Philadelphia 76ers

And-Ones: Antetokounmpo, EuroBasket, Anthony

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to skip EuroBasket is causing international conspiracy accusations, relays Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In a message written in Greek, Antetokounmpo announced on social media this morning that he will miss the tournament to keep from aggravating a knee injury. He is serving as an NBA ambassador this week in China, where he failed a physical administered by team doctors for the Bucks. Antetokounmpo called the decision to pull out of EuroBasket “by far the biggest disappointment in my career.”

However, the Greek basketball federation is casting doubt on the injury, claiming it’s a ruse by the Bucks to keep Antetokounmpo out of the competition. “A series of clues by which we were particularly worried about since Giannis arrived in Greece and the national team training camp started, had created the conviction of an organized and well-staged plan by the NBA franchise in which Giannis has signed,” the organization charged in a written statement translated by EuroBasket will get under way August 31st.

There’s more NBA-related news from around the world:

  • Two players who will be part of EuroBasket are Magic teammates Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, who faced off in a preparation game today, relays Josh Cohen of Fournier’s French team, the defending champions of the event, easily dispatched Vucevic’s Montenegro squad, 100-70. The French roster is stocked with current and former NBA players, including Boris Diaw, Joffrey Lauvergne and Nando de Colo.
  • The KnicksCarmelo Anthony, who has been the subject of trade rumors nearly all summer, makes a Basketball Insiders list of players who could most benefit from a deal. Anthony has been at an impasse for weeks, as he will reportedly only waive his no-trade clause to go to Houston, and the Rockets and Knicks have been unable to craft a mutually acceptable deal. Others who could use a change of scenery, according to the Basketball Insiders panel, are the SixersJahlil Okafor and the SunsEric Bledsoe.
  • An ESPN panel reacted to the network’s projected standings for the upcoming season by picking the teams most likely to outperform and underperform their rankings. The Sixers got multiple votes for both categories in relation to a projected 37-45 record.

NBA Teams That Still Have 2017/18 Cap Room

During the 2016 NBA offseason, when the salary camp jumped from $70MM to $94MM, 27 teams had cap room available, with only three clubs operating over the cap all year. A more modest cap increase this year to $99MM meant that fewer teams had cap space to use. So far, 14 teams – less than half the league – have used cap room to sign players.

Of those 14 teams, several have since used up all their cap room, including the Celtics, Knicks, Jazz, Lakers, and Timberwolves. However, there are still several teams around the NBA that have room available, or could create it without waiving and stretching any players on guaranteed salaries.

With the help of data from HeatHoops and Basketball Insiders, here’s a quick breakdown of teams that still have cap room available, along with their estimated space:

  • Atlanta Hawks: $4.6MM. The Hawks could gain slightly more space by waiving Luke Babbitt, whose salary is only partially guaranteed, but Atlanta just signed Babbitt, so that’s not a likely move.
  • Brooklyn Nets: $6.6MM. The Nets could gain slightly more space by waiving Spencer Dinwiddie, whose minimum salary contract is mostly non-guaranteed. However, I expect Brooklyn to keep Dinwiddie on its roster.
  • Denver Nuggets: $2.8MM. With Mason Plumlee‘s cap hold still on their books, the Nuggets’ cap room is fairly negligible. Denver could get up to about $8.6MM by renouncing Plumlee, but there’s no indication that’s in the plans.
  • Indiana Pacers: $7.6MM.
  • Philadelphia 76ers: $15.1MM. The Sixers could create even more space by waiving a player on a non-guaranteed contract, but the team isn’t about to part with Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, or T.J. McConnell.
  • Phoenix Suns: $6.3MM. Alex Len‘s cap hold is taking up $12MM right now, and Phoenix is carrying a pair of non-guaranteed contracts (Elijah Millsap and Derrick Jones), so in theory the Suns could get all the way up to $21.2MM in space by renouncing Len and cutting those non-guaranteed players.
  • Sacramento Kings: $4.3MM.

The following two teams are essentially capped-out, but could create a very small amount of room if necessary:

  • Miami Heat: The Heat could create close to $1MM in space by waiving Rodney McGruder and Okaro White, whose salaries aren’t fully guaranteed. That almost certainly won’t happen.
  • Orlando Magic: The Magic are currently under the cap by about $550K, and could create up to about $1.34MM in space by waiving Khem Birch, whose salary is mostly non-guaranteed. Again, that’s not likely.

The following two teams are technically operating over the cap at the moment, with various trade and mid-level exceptions pushing them over the threshold, but they could create room if they choose to go under the cap:

  • Chicago Bulls: The Bulls could immediately create about $13.5MM in room by renouncing the rest of their MLE and the $15MM trade exception generated in the Jimmy Butler deal. If the team chose to waive David Nwaba, who is on a non-guaranteed deal, and renounced its free agent cap holds, including Nikola Mirotic‘s, that figure would increase to about $25.8MM.
  • Dallas Mavericks: Even without renouncing Nerlens Noel‘s cap hold, the Mavericks could get to $11.6MM in cap room by waiving their non-guaranteed players and dipping below the cap. Removing Noel’s cap hold on top of that could get the Mavs up over $22MM in room, but there’s been no indication that Dallas plans to go that route.

Sixers May Seek Covington Extension

  • Former Sixers guard Gerald Henderson underwent surgery today to repair his left hip, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. His agent, Jim Tanner, confirmed the surgery and said Henderson will start rehab next week in hopes of returning to the NBA, although there is concern he could be sidelined for the entire season. Philadelphia waived Henderson at the end of June before his $9MM salary for next year became guaranteed.
  • Sixers forward Robert Covington is an “X factor” on a roster filled with young talent, writes Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders. The 26-year-old has been a fixture in Philadelphia’s starting lineup over the past three seasons and provides a blend of 3-point shooting and defense, finishing third in the league last year in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. Covington is entering the final year of his contract at $1.577MM and Chambers speculates that the team wants to get an extension done soon.

Okafor Happy In Philly; 2018 NBA London Games

  • Although his name has frequently come up in trade rumors, Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor “couldn’t be happier” in Philadelphia. The center spoke with Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times about the idea of suiting up for another squad.
  • The Celtics and Sixers will take their talents to the United Kingdom this season, an press release reveals. The two division rivals will square off in NBA London Games 2018 on January 11.

And-Ones: Offseason Winners, Losers

There were no shortage of teams that made big moves in an effort to improve this offseason but the squad that improved its standing the most is Tom Thibodeau‘s Timberwolves, an ESPN report says.

The worldwide leader in sports put the Wolves well ahead of the second-place Sixers who edged out the Nuggets. Also on ESPN’s list were the Bucks, Thunder and Lakers.

It’s hard to disagree with the fact that the Timberwolves took the top honors, the impact that Jimmy Butler will have is almost indisputable.

The Sixers and Nuggets, too, will welcome big names to their lineup, Philly’s of course coming via the past two drafts and Denver’s in the form of free agent Paul Millsap.

There’s more from around the NBA:

  • Turmoil in the locker room could cost the Cavaliers big time, an ESPN report states. The Cavs are considered the team most likely to be adversely affected by off-court moves and issues in 2017/18, ahead of the Knicks, Pelicans, Clippers, Bulls and Rockets.
  • A number of stars will suit up for new squads this season but the biggest addition of the offseason has been Houston’s landmark acquisition of Chris Paul. An ESPN report breaks down why the Rockets fared so well this offseason.
  • An ESPN report suggests that the Hornets‘ decision to acquire Dwight Howard may not bear fruit. Due to concerns about his fit in the modern era, he’s the most likely candidate to be the least effective individual to have changed addresses this summer.

Sixers’ Mathias Lessort To Play In Serbia

Another of the Sixers’ 2017 draftees has found a home for the coming season, as Serbian team KK Crvena Zvezda – also known as Red Star Belgrade – announced today (via Twitter) that it has signed second-rounder Mathias Lessort to a three-year contract.

Lessort, who was ranked as 2017’s 32nd-best prospect by DraftExpress, was viewed as a borderline first-round pick entering the draft, but ultimately slipped to Philadelphia at No. 50. The 6’9″ forward/center played for Nanterre 92 in France last season, averaging 10.2 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 36 French League contests.

The Sixers had four picks in this year’s draft, but after selecting Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick, the club focused on draft-and-stash prospects. Philadelphia used its second first-rounder – No. 25 overall – on Anzejs Pasecniks, who will spend the 2017/18 campaign with CB Gran Canaria in Spain. The team also had the No. 36 pick, and drafted Jonah Bolden, who will play in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

While Lessort’s deal with Red Star Belgrade was announced as a three-year pact, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t include NBA outs that will give the 21-year-old an opportunity to make the leap to the Sixers a year or two from now.

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.

Mathias Lessort Negotiating With Red Star Belgrade

One of the Sixers‘ second-round picks in 2017, French forward Mathias Lessort, has bought himself out of his deal with Bamberg and is negotiating with Red Star Belgrade, tweets international basketball reporter David Pick. Lessort is expected to play at least one more season – and perhaps more – overseas before heading to Philadelphia.

Poll: Best Rookie Point Guard Season

The 2017 NBA Draft was loaded with talented point guards, including first overall pick Markelle Fultz, No. 2 selection Lonzo Ball, and fellow lottery picks De’Aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. 

Fultz showed flashes of brilliance in the NBA Summer League amid overall inconsistent play before he ultimately injured his ankle in his Las Vegas debut. The 76ers guard was promptly shut down for the remainder of Summer League. This season, the rookie figures to be a regular fixture in the Philadelphia backcourt.

After dominating his freshman season at UCLA, Ball won Las Vegas Summer League MVP honors, racking up assists (9.3 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG), as well as points and rebounds. Although it is not clear whether Ball will start for the Lakers right out of the gate, he will certainly be the beneficiary of a hearty amount of playing time.

Fox is also expected to see his fair share of action this season, but averaged just 21.3 minutes per game in four Las Vegas Summer League games. Like Fultz and Ball, Fox exhibited tantalizing athleticism. The Kentucky product averaged a solid 11.8 points per contest and 3.0 assists. Fox’s 2.3 SPG were extremely impressive.

The Knicks drafted Ntilikina eighth overall because of his speed and agility. Last season, the point guard averaged just 15.5 minutes per game for Strasbourg in France but displayed tremendous promise and improved noticeably as a shooter. With D. Rose out of town, it appears as if the keys to Madison Square Garden are about to be Frank’s.

In six games in Las Vegas, Smith averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 4.2 APG, shooting 45.7% from the floor and electrifying with the occasional powerful dunk. The Mavericks prospect also tallied 2.2 SPG.

This brings us to today’s poll: Which of these point guards will have the best rookie season in 2017/18?

Community Shootaround: Joel Embiid Extension

Although he hasn’t yet been cleared for contact drills or 5-on-5 play, Joel Embiid expects to be ready in time to break camp with the Sixers this fall, whether or not he’ll have his contract extended before he returns or not, is another question.

Shortly after the June 22 draft, Sixers’ managing owner Josh Harris spoke about how committed he was to keeping the current Philadelphia squad together. One way of doing so could come in the form of a five-year, roughly $130MM contract extension.

Such a deal would begin in 2018/19 after Embiid plays out the final year of his rookie deal (worth $6.1MM) but would need to be agreed upon prior to opening day on October 17.

Another option the Sixers have is to let Embiid play through the 2017/18 campaign and then extend him a qualifying offer worth $8MM next offseason. That would make the then-24-year-old a restricted free agent.

There’s little doubt that an undeniably healthy Embiid would be worth a max contract extension as soon as possible but the big man has missed 215 of the 246 games the Sixers have played since they drafted him.

What then, is he worth now, considering that an element of uncertainty looms over what we can reasonably expect in the future? You tell us.

Are the Sixers better off to see how the 2017/18 season unfolds before they commit to Embiid long-term? Or would they benefit from locking the big man in at some point before mid-October. If you were at the helm of Philly’s front office, what would you look to do?

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