Offseason Outlook

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Orlando Magic

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Orlando Magic.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Magic currently have approximately $96MM in guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21. That figure would increase to over $102MM if they use this year’s first-round pick and sign last year’s first-round pick, Chuma Okeke. And it would jump to nearly $120MM if Evan Fournier opts into the final year of his contract.

Whether or not Fournier returns, Orlando is unlikely to have any cap room available this offseason, but the team shouldn’t have to worry about going into tax territory. The Magic would have the full mid-level exception ($9.3MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.6MM) available, but almost certainly wouldn’t use both in full if Fournier is back.

Our full salary cap preview for the Magic can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

  • None

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 15 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 45 overall pick

The Magic were one of the few NBA teams that didn’t trade either their first- or second-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft. They’ll pick right in the middle of each round.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. What’s the plan for Evan Fournier?

Before the coronavirus pandemic complicated the financial outlook for teams and players around the NBA, Fournier appeared likely to turn down the $17MM option on his contract in order to test the open market this offseason.

While $17MM is a lot of money to pass up, the stars seemed to be aligning for Fournier — he’s still in his prime (he turns 28 in October), plenty of teams were expected to be in the market for wings, and the Frenchman had put up some of the best numbers of his career, including 18.8 PPG on .470/.406/.820 shooting prior to the league’s hiatus.

However, an illness put a dent in Fournier’s production during the seeding games and the playoffs, and with the salary cap no longer expected to increase, the prospect of finding a team willing to pay him in the neighborhood of $17MM per year on a multiyear deal suddenly looks a whole lot more challenging.

That doesn’t mean Fournier is a lock to pick up his option. He and the Magic could work out a new multiyear contract that significantly increases his overall guarantee without necessarily assuring him of $17MM (or more) per year. A year ago, for instance, Jonas Valanciunas passed on a $17.6MM option in favor of a three-year contract worth $15MM per year, giving him more long-term security.

But the Magic, having already invested long-term in Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, may be reluctant to do the same for another key contributor to a roster that has finished in the middle of the pack in each of the last few seasons. If that’s the case, Fournier’s safest bet would be to opt in and try his luck on the 2021 market.

If Fournier opts in, there’s nothing stopping the Magic from gauging his value on the trade market. He’d be on an expiring contract and his pre-hiatus play in 2019/20 was impressive — he could appeal to a team looking to add a complementary scorer on the wing.

2. Will the Magic extend Markelle Fultz or Jonathan Isaac?

While it remains to be seen if Fournier is part of the Magic’s long-term plans, all signs point to the team being willing to invest in Fultz and Isaac as cornerstone pieces. It’s just not clear whether that will happen this offseason, when both members of the 2017 draft class become eligible for rookie scale extensions for the first time.

Fultz, who has experienced a pretty unusual career trajectory for a No. 1 pick so far, stayed healthy for the first time in 2019/20 and flashed signs of the upside that made him the first overall choice three years ago. His ability to break down a defense and set up his teammates was on display in Orlando, as he averaged 12.1 PPG and 5.1 APG, but there’s still plenty of work to be done on his jump shot (.267 3PT%).

At age 22, Fultz still has plenty of growth potential. The Magic will have to determine how confident they are that he’ll continue to improve, how much they’re willing to bet on that growth, and whether Fultz will be willing to forgo restricted free agency in favor of an early extension.

If Orlando bets right on Fultz, it could mean getting him on a team-friendly extension as he blossoms into a star, which would change the long-term outlook of the franchise. On the other hand, investing big money in him now and then watching his development curve flatten would hamstring the organization’s spending ability going forward.

It’ll be a tough decision, so it will be interesting to see how high the Magic are willing to go — ESPN’s Bobby Marks suggests the team should wait for Fultz’s restricted free agency unless he’s open to signing a deal that starts in the neighborhood of his 2020/21 salary ($12.3MM).

As for Isaac, the blossoming Defensive Player of the Year contender would’ve been a more logical candidate for a rookie scale extension if he were healthy. Instead, he’ll be recovering from an ACL injury that’s expected to sideline him for the entire 2020/21 season, so the Magic will have to evaluate his recovery before making any major commitment.

The injury doesn’t mean Isaac can’t sign an extension in the coming months. We’ve seen players like Klay Thompson and Kristaps Porzingis get lucrative new long-term deals while recovering from ACL tears of their own, and all indications are that the Magic want Isaac to be a part of their future. Unlike Thompson and Porzingis though, Isaac isn’t a lock for a maximum-salary offer, so some negotiation will be required if the two sides are going to come to an agreement before the ’20/21 season begins.

3. Will Aaron Gordon be on the trade block?

Prior to Isaac’s injury, Gordon seemed like one of the NBA’s most logical offseason trade candidates. He and Isaac overlap positionally, his name has come up in previous trade rumors, and his contract gets more favorable with each passing year due to its declining annual value ($18.1MM in 2020/21; $16.4MM in ’21/22).

Now that Isaac will be out for the season though, Orlando figures to be less motivated to move Gordon. With the power forward position to himself in ’20/21, the 25-year-old could be primed for a career year, which would be a win-win situation for the Magic — not only would they enjoy the benefits of his production, but Gordon could increase his trade value ahead of the ’21 deadline and/or offseason.

Gordon’s athleticism and defensive versatility make him a tantalizing trade target, and if there’s a team willing to give up an appealing package for him this offseason, the Magic should certainly listen. Of the players the team would be open to moving, Gordon is the most intriguing, and he represents Orlando’s best chance to acquire an impact player who would be a better fit for the current roster.

If there are no favorable offers out there this fall or winter, however, the Magic shouldn’t be in any rush to shake things up. Gordon is in position to boost his value next season, and still has two years left on his contract, so unless something goes wrong, the club will have more opportunities to cash in its stock down the road.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Memphis Grizzlies.


Salary Cap Outlook

Though they were initially projected to have some cap room this offseason, the Grizzlies all but eliminated that possibility at the trade deadline when they moved three players on expiring contracts – Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill – in exchange for three – Justise Winslow, Gorgui Dieng, and Dion Waiters – who have eight-figure salaries for 2020/21.

As a result, the Grizzlies have more than $112MM in guaranteed money on their books for ’20/21, so they’ll operate as an over-the-cap team. They won’t have the bi-annual exception available after using it this past season, but they should be able to utilize the full mid-level exception ($9.26MM) if they so choose.

Our full salary cap preview for the Grizzlies can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

  • None

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • None

Second Round:

  • No. 40 overall pick

The Grizzlies finally conveyed the first-round pick they owed to Boston as a result of a 2015 Jeff Green trade. It was protected multiple times and would have been protected again in 2020 if it had landed in the top six, but it came in at No. 14.

Memphis traded its own second-round pick (No. 44) to Chicago but acquired the Suns’ second-rounder (No. 40) in last July’s De’Anthony Melton/Jevon Carter swap.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. What role do the Grizzlies envision for Justise Winslow?

The Grizzlies got a head-start on their offseason at the 2020 trade deadline when they acquired Winslow in a three-team, seven-player trade with Miami and Minnesota.

Because the Grizzlies had to take on two pricey multiyear contracts in addition to Winslow’s as part of that deal, it eliminated any chance they had of creating cap room this fall, changing the look of the coming offseason.

The organization’s willingness to give up its 2020 cap room by taking on a pair of unwanted contracts signals its fondness for Winslow, who missed most of the 2019/20 campaign due to back and hip issues. While his injury history isn’t particularly encouraging, the former 10th overall pick is still just 24 years old, and the comments out of Memphis following February’s trade suggest the team views him as a foundational piece.

With Winslow on track to return for the start of the ’20/21 season, the Grizzlies will have to come up with a plan for how they want to use him. Some of his best games as a pro came when the Heat moved him into more of a ball-handling role, making him their de facto point guard.

Winslow isn’t going to become the primary ball-handler for a Grizzlies team that features Ja Morant, but does the team view him as someone who could run the second unit? Or will Memphis prefer to keep him on the wing, in what would be his more traditional position? Answering those questions will help determine how the Grizzlies approach the offseason and fill out their bench.

2. Will the Grizzlies re-sign De’Anthony Melton and/or Josh Jackson?

The Grizzlies don’t have any core players hitting the free agent market this fall, but Melton emerged as a solid contributor off the bench and Jackson showed a little upside after eventually being promoted from the G League. Since Melton is a combo guard and Jackson spent most of his time at small forward, Winslow’s role could dictate how aggressive Memphis is in attempting to re-sign either player.

Melton should be the first priority. He’s a talented perimeter defender who had the best net rating (+5.1) of any of the Grizzlies’ full-season rotation players. At age 22, with just two years of experience under his belt, he has plenty of room to improve, and Memphis will have the ability to match any reasonable offer for him, since he’ll be a restricted free agent.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks projects a three-year contract in the $18MM range for Melton, which I think would be a good deal for the Grizzlies — he’d be movable at that price if the team decides in a year or two that he’s not part of the long-term plan.

If his cost exceeds that figure, Memphis will have to be careful. In Morant, Tyus Jones, and possibly Winslow, the team already has several ball-handlers, and Melton isn’t a strong enough shooter to effectively space the floor when he’s playing off the ball, so investing too heavily in him based on his defensive abilities would come with some risk.

As for Jackson, he made positive strides over the course of the season with the Memphis Hustle and later with the Grizzlies, but he still wasn’t close to delivering on the potential that made him the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft. While Memphis would probably welcome the chance to continue his development on a minimum-salary contract, I’d be surprised if the team went much higher than that to retain him.

3. Will the Grizzlies be active on the trade market again?

Executive VP Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies’ new-look front office made some of the most impressive and creative trades of the 2020 offseason. They cashed in their Mike Conley stock, moved up in the draft to select Brandon Clarke, acquired a lightly-protected future first-round pick from the Warriors for helping them move Andre Iguodala, and turned Chandler Parsons‘ oversized expiring contract into two expiring deals that could be moved more easily.

While I didn’t like the Grizzlies’ deadline acquisition of Winslow quite as much, the team did well to flip Iguodala – and Jae Crowder‘s expiring deal – for a potentially valuable asset after getting a first-rounder for taking him on just seven months earlier.

With no cap room available this fall, it may be a quiet offseason in Memphis, especially compared to Kleiman’s first summer running the show. However, if the Grizzlies do make any sort of splash, it’s likely to happen on the trade market rather than in free agency.

Without control of their own 2020 first-round pick, the Grizzlies’ assets are somewhat limited, but Gorgui Dieng‘s $17MM expiring contract could help grease the wheels if the team has any targets any mind. And once the draft is over, any of Memphis’ future first-round picks – including the future Utah first-rounder the team controls – would be movable.

I don’t expect the Grizzlies do anything drastic on the trade market this fall, but Kleiman has shown a willingness to be active, so the possibility can’t be ruled out.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Phoenix Suns

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Phoenix Suns.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Suns’ cap outlook will depend on which direction they want to go with their roster. They currently project to have $87.5MM in guaranteed money on their books for eight players and a first-round pick, so renouncing or cutting everyone else could result in about $19MM in space.

However, retaining non-guaranteed players like Cameron Payne ($1.98MM) and Elie Okobo ($1.67MM) would cut into that space slightly. So would exercising a $5MM team option for Frank Kaminsky. And attempting to re-sign Dario Saric and/or Aron Baynes, who each have $10MM cap holds, could result in Phoenix remaining over the cap.

If the Suns use cap room, they’ll be able to supplement it with the room exception ($4.77MM). If they remain over the cap, they’ll have the full mid-level exception (about $9.3MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.6MM) available.

Our full salary cap preview for the Suns can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • Frank Kaminsky, team option: $5,005,350
  • Cameron Payne, team option: $1,977,011
    • Note: Payne’s salary would only be guaranteed for $25K if his option is exercised.
  • Cheick Diallo, team option: $1,824,003

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

  • Elie Okobo ($1,663,861)

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:

  • Aron Baynes (Bird)
  • Dario Saric (RFA; Bird)
  • Jevon Carter (RFA; Early Bird)

2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 10 overall pick

Second Round:

  • None

The Suns have their own first-round pick, but traded away their second-round pick (No. 40) to the Grizzlies in a salary-dump deal last July that sent Josh Jackson, Kyle Korver, and De’Anthony Melton to Memphis.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Was the Suns’ end-of-season success for real?

Although the Suns ultimately fell short of qualifying for a play-in tournament for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference, their summer success was one of the biggest early stories of the NBA’s restart.

Critics initially questioned why Phoenix – which entered the summer with a 26-39 record, good for 13th in the Western Conference – was even invited to Orlando, but no other team matched the Suns’ 8-0 record during seeding games.

That end-of-season run was a great sign for the franchise going forward, but it will be up to the Suns’ front office to properly evaluate what it means heading into the offseason. Overachieving teams can get into trouble when they weigh a previous season’s success too heavily and make win-now roster changes, ignoring the possibility of regression and assuming that success will carry over.

That doesn’t mean the Suns should dismiss the positive developments that took place during their summer run. The ongoing improvements made by cornerstone building blocks Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are great signs for the organization, as are the strides made by young role players like Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges.

However, it would be dangerous to assume the roster is just one or two pieces away from contention or to pencil Phoenix in for a playoff spot in a competitive conference next season based on the team’s 8-0 summer. General manager James Jones and the Suns should focus on continuing to make sound decisions without skipping any steps or taking short-cuts in the roster-building process.

2. Will the Suns look to bring back their own players or create cap space?

The Suns’ determination of how seriously to take their summer results will extend to their free-agents-to-be and players with options, many of whom either outperformed expectations or were non-factors during that 8-0 stretch.

Veteran big man Aron Baynes, for instance, had a great season in Phoenix, establishing new career highs in PPG (11.5), RPG (5.6), 3PT% (.351), and a handful of other categories while providing solid defense. But he didn’t play at all during the summer as he recovered from the effects of a COVID-19 diagnosis. As the Suns evaluate whether to re-sign Baynes, will they weigh his full-season success more heavily than their unbeaten streak without him?

Fellow big man Frank Kaminsky is in a similar spot as Baynes — he had a decent season overall before being sidelined by a right knee injury, but struggled during the restart, playing sparingly and putting up just 3.7 PPG on .393/.167/1.000 shooting. As a result, it no longer seems all that likely that the Suns will pick up his $5MM option.

On the other hand, power forward Dario Saric thrived during the restart ahead of potential restricted free agency. He was the club’s third-leading scorer in seeding games, behind Booker and Ayton, with 14.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and a red-hot .574/.524/.879 shooting line. Similarly, Cameron Payne was a pleasant surprise on his minimum-salary contract, averaging 10.9 PPG and making 51.7% of his three-pointers in eight seeding games.

If the Suns opt to move on from all their free agents and players with non-guaranteed contracts, they could create approximately $19MM in cap room. But if they start exercising options or re-signing players, that room will disappear in a hurry — especially if Saric or Baynes are retained. Their cap holds exceed $10MM and it might take an offer in that neighborhood to re-sign them.

The Suns have been named as potential suitors for some of the summer’s top unrestricted free agents, including Fred VanVleet and Davis Bertans, but they can only realistically pursue those guys if they open up cap room. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) suggests, a more prudent approach to the offseason might see Phoenix retaining Saric and Baynes on short-term deals and using the $9.3MM mid-level exception to seek out another reliable rotation player on the free agent market.

3. Will Kelly Oubre or Ricky Rubio be traded?

There’s another route the Suns could go if they want to retain some of their free agents while also being a player for some of this offseason’s top free agents. Oubre is on an expiring $14.4MM contract, while Rubio has two years and $34.8MM left on his deal — both veterans could be intriguing chips in trade talks.

Oubre, who underwent surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee on March 3, is another player who wasn’t in the Suns’ lineup during their hot summer stretch. Throw in the fact that he’ll reach free agency in 2021 and overlaps positionally with some young players on Phoenix’s roster and you can make a case that the team should consider gauging his value on the trade market.

Oubre is entering his age-25 season and was having his best season as a pro before injuring his knee, so he’d fit into the Suns’ long-term plans. But if there’s a player on the free agent market the team wants to go after, acquiring an asset in exchange for Oubre and clearing his $14MM+ salary would be one way to clear cap space.

Another way would be moving Rubio, though he might be a slightly harder sell, since he’s entering his age-30 season and has multiple years left on his contract. This seems like a longer shot to me, since we’re just a year removed from Rubio being the free agent target the Suns had to create cap room to pursue. But Marks suggests that moving the veteran point guard and a draft pick to a team with space (like the Hawks) would be a way to open up the room to go after VanVleet.

Jones and the Suns will have some options this offseason. It’ll just be a matter of deciding which players – either on the current roster or on the free agent market – the team wants to prioritize and which ones aren’t part of the franchise’s long-term vision.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: San Antonio Spurs

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the San Antonio Spurs.


Salary Cap Outlook

Unless DeMar DeRozan unexpectedly opts out and the Spurs don’t re-sign Jakob Poeltl and/or Bryn Forbes, the odds of the team creating any cap room are slim. On the other hand, bringing back DeRozan, Poeltl, and Forbes might put San Antonio into luxury-tax territory unless the club cuts costs elsewhere.

I don’t expect Spurs ownership to pay the tax for the current roster, so perhaps the team will let Poeltl or Forbes walk or trade one of its many veterans on expiring contracts. Depending on certain roster decisions, San Antonio could have the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.62MM) available, but may ultimately be limited to just the taxpayer MLE ($5.72MM).

Our full salary cap preview for the Spurs can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • DeMar DeRozan, player option: $27,739,975 (Oct. 13 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 11 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 41 overall pick

The Spurs don’t make a habit of trading away draft picks – or stockpiling extra ones – so it comes as no surprise that their only two selections in the 2020 draft are their own.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Will the Spurs run it back again with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge?

DeRozan and Aldridge were as efficient as ever on offense in 2019/20. DeRozan’s .531 FG% was easily a career high, while Aldridge enjoyed the best three-point shooting season of his career (.389 3PT% with 1.2 makes per game).

However, DeRozan is now 31 years old and Aldridge is 35. Both players are entering potential contract years, with DeRozan considered likely to exercise his $27.7MM player option for 2020/21. And San Antonio is coming off a 32-39 season — that’s the team’s worst record and the first time it has missed the playoffs since 1997.

On top of all that, the Spurs reportedly shopped Aldridge at this year’s trade deadline, and there were rumblings shortly thereafter that DeRozan wasn’t thrilled with his situation in San Antonio. In other words, all signs point to the team considering the idea of seeing what it can get for its two veterans on the trade market this offseason and handing the reins to its young up-and-comers.

Still, the Spurs have never really shown a taste for making biggest splashes on the trade market unless their hand is forced, as it was in the case of Kawhi Leonard. And the aforementioned report which said the club shopped Aldridge at the deadline also noted that rival teams believed San Antonio’s asking price was far too high. It may be difficult for the Spurs to extract a ton of value for DeRozan at $27.7MM or Aldridge at $24MM.

Gregg Popovich‘s status is also an X-factor here. He turns 72 years old in January and presumably doesn’t plan to coach the Spurs for a whole lot longer. Would a pivot to the team’s youth be what San Antonio’s longtime head coach and president of basketball operations has in mind for his final year(s)?

2. Is this Gregg Popovich’s last year with the Spurs?

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth considering what exactly Popovich’s future holds, since it could have an impact on how the Spurs approach the next year or two.

In recent years, there had been a general perception – unconfirmed by Popovich – that the Spurs’ head coach would stick around through 2020, then coach Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics as a possible last hurrah.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated matters. Not only have those Olympics been postponed until 2021, but there’s uncertainty about whether NBA players and coaches will even be able to fully participate, since a delayed ’20/21 season could very well overlap with the rescheduled Olympics.

Assuming the NBA can figure out a plan to either finish its season before the Olympics or include a break in its schedule to accommodate them, it seems likely that Popovich will still coach Team USA as long as he can safely do so. And it sounds as if the Spurs expect Popovich back on their sidelines for the 2020/21 season.

While it may look a little different than what we initially envisioned, perhaps the original theory – that Popovich will coach the Spurs up until the Olympics and then call it a career after the Tokyo games – is still in play.

Of course, even if the upcoming season is Popovich’s last, it’s possible it won’t have a major impact on the franchise’s roster decisions. It probably wouldn’t fit Popovich’s style to seek out any sort of win-now moves for his final go-round — I could just as easily see him embracing a partial rebuild before handing things off to a successor such as Becky Hammon, Will Hardy, or Tim Duncan.

Either way, Popovich has had such a hand in shaping the Spurs’ culture over the last 25 years that it will be fascinating to see how the team transitions out of his tenure and looks to carry over that culture to a new era.

3. Will Jakob Poeltl and Bryn Forbes be back?

Poeltl, who was one of the players the Spurs acquired in the Leonard blockbuster, will be a restricted free agent this offseason and is entering his age-25 season. Forbes, who just turned 27, has been a full-time starter for San Antonio in each of the last two seasons.

As I noted above, re-signing both players to market-value deals would potentially put the Spurs in tax territory if no cost-cutting roster moves follow. Still, I’d be a little surprised if the team lets either player get away.

Poeltl’s numbers per 36 minutes (11.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks) show his value as a rebounder and rim protector, and it feels as if he has more room to grow. The Spurs’ front office will want to recoup as much value as it can from the trade that helped send the Raptors to a championship. With the ability to match any offer sheet for Poeltl, San Antonio should retain him.

As for Forbes, he has been one of the Spurs’ most reliable three-point shooters over the last two seasons, knocking down 40.8% of his attempts during that stretch as the club ranked 30th and 28th in three-point tries.

San Antonio’s backcourt is loaded with young players, but Forbes is capable of sliding up to the three and playing alongside a pair of guards. Since he’ll be unrestricted, there’s no guarantee he won’t look for a new deal elsewhere, but the Spurs have a history of overpaying a little to retain their own guys if they really want them back.

Assuming both Poeltl and Forbes are re-signed, the most logical way for the Spurs to shed some money would be to move one of their veterans on expiring contracts. Besides DeRozan and Aldridge, Rudy Gay ($14.5MM) and Patty Mills ($13.3MM) would also fit that bill.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the New Orleans Pelicans.


Salary Cap Outlook

Taking the cap hold for their first-round pick into account, the Pelicans only have about $80MM in guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21. However, Brandon Ingram‘s cap hold will be worth nearly $22MM and his first-year salary on a new deal figures to exceed that, eliminating any cap space New Orleans might have otherwise created.

The Pelicans should also have both the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.62MM) at their disposal.

Our full salary cap preview for the Pelicans can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 13 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 39 overall pick
  • No. 42 overall pick
  • No. 60 overall pick

The Pelicans are owed multiple future first-round picks from the Lakers as a result of the Anthony Davis blockbuster, but for 2020, they just have their own first-rounder.

In addition to their own second-round pick at No. 42, New Orleans holds the Wizards’ second-rounder (No. 39) and the Bucks’ second-rounder (No. 60). The Pels acquired both selections in the 2019 deadline deal that sent Nikola Mirotic to Milwaukee.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Who will the Pelicans hire as their new head coach?

After spending five years in New Orleans as the Pelicans’ head coach, Alvin Gentry was let go at the end of the team’s season last month. His tenure with the franchise was marred by a series of injuries to stars and rotation players alike, but the end result was still disappointing — the Pels posted a 175-225 (.438) record and made the postseason just once during Gentry’s five years at the helm.

When he discussed Gentry’s dismissal after the fact, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin called it an extremely difficult decision and stressed that it wasn’t about Gentry’s coaching ability.

“This is far more about finding the right fit and a shared vision for a very young and ambitious group moving forward,” Griffin said at the time.

The Pelicans’ head coaching job is an interesting one. On one hand, the presence of rising stars like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram means that an ability to connect to and develop young players will be an important trait for any candidate.

On the other hand, as Griffin hints, New Orleans’ goals will soon get a whole lot more “ambitious.” Missing the playoffs again next year won’t be an acceptable result for the Pelicans, who believe they have the talent to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Considering the organization will have championship aspirations within the next few years, a veteran head coach with plenty of postseason experience would make sense — perhaps Tyronn Lue or, if he becomes available, Mike D’Antoni. But focusing more on player development could instead lead the Pelicans to a candidate like Kenny Atkinson.

There’s no one candidate that stands out as the obvious choice for New Orleans and it’s an important decision to get right. So it make sense when Griffin said last month that the Pelicans “will not be quick with this at all,” as they do their homework and weigh all their options.

2. What are the Pelicans’ plans for Jrue Holiday?

Holiday is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders and is a play-making weapon on the offensive end too, averaging at least 19 points and six assists per game in each of his last three seasons. He’s exactly the sort of player most contending teams would love to have on their roster, which means he should be a perfect fit on a Pelicans club looking to take a step forward and make the postseason in 2020/21.

On the other hand, Holiday is entering a potential contract year (he has a $27MM player option for 2021/22) and is now on the wrong side of the 30, making him significantly older than the rest of New Orleans’ core players.

If the Pelicans don’t envision him as a long-term piece, this offseason would be the perfect time to gauge Holiday’s value on the trade market, with so many would-be contenders looking to fortify their roster and so few impact players expected to be available.

Griffin has done nothing but rave about Holiday since he was hired by New Orleans last year, and the former All-Star would be hard to replace as both a two-way threat and a locker-room leader. It’s also not as if the Pelicans need to restock their cupboards with assets — they already have a surplus of first- and second-round picks in hand for the next few years.

With that in mind, I’d be somewhat surprised to see the Pelicans seriously consider moving Holiday this fall. He’ll be extension-eligible and the club seems more likely to attempt to lock him up to a longer-term deal rather than to shop him. But if they’re worried he’ll be gone in a year, the Pelicans should be able to get a pretty favorable return on the trade market for the standout guard.

3. Which of the ex-Lakers will receive new deals this offseason?

When the Pelicans sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers last summer, they acquired three players in return: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart. All three players will be eligible for new contracts this offseason — Ingram will be a restricted free agent, while Ball and Hart will be up for rookie scale extensions.

Ingram was the best player of the trio in 2019/20 and there’s more urgency to get something done with him, since his contract will expire in the fall. It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which the Pelicans let him get away, since he was the centerpiece of the AD return and the team has the cap flexibility to accommodate a pricey long-term deal. The question will be just how high New Orleans has to go to get it done.

While it’s possible the Pelicans would be able to get Ingram to agree to a deal slightly below the maximum if they’re negotiating with him directly, it may not be worth the risk to try to save a few extra dollars.

A team with cap room such as the Hawks could put pressure on New Orleans by signing him to a less team-friendly offer sheet that the Pelicans would be forced to match if they don’t want to lose him. It probably makes sense for the Pels to skip that step and be ready to offer a four- or five-year max to bring back Ingram, who made his first All-Star team in 2020.

With Ball and Hart though, the Pelicans have more leeway to play hardball. Both players will have one year left on their rookie scale contracts and will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2021 if they don’t sign new deals this offseason. So New Orleans can push for team-friendly extensions, knowing that it’s not the end of the world if nothing gets done before next season.

In his recent preview of the Pelicans’ offseason, Bobby Marks of ESPN pointed to Dejounte Murray‘s four-year, $64MM extension with San Antonio as a potential comp for Ball and said that an extension in the four-year, $50MM range might make sense for Hart. If I were running the Pelicans, I probably wouldn’t be looking to go any higher than those estimates.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Sacramento Kings

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Sacramento Kings.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Kings might be able to open up a little cap room by renouncing free agents and waiving non-guaranteed players, but they’re unlikely to go in that direction. Any attempt to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has a $16MM cap hold, will all but ensure that Sacramento operates as an over-the-cap team this offseason, barring major cost-cutting moves.

The Kings should also have the flexibility to make use of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and/or bi-annual exception ($3.62MM), if they so choose.

Our full salary cap preview for the Kings can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 12 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 35 overall pick
  • No. 43 overall pick
  • No. 52 overall pick

In addition to their own draft picks at No. 12 and No. 43, the Kings picked up a pair of extra second-rounders in past trades.

That No. 35 overall selection is the Pistons’ pick, which Sacramento acquired from Phoenix on draft night in 2016 in the same deal that saw the Suns move up to No. 8 for Marquese Chriss while the Kings acquired Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s draft rights.

The No. 52 pick is from the Rockets as a result of a three-team Iman Shumpert trade at the 2019 deadline.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Are Buddy Hield‘s days in Sacramento numbered?

Following a breakout 2018/19 performance, Hield had another productive season in ’19/20, averaging 19.2 PPG and shooting 39.4% on an eye-popping 9.6 three-point attempts per game. However, Hield’s first season under new head coach Luke Walton was much more tumultuous than those numbers made it seem.

In December, upset about hardly seeing any fourth-quarter action in a pair of close losses, Hield told reporters there were “trust issues” in Sacramento. Less than a month later, in January, he was removed from the Kings’ starting lineup in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic. And a few weeks after that, in mid-February, a report from The Athletic suggested it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Hield requests a trade in the offseason.

A second-half surge from the Kings, with Bogdanovic thriving in the starting lineup and Hield doing the same off the bench, temporarily quieted speculation about the shooting guard’s future. But a disappointing showing in Orlando this summer – along with the firing of general manager Vlade Divac – helped reignite that speculation.

Hield’s new contract extension – which starts at nearly $25MM before declining in later seasons – will go into effect in 2020/21. Having already committed big money to Hield and Harrison Barnes, Sacramento want to lock up Bogdanovic with a lucrative long-term contract of his own, and De’Aaron Fox‘s payday is around the corner too. Unless they want to lock themselves into this core going forward, common sense suggests that the Kings may have to shop one of their highly-paid players.

Hield and Barnes are the most logical candidates to be moved, and Hield would be the more valuable asset of the two on the trade market, given his three-point prowess and his positional overlap with Bogdanovic. The Kings could probably get a pretty decent package in return for him — but will they want to move him?

It’s too early to get a sense of whether Sacramento will seriously consider a Hield trade this fall. But it certainly wouldn’t come as a shock to hear his name pop up in trade rumors. Divac was motivated to see Hield succeed in Sacramento since he was the centerpiece of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, but with Divac no longer in the picture, the new decision-makers in Sacramento may not feel the same attachment to the veteran sharpshooter.

2. Who will assume long-term control of basketball decisions for the Kings?

Speaking of the new decision-makers in Sacramento, for now we only know who is making those calls in the interim. That’d be former advisor Joe Dumars, who was named the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations in the wake of Divac’s departure.

It’s been difficult to parse exactly what’s happening in the Kings’ front office. Multiple reports suggested that Divac’s ouster occurred as a result of team owner Vivek Ranadive asking him to surrender control of basketball decisions to Dumars. When Divac was unwilling to accept a demotion, he was let go and Dumars was – at least temporarily – promoted.

However, a subsequent report suggested that Dumars won’t be a candidate for the Kings’ permanent general manager job. That report indicated he’d be involved in the hiring process and would interview candidates along with Ranadive. But the plan, apparently, is for the newly-hired GM to gain full control of roster moves and report directly to Ranadive. It’s unclear what role Dumars would have with the franchise after that.

If the new general manager is going to have long-term control of the team’s basketball decisions, it would make sense for Sacramento to conduct its search as soon as possible in order to ensure that the new GM can have a say in this offseason’s roster decisions. But the Kings are said to be in no rush to finalize a hire before the draft and free agency.

That puts added pressure on Dumars and the current group in the front office to make quality decisions this fall as they tackle several major issues. If Dumars makes a questionable lottery pick, overpays to retain Bogdanovic, or doesn’t get great value in a Hield trade, the job may look a little less appealing to GM candidates who will have to live with the effects of those decisions for the next few years.

3. Will De’Aaron Fox get a maximum-salary extension offer?

Perhaps the most important decision of the Kings’ offseason relates to their promising young point guard. Fox, 22, had an up-and-down season in 2019/20, battling health issues and struggling to knock down three-pointers (he made just 29.2% after hitting 34.5% in his first two seasons).

However, he established new career highs in PPG (21.1) and FG% (.480), flashed star potential, and was especially effective during the summer restart. As some of his teammates struggled, Fox averaged 26.2 PPG and 7.3 APG in six games in Orlando. Those six summer seeding contests represent the last look the Kings will get at Fox in game action before he becomes eligible for a rookie scale extension this fall.

The Kings and Fox have reportedly already had some preliminary discussions about a new deal, and Fox has said he’s interesting in signing an extension before his fourth season. The question now is how high Sacramento is willing to go with its offer.

If the Kings are ready to offer Fox a five-year max deal, negotiations should be quick and painless. There would be little reason for the young point guard to wait for restricted free agency in 2021 unless he really doesn’t want to be in Sacramento, and there has been no indication that’s the case.

If the Kings don’t offer Fox the max, things could get a little trickier. Amidst a global pandemic, with league revenues very much up in the air, would the 22-year-old be willing to accept a more team-friendly deal? Or would the team risk rubbing him the wrong way with such an offer, making the situation unnecessarily contentious?

The guess here is that the Kings will offer Fox a five-year max. That’s essentially the same deal that Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray each signed a year ago, starting at 25% of the cap. And while Fox has yet to make an All-Star team like Simmons or show he can be a big-time playoff scorer like Murray, the Kings have signaled during the last couple years that they believe in Fox’s potential and are willing to build their roster around him. I don’t expect they’ll risk complicating the relationship by low-balling him in extension talks.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Washington Wizards

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Washington Wizards.


Salary Cap Outlook

John Wall and Bradley Beal will make a combined $70MM in 2020/21, and the Wizards have seven more players with fully guaranteed salaries under contract, so the team won’t have any cap room. Washington shouldn’t be in danger of going over the tax line either, unless re-signing Davis Bertans is pricier than anticipated.

Depending on whether Bertans is re-signed, how expensive he is, and what other moves the Wizards make, they could end up with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.62MM), though they’re probably unlikely to use both exceptions in full.

Our full salary cap preview for the Wizards can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:

  • Davis Bertans (Bird)
  • Ian Mahinmi (Bird)
  • Shabazz Napier (Early Bird)
  • Gary Payton II (Non-Bird)
  • Jerian Grant (N/A)
    • Note: Grant won’t have any form of Bird rights because he was signed as a substitute player.
  • Jarrod Uthoff (N/A)
    • Note: Uthoff won’t have any form of Bird rights because he was signed as a substitute player.

2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 9 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 37 overall pick

The Wizards technically finished with the league’s eighth-worst record, but were locked into the No. 9 spot in the lottery standings because the eight teams not invited to the NBA’s summer restart in Orlando were assigned the top eight spots.

If the order had instead been based on records after the summer seeding games and the Wizards had entered the lottery in that No. 8 slot, it would’ve been Washington – not Charlotte – that moved up to claim the third overall pick. Instead, the Wizards stayed put at No. 9.

Washington traded away its second-round pick (No. 39) but has the Bulls’ second-rounder at No. 37 to make up for it. That was one of the assets the Wizards acquired in last summer’s Tomas Satoransky sign-and-trade.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Is the clock ticking on the John Wall/Bradley Beal backcourt?

Both Wall and Beal have been Wizards for their entire NBA careers, and they’ve been playing together since 2012. So far, the duo only has four playoff appearances and three second-round exits to show for its efforts, but general manager Tommy Sheppard sounds committed to giving the star-studded backcourt at least one more shot when both players return healthy for 2020/21.

Wall, who hasn’t appeared in a game since December 2018 due to a torn Achilles, has negative trade value at this point due to his long injury layoff, his age (30 on Sunday), and his contract, which will pay him about $133MM over the next three years. As such, the Wizards’ decision to stick with him and hope for a strong comeback is an easy one.

The equation isn’t as simple for Beal though. The two-time All-Star is coming off his most productive offensive season yet, having averaged 30.5 PPG and 6.1 APG in 57 games in 2019/20. His contract – $63MM over the next two years, with a $37MM player option for ’22/23 – is more team-friendly than Wall’s, and he’s three years younger than his backcourt partner.

It all adds up to make Beal a desirable trade target for rival teams should the Wizards decide to make him available. Trading Beal would be the most logical way for the franchise to launch a rebuild and restock its shelves with young players and/or draft picks.

There has been no indication that Sheppard would consider such a move this offseason, but if the Wizards get off to a poor start in 2020/21, trade speculation surrounding Beal will certainly heat up by 2021’s deadline.

He and Wall are under pressure to make things work, and the Wizards are under pressure to surround them with the right pieces to help them do that — Beal has been patient so far and said the right things about his commitment to D.C., but another losing season could cause that commitment to waver.

2. How much will it cost to re-sign Davis Bertans?

Fortifying the roster around Wall and Beal will be challenging because of how sizable those stars’ salaries are. The Wizards don’t project to have cap room for the next couple years, so unless they plan on cutting costs, their most viable paths for upgrading the roster are through the draft and trades — and re-signing their own key players.

Bertans is one such player, and there’s no doubt the Wizards would like to retain him when he reaches free agency this fall. They rebuffed offers for him at the trade deadline, and holding his Bird rights means they’ll be able to comfortably go over the cap to re-sign him. But it won’t be easy.

Estimates earlier this season suggested that Bertans may be in line for a deal worth in the range of $15-20MM per year. There was a belief that the financial uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic may lower his price tag, but a recent report indicated that people around the league still expect Bertans to command a salary in the range of $15MM+ annually. That report also suggested that several teams with cap room – the Hawks, Knicks, and Suns – are candidates to pursue the sharpshooting Latvian.

Bertans isn’t an All-Star, so the Wizards should be wary about investing in him too heavily. But there just aren’t many 6’10” players in the NBA who can shoot like Bertans (42.4% on 8.7 threes per game in 2019/20) and hold their own on defense. His size and his ability to stretch the floor make him a valuable asset, and letting him walk wouldn’t open up any cap space that could be used to replace him.

The Wizards are in a tough spot here, given the unrestricted nature of Bertans’ free agency. While they really won’t want to let him get away, they probably need to have a walk-away point if bidding increases to the $20MM-per-year neighborhood.

3. Can the Wizards draft a foundational piece at No. 9?

In the last two years, the Wizards have drafted Troy Brown at No. 15 (2018) and Rui Hachimura at No. 9 (2019). Although neither player has immediately emerged as an impact player, they’ve taken positive strides and look like they could be long-term building blocks.

In 2020, Sheppard and his front office will once again pick at No. 9. And while the 2020 draft class may be lacking in surefire All-Stars, there’s enough depth in the pool to create some intriguing options for Washington in the top 10.

In his latest mock draft, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has USC center Onyeka Okongwu slipping to the Wizards at No. 9 and suggests that would be a big win for the club, given Okongwu’s defensive-first mentality and his abilities as a rim-runner.

Most other mock drafts assume Okongwu will be off the board before the Wizards pick. It’s probably safe to expect LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and Obi Toppin to be unavailable too. Deni Avdija, Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Haliburton, and Killian Hayes are other strong candidates to be drafted in the top eight, but at least one of those nine players will fall to No. 9 and could appeal to Washington.

Knockdown shooters like Aaron Nesmith and Devin Vassell will likely be options for the Wizards at No. 9. Athletic big man Precious Achiuwa figures to be available too — ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has the Memphis forward/center going to Washington in his latest mock draft.

By staying put at No. 9 in the draft lottery, the Wizards may not get a chance to acquire a future star in this year’s draft, but there’s certainly an opportunity for the team to add a promising young role player at that spot.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Charlotte Hornets

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Charlotte Hornets.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Hornets’ salary cap flexibility has been limited for years due to pricey commitments to role players. While a couple of those contracts – Cody Zeller‘s and Nicolas Batum‘s – remain on the books for one more year, Charlotte is no longer on the hook for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Marvin Williams and will have a little cap room to work with as a result.

The exact amount of space the Hornets will have to work with will depend on where the cap lands and what they do with certain free agents and players with non-guaranteed salaries, but it projects to be in the $20MM range. They’ll also have the room exception available — it’ll be worth $4.77MM if the cap doesn’t increase.

Our full salary cap preview for the Hornets can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • Nicolas Batum, player option: $27,130,434 (Oct. 6 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 3 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 32 overall pick
  • No. 56 overall pick

With the possible exception of the Timberwolves, the Hornets were the biggest beneficiary in this year’s draft lottery. They entered the evening with the eighth-best odds, but moved up to the No. 3 spot in the draft and will have an opportunity to select one of the top prospects in this year’s class.

In the second round, the Hornets traded away their own pick (No. 38), but had acquired picks from the Cavaliers and Celtics at Nos. 32 and 56, respectively.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. What will the Hornets do with the No. 3 overall pick?

A number of the Hornets’ fellow lottery teams – including the Timberwolves and Hawks – have one or two rising young stars to build around. That’s not the case in Charlotte, where no current Hornets players have ever made an All-Star team or averaged 20+ PPG in a season.

Charlotte could badly use some star power, and jumping up to No. 3 in the draft puts the franchise in position to secure a player with All-Star potential. LaMelo Ball is widely considered by draft experts to be the player with the highest ceiling among this year’s prospects, and there are plausible scenarios in which he could slip to No. 3, with Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman in play for the first two draft slots.

The Hornets’ top two scorers in 2019/20 – Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier – are also guards, but president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has repeatedly stated that he won’t let positional considerations impact his pick in this year’s lottery. And Graham and Rozier don’t have the same level of upside that Ball does.

If Ball comes off the board before the Hornets pick, Kupchak could instead turn to Wiseman, an athletic seven-footer who remains a work in progress on both ends of the floor, but has big-time potential as both a scorer and a rim protector. If he develops as planned, Wiseman could be Charlotte’s long-term answer in the middle.

Since Ball, Wiseman, and Edwards are widely considered to be the top three prospects in this year’s class, some interesting trade opportunities may arise for the Hornets — a team that covets one of those top three prospects could be willing to put together a significant trade package to move up.

Still, it’s worth recalling that one of Kupchak’s first moves when he took control of the Hornets’ front office in 2018 was to trade down one spot in the draft from No. 11 to 12, clearing the way for the Clippers to take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Two years later, Gilgeous-Alexander is exactly the sort of rising star the Hornets could badly use, so Kupchak will be wary about missing out on a similar opportunity in 2020.

2. Will the Hornets be able to maximize their cap room on the trade market?

Kupchak has said multiple times in recent months that the Hornets don’t expect to be a major player in free agency this offseason. However, the team should still have in the neighborhood of $20MM in cap room — unless ownership doesn’t plan on spending to the league’s salary floor, that means the club will likely take advantage of its cap space on the trade market.

There are two directions the Hornets could go as they pursue trades. One would involve using their cap room to accommodate straight salary dumps in order to accumulate assets. The other would see them use their space to target a player who could become a long-term contributor.

Let’s run through both scenarios, starting with a potential salary dump. The idea here would be to take on unwanted salary along with a draft pick, allowing the Hornets’ trade partner to clear cap room of their own or avoid a pricey luxury tax bill. Last offseason, for instance, we saw the Grizzlies, Clippers, and Hawks acquire first-round picks for taking on Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, and Allen Crabbe, respectively.

It’s a little too early to single out specific teams that could be willing to dump money to Charlotte this offseason, but a club like Philadelphia could fit the bill. The Sixers currently project to be a taxpayer in 2020/21 and have some exorbitant long-term contracts on their books. Maybe they’d be willing to give up a future first-round pick if the Hornets are willing to take on Al Horford‘s pricey multiyear deal in exchange for Cody Zeller‘s less expensive expiring contract.

On the other hand, the Hornets could single out specific players who would fit into their long-term plans and might be available via trade this offseason. Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, and Kelly Oubre are among the young, promising players who may be redundant on their current teams and could be nice fits in Charlotte.

Of course, in those examples, the Hornets would have to give up an asset or two of their own in a trade. If the ask is P.J. Washington or a future first-round pick, that might be a non-starter. But Charlotte could offer cap relief, Malik Monk, Cody Martin, second-round picks, or even a heavily-protected first-rounder — that might be enough to have a conversation about someone like Oubre.

3. Is a contract extension in play for Devonte’ Graham?

Graham’s breakout season in 2019/20 was one of the bright spots of the Hornets’ year and bodes well for the team’s developmental program. Graham – who averaged 18.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, and a .373 3PT% this season – is on a minimum-salary contract for one more year before becoming eligible for restricted free agency in 2021.

Rather than letting Graham play out that deal and risking him signing an expensive offer sheet next year, the Hornets may explore the possibility of a contract extension this offseason. It has now been more than two years since Graham originally signed with the club, so he’ll be extension-eligible throughout his contract year — a new deal signed this year would go into effect for the 2021/22 season.

Because he’s a minimum-salary player, Graham would be eligible for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the league’s estimated average salary. If the cap stays the same in 2020/21 as it was in ’19/20, that would translate to a maximum extension of $51.4MM over four years.

It’s possible Graham would rather bet on himself and try his luck in restricted free agency — that’s what Bogdan Bogdanovic did this past year when he received an identical extension offer from the Kings.

But Graham only really has a one-year track record so far. And unlike Bogdanovic, who made $8.5MM this season, he has only been a minimum-salary player since entering the NBA. A long-term deal worth nearly $13MM per year could sound awfully good to him, and it’s a pretty fair price for the Hornets, even if they don’t expect the 25-year-old to make another major leap within the next year or two.

Josh Richardson, Norman Powell, and Spencer Dinwiddie are among the players in recent years who have signed three- or four-year extensions worth 120% of the NBA’s average salary. I’d expect the Hornets to see whether Graham may want to follow suit this offseason.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Minnesota Timberwolves.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Timberwolves only have about $75MM in fully guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21 so far, so they could theoretically create some cap room. But after accounting for James Johnson‘s player option ($16MM), along with cap holds for Juan Hernangomez ($9.96MM), Malik Beasley ($8.2MM), and their first-round picks (likely about $12.7MM combined), that cap room is nonexistent.

Minnesota figures to enter the offseason as an over-the-cap team, with the full mid-level exception (about $9.3MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.6MM) available.

Our full salary cap preview for the Timberwolves can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • James Johnson, player option: $16,047,100 (Oct. 17 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:

  • Evan Turner (Bird)
  • Malik Beasley (RFA; Bird)
  • Juan Hernangomez (RFA; Bird)

2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 1 overall pick
  • No. 17 overall pick

The Timberwolves lucked out in the lottery, nabbing the first overall pick for the second time in the last six years. The Wolves will also receive the Nets’ first-round pick, which was lottery-protected but landed at No. 17.

Second Round:

  • No. 33 overall pick

Minnesota is the only team picking between Nos. 31-40 that didn’t trade its second-round pick. It falls at No. 33.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. How will the Timberwolves use the No. 1 overall pick?

Having traded away their top-three protected 2021 first-round pick in February to acquire D’Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves may very well find themselves without a lottery selection a year from now. So securing the top pick in this year’s draft was a fortuitous turn of events for a franchise in need of a talent injection.

Unfortunately for president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, there no Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, or LeBron James at the top of the 2020 draft class. With no consensus No. 1 prospect and no players who are locks to become franchise cornerstones, Minnesota faces a tough decision with that first overall pick.

Drafting for need usually isn’t the right move anywhere in the lottery, let alone at No. 1, but with Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns installed as their obvious building blocks at the point and in the middle, the Timberwolves would have to feel pretty confident about the fit if they were to take another point guard like LaMelo Ball or another big man like James Wiseman.

Going in that direction isn’t out of the question. Jonathan Givony of ESPN projects the Wolves to select Ball at No. 1 in his latest mock draft, noting that the youngster’s size will make it easy to pair him with another guard. Givony acknowledges that a Ball/Russell backcourt might be a disaster defensively, but suggests that no player in this year’s class has more star power than Lonzo Ball‘s youngest brother.

There’s another player who is viewed as a candidate for No. 1 though, and he might be a better match for Minnesota: Anthony Edwards. The former Georgia shooting guard is a talented scorer and has the strength, length, and quickness necessary to develop into a lockdown defender, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz writes in his scouting report.

Given his obvious fit on the wing alongside Russell and Towns, Edwards looks like the safest pick for the Wolves at this point. But this draft figures to be an unpredictable one, so nothing can be ruled out yet. I could even see Rosas trading down, if another team wants to move up to nab a player who isn’t atop the Wolves’ board. Such a deal could be a way to replace the 2021 first-round pick Minnesota traded away earlier this year.

2. How much will RFAs Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez cost?

When they sent Robert Covington to Houston in a four-team deadline deal in February, the Timberwolves chose to flip Houston’s 2020 first-round pick to Denver in order to land Beasley and Hernangomez.

Neither player had been all that impressive in 2019/20 up until that point, having been buried in the Nuggets’ rotation. But they made the Wolves look good over the next 14 games, right up until the season was suspended. Hernangomez contributed a solid 12.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG on .453/.420/.609 shooting in 29.4 minutes per contest, while Beasley was even better, with 20.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG on .472/.426/.750 shooting in 33.1 MPG.

The duo’s success was a mixed blessing for the Wolves, who will now be tasked with retaining both players in restricted free agency. Part of the reason the Nuggets were willing to move on from Beasley and Hernangomez was an understanding that they probably wouldn’t be willing to pay to re-sign them, but Minnesota is under more pressure to do so in order to make sure they recoup solid value from the Covington trade.

Few teams have cap room available, and those that do may turn to other free agents rather than trying to pry a pair of promising young restricted free agents away from a rebuilding team. But the Wolves will still probably have to pony up if they want to secure Beasley and Hernangomez for the long term. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the duo ends up costing a combined $25MM+ per year.

If the Wolves are uneasy about the financial commitment it will take to lock up either player, the club could explore a sign-and-trade. Those were popular a year ago for RFAs who wanted to change teams, allowing their old clubs to acquire draft picks or other assets in return for declining to exercise their right of first refusal.

3. How will the impending sale of the team affect the Wolves going forward?

Longtime Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed last month that he was exploring a sale of the franchise, and there appears to be momentum for former Grizzlies minority stakeholder Daniel Straus to emerge as the club’s new controlling owner.

Whether the next owner is Straus or someone else, we don’t know much about how they would run an NBA team. The most pressing question, of course, would be whether the new owner would commit to keeping the team in Minnesota long-term, but it seems unlikely Taylor would sell to anyone not willing to do so.

Beyond that issue, there would be plenty of other questions to answer. How much would the new owner be willing to spend on players, coaches, and executives from year to year? Would they be patient with a rebuilding process or push to contend sooner rather than later? Would they want to have a hand in basketball matters at all? Would they want to make any leadership changes, perhaps replacing Rosas and/or head coach Ryan Saunders?

No fan wants its favorite team to be run by an owner who has a desire to cut costs or overrule the team’s top basketball experts on key roster decisions. If and when Taylor sells, it’ll be worth keeping a close eye on how the new ownership group adjusts to the job.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Chicago Bulls

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Chicago Bulls.


Salary Cap Outlook

Otto Porter Jr.‘s $28.5MM player option, which is a virtual lock to be exercised, should ensure that the Bulls remain over the cap during the 2020 offseason. Once that option is officially on the books, Chicago’s team salary will increase to $106MM in guaranteed money, even before accounting for cap holds for the team’s lottery pick and free agents.

The Bulls will also have the full mid-level exception (about $9.3MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.6MM) available.

Our full salary cap preview for the Bulls can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • Otto Porter Jr., player option: $28,489,239 (Oct. 17 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

  • None

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 4 overall pick

The Bulls moved up three spots as a result of the draft lottery, claiming the No. 4 overall pick despite entering lottery night with the seventh-best odds.

Second Round:

  • No. 44 overall pick

The Bulls traded away their own second-round pick (No. 37), but acquired the Grizzlies’ selection, which will be No. 44.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Who will be the Bulls’ next head coach?

After a tumultuous year-and-a-half at the helm, Jim Boylen was let go this summer by new Bulls front office executives Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley. While it took a little longer than expected for the team to finalize that decision, it puts the new Bulls decision-makers in position to immediately place their stamp on the franchise with their own head coach, rather than making Boylen a lame duck for the next year.

Since Boylen’s ouster, names like Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., Darvin Ham, Stephen Silas, and David Vanterpool have been connected to the Chicago job. Even before a decision was made on Boylen, Ime Udoka and Adrian Griffin were rumored to be frontrunners for the position.

It’s a big, diverse group and it could get even bigger once the Bulls begin to formally interview candidates. However, most of the names have something in common — they’re experienced assistants without any head coaching experience themselves.

Atkinson is the one exception to the rule so far, but the former Nets head coach doesn’t represent a major deviation from the rest of the group. After all, he was brought in to help guide a rebuilding Brooklyn team. Once the club began making the transition from prioritizing player development to focusing on contending for a title, Atkinson was dismissed.

In replacing Boylen, the Bulls seem to be seeking an up-and-coming head coach who will focus on developing and connecting with the team’s young players, rather than a veteran who has experience dealing with stars and guiding playoff teams.

While that direction makes sense, it may increase the degree of difficulty for Karnisovas and Eversley, since their pick won’t necessarily have an extensive head coaching résumé to evaluate. It’s the duo’s first major decision and it will be important to get it right, so I expect the Bulls to take their time and do their homework on many candidates before finalizing a hire.

2. Which incumbent players are the new decision-makers most – and least – attached to?

The Bulls haven’t won more than 27 games in any of the last three seasons, but the roster that Karnisovas and Eversley are inheriting is hardly devoid of talent.

Zach LaVine has developed into one of the Eastern Conference’s top scorers (25.5 PPG in 2019/20). And in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, and Coby White, Chicago has the No. 7 overall picks from each of the last three drafts. Markkanen and Carter have been hampered by health issues and inconsistency, but all three of those players have shown promise since entering the NBA, and all three are 23 years old or younger.

Since taking the reins in Chicago, Karnisovas and Eversley have talked about placing a focus on development and looking to get the most out of the club’s young players — especially those who may have taken a step back last season. As such, it’s possible the team will stand relatively pat during this offseason and see what it can get out of those youngsters under a new head coach in 2020/21 before doing anything too drastic.

However, it’s also worth noting that the new decision-makers aren’t necessarily attached to any of those young, would-be cornerstones. This fall may not be the right time to move guys like Markkanen or Carter, since the Bulls would be selling low, but if the club gets an offer it likes for one of them or LaVine, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the front office pull the trigger.

Again, any major roster shake-up is probably unlikely until at least the 2021 deadline, but this will be a situation worth monitoring under the new regime.

3. Can the Bulls secure a long-term cornerstone with the No. 4 pick?

While it remains to be seen which of the Bulls’ returning players the new front office will commit to long-term, we can safely assume that the player the team drafts at No. 4 this fall will be given every opportunity to succeed over the next few years. It will be the first opportunity Karnisovas and Eversley have to acquire a potential future building block for the club, and – like the coaching hire – they’ll badly want to get it right.

With no prospects necessarily locked into the top three spots, we don’t know for sure which players will still be available at No. 4 for Chicago. But LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman have most frequently been cited as contenders for the No. 1 spot, so let’s assume for now that those are the first three players drafted in 2020.

In that scenario, the Bulls would be picking from a group that includes wings Deni Avdija, Isaac Okoro, and Devin Vassell, guards Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes, power forward Obi Toppin, and center Onyeka Okongwu.

Although I don’t believe Chicago should – or will – be drafting based on need, the idea of selecting one of those wings is intriguing. Otto Porter Jr. likely isn’t the Bulls’ long-term solution at small forward, so if the team is high on a player like Avdija, Okoro, or Vassell, it would be a great match. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic notes that Okoro’s ability to guard wings would make him a nice complement to LaVine and White.

Still, the Bulls will certainly go in another direction if they feel there’s a prospect with more upside. In his most recent mock draft, for instance, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Chicago selecting Toppin, observing that the National Player of the Year could play alongside either Markkanen or Carter.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.