Phoenix Suns

Standard NBA Deal Expected For Mike James

Perhaps one of the more surprising stories to come out of the 2017/18 NBA season so far is the play of Suns‘ rookie point guard Mike James. James is currently averaging 11.4 PPG and 4.0 APG, good enough for top-10 in both categories among all rookies. And, according to Scott Bordow of azcentral.com, James’ play has not been lost on general manager Ryan McDonough, who plans to sign James to a standard NBA contract before his two-way contract expires on December 6.

Before signing James, however, the Suns will need to create an open roster spot, as they currently already have 15 players under contract. Bordow opines that in order to do so, the Suns will likely look to move on from one of their three centers – Tyson ChandlerAlex Len, or recently acquired Greg Monroe.

Out of the three, Monroe is probably the likeliest candidate to be moved. He is on an expiring contract and the Suns have already been reported as exploring the trade market for the 27 year-old. Len is also on an expiring contract after signing a qualifying offer in the offseason, while Chandler still has two years and $26.6MM remaining on the contract he signed back in 2015.

Leandro Barbosa To Play In Brazil

Veteran guard Leandro Barbosa is continuing his playing career in his home country of Brazil, having joined Franca Basquete, the team recently announced (Instagram link). Barbosa’s agreement with the Brazilian club was first reported by Giancarlo Giampietro (Twitter link).

Barbosa, who will turn 35 next Tuesday, began his basketball career in Brazil back in 1999 and has played there as recently as the 2013/14 season. However, he has spent the majority of the last 15 years playing for NBA teams, appearing in 969 total regular season and playoff games for the Suns, Warriors, Raptors, Celtics, and Pacers.

Most recently, the Brazilian guard played a part-time role for the Suns last season, rejoining the franchise with which he started his career. In 67 games (14.4 MPG), Barbosa averaged 6.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 1.2 APG, with a shooting line of .439/.357/.889. Phoenix elected not to guarantee Barbosa’s full $4MM salary for 2017/18 though, waiving him in July to save $3.5MM.

The exact terms of Barbosa’s deal with Franca Basquete aren’t clear — it’s possible he’ll be free to explore NBA opportunities later in the season, if there’s any interest.

Greg Monroe Boosts Value With Strong Suns Debut

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Pacific Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Pacific division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Pacific teams:

Golden State WarriorsKevin Durant vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $102,091,455
Projection: Over the cap

The Warriors’ total guaranteed salary of $102MM for next season looks modest at first glance. But that figure only accounts for seven players, and Kevin Durant isn’t one of them. Even if Durant is willing to sign for several million less than the max again, which is certainly no lock, re-signing him and then filling out the rest of their roster figures to take the Dubs into luxury-tax territory.

Phoenix Suns
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $70,667,235
Projection: Up to approximately $28MM in cap room

While the Suns’ return in the Eric Bledsoe trade was widely viewed as underwhelming, the move did clear $15MM in guaranteed salary from the club’s 2018/19 cap, creating additional flexibility. Retaining Alan Williams – who has a non-guaranteed salary – and re-signing Alex Len would cut into the Suns’ cap space. However, neither of those moves are locks at this point, so Phoenix could get easily get to $25MM+ in cap room, and could potentially open up even more room by trading Jared Dudley and/or Tyson Chandler, who will be on expiring contracts next season.

Sacramento Kings
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $68,252,577
Projection: Up to approximately $33MM in cap room ($16MM if player options exercised)

There have been no reports yet suggesting that Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple will exercise their player options for 2018/19, which are worth about $8.74MM and $8MM, respectively. The Kings should probably be preparing for that outcome though — neither player has a major role, and the free agent market won’t be as player-friendly as it was in 2016, when Koufos and Temple signed their current deals.

If those options are exercised, the Kings’ guaranteed salaries will increase to about $85MM, limiting their cap flexibility. But they’ll also be able to dedicate that remaining cap room to a single player, if they so choose — assuming Koufos and Temple return, Sacramento would head into the offseason with 14 players under contract, not including draft picks.

Los Angeles Clippers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $59,880,133
Projection: Up to approximately $31MM in cap room

Only five Clippers players currently have fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, but there are several other candidates to return. For one, Patrick Beverley and his $5MM non-guaranteed salary will certainly be back — that’s a tremendous bargain for one of the league’s best defensive players, and our cap projection for the Clippers assumes he’ll be on the books at that price.

Our cap projection doesn’t take into account any player options though, and four Clippers players hold those options for 2018/19. DeAndre Jordan, who figures to land a lucrative multiyear deal, will likely turn down his $24MM option, but Austin Rivers ($12.65MM), Milos Teodosic ($6.3MM), and Wesley Johnson ($6.1MM) are candidates to opt in. If all three of those players pick up their options and Beverley is retained, the Clips’ cap room will essentially disappear.

Los Angeles Lakers
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $49,336,471
Projection: Up to approximately $47.5MM in cap room

The Lakers’ desire to open up two maximum-salary slots for the 2018 free agent period has been well publicized, but the team still has some work to do to achieve that goal. Based on a $101MM cap, maximum salaries for, say, LeBron James and Paul George would be worth a combined $65.65MM in 2018/19. L.A. remains about $18MM shy of that figure, even assuming the team renounces Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Of course, moving Luol Deng‘s $18MM salary would just about get the Lakers there, but finding a club willing to take on that deal without sending out any salary in return will be challenging, to say the least. Waiving and stretching Deng’s contract next July and dumping Jordan Clarkson‘s $12.5MM salary is probably a more realistic path for the Lakers to get into that range for two max deals.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Perkins, S. Brown, Wood

Two NBA veterans have been among the most impressive G League standouts early in the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Emeka Okafor, 35, has spent the past four years recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. He joined the Sixers for training camp and opted to stay with the organization’s affiliate in Delaware. He is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting better than 60% from the field.

Kendrick Perkins was the Cavaliers’ final roster cut and went to Cleveland’s affiliate in Canton. He is averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games. He has dropped weight and may still be able to help an NBA team at age 33.

There’s more news from the NBA and the G League:

  • Today is an important day for four players who were claimed off waivers during the offseason, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The BullsDavid Nwaba and Kay Felder, the HawksNicolas Brussino and the BucksDeAndre Liggins are all now eligible to be traded.
  • The Sixers used the remainder of this year’s cap space for the renegotiation/extension with Robert Covington, leaving just eight teams with cap room, according to Marks (Twitter link). They are the Bulls [$15.1MM], Mavericks [$12.5MM], Suns [$8.9MM], Pacers [$6.1MM], Kings [$4.3MM], Nets [$3.4MM], Hawks [$589K] and Magic [$549K].
  • Veteran guard Shannon Brown has been claimed from the G League player pool by the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways and 10 Days. The 31-year-old last played in the NBA in 2014, when he appeared in five games with the Heat.
  • Christian Wood has joined the Delaware 87ers as a returning player, according to Reichert (Twitter link). He played 13 games for the Hornets last year and ended the season in the G League.
  • International stars are having a greater impact on the NBA than ever before, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Many of the league’s best young players hail from overseas, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis, both considered early-season MVP candidates, along with Ben SimmonsAndrew WigginsJoel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Ziller credits former commissioner David Stern for his focus on expanding the league to overseas markets. That strategy not only created more revenue, it exposed the NBA to an international audience and created a new reservoir of players.

Celtics Notes: Monroe, Okafor, Irving, Kerr

The Celtics could become an option as Phoenix tries to find a taker for Greg Monroe, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The Suns acquired Monroe in the Eric Bledsoe trade, but don’t have any long-term plans for the 27-year-old, who is on an expiring contract. Boston is getting by with Aron Baynes and rookie Daniel Theis at center, but the team might view Monroe as a better alternative.

Mannix says the decision will come down to a choice of keeping the chemistry that has propelled the Celtics to a league best 13-2 record or going after a proven scorer and rebounder. There’s also the question of what Phoenix might want in return for Monroe, who hasn’t played since the trade was finalized. If he winds up agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, the Celtics have an $8.4MM disabled player exception that might be enough to bring Monroe to Boston.

There’s more Celtics-related news this morning:

  • Boston’s preference is to hold onto the DPE through the buyout deadline to see which players become available, Mannix adds in the same story. That means the Celtics wouldn’t use it to acquire benched center Jahlil Okafor from the Sixers, although they remain interested in Okafor if he gets bought out.
  • Following a summer of change for Kyrie Irving, the star point guard is trying to prove to the league that he made the right choices, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN. In addition to asking for a trade away from LeBron James and the three-time Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, Irving switched his number to 11 and adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. The early results have been promising as he ranks third in the league in clutch-time scoring. “I feel absolutely amazing,” Irving said. “My energy, my sleeping patterns, just my intellect and everything that I’m awake to now — I’m very much aware. My awareness is a lot better now that I’m not eating all the GMOs and pesticides and all that they put in our food, man.”
  • The Celtics’ young talent has caught the attention of Steve Kerr, whose Warriors will be in Boston tonight, relays Chris Haynes of ESPN. The game is being hyped as a possible preview of the NBA Finals, and Kerr suggests that the Celtics could be in that position for many years to come. “It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East,” he said, “with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie is amazing. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”

Nuggets Were Close To Eric Bledsoe Trade

Denver was in the “red zone” on a potential trade for Eric Bledsoe last month, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Complete details aren’t provided, but Lowe believes Phoenix would have received Emmanuel Mudiay and a first-round pick.

Negotiations with the Suns eventually fell apart and the Nuggets moved on, leaving them with an extremely young point guard duo in Mudiay and Jamal Murray.

“We chase every opportunity to improve ourselves,” said Denver GM Tim Connelly, who refused to comment directly on the Bledsoe talks. “We’ve had a lot of excellent players offered to us for our young talent. There’s a fine line between overvaluing your own players and being too aggressive chasing short-term results.”

The decision not to give up too much for Bledsoe is understandable, writes Lowe, who says he wouldn’t have made made the Nuggets title contenders this season or next. After that, he will be seeking a huge contract as a free agent in his 30s with a history of knee problems.

Lowe also notes that Denver had an opportunity to make a run at Kyrie Irving over the summer, but refused to include Murray in a potential deal. He believes a package of Murray, Wilson Chandler and a minimally protected first-rounder would have gotten the Cavaliers’ attention.

The experience issue at point guard was created just before the season started when the Nuggets elected to waive Jameer Nelson, who played 75 games last season and started 39. Denver worked out a deal to trade him to a lower-level team in exchange for a protected second-round pick, but pulled out because the front office didn’t want Nelson to be stuck on a team with no shot at the playoffs. He eventually signed with the Pelicans after clearing waivers.

“It was tough to see Jameer go,” coach Mike Malone said. “The players trusted him. I find value in veteran mentors. In our meetings, of course I brought up all the reasons it made sense to keep him. But you have to think big picture. It wasn’t like I was kicking and screaming. By the end, we were all on board.”

Devin Booker Talks Bledsoe, Hair Salon, More

  • In a Q&A session with Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, Suns guard Devin Booker discusses the trade that sent Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, becoming the face of the Suns, and several other topics. The highlight of the conversation may have been Booker’s “no comment” when asked about the hair salon that Bledsoe supposedly didn’t want to be at when he published his infamous tweet last month.

Derrick Jones Excels During G League Assignment

  • Prior to the Northern Arizona Suns’ Saturday game against Iowa, second-year forward Derrick Jones was assigned to the G League, according to a press release from the Suns. Jones played a big part in the club’s win last night, filling up the score sheet with 24 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks.

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, Monroe, Crowder, Smith

The Cavaliers should offer Tristan Thompson to the Suns for Greg Monroe, suggests Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. Amico reported last night that Cleveland is interested in Monroe, who was traded from Milwaukee to Phoenix this week and apparently has no long-term future with the Suns. The 27-year-old has averaged 14.0 points and 8.7 rebounds throughout his career, but fell out of the rotation in Milwaukee and has appeared in just five games this season.

Their salaries are similar, with Monroe making $17.8MM this year compared to Thompson’s $16.4MM, but Monroe has an expiring contract while Thompson is owed more than $36MM over the next two seasons. Acquiring Monroe would provide immediate help as Thompson is out for the next few weeks with a strained calf. Amico also notes that Thompson’s romantic involvement with actress Khloe Kardashian could bring an unwanted distraction to the Cavs’ locker room.

There’s more news out of Cleveland:

  • Jae Crowder had a lot of adjustments to make during his first few weeks in Cleveland, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. One of the key pieces in the Kyrie Irving trade, Crowder has seen his role change several times in 13 games, starting at small forward and power forward and coming off the bench at both positions. Teammates have noticed how well Crowder has been able to handle all the different roles being thrown at him. “He’s such a huge X factor for us and can do so many things, it’s just tough because we’ve been asking him to play the 4, play the 3, guard the other team’s best player, score the basketball,” said Kevin Love. “He just has to find a way to go out there and play and compete because tonight that’s what he did and he was great for us.”
  • J.R. Smith seems comfortable in the starting lineup again, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Smith started the season in a reserve role after the signing of Dwyane Wade, but was reinserted as a starter after Wade asked to come off the bench. Smith struggled with his shot throughout October, but has strung together three straight games in double figures. “I’m shooting the same shots, it’s just, they’re starting to fall,” Smith said. “For whatever reason it is, just happened earlier. Being aggressive earlier, trying to put the ball on the floor, get to the basket. Trying to get to the free-throw line. Just trying to be more aggressive, as opposed to waiting for it to come to me.”
  • Kyle Korver, who re-signed with the Cavs for $22MM over three years, is providing more than just his play on the court, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. He is also serving as a shooting coach, helping Crowder and others with their mechanics.
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