NBA buyout candidates: Goran Dragic, Dennis Schroeder, Tristan Thompson, 2022 free agency, more

HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss the latest buyout candidates, including Goran Dragic, Dennis Schroeder, Tristan Thompson, and more. Plus, a look at some extension eligible candidates before the end of the season and teams with cap space heading into the offseason on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.

1:00 Goran Dragic

Scotto: When you look at the teams that could go after him, I felt the two LA teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, could use him the most on paper, but they’d have to make some roster moves. The Milwaukee Bucks have interest in going after Goran Dragic. He’d certainly be a capable backup to Jrue Holiday on that team, which many believe in the East could be the favorite to win another title. For the Warriors, it seems like he’d be more of a luxury signing if they went after him. Gary Payton II has been really good, and he’s featured on our HoopsHype top free agent rankings. With the Brooklyn Nets, I’m curious how they’ll play Ben Simmons and if New York City changes the vaccine mandate and mask mandate as other states have, which would allow Kyrie Irving to play in the home games.

Gozlan: I don’t think money is going to be an advantage in the buyout market. It showed last year when the Nets got Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge on the minimum, and they had the full mid-level and the disabled player’s exception that was worth just as much. The Warriors still have a good chunk of their mid-level exception, a little over $4 million. I don’t think they’re going to want to use it to bring in a player for the last third of the season.

Scotto: When he did his buyout deal, I’m sure he got around the number he’d get back on a minimum deal anyway.

6:02 Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson, Sacramento Kings
Tristan Thompson, Sacramento Kings

Scotto: I’m keeping my eye on Tristan Thompson. He’s a guy that can be a part of a playoff rotation and help a team. The Los Angeles Lakers are a team to keep an eye on should Thompson agree to a buyout with the Indiana Pacers. He certainly has a lot of relationships there, and his rebounding ability would help them.

Gozlan: The Klutch Sports connections aside, they do need another big man. Their primary centers right now are Anthony Davis and LeBron James. They could use another true center there. He’d be an upgrade over DeAndre Jordan.

7:10 Dennis Schroeder

Scotto: When I look at Dennis Schroeder and Eric Gordon in the backcourt for the Houston Rockets on paper, it just doesn’t seem like a fit for the Rockets in their rebuilding phase. Gordon has trade value going into the summer. I was shocked he wasn’t moved now (before the trade deadline). He could certainly be moved over the summer. Schroeder’s an interesting scenario there. I wonder if he’s going to try to get on a contending team, but he’s also got a big free agent year to worry about for himself. Does he stay and try to pad his stats? I don’t see that necessarily being a fit because they have to develop Jalen Green. They just signed Daishen Nix to a four-year, $6 million deal with the first two years of that deal being guaranteed and then non-guaranteed years starting the third year, as I reported for HoopsHype. I’d think they’d prioritize the younger guys and develop them. I’m curious, depending on what happens on the Goran Dragic market where Schroeder can end up going.

Gozlan: It’s not a good long-term fit there and not a great fit there right now either. He’ll get minutes there, but not enough where he’s being showcased for free agency. I feel like he was getting a better opportunity in Boston. I can see this going down where he’ll play a little bit before a player can be waived and the deadline where he can retain playoff eligibility on March 1st. Unless he plays really well and is a good presence in the locker room, I don’t see why Houston needs to re-sign him, so his non-Bird Rights don’t really have any value. I think they’ll try it out for a couple of weeks, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we get towards March 1st that it heads towards a buyout.

Scotto: Is there any chance he’s a sign-and-trade candidate if he ends up staying?

Gozlan: Maybe Houston could get a second-round pick and some cash. He’s basically limited to his non-Bird amount, which is around $7 million.

11:35 Gary Harris and Robin Lopez

Scotto: Gary Harris has averaged 30 minutes per game for Orlando. I’m not sure he’s a buyout guy. Before the trade deadline, I asked someone if he’d be a buyout candidate, and a source close to Harris said he didn’t believe so. That thinking has seemed to be on track. In my opinion, you’re not giving a guy a buyout that you’re playing 30 minutes a game. From a free agency standpoint, you’re not going to want to leave that situation to go to a situation somewhere else, and you don’t know for sure what your role is going to be. He’s still young enough at 27 years old that he’s not necessarily going to try and join a playoff contender. If anything, he’s going to try and be in the best situation to secure his financial future, and that’s playing for the Orlando Magic.

On the flip side of that, you’ve got Robin Lopez, who’s 33 years old. I’m not surprised that he drew some trade interest around the deadline. A lot of teams could use a good backup center right now. He fits that bill. Orlando loves the veteran presence he provides in the locker room and as a mentor to Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.

Gozlan: Orlando seems like a team that isn’t into doing buyouts. I remember last year Otto Porter was a big buyout candidate. He was a guy that had no long-term future there, and they ultimately finished the season with him. I can see them doing the same thing with both of these guys… Might as well keep them there and see if there are some sign-and-trade possibilities in the offseason or bring them back at a good rate.

15:50 Remaining extension candidates: Jusuf Nurkic, Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson, Lu Dort, Thaddeus Young

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

Scotto: Jusuf Nurkic is the second-best center available on the free agent market after Deandre Ayton as reflected in our HoopsHype 2022 free agent rankings. There’s mutual interest in Nurkic remaining a Blazer past this season, I’ve heard. He wasn’t moved at the deadline even though they got rid of other veterans, which is something to note. I don’t know if he does an extension, but he’s certainly in the mix to be brought back. If he was going to do an extension, what could that look like?

Gozlan: Nurkic can get up to four years and $64.5 million. One thing I can see happening, and I’m not sure this is something Nurkic would want, maybe Portland gives him an extension that keeps his trade eligibility and doesn’t make him untradeable for six months. The Timberwolves gave Patrick Beverley a one-year, $13 million extension. There’s no trade restriction with that extension. They can trade him as soon as the offseason begins for them. Maybe they want to give Nurkic something where the extension doesn’t exceed those limits so he can be trade eligible immediately. It would have to be no more than two years and about $26 million. I think Nurkic can get a little more than that, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Scotto: Jalen Brunson is eligible for an extension. When you talk to executives around the league, they always felt Dallas would keep Brunson or Dorian Finney-Smith long-term because of luxury tax implications. Now, Finney-Smith extended. Could they keep Brunson? Maybe. I think he can be a sign-and-trade candidate this summer after the acquisition of Spencer Dinwiddie. I certainly think he can get more money than his current extension, which is the same number as Finney-Smith.

Gozlan: Dallas is already projected to be over the tax next season with their current roster. If they get Brunson back on something more than what Finney-Smith got, they’ll be way over. They could be somewhere like $20 million or so. This isn’t quite a roster I think worth paying the tax for, so I’ll be interested to see how they proceed and if they’re willing to pay the tax. Otherwise, they can try to move off some of their existing players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell, or Trey Burke. I think the sign-and-trade possibility you brought up is a very realistic one.

Scotto: There has been a lot of smoke around the Knicks and Jalen Brunson looking ahead towards the summer. NBA executives I’ve spoken to around the league are split as to whether the rumblings about the Knicks having interest in him will ultimately come to fruition or if they’re being used as a leverage play to try to get him more money and boost his market going into this summer. He certainly has plenty of ties to Leon Rose, who represented his dad, Rick Brunson. The Pistons have members of their front office who like Brunson. Mitchell Robinson is another name the Pistons are monitoring looking ahead to free agency, I’ve heard as well.

Gozlan: The Knicks can extend Robinson now. He’ll be unrestricted otherwise and could risk losing him. He’s played really well this season. It seems like the Knicks want to maintain their 2023 cap flexibility. Right now, where things stand, they’re not going to have cap space then assuming they give RJ Barrett a big extension. There are things they can do to give themselves more space, whether it’s moving Julius Randle or Evan Fournier.

Scotto: Nerlens Noel was talked about in the 3-team trade with the Knicks, Lakers and Raptors, as I previously reported on HoopsHype. Noel is a Tom Thibodeau guy, but it’s worth noting Knicks management has wanted the young guys like Cam Reddish to play more. I’d assume the same can be said for Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. On paper, Mitchell Robinson is the future there.

There are a lot of centers on the market coming up. Mo Bamba, Robinson, Jusuf Nurkic, Montrezl Harrell. Somebody is going to get squeezed. Bobby Portis as well. Thomas Bryant, Andre Drummond, Nicolas Claxton, Ivica Zubac.

Gozlan: There’s not a lot of cap space out there. I think for a lot of these centers a sign-and-trade might be their best route to getting paid.

Scotto: Another guy that’s eligible for a contract extension that I think is at least worth entertaining is Lu Dort on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s only made a couple of million dollars so far in his career, and I can see him wanting life-changing money if Sam Presti is willing to put it on the table.

Gozlan: I’d think Lu Dort is one of the more likely extensions to get done mainly because OKC isn’t going to have any cap space this offseason. If they continue Dort’s contract into next season and don’t extend him and let him become a free agent, he’ll be unrestricted in the summer of 2023. I think he’s played well enough where he can get the four-year, $56 million deal that Dorian Finney-Smith got. They can decline his team option amount for next season and just start him making $12 million. They can also structure it where they keep the team option, but then the extension kicks in after that. It would then be three years, $40 million, which is what Daniel Gafford did.

Scotto: Yossi, do you think there’s a chance Thaddeus Young gets an extension with Toronto? They gave up a first-round pick for him, which still surprises me.

Gozlan: Similar to what Minnesota gave Patrick Beverley, I could see Thaddeus Young getting something very similar. The Raptors have a lot of space below next year’s luxury tax. They have 10 or 11 players on the roster heading into next season.

30:35 Cap space teams

Gozlan: OKC has $31.81 million in cap space remaining this season. They can still use it in the offseason before the new league year rolls in. This makes them a candidate to take on a lot of money in a draft-day trade.

Scotto: Portland got rid of Norman Powell and Robert Covington. Indiana traded Domantas Sabonis. I reported on HoopsHype about Malcolm Brogdon being a guy many executives think will be traded in the offseason… What do you see for the remaining teams with cap space?

Gozlan: The Spurs can generate the most cap space, somewhere between $25-34 million… The projection includes an accurate estimate of what their draft estimate would be if the season ended now.

Detroit, I have right under the Spurs. They can generate between $24-30 million, assuming they get a top-three pick. They can get closer to $30 million if they decline some of their team options like Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson and Luka Garza.

I’ve got Orlando around $28 million, assuming the Magic get a top-three pick as well… I can see them using all that cap space. I don’t see them re-signing their own free agents except maybe Mo Bamba.

Portland can generate about $31 million or so, but their situation is to be determined. That projection doesn’t include the return of Anfernee Simons or Jusuf Nurkic. If they want to bring both of them back in free agency, they basically wouldn’t be a cap space team anymore. They can still have artificial cap space with their trade exceptions. They’ve got a big $21 million exception and a $6.5 million exception. They’d also still have the mid-level exception left over. They could still sign Simons and Nurkic as well.

Indiana got into the mix for cap space after getting off Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Justin Holiday. I’ve got them around $24 million. I think they’ll have more than this because they’ve got Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, who could all be available.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.

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