Amir Johnson

Sixers Re-Sign Amir Johnson

JULY 16, 7:30pm: The signing is official, per team press release.

JULY 4, 2:50pm: Johnson’s new one-year deal will be worth the veteran’s minimum, according to Jake Fischer of (Twitter link).

2:29pm: The Sixers are finalizing a contract agreement with free agent big man Amir Johnson that will keep him in Philadelphia, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Johnson is expected to sign a one-year deal.

Johnson, 31, initially joined the 76ers in the summer of 2017 when he inked a one-year, $11MM deal with the club. Like J.J. Redick, whose salary will go from $23MM last year to about $12-13MM in 2018/19, Johnson figures to return at a lesser rate.

The Sixers have committed just about all their projected cap room to Redick and trade acquisition Wilson Chandler, but could offer Johnson the $4.45MM room exception or a minimum-salary contract if they don’t intend to clear additional space with another roster move.

In 74 games for Philadelphia in 2017/18, Johnson provided veteran stability in the frontcourt, primarily serving as Joel Embiid‘s backup at the five. He averaged 4.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.6 APG in 15.8 minutes per contest.

The 76ers entered the offseason with 11 players under contract, and have since drafted and signed Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet, agreed to re-sign Redick, struck a deal to acquire Chandler, and now agreed to terms with Johnson as well.

That brings Philadelphia’s projected roster count to 16, without accounting for the possibility that the team could bring over draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden this offseason. As such, a trade or cut figures to be coming at some point, with Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot among the players whose roster spots look least secure.

Their agreement with Johnson also seems likely to take the Sixers out of the running for veteran center Kyle O’Quinn, who was reportedly drawing “heavy interest” from Philadelphia on the first day of free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Crawford, Ellington, Bjelica, Williams

The Sixers are interested in veteran free agent guard Jamal Crawford, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Crawford could fortify a bench that has lost Ersan Ilyasovaand Marco Belinelli since the start of free agency. Crawford, 38, averaged 10.3 PPG in 20.7 MPG for the Timberwolves last season. The Pelicans, Cavaliers, Warriors and Nuggets are also reportedly in the mix for Crawford, who opted out of his contract with Minnesota and left $4.54MM on the table.

In other news regarding the free agent market:

  • Unrestricted free agent shooting guard Wayne Ellington has drawn significant interest but he’s viewed as a good bet to re-sign with the Heat, Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports tweets. Miami has a cap hold of $8.15MM on Ellington, who appeared in 77 games and averaged 11.2 PPG in 26.5 MPG while shooting 39.2% from long range.
  • The Jazz have a strong interest in Nemanja Bjelica, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. The Timberwolves pulled their qualifying offer to the power forward in order to sign Anthony Tolliver, thus making Bjelica an unrestricted free agent.
  • The Knicks are interested in Alan Williams if he clears waivers, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The Suns waived the power forward/center on Monday. The Knicks have also reached out to free agent power forwards Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker, Berman adds.
  • Williams hasn’t ruled out a return to the Suns but his agent has already heard from a handful of teams interested in his services, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. Williams, who appeared in only five games last season due to a knee injury, had a non-guaranteed salary of $5.5MM for next season and will likely get through waivers.
  • The Lakers have renounced their free-agent exception rights to guard Andre Ingram and power forward Travis Wear, according to the RealGM transactions log. The Lakers had a cap hold of $1.338MM on Ingram and $1.5MM on Wear. Ingram appeared in two games with Los Angeles last season, while Wear saw action in 17 games.
  • The Suns renounced their free-agent exception rights to center Alex Len, according to the RealGM transaction log. The Suns had a $7.96MM cap hold on Len. He appeared in 69 games last season but became expendable when they drafted Deandre Ayton.

Timberwolves Eyeing Nick Young, Other Free Agents

4:06pm: Wolfson adds Jeff Green, Malcolm Delaney, and Treveon Graham to the list of free agents that the Timberwolves have inquired on so far (Twitter link).

12:15pm: The Timberwolves have interest in Nick Young among several other free agents, according to ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (Twitter link).

Young is coming off a down year in Golden State where he sported just a 10.0 player efficiency rating and scored just 7.3 points per game. It’s hard to envision the shooting guard surpassing the $5.19MM salary he received with the Warriors last season after floundering alongside the best supporting cast he’s ever played with.

Minnesota has the non-tax mid-level ($8.6MM) and the bi-annual ($3.4MM) at its disposal. However, with approximately $115MM already on the books, the team must be careful when handing out deals if it intends to stay below the luxury tax line. If a team uses its bi-annual exception or more than the taxpayer portion of its MLE, it becomes hard-capped for the season.

Dante Cunningham and James Ennis are among other free agents the Wolves are keeping an eye on, Wolfson adds. Lance Stephenson remains a possibility for one of the team’s five open roster spots. Minnesota is among the teams expected to have interest in the mercurial shooting guard once the first wave of free agents sign.

Other candidates for the team’s openings include Trevor Booker, Amir Johnson, Jabari Bird and Anthony Tolliver. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau reportedly has spoken with Tolliver and team values the power forward’s lockerroom presence.

Knicks Rumors: Hezonja, O’Quinn, Johnson, Tolliver

Free agent forward Mario Hezonja is very much on the Knicks‘ radar, according to reports. After Michael Scotto of The Athletic indicated earlier in the evening (via Twitter) that New York had interest in Hezonja, Ian Begley of tweeted that the interest is mutual. In the early hours of free agency, the Knicks and Hezonja had a meeting, Scotto adds (via Twitter).

Hezonja is just one of a number of free agents linked already to the Knicks, who plan to offer only one-year deals this offseason. Let’s round up a few more notes and rumors…

  • The Knicks were among the teams to reach out to Amir Johnson after free agency opened, tweets Begley. Johnson is also said to be drawing interest from Minnesota and both Los Angeles clubs.
  • Kyle O’Quinn seems much more likely to sign with another team than to reeturn to the Knicks, sources tell Begley (Twitter link). According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype (Twitter link), the division-rival Sixers have expressed serious interest in O’Quinn.
  • The Knicks were one of at least five or six clubs to express interest in Anthony Tolliver when free agency opened, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who reports (via Twitter) that GM Scott Perry had a brief phone conversation with the veteran forward.
  • A two-way player last season, Luke Kornet received a qualifying offer from the Knicks. While New York would like to bring him back on another two-way deal, two teams have expressed “preliminary interest” in giving Kornet a standard NBA contract, sources tell Berman. The Knicks would have the right to match any offer sheet the young seven-footer signs.

West FA Rumors: A. Johnson, Looney, Exum

At least three Western Conference teams are said to have already contacted veteran big man Amir Johnson mere hours into free agency. Per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News the Timberwolves have been in touch, while Sean Deveney of The Sporting News adds that the Clippers and Lakers have too.

This time last season, Johnson inked a one-year, $11MM deal to serve as a reliable, veteran presence in the middle for the Sixers and it stands to reason that any of the teams kicking the tires on him this time around would be interested in a similar addition.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for Philly in 2017/18 but served as a defensive force in the paint and a low maintenance spot starter in games that Joel Embiid sat out.

There are more free agency rumors from around the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors have already made contact with Kevon Looney about bringing him back to the Bay Area, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes, but the forward is said to be fielding interest from other teams as well. Golden State elected not to guarantee the fourth year of his rookie deal when they had the chance to do so last fall.
  • The Jazz are making restricted free agent Dante Exum a priority, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets, and already have a meeting set up to discuss a new deal.
  • Pending restricted free agent Montrezl Harrell has changed representation, Liz Mullen of The Sports Business Journal tweets. Now the Clippers big man will be represented by Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports. He was previously represented by Klutch Sports Group.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Redick, McConnell, Free Agents

Sixers guard Markelle Fultz will skip summer league to keep working on the mechanics of his shot that were disrupted during his rookie year, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team wants Fultz to continue his work with shooting coach Drew Hanlen in Los Angeles.

Fultz was limited to 17 games during his rookie season because of a combination of injuries and shooting problems. He played the first four games before suffering a shoulder injury that stretched into a 68-game absence as he tried to recover the form he had in college. He returned for the final 10 games, then had a limited role in the playoffs.

Hanlen said Fultz is making progress with his shot, and coach Brett Brown believes he will benefit more from the drills than by playing summer league games.

“I think there’s a timeline of that where you are going to start doing some things skill-wise and handle and play,” Brown said. “But I think when you look at what’s most important, what thing needs the most work, it’s that. I don’t really want to pivot out of that if we think it’s going to hurt a very elementary way we are going about reclaiming his shot.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have made it quite clear that they’re ready and willing to accelerate their timeline and make a serious bid for an elite free agent. That’s ambitious and admirable, but to assume that a player like LeBron James is around the corner is like buying lottery tickets to fund your retirement.

It’s commendable that the Sixers have their sights set on big fish, but let’s assume that the King decides to re-up in Cleveland and Philly is forced to see their original process through to the end. Sure, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid weren’t enough to win the East in their first ever playoff appearances, that doesn’t mean the organization is in any less of an enviable place than they were a month ago.

In the event that Philly strikes out in their pursuit of James, they’d be wise to continue what they set out to do in 2017/18, surround their obnoxiously promising young core with solid veterans capable of helping them flourish into superstars.

J.J. Redick, SG, 34 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $23MM deal in 2017
The idea to overpay Redick for a one-year contract last summer was brilliant. The team was able to complement its young core with a capable veteran scorer while getting a feel for what the next phase of the process was. It turns out the next phase involves winning, though, which involves paying to keep the club’s young core in tact. Since July, when Redick signed his monster contract, the Sixers have extended both Embiid and Robert Covington, eating up $35MM in salary that they didn’t need to worry about this time last. While the club still has piles of cap room for 2018/19, Philadelphia may look to lock Redick down at a discounted rate now that the roster is looking less and less like a science fair project and more like a contender.

Marco Belinelli, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
Belinelli landed with the Hawks last offseason, a hired gun on a short-term deal, and eventually became one of the buyout market’s most desirable pieces. The Sixers prudently added the shooting guard in February and gave him a months-long opportunity to show what he’s capable of contributing to a contender. Belinelli is still young enough to command a contract in the $8MM-$10MM range and may be able to parlay his success in Philly into a longer-term contract. That could very well put him right back in a Sixers uniform.

Ersan Ilyasova, PF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
There are few players who fill an unheralded role more brilliantly than Ilyasova but that hasn’t helped him find any stability since getting traded away from Milwaukee in 2015. In the three years since, the veteran has plied his scrappy trade for five franchises, proving at every step along the way that he’s a solid rotation piece. Unfortunately for Ilyasova, the contenders that he could benefit most tend to be the ones with the least amount of cap space, so he may need to take a discount if he wants to win.

Amir Johnson, C, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $11MM deal in 2017
The Sixers are in a drastically different place than they were when they inked Johnson, a reliable if unexciting veteran, to an eight-digit contract. For one, the win-now Eastern Conference contender need not get creative just to meet the league’s salary floor and they also don’t need to be quite as cautious when it comes to Embiid insurance. If Johnson wants to remain in Philadelphia – or on any serious playoff team – he may need to take a significant pay cut.

Richaun Holmes, C, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $5MM deal in 2015
Thanks to Embiid’s reasonably healthy season, the Sixers didn’t utilize Holmes as much as they did the year prior but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still high on the athletic big man’s long-term role with the franchise. Picking up his $1.6MM team option is a no-brainer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Will Pursue Top Free Agents

Luxury tax concerns won’t scare the Sixers away from chasing elite talent this summer, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

LeBron James tops the list of targets and is rumored to be considering Philadelphia as a possible destination. GM Brian Colangelo estimates the team will have about $25MM in cap room, but more could be opened to meet James’ demand for a maximum deal starting around $35MM a year.

“I think the bar is very high for us in terms of who we are going to put on this team,” said Sixers co-managing partner Josh Harris. “But on the other hand, for a certain small number of players, like we are going to go after them hard. People have asked me about the luxury tax. I don’t have any problem spending for good players.”

Pompey shares a few other notes about the Sixers’ offseason:

  • The franchise is planning to pursue Oklahoma City’s Paul George as well as James. George has expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles, but could be swayed by the young talent in place in Philadelphia. His defense and outside shooting would make him an attractive fit alongside Ben Simmons.
  • The Sixers will make a play for Spurs star Kawhi Leonard if he becomes available in trade. Leonard has a good relationship with coach Brett Brown, but Pompey cites the risk of trading for him without a guarantee that he will sign an extension. Leonard can opt out of a $20.1MM salary next summer.
  • Creating room for a max contract means renouncing the rights to free agents J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. The Sixers could try to bring them back with the mid-level exception and minimum contracts, but they may all get better offers elsewhere. Redick signed a one-year, $23MM deal to come to Philadelphia last summer and is probably seeking a longer arrangement at age 33. Pompey expects him to get an offer in the $12MM to $15MM range. Johnson, 31, will also be searching for a long-term contract.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Vinsanity, Hayward

While they may not be touted as the much anticipated products of The Process, NBA veterans like J.J. Redick, Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson have had a major impact on the Sixers, Ian Begley of ESPN writes.

Unlike token veterans who the Sixers have employed in the past like Jason Richardson and Elton Brand, both established players in the twilight of their careers, players like Redick, Bayless and Johnson still suit up and play for the squad every night.

To now have players sweating on the court that can add the leadership in real time, instead of something static in a video room — that is priceless,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I think the abundance we have this year and the fact that they play, the combination is powerful, and I appreciate [Sixers president and general manager] Bryan Colangelo helping me, helping us design the team with that in mind.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

Five Notable Players Who Become Trade-Eligible In December

Nearly every NBA team has at least one or two players who will become trade-eligible this month, starting on December 15. In total, approximately 100 players around the NBA who aren’t currently eligible to be moved will have those restrictions lifted before the end of the month. That’s nearly one quarter of the league’s players.

Those trade restrictions apply to players who recently signed new contracts, so in most cases their teams probably aren’t clamoring to shop them. After all, by mid-December, those players will only have spent about two months of regular-season action on their new deals — even rebuilding teams may want a little more time than that with their recently-signed players to assess whether they’ll be part of the club’s future.

Still, a look through the list of players who will become trade-eligible in December – either on the 15th or later in the month – reveals a few interesting names. Here are some players worth keeping an eye on when their trade restrictions lift:Nerlens Noel vertical

  1. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): As a player who signed his qualifying offer, Noel would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded, so he has the ability to veto any deal the Mavericks might want to make. Still, the situation in Dallas has turned out to be even more unfavorable for Noel than the one he experienced in Philadelphia, increasing the odds that he’d waive his no-trade clause if the opportunity arose. Noel has averaged just 12.5 minutes per game this season, and with unrestricted free agency looming in 2018, a long-term union with the Mavs no longer appears likely.
  2. Alex Len, C (Suns): Len is in a similar situation to Noel, having settled for signing his qualifying offer after failing to find a suitable multiyear deal. He also has veto rights on any deal, but might be willing to accept a trade to a team that would give him more consistent playing time — his minutes have fluctuated significantly in recent weeks and he expressed frustration after not playing at all in a couple games. Trading Greg Monroe or Tyson Chandler would help clear the Suns’ logjam at center and could save the team more money, but it might be easier to find a deal involving Len and his inexpensive expiring contract.
  3. Derrick Rose, PG (Cavaliers): After accommodating Rose’s recent stint away from the team and working to reintegrate him, the idea of trading the point guard may not appeal to the Cavaliers. But it may be the best move for his career. The Cavs have thrived in Rose’s absence, and with Isaiah Thomas due back soon, it’s no longer clear how the former MVP fits into Cleveland’s rotation. If Rose is satisfied with sitting on the bench and waiting for an opportunity, the Cavs could keep him around, but if he wants to play, a trade may be his best path to consistent minutes.
  4. Amir Johnson, F/C (Sixers): There’s no indication that the Sixers are in any way dissatisfied with Johnson or have any interest in moving him. However, his contract makes him an intriguing trade chip if the Sixers want to make a move before the deadline. At $11MM, Johnson’s salary is an ideal mid-sized amount for potential salary-matching, and because it expires at season’s end, it would be more appealing to a trade partner than Jerryd Bayless‘ deal, which is guaranteed through 2018/19. I’m not expecting Johnson to be moved, but if the team tries to make an impact trade, his name figures to pop up in rumors.
  5. Dewayne Dedmon, C (Hawks): Dedmon, currently sidelined due to a tibia stress reaction, should be healthy and back on the court well before the trade deadline, barring any setbacks. The veteran center had been enjoying a career year before he went down, with 11.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG in a modest 24.4 minutes per contest. The 5-18 Hawks clearly aren’t contenders this season, making them probable sellers at the deadline, and Dedmon could be the club’s most appealing trade piece. He’s not expensive, at $6MM, and if he continues to play well, he’s a good bet to turn down his $6.3MM player option for next season, which means now would be the time for Atlanta to get something for him. His rim-protecting and rebounding ability could make him a nice, lower-risk target for a team that misses out on an impact center like DeAndre Jordan.

Note: Len becomes trade-eligible on December 23, while the other four players listed above become trade-eligible on December 15.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.