- In addition to reaching out to Clippers GM Michael Winger and Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, the Timberwolves also contacted Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth about their president of basketball operations job, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Krawczynski takes a closer look at those candidates, observing that the initial list should reassure Wolves fans that owner Glen Taylor won’t just “revert to his buddies” during the search process.
- ESPN’s Brian Windhorst identifies Jon Horst (Bucks), Masai Ujiri (Raptors), Sean Marks (Nets), Daryl Morey (Rockets), and Tim Connelly (Nuggets) as strong candidates for this year’s Executive of the Year award. We made our picks for Executive of the Year on Monday.
Despite coping with injuries and struggling to gain playing time in the past 18 months, Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas is confident the process will turn around for the better, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated writes. Thomas, 30, will become an unrestricted free agent in July.
“I’m blessed. I know it’s going to turn at one point,” Thomas told The Undefeated. “I worked too hard for it not to. It’s always been like that in my career. I’ve seen this story before. I’ve seen this page, I’ve seen this chapter, and I know what’s gonna happen in the end. I’m going to take it back to the top, and then people are going to all show that fake love again. That’s all it is.
“It’s just a bump in the road that I hit, and like I’ve said about Nipsey [Hussle], it’s a marathon. You just got to keep running, keep running the race and keep working hard.”
Thomas played just 12 games with the Nuggets this season and 32 total games the season before with Cleveland and Los Angeles, working to get back to full strength after undergoing a major hip surgery last March.
It was just two years ago that he was leading the Celtics to a deep postseason run, cementing himself as one of the top point guards in the league. For Thomas, he hopes to be able to play basketball for several more seasons and extend his career until he turns 40.
“Oh, hell no,” Thomas said when asked if he considered retiring last year. “I’m playing until I’m 40. … I want to play until I can’t no more. For sure.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:
- Jazz guard Kyle Korver is dealing with some concerning knee pain ahead of Sunday’s Game 1 against the Rockets, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Korver, who’s listed as available to play, appeared to cut short a normal shooting workout on Saturday due to the pain. Korver shot 38% from behind-the-arc in 54 games this season with Utah, averaging 20.1 minutes per contest off the bench.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian labels five storylines to watch in the Trail Blazers-Thunder series, including how Portland’s new starting five operates. The Blazers appear poised to start Enes Kanter in place of the injured Jusuf Nurkic for the rest of the postseason, with Kanter tallying 20 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks in a Game 1 victory against the Thunder on Sunday.
- Gary Harris could be the “X-Factor” for the Nuggets in their first-round series against the Spurs, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post writes. Harris, a prominent offensive option in Denver’s rotation, finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a Game 1 loss to San Antonio on Saturday. The Nuggets need his production to take back homecourt advantage from the Spurs, a talented team led by the likes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The incident that led to Devin Robinson‘s dismissal from the Wizards was a fight with Jalen Mills of the Philadelphia Eagles outside a Washington, D.C., nightclub early this morning, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The Wizards issued a statement after the altercation saying they won’t extend a qualifying offer to the two-way player for next season.
Robinson and Mills were both arrested after the fight, which D.C. police say began with a verbal altercation. They wound up trading punches outside the Opera Ultra Lounge at 2:56am, resulting in Robinson being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The 24-year-old recently returned from a hip injury that sidelined him for two months. He appeared in seven NBA games this season and one last year. Robinson’s agent refused to comment on the incident.
There’s more Wizards news to pass along:
- David Griffin’s decision to join the Pelicans removes the potential top candidate in Washington’s search for a new GM, according to Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington. Losing out on Griffin may improve the chances that senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will be promoted to the GM’s role, but the Wizards won’t be in a hurry to make a move. Owner Ted Leonsis said he plans to reflect on the situation for about three weeks while consulting with a search firm.
- Danny Ferry, who served as interim GM in New Orleans and is the son of former Bullets GM Bob Ferry, has been mentioned as a possibility for the Wizards, along with Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, who was also a candidate for the Pelicans’ job. Nuggets president Tim Connelly, Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver and Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren may also receive consideration, but Standig doesn’t believe Zarren is likely to leave Boston.
- No matter what happens with restricted free agent Tomas Satoransky, he’s sure of which position he wants to play, Standig relays in a separate story. “I’m a point guard. I’m definitely a point guard. I will never be agreeing with someone that tells me otherwise,” he said. That’s where the Wizards used him after John Wall‘s season-ending injury and what his role projects to be if he returns to Washington with Wall possibly sidelined for all of next year. Standig states that management approached Satoransky about a long-term deal at mid-season, but he and his representatives preferred to test the free agent waters.
- Jeff Green, who is headed for unrestricted free agency after signing a one-year deal last summer, enjoyed the chance to play in his hometown, he says in a video interview tweeted by the team.
The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”
Here’s how the starter criteria works:
A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency.
A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2016/17 and 32 in 2017/18, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.
A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:
- A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
- A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
- A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
- For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.
Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.
Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though.
Two years ago, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – Suns center Alex Len and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel – failed to meet the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, reducing the value of their QOs to approximately $4.2MM (from $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively). Had Len and Noel met the starter criteria and been eligible for those larger QOs, their free agencies could have played out differently.
Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:
With that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,485,665.
- Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks)
- Stanley Johnson (Pelicans)
- Frank Kaminsky (Hornets)
- Trey Lyles (Nuggets)
No player was hit harder by missing out on the starter criteria than Porzingis, who had no chance at meeting the playing-time requirements due to his torn ACL. If he’d stayed healthy, the former No. 4 overall pick would’ve been in line for a qualifying offer worth just over $7.5MM. Of course, it may not matter much, since Porzingis is expected to sign a long-term deal with the Mavericks anyway.
For Johnson, Kaminsky, and Lyles, falling short of the starter criteria was more about their roles than health issues.
First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:
Only one player falls into this group this season.
- Kelly Oubre (Suns)
Because Oubre was selected between No. 10 and No. 30 in the 2015 draft and met the starter criteria, he’s eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,915,726 instead of $4,485,665. No other players fit the bill this year, as many of the players drafted between Nos. 10 and 30 in 2015 have either already been extended or are no longer on their rookie contracts.
Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the 23rd overall pick in 2015, was the strongest candidate to join Oubre in this group, but fell just short of meeting the criteria, having started 80 games over the last two seasons — he needed to get to 82. Wizards forward Bobby Portis, the 22nd overall pick, also would have had a shot if he stayed healthy, but injuries limited his minutes over the last two seasons.
Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:
The players listed below signed as second-round picks or undrafted free agents, but have met the starter criteria and are now eligible for a qualifying offer worth $3,021,354.
Tomas Satoransky (Wizards) was another player who qualified for this group, but because his initial NBA contract was more lucrative than most, his qualifying offer will already be worth $3,911,484 based on other criteria.
There were a few second-round picks and UDFAs who just missed out on meeting the starter criteria, including Dorian Finney-Smith of the Mavericks (1,985 minutes played), Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono (1,961 minutes), and Clippers center Ivica Zubac (37 starts).
Those players, and the rest of this year’s restricted free agents, won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.
The Cavaliers and head coach Larry Drew have yet to discuss Drew’s future with the team, he told reporters on Sunday. As Tom Withers of The Associated Press details, Drew said that conversation will take place once Cleveland’s regular season ends.
While the Cavs haven’t confirmed that they’ll conduct a full-fledged coaching search this spring, they also haven’t done anything to give the idea that Drew will return, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. According to Vardon, NBA insiders would be “shocked” if Cleveland ultimately ends up retaining Drew, who has a club option for 2019/20. He’d receive a buyout if he’s not retained.
After replacing Tyronn Lue early in the season, Drew has done a decent job with a poor hand — he and the Cavs have had to deal with injuries all season, with star forward Kevin Love only having appeared in 22 games. The team has a 19-56 record under Drew.
Still, even if the Cavs were interested in bringing back Drew, it’s not clear that he’d reciprocate that interest. He told The Athletic back in January, “I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” adding that he hadn’t been looking to fill that role heading into the 2018/19 season.
“I think he’d be great for the future, but, I don’t even know if he wants it,” Love said of Drew, per Vardon. “He knows that I have his back and I think a lot of the guys have his back.”
If the Cavs do move on from Drew and give GM Koby Altman a chance to hand-pick his own head coach, there’s a good chance that Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez will get a serious look from the Cavs, sources tell Vardon. Vardon adds that the team is doing its homework on Luke Walton, who is widely expected to be dismissed by the Lakers.
Asked about the possibility that he might leave to run the Wizards‘ front office, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly passed on the chance to issue a denial, relays Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Washington has reportedly targeted Connelly as its top candidate after firing Ernie Grunfeld this week.
“To be honest with you, I was hoping not to have to answer that question on a night when we win the Northwest Division,” Connelly responded Friday as the team celebrated its title.
Connelly grew up in Baltimore and had his first NBA job as an intern with the Wizards. He signed an extension with the Nuggets in February, but Kiszla notes that the organization doesn’t have a history of paying executives especially well, which led to the departure of Masai Ujiri in 2013. Kiszla suggests that Josh Kroenke, vice chairman of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, should refuse any request from the Wizards to interview Connelly.
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- With the Hornets as a long shot to reach the playoffs, Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders examines some situations that might be better for free agent guard Kemba Walker. Rhodes states that the Suns are intriguing with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton already in place and a high lottery pick about to join them. Rhodes names the Bulls, Knicks, Lakers and Mavericks as other possibilities.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer examines whether the Hornets can afford to bring back Jeremy Lamb if they re-sign Walker. Lamb has established himself as a legitimate scorer and another crunch-time option, but the team would be well into luxury tax territory if it brings back both free agents. Bonnell speculates that it will probably take a max offer to keep Walker ($190MM over five seasons or up to $221MM if he makes an All-NBA team and qualifies for a super-max contract), plus something in the range of $10-$13MM annually for Lamb.
- The Magic are interested in working out a new deal with Isaiah Briscoe this summer, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. Briscoe, who is sidelined by a torn meniscus, was waived this week to open a roster spot for Michael Carter-Williams. He cleared waivers yesterday and is an unrestricted free agent.
The Trail Blazers may have injured guard C.J. McCollum back in their lineup tomorrow, tweets Jason Quick of The Athletic. McCollum is listed as probable for a second straight division showdown with the Nuggets. He hasn’t played since suffering a left knee strain on March 16.
- The Timberwolves will decide the fate of GM Scott Layden after the season ends, with ESPN broadcaster Chauncey Billups and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth among the top candidates if Minnesota decides to make a change, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Wolves owner Glen Taylor was reportedly unhappy with Layden and former coach/executive Tom Thibodeau over the way they handled Jimmy Butler‘s trade request. Thibodeau was dismissed in early January.
- Torrey Craig has become the Nuggets‘ most disruptive force on defense, observes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. The second-year forward has increased his stats across the board this season and is a valuable part of the rotation heading into the playoffs. “I hate to see guys comfortable, just dribbling easy getting to their spots,” Craig said. “So I make sure they try to feel me all the time no matter what, coming off screens or bringing the ball down court. I just want to be a physical presence on them the whole time.”
The Wizards have centered in on Tim Connelly as the top candidate to run their front office, sources tell Fred Katz of The Athletic.
Connelly, who currently serves as the Nuggets‘ president of basketball operations, grew up about an hour north in Baltimore and began his NBA career as an intern with the Wizards. He joined Denver in 2013 and recently signed an extension with the team.
While prying him from Colorado may be tricky, Katz notes that teams have been able to land coaches and executives under contract in the past, citing Doc Rivers‘ move from Boston to Los Angeles and Jason Kidd‘s journey from Brooklyn to Milwaukee.
Connelly and Tommy Sheppard are close friends dating back to their time together in Washington. Sheppard reportedly has a chance to land the GM position.
“Tommy is the first person I met with, and I reminded Tommy of what happened with the Capitals, that our No. 2 to the GM that wasn’t a known commodity, wasn’t a frontrunner. He had the best interview,” owner Ted Leonsis said today. “And the reason he had the best interview was he was the most prepared, and he knew all of the good things and all of the not good things. And so I’ve told Tommy, ‘It’s not lip service. You’re highly regarded.’ And there’s other teams that want to talk to Tommy. And when the time comes, he will interview for the top job.”
Sheppard, who most recently served as second-in-command to Ernie Grunfeld, began his career with the Nuggets, starting in public relations before eventually switching over to basketball operations. Perhaps a Connelly/Sheppard ticket could be in the works in Washington.
Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:
Isaiah Thomas, Nuggets, 30, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
The sad and swift decline in Thomas’ career hit a new low a couple of weeks ago when the veteran was informed by Nuggets coach Michael Malone he would not be in the rotation going forward. Thomas didn’t even make his season debut until mid-February due to his hip condition. He has only seen action in one game since March 8 — a scoreless seven-minute stint in Boston, where his career peaked two seasons ago when he averaged 28.9 PPG. Thomas will probably have to settle for another one year, “show me” contract this summer.
Tyus Jones, Timberwolves, 22, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6.54MM deal in 2015
Jones has received steady playing time since late February and is now the starter by default with Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season. He isn’t much of a scoring threat but he rarely turns the ball over. He’s averaging less than one turnover per game in 25.8 MPG this month. Teague has a $19MM option on his contract for next season and is expected to exercise it, so Jones’ starting gig probably won’t last. The Timberwolves can make Jones a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $3.57MM and that seems likely, given his age and steady hand at the point.
Markieff Morris, Thunder, 29, SF/PF (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $573K deal in 2019
The above salary figure doesn’t reflect that Morris was making $8.6MM before he was traded by the Wizards to the Pelicans, who waived him. He seemed to be walking into a good situation with a playoff-bound team but hasn’t made much of an impact. He’s averaging 6.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG in 17 appearances with Oklahoma City. He played just seven scoreless minutes against Indiana on Wednesday. Morris brings enough to the table to be a rotation piece but it’s increasing unlikely he’ll get a starter-level offer on the open market.
Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $653K deal in 2019
Jusuf Nurkic‘s gruesome leg injury changes the outlook for Kanter in the short- and long-term. He’ll suddenly be playing heavy minutes for Portland, which signed him as a backup after the Knicks reached a buyout agreement with him on his $18.6MM salary this season. A productive postseason by Kanter should enhance his prospects as an unrestricted free agent. He’s not going to make anyone’s All-Defense team but he’s a double-double machine when he plays half the game. While it seems Kanter has been around for awhile, he’s still only 26 and in the prime of his career.
Derrick Favors, Jazz, 27, PF (Up)– Signed to a two-year, $37.6MM deal in 2018
Favors’ $16.9MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed unless he’s on the roster through July 6. That seemed unlikely from the time he signed the deal but it’s not a given the Jazz will let him go. That salary isn’t outrageous for a starter and the Jazz have plenty of cap room to absorb that salary. Plus, they’d need to have a solid plan to replace Favors, who has posted a 21.9 PER this season. Favors nearly got dealt to Memphis for Mike Conley and Utah could use his expiring contract in a blockbuster trade next season if it retains him.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Paul Millsap landed a massive, three-year, $90MM deal with the Nuggets following the 2016/17 season and while there was initially a frustrating adjustment period filled with injuries, he’s happy with where he is now.
“I could see myself being here long-term, for the rest of my career,” Millsap told Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “I can see this organization and this group of guys making a nice play at the championship. I feel like there’s a lot of youth, a lot of growth that can be made and you add that on top of what we’ve done this season with experience and you’ve got yourself a championship-caliber team. Definitely want to be a part of that, but I’ll deal with that when it gets there.”
Millsap’s contract contains a $30MM team option for next season. Denver has roughly $90MM in guaranteed salary on its books next year and the franchise will tiptoe over the luxury tax line should it bring him back with the current roster.
“It’s something that we’ll discuss at the end of the season with management, but I want to do something that fits for everybody,” Millsap said of his contract. “We’ll see.”
The most likely path for Millsap returning next season appears to be working out a new deal once the Nuggets declines his option, although that’s simply my speculation. The power forward has been a key contributor for Denver since the All-Star break, scoring 16.2 points per game (good for third on the team) during that stretch.
Millsap is much older than some of his teammates. Players like Jamal Murray and Monte Morris are each at least a decade younger than the 2006 second-round pick. Coach Mike Malone appreciates having a respected veteran around the squad.
“When he speaks, it carries such [weight]… because he picks his spots. Some guys that talk all the time, you start to tune them out a little bit,” Malone said. “I think he’s got a calming influence.”