Month: November 2019

Community Shootaround: Top Performers On New Teams

The league saw more players change teams this offseason than ever before and not everyone on a new team is contributing equally. Let’s take a look at which players are adding the most value to their new squads (ranking via NBAMath’s TPA*).

  1. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
  2. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
  3. Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns
  4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
  6. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers
  7. Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers
  8. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
  9. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
  10. Delon Wright, Dallas Mavericks

*Entering Thursday night’s contest

As I wrote in my weekly notebook for NBA Math, there are some surprises on the list. Baynes is chief among them, as the center has found additional playing time thanks to the Deandre Ayton suspension. The 32-year-old was acquired by the Suns in what essentially amounted to a salary dump (Phoenix also netted a first-rounder from the deal) and the fact that he’s been able to step up has significantly contributed to the Suns’ hot start.

So this leads us to tonight’s community shootaround question: Now that we have over a week of action in the books, Which non-star player on a new team do you feel will contribute the most this year and which star (in a new uniform) will have the biggest impact?

Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say!

And-Ones: Kuzma, NCAA, Vujacic, Agents

Kyle Kuzma will make his debut for the Lakers on Friday and LeBron James is happy to have him back with the club, as Sacha Pisani of Sporting News relays.

“He hasn’t played since USA basketball when he had the stress reaction,” James said “Obviously he’s been training and working out, but like I always tell you guys, there’s no substitution for game fatigue and game stamina.

“That will come, though. It’s great to have him back on the floor. We definitely missed him.”

Here’s more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Sasha Vujacic wants to return to the NBA, as tells Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times. “I love the game so much, and I don’t want to walk away yet,” Vujacic said. “I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I work out every summer with DeAndre Jordan, and he said the same thing. I’m 35, but I feel like I’m 25. As long as I have that desire and fire inside of me, I’m going to keep pushing.”
  • The NCAA has begun the process of allowing student-athletes to benefit from their name and likeness, as their website announces.
  • Longtime NBA agents Roger Montgomery and Derrick Powell are teaming up to form the Elite Athlete Group, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com relays (Twitter link). Powell previously worked with Ja Morant.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 10/31/19

Every night during the NBA G League season, Hoops Rumors provides the assignments and recalls for each team. With training camps now open, here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the G League:

  • The Mavericks have assigned Isaiah Roby to the Texas Legends, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News relays (Twitter link). Roby was selected in the second round by Dallas this past summer.
  • The Jazz are sending three players to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Tony Bradley, Dante Exum, and Miye Oni are all headed to the G League.

Isaiah Thomas Taking Advantage Of New Opportunity

Isaiah Thomas recorded his first double-double since he was back with the Celtics, scoring 17 points and dishing out 10 assists in the Wizards‘ 159-158 loss to the Rockets last night. Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with Washington this offseason, believes the team gives him the right opportunity to succeed again in the league, as he told the media on Wednesday, including Hoops Rumors.

“It’s been one injury. That’s all it’s been. Like I always said, if I get the opportunity like I did in Boston, I’d do the same thing,” Thomas said. “The trades I’ve been in, I haven’t had this same opportunity. That’s the only reason that you haven’t seen me play well. I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue to do what I can to win games here. The Wizards are giving me a great opportunity and I can’t thank them enough.”

Thomas was dealt to Cleveland during the summer of 2017 in the Kyrie Irving deal, while he was still recovering from a hip injury. The LeBron James-led Cavaliers shipped him to Los Angeles later that season as part of the package that landed Larry Nance Jr. Thomas left Los Angeles during the 2018 offseason as LBJ joined the Lakers, and found a new home in Denver on a Nuggets team with a deep rotation and not much of need for Thomas’ scoring skills.

Thomas missed the first two games of this season with the Wizards because of a thumb injury, and the team is being cautious with his workload, limiting him to 44 minutes over the past two contests. However, the franchise is impressed with what the 30-year-old brings to the table.

“He was playing well before he got hurt six weeks ago,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I wasn’t expecting it after he missed six weeks, no. It’s hard to do. It’s almost nearly impossible. Especially playing that position, but you know he’s always had the heart of a champion and that’s never going to go away. He plays through injuries, he plays through a lot of difficult things that he’s been through but he comes down and plays hard every night.

“You know I expect him to play well all the time. That’s why we brought him in. Not only to play well, [but] to just be a good leader and a good teammate to all of our younger players.”

NBA Suspends Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns Two Games Each

The punishment for the scuffle between Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid has been handed down by the league. Each player will miss the next two games, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The two big men wrestled one another to the ground on Wednesday and were each ejected from the contest. The jabs didn’t stop there, as the star big men exchanged insults via social media later that night. Charania adds that the duo’s suspension was for their on-court altercation and “their continued escalation following the incident.”

Ben Simmons, who held Towns down on the ground as other players pulled Embiid away, will not be suspended for the incident, despite the Wolves pushing back against the notion that he acted as a peacemaker.

Embiid will lose roughly $379K as a result of the conflict while Towns will lose roughly $376K, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The 76ers will play Portland and Phoenix over their next two games while Minnesota faces Washington and Milwaukee.

Kings Won’t Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Giles, Swanigan

The Kings are declining two of their four rookie scale options for the 2020/21 season, a league source tells James Ham of NBC Sports California (Twitter link). According to Ham, Sacramento won’t be picking up the fourth-year options for Harry Giles ($3,976,510) or Caleb Swanigan ($3,665,787).

As expected, Sacramento has exercised its fourth-year option on De’Aaron Fox ($8,099,627) and its third-year option on Marvin Bagley III ($8,963,640). Those were procedural moves and were never in doubt. However, the decisions on Giles and Swanigan are a little more interesting.

Giles, the 20th overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been plagued by knee issues since entering the league. Injuries cost him his entire rookie year and limited him to 58 games (14.1 MPG) in 2018/19. He has also yet to play this season as he battles knee pain.

Given his upside, I still though Sacramento would likely exercise Giles’ 2020/21 option. However, it appears the club decided the risk outweighed the reward when it came to guaranteeing nearly $4MM for the big man.

The Kings’ option decision on Swanigan is less surprising. The former Purdue power forward has averaged just 2.1 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 51 career regular season contests with Portland and Sacramento, having never developed into a reliable rotation player.

Giles and Swanigan, two of just four players around the NBA who have had their rookie scale options turned down, will both become unrestricted free agents in 2020 as a result of today’s decisions. At that time, Sacramento won’t be able to offer them a starting salary worth more than the value of their declined options.

Meanwhile, Fox will become extension-eligible next July, while Bagley has one more option on his rookie scale contract for the 2021/22 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 Offseason In Review: Portland Trail Blazers

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2019 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2019/20 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Portland Trail Blazers.

Signings:

Trades:

Draft picks:

Contract extensions:

  • Damian Lillard: Four years, 35% maximum salary (super-max). Projected value of $196MM. Designated veteran extension. Starts in 2021/22; runs through 2024/25.
  • CJ McCollum: Three years, $100MM. Starts in 2021/22; runs through 2023/24.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Signed head coach Terry Stotts to a contract extension through 2021/22.
  • Signed president of basketball operations Neil Olshey to a contract extension through 2024.
  • Lost associate head coach David Vanterpool to Timberwolves; promoted Nate Tibbetts to associate head coach.
  • Exercised 2020/21 rookie scale options on Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons.

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap.
  • Over the tax line by approximately $12.38MM; projected tax bill of about $22.2MM.
  • Carrying approximately $145.01MM in salary.
  • Two traded player exceptions available; largest TPE ($1.79MM) expires 7/8/20.

Story of the summer:

The Trail Blazers exceeded expectations in a big way in 2018/19, winning 53 games and making the Western Conference Finals after oddsmakers gave them a preseason over/under forecast of 42.5 wins.

Still, while Portland’s two playoff series victories produced some memorable moments, including a Damian Lillard dagger that will show up in highlight packages for years, the team’s season eventually ended the same way it did in 2018, on the wrong end of a frustrating four-game sweep by a conference rival.

That run to the Western Conference Finals at least quieted chatter about whether Lillard and CJ McCollum have to be split up. The Blazers further quieted that speculation by signing both star guards to massive new contract extensions during the offseason, locking up McCollum through 2024 and Lillard through 2025.

Even though the Blazers were willing to double down on their backcourt duo, it still seemed as if this roster was missing the piece that would help get it over the top and get it into the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the Portland entered the offseason projected to be a taxpaying team and lacking the resources necessary to bring back all the team’s key free agents, forcing president of basketball operations Neil Olshey to get creative.

Olshey and the front office managed to bring back Rodney Hood, but lost several other notable free agents, including Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Jake Layman, and Enes Kanter. Needing a big man to replace Kanter and injured center Jusuf Nurkic in the middle, Olshey surrendered two more players from last year’s roster – Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard – in a trade for Hassan Whiteside.

After a few more low-cost free agent signings and trades, the Blazers had set their roster, but questions remain. Besides Lillard and McCollum, six of Portland’s next eight most-used players from last year’s team are gone, and one of the two that’s still around – Nurkic – probably won’t play until sometime in 2020. In addition to to all that roster turnover, the Blazers sacrificed much of their depth on their wing when they lost Aminu, Curry, Harkless, Layman, and Evan Turner.

The Blazers have a strong culture and may be evolving into one of those teams like San Antonio that becomes perennially underrated. But at this point, this year’s squad doesn’t look like an upgrade over last year’s.

Read more

Warriors Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Spellman, Evans

2:43pm: The Warriors have officially exercised their options on both Spellman and Evans, the team confirmed (via Twitter).

8:50am: The Warriors have exercised their 2020/21 rookie scale option on Omari Spellman, reports Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter). In addition to picking up Spellman’s third-year option, the team will do the same for Jacob Evans‘ third-year option, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Rookie Scale Option Decisions For 2020/21]

Spellman, 22, had a promising rookie season for Atlanta in 2018/19, averaging 5.9 PPG and 4.2 RPG with a .344 3PT% in 46 games (17.5 MPG). However, the Hawks determined he wasn’t in their long-term plans and sent him to Golden State in an offseason trade for Damian Jones and a future second-round pick.

Because Spellman was the No. 30 overall pick in the 2018 draft, his option for 2020/21 will have a cap charge of just $1,988,280, the lowest of any 2018 first-rounder. Evans, who was the No. 28 pick in the same draft, will count for $2,017,320 against the cap in ’20/21 with his option exercised.

Evans struggled in his rookie year, averaging just 1.3 PPG on 34.0% shooting in 30 games (6.8 MPG). His option was hardly a lock to be picked up, but the 22-year-old looked a little better in the early going this season, scoring 18 points in 43 total minutes and making 4-of-8 three-pointers. He’s currently sidelined with a left adductor strain and isn’t due to be re-evaluated for about three more weeks, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Pacers’ Turner, Sumner Expected To Miss Multiple Weeks

The Pacers will be without starting center Myles Turner and rotation guard Edmond Sumner for the foreseeable future due to injuries, the team announced today in a press release.

According to the Pacers, Turner has been diagnosed with a sprained right ankle, which he suffered in the first quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Nets. He is being listed as “week-to-week” as opposed to day-to-day. Scott Agness of The Athletic (Twitter link) hears from a league source that Indiana expects Turner to be sidelined for at least two weeks.

As for Sumner, the third-year guard has a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand, per the team. While he won’t require surgery, the 23-year-old will miss at least three weeks before being re-evaluated.

Turner, the lone Pacers starter who was also part of last season’s starting five, had been leaned on heavily to start the year, having logged at least 38 minutes in each of the club’s first three games. Meanwhile, Sumner had taken on an increased role in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo on the shelf, averaging 22.3 minutes per contest and starting two games before he went down.

With those two players out, Aaron Holiday is the top candidate to pick up more minutes in the backcourt, while Domantas Sabonis will take on a bigger role up front. T.J. Leaf and first-round pick Goga Bitadze could also see more regular minutes during Turner’s absence.

Northwest Notes: Beasley, Collins, Jazz, Nuggets

The Nuggets made a “very aggressive” attempt to lock up Malik Beasley to a rookie scale extension before last week’s deadline, a league source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. However, the two sides couldn’t strike a deal, and Beasley remains on track for restricted free agency in 2020, an outcome that doesn’t bother him.

“I feel like I have no pressure at all,” the Nuggets guard said of his contract year. “I’ve had pressure my whole life, so this is nothing. This is basketball, so it’s going to be fun. I put in a lot of work, so it’s going to be easy.”

In some instances, extension discussions between a team and a player can get contentious, particularly if no agreement is reached during the preseason. As Singer writes though, Beasley doesn’t sound like someone who will hold a grudge against the Nuggets when contract negotiations resume next summer: “It was great talks from both parties and just couldn’t figure something out. It doesn’t hurt my relationship with them, it doesn’t hurt anything on the court.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although Zach Collins underwent an MRI on his injured shoulder earlier this week, the Trail Blazers have yet to reveal the results or announce a timeline for his return to action, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. The recovery process from a dislocated shoulder is generally measured in weeks rather than days, so it’s probably safe to assume Collins will be out for a little while.
  • Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic are starting to show why the Jazz brought them in this summer to boost the team’s offense. Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com examines Conley’s breakout game vs. the Clippers on Wednesday, while Tony Jones of The Athletic looks at how Bogdanovic is taking some pressure off Donovan Mitchell.
  • Because the Nuggets don’t have a G League affiliate of their own, their two-way players – PJ Dozier and Bol Bol – will play for the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s NBAGL affiliate, as Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days tweets. It’s not clear whether more than one G League team expressed interest in taking on Dozier and Bol, but in that scenario, Denver would have had the opportunity to choose where to send them.