Wesley Matthews

And-Ones: Option Decisions, Avdija, Draft, Onuaku

With the NBA season over and 2020’s free agent period approaching (eventually), John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at all 43 team and player option decisions that must be made this fall, evaluating which options are likely to be exercised and which will be turned down.

While Anthony Davis and Jerami Grant are viewed as the only locks to decline their respective player options this offseason, Hollinger identifies seven more players who he thinks will opt for free agency: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Wesley Matthews, Austin Rivers, Willie Cauley-Stein, and James Ennis.

With the exception of Caldwell-Pope, McGee, and Cauley-Stein – who is technically earning slightly above the minimum – those players are all on minimum-salary deals, so it won’t be a surprise if they explore the open market, even if they have to settle for another minimum contract. However, KCP’s case should be interesting — his $8.49MM option for 2020/21 is close to mid-level territory, but he could still probably do better after an impressive showing in the NBA Finals.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks take a look at next steps for the NBA, including what next season’s schedule might look like and when roster moves might resume. While there’s currently a freeze on transactions, team executives confirmed to ESPN that the moratorium will be lifted and trades will be permitted before the draft on November 18.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have each published updated versions of their mock drafts for 2020. Both draft experts have Anthony Edwards going No. 1, but O’Connor has a surprise pick at No. 2, penciling in Deni Avdija. League executives expect Avdija to “enter the mainstream conversation as a top-three pick” in the coming weeks, according to O’Connor.
  • Former NBA big man Chinanu Onuaku has reached an agreement to sign with Croatian team KK Zadar, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Onuaku was the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but didn’t see much action in two seasons with Houston, appearing in just six total games before being traded and waived.

Batum, DeRozan Among Players With Earlier Option Decision Deadlines

Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.

The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:

The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.

Giannis Played Role In Recruiting Matthews, Korver

Entering the 2019 offseason, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo hadn’t gotten involved much in free agent recruitment, preferring to leave roster moves up to the front office. However, when he found out that Milwaukee was signing-and-trading Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana last summer, he felt as if it was time for him to get involved, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

“I don’t like doing that stuff,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t get an extra paycheck for doing (GM) Jon (Horst)’s job or Coach (Mike Budenholzer)’s job or whoever’s job it is. … If you asked me one year ago, two years ago, I’d say, ‘Coach, just take care of it.’ … (But) it comes to a point that I’m like, ‘OK. Malcolm’s about to leave.’ And at the time, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver were the guys I felt like could help us win.”

Antetokounmpo, who is represented by the same agency as Matthews (Octagon), reached out to the veteran swingman first, pitching him on the idea of competing for a championship in Milwaukee. Matthews had received interest from other teams, but the call from the reigning MVP helped convince him to join the Bucks, as Nehm details.

“It meant a lot,” Matthews said. “Not even just as an athlete, but just as anyone who is working, the admiration of your peers is what holds the most weight. Not writers, not blogs, not media and all that kind of stuff. It’s the guys you’re going to compete with and against to have the respect for you that means the world.”

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo touched base with Korver at a training facility in Santa Barbara. The 38-year-old sharpshooter invited Giannis to work out with him at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the Bucks’ star made another recruitment pitch.

“We start the workout and I’m like, ‘OK. Kyle, look, this is how I can get you open shots,'” Antetokounmpo said. “‘We can run this. We can do this. I know Al Horford is your best friend. I know you’d love playing with Al Horford in Philly, but look, I can (get you shots). I can find you easier.’ He loved it.”

Both Matthews and Korver ultimately signed with the Bucks and they’ve been great fits so far. Matthews has been a regular starter in Milwaukee, averaging 7.5 PPG with a .370 3PT% in 58 games (24.6 MPG), while Korver has recorded 6.4 PPG with a .407 3PT% off the bench in 47 contests (16.6 MPG). They’ve helped push the Bucks to an NBA-best 52-9 record this season and Giannis is thrilled to have them both aboard, as Nehm writes.

“I love my teammates. … I’d die for them,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s who I am and I hope they know that and I think they know that. This is the group that I want to (win a championship) with, and hopefully, we can get it done.”

Contract Details: Celtics, Matthews, T. Harris, Lyles, More

The Celtics stretched Guerschon Yabusele‘s $3MM+ cap hit for 2019/20 when they waived him last week in order to create a little extra room under the cap, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights. While that decision may seem curious, it helped allow Boston to complete a couple less glamorous signings.

For one, the Celtics’ new two-year deal with French center Vincent Poirier isn’t worth the minimum, but rather has a value of $4.65MM over two years, per Siegel (Twitter link). Poirier’s deal starts at around $2.27MM, which wouldn’t have been possible without cap space, since the team has already committed its full room exception to Enes Kanter.

Meanwhile, second-round pick Carsen Edwards also benefited from the Celtics’ leftover cap room. According to Siegel (Twitter link), the former Purdue standout will earn $1,228,026 in his rookie season, rather than the rookie minimum of $898,310. By using their cap room, the C’s were also able to lock up Edwards to a four-year contract.

Here are some details on a few more contracts that were recently made official:

  • Wesley Matthews‘ new minimum-salary contract with the Bucks includes a second-year player option, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Tobias Harris has a trade bonus in his five-year contract with the Sixers, according to Siegel (Twitter link). That bonus will be worth either $5MM or 5% of the remaining money left on his contract (whichever is lesser). The bonus can’t exceed Harris’ maximum salary.
  • Trey Lyles‘ two-year, $11MM contract with the Spurs has a partial guarantee of just $1MM for the second year, tweets Siegel.
  • No. 42 overall pick Admiral Schofield got a three-year contract from the Wizards with the first two years guaranteed and a $300K guarantee on year three, tweets Siegel. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link), Schofield’s deal starts at $1MM in his rookie season.
  • The three-year, minimum-salary contract for Raptors second-round pick Dewan Hernandez has a $500K partial guarantee on year one, and is non-guaranteed for years two and three, tweets Siegel.

Wesley Matthews Signs With Bucks

JULY 12, 10:20pm: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

JULY 1, 3:14pm: Free agent swingman Wesley Matthews has agreed to sign with the Bucks, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). In a follow-up tweet, Wojnarowski says it’s a minimum-salary deal.

Matthews, 32, spent most of the last four years in Dallas, but was traded to the Knicks this past winter and was subsequently bought out. He finished the season in Indiana, averaging 10.9 PPG with a .369 3PT% in 23 games (all starts) for the Pacers down the stretch.

Joining the Bucks will represent a homecoming for Matthews, who attended high school in Madison, Wisconsin and played his college ball at Marquette.

According to Wojnarowski, the veteran free agent drew interest from a handful of contenders – ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link) names the Rockets as one – but he’ll become part of a Milwaukee squad that was just two wins away from the NBA Finals this spring.

Although the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers early in free agency, they’ll acquire draft picks from Indiana by signing-and-trading Brogdon, and they’ve otherwise enjoyed plenty of success on the free agent market. Milwaukee is bringing back Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and George Hill, and will add Robin Lopez with its room exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Matthews, Roster, More

While Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard makes the final call on the team’s personnel moves, a pair of Indiana’s former heads of basketball operations remain very much in the loop, Pritchard tells Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

According to Pritchard, he works with advisors Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird on a “daily basis.” Calling both men “true mentors,” Pritchard notes that Walsh is on the office every day, while Bird gets “very involved” in the summer and fall.

Within his conversation with Aschburner, Pritchard touched on a number of other subjects, discussing the Pacers’ approach to free agency, the excellent job head coach Nate McMillan has done with the club, and Victor Oladipo‘s rehab, among other topics. For Pacers fans, the conversation is worth reading in full, but here are a few highlights from the team’s president of basketball operations:

On the sales pitch that allowed the Pacers to land Wesley Matthews last month:

“He saw opportunity, right? We needed a starting two. And there was continuity with just knowing Nate and how he coaches, his style [Matthews and McMillan were together in Portland for a season and a half]. And from what he’s told us, he saw us, he played against us and he liked the way we play. But it became a recruiting process, for sure. He had a lot of options.”

On what the Pacers have gotten out of 2018’s free agent signees (Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn):

“They fit in nicely. They all made it clear that they wanted to come in, play a role and do it as well as they possibly could. Kyle is a great backup center, and we’ve asked him to be the third center. We’ve needed him, because Sabonis is going to be out for a little bit. McDermott, as he gets comfortable here and learns to seek out his offense, the better he’s going to be. And Tyreke, he’s had some ups and downs. But when he plays well, we’re a different team. We need that punch off the bench, and that’s something we focused on when he got him.”

On the impact of having so many free-agents-to-be on the roster:

“It’s good in that guys are pretty motivated. I’ve believed in this team. We’re going to be challenged in the playoffs and it will be fun watching them, but we’ve got to get there first. I don’t want to look too far in the future. We know we’re going to have some tough decisions this summer. But I believe 40% of the league will be free agents, so it’s not only our issue. It’s a league issue and an opportunity.”

On the Pacers’ long-standing aversion to tanking (Indiana hasn’t won fewer than 32 games in a season since 1988/89):

“You’ve got to give [team owner] Herb [Simon] a ton of credit. He’s not the kind of guy who says, ‘Let’s tank and look to the future in three years.’ We’re not about that. “

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Bucks, Matthews

Despite not projecting to be a legit contender in 2019/20, the Cavaliers have already committed a significant amount of money to player contracts — Basketball Insiders has the Cavs at over $123MM in guaranteed salaries for next season, which would put team salary well above the cap, approaching tax territory.

As Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes, the Cavaliers don’t have a probably with spending big on next year’s roster if it helps accelerate the rebuild. They’re “willing to spend to lose if it helps them win faster,” Vardon suggests. Some of those multiyear contracts Cleveland has taken on – including Brandon Knight‘s, John Henson‘s, and Matthew Dellavedova‘s – have come attached to valuable draft picks, and the Cavs are willing to continue taking on future money for assets.

However, Vardon notes that the team would very much like to stay out of tax territory next season. Because they were in the tax during LeBron James‘ last few years in Cleveland, the Cavaliers would be subject to repeater tax penalties if they end up back over that threshold this year or next, and that’s probably a bridge too far for a lottery-bound team to cross. With next year’s tax line projected to come in around $132MM, the Cavs will have to be careful about adding more money this summer.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a mailbag for Cleveland.com, Chris Fedor addressed a number of Cavaliers-related topics, including whether Jordan Clarkson is more likely to be a part of the club’s long-term future or a trade chip.
  • If the Bucks finalize their deal with Pau Gasol on Sunday – the earliest possible day they could sign him – the team will still be below the luxury tax threshold $546K, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. However, that figure doesn’t include $500K in unlikely incentives for Tony Snell, which he’s in position to achieve, Marks notes. That gives Milwaukee $46K in wiggle room, so the team is unlikely to make any other roster moves anytime soon.
  • Wesley Matthews, who joined the Pacers last month, has been a great fit on and off the court for the club, writes Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star. “That’s why we recruited him so hard,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew what type of player he was. He’s a competitor, and when he steps out on that floor, he’s all out. He’s giving you everything he has. It starts for him, which you don’t see from a lot of players in the NBA, on the defensive end of the floor. He accepts that challenge of guarding the best (wing) player.”

Central Notes: Pistons, Pacers, Bulls, Knight

When they explored the market for Reggie Bullock prior to last week’s trade deadline, the Pistons had options beyond the Lakers’ offer of a second-round pick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. According to president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski, the Pistons could have instead had two second-round picks in exchange for Bullock, but liked Mykhailiuk enough to take him in place one of those picks.

“Instead of getting two seconds, we got Svi and a second,” Stefanski said. “We know he’s a prospect. We know he can flat-out shoot the basketball and we’re excited about seeing if we can develop him. The idea of putting a name to a player and getting a second-round pick was intriguing to us as opposed to bringing in two second-round picks.”

As Langlois relays, one of the Pistons’ goals has been to acquire controllable – and cheap – players on rookie contracts, since the team’s cap is otherwise loaded with pricey veteran deals. The club achieved that goal at the deadline by landing Mykhailiuk and Thon Maker, who is one more year left on his rookie contract after this season.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders shares some details on the cash changing hands in a pair of Central trades. According to Pincus (Twitter links), the Pacers sent $110K to the Rockets in the Nik Stauskas/Wade Baldwin trade, and the Bulls received $2,610,464 from the Thunder in their trade involving Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Chicago, which has now maxed out the cash it can receive in 2018/19 trades, will receive that money from OKC in three installments worth about $870K apiece on the first of March, April, and May, Pincus notes (via Twitter).
  • In a podcast discussion with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Bobby Marks mentioned in passing that Khris Middleton‘s name is one the Pacers have “circled” as a potential offseason target (Twitter link via Eric Nehm of The Athletic). Re-signing Middleton will be a top priority for the Bucks, who will also see Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic reach free agency.
  • The Pacers‘ style of play and the promise of a starting job were key factors in luring Wesley Matthews to Indiana, as the veteran swingman confirms to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.
  • Brandon Knight has barely played over the last two seasons, and has seemingly become known more for his contract than his play on the court, after the Rockets dangled him in trade talks for much of the season. Now a member of the Cavaliers, Knight tells Ben Stinar of AmicoHoops that he remains confident he can recapture his previous form. “I had a full year off, but I’m still the same player,” said Knight, who averaged 19.6 PPG as recently as 2015/16.

Pacers Sign Wesley Matthews

Free agent guard Wesley Matthews, who agreed to a buyout with the Knicks earlier this week, has signed with the Pacers, the team announced on Twitter.

New York acquired Matthews in the January 31 trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. He played just two games for the Knicks before parting ways with the team. The 32-year-old appeared in 44 games with the Mavericks before the trade, averaging 13.1 points per night and shooting 38% from 3-point territory.

The Pacers have a pair of roster openings, so no move was needed to add Matthews. Indiana has been looking for backcourt help since star guard Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending injury last month.