Rockets Rumors

NBA Teams That Can’t Trade/Acquire Cash Until July

During each NBA league year, teams face limits on the amount of cash they can send out and receive in trades. Once they reach those limits, they’re no longer permitted to include cash in a deal until the following league year.

For the 2018/19 NBA season, the limit is $5,243,000. The limits on sending and receiving cash are separate and aren’t dependent on one another, so if a team has sent out $5,243,000 in trades and also received $5,243,000 in separate deals, they don’t have a clean slate — they’ve reached both limits for the season.

Thanks to reporting by cap experts like Bobby Marks, Eric Pincus, and Albert Nahmad, we’ve been able to keep tabs on the cash sent and received in trades by teams during the 2018/19 NBA league year, so we have a pretty clear idea of each club’s flexibility heading into the draft.

Being able to send or receive cash on draft day is particularly useful, since it can provide a simple means of acquiring – or moving – a second-round pick. A year ago, five of the trades agreed upon in June that featured 2018 draft picks included cash.

Of course, three of those five trades weren’t actually completed until July, which highlights a simple way to work around these restrictions. A team that can’t send or receive cash at this year’s draft could still technically agree to a deal involving cash, then officially finalize it sometime after July 1, when the cash limits reset for the 2019/20 league year.

Still, the 2018/19 restrictions are worth noting, since in some cases a player’s changing cap figure or contract status can make it impossible to wait until July to make a trade official.

With that in mind, here are some of the limitations facing teams until July 1:

Ineligible to receive cash:

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Toronto Raptors

The Hornets reached their limit less than a week until the 2018/19 league year, having received $5MM from the Nets in their Dwight Howard trade and $243K from the Thunder in a deal involving Hamidou Diallo.

As for the Bulls, they reached their yearly limit in three separate transactions, acquiring approximately $2.63MM in a pair of swaps with the Rockets involving Michael Carter-Williams and Carmelo Anthony. Chicago then received another $2.61MM from the Thunder in a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot salary dump.

Based on the reported figures for the Raptors ($5MM from the Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard blockbuster, plus $110K apiece from the Sixers and Nets in deadline deals), they could technically acquire another $23K. However, $110K is the minimum amount of cash a team can include in a trade this season, so Toronto can’t actually acquire any more.

Outside of these three teams, every NBA club is eligible to acquire at least $2MM before July. The Magic ($2,226,778), Sixers ($2,743,000), Mavericks ($3,148,049), and Hawks ($3,187,090) are most limited.

Ineligible to send cash:

  • None

No NBA teams have reached their limits for sending out cash this season, though some are close.

The Nets ($243,000) and Spurs ($243,000) can barely trade any cash after sending out $5MM in deals last July. The Thunder ($411,294) and Rockets ($565,513) are also nearly tapped out, having made a handful of moves aimed at reducing – or in Houston’s case, eliminating – their luxury tax bills.

The Wizards ($2,365,456), Grizzlies ($2,660,069), and Celtics ($2,737,090) are also somewhat limited in their ability to trade cash, but no other teams have less than $3MM available.

Stein’s Latest: Lakers, Sixers, Myers

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka appears to be gaining more power inside of the team’s front office, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. The former agent is reportedly running Los Angeles’ search for a new head coach.

It’s curious that the team is searching for a coach before settling on an official head of basketball operations. Many organizations set up their front office structures prior to hiring a coach.

Stein provides more on the situation and passes along some additional nuggets in this week’s edition of the newsletter. Here are the highlights from his piece:

  • There’s chatter within league circles that Sixers assistant coach Monty Williams’ candidacy for the Lakers‘ gig is as strong in part because some within the front office fear giving the job to Tyronn Lue would hand too much control to LeBron James. Williams met with Pelinka to discuss the position earlier today. Lue and Juwan Howard are among the other candidates rumored to be in contention for the position.
  • The Sixers attempted to pry Warriors team president Bob Myers away from Golden State last offseason before deciding to promote Elton Brand to the role, Stein reports. Philadelphia also attempted to bring Rockets GM Daryl Morey to its front office.
  • Morey’s recent contract extension from the Rockets is estimated to pay the executive in the neighborhood of $8MM annually, Stein hears. Magic Johnson‘s salary as the Lakers’ team president was estimated to be $10MM per year and Stein argues that Los Angeles could feasibly offer a candidate double that salary if they wanted to lure a prized rival executive.
  • Stein writes that there is both “shock and relief” within the league that the Lakers haven’t attempted to poach a decorated rival executive, such as Myers, Spurs GM R.C. Buford, or Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Wolves Expected To Meet With Clippers’ Winger, Rockets’ Rosas

2:59pm: The Timberwolves have also requested and been granted permission to speak to Rockets VP Gersson Rosas, a source tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Rosas has also been linked to the Pelicans and Wizards this spring.

2:30pm: The Timberwolves have received permission to speak to Clippers general manager Michael Winger about a potential president of basketball operations role in Minnesota, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

It’s not clear when the meeting will take place, but Wolves owner Glen Taylor has targeted a short list of potential candidates to become the club’s head of basketball operations, and Winger appears to be emerging as one of the favorites in that group, as Wojnarowski tweets.

Taylor and the Wolves announced last Wednesday at the end of the regular season that they were formally launching a search for a new president of basketball operations. While general manager Scott Layden has been running the club’s front office for most of the season and may ultimately be retained, Minnesota wants to bring in someone who can oversee the team’s basketball operations, filling Tom Thibodeau‘s old role.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported last week that the Wolves are targeting a strong communicator who places high value on the draft and player development.

For Winger, the Timberwolves’ position would represent a promotion, since he currently serves under head of basketball operations Lawrence Frank in Los Angeles. Before he was hired by the Clippers as their general manager in 2017, Winger worked in the Thunder’s front office as an assistant GM under Sam Presti.

Mike D'Antoni Released From Hospital

The Pelicans have already interviewed several candidates, including former Cavs GM David Griffin, Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard.

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who had been hospitalized since Friday, has shown improvement and was released today, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. However, he will not coach the team tonight.

Rockets Notes: Faried, Frazier, Luxury Tax

On January 16, Kenneth Faried – who had appeared in just 12 games and averaged fewer than 10 MPG for the Nets at that point – noticed something about Brooklyn’s opponent that night. As Zach Lowe of writes, the injury-plagued Rockets were starting P.J. Tucker at center while Faried once again got a DNP-CD for the Nets.

“(I remember thinking) ‘They are not even playing a big!'” Faried said to Lowe. “‘I could come here and play right away.’ It sucked [Clint] Capela was hurt, but it opened a door for me.”

League sources tell Lowe that Faried’s realization helped accelerate his buyout discussions with the Nets. The veteran big man ultimately made his debut for the Rockets just five days later and has been a fixture in the rotation since then. The 29-year-old has averaged 12.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG in 25 games (24.4 MPG) for Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Michael Frazier‘s new contract with the Rockets isn’t just a rest-of-season deal, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that the pact will run through 2020/21, though it’s unlikely to feature any guaranteed money beyond this season. Since it’s a three-year contract, the Rockets had to use a portion of their mid-level exception on it.
  • When the Rockets signed Chris Chiozza last month, it appeared the team was putting itself in danger of surpassing the luxury-tax threshold if Clint Capela achieves certain incentives. However, a source tells David Weiner of (Twitter link) that the public tax figures for Houston are slightly off, and the Chiozza signing didn’t jeopardize the club’s standing below the tax. Presumably, Frazier’s deal didn’t either.
  • It’s still not clear exactly which Rockets tax figures are off, but a couple cap experts offered up theories. Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights wonders if Gary Clark‘s converted two-way contract doesn’t count quite as highly for tax purposes as previously believed; Albert Nahmad (Twitter link) hypothesizes that perhaps the NBA made an accommodation for the Rockets after having held up their Carmelo Anthony trade for several days due to a federal holiday.

Bzdelik Undecided On Next Season

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni missed a second consecutive game with the stomach flu today, but fortunately for the Rockets, associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik has been able to pick up the slack in D’Antoni’s absence.

Unfortunately, the Rockets do not yet know whether Bzdelik, 66, will return to the team next season after he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that he hasn’t yet thought about his future beyond this season.

“That’s a really good question. I don’t know the answer to it,” Bzdelik said when asked whether he intended to return to the Rockets next season. “First of all, none of us have any guarantees on tomorrow… I work for a great organization, great ownership, great management. I work for a great, great man and basketball coach in Mike. I work with great people. I thoroughly enjoy my job.”

Bzdelik, who retired after the end of last season due to an unspecified personal issue, returned to the Rockets in November.

Michael Frazier Signs With Rockets

APRIL 7: The deal is official, the Rockets tweeted.

APRIL 6: The Rockets will sign G League guard Michael Frazier for the rest of the season, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Frazier was honored as the league’s Most Improved Player after posting 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 45 games for Houston’s Rio Grande Valley affiliate. He has bounced around the G League since leaving Florida in 2015, but hasn’t played any games at the NBA level. Frazier also played for Team USA in this year’s World Cup qualifiers, alongside Chris Chiozza, who will be his teammate in Houston.

The Rockets only have 14 players under contract, so no move will be necessary before adding Frazier.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

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 Southwest Division:

Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks, 25, SF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.4MM deal in 2016
The Mavericks can make Finney-Smith a restricted free agent by extending $1.93MM qualifying offer. That’s small change by NBA standards but there’s no guarantee they’ll do it. Finney-Smith has been a rotation player throughout his third season in the NBA with trades and injuries opening up playing time. He’s averaging 7.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 24.4 MPG and still hasn’t developed a 3-point shot (31.9%), though his defensive ratings are on the plus side. Finney-Smith seems like a second-unit player going forward, whether it’s with the Mavs or elsewhere.

Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies, 26, C (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $64MM deal in 2016
Valanciunas was putting up silly numbers with Memphis before a Grade 2 ankle sprain sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He was averaging 19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 1.6 BPG in just 27.7 MPG in 19 games since being traded by the Raptors. Of course, it’s easier to do that on a bad team, but it certainly added an element of mystery to Valanciunas’ offseason plans. It seemed a safe bet that Valanciunas would exercise his player option for a guaranteed $17.6MM. He might choose now to test the market and gain long-term security, even if he makes a few million less next season.

Iman Shumpert, Rockets, 28, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $40MM deal in 2015
Shumpert made his money with his current contract. He won’t be receiving any $11MM-per-year offers this summer. His 2017/18 season was a washout due to knee and foot injuries. He’s managed to stay on the court this season but his impact has been minimal. The Kings dealt him to Houston in a three-team trade in February and Shumpert has shot 29% from long range in 18 games with the Rockets. Shumpert’s 34% career average from deep is subpar and he’s never posted a PER above 12 in any season. He’ll likely be looking at veteran’s minimum offers this summer.

Stanley Johnson, Pelicans, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.85MM deal in 2015
Johnson was a colossal disappointment with the Pistons after a promising rookie campaign. A change of scenery, via a deadline trade, offered Johnson a fresh start. But he hasn’t been much better with New Orleans than he was in Detroit. Johnson’s strength is his perimeter defense and ability to guard a variety of positions, but he’s got to become more of an offensive threat for his career to blossom. The Pelicans can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.5MM qualify offer. One of the things their new GM must decide is whether to give the 22-year-old Johnson another year to improve his game.

Rudy Gay, Spurs, 32, PF (Up)– Signed to a one-year, $10.1MM deal in 2018
Quietly, Gay has delivered one of the best seasons of his career. His field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage are career highs. His rebounding average (6.8) is second only to his 7.4 mark in 2013/14, when he played 8.7 more minutes per game. His PER is a rock-solid 17.8. All the more impressive is that Gay tore his Achilles two seasons ago at age 30, an injury from which many players never fully recover. Gay may attract some interest from a contender seeking another veteran piece but the likely scenario is San Antonio rewarding him with a two- or three-year deal.

Five Western FAs Who Have Boosted Their Value In 2018/19

When we recently identified a handful of Eastern Conference free-agents-to-be who have significantly increased their stock this season, that list was headlined by players like D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, and Bojan Bogdanovic, all of whom should be in line for big-money deals this summer. It’s a little trickier to identify similar players in the West.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of big-name free agents in the Western Conference. However, guys like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson entered the year expecting to be in line for lucrative long-term deals and nothing they’ve done has changed that outlook one way or the other.

Still, there are a number of lower-tier FAs-to-be in the West whose strong years have boosted their earning potential for the 2019 offseason. Today, we’ll shine a spotlight on a few of those guys, identifying five players in contract years who have improved their stock with their play this season.

Let’s dive in…

  1. Kelly Oubre, F, Suns (RFA): With Otto Porter ahead of him on the depth chart in Washington, Oubre never really had a chance to thrive with the Wizards in the same way he did after being traded to the Suns. In 40 games with his new team, Oubre played a career-high 29.5 minutes per contest, averaging career bests in PPG (16.9), RPG (4.9), APG (1.6), SPG (1.4), and FG% (.453) as well. Despite a crowded depth chart at small forward in Phoenix, Oubre looks like a core long-term piece, and should receive a long-term contract this offseason.
  2. Patrick Beverley, G, Clippers: After he missed nearly all of the 2017/18 season due to microfracture and meniscus surgery on his knee, it wasn’t clear whether Beverley would be the same player upon his return. His play for the Clippers this season has put those concerns to rest. In addition to filling the stat sheet with 7.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, and a .393 3PT%, the veteran point guard has continued to make life miserable for opposing perimeter players with his aggressive defense. The 30-year-old may not be in line for a massive payday, but he has proven he can still be an important contributor.
  3. Ivica Zubac, C, Clippers (RFA): Beverley’s teammate for the last two months, Zubac joined the Clippers in the most baffling deadline deal of 2019. The young center had been enjoying a breakout year for the Lakers, who gave him up for Mike Muscala. Zubac has been ever better for the Clippers than he was for the Lakers, averaging 8.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 0.9 BPG in 19.7 MPG since his arrival. His impact on defense has been particularly noticeable — the Clips’ 103.9 defensive rating with Zubac on the court would rank first in the NBA, and is 6.2 points better than their rating when he sits.
  4. Seth Curry, G, Trail Blazers: Like Beverley, Curry missed the 2017/18 season due to an injury, raising questions about what sort of player we’d see when he returned. The Trail Blazers, who signed Curry to a one-year, $2.8MM contract last July, have to be thrilled with their investment, as the 28-year-old’s .448 3PT% ranks third in the NBA, just ahead of his brother’s mark. Players who can knock down outside shots at that rate tend to do pretty well on the open market these days.
  5. Danuel House, F, Rockets (RFA): With apologies to Derrick Rose, whose impressive comeback season was marred to some extent by ongoing health concerns, House claims the last spot on my shortlist due to his unexpected impact on the Rockets. Houston’s season got off to a rough start, and the absence of reliable three-and-D players like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute was a factor. House helped right the ship with his solid play on both ends of the court, as he shot 42.0% from downtown and forced the Rockets’ hand in a contract dispute — the team had to convert House’s two-way contract into a one-year NBA deal, putting him in line for restricted free agency in July. He’ll certainly draw more interest this time around than he did a year ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clint Capela Aiming For Free Throw Bonus

  • A notable free throw bonus is still in play for Rockets center Clint Capela, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Capela needs to shoot 65% or higher from the charity stripe this season to obtain $500K, and the 24-year-old is holding a 63.4% mark with three games left on the season. The bonus could help push Houston into the tax if Capela reaches it and also earns a $1MM incentive for the Rockets making it back to the Western Conference Finals.