Weekly Mailbag

Weekly Mailbag: 4/16/18 – 4/22/18

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 says no: Lakers trade Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and 2019 1st round pick to Spurs for Kawhi Leonard? — VJ Cruz, via Twitter

If the Spurs make the decision to trade Leonard, that would be an exceptional return, even though L.A. would likely become a playoff team and next year’s pick won’t be very high. Several things have to happen to get to that point. First, Leonard has to turn down a supermax offer and the Spurs need to be convinced he will opt out and become a free agent next summer. Next, the Lakers have to strike on Plan A, which is to get LeBron James with either Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins in free agency. The Lakers like Ingram an awful lot, and Kuzma has shown he has a bright future. If L.A. is willing to make this offer for Leonard, it may be the best one the Spurs get.

Does anyone want to talk about the East vs West disparity in talent? Does anyone think the Sixers would sweep the Pels? The East seems overmatched in talent. — CH O, via Twitter

The West has enjoyed better talent for a few years, but young teams in the East are cutting into that disparity. The Rockets and Warriors would probably be favored against any Eastern team in the Finals, but the rest of the seeds are much more even: Trail Blazers vs. Sixers, Thunder vs. Cavaliers, Jazz vs. Pacers, Pelicans vs. Heat, Spurs vs. Bucks and Timberwolves vs. Wizards. These things go in cycles, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Celtics, Sixers or Bucks become the NBA’s next dominant team.

The Clippers signed C.J. Williams, but why LAC didn’t sign Tyrone Wallace? Wallace was 10 times better than Williams. — Richard Garcia

Both were two-way players who saw significant playing time during their 45-day NBA limits, and statistically Wallace was quite a bit better. Williams played 38 games, started 17, and averaged 5.5 points and 1.1 assists per night. Wallace saw action in 30 games, starting 19, and averaged 9.7 points and 2.4 assists. Williams also turned 28 in February, while Wallace is still 23, so he seems like the better long-term investment. Ultimately, it came down to money. Williams was willing to accept a contract with no guarantees for the next two seasons, while Wallace’s representatives were seeking a better deal. They may both be back with the Clippers next season, but Wallace can take a shot at free agency first.

Weekly Mailbag: 3/26/18 – 4/1/18

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 kind of return could the Knicks get for Trey Burke?  With a glut of younger point guards who need developing (Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay), the ability to draft another one (Trae Young? Collin Sexton?), the likelihood that they’ll go after Kyrie Irving in 2019, and Burke’s age (25 turning 26), Burke seems like he won’t be in their future plans despite his success with the team this year. — Alek Miletic

Sorting out the point guard situation will be among the Knicks’ many priorities this offseason. Burke has a nonguaranteed minimum deal for next season that could make him an attractive piece in any trade. However, counting on signing Irving a year from now is a risky strategy, so New York needs to determine which of its current guards has the brightest future or if they need to address the position in the draft. With Burke having a small contract, Ntilikina on a rookie deal and Mudiay (nearly $4.3MM next season) unlikely to be in demand, expect all three of them to be back for another season of sorting things out.

Whom do you think will the Cavaliers will take in the draft using Brooklyn’s pick? — Greg Dizon

The Nets have moved into a tie for seventh in our latest Reverse Standings, which might cost Cleveland a shot at one of the sure-fire big men at the top of the draft. There are too many variables to pick out one player for the Cavs because the direction of the franchise is going to depend on what LeBron James decides to do in July. Point guard could be a position of need with George Hill only one season away from his option year, but Cleveland will probably disregard position concerns and take the highest player on their board, just in case he’s the first step in rebuilding.

It seems draft pick forfeiture is extreme to prevent tanking. What if a team’s record in the final standings directly affected its national television exposure for the following season? Best records in the league get the most games. Worst records get the least. And somehow alter revenue sharing to where the Grizzlies would not benefit from the TV games the Warriors are on, for example. Seems that the less exposure one gets … the less merchandise you will sell, the less tickets you will sell, and the less appealing it would be for a free agent to choose the team as a destination. — Beauen Bogner
Won-loss records already play a big part in determining who gets the network games, which is why you don’t see the Suns, Hawks or Magic play very often. Revenue sharing won’t change unless it’s negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement, and the small-market owners would never agree to such a system. The league’s problem with tanking comes from years of refusing to call out teams that are obviously losing on purpose. Is it tanking for a non-contender to give extra rest to a star player with a minor injury? Or to allocate more minutes to younger players when the postseason is already out of reach? There are probably eight teams this season with no incentive to win, but despite talking tough and handing out fines, the NBA has never provided a clear definition of what constitutes tanking.

Weekly Mailbag: 3/19/18 – 3/25/18

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 Isaiah Thomas hitting free agency, do you think Celtics will get stronger if they bring him back? A Kyrie Irving and IT backcourt duo can rival the James Harden and Chris Paul tandem. — Gregory Dizon

Thomas addressed the possibility this week, tweeting “Anything can happen” when a fan asked him about returning to Boston. And although anything can happen, Thomas still has to feel betrayed by the Celtics’ decision to trade him after all he did for the franchise last season. Also, don’t forget that Irving wanted to leave Cleveland so he could be a clear franchise player. He may not be open to the idea of sharing the ball with Thomas. Boston is already over the cap for next season, so without a deal to open some space, it can’t offer Thomas more than the mid-level exception. That’s less than he wants, but it may be the best offer he can get until he proves his hip has healed enough to allow him to play a full season. It’s hard to predict where Thomas will end up, but it feels like his time with the Celtics is over.

Do you think Atlanta will blow it up this summer? I know they tanked this season, but I think they have some quality talent. Add a high draft pick and impact free agent with their cap space and they could be right back in the playoff mix next year. Thoughts on their direction? — VJ Cruz, via Twitter

There’s not much left to blow up in Atlanta, where they fully committed to rebuilding when they opted not to re-sign Paul Millsap last summer. The Hawks have three first-round draft picks, plus their own near the top of the second round, so they will continue to load up on young, affordable talent. They could have as much as $45MM in cap space, but they aren’t in a position to attract elite free agents and won’t spend it recklessly. Kent Bazemore ($18MM next season with a $19.27MM option for 2019/20) or Dennis Schroder ($15MM in each of the next three seasons) could be available for the right offer, but otherwise the Hawks are content to take things slow and build for the future.

How many teams will make coaching changes once the season is over? — Robert, via Twitter

The Suns are an obvious one as they’ve already launched their coaching search. Although interim coach Jay Triano will get consideration, it seems like the organization wants a fresh start. Jeff Hornacek appears out in New York. It’s hard to see how Stan Van Gundy can survive a late-season collapse in Detroit. And with a new front office team in place, the Magic will likely want to move on from Frank Vogel. Charlotte will be an interesting situation to watch as Steve Clifford has one more year left on his contract and has been to the playoffs just twice in five seasons. So will Los Angeles, where Doc Rivers and Luke Walton may be replaced even though their teams have both overachieved.

And-Ones: NCAA Prospects, BIG3 Draft, McDaniels

Trae Young‘s late-season struggles have put Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on even terms with the much-hyped Oklahoma freshman for the status of top point guard in the draft. That’s one of the observations made by ESPN’s Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony in a look at first-round prospects whose teams were knocked out early in the NCAA tournament.

Missouri forward Michael Porter will have to show more than other players projected in the top half of the lottery during predraft workouts to solidify his status after a back injury sidelined him most of the season, according to Givony. Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s poor and abbreviated performance against Syracuse Sunday didn’t help the Michigan State freshman’s cause in comparisons to the draft’s other top big men, in Givony’s opinion.

In other news:

  • The BIG3 league will hold a combine on April 11th and its draft the following evening, according to a league press release. Approximately 100 players will compete for 19 available roster spots at the combine. All but two of the league’s eight teams will fill three roster spots during the draft. Championship team Trilogy must retain its existing roster to defend its title, while runner-up 3-Headed Monsters exercised its option to retain Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Kwame Brown and elected to place Eddie Basden back into the draft pool.
  • San Diego State freshman forward Jalen McDaniels will declare for the draft but won’t hire an agent, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.  He averaged 10.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG this season.
  • Hoops Rumors’ Arthur Hill provided insights on the Spurs, Wizards and top prospects in the NCAA tournament in his weekly mailbag column. Check it out here.

Weekly Mailbag: 3/12/18 – 3/18/18

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 the Spurs slowly declining due to their aging stars, will it be better for them to miss the playoffs and get a chance to draft a blue chip player?– Greg Dizon

The Spurs need to start preparing for the future, especially if they can’t reach an extension with Kawhi Leonard this summer, but it’s too late to count on any lottery help. Even if they go into a tailspin, the best they can realistically hope for is the 13th or 14th pick, which rarely brings a franchise-changing talent. The roster is heavily stocked with over-30 players and will have to be reconstructed at some point, but LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and even 40-year-old Manu Ginobili are all signed through next season. Rudy Gay and Danny Green both have player options, so most of the veteran corps will stick together for at least another year. San Antonio is better off testing its luck in the playoffs than the lottery.

Is Ernie Grunfeld going to move Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi to open up cap space for my Wizards to make a splash in free agency? — Jermaine, via Twitter

Washington may try to trade one of them this summer for cap relief, but it’s going to be a long time before the franchise can be a major bidder in free agency. The huge deals it handed out to John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter will tie up nearly all of the team’s cap room for the next two seasons — three if Porter opts in for nearly $28.5MM in 2020/21. The Wizards will be filling their roster with low-cost options for the foreseeable future and won’t be able to sign anyone of the caliber of Gortat or Mahinmi if they are dealt away. Any improvements they make won’t come on the free agent market.

Will the early exits from the NCAA Tournament hurt the draft status of players like DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young? — Viktor, via Twitter

Scouts like to see how players perform in high-pressure situations, but the results of the games won’t carry much weight come draft time. NBA teams have been watching these college stars all season and they know what they’re capable of. Their performance at the combine, individual interviews with teams and the upcoming workouts will play a much larger role in determining who gets drafted where. Teams would prefer to see a long tournament run, particularly in the case of Porter, who barely played this season because of a back injury, but the NCAAs will be a distant memory by draft day.

Weekly Mailbag: 3/5/18 – 3/11/18

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.

LeBron James becomes a free agent this summer and listed four teams — Cavs, Rockets, Lakers and Sixers. Do you think he would consider the basketball Mecca, New York, with Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay? — Jonathan Joyner, via Twitter

As much as LeBron might enjoy the benefits of being a star in New York, the Knicks aren’t in position to be a serious bidder right now. James is focused on winning championships and New York is a long way from that level, especially with Porzingis expected to be sidelined until at least December. Cap space is also a concern for the Knicks, who will be on the edge of the cap if Enes Kanter, Ron Baker and Kyle O’Quinn all exercise their options for next season. But be patient because New York will have a much better chance to chase elite free agents in the summer of 2019.

The way Mikal Bridges is playing I feel his stock is rising. Will he still be available when the Knicks make their first pick in the 2018 NBA draft? — Loose Joint, via Twitter

The draft order remains unpredictable, with the Knicks holding the ninth spot in our current Reverse Standings. They are two wins behind the Bulls and at least three wins behind the other seven teams, which is a lot of ground to make up now that tanking season is in full effect. Bridges checks in at No. 10 in ESPN’s latest mock draft, which is nearly three weeks old, but it’s hard to see him rising much higher with all the elite talent at the top. Bridges is a versatile forward who can play defense, and he looks like an effective long-term running mate for Porzingis. If the Knicks are interested, he should still be on the board when they are on the clock.

Do you see Nerlens Noel staying long term in Dallas? I think it didn’t work good enough and he could try to sign with another team this offseason. If it happens, how much do you think he can sign for and what team do you think will pursue him? Very few teams will have cap space this summer. — Ralph Brandao

Noel will be one of this summer’s wild cards and could wind up being a huge bargain or could be vastly overpaid. He turns 24 next month and has the size and athleticism to become a productive center, especially on defense. However, he hasn’t produced much in Philadelphia or Dallas, so whoever signs him will be taking a chance. It’s hard to imagine a team giving him a full mid-level exception, which now tops $8MM, but you never know once prime free agents start coming off the board. The most likely scenario for Noel is a modest short-term contract where he gets a chance to prove himself — maybe one year with a player option for a second — and plenty of teams will have the cap flexibility to make such an offer.

Weekly Mailbag: 2/26/18 – 3/4/18

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 the Pelicans will make Anthony Davis available this offseason if they aren’t able to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins? Could the Celtics be a fit for both Davis and Kawhi Leonard? Would it work with the current salary cap? — Patrick Nyen

The cap isn’t the issue, as both players would have to be traded and salaries would have to be matched. The Celtics have no way to meet that requirement without giving up two of their three most expensive players: Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving. Even if Boston was willing to part with them, the Pelicans won’t let go of Davis, no matter what happens with Cousins or anyone else on the roster. He has become a legitimate MVP candidate while keeping New Orleans alive in the playoff race. The more intriguing case is Leonard, who is eligible for a super max extension this summer and can opt out after next season. We don’t know how much of the rumored behind-the-scenes feud is true, but the Spurs are facing a difficult decision on a star player who has only been on the court for nine games this season. If they can’t work out an extension, San Antonio will start to look at trades and the Celtics will surely make an offer.

I propose that the draft lottery order should be set based on team records two days prior to the trading deadline. What are the arguments against this? It seems like a win-win. It would not put an end to full-season tanking a la “the Process,” but it would end late-season tanking, which is a far more widespread problem. — Mike Loroz
Commissioner Adam Silver has been very vocal about his opposition to tanking, so a proposal similar to yours is possible. The idea of a tournament involving lottery teams has also been suggested with the final playoff spot as a prize. Either move would represent a radical change from the way things have been done for decades, which is enough to spark opposition from at least a few of the owners. Some in smaller markets also like the comfort that tanking offers as a way to rebuild a team around low-cost rookie contracts. No matter what form it takes, it’s clear that change is coming, which will be good for the league. It’s hard to imagine a worse system than what’s in place now, where teams are rewarded for failing but they can’t be obvious about trying to lose or make any public comment on their efforts.
What are the chances Doc Rivers will coach the Knicks next season? — George K., via Twitter
It looks like Jeff Hornacek’s time is about done in New York, where he spent two tumultuous seasons trying to stay above water amid roster turnover, injuries and feuds between the front office and star players. Rivers was popular when he played for the Knicks and would probably be interested in the job if he doesn’t have a future with the Clippers. He has one year left on his contract in L.A. and may be ready to move on if he can’t reach an extension this summer. Rivers has done an exceptional coaching job to keep the injury-riddled Clippers in the playoff race, but he lost power last summer when his front-office responsibilities were taken away, and the organization may be headed toward rebuilding after trading away Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Unless he gets fired, the Knicks would have to send compensation to the Clippers to get their hands on Rivers, but that’s a small price to pay if he’s the coach they want.

Weekly Mailbag: 2/19/18 – 2/25/18

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 are your thoughts on the Lakers resigning Julius Randle this summer? He’s played great and I’d hate to lose him for nothing, but he will be costly, eat into cap space (2018 and 2019) and block the path for Kyle Kuzma. — Vijay Cruz, via Twitter

The Lakers’ dream scenario is having enough cap room to sign LeBron James and Paul George. As long as that’s possible, Randle will be expendable if he blocks the way with his cap hold of nearly $12.5MM. Randle will be a restricted free agent this summer, enabling the Lakers to match any offer he receives, and they should have a good idea of their chances to get James, George or any other prominent free agent before having to make that decision. Randle has developed into a reliable scorer and rebounder and he’s only 23, so the Lakers would prefer to keep him, but only if his contract doesn’t interfere with the bigger picture.

Do you think DeAndre Jordan will stay with the Clippers? He is selling his house in L.A. Could he be staying in Los Angeles, but playing for the Lakers? And Dallas, do they have any chance? How about DeMarcus Cousins, do you see any team besides the Pelicans trying to make a deal with him? — Raphael Brandao
All those scenarios you mentioned for Jordan are possible. There’s no guarantee he will top his $24.1MM salary for next season on the open market, so he may opt in and spend another season with the Clippers. He could also opt out and re-sign with the Clippers, enjoying the stability of the only franchise he has played for in a 10-year career. The Lakers may have him third on their list of free agent targets, and the Mavericks need a center badly enough to overlook his change of heart in 2015. However, teams will have more money to spend in 2019 as the big contracts from 2016 start to expire, so don’t be surprised if Jordan either opts in with the Clippers or signs a one-year deal somewhere with a player option. For Cousins, a lot of teams will be lined up if his Achilles injury makes the Pelicans hesitate to offer him a max deal. Even if they have to wait a while for him to be completely healed, teams will gamble on Cousins, who is a franchise-changing player at full strength.
If Stan Van Gundy fails to make the playoffs this year, will he be fired or brought back next season? And do you see the Pistons trying to trade Reggie Jackson during the offseason? — Barron Hudson
The Pistons aren’t having the kind of season ownership hoped for to accompany the move into a new arena. At 28-31, Detroit is two and a half games out of a playoff spot and in danger of falling into 10th place behind the Hornets. Any momentum from the Blake Griffin trade is gone, as the Pistons have dropped five of their last six games. Van Gundy only has one year left on his contract as coach and president of basketball operations, so the organization won’t hesitate to make a move if things don’t turn around. Van Gundy gambled on Griffin as a way to keep his job, saddling the team with a $141.6MM commitment over the next four years. One way to ease the salary crunch is to move Jackson, who has two seasons and more than $35MM left on his contract. The Pistons looked into trading him before and he will be surely back on the market this summer.

Weekly Mailbag: 2/12/18 – 2/18/18

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 will the Cavaliers go after on the buyout market? — MrNutt34

With Kevin Love injured and Channing Frye traded to the Lakers, Cleveland could use a big man who can shoot from the outside. Among the rumored buyout candidates, the one who best fits that profile is Ersan Ilyasova of the Hawks. The 30-year-old is averaging 10.9 points per game and shooting .359 from 3-point range this season. He has previous playoff experience with Milwaukee and Atlanta and would help the Cavaliers spread the floor. Marreese Speights could be another candidate with a similar skill set if the Magic decide to part with him. Cleveland still has two roster spots open, so expect the Cavs to be among the league’s most active teams when the buyouts resume.

What the heck are the Magic trying to do because it doesn’t look like they are trying to win or get better? Let me be GM. — Donald Raby, via Twitter

It may be hard to accept after so many years of losing, but the Magic are in another transition phase. New GM John Hammond and team president Jeff Weltman took this season to evaluate a roster they inherited from the previous regime. Trading Elfrid Payton to Phoenix last week was the first major move, but more are sure to follow. Aaron Gordon‘s free agency is the next step, with Orlando likely to match any offer. The Magic have a lot of contracts that expire after next season and may have another high lottery pick in June, so don’t be surprised to see them attempt an extreme roster makeover this summer.

Do you think the twin tower version of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin will make the Pistons a championship contender in the East? — Greg Dizon

The early returns were promising as Detroit won its first four games with Griffin in the lineup, but the team has cooled off, dropping three of four. A good parallel for the Griffin-Drummond partnership would be the Pelicans after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins a year ago to team with Anthony Davis. Expectations were that New Orleans would turn into a playoff team, but it takes time for two big men to figure out how to co-exist. The Pelicans’ duo was much better after working together through the offseason, and that should be true in Detroit as well. The Pistons have too many other needs to be an immediate title contender, but if they both avoid injury, Griffin and Drummond provide a strong foundation to build around.

Weekly Mailbag: 2/5/18 – 2/11/18

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 DeMarcus Cousins‘ value be? Will he be signing a long-term deal or a huge prove-it deal? — Jeremiah Whitten, via Twitter

Cousins was a lock for a five-year max offer worth about $175MM before tearing his left Achilles. Now it would be a huge risk for the Pelicans to devote that much money to a player who may never be the same physically. The front office is fortunate that it has another four and a half months until Cousins becomes a free agent, so there is time to gauge his level of healing before making a final decision. GM Dell Demps has been on the hot seat for a couple of years, so the choice may fall to someone else if New Orleans misses the playoffs. The Pelicans may end up offering a smaller deal loaded with incentives similar to what Joel Embiid got in Philadelphia. The question is whether another team like the Lakers or Mavericks, who were known to have interest in Cousins before the injury, is willing to make a better offer.

Do you think the Bucks add Andrew Bogut or no? — Dave Koehler, via Twitter

Bogut’s agent said he has talked to four playoff teams and expects a signing to take place this week. Milwaukee certainly figures to be in the running considering its need for interior help and Bogut’s history with the franchise. Gery Woefel of The Racine Journal Times tweeted in January that there was mutual interest, but that nothing was likely to happen until after the trade deadline. The Bucks should be considered the favorites, but the Warriors, Heat and some other teams also need veteran help in the middle, so it’s a matter of who can offer the best situation. Although Bogut didn’t put up impressive numbers in his 24 games with the Lakers, he is still well regarded as a defender and rebounder and he showed enough to convince teams that he has recovered from last season’s broken leg.

Who are the most likely buyout candidates to sign with the Thunder? — Spinozi, via Twitter

The obvious need in Oklahoma City is a strong wing defender to take the place of Andre Roberson. Right now, the best one on the market is Tony Allen, who was waived Friday by the Bulls after being acquired in a trade with the Pelicans. Allen earned a reputation as a defensive stopper during his days with the Celtics and Grizzlies, but he is 36 and had a limited role with New Orleans. OKC has an open roster spot, but will probably wait a few days to see how the buyout market plays out before signing anybody. Another interesting name to watch could be Corey Brewer, who has a limited role with the Lakers and may be pushed aside as the team focuses on its younger players.