0 of 3Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press
The NBA offseason is winding down, and training camps are getting ready to ramp up. But the rumor mill never quite stops churning.
Sunday saw contenders make some moves or put themselves in position for future roster changes.
Here's a rundown of the latest from the Heat, the Clippers and the Celtics as they prepare to jockey for position atop the NBA.
1 of 3Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
After a few days of silence, it appears the Celtics and Hornets are finalizing a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward.
ESPN's Bobby Marks first reported that Boston will receive a trade exception worth up to $28.5 million, the most in NBA history, meaning the Celtics and Danny Ainge can acquire a player via trade or off waivers up to that salary threshold without it counting toward the salary cap. Boston will also send two future second-round picks to the Hornets.
Still, the quality of that asset should probably be tempered. Having $28.5 million in cap space is far different than having a $28.5 million trade exception.
A player like Nikola Jokic makes roughly $28.5 million next year, but Denver, of course, will not be parting with him. A player like Otto Porter Jr. makes something in that neighborhood, but he's far from a useful asset at that price tag.
Finding a player who can be acquired via trade and meaningfully helps your team in that price range can be a difficult nut to crack. Could Buddy Hield ($24.5 million) be prised from Sacramento? That seems much less likely after Bogdan Bogdanovic's departure.
Maybe Victor Oladipo ($21 million)? Indiana seems to have scoffed at that sign-and-trade with Hayward in the first place.
Would an Al Horford ($27.5 million) reunion make some sense? One would assume Oklahoma City would be eager to move Horford right along, but Boston already passed on giving Horford that deal just a year ago.
All of this gives Ainge some flexibility. But there's never a guarantee that a trade exception will amount to some kind of substantial asset. He has a year to make it happen.
2 of 3Nick Wass/Associated Press
NBA contenders have had their eye on Bradley Beal most of his career in Washington. And while the Wizards' stance has remained unchanged—that Beal is not available—it seems to have done little to dissuade other teams from persistently checking in.
As belief continues to grow that Giannis Antetokounmpo will sign his Super Max extension to stay in Milwaukee, the Miami Heat—long seen as a possible Giannis destination—are starting to shift their focus to another star: Beal.
"The Heat's interest remains very high, according to a source with direct knowledge," wrote Miami Herald columnist Barry Jackson.
The fit, of course, makes plenty of sense. Beal, Adebayo and Butler could form one of the most formidable trios in basketball. Miami has plenty of assets with which to pry Beal away. Pat Riley always has lure.
This all remains contingent on Washington entertaining offers, which they've shown no sign of doing yet. Still, in the modern NBA climate, there's some feeling of inevitability about superstars on mediocre teams eventually seeking greener pastures.
3 of 3David Zalubowski/Associated Press
In order to make room for Gordon Hayward, the Charlotte Hornets decided to waive Nicolas Batum and use the stretch provision on the remainder of his contract. Though Batum proved to be a disastrous free-agent signing in Charlotte, there are predictably many suitors for the 12-year veteran wing.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported on Sunday that the Los Angeles Clippers were "strong contenders" to sign Batum once he cleared waivers. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium followed that up a few hours later, saying Batum "plans" to sign with the Clippers.
It's still unclear what version of Batum Los Angeles will be getting, coming off a year in which he played in just 22 games and averaged 3.6 points per game. Still, it seems well worth a flier for a contender like the Clippers to see if Batum can contribute as valuable wing depth in the stacked Western Conference.
0 of 3John Raoux/Associated Press
The dust has mostly settled on 2020 NBA free agency, with teams such as the Atlanta Hawks making the most of cap space and others, like the Los Angeles Clippers, bringing in vets to replace departing players.
Yet despite all the action in the past few weeks, the top star still remains: Anthony Davis.
"The Brow" is widely expected to return to the Los Angeles Lakers on a lucrative deal after opting out of his contract for the 2020-21 season.
Davis' salary has escalators depending on the length of the deal, which figures to be a premium both for his camp and for the Lakers as they work out logistics.
Here is a closer look at the contracts Davis and a pair of other free agents could be looking to sign.
1 of 3Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Davis probably could not have asked for much more in his first season with the Lakers.
The 27-year-old continued to assert himself as one of the top players in the league, averaging 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists while finishing as the runner-up for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award, posting 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per night.
Davis had no trouble fitting in with LeBron James, and he elevated his play in the playoffs as L.A. captured its 17th title in franchise history. The moment was especially sweet for AD, who for years toiled on a mediocre New Orleans Pelicans team.
The Lakers are hoping to run it back, and they are intent on doing whatever it takes to bring Davis back into the fold. For his part, "The Brow" is not likely to pass up a chance to repeat or keep playing alongside James. The only question is: Will Davis make the long-term commitment?
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Davis could sign multiple deals. A one-and-one would allow him to re-enter the market after the 2020-21 season if he so chooses. LeBron also has a player option for next year, so perhaps that could make the most sense in the event "King James" has an eye on different opportunities.
However, James' player option for next season is worth over $40 million, and it seems unlikely he would turn that down. This could make a three-year deal all the likelier for Davis.
A three-year pact would pay Davis slightly more on an annual basis while also allowing him to opt-out and join James on the open market after the second year.
The length of this contract could also serve as a buffer for the Lakers in terms of hoping to win now while also seeking possible financial flexibility down the road.
Prediction: Davis signs with the Lakers for three years, $106 million
2 of 3David Zalubowski/Associated Press
It is not Batum's fault the Charlotte Hornets signed him to an outlandish contract in the summer of 2016.
Although the veteran wing never produced to the level of the five-year, $120 million deal the Hornets gave him that summer, he is still a productive player who can defend, handle the ball and shoot threes.
The Hornets waived Batum on Sunday so as to make room for Gordon Hayward, and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the Frenchman plans to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers once he clears waivers.
Batum had plenty of time to speak with potential suitors after it became more likely the Hornets would have to stretch-and-waive him to create cap space. Charania reported a number of teams had interest, but the Clippers appear to have struck the winning bargain.
Los Angeles is prudent to go after Batum. The Clippers have a legitimate shortage of wing assets off the bench after trading Maurice Harkless in order to acquire Marcus Morris and watching JaMychal Green sign with the Denver Nuggets. Green especially is a big loss as someone who rebounded at a high level while providing some floor-spacing.
Batum offers a similar skill set when healthy. The 31-year-old played just 22 games this season because of injury, but he averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists during the 2018-19 campaign while shooting over 38 percent from deep on 4.0 attempts per game.
Los Angeles could fold Batum the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.
Prediction: Batum signs with the Clippers for one year, $4.5 million
3 of 3Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press
Daniels probably should have been more of a staple in the Lakers' rotation this past season.
The 29-year-old seemingly gave L.A. shooting and backcourt depth off the bench, something the Lakers desperately needed.
However, Daniels shot just over 35 percent from beyond the arc, well below his career mark, and was eventually waived. He finished out the year with the Denver Nuggets, though he shot the ball even less effectively to end the season.
Still, Daniels should appeal to a number of teams still looking to add shooting, which is always at a premium.
The former VCU product is a career 39.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts per game. Daniels understands his role as a gunner and catch-and-shoot guy, and he plays that role to perfection.
Daniels' best year as a pro came as a member of the Phoenix Suns, but the Suns appear set after signing Langston Galloway and E'Twaun Moore. The Philadelphia 76ers figure to need as much shooting as they can get, but they also have a number of two-guard options.
However, Daniels' skills might be most well-suited to the Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas traded Seth Curry in exchange for Josh Richardson who, while an improvement on the defensive end, is not nearly the same level of shooter as Curry. At the least, the Mavs could use a guard who can space the floor and give Luka Doncic options off the bench, and Daniels makes sense in that regard.
Prediction: Daniels signs with the Mavs for the one-year minimum
All stats obtained via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.
Welcome back to the grind, friend! Hopefully you were able to enjoy an extended holiday break and appreciate the things you're thankful for. As for me, I'm thankful for the one reader who checked in to see if I was so devastatingly hungover that I wasn't able to send out a newsletter on Friday. (As it turns out, I was not hungover and instead just enjoying a day off. Sorry if I worried you.)
We had plenty of sports viewing options over the weekend -- from college football (RIP to my beloved Longhorns 😭) and basketball, to weird boxing and, of course, plenty of NFL. I can only hope you got to enjoy some of it, maybe with some leftovers to boot.
Of course, even if you missed it all, I'm here to bring you up to speed. Let's get to work, shall we?📰 What you need to know 1. Grading Week 12 NFL performances 🏈
We didn't exactly have the greatest Thanksgiving Day games this year, huh? It turned out to be a couple of sloppy blowouts that didn't make a compelling case to fight your post-turkey nap. Luckily, there was more action to be had yesterday. As always, we've got some Monday morning grades to hand out:
You can find the rest of yesterday's marks right here, including the Broncos getting a completely unsurprising F without any of their quarterbacks available to play. Denver completed one pass all game for a whopping 13 yards with Kendall Hinton -- a practice squad wide receiver -- filling in under center.
Somehow, an NFL game with the starting quarterback matchup of Taysom Hill vs. Kendall Hinton will not crack the Top 100 weirdest things to happen this year.2. A wild, weird weekend of boxing 🥊 Triller
Speaking of weird sports things to happen in 2020, we had that outrageous boxing PPV event headlined by Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night. There's a lot that can go wrong when the combined age of your main event fighters is 105, and I was a bit worried that it would end up being a sad trainwreck, but it actually turned out to be a pretty successful and entertaining night.
From a competitive standpoint, there was no outright winner (Tyson and Jones Jr. fought to a split draw) but both legends looked impressive for their age. More importantly, they secured a pretty nice bag and didn't get badly hurt in the process. Oh, and you bet we are going to talk about YouTube star Jake Paul embarrassing former NBA star Nate Robinson in the undercard fight.
Let's get some takeaways from the night, courtesy of our Brian Campbell:
You can check out a few more takeaways from Campbell here.
It's pretty wild to think that a couple of boxers on the wrong side of 50 went toe-to-toe for eight rounds and still probably woke up feeling better than Robinson on Sunday morning. I think Nate's probably going to want to spend a little bit more time training. He may also want to try fighting someone more his size next time ... if there is a next time. (If not, I certainly can't blame him.) Also, I hope he didn't go on Twitter yesterday.3. The Giants are on track to win the NFC East 🏈 USATSI
As much as it pains me to say it, I think we should talk about the NFC East. I'd imagine that I'm not hurting anyone's feelings by saying this: the division is absolutely trash and it's borderline criminal that one of those teams is going to make the playoffs.
But that's the way things work in the NFL, and one of those crappy teams is going to win that crappy division. Right now, it's looking like the Giants are heading toward that honor. Our Jonathan Jones believes they'll be able to get to six wins, which should be enough.
None of what Jones says there is wrong, but the Giants winning the division certainly isn't a lock right now ... especially if the hamstring injury that Daniel Jones suffered in yesterday's win is as bad as some reports are indicating. And while they've won three straight games, they're also about to play four straight games against a team with a winning record. They haven't beaten a team with a winning record yet this season.
So, are you as convinced as our Jonathan Jones? Or do you think that another one of those teams is going to stumble backwards into the playoffs? And I guess this should probably be asked, too: Is it even worth caring about, considering the postseason demolition that awaits the lucky winner?4. Latest NFL firings: Lions begin to clean house, Jags let go of GM 🏈
We're another week deeper into this NFL season and the league's unemployment line is steadily growing in numbers. If you thought that the weird circumstances surrounding this season would afford some coaches and execs a little extra leash from the people signing their checks ... well, some of those leashes have still managed to reach their end.
We had a couple of big firings recently, so let's recap:
It's tough to say that any of these firings are totally surprising or unwarranted, though I'm confused about whether Jacksonville actually thought they'd be better at this point. Either way, it appears that hot seats still burns during a pandemic season.
It feels fair to wonder what it's gonna take to see the Bears add a few names to the unemployment list, especially after that embarrassing performance they put up last night.📝 Odds & Ends Getty Images 📺 What to watch today
🏈 Seahawks vs. Eagles, 8:15 p.m. | PHI +6.5 | TV: ESPN📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Patriots 20, Cardinals 17
New England only put up 179 yards on offense (Cam Newton had just 84 passing yards) but Nick Folk kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. 💵 Winning wagers: Patriots +100, Under (50.5)
🏈 Packers 41, Bears 25
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns as he improved to 20-5 against the Bears in his career. 💵 Winning wagers: GB -7.5, Over (44.5)