Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Will Kemba Walker Re-Sign With Hornets?

When longtime Hornets beat reporter Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer addressed Kemba Walker‘s contract situation in a column this past Sunday, his piece opened with a compelling lede.

“I no longer think it’s likely Kemba Walker re-signs with the Charlotte Hornets,” Bonnell wrote. “More importantly, I no longer can give you a strong argument why he should.”

Walker has had another terrific season in Charlotte, averaging a career-high 25.0 PPG to go along with 5.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.3 SPG. On a team that features no clear second-best player, Kemba earned All-Star honors for a third straight year and has single-handedly kept Charlotte in the playoff race.

Walker has also repeatedly expressed a desire to remain in Charlotte, despite the fact that the team hasn’t won a playoff series since he arrived in 2011. The Hornets have reciprocated that interest — after briefly gauging the trade market for the star point guard prior to the 2018 trade deadline, the team replaced GM Rich Cho with Mitch Kupchak, who has maintained since his hiring that he wants to retain Walker going forward.

Still, with the Hornets’ playoff hopes fading fast and unrestricted free agency right around the corner, Walker definitely can’t be considered a lock to stay, Bonnell writes. While Charlotte could offer him more years and dollars than any rival suitor, doing so would make it that much harder to build a contender around him in the coming years, as Bonnell observes. And Kemba, who turns 29 in May, figures to be seeking an opportunity to contend as he decides where he wants to spend his next few years.

A looming All-NBA decision could have an impact on the summer negotiations between Walker and the Hornets. If he earns an All-NBA spot, the former UConn standout would be eligible for a five-year deal that starts at up to 35% of the cap, rather than 30%. The difference would work out to a projected $31MM+ over those five years. Would the Hornets put that offer on the table if they’re able to? Would it sway Walker’s decision? It’s hard to say at this point, but it’s a factor worth considering.

If Walker seriously considers other teams, there should be no shortage of outside options for him. The Knicks and Mavericks are among the clubs that have been most frequently cited as possible suitors, but there will be many more teams with the ability to open maximum-salary cap room. And there are just as many teams that could use a guard with Walker’s scoring, shooting, and play-making abilities.

What do you think? Will Walker ultimately decide to stick with the Hornets after another disappointing season in Charlotte? Or do you expect the three-time All-Star to move on and sign with a new team this summer?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents on Walker’s future.

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Poll: Will Any Designated Veteran Extensions Be Signed In 2019?

The NBA’s Designated Veteran extension, introduced in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, allows a player who would normally qualify for a maximum salary worth 30% of the cap to receive a salary worth 35% of the cap if he meets certain criteria related to performance and service time.

Assuming he meets the service-time requirements, earning an All-NBA spot is the most common way for a player to become eligible for a Designated Veteran contract. And, as we explained earlier today, at least a couple players appear to be in good position to gain eligibility for this form of contract – colloquially known as the “super-max” – by making an All-NBA team this spring.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who would be the best bet for a super-max extension, will gain eligibility this year, but won’t technically be allowed to sign a new deal until 2020, since he doesn’t have the necessary seven years of NBA experience. With a Giannis super-max not possible for at least one more year, it’s not clear whether any Designated Veteran extensions will actually be signed in 2019.

Here are the only realistic candidates:

  • Anthony Davis (Pelicans): Like Giannis, Davis qualified for a super-max deal a year before he was officially eligible to sign it, so it doesn’t matter whether or not he earns All-NBA honors this season. However, given AD’s desire to leave the Pelicans, a Designated Veteran extension looks like a real long shot anyway.
  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers): Once he’s named to an All-NBA team this year, Lillard will become eligible to sign a four-year, maximum-salary extension. The only issue? It wouldn’t go into effect until the 2021/22 season, when Lillard will be 31 years old. Committing a $45MM+ annual salary to a player is scary enough — doing it two years in advance to lock up a player for his age 31-34 seasons is scarier. The Trail Blazers would have to think long and hard about whether to make such an offer.
  • Bradley Beal (Wizards) / Kemba Walker (Hornets) / Klay Thompson (Warriors): It’s possible Beal, Walker, and Thompson will all miss out on an All-NBA spot this year, in which case none of them would be DVE-eligible. But if any of them do land on an All-NBA team, they’d qualify. Beal, like Lillard, would be eligible for a four-year extension starting in 2021/22, while free-agents-to-be Walker and Thompson would immediately be eligible to sign five-year, $220MM+ contracts with their current clubs.

Most of the other All-NBA contenders won’t meet the other required criteria for a Designated Veteran extension, based on their contract situations. The only exceptions are borderline All-NBA candidates such as Nikola Vucevic (Magic) or Andre Drummond (Pistons), who likely wouldn’t be serious super-max candidates even if they qualify.

When the Designated Veteran extension was introduced in 2017, four players – Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and John Wall – received them in fairly quick succession. No player has signed once since though, and based on this year’s top candidates, there’s no guarantee that will change anytime soon.

What do you think? Will any of the players mentioned in the list above sign a super-max contract in 2019, or will we go another year without one?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Will Sixers Re-Sign Butler, Harris?

After failing to land a marquee free agent with their maximum-salary cap room last offseason, the Sixers instead turned to the trade market to secure an impact player, acquiring Jimmy Butler from Minnesota. Then they did it again a few months later, completing a trade with the Clippers for Tobias Harris.

The idea of putting together a “Big Three” has been popular in the NBA over the last decade or so, but with their acquisitions of Butler and Harris, the 76ers pulled off a rare feat, compiling a “Big Four.” Butler and Harris joined Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in a starting lineup that now features four players with All-NBA potential.

Neither Butler nor Harris is on a long-term contract, however, as both players are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this summer. The Sixers will hold Bird rights on each player, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign them, and Philadelphia will have the flexibility to do so. Even with Embiid’s $27.5MM cap hit on the books for next season, the 76ers’ cap sheet is relatively clean — they’re only carrying approximately $41MM in guaranteed money, per Basketball Insiders.

Of course, Butler and Harris are each expected to be eligible for salaries worth up to about $32.7MM, so if the Sixers re-sign both players, and perhaps veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, it will be tricky to add many additional reinforcements to complement them. Adding extra help would get even more difficult in future seasons, since Simmons’ rookie contract expires in 2020 and he figures to be in line for a huge new deal of his own.

With major personnel decisions looming, the next couple months will be huge for the Sixers, who need to assess the potential long-term fit of an Embiid/Simmons/Butler/Harris core. Does retaining all four players create diminishing returns for those third or fourth options whose talents might not be maximized? Are Butler and Harris – neither of whom was an All-Star this season – worthy of long-term, maximum-salary (or near-max) investments?

Philadelphia’s performance in the postseason figures to play an important part in that equation — a first-round exit would raise serious questions about whether it makes sense to invest in both Butler and Harris, whereas an NBA Finals run would incentivize re-signing both players.

What do you think? Will the Sixers re-sign both Butler and Harris this offseason? Will they choose one or the other? Or will they go in a completely different direction, opening up cap room to pursue other players?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Will LeBron James Become NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer?

LeBron James reached another major milestone on Wednesday night, surpassing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time points list. With 32,311 career points, James is now the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), and Kobe Bryant (33,643).

James’ latest achievement is a reminder that the NBA’s all-time scoring lead remains within reach. LeBron just turned 34 years old in December and has three more years remaining on his contract with the Lakers after 2018/19. While this season has turned into a disaster, the four-time MVP still looks like he has plenty left on the tank, having averaged 27.1 PPG in his first year as a Laker.

Currently, the gap between Abdul-Jabbar’s points total and James’ stands at 6,076. In his first 15 NBA seasons leading up to 2018/19, LeBron averaged 2,069 points per season. If he were to continue at that rate for three more years, he’d become the league’s all-time leading scorer before his contract with the Lakers expires.

Despite James’ impressive durability and longevity over the years, however, it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to continue scoring at that rate. This season, for instance, even if he plays in every single one of the Lakers’ remaining 17 games and maintains his 27.1 PPG scoring average, he’d end up with 1,733 points due to the groin injury that cost him more than a month.

It’s fair to assume that nagging injuries could become a more frequent issue for James in his age-35 season and beyond, and his production figures to dip a little during that stretch as well. Even if we assume LeBron is capable of averaging 1,500 points per season going forward (about 23 PPG in 65 games per year), it would be 2023 before he catches up to Abdul-Jabbar. He’d be 38 years old at that point, so there’s not a ton of room for error (or, say, any season-ending injuries).

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that taking over the NBA’s all-time scoring lead is a realistic goal for LeBron. He’ll likely have to stay relatively healthy and continue playing at a high level for at least two or three more years – or be willing to play until he’s 40 – to have a legit shot, but that certainly seems possible.

What do you think? Do you expect LeBron to retire as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, or will he ultimately end up second or third? And if he claims that No. 1 spot, do you view any current players as serious threats to pass him?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!

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Poll: Is Western Conference Playoff Field Already Set?

In our Community Shootaround discussion on Monday, we zeroed in on the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, noting that the final three postseason spots remain up for grabs in the East, where the sixth and 10th seeds are only separated by 2.5 games.

For a time, it appeared the last few playoff spots in the Western Conference were just as up in the air, but the gap between the top eight teams in the West and the lottery teams has increased as of late.

The seventh-seeded Clippers have won six of their last eight games and the eighth-seeded Spurs are on a three-game winning streak of their own. Their top challengers, the Kings and Lakers, have both been heading in the other direction recently. Sacramento has lost five of seven, while the Lakers’ struggles have been well publicized — they’ve won just five of their last 18 games.

As a result of those trends, the Kings are now three full games behind the Spurs for a postseason spot, while the 10th-seeded Lakers trail San Antonio by 5.5 games with only 18 contests left to play. Time is running out for those teams outside of the top eight to make a run, especially given how good the current playoff clubs have looked.

While the door is rapidly closing on the Lakers and the teams behind them in the standings, there may still be some hope for the Kings. According to Tankathon.com, Sacramento has the sixth-easiest schedule in the NBA down the stretch. The Kings will also face the struggling Celtics twice in the next 10 days, and they hold the tiebreaker over the Spurs.

Still, the Jazz, Clippers, and Spurs – the three teams directly ahead of the Kings in the standings – also rank in the top half of the league in terms of easiest rest-of-season schedules. Plus, Sacramento won’t get much of a chance to make up ground by beating those three teams. The Kings only have one game left against Utah, one against San Antonio, and none against the Clippers — and those games against the Jazz and Spurs are on the road.

So, is it too optimistic for us to expect a Western Conference playoff race over the season’s final month? Can the Kings, Lakers, or another team force their way back into the mix, or will the conference’s current top eight teams make up the playoff field when the first round gets underway in April?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: How Many Max FAs Will Knicks Sign In 2019?

While it’s not necessarily having a major impact on the court for either team, the seven-player trade completed by the Knicks and Mavericks in advance of the trade deadline was perhaps the biggest deal of 2019 so far due to its long-term implications.

For Dallas, the move meant securing Kristaps Porzingis, a potential franchise frontcourt player whom the team envisions complementing young star Luka Doncic for the next decade.

For New York, there were a handful of motivating factors — the club got to take a chance on a 2017 lottery pick in Dennis Smith Jr., and secured a couple future first-round picks too. But perhaps the most important aspect of the trade from the Knicks’ perspective was that it allowed the team to create not just one, but two maximum-salary contracts slots in free agency this summer.

Since the Knicks made the deal, speculation has run wild about their potential offseason targets. Do they know something we don’t about Kevin Durant‘s plans? Or Kyrie Irving‘s? Is New York native Kemba Walker in their crosshairs?

Before their trade with the Mavs, the Knicks were already close to having enough space for one maximum-salary free agent, and wouldn’t have had to attach Porzingis to a larger package to create that extra room. Instead, the team chose to make a blockbuster deal that opened a pair of those slots.

What, exactly, does that tell us about their summer plans? If they’re not sure about Durant or Irving coming, would they offer a maximum-salary deal to another free agent? Will Kawhi Leonard be a target? Knicks fans would be a little less thrilled about the prospect of the club using that space to give max deals to two players from a group that includes Walker, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Khris Middleton, but maybe those players will be on the team’s wish list as well.

On the other hand, if the Knicks can’t land both Durant and Irving, the prudent move might be to use their leftover cap room to absorb an unwanted contract or two to accumulate more assets — or to sign players to one-term contracts, rolling over their cap room to next summer.

When a panel of ESPN.com experts made offseason predictions last week, one question asked how many maximum-salary free agents the Knicks would sign this summer. The top answer was two (47.2%), followed by one (41.7%), and zero (11.1%). In other words, there’s a strong belief that the Knicks will invest huge money in at least one star this offseason, and likely two.

What do you think? Are you bullish on the Knicks’ chances of landing two stars? Do you believe they’ll hand out two max contracts even if they don’t necessarily get their top two choices? Or do you think they’ll end up being a little more patient with their newfound flexibility?

Vote in our poll, then head below to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Where Will Kyrie Irving Play In 2019/20?

A panel of ESPN’s NBA reporters and analysts were polled this week about the 2019/20 destinations for several key free agents, and the voting results on Kyrie Irving‘s home for next season were of particular interest.

It was less than five months ago that Irving vowed to re-sign with the Celtics in 2019, but in the wake of his more recent comments on free agency (“Ask me July 1”), ESPN’s panel isn’t overly confident that the star point guard will actually remain in Boston — the Celtics received about 53% of the vote, followed by the Knicks, Lakers, and Nets.

While Irving’s long-term NBA home will be a popular topic of discussion between now and July 1, it’s not clear that the 26-year-old himself even knows yet where he’ll play next season. After all, if the Celtics are bounced from the playoffs in the second round by a team like the Bucks or Raptors, Irving’s view on the franchise might be significantly different than if the C’s make a run to the NBA Finals and give the Warriors all they can handle.

If Irving sours on Boston, a move to New York could be appealing. The Nets are further ahead in their rebuild than the Knicks and will have a maximum-salary contract slot available. Of course, the Knicks will have two such slots, which would give Irving the opportunity to bring another star player along with him.

The Lakers have become an increasingly popular hypothetical destination for Irving, given the Lakers’ need for a second star and the efforts Irving and LeBron James have made to mend fences. Still, it’s hard to imagine the two All-Stars teaming up again after how things ended in Cleveland. L.A.’s other team, the Clippers, might make more sense as an Irving destination — they’re ahead of the rival Lakers in the standings this season and could potentially create a path to two max-salary slots.

Of course, there will be other teams with cap room available, but if Irving leaves Boston, those New York and Los Angeles teams look like his most probable suitors.

What do you think? Where will Irving be playing when the 2019/20 season begins? Will he stick with the Celtics, or have there been enough red flags in Boston this season that you expect him to jump ship and get a fresh start somewhere else?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!

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Poll: Second-Best Team In West

After some up-and-down play in the early going this season, the Warriors have looked like their old selves over the last several weeks, winning 18 of their last 21 games to cement their spot atop the Western Conference. While there was never any doubt that Golden State would be the team to beat in the West, it remains unclear which conference rival will be the Dubs’ biggest threat this spring.

The Nuggets and Thunder currently have comfortable holds on the second and third seeds in the West and are in good position to capture home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. However, both squads are unproven in the playoffs — Oklahoma City hasn’t won a postseason series since Kevin Durant‘s departure in 2016, and Denver hasn’t even made the postseason since 2013. Led by a pair of MVP candidates in Nikola Jokic and Paul George, the Nuggets and Thunder are formidable, but neither team looks like a lock to advance to the Western Finals.

Like the Thunder, the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers were quickly dispatched in the first round of last year’s postseason and still have to prove that they can make a deep playoff run. The Rockets (fifth) and the Jazz (seventh) were considered two of Golden State’s most dangerous challengers coming into the season, but have endured some bumps along the road and have had to re-establish themselves as legit threats to win multiple postseason series.

The Spurs don’t appear to be the legit title contenders they’ve been in most seasons under Gregg Popovich, but they’ve still played well enough to rank sixth in the conference and have a number of impressive wins on their 2018/19 résumé. The Lakers, meanwhile, are under .500 and out of the playoff picture for now, but could be a scary first-round matchup if they sneak into the top eight — after all, LeBron James hasn’t watched the NBA Finals from home since 2010.

What do you think? Which of the non-Warriors teams in the West poses the biggest threat to Golden State in the postseason? Which team do you expect to make it through two rounds to face the Dubs in the Western Conference Finals this spring?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: Anthony Davis’ 2019/20 Team

When the Pelicans opted to hang onto Anthony Davis at this season’s trade deadline, it ensured that the Davis saga in New Orleans, which began when his camp publicly requested a trade last month, would drag on for at least several more months.

While Davis and the Pelicans still have to figure out how much he’ll play – or whether he should be playing at all – for the rest of the season, the two sides are essentially on a holding pattern for now. It’s not as if the team is going to buy out the All-NBA big man, so we’ll have to wait until the offseason for trade talks to heat up and for the possibility of Davis changing teams to potentially become a reality.

Given how messy things already are in New Orleans, it seems extremely unlikely that the Pelicans will once again pass on the opportunity to trade Davis during the offseason. I’d expect Davis to be on a new team by opening night of the 2019/20 season, but it remains to be seen which team that will be.

The Celtics, who weren’t eligible to trade for Davis as long as Kyrie Irving was on his current contract, may emerge as the front-runner, particularly now that AD has added them to his list of preferred destinations. However, other teams on his wish list shouldn’t be ruled out.

The Lakers can still put a tantalizing combination of young players and draft picks on the table this summer, and the Knicks may hold a trump card if they land the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Bucks probably can’t make a realistic play for Davis, but the Clippers could — a package headlined by promising young prospect Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a handful of unprotected picks would be intriguing.

Of course, as the Pelicans have tried to make clear, Davis and his camp don’t control this process, which means that New Orleans doesn’t necessarily have to send him to a team on his wish list. In recent years, teams like the Thunder (Paul George) and Raptors (Kawhi Leonard) have come out of nowhere to make trades for star players, and those moves have paid off for those franchises, at least so far.

In the case of Davis, an unlikely suitor could certainly talk itself into making a play for the All-Star — after all, if things go south quickly, that team could always flip him at the trade deadline in 2020. If things work out, a deep playoff run and a five-year maximum-salary offer could make AD re-think his long-term plans.

What do you think? Which team will Davis play for when the 2019/20 season gets underway? Is there any chance he’s still a Pelican? Will a longtime frontrunner like the Lakers or Celtics land him? Or will a dark-horse suitor make a play?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

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Poll: 2019 NBA MVP Race

An MVP race that looked like Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s to lose during the first third of the 2018/19 season became much more hotly contested over the last couple months. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes today, James Harden and Paul George have both been on incredible runs that have made them legitimate MVP candidates – if not frontrunners – as the season enters its home stretch.

Harden’s streak of 30-point outings, which is now up to 31 consecutive games, has been well documented, but it’s still worth repeating some of his eye-popping numbers. His current rate of 36.6 points per game would rank seventh in NBA history, and would be the second-best ever mark for any player not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Harden is also chipping in 7.7 APG and 6.6 RPG while playing a league-high 37.4 MPG, and has averaged a staggering 41.5 PPG in his last 31 games. Perhaps most importantly, his run has coincided with a push up the standings for the Rockets — out of the playoff picture early in the season, Houston is now 33-24 and is vying for a top-four seed in the West.

George, obviously, hasn’t matched Harden’s historic scoring numbers, but his 28.7 PPG is easily the best mark of his career. George is also averaging career highs in RPG (8.0), APG (4.1), and SPG (an NBA-best 2.3), while making 40.6% of his three-point shots. Plus, unlike Harden, he’s a legit contender for the Defensive Player of the Year award due to his excellent work on his other end of the floor. His Thunder, at 37-20, are also a few games ahead of Houston in the standings.

Of course, when it comes to team success, neither Harden’s Rockets nor George’s Thunder can match Giannis’ Bucks, whose league-best record sits at 43-14 heading into the All-Star break. Antetokounmpo still doesn’t have a reliable outside shot, but he hasn’t needed one this season — he’s shooting 58.1% from the field, including 64.0% on two-point attempts.

The Greek Freak is averaging a double-double for the second straight year, with 27.2 PPG and 12.7 RPG. And he has supplemented those numbers with impressive play-making abilities (6.0 APG) and defensive prowess (1.4 BPG and 1.4 SPG). In close MVP races, team success is often a tiebreaker, and Antetokounmpo – in addition to being the best player in the Eastern Conference – is simply the best player on the NBA’s best team so far this season.

There are other players who should be included in the MVP conversation too. Despite the Bucks’ superior record, NBA observers would still consider the Warriors the team to beat, and Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are both having MVP-caliber seasons.

Joel Embiid‘s two-way impact for the Sixers deserves consideration. There are cases to be made for guys like Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) and Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers). Kawhi Leonard (Raptors) and LeBron James (Lakers) would be viable contenders if not for their injury absences, and could get back in the conversation if they finish the season strong.

What do you think? Which player do you expect to win this season’s MVP award?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.