Houston, Boston have roster issues to address

Raphielle Johnson
Rotoworld

The NBA was anything but quiet on Tuesday, with news breaking throughout the league just two days ahead of the NBA Draft. The big news regarding the draft involved Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, who has been cleared for workouts after having his lone college season end after just five games due to a torn meniscus. According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony the New York Knicks, who hold the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft, will have the young point guard in for a workout on Wednesday. 

Are the Knicks legitimately interested in selecting Garland? The assumption of many has been that Duke RJ Barrett will be the pick, and that could still be the case. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at another player, as it can give the team another piece of data to use when deciding who to pick. The less likely scenario here is that it’s a smoke screen in order to possibly drum up interest for the pick. With Anthony Davis already off the table for New York, the player the Knicks pick Thursday night will be on the roster when the season begins in the fall.

The bigger happenings in the NBA on Tuesday involved players already in the league, as some made decisions regarding their player options. And then there was Houston, with it being reported that the team’s two stars are having chemistry issues. That’s where the recap of Tuesday’s news will begin. 

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Turmoil in Houston? Daryl Morey denies CP3 rumors

Two different stories detailing the issues in Houston have been published this week, with Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reporting on Tuesday that the relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden is considered to be “unsalvageable.” Per the report Paul demanded to be traded, and Harden essentially gave the front office a “him or me” edict. That bombshell was dropped one day after ESPN’s Tim MacMahon published his own story on the Rockets’ issues, which includes the stalling of contract negotiations between the team and head coach Mike D’Antoni. For their part both Paul and GM Daryl Morey denied the trade request story, with the latter saying that Paul will be with the Rockets next season

Shortly after the Rockets’ season came to an end it was reported that everyone other than Harden was considered to be available via trade, but moving Paul would not be easy. He’s due to make just over $38.5 million next season, and beyond that there’s more than $85 million in guaranteed money remaining on the deal in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. Paul will be 37 years old by the end of the deal, and in the three seasons since he appeared in 74 games during the 2015-16 campaign CP3 has played in 61, 58 and 58 games. The combination of contract and recent injuries makes it very difficult to move that contract if Houston wanted to do so. 

Paul wasn’t the only Rocket player to come up in trade rumors, as it was reported by SNY’s Ian Begley that Houston and Boston have recently spoken regarding a possible deal involving Clint Capela. Capela is coming off of his best season as a pro, as he averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.7 steals per game in 2018-19. But he struggled mightily during Houston’s second round loss to Golden State, which could make the Rockets more willing to make a move if the right deal comes along. On Boston’s side of the equation there may be added urgency to land an experienced big via trade, given the Al Horford situation. 

Al Horford and Kyrie Irving could both be on the way out

While Kyrie Irving’s future in Boston has been the most-discussed topic when it comes to the Celtics, Al Horford has also been an important cog in the attack. With a player option worth just over $30 million the veteran center had a decision to make ahead of free agency, and the general belief was that even if he didn’t opt in Horford would ultimately come to terms with the Celtics on a new deal. Well, that may not be happening now as it was reported that the two sides aren’t on the same page regarding a contract. 

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski the two sides are too far apart on what the terms of a new deal would be, and it’s been reported that Horford wants a four-year deal with the Celtics only willing to go to three years. Horford will be one of the top front court defenders on the open market when free agency begins, and he’s also a capable pick and pop option offensively. Contenders in need of an experienced and productive big man will certainly reach out to the center’s agent on June 30. And should Horford ultimately leave Boston, that opens the door for second-year center Robert Williams if the team can’t either sign an established big man in free agency or trade for one (hence the Capela chatter). 

As for Irving, it’s been reported that he will most likely leave the Celtics with Brooklyn being the destination. Irving’s decision will set off some dominoes amongst the other point guards that will be free agents, most notably Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell, who was an All-Star for the first time in his career, will be a restricted free agent and as a result Brooklyn will have the option to match any offer. And a scenario in which both Irving and Russell are on the Nets’ roster heading into next season impacts Spencer Dinwiddie as well, and given how he played this past season there won’t be a lack of suitors calling up Nets GM Sean Marks in an attempt to make a deal. 

Will Mike Conley be traded before (or on) draft night? 

With the Irving situation and Terry Rozier being a restricted free agent, Boston’s in a spot where the team needs to address the point guard position. And if the team aims to remain a factor in the East, landing an experience point guard should Irving not return will be of high importance. One name that’s been mentioned recently is that of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who has one guaranteed season remaining on his contract and a desire to contend for a championship. But Boston isn’t the only team that’s been mentioned with regards to possible trade destinations for Conley, with Utah being another. 

The Jazz have already informed Ricky Rubio that re-signing him isn’t a priority for the franchise, and adding Conley would give the team a point guard capable of scoring enough to take some of the pressure/defensive focus off of Donovan Mitchell. Should Utah get something done the team’s first round pick (23rd overall) would undoubtedly be included. As for Boston’s draft pick situation, the team has three first round picks in this year’s draft. 

Lakers are reportedly looking to free up additional cap space

As it was reported the day after the Anthony Davis trade was agreed to, the Lakers front office may have cost itself some cap space due to the timing. If the deal is completed on July 6 and Davis doesn’t decline his trade bonus, the Lakers would have $23.7 million to work with. That won’t be enough to attract a max-level free agent, and even if the team were to get a top-level free agent to take less money the next question to answer is how they would fill out the rest of the roster. The best-case scenario for the Lakers would be for the deal to be completed on July 30 and for Davis to decline the trade bonus, as that would result in $32.5 million in available cap space. 

But that setup would also result in New Orleans having $4 million less in cap space to work with, and it’s difficult to see the Pelicans signing up for that. So now the Lakers need to figure out a way to free up more money, and it was reported on Tuesday that the team is looking to move the contracts of Moritz Wagner (last year’s first round pick), Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones in order to so so ahead of the end of the free agent moratorium (July 6). Agreeing to the trade that landed Anthony Davis is certainly a positive move, but now GM Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office have a lot of work to do in order to free up the money needed to get this done.

The Lakers will need interior depth and perimeter shooting, because the failure to address those areas would make the task of winning a championship even tougher for the LeBron James/Davis/Kyle Kuzma triumvirate. 

Hassan Whiteside, Harrison Barnes and Dwight Powell make contract decisions

In addition to Al Horford three other players made decisions regarding their respective player options. Kings forward Harrison Barnes has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $25 million, meaning that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent come June 30. He and the Kings remain open to the possibility of agreeing to a long-term deal, and he fills a need for a team that was much-improved this past season. Barnes should be a popular figure on the free agent market; while he won’t be discussed in the same light as fellow wings Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler, he’s can be a good option for team that may not be considered by that trio. 

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and Dallas’ Dwight Powell both decided to opt into the final year of their respective deals, with Whiteside set to make more than $27 million and Powell a little over $10.2 million. The Heat center’s situation is worth watching due to the fact that he hasn’t been too thrilled with his role. Whiteside made 53 starts last season but played just 23.3 minutes per game, with Bam Adebayo averaging the same number of minutes.

The issue that Miami would have to address if the 7-footer were to want a change of scenery is the contract; that’s a lot of money for another team to add to its books especially with Whiteside’s game not exactly meshing with what many centers are being asked to do offensively in today’s NBA. 

As for Powell his decision to opt in ensures Dallas of at least one more option to call upon in the front court rotation. Salah Mejri will be an unrestricted free agent, and Maxi Kleber will be a restricted free agent this summer. Kristaps Porzingis will also be a restricted free agent, but the general consensus is that he and the Mavericks will come to an agreement on a long-term deal.

Of the three players that made decisions on their contracts Tuesday Barnes is the most impactful fantasy-wise, as he meshed well with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield upon his arrival in Sacramento by way of a trade at the deadline in February. Whiteside can also be impactful as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but his poor free throw shooting limits his potential in most leagues. 

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