Dario Saric

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Walton, Saric, Durant

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma signed a three-year, $40MM rookie scale extension in December. All other players who signed similar extensions before the season got bigger contracts but Kuzma has no regrets, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic.

“Of course, guys got paid,” the Lakers forward said, “and obviously as a competitor of who you are as a player, you always look at things like that. But at the end of the day, I love the situation that I’m in. … I know a lot of guys that are making $20, $23, $24 million and they’re not really that happy because they go to work every day, you may not be winning, you have to deal with certain other things. For me, I’m happy.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings coach Luke Walton doesn’t mind taking heat if it takes pressure off his players, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. “When we’re behind closed doors and we’re in film sessions and we’re in practices and we’re in team meetings we’re going to be honest and brutal about where we need to get better at, who’s messing up, how do we fix it and we’re going to drill it, drill it, drill it,” Walton said. “But to me, that type of information doesn’t need to be given out in a way that’s going to make any of our players feel bad about themselves,” he said. “That’s not part of the culture we want to build here. … So I’ll take the hits all day long as long as we’re getting the type of work and effort from the players that we need.”
  • Suns forward Dario Saric confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19 last month, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets. Saric hasn’t played since January 11 and his return was further delayed by an ankle sprain, Gina Mizell tweets. He took a bad step during sprints after recovering from the virus but he was active against Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
  • Kevin Durant faces the Warriors on Saturday, the first time he’ll play against his former team in Golden State since signing with the Nets. ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes a look back at what caused the breakup between Durant and the Dubs.

Pacific Notes: Kawhi/PG-13, CP3, Green, Saric

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has noted that his stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, absent thus far from the club’s six-game road trip due to coronavirus protocols, are “feeling well,” but he would not elaborate on when he expected them to return to the team, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Mentally, they’re in a great place,” Clippers reserve point guard Reggie Jackson said of the two unavailable wings. “They are doing all they can to get back as soon as possible.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul has verbalized his frustration with his club following Phoenix’s third straight loss, according to Royce Young of ESPN. “I’m not going to say we’re not good enough, but we’re not playing well enough right now,” Paul said following a 102-97 home loss to the Thunder.
  • After being traded from the Lakers this offseason, Sixers small forward Danny Green holds no ill will toward Los Angeles, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, Green stays in touch with his old teammates. “I still call them brothers,” Green said. “We still have a bond forever, because of what we achieved together and the time we spent in the bubble.”
  • The Suns are hopeful that forward Dario Saric, who has been conditioning for several days after being absent due to the league’s coronavirus protocols, can return for the team’s game against the Mavericks this Saturday, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM tweets. In seven games this season, Saric is averaging 10.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.0 APG. He is connecting on 35.7% of his 4.0 three-point attempts per game.

Suns Notes: Galloway, Carter, Saric, Crowder

Langston Galloway wanted to join a playoff contender, which is one of the big reasons he chose the Suns in free agency, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

“The reason why I picked Phoenix, it’s a young, up-and-coming team that’s really on the move and can really help me going forward,” he said. “I really want to experience the playoffs and try to win a championship and I think this is the right organization to be with.”

Galloway, who averaged 10.3 PPG with the Pistons last season, signed a veteran’s minimum contract.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey was sad to see Galloway depart. “Langston is a leader, he sets the tone in practice, he’s a shooter and he’s a competitor,” he said. “He’s a quiet competitor.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Phoenix gave restricted free agent Jevon Carter a three-year, $11.5MM deal to stay put and that made him feel like a valued member of the team, as he described to Rankin in a separate story. “I felt like I was wanted here,” Carter said. “Even when I went through those stretches when I wasn’t playing, it never felt like they didn’t want me here.” A 6’1” guard, Carter appeared in 58 games last season, averaging 4.9 PPG in 16.3 MPG.
  • Another restricted free agent that the Suns retained, forward Dario Saric, admitted to Rankin (Twitter link) that he was filled with uncertainty when free agency began. “I was like waking up saying, ‘Did anybody text me? Did my agent have anything to say to me?’ It was a couple of nervous days for me,” he said. “Everything ended up the right way for me.” Saric signed a three-year, $27MM contract.
  • Head coach Monty Williams wouldn’t elaborate on Jae Crowder‘s status during the first day of full practice Monday, Rankin reports. “I can’t comment on Jae’s situation,” Williams said. “I’m just going to leave it at that.” Crowder was a big “get” for Phoenix in free agency, as he left the Heat and signed a three-year, $30MM contract.
  • In case you missed it, B.J. Johnson was expected to join the Suns in training camp but he instead signed with the Heat.

Suns Re-Sign Dario Saric To Three-Year Deal

NOVEMBER 29: Saric’s agreement with the Suns is now official, the team announced in a press release.


NOVEMBER 23: The Suns and restricted free agent Dario Saric have agreed to a new deal, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Agents Jeff Schwartz and Mike Lindeman tell Wojnarowski that their client will sign a three-year, $27MM contract.

Saric averaged 10.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.9 APG in 66 games (24.7 MPG) for the Suns in 2019/20, with a shooting line of .476/.357/.844. The 26-year-old, who was the 24th-ranked player on our list of this fall’s top free agents, will resume his role as a stretch four in Phoenix for the coming season.

While Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes are no longer in the picture for the Suns, the team did reach an agreement to sign Jae Crowder, who figures to see some time at the four as well as the three.

In addition to bringing back Saric and landing Crowder, the Suns also traded for Chris Paul, agreed to re-sign Jevon Carter, struck a deal with E’Twaun Moore, and selected Jalen Smith with the No. 10 pick in the draft. The Suns are looking to build on their 8-0 performance during the NBA’s summer restart and return to the playoffs in 2021.

With Saric off the board, Brandon Ingram and Bogdan Bogdanovic are the only non-two-way restricted free agents whose contract situations have yet to be resolved. Ingram is expected to re-sign with the Pelicans, while Bogdanovic is waiting to see if the Kings will match the offer sheet he signed with Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns’ Saric, Spurs’ Poeltl Among Players Receiving QOs

A series of players have received qualifying offers from their respective teams, making them restricted free agents this fall, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). Those players include Suns forward Dario Saric, Suns guard Jevon Carter, Grizzlies two-way guard John Konchar, Spurs big man Jakob Poeltl, and Spurs two-way players Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks.

Saric and Poeltl are the most notable names in the group and were also the most likely to receive qualifying offers, since Phoenix and San Antonio will want to retain the ability to match offer sheets on those players. Saric’s QO is worth about $5.1MM, while Poeltl’s is for approximately $4.6MM.

Saric, Poeltl, and the other players who received qualifying offers could accept those one-year contract offers, but will likely try to negotiate new, longer-term deals, either with their own teams or with rival suitors.

The Pistons won’t be extending a qualifying offer to two-way player Jordan Bone, so he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster confirmed this week that the club will be making its annual qualifying offer to EuroLeague guard Nando De Colo, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link). Currently a member of Fenerbahce in Turkey, De Colo hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014, but would be a Raptors RFA if he wants to return, since Toronto has issued a QO each year since then.

Western Notes: Baynes, Saric, Wolves, Nuggets

Multiple playoff teams are hoping to sign Aron Baynes in free agency, league sources tell Zach Harper of The Athletic. The big man is coming off perhaps his best season as a pro, despite being limited by health issues in the bubble and not getting a chance to contribute to the Suns‘ 8-0 summer run.

While Harper hears that the Suns have plenty of interest in bringing back Baynes, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) predicts that the club will ultimately let Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, and Cheick Diallo walk. Gambadoro’s expectation is that Phoenix will be focusing on re-signing RFA forward Dario Saric to a multiyear deal.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • The Timberwolves will officially be on the clock to make the No. 1 pick later tonight, assuming they don’t trade it. Chris Hine of The Star Tribune examines the importance of the pick for the franchise, while Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune makes the case for Minnesota drafting Anthony Edwards rather than LaMelo Ball.
  • The Nuggets won’t be drafting for need tonight, according to president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who says the club will target the best player available at No. 22. He added that there may not be any minutes available right away for that player. “If you’re a rookie in Denver next year, you’re probably not going to play,” Connelly said, per Alex Labidou of Nuggets.com. “When you do play, every minute, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on those minutes.”
  • Western Union has renewed its multiyear jersey sponsorship ad agreement with the Nuggets, the team announced today in a press release.

Suns Notes: Offseason, Oubre, Johnson, Akyol

The Suns will have to decide this offseason whether they want to try to bring back known commodities like Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, and Frank Kaminsky, or whether they want to opt for an unknown commodity via cap room, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link). Baynes is an unrestricted free agent, but Saric is restricted and the club holds a team option on Kaminsky.

Kelly Oubre‘s expiring contract will be another factor to watch for the Suns this fall, according to Marks. On paper, it seems like a slam dunk that Phoenix would want to make the 24-year-old wing a part of the club’s long-term future, Marks writes, but Oubre wasn’t part of the team’s 8-0 run in Orlando this summer, and there’s some positional overlap with young Suns like Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • The Suns have faced criticism for a number of their roster moves in recent years, but the club showed this summer in Orlando that the roster was built with a purpose, according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Tjarks singles out last year’s drafting of Cameron Johnson at No. 11 as a decision that was panned at the time, but seems to be working out well.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic explores what’s next for the Suns after their success in Orlando, wondering if the summer represents a jumping-off point for making Phoenix a desirable destination for NBA players.
  • Turkish wing Cenk Akyol has announced his retirement at age 33, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Akyol, the 59th overall pick in the 2005 draft, never played in the NBA, but his rights were held by the Suns, who acquired them in a 2017 trade with Atlanta.
  • Earlier today, we broke down the Suns’ odds for this Thursday’s draft lottery.

New York Notes: Nets, Crawford, Thibodeau, Forbes List

The Nets were overmatched in their first reseeding game Friday against the Magic, and it’s a trend that will likely continue throughout their stay in Orlando, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. Brooklyn started out strong in the 128-118 loss, which dropped the team into eighth place in the East, but a lack of proven NBA talent was too much to overcome. The Nets are missing seven members of their regular roster.

“We need to embrace that stuff a little bit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We’ll have to be extremely gritty, put a body on someone every single possession. That gave us more than 40 opportunities to shoot 3s and when teams do that you have to make them pay.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford was held out of Friday’s game and may not make his debut with the Nets tomorrow, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Crawford is listed as questionable for the contest with the Wizards because of conditioning issues. Brooklyn holds a six-game lead over Washington and can effectively clinch a playoff spot with a win.
  • Now that Tom Thibodeau is officially the new head coach of the Knicks, Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated looks at five of his former players who could potentially play for him in New York. He notes that when Thibodeau was hired in Minnesota, he brought in several of his ex-players from Chicago. In addition to Taj Gibson, who is already on New York’s roster and is waiting for the team to make a decision on his $9.5MM option for next season, Macri’s list includes D.J. Augustin, Zach LaVine, Jeff Teague and Dario Saric.
  • The Knicks are this year’s highest-valued NBA team on the annual list from Forbes. Despite seven straight losing seasons, the Knicks are third overall at $4.6 billion, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. The Lakers rank fourth at $4.4 billion and the Warriors are fifth at $4.3 billion.

Potential 2020 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines 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.”

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 2018/19 and 32 in 2019/20, 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.

In 2017, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – centers Alex Len and 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 $4,642,800.

As the Nos. 9, 10, and 14 picks in the 2016 draft, Poeltl, Maker, and Valentine won’t be hit particularly hard by falling short of the starter criteria. Their projected qualifying offers would have ranged from approximately $5.09MM to $4.7MM, respectively, so a dip to $4.64MM shouldn’t have a major impact on their respective free agencies. Of the three players, only Poeltl looks like a lock to even receive a QO.

The top-14 pick whose situation remains unclear:

Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding this season, the usual definition of the starter criteria becomes a little more complicated. For instance, if a player started 40 games, but his team’s season ended after 65 games, should he be credited with having met the starter criteria based on the fact that he was “on pace” to do so over a full 82-game season?

There’s only one player who technically didn’t meet the starter criteria but was on pace to do so: Bulls guard Kris Dunn. After starting 44 games in 2018/19, Dunn started 32 of Chicago’s games this year, for a total of 76 over the last two seasons. If his starts this season were prorated over a full 82 games, he would have met the starter criteria.

The NBA and NBPA have agreed to prorate the criteria for performance bonuses and incentives in player contracts — it would make sense for the same rules to apply to Dunn. However, as we discussed last week, the fourth-year guard had a knee injury that was expected to sideline him for the rest of the season before COVID-19 threw the schedule into disarray. The Bulls, who had control over Dunn’s ability to make the last six starts he needed, may push back against the idea that proration should allow him to surpass the starter-criteria threshold.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks tells Hoops Rumors that Dunn will likely be deemed to have met the starter criteria, in which case his qualifying offer will be worth $7,091,457. If that changes, the value of his QO would dip to $4,642,800.

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

Only one player falls into this group this season.

Because Saric was a 12th overall pick and met the starter criteria with 50 starts this season, he’s eligible for a qualifying offer worth $5,087,871 instead of $4,791,213. No other players fit the bill this year — many of the best players drafted between Nos. 10 and 30 in 2016 have already been extended, while the others didn’t have major roles or are no longer on their rookie contracts.

Entering the season, Malik Beasley – who logged nearly 1,900 minutes in 2018/19 – looked like the strongest candidate to join Saric in this group. However, Beasley had an inconsistent role in the Nuggets’ rotation before being traded to the Timberwolves, and ended up making just 14 starts (all with Minnesota), with 1,209 total minutes played.

Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

No second-round picks or undrafted free agents eligible for restricted free agency met the starter criteria this season, which would have put them in line for a qualifying offer worth $3,126,948.

Actually, Bogdan Bogdanovic (Kings) technically qualified for this group, but because his initial NBA contract was more lucrative than most, his qualifying offer will be worth $10,661,733 based on other criteria, rendering the starter criteria irrelevant for him.

De’Anthony Melton, Kenrich Williams, Torrey Craig, and Jevon Carter were some of the other top candidates to meet the starter criteria among second-rounders and UDFAs, but none ultimately recorded more than 1,011 minutes (Melton) or 18 starts (Williams).

As a result, those players – and the rest of this year’s restricted free agents – won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post.

Suns Notes: Point Guard, Free Agency, Booker, Baynes

The Suns will miss out on important opportunities for player evaluation if the season doesn’t resume, states John Hollinger of The Athletic in a conversation with Gina Mizell. Holllinger says after going through several failed attempts to find a back-up point guard, Phoenix could have used Ty Jerome in that role for the remainder of the season to see if he can handle it. He speculates that since Jerome didn’t get the opportunity to prove himself, the Suns will wind up spending resources on the position in free agency.

If Phoenix uses all its cap space to land a power forward, that will leave a room exception of about $5MM to sign a point guard. Hollinger mentions the Clippers’ Reggie Jackson, who formed a connection with Suns executive Jeff Bower in Detroit, as one possibility, along with the Wizards’ Shabazz Napier. Hollinger adds that D.J. Augustin and Jeff Teague may also be available for that price.

He also notes that the team may opt to address the position through the draft. The Suns hold the 10th spot right now, which is probably too low to land any of the top point guard prospects, but Hollinger suggests Alabama’s Kira Lewis could be a sleeper in that range.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns could create up to $24MM in cap room, Hollinger notes in the same piece, which might be enough to attract Danilo Gallinari, Davis Bertans or Paul Millsap, but he notes that the options will shrink if that number is lowered because a loss of revenue due to the hiatus. Depending on what happens in free agency or the draft, Hollinger suggests Phoenix may try to re-sign Aron Baynes and Dario Saric to one-year contracts.
  • In an interview with Robby Kalland of Dime Magazine, Devin Booker said Monty Williams‘ first priority when he took over as head coach was to change the way the Suns were viewed around the league. “And if that’s having to get a little nasty, play tougher, more physical, but people are going to know when they play against up some talented, hard-working guys,” Booker said.
  • Baynes is pessimistic about the potential of a “bubble” environment as a way to finish the NBA season, relays Matt Layman of Arizona Sports 98.7. “They’re trying to come up with some scenarios that would work, but I think in terms of everyone being in one hub, how’s that going to work when you have 450 guys and if one guy does test positive then you have to get back in two months of isolation to get back to playing again?” Baynes said this week in an interview with an Australian radio station. “That’s unrealistic and there’s a better way to put all those resources that are being used into something else than professional sport.”