Month: April 2021

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, White, Silas, Doncic

With the starting Pelicans backcourt tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball struggling to score, William Guillory of The Athletic suggests that swapping in sharpshooter J.J. Redick for Bledsoe could help unlock the club’s offense.

Redick could benefit by playing alongside new starting center Steven Adams, the best screener on the New Orleans roster. With Redick starting, All-Star small forward Brandon Ingram could become the club’s primary ball handler.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • Newly-extended Spurs guard Derrick White has been activated by San Antonio, and thus will be available for the first time since his August surgery on the second toe of his left foot, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. The Spurs host the Lakers tomorrow night.
  • New Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is continuing to work Houston’s newly-available players into his game planning as they come back from COVID-19 health protocols, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic is hoping to get out of a bumpy offensive start to his third NBA season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. He had one of worst scoring performances as a pro on Wednesday, scoring just 12 points against the Hornets in a 118-99 loss. “Obviously I’ve got to do way better,” Doncic said. “I can still prove so much, so I’ve got to work on those shots every day and if you work on it, they’re going to fall in eventually, so that’s my point of view.” Doncic has gone cold from long distance this season, connecting on just 9.5% of his 5.3 three-point attempts a night.

Central Notes: Grant, Simon, McGee, Bucks

After signing a $60MM deal with the rebuilding Pistons this offseason, forward Jerami Grant is getting the increased offensive role he was hoping for when he left the championship-contending Nuggets, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s definitely a bigger role for me, that’s one of the reasons why I came here,” Grant said. Through his first four games for the Motor City, all losses, the versatile wing is tops among the Pistons in minutes played (149), three-point attempts (30), and free-throw attempts (21), as well as shot attempts and makes (66 and 31). He is also averaging a career-high 37.3 MPG.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:

  • After 79-year-old Pacers executive Donnie Walsh announced he would be vacating his position as team consultant, team owner Herb Simon released a statement praising the longtime Indiana staffer. “Over my thirty-year relationship with Donnie, I have been amazed to watch him help lead this organization to what it has become,” Simon said in part.
  • New veteran Cavaliers reserve center JaVale McGee adds championship pedigree in Cleveland, writes Joe Gabriele of Cavaliers.com“I didn’t realize how good of a passer he was, I didn’t realize the touch he has around the rim with the little floaters and the hooks,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff commented. “I think he’s definitely been a pleasant surprise all the way around.” The 7’1″ big man is averaging 10.5 PPG on 63% shooting from the field during the club’s 3-1 start this season.
  • The Bucks are striving to develop consistency after an offseason roster overhaul, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN. The club is currently off to a bumpy 2-3 to start their 2020/21 season. “I can speak for my team and for myself: I really feel like us having this different variety of teams and games really helps us,” new starting point guard Jrue Holiday said. “Even just having a back-to-back in a playoff-type atmosphere, early, is very, very good for us.”

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Green, Rivers, Celtics

The Raptors will sit healthy forward Pascal Siakam tonight against the Knicks in favor of Norman Powell to penalize the All-Star, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. After Siakam fouled out with less than a minute left in Toronto’s 100-93  loss to the Sixers Tuesday, he headed to the locker room early.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets that this penalty seems harsh and speculates that there may be hidden depths to the Raptors’ motivation for a healthy scratch.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics have tweeted that second-year reserve shooting guard Javonte Green missed yesterday’s game against the Grizzlies due to the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
  • Knicks off-guard Austin Rivers is set to make his debut for New York tonight against the Raptors after recovering from a groin injury, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. Berman notes that Rivers said he has yet to even partake in five-on-five practices with the Knicks yet. The Knicks may have pressed him into service due to the injuries of Dennis Smith Jr. and Immanuel Quickley.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe lists 21 intriguing items that Celtics fans can be on the lookout for in the new calendar year, including the on-court return of point guard Kemba Walker and potential trade deadline roster moves.

Marquese Chriss Out For Season With Broken Leg

DECEMBER 31: Chriss underwent a successful surgery today to address his broken right fibula, the Warriors announced in a press release (Twitter link).


DECEMBER 27: Warriors center Marquese Chriss will miss the rest of the season after breaking his right fibula, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Warriors announced in a press release (Twitter link) that the official diagnosis for Chriss, whose injury occurred during a practice in Chicago, is a right syndesmosis ankle injury with a fibular fracture. The reserve big man will have surgery to address the injury this week.

Chriss played in the team’s first two games, averaging 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes. He was a part-time starter last year, but rookie James Wiseman has taken over as Golden State’s starting center.

The 23-year-old will receive his full salary of $1,824,003 and will be a free agent after the end of this season.

Chriss is in his second season with the Warriors after appearing in 59 games last year. A lottery pick in 2016, he was able to revive his career with Golden State after brief stays with the Rockets and Cavaliers during the 2018/19 season.

T.J. Warren Out Indefinitely With Left Foot Stress Fracture

Starting Pacers small forward T.J. Warren has incurred a small navicular left foot stress fracture and will need surgery to address it, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There is no timetable for his return to the hardwood, but Warren is expected to miss a decent portion of the 2020/21 season, says Wojnarowski.

New Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren could look to compensate for Warren’s loss by giving additional minutes to Justin HolidayDoug McDermott and Kelan Martin at the wing.

This season, Warren was looking to build on a scorching run he enjoyed in the Orlando 2019/20 season restart, averaging almost 27 PPG in six games. He was Indiana’s fourth-leading scorer during the young ’20/21 season, averaging 15.5 PPG (on 52.9% shooting from the floor) and 3.5 RPG across Indiana’s first four games. The Pacers were 3-1 in those contests.

Wojnarowski notes that the 6’8″ forward out of North Carolina State underwent a similar surgery on his right foot while with the Suns in 2016. Bobby Marks of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that Warren has thus far missed 119 of a possible 569 regular season games since being drafted with the No. 14 pick by Phoenix in 2014.

Warren, 27, has two years and $23.9MM remaining on his current contract with Indiana.

Torrey Craig Undergoes Nasal Surgery

After fracturing his nose in a 130-110 loss against the Knicks on Sunday, Bucks swingman Torrey Craig went under the knife this week, undergoing surgery to repair the break, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Woj adds that the Bucks anticipate Craig will be able return to contact practices in two weeks.

Having spent his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, the 6’7″ Craig signed a one-year, $1.6MM veteran’s minimum deal with Milwaukee during the offseason.

Craig was added to the Bucks primarily to supply defensive wing depth and pull down offensive rebounds. He is not much of a scorer, holding a career average of 5.2 PPG on .451/.320/.660 shooting in 18.5 MPG.

The 30-year-old out of the University of South Carolina Upstate is averaging 6.5 MPG for the Bucks thus far this year.

How Teams Are Using 2020/21 Bi-Annual Exceptions

The bi-annual exception is one of the tools available to NBA teams who are over the cap, giving those clubs the flexibility to offer free agents more than the minimum salary. In 2020/21, the bi-annual exception is worth $3,623,000, and can be used to offer a deal worth up to about $7,427,150 over two years.

However, the bi-annual exception isn’t available to every team. Clubs that go below the cap in order to use cap room lose access to the exception. Additionally, using the BAE imposes a hard cap of $138,928,000 (the tax apron) on a club. So if a team has surpassed the tax apron – or wants to retain the flexibility to do so – that team can’t use the bi-annual exception.

Finally, as its name suggests, the bi-annual exception can’t be used by a team in consecutive years. In 2019/20, four teams used the BAE — the Mavericks (Boban Marjanovic), Pistons (Markieff Morris), Grizzlies (Marko Guduric), and Raptors (Stanley Johnson) As such, the exception isn’t available to those clubs during the 2020/21 league year. They’ll be able to use it again next summer.

With all those factors in mind, here’s a breakdown of how teams are using – or not using – their respective bi-annual exceptions in 2020/21:

Available Bi-Annual Exceptions:

Unused:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Houston Rockets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Miami Heat
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

Although all of these teams technically have the ability to use their bi-annual exceptions at some point in 2020/21, it’s more realistic for some than others. For instance, the Rockets are right up against a hard cap and still have nearly $7MM of their mid-level exception available, so there’s virtually no chance they’ll be using the BAE this season, even if they shed a little salary.

Used:

So far, the Nuggets, Lakers, and Bucks are the only teams that won’t have the bi-annual exception available to them during the 2021/22 league year after using it this season.

Unavailable Bi-Annual Exceptions:

Went under cap:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • New York Knicks

These three teams forfeited their right to the bi-annual exception when they went under the cap and used space this offseason.

Over tax apron:

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Philadelphia 76ers

In theory, major cost-cutting moves by the Nets, Warriors, and Sixers could put them in position to use their bi-annual exceptions. In actuality though, that possibility is remote.

Used last year:

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Toronto Raptors

As noted in the intro, these are the four teams that used their bi-annual exceptions in 2019/20 and won’t have them again until 2021/22 as a result.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Kris Dunn To Be Re-Evaluated In Two Weeks After Ankle Procedure

DECEMBER 31: Dunn underwent his arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle on Tuesday, and will be in a walking boot for the time being, the Hawks announced today in a press release. According to the team, he’ll be re-evaluated after resting for the next two weeks.


DECEMBER 27: New Hawks reserve guard Kris Dunn will have arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle to remove loose cartilage on December 30, according to a team press release.

The Hawks announced that Dunn had been partaking in “modified” individual and team practices after a November MRI revealed right knee cartilage disruption.

He had initially been sidelined as a Bull with an MCL sprain suffered against the Nets on January 31. In 51 games last season for Chicago (including 32 starts), Dunn averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 2.0 SPG.

Apparently, as his knee recovered, Dunn struggled with pain in his low back and right ankle. A subsequent MRI this month indicated that he was compensating for loose cartilage limiting his range of motion in the right ankle.

A recovery timeline for the defensive-oriented backup guard, who joined the Hawks this offseason on a two-year, $10MM deal, will be determined after the surgery.

This is not an insignificant blow for Atlanta, as the 26-year-old Dunn was projected to be a major defensive contributor to a very offensively-oriented club. The versatile 6’3″ Dunn can capably defend point guards and wings.

Dunn’s absence continued will continue to open up additional rotation minutes for reserve wings Cam Reddish and Tony Snell, and should yield more time for 34-year-old veteran point guard Rajon Rondo when he is able to suit up for the Hawks.

Four Bulls Players Out Due To COVID-19 Protocols

The Bulls will be without Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono, Tomas Satoransky, and Chandler Hutchison on Thursday evening vs. the Wizards due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, head coach Billy Donovan said today (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago).

Those health and safety protocols are related to COVID-19, but neither teams nor the league have been providing many details on specific players’ absences. It’s possible one or more of the affected Bulls players had a positive or inconclusive coronavirus test result. They may also be tied up in the NBA’s contact tracing program.

Donovan told reporters – including Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic (Twitter link) – that he’s unsure how long Markkanen, Arcidiacono, Satoransky, and Hutchison will be unavailable. He’s also not even certain whether or not those four players will be permitted to travel out of D.C. with the rest of the team after tonight’s game (Twitter link via Johnson).

While the Bulls wait for clarity on a potential timeline for their missing players, they’ll have to figure out a new-look lineup and rotation tonight vs. Washington and presumably on Friday vs. Milwaukee as well. Markkanen had started at power forward in each of Chicago’s first four games, while the other three players logged between 28 and 68 total minutes in those contests.

And-Ones: Giannis, Lillard, 2021 FAs, 2022 Draft

During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).

The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.

Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.

“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”

In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.