Who Is Selling?
With the NBA regular season schedule set to drop this week, we have started to look forward a little here at Basketball Insiders, taking aim at potential free agents and the players that could be on the move as basketball ramps back up in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, how are some of the teams that are likely sellers this season:
The Orlando Magic’s new front office was disciplined this off-season, they did not spend lavishly or make a bold franchise changing trades, much to the chagrin of their fans. The mindset in Orlando was that last year was so chaotic that seeing first-hand what they really had was more valuable than reacting to what Orlando’s new executives saw from afar.
New leadership has leaned heavily on head coach Frank Vogel in understanding the potential of the roster, and it seems leadership is giving everyone a fairly clean slate to come in and earn their roles and their potential future.
The outcome of all of that is some players are going to play themselves into a future in Orlando and some (likely many) will not, making Orlando an absolute seller this season. The Magic are a team with real roster parts to pawn off as decisions get made on certain players, meaning they are the team to watch as the season unfolds.
Relatively speaking, the Magic have some value-priced contributors: Nikola Vucevic ($12.25 million), Evan Fournier ($17 million), Terrence Ross ($10.50 million) and D.J. Augustin ($7.25 million). None of them are likely franchise changing players, but all have proven to be productive.
The Magic also face some decisions with rookie scale guys like Aaron Gordon and Elfird Payton, who are each eligible for contract extensions this summer. Former fifth overall pick Mario Hezonja has never lived up to his draft hype and may or may not have a role this season.
The Magic have options if they want to explore them. The question becomes when will they pull the trigger on things, not if they pull the trigger.
The Phoenix Suns have re-committed to their front office, giving them the assurances that ownership will follow through with their longer-term vision. The Suns have, over the years, been collecting quite the treasure trove of young players and may actually have too much youth to really start to break out of the bottom tier in the West.
The Suns are one of the teams linked to Cavaliers’ guard Kyrie Irving, and while many in NBA circles peg them as the team with the assets to win over the Cavs, it does not appear that the Suns are willing to go all-in on Irving just yet. We’ll see as the clock ticks closer to training camp if either side budges on what they would do in a deal.
That does not mean the Suns won’t be active. The Suns explored trades around the NBA Draft, having been involved in talks to acquire Kevin Love from Cleveland. They were approached about being part of Houston’s four-team pitch for Carmelo Anthony.
With so many options, the idea of the Suns being sellers is not only real, it’s very likely, especially if the Suns can find a way to offload Tyson Chandler’s $13 million salary.
The Suns have been linked to rumors on guard Eric Bledsoe for months, and there is no question they have young guys to sweeten a deal, especially if it returns real talent.
That’s going to be the driver for the Suns – they want real talent in return. The Suns technically still have cap space if they opt to renounce the $12.059 million cap hold on Alex Len, so Phoenix has a lot of options if they wanted to explore them.
The Atlanta Hawks are in full rebuild mode. While no-one in Atlanta is going to admit to tanking, there is little doubt that the Hawks this year were constructed to hit bottom. It’s possible that Kent Bazemore can rebound to the form that landed him his four-year $70 million payday in 2016, but can a team anchored by Bazemore and guard Dennis Schroder really compete, even in the East?
The good news for the Hawks is they do not have a lot of long-term cap cash to shed beyond Bazemore and Schroder. The Miles Plumlee deal looks a little ugly in the context of a rebuild, but he was the price to dump off the $47 million remaining on Dwight Howard’s deal.
While the Hawks look like a team open for business, they don’t have much by way of assets others would covet. It’s possible one of the Hawks younger guys blossoms into something worth talking about in trade, but as things stand, the Hawks are a team to watch mainly because they are bottoming out, not so much because they have assets you could easily rationalize taking on in trade.
Like the Phoenix Suns, the Denver Nuggets have been amassing a pretty impressive cast of young players. They too have been linked to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, and much like Phoenix, they do possess an interesting combination of older win-now players to combine with significant youth.
The Nuggets were the team that was able to poach Paul Millsap, with the idea that Denver was ready to be more than a middling western conference team. The Nuggets, though, become a team to watch as some teams decide to part with veteran players.
It’s hard to win in the NBA with an average roster age under 26 years old, and with Denver having so much youth—especially youth that plays big minutes—moving off some of it for proven players makes a lot of sense.
The Nuggets had explored the trade value of players like Kenneth Faried ($12.921 million), Wilson Chandler ($12.016 million), Emmanuel Mudiay ($3.381 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.464 million).
The Nuggets have ending contracts on Wilson (Player Option), Arthur (Player Option), Will Barton (Unrestricted) and Jameer Nelson (Unrestricted).
Unlike a team like the Magic, who will inevitably make moves, the Nuggets don’t necessarily need to make changes. If, however, they are going to be the team they sold Millsap on, it’s hard to imagine the Nuggets not being aggressive, especially when real players hit the market.
Like the Hawks, the Bulls are tearing down and starting over. The Bulls are not in a bad way salary cap wise as Dwyane Wade’s $23.8 million salary comes off the books in July. The question becomes, is there a trade the Bulls can construct to get value out of Wade before the February 8th trade deadline?
The Bulls roster is littered with underachieving young guys who will get a real chance this season to show if they are what the Bulls hoped they’d be when they invested in them.
With this season being about the draft lottery and the future, the Bulls are a team to watch in terms of moving off veterans or young guys the Bulls lose faith in. They did something similar with Tony Snell, who blossomed in Milwaukee. The question is whether they do the same with forward Bobby Portis, second-year swingman Denzel Valentine or Cameron Payne.
The Bulls do have Robin Lopez, whose $13.78 million salary this year isn’t crazy, however, the $14.357 million owed next year does clog up the cap a little.
Like the Hawks, the Bulls don’t have much to sell, but with the bottom clearly in their sights for this season, they are a team to watch.
The LA Lakers are going to be sellers. As much as the team wants to talk about a playoff berth this season, there is a bigger picture plan that is going to require the Lakers to dump salary.
It is no big secret that the Lakers want to enter the 2018 offseason with two full max salary slots available to them. To do that, they are going to have to shed some of what’s likely to be $59.479 million in salary commitments.
The latest NBA projection pegs the 2018-19 salary cap at $103 million. Those numbers always fluctuate, but for planning purposes, $103 million cap means two max slots at 35% of the cap is going to cost $36.05 million each or $72.1 million. The quick math says the Lakers have to dump all but $30.9 million in cap dollars committed.
To achieve that, Luol Deng ($17.19 million), Jordan Clarkson ($11.562 million), Corey Brewer ($7.579 million) and perhaps Julius Randle ($4.149 million) are going to have to come off the books.
The good news is Brewer is a free agent in July, so his number falls off, much like the $22.642 million owed to Brook Lopez and the one-year $17.745 million owed to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Randle is a future free agent, so the Lakers could simply renounce him if they need his space and don’t have to make that decision before the deadline. However, Randle may be the piece the Lakers have to include to get anyone to consider the $54 million still owed to Deng.
As much as the Lakers want to talk about them being a potential playoff team this year, they almost have to sell off pieces in season, if they want any shot at the two max salary slots they would need to have to pursue the free agent targets (LeBron James and Paul George) they have been linked to.
All week, we have been looking at future free agents, players on the move and teams to watch as a primer for our upcoming NBA Season Previews that will drop the first week of September. Keep your eye out for new items dropping all week as we try and get you through the doldrums of the NBA’s dormant period.
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NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break
After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.
For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.
Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.
In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.
As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.
“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.
“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”
But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.
Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.
With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.
Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.
Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.
This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.
“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”
Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.
Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.
Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.
“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”
Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.
“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”
And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.
NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved
It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.
The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.
On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.
Oklahoma City has agreed to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta for point guard Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala, league sources tell ESPN. Anthony will be waived, and he will join team of his choice. Rockets are frontrunner.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 19, 2018
It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.
While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.
With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.
For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.
Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.
For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.
The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.
While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.
Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.
For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.
Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.
As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.
NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge
Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.
Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.
Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.
“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”
Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.
July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists
Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.
“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”
On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.
“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”
Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.
“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”
In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.
“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”
When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.
In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.