Eastern Notes: Pacers, Magic, Nets, Pistons

While the Pacers should enter July with the flexibility to explore free agency, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard doesn’t sound like someone ready to pursue the top players on the open market. While a foray into free agency is possible, Pritchard could also use Indiana’s cap room to accommodate the acquisition of an impact player in a trade, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” Pritchard said of the Pacers. “I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of things can happen with that. We preserved that (space).”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After putting together a roster full of athletic players with long wingspans in Milwaukee, Magic GM John Hammond appears to be doing the same thing in Orlando, says Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype.
  • Although the two international prospects drafted by the Nets on Thursday have plenty of long-term promise, neither Dzanan Musa nor Rodions Kurucs is expected to make an immediate impact in the NBA, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.
  • Dwane Casey continues to fill out his new staff in Detroit, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that DJ Bakker is heading from the Raptors to the Pistons to become Casey’s player development coach.
  • Speaking of the Raptors, they offered Sarunas Jasikevicius an assistant coaching job on Nick Nurse‘s staff, but he has elected to remain in Lithuania, per Jonas Miklovas (Twitter link). The Zalgiris Kaunas coach interviewed for Toronto’s head coaching vacancy before the club promoted Nurse.

Pacers Plan To Retain Bojan Bogdanovic

The Pacers plan to retain veteran forward Bojan Bogdanovic through his salary guarantee date later this week, a source familiar with the team’s plans tells Ben Gibson of 8Points9Seconds.com.

Having signed a two-year deal with Indiana last summer, Bogdanovic is under contract for the 2018/19 season, but his $10.5MM salary is currently only partially guaranteed for $1.5MM. The club could clear $9MM from its books for next season by waiving him before June 29, but apparently has no plans to do so.

[RELATED: NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For Summer 2018]

The Pacers’ intentions for Bogdanovic come as no surprise, since the former second-round pick excelled during his first season with the team, setting new career highs in PPG (14.3), FG% (.474), and 3PT% (.402), among other categories. Bogdanovic started 80 regular season games for Indiana, and the club would be comfortable keeping the 29-year-old in the starting lineup entering the 2018/19 campaign, Gibson writes.

Bogdanovic’s contract is structured similar to Darren Collison‘s, and the Pacers reportedly plan on guaranteeing the point guard’s 2018/19 salary as well. Keeping both players on the roster will reduce Indiana’s potential cap room this July, but the team should still have a good amount cap flexibility.

Even if Bogdanovic’s and Collison’s salaries become fully guaranteed and Lance Stephenson‘s team option is exercised, the Pacers’ total guaranteed salaries for 2018/19 would only total about $69MM, with Thaddeus Young‘s player-option decision outstanding. The club also barely has any guaranteed money on its 2019/20 cap.

Mavericks Notes: Free Agency, Centers, Doncic

The Mavericks were one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams in 2017/18, and this year’s draft class featured plenty of quality big men — especially at the top. However, Dallas used its top-five pick on a play-making guard/forward (Luka Doncic, and selected a point guard (Jalen Brunson) with its second-rounder.

As such, it was no surprised that president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson agreed on draft night that the Mavs’ priority in free agency will be finding a center (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com). Head coach Rick Carlisle echoed that assessment.

“July 1 is right around the corner,” Carlisle said this week, per Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. “We’ll address it. There will be options. This organization with Mark (Cuban) at the helm is always going to be opportunistic and be in a mode to make things happens, when they’re the right kinds of things.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • As Sefko relays, Carlisle is ready to pencil in Doncic as part of the Mavericks’ starting lineup right away, adding that he thinks the No. 3 pick and last year’s lottery choice Dennis Smith Jr. “will complement each other extremely well.”
  • In a separate article for The Dallas Morning News, Sefko explores which big men might be targets for the Mavericks in the coming days or weeks.
  • One name on Sefko’s list is DeAndre Jordan, who committed to the Mavs the last time he reached free agency in 2015, only to back out of that agreement and re-sign with the Clippers. Jordan can become a free agent again next weekend, and while it seems unlikely that he’d end up in Dallas, Mike Fisher of 247Sports.com hears from a source that the Mavs wouldn’t avoid the veteran center out of principle.
  • Dwain Price of Mavs.com takes an extended look at the Mavs’ decision to move up in the draft and nab Doncic, the player the club targeted throughout the pre-draft process. “At one point we thought that there might be a slight chance he could fall to us,” Carlisle said of the Real Madrid star. “But then a couple of days ago it was pretty clear that there was no way that that was going to happen. He’s just too good, and so we made this deal — we moved up.”

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Clippers, Ayton, Lakers

Leading up to Thursday’s draft, there were reports indicating that Golden State wanted to buy a second-round pick. The Warriors secured a second-rounder in the 2017 draft when they sent $3.5MM in cash to Chicago, but the Bulls were so harshly criticized for the move – which landed Jordan Bell in Oakland – that it wasn’t clear how eager teams would be to deal with the Dubs this time around.

While Golden State didn’t ultimately make a draft-night trade, it wasn’t for lack of trying — or for a lack of a trade partner. The Warriors explored multiple options and had a potential deal in the works, but the player they wanted was selected by another club, so they didn’t pull the trigger, tweets Thompson.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With so many of the Warriors‘ centers potentially on the way out the door this summer, the team will likely need to add at least one big man in free agency. Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic explores some options, with a focus on Kyle O’Quinn and Dwight Howard.
  • The Clippers have considered the possibility of moving out of the Staples Center and into an Inglewood arena at some point in the future, but the City of Inglewood is facing a second lawsuit related to the team’s proposed stadium. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com has the details.
  • No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton is ready to make an immediate impact for the Suns and to prove that centers remain as relevant as ever in the modern NBA, writes Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic.
  • In his latest mailbag, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton explores offseason roster options for the Lakers, including the possibility of a Kemba Walker trade.

Pelicans Notes: Cousins, Rondo, Carr, Staff

DeMarcus Cousins is still recovering from a torn left Achilles he suffered in January, but the All-Star center, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has been documenting certain aspects of his rehabilitation process on social media and appears to be fully embracing the challenge, reports William Guillory of The Times-Picayune.

According to Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps, Cousins has been working out in Las Vegas and hasn’t experienced any setbacks during his recovery, with the big man’s desire to get back on the court as strong as ever.

“He’s right on schedule. He’s right where he’s supposed to be (and) he’s committed to getting back and ready to play.”

That being said, it remains to be seen whether the Pelicans will be able and/or willing to sign Cousins to a new contract this summer, with the Mavericks being one of many teams who will likely have interest in Cousins’ services going forward.

As Guillory notes, New Orleans was once poised to offer Cousins a five-year maximum-salary contract this summer. However, a story from ESPN’s Zach Lowe in April reported that the Pelicans were now considering the idea of offering Cousins a shorter deal at less than the max because of the uncertain future that often accompanies an Achilles injury.

Despite that report, Demps continues to reiterate that the team wants Cousins back in New Orleans, telling reporters that Cousins has been a big part of the Pelicans’ success and that he hopes the team is able to being Cousins back next season.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • In the same article, Guillory also touches upon the upcoming free agency of point guard Rajon Rondo, who like Cousins, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Pelicans are planning to enter into negotiations on a new deal with Rondo, per Demps, who notes that “in a perfect world,” both Cousins and Rondo would be back in New Orleans next season.
  • With their only selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Pelicans selected Penn State guard Tony Carr with the No. 51 overall pick. Carr, 20, averaged 19.6 points and five assists per game for the Nittany Lions last season, but his role for New Orleans next season is still up in the air. Per Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com, Demps has already expressed that Carr will need to compete for a roster spot as a rookie
  • In another story for The Times-Picayune, Guillory writes that the Pelicans are emphasizing stability with their coaching staff this offseason, with the front office recently denying a request from Toronto to hire away assistant coach Chris Finch.
  • Per Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, the Pelicans’ front office scouting department has been retained with two-year extensions.

Grizzlies Release Omari Johnson

The Grizzlies have waived forward Omari Johnson, per an official release from the team. Johnson signed a multiyear deal, his first in the NBA, with Memphis late in the 2017/18 season, but his salary for this upcoming season was non-guaranteed, meaning the Grizzlies won’t be on the hook for any of his 2018/19 salary.

Johnson, 29, came off the bench in four games with the Grizzlies as a rookie last season and averaged 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 18.8 minutes per game.

He began the 2017/18 season as a member of the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, where he appeared in 44 games and averaged 16.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Johnson also previously spent time with the G League’s Maine Red Claws and internationally with C.B. Valladolid of the Liga ACB after being undrafted out of Oregon State in 2011.

Suns To Sign Elie Okobo To Multiyear Deal

The Suns and the No. 31 overall selection of the 2018 NBA Draft Elie Okobo have agreed to a four-year contract worth approximately $6MM, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Okobo, 20, has a buyout with Pau-Orthez of the LNB Pro A that will allow him to come to the NBA right away, and it appears to be well worth it, with Charania adding that the first two seasons of Okobo’s contract are fully guaranteed.

It’s not yet clear what the annual salaries will be in Okobo’s agreement, but the first two seasons are guaranteed for over $2.6MM and the third and fourth years will be non-guaranteed.

Because Okobo was not a first-round pick, he is not subject to the NBA’s rookie scale. Moreover, because he’ll sign a four-year contract, the Suns will be required to sign him using cap room or part of their MLE.

Okobo is the second player drafted in the second round of this year’s draft to sign a contract with his new team after Rodions Kurucs agreed to a contract with the Nets on Friday.

Nuggets Will Decline Nikola Jokic’s Team Option

In a story primarily regarding the decision of Wilson Chandler to exercise his player option with the Nuggets for the 2018/19 season, Gina Mizell of The Denver Post is reporting that a league source says Denver will decline the $1.6MM team option for franchise big man Nikola Jokic.

By declining the option, the Nuggets will make Jokic a restricted free agent eligible to sign a maximum-salary contract with Denver this summer – something that Jokic’s camp has been jockeying for since early-May (link).

The reported declination, while substantial, really comes as no surprise, with Jokic’s agent telling the Nuggets earlier this year that picking up his client’s 2018/19 option would hinder Denver’s chances of locking Jokic up long-term.

Moreover, if Denver does exercise the option, Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent next summer, leaving the Nuggets without a right of first refusal during free agency

“Nikola’s going to be here for a long, long time,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said following Thursday night’s 2018 NBA draft. “I think whatever we do, we’re going to ensure he’s here as long as possible. When that moment happens, we’re going to talk to Nikola and his brothers and his representation. He’ll be in Denver for a long, long time. He’ll be buying (a home) here.”

Assuming the report is accurate and the Nuggets decline his option, Jokic, 23, will be eligible to sign a five-year contract worth approximately $146.45MM this summer.

Suns Push Back Tyler Ulis’ Guarantee Date

Suns’ point guard Tyler Ulis’ salary guarantee date has been pushed back to June 30, reports Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. As our list of upcoming salary guarantee dates shows, Ulis’ 2018/19 salary of $1.54MM was originally set to be guaranteed in full if he remained on the Suns’ roster through today, June 24.

As Bordow notes, the decision by Phoenix to move Ulis’ guarantee date back by six days gives the front office more time to allow for other potential moves that could influence their decision as to whether they want to keep Ulis on the roster next season.

Bordow reported just yesterday that the Suns are ready to make aggressive moves in free agency, but that additional cap room needs to be added in order to do so. By delaying the decision on Ulis’ contract, the Suns were able to avoid having to decide whether or not to waive Ulis until next week.

For example, while nothing has been reported, it’s possible that the Suns have found a team interested in trading for Ulis without sending Phoenix any salary in return, thereby allowing Phoenix to rid their cap of Ulis’ salary without losing him for nothing.

Weekly Mailbag: 6/18/18 – 6/24/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

The Lakers drafted shooters who contribute little else. Are they drafting as if they know LeBron James is coming? — VJ Cruz, via Twitter

Let’s say they’re drafting as if they hope LeBron is coming. The Lakers took Michigan’s Moritz Wagner at No. 25, then got German point guard Isaac Bonga and Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in the second round. They are primarily shooters, as you say, but shooting is a premium skill in the NBA and they could develop into useful players with or without James as a teammate. Really, the draft will have little impact on how the Lakers’ roster looks next season. All those questions will be answered in free agency.

Which player(s) were you shocked to not see drafted? — Ted, via Twitter

The late part of the draft tends to be unpredictable, with some teams looking for players to stash overseas and others thinking about their G League rosters. Still, there were a few highly rated names that it was surprising to see passed over. Kansas’ Malik Newman and Arizona’s Rawle Alkins were both productive scorers in college and seem worthy of second-round picks. Purdue’s Isaac Haas and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy are a couple of big men with good scoring touches around the basket. There are others, such as Cincinnati’s Gary Clark and TCU’s Kenrich Williams, but they’ll all get a chance to prove themselves in summer league, so being drafted barely matters.

With the Jazz showing this year that they can be competitive in the loaded Western Conference and their financial flexibility, how likely is it that they sign a big name free agent like DeMarcus Cousins or Paul George? — Faiz Irshad 

Utah has never been a popular free agent destination, which is more reflective on geography than the quality of the organization. Players like Cousins and George tend to gravitate to larger markets to enjoy the rewards that come with playing in a big city. The Jazz will likely use their cap room to pursue second-tier free agents, maybe someone like Tyreke Evans, who could provide scoring punch off the bench. Keeping Derrick Favors will also be a priority as he and Rudy Gobert developed into an effective frontcourt combination once Gobert returned from injury.