NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/15/17

Here are the G League transactions from the day:

  • The Magic have assigned Khem Birch to their affiliate in Lakeland, the team’s public relations department tweets. Birch has seen big league action in just 11 minutes this season but is averaging 14.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the G League.
  • The Nets have recalled point guard Isaiah Whitehead from their Long Island affiliate, the team announced in a press release. Whitehead has averaged 7.0 points in 12.1 minutes per game with Brooklyn.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Gasol, Paul

The Mavs have benefited from the across the board contributions of role players Dwight Powell and Yogi Ferrell this season, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. The pair have thrived as much needed team worker bees.

[Powell] always gives us amazing energy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of his 26-year-old backup center. “He is just so into the team and winning. Guys like him, you just can’t get enough of.”

In 17.9 minutes per game, Powell has posted a 6.2 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Mavs, a stat line that works out to be 12.5 and 10.5 per-36. Ferrell, in contrast, has served the team out of the backcourt, stepping up noticeably well as a spot starter for Dennis Smith Jr.

In five Mavs starts with the lottery pick sidelined, Ferrell has averaged 12.5 points and 4.8 assists per game.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets have thrived under head coach Mike D’Antoni but for a while there, Hornets assistant Stephen Silas was in the running for the position. As Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle writes, the Charlotte coach still gets ribbed by friends and family when Houston, the best team in the NBA two months into the season, does something particularly impressive.
  • The Grizzlies haven’t officially declared that they’re looking to trade Marc Gasol but the big man’s name has been a topic of speculation anyway considering Memphis’ poor 2017/18 start. Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal has come up with six hypothetical trade scenarios that he thinks are reasonable, including one that would send the Spaniard to the Raptors in exchange for a Jonas Valanciunas package.
  • Offseason acquisition Chris Paul seems to be enjoying his new role with the Rockets, as Tim MacMahon of ESPN breaks down in a recent feature. That, coupled with the fact that Houston is 12-0 with Paul on the floor this season, bodes well for the franchise ahead of the veteran’s free agency this summer.

Southeast Notes: Heat Injuries, Hornets, Isaac

The Heat have dealt with a plethora of injuries this season but, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes, the team is slow but surely making progress. Hassan Whiteside, for example, has started doing on court work for the first time since being sidelined eight games ago.

While there’s still no timetable for Whiteside’s return, Heat fans can take solace in the fact that head coach Erik Spoelstra seems convinced that Rodney McGruder will return to the court by the end of the season.

I will not answer [in more detail] because he will read it and take it as major progress and then start banging on my door and say I’m ready to play,” the Heat coach said. “He’s out of the boot and doing more work, all non-impact at this point.

Finally, there was hope that Justise Winslow would be able to return within the week for the Heat. The forward received optimistic MRI results after injuring his knee on Wednesday. Spoelstra, however, pumped the breaks on that one saying that he wouldn’t commit to that timetable. Winslow is currently limited to bicycle and pool work.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

Rudy Gobert Injures Knee, Suffers Possible MCL Sprain

The Jazz watched Rudy Gobert fall to another knee injury Friday night, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News writes. The big man clutched his left leg in pain after tangling up with Derrick Favors and eventually limped to the team locker room ruled out for the remainder of the contest.

The scary moment comes less than two weeks after the big man made his return to the Jazz, having missed 11 contests recovering from a right knee injury.

Although the center hasn’t undergone an MRI, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets that early evaluation suggests it’s a Grade 1 MCL sprain.

Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets that the injury isn’t “too serious” and that it may have just looked worse than it actually was. Woodyard said in another tweet that it certainly isn’t season-ending.

Atlantic Notes: Wright, Okafor, Whitehead

Nearly a month after dislocating his shoulder injury, Delon Wright will make his return to the Raptors lineup, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. Wright last saw action on November 16.

Prior to the injury, Wright had been enjoying a solid season serving as a vital part of a Raptors second-unit that has yielded plenty of credit this season. While his absence was noticeable, third-string guard Fred VanVleet filled in admirably as the primary backup.

Wright, who had averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 assists in just over 20 minutes per game this season, is expected to be on somewhat of a minute restriction, Josh Lewenberg of TSN tweets.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Tonight is the night that recent Nets acquisitions Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas make their debut, Michael Grange of Sportsnet tweets. The pair, he adds, are expected to get a “healthy dose of playing time” in their first Brooklyn appearance.
  • The Celtics will be without Marcus Morris for at least a week. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets that the forward who has missed four of the past five games with a lingering knee injury isn’t expected to be back until, perhaps, December 23 or Christmas Day.
  • Second-year Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead has changed his representation, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The point guard and former Andy Miller client will now be represented by Sam Permut of Roc Nation.
  • The Knicks have thrived without Carmelo Anthony on board but veteran guard Courtney Lee doesn’t think that his absence is why the team is winning. “If Melo was here, we would’ve made that adjustment with him,” he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “So you can’t just pinpoint it at him and say, ‘Well he left and we made these adjustments.’ The style of play was going to be different from last year regardless.

Northwest Notes: Anthony, Bjelica, Hill

It’s been an emotional week for the Thunder and that’s only going to continue through the weekend as Carmelo Anthony makes his return to New York for a battle with the Knicks. As Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports writes, the week could help give the new-look Oklahoma City squad much-needed closure.

We can focus on what’s ahead of us. We can focus on being [the] Thunder. It’s no more Pacers. It’s no more Knicks,” Anthony’s newest superstar teammate Paul George said, having narrowly defeated his own former squad in his first game back in Indiana on Wednesday. “We can focus on what we have to do, to get better as a team and get better as Thunder players. That story, that chapter, and that book is over with.

One difference between Anthony’s exit and George’s exit is that there was somewhat of an understanding between all parties that his tenure in the Big Apple had run its course. George’s hasty departure, the trade request that triggered his deal to the Thunder, left plenty of Pacers fans betrayed.

At the end of the day, it’s business to me. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not ecstatic to be going back and playing there,” Anthony, who has averaged 17.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Thunder, said. “Like I said, I got a different feeling with New York. A different relationship, different bond with the city, with the fans, with the people. It’s a little bit special for me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Kanter, Morris

There’s no timetable for Jahlil Okafor to make his Nets debut. Head coach Kenny Atkinson is hoping to ease the big man’s transition to his new club. Alex Labidou of the Nets’ official site writes that the center appreciates the team’s patient approach to his situation.

[The Nets] know my weaknesses and strengths and I’m working with them every day to get better,” Okafor said. “They already told me what they want me to work on and like I said, I’m all in.

Okafor was acquired by the Nets on December 7, having played the first two seasons of his NBA career in Philadelphia.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division this evening:

  • Despite the fact that he’s barely over “40-50%”, Enes Kanter isn’t about to sit out any games for the Knicks if he doesn’t have to. The big man, who’s posted 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in a widely acclaimed first few months in New York, told Fred Kerber of the New York Post that he knows all too well that every single game matters over the course of an NBA season.
  • The Raptors vowed to tweak their offense over the offseason and are already reaping the benefits. As James Herbert of CBS writes, the team has broken the bad habits that led to consistent playoff letdowns.
  • The Celtics have been without Marcus Morris for four of their past five contests, prompting president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to come up with a plan to help ease the offseason addition back into a consistent routine, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes.

Fantasy Hoops: Mirotic, Gasol, Hollis-Jefferson

Nikola Mirotic has thrived since returning to action, posting 19.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest while shooting 57.1% from the field. Since Mirotic’s debut this season, a Bulls team that won three of its first 23 games has gone 4-0, and the franchise recognizes the power forward’s value.Nikola Mirotic vertical

“He does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the box score,” coach Fred Hoiberg recently said. “He’s in the right spot defensively, he’s in a stance, he knows where to be, he understands the game plan.”

Chicago led our reverse standings for much of the first quarter of the season and though the Bulls insist they’re not tanking, Mirotic’s success may only provide them with further motivation to ship him elsewhere when he becomes trade-eligible on January 15. We heard earlier in the week that the Bulls were gauging Mirotic’s value on the market and his stock likely only improved after a 29 point, 11-for-18 performance against the Jazz on Wednesday night.

Don’t expect Mirotic to continue with this level of production. Two of his four games, including the Utah contest, came with rookie Lauri Markkanen sitting out, so Mirotic is unlikely to maintain his current 25.4 usage percentage. When Markanen returns, Mirotic should still remain involved in the offense, especially if the Bulls are showcasing him for a trade, as I alluded to in a previous edition of Fantasy Hoops. However, expect a cutback in production to occur. That, along with the chances of him being dealt elsewhere, makes Mirotic a sell-high candidate despite that fact that many fantasy players likely just picked him up.

The list of players I would target include Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez, Darren Collison, Al-Farouq Aminu and Spencer Dinwiddie. These are all players I have in the tier above Mirotic, but they could be undervalued in your leagues for various reasons.

Marginal moves can sometimes be key to turning teams around — just ask former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie (who should be an Executive of the Year candidate) or current Nets GM Sean Marks, both of whom have done a great job finding value in the margins.

If your season isn’t going as planned, identifying players to buy low and sell high on could be your way to turn it around. And for those who just enjoyed Mirotic’s great week of play, another opportunity awaits.

Here’s more notes and analysis from around the league:

  • The Hawks have been one of the best match-ups for opposing centers, allowing the most rebounds and third-highest field goal percentage to opposing fives over their last 10 contests. Target Marc Gasol, despite the high sticker price, in daily contests tonight.
  • The Heat will take on the Hawks on Monday, and center Bam Adebayo could be a player to target for that contest. Adebayo has had mixed results as a fill-in for Whiteside, but if the $98MM man doesn’t return to the over the weekend, Adebayo becomes an intriguing, super-cheap option to consider in daily.
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has seen an increase in usage since the Nets shipped out Trevor Booker. Having attempted 10.2 shots per game before the Jahlil Okafor trade, RHJ has attempted 12.5 since then. He may lose some touches once Okafor debuts, but the combo forward contributes in enough categories to remain a fantasy asset.
  • Cavaliers point guard Jose Calderon deserves some attention after scoring a season-high 17 points against the Lakers on Thursday. That performance followed up a 14-point, four-assist showing against the Hawks, in which he hit four shots from behind the arc and added a steal. He’s far from a must-add, but Calderon could be useful as a spot starter in season-long leagues and he’s a nice low-price option in daily, especially on Saturday against a Jazz team that has allowed opposing point guards to shoot 46.0% from the field (23rd in the league) over its last 10 games.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Friday morning. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

And-Ones: Doncic, Gee, Mexico City, NBPA

A highlight of Real Madrid star Luka Doncic crossing over former Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver went viral on Thursday, and representatives from a number of NBA teams were on hand to see it in person. According to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link), the Sixers, Suns, Clippers, Magic, Mavericks, Pelicans, Wizards, and others all had officials in attendance.

Of course, given how highly regarded Doncic is, most of these teams are unlikely to have a shot at him in the 2018 NBA draft. In singling out some of the risers and fallers in the latest update to their 2018 big board, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) explain why Doncic is at the top of their rankings.

According to Givony and Schmitz, who refer to Doncic as “the most productive European prospect of all time,” the 6’8″ guard could have a legit chance to win the EuroLeague’s MVP award this season. Some scouts worry about his athleticism, his defense, or his ability to create shots, so it’s not a lock that he’ll go No. 1 in June. But Doncic, at age 18, is already one of the best scorers and facilitators in Europe, in the eyes of Givony and Schmitz.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA swingman Alonzo Gee is headed to the G League, according to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days, who tweets that the Heat‘s affiliate (the Sioux Falls Skyforce) has claimed Gee off waivers. The 30-year-old, who has appeared in regular season games for six NBA clubs, last played for the Nuggets in 2016/17.
  • After reporting last week that the NBA intends to establish a G League franchise in Mexico City, Marc Stein of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the issue and outlines why the league is more seriously considering the viability of eventually expanding to Mexico — not just with a G League team, but with an NBA club. The fact that Mexico City shares a time zone with so many current NBA clubs is a major plus, as commissioner Adam Silver observes.
  • The players’ union and former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter have reached a settlement in their legal battle, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter links). After the NBPA fired Hunter in 2013, the longtime executive director sued the union for $10MM+, and the union counter-sued. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but Hunter said in a statement that he’s happy about “moving forward after years of hard-fought litigation on both sides.”

Hoops Rumors Glossary: NBA Roster Limits

The rules governing the number of players an NBA team can carry on its roster vary depending on the time of year. During the regular season, teams aren’t allowed to carry more than 15 players on their rosters, except in rare instances. Generally, when a club with 15 players on its roster acquires a new player, it must waive someone to clear a spot. In the offseason though, teams are permitted to carry up to 20 players on their rosters.

The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement has complicated roster counts to some extent by introducing two-way contracts, which allow each team to carry two extra players. Someone on a two-way deal is essentially a G League player, but can spend up to 45 teams with his NBA team, and can’t be poached by a rival NBA club, as we explain in our FAQ.

During the regular season, two-way players don’t count toward the 15-man limit, meaning teams can essentially have 17 players under contract. However, two-way players do count toward the 20-man limit in the offseason. If a club is carrying 20 players on standard NBA contracts in August, it can’t sign a player to a two-way deal without waiving someone.

[RELATED: 2017/18 NBA Roster Counts]

A team ravaged by injuries can sometimes get an extra spot on its regular-season roster via a hardship exception. The NBA can grant this exception when a team has at least four players who have missed three consecutive games and will continue to miss time. Just this week, the Suns were granted an injury exception because Brandon Knight, Alan Williams, Davon Reed, and Devin Booker are all sidelined. Phoenix signed Isaiah Canaan, and now temporarily has a 16-man roster. When one of those players – most likely Booker – is ready to return, the Suns will have to get back to the 15-man limit by waiving Canaan or another player.

A club is also permitted to add a 16th man to its regular season roster if it has a player on the suspended list. A player who is suspended by his team for four or more games may be placed on the suspended list following the third game of his ban, while a player suspended by the NBA for six or more games can be placed on the suspended list following the fifth game of his ban. Teams can’t make use of the suspended list for shorter suspensions.

For instance, Knicks center Joakim Noah received a 20-game suspension from the NBA back in March. He served eight games last season, meaning New York was able to place him on the suspended list to open the 2017/18 campaign. That allowed the Knicks to carry a 16th player for their first 12 games of the season before Noah returned, at which point the team waived Mindaugas Kuzminskas to get back down to 15 players.

The fewest number of players an NBA team can have on its roster during the regular season is 14, not counting two-way players. Still, a team can dip to 13 or even 12 for a limited time, under special circumstances — in those instances, the team must get back up to 14 players within two weeks.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in 2012 and 2013 by Luke Adams.

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