Tyler Zeller

Nuggets Waive Zeller, Convert Dozier To Two-Way Deal

The Nuggets have made roster moves with a pair of players on non-guaranteed contracts, announcing today (via Twitter) that center Tyler Zeller has been waived, while guard PJ Dozier‘s contract has been converted into a two-way deal.

Zeller – a former first-round pick who has spent time with the Cavaliers, Celtics, Nets, Bucks, Hawks, and Grizzlies – provided Denver with an extra body in training camp, but was always a long shot to make the regular season roster. The Nuggets are expected to enter the season with an open spot on the 15-man squad, since their team salary is dangerously close to the luxury-tax line.

As for Dozier, his path to a two-way contract opened up when the Nuggets waived Tyler Cook earlier this week. Nick Kosmider of The Athletic noted at the time that Dozier would likely slide into that newly-opened two-way slot after an impressive training camp.

Denver now has 14 players on guaranteed contracts and two on two-way deals, so the team’s roster is ready for the regular season. As one of two NBA clubs without their own G League affiliate, the Nuggets don’t need to make any additional roster moves to secure players’ NBAGL rights.

Nuggets Sign Tyler Zeller

The Nuggets have signed free agent center Tyler Zeller to their roster for training camp, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports.

Zeller, 29, was out of the league for most of the 2018/19 campaign, but signed a 10-day contract with Atlanta in March, then joined the Grizzlies for the final week of the regular season. In total, he appeared in six games for the two teams, averaging 7.7 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 15.5 minutes per contest.

The former first-round pick has spent seven total seasons in the NBA, having also appeared in regular season games for the Celtics, Cavaliers, Nets, and Bucks.

The Nuggets are carrying 14 players on guaranteed contracts, so Zeller could theoretically have a chance to earn the final spot on the team’s regular season roster as a third center behind Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee. However, Denver is precariously close to the luxury tax line and may simply prefer to keep that roster spot open.

With Zeller under contract, the Nuggets now have 18 players on their roster. In addition to the 14 players with guaranteed salaries, Denver is carrying Tyler Cook and Bol Bol on two-way deals and PJ Dozier and Zeller on non-guaranteed contracts.

Grizzlies Sign Tyler Zeller

9:53am: The Grizzlies have made it official, announcing Zeller’s signing in a press release.

8:44am: The Grizzlies are signing veteran center Tyler Zeller for the rest of the season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The release of shooting guard Dusty Hannahs created the roster spot necessary to add Zeller.

Zeller, 29, has logged 408 career NBA games over the course of seven seasons, but has spent most of the 2018/19 campaign as a free agent. After being waived by the Bucks in the preseason, the big man’s only NBA action this season came in March when he signed a 10-day contract with Atlanta and appeared briefly in two games for the Hawks.

The Grizzlies had signed Hannahs via a hardship exception and continue to qualify for that exception because they have four players who have missed at least three consecutive games and remain sidelined. As such, Zeller will become Memphis’ 16th man. And, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian observes (via Twitter), once Zeller plays, the Grizzlies will tie an NBA record by using their 28th player this season.

While the decision to replace a young developmental player with a veteran for the final few days of the season may appear odd for a lottery-bound team, both of the Grizzlies’ centers are currently on the shelf — Jonas Valanciunas is out for the season with an ankle injury, while Joakim Noah continues to be listed as day-to-day with a knee injury.

Plus, despite their place in the standings, the Grizzlies are still very focused on winning games to finish the season. The team would like to make sure its top-eight protected 2018 first-round pick conveys to Boston this year so it doesn’t carry over to the 2020 draft. Currently, the Grizzlies are tied for sixth in the reverse standings at 31-47, but the Mavericks (31-47), Wizards (32-47), and Pelicans (32-47) are bunched up with them, creating a path out of the lottery’s top eight if they can finish strong.

Assuming it’s finalized today, Zeller’s rest-of-season contract will carry a modest cap hit of $51,725, keeping Memphis out of tax territory.

Tyler Zeller Signs 10-Day Deal With Hawks

MARCH 8: The signing is official, the Hawks announced in an email.

MARCH 7: The Hawks have reached an agreement with Tyler Zeller and will sign the free agent center to a 10-day contract, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, the deal is expected to be finalized on Friday.

Zeller, 29, spent six seasons in the NBA after being drafted 17th overall in 2012, but was waived by the Bucks in October and had yet to catch on with a new team. In 66 total games last season for Brooklyn and Milwaukee, the veteran seven-footer recorded 6.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG with a career-high .560 FG% in 16.8 minutes per contest.

Zeller will provide the Hawks with some added frontcourt depth at a time when the team is dealing with a handful of injuries to its big men. Omari Spellman has been ruled out for most or all of March with an ankle injury, Miles Plumlee hasn’t played since December due to a knee issue, and Dewayne Dedmon (knee) and Alex Poythress (ankle) are also dealing with nagging health problems.

The Hawks have been using their last two roster spots recently to audition players on 10-day deals. Jordan Sibert was signed to a single 10-day contract and hasn’t been brought back, while B.J. Johnson is currently on a 10-day pact of his own that runs through Sunday. With Zeller and Johnson under contract, Atlanta will have a full roster, but the team could open up two spots when those deals expire.

Zeller’s 10-day contract will carry a cap hit of approximately $85K for the Hawks.

And-Ones: Team USA, Jefferson, Jennings, Bass

With another round of World Cup qualifiers scheduled to begin next week, USA Basketball has officially announced its latest 12-man roster for games against Argentina (November 29) and Uruguay (December 2). The roster is made up primarily of G League players, though NBA free agents Tyler Zeller, Jarnell Stokes, and Eric Moreland are also on the squad. Other former NBA players on the roster include Chasson Randle, DeAndre Liggins, and John Jenkins.

With one more qualifying window scheduled for February after next week’s set of games, Team USA is in prime position to secure a spot in the 2019 World Cup. Team USA currently has a 7-1 record in qualifying contests, which puts the club in a tie with Argentina for first place in Group E. Puerto Rico and Uruguay are tied for third at 5-3. The top three teams in the group will earn spots in the World Cup, and the fourth-place team will have a chance to qualify as well.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • With some help from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, longtime NBA forward Richard Jefferson published a piece on ESPN.com this week, sharing some of his memories from his NBA career and discussing his move into broadcasting.
  • After becoming a free agent this week, veteran guard Brandon Jennings may take the G League route as he tries to work his way back into the NBA, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. However, Smith notes that nothing’s official yet.
  • Smith also checks in a pair of former NBA forward playing in China, reporting (via Twitter) that Brandon Bass is hoping to return to the NBA later in 2018/19, once the Chinese Basketball Association season ends. Jared Sullinger is also putting up huge numbers in China and is in good shape, according to Smith, who tweets that the former Celtic may be ready for another shot in the NBA.
  • Former Trail Blazers guard Tim Quarterman signed this week with Israeli team Ironi Naharyia, per his agency Prostep Sports (Twitter link). Quarterman was waived by the Rockets this past April.

Bucks Waive Tyler Zeller

The Bucks have waived veteran center Tyler Zeller, according to Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). The move leaves Milwaukee one cut shy of reaching the regular season roster limit.

Zeller, the 27th overall pick in the 2012 draft, began his career with two years in Cleveland before spending three seasons in Boston. In 2017/18, he appeared in 66 games for the Nets and Bucks, recording overall averages of 6.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 16.8 minutes per contest.

The contract Zeller signed in the summer of 2017 was a two-year deal, but the second year was non-guaranteed, so his hold on a roster spot in Milwaukee was always precarious. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers on Monday.

With one more cut still to come, Tim Frazier and Christian Wood appear to be vying for the Bucks’ final roster spot.

Bucks Notes: Wood, Muhammad, Budenholzer, New Arena

Christian Wood appears to have the advantage in the battle for the Bucks’ final roster spot based on his performance in today’s intrasquad scrimmage, according to Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The team entered training camp with 14 guaranteed contracts and four players competing for one position: Wood, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Frazier and Tyler Zeller.

Wood, who signed with the Bucks last week, stood out today with several offensive rebounds, a few 3-pointers and a steady performance on defense. He has been trying to earn an NBA job since leaving Nevada-Las Vegas in 2015, but has played in just 30 combined games with the Sixers and Hornets.

Muhammad, who came to Milwaukee in March after being waived by the Timberwolves, was also impressive enough to get noticed by Khris Middleton.

“C-Wood and Bazz, they’re competing for a roster spot and you could tell by the way they played,” Middleton said. “They were everywhere.”

There’s more Bucks news to pass along, all courtesy of Velazquez:

  • New coach Mike Budenholzer’s philosophy was on display in the scrimmage as even the centers were taking a healthy number of 3-pointers. Brook Lopez made three from long distance in a 4 1/2-minute stretch and Wood impressed with his outside marksmanship as well. Even John Henson, who has taken just 13 shots from 3-point range in his career, was experimenting with them. “We’re encouraging a lot of spacing, guys having a lot of confidence,” Budenholzer said. “It felt like we shot a ton of them.”
  • The Bucks are hoping to use their bench more than in past seasons, and today’s action suggests there are a lot of players who can contribute. Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton, who both signed as free agents over the summer, provide two more outside shooting threats. Rookie Donte DiVincenzo looked promising and holdovers Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker seemed more comfortable in Budenholzer’s new system.
  • The scrimmage was the first event at the Bucks’ new Fiserv Forum, and the noise level was noticeable, even though the building was only partially filled. Players are hoping the new arena will provide a greater homecourt advantage than the old Bradley Center.

Bucks Notes: Ilyasova, Parker, Lopez, Zeller

The Bucks are thrilled to have Ersan Ilyasova back on the squad after three seasons without the former second-round pick.

“Ersan is a high IQ player, he can shoot the ball so he gives Giannis and the rest of the team space,” GM Jon Horst said (via the Behind the Buck Pass’ Twitter feed). “He’s competitive, he’s tough, and he knows our system, he knows our community, he knows our players. He was a guy we focused on in free agency, and we’ll be excited to add him.”

Milwaukee agreed to terms on a three-year, $21MM deal as free agency began last weekend. Here’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Horst discussed the Jabari Parker‘s pending restricted free agency during an appearance on NBATV (h/t Adam McGee of Behind the Buck Pass). “We’ve had great conversations [with Parker and his agent], we’re in contact every day. I think the market will dictate some of it, but we’ll continue to work on it and we’ll see how it turns out,” Horst said.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines why Brook Lopez didn’t fetch a more lucrative deal than the one-year, $3.4MM contract he agreed to with the Bucks. While Lopez will provide Milwaukee with a proven scorer in the paint, his lack of foot speed will make it difficult for him to have a defensive impact. Pelton notes that the big man’s ability to shoot from behind the arc will help the team space the floor on offense.
  • The arrival of Lopez likely means Tyler Zeller‘s time in Milwaukee will come to an end, Pelton speculates in the same piece. Zeller’s $1.9MM salary is non-guaranteed and the Bucks will have to be careful in the margins if they plan on making an offer to Parker without going into the luxury tax. If the Bucks waive both Zeller and Brandon Jennings, whose $2.2MM salary does not become guaranteed until August 1, they’d have approximately $11.5MM of financial wiggle room below the luxury tax line.

Central Notes: Robinson, Pacers’ Plans, Thomas, Bucks Cap

The addition of swingman Glenn Robinson III filled the Pistons’ biggest need this offseason, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. The Pistons didn’t anticipate an early commitment but a phone call from new coach Dwane Casey as the start of free agency helped to seal the deal with the ex-Pacers wing. Robinson received a two-year, $8.3MM contract. “We didn’t expect we would get Glenn that quickly,” senior advisor Ed Stefanski said. “We felt getting the two-year commitment was huge to us. To find a young wing who can make a shot, they’re hard to find in the league. When the opportunity came up that quickly, we felt we had to make a move. If it wasn’t for him, we would still be out there looking for a guy.”

In other news involving Central Division teams:

  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard hopes to use a majority of next summer’s cap space on his own free agents, Mark Monteith of Pacers.com reports. Rotation players Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Tyreke Evans could all be free agents next summer, which would free up as much as $57MM in cap space, Monteith notes. But Pritchard would prefer to use most of the money to re-sign some of those players, as he told Monteith. “We have the season like we want to have, our free agents will be the priority,” he said. “I think this team has a chance to grow this year. … We already know these guys. They become our priority in free agency.”
  • Rookie second-round pick Khyri Thomas could get playing time with the Pistons through his defensive prowess, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The swingman out of Creighton views himself as a defensive specialist. “When I was younger, I didn’t get the ball a lot playing with older people so I just stole the ball to get it,” he told Beard.
  • The addition of center Brook Lopez gives the Bucks 13 guaranteed contracts for next season but they’re still $15MM away from being hard-capped, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Lopez reportedly agreed to a one-year deal on Sunday. Milwaukee still has to deal with restricted free agent Jabari Parker‘s status, as he remains unsigned, but they could gain more flexibility since the contracts for Tyler Zeller and Brandon Jennings are not guaranteed, Marks adds.

Central Notes: Pistons, T. Young, Free Agents, Bucks

If the Pistons are going to make changes to their coaching staff or front office, they will probably happen in the next 10 days, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Preparation for the draft begins to intensify with the lottery on May 15, followed by the opening of the combine two days later. The Pistons will want to have their management issues resolved by then, even though their first-rounder is headed to the Clippers without some lottery luck.

GM Jeff Bower met with majority owner Tom Gores on Thursday, Ellis adds, amid reports that structural changes are being considered to the front office. Bower and coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy, who also met with Gores this week, are both entering the final year of their contracts.

Ellis speculates that the longer the situation drags on, the less likely it is that Van Gundy returns for another season. He notes that Gores is unhappy about the way the team has managed its salary cap, particularly with generous contracts for role players Jon Leuer [four years, $42 million] and  Langston Galloway [three years, $21 million].

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Watching the Eastern semifinals has been a painful experience for Thaddeus Young and his Pacers teammates, relays Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. The Indiana players are still reeling after dropping a tough seven-game series to the Cavaliers, and they believe they could be on their way to the conference finals if they had gotten by Cleveland. Young adds that he hasn’t decided whether to opt out of a $13,764,045 salary for next season, but he believes the Pacers are headed for even better things. “Man, I think the sky is the limit for us,” he said. “As a team, we’re already pretty good, but I think we’ll be so much better entering next season because we’ll all have another year of experience under our belt and we won’t be a new-look team that just got together anymore.”
  • The Pacers need to add a 3-point shooter in free agency, observes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, who examines potential targets for this summer. Indiana should have roughly $10MM to spend, even if Young opts in, which could be enough to land Wayne Ellington, Joe Harris or Marco Belinelli.
  • The Bucks are in position to trim some money from their roster heading into free agency, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin. Brandon Jennings [$2,222,803], Tyler Zeller [$1,933,941] and Malcolm Brogdon [$1,544,951] all have non-guaranteed contracts for next season, although Brogdon, a former Rookie of the Year, is expected to be brought back.