Thunder Rumors

And-Ones: BIG3 Expansion, Chambers, Thunder

One of the co-founders of the BIG3 believes that the league is planning on expanding, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. Citing demand from players that would like to participate and the league’s own goal of expanding to new cities, Jeff Kwatinetz discussed the possibility when the league was in town over the weekend.

The idea of trying to figure the exact format for next year is something I think we will decide and wait a couple of weeks,” Kwatinetz said. “The demand is there and we’re not watering down the quality of the basketball. As long as we’re making it more competitive and incredible, then we will do that.”

One hurdle that the two-year-old league may face is managing its broadcasts, as only a few of the league’s games are televised on Fox Sports 1 on any given night. Adding more games would complicate that further.

Kwatinetz spoke about adding high profile NBA veterans to the Big3 as well as potentially cooperating with the league in a formal capacity. At this stage there have been no formal discussions between the two leagues.

There’s more from around the league:

  • It’s been ten years since the SuperSonics relocated from the Pacific Northwest to Oklahoma City. Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman wrote about the Thunder franchise’s impact on the city and the impact that the city’s identity has had on the club itself over the past decade.
  • Former NBA All-Star Tom Chambers has been charged with assault following an altercation at an Arizona restaurant, Bree Burkitt of The Arizona Republic writes.
  • As F5 Season winds down and NBA fans are left waiting for the start of training camp, now is your chance to get caught up on what has has (and what hasn’t) officially happened since July 1. We have a meticulously updated tool that tracks the player contract count for each NBA roster.

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Butler, Draft Picks

Andre Roberson‘s 2017/18 season was cut short because of a ruptured patellar tendon and the Thunder are not rushing the defensive-minded wing back on the court, as Nick Gallo of details. Oklahoma City realizes how crucial Roberson will be to their postseason success.

“I’m really excited for him to get back on the floor. I think we all know at this stage how important he is to the team and just what his size and length, and I think just his fiber in general, what it means to the team,” said GM Sam Presti.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Roberson-Russell WestbrookPaul George trio had the fifth-best defensive ranking in the league last season, Gallo notes in the same piece. “There was crazy potential there,” Roberson recalled. “We kind of finally started to figure it out, figured out how to play off of each other, and things were clicking.”
  • Despite an ESPN forecast panel that gave the Wolves just a 12 percent chance to keep Jimmy Butler beyond this season, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune is still optimistic that the two sides can find common ground on a long-term deal. Rand also advises readers not to worry too much about the rumors of Butler teaming up with Kyrie Irving on a rival squad.
  • The Nuggets are the only team in the Northwest Division that has traded away its own first-round pick, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed this week. Denver sent the pick to Brooklyn in the Kenneth Faried deal.

Carmelo Thanks OKC, Thunder Fans In Farewell Letter

Carmelo Anthony, the newest member of the Rockets, published a letter earlier this week thanking his old team, along with the Thunder fans. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, Anthony said that he wanted to bring a championship to OKC and was “sorry it didn’t work out” while he was there. However, despite only being with the Thunder for one year, Carmelo said he’ll never forget the experience and the support he received from the “incredible” fans in OKC.

NBA Teams In The Tax For 2018/19

After the NBA salary cap increased by nearly 35% for the 2016/17 league year, it has grown at a far more modest rate in two subsequent seasons, increasing from $94.1MM to $99.1MM to $101.9MM. Still, the cap spike in 2016 resulted in a free agent spending spree that is still haunting some teams.

Many of the clubs that currently project to be taxpayers for the 2018/19 season still have an unwieldy contract or two from the summer of 2016 on their books. That list includes Ian Mahinmi for the Wizards, Evan Turner for the Trail Blazers, and Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson for the Heat.

Even this year’s projected taxpayers that spent their money more wisely in 2016 can blame that summer at least in part for their substantial team salaries — clubs like the Warriors and Celtics likely wouldn’t have been able to land stars like Kevin Durant and Al Horford without the cap spike, and commitments to those players are helping push both teams into tax territory today.

In total, nearly one-third of the NBA’s teams could end up over the luxury tax threshold this season. Currently, eight teams have crossed that $123.733MM line, while two more are narrowly below it. Teams have until the end of the 2018/19 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 2018/19 as taxpayers:

Oklahoma City Thunder
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $149.58MM

The Thunder have actually reduced their projected tax bill in the last month by trading Carmelo Anthony and his $28MM salary, but this roster will still have a massive price tag attached to it. Because they’ll finish the season having been in the tax in three of the last four years, the Thunder will be subject to the repeater tax, resulting in more punitive penalties. As a result, their tax bill currently projects to be worth a staggering $93.19MM.

Golden State Warriors
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $143.64MM

The Warriors will actually get off relatively easy this year, despite a projected tax bill of $51MM+ if Patrick McCaw returns on his qualifying offer. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are still on old contracts that pay them well below their current maximum salaries, and Golden State won’t get hit with the repeater tax until 2019/20. If Thompson and Durant sign lucrative new deals next summer, the Dubs may well face more significant tax penalties in future seasons.

Toronto Raptors
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $139.79MM

The Raptors have avoided the tax during their recent run of 50-win seasons, but they’re unlikely to do so again this year. Even if they’re able to dump one unwanted contract, it probably won’t be enough to slip below the tax line. That’s not the end of the world though, as team ownership should be willing to pay a little extra in 2018/19 for what could be a championship-caliber roster. Some money will come off the books in 2019, and much more will be cleared by 2020, so the club likely won’t have to worry about spending the next several years in tax territory.

Washington Wizards
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $134.86MM

One of four taxpayers last season, the Wizards came away with little to show for the extra investment in their roster — the club finished eighth in the East and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. That didn’t dissuade ownership from spending big again this season on a roster that looks pretty similar to last year’s, plus Dwight Howard. Based on their current team salary, the Wizards are on the hook for a projected tax bill of $19MM+.

Houston Rockets
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $133.72MM

The Rockets‘ guaranteed team salary currently only accounts for 11 fully guaranteed contracts and one partially guaranteed deal, so that total figures to increase by the time Houston sets its final 14- or 15-man roster. With expensive multiyear deals for James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela and others on the books for 2019/20 as well, it will be interesting to see just how willing new owner Tilman Fertitta is to remain in tax territory for multiple years if the Rockets once again fall short of the NBA Finals in 2018/19.

Portland Trail Blazers
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $131.64MM

The Trail Blazers deftly ducked below the tax line at the 2018 trade deadline when they shipped Noah Vonleh‘s expiring contract to Chicago. Barring a fire sale, it will be more difficult to get below that threshold this season — the Blazers would have to shed about $8MM to do so, and there are no big expiring contracts on their books that would make good trade chips.

Miami Heat
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $126.98MM

Like the Rockets, the Heat don’t have a full roster yet, so their total guaranteed team salary is based on just 12 players. If they bring back Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, even on minimum salary contracts, the gap between the Heat’s team salary and the tax line will increase. That will make it trickier to get out of the tax at the trade deadline, though Miami has reportedly explored potential trades this offseason involving some of the team’s highest-paid players.

Boston Celtics
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $126.75MM

The Celtics‘ tax bill is currently only projected to be about $5.8MM, which is modest enough that the club won’t do anything drastic to move below the tax line. Still, the front office will be mindful of the cost of the roster in future seasons. With lucrative new contracts for the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum due before too long, the Celtics could eventually become a perennial taxpayer, so it might be in the club’s best interests to sneak out of the tax in 2018/19 to avoid starting the clock on the repeater tax.

Outside of the eight teams listed above, the Pistons and Grizzlies will be the wariest about their standing in relation to the tax line in 2018/19. Both clubs currently have about $123.25MM in team salary on their books, leaving them less than $500K away from tax territory. Memphis could create some extra breathing room by waiving Andrew Harrison‘s non-guaranteed salary.

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

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Only Play Warriors Three Times

  • The Thunder catch a little bit of a scheduling break, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman points out. Each team plays four conference foes three times while facing every other conference team four times. The Thunder only have to play the two-time defending champion Warriors three times, with the Lakers, Spurs and Grizzlies also in that group. The Grizzlies are the only projected non-playoff contender among that quartet.

Poll: Which Team Will Win Northwest Division?

There may not be an NBA division more top-heavy than the Atlantic, where the Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers are all projected to win more than 50 games in 2018/19. However, the Atlantic also features the Nets and Knicks, who are widely expected to finish in the lottery.

In terms of top-to-bottom talent, the Northwest has a stronger case to be considered the NBA’s best division. Last season, four Northwest teams made the playoffs and a fifth missed the postseason by a single game. The five clubs finished the regular season separated by just three games, racking up between 46 and 49 wins apiece.

None of those Northwest clubs took a huge step backward this offseason, but there were no massive upgrades either, with many of the most significant roster moves in the division involving re-signing key free agents. As such, oddsmakers once again view the Northwest as a five-team race, with each of those five teams projected to finish above .500.

According to betting site, the Thunder are consider the very slight favorites to win the Northwest, with an over/under of 49.5 wins for the season. However, the Jazz (49 wins) and Nuggets (47.5) are right behind them, with the Timberwolves (44.5), and Trail Blazers (42.5) within striking distance.

After we asked you on Monday to assess the top of the Atlantic standings for 2018/19, we’re shifting our focus today to the Northwest.

Will the Blazers repeat as division champions? Will the Thunder or Jazz take a step forward and win the Northwest? Or will the Nuggets or Timberwolves go from vying for the No. 8 seed in the West to battling for the division crown?

Vote below in our poll for the 2018/19 Northwest division winner, then head to the comment section to make your case for your pick.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Thunder Sign Tyler Davis To Two-Way Deal

6:06pm: The signing is official, the team tweets.

8:55am: The Thunder are poised to fill their second two-way contract slot, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that former Texas A&M big man Tyler Davis will sign a two-way deal with Oklahoma City.

Davis, who came in at No. 85 on Jonathan Givony’s big board of 2018 prospects at, went undrafted in June after forgoing his final year of college eligibility to declare as an early entrant. In his junior season at Texas A&M, the 6’10” center averaged 14.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG to go along with a .585 FG%.

The Thunder had previously signed Deonte Burton to fill one of their two-way contract slots, and will now use the other on Davis. Assuming Burton and Davis enter the season as OKC’s two-way players, it clouds the path to the NBA for 2018 second-rounder Kevin Hervey. I noted yesterday that Hervey would be a candidate for that second two-way slot, so we’ll see what the Thunder have in mind for him now.

Assuming Burton and Davis both remain under contract to start the 2018/19 campaign, the Thunder’s regular-season roster looks pretty much set. The team already has 15 players on standard NBA contracts who have guaranteed salaries for ’18/19.

Four 2018 NBA Draftees Remain Unsigned

With Thunder second-rounder Devon Hall set to spend the upcoming season playing in Australia, 56 of 60 players selected in the 2018 NBA draft have now made plans – in the NBA or elsewhere – for the 2018/19 campaign.

As our 2018 draft pick signing tracker shows, that leaves four players whose status for 2018/19 has yet to be reported or announced. Here’s what we know – or can deduce – about those four rookies:

  1. Justin Jackson (Magic): According to our roster counts, the Magic have used both of their two-way contract slots and have 16 players on NBA contracts. However, only 14 of those NBA deals are fully guaranteed, meaning there could be a path for Jackson to claim the 15th spot. Still, Isaiah Briscoe looks like he’ll have an opportunity to make the team despite not having a guaranteed salary. Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel expects Jackson, who is coming off a major shoulder injury, to spend the 2018/19 season with the Lakeland Magic, so perhaps he’ll sign a G League contract with an eye toward joining Orlando’s 15-man squad in 2019.
  2. De’Anthony Melton (Rockets): The Rockets only have 10 players on fully guaranteed salaries, meaning there’s plenty of room for Melton to join the mix. It’s possible Houston is waiting to sign Melton in order to keep him trade-eligible — as soon as he signs, he can’t be dealt for one month, and the Rockets may want to keep their options open as they scour the market for a wing player. Assuming Melton remains with the Rockets, they’ll likely lock him up for at least three years using part of the taxpayer mid-level exception, like they did with Isaiah Hartenstein.
  3. Chimezie Metu (Spurs): The Spurs have a lone opening on their projected 15-man roster, with 14 players on guaranteed deals. It’s possible Metu could slot into that spot, but he’s not the only option. Former two-way player Darrun Hilliard is a candidate to be promoted to a standard NBA contract, and 2017 second-rounder Jaron Blossomgame could also be signed. The Spurs are very comfortable stashing draft picks, as they currently retain the NBA rights to 11 players who aren’t playing in the NBA. We’ll see if Metu becomes the 12th or if the Spurs held onto part of their mid-level exception this summer in order to sign him to a long-term deal.
  4. Kevin Hervey (Thunder): Hall’s move overseas looks like it could be good news for Hervey. The Thunder have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, leaving no clear path to OKC’s regular season roster, but the club only has Deonte Burton on a two-way deal. That leaves the Thunder’s other two-way contract slot open, and it would make sense for Hervey to fill it, as four other 2018 draftees in the 54-60 range have inked two-way deals so far this summer.

Devon Hall Will Play In Australia

Devon Hall, a second-round pick by the Thunder in this year’s draft, will spend the upcoming season in Australia, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Cairns Taipans of the Australian National Basketball League has officially announced Hall’s signing.

The 53rd player selected, Hall is a 6’5″ shooting guard out of Virginia who spent four seasons in college. He played five games for the Thunder’s Summer League team, averaging 5.4 points in 15.2 minutes per contest.

There was no room for Hall on the Thunder, who currently have 15 players with guaranteed contracts. The team recently acquired Abdel Nader and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in trades and signed second-rounder Hamidou Diallo, eliminating any chance Hall may have had to earn a roster spot this season. His choices were to play overseas or for Oklahoma City Blue in the G League.

Hall plans to spend one year in Australia before coming to the NBA, tweets Sam Blum of the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va. “We expect him to be with the Thunder next season,” Hall’s agent, Daniel Curtin, told Blum.

NBA Announces Opening Night Schedule

While the NBA won’t announce its full schedule for the 2018/19 regular season until this Friday, the league revealed some marquee matchups today, announcing its schedule for opening night, Christmas Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, along with some additional nationally-televised opening week games (link via Sam Amick of USA Today).

The opening night of the 2018/19 NBA season will feature the Sixers vs. the Celtics in the early game, followed by the Thunder vs. the Warriors. For our purposes though, the most crucial detail of opening night is the date it will happen — Tuesday, October 16. That means that Monday, October 15 represents an important deadline for a number of contract-related decisions.

Teams will have until 5:00pm central time on October 15 to finalize any rookie scale extensions for 2018. Currently, Devin Booker is the only player to sign a rookie scale extension so far this offseason, leaving 22 players still eligible. Of those players, Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Larry Nance (Cavaliers), Justise Winslow (Heat), Bobby Portis (Bulls), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Myles Turner (Pacers), Terry Rozier (Celtics), and Trey Lyles (Nuggets) are among the extension candidates worth keeping an eye on.

October 15 will also be the last day for teams to complete a Designated Veteran Extension, though Kawhi Leonard was the only legit candidate for such a deal and he’s no longer eligible now that the Spurs have traded him. Additionally, October 15 will be the last day for teams to extend a veteran contract with more than one season left on it. Expiring veteran deals can still be extended during the season.

Other deadlines on October 15? It’s the last day for teams to complete sign-and-trade transactions during the current league year. And it’s the final day that an Exhibit 10 contract can be converted into a two-way deal for the coming season.

Finally, October 15 is the deadline for teams to cut their rosters down to 15 players (not counting players on two-way contracts) for the 2018/19 regular season.