To facilitate a trade from the Rockets to the Suns last summer, Ryan Anderson reduced the guarantee of his 2019-20 salary by $5,620,885. Anderson barely played in Phoenix, got traded to the Heat, barely played in Miami and got waived. He again signed with the Rockets this summer.
Now, after barely playing in Houston, Anderson will continue his odyssey elsewhere.
Anderson was guaranteed $500,000 on his minimum-salary contract this season. By the time he clears waivers, he will have earned $434,704. So, assuming Anderson goes unclaimed, Houston will be on the hook for the remaining $65,296.
This might end the career of the 31-year-old Anderson. Once a premier stretch four, he no longer stands out in a league where 3-point shooting has become a common skill for power forwards. He’s also a major defensive liability.
Three Things to Know: Phoenix has a plan and it’s working — it’s time to take them seriously
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Phoenix had a plan and it’s working — it’s time to take them seriously. It’s been hard to figure out precisely what the plan was in Phoenix the past couple of years. Sure, they had Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but what were they putting around those two? Was there a grand design?
Last season the Suns signed Trevor Ariza only to trade him for Kelly Oubre Jr., then also traded Ryan Anderson to Miami for Tyler Johnson. This past summer they flipped the No. 6 pick in the draft — turned out to be Jarrett Culver — to the Timberwolves for the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric, then they used that pick on Cameron Johnson (a guy older than Booker and considered a reach). Phoenix sent their 2020 first-round pick to Boston for Aron Baynes to be a backup center. There were two objectively smart moves, picking up point guard Ricky Rubio as a free agent, and signing Monty Williams to be the coach. Then this season started with a punch to the gut — Ayton got suspended 25 games (pending an appeal) for taking a banned substance, a diuretic.
Turns out, the Suns’ plan was to put a team of competent NBA players around Booker, then simplify the offense and defense but execute it all cleanly.
Phoenix is 5-2 on the young season with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA (third best if you filter out garbage time as Ben Falk does over at Cleaning the Glass). The Suns are legitimate and — while it’s early, we’re not even 1/10th of the way into the season — Phoenix looks like a playoff team.
Devin Booker looks every bit the All-Star guard, getting revenge on those that thought he was simply an empty calorie guy who could get numbers but not help a team win. He certainly helped the Suns win on Monday with maybe his best game — 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, while picking apart a good defensive team in the Sixers (granted, one without Joel Embiid due to suspension).
Whether the Suns can sustain this level of play is up for debate — right now they are the only team ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive net rating. But even if they come back to earth some, GM James Jones deserves some credit for having a plan and pulling it off — a plan that has the Suns looking like a quality team.
Phoenix hasn’t been to the postseason since 2010 when Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash were running the remnants of seven seconds or less for Alvin Gentry. That looks like it will change this season, Phoenix is back. Things are looking bright in the Valley of the Sun.
2) Brandon Ingram dropped 40, but Kyrie Irving had 39 and Nets out-duel Pelicans for the win. This is what the Pelicans have done all season long — play hard, but come up just short. The Pelicans are 1-6 on the young season, but with the net rating of a 3-4 team. They just keep losing close games.
Monday night that happened against Brooklyn. Brandon Ingram continued his hot start for New Orleans (not coincidentally, in a contract year) and scored a career-high 40 on 17-of-24 shooting, but it wasn’t enough against Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving dropped 39 on the gray floor.
It wasn’t a surprise that the Pelicans didn’t really get serious in contract extension talks with Ingram, he had missed the end of last season with a blood clot issue and that scares teams because it can be career-threatening (Ingram’s was different from, for example, Chris Bosh’s situation, Ingram’s clot was in his arm, but it’s still a concern). Plus, Ingram had been up and down in Los Angeles, and there remain questions about how well he’ll fit next to Zion Williamson.
Ingram, however, has put in the work — his footwork and handles are lightyears ahead of his lanky, awkward rookie season — and it shows. His game is more fluid now. He is averaging 25.9 points a game this season, shooting 48.6 percent on five threes a game, and is grabbing 7.1 boards a night. He is playing like an All-Star. He’s playing like a guy who will get paid next summer, one way or another.
3) Grizzlies and Ja Morant vs. the Knicks RJ Barrett: how much should teams play rookies? There has become an interesting dichotomy this season, a real debate about how to handle a star rookie player:
Should teams be already thinking load management and watching the minutes of a potentially elite young player on a bad team? Or do you throw the guy out there and let him learn by doing as much as he can racking up minutes?
In Memphis, the plan is to bring Ja Morant along slowly. The No. 2 pick out of Murray State — where he played a lot of minutes because they didn’t have a choice if they wanted to win — is averaging 28 minutes a night, and has played more than 30 just once in six games. Morant is starting, being allowed to make mistakes and learn, and in those limited minutes is still averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, shooting 50 percent from three (on two attempts per game). He has a PER of 20.3, which is insanely good for a rookie. Morant is everything that was advertised, a freakish young athlete with a great feel for the game. A franchise cornerstone kind of player.
“We want to, for lack of a better phrase, put some money in the bank moving forward with him,” Jenkins said. “I’ve always been a big believer that when you start playing in the mid-30s, you kinda wear down. Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”
That’s a smart, practical, long-term thinking approach.
Then there’s David Fizdale with the Knicks.
RJ Barrett played 41 min in Knicks 113-92 loss after entering weekend leading NBA in minutes.
"He's got the day off tomorrow," David Fizdale said. "We gotta get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid's 19 years old. Drop it."
RJ Barrett is averaging 37.1 minutes a game and is putting up counting stats — 18.3 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, he’s shooting 35.7 percent from three, and he’s also learning in a trial-by-fire kind of way. He’s just in the fire a lot more, which is how things have been done in the past in the NBA — and former players are good with that.
I averaged 40 min as a rookie. He’s 3 yrs younger than I was. Ended up Playing 13 yrs. He’ll be fine. https://t.co/m82XpDSmkK
Hopefully so. But this approach also comes with more risk. The Knicks seem to have a wing in Barrett who can be a central part of whatever is ultimately built in New York — whatever other players come in via the draft and free agency — and they should be thinking about Barrett three years from now. Barrett can grow — he struggled at points in Summer League, but he’s showing he learned from those experiences. That’s a very good sign.
So long as he doesn’t burn out. Or physically wear down (which makes a potential injury more likely).
Different players can handle different workloads, and they learn differently — there is no one-size-fits-all plan. However, David Fizdale seems to be taking an old-school approach in New York, whereas the Grizzlies seem to be more modern in their thinking about the long term.
We’ll see which philosophy pays off in the long run.
This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.
NBA teams had historically high roster churn this summer. With so many newcomers around the league, there are fewer than usual obvious in-season trade candidates entering the year. But a few still stand out:
The NBA nixed the Rockets’ plan to have Nene as a $10 million trade chip. But that might have made it even more likely they trade him.
The upside Nene’s contract provided would’ve been to add salary, which would’ve almost certainly pushed Houston into the luxury tax. Obviously, that was at least a consideration. Otherwise, why sign Nene to that deal? But it’s unclear just how good of a return Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta – notorious for dodging the tax – would’ve required to greenlight a trade.
Fertitta won’t have to worry about that now. With the NBA’s ruling, Nene counts $2,564,753 against the cap. His salary would nearly double if he plays 10 games, which therefore almost certainly won’t happen. He has become too-expensive dead weight on a team flirting with the luxury-tax line.
The Rockets attaching a sweetener to dump Nene is most likely. He could also be dealt as an expiring contract to facilitate something else. But one way or another, expect Houston to trade Nene before the luxury tax is assessed the final day of the regular season – which of course means trading Nene before the trade deadline.
Several other deep reserves (Rockets)
Of the five minimum-salary players who began last year with Houston and didn’t hold an implicit no-trade clause, three got traded during the season.
The Rockets have figured they can move players on full-season minimum salaries and replace them with players on the pro-rated minimum. It’s a clever way to meet the roster minimum all season and still get more breathing room under the luxury tax.
Andre Iguodala isn’t Memphis’ only veteran forward on an expiring contract who’d help a winner more than this rebuilding outfit. Crowder also fits the bill, and he’s more likely to get traded for a couple reasons:
1. Crower’s salary ($7,815,533) is far lower than Iguodala’s ($17,185,185). Interested teams will have a more difficult time matching salary for Iguodala. Acquiring Crowder is much more manageable.
2. Iguodala is a 15-year pro with supporters all around the league, First Vice President of the players’ union and former NBA Finals MVP. Crowder lacks those credentials. Iguodala has far more cache to command a buyout.
Iguodala is more likely to change teams this season, but it could be by trade or buyout. Crowder is more likely to change teams via trade.
With his fourth-year option sure to be declined, Jackson will become a $7,059,480 expiring contract. That makes him useful in so many possible trade constructions. He could allow Memphis to acquire an undesirable long-term contract plus an asset. He could grease the wheels of a larger trade. Maybe another team even wants to take a flier on the 2017 No. 4 pick.
Between all the possibilities, it seems like a decent bet one comes to fruition.
Chris Paul has generated all the headlines, but in its star trades, Oklahoma City acquired two quality veterans to match salary. Gallinari, 31, is younger and maybe even better at this stage. His contract (one year, $22,615,559 remaining) is definitely more favorable than Paul’s (three years, $124,076,442 remaining)
Plenty of contending teams could use another talented forward like Gallinari – if he’s healthy. That’s the big catch. Gallinari thrived with the Clippers last year, but that was his healthiest season in years.
Paul, Dennis Schroder (two years, $31 million remaining) and Steven Adams (two years, $53,370,785 remaining) are also candidates to get moved. But there will probably be more urgency from the Thunder to get assets for Gallinari and more of a market for him.
A couple notes on prominent players not yet mentioned:
I predicted Bradley Beal will tire of the Wizards’ losing and leave Washington. It doesn’t have to happen this season. Though I wouldn’t rule out a trade before the deadline, Beal will like ride out the year in hopes of making an All-NBA team and gaining super-max eligibility. That might be his best ticket to staying, though paying Beal and John Wall the super-max would sure limit the Wizards.
The Warriors insist they didn’t acquire D'Angelo Russell just to trade him. I believe them. I also believe he’s a difficult fit with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, especially defensively. A Russell trade remains very much on the table. But if Golden State plans to give it an honest shot with Russell – and with Thompson sidelined most of the season – a Russell trade won’t necessarily happen before the deadline.
Ryan Anderson reportedly returning to Houston on non-guaranteed contract
From 2016-18, Ryan Anderson was a solid stretch big in Houston, hitting 335 three-pointers in that time. Last season he left but struggled in Phoenix and Miami (the Heat waived and stretched him in July).
Now he’s going back to Houston, a team with some available roster spots and minutes. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.
Free agent forward Ryan Anderson has agreed to a significantly partially guaranteed deal with the Houston Rockets, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA@Stadium. Anderson returns to Houston.
The Rockets signed Anderson to four-year, $80 million contract in 2016 but moved him in a salary dump before last season to Phoenix. The Suns traded Anderson to the Heat, who this summer waived and stretched him — and that contract is still paying Anderson more than the veteran minimum the Rockets deal will.
Ryan Anderson will count more on Heat payroll this season ($5,214,584 stretch payment) than on Rockets' payroll. https://t.co/ULgS0ZiUzs
If Anderson can regain his form — he shot just 30 percent overall and 22.5 percent from three last season — there is a natural fit with the Rockets. P.J. Tucker will start at the four, and behind him it’s Gary Clark. It’s possible to see Anderson coming off the bench for 15 or so minutes a night as a good drive-and-kick option for both James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Anderson also played about a quarter of his minutes as a backup center in small-ball lineups last time he was in Houston, giving the team versatility. Not much defense, but offensive versatility.
For you salary cap nerds out there, if Anderson sticks with the Rockets the Heat save a little money on the stretch provision.
Ryan Anderson signing a partially-guaranteed deal with the Rockets (per @ShamsCharania) – likely for $2.6M min – could slightly lower MIA's $5.2M stretch payments thru 2021-22 to him. He needs to earn >$1.4M to lower them at all. If he earns the full $2.6M, they'd fall by $187K.
The Rockets will actually have to cut another non-guaranteed contract before signing Anderson (they already had the training camp maximum of 20). Houston has an interesting camp with actual position battles, they have just nine guaranteed contracts and the other 11 players in camp — of which five or six will make the opening day roster — are on non-guaranteed deals.
NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
Several years later, endorsements like that led to a surprising union between Butler and the Heat. In Wade’s long-term franchise, Butler might have finally found a team that appreciates everything he brings.
Before that, Butler had to run through tenures with the Bulls, Timberwolves and 76ers. Miami had to undertake an ambitious plan to pursue a max player despite having minimal cap flexibility.
But now Butler and the Heat are now committed to each other. This is a chance for Miami to move out of deadlock and Butler to find a home.
Butler is now on his fourth team in four years. Chicago lost interest in Butler’s hard-charging ways. Butler ran out of patience in Minnesota, where their top young players resisted his message. Butler had tension in Philadelphia, too.
He has also had plenty of success in each of those stops. In the previous three years, he has produced 30.6 win shares (11th in the NBA).
Only three players in NBA history have had more win shares while playing for four teams in four years. And that counts absolutely no production for Butler with the Heat next season, which obviously hasn’t yet begun!
Here are the players with the most win shares while playing for at least four teams in four years:
One more time because it’s so incredible: This counts nothing yet from Butler next season! He has a good chance of climbing this list and passing Gary Payton, Ed Sadowski and maybe Adrian Dantley.
Getting such an impact player cost the Heat plenty. They lost Josh Richardson and a first-round pick and downgraded from Hassan Whiteside to Myles Leonard in the sign-and-trade with the 76ers. Hard-capped due to acquiring Butler in a sign-and-trade, Miami also waived and stretched Ryan Anderson, locking in a $5,214,583 cap hit each of the next three seasons. And the Heat owe Butler $140,790,600 over the next four seasons. That’s a lot for someone who’ll turn 30 before the season and has heavy mileage.
But Butler is a true star who could break Miami from its capped-out mediocrity. Other offseason additions like No. 13 pick Tyler Herro and No. 32 pick KZ Okpala probably aren’t going to do that. The Heat might even impress enough with Butler to land another star in 2021 free agency.
There’s a limit on how much Butler will help. He probably doesn’t lift Miami into the East’s elite. His contract could age poorly.
But for a stuck team, a willingness to embrace the hard-charging Butler is a clear advancement.