2015/16 NBA Free Agents

Free Agent Stock Watch: Tayshaun Prince

Players in the twilight of their careers often need to exercise patience when they hit the free agent market. That’s especially true for a veteran hoping to hook on to a contending team and get one last chance to earn a championship ring. Such is the case with small forward Tayshaun Prince, who won an NBA title with the Pistons in 2004 and was a fixture on a unit that reached the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive years from 2003-08.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Prince got traded twice last season in his walk year. The Grizzlies, who traded for him midway through the 2012/13 season from Detroit, dealt him to the Celtics in January as part of a three-team deal in which Memphis acquired Jeff Green. Prince only appeared in nine games with the Celtics before he was shipped back to the Pistons at the trade deadline for forwards Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome. Prince initially thought the Pistons would release him but Detroit needed another small forward after dealing starter Kyle Singler to the Thunder as part of the Reggie Jackson trade.

He appeared in 23 games in his second stint with Detroit, including seven starts, and showed that he still had some life in his 35-year-old legs by averaging 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 24.8 minutes. That included a 23-point, 7-rebound outing at Orlando on March 27th.

He may have lost a step but he still has those long arms to distract opponents defensively and knows the ins and outs of team defense. He’s a facilitator on offense, though more of a No. 4 or 5 scoring option at this stage of his career. He can also play some power forward in smaller lineups.

Seeking younger options at his spot, the Pistons had no interest in bringing back Prince. They wound up drafting Stanley Johnson and trading for Marcus Morris this summer. Meanwhile, from all appearances, Prince has not received much attention on the open market.

Sam Amico reported in his weekly column for Hoops Rumors late last month that the Trail Blazers had shown interest in the BDA Sports Management client. The Spurs reportedly contacted Prince at the beginning of free agency and the Cavs also looked into pursuing him. But the Spurs have seemingly filled their needs during a highly-successful summer highlighted by the signing of prized free agent LaMarcus Aldridge. Any hope for Prince to land in Cleveland was lost when it signed another 35-year-old small forward, Richard Jefferson.

The Blazers don’t fit the profile of a contender without Aldridge, so that would be a fallback option at best for Prince. Portland brought in two younger options at that position this summer, adding Al-Farouq Aminu in free agency and trading for Maurice Harkless.

Thus, Prince might have to take a wait-and-see approach, hoping an opportunity arises with a club that feels it needs frontcourt depth and another savvy, sage voice in its locker room. The wait could stretch into the regular season, when an injury might cause a playoff-caliber team to scour the landscape for available options.

Prince, who made $7,707,865 last season, said back in March that he felt he could play effectively for another two or three seasons. It’s likely Prince will have to settle for a one-year offer, unless the second year includes a team option.

What other teams might have interest? Pure speculation but it would seem the Wizards could be a good fit, considering they lost Paul Pierce and play a half-court style suited to Prince’s game. The Mavericks, who lost Jefferson, may also come calling, since Prince was drafted by the Pistons when Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was entering his second season as Detroit’s head man.

The Hawks, who lost DeMarre Carroll in free agency, could be a logical landing spot for Prince. The Rockets could also use some frontcourt depth, though they drafted Sam Dekker.

Prince has enough left in the tank that someone will eventually come calling. He’ll just have to stay patient until that time comes.

Warriors Re-Sign Leandro Barbosa

JULY 13TH, 4:06pm: The deal is official, the team announced via press release.

JULY 6TH, 6:08pm: Leandro Barbosa will re-sign with the Warriors on a one-year, $2.5MM contract, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. The veteran guard was a key reserve on Golden State’s championship team.

The signing comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Warriors have already pushed themselves into taxpayer territory by reaching a long-term commitment with restricted free agent Draymond Green. Currently, the Warriors have approximately $99.3MM in salary commitments when Green’s starting salary of $14.26MM is factored in.

The club only has Non-Bird rights on Barbosa and thus will have to use part of the $3,376MM taxpayer mid-level exception to re-sign him. The Warriors can ease their tax burden greatly if they can find a taker for David Lee‘s expiring contract. He’s owed nearly $15.5MM in his remaining year.

The 6’3” Barbosa, who will be entering his 13th season, averaged 7.1 points and 1.5 assists during 66 regular-season games last year and supplied 5.0 points and 0.9 assists per game in 21 postseason appearances. He’ll once again back up Klay Thompson and, at times, Stephen Curry.

Clippers, Josh Smith Have Mutual Interest

FRIDAY, 12:42pm: The Clippers remain interested even after Jordan’s decision to return, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). The Kings and Mavs are also reportedly in the mix.

TUESDAY, 12:21pm: The interest between the Clippers and Smith is mutual, and the team has spoken to the representatives of the Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather client, reports Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).

MONDAY, 6:34pm: The Clippers are targeting unrestricted free agent Josh Smith even though the club is cap-strapped, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN com tweets.

Though  the Clippers lost DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks, they still have approximately $68.1MM in guaranteed salary commitments next season. They also used part of their mid-level exception to get a verbal agreement with veteran forward Paul Pierce and only have $2,088MM remaining. Smith could slide into the rotation as a backup to Blake Griffin at power forward, as well as play some small forward and even play alongside Griffin in smaller lineups.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz regarding Smith in free agency, though the Kings reportedly met with him. Smith has expressed a strong interest in re-signing with Rockets, who signed him as a free agent in late December after the Pistons released him, even though he was in the second year of a guaranteed four-year, $54MM deal.

Still, it would appear that Smith could find a bigger offer if he’s patient. While he flamed out in Detroit, he seemed to reestablish at least some of his value as a rotation player on a team that reached the Western Conference Finals.

Smith started at small forward for Detroit but mainly played power forward with the Rockets off the bench, averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 55 games. He also had some big games in the postseason, averaging 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Hill, Aldridge

The Kings wasted no time in contacting free agent point guard Rajon Rondo, and the team is being aggressive in its pursuit of the veteran, Sam Amick of USA Today notes (Twitter link). Sacramento vice president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac wants Rondo to visit Sacramento, and the team hasn’t made the guard a contract offer yet, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports tweets. A meeting between the two sides is expected in the coming days, and the Kings will speak with Rondo again on Wednesday, TNT’s David Aldridge relays (on Twitter).

Here’s the latest out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have expressed interest in re-signing Jordan Hill as a free agent, just one day after declining his $9MM team option, a source tells Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.  Hill put up 12.0 PPG and 7.9 RPG last season, but the Lakers became frustrated with his lack of consistency.
  • The Lakers‘ initial meeting with unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge went extremely well, but no deal was reached, Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports (Twitter link). Aldridge is also expected to meet with the Mavericks and Rockets.
  • The Clippers have contacted the representatives for unrestricted free agent Gerald Green to express their interest, Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times notes (via Twitter).
  • Swingman Wesley Johnson met with Clippers executive/coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday night, Shams Charania of RealGM reports (on Twitter).
  • In addition to Green and Johnson, the Clippers have also reached out to center Brandan Wright and guard C.J. Watson, Dan Woike of The Orange County Register notes (Twitter link). Both players are unrestricted free agents. Wright finished the 2014/15 campaign with the Suns, and Watson spent last season with the Pacers.

Qualifying Offers: Monday

The Warriors formally made a qualifying offer of $2.725MM to Draymond Green, ensuring the versatile forward will be a restricted free agent, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Golden State is expected to match any offer sheet to Green, one of the key players en route to its first championship in 40 seasons. The Pistons, Hawks and Rockets are among the teams expected to pursue Green. The Warriors also extended a qualifying offer of $1.147MM to Ognjen Kuzmic but declined the same amount on Justin Holiday, allowing the shooting guard to become an unrestricted free agent, according to a tweet from Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.

In other news regarding qualifying offers around the league:

  • The Cavaliers made qualifying offers to three of their rotation players, allowing Cleveland to match any offer sheet, Pincus reports in a separate tweet. Tristan Thompson ($6.778MM), Matthew Dellavedova ($1.147MM) and Iman Shumpert ($4.334MM) were the players who received them.
  • The Thunder made a qualifying offer of approximately $7.47MM to Enes Kanter, according to Pincus (Twitter link).
  • The Jazz gave a qualifying offer of $1.045MM to Joe Ingles and the Timberwolves did the same for about $1.147MM to make Robbie Hummel a restricted free agent, according to Pincus (Twitter links). However, Minnesota declined the same price tag on Justin Hamilton‘s qualifying offer, Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com tweets, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.
  • The Suns made the qualifying offer of $4.79MM to Brandon Knight while his former backcourt partner, the Bucks’ Khris Middleton, got a qualifying offer of $2.275MM, according to Pincus (Twitter links).
  • The Raptors extended a qualifying offer of $1.829MM to a player who was overseas last season, Nando De Colo, Pincus tweets. De Colo played for CSKA Moscow last season.

Free Agent Rumors: Wright, Belinelli, Barea

Dorell Wright is unlikely to return to the Trail Blazers, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com reports. Wright, who was born in Los Angeles, would like to return home and play for either the Clippers or Lakers, Young continues. The Lakers are the more likely suitor for the unrestricted free agent, who made $3.135MM last season, unless the Clippers fail to secure the services of Paul Pierce, Young adds. The Raptors could also make a run at Wright but Young believes the Heat, who were previously thought to be interested in Wright, probably won’t pursue him since Luol Deng exercised his player option.

In other free agent news around the league:

  • Spurs swingman Marco Belinelli could be targeted by the Bulls if they fail to re-sign Mike Dunleavy,  K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The Bulls have made retaining Dunleavy a priority and he’s comfortable playing in Chicago, Johnson adds. Both players are unrestricted free agents.
  • The Clippers are interested in C.J. Watson, Lavoy Allen, Darrell Arthur and Gerald Green, among others, according to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register (Twitter links). They’d like to find a true point guard to serve as a backup, a league source tells Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).
  • The Raptors could be a landing spot for Bismack Biyombo, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Biyombo will be an unrestricted free agent because the Hornets decided not to make him a qualifying offer.
  • The Heat, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks are among teams interested in signing J.J. Barea, a source told Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com (Twitter link). Barea is seeking a multi-year contract in the $3MM per year range, MacMahon adds.
  • The only incumbent free agents the Pelicans don’t appear to have at least some interest in re-signing are Jimmer Fredette and Toney Douglas, as John Reid of The Times-Picayune details.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Reggie Jackson

The long-term outlook for Reggie Jackson took a dramatic turn at the trade deadline when he was dealt from the Thunder to the Pistons, who immediately installed him as their starting point guard. By season’s end, Detroit had emerged as the clear frontrunner for Jackson’s services as the restricted free agent enters his prime. Jackson ranks third among point guards on Hoops Rumors’ 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings behind only Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo, whose stock has dipped after his disastrous partial season with the Mavericks.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Boston CelticsThere was plenty of uncertainty surrounding Jackson as he entered the 2014/15 season with Oklahoma City, with the expectation that Jackson could command a yearly salary averaging $13MM or $14MM when he entered the free agent market. Given its salary commitments to superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as well as Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City seemed highly unlikely to match an offer sheet for Jackson.

Jackson started just 36 games in his career prior to the season. Even so, the projections of his future value were reinforced by his play when given the opportunity to be a floor leader. With Westbrook sidelined by an injury, Jackson averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds during the month of November. Once Westbrook returned, Jackson found himself in a backup role again and his relationship with his teammates deteriorated. Jackson asked for a trade and got his wish when the Thunder shipped him to the Pistons, who had lost Brandon Jennings to a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury.

Following a slow start that included a 10-game losing streak which knocked the Pistons from playoff contention, Jackson emerged as an offensive force in coach Stan Van Gundy’s pick-and-roll attack. He developed chemistry with franchise cornerstone Andre Drummond in the final 16 games while averaging 20.0 points, 11.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds and shooting 49% from the field. Van Gundy, who also doubles as the team’s president of basketball operations, made it clear that he views Jackson as his starting point guard going forward and plans to match any offer that may come Jackson’s way. The Pistons will not have any difficult retaining Jackson from a salary-cap standpoint, as they have approximately $27.9MM in guaranteed salary commitments next season.

That may not deter a potential suitor from trying to pry Jackson away from Van Gundy’s grasp. The Nets and Pacers reportedly were close to dealing for Jackson before he wound up in Detroit, and the Kings were also interested. The Knicks are believed to have a strong interest in Jackson as well, though they may be more focused on another Pistons free agent, Greg Monroe.

The Aaron Mintz client has his drawbacks, particularly at the defensive end. Jackson was ranked 41st among point guards on ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus rankings and has received a minus rating in all four of his seasons in Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus evaluations.

That won’t deter the Pistons from doing everything possible to keep Jackson, who hinted about his intentions of staying in Detroit right before the season ended. He told the team’s beat reporters he planned to stay in frequent contact with his teammates and organize summer workouts with them. He also feels Van Gundy’s coaching will make him a high-level point guard. It’s possible that Jackson could sign a deal with an opt-out clause to take advantage of the anticipated jump in the salary cap when the league’s new TV contract kicks in during the summer of 2016. In any case, it would be a surprise if Jackson isn’t wearing a Pistons uniform next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Green, Davis, Jazz

Draymond Green, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, said that being a 2012 second-round pick gave him motivation to prove his skeptics wrong, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. The Warriors’ versatile forward felt snubbed when he was passed over in the first round, Green told Ellis, and that led him to become one of the league’s most sought-after free agents. “Everybody wants to be a first-round pick. But things have a funny way of working out,” Green said in the article. “Who’s to say I’d be having this season if I was a first-round pick? Who’s to say I’d even be here? But it’s all worked itself out. It’s put me in a solid position and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.” Green is expected to receive an offer sheet worth over $10MM per season, Ellis speculates, but the Warriors have said they will match any offer. Whether Golden State can actually afford to do that is debatable, Ellis adds, and they may have to trade David Lee to create financial flexibility in order to retain Green. Green wouldn’t confirm or deny a recent report that the ex-Michigan State forward would like to play for his hometown Pistons, Ellis adds.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Anthony Davis should decline a maximum extension this summer and instead accept a qualifying offer so that he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2017, Daniel Leroux of RealGM.com opines. By doing so, Davis can maximize his leverage with the Pelicans and position himself to sign two major multi-year deals during his career rather being past his prime after the first one expires, Leroux continues. With the salary cap rising dramatically after next season, the benefits of waiting for his first big contract outweigh the risks, Leroux adds. It also puts added pressure on New Orleans to surround Davis with enough talent by the summer of 2017 to convince him to stay put, Leroux concludes.
  • Bryce Cotton feels he still has much to prove to the Jazz even after signing a contract for the remainder of the season, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic reports. Cotton, who is backing up Dante Exum and Trey Burke at point guard, received the contract after two 10-day contracts expired. Cotton’s approximately $845K salary for next season is not guaranteed and he doesn’t feel secure, Coro adds. “It’s one of those temporary sighs of relief but you never want to get complacent no matter what your situation is,” Cotton said in the story. “Just keep working hard and do whatever it was that got you to this situation.”

Eastern Rumors: Monroe, Gooden, Celtics

Greg Monroe becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is eager to see how Monroe blends with point guard Reggie Jackson and center Andre Drummond before the season ends, David Mayo of MLive.com reports. Monroe is expected to return Wednesday for the team’s five remaining games after missing 11 games with a right knee strain. Jackson has appeared more comfortable playing with Drummond and Anthony Tolliver, a power forward who shoots 3-pointers, rather than a low-post player in Monroe, Mayo continues. “Reggie will have to adjust, and I’ll have to adjust, and we’ll have to figure it out,” Van Gundy said to Detroit beat reporters. “We’ve seen Reggie play real, real, well; we’ve seen Greg play real, real well. So we’ve just got to make it all fit together.” Evaluating how that alignment works in conjunction with Monroe’s impending free agency is the biggest goal the Pistons have in their remaining games, Mayo concludes.

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • Veteran power forward Drew Gooden, whose contract expires after the season, has become an important rotation player for the Wizards, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. Gooden has received more playing time with the team trying to rest Nene Hilario for the postseason. His ability to make 3-pointers has given more space for guards John Wall and Bradley Beal to operate, Castillo continues.  “It opens avenues for John to penetrate, for Bradley to put the ball on the floor, for our wings to put it on the floor,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said to Castillo. “That’s really big.” Not only has Gooden played himself into an important postseason role, as Castillo adds, it could also enhance his chances of remaining with Washington.
  • Celtics rookie forward James Young has been productive during his stint with the franchise’s D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, and remains in the Celtics’ future plans, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com reports. The No. 17 overall pick in last year’s draft is averaging 21.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17 games with the Red Claws. Young’s development was hampered by a car accident prior to the draft that prevented him from playing on the Celtics’ summer league team, Blakely continues. Young lost his rotation spot to Luigi Datome after a deadline trade with the Pistons but the organization has kept a close watch on Young after sending him to the D League, Blakely adds. “Our front office is watching him with every opportunity,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told local reporters. “The progress is good.”

And-Ones: Offer Sheets, Smith, Jazz

Several high-powered agents have warned teams not to discourage potential suitors from signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports. The agents are concerned about recent statements made by some teams with a prominent restricted free agent that they would match offer sheets, Kyler continues. The agents will encourage their clients to agree to a qualifying offer, as the Pistons’ Greg Monroe did last summer, and become unrestricted free agents after the 2015/16 season if teams engage in an anti-offer sheet campaign, Kyler adds. With the salary cap projected to increase dramatically after the 2015/16 season, some players may be willing to take that risk, Kyler concludes.

In other news around the league:

  • Sixers guard Ish Smith wants to remain with the club next season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Smith, who has played for eight organizations during his five-year career, is averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 24.7 minutes in 15 games with Philadelphia after being claimed off waivers in February. “Obviously, during the summer you figure all that stuff out,” said Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Many NBA observers believe the league is headed for another lockout after the 2016/17 season, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. Both the league’s owners and the NBA Players Association can opt out of the current agreement after that season. It would be a mistake for that to happen, Bucher says, adding that fans and media should boycott the league if a lockout occurs.
  • The Jazz’s D-League team, the Idaho Stampede, will remain in Boise, Sea Dubs Central tweets. An announcement will be made on Tuesday regarding a rebranding of the team, rather than a move, the tweet adds. The Stampede had affiliations with four other NBA teams before becoming the sole affiliate of the Jazz this season.