- Suns coach Monty Williams credits a “pretty vulnerable conversation” with helping to turn around Mikal Bridges last season, according to Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports 98.7. Bridges has become one of Williams’ most trusted players, ranking second on the team in minutes this year. “He’s always been a great kid, a great person,” Williams said, “but when I saw him take that conversation the right way, kind of knew he had a chance to grow, he had the capacity to grow as a player and a person.”
- Suns center Deandre Ayton has been a big, but subtle, contributor to the club’s newfound success this season, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Though he is known more for his scoring and rebounding, Ayton has been able to juggle his impressive skill set with a growing defensive game and improved screening.
Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Pacific Division:
Nicolas Batum, Clippers, 32, PF/SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020
Batum had several teams interested in him last fall when Charlotte waived him and stretched out the $27.1MM remaining on his contract. He’s proven to be a bargain for the Clippers after signing for the veteran’s minimum.
Batum has been a regular presence in the rotation (28.4 MPG), serving as a “glue guy,” content to play defense and grab some rebounds without getting a lot of shot opportunities. His shooting percentage has dropped lately, but he’s still averaging a career-best 41.4% on 3-point attempts. It’s been a bounce-back season after he languished on the Hornets’ bench a year ago. He’ll get offers commensurate for a veteran role player.
Andre Drummond, Lakers, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $794K deal in 2021
Cleveland couldn’t find a way to trade Drummond due to the $28.75MM in the final year of his contract. Once he cleared waivers, he had a choice of contenders and landed with the defending champions. It’s a tricky situation with Marc Gasol still on the roster and not thrilled about losing his starting role, but Drummond finds himself pursuing a championship for the first time in his career. If he can blend well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis once they return from injuries, the league’s most prolific rebounder can enhance his resume as he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.
Damion Lee, Warriors, 28, SG/PG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4.5MM deal in 2019
Lee started 36 games for Golden State last season after the team went into tank mode. He earned his way from a two-way contract to a standard three-year deal. However, his 2021/22 salary – albeit a modest $1.9MM by NBA standards – isn’t guaranteed. It includes a partial guarantee of $500K if he’s still on the roster in mid-summer.
Lee has gotten steady minutes as a second-unit player, but really hasn’t contributed much offensively – he’s averaging 4.4 PPG over his last seven games. As a tax team, Golden State needs to fill its bench with low-cost options, so Lee could stick but the club could also seek a better scoring threat at that spot.
Frank Kaminsky, Suns, 28, PF, (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.88MM deal in 2020
It’s been a rough stretch for Kaminsky, who was placed under the league’s health and safety protocols at the beginning of the month. Prior to being sidelined, Kaminsky saw his playing time diminish – he averaged 3.5 PPG in 13.3 MPG during six appearances in March. Kaminsky was on Phoenix’s roster last season, had a $5MM option declined, then returned to the Suns after the Kings placed him on waivers. The ninth overall pick of the 2015 draft will find it difficult to regain his second-unit role once he returns. Kaminsky will likely have to settle for the veteran’s minimum to stick around in the league next season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In an early look at the NBA’s 2021 free agent period, Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic write that three NBA teams – the Knicks, Thunder, and Spurs – project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary contract this offseason, even if they were to win the draft lottery.
Besides those clubs, the Mavericks and Hornets should be among the clubs with the most space, according to Amick and Hollinger. The Athletic’s duo projects Dallas to be about $35MM below the cap if Josh Richardson opts out, while Charlotte will have about $26MM of room.
Other teams could create cap room, but that will hinge on one or two major roster decisions. For instance, the Raptors could get up to about $25MM in space, but not if they intend to re-sign Kyle Lowry. The Suns (Chris Paul) are in a similar position, with the Heat, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Pistons among the other teams whose cap space – or lack thereof – will depend on what happens with certain free agents.
Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger on 2021 free agency:
- Although Kawhi Leonard projects to be the top free agent on the market this summer, team sources and rival executives widely expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, per The Athletic. It’s possible that could change if Los Angeles exits the postseason early, but there’s no indication at this point that Leonard’s free agency will be as dramatic as it was in 2019.
- A source with knowledge of DeMar DeRozan‘s outlook tells The Athletic he’ll take a “wide open” approach to free agency. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a new deal with the Spurs, though a March report suggested DeRozan has interest in playing elsewhere next season and perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference.
- Amick and Hollinger believe both DeRozan and Paul will keep Jrue Holiday‘s new four-year deal ($135MM guaranteed, $25MM in incentives) very much in mind when they negotiate their next contracts. However, it’s not a perfect comparable for either player, since Paul is five years older than Holiday and DeRozan isn’t the defender that Holiday is.
Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul has a $44MM player option for the 2021/22 season, but John Hollinger of The Athletic wonders if the 35-year-old may consider an extension before the year ends or possibly a Gordon Hayward-esque move during the offseason.
Hollinger suggests that, just as the Hornets forward did during the 2020 offseason, Paul could opt out of the final year of his extant deal this summer for longer-term money, at a slightly lower yearly number.
Hollinger expects ambitious clubs like the Mavericks, Heat, Knicks and even Pelicans to be interested in Paul, who is still seeking a title in his 16th NBA season out of Wake Forest.
There’s more out of the Pacific Division:
- Should the Lakers want to retain new center Andre Drummond, reserve big man Montrezl Harrell (likely to opt out of the $9.7MM second year of his current deal in the offseason), point guard Dennis Schröder, and guards Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso, they could face significant cap challenges, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report outlines. Pincus notes that the best route to retaining all three would be if the Lakers could get Drummond, currently grappling with a toe injury, to agree to a team-friendly deal worth the taxpayer mid-level exception (worth a projected $5.9MM).
- The NBA announced on Monday (Twitter link) that it has fined Kings swingman Buddy Hield $20K after an exchange of words with referees during a 129-128 defeat to the Bucks on April 3.
- Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is looking for more court awareness out of shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. “He’s been blessed with a gift to be able to get into the paint anytime he wants,” Kuzma raved. “With that being said, getting into the paint means reaching opportunities to find other guys shots.”
- The Suns were interested in small forward Torrey Craig last offseason, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets. Phoenix acquired Craig on March 18 from the Bucks for cash considerations. After spending his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, Craig spurned Phoenix’s overtures and signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Bucks during the 2020 offseason.
A total of 46 players were traded on deadline day last Thursday, and more have been waived and signed since then, resulting in major roster upheaval around the NBA.
With the dust settling a little, it’s worth checking in on which teams across the league now have open roster spots, and which clubs will need to fill at least one of those openings soon in order to meet the minimum roster requirements.
Let’s dive in…
Teams with two open spots on their 15-man rosters:
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Miami Heat
- New Orleans Pelicans
- New York Knicks
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Toronto Raptors
The NBA allows team to carry fewer than 14 players on standard (or 10-day) contracts for up to two weeks at a time. So these clubs are allowed to have just 13 for now, but will soon need to add a 14th, either with a 10-day signing or a rest-of-season addition.
The Warriors, Heat, Trail Blazers, and Raptors all dipped below 14 players on deadline day (March 25), so they’ll all have until next Thursday (April 8) to get back up to the required roster minimum. The Knicks will have even longer, since they just waived Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier on Sunday — they’ll have to add a 14th man by April 11.
The Pelicans and Clippers, meanwhile, reduced their roster counts to 13 players on March 20 and March 22, respectively, so they’ll need to make their moves sooner. New Orleans will have to add a player by this weekend at the latest, while the Clippers will do so by next Monday.
The Pels are right up against the luxury tax line, so they’ll likely sign someone to a 10-day contract. The Clippers have enough breathing room below their hard cap to complete a rest-of-season signing if they so choose.
Teams with one open spot on their 15-man rosters:
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Indiana Pacers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Orlando Magic
A report last Thursday indicated that the Pacers were signing Oshae Brissett, but they still have completed that 10-day deal, so they have an open roster spot for now. The Bucks technically have two open roster spots as of this writing, but are expected to sign Jeff Teague to fill one of them as soon as today.
The Lakers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Magic all have 14 players on standard, rest-of-season contracts, with no obligation to fill their 15th spots anytime soon. The Cavaliers currently have 14th man Quinn Cook on a 10-day contract. When his deal expires on Wednesday night, the team will dip to 13 players and will have two weeks to re-add a 14th.
Teams with open two-way contract slots:
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
The Thunder opened up one of their two-way slots when they promoted Moses Brown to the standard roster over the weekend. I’d expect them and the Timberwolves to be more interested in filling their open two-way spots than the Suns and Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City and Minnesota are lottery teams and could benefit from a look at one more young player, while Phoenix and Portland are playoff clubs that have shown no desire to add a second two-way player all season long.
Also worth mentioning:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Detroit Pistons
- San Antonio Spurs
The Nets, Spurs, and Pistons currently have full 15-man rosters, but won’t for much longer, as all three teams have players on 10-day contracts. Alize Johnson‘s deal with Brooklyn runs through Wednesday, while Cameron Reynolds‘ with San Antonio runs through Sunday and Tyler Cook‘s with Detroit expires after next Tuesday.
Note: Our full roster count breakdown can be found right here.
MARCH 29: The Spurs have made it official with Dieng, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed him to a new contract.
MARCH 28: Free agent center Gorgui Dieng will sign with the Spurs once he clears waivers, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The Knicks, Suns, Clippers, Sixers, Raptors, Heat and Nets also reached out to Dieng, sources tell Stein (Twitter link).
San Antonio doesn’t have an open roster spot, so Marquese Chriss will be waived to make room for Dieng, as Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter). Chriss, who is out for the year with a broken right fibula, was acquired from the Warriors on Thursday. His $1.8MM contract expires at the end of the season.
The Spurs have officially released Chriss, Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets.
The Grizzlies waived Dieng on Friday after failing to find a taker for him by the trade deadline. His $17.3MM contract limited the options for Memphis on the trade market.
Dieng has played in just 22 games this season and was averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per night. He had fallen behind Xavier Tillman in the rotation and didn’t appear to have a future with the Grizzlies.
Dieng will officially clear waivers at 5pm today. The 31-year-old will provide another veteran front court option for San Antonio, which reached a buyout agreement with LaMarcus Aldridge on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
According to Charania, the Raptors remain seriously engaged with the Heat and Lakers, having been offered packages headed by Duncan Robinson (Miami) or Dennis Schröder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (L.A.). Toronto is pushing for the inclusion of Tyler Herro or Talen Horton-Tucker in any deal with the Heat or Lakers, says Charania.
Charania adds that the Heat are believed to be Lowry’s preferred destination.
Here’s more from around the league:
- The Knicks have remained engaged with the Pelicans today about a possible Lonzo Ball trade, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. New York is also receiving inquiries on center Mitchell Robinson, according to Begley, though it’s not clear if the team is open at all to moving Robinson.
- As of earlier this afternoon, the Suns weren’t close to making any deals, and all signs pointed to them standing pat at the deadline, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.
- The Nuggets are likely done dealing after agreeing to trades for Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.