Aaron Gray

Central Notes: Valentine, Pistons, Markkanen

After a disappointing first season in which he wasn’t heavily utilized as a playmaker, Denzel Valentine is eager to show the Bulls what he’s capable of. The famously versatile forward out of Michigan State told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that his role in 2016/17 was to mostly just be a spot-up shooter.

With so much turnover on the Bulls roster over the summer, Valentine could get his opportunity to flash the rest of his skills and potentially even earn a role as a starter with the young franchise, although head coach Fred Hoiberg has implied that his lineups will be determined through preseason.

The 23-year-old averaged 5.1 points per game last season but underwent surgery on his left ankle at the start of the summer. The second-year Bulls forward is still working his way back into shape.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Count Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy among those who believes that getting rid of the NBA Draft altogether would address the tanking issue, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • The Pistons have assigned assistant coach Aaron Gray the task of focusing on the skill development of big men, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Rex Walters, formerly the head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, will hold a similar role with the backcourt.
  • The Bulls will be cautious with seventh-overall pick Lauri Markkanen‘s injured back. The club won’t rush the first-year big man back to the court, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes.

And-Ones: Spurs, Celtics, Sixers, Pistons, Nuggets

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili aren’t certain whether they’ll retire, as Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com details, but they’re not the only Spurs liable to hang it up in the wake of the team’s playoff elimination Thursday night. Andre Miller has strongly considered retirement, though he, too, hasn’t made up his mind yet, as he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). San Antonio’s contract with the 40-year-old Miller expires at the end of next month while Duncan, also 40, and Ginobili, who turns 39 in July, have player options. David West also has a player option, and though he turns 36 over the offseason, the talk surrounding him isn’t of retirement but of the lack of regrets he has about sacrificing roughly $11MM to sign his two-year minimum-salary contract with San Antonio last summer, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio News-Express relays (Twitter links).

“It’s been a great experience,” West said of his season with the Spurs. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

See more from around the NBA:

  • The Celtics, Sixers, Pistons, Nuggets, Pacers and Trail Blazers all benefited this season from set-off rights, reducing their obligations to waived players who had guaranteed salary remaining on their contracts, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders details. Boston saved $620,306 from the money it owed David Lee because he signed a deal with the Mavs that paid more than $845,059, a figure equivalent to the one-year veteran’s minimum salary, Pincus writes. The Sixers saved $227,241 on JaVale McGee the same way. The Nuggets were spared $68,144 on Pablo Prigioni, the Pacers avoided paying $159,900 to Toney Douglas and the Trail Blazers shaved $327,064 from their bill for Mike Miller, according to Pincus. The Pistons saved $341,353 on Josh Smith, though that figure will be spread evenly over each season of the five-year obligation Detroit still has to him because the team used the stretch provision.
  • The Pistons also got cap relief for Aaron Gray, whom they owe $452,049 each season from 2015/16 through 2017/18, Pincus points out. Gray had to retire because of a heart condition, but a team can remove the cap hit for a player who had to retire because of a medical reason one year after his final game. Gray last played in 2014. Detroit still must pay the money to Gray, but it doesn’t count against the team’s cap, Pincus notes.
  • Agent Jason Glushon and the Wasserman agency mutually agreed to part ways, and Glushon will start his own agency, a source told Spears (Twitter link). Glushon has a short list of clients, with none more prominent than Hawks soon-to-be free agent Al Horford, who left Wasserman, Glushon and B.J. Armstrong to sign with Bill Duffy of BDA Sports last fall only to rejoin Wasserman a couple of months later. Jrue Holiday and Norman Powell are other Glushon clients.

Pacific Notes: Gay, World Peace, Kelly, Acy

It’s not accurate to say the Kings have Rudy Gay on the block, and Sacramento isn’t actively shopping him, sources tell James Ham of CSN California and CSNBayArea.com, adding that it’s unclear whether the team’s reported offer to the Pelicans of Gay for Ryan Anderson took place. Gay has strong relationship with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, Ham notes, adding that Gay recruited Rondo, a longtime friend, when the point guard was a free agent this past summer. Gay has also been linked to the Bulls and the Clippers in the past, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee, and much has changed since the Kings made him virtually untouchable in trade talk a year ago, Jones adds. He’s struggled to fit into coach George Karl‘s system on the court, Jones writes, noting that the team has had concerns about its depth at two guard all season and speculating that Rondo’s presence might make Gay expendable. See more on the Kings and the rest of the Pacific Division:

  • Metta World Peace would like to play in the NBA for another two seasons, though it appears he’ll be OK with whatever the outcome is following the end of his Lakers contract this summer, observes Janis Carr of the Orange County Register. The 36-year-old is meanwhile dispelling his volatile reputation, serving as a mentor for younger Lakers, as Carr details. “I didn’t think he would be that nice of a guy,” rookie D’Angelo Russell said. “But he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
  • Ryan Kelly is seeing less playing time this season than in his first two years with the Lakers, but he’s confident that he’s a much better player than he was when he arrived in the NBA, Carr notes in a separate piece. He’s on an expiring contract and is set for restricted free agency at season’s end.
  • The Kings netted Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in the same trade with the Raptors a little more than two years ago, and all three are still paying dividends, with Gay and Acy on the roster, and Gray, an assistant for the Pistons D-League team, still a confidant of Acy’s, as The Bee’s Matt Kawahara details.

Aaron Gray Retires

Aaron Gray is retiring because of the heart ailment that knocked him out of action this past season, the 30-year-old center tells Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). He’ll join coach/executive Stan Van Gundy‘s staff, Ellis adds, and while it’s unclear whether that means he’ll be an assistant coach, that’s the role in which he served in an unofficial capacity this year. The Pistons released his playing rights in October soon after signing him to a two-year deal for the minimum last summer, using the stretch provision to spread the salary for the second year of that contract over the next three seasons.

This past season was the first in which the 49th overall pick from the 2007 draft didn’t play in the NBA since his days at the University of Pittsburgh. Gray spent time with the Bulls, Pelicans, Raptors and Kings before signing with the Pistons last summer, peaking with 40 starts for Toronto during the 66-game lockout-shortened 2011/12 season. He nonetheless averaged only 3.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game that year. The 7-footer put up 3.4 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 12.1 MPG across 318 games in his seven-year NBA career.

The Andy Miller client was a more noteworthy contributor on defense, compiling a positive number in Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus metric for each season of his NBA career. Gray earned more than $13.518MM in his NBA career, according to Basketball-Reference and Basketball Insiders data.

Central Notes: Butler, Knight, Gray

Few would have imagined that the Bucks, who had the worst record in the NBA last year, would have a better mark nearly a month into this season than LeBron James and the Cavs do, but that’s the case, with Milwaukee at 7-7, a half-game clear of 6-7 Cleveland. Still, it won’t be difficult for the Cavs to climb back into contention for a high playoff seed, since they’re only two games back of the Central Division-leading Bulls in the loss column. Here’s the latest from the Central:

  • Jimmy Butler tells Ben Golliver of SI.com that it was difficult to pass on an extension with the Bulls last month but that he turned down Chicago’s offer because he believed in his ability to improve his offensive game after a step back last season. Butler has proven wise so far, averaging 20.8 points per game on 49.7% shooting this season compared to 13.1 PPG and 39.7% shooting last year.
  • Brandon Knight has had three coaches in his four NBA seasons, but his relationship with new Bucks coach Jason Kidd has been positive so far, and a desire for stability is one reason why Knight wants to re-sign with the Bucks this summer, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News examines.
  • Aaron Gray won’t play this season because of a heart ailment, and he acknowledges that there’s a chance that he’ll never be healthy enough to return, as he says to MLive’s David Mayo. Still, he’s not giving up hope, and a couple of weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Gray is serving as an unofficial assistant coach for the Pistons, who waived him last month in part because of his health, as Mayo details. “They brought me here for a service,” Gray said. “Even though I’ve been waived, the type of guy I am, I’m still getting paid for two years. I just wouldn’t feel right not contributing as much as I possibly could.”

Pistons Release Aaron Gray

5:48pm: Detroit has officially waived Gray, the team has announced.

4:39pm: The Pistons will release Aaron Gray to get down to a 15-man roster, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter). Gray signed a two-year deal with Detroit in August that included a player option on the final season.  The deal was guaranteed for the minimum salary in both years so the Pistons will be on the hook for both seasons, presuming he clears waivers.

With a 16-man roster, the Pistons were put in a position in which they had to either cut or trade a player, with Gray, Tony Mitchell, and Luigi Datome seemingly the likeliest candidates to hit the waiver wire. With all 16 players on guaranteed deals, Detroit had to eat someone’s salary no matter what if it couldn’t find a trade partner. As David Mayo of MLive.com wrote earlier this month, Stan Van Gundy has been high on Mitchell, even though he would have been the most painless cut with a $816K salary.

He works in the weight room,” Van Gundy said of Mitchell. “He works on his game out here. He simply has a lot to learn and he has to play the game smarter. He picks up some bad fouls. He has some wild turnovers, things like that. But his effort is not a problem at all, either in games or trying to work on his game. We’ve been very, very pleased with that. And he’s a great athlete.”

Gray, a former Pittsburgh standout, averaged 1.8 PPG and 3.0 RPG across 36 games for the Raptors and Kings last season.

And-Ones: Bledsoe, Monroe, Raptors, Gray

An NBA GM who spoke with Sean Deveney of The Sporting News said he’d be reluctant to sign-and-trade for either Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe in part because of the chance they’ll become available again next summer. The GM also suggested that the Suns and Pistons are overvaluing them, further diminishing the odds of a trade this offseason. While we continue to wait to see what happens to the two top restricted free agents, here’s more from around the league:

  • When Tim Leiweke spoke about two months ago to the board of the company that controls the Raptors, he declined to promise that he would stay on as CEO past next spring, as Elliotte Friedman writes for CBC.ca. That helped lead to today’s announcement of his planned departure, Friedman explains. The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board wanted to take control of the process and end speculation about Leiweke’s future, as Friedman details, adding that Leiweke’s contract carried an escape clause that gave him a way out.
  • Aaron Gray‘s contract with the Pistons is for two years, with a player option for the final season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reveals (Twitter link).
  • Joel Embiid is tight with Luc Mbah a Moute, notes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, and that helps explain why the Sixers appear poised to acquire Mbah a Moute as part of the Kevin Love trade (Twitter link). Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor for Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune points out (on Twitter).

Pistons Sign Aaron Gray

AUGUST 18TH: The deal is official, the team announced.

JULY 14TH: It’s a minimum-salary arrangement, as Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News tweets.

JULY 7TH: The Pistons and Aaron Gray have reached agreement on a multiyear deal, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). The terms aren’t immediately clear, but it’s presumably a minimum-salary deal for the backup center.

Gray finished last season with the Kings after coming over from Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade, averaging 1.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. He started 40 games for the Raptors in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, but he’s spent the majority of his career as a backup.

The 7-foot client of ASM Sports will add bulk to the Pistons reserve unit, perhaps serving as an insurance policy for a spot in the rotation should the team be unable to bring back restricted free agent Greg Monroe. The agreement is an ominous sign for incumbent reserve big man Josh Harrellson, whose non-guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed if the Pistons don’t waive him by the end of July 20th. It’s a “safe bet” that the team will move on from Harrellson, tweets Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

Kyler’s Latest: Carmelo, Magic, W’s, Kings

Lottery picks will be hard to come by at the deadline, which means there’s a strong chance that clubs, like the Sixers, with hopes of trading for one will have to settle for less, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Kyler has a lot more from around the league in his latest NBA AM piece, as we detail:

  • Knicks executives have had a “very open and candid dialogue” about the notion that Carmelo Anthony could leave as a free agent this summer, but they remain confident enough in re-signing him that they’re not looking to trade him at the deadline, Kyler writes. New York appears intent on adding to its roster rather than selling off assets, Kyler observes, though the Knicks are still reluctant to include a draft pick in a deal for either Kenneth Faried or Kyle Lowry.
  • The Magic are open to moving Glen Davis, but there’s essentially no market for him because of concerns about his attitude and his contract, which pays him $6.6MM next season, Kyler writes. Orlando is listening to offers for Jameer Nelson, too, but the Magic’s unwillingness to take back long-term money makes it a long shot he’ll be dealt. Nelson’s deal, which gives him $8.6MM this season, is an impediment to a deal, too, according to Kyler, even though it’s partially guaranteed for just $2MM next year. Orlando also continues to rebuff offers for Arron Afflalo.
  • The Warriors are interested in acquiring players who are either on expiring contracts or relatively short-term deals, and in spite of last month’s trade for Jordan Crawford, they continue to look around for point guard help, according to Kyler. They’re also looking to acquire draft picks, Kyler adds.
  • The Kings remain the front runners for Andre Miller, Kyler says, though Miller’s lack of value on the market is making Denver hesitate. The Basketball Insiders scribe also reiterates that Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette are prime trade candidates for Sacramento and adds Aaron Gray to that list.
  • Executives from the Magic, Wizards, Pacers and Grizzlies are downplaying their willingness to make deadline trades, but all of those teams are nonetheless on the lookout for some kind of deal between now and next Thursday.

Kings Acquire Rudy Gay

The Kings have officially acquired Rudy Gay from the Raptors along with Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy, Toronto announced via press release. Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes are headed north of the border. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports originally reported last night that the swap would take place (Twitter links).

“We thank Rudy, Aaron and Quincy for their time here. They were great professionals and strong community ambassadors of the Raptors,” Toronto GM Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “The trade gives us good flexibility and more certainty as we plan for our future.”

The Kings plan on using Gay as a stretch-four and see Gay and the recently-acquired Derrick Williams as being capable of guarding either forward position, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweets.  With Williams and Gay, the Kings are buying low on two notable names that have depreciated in the eyes of many evaluators.

“We’re excited to welcome these additions to our team,” Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro said, according to a release from the Kings. “In Rudy we’ve acquired one of the league’s proven scorers while Aaron and Quincy provide size and depth in our frontcourt. We also appreciate the contributions and efforts that John, Chuck, Greivis and Patrick made to the Kings organization. We all wish them the very best moving forward.”

Gay, 27, boasts career averages of 18.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG, but newer metrics such as PER have shown that his efficiency leaves much to be desired.  It’s not just fans and front office execs that have taken notice, either.  After a November game in which the small forward took 37 shots and scored 29 points, LeBron James remarked that he would put up 60 points “easy” if he attempted such a gaudy number of shots.

While the Kings gain at athletic wing in Gay, the Raptors free up a good amount of money for 2015 and gain a couple of interesting pieces along the way as well.  As for the financial part of things, the only guaranteed 2015 money that came back in the deal is Hayes’ $5.9MM contract.  Beyond that, they can clear $14.5MM by declining options/qualifying offers for Vasquez, Salmons, and Patterson.

Last month, it was reported that Ujiri waexploring trade options for Gay and others with Jonas Valanciunas, 2011′s fifth overall pick, the only real untouchable of the bunch.  Gay was the team’s most obvious chip since he’s still capable of being a top scorer for a team and could be a rental since he has a player option for 2014/15 that he could turn down in favor of a longer deal.  With a $17.89MM salary, however, finding a home for Gay hasn’t been easy.  Gay’s player option for 2014/15 is worth $19.2MM.

Vasquez, 27 in January, took a major step forward with the Pelicans last season when he put up career best averages of 13.9 PPG and 9 APG.  Today’s news means that Vasquez has now worn three different jerseys in this calendar year – the guard came to Sacramento in July as a part of the three-way Tyreke Evans deal.  While Vasquez has fans in the Kings front office, they clearly felt that this was a trade they had to make to get a dominant wing.  It also has the added benefit of clearing up the Kings’ backcourt logjam.

Patterson, 24, is also in his third career trade with today’s deal.  The power forward has had an up-and-down career through Houston and Sacramento and hasn’t been off to a blazing start this season.  Patterson is putting up just 6.9 PPG and 5.8 RPG while shooting 41% from the floor.

Salmons, 33, has been seeing almost 25 minutes per contest with the Kings this season but is putting up some of his weakest per 36 minutes averages of his career.  Only $1MM of Salmons’ $7MM salary in 2014/15 is guaranteed and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be let go.  Acy, 23, hasn’t seen much burn this season, playing 8.7 minutes per contest across seven games.

More than three-quarters of Hoops Rumors readers said that they expected Gay to be traded before the deadline.  It certainly helped that Ujiri and D’Alessandro have a history after working together in Denver.  By trading Andrea Bargnani and Gay, Ujiri has cleared ~$20MM off of the books next season.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.