Rockets Rumors

Exciting Early Returns On Robert Covington

  • The early returns on the fit of new Rockets power forward Robert Covington are encouraging, at least to Covington and defensive coach Elston Turner, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko“Still getting comfortable with everything but I feel really confident and we’ve been playing well the past couple [of] games,” Covington said.

Roster Moves Required Soon For Hornets, Rockets, Clippers

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement requires teams to carry at least 14 players on their rosters during the regular season, not counting two-way players. However, clubs are allowed to dip below that line for up to two weeks at a time.

At the February 6 trade deadline, with so many players on the move, a handful of teams around the league fell below that 14-player threshold, meaning they’ll have to get back up to 14 later this month.

Here’s a breakdown of which teams must make at least one roster move shortly after this weekend’s All-Star Game:

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets had a quiet trade deadline, but completed a pair of buyouts a couple days later, officially releasing Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on February 8. They’ll have until February 22 to add at least one player to their roster.

Since the 18-36 squad is well out of playoff contention, Charlotte is far more likely to sign a G League prospect than an NBA veteran. By the end of the season, I’d expect the Hornets to fill both their 14th and 15th roster spots with young players on multiyear deals, in the hopes that one or both of them prove to be keepers.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets had been carrying 14 players since waiving Gary Clark last month. On February 5, they dipped to 13 when they acquired Robert Covington and Jordan Bell (later flipped for Bruno Caboclo) in a deal that saw them send out Clint Capela, Gerald Green, and Nene. They’ll have to add a new player before they resume play next Thursday.

Houston is closely monitoring the buyout market, but if there’s no one that interests the team now, I’m not sure that’ll change within the next week. I could see the Rockets signing a player to a 10-day contract to give them some flexibility to continue keeping an eye on the buyout market for the rest of the month.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers were carrying 15 players leading up to the trade deadline, but moved Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, and Derrick Walton last week while only getting Marcus Morris and Isaiah Thomas back. Thomas was waived on February 8, reducing the team’s roster count to 13. Like Charlotte, the Clips will have until February 22 to add a 14th man.

Since they’re also a contending team, the Clippers figure to join the Rockets in scouring the buyout market for veteran help in the coming weeks. With the possible exception of Tyler Johnson, I’m not sure any recently-waived vets will attract much interest from L.A., so a stop-gap option on a 10-day deal is a possibility after the All-Star break.

Forbes Releases 2020 NBA Franchise Valuations

The Knicks have had a miserable 12 months, finishing the 2018/19 season with a league-worst 17 wins, missing out on their top free agent targets, and then firing head coach David Fizdale and president of basketball operations Steve Mills during the 2019/20 season.

None of that seems to have had a noticeable impact on the team’s market value though. Once again, the franchise is considered the most valuable of any of the NBA’s 30 clubs, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Lakers and Warriors aren’t far behind, having both surpassed the $4 billion mark for the first time this year.

For the first time, all 30 NBA teams have a perceived worth of $1.3 billion or more, per Forbes’ annual report. Every team’s value increased by at least 6% since Forbes put out their 2019 valuations last February, with a handful of franchises jumping by 20% or more.

The NBA-wide average of $2.12 billion per team in 2020 is also a new record — that league-wide average surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time. NBA franchise values are up almost sixfold over the last decade, according to Badenhausen.

Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:

  1. New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
  3. Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
  4. Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
  5. Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion
  6. Los Angeles Clippers: $2.6 billion
  7. Brooklyn Nets: $2.5 billion
  8. Houston Rockets: $2.475 billion
  9. Dallas Mavericks: $2.4 billion
  10. Toronto Raptors: $2.1 billion
  11. Philadelphia 76ers: $2 billion
  12. Miami Heat: $1.95 billion
  13. Portland Trail Blazers: $1.85 billion
  14. San Antonio Spurs: $1.8 billion
  15. Sacramento Kings: $1.775 billion
  16. Washington Wizards: $1.75 billion
  17. Phoenix Suns: $1.625 billion
  18. Denver Nuggets: $1.6 billion
  19. Milwaukee Bucks: $1.58 billion
  20. Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.575 billion
  21. Utah Jazz: $1.55 billion
  22. Indiana Pacers: $1.525 billion
  23. Atlanta Hawks: $1.52 billion
  24. Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.51 billion
  25. Charlotte Hornets: $1.5 billion
  26. Detroit Pistons: $1.45 billion
  27. Orlando Magic: $1.43 billion
  28. Minnesota Timberwolves: $1.375 billion
  29. New Orleans Pelicans: $1.35 billion
  30. Memphis Grizzlies: $1.3 billion

The Raptors are among this year’s big “winners,” with their value rising 25%, from $1.675 billion a year ago to $2.1 billion this year following their first NBA championship. The Clippers also had a noteworthy bump, moving from ninth place on Forbes’ list to sixth after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer.

Although every franchise’s value increased, the Nets had the smallest jump, just 6%. The Magic‘s modest 8% increase resulted in the team slipping from 23rd on last year’s list to 27th this year.

It’s worth noting that when a franchise has been sold in recent years, the price often exceeds Forbes’ valuation, so these figures are just estimates.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Rockets To Fully Guarantee Fourth Season Of P.J. Tucker’s Contract

The Rockets are planning to fully guarantee the fourth season of P.J. Tucker‘s contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Tucker’s salary of $7.97MM will now be completely guaranteed for the 2020/21 season, with the veteran forward accepting a larger role in Houston’s rotation following the trade deadline last week. Only $2.57MM was originally guaranteed.

Tucker, who turns 35 in May, will likely serve as the Rockets’ starting center going forward as they test a new variation of small-ball. He’s taken the challenging task head-on thus far, holding his ground in the middle despite being only 6-foot-5.

Tucker was drafted 35th overall back in 2006 and has established himself as one of the league’s most physical defenders. He appeared in all 82 games during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons for Houston, averaging 7.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and a career-high 34.9 minutes in 52 contests this year.

Houston has several of its key rotation players under contract with Tucker for next season, including James Harden ($40.8MM), Russell Westbrook ($41MM), Eric Gordon ($16.8MM) and Robert Covington ($12.1MM). The team is 6.5 games out of first place in the West at 33-19.

Southwest Notes: Holiday, Covington, Doncic, Lyles

Pelicans shooting guard Jrue Holiday was excited to remain in New Orleans through the trade deadline this season, as he explained to The Athletic’s William Guillory. The 29-year-old Holiday, considered one of the best defensive guards in the league, is on the third year of a fairly reasonable five-year, $126MM contract.

Holiday held appeal for several contending teams looking to shore up their backcourt ahead of a playoff push, including the Heat and Nuggets. The Pelicans themselves are just 4.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. With 2019 No. 1 draft pick  Zion Williamson finally debuting on January 22, New Orleans valued Holiday too much to make a deal just yet.

“I feel like what we’re doing here is something promising,” Holiday told Guillory of his season with the new-look Pelicans. “Obviously with the new management and the new guys coming in, we’re fairly young but we’re all very, very hungry. What we have here, we can build together.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • New Rockets forward Robert Covington and his very reasonable four-year, $47MM contract took him from overlooked role player to highly coveted glue guy very quickly ahead of this season’s trade deadline, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details.
  • Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is optimistic that All-Star guard Luka Doncic will return to the court ahead of the All-Star break, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “That’s not definite, but that’s the hope,” Carlisle said.
  • The future of Spurs bench big man Trey Lyles in San Antonio is appraised by the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald. Lyles is averaging a robust 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game for the club. He has suited up 51 games, including 41 starts. The 6’9″ Kentucky alum signed a two-year, $11MM contract with San Antonio this summer. Only $1MM of his $5.5MM salary next year is guaranteed.

Rockets Tried To Trade For DeAndre Jordan

The Rockets attempted to add the Nets to their four-team trade this week, hoping to acquire center DeAndre Jordan, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reveals in an Instagram video.

Brooklyn turned down the offer and elected to hold onto the veteran center, but Wojnarowski’s report indicates two things about the Rockets. The team may not have intended to fully commit to the small-ball approach it has used since trading away Clint Capela, and owner Tilman Fertitta was apparently willing to back up his statement that moves won’t be determined by the luxury tax.

Jordan makes $9.88MM this year and is signed for the next three seasons at a total cost of about $30MM. He’s coming off the bench for the Nets and averaging 7.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per night.

Because of how the trade was structured, the Rockets had the flexibility to add up to $12MM in salary before it was finalized. Fertitta gave general manager Daryl Morey the freedom to expand the deal, Wojnarowski adds, even though it would have cemented Houston as a taxpaying team.

Woj doesn’t say what the Rockets were offering the Nets in terms of players and draft picks.

23 Trade Exceptions Generated In Deadline Deals

As we explain in our glossary entry on the NBA’s trade rules, teams that complete a “non-simultaneous” deal can create what’s called a traded player exception. These are salary cap exceptions a team can use anytime during the following calendar year to acquire one or more players whose salaries are no greater than the amount of that exception (plus $100K).

A number of the traded player exceptions created at the 2019 trade deadline expired this week without being used, but nearly two dozen new TPEs were generated as a result of the trades completed at this year’s deadline. They’ll expire next February, so they could be used during the offseason or sometime next season.

The full list of traded player exceptions created this week is below, sorted by amount. The player whose departure helped generate the TPE is noted in parentheses. The full list of available trade exceptions can be found right here.

In addition to the traded player exceptions from the deals completed on February 6, this list includes the exceptions created on February 5 in the four-team trade involving the Hawks, Timberwolves, Rockets, and Nuggets.

It doesn’t include trade exceptions generated in deals earlier this season, such as the $7,069,662 TPE the Trail Blazers got when they sent Kent Bazemore to Sacramento in a five-player trade. Again, the full list of current TPEs can be found here.

If you have any questions or corrections, please let me know in the comment section below.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots After Trade Deadline

The 2020 NBA trade deadline has come and gone, so teams that had been holding open roster spots in case they needed them before a last-minute deal can now fill those openings, if they so choose. The Nets did exactly that today — after holding their 15th roster spot open through the deadline, they signed Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to a multiyear contract today to fill it.

While Brooklyn no longer has an open roster spot, a number of teams around the league still do. Here’s a quick breakdown of which clubs fit that bill and what their roster situations are, with their roster openings noted in parentheses:

  • Golden State Warriors (3): The Warriors initially had six roster openings, but signed Juan Toscano-Anderson and promoted Ky Bowman and Marquese Chriss to fill three of them. Zach Norvell and Jeremy Pargo are expected to sign 10-day deals, allowing Golden State to get to the league-mandated minimum of 14. The Dubs will probably keep their 15th slot open as they attempt to stay below the tax line.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (2): Alfonzo McKinnie agreed to a long-term contract with the Cavaliers and will fill one of their two open spots once his deal becomes official. However, the team could re-open that second slot this weekend when Marques Bolden‘s 10-day contract expires.
  • Houston Rockets (2): The Rockets figure to keep a close eye on the buyout market as they look to reinforce their depth. They’ll have up to two weeks to get back to at least 14 players.
  • Atlanta Hawks (1): The Hawks opened a roster spot by trading Jabari Parker and Alex Len to Sacramento for Dewayne Dedmon. They’re not anywhere near the tax, so I’d expect them to fill that opening soon with a young player, either on a 10-day deal or a rest-of-season contract.
  • Los Angeles Clippers (1): The Clippers opened up one roster spot by trading Derrick Walton. They’re expected to open up a second by waiving Isaiah Thomas, a move that isn’t yet official. Like Houston, the Clips figure to scour the buyout market in an effort to fill its roster. Darren Collison is also an option if he decides to make a comeback.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (1): The Thunder stood pat at the deadline and seem unlikely to fill that final roster spot anytime soon, since a 15th man would increase their projected tax bill.
  • Portland Trail Blazers (1): The same goes for the Trail Blazers, who remain in the tax even after moving Skal Labissiere for nothing at the deadline.
  • Denver Nuggets / Memphis Grizzlies / Orlando Magic (0): The Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Magic don’t currently have roster openings, but likely will soon. Denver is expected to waive Gerald Green, Memphis reportedly doesn’t intend to keep Dion Waiters, and Gary Clark‘s 10-day contract with Orlando will expire tonight.

Note: These roster counts are up to date as of the time of publication. This list is just a snapshot and won’t be updated to reflect subsequent moves, but our roster counts page will be.