Month: September 2018

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Roberson, Nuggets, Towns

The Trail Blazers didn’t make any major roster moves this offseason, but tweaked their roster slightly by adding players like Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, and Anfernee Simons. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey said on Monday that he’s “happy with what we did” over the summer, though he acknowledged that Portland was outbid for six veteran free agents (Twitter link via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian).

In other Trail Blazers news, starting small forward Maurice Harkless continues to recover from arthroscopic left knee surgery, and his availability during training camp is limited (link via Freeman). Harkless said he’ll be involved in practices, but he hasn’t been cleared to play in 5-on-5 games and doesn’t think he’ll be 100% in practices.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Andre Roberson, who ruptured his left patellar tendon last season, provided an update on his recovery timetable on Monday, indicating that he expects to be cleared for contract soon and back to full speed “around December.” Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press has the details, along with the full quotes from the Thunder‘s top defender.
  • The Nuggets aren’t providing any timelines for Isaiah Thomas or Michael Porter Jr. to make their respective debuts with the club, as Matt L. Stephens of The Denver Post writes. The team sounds ready to take a cautious approach with both players. “I do not have a date right now, I’m going to take my sweet time, because I’ve rushed it before and that did not work out for me,” Thomas said of his own status. “We’re not worried about right now. We’re worried about April, worried about the playoffs and me being as healthy as I can going into that stretch. However long it takes, I’m only going to go out on the court when I can produce at a high level.”
  • After officially signing his new maximum-salary extension with the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic about the deal, which he admits took “a lot longer than I expected” to get done.

Pistons Signed, Waived Scottie Lindsey

Former Northwestern standout Scottie Lindsey enjoyed a very brief stay on an NBA roster this weekend, as the Pistons signed him to a contract on Saturday before waiving him on Monday, per the RealGM.com and NBA.com transaction logs.

Given the abridged nature of Lindsey’s stint with the Pistons, the club was likely looking to secure his G League rights for the Grand Rapids Drive. Assuming his deal included an Exhibit 10 clause, the 6’5″ guard could be in line for a bonus worth up to $50K if he spends at least two months with Detroit’s NBAGL affiliate.

Lindsey, 22, averaged 15.2 PPG and 3.8 RPG in his senior year at Northwestern in 2017/18, recording a .399/.362/.829 shooting line in 32 games.

Lindsey was signed to the 20th and final spot on Detroit’s training camp roster, which the team subsequently used to add Chris McCullough after cutting Lindsey.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Portis, Defense

Having secured a $78MM payday in July, Zach LaVine will face extra scrutiny in 2018/19, but the 23-year-old guard isn’t feeling any added pressure to prove that he’s worth the Bulls‘ investment, as K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details.

“I don’t have to validate anything,” LaVine said. “I feel I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten. … Added pressure? Man, I’m the hardest critic out of everybody on my own side. I’m just excited because I know I’ve had a really good summer. I know how good we can be.”

As LaVine observes, the current Bulls’ group hasn’t won anything yet, so the team will enter the season looking to defy prognosticators who view Chicago as a sub-.500 squad.

“We hear the outside expectations, but I think we use that as fuel,” LaVine said. “We’re going to get off to a hot start with training camp coming. We’ve all been here and it’s going to be fun. That’s why I think we’re all able to get a jump on the season because we’re all healthy now.”

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • The Bulls face an October 15 deadline to lock up Bobby Portis to a rookie scale extension, and it appears the team is making an effort to get something done. GM Gar Forman, who said the Bulls view Portis as “part of our core,” indicated on Monday that the club has met with Portis’ agent several times about a possible contract (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson). Portis would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019 without a new deal in place.
  • The Bulls invested heavily in offense this summer by matching LaVine’s offer sheet and signing Jabari Parker, but they’ll only go as far as their defense takes them in 2018/19, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s no reason in the world we shouldn’t be able to go out and make things tough for the other team,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said of the Bulls’ defense. “It’s not about one individual. It’s about getting all five on the same page and building the habits.”
  • In case you missed it over the weekend, Bulls center Omer Asik has been ruled out indefinitely due to inflammatory arthritis.

Willie Cauley-Stein: “I’m Ready To Get Paid”

While most players on expiring deals downplay the extent to which they’re thinking about their contract situation, that’s not the case for Willie Cauley-Stein. The fourth-year Kings big man told James Ham of NBC Sports California that he’s entering his contract year “ready to get paid.”

“I’m ready for it,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve seen everybody else – all my peers. Alright, I’m ready for that. What do I got to do to do that? That’s what they’re doing? Alright, I’m going to go ahead and do this now. I was doing it this way, obviously it wasn’t working, so now let’s do it this way.”

Because he’s in the fourth year of his rookie scale contract, Cauley-Stein is eligible to sign a contract extension up until October 15. However, Ham writes that the Kings are unlikely to do a long-term deal for the former sixth overall pick at this point. He’s more likely to reach restricted free agency next summer, so his play this season could go a long way toward determining what his market looks like in 2019.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2018]

In 73 games (58 starts) last season, Cauley-Stein established new career highs in PPG (12.8), RPG (7.0), APG (2.4), and several other categories. However, his production was somewhat inconsistent on a night-to-night basis, which is something he’ll be looking to improve upon heading into 2018/19.

“Consistency, that’s the word of the decade for me,” Cauley-Stein told Ham. “Consistency. That’s what’s going to get you paid. So I’m going to say it until it happens. That’s how it works these days. Just keep on talking about it, eventually it’s just going to happen.”

While Cauley-Stein looks like the frontrunner to open the season as Sacramento’s starting center, the 25-year-old will face plenty of competition for playing time. Over the offseason, the Kings added Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica to a frontcourt that already includes Zach Randolph, Skal Labissiere, and Kosta Koufos. The team also envisions a regular role for Harry Giles, who missed his entire rookie year while recovering from ACL injuries.

Knicks Sign Tyrius Walker To Exhibit 10 Contract

SEPTEMBER 25: The Knicks have officially signed Walker, the team announced today (via Twitter). New York now has a full 20-man camp roster.

SEPTEMBER 19: After playing for the Knicks during the Summer League in July, former Morehouse standout Tyrius Walker is joining New York on an Exhibit 10 contract, according to his agency You First Sports (Twitter link).

Walker, a 6’1″ guard, averaged 22.8 PPG in his final college season, buoyed by a .475/.357/.802 shooting line. Because he played for a Division II school, Walker’s competition wasn’t as strong as that of most of his fellow prospects, and he didn’t receive strong draft consideration. However, he did earn a spot on the Knicks’ Summer League squad in Las Vegas, and posted 6.3 PPG in three games (11.3 MPG).

An Exhibit 10 clause allows a team to give a player a bonus worth up to $50K if he’s waived and then spends at least two months with the club’s G League affiliate, so that’s likely what the Knicks have in mind for Walker.

C. Isaiah Smalls II of The Undefeated took a closer look back in July at Walker’s quest to achieve his NBA dream.

Nets Sign Nuni Omot To Exhibit 10 Deal

The Nets have filled their 20-man training camp roster by signing forward Nuni Omot to a contract, the team announced today in a press release. According to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link), it’s an Exhibit 10 deal.

Omot, who went undrafted out of Baylor this spring, averaged 9.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG with a .489/.433/.855 shooting line during his final college season. He spent two years at Division II school Concordia University before transferring to Baylor for his junior and senior years, where he showed off a shooting stroke that made him a potential NBA sleeper, as Chris Dortch of NBA.com detailed in May.

With Omot under contract, the Nets now have a full 20-man roster, meaning there’s no room at the moment for Drew Gordon, who was reported to be on track for an Exhibit 10 deal of his own. It’s possible Brooklyn will still waive someone and sign Gordon at some point, but for now it’s Omot that claimed the final roster spot.

Brian Lewis of The New York Post first reported last week that Omot was a candidate to become Brooklyn’s 20th man for training camp.

Pistons Sign Chris McCullough To Camp Deal

SEPTEMBER 25: The Pistons have officially signed McCullough, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 23: The Pistons are signing power forward Chris McCullough to a training camp deal, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

McCullough, 23, appeared in 19 games with the Wizards last season, averaging 2.4 PPG and 1.3 RPG. He entered unrestricted free agency this summer and played for the Sixers’ Summer League squad.

The Nets drafted McCullough in the first round (29th overall) of the 2015 NBA Draft. The Syracuse product appeared in 38 games over parts of two seasons with Brooklyn before he was traded to Washington — along with Bojan Bogdanovic — in February 2017.

Most of the Syracuse product’s professional time has been spent in the G League as he’s appeared in 55 games over the past two seasons.

Kings Open To Facilitating Three-Team Butler Trade

Only one NBA team still has any real cap space available for the 2018/19 season, and that team – Sacramento – is keeping a close eye on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. According to Wojnarowski, the Kings have been “aggressive” in courting both the Timberwolves and potential Butler suitors, offering to use their cap room to accommodate unwanted contracts.

As Wojnarowski explains, the Kings – who have about $11MM in cap space – don’t have their own first-round pick for 2019, but could be in position to acquire another team’s first-rounder or other assets as part of a three-way Butler swap. Sacramento assistant GM Brandon Williams has let teams know that his club isn’t opposed to taking on multiyear contracts, whether that means Gorgui Dieng‘s deal or perhaps a pricey contract from a potential Wolves trade partner like the Heat, Clippers, or Nets.

While the Kings don’t have enough cap room to absorb, say, Dieng’s $15MM+ salary on its own, the club could send out any number of expiring contracts to make the math work. Zach Randolph ($11.7MM), Iman Shumpert ($11MM), Kosta Koufos ($8.74MM), and Ben McLemore ($5.46MM) are among the Sacramento veterans on expiring deals.

As the Kings explore ways to get involved in a possible Butler deal, teams interested in acquiring the All-Star wing have been receiving mixed signals from the Timberwolves on what kind of assets they value, sources tell Wojnarowski. According to ESPN’s report, clubs dealing with the Wolves are also confused about whether to deal with owner Glen Taylor or front office execs Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden — there’s a perception that the management and ownership groups may not be in agreement on the structure and timetable of a potential trade.

Although Thibodeau tried on Monday to convince Butler to report to the team during the preseason, the 29-year-old remains adamantly opposed to ever practicing or playing with the Timberwolves again and has implored Thibodeau and Taylor to trade him soon to avoid prolonging the drama, writes Wojnarowski. While there has been some optimism among opposing teams that Minnesota will comply with that request, “renewed uncertainty and hazy chains of communication” have dominated recent talks, Woj adds.

Bucks Withdraw QO For Xavier Munford

The last of the two-way restricted free agents is now an unrestricted free agent. According to RealGM’s transactions log, the Bucks have withdrawn their qualifying offer to two-way player Xavier Munford. The club has also renounced its rights to Munford, freeing him up to sign elsewhere with no roadblocks.

Like Tyrone Wallace and a handful of other two-way players from last season, Munford received a qualifying offer at season’s end, meaning Milwaukee would have had a chance to match any offer sheet he signed with another NBA team. Wallace was ultimately the only two-way RFA who signed an offer sheet this offseason — the Clippers matched the deal he signed with New Orleans.

The Bucks’ decision on Munford comes as no surprise, since the club had already filled its two-way contract slots with Trevon Duval and Jaylen Morris and has 14 players on guaranteed standard contracts. While it was possible Munford could have slotted into the 15th spot on the roster, Milwaukee has plenty of viable candidates for that opening already, including Christian Wood, Shabazz Muhammad, and Tim Frazier.

Munford, 26, appeared sparingly in just six games for Milwaukee last season. However, the Bucks presumably liked what they saw from the 6’2″ guard in the G League, where he averaged 24.4 PPG and 5.2 APG on .509/.444/.747 shooting in 34 games for the Wisconsin Herd.

Patrick McCaw of the Warriors is now the only two-way or standard RFA left on the market.

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Griffin, Jackson, Johnson

Pistons center Andre Drummond doesn’t plan to shoot a lot of threes but he’s thrilled that new coach Dwane Casey has given him the green light, as he told the Detroit Free Press. Casey believes if Drummond hits a couple of long range shots every game, it will create more space for everyone offensively. “The 3-point shot is something I’ve added six years ago,” he said. “I just never had a coach that allowed to me to shoot it. It’s something I’ve worked on consistently for a long time, so I guess now is my time to really showcase it.” Frontcourt partner Blake Griffin doesn’t want Drummond to stray from the basket too often.  “We still want to use Dre to his strengths because he’s one of the most dominant centers, one of the best finishers, one of the best rebounders,” Griffin said. “So it would be doing him a disservice to keep him away from the rim and doing the things he does best.”

We have more from the Pistons:

  • Both of Detroit’s top big men believe the team should set lofty goals. Griffin said homecourt advantage in the playoffs, at least for the opening round, should be the team’s regular-season aim. Drummond expects the Pistons to be serious contenders in the East. “The time is now,” he said. “We have everything we need to be great. There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in the East or a top team in the NBA.”
  • Point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle), power forward Jon Leuer (knee) and shooting guard Luke Kennard (ankle) will be limited for the start of camp but all should be ready to play by opening night, according to senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “Those three are not in basketball shape,” Stefanski said.
  • Stefanski wouldn’t specifically address a question whether the team was interested in trading for Jimmy Butler but he noted the team has payroll limitations. However, he’s not averse to dealing for star players with expiring contracts. “That wouldn’t bother me,” he said. “It depends on what you have to give up.”
  • Small forward Stanley Johnson is eligible for an extension but the franchise is more focused on whether he’ll develop into a consistent performer. Johnson admits he still has a lot to prove. “(Owner) Tom (Gores) said, ‘I’m tired of hearing the word potential,'” Johnson said.