Teams around the league are projecting that the salary cap will leap to as high as $80MM for 2016/17, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes, but next season’s salary cap is shrouded in uncertainty. Executives from around the league believed earlier this summer that the NBA would gradually phase in the increase in the salary cap with a larger than usual uptick next summer, but the league has told teams within the last two weeks to hold steady on their projections for 2015/16, according to Lowe. The uncertainty makes it more difficult for teams to make long-term commitments at this point as the October 31st deadline for rookie scale extensions looms. The focus of the Grantland scribe’s piece is on that rookie scale extension market, and his entire piece is worth a read to juxtapose his insight with our in-depth pieces on some of the same up-and-comers featured in our Extension Candidate Series. Lowe also has a few more newsy tidbits, as we’ll pass along here:
There’s chatter around the league suggesting that the NBA will backload its new television deal, which is expected to be more than twice as lucrative as the current arrangement that runs out after the 2015/16 season, Lowe reports. The aim would be for the league to negotiate the ability to keep a larger percentage of that media rights revenue for itself in the next collective bargaining agreement with the players union.
Executive around the league see Alec Burks as a sixth man rather than a starter, according to Lowe, who argues that there’s a case to be made to the contrary. Still, it bodes well for the Jazz‘s leverage in extension talks.
Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris told teams before the 2011 draft that they would take less money to play together, sources tell Lowe. That didn’t end up happening right away, since Houston drafted Marcus and Phoenix took Markieff, but the Suns reunited the twins at the 2013 trade deadline, and if their desire to stick together still holds true, that gives the Suns the ability to exert some pressure, Lowe surmises. Both are extension-eligible.
Earlier today, we passed along word from coach Steve Clifford that the Hornets are seeking frontcourt help. Clifford’s interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer touched on some more of Charlotte’s roster, including how he’ll use newly signed Marvin Williams. “He’ll play both forward spots, but I see him primarily as a stretch [power forward],” said Clifford. “He’s a very smart player who makes smart, simple plays. And he’s very professional in his approach.” Here’s a rundown of league news and notes, including more from Clifford:
Clifford revealed that Jeff Taylor‘s recovery from an Achilles injury has been interfered with by a personal matter. “Unfortunately, Jeff has a family situation in Sweden [keeping him away from Charlotte],” he told Bonnell. “Nothing can be done about that and you know he’s an exceptional worker, but he’s had to miss our five optional workouts. So it’s hard to get a feel for where he’s at. He did a couple of summer-league practices. Medically he’s fine. So it’s just a matter of having more continuity, so that when he plants and cuts and jumps he’s confident [in his recovery.]“
Milos Teodosic is an NBA-caliber player lighting up the World Cup, but the Serbian star won’t consider a move stateside unless he’s offered upwards of $3MM in annual salary, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (onTwitter). The Grizzlies were the last team to make a serious run at the point guard, when he spurned them last summer.
Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune profiles Derrick Favors, the big man whose four-year, $48MM extension will commence this season. The center tells Jones he’s comfortable taking the next step as a franchise cornerstone for the Jazz, a sentiment GM Dennis Lindsey seconds. “This is really the second stage for Derrick,” Lindsey said. “We’ve had patience with him and he’s had a natural progression. With Derrick, nobody can accuse the Jazz of skipping steps. We know that we’re making a significant investment in him by giving him the contract extension. Derrick has taken ownership of his development.”
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com writes that the NBA’s slowness to identify and dismiss the source of the racial slur from the scouting report on Luol Deng that triggered the Hawks scandal indicates a willingness to harbor that sentiment in the league, contrary to the commissioner’s declaration to root out racism when he first banned Donald Sterling.
The Clippers scandal that revolved around former owner Donald Sterling may be eclipsed by the Hawks race-fueled turmoil when all is said and done. The latter situation is still developing, and has extended down from the ownership box into Atlanta’s GM and scouting departments. Here’s a rundown of Western news and notes for the night:
On an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio, Shaun Livingston said that he hopes to be able to return to the court by the start of the Warriors‘ season, the channel tweeted (H/T Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group). The veteran guard underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right big toe last month.
On his personal blog, Jazz forward Gordon Hayward recounts his summer. In addition to waxing about signing a max offer sheet, spending time with Team USA, and an offseason training regimen focusing on strength and shooting, Hayward says that he’s eager to start the new season and play for new coach Quin Snyder.
2:34pm: Stephens’ agent tells Sportando that there’s no deal, but that his client will meet with the Jazz as planned this weekend (Twitter link).
2:00pm: D.J. Stephens and the Jazz have struck a non-guaranteed deal that will bring the former Bucks swingman to training camp, Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi reports. The 23-year-old had been set to work out for the club this weekend, as Boston Globe correspondent Jake Fischer reported earlier today, but either the workout has already taken place or Utah simply decided it already knew enough about Stephens to bring him aboard.
Stephens doesn’t have much of an NBA track record, having appeared in three games for a total of 15 minutes while on a 10-day pact with Milwaukee this past season. That was his only regular season NBA action after he went undrafted out of Memphis, and since he didn’t go to camp with an NBA team last autumn or participate in summer league this year, his only other brush with the league came during summer league in 2013. That year he averaged 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game over eight combined appearances with the summer league squads of the Heat and Mavs.
The APAA Sports Group client has unprecedented hops, as I noted earlier, and he made his mark as a defender in college, winning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. He’ll join 18 others on the Jazz, and he’ll face long odds to last on the roster beyond the preseason, since 17 of his new teammates have at least some guaranteed money on their deals. Still, I had been somewhat dubious that his workout would lead to a camp invitation, so perhaps another surprise is in store.
Free agent swingman D.J. Stephens will work out for the Jazz this weekend, a source tells Boston Globe correspondent Jake Fischer (Twitter link). Stephens appeared in three games while on a 10-day contract with the Bucks this past season, though there’s been little chatter this summer about a return to the NBA for the 23-year-old who went undrafted out of Memphis in 2013.
Stephens spent most of last season playing in Greece and Turkey, averaging 8.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per contest over a combined 25 games overseas. His otherworldly jumping ability helped offset his relatively short 6’5″ stature as he went after those boards, and the 46-inch vertical leap he performed at the predraft combine in 2013 was the highest ever recorded at the showcase, as DraftExpress shows.
Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey has cast a wide net in his player evaluations during his tenure with the club, so the chance that Stephens’ workout is a precursor to a deal isn’t quite as strong as it might be if he were auditioning for another NBA team. The Jazz are carrying 18 players, and 17 of them are known to have partially guaranteed salary, as our roster counts show, so Stephens has no easy path to the opening-night roster in Utah.
Scouts are still evaluating Dante Exum, one of the bigger gambles taken in the NBA Draft lottery. The Jazz selected him without having seen him play against top-level competition and the jury is still out on Exum as a player as he shows his stuff in the World Cup, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. When asked what he’s learned about Exum so far, one Eastern Conference scouting director said, “Not much. He’s not ready for the NBA, that is for sure. But a lot of guys are not ready for the NBA and they have got to learn on the fly. He is no different. But he is not going to jump into the league and all of a sudden average 20 points a game. There’s just no way.” Here’s tonight’s look around the NBA..
Chris Douglas-Roberts‘ deal with the Clippers is fully guaranteed, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter). That doesn’t come as a huge surprise since Ekpe Udoh‘s minimum salary deal is also fully guaranteed for the 2014/15 season. CD-R averaged 6.9 points in 20.7 minutes per game and shot a career-high 38.6% from downtown last season.
Even before the Donald Sterling situation erupted, there was some talk that Bruce Levenson would explore selling his controlling interest of the Hawks, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
Whether Levenson’s fate is well-deserved or Orwellian is up for debate, but it’s clear this is a different world in the post-Sterling NBA, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
Supply and demand could keep Reggie Jackson with the Thunder, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Only four teams – the Mavs, Lakers, Knicks, and Heat – currently have a clear need and the necessary cap space to make a run at him next summer. Jackson is after a sizable payday and a starting role, but that could be hard to find in the middle of an extremely talented free agent class.
The Jazz have several players in the World Cup, including Exum and stashed Brazilian talent Raul Neto, and Dennis Lindsey admits that he is somewhat worried about injuries and fatigue, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. At the same time, he feels that his younger players are also gaining valuable experience in international play.
The summer is the season of optimism for NBA fans, with draft picks and signings set to fit perfectly and improve teams all over the league–hypothetically. Once the season begins, however, the goodwill can dry up fast. Last year, blockbuster acquisitions in Detroit and Brooklyn had set expectations high for newly hired coaches Maurice Cheeks and Jason Kidd, but both teams struggled out of the gate, placing both coaches on the hot seat. Kidd survived the season and guided the Nets to the playoffs, but the root of conflict survived as well, and Kidd bolted for Milwaukee in a bizarre power struggle. Cheeks was fired in-season, and remains without a coaching job.
Mike Woodson faced constant speculation about his own job, and lasted through the season only to be let go by incoming team president Phil Jackson. Larry Drew bore the brunt of the Kidd move, and Tyrone Corbin was let go by the Jazz, despite his baby-faced roster performing about as well as expected. Mark Jackson led the Warriors to improvement for a second consecutive season, but pushing the Clippers to a Game 7 in the opening round of the playoffs wasn’t enough to salvage his position in Golden State after some turbulence between Jackson, the rest of the coaching staff, and the front office.
In the NBA, very few jobs are ever truly “safe,” unless your last name is Popovich. Let’s look at some of the coaches who could encounter early traces of job insecurity.
1. Winning Enough? Scott Brooks, Kevin McHale, and Frank Vogel. In parts of 13 seasons combined with their current teams, these coaches have only two losing seasons between them. Brooks receives plenty of flack for his in-game strategy and roster management, despite having coached a young Thunder team to a surprise appearance in the 2012 Finals, and regularly orchestrating dominant regular season performances that have been undercut by postseason injuries to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. After Oklahoma City’s disappointing series loss to the eventual champions in 2013/14, GM Sam Prestivoiced his support for the coach moving forward.
Vogel built a defensive juggernaut that gave the Heat one of its stiffest annual challenges in the playoffs, but Indiana struggled mightily for much of the second half of last season, and the team will suffer this year from the losses of Lance Stephenson and Paul George. The Pacers squelched rumors that the coach could be let go after the team lost in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive year, but Vogel will be coaching on an expiring contract unless the team grants him an extension in the coming months.
McHale has failed to take the Rockets beyond the first round in his tenure, and expectations are that the team is due to build on its success around James Harden and Dwight Howard. The front office in Houston didn’t do McHale any favors this offseason, allowing mainstays Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik to depart while striking out on free agent Chris Bosh.
2. First-Year Coaches: David Blatt, Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, and Quin Snyder. Blatt was signed to coach a team that failed to reach the playoffs last season, but Cleveland has since become a championship contender with the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love. It’s rare for a first-time head coach to cut his teeth with such enormous expectations. Kerr takes over for a team that envisions a higher ceiling than they had attained with Jackson. Kerr’s involvement in the decision to withhold Klay Thompson from a potential Love trade could come back to haunt him, especially if the star power forward thrives in Cleveland while the shooting guard’s game doesn’t take off under Kerr’s tutelage.
Fisher and Snyder figure to operate with more patient front offices and fan bases, as both were hired to develop players within their systems with an eye toward the future. Of course, “low-pressure” isn’t typical of any coaching job in the New York market, and Fisher has insisted that his team should make the playoffs this season.
3. The Clock Is Ticking: Jacque Vaughn and Brian Shaw.Vaughn has been at the helm for a rebuilding Magic team the last two years, racking up an understandably poor .262 winning percentage. While Orlando is still far from contending, the team has shored up the rotation with veteran additions and has a number of young players on schedule to provide a bigger impact. A season spent at the very bottom of league standings might be unacceptable to Magic brass, especially if the young pieces fail to pop. Shaw took the reigns for one of the Western Conference’s best teams in 2012/13, but injuries and the departure of Andre Iguodala prevented them from reaching the postseason altogether this spring. The West should be no less fierce this season, but the Nuggets have high hopes that Shaw will be working to meet in just his second year on the sidelines.
4. Anything Can Happen: Jason Kidd and Dave Joerger. Both coaches are entering their sophomore seasons as NBA head coaches after having reached the playoffs on the first try. Aside from their teams’ performances, there are strange off-the-court similarities between the two. Kidd exited Brooklyn in the aforementioned stunner, and Joerger appeared destined to leave Memphis amid a series of puzzling revelations about his relationship with Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, before the two eventually hashed out their differences and agreed on a contract extension. Both would appear to have a long leash for the coming season, but the combustible personalities in play have undermined peaceful coaching situations before.
Who do you think will find himself on rocky footing soonest in 2014/15? As we have routinely seen, ongoing success is no guarantee that a coach is in the clear. If you think I’ve failed to mention the most likely name, vote “Other” and leave your choice in the comments.
“We have really high hopes for him,” Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey said. “The tools Rudy has from a height and length standpoint are obvious, and he really likes basketball. A motivated seven-footer is a good place to start.”
Gobert is still a long way off, but it’ll be interesting to see how his development plays into the team’s negotiations with Kanter. Here’s more from the West:
Kenneth Faried, who’s also extension-eligible, expressed a desire this week to remain with the Nuggets, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com observes (Twitterlinks). The Thad Foucher client has only helped his stock with Team USA as he’s emerged as a game-changer in the FIBA World Cup.
The Cavs, Bulls and Kings all had interest in signing Ekpe Udoh, but the chance to play for Doc Rivers on a winning team that emphasized defense persuaded him to choose the Clippers instead, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. Playing time was also a consideration, agent Michael Silverman tells Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
Earlier today, Utah announced that Toure’ Murry had signed with the team on a multi-year deal. With his pact in tow, the Jazz boast a total of at 18 contracts on their books as training camp approaches. Teams can only roster 15 players once the regular season begins, so Utah will need to decide which guys on partially guaranteed deals are worth keeping around. Here’s tonight’s look at the Northwest Division:
Kevin Love recently made comments indicating that he spoke to LeBron James about teaming up while still a member of the Wolves, but such an admissionwon’t allow the league to hit Cleveland with a tampering penalty, as salary cap expert Larry Coon explains on SiriusXM NBA Radio (audio link via SoundCloud).
Although Anthony Morrow isn’t exactly a big name, Susan Bible of Basketball Insiders points out that his presence in Oklahoma City should help bolster the Thunder’s weak shooting. Bible says the decision to bring in the former Pelicans swingman could eventually be considered a great move down the road.
Free agent center Kyrylo Fesenko made a positive impression on the Wolves during summer league play, and he’s dropped 20 pounds, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Fesenko has played for the Jazz and the Pacers, and has career averages of 2.3 PPG and 2.0 RPG over 135 games played.
Bob Donewald Jr. was hired by the Grizzlies to be the head coach of their NBA D-League team, the Iowa Energy, the team announced (Twitter link). Donewald most recently served as the head coach of the Chinese National Team, and he has also worked as an assistant coach for the Cavs and Pelicans.
With each game that passes for Team USA, so does the horror of Paul George‘s injury, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. In regards to how the team is coming to terms with what happened to George, Anthony Davis said, “That was a gruesome injury (to George), and it kind of affected all of us, even guys who weren’t playing. Basketball players around the world and people around the world got affected by it. But now we know that he’s doing fine and we’ve got to keep moving forward and try to win this gold for him. … I’m hoping that (this experience) makes me take a leap coming into the season next year.”