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NBA AM: How Ty Lawson Fits in Indiana

Point guard Ty Lawson has reportedly agreed to sign with the Indiana Pacers. How will he fit in there?



Ty Lawson Lands in Indiana

After getting bought out by the Houston Rockets earlier in the week, Ty Lawson has agreed to sign with the Indiana Pacers, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Expected to sign with the team on Sunday, Lawson adds a really interesting dimension to a Pacers team that has needed a more traditional point guard for several seasons now. And while he isn’t expected to challenge George Hill for the starting nod, there are a number of ways that head coach Frank Vogel can utilize his new backup point guard that really should help the team – not only down the stretch as they attempt to clinch a playoff berth, but also in the postseason should they end up there as expected.

For starters, Lawson’s up-tempo style of play will be perfect for a Pacers’ second unit that really does want to get out and run. Thus far, rookie Joe Young has been trying to hold down that backup point guard role and while Lawson’s numbers have been poor this year, he’s still an improvement over the undrafted rookie.

Secondly, Lawson’s ability to serve as a pass-first point guard could even let Hill play more off the ball, which could work to some of Hill’s strengths as an underrated scorer. While it’s true that one should back up the other, there’s no reason both couldn’t end up on the floor at the same time for stretches.

This signing could work well for the Pacers from a basketball standpoint, but it could also prove a godsend for Lawson, who needs to land with an organization that can help him get his good reputation back. Indiana has proven in the recent past that they can offer the type of support structure for troubled players to keep them in line. It worked for Lance Stephenson, who has been awful everywhere except Indiana, and Larry Bird could prove to be pretty good for Lawson too.

As Jared Wade of pointed out on Twitter Thursday, Lawson would be the eighth player from the 2009 draft class to have donned a Pacers uniform, which is rather poetic considering how much has been made of the fact that Indy could have had Lawson on the team seven years ago. Lawson was in serious consideration for the team’s 13th pick, but the front office, usually pretty savvy when picking in the late lottery, chose Tyler Hansbrough in the draft that year ahead of Lawson (and Jeff Teague and Jrue Holiday).

Those are moot points now, though. Lawson will be given an opportunity to redeem himself and the Pacers have the backup, pass-first point guard they’ve needed for a few years now. Chase Budinger, who will not be eligible to play in the postseason should he sign with a playoff team, is the only real casualty in this deal, but the Pacers can live with that if the payoff is adding a player of Lawson’s quality – horrific year notwithstanding.

Jordan Hill Still Trying to Find Himself with Pacers

Jordan Hill, another part of that Pacers second unit, will be one of the players on the receiving end of Lawson’s dimes. But even with the new point guard, he recently admitted that there are days he feels like he’s still finding his own way in this Pacers lineup, a full five months after first suiting up for the team in preseason.

“I’m getting the ball when I’m out there, so I’ve able to show that I can score. I can get rebounds, do a little bit of this, little bit of that, but my minutes fluctuate sometimes,” Hill told Basketball Insiders. “That can be frustrating to me sometimes, but I know we’ve got a lot of guys that can play. We all can play, and that means it’s a good rotation for us. I’ll be alright.”

Depth is something every good team not only wants but must have to weather the injuries that come with a long NBA season. The Pacers’ frontcourt has been relatively healthy, however, which is why his minutes are down about five per game from his time with the L.A. Lakers a year ago.

Despite all that, Hill is happy with where he chose to sign this past offseason and feels like the year has gone about as well as he could have expected.

“I really get along with the team on and off the court,” Hill said. “I’m in a good spot right now. It could be better, but I’m having a good time. As long as we keep winning and keep doing what we need to do, I’m alright with [playing fewer minutes].”

Hill has been part of the team’s overhaul in a world without Roy Hibbert and David West, a frontcourt that helped lead Indiana to two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. Even without those guys, and a more up-and-down, run-and-gun offense, Hill feels like the team still hangs their hats on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’re still good defenders,” he says, “even with Roy Hibbert and David West gone. We can do a lot of good things on that end, and that’s something that when I looked at the roster before deciding to come here, I thought that we really had some guys that can make some noise in the Eastern Conference. I thought it would be a good fit for me, and it’s been nothing but team ball all year. Hopefully we get a far as we want to go.”

He knows the team isn’t perfect on that end of the floor, but he also knows that to fend off all the competitors in the East scrambling for a playoff spot, that’s where they’ll have to excel down the stretch this season.

“Defensively, we’ve made our mistakes, but we can still do our job on that end,” Hill said. “We don’t always score like we want to, but we can still grind out the wins and that all comes down to our defense. We stop opponents that average 105, 110 points a game and hold them 90 or 95 points a game. I know sometimes we get frustrated on offense, when the ball’s not falling, but [if] we can just keep it all together defensively, good things will come to us.”

While dipping a bit statistically from his years in Los Angeles, Hill is still having the third-best year in his seven-season career. He’s playing the second-most minutes, shooting over 50 percent from the floor and contributing to a team that looks as though they’ll make the playoffs. It’s not a bad life for him right now, and he knows it. While it’s possible he expected a slightly larger role than he’s playing, his team is winning, he’s contributing and he’s being paid well for those contributions.

He’s still finding his way, but as his soon-to-be-former teammate Chase Budinger would probably attest, there are guys who would love to have that sort of stability.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine desires respect for new contract



According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine wants the respect he deserves for his contract extension. On Monday morning before Team USA’s practice to prepare for Tuesday’s match against Spain, the 26-year-old guard said to reporters, “I just want my respect, that’s the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.” In the 2020-21 season, in 58 games played, LaVine averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot 50.7 percent from the field and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.

Regarding the “outplayed my contract” comment, his argument his fair. Last season, with 200 three-point field goals made, he ranked ninth overall in the league. Despite the Bulls finishing 31-41 (.431) last season, he led the team in points and assists. Per ESPN, they are also reporting that Chicago is trying to work out a four-year, $105 million contract extension for their star guard. Though, this deal is expected to fall below his market value. In terms of signing available free agents this offseason, some Bulls fans are speculating the organization will pursue either Knicks’ shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, Lakers’ power forward/center Markieff Morris or Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball.

On July 13, 2018, the 2014 13th pick of the draft signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Bulls. LaVine earned $19,500,000 last season, and he is set to earn $19,500,000 in the upcoming season. It is not urgent for Chicago to extend LaVine’s contract this offseason. The organization will have the full rights to re-sign him to a new deal for next season in 2022.

However, the guard will also become an unrestricted free agent next year, so the Bulls should work towards fixing their salary cap issues right now. Referencing Spotrac, center Nikola Vucevic has a cap figure of $24 million. Of this amount, his future guaranteed cash is $22 million. One notable 2021-22 cap hold is Lauri Markkanen. His qualifying offer is $9,026,952, and his cap figure is $20,194,524. On March 2, 2020, Markkanen was recalled from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

Furthermore, on March 25, 2021, center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were traded by the Orlando Magic to the Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick. This is quite the gamble for the Bulls organization, considering they traded away two future first-round picks. Vucevic is set to earn $24 million for the 2021-22 season. Chicago has $56,679,846 available in cap space. Their current luxury tax space is $29,405746.

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option



First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks will pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option



Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers.

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