Month: July 2018

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs‘ asking price for Kawhi Leonard remains high, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne. In an article packed with Leonard-related tidbits, the ESPN duo suggests that – based on conversations with opposing teams – San Antonio appears to be seeking an All-Star caliber player, high-potential young players, and draft picks in exchange for Kawhi.

It’s not clear if the Spurs will be able to land that sort of return, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, who note that a three-way bidding war involving the Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers never really materialized. The Lakers are being patience and conveying confidence that Leonard will sign with them in 2019. As for the Celtics and Sixers, they’ve held their top players out of trade discussions and have offered pick-heavy packages, which haven’t enticed the Spurs.

Given the Spurs’ reported demands, a Raptors offer built around one of their All-Star guards (likely DeMar DeRozan), one or two of their young players, and draft picks could be the most logical package for San Antonio.

In an appearance on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast, Brian Windhorst said he thinks the Raptors are in the “driver’s seat” in the Leonard sweepstakes, since the Lakers and Sixers haven’t been aggressive in their pursuit of the star forward. Lowe didn’t go so far as to call the Raptors the favorites, but he cautioned not to underestimate the club or to view the rumors linking Leonard to Toronto as mere speculation.

Here are a few more notes and rumors on the NBA’s most noteworthy trade candidate:

  • In addition to the four teams noted above, the Clippers, Nuggets, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Leonard, league sources tell Wojnarowski and Shelburne. However, it’s unlikely that any of those teams has made a monster offer, given concerns that Kawhi would be a one-year rental. Portland hasn’t discussed Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum, for instance, per ESPN.
  • Leonard is “seriously considering” participating in Team USA’s mini-camp next week, league sources tell Wojnarowski and Shelburne. There’s a sense that the All-Star wants to show the Spurs‘ prospective trade partners that he’s healthy, but there may be a concern within Leonard’s camp that participating in the mini-camp would give San Antonio more leverage to push him to report to camp in the fall.
  • While there have been whispers that Leonard has no intention of showing up at the Spurs‘ facility if he’s not traded, rival teams generally view that as an “empty threat,” since they’re skeptical he’s willing to risk forfeiting his $20MM salary for 2018/19, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne,
  • The Spurs haven’t allowed potential trade partners to talk directly with Leonard or his camp, or to see his medical information, per ESPN’s report. It’s unlikely that stance would change unless the Spurs agree to a trade in principle with a team, Woj and Shelburne add.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders addressed the Leonard situation in his latest article, suggesting that the start of training camp could be a key deadline to keep an eye on. One source close to Leonard also tells Kyler that the forward would ideally like to be the “focal point” of a team going forward. It’s not clear how that alleged desire to be a team’s focal point will impact Leonard’s preference to join the Lakers now that LeBron James is in L.A., Kyler writes.

Kings, Grizzlies Finalizing Garrett Temple Trade

The Kings and Grizzlies are in the process of finalizing a trade that will send Garrett Temple to Memphis, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Sacramento will receive Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, and cash in the deal. The Kings will also get a 2021 second-round pick from the Grizzlies, tweets Chris Herrington.

The move will add a established, versatile contributor to Memphis’ rotation. Temple, who is a strong defender and can play multiple backcourt and wing positions, averaged a career-best 8.4 PPG last year for the Kings, chipping in 2.3 RPG and 1.9 APG with a .392 3PT%.

While Temple has seen most of his minutes on the wing in recent years, Grizzlies starting point guard Mike Conley is coming off an injury-plagued 2017/18 season and Memphis doesn’t have a reliable veteran behind Conley on the depth chart, with Andrew Harrison, Jevon Carter, and Kobi Simmons in the backup mix. Temple could provide the club with another ball-handler when Conley is on or off the court.

The Grizzlies will add a little money to their payroll as a result of the deal, but the salary difference is minimal, and won’t have an impact beyond 2018/19. Temple is earning $8MM in the final year of his contract and McLemore is on an expiring deal worth $5.46MM. Temple and McLemore will be unrestricted free agents next summer, while Davis – who is earning about $1.54MM this year – will be eligible for restricted free agency.

Memphis is now less than $1MM away from the luxury-tax line, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who notes that recently-signed second-rounder Carter received a guaranteed two-year minimum-salary deal from the club.

For the Kings, the move represents a reunion with former seventh overall pick McLemore, who spent the first four years of his NBA career in Sacramento. He battled health issues and struggled last season for Memphis, averaging a career-worst 7.5 PPG on 4.21/.346/.828 shooting.

As for Davis, he showed some promise in a part-time role for the Grizzlies last season, posting 5.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 62 games (15.2 MPG). I wouldn’t expect either McLemore or Davis to take on a major role for the Kings, but they could earn spots in the rotation with strong showings in training camp.

The trade will open up a little extra cap room for the Kings, who now have about $20.5MM in space, easily the most in the league. Sacramento has 14 players under contract, so it will be interesting to see what the club has in mind for its remaining cap room and its final open roster spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Fail In Bid To Hire Daryl Morey as GM

JULY 17: Following up on his Monday report, Stein tweets that the Sixers sought and received permission to meet with Morey, but the Rockets GM decided to stay in his current situation.

JULY 16: The Sixers failed in an attempt to lure away Daryl Morey from the Rockets and take their GM job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Philadelphia was keenly interested in Morey, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since he was recently voted the league’s Executive of the Year for the way he shaped Houston into a championship contender. A Sixers spokesman refused to give any details to Stein on their GM search (Twitter links).

The Sixers have been in the market for a top executive ever since Bryan Colangelo resigned under pressure over a Twitter burner accounts scandal in which inside information was divulged and negative comments were made about players, coaches, and former executive Sam Hinkie.

Head coach Brett Brown has been serving as the interim head of basketball operations since Colangelo’s resignation, making final decisions on the draft, trades and free agency.

Morey’s contact with the Rockets was extended last year through the 2021/22 season prior to the sale of the team, Stein notes. Morey, 45, has been the Rockets’ GM since May 2007, a year after he was hired by the organization as an assistant GM.

Nemanja Bjelica Won’t Sign With Sixers

10:00am: Bjelica has elected to return to Europe for the 2018/19 season rather than signing with the Sixers, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Philadelphia will now have its $4.449MM available to use on another player.

9:47am: Having used up all their cap space, the Sixers are now in position to finalize their agreement with Nemanja Bjelica with their room exception. Philadelphia and Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year, $4.449MM deal earlier this month.

However, according to Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops.net, the 76ers and Bjelica have yet to complete that deal, and there’s still a belief among EuroLeague teams that the veteran forward could be lured away from his verbal agreement with Philadelphia. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic confirms as much, tweeting that “with a young family,” Bjelica is “looking at all of his options.”

As Varlas suggests, Bjelica had expected a more lucrative and longer-term contract than the one he agreed to with the Sixers. In a recent conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said that the Serbian forward had been seeking a multiyear deal from Minnesota before the team withdrew its qualifying offer. Taylor added that the one-year contract Bjelica agreed to with the Sixers was worth less than what the Wolves had offered.

European teams can’t match NBA clubs in terms of overall spending power, but Bjelica – a former EuroLeague MVP – would represent a major acquisition. As such, it’s possible a EuroLeague powerhouse would be willing to give him a longer-term contract that would be worth more total money than his Sixers deal.

It’s not clear how seriously Bjelica is weighing a return to Europe, or whether the Sixers gave him their blessing to consider other options. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two sides eventually finalize their agreed-upon deal, but that no longer appears to be a lock.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Waive Alfonzo McKinnie

JULY 17: The Raptors have officially waived McKinnie, the team announced today (via Twitter).

JULY 16: The Raptors plan to waive forward Alfonzo McKinnie before his contract for next season becomes guaranteed on Wednesday, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. He was due to make $1,378,242 next season.

McKinnie, a 6’8” forward, made 14 brief appearances for the Raptors last season, averaging 3.8 MPG. McKinnie, 25, spent most of last season with the G League’ Raptors 905. He posted averages of 14.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 35 starts for the G League club.

McKinnie, who went undrafted out of Wisconsin Green Bay, was signed to a two-year minimum contract last July.

Toronto rescinded its qualifying offer to another forward, Malcolm Miller, on Friday and made him an unrestricted free agent.

Early Maximum Salary Projections For 2019/20

Earlier this month, Devin Booker signed a new five-year, maximum-salary contract extension with the Suns. That deal was reported as a $158MM agreement, but that number is just an estimate for now.

Because Booker’s new contract won’t go into effect until the 2019/20 season and the NBA won’t finalize the ’19/20 salary cap until the start of next year’s free agency, we can only ballpark what maximum-salary contracts will look like based on the NBA’s latest cap projections.

When the NBA confirmed its salary cap data for the 2018/19 season on June 30, the league also updated its cap projections for the following two years. The league’s current projection for the 2019/20 cap is $109MM, though that number could fluctuate over the course of the next 11 months or so.

For now, we’re basing our maximum-salary estimates on that presumed $109MM cap figure. Listed below are the early maximum-salary projections for 2019/20, based on a $109MM cap. The first chart shows the maximum salaries for a player re-signing with his own team — a player’s previous club can offer five years instead of four, and 8% annual raises instead of 5% raises. The second chart shows the maximum salaries for a player signing with a new team.

A player’s maximum salary is generally determined by his years of NBA experience, so there’s a wide gap between potential earnings for younger and older players. Unless they qualify for a more lucrative extension by meeting certain performance criteria, players with no more than six years of NBA experience are limited to a starting salary worth up to 25% of the cap. For players with seven to nine years of experience, that number is 30%. For players with 10 or more years of experience, it’s 35%.

Here are the the early max-salary projections for 2019/20:


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

Year 6 years or less 7-9 years 10+ years
2019/20 $27,250,000 $32,700,000 $38,150,000
2020/21 $29,430,000 $35,316,000 $41,202,000
2021/22 $31,610,000 $37,932,000 $44,254,000
2022/23 $33,790,000 $40,548,000 $47,306,000
2023/24 $35,970,000 $43,164,000 $50,358,000
Total $158,050,000 $189,660,000 $221,270,000

The “6 years or less” column here is what Booker’s new extension would look like. The second column reflects what players like Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving could get if they re-sign with their own teams as free agents next summer. The third column applies not just to players with 10+ years of experience, but also to players who meet the Designated Veteran Extension criteria, such as Kawhi Leonard.


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

Year 6 years or less 7-9 years 10+ years
2019/20 $27,250,000 $32,700,000 $38,150,000
2020/21 $28,612,500 $34,335,000 $40,057,500
2021/22 $29,975,000 $35,970,000 $41,965,000
2022/23 $31,337,500 $37,605,000 $43,872,500
Total $117,175,000 $140,610,000 $164,045,000

If a player changes teams as a free agent, he doesn’t have access to a fifth year or 8% raises. So if Booker had opted to sign an offer sheet next summer, he would have been limited to a deal projected to be worth about $117MM. If Butler, Irving, Thompson, Leonard, and other veterans with between seven and nine years of NBA experience want to change teams in 2019, they’ll be limited to contracts in the $140MM range.

Pistons Sign Keenan Evans To Two-Way Contract

JULY 17: Evans’ two-way contract with the Pistons is now official, per RealGM’s NBA transactions log. Evans and Reggie Hearn now occupy Detroit’s two-way contract slots.

JUNE 27: Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans has agreed to a two-way contract with the Pistons, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The 6’3” Evans played four seasons with the Red Raiders and posted averages of 17.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 3.2 APG in his senior year. He struggled from long range, making 32% of his 3-point attempts after connecting on 43.2% during his junior year.

Evans played the last month of his college career, including the NCAA Tournament, with a broken toe.

The Pistons decided not to extend a qualifying offer to one of their two-way players last season, point guard Kay Felder, according to Tony Paul of The Detroit News.

Felder, a Detroit native, joined the Pistons in January after he was waived by the Bulls in December. He spent most of his time in the G League, playing two games with the Pistons, after seeing action in 14 games with the Bulls. Felder was a second-round draft pick in 2016 and played 42 games for the Cavaliers before he was traded last offseason to the Hawks, who waived him.

Pacific Notes: Walton, Nwaba, Clippers, Jerebko

LeBron James and Lakers coach Luke Walton held their first face-to-face meeting this weekend, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports. They had only communicated by text prior to chatting in Las Vegas when James visited the summer league playoffs. So far, so good between the young coach and the league’s premier player, according to Shelburne.

“He’s about the team. He’s about doing things the right way, and he’s about winning,” Walton said. “I can work with those qualities.” The Lakers’ head coach had previously reached out to some of James’ former coaches and teamates to get a better handle on what to expect when coaching James, Shelburne adds.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Restricted free agent Rodney Hood and unrestricted FA guard David Nwaba are potential targets for the Kings in the dwindling market, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area speculates. Sacramento could also ease its frontcourt logjam via a deal or simply wait until the market heats up again during the February trade deadline, Ham adds.
  • The Clippers’ moves have put them in a position to contend for a playoff berth but they might be better off falling out of the race quickly, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines. Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley and Luc Mbah a Moute could turn into valuable trade pieces that could land them some prospects and additional draft picks, Woike explains. That would likely be a better outcome for the franchise’s long-term health than squeaking into the playoffs, Woike adds.
  • Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko jumped at the chance to join the Warriors, Logan Murdock of the San Jose Mercury News tweets“My agent called and said the Warriors were interested and after that, it was a wrap,” Jerebko told Murdock. “When the best team in the best team in the world calls, you answer.” Jerebko signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with Golden State shortly after being waived by the Jazz.

Central Rumors: Frye, Parker, Sexton, Garnett

Channing Frye‘s impact on the locker room had a lot to do with the Cavaliers’ decision to bring back the veteran forward, according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. GM Koby Altman wanted a respected veteran voice to guide the team through tough times with the departure of LeBron James, Pluto continues. Frye is very popular with his teammates and shares a close bond with the team’s remaining star, Kevin Love. Frye was traded to the Lakers last February by Cleveland solely to make the deal work financially and not because the front office had any issues with him, Pluto adds. Frye agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • The team option on Jabari Parker‘s two-year contract gives the Bulls flexibility during free agency next summer, Kevin Anderson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. With a projected rise in the salary cap, the Bulls could free up enough cap space to sign a top-level free agent even if they decide to keep Parker. That could be accomplished by allowing Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne to become unrestricted free agents if they are not signed to extensions. If they decide to let Parker go next summer, they could have between $35MM-$53MM in cap space during free agency, Anderson adds.
  • Cavaliers lottery pick Collin Sexton was a volume scorer during summer-league competition but reinforced the notion that his long-range game needs work, as Andre Snellings of ESPN details. Sexton did most of his damage inside the arc and needs to develop a consistent 3-point shot, Snellings continues. The University of Alabama product also displayed his ability to create for his teammates but he still can become a better passer, Snellings adds.
  • The Pistons made arrangements to have Kevin Garnett work with two of their bigs, center Andre Drummond and power forward Henry Ellenson, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.
  • GM Gar Forman’s promise two years ago to make the Bulls younger and more athletic is coming to fruition, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago writes. By drafting Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the lottery, trading for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and signing Jabari Parker as a free agent, the average age of the projected lineup is 22, Walton points out. The team can now play at a quicker pace and cover more space defensively, Walton adds.

And-Ones: Billups, LeBron, Free Agency, Budinger

ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups wants to run an NBA team in the near future, according to an Associated Press report. Billups turned down the Cavaliers’ GM job last summer, saying then it would tough to rebuild the team if LeBron James bolted. Rumors flew this summer that he’d be a candidate for a Pistons’ front-office post but he wasn’t seriously considered. “My desire is to one day run a team, be in a front office and try to build a champion,” Billups said. “I know that I will and I know I’m going to do a good job. When that opportunity presents itself, and it’s a good opportunity, I’ll be ready to go.”

In other news from around the league and overseas:

  • LeBron James will skip next week’s USA Basketball minicamp, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. It will be the first official session for USA Basketball with the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich as the head coach.
  • Dwyane Wade could be a bargain for the Heat or another team still shopping for a free agent guard, according to another AP story. Wade could probably be signed in the $5MM range. Vince Carter, Michael Beasley and restricted free agent Marcus Smart are three other veteran free agents who could offer value at a bargain rate, the story adds.
  • Former NBA forward Chase Budinger is pursuing a career in volleyball, Drew Ruiz of HoopsHype reports. Budinger is chasing an Olympic dream and has become a partner with two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal on the AVP Beach Volleyball circuit. “That’s been a goal of mine since I was in high school, to be on an Olympic team and playing for the USA,” Budinger told Ruiz. Budinger’s NBA career ended after he played 17 games for the Suns in the second half of the 20015/16 season.
  • Former NBA guard Mike James has signed a lucrative offer sheet with Italy’s Olimpia Milano through the 2021 season, international expert David Pick tweets. James started 10 games for the Suns last season and appeared in 32 games overall, averaging 10.4 PPG and. 3.8 APG. After getting waived, he played four games with the Pelicans before getting waived again. He then had a second stint with Greece’s Panathinaikos Athens and won a championship.