Dario Saric

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.”

Suns Notes: Saric, Williams, Draft, Jerome

Dario Saric‘s fate will be among the most important decisions facing the Suns this offseason, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Saric started 50 of the 58 games he played in his first season in Phoenix, but averaged a career-low 10.1 PPG. Rankin notes that the team would like to find a more athletic power forward, but Saric has proven his value by playing hard, moving the ball and being a good locker-room influence.

Saric, who turned 26 this week, is already on his third team in four NBA seasons. The Suns can make him a restricted free agent in the offseason by extending a $5MM qualifying offer.

There’s more today from Phoenix:

  • Monty Williams has made a difference in his first year as Suns coach, just as league general managers predicted in a preseason survey, Rankin adds in a separate story. Williams was the choice of 43% of GMs among “new or relocated” head coaches expected to have a positive impact on their new team. Phoenix has more wins than in any of the past four years, even though the season has been put on hold with 17 games remaining and center Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games. With Williams at the helm, Devin Booker became an all-star for the first time, Kelly Oubre posted his best season and the team rose from 29th to 19th in defensive rating.
  • Point guard could be an emphasis for Phoenix in the draft, writes Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports, who agrees with ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that the team would have interest in Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes. In his latest mock draft, Givony has Haliburton being selected with the ninth pick, one ahead of the Suns, assuming they remain in the 10th slot. Zimmerman believes either would be a productive backup to Ricky Rubio, and at 6’5″ they both have the size to handle either backcourt position. Among point guards already on the roster, Elie Okobo‘s contract isn’t fully guaranteed for next season, while Jevon Carter will be a restricted free agent.
  • Ty Jerome talks to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports about an eventful rookie year that included two trades shortly after the draft, an early-season ankle injury that sidelined him for six weeks and now a coronavirus lockdown.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Lakers, Saric, Suns

Appearing in their first game as members of the Kings on Wednesday, Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver were part of the team’s sixth consecutive loss and 15th in the last 18 games. While Sacramento’s playoff chances appear to be slipping away, the two newcomers remain optimistic that they can help turn things around.

“Me and Kent both feel exactly the same way — it’s not unfixable,” Tolliver said this week upon joining the Kings, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “It’s not something where we feel, ‘Aw, crap, we’re just gonna have to ride it out.’ We really feel we have an opportunity to do something with the guys we have.”

The Kings are now 5.5 games back of the No. 8 seed in the West, but Bazemore isn’t convinced that deficit is insurmountable, as Anderson relays: “You win two or three games in a row, you finish strong going into the (All-Star) break and you have plenty of time to make up that slack. This league is about getting hot at the right time.”

Despite the disappointing stretch, the Kings have no changes planned for their coaching staff or management group, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California, who tweets that the club will need to work things out with the current group in place.

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Pacific…

  • Asked by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link) if the Lakers need one more piece to cement their place as a championship contender, LeBron James declined to lobby for an upgrade. We have enough right now,” he replied.
  • As a result of starting 41 games this season for the Suns, Dario Saric has met the starter criteria and will be eligible a slightly higher qualifying offer if the team makes him a restricted free agent this summer, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. A former 12th overall pick, Saric would have been in line for a $4.79MM QO, but it’ll now be worth $5.09MM, the equivalent of a QO for the ninth overall pick.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams and star Devin Booker expressed enthusiasm about NFL receiver Larry Fitzgerald joining the club’s ownership group, as Brendon Kleen of Forbes.com writes. “The level of credibility of our franchise continues to go up,” Williams said. “When someone like Larry partners and pours his money into it, it says a lot about who we are and who we’re trying to be.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Skepticism was rampant when the Lakers brought Howard back. That included the team’s front office, who gave him a non-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal. Instead of quickly wearing out his welcome, Howard has been wearing out second-unit centers. In the last three games, Howard has averaged 14 PPG and 15 RPG. Injuries limited Howard to nine games with Washington last season but the future Hall-of-Famer has proven he can accept a bench role and still have a major impact on a contending team. He’ll get significantly more than the veteran’s minimum this summer.

Nemanja Bjelica, Kings, 31, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $20.5MM deal in 2018
When Bjelica gets rolling, he can be an offensive force. Orlando learned that lesson on Monday when he erupted for 34 points. He’s also had 27- and 30-point games for the Kings this season. Bjelica started regularly for Sacramento last season but he’s turned it up a notch in his second season there, averaging career highs in points (12.2 PPG), rebounds (6.6 RPG) and assists (2.5 APG) while making 43.4% of his long-range attempts. The Kings can retain Bjelica’s services by guaranteeing his $7.15MM salary prior to free agency. He’s making that an easy decision.

Maurice Harkless, Clippers, 26, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2016
Being the fifth option on the court, especially on a team loaded with scorers like the Clippers, can be tough for many players to accept. Harkless embraces that role, which is why he’s a steady presence in the rotation. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG while playing 22.8 MPG due to his limited opportunities. Harkless’ defensive rating has jumped this season, why is why Doc Rivers keeps calling his number. Harkless is making $11MM this season prior to unrestricted free agency. He’ll have to take a pay cut this summer but he’ll find a second-unit job in the open market.

Dario Saric, Suns, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.75MM deal in 2016
Saric’s NBA career has gone south after a promising second season in Philadelphia in which he averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG while making 39.3% of his 3-pointers. Saric was included in the Jimmy Butler deal with Minnesota last season and was later sent to Phoenix in a draft-night trade. His playing time has fallen substantially this month, including a couple of games in which he barely left the bench. Phoenix can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.79MM qualifying offer. It’s likely the Suns will seek an upgrade at power foward and allow Saric to move on.

Alec Burks, Warriors, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Burks scored 25 points in an overtime loss to the Nuggets on Thursday after shooting 27.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range in his previous five games. He’s averaging 15.9 PPG but that’s mainly a product of opportunity on a bad team. He’s taking a career-high 12.4 shots per game, including 4.5 from long range. On the flip side, Burks settled for a veteran’s minimum contract last season. He’s done enough to get a better offer as a second-unit scorer, though he’s not going to make $10MM-plus as he did the previous three seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns Notes: Ayton, Trade Market, Baynes, Rozier

The Suns will get suspended center Deandre Ayton back in less than two weeks, but coach Monty Williams believes it will take 10 games or so for the team to get used to playing with him again, writes Gina Mizell of The Athletic. The top pick in last year’s draft played just one game this season before being suspended by the league after testing positive for a diuretic.

“We’re really gonna see who we are in the next month,” Williams said. “Most teams know all your plays. Most guys are setting their rotations. I think we’ll find out what our team looks like with the addition of DA.”

Ayton raised a lot of expectations with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks on opening night. The Suns want to see if he can become the anchor of their defense and an effective pick-and-roll partner for Ricky Rubio or if he’ll slip back into some of the bad habits of his rookie season.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Power forward could be a position of need if the Suns decide to become active on the trade market, Mizell adds in the same piece. Dario Saric has played well, but he’s the only Phoenix starter without a long-term contract and he stands to get a sizable offer as a restricted free agent. Mizell states that the Suns have to be intrigued by Arizona alum Aaron Gordon‘s 32-point performance against them last night, but the Magic may want to hold onto him as long as they’re in the playoff race. She lists Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge as veterans who might become available by the February trade deadline.
  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer examines whether the Suns and Kings are better off without Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, who are both slated to return soon. In Phoenix’s case, veteran center Aron Baynes stepped in for Ayton and helped the Suns to a surprising 7-4 start. They didn’t slip down the standings until he suffered injuries to his hip and calf. Baynes has always been a strong defender, but he has developed his offense since coming to Phoenix, averaging a career best 14.7 points and 2.9 assists per game.
  • Hornets guard Terry Rozier explained to reporters why he gave serious consideration to the Suns in free agency this summer (video link from The Arizona Republic). “Their identity is guys just play hard,” Rozier said. “Young, physical team, wanna win … obviously I’m not with them so I don’t really care about that no more.”

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, Dellavedova, Draft, Free Agency

Of the Cavaliers‘ five upcoming free agents, Tristan Thompson is the one they would most like to re-sign for the long term, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes in a mailbag column. Thompson is putting up the best numbers of his career this season, averaging 14.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He is also a team leader whose work ethic serves as a model for a very young roster.

Sources tell Fedor that the team hasn’t had any conversations with Thompson’s agents about a possible extension. The front office believes he wouldn’t be willing to make a commitment now when he stands to get a huge payday next summer.

Fedor notes that the Cavs’ chances of keeping Thompson seem pretty good because most contenders are either set at center or won’t have much money to spend. One exception could be the Raptors, who have Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol with expiring contracts. Thompson is a Toronto native and may be interested in returning home with a more successful organization.

There’s more on the Cavaliers, all courtesy of Fedor:

  • Matthew Dellavedova, another impending free agent, will continue to get playing time despite his broken jumper. Coach John Beilein sees him as one of the team’s best defenders and leans on his ability to run the offense with the second unit. Dellavedova is shooting a career-worst 25% from the field and has made just 3-of-31 shots beyond the arc.
  • After selecting Collin Sexton and Darius Garland the past two years, the Cavaliers could face a difficult decision in a 2020 draft that filled with small guards. Fedor believes management would be willing to gamble on North Carolina’s Cole Anthony or Georgia’s Anthony Edwards if they believe they are better long-range prospects than Sexton or Garland. Another name to watch could be Israeli swingman Deni Avdija, who is expected to be the first international player off the board. Cavs general manager Koby Altman recently made a trip to see Avdija, and scouting director Brandon Weems is planning to watch his Maccabi Tel Aviv team later this season.
  • The Cavaliers’ rebuilding situation will limit their free agency appeal, so Fedor believes the best strategy could be to make a generous offer for a restricted free agent. Brandon Ingram would be at the top of that list, but the Pelicans will likely match any offer to the centerpiece of the Anthony Davis trade. Other options include the KingsBogdan Bogdanovic and the Suns‘ Dario Saric.

Pacific Notes: Warren, Barnes, Saric, Caruso, GRIII

The trade that sent T.J. Warren from the Suns to the Pacers along with the No. 32 overall pick in exchange for a small amount of cash was one of the more surprising deals of the summer. After all, Warren had been a productive scorer in recent years in Phoenix and his three-year, $35MM contract wasn’t particularly unwieldy.

Speaking recently to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Warren said he isn’t upset or angry about the deal, but that he’s eager to prove the Suns made a mistake in giving him up for essentially nothing.

“When guys get moved, they want to show and prove the team that moved them wrong,” Warren said. “I’m not mad at the Phoenix Suns, but they made the deal and I’m just excited to move on. I’m ready to show the whole NBA — and not just the Suns for making the wrong decision — that the Pacers made the right decision. I’m worth more than cash considerations. It’s on me to prove it. But the Suns messed up.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Within that same Athletic article, Charania wrote that the Kings have expressed some remorse over Harrison Barnes‘ four-year, $85MM contract due to its impact on future deals, as we relayed on Friday. However, a Kings source denied that the team is experiencing any buyer’s remorse over Barnes’ contract, according to both Jason Jones of The Athletic and James Ham of NBC Sports California (Twitter links).
  • In a conversation with Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, forward Dario Saric spoke about being traded to the Suns, his role in Phoenix, and playing for Monty Williams, among other topics. Saric, who has now been moved twice in his three-year career, also discussed what it feels like to be a trade piece. “I wish I could stay with one team for five, six years. Three years. Ten years,” Saric said. “I’d love to have that, but in this kind of business, you need to be open-minded.”
  • Lakers guard Alex Caruso suffered a pelvic bone contusion during the team’s final preseason game on Friday, tweets Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet. X-rays were negative, but Caruso will undergo additional testing.
  • Offseason addition Glenn Robinson III won the competition for the Warriors‘ starting small forward job, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. While Robinson played well in the preseason, he essentially won the job by default, with Alfonzo McKinnie waived and Alec Burks sidelined due to an ankle injury.