- In a feature celebrating the life of former Hornets general manager Bob Bass, who passed away on Friday, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer calls the old school executive the most impactful that the city has had.
Jakob Poeltl is hoping an offseason trade to the Spurs will give him a better shot at playing time, relays Tom Orsborne of The San Antonio Express-News. Poeltl was an overlooked part of the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, but the former first-round pick may find a greater opportunity to show off his skills with his new team. Poeltl describes himself as willing to do the “dirty work” and is thrilled about the opportunity with the Spurs.
“That is one of the things I am most excited about, just the fact that this program has such a big history of developing players,” Poeltl said. “Players that stay here or players that then go somewhere else and become really good players. So, I am really excited for the process. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it.”
There’s more news from the Southwest Division:
- In an Instagram post, Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor thanks Kevin Love for bringing mental health issues into the open last season. Okafor, who signed a partially guaranteed two-year deal earlier this month, displays a more toned body in the post, but states that he underwent a greater change on the inside. “I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety,” Okafor wrote. “Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others.”
- Trade speculation will continue to follow Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews in the upcoming season, according to a Dallas Morning News profile. At age 31 and entering the final year of his contract after opting in over the summer, Matthews could be expendable after the team assembled its backcourt of the future in the past two drafts.
- The Rockets should consider gambling on Hornets forward Nicolas Batum, writes Rahat Huq of Forbes. Houston could use another strong wing defender after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, and Charlotte may be willing to take Ryan Anderson in return because Batum’s contract is even larger. Batum is owed more than $49.5MM over the next two seasons and has a $27.1MM player option for 2020/21.
NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, most clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.
We’re in the midst of looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on the key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2018/19 regular season begins.
Will Kent Bazemore still be a Hawk when the 2018/19 season begins?
As we noted this morning, Bazemore is the longest-tenured Hawks player now that Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala are on new teams. But after trading Schroder and Muscala last month, Atlanta may ultimately deal Bazemore too.
Trade rumors continue to swirl around Bazemore, with the Rockets, Bucks, and Pelicans among the teams linked to the veteran swingman. In a hypothetical trade with each of those teams, the Hawks would have to take on an unwanted contract, which would mean acquiring Ryan Anderson, John Henson, or Solomon Hill. So it will come down to what sort of additional assets those clubs are willing to attach to their bad contracts to sweeten the pot for Atlanta.
If the Hawks don’t feel like any offers for Bazemore are worth pulling the trigger on at this point, there’s no rush to make a deal — he’ll still have value at the trade deadline, especially if he has a strong first half.
Will the Hornets make a trade involving a wing before the season begins?
Many of those same teams with reported interest in Bazemore have likely checked in with the Hornets as well. In Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte has several wings who could be trade candidates.
While all of those players are solid – but unspectacular – on the court, there’s a significant range in their trade value due to their respective contracts. Lamb’s $7.5MM expiring deal, for instance, would be much more palatable for potential trade partners than Batum’s contract, which still has three years and $76.7MM left on it. Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist fall somewhere in the middle — they each have two years left on their deals and are earning between $13-15MM annually.
The Hornets likely won’t push to make a trade before the season starts, and if they do make a move, they’ll have to be wary of their luxury tax situation, as they only sit about $3.5MM below the tax threshold. Still they’ve shown a willingness to deal since Mitch Kupchak took over as head of basketball operations in the spring. Charlotte has made five trades since the 2017/18 season ended.
Despite rumors that Wade is set to return for another year, nothing has been confirmed yet. In fact, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reported this week (via Twitter) that retirement remains a “serious consideration” for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Still, if Wade does continue his playing career, it’ll be with the Heat, and rumblings that Haslem is leaning toward another year in South Beach may bode well for the possibility of Wade’s return. While the two veterans aren’t necessarily making their decisions together, there was a sense that if one of them retired, the other would be more likely to follow suit.
The Heat continue to hold roster spots for both players, and Pat Riley suggested last month that he expected clarity around mid-August. If the duo decides to keep playing, Haslem will almost certainly receive a minimum contract. Wade’s situation is a little more complicated, as he may seek some or all of Miami’s taxpayer mid-level exception, which could pay him up to $5.3MM instead of just $2.4MM.
Is Isaiah Briscoe penciled in as the Magic’s 15th man?
The Magic have 14 players on fully guaranteed contracts at the moment, and none of them seem likely to be waived before opening night. That leaves one spot open on the regular season roster, and Briscoe looks like the current frontrunner.
Briscoe, who played well overseas last season after going undrafted out of Kentucky in 2017, didn’t get a full guarantee from the Magic, but he did get a generous $500K partial guarantee on his first-year salary. His three-year contract is also structured as if Orlando hopes to keep him around for the next few seasons. Throw in the fact that D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant are the only other point guards on the NBA roster and Briscoe looks like a safe bet to break camp with the team.
Still, without that full guarantee, Briscoe isn’t a lock for the 15-man squad quite yet. A poor preseason could put his roster spot in jeopardy, particularly with Troy Caupain in the mix on a two-way contract as an insurance policy at the point guard spot. The Magic still have a couple openings on their 20-man offseason roster, so it will be interesting to see if they use either of those slots on a player that could push Briscoe for a place on the regular season roster.
Will the Wizards sign Kelly Oubre Jr. to a rookie scale extension?
Oubre enjoyed his best NBA season in 2017/18, establishing new career highs in PPG (11.8), RPG (4.5), 3PT% (.341), and many other categories. However, his production was somewhat up and down, and he struggled to make an impact in the postseason, when he shot just .375/.211/.889.
Entering his fourth year, Oubre is now eligible for a rookie scale extension, and he and the Wizards will have until October 15 to work out a new deal that would go into effect in 2019/20. If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, the 22-year-old would be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.
If they expect Oubre to take another big step forward this season, the Wizards would be wise to see if they can lock him up now at a team-friendly rate. However, with big-money multiyear contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter already on the books, the club may be reluctant to invest heavily in another contributor whose skill set overlaps with that of its highest-paid players.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Mathiang, 25, signed a two-way contract with the Hornets a little over one year ago today. He played in four games during the 2017/18 season, averaging 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 5.0 minutes per contest.
The 6’10” center also appeared in 43 games (36 starts) for Charlotte’s G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, where he averaged 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists in 25.3 minutes per game.
After waiving Mathiang, the Hornets now have an open two-way spot on their roster, with rookie guard J.P. Macura holding down the other two-way contract for Charlotte.
The NBA salary cap is somewhat malleable, with various exceptions allowing every team to surpass the $101.869MM threshold once that room is used up. In some cases, teams blow past not only the cap limit, but the luxury-tax limit as well, with clubs like the Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Raptors, and Wizards going well beyond that tax line this year.
The NBA doesn’t have a “hard cap” by default, which allows those clubs to build significant payrolls without violating CBA rules. However, there are certain scenarios in which teams can be hard-capped.
When a club uses the bi-annual exception, acquires a player via sign-and-trade, or uses more than the taxpayer portion ($5.337MM) of the mid-level exception, that club will face a hard cap for the remainder of the league year.
When a team becomes hard-capped, it cannot exceed the “tax apron” at any point during the rest of the league year. The tax apron is set at a point approximately $6MM above the luxury tax line. For the 2018/19 league year, the tax apron – and hard cap for certain clubs – is set at $129.817MM.
So far this year, eight teams have imposed a hard cap on themselves by using the bi-annual exception, using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquiring a player via sign-and-trade. Listed below are those eight teams, along with how they created a hard cap.
- Used approximately $5.75MM of mid-level exception to sign Glenn Robinson, Khyri Thomas, and Bruce Brown.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Kyle Anderson.
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Brook Lopez.
New Orleans Pelicans
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Julius Randle.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Elfrid Payton.
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
- Used approximately $6.15MM of mid-level exception to sign Marco Belinelli.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Dante Cunningham.
Currently, none of the hard-capped teams listed above have team salaries within $5MM of the tax apron, so that hard cap shouldn’t be a real issue for most of these clubs during the 2018/19 league year. However, that could change if any of these teams – particularly the Hornets or Pistons – makes additional free agent signings or takes on extra money in a trade at some point.
Last month’s signing of Kyle Anderson will enable Mike Conley to adopt a different role for the Grizzlies this season, according to Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. A point guard throughout his 11-year career, Conley will be used off the ball more frequently and will be counted on to provide more scoring.
Conley said he talked to former Memphis coach David Fizdale about such a move two years ago. However, any progress was short circuited last year when an injury ended Conley’s season after 12 games and Fizdale was fired in November.
“When Kyle and anybody else on the ball make plays, I don’t have to make plays for myself,” Conley said. “I’m excited about that and I think it bodes well for my season and our team.”
Conley also addressed questions about his injured heel that required season-ended surgery, saying he’s feeling “on track” and expects to be at full strength when the new season starts in October.
There’s more today from the Southwest Division:
- R.J. Hunter has become a Summer League regular after the Celtics made him a first-round pick in 2015, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Hunter, who has a two-way contract with the Rockets, played for Houston’s entry this year in his fourth consecutive Summer League. He has appeared in just eight NBA games since the Celtics waived him in 2016, but said his time with the Rockets has been a valuable learning experience. “Whenever I’m on the bench, just see what they need on the court,” Hunter said. “I think it’s more of a thinking game. Houston’s old. A lot of their players are vets, so they’ve been teaching me how to think the game and be patient.”
- Tony Parker, who signed with the Hornets after 17 years with the Spurs, reflects on his time in San Antonio in a letter on The Players’ Tribune. Parker talks about his embarrassing audition with the team, the transition to Dejounte Murray as the starting point guard and the meaning of “Spurs culture.”
- After losing Doug McDermott in free agency, the Mavericks hope they have found a replacement in sharpshooter Ryan Broekhoff. The Dallas Morning News takes a closer look at the Australian star, noting that Matthew Dellavedova lobbied the Bucks to sign him.
Within the last month and a half, several of the most sizable traded player exceptions from around the NBA have expired. The Clippers‘ $7MM+ exception from last year’s Chris Paul deal expired in June, a pair of big Raptors TPEs went unused a couple weeks later, and the Trail Blazers saw their $13MM exception from last summer’s Allen Crabbe trade expire late in July.
None of these developments were particularly surprising. Traded player exceptions, even bigger ones, often go unused. That’s especially true for teams like Toronto and Portland, whose team salaries are over the tax line. For those clubs, taking on a salary using a traded player exception would cost exponentially more due to tax penalties.
Still, those bigger trade exceptions can occasionally come in handy and are worth keeping an eye on. For instance, the Cavaliers have a $5.8MM trade exception created in last August’s Kyrie Irving deal that would have expired if it hadn’t been used within the next few weeks. The Cavs are taking advantage of it by using it to finalize the acquisition of Sam Dekker without sending out any salary in return.
That Cleveland traded player exception had been the seventh-most valuable TPE around the NBA. Here are the top five, all of which could be used to acquire a player earning at least $7MM in 2018/19:
- Denver Nuggets: $13,764,045 (Expires 7/15/2019)
- Denver Nuggets: $12,800,562 (Expires 7/8/2019)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $10,883,189 (Expires 7/25/2019)
- Charlotte Hornets: $7,819,725 (Expires 7/6/2019)
- Detroit Pistons: $7,000,000 (Expires 1/29/2019)
LeBron James seriously considered joining the Sixers and Rockets before signing with the Lakers. In an extensive interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that was relayed by Dave McMenamin, James addressed a variety of topics, including which teams he considered during free agency.
“I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid or lining up aside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul],” he told Nichols.
The Sixers had the salary-cap space to sign James but the Rockets would have likely required a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers to acquire his services. James also insisted he doesn’t see next season as a rebuilding year for the Lakers.
“We have an opportunity to do something that a lot of people don’t think we can do, and we love the notion of it’s another rebuilding year and we don’t have enough. So that will motivate the guys that we have anyways.”
We have more from the Western Conference:
- The Rockets are actively seeking a defensive-minded player on the trade market and are willing to take on a long-term contract, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN in comments relayed by digital journalist Ben DuBose. Houston would presumably move forward Ryan Anderson, who has two years and $41.7MM left on his deal. The Hornets’ Nicolas Batum would be a logical target, as Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype notes. Batum has three years and $76.7MM remaining on his contract, which includes a player option in the final year.
- The Jazz have hired Fotis Katsikaris as an assistant to Quin Snyder, the team announced in a press release. Katsikaris becomes the first-ever native Greek NBA assistant coach. He was a head coach in Spain last season and served as head coach of the Greek national team from 2014-16.
- The Warriors are unlikely to pick up center Damian Jones‘ fourth-year option, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State must make a decision on the $2.3MM option prior to the start of the season. If it’s declined, Jones will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
- Former Hornets lottery pick Frank Kaminsky is entering a vital season for his financial future, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in a mailbag column. Kaminsky will be a restricted free agent next summer if he can’t work out an extension with Charlotte before the start of the upcoming season. The Hornets gave deals to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller before they could test the free agent waters, but Bonnell isn’t convinced that Kaminsky has the same value.
- If the Hornets are looking to unload players at next year’s trade deadline, Jeremy Lamb will be a prime candidate to go, Bonnell writes in the same piece. Lamb has an expiring contract and Charlotte has a lot of wing players on its roster.
JULY 27: The Hornets have officially signed Chealey, the team announced today in a press release.
JULY 26: The Hornets have agreed to a deal with undrafted guard Joe Chealey, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets.
The terms of Chealey’s deal weren’t specified, but it figures to be a training camp contract with little to no guaranteed money. The Hornets have an open spot on their 15-man roster but both of their two-way contract slots are filled. Center Mangok Mathiang, and shooting guard J.P. Macura hold the two-way slots.
Chealey played for the Hornets’ Summer League team.
The 6’4” Chealey, 22, played all four college seasons at the College of Charleston. He averaged 18.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.6 APG as a senior and led them to the NCAA Tournament. He scored 32 points in an overtime win in the Colonial Athletic Association championship against Northeastern but was held to two points by Auburn in the NCAAs.