Weekly Mailbag

Weekly Mailbag: 8/13/18 – 8/19/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz said this week that Kyrie Irving and the Celtics have a “mutual understanding” about a long-term contract. If Irving and Jimmy Butler want to play together, does that mean Butler might be coming to Boston? — Stephen W., via Twitter

In an appearance on “The Jump,” Arnovitz said, “My best intel is that the Celtics and Kyrie have a pretty good mutual understanding that he wasn’t going to get traded in the offseason and that there are long-term aspirations for both parties.” While things can change over the course of the season, that’s a pretty strong indication that Irving doesn’t plan to leave Boston. The Celtics potentially have enough cap room to sign a max-level free agent next summer, but only if Al Horford opts out and they renounce his rights, which isn’t likely. A better path toward Butler is a trade around the deadline, but salary matching will be tricky because Boston’s roster is filled with high-end contracts and rookie deals. Assuming Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are off the table, it’s hard to see what the Celtics might offer that the Timberwolves would accept.

If the Lakers are struggling at midseason, do you think LeBron James and the front office will be OK staying the course or will they push for an aggressive trade deadline deal? Wondering how important winning this next season really is. — VJ Cruz, via Twitter

The Lakers’ priority is finding a second star to play alongside LeBron. With all the one-year contracts the organization handed out this summer, it will be in position to offer another maximum deal in 2019. The Lakers won’t make any trades that interfere with that, even if a deal might seem like the difference in making the playoffs. However, if they can get their second star during the season — if things don’t work out for Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, for example — then the Lakers will be very willing to engage in trade talks.

Say an undrafted rookie gets signed to a two-way contract, plays only in the G League all year, then gets an upgrade the next year to the main team. His day limit is used up strictly by attending practices just in case someone on the main team gets hurt, but doesn’t actually play a game, not even suiting up and sitting on the bench. The next year though, after making the main team roster, he blows up. Is he eligible for Rookie of the Year? — Nicolas Galipeau

Under NBA rules, all players are considered rookies until they appear in their first game. That’s why Ben Simmons and Blake Griffin, who sat out their first seasons with injuries, were able to win Rookie of the Year honors. The two-way status in your hypothetical example doesn’t change that. As long as a player doesn’t appear in an actual game, his rookie status isn’t affected.

Weekly Mailbag: 8/6/18 – 8/12/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

With Coach of the Year Dwane Casey now coaching Detroit, do you think the Pistons perform better and will go deep in the playoffs with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond ? — Greg Dizon

There’s no question it was time for a change in Detroit. The Pistons had stagnated under Stan Van Gundy, reaching the playoffs just once during his four seasons there. The addition of Casey, plus having Griffin for a full season, provides the feeling of a new era. LeBron James‘ departure from Cleveland could open up a playoff spot, and the Pistons will be among the best candidates to fill it. However, a deep postseason run doesn’t seem likely. With the Celtics, Sixers and Raptors looming as the best teams in the East, winning even one playoff series will be a challenge for Detroit.

How possible and how convenient would it be for the Knicks and the Lakers to swap Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? — Ray Reyes Fontana

It’s certainly possible. Noah will make $18.5MM this season and Deng is due $18MM, so salary matching wouldn’t be an issue. But would there be much of a point to a deal? The Lakers could use a veteran center, but it’s hard to see Noah filling that role after two disastrous seasons in New York. The Knicks would like another productive wing player, but Deng’s numbers weren’t good in 2016/17 before sitting out all but one game last season. Both teams will be focused on creating as much cap space as possible for next summer, so Noah and Deng will be stretch provision candidates regardless of which team they’re on.

Who are the top 10 HoopsRumors rookies from this year’s draft class? — Ferdinand Rivera, via Twitter

Rookies are unpredictable until the actual games start and we get a look at how they fare against NBA competition. Donovan Mitchell might have been a marginal top 10 pick if you had asked this question a year ago, and he wound up being the best player in his draft class. Luka Doncic will be a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year based on his performance in Europe and the Mavericks’ decision to give him control of their offense. The other top five picks — Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson and Trae Young — should get plenty of playing time, while Wendell Carter, Collin Sexton and Kevin Knox all appear to be headed into good situations. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lonnie Walker may join the list as well, but a lot depends on how many minutes their coaches give them.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/30/18 – 8/5/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

What do you think are the chances that Kyrie Irving and his good buddy Jimmy Butler will bolt their teams and play together in New York or another team next season? — Greg Dizon

Elite players finding ways to team up has been the trend in the NBA for several years, and there are reasons to suspect Irving and Butler are plotting a way to form the next version of a superteam. Both are entering option years, so they can become free agents in what is shaping up to be a loaded class in 2019. It’s easy to picture them with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis as the leaders of a rebuilt Knicks team that would become an instant contender. If the Timberwolves falter this season, it’s also possible that the Celtics could try to make a deal for Butler before the deadline as an incentive for Irving to stay in Boston. The odds seem good that Butler and Irving will become teammates, almost certainly in the East as teams try to fill the power vacuum left by the departure of LeBron James.

What do you think is going on with the Sixers’ general manager search? It has been oddly quiet. There haven’t been any leaks of interviews, potential front runners or interested parties. Some think the lack of a general manager hurt them in pursuit of this summer’s big three (LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard). — Anthony Coleman
It’s hard to defend the decision to go into such a pivotal summer without a GM when several franchise-changing talents were available, especially when the Sixers had cap space and trade assets. They couldn’t have gotten George, and James made up his mind early about the Lakers, but they definitely could have rivaled the Raptors’ bid for Leonard. A quick hire of ex-Cavaliers GM David Griffin might have put them in a much stronger position. There hasn’t been much news about the GM search in recent weeks, other than an odd attempt to lure Daryl Morey away from the Rockets. The Sixers say they are being diligent about finding the right person to run their front office, but they may regret not having Bryan Colangelo’s replacement in place by the start of July.
Dwight Howard seems to change teams every year. What are the chances that his current arrangement with the Wizards is a long-term one? — Wizfan, via Twitter
Obviously it depends on how much success Washington has with him in the middle, but Howard’s future salary demands will also factor in. The Wizards already have tax concerns with huge contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, while Kelly Oubre is eligible for an extension this summer. Howard has gotten used to being among the highest-paid players on his team and hasn’t made less than $20MM in a season since leaving the Lakers in 2013. Would he accept the Wizards’ mid-level exception when he become a free agent again next summer? If not, his journey around the league will continue.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/23/18 – 7/29/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Why does Vince Carter keep signing with non-playoff teams like the Kings and Hawks when he should be chasing rings at his age? — DW, via Twitter

The priority for Carter seems to be playing time, which wouldn’t be guaranteed on a contending team for someone who will turn 42 during the season. A lot of people questioned his decision to sign with Sacramento last season, but he wound up in 58 games and averaged 17.7 minutes per night. Plus he collected $8MM, which no contender would have been willing to pay. Carter will only get a veteran’s minimum deal from the Hawks, but it gives him another year in the NBA and it allows him to serve as a mentor to a young roster, which is something else he seems to enjoy.

Just wondering about Kenrich Williams, saw him perform well for the Nuggets during summer league. He should have been drafted, shocked that he wasn’t and I think that someone is going to get him for a steal. — Sergeant Preston

This email was received before Williams signed with the Pelicans this week, but he does have the look of someone who can eventually contribute at the NBA level. Williams was a versatile player at TCU, posting a 13.2/9.3/3.9 line in his senior season, and he projects as either a small forward or stretch four in the NBA. At 23, he’s a little bit old for a prospect and it doesn’t help that he landed on a team without a direct G League affiliate. However, his ability to guard several positions is highly valued in the modern NBA and he will have opportunities to find the right situation, whether that’s with the Pelicans or someone else.

How likely is it the Knicks make the playoffs? — Eli Samuels

If you mean in 2018/19, the chances are really bad. Nobody knows for sure if Kristaps Porzingis will return from his torn ACL this season, and even the most optimistic projections have him out until January. The Knicks didn’t add anything significant in free agency beyond Mario Hezonja, nor did they take on any long-term salary because they’re saving their money for next summer. Their most exciting newcomers are rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, who will both need time to adjust to the NBA. Beyond the upcoming season, New York’s prospects are much brighter. The franchise could be in position to offer two max deals in 2019, with Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant among those rumored to have interest. Also, a competent management team finally seems to be in place that won’t throw big money at average players in contracts the team comes to regret.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/16/18 – 7/22/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Who do you think got the steal of the draft at the center position? The Celtics with Robert Williams or the Knicks with Mitchell Robinson, who averaged five blocks per game in the summer league? — Greg Dizon

Robinson was the clear winner in summer league and looks like the primary backup to Enes Kanter after his outstanding performance in Las Vegas. Williams, meanwhile, was sidelined by a sore left knee and didn’t see any action. Summer league can be deceiving, of course, and none of this means Robinson will be a better player than Williams, either this season or throughout his NBA career. He still needs to develop an offensive game, and he is behind schedule overall after not playing in college. However, Knicks fans need something to be excited about and the summer performance of Robinson and Kevin Knox certainly provides that.

Who should the Mavericks look at in free agency to account for the loss on the wing with the departures of Seth Curry, Doug McDermott and Yogi Ferrell, or would a trade make more sense at this point? — M.D. Jordan Sports, via Twitter

Dallas is using the last of its cap space to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki and will have just the $4.45MM room exception available, so the options are limited. Rodney Hood is probably the top wing player left on the market, but he’s a restricted free agent and the Cavaliers would happily match an offer that started at $4.45MM. David Nwaba, who is now unrestricted after the Bulls pulled their qualifying offer, could be an interesting option if he doesn’t get a better offer somewhere else. Beyond that, the free agent pool is filled with veterans such as Jamal Crawford, Corey Brewer, Nick Young, Devin Harris and Arron Afflalo, none of whom would have a long-term future with the Mavericks.

I know Chandler Parsons‘ contract is bigger, but with the right adjustments, would a Luol Deng for Parsons trade work? The Grizzlies seem like a team that could at least try using Luol on the court, and an on-point Chandler alongside LeBron James would be awesome. Then again, I’m on the fence with Parsons, I understand why Houston, Dallas and Memphis were willing to pay him, but I also understand why they regret it. — Nicolas Galipeau

The Lakers are still in the business of trying to preserve as much cap space as possible for next year’s free agent frenzy. It’s unlikely they would gamble on Parsons even without the scary injury history. Deng and Parsons benefited from the irrational contracts that were handed out in 2016 and both have become salary cap albatrosses. Deng will make $36.8MM over the next two seasons, while Parsons is due more than $49.2MM. Their salaries make them virtually untradable, even for each other. It’s much more likely that the Lakers will use the stretch provision to make Deng’s deal less of an impediment to their free agent plans.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/9/18 – 7/15/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Do you think Trae Young will become another Stephen Curry based on their skills? -Greg Dizon

Curry has three championship rings and two MVP awards, so that’s a lot to ask from anyone. The important thing for Young is that the Hawks be patient and not expect him to become a dominant scorer right away. Young obviously patterns his game after Curry, but he’ll need time to adjust to the NBA. College teams were able to figure out how to neutralize him over the second half of the season, and NBA opponents will borrow from those tactics. Curry averaged 17.5 PPG during his rookie season and didn’t become a 20-point scorer until his fourth season in the league. That’s probably a realistic expectation for Young.

What’s the likelihood Jahlil Okafor gets another shot in the league? — Dennis McDaniels, via Twitter

At age 22, Okafor is too young and too skilled to be washed up. He fell completely out of favor in Philadelphia and didn’t produce much in 26 games with Brooklyn, but he’ll definitely get another chance. Okafor’s low-post scoring skills have been devalued as the league puts a greater emphasis on floor spacing and outside shooting, and the concerns about his defense and lateral quickness have been justified. Still, he remains a legitimate weapon on offense if he’s willing to accept a reduced role and goes to a team that knows how to maximize his strengths. It may not happen until much later this summer, but Okafor will get a camp invitation from somebody.

Do you think the Clippers will re-sign Montrezl Harrell? I hope they re-sign Tyrone Wallace as well. — Richard Garcia

Harrell has fallen into the same trap as most restricted free agents. Teams don’t want to tie up their resources early in free agency while waiting for the incumbent franchise to match, then eventually the money dries up and there aren’t many clubs that can afford to make a significant offer to someone like Harrell. His first year with the Clippers was very productive, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG, and his role should expand with DeAndre Jordan now in Dallas. Expect L.A. to re-sign him, probably at a bargain price. Wallace is also restricted and will be much cheaper after playing on a two-way contract last season. If he receives an offer sheet, it shouldn’t cost much for the Clippers to match.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/2/18 – 7/8/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

What will Oklahoma City do with Carmelo Anthony? Stretch, buyout or maybe even trade? — Ryan Stamps

The Thunder will explore all their options before making a final decision, but it’s clear that Anthony will become a free agent at some point this summer. He didn’t fit in well during his lone season in OKC, and the Thunder need to reduce a historically high payroll that stands at $310MM between salaries and luxury taxes. They could trim that figure for 2018/19 by $107MM and get rid of $90MM in tax payments by using the stretch provision — slicing Anthony’s $27.9MM salary into $9.3MM increments over the next three years. The Thunder would prefer to find a trading partner willing to take on the entire amount right away in exchange for some draft picks and possibly other assets. Chicago was floated as a possibility before matching Zach LaVine, but today’s decision makes a trade a long shot for the Thunder.

Have all the teams (especially those who, in your opinion, clearly need to make major offseason personnel changes after their performance last season) made them already? — Mark Imbong, via Twitter

It’s hard to say for sure. Most of the cap money in this year’s market dried up quickly, but there are still a few teams with the cash to make a move and a couple of attractive targets are left in Rockets center Clint Capela and Bucks forward Jabari Parker. It will be interesting to see how the Kings react now that the the Bulls have matched their four-year, $78MM offer sheet for LaVine. They could make that same offer to Capela or Parker, or maybe a smaller deal for the Celtics’ Marcus Smart, forcing their current teams into difficult decisions. The Lakers may not be done, either. They can get up to about $15.5MM in cap room by stretching Luol Deng‘s contract, but they won’t get a significant free agent if they stand firm on their current policy of one-year deals.

Will Jabari Parker stay in Milwaukee? — Macho Man Van E Savage, via Twitter

Like most restricted free agents, Parker is finding offers hard to come by. Teams are typically unwilling to tie up their resources while waiting for a matching decision early in free agency. With most of the major signings out of the way, teams can now turn their attention to players like Parker. The Kings could get involved, but a report this week indicates he is no longer in their plans. The Hawks have enough cap space, but may not want to use it on a player coming off a major injury. The Nets have about $11.5MM available after the Dwight Howard buyout and have shown a willingness to gamble on restricted free agents. Right now, the most likely scenario is that Parker takes his qualifying offer and uses next season to show he is fully healthy before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Weekly Mailbag: 6/18/18 – 6/24/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

The Lakers drafted shooters who contribute little else. Are they drafting as if they know LeBron James is coming? — VJ Cruz, via Twitter

Let’s say they’re drafting as if they hope LeBron is coming. The Lakers took Michigan’s Moritz Wagner at No. 25, then got German point guard Isaac Bonga and Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in the second round. They are primarily shooters, as you say, but shooting is a premium skill in the NBA and they could develop into useful players with or without James as a teammate. Really, the draft will have little impact on how the Lakers’ roster looks next season. All those questions will be answered in free agency.

Which player(s) were you shocked to not see drafted? — Ted, via Twitter

The late part of the draft tends to be unpredictable, with some teams looking for players to stash overseas and others thinking about their G League rosters. Still, there were a few highly rated names that it was surprising to see passed over. Kansas’ Malik Newman and Arizona’s Rawle Alkins were both productive scorers in college and seem worthy of second-round picks. Purdue’s Isaac Haas and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy are a couple of big men with good scoring touches around the basket. There are others, such as Cincinnati’s Gary Clark and TCU’s Kenrich Williams, but they’ll all get a chance to prove themselves in summer league, so being drafted barely matters.

With the Jazz showing this year that they can be competitive in the loaded Western Conference and their financial flexibility, how likely is it that they sign a big name free agent like DeMarcus Cousins or Paul George? — Faiz Irshad 

Utah has never been a popular free agent destination, which is more reflective on geography than the quality of the organization. Players like Cousins and George tend to gravitate to larger markets to enjoy the rewards that come with playing in a big city. The Jazz will likely use their cap room to pursue second-tier free agents, maybe someone like Tyreke Evans, who could provide scoring punch off the bench. Keeping Derrick Favors will also be a priority as he and Rudy Gobert developed into an effective frontcourt combination once Gobert returned from injury.

Weekly Mailbag: 6/11/18 – 6/17/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Who do you see the Kings selecting with the second overall pick now that Iman Shumpert has opted in? — Pat Aukes

Shumpert’s decision really doesn’t factor into Sacramento’s draft strategy. His contract only runs for another year, and the Kings have to be thinking about the long-term future with this draft. Luka Doncic was considered a co-No. 1 prospect with Deandre Ayton for most of the winter, and the Kings are said to have their eyes on Michael Porter Jr., assuming team doctors approved him at Friday’s medical exam. If they really want Porter, their best move is find a team that likes Doncic and trade down a few spots. The Kings need a lot of help up front, so if they stay at No. 2, look for them to take Marvin Bagley III or Jaren Jackson Jr.

Considering the deep draft, who are the teams most willing to trade on draft night? — Fernando Bravo

The Grizzlies have let it be known that their selection at No. 4 is available to anyone willing to take on Chandler Parsons‘ contract, and as we relayed earlier today, the Sixers have more draft picks than open roster spots. We could see a lot of movement on draft night as this year’s crop of players offers intriguing prospects through the middle of the first round. Porter presents a wild card that makes this year’s draft especially unpredictable. He may have been in contention for the No. 1 spot without the back injury, and it’s hard to say who might try to engineer a trade to get their hands on him. The farther he falls on draft night, the more likely it is that someone will be willing to take the risk.

Which player will be the first shock with how early he went? — Jimmy Robinson, via Twitter

There are several contenders, especially after the way Donovan Mitchell shocked the league after falling to 13th last year. No one wants to miss the next Mitchell, so teams are taking a long look at prospects pegged to go in the middle of the first round. One potential surprise is Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who turned into a star for the Wildcats over the second half of the season. He stands 6’6″ with a 7-foot wingspan and can handle either backcourt position. Don’t be surprised if he moves into the top 10.

Weekly Mailbag: 6/4/18 – 6/10/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

If the Cavaliers draft Trae Young or Michael Porter Jr., do you think it will be enough to convince LeBron James to stay put in Cleveland, seeing that the Cavs will still be a strong team? — Greg Dizon

Don’t forget that when LeBron returned to Cleveland, he wasn’t excited about the chance to play alongside Andrew Wiggins, encouraging the team to move that year’s top overall pick in a deal for Kevin Love. There’s no one the Cavs could take with at No. 8 who is going to affect James’ decision. He doesn’t just want to be competitive; he wants to find a way to beat the Warriors and add more rings to his legacy. For Cleveland to improve its chances of keeping LeBron, the best strategy is to offer up the draft pick in trade talks to see what kind of veteran help is available.

Lakers/ Heat trade for Hassan Whiteside? How solid is that? — Nicholas Small

There’s no chance at all before free agency, and probably not much afterward. Ever since the current management team took over, the Lakers have been committed to opening up as much cap room as possible to land a big prize or two on the free agent market. There’s no way they’re going to jeopardize that before seeing if they can lure James, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins. Even if they strike out on all three, the Lakers are more likely to fill their roster with affordable one-year contracts than take a chance on an expensive deal like Whiteside’s. The Heat will be fortunate to get equal value for their enigmatic center, who will make more than $25.4MM next season and has a $27MM option for 2019/20.

Any moves the Wolves are considering … maybe moving Gorgui Dieng, Andrew Wiggins or Jeff Teague? — JMA, via Twitter

Minnesota is hovering near the luxury tax for next season and would love to find a taker for Dieng, who is owed nearly $48.7MM over the next three years. However, there are only a handful of teams able to take on that much salary and it would probably cost the Wolves at least one first-round pick to move him. There would be a larger market for Wiggins because of his age and potential, but he becomes much more expensive when his four-year, $146.5MM extension kicks in next season. Unless there’s some substance to the Karl-Anthony Towns rumors, this will probably be a quiet summer in Minnesota on the trade front.