Hoops Rumors Originals

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

Nearly one hundred players who signed new contracts this past offseason will become trade-eligible on Friday, and while that doesn’t mean we’ll immediately see NBA teams make a flurry of trades, it does mean that clubs figure to start looking a little more seriously at making moves.

Up until this point in the 2017/18 season, roster moves have been few and far between. Outside of a pair of trades involved disgruntled players (Eric Bledsoe and Jahlil Okafor), there have only been a handful of signings and cuts, as teams have been mostly content to assess their rosters to determine what they have.

With the regular season’s two-month mark approaching, however, there will likely be a few more transactions completed in the coming weeks — and especially in the new year. In addition to having more of their players become trade-eligible, teams will also be able to start signing players to 10-day contracts early in January. Those 10-day deals are useful tools for teams that want to take a look at players without committing a roster spot and a salary to them for the entire season.

With roster activity expected to pick up in the near future, it’s worth taking a look at which teams have the flexibility to sign a player or to take on an extra player in a two-for-one trade without waiving anyone.

With the help of our roster counts page, here are the teams that currently have an opening on their respective 15-man NBA rosters:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Boston Celtics
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Houston Rockets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
    • Note: The Timberwolves are also the only team with an open two-way contract slot.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Washington Wizards

While all of the teams listed above have a single open roster spot, some of those clubs have the flexibility to easily create another opening without waiving a player on a guaranteed contract. For instance, one of the Raptors’ 14 players on NBA contracts is little-used rookie forward Alfonzo McKinnie, who has only played 25 minutes for the team all season. McKinnie’s salary is non-guaranteed, so if Toronto wanted to create an extra roster spot, the team could waive McKinnie without taking on much dead money.

Along those lines, the following teams currently have full 15-man rosters, but are carrying at least one player on a non-guaranteed salary:

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Renegotiations

Fans often wonder if NBA Team X can renegotiate its contract with Player Y, as is common practice in the National Football League. The answer is almost always no, and it’s a firm no if the follow-up question is whether the sides can renegotiate the value of the contract downward. Unlike NFL teams, an NBA club can’t create extra cap flexibility by renegotiating a contract to push present-day cap hits into future years.

However, renegotiations are allowed to make an NBA contract more lucrative, and they can happen as long as a specific set of circumstances are in place, as the Sixers showed last month. Philadelphia renegotiated its contract with Robert Covington as part of a long-term extension agreement. The move gave Covington a huge raise for 2017/18, increasing his current-year salary from just $1,577,230 to $16,698,103.

Only contracts that cover four or more seasons can be renegotiated, but that rule doesn’t apply to rookie scale deals — even though they run for four years, they can’t be renegotiated. Renegotiations can only occur after the third anniversary of a contract signing, an extension, or a previous renegotiation (assuming the previous renegotiation lifted the salary in any season by 5% or more). That’s why Covington’s new deal was agreed to on November 15, as he initially signed with the Sixers on November 15, 2014.

Perhaps most importantly, teams can’t renegotiate any contracts if they’re over the cap, and they can only increase the salary in the current season by the amount of cap room that they have. In Covington’s case, the Sixers were under the cap by $15,120,873, and put that entire amount toward the forward’s renegotiation.

Another set of rules restricts just how much can change in a renegotiation. The raises for any seasons that follow the first renegotiated season in a contract are limited to 8%. That’s also true of salary decreases, though if a renegotiation happens at the same time as an extension, as was the case with Covington, the player’s salary can drop by as much as 40% from the last season of the existing contract to the first season of the extension.

The 76ers took advantage of that rule with Covington, who will see his salary decrease by over 37% in 2018/19 – from $16,698,103 to $10,464,092 – before he begins to receive 8% annual raises in 2019/20. Structuring the deal in that manner will allow Philadelphia to preserve as much cap room as possible during the summer of 2018.

Here are a few other rules related to contract renegotiations:

  • Teams can’t renegotiate contracts between March 1 and June 30, so the last day of February is always the deadline to complete renegotiations in a given league year.
  • Renegotiations can’t occur as part of a trade, and if a player waives a portion of his trade kicker to facilitate a trade, he’s ineligible to renegotiate his contract for the next six months.
  • In order for a signing bonus to be included in a renegotiation, the contract must be extended as well.
  • Two-way contracts can’t be renegotiated.

Renegotiating a contract to include a significant raise for the current season, like the one Covington received, can be a clever way of incentivizing a long-term extension for a player who would otherwise reach free agency. However, an extensive set of rules limits the appeal of that sort of deal, and teams generally require substantial cap room to pull it off, so contract renegotiations are rare.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

An earlier version of this post was published in 2015 by Chuck Myron.

Community Shootaround: Western Playoff Race

As is the case over in the Eastern Conference, the teams at the top of the Western Conference standings as the 2017/18 season nears its two-month mark are unsurprising. While it’s notable that the Rockets (21-4), currently riding a 10-game winning streak, have held off the Warriors (22-6) for the No. 1 spot so far, we expected those two clubs to hold top seeds, along with the Spurs, who have improbably gone 19-8 without Kawhi Leonard.

After the top three though, things get a little messier. The Timberwolves (16-11) and Nuggets (14-12) were popular picks to make the leap into the top eight this season, and so far they’ve delivered on that promise, but neither club has been dominant. They’re followed by a pair of .500 teams led by a star backcourt and frontcourt duo respectively, in the Trail Blazers (13-13) and Pelicans (14-14).

For all the talk coming into this season of the Western Conference being more competitive than ever, the eighth seed is held by a sub-.500 club, with the Jazz (13-14) hanging on for now. It seems like just a matter of time until the Thunder (12-14) figure things out and make their way into the playoff picture, but we’ve been expecting that for weeks and it still hasn’t happened.

Further down the standings, teams like the Mavericks, Kings, and Suns don’t appear to be postseason threats, as expected. But it’s a little surprising to see the Grizzlies (8-19) in the bottom four along with them. The two Los Angeles teams round out the conference, with identical 10-15 records — both clubs remain within striking distance of a playoff spot, but the Clippers will need to get healthy and the Lakers will need more consistent production from their young players.

We’ve still got a lot of basketball to play before playoff seeds are determined, but based on what you’ve seen so far this season, which eight teams do you expect to make the postseason in the West? Can middling teams like the Blazers, Pelicans, and Jazz hold off current lottery teams? Will the Thunder displace one of them? Is there another dark horse contender for a postseason berth in the West?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts on the race for the playoffs in the Western Conference!

Community Shootaround: Eastern Playoff Race

A shaky start to the season by the Cavaliers and a season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward on opening night created some uncertainty back in October about the Eastern Conference playoff picture this season. However, as we near the two-month mark of the 2017/18 campaign, the top of the standings in the East look like what we’d expect — the 23-5 Celtics lead the way, followed by the Raptors (17-7) and Cavs (19-8).

After those top three teams, there are a couple more familiar contenders. The Bucks (15-10) took a roundabout route to fourth place in the East, starting off slow and then catching fire after acquiring Eric Bledsoe. As for the Wizards, they’ve been a little underwhelming, with their 14-12 record tying them for sixth in the conference. But once John Wall gets fully healthy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Washington make a strong second-half run.

Outside of those five teams, the Eastern Conference playoff race is a bit less predictable. The Pacers, who were expected to be a lottery team, are currently riding a four-game winning streak to a 16-11 overall record, good for fifth in the conference. The Pistons (14-12) and the Knicks (13-13) round out the current playoff picture in the East, though neither team has played its best ball lately — Detroit, in particular, has struggled, having lost its last six games.

The Bulls and Hawks are out of the playoff race entirely, as they battle for the best odds at 2018’s first overall pick. The Hornets (9-16), Magic (11-17), and Nets (10-15) are probably long-shots for the postseason too, though they could hang around within striking distance of that No. 8 seed. The current lottery teams that represent the greatest playoff threats are the Sixers (13-13) and Heat (12-13), who have been inconsistent, but have real upside.

We’ve still got a lot of basketball to play before playoff seeds are determined, but based on what you’ve seen so far this season, which eight teams do you expect to make the postseason in the East? Are the Pacers for real? Can the Pistons and/or Knicks hang on to a top-eight seed? Will the Sixers and/or Heat crack the top eight, or will another lottery team make a run at a playoff spot? And when it comes to seeding, will the Celtics hang onto the No. 1 spot?

Jump into the comment section below to weigh in on the Eastern Conference’s race for the playoffs and let us know what you think!

Weekly Mailbag: 12/4/17 – 12/10/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Do you think the Lakers could trade Luol Deng before the deadline? Or what do you think they can get if they trade Julius Randle? — Ralph Lakers, via Twitter

Other than making him very wealthy, the Lakers didn’t do Deng any favors when they signed him to a four-year, $72MM contract in 2016. L.A. gave up on Deng midway through last season and he has only gotten into one game this year, so he has become a forgotten man other than his drain on the team’s cap. His contract is such a liability that it he would be hard to trade even if he were still productive. After making $17.19MM this season, he is owed $18MM next year and $18.81MM in 2019/20. If the Lakers can find a team willing to absorb all that salary, they’ll have to throw in a lot of sweeteners in terms of draft picks and maybe young players to get the deal done. It’s more realistic to expect the organization to use the stretch provision after this season and spread that remaining money over five years. Cap room is the number one goal in L.A., so any Randle deal will bring back expiring contracts and maybe future draft picks, but nothing that’s going to affect the team’s ability to offer two maximum contracts next summer.

Should the Thunder target a guy like Lou Williams? Generating offense has been a problem for this team, so maybe adding a spark off the bench could help. — Duhhkari Sanchez, via Twitter

This would be contingent on the Clippers deciding to break up their team. As bad as things have gone during a 10-15 start, they are only two-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot, so decisions on Williams, DeAndre Jordan and others are still a few weeks off. If Williams is available, he would be an excellent pickup for Oklahoma City. A finalist for the Sixth Man award last season, he specializes in bringing instant offense off the bench and would take some of the scoring load off Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Williams is in the middle of his best season at age 31, averaging a career-high 19.7 points through 24 games. The Lakers traded him to Houston at last year’s deadline for a first-round pick, and the Clippers would probably seek the same price.

What are the odds Marc Gasol gets the trade he’s looking for, and if he does, what are the odds it’s to a winning franchise? — Danny, via Twitter

Gasol will turn 33 next month, so it doesn’t make sense for anyone but contenders to pursue him. The issue is whether the Grizzlies should keep him any longer or trade him and start a youth movement. Gasol will make $24,119,025 next season and has a player option worth $25,595,700 for 2019/20. If he stays on the roster with Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, Memphis won’t have any cap flexibility for the next two seasons. Chris Mannix of the Vertical reported last month that teams have called about Gasol, but the Grizzlies have turned them all down. Much like the Clippers, they are off to a bad start but aren’t completely out of contention at 8-18. If the losing continues, Memphis may have to take a hard look at its financial situation and resign itself to a Gasol trade by February.

Community Shootaround: All-NBA First Team

With the regular season nearly a third of the way through as of this past week’s games (Boston, Golden State, Orlando, and Phoenix have all played 27 games), we thought now would be a good time to contemplate which five players are most deserving of being a First Team All-NBA selection for the 2017/18 season.

While there is obviously still a lot of basketball left, there have surely been enough games played so far to begin making a reasonable estimation of certain players’ chances. Players like James Harden and LeBron James have certainly done nothing so far to relinquish their hold on a first team spot come May, and the Warriors‘ dynamic duo of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will garner legitimate consideration as well, but other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving will push their way into the discussion also if they continue to impress the way that they have to begin the season.

Perhaps the most interesting position to watch is at center, with at least four early candidates making a push for their inaugural All-NBA First Team selection, none of whom made an All-NBA team a season ago.

  • Joel Embiid is averaging 23.5 PPG and 11.1 RPG, one of only two players with averages of 23 and 11 so far this season. Embiid is also averaging 1.95 BPG, good enough for fourth best in the league, while leading the Sixers to a 13-11 start, putting them in the playoffs as the eighth seed if the season ended today.
  • DeMarcus Cousins is the other aforementioned player, averaging 26.3 PPG and 12.6 RPG to go along with an impressive 5.1 APG.  Those per game numbers rank first, third, and first among all centers, respectively. The Pelicans are also squarely in the playoff race, currently sitting at the eighth position just like Philadelphia.
  • Andre Drummond leads the NBA in rebounding, averaging 15.3 per game. Given his limited scoring output, however, his candidacy would likely need to be buoyed by his team’s success. The Pistons were once in second place in the Eastern Conference, but have since slipped into a tie for sixth with Washington.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is one of only three players (along with Embiid and Cousins) to average over 19 PPG and 11 RPG, currently sitting at a respectable clip of 19.8 and 11.6. Of the four centers named herein, the Timberwolves currently have the best record at 15-11, good enough for fourth in the Western Conference.

What do you think? Assuming the regular season ended today, which five players are most deserving of being named First Team All-NBA? Remember that unlike the All-Star game, All-NBA teams are comprised of two guards, two forwards, and a center. Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Hoops Rumors Originals: 12/2/17 – 12/9/17

Every week, we at Hoops Rumors strive to create interesting original content to complement our news feed. Below are our original segments and features from the last 7 days:

Fantasy Hoops: Okafor, Adams, Jordan

Jahlil Okafor is free. While he still faces competition for minutes in his new home, he’s finally in an environment where he can simply focus on playing basketball, instead of having to keep an ear out for potential rumors about what team he may be going to next.Jahlil Okafor vertical

I recently caught up with Hoops Rumors’ own Austin Kent, who’s also the owner of Sports.ws, an advanced fantasy basketball platform that allows users to compete based on players’ efficiency rather than their aggregate stats. We discussed the Okafor deal, and touched upon a few other notes around the NBA. Here’s our conversation:

Chris Crouse: Let’s start out with the Nets’ side of the deal. What are your initial thoughts on the haul they received for Trevor Booker?

Austin Kent: I love the Okafor trade. I think we’re going to see him return to 18-and-8 form by the end of the season. This feels similar to the Jusuf Nurkic situation last year. An exit was just so necessary – and in this case so obvious.

Much has been said about Okafor’s defense, but I think Brooklyn is in a great position to develop him on that end. They at least have incentive to do so. Worst-case scenario, they platoon him with Jarrett Allen depending on the situation.

CC: Allen and Okafor should make an interesting combination. I like the rookie’s game and he could certainly help to compensate for Okafor’s deficiencies in traditional two-big-men lineups.

Call me crazy, but I think Okafor still has All-Star potential. Not this season, but down the line, regardless of whether he stays with Brooklyn past this year. (The Nets can only offer him a first-year salary of $6.3MM because Philly declined his fourth year option, so the franchise is far from a lock to keep him long-term). He simply has too much offensive talent not to be a force.

As of this writing, the former No. 3 overall pick is available in roughly 78% of ESPN leagues. That seems egregiously high.

AK: Okafor is a must buy in any format, but even in real life I think you’re going to see people start to come around to his value. I think we may have over-corrected in our small-ball hysteria and written off guys like him (and Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe) a bit too early.

CC: Kanter has really impressed me this season. Over the last seven games, only DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond have more rebounds per contest than the Knicks center. He’s pushing to be the real prize in the Carmelo Anthony deal for either side.

Kanter’s departure has given Steven Adams more opportunity. Thoughts on his game and how the Thunder’s new parts are all coming together?

AK: I think you really have to give Adams credit for buying into his role and constantly improving within it. I don’t think he’ll continue to average 19.5 points per game or shoot 72.3% from the field (as he has over his last four), but he’s taking advantage of defenses having to account for the bigger names on the roster.

Ultimately, I think you’ll see the Big Three turn into a Big Two as George and Westbrook take over as co-alphas with Anthony sliding into more of a peripheral role.

CC: Would you rather have Adams or Anthony in fantasy going forward?Steven Adams vertical

AK: I’d go with Adams. Even if he ends up at around 13 points per game on the season, you know he’s going to get his rebounds and chip in a few defensive counting stats. He has a nice floor in that sense and you’re not going to get burned or be disappointed. Anthony, on the other hand, is a scorer that’s going to have to learn to produce in a way that he’s never been asked to and may not have even seriously considered when he arrived in Oklahoma.

CC: I’m leaning toward Adams in Roto formats, but Anthony in points leagues. I might even take Adams over someone like DeAndre Jordan. Speaking of the big man, in your Clippers Free Agent Stock Watch, you mentioned how Jordan’s free agent stock was heading the wrong way. Do you believe it would improve if he’s dealt elsewhere, provided the new destination would be a long-term home? Also, thoughts on his fantasy stock if he’s sent to Milwaukee this winter?

AK: I think we’ve already seen Jordan’s peak and that was just the result of certain stars aligning. No situation, whether it be Milwaukee or elsewhere, will ever bring out more in Jordan than that 2013-17 window did. For four years, Jordan was a rain-or-shine starter in a fast-paced offense, fortunate enough to be in prime athletic form, yet experienced enough to understand the NBA. Most importantly, he was in the same lineup as Chris Paul.

I’d give Jordan a few more years of pumping out double-doubles wherever he goes because he’s still just 29  years old, and has a lot of clout from his role on a pretty good Clippers team. But I think you’re going to see a relatively fast fall from grace.

CC: Let’s circle back to the Okafor deal before we sign off. Quick thoughts on Philadelphia’s side of the deal. Does Booker provide any fantasy value going forward?

AK: I think the move to Philly will give Booker a great opportunity to step up in a more relevant role as a basketball player, but I wouldn’t hang on to him in fantasy.

Hoops Rumors readers, what are your thoughts on the Okafor trade, the Thunder’s collection of talent, and Jordan’s value going forward? Take to the comment section below to express your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say!

Also, remember that you can always head to the comment section with your fantasy basketball questions or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Friday morning. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Disabled Player Exception

Most salary cap workarounds, such as the mid-level exception, can be used every year — or at least every other year, as in the case of the bi-annual exception. However the disabled player exception is only available under certain circumstances. Like other salary cap exceptions though, the DPE allows a team to sign a player without using cap space.

If a player is seriously injured, his team can apply for the disabled player exception to replace him. In order for the exception to be granted, an NBA-designated physician must determine that the player is “substantially  more likely than not” to be sidelined through at least June 15 of that league year. If granted, the disabled player exception allows a club to sign a replacement player for 50% of the injured player’s salary, or for the amount of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, whichever is lesser.

This season, for instance, two teams have applied for and received a disabled player exception. One was the Celtics, who lost Gordon Hayward, and the other was the Clippers, who had Patrick Beverley ruled out for the season. Hayward is earning over $29.7MM this year, so Boston’s disabled player exception is worth $8.406MM, the value of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception. Beverley, on the other hand, has a salary of just over $5.5MM, so the Clippers’ DPE is worth half of that amount (about $2.76MM).

[RELATED: Explaining the Celtics’ disabled player exception]

A team must formally apply for a disabled player exception and it requires the approval of the league. The cutoff to apply for a DPE each season is January 15. If a team has a player go down with a season-ending injury after that date, it cannot obtain a DPE to replace him. A team must also use its DPE by March 10 of the current season or it will expire.

Unlike mid-level, bi-annual, or trade exceptions, the disabled player exception can only be used on a single player. However, a team can use it in a variety of ways — the DPE can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade.

If a team uses its disabled player exception to take on salary in a trade, it can acquire a player making up to 100% of the DPE amount, plus $100K. For example, a $4MM DPE could be used to trade for a player making $4.1MM. A free agent signed using the DPE can be offered a maximum of one year, while a player acquired via trade using the DPE must be in the final year of his contract. A player claimed off waivers must also be in the final year of his contract, and his salary must fit into the team’s DPE.

In the event that a team is granted a disabled player exception, uses it to acquire a player, and then has its injured player return ahead of schedule (before the end of the season), the team is allowed to carry both players. However, the team would lose its exception if it trades the injured player, or if the player returns to action before the DPE has expired or been used.

The disabled player exception is rarely exercised, but it does give teams a backup plan of sorts, providing the means to replace seriously injured players.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

An earlier version of this post was published in 2012 by Luke Adams.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are in one of the most enviable positions in the NBA, with a winning core composed primarily of veteran players in or near their prime and a wave of promising young players with years left on their rookie deals. This summer, then, won’t be a particularly eventful one relative to the club’s 2017 transformation.

While the club does have a few pending free agents, most are replaceable and nearly all are affordable. The question the Celtics will have to answer in the summer then, is whether they’d be better off welcoming the selected few back or auditioning new options.

Aron Baynes vertical GettyAron Baynes, C, 30 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
After two years serving as Andre Drummond‘s primary backup in Detroit, Baynes signed on with the Celtics over the summer, immediately slotting into the team’s rotation as the most physically imposing big man on the roster. While Al Horford has thrived in customary fashion handling the bulk of responsibility at the five, Baynes has done what’s been asked of him. The C’s won’t need to break the bank to bring Baynes back next season, so – without any other traditional big bodies on board – it’s an easy enough sell.

Shane Larkin, PG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.5MM deal in 2017
Larkin, an undersized 25-year-old, has bounced around the NBA since coming out of Miami in 2013, but hasn’t made much of an impression at any of his four stops despite fascinating speed. Given Boston’s depth and contention timeline, that’s not likely to change. It’s hard to imagine that a Celtics team with no shortage of assets would prefer a fourth-string point guard with a precarious NBA future over the roster flexibility that letting him walk would bring.

Marcus Smart, PG, 23 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $14.8MM deal in 2014
It’s weird to remember that Smart is still only 23 years old, considering that he’s carved out a niche as a gritty, reliable defender over the course of several postseasons. His offensive game may leave much to be desired – he’s a 29.1% career three-point shooter – but he helps a successful team win games night in and night out. It’s not that much of a stretch, then, to picture other teams looking to poach Smart’s services, hoping for some of that winning mojo to wear off on them. Unfortunately for Smart, a restricted free agent, there’s a dearth of teams projected to have cap space next summer, the majority of whom will likely pursue more grandiose home runs swings. Expect Smart back with the Celtics at a fair price.

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