Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee’s 2022/23 Salary Becomes Guaranteed

Mason Plumlee‘s $9,080,417 salary for the 2022/23 season became fully guaranteed when he remained on the Hornets’ roster through Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks confirms (via Twitter).

Plumlee’s contract was already partially guaranteed for $4,262,500 and called for him to receive the full guarantee unless he was waived at least 10 days before the NBA’s July moratorium begins. The moratorium will begin on July 1, which is now just nine days away.

Plumlee, 32, was Charlotte’s starting center in 2021/22 after being acquired from Detroit in an offseason trade. He averaged 6.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 73 games (24.6 MPG). While he’s not among the NBA’s top centers, Plumlee isn’t a bad value on a $9MM expiring deal, and it wouldn’t have made much sense for the Hornets to cut him when nearly half that amount was already guaranteed.

While Plumlee made 73 starts for the Hornets this past season, he’s unlikely to be the team’s full-time center again in 2022/23. Charlotte is said to be in the market for help at the five and has been linked to both trade candidates, such as Myles Turner, and free agents, including Kevon Looney.

Assuming the Hornets also retain their other players without full guarantees – Kelly Oubre, Jalen McDaniels, and Nick Richards – and keep both their first-round picks, they’ll have nearly $117MM on their books for 13 players. That would likely give them the flexibility to stay out of luxury tax territory even if Miles Bridges returns on a max contract or something close to it, but recent reports have suggested they may be looking to shed some salary to create more breathing room below the tax line.

Plumlee is one of several players around the NBA who has a salary guarantee date in the coming days and weeks. Our full tracker is right here.

Hornets Rumors: D’Antoni, Atkinson, Bridges, Trade Candidates

Mike D’Antoni is scheduled to meet with Hornets owner Michael Jordan on Tuesday to discuss the team’s head coaching position, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson had agreed earlier this month to become Charlotte’s new head coach, but backed out of his agreement with the team over the weekend.

D’Antoni, who was also a finalist before the Hornets chose Atkinson, had reportedly been scheduled to meet with Jordan a couple weeks ago, but it’s unclear if that sit-down ever took place — Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wrote today that Atkinson was the only candidate to meet with the Hornets’ owner.

Besides D’Antoni, Terry Stotts was the other candidate believed to be a finalist for the Hornets before they reached a deal with Atkinson. It’s unclear if the team has any plans to meet with Stotts again now that its head coaching search is back on.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • The Hornets want to retain “a large portion” of James Borrego‘s coaching staff, since many of them have one guaranteed year remaining on their current contracts, according to Fischer. Atkinson had wanted to bring in some of his own assistants, but he and the Hornets weren’t able to come to financial agreements for them, sources tell Fischer, who notes that Charlotte’s assistant coaches are known to be among the NBA’s bottom five in terms of salary.
  • Fischer adds that Atkinson’s decision not to join the Hornets doesn’t appear to have anything to do with a succession plan in Golden State, since there’s no indication Warriors head coach Steve Kerr plans to go anywhere anytime soon.
  • The Pistons and Pacers are believed to have interest in pursuing restricted free agents this summer and have been the only teams mentioned as potential threats to pursue Hornets RFA Miles Bridges, reports Fischer. Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote on Monday that Charlotte may be reluctant to match a maximum-salary offer for Bridges.
  • The Hornets are expected to gauge the trade market for Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre, and Mason Plumlee “in advance of Bridges’ free agency,” writes Fischer. The fact that Fischer links those potential trade talks to Bridges’ contract situation suggests that Charlotte may be trying to save some money that could be put toward Bridges’ new contract.

Rockets Notes: Free Agent Targets, Burke, Gordon, Draft

The Rockets will target a backup center when free agency opens at the end of the month, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The team is short on reliable big men after agreeing to trade Christian Wood to the Mavericks, and although Houston will receive Boban Marjanovic in the deal, the front office plans to explore other options on the free agent market.

Feigen identifies Nic Claxton as one possibility, saying the Nets likely wouldn’t match a full mid-level exception offer (starting at $10MM+) because of luxury tax concerns. Claxton was a part-time starter this season and put up career-best numbers with 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per night.

Other free agents that Feigen mentions include former Rocket Isaiah Hartenstein, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, Mo Bamba, Hassan Whiteside, JaVale McGee and Dewayne Dedmon. After a promising rookie year, Alperen Sengun is expected to be Houston’s starting center next season.

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • As expected, Mavericks guard Trey Burke has officially exercised his $3.3MM player option for next season, which is necessary for the Wood trade to be finalized, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. The deal still can’t be announced until after Dallas picks at No. 26 on Thursday because the Mavs owe a protected 2023 first-round pick to New York.
  • In his latest piece for Substack, Marc Stein confirms that the Rockets are shopping veteran guard Eric Gordon in hopes of getting a first-round pick in return. Houston also tried to move Gordon at the trade deadline, but couldn’t find an acceptable offer. The 33-year-old will make $19.57MM next season and a non-guaranteed $20.92MM in 2023/24.
  • In a separate story, Feigen examines the information the Rockets use when evaluating draft prospects. The team was among the first to embrace analytics under former general manager Daryl Morey, but current GM Rafael Stone admits there are many times when the numbers don’t match what talent evaluators believe they’re seeing. “There are so many different tools you can look at,” he said. “If you like a particular stat a majority of the time it can easily lie to you in individual instances. You don’t just go back to work with video. You can back to work with the whole thing. It gives you hints about what you need to study more with a particular player.”

Lakers Not Interested In Using First-Round Pick To Trade Westbrook

Teams that have spoken to the Lakers about Russell Westbrook have been demanding at least one first-round pick in any potential trade, league sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

However, the Lakers haven’t been receptive to that idea and have no intention – at least for the time being – of using one of their future first-rounders to facilitate a Westbrook deal, Buha reports.

Westbrook is expected to pick up his $47.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season and will be one of the league’s most expensive players following a disappointing first year in Los Angeles. Although he’ll be on an expiring contract, Westbrook will be a negative trade asset, with teams only willing to take him on if the Lakers sweeten the pot.

Having already traded away a pair of future first-round picks, the Lakers can currently only trade either their 2027 or 2028 selection. After next month’s draft, they’d be able to include their 2027, 2028, and 2029 first-rounders in trade discussions — if they move the ’27 or ’29 first-rounder, they wouldn’t be able to trade the ’28 pick due to the Stepien rule.

But the front office appears averse to attaching any of those picks to Westbrook, and Buha suggests it’s not just a negotiating stance to regain leverage. League sources tell The Athletic that people within the franchise genuinely believe that the right head coach and supporting cast can help Westbrook fit in better going forward.

Buha personally believes that bringing back Westbrook would be a mistake, arguing that the Lakers should be willing to include a first-rounder if necessary to make a deal or even to take the approach the Rockets did with John Wall, leaving the point guard at home to start the season. Waiving and stretching Westbrook’s contract or attempting to negotiate a buyout are other possible paths for L.A., but Buha views those as unlikely.

While the Lakers may not be interested in giving up a first-round pick just to dump Westbrook’s salary, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be more open to the idea if they’re getting a couple legitimate rotation players in return.

Buha identifies the Pacers and Hornets as potential trade partners that may appeal to the Lakers, listing Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre, and Mason Plumlee as possible veterans of interest. I’m skeptical that a couple of those players would be legitimately attainable in a Westbrook deal, even with a first-round pick attached, but if the Lakers were willing to put two first-rounders on the table, more options would open up.

COVID-19 Updates: Rivers, Millsap, Hornets, Holiday, Brooks

The Nuggets are expecting Austin Rivers to exit the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. It may take an extra day or two before Rivers is fully cleared to play, but his impeding return means Davon Reed‘s time with the team is likely done for the time being, Singer notes.

Denver signed Reed to a 10-day contract using the hardship exception on December 4. That deal will expire after Monday’s game, and with Rivers due back, the Nuggets will no longer be eligible to carry an extra player via the hardship provision.

Although Reed will likely head back to the Grand Rapids Gold – the Nuggets’ G League affiliate – he made a strong impression on the team during his time in the NBA and could be back later this season, says Singer (via Twitter).

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nets forward Paul Millsap has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Millsap is averaging a career-low 11.2 minutes per game in Brooklyn this season, so his absence shouldn’t create a huge hole in the team’s rotation.
  • Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels and center Mason Plumlee cleared the league’s health and safety protocols on Monday and were sent to the G League to complete a conditioning/rehab assignment with the Greensboro Swarm, the club announced (via Twitter). Charlotte still has LaMelo Ball and Ish Smith in the protocols, but the team is moving closer to getting all its affected players back after Terry Rozier was cleared on Sunday (Twitter link).
  • Pacers wing Justin Holiday, who has missed the team’s last five games while in the health and safety protocols, returned to practice on Sunday and said he’ll likely remain unvaccinated after having contracted COVID-19, writes James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. Assuming his stance doesn’t change, Holiday won’t be eligible to cross the Canadian border to play in Toronto on March 26.
  • Dillon Brooks‘ stint in the health and safety protocols was a short one. The Grizzlies forward received clearance on Saturday after being placed in the protocols on Thursday, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. The quick reversal suggests Brooks may have registered a false positive test.

Southeast Notes: Reddish, Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Hornets, Sabonis, Martin

Hawks forward Cam Reddish, who is recovering from a wrist injury, went through a full practice on Thursday, according to coach Nate McMillan. Reddish did some shooting and participated in drills at 75% speed. He’s listed as probable to play on Friday.

Bogdan Bogdanovic still needs more time to return from his ankle injury, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports in a series of tweets. “Bogi’s not doing anything other than shooting. He looks better,” McMillan said. “He’s up on his feet and he’s moving around.”

Second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu is continuing his rehab assignment from shoulder surgery. He’s with the G League College Park Skyhawks and is expected to play on Thursday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • There’s been no change regarding the Hornets‘ COVID-19 issues. LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier and Ish Smith are all listed as out for Friday’s game against Sacramento due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. Charlotte’s depleted roster has managed to beat Atlanta and lose two close games to Philadelphia since those players were sidelined over the weekend.
  • With a recent report claiming that the Pacers may shake up their roster, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether Domantas Sabonis should be a trade target for the Wizards. Hughes notes that Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are expected to return soon and the front office would like to see how they fit with their revamped roster. Hughes adds that the club already has the look of a playoff team and the addition of Sabonis may not move the needle all that much.
  • Caleb Martin may eventually have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal by the Heat but there are luxury tax concerns, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Martin has been active for 24 of the Heat’s 26 games and can only be active for 50 games under two-way rules. If he remained on the active roster for every game, he’d be able to play until nearly the end of January. But the Heat would have to wait a couple of weeks after that to convert his contract in order to avoid surpassing the tax threshold.

Four Hornets Players, Including LaMelo Ball, Placed Under Protocols

Hornets starting guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier have entered the league’s health and safety protocols and are expected to miss several games, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Frontcourt players Jalen McDaniels and Mason Plumlee have also been placed under protocols, the team’s PR department tweets.

Those players will be sidelined for at least 10 days unless they record two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Charlotte is scheduled to play five games over the next 10 days — Sunday at Atlanta; two home games vs. Philadelphia Monday and Wednesday; another home game vs. Sacramento on Friday; and a road test against Dallas next Monday.

The team sent players and staff members home from the practice facility as a precautionary measure, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. If all have tested positive, the Hornets could sign another player under the hardship exception, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

Charlotte is in the midst of a three-game losing streak but still has a winning record at 13-11. Ball had 36 points and nine assists against Milwaukee on Wednesday and is averaging 20.0 PPG, 8.3 APG and 7.7 RPG in his second NBA campaign. Rozier is the team’s third-leading scorer at 17.7 PPG, 3.6 APG and 3.5 RPG.

Until the duo returns, the Hornets will have to improvise in the backcourt with Ish Smith and Kelly Oubre likely to move into the starting lineup and Cody Martin and James Bouknight backing them up.

Plumlee has been sidelined with a calf injury since November 24 but was expected to return on Sunday. He’s averaging 6.8 PPG and 7.3 RPG as a starter. McDaniels is averaging 5.5 PPG and 3.3 RPG off the bench.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Nuggets, Plumlee, Wizards, Beal

With a rematch against the Nuggets set for Monday, players from the Heat are moving on from the Nikola JokicMarkieff Morris incident that happened earlier this month, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

The November 8 altercation started with Morris giving Jokic a hard foul in transition, then continued when Jokic blindsided him from behind. Morris has missed the Heat’s last 10 games with a neck injury caused by the hit.

“It’s over with, man. It’s over with,” veteran Udonis Haslem said, according to Chiang. “Nobody got time for that. Life is too short. It’s over with. It happened. In the heat of the moment, everybody reacted. OK, let’s move on.

“It’s over with. It is so far over with. I don’t have time for that. You’re talking to somebody who has seen everything but the wind. I’ve seen it all. That’s over with.”

Jokic is questionable to play in the contest due to a wrist injury, while Morris has been ruled out. Morris also didn’t accompany the Heat during the team’s recent four-game road trip.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets are being cautious with Mason Plumlee‘s calf injury, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Head coach James Borrego said it shouldn’t be a long-term issue, though Plumlee’s status for the team’s brief road trip (Chicago on Monday and Milwaukee on Wednesday) is unknown.
  • The Wizards are encouraged by their strong start to the season, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. The team owns the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 13-7 after winning an impressive road game against the Mavericks 120-114 on Saturday. “I trust my teammates. I trust them to make the right play, and it means the world to me not having to make every one,Bradley Beal said. “I have guys I can throw the ball to and then go get a shot, go create a play for somebody else. I can have a hockey assist. Those are all — I’m definitely proud of [it], and it’s a stepping stone for me, too. It’s a learning process.”
  • Speaking of Beal and the Wizards, Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines how the All-Star guard is maturing and why it’s so important. In 17 games this season, Beal is averaging 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists, shooting 44% from the floor, 28% from deep and 93% from the free throw line.

Southeast Notes: Wizards Preview, Avdija, Cooper, Hornets Injuries

In his ongoing series of team previews, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that the Wizards might not be a better overall team this season than they were in 2020/21, but he thinks they’re in a decent position to build around star Bradley Beal going forward.

By moving John Wall for Russell Westbrook, and then trading Westbrook to the Lakers, the Wizards acquired multiple players on smaller deals with less guaranteed money, thus gaining financial flexibility for 2022/23.

Hollinger identifies one area the team should definitely be improved: three-point shooting. The Wizards were dead last in three-point attempts per 100 possessions last season, even with renowned shooters Beal and Davis Bertans. New additions Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (.410 3PT%), Kyle Kuzma (.361), and Aaron Holiday (.368) all shot better than the Wizards’ team mark (.351) last season, and rookie Corey Kispert was considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft.

However, Hollinger thinks the team might regress defensively, as Bertans and Montrezl Harrell are both poor defenders who figure to see a good chunk of minutes together.

Hollinger projects the team to finish 38-44, 10th in the East, but thinks they’ll have their work cut out for them to actually hit that mark.

Here’s more from out of the Southeast:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija made his long-awaited return from a fractured ankle in Saturday’s preseason game, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards are high on Avdija and he’s expected to have more play-making opportunities this season, Hughes adds.
  • Hawks rookie Sharife Cooper is having an impressive preseason, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Cooper, the 48th pick in the draft, is on a two-way contract, and coach Nate McMillan likes what he’s seen so far, per Spencer. “I love the energy that he’s bringing,” McMillan said of Cooper. “He’s scrappy. He’s playing scrappy basketball out there. He’s trying to make a statement. He’s stepping up, and he’s not pacing himself.”
  • In two separate tweets, the Hornets announced Terry Rozier sprained his ankle and will be re-evaluated later in the week, while Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee are both out for tomorrow’s game at Miami due to health and safety protocols.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Oubre, Dinwiddie, Lawson, Heat

In the weeks leading up to free agency, the Hornets were said to be looking to add multiple centers to their roster and were linked to top free agents like Richaun Holmes and Nerlens Noel in addition to intriguing trade candidates like Myles Turner.

The Hornets ultimately took a quieter approach to addressing the center position, accommodating a salary-dump deal for Mason Plumlee and selecting Kai Jones with the 19th pick in the draft. As Steve Reed of The Associated Press writes, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak‘ comments to reporters on Tuesday suggested that Plumlee will probably be the starter in 2021/22 but isn’t necessarily a long-term solution.

“Our thought process was to get somebody that’s a veteran under a reasonable contract and also give these young guys a chance to grow a little bit, and maybe a year from now they’re going to be the guys that maybe we should’ve pursued this year in free agency,” Kupchak said.

As Reed notes, besides Jones, the Hornets also have young bigs like Vernon Carey and Nick Richards on the roster, so the team will be focused on developing all of them this season. In the interim, Charlotte was happy to play it safe by acquiring Plumlee rather than trying to make a big splash in free agency.

“Going into free agency, there are 30 teams and there were a couple of centers available, but you don’t know where you rank,” Kupchak said. “You don’t know what the marketplace is going to be like once free agency begins, so there’s a lot of uncertainty going in. … We felt we got somebody (Plumlee) with two years remaining who’s a proven veteran on a good financial contract.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • New Hornets forward Kelly Oubre said the team’s “youth” and “energy” drew him to Charlotte, as Rod Boone of SI.com relays. “We played against them last year on three different occasions and the way they played — the young guys, the athletic ability, the speed they play with, the way they share the basketball and shoot the basketball and then how they defend — it was fun,” Oubre said. “I’m telling you, even playing against them, it was fun to watch them play against other teams, scouting against them.”
  • Newly-signed Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie tells Fred Katz of The Athletic that it was excruciating waiting to see whether Washington’s sign-and-trade deal for him – which turned into a five-team trade – would ultimately come together. “They were terrible,” Dinwiddie said of the 48 hours he spent waiting. “They were terrible, because you gotta remember, this wasn’t just, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Wizards and we’re just figuring out the dollars. Is it 58 (million)? Is it 59? Is it 60?’ That wasn’t it. You had to get all these parties to agree, and if any of the parties say no, then the whole trade falls through. … I wasn’t just even relying on Brooklyn and the Wizards to negotiate. I was relying on five, six teams.”
  • Undrafted rookie guard A.J. Lawson has left the Heat‘s Summer League team to join the Hawks‘ SL roster, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. A report on draft night suggested that Lawson was expected to attend training camp with the Heat, but that no longer seems likely.