D.J. Wilson

Central Notes: Cavs, Boylan, Bulls, Bucks

As if there wasn’t enough drama in Cleveland already this season, the Cavaliers are now the subject of another unusual story. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays, former Cavs assistant Jim Boylan has sued the team, along with owner Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman, for age discrimination.

Boylan’s lawsuit claims that Tyronn Lue left Boylan a voicemail informing him that Altman and the Cavaliers wouldn’t be picking up his option for 2018/19 since they wanted to “go younger.” Boylan subsequently had a conversation with Altman during which the GM confirmed that the Cavs wanted a younger coach, suggesting that the decision to move on from Boylan had nothing to do with his performance, per the suit.

The Cavaliers responded to the lawsuit today, calling it “frivolous” and referring to it as a “shameless cash grab.” Pointing out that Boylan simply had an option declined and wasn’t fired, the Cavs’ statement accused the assistant coach’s lawyers of attempting to shame the franchise into a settlement by releasing Lue’s voicemail.

As we wait to see what tomorrow brings in Cleveland, let’s round up a few more Central notes…

Bucks Exercise 2019/20 Options On Maker, Wilson

The Bucks have picked up the 2019/20 rookie scale options for former first-round picks Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson, according to Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter). Velazquez suggests that the Bucks “love” both players and consider them important parts of the club’s present and future.

Maker, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, had a promising rookie season, but didn’t take a noticeable step forward in 2017/18 and has seen inconsistent minutes so far this season. Still, the 21-year-old big man has plenty of upside and his fourth-year option isn’t expensive, with a cap hit of $3,569,643, making the decision a fairly easy one for the Bucks.

The decision to pick up Wilson’s $2,961,120 third-year option is a little more surprising. The second-year forward played just 71 total minutes in his rookie season and hasn’t seen any action so far this season.

Wilson, the 17th pick in the 2017 draft, has been slowed by a hamstring issue this year, but it’s not clear if he’ll be part of the rotation even when he gets healthy, as there were rumblings during the preseason that he wasn’t even a lock for the regular season roster. However, the Bucks are apparently still high enough on him to guarantee his 2019/20 salary.

NBA teams must make their final decisions on rookie scale options for 2019/20 by Wednesday.

Several Teams Must Make Moves Before Monday’s Roster Deadline

Saturday was a busy day in terms of NBA transactions, with most of the league’s 30 clubs making cuts and getting their rosters down to the regular season limit. As we explained over the weekend, players on non-guaranteed contracts must clear waivers before the first day of the regular season in order to avoid counting at all against a team’s salary cap, which is why most of those players were released on Saturday instead of today.

However, not every team now has a roster in compliance with NBA rules. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, the Clippers, Suns, Bucks, Pistons, and Spurs still need to make roster moves by 4:00pm CT today in order to get down to the regular season limit. Teams are permitted to carry no more than 15 players on standard contracts and two more on two-way deals entering the season.

Here’s a quick look at the decisions facing those five teams:

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers need to trim their roster from 17 standard contracts to 15. Normally, the guys on non-guaranteed contracts would be the most obvious candidates to be cut, but I’d be surprised if the team parts ways with Patrick Beverley or Tyrone Wallace.

Instead, players on guaranteed salaries like Jawun Evans, Wesley Johnson, and Sindarius Thornwell could be in trouble if the Clips can’t find any trades they like.

Phoenix Suns

Like the Clippers, the Suns have 17 players on standard contracts, with multiple vets on non-guaranteed deals whom they’d like to keep. If Phoenix keeps all 14 players with guaranteed salaries, that would leave just one spot for Richaun Holmes, Shaquille Harrison, and Isaiah Canaan.

Of the players with guarantees, Darrell Arthur is the most obvious release candidate, but if the club keeps him before getting an answer from the league on its disabled player exception request, it won’t be eligible for that DPE.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Suns will be granted that disabled player exception anyway. Marks wrote on Saturday that multiple team executives were “dumbfounded” by what season-ending injury Arthur could have suffered since being acquired by Phoenix in July. While the big man has been bothered by recurring knee injuries in recent years, the team hasn’t announced any new ailments or listed him on its injury report.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have 16 players on standard contracts, meaning one player will need to be traded or released today. Christian Wood, who has one of the team’s two non-guaranteed contracts, appears likely to make the team. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the other player on a non-guaranteed deal – Tim Frazier – will be waived though.

The decision may come down to Frazier vs. former first-round pick D.J. Wilson. Although Wilson has a guaranteed salary for 2018/19, his roster spot is “far from secure,” per Keith Smith of RealGM.com (Twitter link).

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have 15 players on guaranteed contracts and two on two-way deals, leaving no clear openings for the club’s final non-guaranteed player, Zach Lofton. The undrafted free agent has impressed Detroit this fall though, so we’ll see if the club can find room for him, perhaps by having him supplant one of the current two-way players (Reggie Hearn and Keenan Evans).

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs‘ final move is a mere formality. Manu Ginobili, who announced his retirement this summer, technically remains on the roster, but he should be quietly waived today. Once that happens, San Antonio will have 15 players on standard contracts – including partially guaranteed veteran Quincy Pondexter – and one on a two-way deal.

Note: The Bulls and Rockets also still need to officially convert players on Exhibit 10 contracts to two-way deals. Chicago will reportedly do so with Tyler Ulis, while Houston will do so with Gary Clark and Vince Edwards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Five Rookie Scale Options That May Not Be Exercised

Team and player options on veteran contracts must be exercised by the end of June before the new league year begins on July 1, but the same rules don’t apply to team options in rookie scale contracts. First-round picks who signed standard rookie contracts have third- and fourth-year options included in their deals, and those options must be exercised – or declined – seven months early.

The deadline for rookie scale option decisions is October 31, which means that teams have about another month to decide whether to pick up those options for the 2019/20 season.

It’s an unusual structure, one that forces teams to make decisions before seeing how their players will perform on the court that season. Last fall, for instance, the Magic turned down their fourth-year option on Mario Hezonja for 2018/19. Hezonja subsequently enjoyed his best season as a pro, and instead of entering the final year of his rookie contract with Orlando, he was able to hit the open market and secure a larger salary with the Knicks.

Cases like Hezonja’s are rare, however. For the most part, teams will exercise their rookie scale options, particularly third-year options. Third-year options are generally pretty affordable, and decisions are due after a player has been in the NBA for just one season, so clubs are reluctant to give up on their first-round picks that early.

Still, while many of this year’s rookie scale option decisions will be no-brainers, there are at least a small handful of players who aren’t locks to have their options picked up. Here’s a look at five players who fall into that category:

  1. D.J. Wilson, Bucks (third year, $2,961,120): Wilson had some good games in the G League last season, but his overall NBAGL numbers were just okay for a first-round pick, and he only played 72 minutes in 22 NBA games. As noted above, teams often don’t give up this early on first-round picks, and Wilson’s cap charge is affordable enough that it’s probably worth securing him for at least one more year. This isn’t a slam-dunk though.
  2. Malachi Richardson, Raptors (fourth year, $2,581,597): When the Raptors sent Bruno Caboclo to Sacramento in exchange for Richardson at last season’s trade deadline, it reduced their 2017/18 payroll and increased their flexibility to make a move on the buyout market. But it also meant taking on Richardson’s guarantee for 2018/19, while Caboclo’s contract expired. Richardson seems unlikely to have any sort of role this season on a deep, talented Toronto team, and with the club at risk of being in the tax again in 2019/20, I don’t expect the Raps to lock in Richardson for another year.
  3. Guerschon Yabusele (third year, $3,117,240): While the “Dancing Bear” has no shortage of fans in Boston, it’s hard to see how he’ll earn playing time in a frontcourt that features Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis, and first-rounder Robert Williams — especially if Jayson Tatum and/or Gordon Hayward see significant minutes at the four. Yabusele has promise, but with the Celtics now in the tax, it might make sense to use his roster spot on a minimum-salary player starting in 2019/20.
  4. Malik Beasley, Nuggets (fourth year, $2,731,714): Denver’s lack of reliable backcourt depth bodes well for Beasley, who could parlay a solid Summer League showing into a regular backup role at shooting guard. The Nuggets don’t have serious tax concerns for 2019/20, so exercising Beasley’s modestly-priced option wouldn’t be a major risk. Still, it would be an easier decision if he’d shown more improvement in his sophomore season. Instead, he posted just 3.2 PPG on 41.0% shooting in 62 games in 2017/18.
  5. Justin Patton, Timberwolves (third year, $3,117,240): After missing nearly all of his rookie season due to foot problems, Patton has undergone another foot procedure this month, raising some doubts about his availability for the 2018/19 season. Nonetheless, I expect the Timberwolves will want to give Patton another chance to get healthy before cutting their losses on him, particularly since he may soon be the lone piece remaining from last summer’s trade with the Bulls.

For a full breakdown of this year’s decisions on 2019/20 rookie scale options, click here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Rumors: LeBron, Bucks, Stephenson, Pistons

LeBron James‘ player-option decision is due this Friday, and he’s “widely expected” to turn down that option, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. According to Vardon, James is close to making a decision and the Cavaliers are “generally aware of his thinking.”

If James does opt out, it would significantly hamstring the ability of several over-the-cap suitors to make a serious run at him. If LeBron reaches free agency, teams with cap room like the Lakers and Sixers would be his most viable landing spots, along with the Cavaliers.

For what it’s worth, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com has heard within the last week from two members of the 2017/18 Cavaliers – a player and a team official – that they believe the Cavs have the best chance of any team to sign James. Within his article, McMenamin explains why a return to Cleveland could make some sense for the future Hall-of-Famer.

Here’s more from around the Central division:

  • Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times hears from NBA sources and officials that Eric Bledsoe, Matthew Dellavedova, and D.J. Wilson are among the players the Bucks have been willing to discuss in trades this summer.
  • After declining Lance Stephenson‘s team option, the Pacers could still bring him back later in free agency. However, league sources tell Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link) not to rule out the Bulls as a potential suitor for Stephenson.
  • The Pistons lack the cap space to be a major player in free agency, but the team could be in the mix for certain affordable targets. As Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes, Dwane Casey‘s presence and the Pistons’ roster stability could be selling points as the club recruits free agents.
  • Frank Urbina of HoopsHype.com identifies a few potential landing spots for Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood, suggesting the Heat, Pacers, and Bulls could be decent fits for the restricted free agent.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/11/18

Here are Sunday’s G League moves from around the NBA:

  • The Bucks recalled rookie forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd, according to the Bucks’ Twitter feed. Wilson scored 19 points for the Herd against the Westchester Knicks Saturday night. He’s appeared in 10 G League games, averaging 15.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG. Wilson, the 17th overall pick last June out of Michigan, has played in 20 games for the Bucks but is only averaging 3.4 MPG.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/4/18

Here are Sunday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Spurs have assigned guard Derrick White to their G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, the team announced today in a press release. White has averaged 2.5 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 16 games with San Antonio this season.
  • The Bucks recalled rookie power forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd, the team announced on its Twitter feed. The first-round pick is averaging 14.9 PPG and 5.2 RPG in nine G League games.
  • The Wizards have assigned third-year forward Chris McCullough to the G League, according to the team. Washington doesn’t have a G League team of its own, so McCullough will join Phoenix’s affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns. He has appeared in 12 games with Northern Arizona this season.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/10/18

Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.

10:26pm: 

  • The Warriors recalled Patrick McCaw from their Santa Cruz affiliate, the team announced in an email. The second-year guard has played 49 NBA games this season and averages 3.7 points and 1.4 assists per night.

8:12pm:

  • The Thunder have assigned Terrance Ferguson and Dakari Johnson to OKC Blue, tweets Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The G League squad plays tonight, and both are expected to be recalled for Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies.
  • The Bucks recalled rookie power forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd, the team announced on its website. The first-round pick is averaging 14.9 PPG and 5.2 RPG in nine G League games.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/3/18

Here are Saturday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Pacers have assigned swingman Glenn Robinson III to their G League affiliate in Fort Wayne, the team announced on its website. He is on a rehab assignment after undergoing surgery on his left ankle in October. Robinson had a career-best season for the Pacers last year, averaging 6.1 points in 69 games. He has yet to play in the NBA this season, but did score 12 points for the Mad Ants on Thursday.
  • The Bucks assigned rookie power forward D.J. Wilson to their Wisconsin affiliate, according to the team website. He has appeared in 18 NBA games, but is averaging just 3.3 minutes per night.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/25/18

Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA: