Oklahoma City Thunder

Clippers Offer GM Post To Michael Winger

Thunder executive Michael Winger has received an offer to become the new GM of the Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who adds that the deal is expected to be finalized soon.

Winger, 37, currently serves as both assistant GM and team counsel for Oklahoma City and has been with the organization for the past seven years. He also spent five years with the Cavaliers and is viewed as one of the league’s top young executives, Wojnarowski adds.

As Clippers GM, Winger would report to Lawrence Frank, who was appointed president of basketball operations in a front office shakeup ealier this month that saw Doc Rivers reassigned to strictly coaching duties.

Five Candidates To Be Waived With Stretch Provision

NBA teams have about two more weeks to apply the stretch provision to the 2017/18 cap hits for players they waive. After August 31, teams will no longer be eligible to stretch salaries for the coming season, and the stretch provision will only apply to future seasons on a player’s contract.

The stretch provision is a CBA rule that allows teams to stretch a player’s remaining salary across additional seasons. For July and August, the rule dictates that a team can pay out the player’s salary over twice the number of years remaining on his contract, plus one. So a contract with three years left on it could be stretched out over seven years. After August 31, only the future years on the contract can be stretched in that manner.

In practical terms, here’s what that means for a player who is earning $6MM in each of the next two years ($12MM total):

Year Current contract Stretched by August 31 Stretched after August 31
2017/18 $6,000,000 $2,400,000 $6,000,000
2018/19 $6,000,000 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2019/20 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2020/21 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2021/22 $2,400,000

In some cases, it can be advantageous to wait until September to waive a player and use the stretch provision. If a team isn’t close to the tax line and can’t clear additional cap room by stretching a player’s current-year salary, it may make more sense to be patient, since that extra immediate cap room wouldn’t be useful.

However, there are several teams around the NBA who may be motivated to waive and stretch players prior to that August 31 deadline. Here are five stretch provision candidates to keep an eye on during the next couple weeks:

Read more

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, George, Hood, Murray

Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be teammates for the first time in the NBA this upcoming season after George was traded to the Thunder earlier this offseason. Just like any other superstar duo in NBA history, it will take time for both players to get acclimated to each other on and off the court. The duo got a head start after having their first workout together on Monday at a UCLA gym with four Oklahoma City teammates, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

Young noted that Monday’s workout was the second organized by Westbrook this summer but George was unable to attend the first one due to a pre-planned vacation. Monday’s acclimation was the first of many steps for the reigning MVP and George to become comfortable; George addressed the importance of establishing a chemistry with his new teammates during his introductory press conference.

“Right now, it’s taking it as it comes,” George said (via ESPN). “We have a fresh start, and a chance to do something special is really the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not looking past 2017-18, we haven’t accomplished nothing yet. When it comes to that, when I get there, we’ll address that, but right now me and [Westbrook] have something to build now, and we’ll see where it takes us. It could be something that’s special that we build and want to continue on building.”

Read up on other news around the Northwest Division:

Christon Could Be Odd Man Out; Thunder In Talks With Wanamaker

Patrick Patterson Undergoes Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Thunder power forward Patrick Patterson may not be 100% for the start of his new team’s training camp, having recently undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the club announced today in a press release. According to the Thunder’s announcement, Patterson will be re-evaluated in four to six weeks.

Assuming Patterson is deemed healthy enough to get back on the court when he’s re-evaluated, he should be able to join the Thunder for training camp, which begins on September 26. However, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, the 28-year-old will likely receive a reduced workload as he continues to get back to full strength.

Patterson, who was nagged by knee issues last season as well, averaged 6.8 PPG and 4.5 RPG with a .372 3PT% in a part-time role for the Raptors. He also shot just 40.1% from the floor for the season, which represented a career low.

While his numbers were hardly spectacular, Patterson’s ability to space the floor and to contribute in other areas of the game – such as screen-setting – made him a valuable piece of Toronto’s rotation over the last few seasons, and earned him a three-year deal with the Thunder. The veteran big man is expected to open the 2017/18 campaign as Oklahoma City’s starting power forward, assuming he’s healthy.

And-Ones: Mexico City, Schedule, Llull, Thompson

The Nets will be involved in both games in Mexico City next season, the NBA announced today on its website. Brooklyn will face the Thunder on December 7th, followed by the Heat on December 9th at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico. The games will be the 25th and 26th in the country, more than other other nation besides the United States and Canada. “They will also mark the 25th anniversary of our first game in Mexico City, a milestone in our relationship with our Mexican fans and a further indication of our desire to strengthen our ties to Mexico and Latin America,” said commissioner Adam Silver.

There’s more news from around the league:

  • The NBA has sent a memo to all its teams explaining the changes in next season’s schedule, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The season will start a week earlier, giving teams more days off with the goal of eliminating the practice of healthy players being rested. The new schedule also cuts out stretches of four games in five days and reduces the number of single-game road trips, among other improvements.
  • Spanish guard Sergio Llull, whose rights are owned by the Rockets, suffered an ACL injury today that will force him to miss EuroBasket and Euroleague for his Real Madrid team, tweets international basketball writer David Pick. Llull sent out a tweet thanking his fans and promising that he will return to action. Houston purchased Llull’s rights from Denver in 2009, but has been unable to convince the 29-year-old to leave Spain.
  • Hollis Thompson, who spent time with the Sixers and Pelicans last season, is in “advanced negotiations” with Olympiacos in Greece, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Thompson began the season with Philadelphia and played 31 games before being waived in early January. He signed a pair of 10-day contracts with New Orleans in February and March, appearing in nine games, but wasn’t retained when the second deal expired.

NBA Teams Carrying At Least 15 Guaranteed Contracts

As we detailed earlier today in our breakdown of each NBA team’s current roster count, clubs can carry up to 20 players in the offseason, but are limited to 15 players on their regular season rosters. As such, teams will often only carry 13 or 14 players on guaranteed contracts into training camp, giving a non-guaranteed player or two the opportunity to impress coaches and earn a spot on the 15-man squad.

However, even with training camps still a month and a half away, several NBA teams are already carrying 15 or more players with fully guaranteed salaries, limiting their roster flexibility and their ability to take fliers on camp invitees.

Here’s a breakdown of those teams, with their fully guaranteed salaries noted in parentheses:

  • Boston Celtics (16)
  • Golden State Warriors (15)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (15)
  • Sacramento Kings (15)
  • Utah Jazz (15)

Of those five teams, the Celtics are the only club that will absolutely have to trade or waive a player on a guaranteed contract before the regular season gets underway. Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis may be the most at-risk players, since they don’t have any guaranteed money on their deals beyond the 2017/18 season. Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye also don’t have fully guaranteed salaries beyond this season, though they have partial guarantees for 2018/19.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will be in the same boat as Boston if they ultimately bring back restricted free agent JaMychal Green. A new deal for Green would give Memphis 16 guaranteed salaries. The Grizzlies also haven’t signed second-round pick Ivan Rabb, so if they intend to do so, they could create an even more significant roster crunch.

The other teams on the list above should, for the most part, have their 15-man regular season rosters locked in at this point, but if changes need to be made, the Kings should be willing to eat a guaranteed contract — they’re still well below the cap. The Jazz could afford to eat some money too, if necessary. The Warriors may be the team that needs to best make use of all 15 roster spots as they look to defend their title, but replacing a player on a guaranteed contract would be pricey, since Golden State is already deep into tax territory.

Finally, one other team worth watching is the Thunder. Currently, Oklahoma City only has 14 players on guaranteed contracts for 2017/18, but that figure doesn’t include Jerami Grant or Semaj Christon, both of whom could have a place on the club’s roster this season. I don’t think Grant will be going anywhere, so the Thunder may have to decide whether to part ways with Christon or whether another move can be made to keep him on the 15-man roster.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

NBA Teams Projected To Be 2017/18 Taxpayers

In the wake of 2016’s salary cap spike, the luxury tax line was higher than ever in 2016/17, and only two teams finished the season above it. The Clippers barely crossed over into taxpayer territory, while the Cavaliers blew past that threshold and were on the hook for a big tax bill.

In 2017/18, the salary cap increase was far more modest, and as a result, it appears that several more teams will finish the season as taxpayers, surpassing this year’s $119.266MM tax line. Teams have until the end of the ’17/18 regular season to adjust team salary in an effort to get back under the tax line, but most of those clubs will have little leverage if they try to dump salary, so it won’t be easy to cut costs.

Here’s an early look at the teams likely to finish 2017/18 as taxpayers:

Cleveland Cavaliers
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $139.73MM
No team is further over the tax line than the Cavaliers, and Cleveland will also qualify as a repeat taxpayer for the first time this year, making the penalties levied against the franchise more punitive. Currently, the Cavs’ projected tax bill is approaching $70MM, which explains why the team is interested in attaching an extra contract or two to Kyrie Irving in any trade.

Golden State Warriors
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $135.36MM
Last year’s dominant Warriors team actually didn’t have one of the more expensive rosters in the league, but that will change this time around, with several players signing lucrative new deals. The biggest raise belongs to Stephen Curry, who played out the final season of a four-year, $44MM deal in 2016/17, and will now start a five-year, $200MM+ pact.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $125.99MM
Years ago, the Thunder decided to move on from James Harden when he and the team couldn’t agree to terms on an extension that would have created luxury-tax issues for the franchise. Now, Oklahoma City has the third-highest team salary in the NBA, and a projected tax bill that will exceed $10MM.

Portland Trail Blazers
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $124.25MM
The Trail Blazers managed to slash their projected tax bill significantly a couple weeks ago when they sent Allen Crabbe to the Nets for Andrew Nicholson. Assuming they eventually waive and stretch Nicholson’s contract, as expected, the pair of transactions will save the club upwards of $40MM in tax payments alone.

Washington Wizards
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $123.54MM
Going into tax territory was necessary if the Wizards wanted to match Otto Porter‘s offer sheet from the Nets and bring him back. Fortunately for the club, John Wall‘s new super-max extension won’t go into effect until 2019/20 — his current salary is far below the 2017/18 max, which will save the Wizards from paying more exorbitant tax penalties.

Milwaukee Bucks
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $119.38MM
The Bucks currently project to be over the tax threshold by a very small amount, and I’d be surprised if the team doesn’t make every effort to trim payroll and sneak below that line before the season is over. Milwaukee isn’t a big-market team, and the opportunity to be on the receiving end of the luxury tax – rather than the paying end – will be tantalizing.

Outside of the six teams listed above, a handful of other clubs are inching dangerously close to tax territory. Among them: The Clippers, whose estimated guaranteed team salary sits about $100K below the tax threshold; the Pelicans, who are less than $1MM below the tax line; and the Rockets, who only have about $114.75MM in guarantees, but are carrying several million more dollars in non-guaranteed contracts.

Salary information from ESPN, Basketball Insiders, and HeatHoops was used in the creation of this post.

Poll: Northwest Division Winner

The Jazz made the leap last season, winning 51 games while taking home the Northwest Division crown. After an offseason of change, a repeat is far from certain. Utah lost Gordon Hayward in free agency, something that should knock them down in the standings. Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com projects the Jazz to take home under 45 wins next season.

Pelton predicts that the Wolves will win the division after they brought in 3-time All-Star Jimmy Butler this offseason. Minnesota added several other pieces in free agency, including Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Pelton has the Thunder placing second in the division with his model predicting OKC takes home 49.5 wins.

The statistician has the Nuggets finishing third in the division with Utah and Portland behind them. The mathematical model gives Denver 47.2 wins which puts them third in the division and seventh in the conference. Adding a proven veteran like Paul Millsap will certainly increase a team’s chances of making the postseason, something that the franchise hasn’t done in each of the last four seasons. The addition of Millsap, along with the progression of the team’s young nucleus, should also give the team a chance to steal the division’s crown and land a top-4 seed in the Western Conference.

What do you think? Which team will win out in what should be a tight race for the Northwest Division crown? Weigh in below with your vote and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts.

Northwest Notes: KAT, Westbrook, Rubio, Jazz

The Timberwolves‘ moves this offseason have drastically improved the team and put the organization in a position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler and the free agency signing of Jeff Teague fusing with the current core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns poses a serious threat to the Western Conference.

Towns spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News to clarify his recent comments in which he referred to the Timberwolves as a budding dynasty. The former Rookie of the Year cited the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers as real dynasties but maintained confidence in winning with Minnesota’s upgraded roster.

“For me, what everyone needs to know is that we’ve made great moves,” Towns said. “We made great moves to make ourselves better. I have been very fortunate to be with such a great franchise and the organization is going to do so well from here on out. I think we are building a team that has a great sense of what it wants to be, and also adding players who ooze greatness and ooze winning, it’s just something that is contagious.”

The team’s quest for improvement has been noticed by other stars, most prominently disgruntled Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly listed Minnesota as one of his four preferred destinations if he was traded. Playing in the same conference with the defending champion Warriors and perennial powerhouse Spurs will be difficult but a young, athletic, and hungry Minnesota squad could see a drastic improvement in 2017/18.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook recently visited Oklahoma City but he is not in the Thunder‘s home city to sign an extension, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, primarily spends his summers in California but is known to visit OKC periodically during the offseason, Dawson adds.
  • Newest Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio no longer has to worry about trade talk after the deal that brought him Minnesota to Utah. After years of rumors involving Rubio, the six-year NBA veteran tells Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News that he was happy to be dealt to “an organization that really believed in me.”
  • After the losses of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, the Jazz may have an issue with spacing and three-point shooting next season, Benjamin Nehic of The Desert News writes. Utah’s spacing with its current roster is projected to dip and with less effective outside shooters, the team may have to adopt a new primary scoring method.
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