When Lonzo Ball ignored an on-court scuffle between some of his Lakers teammates and members of the Suns on Friday, the rookie took heat for not stepping into the fray to defend them. As Jordan Greer of the Sporting News writes, however, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t have any issues with how the first-year guard handled the situation.
“I don’t really care about how that looks because our guys love Zo,” Walton said. “I think [the rest of the Lakers] all know what that looked like isn’t what Zo is about and isn’t symbolizing what his feelings are on that type of situation. I know the general public and the internet world likes to do what they do.”
Fellow Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma went so far as to call out a double standard between Ball and other players in the NBA. “He’s my teammate and he’s very misunderstood as a person,” Kuzma said. “There’s a lot of media out there and people that expect him to be something that he’s not right now and that’s okay because he’s a rookie.”
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Despite the fact that his team option for next season was declined, Kevon Looney has impressed with the Warriors so far this season, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. “Obviously, it’s a tough situation to not get your option picked up. But it’s on you to do something about it, and he’s doing something about it. … The success that he’s having, I’m looking forward to him keeping it up. He’s been helping us win games,” teammate Draymond Green said.
- In addition to learning the NBA game after years of international ball, Kings rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is learning three positions. Combined, it’s led to a bit of learning curve, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “The basketball is really different here. A lot of athletes, the size is different as well. Those are all things that come by time, that’s part of the adjustment,” Bogdanovic said.
- The Kings have experimented with new lineups over the course of the season, one of the latest being to move Willie Cauley-Stein to the bench and giving him an expanded role on offense. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that even though Cauley-Stein seemed to enjoy the new challenge, the club will likely continue to experiment with different personnel combinations.
NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.
We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Pacific division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Pacific teams:
The Warriors’ total guaranteed salary of $102MM for next season looks modest at first glance. But that figure only accounts for seven players, and Kevin Durant isn’t one of them. Even if Durant is willing to sign for several million less than the max again, which is certainly no lock, re-signing him and then filling out the rest of their roster figures to take the Dubs into luxury-tax territory.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $70,667,235
Projection: Up to approximately $28MM in cap room
While the Suns’ return in the Eric Bledsoe trade was widely viewed as underwhelming, the move did clear $15MM in guaranteed salary from the club’s 2018/19 cap, creating additional flexibility. Retaining Alan Williams – who has a non-guaranteed salary – and re-signing Alex Len would cut into the Suns’ cap space. However, neither of those moves are locks at this point, so Phoenix could get easily get to $25MM+ in cap room, and could potentially open up even more room by trading Jared Dudley and/or Tyson Chandler, who will be on expiring contracts next season.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $68,252,577
Projection: Up to approximately $33MM in cap room ($16MM if player options exercised)
There have been no reports yet suggesting that Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple will exercise their player options for 2018/19, which are worth about $8.74MM and $8MM, respectively. The Kings should probably be preparing for that outcome though — neither player has a major role, and the free agent market won’t be as player-friendly as it was in 2016, when Koufos and Temple signed their current deals.
If those options are exercised, the Kings’ guaranteed salaries will increase to about $85MM, limiting their cap flexibility. But they’ll also be able to dedicate that remaining cap room to a single player, if they so choose — assuming Koufos and Temple return, Sacramento would head into the offseason with 14 players under contract, not including draft picks.
Los Angeles Clippers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $59,880,133
Projection: Up to approximately $31MM in cap room
Only five Clippers players currently have fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, but there are several other candidates to return. For one, Patrick Beverley and his $5MM non-guaranteed salary will certainly be back — that’s a tremendous bargain for one of the league’s best defensive players, and our cap projection for the Clippers assumes he’ll be on the books at that price.
Our cap projection doesn’t take into account any player options though, and four Clippers players hold those options for 2018/19. DeAndre Jordan, who figures to land a lucrative multiyear deal, will likely turn down his $24MM option, but Austin Rivers ($12.65MM), Milos Teodosic ($6.3MM), and Wesley Johnson ($6.1MM) are candidates to opt in. If all three of those players pick up their options and Beverley is retained, the Clips’ cap room will essentially disappear.
Los Angeles Lakers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $49,336,471
Projection: Up to approximately $47.5MM in cap room
The Lakers’ desire to open up two maximum-salary slots for the 2018 free agent period has been well publicized, but the team still has some work to do to achieve that goal. Based on a $101MM cap, maximum salaries for, say, LeBron James and Paul George would be worth a combined $65.65MM in 2018/19. L.A. remains about $18MM shy of that figure, even assuming the team renounces Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Of course, moving Luol Deng‘s $18MM salary would just about get the Lakers there, but finding a club willing to take on that deal without sending out any salary in return will be challenging, to say the least. Waiving and stretching Deng’s contract next July and dumping Jordan Clarkson‘s $12.5MM salary is probably a more realistic path for the Lakers to get into that range for two max deals.
- 2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Atlantic Division
- 2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Central Division
- 2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southeast Division
- 2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Northwest Division
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
For the first time in his career, George Hill of the Kings isn’t playing for an established winner. Forgive him, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes, if he hasn’t look entirely comfortable so far.
Through 14 games in 2017/18, the Kings sit second-last in the Western Conference with a 3-11 record. Hill, in 12 of those contests, has put up a pedestrian 8.5 points and 2.9 assists in just over 25 minutes per game.
“This year has been tough so far, trying to learn the guys, be a mentor and teach at the same time,” Hill said of his brief tenure with the Kings so far. “Plus the fact that sometimes you lose yourself in situations like that. I take full responsibility for the way I’ve been playing. I’ve got to come out with a better George from here on out.”
The guard intends to be more aggressive and look to score more as he works himself back into routine.
There’s more from the Kings today:
- Veteran free agent addition Vince Carter is hard at work mentoring the young Kings, Kyle Ramos of the team’s official site writes. Carter has been focused on helping the young team learn to play the right way and not develop bad habits when they’re losing.
- The Kings haven’t looked particularly dominant so far this season, but worse than losing is not competing enough. As Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes, head coach Dave Joerger isn’t afraid to come down on his young team if he doesn’t believe the effort is there. “We told our guys you’ve got to be ready to play because they’ll come at you, they compete and they play hard,” Joerger said ahead of Sacramento’s Wednesday night loss to the Hawks. “Losing is one thing, but we have to do a much better job of competing.“
- Kidney stones have sidelined 20-year-veteran Vince Carter over the course of the past four games, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports.
Two NBA veterans have been among the most impressive G League standouts early in the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Emeka Okafor, 35, has spent the past four years recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. He joined the Sixers for training camp and opted to stay with the organization’s affiliate in Delaware. He is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting better than 60% from the field.
Kendrick Perkins was the Cavaliers’ final roster cut and went to Cleveland’s affiliate in Canton. He is averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games. He has dropped weight and may still be able to help an NBA team at age 33.
There’s more news from the NBA and the G League:
- Today is an important day for four players who were claimed off waivers during the offseason, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Bulls‘ David Nwaba and Kay Felder, the Hawks‘ Nicolas Brussino and the Bucks‘ DeAndre Liggins are all now eligible to be traded.
- The Sixers used the remainder of this year’s cap space for the renegotiation/extension with Robert Covington, leaving just eight teams with cap room, according to Marks (Twitter link). They are the Bulls [$15.1MM], Mavericks [$12.5MM], Suns [$8.9MM], Pacers [$6.1MM], Kings [$4.3MM], Nets [$3.4MM], Hawks [$589K] and Magic [$549K].
- Veteran guard Shannon Brown has been claimed from the G League player pool by the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways and 10 Days. The 31-year-old last played in the NBA in 2014, when he appeared in five games with the Heat.
- Christian Wood has joined the Delaware 87ers as a returning player, according to Reichert (Twitter link). He played 13 games for the Hornets last year and ended the season in the G League.
- International stars are having a greater impact on the NBA than ever before, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Many of the league’s best young players hail from overseas, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis, both considered early-season MVP candidates, along with Ben Simmons, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Ziller credits former commissioner David Stern for his focus on expanding the league to overseas markets. That strategy not only created more revenue, it exposed the NBA to an international audience and created a new reservoir of players.
Here are the latest G League assignments and recalls from across the NBA:
- The Knicks announced (via Twitter) that they sent Ron Baker and Damyean Dotson back to the G League today, and the duo played major minutes in Westchester’s loss to the Raptors 905 this afternoon. Dotson scored 19 points for New York’s affiliate, while Baker chipped in 12.
- The Hawks assigned rookie shooting guard Tyler Dorsey to the G League today, the team announced in a press release. Dorsey has appeared in six games for Atlanta so far this season, playing limited minutes in those contests.
- Prior to the Northern Arizona Suns’ Saturday game against Iowa, second-year forward Derrick Jones was assigned to the G League, according to a press release from the Suns. Jones played a big part in the club’s win last night, filling up the score sheet with 24 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks.
- The Raptors have recalled Alfonzo McKinnie from their G League affiliate, the team’s media relations department tweets. McKinnie has averaged 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Raptors 905 so far this season.
- The Kings have recalled second-year big man Georgios Papagiannis from the Reno Bighorns, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. The center played two games with the G League affiliate, dropping 17 points and 13 rebounds in his most recent performance on Saturday.
Second-year power forward Skal Labissiere is trying to remain upbeat despite a loss of playing time, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Although the Kings are emphasizing youth this season, that’s not true at Labissiere’s position, where veteran Zach Randolph was brought as a free agent and has claimed the starting role.
Labissiere got a rare opportunity with 25 minutes in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Knicks, nearly as many as in the three previous games combined. The 21-year-old said he will continue to be “happy for my teammates” while working to improve.
Labissiere frequently stays after practice to work on post moves, and Randolph believes he has a bright future ahead. “I tell him, ‘Just keep playing,’” Randolph said. “He played good [Saturday]. The kid works hard and that’s all you can do, keep working and that’s what Skal does every day. He puts his time in and he works.”
There’s more today from Sacramento:
- Garrett Temple has seen a lot of NBA cities while playing for six teams in nine years, and he would like to finish his career with Sacramento, relays James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Temple, 31, has a player option worth $8MM for next season. He is in the middle of a three-year, $24MM deal he signed in the summer of 2016 and said he feels like he has found a home with the Kings. “I can see myself finishing my career here, I can definitely see that,” Temple said. “I have a great relationship with the front office. I have a great relationship with the coaching staff, the fans as well.”
- The Kings are being cautious with rookie Harry Giles, copying the Sixers’ approach with Joel Embiid, writes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. “Their injuries are different,” said assistant GM Brandon Williams, who formerly worked for Philadelphia, “and I think there is a little more data on Harry simply because there are not as many navicular fractures [Embiid’s foot injury] than anterior cruciate [ACL] tears. What we learned from Philly probably more than anything was that it was best to be honest and open with your fans. We didn’t want to abuse that relationship. So rather than be coy about what we were doing, we sort of laid it out there.” Giles’ extensive injury history was the reason he dropped to 20th in this year’s draft. He had two ACL tears in high school, then a meniscus tear in his left knee shortly after he arrived at Duke. He will be out of action until at least January, when Sacramento’s medical staff will re-evaluate his condition.
- The performance of rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox is bringing hope of the start of a new era in Sacramento, according to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.
LeBron James offered an assessment of the Knicks’ draft strategy after Saturday’s game in Dallas, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed James with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. The Cavaliers star told reporters after the game that Smith “should be a Knick,” indicating that New York should have taken him instead of Frank Ntilikina, who was selected one pick earlier.
“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism,” said James. “He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”
James is sure to be asked to expand on those comments when the Cavaliers visit Madison Square Garden Monday. MacMahon suggests the statements were part of a long-running feud with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, who angered James last year by using the word “posse” to describe his associates. The Knicks came to Ntilikina’s defense, with Enes Kanter tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got…Thanks!!!”
There’s more this morning out of New York:
- The Knicks received a better draft grade from Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who told Howie Kussoy of The New York Post that the organization made the right decision in 2015 when it passed on him to select Kristaps Porzingis. Cauley-Stein was labeled as the best defensive big man in the draft and had a pre-draft workout for the Knicks. The team opted for Porzingis at No. 4, and Cauley-Stein went to Sacramento two picks later. “I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein said. “This league’s all about situations. I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.”
- Coach Jeff Hornacek has wanted Courtney Lee to shoot more often since he signed with the team in the summer of 2016, Kussoy writes in a separate story. The 10-year veteran posted a 20-point performance Saturday night and is making a case to be the team’s second option. “He shot the shots he was supposed to,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t need to be wide open. He’s a great shooter. He can shoot it with guys in his face. That helps spread the court.”
- Hornacek is an overlooked factor in the Knicks’ 7-5 start, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. He has the team sharing the ball, improving from 23rd to seventh in assist ratio, and working together on defense. “I think he’s done a great job,” said Jarrett Jack, who became a starter after New York lost its first three games. “I know for me, as someone who always has to be a kind of extension of the coach, me and him have been able to kind to develop a relationship where I can kind of read what he wants on the court and I can kind of relay it to the guys.”
Luol Deng‘s four-year, $72MM contract that he signed in 2016 has become one of the NBA’s biggest albatross contracts. The Lakers signed the 32-year-old to essentially become a more expensive version of what Metta World Peace was to last year’s team.
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times writes that Deng, who spent parts of his first 10 seasons with the Bulls, no longer wants to play for the Lakers. He has played in just one game this season, recording 2 points and 1 assist in 13 minutes of action. As he awaits a resolution on his future, Deng told Ganguli he does not regret his contract.
“I just know that for me, I never really [took] the contract and said I just want to shut it down, I just don’t want to do anything,” Deng said. “I’m still working as hard as I can trying to figure it out and trying to be the best player I can be. It was never, let me go and relax and not do anything. That was never the case. So I don’t regret it at all.”
The Lakers are heavily invested in a youth movement, highlighted by their first-round picks from the past seasons in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Deng could help the team as a mentor to the upstarts but minutes will be hard to come by unless he is traded.
Check out other news from the Pacific Division:
- A sore right knee has sidelined Clippers’ point guard Patrick Beverley, head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, including Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Despite initial concern, Rivers said the team expects their catalyst to miss about one week. “It’s the same thing that kept him out of the second half of camp,” Rivers said. “But he’ll be fine, that’s the good news. We were worried that it could be worse and it’s not. But he’s still probably going to miss a week of games. So, it’s just another guy out.”
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee writes that Zach Randolph, who endured a tough offseason that included an arrest for marijuana possession, is slowly getting back into shape. The Kings’ hoped the veteran would bring his toughness and grit to a young team and he spoke highly of the team’s core and what he can teach them.