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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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN