Jimmy Butler

Hassan Whiteside Plans To Opt In For 2019/20

4:21pm: There’s a growing belief that if and when Whiteside opts in, he may do so while asking for a trade, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Given his $27MM+ salary, it won’t be easy for the Heat to make a deal.

11:24am: Barring an unforeseen development in the coming days, Heat center Hassan Whiteside intends to opt into the final season of his contract, exercising his 2019/20 player option, a league source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Picking up that option will make Whiteside the Heat’s highest-paid player for next season, locking in a salary of $27,093,018, per Basketball Insiders. The veteran big man will subsequently be on track to reach unrestricted free agency during the summer of 2020.

Whiteside, who turned 30 years old last Thursday, averaged 12.3 PPG and 11.3 RPG with 1.9 BPG in 72 games (53 starts) for the Heat last season. While his numbers were solid, Whiteside’s 23.3 minutes per game represented his lowest mark since he arrived in Miami in 2014.

Whiteside hasn’t been thrilled about his reduced role and inconsistent minutes over the last two seasons. Still, despite expressing a little dissatisfaction with his playing time, he was always considered a virtual lock to exercise his player option to stick with the Heat — he’d have no chance of matching his $27MM salary for ’19/20 on the open market.

With option salaries for both Whiteside and Goran Dragic on their books for next season, the Heat’s guaranteed salary commitments will increase to nearly $130MM for just eight players, plus a $3.64MM cap hold for their first-round pick. The team figures to thoroughly explore ways to cut costs during the offseason to avoid ending up in tax territory with a roster that missed the playoffs this past season.

As our player option decision tracker shows, 10 players have already opted in for the 2019/20 season, with Whiteside and Dwight Powell (Mavericks) both planning to do so as well.

Here are a few more brief Heat notes:

  • According to Jackson, the Heat and Grizzlies discussed a possible Mike Conley trade, but didn’t see eye to eye on compensation and those talks went nowhere. The two sides didn’t rule out the possibility of revisiting discussions later in the summer.
  • Jimmy Butler has told confidants that he’d be happy to meet with the Heat in free agency if the team wants to make a pitch, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Miami doesn’t project to have any cap room available this offseason though, so the idea of Butler joining the team is an extreme long shot.
  • University of Miami prospect Dewan Hernandez cancelled a workout with the Heat due to scheduling issues and an overcrowded workout calendar, writes Jackson.

Lakers Optimistic About Adding Kyrie Irving?

The Nets appear to be the favorite to land Kyrie Irving, but other teams still hold out hope that they can sign the point guard. The Lakers remain optimistic that they could sign Irving, a source close to LeBron James told Sam Amick of The Athletic prior to the Anthony Davis deal.

For months, Irving has expressed a desire to play alongside Davis, sources tell David Aldridge of The Athletic. While the Lakers intend to bring in a third star, adding to the Davis-James pairing, it’s unclear where Irving ranks in the franchise’s preferred signings.

Kemba Walker is reportedly the top target. Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard are other options, though both could be hard to pry from their incumbent team (and in Leonard’s case, the Lakers appear to be trailing the Clippers if he does depart Toronto).

Inking one of those players to a full max deal will be a challenge for the Lakers. The franchise is projected to have between $23.6MM and 27.7MM in cap space depending on whether Davis waives his trade bonus. If the team finds a taker for Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga (could be the Pelicans in revised Davis deal), the Lakers are looking at upwards of $29.4MM in room. The starting salary on a max deal for players like Irving or Walker is $32.7MM.

A path to opening up the amount needed to offer a full max deal involves the Lakers signing a free agent with cap space and then waiting until July 30 to officially complete the Davis trade. That would allow Los Angeles to aggregate the No. 4 pick’s salary in the Davis deal and operate as an over-the-cap team. Such a strategy would bring the Lakers roughly $32.5MM in room, assuming Davis waives his trade bonus. The figure remains slightly short of the max for this tier of players, though Los Angeles could make additional moves to get all the way there.

Brooklyn will have no issue offering Irving a full max deal. The Hornets possess Walker’s Bird rights and can offer him a super-max deal that tops out around $221MM in total value. Butler believes he’s getting a full max no matter which team signs him and the Raptors will hand Leonard whatever contract he wants should the Finals MVP decide to remain in the North.

The Lakers have an attractive situation for a star on the market. They can offer a title contender in one of the league’s premier markets and depending on Rob Pelinka‘s salary cap gymnastics, they may have to hope a star believes the situation is worth forgoing potential earnings.

Pelicans Agree To Trade Anthony Davis To Lakers

The Pelicans have reached an agreement to trade All-Star big man Anthony Davis to the Lakers for guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The Lakers immediately become championship contenders with Davis joining forces with LeBron James. Davis’ agent Rich Paul, also James’ agent, had tried to steer trade talks toward the Lakers over the winter after Davis’ desire to be traded was made public. But Davis didn’t get his wish at the time.

Paul and Davis recently met with the Pelicans’ new top executive, David Griffin, who tried to convince Davis to rescind his trade request. Davis declined and expressed his desire to play long-term for either the Lakers or Knicks.

GM Rob Pelinka, who has been under fire after criticism from former Lakers president Magic Johnson, pulled off a major coup by winning the Davis sweepstakes over the Knicks and Celtics, among others. Los Angeles gave up plenty in the deal but didn’t have to include another talented big man, Kyle Kuzma.

Davis could sign an extension with the Lakers but still intends to test free agency next summer, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

The Lakers will have either $27.8MM or $32.5MM in cap room after the deal to pursue a high-level free agent, depending upon timing and Davis’ willingness to waive his $4MM trade bonus, ESPN salary cap expert Bobby Marks tweets.

The trade cannot be officially finalized until after the new league year begins in July. It may be even be completed as late as July 30 — newly-drafted players can be traded immediately without signing a rookie scale contract, but if they sign that contract, they aren’t eligible to be dealt for 30 days. Waiting those 30 days would be advantageous to the Lakers for cap-related reasons, as Marks notes (via Twitter).

The Lakers still don’t have quite enough cap room to max out a free agent like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker but they’re close to it, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Naturally, one of those free agents might take a little less to form a superstar trio in Los Angeles or the Lakers could make other moves to clear more cap room. Walker will be the Lakers’ top free agent target, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Boston refused to part with its top young player, forward Jayson Tatum, in trade talks with the Pelicans, Stein add in another tweet. That put the Lakers in the driver’s seat for Davis’ services.

With Ball and Hart joining Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans have greatly enhanced their backcourt. They now have the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in Thursday’s draft. It’s a slam dunk they’ll select Duke forward Zion Williamson with the top pick and theyll get another high-level prospect, unless they have another trade in the works. Williamson and Ingram should be a formidable duo at the forward spots and the Pelicans can now concentrate on bringing in another big man to make all the other pieces work.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Is Pursuing A RFA Worth The Risk For Sixers?

The Sixers have said that their primary plan this summer is to re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. But, it’s been reported that both players are open to looking at other options (the Clippers, Knicks, Lakers, and Nets come to mind).

If Butler or Harris end up signing elsewhere, Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, or Celtics guard Terry Rozier could be other options for Philadelphia. But, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes, pursuing a restricted free agent complicates matters.

In order to submit an offer sheet to Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier, the Sixers would first need to create the requisite cap space necessary to sign one of them. The cap holds of Butler and Harris combined with the 2019/20 salaries of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons eat up just under $88.5MM of a projected $109MM cap, leaving a little more than $20.5MM in cap space. Adding in the $1MM in guaranteed salary owed to Jonathan Simmons, the salaries for Zhaire Smith and Jonah Bolden, and six incomplete roster holds equates to about $99.6MM.

Therefore, even if the Sixers renounced all of their free agents besides Butler and Harris (which seems unlikely given they would ideally like to re-sign J.J. Redick as well), renounced all their exceptions, and traded the No. 24 overall pick, they’d still only have about $9.4MM in cap space, which is likely not enough to offer Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier a contract commensurate with their value.

As such, the Sixers would ultimately need to also renounce their rights to Harris or Butler in order to pursue one of the aforementioned guards. They won’t do this with Butler, so it would have to be Harris. But here’s the risk: even if the Sixers negotiate a deal with Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier right at 6:00pm on June 30, the Bucks, Nets, or Celtics (all Eastern Conference rivals to the Sixers) would have until 12:00pm on July 8 – two days after the July moratorium ends – to decide whether to match the Sixers’ offer for Brogdon.

In other words, the two-day deadline to match an offer sheet does not commence until the moratorium is over, and you can be sure Milwaukee, Boston, or Brooklyn would take all of their allotted time. During the time period between the Sixers’ agreement with Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier and the opposing team’s ultimate decision – 7 days and 18 hours – the Sixers’ cap space would be completely tied up. It’s entirely possible that both Harris and Redick sign elsewhere during this time, as deals often get done at a breakneck speed during the first week of free agency.

If the Bucks, Nets, or Celtics decline to match, no harm done. But what if they match the offer sheet? The Sixers are left with a relatively significant amount of cap space with no free agents left to sign. And even if Harris and Redick are still available, they may be frustrated/resentful by the Sixers’ decision to go after Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier at their expense.

Ultimately, a decision like this comes down to how much the Sixers like the player for whom they’re incurring the risk. If the Sixers think Brogdon, Russell, Rozier, or any other restricted free agent can put them over the top, the risk may be worthwhile. If the player being pursued is just another piece, however, the risk is probably too much to bear.

Jimmy Butler To Decline 2019/20 Player Option

Jimmy Butler will decline his player option for the 2019/20 season and hit the free agent market, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The Sixers have been expecting Butler to take this route.

Philadelphia remains “adamant” about retaining Butler and the franchise appears willing to do whatever is necessary to re-sign the 29-year-old. Butler has previously expressed that he’s confident a max contract awaits him in free agency.

The Lakers have real interest in prying Butler from Philadelphia. Los Angeles is hoping to place other stars around LeBron James this offseason. The starting salary on a potential max contract for Butler is projected to come in around $32.7MM. The Lakers will need to make an additional move to accommodate that figure, as we detailed in the team’s Salary Cap Digest.

Butler will be an unrestricted free agent and his cap hold of roughly $30.7MM will count toward the Sixers’ books unless they decide to renounce him or he signs elsewhere. He played 55 regular season games and 12 playoff contests after Philadelphia acquired him last fall.

Kyler’s Latest: Celtics, Capela, Kyrie, Sixers, More

After reporting earlier this week that the Celtics had “engaged pretty seriously” on Rockets center Clint Capela, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has provided a few more details today. Sources tell Kyler that Boston has “expressed considerable interest” in Capela. However, he may be more of a Plan B or C for the Celtics, particularly if they’re still serious about pursuing Anthony Davis.

As Kyler details, league sources are skeptical that the Celtics will keep and use all three of their first-round picks (Nos. 14, 20, and 22). Meanwhile, Houston has been trying to get first-round prospects in for workouts despite not currently holding any draft picks — Kyler writes that the Rockets have been suggesting to agents that they have the ability to acquire a pick in the top 20.

It’s possible that the Celtics could trade one of their first-rounders to another team, and the Rockets are likely exploring deals with clubs outside of Boston. Still, it’s worth watching to see if those two teams end up getting something done on or before draft night.

Here’s more from Kyler:

  • Although Kyler, like others, has heard that the Celtics are operating as if Kyrie Irving probably won’t return, he writes that the club is prepared to offer Irving a maximum-salary deal to see if he’ll turn it down.
  • There’s a sense that Philadelphia will make full maximum-salary offers to Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, per Kyler. The Sixers are making sure that their players and other teams know they’re serious about keeping their core intact, according to Kyler, who adds that there’s a belief that Butler and Harris would re-sign if the team does put those offers on the table.
  • Kyler says that the Cavaliers, Suns, Hawks, Timberwolves, Magic, Hornets, Heat, and Celtics are all viewed as candidates to trade top-20 picks in the draft, either for veteran players or to move up or down in the draft.

Sixers Readying Max Offer For Jimmy Butler?

Executives around the NBA expect the Sixers to make a max offer to Jimmy Butler, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest podcast (hat tip to SixersWire).

“I’ve been talking to some executives this week,” Windhorst said, “and the executives, I think, now believe that the Sixers will. I don’t know about the fifth year, like, full guaranteed, but yeah.”

Under the latest cap projections, Philadelphia could offer Butler a five-year deal worth $189.7MM, while the rest of the league is limited to four years at $140.6MM. Butler will be one of the hottest names on the free agent market once he officially opts out of his $19.84MM salary for next season.

Complicating matters for the Sixers is the upcoming free agency for fellow starters Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick, along with a potential rookie scale extension for Ben Simmons. With a large deal already in place for Joel Embiid, the Sixers will have to go well into luxury tax territory to keep the current team together long-term.

Butler was outstanding for Philadelphia after being acquired in a November trade with Minnesota, posting an 18.2/5.3/4.0 line in 55 games. He emerged as a leader in the playoffs, raising his numbers to 19.4/6.1/5.2 and hitting several clutch shots.

Heat Notes: Richardson, Haslem, Draft

The Heat decided to pull back in trade discussions when discussing a Josh Richardson-centered deal for Jimmy Butler last season, but the swingman won’t be untouchable in trade talks going forward, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relays in his latest mailbag.

Winderman writes that if Richardson is needed to complete a deal, he could be in a similar situation to Caron Butler‘s in the mid-2000s. Butler was included in the trade with the Lakers to bring Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat. Richardson, who will turn 26 in September, cooled off as a long-range marksman in 2018/19, making just 35.7% of his attempts from behind the arc. He’s under contract through the 2021/22 season (final year of the pact is a player’s option).

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Udonis Haslem could have a role as a consultant with the Heat, Winderman contends in the same piece. Haslem remains undecided about retiring as a player, though Winderman notes that he expects the power forward to actively remain with the Heat in some capacity regardless of his official decision. Former Heat center Alonzo Mourning trains with the team and instructs younger players, though he isn’t required to travel. That wouldn’t be a bad deal if Haslem decides to retire.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. (USC) will make a visit to Miami to work out for the Heat, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson writes that the team is intrigued by his scoring ability, athletism, and high ceiling.
  • Pat Riley and the Heat’s brass attended Priority Sports’ Chicago workout last week to see a handful of prospects, Jackson relays in the same piece. Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, Maryland’s Bruno Fernando, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, Virginia’s Ty Jerome, Nebraska’s Isaiah Roby, Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, DePaul’s Max Strus and Belmont’s Dylan Windler participated in drills. Jackson notes that Clarke is likely the only prospect in contention for the No. 13 overall pick.

Lakers Notes: Butler, Vogel, Draft, Moser

Sixers forward Jimmy Butler wouldn’t hesitate to join the Lakers if they made a max offer, tweets Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times. Butler likes the idea of playing in L.A., and LeBron James has reportedly already reached out to gauge his interest.

Because Philadelphia owns Butler’s Bird rights, the Sixers can offer the 29-year-old a longer contract and larger annual raises than anyone else. However, Philadelphia has two other free agent starters to address in Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick, and there are durability concerns for Butler, who has topped 67 games in a season just once in the past six years. He played a combined 65 games this season for the Timberwolves and Sixers.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • New coach Frank Vogel offers his first public comments on several players in a video tweeted by the team. Vogel calls Lonzo Ball “one of the most unique players I’ve ever studied” and said he wants Ball’s passing to serve as a blueprint for the whole team. He says “the sky’s the limit” for Brandon Ingram because of what he has accomplished at a young age. Vogel also shares his thoughts on James, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
  • The Lakers are believed to have strong interest in Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland with the No. 4 pick in next month’s draft, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. The fourth choice is believed to be the first spot of uncertainty in the draft after Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett are off the board.
  • Assistant coach Clay Moser has left the Lakers’ staff to take a job at Arkansas, according to Pete Roulier of HawgSports. Moser, who was with L.A. for seven and a half years, will be an assistant to long-time cohort Eric Musselman“Clay and I have worked together in the NBA, with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, and in the NBA Development League with the Reno Bighorns and Los Angeles Defenders,” Musselman said. “We also worked together with the Dominican National Team. Clay is an incredible ‘X and O’ coach and he has been at the forefront of basketball analytics. He loves player development and brings the NBA experience that our players look for and will soak up.”

LeBron James Already Recruiting?

The Lakers may be a longshot to sign a marquee free agent this offseason, especially in the wake of all the front office drama surrounding the franchise these days. But don’t tell that to LeBron James, who has reportedly already begun his recruiting efforts for the upcoming offseason, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Appearing on Pardon the Interruption this afternoon, Windhorst said that from “what (he) understand(s),” James has already made contact with both Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard about the possibility of playing in L.A. next season. Interestingly, Leonard’s season is not yet over, but that doesn’t appear to concern James.

Windhorst doesn’t go into any specifics about what James has been selling to potential free agent signings for the Lakers, but Leonard has been connected to the Greater Los Angeles area – where he’s from – for a while now, and Butler has been linked to the Lakers in the past as well.

Both Leonard and Butler are technically still under contract for next season, but they’re widely expected to decline their player options for the 2019/20 season and hit the free agent market this summer.