Thunder Rumors

Thunder, Magic Swap Johnson, Purvis

6:41pm: It’s official, according to a Thunder press release.

3:51pm: The Thunder and Magic have agreed to a trade that will send Dakari Johnson to Orlando and Rodney Purvis to Oklahoma City, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). The Magic are also expected to receive cash considerations in the swap, Charania adds (via Twitter).

Both Johnson and Purvis are on the books for identical $1,378,242 salaries in 2018/19. However, Johnson’s contract was guaranteed, while Purvis’ is non-guaranteed, creating a little more flexibility for Oklahoma City.

The Thunder will still have to fill that roster spot if they waive Purvis, so the trade isn’t a major cost-cutting move. However, releasing Purvis and signing a 2018 second-rounder like Hamidou Diallo, Devon Hall, or Kevin Hervey in his place would allow OKC to replace Johnson on the roster with a slightly cheaper – and potentially more useful – player.

Johnson, 22, was selected by the Thunder with the 48th overall pick of the 2015 draft but didn’t sign his first standard NBA contract until 2017. The seven-footer appeared in 31 games last season for Oklahoma City, averaging 1.8 PPG and 1.1 RPG in just 5.2 minutes per contest.

Purvis, 24, joined the Magic down the stretch last season, parlaying a pair of 10-day contracts into a rest-of-season deal. The 6’4″ shooting guard posted 6.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 1.1 APG in 16 games (18.1 MPG).

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.

Nerlens Noel Excited To Prove Doubters Wrong

Five years removed from being drafted No. 6 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, newly-acquired Thunder big man Nerlens Noel is looking to rehabilitate both his game and reputation in Oklahoma City, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.

The Thunder are ready for that too, which is why head coach Billy Donovan and All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George all made recruiting pitches to Noel on the first night of free agency.

Hawks, Thunder Have Discussed Carmelo Anthony

The Thunder and Hawks have engaged in discussions on a potential trade involving Carmelo Anthony, reports NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence (Twitter link). According to Lawrence, the Thunder are looking at Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala, and if the two sides can make a deal, Atlanta would buy out Anthony’s expiring contract.

Per Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks and Thunder spoke in Las Vegas about a possible trade involving Anthony, but those talks didn’t get serious. Still, Vivlamore acknowledges that things could change now that Atlanta has acquired another point guard in Jeremy Lin.

The Hawks have been exploring possible trades involving Schroder for much of the offseason, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that their acquisition of Lin may expedite the process of moving Schroder. While the 24-year-old has been a productive player on the court, concerns related to his legal troubles and locker-room fit have limited his appeal to both the Hawks and to potential suitors. Lawrence indicates that trading Schroder is Atlanta’s “No. 1 priority.”

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 figures to face discipline from his team and/or the league when that case is resolved. Jail time also isn’t entirely out of the question, though Hawks officials are reportedly confident that will be avoided.

Meanwhile, the Thunder continue to explore ways to part ways with Anthony without simply having to waive him. Cutting Anthony outright and stretching his salary over the next three years would result in cap hits of $9.3MM+ annually through 2020/21. Oklahoma City would like to find a way to reduce its projected tax bill by cutting costs in an Anthony trade, though it’s unclear if the team is willing to add an asset – such as a future first-round pick – to make that happen. That may be a sticking point for the Hawks, per Lawrence and Vivlamore.

We outlined in detail last week how an Anthony trade could work for a team that has available cap room, but not necessarily enough to accommodate his full $27.93MM salary. The Hawks meet that criteria. They can create about $10MM in cap space, so they wouldn’t have to match salaries if they were to trade for Anthony — Schroder ($15.5MM) and Muscala ($5MM) would be enough.

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.

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).

Bulls Clearing Cap Room For Forthcoming Move?

The Bulls have been cutting costs in a series of minor moves over the last week, having traded Jerian Grant, waived Sean Kilpatrick, and withdrawn David Nwaba‘s qualifying offer. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details, the transactions signal that the Bulls are looking to create the flexibility necessary to complete a more significant move using cap room. A source tells Johnson that there’s a “strong internal belief” that Chicago will finalize another move.

Although the Bulls technically remain an over-the-cap team due to their various exceptions and cap holds, they can create up to about $20.6MM in cap room by waiving Julyan Stone and Paul Zipser, renouncing Noah Vonleh, and renouncing their trade exceptions. All of those moves are expected to happen, according to Johnson.

Johnson suggests that the Bulls’ forthcoming transaction will likely involve either shoring up their wing position or absorbing an unwanted contract with an asset attached. While Chicago has been linked to restricted free agents like Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, and Marcus Smart intermittently within the last few weeks, I’d be very surprised if the club intends to make an offer to any of those players that requires $20MM+ in space. Clint Capela is the only RFA who might warrant such an offer, but he seems like an improbable target for the Bulls, who drafted Wendell Carter just three weeks ago.

Accommodating a salary dump looks like a more logical path for the Bulls. One popular theory that has been making the rounds is a swap that sends Carmelo Anthony ($27.93MM) and draft assets to Chicago for Cristiano Felicio ($8.47MM). This theoretical deal, which we touched on earlier this week, was fleshed out this morning by cap expert Albert Nahmad.

Such a trade may appeal to the Thunder, who could clear about $20MM from their 2018/19 cap and create nearly $100MM in projected luxury-tax savings by replacing Anthony’s salary with Felicio’s. It’d also make sense for the Bulls, who could carve out additional cap room for 2019 and/or 2020 and could perhaps acquire an extra draft pick for taking on Anthony. The Bulls would subsequently buy out Carmelo in this hypothetical scenario.

However, this is all speculation at this point. All we know for now is that the Bulls’ recent series of moves suggests they have something in mind for their cap room. We’ll have to wait to see what exactly that is.

Thunder Re-Sign Raymond Felton

JULY 12: The Thunder have officially re-signed Felton, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 3: The Thunder have agreed to terms with Raymond Felton, who will return to Oklahoma City for the 2018/19 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Felton will ink a one-year, minimum salary deal, per Wojnarowski.

Felton, 34, served as Russell Westbrook‘s primary backup at the point in 2017/18, and the Thunder liked his performance enough to bring him back for another year. Felton appeared in all 82 games for OKC, averaging 6.9 PPG and 2.5 APG with a .406/.352/.818 shooting line.

Felton’s return doesn’t come as a real surprise, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who notes (via Twitter) that the veteran point guard recently participated in a five-on-five scrimmage as if he was still on the team when the Thunder brought in some free agents for a workout.

With Felton set to receive another minimum salary contract, his new deal pushes the Thunder’s total projected bill for their 2018/19 roster above $300MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Oklahoma City is expected to make cost-cutting moves at some point, but for now they’re carrying about $150MM in salary and another $150MM in projected tax penalties, with new agreements for Paul George, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, and Felton taken into account.

Noel: Russ, Paul Recruited Me

  • Nerlens Noel was recruited by Russell Westbrook and Paul George to join the Thunder, he told Nick Gallo of the Thunder’s website. Noel signed a two-year deal with a player option, adding depth to OKC’s frontcourt. “They called the night of free agency when I was meeting with coach Billy [Donovan],” Noel said of the Thunder’s 1-2 punch. “They told me, let’s get it done and that we want to do special things this year. I definitely felt where they were coming from. I gave it a little thought and with as much love as they showed, it became an easy decision.”
  • Thunder guard Andre Roberson says he’s on track to be back in action for the start of the season, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. He ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee in January. Roberson is able to do some light shooting and ball-handling drills but hasn’t started running.