Bob Levey/Getty Images

Rockets’ Marquese Chriss, 76ers’ Furkan Korkmaz, Nuggets’ Tyler Lydon, Thunder’s Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also have options declined

Leave a comment

The Rockets tried to sell that their trade with the Suns wasn’t just about financial relief, that they truly believe Marquese Chriss would thrive in their system.

But forced to put their money where their mouth is, the Rockets buckled.

Houston declined Chriss’ $4,078,236 team option for next season.

That was the right call. Chriss is too far from being a productive NBA player to guarantee him that much. He’s just 21 and still possesses the raw tools that got him drafted No. 8 just two years ago, but NBA play is too complex for him right now. This is just more evidence the Rockets’ offseason was primarily driven by limiting costs.

We already knew of four other declined rookie-scale team options – Suns’ Dragan Bender, Timberwolves’ Justin Patton, Pistons’ Henry Ellenson and Raptors’ Malachi Richardson. (How rookie-scale contracts work.) But in addition to Chriss, three other players had their declined options revealed shortly before last night’s deadline. Those three with option salaries:

76ers’ Furkan Korkmaz ($2,033,160)

The 76ers badly want another star, and next summer might be their last good chance to sign one in free agency. It’ll be the last offseason Ben Simmons is still on his relatively cheap rookie-scale contract before he joins Joel Embiid on a max deal. So, I can see why Philadelphia maximized its flexibility by declining Korkmaz’s option.

But I would have exercised it. Korkmaz is athletic and skilled, and though he must get stronger, that isn’t disqualifying for a 21-year-old. Though Korkmaz was drafted No. 26 in 2016, this is actually his third-year option, because he waited a year to sign. So, exercising this option would have come with the chance to keep Korkmaz yet another year at a potentially cheap price if he develops.

The clearer failure probably was not trading Korkmaz to a team that would have exercised his option. Maybe that’s what happens when you go through the offseason without a general manager.

Now, it’ll be tougher to find suitors, because any team that trades for him and ends the season with him will be limited to paying him a starting salary of $2,033,160 in free agency. If he breaks out, that wouldn’t be enough.

Nuggets’ Tyler Lydon ($2,190,720)

The Nuggets have gotten plenty of grief for trading down from the No. 13 pick – which the Jazz used on rising star Donovan Mitchell – in last year’s draft.

This won’t help.

In the deal with Utah, Denver received Trey Lyles (nice) and No. 24 pick Tyler Lydon (not so nice). Lydon just hasn’t looked on track to stick in the NBA, in part due to injury. He was good enough in the NBA’s minor league that I probably would have exercised this third-year option, but the Nuggets could face a luxury-tax crunch next season. It’s a close call.

That said, the Nuggets did this knowing this would make their already-panned draft-day trade look even worse. That says something.

Thunder’s Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot ($2,529,684)

The Thunder love to take fliers on athletic wings – including Luwawu-Cabarrot, who was acquired from the 76ers in the Carmelo AnthonyDennis Schroder trade. But Luwawu-Cabarrot hasn’t developed even a niche, so declining his fourth-year option makes sense. Especially considering Oklahoma City faces repeater-rate tax concerns for next season.

Report: Jimmy Butler holding out from Timberwolves

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
4 Comments

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau said Jimmy Butler would miss tonight’s game against the Jazz with “general soreness.”

Apparently, remaining in Minnesota this long after his trade request is what really pains Butler.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

This puts the ball in the Timberwolves’ court. They could excuse this absence, as they did when Butler was away from the team during the preseason. Or they could suspend him, not only costing him his salary but also exposing a portion of his signing bonus.

Getting suspended would be a dangerous game for Butler. If he withholds playing services for more than 30 days, he won’t accrue a year of service and can’t become a free agent next offseason. He couldn’t sign with another professional basketball team unless Minnesota agreed.

But he also might contend he’s injured, at least for tonight. After all, that’s the reason Thibodeau publicly gave.

Of course, the Timberwolves could just trade Butler. They were expected to do so soon. The Rockets can now aggregate Brandon Knight‘s and Marquese Chriss‘ salaries in a trade, though Minnesota was reportedly demanding Eric Gordon. The Heat, Clippers and Mavericks are also still interested.

Butler has been trying to force a trade for a while now, but his best efforts have only ingrained him further to the Timberwolves. Maybe this will be the last straw that gets him free.

Or maybe this will turn an uncomfortable situation even uglier.

Report: Eric Gordon “mandatory” for Minnesota in any Butler trade with Houston

7 Comments

Jimmy Butler trade talks, fairly dormant for the first couple weeks of the NBA season, have started to heat up again.

Specifically Houston — off to a 1-4 start and with terrible defense — is trying to get back into the conversation, reportedly offering four first-round picks along with Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss. Minnesota is reportedly lukewarm on that offer.

Part of the reason for that — the Timberwolves want Eric Gordon as part of any deal with the Rockets, reports Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Houston has offered four future first-round picks to Minnesota, but that package doesn’t include guard Eric Gordon, who’d be mandatory for Minnesota in any proposed deal, league sources said. Thibodeau wants a maximum return on players able to help Minnesota get back to the playoffs.

Taylor has tasked general manager Scott Layden with the focus of finding a trade, as Thibodeau concentrates on coaching the team. Miami and Philadelphia remain teams interested in potential deals for Butler, and Taylor has hoped that those teams would become more aggressive in their offers to pry Butler, league sources said.

As noted, the four-pick trade with a couple of filler contracts was never going to fly for Minnesota, in part because it does not help them win now and because they had to take on a couple seasons of Knight’s contract and the price for that would have been a couple of firsts anyway.

However, would a trade of Gordon, Chriss (once he’s available to be traded Nov. 1), Nene and a couple of picks do it? It does help Minnesota with a good player now — Gordon was the 2017 Sixth Man of the Year — and helps stockpile picks for the future. But is that the best offer on the table?

The leak of the Houston interest always seemed like something aimed at motivating other suitors. However, it’s difficult to imagine Miami upping their offer — Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters (for salary filler), and a 2019 first round pick with protections — in any significant way. Pat Riley made his offer, the deal got close, Riley’s not giving into that and going much bigger. Philadelphia only becomes interesting if they are willing to put Markelle Fultz in a trade (and would Thibodeau want that?).

There has been some buzz around the league that a Butler trade will get done relatively soon, like within the next week. If Minnesota owner Glen Taylor is pushing Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to get a deal done, it will. However, we have heard this talk before and nothing has happened, so take every report with a grain of salt. Including this one.

Report: Timberwolves reticent to accept Rockets’ four-first-rounder offer, which includes Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss

3 Comments

The Rockets reportedly offered the Timberwolves four first-round picks for Jimmy Butler, leaving two big questions:

  • Which players is Houston sending out to match salary?
  • How are the picks protected?

Apparently the answer to the first question is Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, who salaries can be aggregated Wednesday (two months after being acquired from the Suns).

Shams Charania of Stadium:

Knight (making $14,631,250 this season and due $15,643,750 next season) holds significantly negative value. He hasn’t played well in years, and he’s currently injured. It would generally take a couple first-rounders just to unload him.

Chriss (making $3,206,160 this season with a $4,078,236 team option for next season that must be exercised by Wednesday) holds fairly neutral value. He’s young but has looked in over his head in the NBA, and at least he’s not guaranteed any money beyond this year.

So, to get Butler, Houston must send picks worth his value plus the absolute value of Knight’s negative value.

Does this offer do that? Perhaps. By rule, the first-rounders could convey in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025. Though the Rockets are already good and would be even better with Butler, their stars – Chris Paul (33), James Harden (29) and Butler (29) – are nearing the ends of their primes. Those later picks could be quite valuable.

But it depends on the protections. If Minnesota can’t get high picks in 2023 and 2025, the trade wouldn’t be worth it.

So, maybe the Timberwolves are just being stubborn by not accepting. Or maybe they’re being prudent with an offer that sounds better than it really is. We just don’t know.

At least Houston’s proposal served one purpose for Minnesota: Drumming up other offers. After dropping from negotiations, the Heat are involved again.

Five Reasons Sports Network:

Miami was reportedly close to sending Josh Richardson, a protected first-round pick and another player (probably Dion Waiters) to Minnesota for Butler. Maybe the teams will iron out that deal now.

The expectation is the Timberwolves will do something soon.

Report: Most NBA executives expect Jimmy Butler trade saga to end by early next month

1 Comment

The Rockets reportedly offered the Timberwolves four first-round picks for Jimmy Butler.

But that trade wouldn’t work on its own. Houston must send out matching salary.

Previous talks centered on Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker, but the Rockets reportedly wouldn’t include Tucker. However, Houston will be able to aggregate the salaries of Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss on Wednesday (two months after acquiring them from the Suns).

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

With leaks, it’s worth considering who would leak the information and why. In this case, a common theory was the Rockets leaked it to pressure Minnesota into making a deal.

Another theory: The Timberwolves plan to take Houston’s offer once Knight and Chriss become aggregation-eligible and leaked it to try to drum up a better offer first. That could explain the widespread expectation Minnesota will complete a trade soon.

We’ll see whether this sparks action from other Butler suitors. Four first-round picks sounds like a whopping haul, but taking back Knight’s toxic contract and the protections of the picks would cut into the package’s value for the Timberwolves. So, it isn’t necessarily a great offer to beat, but it might be time for other teams to make Minnesota their last best offer.