Dante Exum

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.

Northwest Notes: Exum, Wiggins, Towns

Dante Exum will be a restricted free agent this offseason and the Jazz are hoping to re-sign their former No. 5 overall pick.

“We hope to retain him,” said Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey (via Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News). “Obviously there’s a lot of conversations and in a free agent market, it’s hard to predict. Dante’s done his job, he’s had some unfortunate things happen. We don’t think he’s injury prone — things happen to young players. He’s the right guy, he’s got the right level of talent. You don’t get the same package of speed and size. It’s our job to develop him but we’ll see what happens.”

Exum is unlikely to supplant Ricky Rubio as the starting point guard any time soon, so there may be a limit on what Utah is willing to pay him. The 23-year-old isn’t focused on his next payday right now. He’s simply trying to get better this offseason. “I think the Jazz want me back, so hopefully it all works out. My agent’s going to take care of that and I think for me as a player, I just need to control what I can control,” the point guard said.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz would also like to have Raul Neto back, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old may seek a greater role elsewhere, Sorensen relays in the same piece. “It’s always a time you’ve got to think, you got to look at all your offers and opportunities you have and try to pick the best one,” Neto said. “Right now, there’s nothing else I can do. Just keep working and waiting and make the decision I have to make. Sometimes it’s not only the player’s decision, there’s the Utah Jazz, so basically it’s in their hands. We’ll see.”
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Atlantic wonders if the Wolves should try to trade Andrew Wiggins. The former No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year extension worth nearly $150MM, though the scribe hears that a Wiggins-DeMar DeRozan swap remains a possibility should Toronto look to make major moves.
  • Does it make sense for the Wolves to deal Karl-Anthony Towns? Michael Rand of the Star Tribune isn’t so sure, but he notes that Towns hasn’t said anything to quiet down the rumblings that he and the team are “not in a good place.”

Jazz Notes: Exum, Favors, Harden, Offseason

Dante Exum was drafted in 2014 as the fifth overall pick and is still a work in progress. Given that Exum missed his entire sophomore campaign with a torn ACL, he essentially lost a year-and-a-half of development. Coming off his best season as he enters restricted free agency, it would be a “major upset” if Exum does not return to Utah, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune opines.

Exum, 22, averaged a career-best 8.1 PPG and 3.1 APG for the Jazz during the season. However, he still has not developed a consistent jumper, his midrange game is virtually nonexistent, and he was dominated at times during the postseason, Jones writes. While there is more development needed, Exum and Jazz seem to have a mutual interest in him returning next season.

“In fact, it will be a major upset if Exum isn’t wearing a Jazz uniform next season,” Jones writes. “Utah covets his size and athleticism. The front office, led by general manager Dennis Lindsey, maintained through the postseason they would be patient with Exum and his development.”

Check out more Jazz notes below:

  • Eight-year NBA veteran Derrick Favors will hit unrestricted free agency this summer coming off a season in which he posted solid totals of 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 77 games, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype looks at four possible destinations for Favors, including the Wizards, Bucks, Warriors, and a return to Utah.
  • After the Rockets completed their postseason series win over the Jazz, James Harden spoke highly of the team and believes there are even brighter days ahead, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News writes. “Unbelievable,” Harden said. “Especially when nobody expected them to be in the situation they’re in right now. The sky is the limit for them.” 
  • In a separate story, Brad Rock of The Deseret News writes about the end of Utah’s season, with Jae Crowder — who was acquired at the deadline from the Cavaliers — suggesting that this year was just the start of good things to come. “I think it’s the beginning of an era,” Crowder said.
  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News writes in a separate story that the Jazz cannot stand pat this summer, arguing that the team’s ability to keep improving will be limited without a few roster changes.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Exum, Hood, George

Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau shook up his coaching staff Monday by cutting ties with three assistants, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. The most notable of the cuts is player development coach Vince Legarza, who worked closely with center Karl-Anthony Towns. Shooting coach Peter Patton and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn are the other coaches who will not return. Towns was not given prior notice of Legarza’s departure, Krawczynski continues. Thibodeau may not replace all of those coaches since he has told some people that he’d like to downsize, Krawczynski adds.

In other notable developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz point guard Dante Exum has a strained left hamstring and his status for the remainder of the series against the Rockets is uncertain, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Exum underwent an MRI and further evaluation Monday after he suffered the injury in Game 4. Exum and Ricky Rubio, who also has a hamstring injury, will not play in Game 5 on Tuesday, the team tweets.
  • There’s no chance guard Rodney Hood will return to the Jazz as a free agent, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.  Hood will be a restricted free agent if he receives a $3.47MM qualifying offer from the Cavaliers. Otherwise, he’ll be unrestricted.
  • The Thunder are willing to pay the steep cost of retaining free agent Paul George, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.  George will likely sign a max contract in free agency this summer. The team wants to remain competitive, even if it means footing the bill for $260MM in salary and luxury-tax penalties, Dawson adds.

Potential 2018 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which dictates how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2016/17 and 32 in 2017/18, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.

Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though. Last offseason, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – Suns center Alex Len and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel – failed to meet the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, reducing the value of their QOs to approximately $4.2MM (from $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively). Had Len and Noel met the starter criteria and been eligible for those larger QOs, their free agencies could have played out differently.

Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:

With that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,333,931.

No player was hit harder by missing out on the starter criteria than Parker, whose torn ACL made him fall short. If he’d stayed healthy, the former No. 2 overall pick likely would’ve been in line for a qualifying offer worth about $8.851MM. Instead, his QO will be worth less than half of that.

Major injuries also prevented Exum and LaVine from meeting the starter criteria, while Celtics guard Marcus Smart stayed just healthy enough to meet the necessary benchmarks — he totaled 4,013 minutes played over the last two seasons, barely averaging more than 2,000 per year.

First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:

The players listed below were picked between No. 10 and No. 30 in the 2014 draft and will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,749,591.

Anderson is the biggest winner here, with his projected qualifying offer of $3.23MM set to increase by more than $1.5MM. However, Anderson, Capela, and Nurkic shouldn’t have any issue landing long-term deals, making the value of their QOs somewhat irrelevant. I wonder about Payton though — he didn’t exactly finish this season strong in Phoenix and could be a candidate to accept his increased QO.

Rodney Hood, the 23rd overall pick in 2014, can blame injury luck and lineup decisions for missing out on the starter criteria. He started 78 of 119 total games for Utah and Cleveland over the last two seasons, averaging 27.0 minutes per contest during that span. Without health issues, he almost certainly would’ve logged 82+ starts or 4,000+ minutes during those two years.

Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

Only one player falls into this group this year.

Initially signed to a 10-day contract in 2017, Ferrell parlayed that audition into a multiyear deal and has become an integral part of the Mavericks‘ rotation this season. He has appeared in all 81 games for Dallas, averaging 28.1 minutes per contest — that’s good for 2,274 total minutes, boosting his qualifying offer from $1,699,698 to $2,919,204.

The rest of this year’s restricted free agents won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

RFA Rumors: Parker, Gordon, Exum, Smart, Randle

Only about a quarter of the NBA’s teams are expected to have meaningful cap room this summer, so restricted free agents hoping for a major payday could have a tough summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Last week, we identified eight RFAs we believe have positioned themselves well for long-term contracts, and while we’re still bullish on those players, the RFA market may not be as active overall as it has been in some previous offseasons.

Within his latest piece, Kyler took a closer look at a few specific 2018 restricted free agents, so let’s round up some highlights from his breakdown…

  • Most NBA insiders believe the Bucks will ultimately retain Jabari Parker, according to Kyler, who suggests that – with a new arena on the way – Bucks ownership may not be as worried about the rising cost of team salary as you’d expect.
  • The Bucks and Magic may let the market drive the respective prices on Parker and Aaron Gordon, according to Kyler. With Orlando’s new management group looking to shed cap dollars, the team will be wary of overpaying Gordon. Kyler also notes that the Magic could be open to the possibility of a sign-and-trade if Gordon wants to play elsewhere. However, sign-and-trades can be particularly tricky to pull off for RFAs getting big raises due to the Base Year Compensation rule, so that may be a long shot.
  • The prevailing thought on Dante Exum is that he’ll be back with the Jazz, though likely not on a long-term deal, says Kyler.
  • In order to pry Marcus Smart away from the Celtics, it might take an offer sheet at least in the range of $12-14MM per year, per Kyler.
  • The Kings are worth watching as a possible suitor for Lakers big man Julius Randle, though many people expect the Mavericks to be the team “on Randle’s doorstep” when free agency opens on July 1, Kyler writes.
  • Clint Capela (Rockets), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Cavaliers) are among the RFAs considered more likely than not to stay with their current teams, according to Kyler. For more details on those players – along with an item on Suns guard Elfrid Payton – be sure to check out Kyler’s full piece.

Northwest Notes: Exum, Nuggets, Wolves, Turner

Point guard Dante Exum has played in just 72 games since his rookie year, having had to deal with injuries in each of the last three seasons. He’s healthy now, and playing regular backup minutes for the Jazz, but he’s on track for restricted free agency this summer, and one general manager tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that it may be worth rolling the dice on Exum despite his injury history.

“I think you have to look at him as a physically gifted guy who is only 22 (he turns 23 in July) and has already gone through the huge NBA learning curve,” the GM said. “There are guys in this year’s draft who will be 22 but aren’t going to have the kind of knowledge of the league he has, and don’t have the physical gifts.”

According to Deveney, one front office executive estimated that a two-year deal in the $18-20MM range might be enough to pry Exum away from the Jazz. That would be a steep price for a fourth-year player who has yet to deliver on the promise he showed heading into the 2014 draft, but overpaying a restricted free agent is often necessary to avoid having his old team match.

“He’s a gamble,” that same executive told Deveney. “But $10MM a year is not as big a gamble as it once was. He could show something here.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • With the G League’s regular season over, players on two-way contracts are no longer limited to 45 days of NBA service time. That’s good news for Nuggets two-way player Torrey Craig, who is free to travel with and play for the NBA squad, and hopes to make a strong impression down the stretch, per Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. “Just show them that I can be a consistent, impactful player on both ends of the court and just try to fit in wherever I can and play a role,” Craig said of his goals for the rest of the season.
  • The Nuggets had been hoping to get injured guard Gary Harris back on Friday, but he’s now doubtful for that game, and is aiming for a Sunday return, per head coach Mike Malone (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com).
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Jon Krawczynski examines Karl-Anthony Towns‘ future extension, Nemanja Bjelica‘s upcoming free agency, and more Timberwolves-related topics.
  • Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner was fined $10K for making an “inappropriate gesture” during Sunday’s game against Oklahoma City, the NBA announced in a press release.

Injury Notes: Leonard, Hayward, Irving, Exum

The Kawhi Leonard situation in San Antonio continues to be a baffling one. Asked today if Leonard has increased his three-on-three work or been upgraded to five-on-five play, Spurs point guard Tony Parker replied, “I have no idea. He isn’t practicing with us,” per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Parker also wondered aloud if Leonard might be nearing a point of no return for this season.

“We have what 14, games left? So it’s getting closer and closer that at some point it makes no sense (to bring him back),” Parker said of his Spurs teammate. “He didn’t play for like two or three months. He didn’t play for eight months, technically.”

While we wait to see if Leonard can make him back for the final few weeks of the 2017/18 season, let’s round up a few more injury notes and updates from across the NBA….

  • Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that Gordon Hayward is back on track in his recovery from ankle surgery after suffering a setback recently. “He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago. We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought,” Ainge said, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “But, other than that, his work ethic and his determination have been amazing. … I don’t want to get people’s hopes up. He still is not back on the basketball court and we have a month left in the regular season. He’s got a ways to go but we’re excited about his progress and his determination.”
  • During that same radio appearance, Ainge said that Kyrie Irving may need to undergo a surgical procedure on his knee at some point. However, the Celtics president made that surgery sound anything but urgent, writes Forsberg. “He has a surgery that may need to happen,” Ainge said of Irving. “But maybe not this summer, maybe the following summer or maybe the summer after that. I think that he could probably do it any time he wanted, but I’m not sure that it’s needed at this moment.”
  • After missing the first 68 games of the season with a shoulder injury, point guard Dante Exum will be available on Thursday night, the Jazz announced (via Twitter). Exum likely won’t play a major role for Utah, but with Raul Neto sidelined due to a fractured wrist, the former No. 5 overall pick should get a chance to see some action.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/14/18

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

9:00 pm:

  • The Pacers have recalled Alex Poythress from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to the team’s website. The Kentucky product has played in seven G League games this season where he averaged 20.0 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

4:56 pm:

  • For the second consecutive day, the Jazz sent Dante Exum to the G League and then recalled him later in the day, the team announced in a press release. The former fifth overall pick is preparing for his return from a shoulder injury by practicing with the Salt Lake City Stars.
  • The Lakers have assigned rookie big man Thomas Bryant to the G League, according to the club (Twitter link). Bryant, who has averaged 19.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 32 G League games this season, is expected to suit up for the South Bay Lakers on Thursday night when they host the Agua Caliente Clippers.
  • Chris McCullough, who had been playing for the Northern Arizona Suns, was recalled today by the Wizards and then re-assigned to the Erie BayHawks, according to the team. Washington doesn’t have a G League affiliate of its own this season, so McCullough is eligible to play for other G League squads via the flexible assignment rule.

Northwest Notes: Exum, Blazers, Grant, Butler

With Dante Exum just about ready to make his 2017/18 debut, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune takes a look at what the Jazz should expect from the former No. 5 pick down the stretch. While Exum’s role will likely hinge on how he plays in his first couple games back, he has looked good in practice, according to head coach Quin Snyder (link via Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News).

As Jones notes, Utah could initially have Exum share ball-handling duties with Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles when he’s on the court if he’s not 100% ready to run the team’s offense. However, all indications are that the Jazz have confidence in the fourth-year guard and view him as a piece of their future.

Exum will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason, and given how injuries have hampered his development, a big-time payday seems unlikely. That could work out well for the Jazz, who “certainly” would like to keep him on the roster long-term, writes Jones.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After signing Wade Baldwin to a rest-of-season contract earlier this week, the Trail Blazers remain $232K below the luxury tax line, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). That means Portland can fill its 15th roster spot with another veteran without becoming a taxpaying team, which is good news if the Blazers want to add depth for the postseason.
  • In his second season with the Thunder, Jerami Grant has been able to focus on his close-range game rather than being relied upon to space the floor. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, Grant is enjoying his best offensive season as a result, averaging 10.6 PPG on .576/.355/.605 shooting since Andre Roberson went down in January. The 24-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this summer, so he has shown signs of improvement at the right moment.
  • Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Jimmy Butler is “moving along pretty well” in his rehabilitation from knee surgery, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota’s star forward isn’t jumping yet, but has been running on an antigravity treadmill, Zgoda adds. A February report on Butler’s recovery timetable estimated that he’d miss four to six weeks — we’ll reach the three-week mark this Sunday.