Stein’s Latest: Antetokounmpo, Vucevic, Lakers

Plenty of teams are hoping for the chance to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Warriors, in particular, have thought about pairing him and Stephen Curry should Kevin Durant leave in free agency, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter.

Antetokounmpo would have his pick of suitors on an open market, but as Stein notes, the Greek Freak may never make it to free agency. Antetokounmpo loves Milwaukee and the Bucks have to feel they have a chance at getting him to sign a super-max extension with the team during the summer of 2020—a year prior to him hitting the open market.

Yet, the Warriors will always swing big if given just the tiniest of chances. Antetokounmpo and Curry have selected one another first overall in back-to-back All-Star drafts and the two share a mutual admiration for each other, Stein notes.

Stein, who was honored over the weekend by the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Curt Gowdy Media award recipient, has more in his latest newsletter. Here are some highlights:

  • The Mavericks‘ interest in Nikola Vucevic may be overstated, Stein hears, adding that he doesn’t get the sense that Dallas will pursue the big man. The Mavs were rumored to have interest in Vucevic as a free agent target this summer.
  • The Lakers have the ninth-hardest remaining schedule and a playoff birth is no guarantee. “It’s going to be tough, but we shouldn’t want it any other way,”  LeBron James said. “I look forward to the challenge — and I’m getting healthy, too.”
  • Charles Barkley wonders if the advent of super teams will prompt small market owners to try to take back control in future CBA talks. “I hear all these clowns on TV talking about, ‘It’s great that all these players are exuding these powers,’” Barkley told a small group of reporters prior to All-Star weekend. “Let me tell you guys something: Workers ain’t never going to have power over their ownership. Ever. Now it might work for a couple guys here or there, but in the history of the world, no workers have ever overtaken the people who own a business. And when these guys are sitting at home locked out in a couple years, I want y’all to remember I told y’all that.”

Knicks To Sign Henry Ellenson To 10-Day Deal

The Knicks will sign Henry Ellenson to a 10-day contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Detroit selected Ellenson with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2016 draft, but he never saw much action for the franchise, playing in a total of 59 games. He was waived by the team shortly after the trade deadline to make room for Wayne Ellington.

The decision to add Ellenson aligns with the Knicks recent strategy of adding former lottery picks who have fallen out of favor with their previous club. Dennis Smith Jr., Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh, and Mario Hezonja are all other teams’ recent first-rounders that currently reside in New York.

Raptors To Sign Jodie Meeks To 10-Day Deal

The Raptors will sign Jodie Meeks to a 10-day deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of

Meeks has not played in the NBA since serving a 25-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. Per the ESPN scribe, Meeks insists that he never knowingly ingested any substances that would be considered performance enhancing.

The Wizards sent the 31-year-old to the Bucks along with a second-rounder and additional cash earlier this year. Milwaukee waived Meeks prior to him seeing any court time with the team.

Toronto’s depth was depleted after sending Delon Wright to the Grizzlies in the Marc Gasol deal and watching Fred VanVleet undergo surgery on his injured hand. Meeks worked out for Toronto earlier in the week and the franchise feels the former Kentucky Wildcat could contribute off the bench because of his shooting ability, Woj notes.

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Turner, Kurucs

Blake Griffin, who is in year two of a five-year, $171MM deal, is enjoying a resurgence a year after he was traded to the Pistons, Noah Trister of The Associated Press writes. Griffin expanded his offense, adding the 3-pointer to his game, which is something he credits for his success this year.

“It helps a lot, especially in today’s NBA, with everybody spacing the floor a little bit more, and playing with a guy like Dre (Andre Drummond), who’s so effective inside,” Griffin said. “To be able to give him a little bit more space is a good thing. I always see guys working to expand their range, and when you do, you see them add years to their career.”

Griffin has already made a career-high 134 shots from behind the arc this season. Here’s more on the Pistons and a few other teams in the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey believes Griffin’s basketball I.Q. has helped the team stay in the playoff race, Trister relays in the same piece. “He’s thinking the game. He’s a couple steps ahead,” Casey said. “I’ve had a lot of great forwards, power forwards, and he’s right up there with the best, whether it’s [Dirk Nowitzki], [Kevin] Garnett, Detlef Schrempf — just a lot of great players that I’ve been around. He’s right in that category.”
  • Myles Turner, who signed a four-year, $72MM extension with the Pacers earlier this season, should be considered a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star contends. Turner is leading the league in blocks per game (2.7) and he has the league’s third-best defensive rating (99.6), giving him the credentials to be in the conversation for the award.
  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic examines how the Nets got a steal in the secon -round with Rodions Kurucs. Kurucs, who was the No. 40 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, has worked his way into Brooklyn’s starting lineup after beginning the season buried on the depth chart.

Pat Riley Talks Heat, Retirement, LeBron James

Pat Riley has served as team president of the Heat since 1995. The 73-year-old executive brought Miami three titles—one while also serving as a coach—but remains hungry to oversee another championship team.

“Maybe that’s why I’m not going to retire. I ain’t going out this way until we win another title,” Riley said with a smile to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard (h/t Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel).

Riley added while he would love to have “one of those golden consulting jobs,” he wants to remain a hands-on participant in the franchise

“There’s a few guys around the league that have those jobs. But I say that in jest, because all the men who do that I’m sure they provide a good service. But I’m an active participant, and I want to stay that way,” Riley said.

Riley also touched upon LeBron James‘ tenure with the club and LBJ’s departure in 2014. The executive said he “saw a dynasty fly out the window” when James decided to return to Cleveland.

“I didn’t blame him [for leaving],” Riley said. “But I knew that was a 10-year team. It was just a sad day for me and for our franchise because I wanted that dynasty. I wanted this city and this team to go 10 years and maybe be in the Finals eight times.

“I don’t know how many championships we would have won. But I don’t have any rancor toward him at all.”

Southwest Notes: Demps, Rockets, Spurs

After being let go by the Pelicans last week, longtime general manager Dell Demps published a letter today thanking fans in New Orleans for supporting the franchise during his time as GM, as The Advocate relays.

“Pelican Fans, I will always remember the buzz in the arena during the playoffs when everyone wore red shirts and your passion inspired our team to victory,” Demps’ statement reads, in part. “Through the highs and the lows, your love for the team did not go unnoticed.”

With Demps no longer in New Orleans, it will fall on interim Pelicans GM Danny Ferry to navigate the waters of the Anthony Davis saga for now, as we detailed earlier today.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press spoke to former NBA stars who asked for trades during their careers, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rick Barry, to get their thoughts on the Davis saga. Barry, for one, doesn’t like the fact that the Pelicans‘ star made his request during the season and did it so publicly. “I just think it’s a situation where they needed to keep it in house,” he said. “Just talk to the owners. Talk amongst yourselves. Airing your dirty laundry and putting stuff out there … I just don’t understand why you want to get into a situation like that that does nobody any good and can only cause problems.”
  • In his latest mailbag, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle checks in on Danuel House, the Rockets‘ most pressing needs, and how the team plans to fill its open roster spots.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (33 years old) and DeMar DeRozan (29) aren’t exactly young in NBA terms, but the Spurs‘ stars believe time is still on their side and that they’re capable of leading the club for years to come, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News.

Suns Plan To Sign Ray Spalding To 10-Day Contract

The Suns intend to sign free agent forward Ray Spalding to a 10-day contract, reports Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Phoenix has a pair of open roster spots, so no corresponding move will be necessary.

Spalding, who will turn 22 next month, was selected with the 56th overall pick in the 2018 draft and spent most of his rookie season with the Mavericks. While the former Louisville standout appeared in just one game for Dallas, he was a starter in the Texas Legends’ frontcourt, averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG, and 1.7 SPG in 29 games (30.1 MPG) for the Mavs’ G League affiliate.

The Mavericks released Spalding about three weeks ago when they needed to open up a roster spot to accommodate the incoming players in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster. Despite a team-friendly contract, he cleared waivers and has been an unrestricted free agent since then.

The Suns will get a look at the rookie and will get back to the NBA-mandated roster minimum of 14 players as a result of the signing. Phoenix had been at 13 players since waiving Wayne Ellington on February 7, and had a two-week window to re-add a 14th man.

Pelicans May Re-Engage NBA On Davis Situation

With the Pelicans set to resume play this Friday in Indiana, it’s still not clear whether Anthony Davis will continue to take the court for the team going forward.

Davis has said he plans to play the rest of the season, and it appears the shoulder injury that knocked him out of last Thursday’s contest is minor, as he was able to play in the All-Star Game. However, there are reportedly members of the Pelicans’ organization who believe he has played his last game for the team — the club would prefer to sit him to minimize the risk of an injury that would adversely impact his trade value ahead of a crucial offseason.

In a column addressing the Davis situation, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes of “strong signals” that the Pelicans intend to re-engage the NBA this week to discuss the matter. The organization, which replaced general manager Dell Demps with interim GM Danny Ferry last week, hopes to convince league officials to reconsider their stance on forcing the Pelicans to play Davis, says Stein.

When the Pelicans initially mulled the possibility of sitting Davis following the trade deadline, the league reportedly reached out to remind them that teams are subject to fines of $100K for benching healthy players. New Orleans wouldn’t be the first club to sit a healthy veteran this season, but the NBA wants to make a distinction between a difference maker like AD and lesser players like J.R. Smith and Enes Kanter.

In Stein’s view, the league’s stance that the Pelicans would be hurting the ticket-buying public by holding Davis out of action rings hollow, since fans in New Orleans recognize that the All-Star big man no longer wants to be there. Forcing the Pelicans to play him against their will is making an uncomfortable situation even more toxic, Stein argues.

With 23 games left on the Pelicans’ schedule, this will be a situation worth keeping a close eye on the rest of the way. If the club eventually decides to sit Davis – with or without the NBA’s approval – the players’ union may get involved, which would make things even messier. But if the Pelicans hope to maximize their return for Davis in an offseason trade, the drama may be worth it.

Early Mid-Level, Bi-Annual Projections For 2019/20

Under the NBA’s previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, the values of various exceptions like the mid-level and bi-annual were established years in advance, but the league’s current CBA tweaked how those exceptions are calculated.

Rather than being determined ahead of time, the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions – along with several other cap-related figures and exceptions – are dependent on the movement of the salary cap from year to year. If the cap increases by 5% from one league year to the next, the exceptions increase by the same rate.

As such, we don’t know yet exactly what those exceptions will be worth in 2019/20, but we can make an educated estimate. The NBA’s most recent cap projections called for a $109MM cap for next season. That would be approximately a 7% increase on this year’s $101.869MM cap. If that projection holds, the values of the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions would increase by 7% too.

[RELATED: Early Maximum Salary Projections For 2019/20]

Based on a $109MM cap, here’s what the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions would look like in 2019/20:

Mid-Level Exception

Year Standard MLE
Taxpayer MLE Room MLE
2019/20 $9,246,000 $5,711,000 $4,760,000
2020/21 $9,708,300 $5,996,550 $4,998,000
2021/22 $10,170,600 $6,282,100
2022/23 $10,632,900
Total $39,757,800 $17,989,650 $9,758,000

The standard mid-level exception is available to over-the-cap teams that haven’t dipped below the cap to use room and don’t go over the tax apron at all. It can run for up to four years, with 5% annual raises.

The taxpayer mid-level exception is for in-the-tax teams, or teams that want the flexibility to surpass the tax apron later. It can run for up to three years, with 5% annual raises.

The room exception is for teams that go under the cap and use their space. Once they’ve used all their cap room, they can use this version of the mid-level exception, which runs for up to two years with 5% annual raises.

Bi-Annual Exception

Year BAE Value
2019/20 $3,619,000
2020/21 $3,799,950
Total $7,418,950

The bi-annual exception is only available to teams that over the cap and under the tax apron. It can also only be used once every two years, which will disqualify the Bucks, Pelicans, Knicks, and Spurs from using it in 2019/20 — they all used their BAE in 2018/19.

MarShon Brooks Expected To Play In China

After being released by the Bulls last month, veteran guard MarShon Brooks appears to have lined up his next destination. A source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando that Brooks has agreed to a deal with China’s Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Brooks, 30, had an unusual NBA season, having found himself involved of a three-way trade rumor involving the Grizzlies, Wizards, and Suns in December. The three clubs nearly agreed to a deal, but it fell apart when the Suns realized the Grizzlies intended to send them MarShon rather than Dillon Brooks.

Memphis subsequently traded MarShon to the Bulls in a January deal for Justin Holiday, and Chicago waived him a few days later. In 29 games for the Grizzlies this season, Brooks averaged 6.6 PPG on .450/.278/.697 shooting in 13.3 minutes per contest.

Brooks is now poised to join a team that is battling for first place in the Chinese Basketball Association as the postseason approaches. Guangdong was in the news once today already, as the club was said to be finalizing a deal with Michael Beasley as well.

Teams in the CBA are only permitted to carry two international players, and Guangdong also has Sonny Weems under contract. However, Carchia suggests in a follow-up tweet that the club could technically carry three international players if one is inactive. It’s not clear yet what the team’s plan is, assuming both Brooks and Beasley officially sign.