Community Shootaround: Paul George And The Lakers

Paul George confirmed what most NBA fans had suspected for a long time when he said this week that was planning to sign with the Lakers before a trade to Oklahoma City changed his mind. George was expected to be among two max-level free agents headed to L.A. over the summer, but he liked the Thunder and his new city so much he elected to re-sign there.

“It was 50-50 on deciding whether I wanted to come back home or if it was smarter to be in the situation I am in now,” George said in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated“But it wasn’t overstated. I wanted to play in L.A. That is where I wanted to go. Had that trade never went down, had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform.”

We know now that if George had chosen the Lakers, he would have joined LeBron James to form a one-two punch that’s as good as any in the league. It also would have cost the team about $130MM over four years and would have eliminated the chance to lure another free agent from an extremely talented class next summer.

As it stands, L.A. has roughly $65.8MM committed for 2019/20, a number that moves closer to $69MM if the team opts to make a qualifying offer to Ivica Zubac and keep Svi Mykhailiuk on what is now a non-guaranteed deal. That leaves more than enough to make a max offer to Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler or any other upcoming free agent.

Durant and James would be a historically great combo if they decide to join forces, but it would be a difficult decision for him or Thompson leave the perennial champion Warriors. Leonard and James would also be formidable, but he reportedly doesn’t want to be a second banana and is leaning toward the Clippers if he comes to L.A. Butler might be a good running mate for James, but given his injury history and overall abrasiveness, he seems like the riskiest proposition. It’s laughable to think of Kyrie Irving traveling west to rejoin LeBron, but the other stars are at least plausible.

So which is better, Lakers fans? Would you rather have George in place for a run at the title this season or the financial flexibility to chase a big name next summer? Please leave your responses in the space below.

2018 Offseason In Review: Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2018 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2018/19 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Signings:

  • Standard contracts:
    • Anthony Tolliver: One year, $5.75MM. Signed using mid-level exception.
    • James Nunnally: Two years, minimum salary. First year partially guaranteed ($350K). Second year non-guaranteed. Signed using minimum salary exception.
    • Luol Deng: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
    • Derrick Rose: One year, minimum salary. Re-signed using minimum salary exception.
  • Two-way contracts:
  • Non-guaranteed camp contracts:

Trades:

  • None

Draft picks:

  • 1-20: Josh Okogie — Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-48: Keita Bates-Diop — Signed to three-year, minimum salary contract. First two years guaranteed. Signed using minimum salary exception.

Extensions:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns — Signed five-year, maximum salary rookie scale extension. Starts at 25% of the cap. Projected value of $158.05MM. Starts in 2019/20.
    • Note: Starting salary will be worth 30% of the cap if Towns earns All-NBA honors in 2018/19 (projected value of $189.66MM).

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap.
  • Carrying approximately $121.2MM in salary.
  • Hard-capped at $129.82MM.
  • Approximately $2.05MM of mid-level exception available ($6.59MM used on Anthony Tolliver and Keita Bates-Diop).

Check out the Minnesota Timberwolves’ full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.


Story of the summer:

Everything else that happened for the Timberwolves during the offseason was overshadowed on September 19 when Jimmy Butler issued a trade request to the front office. The move spawned a stream of chaos, some of it orchestrated and some of it legitimate, but the result was that Butler was in the lineup when Minnesota opened the season, regardless of his wishes.

Butler has expressed a desire to play for a contender and has clashed frequently with younger teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but ultimately the dispute is motivated by money. Butler wants a five-year max deal next summer that would pay him around $190MM. The Wolves have his Bird Rights and are the only team that can extend that offer as long as he stays; everyone else is limited to four years at roughly $140MM. Butler is hoping to be traded during the season to another organization willing to make that commitment.

The Heat and Rockets have been the strongest suitors for Butler since his trade request became public, and Miami reportedly had an agreement in place before the Wolves asked for additional assets. That incident, along with sky-high requests from other teams that pursued Butler, have led many to question whether Minnesota has ever been serious about making a deal. Trade talks have been called “mostly dormant” for now, but Butler has maintained his desire to leave and there’s a strong chance something will materialize before the February deadline.

The Butler soap opera dwarfed a piece of good news that may have a greater impact on the Wolves’ future. Towns agreed to an extension last month that could pay him up to $190MM over the next five seasons. He is already among the league’s best centers at age 22 and should provide a cornerstone for the franchise to build around once Butler is gone.

Read more

New York Notes: LeVert, Porzingis, Dinwiddie, Fizdale

Caris LeVert wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the Nets’ rotation heading into training camp, notes Michael Scotto of The Athletic, but through two games he looks like the early favorite for Most Improved Player. LeVert torched the Knicks for a career-high 28 points Friday night, including the game-winning shot. That followed a 27-point outburst against the Pistons in the season opener.

A month ago, LeVert was part of a large group in Brooklyn battling for playing time. He was competing with DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe at the wings and D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier in the backcourt. LeVert’s transformation may be shocking to outsiders, but teammate Jarrett Allen said it has been building for a while.

“We saw it during the summer,” he said. “We knew it was coming, but coming out and playing like this not even we expected him scoring almost 30 points every night, but he’s coming out and showing all the work he’s done this summer is paying off.”
There’s more from New York City:
  • The rivalry between the Knicks and Nets may be more intense next summer than it is during the season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both teams should be in the running for lottery picks and both will have plenty of cap room to make a splash on the free agent market. Berman suggests that Brooklyn, which may be in position to offer two max contracts, could really heat things up by pursuing Kristaps Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent after the deadline for an extension passed without a deal. The Nets can offer him a chance to play alongside fellow Latvian Rodions Kurucs.
  • If the Knicks can’t get a star to take a max offer, they could spend some of their money on Dinwiddie, Berman adds in the same piece. He notes that New York tried to work out a deal for the Nets guard in February, but decided the price was too high and opted for Emmanuel Mudiay instead.
  • David Fizdale’s relaxed exchanges with the media are a sign that a transformation has taken place among Knicks management, contends Harvey Araton of The New York Times. Owner James Dolan has produced a smothering environment among previous coaches, but Fizdale feels free to be open and honest in his assessment of players.

Bulls To Sign Shaquille Harrison, Waive Omer Asik

6:13pm: Sources tell Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic that Asik will be waived (Twitter link). Harrison will receive a standard contract rather than a two-way deal, according to Charania (Twitter link).

6:06pm: The Bulls may waive veteran center Omer Asik to make room for Harrison, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Asik’s $11,286,516 contract for this season is fully guaranteed, but he only has a $3MM guarantee on his $11,977,527 salary for 2019/20. Chicago was hoping he might be useful in trade talks, but may decide that opening his roster spot is more valuable. The 32-year-old has been away from the team with inflammatory arthritis and there’s no timetable for him to return. He played just four games after being acquired in a trade with the Pelicans in February. However, Johnson adds that a final decision hasn’t been made.

OCTOBER 20, 5:47pm: Shaquille Harrison, who was waived by the Suns earlier this week, will sign with the Bulls, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Harrison traveled to Chicago this weekend in anticipation of the move, Charania adds.

Harrison, who was part of the final cuts in Phoenix on Monday, played 23 games for the Suns during his rookie season, averaging 6.6 points and 2.4 assists per night. With no established point guards on the roster, he was given a shot at winning the starting job heading into camp, but Phoenix opted to go in a different direction.

The Bulls have all 15 roster spots filled, along with both two-way slots, so a move will have to be made before Harrison can be added. Rookie guard Ryan Arcidiacono is the only player without a fully guaranteed deal.

Bulls’ Denzel Valentine May Miss Several Weeks

The sprained left ankle that has been bothering Bulls swingman Denzel Valentine since early in training camp continues to be an issue, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed tonight that Valentine has a bone bruise in the ankle and will be re-evaluated by the medical staff in two weeks. His return to action could be much further away.

Valentine came into camp hoping to build on his strong performance last season, but the injury has prevented that from happening. He hurt the ankle during the first week of camp and has been trying to get back on the court ever since.

The 14th player picked in the 2016 draft, Valentine emerged as a valuable part of the rotation last season. He appeared in 77 games, starting 37, and posted a 10.2/5.1/3.2 line in about 27 minutes per night.

JaMychal Green Has Surgery For Broken Jaw

Grizzlies power forward JaMychal Green is recovering from a broken jaw he suffered in Friday’s game, the team announced on Twitter. Green had a surgical stabilization procedure today, and a full recovery is expected.

The injury occurred when Green took an elbow to the face in the third quarter, the team added. No timetable was given for a possible return for Green, who was listed as day-to-day with a knee issue coming into Friday.

For comparison, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian notes that former Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic had his jaw broken by Bobby Portis on October 17 of last year and returned to action on December 8 (Twitter link). A source tells Herrington the team is hoping Green can resume basketball activities in four weeks (Twitter link).

Green started both of the Grizzlies’ games this season and is averaging 7.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG. His absence will provide a greater opportunity for first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr.

Five Key Stories: 10/13/18 – 10/20/18

In case you missed any of this week’s biggest NBA stories, we’ve got you covered with our Week in Review. Listed below are some of the most noteworthy stories from the last seven days.

The Pacers and center Myles Turner reached an agreement on a rookie scale contract extension worth $72MM over four seasons, with the deal potentially being worth up to $80MM with incentives. The contract will have flat cap hits of $18MM across four years, starting in 2019/20, and the deal has no team or player options. Turner, 22, averaged 12.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.8 BPG in 65 games last season.

The Cavaliers and Larry Nance Jr. also agreed to a rookie scale contract extension, worth $44.8MM over four years. The contract will have annual declining values, with year one (2019/20) paying Nance $12.7MM and year four (2022/23) paying him only $9.6MM. Nance, 25, established new career highs last season, averaging 8.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG.

Justise Winslow signed a rookie scale contract extension as well, agreeing with the Heat on a three-year, $39MM extension, with the third-year including a team option. Winslow, the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft, showed some improvement last season after starting his career relatively slow. He averaged 7.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 2.2 APG in 68 games last season.

The Clippers and Pelicans reached a trade agreement that sent Alexis Ajinca to Los Angeles and Wesley Johnson to New Orleans. The trade saves the Clippers about $840K in salary, the difference in the two players’ salaries. Ajinca, as well as 2017 second-round pick Jawun Evanshave since been waived. The Pelicans, meanwhile, hope to get something out of Johnson, who adds veteran depth at a position of need without sacrificing future cap flexibility.

The Wizards traded guard Jodie Meeks, who is currently serving a suspension, cash, and a second-round pick to the Bucks. The Bucks plan to waive Meeks, but have not yet done so. The cash received by Milwaukee will help cover Meeks’ 2018/19 salary, so the Bucks basically earned a second-round pick for paying the remainder of Meeks’ salary. For the Wizards, the move is to simply reduce their luxury tax bill. They received a heavily-protected second-rounder from the Bucks to complete the deal.

Here are 10 more notable NBA headlines from the last week:

Troy Williams Signs Two-Way Deal With Kings

OCTOBER 20: The signing is official, according to a press release from the team (per James Ham of NBC Sports California).

OCTOBER 18: Forward Troy Williams plans to sign a two-way contract with the Kings upon clearing waivers, according to The Athletic’s Michael Scotto (Twitter link).

Williams was waived by the Pelicans this week, with the 23-year-old holding past stints on the Grizzlies, Rockets and Knicks. He first entered the league after going undrafted in 2016, having spent three collegiate seasons at Indiana from 2013-16.

A 6-foot-7 forward, Williams has averaged 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 16.9 minutes per contest on his career. He scored 34 points across four preseason games with the Pelicans before being waived, and joins a young, hungry Kings team focused on the future.

2018 NBA G League Draft Recap

The Jazz’ G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, selected five-year NBA veteran Willie Reed with the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s G League draft. Reed, 28, has played for the Nets, Heat, Clippers, and Pistons, holding career averages of 4.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 152 career contests. Some other notable selections include:

Onuaku, 21, was just recently waived by the Trail Blazers. He was selected in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft, and has extensive G League experience, playing in 83 total games for the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers the past two seasons.

Warrick, 36, last played in the NBA during the 2012-13 season with the Charlotte Bobcats, where he appeared in 27 games and scored 7.0 PPG. In 526 career games, the Syracuse product averaged 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Last season, the veteran played with Ironi Nahariya of the Israeli Premier League.

Blair, 29, last played in the NBA during the 2015-16 season with the Wizards, where he appeared in 29 games and averaged only 7.5 minutes per contest. In 424 career games, the big man averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Blair most recently played professionally for San Lorenzo de Almagro in Argentina.

The full results of all four rounds of this year’s G League draft can be viewed here.

Celtics, Raptors To Rest Hayward, Leonard

As we noted this morning, the Lakers plan to be cautious with LeBron James‘ minutes this season. Evidently following suit, the Celtics have announced that Gordon Hayward (link) will sit out tonight’s games against the Knicks. Additionally, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that the Raptors will rest Kawhi Leonard against the Wizards.

Per the Celtics, Hayward is out due to “left ankle recovery.” Of course, Hayward infamously broke his left ankle/leg in last season’s season opener in Cleveland. He missed the entire 2017/18 season and has experienced some obstacles and difficulties in returning from that devastating injury. Moreover, head coach Brad Stevens already indicated a minutes restriction may occur early on this season and tonight’s game is a back-to back.

As for Leonard, the Raptors are also playing a back-to-back tonight, having defeated Hayward’s Celtics last night, 113-101. His absence is being attributed to rest, but he also experienced a quadriceps injury last season, limiting him to nine games during the 2017/18 season, so it will be interesting to see how Toronto handles his minutes moving forward. Neither player is expected to miss extended time.