Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Leonard, Matthews

It’s inevitable, Keith Smith of RealGM writes, that the Grizzlies will need to trade Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The two veterans were the last longtime core players standing after Zach Randolph and Tony Allen departed during the offseason and could help the franchise land desperately needed assets on their way out.

Although both players are approaching the wrong side of their primes, they could make an impact for contending teams. Gasol, Smith writes, could even land the Grizzlies a package of draft picks and young players if dealt.

Finding a suitor for Conley may be slightly more difficult as he’s owed nearly $114MM through 2020-21. For that reason, the scribe suggests that the Grizzlies should jump at any opportunity to get out of the deal if they get a chance, even if the yield is less than expected.

The moves may be difficult, Smith adds, but they’d put the Grizzlies on the quickest course to building a new contender.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • While it was announced that Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would be out for an “indefinite period” of time to rehab his right quadriceps injury, the injury isn’t as disastrous as some have interpreted it as. “Career-threatening shouldn’t even be in the conversation,” one person close to Leonard told Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Rockets CEO Tad Brown was surprised that the league didn’t come down on Blake Griffin for allegedly hitting head coach Mike D’Antoni, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza were the only players suspended for their parts in the kerfuffle that unfolded in Los Angeles on Monday night.
  • Unsure of where the Mavs currently fall in the To Tank Or Not To Tank debate, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that there’s no major incentive to unload Wesley Matthews. The economics of the league have changed since Matthews signed his four-year, $70MM contract back in 2015. These days, the approximately $18MM cap hit for the lockdown perimeter defender doesn’t seem as outlandish as it did in the past.

Rodney Hood Could Be On The Move Before Deadline

There’s growing belief around the NBA that the Jazz could move swingman Rodney Hood before the trade deadline, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports. The scribe adds that several teams have already expressed interest.

Hood, the 25-year-old guard initially expected to shoulder more of Utah’s offensive load with Gordon Hayward out of the picture, has been underwhelming in his fourth season. While his 16.7 PPG are commendable, he doesn’t offer the Jazz the all-around package or general upside that standout rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has.

Hood, in the final year of his rookie deal, will hit restricted free agency this summer, so any team acquiring the shooting guard would essentially have several months to trial him as a possible long-term solution.

Hood’s underwhelming 2017/18 season recently boiled over in an incident earlier this month in which he slapped a phone out of a fan’s hand, resulting in a $35K fine.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/19/18

Here are the G League moves from around the Association today:

And-Ones: Predictions, Discipline, Prospects

In a debut installment of a new feature, Marc Stein of the New York Times made a number of predictions for the upcoming year in basketball. The scribe ventures a guess that this is the year the Trail Blazers blow up their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Stein writes that dealing one of the star guards would be the easiest way for the Blazers to balance their roster, something that could come in handy if the organization seeks to go in a new direction. Bear in mind, however, that Stein’s prediction applies to this year and not necessarily to this season.

Stein also makes a series of arguments that a pair of big names stay with their current teams, despite ongoing speculation to the contrary. The Times journalist says that LeBron James to the Lakers is no guarantee and that Cleveland stands a legitimate chance of retaining the King.

On a similar note, Stein reasons that DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely to find the market teeming with attractive salary offers this season and that he’ll end up staying put with the Pelicans.

There’s more from around the league:

  • One possible solution to curb the growing tension between NBA players and referees is to ramp up the discipline assigned to players who act hostile to officials. “The hammer has to drop from above,” one Western Conference team official told Ken Berger of Bleacher Report. “When you had David Stern and Rod Thorn there, none of this stuff was going on because they weren’t going to put up with it. I think we’ve gotten away from that. There’s something every night.
  • Four active front offices have made a dozen or more trade deadline deals over the course of their tenures, Bobby Marks of ESPN weighed in on them and the rest of the league’s executives in his latest for ESPN Insiders.
  • There has been plenty of movement among the DraftExpress team’s list of the top 100 NBA prospects. Jonathan Givony of ESPN recently broke down a number of NCAA players who’ve recently seen their values rise dramatically.

Cavs Pursuing DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams

6:30pm: Stein added in a later tweet that the Cavs have similarly inquired about Lou Williams. David Aldridge of TNT confirmed Cleveland’s interest in the former Sixth Man of the Year but notes that talks with the Clips have stalled due to L.A.’s request for the Nets’ 2018 pick.

6:13pm: The Cavaliers are pursuing separate deals for both DeAndre Jordan and George Hill, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. While the latter was reported earlier today, the fact that the Cavs are now more aggressively seeking a Jordan deal comes as news.

About a month ago, the Cavs were said to be “sniffing around” the 29-year-old Jordan. Now, third in the Eastern Conference and losers of nine of their last 13 contests, the team could be more desperate to make a bold move ahead of the deadline.

Given that Jordan is owed $22.6MM this season and holds a player option for $24.1MM next season, the luxury-tax-bound Cavs would have to get creative with outgoing packages if they planned on somehow netting both Jordan and Hill.

One of the major assets that the Cavs could offer in exchange for the 2017 NBA All-Star is the famous 2018 Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. The team, however, has been said to be reluctant to deal the first-rounder.

The suddenly red-hot Clippers won’t be looking to give Jordan away for peanuts at the deadline, but there’s reason to believe that the club could be motivated to make a move. In 41 games for L.A. this season, Jordan has posted 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds per game.

Andrew Bogut Expected To Sign After Trade Deadline

Veteran big man Andrew Bogut is expected to sign with a new team after the trade deadline, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The 33-year-old is being courted by a number of playoff teams already, Stein adds.

Last seen with the Lakers prior to his release in early January, Bogut is a physical low-post presence that teams hope can still contribute, at least defensively, to a winner.

With the NBA trade deadline approaching and roster flexibility of particular importance, it’s unlikely that Bogut finds a new job prior to February 8. After the deadline, teams said to be interested in the Australian (like the Bucks) should have more roster clarity and are expected to pursue him more aggressively.

Cavs Emerge As Suitor For George Hill

The Cavaliers have emerged as a suitor for George Hill, expressing interest in the Kings guard Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports writes. The Cavs are said to be envisioning Hill in a dual role out of their backcourt.

Hill has had an underwhelming first season with the rebuilding Kings, admitting months after signing a three-year, $57MM contract that he didn’t expect suiting up as a mentor on a forlorn young roster to be so difficult.

In 37 games with Sacramento this season, Hill has averaged 10.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Those marks are considerably lower than what he posted in a stellar season for the Jazz in 2016/17.

If a trade materializes, Hill would join a logjam of veterans in Cleveland’s backcourt, considering that the team already has Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon in the mix.

Of course, in addition to depth chart issues, there are logistic issues to consider as well. If the Cavs were to land Hill and his $20MM contract, they’d likely have to send back a package of Channing Frye and either J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert. None are particularly compelling assets for a team in Sacramento’s position, though Frye is at least on an expiring deal.

Fantasy Hoops: Ping-Pong Hopefuls

We’ve reached a point in the 2017/18 season where some front offices are facing a fork in the road, with one clearly preferable long-term path for their franchises’ futures. Several of the clubs that find themselves atop our Reverse Standings have already begun to look past this season and into the future. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of these bottom-dwellers from a fantasy perspective.

The Kings are one club that has started to focus on the long-term view. The team’s plan is to sit at least two veteran players in every remaining game this season. The group of veterans includes George HillKosta KoufosGarrett TempleVince Carter, and Zach RandolphNBA: San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings

While the initial reaction is that all these vets lose value (and they do overall), there’s an opportunity to be found in Sacramento’s strategy. With two-plus players sitting out, it means the other players in the rotation are getting more run.

Hill, for example, stuffed the stat sheet in 37 minutes of action against the Jazz on Wednesday, as Carter and Temple watched from the sidelines. Hill accumulated 20 points, five assists and four rebounds and three steals in the loss and he should continue to be a fantasy contributor in games he plays.

Hill (available in over 77% of ESPN leagues) and Randolph (available in over 37%) are the only players of the bunch who should be considered for a roster spot in season-long leagues, and if I had to pick one, I’d take Hill over Randolph going forward. I have no problem giving Randolph one of my rotating spots at the end of the fantasy roster where players are added and dropped based on whether their teams play on a given night — I’d worry more about losing Hill in those daily shuffles.

Yet, any of the five Kings veterans could give you a spot start on nights they are suiting up. It’s going to be frustrating to keep track of who’s playing and who’s not, but there’s an edge to be had for those who take on the headache.

Here’s more from the league’s ping-pong hopefuls:

  • The Magic—owners of the worst record in the league—are expected to be sellers at the trade deadline and that could impact many of their players’ values. Evan Fournier, one of many Southeast Division players who could be on the move, is reportedly being shopped.
  • Nikola Vucevic has been out of the Magic‘s lineup since late last month and his absence is giving Elfrid Payton more control of the offense. Payton has a usage rate of 22.9 since Vucevic went down (compared to just 20.2 prior) and he’s seeing an uptick in points (16.1 vs. 11.3) and shooting percentage (54.2% vs. 50.2%). The point guard is also seeing a spike in assists, rebounds, and steals. With restricted free agency looming for Payton, Orlando figures to listen to any offers for him.
  • Dewayne Dedmon, who’s available in roughly 77% of ESPN leagues, is averaging 8.4 points and 8.2 rebounds since returning to the court for the Hawks. Dedmon is a solid streaming option, though as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors noted this week, he’s a candidate to be traded before the deadline.
  • Ersan Ilyasova is also a candidate to be dealt, meaning there’s a chance that the Hawks‘ frontcourt opens up and rookie John Collins gets more opportunity down the stretch. Collins is available in over 65% of ESPN leagues.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic is owned in just under 30% of ESPN leagues, but that figure needs to be higher. The rookie is expected to continue to get steady minutes for the Kings, and he should be able to make the most out of his opportunities. Bogdanovic did just that against the Jazz on Wednesday, scoring a career-high 25 points.
  • Tyson Chandler signed a four-year, $52MM deal with the Suns back in the summer of 2015 and it seems like a tradition that every year the team takes his playing time and redistributes it to the team’s youngsters. That hasn’t happened quite yet in the 2017/18 season, and Marquese Chriss‘ hip ailment – which figures to keep him out for a matter days, if not weeks – contributes to the delay. Chandler remains an asset in the rebounds department, averaging 11.2 during the month of January (eighth-most in the league) and he should be available (as he is in over 88% of ESPN leagues) for those who need help in that category in Roto leagues.
  • Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

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

Latest On Kemba Walker Rumors

Kemba Walker was the subject of a Woj Bomb on Friday morning, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Hornets are open to the idea of moving their standout point guard. While there had been some speculation about Walker becoming a trade candidate with Charlotte struggling, Woj’s report represented the first time the 27-year-old’s availability had been confirmed.

Asked today about that report, Walker acknowledged that he’d seen it, but admitted to reporters that he’d be “pretty upset” if the Hornets dealt him, as AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today Sports relays. The former UConn star has spent his first six and a half NBA seasons in Charlotte and said today that he plans to continue putting his “heart and soul” into the team and the city.

“This is where I got my opportunity,” Walker said (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “Seven years in now, I’ve been here for seven years. I do a lot with the community, of course. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the fans. A lot of the fans have a lot of love for me, as well as I’ve got love for them. Of course I’m going to be tied to this place. This is kind of where I’ve grown up. This is definitely home.”

Here’s more on the Walker rumors:

  • Head coach Steve Clifford was also asked today about the report on Walker, and he sounded skeptical that the Hornets will move their best player within the next three weeks. “I’ll tell you the same thing I tell the players: Nobody has said anything about it here,” Clifford said of a Walker trade (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “It’s a rumor. … He’s our best player, he’s the face of the franchise, and I think it’d be very difficult to find a scenario where he’d get traded.”
  • The Pistons figure to have interest in Walker, with a source telling Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Detroit will “certainly look at” the possibility of a deal. However, that same source cautioned that it will ultimately come down to the Hornets‘ asking price.
  • Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic examines Walker’s potential fit in Phoenix, exploring whether it would be worthwhile for the Suns to give up major assets for the point guard.
  • Scott Fowler is strongly against the idea of the Hornets trading Walker, making his case in a column for The Charlotte Observer.

Nuggets Notes: Jefferson, Malone, Chandler

With the Clippers riding a six-game winning streak, the Nuggets currently find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. At 23-22, Denver is just a half-game back of the Clips and Pelicans, and one game back of the Trail Blazers, so it’s hardly time to panic yet. Still, as Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes, the Nuggets are one of a few teams treading water in the West right now.

Grouping Denver with the Pelicans and Blazers as middle-of-the-pack Western playoff contenders, Grizzard notes that the Nuggets’ late-game execution has been inconsistent with Paul Millsap on the shelf. Richard Jefferson attributes those struggles to the club’s overall youth: “I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Jefferson was brought in at the start of the season to provide veteran leadership for the Nuggets, but the veteran forward has taken on a role in the club’s rotation within the last week, as Gina Mizell of The Denver Post details. “People forget — and I have to remind myself, for that matter — R.J. last year in Cleveland, on a team that went to the Finals, was playing 20 minutes a night,” head coach Michael Malone said of Jefferson. “He still has something left, and I have to give him a chance to play.”
  • Speaking of Malone, he’s under pressure this season to prove that he’s a coach capable of guiding the Nuggets to a spot in the postseason, according to Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • After parting ways with Roc Nation last May, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has returned to his old agency, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Chandler, who was being represented by Excel Sports for most of 2017, will be repped by Sam Permut with Roc Nation, says Amick. With a $12.8MM player option looming for 2018/19, Chandler will either be seeking a new team this summer or entering next season on an expiring contract.
  • Jamal Murray, who has been in the NBA’s concussion protocol this week, has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for the team’s Friday game against Phoenix, per Mizell.
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