Month: November 2017

Pacific Notes: Ingram, Randolph, Warriors, Kings

Kings‘ forward Zach Randolph was formally charged with two misdemeanors after his August 9 arrest for possession of marijuana, John Schultz of the Sacramento Bee writes.

Charges against Randolph were reduced from possession of marijuana with intent to sell to possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and resisting arrest, per the Los Angeles County Superior Court website.

Possession of marijuana comes with a possible six-month sentence, a fine not exceeding $500, or both. The resisting arrest charge comes with up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Randolph, 36, signed a two-year, $24MM deal with Sacramento in July, bringing a stable veteran presence to an otherwise rebuilding Kings team. While age has slowed Randolph’s production, he has still posted at least 14.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG the last five seasons. Needless to say, this type of legal issue is not what the Kings had in mind when they committed two years to the NBA veteran.

Below you can read other tidbits of news around the Pacific Division:

  • In a piece for ESPN Insider (subscription required and recommended) Mike Schmitz examines Lakers‘ forward Brandon Ingram. The second overall pick from last year’s draft did not have the type of season he and the organization hoped for in 2016/17. Schmitz — who expects a breakout season — explains that Ingram’s shooting was impacted by a change of position and simply adjusting from college to the professional level.
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) explains how the Warriors‘ star players can be even better in 2017/18. Golden State has made three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two out of the three.
  • A state senator in Inglewood, California, says it is possible that a proposal to fast track a new arena for the Clippers will be introduced, Liam Dillon of the Los Angeles Times writes.
  • Shaun Powell of NBA.com has compiled an offseason recap for the Kings.

Shabazz Muhammad Reportedly Considering Lakers

Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top free agents left on the market, is reportedly considering a deal with the Lakers, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links). Pincus adds that Los Angeles still has a $4.3MM room exception but a minimum deal could also be in play should both sides reach an agreement.

Muhammad was previously represented by current Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. While that prior relationship exists, it is not clear if it will impact a potential deal.

The Wolves renounced their rights to Muhammad earlier this summer. Since then, the Hawks, Nets, Bucks, and Knicks have been mentioned as possible destinations. Minnesota was reportedly considering a reunion with the 24-year-old earlier this month.

In 78 games with the Wolves last season, Muhammad averaged 9.9 PPG and 2.8 RPG while shooting .482% from the field in just under 20 minutes per game.

The Lakers’ busy offseason has included drafting Lonzo Ball, signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and trading former first-round pick D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn for veteran center Brook LopezMuhammad would provide the team with a young scoring weapon off the bench if a deal is reached.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Stauskas, Nets, Celtics

A report earlier this week suggested that friction between the Knicks‘ young phenom Kristaps Porzingis and head coach Jeff Hornacek caused the Latvian to skip his exit meeting earlier this offseason. However, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that issues between the player and coach were not the source of Porzingis’ issue with the team.

Porzingis was reportedly frustrated with the front office (particularly ex-president Phil Jackson) and the team’s treatment of Carmelo Anthony. Issues between Hornacek and Porzingis suggest that his problems with the team went beyond Jackson and company. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported in July that Porzingis and Hornacek’s relationship “sat on rocky terrain” for most last season, partly because of his loud and critical treatment of the Knicks’ former first-round pick.

“We try to get good relationships with all our guys, not just the star guys,” Hornacek said to Bondy about his relationships with players on the team. “We’re talking to these guys every day. We see them every day. We travel with them. As a group we’re trying to do more things as a team, kind of family-type stuff. We’ll try to grow on that, that way.”

For what it’s worth, the Knicks have insisted that the organization’s future rests on its young assets with the 22-year-old Porzingis at the forefront. With key changes to the front office and the roster, New York enters 2017/18 with cooled expectations but a clearer vision for the future.

Below you can read additional news around the Atlantic Division:

And-Ones: Surprises, EuroBasket, Australia

The Timberwolves haven’t made the postseason in 14 seasons. That could change this year, Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders writes, in a feature profiling five teams that could surprise in 2017/18. The Wolves have made no secret their desire to surround their promising young core with as many established veterans as possible and it’s likely to pay off in the form of a playoff appearance.

Another team Rhodes mentions is the Pelicans, who will break camp for the first time with both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the roster. It’s not unreasonable, Rhodes suggests, to call Davis and Cousins the best players in the NBA at their respective positions.

Other teams that the scribe considers on the rise include the Lakers, Hornets and Pacers, the latter perhaps reeling from the loss of its superstar but still boasting plenty of versatile talent on the roster.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • There are no shortage of past, present and future NBA players on EuroBasket 2017 rosters. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype recently made a list of them all, broken down by nationality. (We see you, Anthony Randolph).
  • The Australian National Basketball League isn’t a high profile international league like the Spanish ACB, Turkish BSL or Russian VTP leagues but it’s growing in popularity, Chris Reichert of 2 Ways, 10 Days writes.
  • The only restricted free agent to accept a qualifying offer in the NBA this summer is Mavs center Nerlens Noel. In his latest feature, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders breaks down the unique contract type, what it means for the players who sign them and what, typically, happens next.
  • For those keeping track at home, the NBA has doled out over $2B less this summer than it did last summer. That’s a decrease of 42.6%, tweets Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Hornets, Heat

After a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, the Hornets have put themselves back in position to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders writes.

The addition of Dwight Howard will give the Hornets an inside presence that they lacked during their down year last season. The big man’s connection to head coach Steve Clifford – who served as an assistant coach with both the Lakers and Magic during Howard’s time there – will bode well as they settle into a new routine in Charlotte.

While Howard’s value as an elite rebounder is undisputed, the fact that the Hornets could possibly utilize Howard’s offensive skills more than his last few employers have is intriguing.

He understands that I know him,” Clifford said of the new Hornets center. “I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do… There is no reason he can’t get back to playing at a really high level.

Chambers also cites the addition of Malik Monk, a guard that can help shoulder the scoring load, as one of the major improvements that the Hornets will enjoy in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • There’s a palpable buzz surrounding the Hornets after a down year last season. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently broke down the club’s new-look depth chart in detail.
  • The Heat committed to maintaining their core and culture this offseason even though it limited flexibility they may have had next summer when LeBron James and Paul George hit free agency. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes that the club didn’t put their club on hold for the chance at a superstar, adding that the roster is full of tradable contracts if Pat Riley does, in fact, look to carve out some cap room.
  • Head coach Scott Brooks wants his Wizards roster to have high expectations heading into the 2017/18 season, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. “We’re trying to establish [a championship mentality] here. We want to have consistent and sustainable success,” Brooks said.

Pelicans Work Out Josh Smith, Other Veterans

The Pelicans worked out a number of veteran players that could potentially be used to fill the void at small forward in the wake of Solomon Hill‘s hamstring injury, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN revealed on his podcast. Included in the workout were Josh Smith, Chase Budinger and Martell Webster.

While Wojnarowski questions the decision to bring in a handful of players with spotty track records to fill such a vital role for a Pels team with playoff intentions, New Orleans will need to come up with a solution if they can’t quickly lock down Dante Cunningham.

As we discussed on Tuesday, the Pelicans are trying to bring Cunningham back on a minimum deal but are facing strong competition from Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves. Cunningham has served as a spot starter for the Pels on and off over the course of the past three seasons.

Of the three vets Wojnarowski mentions to have worked out for the franchise, it’s Smith who had the most significant NBA tenure but he’s also likely the least natural small forward of the three as well.

For nine seasons Smith helped anchor a Hawks team that gradually became one of the Eastern Conference’s most reliable contenders but things began to unravel when he signed a free agent deal with the Pistons ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.

Since then, Smith has bounced from the Pistons to the Rockets and Clippers and has found himself out of the league altogether since 2015/16.

Famously criticized for his tendency to shoot long twos, Smith’s inclusion in a Pelicans rotation already built around two traditional big men causes consternation and, in the eyes of Wojnarowski, won’t exactly help the franchise woo superstar Anthony Davis, whose name has come up as a coveted trade target for the Celtics.

Budinger, like Smith, hasn’t suited up for an NBA team since the 2015/16 season, while Webster hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2014/15.

NBA Draft Rights Held: Northwest Division

When top college prospects like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball are drafted, there’s virtually no doubt that their next step will involve signing an NBA contract. However, that’s not the case for every player who is selected in the NBA draft, particularly for international prospects and second-round picks.

When an NBA team uses a draft pick on a player, it gains his NBA rights, but that doesn’t mean the player will sign an NBA contract right away. International prospects will often remain with their professional team overseas for at least one more year to develop their game further, becoming “draft-and-stash” prospects. Nikola Mirotic, Dario Saric, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are among the more notable players to fit this bill in recent years.

However, draft-and-stash players can be former NCAA standouts too. Sometimes a college prospect selected with a late second round pick will end up playing overseas or in the G League for a year or two if there’s no space available on his NBA team’s 15-man roster.

While these players sometimes make their way to their NBA teams, others never do. Many clubs around the NBA currently hold the rights to international players who have remained overseas for their entire professional careers and are no longer viewed as top prospects. Those players may never come stateside, but there’s often no reason for NBA teams to renounce their rights — those rights can sometimes be used as placeholders in trades.

For instance, earlier this summer, the Pacers and Raptors agreed to a trade that sent Cory Joseph to Indiana. Toronto was happy to move Joseph’s salary and didn’t necessarily need anything in return, but the Pacers had to send something in the deal. Rather than including an NBA player or a draft pick, Indiana sent Toronto the draft rights to Emir Preldzic, the 57th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Preldzic is currently playing for Galatasaray in Turkey, and at this point appears unlikely to ever come to the NBA, but his draft rights have been a useful trade chip over the years — the Pacers/Raptors swap represented the fourth time since 2010 that Preldzic’s NBA rights have been included in a trade.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the players whose draft rights NBA teams currently hold, sorting them by division. These players may eventually arrive in America and join their respective NBA teams, but many will end up like Preldzic, plying their trade overseas and having their draft rights used as pawns in NBA trades.

Here’s a breakdown of the draft rights held by Northwest teams:

Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Marcelo Nicola, F (1993; No. 50): Retired.
  • Doron Sheffer, G (1996; No. 36): Retired.
  • Federico Kammerichs, F/C (2002; No. 51): Retired.
  • Nedzad Sinanovic, C (2003; No. 54): Retired.
  • Daniel Diez, F (2015; No. 54): Playing in Spain.

Utah Jazz

Previously:

Information from Mark Porcaro and Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Trail Blazers To Retain Pat Connaughton

The Trail Blazers have decided not to waive Pat Connaughton today, which will ensure that his 2017/18 salary becomes fully guaranteed, reports Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Connaughton will now be on track to earn his full $1,471,382 minimum salary for the coming season.

Connaughton, 24, has spent the last two seasons in Portland after joining the Blazers in a draft-day trade in 2015. The 6’5″ shooting guard hasn’t become a regular rotation player for the Blazers so far, but has appeared in 73 regular season games for the club. He has played just 6.3 MPG in those contests, averaging 1.8 PPG and 1.2 RPG.

The original guarantee deadline for Connaughton was July 25, but he and the team agreed last month to push it back to August 31 to create a little more flexibility for the Blazers. Having waived Andrew Nicholson on Wednesday, the Blazers only had 13 players left on guaranteed contracts — that number will increase to 14 with Connaughton remaining on the roster.

With a decision made on Connaughton, all the players who had guarantee deadlines on their contracts in June, July, or August have now either been waived or received their guarantees, as our tracker details.

Lakers Fined $500K For Tampering

The Lakers have been fined $500K for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rules, the league announced today in a press release. The ruling comes after the conclusion of an independent investigation conducted by a law firm, per the NBA.

According to the NBA’s announcement, the Lakers had received a warning when president of basketball operations Magic Johnson made comments regarding then-Pacers forward Paul George during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The $500K fine stems from an “prohibited expression of interest” in George by GM Rob Pelinka during a conversation with George’s agent Aaron Mintz.

The investigation into the Lakers uncovered no evidence suggesting that the Lakers entered an agreement to sign George when he becomes a free agent or made any other promises to acquire him. However, because George remains under contract with another team, the NBA’s tampering rules prohibit Pelinka and the Lakers from expressing interest in him directly to his agent.

The Lakers are widely considered the odds-on favorite to land George when his contract expires in 2018, and the Pacers were reportedly angry about what they perceived to be tampering as they weighed their options for the All-Star forward. Indiana ultimately sent George to Oklahoma City in exchange for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, but filed paperwork with the league alleging that the Lakers were guilty of tampering.

Had the investigation into the Lakers revealed that the team had made a wink-and-a-nod agreement with George or his agent, L.A. would have been subject to harsher penalties, including the loss of draft picks and/or suspensions for front office members.

The $500K penalty represents the second-largest tampering fine in NBA history, behind the $3.5MM penalty assessed to the Timberwolves in the Joe Smith saga back in 2000, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today.

Magic Sign Kalin Lucas

The Magic continue to fill out their roster for training camp, announcing today in a press release (Twitter link) that they’ve signed free agent guard Kalin Lucas to a contract. The announcement from the team also confirmed the signing of Troy Caupain, which we covered earlier this month.

Lucas, 28, went undrafted out of Michigan State back in 2011 and has played in a number of professional leagues and countries since then. In addition to spending time with clubs in Greece and Turkey, Lucas has extensive G League experience, having averaged 17.7 PPG and 4.9 APG with a .448/.391/.842 shooting line in 112 career G League contests.

Lucas was signed and waived multiple times by the Grizzlies in 2014, and ultimately saw his only NBA experience with Memphis during that 2014/15 season. His stint in the NBA was brief — he played in just one game and saw the floor for six minutes.

Having played for the Erie BayHawks last season, Lucas is a good bet to join the Lakeland Magic to start the 2017/18 campaign. Those teams are technically one and the same — the Orlando Magic bought the BayHawks and relocated the G League franchise to Florida for the coming season.

The Magic now have 18 players officially under contract, with an agreement also reportedly in place with undrafted rookie Rodney Purvis — when Purvis’ deal becomes official, Orlando would have just one open spot left on the team’s 20-man offseason roster.

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