Month: August 2020

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

Christian Wood, Pistons, 24, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018
There aren’t many waiver claims in the NBA but Detroit got itself a bargain when it snared Wood after the Pelicans made him available. Wood won a training camp battle with veteran forward Joe Johnson for Detroit’s final roster spot and has turned into a valuable rotation member. He’s averaging 10.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG in 17.4 MPG, including a 20-point, eight-rebound outing against the Nets on Wednesday. A lack of maturity and focus were the reasons Wood bounced around the league for a few years but he’ll get a much bigger contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Shaquille Harrison, Bulls, 26, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.62MM deal in 2019
Harrison won a battle for Chicago’s final roster spot and eventually had his salary guaranteed. Harrison, who worked his way through the G League ranks before making his NBA debut two seasons ago with Phoenix, has only seen spot duty this season. In his last 16 appearances, Harrison has not played more than 11 minutes. He was a much bigger factor last season when the Bulls were banged up, appearing in 73 games, including 11 starts. The Bulls can make Harrison a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $2MM but he doesn’t appear to be in their long-range plans.

Brandon Knight, Cavaliers, 28, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Knight’s career has been sidetracked by injuries and once again he’s out of action due to left knee soreness. Knight’s $15.6MM expiring contract could still be used in a major deal but even when he’s able to suit up, he rarely receives playing time. The addition of Dante Exum pushed him further down the bench. In his last two appearances in mid-January, Knight totaled one point in 38 minutes. The former lottery pick, who averaged 19.6 PPG for Phoenix during the 2015/16 season, will likely have to settle for a veteran’s minimum deal this summer.

JaKarr Sampson, Pacers, 26, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2019
Sampson got a chance to start on Wednesday with Myles Turner sidelined by the flu. Otherwise, playing time has been scarce for the journeyman forward, who has also played for Philadelphia, Denver, Sacramento and Chicago during his NBA journey. He spent a good chunk of time last season in China and the G League. Sampson has appeared in 17 games this season, including 10 starts. Signed to a veteran’s minimum contract in August, Sampson will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer. He’ll probably be looking at similar offers this July.

Dragan Bender, Bucks, 22, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.5MM deal in 2019
The former top five pick made a minimal impact in his three seasons with the Suns. He’s been even less of a factor with the Eastern Conference’s top team, appearing in seven games. He’s played four games this month as an injury fill-in but contributed just 11 points with four turnovers in 62 minutes. Bender has spent quite a bit of time in the G League and perhaps his biggest accomplishment this season was staying on the roster and getting his salary guaranteed. His $1.82MM salary for next season is not guaranteed and it’s likely Bender will return to the free agent market for the second straight offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/31/20

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:

  • The Nets assigned forward Dzanan Musa and guard Theo Pinson to their Long Island affiliate, according to the G League transactions log. Pinson, a second-year guard, has appeared in 27 games with Brooklyn this season, averaging 4.4 PPG in 12.3 MPG. Musa, a second-year swingman, is averaging 4.2 PPG in 11.9 MPG through 33 appearances with the NBA club.
  • The Jazz assigned point guard Nigel Williams-Goss to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the G League log. Williams-Goss has made nine abbreviated appearances with the NBA team this season.
  • The Wizards assigned rookie swingman Admiral Schofield to the Capital City Go-Go, according to the G League log. Schofield has played 26 games with the Wizards this season, averaging 3.2 PPG in 11.2 MPG.

Southeast Notes: Hachimura, Wagner, Len, Bertans

Wizards rookie forward Rui Hachimura is close to returning from the groin injury that he suffered on December 16, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. Hachimura required a surgical procedure after getting accidentally kicked by teammate, Isaac Bonga. He is officially listed as questionable to play on Saturday. “Rui has a great chance of coming back (tomorrow) night,” head coach Scott Brooks said. Hachimura will play no more than 20 minutes if he suits up on Saturday, The Athletic’s Fred Katz tweets.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Second-year Wizards power forward Moritz Wagner is expected to return sometime next week from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since December 10, Hughes writes in another piece. Wagner and Hachimura were both selected to the Rising Stars game on Friday. “We already said we’re not going to pass the ball. It’s a two-man game only. A lot of Wizards buckets,” Wagner joked to Hughes.
  • Hawks center Alex Len, who was injured a week ago, will miss at least another 7-10 days, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Len, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is dealing with a right hip flexor strain.
  • The Wizards could expect to get a first-round pick and another player if they deal forward Davis Bertans, according to Hughes. It’s unlikely any collection of second-round picks would get the deal done, Hughes adds. The sharpshooting forward has an expiring $7MM contract.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Millsap, Anthony, Conley, Napier

What the Nuggets decide to do with Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap provides an intriguing subplot to the offseason, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent and Grant can join him on the market by declining his $9.35MM option.  Grant is undersized at the power forward spot but brings more agility and shot blocking to the four spot. The Nuggets will probably try to re-sign Grant but could also bring back Millsap if he’s willing to meet their price, Singer adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony is still too distraught over Kobe Bryant’s passing to take the court, especially at the Staples Center. Anthony will sit out the Portland-Los Angeles Lakers game on Friday, Stadium’s Shams Charania tweets, as he continues to grieve over the loss of his close friend.
  • The Jazz are close to returning point guard Mike Conley to the starting lineup, according to Charania. Conley has come off the bench in six games since he recovered from an aggravated hamstring strain. Utah wants Conley to reestablish chemistry with the other starters, most notably backcourt partner Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert, Charania adds.
  • The lack of a good plan regarding their point guard rotation has been the Timberwolves’ biggest issue, Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. Jeff Teague wasn’t a good fit prior to being traded to Atlanta because Minnesota needed a floor leader adept at pushing the tempo. Shabazz Napier has been a good pickup but he’s probably best suited for a 15-20 minute backup role while Jordan McLaughlin is more of an emergency backup than a second-unit player, Rand adds.

Luka Doncic Diagnosed With Moderate Ankle Sprain

4:21pm: Coach Rick Carlisle said in an ESPN 103.3-FM interview that Doncic will miss at least six games, frequent ESPN contributor Tim Cowlishaw tweets.

12:17pm: Following an MRI today, Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been diagnosed with a moderate right ankle sprain, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Charania and Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) each cite a source who describes the injury as “manageable.”

As we relayed on Thursday, Doncic turned the ankle in a practice, and there was a belief that it was similar to the injury he suffered earlier in the season, which sidelined him for four games. A source confirms to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) that today’s MRI confirmed this is in fact a similar sprain.

According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter links), the Mavs are relieved the injury isn’t any more serious, viewing the diagnosis as a best-case scenario. One source estimates to Townsend that Doncic could miss about two weeks, “give or take.”

With Doncic expected to miss some time, Dallas will lean more heavily on the likes of Jalen Brunson, J.J. Barea, and Delon Wright for ball-handling and play-making purposes. The Mavs have a firm hold on a playoff position but will want to get Doncic back soon to help them jockey for seeding.

The injury may also jeopardize Doncic’s availability for All-Star weekend. He was voted an All-Star starter and named to the Rising Stars game, but with the festivities in Chicago set to get underway two weeks from tonight, the second-year star may end up playing it safe and pulling out. That’s yet to be determined.

Knicks Notes: Morris, Dolan, Front Office, Ntilikina

At least one team that has recently been in touch with the Knicks came away with the impression that Marcus Morris and New York have “strong mutual interest” in working out a new contract in the summer, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard the Knicks might prefer to keep Morris through the deadline and retain him long-term. As Begley notes, the team likes the influence the 30-year-old has had on the younger Knicks players and believe he’s the sort of veteran who can handle the scrutiny that comes with playing in New York.

Begley also rightly points out that if Morris strongly reciprocates the Knicks’ interest, it might not make sense for potential suitors to pursue a trade for him. New York’s asking price would likely be pretty high, and if Morris’ preference is to be a Knick, he could simply return to his old team in free agency at season’s end. A potential trade partner would presumably be more inclined to offer New York a first-round pick if that team believes it has decent odds to re-sign the veteran forward.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • For as much as the Knicks like Morris, they weren’t fans of the comments he made this week about Jae Crowder, when he referred to the Grizzlies forward as having “female tendencies” on the court. As Marc Berman of The New York Post relays, the Knicks said in a statement that Morris’ comments were “offensive and unacceptable” and “cannot be tolerated.” Morris apologized again for his remarks, per Peter Botte of The New York Post.
  • Within an article about Knicks owner James Dolan, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News briefly addressed the team’s front office situation, noting that president Steve Mills and Scott Perry each have mutual options for 2020/21, meaning both the executive and the team would have to opt in. When listing possible front office candidates for the Knicks, Bondy mentioned in passing that he believes Rockets GM Daryl Morey will become a free agent due to the China controversy.
  • ESPN analyst Paul Pierce suggested during a Thursday appearance on The Jump that a change in ownership would help turn things around in New York. “I truly believe once they get new ownership you’ll see change,” Pierce said, per Greg Joyce of The New York Post. “You saw it with the Clippers. Look what happened with the Clippers. Now they’re a perennial playoff team, they got better ownership and they’re a championship-contending team now.”
  • After missing Wednesday’s game due to a groin injury, Frank Ntilikina will be listed as probable for Saturday’s game vs. Indiana, head coach Mike Miller said today (Twitter link via Mike Vornukov of The Athletic). Point guard Elfrid Payton will be suspended for that game, opening the door for a larger role for Ntilikina.
  • In case you missed it, RJ Barrett was named to the World Team’s Rising Stars roster earlier today.

2020 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

Since we published the first installment of our 2020 free agent power rankings in November, there haven’t been a ton of injuries, contract extensions, or other developments that will shake up our list in our major way. However, with a handful of free-agents-to-be enjoying breakout years and others struggling, it’s time for an update.

The biggest change this time around is the fact that Mike Conley and Otto Porter no longer show up in our top-20 list. That doesn’t mean that Conley or Porter wouldn’t be one of the top 20 players on the open market this summer if they reach free agency. But due to injuries – and up-and-down play when they’ve been on the court – I no longer feel confident projecting them to even become free agents.

As our full list of potential 2020 free agents shows, Conley has an early termination option worth approximately $34.5MM for next season, while Porter has a player option worth nearly $28.5MM. Unless they make very strong second-half comebacks, I’d be surprised if either player opts out of his contract at season’s end, since they seem highly unlikely to match those 2020/21 salaries on new deals. As such, they’ve been removed from our list of 2020’s top free agents for the time being.

As usual, our list reflects each player’s current expected value on the 2020 free agent market, rather than a their present-day on-court contributions. For instance, older players like Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap have strong short-term value, but didn’t crack our top 20 because they’ll be 35 next summer and are unlikely to sign huge, long-term deals. In other words, age and long-term value are important.

With all that in mind, here’s the second installment of our 2020 free agent power rankings:

  1. Anthony Davis, F/C, Lakers (player option): The No. 1 player on our board is the only legit superstar on track to reach unrestricted free agency this summer. If anything, Davis’ position atop this list is even more secure than it was at the start of the season, since he has posted MVP-type numbers (26.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.5 BPG) for a Lakers team that leads the Western Conference.
  2. Brandon Ingram, F, Pelicans (RFA): While waiting seemed like the safe bet at the time, the Pelicans may be wishing they’d locked up Ingram to a long-term extension during the preseason. The 22-year-old has exceeded all expectations so far in New Orleans, combining strong scoring numbers (25.0 PPG on .471/.404/.856 shooting) with improving play-making (4.3 APG) and earning his first All-Star nod.
  3. Andre Drummond, C, Pistons (player option): Although Drummond continues to hold the No. 3 spot on our list thanks to his elite rebounding (15.6 RPG) and defensive ability (2.1 SPG, 1.8 RPG), I’d be a little nervous about giving him a long-term, maximum-salary contract this offseason. It sounds like NBA teams share that concern, considering the Pistons are willing to move him and the Hawks reportedly backed off their pursuit due to his asking price.
  4. Gordon Hayward, F, Celtics (player option): It won’t be a simple decision for Hayward to turn down his $34MM+ player option for 2020/21. However, that scenario seems increasingly likely as long as he stays healthy and keeps playing like he has. He has essentially posted a 50/40/90 shooting line for the month of January and his overall numbers match up favorably with those from his All-Star 2016/17 season in Utah.
  5. Fred VanVleet, G, Raptors: In our first 2020 free agent power rankings, I expressed some trepidation about making VanVleet the top point guard in my board. That looks like a much safer bet now, as the 25-year-old has been a key cog driving the success of the second-seeded Raptors. A rebuilding team with cap room and a hole at point guard – such as the Knicks – could drive up the price on VanVleet this offseason.
  6. DeMar DeRozan, G/F, Spurs (player option): DeRozan will turn 31 this summer and his ongoing resistance to expanding his shooting range may limit his appeal in free agency. Still, it’s hard to move the four-time All-Star much further down this list when he continues to produce like he has lately. DeRozan is generating rebounds and assists at a career-high rate since joining the Spurs and his .535 FG% this season blows away his previous career high — he may not shoot three-pointers, but he’s certainly an efficient scorer.
  7. Bogdan Bogdanovic, G/F, Kings (RFA): Bogdanovic’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but his contributions go beyond his somewhat pedestrian box score. He’s capable of running an offense, playing on or off the ball, spacing the floor, and holding his own on defense, making him the sort of all-around contributor who would fit perfectly on any roster.
  8. Montrezl Harrell, C, Clippers: The fact that so many of Harrell’s minutes come against bench units may make suitors wary of his production. Still, that production (19.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 28.7 MPG) is hard to deny, and his underlying rim-protection numbers are pretty solid too. It’ll be fascinating to see how big a raise the 26-year-old gets on this year’s $6MM salary in July.
  9. Danilo Gallinari, F, Thunder: Gallinari’s numbers have dipped ever so slightly this season in Oklahoma City, but it’s still been an encouraging year for the Thunder forward, who has maintained a scoring average of 19+ PPG and – most importantly – stayed healthy. He’d rank higher on this list if he were a few years younger. Since he’ll be entering his age-32 season later this year and has a history of injury issues, teams may be reluctant to invest major long-term money.
  10. Evan Fournier, G/F, Magic (player option): Fournier is enjoying a career year in Orlando, with 18.8 PPG on .464/.396/.816 shooting. His ability to knock down outside looks and create his own shot is valuable, and he’s still just 27 years old.
  11. Davis Bertans, F, Wizards: Bertans narrowly missed a spot on the top 20 in the previous installment of our power rankings. It’s impossible to keep him off the list now, amid ongoing chatter that he could be looking at $15MM per year on his next deal. Incredibly, Bertans has nearly doubled his rate of three-point attempts per game this year – from 4.4 to 8.5 – while still ranking among the league leaders in 3PT% (.422).
  12. Dillon Brooks, F, Grizzlies (RFA): Like Bertans, Brooks may not have looked like a top 2020 free agent last fall, but a career year has significantly raised his stock. Besides averaging 16.3 PPG with a .404 3PT%, Brooks has played tough, physical defense and hasn’t missed a game, helping lead the overachieving Grizzlies to a .500 record and the No. 8 seed. His frequent foul trouble is a bit concerning, but Brooks is a three-and-D wing who just turned 24 years old — he’s headed for a nice payday.
  13. Serge Ibaka, F/C, Raptors: After playing an important role in the Raptors’ championship run in the spring, Ibaka is having his arguably best year yet in Toronto. While many of his per-game averages are nearly identical to last season’s, his .381 3PT% represents a major step up on last year’s .290 mark and has helped the Raps’ offense remain dangerous without Kawhi Leonard.
  14. Marcus Morris, F, Knicks: Having averaged between 13.6 and 14.1 PPG for four consecutive seasons, Morris is blowing away his previous career highs with 19.2 PPG and a .439 3PT%. Are those numbers an aberration? A byproduct of becoming the de facto No. 1 option in New York? Some combination of both? Teams will have to answer those questions as they weigh whether to pursue the 30-year-old this summer.
  15. Jerami Grant, F, Nuggets (player option): Following a very slow start to the season in Denver, Grant has righted the ship, particularly since entering the starting lineup on January 8. In the 12 games since then, he has averaged 15.5 PPG on .474/.432/.780 shooting while being his usual versatile self on defense. This is the version of Grant the Nuggets were expecting when they gave up a first-round pick for him last July.
  16. Derrick Favors, C, Pelicans: Favors has been limited by injuries this season and his role has been somewhat complicated by Zion Williamson‘s return. But he’s averaging 10.0 RPG in part-time minutes and his on/off-court numbers reflect his value. New Orleans has a +2.2 net rating when he plays (-4.5 when he sits) and is nearly a .500 team (13-14) when he’s in the starting lineup. The club is just 6-13 in the games he has missed.
  17. Joe Harris, G/F, Nets: Harris’ name may have been left out when Kyrie Irving provided the media with his impromptu list of Nets building blocks earlier this month, but the swingman’s ability to score and spread the floor has been crucial again this season. Brooklyn’s offense has cratered – from a 108.4 rating to just 98.2 – when he’s on the bench.
  18. Tristan Thompson, C, Cavaliers: With a double-double average (12.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG) for the second consecutive year, Thompson has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreadful Cavaliers season. When he reaches free agency as a 29-year-old this summer, it’ll be interesting to see whether he sticks out Cleveland’s rebuilding project or jumps ship to a contender.
  19. Tim Hardaway Jr., G/F, Mavericks (player option): If Hardaway weren’t earning $20MM, he’d be considered underrated. He’s connecting on 39.5% of 6.7 three-point attempts per game and has developed into a reliable member of Luka Doncic‘s supporting cast in Dallas.
  20. Hassan Whiteside, C, Trail Blazers: It’s hard to know how to properly rate Whiteside’s value. He’s a maximum-salary player who continues to put up some of the NBA’s best rebounding (14.0 RPG) and block (3.1 BPG) numbers. But the Heat have thrived after jettisoning Whiteside and the Trail Blazers have struggled since he became their starting center. Potential suitors will have to assess just how much value Whiteside’s individual stats actually provide.

Disagree strongly with any of our rankings? Feel like we omitted any players that should be in the top 20? Weigh in below in the comments section to let us know!

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

All-Star Teams To Wear Nos. 2, 24 In Honor Of Gianna, Kobe Bryant

The 2020 All-Star Game will feature Team LeBron (James) wearing No. 2 jerseys and Team Giannis (Antetokounmpo) wearing No. 24 jerseys, according to a press release issued by the NBA in partnership with the players’ union and Nike. No. 2 was the number worn by Kobe Bryant‘s daughter Gianna, while No. 24 was, of course, worn by Kobe during the second half of his career.

Kobe and Gianna were two of the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday. According to the league’s announcement, both All-Star teams will also wear jersey patches which display nine stars, representing those nine people who lost their lives in the crash.

For Friday’s Rising Stars game and Saturday night’s events – including the dunk contest – the participants will wear jersey patches featuring the Nos. 2 and 24 in the center, surrounded by nine stars.

The uniform changes are one of multiple tributes planned to the late NBA superstar for the 2020 All-Star weekend in Chicago. The league announced on Thursday that it’s tweaking the All-Star format to add a target score in the fourth quarter. That target score will be determined by adding 24 to the total number of points scored through three quarters by the leading team.

Jrue Holiday Drawing Trade Interest, Committed To Pelicans

If he’s available at this year’s deadline, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday would be the most intriguing trade candidate on the market. However, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Holiday has made it clear he’s happy in New Orleans and is committed to the franchise.

According to Charania, Holiday’s preference is to take the rest of the season to see how the Pelicans perform with a healthy roster. Given that he has no desire to be traded and head of basketball operations David Griffin has suggested the Pels don’t plan to move key players, it seems likely that Holiday will stay put next week.

Still, that doesn’t mean the front office won’t receive inquiries on the standout guard. Charania reports that the Nuggets and Heat are among the clubs with interest in Holiday, and others are expected to emerge. Multiple teams tell Charania that the Pelicans are open to listening to any and all trade calls, but their asking price for Holiday is very high.

While New Orleans has fallen shy of preseason expectations so far, with a 19-29 record that places them 12th in the Western Conference, the team has rebounded to some extent following a disastrous start. The Pelicans have won 12 of their last 18 games and aren’t totally out of the hunt for a playoff spot. The eighth-seeded Grizzlies hold a five-game lead on New Orleans.

With much-hyped rookie Zion Williamson back in the lineup and the rest of the roster relatively healthy, the Pels should have a good opportunity to evaluate the current group for the rest of the second half before potentially making major roster decisions in the offseason.

Pistons Seeking Lottery Pick For Derrick Rose?

The Pistons are open to discussing possible trades involving Derrick Rose, but their asking price is high, according to a pair of reports.

Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Detroit is seeking a “lottery-level first-round pick” in exchange for Rose. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press hears essentially the same thing, tweeting that Rose is unlikely to be moved unless a “high” first-round pick is on the table.

The former MVP is having an impressive year in Detroit after signing a two-year deal with the team last summer, averaging 18.9 points with a .498 FG% and 6.0 assists in just 26.7 minutes per contest (42 games). Those PPG and APG rates represent Rose’s best numbers since his last All-Star season in 2011/12.

Throw in Rose’s team-friendly contract – $7.3MM this season and $7.7MM for 2020/21 – and it’s easy to see why the Pistons’ asking price is high. According to Ellis, Detroit’s preference is to hang onto the veteran guard for next season due to his affordable contract and his influence on what will be a young roster.

Unless the Pistons lower their asking price for Rose within the next few days, a deadline deal seems unlikely. The teams that could use him most are contenders who may not even have a first-round pick at all this season, let alone a lottery selection. As such, it’ll be difficult for them to put together a package that meets Detroit’s criteria.