Dario Saric

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.

Pacific Notes: Moore, Suns, Cousins, Warriors

Ben Moore‘s NBA track record is about as limited as possible for a player who has technically appeared in the league. The young forward played a total of nine minutes in two games for the Pacers during the 2017/18 season, recording one assist, one rebound, and four personal fouls. However, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link), the Suns are intrigued enough by Moore to bring him in for workouts this week.

As Carchia explains, Moore “opened eyes” with his performance for the USA Basketball Select Team that suited up against Team USA’s World Cup squad in Los Angeles last week. The Select Team upset the varsity club more than once during their scrimmages.

Moore, who spent last season in the G League, averaged 12.8 PPG and 8.7 RPG on .556/.368/.783 shooting in 47 games for the Austin Spurs and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get a chance to attend camp with an NBA team this season.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • During a recent appearance on Glenn Clark Radio, Suns assistant coach Steve Blake said that Ricky Rubio will help his new teammates “have fun” on the court this season and added that the Suns “definitely expect a lot” from newly-acquired forward Dario Saric. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic has the details and the rest of Blake’s quotes.
  • With the NBA investigating allegations that Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins threatened his ex-girlfriend, legal expert Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated takes a deep dive into the situation, exploring what factors the league will consider and how the investigation will proceed.
  • It’s officially the end of an era for the Warriors. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link), the team began to fully shift its business operations from its Oakland facility to San Francisco’s Chase Center this week.

Suns Acquire Saric, Johnson From Wolves For Culver

JULY 6: The Timberwolves have officially acquired the draft rights to No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver in exchange for Saric and the rights to No. 11 pick Cameron Johnson, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 20: The Timberwolves and Suns have reached an agreement on a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Minnesota is moving up to No. 6. In exchange for the sixth overall pick, Phoenix is receiving Dario Saric and the No. 11 overall pick, says Woj.

It’s the second trade agreement of the day for the Suns, who also reached a deal to send T.J. Warren and the No. 32 pick to the Pacers. Saric will help fill in the gap in the frontcourt created by Warren’s departure, slotting in as a stretch four alongside franchise center Deandre Ayton.

Saric, 25, averaged 10.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG with a .437/.365/.880 shooting line last season in 81 games for the Sixers and Timberwolves. He was part of the package Philadelphia sent to Minnesota in exchange for Jimmy Butler, and has now been dealt twice in the last year.

Meanwhile, new Timberwolves head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who wasn’t part of the front office when the team acquired Saric last fall, is showing right away that he’s not afraid to be aggressive. Minnesota is now in position to potentially draft one of the top point guards of the 2019 class — with the Hawks expected to draft De’Andre Hunter at No. 4, at least one of Darius Garland or Coby White should still be on the board at No. 6.

There have been rumors in recent weeks linking the Timberwolves to point guards, since Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose are headed for free agency and Jeff Teague is entering the final year of his contract. We’ll have to wait to see what Rosas has in mind for the No. 6 pick though.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Rosas had been trying to move up to No. 4 or No. 5 before ultimately reaching a deal with the Suns for No. 6.

Draft-Night Rumors: Cavs, Suns, Wolves, Nets, Knicks

The Cavaliers remain active in trade discussions, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Cleveland is exploring deals involving J.R. Smith‘s expiring contract in addition to possible trades of the No. 5 pick. Barring a trade, Cleveland remains focused on Darius Garland at No. 5, Woj adds (via Twitter).

Here a few more draft-night rumors worth rounding up:

  • According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), the Suns felt that the ability to land a starting power forward trumped the opportunity to draft a developmental point guard at No. 6, which is why they made their trade with the Timberwolves for Dario Saric. Phoenix plans on rolling with Tyler Johnson and a free agent signing at the point guard spot, Gambadoro adds.
  • The Timberwolves have engaged in multiple conversations about that No. 6 pick since agreeing to acquire it from the Suns, league sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • Two high-ranking sources have told Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) that the Nets remain “very interested” in signing Kyrie Irving with or without Kevin Durant. Lewis had previously reported that Brooklyn was weighing whether to sign Irving if the team couldn’t get Durant too.
  • Things could change, but for now it looks like Frank Ntilikina may not be traded tonight by the Knicks, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

Pelicans Receiving Offers For No. 4 Pick

Several teams are attempting to swing a deal with New Orleans for the fourth pick in tonight’s draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said today on the network’s “Get Up!” program (YouTube link). He speculates that Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin could wait until he’s on the clock before deciding whether or not to keep the selection.

Wojnarowski singles out the Hawks as a team to watch in the negotiations. They hold picks No. 8, 10 and 17 in the first round, along with No. 35 in the second round. Atlanta also has enough cap space to take on an unwanted contract such as Solomon Hill‘s, which has one more year at $12.76MM.

The Pelicans hope to be playoff contenders next season and are more interested in obtaining players than draft picks, Brian Windhorst said on the same show. He cites talks with the Timberwolves, who hold the No. 11 selection, with Robert Covington or Dario Saric as part of the package.

Windhorst confirms that Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland is the target for most of those teams. The top point guards in the draft are expected to be taken early, so the No. 4 pick is the surest way to get one.

The Hawks have talked to numerous teams, including the Knicks and Cavaliers, in an effort to move up, Windhorst adds. However, Atlanta’s offers to those teams have focused more on picks than players.

Wolves Notes: Offseason, Saric, Experimentation

It’s been a busy year for the Timberwolves, who find themselves in a very different position now than they did this time last year. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider) recently broke down the offseason priorities for a front office still reeling from a whirlwind few months.

Among the first tasks will be figuring out what to do with interim head coach Ryan Saunders, who took the reins after Tom Thibodeau‘s firing with predictably modest results given the circumstances. Minnesota will need to hire a general manager following Thibodeau’s departure and that individual would likely want a say in who is coaching the team.

Marks also flags Derrick Rose and Andrew Wiggins as players that Minnesota’s brass will need to mull over. Just how much of a priority should Rose be, he asks, and is it finally time to consider dramatically downgrading Wiggins’ role?

There’s more out of Minnesota today:

  • There’s a strong possibility that veteran point guard Jeff Teague opts into the final year of his contract, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune writes. Although the $19MM he’ll earn through 2019-20 may sound steep to Wolves fans eager to rebuild, Rand notes that the team was distinctly better with the 30-year-old on the court in 2018/19.
  • After an underwhelming season, Dario Saric and the Timberwolves can take solace in the fact that they’ll have another full season in which to gauge how well they fit together before a free agency decision needs to be made, Britt Robson of The Athletic writes.
  • The Timberwolves won’t be sneaking into the postseason this spring so head coach Ryan Saunders will use the final games of the campaign to tinker with different strategies. Per Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune, Sanders is particularly interested in seeing how Andrew Wiggins and rookie Keita Bates-Diop fare in unusual situations.

Northwest Notes: Morris, Saric, Saunders

While the Thunder entered the All-Stat break with a loss to the Pelicans, the team will start the second half with an added boost. Oklahoma City agreed to terms with veteran big man Markieff Morris, which should fortify the team’s frontcourt.

Morris, who spent most of the season with the Wizards, has not played since December, when a neck injury forced him to the sidelines. While his role and performance were inconsistent in Washington, Morris averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 34 games. Morris figures to serve as a primary backup at the four in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson and Fred Katz of The Athletic examined how Morris will fit in with the Thunder’s current roster. Katz compared Morris’ potential fit to that of Enes Kanter with a more capable perimeter game. While it remains to be seen how Morris settles in, at least one new teammate is excited by his arrival.

“We’re good,Paul George said. “We’re a good group. We added a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re gonna be ready for the second half after this break.”

Check out more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Timberwolves‘ decision to start Dario Saric in place of Taj Gibson led the team to score 74 points in the paint on Thursday. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders complimented Saric on creating space with his presence, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s one thing we like with Dario spacing the floor and having Taj in there at times, too,” Saunders said. “Karl(-Anthony Towns) has a little more opportunity to work. Playing through Karl is definitely a focus of ours.”
  • Speaking of Saunders, he’s only a few weeks into the job after the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Saunders praised the Timberwolves‘ players for easing his transition into head coaching duties, Feigen writes“Anything that’s new and sudden, it takes time to get more comfortable just in your regimen, your daily routine in things. But I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “The credit goes to the players in terms of how they make me feel, too.”
  • At 27-30, the Timberwolves are four games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. While their postseason odds are not great, the team insists there is reason for optimism entering the second half, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes.