Month: October 2020

Pacers To Hire Nate Bjorkgren As Head Coach

The Pacers are hiring Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Bjorkgren got his start as a professional coach in the G League, where he served as an assistant on the Iowa Energy’s staff from 2007-11 under Nick Nurse. Bjorkgren subsequently held multiple head coaching jobs in the NBAGL before joining the Suns as an assistant in 2015. In 2018, he rejoined Nurse as an assistant on Toronto’s staff.

Although Bjorkgren has won G League and NBA championships as an assistant and has been a head coach at the NBAGL level, this will be his first stint as the head coach of an NBA franchise.

More to come…

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pacers, Bulls, Pistons

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is a candidate to be traded this offseason, but ESPN’s Tim Bontemps is somewhat skeptical that a deal will get done before the 2020/21 season begins. Appearing on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast on Monday, Bontemps suggested that Oladipo’s lengthy recovery from a leg injury and his up-and-down play upon returning may reduce his value on the trade market.

“From talking to people around the league, I don’t think his value is nearly as high as his name brand would suggest at the moment,” Bontemps said (hat tip to RealGM). “And I think it’s more likely that the Pacers go into the season and either hope he plays really well and they do great and he decides to stay, or that he plays better and then they maybe trade him later, when his value goes up some.”

If the Pacers do seriously consider moving Oladipo, they’ll be looking to extract a significant return for a player who has made two All-Star teams since arriving in Indiana. But if Bontemps is right and Oladipo’s health, diminished 2019/20 production, and contract situation (he’ll be a free agent in 2021) result in underwhelming offers, the team will likely be reluctant to pull the trigger.

Here’s more from around the Central:

Poll: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Future

Although he won’t be among this year’s pool of NBA free agents, Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the player whose next move is monitored closest this offseason.

Entering the final year of his contract with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year, super-max extension that would make him one of the NBA’s highest-paid players for years to come. However, after Milwaukee’s disappointing playoff showings during the last two seasons, there’s no guarantee that Giannis will sign that extension as soon as he’s eligible to do so.

Despite those postseason exits, Antetokunmpo has said all the right things about his desire to remain in Milwaukee long-term. And while we’ve heard those kind of comments before from star players who eventually leave their teams, Giannis’ stance seems genuine.

Milwaukee is the only home he has known since arriving in America, the Bucks are a talented team that has led the NBA in wins over the last two years, and Antetokounmpo doesn’t sound like he’s simply reading from a generic script when he talks about wanting to break through and win a title with the Bucks.

Still, until Antetokounmpo officially puts pen to paper on a new contract, anything can happen. Specifically, there are four scenarios that could play out for Giannis and the Bucks over the next year.

  1. Antetokounmpo signs a five-year, super-max extension with the Bucks this offseason. It would go into effect in 2021/22 and would start at 35% of the cap for that year.
  2. Antetokounmpo forgoes an extension this offseason, but remains with the Bucks for another year, then signs a new deal with the team during the 2021 offseason. He could still sign the five-year super-max in ’21. Or he could opt for a shorter-term deal, especially if the league’s updated salary cap projections suggest that approach might be more financially advantageous in the long run.
  3. Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign an extension this offseason, then joins a new team when he reaches free agency in 2021 — either by signing outright or via sign-and-trade. His max contract would be for four years, starting at 30% of the cap.
  4. Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign an extension this offseason and is traded before the 2021 deadline.

The fourth option has always seemed like the least probable outcome to me. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN reiterated this week, the Bucks are opposed to the idea of trading Antetokounmpo before his contract expires, preferring to make another run at a title with him in 2021. I imagine the team would only seriously consider a trade if Antetokounmpo asks for one, and he has stated he has no plans to do so.

The other three options are all more realistic possibilities, though I don’t have a feel yet for which outcome is likeliest. The Bucks will be able to put their super-max offer on the table for Antetokounmpo once the 2020/21 league year begins, which figures to happen in late November or early December. We should get a better idea by that point whether he’ll accept that offer this offseason.

If he doesn’t, the Bucks don’t need to panic. They’ll be able to put that same super-max offer back in play during the 2021 offseason and it’s worth more years and more money than Antetokoumpo can get anywhere else. Plus, if the Bucks can make the roster upgrades necessary to make a run to the NBA Finals in ’21, that would go a long way toward selling Giannis on a long-term future in Milwaukee.

We want to know what you think. Which outcome is the most likely for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks? Do you envision him remaining in Milwaukee for years to come, or are his days as a Buck numbered?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Nuggets Notes: Porter, Beal, Oladipo, Grant, Pokusevski

The Nuggets might have to do something bold to land a third star to join Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. But they won’t deal Michael Porter Jr. to make that happen, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said in a recent podcast. Denver has no interest in trading the young forward.

“In talking to teams around the league, the Nuggets have made it clear Michael Porter Jr. is not available,” Windhorst said.

Porter, who averaged 11.4 PPG and 6.7 RPG in 23.7 MPG during the postseason, can become a restricted free agent during the summer of 2022.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Without including Porter in a blockbuster, the Nuggets have no chance to acquire Bradley Beal if the Wizards make the All-Star guard available, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. A trade for Victor Oladipo is also unlikely, given Oladipo’s injury issues and his impending free agency next year, Singer continues. A deal for the Pacers guard would be more realistic at the trade deadline if he’s healthy and productive, Singer adds.
  • It’s a near lock that Jerami Grant will decline his player option but it would be mutually beneficial for both parties if he re-signs, according to Joel Rush of Forbes.com. Grant will essentially assure himself of a starting job if he stays put, Rush continues. Other contenders don’t have the financial means to outspend Denver for Grant’s services and lottery teams with cap space are less likely now to overspend for a role player like Grant, Rush adds.
  • Several mock drafts have projected 18-year-old international prospect Aleksej Pokusevski going to the Nuggets with the No. 22 pick, Eric Spyropoulos of Nuggets.com notes. Currently slotted as the 19th-best prospect by ESPN, Pokusevski played limited minutes in Greek’s second division last season due to an injury, but the seven-footer has intriguing offensive skills and length.

Central Notes: Wood, Henson, Maker, Holiday, Billups

The odds of several free agent bigs returning to the Pistons appear to be diminishing, according to James Edwards of The Athletic. The most prominent of the group, unrestricted free agent Christian Wood, seems like a 50-50 proposition to come back. Wood has positioned himself to be one of the most intriguing players on the market, Edwards notes. Another UFA, John Henson, doesn’t appear to have a future on a young, rebuilding squad while Thon Maker didn’t shine in the team’s minicamp. It’s unlikely the club will extend a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, Edwards adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers have reached out to Justin Holiday and they’re hoping to re-sign the unrestricted free agent, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star reports. Indiana anticipates a strong market for the 3-and-D wing, who played on a $4.8MM contract this past season. Holiday averaged 8.3 PPG on 40.5% shooting from deep in 25.0 MPG in his walk year. The Pacers will likely have to offer a multiyear deal to retain him, Michael adds.
  • Chauncey Billups remains a head coaching candidate for the Pacers, J. Michael reports in a separate story. Billups has already tentatively accepted an assistant coaching position with the Clippers, but the door is open for him to take a head coaching job. The 2004 Finals MVP is currently an ESPN analyst. Indiana is expected to pick three finalists and conduct final interviews before the end of the month, Michael adds.
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland didn’t have smooth sailing as a rookie but he looked like a different player in minicamp. Get the details here.

Pacific Notes: Chriss, Bogdanovic, Kings Draft, Lue

Warriors big man Marquese Chriss could see his role expand offensively as a passer, Anthony Slater of The Athletic speculates. Chriss showed off his versatility and vision during a recent intrasquad scrimmage. Alen Smailagić doesn’t seem ready to break into the team’s rotation and he’s destined to spend another season in the G League, Slater adds.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Hawks, Bucks, Suns and Heat are among the teams that could be interested in Kings free agent swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic, in the view of James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. All but Milwaukee have the cap space to hand Bodganovic an attractive offer sheet. With the recent changes in the front office, it’s more uncertain whether Sacramento will match an offer sheet or whether it would rather pursue a sign-and-trade.
  • While the Kings have a quality young point guard in De’Aaron Fox, it’s not out of the question they’ll draft another one with their lottery pick, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. RJ Hampton, Kira Lewis and Cole Anthony are some of the point guard prospects Sacramento might consider with the No. 12 overall pick.
  • Tyronn Lue has the right track record for a championship contender like the Clippers, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register opines. After winning a title in Cleveland, the new Clippers head coach has already established a track record of cultivating chemistry by holding stars accountable, maximizing role players and making smart strategic moves, Swanson adds.

Nets, Pelicans Discussed Jrue Holiday At Trade Deadline

The Nets and Pelicans spoke in February about the possibility about a Jrue Holiday trade, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said today on his Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to NetsDaily).

“I think it’s been reported,” Windhorst said of those talks. “But if it hasn’t been reported, I found out somewhere – I don’t think it was from an executive, maybe it was – that there was some discussion between the Nets and Pelicans in February.”

Brooklyn and New Orleans obviously didn’t reach a deal at last season’s trade deadline, but with Holiday on a potential expiring contract in 2020/21 (he has a player option for ’21/22), it’s possible the Pelicans will revisit the idea of a trade during the coming offseason.

“I’m not 100% convinced that the Pelicans are going to move him,” Windhorst said. “I think it’s an option for them. I think it also depends on the coach that they hire and the way that coach wants to play. But they did kick it around (last season).”

Veteran guards Holiday and J.J. Redick are both on track to reach free agency in 2021. The Pelicans could keep their roster relatively intact this fall, retaining those vets and counting on further development from the likes of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball to make them a playoff team next season. But if New Orleans decides to shop its veterans in search of pieces whose timelines match up better with the team’s young core, the Nets could be a logical trade partner.

Brooklyn has the pieces necessary to make a run at a third star to complement Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, especially if the team is willing to make Caris LeVert available. With few impact players viewed as obvious trade candidates in the short term, Holiday could immediately become the most intriguing option available if the Pelicans put him on the trade block.

Andre Ingram Becomes President Of NBAGL Players’ Union

NBA G League veteran Andre Ingram has been named the president of the Basketball Players Union, the newly-formed union for NBAGL players, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to Charania, guard David Stockton has been named the vice president of the union, while top prospect Isaiah Todd will be the secretary-treasurer. Charania classifies the group as an “interim” executive committee — it’s not clear whether that means those players could be replaced in the near future or whether more positions will be added.

As we detailed in July, the Basketball Players Union (BPU) will represent players on all NBA G League teams, including the Select Team that will be launched in 2020/21. Players on two-way contracts or on NBAGL assignments from NBA rosters will continue to be repped by the National Basketball Players Association.

The BPU will have its work cut out for it in its first year, given the uncertain outlook for the G League’s 2020/21 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELATED: Uncertainty Surrounds NBA G League’s 2020/21 Season]

Ingram’s G League résumé makes him an ideal fit as the BPU’s first president. The 34-year-old shooting guard is the all-time leader in NBAGL games played (449), having been part of the league since the 2007/08 season. Ingram has played in just six NBA games during that time, racking up 19 points during a memorable debut for the Lakers in April 2018.

Stockton, the son of Hall-of-Famer John Stockton, is also a G League veteran, having appeared in 169 games for the Reno Bighorns and South Bay Lakers since 2014. Todd, meanwhile, is an NBAGL rookie — the five-star recruit will be part of the new Select Team, the G League Ignite, next season.

And-Ones: NBA Revenue, Burks, NCAA, Africa

The NBA’s summer restart permitted the league to recoup about $1.5 billion in revenue that would have otherwise been lost, sources tell John Lombardo of SportsBusiness Daily. As Lombardo explains, much of that $1.5 billion was tied to national and local television deals, as well as league sponsorships.

Of course, the inability to fully complete the regular season schedule and to have fans in arenas for any summer games will end up costing the NBA a significant chunk of revenue, and the coronavirus pandemic will continue to impact the league’s financial outlook going forward. Still, that financial outlook would have been significantly grimmer if the NBA hadn’t been able to successfully pull off the bubble experiment at Walt Disney World this summer.

“Without a doubt, it was worth it,” one team executive said of the reported $180MM the NBA spent to operate the Disney bubble, per Lombardo.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As he prepares to re-enter free agency, guard Alec Burks has signed with Octagon Sports for representation, the agency announced today (via Twitter). Burks signed for the veteran’s minimum last summer, but had a solid season with the Warriors and Sixers, averaging 15.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.9 APG on .418/.385/.887 shooting in 66 games (26.6 MPG).
  • The NCAA’s Division I Council announced last week that winter sport athletes who compete during the 2020/21 season will receive an additional year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the ruling may affect future NBA draft classes, its impact should be relatively minimal, since most top prospects leave school after a year or two anyway.
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Matthew Kirwin of Sports Africa Network explores how Africa’s relationship with U.S. basketball and the NBA has evolved over the last few decades.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Hard Cap

The NBA’s salary cap is a “soft” cap, which is why every single club’s team salary comfortably surpassed $109,141,000 at some point during the 2019/20 season. Once a team uses up all of its cap room, it can use a series of exceptions, including the mid-level, bi-annual, and various forms of Bird rights, to exceed the cap.

Since the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t feature a “hard” cap by default, teams can construct rosters that not only exceed the cap but also blow past the luxury tax line ($132,627,000 in ’19/20). While it would be nearly impossible in practical terms, there’s technically no rule restricting a club from having a team salary worth double or triple the salary cap.

However, there are certain scenarios in which a team can be hard-capped. Those scenarios are as follows:

  1. The team uses its bi-annual exception to sign a player.
  2. The team uses more than the taxpayer portion of the mid-level exception to sign a player (or multiple players).
    • Note: In 2019/20, the taxpayer MLE was worth $5,718,000, compared to $9,258,000 for the full non-taxpayer MLE.
  3. The team acquires a player via sign-and-trade.

A team making any of those three roster moves must ensure that its team salary is below the “tax apron” when it finalizes the transaction and stays below the apron for the rest of the league year. The tax apron was set $6MM above the luxury tax line in 2017/18 (the first year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement) and creeps up a little higher each season as long as the cap keeps increasing.

For the 2019/20 league year, the tax apron – and the hard cap for certain clubs – was set at $138,928,000. Assuming the cap doesn’t change by much for the 2020/21, the apron figures to remain relatively unchanged for next season.

Last offseason, before the Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade deal, they had to dump Andre Iguodala‘s $17MM+ salary in a trade and waive Shaun Livingston‘s partially guaranteed contract to ensure their team salary was below the apron upon acquiring Russell.

Golden State then had to remain below the apron for the rest of the season, which was why the team spent much of the year carrying fewer than 15 players on standard contracts — even an extra minimum-salary player would’ve compromised the Warriors’ ability to stay below the hard cap. Golden State made some trades at the deadline that created some breathing room below the apron and allowed the club to fill its 15-man roster.

Many other teams technically faced hard caps during the 2020/21 season, but the Warriors were the team most affected by the restrictions imposed upon them. Most of the other teams with hard caps never got close to the $138,928,000 apron.

Once the 2020/21 league year officially gets underway, the Warriors will no longer be subject to the hard cap. And as long as they don’t use their bi-annual exception, acquire a player via sign-and-trade, or use more than the taxpayer portion of the mid-level, they won’t face a hard cap next season. So even though the Dubs already have a projected $142MM+ in guaranteed money on the books for ’20/21, they’ll still be able to make full use of their $17MM+ trade exception and $5.72MM taxpayer MLE if they so choose.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even though the Warriors will likely start the 2020/21 league year above the apron, that doesn’t mean they can’t become hard-capped at some point later in ’20/21. For example, if Golden State kicked off the offseason by trading Andrew Wiggins‘ $29.5MM contract without taking back any salary in return, then subsequently used its full, non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the team would once again be prohibited from surpassing the apron for the rest of the league year.

In other words, the hard cap applies from the moment a team completes one of the three transactions listed above, but isn’t applied retroactively.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and the Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.