Mike Muscala

Alec Burks Signs With Warriors

JULY 11: Burks has officially put pen to paper on his deal with the Warriors, the team announced on its Twitter feed.

JULY 8: After initially reaching an agreement with the Thunder early in free agency, guard Alec Burks will instead sign a one-year contract with the Warriors, agent JR Hensley tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Charania explains (via Twitter), since Burks and Mike Muscala agreed to sign with the Thunder before the Paul George trade developed, Oklahoma City allowed both players to re-evaluate their situations, if they so chose. Muscala remains committed to the Thunder, but Burks will head to Golden State instead of OKC.

“Alec was extremely appreciative about how the Thunder handled the situation and he’s looking forward to his new opportunity,” Hensley told Charania.

A former lottery pick, Burks is a career 35.5% three-point shooter and can defend perimeter players, so he figures to become part of Golden State’s wing rotation. Last season, he appeared in a total of 64 games for the Jazz, Cavaliers, and Kings, averaging 8.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 2.0 APG in 21.5 minutes per contest.

While terms of Burks’ deal weren’t reported, it will almost certainly be a minimum-salary deal, given the Warriors’ cap constraints.

Thunder Sign Mike Muscala

JULY 10: The Thunder have officially signed Muscala, the team announced today in a press release.

As we relayed earlier this week, Oklahoma City gave Muscala the opportunity to reconsider his options after the team agreed to trade away Paul George. However, the big man decided to remain committed to OKC.

JUNE 30: The Thunder have agreed to a deal with free agent forward Mike Muscala, his agent, Sean Kennedy of Excel Sports Management, tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Muscala, a 6’11” floor-spacer, is set to bring some much-needed shooting to Oklahoma City in the frontcourt next season. He split last year with Sixers and Lakers, averaging seven points per game on 35% shooting from behind-the-arc.

Oklahoma City also worked to secure a commitment with free agent center Nerlens Noel on Sunday, but Noel has since backed out of the agreement, according to Wojnarowski. It’s not clear if the team’s deal with Muscala will impacts its willingness to bring back Noel.

[UPDATE: Noel has reached a new agreement with the Thunder]

Muscala has made stops with Atlanta, Philly, Los Angeles, and now Oklahoma City across his six-year career.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, LeBron, Walton, Bullock

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have been grouped together over the last two years as the top decision-makers in the Lakers‘ front office, but Pelinka won’t follow Johnson out the door following Magic’s resignation.

League sources tell ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers’ general manager will keep his job — if anything, Pelinka’s power will grow, Shelburne adds. That doesn’t necessarily mean the the franchise won’t seek out a new president of basketball operations, but after being caught off guard by Johnson’s announcement, the Lakers sound prepared to enter the offseason with Pelinka running the show.

Johnson revealed during his impromptu press conference on Tuesday night that he hadn’t informed owner Jeanie Buss of his decision to resign before announcing it publicly, and Buss wasn’t the only one surprised by the news. Shelburne reports that Pelinka also didn’t know it was coming and that LeBron James was “stunned” by the decision. However, LeBron stands behind Buss and the Lakers’ front office, a source tells Shelburne.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Head coach Luke Walton participated in exit meetings with players on Wednesday, sources tell Shelburne. That doesn’t mean that Walton is safe, but all indications are that he has a better chance of retaining his job with Johnson out of the picture.
  • Asked today about his level of interest in returning to the Lakers in free agency this summer, Reggie Bullock responded, “Very high. I love this city” (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times).
  • With little else to play for as the season neared an end, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was auditioning for his next NBA job down the stretch, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “Man, I’m just out there playing,” Caldwell-Pope said earlier this week. “Yes, I’ll be looking for a job for next season, but my job right now is to play my best basketball for the Lakers and then we’ll see where things stand.” KCP enjoyed his best stretch of the season in the final month, averaging 19.9 PPG in his last 16 games, including 23.3 PPG in the last seven.
  • While Lakers fans may have been frustrated by the deadline trade that saw Mike Muscala acquired for Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley, Muscala hasn’t exactly had the time of his life since the deal either, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. “I guess these last few games have gone well for us, but I’m still kinda disappointed with how I played,” the veteran big man said. “…It’s kind of been a frustrating season for me, but there were still some opportunities. So I gotta focus on that. Injuries are a part of the game. You never want to use that as an excuse. I’ve always dealt with ankle injuries, and I know how to deal with them.”

Details On The Failed KCP-Jabari Parker Swap

The Lakers had a tentative deal in place earlier this season to acquire Jabari Parker and send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley to the Bulls, a source tell Bill Oram of The Athletic. ESPN previously reported that the two teams discussed swapping Parker and KCP.

Caldwell-Pope would have had to agree to the deal, since he re-signed with the Lakers on a one-year contract, giving him the right to veto any trade. The deal was not signed off over the weekend leading up to Anthony Davis‘ public trade request and the Bulls were stuck in limbo for several days. Many within the league viewed Davis’ request as a call for the Lakers to trade for him. The Bulls subscribed to that notion and moved onto other trade discussions.

Parker was eventually sent to the Wizards in the Otto Porter Jr. deal, while KCP remains on the Lakers’ roster. Beasley was dealt to the Clippers along with Ivica Zubac and ultimately waived.

In Beasley’s case, the deal can partially be attributed to a locker room flair-up with coach Luke Walton. Walton wanted Beasley to play more unselfishly; Beasley, along with teammate JaVale McGee, challenged the request.

The Lakers ended up netting Mike Muscala in the Beasley-Zubac trade. Team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka had watched Muscala score 17 points during a spirited Sixers win over the Lakers just days prior and some within the league believe that single performance inspired the front office to make the deal.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Trades, Walton

Before finding himself sidelined for the remainder of the season, Lonzo Ball showcased his ability on defense, something that’s winning over some of his doubters.

“He’s an impact player on that side of the ball,” a Western Conference executive tells Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. “I’m surprised he’s that good defensively. Coming out of UCLA, that was a question.”

Pincus notes that Ball and LeBron James shared the floor in 34 games this season, winning 20 of those contests. Over a full season, that pace would put the Lakers in the middle of the playoff picture instead of the gutter where Los Angeles currently resides.

The defense is there but the offense is still a work in progress for Ball. Pincus argues the point guard must add a reliable three-pointer to his arsenal in order to take the next step in the evolution in his game.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Ball seems destined to be included in an Anthony Davis-to the-Lakers trade, but if that deal never occurs, the point guard would fit well alongside a potential free agent signing such as Kyrie Irving, Pincus argues (in the same piece). Ball has the size to guard opposing shooting guards, which would take a burden off of someone like Irving.
  • Poor shooting is the Lakers‘ biggest issue, Bill Oram of The Athletic contends. The front office attempted to correct this deficiency at the trade deadline by acquiring Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala in a pair of deals. Bullock has made just 39.2% of his shots from behind the arc since coming to the Lakers. Muscala has made just 26.3% while barely seeing the floor.
  • Luke Walton will likely take the fall for the Lakers‘ struggles this season but Oram (in the same piece) argues that the coach is putting players in position to be successful. The team is making just 35.5% of “wide open” three-pointers, which ranks last in the league.“ We’ve had so many 3s where it could be dagger [and force] timeouts,” Rondo said. “We haven’t capitalized on those yet.”

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

Lakers Trade Zubac, Beasley To Clippers For Muscala

8:07pm: The Clippers have officially announced their trade with the Lakers, issuing a press release to confirm the move. While there’s no indication yet that Beasley has been released, the statement from president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank makes it clear that Zubac is the prize of the deal.

“For two-plus seasons, we have seen Ivica up-close and watched him develop into a skilled center,” Frank said. “For his age, Ivica has proven to be an energetic rim protector who can score around the basket. We are eager for him to join our group of promising young players.”

1:39pm: The Clippers have agreed to trade power forward Mike Muscala to the Lakers for young center Ivica Zubac and journeyman forward Michael Beasley, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal will open a roster spot the Lakers, affording them the opportunity to sign a player on the buyout market, with Carmelo Anthony among the players they’ll consider, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links here).

The Lakers will “seriously look” at Anthony, the Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner tweets. The Bulls waived Anthony on February 1st after acquiring him from the Rockets last month. Anthony has often been linked to the Lakers since things went sour quickly with the Rockets this season. He’s close friends with LeBron James, who recently stated his desire to play with the longtime All-Star forward.

“I’ve always wanted to play along Melo and if the opportunity presents itself, it would be great,” James said.

Muscala was just acquired by the Clippers in the blockbuster deal with Philadelphia that sent Tobias Harris to the Sixers. He gives the Lakers a big man who can shoot from deep. Muscala, who was averaging 7.4 PPG, is a career 36.5% shooter from distance.

The Clippers’ initial plan is to waive Beasley, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Zubac gives them a young big man to grow in their system. He was averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.9 RPG in limited playing time this season. The Clippers would have to extend him a $1.93MM qualifying offer this summer to make him a restricted free agent.

Clippers Trade Tobias Harris To Sixers

12:02pm: The Sixers and Clippers have both issued press releases officially announcing the trade.

“We are in the unique position to contend now and we think this trade positions us well for the postseason,” Sixers GM Elton Brand said in a statement. “Tobias is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA and possesses an innate ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, while Boban and Mike provide valuable skillsets, size and depth to our team. All three players bring high character to our locker room and we are excited about their fit alongside Joel, Ben, Jimmy and our entire roster.”

7:10am: The Sixers and Clippers have agreed on a six-player deal that will send Tobias Harris to Philadelphia, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN writes. In exchange, Los Angeles will bring back rookie Landry Shamet, two first-round picks and a number of other resources. Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that the two sides had reached a deal.

In total, Philadelphia will acquire Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott while Los Angeles adds Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Philadelphia’s own 2020 first-rounder, Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder, and a pair of future second-rounders. The two second-round picks will be the Pistons’ 2021 and 2023 selections, per Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As for the Sixers’ 2020 first-round pick, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports (via Twitter) that it will be lottery protected for three seasons, and would turn into a pair of second-round picks for 2023 and 2024 if it hasn’t conveyed after those three years.

It’s a massive swing by the 76ers, who appear to be going all-in on their current group after years of rebuilding. In Harris, they acquire a 26-year-old forward who is having the best year of his career. In 55 games for the Clippers, he averaged 20.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG with a shooting line of .496/.434/.877. All of those numbers are career highs.

Harris will join a starting lineup that already features Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and J.J. Redick, giving the Sixers arguably the most talented starting five in the East. Meanwhile, Scott and Marjanovic will help replace some of the frontcourt depth Philadelphia has sacrificed by trading Chandler, Muscala, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington this season.

Harris is on an expiring contract and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the Sixers intend to be “aggressive” in re-signing him to a new deal, sources tell Wojnarowski. The plan in Philadelphia is to secure the team’s Big 4 of Embiid, Butler, Simmons, and Harris long-term, regardless of luxury tax concerns, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

Of course, as Lowe observes in a follow-up tweet, having both Butler’s and Harris’ Bird Rights in free agency this offseason will give the Sixers some leverage negotiating with each player. If the franchise ultimately does re-sign both players and gives Simmons a maximum-salary extension, the Big 4 would likely cost approximately $120MM by the 2020/21 season, Bobby Marks of ESPN observes.

As for the Clippers’ side of the deal, while Harris had been great for the team since coming over in last year’s Blake Griffin blockbuster, he isn’t at the top of the organization’s wish list for 2019 free agency. As such, the club was comfortable giving up his Bird Rights in exchange for long-term assets.

By acquiring Shamet and two more first-round picks, including an unprotected 2021 Heat selection that could end up being pretty valuable, the Clippers have added more strong trade assets that could be used in pursuit of a star down the road.

Although the Clippers were one of the clubs on Anthony Davis‘ reported four-team wish list, L.A.’s front office didn’t make this trade with the primary objective to go after Davis, league sources tell Wojnarowski. Still, if the Clips pursue a player like AD or another star this week or in the offseason, their new assets will probably be more intriguing to a rebuilding team than Harris would have been.

Harris ($14.8MM), Marjanovic ($7MM), and Scott ($4.32MM) are all on expiring contracts, as are Chandler ($12.8MM) and Muscala ($5MM). However, the Clippers will actually add a little money to their books for 2019/20 by taking on Shamet, who is on his rookie contract and will earn just under $2MM in 2019/20.

Even after that modest addition to their cap, the Clippers will be in a good position to create the space necessary for at least one maximum-salary player in July. According to Marks, the Clippers should have about $37MM in room, and could increase that number to $49MM by waiving Avery Bradley. If they could find a taker for Danilo Gallinari, that figure would further increase to $70.7MM, which should be enough for two max slots.

The ramifications of this blockbuster deal on both conferences could be significant. In the West, the Clippers currently hold the No. 8 seed at 30-25, but the Kings and Lakers remain in hot pursuit of a playoff spot. Without Harris, the Clips’ playoff chances will dip, which in turn will reduce their odds of hanging onto their 2019 first-round pick — that selection is owed to the Celtics, but is lottery protected.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, there’s a clear group of four teams at the top of the postseason race, with the Sixers joining the Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics. It will be interesting to see whether any of those other contenders respond with moves of their own before Thursday’s deadline.

In his analysis of the trade, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps notes that Milwaukee may have already made its most significant move, acquiring George Hill earlier in the season, and Boston may save its assets for an offseason run at Davis. That leaves the Raptors as the most intriguing wild card over the next couple days. Toronto has been aggressive on several fronts, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com.

Finally, one more cap-related note on this swap: The Clippers have multiple options for how to structure the deal, but one approach would see them create a $9.8MM traded player exception. Philadelphia won’t be able to generate a new TPE in the trade.

Austin Kent contributed to this story.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Kurucs, Celtics, Bolden, Ntilikina

As the Nets have played well in recent weeks, one of the bright spots has been the play and development of Rodions Kurucs, the 20-year-old rookie selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. As Greg Joyce writes for The New York Post, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson believes that there is more to come for Kurucs.

Kurucs is coming off a career-high 24 points against the Pacers, a game in which he often spent his time on the floor guarding Victor Oladipo. As Joyce points out, Atkinson thinks that his recent play isn’t a flash in the pan situation, as he has been impressed with the rookie’s awareness on the floor.

Kurucs received his opportunity to start when Allen Crabbe went down with an injury, but with the way Kurucs is playing, it will be tough for the Nets, winners of eight of the past nine games, to take Kurucs out of the starting lineup.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

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

Terry Rozier, Celtics, 24, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $8.8MM deal in 2015
Rozier showed he could be effective starter filling in for Kyrie Irving during the playoffs. With Irving back in the lineup, Rozier has been forced into a second-unit role again. He has expressed a desire to be a starter in the future and that’s not going to happen if Irving re-signs with Boston. Rozier’s stats aren’t that far off from last regular season but it’s been difficult for the restricted free agent, who is currently ranked No. 18 in our Free Agent Power Rankings, to enhance his value while playing 22 MPG.

DeMarre Carroll, Nets, 32, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $58MM deal in 2015
Carroll’s offensive numbers have been unsightly since he returned from an injury in early November. He’s shooting 34.4% from the field and 30.8% from long range. He’s also been a defensive liability, according to Basketball Reference, which gives him a minus 1.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating. Carroll cashed in at an opportune time the last time he was a free agent. He’s going to find the offers much more modest next summer, given his age and declining production.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Knicks, 22, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $14MM deal in 2015
The way first-year head coach David Fizdale has been tinkering with his lineup and rotation, it’s hard for anyone on the roster to feel comfortable. The point guard situation has remained a muddle, with Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke taking turns as the main guy and sitting in the doghouse. Mudiay had a 28-point performance against Milwaukee earlier this month but the Knicks have been outscored by 46 points over the last three games with the restricted free agent on the court. His grasp on a starting spot seems tenuous at best.

Mike Muscala, Sixers, 27, PF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2017
Muscala has reinvented himself as a stretch four and he’s become a valued member of Philadelphia’s rotation. He’s averaging 10.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 2.2 APG over the past six games. He had an 18-point outing to help the Sixers erase a 15-point deficit in Detroit last week. If Muscala can keep this up for one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, he’ll be in line for a nice payday next summer and might even find a suitor that views him as a starter.

Danny Green, Raptors, 31, SG (Up)– Signed to a four-year, $40MM deal in 2015
Kawhi Leonard isn’t the only former Spur making a major impact north of the border. Green seems rejuvenated as well. His shooting numbers declined during his last three seasons in San Antonio but with Toronto he’s posting his best averages since the 2012/13 season. He’s shooting 44.2% overall and 42.1% from deep. His defensive metrics have remained well above average. Green should be able to score one more multi-year contract, whether he re-signs with Toronto and gets a starting job elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.