Tick-Tock, Extension Clock Is Winding Down: NBA teams have until midnight on Friday to reach rookie scale contract extensions with those players that were drafted in the first round in 2011.
A few deals have gotten done already.
Cleveland inked Kyrie Irving to what is expected to be a five year, $90 million deal. The final value of that deal gets locked in next season based on where the salary cap number falls.
Phoenix inked Markieff and Marcus Morris to extensions valued at four years, $32 million and four-years, $20 million respectively.
The Orlando Magic reached a deal with center Nikola Vucevic on a four year, $48 million deal that’s said to include an additional $5 million in achievable incentives.
The Denver Nuggets reached a four year, $50 million extension with Kenneth Faried as well.
There are still active conversation taking place with a few other notable names, here is what we know:
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves and Rubio could reach a deal before the deadline. Both sides understand what it will take to reach a deal with Rubio’s camp clinging to the notion of a max or near max contract. The Wolves understandably want a better financial deal. As the clock ticks down, a deal still remains possible as both sides seem to want to continue the marriage; the question is does a deal get done now or will Rubio see free agency next summer? This one is 50/50. They continue to talk, which could always lead to a deal.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz: The Jazz would like to lock up Kanter to a deal that makes sense. The problem for Utah is some of the deals that have gotten done have raised the bar a little higher than the Jazz would like to go. It’s possible that Kanter and the Jazz reach an agreement before the deadline, simply because big guys command money in free agency. If Kanter has a solid year he could get pricey and the Jazz would like to avoid that, especially after matching Gordon Hayward’s max offer sheet from Charlotte this summer. This is 40/60, that a deal doesn’t get done. There is interest in one. We’ll see if things swing over the course of the week.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers and Thompson continue to talk. Word is Thompson’s camp is seeking a deal in the $11-$12 million per season range, which is awfully pricey for what Thompson has produced thus far. The fact that Thompson is represented by the same agent as LeBron James surely doesn’t hurt the situation, but sources close to the process say that James’ status isn’t impacting the process. There is a chance that the Cavs and Thompson reach a deal, although sources said both sides seem to be ok if this thing has to get pushed to the summer. This one is 50/50, with it being likely that a deal is reached if the price comes down.
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks and Knight seem to want to make a deal, although this one has played out pretty quietly. The going rate for a starting point guard in the NBA is basically $10-$12 million a season. That’s a ton for a team that still isn’t sure if Knight is a point guard or not. There has been an ongoing dialogue, so a deal remains possible; however, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks doing a $45-$50 million deal for Knight. This one looks 40/60, with Knight likely headed to free agency if only to let the season play out and determine his role in this new Bucks’ system.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: There are a couple of things to note on this one: Walker and the Hornets have been talking and the tone and progression of things seems promising. The Hornets seem like they want to reach a deal, however, the five-year, $70 million deal Eric Bledsoe reached with the Suns has sort of gummed up the valuation. It seems likely that Walker and the Hornets reach a deal, the question becomes how much and for how long. This one looks 60/40 that a deal gets done before the deadline.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The Warriors and Klay Thompson seems to be at odds over price. Both sides have been talking, but Thompson’s camp wants a max or near max deal, while the Warriors seem to be hovering around the same sort of four-year $44 million package that Stephen Curry took in 2012 – something in the neighborhood of $12 million per season. This one could go to the wire. The Warriors don’t want Thompson’s contract to be the story all season and his camp knows it. So it’s a question of who blinks first. League sources believe this one gets done. The question is how much. If your putting odds on it, this one might be closer to 65/35 that it gets done.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz: Like Kanter, the Jazz would like to lock Burks in and avoid what’s sure to be a bidding war over his services in July. Burks isn’t going to command crazy money as a free agent, but he could get a $7 or $8 million a year offer and if the Jazz can lock him in cheaper than that it’s simply good business to retain your high level draft picks. This one could get done as it’s not going to be crazy expensive. The question is does Burks want to bet on himself to have a solid year and bust out of the tier he is slotted in? This one is 50/50, with a deal possible.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: While this one has been characterized somewhat negatively in the press, the truth is the Spurs and Leonard both want to reach an agreement. The problem is Leonard’s camp is seeking a full max deal, and the Spurs simply don’t do max contracts. This one might get done. There is a possibility that Leonard backs off the max number, however there is a sense that if Leonard gets to restricted free agency in July a number of teams would put a max level offer on the table, which is why Leonard’s camp is sticking to their guns. It’s unlikely that san Antonio lets Leonard walk, however not reaching a deal will introduce doubt into a locker room that doesn’t tolerate distractions. This one seems likely, with something like 60/40. The reason this one gets pegged lower odds-wise is it does not seem likely that Leonard’s camp budges off the max price tag.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic: The Magic and Harris have had talks, and those talks are said to be continuing. However, it does seem they are not close in a valuation. Harris’ camp sees him as an elite level scorer that has star potential and wants him paid accordingly. The Magic are not ready to pay that kind of price and seem more interested in letting Harris play out the season to see what the marketplace thinks. The Magic can always match a bigger dollar deal next summer, which gives them time to see if Tobias is really the player his representation believes he can be. For Harris’ part, he’d like to remain in Orlando and there seems to be room for a conversation if the gap between the Magic’s number and Harris’ number closes. That could happen before the deadline, however this one looks like it’s not going to get done. The one is like 30/70 that it doesn’t.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: Like Kemba Walker in Charlotte, there is a desire to get a deal done with Jackson. The problem is the valuation. Jackson’s camp sees him as a starting point guard and wants to see him paid accordingly. The Thunder have always been somewhat frugal in their approach to early contract extensions and usually look for a little discount for locking in guys early. It seems likely that a deal will get reached. Both sides are sort of on the same page, the question becomes dollars and years. This one is likely 50/50. If Jackson agrees to something under $10 million a year, that should get the deal done.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: The Bulls and Butler could reach a deal. There is a reasonable number on the table and that number likely gets another push upwards. The question is will Butler take a compromised deal in the $8 to $9 million per year range or will he gamble on himself and look for a potentially bigger payday as a restricted free agent. The Bulls and Butler want to continue the relationship. The Bulls were quick to produce an offer, so that’s usually a sign that a deal can get done. This one has a 50/50 feel to it, mainly because Butler’s value could go up significantly if he has another strong season like he did two years ago. The Magic number here seems to be four years, $44 million, that’s not an insane number given where the Bulls are cap wise, but this one could go either way.
If teams do not reach an agreement by midnight on October 31, they will still have the option of restricting their player’s free agency with a qualifying offer next summer, giving them the right to match free agent contract offers in July.
The risk for teams not making a deal is that as many as 15 NBA teams could clear at least $15 million in cap space, with more than dozen being able to clear more than $20 million in space, making many of these players highly coveted free agent targets next summer.
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NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors
Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.
As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.
Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.
The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.
Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.
Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.
Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.
When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.
“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”
Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.
Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.
In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.
“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”
It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”
“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.
Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors
Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions
Opening week is finally upon us.
Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.
The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.
In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.
Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.
But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.
The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.
What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.
That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.
Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.
Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.
Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.
As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.
Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.
Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.
Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.
The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.
The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.
See you at tip-off.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.