Month: August 2017

Hoops Rumors Community Shootaround 11/30/15

Not many are going to remember Kobe Bryant for his struggles this season. Instead, Bryant will be remembered as one of the all-time greats. Several of his peers have said Bryant is his era’s Michael Jordan.

Bryant’s resume will land him a spot in the Hall of Fame. He has won five NBA championships in his 20-year career and currently is third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

Interestingly, Bryant has captured only one MVP award, however. In comparison, Abdul-Jabbar won six and Jordan and Bill Russell each won five. LeBron James already has four. While the league has seen more balanced players than Bryant, few were better scorers.

That brings us to the question for today: Where does Kobe Bryant rank among the all-time NBA greats?

Being mindful of our commenting policy, let us know in the comments section below what you think. We look forward to learning about what you have to share.

Offseason In Review: Utah Jazz

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired $1.5MM from the Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights to Daniel Diez, the 2015 No. 54 overall pick.

Waiver Claims


Draft Picks

  • Trey Lyles (Round 1, 12th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Tibor Pleiss (Round 2, 2010, 31st overall). Signed via cap room for three years, $9MM. Third year is partially guaranteed for $500K.
  • Olivier Hanlan (Round 2, 42nd overall). Signed overseas.
  • Raul Neto (Round 2, 2013, 47th overall). Signed via cap room for three years, $2.9MM. Third year is non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


The Jazz began to look like a real contender over the second half of last season and one strategy entering the 2015 offseason would have been to make a major acquisition to take the team to the next level. However, Utah wasn’t going to take any shortcuts. Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor and GM Dennis Lindsey have built the team’s foundation over the past several years and this summer was about supplementing the young core that the executive tamdem had already assembled.

Nov 30, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) dunks the ball during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

The seeds of this team’s success were planted nearly five years ago when Utah traded Deron Williams to the Nets. In retrospect, the trade was an outstanding sell-high moment for the franchise and it provided an important building block for the future. Derrick Favors was the prize of the trade and he has developed into a force on both ends of the floor. The other pieces in the trade didn’t produce any significant building blocks, although one piece indirectly shaped the franchise going forward.

Enes Kanter, whom the Jazz took with the Nets’ first round pick in 2011, showed some promise with Utah, but after three and a half seasons, the Jazz gave up on the Kanter-Favors pairing and shipped Kanter to Oklahoma City. In return, the Jazz netted a few picks and the rights to Tibor Pleiss, whom the team signed to a three year, $9MM deal this offseason. Pleiss wasn’t expected to soak up major minutes, but he gives the team frontcourt depth in case of injuries.

The real value of the Kanter trade came in the form of minutes for Rudy Gobert, whose sudden emergence, as Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune told Hoops Rumors, no one saw coming. Once coach Quin Snyder inserted Gobert into the starting lineup, the team’s defense really started to hum. The success carried over this season, as Utah ranks third in the league in points allowed per game. Gobert is sixth in the league in rebounds thus far in the season with 10.8 per contest and second in the league in blocks with 2.77 per game.

The Jazz added another athletic big man when they used the No. 12 overall pick on Trey Lyles. The 6’10” Lyles, a power forward, often played out of position as a small forward at Kentucky, but the experience allowed him to develop a perimeter game, as Arthur Hill of Hoops Rumors detailed in his Prospect Profile.  The 20-year-old has the length and frame to play both power forward and center and Snyder has given him run at the four and the five this season. He hasn’t seen many offensive opportunities thus far, scoring only 2.1 points in 8.5 minutes per game. The team isn’t really counting on him for production this season, as he’s viewed as more of a long-term project.

Utah was counting on Dante Exum to take the next step in his game, but the Australian tore the ACL in his left knee late in the summer and isn’t expected to play during the 2015/16 campaign. The Jazz didn’t respond to the Exum news with a major transaction, even though they had the cap room — nearly $7.27MM — to make a substantial offer to a free agent. Instead, they increased the roles of the players who were already in house. The Jazz inserted Raul Neto, who signed a three-year, $2.9MM deal with the team earlier in the offseason, into the starting lineup and he has impressed in 18.0 minutes per game this season. Neto is snatching 1.2 steals per game and the only point guard who ranks ahead of him in ESPN’s Real Defensive Plus/Minus is Kyle LowryTrey Burke is getting 21.5 minutes per game, but he’s improved since last season, shooting 44.9% from behind the arc while sporting a player efficiency rating of 15.8.

The play of Burke and Neto will be crucial this season, but the development of Alec Burks, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, will be key to the team’s success as well. Snyder has used Burks off the bench and at times as a de facto point guard this season and the Colorado product has meshed well with fellow wings Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood. Burks is only dishing out 2.0 assists per game, but he’s scoring 15.1 points per game and shooting 39.5% from 3-point range, with a player efficiency rating of 16.2. If Burks can continue to progress on the defensive end and demonstrate that he can be proficient at both backcourt positions, his four-year, $42MM extension from the fall of 2014 will start to look like a bargain and the team will have serious sleeper potential.

The Jazz want to develop their core. They’re counting on Hayward, Hood, Burks, Favors and Gobert to take the next step together and form a contender in a loaded Western Conference. Development takes time. The franchise could have tried to accelerate the process this past summer by signing a few veterans or trading for an established talent. However, that’s not the front office’s current objective and a quiet offseason sounds like it was a solid plan for an up-and-coming team.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

And-Ones: Dunleavy, Mekel, D-League

Bulls small forward Mike Dunleavy Jr., who underwent back surgery in September, suffered a “setback” and his timetable for a return to the court is unclear, coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters, including Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. Dunleavy re-signed with Chicago during the summer. Hoiberg, per Friedell, said there isn’t concern at this time that Dunleavy will have to miss the entire season or have another procedure on his back.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Former Mavericks and Pelicans point guard Gal Mekel has signed with European power-agent Misko Raznatovic, International Journalist David Pick tweets.
  • The Knicks have assigned Cleanthony Early to their D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Early has only seen 24 minutes of NBA action this season.
  • The Cavs have recalled Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, the team’s D-League affiliate, according to a team press release. Harris appeared in three games during his latest stint, averaging 22.7 points in 36.9 minutes per game.
  • Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders takes a look at the league’s landscape so far this season and the Hawks are among his underachievers. Greene believes one major reason for the disappointing start is that Atlanta still hasn’t found an adequate replacement for DeMarre Carroll.

Will Joseph contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Rondo, Matthews, D-League

Rajon Rondo is enjoying an impressive comeback season after inking a one-year deal with the Kings and therefore is setting himself up for a big payday next summer, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Rondo’s former coach, attributes a lot of the point guard’s success this season to Kings coach George Karl.

“George has done a great job of putting him in a position where he can really maximize his ability,” Carlisle said. “Somebody’s going to have to back up the truck to get him. That’s how well he’s playing and George has a lot to do with it. He’s a great coach.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder have assigned Josh Huestis and Mitch McGary to their D-League affiliate, the team announced on  Twitter. This will be Huestis’ fourth trip to the D-League of the season. McGary, who is headed to the Blue for the first time this season, has played in six games for the Thunder this season, averaging 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 6.3 minutes per game.
  • The Jazz assigned center Tibor Pleiss to the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, per a press release.
  • Wesley Matthews has struggled with his 3-point shooting, but he needs to get his offense going in other ways because the Mavs invested four years and $70MM in him during the summer, Sefko argues in a separate piece.

Southeast Notes: Oladipo, Horford, Hansbrough

Victor Oladipo can’t be pleased with the Magic‘s decision to move him to the bench, despite the team-first comments he’s made to the media, posits Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. The former No. 2 overall pick who’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer is averaging 20.0 points per game in his three appearances as a reserve, and the team has gone 3-0 in those games, leading Schmitz to wonder if the move will be for the long term.

“We got to stick with what works,” coach Scott Skiles said. “[Oladipo] has been so good in that role. We’ll keep him out there until it doesn’t work.”

Skiles has proven to have the right touch so far for the 9-8 Magic, Schmitz observes, nonetheless noting that the future for the team’s personnel isn’t in quite as sharp a focus as it was before the move. See more on the Magic amid the latest from the Southeast Division:

  • Al Horford, set for free agency at season’s end, finds it odd to be going up against former college coach Billy Donovan, whose Thunder visit the Hawks for a game tonight, notes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He always encourages guys to work hard,” Horford said of Donovan. “He really pushes you beyond what you think you can accomplish. A lot of the time with his players, we get that we are on one level but he gets you to another level. That’s what he did with me at least. He gave me that confidence, that ability, for me to take that next step.”
  • Tyler Hansbrough is averaging a career-low 5.0 minutes per game and doesn’t figure to be much more than a bit player for the Hornets after signing a one-year, minimum-salary deal in the offseason, but the team will surely need him sooner or later, opines Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer. He and Al Jefferson are the only healthy Hornets players who play a physical style, Sorensen observes.
  • The Magic have assigned Devyn Marble to the D-League, the team announced. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel first reported the move would take place (Twitter link). It’s the first time the 56th pick in the 2014 draft has gone down to the Erie Bayhawks this season, though he went on three D-League assignments last year.

Pacific Notes: Carroll, Clippers, Kobe

Mutual interest existed between the Suns and DeMarre Carroll over the summer, and a signing was close, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic details. Phoenix was intrigued after landing Tyson Chandler and before LaMarcus Aldridge signaled that he would strongly consider the Suns, while Carroll liked the idea of playing for Jeff Hornacek and assistant coach Earl Watson, according to Coro. Ultimately, the possibility of landing Aldridge made it too tough for the Suns to commit, Coro writes, and Carroll signed with the Raptors on a four-year, $58MM deal.

“They [the Suns] were going to come visit me,” Carroll said. “It was going to be my third or fourth visit and they were going to come to my house but I ended up signing with Toronto. LaMarcus had everybody held up. But I felt like Toronto was making me a priority and was a team that really wanted me. There were only a couple of those teams, outside of LaMarcus. Toronto was one of those teams. They chose me over LaMarcus so it made me feel wanted.”

Carroll, who played under Hornacek and with Watson on the Jazz, wouldn’t rule out the possibility of signing with the Suns later, saying “Maybe next go-around,” as Coro also relays. See more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers are making exploratory calls about potential trades amid their displeasure over a surprisingly poor 9-8 start, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio (Twitter link). It’s unclear if the calls have been any more substantial than conversations of due diligence. Jamal Crawford‘s name came up in more trade rumors than any other Clipper over the offseason, but coach/executive Doc Rivers said in September that he’d be “very surprised” if Crawford weren’t still a Clipper at season’s end. The Clippers are deep in the tax, limiting their maneuverability, and they have a single trade exception worth less than $1MM.
  • Kobe Bryant is “at peace” with his decision to retire at season’s end, coach Byron Scott observed, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, and it was meditation that helped the 37-year-old decide to end his career. Bryant told reporters that his mind had always drifted to basketball when he meditated until he recently, when he noticed that was no longer the case, as Mike Trudell of Lakers.com relays (on Twitter).

Trade Exceptions Set To Expire For Three Teams

Trade activity should perk up around the league as December 15th, the date when most (but not all) offseason signees become eligible to be traded. Three teams have extra motivation to make a trade within the next three weeks.

That’s because they have trade exceptions that are about to expire. The Nets have the most sizable among those exceptions, and they face the most urgent deadline. Their exception worth more than $3.3MM, a vestige of the trade that sent Andrei Kirilenko to the Sixers last year, expires December 11th, four days before dozens of players will become trade-eligible. That puts Brooklyn in a tough spot, and the team’s position within $2MM of the $84.74MM tax line makes it even harder to envision the Nets using the exception. Still, it’s a tool the team has to facilitate more complicated trades that would add a negligible amount of salary or even reduce the payroll, and as the Grizzlies and Heat showed this month, it’s not impossible to work a multiplayer trade before December 15th.

It’s more conceivable that the Timberwolves will use the exception they have left over from trading Corey Brewer to the Rockets last year, in part because they have until December 19th to do so. Minnesota already used it once, to absorb Adreian Payne‘s salary from the Hawks, so what once was an exception of nearly $4.703MM is now worth only about $2.847MM. It’s still sizable enough to give the Timberwolves an enticing mechanism to add another piece to their sizable collection of recent former first-round picks or to supplement that group with a veteran who can help them maintain their strong early-season play. Minnesota is 8-9 and tied with the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. The team also has a $350K trade exception left over from shipping an injured Ronny Turiaf to the Sixers in the Brewer trade, but it’s so small that it’s virtually unusable.

Brooklyn has a smaller exception available, too, though the $816,482 exception the Nets have for sending Jorge Gutierrez to the Sixers in the Kirilenko trade is somewhat more valuable than Minnesota’s Turiaf exception. It’s worth less than this season’s one-year veteran’s minimum salary, but teams are allowed to trade for players making up to $100K more than the value of an exception, so a deal for a player making the one-year veteran’s minimum of $845,059 would work. Of course, the Nets could simply use the minimum salary exception for a player making that amount, but the trade exception is valuable in case the player they want to trade for is on a contract that extends beyond two seasons, as is often the case with players signed as second-round picks. The minimum salary exception only accommodates one- and two-year deals, while trade exceptions carry no such restriction. Just this month, the Grizzlies used a trade exception of similar size left over from the Jon Leuer deal to take on James Ennis, who’s making the minimum on a three-year contract.

The Rockets are in much the same position with the $816,482 exception they created as part of the Brewer trade with Minnesota. Struggling 7-10 Houston could use a shakeup, but with less than $2MM left against the team’s $88.74MM hard cap, the Rockets must tread carefully. Still, the addition of a player making less than $1MM would work, and the Rockets have an open roster spot to play with.

Here’s a look at each of the trade exceptions set to expire in December:

Nets

Amount: $3,326,235
Obtained: Andrei Kirilenko (Sixers)
Expires: 12/11/15

Amount: $816,482
Obtained: Jorge Gutierrez (Sixers)
Expires: 12/11/15

Rockets

Amount: $816,482
Obtained: Troy Daniels (Timberwolves)
Expires: 12/19/15

Timberwolves

Amount: $2,847,180
Obtained: Corey Brewer (Rockets)
Initial amount: $4,702,500
Used: Adreian Payne ($1,855,320)
Expires: 12/19/15

Amount: $350,500
Obtained: Ronny Turiaf (Sixers)
Initial amount: $1,500,000
Used: Damjan Rudez ($1,149,500)
Expires: 12/19/15

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Southwest Notes: Williams, Randolph, Bairstow

Deron Williams has no issue with Rick Carlisle‘s desire to call plays from the bench, as Rajon Rondo did last season, and that’s led to a smooth relationship for a coach and player who seemed to enter the season with a strong chance of clashing, as Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com examines.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and working with him,” Carlisle said of Williams. “I’ve always had great respect for his game. Two months into this, he’s flat out one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

Williams signed a two-year, $11MM deal with the Mavericks in the summer, but he can hit free agency again in 2016 if he opts out. See more from the Southwest Division:

  • The five games the Grizzlies played without Zach Randolph because of injury last month provided encouraging signs about the team’s ability to function with Randolph in a reduced role in seasons to come, writes Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal. Still, Memphis, which went 3-2 over that stretch, doesn’t have the caliber of wing players necessary to thrive without a fully engaged Randolph yet, Herrington posits. In the immediate future, with a shortage of big men, Herrington expects the Grizzlies to look to add a big if Brandan Wright‘s injury turns out to be a long-term affair.
  • The acquisitions of JaMychal Green, Matt Barnes and Mario Chalmers over the past 11 months were positives for the Grizzlies that represent a change in style toward more 3-pointers, fast breaks, steals and free throws, Herrington writes in the same piece.
  • The acclimation of Cameron Bairstow, who’s with the Spurs affiliate on D-League assignment from the Bulls, hasn’t been without a hitch, but it’s nonetheless an example of how the flexible assignment system benefits San Antonio’s affiliate, as Spurs D-League coach Ken McDonald detailed to Adam Johnson of D-League Digest.

Columnists On Kobe Bryant’s Retirement Decision

Kobe Bryant‘s decision to retire at season’s end sent ripples throughout the NBA, even though it’s no real surprise that this will be his last year in the familiar purple-and-gold. Just about every NBA writer has weighed in on the news, and while it’s impossible to share everyone’s opinion in an easily digestible form, we’ll provide a healthy cross-section of perspective here:

  • No one in the Lakers organization was 100% certain that Bryant would walk away at season’s end until he said so on Sunday, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. Bryant doesn’t want a mawkish farewell tour, so instead it seems he’ll fade away without much fanfare, just as Michael Jordan did in his Wizards days, which is fitting, since no one has ever come closer to copying Jordan’s game than Bryant did, Mannix writes.
  • Bryant’s willingness to play through pain transcended that of Jordan, but it also precipitated the end of his career, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding believes.
  • A strong bounceback from two injury-marred seasons and fast growth from the Lakers around him might have convinced Bryant to come back next season, but neither factor materialized, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports details.
  • Disregard for the draft, failure to reap trade assets for Pau Gasol, bungled decisions about who should coach the team, and free agent failures put the Lakers in the position they’re in now, not Bryant’s sizable salary and lagging performance, contends Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.
  • Retiring at season’s end is the only realistic ending for the broken-down Bryant, argues Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.
  • Bryant wanted to become the best player ever, and while he fell short of that, he’s easily in the top five all-time, posits Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News.
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca sees it differently, concluding that Tim Duncan‘s career has been better than Bryant’s in almost every respect. Duncan, enmeshed in the Spurs’ egalitarian, ball-moving offense, embodies a changed NBA landscape that casts the individualistic Bryant as a vestige of a bygone era, Grange opines.

Wizards Sign Ryan Hollins

11:57am: The signing is official, the Wizards announced.

10:57am: It’ll be a minimum-salary contract, as J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com hears (Twitter link), so the Wizards won’t have to use the disabled player exception they’d like to get in return for Webster’s injury.

10:40am: The deal for Hollins will be non-guaranteed, according to Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (on Twitter). The Wizards will release Webster to make room on the roster, as Charania also reported and as we covered in more detail here.

7:57am: The Wizards and nine-year veteran center Ryan Hollins have agreed to a deal, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Washington already has 15 players, and while the team has planned to apply for a disabled player exception for Martell Webster, who’s out for the season, that doesn’t provide for an extra roster spot. Alan Anderson, who’s still recovering from left ankle surgery, is the only other injured Wizard who isn’t at least questionable for Tuesday’s game. That would mean Washington doesn’t have the four long-term injuries required for a hardship provision, which would allow the team a 16th man. Thus, it would appear that the Wizards must let go of one of their 15 fully guaranteed salaries to accommodate Hollins, unless some of their injuries are more serious than reports have thus far indicated.

Hollins, 31, was with the Grizzlies in preseason before Memphis cut him prior to opening night. The Wizards, Kings, Clippers, Mavericks and Pelicans all reportedly had interest in him over the summer, and the Kings, for whom he played last season, still had their eyes on him when the Wizards snapped him up, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. Hollins was efficient with Memphis during the preseason, averaging 5.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game across seven appearances.

The Wizards, expected to make a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs as they’ve done the past two seasons, are 6-8 and in 12th place in the East. Garrett Temple, who’s on an expiring contract worth slightly more than $1.1MM, would make for the least expensive cut if the Wizards let go of someone.

Do you think Hollins can help the Wizards? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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