Cameron Payne

Bucks Notes: Title Window, Payne, G League Moves

Having re-signed Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez this summer, the Bucks appear to have extended their championship window through at least the 2024/25 season, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes in a mailbag. Nehm views Milwaukee as one of “only a handful of teams” that have the pieces necessary to win a title in the short term.

However, the future of the Bucks’ roster beyond the 2025 offseason is very much up in the air. Lopez’s contract will expire that summer, while Middleton, Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, and – most importantly – Giannis Antetokounmpo will all be able to opt out of their deals to reach the open market as well. Jrue Holiday has a player option for 2024/25, so he could hit free agency even earlier.

While they’re well over the luxury tax line this season, the Bucks don’t yet have any guaranteed money on their books for 2025/26. So depending on how the next two years play out, it’s possible they’ll be in position to revamp their roster at that point — or potentially sooner. In that scenario, the big question is whether the team would be revamping its roster around Antetokounmpo or whether it would be the start of the post-Giannis era in Milwaukee.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Van Fayaz of views free agent point guard Cameron Payne as a good fit for the Bucks’ roster, but acknowledges that it’s not a perfect match, since the club wouldn’t be able to offer Payne more than the veteran’s minimum and already has 15 players on guaranteed contracts on its books.
  • The Wisconsin Herd – Milwaukee’s G League affiliate – has promoted Arte Culver to general manager, according to the team (Twitter link). Culver joined the Herd as the director of basketball operations in 2019 and was elevated to assistant GM in 2021.
  • As we noted earlier today, the Wisconsin Herd also announced (via Twitter) that they’ve traded Jontay Porter‘s returning rights to the Motor City Cruise. In exchange, the Bucks’ affiliate received the returning rights to guard Kyler Edwards and center Jaime Echenique. The Herd immediately flipped Edwards to the Long Island Nets in exchange for the returning rights to guard Bryce Brown and Long Island’s 2023 first-round pick.

Timberwolves Notes: Payne, Payton, Chandler, Edwards, Towns

The Timberwolves are “kicking the tires” on free agent point guard Cameron Payne, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). However, as of Friday morning, the team hadn’t extended an offer to the veteran guard, per Wolfson.

Payne, 29, averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 assists in 48 games with the Suns last year, becoming a reliable rotation point guard for Phoenix. The 6’1″ guard closed out his Suns tenure with a 31-point game in the playoffs against Denver. Phoenix traded him to San Antonio this offseason in order to open up a roster spot, then he was waived by the Spurs on Monday.

Minnesota has also had a couple point guards – Elfrid Payton and Kennedy Chandler – in for workouts during the last few weeks, according to Wolfson. However, neither guard was offered a contract following their respective workouts.

Payton, 29, holds career averages of 10.1 points and 5.7 assists in 500 NBA games. The 6’3″ guard hasn’t appeared in a game since the 2021/22 season. Chandler, 21, spent last season with Memphis after being drafted with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2022 draft. However, the former Tennessee guard was waived in April. He averaged 2.2 points in 36 appearances in his lone NBA season so far.

We have more from the Timberwolves:

  • Anthony Edwards‘ ascension from young star to potential superstar was obvious during the 2023 FIBA World Cup, though one of his most impressive moments came off the court, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer opines. Fischer writes that Edwards was asked a question about which teammate he’d rather trade: Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert. After initially ignoring it, Edwards circled back to the question. “Neither one, man,” Edwards said. “I like all my teammates. I love them. They my brothers. I wouldn’t trade neither one of them.” In his journey to superstardom, Fischer writes, Edwards’ leadership shined this summer.
  • In his annual NBA player tier rankings, The Athletic’s Seth Partnow placed Towns in his Tier 4B, defining him as a “sub-elite” big. The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski joined Partnow to go through his logic for placing Towns between the 55th and 66th-best players in the league in his ranking. Partnow reasons that while Towns’s offensive production is tremendous, his defense and availability leave much to be desired.
  • In case you missed it, the Timberwolves signed guard Vit Krejci to a training camp deal on Thursday.

The NBA Teams Best Positioned To Make Waiver Claims

In order to claim a player off waivers, an NBA team must be able to fit the player’s current-year salary into either cap room, a traded player exception, or – if the player is in the final year of his contract – a disabled player exception.

This rule doesn’t apply if the waived player is on a one- or two-year minimum-salary contract. In that case, any team can claim him using the minimum salary exception.

Waiver claims aren’t particularly common in the NBA, and claims involving players earning more than the minimum salary are even less frequent. Still, it’s worth knowing which teams have the most flexibility to make waiver claims in case an intriguing player on a reasonable contract hits the wire.

On Monday, for instance, the Spurs waived veteran point guard Cameron Payne, who is on an expiring $6.5MM deal. Payne has played well in Phoenix over the last four seasons, averaging 9.8 points and 4.2 assists in 20.2 minutes per game across 174 appearances, with a .434/.384/.833 shooting line. That’s pretty solid production for the price.

In all likelihood, Payne will pass through waivers unclaimed and sign for less than $6.5MM with a new team, but there will be teams around the NBA that at least consider making a claim. The Grizzlies should be one of them, in the view of John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), who notes that Memphis could use another point guard and has a trade exception large enough for the team to take on Payne’s salary without getting too close to the tax line.

Memphis is one of nine teams with the ability to claim Payne off waivers. Here’s the full list, along with the value of their biggest trade exception (unless otherwise noted):

  • Atlanta Hawks: $23,019,560
  • Brooklyn Nets: $19,928,571
  • Washington Wizards: $12,354,400
  • Chicago Bulls: $10,232,559
    • Note: This is the amount of the Bulls’ disabled player exception, not a trade exception, so the team could only use it to claim a player on an expiring contract.
  • Miami Heat: $9,450,000
  • Portland Trail Blazers: $8,300,000
  • Indiana Pacers: $7,493,593
    • Note: This is the maximum amount of cap room the Pacers could create by renouncing the cap holds for their remaining free agents.
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $7,492,540
  • New York Knicks: $6,803,012

Many of these teams wouldn’t have interest in a point guard like Payne and wouldn’t necessarily be in position to add another $6.5MM in salary to their books. Claiming Payne would put the Bulls into luxury tax territory, for instance. These are simply the clubs capable of placing a claim if they so choose.

A total of 10 other teams have the ability to claim non-minimum players off waivers, but wouldn’t be able to take on Payne specifically:

  • Phoenix Suns: $6,500,000
    • Note: The Suns’ trade exception is technically large enough to take on Payne, but they’re ineligible to claim him after trading him to San Antonio.
  • Boston Celtics: $6,202,500
  • Orlando Magic: $5,056,771
    • Note: This is the maximum amount of cap room the Magic could create by renouncing the cap holds for their remaining free agents.
  • Dallas Mavericks: $4,953,980
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: $3,688,117
  • Los Angeles Lakers: $2,700,000
  • Philadelphia 76ers: $2,448,846
  • Golden State Warriors: $2,337,720
  • Denver Nuggets: $2,201,520
  • Charlotte Hornets: $1,930,681

Even though the Hornets‘ largest trade exception is less than the minimum salary for a two-year veteran ($2,019,706), it could still come in handy for claiming certain younger players on non-minimum deals.

For example, if the Thunder – facing a roster crunch – were to waive Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is earning $1.9MM in the third year of a four-year contract, Charlotte would be able to claim him using its trade exception. A club with only the minimum salary exception available wouldn’t be in position to place a claim on Robinson-Earl.

Here are the 11 teams without a TPE, DPE, or cap room available to claim a player earning more than the minimum:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Utah Jazz

Spurs Waive Cameron Payne

4:20pm: The Spurs have officially waived Payne, the team announced in a press release.

1:01pm: The Spurs are releasing Cameron Payne, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Assuming he goes unclaimed on the waiver wire, San Antonio will be on the hook for Payne’s 2023/24 salary, which is fully guaranteed at $6.5MM. Wojnarowski says there will be a “significant market of contending teams” interesting in signing the veteran guard if he clears waivers.

Phoenix traded Payne to San Antonio a couple months ago in a salary-dump deal. The Spurs picked up a 2025 second-rounder and $5.7MM in cash as part of the trade, while the Suns received a protected 2024 second-rounder.

Payne appeared in 48 games for the Suns last season, averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per night, with a shooting line of .415/.368/.766. The 29-year-old will be one of the top players left on the free agent market after a solid run as a backup with Phoenix.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, the Spurs are facing a roster crunch — even after waiving Payne, they still have 17 players on guaranteed contracts. That number will need to be trimmed to 15 by the start of the season.

Payne freely admitted last month that he’d rather be in Phoenix than San Antonio. However, league rules forbid Payne from re-signing with the Suns, Marks notes.

With a packed roster and in the midst of a rebuild, Payne clearly wasn’t part of the Spurs’ plans. They now have 19 players under contract, two shy of the offseason limit.

Pacific Notes: Payne, Durant, Queta

Cameron Payne isn’t hiding his feelings about the Suns dealing him to the rebuilding Spurs. Payne admits he’d rather be in Phoenix, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic relays via an Instagram Live post from the point guard.

“Man, I love Phoenix, bro, I miss Phoenix already,” Payne said. “I wish I was in Phoenix still but hey, it is where it is, man. They’re trying to win a chip and I respect it. I feel like they could’ve won a chip with me though ’cause like, I’m tough.”

Payne was dealt, along with the Pelicans’ 2025 second-rounder acquired in a previous deal, to the Spurs for a protected 2024 second-rounder. Phoenix reduced its luxury tax bill by trading Payne’s $6.5MM salary and also acquired a trade exception of the same value.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Due to injury and other factors, Kevin Durant hasn’t played in Golden State since he left the Warriors and signed with the Nets in 2019. As long as he’s not injured coming out of training camp, Durant will finally make his return to the Warriors’ home floor when the Suns open their regular season there on Oct. 24, according to Rankin.
  • The Kings signed Neemias Queta to a two-year, $4.2MM contract, according to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype (Twitter link). The first year is partially guaranteed and the second season salary is non-guaranteed. Queta, who played with Sacramento on a two-way contract last season, signed a standard contract earlier this week. According to Ricardo Brito Reis (Twitter link), Queta’s $2,019,706 salary for next season includes a $250K guarantee. It’s guaranteed for $500K if he’s on the Opening Day roster and becomes fully guaranteed on Jan. 10. His 2024/25 salary of $2,196,970 becomes guaranteed for $1,098,485 on July 10 and fully guaranteed on Jan. 10, 2025.
  • In case you missed it, the Clippers have guaranteed the final year of Tyronn Lue’s contract. Get the details here.

Suns’ James Jones Talks About Rebuilding Roster

In an interview with Duane Rankin of The Arizona RepublicSuns president of basketball operations James Jones gives himself an “eight out of 10” for how he was able to construct the team’s roster around its new Big Four. Jones was limited in the moves he could make after trading for Bradley Beal to team with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton, but he found an intriguing mix of veterans and young talent.

Eric Gordon turned down better offers and accepted a veteran’s minimum deal for the chance to win a title. Yuta Watanabe, Chimezie Metu, Drew EubanksKeita Bates-Diop and Bol Bol also agreed to sign for the minimum.

“We knew going into it who our four top players were,” Jones said. “The guys who were going to lean on heavily to reach our goals. I think that gave us more clarity and I think it gave the players more clarity around how we would play and how they could fit with our team.

“So when it comes to minimums, I think it’s that label or contract value that people look at, but I look at it more from a perspective of identifying the guys who have the attributes and skills that would complement our group and finding players that believe that this environment will increase their productivity and give them a boost for their careers going forward. This was more forward looking than backwards looking for us and for the players that we targeted.

“I think that clarity allowed us to move quickly and efficiently through the free agency process because we knew exactly who we wanted and we knew exactly who wanted us.”

Jones addresses several other topics in the discussion with Rankin:

On the decisions to re-sign Josh Okogie and trade Cameron Payne to the Spurs:

“Just balancing versatility, and I’m not just talking about from a player skill set and roster construction perspective, but it just gives us options. It gives us options from a roster perspective. It also gives us options going forward. JO is someone who had a tremendous impact on our team last year in a specific role that we think can grow and Cam was someone who had an impact on our team, but he was part of a team that was a different team that played differently. Those two moves allowed us to create balance and gave us some versatility and options to continue to build a more complete team.”

On Bol’s potential after a promising season with Orlando:

“He’s going to get a chance to compete. He fits the profile of the team we’re trying to build. Long, athletic, skilled. Has played some high-level basketball. Has dealt with high expectations and has bounced back from some tough setbacks. The mental grit, the resilience and adaptability that he’s displayed is something that I think will help improve our team and if he can play the way he envisions himself playing, it just gives us another high-level player that we can count on and rely on as we try to march toward a championship.”

On new owner Mat Ishbia’s input during his first offseason with the team:

“He talked about speed, focus and understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish and get after it. Don’t second-guess it, don’t overthink it. Trust your instincts, trust your team and then go out there, find the best options for us and then make those options work. For me, it’s clear focus. He’s given me clear direction that allows me to focus on the things I enjoy the most, which is figuring out how to maximize the environment for our players and coaches and get a win.”

Texas Notes: Spurs, Payne, Kleber, Holmes

Following the addition of No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama to their roster, the Spurs appear to be taking a long-term approach to their future, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News.

Finger observes that president/head coach Gregg Popovich, general manager Brian Wright, and CEO R.C. Buford opted to not sign a top free agent into cap space or use their significant future draft equity to trade for a veteran star, instead hoping to develop their current youth around Wembanyama and make bigger moves in the future.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Newly acquired Spurs point guard Cameron Payne may not be long for San Antonio, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. McDonald notes that Payne and other new veteran personnel additions Reggie Bullock and Cedi Osman may eventually be offloaded by the team as it looks to build around Wembanyama.
  • Mavericks big man Maxi Kleber has opted out of playing for his native Germany in this summer’s FIBA World Cup, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning writes. In withdrawing from the competition, Kleber noted that it was “100% clear that I am not unreservedly welcome,” which Townsend considers a direct response to comments made by Team Germany point guard Dennis Schröder. Schröder seemed to take umbrage with Kleber not participating in EuroBasket competition in 2022. “Maxi wasn’t there last year,” Schröder said. “If you didn’t commit — that was actually the message for all of us — then you won’t be there next year either.” 
  • New Mavericks big man Richaun Holmes has resolved the lawsuit he filed against the parent company of the Sacramento Bee, writes Sam Stanton of The Bee. Holmes sued McClatchy Co. and Bee columnist Robin Epley for defamation after an op-ed column from Epley detailed damaging accusations from Holmes’ ex-wife Alexis. “We’re pleased the matter has now been resolved and Mr. Holmes is enthusiastic about a new chapter in his life as a father and basketball player,” his attorney Camille Vasquez said in a statement. According to Stanton, McClatchy and The Bee did not make any payment to Holmes as part of the settlement.

Suns Trade Cameron Payne To Spurs

JULY 17: The trade is official, the Suns PR department tweets. The Spurs have also confirmed the deal, announcing in a press release that the pick they acquired from Phoenix is the Pelicans’ 2025 second-rounder. San Antonio surrendered a protected 2024 second-rounder in the swap.

JULY 16: The Suns have agreed to trade point guard Cameron Payne to the Spurs, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that San Antonio will also acquire a second-round pick and cash in the deal.

Confirming Charania’s report, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link) says Phoenix will receive a future second-round pick in the swap. That selection will be protected, sources tell Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Payne, whose name had popped up in trade rumors as of late, appeared in 48 games for the Suns last season, averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per night, with a shooting line of .415/.368/.766.

Following Phoenix’s trade of Chris Paul earlier in the offseason, Payne had his $6.5MM salary for 2023/24 guaranteed and looked like he’d get a chance to vie for the final spot in the team’s starting lineup, alongside Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Deandre Ayton.

Instead, the Suns are offloading the veteran guard in order to open up a spot on the roster for Bol Bol, who has agreed to sign a one-year deal with the club. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) suggests that Payne would’ve been behind Jordan Goodwin on the depth chart, so the team was comfortable moving him.

According to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype (via Twitter), the move from Payne to Bol will reduce Phoenix’s projected luxury tax penalty by approximately $18MM and will generate a $6.5MM trade exception for the team. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) estimates that the tax savings will be $26.4MM. Still, it’s a little odd to see the Suns essentially dumping Payne’s contract when it had only been partially guaranteed (for $2MM) until June 29.

The Spurs, who will absorb Payne’s $6.5MM salary into their cap room, will still have a little over $5MM in space available once the trade is official, tweets Gozlan.

It remains to be seen whether San Antonio envisions Payne opening the 2023/24 season with the team — once Tre Jones and Sandro Mamukelashvili officially sign their agreed-upon deals and the Spurs acquire Payne, they’ll have 18 players on standard contracts. They’ll have to reduce that number to 15 ahead of opening night in October.

Scotto’s Latest: Suns, Pacers, Knicks, Wright, Hornets, More

The Suns, Pacers and Knicks recently had exploratory trade talks on a deal that would have sent Cameron Payne to New York, T.J. McConnell to Phoenix, and Evan Fournier and draft picks to Indiana, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Other iterations of the deal included Jordan Nwora, according to Scotto, though it’s unclear where the Pacers forward would have ended up in that framework.

However, the talks on the three-team trade have stalled, Scotto reports. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports was first to report the Suns and Pacers discussed a deal involving Payne and McConnell, and suggested the Knicks may have been involved as well.

Here’s more from Scotto’s latest article for HoopsHype:

  • League sources tell Scotto that the Hornets are on the hunt for a backup point guard after Dennis Smith Jr. signed with the Nets in free agency. As Scotto previously reported, Charlotte had interest in Aaron Holiday, but he wound up signing with the Rockets. According to Scotto, one player on Charlotte’s radar is Wizards guard Delon Wright, who will make $8.2MM next season in the final year of his contract. The Wizards traded for Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole, and Wright was signed by the previous front office regime. The 31-year-old has already seen his name pop up in a few other trade rumors this offseason.
  • Scotto recently spoke to a handful of second-round picks at Summer League about their goals entering their rookie seasons. Those players are Nuggets guard Jalen Pickett, Celtics forward Jordan Walsh, and Mouhamed Gueye and Seth Lundy of the Hawks. Walsh, the No. 38 pick of the 2023 draft, has high expectations for himself, he told Scotto. “If I get a chance to play with these guys and help the team, I want to be on the All-Defensive First or Second Team or Defensive Player of the Year,” Walsh said. “My goals are defensively oriented and winning a championship, which is No. 1. If I’m able to accomplish any of those things, I’d feel my rookie year went pretty well.”
  • In case you missed it, we passed along some Raptors rumors and free agent rumors from Scotto as well.

Fischer’s Latest: Blazers, Simmons, Payne, McConnell, Fournier

Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin didn’t appear to be posturing when he recently commented on the status of Damian Lillard‘s trade request, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who writes that there wasn’t any buzz at Summer League about progress between the Blazers and the Heat on a possible deal.

Based on the way Portland has patiently handled the situation thus far, Fischer believes the process could indeed take months. The Blazers are said to be looking for something in the neighborhood of a Kevin Durant-type return in exchange for Lillard — a couple of very good young players and four first-round picks.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Nets have been linked as a possible third team trade partner in talks between Portland and Miami (with rumored interest in Tyler Herro), but league sources tell Fischer that Brooklyn hasn’t had any serious talks involving Ben Simmons on that front. As Fischer points out, the Nets are surely aware that Simmons’ value has cratered, but they also seem “genuinely intrigued” by pairing a healthy Simmons with a much different roster in 2023/24 after trading Durant and Kyrie Irving.
  • The Suns have been involved in trade talks regarding point guard Cameron Payne, with Phoenix targeting Pacers point guard T.J. McConnell, perhaps in a multi-team deal, Fischer reports. Payne recently had his expiring $6.5MM contract fully guaranteed, while McConnell will earn $18MM over the next two seasons, $13.7MM of which is guaranteed.
  • The Knicks continue to actively explore Evan Fournier trades and are open to multi-team scenarios, sources tell Fischer. Fournier was pulled from New York’s rotation fairly early last season, only appearing in 27 contests and struggling with his shot in limited minutes. The 30-year-old will earn $18.86MM in 2023/24 and has a $19MM team option for ’24/25 that is highly likely to be declined.