Month: November 2017

Draft Notes: Fox, Ball, Mitchell, Workouts

In a draft expected to be dominated by point guards, John Wall thinks De’Aaron Fox will be the best of the bunch, relays Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic. Wall insists his opinion stems from watching Fox play and isn’t because they went to the same school. “A lot of people say it’s bias because he’s from Kentucky, but I think De’Aaron Fox might end up being the best point guard out of that class,” Wall said. “He reminds me of myself a lot, just a lefty.” Wall was the first player picked in 2010 and has been a four-time All-Star. Fox is widely projected to be taken early in the lottery, but after point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball.

There’s more news as the draft looms three weeks away:

  • Fox is the latest rookie to get a shoe deal before being drafted, tweets Nick DePaula of The Vertical. Fox, who was highly sought after by shoe companies, agreed to a multi-year deal with Nike.
  • Ball may need an exceptional workout with the Lakers to be the No. 2 pick, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who notes that L.A.’s interest is growing in Fox and Kansas forward Josh Jackson. Ball’s camp, which once said he would only meet with the Lakers, is now willing to hold meetings, but probably not workouts, with the Sixers and Kings.
  • Donovan Mitchell is a non-traditional point guard who may be a steal for somebody in the middle of the draft, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Louisville product is celebrated for his defense, but doesn’t possess great passing skills.
  • Oregon guard Dylan Ennis has been among the most active prospects in pre-draft workouts, tweets Oliver Maroney of Dime Magazine. Ennis has already worked out for the Thunder, Raptors and Celtics, and has sessions with the Clippers, Kings and Spurs set for next week. He is listed by DraftExpress as a long shot to be selected.
  • Pitt’s Jamel Artis will work out for the Magic on Thursday, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.
  • Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan was the top name at Tuesday’s Raptors workout, tweets Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic. Swanigan was joined by Virginia’s Austin Nichols, Dayton’s Scoochie Smith, Houston’s Damyean Dotson, North Carolina’s Nate Britt and Southeast Missouri’s Antonius Cleveland.
  • The Knicks welcomed six players on Tuesday, posts Ian Begley on ESPN Now. At the workout were Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, Duke’s Amile Jefferson, Colorado’s Derrick White, Florida’s Canyon Barry and Columbia’s Luke Petrasek.

Community Shootaround: NBA Finals

After weeks of unexciting preliminaries, we’re finally ready for the main event.

It has taken three rounds and 47 days to determine what everyone has known since training camp — the Warriors and Cavaliers are clearly the NBA’s best teams.

Golden State and Cleveland set a record by tearing through their competitors, arriving at the NBA Finals with one combined loss. The addition of Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games last season gave the Warriors a nearly unprecedented collection of talent. The Cavaliers have their own Big Three and have been a clear favorite to win the East every year since LeBron James came back to town in 2014.

But as the NBA reminded us in its famous advertising campaign from nearly a decade ago, there can only be one.

As they prepare for their third straight get-together in the Finals, both Golden State and Cleveland can feel like the series they lost was somewhat fluky. Kyrie Irving suffered a fractured kneecap during Game 1 of the 2015 Finals, leaving the Cavs shorthanded the rest of the way. A year ago, Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, then Andrew Bogut suffered a knee injury that kept him out of Games 6 and 7.

Both teams are healthy heading into their “three-match” and both are ready to stake a claim to supremacy. There’s no arguing that the Warriors are the best in the West and the Cavs are the kings of the East. But who’s the top team in the NBA? We’re about to find out.

Who is your pick to win this year’s Finals? Please share your opinion in the comments section. We look forward to what you have to say.

Warriors Notes: Kerr, Brown, Irving, Luxury Tax

Steve Kerr hasn’t decided if he will try to coach the Warriors during the NBA Finals, according to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News. Kerr’s physical condition has improved since he took a leave of absence from the team midway through the first round of the playoffs. He was able to run practice Monday and Tuesday and handled the coach’s media session Monday. However, he is still well short of being 100% and is being cautious about returning to the team in such an important situation.

There’s more Warriors news on the eve of the NBA Finals:

  • Kerr states in the same interview that he definitely plans to coach again next season. He remains optimistic about his long-term physical condition and has no plans to step aside. “You know, it’s a little trickier, since this has been going on,” Kerr explained. “I sort of assumed all last year that by the summer I’d get this thing knocked out. It’s been kind of a mystery and that’s what so frustrating. But I have every intention to coach for a long time. It’s scary stuff and still hoping for a better resolution to it.”
  • Interim coach Mike Brown doesn’t view this series as a shot at revenge, even though the Cavaliers fired him twice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Brown served as head coach in Cleveland for five seasons before being let go in 2010. He was rehired in 2013, but was fired again after just one season, reportedly with $12MM in guaranteed money left on his contract. Despite his history, Brown said he has no ill feelings toward owner Dan Gilbert or the city of Cleveland. “My son goes to school back there, I still have a house back there, I have fond memories back there,” Brown said at today’s “media day” at Oracle Arena. “And went back there a second time with a good buddy of mine, [former Cavs GM] Chris Grant, and saw them put this plan into motion that is going on now.”
  • Kyrie Irving regrets the rocky relationship he had with Brown when they were together for his rookie season, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Irving called it a “learning experience,” as things got so bad that Brown recommended that the front office try to trade Irving. “I understand that things happen in this league sometimes, whether controlled or uncontrolled,” Irving said. “I was a 21-year-old kid, just trying to lead a franchise, and he was a new head coach that I had to get introduced to a new offense, new players, as well as new system.”
  • Once Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are re-signed this summer, the Warriors will be headed for uncharted territory in their salary and luxury tax bills, tweets Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Golden State could wind up paying more in tax penalties than salary for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, and the total could be more than $600MM over the two years.

Shumpert, Smith: Carmelo Wants To Stay In New York

Trading Carmelo Anthony out of New York may not be as easy as team president Phil Jackson is hoping, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, two of Anthony’s friends and former teammates, believe he wants to remain with the Knicks and will use his no-trade clause to veto any deal.

“Sometimes you feel like it’s just unfinished business, and I feel like that’s what it is with Melo,” Shumpert said, referring to the Knicks’ 31-51 season. “He don’t want to leave on that note.”

Smith noted how hard Anthony worked to get to New York, forcing the Nuggets’ hands in a 2011 deal so he could be part of the league’s biggest market.

“He does want to stay in New York. He made the effort to get to New York,” Smith said. “Granted, it hasn’t gone as well as he hoped it would. But I’m sure that’s where he wants to be.”

Anthony will make more than $26.2MM next season and has an early termination option for his nearly $28MM salary in 2018/19. Jackson would like to get those figures off the Knicks’ salary cap, and contacted the Clippers, Cavaliers and Celtics before February’s deadline in an attempt to work out a trade.

Any team that does deal for Anthony would have to absorb his 15% trade kicker, which would bring his total cap hit to about $30MM.Anthony hasn’t made any public appearances since the season ended, Bondy notes, apart from a single workout session. He has also stopped posting on social media since mid-April.

While Anthony has chosen silence, Jackson has remained persistent about his desire to find a taker for his star. He began with a postseason press conference in which he stated that Anthony would be “better off somewhere else,” then repeated those sentiments to the media at the draft combine.

“I don’t think [Jackson] should’ve been so vocal about [wanting to trade Anthony],” Shumpert said. “That’s just me. I think a lot of stuff is better if everybody just assumes what’s going on and they don’t really know what’s going on. I didn’t like that it was publicized, but what am I going to do? He said some stuff about me too.

“I know it’s not going to bother Melo’s jumpshot next season. Melo is going to continue to work and get better, and continue to try to win. That’s all he can do.”

Several Teams Contact Celtics About No. 1 Pick

“A handful of teams” have already called Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about deals involving the top overall pick in the draft, relays Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Despite a near-consensus in the media that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the first player selected, Ainge insists the Celtics are studying potential picks and aren’t leaning toward any player. They are also trying to determine the return that the selection will bring on the trade market.

“There’s two things that are happening,” Ainge said. “I think the value of [the pick] increases the closer you get to the draft is one, and two is we really need to know the value of the whole draft, because some of the conversations that you have are trading down in the draft and trading picks for players, moving backward and so forth.”

Boston began holding pre-draft workouts in early May, although Ainge says most of the players who have auditioned are being targeted with the team’s three second-round picks. Ainge and his staff are currently in Las Vegas for a workout and will travel to Los Angeles for another.

Most workouts involving top prospects are organized by agents, and Fultz hasn’t hired one yet. The Celtics held a private meeting with Fultz at the draft combine, and Ainge will try to set up a visit to Boston for the 19-year-old, who is doing most of his training in Washington, D.C.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, who may also be considered for the top pick, turned down an invitation to work out for the Celtics.

Ainge said he’s not offended by Ball’s decision, understanding his desire to play for the Lakers because he grew up in Los Angeles and has concerns about the number of established players already in Boston’s backcourt.

“We’ve followed him in the summer in the past and we’re prepared on who he is, and it wouldn’t affect us in any way,” Ainge said. “I certainly don’t hold it against him or take it personal.”

Five Key Offseason Questions: Milwaukee Bucks

With Giannis Antetokounmpo evolving into a legitimate MVP candidate, the Bucks evolved along with him, finishing strong and returning to the postseason despite playing without Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker for significant portions of the season. Milwaukee may not be a bona-fide contender quite yet, but the team looked dangerous in the first round of the playoffs, taking a 2-1 lead on the Raptors before Toronto came back to win the series.

Antetokounmpo, who is still just 22 years old, may yet have room to improve, which bodes well for the Bucks as they attempt to fortify their roster around him. Finding the best way to add and retain those complementary pieces will be the key challenge for the Bucks this summer.

Here are five important questions facing the Bucks as they enter the offseason…

1. Who will be making the final call on roster decisions?

John Hammond was my pick for Executive of the Year this past season, based on his impressive work in the draft and in trades. Milwaukee isn’t exactly a top destination for elite free agents, so the Bucks benefited from having their roster managed by someone like Hammond, who was capable of finding value in minor moves.

Hammond is now the general manager in Orlando, leaving assistant GM Justin Zanik as the executive calling the shots in Milwaukee right now. Zanik is a candidate – and a good one – to take over the top job in the Bucks’ front office, but the club is conducting a broad search for that position, and has already received permission to speak to execs from four other teams.

A timetable for a hiring hasn’t yet been announced, so it remains to be seen whether the Bucks will add someone to the front office in time for that newcomer to have substantial input on the team’s offseason moves, or whether Zanik will be allowed to run the show this offseason whether or not he formally receives a promotion.

2. How does Jabari Parker fit into the Bucks’ long-term plans?NBA: Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks

One of the decisions facing the Bucks’ new general manager this offseason will be whether or not to lock up Parker. The former No. 2 overall pick is eligible for a contract extension as of July 1, but he also remains in the process of rehabbing his second major ACL injury.

Complicating matters further is the fact that Milwaukee’s best stretch of the 2016/17 season came after Parker’s injury. When Parker went down, the Bucks had a 22-29 record, and seemed likely to tank down the stretch. Instead, the team went on a 20-11 tear to finish the season, thriving without Parker in the lineup.

That successful second-half run doesn’t mean that the Bucks are better without Parker for the long term, but – combined with his ACL injury – it’s probably enough to give the organization pause when it comes to working out a contract extension this offseason.

Read more

Clippers Interested In Luring Jerry West From Warriors

3:37pm: West is “very intrigued” by the idea of working with the Clippers, a source tells Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

12:00pm: While West’s level of interest in joining the Clippers remains unclear, he has already held talks with Rivers and team owner Steve Ballmer, Stein reports (via Twitter).

7:56am: When the Lakers overhauled their front office earlier this year, they reportedly didn’t show any real interest in bringing Jerry West back into the fold. However, that’s not the case for the other team in Los Angeles. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Clippers are interested in luring West away from the Warriors.

League sources tell Stein that the Clippers would want to hire West as a consultant, which is essentially the role he currently holds in Golden State. Doc Rivers is the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, with Lawrence Frank also holding a key role in the team’s front office, so if West were to join the group, it would be as a complementary voice, rather than to supplant L.A.’s current execs.

While West was said to have some interest in getting involved with the Lakers earlier this year, it’s not clear if his level of interest in the Clippers would be as high. According to Stein, teams have made similar runs at West in the past, with little success. Additionally, Warriors owner Joe Lacob has confirmed that his club wants to extend West’s contract, so Golden State won’t let him get away without a fight.

Still, if the 79-year-old West is seeking a greater challenge at this point in his career, joining the Clippers’ front office would certainly qualify. The Warriors – 12-0 in the postseason and the favorites in the Finals – already have a stacked roster and fully expect their stars to re-sign this summer, while the Clippers appear to be at a crossroads, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick facing free agency.

NBA Maximum Salary Projections For 2017/18

Back in March, we published maximum salary projections based on a $102MM salary cap. Since then, the NBA has reduced its projection for the 2017/18 league year to $101MM. The difference is small, but it’s enough to affect what maximum salary contracts would look like. For instance, a player like Chris Paul could earn more than $207MM on a five-year max with the Clippers with a $102MM cap. With a $101MM cap, his maximum earnings slip a little to about $205MM.

While maximum salary contracts start at the same amount no matter where a player signs, players re-signing with their own teams can get larger raises and more years than if they sign elsewhere.

Additionally, players with less than seven years of NBA experience can only get a maximum salary worth 25% of the cap, while veterans with more experience can sign deals that start at 30% or 35% of the cap. So, the figures below reflect the various salaries that players like Nerlens Noel (less than six years), Gordon Hayward (7-9 years), and Paul (10+ years) could get on max contracts.

You can check out our story from March for more details on maximum salary contracts. For now, here’s what new max deals will tentatively look like this summer based on a $101MM cap:


A player re-signing with his own team (8% annual raises, up to five years):

Maximum salaries 1

Trade Rumors app users, click here for chart.


A player signing with a new team (5% annual raises, up to four years):

Maximum salaries 2

Trade Rumors app users, click here for chart.

And-Ones: Udoh, Competitive Balance, Fegan, Barry

Milos Teodosic (CSKA), Ekpe Udoh (Fenerbahce), and Aaron Jackson (CSKA) are among the Euroleague Final Four participants who expect to receive NBA interest and could pursue opportunities stateside this offseason, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter).

Teodosic has been mentioned throughout the year as a Euroleague star who expects to make the leap to the NBA for 2017/18, but Udoh is another interesting name. A former sixth overall pick, Udoh struggled during his initial five-year stint in the NBA, but has blossomed into a more effective player in Turkey, averaging 12.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 2.2 BPG in 31 Euroleague contests in 2016/17. Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress took a closer look at Udoh’s game and his stock after his MVP performance at the Euroleague Final Four.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • In an interesting piece for SI.com, Lee Jenkins examines how last summer’s salary cap spike affected the NBA’s desire for competitive balance. “We were all thrilled at first,” one GM said. “It’s like if somebody gives you a $20 bill. That’s great, right? You can go into the free-agent market and bid on players you wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. And then you realize, Wait a minute, everybody else got this $20 bill too. So while I might be able to use my $20 bill on Ian Mahinmi or Chandler Parsons or Evan f—— Turner, the best team in the league, the team that went 73–9, the team that can guarantee multiple championships, they can use their $20 bill on Kevin Durant. The spike took average teams and made them marginally better. It took one great team and made them historic.”
  • Despite the Warriors‘ and Cavaliers‘ recent dominance, commissioner Adam Silver isn’t concerned about the NBA becoming a two-team league, and says both squads have a long ways to go before they can legitimately be considered dynasties. ESPN.com passes along Silver’s quotes on that subject, along with his thoughts on Lonzo Ball‘s father, LaVar Ball.
  • Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal provides an update on the legal battle between longtime NBA agent Dan Fegan and his former employer, Independent Sports & Entertainment. According to Mullen, a federal judge denied Fegan’s motion to dismiss ISE’s case against him, sending it back to state court. Fegan has been accused of operating a side business when he worked for ISE.
  • Former Florida guard Canyon Barry comes from a prolific basketball family, but if he’s not able to make it to the NBA, Barry has a pretty solid backup plan, which involves finishing his master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who notes that Barry worked out for the Knicks on Tuesday, spoke to the young prospect about his NBA aspirations.

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Charlotte Hornets

After a solid 2015/16 season, the Hornets took a step back in ’16/17, with their win total dipping from 48 to 36. As Charlotte looks to bounce back, the fact that Kemba Walker is the sixth-highest-paid player on the roster is both good and bad news for the club — Walker is on a very team-friendly contract, but the Hornets have made some other questionable big-money investments that will limit their flexibility.

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

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Cap Holds

Trade Exceptions

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $5,677,173

  • The Hornets’ guaranteed salaries, plus cap holds for their first-round pick and two empty roster spots, total $106,677,173, putting the team over the cap. So, barring a significant change in direction, Charlotte is unlikely to dip below the cap this summer.

Footnotes:

  1. O’Bryant’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.
  2. Weber’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.

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

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