Hornets Rumors

Poll: Which Team Will Win Southeast In 2019/20?

When we recently asked you to make your picks on which teams would win the Pacific and Northwest divisions, there were a handful of strong, viable choices. It’s not outlandish to view the Clippers, Lakers, or Warriors as potential division winners in the Pacific, while the Nuggets, Jazz, and Trail Blazers all have a realistic chance to finish atop the Northwest.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the Southeast is another division that doesn’t have an overwhelming favorite, but it’s not because there are a handful of potential Southeast powerhouses — it’s because the division isn’t particularly strong.

Last season, only one of the East’s playoff teams came out of the Southeast, as the 42-40 Magic sneaked into the postseason and claimed the division crown. The other four Southeast teams finished between ninth and 12th in the conference.

The division doesn’t project to be a whole lot stronger in 2019/20, though the Magic retained all their key free agents and still have room for growth. Orlando had one of the league’s best defenses during the second half of the 2018/19 season, and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus projections are bullish on the club going forward. As Kevin Pelton details in an Insider story, ESPN’s RPM projections place the Magic fourth in the Eastern Conference for ’19/20, behind only Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Still, the Magic won’t enter the season as the Vegas favorites to win the Southeast. Betting site BetOnline.ag lists the Heat as the current frontrunners. Although Miami missed the postseason last season with a 39-43 record, the team is hopeful that replacing Josh Richardson with Jimmy Butler and getting further development from young players like Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow will be worth several wins.

At this point, Orlando and Miami look like the only truly viable contenders for the division title, but it’s possible one of the other three clubs will significantly exceed expectations. The Hawks might be the best contender. John Collins, Trae Young, and Kevin Huerter should only get better, and if rookies De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish can provide positive contributions immediately, Atlanta could surprise some teams.

The outlook looks a little bleaker for the Wizards and Hornets. Washington, at least, has an All-Star player in Bradley Beal, but the team won only 32 games last season with Beal healthy, and he won’t have much more help this season. In Charlotte, the 39-43 Hornets are expected to take a step back after replacing All-NBA point guard Kemba Walker with Terry Rozier.

What do you think? Which team do you expect to win the Southeast in 2019/20? And are any of the teams in the division capable of winning a playoff series or two in the spring?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Carmelo, Rozier, Payton

The chemistry problems that plagued the Celtics last season don’t appear to be a concern now that Kemba Walker has replaced Kyrie Irving in the Boston backcourt, writes Sekou Smith of NBA.com. Walker is getting to know three of his new teammates — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart — while preparing for the FIBA World Cup, and it sounds like they’re off to a great start.

“They’re just some really good young dudes and I just enjoy being around them,” Walker said. “And the age difference is really crazy to me. J.T. is like 21 and J.B. is 22 and Marcus is 25. And I’m 29 and feeling like, wow, this is cool. It sounds crazy. I remember when I was 21 in this league. I was a rookie and just trying to figure it all out. And these guys are young vets already. Like I said, it’s crazy.”

Age difference was a recurring theme in Boston last season as Irving frequently criticized his younger teammates and talked to the press about how tough it is to be a leader. Walker has raved about the work ethic that Tatum, Brown and Smart are showing and how quickly they’ve adapted to the international game.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony‘s presence in summer workouts with Nets players doesn’t mean Brooklyn plans to sign him, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post“Nothing to it,” a source close to Anthony said. “There’s several guys (playing) that aren’t Nets, but friends and other NBA players.” Team officials and Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, refused to comment.
  • Terry Rozier, who signed with the Hornets last month, tells Lewis in a separate story that there are no hard feelings between him and Irving after their tumultuous time with the Celtics“A lot of people don’t know how great of a person he is,” Rozier said. “A lot of people think I hate Kyrie. And a lot of people think that me and Kyrie not cool, but we text, and I text him right before free agency.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry had been pursuing Elfrid Payton for a long time before signing him in July, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Perry, who acquired Payton for the Magic in a draft-night trade in 2014, attempted to bring him to New York at the 2018 trade deadline. “I’m very aware of Scott’s interest,’’ said Payton’s father, Elfrid Payton Sr. “He’s showed confidence in him and always kept track of him when he left. He’s always someone who really believed in him. Somebody invested in you like that and knows you, that’s a big thing.”

Knicks, Suns Pursued Terry Rozier In Free Agency

The Knicks and Suns made offers to point guard Terry Rozier in free agency, and the former Celtic confirms to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report that he seriously considered the possibility of signing with those teams before ultimately choosing the Hornets. According to Rozier, the involvement of Hornets owner Michael Jordan played a major part in his decision.

“Mike was overseas,” Rozier said. “And I can just picture him probably having a cigar in his mouth and the words he told Mitch [Kupchak], the GM, was like: ‘Get him over here. Do what you need to do to get him over here.’

“I’d be a fool if I was to go anywhere else or turn down that. I look at it as just a team, organization believing in me. Knowing that I want to prove myself in this league and giving me that chance is bigger than anything and [their willingness] to pay me a right amount of money, it was just big and the guy that was behind all that was Michael Jordan. It’s still surreal to me.”

As Abrams explains, a day before free agency opened in June, Rozier was expecting to be a Knick. That account lines up with a June 30 report, which suggested that the Knicks would turn to Rozier, Julius Randle, and Bobby Portis if they missed out on top-tier stars — New York eventually landed Randle and Portis, but not Rozier.

According to Abrams, the Suns offered a “bigger, better” contract than the one the Knicks put on the table, and Rozier was seriously considering accepting Phoenix’s deal even after the Hornets emerged as a viable possibility as part of a sign-and-trade that sent Kemba Walker to Boston. However, Jordan helped seal the deal for Charlotte.

Rozier’s free agency decision likely had a ripple effect on multiple teams and players. Elfrid Payton, who received an $8MM guaranteed salary for 2019/20 from the Knicks, may not have landed that sort of contract if the team had secured Rozier.

Meanwhile, after missing out on Rozier, the Suns shifted their focus to signing Ricky Rubio, who was strongly rumored to be a top target for the Pacers in advance of free agency. If Phoenix had instead landed Rozier, Rubio may have ended up in Indiana, and it’s not clear if the Pacers still would have acquired Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee.

The three-year, $56.7MM contract that Rozier received from the Hornets has been widely panned by NBA observers, but the veteran point guard tells Abrams that he has heard the criticism and looks forward to proving it wrong.

“I’d be lying if I told you there’s no pressure,” Rozier said. “But pressure’s part of the game. Pressure is something that I deal with on a daily basis, but I’m always finding ways to get past it. That’s not easy going in, replacing a guard like Kemba. He’s pretty damn good and the franchise’s leading scorer, like that’s crazy. But it’s something I’ve always wanted. I always live by if the opportunity come knocking, you gotta be ready to answer, and this is the opportunity for me, so I was born ready for this, and I’m not looking back.”

And-Ones: Clippers, Wroten, Giedraitis, Caffey

The signing of Kawhi Leonard and the trade for Paul George helped the Clippers have the league’s best offseason, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. L.A. added two potential MVP candidates while keeping the core of last year’s playoff team intact and acquiring another rotation piece by trading for Maurice Harkless.

The Nets, who also hit the jackpot in free agency by signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, finished second on Aldridge’s list, followed by the Jazz, Lakers and Sixers. At the bottom are the Hornets, who lost Kemba Walker and replaced him with Terry Rozier, and the Warriors, who not only saw Durant leave, but also parted with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, two key components of their championship teams.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • Tony Wroten, whose journey to the EuroLeague we profiled earlier this week, has decided to sign with Anwil Wloclawek in Poland rather than KK Zadar in Croatia, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Wroten, 26, attended a mini-camp with the Wizards in June.
  • Lithuanian swingman Rokas Giedraitis turned down multiple opportunities to play in Summer League this year, according to international basketball writer Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). A few teams considered offering him a two-way deal last year, but he remains “under the NBA radar.” Giedraitis is considered a late bloomer at 27 and is under contract with Alba Berlin for the upcoming season.
  • Jason Caffey admits he embraced an irresponsible lifestyle during his time in the NBA, and now he is trying to warn younger athletes not to make the same mistakes, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Caffey believes the choices he made, along with an undiagnosed mental illness, prevented him from having a longer career. Caffey had 10 children with eight women and says watching their success inspired him to change. “When I saw them doing so well — got a son at Alabama and a daughter at Missouri, D1 schools,” he said. “I knew then if I could help my own kids — kids who were pegged to be kids of a guy who’s a deadbeat dad, a guy who’s never going to be anything again — when I overcame that stigma, I knew it was time for me to step out and help other children.”

Four 2019 NBA Draft Picks Remain Unsigned

We’re about a month and a half removed from the 2019 NBA draft, and the contract statuses of 56 of the 60 players selected on that night have been determined.

As our list of draft pick signings shows, 53 players – 29 first-round picks and 24 second-rounders – have signed contracts with their new NBA teams. Three more players – Didi Louzada (Pelicans), Deividas Sirvydis (Pistons), and Vanja Marinkovic (Kings) – will reportedly spend the 2019/20 season overseas in various international leagues.

That leaves just four players whose contract situation for ’19/20 remains up in the air. Those players are as follows:

  1. Orlando Magic: Chuma Okeke, F (Auburn)
  2. Denver Nuggets: Bol Bol, C (Oregon)
  3. Charlotte Hornets: Jalen McDaniels, F (San Diego State)
  4. Brooklyn Nets: Jaylen Hands, G (UCLA)

Okeke is the lone 2019 first-rounder who remains unsigned, and it’s probably not just a coincidence that he’s the last one to ink his rookie contract. He tore his ACL in March and is expected to miss a good chunk – if not all – of his rookie season. While virtually every first-round pick signs for 120% of his rookie scale amount, the Cavaliers were able to get Kevin Porter for lower than that earlier in the offseason — it’s possible the Magic are exploring a similar deal with Okeke.

Bol, meanwhile, figures to sign with the Nuggets eventually. The team still has a projected opening on its 15-man regular season roster, plus a pair of open two-way contract slots. I’d expect Bol to sign a standard deal, but the two sides will have to reach an agreement on the years, dollars, and guarantee amounts. Since Denver has its full mid-level exception available, a variety of options are on the table.

As for McDaniels and Hands, they look like strong candidates to sign two-way contracts. Both the Nets and Hornets have an open two-way slot, and players selected in the 50-60 range frequently end up on two-way deals. While Brooklyn already has 15 players on guaranteed contracts, Charlotte is only carrying 13, so it’s possible a regular season roster spot is still in play for McDaniels.

Hornets Sign Thomas Welsh

The Hornets have signed free agent center Thomas Welsh to a contract, the team announced today in a press release. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s likely a non-guaranteed training camp contract.

Welsh, 23, was selected with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Nuggets. After signing a two-way deal with Denver, the seven-footer played limited minutes in 11 games for the club last season. He saw more extensive action in the G League for the Capital City Go-Go and Iowa Wolves, averaging 10.3 PPG and 8.1 RPG in 20 contests (23.0 MPG).

Welsh’s two-way contract with the Nuggets spanned two years, but the club opted to go another direction with that two-way slot for the 2019/20 season, waiving the former UCLA big man last week.

It’s possible Welsh will get the chance to earn a regular season roster spot in Charlotte. Currently, the Hornets are only carrying 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts. Caleb Martin, Joe Chealey, and Josh Perkins are believed to have non-guaranteed deals, while Robert Franks is on a two-way contract.

Welsh is the 18th Hornet under contract. Second-round pick Jalen McDaniels also remains unsigned and looks like the leading candidate to get the club’s second two-way deal.

Kulboka Signs With Bilbao

  • Hornets draft-and-stash prospect Arnoldas Kulboka, a 21-year-old Lithuanian swingman who was drafted No. 55 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, has officially signed his contract with RETAbet Bilbao Basket of Liga ACB, reports Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link).

Jodie Meeks Drawing Interest From Clippers, Hornets?

The Clippers and Hornets have expressed some level of interest in free agent shooting guard Jodie Meeks, a source tells Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops.

Meeks, who will turn 32 later this month, appeared in 77 games in 2017/18 for the Wizards but saw his season come to an early end when he was suspended 25 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. Meeks was traded to Milwaukee in the offseason, where he served the rest of his suspension at the start of 2018/19 before being waived.

The former second-round pick caught on with the Raptors down the stretch last season, playing limited minutes in eight regular season games and 14 postseason contests for the eventual champions. Known for his ability to knock down long-range shots, Meeks made 8-of-18 three-pointers during the season, but just 2-of-13 in the playoffs.

The Clippers and Hornets are carrying fewer than 15 players with guaranteed salaries, so there could be an opportunity in each case for a veteran to claim a spot at the back of the roster. However, I’d be surprised if either team is willing to give Meeks a fully guaranteed salary on the heels of his modest contributions in 2018/19.

Details On Hornets’ Offer To Kemba Walker

When Kemba Walker became a free agent this summer, he was eligible for a super-max offer from the Hornets that would have been worth $221.6MM over five years. While an offer in that range was always considered unlikely, a standard maximum-salary offer from Charlotte would have paid the All-NBA point guard $189.9MM over five years.

However, in late June, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported that the Hornets’ offer to Walker was “somewhere in the ballpark of $160MM-plus” (link via NBC Sports). And according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the team’s best offer wasn’t even quite that strong. League sources tell Charania that Charlotte’s best five-year offer to Walker came in just under $160MM, which frustrated the 29-year-old.

“Tough days, f—ing tough days, I can’t even lie,” Walker told Charania, referring to his free agency. “Excuse my language. It was difficult. I couldn’t see myself just being on another team. It was just hard. That’s all I’ve known was Charlotte. Definitely some tough times. I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get the offer that I wanted, and maybe not close to it, because of cap space. I had to get my head wrapped around the feeling and picking another team.”

The Celtics didn’t initially project to have the cap room necessary to sign a player like Walker, but with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and others on the way out, the team gained increased flexibility. Kemba, meanwhile, became increasingly bullish on the idea of joining the C’s, with their proximity to his alma mater of UConn among the many factors that appealed to him, per Charania.

Walker ultimately landed in Boston on a four-year, $140.8MM contract, which didn’t match the overall value of Charlotte’s offer, but was a stronger deal on a per-year basis. Although it was bittersweet to leave the Hornets, the three-time All-Star said he understands “the business side of things” and isn’t upset about the way his old team handled things.

“I’m not mad at M.J. (Hornets owner Michael Jordan) or the organization for anything,” Walker told Charania. “I understand it. You have to look at both sides at the end of the day. Could M.J. have went over the luxury tax? Yeah, he could have. But why?

“At the end of the day, you have to see both sides of it. That’s what helped me wrap my head around not being around Charlotte anymore. I loved Charlotte. I had to shift my mindset more as free agency got close. I had some priorities and places I wanted to go and didn’t want to go if I didn’t stay in Charlotte, and that’s when Boston even came on the scene.”

Hornets Sign Josh Perkins

The Hornets have signed undrafted Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins, the team announced today in a press release.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link) first reported shortly after the June draft that Perkins would sign an Exhibit 10 deal with Charlotte, so today’s announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. The club also confirmed its new deal with Joe Chealey.

A fifth-year senior in 2018/19, Perkins averaged 11.0 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 2.7 RPG in 37 games for the Zags. Over the course of his college career, he knocked down 38.6% of 651 total three-point attempts.

While Perkins will likely end up playing for the Greensboro Swarm in his rookie year, it’s possible he’ll have a shot to earn a roster spot for the Hornets. The team is up to 17 players under contract after today’s signings, but only 13 have fully guaranteed salaries for 2019/20 (a 14th is on a two-way contract).