Warriors Rumors

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 Bjelica 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 dealt 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. In his previous five games, Burks shot 27.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range. Burks is 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.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/17/20

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:

  • The Pacers assigned Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team’s PR department tweets. Sumner did not play in the last two Indiana games, while Johnson has appeared in just one NBA game this month.
  • The Spurs recalled forwards Chimezie Metu, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson from the Austin Spurs, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. With Rudy Gay sidelined on Friday, the NBA team was looking for added depth. Metu,  second-round pick in 2018, has appeared in 11 NBA games this season.
  • The Nuggets recalled forward Jarred Vanderbilt from the Windy City Bulls, the team’s PR department tweets. Vanderbilt, a 2018 second-rounder, has appeared in four NBA contests this season.
  • The Clippers assigned Derrick Walton Jr. and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers, according to the team’s PR department. Both guards received garbage-time minutes against Orlando on Thursday and did not score.
  • The Warriors assigned rookie forward Alen Smailagic to their Santa Cruz affiliate, the team’s PR department tweets. The second round pick has appeared in nine Warriors games.

Mannix Would Be Surprised If Warriors Trade Russell During Season

  • The Hawks‘ trade interest in Andre Drummond – which has apparently ended – was believed to be more ownership-driven, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who says the Pistons don’t have any real traction on a Drummond deal for now. Within his mailbag, Mannix also says he’d be surprised if the Warriors move D’Angelo Russell before the 2020 offseason.

Pacific Notes: Russell, Evans, Kings, Vogel

As we’ve detailed before, the Timberwolves put on the full-court press in their efforts to recruit D’Angelo Russell during the 2019 free agent period, but the Warriors‘ maximum-salary offer and the opportunity to play alongside Stephen Curry ultimately swayed Russell to Golden State. Discussing that decision with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Russell made it sound as if it didn’t take him long to choose the Dubs once his agent called him to inform him of the max offer.

“I’m like, ‘Why the f–k is you on the phone with me?!'” Russell said. “‘Tell them yes!'”

Of course, his first year in the Bay Area hasn’t played out like he’d hoped, with Curry joining Klay Thompson on the long-term injury list and the Warriors plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.

Russell has been linked to the Wolves again as of late, with Minnesota reportedly intensifying its efforts to trade for him. While a deal seems unlikely to happen before the deadline, D-Lo acknowledged that this has been something of a lost season for the Warriors, who are essentially evaluating their roster for 2020/21.

“This whole year is kind of a test of seeing what’s gonna fit, what’s gonna make sense for next year,” Russell told Sepkowitz. “It’s them kind of sitting back, seeing who I am as a teammate and a player, what I bring to the table.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans has been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face on Tuesday, the club announced (Twitter link). It’s not clear how much time Evans will miss, but he’s currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will wear a protective mask when he returns, according to the Warriors.
  • The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft due to concerns about his fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, a decision that some fans in Sacramento have had a hard time moving past, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, former Kings coach Dave Joerger passive-aggressively joked to GM Vlade Divac midway through last season that he’d negotiated a trade with the Mavericks to land Doncic, to which Divac shot back: “Do I get their coach, too?”
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores how the perception of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has changed over the last several months. When Vogel was hired in the spring, he was viewed as a Plan C whose hiring was proof of the franchise’s dysfunction. However, he has helped right the ship in L.A., leading the team to a 33-8 first-half record.

Timberwolves Intensifying Pursuit Of D’Angelo Russell

Having traded Jeff Teague to Atlanta today, the Timberwolves are actively pursuing additional deals and have intensified their pursuit of Warriors point guard D’Angelo Russell, report Shams Charania and Jon Krawcznyski of The Athletic.

[RELATED: Timberwolves trade Jeff Teague to Hawks]

Russell was atop Minnesota’s wish list in free agency this past offseason, but the Wolves’ recruiting efforts fell short when the Warriors swooped in with a four-year, maximum-salary offer for the All-Star guard.

Russell has been viewed as a trade candidate essentially since the day he agreed to sign with Golden State, but the Warriors appear inclined to keep him at least through the 2020 trade deadline, per Charania and Krawcznyski, since the club would have more trade options once its hard cap lifts in July. As such, there has been no traction so far on a potential deal between the Wolves and Warriors.

While nothing is imminent on the Russell front, rival teams say the market for Robert Covington has been heating up as of late, according to Charania and Krawczynski. Minnesota is expected to “drive a hard bargain” for the talented three-and-D wing, but plenty of contenders have interest, including the Rockets, Mavericks, and Sixers.

New Wolves head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas spent nearly two decades working in Houston’s front office and was Daryl Morey‘s top lieutenant for years. He shares Morey’s aggressive approach to the trade market and likely won’t hesitate to shake things up and reshape Minnesota’s roster to fit his vision. After today’s Teague deal, it seems safe to say the Wolves aren’t done dealing.

Warriors Officially Sign Damion Lee To Three-Year Deal

Damion Lee‘s long-awaited promotion to the Warriors‘ 15-man roster is now official, with the team announcing the move today in a press release.

Lee, who was previously on a two-way contract, signed a new three-year deal with a partial guarantee for the 2020/21 season, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Next season’s partial guarantee will be worth $600K, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

The promotion had been expected since last Tuesday, when the team released Marquese Chriss in order to make room under its hard cap to sign Lee. For his part, Chriss has returned to the team on a two-way contract, essentially swapping places with Lee.

Lee, who is Stephen Curry‘s brother-in-law, has been a regular rotation player all season long for the injury-plagued Warriors, averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.3 APG with a solid shooting line of .407/.360/.877 in 26 games (13 starts). The 27-year-old had exhausted the 45-day NBA limit on his two-way deal, but will no longer face those restrictions on his new standard contract.

Golden State has had little financial wiggle room all season long due to its hard cap and will now be approximately $394K below the threshold, according to Marks (Twitter link). Marks notes that the Warriors will be able to sign a 15th man to a rest-of-season contract as of March 4 if no trades or 10-day signings before then affect the club’s cap sheet.

The Warriors were able to sign Lee to a three-year, minimum-salary contract by using their mid-level exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Warriors Re-Sign Marquese Chriss To Two-Way Deal

JANUARY 15: Chriss’ two-way contract is now official, according to the Warriors.

JANUARY 14: Just days after waiving him, the Warriors intend to bring back Marquese Chriss on a two-way contract, reports Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).

Chriss has spent most of the 2019/20 season with the Warriors and played well in a part-time role, averaging 7.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG in 37 games (17.7 MPG). However, he was released last Tuesday in advance of the league-wide salary guarantee deadline because Golden State wanted to maximize its flexibility under the team’s hard cap. The two sides were said to have mutual interest in a reunion.

The Warriors reportedly plan to promote two-way player Damion Lee to their standard roster to fill the spot that Chriss previously occupied, so the two players will essentially be swapping places. The pair of moves will need to be completed by the end of the day on Wednesday, since January 15 is the deadline for two-way signings.

Lee has already used his full 45-day NBA allotment this season but can be activated again once he signs a standard contract. As a newly-signed two-way player, Chriss will be eligible to spend up to 24 days in the NBA between now and the end of the G League regular season in March. Once the G League season ends, those restrictions will lift and he can spend the rest of the year in the NBA.

Head coach Steve Kerr had previously talked about Chriss potentially having a future in Golden State beyond 2019/20. The big man’s new two-way contract will make him a free agent at the end of the season, but the Warriors will still have options for re-signing him, particularly if he isn’t offered a sizable raise by a rival team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Warriors Notes: Thompson, Evans, Chriss, Lee

Klay Thompson made a rare appearance in front of the media on Tuesday, speaking publicly to reporters for the first time since the Warriors‘ preseason media day. As Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays, Thompson said his ACL rehab is “going great,” adding that he hasn’t closed the door on the possibility of returning before the end of the 2019/20 campaign.

“Obviously, I wish I could be out there,” Thompson said. “It’s been a long process. I haven’t stopped working since the third day after Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. You might not see me a lot, but I’m working. I don’t know what’s going to come this season, I would love to get out there.”

Despite his optimism and his desire to get back on the court, Thompson seems unlikely to return before the fall. With the Warriors on track to finish dead-last in the Western Conference, the team will be more cautious than ever with the veteran sharpshooter, who is in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary contract. Thompson sounds like he understands that line of thinking, as Friedell details.

“I’m trying to make sure this type of injury never happens to me again, so I’ll be very patient because I want to play at a high level ’til my late 30s,” he said.

Here’s more on the Dubs:

  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans was taken to a hospital after colliding with Mavericks big man Dwight Powell in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game, according to Friedell. Evans, who took an elbow to the face during the collision, stayed on the floor for several minutes before leaving the game. The team has yet to issue an update on his diagnosis or his potential recovery timeline.
  • The Warriors found a creative way to ultimately retain Marquese Chriss and Damion Lee and keep both players active, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Chriss projects to reach the 24-day NBA limit on his new two-way contract in early March, but Slater suggests the former lottery pick is the frontrunner to be promoted to Golden State’s 15-man roster at that time. The Warriors can’t add a 15th man until late in the season due to their hard cap.
  • Chriss has officially signed his two-way contract with the Warriors, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The team hasn’t announced the finalized deal yet, since Lee will need to be moved to the 15-man roster before Chriss can fill his two-way slot.

Checking In On 2020’s Protected First-Round Picks

We’re nearly at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 NBA regular season, with several teams having already played their 41st game. As such, it’s a good time to check in on the traded 2020 first-round picks that have protections on them to get a sense of whether or not those protections will be applied this year.

Of this year’s 30 first-round selections, 10 have been traded, and all 10 have some form of protection on them. In other words, the ’19/20 standings will dictate whether or not those first-rounders actually change hands in 2020.

Here’s our latest look at which of those picks are safe bets to move, which ones will likely be retained, and which ones are still up in the air:

Likely to change hands:

  • Bucks acquiring Pacers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Celtics acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-7 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Sixers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Thunder acquiring Nuggets‘ pick (top-10 protected)

It’s safe to say at this point that the Pacers (25-15), Bucks (35-6), Sixers (25-16), and Nuggets (27-12) aren’t missing the playoffs this season, which means their traded first-round picks, which range from lottery-protected to top-7 protected, will be on the move.

Currently, the Milwaukee and Denver picks project to fall near the end of the first round, while the Philadelphia and Indiana selections could end up in the late-teens or early-20s, as our Reverse Standings show.

Unlikely to change hands:

  • Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘ pick (1-7, 15-30 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected)

The Warriors (9-32) keeping their first-round pick is the safest bet on the board. Not only will that first-rounder land within the top 20, but it appears likely to be a top-five selection. Brooklyn will see the value of that asset decline significantly when it’s officially protected this year, receiving a 2025 second-round pick in place of that first-rounder.

Meanwhile, the Jazz (27-12) would have to finish out of the playoffs for the Grizzlies to get their first-rounder this year. That was always unlikely to happen, even before Utah’s recent hot streak. The protections on that pick will roll over to 2021 and will be identical next year (1-7 and 15-30).

Still up in the air:

  • Celtics acquiring Grizzlies‘ pick (top-6 protected)
  • Hawks acquiring Nets‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Pelicans acquiring Cavaliers‘ pick (top-10 protected)
  • Sixers acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-20 protected)

Usually by this point in the season, we have a reasonably clear idea of which draft picks will be protected, but these four first-rounders are still very much up in the air.

The Thunder (23-17) weren’t considered a probable playoff team entering the season, but they’re comfortably holding the seventh seed in the West for now and project to have the No. 18 pick. Another winning streak or two could move that pick outside the top 20, which would be good news for the Sixers. If the pick is protected this year and Oklahoma City keeps it, Philadelphia would instead receive second-rounders in 2022 and 2023.

Like OKC, the Grizzlies (18-22) are defying modest expectations and hold one of the final playoff spots in the West. If they keep playing like this, there’s no chance their pick will end up in the top six, so it would be sent to the Celtics. But if Memphis doesn’t make the playoffs, there’s always a chance the lottery could push that selection into the top four, where the Grizzlies would keep it. In that scenario, Memphis would owe Boston its unprotected 2021 first-round pick.

The Nets (18-20) are the eighth seed in the East for the time being, and would send their lottery-protected to Atlanta as long as they hang onto a playoff spot. The Hawks would be happy for the Nets to stay where they are, resulting in the No. 16 overall pick. If Brooklyn slips out of the playoff picture and hangs onto its protected first-rounder, Atlanta would almost certainly receive a less valuable pick in 2021 when Kevin Durant returns and makes the Nets a more dangerous team.

Finally, it may seem safe to assume that the Cavaliers (12-28) will keep their top-10 protected pick, but we’re not writing that in pen yet. Even though the Cavs currently have the NBA’s fourth-worst record, only 3.5 games separate them from the 15-24 Timberwolves, who are the league’s 11th-worst team. I expect Cleveland to continue losing as the team shops its veterans, but there are enough bad teams in the NBA that hanging onto their pick can’t quite be considered a lock.

Two-Way Contract Situations To Watch This Week

January 15 is the last day that NBA teams can sign a player to a two-way contract this season. After that date, teams can still waive two-way players or promote them to their 15-man rosters, but they can’t bring aboard new players on two-way contracts as replacements.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

With that deadline looming, we could get a mini-flurry of activity related to two-way deals this week. While it’s impossible to predict which teams will simply choose to replace one two-way player with a new one, there are a few specific situations worth keeping an eye on, based on certain players’ performances or teams’ roster situations.

Here are a few two-way contract situations to watch this week:

The Suns, Cavaliers, and Heat

The Suns and Cavaliers are currently the only two teams not carrying a pair of players on two-way contracts, while the Heat are expected to join them tomorrow.

Phoenix has only had one player (Jared Harper) on a two-way contract all season long, but it would still be a surprise not to see the team add a second two-way player by Wednesday. Cleveland, meanwhile, just waived Levi Randolph on Sunday, while Miami is poised to promote Chris Silva to the 15-man roster, opening up a two-way slot for each club.

Damion Lee / Ky Bowman (Warriors)

Rotation players Lee and Bowman have been two of the most likely candidates for promotions all season long. The Warriors have a pair of open roster spots, but based on their hard cap, they only have the flexibility to promote one of their two-way players for now.

Lee is expected to be first in line, as we heard when Golden State waived Marquese Chriss last week. A deal appeared imminent at that time, but nothing has been completed yet, even now that Lee has reached his 45-day NBA limit. It’s possible the two sides are still haggling over the length of the contract (the Warriors could offer as many as four years), but the team may just be taking its time to maximize its financial flexibility below the hard cap.

Assuming Lee is promoted by Wednesday, as expected, Golden State figures to add a new two-way player to pair with Bowman, who may get a promotion of his own later in the season. The Dubs’ new two-way player would be able to spend up to 24 days in the NBA before the end of the G League season.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Nets)

Keith Smith of RealGM suggested on Sunday (via Twitter) that the Nets will likely move Luwawu-Cabarrot to the 15-man roster in the coming days, on either a standard contract or a 10-day deal.

Brooklyn won’t technically have a roster spot open until Justin Anderson‘s 10-day pact expires on Wednesday night, but could terminate that contract a day or two early in order to promote Luwawu-Cabarrot and sign a new two-way player by Wednesday’s deadline.

Norvel Pelle (Sixers)

Teams around the NBA are keeping an eye on Pelle, who only has a few NBA days left on his two-way deal, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links).

If the Sixers intend to promote Pelle, it’d be in their best interests to do it by Wednesday in order to sign a new two-way player to replace him. However, it remains unclear whether or not that will happen. After guaranteeing Trey Burke‘s salary last week, Philadelphia has a full 15-man roster and would probably have to release a player like Jonah Bolden, Raul Neto, or Kyle O’Quinn to make room for Pelle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.