T.J. McConnell

Pacers Notes: Holiday, McConnell, Turner, Warren

More than one rival executive believes the Pacers will be open to trading either Aaron Holiday or T.J. McConnell before this year’s deadline, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

For now, both Holiday and McConnell are regular parts of the club’s rotation, combining for a total of 42.8 minutes per game. However, once Victor Oladipo returns to the lineup later this month, that extra backcourt depth may be a luxury the Pacers can afford to give up if they get an offer they like, Pincus suggests.

Both Holiday and McConnell are on team-friendly contracts. Holiday is making $2.24MM in the second year of his rookie deal and won’t be eligible for restricted free agency until 2022, while McConnell is earning $3.5MM and has an identical non-guaranteed cap hit for next season. Holiday’s age (23) makes him a more valuable asset than the 27-year-old McConnell, so if the Pacers do consider moving one of those two guards, the price would be higher for Holiday.

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • The Pacers have played well with both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner on the court this season, recording a +6.4 net rating, and sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe that Indiana continues to turn away teams that inquire on Turner.
  • Still, Lowe points out that Turner averages just nine shots per 36 minutes alongside Sabonis, compared to 16 per 36 minutes when Sabonis sits. Now that the team “belongs” to Malcolm Brogdon, Sabonis, and Oladipo, Lowe questions whether Turner will be content going forward with his part-time role, and suggests that every team in need of a big man should keep an eye on the situation in Indiana.
  • The NBA has fined Pacers wing T.J. Warren $25K and Heat swingman Jimmy Butler $35K for their altercation during Wednesday’s game, the league announced in a press release. Butler received the higher penalty in part for “escalating the incident on social media” after the game, the NBA said in its statement.

Eastern Notes: Love, McConnell, Celtics, Raptors

There’s “fresh optimism” that the Cavaliers will be able to deal power forward Kevin Love before next month’s trade deadline, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Love recently expressed frustration regarding his long-term status with the franchise. Love is in the first year of a four-year, $120.4MM extension. He’s averaging 16.5 PPG and 10.6 RPG in 30.6 MPG this season.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Sixers let point guard T.J. McConnell walk in free agency but the Pacers reserve doesn’t harbor ill will toward his previous team, Mark Monteith of the Indianapolis Star relays. McConnell signed a two-year, $7MM with Indiana, though his salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. McConnell recorded his first double-double of the season against his former club with 11 points and 10 assists on Tuesday. “Nothing but respect,” he said of Philadelphia’s organization. “I would never hold any grudges.”
  • Celtics fans should not expect a trade to upgrade the frontcourt, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. It’s unlikely they’ll find a deal for a quality big man that doesn’t involve moving one of the team’s top five players, Forsberg continues. They could add a proven role player before the trade deadline but they might be better off waiting to see which players wind up in the buyout market, Forsberg adds.
  • The Raptors’ quick start puts them in a tricky position regarding the trade market, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes. It was generally assumed that Toronto would be a seller with the ability to dangle the expiring contracts of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. The one-year extension handed to Kyle Lowry was done in part to make the veteran point guard more tradeable. But now there’s a window for the club to make a run at another championship, Mannix adds.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. 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:

Bruce Brown, Pistons, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018
The Pistons will have a lot of tough decisions to make prior to the trade deadline and during next off-season. Guaranteeing Brown’s $1.66MM salary for next season will be the easiest one. Brown forced his way into the lineup last season as a defensive specialist. That’s still his calling card but he’s also shown he can play the point and his offensive game is developing. The 2018 second-round pick has averaged 16 PPG over the last three games. Coach Dwane Casey believes Brown’s offense will eventually catch up with his defense, which will make him a long-term starter in the league.

Kris Dunn, Bulls, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $17.5MM deal in 2016
When Chicago acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade and drafted Coby White in the first round, Dunn entered training camp with no defined role. To his credit, the former lottery pick didn’t sulk. Otto Porter‘s injury has opened up steady playing time for Dunn in a smaller lineup. He’s an afterthought at the offensive end but he’s shown some defensive tenacity. This week, he hounded Bradley Beal into one of his worst shooting nights in recent years. The Bulls can make Dunn a restricted free agent by extending a $7MM qualifying offer (or $4.6MM if he doesn’t meet the starter criteria). That’s certainly not a given, but considering Dunn’s outlook in October, he’s at least positioning himself for a multi-year offer.

Jordan Clarkson, Cavaliers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
Clarkson signed with superagent Rich Paul over the summer entering his walk year. That should help him land a multi-year contract when he hits unrestricted free agency in July. Clarkson is basically “doing his thing” again for the rebuilding Cavaliers, providing instant offense off the bench. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer (13.9 PPG) despite averaging just 22.7 MPG. Clarkson’s 3-point shooting (35.1%) is above his career average. If can become more consistent from long range, he’ll be even more valuable on the open market.

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019
McConnell was a starter for Philadelphia at the beginning of his career. He’s now settled in as a solid second-unit floor leader. McConnell lacks a 3-point shot but he’s adept at breaking down defenses and finding his teammates. He’s averaging 4.9 APG in just 17.7 MPG. After a ho-hum stretch, he’s perked up the last three games, averaging 10 PPG and 5.7 APG. His $3.5MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed. It’s hard to see Indiana letting McConnell go at that modest rate.

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2018
The Bucks already have enough salary commitments next season to put them over the projected cap. Milwaukee will have to decide before free agency whether to guarantee Ilyasova’s $7MM salary for next season. It’s a safe bet the Bucks will seek a cheaper and/or younger backup to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova’s 3-point shooting has picked up lately but he’s still a subpar 32.8% for the season. He’s averaging 16.3 MPG, his lowest figure since his rookie season. Ilyasova will hook on somewhere next season as a reserve stretch four but likely at a reduced rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacers Notes: Depth, Social Media, McDermott, McConnell

As the Pacers‘ All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo continues to recover from his ruptured quad tendon, coach Nate McMillan has had to turn to his team’s depth to win. And win they have, in resounding fashion: the Pacers are currently 14-8 in the East (and will be playing the Knicks tonight, so… we can go ahead and call it 15-8).

Summer addition Malcolm Brogdon and incumbent big man Domantas Sabonis have been the team’s standout players this season, but they’re not doing it alone.

Swingman Jeremy Lamb, another new summer signing, lauded the Pacers’ unselfish, equal-opportunity play as the reason behind their current resilience. Lamb, T.J. Warren, and Aaron Holiday have all made significant contributions as the Pacers have weathered injuries to Oladipo and Myles Turner (though Turner is healthy now). Their balanced scoring has the Pacers firmly entrenched in the East’s playoff hunt.

“It doesn’t always require a guy having a big night,” Lamb told Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star. “I looked up toward the end tonight and saw everyone on the floor had, like, 15 points. When you’ve got a really deep team, going through an 82-game season can be very taxing on your body, and the more able bodies you have is good.”

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com breaks down the long road to the NBA for Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who signed a two-year, $7MM deal this past summer. The Pittsburgh native rose from 5’8″ embattled coach’s son his freshman year in Bridgeville (he was once grounded for excess showmanship to his father/head coach Tim), averaging just 10 points for Pennsylvania’s Chartiers Valley High School, to a slash line of 34.2 PPG/8.2 RPG/9.1 APG, first-team all-state honors and being voted the Associated Press’ 3A Player of the Year, all while securing a 29-2 record plus a conference championship in his senior year. For more on McConnell’s path to the league, check out Montieth’s full story.
  • Following a choppy first season in Indiana, Pacers forward Doug McDermott has been settling in much better in year two, according to The Athletic’s Scott AgnessMcDermott, who signed a three-year, $22MM contract with Indiana in 2018, is taking 1.9 more field goals per game than last season, 1.0 more triples a game (and converting at a healthy 43.9%), and staying on the floor for three more minutes a night (20.4 minutes instead of 17.4). McDermott has enjoyed being used more as an offensive weapon for longer stretches this season. “Nate rides the hot hand a little now this year and it’s good to have the trust from him to be able to stay out that long,” McDermott added. “To help change the momentum of the game is something I take a lot of pride in.”
  • Another positive change in the injury-depleted Pacers’ locker room appears to have come about via some addition by subtraction. Scott Agness of The Athletic, in a separate piece, details why two of the three T.J.’s in the Pacers locker room (T.J. Leaf and McConnell) have recently gone relatively dark on social media. Myles Turner recently deactivated his Twitter account and deleted all his photos off his Instagram. Malcolm Brogdon recently deleted his Twitter account and primarily uses his Instagram account for branding, not for personal posts.

Atlantic Notes: McConnell, Hayward, Nets, Embiid

Former Sixers guard T.J. McConnell returned to Philadelphia when the Pacers took on the team Saturday night, marking his first time playing in Wells Fargo Center since changing teams in free agency this past summer.

“It’s good being back, seeing all of the faces and all of the people you build a relationship with,” McConnell said, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s a lot of great people here, and I miss them.”

McConnell, 27, joined the Pacers on a two-year deal last summer after spending four seasons with the Sixers. He quickly earned the respect of his coaches and fans during his stint with Philadelphia, appearing in at least 75 games in each of his four campaigns.

“Starting here, winning 10 games,” he said of the team going 10-72 his rookie season. “Then, at the end of my tenure here, you are one shot away from going to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s a pretty incredible journey that we went on.”

McConnell has provided consistency and professionalism for the Pacers during the 2019/20 season, averaging seven points, 4.7 assists and 17.4 minutes in 17 games thus far.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will have another meeting with his doctor on Monday to determine the next steps in his recovery process, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). Hayward has missed the past three weeks due to a fractured hand, with his meeting on Monday set to take place over FaceTime, coach Brad Stevens said.
  • Sopan Deb of the New York Times examines how the Nets keep winning without three of their best players, detailing the strong teamwork, camaraderie and togetherness the group has shown in the wake of adversity. Brooklyn is currently without Kevin Durant (Achilles), Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Caris LeVert (thumb).
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid was fueled by his first-ever scoreless game against the Raptors last week, Erin McCarthy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Embiid finished that game with zero points on 0-for-11 shooting, but bounced back in the contests that followed. He scored 33 points on Wednesday, 27 points on Friday and 32 points on Saturday.

Central Notes: Mykhailiuk, Pistons, Irving, McConnell

Pistons second-year small forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is showing more effort on the defensive end and he’s getting more playing time as a result, Keith Langlois of the team’s website details. He scored a season-high 12 points in 22 minutes on Monday against Orlando and also cooled down Terrence Ross in the second half.

“We know who Svi is offensively, but his major challenge has been the defensive end,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. “He still made a lot of mistakes (Monday), but he made up for it with hard play, compete, just being into Ross. … He was being physical, trying to get into Ross. Two weeks ago, he wouldn’t have been touching him. That’s a big first step for him.”

The Pistons hold a $1,663,861 team option on Mykhailiuk’s contract next season.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The win over the Magic was the beginning of a crucial stretch that could determine the future of the Pistons franchise, James Edwards of The Athletic writes. They could become sellers at the trade deadline and hit the reset button if things don’t turn around soon, Edwards notes.
  • While Kyrie Irving‘s stint with the Celtics ended badly, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has only good things to say about his former teammate, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer“My brother. Great teammate,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, if I’m going to go to war, need a dog (who) can go and hoop I’m definitely going to put him on my team. I mean, the chatter is for you guys to talk about. Teams lose a couple of games and they say the same things about us — what’s going on and blah blah blah. It’s just chatter. At the end of the day, when that untucked Kyrie jersey is out everyone is scared.”
  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell has averaged 11 PPG and 6.7 APG over the last six games and has gained a spot in the rotation, Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes. McConnell could be playing for his contract next season, as the team holds a $3.5MM option. “We knew coming in he was going to push our guards and compete for minutes, and he knew what his role was going to be,” coach Nate McMillan said. “But he’s earned the right to be out there.”

Central Notes: Valentine, Kennard, Porter, McConnell

Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic analyzes why Bulls swingman Denzel Valentine, largely hampered by injuries so far in his NBA career, has yet to earn a role in the rotation during the 2019/20 campaign, his fourth season in the league after being taken in the lottery (14th overall) during the 2016 NBA Draft.

Mayberry notes that while Valentine has put up some large numbers in the G League for the Windy City Bulls, his defensive struggles during the preseason are likely keeping him from earning a rotation spot under head coach Jim Boylen, who says a strong showing down in the G League won’t help Valentine earn playing time in the NBA.

With additional insight on Valentine, Eric Woodyard of ESPN notes that when asked why the 25-year-old is out the rotation, the Bulls’ head coach told him, “Because I said so,” while Valentine told ESPN that he “feel(s) like (he) should play.” As such, Valentine’s role and his attitude toward that role will likely remain an interesting storyline to keep an eye on moving forward.

There’s more news out of the Central Division tonight:

  • The bevy of injuries that the Pistons had to deal with to start this season has a silver lining, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, and it’s the way shooting guard Luke Kennard has responded to the team’s reliance on him. And while whether Kennard keeps starting remains to be seen, head coach Dwane Casey says he’s going to remain a focal point of the rotation either way. “He’s still going to get starter minutes… He brings value to the team. Luke’s a very valuable part of what we’re doing.”
  • The Bulls plan to keep Otto Porter Jr. on a minutes restriction whenever he returns from the soft-tissue injury in his left foot, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Scott Agness of The Athletic points to the positive development of the team’s bench, and backup point guard T.J. McConnell in particular, as a key reason for the Pacers‘ turnaround after a disappointing 0-3 start to the season. “I think T.J. is leading that (second unit), and they’ve had a good rhythm,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “They’re starting to learn each other and build a chemistry. They’re coming out and playing hard.”

Pacers Sign T.J. McConnell

JULY 29: Nearly four weeks after agreeing to terms with him, the Pacers have officially signed McConnell, the team confirmed today (via Twitter).

JULY 3: The Pacers have reached an agreement to sign free agent point guard T.J. McConnell, a league source tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), it’ll be a two-year, $7MM deal.

McConnell, who went undrafted out of Arizona in 2015, caught on with the Sixers and spent his first four NBA seasons in Philadelphia before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In 2018/19, McConnell averaged 6.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 2.3 RPG while shooting a career-high 52.5% from the floor in 76 games (19.3 MPG). However, the 27-year-old fell out of Philadelphia’s rotation in the postseason, logging just 18 total minutes in the club’s seven-game series vs. Toronto.

With Darren Collison retiring and Cory Joseph heading to Sacramento this offseason, the Pacers have addressed the point guard position by agreeing to acquire Malcolm Brogdon in a sign-and-trade, coming to terms on a new deal with Edmond Sumner, and now reaching an agreement with McConnell. Last year’s first-round pick Aaron Holiday is also on track to return to help fill out the depth chart.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks observes (via Twitter), the Pacers projected to have a little over $5MM available in cap room before their deal with McConnell. He could be signed using some of that space, or the team could wait and fit his contract into its $4.8MM room exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kemba Walker Signs Four-Year Deal With Celtics

JULY 6: Walker’s new deal with the Celtics is official, according to a tweet from the team. Walker was among the first free agents to commit to his new team when free agency began last Sunday.

JUNE 30, 5:24pm: Walker and the Celtics are formally in agreement on a four-year max deal, tweets Wojnarowski. As we detailed in our story of the Hornets’ agreement with Rozier, Boston is working on adding Kemba via sign-and-trade.

JUNE 30, 2:14pm: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that while talks remain exploratory in nature, the Celtics have shown interest in a three-team sign-and-trade with Irving, Walker, and Rozier (to the Hornets). Per Woj, the Celtics are interested in having the MLE at their disposal as opposed to the room exception. Woj also adds that the Nets would likely command a first-round pick from Boston for agreeing to a S&T.

JUNE 29, 3:39pm: Free agent point guard Kemba Walker has conveyed to the Hornets that he intends to sign with the Celtics when the NBA’s new league year begins, multiple sources tell Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Boston has been viewed as Walker’s likely landing spot in recent days, having emerged as the frontrunner for the All-NBA point guard earlier in the week.

Kemba intends to sign a four-year, maximum-salary contract (worth a projected $141MM), tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. He’ll be in Boston on Sunday night to finalize an agreement with the C’s, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A three-time All-Star, Walker had perhaps the best year of his NBA carer in 2018/19, establishing a new career-high in PPG (25.6) while also contributing 5.9 APG and 4.4 RPG with a shooting line of .434/.356/.844.

Despite receiving little offensive help in Charlotte, Walker managed to keep the team in the playoff hunt for most of the season, though the Hornets ultimately fell short and finished in the lottery. If Walker had returned to Charlotte, the team would have been up against the luxury tax and would have had a hard time improving its roster around him, so the former UConn star will move on to a potential contender despite the fact that the Hornets could have offered him more money over more years.

Walker will join a Celtics roster that is set to feature Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart, so it will be fascinating to see what he can do in Boston without receiving quite as much attention from opposing defenses. The opportunity to play alongside those Celtics veterans and potentially go deep in the playoffs was a key factor in Walker’s decision, a source tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link).

The C’s are expecting to lose Al Horford and, of course, Kyrie Irving, who has been rumored to be focused on Brooklyn. With Walker heading to Boston to replace Irving, the Hornets are scouring the free agent market for possible point guard targets of their own, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that Elfrid Payton, T.J. McConnell, Ish Smith, and Emmanuel Mudiay are among the options being considered by Charlotte.

Terry Rozier‘s name has also been linked to the Hornets, though it’s unlikely that he’d be a viable option unless Charlotte and Boston can work out some sort of sign-and-trade arrangement, which is a long shot. By withdrawing Rozier’s qualifying offer and renouncing his cap hold, the Celtics will have enough room to sign Walker outright to a max deal, even with Daniel Theis‘ QO still on their books.

In addition to Boston and Charlotte, the Mavericks and Knicks had also been considered potential contenders for Walker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: P. Gasol, Mavs, Wolves, Wright, More

Pau Gasol, whose contract with the Bucks is up, continues to recover from a procedure on his left foot, but he wants to continue his NBA career next season, he tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

“My recovery from surgery has been smooth and I expect to be fully cleared for basketball activities in early August,” Gasol said. “I cannot wait to start training again.”

Gasol, who is an unrestricted free agent, is the only one of Milwaukee’s free agents who has yet to reach an agreement this week. There has been no indication that the Bucks are seeking a reunion.

Here are a few more free agency notes and rumors:

  • The Mavericks are among the teams that have expressed “strong interest” in Delon Wright, league sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Darren Wolfson of SKOR North tweets that the Timberwolves have also inquired on Wright. Wright is a restricted free agent, so the Grizzlies would have the chance to match an offer sheet.
  • The Timberwolves continue to kick the tires on free agent point guard T.J. McConnell, according to Wolfson, who tweets that the Sixers, Heat, Lakers, Grizzlies, Suns, Wizards, and Pacers have also checked out McConnell. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (via Twitter) notes that McConnell could be a target for Miami if the team trades Goran Dragic.
  • The Thunder are among the teams that have expressed some interest in veteran guard Jodie Meeks, a league source tells Brett Dawson of The Athletic (Twitter link). Dawson’s report came shortly before Oklahoma City agreed to terms with Alec Burks, so it’s not clear if the club remains interested in Meeks.
  • In a text message to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link), Enes Kanter explains that he considered re-signing with the Trail Blazers, but didn’t feel as if they gave him enough time to make his decision. Kanter agreed to a two-year deal with Boston.