Phoenix Suns

Cavaliers Notes: Griffin, Gilbert, Korver, Williams

The Magic and Suns could both make a run at Cavaliers GM David Griffin after the playoffs end, writes Sam Amico of Amicohoops.com. Orlando, which fired GM Rob Hennigan earlier this month, would consider doubling Griffin’s salary to bring him on board. Phoenix is a legitimate threat because Griffin is from that area and started his career with the Suns. GM Ryan McDonough is safe in Phoenix, according to Amico, but the team could offer Griffin a president’s role, similar to what Phil Jackson has in New York, where he would have the final say on all basketball decisions.

Griffin’s first choice is to stay in Cleveland, and owner Dan Gilbert would like to keep him, but that’s not a guarantee that things will work out. Griffin took over GM’s post in 2014 with the expectation of building a young team, but that changed quickly when LeBron James announced his intention to return. Griffin’s goals quickly changed to building a championship team, and his performance in doing that ensures he will get a big payoff this summer. The only question is whether it comes from the Cavs or someone else.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • Kyle Korver took an instant liking to the organization after being acquired in a January 7th trade with the Hawks, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavaliers have Bird rights on the free agent swingman and can go over the cap for his new contract. Vardon indicates that Korver seems likely to re-sign, but there haven’t been any serious internal discussions about his future because of the uncertainty surrounding Griffin.
  • The same situation affects point guard Deron Williams, Vardon adds in the same piece. The significant different for Williams is that because he signed as a free agent after agreeing to a buyout with the Mavericks in February, the Cavs don’t own his Bird rights. They will be limited to the veteran’s minimum, which was $1.55MM this season, and Williams can probably find better offers elsewhere.
  • Chemistry concerns that haunted the Cavaliers this season seem like less of an issue after the first-round sweep of the Pacers, writes Marla Ridenour of The Akron Beacon Journal. “A lot of egos can get in the way, a lot of things could get in the way of a team being successful as a team,” said Kyrie Irving. “Us putting our individual sacrifices to the side and the only thing that matters is us winning and advancing, as long as that’s first, we’ll always be in a good place.”

Suns Plan To Keep GM Ryan McDonough Through 2017/18 Season

The Suns will keep Ryan McDonough on as GM through the 2017/18 season, sources tell Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. McDonough’s contract is set to expire next offseason.

Drafting Devin Booker is widely regarded as McDonough’s best move, Stein notes. The scribe adds that Phoenix may be in for a busy offseason, citing the team’s surplus of backcourt talent and the draft, which is heavy on point guards. The Suns have a 19.9% chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors recently detailed.

Phoenix had the second-worst record in the league this season, as our Reverse Standings show. The team has gone 134-160 since McDonough took over GM duties.

Pistons Committed To Keeping Caldwell-Pope

The Pistons plan to match any offer that restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope receives, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

The organization is prepared to give the fourth-year shooting guard a maximum deal if that’s what it takes to keep him in Detroit, Ellis adds, with several sources saying he is an important part of the team’s future.

Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game this season, but his numbers declined after the All-Star break. Ellis states that the Pistons may have viewed the situation differently if they were confident that Stanley Johnson was ready to become a starter, but they believe keeping Caldwell-Pope is vital and they wouldn’t be able to get an adequate replacement because of their cap situation.

Ellis touches on several other Pistons-related matters:

  • Trade talks involving Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson will continue this offseason. Ellis states that the organization is becoming impatient with Drummond, with coach/executive Stan Van Gundy saying in Friday’s press conference that he needs a “sense of urgency to elevate his game.” Jackson’s drop in production stemmed from left knee tendinitis that plagued him throughout the season, and Ellis claims the only available replacement who might be an upgrade is the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe.
  • The Pistons believe they have enough young players and future first-rounders to acquire a star this offseason. There were rumors that Drummond was offered to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins before he was sent to New Orleans, and a source told Ellis the Pistons contacted the Pacers about Paul George but never got close to a deal. George has another season left before he can opt out, and Detroit might be interested in taking the chance that it can re-sign him, but only if the price in a trade comes down. Other targets could include Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony.
  • Although the Pistons might benefit from a franchise-altering move, Van Gundy said smaller deals are more realistic. “There’s a couple things we’d like to do and make us a little bit better, but I don’t think we’re broken” he said. “Getting our point guard situation back to where it was or even better is more than feasible and corrects a great deal of the problems we’re talking about. Our roster is pretty good from there.”

2017 NBA Draft Lottery Odds

With the NBA’s 2016/17 regular season now in the books, the odds for this year’s draft lottery have been set. With the help of our Reverse Standings, as well as information from LotteryBucket.com, here is the 2017 lottery order, along with each team’s chances of landing a top pick:

  1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)
    • No. 1: 25.0%
    • Top-3: 64.3%
    • Lowest pick: No. 4
    • Note: Celtics acquire pick due to ability to swap first-round picks with Nets.
  2. Phoenix Suns
    • No. 1: 19.9%
    • Top-3: 55.8%
    • Lowest pick: No. 5
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
    • No. 1: 15.6%
    • Top-3: 46.9%
    • Lowest pick: No. 6
    • Note: Pick will be sent to Sixers if not in top 3 (odds: 53.1%).
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
    • No. 1: 14.7%
    • Top-3: 45.3%
    • Lowest pick: No. 7
    • Note: Sixers have right to swap picks with Kings, so their No. 1 and top-3 odds are a little higher than they otherwise would be. No. 1 and top-3 odds for Sixers’ own pick are 11.9% and 37.8%, respectively.
  5. Orlando Magic
    • No. 1: 8.8%
    • Top-3: 29.12%
    • Lowest pick: No. 8
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves
    • No. 1: 5.3%
    • Top-3: 18.3%
    • Lowest pick: No. 9
    • Note: Timberwolves won tiebreaker with Knicks.
  7. New York Knicks
    • No. 1: 5.3%
    • Top-3: 18.2%
    • Lowest pick: No. 10
    • Note: Knicks lost tiebreaker with Timberwolves.
  8. Sacramento Kings
    • No. 1: N/A
    • Top-3: 2.5%
    • Lowest pick: No. 11
    • Note: Sixers have right to swap picks with Kings, rendering No. 1 pick impossible and greatly reducing odds of top-3 pick.
    • Note: Pick will be sent to Bulls if not in top 10 (odds: 0.01%).
  9. Dallas Mavericks
    • No. 1: 1.7%
    • Top-3: 6.1%
    • Lowest pick: No. 12
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
    • No. 1: 1.1%
    • Top-3: 4.0%
    • Lowest pick: No. 13
    • Note: Pick will be sent to Kings if not in top 3 (odds: 96.0%).
  11. Charlotte Hornets
    • No. 1: 0.8%
    • Top-3: 2.9%
    • Lowest pick: No. 14
  12. Detroit Pistons
    • No. 1: 0.7%
    • Top-3: 2.5%
    • Lowest pick: No. 14
  13. Denver Nuggets
    • No. 1: 0.6%
    • Top-3: 2.2%
    • Lowest pick: No. 14
  14. Miami Heat
    • No. 1: 0.5%
    • Top-3: 1.8%
    • Lowest pick: No. 14

Suns GM Talks Offseason, Chandler, Bledsoe, Knight

Although the Suns’ 2016/17 season produced some memorable moments – most notably Devin Booker‘s 70-point game last month – it was a disappointing year on the whole for the club. With a 24-58 mark, Phoenix will finish with the worst record in the Western Conference.

Still, general manager Ryan McDonough remains optimistic about the team’s future. While he acknowledged that the Suns’ record this season was disappointing, he suggested this week that the club has been encouraged by the play of some of its young players since the All-Star break, which he believes bodes well for the future.

As Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic details, McDonough also spoke about the draft, some of his veteran players, and the team’s goals for 2017/18. The full piece is worth a look, especially for Suns fans, but here are a few highlights from the Phoenix GM…

On adding players in the draft and free agency this summer:

“We’ll have a high pick in the lottery. We’ll have two second-round draft picks as well. We have plenty of cap space, so we’ll have some options for this summer. We have a plan in our head right now in terms of continuing to add through the draft and build with youth, but we’ll also look at potential free-agent options. And then, the least predictable part of this, obviously, is the trades and what may swing our way. Those talks usually heat up closer to the draft.”

On how Tyson Chandler and Eric Bledsoe have handled being shut down for the season:

“Those guys have been great. Not just good, great. It was a difficult situation, but they reacted how we thought they would react. Especially Eric. He really wanted to play, and we get that. He’s a competitor. And those decisions aren’t easy to make. It’s not easy to be patient in the short term for something that will help long term.”

On Brandon Knight‘s future:

“He didn’t have the year that I think he would’ve hoped. He’s still 25 years old, I think a lot of people forget that. He’s a talented guy. Our main focus will be trying to figure out a way to put him in position to be more effective next season.”

On the Suns’ 2017/18 goals:

“We’re not as far away as it may appear given our record. We obviously made a difficult trade sending P.J. Tucker to Toronto and made some lineup adjustments that affected our win total in the short term. Hopefully, it will help our win total in the long term.

“The West is brutal, it’s hard to crack that (playoff) group. That’s kind of the way it has been in the Western Conference, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’re going to try and win as many games as we can and be as competitive as we can. We’ll see how the dust settles, but we’ll probably set making the playoffs as our goal again next year.”

Suns Notes: Chandler, Knight, McDonough

The Suns gave Tyson Chandler the option of being dealt prior to the trade deadline, but the center chose to stay in Phoenix and take on a role as a mentor. Chandler is a huge fan of the team’s young prospects and he expects to return to to the franchise next season, though nothing is set in stone, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic relays.

“I think it all depends, honestly, on what direction the team is going in,” Chandler said. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s possible for any team just to go young because then you have a roster full of guys just competing with each other. I’ve had a good relationship with the owners here and management and even the coaching staff. There’s no doubt in my mind that whatever happens it will be a common agreement, whatever’s the best for myself and the organization.”

“So for me, I want what’s best for [the young guys on the team]. I’ve accomplished a lot throughout my career. At the end of the day, I want to see those young players grow.”

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • Brandon Knight, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break, may be tough to trade because of his contract, Haller notes in the same piece. Knight has three years and slightly under $43.9MM left on his contract after this season.
  • The Suns must figure out what to do with their veterans, Keith P. Smith of RealGM contends. Smith believes GM Ryan McDonough is in a tough spot because a youth movement is a practical route for the team to go, but McDonough may not have the ownership support necessary to progress through that kind of rebuild.
  • Year three is when many NBA players go from being good, up-and-coming prospects to great, All-Star caliber players and Devin Booker is on the path to make that transition, Haller opines in a separate piece. Haller believes Booker will become Phoenix’s next big star for years to come.

Suns Sign Elijah Millsap To Multiyear Deal

1:55 PM: Phoenix will sign Millsap to a multiyear contract, according to the team’s website.

12:52 PM: The Suns will sign Elijah Millsap for the rest of the season, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical.

The 28-year-old shooting guard spent this season with the Northern Arizona Suns in the D-League, averaging 19.8 points per night in 50 games. He has previous NBA experience with the Jazz, spending parts of the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons in Utah. Millsap, the younger brother of the Hawks’ Paul Millsap, played in Israel and the Philippines after being waived in January of 2016.

The Suns have been carrying an open roster spot since the trade deadline, so they won’t have to make a corresponding move to add Millsap.

Potential 2017 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2017, includes a number of changes to the free agent process, including some that apply specifically to restricted free agents. However, one aspect of restricted free agency unaffected by the new CBA is what’s referred to as the “starter criteria,” which can affect how much an RFA’s qualifying offer will be worth.

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2015/16 and 35 in 2016/17, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons exceeds 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player ensures that a team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet, and gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO. Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. Still, those QOs can have an impact on a team’s salary cap outlook during July’s free agent period, so it’s worth checking in to see which potential RFAs will be eligible for higher or lower qualifying offers this summer.

Listed below are the top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,187,598.

Len and Noel had the worst QO luck this season. As the fifth and sixth overall picks in 2013, they would have been in line for qualifying offers worth about $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively. Instead, their QOs will be worth less than $4.2MM. Both players were very close to meeting the starter criteria too — they’ve started 77 games apiece in the past two years, so they’ll fall just short of the 82 required.

The players listed below are non-lottery first-round picks who will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,588,840.

All four of these players were selected in the 20-26 range in the 2013 draft, and their QOs would’ve ranged from about $3.39MM to $3.22MM if they hadn’t met the starter criteria.

Here are the rest of the RFAs whose qualifying offers won’t necessarily be determined by the standard criteria:

  • Undrafted power forward JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) has met the starter criteria, putting him in line for a QO worth $2,820,497 instead of the more modest amount he would’ve received as a minimum-salary player.
  • Two players – Joe Ingles (Jazz) and Ben McLemore (Kings) – still have a chance to meet the starter criteria depending on how the season’s last four days play out. Ingles has played 1,848 minutes this season, meaning he would have to average about 38 MPG in Utah’s last four contests to reach 2,000, which is a tall order. McLemore may fall just short as well, as he currently sits at 79 starts over the last two seasons. He’ll need to start three of the Kings’ last four games in order to average 41 starts per year, but he has only been in Sacramento’s starting lineup twice since the start of March. (End-of-season update: Neither Ingles nor McLemore met the starter criteria.)

Suns Like What They See Out Of Rookies

  • Tyler Ulis continues to impress in a starting role for the Suns, Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic writes. “I knew Tyler was pretty special quickly,” coach Earl Watson said. The rookie is averaging 14.8 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest since becoming the starter in mid-March.
  • Dragan Bender is back on the court after recovering ankle surgery and while his minutes are limited, the Suns like what they see, Bordow adds in the same piece. “He’s just a straight basketball player,” Watson said. “He goes out there, he just plays the game. He takes what the defense gives him.”
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