Month: April 2024

Vaccination Status Could Affect Celtics, Sixers In Series With Raptors

All the Eastern Conference playoff matchups are still to be determined, but COVID-19 vaccinations could be a factor for whomever winds up facing the Raptors, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

On January 15, Canada implemented a rule barring unvaccinated players from entering the country. Among the top four teams in the East, the Heat and Bucks both confirmed to Bontemps that all their players have been vaccinated, but the Celtics and Sixers refused to comment.

Boston kept four players out of action Monday in its first game at Toronto since the new rule was implemented. It was the second night of a back-to-back, so their absence may not be related to their vaccination status.

Robert Williams suffered a meniscus tear in Sunday’s game that will require surgery, and Al Horford was unavailable both Sunday and Monday for personal reasons. Jayson Tatum missed the game with right patella tendinopathy, and Jaylen Brown was held out because of soreness in his right knee.

Sources told Bontemps that Williams has received the vaccine, but there’s less clarity on the other three Celtics. Tatum said on media day that he was vaccinated, but he defended people who chose not to be. Brown made a similar statement, saying the vaccine is a matter of choice.

Brown and Horford both spent time in health and safety protocols in October, Bontemps notes, and Horford re-entered the protocols in December.

The Sixers haven’t played in Toronto since late December, but they’ll be there on April 7, which should provide some clarity on who will be eligible.

Any players who want to get vaccinated in advance of an upcoming series are running out of time, Bontemps adds. To qualify as fully vaccinated in Canada, people must be two weeks beyond either a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second shot of the two-dose options. Games 3 and 4 of a playoff series are roughly three weeks away.

It’s also possible that the Raptors could host the Nets in the opener of the play-in tournament, which would affect Kyrie Irving, the league’s most noted non-vaccinated player. Irving was just cleared last week to begin playing home games, so he will be eligible at some point in the playoffs regardless of Brooklyn’s opponent.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southwest Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Southwest players.

Jalen Brunson, G, Mavericks

2021/22: Minimum salary
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

Brunson will never be considered the Mavericks’ best pick in the 2018 draft – that honor belongs to backcourt partner Luka Doncic – but he has become one of that draft’s best values. Selected 33rd overall, Brunson has gradually taken on a larger role in Dallas and is enjoying the best year of his career in 2021/22, averaging 16.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 3.8 RPG on .498/.368/.845 shooting in 73 games (32.0 MPG).

Brunson’s four-year, $6.1MM rookie contract was a great deal for the Mavs, but they’ll have to give him a massive raise if they want to keep him. Because he’s a second-rounder who signed for four years, the 25-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer rather than restricted. That should give him more leverage in contract negotiations, as should the interest he’s reportedly receiving from the Knicks and Pistons.

The rumored asking price for Brunson’s next deal is $80MM for four years, which seems within reach — other guards like Fred VanVleet, Lonzo Ball, and Malcolm Brogdon have signed similar contracts in recent years, and Brunson’s representatives can make a case that his résumé matches up favorably with what those players had accomplished when they finalized their respective deals.

Dennis Schröder, G, Rockets

2021/22: $5.89MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Schröder’s stock has yo-yo’d up and down drastically in the last two seasons. After famously turning down an extension offer worth a reported $80MM+ from the Lakers, Schröder settled for a one-year, $5.9MM deal with Boston in free agency. He outperformed that contract early in the season, prompting some discussion about how the Celtics – who would have only held his Non-Bird rights at season’s end – wouldn’t be able to afford to bring him back.

However, Schröder eventually fell back down to earth and became a trade chip for the C’s, who sent him to Houston. Initially viewed as a possible buyout candidate for the lottery-bound Rockets, the veteran guard earned some early praise for his impact on the team’s young guards. But Schröder’s overall numbers in 15 games in Houston, including a .393 FG% and a .328 3PT%, probably won’t convince offseason suitors that he deserves a raise on his 2022/23 salary.

Lonnie Walker, G/F, Spurs

2021/22: $4.45MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

After a promising 2020/21 campaign in which he averaged a career-high 11.2 PPG in 60 games (25.4 MPG), Walker got off to a dismal start this season, shooting just 38.5% from the field and 29.3% on threes through his first 51 games (22.5 MPG).

He has played far better since the trade deadline, putting up 18.7 PPG on .471/.388/.667 shooting in 13 appearances (27.2 MPG) before he went down with a back injury on March 18. Having rejuvenated his value as he nears free agency, Walker is set to return from that back issue on Wednesday.

The Spurs have been better with Walker off the court than on it, and his overall numbers this season still aren’t great, but he looks like a much safer bet to receive a $6.3MM qualifying offer (making him a restricted free agent) than he did two months ago.

Kyle Anderson, F, Grizzlies

2021/22: $9.94MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Anderson’s stock has dipped a little this year, but that’s in large part due to how good he was in 2020/21, when he posted a career-best 12.4 PPG and 3.6 APG and established himself as a legitimate three-point threat for the first time (36.0% on 3.8 attempts per game).

Those numbers are all down this year (7.4 PPG, 2.6 APG, .323 3PT%) as Anderson has moved to the bench and seen his minutes cut back. The Grizzlies’ overall success, including a 53-23 record, works in Anderson’s favor, but his +3.2 net rating is among the worst on the team.

While Anderson is still a versatile defender who provides some value on the wing, teams interested in him this summer will probably view last season’s increased offensive output as an aberration rather than a sign of things to come on that end of the floor.

Tony Snell, G/F, Pelicans

2021/22: Minimum salary
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

The only player on the Pelicans’ 15-man roster who doesn’t have a contract for next season, Snell was a throw-in the CJ McCollum trade last month. He had a few solid games after arriving in New Orleans, but has since fallen out of the rotation and probably isn’t part of the team’s plans beyond this season.

Snell signed a minimum-salary contract last summer with Portland following a season in which he made 56.9% of his three-point attempts. With that number down to 35.3% in 2021/22, another minimum-salary deal is probably a best-case scenario for him this offseason.

Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley Declares For NBA Draft

Notre Dame guard Blake Wesley won’t return to the Fighting Irish next season, telling Jonathan Givony of ESPN that he plans to enter the 2022 NBA draft and go pro.

A freshman in 2021/22, Wesley was named to the All-ACC Second Team after averaging 14.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 1.3 SPG on .404/.303/.657 shooting in 35 games (29.3 MPG).

Wesley, who just turned 19 earlier this month, intrigues NBA teams due to his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, his finishing ability, his length, and his NBA-ready body, according to Givony, who has the 6’5″ guard ranked 20th overall on ESPN’s big board.

Wesley’s shooting percentages as a freshman weren’t especially impressive, but he could boost his stock if he shoots well in pre-draft workouts, Givony notes.

“I’m a tireless worker,” Wesley told ESPN. “I rise to the occasion. Having such a veteran team alongside me was really helpful. We exceeded everyone’s expectations. I’m a 6’5” point guard and there’s no else in the NBA draft like me. People tell me I play like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I study him a lot. I don’t know that people realize how well I can shoot the ball.”

In other early entrant news, Wake Forest senior forward/center Dallas Walton will test the draft waters, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). DePaul senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty is also putting his name in the 2022 draft pool, he announced today (via Twitter).

Evan Mobley Out At Least Three Games

Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the team’s win over Orlando on Monday, will miss at least three games, according to a press release.

Mobley has been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest against Dallas and won’t accompany the club on its road trip to Atlanta (Thursday) and New York (Sunday), per the Cavs.

Having received an MRI to confirm the injury, Mobley will undergo a period of treatment and rehab, with his timeline updated when appropriate, the team said in today’s announcement.

The Cavs have had to deal with bad injury luck all season and will now be missing their two defensive anchors – Mobley and Jarrett Allen (broken finger) – for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is also playing without Dean Wade (knee) and Collin Sexton (knee), who are both out for the rest of the season.

Mobley’s absence will have an impact on both the Cavs’ push for a top-six seed in the East and on his own candidacy for Rookie of The Year. Currently, Cleveland is the No. 7 team in the conference, one game back of the Raptors for No. 6, while Mobley is vying with Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham for Rookie of the Year honors.

With Mobley unavailable, the Cavs figure to learn more on Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love in the frontcourt, with Moses Brown and Ed Davis both candidates to pick up some minutes at the five.

Pistons’ Chris Smith Undergoes ACL Surgery

Pistons forward Chris Smith has undergone an ACL reconstruction procedure on his left knee, the team announced today (via Twitter). The surgery was completed in Chicago on Tuesday.

According to the Pistons (via Twitter), Smith’s left knee injury occurred during a March 8 game in the G League, when the rookie was playing for the Motor City Cruise. Smith will begin rehab immediately and will be out indefinitely, the club added.

Smith’s NBA debut was delayed this season because he was returning from a torn left ACL. The fact that he suffered another ACL injury in the same knee before getting a chance to suit up for Detroit is an unfortunate turn of events for both the player and the team.

Smith, who went undrafted out of UCLA in 2021, signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Pistons last August. He appeared in 18 games with the Cruise, but didn’t seem all the way back to his old self following the ACL tear, averaging 8.7 PPG and 5.3 RPG with a subpar .354/.258/.727 shooting line in 22.5 minutes per contest.

Although he remains under contract for 2022/23, Smith isn’t a lock to remain on Detroit’s roster through the offseason — the team could waive him to open up a two-way slot. Even in that scenario, I imagine the Pistons would make certain resources available to him for as long as he’s rehabbing the knee rather than simply cutting him loose.

Southwest Notes: Wood, Gordon, Schröder, Grizzlies, Mavs

Rockets veterans Christian Wood (left hamstring tightness), Eric Gordon (right groin soreness), and Dennis Schröder (left shoulder soreness) were held out of Monday’s game vs. San Antonio and seem unlikely to play any more this season, says Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

As Feigen outlines, none of those injuries are invented, but it’s probably safe to assume Wood, Gordon, and Schröder wouldn’t all be sidelined by “tightness” and “soreness” if the Rockets were in the midst of a playoff race. Instead, the team is invested in securing a top spot in the draft lottery — currently, Houston is in a three-way tie for the NBA’s worst record (20-56).

With Wood, Gordon, and Schröder out, prospects like Daishen Nix and Usman Garuba will likely see more action down the stretch for the Rockets, joining fellow rookies Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, and Josh Christopher in the regular rotation, Feigen writes. Nix and Garuba each played 14 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Spurs.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • In addition to having the NBA’s second-best record this season, the Grizzlies are the “sleeping giant” of the 2022 offseason, according to Danny Leroux of The Athletic. As Leroux lays out, Memphis has some cap flexibility and a handful of draft picks available this summer and should be motivated to add talent before Ja Morant transitions from his rookie contract to a more expensive second contract in 2023.
  • The Mavericks strongly considered signing free agent guard Quinn Cook to a 10-day hardship contract earlier in the season, but ultimately chose Isaiah Thomas in part due to proximity, writes Marc Stein at his Substack. Cook, who is currently playing for the Stockton Kings in the G League, said in a tweet over the weekend that he was at “rock bottom” earlier this year and would be thrilled to get an NBA call-up before the season is over.
  • The Mavericks hired Jason Kidd as their head coach in part because of the impact the Hall-of-Fame point guard could have on Luka Doncic, and so far it seems that bet is paying off, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “He’s been great for us,” Doncic said of Kidd. “He communicates with the players. He’s just been great, helping not just me but everybody, just to see a better picture.”

Trail Blazers Sign Reggie Perry To 10-Day Deal

MARCH 30: Perry’s 10-day contract is now official, the Blazers announced in a press release. It’ll run through April 8, covering six of Portland’s final seven games.

MARCH 28: The Trail Blazers are signing forward Reggie Perry to a 10-day contract under the injury hardship exception, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. He’ll be the third Blazer on a 10-day hardship deal, joining Drew Eubanks and Kris Dunn.

Perry played two games with Portland earlier this season under the 10-day hardship exception during the league’s COVID outbreak. He had a similar stint with the Pacers in February under the same provision.

The 57th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Perry spent his rookie year in ’20/21 on a two-way contract with the Nets, averaging 3.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 26 games (8.1 MPG) at the NBA level and putting up 18.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG in 15 games (28.8 MPG) for the Long Island Nets in the G League.

Perry signed with the Raptors for training camp this fall, then joined Toronto’s G League affiliate after failing to secure a spot on the regular season roster. He has averaged 20.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG in 22 games with the Raptors’ G League team this season.

Portland has been wracked by injuries. The Trail Blazers confirmed today in a press release that center Jusuf Nurkic and guards Anfernee Simons and Eric Bledsoe won’t return this season.

David Roddy, Jake LaRavia, Others Declaring For NBA Draft

Colorado State junior David Roddy will test the NBA draft waters this spring, retaining the option to return to school, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Roddy, who is the No. 31 prospect on ESPN’s big board, was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year this season after averaging 19.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG with a .571/.438/.691 shooting line in 31 games (32.9 MPG). The 6’6″, 260-pound forward helped lead Colorado State to its first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years.

“I am looking forward to showing NBA teams that I can thrive in any situation,” Roddy told ESPN. “Whether the pace is slow or fast, free flowing or stagnant, there are so many facets and intricacies that I have learned over time that will help me be one of the best and most important players on the court. But mostly I am just excited to chase a childhood dream and make it a reality.”

Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia is also entering the 2022 NBA draft while maintaining his college eligibility, he announced on Tuesday night (via Twitter).

After transferring from Indiana State to Wake Forest, LaRavia was a full-time starter for the Demon Deacons as a junior in 2021/22, averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.7 SPG on .559/.384/.777 shooting in 33 games (34.2 MPG).

According to Mike Schmitz of ESPN, LaRavia doesn’t project to be a “true defensive stopper,” but he players hard and has good instincts and should be able to defend multiple positions at the next level. He’s currently the No. 40 prospect on ESPN’s board.

Here are some of the other players who are putting their names in the 2022 draft pool:

Expected to forgo remaining NCAA eligibility and stay in the draft:

Testing the draft waters:

Our running list of early entrants for this year’s draft can be found right here.

Baylor’s Kendall Brown Enters 2022 NBA Draft

Baylor freshman forward Kendall Brown is entering the 2022 NBA draft, he tells Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (video link).

Brown doesn’t explicitly state whether he intends to forgo his remaining NCAA eligibility or simply test the draft waters, but his comments over the course of the four-minute interview with Charania strongly suggest he’s planning to go pro.

Brown, who started all 34 games he played for Bears in 2021/22, averaged 9.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.9 APG on .584/.341/.689 shooting in 27.0 minutes per contest.

As ESPN’s Jonathan Givony notes in his assessment of Brown, the youngster has a raw offensive skill set and was plagued by defensive lapses as a freshman, but his physical profile, explosiveness, and long-term upside will intrigue NBA teams.

ESPN ranks Brown as the No. 25 prospect on its big board, while Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) believes the 18-year-old should be a lottery pick.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Quickley, Curry, Brooks, Celtics

Some people around the league have likened Julius Randle‘s recent behavior and body language to the way James Harden was acting during his final weeks in Brooklyn, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Harden’s discontent ultimately led to a trade request, which the Nets granted, and multiple sources have speculated the Knicks could take a similar path with Randle this offseason, possibly in a deal for a center, says Berman.

One person connected to the Knicks recently described Randle’s behavior this season as “incorrigible,” according to Berman, who hears from a source that the veteran forward sometimes dresses by himself in another area of the locker room. Sources believe a lack of leadership from Randle has hurt the team this season, Berman adds.

Randle also lost a strong ally in the organization this month when assistant coach Kenny Payne left the Knicks to take a job as Louisville’s head coach, as Berman observes.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After a slow start this season, Immanuel Quickley is showing the potential to be a solid point guard at the NBA level, Berman writes in a separate New York Post story. “I come in with an open mindset to get better,” the Knicks guard said. “Guys around me are helping me and so are the coaches. It’s a great system we got.”
  • Nets guard Seth Curry expects to have to play through left ankle pain for the rest of the season, but doesn’t believe he’ll need to undergo surgery to address the issue in the offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “(The ankle) just (needs) more of an extended amount of rest period. Probably a month or so just rest,” Curry said. “But obviously not going to get that now.”
  • Josh Lewenberg of takes a look at how Armoni Brooks earned a two-year contract from the Raptors and the role he has taken on since arriving in Toronto. “I’m excited because I know the team has a really good development staff,” Brooks said. “I’m excited to be with the team, work out and get better everyday, just embrace the grind. Hopefully we get some good results and we can keep this going.”
  • Breaking down some film, Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores how the Celtics‘ defense can survive and adapt in the coming weeks without injured big man Robert Williams available.