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Suns Sign Frank Kaminsky To Two-Year Deal

JULY 17: The signing is official, the Suns announced on Twitter.

JULY 1: The Suns and free agent big man Frank Kaminsky have reached an agreement on a two-year deal worth approximately $10MM, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Phoenix is expected to complete the signing using the team’s $4.8MM room exception after using up all of its cap space to sign Ricky Rubio to a three-year, $51MM contract.

Kaminsky, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, was the subject of trade and buyout speculation earlier this year as he fell out of the Hornets’ rotation for several weeks. The 26-year-old ultimately earned a more regular role in the second half, but had a down year in Charlotte, averaging 8.6 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 47 games (16.1 MPG).

Kaminsky didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Hornets, so he entered the market as an unrestricted free agent. Despite a somewhat disappointing stint in Charlotte, he still has some upside as a stretch big man.

The Suns, whose Ryan Anderson experiment failed last season, have now lined up deals for two bigs who can knock down three-pointers. In addition to agreeing to sign Kaminsky, they’ll also acquire Dario Saric in a trade with the Timberwolves once the July moratorium ends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chris Paul Likely To Start Season In OKC

The Thunder haven’t found any success in their attempts to trade Chris Paul, and he appears destined to be on their roster when the season begins in October, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Moving Paul has seemed like the next logical step since a trade that brought him from Houston in exchange for Russell Westbrook was agreed upon last week. The deal become official last night, but it appears any potential market for Paul has dried up.

The Thunder have been working with the nine-time All-Star and his representatives to find an acceptable deal, but both sides now see benefits to having him spend the season in Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. Because the trade happened so far into free agency, few contenders have the flexibility to take on Paul, who will make $124MM over the next three years. OKC may re-examine its options once most of the newly signed free agents become eligible to be traded on December 15, or after next season is complete.

GM Sam Presti would be happy to have Paul for the entire season, Woj relays, and Paul views the Thunder as a playoff contender with Danilo GallinariSteven AdamsDennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already in place. Woj adds that the Thunder don’t believe they should have to give up any draft considerations to move Paul’s contract. They acquired two first-rounders and two pick swaps in the deal with Houston.

Cheick Diallo To Sign With Suns

The Suns have reached a two-year deal with Cheick Diallo, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Phoenix holds a team option on the second season, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The 22-year-old power forward spent the past three seasons in New Orleans. He has been a steady rotation player during the last two years and averaged 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in 64 games this season.

Phoenix could only offer Diallo a veteran’s minimum deal, which will pay about $1.7MM and $1.8MM over the next two years, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The Suns now have 15 players under contract, not counting their two-way deals.

Pistons Claim Christian Wood

The Pistons have claimed Christian Wood off waivers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wood, who has a partial guarantee on his salary that takes effect opening night, was waived Monday by the Pelicans. The power forward/center would be guaranteed $822,679 on his $1,645,357 salary for next season if he remained on the roster for the first game. The full salary won’t be guaranteed until January 10, when all league contracts become guaranteed.

Detroit inherits that contract with the successful waiver claim. The Pistons now have 17 players on their roster with 14 guaranteed contracts – according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) – and are $223K below the luxury tax.

Wood, 23, is no stranger to the waiver wire. New Orleans claimed him in March after the Bucks let him go. He played just eight games for the Pelicans, but averaged 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per night. He has also had brief stays with the Sixers and Hornets since entering the league.

Reggie Bullock Undergoes Cervical Disc Surgery

The health issue that scuttled Reggie Bullock‘s initial two-year, $21MM deal with the Knicks has been revealed, with the club announcing today (via Twitter) that the veteran swingman underwent surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation.

The Knicks didn’t provide a specific timetable for Bullock’s recovery, indicating that they’ll issue an update on his progress around the start of training camp. A report on Tuesday suggested that he would likely miss at least the first month of the regular season.

After Bullock’s original agreement with New York fell apart, the two sides struck a new two-year deal that slotted into the team’s room exception rather than using cap space.  According to Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (via Twitter), it’s worth $8.2MM over two seasons, though the second year is only partially guaranteed for $1MM.

It’s not clear if Bullock’s cervical disc issue arose during the offseason or if it was something he played through while he was a member of the Lakers last season.

Kings Sign Tyler Lydon

JULY 17: The Kings have officially signed Lydon, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 14: The Kings have agreed to a two-year deal with free agent forward Tyler Lydon, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojarowski (Twitter link).

The agreement is for the league minimum and also contains a partial guarantee, Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento tweets.

Lydon appeared in 25 games with the Nuggets last season, seeing an average of 3.8 minutes per contest. He was traded to Denver shortly after being selected No. 24 overall in the 2017 draft by Utah, spending part of his professional career in the NBA G League.

“I feel like I’m good enough to play in this league, and I’ll believe that ‘til the day I die,” Lydon said last week before agreeing to his deal, according to Stephen Haynes of the Poughkeepsie Journal. “It’s like, ‘Give me one chance to prove that I belong.’”

Lydon started his career with a deep Denver team that was unable to give him a clear role. His season was cut short after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, with the 23-year-old working extensively to improve his strength and shooting skills since then.

Sacramento now has 18 players on its active roster, including two-way players Kyle Guy and Wenyen Gabriel.

Cameron Payne, Raptors Agree To Deal

The Raptors have reached an agreement with Cameron Payne, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the free agent point guard is signing a two-year contract with Toronto.

Payne’s new deal won’t be fully guaranteed. According to Charania (via Twitter), the former lottery pick will get a partial guarantee in year one and will have an opportunity to compete for a reserve point guard spot with the Raptors.

Payne, who turns 25 next month, was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft. However, he has bounced around the league since then, having spent time with the Thunder, Bulls, and Cavaliers in his first four NBA seasons.

In 153 total regular season games, the former Murray State standout has averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.5 APG with a .397/.331/.775 shooting line. He did have a strong Summer League showing in Las Vegas this month though, recording 20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 2.7 SPG while shooting 51.4% from the floor in three games for Dallas.

Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet figure to handle point guard duties for the Raptors in 2019/20, but after trading Delon Wright at last season’s deadline and not re-signing Jeremy Lin in free agency, the team doesn’t have a ton of depth at the position. That lack of depth – and a partially guaranteed contract – should give Payne the upper hand in earning one of Toronto’s last few roster spots.

Dragan Bender Likely To Sign With CSKA Moscow

Former No. 4 overall pick Dragan Bender has reached a verbal agreement with EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, a source tells Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops (Twitter link). According to Varlas, Bender is expected to join CSKA Moscow unless he gets an offer from an NBA team at the 11th hour.

Keith Smith of RealGM files a similar report, tweeting that Bender’s agreement with CSKA Moscow will allow him to continue seeking out NBA deals for a little while longer. If nothing materializes, the power forward will head to Russia for the 2019/20 season.

Bender, 21, spent the last three seasons with the Suns after being selected fourth overall in 2016. However, he failed to develop into a regular NBA rotation player, averaging 5.3 PPG and 3.8 RPG with a .394/.321/.647 shooting line in 171 games in Phoenix.

A report earlier this week indicated that the Cavaliers and Raptors had inquired on Bender, though their level of interest was unclear. That report also linked the young forward to EuroLeague teams Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow.

If he finalizes his deal with CSKA Moscow, Bender will join former NBA players such as Joel Bolomboy and Darrun Hilliard on the Russian club.

Thunder, Rockets Swap Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul

JULY 16: The trade is official, according to a Thunder press release.

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future,” GM Sam Presti said. “Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” said Presti. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.
“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

JULY 11: The Rockets have acquired Russell Westbrook. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Houston will send Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two pick swaps to Oklahoma City in exchange for the eight-time All-Star.

The Thunder will receive the Rockets’ first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, according to Wojnarowski. Shams Charania of the Athletic tweets that those selections are each top-four protected.

Oklahoma City will also have the right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets during the 2021 and 2025 drafts, though those have protections as well. The 2021 swap is top-four protected, while the 2025 swap is top-20 protected, per Charania.

GM Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent to send the point guard to Houston, which was his preferred destination, Wojnarowski tweets. Westbrook will reunite with James Harden, whom he previously played with on the Thunder (before the team traded Harden to the Rockets). Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the push for a reunion came from both sides.

The Paul George trade request opened the door for another superstar to move this summer. The Thunder began an unexpected retooling process in the wake of trading George, leaving Westbrook in a curious position.

Rumors of the Paul-Harden relationship souring popped up this summer, with a report from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports describing the relationship as “unsalvageable” and suggesting that CP3 wanted a trade. Both Paul and GM Daryl Morey shot down that report, but there was still widespread speculation that the team would try to move Paul.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets that Presti has spoken to Paul’s agent, Leon Rose. Rose, who also represents Carmelo Anthony, worked with the team last summer on an exit strategy for ‘Melo.

The Thunder’s plan as of now is to keep Paul alongside Danilo Gallinari and remain competitive, Sam Amick of The Athletic hears (Twitter link). Still, Amick cautions that at this stage in his career, the point guard isn’t going to be patient.

Paul, whose contract runs through 2021/22, will make $38.5MM in the 2019/20 season, with roughly $86MM due to him over the following two seasons. Westbrook will also make $38.5MM this upcoming season and he’ll take home $132.6MM over the ensuing three seasons. The two deals are essentially identical, with Westbrook’s running for an extra season. Both of the point guards also have a player option on the end of their contracts, though it’s unlikely that either will decide to hit the open market a year early.

Westbrook has a 15% trade bonus in his contract, but because he’s already earning a maximum salary, the bonus will be voided, ESPN’s Bobby Marks adds on Twitter.

Paul, 34, slowed signs of slowing down during the 2018/19 season. Injuries limited him to just 58 games, and his 15.6 PPG and .419 FG% were both the lowest marks of his 14-year career. However, he still chipped in 8.2 APG and 2.0 SPG while helping to lead the Rockets to the Western Semifinals.

As for Westbrook, his scoring average (22.9 PPG) was his lowest in five years and he went through some major shooting slumps en route to a .428/.290/.656 line. The 30-year-old still managed to average a triple-double for the third consecutive year though, contributing 11.1 RPG and a league-leading 10.7 APG to go along with 1.9 SPG.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Sign Ben Simmons To Five-Year Extension

JULY 16: The Sixers have officially signed Simmons to his new extension, the team announced today in a press release.

“Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA’s most dynamic and talented young players,” GM Elton Brand said in a statement. “It was a priority for our organization that we finalize a contract extension with Ben this summer. He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come. Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders.”

JULY 15: The Sixers and Ben Simmons have reached a deal on a five-year, maximum-salary contract extension, agent Rich Paul tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The agreement had been anticipated after Philadelphia put a max extension offer on the table for Simmons near the start of free agency.

Based on the NBA’s current cap projections for 2020/21, which is when Simmons’ new deal will begin, a five-year, maximum-salary contract will pay him $169.65MM.

The Sixers and Simmons could agree to language that would push that figure as high as $203.58MM in the event that he earns an All-NBA spot next season, but there’s no indication yet that those Rose Rule conditions will be included in the agreement. For what it’s worth, Charania pegs the value of the contract at $170MM.

Simmons, who will turn 23 on Saturday, has established himself as one of the NBA’s most dynamic young play-makers since being selected first overall in the 2016 draft. After missing his rookie season for health reasons, he has averaged 16.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 7.9 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 160 regular season contests for Philadelphia over the last two years.

While Simmons is one of the league’s most dangerous creators in transition and can go off for a triple-double on any given night, the Sixers will be looking for him to expand his half-court game and to add a more consistent jump shot to his repertoire going forward.

With a lucrative new deal for Simmons hitting their books in 2020/21, the Sixers will have to take their long-term luxury tax outlook into account when making roster moves. Having made major financial commitments to Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford too, Philadelphia already projects to be $6MM+ over the tax line for ’20/21 with only 11 players under contract so far, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights.

Siegel also observes (via Twitter) that Simmons and Embiid are both now “designated rookies” for the Sixers, having signed five-year extensions before their rookie contracts expired.

An NBA team is permitted to have up to two designated rookies on its roster at a time (including no more than one via trade), so the Sixers wouldn’t be able to add a third until Embiid’s contract expires in 2023, unless they trade away Simmons or Embiid. It’s the same rule that prevented the Celtics from acquiring Anthony Davis last season while they were carrying Kyrie Irving.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.