Al-Farouq Aminu

Spurs Notes: Final Roster Spot, Eubanks, McDermott, Walker

There appears to be a three-way competition for the Spurs‘ final roster spot, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The team has 17 players with guaranteed contracts, and it looks like the decision will come down to forwards Luka SamanicKeita Bates-Diop and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Samanic, 21, was taken with the 19th pick in 2019, but hasn’t established himself in San Antonio, playing just 36 games in two seasons. The Spurs have an October 31 deadline to pick up his option for 2022/23, but they may decide to part with him before then. Coach Gregg Popovich gave Samanic a start in Friday’s preseason game, and McDonald described the results as “mixed.”

“He hasn’t played very much, so his is more of a confidence game and understanding what it takes to be a player,” Popovich explained.

Bates-Diop, 25, signed a two-year, $3.5MM contract before training camp began, but only this season is guaranteed at $1.7MM and he has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Aminu, who was acquired in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade, is owed $10.1MM this season in the final year of his contract. Knee injuries have limited him to 41 games over the past two seasons and he recognizes that he has an uphill fight to make the roster.

“That’s your whole life,” he said. “You go to one camp and maybe there are 100 guys. Even from high school, everyone is competing. We understand the business of whatever the case can be.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Drew Eubanks‘ place on the roster appears secure, even though the Spurs could easily afford to unload his $1.76MM salary, McDonald adds. Eubanks has steadily improved throughout his three seasons with the organization, and Popovich recently called him “a poor man’s Dave Cowens.”
  • Free-agent addition Doug McDermott feels suited to the Spurs’ new offensive philosophy, which is based on movement with fewer set plays, McDonald notes in a separate story. The 29-year-old is with his sixth NBA team, and San Antonio is counting on him to boost its outside shooting. “The system is great because it’s a lot of random basketball, and that’s what my game is built for,” he said.
  • Popovich is enjoying the challenge of coaching young players after so many years of having a veteran team, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The coach also praised the progress of Lonnie Walker, saying he has added game-related knowledge to his athletic skills (Twitter link).

Spurs Notes: Primo, Aminu, McDermott, Collins

The Spurs are preparing first-round pick Joshua Primo for the possibility that he may spend part of his rookie season in the G League, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. At age 18, the former Alabama guard was among the youngest players taken in this year’s draft and he may need time in Austin to get ready for the NBA.

“I’m open to anything that is going to get me extra reps and get me better,” he said. “I know I am young, and any way I can get better, I am up to it. But I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Primo has several teammates who spent time in the G League early in their careers, and they have been selling him on the benefits.

“All the guys have told me the G League is there to help,” Primo said. “If I am there, I am going to use it to the best of my ability.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the few veterans in the Spurs’ camp, is on his seventh team in 11 years after being traded from Chicago as part of the DeMar DeRozan deal, Orsborn adds in the same piece. The 31-year-old is trying to bounce back from knee problems that have limited him to 41 combined games over the past two seasons. “It is basketball … We understand the business,” Aminu said. “I remember a vet told me, ‘Control what you can control.’ All I can do is put out max effort.”
  • Growing up, Doug McDermott thought he would be a good fit with the Spurs because of their approach to the game, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. At age 29 and with seven years in the NBA, McDermott got to San Antonio over the summer in a sign-and-trade. “Doug can fit in anywhere,” teammate Bryn Forbes said. “When you can shoot the ball and score the ball, it’s not hard to fit in. You can just kind of mold and adapt to a lot of different situations.”
  • The Spurs’ medical staff expects center Zach Collins to return “after Christmas,” coach Gregg Popovich told reporters (Twitter link from Orsborn). The free agent addition has played a combined 11 games over the past two seasons and has undergone multiple foot surgeries.

Bulls Officially Acquire DeMar DeRozan From Spurs Via Sign-And-Trade

The Bulls and Spurs have officially finalized the sign-and-trade deal sending veteran forward DeMar DeRozan to Chicago, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

DeRozan confirmed (via Twitter) that his deal with Chicago, which was first reported last Tuesday, is now done, while the Bulls and Spurs issued press releases announcing the move. DeRozan reportedly received a fully-guaranteed three-year, $85MM commitment from Chicago

In exchange for the four-time All-Star, the Spurs received forwards Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu, a future protected first-round pick, the Lakers’ 2022 second-round pick, and the Bulls’ 2025 second-round pick. The earliest the Spurs will receive that first-round pick from Chicago is in 2025, since the Bulls owe a top-four protected 2023 first-rounder to Orlando.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Ted Stepien Rule]

The move punctuates a productive offseason for the Bulls, who also landed Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade with New Orleans and signed Alex Caruso using the mid-level exception. They’ll join a group led by Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic as Chicago looks to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

While DeRozan’s lack of a three-point shot (he has made 35 in the last three seasons) is an oddity for a wing in the modern NBA, his mid-range game is deadly and he has become a legitimately dangerous play-maker, averaging a career-best 6.9 assists per game in 2020/21 to go along with his 21.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG. Opponents will have a tough time stopping lineups featuring him, LaVine, and Vucevic, even if it won’t be the most stout group defensively.

The Sixers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Celtics, Clippers, and Knicks were reportedly among the teams to express interest in DeRozan, but some of those clubs went in different directions and several didn’t have the ability to match or top the Bulls’ offer to the 32-year-old.

With Ball, DeRozan, and Caruso officially locked up, the Bulls will focus on resolving Lauri Markkanen‘s contract situation. The restricted free agent forward is reportedly looking for a fresh start away from Chicago, but the Bulls won’t want to let him walk without getting an asset or two in return.

The Spurs, meanwhile, are now free to move forward on completing the rest of their reported free agent signings, including Zach Collins, Bryn Forbes, and Jock Landale.

The DeRozan deal had been the last trade reported during the 2021 offseason that hadn’t yet been finalized. All of this month’s reported trades are now official.

Bulls To Acquire DeMar DeRozan From Spurs Via Sign-And-Trade

Free agent wing DeMar DeRozan is expected to sign a three-year, $85MM contract with the Bulls, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

According to Charania, the Bulls and Spurs are finalizing a sign-and-trade deal that will send DeRozan to Chicago in exchange for Thaddeus Young, a future first-round pick, and two second-round picks. Al-Farouq Aminu will go to San Antonio in the deal too, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski also provides the details on the draft picks headed to the Spurs, reporting (via Twitter) that the future first-round pick will convey in 2025 at the earliest, since the Bulls owe their 2023 first-rounder to Orlando. The second-rounders Chicago is sending to San Antonio are the Lakers’ 2022 pick and the Bulls’ own 2025 pick, Woj adds.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links), who first reported DeRozan was nearing a deal with Chicago, says his three-year deal will be fully guaranteed.

It’s a fascinating turn of events for the Bulls and for DeRozan, who had reportedly been planning to meet with the Clippers despite their limited cap flexibility. Because acquiring a player via sign-and-trade hard-caps a team at the tax apron, a sign-and-trade for DeRozan likely wasn’t an option for the Clippers, who project to be taxpayers.

However, the Bulls, who had already agreed to acquire Lonzo Ball via sign-and-trade and had two sizeable – and expendable – expiring contracts belonging to Young and Aminu, were in a far better position to make DeRozan an aggressive offer. And they did just that, agreeing to a deal that will add DeRozan to a core that now includes Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Ball.

While DeRozan’s lack of a three-point shot (he has made 35 in the last three seasons) is an oddity for a wing in the modern NBA, his mid-range game is deadly and he has become a legitimately dangerous play-maker, averaging a career-best 6.9 assists per game in 2020/21. Opponents will have a tough time stopping lineups featuring him, LaVine, and Vucevic, though it won’t be the most stout group defensively.

Based on their reported moves, the Bulls still have about $19.5MM in breathing room below the tax and $26MM below the hard cap, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who notes (via Twitter) that the team still holds Lauri Markkanen‘s Bird rights.

The Spurs, who have free agent deals in place with Zach Collins and Doug McDermott, still have about $6MM in projected cap space to work with, Marks adds.

Bulls Notes: Lottery, LaVine, Simmons, Dinwiddie, T. Young

The Bulls were among the unluckiest teams at the draft lottery, losing their first-round pick to the Magic when it failed to land in the top four, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Chicago wound up sending the No. 8 selection to Orlando as part of the trade deadline deal involving Nikola Vucevic, and it owes another first-rounder to the Magic in 2023.

With only the No. 38 pick remaining in the July 29 draft, the Bulls will have to explore other ways to improve, Mayberry adds. They’re short on trade assets after investing so much in the roster makeover in March, and they may not have enough cap space to add a meaningful free agent.

Mayberry suggests the Bulls may try to trade back into the first round on draft night, using the expiring contracts of Thaddeus Young ($14.19MM) and Tomáš Satoranský ($10MM), both of which are non-guaranteed, as well as Al-Farouq Aminu ($10.183MM).

They may also reach out to a couple of division rivals who had better fortune at the lottery. The Pistons landed the top overall pick and are likely to draft Cade Cunningham, which could make point guard Killian Hayes available in a trade, Mayberry speculates. Meanwhile, if the Cavaliers get Jalen Green at No. 3, they might be willing to part with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland or Isaac Okoro.

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Zach LaVine‘s inclusion on the Olympic team could be good for the Bulls’ future, states Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. He notes that many star pairings in the NBA began when players got to know each other as Olympic teammates. Cowley cautions it might work the other way, and LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, could get recruited to go somewhere else.
  • Ben Simmons‘ playoff struggles and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s decision to turn down his player option for next season create two intriguing options for the Bulls in their search for a point guard, writes Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. Simmons would be an ideal backcourt partner for LaVine, Collier notes, but it would be hard to put together an enticing offer for the Sixers without giving up LaVine in return. Dinwiddie will be seeking more than the $12.3MM he opted out of, but Collier expects concerns about his partially torn ACL to keep the price tag down.
  • Thaddeus Young has been chosen as this year’s winner of the NBA Hustle Award, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The honor goes to the player who makes the most energy and effort plays during the season.

Bulls’ Al-Farouq Aminu Opting In For 2021/22

Bulls forward Al-Farouq Aminu will exercise his $10.2MM player option for next season, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

While most veterans with player options for 2021/22 won’t have to make their decisions until the summer, Aminu’s decision was due within seven games of Chicago’s final regular season game, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Acquired in late March from Orlando in the Nikola Vucevic deal, Aminu saw limited time in six games for the Bulls. He averaged 1.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per night.

Chicago is the sixth team for the 30-year-old Aminu in his 11-year NBA career. The Clippers made him the eighth pick in the 2010 draft, and he also played for New Orleans, Dallas and Portland.

Aminu’s decision gives Chicago eight players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season, along with Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, who both have partial guarantees.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Theis, White, Satoranský

Lauri Markkanen has played a diminished role since the Bulls overhauled their roster at the trade deadline, but he was on the court for the closing minutes of Saturday’s win over the Cavaliers, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Markkanen poured in 16 points, ending a five-game stretch of single-digit scoring, as Chicago picked up an important victory in the race for a play-in game.

Markkanen’s status is being closely watched ahead of his impeding restricted free agency this summer. He has played 21 minutes or fewer six times since the trade deadline and was limited to 11 total shots over three games last week.

“It’s a new role. I think a lot of guys have sacrificed. I’m not going to do anything that jeopardizes the team. I’m going to play my role as well as I can,” Markkanen said. “… I try to stay as positive as I can. But then it’s not really affecting me off the court. At the end of the day when I go home to my family, it’s all good. I wasn’t losing my sleep over it. It was frustrating to lose (my starting job), not being out there and closing out games. But I always say, control what you can control. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Newly-acquired center Daniel Theis will also be a free agent this summer, and coach Billy Donovan hopes the Bulls can find a way to keep him, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Donovan added that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley share his opinion on Theis. “With free agency coming up and guys having the opportunity to make their own decisions, I understand that,” Donovan said. “But he’s someone we really like a lot and feel like could be somebody that could be really good for us going forward.’’
  • Coby WhiteTomáš SatoranskýThaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu and Markkanen are the five players most likely to be traded as Chicago continues to remake its roster, contends Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Aminu will make $10MM next season, Mayberry adds, and his contract could be useful for salary matching.
  • Zach LaVine‘s absence due to health and safety protocols will give other players a chance to redefine their roles, Johnson writes in a separate story.

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, Aminu, Theis, Markkanen

Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine have been All-Star teammates, but Thursday’s trade that brought the veteran center to Chicago has made them the core of a Bulls team that hopes to make some noise in the playoffs, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic believes he and LaVine can eventually become an effective combination.

“He’s a hell of a player, and I’ve heard a lot of great things about him off the court as well. I’m looking forward to getting to know him. On the court, I think our games fit each other,” Vucevic said. “A lot that Zach likes to do, I can help him with that. He can help me with a lot of things. I think our two-man game can be very good. It’s going to take some time for us to get to know each other and build that chemistry. But I think when you have two high-caliber players and players with high IQ that know how to play the game and play to win, I think it won’t take us long.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, who was acquired from Orlando in the same deal, will bring a veteran presence to a young squad, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports. The 30-year-old forward, who is joining his sixth team in an 11-year career, is ready to adopt a leadership role. “Everybody don’t want the voice always coming from the head coach or the coaches or whatever the case might be,” Aminu told reporters after this morning’s shootaround. “At the end of the day, we the guys out there. And we can explain what to younger players exactly needs to be done and how it needs to be done.”
  • The Bulls overhauled their roster Thursday, bringing in five new players through trades. They were all available for tonight’s game except for former Celtics center Daniel Theis, who is wrapping up family issues and will join the team by Monday, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Coach Billy Donovan faces the challenge of trying to reshape his team over the final 29 games without much time to practice. “You obviously try to probably shrink a lot of things playbook-wise, try to create some clarity defensively for those guys,” Donovan said. “… All those guys were probably in some kind of system or playing with very familiar faces, and that all of a sudden has changed, not only for them but for the guys who are currently here. We have a lot to work through.’’
  • The Bulls opted to hold on to Lauri Markkanen, who is on track for restricted free agency this summer, and now he has to prove he can fit in with the new-look team, Cowley adds in a separate piece.

Magic Trade Nikola Vucevic To Bulls

4:37pm: The trade sending Vucevic to Chicago is official, according to a press release from the Magic.

“Anytime you trade a player like Nikola, it is a tough decision to make,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “‘Vooch’ will go down as one of the best players to ever wear a Magic uniform and we can’t thank him enough for all the contributions he made to the organization, both on and off the court.”


10:05am: The Magic are trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (all Twitter links).

According to Wojnarowski, Orlando will receive Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, and a pair of future first-round picks in the deal. Those picks will be the Bulls’ own 2021 and 2023 first-rounders, Woj adds (via Twitter). Both will be top-four protected, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links).

The agreement comes as a major surprise. While Vucevic has been mentioned in some trade rumors in the weeks leading up to the deadline, he had talked about being happy with his current situation, and there was a belief that the Magic were reluctant to move their lone All-Star and shift into full-fledged retooling mode. Wojnarowski (Twitter link) had reported earlier today that Orlando was still listening to offers for the big man, but would have to receive a substantial package to pull the trigger on a deal.

The Magic apparently believe the Bulls’ offer qualifies as substantial. In addition to the future first-round picks, which are the prized assets in the return, Orlando will also receive a former lottery pick in Carter who was highly regarded coming out of Duke and is still just 21 years old. Carter has been plagued by injury issues through his first three NBA seasons and his production hasn’t really increased since his rookie year, but he’s still viewed as a player with upside.

Orlando will also gain some longer-term salary relief in the trade. While Porter is earning more ($28.5MM) this season than any of the other three players involved in the swap, his contract will expire this summer. Vucevic is owed and Aminu are owed a combined $34MM+ next season, and Vucevic is under contract for one more year beyond that, so the Magic will have much more cap flexibility going forward.

The move also signals that Aaron Gordon is even more likely to be dealt today, with the Magic headed for a reset. The odds of the team moving Evan Fournier and/or Terrence Ross figure to increase as well. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports tweets, Orlando will boost the odds of landing a top pick in the 2021 draft by trading away veterans — that lottery pick, combined with the return of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz next season, could help accelerate the team’s rebuild.

The Bulls, meanwhile, weren’t among the teams listed as having significant interest in Vucevic in a report earlier this month, but decided to take a big swing and will add a second All-Star to a core headlined by Zach LaVine.

The team’s front office wanted to bring in a “productive, serious-minded veteran” to be a cornerstone in Chicago, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), and zeroed in on Vucevic, who has posted a career-high 24.5 PPG this season to go along with 11.8 RPG and 3.8 APG. His .406 3PT% is also a career-best mark.

Taking on Aminu’s multiyear contract will add some money to the Bulls’ cap in 2021, but the club was projected to have plenty of flexibility, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Vucevic’s contract is also relatively team-friendly — he’s making $26MM this season, but that number will decline to $24MM in 2021/22 and $22MM in ’22/23.

It will be interesting to see whether the Bulls have more up their sleeve before today’s deadline. The team has been taking calls to gauge Thaddeus Young‘s value, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link), and remains in the mix for Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

It will take more than just Lauri Markkanen to acquire Ball, tweets Johnson. New Orleans may want Chicago to take on an unwanted multiyear contract, such as Eric Bledsoe‘s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Anthony, MCW, Aminu, Beal, Heat

With Markelle Fultz already out for the season due to a torn ACL, the Magic continue to have a hard time keeping their point guards healthy. Rookie Cole Anthony is the latest to have to deal with a health issue, as he was diagnosed with a shoulder strain following Tuesday’s loss to Portland.

As Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details, the injury is muscular, so Anthony didn’t require an MRI. It also doesn’t sound too significant, as the rookie hasn’t yet been ruled out for Thursday’s contest vs. Golden State — he’s listed as questionable.

In another piece of relatively positive news for the Magic, veteran point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who has been on the shelf since January 4 due to a left foot sprain, has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game (Twitter link). While there’s no guarantee that both Anthony and Carter-Williams will be in action tonight, it doesn’t sound like either player is far off.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu returned on Tuesday after missing over a year due to knee problems. While the plan was for him to play in both halves of that game, he was ruled out of the second half after experiencing some hamstring tightness, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Like Anthony and MCW, Aminu is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.
  • Speaking to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports, agent Mark Bartelstein explained why his client – Wizards star Bradley Beal – has no desire to be dealt despite his team’s struggles. “He doesn’t want to quit on something,” Bartelstein said. “He’s an incredibly loyal guy, and he wants to always feel like he’s done everything he can to help something or someone be successful. It’s the way he was raised and what his values are based upon. … It’s the team that drafted him, the team that’s invested in him, and he desperately wants to make them a championship contender.” Beal will miss Friday’s game vs. New York due to rest, the Wizards announced today (via Twitter).
  • The Heat will play their next seven games on the road, but when they eventually return home on February 24, they’ll increase the fan capacity at AmericanAirlines Arena to roughly 3,000 people, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.