Dennis Schröder

Thunder Increasing Efforts To Shed Salary

The Thunder have increased their efforts to reduce team salary for the 2019/20 season, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). According to Fischer, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and Andre Roberson are all “very available,” as is the No. 21 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

After being on the hook for a league-high luxury tax bill in 2018/19 (reportedly $61.6MM), the Thunder project to be well over the tax line again next season. Currently, the team has committed approximately $144.5MM in guaranteed money to nine players for ’19/20, per Basketball Insiders. The tax threshold is projected to come in at about $132MM.

As I pointed out when I previewed the Thunder’s offseason, team ownership may not be on board with paying another big tax bill for a roster that has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive years.

Attaching the No. 21 pick to the expiring contracts of Roberson ($10.7MM) and/or Patrick Patterson ($5.7MM) would be one way to shed salary. Moving a key rotation player like Adams ($25.8MM) or Schroder ($15.5MM) – both of whom have two years left on their deals – would represent a more drastic cost-cutting measure.

Head of basketball operations Sam Presti has some experience finding creative ways to trim team salary without sacrificing Oklahoma City’s on-court upside. Last summer, he moved Carmelo Anthony‘s $27MM expiring salary for Schroder, substantially reducing the Thunder’s projected tax bill while securing a veteran in Schroder who would play a more significant role than Anthony.

We’ll have to wait to see whether Presti has a mandate to reduce team salary again this summer, and if he can figure out another creative way to do so.

Southeast Notes: Schroder, Kemba, McGruder, Wizards

Returning to Atlanta this week for the first time since he was traded from the Hawks to the Thunder last summer, Dennis Schroder didn’t mince words when he spoke about heading from Atlanta to Oklahoma City. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman relays, Schroder suggested that he welcomed the move to a contender after growing tired of the Hawks’ rebuilding efforts.

“I wanted to be in a winning-mentality organization,” Schroder said before Tuesday’s game between the Thunder and Hawks. “You just can’t go out there and try to lose. I’m a competitor and I try to give everything out there. I want the organization to feel the same way. Right now with our organization, all the players in the locker room, all of the coaches, they’ve got a winning mentality. That’s what makes it fun, when you go out there and go to war with your brothers. There’s nothing better than that.”

Despite Schroder’s veiled shots at the Hawks, it was Atlanta that had the last laugh on Tuesday. The Hawks overcame Schroder’s 21 points and six assists to beat the Thunder in a 142-126 barn-burner. Atlanta’s offensive outburst included a pair of 45-point quarters.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In an interesting and in-depth feature for Bleacher Report, Jonathan Abrams explores Kemba Walker‘s situation in Charlotte, including his upcoming free agency. While Walker didn’t drop any bombshells regarding his future, he said he remains very interested in helping the Hornets reach new heights. “I do want to be the first to accomplish a lot of the goals that have never been accomplished around here,” Walker said. “Yeah, I do think about that. Just because I know a lot of things haven’t been accomplished here, and this is my eighth season here now. … I want to help accomplish those goals and help get this organization far—as far as possible.”
  • Rodney McGruder, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, started his 41st game for the Heat on Tuesday. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, that means McGruder has now met the “starter criteria” for RFAs, which will increase the value of his qualifying offer from $1.93MM to $3.02MM.
  • After falling to 13-23 and losing John Wall for the season, the Wizards‘ season looked over. But since then, the club has won five of eight games, including impressive victories against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. As Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington details, that puts the Wizards at a crossroads with the trade deadline fast approaching. In a separate story, Standig takes a closer look at whether Washington should buy, sell, or stand pat.

Northwest Notes: Rose, Nader, Schroder, Jazz

If Derrick Rose continues at his current pace, he could become just the second player ever to win Sixth Man of the Year after winning the Most Valuable Player award earlier in their career. As he prepares to return to Chicago to play the Bulls, the team with which he experienced his greatest successes, he deserves praise for his renaissance season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes.

Injuries derailed Rose’s once seemingly surefire Hall 0f Fame career, but he has rebounded to be an impactful player of the Timberwolves‘ bench. Rose is averaging 18.5 PPG and 4.6 APG in 29.2 minutes per contest in 2018/19. Not only that, his field goal percentage (48.5%) is at its highest mark since his sophomore season and his three-point shooting (46.9%) is over 12% better than at any other point.

“The way he’s getting ready for the game as far as working out, monitoring his body, taking care of himself, he’s a totally different person,” Rose’s longtime teammate Taj Gibson said. “Every game, it’s like he’s in a new form. He’s born again. And it shows.”

Check out more Northwest Division notes:

Fallout From Bulls/Thunder Scrum

On Monday night, the Thunder defeated the Bulls in Oklahoma City by 25 points in a game between two teams from different conferences, one with playoff aspirations and the other in the midst of a rebuild.

However, the otherwise relatively meaningless regular season contest took an interesting turn when a scrum broke out late in the third quarter after Bulls’ guard Cameron Payne was called for a foul, followed by a shoving match between Thunder’ guard Russell Westbrook and Bulls’ guard Kris Dunn.

Chaos then broke out as Jerami Grant approached Dunn before being confronted by Robin Lopez, resulting in both Grant and Lopez falling into the lap of some fans sitting in courtside seats.

The NBA announced discipline this afternoon, with non-participants and Thunder guards Raymond Felton and Dennis Schroder both receiving one-game suspensions for leaving the bench. Meanwhile, Dunn was fined $15K for “instigating,” while Grant and Lopez were fined $20K and $25K, respectively, for “escalating.”

Fortunately for the Kings, both Felton and Schroder will miss the Thunder’s game later tonight in Sacramento.

Western Notes: Ball, Allen, Schroder, Rose

Magic Johnson knows a thing or two about passing — he ranks fifth in career assists with 10,141 — but Johnson, a three-time NBA MVP, also knows the importance of scoring. Johnson held a stellar mark of 11.2 assists per game in his career, but his ability to keep defenders guessing by also becoming an elite scorer is what truly made him great.

Johnson, who is in his second year as Lakers President of Basketball Operations, strongly believes this is the transition Lonzo Ball must now enter, according to Nick Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports. Ball has already become an accomplished passer, but has plenty of room to grow as a scorer.

“He has to learn how to attack the paint and get his floaters, and then take it all the way to the rim,” Johnson said. “He loves to pass first – and that’s fine, we want him to stay with that – but a lot of times now the defense is baiting him. ‘Go ahead and drive the lane, we know you’re going to kick it out.’ So they don’t really play him. So he’s got to take it all the way.

“He’s got to be able to score. And once he’s able to score… he can do everything else. He can play defense. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league. And he knows how to get his teammates great shots. We want him to keep the pace going, because we want to run, run, and run.”

Drafted by Johnson’s group, Ball, 20, can help round-out his overall offensive game by taking these strides. He made his season debut on Thursday against the Trail Blazers, three months after undergoing knee surgery.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers were more than just a team for the late Paul Allen — they were his passion, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Allen passed away this week after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He owned the Blazers for 30 seasons, purchasing the franchise in 1988.
  • Dennis Schroder proved his worth in the Thunder’s season-opener on Tuesday, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Schroder finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of work, filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook.
  • Derrick Rose‘s role will fluctuate with the return of Jimmy Butler, writes Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Rose was labeled as a starter alongside Jeff Teague before Butler’s return, but came off the bench in the team’s first game this week. “[Rose] has the versatility to play with both groups,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So he’s gotten comfortable playing the off guard; his natural position is the point. I think you can mix and match with those guys.”

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2018/19 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs to answer an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are once again viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorites to be the last team standing, with 26 of 30 GMs (87%) picking Golden State to win the NBA championship for the fourth time in five years.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more noteworthy ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James (30%) and Kevin Durant (27%) are viewed as the frontrunners for the 2018/19 MVP award, but two younger players led the voting for the player GMs would most want to build a franchise around starting today. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (30%) and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (23%) led the way in that category. Interestingly, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t receive a single vote this year after leading the way with 29% of the vote in 2017.
  • The Lakers‘ signing of James helped them earn 70% of the vote for the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. The Raptors, buoyed by their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, finished second at 20%.
  • A ton of different signings and trade acquisitions received votes for the most underrated addition of the summer, with the Pacers‘ signing of Tyreke Evans barely leading the way with four votes. The Spurs‘ trade for DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker, the Pelicans‘ addition of Julius Randle, and the Thunder‘s acquisition of Dennis Schroder received three votes apiece.
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ decision to join the Warriors (35%) was considered the most surprising move of the offseason, followed by the Spurs/Raptors blockbuster trade (29%) and Paul George remaining with the Thunder (19%).
  • While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, GMs expect Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to be the best players five years from now. Meanwhile, the Clippers‘ selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was viewed by the most GMs as the steal of the draft.
  • The Sixers (47%) and Celtics (33%) dominated voting for the teams with the most promising young cores.

Thunder Notes: George, Championship, Schroder

Paul George, who surprisingly re-signed with the Thunder on a four-year deal over the summer, believes Oklahoma City is ready to contend for a championship.

“Absolutely,” George said when asked if the Thunder are built to contend (via Royce Young of ESPN.com). “We’ve got the chemistry. Me being around these guys going on about to be two years now, there’s an expectation and a level we know we need to play at. I think the consistency part you’ll see with us now being able to play well against the sub-.500 teams. But I definitely think this team has a chance. The reason why I signed back here is because I believed in it. And everybody in here believes. It’s on us, we’ve got our work cut out and it’s not going to be easy, but we’re up for it.”

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • The Thunder added Dennis Schroder this offseason and his new teammates are excited about what the point guard brings, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. “His ability just to read the different screens, and not just read them but set up his man, if that makes sense,” Steven Adams said when asked about Schroder. “It’s a big difference that I notice in guards that know how to use pick-and-rolls.”
  • Schroder finds himself trying to emulate Russell Westbrook‘s game at times and he’s looking forward to playing with the former MVP, as Horne passes along in the same piece. “That’s what really excites me right now. To play with Russ and Paul George, to be out there with them, I think means a lot for me,” Schroder said.
  • Schroder is facing a felony battery charge and the team spoke with him about it prior to trading for him, Horne adds in the same piece. The 25-year-old said his pending charges as “nothing to worry about.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Nader, Schroder, Millsap

The Timberwolves have hosted a handful of free agents for a workout this week, with Marcus Georges-Hunt, Rashad Vaughn, and John Jenkins among the latest players to earn a look from Minnesota, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 (Twitter link) also adds Eric Moreland to the list of players auditioned by the Wolves.

Nick Young, Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer worked out for the Timberwolves too, but according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, a number of agents believe the Wolves simply plan to sign Luol Deng, making them reluctant to send their players for a workout with the team. Minnesota reportedly launched its pursuit of Deng this week.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Following his trade from the Celtics this summer, Thunder forward Abdel Nader is looking forward to his new opportunity with the team, relays Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com. “It’s great,” Nader said. “I met a lot of the younger guys mostly, and even Russ, PG, Raymond (Felton). Everybody has been great. It’s a great group of guys. High character guys. I’m just really excited to be able to start playing with this team and build chemistry on the court as well as off the court.”
  • Dennis Schroder, who was also traded to the Thunder this summer, discussed his upcoming season, the difficulties he faced growing up in Germany and the advice he received from Dirk Nowitzki in a separate piece written by Nick Gallo. Schroder will provide depth off the bench behind All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook this season.
  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap is set to start the season injury-free after wrist surgery forced him to miss 44 games last year, as detailed by Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com. Millsap will be relied upon to anchor Denver’s defense and stretch the club’s offense.

Thunder Notes: Schroder, Nader, Hall, Hervey

Six days after initially reaching an agreement with the Hawks and Sixers, the Thunder have officially completed the trade that sends Carmelo Anthony and a future first-round pick to Atlanta, with Oklahoma City acquiring Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

As we detailed in our story on the trade, the move will create a traded player exception for the Thunder worth about $10.88MM and will also go a long way toward reducing the club’s projected tax bill. Oklahoma City’s salary remains well over the tax line, but the team’s projected tax penalties now work out to about $88.75MM rather than $150MM+. Taking into account their $148.74MM in player salaries, the Thunder are looking at a total roster cost of about $237.5MM for now.

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman explores whether Schroder makes sense in the old Reggie Jackson role on the Thunder’s roster, while Erik Horne of The Oklahoman examines the on-court fit of OKC’s newest guard and wonders whether the franchise can help rebuild the 24-year-old’s image.
  • In another article for The Oklahoman, Tramel praises the work that GM Sam Presti has done in turning another seemingly unmovable contract into a useful asset. While Tramel’s argument is fair, I’d push back on his assertion that Schroder will be a better fit than Anthony from a chemistry perspective, given the whispers we heard about the point guard in Atlanta. The impact on team chemistry is yet to be determined, in my opinion, as are the long-term financial benefits of swapping Anthony’s $27.93MM expiring contract for Schroder’s $15.5MM annual salary over three years.
  • In a piece focusing on newly-acquired wing Abdel Nader, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman notes that 2018 second-rounders Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey appears “less likely” to be on the club’s regular-season roster. The Thunder still have two open roster slots (one 15-man, one two-way), but there’s no guarantee they’ll fill both of them, and 45th overall pick Hamidou Diallo would likely take priority.

Anthony To Hawks, Schroder To Thunder In Three-Team Trade

JULY 25: The three-team trade involving the Thunder, Hawks, and Sixers is now official, according to a series of press releases. The deal took several days to finalize because the clubs had to complete a few other roster moves first, including Philadelphia signing Jonah Bolden earlier today.

Upon being released by the Hawks, Anthony intends to sign with the Rockets.

JULY 19: The Thunder and Hawks have agreed to a trade that will send Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City will receive Dennis Schroder in the deal. Royce Young of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the 2022 first-rounder will have 1-14 protection, and will turn into two second-rounders if it doesn’t convey in ’22.

The Sixers will also be involved in the trade, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who tweets that Philadelphia will acquire Mike Muscala from Atlanta and will send Justin Anderson to the Hawks. The 76ers will also deal Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to Oklahoma City, Vivlamore adds (via Twitter).

Upon acquiring him, the Hawks will waive Anthony, Wojnarowski adds. That will free up the veteran forward to join whatever a new team when he clears waivers, and the Rockets remain the strong frontrunners to land him.

We heard rumblings earlier this week about discussions between the Hawks and Thunder involving Anthony, Schroder, and Muscala, so it seems those two teams were able to find common ground, with the Sixers entering the mix as well. Here’s how the deal looks for each of the three teams involved:

Oklahoma City Thunder:

It has been nearly two weeks since word broke that the Thunder intended to part ways with Anthony, but the team resisted waiving him outright. Doing so would have reduced his $27.93MM cap charge to just $9.31MM, significantly reducing the club’s luxury-tax bill for 2018/19, but it would have added dead-money cap hits worth $9.31MM for the next two years as well.

By trading Anthony and a future protected pick and taking back Schroder and Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Thunder will reduce their 2018/19 team salary and projected tax bill substantially while also adding a productive point guard in Schroder. The 24-year-old, who averaged 19.4 PPG and 6.2 APG last season, figures to assume a role similar to the one Reggie Jackson previously had in Oklahoma City.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Thunder GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan were granted permission to speak to Schroder before the deal was agreed upon, and both Presti and Donovan are “enthusiastic” about the fit. Oklahoma City had been seeking more speed and another ball-handler, Woj notes.

Still, there’s a reason Schroder was available. There are on-court questions about his shooting and defense, and off-court concerns about his character and his legal issues. Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge last September, with Georgia officials recommending in March that he be prosecuted for felony aggravated battery. He’ll face discipline from his team and/or the league when that case is resolved, but the Thunder appear to be banking him avoiding a more serious sentence.

As for the specific tax figures, by my count, the Thunder will now have a team salary of about $148.74MM with a projected tax bill just over $88.75MM. Prior to the deal, those numbers sat at about $160.97MM and $157.75MM, respectively. While Oklahoma City’s tax outlook for 2018/19 has improved, the Thunder will have to be wary about increased penalties in future seasons after adding Schroder’s $15.5MM annual salary through 2020/21. They’ll likely deal with that when the time comes though.

It’s worth noting that a lengthy suspension without pay for Schroder could further reduce the Thunder’s team salary and tax hit in 2018/19. A suspension would also reduce the likelihood of the point guard earning the $2MM in unlikely incentives included in his contract, though not all of those bonuses are tied to individual performance, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes.

Finally, the Thunder will create a traded player exception worth $10,883,189 in the deal. They’ll have a year to use it.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks had been determined to move Schroder for much of the offseason, and drafting Trae Young and acquiring Jeremy Lin made Atlanta’s former starting point guard even more expendable. Despite his solid production, Schroder had a slew of on- and off-court question marks, as detailed above, and he was drafted and extended by Atlanta’s previous front office — general manager Travis Schlenk never seemed particularly attached to him.

By moving Schroder ($15.5MM) and Muscala ($5MM) for Anthony ($27.93MM) and Anderson ($2.52MM), the Hawks take advantage of their remaining cap room — they’re able to take back significantly more salary than they sent out as a result of that space.

Atlanta won’t get any real immediate help out of the deal, but the club will create future cap flexibility by clearing Schroder’s three remaining years from its books — both Anthony and Anderson are on expiring deals, and Carmelo will be waived shortly. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), he’ll get his full $27.93MM salary from the Hawks. That was certainly agreed upon prior to the completion of the deal, since Anthony had a no-trade clause and could’ve vetoed the move if he thought Atlanta would ask him to give back money in a buyout.

The Hawks will also acquire a 2022 first-round pick, which they’ll receive as long as Oklahoma City is a playoff team in ’22 — otherwise, it will become two second-rounders. The Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading consecutive future first-rounders, meant that the Thunder would have had a hard time dealing an earlier first-round pick, since they’d already sent their top-20 protected 2020 first-rounder to Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers:

While the Sixers’ involvement in this deal may seem extraneous, it’s a nice bit of business for Philadelphia. In Muscala, the team will acquire a big man capable of knocking down outside shots — he’s a career 37.8% three-point shooter and made a career-best 1.2 threes per game in 2017/18.

The Sixers thought they’d acquired a player who fit that role earlier in the offseason when they reached an agreement to sign Nemanja Bjelica, but Bjelica backed out of his deal with the team, leaving Philadelphia seeking a replacement. Muscala is a solid fallback plan, and is on an expiring contract, meaning he won’t compromise the team’s future cap flexibility.

In order to acquire Muscala, the Sixers only had to surrender Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot, a pair of players who seemed unlikely to have regular rotation roles for the team in 2018/19. The move will also help the 76ers clear out a roster logjam, as the team had 16 players under contract and was still believed to be considering bringing over draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden. Following the deal, the Sixers are back down to 15 players on NBA contracts, not including Bolden or 2018 second-rounder Shake Milton.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.