Day 3, And Mostly Quiet: The build up to NBA Free Agency is always followed by something of a letdown in the number of agreements that get reached early. This is not at all unusual. Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kicked in in 2011, there is an ever increasing amount of money becoming available each summer due to much shorter contracts. As a result players are hitting free agency faster and teams are clearing space faster, creating an environment of lots of cash and lots of players.
The problem this year is that four teams are sitting on a mountain of cash or the potential for a mountain of cash and are waiting for free agents Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to come off the board before locking into deals.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the lack of noise does not mean teams are not being active and aggressive in trying to get players in or get players committed.
Here are some of things we know today:
Lowry Gets His Deal: After meeting with a few teams, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry agreed to terms on a four-year, $48 million deal. The deal has an Early Termination Option after the third year, so Lowry will likely have a chance to cash in on one more major contract in his career.
This deal was not altogether unexpected. Toronto came hard and aggressive and did not hold back on the money they were offering. As much as Houston and the Lakers were of interested, neither were offering Lowry what he has in Toronto – a young team that he can run completely.
Lowry has said repeatedly that his primary goal is to win a championship, and it seems Raptors GM Masai Ujiri convinced him that the franchise will make the kind of moves necessary to get there.
Lowry told several media outlets last night that he felt Toronto was the right place for him. He will officially sign his new contract on July 11 when the July Moratorium on contract signings is lifted.
No Fire Sale in NOLA: Early on in the free agency process several league sources had pegged the New Orleans Pelicans as massive sellers in the trade market.
However, as that news reached the Pelicans, they were quick to deny it. Like most teams in the NBA, the Pelicans are actively engaged in talks with other teams and are looking to make some moves not only to shore up their roster, but to give them flexibility to improve.
There is a sense around the league that the Pelicans would be open to moving Eric Gordon and possibly Austin Rivers; however, deals involving Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans or Jrue Holiday are not of much interest to the Pelicans and without question former top pick Anthony Davis is off the board.
Two of New Orleans’ top free agents – Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith – are drawing interest from other teams. Smith would love to be back in New Orleans and told Basketball Insiders in December that it wouldn’t take a crazy contract to keep him in the Big Easy.
As things stand now, the Pelicans have $54.08 million in hard salary commitments, giving them almost $9 million in space if they renounce the rights to their own free agents.
In order to keep all the parts they would like to keep the Pelicans may need a trade, hence the chatter that NOLA is in the market.
The Melo Dance Continues: After almost ten hours in Chicago, Carmelo Anthony spent the entire day yesterday in Texas with an easy day stop in Houston and then a mid-day stop in Dallas.
Much like Chicago, Houston pulled out all the stops adorning the Toyota Center with mock ups of Anthony in a Rockets jersey. They sold him the idea of competing for a championship next season and the chance to be part of the new core in Houston. Things were said to go extremely well, however the Houston side of things said they had no sense of what Carmelo was going to do after their meeting.
In Dallas, the Mavericks played their visit with Carmelo low-key. The meeting was held at Mavericks owner Mark Cuban house. Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki was said to be a part of the group that meet with Carmelo. Their pitch to him was the fact they have won a championship. They have a fairly fleshed out roster with guys Carmelo knows and they have the coach that can get him there and an owner that is committed to spending to return to the Finals.
After a full day in Texas, Anthony is scheduled to meet with the Lakers today. Laker star Kobe Bryant is expected to be part of the meeting. The Lakers pitch is said to be built around Bryant and Carmelo as a championship combo with a re-signed Pau Gasol in the mix. The Lakers drafted an impact player in Julius Randle who was completely cleared for basketball by one of the top foot specialists in Indiana. So they have a solid core in this plan.
After meeting with the Lakers today, Carmelo is expected to meet again with Phil Jackson and the Knicks for their final proposal, which could take place over the weekend.
Carmelo has told the teams he’s met with he hopes to make a quick decision so they can move forward.
The Chicago Bulls have started looking at Plan B options, which includes Gasol and others, but the primary focus is still Carmelo.
A couple of things did surface in both the Bulls and Rockets meetings and that is the fact that neither team can open up the full salary he can receive from Dallas, the Lakers or the Knicks.
The Bulls pitch to Carmelo included forward Taj Gibson remaining on the team, meaning to get to the full value possible for him, the Bulls would have to dump everything on the roster to get there, and that would be tough to do. The Bulls’ pitch was said to center around a $19-$20 million starting salary.
It’s being reported that the Chicago Bulls have notified Carlos Boozer that if the team cannot find a trade for his contract that they will use their one time amnesty roster cut on his final contract year worth $16.8 million, effectively removing him from the Bulls’ salary cap. Boozer will be paid all of the money owed to him.
Boozer’s deal alone clears a huge chunk from Chicago’s salary cap, but not enough to sign Anthony without other moves.
Houston’s cap position is not much better; they too can get to about $20 million if they dumped Jeremy Lin in trade, which is expected. Fortunately the Rockets can re-sign Chandler Parsons after signing a player like Carmelo and exceed the cap, but they would have to hang on to his $2.8 million cap hold to do it.
Both teams are more than willing to engaged the Knicks in a sign-and-trade, however the Knicks at least initially are saying they would have little interest in doing so; that may change when Carmelo makes his final decision.
Orlando Is Still Shopping: The Orlando Magic have been purging their roster for the last couple of days, releasing veteran guard Jameer Nelson, paying his $2 million guarantee to be rid of the remaining $6 million on his deal. The Magic also did not issue a qualifying offer to E’Twaun Moore, making him a free agent and yesterday they waived veteran guard Ronnie Price. Veteran forward Jason Maxiell is expected to be waived as well if the team cannot find a trade for him before July 10.
The Magic got its first free agent commitment yesterday, agreeing to a two year, $9 million deal with veteran guard Ben Gordon, which was something of a head scratcher. The second year of Gordon’s deal is a team option, so in essence this is a one year contract. Magic executives Matt Lloyd and Scott Perry are both very familiar with Gordon as they both had him on their previous teams, Lloyd in Chicago and Perry in Detroit.
There have been reports that the Magic had contacted the agents for restricted free agents Greg Monroe and Patrick Patterson. Both are more likely to be matched by their current teams in Detroit and Toronto respectively, although the Magic have the cap room to make things interesting if they wanted to.
Clippers In Sale Mode: The LA Clippers are not sitting out free agency either. The Clippers have been after Nets free agent Paul Pierce and are reported offering a sign-and-trade package said to include Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and last year’s first round pick Reggie Bullock. The Nets seem uninterested in such a package.
Pierce isn’t the only notable name the Clippers are dangling sign-and-trade deals for. They have reached out to Wizards free agent Trevor Ariza, Memphis free agent Mike Miller and Cavs free agents Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes.
The Clippers are also believed to have Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford on the trade market as they try and add another impact player, specifically at small forward, to the roster.
Crawford’s camp has made it clear that given the flurry of dollars being thrown around that any team acquiring him should be prepared to guarantee the final year of his contract. Crawford has the upcoming season and the following season left on his deal, with both years only being partially guaranteed.
The Clippers have also been in contact with free agent Darren Collison, who opted out of his deal, about a return to the Clippers. He is said to be weighing his options.
The Clippers have also reached out to unrestricted free agent Ed Davis and seem to be gaining traction on a possible deal, however Davis is said to have on-going conversations with several teams.
If you are looking for the very latest news, notes and deals surrounding 2014 NBA Free Agency – check out the Free Agency Diary – it is updated throughout the day with all the news in one easy to find place.
NBA Daily: Rockets Might Be Formidable Challenge For Warriors
If nothing else, the Rockets gave everyone, including the Warriors, something to think about by beating the champs.
For those that had any lingering doubt as to the authenticity of the Houston Rockets, Saturday afternoon’s win over the Golden State Warriors should serve as a bit of a wakeup call.
Sure, championships aren’t won in mid-January, but by virtue of the win, the Rockets won their season series against the Warriors, 2-1.
Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season—the year the Warriors won the first of three consecutive Western Conference Finals—they’ve lost a season series to just one other team: the San Antonio Spurs.
A review of the tape suggests that those that believe that Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard are truly the team that has the best shot of beating the Warriors is founded in some fact. In the last three seasons, the Warriors have lost a total of 39 games.
In total, during that span, seven teams have failed to beat the Warriors even once, while 12 teams have beaten them one time. Four teams have beaten the Warriors twice and only the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies have beaten them thrice.
The Spurs, though, have managed to beat the Warriors five times, with Popovich leading his team to a 2-1 regular season series win over the Warriors during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons.
It’s safe to say that they have been the only team worthy of calling themselves anything near a worthy adversary to Stephen Curry and company.
At least, that was the case until Saturday night.
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With all due respect to Michael Jordan, if the Warriors win the NBA Finals this season, they can legitimately claim to be the best team in NBA history.
Two titles in three years is nothing to sneeze at, but the claim holds no weight whatsoever without ever having won two in a row, especially when scores of other teams have been able to accomplish the feat.
Aside from the two championships, the Warriors can claim the best regular season record in the league’s history and the distinction of being the only team to ever win 67 or more games for three consecutive seasons.
It is true that the Warriors have been almost invincible since the 2014-15 season, but things have changed now that Chris Paul has joined forces with James Harden.
This season, the Mike D’Antoni coached team ranks 12th in points allowed per 100 possessions, a marked improvement over last season’s rank of 18th.
With Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela, Luc Mbah a Moute, they have four defensive stalwarts, one of whom (Ariza) who wasn’t able to suit up due to being suspended.
At the end of the day, beating a team in the regular season doesn’t really count for much, especially when you consider the greatest irony: in each of the seasons the Spurs beat the Warriors in their season series, the Warriors won the NBA Finals. The obvious asterisk there is that the Warriors didn’t play the Spurs in the 2015 NBA Playoffs and only managed to sweep them once the Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard in 2017.
Still, beating the defending champs in any game, much less a season series, has got to feel good. Whether they want to admit it or not, Saturday’s game against the Warriors was one that the Rockets wanted to get, that’s probably why Mike D’Antoni opted to reinsert James Harden into the game after he surpassed his 30-minute playing restriction.
In the end, Harden logged 35 minutes and ended up making what was the game’s clinching three-pointer.
* * * * * *
With the season a little more than halfway over, the Warriors still appear to be head and shoulders above those competing for their throne. Of the other contenders, the Rockets and Boston Celtics, at least for now, appear most formidable.
At the end of the day, what the Warriors have to fear more than anything is their own arrogance. As a unit, the team believes that it’s the best at playing small ball and that no other team can beat them as their own game. While that may be true, there have been a few instances over the past few years where that belief has ended up costing them.
What the Warriors seem to struggle with is understanding that not every possession can be played the same way, and as some possessions become more and more valuable, it would be wise for the team to play more conservatively and traditionally.
For example, when the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving made one of the most incredible shots we’ve ever seen, but it was Stephen Curry who helped leave the door open for the Cavs with a pitiful final five minutes of the game.
Among the worst atrocities he committed was an ill-advised turnover that came as a result of an off target behind the back pass to Klay Thompson. In such a situation, any second grader could have and would have known that a simple bounce pass to the flashing Thompson would have sufficed.
Steve Kerr’s message to his team, though, is to play like themselves and not overthink their execution.
While that’s fair, it does at least leave room to wonder if the Warriors will have the humility to play conservatively when the game is on the line.
Curry himself admitted to playing too aggressively and making poor reads and decisions down the stretch versus the Rockets. The team passed up wide-open two-point shots for three-pointers that didn’t fall, and those botched opportunities play a direct role in causing the loss.
Fortunately, for the Warriors, not much was at stake, but their performance and decision-making in those tight minutes leave us to wonder what will happen if and when they find themselves in another tight moment or two…
And by virtue of the Rockets becoming just the second team to take a season series from the Warriors since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, we can also fairly wonder whether they truly have what it takes to take down the Golden Goliath.
G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts
David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.
Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.
Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.
Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.
With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.
1. Christian Wood
Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.
His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.
2. Jameel Warney
Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.
With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.
3. Melo Trimble
After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.
He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.
4. Joel Bolomboy
Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.
At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.
5. Jeremy Evans
Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.
With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.
Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.
NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs
On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.
At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.
And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.
Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.
While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.
Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.
Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.
Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.
It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.
That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.
Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.
Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.
Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.
The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.
Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.
While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.
Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.
Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.
Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.
Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.