- Injuries to Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose have contributed greatly to the Pistons’ 4-9 start. With some days off and both stars back in action, coach Dwane Casey is hoping to get things back on track, Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. “We’ve got three or four days we can practice,” he said. “Before, there was one day in between. … Sounds like an excuse. But it’s going to take a while for our guys to jell together, work together, learn each other. With Blake and Derrick back, for them to learn each other. It’s going to be a marathon.”
- The Pistons will have to consider drastic changes if they don’t break the cycle of mediocrity soon, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The trade for Griffin hasn’t resulted in a huge uptick in the team’s fortunes, Beard continues. Andre Drummond, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, hasn’t impacted winning significantly enough to warrant another long-term deal in many people’s minds, Beard adds.
- The bevy of injuries that the Pistons had to deal with to start this season has a silver lining, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, and it’s the way shooting guard Luke Kennard has responded to the team’s reliance on him. And while whether Kennard keeps starting remains to be seen, head coach Dwane Casey says he’s going to remain a focal point of the rotation either way. “He’s still going to get starter minutes… He brings value to the team. Luke’s a very valuable part of what we’re doing.”
Pistons wing Khyri Thomas will miss at least the next six weeks, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. Thomas underwent successful surgery on the the fifth metatarsal in his right foot and will begin rehabbing immediately.
Thomas has seen action in two games this season, playing a total of just six minutes. That’s a bit surprising considering the Pistons have seen a bevy of injuries in the backcourt early this season with Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose among the guards missing time.
Thomas was selected with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Creighton by the Sixers. Philadelphia dealt his rights to Detroit for a pair of future second-rounders.
Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
Entering the season, the Central Division appeared to feature two contending teams (the Bucks and Pacers) and two more teams with playoff aspirations (the Pistons and Bulls), leaving just one Central club (the Cavaliers) that looked like a lock to be a seller at the trade deadline.
While it’s still possible that will be the case, Cleveland has exceeded expectations in the early going, playing hard for new head coach John Beilein and currently holding the No. 7 seed in the East at 4-5.
As we wait to see whether the Cavs’ early success is sustainable enough to alter their trade-deadline plans, let’s round up a few potential trade candidates from around the division…
Tristan Thompson, C
$18.53MM cap hit; UFA in 2020
One of five Cavaliers veterans on an expiring contract this season, Thompson entered the year looking like a logical trade candidate. After all, he’s a reliable veteran with a championship under his belt, making him a better fit for a contender than a lottery-bound squad.
However, the Cavaliers value Thompson’s locker-room presence and he’s posting some of the best on-court numbers of his career so far in 2019/20. His 16.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.6 BPG would all be career highs over the course of a full season. A solid rebounder and defender, Thompson spoke last month about wanting to make an All-Defensive team, but he has been better than expected on offense, with Beilein having shown a willingness to run plays through him.
A cynic might say that the Cavaliers are putting Thompson in position to increase his trade value ahead of February’s deadline. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team seriously looks into what it would take to keep him around beyond this season before putting him on the trade block.
Langston Galloway, G
$7.33MM cap hit; UFA in 2020
When the Pistons were trying to find a way to keep both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on their roster at the start of the regular season, Galloway was said to be among the players the team explored trading. In fact, one report suggested Detroit was “very open” to the idea of moving the veteran guard. However, no deal materialized, presumably because teams didn’t view Galloway as a positive asset.
Like Thompson, however, Galloway is off to a great start to the season, averaging 11.6 PPG on .437/.457/.912 shooting through 11 games (24.2 MPG). While the Pistons may not have expected him to have this significant a role, injuries to Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, and Tim Frazier have forced the team’s hand — as has Galloway’s strong play.
Whether or not Galloway re-emerges as a trade candidate may hinge on the Pistons’ ability to remain in the playoff mix in the East. If the club is in position to make a win-now move at the deadline, Galloway’s expiring contract would make a logical salary-matching chip. If not, it may be in the club’s best interest to just let his contract expire at season’s end — unless he plays well enough to gain positive trade value.
Kris Dunn, PG
$5.35MM cap hit; RFA in 2020
Dunn, who has also been the subject of trade rumors before this season, has seen his stock dip drastically since he was acquired by the Bulls in 2017. His offensive numbers this season are especially modest, and his usage rate is down to 15.1 through 10 games, well below the 22.5 mark he posted in his first two years in Chicago.
However, head coach Jim Boylen likes how the former top-five pick has played so far this season, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. While he has taken on a more passive role on offense, Dunn has been strong on defense, averaging 2.2 steals in just 20.4 minutes per game. That’s important for a Bulls team that has been up and down on the defensive end so far this season.
Despite a decent start, Dunn could end up back on the trade block within the next few months due to his contract situation and the Bulls’ roster situation. Tomas Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono signed three-year contracts with the team in July and Coby White was the seventh overall pick, so Chicago has more invested in its other point guards than in Dunn, who will be a free agent in 2020.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Pistons forward Blake Griffin will make his season debut Monday against the Timberwolves, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Griffin missed the first 10 games while rehabilitating a sore knee and hamstring that have bothered him since the preseason. He had a surgical procedure on his left knee after last season ended.
Griffin has gone through several practices without experiencing pain, which convinced the team he is ready to starting playing. Markieff Morris, who had been starting in Griffin’s absence, will likely move to the bench. After several seasons shortened by injuries, Griffin played 75 games last year and earned third-team All-NBA honors with a 24.5/7.5/5.4 line.
There’s more from the Central Division:
- Derrick Rose has missed four straight games with a hamstring issue, but he tells Ben Stinar of The Big Lead that Pistons fans don’t need to be concerned about his health. “I feel good,” Rose said after Friday’s game. “I feel like I could play, but the organization, trainers, feel like I’ll need a little bit more time.” He also said he’s happy with his decision to come to Detroit in free agency after reviving his career in Minnesota last season. Rose has averaged 20.8 points and 6.3 assists off the bench in the six games he has played since joining the Pistons. “I feel like it’s home,” he said. “The franchise, the organization, the staff. We’re transparent about everything, they communicate to me, I communicate to them. It’s open dialogue about anything.”
- Darius Garland‘s NBA career has gotten off to a rough start, but the Cavaliers aren’t panicking about their top draft pick, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cleveland was attracted to Garland because of his shooting, but through seven games he is averaging just 7.6 PPG while hitting 29.2% from the field and 25.9% from beyond the arc. “This is his 11th real game in the last 12 months,” an unidentified member of the organization told Fedor. “Of course, he’s going to struggle early on with NBA competition. We believe in this kid.”
- The Pacers knew they were getting a scorer when they picked up T.J. Warren from the Suns, but he’s contributing on defense as well, observes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. “It’s hard to play defense when you’re 12-62 and the best player isn’t even trying to play defense or passing the ball,” said Trevor West, who serves as Warren’s trainer. “What people are seeing now is who T.J. actually is — a person who gets buckets on one end and locks people down at the other end. It’s personal for him. He doesn’t like getting scored on.”
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 Central Division:
Andre Drummond, Pistons, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $127.2MM deal in 2016
With Blake Griffin sidelined, Drummond has delivered a number of energetic and highly productive performances. He was averaging 21.9 points, an NBA-high 18.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.7 steals heading into Friday’s game against Indiana. He’s also displaying greater maturity and reducing the unnecessary fouls, allowing him to stay on the court for longer stretches. In a very weak free agent market, Drummond could be the top prize unless Anthony Davis opts out. Drummond is expected to opt out of the final $28.8MM on his deal.
Denzel Valentine, Bulls, 25, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $9.9MM deal in 2016
Valentine established himself as a rotation player during his second year in the league, appearing in 77 games (37 starts) while averaging 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists with an above-average 3-point percentage (38.6). A major ankle injury ended Valentine’s third season before it began. He has struggled thus far to reestablish himself and got sent to the G League this weekend to get some game action. The Bulls can make him a restricted free agent next summer by extending a $4.MM qualifying offer. He’s unlikely to get that unless he reemerges as a second unit fixture.
Justin Holiday, Pacers, 30, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $4.77MM deal in 2019
Holiday is one of those glue guys whose contributions go well beyond the stat sheet. He provides guidance to the team’s younger players and has been the team’s top wing defender in the early going. He can guard multiple positions, which has helped him earned steady minutes (22.1 per game). Holiday hasn’t shot it well (32.7) and he’ll likely lose playing time once Victor Oladipo finally returns from his quad injury. But Holiday might get another contract similar to the one Indiana handed him over the summer if he continues to be a steadying presence.
Sterling Brown, Bucks, 24, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2017
The 2017 second-round pick averaged 17.8 minutes in 58 games during his second season in the league. Brown has been buried on the bench for the most part this season, racking up several DNP-Coach’s Decisions. His only extended action was a 21-minute outing in a 32-point romp over Orlando at the beginning of the month. Brown’s qualifying offer is just $2MM, so it wouldn’t cost the Bucks much to make him a restricted free agent. However, there’s no real clear path to steady playing time this season unless injuries strike.
John Henson, Cavaliers, 28, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $48MM deal in 2016
Henson’s biggest problem is one that always makes buyers beware — he can’t stay on the court. Henson’s 2018-19 season was essentially a washout due to a wrist injury. The Cavs, who acquired him last December after Henson underwent surgery, were hoping he could earn a spot in John Beilein’s rotation this fall. Instead, he suffered groin and ankle injuries during the preseason. When he finally appeared in a regular-season game, he strained his right hamstring, which is expected to cost him 2-4 weeks. Henson will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and will have to settle for a major pay cut to stay in the league.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Andre Drummond, who is likely to turn down his $28.8MM player option for next season, is set to be one of the top free agents in a weak 2020 free agent class. He’ll undoubtedly look for a massive contract, if not a max deal, this summer and he hopes it comes from the Pistons.
“At the end of the day, I can’t control what the front office wants to do in terms of the contract stuff. The only thing I can control right now is playing the game the right way and putting my team in a good position to win. Whatever happens after that happens,” Drummond told Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Obviously, I would enjoy playing for the rest of my career in Detroit. Whatever happens at the end of the year happens and we’ll figure it out when that time comes.”
Drummond is averaging an insane 18.6 rebounds per contest so far this year, though as Beard writes, the perception of him as a stat-filler who can’t win is slowly shifting around the league. The center believes his game now is a culmination of seven years of work and maturity that allows him to be a leader on the team.
“It’s a sense of urgency. I’ve had a lot of years in the league, and I know what it takes to win and to lead a team. Overall, it’s just me maturing as a player,” Drummond said. “Everybody is saying it’s ‘[contract-year] Dre’ and I wouldn’t even call it that.
“It’s a maturity aspect and how I carry myself on and off the court. With that, it shows the work I’ve put in over the past seven years and being here and seeing the ins and outs. Now is the time in my career where I can lead a team and I know how to do it the right way.”
The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.
A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.
The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):
- The player was named to an All-NBA team and/or was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
- The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on the players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…
Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:
Antetokounmpo met the performance criteria for the super-max when he won last season’s MVP award. Gobert did so by winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2018 and then being named to the All-NBA team in 2019 — his second consecutive DPOY award in ’19 merely put an emphatic stamp on his eligibility.
However, neither Antetokounmpo nor Gobert can actually sign a Designated Veteran Extension yet, since they must have seven years of NBA experience under their belts.
Each player is in his seventh season now, but years of experience aren’t officially added until the very end of the league year. In other words, the Bucks and Jazz stars will have to wait until next July to officially sign super-max extensions.
We know the Bucks will put that offer on the table for Giannis, but we’re not sure yet whether he’ll sign it. It also remains to be seen if the Jazz will make the same offer to Gobert. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2021/22 ($125MM), each player would be eligible for $253.75MM over five years.
Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2019/20:
Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2019/20 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the two players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. Thunder center Steven Adams, for instance, would become eligible for a super-max extension by earning an All-NBA spot, but that’s probably not happening.
Even Drummond might be a long shot, but if he can maintain the numbers he has posted in his first nine games (21.9 PPG, 18.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG), he’ll be in the conversation. So far, he’s outplaying last year’s All-NBA First Team center Nikola Jokic, who is off to a slow start.
Embiid, last season’s All-NBA Second Team center, looks like a safer All-NBA bet as long he stays healthy. He earned his spot in 2018/19 despite playing just 64 games, so if he can match or exceed that number this season with similar production, look for him to become super-max eligible.
Drummond is in his eighth NBA season, while Embiid is only in his sixth. So if Drummond were to earn All-NBA honors this season, he’d become eligible to immediately sign a super-max contract. Declining his player option and signing a five-year Designated Veteran contract would put Drummond in line for a deal worth $235.48MM based on the league’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($116MM). Though of course, there’s no guarantee the Pistons would be willing to go quite that high.
As for Embiid, if he makes an All-NBA team this season, he’ll be in a similar situation to the one Giannis and Gobert are in now — super-max eligible based on his performance criteria, but not yet on his contract criteria. He’d have to wait until the 2021 offseason to sign that extension. I expect the Sixers will be ready to do a super-max deal if he keeps playing at this level and doesn’t suffer any more major injuries.
It’s also worth mentioning Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns in this group. They’ll only have five years of NBA experience apiece after this season, so they wouldn’t be able to sign super-max extensions until the 2022 offseason. Technically though, one of them could meet the required performance criteria as early as this spring by winning the MVP award.
Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract:
There are many other players who could be added to this list, but these are the three who would otherwise be strong candidates to qualify the super-max if they hadn’t already become ineligible based on one of the required criteria.
In Beal’s case, he opted to sign a standard veteran extension this fall rather than wait to see if he’d make an All-NBA team this season and become eligible for the super-max. By the time he’ll be able to opt out of his new deal in the summer of 2022, he’ll have 10 years of experience under his belt, meaning he’ll automatically qualify for the 35% max.
Davis and Oladipo, meanwhile, were traded while playing out their rookie scale contract extensions, making them ineligible for a super-max. Davis would have been able to sign such a deal this past offseason if he had remained with the Pelicans.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Blake Griffin, who has yet to play this season due to hamstring and knee soreness, has been cleared by the Pistons‘ medical staff to participate in all basketball-related activities, the team announced today in a press release.
It’s not yet clear if Griffin will make his season debut on Friday in Indiana. According to the Pistons’ announcement, the star forward has “begun a return to game action progression” and is being considered day-to-day for now.
The Pistons have held their own despite being hit hard by injuries to start the season, posting a 4-5 record to date. That mark has been good for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference and has been accomplished with Reggie Jackson missing seven games and Derrick Rose missing three, in addition to Griffin’s season-long absence.
Here’s more on the Pistons as they prepare for the return of their All-NBA forward:
- Rose (hamstring) and Tim Frazier (shoulder) are continuing their treatment and rehab programs and are still considered day-to-day, according to the press release issued today by the Pistons.
- With Griffin on the shelf, Christian Wood has gotten the opportunity to play regular minutes and has taken advantage of that opportunity, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. While Wood is subject to occasional defensive lapses, he has averaged 8.8 PPG and 4.3 RPG in just 15.1 minutes per contest. He’s looking to show the Pistons he deserves to have his 2019/20 salary fully guaranteed in January.
- In case you missed it, Pistons forward Markieff Morris joined his brother Marcus Morris in signing with Roc Nation Sports for representation. Sam Permut will be their agent, tweets Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal. The Morris twins were previously represented by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports.
The Morris twins were previously represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, but Paul and Marcus parted ways this summer after Marcus reneged on a contract agreement with the Spurs and opted to sign with the Knicks instead. Paul reportedly urged Marcus not to back out of that tentative deal with San Antonio.
Markieff, who signed with the Pistons this summer, didn’t have as tumultuous a free agency experience as his brother, but it’s not surprising that he has elected to move on from Paul as well. The Morris twins have often operated as a unit throughout their NBA careers, having initially signed with Klutch Sports together during the summer of 2018.
Both brothers could be back on the free agent market next summer. Marcus’ $15MM deal with New York is just a one-year pact, so he’ll definitely become an unrestricted free agent. Markieff’s future is less certain, since his Pistons contract features a second-year player option worth $3.36MM. He could turn it down to reach the open market, or opt in and remain with Detroit.