- Tyreke Evans is hoping for a strong end to the season after having his best game since joining the Pacers, relays J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Evans, headed back to free agency after signing a one-year deal, credits the improvement to a meeting with coach Nate McMillan. “I need to be the aggressor,” Evans said. “I talked to him and I told him that’s the way I want to play. Put the ball in my hands and create. Put the pressure on the defense.”
- In a pair of recent pieces by Sam Amick and Scott Agness of The Athletic, Indiana executives revisited the Paul George trade that turned into a rare win-win for both the Pacers and Thunder. “I think it worked out good for Paul, and I think it’s working out pretty well for us,” consultant Donnie Walsh said of the deal, per Amick.
- In Agness’ story on that trade with the Thunder, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard raves about Domantas Sabonis, who gets somewhat overlooked as the only non-All-Star (so far) involved in the swap. “When we looked at all the deals, once we heard ‘Sabonis’ is when I said, ‘I’m in. I want to do this,'” Pritchard said. “And I asked everybody around the room, ‘Is everybody on board?’ As soon as that happened, we got pretty excited about that.”
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:
Wayne Selden, Bulls, 24, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.86MM deal in 2017
Selden was part of the Justin Holiday deal with the Grizzlies in January. He could be a restricted free agent if Chicago chooses to extend a $1.93MM qualifying offer. Selden hasn’t done anything to convince the front office to retain his rights. He had an 18-point game in a blowout loss to Detroit on Sunday but he’s mostly been a non-factor off the bench. He’s posted a minus 4.5 Box Plus/Minus Rating, according to Basketball-Reference, which runs parallel to his career rating.
David Nwaba, Cavaliers, 26, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.5MM deal in 2018
Injuries and a lack of production have made this a ho-hum season for Nwaba, who is playing for his third team in three years. He’s had occasional outbursts, such as a 22-point outing against Brooklyn this month, but has otherwise done little to dent the stat sheet. He can be a restricted free agent if the front office extends a low-cost $1.89MM qualifying offer. The cash-strapped Cavs will probably decline that option unless they see him as a rotation piece going forward.
Jose Calderon, Pistons, 37, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.39MM deal in 2018
Calderon has carved out a nice, long NBA career that began in the 2005/06 season with Toronto. He rejoined his former Raptors coach, Dwane Casey, in Detroit as a third-string point guard after some good moments in Cleveland last season. It hasn’t gone well. Father Time has clearly caught up to Calderon, who was exposed when primary backup Ish Smith was sidelined by a adductor injury. This is likely Calderon’s last hurrah, though he could remain in the league as a coach if he so chooses.
Thaddeus Young, Pacers, 30, PF (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $54MM deal in 2015
A steady, durable big man, Young has been a consistent contributor throughout his career. This year might be best, reinforcing his value in a walk year. His Box Plus/Minus rating on Basketball-Reference is a career-best 3.1 and coach Nate McMillan has flowed with praise over Young’s play and leadership. Young doesn’t post big numbers, but he fills the stat sheet and provides intangibles that endears him to teammates and coaches. He should receive another pricey, multiyear offer this summer.
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.78MM deal in 2016
An unlikely Rookie of the Year recipient after getting drafted in the second round, Brogdon has taken his play up a level or two after an injury-marred sophomore campaign. Starting for the current top seed in the East, Brogdon is averaging 15.6 PPG on 50.5% overall shooting. He’s a 42.6% shooter from distance and is virtually automatic at the free throw line (92.8%). He also rebounds well for his position and facilitates the offense (3.2 APG). Brogdon will be a restricted free agent and the Bucks may have to match a big offer sheet to retain him.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are Monday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Pacers assigned forward Alize Johnson and guard Edmond Sumner to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to the team’s transactions log. Johnson has averaged 19.2 PPG and 13.6 RPG in 36.9 MPG over 25 appearances with the Mad Ants. Sumner has averaged 23.8 PPG and 3.7 APG in 31.2 MPG over 20 games at the G League level.
- The Grizzlies assigned rookie guard Jevon Carter and second-year guard Tyler Dorsey to the Memphis Hustle prior to their game against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the team’s PR department tweets. Carter has averaged 18.7 PPG, 6.1 APG and 2.8 SPG in 34.0 MPG through 18 G League contests. Dorsey will be making just his third G League appearance this season after seeing action in 34 NBA games with Atlanta and the Grizzlies.
- The Clippers assigned rookie guard Jerome Robinson to the Agua Caliente Clippers, the team’s PR department tweets. Robinson, the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft, has seen action in 25 NBA games.
Bonnell cites two knowledgeable sources who indicate the Mavs will make the high-scoring point guard their top free agent target. Dallas could plug Walker into its backcourt to create a formidable trio alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic and recently-acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas has ample cap space to offer the max a new team can give a free agent, a four-year deal worth approximately $140.6MM.
Walker is averaging a career-high 24.9 PPG and 5.8 APG in his walk year. Charlotte can offer him a five-year deal worth up to around $189.7MM, but the franchise’s inability to build a quality team around him may convince Walker to seek greener pastures. That five-year, maximum-salary figure could rise to $221MM if Walker is named to the All-NBA team, Bonnell notes.
[RELATED: Maximum Salary Projections For 2019/20]
The Knicks, Lakers and Pacers are some of the other teams expected to contend for Walker’s services, Bonnell adds.
As I noted on Wednesday when I singled out a few restricted free agents poised to land lucrative multiyear deals this summer, few RFAs-to-be are better positioned than D’Angelo Russell.
The Nets‘ point guard has enjoyed a breakout season in 2018/19, establishing new career highs in PPG (20.5), APG (6.8), FG% (.436), 3PT% (.368), and a number of other categories. He has been a driving force behind Brooklyn’s push for a playoff spot, and is expected to cash in in a big way during the 2019 offseason.
With that in mind, Michael Scotto of The Athletic spoke to a handful of executives around the NBA to get a sense of what Russell’s market might look like this July. The consensus? He should be among 2019’s highest-paid free agents.
“He has had a great year,” an Eastern Conference general manager said of Russell. “There’s no reason to believe he will not stay at this level.”
“He’s going to be in high demand and will get close to max with his overall improvement,” a Western Conference executive told Scotto.
As our early maximum salary projections for 2019/20 show, based on a $109MM salary cap, Russell could earn a contract worth up to $158.05MM over five years with the Nets. If he signs with another team, his projected max would be $117.18MM over four years. That raises another question: Will the 23-year-old re-sign with Brooklyn or ink an offer sheet with another team, forcing the Nets to make a tough decision?
While Scotto doesn’t explicitly identify any teams that will pursue Russell this offseason, he notes that the Pacers, Suns, and Magic are among the clubs expected to be in the market for a point guard. Indiana has the most cap flexibility of the three, but Phoenix and Orlando could both create the space necessary to pursue Russell, depending on their roster moves.
The Nets also have a history, under GM Sean Marks, of making aggressive offers to rival RFAs, having forced the Heat, Trail Blazers, and Wizards to match big-money deals for Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe, and Otto Porter, respectively. At least one of the executives who spoke to Scotto wondered if another club will turn the tables on Brooklyn this time around.
“I think D’Angelo is worth around $20MM (annually),” the longtime Eastern exec said. “Is this payback time for the Nets? Will teams offer him the way they (Nets) did for Crabbe, Porter, and Johnson? I think he turned the corner. I think he has a chip on his shoulder.”
While Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard makes the final call on the team’s personnel moves, a pair of Indiana’s former heads of basketball operations remain very much in the loop, Pritchard tells Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
According to Pritchard, he works with advisors Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird on a “daily basis.” Calling both men “true mentors,” Pritchard notes that Walsh is on the office every day, while Bird gets “very involved” in the summer and fall.
Within his conversation with Aschburner, Pritchard touched on a number of other subjects, discussing the Pacers’ approach to free agency, the excellent job head coach Nate McMillan has done with the club, and Victor Oladipo‘s rehab, among other topics. For Pacers fans, the conversation is worth reading in full, but here are a few highlights from the team’s president of basketball operations:
On the sales pitch that allowed the Pacers to land Wesley Matthews last month:
“He saw opportunity, right? We needed a starting two. And there was continuity with just knowing Nate and how he coaches, his style [Matthews and McMillan were together in Portland for a season and a half]. And from what he’s told us, he saw us, he played against us and he liked the way we play. But it became a recruiting process, for sure. He had a lot of options.”
“They fit in nicely. They all made it clear that they wanted to come in, play a role and do it as well as they possibly could. Kyle is a great backup center, and we’ve asked him to be the third center. We’ve needed him, because Sabonis is going to be out for a little bit. McDermott, as he gets comfortable here and learns to seek out his offense, the better he’s going to be. And Tyreke, he’s had some ups and downs. But when he plays well, we’re a different team. We need that punch off the bench, and that’s something we focused on when he got him.”
On the impact of having so many free-agents-to-be on the roster:
“It’s good in that guys are pretty motivated. I’ve believed in this team. We’re going to be challenged in the playoffs and it will be fun watching them, but we’ve got to get there first. I don’t want to look too far in the future. We know we’re going to have some tough decisions this summer. But I believe 40% of the league will be free agents, so it’s not only our issue. It’s a league issue and an opportunity.”
On the Pacers’ long-standing aversion to tanking (Indiana hasn’t won fewer than 32 games in a season since 1988/89):
“You’ve got to give [team owner] Herb [Simon] a ton of credit. He’s not the kind of guy who says, ‘Let’s tank and look to the future in three years.’ We’re not about that. “
- Wesley Matthews, who joined the Pacers last month, has been a great fit on and off the court for the club, writes Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star. “That’s why we recruited him so hard,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew what type of player he was. He’s a competitor, and when he steps out on that floor, he’s all out. He’s giving you everything he has. It starts for him, which you don’t see from a lot of players in the NBA, on the defensive end of the floor. He accepts that challenge of guarding the best (wing) player.”
Struggling would-be contenders like the Celtics and Lakers could learn a lesson from the Pacers, who have bounced back impressively after losing star guard Victor Oladipo for the season, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
Within his examination of the Pacers’ ability to battle through adversity, Windhorst notes that the club’s leaders – head coach Nate McMillan, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard, and GM Chad Buchanan – have an “open-door policy” when it comes to discussing players’ upcoming free agency — they aren’t afraid to sit down and talk to a player about his situation if he wants to, and have attempted to be transparent in those discussions.
As Windhorst observes, the Pacers’ rotation is stacked with players in contract years. Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans are among those who will be unrestricted free agents this summer. With long-term uncertainty facing so many of Indiana’s vets, the work McMillan has done to keep them all on the same page this season is impressive.
Here’s more from out of Indiana:
- Chris Sikich of The Indianapolis Star provides the latest updates on a piece of legislation aimed in part at keeping the Pacers in Indiana for the next 25 years. As Sikich explains, the bill, which the Indiana Senate voted in favor of this week, would see the Pacers chip in about $63MM in new money for facility upgrades and would give the team until next April to negotiate a new long-term lease for the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
- Domantas Sabonis has been diagnosed with a left ankle sprain and may be forced out of action for the Pacers’ next few games, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star details. “He’s got a lot of swelling,” McMillan said. “He’s going to be out for a couple games. He’s not walking with crutches, but he can’t put a lot of pressure on it.” In Sabonis’ absence, frontcourt players like Kyle O’Quinn and T.J. Leaf could get the opportunity to play increased roles.
- Speaking of injured Pacers, while Oladipo won’t be able to return this season, he’s making progress in his rehab work. As Ameer Tyree of Sporting News passes along, Oladipo’s trainer recently posted a video of the All-Star guard working on his handle while wearing a leg brace.
Here are Tuesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:
- The Jazz have recalled Grayson Allen from the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the team’s Twitter feed. The stint was Allen’s ninth assignment this season.
- The Clippers have assigned Jerome Robinson to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, according to the team’s Twitter feed.
- The Pacers have assigned Edmond Sumner to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to the team’s transaction log. Sumner recently signed a two-year contract with Indiana.
- The Wizards assigned Troy Brown Jr. to the Capital City Go-Go, according to the team’s Twitter feed.
- The Heat have assigned Emanuel Terry to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Terry has seen action in just one game for Miami this season, playing just three minutes.
- The Grizzlies have assigned Jevon Carter to the Memphis Hustle, per the team’s Twitter feed.