonough thinks highly of Knight, a former eighth overall pick, having referred to him as a “23-year-old who is a borderline All-Star in the East.”

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Orlando MagicMcDonough and president of basketball operations Lon Babby will have to go chiefly by what Knight did while he was in the East with the Bucks as they wade through his restricted free agency, since a heel injury has ended the season for Knight after he played only 11 games as a Sun. The point guard took just 4.6 shots per game during that small sample size, a figure that would be a career low if extrapolated over a full season. He looked every bit the part of the budding All-Star that McDonough envisions in a 28-point performance against the Magic, but that was less than a week after a one-point, 0-for-6 clunker against the Spurs.

Knight has struggled over the course of his NBA career to become a true point guard, though he’s expressed a desire to embrace the role. The Suns don’t have to worry too much about that with Eric Bledsoe around. He and Bledsoe fit the mold of the small backcourt that’s marked McDonough’s Suns teams, and Bledsoe’s presence also takes pressure off Knight to improve defensively. Bledsoe is second among point guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus this season, while Knight languishes at No. 50, well into the minus side of the ledger. Knight has been a minus defender in all four of his NBA seasons, according to Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus.

There’s still potential for growth on that end of the floor, since he’s only 23, as McDonough notes. He certainly wouldn’t be the only one-way player making $12MM a year if that’s what he ends up with, and he helps in other areas. He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game this season, the 12th most among any player 6’3″ or shorter who saw at least 500 minutes, as Basketball-Reference shows. Bledsoe is third on that list. Knight also bumped his three-point shooting to a career-high 38.9% this season after last year’s regression to 32.5%, and he was at 40.9% in that category this year before his disjointed 11 games with the Suns. His PER was 18.5 with Milwaukee, and though that shrunk to 17.2 thanks to his brief time playing with Phoenix, it’s still a career high.

The Arn Tellem client has validated his draft position, and while he doesn’t seem the sort who’ll ever be one of the top two players on a contender, he could certainly be the third. Bledsoe’s ceiling is beginning to emerge as a No. 2 on that kind of team. So, the Suns have the groundwork for a contending core, but they lack the superstar piece that’s almost always the hardest to obtain.

A new deal for Knight would essentially put the Suns out of the running to acquire a superstar in free agency this summer, since Phoenix already has about $41MM on the books. It wouldn’t be much of a setback for the franchise if it comes up empty in its star search this summer, since the top five players in the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings all seem likely to stay put. It’s the summer of 2016 when the Suns appear positioned to make their move, as they only have about $28MM committed, and even with an eight-figure salary for Knight, they should have no shortage of flexibility with the cap set to catapult to around $90MM. The Valley of the Sun looms as an attractive destination for top free agents as long as the roster infrastructure is there for a superstar to contend immediately upon joining the team, and Knight’s presence helps the Suns toward that roster prerequisite.

Phoenix also has its share of trade assets, with the Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick perhaps the juiciest. The Suns took a step back at the deadline this season, as Babby has acknowledged, with the long term in mind, and that’s why keeping Knight is more or less imperative. There’s been chatter connecting the Lakers to Knight, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some team with aspirations of contending in the West in the near future pitch an outsized offer sheet to Knight this summer, just to force the Suns to pay a premium. That would carry risk for a team like the Lakers, since it would be difficult for any team to end up paying a defensive minus a salary approaching the max in case Phoenix doesn’t match, but it’s a distinct possibility nonetheless, given the consequences for the Suns if they let Knight walk.

Knight might not be the best player involved in Phoenix’s deadline trades, but he’s the best the Suns have to show from a pivot point in their rebuilding. Phoenix, which still hasn’t made the playoffs since Steve Nash left town, can’t afford to take a step back in both the short and the long term, so expect Knight’s Suns tenure to last a lot longer than 11 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Greg Monroe

March 31 at 2:04pm CDT By Chuck Myron

A strained right knee has kept Greg Monroe out since March 14th, but while he said he’ll definitely make it back before the regular season ends two weeks from Wednesday, it’s quite conceivable, if not probable, that he’s seen his last moments of meaningful basketball in a Pistons uniform. The Pistons are in 12th place and four and a half games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and Monroe’s unrestricted free agency looms in July. The end of the season will signal the end of a period of relative financial sacrifice for the former seventh overall pick, who turned down reported offers of eight-figure salaries to take a one-year qualifying offer of slightly less than $5.48MM and hit unrestricted free agency as soon as possible.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State WarriorsThe move appeared to signal that Monroe wanted out of Detroit, as signing a lucrative, long-term offer sheet with any other team of his choosing last summer could have simply tethered him to the Pistons for that much longer if they had matched. Still, agent David Falk insists that his client will “absolutely” consider re-signing with the Pistons, echoing Monroe’s own comment on the matter from before the season. Falk also made it seem as though Monroe was a long way from thinking about where he wants to play next year, though the impending end of the season will no doubt bring him a step closer to that.

Monroe and Falk reportedly discouraged teams from presenting him with offer sheets. The big man said he was wary of committing for the long term to Detroit before he became comfortable with Stan Van Gundy, who was then just a few months into his job as coach president of basketball operations. A sign-and-trade was an alternative solution, since that would have allowed Monroe to sign a market-value deal for multiple years with another team without the threat of a match from Van Gundy and company. The Pistons reportedly talked to the BlazersHawks and Pelicans about sign-and-trades, but nothing materialized. The Magic and Cavs apparently had interest in Monroe, too, but Orlando felt “lukewarm at best” about him, as Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press put it, and Cleveland seemed to move away from him once LeBron James committed to go back there.

Nearly a year has passed since last year’s free agency, and Monroe has had just about a full season to get a feel for Van Gundy. Monroe dismissed rumors that he didn’t want to play alongside Josh Smith, but Van Gundy’s bold decision to waive Smith in December, less than halfway into a $54MM contract, had a marked effect on Monroe’s production. The former Georgetown Hoya was putting up 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29.0 minutes per game prior to Smith’s release, all figures that would have represented his lowest season numbers since he was a rookie. Since then, he’s put up 16.9 PPG and 11.5 RPG in 32.6 MPG, and those scoring and rebounding figures would be career highs if extrapolated over an entire season. The contrast could scarcely be more stark.

One executive estimated to Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops around the time of the Smith waiver that Monroe would merit a four-year, $48MM deal, but he’s probably lifted his value quite a bit since then. He denied that he received an offer from the Pistons that would have eclipsed the value of Smith’s deal, and he said that it wouldn’t have taken a maximum-salary offer for him to commit to Detroit. He downplayed the idea of accepting the highest bid and Falk reiterated that this season, insisting that money won’t be the primary determinant for where Monroe will play next year.

That’s an inauspicious sign in one respect for the Pistons, who can offer a fifth year and higher raises than any other team can. It’s a stance that could also ease a burden for a team that’s already planning a push to re-sign restricted free agent Reggie Jackson and faces rookie scale extension negotiations with Andre Drummond in the offseason ahead. Having Monroe back at any sort of discount would no doubt accelerate Van Gundy’s rebuilding plans.

That idea still seems a long shot, particularly with other teams already showing interest. The Hawks, who were one of the teams apparently in sign-and-trade talks with Detroit this past summer, and Knicks were reportedly planning pursuits as far back as December. The Lakers reportedly asked the Pistons about trading for Monroe before this year’s deadline. Surely others will be in the mix for the promising big man, who turns 25 in June, and even if he winds up with a max deal, it would likely cost his team a starting salary of no more than $16MM, since he’s in the 25% max bracket, a rarity for a high-level unrestricted free agent.

Monroe’s PER number is a flattering 21.1 this season, and while he’s not an elite defender, he holds his own, as his No. 20 ranking in ESPN’s Real Defensive Plus/Minus for power forwards shows. He’s No. 10 in Basketball-Reference’s Box Defensive Plus Minus among the 18 players who swing between forward and center and who’ve compiled at least 500 minutes this season. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t score a deal that at least comes quite close to the max. Pistons owner Tom Gores has made it seem as though he’s willing to open his checkbook to make it happen, but I suspect Monroe will settle for lower raises and one fewer year on his contract to head to another team. Still, that’s just my speculation, and the market can shift between now and July as others distinguish themselves even if Monroe isn’t playing, especially come draft time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: DeAndre Jordan

March 22 at 7:16pm CDT By Will Joseph

DeAndre Jordan told Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports last week that “the free agency process is definitely going to be a fun one.” The Clippers’ center, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, has good reason to be looking forward to the summer. He’s enjoying another season of gaudy raw numbers that could land him a maximum deal.

NBA: Preseason-Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State WarriorsJordan, who is making $11.44MM this season, is averaging 11.2 PPG and 2.2 blocks. His 14.8 rebounds per game and .709 field goal percentage are both tops in the league. He’s this season’s only player to post three 20-point, 20-rebound games. He ranks second in the NBA in defensive win shares.

“He’s clearly the defensive player of the year,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, per Arash Markazi of “If anybody else gets that award, we need to have an investigation.”

Winning the award could further solidify Jordan’s status, but it’s likely that he inks a maximum deal regardless. Another thing to keep in mind: Jordan will only turn 27 in July and has started every regular season game for the Clippers since the 2010/11 season. He brings size, length and athleticism. Outside of his offensive limitations, there isn’t much to dislike. With top big men being hard to find, there are several teams — including the Clippers — that could conceivably make pitches to Jordan, who said he has no interest in signing a one-year contract, as Markazi wrote.

“I’m not going to be greedy and sign a one-year deal,” Jordan said. “Nah. I’m just focused on getting it over with and focusing on playing again. I’m just trying to win here.”

It’s too early to tell which teams are seriously interested in reeling in Jordan, who, as Markazi pointed out in the aforementioned story, has been making the rounds on national sports talk radio shows recently while gaining more mainstream attention. The market could be dictated by the actions of other soon-to-be unrestricted free agent big men Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Tim Duncan is in the final year of his contract and if he retires, that could make things even more interesting because the Spurs would be in play for a big man.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Emeka Okafor

September 13 2014 at 8:45pm CDT By Cray Allred

Of the league’s remaining unsigned free agents, Emeka Okafor is at the very top of the list in earnings from last year. Despite not playing a single game with the Suns, Okafor raked in $14.5MM in the last year of the six-year, $72MM deal he originally signed with Charlotte. If and when Okafor does receive a new NBA contract, it will almost certainly be for a massive pay reduction.

A herniated disc in Okafor’s neck was the reason the center missed all of 2013/14 and will likely remain unsigned for the near future. After playing 79 games for the Wizards in 2012/13, the ailment was discovered last preseason and wrecked his entire 2013/14 campaign. Okafor was subsequently traded to the Suns, who planned on flipping his contract for another asset. The center was viewed by many as a hot commodity, but his value was exclusively tied to his substantial expiring salary, which would have been useful in clearing cap space for a potential recipient. Phoenix had extensive discussions with the Lakers about moving Okafor as part of a trade to acquire Pau Gasol, but a deal never materialized.

If the status of his health weren’t up in the air, Okafor would most likely be signed by now. An intimidating interior defensive presence, the former No. 2 pick has averaged 1.7 blocks for his career, a number bolstering a virtual double-double career average in points (12.3) and rebounds (9.9) per game. The veteran did show signs of offensive decline the last season he saw the floor, turning in a career-worst .278 rate of free throw attempts per field goal attempts and a .496 true shooting percentage, well below his career average of .535. However, he still produced an above average PER of 15.8 for Washington, and maintained an elite defensive impact. While his blocks per game dropped to a career-worst 1.0, he generated a 99 defensive rating, according to his Basketball-Reference page, and 3.7 defensive win shares, top-10 and top-25 marks for the season, respectively.

Ongoing concerns about Okafor’s neck have prevented the big man from securing a deal, but they haven’t kept roughly half of the league from registering interest in his services. Contenders including the Heat, Cavs, and Clippers are among the teams interested. Those teams make a lot of on-the-court sense, as a steady rim-protector is always high on a playoff hopeful’s wishlist. The Clippers are the only team that has reportedly worked out Okafor, and they have since signed Ekpe Udoh in a move that would presumably reduce their need for Okafor on the roster. The Heat were considering both Okafor and Udoh as potential interior additions, so while Udoh’s deal with Los Angeles may hurt Okafor’s prospects there, it could very well help his outlook in Miami.

While no word has surfaced on the impression Okafor’s workout left, the league is wary of his lingering medical issues. He isn’t expected to sign anywhere until mid-season, and it’s unclear if doctors have cleared him for full basketball activities at this point. As much as a big, defensively disruptive body excites general managers, the thought of a big, ailing body under contract distresses them.

All of the teams known to be interested in Okafor are limited to paying the veteran’s minimum, as are most contenders in general at this stage in the offseason. If Okafor were to alleviate concerns about his health, a minimum salary would seem to be a discount for a player of his caliber. Elton Brand doesn’t have the same ceiling as Okafor at this stage in his career, but he just received a $2MM contract for 2014/15 on the merits of being a sturdy big off the bench. Chris Andersen, another big man expected to fill a role that’s smaller or similar to the one Okafor might play, re-signed with the Heat for two years and $10MM. Of course, Okafor may be willing to play on a one-year deal for the minimum for the chance to contend and demonstrate his viability looking toward next summer and a more lucrative deal.

Okafor could end up with more options if he waits until midseason to look for a deal. In-season pickups earn prorated salaries, meaning a team without room to squeeze the big man under the tax line now could conceivably do so later in the season, when a minimum contract’s payout would shrink. As always, opportunities could open up for Okafor if any teams lose a frontcourt piece to injury. Teams currently unable to offer Okafor more than the minimum could gain that flexibility if granted a disabled player exception after a season-ending injury to one of their players.

At this point, we’re more likely to hear updates on Okafor’s health than any announcement of a signing. The center has bounced back from injury before throughout a solid career, and I expect him to do so again. Don’t be surprised if Okafor is unemployed as the regular season opens, but making a difference once the postseason arrives.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Ryan Hollins

September 12 2014 at 11:07am CDT By Chuck Myron

There’s always a market in the NBA for seven-footers who’ve proven capable of handling one or two specific duties, and the interest that a handful of teams are reportedly showing in Ryan Hollins is evidence. Hollins is to have met with the Heat, with the Kings, Bulls and Spurs having etched his name near the top of their remaining wish lists, too. Many NBA clubs take chances on undrafted rookies and second-tier pros as they fill out their training camp rosters this time of year, holding out hope that they can unearth a hidden gem, and while there’s no such upside with Hollins, there’s little risk involved with him, either.

The former UCLA Bruin fell out of the rotation for the Clippers late last season after the team acquired Glen Davis, even though Hollins was as efficient as ever in the minutes he did see. He put up an 11.9 PER, a number better than in all but one of his eight NBA seasons. That’s well below 15.0, the mark of an average NBA player, but for a career reserve who’s never averaged more than 16.9 minutes per game, that stat is not a discredit. More impressive is his 73.6% shooting percentage, a product of self-awareness as much as any other factor. He took 65.3% of his shots from three feet and in, and he made them count, connecting on 87.2% of those looks, according to Basketball-Reference. Just 4.2% of his shots came from farther away than 10 feet. Hollins, less than a month shy of his 30th birthday, is not part of the new breed of floor-stretching big men, and he knows it.

The Todd Ramasar client also knows to stick close to the rim on the other end of the floor. He blocked 2.3 shots per 36 minutes last season, which put him in a three-way tie with Tim Duncan and John Henson for 14th in the league in that category among those who played at least as many total minutes as he did. There’s a decent chance his block rate was artificially high thanks to a small sample size, since he only racked up 482 minutes over the course of the entire season, but it’s not too far removed from the 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes he recorded in 2012/13, when he hit the floor for 663 minutes.

The Clippers were a significantly more effective team defensively when Hollins played the past two seasons, which is surprising, considering that starting center DeAndre Jordan placed third in Defensive Player of the Year balloting this past spring. They gave up 4.4 fewer points per 100 possessions when Hollins played compared to when he didn’t in 2012/13, as shows, and 3.9 fewer in 2013/14. Of course, there are a variety of influences that go into that statistic, and it’s far from enough evidence to suggest that Hollins is a better defender than Jordan, or even in the same class. Still, it points to the notion that Hollins should have an NBA job this year, and he probably deserves a role greater than the one he played in the second half of this past season, when he was largely an afterthought.

Doc Rivers has an opening on his Clippers roster, but Spencer Hawes figures to absorb nearly all of the backup minutes behind Jordan. Hollins would provide an inside complement to Hawes’ long-range shooting, but it’s doubtful that Hollins would want to go into the year with little hope of being more than a third-stringer. The Heat have Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen to take the bulk of the minutes at the power positions, and Udonis Haslem will receive plenty of consideration for playing time, too, so Miami might not be the fit that Hollins seeks, even though the Heat lack a true center. The Bulls have Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic crowding the frontcourt. The backup center job for the Kings seems to be a tossup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the club envisions sliding one of its many power forwards, like Jason Thompson or Reggie Evans, into minutes at center when DeMarcus Cousins sits. Few on the Spurs roster have trouble hitting the floor thanks to Gregg Popovich‘s egalitarian allocation of minutes, but Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Jeff Ayres are all still around to play center and Hollins is just one of many free agents the team is targeting for its final opening-night roster spot.

There’s no obvious fit for Hollins among the suitors that have so far been identified, so perhaps that explains why he remains unsigned. It’s a distinct possibility that Hollins is better suited to sign after the season begins, when a team might need added depth at center because of injuries. That would allow Hollins to jump immediately into the lineup without having to compete for minutes during training camp. It would also give Ramasar increased leverage in negotiations, since in such instances the team would figure to have greater motivation to make a deal and close on it quickly than most clubs appear to have at this point. In any case, it would be surprising to see Hollins go without an NBA deal this year, and I suspect he’ll sign with a team with playoff aspirations. He’s not the sort of player that a franchise focused on the future would seem to want, but for a club that can’t afford too many mistakes this year, he’d fit right in.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Earl Clark

September 5 2014 at 1:51pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Cleveland’s ill-fated addition of Andrew Bynum last summer and the return of LeBron James this year have overshadowed another significant miss from last season’s free agent haul for the Cavs. Earl Clark signed with the team a year ago for two years and $8.5MM, and while only the first season’s salary of $4.25MM was guaranteed, GM David Griffin wasted little time in divesting the team of the deal that former GM Chris Grant had signed with the combo forward. Griffin made the best of the Clark contract, shipping it to the Sixers as part of the deadline deal that netted Spencer Hawes, a major contributor for Cleveland in the season’s second half. The Sixers promptly waived Clark and after a pair of 10-day contracts with the Knicks, the 14th overall pick spent the rest of the season out of the league.

It quickly became apparent that the Cavs misjudged Clark last summer, but it nonetheless seems like a similar market overreaction that the 26-year-old has remained without a contract for so long. The Lakers gave him consistent playing time during a 22-game stretch in the 2012/13 season, when Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were injured, and Clark showed why the Suns made him a lottery pick in 2009. He averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds in those 22 games, and the career 33.1% three-point shooter lifted his accuracy to 37.8% during that hot streak. That performance over a small sample size helped him earn his contract with Cleveland, even though he tailed off in his final days with the Lakers once Gasol and Howard returned. Still, a regression to the mean might not be the only explanation for why Clark didn’t pan out with the Cavs.

The former Louisville standout took a total of 15 three-point shots over his first three seasons in the league, but with the Lakers, he turned the three-pointer into a significant part of his game, as 104 of his 386 field goal attempts came from behind the arc. Still, he shot more often from three feet and in than any other range on the court that season, according to his Basketball-Reference profile. In Cleveland, three-pointers constituted nearly half his shot attempts, and he took just 16.3 percent of his shots as a Cav from three feet and in. He made threes at a 34.5% clip for the Cavs, but overall, he was inefficient, posting a woeful 8.6 PER in wine-and-gold, down from the 12.4 PER he recorded over his full season with the Lakers. The three-pointer that once served as the missing piece of his game became far too much a part of it.

The Spurs certainly seem wise enough to diagnose the problem, and they were reportedly set to work out the Kevin Bradbury client this week. Clark said earlier this summer that he had fielded interest from a few teams, but otherwise it’s been quite a reversal from last year, when Clark and the Cavs struck agreement during the first week of free agency. He’s proven effective in the right system, and perhaps the key is finding an up-tempo approach that gives Clark chances to go to the basket in transition, like the Mike D’Antoni-led Lakers attack he thrived in, and doesn’t leave him too many opportunities to stand around behind the arc. Clark struggled playing for the defensive-minded Mike Brown in Cleveland and failed to find his way with the Magic when they were focused on pounding the ball inside to Howard. There is irony in that he merely passed through Philadelphia, where the Sixers were the league’s fastest-paced team last season, and never suited up. Still, the Sixers easily could have kept him if they wanted him, so he seems unlikely to end up with Philadelphia again. The Rockets and the Suns loom as other teams that run go-go offenses and possess fewer than 15 guaranteed contracts, though neither Houston nor Phoenix has been linked to Clark this summer.

The Spurs didn’t play at a particularly speedy tempo last season, finishing 12th in possessions per 48 minutes, according to GM R.C. Buford and his staff are reportedly working out a handful of others, so Clark still has much to overcome. Yet mere interest from the Spurs stands to drive up Clark’s value, given the respect around the league for San Antonio’s continued ability to turn lightly regarded players into key contributors. It wouldn’t be surprising to see other teams jump into the mix soon as long as the Spurs don’t reach a deal with him. There aren’t many available former lottery picks who stand 6’10” and are less than two years removed from having played effectively in the NBA. Clark probably won’t validate his draft position, but he can provide depth of the sort that helped the Lakers sneak into the playoffs in 2013. Clark would no doubt like to see guaranteed money if he were to sign, but should he open himself to accepting a non-guaranteed camp invitation, it seems he’d still be in strong position to stick on the roster all season.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jason Maxiell

September 2 2014 at 10:57am CDT By Chuck Myron

Two years ago, it appeared Jason Maxiell was just hitting his stride, as he’d started 71 games for the Pistons and blocked a career-high 1.3 shots per game, an impressive number for an interior player listed at only 6’7″. The performance came in a walk year, but the market was nonetheless unkind to the former 26th overall pick, who saw his annual salary cut in half when he took a two-year, $5MM deal with the Magic. A reduced role in Orlando has only seemed to compound Maxiell’s problems this summer, which sees the forward/center back on the market after the Magic waived him in advance of the date that his salary would have become fully guaranteed for this coming season.

Maxiell started the first 10 games of this past season for Orlando, but he made only three more starts, and by mid-January, he was an afterthought, appearing in just five games from that point forward. The veteran didn’t seem to fit in with the Magic, and his role on offense was different from the one he played in Detroit, where he spent all of his first eight seasons in the league. He took fewer shots from point blank range than ever before in his lone season with the Magic, but the percentage of his field goal attempts that came from between three to 10 feet away from the hoop was more than double his career rate, per Basketball-Reference. He made 60.5% of those attempts, much better than usual, but he was worse than he normally is from inside three feet, offsetting any gain. His 44.8% shooting percentage overall was below his career 50.1% mark, and he notched just 8.0 points per 36 minutes, a career low and a woeful number even for a player not counted on for scoring.

The former University of Cincinnati standout also took a step back defensively after showing improvements in his final two seasons with the Pistons. Detroit was a better defensive team with him on the floor than when he sat during the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons in terms of points per possession, according to, a reversal from the first six years of his career. This past season, the Magic were better off defensively when Maxiell sat, though there wasn’t a vast sample size, since he played fewer than 500 total minutes.

It’s hard to quantify Maxiell’s effect on a game when he’s performing well, since he’s not a scorer or an elite rebounder, he doesn’t rack up assists, steals or, outside of his last season with the Pistons, blocks, and he hasn’t been a plus defender for much of his career. Still, at his best, he was an efficient player for a strong team. He put up a PER of 16.7 in his third season in the league, the last of Detroit’s six straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. The next season, the year before he signed a four-year, $20MM contract, was the only other time in his career in which he recorded a PER above 15.0, the mark of an average player. That was also the last time one of his teams made the playoffs, and that’s probably not a coincidence.

Last season’s Orlando experience underscored the notion that a team can’t simply plug Maxiell into the lineup and expect results. He seems like the sort of player who needs a specific set of circumstances to thrive. His track record suggests he plays better for winning teams, so the Heat, who have made preliminary inquiries about the Andy Miller client, would make sense. The Clippers are looking to fill up their roster, since they’re carrying 11 players and newfound space beneath their hard cap, but they haven’t been linked to Maxiell. That’s in spite of the ties that coach/executive Doc Rivers has to Lawrence Frank, the coach for whom Maxiell seemed to play his best defense. Frank is under contract with the Nets, another team that figures to win more games than it loses this year, but just what sort of role Frank will play for Brooklyn is unclear. Maxiell performed efficiently for Flip Saunders when he coached the Pistons, but the Wolves have 15 guaranteed deals, so it doesn’t appear there’s room there.

There aren’t many who have this much trouble finding a deal after having been a full-time starter just one season prior. Such a fall-off happens occasionally with older players, but Maxiell is 31, so he’s not far removed from what should be his peak years. It’s conceivable that he’s fielded a few non-guaranteed offers and is waiting for guaranteed money, or perhaps he’s reluctant to accept the label of minimum-salary player, one that’s probably firmly affixed at this point. Playing in China is a consideration if he’s thinking about boosting his stock and signing with an NBA team for the stretch run, but Chinese teams generally prefer high-scoring perimeter players, so he might not find an offer that makes it worth his while. It’s not an attractive set of circumstances that sit before Maxiell, but he and Miller must be careful to take the offer that would best help him return to his stature as a valuable NBA contributor. Finding the right coach and teammates is more important than securing the most money at this juncture in Maxiell’s career.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Antawn Jamison

August 29 2014 at 3:29pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Two years ago, Hoops Rumors readers overwhelmingly voted for Antawn Jamison as the best minimum-salary signee in the league soon after his decision to sign with the Lakers for what looked like a steep discount. A year and a half later, Jamison’s stock had plummeted, and he’s been out of the NBA since the Hawks waived him shortly after acquiring him from the Clippers at the trade deadline this past February. No one is immune to the ravages of age, but it’s tough to imagine that Jamison’s skills have eroded so quickly after he scored 17.2 points per game for the Cavs in 2011/12 that he’s become unworthy of a place on an NBA roster.

The 37-year-old Jamison told DeAntae Prince of The Sporting News recently that he has options in free agency, as we passed along, but the one-time No. 4 overall pick didn’t specify whether any of those options included offers from NBA teams. The Wasserman Media Group client has signed with teams that figured to contend for titles the past two seasons. Should the right NBA opportunity materialize for him this year, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if it involved going to a team without a reasonable chance of winning the title, as Jamison also told Prince.

Jamison was reportedly among the players the Knicks were considering in February, shortly after his release from the Hawks, but that was before Phil Jackson took over the team’s front office. The Wizards were eyeing him around that same time, and Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld was in place there for the entirety of Jamison’s five and a half seasons in the nation’s capital. Still, one report suggested Washington’s interest in a reunion was only “lukewarm.” The Hawks and Jamison appeared to share interest in parting ways with each other last season, so it doesn’t seem like he’ll be returning to Atlanta anytime soon, even if he’s more willing to consider teams outside the title picture. Reports have linked the former University of North Carolina star to the Hornets (then Bobcats) in previous offseasons. Charlotte has 14 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show, and while the team appears to be reluctant to use the final spot on a center, that probably doesn’t apply to a stretch four like Jamison. Still, there’s been no chatter connecting Jamison to the Hornets this summer.

The Spurs were apparently another team interested in Jamison this past February, and they wouldn’t force him to give up his title dreams. However, San Antonio is carrying 14 fully guaranteed pacts and three partially guaranteed deals, and the team still has a qualifying offer out to restricted free agent Aron Baynes, so it doesn’t appear there’s room for Jamison there. The Bulls were also linked to Jamison in that same report, and while the team only has 12 players, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and second-round pick Cameron Bairstow crowd the power forward position, so Jamison wouldn’t be a logical fit in Chicago, either.

Jamison took 17.5 shots per game in 2011/12 with the Cavs, matching a career high. His PER that season was 16.1, which set a career low at the time. That suggests that his high scoring average was at least in part the product of a stripped-down roster that gave then-coach Byron Scott few other choices for creating offense. Jamison’s efficiency has continued to decline over the past two seasons, coming in at a still-respectable 15.3 in his lone season with the Lakers before bottoming out at 7.8 in the small sample size of his 248 total minutes with the Clippers. There’s no doubt that Jamison is fading, but it’s debatable whether he’s any worse at this point than most of the players taking up space at the back end of NBA rosters.

He’s not going to win another Sixth Man of the Year award, as he did back in 2003/04, but the 6’8″ Jamison is not far removed from having nailed 36.1% of his three-point attempts with the Lakers in 2012/13, the third highest percentage he’s ever recorded. He’s been consistent from behind the arc, making 34.6% of his treys during his career, save for last season’s 8 for 41 performance in his brief stint as a Clipper. Last year might have soured the league’s front offices on Jamison, but in an NBA increasingly obsessed with analytics, I’m not sure his time with the Clippers provided an acceptable amount of evidence.

There’d be little call for Jamison to reprise the high-volume shooting role he played for the Cavs a few years ago, so even as he opens himself to signing with a non-contender, it seems Jamison is best suited to help teams that want to win now. There are plenty of teams with which he wouldn’t make sense, but it only takes one club that believes in him for the two-time All-Star to wear an NBA jersey again. Jamison said in Prince’s report that while he’s not ruling out retirement, he won’t know what he’s going to do next for at least another month, perhaps suggesting that he envisions signing with a team at midseason rather than going to training camp. Waiting a full year to return to the league would be risky, but when teams are allowed to issue 10-day contracts again in January, such a deal would allow Jamison to make at least small slice of guaranteed money while keeping a team’s initial investment minimal. There’s a strong chance that we’ve seen the last of Jamison in sneakers, but don’t bet on it.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Dante Cunningham

August 19 2014 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.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jermaine O’Neal

August 17 2014 at 6:41pm CDT By Zach Links

In his limited time on the floor last season, veteran big man Jermaine O’Neal proved that he still has plenty of basketball left in him.  In a little over 20 minutes per contest, the 6’11” O’Neal averaged 7.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG, good for a respectable 15.3 PER rating, just above the league average.  Sure, those aren’t the kind of numbers O’Neal posted during his best years (18.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 2.4 BPG with a 19.5 PER) but at 35, J.O. can still be a solid piece off of the bench.

As we learned last month, the Warriors are still in regular contact with O’Neal, but he’s also giving some thought to retirement.  O’Neal hasn’t lost his love for the game of basketball, but he badly wants to spend time with his family.  It’s hard to blame him.  The 35-year-old (36 in October) has spent the last 18 years on the road, bouncing from city to city ever since he went pro out of Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina.

In a chat with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle in May, O’Neal admitted that he felt that he had unfinished business.

It’s been a fantastic run,” the six-time All-Star said, while adding that he’d ask his 8-year-old son for input. “You never picture your last game being one where you can’t be effective in a Game 7. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

O’Neal went on to thank his teammates in Golden State for “injecting life back into [his] soul” and said that he would consider a front office job with the Warriors if he doesn’t continue his playing career.  You never know what might happen if an attractive contender comes calling, but as far as we know, it’s a two horse race between the Warriors and retirement at this point for O’Neal.  With a long, accomplished career, plenty of cash in the bank, and a young family at home, no one would fault O’Neal for calling it quits this summer.