Chicago Bulls

Bulls Likely To Waive Guard

Early indications are that the Bulls will release one of their guards to address the logjam at the point guard position, reports K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). As Johnson notes, making a move by March 1 (Wednesday) would allow that player to retain his playoff eligibility for another club.

While it’s not clear yet which player the Bulls will waive, Johnson tweets that Michael Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan are candidates. Both players are essentially on expiring contracts — Carter-Williams will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, while Canaan only has a small partial guarantee ($200K) on his salary for 2017/18.

Rajon Rondo is also on an expiring deal of sorts, as his $13.4MM salary for next season is only guaranteed for $3MM until June 30. However, GM Gar Forman has said Rondo will finish the season with the Bulls. As Johnson notes, Rondo is also a decent fit with the club’s second unit and his contract could be a trade chip around the time of the draft.

The Bulls were already fairly deep at point guard prior to the trade deadline, with Carter-Williams, Canaan, Rondo, and Jerian Grant among their options. Chicago added Cameron Payne to that mix last week in a trade with the Thunder, and given how much the team gave up to land Payne, he’ll likely be given an opportunity to play significant minutes down the stretch.

Rondo Embodies Team's Indecision

  • It’s not clear whether the Bulls will embrace a rebuild or continue to push to win now and the continued presence of Rajon Rondo in the lineup embodies the organization’s indirection, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes.

NBA Teams Below Salary Cap For 2016/17

At this point in the season, most teams aren’t going to do much with any leftover cap room. Teams are no longer able to make trades, and most free agents still on the market won’t demand more than the minimum.

Still, there’s reason to consider which teams remain below the cap after this week’s trade activity. With useful veteran players potentially hitting the free agent market as a result of contract buyouts, a team with some extra cap room might have a leg up on teams without any spending flexibility.

For instance, if the Rockets and Warriors were to pursue the same free agent – perhaps Andrew Bogut, if he’s bought out by the Sixers – Houston could offer a deal worth up to about $3.5MM with cap room, while Golden State would be limited to offering a prorated minimum salary worth closer to $400K. That’s a significant difference.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on teams that remain below the minimum salary floor, since those clubs could enter the bidding for a bought-out player or could claim a player off waivers. The Jazz, for instance, probably don’t need a big man like Bogut, but if they wanted him and he became available, Utah has enough cap room to claim his entire $11MM+ contract. That would keep him off the open market and allow the Jazz to surpass the salary floor.

Using our Salary Cap Snapshots, let’s take a closer look at the teams below the cap, starting with teams still below the salary floor:

Teams below the salary floor:

  1. Utah Jazz: $13.64MM below cap ($4.23MM below floor)
  2. Minnesota Timberwolves: $12.66MM below cap ($3.24MM below floor)
  3. Denver Nuggets: $11.56MM below cap ($2.15MM below floor)
  4. Brooklyn Nets: $10.21MM below cap ($793K below floor)

Less than a month ago, there were six teams below the salary floor. Since then, the Nets and Nuggets have taken major steps toward the floor, while the Suns and Sixers have gotten above it entirely. That leaves the Jazz and Timberwolves as the clubs furthest below the salary floor.

As we’ve noted in the past, there’s no real penalty if a team remains below the floor — the team simply has to make up the difference by paying their current players a little more money. However, the Jazz and Wolves figure to be mulling other opportunities to reach the floor. That could mean placing a waiver claim or – in Utah’s case – renegotiating a contract.

We haven’t heard any rumors lately about the Jazz discussing a new deal with an extension-eligible veteran like George Hill or Derrick Favors, so that seems like a long shot. But the team does have until the end of February to renegotiate and extend either player’s contract, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Teams below the cap, but above the floor:

  1. Phoenix Suns: $9.226MM below cap
  2. Philadelphia 76ers: $8.62MM below cap
  3. Indiana Pacers: $4.14MM below cap
  4. Boston Celtics: $1.11MM below cap

Although the Suns and Sixers have inched above the salary floor, they’re not necessarily out of the woods quite yet. Phoenix needs the contracts of Jared Sullinger and Mike Scott to pass through waivers unclaimed, while the Sixers will require the same for Bogut if they eventually cut him. If any of those deals are claimed, they’ll move to another team’s cap, pushing Phoenix or Philadelphia back below the floor.

Teams that could clear cap room by renouncing exceptions:

  1. Houston Rockets: $3.54MM below cap if TPEs are renounced (largest TPE: $3.33MM)
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder: $3.05MM below cap if lone TPE ($4.94MM) is renounced
  3. Milwaukee Bucks: $1.75MM below cap if TPEs are renounced (largest TPE: $5MM)
  4. Chicago Bulls: $1.59MM below cap if lone TPE ($5.46MM) is renounced

These teams are technically over the cap, but could go under if they chose to renounce their trade exceptions. In some cases, that might not make much sense. For instance, the Bucks and Bulls would have less than $2MM in cap room if they renounced their exceptions. Both teams have trade exceptions worth at least $5MM, so it probably makes sense to stay over the cap for now and see if those exceptions come in handy around the draft.

On the other hand, the amount of cap room the Rockets would have if they renounced their trade exceptions would be greater than the amount of their largest TPE, so it makes sense for Houston to dip below the cap, expunging those TPEs from their books. That would also allow the Rockets to use cap room to sign a free agent, something they couldn’t do using a trade exception.

The rest of the NBA’s 18 teams don’t currently have cap room. That includes the Lakers, whose moves this week took them over the cap by just $316K.

Bulls Notes: Valentine, Payne, Wade

The Bulls didn’t end up shipping off Jimmy Butler at the deadline, as had been rumored, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking about their future. General manager Gar Forman spoke with ESPN Chicago Friday about the organization heading forward. Forman noted that the trade the club did make (Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne), will free up more time for rookie Denzel Valentine.

In the same conversation Forman reveals that they tried to trade for Payne on draft night last June but were unable to. He mentions that they “absolutely loved” him coming out of the draft and think he’ll be a player for their future.

Later in the discussion, when the topic turned to Fred Hoiberg, Forman said that he foresees the head coach coming back to in 2017/18. For more insights about the Bulls, consider listening to the full 20-minute chat at ESPN.

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • Veteran guard Dwyane Wade doesn’t have a clear read on whether or not the Bulls’ front office would want him to pick up his player option this summer and return to the team for 2017/18. “I haven’t had that conversation about next season with the guys,” he told Nick Friedell of ESPN. “[…] I take my option seriously and I always look into what’s the best thing for me to do.” For now, Wade adds, he just wants to play basketball.
  • The Bulls will have a better idea of what shape their rebuild will take this offseason, writes Neil Johnson of ESPN Analytics (Insider). Johnson asks if the Bulls can truly rebuild around Jimmy Butler or whether,  by retaining him, they’re delaying the inevitable.
  • For what it’s worth, Jimmy Butler told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that he has faith in the Bulls’ front office and is exactly where he wants to be.
  • Newly acquired guard Anthony Morrow caused a bit of a stir when it was announced that he’d wear No. 1 with his new club. The veteran quickly changed course when Bulls fans protested at the thought of him wearing Derrick Rose‘s former number.

Celtics Rumors: Deadline Talks, Jones, Yabusele

Although the Celtics were frequently linked to Jimmy Butler and Paul George in the days and hours leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe hears that talks never got really “serious” with the Bulls, who didn’t seem overly motivated to trigger a rebuild by moving Butler. Meanwhile, appearing on CSNNE, Chris Mannix of The Vertical suggests that the Celtics probably weren’t close to getting George either, having drawn “a line in the sand that they weren’t going to cross.”

There were conflicting reports on whether the Celtics made one or both of their Nets picks available, but Mannix suggests that Danny Ainge was willing to discuss both the 2017 and 2018 selections, while sources tell Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that the C’s made those picks available “separately” in trade offers. However, according to Bulpett, in their discussions with the Bulls, the Celtics wanted protections on that 2017 pick.

Mannix adds that Boston was also reluctant to package multiple players like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown with its picks. As Lowe explains, Ainge and the Celtics weren’t able to find a package that left them feeling comfortable about both their present and its future, so they decided to hang onto their assets for now and revisit trade scenarios down the road.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • In Bulpett’s piece (linked above), The Herald reporter notes multiple times that the ability to be a major player for a max free agent this summer seemed to be a high priority for Ainge and the Celtics as they considered potential trades.
  • If Boston had the chance to acquire an impact player in a favorable deal at the deadline, the team certainly would have been willing to give up that chance at max space, but Bulpett says the team has projected a “seemingly odd confidence” about its opportunities this summer, given the inherent uncertainty in free agency and the draft. “The fact (Ainge) was so comfortable waiting for the draft and summer scares the (expletive) out of me,” one rival league executive told Bulpett.
  • In a piece for The Vertical, Chris Mannix makes a case for why it was perfectly fine for the Celtics to stand pat at the deadline, while A. Sherrod Blakely lays out a similar argument in an article for CSNNE.com.
  • Terrence Jones, who will be an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers, has some interest in the Celtics, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Ainge hinted during a radio appearance today that draft-and-stash prospect Guerschon Yabusele may join Boston’s D-League affiliate in Maine after the Chinese Basketball Association’s season ends.

Post-Deadline Housekeeping: New TPEs, Open Roster Spots

There were no superstars on the move on Thursday, but NBA teams made eight trades, and there were many more signings and cuts completed once the deadline passed. In the wake of the deadline, we’ll take a look at a few roster- and cap-related notes, rounding up the new traded player exceptions that teams created on Thursday, as well as examining which teams still have space available on their rosters.

Let’s dive in…

New trade exceptions:

Several over-the-cap teams acquired new trade exceptions on Thursday. They’ll all expire on February 23, 2018, a year after they were created, or until they’re used or renounced by the teams below. If a club wants to use cap room, it must renounce its trade exceptions, but until then, these TPEs can be used in the summer or next season to acquire players.

Here’s the breakdown, in order of TPE value:

  • Dallas Mavericks: $6,642,537
  • Chicago Bulls: $5,462,000
  • Milwaukee Bucks: $5,000,000
  • Atlanta Hawks: $3,333,334
  • Houston Rockets: $3,333,333
  • Dallas Mavericks: $1,514,160
  • Houston Rockets: $612,172
  • Toronto Raptors: $328,000
  • Houston Rockets: $233,880

Some notes related to these TPEs:

  • Multiple teams on this list, including the Rockets and Bucks, could open up cap room by renouncing their trade exceptions. In Houston’s case, this is particularly notable, since the club would create more than $3.5MM in cap space by renouncing these TPEs. That cap room could come in handy very soon if the Rockets are trying to entice a free agent to sign with them instead of another contender that can only offer the minimum.
  • As is always the case with TPEs, some of these exceptions will be more useful than others. The Mavericks could end up doing something interesting with their $6.6MM+ TPE, but the Raptors will almost certainly never use theirs for $328K.
  • The Thunder also came out of Thursday’s action with a new TPE — sort of. Oklahoma City had created a trade exception worth $7.4MM on November 1 when the team sent Ersan Ilyasova to Philadelphia. The Thunder used a portion of that exception at the deadline to absorb Doug McDermott‘s salary, leaving approximately $4.94MM left on it. OKC will have until November 1 to use the rest of that TPE.
  • For the complete list of trade exceptions across the NBA, click here.

Teams with open roster spots:

A day after the trade deadline, the list of teams with open roster spots is incredibly fluid. Some teams that acquired players in trades don’t have any use for those players, and will waive them. Other clubs will fill roster holes with D-League call-ups, while other teams will be a little more patient and wait out the buyout market.

All of this is to say that this list is up to date at the time of publication, but could change quickly as teams make more moves this weekend. Here are the teams that currently have at least one open spot on their 15-man roster, with their player count noted in parentheses:

  • Charlotte Hornets (13): The 10-day contracts for Ray McCallum and Mike Tobey expired overnight, so Charlotte has two open spots. The team reportedly plans to use one on Johnny O’Bryant.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (14): The Cavs have 13 guaranteed contracts, plus Derrick Williams‘ 10-day deal. The team expects to sign Deron Williams as well, so if any other roster additions are coming after that, Cleveland would need to clear a roster spot.
  • Dallas Mavericks (13): The Mavs have two openings after completing a two-for-one trade with the Sixers, then waiving Deron Williams.
  • Houston Rockets (14): The Rockets opened up a roster spot by trading K.J. McDaniels, and may waive Marcelo Huertas as well. Houston is expected to be active on the buyout market.
  • Milwaukee Bucks (14): The Bucks created a roster opening by sending Roy Hibbert to Denver, and they’re expected to fill it by signing Axel Toupane to a 10-day contract.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (14): Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Wolves have carried an open roster spot for a while, and that didn’t change at the deadline.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (14): The Thunder traded three players to Chicago and received just two in return, creating an opening. They have their eye on free agents and buyout candidates.
  • Orlando Magic (14): Like Minnesota, the Magic were carrying an open roster spot prior to the deadline and didn’t make a move on Thursday.

The Suns will join this list as soon as they officially waive Mike Scott and Jared Sullinger, as is expected. They’ll fill one of those two newly-open spots with Ronnie Price. There are also three teams that have full 15-man rosters with at least one player on a 10-day contract. The Hawks, Warriors, and Pelicans fall into this category, with Briante Weber‘s second 10-day deal in Golden State set to expire soon.

For a full breakdown of NBA roster counts, check out our list.

Thunder Notes: Perkins, 15th Man, Roberson

After completing a three-for-two trade with the Bulls on Thursday, the Thunder now have a roster spot open, and they’re expected to be active in the buyout market, reports ESPN’s Royce Young (Twitter link). Although Oklahoma City hasn’t been linked to notable released players or buyout candidates like Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, the team will certainly be looking for “impact players,” says Young (Twitter link).

As Young observes, if the Thunder don’t land a top target, Kendrick Perkins could be a Plan B for the team. The former OKC big man said last week that he’d love to return to the team, and GM Sam Presti didn’t rule out that scenario on Thursday, though he didn’t make any commitments either, per Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.

“Perk’s been here,” Presti said. “The door is always open to our former players, and so he’s part of the family. Him being here, I understand that, but I don’t want to speculate on who might be the 15th.”

Here’s more on the Thunder:

Bulls Notes: Rondo, Butler, Hoiberg, Gibson

The Bulls don’t plan to buy out Rajon Rondo, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. GM Gar Forman confirmed that tonight, telling reporters the organization would rather hold onto the veteran point guard and use his contract as a trade chip in the offseason. Rondo signed a two-year deal with Chicago in July, but only $3MM of his $13,397,000 salary for next season is guaranteed before June 30. Rondo’s time with the Bulls has been a disappointment, as he was benched briefly, then relegated to the second unit. Although he has been effective in that role, there’s no guarantee it will continue after today’s trade for Cameron Payne.

There’s more post-deadline news out of Chicago:

  • The Celtics were willing to include one of the Nets’ first-rounders in trade talks for Jimmy Butler, but sources tell Johnson that Boston wanted to place protections on it (Twitter link). The scope of those protections was not released.
  • Bulls executive John Paxson says the organization wouldn’t commit to rebuilding without “certainty” and never got close to that in any of the offers for Butler (Twitter link). He acknowledges that trade discussions with the Celtics will probably start again by June, and insists Chicago’s playoff fate won’t factor into the decision on Butler (Twitter link).
  • Paxson hasn’t wavered in his support for coach Fred Hoiberg, saying there has been growth in his second season behind the bench (Twitter link).
  • The deal that sent Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City was made to create more playing time for Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine (Twitter link). “When you’re trying to develop a team with young players, you need them to get on the floor,” Paxson said (Twitter link).
  • Gibson said he knew of eight teams that were trying to trade for him (Twitter link). “The hardest part was seeing people’s faces on the way out,” Gibson said in a radio interview. “It’s family.”
  • Gibson would consider coming back to Chicago “at the right price,” tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. He will be a free agent this summer after making $8.95MM this season. Gibson also indicated that he would consider being a coach with the Bulls when his playing days are finished (Twitter link).

Hawks Made ‘Aggressive’ Offers For George, Butler

8:40pm: Although the Hawks’ offers for George and Butler didn’t feature core players, one source tells Stein (Twitter link) that they included “more” than three first-round picks.

With extra picks on hand for 2018 and 2019, Atlanta theoretically could have offered a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 first-rounder, and two 2019 first-rounders, and still would’ve adhered to the Ted Stepien rule.

4:43pm: The Hawks weren’t necessarily considered likely to make a big splash today and ultimately didn’t do so, but according to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter), it wasn’t for lack of trying. Stein reports that the Hawks made “aggressive” draft-pick-centric trade offers for both Paul George and Jimmy Butler.

Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter link) reported shortly after the trade deadline passed that the Hawks had been working on multiple “big deals” that didn’t come together, and these wouldn’t certainly qualify. GM Wes Wilcox had mentioned in the days leading up to the deadline that Atlanta wouldn’t hesitate to use its collection of draft picks to seek out roster upgrades — the Hawks have extra first-round picks in 2018 (from Minnesota) and 2019 (from Cleveland).

Reports on the talks between the Celtics and Bulls suggested that Chicago had wanted to acquire rotation-ready players in any deal for Butler, so a package heavy on draft picks may not have appealed to the club. As for the Pacers, even though team ownership was receptive to trade offers, president Larry Bird was determined to “swat away all pitches,” per Stein.

The Pacers were also said to have turned down a “monster” offer from the Nuggets, though ESPN’s Zach Lowe notes that Denver was reluctant to include Jamal Murray in that package. The Nuggets would have brought in trade assets from a third team in that scenario, per Lowe.

Meanwhile, though Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical suggested this afternoon that the Celtics had been willing to include both Nets’ first-round picks in talks for George and Butler, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that Boston never formally made the 2017 pick available in Butler discussions. Even if the C’s had been willing to include one or both picks for either player, it’s not clear whether the team would have sought to add protection those selections.

Thunder Acquire Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson

6:44pm: The deal is official, according to press releases issued by both teams.

1:44 PM: The two teams are nearing a deal that will send Payne to Chicago and both McDermott and Gibson to OKC, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). The Bulls will receive Anthony Morrow and Lauvergne in addition to Payne, while the Thunder will receive a 2018 second-round pick. Roberson is not involved in the deal.

1:28 PM: The Thunder and Bulls continue to have trade discussions regarding Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (Twitter links). Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (Twitter links) hears that the two teams are closing in on a deal that will send McDermott to OKC in exchange for Andre Roberson and Cameron Payne.

Oklahoma City has been trying to figure out what a new deal for Roberson would look like in the offseason, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). Roberson will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and a trade could signal that OKC feels the price tag will be too high. A Roberson trade is not imminent, as Vincent Goodwill of Comcast Sportsnet (Twitter link) hears that the deal could simply be Payne for McDermott.

The Thunder are exploring a trade that would bring both McDermott and Gibson to the team, according to Stein. Earlier today, we learned that the Bulls have been seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Gibson for quite some time. Oklahoma City has already shipped out a pair of future first-round picks in previous deals, so the first selection the franchise can trade is its 2022 pick. If OKC is to acquire both players, Stein (Twitter link) hears that it would take Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and draft compensation for the Bulls to oblige.

Gibson will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Bulls lost Pau Gasol to free agency last season and the experience has “motivated” to get something for Gibson rather than going through the same scenario once again this summer, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes on Twitter.

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