Thunder Rumors

Northwest Notes: Gallinari, Nuggets, Timberwolves

As he prepares to enter free agency this offseason, Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari tells Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that he believes the idea that he’s injury prone is unfair and that he hopes to have dispelled that notion by not missing any significant time during the last two seasons.

“I’ve had small injuries that everyone has. I only had two big injuries, which was the back my first year and the ACL back in 2013 when I was in Denver,” Gallinari said. “I honestly don’t understand why I have this injury-prone stigma on my shoulders, but it’s just not true. It’s not facts. The facts are different. I’m very healthy, and I’ve been playing seasons with no problems playing almost every game. Most of the games I didn’t play is because it was a team decision to rest and not being injured.”

Asked specifically about his free agency, Gallinari said he’d “love to run it back” and return to Oklahoma City in 2020/21, but he sounds open to exploring other options as well. The 32-year-old previously suggested he may prioritize an opportunity to win a title over securing the most lucrative possible contract, but he told Scotto that he’s not necessarily seeking out just one specific kind of situation.

“The part I love is that I have the chance to look at everything,” Gallinari said. “Honestly, I don’t have one direction or one thing that I’m looking at. In your career, you can’t be a free agent every year. When it happens, for me, it’s this summer, I want to take my time and look at everything.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After being known as the Pepsi Center for over two decades, the Nuggets‘ home arena is getting a new name. As Mike Singer of The Denver Post details, the team’s building will now be known as the Ball Arena as a result of a partnership between Ball Corporation and Kroenke Sports and Entertainment.
  • Likening Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests the Timberwolves are in position to follow the roster-building blueprint established by the Nuggets. However, Tjarks acknowledges that the Wolves need to start adding more two-way players and would benefit tremendously from finding their own version of Paul Millsap.
  • The Timberwolvesdilemma with the No. 1 pick is exacerbated by the fact that most of this year’s top prospects aren’t elite shooters or defenders, which are the two kinds of players Minnesota would most like to add. Passing along comments from president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune examines how the Wolves will assess which prospects are capable of improving their outside shooting.

NBA Agents Talk Offseason, Finances, Execs, More

NBA agents are generally in agreement that the 2020 offseason will be an unusual one due to the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effect, but they don’t all agree on what exactly the offseason will look like.

Ben Standig, Mike Vorkunov, and other writers from The Athletic conducted a survey of 20 player agents to get their thoughts on the coming offseason and state of the NBA. And while some of those agents believe financial concerns will limit player movement this fall, others believe there will still be plenty of movement — even if it doesn’t happen in free agency.

“My fear is there will be a lot of teams and ownership groups that sit out free agency,” one agent said. “… In terms of player movement, I think there will be a lot. Not just signing guys. Nobody wants to pay the tax. Everybody is going to try to clear space for 2021. I can definitely see a sizeable amount of player movement. But not a lot of dollars spent.”

One agent who spoke to The Athletic suggested that some teams will be in cost-cutting mode and, for financial reasons, may move players they wouldn’t have traded in a normal year. However, another agent believes there will still be plenty of clubs willing to spend to compete for the postseason and for a title.

“Teams want to win and they’re going to spend to win,” the agent said. “Ultimately, as we saw with Denver, there’s a lot of teams within striking distance of contention and they’re not going to be cheap. The Clippers fired a coach with two years on his deal. We’re going to be fine.”

As for how many NBA franchises will be in legitimate financial peril during the coming year, one agent is skeptical that any will actually be in trouble.

“They’re going to blow so much smoke up our a– about how bad the business model is and everything like that, but Minnesota is going to sell for $1.5 billion and it’s the worst market, as far as basketball,” the agent said. “They sold 18 years ago for $88MM and they’re going to sell for $1.5 billion? You can’t tell (me) you have a bad business.

“There’s going be revenues that are greatly reduced, but I would say to any of these teams that feel like these businesses that they can’t pour cash into to carry it through this rough spot, they should sell. Because they have opportunities. We’ll find them a buyer in a month.”

Here are a few of the other most interesting takeaways from The Athletic’s agent survey:

  • Thunder point guard Chris Paul is the highest-profile player that most agents expected to be traded this offseason, while the Sixers are considered the team most in need of a major roster move. “Philly is at the point where it’s a make or break year for just about everybody,” one agent said.
  • Of the 19 agents who weighed in on the subject, 18 said they expect Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee beyond his current contract.
  • LaMelo Ball comfortably received the most votes as 2020’s most intriguing draft prospect, but he’s viewed as a somewhat risky investment. “I think he has such a high ceiling but the difference from his top to bottom is the biggest of anyone in the draft,” one agent said. Another offered the following assessment: “That could go really good or really bad.”
  • One agent said he has “never heard less enthusiasm” from teams that have high picks in this year’s draft.
  • One agent speculated that centers will be hit hardest by teams’ financial limitations this offseason, since clubs are focusing on players who can defend several positions. Another said that he thinks many clubs may prioritize veterans over young prospects, since cost-conscious teams may not want to use back-of-the-roster spots on guys who won’t play at all.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti easily received the most votes as the NBA’s “smartest” team executive, but Pat Riley of the Heat and Masai Ujiri of the Raptors got more votes when agents were asked which exec they’d want to hire if they were running a franchise.

Thunder Notes: Weaver, Gallinari, Coaching Search

The Thunder‘s head coaching search now includes former Sixers and Nets assistant Will Weaver, sources tell Mitch Lawrence of SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter link). Weaver, who coached the Long Island Nets in 2018/19, currently serves as the head coach of the Sydney Kings in Australia’s National Basketball League.

In an episode of his Hoop Collective podcast earlier this month, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst linked Weaver to the Pelicans‘ head coaching search, noting that the veteran coach has a working relationship with New Orleans’ general manager Trajan Langdon. As Windhorst explains, the Pelicans’ decision to send 2019 second-round pick Didi Louzada to Sydney was related to Weaver’s presence there.

Relaying Windhorst’s comments last week, Matt Logue of The Australian wrote that “it is understood” that Weaver will interview for the Thunder’s open head coaching job.

While we wait to see if anything more concrete materializes between Weaver and two of the teams still seeking head coaches, here are a few more Thunder-related items:

  • An unrestricted free agent this fall, Danilo Gallinari published a tweet on Tuesday asking, “Where to next?” There’s still a chance Gallinari could return to the Thunder for the 2020/21 season, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. However, Oklahoma City is believed to be mulling a rebuild and Gallinari’s Tuesday tweet suggests he’s preparing to play elsewhere next season.
  • Elsewhere at The Oklahoman, Mussatto continues to profile coaches who he believes could become candidates for the Thunder’s head coaching vacancy. In recent days, he has taken a closer look at Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, and Dayton head coach Anthony Grant.
  • In case you missed it last week, we previewed the Thunder’s major upcoming offseason decisions, including the possibility of a Chris Paul trade.

Draft Notes: Pro Days, No. 1 Pick, Williams, Quickley

The NBA’s new pre-draft rules aren’t popular with several teams, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who states that at least half the league is considering not having executives attend workouts and may have just a “minimal presence” at pro days.

Givony says many front offices don’t believe it’s worth making a trip to watch a prospect work out by himself, and some of the teams are located in states that require a mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers. There’s also concern that an executive might contract COVID-19 and not be available on draft night. Also, some teams are reluctant to give away any secrets by providing the league with a list of the 10 players they would most like to scout.

The league office has received requests to alter its new rules, Givony adds, but complications will remain even if that happens. He notes that agents will have difficulty scheduling more than three or four teams each day for a workout, an in-person interview and then a 30-minute medical exam. Teams with high lottery picks are expected to be most active in trying to attend those sessions.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Givony talked to several teams that confirm Minnesota has been involved in trade talks regarding the No. 1 pick. Agents who represent players that are expected to be taken early say Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas has been “noncommittal” about what he plans to do and seems open to moving down. Givony adds that LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards are still the most likely candidates for the top pick, but the team’s uncertain ownership status may play a role in its draft plans.
  • In the same story, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz identifies Patrick Williams of Florida State as the player making the biggest jump on draft boards. The 19-year-old handles the ball well for his 6’8″ size and could wind up being selected in the top 10. Schmitz also sees potential in Washington’s Jaden McDaniels, while Givony names Kansas center Udoka Azubuike as a possible sleeper.
  • Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley has met twice with the Knicks, Pistons and Thunder and has held one meeting with several other teams, including the Nets and Celtics, tweets Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

Rockets Owner Believed Chris Paul’s Contract Was The Worst He’d Ever Seen

Last summer’s trade that sent Chris Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook was driven by the dismay Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had over Paul’s contract, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on the latest edition of The Lowe Post podcast.

Reflecting on Daryl Morey’s tenure in Houston, MacMahon said Fertitta and James Harden were more insistent on the deal than the team’s former general manager. Harden had clashed with Paul during their final season as teammates, and Fertitta believed Paul’s contract “was the worst that he’d ever seen in business or sports,” according to MacMahon.

MacMahon emphasizes that Morey didn’t openly object to making the trade, but was compelled to act because of the wishes of his “two bosses,” Fertitta and Harden. He adds that many people in the Rockets’ organization believe the relationship between Paul and Harden could have been salvaged if Westbrook hadn’t been available.

Paul, 35, still has two seasons left on the four-year, $160MM contract the Rockets gave him in the summer of 2018. He played just one season in Houston after signing the deal, as the team shipped him and a parcel of draft picks to Oklahoma City in exchange for Westbrook.

Paul was outstanding in leading the Thunder to the playoffs in what many considered to be a rebuilding year, but his age and contract make him a candidate to be traded again before the start of next season.

Some Execs View Lakers As Logical Suitor For Chris Paul

  • Some executives around the league believe that the Lakers make sense as a trade partner for the Thunder in a Chris Paul deal, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. While LeBron James and Paul likely wouldn’t mind teaming up, it would be tricky for the Lakers to pull off a deal — they’d have to package at least six players in order to match Paul’s salary, and there would be other roadblocks to consider, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

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 Oklahoma City Thunder.

Salary Cap Outlook

After paying tax penalties for five of the last six seasons, the Thunder don’t project to be above the luxury-tax line in 2020/21. Still, with $101.75MM already committed to nine roster spots (eight guaranteed contracts and a first-round pick), it won’t be easy to create any cap room. Barring a trade that significantly reduces salary, Oklahoma City will likely operate as an over-the-cap team.

In that scenario, the Thunder would have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.62MM). If the team cuts costs and ends up using cap space, it would lose those exceptions along with a couple sizeable trade exceptions, but would gain access to the room exception ($4.77MM).

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

Roster Decisions To Watch


  • Mike Muscala, player option: $2,283,034
  • Abdel Nader, team option: $1,752,950
    • Note: Salary doesn’t immediately become guaranteed if option is exercised.
  • Deonte Burton, team option: $1,663,861
    • Note: Salary will become partially guaranteed for $1.1MM if option is exercised.
  • Hamidou Diallo, team option: $1,663,861

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

  • None

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:

2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 25 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 53 overall pick

The Thunder’s first-round pick this year is Denver’s pick, which they acquired last July. Oklahoma City’s own pick (No. 21) was sent to Philadelphia back in 2016. In an odd coincidence, both selections were traded for Jerami Grant.

The second-round pick is the Thunder’s own. Because they technically won a three-way tiebreaker in the first round (which the Sixers benefited from), the Thunder’s second-rounder landed at No. 53 instead of 51 or 52.

Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Is Sam Presti ready to launch a rebuild?

The Thunder finished the 2019/20 season tied for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference (44-28) and pushed the Rockets to seven games in the first round before being eliminated.

The team outperformed expectations this season, but there’s reason to believe that success could be replicated in 2020/21. Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, and Steven Adams are still under contract. So are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, and Darius Bazley, and they should only improve going forward. Danilo Gallinari could be re-signed without going into tax territory. And with all the future first-round picks Oklahoma City has in hand, adding an impact player in a trade isn’t out of the question either.

However, there are signs the Thunder aren’t planning to go in that direction. The most glaring of those is the team’s inability to come to an agreement with head coach Billy Donovan, who elected to part ways with OKC despite receiving a multiyear contract offer from the club.

Reports at the time of the split – as well as comments from Presti himself – indicated that the Thunder and Donovan might not have been on the same page regarding the direction in the franchise. In other words, Donovan didn’t want to stick around only for the roster to undergo a retooling process, while Presti seems far more prepared to go in that direction.

With Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort, and Bazley all locked up for multiple years, the Thunder have a promising young core and won’t require a full teardown. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if Paul, Gallinari, Schröder, and Adams are all gone a year from now.

Gallinari is an unrestricted free agent this fall, so if the Thunder don’t re-sign him, their only hope of getting value in return would be through a sign-and-trade. Schröder and Adams will each be on expiring contracts in 2020/21, but the former will have much more trade value than the latter, whose $27.5MM cap hit will make it tricky find a taker. Paul, who is owed $85MM+ over the next two years, is the most fascinating trade candidate of the bunch — we’ll dig deeper into his situation below.

While I expect the Thunder to explore the trade market for all of those veterans this offseason, I don’t think there’s any urgency for the team to make deals right away. That’s especially true for guys like Paul and Adams. If trade partners aren’t willing to take on their oversized contracts without draft compensation, Oklahoma City can afford to be patient.

Adams will be off the books in 2021 and Paul will be entering the final year of his deal at that point. It’s not as if the Thunder need to clear cap room immediately in order to pursue free agents. Dipping into their cache of future first-round picks just to get off Adams’ or Paul’s contracts a year early would be a misuse of those resources.

In essence, while Presti and the Thunder may be prepared to retool their roster, there’s no need for a full teardown and there’s no rush to clear out the veterans as soon as possible. This rebuild can be a gradual one, and fully bottoming out shouldn’t be necessary.

2. Will Chris Paul be traded this offseason?

Paul is one of the NBA’s most interesting trade candidates this fall. He’s only a year removed from being attached to two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps in a deal for Russell Westbrook, but his value has increased since then for a few reasons.

For one, Paul had a terrific year in 2019/20, staying healthy all season and averaging 17.6 PPG, 6.7 APG, and 5.0 RPG with a .489 FG% in 70 games (31.5 MPG), earning his first All-Star nod since 2016. Teams with interest in acquiring CP3 will recognize that he’s still an injury risk, but the fact that he continues to play at such a high level is encouraging — his production is unlikely to fall off a cliff in 2020/21 as long as he stays relatively healthy.

Paul’s oversized contract is also one year closer to ending now. If a team acquires him and doesn’t get the sort of production it hoped for, his cap hits ($41.4MM in ’20/21, $44.2MM in ’21/22) will be onerous in the short term, but won’t ruin the club’s flexibility for years to come.

This year’s week free agent class also helps boost Paul’s appeal. There are two 2020 All-Stars who are free agents this offseason, but both of them – Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram – are highly likely to return to their current teams. Teams looking to add an All-Star caliber impact player may view a trade for Paul as their best bet to do so.

Paul’s fate will ultimately come down to what sort of offers Oklahoma City gets. The Thunder’s ability to extract a first-round pick in a package for CP3 – or willingness to include one themselves – will hinge on what the rest of the return looks like.

For instance, I don’t think there’s any way the Thunder will attach a future first-rounder to Paul if the Sixers want them to take on Tobias Harris‘ or Al Horford‘s long-term contract, or if the Bucks want them to take Eric Bledsoe and other salary filler. In those scenarios, OKC would likely ask its trade partner to include a first-rounder.

On the other hand, if the Thunder’s return includes a promising young player who could become a building block in Oklahoma City, the team would presumably be more willing to surrender a future first-rounder in addition to Paul. It’s more difficult to construct a hypothetical deal along these lines. If the Knicks were willing to include Mitchell Robinson in their offer, they could probably land Paul and draft assets. But I don’t think New York would do that.

Although Paul’s value is difficult to nail down, I don’t see the Thunder viewing him as a salary dump. If they’re going to move him this fall, they’ll want some combination of cap relief, a draft pick, and/or players who can contribute. If the Thunder don’t get any offers that fit that bill, they can afford to hang onto their veteran point guard for the time being, as they did a year ago.

3. Who will the Thunder hire as their head coach?

There haven’t been many updates out of Oklahoma City on the team’s head coaching search since Donovan’s departure more than a month ago. I imagine the Thunder began the process of seeking a replacement at some point since then, so the radio silence is likely by design rather than an indication of inactivity.

Even without any leaks, we can make a few assumptions about the Thunder’s search.

For instance, based on the divide between Donovan and the organization, it’s a good bet that the club will be seeking a coach who’s comfortable with the idea of overseeing a rebuild.

Additionally, given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, I can’t see Oklahoma City paying big money to a head coach if the club doesn’t expect to be contending in the short term.

Those clues point to the Thunder targeting an up-and-coming candidate who may not have any previous head coaching experience. That lack of experience should keep his – or her – price tag in check. Still, the Thunder will want someone who has spent some time on NBA staffs so that they’re not hiring an entirely unknown commodity.

That profile fits with the few names we’ve heard linked to the job. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst initially identified Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin and Spurs assistant Will Hardy as contenders, while Shams Charania of The Athletic later confirmed OKC’s interest in Hardy and added Thunder assistant Brian Keefe to the list of candidates.

Griffin and Keefe each have more than a decade of experience as NBA assistants under their belts and have worked for at least three teams apiece during that time. Vanterpool began his coaching career as a CSKA Moscow assistant and has worked on the Blazers’ and Wolves’ staffs since returning stateside in 2012. Hardy has only worked for the Spurs, but has made an impressive rise through the ranks since joining the team’s video department in 2011 and is now one of Gregg Popovich‘s top lieutenants.

It’s possible the Thunder’s list of coaching candidates will continue to grow in the coming days or weeks. Based on what we know so far though, it sounds like the club will be targeting a veteran assistant who has proven his bona fides at the NBA level and is ready for a promotion.

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

Mussatto Evaluates Handy, Hardy As Possible OKC Coaching Candidate

The Thunder are one of the few teams still searching for a new head coach. Last month, Billy Donovan and Oklahoma City surprisingly parted ways after he reportedly rejected a two-year contract offer from the Thunder.

With Donovan having moved onto Chicago, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores the idea of Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy as a potential head-coaching candidate for the Thunder. Mussatto notes that the 49-year-old Handy has a championship pedigree, having gone to the NBA Finals six times. He also looked at Handy’s journey, which includes playing professional basketball and getting his start as a player development coach in 2011.

Along with Handy, Mussatto profiled Spurs assistant Will Hardy as a head coaching option for the Thunder.