- In an entertaining piece for ESPN.com, Baxter Holmes takes a deep dive into the secret team dinners that have been a fixture for Spurs coaches, executives, and players throughout Gregg Popovich‘s tenure with the organization, exploring how those dinners influence the club’s culture and success.
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:
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.
Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told reporters Friday that he has already been contacted by a team interested in trading for J.R. Smith, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The interest isn’t so much in Smith as a player – he parted ways with the team in November and only appeared in 11 games this season – but in his contract, which is valued at $14.72MM but carries only a $3.87MM guarantee.
A team looking to unload salary could deal for Smith and be on the hook for just $1.29MM annually if he is waived and stretched over three seasons. The Cavaliers showed a willingness this year to take on unwanted contracts in exchange for draft picks, trading for Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, Matthew Dellavedova and Nik Stauskas.
“We are actually the only team in the NBA that can provide guaranteed cap relief from teams or salary relief until July 1,” Altman said. “We can guarantee that right now and we actually had a phone call yesterday on that (Smith) trade chip, so, we’re going to keep on being aggressive adding those assets because we do eventually want to consolidate and be really good at some point.”
There’s more from Cleveland, all courtesy of Vardon:
- Altman promised an “open-minded” approach to the team’s coaching search and brought up the possibility of making history by hiring a woman for the job. Though he couldn’t mention her by name because she’s under contract, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is an obvious candidate if Altman wants a female coach. Hammon interviewed for the Bucks’ head-coaching job last year, ran the Spurs’ summer league team and has a player development background, which Vardon states is important to the Cavaliers.
- Other coaching possibilities that Cavs players mentioned to Vardon include the Nets’ Bret Brielmaier, the Mavericks’ Jamahl Mosley and the Trail Blazers’ Nate Tibbetts. All three have previous experience in Cleveland. Altman said interviews will begin soon with candidates whose teams aren’t in the playoffs.
- The Cavaliers believe their expiring contracts for next season might generate some interest on the trade market this summer. Knight and Dellavedova will both be free agents in 2020, along with John Henson, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.
- Cleveland won a tiebreaker with the Suns for second place in the draft order heading into next month’s lottery. If they Cavs do wind up with the No. 2 pick, Vardon notes, their view of what type of player Collin Sexton will develop into may determine whether they opt for a point guard in Ja Morant or a wing player in R.J. Barrett.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is willing to consider shortening the regular season and even the length of games, he said in a press conference on Friday. Silver’s comments were relayed by the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney. “The format we have in place now — I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it’s 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it,” Silver said. He also tossed out the idea of reducing the length of games from 48 minutes to 40, the same as college and international games. Holding mid-season tournaments is something else he’s willing to consider. None of the potential changes are close to be implemented, Mahoney adds.
We have more from the basketball world:
- The Knicks choose Zion Williamson. The Cavaliers select Ja Morant. The Suns go for R.J. Barrett and the Bulls take Darius Garland. That’s how Jonathan Givony’s latest ESPN mock draft unfolds now that the draft tiebreakers have been settled.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo is the first choice when building a team from scratch. James Harden, by a narrow margin, is the MVP this season. Draymond Green and Russell Westbrook are the league’s most overrated players. These are some of the results in an anonymous players’ poll conducted by Sam Amick of The Athletic.
- Spurs guard Marco Belinelli will play for Italy in the FIBA World Cup this summer in China, according to a Sportando report. Belinelli played for the Italian national team in a FIBA World Cup in Japan 13 years ago. Belinelli averaged 10.5 PPG for San Antonio during the regular season.
- The teams that didn’t make the playoffs are eligible to make trades now but there are some major restrictions, as Bobby Marks of ESPN details (Twitter link).
The Kings have formally requested an interview with Luke Walton, who parted ways with the Lakers on Friday, and also intend to request permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their vacant head coaching job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. (Hat tip to USA Today’s Sam Amick).
Walton is reportedly GM Vlade Divac’s leading candidate for the job. Messina was a finalist for the Raptors’ job last season, which wound up going to Nick Nurse. He also met twice with the Bucks’ brass last season before Milwaukee chose Mike Budenholzer.
The Kings fired Dave Joerger on Thursday, even though they improved enough to win 39 games. Sixers assistant Monty Williams is also expected to get a long look from Divac.
The fact that Divac is already lining up interviews suggests he’d like to make the coaching hire quickly.
The NBA’s draft order is determined by the league’s reverse standings for that year, with the first four spots in the draft up for grabs via the lottery. However, when two teams finish the season with identical records, an additional step is necessary.
In order to determine which of those tied teams will move ahead of the other(s) in the draft order, the NBA conducts tiebreakers via random drawings. The league completed the random drawings for 2019’s tiebreakers today, and we have the results below. Let’s dive in…
Tiebreaker No. 1:
- Teams: Phoenix Suns vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
- Draft positions: 2-3
- Winner: Cavaliers
Tiebreaker No. 2:
- Teams: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies (33-49)
- Draft positions: 7-9
- Winner: Pelicans
- Second place: Grizzlies
- Note: Grizzlies’ pick will go to Celtics if it falls outside top eight; Mavericks’ pick will go to the Hawks if it falls outside top five.
Tiebreaker No. 3:
- Teams: Sacramento Kings vs. Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets (39-43)
- Draft positions: 12-14
- Winner: Hornets
- Second place: Heat
- Note: Kings’ pick belongs to Celtics (or Sixers if it’s No. 1).
Tiebreaker No. 4:
- Teams: Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic (42-40)
- Draft positions: 16-17
- Winner: Magic
Tiebreaker No. 5:
- Teams: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana Pacers (48-34)
- Draft positions: 18-20
- Winner: Pacers
- Second place: Spurs
- Note: Clippers’ pick belongs to Celtics.
Tiebreaker No. 6:
- Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Boston Celtics (49-33)
- Draft positions: 21-22
- Winner: Thunder
Tiebreaker No. 7:
- Teams: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets (53-29)
- Draft positions: 25-26
- Winner: Trail Blazers
- Note: Rockets’ pick belongs to Cavaliers.
Teams’ lottery odds didn’t really change as a result of today’s tiebreakers. In instances where two or more lottery teams finish with identical records, the lottery combinations are split evenly among them, with the tiebreaker winner getting one extra combination if there’s an odd number.
However, today’s results were still important. As a result of ending up at No. 8, for instance, the Grizzlies now have a 57.4% chance of retaining their own top-eight protected pick, something they don’t really want to do unless it jumps into the top four.
The Celtics, who already have three first-round selections for 2019 and would prefer to roll that Memphis pick over to 2020, will get it if it falls outside of the top eight. There’s only a 42.6% chance that will happen. The Grizzlies’ result was the only good news today for the Celtics, who lost their other three tiebreakers.
The pre-lottery 2019 draft order for the first round is listed below. For more information on the lottery odds for the top 14 teams, be sure to check out our recap from Thursday, as well as our glossary entry on the draft lottery. This year’s lottery will take place on Tuesday, May 14.
- New York Knicks
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Phoenix Suns
- Chicago Bulls
- Atlanta Hawks
- Washington Wizards
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Note: The Celtics will receive this pick if it falls out of the top eight (42.6% chance).
- Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)
- Note: The Mavericks will keep this pick if it moves up into the top four (26.2% chance).
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Charlotte Hornets
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings)
- Note: The Sixers will receive this pick if it moves up to No. 1 (1.0% chance).
- Detroit Pistons
- Orlando Magic
- Brooklyn Nets
- Indiana Pacers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Boston Celtics
- Utah Jazz
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston Rockets)
- Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets)
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors)
- Milwaukee Bucks
Information from Tankathon.com was used in the creation of this post.
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.
10:55am: The Spurs have officially signed Motiejunas, the team announced in a press release. The club now has a full 15-man roster.
10:02am: Nearly two weeks after reporting that big man Donatas Motiejunas and the Spurs were nearing a contract agreement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provides an update, tweeting that Motiejunas is expected to officially sign with San Antonio today. Motiejunas will meet the team on its current road trip, Woj adds.
Motiejunas, 28, has spent the last two seasons playing for the Shandong Golden Stars in the Chinese Basketball Association. In 37 games with the club this season, he averaged an impressive 27.3 PPG, 14.0 RPG, and 4.2 APG, per Asia-Basket.com.
The Lithuanian forward’s deal with the Spurs was reportedly postponed due to visa issues, but he’s set to join the team in advance of the postseason. He’ll be eligible to participate in the playoffs, since he hasn’t been released by an NBA team since March 1.
Before playing in China, Motiejunas spent five seasons playing in the NBA for the Rockets and Pelicans. In 248 total contests (18.4 MPG), he averaged 7.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 1.1 APG on .469/.300/.600 shooting.
The Spurs have had an open spot on their 15-man roster since buying out Pau Gasol last month, so no corresponding move will be necessary to make room for Motiejunas. Assuming it’s finalized today, his rest-of-season deal will have a very modest cap hit of $59,820.
Earlier today, the Kings and Knicks filled the final open spot on their respective rosters, signing a 15th man to a rest-of-season contract. With the NBA’s 2018/19 regular season set to come to an end next Wednesday, we can expect to see more teams making that kind of transaction in the next week.
While teams often leave a roster spot or two open during the season to maintain flexibility or to help reduce their projected tax bill, most of those clubs won’t leave any openings at season’s end. After all, the one-day cap hit for a minimum-salary player signed on the last day of the season maxes out at $8,548.
For playoff-bound clubs, that’s a small price to pay to add one more depth piece who might be needed for a game or two in the postseason. For lottery-bound teams, it’s a worthwhile investment to fill that 15th roster spot with a developmental player who could be an option for the 2019/20 roster.
With that in mind, here are the teams that still have at least one 15-man roster spot available:
Teams with two open roster spots:
- Miami Heat
Teams with one open roster spot:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Houston Rockets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
Teams with a full 15-man roster who have one player on a 10-day contract:
- It has been a week and a half since the Spurs were said to be nearing a deal with Donatas Motiejunas, and Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets that visa issues are holding up an agreement (hat tip to Sportando). The Spurs have gotten involved to try to push the process along, per Urbonas. That’s an indication that San Antonio still wants to get Motiejunas on its roster before the end of the regular season.
- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford are two of the longest-tenured high-level executives in the NBA, in part due to their strong relationship with team ownership. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, with a new generation of the Holt family set to succeed their parents Julianna Hawn Holt and Peter M. Holt on the Spurs’ board of managers, Popovich and Buford are expecting a smooth transition. “We have full confidence in them,” Popovich said of siblings Peter J. Holt and Corrina Holt Richter. “They’re really intelligent, hard-working people who understand the organization. They’ve grown up with it.”