Jamal Cain

Southeast Notes: Cain, Toppert, Hield

With the state of the Heat‘s roster still very much in flux, two-way small forward Jamal Cain is still hoping for a promotion to a standard contract, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The 6’7″ swingman out of Oakland signed his second straight two-way deal with the club this summer. At present, 13 players are inked to the team’s standard 15-man roster, including 12 on guaranteed contracts, so at least one more addition will be needed before the regular season tips off.

For his part, Cain is confident his game has grown during the offseason and clearly seems to hope he can succeed with more run at the next level.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot on my on-ball defense and being able to guard bigger players and holding my ground,” Cain said. “And on offense I think I’ve done a better job with my shot selection, being a better shooter and just being a better decision maker with the ball. And, again, always wanted to be stronger, because I’m not the biggest guy.”

Across 18 regular season contests with Miami last year, Cain averaged 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.6 steals per night. In 15 contests with Miami’s NBAGL club, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Cain averaged 22.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.5 BPG.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • In a reader mailbag, Winderman responds to a question about whether or not Pacers shooting guard Buddy Hield could be a contingency trade plan for the Heat, should the club be unable to secure the services of Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. Winderman writes that, while Hield could help Miami, he is not the superstar all-level scorer Lillard is, and his $18.6MM salary may be a bit prohibitive for further team building.
  • The Wizards’ NBA G League affiliate club, the Capital City Go-Go, have officially announced the hiring of Cody Toppert to be the organization’s fourth head coach, per a team press statement. Toppert’s hiring was initially reported earlier this month.
  • In case you missed it, Hoops Rumors’ Luke Adams examined the full team rosters of the entire Southeast Division ahead of training camp.

Three Candidates To Be Promoted From Two-Way Contracts

While there is still a bit of time before NBA training camps open, we have a good idea of what most team rosters will look like to begin the season. As we recently detailed, 70 of the league’s 90 available two-way contracts are currently filled. Since those players only have $75K in guaranteed money, however, teams have plenty of flexibility to make changes, whether those come in the form of cuts or promotions to standard deals.

Since the inception of the two-way contract in 2017, dozens of players have been called up from two-way deals to standard contracts. Players like Paul Reed, Chris Boucher and Alex Caruso are among the players to cash in their two-way deals into big standard contracts with their impressive play and development over time. The Heat made waves in the 2023 NBA Finals when several rotation players on their team made big contributions, many of whom spent time on two-way deals, including Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin.

While the Heat are an extreme case of two-way players becoming highly paid standard contract players, more and more teams seem to be recognizing the value of these developmental spots. Almost every team currently has a G League affiliate and those who don’t have committed to adding one. And this year, the NBA increased two-way contract spots from two per team to three, creating 30 new roster spots.

As noted above, teams are still figuring out what to do with those spots, but there are currently players signed to two-way deals who seem poised to continue the trend of promotions making an impact. With that said, here are three prime candidates to be elevated from their two-way deals to standard contracts sometime during the ’23/24 season, whether or not it happens during the preseason process.

Lester Quinones

Quinones wasn’t on many public top 100 big boards ahead of the 2022 NBA draft, so it was a mild surprise to see him signed to a two-way contract right after the draft. Though he was signed, Quinones was an example of a two-way player getting shuffled around in the preseason, and he ended up getting cut before the season began.

More roster shuffling occurred in March and Quinones penned a 10-day deal before being signed to a two-way deal to close out the year. During the time in between, the Memphis product put up terrific numbers for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, averaging 20.2 points in the regular season and showcase and he shot 37.5% from deep on 7.7 attempts. Quinones continued dominating in the summer during Las Vegas Summer League where he averaged 21.2 points and 5.2 assists. The Warriors re-signed Quinones to another two-way deal in late July.

The Warriors have a ton of roster flexibility moving forward. They have just 13 players signed to standard deals and only Quinones occupies a two-way deal. Preseason and training camp seems like an ample opportunity for the 6’5″ guard to reverse his fortunes from a year ago and get promoted to the main roster.

Lindell Wigginton

Like Quinones, Wigginton is a guy who has been lost in Milwaukee’s back-end roster shuffling. Wigginton has been in Milwaukee’s system for two seasons, playing for the Bucks on a two-way deal in 2021/22, not being re-signed, then later being added to another two-way deal at the end of the ’22/23 season.

Wigginton averaged 19.2 points and 5.9 assists last season in the G League across 38 regular season and Showcase Cup games. The 6’2″ lead guard also has 26 games of NBA experience (one start), holding averages of 5.0 points and 1.4 assists.

The Bucks don’t have a logical way to add Wigginton to their main roster before the ’23/24 season begins. Their 15-man roster is set and a trade or cut prior to the season doesn’t seem likely. If the Bucks make a move at the trade deadline, Wigginton could be a logical option to call up if Milwaukee sends out more than they take in. If not, it’s entirely possible the Bucks sign the Iowa State alum to a standard deal in the offseason, much like they did with A.J. Green this year.

Jamal Cain

As we mentioned, Heat players have historically been elevated from two-way contracts. In fact, they’ve promoted a two-way player to a standard deal in every year (or following offseason) since their inception in 2017 (Derrick Jones in ’17/18; Robinson in ’18/19; Chris Silva in ’19/20; Vincent and Strus in ’20/21; Martin in ’21/22; and Orlando Robinson in ’22/23). Cain is the next logical candidate for a promotion.

Cain was reportedly waiting for a standard contract offer before ultimately re-signing with the Heat on a two-way deal earlier this month. The Oakland product impressed last season, averaging 5.4 points in 18 NBA games and 20.5 points in 25 G League games last year.

The Heat are still waiting on the Damian Lillard situation to shake out, but they still only have 13 players signed to standard deals. Miami needs to sign a 14th player prior to the season and Cain would be a logical option if a Lillard trade doesn’t materialize before then. If not, it seems likely they’ll bring him up at some point during the season.

Jamal Cain Accepts Qualifying Offer, Takes Two-Way Deal With Heat

2:49pm: The signing is official, the team tweets.

2:04pm: Jamal Cain is signing his qualifying offer and returning to the Heat on a two-way contract, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Cain was searching for a standard deal, which Miami had been reluctant to offer. Cain didn’t have a lot of leverage as a restricted free agent, as Miami had the right to match any offer.

The deadline to rescind the two-way offer passed in July, so Cain had the opportunity to accept the qualifying offer at any time.

The 24-year-old power forward appeared in 18 NBA games as a two-way player last season. He averaged 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 13.3 minutes in those appearances. He started 15 games for Miami’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls, averaging 22.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.

The Oakland (Mich.) University product, who also played for Marquette, fills the last of the Heat’s two-way slots. Guards Dru Smith and Jamaree Bouyea hold the other two-way slots.

If the Heat finally pull off a trade for Damian Lillard, spots on the 15-man roster could open up for Cain and the other two-way players.

Five Two-Way Restricted Free Agents Remain Unsigned

As of July 18, there were 12 two-way restricted free agents who had yet to sign new contracts.

Over the past three-plus weeks, six of those players — Lester Quinones (Warriors), Kendall Brown (Pacers), Trevor Keels (Knicks), Duane Washington (Knicks), Dominick Barlow (Spurs) and Ron Harper Jr. (Raptors) — returned to their clubs on two-way deals.

Keels and Washington were subsequently waived to create roster space for Nathan Knight and Dylan Windler, respectively. Washington re-signed with New York on a training camp contract, while Keels is an NBA free agent (the Knicks retained his G League rights).

A seventh player — Jeff Dowtin — returned to Toronto on a one-year, minimum-salary contract that is fully non-guaranteed. He would receive $900K if he’s not waived on or before October 21, but may face an uphill battle to claim a roster spot, as the Raptors now have 15 players with guaranteed deals on their roster.

That leaves a total of five two-way restricted free agents available, as our up-to-date list shows. Those players are as follows:

Of the five-player group, Maledon had the largest role last season. The 34th pick of the 2020 draft appeared in 44 games for Charlotte in 2022/23, averaging 6.7 points, 3.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game.

If they’re willing to accept their one-year, two-way qualifying offers, four of these five players seemingly have an easy path back to the teams that hold their rights — the Hawks, Hornets, Heat and Wolves all have an open two-way slot available.

That is not true for the Bulls, however — all three of their two-way slots are filled. If Taylor accepts his QO, Chicago might just release him, similar to what happened with Washington and Keels.

Some two-way RFAs have managed to earn standard contracts this offseason. Cain has reportedly been discussing that possibility with rival teams, but Miami has been reluctant to give him a standard deal.

It will be interesting to see if any of the five players are able to land a standard contract instead of another two-way deal. However, being RFAs hurts their leverage to negotiate with rival teams, and offer sheets for two-way restricted free agents essentially never happen.

Heat Notes: Swider, Cain, Audige, Herro

The Heat have been quiet while hoping for a Damian Lillard trade to materialize, but they reached an agreement Sunday with Cole Swider on an Exhibit 10 training camp deal, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. The former Lakers forward spent most of last season in the G League on a two-way contract.

Chiang hears that Swider will have a chance to compete for a two-way deal with Miami and possibly even a spot on the 15-man roster. As a 6’9″ long-range shooter, Swider could have some value for a team that lost three-point threats Max Strus and Gabe Vincent in free agency. Duncan Robinson, a similar player, may be sent elsewhere in a potential Lillard deal, Chiang adds.

Swider made a verbal commitment to the Heat, according to Chiang, but if the team intends to include Exhibit 9 language in his deal, he can’t officially sign until the team has at least 14 players with standard deals. Drew Peterson, another 6’9″ sharpshooter who played for Miami’s Summer League team, is in a similar situation.

There’s more from Miami:

  • With the commitments from Swider and Peterson, along with 13 standard contracts and a pair of two-way deals, the Heat have four more roster spots to fill before training camp opens, Chiang adds. One of those could go to power forward Jamal Cain, who received a qualifying offer to return to the team on a two-way contract. Cain is still searching for a standard deal, which Miami has been reluctant to offer, according to Chiang. The deadline to rescind the two-way offer passed in July, so Cain is free to accept it at any time.
  • The Heat also contacted Northwestern guard Chase Audige about an Exhibit 10 contract, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, a source tells Jackson that Audige has decided to accept an Exhibit 10 offer from another team where he believes he has a better chance to earn a roster spot.
  • Zach Kram of The Ringer takes an in-depth look at Tyler Herro to determine whether he’s valuable enough to be the central piece in a Lillard trade. Miami is hoping to find a third team to take Herro and increase the number of draft assets going to Portland. Kram finds that Herro is part of a star-studded group that averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game at age 23, but his defensive limitations put a cap on his trade value.

Heat Notes: Lillard, Cain, Audige, Free Agents, Roster

As of Friday afternoon, nothing appeared to be imminent regarding a possible Damian Lillard trade, reports Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

According to Jackson, the Trail Blazers‘ front office is currently on vacation and has shown no inclination to comply with Lillard’s trade request to the Heat. That said, Lillard remains focused on landing in Miami and doesn’t plan expand his list to include additional teams, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Jackson.

Jackson believes the Blazers may have spurred the league to investigate Lillard’s request and the comments made by his agent (Aaron Goodwin) in order to drum up trade interest, hence the NBA’s memo on Friday. Since Lillard and Goodwin told the league the star guard would fulfill his contract and play for any team that trades for him, the Heat will have to hope rival teams don’t decide to make “legitimate trade offers” for the 33-year-old, Jackson observes (Twitter links).

If Portland decides to wait until midseason to move Lillard, that could work against the Heat, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. As Winderman notes, the Nets received far more in return for Kevin Durant at the February trade deadline than the rumored offers they were receiving last summer for the superstar forward.

Here’s more out of Miami:

  • The Heat are interested in bringing back Jamal Cain on a two-way contract, which is why they gave him a qualifying offer, but the young forward hopes to land a standard deal and continues to discuss that possibility with other teams, Jackson writes. Miami could match a potential offer sheet for Cain since he’s a restricted free agent.
  • Miami is interested in signing former Northwestern guard Chase Audige, who played for the Heat’s Summer League team, to a training camp contract, but his agent declined to say whether or not Audige would accept the offer, Jackson adds. As a senior for the Wildcats in 2022/23, the 6’4″ Audige averaged 14.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.9 APG and 2.4 SPG in 34 games (34.4 MPG), though he struggled with scoring efficiency (.368/.325/.832 shooting line).
  • The Heat have had discussions with Goran Dragic‘s representatives about a possible reunion, but a potential deal likely wouldn’t come to fruition until later this summer, according to Jackson. The veteran free agent guard made his lone All-Star appearance with the Heat, but he’s 37 years old and dealt with a knee problem last season that required surgery. The Heat can only offer the veteran’s minimum, which may take them out of the running for free agents like Christian Wood and Kelly Oubre, who are looking for more money, per Jackson.
  • In a mailbag for The Miami Herald, Anthony Chiang answers questions about the Heat’s roster and how the new second apron might affect the team going forward.

Heat Notes: Jaquez, Haslem, Jovic, Lillard

When Jaime Jaquez was drafted by the Heat last month, one of his first actions was to send a text message to Udonis Haslem, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Haslem has retired after 20 seasons in the NBA, but he still represents the epitome of Heat Culture and Jaquez thought it was important to show respect.

“I know he’s the OG of the Miami Heat,” Jaquez said. “I felt it was only right that I reach out to him first and just let him know that I’m excited to be here and ready to work.”

Haslem said during a recent radio interview that Jaquez is “definitely a culture guy,” and they continued to text each other throughout Summer League. Jaquez grew up in California as a Lakers fan, but he followed the Heat closely as well so he’s aware of Haslem’s importance to the franchise.

“I’m a basketball fan, I was a Heat fan,” Jaquez said. “I always loved the Lakers, but the Heat was always my No. 2 and I’ve just always known about him and his presence in the organization. Being a basketball fan, you know who he is.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • Even though Haslem is officially retired, he’s still serving as a mentor to many of the team’s young players, Chiang adds. “I continue to stay connected to Orlando (Robinson), who had an amazing Summer League,” Haslem said. “I continue to stay connected to (Jamal) Cain, who had a hell of a Summer League, Niko (Nikola Jovic), who played well in the beginning (of Summer League), all these guys. There’s a next generation and I just continue to build relationships and bank equity with those guys.” 
  • Jaquez made a positive impression on Heat officials during Summer League, even though he was held out after injuring his shoulder in the second game, Chiang states in a separate story. Miami was also encouraged by the play of Jovic, last year’s first-round pick, who appeared in four games before joining the Serbian national team. “There’s a lot to like about his development so far,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Jovic. “… You see the rebounding, you see the off-ball awareness defensively, his ability to take a rebound off the glass and push it in transition. These are skills that are really tough to teach. He has great vision.”
  • Former NBA star Gary Payton, who was in Miami on Sunday as a coach in the Big3 League, sees Damian Lillard as a perfect addition for the Heat, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “Dame had to make the decision: Do I want to keep doing what I do, or do I want to try to win a championship? And that’s what he wants to do now,” said Payton, who followed a similar path before coming to Miami late in his career. “It is just time, time for him to make a move to where he wants to go.”

Heat Notes: Lillard Trade, Cain, Peterson, Summer League

The Heat are getting “frustrated” over the slow pace of trade talks with the Trail Blazers regarding Damian Lillard, Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report said on the latest edition of the “This League Uncut” podcast (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). It’s been nearly three weeks since Lillard made his trade request and told Portland officials that he wants to play in Miami, but there’s been very little progress toward a deal.

“Portland is telling them to, ‘Bring us your best offer.’ Miami would like to know what does Portland want and Miami is not getting that answer,” Haynes said. “And so they feel like things could be moving on a little bit quicker if Portland would say exactly what it is they want. Because obviously, Miami doesn’t have all the assets that Portland would want in a return for a Damian Lillard trade. So they want to know, okay, what do we have to get out there? What other teams do we have to get involved to make this work? And so far, the communication is just not there.”

On the Heat Check podcast, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald expressed doubt that the Blazers are trying very hard to grant Lillard’s trade request, at least for now. Chiang said a source told him that Portland may be planning to hold onto Lillard for a while to see if he changes his mind about his future with the team.

That thought is echoed by Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, who tweets that a team that contacted the Blazers about Lillard is skeptical that they actually want to move him. Jackson suggests that Portland’s goal may be to get Lillard into training camp, unless he makes the situation really uncomfortable for the rest of the summer.

There’s more from Miami:

  • Jamal Cain has a qualifying offer to return to the Heat on a two-way contract, but he’s hoping for a standard deal, whether it’s with Miami or another team, Chiang writes in a Herald story. The 24-year-old power forward appeared in 18 NBA games as a two-way player last season. Cain is a restricted free agent, so Miami can match any offer he receives, but the QO can’t be pulled because the deadline has already passed. Several teams have interest in Cain, according to Chiang.
  • Miami can’t sign players to Exhibit 10 deals until it has 14 players with standard contracts, but the team has received some verbal commitments, Chiang adds. One of them is from Drew Peterson, a 6’9″ shooting specialist from USC who played for the Heat’s Summer League team. Chiang suggests that Miami could take several weeks to sign any Exhibit 10 players while the front office waits to see if a Lillard trade materializes.
  • Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel examines Miami’s Summer League roster and looks at who did the most to help their future with the organization.

12 Two-Way Restricted Free Agents Remain Unsigned

The action on the NBA’s free agent market has slowed since the start of July, but there are still many FAs seeking new deals, including a notable group of under-the-radar players whose situations will need to be resolved in the coming days, weeks, and months.

A total of 12 two-way restricted free agents are still available, as our up-to-date list shows. Those players are as follows:

That group doesn’t include a 13th player, Neemias Queta, who is also a restricted free agent after finishing last season on a two-way deal. Although he remains eligible to sign another two-way contract, Queta was ineligible for a two-way qualifying offer after having played on a two-way with the Kings for consecutive seasons — his QO is a one-year, minimum-salary contract with a small ($75K) partial guarantee.

For the rest of these players, their qualifying offer is simply another one-year, two-way deal, which limits their leverage to negotiate a more lucrative standard contract.

Some two-way RFAs have managed to earn standard deals this offseason. A.J. Green of the Bucks was one. Julian Champagnie of the Spurs was another. Ty Jerome (Warriors) and Jack White (Nuggets) received standard contract offers from the Cavaliers and Thunder, respectively, that their former teams were unwilling to match, so Golden State and Denver simply withdrew their respective qualifying offers, making Jerome and White unrestricted free agents.

Offer sheets for two-way restricted free agents essentially never happen though. And in general, unless a team has earmarked a 15-man roster spot for a two-way free agent, it’s an uphill battle for these players to earn offseason promotions.

As a result, the majority of the dozen restricted free agents listed above will likely end up accepting their qualifying offers and hoping that their play in 2023/24 forces their clubs to find 15-man roster spots for them later in the season.

Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on this group to see if any of them can do better than another two-way — and to see how long some of them might be willing to wait in the hope of earning that opportunity.

Heat Notes: Lillard, Roster Openings, Trade Exceptions, Centers, Cain

The Heat have two open roster spots but they’re in a holding pattern until the Damian Lillard situation is resolved, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Without trading for Lillard, Miami is only in position to add players on veteran’s minimum deals. The Heat would have even more roster spots open by dealing multiple players for Lillard.

Winderman also notes there are plenty of free agents with former ties to the organization looking for contracts, including Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr., Justise Winslow and Meyers Leonard.

We have more on the Heat:

  • Unless they need one of them as part of a blockbuster trade for Lillard, the Heat are unlikely to use the three trade exceptions they’ve generated, Winderman writes in a mailbag piece. The exceptions of $9.5MM, $7.3MM and $4.7MM cannot be aggregated. The punitive elements of the luxury tax in the new CBA discourages using any of them to bring in more salary.
  • Unlike last season, the Heat have multiple options at backup center behind Bam Adebayo, The Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang writes in his latest mailbag. It could be Kevin Love, if he doesn’t start at power forward. Otherwise, free agent signee Thomas Bryant and Orlando Robinson will battle for those minutes.
  • Jamal Cain is in limbo. He’s a restricted free agent after finishing last season on a two-way deal. Miami extended him a qualifying offer before free agency and Cain is trying to improve his stock during Summer League action, he tells Chiang. “I’m just trying to do what I can here to make sure I get a contract,” he said.