Celtics Notes: Grizzlies’ Pick, Irving, Trade Deadline, Smart

If the Grizzlies commit to rebuilding, the Celtics could wind up with a valuable trade asset, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. The Celtics are owed a future first-round pick from Memphis that will have declining protections over the next three seasons.

The selection, which was acquired in a three-team deal in 2015 that also involved the Pelicans, is top-eight protected this season, top-six protected in 2020 and completely unprotected in 2021. Memphis got off to a 12-5 start this year, but is just 7-23 since November 21 and has fallen to sixth in our latest Reverse Standings.

A report out of Memphis this week indicates that the organization is listening to trade offers involving veteran stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. If the Grizzlies launch a youth movement, the Celtics could end up with an asset similar to the 2018 Nets pick that they sent to Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving deal. It could give Boston an edge in the pursuit of Anthony Davis or any other elite player who might become available.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Several of Irving’s former teammates in Cleveland talked to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com about whether he might go back on his verbal commitment to re-sign with the Celtics this summer and if he might consider teaming up with LeBron James again as a Laker. “Anything is possible,” said Tristan Thompson. “One day he could wake up and think about it. Just the possibility for y’all to think about it. There’s a method to the madness.” However, a league sources tells Vardon that an L.A. reunion is unlikely because Irving hasn’t changed in his desire to be “the man” wherever he plays.
  • Jay King of The Athletic examines the Celtics’ options at the trade deadline and how they could be impacted by free agency. Marcus Morris will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Al Horford and Aron Baynes both have player options and Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis will be restricted. King states that management may check into offers for Rozier and Theis, but believes they will keep both as insurance in case someone gets hurt during the playoffs.
  • King also considers whether the Celtics might try to get underneath the luxury tax this season, considering the sizable payments looming in the future. With the team projected to be about $3MM over the tax line, that would mean sending out Rozier’s contract in a salary dump, which King doesn’t expect to happen.
  • Marcus Smart was fined $35K for charging after the Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry in an altercation in Saturday’s game, the league office announced.

Anthony Davis May Return Next Week

Anthony Davis received some good news after meeting with specialists today about his injured finger, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Davis will be evaluated again on Friday and could return to the court by next week, according to his agent, Rich Paul“It’s a better outcome than we originally feared,” Paul said.

The diagnosis is a volar plate avulsion fracture to the left index finger, and Paul told Wojnarowski that Davis will be “re-evaluated every 48 to 72 hours” after Friday’s examination (Twitter link). “It’s more of an injury of pain tolerance,” Paul explained. “They need to see the swelling go down and the range of motion increase.” He added that the plan is to “proceed with caution” in determining when it’s safe for Davis to start playing again (Twitter link).

Davis displayed “significant improvent” in his range of motion during today’s exam, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis’ doctors and the Pelicans’ medical staff reached the same diagnosis on the injury, he adds.

Davis was hurt last Friday and was projected to miss one to two weeks of action. A complete fracture could have kept him out for a month or longer. The Pelicans need Davis back as soon as possible to keep their playoff hopes alive as they trail the eighth-place Clippers by three games, but are stuck in 12th place.

Reaching the postseason may be crucial to their hopes of a long-term arrangement with Davis, who will be eligible for a supermax extension this summer and can become a free agent in 2020.

Bulls Notes: Carmelo Trade, Boylen, Forman, Rose

The Bulls will receive $1,566,570 in cash from the Rockets in the Carmelo Anthony trade, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter). As was the case with the deal the two teams completed earlier in the month involving Michael Carter-Williams, Houston will send that cash in installments — 10 payments of $66,657 will be followed by a lump sum of $900K before July, according to Pincus, who adds that Chicago didn’t require Anthony to pass a physical or report to the team to finalize the swap.

Each NBA team is permitted to send and receive no more than $5.243MM in trades during the 2018/19 league year. As our breakdown of traded cash shows, Houston is now nearly at its limit, with only about $566K still available to send out. Chicago, meanwhile, could still receive up to about $2.61MM.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago identifies a number of important issues the Bulls will be evaluating during the second half of the season, including whether or not head coach Jim Boylen should return next season, Kris Dunn‘s potential to be the club’s long-term answer at point guard, and whether Bobby Portis deserves a lucrative new deal in the offseason.
  • In a column for The Chicago Sun-Times, Joe Cowley makes a case for why the Bulls need to strongly consider replacing general manager Gar Forman.
  • Meanwhile, over at The Chicago Tribune, K.C. Johnson argues that this offseason is the right time for the Bulls to bring former MVP Derrick Rose back home to Chicago.
  • During an appearance on Nate Duncan’s Dunc’d On podcast, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports revisited the nearrevolt that took place early in Jim Boylen‘s tenure as Bulls head coach, noting that Zach LaVine was “kind of running things” and that Robin Lopez was the veteran who helped hold things together.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest Division

Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and Jazz are wild cards, but the Northwest could end up being one of the least active divisions at the trade deadline this season. While the division-leading Nuggets and Thunder hold large trade exceptions and could use reinforcements as they continue their postseason push, they probably lack the financial flexibility and movable assets to do anything too drastic.

Here’s our latest look at a few possible trade candidates from the Northwest…

Anthony Tolliver, F
Minnesota Timberwolves
$5.75MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019

After falling out of the rotation earlier this season, Tolliver has once again been a regular since Robert Covington went down at the start of January. Still, Tolliver’s 15.3 minutes per game are the fewest he has played since his rookie year, and most of his other numbers are below his career rates too. It’s also not clear whether he’ll continue to see consistent minutes when Covington returns.

I don’t imagine Tolliver plays a major role in Minnesota’s long-term outlook, and he’s not necessarily doing a lot to help the Wolves in the short term — the team has a -5.8 net rating when he plays and a +1.5 rating when he sits. Even if the Wolves want to remain in the playoff hunt on February 7, it might still make sense to send Tolliver, who has an affordable expiring contract, to a team more in need of a player with his skill set.

A stretch four, Tolliver continues to hit three-pointers at a rate (37.9%) that’s in line with his career percentage (37.6%). That could be valuable to a team seeking more shooting from its frontcourt, such as Oklahoma City or Philadelphia.

Maurice Harkless, F
Portland Trail Blazers
$10.84MM cap hit; $11.51MM guaranteed salary for 2019/20; UFA in 2020

Harkless has shown he can be an effective complementary contributor on the wing when he’s healthy, having shot 50.1% from the floor and 37.5% on three-pointers during the two seasons prior to 2018/19. Knee problems have slowed him down over the last year, however, resulting in multiple stints on the shelf so far in ’18/19.

With Portland in need of a big-bodied wing who can be trusted to stay on the court down the stretch and in the postseason, the club should consider dangling Harkless as a trade chip. A trade partner looking ahead to next season could better afford to play it safe with Harkless, making sure he’s fully healthy for 2019/20 — especially if the Trail Blazers were willing to attach another asset in the deal.

A swap like Terrence Ross for Harkless and a draft pick makes some sense to me, though Orlando may be reluctant to pull the trigger on any trades that weaken this season’s roster, and the Blazers may want to target a player more capable of guarding bigger bodies.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, G/F
Oklahoma City Thunder
$1.54MM cap hit; UFA in 2019

The Thunder currently have an open spot on their 15-man roster. In fact, that spot has been open all season, by design. With the NBA’s most expensive roster, Oklahoma City won’t add another salary to its books and increase its projected tax bill unless the team badly needs reinforcements.

Rather than filling that 15th spot, the Thunder might actually look to reduce their roster count prior to the February 7 deadline. Trading Luwawu-Cabarrot and his $1.54MM cap hit in a money-saving deal similar to the ones Houston has made with Chicago would make some sense for OKC, since TLC doesn’t have a role for the team (he has played 11 total minutes since the start of December) and will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

The Thunder aren’t allowed to stay at 13 players all season, but with Luwawu-Cabarrot off the books, they could carry 13 players for up to two weeks at a time, and could potentially address the 14th spot using 10-day contracts or a rest-of-season deal for a veteran on the buyout market. Taking that route would save Oklahoma City a little money and would potentially allow the club to add a player that has a better chance of contributing in the postseason.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nets Notes: Tsai, Faried, Russell

Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai has officially completed the purchase of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, the league announced today in a press release. The franchise was previously controlled by Knicks owner James Dolan.

“We are fortunate to welcome Joe Tsai to the WNBA family at a pivotal time for our league,” interim WNBA president Mark Tatum said in a statement. “We thank Jim Dolan and The Madison Square Garden Company for their incredible support of the WNBA over the past 22 years and for their commitment to finding the right owner for the Liberty. As active participants in the New York community, Joe and his team are very well-positioned to take the Liberty to exciting new heights.”

Tsai’s investment in the city’s WNBA franchise is the latest signal of his commitment to New York basketball. While Tsai is technically only a minority stakeholder in the Nets for the time being, he owns 49% of the franchise and his agreement with Mikhail Prokhorov will give him the opportunity to assume controlling interest in the team by 2021.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Although Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson consistently praised Kenneth Faried‘s attitude and work ethic during the big man’s time in Brooklyn, Faried called his Nets tenure “frustrating” and felt that the club wasn’t being straight with him, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays. Faried said he got the impression that the Nets didn’t trust him, and eventually decided he’d welcome a move. “That was the perception. The, ‘I don’t know you yet,'” he said. “A lot of beating around the bush as to why they wouldn’t play me. So it was like, if we figure something out then let’s immediately make that move. Because I don’t want to hinder y’all, and y’all hindering my career, pretty much.”
  • With restricted free agency looming this summer, D’Angelo Russell is playing the best basketball of his career, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. That’s an opinion shared by both Russell and his head coach. “He’s playing at an All-Star level, quite honestly,” Atkinson said. “And physically he looks great. I told him, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it, because you look fast, you look recovered, you look spry.'”
  • While the Nets don’t have the Knicks’ history and don’t play in the world’s most famous arena, Brooklyn is establishing itself as an appealing free agent destination, opines Newsday columnist Barbara Barker.

Grizzlies Rumors: Gasol, Conley, Temple, Green

Asked today about the report that the Grizzlies are open to listening to trade inquiries on them, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley told reporters, including David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, that they’re in wait-and-see mode since those discussions are out of their hands. Conley also confirmed that he received a phone call from owner Robert Pera on Tuesday confirming that the team is listening to offers, as Cobb notes.

“When I signed back a couple years ago, that’s a thought that goes through your head that, ‘Man, I could play in the same place for 14 or 15 years,'” Conley said. “That’d be awesome, and hopefully retire one day as a Grizzly. You also understand that in three, four years a lot can happen and a lot can change. Memphis is all I know. This is my home. I love everybody here and my teammates and the organization. I don’t know any better. This is new grounds for me, so we’ll just see how it plays out.”

Gasol, who also expressed a love for Memphis and said that being traded wouldn’t change how he feels about the city and the fans, was surprised to hear that Conley’s name was being mentioned in trade rumors alongside his own, since the veteran point guard remains under contract for multiple seasons.

“I don’t understand why Mike is in those talks either,” Gasol said, per Cobb. “Mike is one heck of a player, and we’re going to need good players moving forward. I don’t understand why Mike is in this.”

Let’s round up a few more notes on Gasol, Conley, and the Grizzlies…

  • Chris Mannix of SI.com writes that the Grizzlies may have waited too long to make Gasol and Conley available, and suggests – based on a survey of NBA team executives – that the duo’s trade value probably won’t be all that high. “Marc, defensively, is pretty limited,” an Eastern scout told Mannix. “Physically, he can’t stay in front of a lot of switches.” A Western exec offered a more optimistic assessment of Conley’s stock: “They could get something for Conley. He’s healthy, and there are a lot of teams desperate for a point guard. They play it right, he could get them a lottery pick.”
  • Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian identifies a series of hypothetical trade partners for the Grizzlies in a Gasol or Conley trade, arguing that the Mavericks look like the “cleanest” fit for Conley, since Dennis Smith Jr. and Wesley Matthews‘ expiring contract would be a good starting point. That’s just Herrington’s speculation though.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the Grizzlies’ trade deadline options, proposing some hypothetical swaps involving Conley and Gasol and identifying Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green as possible trade chips.
  • Earlier today, Shams Charania of The Athletic passed along some Grizzlies-related trade rumors, reporting that the team has attempted to engage the Hawks on a deal involving Chandler Parsons and that Green is expected to generate interest around the league.

Charania’s Latest: Wizards, Hornets, Grizzlies, DSJ

As Shams Charania of The Athletic details in his latest round-up of trade rumors from around the NBA, there still aren’t many clear-cut sellers out there, which may limit activity leading up to the February 7 deadline. However, clubs like the Wizards and Magic still haven’t made any decisions one way or the other and could end up being sellers if they’re trending downward a couple weeks from now, says Charania.

The Wizards have made it “adamantly clear” the Bradley Beal isn’t going anywhere, league sources tell Charania. Otto Porter could be more available though, according to Charania, who hears that the Jazz are among the clubs to show interest in Porter.

The Hornets are another team competing for one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots and – like the Wizards – have made it clear that they don’t intend to move their star guard. Nonetheless, teams have tested the Hornets on Kemba Walker, says Charania, citing sources who say that the Mavericks recently inquired on Walker and were told Charlotte wants to keep him.

Charania’s article includes many more rumors on the trade market, so let’s round up some of the highlights…

  • Despite indicating they’re willing to listen to inquiries on Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, Grizzlies officials told players on Tuesday that the team remains committed to winning and to tune out any trade noise, writes Charania. Elsewhere on the Memphis front, JaMychal Green is expected to attract significant trade interest and the Grizzlies have attempted to engage the Hawks about a Chandler Parsons deal, Charania reports.
  • Charania adds the Knicks and Lakers to the list of teams that discussed a possible Dennis Smith Jr. trade with the Mavericks. The Magic are also on that list.
  • In addition to discussing deals involving veterans like Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon, the Hawks may also consider moving younger players such as Taurean Prince and Tyler Dorsey, says Charania.
  • According to Charania, the Thunder plan to explore ways to use their traded player exception, which is worth nearly $11MM. Oklahoma City is reportedly seeking a forward who can shoot, though acquiring a player without sending out any salary would increase the club’s tax bill exponentially.
  • The Sixers are seeking a wing shooter and a center, sources tell Charania.
  • Cavaliers swingman Rodney Hood has emerged as a “targeted” trade asset, according to Charania, who identifies the Pelicans, Thunder, and Bucks as some of the teams that have scoured the market for wing help.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Nuggets, IT, Rubio

It’s possible that the Timberwolves will stand pat at the trade deadline as they look to push for a playoff spot in the West, but doing so would mean forgoing an opportunity to “leverage existing assets for future gains,” writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. As Robson points out, unless the Wolves have a plan for how to re-sign and incorporate veterans like Derrick Rose, Anthony Tolliver, and Taj Gibson, who are on expiring contracts, it might make sense to explore the trade market for possible deals.

Elsewhere in the Northwest, the Nuggets are another team whose trade deadline outlook remains cloudy, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic details. The odds of Denver making a major move appear slim, but the club has a number of trade exceptions at its disposal that could be used to acquire a rotation player – perhaps a Wayne Ellington type – without going into the tax. Of course, with Isaiah Thomas potentially on track to return down the stretch, the Nuggets may simply view IT as their de facto deadline acquisition, Kosmider notes.

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Speaking of Isaiah Thomas, after a weekend report suggested that the Nuggets were optimistic the point guard would make his debut with the team before the All-Star break, head coach Mike Malone pushed back on the idea that there’s a set timeline, per Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. “Don’t believe everything you read,” Malone said. “I don’t know where these leaks come from, but (with) Isaiah, there’s no timeline. There’s nothing (that has) been set about February, this, that or the other thing. You’ll see him when he’s ready to play.”
  • Plagued by injuries at the point guard spot so far in 2019, the Jazz got a boost when Ricky Rubio returned to the rotation on Monday, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Dante Exum and Raul Neto remain sidelined, likely until at least next week, but Utah has made a nice run while short-handed, winning eight of 10 games to move into playoff position in the West.
  • Derrick Rose played a big part in helping Karl-Anthony Towns get through the Jimmy Butler “mess” earlier in the season, according to Kentucky’s John Calipari, who coached Towns for one season in 2014/15. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Timberwolves team members say that Towns’ locker room presence receded as Butler became more frustrated and unhappy during his final days in Minnesota. “There was a dogfight, and Karl’s not one to get into that. So, he stepped back,” Calipari said. “Things happen. There are power struggles all the time in [the NBA]. If a guy can bully you, he will bully you. And that’s what Jimmy did to Karl. C’mon, that’s the league.”

Darius Garland Withdraws From Vanderbilt To Prepare For Draft

Potential 2019 lottery pick Darius Garland has withdrawn from Vanderbilt after suffering a season-ending knee injury, he announced on Tuesday (via Twitter). According to Garland, he made the decision after “considerable deliberation” with his family and medical staff, and his focus going forward will be on preparing for the draft.

“It was a really hard to decision from sitting down with my family,” Garland said, per Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. “I talked to coach [Bryce] Drew and the coaching staff and it was the best fit for me because of where I’m placed right now is really unbelievable especially coming off the injury. Just having a chance to play in the league, which I’ve been dreaming about that since I can remember, playing in the NBA, just having that chance I couldn’t turn that down.”

As Daniels observes, Garland and Murray State’s Ja Morant look like the two clear top point guards in the 2019 draft class, and both players figure to be top-10 picks. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony agrees with that assessment, placing Garland seventh in his latest mock draft.

Garland appeared in just five games for Vanderbilt before having his season cut short by his knee issue, but looked good in that limited sample size, averaging 16.2 PPG on .537/.478/.750 shooting. One high-ranking NBA executive tells Daniels that he thinks the knee injury will have “zero” impact on the freshman’s draft stock.

“I think they are being cautious and that’s a good thing,” the exec said. “There’s too much body of work. Anyone that has done their homework, knows what his game and know who he is as a person.”

Jeanie Buss: Luke Walton “Doing A Terrific Job”

There’s a perception in Los Angeles and among many NBA observers that Lakers head coach Luke Walton is on the hot seat, but controlling owner Jeanie Buss said during an appearance on Zach Lowe’s Lowe Post podcast that’s not the case, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com relays. According to Buss, “everyone in the organization” – including top decision-makers Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka – is behind Walton.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure that Luke is successful in his job. That’s our job,” Buss said. “I think he is doing a terrific job. Given the injuries that we’ve had, it’s a challenge and people forget that he has had two of our starters taken away from him and they’ve won really important games on the road, proving what is possible even without LeBron (James)… I think Luke has done an impressive job.”

Buss’s comments don’t come as a real surprise. Even earlier in the season, when Johnson reportedly “admonished” Walton for the Lakers’ slow start out of the gate, the head coach was always said to have the support of Buss, who would ultimately have the final say on any change. Johnson said back in November that no coaching change was planned during the season, and a report last week indicated that the Lakers continued to project support for Walton both publicly and privately.

Walton had the Lakers in position to make the playoffs up until James went down with the groin injury that has now sidelined him for nearly a month. Since then, the team has lost nine of 14 games and slipped to ninth in the Western Conference, albeit just a half-game behind the No. 8 Clippers.

Walton and the Lakers are expected to get some reinforcements soon. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin outlines, Rajon Rondo is on track to return to the club’s lineup on Thursday vs. Minnesota, filling the hole at point guard created by injuries to Rondo and Lonzo Ball. James is moving closer to a return as well, having participated in five-on-zero play and shooting drills over the weekend, per Walton. However, LeBron isn’t expected to be ready for Thursday’s game.