Justin Holiday

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central 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 those players’ stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Central Division:

Justin Holiday, Bulls 29, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017
Holiday is playing heavy minutes for the injury-riddled Bulls. His scoring average (12.0 PPG) is modest, given the amount of playing time he’s receiving, but he’s been solid from long range (38.9%) and rarely turns the ball over. His OBPM (Offensive Box Plus/Minus) is a career-best 1.7, according to Basketball Reference. Defensively, he leads the club in steals (1.6). Holiday probably won’t find a starting gig on the open market, but he’d be a solid second unit option on a playoff contender.

Rodney Hood, Cavaliers, 26, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3.47MM deal in 2018
Hood accepted the Cavaliers’ qualifying offer as a restricted free agent over the summer with the aim of landing a lucrative mult-year pact as an unrestricted FA next summer. Thus far, Hood hasn’t really stood out from the pack on a struggling team. With Kevin Love sidelined by a foot injury, Hood had an opportunity to be a bigger offensive force. Instead, his numbers have declined. He averaged 14.0 PPG in 27.7 MPG last month but has posted a 9.3 PPG average in 26.0 MPG through four November outings.

Stanley Johnson, Pistons, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.85MM deal in 2015
Johnson didn’t receive a rookie scale extension and he’ll be a restricted free agent if the Pistons extend a $5.3MM qualifying offer after the season. Right now, that’s a big if. Johnson lost his starting job to Glenn Robinson III after shooting 35.2% overall and 25.0% from deep while committing 16 turnovers in seven starts. The Pistons are currently looking at Johnson as a small ball power forward off the bench. He’s looked comfortable in that role, posting back-to-back double-digit games while shooting with more confidence.

Tyreke Evans, Pacers, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal in 2018
Coming off a career year with the Grizzlies in which he averaged 19.3 PPG, Evans was expected to be one of the league’s premier sixth men. He’s still finding his way with a much more talented team, averaging 10.9 PPG, though he’s been fine beyond the arc (41.7%). In his last six games, Evans is averaging 10.0 PPG while shooting 38.2% from the field. Evans’ numbers should spike up but for now, he hasn’t done anything to make him more attractive on the open market than he was this summer.

Khris Middleton, Bucks, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Middleton has a $13MM option on his contract for next season and it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll test the open market. His value continues to rise with his early-season performances. He’s the second-best player on a very good team, averaging 19.3 PPG and shooting a whopping 45.5% from long range. Throw in career bests in rebounding (5.2 per game) and assists (4.3) along with his solid defense and Middleton will be highly coveted in July.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Cavs, Boylan, Bulls, Bucks

As if there wasn’t enough drama in Cleveland already this season, the Cavaliers are now the subject of another unusual story. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays, former Cavs assistant Jim Boylan has sued the team, along with owner Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman, for age discrimination.

Boylan’s lawsuit claims that Tyronn Lue left Boylan a voicemail informing him that Altman and the Cavaliers wouldn’t be picking up his option for 2018/19 since they wanted to “go younger.” Boylan subsequently had a conversation with Altman during which the GM confirmed that the Cavs wanted a younger coach, suggesting that the decision to move on from Boylan had nothing to do with his performance, per the suit.

The Cavaliers responded to the lawsuit today, calling it “frivolous” and referring to it as a “shameless cash grab.” Pointing out that Boylan simply had an option declined and wasn’t fired, the Cavs’ statement accused the assistant coach’s lawyers of attempting to shame the franchise into a settlement by releasing Lue’s voicemail.

As we wait to see what tomorrow brings in Cleveland, let’s round up a few more Central notes…

Central Rumors: Jackson, Holiday, LaVine, Sumner

Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson is still scraping off the rust after spending the summer rehabbing a high ankle sprain, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Jackson, who originally suffered the injury in late December, returned to basketball activities on Thursday and participated in a public scrimmage on Saturday. He showed some quickness during the scrimmage but took a passive approach offensively, Ellis notes. “He’s looked really good,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s still rusty in certain areas, reading situations defensively, but I’m very pleased at where he is.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pairing Justin Holiday and Jabari Parker at the forward spots could prove to be a successful stopgap measure for the Bulls, according to the analysis of NBC Sports Chicago’s Michael Walton. The Bulls are searching for ways to make up for the absence of Lauri Markkanen, who is out 6-8 weeks with an elbow injury. Holiday is a quality defender and 3-point shooter who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He should mesh well with a high usage player like Parker, who excels offensively. Parker’s ability to score on the break will allow Holiday to be more aggressive defensively and look for steals, Walton adds.
  • Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine feels a greater responsibility after signing a multi-year contract, as Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago reports. The front office matched his Kings’ four-year, $78MM offer sheet in July and LaVine wants to be looked upon as a leader. “We have so many scorers, though, so if any of us have an off day I think we’ll be able to pick up the slack really easily,” he said. “I know I’m here to be a leader and put the ball in the hoop and become a complete player.”
  • The Pacers’ second-round picks from the past two drafts have impressed in camp, Mark Monteith of the team’s website writes. Center Ike Anigbogu, guard Edmond Sumner and forward Alize Johnson will likely spend most of the season in the G League but coach Nate McMillan likes their progress. “They’ve had really good training camps,” McMillan told Monteith. “I really like what I see from those guys.”

Central Notes: Valentine, McMillan, Morris, Pistons

The Bulls’ starting lineup seems set but there will be a couple of key position battles in training camp, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine will be angling for playing time at small forward behind Jabari Parker, while Cameron Payne could have an unexpectedly tough battle with Ryan Arcidiacono as the main backup at point guard. Cristiano Felicio also needs to carve out a role and earn some of his $8,470,980 salary, Cowley adds. ‘‘The thing I’m excited about with training camp is it’s going to be open competition,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers needed to extend coach Nate McMillan to prevent a lame-duck situation next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star explains. McMillan agreed to an extension through the 2020/21 season. It was also necessary for a franchise that preaches culture and loyalty to reward its coach for a job well-done last season, Michael continues. The Pacers overcame the lack of true stretch four as well as a shooter at the backup shooting guard spot. Their wings were also somewhat limited offensively and they were undersized in the backcourt, Michael adds.
  • If Jaylen Morris can improve his perimeter shooting, the Bucks will be rewarded for signing him to a two-way contract, according to Dakota Schmidt of RidiculousUpside.com. Morris is adept at attacking the basket and finishing at the rim and is also a solid defender, Schmidt continues. The 22-year-old wing will also benefit from working with assistant Ben Sullivan, who has helped numerous players with their shooting stroke, Schmidt adds.
  • The Pistons’ 15-man roster appears to be set after a low-key July that included the free agent signings of three reserves, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press relays. Ellis breaks down the roster player-by-player in the story.

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Pistons

The Bulls are walking a fine line between developing young players and outright tanking, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. The organization’s recent decision to sideline starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday is one glaring examples of the club’s bold strategy down the stretch.

While vice president John Paxson did proactively say the Bulls would be launching a player-development plan when the team returned from the All-Star Break, league commissioner Adam Silver is on a mission to curb the thought that teams could be losing on purpose.

To Paxson’s credit, there’s merit to the idea of auditioning unproven players during the final months of an otherwise lost campaign, gauging how individuals fare with heavier workloads is an essential part of planning for the future. The question is how well the Bulls can balance that with putting a reasonably competitive team out on the floor.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers added four rotation players at the trade deadline, so it’s not surprising that head coach Tyronn Lue is still sizing up what exactly he has on his hands. “I just want to see what I’m working with,” Lue told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “I really don’t know the guys that much, that well. Just want to see in big moments, pressure situations, how they perform. They performed well and they’ve been performing well.
  • The Pistons hope that Reggie Jackson is able to practice on March 11, prior to the team embarking on a six-game road trip, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site tweets.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy views his decision to take Eric Moreland out of the team’s rotation as a mistake, Geoff Robinson of The Detroit News writes. The bench boss plans to amend that by getting Moreland more minutes in order to capitalize on the energy he brings.

Bulls Notes: Lopez, Holiday, Portis, Tanking

Robin Lopez has been the Bulls’ starting center since being acquired from the Knicks in the summer of 2016, but he has been relegated to the bench as Chicago launches a youth movement, writes Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. With Cristiano Felicio being named the starting center, Lopez has sat out the past two games and it’s not clear when he might return.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

Lopez isn’t sure if he’s in the Bulls’ long-range plans, even though he has one more season left on his contract at more than $13.5MM. He’s averaging a career-best 12.3 points to go with 4.7 rebounds in 57 games, so there should be interested teams if Chicago decides to trade him this summer.

There’s more news from the Windy City:

  • Justin Holiday has been benched along with Lopez, but both may return to the lineup at some point this season, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t directly answer questions about their future, but Lopez said he expects to play again. Holiday is also signed through next season at a salary of nearly $4.39MM.
  • Third-year forward Bobby Portis is part of the youth movement and has been succeeding with a grating style that irritates opponents, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Portis has nearly doubled his scoring average to 13.0 points per game, while piling up an enemies list that includes former teammate Nikola Mirotic, who missed the start of the season with facial fractures he suffered in a preseason skirmish with Portis. “People used to joke around all the time about it, but now I’m making it into something I like,’’ Portis said of his “Crazy Eyes” nickname. “My eyes do get crazy, and I never know what they’re going to do.’’
  • The Bulls are three games out of the top spot in our latest Reverse Standings, but tanking may not be the best strategy for a turnaround, Cowley suggests in a separate story. He notes that Chicago already has a wealth of young talent on hand and may benefit more by trying to win some games before the end of the season than by trying to improve its draft pick.

Bulls Notes: Lineup Changes, Payne, Forman

With 25 games left in their season, the Bulls are focusing on the future, as VP John Paxson explained to reporters on Tuesday (link via Sam Smith of Bulls.com). That means that Cristiano Felicio will move into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of veteran center Robin Lopez, while David Nwaba will supplant Justin Holiday.

“The hard part from our standpoint is you can’t play 12 guys. Nine or 10 is the most,” Paxson said. “We’re going to start looking at blocks of games where we’ll be having a few guys who haven’t been playing much or at all have a significant role. The whole goal in our position is to evaluate what we have on this roster.

“The hard thing when you do things like this is you’re asking certain people to sacrifice roles and minutes,” Paxson continued. “It’s veteran guys. That’s never an easy thing. As I told them, I, along with [GM] Gar [Forman], we’re entrusted with the future of the organization. So these last 25 games, we’re going to evaluate what we have on this roster by playing more the guys we haven’t seen much this year.”

Let’s round up a few more Bulls notes…

  • Cameron Payne, who has missed the entire season with a foot injury, is set to make his 2017/18 debut on Thursday, writes Madeline Kenney of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne figures to cut into Jerian Grant‘s playing time.
  • With John Paxson once again addressing reporters on Tuesday, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times explores where Gar Forman has been “hiding” this season. According to Cowley, Paxson comes across as more “honest and transparent” than Forman, which is why the VP has handled most of the team’s media responsibilities this season. However, Forman is still very much involved in basketball operations and is by no means being pushed out of the organization.
  • Justin Holiday is trying to take his reduced role in stride, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “I have to deal with it, be professional about it,” Holiday said. “Regardless of the situation or the reason, I have to carry myself a certain way because that’s how I do things. How I react and carry myself in this will be a good leadership situation for the young guys to see and follow the example if it does happen to them.”
  • The $600K fine Mark Cuban received for publicly discussing the benefits of losing is exactly why Paxson and other members of the Bulls organization will dance around the subject of tanking, says Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago.

Central Notes: Bulls, Nelson, J.R. Smith, Pacers

The Bulls need to get more serious about tanking and start making moves to improve their lottery chances, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com argues. Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cameron Payne should receive a lot more playing time, while veterans like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday should have their minutes reduced, Friedell says. Holding out Zach LaVine on the second game of back-to-backs would also facilitate the cause, Friedell adds.

Also around the Central Division:

  • Small forward James Ennis and point guard Jameer Nelson have jumped right into the Pistons’ rotation after being acquired just before the trade deadline. Ennis, who was traded by the Grizzlies for forward Brice Johnson and a future second-round pick, has averaged 9.5 PPG and 17.5 MPG over the past two games. Nelson, who was traded by the Bulls for Willie Reed and future draft considerations, has averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in 19.5 MPG during his first two games with Detroit.
  • Nelson, 35, told Hoops Rumors and other reporters that he’d like to continue playing after this season. The Pistons point guard be an unrestricted free agent this summer.  “I never want to put a limit or a time frame on my career,” he said. “My body feels good, my mind is right. So I’ll just continue to work. My body and mind will tell me when it’s time for me to go. I think there will be a lot of teams that will need a guy like me next season.”
  • Pacers players lobbied GM Kevin Pritchard to stand pat during the trade deadline, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard was approached by six players, who told him they wanted to see what they could accomplish with the current mix. “They feel like they are overachieving and had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Pritchard said during a press conference. “They wanted to have the opportunity to finish this out and try to get into the playoffs. … That carried a lot of weight with me.”
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith held onto his roster spot and retained his starting job, but he admits he was sweating out the deadline, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. “My name was being thrown around a lot out there, so it was nerve-wracking for sure,” Smith said. “When you see six guys getting traded and there’s still more than an hour to the trade deadline, there’s no telling what can happen.” Smith is owed $30.3MM over the next two seasons, which made his contract difficult to move, McMenamin notes.

Bulls Notes: Paxson, Lopez, Holiday, Allen, Dunn

The Bulls were relatively quiet as the trade deadline passed on Thursday, completing a pair of minor deals involving Noah Vonleh and Jameer Nelson. Chicago’s major move came when the team dealt Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, which netted the team highly-coveted draft picks.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, is happy with the Bulls’ moves and is excited about the future, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. Paxson compared draft picks to gold for teams as his franchise restocks for the future. In particular, Paxson likes having future high picks to go along with the young talent already on the roster.

“We look at it this way: We got the three young guys [Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn] when we made the [Jimmy Butler] trade for last year, we’re going to have two [first-round] picks most likely in this draft, and we’ve got Bobby [Portis] and Denzel [Valentine] as young guys,” Paxson said. “That’s seven young pieces, and we just need to continue to develop them, grow, and make the smart decisions, not get in a rush.’’

Check out other Bulls news and notes below:

  • Paxson said that the Bulls were offered several multiyear bad contracts in trade talks, but the team was not comfortable taking on significant money that went beyond the 2018/19 season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Paxson added that the Bulls were comfortable taking Omer Asik in the Mirotic trade because he is set to make just $3MM in 2018/19.
  • While the Bulls could have traded Robin Lopez and/or Justin Holiday, Paxson said their value as veteran leaders and teammates was too important to the club, Johnson tweets.
  • Tony Allen, who was acquired as part of the Mirotic trade, was reportedly set to be waived by Chicago. However, Paxson said the team will have a discussion with Allen’s agent before deciding on his future, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.
  • Point guard Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol but he is still not ready to return, per the Associated Press. Dunn has missed the Bulls’ past eight games; he’s averaging 13.7 PPG and 6.4 APG for Chicago this season.

Trade Rumors: Mavs, Holiday, Lakers, Celtics

The Mavericks have received some trade offers, but those proposals haven’t featured great draft-pick incentives, a league source tells Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas is willing to use its leftover cap space to take on a contract or two, but the Mavs would require a draft pick valuable enough to make it worth their while.

According to Sefko, the Mavericks have also found that there’s a trade market for center Salah Mejri, who is facing restricted free agency this summer. However, teams haven’t been willing to offer more than a very low second-round pick.

Here are a few more trade rumors from across the NBA:

  • Sources tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Bulls wing Justin Holiday has received serious interest. Holiday is one of several veterans Chicago will consider dealing, along with Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant.
  • The Lakers are using Larry Nance Jr. as a potential sweetener when they discuss Jordan Clarkson trade scenarios, tweets Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders initially suggested last month that Nance could be attached to another player to help L.A. clear salary. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN examines how Nance and his Lakers teammates are handling the ongoing trade rumors.
  • The Celtics seem to be “on the periphery” of the Tyreke Evans trade discussions, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, who hears that the Grizzlies have better offers for Evans. However, one GM tells Bulpett that Boston appears to be “lying in wait” in the event that more active talks stall.
  • Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca looks like the Pelicans‘ primary trade candidates today, sources tell Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link). Cunningham has the ability to veto trades and Ajinca is out for the season, so neither player has a ton of value.