- The Jazz appear to have accelerated their development with a series of offseason moves, writes Brian Mahoney of SI.com. Armed with the 12th pick in the first round, Utah swung a three-team deal to acquire George Hill from the Pacers. The Jazz also signed veteran free agents Joe Johnson and traded for Boris Diaw. “There were a couple of things that kind of universally rang true,” said GM Dennis Lindsey. “Experience, physicality, shooting, improved passing, a little more depth at the guard position, a little more depth at the wing position, a little more depth—and not just depth, but experienced depth—at the big man position as well. I think as much as anything, it was just a natural step.”
Life in the NBA hasn’t been what Jahlil Okafor expected, but he tells Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he wants to change that, and he hopes to do it with the Sixers. Okafor’s rookie season was plagued by off-court incidents and injuries that limited him to 53 games. He has spent the offseason listening to trade rumors, along with talk that his style of play doesn’t fit the modern NBA game. “[The trade talk] is definitely all stupid with a lot of speculation,” Okafor said. “I see where people will write what I’m feeling and I haven’t even spoken to them. A lot of stuff is made up and it’s annoying. But for the most part, it’s fine. For me, at a certain point, I got upset when another story came out that said we were upset with the team and that just wasn’t the case. But I’m just looking forward to the season now.” Okafor is still rehabbing from surgery in February to repair a torn meniscus, but he hopes to be cleared for five-on-five play soon.
- After getting his first taste of the NBA during summer league, Ben Simmons plans to work on “everything” before training camp, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The No. 1 pick played six summer league games, averaging 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists. But there were concerns about his turnover rate — 3.8 per game — and a habit of standing around when he didn’t have the ball. “It’s just everyday education,” said Sixers summer league coach Lloyd Pierce. “It’s just learning the NBA, basic timing, position, execution. I can throw out every basketball term in the book. He’s just got to learn the game.”
- The Magic should take another shot at Hawks power forward Paul Millsap next summer, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando talked to Millsap in 2015 before he decided to re-sign with Atlanta, and with a player option for 2017/18, he might be a free agent again in 12 months. Millsap tops a list of potential 2017 free agent targets Schmitz listed for the Magic. Others mentioned are Gordon Hayward, J.J. Redick, Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry.
- Whispers about James Young‘s commitment to the game continue to haunt him as he battles for a roster spot with the Celtics, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Young came into the league with people doubting his work ethic, and now there are concerns that he hasn’t developed as much as he should. “I’ve seen that for 35 years in the NBA,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who wasn’t specifically talking about Young. “They don’t understand the urgency. They feel like they’ve made it, and they don’t understand that staying in the NBA should be their objective and not just making it here.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder isn’t sure how much Dante Exum will be able to contribute after missing an entire season with a torn ACL, writes Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Exum, who averaged 4.8 points and 2.4 assists as a rookie in 2014/15, was cleared for full-contact basketball activity last month. He decided not to join the Australian team for the Olympics and will concentrate on getting ready for training camp. “I think that’s an injury that he’ll be back from, but it’s not a simple thing,” Snyder said. “… We don’t really have a specific timetable on that as far as where he is, but I know he’s missed playing. He loves to play and I think this will be an opportunity for him to start doing that again and I know he’s excited and we’re excited for him.” Exum will face competition for playing time from George Hill, who was acquired in a trade from the Pacers last month, and Shelvin Mack, who became the team’s starting point guard late in the season after joining the team in a deal with the Hawks.
There’s more from the Western Conference:
- Point guard Tony Wroten could agree to return to the Grizzlies, tweets international journalist David Pick. Memphis waived Wroten on Tuesday, but Pick hears that a reunion is still possible. It was the second trip to the waiver wire this summer for Wroten, who was cut loose by the Knicks after the Derrick Rose deal.
- Trade rumors involving Ricky Rubio have been simmering since the Timberwolves drafted Kris Dunn, but owner Glen Taylor expects the team to hold on to the Spanish point guard, relays Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. “I don’t see that as a likely possibility,” Taylor said of a deal. “I just think the coach, everybody, likes Ricky. I think we want him to come in and improve on his shooting. But his other things, he plays defense, he gets assists, he helps the others get better. He has some wonderful qualities. I think the coach wants to bring an assistant coach to help Ricky on his shooting and I think that’s where we’re going to start out and go and we’ll see how good Kris Dunn is.” Rubio has spent his entire five-year NBA career in Minnesota and is under contract through 2018/19.
- Wolves power forward Nemanja Bjelica will have to miss the Olympics as he rehabs an injury to his right foot, according to Eurohoops. Doctors say the Serbian star needs at least three more weeks to heal before trying to play again. Opening ceremonies for the games in Rio de Janeiro are August 5th.
- Joe Johnson is excited to be part of an up-and-coming Jazz team and he believes he will be able contribute for several more seasons, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel passes along. “I feel great, man,” Johnson said. “I just finished my 15th season and I feel I’ve still got a lot of basketball left. I feel like I’ve got a lot I can contribute to this team for it to be successful.”
- The Jazz wanted to test Trey Lyles during summer league to see what he is capable of and the power forward has impressed, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News writes. Utah made Lyles the focal point of the offense and he responded by scoring 23.3 points per game this summer. Lyles will likely battle newly acquired forward Boris Diaw for minutes off the bench this season.
Utah center Rudy Gobert intends to play for France in the 2016 Olympics this summer, and while he prepares for the games in Rio, he and the Jazz won’t attempt to work out a contract extension. League sources tell Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com (Twitter link) that the Jazz and Gobert’s camp have agreed to postpone extension negotiations until after the Olympics.
Gobert, who is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract, became extension-eligible for the first time this month. He and the Jazz have until October 31 to attempt to hammer out a new deal — if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the 24-year-old will become eligible for restricted free agency in the summer of 2017. However, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets that he thinks Gobert and the Jazz are on the same page and that an extension should get done “without much issue.”
The 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Gobert has developed into one of the league’s best young rim protectors, averaging 2.2 blocks and 11.0 rebounds per game during the 2015/16 season. He also chipped in on the offensive end, recording 9.1 PPG and a .559 FG%.
If the Jazz aim to be players in free agency next summer, it could make some sense to postpone an extension for Gobert until 2017 like the Wizards and Pistons did this past year with Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond, respectively. Gobert’s cap hold next summer would only be about $5.3MM, meaning Utah could keep that number on the books at the start of free agency to create some cap room before eventually going over the cap to lock up the standout center.
Of course, Washington and Detroit eventually locked up their respective restricted free agents to maximum-salary contracts, and the Jazz will almost certainly have to do the same with Gobert if they wait until the summer, since another team would be willing to make such an offer if Utah doesn’t. Extending Gobert this fall could be Utah’s only chance to get him at a price below the max, though even a modest “hometown” discount may not be in the cards, given the league-wide spending spree we witnessed earlier this month.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert will play for Team France in the Rio Olympics, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News reports. He’ll join new Jazz teammate, Boris Diaw, on the squad. Utah swingman Joe Ingles will play for Team Australia and point guard Raul Neto will play for host Brazil, Genessy adds. Gobert did not participate in the Olympic qualifying tournament, when France nabbed the final spot in the field of 12.
- Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless is in “no rush” to sign a contract, but the restricted free agent should make a decision in the next couple of days, his agent told Jason Quick of CSNNW.com (Twitter link). Harkless might accept the Blazers’ qualifying offer of just over $4MM, Quick adds. Several teams were reportedly interested in Harkless early in the free agent process, including the Wizards, Pistons, Lakers, Mavericks and Jazz, but some of those clubs have already made other commitments.
Taurean Prince got his draft wish to join the Hawks, but Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that the rookie out of Baylor had to wait two weeks for it to happen. Prince remained in limbo as a member of the Jazz until a three-team trade with the Pacers was formally completed this week. That deal sent the number 12 pick to Atlanta, which was happy to add the 6’8″ combo forward. “Taurean has many of the qualities that we value in our program,” said Hawks GM Wes Wilcox. “We are excited to add his competitiveness, toughness, versatility and desire to improve.” Prince, who worked out twice for the Hawks before the draft, was a first-team All-Big 12 selection this season after averaging 15.9 points and 6.1 rebounds at Baylor.
- Former lottery pick Trey Burke is excited about the chance to revive his career with the Wizards, writes Gene Wang of The Washington Post. Washington acquired the third-year point guard last week in a trade with the Jazz, sending a 2021 second-round pick to Utah in return. Burke had fallen to the bottom of the depth chart in Utah and figured to have his playing time severely cut with the Jazz trading for George Hill and getting Dante Exum back from a year-long injury. Instead, he gets to join the Wizards and back up one of his favorite points guards. “I think it’s just a good fit for me, obviously playing behind John Wall,” Burke said. “He’s an established guard right now. Learning from him, I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the city. It’s just great to know that I’m welcome to another organization.” Burke has one year left on his contract at nearly $3.4MM.
FRIDAY, 12:38pm: Diaw is officially a member of the Jazz, according to the team, which issued a press release to announce its trade with the Spurs. Utah acquires Diaw, a 2022 second-round pick, and cash considerations for the rights to Hanlan.
TUESDAY, 3:49pm: The Spurs and the Jazz have reached an agreement on a trade that will send Boris Diaw to Utah, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter). San Antonio had been working to trade Diaw in a deal that cleared cap room for Pau Gasol, so the Jazz won’t be sending out any salary in the swap. Instead, as Wojnarowski tweets, the Spurs will get the rights to 2015 second-round pick Olivier Hanlan, who spent last season playing overseas.
Diaw, 34, had spent the last four-plus seasons in San Antonio, serving as a rotational player for the perennially-contending Spurs. He played just 18.2 minutes per game in 2015/16, matching a career low, but was solid when he was on the floor, averaging 6.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 2.3 APG, and posting a .527 FG%.
In Utah, Diaw will be joining an increasingly intriguing roster that will include offseason additions George Hill and Joe Johnson. Utah already has a solid young foundation in place, with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, and Rodney Hood among the club’s players under contract. The Jazz have supplemented those core pieces this offseason with some solid veteran acquisitions, and should easily be in playoff contention next season.
[RELATED: Utah Jazz depth chart at RosterResource.com]
The Jazz should have the cap room necessary to absorb Diaw’s $7MM salary without making any other notable moves, while for the Spurs, clearing that figure from their cap will allow the team to finalize its agreement with Gasol. San Antonio could have waived Diaw last week and saved $4MM in cap room, since his $7MM salary was only guaranteed for $3MM at that point. However, the Spurs opted to keep him, and were able to clear his entire salary while adding Hanlan to their lengthy list of draft-and-stash players.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
JULY 7TH: The trade is now official, the Jazz announced.
JULY 3RD: The Jazz are close to completing a trade that will send point guard Trey Burke to the Wizards, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Utah will reportedly receive a second-round pick in return (Twitter link). The pick is for 2021, tweets TNT’s David Aldridge.
Burke has been on the trading block since the Jazz made a deal to acquire George Hill from the Pacers. Burke has spent his entire three-year career with Utah after being acquired from the Timberwolves in a 2013 draft-day deal. He averaged 10.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season in a reserve role, but there were rumblings that Jazz management had soured on Burke after he failed to win the starting job when Dante Exum was lost for the season with an injury.
JULY 7: The Pacers, Jazz, and Hawks have all issued announcements formally confirming that the three-way swap is official. Teague goes to Indiana, Hill heads to Utah, and Atlanta gets the rights to Taurean Prince, the 12th overall pick in last month’s draft.
JUNE 22: The Pacers, Jazz, and Hawks have agreed to a three-way trade, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who reports that Indiana will acquire Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague and send George Hill to Utah in the deal. The Hawks, meanwhile, will get the No. 12 overall pick in tomorrow’s draft from Utah, says Wojnarowski.
Teague, 28, has been the subject of trade rumors this year despite having an All-Star appearance on his résumé. With just one year left on his contract, Teague has become somewhat expendable in Atlanta due to the continued development of fellow point guard Dennis Schröder, who has made no secret about his desire to be the starter going forward
Teague, who said earlier this month that he played the 2015/16 season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee, still appeared in 79 games, averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 assists, and shooting 43.9% from the field and 40% from three-point range. According to Wojnarowski, the Pacers intend to try to extend Teague’s contract beyond the 2016/17 season. The veteran point guard will be eligible to restructure his deal beginning on July 13th.
In Hill, meanwhile, the Jazz are acquiring a solid defender who can also contribute on the offensive end, particularly from beyond the arc. In 74 regular-season games, Hill averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game, to go along with a 40.8% mark from three-point range. The 30-year-old was also solid in Indiana’s first-round playoff loss to Toronto, increasing his three-point percentage to 48.1% for those seven games. He’ll team with Dante Exum at the point in Utah, and his arrival may push Trey Burke to the trade block.
Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests (via Twitter) that the trade won’t become official until July, which makes sense if no other pieces are involved. That would allow the Jazz to use their cap space in July to absorb Hill’s $8MM salary without moving any other players. From the Pacers’ perspective, Teague’s salary – which will increase to $8.8MM due to his 10% trade kicker – is only a marginal increase on Hill’s.
As for the Hawks, they’d clear Teague’s salary while taking on a cap hold of just under $2MM for the No. 12 overall pick. The move would reduce the guaranteed salaries on Atlanta’s books for 2016/17 to about $44MM, not including the cap holds for their two first-rounders or pending free agents, giving the team plenty of room to re-sign Al Horford and potentially pursue another free agent or two as well.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.