NBA Submits Proposal To Lower Draft Age

The NBA has submitted an official proposal to the National Basketball Players Association that would lower the draft-eligible age from 19 to 18, according to a report from Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports.

The NBPA and executive director Michele Roberts planned to review the proposal on Monday at a post-All-Star break meeting, Amick adds.

Both the NBA and the NBPA have held extensive discussions on lowering the age throughout the season, but two significant hurdles remain in the way: Commissioner Adam Silver wanting player-agents to provide medical information on prospects for NBA teams, and the league wanting to mandate that players attend and give some form of participation during the pre-draft combine, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. To this point, the NBPA has pushed back against both of these ideas.

In the present day, players must attend college for one season before declaring for the NBA Draft. Prospects such as Duke’s Zion Williamson have raised questions about the legitimacy of this rule, with Williamson widely regarded as being NBA-ready before his collegiate season began.

Should the NBA and NBPA mutually agree on a proposal to lower the draft age, the league wants to give teams significant time before putting the rule into effect, according to Amick. The earliest draft with an altered minimum-age would likely be the 2022 NBA Draft, or three years from June.

Poll: Second-Best Team In West

After some up-and-down play in the early going this season, the Warriors have looked like their old selves over the last several weeks, winning 18 of their last 21 games to cement their spot atop the Western Conference. While there was never any doubt that Golden State would be the team to beat in the West, it remains unclear which conference rival will be the Dubs’ biggest threat this spring.

The Nuggets and Thunder currently have comfortable holds on the second and third seeds in the West and are in good position to capture home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. However, both squads are unproven in the playoffs — Oklahoma City hasn’t won a postseason series since Kevin Durant‘s departure in 2016, and Denver hasn’t even made the postseason since 2013. Led by a pair of MVP candidates in Nikola Jokic and Paul George, the Nuggets and Thunder are formidable, but neither team looks like a lock to advance to the Western Finals.

Like the Thunder, the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers were quickly dispatched in the first round of last year’s postseason and still have to prove that they can make a deep playoff run. The Rockets (fifth) and the Jazz (seventh) were considered two of Golden State’s most dangerous challengers coming into the season, but have endured some bumps along the road and have had to re-establish themselves as legit threats to win multiple postseason series.

The Spurs don’t appear to be the legit title contenders they’ve been in most seasons under Gregg Popovich, but they’ve still played well enough to rank sixth in the conference and have a number of impressive wins on their 2018/19 résumé. The Lakers, meanwhile, are under .500 and out of the playoff picture for now, but could be a scary first-round matchup if they sneak into the top eight — after all, LeBron James hasn’t watched the NBA Finals from home since 2010.

What do you think? Which of the non-Warriors teams in the West poses the biggest threat to Golden State in the postseason? Which team do you expect to make it through two rounds to face the Dubs in the Western Conference Finals this spring?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Latest Notes On Zion Williamson

As we wait for word on how long Zion Williamson‘s knee injury – described last night as a “mild” sprain – might sideline him, players around the NBA have been wishing him well and weighing in with their thoughts on the situation.

Of those players, DeMarcus Cousins had some of the strongest views, telling reporters, including Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link), that he’d advise Williamson to shut it down for the season and turn his attention to the NBA.

“Knowing what I know, college basketball is bulls–t,” Cousins said. “My advice to him is do what’s best for you and your family. Obviously, college does nothing for you at this point. You’ve proven you’re the No. 1 pick, you’ve proven your talent. You’re ready for the next level.”

Here are several more Zion-related links in the wake of Wednesday night’s injury scare:

  • According to Darren Rovell of Action Network (Twitter link), Williamson has an $8MM loss-of-value insurance policy to protect himself against a major injury. However, he’d have to slip out of the top 16 in the draft to start collecting, per Rovell. It’s hard to imagine that even a more significant injury would result in that precipitous a drop in his stock.
  • After Williamson’s injury occurred in a game that cost thousands of dollars for many fans to attend, critics of the college basketball model have taken the opportunity to slam the NCAA for not paying its players. Dan Wolken of USA Today pushes back on that narrative to some extent, arguing that playing for the Blue Devils has benefited Williamson tremendously, since he wasn’t considered the consensus top prospect in the draft before this season. While that’s true, it’s hard to make a case that the relationship hasn’t more significantly benefited Duke.
  • Before Wednesday’s game, Williamson told Andy Katz (video link) that he would have wanted to play college basketball even if the NBA’s one-and-done rule didn’t exist, as Adam Zagoria of Forbes.com relays. “I always knew I would go to college,” Williamson said. “Even if they would’ve had the NBA rule, I still would’ve came to college. You’re never going to get this experience again. Once you go to the league it’s grown men, kids, families, it’s not just teenagers having fun. It’s business then.”
  • While scouts didn’t get a real look at Williamson during Wednesday’s ACC showdown, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz (Insider link) takes a look at how several of the other top NBA prospects involved in the game fared.

Rockets Only Team Still Below Roster Minimum

No NBA games have taken place since Sunday’s All-Star Game in Charlotte, but a flurry of contract signings have been completed in recent days — teams that dipped below the roster minimum at the trade deadline have added players to ensure that they’re back up to the 14-player minimum within the two-week grace period.

[RELATED: 2018/19 NBA Roster Counts]

While the Hawks, Kings, Raptors, Knicks, Suns, and Heat have signed players to reach the NBA-mandated minimum, one team still has just 12 players under contract (not counting two-way deals). That team is the Rockets, and Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle tweets that Houston isn’t planning to add any players today.

The Rockets’ roster count went from 15 to 12 on trade deadline day when the team shipped out James Ennis, Nik Stauskas, and Wade Baldwin in a pair of salary-dump deals. However, according to Feigen (via Twitter), because it took so long for the NBA to clear its post-deadline queue of trades two weeks ago, those deals weren’t considered official until February 8. That means Houston has one more day to add two players and increase its roster count to 14.

It’s not clear yet how the Rockets intend to fill those two roster spots. Like other teams with luxury tax concerns, they may opt for 10-day signings as short-term fixes. That would also give the team some time to assess the buyout market and see if any other desirable targets shake loose within the next week or so.

Danuel House, who used up all of the NBA days on his two-way contract with the Rockets, is also still a candidate for a promotion, but he and the team have been unable to agree to a contract (we examined their stalemate last month) and I wouldn’t expect that to change by tomorrow. If Houston ultimately decides to unilaterally convert House’s two-way deal into an NBA contract, it’s more likely to happen later in the season.

Gentry: Anthony Davis Will Play On Friday

Anthony Davis will be in the Pelicans‘ lineup on Friday night for the team’s first post-All-Star contest, head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters today (Twitter link). Although Gentry confirmed that Davis will play against the Pacers, he declined to elaborate on New Orleans’ plans for the All-Star big man beyond Friday (Twitter link via Will Guillory of The Athletic).

As we outlined earlier this week, the Pelicans and the NBA appear to disagree over whether New Orleans should be forced to play Davis, who publicly demanded a trade prior to this month’s deadline. The Pelicans would reportedly prefer to play it safe and preserve the health of their top trade asset, but the league has reminded the Pelicans of a rule that would subject the team to a $100K fine for each game it sits a healthy AD.

A report this week indicated that the Pelicans may try to re-engage with the NBA to discuss the Davis situation, but if that conversation happened, it doesn’t appear that it changed anything — for now, at least.

The Pelicans got a scare in their last game before the All-Star break when Davis departed after sustaining a shoulder injury in the second quarter. However, that injury – diagnosed as a shoulder contusion – was a minor one. It didn’t stop AD from participating in Sunday’s All-Star Game and won’t keep him out of action tomorrow.

Friday’s game against Indiana is the first in a back-to-back set, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Pelicans hold Davis out of action on Saturday against the Lakers. If that happens, it would be good news for another notable Rich Paul client, LeBron James, whose Lakers are battling for their playoff lives.

As Scott Kushner of The Advocate tweets, Gentry told reporters today that the Davis saga has been the strangest thing he has gone through in his NBA career.

Heat Notes: Dragic, Jones, Wade, Terry

The Heat announced on Wednesday (via Twitter) that injured guards Goran Dragic and Derrick Jones were full participants in practice and traveled with the team to Philadelphia for tonight’s game against the 76ers.

While Dragic and Jones have been cleared to return to action, head coach Erik Spoelstra said the duo may still need “a little more work” (Twitter link). Spoelstra is “not necessarily” planning on having both players return to the court in Philadelphia, he added today (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel).

Whether or not Dragic and Jones earn minutes tonight, it’s great news for the Heat that both players are ready to return — Jones was originally expected to be sidelined until at least March. Still, after trading Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington at the deadline two weeks ago, Miami will once again have to sort out a crowded backcourt rotation.

Dragic and Jones will be vying for minutes with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, and Dwyane Wade. Winslow has been effective as the Heat’s de facto point guard in Dragic’s absence, and Dragic indicated that he’d be happy to play off the ball if the club wants to keep the ball in Winslow’s hands, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Over the All-Star break, Barry Jackson spoke to a pair of veteran NBA scouts who are both bearish on the Heat’s long-term outlook. “They have really screwed it up,” a Western Conference scout said. “They are in this mess by themselves, have only themselves to blame. They got deluded by one year of performance, fell much too in love with their own players. They have five bad contracts – James Johnson, (Hassan) Whiteside, Waiters, Kelly Olynyk and now Ryan Anderson. Their whole team is just a bunch of other guys. They have too many mediocre players.”
  • Appearing at his final All-Star Game in Charlotte this past weekend, Dwyane Wade noted one reason why he’s not regretting his decision to retire at season’s end, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com details. “The game is in good hands,” Wade said. “So it’s easy to walk away right now.”
  • Rookie forward Emanuel Terry was working out at the University of Miami this week as part of Team USA’s training camp when he found out that the Heat wanted to sign him to a 10-day contract, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “Very last drill I did … I was walking back to my chair and (Heat assistant GM) Adam (Simon) stopped me,” said Terry, who had been prepared to participate in this week’s World Cup qualifiers. “He asked me how I was doing, I told him, ‘Well.’ I asked him how he was doing and he said, ‘We called you up.’ I couldn’t stop smiling, really for at least 10 minutes, and then I kind of told everyone, well, everyone approached me, and I kind of went on about my day.”

Bucks Have Interest In J.R. Smith; Buyout Unlikely

The Bucks are among the teams that have some level of interest in J.R. Smith, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. However, Smith remains under contract with the Cavaliers and an in-season buyout appears unlikely, Vardon adds.

Smith played in just 11 games for the Cavs in 2018/19 before informally parting ways with the team. The 33-year-old said early in the season that he felt as if Cleveland wasn’t trying to win games and expressed a desire to play elsewhere. As a result, he hasn’t appeared in a game since November 19 and has been away from the club, but is still technically under team control after the Cavs failed to find a taker for him at the trade deadline.

While Smith struggled in his limited playing time this season, he’s a career 37.3% three-point shooter and would intrigue some contending teams if he were available at the minimum salary. His current contract situation complicates matters though.

Unlike most players who are bought out by their teams at this time of year, Smith has some guaranteed money on his deal for next season. Only $3.87MM of his $15.68MM salary for 2019/20 is guaranteed, but he probably wouldn’t consider giving up more than about $1MM of the money left on his contract, says Vardon. That doesn’t give the Cavaliers much incentive to make a move, since Smith could still serve as a trade chip this summer.

[RELATED: Why J.R. Smith’s contract could still be a trade asset]

It’s possible that Smith and the Cavs could reach a compromise and agree to a buyout during the season, but time is running out. In order to retain his playoff eligibility for a new team, Smith would have to be waived by Cleveland on or before March 1. That gives the two sides a little over a week to find common ground.

If Smith and the Cavs don’t agree an in-season buyout, he’ll almost certainly be either traded or waived in the offseason, since it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Cleveland would guarantee his $15MM+ salary for ’19/20.

Knicks Sign John Jenkins To Two-Year Deal

FEBRUARY 21: After Jenkins’ 10-day deal expired overnight, the Knicks officially finalized his multiyear contract today, announcing the signing in a press release.

FEBRUARY 20: With John Jenkins‘ 10-day contract with the Knicks about to expire, the two sides have reached an agreement on a longer-term deal, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania, Jenkins will sign a two-year contract with New York.

Jenkins, who will turn 28 next month, has played some of the best basketball of his career in 2018/19. The former first-round pick spent most of the season with the Westchester Knicks, New York’s G League affiliate, averaging 24.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 3.6 APG with a .473/.431/.928 shooting line in 19 games.

That performance earned Jenkins a pair of 10-day contracts with the Wizards, though he played limited minutes in just four games with the team. He saw more action in two games with the Knicks, posting 10.5 PPG in 17.5 minutes per contest.

The exact terms of Jenkins’ new deal have yet to be reported, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be worth the minimum, and Marc Berman of The New York Post tweets that the 2019/20 salary will be non-guaranteed. The Knicks are being very cautious with how they use their cap room for next season, so it makes sense that Jenkins’ deal won’t cut into that room at all.

Berman does note that there will be an early trigger date, so New York will have to decide during the summer whether to retain or part ways with Jenkins.

Even after re-signing Jenkins, the Knicks will still have just 13 players on NBA contracts, so they’ll have to add at least one more player this week to get up to the league-mandated minimum of 14. It appears that player will be Henry Ellenson, who has reportedly agreed to a 10-day deal with the club.

Hawks Announce Details Of New G League Affiliate

The Hawks‘ new NBA G League affiliate will begin play during the 2019/20 season, and the team announced today that the club will change its nickname in addition to relocating to Georgia. According to the Hawks, the new NBAGL squad will be known as the College Park Skyhawks.

“We are excited to introduce the Skyhawks to College Park and bring the future stars of the Atlanta Hawks and our one-of-a-kind entertainment to the Gateway Center,” team CEO Steve Koonin said in a statement today. “With its proximity, resources and most importantly its enthusiasm, we could not find a better home for the Skyhawks than the city of College Park.”

The College Park Skyhawks have been a long time coming — the Hawks announced way back in January of 2017, back when the G League was still known as the D-League, that they’d be establishing their affiliate in College Park for the 2019/20 season. In the interim, Atlanta has controlled the Erie BayHawks for the last two years, using it as a temporary home base for the team’s G League operations before relocating the franchise to Georgia.

While we now know what the Hawks’ new G League affiliate will be called, the club won’t unveil the Skyhawks’ logo and uniform until closer to November, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The G League is moving closer and closer to becoming a 30-team league in which every NBA squad owns and controls a nearby NBAGL affiliate. With the Hawks set to move their team to Georgia and the Pelicans launching a G League affiliate of their own for 2019/20, at least 28 NBA franchises will have NBAGL affiliates next season. The Trail Blazers and Nuggets are the only two teams that have yet to confirm their plans.

Speaking of the Pelicans, their new G League arena in Birmingham, Alabama won’t be ready for several years, so they’ll follow in the Hawks’ footsteps and temporarily play in Erie starting next season. Since that will be an expansion G League team, it’s not clear if they’ll keep the BayHawks moniker.

Suns Sign Ray Spalding To 10-Day Contract

FEBRUARY 21: The Suns have officially signed Spalding to a 10-day deal, the team announced today in a press release.

FEBRUARY 19: The Suns intend to sign free agent forward Ray Spalding to a 10-day contract, reports Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Phoenix has a pair of open roster spots, so no corresponding move will be necessary.

Spalding, who will turn 22 next month, was selected with the 56th overall pick in the 2018 draft and spent most of his rookie season with the Mavericks. While the former Louisville standout appeared in just one game for Dallas, he was a starter in the Texas Legends’ frontcourt, averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG, and 1.7 SPG in 29 games (30.1 MPG) for the Mavs’ G League affiliate.

The Mavericks released Spalding about three weeks ago when they needed to open up a roster spot to accommodate the incoming players in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster. Despite a team-friendly contract, he cleared waivers and has been an unrestricted free agent since then.

The Suns will get a look at the rookie and will get back to the NBA-mandated roster minimum of 14 players as a result of the signing. Phoenix had been at 13 players since waiving Wayne Ellington on February 7, and had a two-week window to re-add a 14th man.