Month: August 2020

Central Notes: Rose, Bulls, Markkanen, Turner

A minutes restriction has helped Derrick Rose stay healthy in his first season with the Pistons, but he believes he would be OK without it, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Rose, who has been on the court for 28 of Detroit’s first 34 games, is limited to about 27 minutes per night. It’s a decision made in conjunction with the medical staff to help preserve the 31-year-old guard, who has a long injury history.

“I feel good, but it’s not up to me with the minutes; it’s up to the coaching staff and the (training) staff to come up with it,” Rose said. “Of course, I want to be out there, but I guess they see something I don’t, and they’re worried about it — just being cautious with me.”

Coach Dwane Casey has been spreading the time out equally, playing Rose for about 6 or 7 minutes each quarter. He has excelled under the limitation, averaging 16.8 points and 5.9 assists per night and shooting nearly 33% on 3-pointers.

“I promise you, I would love to play him more and Derrick would love to play, but he can’t, I mean physically,” Casey said. “We don’t want to put him in that situation, his body in that situation. So according to the game, we have to be creative.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • A challenging January schedule could determine if the Bulls are sellers at the trade deadline, observes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Despite a 13-21 record, Chicago is only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot, but nine games during the month will be against teams with winning records. The Bulls are only 1-12 so far against teams .500 or better. Cowley notes that Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine, who will both be restricted free agents this summer, could be moved if the team falls out of contention, along with Thaddeus Young, who has expressed unhappiness about his playing time.
  • The Bulls need to find more minutes for Lauri Markkanen, argues K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. With coach Jim Boylen using a 10- and sometimes 11-player rotation, Markkanen is averaging about two minutes per game less than last season.
  • Pacers center Myles Turner has a new agent, tweets Grant Afseth of Original Turner’s. A league source tells Afseth that Turner signed with Bill Duffy of BDA Sports Management.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/31/19

Here are Tuesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Pacers assigned Alize Johnson to their affiliate in Fort Wayne, then recalled him and Victor Oladipo later in the day, the team announced in a pair of tweets. Oladipo has been practicing with the G League team as he rehabs from a quad injury he suffered last season.
  • The Warriors recalled Alen Smailagic from Santa Cruz, according to a press release. Smailagic is averaging 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 12 G League games.

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Richardson, Rozier, Prokhorov

Al Horford hasn’t had a smooth transition to his new team after leaving the Celtics for the Sixers this summer, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Many expected Philadelphia to rise to the top of the East after adding the five-time All-Star, but Horford is still searching for his role in the offense alongside Joel Embiid.

Horford is averaging 12.6 PPG, his lowest scoring total in eight seasons, and his 46.0% field goal percentage and 6.6 rebounds are the lowest figures of his career. However, he averages 18.6 PPG in the six games Embiid has missed, suggesting his reduced numbers are tied to opportunity.

“I’m out (there) for the team and doing what I can to help us,” Horford said. “But offensively, I’m very limited with the things that I can do. So I can’t control that stuff. So all I have to do is make sure I’m there for the team, trying to do everything I can to help us win.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Josh Richardson discussed the need for more “accountability” after today’s blowout loss in Indiana, Pompey tweets. The Sixers trailed by more than 30 points in the second half. “I don’t think that there’s enough accountability in our locker room right now, honestly,” he said. “I think that we got some new guys, who don’t want to step on toes, including myself. I feel like we kind of go play, and don’t compete as much. There’s been games that we have and it’s been great. But when it’s not going good, we got to hold each other accountable. I think that’s where a lot of our problems start.” (Twitter link)
  • Former Celtics guard Terry Rozier notices the difference between this year’s 23-8 team and last year’s underachieving squad, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Rozier admits there may have been more talent last season, but the players seem to be enjoying the game more now. “Talent, it can’t always get you to where you want to go,” he said. “You’ve got to have the guys that want to be good, want to play hard, want to learn — stuff like that. Obviously you can have all the talent in the world; if you don’t put it together and everybody don’t buy in, it’s not going to work out. And I think that’s what we got caught up in last year.”
  • Former Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was named Russian businessman of the year by Forbes Russia after netting a profit that may have reached $2 billion when he sold the team and Barclays Center, relays Net Income of NetsDaily.

Jazz Notes: Clarkson, Ingles, Morgan, Zanik

Jordan Clarkson has quickly transformed the Jazz bench after being acquired in a trade with the Cavaliers last week, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Clarkson was brought in to add more scoring punch, but he has also surprised with his defense while adding a burst of energy to the second unit.

“He’s been everything we thought he was going to be these past three games,” teammate Donovan Mitchell said, “and he’s learning all this on the fly and still playing well, and that’s tough to do.”

Clarkson is averaging 16.0 PPG in three games since joining the Jazz, including a 20-point outburst in last night’s win over the Pistons. Before the trade, Utah ranked next to last in the league in bench scoring at 26.9 points per night.

“I’m trying to learn every day,” he said. “When we come in for practice I’m very attentive and everyone is talking to me. I’m just trying to pick everything up as quick as possible.”

There’s more from Utah:

  • Joe Ingles turned his season around this month by adjusting to the new way defenses are playing him, relays Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Other teams have been copying the Rockets‘ playoff approach of shading to his left and forcing him to go right on screens. It took Ingles a while to adjust, but now he’s become proficient on 3-pointers while moving to his right. He has shot 55% from beyond the arc this month.
  • Rookie forward Juwan Morgan may be headed for a larger role, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. Morgan was waived in training camp, but played well enough in the G League that the Jazz signed him last month. Utah likes Morgan’s defensive versatility, but there are questions about whether he can shoot well enough to become a regular part of the rotation.
  • General manager Justin Zanik may not be done shaking up the roster after adding Clarkson last week and waiving Jeff Green to sign Rayjon Tucker, Jones suggests in a separate story. He notes that the Jazz could still use more depth on their reserve unit, including an upgrade at backup center, which is currently being handled by Tony Bradley and Ed Davis.

Stein’s Latest: KAT, Paul, Zion, Predictions

Reports surfaced this week that the Knicks and Warriors are among the teams monitoring Karl-Anthony Towns‘ situation in Minnesota, but the Timberwolves have no interest in trading their star center, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in this week’s newsletter. Stein adds that team officials have told him repeatedly that they are building “everything” around Towns, and a trade is the last thing the organization is considering.

The Wolves have tumbled into 12th place in the West after a 10-8 start, and Towns’ injury is part of the reason for the slide. He is in the first season of a five-year, $190MM extension and there’s a new front office team in place run by Gersson Rosas, so there’s no hurry to make major changes.

Executives around the league expect Rosas to be active around the trade deadline, but that’s mostly because of his background with the traditionally aggressive Rockets. Stein notes that teams continue to express interest in acquiring swingman Robert Covington.

There’s more from Stein’s latest piece:

  • Stein has been skeptical that the Russell WestbrookJames Harden pairing could work, but states that the Rockets were forced to make a move because their relationship with Chris Paul was “irretrievably broken” after last season’s playoff ouster. Westbrook was one of the few available options whose contract matched up well with Paul’s.
  • Stein predicts the Pelicans will give serious consideration to keeping Zion Williamson sidelined for the entire season if he’s not healthy enough to return in January. There have been encouraging signs that he might be ready to suit up soon, and New Orleans would like to see how he fits alongside Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram before making long-term decisions on both players. However, Stein states that if Williamson goes another month without playing, the safest option may be to skip his entire first season and make sure he’s ready for training camp.
  • Among other 2020 predictions, Stein expects the PacersMalcolm Brogdon and the NetsSpencer Dinwiddie to be first-time All-Stars, the Bucks to fall short of 70 wins, the NBA Board of Governors to approve an in-season tournament as well as a play-in tourney for the final two playoff spots in each conference and Gregg Popovich to retire after coaching the U.S. Olympic team.

Pelicans Targeting January Return For Zion Williamson

The Pelicans are optimistic that Zion Williamson will be ready to make his NBA debut sometime in January, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link from Stadium). The No. 1 pick is due to start practicing shortly after the start of the new year.

The organization has been extremely careful with Williamson since the meniscus injury that required surgery in October. He was originally given a six- to eight-week prognosis to return, but the Pelicans have delayed that as they take precautions to minimize the risk of further injury.

Charania adds that there has been an “education process” for the team and for Williamson to get him physically  ready for the rigors of an NBA schedule. At 6’6″ and 285 pounds, he arrived in the league with a unique body type and Pelicans officials have been working to change his eating habits and the way he moves on the court.

Williamson could provide a huge boost to a New Orleans team that has edged its way back into the playoff race with four straight wins. Entering today, the Pelicans are still in 14th place, but are just 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Spurs.

Williamson looked like a potential star in the preseason, averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games while shooting 71.4% from the field.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southeast Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 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.

This is our third look this season at potential trade candidates in the Southeast, but it remains to be seen how the division’s five teams will approach the trade deadline.

The Heat are in position to buy, but can’t really take on any extra salary due to their hard cap. The Hawks and Wizards are lottery-bound, but might not have many valuable veteran trade chips to sell. The Magic and Hornets, meanwhile, are in a tight race for the No. 8 seed and could still go in either direction.

As we wait to see what the Southeast teams decide, here are three more possible trade candidates from out of the division:

Evan Fournier, G/F
Orlando Magic
$17.2MM cap hit; $17.2MM player option for 2020/21

Fournier has been a solid contributor in Orlando for years, but he has taken his game to the next level so far in 2019/20. His 19.5 PPG and .417 3PT% would be career highs, despite the fact that his MPG (30.9) are as low as they’ve been since 2014/15.

Fournier’s impressive production will create an interesting dilemma for the Magic. He’s the team’s most dynamic scorer, especially on the perimeter, and if he keeps playing this well, he’ll almost certainly opt out at season’s end for longer-term security. Will the Magic be willing to pay to keep him, like they did with Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross?

If the front office is at all uncertain about Fournier’s long-term future in Orlando – or is simply growing concerned about the team’s upside as currently constructed – it would make sense to see what sort of return he could bring back in a trade. While there’s no indication so far that the Magic are seriously considering that possibility yet, executives around the NBA reportedly believe there’s a chance Fournier will be moved this winter.

Justise Winslow, G/F
Miami Heat
$13MM cap hit; $13MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $13MM team option for 2021/22

The Heat like Winslow and won’t simply attach him to a trade offer this winter as a sweetener. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that he has only played in 10 games this season and Miami hasn’t missed a beat, posting an 18-5 record in the games he has missed.

If the Heat do want to try to add an impact player in a trade before this year’s deadline, Winslow is their most logical trade chip. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are too valuable to move, and the team-friendly contracts for Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson make them keepers too. Miami wouldn’t hesitate to offer a first-round pick for the right player, but due to previous deals, none of the club’s next five first-rounders are trade-eligible.

Winslow, who is still just 23 years old, is a rare asset. His upside gives him the sort of positive trade value that other high-priced veterans like Dion Waiters and James Johnson don’t have, and his $13MM cap hit makes him the sort of useful salary-matching piece that many contending teams lack.

The Heat would probably prefer to keep Winslow if they can, but if they want to upgrade their roster this winter, he might represent the key to doing so.

Marvin Williams, F
Charlotte Hornets
$15MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

A three-and-D veteran like Williams would be an ideal fit for a number of playoff-bound clubs, and a report earlier this month indicated that multiple teams were indeed keeping an eye on the Hornets’ forward.

While Williams’ playing time is down this year, he’s shooting as well as ever, with a career-best 58.3% on two-pointers to go along with 39.8% on three-pointers. And his expiring contract makes him a logical target for teams that prefer to keep future cap sheets clear.

There are just two obstacles standing in the way of a potential deal. For one, Williams’ $15MM cap charge may complicate matters — a non-taxpaying team would need $10MM in outgoing salary to match it, while a taxpaying team would have to send out even more. The second roadblock? The fact that Charlotte remains very much in the playoff hunt.

Despite their unimpressive 13-22 record, the Hornets are just two games out of the No. 8 seed in the East, so it’s a bit early to throw in the towel. I think the front office would still be open to moving Williams for the right offer even if the eighth seed is within reach, but a deal seems more likely if Charlotte slides further down the standings.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Tristan Thompson

The Cavaliers participated in the first trade of the 2019/20 NBA season when they sent Jordan Clarkson to Utah last week, and they likely aren’t done dealing. There’s a widespread belief that Cleveland is willing to sell off more veterans for draft picks and young assets, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who hears from sources that Tristan Thompson is drawing interest from playoff contenders around the NBA.

Thompson, 28, is having arguably his best season as a pro so far in 2019/20, with 12.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 BPG, and a .503 FG% through 31 games (31.4 MPG). He has also helped anchor the Cavs’ defense and has been a leader in the locker room.

While Thompson would certainly appeal to contenders, his $18.5MM+ expiring contract won’t necessarily be easy to move. Many clubs with title aspirations don’t have the contracts necessary to match that salary in a trade, which will limit Cleveland’s options.

While a deal remains possible, both the Cavaliers and Thompson are considering the possibility of continuing their relationship beyond this season. According to Fedor, Thompson said on Monday that it’d be “cool” to finish his career in Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Cavs have had internal conversations about re-signing the big man and would be open to an extension, sources tell Fedor. However, there’s a belief that agent Rich Paul would prefer to see his client reach free agency in 2020.

For now, Thompson is letting Paul and the Cavaliers handle any trade or contract talks while he focuses on what he control and attempts to block out the speculation.

“Take it one game at a time,” Thompson said. “Keep the main goal the main goal, which is to come out and compete with my guys and be ready to go to war.”

Community Shootaround: Top NBA Stories Of 2019

We’re on the verge of flipping the calendar to 2020, but before we close the book on 2019, we want to take a look back at The Year That Was in the NBA.

The league crowned a new champion in 2019, as the Raptors won their first title in their 24th year of existence. Toronto made a memorable run to that championship, knocking out the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with one of the most improbable buzzer-beaters in playoff history, then coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the Conference Finals vs. the Bucks before knocking off the defending-champion Warriors in the Finals.

Of course, the Warriors weren’t at full strength in those Finals. The respective Achilles and ACL tears suffered by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in that series not only paved the way for a Raptors’ victory — they also essentially ended Golden State’s dynasty. Six months later, Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are gone, Thompson and Stephen Curry are injured, and the Warriors are in the Western Conference basement.

While things took a turn for the Warriors this summer, it’s not as if their Finals opponents had a perfect offseason either. Kawhi Leonard became the first reigning NBA Finals MVP to leave his team in free agency, returning home to Los Angeles, where he and Paul George joined forces of members of the Clippers.

Leonard’s shocking free agent decision and the out-of-nowhere trade that sent George from the Thunder to the Clippers were among the highlights of one of the NBA’s most eventful offseasons ever. The summer also included Kyrie Irving and Durant teaming up for the Nets, as well as blockbuster trades sending Russell Westbrook to the Rockets and Anthony Davis to the Lakers. The AD trade was the culmination of a saga that began when Davis asked the Pelicans to trade him in January.

Although Davis eventually made his way to the Lakers, it happened after Magic Johnson had abruptly resigned from his position as the team’s president of basketball operations in the year’s most jarring impromptu press conferences. Not to be outdone, the Knicks held a surprise presser of their own several months later to announce, just 10 games into the 2019/20 season, that they weren’t happy with their team’s play. That James Dolan-mandated session may have been the beginning of the end for David Fizdale‘s tenure in New York.

A pair of the year’s biggest basketball stories originated in Asia. USA Basketball’s lengthy international winning streak was snapped at the 2019 World Cup in China, where Team USA had a disappointing showing and didn’t even make the medal round. Weeks later, Rockets GM Daryl Morey issued a brief tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors that kicked off an international firestorm between the NBA and China. That controversy has yet to be fully resolved and may have an impact on the league’s salary cap going forward.

While those were some of the top basketball stories of 2019, there are plenty of others worth mentioning. The league lost a pair of legends this spring when Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki officially retired. However, their longtime teams – the Heat and Mavericks – have been two of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises so far in 2019/20, led by Jimmy Butler and rising star Luka Doncic, whose emergence has been another one of the best stories of the year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s ascension and his MVP battle with James Harden has been an ongoing source of entertainment. The Celtics‘ disappointing and drama-filled 2018/19 showing was a source of fascination. And the NBA’s desire to make major changes to its schedule has been a source of debate among fans.

With the year about to come to a close, we want to hear about your favorite NBA stories of the last 12 months. What will you remember most about the NBA in 2019 when you look back on it years from now?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!

New York Notes: Randle, Knicks, LeVert, TLC

While the Knicks‘ front office has talked a lot about player development over the last year or two, that’s not what Julius Randle is prioritizing on the court, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News writes. Randle stressed this week that he won’t be satisfied with moral victories unless they come along with actual victories.

“Winning is all that mattered. It’s always mattered. Development or not — we didn’t come here to develop,” Randle said. “We want to bring the younger guys along and help them, but at the same time we want to win. That’s our expectation. That’s the only thing that matters. And from my end, that’s the only thing that matters.”

Despite the fact that the Knicks are looking to develop young players like RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox, Bondy suggests that Randle’s attitude should be welcomed, since the team’s locker room has too often “been a cheerful place following defeats.” And, of course, winning games and developing prospects don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Injured Nets guard Caris LeVert has one more hurdle to clear before he returns from thumb surgery, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who suggests that LeVert could be cleared to play if he participates in a full practice on Wednesday. Although LeVert has done some 5-on-5 work already, Brooklyn wants to make sure he gets a little more practice time in before he returns. “I personally don’t feel comfortable just rolling a guy out there without the proper build-up and game simulations,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think it’s important we want when guys step in the lineup that they’re ready to go.”
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, one of the Nets‘ two-way players, has become a regular contributor in recent weeks as a result of the team’s injuries woes. He may return to the G League when Brooklyn’s roster gets healthier, but Luwawu-Cabarrot’s solid play has given the team something to think about, says Net Income of NetsDaily.
  • In case you missed it on Monday, Jared Dudley shared one reason why Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan may have chosen the Nets over the Knicks in free agency this past summer.