Tyus Jones

Kris Dunn Meets Starter Criteria, Increases Value Of QO

Bulls guard Kris Dunn has been deemed to have met the starter criteria as a result of the shortened season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). As a result, Dunn will receive a qualifying offer of $7,091,457 instead of $4,642,800 this offseason if Chicago wants to make him a restricted free agent.

We broke down Dunn’s situation in greater depth earlier this month, but the abridged version is this: A player eligible for restricted free agency receives a more lucrative qualifying offer if he starts 41 games or plays 2,000 minutes in the season before he reaches free agency, or if he averages 41 starts or 2,000 minutes in the two seasons before his free agency.

Dunn, who started 32 games this season and 76 in total over the last two years, fell slightly short of the 41-game-per-season requirement, but the criteria became prorated due to the Bulls only playing 65 of their 82 games this season. As a result, the former No. 5 overall pick was considered to have met the starter criteria, increasing the value of his qualifying offer.

As we’ve previously pointed out, the $2.5MM difference could have a real impact on Dunn’s free agency. It’s possible the Bulls will be less inclined to tender a qualifying offer now that it’s worth $7.1MM instead of $4.6MM. If they do move ahead with the QO, it’s possible Dunn will be more inclined to accept it.

If Chicago doesn’t tender a qualifying offer to Dunn, he’d become an unrestricted free agent.

As Marks and ESPN have previously reported, the NBA and NBPA also agreed to prorate the criteria for bonuses and incentives available to players in 2019/20, based on the shortened season. As a result, the following players have now achieved bonuses, according to Marks (Twitter link):

  • Rudy Gobert (Jazz): $250K for a rate of one rebound per 2.52 minutes in 62 games played.
    • Original criteria: A rate of one rebound per <3.2 minutes in 67 games.
  • Solomon Hill (Heat): $532K for 992 minutes played.
    • Original criteria: 1,000 minutes.
  • Jrue Holiday (Pelicans): $255K for 1,922 minutes played; $255K for 55 games played; $255K for 4.9 RPG in 55 games.
    • Original criteria: 2,075 minutes played; 66 games played; 3.15 RPG in 67 games.
  • Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): $858K for 32 wins.
    • Original criteria: 33 wins.
  • Kyle Lowry (Raptors): $200K for All-Star berth and 52 games played.
    • Original criteria: All-Star berth and 65 games played.
  • Patty Mills (Spurs): $250K for 149 three-pointers made.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM.
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers): $250K for 184 three-pointers made and .375 3PT%.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM; .370 3PT%.

NBA To Prorate Bonus, Incentive Criteria Using March 11 As End Of Season

A number of players with performance incentives and bonus clauses in their contracts didn’t get the opportunity to earn those bonuses in 2019/20 due to the suspension of the NBA season and the league’s subsequent hiatus.

However, according to Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the NBA and NBPA have reached an agreement on how to handle performance incentives in ’19/20. The criteria for those bonuses will be prorated, using March 11 as the end of the regular season, so stats accumulated during the eight “seeding games” this summer won’t count toward those incentives.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Proration]

For instance, Tyus Jones‘ contract with the Grizzlies includes an $858K bonus in the event that Memphis wins 33 games. Prior to the hiatus, the Grizzlies had 32 victories. Rather than needing the Grizzlies win one more game when play resumes, Jones will already be assured of his bonus, since a 32-33 record prorated over a full 82-game season would work out to 40 wins.

Similarly, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry has a series of bonuses related to his All-Star berth and his team’s postseason success that require him to play at least 65 games. When the season went on hiatus, Lowry had appeared in 52 of Toronto’s 64 games. Prorated over an 82-game season, that would work out to approximately 67 of 82 games, so Lowry will be considered to have met that 65-game threshold. He’ll receive his $200K All-Star bonus and could earn up to another $1.5MM, depending on how far the Raptors advance in the playoffs.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks broke down a number of these bonuses and incentives in an earlier Insider-only story. Another important one, noted by Shelburne and Wojnarowski, affects Sixers center Joel Embiid.

The final three years of Embiid’s maximum-salary contract, through 2022/23, had previously only been conditionally guaranteed, with the 76ers retaining the ability to gain salary relief if the veteran center suffered a career-threatening injury related to his back or feet. In order to fully guarantee those salaries, Embiid had to log 1,650 minutes this season.

When the season was suspended, Embiid was only at 1,329 minutes played. However, Philadelphia had only played 65 of 82 games. Prorated over a full season, Embiid’s average number of minutes per Sixers game (approximately 20.45) would work out to 1,677, surpassing the 1,650-minute threshold and ensuring his upcoming salaries are fully guaranteed.

Players whose bonuses and incentives rely on a percentage are unaffected by proration. For example, Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber would receive a $75K bonus for an 80% free-throw rate and another $150K for a 40% three-point average. His percentages are currently 86.3% and 37.4%, respectively, so he’ll receive the first bonus — but not the second. The same would have been true if he had finished at 80.1% and 39.9%.

And-Ones: Bonuses, Travel, Blazers, TBT

While it’s not at or near the top of the NBA’s list of priorities at this point, one issue the league will have to address is how players bonuses and incentives will be determined for the 2019/20 season. In an Insider-only story, Bobby Marks of ESPN identifies a number of interesting cases that remain up in the air due to the fact that the season has been suspended and may not be completed in full.

For instance, Tyus Jones‘ contract with the Grizzlies calls for him to receive a bonus worth $858K if the team wins 33 or more games. Memphis was at 32 wins when the NBA went on hiatus. Sixers center Joel Embiid, meanwhile, would have his salaries for the next three seasons become fully guaranteed if he logs 1,650 minutes this season — he was 321 minutes short of that mark when the league suspended play.

As Marks explains, the outcome of some of those incentives may have to be negotiated, but in general, the most logical approach would be for the NBA to prorate a player’s stats over a full 82-game season. For instance, if the Sixers finish the season having played just 65 out of 82 games, Embiid’s per-game minutes average for 65 games (20.4 MPG) would be prorated over 82 games. That would work out to 1,677 minutes, so he’d receive his guarantee. The same goes for Jones, since the Grizzlies were on pace to win well over 33 games.

That approach, which the NBA took during the 2011/12 lockout season, wouldn’t help players who have incentives tied to percentages — for instance, a player who needed to make 35.0% of his three-point attempts to earn a bonus and finished at 34.7% wouldn’t receive that extra money.

As we wait to see how the NBA resolves that issue and others, let’s round up a few more basketball odds and ends…

  • NBA players and staff who are outside the country are now permitted to re-enter the United States via a U.S. Department of Homeland Security issue, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. That will benefit not only international players like Luka Doncic and Sekou Doumbouya, who returned to their home countries during the hiatus, but also Raptors players and coaches who are currently in Toronto.
  • In a piece that focuses primarily on the Trail Blazers, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks at what it’s been like for players to return to their teams’ practice facilities this month during an ongoing pandemic.
  • The Basketball Tournament (TBT), an annual summer event that features a number of former college standouts and overseas players, isn’t being postponed or canceled, according to organizers. As Myron Medcalf of ESPN details, participants will be tested repeatedly for COVID-19 and a team will be eliminated if one of its players tests positive. The plan is to move forward with the tournament in July.

Southwest Notes: Hartenstein, Ariza, T. Jones, Zion

Rockets center Isaiah Hartenstein may have moved up in the rotation with a strong performance against the Nets last night, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. With Clint Capela sidelined by a heel contusion, veteran Tyson Chandler started Saturday’s game, but Hartenstein saw more than 24 minutes of action. He wound up with nine points, 13 rebounds and a pair of dunks that electrified Houston’s bench.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Especially just waiting for my turn and just being ready. I took the opportunity I got today and made the most of it. … I’m just doing my role. It’s not much out there, just setting screens, rebounding and just play hard. I think I’ve done a good job doing that.”

Hartenstein had been stuck on the end of the Rockets’ bench, seeing brief minutes in just two games this month prior to Saturday. Houston tends to employ a smaller lineup when Capela rests and often uses P.J. Tucker at center. Hartenstein will get another chance to change that philosophy tonight with Capela unavailable again.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets are well into their second season without Trevor Ariza and still haven’t found a reliable replacement for the versatile forward, Iko observes in a separate story. Ariza signed with the Suns last summer, then joined the Kings in July. “He’s more than just a three-and-D guy, although he’s really good at that,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s probably what we need more than anything, but I think he can do a little bit of everything.”
  • After a slow start, Tyus Jones is looking like the player the Grizzlies expected when they gave him a three-year, $26MM contract this summer, notes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jones had eight points and seven assists off the bench yesterday in Denver, continuing a string of strong December performances.
  • Pelicans fans don’t know when they’ll see No. 1 pick Zion Williamson in action, but he put on a show last night in warmups, relays William Guillory of The Athletic. Williamson excited the crowd by throwing down a few signature dunks, although he constantly jumped off his left leg, taking it easy on the right one that is still recovering from meniscus surgery in October.

Ja Morant Sidelined With Back Spasms

Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant will be out of action on a “week-to-week basis” with back spasms, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The star point guard first hurt his back in Monday’s game at Indiana when he collided with a camera operator after a layup attempt, writes David Cobb of The Commercial Appeal. He was helped off the court and appeared to be pointing to the middle of his upper back, Cobb adds, but later returned to the game.

Morant scored just 11 points against the Jazz last night, shooting 4 of 13 from the field, and appeared to be bothered by back pain. He is off to a strong start in his first NBA season, averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists through 17 games.

Morant’s absence provides an opportunity for Tyus Jones, who came to Memphis this summer when the Timberwolves declined to match a three-year, $24MM offer sheet. He is averaging 19.3 minutes per night as a backup to Morant. Marko Guduric and De’Anthony Melton should also get an increase in playing time.

Northwest Notes: Ingles, Towns, Nuggets, Jones, Conley

Jazz forward Joe Ingles has sought advice from San Antonio’s Patty Miles and New Orleans’ J.J. Redick as he adjusts to a sixth-man role, Aaron Falk of the team’s website reports. “It’s been a few years since I’ve come off the bench,” Ingles said. “I’m just figuring out different ways, what they do, their routines. If there’s anything I can steal or use to help our team win games, I’m going to do it.” Ingles is off to a slow start in his new role, averaging 7.6 PPG and 3.4 APG with a .400 FG%.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has no regrets about his scrap with Joel Embiid that resulted in a two-game suspension, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets“Listen I’m going to defend myself. I ain’t going to take nothing,” he said. “That’s a very … talented player. I just had to defend myself in that situation.”
  • The Nuggets are getting an average of 36.7 points from their bench, putting them in the middle of the pack in the league, but forward Will Barton says they’re way better than that, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post relays. “We’ve got the best bench in the league when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Barton said.
  • Tyus Jones was grateful he had the chance to play for his hometown team, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune relays. Jones grew up in Minnesota and played four seasons for the Timberwolves. He signed a three-year offer sheet with the Grizzlies this offseason and Minnesota declined to match it. “Last year it was like, ‘Man, I might not get this chance again to play for my hometown team.’ … It was just a cool experience, something I’m grateful for because not everyone gets to do something like that. It’s pretty unique and pretty cool,” the point guard said.
  • Mike Conley is going through a bigger adjustment than anticipated, as the Jazz guard told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “It’s kind of a little bit out of my routine because I’ve had to watch more film on us than I can on the other teams because I’m still learning. … I’ve got a big guy now (in Rudy Gobert) who can go get it. I can throw pocket passes, but it’s a little different. We’ve got lob threats and shooters around. You’re just trying to figure out where guys like to come off screens, and which hand, and then just remembering the terminology,” he said. Conley, who was traded by the Grizzlies over the summer, is making a combined $67MM this season and next season.

Southwest Notes: T. Jones, Rockets, Nowitzki, Ingram

After carving out a role as a valuable reserve during his four years in Minnesota, Tyus Jones tells David Cobb of The Commercial Appeal that he’s looking forward to a fresh start with the Grizzlies. The Timberwolves elected not to match Jones’ three-year, $24MM offer sheet, sending him to a new organization for the first time in his NBA career.

“The thing that impresses me is everyone knows the goal, and that’s we’re one team trying to improve and trying to win a lot of games this year,” Jones said. “Everyone has the best interest of the guy next to them and everyone is looking out for the guy next to them. That’s what it takes to be a great team.”

Part of the point guard’s duties will be to serve as a mentor to rookie Ja Morant, the second selection in this year’s draft. It may seem like an unusual responsibility for a 23-year-old, but Jones virtually qualifies as an elder statesman on the rebuilding Grizzlies.

“It’s weird when you look at it in the grand picture, in the grand scheme of things,” Jones said. “I’m 23, but I’m one of the older guys on the team. We have at lot of younger guys just in terms of the NBA years. But that’s what you get when you come into the league at 19.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets‘ addition of Thabo Sefolosha could come at the cost of Ben McLemore or Michael Frazier, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad. Even though GM Daryl Morey has said he has the freedom to pay the luxury tax, Nahmad cautions that he won’t do it to keep an average player. Nahmad expects Houston to either start the season with the minimum of 14 players on its roster or possibly keep 15 with the intention to make a salary-cutting trade by the February deadline (Twitter link).
  • Mark Cuban plans to talk with recently retired star Dirk Nowitzki about joining the Mavericks‘ ownership group, relays Dalton Trigg of DallasBasketball. “I’ll have the convo with Dirk in the future,” Cuban said. “There is a lot of things involved to make it all work. But it would be awesome.”
  • The Pelicans should take a cautious approach toward an extension for Brandon Ingram, contends Bryan Toporek of Forbes. Although Ingram has been a full participant in offseason workouts, Toporek believes his health concerns make him too much of a risk unless he agrees to a discount somewhere in the neighborhood of the three-year, $52MM deal that Caris LeVert accepted with the Nets.

Contract Bonus Notes: Nene, KCP, Randle, Jones

Veteran big man Nene officially signed his new contract with the Rockets back on September 6, but the NBA has yet to formally approve the deal, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link). Sources tell Marks that the league has been discussing internally whether it should disapprove of the incentives in the agreement, which create a $10MM trade chip despite the fact that Nene will likely only be paid about $2.56MM.

The NBA has the right to challenge deals that it believes violate the spirit of rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, even if those deals are technically legal based on what’s written in the CBA. While it seems unlikely that Nene’s deal would be nixed, it wouldn’t be surprising if the league looked to adjust the rules related to bonuses and incentives in the future to prevent teams from manipulating a player’s cap hit to such a significant extent.

In the meantime, Nene’s deal is hardly the only one signed this offseason heavy on bonus money. We’ve gone into detail on the incentives included in a handful of other contracts, such as the ones signed by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but Marks has even more details on bonuses available to players around the NBA this year.

We won’t pass along every single note included in Marks’ article, but here are a few of the noteworthy new bonuses worth watching in 2019/20:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can earn three separate $350K bonuses if he averages 1.85 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game this season with the Lakers. Caldwell-Pope’s new deal also includes a $163K bonus for being named to either All-Defensive team and a $50K bonus if the Lakers reach the Western Finals.
  • Julius Randle‘s contract with the Knicks includes three separate $900K unlikely bonuses that he could earn if he makes the All-Star team, is named to an All-Defensive team, or makes the playoffs (and appears in at least 65 games).
  • Tyus Jones‘ $9.258MM cap hit with the Grizzlies in 2019/20 includes an $858K bonus that has been deemed likely. Jones will earn the bonus if Memphis wins 33 games. If the rebuilding Grizzlies fall short of that mark, Jones’ cap hit for the season will dip to $8.4MM.
  • Maxi Kleber‘s new contract with the Mavericks features a set of four unlikely bonuses that could be worth up to $475K in total. To earn them all, Kleber must make an All-Defensive team ($150K), make at least 80% of his free throws ($75K), make at least 40% of his three-pointers ($150K), and average more than nine rebounds per 36 minutes ($100K).
  • Again, if you’re an ESPN Insider, be sure to check out Marks’ full story for more details on some of the more unusual incentives around the league.

Timberwolves Notes: Jones, Point Guards, Layman

Point guard Tyus Jones became the first – and likely only – restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet this offseason when he inked a three-year deal with the Grizzlies last weekend. However, entering the summer, Jones hadn’t been planning to move on to a new team after spending the first four years of his NBA career with the Timberwolves, as he tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“I think it’s just natural to look at it and see all the stars were aligning and assume that I’ve been here for four years and carved out a nice role in this team and you just kind of assume we’re going to figure it out here,” Jones said. “You don’t go into it thinking you’re going to be moving on to another team. Things happen. It’s a business and it’s always going to be a business. I’m just thankful and glad to have a team that’s so excited about me joining their family.”

According to Krawczynski, the Timberwolves did make an offer to Jones during the first week of free agency, but it was a four-year deal that started at just $4.2MM, with the final year non-guaranteed. Jones balked at that offer, and there was some “disenchantment” within his camp, says Krawczynski.

After what he called “the longest week or 10 days of my life,” Jones received an offer from the Grizzlies that was more in the ballpark of what the former first-round pick was seeking. The three-year deal will be worth about $8-9MM annually.

Here’s more on the Timberwolves:

  • Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was a fan of Jones, and some people that expected Taylor to lobby to keep him, but sources tell Krawczynski that the team owner was ultimately on board with Minnesota’s decision not to match his offer sheet.
  • In a breakdown of the Timberwolves’ point guard outlook, Krawczynski reports that the Timberwolves didn’t plan on making a push for Russell Westbrook while Oklahoma City was shopping him. The same thinking applies to Chris Paul, since the Wolves are looking to surround Karl-Anthony Towns with core players who are closer to his age, per Krawczynski.
  • New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said this week that he’s excited to be able to take low-cost “bets” on players like Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallace, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune relays. Rosas also explained why the team pursued – and acquired – restricted free agent Jake Layman: “We really like his versatility, his feel, his IQ, ability to play on the ball, off the ball. To play a couple of positions offensively, defensively. We see a lot of upside with him. He’s got a tough identity that translates on both ends.”
  • I took a closer look earlier today at the salary cap machinations surrounding the Wolves’ sign-and-trade for Layman.

Tyus Jones Officially Joins Grizzlies After Wolves Decline To Match Offer Sheet

JULY 11: Jones’ contract with the Grizzlies is now official, per a press release from the team.

JULY 9: The Timberwolves have opted not to match Tyus Jones‘ three-year offer sheet with the Grizzlies, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The decision, which was due by midnight eastern time, will pave the way for the restricted free agent to finalize his deal with Memphis and become the newest member of the Grizzlies’ backcourt.

Gersson Rosas, the Wolves’ new president of basketball operations, has issued a statement confirming that the Wolves will let Jones join the Grizzlies, as Darren Wolfson of SKOR North relays (via Twitter).

“We sincerely thank Tyus for his contributions on the court and Tyus and the entire Jones family for their genuine impact on the Twin Cities community,” Rosas said. “We wish them nothing but the best in Memphis.”

Jones became the first restricted free agent of the 2019 offseason to sign an offer sheet on Sunday. It’s the second consecutive year that the Grizzlies have used their mid-level exception to poach an RFA from a Western Conference rival — they did so with Spurs forward Kyle Anderson a year ago.

Jones, 23, averaged 6.9 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG last year in 68 games (22.9 MPG) for Minnesota. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, he’s a solid defender who grades out well analytically. He’ll join a Grizzlies point guard rotation that figures to feature a heavy dose of No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant, along with newly-acquired youngster De’Anthony Melton. Memphis sent longtime point guard Mike Conley to Utah and signed-and-traded Delon Wright to Dallas earlier this offseason.

According to Bobby Marks of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Jones’ three-year deal has a first-year base value of $8.4MM with $850K in likely bonuses. It has a descending structure but can be worth close to $27MM in total. The former Duke Blue Devil told Sean Deveney this week that he’s “excited” to join the Grizzlies, and hopes to help establish a winning culture in Memphis (Twitter link).

As Marks notes, the Timberwolves – having just claimed Tyrone Wallace on waivers – would have been slightly over the tax line if they had matched Jones’ offer sheet. Additionally, the Wolves are pursuing maximum-salary cap room in 2020 and adding Jones’ multiyear deal to their books would’ve complicated that goal, tweets Wojnarowski.

With Jones and departed free agent Derrick Rose out of the picture, Minnesota has Jeff Teague, Shabazz Napier, and Wallace in the mix at point guard. The team may continue to explore its options to fortify the position.

Now that Jones is off the board, only one restricted free agent – Kelly Oubre of the Suns – remains on the market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.