Bucks Rumors

O’Connor’s Latest: GM Survey, Roster Expansion, Lottery, More

On Thursday, the NBA held a call with its 30 teams’ heads of basketball operations – general managers and those with similar titles – to discuss a potential return to play, as well as the results of the survey the league sent those GMs earlier this month.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, half of the league’s GMs voted to proceed directly to the playoffs without playing any more regular season games. And just over half of the league’s GMs were in favor or reseeding playoff teams one through 16, regardless of conference. Meanwhile, support for a play-in pool similar to the World Cup’s group stage was lukewarm — approximately 75% of GMs voted for a play-in tournament, with just 25% or so supporting the play-in pool concept.

As O’Connor notes, the call was about gathering information rather than committing to a specific plan. The NBA still has a Board of Governors call scheduled to happen today, and even then, talks are expected to continue through the weekend without a formal vote on a return to play quite yet, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

As for which plans received more support in the GM survey, the NBA is aware that the results, in many cases, reflect a team’s particular interests — for instance, the Lakers and Bucks supported a play-in tournament over a play-in pool, since the latter would result in a more challenging path to the second round.

“Adam isn’t taking the results seriously,” one team executive told O’Connor earlier in the week. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • General managers “unanimously” favor the idea of expanding rosters for the postseason, sources tell The Ringer.
  • According to O’Connor, the NBA’s preference is for no group workouts to take place until teams arrive in Orlando, since the league will be in a better position to implement its own safety measures and COVID-19 testing procedures there. However, teams are pushing back against that idea, arguing that their players need more of a ramp-up period, and multiple executives expect the NBA to relent, O’Connor writes.
  • Teams on Thursday’s call had questions about how the draft lottery would work in the event of a play-in tournament or other tweaks to the usual playoff format. There are no clear answers yet on that issue, per The Ringer.
  • According to O’Connor, every source he has spoken to this week believes that the NBA would prefer to have at least some of its teams stay home. The league is prioritizing health and safety – ie. minimizing the amount of people in its “bubble” – over fulfilling certain regional television contracts.

Draft Notes: Early Entrants, Golden, West, Nnaji

MaCio Teague (Baylor), Keith Williams (Cincinnati), Denzel Mahoney (Creighton), and Zach Cooks (NJIT) are among the early entrants who have signed with Trinity Best for representation as they navigate the pre-draft process, per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

However, signing with an agent doesn’t mean those players are going pro — because Best is an NCAA-certified rep, Teague, Williams, Mahoney, and Cooks can continue to test the draft waters without forgoing their remaining college eligibility. Because the NCAA has indefinitely postponed its June 3 withdrawal date, those players won’t necessarily have to finalize decisions anytime soon either.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Richmond forward Grant Golden has decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior year, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Golden has averaged 15.5 PPG and 6.9 RPG for Richmond in 94 games over his last three seasons.
  • Marshall guard Jarrod West, who elected to test the draft waters this spring, is expected to return to school for his senior season, according to head coach Dan D’Antoni (Twitter link via Rothstein). West, who has been a starter for the Thundering Herd since his freshman year, had a breakout season in 2019/20, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG.
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji, who previously met with New Orleans, Washington, Charlotte, and Utah, has virtual interviews this week with the Knicks, Bucks, and Pistons, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Exploring The Bucks' Future, What's To Come

  • Eric Nehm and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore the future of the Bucks, examining the team’s current situation and what’s to come. Milwaukee posted an impressive 53-12 record before the NBA season was suspended, dominating opponents at home and on the road.

Warriors Notes: Giannis, Okongwu, Draft, Eliyahu

Every now and then, over the last year, a report has surfaced detailing the Warriorsinterest in Giannis Antetokounmpo or suggesting that Golden State has been preparing its pursuit of the Bucks star for “years.” However, Anthony Slater of The Athletic is highly skeptical that anything will come of the Warriors’ interest in Giannis, whose current contract with Milwaukee expires in 2021.

As Slater explains, the fact that the Warriors were able to land Kevin Durant in 2016 means they’ll never be ruled out when they pursue other superstars, but in that case, everything lined up perfectly for the franchise — Durant was able to team up with the Warriors’ stars when they were all in their primes and took advantage of a huge cap spike in 2016 to join the team on a max-salary deal.

Several years later, the cap situation for the Warriors and the NBA as a whole isn’t nearly as rosy — Golden State’s cap is loaded with big-money contracts for its stars (and Andrew Wiggins), offering no realistic path to landing Antetokoumpo as a free agent or in a sign-and-trade. The league’s lost revenues also mean that a major dip in the cap is more likely than another spike.

On top of all that, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are in their 30s now, meaning that if he were to become a Warrior, Giannis “would be joining what’d probably become the early stages of a rebuild around him,” Slater writes.

If a star player badly wants to get to a specific team, there’s often a way to make it work, as we saw with last summer with the likes of Anthony Davis and Paul George. But there has been zero indication that Giannis is itching to leave the team with the NBA’s best record for the one in dead last. And even if that’s what he wanted, the roadblocks in the way would be substantial.

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • In a mailbag for The San Francisco Chronicle, Connor Letourneau discusses Alen Smailagic‘s development, possible options for the Warriors’ $17MM trade exception, and potential draft targets, among other topics. Interestingly, Letourneau indicates that, when it comes to draft-eligible big men, Golden State is higher on Onyeka Okongwu than James Wiseman.
  • While there has been plenty of speculation about the Warriors potentially trading their 2020 lottery pick for win-now veteran help, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic contends that it might make more sense for the club to move the Timberwolves’ 2021 first-rounder if a major trade opportunity arises.
  • Veteran Israeli forward Lior Eliyahu, who spent the 2019/20 season with Maccabi Ashdod, is considering retirement, per an Israel Hayom report (relayed by Sportando). How is that news relevant to the Warriors? Well, Golden State technically holds Eliyahu’s NBA rights, having acquired them in a trade with Minnesota last July. The No. 44 pick in the 2016 draft never came stateside, but has had a decorated playing career in his home country, winning six Israeli League titles and earning seven All-Star nods.

Magic Notes: Facility, Fultz, Offseason, Okeke

After pushing back their target date a couple times, the Magic are moving forward with reopening their practice facility today, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. As we detailed on Wednesday, the team had been waiting on coronavirus test results for a number of asymptomatic players and staffers.

With the Magic set to allow their players to conduct voluntary individual workouts starting Thursday, they’ll become the 11th NBA team to do so, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Reynolds identifies Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Indiana, Sacramento, Toronto, and Utah as the first 10 teams to reopen their facilities.

We’ve covered all those teams’ decisions in recent days except for the Bucks, who slipped through the cracks. They announced on Monday (via Twitter) that they’d be reopening their building on a limited basis.

The Magic were the first team to secure written authorization from a local health authority – along with approval from the NBA – to test asymptomatic players for COVID-19, which means they’re able to be more proactive than other teams in screening who’s entering their building. Most clubs, for now, are conducting basic health and temperature checks on those entering their facilities.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • After recently polling NBA scouts on Jonathan Isaac‘s outlook going forward, Josh Robbins of The Athletic has done the same for Markelle Fultz, one of Orlando’s other young building blocks. Unsurprisingly, Fultz’s shot-making ability is the primary concern among those evaluators. “Right now, I think he’s more of a backup, which is perfect for him,” one scout said. “The shooting, unless that gets a lot better, he’s a backup. He’s with a good coach who values what he does. He defends. He’s an athletic presence. He can get to the rim. But for him to be a starter and a guy you pay that kind of money to, you’ve got to make shots.”
  • Given the Magic’s limited projected cap flexibility and the fact that they likely won’t have a lottery pick, Robbins says in a mailbag for The Athletic that he thinks the most realistic way for the team to make a splash in the 2020 offseason is to do so on the trade market.
  • Within the same mailbag, Robbins also confirms that 2019 first-rounder Chuma Okeke won’t be joining the Magic if the season resumes, since he’ll have to wait until the 2020/21 league year begins to sign his rookie contract. Okeke, who was recovering from an ACL tear when he was drafted last June, essentially took a redshirt year in the G League.
  • The Magic will be the next team up in our Salary Cap Preview series for ’20/21 — keep an eye out for that story to be published later today.

Giannis' Social Accounts Hacked

  • Bucks All-Star forward and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a major hack today, extending to his social media, email and bank accounts, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard. A flurry of vulgar tweets centered around Stephen Curry, the late Kobe Bryant, Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee teammate Khris Middleton, and his pending free agency were quickly deleted. Antetokounmpo’s younger brother Kostas and his longtime girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger tweeted that “Giannis’ [T]witter, phone, email and bank accounts were hacked!” Later, Antetokounmpo released a statement on his Twitter account (Twitter link), saying, in part, “The tweets and posts were extremely inappropriate and I am so disappointed and disgusted.” The Bucks are investigating the incident.

Multiple Teams Plan To Reopen Facilities On Friday

3:29pm: The Rockets have now postponed the target date for reopening their facility to May 18, according to Medina (via Twitter).

2:03pm: Although the NBA is still expected to allow teams to reopen practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts this Friday, only a small handful of clubs are expected to take advantage right away. The Rockets, Trail Blazers, and Nuggets intend to reopen their facilities on May 8, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina. The Cavaliers will do so as well, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Not all players have remained in their teams’ respective cities since the NBA suspended its season in March, so some Rockets, Blazers, Nuggets, and Cavs players may have to return from out of state before they can resume working out at their clubs’ facilities.

As Zillgitt and Medina detail, several other teams – including the Hawks, Heat, and Bucks – could reopen their facilities as early as next week. However, clubs like the Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves haven’t shared details on their plans, and many other teams will remain in limbo for the foreseeable future, deferring to local government ordinances and health experts.

The Warriors, for instance, are following the City of San Francisco’s lead, as Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. USA Today’s report suggests that Golden State is unlikely to reopen its facility until at least June, since the city’s stay-at-home order runs through May 31.

As for the teams that are opening this Friday, they’ll face strict regulations on the number of players who will be permitted into their facilities at a time (four), and how their workouts will be conducted (no group activities are allowed). The league recently issued a long, detailed memo outlining the safety measures that teams must put in place to reopen their buildings.

“This isn’t a hangout session for the guys,” a Cavaliers source told Fedor. “We’ve read the riot act – so to speak – to these guys. I think they are appreciative of us trying to find the right way to get the building open because they need the outlet and want to work out and this is the safest place for them to do it.”

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links), the NBA informed teams this week of updated measures on cardiac screening for certain players prior to their voluntary workouts. Clubs have also still been told not to conduct COVID-19 tests on asymptomatic players, since the league is sensitive to an ongoing shortage in some areas of the country. If and when the NBA is able to open camps for a resumption for the 2019/20 season, there’s an understanding those testing protocols would change, Woj adds.

2020/21 Salary Cap Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.

After winning an NBA-high 60 games in 2018/19, the Bucks were on pace to blow past that win total in 2019/20 — the team had a league-best 53-12 record when the season was suspended in March.

Of course, this time around, Milwaukee was hoping for a better outcome than last year’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to Toronto. If the season can be resumed, the Bucks’ success in the postseason may well factor into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision on his future, which will in turn significantly impact the organization’s long-term cap outlook.

Here’s where things stand for the Bucks financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

With $114MM in guaranteed money already committed to just eight players, the Bucks definitely won’t have cap room during the 2020 offseason, regardless of whether the cap increases beyond its current $109MM figure.

If (Robin) Lopez and Matthews exercise their player options, Ilyasova returns on his non-guaranteed salary, and Milwaukee keeps its first-round pick, the team would be right up against the tax line and would likely be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception rather than having the full MLE or bi-annual exception available.

Depending on where exactly the cap lands, I could see the Bucks parting with Ilyasova to gain some added flexibility. He has played a pretty modest role this season and clearing his $7MM salary would increase the odds of avoiding the tax and possibly even opening up the club’s full MLE, though that still could be a tight fit.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,718,000 3

Footnotes

  1. Ilyasova’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 27.
  2. This pick could also land at No. 19 depending on the result of a random tiebreaker.
  3. This is a projected value. If the Bucks’ team salary doesn’t approach the tax apron, they could instead have access to the full mid-level exception ($9,258,000) and the bi-annual exception ($3,623,000).

Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: McMillan, Bulls, Buford

Pacers coach Nate McMillan has been preparing his team to play basketball again as best as he can, as Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star relays.

Not all players on the Pacers have been on equal footing during the hiatus, however. Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon are among those who have basketball courts at their homes or an established nearby place. Others, like Goga Bitadze, are living in apartments without access to gyms.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • How will the Bulls‘ new front office operate? K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports envisions a collaborative approach, similar to Arturas Karnisovas’ stints with Denver and Houston.
  • Jon Greenberg of The Athletic takes a look at the Bulls‘ past and wonders whether the new leadership is going to bring more success to Chicago. The scribe believes the new regime can be successful, though he notes that having a “players first” mentality would suit the newcomers well.
  • The Bucks have locked in Chase Buford to coach their G League squad for another season, the team announced on its website. “Chase has done a tremendous job in his first season at the helm,” said Milwaukee Bucks VP of basketball operations and Wisconsin Herd GM Dave Dean. “As an organization, we’re thrilled to have Chase return for a second season, and we look forward to his leadership and continued development as we build off the current campaign.”

How 2020 All-NBA Picks Could Impact Contract Situations

All-NBA selections have become more important than ever in recent years, since teams can agree to increase the overall value of certain maximum-salary contracts based on whether or not a player has earned All-NBA honors in a given season.

Those higher max salaries are also available to players who win MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, but there’s only one of each of those awards per year. There are 15 All-NBA players annually, creating more opportunities for players to become eligible for those more lucrative contracts, informally known as “super-max” deals.

As we explain in our glossary entry on the “Designated Veteran Extension,” a player with between seven and nine years of NBA experience who meets certain contract criteria and hasn’t changed teams since the end of his rookie contract become eligible for a maximum salary worth 35% of the cap – instead of 30% – if he was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

Similar incentives are available for players coming off their rookie scale contracts, as noted in our glossary entry on the “Derrick Rose Rule.” Those players can earn max deals worth up to 30% of the cap instead of 25% if they were named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

The differences between the various levels of maximum salaries can be substantial over the course of a long-term contract. For instance, in 2019/20, a five-year max contract that starts at 25% of the cap and includes 8% annual raises is worth just over $158MM. By comparison, a five-year deal that starts at 35% of the cap with 8% annual raises is worth over $221MM. A five-year contract at the 30% max falls in between, at about $190MM.

We don’t know yet what this year’s All-NBA teams will look like – or even when voting will take place – but as our informal polls last week showed, there are a number of candidates whose future earnings could be affected by whether or not they earn one of those 15 spots.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those players…

Players who have already qualified for super-max contracts:

Antetokounmpo and Gobert didn’t even need to rely on All-NBA spots to qualify for super-max contracts — Giannis’ MVP award last year and Gobert’s back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019 secured their eligibility.

Because both players only had six years of experience entering the 2019/20 season, they had to wait one more year to be eligible to actually receive super-max extension offers, which would be worth 35% of the cap instead of 30%.

Antetokounmpo is a lock to receive such an offer from the Bucks, who have publicly said they’ll put it on the table as soon as they can. That was supposed to happen this July, but the NBA’s hiatus has thrown that timeline into flux. Whenever Milwaukee makes its offer, it would be for a five-year extension that would start in 2021/22 and be worth 35% of that season’s cap.

Gobert’s outlook is cloudier. He could also sign a five-year, 35% max-salary extension that would start in 2021/22, but he’s not at the same level of superstardom that Giannis is, so it remains to be seen how aggressive the Jazz will actually be in attempting to lock him up beyond next season.

Players whose already-signed rookie extensions would be impacted by an All-NBA selection:

Siakam and Simmons signed maximum-salary rookie scale extensions with their respective teams last fall. Both contracts will go into effect in 2020/21 and both include Rose Rule language, meaning they’ll be among the players closely monitoring this year’s All-NBA results.

In our series of polls, Siakam earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. However, I think there’s a real possibility he could end up on the Third Team. Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard will likely receive more votes than Siakam. Anthony Davis will place higher than Siakam too if voters consider him a forward. And even if Davis is listed as a center, Jayson Tatum is among those who should give Siakam a strong push for that Second Team forward spot.

While Siakam might be satisfied to end up on any All-NBA team, a spot on the Second Team would be far more satisfying from a financial perspective. His deal calls for a starting salary worth 28% of the cap if he earns All-NBA Second Team honors, but just 25% if he makes the Third Team.

As we outlined in the fall, that difference would have been worth nearly $16MM over four years based on a $116MM cap. The cap is no longer expected to get that high, but even so, missing out on a Second Team spot would cost Siakam millions.

As for Simmons, he wasn’t one of the 15 players voted to an All-NBA team by Hoops Rumors readers, but he looks to me like a viable candidate for the Third Team. If he makes the Third Team, his starting salary would be 28% of next year’s cap, rather than the 25% he’d get if he doesn’t make an All-NBA squad. Those three percentage points would impact Simmons even more than they would Siakam over the life of their contracts, since Simmons’ five-year deal runs for an extra season and the amount of the annual raises are based on the starting salary.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray also signed a rookie scale extension with Rose Rule language, but isn’t a realistic candidate for an All-NBA nod.

Players whose next contract could be impacted by an All-NBA selection this season:

If Embiid – who was voted onto Hoops Rumors’ All-NBA Third Team – earns an All-NBA spot this season after doing so last year, he’d be in the same position heading into 2020/21 that Antetokounmpo and Gobert were entering 2019 — he’d have qualified for a super-max extension, but wouldn’t yet be eligible to sign one.

Once the 2021/22 league year begins, Embiid would have seven years of NBA experience, with All-NBA nods in at least two of the last three years, making him eligible to sign a four-year super-max extension that would begin in 2023/24, with a starting salary worth 35% of the cap. Even if Embiid doesn’t make an All-NBA team this season, doing so next year would still make him eligible for that same deal.

As for Ingram, he’s a long shot to be named to an All-NBA team, but in the unlikely event that he is, he’d be eligible to sign for a starting salary of up to 30% of the cap on a new free agent contract with the Pelicans. No other team looking to sign him to an offer sheet could exceed 25% of the cap in that scenario.

Other players to start monitoring if they earn All-NBA honors this season:

These players fall into a few separate sub-categories. Jokic and Booker, for instance, are in their fifth seasons and on their second NBA contracts. An All-NBA spot – which is far likelier for Jokic – would be a good start toward earning super-max eligibility, but they’d still have to make another All-NBA team in either 2021 or 2022 to become eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension in 2022.

Doncic, an All-NBA lock, and Young, a lesser candidate, are only in their second NBA seasons. If they were to make All-NBA teams this year and next, they’d be eligible to sign rookie scale extensions with starting salaries worth up to 30% of the cap during the 2021 offseason. Those deals would go into effect in 2022/23.

Adebayo, Mitchell, and Tatum are all in their third seasons and will be extension-eligible during the 2020 offseason. Earning an All-NBA spot this year actually wouldn’t do much for their Rose Rule eligibility — they’d still have to do it again in 2021 to qualify, since the criteria calls for an All-NBA berth in either the season before the new contract begins or in two of the three prior seasons.

Still, earning All-NBA honors this year would give those three players additional leverage to negotiate Rose Rule language into their potential rookie scale extensions, which would go into effect in 2021/22.

Strong All-NBA candidates who are notably ineligible for super-max contracts:

Beal was in position to qualify for a super-max extension if he had earned All-NBA honors this season, but the short-term contract extension he signed last October eliminated that possibility. By the time that extension expires, he’ll have 10 years of NBA experience and will be eligible for the 35% max anyway.

Davis has the right amount of NBA experience to gain eligibility and should be an All-NBA lock, but the fact that he changed teams last summer ensures he’ll no longer qualify for a Designated Veteran Contract this offseason — he missed out on the possibility of the super-max as soon as he left the Pelicans.

Various other All-NBA candidates won’t meet the super-max criteria for various reasons. Some, like James Harden, are already on a super-max contract. Others, such as LeBron James, already have 10+ years of experience and can’t qualify for a higher max than the 35% they already get. Recently changing teams (ie. Jimmy Butler) or signing new long-term deals (ie. Khris Middleton) also remove certain players from super-max contention.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.