Bismack Biyombo

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast 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 Southeast Division:

Allen Crabbe, Hawks, 27, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $74.8MM deal in 2016
Remember when the Nets thought so highly of Crabbe they signed him to a giant offer sheet? And the Trail Blazers valued him so much they matched the offer sheet? And then Brooklyn wanted him so badly it traded for Crabbe the following summer? It all seems so silly now. The Nets were willing to give up two future first-rounders to get rid of Crabbe. Now in the final year of that odious contract, he’s averaging 5.0 PPG and shooting 28.8% from 3-point range. Crabbe will probably be looking at veteran’s minimum offers next season as he attempts to reboot his career.

Bismack Biyombo, Hornets, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $72MM deal in 2016
Like Crabbe, Biyombo got silly money in the summer of 2016 after a solid playoff performance with Toronto. Orlando quickly got a case of buyer’s remorse and he was eventually shipped to Charlotte in 2018. To his credit, Biyombo has worked his way into the rebuilding Hornets’ rotation. He’s posted double digits in points six times this month while averaging 8.0 RPG in 22.1 MPG. Traditional big men like Biyombo are being phased out of the league, so he won’t attract a lot of interest. But he’s shown he can be a rotation piece somewhere.

Meyers Leonard, Heat, 27, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $41MM deal in 2016
Another player who cashed in during the summer of 2016, Leonard has never averaged more than 8.4 PPG or 5.1 RPG. Other than avid Heat fans, few people realize that Leonard has started 30 games for one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. He doesn’t often finish games but he’s endeared himself enough to coach Erik Spoelstra to keep his spot in the lineup. Leonard doesn’t shoot a lot of threes but he makes them (48.3%). He’s also making an impact on the boards (23 in the last two games). As a stretch four alone, Leonard will draw interest as an unrestricted free agent.

D.J. Augustin, Magic, 32, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $29MM deal in 2016
Markelle Fultz is playing regularly but Augustin is still receiving steady playing time from coach Steve Clifford. Augustin threw in a two-point clunker against Chicago on Monday but in his previous four games he averaged 18.5 PPG and 5.3 APG. While Augustin’s overall shooting numbers are down, he can still be a productive rotation player. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Orlando brought back Augustin in a reserve role. If not, he still has enough left in the tank to be someone’s backup floor leader.

Davis Bertans, Wizards, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $14.5MM deal in 2018
Bertans was enjoying a breakout season until he was sidelined recently by a quad injury. Bertans was averaging 15.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 30.0 MPG while mostly coming off the bench for Washington. The Wizards have been feeding Bertans to ball beyond the arc and he’s consistently delivered, averaging 43.4% from deep on a whopping 8.6 attempts per game. Bertans’ prolific long range shooting is bound to get the unrestricted free agent some lucrative offers in this summer’s weak free agent class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hornets Notes: Biyombo, Bacon, Kaminsky

Bismack Biyombo‘s four-year, $68MM contract has been viewed for years as an albatross, but as that deal nears its end, the Hornets aren’t simply waiting for it to expire. In a regular role off the bench this season, the veteran center has played some of the best ball of his career, averaging a career-best 7.8 PPG with 4.0 RPG in just 16.2 MPG.

While Biyombo won’t get another contract like the one he signed in 2016, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer doesn’t believe a new deal with the Hornets is out of the realm of possibility. On a more modest salary, the 27-year-old big man could be a fit as a rim-protecting center off the bench, and it sounds like he’s open to the idea of remaining in Charlotte beyond the 2019/20 season.

“I love it here. This is my home — I started here,” Biymobo said. “Seeing the organization move in the right direction, seeing guys succeed (matters).”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Dwayne Bacon has had an up-and-down season so far, having fallen out of the starting lineup – and the rotation – since the Hornets’ first 10 games. However, the young shooting guard, who can be a restricted free agent at season’s end, is staying positive as he looks to earn another opportunity, Bonnell writes for The Charlotte Observer. “I think I have the perfect mindset to play 15 years in the NBA, because I can accept every obstacle and I’m always going to be ready. I don’t come with ego,” Bacon said. “I’m the same guy every day: I smile like I just scored 30 points. When you have an ego in this sport, you won’t get far. If I came in here all mad, thinking ‘Oh, you guys are playing and I’m not,’ that’s just selfish of me. I know this is going to come around.”
  • In another article for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell explores what we’ve learned about the Hornets based on the first quarter of the club’s season.
  • After spending his first four NBA seasons with the Hornets, Frank Kaminsky is uncertain about how to feel playing against his old team as a member of the Suns tonight, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The former lottery pick said he would try to treat it like just “another game” but admitted it was a new experience for him.

Hornets Notes: Graham, Monk, Hernangomez, Washington

Devonte’ Graham is outplaying free agent addition Terry Rozier through the first two games, but the Hornets‘ best option might be to use them together, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Graham, a second-year guard, is Charlotte’s leading scorer at 23.5 PPG while sinking 12-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. He’s also handing out three assists for every turnover.

The Hornets gave Rozier $58MM over three seasons this summer, so they don’t plan to take him out of the starting lineup. While Graham will likely remain a reserve, coach James Borrego expects to utilize them together in a smaller backcourt, especially while Nicolas Batum is sidelined with a broken finger. He took a similar approach last season, frequently closing games with Kemba Walker and Tony Parker on the floor.

“We can play them together,” Borrego said. “We can play Terry off the ball some with Te’ out there. We’ll look at that lineup.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Even though Malik Monk has been disappointing, the Hornets had to pick up his fourth-year option to preserve his trade value, Bonnell writes in a mailbag column. A lottery pick in 2017, Monk hasn’t developed  the way the Hornets had hoped. He’s shooting 37.6% from the field for his career and is averaging just 3.5 PPG so far this season. Still, a $5.3MM commitment for next season shouldn’t be significant, as general manager Mitch Kupchak has said the team won’t be aggressive in the 2020 free agent market.
  • Large salaries will make Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist difficult to trade this season, but there might be demand for Willy Hernangomez, Bonnell notes in the same piece. The fourth-year center has a minimal expiring salary of $1.68MM, and Bonnell believes the Hornets would part with him for a second-round pick. He adds that there may be more value in letting Biyombo’s $17MM contract and Kidd-Gilchrist’s $13MM deal expire to open cap room for the future.
  • PJ Washington is looking like the draft gem the Hornets needed to give them hope for the future, notes Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation.

Hornets Rumors: Kemba, Vets, Future Plans, McDaniels

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that the team was somewhat blindsided by Kemba Walker earning All-NBA honors and becoming eligible for a super-max contract earlier this year. Although Walker wasn’t demanding the full super-max (approximately $221MM over five years), the gap between what he sought and what Charlotte was willing to offer was too significant to bridge the gap.

“We had great years with him, and we didn’t get into the playoffs,” Kupchak said of the All-Star point guard. “What makes us think that next year (would) be different? I’ve got to step back and look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. Chart out a course that gives us the best chance to build something that is sustainable for more than a year or two.”

The Hornets have faced criticism for not getting what they could for Walker in a pre-deadline trade in February, but Kupchak tells Bonnell that the club was confident in its chances of re-signing Kemba at that point and wasn’t impressed with the offers it received on the trade market.

“Almost every offer revolved around draft picks. It was always lottery-protected,” Kupchak said. “When you do something like that, you’re saying you’re going to draft a player in the teens, we don’t know how good he’s going to be, and it’s going to take three or four years (to realize value). We wanted to keep Kemba — under the right conditions.”

We don’t know the specifics on what the Hornets were offered for Walker, so we’ll take Kupchak at his word that those offers didn’t provide enough value to be worthwhile.

Still, it’s fair to take the front office to task for the assertion that it didn’t see Walker’s All-NBA nod and super-max eligibility coming. The former UConn standout scored 41 points on opening night last fall and played at an elite level all season, singlehandedly keeping Charlotte in the playoff hunt. To claim the team was blindsided by Kemba’s super-max eligibility is either disingenuous or signals a worrisome lack of foresight.

Here’s more from Bonnell on the Hornets:

  • Head coach James Borrego is under no obligation to give significant minutes to Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will earn a combined $85MM in 2019/20. “I’m not going to coach a team based on contracts, what you’re making, where you were drafted, if you were drafted,” Borrego said. “To me, that’s not my job. My job is to get the most out of them, whether they were drafted or not drafted.”
  • While those veterans will get a chance to compete for roles, Borrego wants to make sure the team’s young prospects play consistent minutes, either in Charlotte or in the G League. “We’re not going to have draft picks on our bench who are just sitting there,” the head coach told Bonnell. “If they’re not playing meaningful minutes for us in Charlotte, I promise you they will be playing minutes in Greensboro.”
  • The Hornets “didn’t even contemplate” using their mid-level exception this offseason, according to Kupchak, who explained to Bonnell that no one in that price range would have “changed the course of this organization.”
  • The Hornets also won’t rely on free agency going forward to reshape their roster, preferring instead to use any future cap flexibility to re-sign young players or to accommodate trades. “Free agent signings, for us, are not something we need to concentrate on going forward. We’re not going to get the ‘Big Fish,'” Kupchak said. “We have to create a culture where those kinds of players would want to come here. And, quite frankly, we’re not there yet. For us to hoard cap room (for that purpose) is not in the best interest of the organization.”
  • In a tweet, Bonnell adds a couple more Hornets-related items, reporting that there’s no indication the club is involved in ongoing trade talks that would jettison a veteran contract. Additionally, Charlotte would like to get unsigned second-rounder Jalen McDaniels locked up in a developmental role, per Bonnell. It sounds like the team’s preference may be for McDaniels to sign a G League contract.

Hornets Notes: Luxury Tax, Kemba, Lamb, Rookies

With more than $94MM in guaranteed salaries on their books for the 2019/20 season, without taking into account a potential maximum-salary contract ($32.7MM) for Kemba Walker, the Hornets look like a potential taxpayer for next year. However, speaking early Friday morning to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak made it sound as if being in the tax isn’t an option for the franchise.

“I would not anticipate that is something we would look to do,” Kupchak said of paying the tax. “There are ways to increase (the distance from the luxury-tax threshold). It’s important we address that as soon as possible. Everybody needs to get on and plan.”

As Bonnell observes, there are multiple paths the Hornets could take to stay out of the tax. They have a handful of highly-paid veterans on expiring contracts, so waiving-and-stretching a player like Bismack Biyombo ($17MM) could be one option. The team could also try trading someone like Marvin Williams ($15MM).

Of course, not re-signing key free agents like Walker and Jeremy Lamb is also a possibility, though I expect the team to do all it can to retain Kemba. Lamb may receive an offer in the neighborhood of $12MM per year from another club, Bonnell writes.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Re-signing Walker would have a domino effect on what the Hornets could do with the rest of their roster, Kupchak acknowledged (via Bonnell): “You’re talking about a substantial contract that goes out many years. When that happens, it creates some financial inflexibility that you have to deal with We have to be mindful of a Kemba contract, should we be lucky enough to re-sign him. There could be limitations (on other roster moves), absolutely.”
  • Kupchak recently indicated that the Hornets are probably unlikely to use their $7.8MM trade exception from last summer’s Dwight Howard trade due to tax concerns, tweets Bonnell. That exception expires on July 6.
  • The Hornets plan on having all three of the rookies they drafted on Thursday – PJ Washington, Cody Martin, and Jalen McDaniels – spend time in the G League in 2019/20, Kupchak said (per Bonnell).
  • In a column for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell explores how much added pressure the Lakers’ trade for Anthony Davis and interest in Kemba Walker will put on the Hornets.

Hornets Notes: Batum, Walker, Offseason Plans

Hornets coach James Borrego isn’t sure how Nicolas Batum fits into his plans for next season, Borrego admits to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Batum was placed in a variety of roles but had another disappointing season and was briefly benched by Borrego. The team’s highest-paid player has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his contract, making him virtually untradeable unless Charlotte sweetens the pot with a first-round pick or young player. Bonnell suggests making Batum a utility player where he sees minutes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

We have more on the Hornets:

  • Unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker was unhappy that an attempt to acquire veteran center Marc Gasol from Memphis before the February trade deadline fell through, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman). The outline of the proposed deal would have sent out center Bismack Biyombo, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick for Gasol. Memphis instead chose to make a deal with playoff-bound Toronto.
  • If Walker re-signs with the club, Jeremy Lamb will likely be a cap casualty, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out in his offseason preview. Getting a commitment from Walker would push Charlotte past the luxury tax threshold. Re-signing Lamb for a conservative estimate of $11MM in the first year would trigger an approximate $27.5MM in additional luxury tax penalties. The team also has to make some hard decisions on non-guaranteed contracts, including Tony Parker‘s deal. The Hornets are unlikely to give forward Frank Kaminsky a $4.5MM qualifying offer before the June 30 deadline, Marks adds.
  • Walker’s chances of returning are pegged at 30% by Bonnell in his player-by-player breakdown of the roster. Those odds will rise only if GM Mitch Kupchak can pull off a blockbuster deal before free agency to entice Walker to stay.

Hornets’ Biyombo Picks Up 2019/20 Player Option

Hornets center Bismack Biyombo has exercised his 2019/20 player option, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). By opting in, Biyombo will assure himself of a $17MM salary for next season.

Biymobo, who signed a four-year, $68MM contract with the Magic in the summer of 2016, was traded to the Hornets in a three-team deal during the 2018 offseason. He subsequently appeared in 54 games (32 starts) for Charlotte, averaging 4.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 0.8 BPG in 14.5 minutes per contest.

Biyombo’s decision comes as no surprise, given his limited role over the last few seasons and the fact that he’s unlikely to secure another major payday in free agency. With Marvin Williams planning to exercise a $15MM+ player option of his own, the Hornets can count on an extra $32MM+ in guaranteed money hitting their cap for 2019/20.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2019/20]

With those two options locked in, the Hornets’ team salary for ’19/20 is up to approximately $81MM, per Basketball Insiders. That figure doesn’t include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s $13MM option, which is also a decent bet to be picked up, or Tony Parker‘s $5.25MM non-guaranteed salary. And, most notably, it doesn’t include a salary for Kemba Walker, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

In other words, the Hornets already project to be an over-the-cap team even before determining whether they can retain their All-Star guard, so it will be difficult for the club to add roster reinforcements this summer.

As for Biyombo, he’s now on track to reach unrestricted free agency in July of 2020, assuming he’s not bought out or released outright before then.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Carter-Williams, Hornets, McRae

A familiarity with Magic coach Steve Clifford and his staff made signing with Orlando an easy decision for Michael Carter-Williams, relays Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Carter-Williams, who played for Clifford last season with the Hornets, inked a 10-day deal with the Magic yesterday to provide point guard depth after the loss of Isaiah Briscoe.

“Knowing the coaches and having a relationship with them makes it definitely easy for me to fit in, just to come in right away and already know some of the plays and defensive schemes and be ready to go,” Carter-Williams said.

He had been out of the NBA since being waived by the Bulls on January 7, shortly after being acquired in a trade with the Rockets. He is thrilled to get another shot at the NBA after averaging just 9.1 minutes in 16 games with Houston.

“Orlando was one of my places that I actually wanted to go,” Carter-Williams added. “I felt like it was a good spot for me. I felt like I could come in right away and help. And then having Coach Cliff, I know the system already, so when they called it was kind of a no-brainer.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets fan may have to wait another year before management can drastically remake the team, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Bismack Biyombo ($17MM), Marvin Williams ($15MM) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13MM) all have player options they are expected to exercise this summer. Bonnell expects the team to keep all three for another year rather than trying to seek trades, which would involve giving up other assets.
  • The Hornets will take another look at whether to use a $7,819,725 trade exception in early July, Bonnell adds in the same piece. The exception expires on July 6, and the team will likely know the fate of free agents Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb by then. If both decide to leave Charlotte, the trade exception could be an easy path for the team to acquire a veteran replacement.
  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters before tonight’s game that Jordan McRae could be spending a lot of time with the team through the end of the season, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. McRae is on a two-way contract, but his 45-day NBA limit won’t matter once the G League season ends on March 23.

Frank Kaminsky Seeking Buyout From Hornets

A trade candidate at this month’s deadline, Frank Kaminsky stayed put in Charlotte. Now, he’s hoping that he and the Hornets can work out an agreement on a buyout, but those efforts have stalled, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News. According to Deveney, a source described Kaminsky as “very frustrated” with the situation.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Buyout Market Watch]

The ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Kaminsky played a regular role in Charlotte’s rotation over the last two seasons, averaging 11.3 PPG and 4.1 RPG on .413/.350/.780 shooting during that two-year stretch. In 2018/19, however, he has been limited to 26 games and a career-low 10.8 MPG, and hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game since January 2.

According to Deveney, Kaminsky generated some interest at the trade deadline, but the Hornets passed on all offers. The 25-year-old was under the impression that Charlotte would be willing to negotiate a buyout and give him a chance to play more regularly somewhere else, but the team is somewhat nervous about its frontcourt depth, Deveney writes.

With Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, and Willy Hernangomez up front, the Hornets seem to be well stocked at center, but Hernangomez has also fallen out of the rotation lately and there are some concerns about Biyombo’s knee holding up for the rest of the season, sources tell Deveney. Having Kaminsky on the roster gives the Hornets a strong insurance policy in case he’s needed.

While Kaminsky may be frustrated by his current role – or lack thereof – in Charlotte, he should soon have the opportunity to seek out a new NBA home even if he’s not bought out this season. He’s eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but the Hornets currently seem unlikely to tender him the $4.5MM qualifying offer necessary to make him an RFA. If the club passes on that QO, Kaminsky would become an unrestricted free agent.

And-Ones: Iguodala, Gupta, Vesely, Williamson

Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala was elected First Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association, according to an NBPA press release. Iguodala has been on the Executive Committee since February 2013. He replaces LeBron James, whose four-year term has expired.

The BucksMalcolm Brogdon, the CelticsJaylen Brown and the HornetsBismack Biyombo were elected to serve as VPs on the Executive Committee. They replace Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Iguodala.

Chris Paul remains President of the committee with Anthony Tolliver, Pau Gasol, C.J. McCollum and Garrett Temple also serving on it.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Pistons assistant GM Sachin Gupta never knew ESPN’s Trade Machine would become so popular when he created it in 2006, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Gupta called it a “fun project” and took about a month to write the code for the Trade Machine when he worked for the network, Beard adds. “It’s not meant to replace common sense. It’s not meant to replace any GM’s job,” Gupta said. “It’s simply based on the rules and whether it works or not.”
  • Former NBA player Jan Vesely has signed an extension with Fenerbahce that keep him under contract until 2022, the Turkish team tweets. The 7-foot power forward was drafted by the Wizards with the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft but only lasted three NBA seasons.
  • Stephen Curry is a fan of Duke’s Zion Williamson, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, he said in an interview with The Undefeated and relayed by E. Jay Zarett of the Sporting News. “He’s unreal. We were talking about him the other day in our team room,” Curry said, via Justin Tinsley of the Undefeated. “He has a lot of hype around him and he’s unbelievably talented, but you can’t teach his passion and the way that … he plays. He plays hard every possession, and that’s an underrated skill that kids can kind of emulate.”