2012 NBA Draft

Extension Candidate: Jonas Valanciunas

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

No one who’s a part of the Raptors core was as highly drafted as Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick from 2011. Toronto had to wait a year for the Lithuanian center while he continued to play overseas, but he’s quickly established himself as an NBA starter in the three seasons since. It’s convincing the Raptors that he can finish games that has proven troublesome for the 7-footer, who often sat on the bench in crunch time this past season, one in which he played a relatively meager 26.2 minutes per game despite starting in all 80 of his regular season appearances. The Raptors reportedly want an extension with him, and while that’s no surprise, GM Masai Ujiri surely has a ceiling for negotiations with a center who saw the floor for barely more than half the game.

Still, Ujiri called Valanciunas “a huge part of our team” at season’s end, adding that the way the team deployed the center this past season would be a “big discussion” he would have with coach Dwane Casey and his staff. Valanciunas appeared to stagnate this past season after a leap between his rookie and sophomore years, and that was a factor in the changes that ultimately took place to Casey’s staff, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported a few months ago. All of that would suggest that Ujiri feels Valanciunas is capable of playing more minutes and finishing more games than he did in 2014/15, which bodes well for the Leon Rose client as extension talks loom.

The problem lies on defense. The Raptors were a better defensive team when Valanciunas sat than when he played last season, by a measure of 1.6 points per 100 possessions, as NBA.com shows. He was a minus defender, according to Basketball-Reference’s Box Plus Minus. Those are serious issues for any NBA starting center, let alone one whom a team is considering for a long-term commitment. ESPN’s Real Plus Minus is kinder, ranking him as the 33rd-best defensive center, two spots behind fellow rookie scale extension candidate John Henson, whom other defensive metrics love, as I examined earlier. A ranking of No. 33 among centers is cold comfort, nonetheless. Casey’s forte is defense, but he’ll have to work some true wizardry to give the Raptors a championship-level defense any time soon unless Valanciunas can improve on that end.

Ujiri made moves to improve the team’s defense this past season, none more striking than his four-year, $58MM deal for three-and-D forward DeMarre Carroll. He also brought in Bismack Biyombo, a defensive specialist, to play as the backup to Valanciunas. Biyombo, who averaged only 4.8 points per game last season, would be the only logical alternative for Casey if he doesn’t want Valanciunas on the floor down the stretch, so unless the Raptors merely want to protect a lead, it seems likely that Valanciunas will be on the floor when the final horn sounds.

The 23-year-old has shown he’s capable of getting better in other regards. His PER vaulted from 16.1 in 2013/14 to a strong 20.6 this past season, a sign that he made the most of his time on the floor. Indeed, Valanciunas scored more points per game in fewer minutes and on slightly fewer shots. He made a career-best 57.2% of his attempts from the floor, upping the percentage of his shots that came at point-blank range, as Basketball-Reference shows. He’s also become a better rebounder, having averaged nearly 12 rebounds per 36 minutes this past season after he started out at just 9.0 in the per-36 category as a rookie.

Next year’s free agent class is relatively thin after the top few names, but the available centers are fairly intriguing. Andre Drummond seems destined to either receive an extension from the Pistons or re-sign next summer, but Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol can opt out. Former Florida teammates Al Horford and Joakim Noah figure to be highly sought-after, as does Al Jefferson. Hassan Whiteside will have no shortage of suitors if he duplicates his breakthrough year for the Heat, and Roy Hibbert can vault himself into the upper tier with a bounceback season for the Lakers. Teams will have serious money to throw around, with the salary cap set to surge to $89MM, but Valanciunas will have competition for it.

The Raptors can go in several different directions. They only have about $42MM in salary commitments for 2016/17 as it stands, though that figure will almost certainly rise to approximately $45.5MM when Toronto picks up its team options on Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo. Early word indicates that DeMar DeRozan will opt out, and Terrence Ross, like Valanciunas, can hit restricted free agency if he doesn’t receive an extension. Re-signing DeRozan, Ross and Valanciunas at market value would likely leave the team without the capacity to chase top-tier free agents next summer, when Toronto native Tristan Thompson would be an unrestricted free agent if he signs his qualifying offer.

I speculated in our Raptors offseason outlook that Valanciunas and Rose would ask for $12MM salaries that would put him in line with what Nikola Vucevic, another defensively challenged starting center, received on his extension from the Magic last year. The spending in this summer’s free agent market, including a max deal of more than $17.5MM a year for defensive sieve Enes Kanter and Ujiri’s commitment of a $14.5MM average annual value to Carroll, suggests that $12MM is too low a starting point. The Valanciunas camp will probably ask for at least as much as Carroll received, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the center ultimately end up with $13-14MM a year, numbers that look high but are well beneath the projected $20.4MM max for players with his level of experience.

That may end up a bargain if Casey and new assistants Rex Kalamian, Andy Greer and Jerry Stackhouse turn Valanciunas into a credible defender and continue his offensive development. Ujiri appears to have no shortage of faith that Valanciunas will improve and seems to view him as a cornerstone for the future. That’s probably enough motivation for Toronto to make an offer lucrative enough to get a deal done this fall.

How much do you think Valanciunas should make per year on his next deal? Leave a comment to tell us.

Draft Histories Of Current NBA Executives

The 2015 NBA Draft is less than three weeks away, and for all of the teams that aren’t still participating in the NBA playoffs, the focus is on using that event to build toward a better future. With NBA Draft lottery complete, the speculation is underway as to which player each franchise will pin its hopes on for the future. Of course, having one of the top selections in any draft doesn’t guarantee that a team will snag a future All-Star. Team executives and scouts still have the difficult task of making the correct call with their picks.

With this in mind we at Hoops Rumors have been taking a look back at the draft history of the primary basketball executive for each NBA team. Their names, reputations, and possibly employment will be on the line as a result of the decisions to come on June 25th, and we’ll be examining what they’ve done in previous years in charge of a club’s front office. Note that many of them have played other sorts of roles within a team’s executive structure, but this won’t take that into account.

Here’s the list of executives I’ve examined thus far:

 

Traded 2012 First-Round Draft Picks

There’s talk that Marquis Teague, the 29th pick in the 2012 draft, could be on the move in the coming days, and if the Bulls trade him, he’d join eight other first-rounders from that draft who have been traded since August 2012. That nearly a third of the 2012 first-round has changed hands in the span of 14 months is remarkable, considering teams were so reluctant to part with 2013 first-rounders at this year’s trade deadline. No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson has twice been traded, meaning there have already been nine swaps involving 2012 first-round picks. In one respect, it shows how quickly the value of a first-rounder can decline once the pick is used to draft a player.

Here’s a look at each of the 2012 first-round picks who’ve been traded, along with brief analysis on how much they cost to acquire. Note: This list doesn’t include players involved in 2012 draft-night transactions.

No. 5, Thomas RobinsonTraded February 20th from Kings to Rockets with Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt for Patrick PattersonCole AldrichToney Douglas, and $1MM in cash; traded July 10th from Rockets to Trail Blazers for the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou and Marko Todorovic, a 2015 second-round pick, and a 2017 second-round pick.

  •  The cost wasn’t high in either case, though arguably the price the Rockets paid to acquire Robinson at the deadline wasn’t as high as what the Blazers gave Houston in this summer’s trade. Houston also received Garcia in the Robinson deal, which no doubt gave the team an edge when it re-signed Garcia this summer.

No. 12, Jeremy LambTraded October 29th, 2012 from Rockets to Thunder with Kevin Martin, the Mavericks’ 2013 first-round pick, the Raptors’ 2013 first-round pick and the Bobcats’ 2013 second-round pick for James HardenDaequan CookCole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward.

  • Lamb was a throw-in as part of the Harden trade, and it’s difficult to pinpoint his cost amid all the moving parts in this deal. Still, unless Lamb shows significant improvement, he appears to have been a small price to pay to facilitate the acquisition of Harden.

No. 15, Maurice HarklessTraded August 10th, 2012 from Sixers to Magic as part of a four-team deal. The Sixers gave up Nikola Vucevic, Andre Iguodala and a protected 2015 first-round pick and acquired Andrew Bynum and Jason RichardsonThe Magic gave up Dwight HowardJason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark and acquired Harkless, Vucevic, Arron AfflaloAl HarringtonJosh McRobertsChristian Eyenga, three first-round picks and two second-rounders.

  • This was another deal that involved superstars and a host of other components, but it’s hard to say that Harkless’ cost was anything but dire, since the Magic had to surrender the face of their franchise in the trade. The swap has nonetheless worked out much better for Orlando than for Philly, and the development of Harkless has been a major factor in that.

No. 16, Royce WhiteTraded July 13th from Rockets to Sixers with Furkan Aldemir and cash for a protected 2014 second-round pick.

  • The Rockets acquired a player they believed was a top-five talent midway through the draft last year, his psychological problems notwithstanding. White never saw the floor for Houston during the regular season as GM Daryl Morey‘s gamble didn’t pan out. New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, who was Morey’s assistant when they drafted White, was willing to take another shot on White, but this time, the stakes are much lower.

No. 22, Fab MeloTraded August 15th with $1.66MM cash from Celtics to Grizzlies for Donte Greene.

  • Both players involved in this deal have been waived by the teams that acquired them, so it’s safe to say Melo came cheaply. Memphis walked away with $1.66MM just for their trouble. Melo is on a non-guaranteed camp deal with the Mavs.

No. 24, Jared CunninghamTraded June 27th from Mavericks to Hawks with Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala for Shane Larkin.

  • The Hawks turned the 2013 No. 18 pick into players who were 16th, 24th and 44th overall picks in the last two drafts, so Cunningham was part of a bargain for Atlanta. Nogueira and Muscala are spending this season overseas, so there may be some degree of pressure on Cunningham to perform this year, particularly if Larkin impresses.

No. 25, Tony WrotenTraded August 22nd from Grizzlies to Sixers for a protected 2014 second-round pick.

  • A former first-round pick traded straight up for a second clearly shows Wroten’s cost reduction. That’s further underlined when you consider that the Grizzlies are unlikely ever to see that second-round pick. The Sixers only send it to Memphis if it falls between 51st and 55th overall.

No. 26, Miles Plumlee — Traded July 27th from Pacers to Suns with Gerald Green, and a lottery-protected 2014 first-round pick for Luis Scola.

  • The Pacers weren’t excited about giving up Plumlee, but with an established scoring big man like Scola available, they pounced. Even though Scola wasn’t relevant to Phoenix’s rebuilding plan, Plumlee’s cost was significantly higher than Wroten’s or Cunningham’s, the two players picked immediately before him.

Odds & Ends: Raptors, Jamison, Wolves, Bennett

It's a busy 48 hours on the court, with a dozen games last night and another 11 games on tap this evening. There's plenty of news off the court as well, and we'll round it up here.

  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears that Andrea Bargnani is "a lock to be moved," and wonders whether the Raptors might try to package him with Kyle Lowry instead of Jose Calderon. The other Raptors appear to prefer playing alongside Calderon, Stein observes, and the team's defense has improved since Bargnani went down with torn ligaments in his right elbow.
  • Antawn Jamison expressed confusion about his diminished role with the Lakers 10 days ago, and now he doesn't appear pleased as he continues to stay chained to the bench, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reports. "It doesn't make sense at all," the power forward said. "They're pretty much telling me my services are no longer needed."
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN believes the Wolves may wait to sign a replacement for Josh Howard until January 5th, when teams can begin handing out 10-day contracts. He also thinks Minnesota is high on Mickael Gelabale, whose agent has reportedly been in touch with all 30 teams (Twitter link).
  • The Wolves made a half-hearted effort to sign O.J. Mayo over the offseason, making just one phone call, according to Wolfson (Twitter link).
  • UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett is gaining momentum with scouts as he contends for No. 1 overall spot in June's draft, tweets Aran Smith of NBADraft.net.

How 2012 Lottery Picks Have Fared So Far

It will be a long time before we can truly discern how well the teams that had high picks last June performed in the draft, but early impressions from the season's first two months can tell us a lot. It's also difficult to judge players who play different positions and get varying amounts of playing time, but former ESPN.com writer (and current Grizzlies executive) John Hollinger's player efficiency rating, or PER, gives us as effective a tool as any to do so.

There's no surprise about which rookie has the highest PER amongst this year's lottery picks, as No. 1 pick Anthony Davis claims the top spot. After him, though, the list bears little resemblance to the order in which the players were drafted. For the most part, the picture isn't a pretty one, either. Only four of this year's lottery picks have a PER better than 15.0, which is the mark of an average player. 

Last year's lottery selections are listed below in descending order of their PERs. The pick with which they were taken is in parentheses.

  1. Anthony Davis, Hornets (1) — 21.2: Injuries have limited him to just 14 games so far, but when he's played, he's been about as impressive as advertised.
  2. Andre Drummond, Pistons (9) — 21.0: The Pistons have kept their center of the future under wraps, playing him less than 20 minutes per game. In that time, Drummond has looked like a steal.
  3. Damian Lillard, Blazers (6) — 17.6: He's receiving early consideration for Rookie of the Year, though he may have a hard time holding off Davis as the big man gets more games under his belt.
  4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2) — 17.3: He was known for his defense coming out of college, but the small forward is shooting better than 50% so far.
  5. John Henson, Bucks (14) — 14.4: His playing time has been sporadic, as he's made five starts but is averaging only 10.1 minutes per game. Still, Henson is grabbing 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.
  6. Meyers Leonard, Trail Blazers (11) — 13.1: Though he's consistently part of the Blazers' rotation, he's yet to have much of an impact, with season highs of 12 points and nine rebounds.
  7. Jeremy Lamb, Thunder (12) — 12.5: His inclusion in the James Harden trade that brought him from the Rockets has done nothing for his playing time, as he's totaled just 41 NBA minutes so far.
  8. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers (4) — 11.8: Waiters has started in all 21 of his appearances for the Cavs, unlike college, where he was a reserve for Syracuse.
  9. Bradley Beal, Wizards (3) — 11.7: Beal was touted as a long-range shooter, and his 29% three-point shooting is just one of many ugly stats on the team with the league's worst record.
  10. Terrence Ross, Raptors (8) — 10.3: Injuries to others forced Ross into the rotation, but he's put on an uneven performance.
  11. Harrison Barnes, Warriors (7) — 10.1: It's a little surprising his PER is so low considering he's started all 28 games for Golden State, but many of his other numbers (8.8 PPG, 40.7% shooting, 31% three-point percentage) suggest his subpar PER makes sense.
  12. Thomas Robinson, Kings (5) — 9.4: He's seeing only 16 minutes per night, but he hasn't done much while on the floor to earn coach Keith Smart's trust.
  13. Austin Rivers, Hornets (10) — 6.7: His 35.1% field goal percentage looks even worse when you consider he's shooting 36.7% from three-point range.
  14. Kendall Marshall, Suns (13) — 0.7: Here's where PER is a little bit unfair, since the sample size covers only 38 NBA minutes. What's more disconcerting is Marshall's 9.6 points and 7.6 assists in 31.0 minutes per game in nine D-League contests.

Update On 2012 Second-Rounders

Training camps open in just a few weeks, and while all 30 first-round picks have been signed, the same is not the case for this year's second-rounders. It's common practice for teams to allow players from overseas to continue playing international ball for years after they're drafted, while most others at least earn a shot in training camp. Some have already signed deals with at least a partial guarantee, and while there's no rookie scale as there is with first-rounders, the contracts follow a similar pattern. They're usually either for the minimum or slightly more in the first year, followed by a second or third non-guaranteed season at the minimum.

Here's an update on each of this year's second-round picks, in the order in which they were drafted:

  1. Charlotte Bobcats: Jeff Taylor (SF, Vanderbilt) — Signed for three years, $2.279MM. The third year is not guaranteed.
  2. Washington Wizards: Tomas Satoransky (SG, Czech Republic) — Remains unsigned. He's likely to play overseas this year, as Michael Lee of The Washington Post reported in July.
  3. Dallas Mavericks: Bernard James (C, Florida St.) Signed for two years at the minimum salary. The second year is not guaranteed.
  4. Dallas Mavericks: Jae Crowder (SF, Marquette) Signed for three years, $2.305MM. The third year is a team option.
  5. Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green (SF, Michigan St.) — Signed for three years, $2.641MM. The third year is a team option partially guaranteed for $250K.
  6. Indiana Pacers: Orlando Johnson (SG, UC Santa Barbara) — Signed for three years, $2.254MM. The third year is not guaranteed. 
  7. Toronto Raptors: Quincy Acy (SF, Baylor) — Signed for three years, $2.369MM. The third year is not guaranteed.
  8. Denver Nuggets: Quincy Miller (SF, Baylor) — Remains unsigned. Averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for Denver's summer league team. Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri indicated earlier this summer he'd have a hard time beating out Jordan Hamilton in the depth chart, so it seems unlikely he'll be on Denver's roster this year.  
  9. Detroit Pistons: Khris Middleton (SF, Texas A&M) — Signed for three years at the minimum. The third year is not guaranteed.
  10. Portland Trail Blazers: Will Barton (SG, Memphis) — Signed for three years, $2.254MM. The third year is not guaranteed.
  11. Brooklyn Nets: Tyshawn Taylor (PG, Kansas) Signed for two years at the minimum.
  12. Milwaukee Bucks: Doron Lamb (SG, Kentucky) — Signed for three years, $2.354MM. The third year is not guaranteed.
  13. Atlanta Hawks: Mike Scott (PF, Virginia) — Remains unsigned. Averaged 10.0 PPG and 6.8 RPG for Atlanta's summer league team.
  14. Detroit Pistons: Kim English (SG, Missouri) — Signed for two years at the minimum. The second year is not guaranteed.
  15. Miami Heat: Justin Hamilton (C, LSU) — Signed with Cibona Zagreb in Croatia.
  16. New Orleans Hornets: Darius Miller (SF, Kentucky) — Signed for two years at the minimum. The second year is not guaranteed.
  17. Utah Jazz: Kevin Murphy (SF, Tennessee Tech) — The Jazz and Murphy were making progress in contract talks as of last month, and the team was hopeful to have him in camp, Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
  18. New York Knicks: Kostas Papanikolaou (SF, Greece) — Rights traded to the Blazers in July as part of the Raymond Felton sign-and-trade deal. A report by Sorush Kavoosian of Sportando indicates he'll play with Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece.
  19. Orlando Magic: Kyle O'Quinn (C, Norfolk St.) — Signed for three years, $2.493MM. The second and third years are not guaranteed.
  20. Denver Nuggets: Izzet Turkyilmaz (C, Turkey) — Remains unsigned. Likely headed overseas, and a report by Can Pelister of Sportando indicates he'll play for Banvit in Turkey next season.
  21. Boston Celtics: Kris Joseph (SF, Syracuse) — Signed for two years at the minimum. Neither year is guaranteed. 
  22. Golden State Warriors: Ognjen Kuzmic (C, Bosnia) — A report, via Sportando, notes that he'll play with FIATC Joventut Badalona of Spain, on loan from Unicaja Malaga, another Spanish club. Warriors GM Bob Myers said in July he expects Kuzmic to play overseas this season.
  23. Los Angeles Clippers: Furkan Aldemir (PF, Turkey) — Rights traded the day after the draft to the Rockets in the four-team swap that sent Lamar Odom to the Clippers. Aldemir signed a four-year deal with Galatasaray Medical Park in Turkey last year, and Can Pelister of Sportando lists him on the Galatasaray roster for this season. 
  24. Brooklyn Nets: Tornike Shengelia (SF, Georgia) Signed with the Nets, though contract details remain unconfirmed.  It appears to be a two-year deal, likely for the minimum. 
  25. Los Angeles Lakers: Darius Johnson-Odom (SF, Marquette) — Remains unsigned. Averaged 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds for L.A.'s summer league team.
  26. Toronto Raptors: Tomislav Zubcic (SF, Croatia) — Zubcic is in the middle of a deal with KK Cibona in Croatia that runs through 2014.
  27. Brooklyn Nets: Ilkan Karaman (PF, Turkey) — Signed with Fenerbache Ulker Istanbul in Turkey.
  28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Robbie Hummel (SF, Purdue) — Signed with Obradoiro in Spain.
  29. San Antonio Spurs: Marcus Denmon (SG, Missouri) — Signed with Elan Chalon in France.
  30. Los Angeles Lakers: Robert Sacre (C, Gonzaga) — Remains unsigned. Averaged 9.0 PPG and 6.2 RPG for L.A's summer league team, and has reportedly made a favorable impression on owner Jerry Buss.

Storytellers Contracts was used in the creation of this post.

Draft Notes: Friday

Now that the 2012 draft is officially a thing of the past, we shouldn't require multiple posts to round up all the day's draft-related content, like we did on Thursday. But even with the draft over, a few updates continue to trickle in. We'll round up today's leftover draft notes here, adding any new items to the top throughout the day….

Earlier updates:

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Salaries For 2012 First Round Picks

By now, you've likely had a chance to pore through last night's NBA draft results, taking stock of which teams did well and which teams made some questionable choices. As we move from the draft into free agency, it's also worth considering how last night's first round picks will affect NBA teams' payrolls going forward. Clubs with a pair of first-rounders, or high lottery picks, will see their draftees take a chunk out of any cap space they have heading into free agency.

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2012 NBA Draft Results

The 2012 NBA draft finally arrived on Thursday night, and while the first overall pick certainly wasn't unexpected, the surprises started coming at No. 2 and continued for most of the night. We've got the complete results, including all 60 picks and six draft-night trades, right here:

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Post-Draft Rumors: Suns, Lakers, Hawks, Jazz

A handful of draft trades were consummated tonight, but we didn't get treated to the blockbuster moves many were hoping for or expecting. The highest pick to change hands was the Mavericks' first-rounder, 17th overall. Still, the absence of lottery movement wasn't for lack of trying. With the 2012 draft in the books, rumors are beginning to trickle out about failed deals that teams explored. We're likely to hear about many of those in the coming days, but here are a few that surfaced immediately in the wake of the draft:

  • The Suns explored ways to acquire a late-first-round pick to acquire the slipping Perry Jones III, tweets Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.

Earlier updates:

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