Ben McLemore

Rockets Notes: Capela, Conditioning, Harden, Gordon, McLemore

Rockets center Clint Capela is off to a slow start compared to last season and a sore right shoulder is partially to blame, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweets. Capela injured the shoulder playing for the Swiss national team this summer and has been working to strengthen it. It has especially affected him when trying to dunk with one hand and reaching for rebounds, MacMahon adds. Capela is averaging 13.5 PPG and 7.1 RPG through the first eight games after averaging 16.6 PPG and 12.7 RPG last season.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Coach Mike D’Antoni is second-guessing himself for taking it too easy on his players during camp, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Houston split its first six games before winning its last two outings. “I’m also kind of responsible. I was saving their legs in the preseason so that near the end of the year we’ll be fresher,” D’Antoni said. “I can’t also be crazy because they’re not quite in shape. We’re working on it.”
  • TV analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy believes James Harden should get more credit for resisting the load management strategy that many other teams are using for their stars, Feigen writes. “Everybody is so hypercritical of everything Harden does. He should be absolutely lauded [for wanting to play 82 games],” Van Gundy said. ” It’s like the Rolling Stones came through here and don’t bring Mick (Jagger.) It would be the same thing if Harden doesn’t show up.”
  • The team should be much more worried about Eric Gordon’s shooting woes rather than Harden’s early slump, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. Gordon is having a harder time getting to and finishing at the rim and that raises concerns, However, the team’s biggest long-term issues are their lack of overall interior size on defense and the fact that Russell Westbrook is a downgrade from Chris Paul at that end, Hollinger adds.
  • Ben McLemore, who has taken all but three of his 38 shots this season from beyond the arc, has solidified his rotation spot, Feigen writes a separate story.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Wings, Chandler

The Rockets have faced some questions this offseason about how two high-usage players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook will complement one another. Executives, scouts, and coaches around the league are curious to see how the Rockets’ half-court offense functions when the two guards are playing together and Harden has the ball, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“That’s the billion-dollar question,” one Western executive said.

Despite some skepticism from outside observers, it doesn’t sound like head coach Mike D’Antoni has spent many sleepless nights poring over X’s and O’s to make sure the Harden/Westbrook combo will succeed, as MacMahon writes.

“We’re not going to make it too complicated,” D’Antoni said of his backcourt. “They’re MVPs. They’ll put up MVP numbers. I don’t have to interject how smart I am. That’ll just screw it up. They’re really f—ing good.”

D’Antoni does have a tentative plan for how to stagger his two star guards though, as MacMahon details. According to the Rockets’ head coach, Harden and Westbrook will likely only share the court for about 19 minutes per game if he sticks to his plan. That approach will give the club the best chance to avoid scenarios in which neither player is on the court.

As we look forward to the Rockets’ opener tonight, let’s round up a few more notes out of Houston…

  • Despite concern that Gerald Green will be out for the season, the Rockets aren’t currently pursuing another wing player, per Kelly Iko and Shams Charania of The Athletic. “We don’t feel as though we’re short of wing shooters,” a team executive said. “We have multiple guys who are interesting.” According to Iko, that exec pointed to Ben McLemore and Thabo Sefolosha as two veteran offseason additions who could contribute.
  • McLemore will have his partial guarantee increase from $50K to $500K later today, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • Iko reports in the same story that the Rockets discussed a trade this month that ultimately fell through. According to Iko, another team was interested in giving Houston an asset to take on a player’s contract (likely a small contract, given the Rockets’ cap and tax situation), but eventually pulled back.
  • Although the Rockets made some changes to their roster this summer, they brought back all of their core veteran players. That has helped Tyson Chandler make a smooth adjustment to his new team, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “It helps big-time because you understand your role,” Chandler said. “As a young player, you’re trying to figure yourself out. You don’t know what your role is. You’re trying to create your niche. As an older player, you already know.”

Southwest Notes: T. Jones, Rockets, Nowitzki, Ingram

After carving out a role as a valuable reserve during his four years in Minnesota, Tyus Jones tells David Cobb of The Commercial Appeal that he’s looking forward to a fresh start with the Grizzlies. The Timberwolves elected not to match Jones’ three-year, $24MM offer sheet, sending him to a new organization for the first time in his NBA career.

“The thing that impresses me is everyone knows the goal, and that’s we’re one team trying to improve and trying to win a lot of games this year,” Jones said. “Everyone has the best interest of the guy next to them and everyone is looking out for the guy next to them. That’s what it takes to be a great team.”

Part of the point guard’s duties will be to serve as a mentor to rookie Ja Morant, the second selection in this year’s draft. It may seem like an unusual responsibility for a 23-year-old, but Jones virtually qualifies as an elder statesman on the rebuilding Grizzlies.

“It’s weird when you look at it in the grand picture, in the grand scheme of things,” Jones said. “I’m 23, but I’m one of the older guys on the team. We have at lot of younger guys just in terms of the NBA years. But that’s what you get when you come into the league at 19.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets‘ addition of Thabo Sefolosha could come at the cost of Ben McLemore or Michael Frazier, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad. Even though GM Daryl Morey has said he has the freedom to pay the luxury tax, Nahmad cautions that he won’t do it to keep an average player. Nahmad expects Houston to either start the season with the minimum of 14 players on its roster or possibly keep 15 with the intention to make a salary-cutting trade by the February deadline (Twitter link).
  • Mark Cuban plans to talk with recently retired star Dirk Nowitzki about joining the Mavericks‘ ownership group, relays Dalton Trigg of DallasBasketball. “I’ll have the convo with Dirk in the future,” Cuban said. “There is a lot of things involved to make it all work. But it would be awesome.”
  • The Pelicans should take a cautious approach toward an extension for Brandon Ingram, contends Bryan Toporek of Forbes. Although Ingram has been a full participant in offseason workouts, Toporek believes his health concerns make him too much of a risk unless he agrees to a discount somewhere in the neighborhood of the three-year, $52MM deal that Caris LeVert accepted with the Nets.

12 NBA Salary Guarantees To Watch In October

The majority of the NBA players who are currently on non-guaranteed contracts won’t have their salaries for 2019/20 become fully guaranteed until January 10. That’s the league-wide salary guarantee date and the default deadline that applies to players who haven’t negotiated an earlier salary guarantee date.

Still, some players did negotiate an earlier trigger date, and the majority of those deadlines will arrive in October. At least a dozen players around the NBA are believed to have partial or full guarantees that will go into effect in October.

Now, it’s worth noting that salary guarantee dates are somewhat malleable. If the player’s camp agrees, a team can quietly move that deadline back, giving the club more time to make a decision on whether or not to fully invest in its player for the 2019/20 season. The player doesn’t necessarily have to agree, but he may be on board with postponing that deadline if the alternative is being waived and receiving none of his salary.

Most of our information related to salary guarantee dates is coming from the salary database at Basketball Insiders, and BI hasn’t published all the details on the latest signings from around the NBA yet. In other words, there could be a few more recently-signed players who have October salary guarantee dates.

For now though, these are the 12 players believed to have salary guarantee dates coming up next month:

Full guarantees:

  1. Ivan Rabb (Grizzlies): Partial guarantee of $371,758 increases to full guarantee of $1,618,520 salary if not waived by October 19.
  2. Chris Boucher (Raptors): Partial guarantee of $125,000 increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231 salary if not waived by first day of regular season.
  3. Malcolm Miller (Raptors): Partial guarantee of $150,000 increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231 salary if not waived by first day of regular season.
  4. Duncan Robinson (Heat): Partial guarantee of $1,000,000 increases to full guarantee of $1,416,852 salary if not waived by first day of regular season.
  5. Kenrich Williams (Pelicans): Partial guarantee of $200,000 increases to full guarantee of $1,416,852 salary if not waived by first day of regular season.

Partial guarantees:

  1. Christian Wood (Pistons): $1,645,357 salary becomes partially guaranteed ($822,679) if not waived before first day of regular season.
  2. Trey Burke (Sixers): Partial guarantee of $405,000 increases to $810,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $2,028,594).
  3. Jordan McRae (Wizards): Partial guarantee of $400,000 increases to $600,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $1,645,357).
  4. Dragan Bender (Bucks): Partial guarantee of $300,000 increases to $600,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $1,678,854).
  5. Ben McLemore (Rockets): Partial guarantee of $50,000 increases to $500,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $2,028,594).
  6. Kendrick Nunn (Heat): Partial guarantee of $150,000 increases to $450,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $1,416,852).
  7. William Howard (Jazz): Partial guarantee of $50,000 increases to $250,000 if not waived by first day of regular season (full salary is $898,310).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Sign Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore has signed with the Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey announced on Twitter. He received a partially guaranteed two-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

McLemore, 26, has been a free agent since being waived by the Kings in February. The shooting guard spent most of his career in Sacramento after being taken with the seventh pick in the 2013 draft. He signed with the Grizzlies in 2017, but played just 56 games there before being traded back to the Kings. He appeared in just 19 games last season, averaging 3.9 PPG but shooting a career-best 41.5% from 3-point range.

The addition of McLemore gives Houston six players with partially or non-guaranteed contracts, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The Rockets have just nine players with fully guaranteed deals, along with three Exhibit 10 contracts and both two-way slots still open.

Free Agent Rumors: Horford, Nets, Suns, Stokes, Rockets

In a surprising development, Al Horford is expected to leave the Celtics to sign with a new team in free agency, as we relayed on Tuesday night. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explains in his story on the situation, the gap between what Boston was willing to offer and what Horford is seeking on a long-term deal was too significant to bridge. The Celtics and Horford’s agent Jason Glushon aren’t expected to re-open talks, Woj adds.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), there’s a belief in front office circles that Horford knows there will be a four-year offer worth $100MM+ waiting for him in free agency, which led to talks with the Celtics breaking down.

It will be fascinating to see if that sort of lucrative offer is actually on the table for a 33-year-old who battled nagging injuries last season. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston (via Twitter), a league source says the Nets are a team to keep a close eye on, given their cap room and Horford’s connection to head coach Kenny Atkinson.

However, Kyrie Irving is believed to be headed to Brooklyn as a free agent, and Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets that he would be “beyond surprised” if Horford teams up with Irving again after a disappointing season in Boston.

Here are a few more notes and rumors on 2019 free agency:

Raptors Hosting Free Agent Mini-Camp

As the Raptors‘ players and coaches focus on preparing for a potential NBA Finals close-out game in Oakland on Thursday night, the team’s front office will take a closer look at a number of veteran free agents over the next two days in Toronto.

According to a press release, the Raptors will host a free agent mini-camp at its practice facility on Wednesday and Thursday, with 23 players scheduled to attend.

Those players are as follows:

McLemore, Patton, and Payne – all former first-round picks – are perhaps the most well-known players on the list of participants, but they aren’t the only ones with some NBA experience. Artis, Brussino, Costello, Lofton, Thomas, and Weber have each appeared in at least one regular season game as well.

Raptors No Longer Signing Ben McLemore?

FEBRUARY 11: It sounds as if the deal between McLemore and the Raptors has fallen through due to CBA complications, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

League rules prohibited Toronto from signing McLemore – or anyone else – to a 10-day deal until the team had at least 12 full-season contracts on its books. The Raps signed Chris Boucher and Miller on Sunday to reach that threshold, and could complete McLemore’s 10-day agreement now.

However, because 10-day contracts must span at least three games, signing McLemore to one this week would mean committing to him for at least 12 days due to the upcoming break in the schedule. The in-the-tax Raptors are under no obligation to get up to 14 players until after the All-Star break, so holding off on the McLemore signing would save them some money.

If the Raptors don’t sign McLemore before the All-Star break, it’s possible the two sides could circle back to a deal later, but it appears it’s no longer a lock.

FEBRUARY 9: The Raptors will sign Ben McLemore to a 10-day deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Kings waived McLemore earlier this week.

The former No. 7 overall pick has failed to live up to expectations throughout his NBA career. His highest player efficiency rating came this past season at 10.6 during his 19 games with Sacramento. He did show some improvement on his 3-point shooting this season, hitting 41.5% of his 41 attempts, though admittedly it’s a rather small sample size.

Toronto needs players. The franchise came out of the trade deadline with just 10 rostered players before agreeing to sign Malcolm Miller on Friday. Teams technically are not allowed to drop below 11 players, though as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors writes, the Raptors likely received a short window from the league to rectify the situation.

Raptors Notes: Roster, Gasol, Leonard, Lowry

The Raptors have agreements to add a pair of players on 10-day contracts, but they might not join the team right away. A franchise has to have 12 players with standard contracts before it can issue 10-day deals, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM, and Toronto is down to 10 after after the trade deadline.

Malcolm Miller and Ben McLemore have both committed to joining the Raptors on 10-day contracts as soon as the situation is resolved. A 25-year-old forward, Miller was a two-way player in Toronto last season and appeared in 15 games. He suffered a dislocated shoulder during Summer League and has been doing rehab work with the Raptors’ G League affiliate. McLemore, the seventh pick in the 2014 draft, was waived by the Kings this week.

GM Bobby Webster tells Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports that the team plans to be aggressive on the buyout market. It will comply with league rules about roster size, but several moves may not come until after the All-Star break. (Twitter link). The Raptors have compiled a ranking of buyout prospects and have talked with several of their agents to express interest (Twitter link).

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Newly acquired center Marc Gasol doesn’t mind that the Raptors plan to experiment with him to determine his best role, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The former Grizzlies star came off the bench Saturday in his Raptors debut, posting seven points and six rebounds in a win over the Knicks. Coach Nick Nurse plans to use Gasol’s passing skills to expand the offense and will make him “captain” of the defense. “I’m not going to rush anything,” Gasol said. “As a player you just want to help a team accomplish their goals. That’s what this is about.”
  • Knicks fans have interest in Kawhi Leonard‘s future now that their team has room to offer two max contracts, but the Raptors forward didn’t want to discuss the topic after Saturday’s game in New York, relays Steve Popper of Newsday. “I’m not talking about that right now,” he told reporters. “We’re going to get there. I’m focused on this season. We can talk about the game.”
  • Team president Masai Ujiri doesn’t expect Kyle Lowry to be rattled about hearing his name in trade rumors, according to Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. There were whispers that Lowry might be headed out of Toronto if the team could acquire Mike Conley from the Grizzlies. “I had a very good conversation with Kyle, and rumors are rumors, to be honest,” Ujiri said. “I see no issues, honestly, with him. Zero. We’re good, and I think his mind is focused on this run.”

Kings To Waive Ben McLemore

The Kings are waiving veteran guard Ben McLemore, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link). McLemore will become an unrestricted free agent once he officially clears waivers.

The Kings completed a pair of trades today, but didn’t take on any extra players in either of those moves, so there was no urgent need to open up a roster spot. However, with McLemore’s contract no longer required for salary-matching purposes in a trade, it makes sense for the club to move on from him, since he’s not part of the regular rotation in Sacramento.

A former seventh overall pick, McLemore appeared in 19 games for the Kings this season, averaging just 8.3 minutes per contest. He posted 3.9 PPG on .391/.415/.667 shooting in his limited role, and will look to catch on with a new team once he reaches the open market.

As for the Kings, this move actually creates a second opening on their roster, assuming my math is correct, reducing their player count to 13. Sacramento will have two weeks to get back up to 14 players.