CJ McCollum

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Nets, Sixers, Simmons

After signing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to a two-year contract earlier this week, the Raptors find themselves right up against their $143MM hard cap for the 2021/22 season, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

[RELATED: NBA Teams With Hard Caps For 2021/22]

Although the Raptors only have about $133.5MM in guaranteed money on their books, the team is just $155K below the hard cap due to all the non-guaranteed money on its books, along with Gary Trent Jr.‘s incentives and Nando De Colo‘s qualifying offer, according to Marks.

While Toronto’s financial situation is worth noting, it shouldn’t hamstring the team’s flexibility this fall. The Raptors could still add a 20th man to their training camp roster by signing a player to an Exhibit 10 contract, since those deals don’t count toward the hard cap. And once the team starts making cuts to get down to the 15-man regular season limit, it will create some additional breathing room below the hard cap.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Zach Harper of The Athletic assigns the Raptors a grade of B-minus for their offseason, praising the team’s additions of Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa, but acknowledging that Kyle Lowry‘s departure will be a major loss to overcome.
  • In a pair of articles for The Athletic, Alex Schiffer examines the Netsfrontcourt situation, exploring what Paul Millsap will bring to the team, and weighs whether David Vanterpool‘s new job with Brooklyn will be his last role as an assistant coach before he gets a shot at a head coaching position.
  • Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer enlisted Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian to discuss whether there’s a Ben Simmons trade between the Sixers and Trail Blazers that makes sense for both sides. Fentress doesn’t expect Damian Lillard to be available anytime soon, but thinks a Simmons/CJ McCollum swap would work if Philadelphia is willing to lower its asking price. However, Fentress does note that some people within the Blazers organization aren’t sure how well Lillard and Simmons would fit together.

Blazers Notes: Powell, Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic

Examining the Trail Blazers‘ plans going forward, Dan Devine of The Ringer suggests there are a few reasons for optimism in Portland. The team’s late-season addition of Norman Powell made an already strong offense even more potent, and the Blazers re-signed Powell to a long-term deal this summer. New head coach Chauncey Billups could also make an immediate impact and push the club harder on the defensive end, where improvement is necessary.

Still, Devine acknowledges that the Blazers didn’t exactly swing for the fences with their offseason moves, noting that there are a a lot of caveats and “maybes” in play when discussing their potential upside.

Here’s more out of Portland:

  • Asked during an Instagram Live appearance whether he intends to leave Portland, Lillard replied, I’m not leaving PDX. Not right now at least” (video link via Landon Buford). Those who believe Lillard wants to stay will likely focus on his assertion that he’s not going anywhere, while those who think he wants out will probably zero in on the “not right now” portion of his response. I wouldn’t read too much into it either way — it sounds like Lillard was supplying a fairly generic answer while leaving all his options open for the future.
  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report spoke to new NBPA president CJ McCollum about whether he believes the Blazers are capable of winning a title, teams’ free agency spending, and a handful of other topics. “I think whenever we step on the court, we have a chance to win a championship. If you don’t have that mindset and that mentality, then you shouldn’t play,” McCollum said of the Blazers. “… I feel like every year we have a chance to win a championship. But in the NBA, there’s so many things that go into that. You need a little bit of luck.”
  • In the latest HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozzlan discussed the Blazers’ offseason, with Scotto noting that president of basketball operations Neil Olshey is going “all-in” on Billups and will either “sink or swim” with that head coaching hire. Scotto also suggested that McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic need to step up and play some of their best basketball in 2021/22 to give Portland a chance to contend.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Lillard, Simmons, Murray

Trade rumors have been swirling around Damian Lillard since the Trail Blazers were knocked out of the playoffs, but backcourt partner CJ McCollum believes Lillard is “all in” for the new season, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Appearing on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, McCollum discussed Lillard, new coach Chauncey Billups and several other topics.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but having a close relationship, he and I talk every day, or every other day, from sharing memes to sending videos to each other to serious talks about our season, what it takes to win, what it’s going to takes to win a championship, I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at,” McCollum said of Lillard. “And I think his goal is to win a championship. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship. But I mean, he’s all in. I think at this stage I can say that he’s all in. He just wants to win at the end of the day.”

Lillard held a press conference last month while preparing for the Olympics to deny a report that he was about to ask Portland’s front office for a trade. Although he hasn’t demanded a deal, Lillard has communicated his desire to upgrade the roster to give the Blazers a better chance to compete for a title.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune examines the latest rumors about the Timberwolves‘ interest in Ben Simmons, concluding that Minnesota would like to acquire Simmons but doesn’t have the assets to make a deal. Rand suggests an offer of D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels and at least one first-round pick, which he concedes still may not be enough to interest the Sixers. Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, is looking for a star in return, so the Wolves might need to get other teams involved to have a chance at Simmons.
  • March is a “reasonable target date” to expect Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to start playing again, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. That would be 11 months since his surgery for a torn ACL. Denver targeted a scoring guard in the draft to make up for the loss of Murray, Singer adds, and came away with Bones Hyland.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith tells Ben Anderson of KSL Sports that fans shouldn’t read anything into his golf outings with former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. There have been rumors that Ainge might be considered for a position in Utah’s front office, but Smith says they have been playing together for a long time. “I’ve played golf with Danny Ainge for 20 years,” Smith said. “I know the media likes to write about it like there’s this thing going on with Danny, but Danny has been a mentor and a friend for 20 years.”

Southeast Notes: Nunn, Rozier, Wagner, Garnett

New NBPA president CJ McCollum is unhappy with how the Heat handled Kendrick Nunn during free agency. On August 3, Miami pulled its qualifying offer for Nunn, making him an unrestricted free agent. Appearing on a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, McCollum charged that the Heat made the decision after most teams with cap space had already allocated their free agent money (hat tip to Brad Sullivan of Heat Nation).

“The Kendrick Nunn situation,” McCollum said. “He was gonna be a free agent. They basically waited until the money dried up, right? You correct me if I’m wrong. Have you (Wojnarowski) seen this happening in the league and not being discussed at all? Where they talk about players forcing their way out, player movement. But then what about the manipulation that goes into some of these situations where teams are waiting for the market to dry up before they release a player’s rights.”

Nunn wound up signing a two-year, $10MM contract with the Lakers that includes a player option for the second season. L.A. used its taxpayer mid-level exception for the deal.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Terry Rozier‘s four-year extension with the Hornets is an indication of the weakness of next summer’s free agent class, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. Several big names that could have been on the market in 2022 have already signed extensions, and Charlotte doesn’t have a strong history of attracting free agents. Devine points out that Rozier’s new contract, which could be worth more than $96MM, only ranks 19th among NBA guards, which is in line with his recent production. It also provides some continuity for a team that lost Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and Malik Monk.
  • The Magic got what they expected from Franz Wagner during Summer League, according to Josh Cohen of NBA.com. The No. 8 pick averaged 8.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in four games and showed good instincts that make up for his limited athleticism.
  • Assistant coach Marlon Garnett has left the Hawks‘ staff to join the Hornets, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

CJ McCollum Elected New NBPA President

CJ McCollum is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Trail Blazers guard replaces Chris Paul, who served two consecutive terms totaling eight years.

McCollum, 29, has served as a vice president on the union’s executive committee for the past three years and has been a strong voice in NBPA decisions as well as negotiations with the NBA, Woj adds.

Grant Williams was elected as vice president, the league announced (via Twitter). Other members of the executive committee will be Andre Iguodala (first vice president), Harrison Barnes (secretary-treasurer) and vice presidents Bismack Biyombo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving and Garrett Temple (Twitter link).

“Since entering the league, I have wanted to be involved in the and contribute to the important decisions that impact our lives as players both on and off the court,” Williams tweeted. “I am honored to be selected by my peers for this position and excited to join the NBPA Executive Committee.”

One of the union’s first priorities under McCollum will be to find a replacement for Michele Roberts, who has served as executive director since 2014. She has announced her intentions to step down and is expected to leave her post sometime around the end of the year.

McCollum will also have to take the lead in negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski points out. The current CBA runs through the end of the 2023/24 season, but either the league or the players could decide to opt out after the 2022/23 season ends.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Free Agency, Roster, McCollum

Asked on Friday in Tokyo about the Trail Blazers‘ moves in free agency, star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team missed out on some of its top targets, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays.

“You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and convince guys to be a part of our team,” Lillard said. “And obviously, this go around, we weren’t able to go out there and just get some of the guys that we would have liked.

“(So) you go down the list and you go through the guys that are out there that you like who haven’t committed to a team or were a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what we did.”

The Trail Blazers’ free agent additions include Cody Zeller, Tony Snell, and Ben McLemore. According to Jason Quick of The Athletic, the team also had interest in Nicolas Batum, and made an effort to lure Kelly Oubre to Portland with the taxpayer mid-level exception. Oubre ended up elsewhere even though Damian Lillard made a pitch to him at the end of the regular season.

“It wasn’t anything deep other than ‘Would he be open to it?’ and he said he was,” Lillard told Quick. “I liked Oubre as a complement to other guys I thought we would be able to get. We didn’t get them.”

As Quick outlines, the Blazers’ “real” offseason will begin when Lillard finishes his Olympics run and returns to Portland to evaluate the roster and assess his options. There are three roads the rest of the Blazers’ summer could take, in Quick’s view: Portland convinces Lillard that running it back and being patient is the right approach; the team makes a major trade that changes Lillard’s view of the Blazers’ trajectory; or the All-NBA guard asks to be traded.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Quick confirms that the deals Zeller, McLemore, and Snell are signing are all worth the veteran’s minimum. The Blazers still have the taxpayer mid-level exception available, but aren’t aggressively pursuing any players left on the market and will likely hang onto that exception for now, Quick adds.
  • The Blazers have 13 players projected for the regular season roster for now. They plan to enter the season with 14, but they’re keeping that 14th spot open for now to maintain flexibility, according to Quick, who notes that the spot may be useful for a trade in which Portland takes back more players than it sends out.
  • While CJ McCollum is perhaps the most obvious trade candidate on the Blazers’ roster, it doesn’t sound like he’s being actively shopped, says Quick. Quick isn’t sure whether other teams simply don’t value McCollum like the Blazers do, but says the club won’t move him just to shake up the roster — a deal would have to improve the roster. So far, no opportunities fit that bill.

Mannix’s Latest: Smart, Ball, Blazers, Simmons, Oladipo, Z. Collins

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is extension-eligible this offseason, but president of basketball operations Brad Stevens – who has coached Smart for the last several seasons – has been frustrated by his “unpredictable play,” sources tell Chris Mannix of SI.com.

Two people familiar with the Celtics’ thinking tell Mannix that Smart appears more likely to be traded than extended before the start of the 2021/22 season. When Boston shopped Smart last season, the team sought multiple first-round picks, but one Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Mannix suggests the guard’s value is more along the lines of one first-rounder and possibly a rotational player.

Here’s more from Mannix:

  • Although re-signing Lonzo Ball doesn’t seem to be the Pelicans‘ top priority in free agency, several rival executives expect New Orleans to match any offer Ball receives if the club strikes out on its top free agent point guard targets, writes Mannix. That would allow the Pels to avoid losing Ball for nothing and would create the option of trading him down the road.
  • The Trail Blazers haven’t given any indications at this point that they intend to deal Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum, according to Mannix, who says forward Nicolas Batum is among the free agents on Portland’s radar.
  • The Sixers‘ asking price for Ben Simmons remains high. “Forget a Harden haul,” one exec in contact with the 76ers said to Mannix. “They want what Boston got for KG and Pierce.”
  • Mannix adds the Mavericks to the list of teams that are expected to show interest in point guard Dennis Schröder.
  • Teams are “increasingly wary” of Victor Oladipo‘s long-term health and multiple executives believe the two-time All-Star may go unsigned for a few months while he gets healthy following his latest quad tendon surgery, says Mannix.
  • Mannix believes the Thunder could be in the mix for Zach Collins, observing that the big man is the kind of low-risk/high-reward player that Sam Presti loves.

Trade Rumors: Raptors, McCollum, SGA, Celtics, Wolves

As long as Ben Simmons remains in Philadelphia and Kyle Lowry hasn’t reached an agreement in free agency, league sources aren’t ruling out the possibility of a deal between the Sixers and Raptors that would send Lowry to his hometown via sign-and-trade, says Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. However, with several suitors expected to pursue Lowry aggressively in free agency, that doesn’t appear to be a likely outcome for the time being.

According to Fischer, one intriguing trade framework that the Raptors have discussed with the Trail Blazers would involve Pascal Siakam and CJ McCollum. But those talks haven’t gathered any real momentum yet, Fischer cautions.

Here are a few more trade-related rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Although Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s name popped up in trade rumors leading up to the draft, the Thunder never offered him to the Cavaliers in negotiations for the No. 3 pick, according to Fischer, who reports that Oklahoma City only made present and future draft assets available in those discussions. The expectation is that the Thunder and Gilgeous-Alexander will reach an agreement on a maximum-salary contract extension this offseason, Fischer adds.
  • Before agreeing to a deal to acquire Josh Richardson from Dallas, the Celtics also expressed trade interest in Grizzlies wing Kyle Anderson, sources tell Fischer.
  • The Timberwolves, who have long been in the market for a power forward, inquired on Danilo Gallinari before agreeing to send Ricky Rubio to Cleveland, says Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. The Hawks turned down Minnesota’s offer for Gallinari.

Stein’s Latest: Simmons, Lowry, Raptors, Rockets, Theis

Earlier today, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein reported that the Jazz are preparing a contract offer in the three-year, $75MM range for free agent point guard Mike Conley and said teams with interest in Hawks big man John Collins were growing increasingly pessimistic about landing him.

In his full Substack newsletter, Stein reiterates those points, noting that Collins seems intent on re-signing with the Hawks, and shares a handful of other tidbits related to free agency and the trade market. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Stein dismisses rumors that the Sixers might be becoming more open to a trade structured around Ben Simmons and Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, describing that idea as “ill-founded.” If Philadelphia is going to make a deal with Portland, Damian Lillard will be the target, says Stein. The 76ers, who aren’t inclined to do the Blazers any favors in their efforts to convince Lillard to remain in Portland, continue to insist they’re not in a rush to resolve the Simmons situation, Stein adds.
  • Kyle Lowry is the top free agent target for the Heat, Mavericks, and Pelicans, according to Stein, who wonders if the point guard’s close relationship with Jimmy Butler might give Miami a recruiting advantage once free agency begins.
  • Some rival teams believe the Raptors may become more willing to pursue a Pascal Siakam trade after drafting Scottie Barnes fourth overall on Thursday, per Stein.
  • There was “considerable chatter” leading up to the draft that veteran center Daniel Theis will be one of the Rockets‘ top priorities in free agency, says Stein. It’s not clear if Houston’s selection of Alperen Sengun in Thursday’s draft changes the team’s frontcourt plans at all.

Northwest Notes: Hernangomez, McCollum, Barton, Jazz

Timberwolves officials will have to work to repair the damage with Juan Hernangomez after denying permission for him to represent Spain in the Olympics, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The 25-year-old forward, who has been participating in international competitions since 2013, was “deeply disappointed and hurt” by the decision, according to Krawczynski.

Hernangomez suffered a dislocated left shoulder in a July 8 exhibition against France. The Spanish team originally said Hernangomez might need surgery and would require several weeks to recover. Minnesota’s front office believed that meant he was out of the Olympics, but Spain included him on the official roster that was announced Monday, saying his condition improved rapidly.

President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said the Wolves’ medical staff never cleared Hernangomez to resume playing.

“We support our international players’ decisions to play with their national teams and appreciate the passion of Juancho and the Spanish Federation to represent their country. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an active injury,” Rosas said in a prepared statement. “Based on our team physician’s recommendation, Juancho needs time to recover from and rehabilitate his injury, and that timeline restricts Juancho’s availability to participate in the Tokyo Olympics. The determined recovery plan is the best path forward to allow Juancho to heal properly.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • In two meetings with president of basketball operations Neil Olshey since the Trail Blazers were knocked out of the playoffs, Damian Lillard has emphasized the need to add more talent, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Portland doesn’t have any picks in this year’s draft and re-signing Norman Powell will be the priority in free agency, so Olshey will likely have to be aggressive on the trade market. Teams have offered picks in the top half of the draft in exchange for CJ McCollum, Quick adds, but the Blazers have been refusing because that wouldn’t help with their urgency to improve right away. They are expected to try to purchase a pick in the second round.
  • Will Barton declined his player option, but he and the Nuggets are optimistic about reaching a new deal, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. JaMychal Green also opted out of his contract for next season, though Singer believes that it makes more sense for the team to prioritize a new deal with Green than with frontcourt free agents Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee.
  • The Jazz aren’t likely to use their biannual exception this summer, states Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Utah hopes to re-sign point guard Mike Conley, which would put its team salary above the tax apron and remove any chance to use the roughly $3.7MM BAE. Even if Conley goes elsewhere, Todd doesn’t believe the Jazz would be willing to take on the hard cap that comes with using the exception.