Nicolas Batum

Clippers To Bring Back Nicolas Batum On Two-Year Contract

Veteran Clippers forward Nicolas Batum has agreed to return to Los Angeles on a two-season, $22MM contract, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

After being selected with the No. 25 pick in 2008, Batum first established himself as a switchable, reliable 3-and-D wing with the Trail Blazers. After becoming a full-time starter on multiple Portland playoff teams, Batum was eventually traded to the Hornets in 2015.

Following a lackluster run with the Hornets on a lucrative five-year, $120MM deal, Batum was waived by Charlotte ahead of the 2020/21 season, which would have been the final year on his deal. Batum joined the Clippers on a minimum contract in 2020, and promptly rebuilt his NBA value as a solid forward on both ends of the floor, capable of playing either small or power forward.

During the 2021/22 season, Batum averaged 8.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG and 0.7 BPG for the Clippers across 59 games, including 54 starts. He posted a shooting line of .463/.400/.658. Batum declined a $3.3MM player option with L.A. ahead of the start of free agency today.

Los Angeles is gearing up for an anticipated deep playoff run, with All-Star wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both projected to be healthy during the 2022/23 season. In addition to bringing back 33-year-old Batum, the Clippers also are set to add 31-year-old former five-time All-Star John Wall to a team-friendly contract as they shore up veteran depth.

The Clippers are re-signing Batum using the Early Bird exception, which requires the deal to be for at least two years, with no options.

Heat Rumors: Tucker, Portis, Lowry, Crowder

Heat players are reportedly lobbying free agent forward P.J. Tucker to remain with the team, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, who says All-Star wing Jimmy Butler, in particular, is “very much hoping” Tucker returns to Miami.

However, James Harden‘s decision to opt out of a $47MM+ salary for next season and likely sign a new deal starting at a lower number is the latest indication that the Sixers are a serious threat to lure Tucker to Philadelphia. Harden’s move clears a path for Philadelphia to offer its full mid-level exception to Tucker.

If Tucker does leave, the Heat will be in the market for a power forward, and T.J. Warren, Kyle Anderson, Thaddeus Young, and Nicolas Batum will be among the free agents on their radar, Jackson writes. A Wednesday report indicated the club would likely also have interest in Danilo Gallinari if he’s waived after being traded by San Antonio.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Jackson hears from a source that Miami would be a team that appeals to Bobby Portis if he decides to leave Milwaukee. But Portis is considered likely to stick with the Bucks, while the Heat are reluctant to hard-cap themselves for the season by giving their full mid-level exception to a free agent, so it’s an unlikely match.
  • Jackson also hears that Kyle Lowry wasn’t upset by Pat Riley‘s end-of-season comments about how his conditioning must improve. The Heat have assured Lowry they have no intention of trading him in a deal for Kyrie Irving, Jackson adds.
  • After saying that the Heat had emerged as the frontrunners to trade for Suns forward Jae Crowder, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter links) walked back that report. As Gambadoro explains, he can’t see Phoenix taking on Duncan Robinson‘s contract, and the Heat don’t have any other obvious salary-matching pieces they’d include in an offer for Crowder.

Otto Porter, Gary Harris, T.J. Warren Among Lakers’ Potential FA Targets

The Lakers‘ options on the free agent market this week will likely be limited, since the team will only be able to offer the $6.5MM taxpayer mid-level exception or a minimum-salary contract to potential targets. However, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the team will still aim high, hoping to sell players on the opportunity to start and the ability to increase their stock with a strong year in Los Angeles, like Malik Monk did in 2021/22.

According to Buha, youth, length, athleticism, and shooting are among the traits the Lakers will be prioritizing. Two-way wings who could come in and potentially start alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook will be a priority, sources tell The Athletic.

Here are some details on the types of players the Lakers will be eyeing in free agency:

Free Agent Rumors: Ayton, Batum, Hartenstein, Clippers, Wizards

There has been no progress between the Suns and Deandre Ayton on a new contract, and a sign-and-trade appears to be the most likely outcome, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Sports Center (video link).

Ayton is a restricted free agent, giving Phoenix the opportunity to match any offer he receives, but that’s unlikely to happen, according to Woj. He explains that the Suns don’t value Ayton as a max contract player, but other teams do, which means that’s what he’ll likely receive when free agency begins Thursday afternoon.

Although he doesn’t mention any specific teams, Wojnarowski cites “several” potential destinations for Ayton on a max deal, with the Suns receiving some combination of players, draft picks and cap flexibility in return.

There’s more on the free agent market:

  • With Ivica Zubac‘s extension and an expected deal with John Wall out of the way, re-signing Nicolas Batum will be a priority for the Clippers, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Greif notes that Batum is very loyal to the organization and has turned down offers from other teams over the past two years to stay in L.A.
  • Jay Scrubb and Xavier Moon will likely compete for a two-way contract if the Clippers decide to re-sign them, Greif adds in the same piece. The team plans to give one of its two-way slots to second-round pick Moussa Diabate.
  • The Rockets have interest in bringing back free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko notes that Hartenstein, who started his career in Houston in 2018, is only 24 and fits well with the team’s current roster.
  • Kris Dunn and Pierriá Henry attended a Wizards mini-camp this week in hopes of winning a roster spot on a team searching for point guards, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Henry is an accomplished player in the EuroLeague, while Dunn, a lottery pick in 2016, is hoping to prove that he’s healthy after missing most of the past two seasons with injuries. “I feel like over the last two years, I didn’t have a leg, almost,” Dunn said. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of rehab, and everything’s starting to work out perfectly.”

Suns Rumors: Crowder, Ayton, Draft, Johnson, Batum

The Suns have made calls to rival teams in an effort to gauge Jae Crowder‘s value on the trade market, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Crowder, who will turn 32 in July, will earn $10.18MM in 2022/23 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. The veteran forward has played his usual three-and-D role in Phoenix for the last two seasons, averaging 9.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG with a .369 3PT% in 127 games (27.8 MPG) during that time. He would likely have positive value as a trade chip, though he wouldn’t command a massive return.

Fischer also reports that Suns officials have been conveying to teams and “other external league personnel” that they’re open to matching a maximum-salary offer sheet for Deandre Ayton, despite persistent rumors that they’d prefer not to pay him the max (including a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on Wednesday).

Rival suitors interested in Ayton will have to determine whether they believe the Suns would match a max offer sheet — if they do, negotiating a sign-and-trade deal would be the most logical path to getting the former No. 1 overall pick out of Phoenix.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Phoenix is believed to be in the market for a second-round pick in today’s draft, according to Fischer.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 throws cold water on some recent rumors related to the Suns, reporting (via Twitter) that Phoenix has no interest in trading Cameron Johnson in a deal for the No. 8 overall pick and adding (via Twitter) that he also doesn’t expect the team to have serious interest in free agent forward Nicolas Batum or Knicks wing Cam Reddish.
  • In a fascinating Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz takes a look at how differently the Suns approach scouting and the draft compared to other NBA teams. According to Arnovitz, Phoenix hasn’t even completed a draft board ranking prospects for the past three years. “Our draft board would be a mockery to other teams,” senior analyst of personnel and team evaluation Zach Amundson told ESPN. “By the time we were done, we had only five to seven guys on our draft board.”
  • As Arnovitz outlines, the Suns’ unorthodox evaluation strategy played a part in their decision to draft Johnson 11th overall in 2019 after trading down from No. 6. At the time, the pick was widely panned and considered a reach. “We were prepared to take him sixth if we had to,” VP of basketball strategy and evaluation Ryan Resch told ESPN.

Clippers In “Driver’s Seat” To Re-Sign Nicolas Batum

It’s “widely expected” that Nicolas Batum will re-sign with the Clippers on a two-year deal, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Batum, 33, will be declining his player option for 2022/23, making him an unrestricted free agent, and he certainly won’t lack suitors. According to Haynes’ sources, the Lakers, Bulls, Celtics, Suns and Jazz are all interested in Batum’s services.

However, the Clippers remain the favorite, with Haynes describing the team as being “in the driver’s seat.”

League executives who spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype believe Batum could earn about $10MM per year on his new contract, which is in line with the full mid-level exception for ’22/23 — it projects to be worth $10.35MM, while the taxpayer MLE would come in at $6.39MM.

Barring significant roster moves, none of the five rival teams interested in Batum will have cap space, with only Chicago projected to have the full MLE at its disposal. The Lakers, Celtics, Suns and Jazz all project to be taxpaying teams, as shown by our Offseason Previews, so they’ll be limited to the taxpayer MLE.

The Clippers will be well above the luxury tax line next season, but will hold Batum’s Early Bird rights, giving them the opportunity to make a competitive offer without using their mid-level exception. Los Angeles should be able to offer a starting salary up to approximately $11MM using the Early Bird exception. An Early Bird offer would have to be for at least two years, with no player or team option on that second year (though the second year doesn’t need to be fully guaranteed).

Batum spoke enthusiastically in May about the impact head coach Tyronn Lue has had on him and his desire to remain with the Clippers.

Across two seasons and 126 games with the Clippers, Batum has averaged 8.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG with a .402 3PT% in 26.2 minutes per contest while playing solid, versatile defense. We ranked him 23rd overall last week in our list of 2022’s top 50 free agents.

Scotto’s Latest: Portis, Johnson, Graham, Nets, Batum, More

Within his latest round-up of NBA rumors, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms a number of items that have been previously reported or speculated. According to Scotto, Bucks forward Bobby Portis is widely expected to decline his $4.56MM player option to become a free agent, the Lakers are considered a strong bet to pick up Stanley Johnson‘s $2.35MM team option, and Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham is available in trade talks.

Scotto’s article includes several other intriguing tidbits related to the draft, free agency, and the trade market. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Nets have fielded trade inquiries on Joe Harris and Cam Thomas, according to Scotto, who says rival executives believe Brooklyn could potentially get a first-round pick in exchange for Thomas. While there’s a sense that Harris might be more available than in previous years due to the Nets’ February acquisition of Seth Curry, the team still believes Harris would be a useful piece on next year’s roster due to his ability to help on the boards and space the floor around Ben Simmons, Scotto writes.
  • The Timberwolves, Grizzlies, and Bucks are among the teams that have inquired about the No. 14 overall pick, currently held by the Cavaliers, league sources tell HoopsHype. Scotto previously reported that Cleveland would be open to the idea of moving down in the draft if it meant acquiring a future first-round pick.
  • Rival executives who spoke to Scotto believe veteran forward Nicolas Batum could be in line for a deal worth $10MM per year after turning down his player option. The Clippers would have the ability to go that high to re-sign Batum using his Early Bird rights.
  • Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia has visited Milwaukee and worked out for the Bucks twice during the pre-draft process, Scotto reports. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who previously identified LaRavia as a player on Milwaukee’s radar, has him ranked 28th on ESPN’s big board of 2022 prospects. The Bucks hold the 24th overall pick.

Clippers’ Batum To Decline Option, Become Free Agent

Clippers forward Nicolas Batum won’t pick up his player option for the 2022/23 season, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Batum will become an unrestricted free agent, though he and the Clippers are expected to have mutual interest in negotiating a new deal next week, according to Wojnarowski.

Batum’s option would have paid him $3,328,530 next season if he had exercised it. Based on his strong play in Los Angeles over the last two seasons, the 33-year-old has earned a raise on that figure.

Across two seasons and 126 games with the Clippers, Batum has averaged 8.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG with a .402 3PT% in 26.2 minutes per contest while playing solid, versatile defense. We ranked him 23rd overall last week in our list of 2022’s top 50 free agents.

Although Batum won’t come anywhere close to matching the five-year, $120MM contract he signed with the Hornets back in 2016, he seems like a good bet to receive interest as a mid-level target. The full mid-level exception for 2022/23 projects to be worth $10.35MM, while the taxpayer MLE would come in at $6.39MM, based on a $122MM cap.

The Clippers will be well above the luxury tax line next season, but will hold Batum’s Early Bird rights, giving them the opportunity to make a competitive offer without using their mid-level exception. Los Angeles should be able to offer a starting salary up to approximately $11MM using the Early Bird exception. An Early Bird offer would have to be for at least two years, with no player or team option on that second year (though the second year doesn’t need to be fully guaranteed).

Batum spoke enthusiastically in May about the impact head coach Tyronn Lue has had on him and his desire to remain with the Clippers.

Batum is the only Clipper holding a player option for the 2022/23 season, but L.A. has a team option decision to make on Ivica Zubac before free agency begins. Zubac’s $7.5MM option salary is relatively team-friendly, so I’d expect it to be exercised.

The full list of player option decisions can be found right here. We’re also tracking team option decisions here, though none have been officially made yet.

Pacific Notes: Batum, Ayton, Payton, Kings, Lakers

Appearing on the French online show First Team, veteran forward Nicolas Batum was asked about his future and suggested that he plans to remain with the Clippers for the foreseeable future, as Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints relays. Batum, speaking in French, said what translates to Tyronn Lue saved my life,” heaping praise on the Clippers’ head coach.

Batum, who has a $3.33MM player option for the 2022/23 season, was waived by Charlotte during the 2020 offseason and signed a minimum-salary contract days later with the Clippers. He has revitalized his career in the last two years in Los Angeles, starting 92 of 126 games and averaging 26.2 MPG.

“Whenever you have a player speak on you like that, it’s a great feeling because that’s what it’s all about,” Lue told Azarly when asked about Batum’s comments. “It’s about the players and trying to get the best out of players. A lot of times, the players bring the best out of a coach as well. For Nico, a guy who has been in this league for a long time and a great veteran player, just to have him say those words, that means a lot.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) considers it extremely unlikely that the Suns will let restricted free agent Deandre Ayton walk for nothing or that Ayton will accept his one-year qualifying offer. In Gambadoro’s view, a new deal between Ayton and the Suns, a sign-and-trade agreement, or an offer sheet that the Suns match are the only realistic outcomes.
  • Gary Payton II (fractured left elbow) is beginning to increase his on-court activity, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who posted a Twitter video of Payton going through a workout on Tuesday. Assuming the Warriors finish off Dallas, it still seems possible Payton could return at some point in the NBA Finals, Slater adds.
  • Trevion Williams (Purdue), JD Notae (Arkansas), Tyson Etienne (Wichita State), and David McCormack (Kansas) are among the prospects that worked out for the Kings on Monday and Tuesday this week, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Anderson wonders if the Kings could end up drafting two Boilermakers, with Jaden Ivey in play at No. 4 and Williams a potential target in the second round.
  • Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times take a closer look at Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts, and Kenny Atkinson, breaking down the pros and cons of each of the Lakers’ reported head coaching finalists.

New York Notes: Dragic, Brown, Porter Jr., Randle

Nets guard Goran Dragic has entered the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the team tweets. Dragic has been a rotation piece since signing with the Nets as a free agent, averaging 7.3 PPG and 4.8 APG in 25.5 MPG through 16 games.

Bruce Brown has a non-COVID illness and will also miss Saturday’s contest against the Hawks.

We have more on the New York teams: