Magic Rumors

Five Eastern FAs Who Have Significantly Boosted Their Value In 2018/19

For a star like Kevin Durant, the results of the 2018/19 season haven’t had much of an impact on his projected earnings in free agency. Heading into the season, the expectation was that Durant would land a maximum-salary contract; that hasn’t changed. In fact, barring a catastrophic injury, it’s hard to imagine what KD could have done this season that would’ve significantly impacted his stock as his free agency nears.

For most other NBA players in contract years though, their performance on the court this season will go a long way toward determining what sort of offers they’ll get this summer. There are several players around the league who have increased their value significantly with their on-court showings in 2018/19 and figure to do better than originally expected in free agency this year as a result.

Today, we’ll shine a spotlight on some of these players from the Eastern Conference, identifying six 2019 free-agents-to-be who have improved their stock with their play this season.

Let’s dive in…

  1. D’Angelo Russell, G, Nets (RFA): We’ve written repeatedly about Russell’s ascension this season, but it’s still worth reiterating how impressive it has been. It’s easy to forget now, but before Caris LeVert dislocated his foot in November, it was LeVert that looked like the Nets guard headed for a breakout year. Instead, Russell has emerged as The Man in Brooklyn, averaging 21.8 PPG, 7.4 APG, and 3.7 RPG on .436/.366/.792 shooting in the 60 games since that LeVert injury. Assuming the Nets can hold onto a playoff spot, D-Lo will have the opportunity to turn a few more heads in the postseason, positioning himself for an annual salary between $20MM and the max.
  2. Nikola Vucevic, C, Magic: To thrive in the modern NBA, a center generally needs to be able to shoot from outside or protect the rim — or both. Neither skill had ever been a huge part of Vucevic’s game, but he has proven he’s adaptable in recent years. In 72 games this season, the Magic center is putting up career highs in 3PT% (.366), total 3-pointers (74), and BPG (1.2). His 20.7 PPG and 12.1 RPG are also career bests, buoying him to his first career All-Star Game. At age 28, Vucevic may not be in line for a massive payday, but he appears set to get a nice raise on his current $12.75MM salary, which was hardly a lock heading into the season.
  3. Bojan Bogdanovic, G/F, Pacers: A sharpshooting role player prior to joining the Pacers, Bogdanovic has taken his game to another level this season — especially since Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending quad injury in January. Having never averaged more than 14.3 PPG in a season, the 29-year-old has posted a blistering .509/.403/.794 shooting line in the 27 games since Oladipo went down, averaging a team-high 21.3 PPG in that stretch. Bogdanovic isn’t an elite defender, but any wing who can knock down threes at the rate he can will do well for himself in free agency.
  4. Danny Green, G, Raptors: While All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and Most Improved Player candidate Pascal Siakam have – deservedly – received much of the credit for the Raptors‘ success this year, Green shouldn’t be overlooked. Viewed as almost a throw-in in the deal that sent Kawhi to Toronto, Green has had a terrific bounce-back season, knocking down a scorching 44.3% of his 3-point attempts. His on/off-court numbers exhibit his importance — the Raptors have a +12.2 net rating when he plays, compared to a -5.0 mark when he sits. An ideal three-and-D wing, Green should be in line for another lucrative multiyear deal this summer.
  5. Brook Lopez, C, Bucks: Like Vucevic, Lopez has avoided becoming an NBA relic by modernizing his game. Once a fixture in the low post, the 30-year-old can now frequently be found a few steps behind the arc, having earned the nickname Splash Mountain by knocking down threes and helping to space the Bucks‘ offense. Lopez is more of a role player than the core piece he was in Brooklyn, but his shooting (2.4 3PG, .371 3PT%) and rim protection (2.2 BPG) make him a valuable contributor. Milwaukee almost certainly won’t be able to bring him back at the same bargain-basement rate he agreed to in 2018 ($3.4MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Magic Sign Michael Carter-Williams To Second 10-Day Deal

Michael Carter-Williams‘ 10-day contract with the Magic expired overnight on Sunday, but the veteran point guard isn’t going anywhere. According to a press release from the team, Carter-Williams has officially signed a second 10-day deal with Orlando.

A former Rookie of the Year, Carter-Williams began the 2018/19 season with the Rockets, but failed to lock down a rotation role in Houston. He was traded to the Bulls in January and was released before his salary became fully guaranteed.

Since catching on with the Magic earlier this month, the 27-year-old has served as D.J. Augustin‘s backup, displacing Jerian Grant in the rotation and filling in for injured rookie Isaiah Briscoe. MCW’s numbers on his first 10-day deal were modest (3.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, and a .222 FG% in 16.3 MPG), but he has played well on the defensive end and the Magic won all three games he played, keeping their postseason hopes alive.

The Magic’s press release announcing Carter-Williams’ new 10-day deal doesn’t indicate that anyone has been released, so it appears the team’s hardship exception has been extended. That exception – which can be granted to teams with at least four injured players – allows Orlando to temporarily carry a 16th man. However, if the Magic do make the playoffs and want MCW available, they’ll have to waive another player to make room for him, since the hardship exception wouldn’t extend to the postseason.

Carter-Williams’ new 10-day contract, like his previous deal, will count against the cap for $85,458, though he’ll earn a slightly higher salary ($99,290).

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/24/19

Here are Sunday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Rockets recalled Gary Clark from Rio Grande Valley after he played in last night’s regular season finale, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.
  • The Spurs recalled Chimezie Metu and Lonnie Walker from their Austin affiliate, the team announced on its website.
  • The Magic recalled Melvin Frazier from their Lakeland affiliate, according to a tweet from the team.
  • The Warriors recalled Jacob Evans from Santa Cruz, the team announced in an email. The rookie guard is averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the G League.

B.J. Johnson Returns To G League

B.J. Johnson, whose second 10-day contract with the Hawks expired on Friday, has rejoined the Magic‘s G League affiliate, tweets Adam Johnson of 2 Ways and 10 Days.

The Lakeland Magic added Johnson to take the place of Anthony Brown, who suffered a season-ending injury. Johnson spent most of the year in Lakeland before getting the opportunity with Atlanta, averaging 15.4 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 39 G League games. Lakeland’s regular season ended last night, but Johnson will be eligible for the playoffs.

After going undrafted out of LaSalle, Johnson signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Orlando in September, but was waived before the season began. The rookie swingman appeared in six games during his time with the Hawks, averaging 3.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per night. He earned $47,371 in each of his 10-day deals.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southeast Division:

Justin Anderson, Hawks, 25, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $7MM deal in 2015
The Hawks can make Anderson a restricted free agent if they extend a $3.62MM qualifying offer. Anderson hasn’t given them much incentive to do so since they acquired him in an offseason trade with Philadelphia. Anderson is getting fewer minutes off the bench than ageless wonder Vince Carter, with under six minutes per game in seven March appearances. A recent report indicated that the Hawks would be aggressive in free agency. Renouncing Anderson’s rights would give them more elbow room to pursue top-tier players.

Shelvin Mack, Hornets, 28, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
It’s rare when NBA players are claimed off waivers. Mack proved to be an exception after the Grizzlies traded him to the Hawks last month, who weren’t interested in retaining his services. The Hornets were looking for some insurance behind backup Tony Parker, but Mack has been mostly a spectator. He’s appeared in just three games since the waiver claim after receiving steady minutes on Memphis’ second unit. Mack will be shopping around for a one-year minimum deal once again this offseason.

Derrick Jones Jr., Heat,, 22, SF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018
The Heat have an August 1 deadline to guarantee Jones’ $1.645MM salary for next season. Considering that Jones is a young rotation player, that would seem to be an easy decision. Jones remains a work in progress offensively but advanced metrics indicate he’s making a defensive impact. His Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating, according to Basketball-Reference is a solid 1.4. Jones is shooting 49% from the field, mainly due to the fact that 54% of his attempts have come within three feet of the basket. He’s averaging 21.5 MPG in March, a sign of trust from coach Erik Spoelstra.

Nikola Vucevic, Magic, 28, C (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $53MM deal in 2015
There have been conflicting reports whether Dallas will make a big push for Orlando’s big man this summer. No doubt, there will be a market for Vucevic’s services. He’s averaging career highs of 20.6 PPG and 12.2 RPG in his walk year and coach Steve Clifford adds that Vucevic essentially gives the team “two point guards” when he’s on the floor. Vucevic isn’t considered a defensive stalwart but his Defensive Box rating this season is a career-high 3.7. Vucevic won’t get a max-level offer but he’ll be making a lot more than $12.75MM next season.

Sam Dekker, Wizards, 24, SF (Down)– Signed to a four-year, $7.9MM deal in 2015
Dekker could be a restricted free agent this summer if the Wizards extend a $3.91MM qualifying offer. That’s not going to happen, as Dekker hasn’t been any better in Washington than he was in three other NBA stops. The 18th overall pick in the 2015 draft has made 33 appearances with the Wizards since he was acquired from Cleveland in early December. He’s averaging 5.9 PPG in 15.4 MPG, but shooting just 29.4% from deep and 51.6% from the foul line. Dekker’s expectations should be modest in the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/22/19

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Sixers assigned big man Jonah Bolden to the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s PR department tweets. Bolden is averaging 16 PPG and 12 RPG in 33.3 MPG over six appearances with the Blue Coats, who play a back-to-back this weekend.
  • The Spurs recalled rookie guard and first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV from the Austin Spurs, according to a team press release. In 28 games with Austin, Walker IV is averaging 16.7 PPG in 27.5 MPG.
  • The Magic assigned guard Melvin Frazier Jr. to Lakeland ahead of the G League’s team back-to-back games this weekend, the team’s PR department tweets. Frazier is averaging 12.1 PPG in 29.8 MPG over 16 games with Lakeland.
  • The Knicks recalled center Luke Kornet from Westchester, the team’s PR department tweets. Kornet is averaging 18.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG in 32.5 MPG over 11 games with Westchester.
  • The Jazz assigned first-round pick and guard Grayson Allen to the Salt Lake City Stars, the team’s PR department tweets. Allen is averaging 17.5 PPG in 31.8 MPG while starting 11 games for the Stars.
  • The Warriors assigned rookie guard and first-round pick Jacob Evans III to Santa Cruz, according to a team press release. In 20 games with Santa Cruz, he’s averaging 11.5 PPG and 2.5 APG in 26.4 MPG.

Fultz Expresses Confidence In Magic; Birch Took Rough Path To NBA

Despite not seeing any action yet, former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz believes the Magic have a perfect system that will fit his game when he returns, John Denton of NBA.com writes. The Magic acquired Fultz in a deal before February’s trade deadline, pushing their vision to include him in pick-and-roll sets with Aaron Gordon and others once he recovers from injury.

“Pick-and-rolls are one of my favorite parts of the game, and as everyone knows, that’s the way that I played in college,’’ Fultz said. “I think (the Magic’s system) is almost perfect for me. I think I’m a versatile player, but with the screen-and-roll (system) and the players that we have here, I think it’s going to be very fun.”

Fultz, 20, has played just 35 games since being drafted by the Sixers in 2017. The Magic hope he can become the team’s point guard of the future, though this largely depends on how his rehab progresses throughout the year.

  • Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel details the long, tough path Khem Birch took before making the NBA, with the 26-year-old now seeing consistent playing time as a big man off the Magic’s bench. “Two years ago I was on the Syrian border on New Year’s Eve thinking if I’m ever going to come back home and play basketball in America,” Birch said. “I actually look back to when I was over there in Europe, and it made me a stronger person and it made me mature more.” Birch, who went undrafted in 2014, has earned double-digit minutes in every contest with Orlando since the start of February.

How All-NBA Choices Could Impact Contract Situations

Last month, we outlined how the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans could significantly impact what Karl-Anthony Towns next contract looks like.

Towns’ new extension, signed last fall, will start at 30% of the cap if he earns All-NBA honors in 2019, as opposed to 25% of the cap if he misses out on an All-NBA slot. With Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid expected to claim two All-NBA center spots, Towns is in position to grab the third, in part due to Davis’ trade request — not only will AD’s role in the Pelicans’ dysfunction be considered, but he’s playing limited minutes down the stretch while Towns puts up some of the best numbers of his career.

Assuming Towns does earn an All-NBA nod, it’ll be a $30MM+ decision by award voters, bumping the projected value of his five-year deal from about $158MM to nearly $190MM. However, KAT isn’t the only player who could have his contract situation significantly impacted by this year’s All-NBA selections.

As Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com and Andrew Sharp of SI.com have detailed this week, there’s a lot at stake for a handful of players who are candidates for this year’s All-NBA teams. Let’s break it down, taking a closer look at some players who could become eligible for a super-max contract this year…

The All-NBA locks:

While there’s some debate over which six guards will get All-NBA nods, Lillard looks like a slam dunk for a spot on the first or second team — Lillard, Stephen Curry and James Harden appear to be the strongest candidates for the two guard spots on that first team.

Assuming he does, in fact, earn All-NBA honors, Lillard will become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension. His current contract runs through 2020/21, with no options, so he’d be eligible to tack on four extra years to that deal, starting in 2021/22.

For now, i’s impossible to say exactly what the NBA’s salary cap will be in 2021/22, but based on projections for ’19/20 ($109MM) and ’20/21 ($118MM), we can safely assume a max deal for Lillard starting in ’21/22 will be worth a lot more than it would be now. Conservatively, estimating a $120MM cap, Lillard’s super-max extension would start at $42MM and would be worth $188MM+ over four years.

With Lillard in position to gain eligibility for a super-max extension, the big question in Portland this summer could be whether the Trail Blazers will actually put that offer on the table. There have been no indications that either Lillard or the Blazers wants to end their union, but the club might be wary of offering such a massive deal to a player who will be 31 years old when the four-year deal begins — that decision hasn’t worked out well for the Wizards with John Wall.

As for Antetokounmpo, he’s on track to become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension too, and that decision figures to be a much easier one for the Bucks. However, Milwaukee won’t be able to actually put that super-max offer on the table until the 2020 offseason, once Giannis has seven years of NBA experience under his belt.

The All-NBA guard contenders:

Read more

Markelle Fultz In Good Spot To Redeem Career

Markelle Fultz is still not practicing with the Magic. There remains no timetable for his return, and with the playoffs still within reach for Orlando, it would be surprising if he plays for his new team at all this season.

However, Fultz has reached a new stage in his recovery process, moving his rehab from California – where he has spent the past few months – to Orlando, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports.

“I think it’s what’s best for me and the team,” Fultz said. “[It’s beneficial] just being around these guys, so they see my face and I see their face. I’m going to learn as much as I can. As we make this push for the playoffs, I want to be here with my guys and just support them.”

Fultz is in a good situation to turn his young career around, as the Magic are taking a patient approach in assisting him as he looks to return to his old form. “Nobody here is rushing me. Everybody here is just open to me getting right and healthy first,” Fultz said.

Sounds like a movie we’ve seen before? Yes, the company line in Philadelphia was patience, and while the fanbase shed its typical hard-nosed Philly reputation, cheering for Fultz and embracing any progress—even baby steps—as the teenage point guard attempted to get back to his old self, the franchise grew tired of waiting. The Sixers were ready to compete in the present.

Fultz only tallied 33 games played in Philadelphia. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick was sent to the Magic from the Sixers at the trade deadline in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2020 first-round pick (via OKC) and a 2019 second-round pick (via Cleveland).

There are reasons to believe things will be different in Orlando. The Magic are not currently built to compete for the Eastern Conference crown and the media coverage isn’t as intense in Florida as it is in the City of Brotherly Love. Fultz’s return to the court is expected to be less pressurized than it was in Post-Process Philly.

There is also less competition for a prominent role in the backcourt, as Orlando has no point guard of the future on its roster. Veteran point guard D.J. Augustin has been one of the Magic’s most crucial players, but he’ll turn 32 at the beginning of next season and will become a free agent at the end of it.

The Magic have taken shots at a few other guard prospects who have flamed out elsewhere with no real success. Jerian Grant held a role until being supplanted by Isaiah Briscoe. When Briscoe injured his knee, the team took a flyer on former No. 11 overall pick Michael Carter-Williams, though MCW is only on a 10-day contract and could wake up next Monday without a job.

There’s some thought within NBA circles that teams are giving up on top draft picks too soon. Clippers coach Doc Rivers recently argued that teams are too finicky with regard to their top draft selections.

You look at each draft and there’s guys that come out at 19 and they don’t take off right away. They get moved around, and the next thing you know, they’re players,” River said in reference to D’Angelo Russell and his son, Austin Rivers.

Part of the angst organizations face with past top draft selections is financially driven. Top draft picks can extremely cost efficient if they bloom, but if they wilt, their salaries can be burdensome. As part of his rookie deal, Fultz takes home slightly under $8.4MM this season and will collect roughly $9.7MM next year. The franchise will have to make a decision on his $12.3MM salary for 2020/21 by this fall.

For now, Fultz is confident that his rehab is going in the right direction. “It’s going great. I’m feeling really good. I’m happy. I’m blessed. And as I’m going forward, I’m just sticking with the plan and just going through rehab,” the point guard told Robbins.

Many people living in Northeast American cities take trips to Florida to slow down and decompress from their typical work life and while Fultz is hard at work in rehab, he’ll get to experience a similar effect. A new environment provides him with a relaxed approach compared to the hustle-and-bustle mentality of the bigger city life and that might be just what the 20-year-old needs to get back on track.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.