- Make no mistake, Hornets coach Steve Clifford is more concerned about winning than developing youth, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The bench boss values transparency with his players and isn’t afraid to commit to the guys that give the team the best chance of competing in the short-term.
A trio of players who have been sidelined for most or all of the 2017/18 season due to injuries are set to return to action for their respective clubs on Wednesday night, per various reports. JaMychal Green will play for the Grizzlies, Ersan Ilyasova will return for the Hawks, and Nicolas Batum will make his season debut for the Hornets.
Batum’s return may be the most notable of the three, as he has been sidelined since early in the preseason with a torn ligament in his elbow. Reports on Batum’s injury initially suggested he’d be out for eight to 12 weeks, with the Hornets confirming that they expected the veteran swingman to miss at least six weeks. Thursday will mark six weeks since the team made that announcement, so Batum made a speedy recovery. He’ll start tonight against the Cavs, according to the Hornets (Twitter link).
Green, the Grizzlies’ primary power forward, will return to action tonight after missing all but one game this season with an ankle injury, writes Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jarell Martin, who appeared to be on the verge of losing his roster spot in training camp, stepped into Memphis’ starting lineup in Green’s absence. Martin figures to return to the bench tonight against the Pacers, while Green looks to begin making good on the two-year contract he signed with Memphis in September.
As for Ilyasova, the Hawks’ power forward, who signed a new two-year deal of his own in the offseason, has been on the shelf since October 27 with a bone bruise in his knee. However, after participating in today’s shootaround, he said he’s ready to go, per Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ilyasova opened the season in the starting lineup, but will come off the bench against the Kings tonight, according to head coach Mike Budenholzer.
NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.
We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Southeast division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southeast teams:
Since the start of the 2016 offseason, the Heat have handed out lucrative long-term contracts to Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, and Josh Richardson. It will be Tyler Johnson‘s deal that will be the toughest to swallow in 2018/19 though. Because of the way his 2016 offer sheet from the Nets was structured under the old CBA, Johnson’s cap charge will jump from about $5.88MM this season to $19MM+ next year.
Barring major cost-cutting moves, the Heat will be well over the cap in 2018/19, and may end up surpassing the luxury tax line too.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $116,377,251
Projection: Over the cap
The Hornets have six players on their roster set to make at least $12MM apiece in 2018/19, including two – Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard – earning about twice that. Most of those contracts won’t be easy to move, and Charlotte won’t want to dump the more team-friendly salaries from that group, like Kemba Walker‘s $12MM expiring deal. As such, we can expect the Hornets to head into the 2018 offseason as an over-the-cap club.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $115,896,497
Projection: Over the cap
Despite the fact that John Wall‘s super-max extension won’t go into effect until 2019/20, the Wizards have nearly $116MM committed to just eight players next season. Even if the team were to trade a non-core player on an eight-figure salary, such as Ian Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat, it wouldn’t be enough to create meaningful cap space.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,180,655
Projection: Up to approximately $19.5MM in cap room
The summer of 2018 will be a good test for just how attached the Magic’s new front office is to the old regime’s top draft picks. Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton will be restricted free agents, and if Orlando intends to retain both players – or even just Gordon – the team’s cap room will disappear. Letting Gordon and Payton walk and waiving Shelvin Mack and his non-guaranteed salary would get the Magic up to nearly $20MM in cap space.
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $56,232,915
Projection: Up to approximately $41MM in cap room
The Hawks’ maximum available cap space for 2018 will hinge in part on whether Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala decide to pick up their respective player options. Those options being exercised would reduce the Hawks’ max cap room to about $31MM, which would still be more than enough to make a major addition or two — or to take on a couple undesirable contracts along with picks or young players, if Atlanta isn’t ready yet to accelerate its rebuilding timeline.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Hornets are the latest NBA franchise to team up with a sponsor for an advertisement patch on their jerseys, reaching a deal with local company LendingTree, per Katherine Peralta and Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. LendingTree, a Charlotte-based online company that matches borrowers with lenders, agreed to a three-year jersey sponsorship deal with the Hornets, as the team officially confirmed on Monday.
With a full scrimmage under his belt, Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum is expected to make his 2017/18 debut on Wednesday, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow back on October 4.
One of the biggest impacts that Batum will have on the team is with his ball movement, as he posted 5.9 assists in addition to his 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Hornets last season.
“I bet he got an assist to everybody he played with today. There were a couple of times when he hit me wide-open and I wasn’t expecting the ball,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said after the practice.
The club will get an even better idea of how ready Batum is to return to in-game action when they ramp things up at the Hornets’ practice on Monday.
The Hornets will soon be charged with the task of working Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum back into their lineup, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The former will return to action after a three-game absence tonight.
Batum, sidelined since October with a left elbow injury, could return to the court as early as next Wednesday. Both will be welcome additions to a Hornets lineup that has moseyed out to a 5-6 start this season.
The Magic have jumped out to a 6-2 start this season despite the fact that much of the core they’ve featured this season is a carryover from last year’s team that finished just 29-53. The X-Factor that’s helping the team perform so much better in 2017/18 could very well be Jonathon Simmons, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes.
Simmons signed a three-year deal worth $20MM this summer and has earned the trust of head coach Frank Vogel early in his Magic career.
“He has earned the trust. You know, when we put the ball in his hands, typically, he makes good things happen,” Vogel said. “He’s a good decision maker, and he’s a threat going to the basket. I mean, he really attacks the rim and will get to the free throw line and will finish. He does a good job making the extra pass, too. I do have a lot of trust; he’s earned it very early with me in his stay [with the Magic].”
Through eight games with the Magic so far this year, Simmons has averaged 15.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.
There’s more out of the Southeast Division:
- According to the man himself, Nicolas Batum could be cleared to practice in the next nine days. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, caught up with the Hornets swingman as he recovers from a torn ligament in his left elbow that has sidelined him since early October.
- The Heat have looked thin on the perimeter thanks to a rash of injuries at the position. In a question-and-answer with readers, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel discusses whether or not the team ought to have considered using the money spent on Kelly Olynyk to pursue a wing, like Rudy Gay.
- The Wizards parted ways with Carrick Felix earlier today but have no immediate plans to fill the vacant roster spot, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweets.
- Point guard Michael Carter-Williams has been recalled from the G League by the Hornets, the team announced today in a press release. GM Rich Cho said that Carter-Williams scrimmaged with the Greensboro Swarm to test his knees — MCW may play on Charlotte’s upcoming four-game road trip, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer tweets.