Elfrid Payton

Extensions Appear Unlikely For Nurkic, Gordon, Payton

With the October 16 deadline for rookie scale extensions just three days away, it appears unlikely that Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Magic forward Aaron Gordon, or Magic guard Elfrid Payton will agree to new deals with their respective clubs.

Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link) has the latest on Nurkic, reporting that the fourth-year center is preparing to reach restricted free agency in 2018. The Trail Blazers have yet to make an extension offer to Nurkic, according to Charania, so it would take a major last-minute push from both sides to get something done.

As for the Magic duo, Gordon’s agent tells Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel that he doesn’t anticipate his client reaching an extension agreement. Payton’s rep doesn’t weigh in with his thoughts, but Robbins is bearish on the point guard’s chances of securing a long-term deal within the next few days.

In the Blazers’ case, it makes some sense that the team would be willing to wait to finalize a new deal for Nurkic. Although the former Nugget looked great in 20 games for Portland last season, he has battled multiple injuries this year, including a broken leg, and the team likely wants to take a longer look at him before making a major long-term commitment. The Blazers’ cap situation also complicates matters, since the club may need to dump another contract if Nurkic signs an extension.

The Magic, meanwhile, have had years to evaluate Gordon and Payton, but the current management group wasn’t around for the duo’s first few seasons. As Robbins notes, new president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond have said they want to use the 2017/18 season to get more familiar with the franchise’s players, so they may be reluctant to invest major money in either Gordon or Payton quite yet.

Assuming Nurkic, Gordon, and Payton don’t negotiate a last-minute extension by Monday’s deadline, they’ll all be eligible for restricted free agency next July.

Extension Rumors: LaVine, Capela, Smart, Randle

Earlier today, Andrew Wiggins became the fourth 2014 first-rounder to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension with his current team, joining Joel Embiid, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren. That still leaves 17 players eligible for a rookie scale extension up until the October 16 deadline.

Not all of those players are strong candidates for a new deal. It’s extremely unlikely, for instance, that the Raptors will extend Bruno Caboclo within the next few days, and we shouldn’t bet on Shabazz Napier getting a new long-term deal from Portland. Still, a number of viable candidates remain unsigned.

Here are the latest notes and rumors on some of those extension-eligible players:

  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) identifies Aaron Gordon (Magic), Elfrid Payton (Magic), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Jazz) as the most logical candidates for extensions among the group of remaining eligible players.
  • There’s “nothing substantive” so far between LaVine and the Bulls, but that could change by next Monday, TNT’s David Aldridge writes in his rundown of extension candidates at NBA.com. Aldridge – who examines each 2014 first-rounder individually – is also somewhat bullish on the possibility of new deals for Nurkic, Hood, and Rockets big man Clint Capela.
  • Marcus Smart said earlier this week that his agent has yet to hear from the Celtics about a possible extension. Today, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t exactly offer clarity on the subject, indicating that he has had “talks” about a new contract for Smart, but no “negotiations” (Twitter link via Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald).
  • Julius Randle is extension-eligible, but his future with the Lakers is linked to the team’s pursuit of 2018 free agents, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details. Although Randle says his reps have been in touch with the Lakers, an extension this year is an extreme long shot.

Southeast Notes: Magic, Green, Millsap, Hornets

If the Magic can’t land one of the candidates they want for team president, they will try to get a big name to fill the GM role, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Interim GM Matt Lloyd remains a candidate to keep his job either way, but would probably be more secure if Orlando can get a high-profile president. The Magic are reportedly interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie probably won’t be a candidate, as a source told Kyler that Hinkie is looking for an “ideal situation” and isn’t ready to return to the NBA. (Twitter link).

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic won’t try to keep free agent forward Jeff Green, writes Kevin P. Smith of Real GM in his offseason preview. Green spent a year in Orlando after signing with the team last July. He averaged 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 69 games, mostly as a reserve. Smith thinks there’s a better chance that Orlando could try to keep fellow free agent Jodie Meeks if he agrees to an affordable price. In the draft, the Magic may take advantage of a field rich in point guards to find a replacement for Elfrid Payton.
  • Re-signing free agent forward Paul Millsap will be an offseason priority for the Hawks, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The 31-year-old has been with Atlanta for the past four seasons, making the All-Star team in each one. He’s coming off a career-best scoring year at 18.1 points per game, along with 7.7 rebounds and a career-high 3.7 assists. “We are going to make every effort imaginable to keep him,” said Hawks owner Tony Ressler.
  • The Hornets face a tough offseason with no available cap room and probably the 11th pick in the draft, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. Charlotte’s best option to improve is through trades, with Greene mentioning Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Miles Plumlee as options because they all have deals that average less than $15MM annually. The Hornets also have a $1.7MM exception from the Troy Daniels deal that expires in mid-July.

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Jackson, Johnson

The Pistons have “quietly explored” the trade market for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, two of their roster’s centerpieces, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reports in his latest piece, which is a deep dive into the situation in Detroit. According to Lowe, the Pistons came away disappointed with what teams might be willing to offer for Drummond or Jackson, reducing the likelihood of either player being moved in the next eight days.

Still, while a Drummond trade remains an “extreme long shot,” a deal involving Jackson isn’t entirely off the table. Lowe suggests the Timberwolves, Magic, and Pelicans are among the potential suitors for the veteran point guard, if Detroit is willing to settle for a modest return. Per Lowe, Jackson’s value has “cratered,” and a player like Ricky Rubio is one of the few solid starters the Pistons could get in any trade package. Lottery teams seeking a long-term solution at point guard are unwilling to move their first-round picks for Jackson, and Detroit isn’t ready to simply dump him for a collection of expiring contracts.

In his attempt to find a potential trade partner for a Jackson deal, Lowe identifies the Magic and Nuggets, pointing to players like Elfrid Payton and Emmanuel Mudiay as possible trade pieces. However, while Mudiay is believed to be available, Denver doesn’t appear to have interest in Jackson. Lowe notes that Orlando is an “intriguing” possibility, since GM Rob Hennigan was in Oklahoma City’s front office when the team drafted Jackson.

Here’s more from Lowe on Jackson, along with a few other intriguing Pistons-related tidbits:

  • The Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, but never engaged in serious talks, league sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, several Pistons players criticized Jackson during a December players-only meeting for his apparent lack of effort on defense. Drummond tells Lowe that the criticism “wasn’t cool,” since Jackson was coming off an injury and wasn’t yet 100%. However, both Drummond and Stan Van Gundy acknowledge that the team has struggled to adjust to Jackson’s presence on the court this year after finding a groove early in the season with Ish Smith handling the point.
  • According to Lowe, a fear that top free agents won’t come to Detroit has pushed the Pistons to acquire solid players on good contracts when they become available. Those players aren’t always a fit with Drummond and Van Gundy, which has contributed to some of the team’s roster issues.
  • Multiple teams, including the Spurs, made an effort to nab Stanley Johnson in a trade after Van Gundy publicly called out the second-year forward earlier in the season. Although the Pistons rebuffed those efforts, the team has been frustrated by Devin Booker‘s development in comparison to Johnson’s, since the draft room was “almost deadlocked” between those two players in 2015, says Lowe.
  • The Pistons are unlikely to make a major move until closer to the draft, since they want to make the playoffs and are reluctant to do anything that will adversely impact their odds of earning a postseason spot, says Lowe. The ESPN analyst notes that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency will be an interesting case to follow this offseason, since the Pistons may have to shed a salary – perhaps Tobias Harris‘ or Boban Marjanovic‘s – if they need to match a max offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope.

Lowe’s Latest: Bledsoe, Knight, Nuggets, Mudiay

Eric Bledsoe is enjoying the best season of his NBA career so far in 2016/17, putting up career-best marks in PPG (21.6), APG (6.2), and several other categories. As Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes, Bledsoe’s impressive season raises the question of whether the Suns should sell high on the veteran point guard or commit to him a part of the team’s long-term future.

Phoenix projects to have a top pick in a 2017 draft that will be loaded with point guards, and Bledsoe has undergone three knee surgeries already, so there’s a case to be made that the Suns would be wise to sell high on him. However, don’t count head coach Earl Watson among those who feels that way. “I can almost guarantee Devin [Booker] and Eric will be on the same team next year,” Watson said, per Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • As a parenthetical aside in his discussion of Bledsoe, Lowe writes that “nobody wants” Suns guard Brandon Knight. Knight has been mentioned more frequently than Bledsoe as a trade candidate, but if Phoenix hopes to secure a substantial return, it doesn’t sound like moving Knight will accomplish that.
  • The Nuggets are “quietly exploring” what sort of return they could get for a package of Emmanuel Mudiay and multiple picks, sources tell Lowe. The ESPN analyst isn’t sure the Suns would be a logical trade partner for Denver though, since Phoenix will have the opportunity to draft a point guard in the summer. Lowe adds that Denver is in no rush to move Mudiay.
  • The Suns would have to consider moving Bledsoe if the right team were to offer a “good wing or center, plus a high first-round pick,” according to Lowe. However, he adds that most teams are reluctant to move probable lottery picks at this time of year, when it’s still not clear where they’ll land in the draft.
  • Although there’s no indication that the two teams are discussing such a deal, and he acknowledges that there would be roadblocks, Lowe offers his favorite hypothetical Bledsoe deal, involving the Magic: Lowe’s proposal would see Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, and Orlando’s 2017 pick go to the Suns in exchange for Bledsoe and Alex Len. Per Lowe, the Magic front office remains “divided” on whether or not Elfrid Payton is the club’s long-term solution at point guard.

Eastern Notes: Draft, Knicks, Magic, Pacers

The Knicks‘ biggest need is a long-term answer at the point guard position and the upcoming draft should provide them an opportunity to pair Kristaps Porzingis with a playmaker, Chad Ford of ESPN.com writes. New York will likely pick in the bottom half of the lottery and Ford believes Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, who is expected to go in that range, would be a great fit for the team. Fox is a fast, defensive-minded point guard and while he’s not the best shooter, his playmaking skills are “top-notch,” according to Ford.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • UCLA’s Lonzo Ball would fit nicely in Orlando, Ford opines in the same piece. The Magic currently have Elfrid Payton manning the point guard position and he’s having a nice season. However, if they draft Ball, he’d immediately have the highest ceiling of any player on the team, Ford adds.
  • The Wizards‘ bench unit has been key to their success lately, especially on the road, as J. Michael of Comcast Sportsnet details. Offseason addition Trey Burke has made 11 out of his last 17 shots from the field during the last four away games. He also has 10 assists over that stretch.
  • Al Jefferson is enjoying his role as a mentor with the Pacers, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Thirteen years in the league, I feel like I’m at the teaching point. I like that. I really do,” Jefferson said. The big man signed a two-year, $20MM deal with Indiana during the offseason.

Eastern Notes: Williams, Payton, Biyombo

The Nuggets are waiving Mo Williams for the second time in a week, but this time, the Sixers are not expected to claim him, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. Philadelphia is planning to keep Chasson Randle on the roster, so they don’t have a spot open for the retired point guard.

Williams’ contract holds value for the Nuggets and it would for the Sixers as well since both teams are under the salary floor, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed earlier today. The point guard has already been paid over half of his salary, which is worth slightly under $2.2MM, but the whole amount would count toward a team’s salary cap. If the team doesn’t reach the salary floor, the transaction of waiving Williams would save the franchise roughly $1MM this season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic GM Rob Hennigan is “encouraged and excited” about the play of Elfrid Payton this season, as he tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think especially over the last few weeks he appears to be gaining a level of aggressiveness and comfort at the position that I think bodes well for our team,” Hennigan said. “I think, like anyone on our team, our goal is to improve. Our goal is to get better. And we need to explore any means necessary to do that. But certainly with E.P.’s play and his work ethic and our belief in how good he can become he’s certainly an integral part of our team and very, very valuable to us.”
  • Hennigan said free agent addition Bismack Biyombo has brought the Magic exactly what they were looking for when they signed the big man, as Robbins passes along in the same piece. “I think Biz has brought to our team exactly what we anticipated: his toughness, his energy, his spirit, his ability to be a paint presence defensively. Like most of our players, we think his best basketball is still ahead of him based on his age and his work ethic,” Hennigan said.
  • Rookie center Willy Hernangomez is earning a larger role on the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. “He’s got great knowledge of the game, understanding and feel,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He has no fear when he gets out there about who he’s playing against. When you have a guy who knows how to play the game, a lot of good things happen.”

Southeast Notes: Payton, Fournier, Waiters, White

Magic point guard Elfrid Payton may have played well enough to win his starting job back, according to John Denton of NBA.com. Payton was among three players demoted when coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup November 27th. But Payton has raised his scoring average, assist totals and shooting percentages since the move, and Vogel is thinking about making him a starter again. “He’s competing and it’s my job to figure out if it’s best to keep him where he is and where he’s having success or to move him back in the starting lineup,’’ Vogel said. “I’m sure that we’ll probably look at that [starting him] at some point. I’d like to see him do this over a consistent stretch and I still might keep him where he is because he’s having success there. It’s just one of the things that I’m monitoring game to game.’’

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have been without leading scorer Evan Fournier since Thursday because of a bruised right heel, Denton notes in the same story. Fournier has been trying ice, massages and stimulation to ease the pain on the heel, but he was forced to miss another game tonight. “It’s definitely getting better, but one of the bad things about the NBA is that when you have so many games and it takes a week or so, in that time you have three games,’’ he said.
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters may find his playing time limited when he returns from a groin injury, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Waiters’ isolation game was useful when the team was shorthanded, but Winderman states that ball movement is now being emphasized and the development of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson at the wing spots is key to the team’s future. Waiters is considered very likely to opt out of the second season of his contract, and Winderman believes Miami may trade him before he can make that decision.
  • The Heat should consider unloading Luke Babbitt or Derrick Williams to make room for a younger prospect at power forward, Winderman suggests in the same piece. One possibility is Okaro White, who was cut by Miami in training camp and currently plays for the team’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls.

Magic May Try To Trade Vucevic, Payton

The Magic would like to find a taker for center Nikola Vucevic, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Appearing on a podcast with Zach Lowe, Windhorst said Orlando is hoping to make major changes that may also include point guard Elfrid Payton.

After trading for power forward Serge Ibaka over the summer and signing center Bismack Biyombo, the Magic are off to a disappointing 14-18 start. Coach Frank Vogel made some lineup changes last month that included sending Vucevic to the bench. Vucevic, who protested the demotion, is now averaging 27.8 minutes per night, the fewest in his five years in Orlando. His scoring has dropped dramatically, from 18.2 points per game a year ago to 12.8 this season.

Vucevic signed a four-year extension in 2014 and still has two more seasons and $25MM left on his contract.

The Magic are also “down” on Payton, Windhorst adds. The third-year point guard lost his starting job to D.J. Augustin in the November shakeup. Payton is still on his rookie contract and is under team control through the 2017/18 season.

Windhorst says Payton caused a lot of friction between the Orlando front office, which traded two first-round picks to acquire him, and former coach Scott Skiles, who didn’t believe he was good enough to play. The reporter adds that the Magic could be a potential destination for Goran Dragic if the Heat decide to move him.

Kings Notes: Cousins, Casspi, Gay, Stauskas

Kings coach Dave Joerger has gone back to a bigger starting lineup in an effort to improve the team’s defense, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Kosta Koufos is back with the starters, being used at center with DeMarcus Cousins at power forward. Joerger briefly tried a small-ball starting lineup, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. “I’m trying to protect DeMarcus a little bit by letting Kosta take the hits on a bigger guy like [Washington Wizards center Marcin] Gortat,” Joerger said. “And defensively more pick-and-rolls and try to save [Cousins’] legs for the end.” 

There’s more news out of Sacramento:

  • Cousins continues to put up incredible numbers, averaging 28.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per night, but the Kings need more production from their complementary players, writes James Ham of CSNBayArea“We’ve just got to be better,” Omri Casspi said after Monday’s overtime loss at Washington. “Our bench guys and our role players have to do a better job of helping DeMarcus. It feels like he’s doing anything he can to win the game for us. We’ve just got to be better.”
  • Rudy Gay confirmed that he has left Octagon Basketball, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. Gay, who has suggested that he won’t be re-signing with Sacramento after he becomes a free agent next summer, may be joining Roc Nation, an agency headed by rapper Jay Z (Twitter link). However, he told Jones that the change isn’t related to his impending free agency (Twitter link).
  • Nik Stauskas says it doesn’t bother him to hear that the Kings feel like they should have drafted someone else in 2014, Jones posts on Facebook. Owner Vivek Ranadive recently told Amick that he preferred Magic guard Elfrid Payton over Stauskas as the No. 8 pick. “Like I said, they did me a favor sending me here to Philadelphia,” Stauskas replied. “I’ve had a really good opportunity to play even though I hadn’t been performing though my first year with the Sixers. I’m thankful that the organization gave me an opportunity, they drafted me, but if they felt like the made a mistake by drafting me then they felt like they made a mistake. I can’t do anything about it now.”
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