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Offseason In Review

Offseason In Review: Washington Wizards

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Washington Wizards.

Free agent signings:

Draft-and-stash signings:

Camp invitees:


  • Acquired Trey Burke from the Jazz in exchange for the Wizards’ own 2021 second-round pick.

Draft picks:

  • None

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Washington Wizards right here.

The Wizards spent the last few years preparing for the summer of 2016. Every transaction was scrupulously completed with future flexibility in mind, as the team had an eye toward offering Maryland native Kevin Durant a maximum salary deal. Durant didn’t even take a meeting with Washington, opting to join forces with the Warriors instead. In addition to striking out on Durant, Washington also missed out on other major targets, such as Al Horford and Ryan Anderson. The franchise quickly pivoted to other options and ultimately ended up exhausting its cap space on ancillary parts.NBA: Washington Wizards-Media Day

Ian Mahinmi, who signed a four year, $64MM deal with the team, was brought in to be a force in the paint. Mahinmi has always been known for his defense — he was the third-best center on that end of the floor, according to ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus — but he’s been quietly improving his offensive game as well. He allowed Indiana to play a pace-and-space type offense because of his understanding of the game and his ability to quickly make the right reads and deliver crisp, clean passes. New coach Scott Brooks, who signed a five year, $35MM contract with the team this offseason, should be able to employ a similar game plan with pick-and-rolls mixed in.

Mahinmi’s arrival brought speculation that Marcin Gortat could be on his way out, though a torn meniscus suffered by Mahinmi has temporarily quieted that talk. The two centers shouldn’t see too much court time together because of their overlapping skill-set, including a relative lack of shooting range. Playing the duo together would severely clog the lane, and with only 48 minutes available for the five spot, it’s logical to conclude that a trade may be forthcoming. Gortat has proven to be the better player thus far, but he’s on a team-friendly contract that will pay him $36MM over the next three years. He would fetch more for Washington in a trade should the team decide to make a move.

The Wizards’ other offseason moves also suggest they may be gearing up for a Gortat trade. In addition to Mahinmi, the team signed Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson. In today’s NBA, Smith and Nicholson are best suited to play the five as well, though both players can handle minutes at the power forward position.

Nicholson is an especially intriguing addition — he’s a bruiser down in the paint with an arsenal of post moves, whose game fits nicely with both Mahinmi and Gortat. I envision him getting some playing time alongside Markieff Morris as well. Washington’s frontcourt is crowded, especially with Otto Porter splitting time at the four with Morris. The Wizards’ depth affords them the ability to deal Gortat for a guard or wing, but the league is jam-packed with non-shooting big men, so finding a suitor will be tricky.

Depth in the backcourt is another story. The team signed Tomas Satoransky  and traded for Trey Burke, yet neither option is proven. Burke didn’t live up to expectations in Utah, so the Wizards will be banking on an improvement from the 23-year-old. His development, along with Satoransky’s transition to the league, could be key to the team’s success this season.

Washington also brought in Marcus Thornton to round out the guard rotation and he should see significant minutes off the bench. The lack of quality perimeter options on the second unit is alarming for a team that has injury concerns with both of its starting guards.

Bradley Beal is fresh off landing a five-year, maximum salary contract, and the Wizards will need him to stay on the court if they’re going to climb the standings in the Eastern Conference. Beal has missed 81 regular season games over the first four years of his career and prior to him signing his lucrative new deal, there was talk that he could be under minute restrictions for the rest of his career due to health concerns. Meanwhile, John Wall underwent multiple knee surgeries over the summer, though he looked sharp in limited minutes during the preseason. If either player misses significant time this season, Washington will struggle to stay in the playoff race.

The Wizards underperformed last season, failing to make the playoffs and notching only 41 wins. This year, they’ll have an opportunity to steal the division crown, since every team in the Southeast is undergoing some degree of transformation: Miami will begin the season without any member of The Heatles for the first time since the 2002/03 campaign; the Hawks will attempt to shoehorn Dwight Howard into their pace-and-space system; the Magic bolstered their frontcourt, but it remains to be seen how the new arrivals will mesh; and the Hornets enjoyed career years from several key players last season, which resulted in them losing a few of their valuable reserves in free agency.

The Southeast division will be up for grabs and while the Wizards didn’t land a top free agent during the offseason, a top seed in the Eastern Conference standings is within their reach.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: San Antonio Spurs

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the San Antonio Spurs.

Free agent signings:

Draft-and-stash signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the San Antonio Spurs right here.

Over the course of the last 19 NBA seasons, the Spurs won fewer than 50 games just once, and that happened during the strike-shortened 1998/99 campaign, when the team went 37-13 and won the NBA Finals. San Antonio compiled an incredible .710 regular-season winning percentage during that run of nearly two decades, as well as a staggering .617 postseason winning percentage, racking up five championships along the way."Gregg

The two constants during that 19-year run? Gregg Popovich on the bench and Tim Duncan in the middle. Popovich remains at the helm of the Spurs, but for the first time since the 1996/97 season, he’ll enter opening night without his future Hall-of-Fame power forward in the lineup, as Duncan announced his retirement in July.

For many years, the belief was that Duncan and Popovich would end their respective careers at the same time, but for the Spurs’ long-time head coach, there are plenty of reasons to stick around. Many of his other long-tenured players, like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, remain in San Antonio, and the team has ushered in a new era of stars, with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge now front and center. Things will certainly be different with Duncan no longer on the court, but in his final season, he was simply a productive role player, rather than the dominant force he had been during the prime of his career.

The Spurs will attempt to fill the void left by Duncan by turning to veteran free agent signees like Pau Gasol and David Lee, who each inked two-year deals with player options on that second year. Neither Gasol nor Lee is the defender that Duncan is, but both players are proficient scorers. Gasol is coming off consecutive All-Star seasons in Chicago, where he averaged 17.6 PPG and 11.4 RPG during his two seasons as a Bull. Lee, meanwhile, has seen his playing time and production decline significantly since 2014, and his days as an 18+ PPG player are almost certainly over, but if there’s any team capable of coaxing a bounce-back performance out of the 33-year-old, it’s the Spurs.

Gasol will earn more than $15MM annually on his two-year deal, making him a bigger risk than Lee, who is on a minimum-salary pact. But even at age 36, Pau has shown few signs of slowing down, and playing in San Antonio should be a nice fit for him, given his strong passing ability and basketball IQ. Marc Gasol agrees, having suggested back in April that his brother should sign with the Spurs.

While Gasol and Lee should provide the Spurs with some additional scoring punch on the inside, Dewayne Dedmon was signed – using the room exception – to help improve the team’s rim protection and defense. Dedmon only averaged about 13.2 minutes per game in Orlando over the last two seasons, but the Magic’s defensive rating was better when he was on the floor, particularly in 2014/15.

The Spurs’ new big men will team up with Aldridge to present a much different look than the Spurs showed last season. Along with Duncan, Boban Marjanovic and David West are also gone, having signed free agent deals with the Pistons and Warriors, respectively. Meanwhile, Boris Diaw was traded to the Jazz in a move designed to clear the cap room necessary to add Gasol, and longtime Spurs sharpshooter Matt Bonner remains unsigned.

For a franchise that generally thrived on continuity, the frontcourt overhaul is an interesting one. Aldridge will likely be relied upon as the stabilizing presence up front, but there have been some questions about his place in San Antonio this fall. Recent reports have suggested that the Spurs may be open to the idea of trading Aldridge at some point in 2016/17, with multiple journalists indicating that the former Blazer may not be thrilled about the fact that he has become Leonard’s wingman after previously believing he’d be the Spurs’ primary option going forward.

For his part, Aldridge has insisted that he’s happy in San Antonio, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be true. After all, even after winning 50+ games every season for nearly two decades, the Spurs had never won as many games as they did in 2015/16 — they racked up 67 victories in Aldridge’s first season with the franchise.

By all accounts, the Spurs intend to move forward with Aldridge as a core piece, and would only even consider shaking things up if they significantly under-performed or if the relationship between the two sides takes a turn for the worse. That seems like the right call, since Aldridge’s on-court contributions would be hard to replace, even for a team as savvy at spotting value as the Spurs.

San Antonio’s knack for finding value surfaced again during this year’s draft, when the team landed Washington guard Dejounte Murray with the 29th overall pick. Viewed by some experts before the draft as a potential lottery pick, Murray was dubbed the steal of the night by ESPN’s Chad Ford, who gave the Spurs an A+ grade based on their lone 2016 selection.

The Washington product is still just 20 years old, and will probably need to improve his shooting to become a regular rotation player for the Spurs. Still, San Antonio has the luxury of bringing Murray along slowly rather than throwing him right into the fire, allowing him to develop and learn from players like Parker and Ginobili, who have eight All-Star appearances between them. The club has taken that approach with players like Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson, who appear poised to take on larger roles in 2016/17.

It’s certainly possible – even likely – that the Spurs will see their win total slip a little this season, but with the exception of the Warriors, no other Western Conference contenders took a major step forward this offseason. In fact, the Thunder, who defeated the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs last spring, took a huge step backward, having lost former MVP Kevin Durant. There may be some growing pains as this summer’s new acquisitions – both young and old – adjust to their roles, and longtime Spurs like Parker and Ginobili adjust to life without Duncan. But with Leonard and Aldridge leading the way, the Spurs should be a top-four team in the West, and they appear well-positioned to remain a contender for the next several years.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: New Orleans Pelicans

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the New Orleans Pelicans.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 1-6: Buddy Hield. Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-33: Cheick Diallo. Signed for three years, minimum salary. Third year partially guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the New Orleans Pelicans right here.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Media DayThe Pelicans’ 2015/16 campaign was a brutal one, with the team’s players missing a total of 351 games due to illness or injury. That was the most in the past six NBA seasons and second-most in the past decade, resulting in the franchise using 42 different starting lineups. There aren’t many teams that could weather that sort of personnel strife, so it’s no surprise that New Orleans only won 30 games, finishing 12th in the Western Conference. The franchise entered the offseason with a number of decisions to make regarding the future, needing to do its best to maximize the talents of its young star Anthony Davis. and to surround him with the players necessary to achieve that goal.

New Orleans allowed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to leave in free agency, with both players ending up in Houston, and added the likes of Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones. On paper, the Pelicans look worse on offense, with the loss of their two best three-point shooters in Gordon and Anderson. However, the team should improve on the defensive end thanks to the presence of Hill and Moore. It shouldn’t take much for the Pelicans to make strides in that area, given that they ended last season ranked 28th overall in the league in defensive efficiency, surrendering a whopping 107.3 points per 100 possessions. The only two squads that were more porous were the Nets and Lakers.

Despite the loss of production from Anderson and Gordon, allowing them to depart was a wise move on the organization’s part. Anderson will be missed the most, as his skillset is perfect for the direction the NBA is headed regarding how big men are used. But the 28-year-old has only averaged 60 games per season over the course of his career, and he isn’t likely to grow more durable as he enters his 30s. Committing $20MM+ per season over four years would not have been a prudent move. Gordon has been even more brittle since entering the league, averaging just 52 contests each season.

The team’s biggest external offseason move was inking Hill to a four-year, $48MM pact. I have to question the logic of New Orleans handing Hill a long-term deal with an average annual value of $12MM per season given his track record. The 26-year-old’s best season came in 2014/15, when he averaged 8.9 points and 3.8 rebounds over 82 appearances for the Pacers. Last season, his minutes were sliced in half and he notched 4.2 PPG and 2.8 RPG in just 14.7 minutes per outing while connecting on 44.7% of his shots overall and 32.4% from beyond the arc. While he did provide a spark in small stretches for Indiana in 2015/16, his addition isn’t something to get too excited over. Even in this new era of the expanded salary cap, this is a contract that has an extremely high probability of backfiring for the franchise. The Jazz, Grizzlies, Mavs and Bulls were all reportedly interested in Hill this summer, but I’m still surprised he was able to parlay a strong playoff showing into this contract.

I’m a bit more enthusiastic about the addition of Moore, who will never be a star in the league, but is a valuable rotation piece who can do a number of things well. He can play either guard spot, is a solid perimeter defender and can be effective shooting the ball from the outside. Moore’s versatility will serve the Pelicans well, especially with the constant injury concerns the team seems to have, and he’ll make a fine mentor for 2016 lottery pick Buddy Hield. While I don’t necessarily like New Orleans giving him a four year pact, especially considering he has averaged just 57.5 games the past two seasons for the Bulls, I’d bet on Moore providing more value over the course of his deal than Hill will.

The two signings the Pelicans made that I like without any reservations are the additions of Langston Galloway (two years, $10.634MM) and Terrence Jones (one year, $980,431). Both deals carry very little risk and could pay off for the franchise. Galloway is a versatile player who can play multiple positions and provide solid depth for the team. He’s averaged 9.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 2.8 APG in his two seasons in the league, and at 24 years of age, still has quite a bit of upside. He needs to improve his shooting, connecting on just 39.6% of his field goal attempts for his career, but he’s a hard-worker and solid locker room presence who will strengthen the team’s culture.

As for Jones, he desperately needed a change of scenery after never living up to his potential during his four seasons in Houston. He should garner more consistent playing time in New Orleans and could blossom into a solid rotational piece for the franchise. He’s still a tweener without a defined position, with his outside shooting not necessarily making him a good fit as a stretch-four in a smaller lineup. But the 24-year-old should be plenty motivated to prove he belongs in the league this season, and there is absolutely no risk for the Pelicans in giving him a shot on a minimum salary deal. I expect a bounce back campaign from the former first-rounder as he is playing for his next contract, and perhaps, his NBA career.

Given its multiple roster holes, New Orleans needed a strong showing on draft night to have some hope for a turnaround. The team did extremely well, nabbing Hield with the No. 6 overall pick and acquiring the draft rights to Cheick Diallo (No. 33). Hield was one of the top players in college last season and he fits the Pelicans’ roster perfectly. His outside shooting is sorely needed with the losses of Anderson and Gordon, and he’s a player who can pair with Davis to form a solid young core for the franchise. Hield doesn’t arrive without question marks, as there is concern among some scouts regarding his defense and ability to create his own shot at the NBA level. I’m a big fan of Hield and believe he will become a star in New Orleans. Snagging Diallo, who was a projected first-rounder in a number of mock drafts was a solid move. He is incredibly raw, but given his athleticism, high-motor and upside, the Pelicans landed an intriguing piece for the future.

Of course, the fate of the Pelicans rests on the shoulders (or knees, feet and ankles) of Davis, who is still under contract for four more seasons beyond this one. The big man’s future earnings took a bit of a hit this past season, thanks to him not being named to the All-NBA third team. As a result, the Derrick Rose Rule won’t apply to his max extension, costing him an extra $20MM+ over the life of his contract. The franchise needs to surround him with solid talent before Davis begins to get frustrated by all the losses and perhaps starts to contemplate heading elsewhere. It would also help the team’s fortunes immensely if the 23-year-old can remain healthy, with Davis missing an average of 17 games per season since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.

The Pelicans aren’t off to a great start in 2016/17, with Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter expected to be out of action until mid-December, Jrue Holiday out indefinitely due to family reasons and Davis already nursing a sprained ankle. Despite all that, it is difficult to imagine the team being hit as hard by injuries as it was in 2015/16. By virtue of that alone the team should be more competitive this season. Plus, the new additions should provide coach Alvin Gentry with greater flexibility to weather those losses and implement a system that will take advantage of his roster’s strengths. I don’t expect the Pelicans to make the playoffs this season, especially with the loss of scoring this offseason. But the franchise appears headed in a better direction than a season ago, though the contracts of Hill and Moore may prove to be problematic in the coming years.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Houston Rockets

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Houston Rockets.

Free agent signings:

Pending restricted free agents:

Camp invitees:

Contract extensions:

  • James Harden: Four years, $117.965MM. Extension gave him a raise to the maximum salary for 2016/17 and added two extra years to his contract, including a fourth year player option.


Draft picks:

  • 2-37: Chinanu Onuaku. Signed for three years, minimum salary. Fully guaranteed.
  • 2-43: Zhou Qi. Will play overseas.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Houston Rockets right here.

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Houston RocketsIt’s easy to forget, considering all the changes the franchise has made over the past year, that the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals in 2015. They were considered one of the elite teams at this time last year but their season fell apart quickly after a slow start. Right now, it’s difficult to say whether their current roster is any better than the dysfunctional group that finished .500 and barely qualified for the playoffs last season.

When all the smoke cleared this summer, the new-look Rockets headed into training camp with two clearcut leaders: franchise player James Harden and coach Mike D’Antoni. The Rockets made a long-term commitment to Harden, despite his quirky personality and questionable desire to play defense, by restructuring and extending his contract for four years and $118MM.

The disconnect between Harden and the team’s other superstar, Dwight Howard, was evident last season but with Howard out of the picture, Harden is embracing the leadership role. He organized mini-camps and workouts with some of his teammates prior to training camp. “Just trying to shake things up, just trying to make sure we really know each other in and out on and off the court,” he said. “I think that will translate to a better team.”

Harden’s 29.0 scoring average last year was second only to the 30.1 averaged posted by Stephen Curry and he could be even more dangerous under offensive guru D’Antoni. The Rockets pursued a number of high-profile candidates to replace interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over after the early-season firing of Kevin McHale. They settled on the former Suns, Knicks and Lakers coach, who will put the ball in Harden’s hands as much as possible.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski believes D’Antoni’s scheme perfectly suits Harden’s skills. “When you have plays and reads, it’s the best combination,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s especially good if you have a special player, and they do in James. It will be interesting to see how that develops because James is not just a really good scorer; James is a heck of a passer.”

Howard wore out his welcome in Houston and the front office gladly let him walk after he opted out of the final year of his contract. What the franchise did in free agency was both intriguing and risky.

The Rockets handed generous contracts to two oft-injured players. Power forward Ryan Anderson inked a colossal four-year, $80MM deal and guard Eric Gordon received a four-year, $52.9MM commitment. Anderson seems like a great fit as the stretch four in D’Antoni’s free-flowing attack. The biggest drawback is that Anderson has only once played more than 66 games during his eight-year career because of various ailments.

Compared to Gordon, Anderson is an iron man. His balky knees limited him to 221 games in five seasons with the Pelicans. When he’s on the court, Gordon is a solid, aggressive scorer and 3-point shooter. The pressure on the Rockets’ medical staff to have Gordon wearing a uniform instead of a suit on game nights.

Harden could see a lot of time at the point with Gordon at shooting guard, particularly with Patrick Beverley experiencing knee issues in camp that may require surgery. The Rockets do have some other options at the point, despite renouncing their rights to Jason Terry as well as forwards Terrence Jones and Josh Smith at the start of free agency. Pablo Prigioni was re-signed to a partially-guaranteed contract and Tyler Ennis was acquired from the Bucks in exchange for forward Michael Beasley.

The Rockets also added depth at center behind new starter Clint Capela by signing another player with a long injury history, 34-year-old Nene Hilario, to a one-year contract.

With Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer signed through the 2017/18 season, the Rockets didn’t feel the need to tinker with their small forward position.

They could add more depth at power forward, depending upon how the Donatas Motiejunas saga plays out.

Motiejunas remains the last retricted free agent on the market but long-term concerns over his back have virtually destroyed his bargaining power. The Pistons rescinded a trade for him last winter after their medical personnel examined Motiejunas.

Houston made a qualifying offer to Motiejunas, which expired at the beginning of this month. However, that only strengthens the Rockets’ position. They still have the right of first refusal and Motiejunas no longer has the safety net of signing that one-year QO, which would have allowed him become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Houston didn’t have a first-round pick in the draft and the remainder of its training-camp roster mainly consists of rookies and marginal players trying to make the team.

Undoubtedly, the Rockets should be fun to watch, with Harden leading a quick-paced attack that might lead the league in scoring. But the Rockets finished fourth in that category last year despite all the chemistry issues.

The big challenge is whether the Rockets will defend well enough to become a true contender again. They were 25th in points allowed and 19th in defensive field-goal percentage. They also finished at the bottom in defensive rebounding percentage last season despite the presence of Howard.

Can they protect the rim well enough with the duo of Capela and Anderson, as well as improve their defensive rebounding to get their high-powered offense in gear? Those are questions that will only be resolved as the season moves along.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Memphis Grizzlies

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Free agent signings:

  • Mike Conley: Five years, $152.608MM. Maximum salary contract. Fifth year partially guaranteed.
  • Chandler Parsons: Four years, $94.439MM. Maximum salary contract.
  • Troy Daniels: Three years, $10MM. Sign-and-trade deal with Hornets.
  • James Ennis: Two years, $5.926MM.

Draft-and-stash signings:

Camp invitees:


  • Acquired the draft rights to Deyonta Davis (No. 31 pick) and the draft rights to Rade Zagorac (No. 35 pick) from the Celtics in exchange for Clippers’ 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected).
  • Acquired Troy Daniels (sign-and-trade) from the Hornets in exchange for cash.

Draft picks:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Memphis Grizzlies right here.

As the list of recent NBA Finals winners shows, star power is a key ingredient for most championship teams. The last 12 NBA champs are littered with All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers, including Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, and Stephen Curry. Finding those star players, and accumulating two or three of them on one roster, can be difficult, but once a team lands them, it’s worth paying a premium to keep them — depth and roster gaps can be filled on the cheap.Chandler Parsons vertical

On the surface, the Grizzlies’ offseason resembles the kind of summer a star-studded championship contender would have as it gears up for a title run — with one maximum-salary All-Star already on the roster, Memphis locked up another one of its starters to the biggest contract in NBA history, and signed another free agent to a max deal of his own. The league’s growing salary cap means that the Grizzlies’ three max contracts don’t soak up all of the team’s cap room, like they would have a year or two ago, but the money committed to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Chandler Parsons is significant, and signals that the club views the trio as its core pieces going forward.

While Gasol, Conley, and Parsons are certainly above-average NBA starters, the Grizzlies’ Big Three isn’t exactly comparable to that of the Heat circa 2010. We’ll start with Conley, who has never made an All-Star team, but has been a steady and productive second-tier point guard in the Western Conference over the last several years, behind a top tier led by Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Since Memphis held Conley’s Bird rights, retaining him was a key component of the team’s offseason, but the price to do so was awfully high. No NBA player has ever signed for more than the $152.608MM Conley will receive over the life of his five-year deal.

The Grizzlies were victimized by bad timing when it came to Conley’s free agency. Other suitors, including the division-rival Mavericks, were ready to offer the veteran point guard a maximum-salary contract of their own, so Memphis had little choice but to put max money on the table. After Conley, the best unrestricted free agent point guards of 2016 were players like Jeremy Lin, Rajon Rondo, and D.J. Augustin, so if the Grizzlies had let Conley walk, the team would have been looking at a major downgrade at the position, and wouldn’t have been able to fully maximize its cap room. Still, Conley is entering his age-29 season and has never averaged more than 17.2 PPG or 6.5 APG in a season. It’s reasonable for Grizzlies fans to be a little uneasy about his new contract.

Around the same time the Grizzlies secured Conley, the team was also finalizing a max contract for former Maverick Parsons, another player who has never made an All-Star team. You could make the argument that the Grizzlies would be mismanaging an asset by losing it for nothing if they’d let Conley go, but that wasn’t the case for Parsons, whom the team used most of its remaining cap room to sign. The veteran forward, who turns 28 later this month, is a talented sharpshooter, but he has yet to truly break out, and has been limited by injuries in recent years. Having undergone knee surgery in March, Parsons has yet to make his preseason debut for the Grizzlies, and may not be ready for the club’s regular-season opener.

If Parsons were still 23 or 24 years old, it would be easier to be optimistic about his chances of getting 100% healthy and putting it all together for two or three solid years with the Grizzlies. But he’s entering his sixth NBA season, and there are major questions about whether he’ll live up to his new deal.

The question marks surrounding Parsons’ health also relate to broader concerns about the Grizzlies’ roster. Conley finished the 2015/16 season on the shelf with an Achilles injury, and Gasol – who is returning from a broken foot – suffered a bone bruise during the preseason. Memphis can certainly still contend for the playoffs if one of the club’s top players is sidelined for a month or two, but for the team to reach its full potential, Conley, Parsons, and Gasol need to play 70+ games apiece. The odds of that happening don’t seem great at this point.

With most of their cap room committed to their top three players, the Grizzlies got a little creative to add depth, particularly in the backcourt. The club acquired Troy Daniels in a sign-and-trade deal, brought over draft-and-stash prospect Andrew Harrison, used its room exception to sign James Ennis, and drafted Wade Baldwin and Deyonta Davis.

Not all of those players will be ready to contribute immediately, which could complicate matters at point guard. The Grizzlies signed, but waived, Tony Wroten, leaving Baldwin and Harrison to battle for the right to back up Conley. The team has no other viable point guard options, so if the youngsters aren’t ready, or if Conley misses any time, another veteran addition will probably be necessary. For the most part though, Memphis did well with its limited leftover cap flexibility to add promising young players capable of taking on greater roles as the season progresses.

New head coach David Fizdale will be tasked with helping to develop those talented young newcomers, and while a coach’s first offseason and preseason don’t tell us a whole lot, the Grizzlies appear to like what they have in Fizdale. The former Heat assistant received rave reviews from his players in Miami, and reportedly made a strong first impression in Memphis. Although he’s a first-time head coach, Fizdale indicated he wasn’t interested in leading a franchise through a rebuilding process, and expressed a desire to take the Grizzlies “from good to great.”

One of Fizdale’s first moves has been to move veteran big man Zach Randolph from the starting lineup to the bench, with JaMychal Green taking over as Memphis’ starting power forward. Replacing one of the longest-tenured Grizzlies with a third-year player on a non-guaranteed contract is a bold move, but one that makes sense. Green won’t be asked to do too much as a starter, with Conley, Parsons, and Gasol prepared to handle the offensive load, while Randolph will add some much-needed scoring punch to the club’s second unit.

Of course, Randolph’s role may remain flexible once the season gets underway — having him play off the bench is a move that could be easily undone. The same can’t be said for the Conley and Parsons contracts, which combine to total nearly $250MM. If the Grizzlies’ high-priced gamble that Conley and Parsons are max-salary players pays off, they should vie for a top-four spot in the West and would be one of the top challengers to the Warriors in the postseason. But if the team’s standout players continue to battle health problems and don’t live up to those big-money deals, Fizdale could be in for a major challenge during his first year in Memphis.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Dallas Mavericks

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Dallas Mavericks.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 2-46: A.J. Hammons: Signed for three years, $2.606MM. Fully guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Dallas Mavericks right here.

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans PelicansAlways a bridesmaid and never the bride.” That classic phrase sums up what the Mavericks’ offseasons have become the past few years. In 2013, the team set its sights on Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, a year when both were still highly sought after free agents, only to end up with Monta Ellis. In 2015 the franchise let Tyson Chandler depart (for the second time) and targeted DeAndre Jordan, only to have the big man switch gears and after a bizarre psuedo-standoff at his home, rejoin the Clippers. Instead, the Mavs ended up signing Zaza Pachulia. This past summer, Mark Cuban and company had designs on signing Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, but instead ended up with Harrison Barnes. Notice a disturbing trend here?

One could easily argue that the Warriors’ signing of Kevin Durant ultimately saved Dallas from having an absolutely disastrous summer. If KD doesn’t join the Warriors, Golden State has no reason to let Barnes leave as a free agent or to trade Andrew Bogut, and the Mavs would have been left high and dry as a result of overreaching for players who had no intention of joining the team. While the Bogut acquisition was a solid move for the club, perhaps it may have been better to bottom out for a year rather than fork over the exorbitant contract that the team gave to Barnes.

Dallas essentially chose Barnes over Chandler Parsons, who signed with the Grizzlies this offseason. Given Parsons’ injury woes, I don’t knock the Mavs for balking at offering him a maximum salary contract, but committing that amount of money to Barnes is just as big of a risk. Barnes has been a solid rotational piece for the Warriors throughout his first four NBA seasons, shooting 37.6% on three-pointers and averaging double-digits in points for his career. However, he was inconsistent in the playoffs this past season, no-showing in some key games down the stretch for Golden State. In the 2016 NBA Finals, Barnes shot just 35.2% from the floor, including 31.0% from three-point range, and many of those misses were uncontested shots. Now he’s going to be the focal point of Dallas’ rebuilding plan and have the weight of needing to live up to his contract on his shoulders.

If Parsons wasn’t worthy of this level of investment, I’m not sure how Barnes is. Granted, his numbers should see an uptick based on increased playing time and coach Rick Carlisle‘s ability to squeeze production out of his players, but it is extremely unlikely that the 24-year-old will perform to the level his contract. Adding him seems reactionary on the part of Dallas, with the team needing to do something over the summer to try and change up the formula. I like Barnes as a third-option on a playoff team, but not as one of its primary building blocks, which is what earning $22MM-$25MM per season over the course of his contract forces him to be.

As I previously mentioned, I’m a fan of the team’s acquisition of Bogut for the low cost of a protected second-rounder in what was a clear salary dump for the Warriors. The 31-year-old is an injury risk, but with just one year remaining on his current deal at the very reasonable rate of $11,027,027 for 2016/17, this one could pay off big for Dallas. The Mavs have had a gaping hole in the middle since Chandler departed, and Bogut’s defense, grit and rebounding are all welcome additions. Coupled with the arrival of Barnes, who is a defensive upgrade over Parsons, and a healthy Wesley Matthews, the team should be much improved on that end of the court.

The rest of the Mavs’ offseason signings were solid, if unspectacular. Given the lack of options, re-signing Deron Williams for one-year, $9MM was a decent move. Williams is no longer the star player he was during his time with the Jazz, which seems like a lot longer than six seasons ago, but his 2015/16 numbers of 14.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 5.8 APG to go along with a shooting line of .414/.344/.869 are worth keeping him around on this low-risk pact. However, I’m not as bullish on re-signing Dwight Powell to a four-year, $37.27MM deal. Giving that level of commitment to a player who has been as inconsistent as Powell has been is a risky move that could hamper the team in future offseasons. The 25-year-old has struggled to remain healthy during his brief time in the league and he doesn’t quite fit the mold of where the league is headed regarding how big men are utilized.

One signing that I am excited about for the Mavericks is the addition of Seth Curry, whose two-year, $5.93MM could turn out to be an absolute steal for the team. Curry has looked very sharp thus far in the preseason, averaging  12.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 1.5 APG while connecting on 53.3% of his shots from beyond the arc. While he’s never likely going to approach the skill level of his brother Stephen Curry,, the younger Curry has a legitimate shot under Carlisle to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Dallas should focus more on adding undervalued players who can have breakout seasons, rather than chasing the “big fish” every offseason without having a legitimate chance of landing them.

Perhaps the best move the Mavericks made this offseason was re-signing Dirk Nowitzki to a two-year, $50MM deal. The franchise finally did right by the big German, upping the initial deal by $10MM when it became clear that the money wasn’t going to other players. Nowitzki has been the textbook example of unselfish, taking far less than market rate on his past two contracts in order to give the team flexibility to add players around him. Besides rewarding his loyalty, Dallas avoided having its longtime franchise player depart over a lowball offer the way Dwyane Wade ended his tenure in Miami this summer. Kudos to Cuban on the move, its just unfortunate that Nowitzki will likely end his career without having a legitimate shot at winning another NBA title.

After what turned out to be another disappointing summer for the team and its fans, the Mavs enter the new season as an unknown quantity. The team will likely struggle to equal its 42 wins from a season ago and it will take a number of players meeting and exceeding expectations for the club to reach the postseason again. The only true positive I can offer is that Dallas at least has a higher ceiling than it did last year, with the defense likely to be improved and some new blood on the roster. If Barnes can come close to living up to his contract, the Mavs could surprise. But that is a tall order, especially if the young forward succumbs to the pressure of silencing his critics. Hopefully, the franchise will enter next offseason with a more realistic shopping list, which could help it avoid having to play catch-up like it has the past few summers.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Cleveland Cavaliers

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 2-54: Kay Felder. Signed for three years, minimum salary. Second year partially guaranteed. Third year team option.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Cleveland Cavaliers right here.

"JulThe band is finally back together in Cleveland, although there’s not much rehearsal time before the season starts.

The Cavaliers brought back the final piece of their championship puzzle Friday when J.R. Smith ended his long standoff by agreeing to a contract with $45MM guaranteed over the first three seasons. A fourth year at about $12MM will become guaranteed if he remains on the Cavs’ roster at the end of the 2018/19 season.

Smith has been an indispensable member of the team’s backcourt since coming to Cleveland in a trade with the Knicks in January of 2015. He averaged 11.5 points per game and shot 43% from 3-point range during last season’s playoff run. During the season, Smith started all 77 games in which he played and averaged 12.4 points per night.

Getting Smith under contract solidifies one backcourt position, but uncertainty remains at point guard. Kyrie Irving has become one of the league’s best players and added to his legend with the winning shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But it’s uncertain who will be backing him up after Matthew Dellavedova was shipped to Milwaukee in a sign-and-trade over the summer.

Veteran Toney Douglas was waived Saturday after Smith was signed, and Jordan McRae has been pulled from the competition because head coach Tyronn Lue wants him to concentrate on being a shooting guard. Rookie Kay Felder has been sharing reserve duties in the preseason with DeAndre Liggins, so that arrangement will probably continue once the season starts.

Veteran Mo Williams, who played 41 games for the Cavs last season, told the team late last month that he plans to retire, and he had surgery on his left knee three days ago. However, Williams hasn’t filed retirement papers with the league and he still has a spot on the Cavaliers’ roster. The team plans to monitor his progress in case he decides to play again. Williams would receive his full $2.2MM salary if Cleveland waives him, and buyout talks have produced little progress.

After winning his third NBA title in June, LeBron James reached another milestone in August as a new three-year, $99.857MM contract made him the league’s highest-paid player for the first time. His $33MM salary in 2017/18 will be the largest in NBA history.

It’s a fitting reward for a player who led the Cavs to the first championship in their 45-year history. James is coming off another brilliant year, averaging 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game during the regular season and raising those numbers to 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists in the playoffs.

Cleveland also re-signed veteran small forward Richard Jefferson for three years at $7.613MM, with the third season non-guaranteed. The 36-year-old initially announced his retirement while the Cavaliers celebrated their championship, but he changed his mind as the summer wore on.

Another important re-signing was Lue, who led the Cavs to the title after taking over as head coach when David Blatt was fired in January. Lue received a five-year extension believed to be worth $35MM.

The Cavs reached offseason agreements with two of James’ teammates from his days in Miami, re-signing James Jones for one year at a veteran’s minimum salary and giving a similar deal to center Chris Andersen. Cleveland had a need for center help after losing Timofey Mozgov to the Lakers in free agency and trading Sasha Kaun to the Sixers. Andersen appeared in just seven games for the Heat and 20 for the Grizzlies last season.

Cleveland picked up another veteran when the Bulls had to unload Mike Dunleavy Jr.‘s salary to create enough cap room to sign Dwyane Wade. The Cavs swung a trade that brought Dunleavy from Chicago for virtually nothing in return, giving them another potent 3-point shooter to help stretch defenses.

The championship helped to quiet trade speculation surrounding Kevin Love, who appears to be set as the power forward for years to come. Complaints that Love wasn’t a good fit alongside James and Irving have been following him ever since he was acquired from Minnesota in a 2014 deal. Love turned in a strong playoff performance, averaging 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game after missing most of the 2015 playoff run with a shoulder injury. A report last month said the Cavaliers stopped listening to trade offers for Love in the middle of the season.

Draft night was quiet in Cleveland except for a deal with the Hawks that brought in Felder, the 54th pick, in exchange for cash considerations. A speedy 5’9″ sparkplug, Felder impressed the Cavs during summer league and was signed to a three-year contract.

The last-minute addition of Smith means the Cavaliers will have a very familiar look as they try to defend their NBA title. Dellavedova, Mozgov and Wiliams are the only significant losses from last year, and the additions of Dunleavy and Andersen will help offset those, along with a full season from Channing Frye, who was acquired from Orlando at February’s trade deadline.

The Cavs make have to tweak the roster a little bit if Felder doesn’t work out as the reserve point guard, but they enter the season as very heavy favorites to tear through the East again and return to the NBA Finals. The Big Three of James, Irving and Love will always be in the spotlight in Cleveland, but owner Dan Gilbert has proven that he will spend big to put a dangerous team around them.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Indiana Pacers

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Indiana Pacers.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 2-50: Georges Niang. Signed for three years, $2.606MM. Second year partially guaranteed. Third year non-guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Indiana Pacers right here.

NBA: Indiana Pacers-Media DayFew teams in the Eastern Conference did more to to alter their makeup than the Pacers this past offseason. Not only did the franchise change head coaches, it also shuffled nearly half of its roster from the 2015/16 campaign. Indiana should be more competitive this season, but the team still has a number of roster needs and it remains to be seen just how well and how quickly all the new faces can gel on the court.

Team president Larry Bird dismissed former head coach Frank Vogel after the team lost its first round playoff series against the Raptors. The Pacers went 250-181 in parts of six seasons under Vogel, who inherited the head coaching job when the Pacers parted ways with Jim O’Brien in January of 2011. That record doesn’t include his postseason mark of 31-30, with Indiana making back-to-back conference finals under Vogel in 2013 and 2014. Bird’s reasoning for the move was that he wanted more scoring and that his expectations for the Pacers this past season were higher than most. It appeared that a philosophical difference had emerged in 2015/16 when Bird spoke of his desire for more of an up-tempo attack versus Vogel’s fondness for a traditional lineup with two big men.

If Bird thought it was time to make a change and that Vogel wasn’t the coach to take the team to the next level, then not signing him to a new contract makes sense. What doesn’t necessarily make sense to me is replacing him with assistant coach Nate McMillan. I’m not knocking McMillan as a coach, his career regular season record of 478-452 is solid, though he hasn’t enjoyed much postseason success, owning a career playoff record of 14-20. But McMillan doesn’t fit the bill as the up-tempo offensive coach that Bird stated he desired.

McMillan’s squads when he was leading Seattle and Portland were solid offensively, but never averaged over 99 points per game. Plus, his teams didn’t necessarily kill it on the defense side either. In four out of the ten seasons he was head coach, his teams were ranked 25th or lower in the league defensively. Under Vogel, Indiana never finished worse than ninth in defensive efficiency, while topping the NBA twice. While promoting McMillan fosters some sense of continuity, it appears to be change merely for the sake of change, instead of taking the team in a new, and potentially more exciting, direction.

The team’s biggest roster move, and perhaps the riskiest, was the three-way trade that sent George Hill to Utah in exchange for Jeff Teague. Hill is a solid defender and rebounder as well as an excellent three-point shooter, which is an area the team was already weak in. Teague is two-years younger than Hill and a better passer and shot-creator, but he’s not a tremendous upgrade at the point guard spot. He’d be a more effective addition if the Pacers had better three-point shooters who could benefit from Teague’s skillset. The pair’s stat lines from last season were similar, with Hill averaging 12.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.5APG to go along with a shooting line of .441/.408/.760 versus Teague’s numbers of 15.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 5.9APG with a slash line of .439/.400/.837. Teague said back in June that he played the 2015/16 season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee, so an increase in his numbers this year may be in order. He’s also in the final year of his deal, so he may also boost his performance playing for his next payday.

Bird swung another trade on draft night, landing Thaddeus Young from the Nets in exchange for the No. 20 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, which Brooklyn used to select Caris LeVert. While I have mixed feelings about the Teague/Hill swap, I think this deal was a wise one for Indiana. With the team hoping to contend immediately, there wasn’t a player who was going to be available at its draft slot who who be able to contribute anything significant this season. Young enjoyed a solid campaign for Brooklyn last year, averaging 15.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 1.9 APG while connecting on 51.4% of his shots overall. However, Young’s 23.3% shooting from beyond the arc was well below his career average of 31.9%. With the Pacers desperately in need of floor-spacers who can connect from deep, the 28-year-old isn’t the answer in that area. He’s under contract for two more seasons after this one, including a player option for 2018/19, so Bird and company better hope Young can provide a spark in other ways. Regardless, I still believe it was a solid move overall.

Indiana also did some significant offseason shuffling at the center position. Gone is Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill, with Bird replacing them with Al Jefferson and Kevin Seraphin. It’s hard to knock adding a veteran of Jefferson’s caliber to the bench, but both he and Seraphin are injury risks. Jefferson only managed 47 games for the Hornets a season ago and 65 the previous campaign, while Seraphin notched just 48 appearances for the Knicks in 2015/16, plus, has managed to stay healthy for just two out of his six seasons in the league. Coupled with intended starter Myles Turner, who missed 22 games during his rookie campaign, things could get ugly in the middle real quick for the Pacers this season, barring each player bucking the odds and their injury track records. Plus, I firmly believe that Mahinmi’s defense and spark will be sorely missed in Indiana this season.

If Turner can remain healthy, the franchise has a budding star and solid building block for the future. I’m a big fan of the 20-year-old’s game, which fits in perfectly with the direction the league is headed. The rookie really came on strong las the 2015/16 season progressed, averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 22.8 minutes per outing. I expect Turner to improve upon his 21.4% shooting from three-point range this season, which is something the team desperately needs from him. The addition of Jefferson will also be huge for Turner’s development, and hopefully the veteran’s work ethic and professionalism will rub off on the younger player.

Of course, the Pacers’ chances this season rest firmly on the shoulders of swingman Paul George, who is eligible to sign a contract extension prior to this month’s deadline. Bird has gone on record stating that he is ready to give George a a max extension if the player is interested. “I know he don’t want to talk about it all year and I don’t either,” Bird said in September. “We want Paul here and we know what it’s going to cost and what it’s going to take. If Paul wants to get a deal done, we will. It’s a max deal. There’s no others, so there’s no use talking about it. If he wants it, he’s got it.”

While an extension on its own might not appeal to George given the free agent money available thanks to the rise in the salary cap, the Pacers should have the cap room necessary to renegotiate his deal in addition to extending it. That means Indiana could increase George’s salaries to the maximum for the next three years, and then tack another max-salary year on for the 2019/20 league year. On the other hand, signing an extension this year would prevent George from potentially exploring the free agent market in 2018, when he can opt out of his current contract. It would also lock him into a max salary for players with six years of NBA experience or less — if he waits one more year, he would get the max for players with seven to nine years of experience, which is worth 30% of the salary cap instead of 25%. Teague is also eligible to sign an extension, but my guess is that the team will wait to see how he gels in Indiana before it commits major dollars to him.

The Pacers will certainly have a different look when they take the court this season, though, I’m not sold that they will be a significantly better squad than a season ago. My gut tells me that the team will struggle out of the gate as the new players attempt to get comfortable with one another on the court. Injuries could also play a huge factor, especially among the big men, which could sink the franchise’s campaign if it is hit hard in that area. Bird needs to be active on the trade market prior to February’s deadline, as the team still needs shooters and depth at point guard and center. I still believe the Pacers have enough talent to make the playoffs as currently constituted, but not enough to make much noise when they get there.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Detroit Pistons

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Detroit Pistons.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 1-18: Henry Ellenson. Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-49: Michael Gbinije. Signed for three years, $2.606MM. Second year partially guaranteed. Third year non-guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Detroit Pistons right here.

NBA: Detroit Pistons-Media Day

When Stan Van Gundy evaluated the Pistons organization after becoming their head coach and president of basketball operations, one of his first orders of business was to beef up the scouting staff. That wasn’t limited to college and international scouting. He wanted scouts closely monitoring every NBA game and identifying players who could fill a need on his club.

That decision has led to a nearly complete overhaul of the roster, with only two players — center Andre Drummond and starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — surviving the purge. They added two starters during the last two trade deadlines, acquiring point guard Reggie Jackson from the Thunder and combo forward Tobias Harris from the Magic.

Armed with the evaluations from their scouts, Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower drew up a shopping list this offseason that included three major items. They wanted a bigger power forward, a backup point guard and a third center who could eventually play a larger role.

Ideally, they would have checked off boxes 1 and 3 with the same player. They were one of a handful of clubs who landed a meeting with coveted free agent Al Horford. The Pistons felt Horford’s defensive versatility and shooting range would complement Drummond’s interior prowess. Alas, Horford opted to go to a club he felt was closer to championship contender and signed with the Celtics.

In the meantime, the Pistons quickly landed one of the point men they coveted in Ish Smith. He was one of three point guards, along with former Piston D.J. Augustin and Ramon Sessions, on the wish list. Detroit’s offense stalled the second half of last season when aging Steve Blake entered the game for Jackson. The Pistons included Brandon Jennings in the Harris deal, leaving them thin at point guard.

According to the Pistons’ analytics, Smith is one of the top pick-and-roll point guards in the league. Detroit relies heavily on pick-and-rolls, making him an ideal backup to Jackson. Smith will have an even bigger role at the start of the season, replacing Jackson in the lineup while Jackson recovers from knee tendinitis and a thumb injury.

“What you want with all of your backups, one of the things you ask is can those guys start,” Van Gundy said. “You can’t look at somebody and say he’s OK as a 16-, 18-minute a game guy because it can quickly become more than that. The fact he has that experience and did well (with the Sixers last season), yeah, that’s a big thing.”

The Pistons surprised some people by handing journeymen Jon Leuer a rich four-year, $41MM deal but they view him as a rotation player who can back up Harris and also play center in smaller lineups. Leuer not only provides more size that last year’s backup, Anthony Tolliver, he’s also more brings more offensive versatility than Tolliver, who was mainly a 3-point shooter.

When Horford struck the Pistons off his list, the deal with Leuer was finalized.

“Once Al made his decision, it was, ‘OK, let’s figure out how we can get this done,’ ” Leuer said. “We actually came to an agreement before he even landed, so it was more of a celebratory lunch than a meeting.”

Detroit went big, really big, to secure the final item on their shopping list. They structured a three-year offer sheet to restricted free agent Boban Marjanovic that they knew the Spurs would almost certainly not match. The 7’3” Marjanovic doesn’t have the agility defensively to play heavy minutes but can be a matchup nightmare for opponents because of his low-post skills. He also provides insurance in case second-string center Aron Baynes opts out of his contract after this season.

Another under-the-radar signing that could pay some dividends was handing Ray McCallum a non-guaranteed contract. McCallum could back up Smith the first month of the season if he wins a preseason battle with fellow point man Lorenzo Brown for a roster spot.

Prior to all those moves, the Pistons were pleased how the draft unfolded. Outside the lottery for a change, the Pistons weren’t expecting to get an immediate contributor at pick No. 18. They did get a pleasant surprise when power forward Henry Ellenson fell into their lap.

Van Gundy was so sure that Ellenson wouldn’t be available at their pick that he barely watched any film on the Marquette University product. The Big East Rookie of the Year will spend this season developing but could push for a rotation spot as early as next season.

The only other order of business this preseason is whether to sign Caldwell-Pope to a rookie-scale extension. There has been no signs in camp thus far that they’re close to an agreement.

If the Pistons had somehow convinced Horford to come their way, they could have been lumped among the next tier of Eastern Conference teams behind the Cavaliers. With the help of those scouts, the Pistons did add much-needed depth by signing some unheralded free agents. Whether that’s enough to get them past the first round of the playoffs this season remains a big question mark.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of Raj Mehta (USA Today Sports Images).

Offseason In Review: Chicago Bulls

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Chicago Bulls.

Free agent signings:

  • Dwyane Wade: Two years, $47MM. Second year player option.
  • Rajon Rondo: Two years, $27.397MM. Second year partially guaranteed.
  • Isaiah Canaan: Two years, minimum salary. Second year partially guaranteed.

Camp invitees:


Draft picks:

  • 1-14: Denzel Valentine. Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-48: Paul Zipser. Signed for four years, $3.832MM. Third year non-guaranteed. Fourth year team option.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Chicago Bulls right here.

"OctThe Bulls shook up the league several times this summer. Now we’ll see if they can do it once the season begins.

The most shocking move, of course, was the one that brought Dwyane Wade home to Chicago. A legend in Miami and an indispensable part of that city’s sports foundation, Wade found his relationship with the Heat front office souring for financial reasons. For years, Wade played for less than his market value to give the team enough cap room to add LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But he grew increasingly frustrated with a franchise that was willing to give a maximum contract to Hassan Whiteside, but not to him.

So Wade began shopping his services around the league. The move was widely dismissed as a negotiating ploy — until July 6th, when the 13-year veteran announced that he was taking his talents to Chicago. Wade, whose cousin was killed in August by stray gunfire in the city, said basketball was only part of his motivation for wanting to return to his childhood home.

“Now I’m back in the city of Chicago — I’m back for a reason,” he said. “I played 13 years in Miami. Now I’m back in the city, let me see what I can do as one person to help lend my voice and help shed light on the tragedy that’s going on and find a solution to start the process of making change.”

Before Wade was in their plans, the Bulls made headlines with a blockbuster deal in June, sending former MVP Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday to the Knicks in a trade that brought back Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon. Many factors led to the decision to part with Rose, but among them were an injury-plagued past, his impending free agency next summer and an uncomfortable fit with backcourt partner Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls filled the void at point guard by signing free agent Rajon Rondo, last season’s league leader in assists, to a two-year contract worth $28MM. After agreeing to the deal, Rondo called the Bulls a “great organization with pieces around me that I’m excited about.”

Nearly as significant were the moves that the Bulls didn’t make. They held onto Butler despite aggressive attempts by the Timberwolves and Celtics to swing a deal on draft night. The franchise also kept coach Fred Hoiberg, who many thought was on the hot seat after missing the playoffs and being the target of a much-discussed locker room rant by Butler.

But Hoiberg can’t feel too safe as he tries to reconstruct a team that was hit hard by free agent losses. Starting center Joakim Noah, whose season was cut short by a separated shoulder in January, accepted a four-year, $72MM offer to join Rose in New York. Fellow big man Pau Gasol headed to San Antonio for $30MM over two seasons.

Lopez will take over at center, with Nikola Mirotic as the likely starter at power forward because of his 3-point range. Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio will all be in the mix for playing time. Gibson represents the Bulls’ next major roster decision, as he is eligible to receive a veteran’s extension. He averaged 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in 73 games last season, but enters the final year of his contract making just $8.95MM. He could be looking at a substantial raise in free agency if the Bulls don’t re-sign him. Fourth-year swingman Tony Snell, who averaged 5.3 points in 64 games a year ago, is eligible for a rookie-scale extension through the end of October.

Chicago passed up a chance to move up in the draft in a potential Butler deal and settled for its own 14th pick, which it used on Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. The 6’6″ shooting guard will help make up for the loss of Mike Dunleavy Jr., who was traded to Cleveland to help clear cap space for the Wade signing. With their second-round selection, the Bulls took 6’8″ German swingman Paul Zipser, who seems like a good bet to make the team after getting two guaranteed seasons on his rookie contract.

With just seven players in camp who were on the roster when last season ended, continuity will be a major issue for Chicago. Another will be outside shooting, which neither Butler, Wade or Rondo particularly excels at. Hoiberg promised that floor spacing would be an important part of his coaching philosophy when he accepted the job in June of 2015, but he didn’t have the shooters to make that work last season and this year’s group might be even worse.

It’s up to Chicago’s new version of a Big Three to prove that their unique skills can be effective against defenses that don’t have to worry much about guarding the 3-point line. If they can, it will be a happy homecoming for Wade and a return to the playoffs for the Bulls. If not, it could mean another shakeup in midseason and an early exit for Hoiberg.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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