- In a Q&A session with fans facilitated by David Pick of Basketball Insiders, Cavs coach David Blatt refrained from commenting on the fate of Andrew Wiggins or Love, but did answer plenty of other questions about Cleveland’s lineup. When asked if he felt like he had won the lottery with the return of LeBron James, Blatt said, “[GM] David Griffin has done a fabulous job building the team, and the ownership of Cleveland has proven their complete commitment to the state of Ohio and to the Cavaliers in terms of building a quality organization with a chance to achieve the maximum. I’m very lucky to be a part of that.”
- Regarding the team’s lack of rim protection, Blatt said, “Right now, we’re hoping Brendan Haywood is going to make progress coming back from his foot injury, and if he does that’ll be a big plus for our team. As far as other roster decisions, our team is in the best of hands with David Griffin.”
- A decision on the new arena that Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens want city and state governments to partially subsidize will be stalled until at least after the November gubernatorial election, reports Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Walker is also told that a public financing plan would not be up for consideration until the state legislature reconvenes in January of 2015.
Interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons will step down in a few weeks, as he tells the Fox Business Network, according to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link). The move is no surprise now that Steve Ballmer has officially taken over the franchise, since Parsons said in May shortly after the league installed him as a caretaker for the team that he had no plans of remaining with the club after its ownership situation was resolved. Parsons has been acting as a “proxy owner,” as he put it, with final authority over any decisions president of basketball operations Doc Rivers made. Here’s more from around the league:
- Multiple NBA teams had interest in bringing Yakhouba Diawara back to the league this summer, but he indicated on his Twitter account late Tuesday that he’s signing with Pallacanestro Varese of Italy (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). David Pick of Eurobasket.com confirms the news with a tweet of his own. Diawara worked out for the Raptors, Bucks and Nets over the past few months.
- This season’s minimum salary in Ivan Johnson‘s two-year contract with the Mavs is guaranteed for only $25K, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
- It appears as though the Cavs guaranteed $65K of the minimum salary for Alex Kirk this season, Pincus also tweets.
The Bucks have signed 31st overall pick Damien Inglis, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The team has yet to make an official announcement, but the move took place Tuesday, as the RealGM transactions log shows. It’s a multiyear deal, according to RealGM. Inglis probably received a three-year deal worth a shade under $1MM this season and the minimum salary in the final two seasons if he’s like many of his peers from the top of the 2014 second round, including 36th overall pick and new Bucks teammate Johnny O’Bryant.
Inglis is a native of French Guiana who spent last season playing for Chorale Roanne in France. He had a decent chance to end up as a first-round pick, since he ranked 26th in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress prospect listings and 30th with Chad Ford of ESPN.com. The 6’8″ small forward is nonetheless a raw prospect, having averaged just 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game in France this year.
The signing creates a logjam of sorts in Milwaukee, particularly if Inglis’ contract is guaranteed, as is likely the case. The team already had 14 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show, not including Kendall Marshall, who figures to be a part of the rotation on his minimum-salary pact after averaging 8.8 assists per game for the Lakers last season. The Bucks also renounced their rights to free agent Ramon Sessions, as Pincus and RealGM report, and while that doesn’t clear an additional roster spot, it’s a signal that the club is done with free agent signings this summer, save for perhaps a few training camp invitations.
Jabari Parker knows the history of second-overall pick busts in the NBA, and is determined not to be the next, writes Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports.com. The Bucks rookie said, “There’s been a lot of second pick busts. I’m just trying not to be that bust. Everyday that I step on the court, I just remind myself that I have a long ways to go. If I want to be one of those guys in the first tier of the NBA, like a LeBron [James], like a Kobe [Bryant] , like a [Blake Griffin], then I have to have that mentality starting off from the ground, and work my way up.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- The Cavs are optimistic about their chances to sign Ray Allen prior to the start of training camp, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
- With the NBA reportedly considering a change in the lottery system, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel explains why such a move would be an overreaction from Adam Silver and company.
- The Heat’s win total this season could be affected if any changes are made to the NBA Draft lottery system, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. If there is less of a reason for franchises to tank, then Miami couldn’t necessarily count on padding their record against the Sixers, Magic, and Bucks, opines Winderman.
- The selection of Michele Roberts as NBPA head was a historic one, with Roberts becoming the first female to lead a professional sports union. In an interview with Andrew Keh of The New York Times, Roberts said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the NBA; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; and she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men. To this, Roberts said, “My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”
- Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns will be a strong possibility to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft, writes Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. DraftExpress currently has Towns ranked fourth behind Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Cray Allred contributed to this post.
One of the most productive free agents who still hasn’t found a team this summer is Ramon Sessions. In fact, of the 30 point guards who scored at least 10 points per game while averaging over 4 assists, Sessions is the only player without a contract. Sessions wasn’t far off his career PER average of 16.7 last season, a number that ranks with many of the league’s better rotation players. Perhaps Sessions’ situation will look less bleak in the coming days, but at the moment there are not a lot of landing spots where Sessions could sign for at or above the $5MM annual salary he just earned on his (expired) two-year deal. As our own Chuck Myron detailed in today’s Ray Allen Stock Watch piece, the teams with much more than the veteran’s minimum to offer are dwindling.
Sessions’ skill set is an odd mix for today’s NBA. In four of his first five seasons in the league, Sessions averaged over 7 assists per-36 minutes, but that rate slipped well below 6 per-36 over his last two seasons. The point guard position is evolving from a pass-first mold, however, with unconventional scoring guards becoming more accepted. Sessions’ most glaring weakness is his poor three-point shooting, which stands at 31.1% over his career, and 28.2% last season. As the league moves away from mid-range shots to emphasize the three-pointer, teams are increasingly unenthusiastic about perimeter players with no long distance range. In fact, Charlotte traded away Sessions last season in order to bring in shooting specialist Gary Neal as the Hornets geared up for the 2014 playoffs.
One of Sessions’ greatest strengths does fit the advanced team-building strategies in today’s NBA, however. Sessions has an elite free throw rate. At 6.6 free throw attempts per-36 minutes, Sessions ranked 12th in the league last year, behind only Ty Lawson at the point guard position. Teams increasingly value trips to the charity stripe as one of the most efficient elements of a strong offense; if Sessions could convince teams he could put up even mildly below average shooting averages to go with his ability to draw fouls, I can’t imagine he’d still be unsigned today.
Charlotte trading the veteran to the Bucks blindsided Sessions, but he was still open to reuniting with the Hornets as his free agency approached this summer. The Hornets sent mixed signals as to their own interest in a reunion, but eventually signed veteran backup Brian Roberts along with Lance Stephenson, a combo guard capable of running the point to complement starter Kemba Walker. In any case, Charllote was just one of many teams that had the point guard on their radar as free agency began. One of those teams was the Bulls, but they have since re-signed Kirk Hinrich alongside newcomers Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott. Considering Derrick Rose‘s return, it would be surprising if they even wanted Sessions at the minimum now, considering the cap ramifications.
Some of the teams with cap flexibility might not be interested in upgrading their point guard slot. The Bucks haven’t been reported as interested in bringing Sessions back, and have already added the cheaper Kendall Marshall to a backcourt that includes Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters. The Jazz have two young point guards in Trey Burke and Dante Exum, but appear comfortable letting the raw Exum grow alongside Burke, rather than developing behind a veteran like Sessions. The Sixers have the most money available, and the thinnest roster, but have done nothing to bring in solid talent this offseason via free agency.
The Pacers haven’t been named as a Sessions suitor, but stand as a potential match. The team is seeking offense after losing Stephenson to free agency and Paul George to injury, and that is definitely Sessions’ strength. They are also applying for the disabled players exception, which would allow them over $5MM in signing ability if granted. The Rockets are another team without a reported connection to Sessions, but could theoretically be a good match for his talents. After trading away Jeremy Lin, Houston was left with Patrick Beverley as their only proven commodity at point guard. Beverley is a much better defender than Sessions with more success behind the arc, but Sessions has a longer track record than the likes of Ish Smith or Isaiah Canaan, Houston’s current bench pieces behind Beverley. Houston also has the flexibility to sign Sessions for significantly more than the minimum.
The Allegiant Athletic Agency client will hope that his strengths will eventually outshine his weaknesses in the eyes of a front office with money to spend. Just two years ago, the point guard was confident enough in his market value to decline a player option of over $4.5MM, and wound up getting a raise. It remains to be seen if the market will provide such a soft cushion this time around.
The minimum salaries for Khris Middleton and Draymond Green became fully guaranteed at the end of Friday when they remained on the rosters of the Bucks and Warriors, respectively, according to the salary data that Mark Deeks of ShamSports compiles. Justin Hamilton of the Heat earned a partial guarantee of $408,241 when Miami kept him through Friday, while Cavs power forward Erik Murphy wound up with a partial guarantee of $100K.
Here’s more from around the league:
- This has been a whirlwind offseason with numerous players changing teams. Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders looks at five players who will benefit most from their change of scenery.
- Brazilian big man Fab Melo is returning home to sign with Paulistano of his native country, the team announced Friday (hat tip to Sportando). The Celtics selected Melo with the 22nd pick in 2012, but the seven footer only played six games in the NBA in 2012/13 and bounced around the D-League last season after failing the make the Mavs roster in training camp.
- Former NBA player Darius Johnson-Odom has signed with Acqua Vitasnella Cantù of the Italian League, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Johnson-Odom appeared in three games for the Sixers as well as seeing stints in China and the NBA D-League last season.
- Spurs GM R.C. Buford indicated that the team and newly-extended point guard Tony Parker had a mutual interest in an agreement, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links here). “His play warranted the commitment of the organization,” Buford said. “He made a commitment to our organization, too, by doing this now and taking himself out of a free agency opportunity a year from now. It was important to him and us to capitalize off the momentum this year creates and not have to worry about it at a later date.”
- The Timberwolves aren’t willing to move Corey Brewer in any deal involving Kevin Love, reports Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press (Twitter link). Brewer is staying in Minnesota, writes Krawczynski.
Chuck Myron and Alex Lee contributed to this post.
Dwyane Wade said today that he didn’t try to recruit LeBron James back to the Heat when the two spent time together shortly before the four-time MVP announced his decision to sign with Cleveland, as Wade told reporters, including Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. James didn’t tell Wade about his decision until after their time traveling back to Miami from Las Vegas, according to Wade, but James dropped enough hints to make his choice apparent.
“We had a long flight back from Vegas,” Wade said. “I probably knew then, without him telling me at that moment. You could tell where someone’s heart is and what they’re thinking. I kind of knew at that moment. As his friend, I’m just supportive. As crazy as that might sound, I’m supportive of my friend doing what makes them happy. Obviously same thing with him in this situation. You’ve gotta do what makes you happy — selfishly do what makes you happy. The decision to go back home was that.”
There’s more from Wade amid the latest from the Eastern Conference:
- Wade also said that he wanted to be with a winning team more than he wanted the money he sacrificed when he opted out of his contract and re-signed with the Heat on a discount deal, as Lieser notes. Wade is convinced that the total of $10.694MM over the next two seasons that the transactions cost him gives Miami a better chance at success. (Twitter links).
- Greg Monroe‘s interest in returning to the Pistons isn’t too strong, but while Detroit talked with the Hawks and perhaps the Suns about sign-and-trades involving him, those teams have moved on, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports told podcaster Aime Mukendi Jr. Buddy Grizzard of Hawks/Hoop provides the transcription.
- The Bucks gave second-round pick Johnny O’Bryant $600K in the first year of an otherwise minimum-salary contract, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Milwaukee used part of its cap space to complete the deal with this year’s 36th overall pick.
We are well acclimated to claims of “rebuilding” being met with charges of “tanking” when teams aggressively clear veteran salary and acquire assets while plummeting to the bottom of the standings. However you view teams that go into win-later mode, the reality is that many franchises are convinced that the method is the best bet to build a long-term winner.
I’ve summarized the moves for each team that won 25 games or fewer last season. This excludes the Lakers and Kings, teams in the Western Conference with recent records and expectations that typify a rebuild, but front offices using the free agent and trade markets to gain older, more expensive talent in ways that defy a standard rebuild.
- Orlando: The Magic began the offseason by trading away their best veteran piece in Arron Afflalo, the kind of move typical for a team doubling down on rebuilding efforts. However, they have since added veteran free agents Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, and Luke Ridnour, all of whom could be more productive as starters then their younger positional counterparts in Orlando. The Magic also added lottery picks in point guard Elfrid Payton and power forward Aaron Gordon to their young core of Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris. Orlando owns all of its future first-round draft picks, and is owed many second rounders in the next few years. Head coach Jacque Vaughn is the longest tenured among these teams, entering just his third season on the bench.
- Milwaukee: The new Bucks owners are resigned to a rebuild that will take years to complete, but the team didn’t arrive in this position by design. Milwaukee followed up a playoff berth in 2013 with moves meant to maintain competitiveness, but injuries and poor performance sunk them last season. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo, selected outside of the lottery by the Bucks last year, has proven to be a talent more in line with the top tier of the draft. They added phenom Jabari Parker with this year’s No. 2 pick, as well as head coach Jason Kidd after his unceremonious departure from Brooklyn. The first year of Larry Sanders‘ four-year, $44MM contract kicks in this season, and the team is also locked into pricey contracts with Ersan Ilyasova, O.J. Mayo, and Zaza Pachulia for at least the next two seasons. The Bucks have made modest backcourt additions in Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall this offseason. Milwaukee owns all of its future first-round draft picks, and is owed many second rounders in the next few years.
- Philadelphia: Largely viewed as the most calculated tanker in the league, the Sixers haven’t done much to sway that notion this summer, including putting up resistance to a proposed rules change that would decrease the odds that the very worst teams land the No. 1 draft pick. Philadelphia is still below the salary floor for 2014/15, and has yet to sign a free agent despite having a roster that many view as heavy on D-League talent and light on true NBA-caliber players. A year after acquiring Nerlens Noel in a draft-night trade, GM Sam Hinkie drafted two players that the team doesn’t count on seeing on the court this season in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. The team made a shrewd deal in acquiring Saric, regaining control of its first-round pick in the 2017 draft from the Magic, who received Payton, the Sixers original No. 10 pick. Michael Carter-Williams just won rookie of the year, but Thaddeus Young could still be moved to facilitate a Kevin Love trade and gain Philadelphia even more assets. Brett Brown had little to smile about in his first year as a head coach outside of the team’s surprise 3-0 start, but is a believer in the team’s intentional process. The Sixers will owe their 2015 first-round pick to the Celtics if it falls outside the top 14–a seeming impossibility–but otherwise will convey two second-round picks to Boston, of which they have an abundance.
- Boston: Celtics GM Danny Ainge has preached patience, but there have been plenty of rumblings about his eagerness to jumpstart Boston’s rebuilding efforts with a blockbuster deal, the loudest of which surround Kevin Love. So far, Ainge has been forced to stay the course, with a modest free agency period (Bayless and Kris Humpries leaving, Evan Turner arriving, Avery Bradley remaining) bolstered by the additions of No. 6 pick Marcus Smart and No. 17 selection James Young. The team also took on more salary burdens in deals for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller that netted them more future assets. The team is on track to free up cap room in 2015 and 2016, and Rajon Rondo‘s free agency next summer will play a crucial part in where the team is headed, and how fast. Brad Stevens is another sophomore coach that signed up expecting a long-term process requiring patience. The Celtics own all of their first-round picks, and will receive up to six extra first rounders from other teams through 2018.
- Utah: The Jazz retained Gordon Hayward this summer, and the 24-year-old projects to be the team’s oldest starter. Utah drafted point guard Dante Exum to play alongside Trey Burke and Alec Burks in a young, developing backcourt. The team let Marvin Williams leave as a free agent, and brought in veteran forwards in Steve Novak and Trevor Booker via the trade and free agent market, respectively. The Jazz let former twin towers Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk as free agents prior to the 2013/14 season to make way for their young frontcourt pieces in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who have showed promise but have yet to excel as a post tandem. The team hired new coach Quin Snyder from the Spurs coaching tree, and will hope the rookie coach can bring some of the San Antonio magic to Salt Lake City. The Jazz own all of their picks moving forward, and are owed one first rounder and seven second rounders through 2018.
Which team do you think is closest to seeing the fruits of their rebuild? A team like the Magic would appear to be moving forward more aggressively than the ultra-methodical Sixers, but an impatient shortcut to team improvement could end up stalling a team’s ultimate resurgence. Meanwhile, a team like Boston appears more likely to turn their assets into star players, but until they do, there is less to be excited about from their developing roster than some of the other clubs.
Weigh in with your vote, and state your case in the comments.
The Bucks might not win a lot of games next season, but there are still intriguing storylines in Milwaukee. Jabari Parker‘s play as a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s continued development (including ball handling, as the “Greek Freak” spent time at the point in Summer League), and how new coach Jason Kidd handles a young and athletic roster will all be interesting factors to watch. Here’s a rundown of Bucks notes:
- Jerryd Bayless‘ two-year, $6MM contract with the Bucks is fully guaranteed, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
- Bayless’ decision to sign with Milwaukee was largely influenced by the presence of Kidd, one of the best point guards in league history, he tells Rich Rovito of The Associated Press. “The thing that was most intriguing was Kidd,” Bayless said. “He can help me in a variety of different ways. There aren’t a lot of guys like him that come around.”
- The Bucks renounced their rights to Ekpe Udoh and Marquis Daniels earlier this week, tweets Pincus. Removing those cap holds, in conjunction with their signings of Bayless and rookie Johnny O’Bryant, leave the team nearly $7MM under the salary cap, as Pincus details in his updated salary sheet for Milwaukee.
- Greg Foster has left the Sixers assistant coaching staff to join Milwaukee as their second assistant, tweets Bob Cooney of Philadelphia Daily News, confirming an earlier report by Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers (on Twitter) of Foster’s move.
THURSDAY, 5:35pm: The final year of O’Bryant’s contract is actually non-guaranteed salary, rather than a team option, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
6:40pm: O’Bryant’s deal is for three years, with the third year being a team option, reports Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
WEDNESDAY, 5:02pm: The Bucks have signed Johnny O’Bryant, the 36th pick in this year’s draft, the team announced. Exact terms of the contract were not announced. He’ll compete for playing time with Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson, though O’Bryant seems destined to spend significant time in the NBA D-League this season to help him develop.
The 6’9″ power forward had appeared in five games for the Bucks during Summer League play in Las Vegas, where he averaged 8.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per contest. He saved his best game for last, when he posted 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors Summer League entry.
O’Bryant played for three seasons at LSU, where he averaged 12.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 1.3 APG for his career. He earned First Team All-SEC honors in 2013 and 2014.