Month: October 2018

DeMarcus Cousins Is ‘Right On Schedule’

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins continues to make steady progress from a ruptured left Achilles tendon but there’s no timetable for his return, coach Steve Kerr told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“He’s right on schedule. He hasn’t had any setbacks. He’s doing well,” Kerr said. “Beyond that, there’s nothing. No prediction. Especially with an Achilles injury, you have to wait and see how the player responds once he’s on the court and moving at full speed.”

It’s been generally assumed that the Warriors will be very patient with Cousins, who stunned the basketball world by signing a one-year, $5.337MM contract with the two-time defending champions. It would be a big surprise if Cousins was in uniform to start the season. A return somewhere around the holidays seems more likely.

Golden State’s main aim is to have Cousins provide another dimension to already fearsome offense during the postseason.

“It’s great to have DeMarcus on board because it’ll change our look a little bit,” Kerr said.

Until Cousins comes back, the Warriors will likely start Jordan Bell and also use a lot of smaller lineups.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Grizzlies Waive Center Dakari Johnson

7:05 pm: The team will use the stretch provision on Johnson, creating annual cap hits worth just under $450K per season for the next three years, Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com tweets.

4:39pm: The Grizzlies have waived center Dakari Johnson, according to a team press release.

Johnson never got a chance to play for Memphis, as he was acquired via a trade with the Magic in July. Memphis shipped out Jarell Martin and tossed in cash considerations in that trade. Orlando acquired Johnson a few days earlier from Oklahoma City in exchange for guard Rodney Purvis.

He appeared in 31 games, including six starts, as a rookie with the Thunder last season. The 7-footer was a second-round pick in the 2015 draft and played parts of three seasons in the G League with the Oklahoma City Blue.

The Grizzlies could use the stretch provision on Johnson’s $1.378MM salary to help them create additional room below the luxury tax threshold. The deadline to use the stretch provision on his contract is today, since it’s an expiring deal. By waiving Johnson, Memphis also created a spot on the 15-man roster for point guard Andrew Harrison, whose deal is non-guaranteed.

Rockets Notes: Anderson, Knight, Gentile, Rosas

Trading power forward Ryan Anderson to the Suns did more for the Rockets than just shed salary, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle explains. Anderson didn’t have a clearly defined role with the addition of Carmelo Anthony, while acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss could contribute, albeit in a limited fashion. As an added bonus, the Rockets only had to toss in second-rounder De’Anthony Melton instead of packaging a future first-rounder to move Anderson’s contract, Feigen continues. Though Houston tends to play mostly a three-guard rotation, Knight could emerge as the backup point guard if he beats out Michael Carter-Williams. Chriss could become part of the mix as a backup big man if he beats out second-rounders Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein, Feigen adds. The teams reached an agreement on the trade Thursday.

In other news regarding the Rockets:
  • Knight had a minor cleanup on his knee approximately six weeks ago and may not be ready for start of training camp, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets. Knight, who missed last season with a torn ACL, expects to be ready for the start of the season, Gambadoro adds. Knight is excited about the chance to play for a championship contender, Gambadoro relays in another tweet.
  • Swingman Alessandro Gentile will not join other team members during a team bonding week in the Bahamas during the first week of September because he’s still recovering from right hand surgery, according to a Sportando report. Gentile expects to be fully cleared to practice by the end of the month, the report adds. Gentile, a 2014 second-round pick who has played in Europe since 2009, recently revealed he will join the team in training camp in an uphill battle to gain a roster spot.
  • The Rockets have granted the Sixers permission to interview executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas for their GM opening. Get all the details here.

Rockets Trade Anderson, Melton To Suns For Knight, Chriss

AUGUST 31: The trade is official, the Rockets and Suns announced in separate statements.

AUGUST 30: The Rockets and Suns have agreed to a trade, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Phoenix will acquire Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton from Houston in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

Anderson has been on the trade block in Houston for over a year, with his expensive long-term contract having stood in the way of a deal until now. While the Rockets will finally shed the two years and $41.69MM remaining on Anderson’s deal, they’ll take back another pricey multiyear contract — Knight is owed $30.28MM over the next two seasons.

Chriss will earn $3.21MM in 2018/19 and has a team option worth just over $4MM for 2019/20. The Rockets will have to make a decision on that option by October 31 of this year. As for Melton, he has yet to sign his first NBA contract, so Houston is technically trading his draft rights to Phoenix. The Suns will have the opportunity to lock him up once the trade is official.

While the in-the-tax Rockets will save some money as a result of the swap, the on-court implications are even more interesting than the financial ones. Anderson’s impressive three-point range allowed Houston to stretch the floor on offense, but his defensive shortcoming made him unplayable in certain matchups — he didn’t see much action in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors last season, for instance.

In place of Anderson and Melton, the Rockets will be receiving two players with intriguing upside. Knight missed the entire 2017/18 season with an ACL tear, but isn’t far removed from averaging 19.6 PPG and 5.1 APG in 52 games for the Suns in 2015/16. Assuming he’s back to full health, Knight could provide Houston with scoring and play-making off the bench behind Chris Paul and James Harden.

Chriss, meanwhile, has yet to develop into the sort of difference-making big man the Suns hoped for when they drafted him eighth overall in 2016. However, he’s still just 21 years old and has shown flashes of potential during his first two NBA seasons. It’s not clear how he’ll fit into the Rockets’ plans.

The Suns, apparently not ready to bet on Chriss taking significant steps forward, will replace him in the frontcourt with Anderson, a veteran stretch four capable of playing alongside No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. Phoenix will also add Melton, a 2018 second-round pick who had an impressive Summer League showing for the Rockets, filling the box score with 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.0 SPG in five games in Las Vegas.

The deal will leave the Suns lacking in experience and depth at point guard. Second-rounders Melton and Elie Okobo could see minutes immediately, with Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan also in the mix.

It will be interesting to see whether Phoenix has another move up its sleeve to fortify that point guard position or if the club simply plans to lean more heavily on Devin Booker as its primary play-maker. In his full report on the trade, Wojnarowski notes that the Suns may envision a larger role for Harrison.

The Rockets will create a modest traded player exception worth about $2.58MM in the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Waive Swingman DeAndre Liggins

The Pelicans have waived swingman DeAndre Liggins, according to a team press release.

The 6’6” Liggins appeared in 27 games, including three starts, for New Orleans last season after being originally signed on January 10. He averaged 1.6 PPG and 1.0 RPG in 9.0 MPG.

The Pelicans save a little money by cutting Liggins loose, as he was due to receive $75K if he remained on the roster at the beginning of September. Liggins was due to make $1.8MM if he had remained on the roster through January 10.

Liggins played on a pair of 10-day contract with New Orleans then was signed to a two-year deal on February 4.  He also appeared in 31 games with the Bucks last season, then was waived in early January before the Pelicans snapped him up.

Liggins has also worn five other uniforms in NBA regular-season games. He started his career with the Magic in 2011/12, then moved on to the Thunder, Heat, Cavaliers and Mavericks. He’s appeared in 177 games but has just a 2.0 PPG average while shooting 35.2% on 3-point tries.

The Pelicans still have eight other players at the wing spots and five players with partial or non-guaranteed contracts.

 

Suns Have Tried To Trade For Point Guard

With Brandon Knight headed to Houston in a four-player trade, the Suns‘ point guard depth chart looks thinner than ever. According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), Phoenix has made an effort to address the position by attempting to trade for a starting point guard, but hasn’t had any luck so far.

Gambadoro names Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, and Terry Rozier as a few of the point guards the Suns have been targeting, though he doesn’t provide much more details beyond that. Even if the Suns made inquiries on those players, I can’t imagine their conversation with the Trail Blazers for Lillard, for instance, went very far.

The Hornets and Celtics may have been a little more receptive to discussions involving their point guards, who are entering contract years, but it would certainly still take a substantial offer to pry Walker away from Charlotte or to get Rozier out of Boston.

While Gambadoro suggests that the Suns “will have to make a trade,” he notes that the Bucks’ first-round pick owed to Phoenix isn’t particularly valuable as a trade chip, given its protections. The Suns could put some combination of their own first-rounders or young prospects on the table in a trade offer, but it’s not clear how aggressive the team is willing to be in the short term — it’s possible the club will see what it can get out of its current point guards to start the season, perhaps revisiting the trade market closer to the deadline.

With Knight no longer in the mix, the Suns’ point guard group includes Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan, who are both on non-guaranteed contracts, and rookies De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo. Canaan has the most NBA experience of the bunch, but he’s coming off a major leg injury. Melton and Okobo, of course, have yet to make their respective NBA debuts, while Harrison has appeared in just 23 regular season contests.

Thunder Waive Kyle Singler

AUGUST 31: The Thunder have officially waived Singler, the team announced today in a press release.

AUGUST 30: The Thunder will part ways with forward Kyle Singler, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the team is waiving Singler and using the stretch provision to help reduce the cost of this year’s roster.

The move had been expected to happen at some point this week, since August 31 is the last day that teams can waive a player and stretch his 2018/19 salary across multiple seasons. A player released after Friday can have his future salaries stretched, but his ’18/19 cap will remain unchanged.

Singler is owed $4,996,000 for 2018/19 and $5,333,500 for 2019/20, but his second-year salary is non-guaranteed, meaning the Thunder will only be responsible for paying him this season’s salary. The club will have the ability to stretch the cap hits across five seasons, resulting in annual charges of $999,200 through 2022/23.

While the savings for this year may not appear massive, the impact on the Thunder’s tax bill will be significant. With Singler’s full cap hit on the roster, OKC had a team salary of $149,579,364 and a projected tax bill of $93,193,411, by our count. Stretching Singler will reduce those figures to $145,582,564 and $73,785,429, respectively.

In total, the Thunder will trim the projected cost of their roster from $242,772,775 to $219,367,993, good for more than $23.4MM in savings, assuming they don’t fill Singler’s spot on the roster with someone else. Once Singler is officially released, the team will have 14 players on guaranteed deals.

Beyond the financial implications of the move, cutting Singler made sense for the Thunder from an on-court perspective. While Singler’s solid three-point shooting in his first three NBA seasons (.378 3PT%) earned him a long-term contract from the Thunder, the 30-year-old has regressed in recent years and fell out of Oklahoma City’s rotation in 2017/18, appearing sparingly in just 12 games.

Singler will become an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Few Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates This Fall

Over the summer, NBA teams faced a number of decisions on whether to keep a player and guarantee his salary or waive him and avoid that extra cost. In total, nearly 50 players had some sort of guarantee deadline on their contracts in June, July, and August.

Typically, that pattern continues to some extent in the fall. All NBA contracts for a given year become guaranteed on January 10 (not counting 10-day deals), but several contracts include trigger dates that come before the new year, most frequently around the start of the regular season.

A player with a mid-October salary guarantee date in his contract receives a sizable bonus if he makes his club’s regular season roster, perhaps even having his entire salary guaranteed. If he doesn’t earn a spot on his team’s 15-man squad, he’s waived without getting that guarantee, but has the opportunity to seek a new job elsewhere.

For the 2018/19 league year though, fall salary guarantee dates are scarce. While there are plenty of players on non-guaranteed contracts around the NBA, virtually all of those contracts will remain non-guaranteed until January 10.

According to data from Basketball Insiders and ESPN, the Knicks are one of the few teams carrying players with salary trigger dates this fall. Trey Burke, whose deal is currently partially guaranteed for $100K, will have that partial guarantee bumped to $400K if he remains under contract for the first game of the regular season. Noah Vonleh, on a non-guaranteed contract for now, will receive a $100K partial guarantee if he’s not waived by September 25.

Outside of those two dates, September 1 represents the other deadline of note for salary guarantees. The Thunder and Abdel Nader reportedly agreed to push his guarantee deadline from August 1 to September 1, so Nader – who currently has a $450K partial guarantee – should be in line for a fully guaranteed salary if he’s not waived by Saturday.

Elsewhere, there’s some conflicting info on a pair of Pelicans players. Emeka Okafor and DeAndre Liggins have $100K and $75K partial guarantees, respectively, according to Basketball Insiders. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks indicated this week (via Twitter) that those partial guarantees won’t actually lock in until after September 1. If Okafor remains under contract through October 16, his guarantee would increase to $200K, per Basketball Insiders.

Salary details are still trickling in for some recent signees, and it’s possible that a few more free agent deals between now and the start of the season will feature trigger dates. For now though, there aren’t many salary guarantee deadlines worth keeping an eye on this fall.

Sixers Receive Permission To Interview Three GM Candidates

The Sixers have been granted permission to interview three candidates for their open general manager position, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Larry Harris (Warriors), Gersson Rosas (Rockets), and Justin Zanik (Jazz) are among Philadelphia’s potential targets. Team ownership intends to start meeting with candidates next week, league sources tell ESPN.

An assistant GM and director of player personnel for the Warriors, Harris previously spent nearly two decades with the Bucks, serving as Milwaukee’s general manager from 2003 to 2008. He headed to Golden State for the 2008/09 season, initially serving as an assistant coach before moving to the team’s front office.

Rosas has spent the better part of two decades with the Rockets and is currently the executive vice president of basketball operations for the team. A close associate of general manager Daryl Morey, Rosas had a brief stint as the Mavericks’ general manager in 2013 but returned to Houston shortly thereafter. He was reportedly considered for front office openings in Charlotte and Detroit earlier this year.

Zanik, who held an assistant general manager position with the Jazz until 2016, left to join the Bucks at that time. Milwaukee appeared to be grooming Zanik as the eventual replacement for general manager John Hammond, but the club passed over him last summer following an unusual GM search, opting to promote Jon Horst instead. Zanik left the franchise in the wake of that decision, returning to Utah in his old assistant GM role.

Following the dismissal of Bryan Colangelo in Philadelphia, the Sixers initially targeted big-name NBA GMs and presidents like Morey, but have since cast a wider net, focusing more on executives who would view the Philadelphia job as a promotion rather than a lateral move.

Team owner Josh Harris recently said that the 76ers want to make sure they find a perfect fit, and would be content leaving their interim structure in place if necessary. Head coach Brett Brown is currently serving as the club’s interim president of basketball operations, though he has plenty of help in the front office — Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley, and Elton Brand were among those receiving promotions this week.