“The problem is: You have a rookie GM [Koby Altman]—who’s a really good guy and has done some really good things and is trying to prove himself. And you’ve got a delusional owner [Dan Gilbert],” a Western Conference executive tells Berger. “And they’re going to think they’re supposed to get something for the guy. You’re not getting an asset for him under any circumstances.”
Love, who remains sidelined with a foot injury, with will make approximately $28.9MM next season in the first year of the extension he signed last summer.
“It’s a lot to ask someone to take on $144 million for a 30-year-old with an injury history,” another executive said. “You’re dealing with a very small, narrow marketplace for him.”
Love isn’t eligible to be traded until January 24, which is the six-month anniversary of him signing his extension in Cleveland. Finding a suitor will be an issue. The Cavaliers will hope that a contending team will be willing to take a huge risk in order to inch closer to the Warriors atop the league’s hierarchy.
The Rockets and Thunder both make sense as landing spots should a trade occur, one Western Conference executive speculated. The Nuggets have Paul Millsap‘s $30MM salary coming off the books next summer and are fans of Love’s game. The Trail Blazers could use a floor spacer and the Pacers may see the upside he provides. The Hornets and Mavericks have eyes for the big man, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops hears, but finding a deal for either team is no easy task.
“It’s going to have to be a playoff team in a non-destination market,” one of the executives tells Berger. “A team that has a couple of stars that isn’t going to get anybody in free agency because they don’t have the room or nobody’s going to go play there.”
The Thunder-Love scenario is intriguing. Love and Russell Westbrook remain friends and have been close since their days at UCLA. Westbrook’s massive deal worth over $200MM runs through the 2022/23 (with a player option on the last year), which is the exact same timeline as Love’s contract. Paul George is under team control at least through the 2020/21 season and with those contracts, as well as Steven Adams‘ $100MM contract on the books, the team isn’t going to have cap room anytime soon.
“[GM Sam Presti] will figure it out in three years when Russell and Paul are coming to the end of their run,” the Western Conference GM said of a potential Love-to-the-Thunder trade.
It’s difficult for OKC to construct a deal for Love that doesn’t involve giving up one or more of the team’s key contributors due to the big man’s $24.1MM salary. Dennis Schroder ($15.5MM), Alex Abrines ($5.46M), and Patrick Patterson ($5.45M) would make up an interesting package, though Schroder has brought much-needed playmaking for the team, taking some of those duties off of Westbrook this year.
Adams’ salary clocks in at slightly under $24.2MM and if the Thunder have confidence that Nerlens Noel can step up into a bigger role (a big if), perhaps trading their enforcer in the middle makes sense.
However, it’s hard to envision why the Cavs would make such a deal beyond Adams’ contract expiring two years earlier than Love’s. Cleveland covets young players and draft picks as it begins a rebuild. Bringing in an additional team on a three-way trade might be the solution should a deal come together, though that is simply my speculation.
Love’s defense adds another risk to a complicated situation, as people within the league believe he is a liability on the defensive end.
“When we need a bucket against Cleveland, that’s who we attack,” an anonymous coach tells Berger. “Guys like him become hard to hide. There’s always been a premium on pick-and-roll defense, but even more so now. Everybody is spreading the floor and driving and kicking and trying to generate something going downhill.”
One executive groups Love’s contract in with John Wall‘s, calling the pair of deals the “two worst contracts in the league.”
“How many teams are really looking for a dinosaur face-up 4-man, or a 5 who can’t switch pick-and-roll?” the exec said of Love (via Berger).
Most of the pessimism comes from Love’s contract. The executive compared Love to Brook Lopez – an offensive-focused player who landed just a one-year $3.4MM deal with the Bucks this past offseason – suggesting that Love wouldn’t receive much on the open market.
The evaluation seems extremely pessimistic. Love still has value; the questions is: what is that value? He can still help a team in the win column and it’ll only take one team willing to meet the Cavs’ demands to make a deal.
Here are Monday’s NBA G League assignments and recalls from around the league:
- The Pacers re-assigned big man Ike Anigbogu to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team announced today. Anigbogu played a key role in Fort Wayne’s win over Stockton tonight, scoring 13 points and racking up a game-high 18 rebounds.
- The Bucks recalled forward Christian Wood from the G League today, according to the club (via Twitter). While Wood continues to play a very limited role in Milwaukee, he’s averaging an impressive 27.7 PPG for the Wisconsin Herd, and will have his minimum salary contract guaranteed this week.
Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Grizzlies recalled rookie guard Jevon Carter and big man Ivan Rabb from the Memphis Hustle, the team’s PR department tweets. Carter has appeared in 13 games with the Hustle, averaging 17.8 PPG and 5.5 APG in 33.0 MPG. Rabb has played five games with the Hustle and posted averages of 23.4 PPG and 10.2 RPG in 36.7 MPG.
- The Trail Blazers transferred guard Wade Baldwin IV to the Texas Legends, according to a team press release. Baldwin has appeared in 13 games with the Trail Blazers but averaged just 5.5 MPG in those outings. He saw action in 17 games with the Legends last season. He joins forward Caleb Swanigan, who was transferred to the Legends on December 31st.
- The Timberwolves assigned rookie forward Keita Bates-Diop to the Iowa Wolves, the team’s PR department tweets. The second-round selection has already played 13 G League games, posting averages of 17.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG in 35.7 MPG.
- The Hornets recalled forward Dwayne Bacon, the re-assigned him to the Greensboro Swarm, according to team press releases. That allowed Bacon, who has appeared in 18 games with the Hornets this season, to play for the Swarm against the Lakeland Magic on Friday. He’s averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 3.2 APG in six G League appearances.
- The Pacers recalled forward Ike Anigbogu from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to a team press release. In 14 games with the Mad Ants, Anigbogu posted averages of 11.6 PPG and 10.1 RPG in 29.3 MPG.
- Pacers guard Tyreke Evans received PRP injections for his sore right knee and he feels much better, as he told J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star and other media members. Evans had 19 points and five assists in 19 minutes against Atlanta on Wednesday after sitting out the previous two games. That was his highest point since he supplied 23 points against Miami in mid-November. Evans will be a free agent again after signing a one-year, $12MM deal with Indiana over the summer.
Luke Kennard may be the latest Pistons wing to play his way out of the starting small forward spot, as I noted in the Detroit Free Press. Kennard has scored just 24 points over the last six games after a 28-point outing in Philadelphia. The second-year swingman out of Duke was benched during the second half of a 98-95 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday. Stanley Johnson and Glenn Robinson III were also ineffective in that role. “There’s nothing maddening about it at all (but) you want that person to step in and produce,” coach Dwane Casey said of finding someone to fill that slot. “Give some production, whether it’s energy defensively, energy offensively, running the floor, cutting, just playing basketball. That’s what you’re searching for in that position.”
We have more from around the Central Division:
- Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said that hiring Kelly Krauskopf as an assistant GM had nothing to do with making history, according to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star. Krauskopf became the first women to hold that NBA front office position in a modern-day format in that she will be involved in personnel decisions. “It’s going to be made a big deal about (her being a woman) and the truth is she is just the best person for the job, period, end of discussion,” he said. “It doesn’t matter (her) gender, race, anything like that. She was the best person for the job.” Krauskopf spent 17 years as GM of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
- Pacers guard Tyreke Evans has missed the last two games due to knee soreness and will be a game-time decision against Atlanta on Wednesday. Evans explained to Scott Agness of The Athletic that he aggravated an old right knee injury when the Sixers’ Joel Embiid fell on him during a collision. Fluid built up and Evans, who had three operations on that knee in 2016, needed to have the knee drained.
- Bulls point guard Kris Dunn has taken a bigger offensive role with Zach LaVine sidelined by an ankle injury, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Dunn is averaging 17.8 PPG and 6.0 APG over the last five games with LaVine out of commission. “Whatever gets the win. If I’ve got to be aggressive on the offensive side looking at the rim a little bit more or getting my guys involved,” he said. “I’m a pass-first point guard but it’s the NBA.”
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 turn our attention to the Central Division:
Jabari Parker, Bulls, 24, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $40MM deal in 2018
Parker is out of the Chicago’s rotation and on the trading block, a massive and swift fall from grace after signing a big contract to play for his hometown team. If the Bulls can find a trading partner, Parker could be considered damaged goods and not just because of the knee injuries that set back his career. He has gained a reputation of being disinterested on defense and a ball-hog on offense. Wherever he is at season’s end, it’s hard to imagine that team exercising its $20MM option. Parker will be back on the market and the offers will be significantly less.
Alec Burks, Cavaliers, 27, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2015
Burks is getting steady minutes under coach Larry Drew since his inclusion in the Kyle Korver deal with Utah but he isn’t doing anything noteworthy with them. He’s averaging 28.0 MPG and while his rebounding and assist numbers have climbed, he’s shot just 33.3% from the field. Burks has not averaged better than 33% from long range over the last three seasons. He needs to pick up his production from the perimeter to draw interest in the summer. He’s averaged $10.5MM in salary over the last four years — that will drop dramatically with his next contract.
Reggie Bullock, Pistons, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2017
Bullock was one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters — and bargains — last season when he made 44.5% of his attempts. He’s proving that was no fluke. His long-range average is up to 39.8% after his career-high 33-point performance at Minnesota on Wednesday when he drained seven 3-pointers. Bullock fills an essential role for a team that needs long-range compliments to the power duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Detroit would like to keep him but it will have competition and Bullock will receive a major pay raise wherever he winds up.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers, 29, SF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $21MM deal in 2017
Bogdanovic is a consistent offensive force on one of the league’s most underappreciated teams. He’s scored in double figures 23 straight games and he’s averaging career highs in points (16.4), field-goal percentage (51.4) and 3-point percentage (47.5). Indiana had to decide before free agency in July whether to guarantee his $10.5MM salary and it wisely chose to keep him. Bogdanovic will surely get multi-year offers next summer, though it would be no surprise if he re-signs with the Pacers, where he’s a comfy fit.
Eric Bledsoe, Bucks, 29, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $70MM deal in 2014
Bledsoe has matured since being dealt from Phoenix last season and adjusted his game around a superstar talent. He’s shooting a career-high 50% from the field, an excellent number for a guard, and his turnover rate is the lowest of his career. Bledsoe is the third-best player on a team that owns the Eastern Conference’s second-best record. With several teams around the league looking for a point guard upgrade, the Bucks will have to shell out some major bucks to retain their floor leader.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
NBA teams are allowed to carry up to 15 players on their regular season rosters, plus two more on two-way contracts, for a total of 17 players. However, approximately half of the league’s clubs aren’t currently taking advantage of all their roster spots and have at least one open 15-man or two-way contract slot.
[RELATED: 2018/19 NBA Roster Counts]
There will likely be more roster movement starting next month, since January features plenty of important roster dates and deadlines. Teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts on January 5. Every player on a non-guaranteed contract will have his salary guaranteed if he’s not waived by January 7. And two-way contracts can’t be signed after January 15.
For now though, there are 11 NBA teams with openings on their 15-man rosters and three more with at least one open two-way contract slot.
Here’s a breakdown of those teams with open roster spots:
Teams with an opening on their 15-man roster:
- Charlotte Hornets
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Golden State Warriors
- Houston Rockets
- Indiana Pacers
- Miami Heat
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Phoenix Suns
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
Of the 11 teams with an open roster spot, six are projected taxpayers — the Warriors, Rockets, Heat, Thunder, Raptors, and Wizards are all over the luxury tax threshold and will be in no rush to fill the 15th spot on their respective rosters, since doing so would increase that year-end tax bill.
The other clubs are more likely to add a 15th man sooner or later, though the Hornets also aren’t far off from the tax threshold and may exercise some caution with that final roster spot. Teams like the Cavaliers and Suns figure to prioritize developmental players when they eventually fill their rosters, while potential contenders the Sixers and Pacers may focus on finding a immediate contributor.
Teams with an open two-way contract slot:
- Boston Celtics
- New York Knicks
- Portland Trail Blazers (2)
The Trail Blazers have yet to add a two-way player to their roster this season, which is somewhat unusual, even given the club’s uncertain ownership situation. It’s not as if a two-way player requires a significant investment, so that seems like a signing Jody Allen would sign off on if the front office asked.
Portland doesn’t have its own G League affiliate, so maybe the club believes its ability to develop a young player on a two-way deal would be limited. Still, the other two teams without G League affiliates of their own – the Nuggets and Pelicans – have filled both of their two-way contract slots. Perhaps if the Blazers are plagued with injuries at some point this season, they’ll use those two-way openings to add a player or two who can help out immediately at the NBA level.
[RELATED: 2018/19 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]
Meanwhile, the Knicks recently promoted Allonzo Trier to their 15-man roster and haven’t yet filled his old two-way spot. The Celtics are in the same boat, having waived two-way player Walt Lemon Jr. at the end of November. Both teams will likely fill those openings before the January 15 deadline.