Dante Exum

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Jazz Poised To Have Next Big 3?

The Jazz already have one of the better rosters in the Western Conference, but Jordan Hicks of Basketball Insiders believes that they’ll get even better if and when Dante Exum can become the team’s third star behind Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

Per Hicks, Exum has elite size and length for his position at a height of 6-foot-6 with a wingspan of 6-foot-9. He also has a quick first step, superior acceleration, and top-level speed. Unfortunately for Exum, he has also had a career riddled with injuries. He played in all 82 games his rookie season, but went on to tear his ACL playing for the Australian national team the summer before his second season, causing him to miss the entire year.

Exum’s last two seasons have been promising, but he really flashed his star potential at the end of last year — especially in 10 playoff games, in which he showed his development on the defensive end of the court by guarding 2017/18 MVP James Harden. While guarded by Exum, Harden shot 21.4% from the field with no threes and four turnovers.

On the offensive side of the floor, Exum’s athleticism allows him to be a legitimate threat driving to the rim. If he can improve his jump shot, he should become a nightmare to plan for. Add in the fact that he’s still only 23 years old, and his development may be key for the Jazz’s chances of becoming the NBA’s next super-team.

Contract Details: Curry, Evans, Exum, Favors

Since the July moratorium lifted on Friday, more and more official contract details are surfacing for completed deals. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders and Bleacher Report has been relaying many of those details on his Twitter feed as he updates his salary database at Basketball Insiders, so we’ll pass along several of his notes on 2018’s free agent and draft pick signings.

Via Pincus, here are some specifics on the deals completed within the last several days:

Free agent signings:

  • Seth Curry‘s agreement with the Trail Blazers was originally reported as a two-year contract with a second-year player option, but it appears to just be a one-year, $2.795MM deal (Twitter link).
  • The Pacers‘ deal with Tyreke Evans has a cap hit of $12.4MM, which includes $100K in likely incentives (Twitter link).
  • Dante Exum can technically only earn the full $33MM on his three-year deal with the Jazz if he maxes out his incentives. The base value of the deal is $9.6MM per year, but it can drop to $9.1MM annually or increase to $11MM depending on his bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Derrick Favors can earn up to $18.8MM per year in his deal with the Jazz, or as little as $16MM annually (Twitter link). The cap hit for now is $16.9MM per year, with a July 6 guarantee date for year two.
  • Raul Neto‘s pact with the Jazz also includes modest incentives — he has an annual cap charge of $2.15MM, which can increase or decrease by $50K depending on his bonuses (Twitter link). Neto’s second year has a July 6 guarantee date.
  • Isaiah Briscoe‘s agreement with the Magic is a three-year, minimum-salary contract with a $500K guarantee in year one (Twitter link). It uses part of Orlando’s mid-level exception.

Draft pick signings:

  • The Suns signed No. 31 pick Elie Okobo to a deal that starts at $1.2MM, then is worth the minimum for the next three years (Twitter link). Two seasons are guaranteed, with a non-guaranteed third year and a fourth-year team option.
  • Devonte’ Graham‘s three-year deal with the Hornets is worth approximately $4.07MM (Twitter link). The first two years are guaranteed for the 34th overall pick, who was signed using part of Charlotte’s mid-level exception.
  • The Magic‘s three-year contract with No. 35 pick Melvin Frazier starts at $1.05MM and is guaranteed for two years, with a third-year team option (Twitter link). It also uses part of Orlando’s mid-level exception.
  • Gary Trent Jr., the 37th overall pick in the draft, got a fully guaranteed three-year deal from the Trail Blazers (Twitter link). Although all three years are worth the minimum salary, Portland had to use part of its mid-level exception to go more than two years for Trent.
  • The Lakers‘ deal with No. 39 pick Isaac Bonga starts at $1MM and includes two guaranteed seasons (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

The Jazz have been relatively generous during free agency so far this summer compared to most teams, handing out a two-year, $36MM contract to forward Derrick Favors, agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with backup guard Dante Exum, and reaching terms on a two-year, $4MM pact with seldom-used guard Raul Neto.

Furthermore, Utah has already guaranteed the 2018/19 salary of Thabo Sefolosha, who was limited to only 39 games last season. As such, it would appear that the Jazz are intent on sticking with their 2017/18 roster for now, which means that both Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh can be cautiously optimistic while waiting for their 2018/19 salary to become guaranteed.

Udoh in particular, who averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 63 games for the Jazz last season, and whose $3.36MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on Utah’s roster past July 9, is trying to remain positive while awaiting Utah’s decision on his future, writes Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility. I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”

Per Woodyard, Udoh is excited and prepared to return in a Jazz uniform next season, but also understands the business-like nature of the NBA.

“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that although Paul George did in fact want to be a Laker at this time last year, he is now happy in Oklahoma City after signing a four-year, $137MM max contract with the Thunder on the eve of free agency.
  • According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star TribuneTimberwolves’ free-agent signee forward Anthony Tolliver chose a return to Minnesota over four other pursuing teams because of the familiarity he has for the franchise – he played for the Wolves from 2010 to 2012 – and because “(he) want(s) to win.”
  • While it’s probably a bit bold to get too excited about the free agent signing of a backup, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes that the addition of 24 year-old center Nerlens Noel on a minimum-salary deal is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Thunder.
  • Per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, a couple of key subplots have emerged for the Trail Blazers during the team’s summer league minicamp. First, it’s an opportunity for Portland to get a first-hand look at rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in an NBA practice. Moreover, both Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis are fighting for their NBA lives while Jake Layman looks to secure a more prominent role for next season.

Dante Exum Re-Signs With Jazz

JULY 6, 11:46am: Exum’s new contract is now official, the Jazz announced on their website.

JULY 3, 5:03pm: Free agent point guard Dante Exum has agreed to a three-year, $33M deal with the Jazz, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

A restricted free agent, Exum has been limited by injuries through most of his career. He appeared in just 14 games last season after a preseason shoulder injury that required surgery. However, he performed well enough in the playoffs for Utah to bring him back.

Exum, who turns 23 later this month, has averaged 5.7 PPG in four years with the Jazz. He sat out the entire 2015/16 season after tearing his left ACL.

Having entered the offseason intent on keeping their own free agents in the fold, the Jazz have now accomplished that goal. Before reaching a deal with Exum, they also agreed to terms with restricted free agent point guard Raul Neto and unrestricted big man Derrick Favors. Neto and Favors will each sign two-year contracts with non-guaranteed second years.

With the new deals for Favors, Neto, and Exum taken into account, Utah’s projected team salary is up to about $122MM, putting the team very close to the $123.7MM tax line. However, the Jazz could create a little more breathing room by waiving non-guaranteed players like Ekpe Udoh, David Stockton, and even Jonas Jerebko, which could generate the flexibility necessary to use their mid-level exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West FA Rumors: A. Johnson, Looney, Exum

At least three Western Conference teams are said to have already contacted veteran big man Amir Johnson mere hours into free agency. Per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News the Timberwolves have been in touch, while Sean Deveney of The Sporting News adds that the Clippers and Lakers have too.

This time last season, Johnson inked a one-year, $11MM deal to serve as a reliable, veteran presence in the middle for the Sixers and it stands to reason that any of the teams kicking the tires on him this time around would be interested in a similar addition.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for Philly in 2017/18 but served as a defensive force in the paint and a low maintenance spot starter in games that Joel Embiid sat out.

There are more free agency rumors from around the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors have already made contact with Kevon Looney about bringing him back to the Bay Area, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes, but the forward is said to be fielding interest from other teams as well. Golden State elected not to guarantee the fourth year of his rookie deal when they had the chance to do so last fall.
  • The Jazz are making restricted free agent Dante Exum a priority, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets, and already have a meeting set up to discuss a new deal.
  • Pending restricted free agent Montrezl Harrell has changed representation, Liz Mullen of The Sports Business Journal tweets. Now the Clippers big man will be represented by Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports. He was previously represented by Klutch Sports Group.

Hornets Notes: Monk, FA Targets, Coaching Staff

A disappointing 2017/18 put the Hornets in an awkward position, staffed with enough talent to compete for one of the East’s final playoff spots, yet financially compelled to blow things up and start fresh. This season stands to be different. In a recent interview with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, newly appointed head coach James Borrego discusses his vision for the club heading forward.

The biggest change heading into 2018/19 is Borrego’s willingness to incorporate 2017 pick Malik Monk heavily in the team’s rotation. Whereas previous head coach Steve Clifford opted to play veterans over youth, Borrego sees Monk as “major player for the team” with the potential to be an elite shooter.

Borrego also notes that it’s a priority of the Hornets to add a ballhandler that can serve as the primary backup point guard to Kemba Walker.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

FA Rumors: Jazz, Bertans, G. Green, Caupain

The Jazz will enter the offseason with a little spending flexibility, but their top priority is retaining their own free agents. As Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune writes, general manager Dennis Lindsey has made it clear privately and publicly that the team wants to re-sign Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Raul Neto, who will have the opportunity to reach the open market on Sunday. Favors, in particular, has already “piqued the interest” of multiple teams, per Jones, but the big man and the Jazz have mutual interest in continuing their relationship.

League sources tell Jones that the Jazz will do their due diligence on top free agents, but the club likely won’t have cap room available for outside targets. Instead, Utah will have its mid-level exception available, and in this market, it’s not unreasonable to expect that exception – worth about $8.6MM – to be enough for a starter or a high-level backup, writes Jones. While there’s no guarantee that the Jazz will use its full MLE on one player, the team could target a scorer capable of creating his own shot, Jones notes.

Here’s more on free agency, with July 1 right around the corner:

  • The Jazz and Nets are among the teams expected to challenge the Spurs for restricted free agent Davis Bertans, a source tells Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that Brooklyn will seek a stretch four, and Utah was in the market for a similar player during the season. Bertans, a 6’10” forward who has made 38.4% of his career three-pointers, fits the bill.
  • Free agent swingman Gerald Green will meet with the Rockets in Los Angeles on July 1, league sources tell Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (Twitter link). According to Haynes, Green will have multiple suitors.
  • The Magic and guard Troy Caupain have discussed a possible two-way contract agreement, per Nicola Lupo of Sportando (Twitter link). Caupain spent last season with the Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s G League affiliate.

Jazz Extend Qualifying Offers To Exum, Neto, Niang

The Jazz have tendered qualifying offers to three players eligible for restricted free agency, according to RealGM’s official NBA transactions log. Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Georges Niang have received qualifying offers from the club.

Exum and Neto will now enter standard NBA restricted free agency. Exum, who failed to meet the starter criteria, will have a qualifying offer worth $4,333,932 as a result. As for Neto, the former second-round pick will have a QO of $1,839,228.

Either player could sign his qualifying offer and play out the 2018/19 season on a one-year deal before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019, but RFAs rarely take that route. If Utah wants to keep both players, I’d expect the team to attempt to negotiate multiyear agreements with them. It’s also possible that either Exum or Neto could sign an offer sheet from another team.

Meanwhile, Niang was a two-way contract in 2017/18, so his QO will be more modest — for two-way players who remain eligible to sign another two-way deal, the QO is simply a two-way offer with a $50K guarantee.

RealGM’s transactions log doesn’t list a qualifying offer for Erik McCree, Utah’s other two-way player. The club will have until the end of the month to issue a QO to McCree, but if he doesn’t receive one, it’s a sign that the Jazz have other plans for their second two-way contract slot.

Western Notes: Rockets, Jazz, Westbrook, Allen

The Rockets have reduced their rotation to seven players but they won’t use fatigue as an excuse for their second-half collapse against the Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have all played more minutes per game than any Rockets player, Feigen notes. “Fatigue is never a factor in the playoffs,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza told Feigen and other media members. “This is what we prepare for. This is what we work hard all summer for. They started playing harder. They started making shots. That’s it.” 

Also around the Western Conference:

  • The Jazz might keep their core group intact going into next season, GM Dennis Lindsey told Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News“My best guess is the option that we’ll ultimately consider, is bringing the team back intact, but I don’t know what other things are going to come our way,” Lindsey said. In order to do that, they’d have to sign unrestricted free agent Derrick Favors and restricted free agent Dante Exum. If both players receive significant raises and the Jazz make other moves, they could find themselves close to the luxury tax. They currently have approximately $90MM in salary guarantees next season.
  • If Paul George re-signs with the Thunder, it will deal a blow to the narrative that other stars don’t like playing with Russell Westbrook, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. That’s why Westbrook has made public statements about wanting George to return, saying he thinks George “definitely wants to be here,” Dawson adds.
  • Duke combo guard Grayson Allen could be an option for the Kings if he slips into the second round, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Sacramento holds the No. 36 overall pick and Allen is currently ranked No. 30 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Allen would be a fit because the Kings need guards who can provide size and shooting, Jones adds.