- Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago previews what Adam Mokoka could bring to the Bulls this season, with the 21-year-old currently on a two-way contract. Mokoka averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in summer league with Chicago, playing in a total of five games.
With NBA training camps right around the corner, several more teams filled their 20-man offseason rosters this week. The Hornets did so on Monday, with the Mavericks, Pistons, Raptors, and Hawks following suit over the next few days. Those clubs join a list of 16 total teams that don’t have any openings on their offseason rosters.
Of course, every NBA team with a full 20-man roster is carrying multiple players who have non-guaranteed contracts, so it’s not as if any of them would be hamstrung if they really want to sign another player. But for now at least, it appears as if those 16 teams have their 20-man squads set for when camps get underway at the end of the month.
That leaves 14 clubs that still have open roster spots, as our tracker shows. Here’s a breakdown of those teams, along with my speculation on whether we can expect them to make moves within the next week or two:
19 players under contract:
- Golden State Warriors
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Sacramento Kings
- Washington Wizards
None of these teams are carrying 15 players on fully guaranteed contracts, so it’s possible they’ll still add a veteran player who could earn a regular season roster spot. But it’s more likely that they’ll each sign another young player who could end up in the G League, since all four teams have their own NBAGL affiliates. The Wizards, who need to add some point guard depth, are said to be eyeing Chris Chiozza for their final spot.
18 players under contract:
- Boston Celtics
- Denver Nuggets
- Houston Rockets
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Orlando Magic
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
While it’s not official yet, the Celtics essentially have a full roster. Kaiser Gates and Yante Maten have both reportedly agreed to Exhibit 10 contracts with the Celtics, but have yet to finalize them. Once they’re under contract, Boston’s 20-man roster will be full.
The Magic could also have a full 20-man roster if and when they complete their reported agreement with Isaac Humphries and sign first-round pick Chuma Okeke. The Pelicans, meanwhile, reportedly reached deals with undrafted rookies Jalen Adams, Javon Bess, and Aubrey Dawkins, but there’s only room for two of them on the roster, so unless New Orleans plans to waive a player, the team won’t be signing all three.
The Rockets are signing Thabo Sefolosha and would have room for one more camp invitee, while I’d expect the Suns to invite two more young players to camp with them.
The Nuggets and Trail Blazers don’t have their own G League affiliates, so they may not fill out their rosters unless they just need healthy bodies for camp.
17 players under contract:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls
- Oklahoma City Thunder
All three of these teams have their own G League affiliates and should fill out their camp rosters with young players who can play for the Long Island Nets, Windy City Bulls, or OKC Blue. Of course, rumors continue to swirl that the Nets are eyeing Carmelo Anthony, but I wouldn’t expect the Bulls or Thunder to be seeking any veteran help.
It figures to be an Exhibit 10 contract, as the hard-capped Heat have a pair of open spots on their camp roster.
Miami’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, acquired Mulder from the Windy City Bulls in exchange for the rights to Charles Cooke and the South Bay Lakers’ first-round draft pick earlier in the day. Cooke has committed to play in Italy this season, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets.
Mulder appeared in 47 games with the Windy City Bulls last season and averaged 13.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.6 APG in 32.9 MPG. Mulder shot 41.2% from three-point range. He also played regularly for the Bulls’ G League affiliate the previous season.
Mulder went undrafted in 2017 after playing two seasons at Kentucky. He worked out for the Timberwolves in June.
SEPTEMBER 15: The signing is official, according to the Real GM Transactions Log.
SEPTEMBER 12: Undrafted rookie free agent Justin Simon will sign an Exhibit 10 contract with the Bulls today, league sources tell Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Once it’s official, the signing will increase Chicago’s roster count to 17 players.
Simon, who declared for the 2019 draft as an early entrant following his junior year at St. John’s, averaged 10.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 3.2 APG in 34 games (32.9 MPG) last season. The 6’5″ shooting guard struggled from beyond the arc, making just 28.9% of his attempts, but provided plenty of value on the other end of the court, earning Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors.
After going undrafted in June, Simon joined the Bulls for Summer League play and impressed the team in Las Vegas by averaging 6.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG with a .516 FG% in five games (21.0 MPG). He worked out for the Heat last month, but will head to training camp with Chicago.
With 14 players on guaranteed contracts and Shaquille Harrison also expected to make the regular season roster, the Bulls project to have a full 15-man squad. According to Zagoria, Simon will likely end up with the team’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls.
Bulls second-year center Wendell Carter will be the foundation of the team’s defense, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Carter will do most of the dirty work, along with being used as an offensive facilitator. The Bulls will rely on him for shot-blocking as well as to mask some of his teammates’ defensive shortcomings, Strotman adds.
SEPTEMBER 7, 11:32am: The Bulls are set to release guard Antonio Blakeney, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania (via Twitter), the two sides reached an agreement on a buyout.
After Chicago re-signed Shaquille Harrison earlier this offseason, there was an expectation that Blakeney would be released, notes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Unlike Blakeney, Harrison doesn’t yet have a fully guaranteed contract, but it sounds like he’s being penciled in as the team’s 15th man.
Blakeney, 22, has suited up for the Bulls the past two seasons. In a career high 57 games last season, the New York native averaged 7.3 PPG while shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc.
By cutting the LSU product, the Bulls have brought the total of fully guaranteed contracts on the roster to 14, with Harrison and his partial guarantee also in the mix.
The Bulls believe they pulled off a steal by landing Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade with the Wizards, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago gave up a pair of second-round picks for the fourth-year combo guard after reaching a three-year, $30MM agreement with him in free agency. Satoransky was a restricted free agent, but his price tag was too high for Washington to match in the face of salary cap concerns.
Satoranksy averaged 8.9 points and 5.0 assists in 80 games last season and took over as the Wizards’ starting point guard after an injury sidelined John Wall midway through the season. But Bulls coach Jim Boylen said the intangibles that Santoransky brings are just as important.
“In my conversation with (vice president of basketball operations John Paxson) and (general manager Gar Forman), it was about what kind of character we can bring in that can still play, that can help us win because what we’ve needed is durability and availability. We haven’t had that,” Boylen said. “In looking out over the free agents and the guys we felt we could get, just looking at where Washington was and what they were trying to do, having some (cap) issues, he was the guy we targeted for all those characteristics I believe in.’’
There’s more from Chicago:
- The Bulls had a strong advocate for Satoransky in former teammate Otto Porter Jr., Crowley adds. Porter, who was acquired from Washington in a February trade, was also deemed expandable because the Wizards were looking to trim salary. “Otto loved him, and ‘Sato’ loved Otto,’’ Boylen said. “Otto is a big part of this team. His trade is not talked about enough. We were 7-5 in February because, first of all, we got rid of (Jabari Parker), and we added a guy who brings synergy and chemistry. Otto has that synergy and chemistry with ‘Sato.’’’
- The impending release of Antonio Blakeney is good news for Shaquille Harrison, who is now ticketed for the 15th roster spot, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Harrison is entering his second season with the Bulls after putting together a 6.5/3.0/1.9 line in 73 games last year. He is scheduled to make $1,620,564 this season, but carries just a $175K guarantee until January 10, when all NBA contracts become fully guaranteed.
- Once Blakeney hits waivers, he’ll be eligible to be claimed by any team except for the Warriors and Heat, who are both have hard cap restrictions, according to Marks (Twitter link). If he is claimed, Blakeney’s contract will carry a $1.6MM cap hit.
- Bulls swingman Chandler Hutchison suffered a left hamstring strain while working out this week, according to a post on the team’s website. While the injury doesn’t appear serious, it’s a reminder of the team’s lack of depth along the wings, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Hutchison is slated as a backup to Otto Porter at small forward while Antonio Blakeney and Denzel Valentine, who was injured all of last season, are the top options behind shooting guard Zach LaVine.
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, many 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 a key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2019/20 regular season begins.
Will the Bulls make a trade to clear their point guard logjam?
The Bulls didn’t waste any time this offseason addressing the point guard position, their biggest need heading into the summer. They used their lottery pick to draft Coby White, then completed a sign-and-trade deal for Tomas Satoransky early in free agency.
It would be logical for Satoransky and White to play most of the point guard minutes for the team in 2019/20, but there are multiple other players who may also enter the mix. The club signaled its fondness for Ryan Arcidiacono with a new three-year contract that will pay him annual salaries of $3MM. Chicago still has former top-five pick Kris Dunn under contract as well. And Shaquille Harrison was re-signed too, albeit on a partially guaranteed deal that doesn’t assure him of a roster spot.
White will certainly be a part of the Bulls’ future, and multiyear guarantees for Satoransky and Arcidiacono indicate they’re very much in the team’s plans too. Dunn is the most likely trade candidate on the roster, as has been the case all offseason — after not moving him in June or July, perhaps Chicago can find a taker this fall.
Will all of the Cavs’ veterans on expiring contracts stick around?
For a rebuilding team, the Cavaliers sure have a lot of veteran players on their roster at the moment. It makes sense that guys like Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. will remain in Cleveland, since the team has invested long-term in those players. But how about all the vets on expiring contracts?
Currently, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, John Henson, and Matthew Dellavedova account for about $67MM of Cleveland’s 2019/20 team salary. All five players are entering contract years and it’s hard to imagine that more than one or two of them are part of the team’s future plans.
There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto those veterans into the season to see if their expiring deals come in handy via trade before the deadline, but the rebuilding Cavs might not want to enter the season with so many veterans vying for regular playing time. Many of those players on expiring contracts will become buyout candidates eventually, if they’re not already.
Will Andre Drummond sign a contract extension?
Drummond himself provided a strong hint on his answer to this question this week, suggesting that he’s “excited” for the opportunity to hit free agency next summer, when he can turn down his 2020/21 player option and reach the open market.
The veteran center later clarified that he’s not anxious to leave the Pistons. However, he did say that he’s looking forward to going through the process of being an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
Given those comments, it’s unlikely that Drummond signs a long-term extension this fall even if Detroit puts an offer on the table. Still, it’s worth noting that the Pistons could theoretically give the big man $145MM+ over four years on a new deal. Even if he’s excited about free agency, that’s the sort of offer that could give him pause.
What does Victor Oladipo‘s recovery timetable look like?
Oladipo’s 2018/19 season came to an early end when he suffered a ruptured quad tendon, and it looks like the injury will probably delay the start of his 2019/20 season too.
Oladipo and the Pacers have both been cagey about offering a specific recovery timetable, with the star guard not offering many details on his rehab process. The last concrete hint came in June when president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said he hoped Oladipo would be back in Indiana’s lineup by December or January.
Indiana has enough talent to make the playoffs without a full season from Oladipo, and the team will be patient with its leading scorer. But if the Pacers want to make a run at a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage in round one of the postseason, it’d be great news if Oladipo can return to the court this fall.
Will Dragan Bender fill the Bucks’ 15th roster spot?
The Bucks currently have 14 players on guaranteed salaries, with Bender in position to claim the team’s 15th and final regular season spot. Still, his contract is only partially guaranteed for $300K, giving Milwaukee the flexibility to change course before opening night.
Bender’s salary guarantee won’t increase unless he makes the team’s regular season roster, so if the Bucks suffer injuries in camp or determine that they’d rather carry another point guard or wing, he’d almost certainly be the odd man out.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Only a small handful of two-way players from 2018/19 had their contracts carried over to the 2019/20 season. A couple more of last year’s two-way players have signed new two-way deals. For the most part though, NBA teams have filled their two-way contract slots for the coming season with new faces, including several rookies who went undrafted in 2019.
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At the moment, 44 of 60 league-wide two-way contract slots are occupied. A 45th appears set to be filled if and when the Knicks finalize their reported agreement with Kris Wilkes. That leaves just 15 two-way deals available across the NBA as training camps approach.
Some clubs may not fill these slots before camps get underway, preferring to sign players to non-guaranteed NBA contracts and then convert those deals to two-way pacts later, depending on how players perform in camp and in the preseason. By the time the 2019/20 regular season begins though, I don’t expect many two-way slots to still be open.
With the help of our two-way contract tracker, which lists all the players currently on two-way deals, here are the teams who can still offer two-way contracts without waiving anyone:
Two open slots:
- Houston Rockets
- Miami Heat
- Toronto Raptors
One open slot:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Charlotte Hornets
- Chicago Bulls
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Denver Nuggets
- New York Knicks
- Note: The Knicks only have a slot available if their reported deal with Wilkes isn’t finalized.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Washington Wizards