FRIDAY, 8:07am: Babbitt has officially signed with BC Nizhny Novgorod, according to a Sportando tweet.
WEDNESDAY, 11:20am: Ex-Blazers forward Luke Babbitt will head overseas for the coming season, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Haynes reports that Babbitt has reached an agreement to play for Russia's BC Nizhny Novgorod on a one-year contract that doesn't include an NBA out. Agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports confirmed the deal.
"My take is Luke needs to play 30 minutes a game and play a more expanded role," Duffy told Haynes. "We've had recent success with both Danny Green and Patrick Beverley getting an opportunity to develop their games in Europe and return to the NBA. The NBA is a league of opportunity. We feel strongly this is the best move for Luke at this time."
Babbitt hit free agency for the first time this summer after the Blazers declined their team option for the 2013/14 season. After a promising sophomore year in Portland, the 24-year-old took a step backward this past season, with his rates slipping to 3.9 PPG, a .348 3PT%, and a 9.4 PER. The Sixers were mentioned as a possible suitor a month ago, but other than that, Babbitt didn't seem to garner a whole lot of NBA interest.
Here are a few odds and ends from around the NBA on Wednesday night:
- Kris Joseph, who was waived last month by the Celtics, is weighing international offers in Italy, Russia and France as well as a few NBA invites, tweets Chris Haynes of CSN Northwest.
- Haynes also tweets that free agent guard Delonte West has impressed at a coach's camp in Las Vegas. West, who spent some time in the D-League last year, hasn't played in the NBA since his 2011/12 campaign with the Mavericks. West has also played with the Celtics and Cavs.
- The Heat have named advance scout Pat Delany the head coach of their D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, tweets Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
- Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM evaluates the prospects of the eight 2010 first-round picks that are currently not on NBA rosters – Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Luke Babbitt, Craig Brackins, Elliot Williams, Damion James, Dominique Jones and Lazar Hayward.
- Andrew Wiggins has the potential to single-handedly turn around an NBA franchise, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld, adding that his ceiling has teams lining up to better their chances for his services. Kennedy names the Sixers, Magic, Suns, Bobcats, Kings and Jazz as the six teams who have positioned themselves for Wiggins, and Celtics and Raptors as outside possibilities.
It's been more than a month since the Sixers shipped Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson to New Orleans in exchange for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top-five protected first round pick. But outside of trading for the enigmatic Royce White, the team hasn't done anything to fill out its roster and is the only NBA team remaining without a head coach.
One of those things is about to change, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who writes that the Sixers are finally ready to shop in free agency. According to Pompey, on the team's wish list is a point guard to backup and mentor rookie Michael Carter-Williams as well as a perimeter shooter.
"We have needs all around," said Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. "We are going to look for guys who can be a part of our future and have a chance, some guys who can grow with our team."
At this point the Sixers intentions for next season are pretty obvious, making the addition of even mid-level free agents unlikely despite having the most available cap room in the league. Pompey suggests that the team could bring back free agents Royal Ivey and/or Damien Wilkins, and also lists Ronnie Brewer, Luke Babbitt, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich as younger options that could pique the team's interest.
We heard yesterday that Hinkie believes the Sixers cap room enables them to be active trade participants if they choose to be and Pompey reiterates that in this story, specifically mentioning Evan Turner as a player who could be on the block and leaving the door open for the team to move any player on their roster.
"It's a little early now," Hinkie added. "There's a lot of work to do for the team to be filled out. You could see all sorts of things happening."
As teams clear cap space to finalize signings and trades, it may mean renouncing Early Bird or Bird rights to their own free agents, in order to remove cap holds from the books. Once a player is renounced, his previous team has no more claim to him that any other team — he could still be re-signed, but it would have to be done using cap space or an exception. Some of those decisions are more notable than others, but for completion's sake, we'll track the latest of these cap-clearing moves right here:
- Mo Williams is the most prominent name among the several whose rights the Jazz renounced today, according to the RealGM transaction log. Al Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Earl Watson, who already have deals to join other teams, are also on the list, as are the long-retired Brevin Knight and Greg Ostertag.
- Bobcats are set to re-sign Josh McRoberts, but they won't be using their Early Bird rights to do so, as they've renounced his rights, RealGM shows. The team also renounced their rights to Reggie Williams, who's heading to the Rockets, and it cut ties with DeSagana Diop, Byron Mullens and Jannero Pargo, too.
- Golden State will sign Jermaine O'Neal, so the Suns have renounced his rights, as well as their rights to Wesley Johnson and Diante Garrett, as RealGM notes.
- The Hawks have cleared out unwanted cap holds from their books, renouncing their rights to Hilton Armstrong, Erick Dampier, Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones, Randolph Morris, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro, Josh Smith, and Etan Thomas, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
- RealGM.com also has the Trail Blazers renouncing multiple players, including Luke Babbitt, J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, and Nolan Smith.
- Most interestingly, according to RealGM.com, the Bucks have renounced their rights to Monta Ellis. That doesn't necessarily preclude a sign-and-trade, but it would mean the team would have to use cap space rather than Ellis' Bird rights to accommodate a deal.
- The Pelicans have renounced their rights to Louis Amundson, Xavier Henry, and Roger Mason Jr., the team announced today in a press release.
- In order to clear cap room for their signings, the Pistons renounced Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Vernon Macklin, Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell, and Ben Wallace, according to RealGM's transactions log. The Pistons plan to re-sign Bynum, but removing his $6MM+ cap hold and signing him to a smaller figure using cap space makes the most sense.
- After renouncing their rights to Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom, the Clippers have also renounced Bobby Simmons, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
Here is the latest out of Portland, where the Blazers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season:
- The Blazers released a statement that they will be making an announcement tomorrow at the Rose Garden. As Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge suggests, all signs point toward point guard Damian Lillard being announced as the NBA's Rookie of the Year on Wednesday. A couple of notes on Lillard courtesy of Golliver; the rookie led the NBA in minutes and won all six Rookie of the Month awards in the Western Conference. No surprise here.
- In a separate post, Golliver wonders whether the Blazers will have interest in Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Robinson went to school in Washington and is a Seattle native.
- Oregon Live asks Blazers fans whether the team should retain free agent to be Luke Babbitt in their "You be the GM" series. The Blazers declined Babbitt's fourth year option in October. If Babbitt walks, the Blazers will likely look to replace his outside shooting ability in free agency or the draft.
The only two teams idle on a 14-game night in the NBA reside in the Northwest Division, as the Thunder and Nuggets get the night off to enjoy their victories on Tuesday. The rest of the division is on the court, and making noise off the court as well, as we detail here:
- As Victor Claver has inherited Luke Babbitt's role with the Blazers, The Oregonian's Joe Freeman writes that it seems clear the team doesn't plan to re-sign Babbitt when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
- The Blazers and Wolves have hashed out an agreement over compensation related to Minnesota's complaints that Portland didn't fully disclose the extent of Martell Webster's ailments before trading him to the Wolves in 2010. A Wolves spokesperson didn't disclose specifics, and simply said the teams have "have resolved this matter amicably," as Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. Since there likely would have been an announcement if a draft pick had changed hands, as the Wolves were reportedly seeking, it seems likely Minnesota received financial considerations, if anything, in the settlement, though that's just my speculation.
- The Wolves are looking into applying for an injury exception that would allow them to sign a 16th player, but they might not need it. According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, who noted that Kevin Love may be nearing a return, Chase Budinger could be back in a few weeks as well.
- Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors earlier today asked readers which Western Conference team is most likely to miss the playoffs, and though Utah holds a two and a half game on the Lakers in the standings, the eighth-place Jazz are neck and neck with L.A. atop the poll results.
OCTOBER 30TH: Olshey confirmed today that the Blazers have obtained a disabled player exception for Williams, tweets Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. The GM says it's a financial tool, rather than a roster tool, which presumably means it'll only be kept on the books for cap purposes, rather than actually used to acquire a player.
OCTOBER 1ST: With Elliot Williams expected to miss the entire 2012/13 season after undergoing surgery on his ruptured achilles tendon, the Trail Blazers will not waive him, GM Neil Olshey told the media today. However, as Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweets, the team will apply for a disabled player exception worth half Williams' salary.
Freeman adds within the same tweet that Olshey says the Trail Blazers still have about $2MM in cap space, but the GM is likely referring to the room exception, rather than actual cap space. Despite only spending about $56MM on team salary, Portland has a traded player exception worth about $2.25MM from this summer's Raymond Felton trade that the club would have to renounce to claim that cap room. Also, disabled player exceptions are only available to over-the-cap teams, so the Blazers wouldn't receive a DPE if they still had cap space.
Even if the league approves the disabled player exception for Williams, it likely won't be of much use for the Blazers. By rule, the team would receive an exception worth 50% of Williams' $1.443MM salary, which would be about $721K, less than the veteran's minimum.
Olshey also told the media today that the Blazers will make option decisions on Williams, Nolan Smith, and Luke Babbitt later this month (Twitter link via Freeman).
3:29pm: According to GM Neil Olshey, the Blazers have declined their options on Babbitt, Williams, and Smith, tweets Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. As I noted below, this will free up about $6.7MM of potential cap space for the Blazers next summer.
8:21am: The Trail Blazers will not exercise Luke Babbitt's fourth-year option for 2013/14, meaning he'll become an unrestricted free agent next summer, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Babbitt had been in line for a $2.9MM salary, but the Blazers will elect to gain that amount in cap flexibility instead.
Portland also holds 2013/14 options on Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith, worth $2.37MM and $1.42MM respectively. While the team still could decide to exercise one or both of those options, Haynes says they'll likely be declined as well. Turning down all three options would allow the Blazers to gain about $6.7MM in extra cap room next summer.
As we heard yesterday, the Blazers are hoping to add an accomplished veteran player in free agency next summer, and declining their three rookie-contract options will give the club the flexibility to offer a significant, eight-digit annual salary. Depending on how free agency plays out, the Blazers could still decide to bring back Babbitt, Williams, and/or Smith for the 2013/14 season.
Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey has been on the job in Portland for four and a half months, having gone through his first draft and free agency period with the team this summer. While the Blazers may not be a contender this season, Olshey is enthusiastic about the direction the roster is taking, and spoke to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune about the club's outlook. Here are a few of the highlights from Olshey:
On the trade market and whether the Blazers will get involved in deals:
"Everybody wants to feel things out for a little bit before making changes. We’re not going to make any moves that will take away long-term flexibility, unless it’s absolutely a player to add to our core. We’re not going to make incremental moves that don’t move the needle…. We took a lot of discipline to put ourselves in position where we could have a max (salary) cap slot next summer. We could be aggressive in free agency. We want to have that flexibility. We want to make big moves. We don’t want to make marginal moves."
On how next year's cap situation will influence the team's option decisions (on Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith, and Elliot Williams) this month:
"We have to look at whether or not we even need that cap room [next summer]. We’re trying to judge which players are going to be in the free-agent market. That will impact our decision as much or more than whether or not we like the three guys who have options. We like all of them. The question is, is there an opportunity cost by taking ourselves out of free agency to a certain degree if we pick up the options?"
On whether owner Paul Allen will be patient throughout Olshey's rebuilding process:
"I’m going to accelerate this as quickly as possible without sacrificing the big picture. We want to win at a high level and for it to be sustainable. We don’t want quick fixes, where we’re back to the drawing board every offseason, trying to hold on to something that’s slipping through our fingers. Paul is buying into it right now. My promise to him is we’re going to move this as fast as humanly possible with sacrificing sustainabilty."
In a lengthy insider piece at ESPN.com, Chad Ford explains why the Jazz placed fourth in ESPN's recent Future Power Rankings, a position that surprised even team GM Dennis Lindsey. "We are a long way from No. 4 right now," Lindsey said. "I can understand on the future ratings why there's reason to be optimistic — with the cap flexibility Kevin has created and the young players that we do have — but cap room doesn't win you games. Young players, almost by definition, don't win you games."
Regardless of whether ESPN's optimistic ranking is justified, Jazz fans certainly have reason to be excited about the future of the team. In fact, most of the teams in the Northwest have solid young cores. Let's take a look at some other links from the division:
- Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman gives us his two cents on the Thunder's 15th roster spot, saying that DeAndre Liggins has been the surprise of training camp and has the inside track on the final job. Marberry says Liggins' toughness has made him stand out.
- Blazers general manager Neil Olshey says that will not make a decision on whether he will the exercise options on Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams until much closer to the October 31 deadline, tweets Chris Haynes of CSN Northwest.
- Scott Brooks says that whoever plays the best will secure the Thunder's 15th roster spot, writes Royce Young of DailyThunder.com. It sounds like Brooks is comfortable enough with his top 14 to take the "best available" player that is left over. Young handicaps the potential candidates, from most to least likely: Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Andy Rautins, Hollis Thompson and longshot Walker Russell.
- Janni Carlson of the Oklahoman opines that while signing James Harden will certainly help the Thunder now, it may hinder the team's long-term future. If the Thunder choose to sign Harden and pay the luxury tax, Carlson says, they may get burned in the same fashion as other small markets have in Minnesota, Cleveland and Sacramento.
- In a lengthy feature, Candace Buckner of the Columbian highlights the relationship between George Karl and Portland head coach Terry Stotts, and how that long friendship landed Coby Karl in training camp with the Blazers.