Kawhi Notes: Long-Term Future, Best Case Scenario, Performance

Ever since the Raptors swung a blockbuster deal with the Spurs to acquire two-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard, speculation on his alleged interest — or lack thereof — to play in Canada has been rampant. There have been reports ranging from Leonard having no desire to suit up for Toronto to team president Masai Ujiri saying that the 2014 NBA champion is prepared for next season.

Leonard will hit free agency next summer when his current contract expires. The Lakers have been frequently connected to Leonard as a possible — if not likely — destination for him. However, at least one person believes that Leonard’ tenure with the Raptors will last more than one season. Mark Zeigler of The San Diego Union-Tribune spoke to one close Leonard confidant who believes the superstar will re-sign with Toronto.

“He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen. He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you,” he said.

There have been so many reports on Leonard’s alleged frame of mind regarding his new team. It’s unlikely we’ll get a clear indication on his future unless it comes directly from Leonard. However, joining a 59-win team that led the Eastern Conference in wins a year ago bodes well for Toronto with a healthy Leonard for next season.

Check out more Leonard notes below:

  • ESPN’s Andre Snellings examined the best case scenario for the both the Raptors and Leonard. While DeMar DeRozan was the recognized franchise star who improved each season, statistics show that the Raptors scored better with him on the bench. If Leonard is healthy, Snellings writes that his potent combination of elite scoring and defense improves Toronto on both sides of the court.
  • With Leonard joining the Raptors, a lot of unknowns remain, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Leonard is known around the league as a quiet person who prefers to keep himself out of the spotlight. However, in joining a new team, Leonard will have to prove himself by playing his best basketball and when he’s healthy, he’s proven himself as one of the NBA’s elite.
  • If you missed it, here is a rundown of Ujiri’s press conference from Friday, where he addressed Leonard’s arrival and miscommunication with DeRozan.

Bulls Notes: Parker, Ulis, Blakeney, Paxson

Bringing in Jabari Parker is a risk the Bulls may wind up regretting, writes Darnell Maybury of The Athletic. Even though just the first season of his two-year, $40MM contract is guaranteed, Chicago now has 10 players age 24 or younger who may be tempted to put personal concerns ahead of the team agenda.

Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne will both be in their fourth seasons, Maybury notes, and will be looking at a final chance to put up big numbers before restricted free agency. Zach LaVine will try to prove he’s worth his new four-year, $78MM deal and Denzel Valentine has been open about his desire to be a starter. That presents a lot of challenges for coach Fred Hoiberg to balance heading into the new season.

Maybury also warns that the addition of Parker could also be detrimental to the development of Lauri Markkanen, which he states should be the Bulls’ top objective.

There’s more today out of Chicago:

  • Parker put on a show Saturday at a pickup game organized by the Chicago Basketball Club, relays Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago. Parker was impressive with his shooting, passing and ballhandling and offered hope that he has fully recovered from his latest ACL surgery. Also participating in the game was former Suns point guard Tyler Ulis, a Chicago native whom Walton suggests the Bulls may be interested in.
  • To clear cap room for Parker, the Bulls waived Sean Kilpatrick and rescinded their qualifying offer for David Nwaba, leading Ben Bokun of NBC Sports Chicago to question the reasoning of cutting ties with those players and signing summer league standout Antonio Blakeney to a two-year deal. A two-way player for the Bulls last season, Blakeney appeared in 19 NBA games and averaged 7.9 points. Chicago’s front office also got a close look at him in the G League, where he was named Rookie of the Year and made the all-star team.
  • VP of basketball operations John Paxson is happy with how quickly the organization has been able to assemble a group of young talent, although he recognizes that doesn’t automatically make the Bulls a contender, writes Ashish Mathur of AmicoHoops. “This year, a lot of our success will be determined by how big of a jump Zach, Kris [Dunn] and Lauri make,” Paxson said. “We knew that going into this offseason. Now you add Jabari, Wendell [Carter] and Chandler [Hutchison] and you feel like you’re making some progress.”

Rawle Alkins Agrees To Two-Way Deal With Bulls

The Bulls have agreed to a two-way deal with undrafted guard Rawle Alkins, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. The Arizona product spent the past few weeks with the Raptors‘ Summer League team.

Toronto liked Alkins’ summer performance where he averaged 9.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.0 APG. The Raptors offered Alkins a camp invitation but he chose the deal with the higher guaranteed money, per  TSN’s Josh Lewenberg.

As a two-way player, Alkins will spend most of his time with the Bulls’ G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. However, he is permitted to spend up to 45 days with the NBA team. The Bulls have the option to convert Alkins’ deal into a standard NBA deal if they choose.

In his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Alkins averaged 13.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG. Entering the 2018 NBA Draft, Alkins was ranked as the 49th-best prospect on Jonathan Givony’s top-100 list at ESPN.com.

Chinese Teams Interested In Jahlil Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor appears to have offers waiting in China if he can’t find an NBA team to sign him, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

The third player taken in the 2015 draft, Okafor washed out in Philadelphia and didn’t play much after being traded to the Nets in December. He got into just 26 games with Brooklyn and averaged 6.4 PPG in 12.6 minutes per night.

Okafor is working out in Miami, but the Heat aren’t interested in signing him, Carchia writes. We detailed several other franchises that have apparently withdrawn their interest earlier this week, including the Nets, Pacers and Bulls. However, four teams sent representatives to Okafor’s recent workout in Las Vegas and he remains hopeful of catching on with someone before training camps open.

Weekly Mailbag: 7/16/18 – 7/22/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Who do you think got the steal of the draft at the center position? The Celtics with Robert Williams or the Knicks with Mitchell Robinson, who averaged five blocks per game in the summer league? — Greg Dizon

Robinson was the clear winner in summer league and looks like the primary backup to Enes Kanter after his outstanding performance in Las Vegas. Williams, meanwhile, was sidelined by a sore left knee and didn’t see any action. Summer league can be deceiving, of course, and none of this means Robinson will be a better player than Williams, either this season or throughout his NBA career. He still needs to develop an offensive game, and he is behind schedule overall after not playing in college. However, Knicks fans need something to be excited about and the summer performance of Robinson and Kevin Knox certainly provides that.

Who should the Mavericks look at in free agency to account for the loss on the wing with the departures of Seth Curry, Doug McDermott and Yogi Ferrell, or would a trade make more sense at this point? — M.D. Jordan Sports, via Twitter

Dallas is using the last of its cap space to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki and will have just the $4.45MM room exception available, so the options are limited. Rodney Hood is probably the top wing player left on the market, but he’s a restricted free agent and the Cavaliers would happily match an offer that started at $4.45MM. David Nwaba, who is now unrestricted after the Bulls pulled their qualifying offer, could be an interesting option if he doesn’t get a better offer somewhere else. Beyond that, the free agent pool is filled with veterans such as Jamal Crawford, Corey Brewer, Nick Young, Devin Harris and Arron Afflalo, none of whom would have a long-term future with the Mavericks.

I know Chandler Parsons‘ contract is bigger, but with the right adjustments, would a Luol Deng for Parsons trade work? The Grizzlies seem like a team that could at least try using Luol on the court, and an on-point Chandler alongside LeBron James would be awesome. Then again, I’m on the fence with Parsons, I understand why Houston, Dallas and Memphis were willing to pay him, but I also understand why they regret it. — Nicolas Galipeau

The Lakers are still in the business of trying to preserve as much cap space as possible for next year’s free agent frenzy. It’s unlikely they would gamble on Parsons even without the scary injury history. Deng and Parsons benefited from the irrational contracts that were handed out in 2016 and both have become salary cap albatrosses. Deng will make $36.8MM over the next two seasons, while Parsons is due more than $49.2MM. Their salaries make them virtually untradable, even for each other. It’s much more likely that the Lakers will use the stretch provision to make Deng’s deal less of an impediment to their free agent plans.

International Notes: Perrantes, Ennis, Martin, Henderson

Two European teams are hoping to sign former Cavaliers two-way player London Perrantes, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. The French club Limoges has expressed interest in Perrantes, who received a two-year offer on Friday from Olimpia Milano in Italy, which plans to loan him to VL Pesaro during his first season.

Cleveland waived the 23-year-old point guard last month after one season with the organization. Perrantes appeared in 14 games for the Cavs and averaged less than five minutes per night. His G League numbers were much better as he posted an 11.9/3.4/7.8 line while starting 35 games for the Canton Charge.

A four-year player at Virginia, Perrantes got the opportunity in Cleveland just before the start of last season. Prior to that, he had been signed and waived by the Spurs.

There’s more overseas news to pass along:

  • Former Laker Tyler Ennisdecision to sign with Fenerbahce is examined by Kostas Giataganas of Eurohoops. Ennis will join ex-Spur Joffrey Lauvergne on the Turkish club and will follow his brother Dylan, who played in Europe last season. Ennis was waived by the Lakers in June before his $1.7MM contract for next season became guaranteed. He appeared in 54 games for L.A. last year, averaging 4.1 points per night.
  • Hassan Martin, who had an impressive performance with the Celtics‘ summer league team, is headed to Germany, Lupo relays in a separate piece. The former Rhode Island forward averaged 10 points and six rebounds per game in Las Vegas. He played in Japan last year.
  • Former Hornets G Leaguer Terry Henderson has signed with Scaligera Verona in Italy, also according to Lupo. The one-time North Carolina State guard averaged 11.3 points in 42 games with the Greensboro Swarm last season.

Pacific Notes: Stephenson, Ariza, Harrell, Ferrell

Headed to his seventh team in five years, new Laker Lance Stephenson is hoping he can land a long-term contract next summer, relays Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. Stephenson expected a longer stay in Indiana after appearing in all 82 games last season. However, after teammate Thaddeus Young opted in to a $13.7MM deal and Doug McDermott was added in free agency, the Pacers elected to decline their $4.3MM option on Stephenson. He wound up signing a one-year, $4.5MM deal with L.A.

“I’m definitely looking for a long-term contract after this,” Stephenson said. “I’m trying to find a home. I’ve been moving a lot and to different teams. I’m trying to find a place where I can actually call home and feel comfortable, and actually get a nice place and stay there for a while.”

There’s more this morning from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns contacted free agent forward Trevor Ariza in the first minute of free agency, he says in a video interview tweeted by the team. The former Rocket agreed to change teams after receiving a one-year, $15MM offer from Phoenix. “Sometimes things run their course and it’s time for a new start and new beginning,” Ariza explained. “There were a lot of options for me, but the one that … showed the most promise was this one. I’m excited to be here. I’m happy to be here. It’s closer to home [in Los Angeles] for me.”
  • The new two-year, $12MM contract for Montrezl Harrell leaves the Clippers about $500K below the tax line, but sets up a difficult roster decision, Bobby Marks posts on ESPN Now. Re-signing Harrell gives L.A. 16 guaranteed contracts, along with non-guaranteed deals for Patrick Beverley ($5,027,028) and C.J. Williams ($1,378,242). Neither becomes fully guaranteed until January 10.
  • The Kings finalized a three-year, $20.5MM contract with Nemanja Bjelica on Saturday, but not an expected deal with Yogi Ferrell, notes salary cap expert Albert Nahmad (Twitter link). He speculates that Sacramento could be examining its options with $14MM in remaining cap space and may use the room mid-level exception to sign Ferrell to a two-year, $6.2MM deal at a later date.

Former Hawk Jaylen Morris Signs In Italy

Three days after being waived by the Hawks, Jaylen Morris has found a new home in Italy, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Fiat Torino has announced the signing of Morris, who played six games for Atlanta last season.

Morris had a non-guaranteed $1,378,242 salary for next season, and the Hawks had to waive him and Antonius Cleveland to clear enough cap room to complete a three-team trade that will bring in Carmelo Anthony from the Thunder and Justin Anderson from the Sixers.

Morris spent most of last year in the G League before signing a pair of 10-day deals with Atlanta and getting a contract in March that covered the rest of the season. He also spent summer league with the Hawks, playing in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Morris requested a release from the Hawks after learning that he wouldn’t make the 15-man roster for the upcoming season, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta-Journal Consitution. Lupo notes that Morris’ new contract in Italy includes an out clause in case he gets another NBA offer.

Atlantic Notes: Lin, J. Parker, DeRozan, Hayward

Jeremy Lin was denying rumors of a possible trade the night before the Nets shipped him to Atlanta, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Fans of the veteran guard have been bombarding Brooklyn GM Sean Marks with message of disapproval, but Lewis states that the trade shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Lin, who is about to turn 30 and is coming off a major injury, doesn’t fit the Nets’ rebuilding timeline. Still, he was blindsided by the deal with the Hawks.

“These things can happen pretty quickly,” Marks explained. “Summer league, Vegas, maybe it’s a little like the winter meetings for baseball where everybody is there and it gives everybody an opportunity to continue to talk and hash some things out.”

Lin spent two seasons in Brooklyn, but missed 127 of 164 games with hamstring and knee injuries. He has a $12.5MM expiring contract, which gives him one season in Atlanta to try to revive his career before becoming a free agent next summer.

There’s more tonight from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets considered making an offer to free agent Jabari Parker before he signed with the Bulls, Lewis adds in the same story. They decided against it because of the price tag and a recent comment Parker made in a radio interview that “They don’t pay players to play defense.” Brooklyn opted for a pair of trades with the Nuggets and Suns that brought in Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley.
  • Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas reached out to former Raptor DeMar DeRozan on social media after Toronto’s deal to acquire Kawhi Leonard was announced, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “Learn from my story,” Thomas wrote on Twitter. “Loyalty is just a word.” Their experiences are similar as both were very popular and successful with their teams, but were dealt away when better players became available.
  • The Celtics opened a roster spot today by waiving Abdel Nader, but they may take their time in filling it, Washburn notes in the same piece. Restricted free agent Jabari Bird, the leading scorer for Boston’s summer league entry, would like to take it, but the Celtics prefer to keep him on a two-way contract. The team hasn’t used its $5.3MM mid-level exception and will likely wait to see if a bigger-name free agent becomes interested.
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward showed fans the progress he has made with his fractured ankle in a workout video he posted today on his Instagram account.

Community Shootaround: Carmelo In Houston

Carmelo Anthony‘s path to the Rockets now seems clear after an agreement was reached this week on a three-team trade that will send him to the Hawks, who will buy him out. Once that process plays out and Anthony clears waivers, he will be free to sign with anybody, but it’s a poorly kept secret that he plans to head to Houston.

There’s a lot to be figured out about what Anthony’s role will be with the Rockets, but he didn’t exactly excel as a third option in Oklahoma City. His playing time dropped to a career-low 32.1 minutes per game last season and his scoring average fell bellow 20 PPG for the first time since he entered the NBA in 2003.

After winning 65 games and reaching the Western Conference finals, Houston suffered a couple of key personnel losses. Trevor Ariza signed with the Suns on the first night of free agency, and Luc Mbah a Moute left for the Clippers soon afterward. That’s a loss of two defensive specialists who match up very well with the Warriors, while Anthony represents a question mark on both counts.

There have been whispers that the Rockets may be considering a sixth-man spot for Anthony, with defensive-minded free agent addition James Ennis taking Ariza’s spot in the starting lineup. Chris Paul, one of Anthony’s close friends, may be able to sell him on the idea, but his response when asked about a similar role with the Thunder isn’t encouraging.

“I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” he told ESPN’s Royce Young in April. “So that’s out of the question.” (Twitter link).

Anthony brings extra firepower to a Rockets offense that is already loaded. As several observers have noted, he is most effective when playing with elite passers — as he has done on the Olympic team — and he’ll have those in Houston with Paul and James Harden. However, the move from Ariza to Anthony won’t be a seamless switch. They are very different types of players, and many writers are predicting a greater gap between the Warriors and Rockets with Anthony on board.

We want to get your prediction. Will a move to Houston bring out the best in Anthony’s game, or will he be a distraction on offense and a liability on defense? Please leave your answers in the space below.