Suns Rumors

Knicks Notes: Booker, Draft, Wesley, Mini-Camp

Suns guard Devin Booker may be the player to watch as the Knicks try to trade for an unhappy star, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Booker is a former client of new team president Leon Rose, and as a Kentucky alumnus, he has a close relationship with newly hired executive VP William Wesley. Booker had plenty of good things to say about Rose when he became part of New York’s front office.

“I think he’ll do unbelievable,’’ Booker said. “One of the most genuine guys I know. One of the most honest guys I know. So I’m happy for him in his new position. I think the Knicks are in really good hands.’’

Berman suggests the Suns’ lack of success may eventually cause Booker to want to move on. They haven’t come close to making the playoffs in any of his five seasons.

There’s more from New York:

  • Finding a shooter will be a priority in the draft, Berman adds in the same piece. The Knicks own three of the top 38 picks and will be looking for a 3-point threat after shooting just 33% from beyond the arc this season. Berman notes that LaMelo Ball remains the team’s first choice among point guards, but he hasn’t been an effective long-distance shooter. If they draft him, the Knicks are hoping he can develop that part of his game, just like his brother Lonzo has.
  • Wesley has exerted influence over owner James Dolan for the past 15 years and was responsible for at least one disastrous decision, Berman states in a separate story. Wesley reportedly convinced Dolan to hire Steve Mills to replace Glen Grunwald as general manager in 2013 after a 54-28 season. The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since that move.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday questions whether the Knicks should bother with a planned mini-camp in Chicago for the eight teams that weren’t invited to Orlando. The team wants to bring players together for workouts, but sees no benefit to a combined effort with seven other franchises while the coronavirus continues to spread, Popper writes. New York also has a coaching search to concentrate on and would prefer to hold private sessions so the new coach can begin to teach his system to the players.

Suns Front Office, Not Booker, To Blame If Phoenix Misses Playoffs

  • Suns All-Star Devin Booker deserves to shoulder little blame should Phoenix miss the playoffs in the NBA’s season restart, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Rankin posits that, with Booker having elevated his play this season, the front office deserves much of the blame for his surrounding teammates. Center Deandre Ayton, drafted ahead of All-Stars Luka Doncic and Trae Young in 2018, has been putting up solid counting statistics this season, but has yet to live up to his billing as a No. 1 pick.

Cameron Payne Signs With Suns

7:18pm: The Suns have officially signed Payne, per Gina Mizell, most recently of The Athletic (Twitter link).

6:20pm: Well-traveled point guard Cameron Payne, a current free agent most recently with the Cavaliers during the 2018/2019, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Suns, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic (Twitter link).

Since being drafted at the bottom of the 2015 lottery with the No. 14 pick out of Murray State by the Thunder, Payne has logged time – primarily as a backup – with Oklahoma City, the Bulls and the Cavaliers. He holds averages of 6.0 PPG (he is connecting on just 39.7% of his looks from the field but a decent 77.5% from the charity stripe), 1.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG.

The 26-39 Suns, led by All-Star Devin Booker, will be joining the NBA’s season restart in Orlando. The 6’3″ Payne can help the team shore up their guard depth as an end-of-bench/practice addition at either position.

No corresponding move is required, as the Suns have an open spot on their 15-man roster.

NBA’s Transaction Window Closes On Tuesday Night

The NBA’s week-long transaction window, which opened last Tuesday at noon eastern time, will close tonight at 11:59 pm ET, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

A number of teams have taken advantage of the opportunity to sign, claim, and waive players within the last seven days, including the Thunder, who agreed to a new long-term deal with two-way player Luguentz Dort, the Knicks, who claimed Theo Pinson and Jared Harper while waiving Allonzo Trier, and many others. We’ll have a full recap of the week’s transactions on Wednesday morning.

Here’s what happens when this week’s transaction window closes:

  • Teams can no longer sign a player to a contract (unless he’s a substitute player).
  • Teams can no longer convert a two-way player to their standard roster.
  • Luxury tax penalties are calculated based on team payrolls as of June 30.

I wouldn’t expect a huge flurry of last-minute moves today, but it’s worth noting that a few teams still have roster spots available, including the Suns, Trail Blazers, Hornets (two), Warriors (two), and Timberwolves. Some – but not all – of those clubs have luxury-tax concerns.

For the 22 teams headed to Orlando to participate in the NBA’s restart, there’s one exception to the roster freeze. Starting on July 1, teams will still be able to sign a substitute player to replace a player who voluntarily opts out, contracts COVID-19, or is ruled out due to being at higher risk of serious coronavirus symptoms.

So far, six players have opted out of the restart — they’ll be ineligible to return this season, but eligible to be replaced by substitute players. In most cases, those players’ teams have already lined up those substitutes and will be able to sign them as of noon ET on Sunday.

J.R. Smith will replace Avery Bradley for the Lakers; Jerian Grant will replace Davis Bertans for the Wizards; Jaylen Adams will replace Trevor Ariza for the Trail Blazers; Justin Anderson will replace Wilson Chandler for the Nets; and Trey Burke will replace Willie Cauley-Stein for the Mavericks. Brooklyn still needs to line up a second substitute player for DeAndre Jordan.

This form of substitute-player transaction is permitted through August 14. After that, teams can still sign a replacement for a player who contracts COVID-19, but the substitute must have no more than three years of NBA service, ruling out a number of veterans.

Pelicans-Jazz Begins NBA Restart On July 30

The Pelicans and rookie star Zion Williamson will face the Jazz on July 30 at 6:30 p.m. ET in the first game of the NBA’s restart, the league announced on Friday.

There will be 88 “seeding” games from July 30 to August 14 prior to the postseason.

The Clippers will square off against the Lakers in the second game on July 30 at 9 p.m. ET. The first two games will be broadcast by TNT.

It will get very busy the next day with six games scheduled, highlighted by Celtics vs. Bucks and Rockets vs. Mavericks. There will be a maximum of seven games per day, with start times ranging from 12-9 p.m.

At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the highest combined winning percentages across regular-season games and seeding games will be the first through seventh seeds for the conference playoffs.  If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular-season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best winning percentage would be the No. 8 seed.

If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the No. 8 playoff seed in the conference.  The play-in tournament will be double elimination for the eighth-place team and single elimination for the ninth-place team.

Much of the intrigue regarding the seeding games concerns the final Western Conference spot. The Grizzlies, currently eighth, hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings, a four-game lead over the Spurs and a six-game advantage on the Suns.

Memphis will face the Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics and Bucks during the seeding round. Among the Grizzlies’ pursuers, the Pelicans appear to have the weakest schedule. After opening against the Jazz, they’ll face the Clippers, Grizzlies, Kings (twice), Wizards, Spurs and Magic.

The Nets and Magic need only to hold off the Wizards in the East to claim the final two spots in their conference. Washington trails Brooklyn by six games and Orlando by 5 1/2 games.

The breakdown of each team’s seeding schedule can be found here. The day-by-day schedule and national TV schedule can be found here.

Teams Bracing For COVID-19 Cases; Two Suns Test Positive

With the second phase of the NBA’s return-to-play plan getting underway today, mandatory coronavirus testing will begin for players on teams who will be part of the Orlando restart this summer, and those clubs are bracing for a “significant” number of positive tests, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Full training camps won’t officially begin until July 11, after teams have reported to Orlando. Players who take part in group workouts at that time will have tested negative for COVID-19 at least twice upon arriving at Walt Disney World. During the two weeks before teams travel to Orlando, those clubs will look to identify and quarantine any players who have contracted the virus to ensure that they don’t bring it with them into the bubble.

According to Wojnarowski, one Western Conference playoff team had four positive coronavirus tests within the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic reports that two Suns players have tested positive, prompting the team to temporarily shut down voluntary workouts at its Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum practice facility.

While an increasing number of positive tests in the coming days will likely prompt questions about the NBA’s restart plan, the league remains hopeful that by the time teams are ready to travel to Orlando around July 7, any affected players will either be fully recovered or will remain quarantined as they recover.

Suns' Robert Sarver Initially Wanted To Own Franchise In Las Vegas

  • Suns owner Robert Sarver wanted to own an NBA franchise in Las Vegas, Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic writes. Sarver, who purchased the Suns in 2004, explained that then-commissioner David Stern pointed him toward Phoenix after Sarver initially expressed interest in Vegas.

NBA Transaction Window To Open On June 23

The NBA will lift its moratorium on transactions on Tuesday, allowing a number of moves to be completed between June 23 (starting at noon eastern time) and June 30 (until 11:59pm ET), sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Charania details (via Twitter), the following types of transactions will be permitted during that week-long window:

  • Players can be signed to rest-of-season contracts.
  • Substitute players can be signed for players opting not to report to Orlando.
  • Two-way contracts can be signed or converted to standard deals.
  • Players can be waived.

Trades won’t permitted during the transaction window, since the season’s deadline has passed and the offseason hasn’t yet begun. And while Charania’s report doesn’t mention it, it’s believed that all 30 teams will be eligible to participate in the transaction window, though the eight teams not included in the summer restart may be restricted from certain transactions, such as signing substitute players and two-way players.

The minimum salary for players with at least two years of experience who are signing rest-of-season deals will be $183,115, according to Charania. That’s the equivalent to 20 days’ worth of the $1,620,564 minimum salary for 2019/20.

Transactions have been frozen since shortly after the NBA suspended its season in March. The NBA and NBPA agreed in April to extend that moratorium indefinitely, so next week will represent the first time in more than three months that teams will be able to complete roster moves.

While it remains to be seen what moves will be made next week, we’ve heard that the Thunder have interest in converting Luguentz Dort‘s two-way contract into a standard deal and that the Rockets are eyeing free agent guard Tyler Johnson. With 22 teams set to participate in the summer restart, a number of two-way contract situations will also be worth keeping an eye on. You can check out our two-way contract tracker here.

Additionally, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press notes (via Twitter) that Suns guard Jared Harper, who was waived just before the moratorium was imposed in March, will be placed on waivers once the transaction window opens on Tuesday — he’ll need to clear waivers on Thursday before officially becoming a free agent.

Oubre Excited About Playing Again

  • Although he’s not expected to be healthy enough to participate, Suns forward Kelly Oubre is grateful his team was given the opportunity to play again this season, as he told Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. He believes it will be beneficial for the club’s development. “We have to continue to get better each and every day,” he said. “We haven’t done anything yet. So our main goal should be to just lock in and just continue to just focus on getting better and coming back next year, better than ever.”

Suns’ Oubre Expected To Remain Sidelined For Rest Of 2019/20

Suns forward Kelly Oubre isn’t expected to return to action when the 2019/20 season resumes in Orlando, reports Shams Charania of Stadium (video link).

Oubre underwent surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee on March 3, approximately a week before the NBA suspended its season. At the time, the Suns announced that he’d be re-evaluated in four weeks, though there was an expectation that he may miss the rest of the season.

With the end of the season having pushed back by several months, Oubre’s new return timeline had been unclear. However, Charania suggests that the 24-year-old still has rehab and therapy work to do on his injured knee. Although Oubre will likely travel to Orlando with the Suns, he isn’t expected to suit up for games as the club looks to make up ground in the Western Conference playoff race.

Oubre enjoyed a career year in Phoenix in 2019/20, averaging 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.3 SPG with a .452/.352/.780 shooting line in 56 games (34.5 MPG). He has one season left on the two-year deal he signed with the club last July.

The Suns, meanwhile, join the Spurs as Western challengers who will be without a key player when the season resumes this summer. LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the rest of ’19/20 for San Antonio after undergoing shoulder surgery.