Aaron Gordon

Southeast Notes: Smith, Young, Adebayo, Magic

Big man Jason Smith said he’s interested in returning to the Wizards if they want him, Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington relays. Smith made the comment on a Wizards Postgame Live broadcast. Washington’s frontcourt has been depleted by injuries, including a foot ailment to starting center Thomas Bryant that will sideline him for at least three weeks. The 33-year-old seven-footer played 20 games last season, including 12 with the Wizards.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Luka Doncic and Trae Young were essentially traded for each other on draft night 2018 but the Hawks guard doesn’t mind the comparisons, he said in an ESPN interview“We’re going to be compared throughout our whole careers,” Young said. “That’s fine, that’s what it’s going to be — it happened on draft night, and I don’t think it’ll stop until we’re both retired.”
  • The Heat want center Bam Adebayo to be more aggressive offensively, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Adebayo is averaging 14.2 PPG while averaging nine shot attempts and 5.7 free throw attempts.
  • Trading for DeMar DeRozan doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. The Magic are reportedly interested in DeRozan but he can become an unrestricted free agent by declining his $27.7MM player option this summer, Robbins notes. Giving up a good young player like Aaron Gordon for DeRozan would be too risky unless the veteran guard made a commitment to stay with Orlando. A trade with the Warriors for guard D’Angelo Russell would be more feasible, though the Magic’s interest level in doing that is unknown, Robbins adds.

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.

We’re still more than two weeks away from December 15, the date when most of this past offseason’s free agent signees become trade-eligible, so the NBA’s 2019/20 trade season hasn’t really begun yet. But with the regular season nearing the one-quarter mark, we’re getting a better sense of which teams might be buyers and which non-contenders will end up being sellers.

Having gone through all six divisions once as we examine potential trade candidates, we’re starting our second go-round today. Here are three more possible trade candidates from out of the Southeast:

Davis Bertans, PF
Washington Wizards
$7MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Bertans, who would likely still be a Spur if Marcus Morris had never agreed to sign with San Antonio over the summer, has played a crucial role in helping the Wizards post some of the NBA’s best offensive numbers. One of the most dangerous frontcourt shooters in the league, Bertans is making a career-high 44.3% of his three-pointers on 7.6 attempts per game and has increased his scoring average off the bench to 13.3 PPG.

The Wizards might try to lock up Bertans long-term, but the 27-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, giving the club little leverage in contract talks. If Washington falls out of the playoff hunt in the East, Bertans will be one of the team’s best trade chips, based on his affordable cap hit ($7MM), his expiring contract, and his ability to provide instant offense.

One scout who spoke to ESPN’s Bobby Marks earlier this month suggested that it wouldn’t be a surprise if there’s a team willing to surrender a late first-round pick for Bertans at the trade deadline.

Jabari Parker, PF
Atlanta Hawks
$6.5MM cap hit; $6.5MM player option for 2020/21

Like the Wizards, the Hawks probably won’t shift into selling mode until their playoff hopes are all but extinguished. And it may take a while for that to happen in an Eastern Conference where the 8-12 Hornets currently hold onto the No. 8 seed.

Still, at 4-15, the Hawks are already 3.5 games out of the postseason picture, so unless they start winning some games soon, they’ll have to consider shopping some veteran players. Although Parker is only 24, the sixth-year forward qualifies as one such veteran.

With 17.8 PPG on 51.8% shooting through 18 games (28.1 MPG), Parker has been the Hawks’ best scorer not named Trae Young this season. And it’s not as if he’s been putting up numbers against second-stringers — he has been a starter since John Collins was hit with a 25-game suspension early in the season.

With a $6.5MM player option for the 2020/21 season, Parker could be a one-and-done in Atlanta, so if a team in need of frontcourt scoring wants to make a play for him before the deadline, the Hawks would be wise to listen.

Aaron Gordon, F
Orlando Magic
$19.9MM cap hit; descending guaranteed salaries through 2021/22

By all accounts, Gordon isn’t a trade candidate right now. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported two weeks ago that teams were monitoring the former No. 4 overall pick in case he becomes available, but said that Orlando has shown no interest in such a move.

Still, the Magic (7-11) have been disappointing so far and their offense has been disastrous. Jonathan Isaac, not exactly a dynamic scorer himself, nonetheless looks like a franchise cornerstone due to his versatility, defensive ability, and upside, and Sean Deveney of Forbes recently suggested there may be some concern within the organization about the long-term fit of an Isaac/Gordon frontcourt.

Gordon is just 24 years old and still has intriguing potential, despite his lack of improvement so far this season. He also has a contract that declines in value each year, eventually dipping to $16.4MM in 2021/22. That makes him a valuable trade chip.

I think the Magic front office will be patient in giving the current group every opportunity to make things work, and a trade for scoring help wouldn’t necessarily have to include Gordon. But moving the young forward is a possibility the team should at least consider if its struggles continue.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Magic, Thomas, McRae

The NBA implemented a new coach’s challenge for the 2019/20 season, an addition that’s received mixed reviews among the league’s players, coaches and fans just one month into the campaign.

The feature is simple: To initiate the one-time, challenge, a head coach must call timeout and pursue review of a foul, out-of-bounds, goaltending or offensive interference call. While reviewing the play, the referees must see clear and conclusive visual evidence in order to overturn the ruling.

However, not all of the league’s 30 head coaches enjoy the new addition to the game.

“I don’t like it,” longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the challenge, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “I’m an NBA basketball coach. I’m not an official, and I’m not trying to be an official.

“There are too many things to focus on. It doesn’t work like the NFL one. And I’m not bashing it to say I won’t be a part of it. We’ve challenged and won one. I’ll use it, but it’s distracting.”

Despite giving teams the option to challenge a potentially incorrect call, the addition of the coach’s challenge presents one clear problem: Slowing down a game that’s already been slowed enough by officiating in recent seasons, particularly toward the end of contests.

“I don’t know how that helps the flow,” Spoelstra said. “To me, it hurts the flow. It’s just another thing to focus on that’s distracting that has nothing to do with the game.

“For example, we had a game in Miami the other night and there was a bang-bang play, and it could have been called or not. I didn’t have a timeout to burn in that instance; I didn’t want to, like, gamble. And I see two fans going like this [motioning with a twirling finger]. That’s where we’re going? It’s like, I don’t know.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic provides injury updates on Magic players Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Gordon has a combination of a right ankle contusion and right ankle sprain, Robbins notes, though his injury is improving and he’s receiving around-the-clock treatment. Vucevic is also rehabbing from an ankle injury, though the 29-year-old is no longer in a walking boot. Carter-Williams did some stationary bike work on Saturday to continue rehab on a left hip injury.
  • Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas is confident that he’ll return to his old All-Star form, as relayed by Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington. “A lot of people have counted me out, especially the last couple of years,” Thomas said. “But I know what I’ve been through, I know what my body’s been through. I know how good I feel I know I’m ready and I know given the opportunity, I can play at an All-Star level again. And that’s what I’m gonna showcase…I promise you I’m gonna be an All-Star, I’m gonna be an All-NBA basketball player again.”
  • Jordan McRae is finally having his special moment with the Wizards, Fred Katz of The Athletic details. McRae missed the entire 2017/18 season due to a shoulder injury and is coming off an up-and-down campaign with Washington, but he’s starting to solidify his role on the team this year. “There’s not a better feeling in the world — unless you sign a max contract. That might be a little bit better,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s a great opportunity for Jordan. … But he still can’t relax. They always say the easiest thing is to make it. The hardest thing is to keep it. And he’s doing everything we ask. It’s good to have him back.”

Nikola Vucevic To Miss At Least Four Weeks With Ankle Injury

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is expected to be sidelined for at least the next four weeks due to a right ankle injury, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Vucevic turned his ankle during an awkward fall in the second quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors and was wearing a walking boot after the game. Although initial X-rays were negative, the Magic had their All-Star big man undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury.

It’s a tough blow for an Orlando team that is off to a slow start on offense this season and will now be missing one of its top two scorers for at least the next month or so. In Vucevic’s absence, Khem Birch and Mo Bamba should see increased roles in the middle.

We’re still waiting to hear whether Aaron Gordon, who also suffered a right ankle injury in Toronto on Wednesday, will miss time too. Gordon’s injury didn’t appear to be as serious as Vucevic’s, but the forward was expected to be re-evaluated today.

Magic Rumors: Gordon, DeRozan, Russell, Isaac

The Magic have been at the center of a pair of intriguing early-season reports this week, with a Wednesday report suggesting Orlando has expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan, while a Friday story indicated that teams are monitoring Aaron Gordon with potential interest in a trade.

That report on Gordon, from Shams Charania of The Athletic, made it clear that the Magic have expressed no interest in moving the young forward. However, Sean Deveney of Forbes.com hears that there are some concerns that Gordon might not fit be an ideal long-term fit alongside Jonathan Isaac.

Could the Magic and Spurs explore a trade centered around DeRozan and Gordon then? Probably not, according to Deveney, who writes that the Magic would be reluctant to give up a significant package for the Spurs’ guard, who could reach the free agent market next summer if he turns down his 2020/21 player option. Even if Orlando did become open to moving Gordon, it wouldn’t be for a rental.

Here’s more on the Magic, via Deveney:

  • While the Magic have starting looking into possible trades to address their offense, no deals are around the corner, a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking tells Deveney. “You’ve got a lot of players dealing with some shooting slumps and that is going to turn around, those players are going to get back to their usual percentages,” that source said. “So everyone does due diligence on the market but it doesn’t seem like anything is about to come down. If you make a move now with the offense at a low point, it’s like you’re selling low. See who comes back, who bounces back. Then go from there. It’s far away and a lot can change.”
  • Deveney identifies D’Angelo Russell as one player who could pique the Magic’s interest once he becomes trade-eligible, since Orlando considered him in free agency this past summer.
  • For now, Orlando is banking on offensive improvements from within. As Deveney outlines, the team is willing to be patient with young players like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, since there are indications that Fultz’s shot could come around and that Isaac is “just scratching the surface of his offensive potential.”

Charania’s Latest: Gordon, Baynes, Turner, Wiseman

Multiple teams are monitoring Magic forward Aaron Gordon and would have interest if he becomes available, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, according to Charania, Orlando has shown no interest in trading Gordon.

The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Gordon has flashed tantalizing potential as a two-way impact player and is still just 24 years old. He’s also on a team-friendly contract, which is worth $19.86MM this season and declines all the way to $16.41MM in 2021/22. As such, it makes sense that he’d generate interest around the league and that the Magic wouldn’t want to move on from him, despite the fact that he hasn’t necessarily put it all together yet.

Here’s more from Charania:

  • Some potential contenders – such as the Lakers – were hoping that the Suns viewed Aron Baynes as a salary dump when they acquired him on draft night and would eventually buy him out, Charania writes. Instead, the veteran center has emerged as a key part of Phoenix’s lineup. Baynes is on an expiring contract and one team executive believes the big man is “positioning himself for well over $10MM per year,” as Charania relays.
  • Pacers center Myles Turner, who was listed as “week-to-week” after suffering a sprained ankle on October 30, hopes to return on Saturday when Indiana hosts Milwaukee, per Charania.
  • Even if top 2020 draft prospect James Wiseman is ruled ineligible for the entire NCAA season, scouts and executives don’t expect it to affect his draft stock. “Will him sitting the year impact him a spot or two? Maybe,” one high-ranking team official said to Charania. “But it isn’t impacting his financial base. He is known as a talent.” A season-long ban is unlikely though. One source tells Charania that Wiseman and Memphis are hoping for a suspension in the range of three-to-six games after he dropped his lawsuit against the NCAA this week.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Bamba, Augustin, Gordon

In his first game with the Magic, Markelle Fultz showed off some of the skills that made him the top pick in the 2017 draft, writes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Playing for the first time since last November, Fultz had six points, four assists, two rebounds and an electrifying dunk in a win over the Spurs.

“It was really just a blessing,” Fultz said. “I give a lot of praise to the man up top, God. It’s all I can say. It was my first time out there in a long time and I’m just happy I was able to step out on the floor and compete.”

Orlando acquired Fultz from the Sixers in February after a frustrating season and a half in Philadelphia that was marked by physical issues and a jump shot that went haywire. His latest ailment, diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, had kept him sidelined since last November 19. He received full medical clearance before camp opened and was determined to play in the preseason opener.

“It means the world to me just to see him out there,” teammate Mohamed Bamba said. “I asked him, ‘How you feeling?’ and he’s like, ‘I feel great. The game’s coming slower and it’s coming easier to me by the minute.’ It felt good to see him out there having fun.”

There’s more this morning from Orlando:

  • Bamba was also happy to be back on the court Saturday after missing the final 30 games of last season and the team’s playoff run with a foot injury, Parry notes in a separate story. After an 18-point, six-rebound and three-block performance, Bamba is optimistic about his sophomore campaign. “I had a lot of time to think about the upcoming season,” he said. “It’s just a preseason game and it doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it felt good to get out there and just run with the guys.”
  • Coach Steve Clifford plans to use Fultz and D.J. Augustin together in the backcourt, Parry relays in another piece. Even though they’re both listed as point guards, Clifford believes Fultz’s ability to defend bigger players will make the combination work. “They’re both super-skilled,” he said. “They both play with a point guard mentality and then you’ve got two really good pick-and-roll players.”
  • Clifford also plans to play Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac together at center and power forward, tweets Dave DuFour of The Athletic.

Southeast Notes: Gordon, Wizards, Miller

Aaron Gordon jumped on Sirius XM NBA Radio to talk about the Magic‘s NBA offseason and he portrayed optimism about Markelle Fultz‘s future with the club.

“[Fultz] is a sleeper. If he wakes up and if he’s awake and woken up, he’s a monster,” Gordon said.

Fultz, whose return to the court has yet to be determined, will have a chance to win the team’s starting point guard spot. Incumbent starter D.J. Augustin, who has one season left on his deal, and Michael Carter-Williams, who re-signed with Orlando on a one-year deal, will be the former No. 1 overall pick’s top competition for the role.

Orlando didn’t make major additions in the backcourt this offseason. The team re-signed a few members of its core (Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross) and brought in Al-Farouq Aminu with its mid-level exception. Gordon is excited about the addition of Aminu, as well as the continuity the team will experience next season.

“We got Al-Farouq, which is dope,” Gordon said. “[He’s] another 3-and-D guy. Tenacious, hard noise, long-defender and that’s the most beautiful thing. Nothing has changed from this year to last year.”

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether the Wizards can make a quick turnaround. Hughes argues that if Washington is going to contend sooner than later, the team needs its young talent to show improvement. That would increase each players’ trade value and give the Wizards an avenue to place an immediate difference maker next to Bradley Beal.
  • The Hawks have promoted Tori Miller to assistant GM of the College Park Skyhawks, according to the G League affiliate’s website. Miller spent the last two seasons as the Skyhawks’ Manager of Basketball Operations. She broke into the NBA as an intern with the Suns from 2014-16.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel envisions Pat Riley remaining with the Heat for the foreseeable future, as the scribe details in his latest mailbag. Winderman adds that Miami’s team president remains determined to get the team back to contention and the franchise’s young players are suited to help them achieve that goal.

Magic Notes: Vucevic, Ross, Clifford, Birch

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman knows he’ll have to fight off multiple suitors to retain Nikola Vucevic‘s services, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. While re-signing Vucevic is a priority, Weltman realizes there are teams with cap space that feel the same way.

“Vooch is going to have a lot of teams who will make him a priority for them, too. … Hopefully, we can get something done,” Weltman said. “You know, it’s the NBA, and as I always say, there’s a lot of real estate between the intentions and what gets done. But it is a priority for us.”

Vucevic is eligible for a max contract of five years and $189.7MM with the Magic or a four-year, $140.6MM deal with another franchise. Vucevic indicated he’s open to re-signing with Orlando as long as Weltman backs up his words.

“Everybody knows I’ve had a great seven years here,” he said. “But at the same time, we’ll see what happens. It’s a mutual decision, and it’s not just me.”

We have more on the Magic:

  • The team’s other prominent free agent, forward Terrence Ross, is also interested in returning, Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Ross enhanced his value this season by averaging 15.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG as the team’s sixth man while making a team-best 38.3% of his long range attempts. “It’s fun to be a part of an organization that is doing the right things … getting rewarded for it,” Ross said. “It would be great to be back, but we’ll see.”
  • Forward Aaron Gordon believes the hiring of coach Steve Clifford last season was the biggest factor in the team reaching the postseason, as he explained to John Denton of the team’s website. “I feel like we learned how to win, and that was one of the things that had been lacking here – a culture, a know-how and a standard,” Gordon said. “Coach (Clifford) did a great job of bringing that back and instilling it in us and teaching us what it means to win. And our guys did a great job of responding and coming out with tremendous fight.”
  • Vucevic’s future with the organization could impact whether it brings back center Khem Birch, as Robbins notes in his offseason outlook. The front office can make Birch a restricted free agent by extending a $1.82MM qualifying offer. If the Magic are confident they’ll re-sign Vucevic, Orlando might not give Birch that QO since it has Mohamed Bamba in place as Vucevic’s backup. Jerian Grant and Jarell Martin are also eligible for QOs but the Magic will almost certainly allow them to become unrestricted free agents, Robbins adds.

Orlando’s Plan At The Trade Deadline Remains Unclear

The Magic, with a record of 21-31, remain just five games back in the loss column of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and most of the league doesn’t have a feel for what Orlando is going to do before the trade deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes.

While many in the organization feel pressure to make the playoffs this season, the Magic’s front office doesn’t appear to be under a playoffs-or-bust mandate. Despite being within an arm’s length of a playoff spot, the team could consider making moves with the long-term in mind.

Aaron Gordon‘s descending contract was designed to make him a more attractive trade piece. With the Mohamed BambaJonathan Isaac looking like team’s frontcourt of the future, the 23-year-old combo forward, who’s best suited to play the four, may find himself on a new team. The Mavericks inquired on Gordon’s availability before pulling the trigger on Kristaps Porzingis, Lowe reports.

The Pacers had interest in signing Gordon to an offer sheet when he was a restricted free agent, though it’s unclear what Indiana’s position is on trading for talent before the deadline with star Victor Oladipo out for the year. Lowe speculates that the Jazz and Trail Blazers would be good landing spots for Gordon should Orlando ship him out.

The Magic would likely deal Terrence Ross, who will be a free agent after the season, for a future asset, Lowe adds, though he cautions that Orlando may not be able to get even a heavily-protected first-round pick for the swingman. If the team does deal Ross, it could be for a pair of second-round picks.

The Magic have to consider trading Nikola Vucevic, Lowe contends. The team drafted Bamba to man the five and with Vucevic’s looming free agency, Orlando will either have to sign him to a massive deal or watch him walk for nothing.

Lowe doesn’t anticipate a Vuvevic trade. though he touches on a pair of hypothetical deals with one involving Orlando shipping the big man to the Lakers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Los Angeles’ first-round pick. The Lakers’ pick is expected to fall somewhere in the middle of the draft and that may not be more appealing than simply keeping Vucevic for the Magic’s front office.

The other hypothetical involves a swap of Ross and Markelle Fultz. While the deal would seem to benefit both the Sixers and Magic, it’s unclear whether Philadelphia would require an additional asset, such as a second-round pick. Lowe notes that Fultz’s injury and trade value remains a mystery.