Rockets Rumors

Anthony/Schroder Trade May Not Be Completed Right Away

The three-team trade that will send Carmelo Anthony to the Hawks (briefly), Dennis Schroder to the Thunder, and Mike Muscala to the Sixers may not be officially completed for several days, according to reports from Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links).

As Vivlamore notes, the Hawks will almost certainly waive Antonius Cleveland and his non-guaranteed salary in order to create the cap room necessary to make the deal work, but that shouldn’t hold things up much. Pompey hears from one source that the delay may be the result of the 76ers working on another move.

While it’s not clear what that Sixers move might be, the club does have a tiny sliver of cap room still available. It’s not enough space to be useful at this point, but perhaps Philadelphia wants to explore all its options before officially going over the cap and closing certain doors.

Whether the trade is ultimately finalized today, this weekend, or next week sometime, Anthony looks like a strong bet to eventually land in Houston once he’s acquired and then waived by Atlanta. Anthony has reportedly considered both the Rockets and Heat, but Houston has been viewed as the strong frontrunner for the last week or two.

David Aldridge of TNT provides more evidence in favor of Anthony joining up with James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, citing a source who says that Carmelo has been telling people for over a week that he’ll wind up with the Rockets (Twitter link).

When the deal becomes official, the Hawks will use up their remaining cap room, leaving the Kings as the only NBA team with any meaningful space available. Sacramento still has more than $20MM in open cap room.

Anthony To Hawks, Schroder To Thunder In Three-Team Trade

The Thunder and Hawks have agreed to a trade that will send Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City will receive Dennis Schroder in the deal. Royce Young of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the 2022 first-rounder will have 1-14 protection, and will turn into two second-rounders if it doesn’t convey in ’22.

The Sixers will also be involved in the trade, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who tweets that Philadelphia will acquire Mike Muscala from Atlanta and will send Justin Anderson to the Hawks. The 76ers will also deal Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to Oklahoma City, Vivlamore adds (via Twitter).

Upon acquiring him, the Hawks will waive Anthony, Wojnarowski adds. That will free up the veteran forward to join whatever a new team when he clears waivers, and the Rockets remain the strong frontrunners to land him.

We heard rumblings earlier this week about discussions between the Hawks and Thunder involving Anthony, Schroder, and Muscala, so it seems those two teams were able to find common ground, with the Sixers entering the mix as well. Here’s how the deal looks for each of the three teams involved:

Oklahoma City Thunder:

It has been nearly two weeks since word broke that the Thunder intended to part ways with Anthony, but the team resisted waiving him outright. Doing so would have reduced his $27.93MM cap charge to just $9.31MM, significantly reducing the club’s luxury-tax bill for 2018/19, but it would have added dead-money cap hits worth $9.31MM for the next two years as well.

By trading Anthony and a future protected pick and taking back Schroder and Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Thunder will reduce their 2018/19 team salary and projected tax bill substantially while also adding a productive point guard in Schroder. The 24-year-old, who averaged 19.4 PPG and 6.2 APG last season, figures to assume a role similar to the one Reggie Jackson previously had in Oklahoma City.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Thunder GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan were granted permission to speak to Schroder before the deal was agreed upon, and both Presti and Donovan are “enthusiastic” about the fit. Oklahoma City had been seeking more speed and another ball-handler, Woj notes.

Still, there’s a reason Schroder was available. There are on-court questions about his shooting and defense, and off-court concerns about his character and his legal issues. Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge last September, with Georgia officials recommending in March that he be prosecuted for felony aggravated battery. He’ll face discipline from his team and/or the league when that case is resolved, but the Thunder appear to be banking him avoiding a more serious sentence.

As for the specific tax figures, by my count, the Thunder will now have a team salary of about $148.74MM with a projected tax bill just over $88.75MM. Prior to the deal, those numbers sat at about $160.97MM and $157.75MM, respectively. While Oklahoma City’s tax outlook for 2018/19 has improved, the Thunder will have to be wary about increased penalties in future seasons after adding Schroder’s $15.5MM annual salary through 2020/21. They’ll likely deal with that when the time comes though.

It’s worth noting that a lengthy suspension without pay for Schroder could further reduce the Thunder’s team salary and tax hit in 2018/19. A suspension would also reduce the likelihood of the point guard earning the $2MM in unlikely incentives included in his contract, though not all of those bonuses are tied to individual performance, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes.

Finally, the Thunder will create a traded player exception worth $10,883,189 in the deal. They’ll have a year to use it.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks had been determined to move Schroder for much of the offseason, and drafting Trae Young and acquiring Jeremy Lin made Atlanta’s former starting point guard even more expendable. Despite his solid production, Schroder had a slew of on- and off-court question marks, as detailed above, and he was drafted and extended by Atlanta’s previous front office — general manager Travis Schlenk never seemed particularly attached to him.

By moving Schroder ($15.5MM) and Muscala ($5MM) for Anthony ($27.93MM) and Anderson ($2.52MM), the Hawks take advantage of their remaining cap room — they’re able to take back significantly more salary than they sent out as a result of that space.

Atlanta won’t get any real immediate help out of the deal, but the club will create future cap flexibility by clearing Schroder’s three remaining years from its books — both Anthony and Anderson are on expiring deals, and Carmelo will be waived shortly. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), he’ll get his full $27.93MM salary from the Hawks. That was certainly agreed upon prior to the completion of the deal, since Anthony had a no-trade clause and could’ve vetoed the move if he thought Atlanta would ask him to give back money in a buyout.

The Hawks will also acquire a 2022 first-round pick, which they’ll receive as long as Oklahoma City is a playoff team in ’22 — otherwise, it will become two second-rounders. The Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading consecutive future first-rounders, meant that the Thunder would have had a hard time dealing an earlier first-round pick, since they’d already sent their top-20 protected 2020 first-rounder to Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers:

While the Sixers’ involvement in this deal may seem extraneous, it’s a nice bit of business for Philadelphia. In Muscala, the team will acquire a big man capable of knocking down outside shots — he’s a career 37.8% three-point shooter and made a career-best 1.2 threes per game in 2017/18.

The Sixers thought they’d acquired a player who fit that role earlier in the offseason when they reached an agreement to sign Nemanja Bjelica, but Bjelica backed out of his deal with the team, leaving Philadelphia seeking a replacement. Muscala is a solid fallback plan, and is on an expiring contract, meaning he won’t compromise the team’s future cap flexibility.

In order to acquire Muscala, the Sixers only had to surrender Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot, a pair of players who seemed unlikely to have regular rotation roles for the team in 2018/19. The move will also help the 76ers clear out a roster logjam, as the team had 16 players under contract and was still believed to be considering bringing over draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden. Following the deal, the Sixers are back down to 15 players on NBA contracts, not including Bolden or 2018 second-rounder Shake Milton.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Looking To Sign Isaiah Hartenstein?

According to a report from Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets are working toward signing 2017 second-round pick Isaiah Hartenstein to an NBA deal with hopes they will reach an agreement by the end of the week.

Hartenstein, 20, had a strong showing for the Rockets during this year’s NBA Summer League after the 7-foot center played for the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, last season.

Before being selected No. 43 overall in last year’s draft, Hartenstein played with Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas, where he helped lead the team to a seventh straight Lithuanian Basketball Club title.

With the Vipers, Hartenstein averaged 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game, making 57.1 percent of his shots. He averaged 10.3 points and eight rebounds per game during this year’s Summer League.

Hartenstein’s signing could mean the end of center Zhou Qi‘s time with the Rockets. Both big men Nene and Chinanu Onuaku have fully-guaranteed salaries for the upcoming 2018/19 campaign, while Qi has no guaranteed money on his contract that runs through 2021.

Checking In On 2018’s Unsigned Draft Picks

The 2018 NBA draft took place less than a month ago, but over three quarters over the players selected on the night of June 22 have already signed their first NBA contracts. That includes each of the 30 players picked in the first round, all of whom are now under contract.

The following players have not yet signed contracts with their new NBA teams:

  1. Detroit Pistons: Khyri Thomas, SG (Creighton)
  2. Orlando Magic: Justin Jackson, F (Maryland)
  3. Washington Wizards: Issuf Sanon, G (Olimpija Ljubljana)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hamidou Diallo, SG (Kentucky)
  5. Houston Rockets: De’Anthony Melton, G (USC)
  6. San Antonio Spurs: Chimezie Metu, F/C (USC)
  7. New Orleans Pelicans: Tony Carr, PG (Penn State)
  8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devon Hall, SG (Virginia)
  9. Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton, G (SMU)
  10. Charlotte Hornets: Arnoldas Kulboka, SF (Capo D’Orlando)
  11. Dallas Mavericks: Ray Spalding, PF (Louisville)
  12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Hervey, SF (Texas-Arlington)
  13. Denver Nuggets: Thomas Welsh, C (UCLA)

Sanon, Carr, and Kulboka will reportedly spend the 2018/19 season overseas, so we can safely remove their names from this list — they won’t be signing NBA contracts this offseason. Welsh, meanwhile, has reportedly agreed to terms on a two-way contract with Denver, though it’s not yet official.

That leaves just nine players from 2018’s draft class who we should still expect to sign at some point. Of those nine players, the higher picks such as Thomas (Pistons), Jackson (Magic), Diallo (Thunder), and Melton (Rockets) are good bets to sign multiyear NBA contracts. Even though some of those teams have luxury-tax concerns, they’ll have to fill out their rosters somehow, and a rookie contract at or near the minimum is the best way to avoid significantly increasing their potential tax penalties.

The players selected in the 50s may be candidates for two-way deals. A year ago, no player selected between Nos. 49-60 received a standard NBA contract, with all of those players signing two-way contracts, agreeing to straight G League contracts, or heading overseas to join an international team.

[RELATED: 2018/19 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

As such, players like Hall (Thunder), Milton (Sixers), Spalding (Mavericks), and Hervey (Thunder) should be considered two-way options. For now though, Dallas doesn’t have a two-way slot open, and Oklahoma City only has one, so it remains to be seen what the future holds for these late second-rounders. We should find out in the coming weeks.

Marshall Plumlee, Two Others Become UFAs

Three players who finished the 2017/18 season on two-way contracts and received qualifying offers from their respective clubs have now become unrestricted free agents. According to RealGM’s transactions log, the Bucks, Bulls, and Rockets rescinded qualifying offers for Marshall Plumlee, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Markel Brown, respectively.

Plumlee, who turned 26 on Saturday, signed a two-way deal with the Bucks in January and appeared in just eight games for the NBA club. He averaged 11.8 PPG and 8.2 RPG in 13 games for the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s G League affiliate. Plumlee posted a farewell Instagram message to the Bucks on Monday, suggesting he won’t return to the club.

Arcidiacono appeared in 24 games for the Bulls last season, but wasn’t expected to be part of Chicago’s point guard picture in 2018/19 with Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne both healthy. As for Brown, the former second-round pick appeared in only four games for Houston, but averaged 15.9 PPG and 5.0 RPG in nine games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

As our tracker shows, the Bulls and Rockets are each believed to have one two-way contract slot open, while the Bucks have two open slots — one may be filled by Xavier Munford, whose two-way qualifying offer remains on the table.

Players whose two-way contracts expire can be tendered qualifying offers that are equivalent to a one-year, two-way contract offer, with $50K guaranteed. Those QOs make them restricted free agents. Munford, Jabari Bird (Celtics), Tyrone Wallace (Clippers), and Darrun Hilliard (Spurs) are the only two-way RFAs still on the market.

Sixers Fail In Bid To Hire Daryl Morey as GM

JULY 17: Following up on his Monday report, Stein tweets that the Sixers sought and received permission to meet with Morey, but the Rockets GM decided to stay in his current situation.

JULY 16: The Sixers failed in an attempt to lure away Daryl Morey from the Rockets and take their GM job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Philadelphia was keenly interested in Morey, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since he was recently voted the league’s Executive of the Year for the way he shaped Houston into a championship contender. A Sixers spokesman refused to give any details to Stein on their GM search (Twitter links).

The Sixers have been in the market for a top executive ever since Bryan Colangelo resigned under pressure over a Twitter burner accounts scandal in which inside information was divulged and negative comments were made about players, coaches, and former executive Sam Hinkie.

Head coach Brett Brown has been serving as the interim head of basketball operations since Colangelo’s resignation, making final decisions on the draft, trades and free agency.

Morey’s contact with the Rockets was extended last year through the 2021/22 season prior to the sale of the team, Stein notes. Morey, 45, has been the Rockets’ GM since May 2007, a year after he was hired by the organization as an assistant GM.

Rockets Remain Frontrunners For Carmelo Anthony

A report last weekend indicated that executives around the NBA viewed the Rockets as favorites to land Carmelo Anthony if and when he reaches free agency. Multiple reports this week have corroborated that story, with Marc Stein of The New York Times and Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) both suggesting that Houston is the frontrunner for Anthony.

According to Stein, it would be a “full-fledged surprise” if Anthony doesn’t end up playing for the Rockets. Charania conveys a similar sentiment, writing that Houston is the “strong” favorite to land the veteran forward, having pulled away from the Heat in the Carmelo sweepstakes.

Anthony is still technically a member of the Thunder, but Oklahoma City is on track to part ways with the 10-time All-Star, either by buying him out, waiving and stretching him, or trading him to a team that will waive him.

[RELATED: Examining how a Carmelo Anthony trade could work]

As we learned earlier this week, the Thunder granted Anthony and his representatives permission to speak to potential suitors. Carmelo and his reps reportedly met with the Rockets and Heat, who were both said to have legitimate interest. The Lakers were mentioned as a possible landing spot for Anthony earlier in free agency, but Stein suggests L.A.’s interest was overstated.

The Rockets have lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute so far this offseason, but reached a deal to sign three-and-D wing James Ennis. Anthony would help fortify the team’s frontcourt depth. The club would be able to sign him using either the minimum salary exception or some or all of the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.337MM).

Rockets Like What They've Seen From De'Anthony Melton

  • Rockets second-round pick De’Anthony Melton has turned in a standout performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Melton slipped to the 46th pick after not playing last season at USC, and he has looked like a steal so far. Melton struggled with his shot in the opener, but is 10 of 23 from 3-point range since then and has impressed the coaching staff with his defense and play-making.

Rockets Sign Forward James Ennis

JULY 13, 6:57pm: The signing is official, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

JULY 11, 4:36pm: The Rockets will sign free agent forward James Ennis, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that Houston and Ennis have agreed to a two-year deal. The second year will be a player option, Charania adds.James Ennis of the Detroit Pistons

Ennis is a logical three-and-D addition for a Rockets team that has lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute on the wing so far this offseason. A career 35.9% shooter from three-point range, Ennis averaged 7.1 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 72 total games last year with the Grizzlies and Pistons.

Although Ennis was inconsistent from beyond the arc after arriving in Detroit in a deadline trade, the Pistons were said to have “significant interest” in re-signing him entering free agency. Upon officially hitting the market, Ennis reportedly drew interest from the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Rockets. The Kings also made a strong push for Ennis in recent days, per Charania, but Houston ultimately won out.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the Rockets were able to secure Ennis for the veteran’s minimum, which means his deal will be worth about $3.47MM over two years. That would be a big win for Houston, as the team will still have its full taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.337MM) available to offer other free agents.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN.com though, Ennis’ two-year deal will be worth about $4MM, which would require a portion of the MLE unless some generous rounding is involved. We’ll await further clarification.

Having re-signed Chris Paul and Gerald Green, Houston’s main focus in free agency now will be retaining restricted free agent Clint Capela. However, as their deal with Ennis shows, the Rockets still have the flexibility to fill in other holes in their roster while they try to find common ground with Capela. The club is viewed as the frontrunner to land Carmelo Anthony when he reaches the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Among Six Teams Still In On Nick Young

  • About six teams, including the Rockets, continue to express interest in free agent swingman Nick Young, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. A report earlier this week specifically identified Houston, Minnesota, Utah, Cleveland, Memphis, and Sacramento as teams with interest in Young, though it’s not clear if those are the same six that remain in the mix.