- The Wizards’ new G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, will share the same practice facility as the NBA team. The G League team’s GM, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, sees that as an incentive for his players, as he explained to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level.”
The 2018/19 season is a pivotal one for Markieff Morris, as he’ll be a free agent for the first time in his career next summer. At that point, he’ll have to make a contract decision for the first time since he inked a team-friendly extension with the Suns, one that was predicated on him taking a discount to play alongside his brother, Marcus.
Fast-forward four years and both brothers are on different squads with the Suns dealing away each player in separate deals. The slightly older twin knows the importance of making this most of his upcoming free agency and with health finally on his side, he’s preparing for breakout contract year.
“I’m finally 100 percent, so I feel good,” Morris said via Chase Hughes of NBC Washington. “My play is gonna speak for itself. The most important thing we’ve gotta do is win as a team. That’s the most important thing.”
Change has been constant in Morris’ life recently. This was his first healthy offseason in Washington, his first summer as a father, and this season will bring another change on the court.
The Wizards shipped away Marcin Gortat and brought in Dwight Howard, a player who doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to sustaining on-court chemistry. Still, Morris believes Howard will be a “perfect” fit in the locker room.
“I think it’s a great pickup. Dwight has been a great player his entire career. He averaged [16.6] and [12.5] last year,” Morris said. “Every time we played against him he has been a matchup problem for us. I’m excited to have him and welcome him to D.C.”
Morris likes Washington’s chances in the Eastern Conference this season. With Kawhi Leonard moving to The North, Boston getting its stars back from injury, and The Process surpassing the incubation stage, winning the conference will be no easy feat. Yet, with LeBron James now out west, the conference is as wide-open as its ever been.
NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, most clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.
We’re in the midst of looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on the key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2018/19 regular season begins.
Will Kent Bazemore still be a Hawk when the 2018/19 season begins?
As we noted this morning, Bazemore is the longest-tenured Hawks player now that Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala are on new teams. But after trading Schroder and Muscala last month, Atlanta may ultimately deal Bazemore too.
Trade rumors continue to swirl around Bazemore, with the Rockets, Bucks, and Pelicans among the teams linked to the veteran swingman. In a hypothetical trade with each of those teams, the Hawks would have to take on an unwanted contract, which would mean acquiring Ryan Anderson, John Henson, or Solomon Hill. So it will come down to what sort of additional assets those clubs are willing to attach to their bad contracts to sweeten the pot for Atlanta.
If the Hawks don’t feel like any offers for Bazemore are worth pulling the trigger on at this point, there’s no rush to make a deal — he’ll still have value at the trade deadline, especially if he has a strong first half.
Will the Hornets make a trade involving a wing before the season begins?
Many of those same teams with reported interest in Bazemore have likely checked in with the Hornets as well. In Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte has several wings who could be trade candidates.
While all of those players are solid – but unspectacular – on the court, there’s a significant range in their trade value due to their respective contracts. Lamb’s $7.5MM expiring deal, for instance, would be much more palatable for potential trade partners than Batum’s contract, which still has three years and $76.7MM left on it. Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist fall somewhere in the middle — they each have two years left on their deals and are earning between $13-15MM annually.
The Hornets likely won’t push to make a trade before the season starts, and if they do make a move, they’ll have to be wary of their luxury tax situation, as they only sit about $3.5MM below the tax threshold. Still they’ve shown a willingness to deal since Mitch Kupchak took over as head of basketball operations in the spring. Charlotte has made five trades since the 2017/18 season ended.
Despite rumors that Wade is set to return for another year, nothing has been confirmed yet. In fact, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reported this week (via Twitter) that retirement remains a “serious consideration” for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Still, if Wade does continue his playing career, it’ll be with the Heat, and rumblings that Haslem is leaning toward another year in South Beach may bode well for the possibility of Wade’s return. While the two veterans aren’t necessarily making their decisions together, there was a sense that if one of them retired, the other would be more likely to follow suit.
The Heat continue to hold roster spots for both players, and Pat Riley suggested last month that he expected clarity around mid-August. If the duo decides to keep playing, Haslem will almost certainly receive a minimum contract. Wade’s situation is a little more complicated, as he may seek some or all of Miami’s taxpayer mid-level exception, which could pay him up to $5.3MM instead of just $2.4MM.
Is Isaiah Briscoe penciled in as the Magic’s 15th man?
The Magic have 14 players on fully guaranteed contracts at the moment, and none of them seem likely to be waived before opening night. That leaves one spot open on the regular season roster, and Briscoe looks like the current frontrunner.
Briscoe, who played well overseas last season after going undrafted out of Kentucky in 2017, didn’t get a full guarantee from the Magic, but he did get a generous $500K partial guarantee on his first-year salary. His three-year contract is also structured as if Orlando hopes to keep him around for the next few seasons. Throw in the fact that D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant are the only other point guards on the NBA roster and Briscoe looks like a safe bet to break camp with the team.
Still, without that full guarantee, Briscoe isn’t a lock for the 15-man squad quite yet. A poor preseason could put his roster spot in jeopardy, particularly with Troy Caupain in the mix on a two-way contract as an insurance policy at the point guard spot. The Magic still have a couple openings on their 20-man offseason roster, so it will be interesting to see if they use either of those slots on a player that could push Briscoe for a place on the regular season roster.
Will the Wizards sign Kelly Oubre Jr. to a rookie scale extension?
Oubre enjoyed his best NBA season in 2017/18, establishing new career highs in PPG (11.8), RPG (4.5), 3PT% (.341), and many other categories. However, his production was somewhat up and down, and he struggled to make an impact in the postseason, when he shot just .375/.211/.889.
Entering his fourth year, Oubre is now eligible for a rookie scale extension, and he and the Wizards will have until October 15 to work out a new deal that would go into effect in 2019/20. If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, the 22-year-old would be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.
If they expect Oubre to take another big step forward this season, the Wizards would be wise to see if they can lock him up now at a team-friendly rate. However, with big-money multiyear contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter already on the books, the club may be reluctant to invest heavily in another contributor whose skill set overlaps with that of its highest-paid players.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
After the NBA salary cap increased by nearly 35% for the 2016/17 league year, it has grown at a far more modest rate in two subsequent seasons, increasing from $94.1MM to $99.1MM to $101.9MM. Still, the cap spike in 2016 resulted in a free agent spending spree that is still haunting some teams.
Many of the clubs that currently project to be taxpayers for the 2018/19 season still have an unwieldy contract or two from the summer of 2016 on their books. That list includes Ian Mahinmi for the Wizards, Evan Turner for the Trail Blazers, and Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson for the Heat.
Even this year’s projected taxpayers that spent their money more wisely in 2016 can blame that summer at least in part for their substantial team salaries — clubs like the Warriors and Celtics likely wouldn’t have been able to land stars like Kevin Durant and Al Horford without the cap spike, and commitments to those players are helping push both teams into tax territory today.
In total, nearly one-third of the NBA’s teams could end up over the luxury tax threshold this season. Currently, eight teams have crossed that $123.733MM line, while two more are narrowly below it. Teams have until the end of the 2018/19 regular season to adjust team salary in an effort to get back under the tax line, but most of those clubs will have little leverage if they try to dump salary, so it won’t be easy to cut costs.
Here’s an early look at the teams likely to finish 2018/19 as taxpayers:
Oklahoma City Thunder
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $149.58MM
The Thunder have actually reduced their projected tax bill in the last month by trading Carmelo Anthony and his $28MM salary, but this roster will still have a massive price tag attached to it. Because they’ll finish the season having been in the tax in three of the last four years, the Thunder will be subject to the repeater tax, resulting in more punitive penalties. As a result, their tax bill currently projects to be worth a staggering $93.19MM.
Golden State Warriors
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $143.64MM
The Warriors will actually get off relatively easy this year, despite a projected tax bill of $51MM+ if Patrick McCaw returns on his qualifying offer. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are still on old contracts that pay them well below their current maximum salaries, and Golden State won’t get hit with the repeater tax until 2019/20. If Thompson and Durant sign lucrative new deals next summer, the Dubs may well face more significant tax penalties in future seasons.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $139.79MM
The Raptors have avoided the tax during their recent run of 50-win seasons, but they’re unlikely to do so again this year. Even if they’re able to dump one unwanted contract, it probably won’t be enough to slip below the tax line. That’s not the end of the world though, as team ownership should be willing to pay a little extra in 2018/19 for what could be a championship-caliber roster. Some money will come off the books in 2019, and much more will be cleared by 2020, so the club likely won’t have to worry about spending the next several years in tax territory.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $134.86MM
One of four taxpayers last season, the Wizards came away with little to show for the extra investment in their roster — the club finished eighth in the East and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. That didn’t dissuade ownership from spending big again this season on a roster that looks pretty similar to last year’s, plus Dwight Howard. Based on their current team salary, the Wizards are on the hook for a projected tax bill of $19MM+.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $133.72MM
The Rockets‘ guaranteed team salary currently only accounts for 11 fully guaranteed contracts and one partially guaranteed deal, so that total figures to increase by the time Houston sets its final 14- or 15-man roster. With expensive multiyear deals for James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela and others on the books for 2019/20 as well, it will be interesting to see just how willing new owner Tilman Fertitta is to remain in tax territory for multiple years if the Rockets once again fall short of the NBA Finals in 2018/19.
Portland Trail Blazers
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $131.64MM
The Trail Blazers deftly ducked below the tax line at the 2018 trade deadline when they shipped Noah Vonleh‘s expiring contract to Chicago. Barring a fire sale, it will be more difficult to get below that threshold this season — the Blazers would have to shed about $8MM to do so, and there are no big expiring contracts on their books that would make good trade chips.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $126.98MM
Like the Rockets, the Heat don’t have a full roster yet, so their total guaranteed team salary is based on just 12 players. If they bring back Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, even on minimum salary contracts, the gap between the Heat’s team salary and the tax line will increase. That will make it trickier to get out of the tax at the trade deadline, though Miami has reportedly explored potential trades this offseason involving some of the team’s highest-paid players.
Current guaranteed team salary (approximate): $126.75MM
The Celtics‘ tax bill is currently only projected to be about $5.8MM, which is modest enough that the club won’t do anything drastic to move below the tax line. Still, the front office will be mindful of the cost of the roster in future seasons. With lucrative new contracts for the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum due before too long, the Celtics could eventually become a perennial taxpayer, so it might be in the club’s best interests to sneak out of the tax in 2018/19 to avoid starting the clock on the repeater tax.
Outside of the eight teams listed above, the Pistons and Grizzlies will be the wariest about their standing in relation to the tax line in 2018/19. Both clubs currently have about $123.25MM in team salary on their books, leaving them less than $500K away from tax territory. Memphis could create some extra breathing room by waiving Andrew Harrison‘s non-guaranteed salary.
Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dwight Howard wasn’t kidding about playing into his 40s. Howard, 32, declared during his introductory press conference with the Wizards that he had “another good eight years.” As Candace Buckner of the Washington Post details, Howard has changed his training regimen over the past two summers to extend his career.
Howard has slimmed down to 265 pounds with 3.3 percent body fat, according to his trainer Ed Downs. Howard weighed 285 pounds with 12.5 percent body fat when he played for the Hawks during the 2016/17 season.
Howard realized he needed to be more agile in the current NBA climate.
“When I came into this league, I was playing against the Shaqs, the Alonzo Mournings, the Jermaine O’Neals and it was more so a physical — I’m going to see who’s the strongest guy in the paint,” Howard told Buckner. “It’s like an arm wrestling match for the big guys. And nowadays, it’s not the same game. So it’s either evolve, adapt or get left behind.”
Howard, who has battled back problems during his career, proved more durable during his season with the Hornets, appearing in all 81 games in which he was eligible, Buckner notes. The only game he missed was due to a league suspension for exceeded the league’s limit for technicals.
Howard has also worked diligently on his ballhanding and shooting in order to become more versatile. Another one of Howard’s handlers, Justin Zormelo, wants his client to evolve into “his own version” of Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant.
Buckner later clarified Zormelo’s statement, assuring that Howard doesn’t think he’s at Durant’s level but simply wants to expand his game by incorporating elements from other players (Twitter links).
Former Hornets and Mavericks guard Aaron Harrison has backed out of his agreement to play with Galatasaray in the Turkish league, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando tweets. The reasons behind Harrison’s decision are unknown, though the economic crisis in the country could have played a role, Cauchi adds.
Harrison was not tendered a qualifying offer this summer by Dallas and became a unrestricted free agent. He joined the Wizards’ summer league team but shot poorly in five Las Vegas games, making just 19% of his attempts while averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 15.4 MPG.
The former Kentucky Wildcat appeared in nine games, including three starts, with Dallas last season after signing a 10-day deal and then a rest-of-the-season contract in early April. The 6’6” Harrison averaged 6.7 PPG in 25.9 MPG but shot just 27.5% from the field. He saw action in a combined 26 games with Charlotte the previous two seasons.
With LeBron James out of the East for the first time since 2003, confidence is on the rise around the conference. Jaylen Brown essentially guaranteed that the Celtics will make it to the NBA Finals, while Brook Lopez has said the Bucks love their chances to come out of the East.
Wizards point guard John Wall joined the chorus this week, telling Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports that he feels like “we’re all equal” in the East. While the Wizards haven’t made it to the NBA Finals in recent years, neither have the Celtics, Raptors, Sixers, Pacers, or any other non-LeBron Eastern team, Wall points out.
“Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals,” Wall said. “Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round, or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”
Wall went on to say that “on paper” a handful of Eastern teams look strong, but he observed that there are still questions about how the Celtics will mesh with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving returning, or how Kawhi Leonard will look with the Raptors. In Wall’s view, the top four or five teams in the East are all bunched together, and he’s willing to put the Wizards “right there” in that group.
This kind of talk is nothing new from the Wizards. Heading into the 2017/18 season, Bradley Beal called Washington the team to beat in the East, despite the fact that the club had been eliminated by Boston in the second round of the 2017 playoffs — multiple Wizards that year claimed publicly that they would’ve beaten the Cavaliers in the postseason if given the chance. This past spring, after losing as the No. 8 seed to the top-seeded Raptors, Markieff Morris told reporters that “sometimes the better teams don’t win.”
So far, the Wizards have done little to back up their big talk, and oddsmakers aren’t convinced they’ll do so this year either — the Wizards’ early over/under of 44.5 wins ranks sixth in the East, behind Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Indiana, and Milwaukee. Still, perhaps with LeBron out of the conference, this is the year that Washington makes its run.
What do you think? Are the Wizards a top-four team in the East? Will they claim home court advantage for the first round and/or win a first-round series in the spring?
Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to weigh in on the Wizards.
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.
McRae, now 27 years old, didn’t make much of an impact during his first two NBA stints with the Cavs and Suns after getting drafted by the Spurs, though he did win a title with Cleveland. He’ll return to the Association after an abbreviated stint playing professionally in Spain.
The shooting guard will occupy Washington’s second two-way slot, with the other currently held by small forward Devin Robinson.
Twenty-six NBA teams had their own G League squads in 2017/18, and a 27th will enter the league in 2018/19, with the Wizards introducing Capital City Go-Go, their new NBAGL affiliate. Today, the franchise issued a press release announcing that Pops Mensah-Bonsu will serve as the Go-Go’s first general manager, while Jarell Christian will be the team’s head coach.
Mensah-Bonsu, who played his college ball at nearby George Washington University, entered the NBA as a player in 2006 and spent time with the Mavericks, Spurs, Raptors, Rockets, and Pelicans (then the Hornets) over the course of his career. He also had an extensive professional career in international leagues as a player before retiring in 2015 and working for the Spurs and the NBPA.
“I am humbled to be entrusted with this position and would like to thank the Wizards organization for the opportunity,” Mensah-Bonsu said in a statement. “Washington is my second home and the city has embraced me ever since I stepped on the George Washington campus. I am excited to be able to give back by making sure that the Go-Go is a pillar in the community and a team that the city can get behind.”
As for Christian, he has served as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G League affiliate, for the last four seasons. He briefly held the interim head coach position for the club during the 2016/17 season when Mark Daigneault was promoted to the Thunder’s staff.
With the Wizards’ affiliate set to join the G League for the 2018/19 season, only three NBA clubs – the Nuggets, Pelicans, and Trail Blazers – are still without an NBAGL affiliate of their own.