Southwest Notes: Popovich, Spurs, McGee, Williams, Williamson

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is facing a long rebuilding process if he remains with the team, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes. The Spurs recently traded Dejounte Murray to the Hawks in exchange for Danilo Gallinari‘s expiring contract, three first-round picks, and a pick swap, choosing to further shift their focus from the present to the future.

As Finger notes, Popovich has expressed reservations in the past about the idea of coaching a losing team, most notably when his former – and newly re-hired – assistant Brett Brown left San Antonio to coach the “Process” Sixers.

“I couldn’t do it,” Popovich said in 2015 when asked about Brown’s new job in Philadelphia. “I’d last a month.”

However, in recent years, Popovich seems to have embraced the concept of coaching a young team without realistic championship aspirations. He recently helped orchestrate the re-hiring of Brown as an assistant coach and appears motivated to return to the sidelines in San Antonio next season.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News examines the fit between Luka Doncic and JaVale McGee, who agreed to sign with the Mavericks and can serve as a rebounder, rim-protector and lob threat for Doncic. McGee reportedly expects to start for Dallas, but Caplan isn’t sure the coaching staff has made that decision yet.
  • The Grizzlies‘ two-way deal with Vince Williams Jr. covers two years, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Edwards, who was drafted No. 47 overall by Memphis last Thursday, averaged 14.1 points per game at VCU last season, shooting 38.7% from three-point range.
  • While it’s a massive investment, Zion Williamson‘s maximum-salary extension with the Pelicans was something the team simply couldn’t pass up, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com writes. Williamson has only played 85 games in his three NBA seasons, but he has shown in his limited NBA action that he’s a special player, says Kushner. It’s still unclear how much of Williamson’s new five-year deal will be fully guaranteed.

Rockets Adding Hollins, Batiste, Abdelfattah To Coaching Staff

The Rockets are adding Lionel Hollins, Mike Batiste and Mahmoud Abdelfattah to Stephen Silas‘ coaching staff, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 (Twitter link).

They’ll seemingly replace Jeff Hornacek, Will Weaver and DeSagana Diop, all of whom left the team once the 2021/22 season ended.

Silas recently finished his second season with the organization. He was hired in October of 2020 after Mike D’Antoni left, bringing two decades of experience as an assistant with the Hornets, Cavaliers, Wizards, Warriors and Mavericks. Houston finished last season with the league’s worst record at 20-62 and will continue a full-scale rebuild.

Hollins owns head coaching experience with the Grizzlies from 2009-13 and the Nets from 2014-16, more recently serving as a Lakers assistant from 2019-21. Batiste has worked as an NBA assistant since 2014, while Abdelfattah coached the Rockets’ G League team to a championship this past season.

Hollins, Batiste and Abdelfattah will be tasked with developing Houston’s young nucleus, which includes Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Alperen Sengun and No. 3 pick Jabari Smith.

Latest On Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving

The Warriors are among the teams with interest in Nets superstar Kevin Durant, sources tell ESPN’s Marc J. Spears (Twitter link). As Spears notes, more than half the teams in the league are said to be interested in Durant, so it comes as no surprise that Golden State is among them.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the idea of the Warriors emerging as a legitimate suitor for Durant. Appearing on ESPN Radio (Twitter audio link) Spears proposed a package that would include Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and James Wiseman, but the Nets wouldn’t be permitted to acquire Wiggins without trading Ben Simmons, and there has been no indication they intend to move Simmons, especially given that they’d have to sell him for pennies on the dollar at this point.

Without Wiggins included, either Klay Thompson or Draymond Green would be required for salary-matching purposes, and it’s difficult to envision the Warriors breaking up their long-term championship core to reunite with Durant, who chose to leave the organization as a free agent three years ago. Earlier this week, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report cited sources with knowledge of the situation who indicated Golden State is the only team that is not “a tangible option” for Durant.

As we wait for further developments on the Durant front, we also have a few notes to pass along on him and his Nets teammate – and fellow trade candidate – Kyrie Irving:

  • League personnel who spoke to Brian Lewis of The New York Post said that the Nets are “adamant” about getting All-Star caliber talent back in any Durant deal, and aren’t in any rush to make a move. League sources tell Lewis that nothing is close to getting done at this point.
  • Appearing on The Rally on Bally Sports (Twitter video link) on Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic suggested the Sixers are among the teams to watch for Irving. It’s very hard to imagine Philadelphia making a serious play for Kyrie — it would require either parting with James Harden or moving Tobias Harris in order to reunite Irving with Harden, whose trade request out of Brooklyn was said to be motivated in part by Kyrie’s vaccination decision.
  • For what it’s worth, Nick Wright of FS1 (Twitter link) reports that there “no appetite” for Irving in Philadelphia and the Sixers haven’t engaged in any trade talks for him. According to Lewis, the 76ers are keeping an eye on Irving and have briefly spoke to the Nets, but he hears from a source that “nothing happened there.”
  • Charania also identified the Mavericks as a possible suitor for Irving, but Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News is unconvinced of that, writing that Kyrie is “the acquisition of a desperate team.” Towsend doesn’t believe Dallas is that desperate.
  • The Lakers remain the most likely trade partner for Irving. According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter video link), there has been some optimism from the Lakers’ side that they’re gaining momentum toward making a deal with the Nets.
  • In his latest Substack article, Marc Stein says he believes Irving is destined to end up with the Lakers. As Stein writes, he has heard “repeated rumbles” that LeBron James is pushing for the team to acquire Irving, and it’s “impossible to ignore the growing expectation leaguewide” that Kyrie will land in L.A..

Bismack Biyombo Re-Signs With Suns

JULY 3: Biyombo has officially re-signed with the Suns, according to NBA.com’s transactions log. That means it’s a minimum-salary deal for the veteran big man, since minimum signings can be completed during the July moratorium.


JULY 2: The Suns are re-signing free agent center Bismack Biyombo, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Biyombo, 29, appeared in 36 regular-season games last season for Phoenix, averaging 5.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 14.1 MPG. Biyombo, who spent the bulk of his NBA career with Charlotte, also appeared in nine playoff games last season.

Biyombo provides depth in the middle with Deandre Ayton‘s status with the franchise still very much up in the air.

Biyombo joined Phoenix last season on a 10-day contract, then signed a rest-of-the-season deal in early January for the prorated veteran’s minimum.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Ayton, Lakers, Swider, Kings

With JaVale McGee and Aaron Holiday headed elsewhere and Elfrid Payton not expected to return, the Suns‘ additions of Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, and Jock Landale will help replenish their depth, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. According to Gambadoro, Phoenix is done adding role players for the time being, though the club could still bring back free agent forward Ish Wainwright.

As for the Suns’ bigger-business items, there was no movement as of Sunday morning on the Kevin Durant front, according to Gambadoro, who tweets that Phoenix remains interested but doesn’t want to gut its roster.

Additionally, Gambadoro confirms (via Twitter) that the Suns and Jazz have had a discussion about restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton, who was previously linked to Utah. However, Gambadoro isn’t sure how far that conversation went and notes that many teams aren’t looking to spend big money on a center at the moment.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific:

  • The Lakers still have glaring issues despite making some free-agency additions, Jovan Buha of The Athletic opines. Buha writes that Los Angeles could use more shooting and size. The team has has signed Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr. and Juan Toscano-Anderson in free agency so far, and agreed to a deal with Lonnie Walker.
  • Cole Swider‘s two-way contract with the Lakers covers two seasons, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Swider, who went undrafted last month after spending three seasons at Villanova and one season at Syracuse, averaged 13.9 points per game last year, shooting 41% from deep.
  • Jazz head video coordinator Charles Allen is leaving Utah for a job with the Kings, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. According to Jones, Allen will be Sacramento’s head video coordinator and a special assistant to new head coach Mike Brown.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Mavericks To Guarantee Frank Ntilikina’s Salary

The Mavericks plan to retain Frank Ntilikina beyond Monday, fully guaranteeing him the $2MM he’s owed in 2022/23, according to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein (via Twitter).

Ntilikina, who has a July 4 guarantee date on his contract, appeared in 58 games last season, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 steals in 11.8 minutes. Ntilikina continues to intrigue teams because of his defense. Offensively, he hasn’t shot over 40% in any of his five NBA seasons.

Dallas is gearing up for another playoff run next year. The team traded for star big man Christian Wood this offseason, pairing Luka Doncic with a frontcourt presence to compete in the West.

Big man Maxi Kleber will also see his salary for 2022/23 ($9MM) become guaranteed, as Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News tweets. Kleber’s contract included a July 3 salary guarantee date.

Nuggets Sign Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Collin Gillespie

The Nuggets have signed first-round draft picks Christian Braun and Peyton Watson to their rookie contracts, the team announced in a press release. Denver also officially signed undrafted Villanova guard Collin Gillespie to a two-way contract.

Braun, 6″7″, was drafted No. 21 overall last month. He helped Kansas win the NCAA championship this past season, averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in 34.4 minutes per game. He also shot 49.5% from the floor and 39% from downtown during those outings. Assuming the usual 120% of the rookie scale, his deal will be for four years and $13.77MM.

Watson, 6’8″, was selected with the final pick of the first round. He played 32 games with UCLA as a freshman last season, ranking second on the team in blocked shots. He’s also only 19 years old. His deal is expected to be worth $11.27MM across four years.

Gillespie agreed to a two-way deal with Denver shortly after the draft. He averaged 15.6 points per game for Villanova last season, shooting 41.5% from three-point range. Gillespie, Braun and Watson are all set to play for the team during summer league this month.

Thunder Waive Isaiah Roby

The Thunder have waived big man Isaiah Roby, the team announced. Roby’s $1.9MM contract would’ve become fully guaranteed if he wasn’t waived today.

[RELATED: Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For 2022/23]

Roby has spent the better part of three seasons with Oklahoma City since being acquired from Dallas midway through his rookie year in 2020. He appeared in 45 games last season, averaging 10.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per contest. He also shot an efficient 51.4% from the floor.

Assuming he clears waivers on Tueday, Roby should receive interest as a free agent, as he’s only 24 years old.

He appeared in 109 total games with Oklahoma City, holding career averages of 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest. The Thunder are coming off a season in which they finished with the league’s fourth-worst record at 24-58.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, Gobert Trade, Juzang, Bradds

Despite recently agreeing to trade All-Star center Rudy Gobert for a collection of veteran contracts and first-round draft picks in a deal sure to reduce their ceiling in the short term, the Jazz have indicated to inquiring teams that All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell isn’t available as a trade target, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link via ClutchPoints).

“They want to continue to build a roster around Donovan Mitchell,” Wojnarowski said of Utah’s front office. “They have shut down any team who has called about trying to trade for Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz are committed to moving forward with him as their cornerstone player.”

How much of this stance is merely a negotiating tactic remains to be seen. Marc Stein adds in a new Substack piece that, while he echoes Woj’s reporting that the Jazz are currently suggesting a disinterest in dealing away the 25-year-old All-NBA shooting guard, he expects that team CEO Danny Ainge would have the blessing of ownership to move Mitchell in the future.

Around rival executives, however, teams remain optimistic that Mitchell could be had for the right price.

There’s more out of Utah:

  • As a result of the aforementioned Rudy Gobert deal, the Jazz have added several promising young current and future players, writes Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News. Auburn big man Walker Kessler, the No. 22 in the 2022 NBA draft, will arrive in Utah with potentially a more outsized role than had been anticipated for him with the Timberwolves.
  • Jazz Summer League wing Johnny Juzang is being held out of a team practice today following a car accident on Saturday, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Laker Tribune (Twitter link). Juzang, a former UCLA swingman who went undrafted in 2022, is set to join Jazz on a two-way deal.
  • NBA veteran Tacko Fall, currently playing on the Jazz’s Summer League team, informs Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link) that Evan Bradds, formerly a Player Enhancement Staff member with the Celtics, has been hired as an assistant coach under new Jazz head coach Will Hardy.

Bulls To Sign Goran Dragic

The Bulls are fortifying their backcourt bench depth with a new veteran addition. Chicago will sign former All-NBA point guard Goran Dragic to a one-year contract, per Jordan Schultz of the Pull Up Podcast (Twitter link).

Dragic, most recently with the Nets, will earn $2.9MM, the veteran’s minimum, next season, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Dragic, who has an All-Star season and an All-NBA season on his résumé, played a crucial role during the Heat’s NBA Finals run within the Orlando “bubble” campus in 2020. The Slovenian guard’s production fell to earth the next season amid injury troubles, and he was ultimately dealt to the Raptors in the sign-and-trade agreement that landed Kyle Lowry with the Heat in the 2021 offseason.

Last year, Dragic appeared in just five games with Toronto before reaching an agreement to leave the club as it sought out a suitable trade. The 36-year-old was shipped to the Spurs and negotiated a buyout with San Antonio, then latched on with the Nets as a free agent.

Across 16 games with Brooklyn, including six starts, Dragic averaged 7.3 PPG, 4.8 APG and 3.2 RPG, while posting .376/.245/.739 shooting splits. Though his assist and rebounding numbers were in line with his career averages of 4.8 APG and 3.1 RPG, his scoring efficiency across 25.5 MPG for Brooklyn was a far cry from his 14-year career average of 13.7 PPG on .460/.362/.767 shooting.

The addition of Dragic marks Chicago’s fourth free agent agreement this offseason. The team agreed to re-sign All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine to a maximum deal, is bringing back deep-bench reserve forward Derrick Jones Jr., and will add journeyman reserve center Andre Drummond to boost its rebounding.

As Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype observes (via Twitter), thanks to Dragic’s minimum-salary deal, the Bulls are now approximately $1.7MM below the luxury tax this season, carrying a projected 15 players on guaranteed contracts. Gozlan adds that Chicago has around $7MM left to use from its non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

Any further Bulls roster changes seem more likely to come via trade than free agency. Opening up a roster spot now to add another free agent would require trading or waiving a current Bull with a guaranteed salary. The team also has a $5MM trade exception that will expire after July 7.

If the Bulls do make a deal, it could involve their backcourt depth. The team adds to a group of guards that already includes Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, and Coby White, though Ball’s health heading into next season remains a question mark.

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports that the team anticipates this current roster will be intact for training camp in the fall, though he acknowledges that the team does appear to have a surplus of guards.