Pacific Notes: Warriors, Lakers’ Coaching Search, M. Brown, Suns

After being eliminated in the play-in tournament, the Warriors know they’ll have to improve their defense to get back into title contention, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. That may include roster changes to bring in players who are more defensive-minded.

“It’s not just about scheme and personnel,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s also about how much better the rest of the league is. And how much different things are with the shooting and the pace. It’s just much, much harder to guard. There’s a reason the offensive ratings have skyrocketed. But there’s no doubt we’ve got to be better defensively. We were good at a lot of things. We were. We were, not surprisingly, excellent when Draymond (Green) was healthy.”

Suspensions and injuries caused Green to miss 27 games this season, which had a sharp impact on the team’s defensive numbers. Poole points out that the Warriors had a 113.5 defensive rating with Green, which would have ranked 11th in the league. It fell to 121.1 when he wasn’t available, the worst mark in the NBA.

“But we can’t just say, ‘Well, as long as Draymond’s healthy we will be fine defensively,'” Kerr added. “We’ve just got to be better. I’ve got to do a better job. Our staff has got to do a better job. We have to assess everything.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are moving slowly in their head coaching search and are getting acquainted with several candidates they didn’t interview before hiring Darvin Ham two years ago, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). He cites examples such as Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Pelicans assistant James Borrego and ESPN broadcaster J.J. Redick. Wojnarowski expects a lengthy hiring process, saying, “There’s no obvious choice, there just isn’t. There’s no star coach out there available.”
  • Mike Brown has proven he deserves an extension in his first two seasons as head coach of the Kings, contends James Ham of Kings Beat (subscription required). Brown is entering the last year of his contract, and Ham believes the team should take care of him soon to avoid any speculation about his future.
  • Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein, who played a role in purchasing the franchise’s former G League affiliate when he was working for the Pistons, helped to unveil its replacement today, notes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The Valley Suns give Phoenix a G League partner for the first time since 2021 when the Northern Arizona Suns were sold to Detroit and renamed the Motor City Cruise. “Ironically enough, I was the one on the other side buying the team from the Suns and getting it to Detroit, and now three years later, I’m here,” Bartelstein said. “It’s really, really important. I mean, the G-League is a staple of many NBA franchises.”

Pelicans Notes: Murphy, Alvarado, Valanciunas, Draft, Arena

A rookie scale extension for Trey Murphy will be one of the Pelicans‘ offseason priorities, but it will take a significant offer to make it happen, according to Christian Clark of Clark sees a new contract for Murphy falling somewhere between the four-year, $94.5MM deal that Brooklyn gave Cameron Johnson last summer and the five-year pact Devin Vassell signed with San Antonio that includes $135MM in guaranteed money.

Murphy came off the bench in 34 of the 57 games he played this season, but Clark points to an April matchup with Golden State as evidence that he can handle a full-time starting role. With Brandon Ingram sidelined by an injury, Clark scored 24 points and sank six three-pointers, three of which were from 30 feet or longer.

New Orleans reportedly plans to explore trades involving Ingram this summer, creating an opportunity for Murphy to replace him in the starting lineup. Clark views Murphy as a better fit alongside Zion Williamson and Herbert Jones, adding that all three will be under long-term deals if Murphy signs an extension.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans are very likely to pick up their $1.99MM team option on Jose Alvarado, Keith Smith of Spotrac states in an offseason overview of the team. Option decisions on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl ($2.2MM) and Matt Ryan ($2.4MM) are less certain, but Smith expects New Orleans to keep both players unless the front office decides it needs to open a roster spot. The more difficult choices, according to Smith, are what to do with center Jonas Valanciunas and small forward Naji Marshall, who will both be unrestricted free agents if they don’t reach extensions by late June. Smith expects a one- or two-year deal for Valanciunas if he’s brought back, while Marshall seems likely to wind up elsewhere.
  • The Pelicans need to find a big man in the draft, and there should be plenty of decent options when they pick at No. 21, Smith adds, listing Zach Edey, Yves Missi, DaRon Holmes II and Kel’el Ware as players who could still be on the board. Smith expects New Orleans to defer the first-round pick that it’s owed from the Lakers, which is at No. 17, and take L.A.’s first-rounder next year instead.
  • The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District voted to delay planned improvements to Smoothie King Center because Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, who also owns the NFL’s Saints, is delinquent on payments for upgrades to the Superdome, Clark and Jeff Duncan write in a separate story. ASM Global, which manages the Superdome, contends the Saints are $11.5MM behind and haven’t made a payment since December. The NFL team issued a statement (via Twitter) saying it has no problem paying the $11.5MM — or its $41MM share of the $58MM project — but added, “We have, however, asked for certain documentation over an extended period and we have not received that documentation.” Last year, the Pelicans extended their lease at the arena through June of 2029.

Central Notes: Bulls, Donovan, Allen, Middleton

This year’s All-NBA voting offered another reminder of the depressing state the Bulls find themselves in, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeMar DeRozan, who received one third-team vote, was the only Bulls player mentioned on any of the 99 ballots. That comes after not having an All-Star and missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised changes following last month’s loss in the play-in tournament. The front office will reportedly scour the trade market in another attempt to find a taker for Zach LaVine, but Johnson notes that there were more rumors about LaVine at the 2023 draft combine than this year’s version.

If nobody is willing to take on the $139MM that LaVine is owed over the next three seasons, Johnson sees sign-and-trades involving DeRozan and fellow free agent Patrick Williams as the best chances for immediate improvement, along with a potential Lonzo Ball comeback. However, Karnisovas has already stated that he hopes to re-sign both DeRozan and Williams this summer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The recent addition of former Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to Billy Donovan’s staff doesn’t mean the Bulls’ coach is in danger of losing his job, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley states that Donovan is “as safe as he has been since the day he was hired,” noting that Karnisovas expressed support for him after the season ended.
  • The Cavaliers may give serious consideration to breaking up their big-man tandem of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen this summer, suggests Chris Fedor of (subscriber only). The team has believed Mobley would eventually develop into a full-time center since he was drafted in 2021, according to Fedor, who adds that the two big men often appear to be in each other’s way on offense. Fedor believes the Cavs might be ready to part with Allen and maybe Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland for an upgrade at the wing.
  • The Bucks only got minimal financial benefit from Khris Middleton missing out on a combined $2.1MM in bonuses tied to games played and the team’s success in the playoffs, Jim Owczarski of the Journal-Sentinel states in a mailbag column. Milwaukee will have a slightly lower tax bill, but all bonuses count in determining the new salary aprons, even if they’re not earned, so the Bucks still project as a second apron team for next season.

Edwards, Haliburton Earn Salary Increases With All-NBA Nods

The maximum-salary rookie scale extensions that Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton signed last offseason will have starting salaries worth 30% of the 2024/25 salary cap instead of 25% after both players made All-NBA teams. Edwards earned a spot on the Second Team, while Haliburton made the Third Team.

As our maximum-salary projections for ’24/25 show, based on a $141MM cap, the five-year deals signed by Edwards and Haliburton will now be worth $245,340,000 instead of $204,450,000. Those numbers could change if the cap comes in above or below $141MM.

Edwards and Haliburton agreed to Rose Rule language in their respective extensions. The Rose Rule allow players coming off their rookie scale contracts to receive salaries worth more than 25% of the cap in year five if they make an All-NBA team during the season (or two of the three seasons) before their extension goes into effect. Players can also qualify by being named Most Valuable Player or Defensive Player of the Year.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball had similar language in his maximum-salary extension, but injuries prevented him from having any shot at All-NBA team in 2023/24, so his contract will be worth $204.45MM over five years.

Here are more of the financial implications of today’s All-NBA selections:

  • Because Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey didn’t make an All-NBA team, his maximum salary as a restricted free agent this offseason will be worth 25% of the cap instead of 30%. He’ll be eligible for a five-year deal up to a projected $204.45MM.
  • Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander met the super-max performance criteria by earning All-NBA nods for a second straight year, but neither player has enough years of service yet to sign a designated veteran extension this summer. Both Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander will be eligible to sign super-max extensions during the 2025 offseason. As Bobby Marks of ESPN outlines (Twitter links), Doncic would be eligible for a five-year extension projected to be worth over $346MM that begins in 2026/27, while SGA could sign a four-year extension worth a projected $294MM+ that would begin in 2027/28.
  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is one year ahead of Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander — he met the super-max performance criteria by making a second straight All-NBA team in 2023, but was still one year away from having the required years of service at that time. He’ll be eligible this July to sign a five-year super-max extension worth a projected $314.85MM.
  • Players who would have been eligible for super-max extensions if they had made an All-NBA team include Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, Heat big man Bam Adebayo, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. All of those players could still qualify if they remain with their current teams and earn All-NBA honors next season, though it’s worth noting that Ingram is considered a trade candidate this summer and is highly unlikely to get a super-max offer even if he qualifies.
  • Kings center Domantas Sabonis earned a $1.3MM contract bonus as a result of being named to the All-NBA Third Team, tweets James Ham of The Kings Beat.

2023/24 All-NBA Teams Announced

The All-NBA teams have been announced for the 2023/24 season.

A total of 99 media members voted on the honors, with players receiving five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote and one point for a Third Team vote. This year’s All-NBA teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Third Team

Others receiving votes and their point totals are the CelticsJaylen Brown (50), the ClippersPaul George (16), the SixersTyrese Maxey (16), the TimberwolvesRudy Gobert (12), the SpursVictor Wembanyama (11), the PelicansZion Williamson (11), the Magic’s Paolo Banchero (10), the KingsDe’Aaron Fox (9) the Heat’s Bam Adebayo (7) and the BullsDeMar DeRozan (1).

This is the first season that a minimum number of games was required to qualify for most postseason awards under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Among the stars who might have received All-NBA consideration if they had reached the 65-game threshold are Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was the 2022/23 MVP, along with Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Knicks forward Julius Randle and Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis.

Wembanyama, who received two votes for the Second Team and five for the Third Team, was the only rookie named on any of the ballots. Earlier this week, he became the first rookie to earn a spot on an All-Defensive First Team.

The Lakers with Davis and James and the Suns with Durant and Booker were the only teams to have multiple players honored. They were both eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Several players became eligible for salary increases by achieving All-NBA honors. Read more here.

Mavericks Notes: Lively, Kidd, Washington, Doncic

Mavericks rookie center Dereck Lively II talks about balancing his first NBA playoff experience and his mother’s recent death in a compelling story by Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Townsend notes that Dallas fans have become familiar with Lively’s tragic journey, which saw him use the NIL money from his lone season at Duke to purchase a headstone for his father, who died after years of drug addiction, and a house for his mother, Kathy, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma 10 years ago. Doctors believed Kathy was in remission, but her health declined in March, causing Lively to miss a game for personal reasons. In mid-April, family members were called to say their final goodbyes.

“Since I lost my father, my biggest fear in life was losing my mother,” Lively said. “You know, when your biggest fear happens, you’re stuck with a hole in your heart. It’s like you think you’ve got to do something to fill that hole, but you really can’t because nothing will fill it.”

Kathy had been an important part of Lively’s rookie season, Townsend adds. She was with him at the draft and had a chance to explain on national television how much it meant to the family to have him selected. They lived together in a Dallas apartment, and she was a regular at home games until her health declined.

“I haven’t really been able to focus on what’s been going on in my life because I’ve been so focused on the basketball,” he said. “I really haven’t had a second to sit down and breathe. I haven’t had a second to kind of digest what’s been going on. I feel like it hits me in waves. One day I can get up and be fine. Another day I’ll wake up and it’s like, ‘S—, I can’t even get out of bed.’”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News looks at why this year’s team has a better chance of advancing than the 2022 Mavs that also reached the Western Conference Finals. Sherrington points out that Dallas has been successful with big and small lineups and has shown an ability to bounce back from tough losses. “This team is probably a little bit more talented than that first group, and that’s not being negative,” coach Jason Kidd said. “This group has a lot of talent.”
  • P.J. Washington‘s hot streak from beyond the arc could be the X-factor that helps the Mavericks win a title, Mo Dakhil of Bleacher Report observes in an overview of the four remaining teams. Washington shot 31.4% from three-point range during the regular season, but he’s raised that to 40.7% in the playoffs.
  • Tim Cato of The Athletic talks to Slovenian fans about the extra effort they make to watch Luka Doncic play. Because their nation is seven hours ahead of Dallas, that usually means staying up overnight.

Pacers Notes: Game 1 Loss, Haliburton, Turner, Carlisle

Numerous late-game mistakes cost the Pacers a chance to take an early lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that “a lot of things had to go wrong for us and right for them” for the Celtics to escape with a victory in Tuesday’s Game 1, but as Collier details, that’s exactly what happened.

Indiana held a three-point lead with 27.1 seconds left in regulation when Tyrese Haliburton accidentally dribbled the ball off his foot for a turnover. After a defensive stop, the Pacers had a chance to close out the game with free throws, but they gave up the ball again on an errant inbounds pass, setting the stage for Jaylen Brown‘s three-pointer that forced overtime.

Pascal Siakam said he intended to foul before the final shot, but Brown was squared up when he caught the ball and Siakam didn’t want to risk giving sending him to the line for three shots.

“We showed our age a little bit tonight,” Myles Turner said. “Being a youthful team and being in this high stakes of a game, those uncharacteristic mistakes just made their way out.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton is optimistic despite the meltdown because his team proved it can compete with the heavily favored Celtics, relays Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The All-Star guard noted that the Pacers haven’t won any of their playoff series openers, but they found a way to get past Milwaukee and New York. “We know we can play with these guys,” Haliburton said. “We know we belong. I think it’s discouraging just because of the plays that that happened down the stretch. We feel like we were in position to win the game and just didn’t win the game.”
  • One obvious advantage for Indiana was Turner’s dominance with Kristaps Porzingis unavailable due to injury, notes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Turner had 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in the first half against Al Horford and Luke Kornet before Boston started guarding him with wings after halftime. “Usually when 5s are on me, that’s usually my time to get loose and what not,” Turner said. “Teams pick up on that and start guarding me with other men, 3s or 4s and sometimes guarding me with guards. That’s when I have to make my way in the paint and make my hay there. There were definitely some more things I could have done in the homestretch to be more aggressive.”
  • The Pacers were unhappy with the imbalance of fouls as they shot just three free throws in regulation, per Joe Vardon of the Athletic. Indiana wound up with 10 total attempts from the line compared to Boston’s 30, but Carlisle, who was fined $35K for criticizing the officiating in the Knicks series, was careful with his post-game comments. “My daughter already has to sit out one semester of college — I can’t have her take a whole year off,” he said.

Draft Notes: Omier, Roach, Shulga, Diarra, Warrick, More

After spending their senior years at Miami and Duke, respectively, forward Norchad Omier and guard Jeremy Roach entered the 2024 NBA draft pool this spring. However, as Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets, both Omier and Roach have opted to withdraw from the draft and take advantage of their extra year of NCAA eligibility by playing at Baylor as “super-seniors” in 2024/25.

Omier, who began his college career at Arkansas State, has averaged a double-double in each of his four seasons, including putting up 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for the Hurricanes last season. A Miami Herald report last month stated that Omier had hired an agent and was expected to go pro, but his representative (Adam Godes) is NCAA-certified, which allowed the forward to test the waters and remove his name from the draft without forgoing his final year of college eligibility.

Roach, meanwhile, enjoyed the best season of his college career in 2023/24, averaging 14.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, and 2.5 RPG on .468/.429/.844 shooting in 35 games (32.7 MPG) for the Blue Devils.

Here’s more on the 2024 draft:

  • Guard Max Shulga, who spent his senior season at VCU in 2023/24, is withdrawing from the draft and will return to the Rams rather than transferring, despite reports that he had committed to Villanova, according to Rothstein (Twitter link). Shulga, VCU’s leading scorer with 14.0 PPG last season, will be automatically draft-eligible in 2025.
  • North Carolina State forward Mohamed Diarra will remain in the 2024 draft and go pro, a source tells Rothstein (Twitter link). That was the expectation for Diarra, who didn’t say anything about maintaining his college eligibility when he announced last month that he was entering the draft.
  • Marques Warrick, a four-time All-Horizon guard at Northern Kentucky, is pulling out of the draft and transferring to Missouri for his final college season, tweets Rothstein.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo (Insider link) have published their post-combine mock draft, with Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher in the top two spots, followed by Kentucky teammates Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Givony and Woo have former No. 1 prospect Ron Holland slipping to 11th overall and going to the Bulls.
  • Former Illinois big man Coleman Hawkins will work out for the Warriors on Thursday and the Kings on Friday, according to Sean Cunningham of FOX 40 Sacramento (Twitter link).

2024 NBA Offseason Preview: San Antonio Spurs

In terms of NBA roster construction, the most difficult thing to acquire is a foundational star to build around. When the Spurs won the draft lottery in 2023 and landed the No. 1 overall pick, they found such a player in Victor Wembanyama.

The unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, Wembanyama finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and on Tuesday became the first rookie in league history to be named to the All-Defensive First Team.

There has never been a player as tall and long as Wembanyama (he’s 7’4″ with a 8’0″ wingspan) who comes close to his unique blend of physical attributes and skills. While many seven-footers look stiff and awkward on the court due to their immense size, Wembanyama is agile, fluid and graceful, with excellent body control. He has a rare ability to precisely understand how his body can navigate a given space.

The French phenom handles the ball better than some guards, with advanced and elaborate dribble moves that mimic some of the game’s all-time scorers. He can spin both ways while finishing emphatically with either hand. Wembanyama is a skilled passer who certainly could have — and probably should have — averaged more than 3.9 assists per game. He has very deep shooting range and attempted 5.5 threes per game, one of the highest marks among all big men.

For all of Wembanyama’s offensive talent, he’s much more polished on the defensive end at this point in his career. Even if he gets beat one-on-one, he can recover quickly enough to still block a shot. He has a high basketball IQ, excellent hand-eye coordination and situational awareness, he doesn’t back down from physicality despite having a thin frame, and he fully utilizes his massive wingspan and glove-like hands.

Just how good was the 20-year-old’s rookie campaign? Despite playing just 29.7 minutes per game, Wembanyama averaged more steals (1.2) plus blocks (3.6) than every player in the 21st century except for one: four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. The scariest thing is that he only got better as the season wore on, averaging 23.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 4.6 blocks (!) over his last 24 games (32.1 MPG).

Despite Wembanyama’s individual success, the Spurs went just 22-60 in 2023/24, the exact same record they posted in ’22/23. The team’s underlying stats were marginally better (-6.4 net rating vs. a league worst -9.9 a year ago), but San Antonio was still dreadful.

Yes, the club was much better when Wembanyama played, with a defensive rating (111.2) that would have ranked fifth in the league. When Wembanyama was off the court, San Antonio’s had the equivalent of the NBA’s 24th-ranked defense (117.3). However, the team actually fared slightly worse on offense when he was on the court than off. His .565 true shooting percentage was below league average (.580) and well below average for a big man. He also averaged 3.7 turnovers per game, and turnovers were a significant issue for the Spurs throughout the season. Being the No. 1 option on an inexperienced team with poor floor spacing has its downsides, and Wembanyama’s shot selection wasn’t always ideal either.

Part of that was due to the failed lineup experiments at the beginning of the season, when the Spurs ran Wembanyama at power forward, Zach Collins at center, and Jeremy Sochan at point guard. It definitely is not a coincidence that Wembanyama’s numbers rose across the board when Tre Jones, the team’s only true point guard, became a full-time starter on January 4. The Spurs were 5-28 at that point and were slightly more respectable (17-32) the rest of the way.

The Spurs’ Offseason Plan

While Jones is a solid all-around player, he profiles as more of a top-tier backup than a starter. That’s why the Spurs have been linked to All-Star names like Trae Young and Darius Garland. For what it’s worth, multiple reports have downplayed the team’s potential interest in Young.

Generally speaking, San Antonio needs more players who can create for themselves and others, shoot, and throw entry passes and lobs. If those players can also be at least average defensively, that would be a huge plus.

Aside from Wembanyama and Devin Vassell, who signed a five-year, $135MM rookie scale extension last offseason, I wouldn’t be shocked to see anyone else on the roster moved. I don’t expect that to happen with 2022 lottery pick Sochan, as the team likes his competitiveness and defensive versatility. Same for 2023 second-rounder Sidy Cissoko, who just turned 20 in April. Both players really need to develop their jump shots, however.

I would also be mildly surprised if Jones gets traded. In a vacuum, he isn’t irreplaceable by any means, but the team clearly needs the 24-year-old’s skill set. Jones is another player who isn’t known for his outside shooting ability though — his 33.5% three-point conversion rate last season was a career high, and he averaged just 2.5 attempts per game. Teams dare him and several others on the roster to shoot, which is another reason why Wembanyama attempted so many threes while only converting 32.5% of them.

2022 first-rounders Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley haven’t shown much in their first two seasons to think they’ll be part of the team’s long-term future, but they’re both just 21 years old and on relatively cheap contracts. The Spurs don’t have a roster crunch, so they can be patient and see if the two guards develop further in the offseason.

Cedi Osman is the only true unrestricted free agent on the roster. Assuming the price is right, the Spurs could re-sign him, but it probably won’t be a high priority. Devonte’ Graham seems highly likely to hit the open market as well — his $12.65MM salary is only partially guaranteed for $2.85MM, and I expect the Spurs to waive him, considering he only played 313 total minutes in ’24/25. There’s certainly an argument to be made Graham should have played more this past season, but San Antonio was more focused on experimenting and player development than giving veterans minutes.

If the Spurs accelerate their timeline by trading away some of their future first-rounders for upgrades, Keldon Johnson ($54MM over the next three seasons) and Zach Collins ($34.8MM over the next two) are the team’s most likely trade candidates. They are the only players on the roster who will make between $13-28MM in ’24/25, so their contracts are obvious salary-matching pieces.

A former late first-rounder, Johnson has been a productive scorer and slasher over the past handful of seasons. However, he was moved to the bench last season. The 24-year-old gets left in the dust too often defensively, particularly struggling with quicker players and lateral movement. If the Spurs view him more as a sixth man than a starter, he could certainly be expendable in the right deal.

Collins underwent surgery last month after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder (he’s expected to be ready for next season). The oft-injured former Gonzaga product didn’t mesh well alongside Wembanyama, with his three-point percentage dropping from 37.4% in ’22/23 to 32.0% in ’23/24. He’s a solid enough backup, but the two-year, $35MM extension he signed last October doesn’t exactly look team-friendly.

While the Spurs have plenty of options if they want to make deals, they could also simply keep all of their future first-round picks and take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason. Listening to offers while not proactively shopping for help might make the most sense, given that Collins could be the oldest player on the roster next season and he’s only 26.

San Antonio got lucky in the draft lottery once again, moving up to No. 4 overall after finishing with the NBA’s fifth-worst record. The Spurs also control the No. 8 overall pick after the Raptors slid down two spots — Toronto would have kept the selection if it had landed in the top six (San Antonio acquired the rights to the pick in last year’s Jakob Poeltl trade).

Controlling a pair of early-to-mid lottery picks would be a massive windfall in most years. It remains to be seen if it will have the same effect in 2024, as this year’s draft class is largely viewed as lacking in top-end talent.

That said, the Spurs also don’t need to the players they select to be home runs. Having cost-controlled role players would be very helpful too, and there are players who fit that mold in this draft.

Having a pair of lottery picks will surely have rumors swirling about the Spurs potentially trying to move up or down in the draft. That’s just the nature of controlling multiple picks in that range. San Antonio also owns one second-rounder, No. 42 overall.

If they move up or he’s still available at No. 4, French 3-and-D forward Zaccharie Risacher seems like a natural target for the Spurs. If they focus on shooting, Kentucky guards Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, Tennesee swingman Dalton Knecht, and French forward Tidjane Salaun are candidates to monitor. If they gravitate more toward best players available, Nikola Topic (Serbia), Stephon Castle (UConn), Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis (G League Ignite) could be options.

Getting lucky in the lottery also means the Spurs will have less projected cap room in free agency, which really isn’t a big deal for them — it’s a weak class and not many players fit what they’re looking for. If they keep both picks, waive Graham and Charles Bassey (non-guaranteed), and extend qualifying offers to Sandro Mamukelashvili and Dominick Barlow, they’d have have about $14-15MM in cap room, plus the $8MM room exception. Using that financial flexibility to take on an unwanted contract or two in order to add more draft assets is probably a likelier outcome than signing veterans.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Devonte’ Graham ($9,800,000)
    • Partial guarantee. Rest of salary noted above. Graham’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 1.
  • Julian Champagnie ($3,000,000)
    • Champagnie’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1.
  • Charles Bassey ($2,500,000)
    • Bassey’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1.
  • Jamaree Bouyea (two-way)
  • RaiQuan Gray (two-way)
  • Total: $15,300,000

Dead/Retained Salary

  • None

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 4 overall pick ($9,131,760)
  • No. 8 overall pick ($6,281,280)
  • No. 42 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $15,413,040

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Devonte’ Graham (veteran)
  • Cedi Osman (veteran)
    • Extension-eligible until June 30.

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these players are eligible for extensions beginning in July.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Cedi Osman ($12,765,800 cap hold): Bird rights
  • Total (cap holds): $12,765,800

Cap Exceptions Available

Note: The Spurs project to operate under the cap. If they were to operate over the cap, they’d lose the room exception and would have access to the mid-level exception ($12,859,000) and bi-annual exception ($4,681,000).

  • Room exception: $8,006,000

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Valley Suns Announced As Phoenix’s G League Affiliate

Phoenix’s new NBA G League affiliate will be known as the Valley Suns, the team announced today in a press release. In addition to revealing the team name, the franchise revealed the Valley Suns’ colors and logo, which can be viewed here.

The Suns ran an online contest that gave fans the opportunity to submit ideas for the G League team’s name. According to today’s announcement, more than 12,000 fans submitted ideas, with “dozens” of those respondents suggesting the Valley Suns.

“The Valley Suns is the community’s team and will provide fans an energetic and family-friendly atmosphere while developing aspiring talent on and off the court,” Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein said in a statement. “We’re excited to launch the new G League team with a name and identity chosen by our fans and inspired by the unique desert landscape that we call home.”

The team will play its home games at Mullett Arena at Arizona State University. The facility is about an 11-mile drive from the Footprint Center, where Phoenix plays its home games, so the NBA and G League Suns will have no problem shuttling players back and forth frequently during the season.

The Suns had been the last NBA franchise without a G League affiliate. They announced in February that they’d acquired the right to own and operate an NBAGL team and that it would debut in 2024/25, which will be the first season in which all 30 NBA teams have G League affiliates of their own. The league will have 31 teams in total, including the unaffiliated Mexico City Capitanes.

Phoenix actually had a G League affiliate known as the Northern Arizona Suns from 2016-21, but former team owner Robert Sarver sold the franchise to the Pistons, who relocated it to Michigan and rebranded it as the Motor City Cruise. Current owner Mat Ishbia stated shortly after officially assuming majority control of the Suns in 2023 that reestablishing a G League team was a priority.