Pacers Rumors

Eastern Notes: Oladipo, Sixers, Celtics

There is still no timetable for when Victor Oladipo will return to the court. Oladipo, who ruptured his quad tendon back in January, continues to make progress and the Pacers are encouraged by his rehab.

“He’s not playing live, but he’s moving. He’s in a good position mentally,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “He feels that everything is going well. I like what I see with him. … He’s doing great. He’s not doing any live contact, still in that rehab stage of working with the trainers.

“I just know [opening night on October 23] he probably won’t be there. The time frame, we have no idea of when he will return.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Romeo Langford has been medically cleared to play, Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops hears (Twitter link). The Celtics rookie had thumb surgery in April.
  • Xavier Silas has joined the Delaware Blue Coats’ coaching staff, Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice reports (Twitter link). Silas briefly played for the Sixers back in 2011.
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports examines the Celtics‘ most intriguing storylines heading into training camp. Gordon Hayward has worked hard all offseason and Forsberg wonders if the veteran wing will look much better than he did last season.

NBA Teams With Most, Fewest Guaranteed Salaries

At this point in the offseason, the majority of the NBA’s teams are carrying either 13 or 14 players on guaranteed salaries. Teams will have to pare down their rosters to no more than 15 players on standard contracts once the regular season begins, so having 13 or 14 players on guaranteed deals now gives those clubs the flexibility to allow one or two non-guaranteed players to make the team — or to carry an open roster spot into opening night.

However, there are currently a dozen teams around the league carrying fewer than 13 guaranteed salaries or more than 14. With the help of our roster counts tool, here’s a look at those teams, with details on what they might be thinking as the 2019/20 season nears:

Fewer than 13 fully guaranteed salaries:

  • Houston Rockets (10)
  • Miami Heat (12)
  • Toronto Raptors (12)
  • Utah Jazz (12)

With only 10 players on fully guaranteed salaries, the Rockets may have some competition for their final few roster spots in training camp. For now Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark – each of whom have partial guarantees – look like good bets to earn spots, with Ben McLemore perhaps the frontrunner for the 13th spot. Anthony Bennett, Chris Clemons, Michael Frazier, William McDowell-White, and Shamorie Ponds are candidates to fill out the roster, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston eventually acquires a veteran or two with its open spots.

[RELATED: 2019/20 Non-Guaranteed Contracts By Team]

Duncan Robinson‘s and Kendrick Nunn‘s partial guarantees put them in good position to earn the Heat‘s 13th and 14th roster spots. The hard-capped club won’t have room for a 15th player to start the season.

Royce O’Neale is a lock to make the Jazz, and Georges Niang seems like a safe bet too. William Howard and Stanton Kidd could be the prime contenders for the 15th spot if Utah wants a full roster.

For the Raptors, second-round pick Dewan Hernandez, veteran point guard Cameron Payne, and returning role players Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller are the top candidates for the final two or three openings on the regular season roster.

More than 14 fully guaranteed salaries:

  • Brooklyn Nets (15)
  • Dallas Mavericks (15)
  • Indiana Pacers (15)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (15)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (15)
  • New York Knicks (15)
  • Phoenix Suns (15)
  • San Antonio Spurs (15)

The Grizzlies were the only team carrying more than 15 guaranteed salaries, but a buyout agreement with Dwight Howard changed that. If they reach a similar deal – or find a trade – involving Andre Iguodala, their roster count would dip to 14 fully guaranteed contracts.

The Nets, Mavericks, Pacers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Suns, and Spurs could shake things up with roster moves before the season begins, particularly if any of those teams is impressed by a non-guaranteed camp invitee. But for now, their regular season rosters look pretty set with their 15 players on guaranteed salaries.

NBA Teams With Full 20-Man Rosters

Training camps are still several weeks away from opening, but a number of NBA teams have already reached their 20-player offseason roster limits, either officially or unofficially.

Offseason rosters are fairly fluid. Teams will often sign a player to an Exhibit 10 contract to ensure he’ll receive a bonus if he spends time with their G League affiliate, then waive him days later. So the clubs with full 20-man rosters now won’t necessarily bring those specific 20 players to training camp. Still, it appears that at least a handful of teams may be done making roster moves until camps open.

With the help of our roster count tracker, here’s a breakdown:

Officially full 20-man rosters:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Utah Jazz

While the Cavaliers are carrying 19 players on standard contracts and just one on a two-way deal, the six other teams listed here have an 18/2 split and probably won’t have their camp invitees compete for a two-way slot.

Still, a few roster decisions are likely in store for some teams on this list. The Grizzlies, for instance, are carrying 17 players with full or partial guarantees, and probably won’t still have Andre Iguodala on their roster by the time they set their 15-man regular season roster.

Unofficially full 20-man rosters:

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Minnesota Timberwolves

Each of these three teams technically has 19 players under contract, with one roster spot still open. However, Kobi Simmons is expected to fill that final spot for the Hornets, Michael Beasley will do so for the Pistons, and Tyus Battle will be the Timberwolves‘ 20th man.

Very unofficially full 20-man rosters:

  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks

The Pelicans have 18 players under contract, but various post-draft reports in June indicated that they’d sign Jalen Adams, Aubrey Dawkins, and Javon Bess at some point. It’s possible one or more of those reports was erroneous, or the agreements fell apart. For now though, we’re assuming some combination of those players will fill out New Orleans’ 20-man roster.

The Knicks are in a similar boat, with 16 players officially signed and five other contract agreements reported. Deals with Kris Wilkes, V.J. King, and Amir Hinton were reported in June, while July and August reports indicated that New York would also sign Kenny Wooten and Lamar Peters. We’re still waiting to see if the team finalizes all those signings.

Pacers Finalize Deal With Amida Brimah

After reaching an agreement in July to sign him to a one-year contract, the Pacers finalized their deal with free agent center Amida Brimah today, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. With the signing, which Indiana confirmed in a press release, the team now has a full 20-man offseason roster.

Brimah, 25, went undrafted out of UConn in 2017 and appeared in 95 games for the G League’s Austin Spurs over the last two seasons. In 47 games in 2018/19, Brimah averaged 8.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 2.9 BPG in 23.3 minutes per contest for San Antonio’s NBAGL affiliate. He earned G League All-Defensive honors for a second consecutive season.

More recently, Brimah appeared in six Summer League games for the Nets in Las Vegas in July, showing off his rim-protecting abilities by averaging 2.2 BPG in just 12.5 minutes per contest.

Because the Pacers already have 15 players with guaranteed salaries under contract, Brimah is unlikely to make the team’s regular season roster. Indiana’s own G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, recently acquired the big man’s NBAGL rights from Austin, per Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link). That’s a signal that Brimah will likely end up as an affiliate player for the Pacers and figures to start the 2019/20 regular season in Fort Wayne.

Remaining Offseason Questions: Central Division

NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, many clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.

We’re in the midst of looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on a key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2019/20 regular season begins.

After focusing on the Atlantic and Southeast earlier this week, we’re moving onto the Central today. Let’s dive in…

Chicago Bulls
Will the Bulls make a trade to clear their point guard logjam?

The Bulls didn’t waste any time this offseason addressing the point guard position, their biggest need heading into the summer. They used their lottery pick to draft Coby White, then completed a sign-and-trade deal for Tomas Satoransky early in free agency.

It would be logical for Satoransky and White to play most of the point guard minutes for the team in 2019/20, but there are multiple other players who may also enter the mix. The club signaled its fondness for Ryan Arcidiacono with a new three-year contract that will pay him annual salaries of $3MM. Chicago still has former top-five pick Kris Dunn under contract as well. And Shaquille Harrison was re-signed too, albeit on a partially guaranteed deal that doesn’t assure him of a roster spot.

White will certainly be a part of the Bulls’ future, and multiyear guarantees for Satoransky and Arcidiacono indicate they’re very much in the team’s plans too. Dunn is the most likely trade candidate on the roster, as has been the case all offseason — after not moving him in June or July, perhaps Chicago can find a taker this fall.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Will all of the Cavs’ veterans on expiring contracts stick around?

For a rebuilding team, the Cavaliers sure have a lot of veteran players on their roster at the moment. It makes sense that guys like Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. will remain in Cleveland, since the team has invested long-term in those players. But how about all the vets on expiring contracts?

Currently, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, John Henson, and Matthew Dellavedova account for about $67MM of Cleveland’s 2019/20 team salary. All five players are entering contract years and it’s hard to imagine that more than one or two of them are part of the team’s future plans.

There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto those veterans into the season to see if their expiring deals come in handy via trade before the deadline, but the rebuilding Cavs might not want to enter the season with so many veterans vying for regular playing time. Many of those players on expiring contracts will become buyout candidates eventually, if they’re not already.

Detroit Pistons
Will Andre Drummond sign a contract extension?

Drummond himself provided a strong hint on his answer to this question this week, suggesting that he’s “excited” for the opportunity to hit free agency next summer, when he can turn down his 2020/21 player option and reach the open market.

The veteran center later clarified that he’s not anxious to leave the Pistons. However, he did say that he’s looking forward to going through the process of being an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

Given those comments, it’s unlikely that Drummond signs a long-term extension this fall even if Detroit puts an offer on the table. Still, it’s worth noting that the Pistons could theoretically give the big man $145MM+ over four years on a new deal. Even if he’s excited about free agency, that’s the sort of offer that could give him pause.

Indiana Pacers
What does Victor Oladipo‘s recovery timetable look like?

Oladipo’s 2018/19 season came to an early end when he suffered a ruptured quad tendon, and it looks like the injury will probably delay the start of his 2019/20 season too.

Oladipo and the Pacers have both been cagey about offering a specific recovery timetable, with the star guard not offering many details on his rehab process. The last concrete hint came in June when president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said he hoped Oladipo would be back in Indiana’s lineup by December or January.

Indiana has enough talent to make the playoffs without a full season from Oladipo, and the team will be patient with its leading scorer. But if the Pacers want to make a run at a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage in round one of the postseason, it’d be great news if Oladipo can return to the court this fall.

Milwaukee Bucks
Will Dragan Bender fill the Bucks’ 15th roster spot?

The Bucks currently have 14 players on guaranteed salaries, with Bender in position to claim the team’s 15th and final regular season spot. Still, his contract is only partially guaranteed for $300K, giving Milwaukee the flexibility to change course before opening night.

Bender’s salary guarantee won’t increase unless he makes the team’s regular season roster, so if the Bucks suffer injuries in camp or determine that they’d rather carry another point guard or wing, he’d almost certainly be the odd man out.

For now, I’d expect Bender to open the season in Milwaukee, but the fact that the club is still being linked to free agents like Jodie Meeks suggests it’s not a lock yet.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

World Cup Updates: Lithuania, Joseph, Nigeria, France

The Lithuanian national team has announced its roster for the 2019 World Cup, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that the 12-man squad will include Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also on the roster.

Lithuania is viewed as a contender to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, but it won’t have an easy path to even make it out of the first round. The Lithuanian national team is part of a group that also includes Australia, Canada, and Senegal — only two of those clubs will advance to the round of 16.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup, which will tip off in just four days in China:

Central Notes: Markkanen, LaVine, Brogdon

The Bulls hope that Lauri Markkanen can be the face of the franchise and Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago believes the big man has the potential to be just that. Strotman chronicles Markkanen’s first two seasons in the league and examines the moves Chicago has made to build a team around its power forward.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine should benefit from a new and healthy Bulls rotation, Strotman writes (in a separate piece). LaVine carried the team for parts of last season, as only James Harden had a higher usage rate in October and November. Starting the season with Markkanen healthy and new talent on board should help ease LaVine’s burden and allow him to be more efficient in his game.
  • Malcolm Brogdon is the Pacers‘ X-Factor, Chad Smith of Basketball Insiders contends. Indiana should be a solid playoff team next season, though the club’s ceiling may be determined by what they get out of Brogdon.
  • Keith Langlois of examines what goals Svi Mykhailiuk should strive for this upcoming season. Decision-making was among the areas Langlois pinpoints for the Pistons‘ wing.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Lopez, R. Jackson, Gilbert

Nearly eight months after having surgery on a ruptured quad tendon, Victor Oladipo doesn’t want to talk about the rehab process, writes Scott Agness of The Athletic. Oladipo began on-court workouts in June, but he hasn’t practiced against anyone. He said he’s working on “a little bit of everything,” but doesn’t want to give away any secrets.

“Ah, I’m getting there,” Oladipo said. “I’m working my way there. You can’t rush these things, you just got to take your time. At the end of the day, Rome wasn’t built in one day.”

People close to Oladipo have talked about his work ethic and dedication. He has adapted his shooting method and now has a smoother shot with a quicker release. The Pacers are monitoring his progress, but haven’t set any sort of timetable for his return.

“I’m just excited to play basketball again, honestly,” Oladipo said. “Just go out there and compete at the highest level possible. I got a lot to let go, so I’m looking forward to letting it go.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks center Brook Lopez tells Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that he enjoyed July’s free agent frenzy just like any other fan. “Man, it was so entertaining – first and foremost,” Lopez said. “Just as a fan of the game – waiting for all of those Woj Bombs and news updates – it really was exciting! As a player, it’s exciting too. I mean, everyone has said it, but I think the level of parity is really exciting because there are a number of teams that, I think, are contenders now. It’s just great for basketball because it’s going to be such a competitive league this year.” 
  • Getting past the effects of two serious injuries helped Pistons guard Reggie Jackson enjoy a revival last season, observes Keith Langlois of Jackson was slowed by left knee tendinosis during the 2016/17 season and a grade-3 right ankle sprain in 2017/18. Jackson started to feel fully healthy around mid-season and averaged 16.9 PPG after February 1.
  • Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was released from a Chicago rehabilitation facility this week after spending two months there following a stroke, relays Chris Fedor of

Oladipo Excited About Newcomers

Victor Oladipo is sure the Pacers will make the playoffs due to the additions of Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb, among others, as he told J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.

“I feel like we got some great additions. We got a chance to be really special. I feel like the league is wide open,” the Pacers’ guard said. “I was excited for the opportunity to play with (Brogdon). I know what type of player he is, the level that he plays on and has been playing on the last couple of years from Milwaukee. To have him as an addition is pretty big for us.”

Oladipo is working his way back from a quad injury and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready by the time the Pacers open training camp. “I’m not sure yet,” he told Mark Monteith of the team’s website.

  • Thaddeus Young is a quality finisher and that will help boost the Bulls’ offense, according to Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. Young shot 67.9% from inside three feet for the Pacers last season, while Chicago ranked 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage inside five feet, making just 58% of its attempts, Strotman notes. Young jumped teams on a three-year, $41MM pact early in the free agent season.

Domantas Sabonis Talks Extension, Fit With Myles Turner

Domantas Sabonis has one year remaining on his rookie deal with the Pacers. The big man believes there’s a good chance he’ll sign an extension this offseason, but he’s remaining patient.

“Like my dad said: You did your job. You did your best and now you just have to wait. Now I can’t do anything. I just need to be patient and wait,” Sabonis said (via international journalist Donatas Urbonas’ Twitter feed).

The 23-year-old is arguably best-suited to play the five, which is also Myles Turner‘s best position. With Turner, who signed a four-year extension last season, in the fold and the Pacers drafting center Goga Bitadze in the first round of June’s draft, it’s fair to wonder about Indiana’s plan for Sabonis. The 23-year-old isn’t worried about the overlap with Turner.

“We know it can work,” Sabonis told Urbonas (Twitter link). “I think we were a good fit last season. We just need more time. Not only a few minutes per game, but a whole season or at least half of it. There are going to be better and worse games, but we need trust and everything will be fine.”