A.J. Lawson

Hawks Sign A.J. Lawson To Camp Deal

The Hawks have signed rookie free agent A.J. Lawson to a one-year contract, according to RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions. While terms of the deal aren’t known, it figures to be a non-guaranteed camp deal that includes Exhibit 10 language.

Lawson, who went undrafted on July 29, put up 16.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG with a .351 3PT% in 21 games (31.3 MPG) as a junior for South Carolina in 2020/21. The 6’6″ shooting guard earned a spot on the All-SEC Second Team.

Shortly after the draft, Lawson reportedly reached an agreement to sign with the Heat, then joined the team for Summer League play. However, he left Miami’s Summer League club in Las Vegas in order to join the Hawks’ SL squad, which was a pretty clear indication that he no longer intended to attend training camp with the Heat. Instead, it appears he’ll do so with Atlanta.

With the signing, the Hawks now have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, two on Exhibit 10 deals (Lawson and Johnny Hamilton) and one on a two-way pact (Sharife Cooper). Atlanta also has a two-way qualifying offer out to Skylar Mays and reportedly intends to sign undrafted rookie Ibi Watson to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Oubre, Dinwiddie, Lawson, Heat

In the weeks leading up to free agency, the Hornets were said to be looking to add multiple centers to their roster and were linked to top free agents like Richaun Holmes and Nerlens Noel in addition to intriguing trade candidates like Myles Turner.

The Hornets ultimately took a quieter approach to addressing the center position, accommodating a salary-dump deal for Mason Plumlee and selecting Kai Jones with the 19th pick in the draft. As Steve Reed of The Associated Press writes, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak‘ comments to reporters on Tuesday suggested that Plumlee will probably be the starter in 2021/22 but isn’t necessarily a long-term solution.

“Our thought process was to get somebody that’s a veteran under a reasonable contract and also give these young guys a chance to grow a little bit, and maybe a year from now they’re going to be the guys that maybe we should’ve pursued this year in free agency,” Kupchak said.

As Reed notes, besides Jones, the Hornets also have young bigs like Vernon Carey and Nick Richards on the roster, so the team will be focused on developing all of them this season. In the interim, Charlotte was happy to play it safe by acquiring Plumlee rather than trying to make a big splash in free agency.

“Going into free agency, there are 30 teams and there were a couple of centers available, but you don’t know where you rank,” Kupchak said. “You don’t know what the marketplace is going to be like once free agency begins, so there’s a lot of uncertainty going in. … We felt we got somebody (Plumlee) with two years remaining who’s a proven veteran on a good financial contract.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • New Hornets forward Kelly Oubre said the team’s “youth” and “energy” drew him to Charlotte, as Rod Boone of SI.com relays. “We played against them last year on three different occasions and the way they played — the young guys, the athletic ability, the speed they play with, the way they share the basketball and shoot the basketball and then how they defend — it was fun,” Oubre said. “I’m telling you, even playing against them, it was fun to watch them play against other teams, scouting against them.”
  • Newly-signed Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie tells Fred Katz of The Athletic that it was excruciating waiting to see whether Washington’s sign-and-trade deal for him – which turned into a five-team trade – would ultimately come together. “They were terrible,” Dinwiddie said of the 48 hours he spent waiting. “They were terrible, because you gotta remember, this wasn’t just, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Wizards and we’re just figuring out the dollars. Is it 58 (million)? Is it 59? Is it 60?’ That wasn’t it. You had to get all these parties to agree, and if any of the parties say no, then the whole trade falls through. … I wasn’t just even relying on Brooklyn and the Wizards to negotiate. I was relying on five, six teams.”
  • Undrafted rookie guard A.J. Lawson has left the Heat‘s Summer League team to join the Hawks‘ SL roster, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. A report on draft night suggested that Lawson was expected to attend training camp with the Heat, but that no longer seems likely.

Eastern Notes: Bucks, Pacers, Butler, Heat

The two second-round picks the Bucks sent to the Grizzlies in the Grayson Allen trade were the 2024 and 2026 selections Milwaukee had just acquired from Indiana in a trade for the No. 31 pick, according to RealGM.

In the deal with Indiana, Milwaukee gave up the No. 31 selection in exchange for this year’s Nos. 54 and 60 selections along with those two future second-rounders. The team subsequently flipped the second-rounders to Memphis along with Sam Merrill for Allen.

The upshot is that the Bucks gave up Merrill and the No. 31 pick (Isaiah Todd) in exchange for Allen, the No. 54 pick (Sandro Mamukelashvili), and the No. 60 pick (Georgios Kalaitzakis).

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Pacers officially announced a pair of additions to Rick Carlisle‘s staff, stating in a press release that Jannero Pargo has been hired as a player development assistant and Zach Chu has come aboard as the team’s manager of game strategy and analytics. Pargo spent the last two seasons with Portland, while Chu worked under Carlisle in Dallas.
  • Jimmy Butler‘s new maximum-salary extension with the Heat will actually be a three-year deal that begins in 2023/24, meaning it’s being tacked onto his 2022/23 player option, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video). Butler’s salary in ’23/24 will likely be 35% of that year’s cap, so the exact value of his extension isn’t yet known.
  • The Heat are taking their usual approach to their two-way contract slots, not filling them right away and instead auditioning several players for those openings. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes, the next week at the Las Vegas Summer League could go a long way toward determining which players have the leg up for those spots. Javonte Smart, A.J. Lawson, RJ Nembhard, Micah Potter, and Marcus Garrett are expected to be in the mix.

Heat To Sign Four Undrafted Free Agents

The Heat have agreed to sign undrafted rookies Javonte Smart, A.J. Lawson, and RJ Nembhard, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (all Twitter links). Miami is also signing undrafted free agent Micah Potter, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

While Scotto specifies that Potter will receive an Exhibit 10 contract, Wojnarowski’s reports simply state that the Heat have agreed to “deals” with Smart, Lawson, and Nembhard. We’re assuming those are more than Summer League agreements, and Exhibit 10 pacts seem most likely.

Last offseason, Miami signed several young players to Exhibit 10 contracts and had them compete for two-way slots in training camp — that could be the plan again.

Smart, who declared for the draft following his junior year, averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.7 RPG for LSU in 2020/21. The 6’4″ guard posted an impressive shooting line of .460/.402/.857 in 28 games (35.6 MPG), earning All-SEC Second Team honors.

Lawson, the 18th-ranked player on ESPN’s list of undrafted prospects, put up 16.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG with a .351 3PT% in 21 games (31.3 MPG) as a junior for South Carolina this past season. The 6’6″ shooting guard joined Smart on the All-SEC Second Team.

Nembhard was a redshirt junior for TCU in 2020/21 and averaged 15.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.0 APG in 24 games (34.9 MPG). The 6’5″ guard boosted his three-point percentage to 33.9% and made the All-Big 12 Third Team.

Finally, Potter is the only non-guard of the group, standing at 6’10” and playing power forward and center. In his two years with the Badgers, he averaged 11.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG, showing off an impressive three-point stroke (40.8%) in 52 games (20.3 MPG).

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Grimes, OKC, Moody, Wolves, Nuggets

The Jazz are hosting a pre-draft workout on Thursday that will includes Houston’s Quentin Grimes, Providence’s David Duke, and San Diego State’s Matt Mitchell, sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic.

Jones categorizes it as an important session for the Jazz, who like Grimes as a potential target at No. 30 and want to get a closer look at Mitchell, who has worked out for more than 10 teams and is considered a draft riser.

Sources tell Jones that other prospects the Jazz are eyeing as possibilities at No. 30 include Nah’Shon Hyland, Ayo Dosunmu, Miles McBride, Herb Jones, Joel Ayayi from Gonzaga, Joshua Primo, and Jared Butler.

  • Arkansas wing Moses Moody visited the Thunder in Oklahoma City earlier this week, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee tweets. Moody is the 16th-ranked prospect on ESPN’s big board, so he could play be in play for OKC at No. 16 or 18 next Thursday.
  • Now that Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore have formally been approved as minority stakeholders in the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic examines the challenges facing A-Rod and Lore, who will assume majority control of the franchise by 2023. As Krawczynski observes, there are similarities between the Wolves’ current situation and the one that Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan inherited in 2014 when they bought the Bucks, though it’s probably unrealistic to expect the next seven years in Minnesota to play out like the last seven in Milwaukee.
  • The Nuggets put forth a “full, all-hands-on-deck organizational effort” to ensure longtime assistant Wes Unseld Jr. got a head coaching job, Denver’s president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told Fred Katz of The Athletic. Connelly said he informed the Wizards that Unseld “is one of the brightest minds I’ve ever been around.”
  • South Carolina wing A.J. Lawson worked out today for the Nuggets, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link).

Raptors Notes: Lowry, S. Adams, Draft Options, Lawson

Kyle Lowry‘s free agency decision will probably determine whether the Raptors operate above or below the salary cap in free agency, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Demand is expected to be high for the 35-year-old point guard, with the Sixers and Heat among the contending teams likely to make offers.

If Lowry opts to stay in Toronto, where he has been for the past nine seasons, the team won’t have to be concerned with creating cap space. Murphy notes that the Raptors already have about $78MM committed to five players for next season, along with $32.18MM for seven non-guaranteed contracts and $66.3MM in cap holds. With a projected salary cap of $112.41MM, any new deal for Lowry would virtually ensure that the Raptors operate over the cap.

If he opts to go elsewhere, Toronto would be faced with the choice of taking the open cap room or trying to work out a sign-and-trade. Murphy points out that the Raptors can get to nearly $28MM by waiving and renouncing everyone without guaranteed money, which would be almost enough for a max offer for a player who has been in the league less than seven years. A sign-and-trade would likely make operating above the cap a better option, Murphy adds, but it would depend on how much salary the Raptors are willing to take back in return.

There’s more from Toronto:

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Pacers Workouts

After the Bulls mortgaged their long-term future to nab 2021 All-Star center Nikola Vučević in a deadline deal with the Magic, they still missed out on a play-in tournament appearance. The club is understandably anticipated to be seeking roster upgrades this summer, especially at the point guard position, writes Matt Moore of the Action Network.

Moore suggests that free agent point guards Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schröder, Lonzo Ball, and Spencer Dinwiddie are among Chicago’s preferred targets. Given the ages of the Bulls’ two best players – 30-year-old Vučević and 25-year-old All-Star Zach LaVine – 35-year-old veteran Lowry may not be a long-term fit, but would certainly raise the team’s floor for the 2021/22 season.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pistons will get to choose from a handful of highly-touted NBA prospects with the top selection of the 2021 draft. Where Detroit opts to go in the second round of the draft is less clear. In a new piece, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines several possible draft-and-stash prospects the Pistons could pursue in the second round. Detroit has the Nos. 37, 42 and 52 picks in the second round. Edwards examines the fits of several draft candidates, including Zalgiris Kaunas guard Rokas Jokubaitis, Minas wing Guilherme Santos, Paris Basketball guard Juhann Begarin, and Antwerp Giants forward Vrenz Bleijenbergh.
  • Among 2020/21 season holdovers, the Pistons will face some interesting roster decisions in the summer, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois notes that restricted free agents Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson, forward Josh Jackson, deep-bench center Jahlil Okafor, 2019 draft selections Sekou Doumbouya and Deividas Sirvydis, and guard Tyler Cook all could move on during the offseason.
  • The Pacers are set to hold their sixth round of pre-draft workouts Tuesday, per a team press release. The club possesses the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft, as well as the No. 54 and No. 60 picks in the second round. Indiana will work out Kansas guard Marcus Garrett, South Carolina guard A.J. Lawson, Alabama guard John Petty Jr., Tennessee forward Yves Pons, Mississippi State guard D.J. Stewart Jr., and Clemson forward Aamir Simms.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Hunt, Hornets, Herro

Having concluded their first round of head coaching interviews, the Wizards are conducting follow-up meetings this week. According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), the team’s second interview with Wes Unseld Jr. was scheduled to take place today, while Jamahl Mosley is on tap for Friday.

A pair of Milwaukee assistants – Charles Lee and Darvin Ham – were also identified as finalists for the Wizards’ head coaching job. It’s unclear whether they’ve already met a second time with Washington or if those meetings are still to come. Both Lee and Ham, of course, remain active in the NBA Finals, which presumably complicates the scheduling of interviews.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Melvin Hunt, who was the Hawks‘ lead assistant under Lloyd Pierce, won’t return to Atlanta next season as part of Nate McMillan‘s staff, according to a report from Chris Kirschner and David Aldridge of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Hornets brought in D.J. Funderburk, Justin Gorham, A.J. Lawson, Alonzo Verge Jr., Duane Washington Jr., and Bryce Wills for pre-draft workouts on Wednesday, according to the team (Twitter link).
  • Heat guard Tyler Herro views this summer as a prime opportunity to continue growing his game and to develop a stronger relationship with head coach Erik Spoelstra, as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald details. Herro’s first NBA offseason following his rookie season a year ago lasted just over two months, as the Heat faced a quick turnaround following their trip to the NBA Finals.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic spoke to a “well-respected” NBA scout about the pros and cons of eight of the prospects the Wizards may be evaluating as possible targets with the No. 15 pick.

Hollinger’s Latest: Draft, Wiseman, Siakam, Trent, Combine

Sources who have spoken to John Hollinger of The Athletic are skeptical that the Pistons, Rockets, or Cavaliers will trade out of the top three spots in the draft.

As Hollinger notes, there are a lot of teams that figure to have interest in moving up in the draft, including several holding multiple first-round picks, such as the Magic, Thunder, and Knicks. However, it’s more difficult to find teams that will give serious consideration to moving down. Any trade up may require a substantial overpay, Hollinger adds.

Here are a few more tidbits from Hollinger following his time at the pre-draft combine in Chicago:

Draft Updates: Combine, Thomas, Bacot, Cunningham, More

As expected, a number of draft-eligible prospects who stood out at the NBA G League Elite Camp that took place from June 19-21 are now receiving invitations to remain in Chicago for this week’s combine.

Maryland’s Aaron Wiggins and Ohio State’s Duane Washington are among the players who have been invited to the combine, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links). Givony also hears from a source that South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson has received an invite, while Jeremy Woo of SI.com reports that Louisville’s Carlik Jones did too (Twitter links).

While scouts should get an extended look at those prospects in Chicago this week, they won’t see LSU’s Cameron Thomas, who has withdrawn from the combine, as we relayed on Monday. According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link), there’s a belief that Thomas may have gotten a first-round guarantee.

Here’s more on the 2021 NBA draft:

  • North Carolina sophomore forward Armando Bacot has decided to withdraw from the 2021 draft and will return to school for the 2021/22 season, he tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Bacot had been testing the draft waters after declaring this spring.
  • Several more agency Pro Day workouts have been added to the schedule for this week in Chicago, per Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Jonathan Kuminga and Sharife Cooper are among the players expected to conduct individual workouts.
  • Prospects who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 may have a harder time lining up pre-draft workouts with NBA teams, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who says agents have been encouraging their clients to get vaccinated and some team personnel have “conveyed an annoyance” at dealing with unvaccinated players. “Life is a lot harder,” one agent said. “Teams definitely want guys who are vaccinated.”
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic explores the best possible fits for Cade Cunningham among this year’s lottery teams, making a case for the Raptors, Warriors, and Thunder as the most ideal destinations for the likely No. 1 pick.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic has a much different top-20 list than most draft experts, listing Florida State’s Scottie Barnes at No. 3 and Turkish big man Alperen Sengun at No. 4 on his big board, with Jonathan Kuminga down at No. 8.