Month: September 2019

Suns Notes: Holmes, Melton, Okobo, Canaan

Richaun Holmes has settled in as the Suns’ backup center since Tyson Chandler‘s contract was bought out, as Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic notes. Holmes has averaged 7.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 1.4 BPG in 15.9 MPG during the month of November. Coach Igor Kokoskov cites Holmes’ biggest asset as something that goes beyond box scores. “Energy is a talent, we always say, and that’s his job,” Kokoskov said. “He helps his team, and for him to understand his role, and just embrace it, is a huge thing for our team.” Holmes, who was acquired from the Sixers during the summer, has a $1.6MM contract that doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10th. He’l be an unrestricted free agent in July.

We have more on the Suns:

  • Rookie point guards and second-round picks De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo have been bouncing back and forth between the NBA and G League and it’s proving beneficial, as Bob Young of The Athletic details. The duo has gained experience by playing and practicing at both levels. Melton has appeared in four games with the Suns and five with Northern Arizona. Okobo has seen action in 12 NBA and two G League games. “I think it’s helping me a lot,” Melton told Young. “I trained for it all summer, to be a point guard. I don’t think it matters to me. I’m fine getting off the ball. Down in the G League, I got to handle the ball a lot and really run a team and show what I can do.”
  • Kokoskov expects point guard Isaiah Canaan to quickly find another NBA job, Gina Mizell of The Athletic writes. The team waived Canaan on Wednesday after he lost his starting job. “It’s just a pure business decision,” Kokoskov said. “I wish him nothing but the best, and he’ll be good. I know a lot of teams (will have) interest in him.” The Suns have two open roster spots, which will facilitate a potential trade for a more accomplished floor leader. Devin Booker has been moved from shooting guard to the point for at least the short run.
  • The Suns are one of the teams interested in acquiring second-year point guard Frank Ntilikina from the Knicks. Get all the details here.

Rockets Big Man Nene Ready To Return

Rockets center Nene Hilario is poised to make his season debut on Saturday,  Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Nene suffered a strained calf muscle during the preseason.

“The important thing is I feel better,” Nene told Feigen. “I feel good. I’ve been working. In the last two, three practices I did what I need to do to see the movement I’m going to use in a game, especially in my style, my game style.”

Nene is in his third season with the Rockets. He’s making $3.6MM this season and holds a $3.82MM player option on next season’s contract. He averaged 6.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 14.6 minutes per contest in 52 games last season.

It remains to be seen how much coach Mike D’Antoni will use the veteran. Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark have received most of backup frontcourt minutes behind starting center Clint Capela and power forward P.J. Tucker.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

Wesley Matthews, Mavericks, 32,  SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Matthews got off to a strong start, reaching the 20-point mark in six of the first 10 games. An injury set him back as a mild hamstring strain kept him out of four games. He’s shot 33% from 3-point range in the last two games since returning to action. There’s always a market for players who can make the long ball but at his age, Matthews is probably looking at a short-term deal in his next contract and might have to settle for a second-unit role.

Marquese Chriss, Rockets, 21, PF, (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $9.2MM deal in 2016
Chriss received a fresh start when the Suns traded him to a contender. So far, Chriss has failed to take advantage of the situation, even after the club decided to part ways with Carmelo Anthony. Chriss has only appeared in seven games and hasn’t played more than eight minutes in any of them. It’s hard to believe he was chosen with the No. 8 overall pick in 2016. Chriss is still younger than many college players, so he’ll get another chance somewhere else, but he’ll have to settle for a modest contract.

Shelvin Mack, Grizzlies, 28, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
The Grizzlies brought in Mack on a veteran’s minimum deal to back up Mike Conley. Mack has been a steady presence in the rotation, averaging 9.9 PPG and 3.6 APG while keeping his turnovers down (1.3 per game). He’s also shot it well from long range (41.8%). Mack isn’t flashy but he’s a competent second-unit floor leader and he might get more than one year on the open market next summer.

Nikola Mirotic, Pelicans, 27, PF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $15MM deal in 2017
Mirotic made national headlines last season when Bulls teammate Bobby Portis slugged him during a practice dispute. Far removed from that incident, Mirotic is enjoying a career year with the Pelicans. He’s averaging 19.2 PPG and 10.5 RPG in 31.6 MPG. His 3-point percentage is down from last season but is still a solid 37%. Mirotic should receive plenty of attention on the open market as a stretch four who can also pound the glass.

Rudy Gay, Spurs, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $10MM deal in 2018
Gay had an ugly outing against Minnesota on Wednesday (three points in 19 minutes) but otherwise he’s been quite efficient this season. He’s shooting 49.2% from the field and 46.7% outside the arc and has also been a factor on the boards (7.1 per game). Gay has been thrust into a starting role with the injury-riddled Spurs but he’ll probably be looked upon as a second-unit contributor when he returns to the open market. He’s showing he still has something left in the tank.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/30/18

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from across the NBA:

  • The Rockets assigned veteran point guard Brandon Knight to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Knight is close to making his Houston debut after sitting out since April 2017 with a torn ACL. He’ll play for the Vipers on Friday when they host the Salt Lake City Stars. We have more details here.
  • The Celtics recalled Brad Wanamaker from the Maine Red Claws, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston wanted a little more backcourt depth with Jaylen Brown declared out for Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. Wanamaker has appeared in five games with the Celtics, averaging 3.2 PPG in 6.2 MPG.
  • The Bucks recalled big man Christian Wood from the Wisconsin Herd, according to a team press release. Wood has appeared in three games for the Herd, averaging 23.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 1.7 BPG in 33.4 MPG. He’s seen action in five Bucks games, averaging 3.8 PPG in 6.8 MPG.

Knicks Notes: Knox, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Robinson, Lee

The Knicks’ lottery picks over the last two years, point guard Frank Ntilikina and wing Kevin Knox, have been called soft by rival scouts and other league personnel interviewed by the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Knox was also labelled as selfish offensively, settling for long-range jumpers and refusing to move the ball. Ntilikina was knocked for lacking of acumen expected of a floor leader. Coach David Fizdale bristled at the criticism, according to tweet from Newsday’s Steve Popper. “Give them a break,” he said. “These guys are learning on the fly.” Knox said he’ll take the knocks in a constructive way, as Popper relays. “I love the criticism because that’s just going to help me go watch film and make sure I can get better at that,” Knox said.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Knox is eager to establish chemistry with Kristaps Porzingis, Berman reports in a separate story. Porzingis could return in late December from the ACL tear he suffered last season. “It will be great to get him on the court and get the connection going a bit see how it is to play with an All-Star,” he said. “It will be pretty fun when he gets back. Hopefully, we’ll connect.”
  • Fizdale said there’s no talk of sending Knox and fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson to the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Berman writes in another piece. “I’m keeping both of them with us,’’ Fizdale said. “Through whatever tough times we go through, that’s what we have to go through with them right now. But I want them with our guys, playing with our guys, interacting with our guys, having successes and suffering with our guys.”
  • Courtney Lee could make his season debut against the Bucks on Saturday, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets. Fizdale said the veteran shooting guard is probable to play, Vorkunov adds. Lee has been sidelined with a neck injury.

Pacers Rule Victor Oladipo Out Indefinitely

4:18pm: Oladipo has no structural issues with the knee and is expected to return in the near future, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

3:56pm: The Pacers issued an update on Victor Oladipo‘s status today, announcing in a press release that the All-Star guard has been ruled out indefinitely. Oladipo is battling a sore right knee and had previously been considered day-to-day.

After enjoying a breakout season in his first year as a Pacer in 2017/18, Oladipo was off to another great start this season, averaging 22.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 4.9 APG in his first 15 games. However, he left Indiana’s game on November 17 vs. Atlanta with a knee issue and has missed the club’s last six contests.

While being ruled out “indefinitely” doesn’t necessarily mean that Oladipo’s absence will be a long-term one, it does mean that there’s no timetable for his return to the court at the moment. According to Scott Agness of The Athletic (via Twitter), Oladipo was encouraged after playing 4-on-4 during Thursday’s shootaround, but has also been frustrated by the injury and said he won’t return until he feels 100%.

As long as Oladipo remains on the shelf, rookie guard Aaron Holiday should continue playing a key rotation role. Holiday has averaged 19.4 minutes per game since Oladipo went down, after playing very sparingly in the early going.

The Pacers also have an open roster spot, should they feel the need to add any backcourt reinforcements while they await Oladipo’s return.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southeast 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 Southeast could be one of the NBA’s most active divisions leading up to this season’s trade deadline. It features a pair of underachieving teams (the Heat and Wizards) who could badly use a trade to shake things up, along with at least one lottery-bound club that looks like an obvious seller (the Hawks). It’s too early to tell which direction the Hornets and Magic will go, but they’re candidates to be active too.

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

Otto Porter Jr., F
Washington Wizards
$26.01MM cap hit; $27.25MM guaranteed salary in 2019/20; $28.49MM player option for 2020/21

As I wrote earlier today when I relayed news of the Kings’ renewed interest in Porter, the young forward looks like the best trade candidate of the Wizards‘ three highly-paid cornerstones. His contract isn’t as scary as John Wall‘s, which will make him easier to move. Conversely, he’s not as valuable an asset as Bradley Beal, meaning Washington won’t be as averse to giving him up.

Although Porter’s contract will make him a somewhat tricky sell, he fits the mold of the three-and-D wing that so many teams around the NBA are seeking. He’ll draw interest, especially from teams that have a little cap flexibility but don’t necessarily expect to be major players in free agency — like the Kings, whose expiring contracts and cap space make them an interesting potential trade partner for Washington.

The Pelicans are also said to have interest in Porter. If they’re willing to include a first-round pick and a mid-sized expiring contract, it might be worth it for the Wizards to take on Solomon Hill‘s contract.

Dewayne Dedmon, C
Atlanta Hawks
$7.2MM cap hit; UFA in 2019

A popular subject of trade speculation last season, Dedmon stayed put at the deadline and ultimately ended up exercising his player option to remain in Atlanta for another year. There are reasons to believe that he’s more likely to be traded this time around.

For one, potential suitors may have been put off by his uncertain contract situation last year. This time, his status is clear — he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so teams won’t have to worry about accounting for him on next year’s books.

Additionally, the Hawks may have some regrets about how they approached last season’s trade deadline, when they kept Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, then bought them out after the deadline passed. Both players ended up with the Sixers, serving as important rotation pieces into the second round of the playoffs. This season, Atlanta may be less inclined to let solid contributors get away for nothing.

While Dedmon doesn’t necessarily have one specific skill that could be a difference-maker for a playoff team like Belinelli’s and Ilyasova’s floor-spacing abilities were, he’s a solid big man who has some previous postseason experience under his belt, and he shouldn’t be overly expensive.

Nikola Vucevic, C
Orlando Magic
$12.75MM cap hit; UFA in 2019

It has been a fascinating season for Vucevic and the Magic so far. Despite a modest 10-12 record, Orlando currently holds the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Vucevic has played a huge part in the club’s early success, recording career highs in PPG (20.8), FG% (.553), 3PT% (.410), and APG (3.9), among other categories.

The 28-year-old is performing like the type of player the Magic should be trying to re-sign and build around, rather than one they should be looking to dump before he reaches free agency — especially if they remain in the playoff mix. So far, there are no indications that Orlando is interested in trading Vucevic.

Still, this is a complicated situation. The Magic drafted Mohamed Bamba earlier this year to be their center of the future, and with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac in the frontcourt mix too, it looked like Vucevic might not be in the team’s long-term plans.

Could the Magic realistically lock up Vucevic long-term without compromising the development of their younger players? If they commit to the veteran, would the Magic need to trade one of those other young bigs? Would they be willing to keep Vucevic for the full season and risk simply losing him in unrestricted free agency next summer without any compensation? The answers to those questions will determine whether or not Vucevic becomes available before this season’s trade deadline.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Markelle Fultz To Continue Seeing Specialists

Sixers guard Markelle Fultz will continue to visit medical specialists through early next week, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. A team source tells Wojnarowski that the 76ers aren’t expected to provide an update on Fultz’s status until after those visits are complete.

Word first broke 10 days ago that Fultz would be visiting a shoulder specialist on November 26 and wouldn’t participate in any practices or appear in any games for the Sixers until after that appointment. On Monday, we learned that the former No. 1 pick would be seeing more specialists throughout the week, and today’s report indicates those appointments will continue into next week.

While various reports have indicated that Fultz may be bothered by shoulder, wrist, and thumb issues, there have also been rumors – sometimes within those same reports – suggesting that the second-year guard’s shooting problems are mental rather than physical. If there’s a medical issue plaguing Fultz, it seems it’s one not easily diagnosed, given all the doctors he’s visiting.

Once Fultz wraps up his visits to specialists, the Sixers should have a better sense of what the next step will be for 2017’s first overall pick. The club has insisted he’ll get a chance to regain a role off the bench if and when he’s healthy, though there has also been plenty of speculation about a possible trade. Potential suitors for Fultz will be keeping a close eye on his status, since they’ll want to know what they’d be getting into if they look to roll the dice on the 20-year-old.

Kings Eyeing Otto Porter Jr.

The Kings are “closely monitoring” the Wizards with an eye toward potentially making a play for forward Otto Porter Jr., league sources tell Jason Jones of The Athletic.

Sacramento has long been fond of Porter, pursuing him when he reached restricted free agency in 2017. Although the Kings made Porter a maximum-salary contract offer at that point, he ultimately decided to sign a similar offer sheet with the Nets, which was subsequently matched by Washington.

Now, with the Wizards reportedly willing to listen to inquiries on any of their players and the Kings still seeking a long-term answer at small forward, the time might be right for Sacramento to go after the 25-year-old once again.

Porter’s contract, which features a $26MM cap hit for 2018/19 and is worth $55.7MM over the following two seasons, is considered onerous, but the Kings’ books are clear of significant long-term commitments. They’re about $11MM under the cap right now, and project to have a ton of cap room in 2019. With Sacramento not viewed as a realistic player for 2019’s star free agents, it makes sense that the team would be open to the idea of sacrificing some of that potential cap space by acquiring a possible core piece in a trade.

The Kings also have several veterans on expiring contracts who could be used for salary-matching purposes, including Zach Randolph ($11.69MM), Kosta Koufos ($8.74MM), and Ben McLemore ($5.46MM).

It remains to be seen what approach the Wizards will take to in-season trade negotiations, since they’re still very much in the mix for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, despite their slow start. If they do decide to shake things up, Porter appears to be the likeliest trade candidate of the Wizards’ “Big Three.” He’d have more trade value than John Wall, and Washington would be more inclined to move him than Bradley Beal.

Andre Roberson Suffers Setback In Rehab

Thunder swingman Andre Roberson has suffered another setback in his recovery from knee surgery, a team spokesperson said today, per Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter links). As Young relays, Roberson experienced discomfort after landing from a jump, and an MRI revealed that he had suffered a small avulsion fracture in his knee. He’ll be re-evaluated in six weeks.

While Roberson’s latest setback is discouraging, it doesn’t entirely reset his timetable, Young notes. The 26-year-old had been progressing toward a return, but was still a ways off from making his 2018/19 debut anyway. In six weeks, the Thunder should have a better sense of when exactly he might be ready get back on the court, says Young.

It has been an unfortunate run of bad luck for Roberson, who missed a good chunk of the 2017/18 campaign, including the playoffs, due to the knee injury he initially suffered back in January. Even after he underwent another procedure in May, there was a hope that he’d be ready for the start of this season, but he sustained at least one setback in the fall that pushed back his recovery timetable. Today’s news comes on the heels of a report that his rehab was on “a really good track.”

The Thunder have played well in Roberson’s absence this season, getting off to a 13-7 start. Still, they won’t be at their best until they have their top perimeter defender back in the lineup, so they’ll hope the former first-round pick is able to make it back for the second half of 2018/19.