Month: April 2017

Thunder Rumors: Roberson, Westbrook, Gibson

The Thunder’s offseason is now officially underway after the team was eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday night by the Rockets. While the summer of 2017 won’t feature any contract situations as game-changing – and uncertain – as Kevin Durant‘s was a year ago for the franchise, Oklahoma City will have plenty of crucial decisions to make in the coming months. With that in mind, let’s round up a few of the offseason’s first Thunder-related notes and rumors…

  • Andre Roberson is eligible for restricted free agency this July, and the Thunder are “intent on keeping him,” says Royce Young of ESPN.com. Although Roberson isn’t a dynamic offensive player, he’s one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, and the Thunder believe he showed some positive development and a better understanding of his role as the season went on, per Young.
  • The Thunder will explore many avenues for potential upgrades, but there’s optimism within the organization that many of the team’s young players will continue to improve. Young points to Alex Abrines and Domantas Sabonis as rookies who will have the opportunity to develop into “high-level role players” for the Thunder.
  • While other stars around the NBA may push their teams to acquire certain players, Russell Westbrook prefers to stay out of front office business, with a source telling Young that the point guard has never complained about the Thunder’s roster.
  • Speaking of Westbrook, he’ll be eligible for the NBA’s new Designated Veteran Extension this offseason. According to Young, there’s an expectation that the Thunder will offer such an extension, which would exceed $200MM over five years. This will be an interesting situation to watch, since Westbrook’s contract is only guaranteed for one more season — if he were to turn down a lucrative long-term contract, trade speculation would likely begin in earnest.
  • Following the Thunder’s Game 5 loss, free-agent-to-be Taj Gibson said that he’d like to stay with the Thunder, as Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders tweets. However, while Gibson’s love for OKC is genuine, this summer could represent his last chance at a big payday, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News observes (via Twitter). Young suggests in his ESPN story that Gibson will likely end up signing with another team.

Dion Waiters Discusses The Heat, The Thunder, Pat Riley

Dion Waiters can become a free agent this offseason by turning down his player option for next season. Even if he chooses that route, he hopes to return to Miami. “Hopefully, we found a home down here,” Waiter writes on The Players’ Tribune.

The Philadelphia native didn’t expect to sign with the Heat last summer. He was a free agent and heard that Miami was interested, but wasn’t sold on the fit. “I wasn’t really seeing it at first. Nothing against the Heat, but I didn’t know how I’d fit there,” Waiters writes. “Then I met Pat Riley.”

Waiters explains how Riley spoke with him about life and not just basketball during a free agent meeting. Riley also told him that if he came to Miami, the organization would get him in “world-class shape.” Waiters said he didn’t know it at the time, but now he realizes that taking the meeting with the Heat president was the best thing that happened to his basketball career. He writes:

When Pat said “world-class shape,” I thought it sounded cool, but in my head, I was like, Yeah, I got this. I’m in world-class shape. You already know. So I show up for camp, and after one week, my body is shot. I was damn near throwing up in trash cans like in the movies.And I realized, You know what? Pat was not just talking that smooth talk. This Heat thing is the real deal.

Miami came up one game short of making the playoffs after starting the season with a record of 11-30. Waiters believes that the Heat could have done serious damage as an eighth seed in the east, but regardless, he feels the season was special.

The Syracuse product also discusses how he enjoyed competing with Kevin Durant in practice and how he loved his Thunder team during the 2015/16 season. Waiters thought he was going to return to Oklahoma City after the team lost in the Western Conference Finals. “I genuinely thought I was going to be back in OKC this season, and we were going to make another run at it. But things didn’t work out that way, because basketball is a business,” he writes.

Waiters’ article is one of the publication’s best pieces and it’s worth a read. In addition to the aforementioned, he discusses his life growing up in Philadelphia, his younger basketball days, and his public persona, which includes the notion that he thinks he’s the best on the court and that he has irrational confidence.

“Listen, now you know where I’m from. Picture yourself walking into a South Philly playground at 12 years old, with [grown] men, bleachers packed with people, trying to get a run in.” Waiters writes. “You think you can survive in Philly without irrational confidence?”

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Durant, Draft

The Blazers made the playoffs this season, but Damian Lillard doesn’t consider that a success, as Chris Haynes of ESPN.com relays.

“We got tested, and I think we answered the bell,” the point guard said. “I felt like we showed our true colors by the way we fought. But I wouldn’t say successful. I think it was growth. A year of growth for us.”

The Warriors swept the Blazers in the opening round of the playoffs and Lillard understands that his team needs to beat Golden State if it’s going to win the Western Conference.

“You also got to understand that if you ever want to get out of the West, you’re going to have to go through them,” Lillard said. “And for me, I understand that’s what it is. It’s always been that way in the NBA. I think about when the Pistons were just beating up on [Michael] Jordan. [They] were just kicking his butt every year, and he had to get through them if he wanted to get to where he wanted to get to. That’s just what it is.

“[The Warriors are] going to be there. They’re going to be there every year. We have to look at that and understand that we got to be better. We have to go get better, and come back better as a group if we want to move past them.”

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Kevin Durant believes the Blazers are a few pieces away from contending for the conference’s crown, as Haynes passes along in the same piece. “I think they want somebody on the wing that can take the pressure off those two guards [C.J. McCollum and Lillard], somebody that’s big for their position. But they’re right there, man,” Durant said.
  • Breaking up McCollum and Lillard might be the only way the Blazers bring home the title, Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer contends. The scribe sees parallels in Portland’s current team and Golden State’s in 2012. The Warriors knew Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry couldn’t defend opposing backcourts at a top level and the team decided to trade Ellis away.
  • The Blazers acquired the No. 20 overall pick in the upcoming draft in the Jusuf Nurkic deal and that selection could be more important than the center, O’Connor argues in the same piece. Portland needs to find another piece to take the team from good to great and without cap space, the team will likely need to find that player through the draft. In addition to No. 20, the franchise also owns the No. 15 and No. 26 overall picks.

Draft Notes: Ferguson, Blakeney, Berry

Terrance Ferguson has hired Rich Paul of the Klutch Sports Group to be his agent, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). The shooting guard opted to play in Australia over attending a university this season and Jonathan Givony of Draft Express pegs him as the 15th best prospect in the draft.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • Antonio Blakeney is staying in the draft and he has hired Aaron Turner of the Verus Management Team, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com tweets. The shooting guard is the 97th best prospect in the draft, according to Givony.
  • Joel Berry is withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to North Carolina, according to the university’s website“I know I can continue to improve my game and be better prepared for the NBA after another year playing against the best college competition in the country. There’s no reason to rush leaving school,” Berry said.
  • B.J. Johnson is will return to La Salle for his senior season, according to the school’s website. Johnson had previously declared for the draft but didn’t hire an agent.
  • Elijah Stewart will head back to USC, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports (Twitter link). Stewart initially intended to declare for the draft without hiring representation, but that didn’t happen because he never submitted the proper paperwork.

Injury Updates: Rondo, Mahinmi, Nurkic

When the Bulls first announced Rajon Rondo‘s thumb fracture on Friday, they indicated that he’d be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days and may not be ready to return at that time. However, with Chicago’s first round series now tied at two games apiece, it sounds like the veteran point guard may be looking to force the issue.

According to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, Rondo has been ruled out for Game 5 on Wednesday, but was taking jump shots before Tuesday’s practice, with his hand no longer in a hard cast. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg insisted today that it’s still a “long shot” that Rondo gets back on the court in the series, but he acknowledged that it’s a possibility.

“It’s so early in the process,” Hoiberg said of Rondo’s potential return for the Bulls. “Just watching him wince a little bit as the ball was coming to him makes me think it’s a long shot, but if there’s anybody that can do it, will try to fight through it, it’s Rondo. Just because the competitor that he is and obviously wanting to get back out there. Doing everything that he can to put himself into position, knowing that it’s obviously still a long shot for that to happen.”

Here are a couple more updates on noteworthy injuries from around the NBA:

  • Injured center Ian Mahinmi said today that he still hopes to return to the Wizards before the end of the first round series vs. Atlanta, but he has yet to practice with the team, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. While Mahinmi says he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from a strained left calf, head coach Scott Brooks suggests the big man has been ruled out for Game 5, and he’s skeptical about Mahinmi’s availability for Game 6 (Twitter links via Buckner).
  • With his Trail Blazers out of the playoffs, there’s no longer any need for Jusuf Nurkic to rush his return. Nurkic said today during his exit interview with local media that he expects his leg injury to take about two to three months to heal, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link).
  • On Monday, we passed along word that Austin Rivers will return for the Clippers in Tuesday’s Game 5 against Utah. Rivers will be on a minutes restriction tonight.

Olshey: Trail Blazers Won’t Bring Back Festus Ezeli

Festus Ezeli‘s Trail Blazers career will end without him appearing in a single game for the team, according to general manager Neil Olshey, who confirmed today that Portland won’t be bringing back Ezeli for the 2017/18 season (link via Tim Brown of The Oregonian).

Ezeli, 27, signed a two-year deal worth about $15MM with the Blazers last summer, with Portland envisioning him as a rotation player who could provide rebounding and rim protection. However, Ezeli’s troublesome left knee kept him out of action in the preseason and then the regular season as well — the veteran center ultimately underwent a season-ending procedure in March.

As we outlined earlier today in our breakdown of this summer’s salary guarantee dates, Ezeli’s full $7.73MM salary for 2017/18 would become guaranteed if he remains on Portland’s roster beyond June 30. The Trail Blazers figure to waive him at some point before that date, which will leave the team on the hook for just $1MM of next season’s salary.

Although Ezeli will become a free agent when the Blazers officially waive him, he may not catch on with another team anytime soon. His knee surgery, which reportedly involved a cadaver donor, didn’t exactly sound like a routine procedure, but hopefully he’s able to eventually make it back onto the court and resume his playing career.

NBA Confirms 182 Early Entrants For 2017 Draft

With the deadline for early entrants to enter the 2017 NBA draft now behind us, the league has officially released the list of this year’s early entry candidates, and it’s a long one. According to the NBA’s announcement, 182 players have declared early for the draft — 137 college players and 45 international prospects. That’s a new record.

As was the case a year ago, NCAA rules changes allow underclassmen to “test the waters” before officially committing to the 2017 NBA draft. NCAA early entrants can withdraw their names any time up until May 24 while maintaining their NCAA eligibility, as long as they haven’t hired agents. That means that prospects testing the waters can take part in the NBA draft combine from May 9-14 – if invited – and they can work out for individual teams in the coming weeks.

International early entrants can also withdraw their names from the draft pool within the next several weeks. The final draft list will be set after the early entrant withdrawal deadline for international and other non-NCAA players passes on June 12.

A year ago, a whopping 162 NCAA and international players declared their intent to enter the draft early, but 91 of those players eventually withdrew. This year should follow a similar pattern, so the group of eligible draftees for 2017 figures to be reduced significantly by June 12.

Listed below are the current early entrants, according to the NBA. Players whose intent to declare wasn’t previously reported on Hoops Rumors are listed in italics.

Read more

NBADL Announces All-NBA D-League Teams

The NBA Development League has announced its All-NBA D-League teams for the 2016/17 season, headlined by league MVP Vander Blue. While Blue didn’t play in the NBA at all this season, many of the players on the NBADL’s three All-NBA D-League squads received call-ups throughout the year, and some of them finished the season on an NBA roster.

Here are this year’s 15 All-NBA D-League players, many of whom will have a decent chance of finding their way onto an NBA roster next season:

First Team:

Second Team:

Third Team:

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers made some big splashes on the trade market and in free agency a year ago, but the new-look roster didn’t take the step forward the team was hoping for. Heading into the 2017 offseason, Indiana finds itself in a tough spot, with the future of star forward Paul George – who has just one guaranteed year left on his contract – up in the air.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Pacers financially, as we kick off our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2017:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Kevin Seraphin ($1,974,159)3
  • Glenn Robinson III ($1,471,382)4
  • Joe Young ($1,471,382)5
  • Rakeem Christmas ($1,421,382) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.2
  • Georges Niang ($1,212,611) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.1
  • Total: $7,550,916

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Cap Holds

  • Jeff Teague ($13,200,000) — UFA
  • C.J. Miles ($8,708,555) — If player option is declined
  • Lavoy Allen ($7,600,000) — If team option is declined
  • Aaron Brooks ($3,240,000) — UFA
  • No. 18 overall pick ($2,028,360)
  • Total: $34,776,915

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $32,491,518

  • If the Pacers were to waive all their players on non-guaranteed salaries, decline their team option on Allen, have Miles turn down his player option, and renounce their UFAs, they would have $64,430,407 on their cap for seven roster spots (six guaranteed salaries and a first-round pick). The team would also have to account for five minimum-salary roster charges for empty roster spots. The total on their books in that scenario would be $68,508,482.

Footnotes:

  1. Niang’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after either July 1 or July 15 (conflicting information available).
  2. Christmas’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after either July 1 or August 1 (conflicting information available).
  3. Seraphin’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.
  4. Robinson’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1.
  5. Young’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and The Vertical was used in the creation of this post.

Pelicans Narrow NBADL Affiliate Search To Six Cities

The Pelicans intend to own and operate an NBA D-League franchise starting in 2018/19, and have received preliminary proposals from six cities in or near Louisiana, the team announced today in a press release. Representatives from those six locations will have until June 7 to submit a “complete and comprehensive proposal” for a D-League team to the Pelicans.

The six cities to express interest in housing the Pelicans’ new D-League affiliate are Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; St. Tammany Parish, LA; and Shreveport, LA.

“We are excited to the see the excitement which this process has generated among the six locations,” Pelicans owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “All of them have stepped forward with legitimate and sincere interest and are going to make a case via their proposals for why they would like to be the home of our NBA G League team in 2018-2019. The process is underway and we know that this will be a very significant addition for a city/parish near us as it will add global exposure and bring professional basketball to their town.”

The Pelicans initially announced in late March that they intend to launch a D-League affiliate to begin play for the 2018/19 season. By that time, of course, the league will have re-branded itself — it’s set to become the “G-League” later this year in honor of its partnership with Gatorade.

[RELATED: NBA D-League to become NBA Gatorade League in 2017/18]

At the time of New Orleans’ initial announcement, the organization indicated that it would send a Request for Proposal to 11 cities, including seven in Lousiana and four in nearby states. It appears that about half of those cities responded to the Pelicans’ request, showing interest in landing a team. We should hear more in the coming months about which locations are the frontrunners to host the Pelicans’ NBADL affiliate.

With the Pelicans poised to acquire a D-League club of their own, the only NBA teams without an affiliate – or a plan in place to add one – are the Nuggets, Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Wizards.

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