Spencer Hawes

Five Notable Veteran Free Agents Still Available

While most noteworthy free agents came off the board in July, September brought with it a wave of pre-camp signings that saw the last few restricted free agents locked up, along with veteran unrestricted free agents like Tony Allen, Dante Cunningham, Aaron Brooks, and Shabazz Muhammad.

That wave of pre-camp signings created a scarcity of viable options on the list of 2017 free agents, but the shrinking group of available options still features a handful of intriguing vets. Here’s a breakdown of five names worth keeping an eye on:Deron Williams vertical

  1. Deron Williams, PG: While the former third overall pick is obviously no longer the player he was seven years ago – when he averaged 20+ PPG and 10+ APG – it was just last summer that he received $9MM from the Mavericks to be the club’s starting point guard. For the season, Williams averaged a respectable 11.0 PPG and 5.6 APG, with a .363 3PT% in 64 games for the Mavs and Cavs, but a disastrous showing in the NBA Finals against Golden State diminished his value heading into 2017/18. Still, he’s only 33 years old, and it would be surprising if he didn’t get an opportunity with an NBA team as a backup point guard this year.
  2. Monta Ellis, SG: Ellis is facing a five-game suspension to start the 2017/18 season and is coming off his worst year (8.5 PPG) since his rookie season. He’s not far removed from a 2014/15 campaign in which he averaged 18.9 PPG though, and while he’ll likely never match that figure again, this is only his age-32 season. He should still have something in the tank and could appeal to a team seeking a scorer off the bench.
  3. David Lee, PF: Like Ellis, Lee posted his worst scoring average since his rookie year last season, recording just 7.3 PPG. But Lee’s declining numbers were mostly a result of his new role in San Antonio — his .590 FG% was his best mark in a decade, and his per-minute averages weren’t far off from his career rates. Given how the value of offensive-minded, low-post bigs around the NBA has declined in recent years, however, it’s not a huge surprise that Lee has had trouble finding work.
  4. Derrick Williams, PF: Williams, of course, hasn’t lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he was selected second overall in the 2011 draft. But he was a part of the Cavaliers team that went to the NBA Finals last season, and was solid when he saw action for the team, scoring 6.2 PPG on 50.5% shooting in 25 regular season contests. If former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett can get a training camp invite from an NBA team, it seems like Williams should be on a roster too.
  5. Spencer Hawes, C: Hawes’ contract made him an expendable piece in 2017, first in Charlotte and then in Milwaukee. After acquiring him at the trade deadline, the Bucks waived and stretched him in August to avoid the luxury-tax threshold. Like most of the other players on this list, Hawes’ best days are probably behind him, but his ability to knock down the occasional three-point shot (.350 career 3PT%) and to help out on the glass (9.0 career rebounds per 36 minutes) could make him a target for teams in need of frontcourt help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Hawes, Markkanen, Bulls, ‘The Q’

Former Bucks center Spencer Hawes officially cleared waivers Saturday, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM. The veteran center was waived Thursday just before the deadline to stretch his salary, allowing Milwaukee to pay the $6MM he’s still owed in $2MM increments over the next three seasons. The 10-year veteran is now free to sign with anyone and has a little more than three weeks to find a team before training camps open. Hawes saw his playing time drop sharply after the Hornets traded him to the Bucks in February. He averaged just 9 minutes per game in Milwaukee, putting up 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Bulls officials aren’t concerned about an injury that rookie Lauri Markkanen suffered during Saturday’s EuroBasket tournament, according to Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago (Twitter link). Playing for Finland, Markkanen hurt his leg on a shot at the buzzer that could have tied the game and had to be helped off the court by teammates. However, the seventh pick in this year’s draft appears to be fine and is expected to play today.
  • A series of offseason moves has left the Bulls without the talent to compete for a playoff spot, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE in his “30 teams in 30 days” series. Chicago signaled the start of a rebuilding project on draft day when it traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the chance to draft Markkanen. That leaves the team with two veterans in Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez, surrounded by a lot of unproven talent. Blakely criticizes the front office for several bad deals that turned two first-round picks, four second-rounders and Taj Gibson into a group of youngsters with Cameron Payne as the “prize” addition.
  • A proposed $140MM renovation of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena is a good deal for the city, claims Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. He points out that the $70MM in public financing comes mainly from admission taxes on tickets, meaning it will be paid for by people who use the arena. The deal extends the Cavaliers‘ lease from 2027 to 2034.

Bucks Waive Spencer Hawes

SEPTEMBER 1, 11:24am: The Bucks have issued a press release confirming that Hawes has officially been waived.

SEPTEMBER 1, 8:21am: While there hasn’t been any official word from the Bucks on Hawes, a report ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicates that Milwaukee has waived the veteran center. Presumably, the move was finalized on Thursday in order to stretch Hawes’ 2017/18 salary.

AUGUST 31, 4:25pm: The Bucks are likely to waive and stretch Spencer Hawes, David Aldridge of TNT tweets. Today, of course, marks the deadline for teams to part ways with a player while stretching his 2017/18 salary.

By waiving and stretching Hawes, the Bucks would free up over $4MM in cap space this year which would serve them well as they currently sit just above the tax line.

The stretch provision allows teams to spread a waived player’s contract over twice the number of years remaining on the contract, plus an additional year. In Hawes’ case, owed $6MM through one season, his cap hit would become $2MM annually through three seasons, ending at the culmination of the 2019/20 campaign.

Hawes, a 29-year-old center with three-point range, played half a season for the Bucks after moving alongside Roy Hibbert in the Miles Plumlee trade. Hawes averaged 4.4 points per game in 19 contests for Milwaukee but ultimately saw his role reduced by the emergence of Thon Maker.

Five Candidates To Be Waived With Stretch Provision

NBA teams have about two more weeks to apply the stretch provision to the 2017/18 cap hits for players they waive. After August 31, teams will no longer be eligible to stretch salaries for the coming season, and the stretch provision will only apply to future seasons on a player’s contract.

The stretch provision is a CBA rule that allows teams to stretch a player’s remaining salary across additional seasons. For July and August, the rule dictates that a team can pay out the player’s salary over twice the number of years remaining on his contract, plus one. So a contract with three years left on it could be stretched out over seven years. After August 31, only the future years on the contract can be stretched in that manner.

In practical terms, here’s what that means for a player who is earning $6MM in each of the next two years ($12MM total):

Year Current contract Stretched by August 31 Stretched after August 31
2017/18 $6,000,000 $2,400,000 $6,000,000
2018/19 $6,000,000 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2019/20 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2020/21 $2,400,000 $2,000,000
2021/22 $2,400,000

In some cases, it can be advantageous to wait until September to waive a player and use the stretch provision. If a team isn’t close to the tax line and can’t clear additional cap room by stretching a player’s current-year salary, it may make more sense to be patient, since that extra immediate cap room wouldn’t be useful.

However, there are several teams around the NBA who may be motivated to waive and stretch players prior to that August 31 deadline. Here are five stretch provision candidates to keep an eye on during the next couple weeks:

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Central Notes: Bucks, Williams, Drummond, Pistons

The Bucks have a couple of options beyond making a trade to drop back below the luxury-tax line, as Gery Woelfel of WoelfelPressBox.com points out. Citing sources, Woelfel calculates the current Milwaukee payroll at $120.6MM, which would put it approximately $1.4MM over the tax threshold. The Bucks could shed some payroll by either releasing point guard Gary Payton Jr., who has a non-guaranteed $1.3MM deal, and/or waiving Spencer Hawes $6.5MM contract. By using the stretch provision, the Bucks could reduce Hawes’ 2017/18 cap hit by more than $4MM.

In other items involving the Central Division:

  • Unrestricted free agent forward Derrick Williams could wind up back with the Cavaliers, Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net reports. Williams has drawn little interest in the open market but the Cavs could sign him to a one-year, $2.4MM contract once they decide whether to trade Kyrie Irving, Amico adds. Williams averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.3 RPG on 51% shooting in 17.1 MPG over 25 regular-season games with Cleveland but was used sparingly in the playoffs.
  • Andre Drummond has already noticed a significant difference in his breathing and stamina since undergoing sinus surgery this summer to correct a deviated septum, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Playing at a high altitude in the NBA Africa Game in South Africa, the Pistons center said he was breathing much easier on and off the court, as he told Beard. “Just being able to breathe, I can’t even explain how great it feels to sleep easier and breathe easier when I play,” Drummond said. “I’m not worried about gasping for air when I go hard.” Drummond had been breathing mainly through one nostril during his NBA career prior to the surgery.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will have difficult decisions on his power forward rotation, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. Tobias Harris could wind up splitting his time between both forward spots and the rest of the power forward minutes will be soaked up by a combination of Jon Leuer, Anthony Tolliver and second-year man Henry Ellenson. Leuer, who signed a four-year contract last summer, could wind up as the starter despite slumping badly after the All-Star break, Langlois continues. Tolliver signed up for his second stint with the franchise this summer and brings the elements of toughness and 3-point shooting, while Ellenson put his shot-making ability on display in summer-league action, Langlois adds.

Spencer Hawes Opts In, Stays With Bucks

Bucks power forward/center Spencer Hawes has decided to opt in and retain his $6MM salary for next season, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets.

Hawes’ decision gives Milwaukee, which is already over the cap, an even higher payroll. Greg Monroe, the team’s second highest-paid player, had already chosen to opt in for next season and retain the remaining $17.88MM on his deal. Giannis Antetokounmpo will be paid $22.47MM in the first year of his extension, while four other players will make between $14.1MM (Khris Middleton) and $9.6MM (Matthew Dellavedova).

Milwaukee is now sitting approximately $11MM below the luxury tax line and still has to decide by Thursday whether to extend a qualifying offer to swingman Tony Snell, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes.

Hawes, 29, appeared in only 19 games for the Bucks after he was acquired from the Hornets in early February in a trade that sent Miles Plumlee to Charlotte. He averaged 4.4 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 9.0 MPG. He played in 35 games with the Hornets, averaging 7.3 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 17.9 MPG.

Early Decision Dates For 2017/18 Player Options

By default, NBA players who hold player options for the following season generally don’t have to make an official decision on those options until June 29, just two days before the new league year gets underway. However, that date can be altered on a contract-by-contract basis, which is why many of the 25 players who have player options or early termination options for 2017/18 will be making their decisions prior to June 29 this year.

Several of those player option decisions are due either on a specific date or a certain number of days following a team’s final regular season game. For instance, Rudy Gay‘s player option calls for him to make a decision either on June 10, or five days after the Kings’ last game — whichever comes later. Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, has to make a decision on his player option by June 19, or within seven days of the Raptors’ last game — whichever comes earlier.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders has done an excellent job keeping tabs on these early player option decision dates, so we’ll use his data to break down the schedule of upcoming decision dates. If a player who holds a 2017/18 player option isn’t listed here, that means his decision is due on June 29, or his decision date hasn’t been reported.

Here’s the list of early decision dates for 2017/18 player options:

Potentially dependent on when team’s season ends:

  • June 10 (or five days after team’s last game): Rudy Gay (Kings)
  • June 19 (or seven days after team’s last game): Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  • June 20 (or two days after team’s last game): Aron Baynes (Pistons), C.J. Miles (Pacers)

The rest:

For details on how much these player options are worth, check out our list of 2017 free agents by position or by team.

What’s The Next Move For The Bucks?

The Bucks dealt Miles Plumlee to Charlotte this week, getting out from under Plumlee’s $50MM contract while acquiring inexpensive big men Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert. Milwaukee GM John Hammond was widely lauded for the move, creating additional payroll while finding a willing trade partner for Plumlee, who had been relegated to 9.7 MPG through 32 games this season.

With the newfound future cap space, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical suggests Milwaukee may pursue a new deal for Tony Snell, who has averaged 8.1 points on 45.8% shooting in Khris Middleton‘s absence. A restricted free agent after 2016/17, Snell would command a significantly higher salary than the $2,368,327 he earned this season.

In the meantime, however, the Bucks have some roster configuring to do following this week’s trade. As Kevin Pelton pointed out for ESPN, Milwaukee’s depth chart at the five is suddenly loaded, with Hawes, Hibbert, John Henson, Greg Monroe, and Thon Maker all vying for court time.

At first glance, Hibbert appears the most likely to be traded or bought out by the trade deadline. The 30-year-old isn’t on the books for next season, and – if it’s any indication of his role on the team – has already been ruled a healthy inactive for Milwaukee’s game against Phoenix on Saturday. The Bucks have been linked to Hawes in the past, and the 28-year-old has a $6,021,175 player option for next season; a reasonable salary for a competent backup center, though there’s a good chance he’ll opt out.

If Monroe or Henson yield a more significant return on the trade market than the team’s newly-acquired veterans, it may not be a bad idea to trade one of them for a combo guard. As of right now, the Bucks are relying on a combination of Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon, and Jason Terry behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Monroe has been subject to trade rumors throughout his two-year run in Milwaukee; last month, Monroe claimed to be undecided regarding his $17.8MM player option following the 2016/17 season.

The Bucks have already waived Steve Novak to accommodate Thursday’s trade, creating a center-heavy roster during a vital stretch of their playoff pursuit. In a league over-saturated with centers, Hammond’s challenge may involve finding a new home for one his five big men.

What do you think? Are the Bucks done dealing for now, or will they continue to be active before the trade deadline?

Bucks Trade Miles Plumlee To Hornets

3:19pm: The deal is official, with the Hornets acquiring Plumlee and cash considerations from the Bucks in exchange for Hibbert and Hawes, according to a pair of press releases. The Bucks also confirmed the release of Novak.Miles Plumlee vertical

“We are excited to add Miles to our roster,” Hornets GM Rich Cho said in a statement. “He is an athletic big man who brings additional physicality and rebounding to our frontcourt rotation.  He’s a proven player with a strong work ethic and we think he’ll fit in well with our core group.”

“Spencer and Roy are two proven NBA centers who give us additional depth and versatility in the front court,” Bucks GM John Hammond said of his team’s acquisitions. “The trade also gives us future cap flexibility as we continue to shape our roster. Miles and Steve are true professionals both on and off the court, and we wish them all the best.

1:22pm: The Bucks and Hornets have reached an agreement in principle on a trade that will send Miles Plumlee to Charlotte, according to Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Milwaukee will receive Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes in the deal, per the ESPN duo. The Bucks will release Steve Novak in order to clear a roster spot for the two incoming players, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that a trade call has been scheduled for later today to make the deal official.

Plumlee, 28, reached restricted free agency last summer, and eventually agreed to a four-year, $50MM deal with the Bucks. However, his role in Milwaukee has been reduced this season. Plumlee’s minutes per game have dipped from 14.3 to 9.7, and his other averages in several other categories have taken a hit as well. Most notably, he’s shooting just 44.1% from the floor this year after making more than 60% of his field goal attempts in 2015/16.

While the Bucks entered the season reportedly looking to move Greg Monroe, the former Piston has been a solid contributor for Milwaukee, and has split the majority of the club’s minutes at center with John Henson, leaving Plumlee on the outside looking in. In Charlotte, Plumlee should have the opportunity to earn a larger role, particularly with two Hornets big men – Hibbert and Hawes – heading the other way in the deal.

Hibbert and Hawes have each been part-time players for the Hornets this season, combining to average just under 34 minutes per game between them. Hawes has contributed 7.3 PPG and 4.2 RPG, while Hibbert has chipped in 5.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 1.0 BPG.

Considering there wasn’t much playing time available in Milwaukee for Plumlee, it may be difficult for both Hibbert and Hawes to carve out regular roles for their new team, but early indications are that the Bucks intend to keep both players, per Stein (Twitter link). It’s worth noting that the Bucks have been linked to Hawes in the recent past — his name came up in a Monroe trade rumor during training camp.

For the Bucks, the move represents a cost-cutting maneuver for the future. Although Hawes ($6.35MM) and Hibbert ($5MM) make nearly as much as Plumlee ($12.5MM) this season, neither player is under contract for long. Hibbert will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Hawes could follow suit, if he turns down his $6MM+ player option for 2017/18. Plumlee, on the other hand, will earn a guaranteed $12.5MM salary annually through the 2019/20 season, limiting Charlotte’s spending flexibility down the road.

The Bucks will also eat a little dead money by cutting Novak, who had been on a one-year, minimum salary contract. Assuming he goes unclaimed on waivers, his $980,431 cap charge will remain on the books for Milwaukee.

While the trade is hardly a blockbuster, it’s an interesting move for two teams who are battling one another for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Currently, Charlotte maintains a tenuous grip on the No. 8 seed, with a 23-27 record, while Milwaukee is close behind, at 21-27.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Brown, Smith, Hawes

If the Sixers continue to lose games at their current rate, team executive Bryan Colangelo could press ownership to fire coach Brett Brown, Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. With the team winless to start the season despite the presence of center Joel Embiid, Brown may end up shouldering the blame for the team’s woes now that former GM Sam Hinkie is gone, the scribe adds. “Yeah, I’m aware of it,” Brown said regarding the added pressure to win this season. “I’m not young anymore. I come in here and I do my job. I know what we do at practice. I know what goes on behind the scenes. I know the preparation we put into about everything.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • J.R. Smith, who signed a four-year deal with the Cavaliers this offseason, wants to remain in Cleveland for the rest of his NBA career and beyond, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “It makes no sense to go anywhere else,” Smith said. “To get treated the way we get treated here from the people, from the police, from everybody. There’s nothing but love here. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.”
  • The Knicks are a team rife with dysfunction after just six games this season and much of the blame should fall on team president Phil Jackson, Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post opines. The Post scribe calls out the executive for his stubborn insistence on running the triangle despite the players not buying into the system, as well as his puzzling decision to install assistant coach Kurt Rambis as the “defensive coordinator” despite him being an offensive specialist by trade and not having had success as a head coach in the NBA.
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford is raving about Spencer Hawes‘ basketball IQ, something the player admits he has to rely on given that he is not an elite athlete, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer relays. “It’s his IQ. He understands basketball and has such a feel for the game. And he has a terrific skill level,” Clifford said. “He had 11 defensive rebounds [against the Pacers]. He’s always been a pretty good defensive rebounder, even for a center. He brings intelligence to the court every time he plays, which is important.”
  • The Pacers are struggling on the defensive end, something head coach Nate McMillan chalks up to the team’s new personnel not having great chemistry with one another yet, Mark Montieth of NBA.com writes. “The offense normally is ahead of the defense when you start out,” McMillan said. “Most of the guys, that’s how they got here, their offensive skills. Defense requires you to commit, not only individually but collectively.”
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