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Report: Spurs signing Dante Cunningham

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The Spurs were running low on small forwards. Kawhi Leonard remains in limbo, and San Antonio let Kyle Anderson leave for the Grizzlies.

Enter Dante Cunningham.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is probably a minimum contract. The Spurs still have whatever of the mid-level exception they didn’t give Marco Belinelli or the bi-annual exception. But that’s not way more than the minimum ($2,176,260) for Cunningham, who has nine years experience – and probably couldn’t command more, anyway.

Unlike Rudy Gay, Belinelli, Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes, Cunningham is San Antonio’s first free-agent signing this summer who didn’t previously play for the team. He’s a combo forward who will likely be needed more at small forward. He can handle larger small forwards, and Belinelli can play the three against smaller opposing small forwards in a platoon.

Cunningham is a solid defender in the right matchup, and he holds his own as a 3-point shooter. The Spurs should use him well.

Of course, the Spurs must first determine what to do about Leonard before fitting in more pliable pieces like Cunningham.

Top 20 free agents still on the market

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There wasn’t much money available in the free agent market this season, and that message got through to players — they were grabbing the cash in a Piranha-like feeding frenzy starting on July 1. More than 50 players agreed to contracts in the first five days of free agency, and more than half of those were one-year contracts.

That’s bad news for anyone without a chair as the music stops — there is not much money out there for the guys still on the free agent market. Restricted free agents, in particular, have found the market dry and now have almost no leverage (every player can’t use the Kings as leverage, although they may try).

Those restricted free agents dominate the top of our list of the 20 best players still available as of Friday morning. If your team is looking to round out their roster, these are they guys they are considering, and most are going to sign for a lot less than they expected.

1. Clint Capela (Houston Rockets). He’s a max or near max player but there have been no offers for the restricted free agent because Rockets GM Daryl Morey made it clear he will match any offer and bring Capela back. That has left Capela with no leverage. Capela averaged 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game last season (with a 24.5 PER), plus was a crucial part of the Rockets starting lineup and switching defense (because he can handle himself on the perimeter fairly well, plus protect the rim). The Rockets were 4 points per 100 better with him on the floor, and he was a big part of their playoff run. Houston needs to make a fair offer, low-ball him and he can play for the qualifying offer then walk as a free agent in a year.

2. Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics). He’s frustrated that no offers sheets have come in that would force the Celtics to match (he’s a restricted free agent), and “hurt and disgusted” by the fact the Celtics have not not made a big bid (the two sides, have talked, despite reports). Boston is letting the market set the price, and Smart isn’t seeing what he expected. Smart is one of the better defensive two guards in the league who can guard one through three. He can switch, he plays with a high motor and gets loose balls, he can get steals. But on the other end of the court, you can help off him and not guard him on the perimeter, daring him to shoot. He wanted more than the $12 million a year or so the Celtics had offered, now he’s likely going to take a lot less.

3. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls). UPDATE: He was the one restricted free agent able to use the Sacramento Kings as leverage — he signed a four-year, $80 million offer sheet with the Kings. The Bulls decided to match it, so he remains in Chicago. LaVine has a world of potential, but his game is based on athleticism and he is coming off an ACL surgery, then had to be shut down last season with knee tendonitis. It’s a concern, but if healthy he has the tools to be a quality two guard in the NBA.

4. Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks). Coming off two ACL surgeries, interest in Parker has been lukewarm (the Kings reportedly have had talks, but nothing came of them yet). He’s a versatile scorer who was a 20-point-a-game guy before the second surgery. That scoring made up for his poor defense in the past. Expect the Bucks to keep him, the only question is at what price and for how many years (Parker may want a short contract to prove himself and get back out on the market).

5. Isaiah Thomas (Los Angeles Lakers). His fall from near max player to today has been hard to watch (or imagine from when he was with the Celtics). However, the combination of his hip injury that sidelined him for the first half of last season, and perceived attitude problems in Cleveland that helped lead to a trade, has teams hesitant. He likely will have to take a one-year deal for a few million — maybe the minimum — and prove he deserves more money.

6. Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers). UPDATE: Nurkic has reached terms on a four-year, $48 million contract to stay in Portland. He’s a solid big man who averaged 14.3 points, and 9 rebounds a game with a very efficient 19.2 PER. While teams have moved away from more traditional centers he provides the inside balance, scoring, defense, and rebounding to allow Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum work on the perimeter. They needed to keep him.

7. Wayne Ellington (Miami Heat). Every team could use more shooting, and Ellington shot 39.2 percent from three last season, so it’s a surprise he’s still on the board. Ellington doesn’t bring much defense, rebounding, or anything else, but if a team is looking for a sniper Ellington can be their guy.

8. Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets). The switchable wing defender was a key part of the Rockets’ regular season defensive success — the team was 4.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court last season. Plus he shot 36.4 percent from three. It’s a little surprising there have been no offers, the Rockets would like to bring him back.

9. Kyle Anderson (San Antonio Spurs). The Spurs want to bring him back, but they have a lot of other balls in the air right now, and no other team has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. “Slo-mo” is a crafty pick-and-roll ball handler and a long, switchable defender, he’s got an unorthodox game that fits well with what the Spurs will do, but would it work as well with another team? He averaged 8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists this past season.

10. Jamal Crawford (Minnesota Timberwolves). Even at age 38, he can still get buckets. Not as efficiently as he once did, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year can still score the rock. He’s also good in the locker room. He opted out in Minnesota and some team is going to get him to bolster their bench (the Warriors have long been rumored with a minimum deal, Crawford is waiting to see if anyone else will offer more).

11. Rodney Hood (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another player (like Isaiah Thomas) who saw his stock fall — went into last season as the expected go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz, and by the end of the season couldn’t get off the bench in Cleveland.He’s 6’8” wing who can get buckets, more than a few teams could use that. Is Cleveland one of them?

12. Brook Lopez (Los Angeles Lakers). He has some versatility, he can shoot the three (34.5 percent) and took 41 percent of his shots from deep last season. Plus, he’s an efficient scorer around the basket, hits the boards hard, and uses his size and length to defend the paint. A lot of teams are not looking for his style of traditional center, but a lot of teams could use him for depth off the bench.

13. Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers). This may be too low for him on this list. L.A. liked Harrell, a restricted free agent who found his scoring touch last season and averaged 11 a game for the team. He was very efficient with a PER of 24.7 for the Clippers. Other teams have not made an offer on the restricted free agent because it is assumed the Los Angeles would just match, but he may choose to play for the qualifying offer then hit the open market in a year.

14. Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs). UPDATE: It’s hard to picture, but Parker will be wearing teal on the court next season after reaching a two-year, $10 million deal with Charlotte. Parker admitted it was hard to leave San Antonio, where he has played for 17 seasons, but with the franchise in a state of change he went to the East where he felt wanted and where he could play a bigger role on a team gunning for the playoffs. Parker will backup Kemba Walker (unless Walker gets traded, then…).

15. Michael Beasley (New York Knicks). The man can still get buckets — he averaged 13.2 points per game and shot better than 50 percent overall, plus 39.5 percent from three. He’s not the most focused guy, not much of a defender, but for a mid-level or near-minimum contract coming off the bench he could help a lot of teams.

16. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat). The real question here is does he retire? If not, if Wade returns, it will be to the Miami Heat for one more season. He’s not chasing a ring with LeBron James (not that the Lakers are winning one next season anyway) or anyone else, he’ll play for the Heat until he hangs it up.

17. Greg Monroe (Boston Celtics). Monroe has game — a below-the-rim game where he can score in the post efficiently and get some boards. Problem is, that’s not what teams want in a center now. He had some value for Boston last season (after falling out of the rotation in Milwaukee) but his style of play has him limited. New Orleans has been rumored, another team could jump in.

18. Kyle O’Quinn (New York Knicks). UPDATE: Literally as this story was going live online, O’Quinn messed it up by accepting a one-year, $4.4 million deal with the Pacers (they are using their room exception, so he got more than the $4.2 million he opted out of with the Knicks. He averaged 7.1 points per game for the Knicks last season, plays within himself, can hit midrange jumpers and can pass.

19. Shabazz Napier (Portland Trail Blazers). The unrestricted free agent had a strong first half of last season and looked like he and his game had grown up, but he struggled after the All-Star break and slid out of the rotation. With Seth Curry in house a return to Portland is unlikely. He should land a deal as a bench point guard somewhere, but for the minimum.

20. Dante Cunningham (Brooklyn Nets). The veteran forward gave Brooklyn and before that New Orleans about minutes and some points (5.7 average) a night last season. He’s not a classic shooter but he can hit a three and will keep defenses honest. Can provide solid depth for a team and a fair price.

Trade Deadline day tracker: All the latest rumors, deals in one place

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The NBA Trade Deadline is a frenzy of activity — with all the civility and patience of a piranha feeding. Rumors fly, misinformation is leaked, and through it all trades are made.

It’s been a wild day of rumors and trades. It’s almost impossible to keep up, but we’re going to do our best in this one place to encapsulate all of it for you. In the hours running up to the deadline — 3 p.m. Eastern of Thursday, noon Pacific — we’re going to do our best to encapsulate all of it right here. Consider it a little bit news scrawl, a little bit running diary, but we will have everything you need to know right here. Then as the day goes on check back to NBC Sports and its NBA page for a podcast breaking down the trade deadline, plus analysis of the Cavaliers moves, and Winners and losers. 

3:14 PM: Joe Johnson was moved from Utah to Sacramento as part of a three-team deal, and he’s understandably going to ask for a buyout.

3:05 PM: Adding to the wild day — the guys we expected to see traded, and teams we thought would be active, were quiet. At the top of that list, Tyreke Evans, the man most expected to be traded, stayed in Memphis because nobody would cough up a first round pick for him.

Also, DeAndre Jordan is still a Clipper. Los Angeles couldn’t get an offer it liked, and now with DJ, just re-signed Lou Williams, and Tobias Harris, Los Angeles will try to make the playoffs in the crowded back half of the West.

Also, Boston did not pull the trigger on anything. They will play the cards in their hand (which may well be good enough to reach the NBA Finals).

3:00 PM: We have reached the trade deadline. Teams can no longer submit deals to the league office, but some deals that just snuck in under the wire will still trickle in.

Be sure to check back at NBCSports.com throughout the afternoon as we will have stories on what the Cavaliers have done, winners and losers, and a podcast breaking down a wild day.

2:57 PM: The Orlando Magic have thrown in the towel on Elfrid Payton, trading him to Phoenix, a team looking for a point guard to put next to Devin Booker and willing to take a risk.

2:53 PM: Time is running out for deals and the big ones — DeAndre Jordan, Tyreke Evans — seem to be without resolution. However, we do have a minor trade that could get Sheldon Mac a little extra run in Atlanta.

2:34 PM: LeBron James was not left in the dark by the Cavaliers before their radical roster makeover on Thursday — and that included letting him know about the Dwyane Wade trade. Ramona Shelburne has it all:


2:32 PM:
The one guy that seemed a sure bet to be traded today, Tyreke Evans, is the one guy who may be staying put. There’s still not a first rounder for him out there.

2:25 PM: When the Nets picked up Rashad Vaughn in a trade just days ago, I thought it might be his last step before sliding out of the league after the season. I was wrong, he’s on the move again to New Orleans for Dante Cunningham. (Brooklyn turns guys like Cunningham into far more productive players, this will be interesting to watch.)

2:22 PM: The Trail Blazers have not been able to add a piece that vaults them up in the Western Conference hierarchy, so they have made a move to save them some cash.

2:18 PM: There are reports that if the Lakers plan to bring Isaiah Thomas off the bench he will ask for a buyout. However, as soon as Lonzo Ball returns from injury (maybe before the All-Star break, or right after) that is exactly what Los Angeles should do — this is all about developing Ball and the other young parts of the Lakers core (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, etc). The Lakers can buy IT out if he gives them a steep enough discout to make it worth it, but they don’t have to.

Thomas is going to be disappointed in the size of the Brinks truck that is going to back up to his house this summer.

2:05 PM: The Knicks have landed another young point guard in a three-way trade broken by Adrian Wojnarowski.

Emmanuel Mudiay is a former lottery pick but one pushed aside in Denver because Jamal Murray is just better at the point. The Knicks can experiment playing him and Frank Ntilikina together to see if that’s a backcourt pairing that works. (With Kristaps Porzingis out and the playoffs dead to New York, they should experiment a lot the rest of the season.)

2:00 PM: One hour to go.

1:58 PM Utah plans to waive Derrick Rose once the trade is complete, which makes sense, he doesn’t fit what they want to do so give him a chance to play for something (including his next contract).

How about with his old friend Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

The problem with this: Tyus Jones needs more run, not less, and to cut his minutes for the empty shell of Derrick Rose?

1:28 PM: We have a swap of project players that have not really worked out well for their respective teams so far. Maybe new surroundings change things up for these guys (probably not, but it’s worth the shot because what the teams have been doing is not working).

The Kings will waive Caboclo, this clears up a roster spot for their involvement in all the other trades involving Cleveland. The Raptors get a guy who a number of teams wondered could be developed into a good shooter and rotation player outside of Sacramento. Good gamble by the Raptors.

1:16 PM: Just to sum up Cleveland’s day:

With more going out than coming in, Cleveland also has a couple of roster spots and can be aggressive on the buyout market.

1:07 PM: NOBODY SAW THIS COMING — Dwyane Wade is being traded out of Cleveland.

That’s LeBron’s buddy, but this is business. The Cavaliers needed to get younger and more athletic and have done that with bold strokes today — long-term payroll be damned — and with that Wade was going to get squeezed. So they offered him an out.

Wade and family are all good with this.

For a Miami team that has lost five in a row and is in danger of falling behind both Philly and surging Detroit — and out of the playoffs — this is a shot in the arm. Limited though he is, Wade can help the Heat.

1:00 PM: Cleveland is going all-in on this season, reworking a roster that needed it to get younger and more athletic, and to add more shooting. The Cavs got Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers first.

Now they have added Rodney Hood from Utah and George Hill from Sacramento in a three-team deal that sees Iman Shumpert headed to Sacramento and both Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder going to Utah. The Cavaliers have completely remade their roster.

12:45 PM: Cleveland took on a big risk with this Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance trade. First, they did it without asking LeBron James about it, and just took on $28 million in long-term salary without a commitment from Lebron he would stay past this season. That’s one big gamble — they can sell it as a sign of long-term commitment, but it’s still a big risk.

The other is on Clarkson himself. He’s putting up 14.5 points a game off the bench for the Lakers this season, but it’s one thing to be the attacking energizer player on a team not expecting wins, it’s another to go against the John Wall/Kyle Lowry/Kyrie Irving group of guards in the East in the playoffs. Clarkson also is an okay but not great shooter from three (32.4 percent). He’s dangerous in the pick-and-roll and in isolation, things Tyronn Lue runs a lot, but he’s not a shooter in the classic sense. Clarkson is an upgrade from where Isaiah Thomas is right now, but is he really ready for this step?

12:25 PM: Detroit is shipping Brice Johnson to Memphis, but not for Dante Cunningham, rather for Long Beach State’s own James Ennis.

Ennis gives the streaking Pistons another solid rotation wing, he can shoot the three (35.7%), finish in transition and at the rim, and is a good defender. He will fit into the rotation where some of those Tobias Harris minutes were (he’s not as good as Harris, but Ennis is solid).

12:20 PM: We have the Luke Babbitt trade everyone has been waiting for. Miami adds a little shooting in this move.

12:06 PM: The Cavaliers needed to add youth and athleticism, and they are doing that by being close to a deal that lands them Jordan Clarkson (the Lakers wanted to move to get off his salary) and Larry Nance Jr., a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For whom? Isaiah Thomas — who did not want to be traded and is not going to be re-signed by the Lakers — Channing Frye and a pick. This deal is reportedly done.

The Cavs get another playmaking guard — one fully healthy and playing better on both ends than Thomas — and some help on the wing with an athlete like Nance. This is an upgrade for Cleveland. Not a “watch out Golden State” upgrade, but one that helps them in the East. Is that enough to sway LeBron James this summer… I doubt it, but they probably think so.

The Lakers get off Clarkson’s salary helping open up free agency room in 2018 to go after both LeBron and Paul George — the Lakers will have the cap space with another couple moves like renouncing Julius Randle, now whether those two big fish are interested is a completely different question — and get a first (Cleveland’s late first, protected). They will not keep Thomas or Frye around after this season but are expected to keep them through the remainder of this season and not buy them out. Both are free agents come July 1.

12:01 PM: Clippers are remaining active trying to find a new home for DeAndre Jordan. The Raptors have long seen him as an upgrade to Jonas Valanciunas but the Clippers don’t want to just take on an inferior big man, so they want a lot more in the deal. The Raptors are trying, though.

11:45 AM: Not much buzz around the Knicks, who aren’t going to make a win-now playoff move at the deadline after the Kristaps Porzingis injury. The Knicks would love to trade Joakim Noah, but I would love to date Margot Robbie. About the same odds. Other teams are circling like vultures.

I have no idea why the Knicks would do this. Noah has zero reason to give the Knicks a discount on the more than $37 million he is owed, and if the Knicks stretch and waive him he’s on the books for five more seasons. Why do that? Just tell him to stay home and eat the cost for a year, maybe find a deal next season.

11:43 AM: The Pelicans and Pistons are talking about switching guys on their bench, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

11:08 AM: We have a trade! A minor trade, but a trade. Chicago is sending Jameer Nelson to Detroit — a team in need of help at the point — for center Willie Reed.

The teams are also swapping second rounders. Detroit had just gotten Reed from the Clippers in the Blake Griffin trade. Expect the Pistons to be one of the teams very active on the buyout market.

10: 55 AM: Not to start this tracker on a down note, but Adrian Wojnarowski just tweeted something along the lines everyone has been hearing — this may be a dull deadline. Teams overspent in 2016 and don’t have cap space to take on money, and with that nobody wants to give up the cheap labor of a first-round pick. So the market has stalled.

10:52 AM: Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Clippers and Cavaliers are still talking DeAndre Jordan trade, maybe even trying to find a third team. I had heard the Clippers were not in without the Brooklyn pick from Cleveland, which is not on the table, so it’s going to take a third team or one side to cave to get a deal done. (The Cavs will give up their own first in the 20s, but the Clippers want more than that and some big salaries.)

10:49 AM: Teams have called the Lakers, who would prefer to move Jordan Clarkson (and his contract), but most teams are interested in Julius Randle. With good reason, he’s a quality rotation big man (he makes a quality small-ball five). But in the theme of this deadline, nobody yet is willing to part with a first-round pick to get him (in part because he’s a restricted free agent this summer) so the Lakers will wait. They don’t mind keeping through the rest of the season.

10:47 AM: The Grizzlies are still not trading Marc Gasol, and they are still holding out for a first-round pick for Tyreke Evans. Memphis is not budging on Gasol. Eventually, they will have to on Evans unless a team panics and caves.

10:45 AM: The Clippers have no intention of moving Tobias Harris, they already re-signed Lou Williams, and it’s hard to see a deal getting done for DeAndre Jordan. But Avery Bradley, he could be on the move. The Clippers reportedly want a first-round pick, but nobody is willing to give one up yet (that may be the theme of the day).

10:40 AM: No, Cleveland is not putting the Brooklyn pick in play. Nor should they.

Three coaches on the hot seat this season

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The NBA is in the midst of unprecedented coaching stability.

Logically, it’s only a matter until that gets upended.

But, team by team, it’s hard to find situations ripe for change. Still, here are the coaches on the hottest seats entering the 2017-18 season:

Alvin Gentry (Pelicans)

The list must start here. Gentry is coaching a mismanaged Pelicans team with undue expectations. He’s far closer to getting fired than anyone else in the league.

In fact, it’s surprising Gentry has lasted this long.

Monty Williams got fired immediately after leading New Orleans to its first playoff appearance in four years. Gentry’s two Pelicans teams haven’t come particularly close to reaching the postseason.

Now, the pressure intensifies. DeMarcus Cousins is entering a contract year. The clock is always ticking until Anthony Davis becomes an unrestricted free agent. And, of course, the West is incredibly strong.

Gentry doesn’t have much to work with considering the circumstances. Davis and Cousins are excellent players, but they prevent Gentry from implementing his preferred up-tempo style. Jrue Holiday is a fine third wheel, but roster-construction issues shift him to less-than-optimal shooting guard. Those problems are particularly evident at small forward, where Dante Cunningham (ideally a power forward) and Tony Allen (ideally a shooting guard) will split time with Solomon Hill injured.

Gentry’s boss, general manager Dell Demps, also appears on thin ice. If/when things go poorly will Demps fire Gentry to shift blame? Or will the Pelicans clean house completely?

Gentry faces an uphill climb to make those questions irrelevant.

Jeff Hornacek (Knicks)

A whopping 10 (!) coaches work for front-office heads who didn’t hire them: Jeff Hornacek (Knicks), Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Brett Brown (76ers), Frank Vogel (Magic), Luke Walton (Lakers), Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers), Jason Kidd (Bucks), Doc Rivers (Clippers), Nate McMillan (Pacers) and Dwane Casey (Raptors).

Take your pick of which has the hottest seat. The internal politics at play can be far from evident.

Brown, Kidd and Walton face higher expectations than last season. Lue faces the highest expectations this side of Golden State. Rivers, McMillan and Casey have downgraded teams that have not given up hope of winning. Hornacek, Budenholzer and Vogel oversee teams that seem OK with losing in the short term, but poor records always hasten dismissals regardless of context.

The nod for hottest seat goes to Hornacek, who’s stuck in James Dolan’s top-down chaotic franchise. Patience never lasts in New York, and there are already rumors about Hornacek’s replacement and poor relationship with franchise player Kristaps Porzingis.

Fred Hoiberg (Bulls)

Again, you could easily pick one of the nine other coaches from the above section (except maybe Kidd, who might hold power over general manager Jon Horst). In the interest of variety, let’s mention Hoiberg.

The Bulls are a quagmire, knowingly entering a rebuilding stage but with the Gar Forman/John Paxson under increased scrutiny. Does Chicago actually have the appetite for sustained losing?

Hoiberg has already appeared in over his head connecting with established veterans. Maybe teaching young players will better suit the former college coach, but the NBA is still a different animal. If Hoiberg stumbles in this task, what reason will there be to keep him around?

Forman not wanting to admit firing Tom Thibodeau for Hoiberg was a mistake? Maybe. The pesky storyline that Hoiberg hasn’t had his type of players? Few NBA coaches are afforded that luxury.

Otherwise, it’s getting late early for Hoiberg, who’s entering his third season.

The Bulls just hired former coach Doug Collins as an advisor. If I were Hornacek, I wouldn’t feel great about that.

Report: Dante Cunningham re-signing with Pelicans

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An intriguing battle emerged late in free agency over Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans and Timberwolves were desperate at small forward, and Cunningham rare contributor at the position still available. New Orleans even traded a second-rounder and cash to dump Quincy Pondexter and get far enough below the hard cap to take advantage of Cunningham’s Bird Rights.

That’ll pay off.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

It’s not the $3,106,500 Cunningham opted out of, but a $2.3 million salary beats his minimum ($2,106,470), which is all Minnesota could’ve offered.

That’s a great rate on someone who might be the Pelicans’ starting small forward, considering Solomon Hill‘s injury. Even if he plays behind Tony Allen on a team that starts small on the perimeter, Cunningham will reduce the time New Orleans must rely on also-rans.

Cunningham is probably better at power forward, but he can defend either position. He also has become a good enough 3-point shooter to credibly play small forward.

For the Pelicans, he’s a huge upgrade at a bargain price.