Golden State Warriors

Pacific Notes: Ball, Looney, Cauley-Stein

When Lonzo Ball ignored an on-court scuffle between some of his Lakers teammates and members of the Suns on Friday, the rookie took heat for not stepping into the fray to defend them. As Jordan Greer of the Sporting News writes, however, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t have any issues with how the first-year guard handled the situation.

I don’t really care about how that looks because our guys love Zo,” Walton said. “I think [the rest of the Lakers] all know what that looked like isn’t what Zo is about and isn’t symbolizing what his feelings are on that type of situation. I know the general public and the internet world likes to do what they do.

Fellow Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma went so far as to call out a double standard between Ball and other players in the NBA. “He’s my teammate and he’s very misunderstood as a person,” Kuzma said. “There’s a lot of media out there and people that expect him to be something that he’s not right now and that’s okay because he’s a rookie.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Despite the fact that his team option for next season was declined, Kevon Looney has impressed with the Warriors so far this season, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. “Obviously, it’s a tough situation to not get your option picked up. But it’s on you to do something about it, and he’s doing something about it. … The success that he’s having, I’m looking forward to him keeping it up. He’s been helping us win games,” teammate Draymond Green said.
  • In addition to learning the NBA game after years of international ball, Kings rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is learning three positions. Combined, it’s led to a bit of learning curve, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “The basketball is really different here. A lot of athletes, the size is different as well. Those are all things that come by time, that’s part of the adjustment,” Bogdanovic said.
  • The Kings have experimented with new lineups over the course of the season, one of the latest being to move Willie Cauley-Stein to the bench and giving him an expanded role on offense. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that even though Cauley-Stein seemed to enjoy the new challenge, the club will likely continue to experiment with different personnel combinations.

Injury Notes: A. Davis, Thomas, Porzingis, Wall

Earlier today, we passed on the news that Sixers guard Markelle Fultz in making progress with his shoulder ailment. Here are a few more injury notes involving some of the NBA’s top players:

  • Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has cleared the concussion protocol and is probable for Monday’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis was diagnosed with a contusion of the orbit bone above his right eye after a collision the third quarter of Friday night’s contest. He was removed from the game and didn’t re-enter.
  • Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas participated in some five-on-zero drills and worked on his shot today in practice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has swelling in his elbow caused by bursitis, but says it isn’t the reason for his recent shooting problems, according to Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). “At the end of last season, it was really swollen; it was really, really big,” he said of the elbow. “But it was never really bothering me. Now this season, kind of fell on it a couple of times. It wasn’t bothering me either. In Sacramento, I fell kind of on the side. It was a new spot. It was much more sensitive. Now I’m doing treatment. Today’s the day I’m almost back to normal. I almost don’t feel it at all anymore.”
  • Wizards guard John Wall will miss today’s game with soreness in his left knee, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Warriors forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained ankle last night and will sit out today’s game in Brooklyn, tweets Warriors PR.

Kevin Durant Finds Similarities Between Bay Area, Seattle

  • Among several excellent aspects of an interview with Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Warriors forward Kevin Durant spoke candidly about the Thunder and their move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. An under reported asset that the Bay Area offered Durant in free agency is a similarity to the Pacific Northwest town in which he broke into the league. “To be part of a franchise moving, no player, especially a rookie, expects that,” Durant said. “I didn’t even think that was in the cards. Obviously, I wasn’t in on the deal, nobody asked me any questions. So as long as we got to play somewhere, it was cool with me. I was 19, I didn’t know the effect a team moving had on fans or a city. As I got older, I realized how huge a team leaving a city is, how devastating that must have been for the fans. Every time we’d go to the West Coast, we’d see Seattle jerseys and you’d start to realize that was a huge, huge part of people’s lives.
  • The Warriors haven’t been featuring JaVale McGee heavily in their regular rotation, opting to play him only if matchups call for his length and athleticism. “You definitely have to humble yourself a little bit, just because we’re competitors. We want to play,” McGee told Mark Medina of The Mercury News. “But you can’t complain on a winning team. I understand if we were losing and I’m thinking, ‘I can help.’ But we’re a part of a winning system.”

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Pacific Division

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 Pacific division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Pacific teams:

Golden State WarriorsKevin Durant vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $102,091,455
Projection: Over the cap

The Warriors’ total guaranteed salary of $102MM for next season looks modest at first glance. But that figure only accounts for seven players, and Kevin Durant isn’t one of them. Even if Durant is willing to sign for several million less than the max again, which is certainly no lock, re-signing him and then filling out the rest of their roster figures to take the Dubs into luxury-tax territory.

Phoenix Suns
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $70,667,235
Projection: Up to approximately $28MM in cap room

While the Suns’ return in the Eric Bledsoe trade was widely viewed as underwhelming, the move did clear $15MM in guaranteed salary from the club’s 2018/19 cap, creating additional flexibility. Retaining Alan Williams – who has a non-guaranteed salary – and re-signing Alex Len would cut into the Suns’ cap space. However, neither of those moves are locks at this point, so Phoenix could get easily get to $25MM+ in cap room, and could potentially open up even more room by trading Jared Dudley and/or Tyson Chandler, who will be on expiring contracts next season.

Sacramento Kings
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $68,252,577
Projection: Up to approximately $33MM in cap room ($16MM if player options exercised)

There have been no reports yet suggesting that Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple will exercise their player options for 2018/19, which are worth about $8.74MM and $8MM, respectively. The Kings should probably be preparing for that outcome though — neither player has a major role, and the free agent market won’t be as player-friendly as it was in 2016, when Koufos and Temple signed their current deals.

If those options are exercised, the Kings’ guaranteed salaries will increase to about $85MM, limiting their cap flexibility. But they’ll also be able to dedicate that remaining cap room to a single player, if they so choose — assuming Koufos and Temple return, Sacramento would head into the offseason with 14 players under contract, not including draft picks.

Los Angeles Clippers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $59,880,133
Projection: Up to approximately $31MM in cap room

Only five Clippers players currently have fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, but there are several other candidates to return. For one, Patrick Beverley and his $5MM non-guaranteed salary will certainly be back — that’s a tremendous bargain for one of the league’s best defensive players, and our cap projection for the Clippers assumes he’ll be on the books at that price.

Our cap projection doesn’t take into account any player options though, and four Clippers players hold those options for 2018/19. DeAndre Jordan, who figures to land a lucrative multiyear deal, will likely turn down his $24MM option, but Austin Rivers ($12.65MM), Milos Teodosic ($6.3MM), and Wesley Johnson ($6.1MM) are candidates to opt in. If all three of those players pick up their options and Beverley is retained, the Clips’ cap room will essentially disappear.

Los Angeles Lakers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $49,336,471
Projection: Up to approximately $47.5MM in cap room

The Lakers’ desire to open up two maximum-salary slots for the 2018 free agent period has been well publicized, but the team still has some work to do to achieve that goal. Based on a $101MM cap, maximum salaries for, say, LeBron James and Paul George would be worth a combined $65.65MM in 2018/19. L.A. remains about $18MM shy of that figure, even assuming the team renounces Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Of course, moving Luol Deng‘s $18MM salary would just about get the Lakers there, but finding a club willing to take on that deal without sending out any salary in return will be challenging, to say the least. Waiving and stretching Deng’s contract next July and dumping Jordan Clarkson‘s $12.5MM salary is probably a more realistic path for the Lakers to get into that range for two max deals.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics Notes: Monroe, Okafor, Irving, Kerr

The Celtics could become an option as Phoenix tries to find a taker for Greg Monroe, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The Suns acquired Monroe in the Eric Bledsoe trade, but don’t have any long-term plans for the 27-year-old, who is on an expiring contract. Boston is getting by with Aron Baynes and rookie Daniel Theis at center, but the team might view Monroe as a better alternative.

Mannix says the decision will come down to a choice of keeping the chemistry that has propelled the Celtics to a league best 13-2 record or going after a proven scorer and rebounder. There’s also the question of what Phoenix might want in return for Monroe, who hasn’t played since the trade was finalized. If he winds up agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, the Celtics have an $8.4MM disabled player exception that might be enough to bring Monroe to Boston.

There’s more Celtics-related news this morning:

  • Boston’s preference is to hold onto the DPE through the buyout deadline to see which players become available, Mannix adds in the same story. That means the Celtics wouldn’t use it to acquire benched center Jahlil Okafor from the Sixers, although they remain interested in Okafor if he gets bought out.
  • Following a summer of change for Kyrie Irving, the star point guard is trying to prove to the league that he made the right choices, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN. In addition to asking for a trade away from LeBron James and the three-time Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, Irving switched his number to 11 and adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. The early results have been promising as he ranks third in the league in clutch-time scoring. “I feel absolutely amazing,” Irving said. “My energy, my sleeping patterns, just my intellect and everything that I’m awake to now — I’m very much aware. My awareness is a lot better now that I’m not eating all the GMOs and pesticides and all that they put in our food, man.”
  • The Celtics’ young talent has caught the attention of Steve Kerr, whose Warriors will be in Boston tonight, relays Chris Haynes of ESPN. The game is being hyped as a possible preview of the NBA Finals, and Kerr suggests that the Celtics could be in that position for many years to come. “It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East,” he said, “with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie is amazing. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”

Warriors Re-Assign Damian Jones To G League

  • Second-year center Damian Jones was re-assigned to the G League on Tuesday by the Warriors, according to Mark Medina of The Bay Area New Group (Twitter link). Jones has spent most of the season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, but was recalled for brief stint in Golden State this week.

Warriors Recall Damian Jones After Five G League Games

  • Second-year center Damian Jones has been recalled to the Warriors, the team announced in a press release. Jones had been on assignment with Santa Cruz for most of the season, averaging 12.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG in five games as the starting center for Golden State’s G League affiliate.

Warriors' Depth Allows Players To Rest Minor Injuries

  • While some players around the NBA might feel pressure to play through injuries, that’s not the case for Warriors players like Kevin Durant, who missed a game last week due to a leg issue. Golden State’s talent and depth allows the club to rest players to avoid making minor ailments worse, as Durant explains to Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. “We have such a deep team. Guys can go out and get those knick knack injuries taken care of,” Durant said.

Kevon Looney Not Surprised Warriors Declined Option

Stephen Curry Could Have Signed Max Deal in 2012

Five years ago, Stephen Curry signed a four-year, $44MM extension with the Warriors. Two NBA Most Valuable Player awards and two NBA championships later, that contract turned out to be a mammoth bargain. However, when Curry originally signed the deal on Halloween 2012, the risk was all on the Warriors, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic writes.

Before Curry’s mantle was stuffed with MVP trophies and NBA championship rings, he was known as a potentially prolific shooter with troublesome ankles. He missed 56 games with ankle injuries in 2011/12 and tweaked his ankle once again during the 2012/13 preseason. However, before Curry and his representation agreed to the $44MM extension, the Warriors told Curry’s agent Jeff Austin that the team would be willing to offer a max deal in free agency that summer.

“They said if he was healthy at the end of the season, they set aside the max money for him,” Austin said. “The Warriors were terrific the whole process. They told him if he could stay healthy, he would get the max.”

Curry’s team-friendly deal paved the way for Golden State to add players such as Andre Iguodala and last season, Kevin Durant. It also allowed the team the financial flexibility to retain Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors signed Curry to a supermax deal worth over $201MM this offseason and the team is primed to reach their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

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