T.J. McConnell

Free Agent Notes: McConnell, McDermott, Theis, DeRozan, Oubre

The Pacers are more likely to retain T.J. McConnell than Doug McDermott in free agency in August, according to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required). Michael suggests that Indiana is likely to re-sign McConnell, but will probably lose McDermott due to his “escalating price tag” following a career year.

If the Pacers bring back McConnell, it may affect what the team does with Aaron Holiday. According to Michael, the 24-year-old point guard – who is entering the final year of his rookie contract – has been hoping for a change of scenery since the 2021 trade deadline, so he could emerge as a trade candidate again this offseason.

Here are a few more notes related to free agency:

  • Chatter around the NBA suggests that Daniel Theis will be seeking a “big payday” in free agency, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who suggests the veteran center may not be back with the Bulls.
  • Appearing on the Club Shay Shay podcast (video link), Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said that his free agency decision will be “all about winning.” Asked by host Shannon Sharpe what that means for his salary expectations, DeRozan admitted he’d like to be well-compensated too, but said he feels more urgency to compete for a title as he enters his age-32 season.
  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Kelly Oubre didn’t offer many specific details about his plans for free agency, but hinted that a new deal with the Warriors may not be his top priority. “I want to continue to expand my game, grow and spread my wings. I want to continue to show all the things I’m capable of and not be put in a box,” Oubre said. “I felt like the universe was trying to put me in a box last year.”

Central Notes: Mobley, Rose, Bulls’ Draft, McDermott, McConnell, Carlisle

Drafting Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick wouldn’t necessarily mean the Cavaliers would let restricted free agent Jarrett Allen walk, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The USC big man is widely considered one of the top four prospects in the draft, and sources tell Fedor the Cavs believe he could thrive at the four or the five, so he should be able to share the frontcourt with a center like Allen. Mobley could also slide over to the middle in some lineups, and his versatility would provide head coach J.B. Bickerstaff with more flexibility.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls ought to consider re-signing unrestricted free agent Derrick Rose, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago opines. Rose is coming off a strong season and if he’d be willing to accept some or all of their mid-level exception, it would energize the fan base.
  • The Bulls don’t have a first-round pick but they’re approaching the draft with the idea that they could seize an opportunity to move into the first round, Johnson adds. They were also a presence at the combine, searching for a diamond in the rough with the No. 38 overall pick.
  • Re-signing unrestricted free agents Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell is a major focus for the Pacers this offseason, coach Rick Carlisle said on Tuesday, per Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles.com (Twitter link). “The priority is to get the new staff in here, work towards good health as much as we can, try to get McConnell and McDermott re-signed if we can do that,” Carlisle said.
  • Carlisle has yet to officially sign his contract but he plans to do so when he arrives in Indiana on July 5. He’s eager to work with the roster and find ways to make the current group better, according to Agness (Twitter links). “Whatever players are presented to me by management or ownership, I really take a great deal in pride and love the challenge of molding that group into the right kind of system,” he said.

Cavs Rumors: McConnell, Caruso, Hart, Love, Hartenstein

Length, athleticism, versatility, and shooting are the traits that the Cavaliers will be prioritizing as they consider potential roster moves this offseason, Chris Fedor writes in a mailbag for Cleveland.com. A secondary ball-handler will be at or near the top of Cleveland’s wish list, whether that player is a point guard or a play-making wing, Fedor adds.

The Cavaliers don’t project to have cap room this summer, but intend to be “aggressive” with their mid-level exception, which should be worth nearly $10MM. Free agent point guards T.J. McConnell and Alex Caruso will be among the team’s top targets, according to Fedor. Both will be unrestricted free agents and are tough defenders who could be attainable with the MLE.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • One of the free agents Fedor mentions as a possible target for Cleveland is Josh Hart. Fedor, who notes that Hart is one of Larry Nance Jr.‘s best friends, hears from sources that the Pelicans wing may be seeking a fresh start. However, Hart is eligible for restricted free agency, so the Pelicans will have the ability to retain him if they so choose.
  • Addressing the Kevin Love situation, Fedor says that some people in the front office view the idea of waiving and stretching Love’s remaining salary (two years, $60MM) as a non-starter. There have also been no buyout talks so far, according to Fedor, who gets the impression that the Cavs would only be open to going down that path if Love initiates those discussions and gives up enough salary to make it worthwhile.
  • Fedor confirms Michael Scotto’s report that Cavs big man Isaiah Hartenstein will likely turn down his player option in the hopes of signing a multiyear deal with Cleveland.
  • The 2021/22 season isn’t viewed as a “playoffs-or-bust” year by Cavs leadership, but everyone feels the team will need to show “discernible on-court progress and take a few steps forward” in the fourth year of its rebuild, says Fedor. In a separate article for Cleveland.com, Fedor suggests that historical precedents show the Cavs’ rebuild is on schedule.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Bjorkgren, Frontcourt, FAs, More

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said no decisions have been made yet on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes. Bjorkgren isn’t the only one whose future is up in the air, according to Pritchard, who pointed out that his own performance is still being evaluated by team ownership as well.

“I’m being evaluated. I’m being evaluated every day,” Pritchard said. “(Pacers owner) Herb (Simon) has to decide if I’m fit for this job and what I need to improve on. Then Nate and I will have a long conversation over many days on what he needs to improve on. … He is our coach as of now and I’ll have a fair discussion with him.”

The Pacers’ president of basketball operations acknowledged that Bjorkgren’s first year on the job was far from perfect. While Pritchard liked Bjorkgren’s handle on X’s and O’s, he said that the first-year coach did have a tendency to micromanage. Still, Pacers players didn’t express during their exit meetings that they were unhappy with Bjorkgren, Pritchard added.

Pritchard also pushed back against the idea that the Pacers hadn’t adequately done their homework on Bjorkgren before hiring him last summer, as Michael tweets.

We probably did 15 interviews around Nate,” Pritchard said. “We knew that he’s very specific in the way he likes things. We knew that. You got to give a coach some flexibility to do what he likes to do.”

Here’s more from Pritchard’s end-of-season presser:

  • Pritchard remains convinced that the Pacers can succeed without moving one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis (Twitter link via Michael). We like them both,” Pritchard said of the frontcourt duo. “They can definitely play together. You can stagger them.
  • Pritchard referred to Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell as “core to what we’ve done” (Twitter link via Michael). Both players will be unrestricted free agents this summer, but it sounds like there’s mutual interest in continuing those relationships.
  • Although Pritchard stressed that the Pacers won’t be desperate to make deals this summer, he said he’d prefer not to get stuck in the “middle ground” between contending and rebuilding. I want to get in or get out,” Pritchard said, according to Michael (Twitter links). “Out means getting picks (and revamping the roster).”
  • Pritchard referred to the Pacers’ defense as “by far the most important thing that we have to take a look at,” as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. It remains to be seen whether that means addressing the personnel or the coaching staff and schemes.
  • Caris LeVert is one Pacer who has yet to have his exit meeting with team management, since he remains in isolation due to the COVID-19 protocols and wants to conduct his meeting in person (Twitter link via Agness).

Pacers Notes: Warren, McConnell, Bjorkgren, Stanley

Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who missed all but four games this season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, discussed his lost 2020/21 season, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files details. “I just know it can’t storm forever and the sun has to come out,” Warren said of his extended rehab process. Warren has one year and $12.9MM remaining on his current contract after this season.

Warren also had harsh words in response to a report claiming that he was had requested a trade because he was at odds with embattled head coach Nate Bjorkgren.

“Seeing that report was really, really terrible,” Warren said, adding that Bjorkgren has been “nothing but a great guy” since becoming the Pacers’ head coach. “Not cool.”

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pacers reserve point guard T.J. McConnell appears hopeful about returning to Indiana as he reaches unrestricted free agency during the 2021 offseason, tweets J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. “I would love to be back here,” McConnell said. “I absolutely love it here. … I don’t have a bad thing to say about anything or anyone.” McConnell signed a two-year, $7MM deal with Indiana in the summer of 2019.
  • The Pacers are not expected to make an immediate decision on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. A report detailing locker room tensions surfaced earlier this month that appeared to put Bjorkgren’s long-term fate in doubt. “My focus is on the players right now,” Bjorkgren himself responded when asked about the situation earlier this week. “And I’m not thinking about myself, I’m really not. I want to do what’s best for these guys.” The Pacers lost Thursday’s play-in game to slide out of the postseason and into the lottery during Bjorkgren’s first season at the helm.
  • Following his rookie season, Pacers first-year shooting guard Cassius Stanley will play in the Summer League, scheduled for this August in Las Vegas, tweets Agness.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Central Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 28, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019

McConnell delivered one of the rarest triple-doubles in NBA history this week. He became the first player to record a point-assist-steal triple-double since Mookie Blaylock in 1998 when he racked up 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals against Cleveland on Wednesday. He also had a 17-point, 12-assist outing against New York on Saturday.

McConnell isn’t a 3-point threat, but he’s been maximizing his skills as one of Indiana’s top reserves this season, averaging a career-best 6.8 APG. He’s a good fit with the Pacers but he’ll attract interest from other teams as a solid second-unit floor general.

Saben Lee, Pistons, 21, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $449K deal in 2020

Lee was selected with the 38th overall pick in the draft and signed a two-way contract. He’s taking advantage of some unexpected playing time and showing he’s worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster. With Killian Hayes and Delon Wright sidelined by injuries, Lee has provided a spark off the bench behind recently-acquired Dennis Smith Jr. In Detroit’s last two victories, Lee had a 21-point, 4-assist performance against Orlando and a 20-point, 7-assist outing against Toronto. He needs to become more of a perimeter threat but he’ll fearlessly attack the basket and he’s endeared himself to the coaching staff with his work ethic.

Jarrett Allen, 22, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $10MM deal in 2017

With the awkwardness of sharing the center spot with Andre Drummond behind him, Allen has settled in as the Cavaliers’ main man in the middle. In 17 starts at center this season, Allen is averaging 16.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.7 BPG while shooting 69.5% from the field. It’s well-known that Cleveland has every intention of re-signing Allen as he enters restricted free agency. The intrigue will come if one of the teams with ample salary-cap space delivers a giant offer sheet. In any case, Allen will become a very rich man this summer.

Thaddeus Young, Bulls, 32, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $43.6MM deal in 2019

Young has a partially-guaranteed $14.19MM salary next season. He’ll get $6MM for sure; he’s giving the Bulls plenty of incentive to hand him the remaining $8.19MM and keep him off the free agent market. Young has been one of the best reserves in the league this season, providing the Bulls with a steady finisher at the rim (career-best 60.9% from the field) and plenty of rebounding. Coach Billy Donovan has turned Young into a playmaker and he’s embraced that responsibility, averaging a career-high 4.4 APG. If the Bulls opt to trade Young this month, they’ll get a decent haul in draft picks and/0r young players.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks Notes: Hunter, Reddish, Point Guard, Bogdanovic

Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who underwent a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure earlier this week, won’t be back on the court for the team anytime soon. Addressing Hunter’s situation today on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, general manager Travis Schlenk suggested that the 23-year-old will be sidelined until at least late March, and likely sometime in April.

“The doctors say, typically, on average, these things are seven to 10 weeks,” Schlenk said, per Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game. “And most of the guys are ready to go by eight weeks. So, we’re hopeful.”

The Hawks’ initial announcement on Hunter indicated that his status would be updated when he’s re-evaluated in two weeks. According to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link), the club hopes to have a clearer idea at that point about which end of the seven-to-10 week timeline is more likely to apply to Hunter.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores what Hunter’s absence will mean for the Hawks in the short term and the long term, noting that the pressure on new starting small forward Cam Reddish will increase. Kirschner also expects Atlanta to play it safe with Hunter’s return timeline to help avoid any recurring knee issues.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Kirschner and John Hollinger discussed a few Hawks-related topics, including the hole at backup point guard that Rajon Rondo hasn’t adequately filled. Hollinger, who questioned Atlanta’s decision not to claim Elfrid Payton when New York waived him in November, suggested that Payton, George Hill, Delon Wright, and T.J. McConnell could be potential targets if Atlanta tries to shore up the position via trade.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was only able to play nine games for his new team before being sidelined by a right knee fracture, spoke to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the injury and his goal to return before the end of the first half. “Anything before All-Star would be really good for me, but I don’t want to put the pressure on it,” Bogdanovic said. “But I would like to play before the All-Star (break), if it was me, and if my body heals up.”

Pacers Notes: LeVert, Lamb, McConnell, Turner

Caris LeVert is sidelined indefinitely after a mass was discovered on his kidney, but Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard believes there’s a chance he could play this season, tweets Eric Woodyard of ESPN. No timetable has been set on a possible return, and the team will decide how to proceed depending on the results of further testing.

“As soon as we found this out, all eyes were trying to help Caris,” Pritchard said. “This organization is going to step up.” (Twitter link)

The mass was discovered during a physical that LeVert was required to take after being sent from Brooklyn to Indiana this week as part of a four-team deal. The Pacers could have voided the trade after the mass was discovered, but they opted to take a chance on LeVert.

“There’s risks, we’re willing to accept that risk but there’s also a human element in that,” Pritchard said (Twitter link). He added that everyone on the Pacers’ management team was comfortable with completing the deal, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link).

There’s more from Indianapolis:

  • The Pacers dealt with the Rockets to acquire LeVert rather than trying to get him from the Nets, according to Agness (Twitter link). Pritchard credits general manager Chad Buchanan with leading the effort. “We didn’t feel like we could get Caris directly from Brooklyn,” Pritchard said. “We needed a third team.”
  • Guard Jeremy Lamb is nearing a return from an ACL tear in his left knee that he suffered last February, writes Michael McCleary of The Indianapolis Star. Coach Nate Bjorkgren said today that when he asked Lamb how he was feeling, he responded with a “thumbs up.” Lamb was a starter last season and averaged 12.5 points in 46 games before the injury. “I’m not saying that means (he’ll return) tomorrow, but it’s getting very close,” Bjorkgren said.
  • T.J. McConnell has adjusted his game to the offseason coaching change, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. McConnell has nearly abandoned his turnaround jumpers in the lane under Bjorkgren, who prefers layups and open 3-pointers. “He’s a guy who takes himself for granted,” said teammate Malcolm Brogdon. “When you talk to him he doesn’t understand how good he is. His IQ on the floor, knowing who to get the ball to, when to get the ball to him.”
  • Myles Turner is focused on winning Defensive Player of the Year honors, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. He’s leading the league with 4.2 blocks per game, more than six entire teams. “I’m being more aggressive defensively,” Turner said. “I’m going after more shots and putting myself in position to be successful in that area.”
  • The Pacers received $2.6MM from the Nets in the revised four-team trade, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Indiana created a $4.79M trade exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

T.J. McConnell Likely To Stay With Pacers

The Pacers plan to keep T.J. McConnell on the roster for another season at $3.5MM rather than buying out his contract for $1MM, a source tells J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. The team hasn’t made an announcement, but Michael reports that McConnell is “a lock to return.”

The 28-year-old point guard signed with Indiana last summer after spending the first four years of his career in Philadelphia. His contract includes a trigger date for year two that the Pacers have to decide on before the draft, which has since been moved to November 18.

McConnell isn’t a three-point threat, shooting just 29.4% from beyond the arc, but Indiana’s management values his professionalism, hustle and attitude, Michael adds. He appeared in 71 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 5.0 assists in about 19 minutes per night.

Former coach Nate McMillan regularly used McConnell ahead of Aaron Holiday in the rotation. Their roles going forward will be determined by new coach Nate Bjorkgren.

Central Notes: Winston, Pistons, McConnell, Avdija

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is bullish on the NBA potential of second-round 2020 draft prospect Cassius Winston, a Michigan State guard, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News“I’ve watched him throughout his career and I’ve been a big fan and hoping for the best,” Weaver said. “I think he has the spirit, that he’ll fight his way in, whether he gets drafted or not. I think he will give himself a great chance.”

Beard notes that Winston does not project to be a lottery pick, but could be drafted late in the first round on November 18. The Pistons currently own the No. 7 pick, but are among the several teams that could benefit from trading back.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press assesses five bargain free agents the Pistons could target using their room exception, including Kings center Harry Giles, Pacers shooting guard Justin Holiday, and veteran Magic point guard D.J. Augustin.
  • Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell is on a $3.5MM non-guaranteed contract for the 2020/21 season. J Michael of the Indy Star posits that McConnell could remain a useful, cost-effective role player on what could be a feisty Indiana team. Alternately, the Pacers could buy McConnell out for $1MM to open up his spot on the roster.
  • As we relayed earlier, 6’7″ swingman Deni Avdija is rumored to be a potential draft target for the Bulls with the fourth pick in this year’s draft.