Suns Rumors

Saric Increases QO; Williams, Booker Enthusiastic About Fitzgerald's Involvement

  • As a result of starting 41 games this season for the Suns, Dario Saric has met the starter criteria and will be eligible a slightly higher qualifying offer if the team makes him a restricted free agent this summer, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. A former 12th overall pick, Saric would have been in line for a $4.79MM QO, but it’ll now be worth $5.09MM, the equivalent of a QO for the ninth overall pick.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams and star Devin Booker expressed enthusiasm about NFL receiver Larry Fitzgerald joining the club’s ownership group, as Brendon Kleen of Forbes.com writes. “The level of credibility of our franchise continues to go up,” Williams said. “When someone like Larry partners and pours his money into it, it says a lot about who we are and who we’re trying to be.”

Clippers, Mavs Exploring Market For Wings, Bigs

The Clippers are exploring the trade market in search of “dependable size” and possible depth on the wing, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links). According to Stein, the Clippers have some concern about how they match up with the Lakers up front, as well as Kawhi Leonard‘s and Paul George‘s nagging health issues.

As we observed earlier this month, the Clippers are in a good position to pursue a roster upgrade at this year’s deadline. Their 2020 first-round pick is available to include in a deal, Maurice Harkless‘ expiring contract is a good salary-matching piece, and their young prospects like Jerome Robinson, Terance Mann, and Mfiondu Kabengele could appeal to trade partners.

On top of that, while there’s no indication that the Clippers are looking to trade either Montrezl Harrell or Ivica Zubac, both centers would have plenty of trade value if the team makes them available in search of an upgrade. Harrell is earning just $6MM and will be a restricted free agent, while Zubac is locked up at a reasonable rate (about $7MM per year) through 2022/23.

The Clippers have been linked this winter to Marcus Morris and Thaddeus Young, among other potential trade targets.

Meanwhile, Stein adds (via Twitter) that the Mavericks are in a similar boat to the Clippers, scouring the market for possible help on the wing and/or in the frontcourt, especially in the wake of Dwight Powell‘s season-ending Achilles injury.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggested earlier today that the Mavs have expressed interest in Danilo Gallinari and Robert Covington. Dallas reportedly checked in on free agent big man Joakim Noah as well.

As the Clippers, Mavs, and other teams explore the idea of trading for a big, Stein also cites league sources who say the Suns aren’t shopping Aron Baynes but haven’t ruled out moving him at the deadline if the price is right (Twitter link). With a $5.45MM expiring contract, Baynes might be a more realistic target for a contender than a big-money player like Andre Drummond or Steven Adams.

Larry Fitzgerald Now Part Owner Of Suns

NFL star Larry Fitzgerald has purchased an undisclosed share of the Suns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter of ESPN.

A longtime receiver with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald has forged a strong working relationship with Suns managing partner Robert Sarver and has been serving as an ambassador for the team.

Fitzgerald was part of the interview process when the organization hired Jeff Bower as senior vice president of basketball operations in April. He also helped to canvass for a public arena vote, but he won’t become more active with the NBA team until he retires from football, according to the authors. Fitzgerald signed a one-year extension with the Cardinals last week.

He becomes the second prominent NFL player to invest in the NBA, joining Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who bought part of the Bucks in 2018.

Wojnarowski and Schefter point out that Fitzgerald is well respected in the Phoenix community and should bring more credibility to the Suns and to Sarver, who has frequently been a target of fan anger amidst a string of losing seasons. Fitzgerald does extensive charitable work and was selected as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016.

“It’s an investment in something I have supported since I’ve been in Arizona,” Fitzgerald told Jim Trotter of NFL.com. “It gives me another connection in the community I love and always will live in. It’s a long-term commitment I wanted to make for life after football.”

Sarver and Fitzgerald have a friendship that dates back to 2005, a year after the wide receiver was drafted into the NFL, Trotter adds. Sarver brought up the idea of investing in the team two years ago when Fitzgerald was thinking of retiring.

“I had never really given it any thought before then,” Fitzgerald said. “I asked him to give me a little bit of time to think about it and wrap my mind around it. I thought it was a unique opportunity because I hadn’t heard of many other [athletes] doing it, but I wanted to really think about it because it’s a substantial capital commitment. It’s not something small.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/21/20

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

  • The Suns have assigned Jalen Lecque to the Northern Arizona Suns, per the team’s Twitter feed. Lecque recently made his NBA debut, playing two minutes for Phoenix last week.
  • The Wizards have assigned Admiral Schofield to the G League, per the team’s Twitter feed. Schofield was available for the Capital City Go-Go’s contest earlier tonight.
  • The Thunder have recalled center Justin Patton from the G League, the team announced today in a press release.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Pacific 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 take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Skepticism was rampant when the Lakers brought Howard back. That included the team’s front office, who gave him a non-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal. Instead of quickly wearing out his welcome, Howard has been wearing out second-unit centers. In the last three games, Howard has averaged 14 PPG and 15 RPG. Injuries limited Howard to nine games with Washington last season but the future Hall-of-Famer has proven he can accept a bench role and still have a major impact on a contending team. He’ll get significantly more than the veteran’s minimum this summer.

Nemanja Bjelica, Kings, 31, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $20.5MM deal in 2018
When Bjelica gets rolling, he can be an offensive force. Orlando learned that lesson on Monday when he erupted for 34 points. He’s also had 27- and 30-point games for the Kings this season. Bjelica started regularly for Sacramento last season but he’s turned it up a notch in his second season there, averaging career highs in points (12.2 PPG), rebounds (6.6 RPG) and assists (2.5 APG) while making 43.4% of his long-range attempts. The Kings can retain Bjelica’s services by guaranteeing his $7.15MM salary prior to free agency. He’s making that an easy decision.

Maurice Harkless, Clippers, 26, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2016
Being the fifth option on the court, especially on a team loaded with scorers like the Clippers, can be tough for many players to accept. Harkless embraces that role, which is why he’s a steady presence in the rotation. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG while playing 22.8 MPG due to his limited opportunities. Harkless’ defensive rating has jumped this season, why is why Doc Rivers keeps calling his number. Harkless is making $11MM this season prior to unrestricted free agency. He’ll have to take a pay cut this summer but he’ll find a second-unit job in the open market.

Dario Saric, Suns, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.75MM deal in 2016
Saric’s NBA career has gone south after a promising second season in Philadelphia in which he averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG while making 39.3% of his 3-pointers. Saric was included in the Jimmy Butler deal with Minnesota last season and was later sent to Phoenix in a draft-night trade. His playing time has fallen substantially this month, including a couple of games in which he barely left the bench. Phoenix can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.79MM qualifying offer. It’s likely the Suns will seek an upgrade at power foward and allow Saric to move on.

Alec Burks, Warriors, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Burks scored 25 points in an overtime loss to the Nuggets on Thursday after shooting 27.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range in his previous five games. He’s averaging 15.9 PPG but that’s mainly a product of opportunity on a bad team. He’s taking a career-high 12.4 shots per game, including 4.5 from long range. On the flip side, Burks settled for a veteran’s minimum contract last season. He’s done enough to get a better offer as a second-unit scorer, though he’s not going to make $10MM-plus as he did the previous three seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns Sign Tariq Owens To Two-Way Contract

JANUARY 15: The Suns have officially signed Owens to a two-way contract, the club confirmed today in a press release.

JANUARY 14: The Suns intend to sign Tariq Owens to a two-way contract in advance of Wednesday’s deadline, sources tell Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). January 15 is the last day that teams can sign players to two-way deals this season.

Owens, a 6’10” forward, played college ball at Tennessee and St. John’s before joining Texas Tech for the 2018/19 season. He helped lead the team to the national title game by averaging 8.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 2.4 BPG in 38 games (25.4 MPG), then signed a training camp deal with the Suns last summer.

Although he didn’t make the team’s regular season roster, Owens has spent the year with Phoenix’s G League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns. He has recorded 9.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 23 NBAGL contests (24.3 MPG).

No corresponding roster move will be necessary to bring aboard Owens, since Jared Harper has been the Suns’ only two-way player all season long. Owens will be eligible to spend up to 24 days in the NBA before the end of the G League regular season in March, though I imagine he’ll continue to spend the majority of his time with Northern Arizona.

Ayton Finds Himself In Reserve Role

Suns center Deandre Ayton finds himself in a reserve role for the time being and he admits it’s an adjustment, as he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Ayton is working his way back into top shape after a 25-game league-imposed suspension. “I’ve never been through this, but it’s new,” the top overall pick of the 2018 draft said. “I’m just holding my head high and just working.” Ayton had 18 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes against Charlotte on Sunday.

Two-Way Contract Situations To Watch This Week

January 15 is the last day that NBA teams can sign a player to a two-way contract this season. After that date, teams can still waive two-way players or promote them to their 15-man rosters, but they can’t bring aboard new players on two-way contracts as replacements.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

With that deadline looming, we could get a mini-flurry of activity related to two-way deals this week. While it’s impossible to predict which teams will simply choose to replace one two-way player with a new one, there are a few specific situations worth keeping an eye on, based on certain players’ performances or teams’ roster situations.

Here are a few two-way contract situations to watch this week:

The Suns, Cavaliers, and Heat

The Suns and Cavaliers are currently the only two teams not carrying a pair of players on two-way contracts, while the Heat are expected to join them tomorrow.

Phoenix has only had one player (Jared Harper) on a two-way contract all season long, but it would still be a surprise not to see the team add a second two-way player by Wednesday. Cleveland, meanwhile, just waived Levi Randolph on Sunday, while Miami is poised to promote Chris Silva to the 15-man roster, opening up a two-way slot for each club.

Damion Lee / Ky Bowman (Warriors)

Rotation players Lee and Bowman have been two of the most likely candidates for promotions all season long. The Warriors have a pair of open roster spots, but based on their hard cap, they only have the flexibility to promote one of their two-way players for now.

Lee is expected to be first in line, as we heard when Golden State waived Marquese Chriss last week. A deal appeared imminent at that time, but nothing has been completed yet, even now that Lee has reached his 45-day NBA limit. It’s possible the two sides are still haggling over the length of the contract (the Warriors could offer as many as four years), but the team may just be taking its time to maximize its financial flexibility below the hard cap.

Assuming Lee is promoted by Wednesday, as expected, Golden State figures to add a new two-way player to pair with Bowman, who may get a promotion of his own later in the season. The Dubs’ new two-way player would be able to spend up to 24 days in the NBA before the end of the G League season.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Nets)

Keith Smith of RealGM suggested on Sunday (via Twitter) that the Nets will likely move Luwawu-Cabarrot to the 15-man roster in the coming days, on either a standard contract or a 10-day deal.

Brooklyn won’t technically have a roster spot open until Justin Anderson‘s 10-day pact expires on Wednesday night, but could terminate that contract a day or two early in order to promote Luwawu-Cabarrot and sign a new two-way player by Wednesday’s deadline.

Norvel Pelle (Sixers)

Teams around the NBA are keeping an eye on Pelle, who only has a few NBA days left on his two-way deal, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links).

If the Sixers intend to promote Pelle, it’d be in their best interests to do it by Wednesday in order to sign a new two-way player to replace him. However, it remains unclear whether or not that will happen. After guaranteeing Trey Burke‘s salary last week, Philadelphia has a full 15-man roster and would probably have to release a player like Jonah Bolden, Raul Neto, or Kyle O’Quinn to make room for Pelle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Southwest 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 take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Derrick Favors, Pelicans, 28, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $37.6MM deal in 2018
A power forward by trade, Favors has emerged as the Pelicans’ starting center. Over a nine-game span prior to Friday’s action, Favors posted six double-doubles while averaging 11.2 PPG and 14.4 RPG. With an expiring $17.65MM contract, Favors is a candidate to be dealt before February’s deadline. Favors left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury but as long as it’s not serious, he could be an intriguing rental. Several teams were already monitoring Favors prior to his recent productive run. Jaxson Hayes is the future center for the Pelicans and Favors doesn’t stretch defenses but his steady contributions will draw some attention in a weak free agent market.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Rockets, 21, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018
Hartenstein doesn’t get many opportunities but he puts up strong numbers when the Rockets are shorthanded in the frontcourt. In a three-game stretch in late December, Hartenstein averaged 14.7 PPG on 73% percent shooting and 11.3 RPG. In six G League outings this season, he has posted 21.3 PPG, 14.5 RPG and 4.7 APG in 33.3 MPG. The Rockets have a June 29 deadline to guarantee Hartenstein’s $1.66MM salary. It’s hard to see the Rockets letting the 21-year-old 7-footer walk away at that price.

Josh Jackson, Grizzlies, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $18.2MM deal in 2017
Following two troubled seasons with the Suns, Jackson was dealt to the Grizzlies during the offseason. Memphis decided to have Jackson work on improving his game and reputation at the G League level. The fourth overall pick of the 2017 draft has toiled there during the first three months of the season. Jackson was suspended two games for violating team rules last month, then went into an offensive funk until a 35-point outburst against the Iowa Wolves Monday. There’s no indication the Grizzlies have any interest in re-signing the unrestricted free agent this summer.

Ryan Broekhoff, Mavericks, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.25MM deal in 2018
Broekhoff suffered a fractured left fibula late last month and is out indefinitely. Tough break — literally — for the Australian swingman, who wasn’t playing much anyway. He has appeared in 10 games this season, averaging 3.7 PPG in 7.7 MPG, after playing 42 games with Dallas last season in his first NBA campaign. Dallas would have to extend a $1.9MM qualifying offer to him in June to make him a restricted free agent. It seems likely that Broekhoff will return overseas next season to resume his career.

Jakob Poeltl, Spurs, 24, C (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.2MM deal in 2016
The Raptors’ 2016 lottery pick hasn’t really developed with a change of scenery over the past two seasons. Though Poeltl has made modest increases in his rebounding, assist and shot-blocking averages this season, his playing time remains limited to 15-20 minutes per game. The 7-footer doesn’t provide much offensively and has yet to develop a 3-point shot. He’s also a poor free throw shooter. San Antonio would have to extend a $5.1MM qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. That’s a reasonable price for a second-unit player but San Antonio may let him walk and seek an upgrade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

January is generally a month full of roster shuffling in the NBA. The opening of the 10-day contract period (January 5), the salary guarantee deadline (January 7), the two-way contract deadline (January 15), and the upcoming trade deadline (February 6) all incentivize teams to make changes to their rosters.

With those dates in mind, we’re taking a look today at which teams around the NBA still have openings on their 15-man rosters and which ones have a two-way contract slot available.

Listed below, with the help of our roster counts breakdown, are the teams that aren’t carrying full rosters.

Teams with an open 15-man roster spot:

  • Denver Nuggets
  • Golden State Warriors
    • Note: The Warriors have two open roster spots.
  • Houston Rockets
  • Miami Heat
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Portland Trail Blazers

Not carrying a full 15-man roster saves a team some money and gives that team the flexibility to add a player in a trade or on the buyout market. For most the teams listed above, the financial factor probably outweighs the roster-flexibility factor — the Warriors, Rockets, Heat, Thunder, and Trail Blazers are all in tax territory, while the Nuggets are close. Only the Magic don’t have immediate tax concerns.

It’s worth noting that because Golden State has two open roster spots, the team has a two-week window after waiving Marquese Chriss on Tuesday to get to the required minimum of 14 players. They’re expected to promote two-way player Damion Lee, which would open up a two-way contract slot.

Teams whose full 15-man rosters include at least one 10-day contract:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Cleveland Cavaliers

Paul Watson is currently on a 10-day contract with the Hawks, while Justin Anderson has one with the Nets. Those deals will expire at the end of the day on January 15, so each team could open up a roster spot at that point by not re-signing Watson or Anderson to a second 10-day pact.

As for the Cavaliers, they have two players on 10-day contracts after re-signing Alfonzo McKinnie and Tyler Cook on Thursday. Those deals will run through January 18, at which time Cleveland could re-sign one or both players, or move forward with just 13 players for up to two weeks.

Teams with an open two-way contract slot:

  • Phoenix Suns

The Suns have been the only NBA team carrying just one two-way player all season long. Phoenix has its own G League affiliate and two-way contracts don’t count against the cap at all, so the franchise’s motivation for not filling that spot remains unclear. While there’s no indication a move is imminent, it would be surprising if the Suns don’t sign a second two-way player before the January 15 deadline.