Klay Thompson

Draymond Green Addresses Durant Confrontation

Speaking today to reporters after the Warriors‘ shootaround, Draymond Green issued his first public comments about the on-court and postgame confrontation between him and Kevin Durant – and other teammates – that took place on Monday.

Green, who didn’t take questions after making a statement, said that he has spoken to Durant and that they’re moving forward, and while he accepted responsibility for the altercation, he didn’t exactly apologize for it (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic).

“I think there’s no secret that I’m an emotional player,” Green said. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I play with that same emotion. Sometimes it gets the best me and doesn’t work in my favor. I’m going to live with that. Because it works to my favor, in the good, as my résumé speaks and my team’s résumé speaks, more so than it doesn’t. I’m never going to change who I am.”

Dismissing the idea that the incident was the beginning of the end of the Warriors’ dynasty, Green told reporters that the club isn’t going to “crumble” — it’s still on the rest of the league’s 29 teams to knock off the Dubs, since they won’t beat themselves and this week will only make the team stronger, Green said. However, he also acknowledged that he wouldn’t stand in the way if Durant or Klay Thompson or anyone else decides to leave Golden State when they’re eligible for free agency.

“At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, whatever Kevin decides to do, whatever Klay decides to do, whatever (anyone) decides to do, we had great years together,” Green said. “I support everybody wholeheartedly, 100%, because as a man, as a human being, you’ve got the right to do what you want to do with your life. I’d never question that.”

Here’s more on the Warriors’ drama-filled week:

  • Head coach Steve Kerr also spoke to reporters today at shootaround, suggesting that he’s “extremely confident” in his team’s ability to work through the Green/Durant drama (video link via Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group).
  • A source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that – with the help of the players’ union – Green plans to appeal the Warriors’ decision to fine him a $120K game check. We learned on Wednesday that Green was surprised by the suspension and fine, a point reiterated by Spears.
  • In a pair of articles published before Green spoke to reporters today, Chris Mannix of SI.com wrote that the incident won’t impede the Warriors’ quest for a third straight championship, while Tim Kawakami of The Athletic took a deep dive to explain some of the nuances involved in the relationships between various Warriors players, as well as between the team and those players.

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2018/19

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on several players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Davis can’t yet sign a Designated Veteran Extension, but his All-NBA appearances over the last two seasons have ensured that he’ll qualify, even if he somehow doesn’t earn another All-NBA nod in 2018/19.

As of next July, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis a contract extension that tacks an additional five years onto his $27.09MM salary for 2019/20. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($118MM), that five-year extension would be worth a staggering $239.54MM.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2018/19:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2018/19 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. And even in this group, guys like Beal and Drummond are a real stretch — if they were to improbably make an All-NBA team, their clubs still probably wouldn’t put Designated Veteran Extension offers on the table, since they’re not bona fide superstars.

Thompson and Walker will both be unrestricted free agents in 2019, so if they meet the DVE criteria, they’d be eligible for five-year contracts with their respective teams worth up to a projected $221.27MM. Lillard and Green are still under contract for at least one more year beyond this season, but they’d qualify for super-max extensions if they meet the criteria — Lillard could get an extra four years, while Green could get five.

A team can only give Designated Veteran Extensions to two players, so the Warriors wouldn’t be able to offer both Thompson and Green super-max contracts, since Stephen Curry already has one. On the plus side, Kevin Durant won’t figure into this equation for Golden State, since he has 10+ years of experience. A deal starting at 35% of the cap for Durant wouldn’t count toward the Dubs’ super-max limit.

Finally, while Antetokounmpo can qualify for a super-max by earning All-NBA honors this season, he wouldn’t actually be able to sign such a deal until 2020, since he’ll only have six years of experience at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Essentially, he’d be in the same spot that Anthony Davis is in now.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract because they were traded:

Butler, Irving, and Leonard are probably more worthy of a super-max investment than most of the players in the above group, but they no longer qualify because they were traded while on their second contracts — Butler from the Bulls, Irving from the Cavaliers, and Leonard from the Spurs. They’ll need to reach 10 years of NBA experience before qualifying for a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Execs Looking Ahead To 2019 Free Agency

Front office executives around the NBA, even on probable playoff teams, are already looking ahead to 2019’s free agent period, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who notes that next summer’s group of star free-agents-to-be is generating plenty of early interest.

As Windhorst details, executives believe that many of the top players in 2019 free agency are viable candidates to change teams. In 2018, LeBron James signed with a new team, but most of the league’s other elite free agents, such as Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Paul George, re-signed with their current clubs. In 2019, Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and DeMarcus Cousins are all viewed as at least decent bets to change teams, particularly since there will be so much cap room available around the NBA.

Teams are also keeping a close eye on Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving, per Windhorst. Davis can’t reach free agency until 2020, but will be eligible for a super-max extension in 2019. If the Pelicans struggle at all this season or if Davis doesn’t immediately sign that extension with New Orleans, potential trade suitors for the star big man will be calling the Pelicans.

As for Irving, he has verbally committed to re-signing with Boston, but nothing is set in stone yet — plus, the Celtics would likely be reluctant to put a five-year max offer on the table if the star point guard battles injuries again, which could change the equation.

Circling back to Durant and the Warriors, Windhorst also observes that many people around the league think 2018/19 will be the last season that the team’s current core remains together. Durant is considered more likely to leave than Klay Thompson, but execs also wonder about Draymond Green‘s future, Windhorst notes.

Green will be extension-eligible again next offseason in advance of his 2020 free agency, and could even qualify for a super-max extension if he earns All-NBA honors. The versatile big man has talked about having taken a discount on his last deal and suggested that he doesn’t intend to do so again this time around.

We’re still more than eight months away from the 2019 free agent period getting underway, but with so much cap room available and so many big-name free agents potentially in play, it figures to be the subject of a ton of speculation throughout the 2018/19 season.

Lowe’s Latest: Kings, Butler, Sixers, Lee, Klay

In his final piece previewing the 2018/19 NBA campaign, ESPN’s Zach Lowe offers up a few dozen bold predictions for the coming season. He also relays several tidbits of note on trade candidates and 2019 free-agents-to-be within those predictions, so we’re going to dive in and round up some of the highlights…

  • Lowe is skeptical that the Kings will be able to use their $11MM in remaining cap room to land a first-round pick, since he hears from sources that the team is wary about taking on multiple years of bad money.
  • Although teams like the Heat, Nets, and Clippers have been cited as Jimmy Butler‘s preferred destinations, the Timberwolves wing also “has eyes” for the Sixers, per Lowe. However, sources tell ESPN that Philadelphia has shown “almost no interest” in trading for Butler.
  • The Knicks are still trying to trade Courtney Lee, sources tell Lowe. While it’s not clear if they’ve made progress in any trade talks, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer notes that Lee has generated interest, adding that the Hornets discussed a trade for the veteran swingman at last season’s deadline.
  • Klay Thompson – who will be a free agent in 2019 – has no plans to accept a discount on his next contract, and the Warriors don’t expect him to, reports Lowe. Still, O’Connor says that sources he has spoken to would be “shocked” if Thompson left Golden State.
  • It’s a moot point now, but if LeBron James had committed to staying with the Cavaliers this summer, Cleveland would have sent the No. 8 pick in the draft to the Hornets as part of a trade package for Kemba Walker, according to Lowe.

Warriors Notes: Kerr, Myers, McCaw, Thompson

As the Timberwolves make an effort to handle Jimmy Butler‘s trade request, Tom Thibodeau‘s dual role as the club’s head coach and president of basketball operations may be a complicating factor — Thibodeau reportedly has no interest in rebuilding or in making a deal that would see the Wolves take a major step back on the court.

While Thibodeau has plenty of power – for now – in Minnesota, not every NBA head coach is envious of his extra responsibilities. As Chris Hine of The Minneapolis Star Tribune details, Warriors coach Steve Kerr is one coach who has no interest in assuming both of those roles at once, despite having previously served as an NBA general manager.

“It wouldn’t work for me,” Kerr said of holding both jobs at once. “It depends on the circumstances, the situations. It depends on relationships within the organization. Everybody is going to be structured a little differently, but having sat in both chairs, I would not feel comfortable doing both jobs.”

Here’s more on Kerr and the Warriors:

  • As Hine relays, Kerr offered a few additional thoughts on why he’s happy simply coaching the Warriors: “One of the reasons I wanted to coach is because frankly it’s easier than being a GM and facing some of those choices. I’m lucky. I’ve got a great GM. Great friend in Bob [Myers] and when we’ve been faced with difficult decisions, the collaboration and the process we’ve had has been sound. … We’re lucky to be where we are, and it’s been smooth. We’re all going to face our moments. It’s the NBA, and it’s tough out there.”
  • One issue that Myers and the Warriors’ front office are currently dealing with is Patrick McCaw‘s restricted free agency. McCaw let Monday’s qualifying offer deadline pass without accepting his QO, a decision that is both “risky and mystifying,” according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.
  • Asked by Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link) whether he’d be interested in having his “own team,” 2019 free-agent-to-be Klay Thompson questioned that concept, noting that he doesn’t believe the Warriors are any one player’s team. “I just want to be on a great team,” Thompson added. “I don’t want to necessarily be the focal point at all times.”

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Canaan, Durant, Klay, Lakers

When training camp opened for the Suns earlier this week, multiple reports – including ones from Bob Baum of The Associated Press and Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic – noted that the most pressing issue facing the franchise in the short term was its hole at the point guard spot.

That hasn’t changed within the last few days, with Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writing today that it remains unclear which way Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov might be leaning. Shaquille Harrison, De’Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo, and Isaiah Canaan are among the point guards vying for playing time. In comments on Thursday, Kokoskov spoke in general terms about those four players when he addressed the traits he’s looking for from a starting point guard.

“Just being solid overall,” the Suns’ new coach said, per Rankin. “The four guys we’ve brought to this camp, our guys are pretty solid. That’s a quality they’re bringing to this team. Just being solid. We’re not asking for anything extraordinary. Just be solid overall when it comes to defensive stops, when it comes to running the team. Putting the guys in the right spots. The key word is being solid.”

As Rankin outlines in a separate article for The Arizona Republic, Canaan easily has the most NBA experience of the Suns’ four in-house point guards and believes he’s capable of taking the reins as the starter. Canaan continues to make his way back from a broken left ankle that ended his 2017/18 season, and Rankin believes that the veteran will likely get the first crack at the starting job if Phoenix doesn’t trade for a point guard.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Like LeBron James has done in the past, Warriors forward Kevin Durant has decided to sign short-term contracts with opt-outs in order to maximize his flexibility, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I could have easily signed a long-term [contract], but I just wanted to take it season-by-season and see where it takes me,” Durant said earlier this week. The two-time Finals MVP will be eligible for free agency again in 2019, but isn’t talking about that decision at this point.
  • Durant’s teammate Klay Thompson will also be eligible for free agency in 2019 and has been more willing to talk about his desire to stay with the Warriors long-term — he reiterated that preference on Thursday, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes. “It’s hard to walk away from something — you were here when it started and yeah, you just want to stay on the train as long as you can,” Thompson said.
  • After LeBron James spoke earlier this week about the Lakers having a long way to go before they can seriously challenge the Warriors, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com explores what “success” might look like for LeBron’s Lakers, this season and beyond.
  • Rajon Rondo brings extensive big-game experience and a much-needed “hard edge” to the Lakers, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register.

Warriors Notes: Thompson, Green, Looney, Dynasty

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson isn’t particularly excited about becoming a free agent at the end of the season. He doubts he could find a better situation than he’s already in, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. “Not really. When guys go into free agency, they’re looking for situations like mine. I’m content.” Thompson, who will make a shade under $19MM this season, will be an unrestricted FA unless he signs an extension. Golden State owner Joe Lacob said he’d like to sign Thompson to an extension but nothing is imminent. Thompson deferred all extension questions to his agent, as Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.

In other news regarding the Warriors:

  • Power forward Draymond Green is signed through the 2019/20 season and he anticipates staying with the organization beyond that point, Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News reports. Lacob indicated the organization has also been discussing an extension with Green’s representatives. Green isn’t sure if they’ll come to an agreement but he doesn’t see himself wearing another uniform in the foreseeable future. “I’m confident I’ll be here a very long time,” he said.
  • Kevon Looney knows DeMarcus Cousins will be the team’s center once he fully recovers from his Achilles injury, according to the Warriors website post. Looney expects a spirited competition for minutes at that spot until Cousins’ return. “Since I’ve been here we’ve been playing center by committee. That’s what we’re going to do to start the season off. … until he come back we’re going to go out there and do our best and hunt it down,” Looney said.
  • With Kevin Durant, Thompson, Cousins and several other players eligible to be free agents after the season and growing payroll concerns, there’s a feeling that the team’s dynasty could soon be coming to an end. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post takes a closer look at that possibility.

Warriors’ Lacob Talks Cousins, Durant, Klay, Green

In a recent podcast with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, Warriors owner Joe Lacob discussed a wide variety of topics, ranging from his summer wedding to his club’s surprise signing of DeMarcus Cousins. As Lacob tells Kawakami, the Warriors had been focused on adding wings and weren’t committed to using their taxpayer mid-level exception at all until Cousins fell into their laps on the second day of 2018’s free agent period.

While Kawakami’s conversation with Lacob is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, here are a few of the team owner’s most noteworthy comments on the Dubs’ roster and outlook for 2018/19:

On whether Lacob is bothered by the perception that the Warriors signing Cousins was unfair to the rest of the league:

“No. It’s not our job to care about the rest of the league. It’s our job to win. Period. End of story. Nothing else to be discussed. And, since Day 1 that’s been our attitude. … We’re committed to winning. That means being excellent at everything you do — from the people you hire in the organization, to building a new arena, to filling out your roster, to retaining your head coach. Whatever it may be.”

On whether the Warriors will have to re-recruit Kevin Durant when he becomes a free agent in 2019:

“Of course we do. He deserves to go and be happy wherever he wants to be. I hope it’s here. I hope he feels the same way that I do and we do about him, when it comes time next summer. But you never can predict these things. We just will do our job, and he’ll do his job and we’ll see what happens next summer; let the chips fall where they may.”

On whether the team made any progress in contract extension talks with Klay Thompson or Draymond Green:

“I’ll let [general manager] Bob [Myers] address those, specifically. But I think it’s fair to say we’ve had discussions with both of them over the summer, their representatives. Nothing’s been done or you’d hear about it. But we’d love to retain them long term in the organization and we will do whatever it takes to do that.”

On the Warriors’ title chances for 2018/19:

“We have high expectations. We want to win. We kind of expect to win. We have a great roster. As long as we stay healthy and do the things we’re supposed to do, I think we have a good chance to win.”

Lakers Notes: Ball, Stephenson, Bosh, Thompson

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball wasn’t concerned with his name being in trade rumors this past summer, relays Christian Rivas of USA TODAY’s Lonzo Wire. Ball was rumored as potential trade candidate in a deal involving Kawhi Leonard before the Spurs moved him to Toronto.

“There’s trade rumors every year,” Ball said. “Athletes in general, you’re never really 100 percent safe. Wherever you’re at. Anything can happen, especially in the offseason, so all I can do is just make sure I’m ready to play at the best of my abilities.”

The Lakers ultimately opted to keep Ball on their roster, and it’s unclear if the team ever seriously pursued a trade involving him. Los Angeles reached a buyout agreement with Luol Deng this past week, which gives the team the cap flexibility to pursue Leonard again once he becomes a free agent in July.

Ball, 20, is set to enter his second season with the Lakers. He’ll compete with veteran guard Rajon Rondo for the team’s starting point guard position when camp opens in three weeks.

There’s more from the Lakers:

  • Lance Stephenson is focused on helping the Lakers earn a winning season, studying game film of LeBron James and other teammates throughout the summer, Scott Agness of The Athletic notes. “He worked harder than most guys that I’ve ever seen over a summer period,” NBA trainer Rob Blackwell said.
  • Free agent Chris Bosh continues to eye an NBA comeback, but a number of hurdles would stand between him and the Lakers on a potential deal, writes Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus. Bosh must show a significant improvement in his condition or any potential treatment options in order to be cleared by the league.
  • While he may be a long shot to leave the Warriors in 2019, Klay Thompson shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential free agent target for the Lakers, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. As Anthony Irwin of Silver Screen & Roll details, Shelburne observed during an appearance on ESPN Radio that Thompson’s skill set would be an ideal fit for the Lakers, but acknowledged that the All-Star guard “feels like a Warrior for life.”