Cade Cunningham

And-Ones: Extensions, Breakout Players, X Factors, Seattle

Why the sudden surge in two-year extensions for players such as Steven Adams and Larry Nance Jr.? It has a lot to do with the expiration of the league’s national TV contracts after the 2024/25 season, as Bryan Toporek of Forbes.com explains. The salary cap is expected to rise significantly the following season after those rights are negotiated. That provides incentives for veteran players to enter free agency again that summer.

We have more NBA-related topics:

  • What do Franz Wagner, Cade Cunningham and Nic Claxton have in common? They are some of the young players cited by ESPN Insiders as having potential breakout seasons, like the one Ja Morant enjoyed last season.
  • Then there are some veteran players whose presence on new teams could change the fortunes of those franchises. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor examines those X-factors, including the Mavericks’ Christian Wood, the Trail Blazers’ Jerami Grant and the Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert.
  • The Clippers and Trail Blazers are playing a preseason game in Seattle and that has renewed the discussion of the NBA eventually having another franchise in the city, Law Murray of The Athletic writes. The state-of-the-art Climate Pledge Arena – the rejuvenated version of KeyArena, where the SuperSonics played – sparks hope that the NBA will give the city an expansion team.

Central Notes: Rubio, Weaver, Cunningham, Williams, Ingles

Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio, who suffered a torn left ACL last December, is hopeful he can return to action this December, but won’t put a timetable on it, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.

“I wanted to be ready for training camp but I knew it was impossible,” Rubio said. “Talking with my trainers and medical staff, they say 10-12 months but it’s a long range. It changes every week. At the end of the day, putting a date on it, for me personally, I need it. But I think it’s not good to put a date when I’m going to be back.”

Rubio returned to Cleveland on a three-year, $18.4MM contract.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver believes that after a complete overhaul during his regime, the roster is well-stocked at every position, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes. “I feel like we finally have a full complement of players,” he said. “The first two years, we didn’t. It’s my job to make sure we have a roster in place that can come out and compete. I feel like we have a full complement of players, so we can go out and compete now. We’ll be short in experience in some areas, but I’m excited about the roster and where we are.”
  • Pistons second-year guard Cade Cunningham has added nearly 20 pounds and he believes he’ll be more prepared to handle the physicality of the league. “Having a stronger body … it’s a lot harder to get hurt,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to take more bumps and handle the physicality of the NBA. I’ll be a lot more prepared for it this year.”
  • Patrick Williams is excited that the Bulls have high expectations for him after an injury-marred season. However, he’s not trying to approach it any differently, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “I look at every year as a make or break year,” Williams said. “I looked at my rookie year that way, second year and this year is the exact same way.”
  • Bucks forward Joe Ingles could return to action as early as December, according to general manager Jon Horst, ESPN’s Jamal Collier tweets. Ingles, who signed a one-year, $6.5MM contract with Milwaukee early in free agency, is recovering from a torn ACL.

Pistons Pick Up Options For Cunningham, Hayes, Stewart, Bey

The Pistons have exercised their 2023/24 team options for Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, the team announced (via Twitter). The moves were expected, as all four players have been productive in different aspects of the game on their rookie contracts.

Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick of last year’s draft, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in ’21/22 after averaging 17.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.6 APG and 1.2 SPG on .416/.314/.845 shooting in 64 games (32.6 MPG). He put up big counting stats post-All-Star break, averaging 21.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.5 APG and 1.1 SPG, though his three-point percentage dipped (.457/.275/.833 shooting line). ’23/24 will be Cunningham’s third season, and he’ll earn $11,055,360.

Hayes was the only player of the group who might not have been viewed as a lock to have his team option picked up, as he’s dealt with injuries (he’s appeared in 92 of 154 games) and has struggled to score (6.8 PPG on .374/.268/.780 shooting) through two seasons. However, he’s a solid play-maker (6.4 assists per 36 minutes) and an above-average defender for a guard, plus he was the No. 7 overall pick in 2020 and is only 21 years old, so it’s not like the Pistons were in a rush to give up on him. Hayes will earn $7,413,955 in his fourth season.

Stewart, the No. 16 overall pick in 2020, started all 71 of his games last season (25.6 MPG), averaging 8.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 1.1 BPG on .510/.326/.718 shooting. A tenacious offensive rebounder, Stewart will earn $5,266,713 in year four, making him a relative bargain.

Bey, the No. 19 overall pick in 2020, appeared and started in all 82 games (33.0 MPG) for Detroit in ’21/22, averaging 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 2.8 APG on .396/.346/.827 shooting. He had a memorable 51-point outburst in a win over Orlando in March and will make $4,556,983 in the final season of his rookie deal.

Central Notes: Connaughton, Ball, Cunningham

Pat Connaughton believes he could have gotten more money in free agency but he wanted to stay with the Bucks. That’s why he exercised his contract option this summer before signing an extension, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes.

“I think I have the opportunity to potentially make a little bit more elsewhere, but for me, to prolong my career, how do you keep yourself in a position where they value what I do? I value winning,” he said. “I value my teammates and the culture that we’ve built, the organization, the management, the ownership, all of it.”

Connaughton, who received a three-year extension worth $28.3MM in July, added that the team is hungry after getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Celtics last season.

“I think we have a group of guys that are excited to get back out there and excited to play with a chip on our shoulder and not have that same taste in our mouths,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I’ll never forget sitting in Boston after Game 7. You use that as fuel, you use that as hunger and you take a slow, methodical approach to this offseason to making sure you’re putting yourself in the best position to come out on top again.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are expected to be without their starting point guard, Lonzo Ball, in the early portion of the season due to lingering pain in his surgically repaired left knee. ESPN’s Jamal Collier takes an in-depth look at Ball’s knee issues. Ball hasn’t taken the court since mid-January after originally receiving a projected recovery timeline of eight weeks.
  • The biggest question regarding Pistons guard Cade Cunningham this season is whether he can develop a consistent 3-point shot, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Edwards also considers what second-year forward Isaiah Livers and lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren must prove in order for Detroit to be a surprise team this season.
  • In case you missed it, the Pistons officially signed Micah Potter to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Central Notes: Osman, Bitadze, Cunningham, Bulls

Cedi Osman believes the Cavaliers will “definitely” be contenders in the Eastern Conference following the trade for Donovan Mitchell, writes Edvinas Jablonskis of BasketNews. Osman commented on the deal in a press conference at EuroBasket, where he scored 25 points in today’s win over Bulgaria.

“Obviously, it’s a great addition to the team,” he said. “I believe that everybody [in the organization] is excited.”

With Mitchell and Darius Garland in the backcourt and Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front, Cleveland has four set starters heading into training camp. Osman, who had been a starter before transitioning to a reserve role over the past two seasons, will be in contention to join them.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Also taking part in EuroBasket is Pacers center Goga Bitadze, who is hoping for an increased role this season following the trade of Domantas Sabonis, per Tony East of Forbes. Bitadze hasn’t played more than 54 games in any of his three years with Indiana, and with Myles Turner still on hand, along with Jalen Smith, Isaiah JacksonOshae Brissett, Terry Taylor and Daniel Theis, Bitadze will still be in a fight for playing time. “It takes reps, it just takes playing in live games,” Bitadze said when asked what’s needed to improve as a player.
  • Cade Cunningham is hoping to take the next step after the most exciting season from any Pistons rookie since Grant Hill, states Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Cunningham was torrid after the All-Star break — averaging 21.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per night — and Langlois believes he’ll be in All-Star contention if he can continue that production this season.
  • The Cavaliers’ acquisition of Mitchell may push the Bulls down another notch in the Eastern Conference playoff race, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. After injuries led to a late fade last season, Chicago is counting on renewed health to advance past the first round of the playoffs, but it may not be enough considering the improved competition. Johnson cites the Celtics, Bucks, Sixers, Heat and Nets as the top teams in the East and says the Bulls will be fighting with the Cavs, Raptors and Hawks to avoid the play-in tournament.

Eastern Notes: Caruso, Williams, Davis, Pistons

Playing hard-charging Alex Caruso less might produce better results for the Bulls guard, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes, arguing that Caruso’s style lends itself to playing in shorter bursts. Rookie Dalen Terry, another high-energy defender, could take away a few of Caruso’s minutes and that actually might be a good thing.

Caruso averaged 7.4 PPG, 4.0 APG and 1.7 SPG in his first year with the Bulls while being limited to 41 games due to injuries. He’s entering the second year of his four-year, $37MM contract.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • A breakout season from power forward Patrick Williams could be the Bulls’ biggest hope for internal improvement, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Williams missed most of last season due to a wrist injury. However, his skills could go a long way toward helping the Bulls fare better against the conference’s elite, Johnson notes, as he’ll often draw the opponent’s top player defensively.
  • Wizards lottery pick Johnny Davis will likely fight for minutes with last year’s first-round pick Corey Kispert, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Davis projects as a better defender than Kispert, but Kispert has the edge in experience and 3-point shooting. Becoming a better spot-up shooter will be pivotal for Davis to live up to his draft status, notes one of several scouts interviewed by Robbins to evaluate the rookie’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham is the most valuable asset the Pistons possess, The Athletic’s James Edwards III writes. However, their second-most valuable asset isn’t a player currently on their roster but rather their draft pick next year, since Detroit is expected to be in the lottery again. Edwards ranks the team’s top 10 assets, with rookie guard Jaden Ivey coming in third.

Eastern Notes: Mitchell, Knicks, Toppin, Durant, Haslem, Pistons

On the heels of a report from The Athletic regarding a recent Knicks trade proposal for Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that Utah is seeking four unprotected picks.

The Knicks’ offer was said to include Evan FournierObi Toppin, five first-round picks and “additional salary.” In that proposal, two of the five first-round picks the Knicks offered were unprotected.

All the extra first-rounders the team has acquired from other clubs have some form of protections on them, so the Jazz are apparently seeking four of New York’s own future picks.

That would be a tough pill for New York to swallow, since it would be difficult to make another significant trade and become a championship contender. The stalemate in the trade discussions is centered around the unprotected picks, rather than the mix of players, according to Berman.

New York is willing to deal Toppin in part because small ball lineups with Toppin and Julius Randle are unappealing to the organization, Berman adds.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Though Kevin Durant hasn’t backed down from his trade demand, the Nets have not yet lowered their asking price, Marc Stein reports in a Substack post. The organization believes there’s still time for Durant to soften his stance and remain with the franchise. They also want to see if Durant will report to training camp on time or if he’ll try to make things more uncomfortable and force the organization’s hand.
  • Udonis Haslem has decided to continue his playing career because he’s a “bearer of Heat culture,” Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Haslem said in part, “I’m sacrificing for the next generation. You know, I’m the bearer of Heat culture, I take it serious. It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. … I’ve watched the culture save so many, like it saved me.”
  • Longtime NBA player and current ESPN broadcaster Jalen Rose feels the combination of Cade Cunningham and rookie Jaden Ivey will spark the Pistons’ revival, according to a video post from The Detroit News’ Mike Curtis. “I think we now have another All-Star backcourt. … I’m really excited about the potential of our team,” said Rose, a Michigan native.

Central Notes: Pistons, Turner, Bitadze

There are many ways Pistons coach Dwane Casey could go with his rotation next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. In Langlois’ view, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden Ivey are the only rotation locks, with Kelly Olynyk, Marvin Bagley III, Killian Hayes and Alec Burks “good bets” to join them. Beyond that, Casey has numerous choices between youth and experience.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons fans are brimming with optimism, though they’re realistic about next season’s prospects, The Athletic’s James Edwards III revealed in a fan poll. With nearly 2,000 subscribers weighing in, 98 percent professed confidence in the team’s direction and 64 percent said they were very confident in the front office. However, 72.5 percent voted that the team would only win between 26-35 games next season. Second-year forward Isaiah Livers received the most votes for “breakout” player.
  • Myles Turner‘s season could play out similar to the way Victor Oladipo departed from the Pacers organization in 2020, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files opines. Turner could get off to a good start and pump up his trade value. In the same mailbag piece, Agness speculates that Goga Bitadze won’t have a long-term role in the organization due to the team’s current playing style, along with the presence of Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith.
  • Earlier on Monday, Giannis Antetokounmpo stated he wouldn’t mind playing for the Bulls later in his career. Get the details here.

Central Notes: Ayton, Nesmith, Pacers, Ivey, Pistons

On a Tuesday appearance on 107.5 The Fan, ESPN’s Bobby Marks detailed a couple ways the Pacers can create enough cap space to sign Suns center Deandre Ayton, the top restricted free agent on the market, to a maximum-salary offer sheet. Indiana is currently about $26.4MM under the cap, but needs to get to $31MM to sign Ayton to a max deal.

You’d have to waive a (non-guaranteed) player like Duane Washington Jr. and then you’d have to either make a trade or you would have to use the waive and stretch provision on a couple players, maybe the couple players you got in the Celtics trade,” Marks said, per James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. “The challenge becomes if Phoenix matches (an offer sheet for Ayton), you can’t go back and take back those waivers. So you run the risk of losing three players to waivers on an offer sheet that likely would get matched.”

Marks believes the Suns would match the deal so they wouldn’t lose Ayton for nothing, even though he wouldn’t be trade-eligible for several months. As Boyd details, the three players Marks was referring to that came from the Celtics are Juwan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and Malik Fitts.

Boyd says Goga Bitadze might be a player the Pacers could deal away to give Ayton the offer sheet — Bitadze will make $4.765MM next season. However, as Boyd points out, the Pacers haven’t signed a restricted free agent to an offer sheet since 2013, and it was a very modest deal, relatively, for Chris Copeland.

A more viable alternative for Indiana to land Ayton might be a sign-and-trade for Myles Turner, which has been the subject of multiple rumors, but Marks wondered if Turner alone would be enough for Phoenix.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Aaron Nesmith, another player in the trade with Boston that sent Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics, said he was “completely caught off guard” when he heard the news, but the Pacers had their eye on him for a while and he’ll get a bigger opportunity with Indiana, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Indiana’s brass told Nesmith to focus on honing a specific skill set. “To play free, be a good 3-and-D guy and I could be a top-notch 3-and-D guy in this league, so that’s the focus,” Nesmith said, per Agness. “That’s what we’re going to work for and that’s what I’m going to become.”
  • The Pacers announced that they’re withholding first-rounder Bennedict Mathurin for the remainder of Las Vegas Summer League due to a sore left big toe. He was the No. 6 pick of last month’s draft. Second-year players Terry Taylor and Isaiah Jackson will also be out. Summer League ends on July 17, so I’m sure it’s just for precautionary reasons.
  • Jaden Ivey, the No. 5 pick of the draft, showed the Pistons flashes of his enormous upside in his brief Summer League action before suffering a sprained ankle, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Cade Cunningham, Detroit’s No. 1 overall pick last year, said on a recent NBA TV appearance that he was looking forward to playing with his new backcourt partner. “Definitely excited to play with him,” Cunningham said. “He’s so talented, brings so much to the team. Just the way he plays the game, trying to play the right way, trying to play for his teammates, spread the ball. It’s all exciting. Being able to take the court with him is exciting and it’s coming soon. I’m excited, man.”

Central Notes: Grant, Weaver, Pacers, Sexton

Veteran Pistons forward Jerami Grant could be one of the NBA’s most intriguing trade candidates this summer. The 28-year-old Grant may not fit the timeline of the rebuilding Pistons, who will be looking to add another blue-chip prospect with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 draft alongside 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

Grant, who has one year remaining on his current contract, is extension-eligible this offseason, but figures to be a trade chip if the Pistons aren’t prepared to extend him. Sources inform James L. Edwards III and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic that the Hawks were interested in dealing for Grant during the 2021/22 season, and suggest that that remains the case, exploring what a deal between Detroit and Atlanta might look like.

The Hawks have a need for a defensive-oriented player who can guard along the perimeter and handle. Edwards and Kirschner believe Atlanta’s most viable offer for Grant would likely include Bogdan Bogdanovic and the team’s No. 16 pick.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • When it comes to the draft, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver prioritizes hard-working competitors, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois views this year’s draft, which will be Weaver’s third in his lead role for the Detroit front office, as an interesting opportunity to gauge the level of risk Weaver is willing to take. Detroit possesses the fifth pick in the 2022 draft. Langlois notes that the club could draft a 22-year-old with several years of college experience in Iowa forward Keegan Murray, or, on the other end of the spectrum, a 19-year-old who never suited up for his college team in Shaedon Sharpe.
  • The Pacers, owners of the No. 6 pick in the 2022 draft, held a pre-draft workout on Tuesday for several guard prospects, per James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Boyd notes that Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas, Kansas shooting guard Christian Braun, Arizona guard Dalen Terry, Purdue shooting guard Sasha Stefanovic, Belmont point guard Grayson Murphy, and Northern Iowa guard AJ Green worked out for Indiana.
  • Following an exciting 2021/22 season, the Cavaliers face an uncertain offseason. Cleveland went 44-38, but did not advance out of the play-in tournament. In a new mailbag, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link) addresses the market for restricted free agent guard Collin Sexton, potential trade candidates that could help Cleveland take the next step in the East, and other topics. Fedor hears from sources that the Spurs, in particular, “have some Sexton fans in their front office.”