Channing Frye

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Los Angeles Lakers

For better or worse, the Lakers have known exactly what they wanted and how to get it for several seasons now. Now that the 2018 free agency period is upon us, we’ll see if the salary cap posturing was worth it. In an effort to make themselves an appealing destination for LeBron James and/or Paul George the club has neglected and even outright punted up-and-coming talent.

Given what’s at stake, any of Los Angeles’ own free agents will have to wait for dominoes to start falling before they can find out what kind of role – if any – is still available to them with the Lakers. Because of its history and location and all the inherent marketing opportunities that come along with being a celebrity in Hollywood, this organization is capable of things that nobody else is. Love it or hate, we’re going to see that on full display this summer.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $18MM deal in 2017
In today’s NBA there will always be a market for 3-and-D perimeter threats so whether it comes in Los Angeles or elsewhere, Caldwell-Pope should have no problem finding a suitor. That fact that he’s still only 25 years old only makes him all that more appealing. The problem, however – and the one thing standing between him and the max deal he allegedly sought last offseason – is that despite the guard’s legitimately impressive .423 three-point percentage after the All-Star Break, he’s never been a reliable go-to scoring option on a competitive team and appears to have a finite ceiling. Is the two-guard an untapped star or an elite niche player? I’d wager on the latter and caution any team desperate enough to pay him like the former.

Channing Frye, C, 35 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $32MM deal in 2014
Frye saw a reduced role in 2017/18 after serving as a valuable depth piece for the championship-contender Cavaliers the past two seasons. Still, despite seeing his usage trend downward, the veteran is as sneaky dangerous as ever. It’s hard to imagine Frye earning much more than the veteran’s minimum in his 13th season but it’s easy to picture him knocking down critical threes for a contender come the 2019 postseason.

Andre Ingram, SG, 32 (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
Ingram had a memorable cup of coffee this season but isn’t likely to parlay the impressive debut into a full-time gig anytime soon. That said, the 32-year-old could find himself on the 10-day radar for depth-hungry teams late next season. That’s an improvement over a seemingly symbolic late-season addition in 2018.

Brook Lopez, C, 30 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $63MM deal in 2015
Lopez has done an admirable job developing a three-point shot late in his career and that will likely help him prolong it, but don’t expect him to land another featured role like he had with the Nets anytime soon either. Lopez is on the wrong side of 30 and has never been a particularly feared rim protector. Expect the veteran to contribute meaningful minutes to a contender at a drastically reduced rate; playoff-bound teams don’t have the cap space and the rest shouldn’t even be looking.

Julius Randle, C, 23 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $14MM deal in 2014
Watching the Lakers mishandle Randle over the course of the past two seasons would have been outright inexcusable if they didn’t have a legitimate chance of landing a premier free agent or two this summer. They do, so we’ll let them off the hook, but if any other franchise were to drag an absolute workhorse through the mud for two seasons just because they wanted to keep their options open for free agency, we’d be laughing at them. Randle, a restricted free agent, is going to get paid this offseason and he should, my only hope – for the sake of the young man’s dignity – is that it comes from an organization that hasn’t made it abundantly clear that he’s a third or fourth priority. Fun prediction: Randle makes an All-Star team before any of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma.

Isaiah Thomas, PG, 29 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $27MM deal in 2014
For a fleeting moment in time, the stars aligned such that Thomas – an undersized, volume-shooting journeyman – was an honest-to-goodness MVP candidate. That, however, doesn’t mean that Thomas is or ever was a max player. While the drop in Thomas’ value here in 2018 can be lazily chalked up to his hip injury and the fact that he’ll be 30 years old by the end of next season, it wouldn’t have even felt right this time last season for a team to commit north of $25MM to a ball-dominant guard with a Napolean Complex. I can see Thomas as a world-class reserve combo guard if his hip holds up into the second-half of his career, I’m just not confident that he would share my vision.

Travis Wear, SF, 27 (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Lakers brought Wear aboard as a last-season depth add and while he may not break camp with the team next season, he may have shown enough during his brief stint with the franchise to warrant a call-up earlier in the season next year. The Lakers may not have much of an interest in investing substantially in the forward but he’s a familiar face that could end up back in purple and gold eventually.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Rumors: Free Agency, KCP, Frye, Lopez, Walton

The Lakers’ long-awaited 2018 offseason is now underway, but after months of speculation about which top free agents the team will land this summer, president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are working to keep expectations in check.

Speaking today to reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com, the Lakers’ top execs made it clear that they plan to be flexible when it comes to free agency. In the view of Johnson and Pelinka, the team could just as easily end up making a splash in 2019 as in 2018.

As Youngmisuk details, Johnson said the Lakers won’t “give away money” this offseason just to say they signed someone, which is perhaps a veiled reference to the team’s infamous summer of ’16. Pelinka, meanwhile, stressed that the summer of ’18 “is not a litmus test” for the front office’s ultimate success — if L.A. comes away empty-handed this July but maintains flexibility for 2019, management wouldn’t view that as a disaster.

Here’s much more on the Lakers:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, an unrestricted free agent this summer, says he’s looking for a long-term deal in order to establish some stability for his family, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Within the same piece, UFA-to-be Channing Frye says he’d be interested in re-signing with the Lakers. “I want to allow them to make the right decisions with bigger-name guys,” Frye said. “I’€™m a pretty dang good backup, emergency, break-the-glass type guy.”
  • Brook Lopez, yet another UFA, isn’t sure whether he’ll be back with the Lakers, but endorsed the franchise for other free agents, per Rodrigo Azurmendi of Lakers.com. “It’€™s a great place to be going forward, not just for myself, but for a free agent looking to sign somewhere,” Lopez said.
  • As Lonzo Ball prepares for a summer that Johnson and Pelinka told him would be the biggest of his life (link via ESPN.com), insiders around the NBA are marveling at the Lakers’ 2017 draft class, which looks like a potential all-timer, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. In addition to Ball, the Lakers also nabbed Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart – who both look like steals – late in the first round.
  • Although there was some speculation during the season about his job security, Luke Walton appears very safe as the Lakers’ head coach. Johnson said today that he and Pelinka “look forward to working with Luke for many years to come” (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times).
  • For his part, Walton would love to keep working with restricted free agent Julius Randle (Twitter link via Oram). “I think it’€™s obvious that, yes, I would love to have Julius back next year,” Walton said today after raving about the big man’s play. “There’€™s other factors … but from a coaching standpoint I would love to have Julius back.”

Injury Notes: Gallinari, Celtics, Giannis, Markkanen

Danilo Gallinari, identified this week by head coach Doc Rivers as the player the Clippers have missed the most this season, is targeting Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee for his potential return, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, who passes along comments Gallinari made to Italian outlet Sky Sport. The veteran forward indicated that he hopes to get back on the court after the Clippers’ current road trip ends, but before the end of this month.

Gallinari, the Clippers’ major free agent addition of 2017, has been limited to 19 games this season as he has battled a variety of injuries. His latest ailment, a right hand fracture, has sidelined him for the last month.

Here are a few more injury notes and updates from around the NBA:

  • There likely won’t be an update on Kyrie Irving‘s status today, a league source tells Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Mannix reports that the Celtics should know more within the next day or two about Irving’s ailing left knee. The team did get some good news on Jaylen Brown, who said today that he’s feeling better and hopes to play on Sunday in Sacramento (Twitter link).
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo left Wednesday’s game against the Clippers with a right ankle sprain. While no recovery timetable has been announced for Antetokounmpo, the Bucks figure to play it safe with their franchise player. He is considered doubtful to play on Friday vs. Chicago, according to the team (Twitter link).
  • Lauri Markkanen, who last played for the Bulls on March 11, is optimistic about playing in that Friday game against Milwaukee, says K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter links). Markkanen, battling a back issue, likely wouldn’t be available on Saturday in Detroit if he plays on Friday, Johnson notes.
  • Traded from Cleveland to Los Angeles at last month’s deadline, Channing Frye appeared in just one game for the Lakers before undergoing an appendectomy. However, the veteran forward is set to return to action on Thursday night against New Orleans, per Bill Oram of The Southern California News Group (Twitter link).

L.A. Notes: LeBron, Lakers, Gallinari, Thornwell

James’ recent purchase of a house in the Los Angeles area won’t affect his decision, Heisler claims, and neither will the chance to play with a young core made up of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball. Unless the Lakers can convince James that his presence would make them an instant contender, they’ll be a long shot to bring him to L.A.
There’s more NBA news out of Los Angeles:
  • With the playoffs slipping out of reach, the Lakers will spend the rest of this season deciding which free agents they want to keep, states Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. With only five players under contract for 2018/19, Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be among those auditioning for jobs, as will Channing Frye if he returns after an appendectomy.
  • Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari will have his right hand examined next week to determine if he needs surgery, tweets Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points. Gallinari added that swelling and discoloration in the hand have subsided since he suffered a non-displaced fracture late last month. Gallinari is averaging 15.9 points per night, but has been limited to 19 games by a variety of injuries.
  • Rookie Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell made his first start in nearly three months Friday and responded with a career-high 14 points in a win over the Cavaliers, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Thornwell’s playing time had slipped as the team tried out two-way guards C.J. Williams and Tyrone Wallace, but he was ready when coach Doc Rivers called on him to match up with James. “I guess it’s just Doc’s way of seeing if I’m ready to play,” Thornwell said. “He just wants to see if I’m focused and locked in. But my starts are always on somebody tough.”

Raptors Notes: Roster, Buyout Targets, Carter

With the NBA schedule set to resume following the All-Star break, the Raptors currently hold the No. 1 spot in the East and this year’s squad looks capable of setting a new franchise record for wins in a regular season. As head coach Dwane Casey tells Shaun Powell of NBA.com, the Raptors have built their roster without luring any big names to Toronto.

“It’s not like we’ve gone outside and got a superstar free agent,” Casey said. “We’ve done it organically by growing our young players and the rewarding part was people questioning what we were trying to do. We’re not there yet. We haven’t arrived. But we’ve done it the traditional way. A lot of guys around the league are partnering up, adding superstars, superstars and superstars. We’ve developed players, starting with DeMar [DeRozan].”

During the past couple postseasons, the Raptors’ lack of starpower has been an issue, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cavaliers ending the club’s season in back-to-back years. While we wait to see if the Raps can get over the hump this spring, let’s round up a few more notes out of Toronto…

  • Within a piece on the Raptors storylines to watch down the stretch, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca discusses possible buyout targets for the club, noting that Toronto didn’t have interest in Joe Johnson or Brandan Wright, who landed with the Rockets.
  • The Raps are keeping an eye out for veteran wing insurance, since C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby have both battled minor injuries, according to Lewenberg, who noted earlier this week that Arron Afflalo may be a target for Toronto. Lewenberg adds that stretch fours like Channing Frye and Ersan Ilyasova may also be nice fits, but they probably won’t receive buyouts, and would be long shots to choose Toronto even if they do reach free agency.
  • After an early-February report indicated that the Raptors had interest in Vince Carter, Lewenberg recently suggested that idea is on hold for now. He goes into more detail in his latest article, writing that the club has decided “this is not the right time” for a Carter reunion. The organization doesn’t want the media coverage of such a signing to overshadow the accomplishments of this year’s squad, Lewenberg explains. The Raps haven’t ruled out the idea of an eventual reunion, but it’s “on the back burner for now,” tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Earlier this week, we asked whether the Raptors will hold onto the No. 1 seed in the East.

Channing Frye Undergoes Appendectomy

Veteran center Channing Frye, who was recently traded to the Lakers, underwent an appendectomy Friday night, tweets Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet. Frye is in Cleveland and will have his condition re-evaluated in a week.

Frye’s absence shouldn’t be an issue for the Lakers, who acquired him for his expiring contract and because he helped match salary in the deal that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavaliers. Frye has appeared in just one game since coming to L.A., playing 11 minutes.

He missed the entire 2012/13 season after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, but has been healthy since returning and played a full 82-game schedule for the Suns the following year. He appeared in 44 games in Cleveland this season before being dealt, averaging 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in about 12 minutes per night.

Frye, who turns 35 in May, will hope to return for at least a few games with the Lakers to remind teams of his value before entering free agency this summer.

Woj’s Latest: Cavaliers, Clippers, Kings, Jazz

In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Adrian Wojnarowski goes into extensive detail on the deadline deals completed last week by the Cavaliers, and offers some fascinating tidbits on how those trades got done, and one potential blockbuster that didn’t get done. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Before making his series of trades, Cavaliers GM Koby Altman got an elusive face-to-face sitdown with LeBron James to let his star player know what he was working on. Altman later met with LeBron again to tell him that the trades for Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, George Hill, and Rodney Hood were complete, and to ask for his blessing on the deal that sent Dwyane Wade to Miami, says Wojnarowski.
  • Altman had received ownership approval to trade Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and the Cavs’ own 2018 first-round pick to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan, according to Wojnarowski. Los Angeles was on board with the deal, but wanted to find a third team to take Shumpert and to give the Clips a center, since they didn’t want another shooting guard. Altman and Clippers GM Michael Winger weren’t able to find that third team, and since L.A. was unwilling to take on Shumpert (or Tristan Thompson or J.R. Smith) and the Cavs had some reservations about extending Jordan’s contract in the offseason, the deal ultimately fell through.
  • The three-way trade between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz nearly fell apart on deadline day when Sacramento insisted that Georgios Papagiannis be included in the deal. According to Woj, Cleveland and Utah were “adamant” that Papagiannis had never been discussed, but Kings assistant GM Brandon Williams insists that his notes confirm that either Papagiannis or Malachi Richardson would be included.
  • As an aside, Wojnarowski writes that Williams was handling negotiations because GM Vlade Divac “seldom gets on the phone for the trade-building parts,” even though any Kings trade requires his approval, along with the approval of owner Vivek Ranadive.
  • The Cavaliers were very much against Papagiannis’ inclusion in the trade, since taking on his $2.3MM cap hit would have cost the club significantly more than that in tax payments. Utah also had no interest in acquiring the former lottery pick, with Wojnarowski suggesting that Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey was “livid” about the insertion of Papagiannis and was ready to call off the trade. As for the Kings, they were hoping to move 2016’s 13th overall pick to avoid the embarrassment of waiving him themselves, says Woj.
  • Eventually, Altman was able to work out a solution and talked Lindsey into it, per Wojnarowski. Papagiannis’ rest-of-season salary for this year and his guaranteed salary for 2018/19 totaled $3.2MM, and the Cavaliers were willing to pay that amount to Sacramento, but Cleveland was limited to sending out $2.1MM for the rest of this league year. Altman convinced the Jazz to send the Kings the remaining $1.1MM, with Lindsey getting a little something out of the deal: the ability to swap 2024 second-round picks with the Cavs. The Kings, having been compensated for Papagiannis’ remaining salary, simply waived him rather than insisting he be a part of the trade.

Cavs Acquire Clarkson, Nance In Isaiah Thomas Trade

1:14pm: The trade is now official, the Lakers announced in a press release. The 2018 first-rounder acquired by the Lakers is top-three protected, which will protect the Cavs in the unlikely event that they miss the postseason and then get lucky in the lottery.Isaiah Thomas vertical

11:08am: The Lakers and Cavaliers are set to complete a trade that will send Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). In exchange, the Lakers will receive Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and the Cavaliers’ 2018 first-round pick, per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link). That pick will be protected, tweets Woj.

The deal is a fascinating one for two teams that have been heavily involved in trade rumors throughout the 2017/18 season. The move reflects the Cavaliers’ desire to get better right away, while the Lakers look ahead to the summer.

From the Cavs’ perspective, the trade looks like an admission that the acquisition of Thomas wasn’t going to work. After missing most of the first half of the season with a hip injury, the former Celtics star hasn’t been able to recapture his old form, and has publicly expressed his frustration during Cleveland’s recent slump. Thomas’ .361 FG% and .253 3PT% are easily career lows, and his average of 14.7 PPG is way down from the 28.9 PPG he put up last season in Boston.

“He’s worked too hard to get back, and he’s a ball-dominant player,” Thomas’ agent Aaron Goodwin told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “It’s LeBron’s ball, and this clearly wasn’t working. [Cavs GM] Koby [Altman] and I have had enough conversations where it was clear, with the way the system was going, it wasn’t beneficial for either party. This is a good opportunity for Isaiah.”

By sending a struggling Thomas to Los Angeles along with Frye, the Cavs will secure a pair of solid rotation players who are both just 25 years old and are under contract beyond this season. Clarkson has averaged 14.5 PPG with a .448/.324/.795 shooting line so far in 2017/18. Nance, meanwhile, has posted a career-best 8.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG, with a .601 FG%.

While Thomas and Frye are on expiring contracts, Clarkson and Nance will earn a combined $14.77MM in 2018/19, pushing Cleveland’s total guaranteed team salary for next year above the $100MM mark, not counting LeBron James. With or without James, it seems very unlikely that the Cavs will have cap room this summer, barring some major moves.

The Lakers, on the other hand, clear nearly $15MM in 2018/19 money from their books in this deal, taking on two expiring contracts and landing a first-round pick in the process. Despite recent rumblings that the team could be shifting its free agency focus to 2019, this deal puts L.A. in a great position to create enough cap room to make a run at two maximum-salary free agents this summer. Their top targets figure to include Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and – of course – LeBron.

One of the most interesting aspects of this deal is that both teams could make the case that it improved their odds of signing James this summer — the Cavs acquired some players who can help them contend this season and can stick around next year, while the Lakers created more cap space and will be able to use their new first-round pick to add another player to their young core this offseason.

Some housekeeping notes on this trade: Cleveland will now be unable to trade the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick unless they acquire another 2018 or 2019 first-rounder. The Cavs have already traded their ’19 first-rounder, and can’t leave themselves without first-round picks in consecutive future seasons. They’ll reduce their projected luxury tax bill in this deal too, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks outlines. Additionally, the Lakers should create a modest trade exception in the deal worth $1,471,382, the amount of Nance’s 2017/18 salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Rumors: Warriors Needs, Mason, Ball, Hill

The Warriors’ top need is a shooting wing off the bench, and their most likely targets are Marco Belinelli of the Hawks and Tyreke Evans of the Grizzlies, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic opines. Patrick McCaw is the player Golden State will most likely move in order to get a wing who also has size and passing ability, Kawakami continues. Belinelli is on an expiring deal and Atlanta would have to believe in McCaw’s long-term ability enough to also take back Nick Young, Kawakami speculates. Evans would also be a rental and Golden State would probably have to pair McCaw with a first-round pick to get him, Kawakami adds.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Kings point guard Frank Mason will not play until after the All-Star break, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. The rookie out of Kansas suffered a heel injury on December 31st. Mason, chosen with the 34th overall pick last June, has appeared in 29 games, averaging 7.6 PPG and 2.9 APG.
  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball was unable to ramp up his workouts last week without experiencing soreness in his sprained left knee, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reports. His workouts never progressed to lateral movement or running close to full speed, Oram continues. Ball has missed the last 10 games.
  • The Kings were close to dealing point guard George Hill to the Cavaliers but they won’t mind if he’s still on the roster beyond the trade deadline, Jones writes in a separate piece. Sacramento would have received Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert, and perhaps Derrick Rose, in return. The Kings would have to clear roster space to make that deal but their primary goals must be collecting picks, acquiring young talent and retaining financial flexibility, Jones continues. Hill has also endeared himself to the front office and the team’s young core despite losing his starting job, Jones adds.
  • Trade rumors are weighing heavily on the minds of Clippers players, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register relays. Coach Doc Rivers admits that trade talk has been a distraction. “Sometimes you go talk to a guy and the guy says, ‘Oh, I’m good,’ and that could mean he’s not good or good,” Rivers told Teaford. “You’ve got to read that. Sometimes it’s clear as day. I can tell you I’ve seen that over the last three or four days from a couple guys, and it’s obviously weighing on them.”

Cavaliers Notes: James, Gilbert, Trade Market, Love

The root of the Cavaliers’ problems lies in an adversarial relationship between LeBron James and owner Dan Gilbert, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. James has grown frustrated while watching star players change teams over the last eight months, with none of them coming to Cleveland. Cavs management counters that it lost $18MM last season because it paid $25MM in luxury taxes and points out that its bargaining position would be much stronger if James would commit to the franchise beyond this season.

Gilbert went through a difficult rebuilding process when James left Cleveland for Miami in 2010 and doesn’t want to repeat that experience. The team could announce to the league that Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder is available if James agrees to re-sign, but he is committed to keeping his options open. Meanwhile, the relationship between James and Gilbert is getting worse, and it’s showing up in the Cavaliers’ performance on the court.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • None of the players currently available on the trade market could turn things around in Cleveland, contends Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan would provide a much-needed defensive presence in the middle, but Lloyd doesn’t see him as a franchise player. Kings guard George Hill, whom the Cavaliers have also been linked to, would barely move the needle in the playoff race. Cleveland missed opportunities at major deals when Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony and others wound up elsewhere, and Lloyd believes it’s probably too late to save this season. After Saturday’s loss, James refused to comment on possible roster moves. “That’s not a question for me,” he said. “I show up to work every day. I bust my tail every day. I’m one of the first ones to get to the gym and I’m one of the last ones to leave. I do my part. I control what I can control and that is what I can control.”
  • The Cavs are suffering from a lack of locker-room leadership, Lloyd adds in the same story. In the past, that was provided by James Jones, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, but Jones retired, Jefferson was traded and Frye has lost influence as his playing time decreased.
  • Kevin Love plans to remain as active as possible while he’s sidelined for eight weeks with a broken bone in his left hand, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “Obviously I can’t use my left arm as much as I would like to but I’ll still be able to do some ball handling on the court and be dominant with my right hand quite a bit, but keep my legs underneath me for when I do get back,” he said. “It will be very meaningful to get back as quickly as I can. … I’m not rushing it but when the doctors say I’m good to go I’ll be able to get out there.”