Month: January 2018

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Bolden, Tatum

While the team has not offered up an official date at which Joel Embiid will be cleared to play in back-to-backs, the sophomore Sixers center would like to do so by the end of the month, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Embiid, who was voted in as an All-Star Game starter earlier today, has averaged 23.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for the Sixers this season but has only played in 31 of the team’s 40 contests.

Through the first three months of the regular season, the Sixers have played five sets of back-to-backs and in each game, Embiid has missed at least one match.

I just need not to take days off,” Embiid said. “It’s not on me. It’s on the [Sixers’] medical staff. But hopefully, back-to-backs by the end of this month, I will be allowed to play.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics appear to have landed a gem in rookie Jayson Tatum. Chris Forsberg of ESPN recently profiled the 19-year-old forward, painting a picture of how Tatum’s confidence and poise have served him just as well as his length and athleticism have so far in his young career.
  • A feature by The Athletic’s Rich Hoffman profiles Sixers‘ draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden. The 36th pick in the 2017 draft was named the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect, an award that Dario Saric and Nikola Jokic also earned during their stints there.
  • Despite a breakout year with the Nets, Joe Harris hasn’t concerned himself with the fact that he’ll be a free agent in the summer. “I love playing for [head coach Kenny Atkinson]”, Harris told Sam Blum of The Daily Progress. “I love the teammates that we have and everybody else that’s in the organization. We have a lot of great people, top to bottom. I really don’t think about that stuff a whole lot. I focus on trying to get better here collectively and individually and just enjoying it while I can.

Kris Dunn Out Indefinitely After Entering Concussion Protocol

The Bulls will be without sophomore guard Kris Dunn for an indefinite period of time after he entered the league’s concussion protocol on Wednesday, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes.

Dunn fell awkwardly after a dunk Wednesday night, landing face first on the United Center floor. Initial test results revealed that Dunn had been cleared of concussion symptoms but he did fall hard enough to chip and dislocate his two front teeth.

Dunn will not travel with the team when it leaves for a three-game road trip on Friday.

In what’s been widely regarded as a breakout season, Dunn has averaged 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game for the Bulls. Backup point guard Jerian Grant is expected to slide into the starting lineup in Dunn’s place.

Derrick Rose Set To Return Tonight

For the first time in 31 games, Derrick Rose will suit up for the Cavaliers, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The 29-year-old guard, however, will be on a minute restriction when the team faces off against the Magic.

Head coach Tyronn Lue has said that Rose will come off the bench in his return. In seven early season starts for the Cavs prior to the bone spur and ankle injury that sidelined him for two months, Rose put up 14.3 points and 2.5 assists per game.

His addition back into the rotation could bump Cedi Osman out of consistent playing. We also wrote earlier this month that Rose’s return could reduce Dwyane Wade‘s minutes.

Rose’s ankle injury was the latest in a famously long line of health woes. That, of course, contributed to the period of uncertainty in late November when Rose was said to be contemplating his future in basketball.

Lakers To Sign Nigel Hayes To 10-Day Deal

The Lakers plan to sign forward Nigel Hayes to a 10-day contract, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets. The 23-year-old went undrafted out of Wisconsin last summer but did end up briefly catching on with the Knicks in training camp.

Hayes averaged 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game across three seasons with the Badgers and will slot into a Lakers depth chart that could use depth down low.

In 30 games with the G League’s Westchester Knicks this season, Hayes has averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

NBA Suspends Arron Afflalo Two Games

The NBA has suspended Magic guard Arron Afflalo two games for his role in an altercation with Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

On Tuesday night, Afflalo got tangled up with the 29-year-old Wolves forward and ended up launching a wild haymaker that careened off the back of his head and neck. Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock and the two were eventually separated.

The suspension, which will be in place for tonight’s Magic-Cavaliers game, targets Afflalo and not Bjelica presumably due to the fact Afflalo appeared to be the one to escalate the situation while Bjelica looked content containing Afflalo and diffusing the situation.

Jazz Notes: Favors, Sefolosha, Exum

The Jazz have been charged with the task of growing and developing their way into the postseason all over again, Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. All things considered, they’re off to a decent start.

The scribe offers up a scathing critique of how Gordon Hayward handled his exit from Utah, suggesting that he left the team out in the cold unlike ex-Pacers star Paul George who at least gave Indiana’s front office a clear heads up that he had an interest in leaving.

While Monson sheds light on a handful of the assets on board in Utah, from trade candidate Derrick Favors to underwhelming fourth-year forward Rodney Hood, he also places some blame on general manager Dennis Lindsey for not having a better read on the Hayward situation prior to last offseason.

Of course the best thing going for the Jazz is their core duo of Rudy Gobert and rookie Donovan Mitchell. Everything will revolve around them, Monson says, a particularly intriguing thought considering that Gobert is just 25 years old while Mitchell is 21.

There’s more from the Jazz today:

  • As the trade deadline draws closer, Derrick Favors is hearing his name pop up in more and more speculation. The 26-year-old has managed to successfully tune out the conversation thus far, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News writes.
  • In the same feature for The Deseret News, Woodyards reports that forward Thabo Sefolosha‘s knee surgery went successfully on Wednesday.
  • After being cleared for non-contact basketball activities, Jazz guard Dante Exum has set his sights on returning to action after the All-Star Break, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. Exum damaged ligaments in his shoulder during preseason.

Seven Southwest Trade Candidates To Watch

The NBA trade deadline is just three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’re taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.

While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.

We’re examining the Southwest Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…

  1. Tyreke Evans verticalTyreke Evans, G (Grizzlies): After posting a career-worst 10.3 PPG and .405 FG% in 2016/17, Evans has bounced back in a major way this season. The former fourth overall pick has looked like a borderline All-Star, particularly since Mike Conley went down. In Conley’s absence, Evans has averaged an impressive 20.2 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 5.3 RPG, with a .445/.387/.773 shooting line. Throw in a very modest $3.29MM cap hit, and Evans is one of the more intriguing trade candidates on the market — even if he’ll just be a rental. The Grizzlies reportedly want a first-round pick in return for Evans, and I don’t think that’s out of the question, especially if the pick falls in the 20s, or if Memphis is willing to accept a less desirable contract in return. Last year, for instance, the Nets landed a first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic because they were willing to take on Andrew Nicholson.
  2. Ben McLemore, SG (Grizzlies): Memphis’ signing of McLemore was similar to the team’s move to land Evans. In each case, the Grizzlies were betting that they could get more out of a former top pick than his previous team(s) had. That bet paid off in Evans’ case, but the club hasn’t had as much luck with McLemore, whose 2017/18 debut was delayed after he underwent offseason foot surgery. While the Grizzlies are said to be gauging potential interest in the fifth-year guard, it’s hard to imagine teams clamoring to land him — McLemore has averaged just 6.3 PPG and has shot .411/.317/.789 in 24 games this season. Additionally, his contract, which will pay him $5.2MM this year and $5.46MM in 2018/19, isn’t quite team-friendly enough to be worth the gamble. If the former Kansas star is moved, the return won’t be significant.
  3. Marc Gasol, C (Grizzlies): Barring a second-half run reminiscent of the one made by the 2016/17 Heat, the 15-28 Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs this year. Gasol only has one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season, with a player option for 2019/20, so it would make sense for the Grizzlies to at least gauge the market to see what his value is. Still, Memphis has thus far been reluctant to discuss the possibility of moving Gasol — not only does the team have an eye on contending with its standout center next season, but it hasn’t thrown in the towel on this season. For now, we’ll take their word that Gasol isn’t going anywhere at the deadline, but of all the teams insisting they won’t trade their respective stars, the lottery-bound Grizzlies seem most likely to reconsider their position within the next three weeks.
  4. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): Initially viewed as a steal, the Mavericks‘ 2017 deadline deal to acquire Noel hasn’t panned out like the team hoped. The former Sixer was good – but not great – down the stretch for the Mavs, then settled for signing his one-year qualifying offer in the summer after turning down a more lucrative multiyear deal. Given his performance and his ongoing health problems this season, it looks like Noel made a major mistake, and he and the Mavs don’t seem likely to make their union a long-term one. Currently sidelined with a thumb injury, Noel may be back in early February, which would give potential suitors a chance to get one more look at him before the February 8 deadline. He’s affordable ($4.19MM) and still very young (23 years old), so a team in need of an athletic frontcourt player may be willing to roll the dice, as long as Noel is willing to OK a trade — he has the ability to veto a move, since he’d lose his Bird rights if he’s dealt.
  5. Devin Harris, G (Mavericks): Harris’ 2017/18 numbers look a lot like the ones he posted in each of the previous five seasons. He’ll give you a little scoring punch off the bench, and a semi-reliable outside shot (his .354 3PT% this season is his best since 2011/12). He’ll never again be the 20-point scorer he was nearly a decade ago in New Jersey, but Harris could be a solid bench addition for teams lacking backcourt depth or battling injuries. He’s also inexpensive ($4.4MM) and will come off the cap this summer. Although there have been no reports linking Harris to other teams, it’s hard to believe the Mavericks wouldn’t move him if offered something of value.
  6. Alexis Ajinca, C (Pelicans): Ajinca is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season, so he certainly won’t be targeted by any teams looking for immediate upgrades. Instead, he’ll likely be dangled by the Pelicans for salary-matching purposes as they seek out upgrades of their own. With only one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season at a reasonable rate of $5.29MM, Ajinca isn’t the sort of albatross that Omer Asik is, so it’s plausible that the Pelicans could extract a decent player in a deal if they’re willing to attach a pick or two. For instance, if New Orleans liked Devin Harris (noted above), the team could offer Ajinca and a draft pick. Such a move would help the Pels financially both this year and next year, and would give them a useful rotation player; from the Mavericks‘ perspective, Ajinca could be waived and stretched with minimal impact on their cap, so it may be worth it if the draft pick was strong enough.
  7. Ryan Anderson, PF (Rockets): One of the most-discussed trade candidates of the 2017 offseason, Anderson no longer seems as likely to be dealt. Still, there are only six Rockets earning more than $4MM this season, and the other five – James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Trevor Ariza – likely aren’t going anywhere. So if the Rockets look to make a major splash on the trade market and want to acquire another highly-paid player, Anderson would be the logical outgoing piece. The bet here is that Houston hangs onto the veteran sharpshooter and revisits the idea of a major splash in the offseason.

Here are a few more potential Southwest trade candidates to monitor:

  • James Ennis, SF (Grizzlies): Like McLemore, Ennis is reportedly being dangled as the Grizzlies explore their trade options. Of the two, Ennis is having the better season (.500/.351/.884 shooting line) and has the more favorable cap hit ($3.03MM).
  • Omer Asik, C (Pelicans): The Pelicans would prefer to move Asik’s contract over Ajinca’s, but the terms are so unfavorable that New Orleans may simply have to eventually waive and stretch Asik.
  • J.J. Barea, PG (Mavericks): Mark Cuban is fond of Barea, and the veteran has another very affordable ($3.71MM) year on his contract after 2017/18, so I think he may stay put, even though he’d be one of the Mavericks‘ most valuable trade chips.
  • Wesley Matthews, G/F (Mavericks): Matthews has been as reliable as ever from three-point range (38.2%), but his $18.62MM player option for 2018/19 is a roadblock for a deal.
  • Tarik Black, C (Rockets): The Rockets probably need to keep Black around as insurance, given Nene‘s injury history, but if Nene is healthy, Black could become expendable.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kings’ Harry Giles Won’t Play In 2017/18

The Kings will shut down rookie center Harry Giles for the rest of the season, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California, who reports that Giles won’t make his NBA debut in 2017/18. The club has confirmed the news, announcing its decision in an official press release.

According to the Kings’ announcement, Giles is “entirely healthy” and hasn’t experienced any setbacks as he continues to work his way back from multiple ACL injuries. However, citing scientific research into ACL rehabilitation, the Kings say that they’ve decided the 2017 first-rounder will focus on “more vigorous practice activity and individual workouts” rather than appearing in any games this season.

As Ham notes, Giles, who is still just 19 years old, is one of just six players in the history of the NBA to attempt to return to the court after tearing his ACLs in both knees. The Kings, who were already incorporating several rookies into their lineup this season, including De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, recognized that they could afford to be patient with Giles, initially ruling him out until sometime in 2018 back in October.

The Kings are now targeting 2018 Summer League for Giles’ official pro debut. While the former Duke Blue Devil badly wants to get on the court this season, he tells Sean Cunningham of ABC10 in Sacramento (Twitter link) that he’s on board with the organization’s plan for him.

Kyler’s Latest: Jordan, Kings, Mirotic, Whiteside

The streaky Clippers, who lost nine straight games back in November, have now won a season-high six consecutive contests, re-inserting themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Even though DeAndre Jordan has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the Clips’ last three wins, the streak seems to bode well for his chances of sticking in Los Angeles through the trade deadline.

As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, Clippers ownership and management doesn’t seem at all eager to blow up the roster. For now, the club is focused on seeing if it’s capable of competing in the West, preferring to wait until a bit closer to the deadline to evaluate all of its options.

If the Clippers do change course by February 8, the Bucks and Rockets figure to be among the teams with interest in Jordan, whose contract situation is worth monitoring. According to Kyler, there’s a belief that the veteran center won’t be able to top his $24.12MM player option as a free agent, meaning it’s possible he could decide to opt in for 2018/19. That possibility may affect how the Clippers and potential trade partners view Jordan at the deadline.

Here’s more from Kyler:

  • The Kings‘ veteran players are all potential trade candidates at the deadline, though some are more likely to be moved than others. George Hill, for example, won’t have much value, given his contract situation, his injury history, and his underwhelming play this season. Sources close to the situation tell Kyler that Sacramento seems to be trying to help its veterans find better situations as those players fall out of the team’s regular rotation.
  • Kyler hears that Nikola Mirotic‘s camp is pushing for the Bulls to pick up the forward’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. Until that team option is exercised, Mirotic has the ability to block a trade, giving him some leverage if Chicago wants to complete a deal. League sources tell Kyler that the Bulls have “gotten pretty far down the road” in talks with the Jazz and Pistons about Mirotic.
  • There’s “growing talk” around the NBA that the Heat would be open to the idea of moving Hassan Whiteside for the right mix of contracts and young players, Kyler writes. The Bucks and Cavaliers, both on the lookout for a center, would be obvious suitors, but it would tough for either team to make a deal, given Whiteside’s large cap hit ($23.78MM). John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are among the players whose contracts might have to be included for Milwaukee or Cleveland to make a deal work, which doesn’t sound overly appealing for Miami.
  • The Mavericks are “dangling” some expiring contracts and appear to be seeking a promising prospect on a rookie scale deal, along with future picks, says Kyler. Dallas also has cap flexibility to take on a contract or two.

Checking In On Traded 2018 First Round Picks

While it’s possible that more 2018 first round picks will be on the move at this season’s trade deadline, nearly one third of the NBA’s teams have already moved their own first-rounders. In total, eight of 30 first-rounders for 2018 are owed to new teams, and many of those picks include conditional protections. As such, it’s worth checking in on the likelihood of all those selections actually changing hands this June, now that we’re more than halfway through the 2017/18 season.

With the help of our 2017/18 Reverse Standings, let’s dive in and see where things stand for those eight traded picks…

No drama:

  • Suns to acquire Heat‘s pick (top-seven protected). Currently projected to be No. 23.
  • Hawks to acquire Timberwolves‘ pick (lottery-protected). Currently projected to be No. 25.
  • Nets to acquire Raptors‘ pick (lottery-protected). Currently projected to be No. 27.
  • Hawks to acquire Rockets‘ pick (top-three protected). Currently projected to be No. 28.

We’ll start with the picks that are locks to change hands. The four selections listed above appear very likely to fall somewhere in the 20s, well out of their protected ranges.

Given how streaky the Heat have been over the last year and a half, it’s possible they could slip down the standings a little, but their pick is extremely unlikely to land in the top seven, so the Suns will get it this season. That actually could be good news for the Heat, since it would create a little flexibility for them when it comes to trading future first-rounders going forward.

Worth watching:

  • Cavaliers to acquire Nets‘ pick (unprotected). Currently projected to be No. 7 or 8 (tie).
  • Timberwolves to acquire Thunder‘s pick (lottery-protected). Currently projected to be No. 21 or 22 (tie).

Since the Nets‘ first-rounder is unprotected, there’s no question that Brooklyn will lose it, but it’s still a pick worth monitoring all season. Its value could increase or decrease significantly depending on how the Nets play in the second half, and there’s also no guarantee that the Cavaliers will still own it by the time June rolls around.

As for Oklahoma City’s pick, we nearly put the club in the “no drama” list above, but OKC is only two games ahead of the ninth-seeded Nuggets. Even though the Thunder seem very likely to hang onto a playoff spot in the West, it’s probably a bit premature to call them a lock. Nonetheless, the Timberwolves should get that pick.

Very much up in the air:

  • Sixers or Celtics to acquire Lakers‘ pick (Sixers receive it if it’s No. 1 or between 6-30; Celtics get it if it’s between 2-5). Currently projected to be No. 5.
  • Suns to acquire Bucks‘ pick (top-10 protected and protected between 17-30). Currently projected to be No. 16, 17, 18, or 19 (four-way tie).

The fate of the Lakers‘ 2018 pick is one of the most fascinating off-court storylines of this season. Both the Sixers and Celtics have very solid foundations of young talent in place already, so acquiring another top-10 pick would just be an added bonus for either team. The Lakers currently have the fifth-worst record in the NBA, but even if they finish the season in that same slot, the lottery could flip the pick from Boston to Philadelphia — the Sixers would get the pick if the Lakers won the lottery, or if another team leapfrogged L.A. and slid the Lakers’ pick out of the top five.

Meanwhile, while the Bucks have been up and down this season, they seem like a good bet to make a second-half push and avoid finishing in the middle of the pack. For now though, their first-rounder is still very much in play for the Suns, who would receive it if it falls in the 11-16 window.

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