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NBA Rookie Extensions: Utah Jazz

Will the Utah Jazz extend Alec Burks and Enes Kanter? Nate Duncan breaks it down.

Nate Duncan



The 2014 rookie-extension class is one of the most interesting in several years due to the high number of quality players entering their fourth seasons. As most readers likely know by now, teams have until October 31 to reach extensions with first-rounders entering their fourth season or the players become restricted free agents next summer. This year, many of these players fall into the fascinating middle ground between total busts and obvious max outs, and their negotiations are further complicated by the unknown effect of the league’s recently-announced new TV deal.*

*Teams and agents may also be waiting for additional clarity as the league and union discuss how to avoid too much shock to the system from the new money.

Due to the rising cap, it is useful to think of new deals in percentage terms. For example, a $10 million contract under the $58.044 million cap in 2012-13 was 17.2 percent of the cap. For the 2016-17 season, assuming the cap is $80 million for that year, an equivalent contract would be $13.8 million.

Alec Burks
Age: 23 (July 20, 1991)
Draft Position: 12
2013-14 PER: 15.82
2013-14 ORPM: 1.43
2013-14 DRPM:-1.74
2015 Cap Hold: $7,585,890
2015 Qualifying Offer: $4,175,274

At 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, Burks has prototypical shooting guard size and quickness. His greatest asset is his ability to get to the basket off the dribble. Burks took over 50 percent of his shots inside of 10 feet a year ago, and shot an outstanding-for-a-guard .644 within three feet.  The Colorado product got to the foul line like crazy, boosting his True Shooting Percentage to .547, well above the league average for shooting guards. He also showed improvement on threes, although he needs to replace more of his long twos with those considering he shot about 35 percent on both types of shots.

Burks has a lot to work on, like most 23-year-olds. He suffers from a bit too much freelancing on both ends, but the hope is that Quin Snyder can reign him in while still allowing him the improvisation that makes him a tough guard offensively. Burks needs more concentration applying his tools defensively, but at least he has them. And he needs to improve his shot from downtown and get better at creating for others. But unlike a lot of extension candidates, Burks has already shown proficiency (or at least improvement) in the areas that will make him worth the money he is seeking. A fully-formed Burks will have the same core skills as the present version, only better.

Burks’ skills are also a solid fit with the existing roster, since Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and (eventually) Dante Exum should be able to provide shooting around his drives while Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert make solid pick and roll partners. Burks also helps reduce the need for a backup point guard, allowing the Jazz to utilize smaller shooters with less playmaking ability should they so choose. With the dearth of wings around the league, Burks’ value over replacement offensively is higher than at, say, point guard.

So what is Burks worth?

Burks DeRozan Comparo


Burks is by nearly all measures the superior player to DeRozan when he was extension eligible at the same age.  The Toronto Raptor received a then-panned but now-steal four-year, $38 million deal.* DeRozan is the superior athlete and perhaps could be seen as higher ceiling, and now at age 25 he has morphed into one of the league’s better shooting guards. Nevertheless, it is very conceivable Burks could reach that level, especially considering the upgrade in coaching from Tyrone Corbin to Snyder.

*That extension may be the bane of front offices in the future, as agents will compare their wings favorably to DeRozan’s statistics even though there was very little to indicate that would be a good deal at the time.

When DeRozan signed his deal for a flat $9.5 million per season, it represented 16 percent of the cap, which will fall to 12 percent over the life of the deal. That amount of the projected $67 million cap would be $10.7 million when Burks’ extension kicks in for 2015-16.

It seems pretty clear that there is a deal to be made here that provides Burks life-changing financial security while giving the Jazz some upside if he blows up, which is a reasonable proposition. Burks’ agent Andy Miller has enough clients that he does not need to rely exclusively on Burks’ deal to impress. The sides should be able to play with the particulars to make a deal with a starting salary in the $8 to $11 million range. A few options:

  • Provide Burks more money up front with a declining salary, since the Jazz are more likely to be at the point of adding free agents near the end of his deal as the cap rises.
  • Give the maximum annual raises to start Burks lower and allow more room to add a piece in 2015 (more on that below).
  • A player option for Burks’ fourth year to mitigate the risk on his end in case he reaches All-Star level as the cap rises.

Burks has enough upside to make such an extension worthwhile for the Jazz, while it is hard to imagine he is not at least a starting quality two (or top-sixth man type) even on the downside. It is highly possible that Burks was really held back by Tyrone Corbin and Utah could be buying low right now. This is a deal that can and should get done, and at these numbers it should not hamstring the Jazz’s future flexibility. (More on that below.)

Enes Kanter
Age: 22 (May 20, 1992)
Draft Position: 3rd
2013-14 PER: 15.70
2013-14 ORPM: -2.88
2013-14 DRPM: -1.75
2015 Cap Hold: $11,389,348
2015 Qualifying Offer: $7,471,412

The Jazz may have less information on Kanter than any team has on an extension candidate. Kanter was famously ineligible at Kentucky in the 2010-11 season. He was the fourth big his first two years behind Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, although he posted impressive per minute numbers.* When the first two departed prior to last year, the Jazz hoped to get a look at their theoretical frontcourt of the future. But that pairing proved disastrous on both ends in a 1-14 start, necessitating a return to the bench for Kanter behind Marvin Williams.

*Including a 17.6 PER, .588 true shooting percentage and 14.5 percent offensive rebounding percentage in 2012-13 as a 20-year-old.

The strengths that made Kanter the number three pick in the draft are still evident. He has an excellent touch around the rim, hits the offensive glass hard, possesses great strength and can score in the post. But his limitations, especially at center, have really prevented him from playing winning basketball to this point. He does not protect the rim, is not quite quick enough to defend the pick and roll and has struggled on the defensive glass at times. Those limitations have been exacerbated by his lack of experience, as he has struggled to execute the system defensively and has not flashed much passing ability as yet. As a result, Kanter was among the worst regular players in the league last year by plus/minus metrics. The Jazz were outscored by 10.8 points per 100 possessions with Kanter on the floor, but only 2.8 points/100 when he sat. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus rated him 409th in the league.  That’s bad–far beyond salvaging with a free frogurt.

While big men who could score inside were once coveted, the league has turned away from traditional pivotmen, as detailed by Grantland’s Zach Lowe.  As he explained, the league has had progressively less use for big men who do not shoot threes or protect the basket. While Kanter was not mentioned in the piece, he very well could have been.

A related issue is how well Kanter fits with Utah’s other long-term bigs, Favors and Gobert. At one time, Kanter was considered the center in the pairing with Favors. But by last season it became apparent that Kanter does not protect the rim well enough, and Favors does not shoot well enough, to support that role for Kanter on either end. Gobert, of course, is a center all the way. With Favors a year ahead of Kanter while possessing a higher upside (especially on defense), it has fallen on Kanter to change his game.

Those efforts have been somewhat hamstrung by health problems, as he missed much of the past two summer due to shoulder and knee injuries. Nevertheless, Kanter has made some solid strides in this area that should not be ignored. He has transformed his body, lowering his body fat significantly and getting much quicker. Becoming fleet of foot is too much to expect, but Kanter has at least evolved beyond traffic cone status, even for a four.

More important though is his potential evolution to a more outside-oriented game under new head coach Quin Snyder. Kanter has been encouraged to take three-pointers after taking only one last year. While he managed only 3-15 in the preseason, even taking those shots has its own value.  The Turk also increased his assist percentage this preseason in Snyder’s system, which demands more ballhandling and passing out on the floor from big men. The hope is that Kanter can complete the evolution to a stretch big who can also take advantage of smaller fours on the block.

The problem for the Jazz is that Kanter’s ultimate evolution remains a mere hope at this point, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton’s projections for this year indicate. While he could ultimately evolve into an offensive force at the four who can drain threes, post up, pass and adequately defend his position, he has only come close to showing one of those skills in his career. Moreover, he is never going to be one of the more athletic big man in the league. His defensive ceiling is probably league-average at power forward, and even worse at center. That is not the end of the world next to quality defensive bigs like Favors and Gobert project to be, and the superstarless Jazz may need his offense going forward even if he has defensive shortcomings. But it also limits the Jazz’s upside defensively, especially without any other players who project as true perimeter stoppers among their young talent.

Despite these limitations, Kanter is worth an extension if he can become an efficient 20 points per game scorer. He certainly has that potential, but the chances of fulfilling it are quite uncertain. Given this risk, it really only makes sense for the Jazz to extend him at a price that would make him underpaid if their bet on him pays off. Even if he reaches his absolute full potential, Kanter is not a maximum type player due to his defensive limitations as a frontcourt player. And if he does not manage the transformation the Jazz envision, he may not even be a starting-quality big man. Value-wise, he will likely range between a $12 million a year player on the high end and a $7 million a year player on the low end over the life of the contract, at least based on the $67 million projected cap in 2015. A four-year extension around $9 million a year would probably be fair. A player option for the fourth year might mitigate the risk for Kanter if he blows up, allowing him to hit the market again at 26 after the 2018 season when the cap will be much higher. Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, a true center who is probably better (though older), got a four-year, $48 million extension.*

*Per our Eric Pincus, reports that it was in the $53 million range included incentives that are currently characterized as unlikely bonuses. That extension was not unreasonable, but may have been a bit of an overpay by the Magic, who do not have other young bigs the quality of Favors and Gobert like the Jazz do.

Would Kanter take such a deal? Probably not. Because he was the number three pick, his salary is much higher than later-drafted players like Burks, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler with qualifying offers below $5 million. Kanter makes $5.7 million this year, and even if he doesn’t get any bites in restricted free agency next summer, the qualifying offer will still pay him $7.4 million. That is a real game-changer from other potential restricted free agencies. Unless Utah offers a starting salary significantly above that on a long-term deal, Kanter would have little reason to accept because the opportunity cost isn’t nearly as high as for lower-drafted players.* And due to anchoring, a raise of a couple million a year probably will not entice Kanter the way it would for a lower-paid player. Then consider that Kanter is the only big-name client for his agent Max Ergul, and there is even more reason to believe they will hold out for a big deal.

On the other hand, the risk for the Jazz in offering into eight figures a year is significant. They are not even sure that Kanter is part of their future, and he has already suffered a fair amount of injuries. Unlike players like Butler, Thompson and Kawhi Leonard, the threat of a Parsons-style offer sheet may not scare the Jazz, as they likely are not sure that they want to commit to him for big dollars over four years anyway. And while lots of teams will have cap room in restricted free agency, no teams jump out as wanting to break the bank for a scoring big like Kanter who needs to be paired with an elite rim-protector. That is especially so because such teams will have to really overpay to make accepting an offer in restricted free agency more palatable to Kanter than just taking the high qualifying offer.

Although he has a high offensive ceiling, Kanter is so far from reaching it and has played so little until now that the downside of potential overpayment likely overshadows the risk that he blows up this year and gets a huge offer in restricted free agency. Maybe, one could argue, Corbin really held the Jazz back and they would be wise to lock up these players before Snyder boosts their value. But on the other hand, one could argue that Gobert could well eclipse Kanter as a prospect this year, and if he and Favors can find a way to make it work offensively they could form a monster defensive frontcourt. In that case, there really is not room for Kanter to make eight figures on this team long-term.

Depending on what happens with the team and Gobert this year, there is a possible (though not likely) scenario in which it behooves the Jazz to move on from Kanter in the next two years. If the Jazz surprise and get into the 30s in wins, they may want to add a three and D wing in free agency this summer as they try to ascend to the playoffs. Someone like Wesley Matthews, Danny Green, Luol Deng or Arron Afflalo would provide veteran defense and shooting on the wing as a better fit than Kanter. Such a signing would also allow the Jazz to play small with Gordon Hayward at the four.

But to have enough space for such a player, Kanter’s Bird Rights would have to be renounced and his qualifying offer revoked (which can be done through July 23 without his consent). His cap hold is $11 million, and he likely would not sign the qualifying offer to reduce his cap number to the $7.4 million until late in the summer. With a cap hold for Kanter and an extension starting around $9 million a year for Burks, the Jazz probably would not have enough room to overpay (likely a necessary evil) for a meaningful wing, especially after accounting for a 2015 first-round pick.

Burks Extension
However, the Jazz would not have to renounce Kanter until they knew if a free agent were coming. If they extend Kanter and Burks now though, it would likely foreclose any major free agent addition in 2015, and even leave them without a ton of cap space (relative to the rest of the league) in the crazy summer of 2016 when the cap goes up.

Burks and Kanter Extensions

Thus, there is the very real possibility that the Jazz may want to part with Kanter during one of the next two summers.  Meanwhile, any extension they’d be willing to give would not be enough of a raise for Kanter to make it worthwhile. With such misaligned incentives, an extension makes little sense for either side.

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney. He writes regular features for Basketball Insiders and chats weekly at 11 Eastern on Tuesdays.


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NBA Daily: Free Agent Watch – Small Forwards

Ben Nadeau continues Basketball Insiders’ Free Agent Watch by checking in on a thin small forward class.

Ben Nadeau



With professional basketball on the horizon, all eyes have turned toward Orlando – but here, we’re trying to peer into the future too.

Frankly, the news of pending basketball seems small in comparison to some long-overdue changes. The planet-wide pandemic and sweeping protests have turned everybody’s day-to-day routines on their head – but, obviously, for one group, it has done so in awful and disproportionate ways.

If you can donate, consider doing so. If you can’t donate, educate yourself. Even if you donate, continue to read, learn and listen.

Or try this: If you finish this article and come away having learned something, donate something of your own: Time, supplies, a tough conversation — whatever. Consider it a trade, do whatever it takes. Make a difference, even if it’s a small one.

We’re approaching the halfway point in our examination of potential upcoming free agents – today, the ball keeps on rolling with the small forwards.

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans – Restricted – $7,265,485

Across all positions, Brandon Ingram will be a top option for any franchise with oodles of cap space and a need for consistent scoring. Even then, Ingram seems destined to stay in New Orleans, no matter the cost.

Since he arrived from Los Angeles a year ago, Ingram has quickly turned into the type of stone-cold No. 1 option that can transform a roster. The 6-foot-7 youngster averaged 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 2019-20, numbers that eventually netted Ingram his first-ever All-Star Game appearance. And now, the budding star will likely see any forthcoming offer matched.

Paired with Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have developed an ideally dynamic and flexible duo to carry them into the next half-decade and beyond. With more volume and efficiency from three-point land, Ingram is evolving at a ridiculous rate – all right at home in New Orleans’ high-tempo offense. Capped off by a 49-point stunner back in January, it’s clear that future All-Star berths are just his floor.

Although the salary cap is sure to suffer after the stoppage, the 22-year-old’s future paycheck certainly won’t – he’s that good.

Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics — Player Option — $32,700,690

Before Hayward even potentially hits free agency, he’s made waves within the NBA’s restarted bubble. On a call last week with Boston media, Hayward announced that he’d leave Orlando should his wife go into labor – whether or not the Celtics are still in the postseason.

The news seems to have passed through the Northeast without major drawback – although, surely, let’s revisit if the franchise is in Eastern Conference Finals when he departs – but could that be the end of the road in Boston? It’s nobody’s fault, of course, but the arrival of Hayward hasn’t gone as planned – and now, both the franchise and player are likely stuck at a hard fork in the road.

Hayward, naturally, has the easier, initial decision: Does he want to opt-in for $30 million-plus? On the surface, that’s a no-brainer. Getting paid a small fortune and competing for a championship is achievable NBA paradise – currently, he’s got it. But after that season, Hayward would be unrestricted, 31 years old and playing fourth fiddle to Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

If Hayward is concerned with his overall fit with Boston – while the Celtics themselves must give careful consideration to how it’ll all work money-wise with Walker and Brown re-upped, alongside glue guy Marcus Smart – then opting out and securing a new multi-year deal might be on the table.

Given his injury history and any presumptive salary cap fluctuations, however, reaching the $30 million range seems far out of his reach. Either way, Hayward, finally, appears to be healthy and confident again, even averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. The Celtics’ will surely miss the scorer should he leave the bubble, but this partnership is likely to last at least another year.

Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder – Unrestricted – $22,615,559

After entering the season as potential trade bait for a Thunder roster that had just lost Paul George and Russell Westbrook, Gallinari fulfilled his status as a go-to scorer and all-around menace. The Italian played so well that Oklahoma City kept the veteran at the trade deadline even though he’s about to hit unrestricted free agency.

At the time of the shutdown, the Thunder were 40-24 and owners of the No. 5 postseason seed. Much of the attention was given toward the rise of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but Gallinari has been a healthy revelation too. Ultimately, keeping the core together for this run was worth it, even if he doesn’t land back in the midwest this offseason.

Despite the incredible campaign, Gallinari’s injury history should be a red flag for any franchise ready to hand out a lucrative deal. Since 2008, Gallinari has played 70 or more games just twice (2009-10, 2012-13) and can struggle to return once he goes down. In any case, regardless of any past ailments, he’s handled back-to-back career seasons – first in Los Angeles with the Clippers and now, obviously, with the Thunder.

At 19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 three-pointers on 41 percent from deep, he’s been an excellent fit with Chris Paul and the young roster – but at 32 years old, is there still room to grow over a new multi-year deal?

After Ingram and Hayward, both of whom may not even hit the open market, Gallinari is the crown jewel of available small forwards, so watch this space.

Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns – Restricted – $3,481,916

Understandably, Dario Saric has become a bit of an afterthought. And that’s unfortunate because the Croatian is still useful – he just needs to find his right team.

At 26, Saric is no longer a spring chicken, but his multi-positional playmaking on the cheap will surely elevate a playoff-ready roster down the line. The 6-foot-10 forward is mobile for his size but struggled to fit next to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, two touch-gobbling scorers. Saric has a unique NBA skillset and he often does the little things right – but his below-average three-point percentage has hurt him.

For a brief moment, Saric had fallen out of the rotation in early February, but his all-out effort and flexibility made him tough to leave out for too long. While Kelly Oubre Jr. has not been entirely ruled out of the Orlando bubble, Saric is the ready-made replacement for the starting lineup. As the forward will likely become a restricted free agent in the offseason, these upcoming games are vastly important to prove he belongs in Phoenix.

Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers – Unrestricted – $2,159,029

Last but not least, there’s Carmelo Anthony.

After being booted from the league for a year, the future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer has been a solid, reputable source of scoring for Portland. At 15.3 points per game, it’s not Anthony’s most high-tallying performance – duh – but it’ll be enough to secure him another gig in 2020-21. At 36, he’s still a decent option, even if efficiencies may often tell another story.

His stints with Oklahoma City and Houston withstanding, Anthony can still score. And in the NBA these days, that’s worth a stab. Anthony will no longer demand multi-year contracts or salary cap-sponging money, so he’s a low-risk, medium-reward type of player at this point. What team couldn’t use that? The legend has excelled in big moments and brings boatloads of experience – so whether he lands in a veteran-laden locker room or one that needs his guidance hardly matters now.

Bring back Carmelo Anthony in 2020… or else.

With the bubble close to resuming, we’re still unsure if two of the top players on this board are even available. Does Hayward’s eventual leave of absence impact his decision? Would the Celtics look to retain him if he opts out? And, more importantly, is there even more than two seconds of consideration before New Orleans matches whatever max offer sheet Ingram signs? Surely, if a franchise misses out on these two – if they’re out there at all – then the small forward market shrinks tinier than it already is.

Gallinari and beyond, we’ll just have to see how the season of one thousand plotlines and twists continues to unfold.

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NBA Daily: Free Agent Watch – Shooting Guards

Matt John continues Basketball Insiders’ Free Agency tracking series by taking a look at the notable shooting guards potentially hitting the market this summer.

Matt John



Welcome back to Basketball Insiders’ Free Agency Tracker. We’ve already gone over the top point guards entering free agency this season. Now we’re taking a look at their backcourt counterparts- the shooting guards.

To be honest, this crop of free agents period isn’t exactly a loaded one compared to years’ past. The shooting guards don’t have a great free agency class, but they are among the deeper positions in free agency. There aren’t currently any elite ones potentially going on the free market — DeMar DeRozan once was considered elite, but not now — but there are some shooting guards out there who can make a difference in a playoff series.

What’s odd is that among the highest-paid shooting guards that could go on the market are in similar situations for different reasons. Let’s start with the two best at the respective position that could potentially hit the open market once the season concludes.

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs — Player Option — $27,739,975
Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic — Player Option — $17,000,000

How can a no-win situation get worse? Ask DeMar DeRozan. It was already tricky enough for him to decide what to do with his player option. He can either stay in San Antonio, whose present is a sinking ship that DeRozan is not reportedly happy to be on, or he can risk losing millions of dollars by playing the field in an offseason with hardly any teams to offer the contract a player of his caliber would demand.

And that was before COVID-19 dismantled the league’s salary cap. DeRozan is one of the league’s premier bucket-getters, and the evolution in his all-around game offensively doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Sadly for him, there are two things he’s not particularly good at that the NBA needs from max contract players now more than ever: shooting and defense.

DeRozan got away with this during his days as a Raptor because he was one of their top dogs on a well-crafted team built for him to thrive. But, since moving to San Antonio, being at the forefront of the Spurs’ downfall over the last two years has made his blemishes stand out now more than ever. Because his style of play grows more and more outdated by the day, both sides seem prepared to move on from each other. Unfortunately for both of them, in an upcoming, uncertain free agency period where available money will be scarce, it may not be the best idea for DeRozan to walk away from upwards of $28 million.

He never deserved this. He gave his all to Toronto to put them on the map. He did his best to fill in the void left by Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio. He’s being punished when all he did was show his utmost loyalty to begin with. That’s one of the worst non-injury fates a basketball player can endure. Not many players in NBA history have had to go through a decision as tough as DeRozan will — stay with a team you don’t have a future with, or potentially take a massive pay cut?

Should DeMar DeRozan leave San Antonio? Of all the rhetorical questions in the NBA right now, this is definitely among the rhetorical-est. Then, there’s Fournier.

2016 really was a different time. Back when pretty much every team thought they could do no wrong no matter who they added. When you look at the moves the Magic made at that time — and they made some bad ones — they definitely were one of those teams. Among all the ill-advised moves they made, Evan Fournier was one of those guys that was paid just right for his services. Paying $85 million over five years for a complementary scorer such as he is an adequate price. It’s really quite astounding that he was given a fair pretty deal when you see what other players were paid then.

Now he’s got the option to pocket $17 more million or test the open market. The salary cap falling off a cliff will probably make the decision easier for him than it would have in any other year of free agency. That’s a shame because this season’s easily been his best as a pro — averaging almost 19 points on 47/41/82 splits — but with the lack of funds available, there’s really no reason for him to risk leaving that money on the table, and being in Orlando isn’t a bad situation… right?

Really, it’s his long-term prospects that he has to think about. At 27 years old, Fournier is now entering his prime as a player. His career has been a fun story to watch unfurl because he was originally viewed as a throwaway asset when he was first traded to Orlando six years ago. We’ve seen pretty much ever since that’s definitely not the case with him, but Fournier’s contributions have led to five playoff games in Orlando. He has to ask himself if it’s worth it to stay as a secondary scorer on the most average team in the entire league.

In a normal offseason, DeRozan and Fournier would similarly opt-out but for different reasons. DeRozan would opt-out to find another team that has better use for him, while Fournier would opt out looking for a deserved raise — but because the money they are looking for isn’t going to be around, expect the opt-in.

There is another pair of highly-paid shooting guards who, much like DeRozan and Fournier, are in similar situations but are in completely different stages in their career.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks — Player Option — $18,975,000
Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets — Player Option — $27,130,435

There is literally just one similarity between these two players. Even before COVID-19 hit, they were going to take that player option because there was no way either of them was getting that kind of cash on the open market (thankfully, the salary cap hangover from the insanity of 2016 and 2017 is almost over). Besides that, these two couldn’t be more different.

Putting all money aside, Tim Hardaway Jr. has been awesome for the Mavericks this year. At least for what they’ve asked of him. As the designated third wheel next to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Hardaway has thrived in his new role. His numbers dropped just as they were expected to — from 19 points to 16 — but the man is putting up his best effective field goal percentage (55.4) and best true shooting percentage (58.1), which has no doubt come from both playing with Luka and under Rick Carlisle.

A man of Hardaway’s talents is tailored more for being the complementary scorer on a rising playoff team like Dallas rather than being the top dog for a young team looking for direction like the New York Knicks. It’s amazing how anyone with eyes can see that except the Knicks themselves. Of course, guys can just score and it means absolutely nothing, but Hardaway actually has the best net rating in Dallas, as the Mavericks are plus-6.1 when he’s on the floor. Not bad for someone who was supposed to be a throw-in from the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

Literally the biggest problem with his game right now is that he’s being paid more than he’s worth and…that’s about it. It may sound ridiculous, but there is such a thing as being so overpaid that it makes you underrated. That’s exactly what Hardaway is. Of course, Dallas would probably prefer to have the cap space, but at least they overpay for someone who actually does something for them on the court. Charlotte can’t say the same with Nicolas Batum.

It’s not Batum’s fault that Charlotte basically paid him like a franchise player back in 2016. If money like that is on the table, how can you say no? At the height of his game, Batum was arguably the league’s best glue player. His lanky arms and skinny physique make him somewhat of an all-around terror in all phases of the game — defense, shooting, rebounding, and oddly enough, passing. Or at least it did back when Charlotte played him consistent minutes.

Batum’s impact has died a slow and painful death in Charlotte that over the last two years, he’s basically just been accumulating healthy scratches. Even after the team waived Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum hasn’t managed to play one single minute in the NBA since Jan. 24. Over 22 games, he’s put up 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3 assists a.k.a. stats that make you scream, “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU, NICOLAS BATUM?!”

Maybe playing in the league for 12 years has taken its toll on Batum’s body, but the veteran forward is only 31. That’s why there might be a light at the end of the tunnel for both him and the Hornets — besides the fact that he’ll be off their payroll this time next year. With him likely to opt-in, we might get to see the old Batum resurface with the new contract coming up. Whether he does or doesn’t, the quicker the Hornets move away from this era of basketball for them, the better.

So in case you were wondering, the highest-paid shooting guards to hit free agency are probably going to opt-in. Others who play the same position are primed to get their first payday in the NBA. There actually aren’t too many shooting guards entering restricted free agency, but the best ones who are are names you should be familiar with.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings — Restricted — $9,000,000
Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves — Restricted — $1,958,379

There’s really not much to say about Bogdanovic’s free agency that we didn’t already know. He’s one of the league’s premier hybrid playmaker/scorers among NBA second units. Unless there’s something going on behind closed doors, there shouldn’t be anything stopping the Kings from paying him what he wants this offseason. Especially now that they’ve offloaded Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza from their cap. Seriously, why did they bring those guys in again?

The only detail worth questioning is: How much will they give him? Bogi certainly deserves more money, but the lack of cap room going around may limit how much money interested parties are willing to offer for him. The Kings should show him how much they value what he does, but both his restricted free agency and the lack of money give Sacramento more leverage than they are used to. Bogdanovic should stay a King, but we know what the Kings are and are not capable of.

Then, there’s Beasley. Beasley correctly bet on himself when he demanded the Nuggets to trade him to a team willing to give him the minutes he wanted. Since going to Minnesota, he’s putting up excellent numbers that you never thought you’d see from him — nearly 21 points on 47/43/75 splits are sensational numbers for a midseason addition who honestly didn’t cost much to get.

The only two hangups from this situation are that Beasley played this well for 14 games and his contributions didn’t lead to much; the Timberwolves went 4-10 in that span. Now that their season is over, they have to decide if his play was enough to earn him the payday that he clearly wants.

Again, restricted free agency gives teams more leverage, but the Timberwolves might very well be onto something with their midseason shakeups. There’s not a whole lot of avenues for them to get better, so perhaps the best plan for them from here on out is to see what they have here.

There are definitely some other notable free-agent shooting guards this coming offseason:

  • Joe Harris’ sharpshooting should attract plenty of suitors, but the cap crunch will probably prevent any unforeseen departure from Brooklyn. Ditto for E’Twaun Moore seeing how New Orleans also has his bird rights.
  • Tony Snell has no business being on a rebuilding team like Detroit, but no one’s going to pay him the $11 million that the Pistons will if he opts in.
  • Wes Matthews and Austin Rivers have been among the NBA’s best economical additions this past season. Typically guys like them don’t come cheaply the next year, but it might not be up to them.
  • Avery Bradley and Rodney Hood are more than likely going to opt-in both because of the cap crunch and their seasons ending prematurely.
  • Until they can’t shoot the rock anymore, guys like Kyle Korver and Marco Belinelli will be in the NBA. With who is anyone’s guess, but their jumper is a weapon that every NBA team will want.

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NBA Daily: Free Agent Watch – Point Guards

Shane Rhodes starts off Basketball Insiders’ new “Free Agent Watch” series, looking at the best free agent point guards set to hit the market this summer.

Shane Rhodes



We’re in the home stretch!

It’s July, and the NBA is set to reconvene in just 26 days — of course, those may be the longest 26 days in recorded history, but the wait is sure to be worth it. Soon enough, Adam Silver will have crowned the next NBA champions.

Of course, the postseason should come-and-go in an instant, with an infinitely condensed offseason set to follow — and unfortunately, just as the season has, the draft, training camp and free agency are sure to feel the restrictions of COVID-19. With that in mind, we here at Basketball Insiders are taking another look at the coming offseason, specifically at the soon-to-be free agent class position-by-position.

Today, our first entry in our Free Agent Watch, we’ll look at the point guards. Let’s jump in.

Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors — Unrestricted — $9,000,000

Even with the salary cap expected to dip next season, don’t expect it to keep VanVleet to get anything less than his due.

Just 26 years old, VanVleet is cruising into his prime and has already proven himself an essential fixture on a championship-caliber roster — don’t expect his services to come cheap, and don’t expect him to sit on the open market for long. With VanVleet, however, it isn’t so much about how much he may earn, but where he may earn it. The former undrafted free agent has seemingly made a home in Toronto, but the Raptors face a number of other pressing financial issues in addition to VanVleet’s upcoming free agency.

Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, vital in their own right to Toronto’s championship run a season ago, are also set to hit the market. Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam’s contract extension — worth more than $30,000,000 per year through the 2023-24 season — is set to start next season as well. Do Masai Ujiri and Co. see VanVleet as a star to pair with Siakam in the long term, or would the Raptors opt instead to re-sign Gasol and Ibaka (or at least attempt to) in order to maintain a more balanced roster?

Only time will tell. Either way, and in spite of the current global financial downturn, expect VanVleet to get paid rather handsomely — certainly more so than any other point guard expected to hit the market — come free agency.

Goran Dragic, Miami HEAT — Unrestricted — $17,000,450

Relative to the other guards in the free-agent crop, Dragic is old. But, even at 34, Dragic, who has transitioned to a reserve role in Miami, should continue to contribute at a high level over the next few seasons.

Dragic started just one game during the regular season, his fewest since his rookie year. That said, the reduced workload had proven a boon for his health; after a (mostly) lost 2018-19 season, in which Dragic played just 36 regular season games, he had rebounded mightily before the league was shut down. In 54 games, he averaged 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and shot 37.7 percent from three.

Given he’s made just three postseason appearances in his career, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see the 14-year veteran Dragic re-up with the HEAT — with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in the fold, Miami should find themselves in the thick of the postseason hunt over the life of Dragic’s next deal. Any other roster — and most would be more than happy to work him in — with a legitimate title shot in the next few seasons wouldn’t be much of a surprise, either.

Would an opportunity to start for around the same (or even higher) contract value persuade Dragic to join an up-and-coming roster or non-contender? It would seem unlikely, again citing his lack of postseason appearances, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls — Restricted — $4,372,072

It would seem as if Dunn’s time in Chicago is over.

Coby White and Tomas Satoransky have displaced Dunn on the Bulls’ depth chart, while their presence would also preclude Chicago from matching any deal worth more than Dunn’s potential $7,091,457 qualifying offer. Meanwhile, the Bulls have a guaranteed lottery pick in a draft loaded with talent at the guard position.

So, what exactly would push Chicago to retain Dunn, or interest any team in adding him as a free agent? Elite defense.

Yes, Dunn has proven a bit limited on offense — he’s not exactly a score-first guard, and his ability as a passer isn’t spectacular, either. But Dunn is a defensive menace, a kind of player any roster looking to make noise in the postseason could take advantage of.

He may not garner the proper respect given the Bulls’ position near the bottom of the league, but Dunn made a legitimate case for an All-Defense nod in 2019; he was second to Ben Simmons in steals per game while he led all qualified players with 2.9 steals per 36 minutes.

Dunn is also more than capable of defending another team’s top offensive option and, given that he may not earn much next season, should prove a steal for any team looking to either shore up their defense or boost it to the next level.

Reggie Jackson, Los Angeles Clippers — Unrestricted — $734,025

Jackson may have the most to gain of nearly any player from the NBA’s restart.

Bought out by the Detroit Pistons back in February, Jackson was afforded the opportunity to aid the Clippers in their quest toward the NBA Finals. In doing so, he also has the perfect opportunity to recoup major value he had lost in recent seasons with Detroit.

In recent years, poor play, injury and a bad Pistons roster had relegated Jackson to the scrap heap, knocking him down from a once-promising (or breakout, even) player to an overpaid stat stuffer that didn’t necessarily help the team win games. Yes, on paper, Jackson’s Detroit tenure looked strong — 16.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 35.4 percent three-point percentage in his four full seasons with the team.

But, when you take into account that the Pistons managed to finish with a winning percentage above .500 just once in those four seasons and never finished higher than eighth in the Eastern Conference, those stats start to feel empty.

If nothing else, Jackson needed a change of scenery and looked strong in his few games with Los Angeles prior to the shutdown. In nine games with the Clippers, Jackson averaged 9.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and shot a blistering 52.5 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three in 19.4 minutes per game.

He certainly wasn’t going to earn anything close to the 5-year, $80,000,000 deal he signed back in 2015. That said, Jackson, 30, is young enough that — if he can turn that mini-resurgence into an even stronger postseason performance — he shouldn’t have any trouble finding a long(ish)-term deal next season (and could maybe even play himself back into a prominent role).

Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks — Unrestricted — $19,000,000

Teague isn’t the “flashy” move. He certainly won’t swing a series or push a team into title contention.

That said, he’s still capable of solid production. Split between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks this season, Teague averaged 10.9 points, 5.2 assists and shot 43.6 percent from the field — not great, but good enough in spot duty and limited minutes off the bench.

Teague also shot 36.8 percent from three, making him a solid addition for any team that has struggled with their shot from the outside.

That said, most interest in Teague may come in his veteran presence. A quality leader, Teague also has plenty of playoff experience, having made the postseason in nine of his 12 seasons. With Vince Carter now retired, the Hawks may opt to bring him back to serve in a similar role, albeit at a massively reduced salary.

These five may prove the best of the bunch, but the point guard group set to hit the market is deep. Expect more than a few to prove solid additions capable of some serious impact. And with that, make sure to keep on the lookout for the rest of our positional Free Agent Watch series later this week.

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