- The Pistons started all of their first-round picks for the first time on Friday and Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey lifted the team to a win over Oklahoma City. Backup center Jahlil Okafor says it’s a pleasure to be around the hard-working trio, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “Seeing them every day, how serious they are in their approach, I’m really proud of them,” Okafor said. “It’s a breath of fresh air being around these types of rookies who love the game so much and are so eager to learn. It’s kind of uplifting.”
All 30 of the NBA’s teams are carrying some sort of “dead money” on their respective books for the 2020/21 season. Dead money is the guaranteed salary paid or owed to a player who is no longer under contract with the team.
In some cases, teams are carrying cap hits for players whom they released several years ago. That’s the case in Indiana, for instance, where the Pacers have a $2,245,400 cap charge for Monta Ellis this season, despite cutting him way back in July of 2017.
In other situations, the dead money is a result of having waived a player more recently. The Pistons, for example, created this season’s single largest dead money cap hit when they bought out Blake Griffin, who is still counting for $32,670,565 against Detroit’s team salary in ’20/21.
Other dead money charges are far more modest. For instance, expired 10-day contracts technically count as dead money, but none of those are worth more than $110,998.
While some teams will add a little more dead money to their caps in the coming weeks when 10-day deals expire or certain players are released, it’s safe to assume that nearly all of this season’s most significant cuts have already been completed. With that in mind, we’re taking a look below at the teams carrying the most dead money for 2020/21.
Carrying a substantial amount of dead money doesn’t necessarily indicate that a club has managed its cap poorly. For instance, the Thunder and Knicks, two of the teams near the top of the list below, have the two smallest team salaries in the NBA this season.
Because they haven’t had any hard-cap or luxury-tax concerns, Oklahoma City and New York could comfortably afford to waive multiple players with guaranteed salaries in order to make room for new players, without worrying about the associated costs. The Thunder have certainly done that — their $36MM in overall dead money comes from 12 different players.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Warriors and Clippers are among the teams with the least amount of dead money on their books, which makes sense too. Golden State will have the league’s highest tax bill, while L.A. has been up against a hard cap for much of the season, so both teams have wisely avoided making any major commitments to players who won’t finish the season on the roster.
Here’s the full list of 2020/21 dead money by team, as of April 16:
- Detroit Pistons: $38,806,272
- Memphis Grizzlies: $36,052,708
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $35,926,004
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $30,396,254
- San Antonio Spurs: $24,804,677
- New York Knicks: $20,260,505
- Sacramento Kings: $9,655,830
- Charlotte Hornets: $9,043,478
- Los Angeles Lakers: $7,599,241
- Toronto Raptors: $6,818,018
- Houston Rockets: $6,017,104
- Miami Heat: $5,564,670
- Milwaukee Bucks: $5,034,894
- Portland Trail Blazers: $4,757,775
- Orlando Magic: $4,268,128
- Washington Wizards: $4,222,815
- Indiana Pacers: $3,862,401
- Denver Nuggets: $2,000,000
- Philadelphia 76ers: $1,642,981
- Brooklyn Nets: $1,635,825
- Note: This figure doesn’t include LaMarcus Aldridge‘s $554,988 cap hit, since he remains on the roster, for now, after announcing his retirement.
- Note: This figure doesn’t include LaMarcus Aldridge‘s $554,988 cap hit, since he remains on the roster, for now, after announcing his retirement.
- Dallas Mavericks: $1,620,564
- Boston Celtics: $1,131,937
- New Orleans Pelicans: $1,054,478
- Phoenix Suns: $785,285
- Utah Jazz: $770,433
- Atlanta Hawks: $744,684
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $685,340
- Golden State Warriors: $666,667
- Los Angeles Clippers: $110,998
- Chicago Bulls: $97,261
Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Bulls are 3-8 since adding five new players in two big trade-deadline moves. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic assesses the players club’s new additions in an extensive piece.
Though All-Star center Nikola Vučević has produced offensively, the team is struggling to cling to the No. 10 seed (and thus a play-in tournament opportunity) in the East.
Vučević’s biggest weakness on offense is a low free throw rate, but otherwise he has been in line with expectations thus far. Daniel Theis, too, has been a helpful contributor right away. Troy Brown Jr. has shown flashes of promise, while Javonte Green and Al-Farouq Aminu have not cracked the team’s rotation, and have shown why when they have seen playing time.
There’s more out of the Central Division:
- The Cavaliers anticipate that they will add a player via their newly-opened two-way player slot “soon,” reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Lamar Stevens held that spot until he was promoted to the 15-man roster this week.
- Though Pistons point guard Cory Joseph looked like a throw-in as part of a trade deadline deal with the Kings that netted Detroit two second-round draft picks, he has turned into a helpful mentor for Detroit’s players, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Cory’s been through it,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “His style of play, his personality and his leadership, everything rubs off and he’s doing the same thing with Killian [Hayes] and Saben [Lee] and that group.” Joseph has also proven that he has something left in the tank, averaging 11.7 PPG and 6.1 APG since the deal.
- Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has bought out former majority owner Gordon Gund‘s remaining 15% minority share in the franchise, writes The AP’s Tom Withers. “Gordon will remain part of the Cavaliers family and we thank him greatly for his leadership, dedication and long-standing support of the franchise,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.
The tightened schedule the NBA adopted to squeeze 72 games into five months is being criticized amid an increase in injuries, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Holmes talked to several general managers and training staff officials who believe players are more at risk than ever.
“Hands down, it’s the worst schedule I’ve seen in 25 years in the league,” a veteran assistant coach said. “It’s utterly insane.”
Another called it “brutal,” while a head athletic trainer said the situation is worse than what teams experienced during the restart in Orlando last summer.
“Going into the bubble, we had all these different anxieties about the games, but without travel,” the trainer said. “This is literally exponentially more difficult. It’s such a cumulative effect.”
Data from the Elias Sports Bureau indicates that 2021 All-Stars have missed 15% of games this season, which would be the second-highest rate in league history. Several executives told Holmes that prior to the season, general managers voiced concerns over the schedule to the NBA office, including to commissioner Adam Silver, but the league was determined to complete the season in time to give players the chance to compete in the Summer Olympics, which will begin on July 23.
An NBA spokesperson contends that through 50 games, the number of injuries is actually down from last season and is within the normal range for the past five years. The league took steps this year to cut down on travel, such as having teams play a two-game series at some stops and reducing the number of one-game road trips.
Complicating the schedule was the high number of games that were postponed during the first half of the season because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Most of those games are being made up in the second half, forcing some teams to play far more often than normal.
The Grizzlies, for example, play three games in four nights 22 times over the second half, although some of those overlap. Memphis also has eight instances of five games in seven days, which is the most in the league, followed by the Spurs with seven and the Pistons, Rockets and Mavericks with five each. The Heat went 51 games without more than one day of rest between games, which is the longest stretch since the lockout season in 2011/12.
The NBA is coming off a shortened offseason as some playoff teams played into October last year, then started the new season in December. Silver has expressed optimism that next season will start on time, so players will again have limited time to recover this summer. The NBA Finals could go last late as July 22, and Summer League in Las Vegas is expected to be held in August.
“This whole two-year period will have a marked long-term effect on players many years down the line,” a general manager said. “It’s like if your power goes out. You have to burn candles if you want light. If you burn them, you won’t have them the next time your power goes out. We are burning through the players right now at an alarming rate. But again, what’s the alternative? Twenty-five-man rosters? Fewer games? It’s not just a ‘league thing.’ It all required collaboration with the NBPA. It’s a shared responsibility, driven almost exclusively by the seduction of (money).”
It’s been nearly two months since we checked in on the status of 2021’s traded first-round picks, and there have been plenty of shifts in the NBA standings since then. Those changes have an impact on where in the draft certain traded picks will land, as well as whether or not some protected picks will change hands at all.
With just over a month left in the 2020/21 regular season, it’s worth revisiting the traded first-round picks for 2021. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here’s our latest look at which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones are still up in the air:
Picks that will definitely change hands:
- Knicks acquiring Mavericks‘ pick (unprotected).
- Rockets acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-nine protected swap).
The only unprotected traded pick for the 2021 draft, the Mavs’ selection currently projects to be the No. 21 overall pick. That would be a reasonably good outcome for the Knicks, but there’s even more upside here — since Dallas is currently the No. 7 seed in the West, a win in the play-in tournament may be necessary to secure a playoff spot.
The NBA has yet to clarify exactly how draft positioning will be affected by the play-in results, but presumably if the Mavs don’t clinch a postseason berth in the play-in, that pick would move into the lottery.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will acquire the Bucks’ pick, currently projected to land at No. 24 overall, in a swap for their own second-rounder (No. 32, for now).
Picks that definitely won’t change hands:
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (1-7 and 15-30 protection).
- Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (8-30 protection).
- Rockets acquiring Pistons‘ pick (top-16 protected).
The Jazz are definitely making the postseason and the Pistons definitely aren’t, so their picks (currently projected to be No. 30 and No. 4, respectively) won’t change hands.
The Grizzlies should at least be able to count on getting Utah’s first-rounder in 2022, when it will become top-six protected. It may be a while before the Rockets get a pick from Detroit though — that first-rounder remains heavily protected in 2022 (top-16), 2023 (top-18), and 2024 (top-18) before those protections start to loosen a little.
As for the Lakers‘ pick, it isn’t technically a lock yet — there’s theoretically a scenario in which L.A. misses the playoffs and then moves into the top four in the lottery, sending its pick to the Pelicans. But that’s an extreme long shot. The Lakers’ pick is at No. 23 for now.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Knicks have the ability to swap their own 2021 first-rounder for the Clippers‘ pick. At the moment though, New York’s pick would be No. 15 and L.A.’s would be No. 26, so that won’t happen.
Still up in the air:
- Warriors acquiring Timberwolves‘ pick (top-three protected).
- Magic acquiring Bulls‘ pick (top-four protected).
- Thunder acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected).
That Timberwolves pick will be a fascinating one to watch in the lottery. If Minnesota finishes with a bottom-three record, there will be a 40.1% chance it remains in the top three.
The Warriors will actually be rooting for the Wolves to finish with the NBA’s worst record, since in that scenario, there’s a 59.9% chance the pick lands at No. 4 or No. 5. If the Wolves instead have the third-worst record, the pick would be just as likely to land in the top three, but could slip as far as No. 6 or No. 7.
The Magic will have a good chance of landing the Bulls‘ pick, which currently projects to be the No. 10 overall selection. If Chicago remains in that spot, there would only be about a 14% chance of the pick moving up into the top four.
Golden State’s own pick, which currently projects to be No. 13, is unlikely to be sent to the Thunder unless the Warriors get hot late in the season. Assuming the Warriors’ first-rounder is protected, Oklahoma City would instead receive Minnesota’s second-round pick (currently No. 31).
Latest on the Rockets/Thunder/Heat/Blazers/Nets situation:
As a reminder, this series of trades and pick swaps is too convoluted to fit cleanly into any of the above sections. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
- The Thunder will have the right to swap either their own first-round pick or the Heat’s first-round pick for the Rockets‘ first-round pick, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t fall in the top four. In other words, if Houston gets a top-four pick, the Rockets will keep their own first-rounder; if not, the Thunder will get the two most favorable picks of their own, the Heat’s, and the Rockets’, and Houston will get the least favorable.
- Once the first step is complete, the Rockets will be left with at least one first-round pick, and almost certainly two, since they’re also owed the Trail Blazers‘ first-rounder (top-14 protected). They would then have the right to swap either of those picks for the Nets‘ first-rounder (unprotected).
As of today, the Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 52.1% chance of having their pick land in its top-four protected range on lottery night. In that scenario, Houston would keep its first-rounder (tentatively No. 2) and would get the Trail Blazers’ pick at No. 22. The Thunder would keep their own pick (No. 6, pending lottery results) and receive the Heat’s first-rounder (No. 17), while the Nets would hang onto their own selection (No. 27).
On the other hand, if the Rockets’ pick falls outside of the top four, the Thunder would acquire it along with their own first-rounder, while Houston would get Miami’s pick at No. 17.
No matter how the rest of the season plays out, it’s safe to assume that lottery night on June 22 will have massive implications for the Timberwolves, Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and potentially for the Magic and Bulls as well.
While the Pistons, Cavaliers, and a handful of other lottery teams will also be invested in the results that night, the outcome won’t be quite as all-or-nothing for those clubs.
- Pistons rookie center Isaiah Stewart has made great strides defensively and his raw strength has impressed teammate Jahlil Okafor, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “He’s so big and so strong, when opposing big men are in there trying to get position on him, they really can’t,” Okafor said. “They’re usually off balance. The shots are not usually even close to going in because of how strong he is.”
Pistons second-year forward Sekou Doumbouya has earned more playing time in recent games, serving as a key cog in the team’s rotation this past week.
The 20-year-old saw just over 23 minutes of action on Monday, nine minutes on Tuesday, 13 minutes on Thursday, and nearly 23 minutes on Saturday. He finished with 11 points and three rebounds in Saturday’s contest, also recording two steals and two blocks.
“He’s earning it and he’s playing well,” head coach Dwane Casey said, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). “A lot of it is the seriousness of his approach to the game. He’s put in the extra work, and it’s showing.”
The Pistons drafted Doumbouya with the No. 15 pick back in 2019. His role has fluctuated this season, but it’s one that could be worth keeping an eye on as the campaign moves forward.
Here are some other notes from Detroit today:
- Point guard Frank Jackson is finding his groove as a scoring option off the bench, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. Jackson scored 17 points in just over 20 minutes on Saturday against Portland, shooting 6-of-9 from the floor. “He’s instant offense off the bench,” Casey said. “He’s one of our best defenders on the ball. That young man is really growing right before us. For me, he’s grown as much as anyone else. Just really impressed with his approach. He stays ready. It’s not easy to come off the bench and score the way he does with ease.”
- Omari Sankofa II examines a number of Pistons-related topics in his latest mailbag, including the return of rookie Killian Hayes (hip). Hayes has only appeared in 11 games this season, averaging 4.9 points per contest on 32% shooting. He made his return against New York last week after missing nearly three months of action.
- Rod Beard of The Detroit News considers which prospect the team should draft if it obtains the No. 2 pick this year. Players such as Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs are all potential options depending on who gets selected with the first pick — which could ultimately wind up with Detroit. The Pistons currently trail the Timberwolves by three games and the Rockets by two games in the NBA’s “reverse standings.”
- Following Saddiq Bey‘s 25-point showing on Tuesday in Denver, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey reiterated a point that he and GM Troy Weaver have made before, referring to the rookie as a long-term keeper. “He’s an NBA starter for us and part of our building blocks,” Casey said of the young forward (Twitter link via Rod Beard of The Detroit News). Detroit gave up Luke Kennard and several second-round picks to land Bey in the 2020 draft.
In an early look at the NBA’s 2021 free agent period, Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic write that three NBA teams – the Knicks, Thunder, and Spurs – project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary contract this offseason, even if they were to win the draft lottery.
Besides those clubs, the Mavericks and Hornets should be among the clubs with the most space, according to Amick and Hollinger. The Athletic’s duo projects Dallas to be about $35MM below the cap if Josh Richardson opts out, while Charlotte will have about $26MM of room.
Other teams could create cap room, but that will hinge on one or two major roster decisions. For instance, the Raptors could get up to about $25MM in space, but not if they intend to re-sign Kyle Lowry. The Suns (Chris Paul) are in a similar position, with the Heat, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Pistons among the other teams whose cap space – or lack thereof – will depend on what happens with certain free agents.
Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger on 2021 free agency:
- Although Kawhi Leonard projects to be the top free agent on the market this summer, team sources and rival executives widely expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, per The Athletic. It’s possible that could change if Los Angeles exits the postseason early, but there’s no indication at this point that Leonard’s free agency will be as dramatic as it was in 2019.
- A source with knowledge of DeMar DeRozan‘s outlook tells The Athletic he’ll take a “wide open” approach to free agency. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a new deal with the Spurs, though a March report suggested DeRozan has interest in playing elsewhere next season and perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference.
- Amick and Hollinger believe both DeRozan and Paul will keep Jrue Holiday‘s new four-year deal ($135MM guaranteed, $25MM in incentives) very much in mind when they negotiate their next contracts. However, it’s not a perfect comparable for either player, since Paul is five years older than Holiday and DeRozan isn’t the defender that Holiday is.
APRIL 7: The Pistons have officially announced Cook’s new deal, confirming in a press release that he has signed a multiyear contract with the club.
APRIL 6: Tyler Cook, who is on his second 10-day contract with the Pistons, will be signed for the remainder of the season, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. A source tells Beard the deal will also include a team option for next season.
[RELATED: 10-Day Contract Tracker]
Cook’s contract for 2021/22 is set to become fully guaranteed five days after the free agency moratorium is lifted, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).
The second-year forward has appeared in 10 games since coming to Detroit, averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per night. He also got into four games for the Nets earlier this season. Cook had brief stops with the Cavaliers and Nuggets last season after going undrafted out of Iowa.
Cook, 23, signed his second 10-day deal with the Pistons on March 28, so it will expire at the end of Tuesday. Teams can only sign a player to two 10-day contracts in a single season.