- Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose $100MM extension begins with the start of the season, has another big payday ahead, writes Nick DePaula of ESPN. He will be a free agent in the shoe market at the end of September after making just $25K from Nike last year and expects to top that figure several times over. Antetokounmpo is hoping to exceed the nearly $5MM-per-year deal that Kristaps Porzingis received from Adidas, with one industry specialist speculating that he could receive $7MM to $10MM annually.
- The Bucks won’t be the only team playing at their new arena, according to the Associated Press. The NBA team has reached a seven-year agreement allowing Marquette to use the facility, which is expected to open ahead of the 2018/19 season.
NBA teams have about two more weeks to apply the stretch provision to the 2017/18 cap hits for players they waive. After August 31, teams will no longer be eligible to stretch salaries for the coming season, and the stretch provision will only apply to future seasons on a player’s contract.
The stretch provision is a CBA rule that allows teams to stretch a player’s remaining salary across additional seasons. For July and August, the rule dictates that a team can pay out the player’s salary over twice the number of years remaining on his contract, plus one. So a contract with three years left on it could be stretched out over seven years. After August 31, only the future years on the contract can be stretched in that manner.
In practical terms, here’s what that means for a player who is earning $6MM in each of the next two years ($12MM total):
|Year||Current contract||Stretched by August 31||Stretched after August 31|
In some cases, it can be advantageous to wait until September to waive a player and use the stretch provision. If a team isn’t close to the tax line and can’t clear additional cap room by stretching a player’s current-year salary, it may make more sense to be patient, since that extra immediate cap room wouldn’t be useful.
However, there are several teams around the NBA who may be motivated to waive and stretch players prior to that August 31 deadline. Here are five stretch provision candidates to keep an eye on during the next couple weeks:
The Bucks have a couple of options beyond making a trade to drop back below the luxury-tax line, as Gery Woelfel of WoelfelPressBox.com points out. Citing sources, Woelfel calculates the current Milwaukee payroll at $120.6MM, which would put it approximately $1.4MM over the tax threshold. The Bucks could shed some payroll by either releasing point guard Gary Payton Jr., who has a non-guaranteed $1.3MM deal, and/or waiving Spencer Hawes’ $6.5MM contract. By using the stretch provision, the Bucks could reduce Hawes’ 2017/18 cap hit by more than $4MM.
If the Cavaliers had received assurances from LeBron James that he intends to remain with the franchise beyond the 2017/18 season, their approach to a Kyrie Irving trade might be much different, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the Cavs certainly haven’t given up hope of James remaining in Cleveland, the franchise wants to use an Irving trade to protect itself against his possible departure — that means focusing on acquiring a young potential star, rather than targeting veteran help for LeBron.
Initially, the Cavs’ desire in an Irving trade was to acquire young players and picks that could help the team down the road and to get pieces that could help the club contend immediately. However, that kind of massive return may not be available for the star point guard, forcing the Cavaliers to choose one path or the other. And with LeBron unwilling to commit, the Cavs are leaning toward prioritizing long-term pieces over short-term help.
As Wojnarowski details, Josh Jackson (Suns), Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), and even Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) are among the young players the Cavaliers have their eye on in trade talks. In his own piece on the situation in Cleveland, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders agrees that those four teams – Phoenix, Boston, Denver, and New York – are mentioned most frequently as trade partners, and continue to have discussions with the Cavs.
Here’s plenty more on the Irving situation:
- According to both Wojnarowski and Kyler, teams around the NBA believe that the Cavaliers will ramp up trade talks and get more serious about moving Irving in September, with training camps approaching.
- The Spurs have interest in Irving, but the fact that the Cavs are prioritizing young potential stars over veteran help means Cleveland doesn’t have much interest in the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, or Danny Green, says Wojnarowski.
- Although the Cavaliers are intrigued by Tatum, the Celtics have yet to make an official offer for Irving and the two sides haven’t formally discussed this year’s No. 3 overall pick, according to Wojnarowski. Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe adds (via Twitter) that Boston has remained in touch with the Cavs throughout the process.
- The idea of including Porzingis in an Irving offer is currently a “non-starter” for the Knicks, per Wojnarowski. However, Woj adds there may still be some lingering tension between Porzingis and the franchise, and teams are wondering how emphatic the Knicks’ “no” really is — especially if the Cavaliers would be willing to take on Joakim Noah‘s contract.
- Wojnarowski reports that the Bucks have shown interest in Irving. However, with Giannis Antetokounmpo obviously untouchable, Milwaukee may not have a young star who makes sense for the Cavs.
- Although the Clippers have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Irving, a league source tells Kyler that L.A. doesn’t appear to have the right combination of assets to appeal to the Cavs — a third team would be necessary, and even that may not be enough to make the Clips a serious contender for Irving.
The Pistons have postseason aspirations in 2017/18 and those plans will significantly hinge on the performance of Reggie Jackson. Jackson is coming off an injury-riddled 2016/17 season in which he was limited to 52 games and averaged just 14.5 PPG and 5.2 APG, both totals being his lowest in a single season since his 2013/14 season with the Thunder.
With Jackson a liability last year, head coach Stan Van Gundy trotted out Ish Smith in favor of Jackson. Entering this season, Smith remains the backup to Jackson at point guard; despite their standings, Smith tells Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press that Jackson has been working hard this summer and is showing glimpses of the player who averaged just under 19 PPG two seasons earlier.
“He’s out there in California enjoying himself, but he’s getting better,” Smith said. “He’s getting back to the Reggie Jackson everybody knows and loves.
Jackson’s coach echoed Smith’s sentiments, boasting about his point guard having a renewed confidence.
“He’s doing well and feeling good, and I think feeling confident too,” Van Gundy said. “Things are going in the right way so I’m going to go out there sometime in the next couple weeks and spend some time with him.”
Read additional stories around the NBA’s Central Division:
- The Bucks announced a sponsorship deal with Harley-Davidson which will allow the motorcycle company’s logo to appear on the team’s jerseys next season, ESPN’s Darren Rovell writes. With the deal, the Bucks become the 12th NBA franchise to reach a sponsorship deal that will feature a company logo on its jerseys.
- The Pacers are a weakened team without longtime star Paul George, who was traded to the Thunder, but third-year big man Myles Turner, still believes Indiana will be in the playoffs, We recently examined the team’s playoff aspirations in a Community Shootaround but making the postseason — despite the players’ optimism — remains a challenging task.
AUGUST 9: The Bucks have officially hired Newton as their assistant general manager, confirming that move and announcing several more front office changes today in a press release.
AUGUST 7: The Bucks are finalizing a deal with former Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who reports that Newton is poised to join Milwaukee’s front office as an assistant GM.
Newton, who also previously worked for the Sixers, Wizards, and the NBA office, was the GM in Minnesota from 2013 to 2016. He was dismissed by the Wolves after president Flip Saunders passed away and team ownership made the decision to give Tom Thibodeau full control over basketball operations. Newton has been seeking a return to an NBA front office over the last year.
While Newton won’t get the opportunity to run the show in Milwaukee, he figures to work closely with new GM Jon Horst. A surprise hire this spring, Horst doesn’t have much experience as the lead man on basketball decisions, so the Bucks had been in the market for a veteran executive to share some of his responsibilities.
A report last month indicated that the Bucks had interviewed several candidates for the assistant GM opening, with a focus on executives who had previously served as a general manager or worked closely with a GM. Newton was named in that report as a “serious candidate” for the job in Milwaukee.
Although it has been a fairly quiet offseason so far for the Bucks, they’re currently the frontrunners in our poll from earlier today on which Central club has had the best summer — many of Milwaukee’s division rivals are believed to have taken a step backward in the last couple months.
In the wake of Clippers head coach Doc Rivers surrendering his front office power, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes that Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy should do the same.
In the piece, Ziller praises Rivers for giving up the power of possessing dual roles as someone who has been so famous and successful. Rivers quietly accepted a demotion and seems to have handled the transition in stride. Earlier this offseason, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was also stripped of his front office power with the team installing GM Travis Schlenk above him in the decision-making hierarchy.
Ziller goes on to write that Van Gundy’s 2016/17 team was extremely disappointing and comprised mostly Van Gundy acquisitions. SVG previously traded for Reggie Jackson and paid him a tremendous amount and drafted Stanley Johnson in the lottery. Both players have been monumental disappointments. Ziller argues that while Van Gundy is a talented coach, “someone else needs to be in the seat of power when it comes to roster.”
Here’s what else you should know from the Central division:
- Pistons wing Stanley Johnson, who underwhelmed in 2016/17, lies at the heart of SVG’s vision for the team to be elite on defense, writes Keith Langois of NBA.com. Detroit spent most of last season as a top-10 defensive squad before finishing the season at No. 11. Van Gundy said: “I think now we have a chance to become an elite defensive team and Stanley’s a huge part of that. And then I think it’s for him to really find his offensive game and it takes some guys some time. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, his primary role will be to guard the best forward or a big two guard every night. Avery (Bradley) will take on the challenge of guarding the best guard every night and then Andre (Drummond) will take on more responsibility as a defender and that’s our way to becoming an elite defensive team.”
- The Pistons will feature Reggie Bullock for a more prominent role this upcoming season, Ansar Khan of MLive.com writes. In limited minutes in two seasons, Bullock has been the team’s best deep shooter, drilling 39.7% of his three-point attempts. Van Gundy is also high on Bullock for other reasons: “A lot of people focus on Reggie’s shooting, which is very good, but to me it’s more the way he plays the game. The ball moves when he’s out there, he makes quick decisions, he moves very well without the ball, he helps other people play well. And at the other end he defends, so he’s a two-way player who helps your team function at both ends of the floor. We’re looking forward to having Reggie back, healthier than he’s been, hopefully, and available for a lot more action because he has helped us play very well.”
- The pressure is on for head coach Jason Kidd and his Bucks, writes James Blancarte of Basketball Insiders. With many Eastern Conference teams taking significant steps backward this offseason, the athletic and upstart Bucks carry lofty expectations entering the 2017/18 season. For a detailed look at why so much is expected of Kidd and the Bucks this coming season, I highly recommend reading Blancarte’s piece.
- Jordan Brady has been named the first head coach of the Bucks’ G League team, the Wisconsin Herd, the Herd announced in a press release. Brady, 34, served as an assistant coach last season for the Salt Lake City Stars, the Jazz’s affiliate. He has also been an assistant coach with three other G League organizations.
In the wake of 2016’s salary cap spike, the luxury tax line was higher than ever in 2016/17, and only two teams finished the season above it. The Clippers barely crossed over into taxpayer territory, while the Cavaliers blew past that threshold and were on the hook for a big tax bill.
In 2017/18, the salary cap increase was far more modest, and as a result, it appears that several more teams will finish the season as taxpayers, surpassing this year’s $119.266MM tax line. Teams have until the end of the ’17/18 regular season to adjust team salary in an effort to get back under the tax line, but most of those clubs will have little leverage if they try to dump salary, so it won’t be easy to cut costs.
Here’s an early look at the teams likely to finish 2017/18 as taxpayers:
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $139.73MM
No team is further over the tax line than the Cavaliers, and Cleveland will also qualify as a repeat taxpayer for the first time this year, making the penalties levied against the franchise more punitive. Currently, the Cavs’ projected tax bill is approaching $70MM, which explains why the team is interested in attaching an extra contract or two to Kyrie Irving in any trade.
Golden State Warriors
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $135.36MM
Last year’s dominant Warriors team actually didn’t have one of the more expensive rosters in the league, but that will change this time around, with several players signing lucrative new deals. The biggest raise belongs to Stephen Curry, who played out the final season of a four-year, $44MM deal in 2016/17, and will now start a five-year, $200MM+ pact.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $125.99MM
Years ago, the Thunder decided to move on from James Harden when he and the team couldn’t agree to terms on an extension that would have created luxury-tax issues for the franchise. Now, Oklahoma City has the third-highest team salary in the NBA, and a projected tax bill that will exceed $10MM.
Portland Trail Blazers
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $124.25MM
The Trail Blazers managed to slash their projected tax bill significantly a couple weeks ago when they sent Allen Crabbe to the Nets for Andrew Nicholson. Assuming they eventually waive and stretch Nicholson’s contract, as expected, the pair of transactions will save the club upwards of $40MM in tax payments alone.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $123.54MM
Going into tax territory was necessary if the Wizards wanted to match Otto Porter‘s offer sheet from the Nets and bring him back. Fortunately for the club, John Wall‘s new super-max extension won’t go into effect until 2019/20 — his current salary is far below the 2017/18 max, which will save the Wizards from paying more exorbitant tax penalties.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $119.38MM
The Bucks currently project to be over the tax threshold by a very small amount, and I’d be surprised if the team doesn’t make every effort to trim payroll and sneak below that line before the season is over. Milwaukee isn’t a big-market team, and the opportunity to be on the receiving end of the luxury tax – rather than the paying end – will be tantalizing.
Outside of the six teams listed above, a handful of other clubs are inching dangerously close to tax territory. Among them: The Clippers, whose estimated guaranteed team salary sits about $100K below the tax threshold; the Pelicans, who are less than $1MM below the tax line; and the Rockets, who only have about $114.75MM in guarantees, but are carrying several million more dollars in non-guaranteed contracts.
When we asked last week which Atlantic and Northwest teams have enjoyed the best offseasons of 2017, there were a handful of teams deserving of consideration. Several of the 10 teams from those divisions landed star players or deftly maneuvered the salary cap to upgrade their rosters in other ways.
In the Central division, the candidates are a little less impressive.
The Bulls and Pacers were on the other end of two of those trades that sent All-Star players to Northwest teams, with the clubs trading away Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively. In both cases, the return left something to be desired — Chicago received Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen, while the Pacers landed Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Indiana has at least has made some savvy moves in the weeks since the George trade, picking up Cory Joseph, Darren Collison, and Bojan Bogdanovic on affordable contracts, while the Bulls have only re-signed Cristiano Felicio and added Justin Holiday.
The defending Central – and Eastern – champions may join those two teams soon in having traded away an All-Star player, but for now Kyrie Irving remains with the Cavaliers. Cleveland’s offseason grade is probably incomplete until we see what the team does with Irving, but so far the Cavs’ summer moves have been somewhat underwhelming. The additions of players like Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, and Cedi Osman were solid, but they were hardly the sort of transformative moves the clubs envisioned heading into the offseason.
The up-and-coming Bucks showed signs last season suggesting they could be an Eastern Conference force within the next year or two, but with Greg Monroe and Spencer Hawes opting into their respective contracts, Milwaukee’s flexibility to make additions has been limited. Outside of re-signing Tony Snell, the Bucks have essentially been quiet in free agency — the team’s most notable additions came in the draft, when D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown joined the roster.
Of the five Central teams, the Pistons have perhaps been the most active in adding roster reinforcements, though your view of their offseason may hinge on how you feel about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Detroit let its top restricted free agent walk, opting to replace him by signing Langston Galloway and trading Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley. Other minor moves for the Pistons included re-signing Reggie Bullock and adding Anthony Tolliver.
What do you think? Which of the Central division teams had the best offseason? Did any of these teams take positive steps forward with their summer moves? Vote below in our poll and then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts.
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.