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Fixing the Los Angeles Lakers

Eric Pincus looks at what the Lakers should do this summer to turn things around.

Eric Pincus

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“A 20-year chapter has come to a close,” Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Friday, as the franchise wrapped exit meetings at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. “It is hard to close the book on this chapter, but it has come to that point.”

All-Star guard Kobe Bryant finished his career on Wednesday with a remarkable 60-point outburst.  Now, the Lakers are charged with replacing one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history.

Returning to form will be a challenge for the Lakers after a franchise-worst 17-win season – four worse than last year’s 21-win debacle.

The good news for the Lakers is that they have tremendous cap flexibility and a number of young prospects who could help the team turn around what has been an unprecedented (for the Lakers) three-straight seasons without a playoff berth.

Coaching Decision

After managing just 38 wins over two seasons, does head coach Byron Scott deserve a return? To date, the team has not made a decision.

“Byron and the staff are under contract,” Kupchak said. “[We’ll] take a couple of days.  That could be three or four days or a week, let things settle down a little bit, and meet.”

Scott has two years left on his deal, but the second is a team option.

Throughout the 2014-15 season, the Lakers suffered through more injuries than any team in the league and only had Bryant for 35 games.  This past year, the team was healthy, but lacking in mature talent.

“I think Byron has done an excellent job under the circumstances he has had to deal with the last two years,” Kupchak said, citing Bryant’s inconsistent status in the lineup and the youthful, inexperienced roster.

Kupchak acknowledged that the game has changed over time.  Scott has an older-school style.  Does that mesh with today’s young player?

“More so this year; I think last year, was more of an adjustment period,” Kupchak said.  “He’s much more open to everything that’s available to coaches, including analytics.”

How much of a positive (or negative) impact did Scott have on youthful players like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson?  That remains to be seen.

“We have to wait a couple of years to see; you’re not going to get results in a month or three or four with players who are 19 and 20 and 21,” Kupchak said. “You have to provide the structure, and it’s going to take some time. We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.”

How long can the Lakers be patient with rebuilding?  How long can they be patient with Scott?

“I know he’s hoping that he coaches here forever, but a lot of times what we do is we’re really doing is preparing for the next GM or the next coach, and that’s tough sometimes,” Kupchak said.

The Lakers would be better off parting ways with Scott, looking instead at free agent coaches like Scott Brooks or Tom Thibodeau.  Brooks, in particular, should be the replacement.

Brooks, according to people close to the 2010 NBA Coach of the Year, has interest in a position with the Lakers should it become available.  A number of teams are expected to pursue Kevin Durant’s former coach (and Durant himself), including the Washington Wizards.

The Oklahoma City All-Star will be a free agent this July; teammate Russell Westbrook will be available in 2017.  If Brooks gives the Lakers an edge at landing either All-Star, or both, that’s the move to make.

Lottery Luck

There’s no move the Lakers can make to win the May 17 NBA Draft Lottery, other than hope their 55.8 percent chance comes through.  The team would be well served with the top overall pick (19.9 percent odds) or second selection (18.8 percent), whereas the third slot is the consolation prize (17.1 percent).

Duke’s Brandon Ingram or LSU’s Ben Simmons are widely expected to be the top two picks, in some order.  The gap at three is sizable, but others like Dragan Bender (whom Kupchak scouted recently in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv), California’s Jaylen Brown, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Providence’s Kris Dunn are viable options among others.

The value in the pick is not just the player, but trade opportunities that may arise too.

“If you get a top-three pick … not only does it get you the ability to take a player that is considered top-three in the world, you have the ability to move the pick,” Kupchak said.  “I think there are some quality players that can be starters or All-Stars in this league, [and] that goes beyond two players.”

If the Lakers’ selection drops to four or five, their pick will go to the Philadelphia 76ers as a result of the ill-fated Steve Nash trade.  Losing the pick could add another $3-5 million in cap space for the team.

Trading Youth

Over time, the Lakers have built an interesting young core.  Randle was taken seventh in 2014 and acquired Clarkson via trade with the Washington Wizards the same year at 45th.  Last June, the Lakers added on Russell (second overall), Larry Nance Jr. (27th) and Anthony Brown (34th).

The development for each has gone in fits and starts.

“Overall, in this league, the toughest thing for young players that are drafted high, or drafted in the first round, is getting playing time,” Kupchak said.  “A lot of rookies over the years have a hard time getting on the court, and what that does is slows their development and really puts that team in a tough spot.”

Could that be an argument for passing on another first rounder?

The positive of adding on a forward like Ingram or Simmons to the team’s young core is that the Lakers could be bringing in a franchise player.  The downside is that it may take a few years for that group to develop.

“We’ve never had this many young players on the team at the same time. There’s a price to pay for that,” said Kupchak, noting the team’s poor record.

Finding a high-impact player remains paramount, and the draft may be the best way for the Lakers to do so.

“The only way to move on after a player [like Bryant] has played 20 years is to hope that you can get some young players to build around. Unless you draft a young player, you cannot get a young player,” Kupchak said.  “You can get free agents, but typically they are players that have been drafted in the first round, have gone through four years of a contract and then have probably signed an extension for another four years.  Those players are going to be in their mid-to-late twenties, if they’re available.

“As much as we’d like to build through the draft with young players, that could take 10 to 15 years and we don’t feel like we have that kind of timeline in Los Angeles. So our approach has been to build through the draft, be aggressive in free agency and, if you have the assets, then you have the ability to make trades.”

If the Lakers do keep their pick, they should look to make a trade.  Yes, Simmons or Ingram may be special, but if the Lakers want to land top free agents this summer, they will need more of a lure than the potential of youth.

Players like Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler and Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins may become available via trade.

The 2016 first-rounder may not be enough to lure either.  Other teams would certainly make competing bids.  If the Lakers are fully committed to rising quickly back into contention, then they need to get out of the business of developing young players.

The pick plus one of Russell or Randle might be needed to foster a deal. This may seem like a heavy price, but an All-Star in the Lakers’ pocket in June may be a greater draw to a player like Durant in July.

Go Star Shopping

The NBA’s salary cap projects to jump to $92 million for the 2016-17 season, giving the Lakers roughly $60 million (enough space for two maximum-salaried players).  Most teams will have room for one, but the Lakers do have that advantage.

“We had cap room last summer, but we’ll have almost triple of what we had,” Kupchak said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll use it all. We’ll have to recruit effectively. We may only use what we feel is prudent, but we feel like we’re in a much better situation.”

The past couple of summers, the Lakers have not been able to lure their top free agent targets like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

“We do feel this year, we have more assets on our team than we did last year,” said Kupchak, noting the uncertain status of Bryant and Randle’s broken leg that knocked him out on opening night in 2014.  “If you were a max player a year ago, you’re looking at our team and saying, ‘They’ve got the number two pick [Russell], they’ve got Julius Randle who played one game and you’ve got Kobe Bryant who rarely played is going into his last year probably.  That’s not an attractive situation.’

“This summer, we can get at least two max players – or you could get a max player and two or three other veteran. So you could get multiple players, whether they talk amongst themselves or whether we figure out who wants to play with who beginning on July 1.”

The Lakers will still have to pitch, but they hope their recent infusion of talent improves their odds.

“We are selling the city, the franchise and our fan base to potential free agents. That’s what we sell,” Kupchak said.  “In the last two years, we would try to sell and advertise our best assets that continue to be playing for the franchise, the organization, the city of Los Angeles, our fan base, business opportunities, connections that you might make here that you might not make in another city [and] lifestyle.  A summer ago, with the exception of Kobe, that’s all we had to sell.”

Will the Lakers be pitching a top-three pick, presuming they win the lottery, along with Russell, Randle, Nance and Clarkson? Or will they make a bolder move and find a deal for a player like Butler or Cousins?

Regardless, the top targets should be Durant and James.  Will either leave their existing teams?  Durant has incentive to re-sign with the Thunder for one more season to maximize his earnings in 2017 when the cap will jump another $15 million. James, who is likely to decline his player option, would certainly face a sizable backlash if he left the Cavaliers again. Regardless, the Lakers are undoubtedly rooting for the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons in their first-round matchups against Oklahoma and Cleveland, respectively.

Both are long-shots, even if both James and Durant are sponsored by Nike.  Bryant, who is one of Nike’s biggest stars, is leaving a sizable vacuum in the Los Angeles market.  Both Los Angeles Clippers stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, are on Jordan Brand – affiliated with Nike, but without their own Nike flagship brands.

While there may be pressure from Durant and James’ primary sponsorship for a move to Lakers, both players will make the best decisions for themselves – not Nike.

The Lakers will start with the best players available, then move on through the list until they succeed or fail with options like DeMar DeRozan, Hassan Whiteside, Nicolas Batum, Al Horford and others.  Restricted free agents are a dim possibility, but only if there’s a compelling reason to believe their existing team won’t match an offer sheet. Restricted players this summer include Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond.

The difficulty of free agency is that the teams have limited power.  The players make the decisions.

Re-sign Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson is a restricted free agent. The Lakers have his early Bird rights, which limits how much other teams can offer to just the average salary (under $6 million a year) for his first two seasons, then roughly $23 million apiece for a third and fourth year.

The Lakers are best off if a team does give Clarkson an offer sheet, so they can lock him in cheaply for the next two years.  Whether he’s worth $23 million a year, down the road, is irrelevant.  The team can always look to trade him at a later date.

If Clarkson doesn’t get an offer sheet, the Lakers can simply re-sign him.  Until he’s inked, he’ll take up $2.7 million of the Lakers’ cap room.  The most that the Lakers can pay him is $5.6 million in the first year, unless they dip into their space to do so.

Another option is a sign-and-trade, although Clarkson would have to agree to a deal with another team.  Because he’s restricted, the possibility is greater than with an unrestricted player – but by no means is it assumed.

Best Case/Worst Case

The Lakers can, mathematically, trade away most of their youth (the potential pick, Randle, Russell, Clarkson, etc.) and veterans (Lou Williams and Nick Young) to try and bring in two players like Butler and Cousins.  Not to say it’s likely, but going all in at exactly the right time – some in June, some in July – could change the Lakers’ fortune.

Done perfectly (which all but never happens), the Lakers could maintain cap room for two max signings in addition to a pair of blockbuster trades.

Math says Durant, James, Butler and Cousins is possible, but common sense says it’s not.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Lakers may not even have a first-rounder to trade.  Other teams are going to pursue Durant and James, though both probably stay at home.

Cousins and Butler may not even hit the trade market.

If they fail in free agency, the Lakers may end up going after a player instead like Derrick Rose in trade with the Bulls, an expiring $24.5 million salary (accounting for a 15 percent trade bonus), although he doesn’t address a current position of need.  The cost may not be high to the Lakers, as Chicago may be looking to dump salary.

Trade or Stretch Swaggy P

Regardless, the Lakers need to move on from Young.  His salary may be needed in a trade, but he is due $5.4 million next season with a player option at $5.7 million for 2017-18. That may or may not be an impediment.

“Nick didn’t fit this year,” Kupchak said.

The Lakers can, and should, stretch Young if they can’t deal him, giving the team a cap hit of $2.2 million a season over five years.

Kupchak said it’s an option (although he didn’t specify Young by name).

“All it does it help you with cap room,” Kupchak said.  “If you did look to stretch a player … it depends what you would do with that extra $2 million. It may not make sense to do it.”

Avoid Long-Term Mediocrity

“I think our backcourt is better off than our frontcourt, depending on the lottery and where we end up with our pick,” Kupchak said. “I think we do have to address the frontcourt – and if you could put a wing player in the frontcourt, that would be a good thing to do as well.”

As the Lakers’ core is currently constructed, the team has two guards in Russell and Clarkson as well as two forwards in Randle and Nance.

Free agency, the draft and trades could shift that dramatically.  In addition to their potential lottery pick, the Lakers also have the 32nd overall pick.

“Our fans have been incredibly understanding and patient,” Kupchak said.  “We cannot not show great progress going forward.”

Jim Buss, the team’s vice president of player personnel and a part owner with his siblings, has vowed to step down from his position after next season if the Lakers do not return to contention. It would take major, major movement to jump from a 17-win team to the 50-win mark.  Buss’ position in the franchise is anything but secure.

The future for the Lakers could include Phil Jackson, the fiancé of team governor and part owner Jeanie Buss and currently the president of the New York Knicks.  He is the odds-on favorite to replace Jim Buss.

But Kupchak was clear that the team won’t make knee-jerk moves this summer to try and force any leap that doesn’t happen organically.

“From where I sit, I’m going to try to encourage the decision-makers to be prudent with the money that we have – not just fill out a roster with players that will give us no flexibility going forward, yet maybe we can win 40 or 42 games for the next five years,” Kupchak said. “That’s never been our goal in this city.  I know it’s frustrating for fans, but it’s my goal and I know it’s the organization’s goal to get the team and the organization in the position to do a lot more than that.”

If Buss steps down, Kupchak’s future is unclear, though he may be welcome to stay with Jackson.

Perhaps building through youth is the answer, although given how long it typically takes for young players to win in the NBA, the payoff may come well after Buss is deposed of power.

Outside of serious wins this offseason, fixing the Lakers may be a long-term job that exceeds Buss’ tenure.

Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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Brandon Paul Finally Gets His Shot

Brandon Paul spent the last four years trying to find a home in the NBA. Now he has one, and he’s making the best out of his opportunity.

Dennis Chambers

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Brandon Paul had just finished one of his more productive games in the Las Vegas Summer League. On July 10, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers — his third summer tour — Paul dropped 21 points against the Golden State Warriors.

After the game and back in the locker room, a text can across Paul’s phone from his agent, Adam Pensack reading, “Come out, ASAP.”

Unbeknownst to Paul at the time, Pensack was ready to deliver the news the 26-year-old shooting guard had been working his whole life to hear.

Paul was going to the NBA under a one-year guaranteed contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

“Adam works his ass off,” Paul told Basketball Insiders about his agent. “So I knew he had some things going on, and he was telling me there was a few teams in the mix, but it was not substantial just yet. But I knew once I saw those missed calls and stuff that something might have happened, there might have been some movement. I didn’t expect the news I got.”

The news that Paul wasn’t expecting was the exact news he returned to his third stint in the summer league for. After leaving the University of Illinois in 2013 as one of the Fighting Illini’s most accomplished players in school history, Paul set out to jump right to the Association.

But his story isn’t as linear as he may have hoped four years ago.

After going undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, Paul joined the Minnesota Timberwolves for his first taste of summer league action. Unfortunately, his performance didn’t warrant a further deal. Instead, that August, Paul was packing his bags to head to Russia to play for BC Nizhny Novgorod.

By February of 2014, Paul was back in the states and his rights were acquired by the Canton Charge, Cleveland’s developmental team. Bouncing around from country to country trying to prove your worth is one scenario for a professional basketball player trying to make it. But with Paul, on top of working towards his shot, he fell under a string of bad luck that delayed his process.

Throughout the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Paul suffered a myriad of injuries that kept him out of the NBA conversation. Since regaining his health, and focusing on his craft, starting with a stint a Spain playing for Joventut Badalona, Paul’s journey culminated with a text message that made the four years of battling all worth it.

“I don’t know if there was doubt,” Paul said about his circumstances. “I think there was motivation, and I think there was a little bit of confusion as well. I had gone through so many injuries, part of myself wanted to question why this kept happening, but I just kept telling myself its all a part of the bigger picture. I think I can kind of sit around, and pout and be sad for myself, or I can continue to get better and prove to myself that I’m a tough player and I think I was able to do that.”

That level of perseverance led Paul to one of the most storied franchises in the NBA and under the tutelage of arguably the greatest coach the sport has ever seen, Gregg Popovich. Those qualities alone that led Paul to San Antonio bear a striking resemblance to the Spurs culture Popovich has cultivated.

The experience from bouncing around different leagues and different countries to ultimately landing in San Antonio has been a dream come true for Paul.

“Its been great, man,” Paul said. “I’m able to learn every day. I’m able to play with some of the best guys around the league. The staff is incredible, down from the interns to the head coach, to the front office guys, to the training staff, everyone just knows their role, it’s like a big family. Coach is going to put you in a position to be successful and guys want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Since arriving in San Antonio, Paul has seen himself fit into a multitude of roles. Some nights he’ll sit completely, sans a few minutes at the end of the game. Others he’ll play a large role as a reserve. Occasionally, including twice already this season, Paul will get a starting nod.

Adaptation isn’t something that Paul is new to. He’s spent almost every day since leaving college adapting to new surroundings, scenarios, or outcomes pertaining to his basketball life. To him, why should San Antonio be any different?

“It’s not tough at all,” Paul said. “I know my role out there, and I knew coming out of college that I was one of the few players who understood that 90 percent of the NBA is role players. So if you figure out your role, and you’re able to execute that role, you’re going to be a guy that can stick around in the league for a long time.”

Even after a lifetime spent playing basketball, Paul believes there are still things to learn every day when he goes to work. Understanding his role and situation, including his fluctuation of playing time, allows Paul to keep a sharp mind for the minutes he spends on the bench, rather than the court.

“It’s amazing man,” Paul said. “You’re able to learn from the best, see how things move, and when you’re not out there, it gives you a chance to kind of, not only be a fan but a student of the game. You can see what’s going on, and if your number gets called, you kind of adjust to what’s going on because you’ve seen it before, you’ve seen it happen throughout the game, you’ve seen guy’s tendencies. So just being able to come into this organization out of any, and to learn from that is truly a blessing.”

That day all the way back in July, when Pensack delivered Paul with the news of his contract, was an emotional first for the guard. Back then, there was time for jubilation and reflection. On Dec. 3, however, the next night of firsts for Paul in his NBA journey, there was no time to waste.

Paul would be getting his first career start, going up against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He wasn’t told a day in advance. He didn’t know at shootaround that morning. Instead, assistant coach Ettore Messina approached Paul during his pregame stretch and informed him about the lineup change.

This wasn’t July, though. The Spurs were in the middle of the season, and as Paul said, “you gotta be ready whenever.” That means, at most, a few minutes to let the butterflies take their course, and then it’s back to work.

“Yeah I think so,” Paul said of pre-start jitters. “But I kind of had to get over it, I can’t worry about it too much. I think that type of stuff ended pretty early in the season. After I started I played early on a decent amount of minutes, so I think that kind of helped get the butterflies out of there.”

The road that Paul took to get his chance in the NBA wasn’t the smoothest it could’ve been. For the 6-foot-4 shooting guard, maybe that’s the way it was supposed to happen. Paul refers to his opportunity with the San Antonio Spurs as a “blessing,” but with all the evidence laid out to consider, it’s safe to say Paul worked as hard as he may have been blessed.

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NBA Daily: Let The NBA Trade Chatter Begin

More than 95 NBA players become trade-eligible this week. Steve Kyler breaks them down.

Steve Kyler

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Let The Trade Chatter Begin

While NBA teams are always talking, whether aggressively or casually, the date most teams circle on the calendar to start really exploring trade options is December 15.

That’s mainly because that’s when the bulk of trade restrictions on players signed during the offseason to free agent deals lifts, but also because most teams have played 25 or more games.

While it’s easy to talk about trades, especially for teams that get off to a slow start, it’s also important to realize teams put in mountains of works assembling their rosters. That includes weeks and weeks of development and planning work, so rushing to tear it all up after a slow start isn’t always smart. Take the Cavaliers as a perfect example. The Cavs were 3-4 entering November looking dreadful, since then, the Cavs have gone 17-4.

Most teams want to give the roster they built a chance because change does not always equal improvement. However, as teams get to the 30-game mark, there is enough of a sample size to know where you stand, which is why trade talk tends to be lower until mid-December.

With more than 95 players becoming trade eligible tomorrow, trade talks are going to start to heat up.

NBA teams are prohibited from trading players signed during the offseason for 90 days or December 15th, whichever is greater.

Players who re-signed with the same team and received more than a 20 percent increase in salary from last season, are further restricted until January 15th.

Players that signed one-year deals with the same team, also gain the ability to veto trades, as do rookie scale players that signed a Qualifying Offer.

Equally, players who had free agent offer sheets matched, like Washington’s Otto Porter Jr., also gain veto rights for the first calendar year of their deal.

With all of that said, here is how the 2017 free agent trade eligibility breaks down:

Atlanta Hawks

Luke Babbitt
Dewayne Dedmon
Ersan Ilyasova (Veto Rights)
Mike Muscala (Veto Rights) 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Boston Celtics

Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward
Shane Larkin
Daniel Theis 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Zeller 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Charlotte Hornets

Michael Carter-Williams
Julyan Stone 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Chicago Bulls

Justin Holiday

Trade Eligible January 15th

Cristiano Felicio
Nikola Mirotic  

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jose Calderon
Jeff Green
Derrick Rose

Trade Eligible January 15th

Kyle Korver

Dallas Mavericks

Maxi Kleber
Jeff Withey
Nerlens Noel (Veto Rights)
Dirk Nowitzki (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Mason Plumlee 

Detroit Pistons

Reggie Bullock
Langston Galloway
Eric Moreland
Anthony Tolliver 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Golden State Warriors

Nick Young
Omri Casspi
Zaza Pachulia (Veto Rights)
Kevin Durant (Veto Rights)
David West (Veto Rights)
JaVale McGee (Veto Rights)
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Iguodala
Shaun Livingston 

Houston Rockets

Tarik Black
Nene
Luc Mbah a Moute
P.J. Tucker
Troy Williams 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Indiana Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic
Darren Collison
Damien Wilkins 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari
Marshall Plumlee
Willie Reed
Milos Teodosic 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Blake Griffin 

Los Angeles Lakers

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Tyler Ennis
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Memphis Grizzlies

Mario Chalmers
Tyreke Evans
Ben McLemore
Wayne Selden
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

JaMychal Green 

Miami Heat

James Johnson
Jordan Mickey
Kelly Olynyk
Dion Waiters
Udonis Haslem (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Milwaukee Bucks

None

Trade Eligible January 15th

Tony Snell  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jamal Crawford
Jeff Teague
Marcus Georges-Hunt
Taj Gibson
Shabazz Muhammad (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Allen
Ian Clark
Darius Miller
Rajon Rondo

Trade Eligible January 15th

Jrue Holiday  

New York Knicks

Ron Baker
Michael Beasley
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Jarrett Jack
Ramon Sessions

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Oklahoma City Thunder

Raymond Felton
Patrick Patterson
Nick Collison (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Roberson  

Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
Khem Birch
Shelvin Mack
Jonathon Simmons
Marreese Speights

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Philadelphia 76ers

Amir Johnson
J.J. Redick
Phoenix Suns
Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Phoenix Suns

Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

Portland Trail Blazers

None 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter
George Hill
Zach Randolph 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

San Antonio Spurs

Pau Gasol
Rudy Gay
Manu Ginobili
Joffrey Lauvergne
Brandon Paul 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Patty Mills  

Toronto Raptors

Alfonzo McKinnie
C.J. Miles
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

Serge Ibaka
Kyle Lowry 

Utah Jazz

Jonas Jerebko
Royce O’Neale
Thabo Sefolosha
Ekpe Udoh 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Joe Ingles 

Washington Wizards

Jodie Meeks
Mike Scott 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Otto Porter (Veto Rights) 

Tracking all of these details is pretty tedious, which is what makes Basketball Insiders’ salary cap guru Eric Pincus so amazing. If you want to know more about each teams’ cap situation, make sure to check out the team links here for a detailed break down of every team’s cap position and restrictions.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: One Year Later, Yogi Ferrell Continues To Rise

One year after a turbulent start to his NBA career, Yogi Ferrell is still thriving with the Dallas Mavericks.

Ben Nadeau

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It was never going to be easy for Yogi Ferrell.

At just 6-foot-0, there were major concerns about Ferrell and his ability to effectively contribute at the professional level, so the 24-year-old was a near-lock to go undrafted despite his impressive haul of collegiate honors. In 2016, he did not hear his name called on draft night — but for a gamer like Ferrell, pushing on was always the only option.

However, on this particularly cold mid-season evening, Ferrell sits at his locker and studies film on a tablet. He looks comfortable and focused as if he knows that this moment cannot be ripped away from him once again. Today, Ferrell is the Dallas Mavericks’ backup point guard and is settled into a steady role amongst a currently crowded backcourt. For Ferrell, he now finally has the life of an everyday NBA player.

But just over one year ago, Ferrell had to take the road less traveled to reach professional basketball for good.

“It was actually about this time [last year] when [the Nets] decided to waive me and I went back to Long Island,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t know I’d be here. I’m just thankful for the opportunity the Mavericks gave me and I’m just still trying to be here in Dallas.”

To be exact, the Brooklyn Nets waived Ferrell on December 8th, 2016. 365 days (and counting) later, Ferrell has earned his guaranteed contract but he’s still playing like he has something to prove.

* * * * * *

In order to fully understand Ferrell’s winding journey, it’s necessary to go back to where his story really kicked off: Summer league. Following a solid audition in Las Vegas — 8.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game — Ferrell was shifted to Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. With the offseason signings of Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez, plus the addition of rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead, there was no room for Ferrell and he was the last man cut in training camp.

Before the Nets could even blink, Vasquez re-injured his problematic ankle just three games into the campaign, an ailment that would eventually require season-ending surgery. Lin, of course, lasted just two more games before a hamstring injury derailed the key free agent acquisition until deep into the season.

Out of nowhere, it was time for Ferrell.

After waiving Vasquez, the Nets signed Ferrell on November 9th — the same day as his NBA debut, where he logged five points and three assists in a 14-point loss to the New York Knicks. But as the Nets continued to free fall without their veteran point guards, Ferrell grew more confidently into his role and was a solid fit in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s three-point heavy rotation. Over 10 contests with Brooklyn, Ferrell tallied just 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15 minutes per game. Nonetheless, for a suddenly talent-deficient roster, it appeared as if the point guard was poised to stick around through the winter.

In a surprise twist of fate, the Nets waived Ferrell to sign Spencer Dinwiddie to a partially guaranteed three-year deal, opting to tie their future to a different G-League point guard instead. Just like that, it was back to Long Island for Ferrell — but surprisingly, it wasn’t something that he hung his head over for too long.

“I knew my next opportunity was going to come — I didn’t know when, but I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it,” Ferrell said. “I had a great coach — coach [Ronald] Nored — and he told me to still go about my business as if I was still in the NBA. I didn’t get all the luxuries, but if you treat yourself like a pro, like you’re there now, once you get there, it’ll make it easier and you can make a splash.”

Upon returning to the G-League, Ferrell continued his hot streak and ended up averaging 18.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over a total of 18 games — both before and after his NBA call-up with the Nets. Ultimately, it wasn’t long before another franchise took notice of the enigmatic guard and the Mavericks capitalized, signing Ferrell to a 10-day contract while both Deron Williams and Devin Harris were hampered by injury. His debut with Dallas saw Ferrell tally nine points and seven assists in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and future Hall of Famer Tony Parker — but somehow, that was only the beginning

Affectionately nicknamed Yogi-Mania — a play on Linsanity, Lin’s historic stretch with the Knicks back in 2012 — Ferrell re-joined the NBA red-hot, even leading Dallas to back-to-back wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. Quickly thereafter, Ferrell signed a multi-year deal with Dallas and then promptly torched the Portland Trail Blazers for nine three-pointers and a total of 32 points. Over his initial two-week stretch with the Mavericks, Ferrell scored 10 or more points in seven of his first nine games and made a serious claim for a permanent spot in the rotation.

Of course, the multi-year contract offered Ferrell something else he hadn’t yet experienced in the NBA: Job security. After Ferrell’s team option was picked up last June, he was happy to have a role with the Mavericks once again, no matter how big or small. Without the worry of being on borrowed time, Ferrell was able to train, learn the system and embrace of the city of Dallas during the offseason.

“The offseason was pretty good, I played summer league with some of the young guys,” Ferrell said. “It was great to work every day and get to know the coaches better, the area of Dallas better. Headed into training camp, I just wanted to work on my game and I had lot more confidence.”

One of those coaches he’s gotten to know better is Rick Carlisle, an old-school guard that has found success as both a player and coach. Under Carlisle, Ferrell is averaging 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 42.5 percent from the floor — numbers slightly below his Yogi-Mania marks, but he’s consistently reliable in a way the Mavericks so badly need. Additionally, Ferrell has garnered 28.3 minutes per game so far as a sophomore, good for the third-highest total on the entire roster. Ferrell, who was in the G-League at this time last year, has merited more playing time than any other point guard on the team — a list that includes rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. (28.1), J.J. Barea (22.5), and the aforementioned Harris (18.9).

For Ferrell, much of his second-year successes have come from simply putting Carlisle’s words of wisdom into action.

“He’s just always telling me to be a threat,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders of Carlisle. “First of all, be a threat to score because that’s what opens up everything else. If you’re pushing the pace and getting in the paint, attacking, especially for somebody like myself in my position. You want to just cause 2-on-1s and kicks and find whatever the defense gives us.”

While Yogi-Mania was built off of an electric career-altering hot streak, Ferrell has been a contributor this season in a more dependable, experienced way. Building off the All-NBA Rookie Second Team berth Ferrell earned in just 36 games with Dallas last season, the point guard is now often one of the first guards off the bench, a role that Barea has long excelled in. The comparisons between Ferrell and Barea are all too obvious, the latter being another 6-foot-nothing guard that carved out a 12-year career after going undrafted in 2006.

During the Mavericks’ championship-winning playoff run in 2011, Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists, including massive back-to-back 15-plus point outings in Dallas’ series-defining Game 5 and 6 victories. While tearing up the NBA Finals is undoubtedly a long-term goal for Ferrell, he’s just thankful to have teammates like Barea and Harris to learn from on and off the court.

“I always say that I like watching them, especially how they play,” Ferrell said. “I try to mimic the older guys, Devin and J.J., they’re so synced together when they play, it’s something special to watch. I just try to go out there and mimic what they do, they’ve been successful at it and been in this league for a long time, so I’m just trying to learn from guys like them.”

* * * * * *

Precisely, it’s been 370 days since Ferrell was first waived by Brooklyn and found success at the NBA level that little believed was possible. Not one to let an obstacle get in his way, Ferrell went undrafted and still managed to earn a multi-year contract before he even hit 20 career appearances. For his dominating stretch in the G-League last season, Ferrell was named an All-Star — although he was too busy with Dallas to attend the festivities — and he still went on to earn a spot with the All-NBA Rookie Second Team as well.

Overcoming roadblocks and adversity at every turn, it’d be easy to now exhale and relax — after all, his contract is currently guaranteed and he’s got a solidified role in an NBA rotation — but Ferrell, forever hungry, isn’t ready to stop there. Staying motivated isn’t difficult for Ferrell because he knows that much of his journey is still left in front of him and he’s ready to keep climbing upward.

“I’m a winner, I came from a winning program,” Ferrell said. “My mentality is still to prove that I belong here. I just want to win, that’s it.”

For Ferrell, this isn’t the end of an underdog story — this is just the beginning of something even greater.

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