Zach LaVine

Central Notes: LaVine, Parker, Pistons

Comments from Bulls vice president John Paxson suggest that the franchise is keen on letting the market decide pending restricted free agent Zach LaVine‘s value and, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times writes, the 23-year-old’s fate remains a dicey topic.

Cowley writes that a source of his claims that LaVine’s camp regards him as a max or close-to-max player but that the Bulls may not be so sure.

The Bulls, he adds, have been passive in restricted free agency negotiations in the past, “lowballing” Jimmy Butler back in 2015 and letting the market dictate Nikola Mirotic‘s value last summer.

Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go,” Paxson said. “I think the market has tightened up a little bit the last couple of years since the spike. [The Bulls] obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Central Notes: Pacers, Van Gundy, Pistons, LaVine

Victor Oladipo is the strong frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and his play this season may indirectly result in another award landing in Indiana. As Dakota Crawford of The Indianapolis Star writes, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has a strong case for Executive of the Year, in large part due to how his much-criticized trade for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis has worked out.

Here’s more from around the Central division:

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores is scheduled to meet after the season with president and head coach Stan Van Gundy. While Gores is still said to be mulling Van Gundy’s future, the Pistons owner has treated Van Gundy as a partner during his time in Detroit, and figures to give the veteran coach an opportunity to make his case to stick with the team, says Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Ellis wonders if Gores and Van Gundy could agree to bring a new voice into the front office to help with salary cap management, since the Pistons have had a habit of overpaying role players in recent years.
  • Although the Pistons fell short of the postseason this year, Blake Griffin believes the club has the talent to “make a run” in the East in 2018/19, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine may not have the leverage to land a maximum-salary contract this offseason in restricted free agency, but he wants to continue to work toward being a “max player.” Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago has the details.
  • Don’t expect a whole lot of roster turnover for the Bulls this summer, writes Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago. As Schanowski observes, it’s still probably too early in the club’s rebuilding process to make a big splash in free agency.

Potential 2018 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which dictates how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2016/17 and 32 in 2017/18, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.

Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though. Last offseason, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – Suns center Alex Len and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel – failed to meet the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, reducing the value of their QOs to approximately $4.2MM (from $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively). Had Len and Noel met the starter criteria and been eligible for those larger QOs, their free agencies could have played out differently.

Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:

With that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,333,931.

No player was hit harder by missing out on the starter criteria than Parker, whose torn ACL made him fall short. If he’d stayed healthy, the former No. 2 overall pick likely would’ve been in line for a qualifying offer worth about $8.851MM. Instead, his QO will be worth less than half of that.

Major injuries also prevented Exum and LaVine from meeting the starter criteria, while Celtics guard Marcus Smart stayed just healthy enough to meet the necessary benchmarks — he totaled 4,013 minutes played over the last two seasons, barely averaging more than 2,000 per year.

First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:

The players listed below were picked between No. 10 and No. 30 in the 2014 draft and will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,749,591.

Anderson is the biggest winner here, with his projected qualifying offer of $3.23MM set to increase by more than $1.5MM. However, Anderson, Capela, and Nurkic shouldn’t have any issue landing long-term deals, making the value of their QOs somewhat irrelevant. I wonder about Payton though — he didn’t exactly finish this season strong in Phoenix and could be a candidate to accept his increased QO.

Rodney Hood, the 23rd overall pick in 2014, can blame injury luck and lineup decisions for missing out on the starter criteria. He started 78 of 119 total games for Utah and Cleveland over the last two seasons, averaging 27.0 minutes per contest during that span. Without health issues, he almost certainly would’ve logged 82+ starts or 4,000+ minutes during those two years.

Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

Only one player falls into this group this year.

Initially signed to a 10-day contract in 2017, Ferrell parlayed that audition into a multiyear deal and has become an integral part of the Mavericks‘ rotation this season. He has appeared in all 81 games for Dallas, averaging 28.1 minutes per contest — that’s good for 2,274 total minutes, boosting his qualifying offer from $1,699,698 to $2,919,204.

The rest of this year’s restricted free agents won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine Done For Season

A pair of Bulls guards, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, won’t return to action for Chicago this season, the team announced today (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune). Dunn and LaVine have been dealing with toe and knee injuries, respectively, and haven’t made enough progress to get into game shape within the next 10 days, according to the Bulls.

Both Dunn and LaVine debuted for Chicago this season after arriving from Minnesota in last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade. Dunn, 24, had a promising season for the Bulls after struggling in his rookie season. In 52 games (43 starts), the former Providence standout averaged 13.4 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 4.3 RPG. He has two more years left on his rookie contract entering 2018/19.

As for LaVine, he missed the first half of the season while recovering from last year’s ACL surgery, ultimately appearing in just 24 games for the Bulls. Although he averaged a solid 16.7 PPG, LaVine struggled with his shot a little, posting a .383 FG% and .341 3PT%. Still, the Bulls view him as a key piece of their long-term core, and are expected to lock him up to a long-term contract when he reaches restricted free agency this July.

If the Bulls were in a playoff race, the recovery timelines for Dunn and LaVine may have looked a little different. But the club is currently 26-51 and would probably be happy to lose the rest of its games for lottery purposes, making it an easy decision to hold the duo out of action. As our reverse standings show, Chicago currently ranks eighth in terms of lottery position.

RFA Rumors: Parker, Gordon, Exum, Smart, Randle

Only about a quarter of the NBA’s teams are expected to have meaningful cap room this summer, so restricted free agents hoping for a major payday could have a tough summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Last week, we identified eight RFAs we believe have positioned themselves well for long-term contracts, and while we’re still bullish on those players, the RFA market may not be as active overall as it has been in some previous offseasons.

Within his latest piece, Kyler took a closer look at a few specific 2018 restricted free agents, so let’s round up some highlights from his breakdown…

  • Most NBA insiders believe the Bucks will ultimately retain Jabari Parker, according to Kyler, who suggests that – with a new arena on the way – Bucks ownership may not be as worried about the rising cost of team salary as you’d expect.
  • The Bucks and Magic may let the market drive the respective prices on Parker and Aaron Gordon, according to Kyler. With Orlando’s new management group looking to shed cap dollars, the team will be wary of overpaying Gordon. Kyler also notes that the Magic could be open to the possibility of a sign-and-trade if Gordon wants to play elsewhere. However, sign-and-trades can be particularly tricky to pull off for RFAs getting big raises due to the Base Year Compensation rule, so that may be a long shot.
  • The prevailing thought on Dante Exum is that he’ll be back with the Jazz, though likely not on a long-term deal, says Kyler.
  • In order to pry Marcus Smart away from the Celtics, it might take an offer sheet at least in the range of $12-14MM per year, per Kyler.
  • The Kings are worth watching as a possible suitor for Lakers big man Julius Randle, though many people expect the Mavericks to be the team “on Randle’s doorstep” when free agency opens on July 1, Kyler writes.
  • Clint Capela (Rockets), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Cavaliers) are among the RFAs considered more likely than not to stay with their current teams, according to Kyler. For more details on those players – along with an item on Suns guard Elfrid Payton – be sure to check out Kyler’s full piece.

Central Notes: Kidd, Bullock, Hill, LaVine

Former Bucks coach Jason Kidd doesn’t shy away from the no-nonsense attitude that contributed to his dismissal, writes Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. In a wide-ranging interview, Kidd talks about what went wrong in Milwaukee — and in his first coaching job in Brooklyn — as he copes with his longest time away from the league since being drafted in 1994.

“When people are saying that I’m old-school, it’s not that I’m old-school,” he said. “It’s what it takes to win. And I think we’ve lost a little of that with the younger generation of ‘everybody gets a trophy.'”

Kidd had a 139-152 record with the Bucks, including 23-22 this season when he was fired in January. He defends himself against charges that he demanded too much from the team and was being tuned out in the locker room. There were also complaints that he gave up on players too quickly after pushing the front office to acquire them, with Michael Carter-Williams cited as an example. Kidd also claims the new ownership in Milwaukee expected too much from a young team.

“The master plan got erased once we won 41 games [in the 2014/15 season],” he said. “Because the expectations were, ‘This is what we can do every year.’ But no one’s ever been in this situation but one person, and that’s the head coach. And the head coach is saying, ‘We still have a ways to go.’ But no one is listening.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons are being rewarded for their patience with Reggie Bullock, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Bullock saw limited playing time during his first two seasons in Detroit, but has moved into the starting lineup this year and is averaging nearly 13 points per game in that role. “A player with my story probably would have been out of the league or trying to find his way back in the league,” Bullock said. “But I landed in the right position. It was God’s plan for me to be able to watch and learn, and now I’ve got an opportunity to play and to just keep moving forward.”
  • George Hill is giving the Cavaliers stability at point guard for the first time since trading Kyrie Irving, notes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. After Cleveland went through numerous candidates in the first half of the season, Hill has solidified the position since being acquired from the Kings in a deadline-day deal.
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine says he’s not stressed about free agency and he trusts his representatives and team management to work out a fair contract, relays K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Both sides have expressed confidence that a deal will get done as the fourth-year guard heads toward restricted free agency. “The agency and front office, they’re both trying to get the better of each [other],” LaVine said. “but I think this situation is a little bit different because there’s mutual respect on both sides and understanding. There’s no bad blood between us, so I think everything will go smoothly.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Payne, Dunn, Markkanen

It’s possible that Zach LaVine has played his last game of the 2017/18 season. As Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details, the Bulls announced on Wednesday that LaVine – suffering from tendinitis in his left knee – will be re-evaluated in five to seven days. If the Bulls don’t see enough progress by that point, they may shut LaVine down, but he’s hoping to avoid that outcome, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

“There are still some games to get in a rhythm before getting into the offseason and working out,” LaVine said. “I always want to hoop.”

It has been something of a lost season for LaVine, who missed the first half while he recovered from ACL surgery, and has only played 24 games for his new team. His .383 FG% in those games is easily a career low, but the Bulls probably don’t mind not getting much from LaVine this year — they acquired him with an eye on the future, and are still fully expected to lock him up to a long-term deal as a restricted free agent this summer. His modest 2017/18 showing may even keep his price down a little for the club.

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • Cameron Payne didn’t fit well last year on a Bulls roster that featured Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler, but he has looked like a better fit since returning from his foot injury this year, says K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Payne, who is under contract for 2018/19, says he’s still working to prove that he deserves a regular role on next year’s squad. “I have to keep showing people I belong,” Payne said. “Everybody had their opinions of me already. It’s tough to change someone’s opinion.”
  • While Payne figures to play a role next year, Kris Dunn is still viewed as the Bulls’ point guard of the future, Johnson writes in a separate article for The Tribune. “Just looking at that (December) stretch where we were playing really good, as well as anybody in the Eastern Conference for that time period, Kris was as good as anybody on our roster,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “So we really think he has a bright future with us.”
  • Dunn, LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen – the three players acquired from the Timberwolves in last year’s Butler trade – are viewed as the Bulls’ core building blocks, but they barely saw any action together this season, writes Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. According to Goodwill, in the limited minutes that all three players were on the court this season, they had an offensive rating of 97.5 and a defensive rating of 119.2, numbers which raise more questions than they answer.

Central Notes: B. Wallace, Pistons, Cavs, LaVine

Former Pistons big man Ben Wallace is once again involved in the franchise, according to Peter J. Wallner of MLive, who reports that Wallace has reached an agreement to become part-owner and chairman of the Grand Rapids Drive. Wallace, who met with Drive season-tickets holders on Thursday, is expected to be formally introduced by the G League franchise next week.

“It was just the right fit,” Wallace said of his new role with the Pistons’ NBAGL affiliate. “It’s an opportunity for me to get back in basketball. It’s an opportunity for me to learn the business side of basketball, something I’ve wanted to do. And this gives me an opportunity to ease into it and learn as we go.”

Drive president Steve Jbara said he heard through a mutual friend with the Bucks that Wallace was exploring potential business options. As Wallner details, Jbara is looking forward to working with Wallace, who was a four-time All-Star during his career with the Pistons. “I told him, ‘You help me on the basketball side and we’ll make that partnership, and I’ll work with you on the business side and we’ll collaborate on everything,” Jbara said.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After going on a brief hot streak following the trade deadline, the Cavaliers are once again slumping, posting a 5-7 record since the All-Star break. Following Thursday’s loss to Portland, LeBron James pointed to Kevin Love‘s absence as one big reason for Cleveland’s struggles, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. “It’s been a long time since I haven’t played with another All-Star on my team,” James said. “So, having Kev out has been very challenging for all of us. Kev has a big usage rate on our team. He’ll get the ball when things get tight, chaotic; we can throw it to him in the low post and get some things going.” Love is aiming to return from his hand injury next week.
  • It’s been a frustrating year for Zach LaVine, who missed much of the season as he recovered from ACL surgery and has been inconsistent for a lottery-bound Bulls team since returning. However, he’s looking forward to getting a full offseason with the Bulls, writes Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Of course, LaVine will be eligible for restricted free agency, but he’s considered a near-lock to remain in Chicago. K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune takes an early look at LaVine’s upcoming free agency.
  • Re-signing LaVine figures to be one of the Bulls‘ few moves in free agency, according to Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders, who doesn’t expect the club to do much shopping on the open market this offseason.

Central Notes: R. Jackson, Dunn, LaVine, Love

Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson hasn’t given up on playing again before the end of the season, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Jackson, who has missed the past 10 weeks with a severely sprained right ankle, was able to perform some quick movements in a workout today and step into his shot without discomfort.

“In a lot of ways, it’s been tough,” Jackson said. “It’s [past 30 games missed] now and I never envisioned a sprain lasting this long. Usually, you bounce back and play within a few hours or a few days or a week’s time. I never envisioned being out this long. The season’s been up and down and I just really want to go out there and play.”

Coach Stan Van Gundy recently suggested that Jackson may be ready for a full-contact practice by next week, but Beard cautions that’s unlikely without significant progress in the next few days.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The young Bulls stars are showing respect to one another now, but conflict will come when someone has to emerge as the team leader, predicts Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are both aware that possibility is coming, but they are focused on more immediate goals. “I don’t worry about that. I don’t get into that — who’s the best player and all that,” Dunn said. “We all have to be leaders for this team. We have to be leaders in different ways. It’s a matter of time to see how we jell out. Right now we just keep playing.”
  • After sitting out seven games as the Bulls opted for a youth movement, center Robin Lopez will return to the starting lineup Friday in the wake of a warning from the NBA about resting healthy players. “It’s a little bit of a crazy situation,” Lopez told K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). “I’m always excited to get out there and play with the guys.”
  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who is getting a positive response throughout the league over a piece he posted on The Players Tribune about panic attacks, said he was motivated to write it after the issue came up at a team meeting in January. “One of the things that was brought up was [coach] Ty Lue had mentioned the panic attack [from] early in the season,” Love told Michael Singer of USA Today. “And I wasn’t aware how many people knew. I kind of buried it and put it off to the side. And that kind of started a big push in the back to why I wanted to write this article.”

Central Notes: J.R. Smith, Green, Van Gundy, LaVine

J.R. Smith doesn’t have much incentive to agree to a buyout if the Cavaliers decide they want him off the roster, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. On top of this week’s one-game suspension for a soup-throwing incident, Smith’s value is falling because of a second straight season of declining production. He is averaging 8.3 points per game, his lowest figure in 12 years, and is shooting just 39% from the field.

Smith has a fully guaranteed deal for next season at $14.7MM, but only about $4MM of his $15.7MM salary for 2019/20 is guaranteed. At age 31, he would be unlikely to approach those figures in free agency, so the Cavaliers will probably have to stretch the full guaranteed amount if they decide to waive him.

There’s more today from the Central Division:

  • An MRI on Cavaliers forward Jeff Green today showed no structural damage in his back, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Green has already missed one game with back pain and will sit out the next two, coach Ty Lue told reporters.
  • Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy says management hasn’t offered any indication about his job status for next year, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Van Gundy has one season left on his contract, and there’s a feeling that he might not return if Detroit can’t rally to claim a playoff spot. He is one of the few remaining coaches with front office power, and a report earlier this week suggested he might be replaced as team president even if he is kept as coach. “Nothing has been said, so I won’t even comment on that,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t have any idea. It’s [owner Tom Gore’s] team and he’ll make whatever decisions he wants to make and we’ll go from there.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine is putting a heavy emphasis on the final quarter of the season as he continues his comeback after ACL surgery, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. The coaching staff is still refusing to allow LaVine to play in back-to-back games, but with only three sets of those left on the schedule he is handling almost a full workload. “I feel great,” he said. “I want to test it. I want to play as many minutes as possible. I’m a gamer. I don’t want to miss back-to-backs. It helps me, helps the team and helps me get back to where I need to be.”