Hawks Rumors

Eastern Rumors: Nets, Quickley, Hawks, Hayward, Martin

Executives around the NBA continue to monitor Nets forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale, who were considered trade candidates during the offseason, writes Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Rival executives believe Brooklyn will seek the equivalent of two first-round picks for Finney-Smith, though they hope that cost will drop closer to the deadline, according to Scotto, who adds that some execs who spoke to HoopsHype think the Nets would want a protected first-round pick for O’Neale. Finney-Smith still has multiple years left on his contract, while O’Neale is on an expiring deal.

Teams are also eyeing Nic Claxton and are curious to see whether Brooklyn is willing to roll the dice on re-signing him as an unrestricted free agent next summer, since he won’t become extension-eligible before then. For now, the Nets view Claxton as part of their core and wouldn’t be inclined to move him unless they get an offer that blows them away, Scotto explains.

Finally, some NBA executives think that veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie might be available on the trade market later this season — and they think he’d have some value. “Dinwiddie can help a team and make big shots,” one exec told Scotto.

Scotto has more trade rumors and notes from around the Eastern Conference. Let’s dive in…

  • Rival teams are keeping an eye on whether or not the Knicks will make Immanuel Quickley available, according to Scotto, who says the guard was seeking about $25MM per year on a rookie scale extension before the season, while New York offered approximately $18MM annually. “I think Quickley might be New York’s best trade asset besides Jalen Brunson,” one league executive told HoopsHype.
  • The Hawks still have some trade interest in Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, says Scotto. De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela were mentioned during the offseason as possible trade candidates for Atlanta and Scotto believes one or both players could be available again before February’s deadline. However, the Mavericks‘ interest in Capela has diminished due to the strong play of rookie Dereck Lively, Scotto notes.
  • Multiple “playoff-caliber” teams have been in touch with the Hornets to gauge the potential availability of veteran forward Gordon Hayward, per Scotto.
  • Scotto also reports that teams have expressed some exploratory interest in Sixers wing KJ Martin, who was part of the James Harden blockbuster earlier this month. Martin has played a limited role in Philadelphia but is coming off a solid year in Houston.

Players, Coaches Gripe About Tournament’s Point Differential Tiebreaker

As teams battled for a spot in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s first in-season tournament, point differential served as an important tiebreaker. It was used in several instances to determine the winner of a group, a conference’s wild card team, and the seeding of certain quarterfinalists.

That sort of tiebreaker is necessary in the round robin stage of an event that sees 30 teams playing just four games, since there will be many identical records and several instances in which head-to-head record won’t suffice.

However, a number of players and coaches around the NBA weren’t thrilled by the late-game situations created by the focus on point differential, as ESPN details. Knicks forward Josh Hart was one player to express dissatisfaction with the idea that his team had to try to run up the score on Tuesday vs. Charlotte in order to advance.

“It was interesting. I don’t really like it,” Hart said. “We were focused, at first, just about winning. The last couple of minutes it feels weird. At a certain point, you just start chasing points, doing all that. So it kind of messes with the integrity of the game a little bit.”

Teams like the Celtics and Cavaliers, meanwhile, kept their starters on the floor in Tuesday’s games well past the point that the outcomes had been decided in the hopes of widening their respective leads and improving their overall point differentials. Echoing Hart, both Jaylen Brown and Donovan Mitchell referred to it as “a little weird.”

“It’s tough because that’s just not how the game is supposed to be played,” Brown said.

Hawks head coach Quin Snyder, who pulled his starters with about four minutes left vs. Cleveland, said the situation wasn’t “ideal,” while Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was unhappy about Boston padding its lead by repeatedly fouling Andre Drummond in the fourth quarter to send the big man to the free throw line (he made one of six attempts).

“I also understand the situation he’s in too. He’s got to coach his team and do what’s right,” Donovan said of Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. ”But I think it was putting Andre in a tough spot down 30 points. But this is from the league. This is what the league has done, making this point differential thing.”

Concerns about the effect the point differential tiebreaker had near the end of certain games arose last Friday as well. DeMar DeRozan was ejected late in a loss to Toronto for taking exception to the Raptors attempting to score when the shot clock was off. In that case, Toronto had already been eliminated from qualifying for the quarterfinals, but appeared to be unaware of that fact.

Assuming the in-season tournament returns in 2024/25, it will be interesting to see if the NBA tweaks its tiebreaker rules to address concerns from players and coaches, or if the league will simply count on everyone getting more accustomed to the format and learning to live with it.

Making total points allowed a tiebreaker rather than point differential would be one way to eliminate the incentive for teams to run up the score in a blowout. However, a change along those lines could result in unwanted side effects, including slowing down the pace of tournament games.

Schedule For NBA Tournament Non-Qualifiers Set

The NBA in-season tournament will reach the quarterfinal stage next week and the eight qualifiers and their seeds were finalized on Tuesday. The 22 teams that failed to advance had two holes in their schedules that needed to be filled.

Those matchups were determined late Tuesday evening, with each team receiving a home and away contest, NBA Communications tweets. The newly-scheduled games will take place next Wednesday (December 6) and Friday (Dec. 8).

The Cavaliers and Magic, who missed the quarterfinals despite their 3-1 tournament records, will face each other in Cleveland on Wednesday. Cleveland will then visit the Heat (2-2 tournament) on Friday.

The Nets, who also had a 3-1 tournament record, wound up with a road game against the Hawks (1-3) and home game against the Wizards (0-4)

The Sixers, who finished 2-2 in the tournament, drew a road game against the Wizards and a home game against the Hawks.

In the West, the Timberwolves were the only 3-1 tournament team that didn’t reach the quarterfinals. They’ll host the Spurs (0-4) and visit the Grizzlies (0-4).

The defending champion Nuggets will visit Los Angeles to face the Clippers (1-3), then head home to take on the Rockets (2-2). The Warriors, who were knocked out of contention by Sacramento on Tuesday, drew a home game against the Trail Blazers (1-3) and a road contest against the Thunder (1-3).

Here’s the full schedule for next Wednesday and Friday:

Wednesday, Dec. 6

  • Orlando at Cleveland
  • Memphis at Detroit
  • Miami at Toronto
  • Philadelphia at Washington
  • Brooklyn at Atlanta
  • San Antonio at Minnesota
  • Charlotte at Chicago
  • Oklahoma City at Houston
  • Utah at Dallas
  • Portland at Golden State
  • Denver at LA Clippers

Friday, Dec. 8

  • Toronto at Charlotte
  • Detroit at Orlando
  • Atlanta at Philadelphia
  • Washington at Brooklyn
  • Cleveland at Miami
  • Minnesota at Memphis
  • Golden State at Oklahoma City
  • Chicago at San Antonio
  • Houston at Denver
  • LA Clippers at Utah
  • Dallas at Portland

Two more regular season games will be added to the NBA’s schedule after the quarterfinals of the in-season tournament are complete, since the four teams that lose those matchups will require an 82nd game on their respective schedules.

Hawks’ Jalen Johnson Out At Least 3-4 Weeks

1:53pm: While Charania’s reporting (detailed below) suggested that testing on Johnson’s wrist didn’t show a fracture, the Hawks stated in a press release that the forward has been diagnosed with a left distal radius fracture.

However, the team’s announcement doesn’t necessarily contradict the recovery timeline provided by Charania. According to the Hawks, Johnson will be reevaluated in about three or four weeks.

11:30am: Hawks forward Jalen Johnson is expected to miss four-to-six weeks due to a left wrist injury, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

While Atlanta will have to get by without one of its most important players until at least late December – and possibly until sometime in January – there’s some good news, according to Charania. Testing on Johnson’s wrist showed no fractures or a need for surgery, which would’ve sidelined him for even longer. Charania refers to it as a “best-case scenario” (Twitter link).

As we outlined earlier today, Johnson left Saturday’s game vs. the Wizards about two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter after taking a hard hit from Kyle Kuzma as he attempted to complete a fast-break dunk (video link). Johnson fell into the stanchion and landed on his left hand, which he immediately grabbed in obvious pain. After taking his free throws, he exited to the locker room and didn’t return.

Johnson had gotten off to an extremely strong start for the Hawks this season, establishing himself as a dynamic two-way player after having been known primarily for his defense in his first two NBA seasons.

Entering Saturday’s contest, the 21-year-old had averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night (14 games), with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line. He came off the bench a few times early in the season, but had started Atlanta’s past 10 games.

In Johnson’s absence, the Hawks figure to lean more heavily on De’Andre Hunter and Saddiq Bey, with second-year forward AJ Griffin moving up the depth chart and perhaps playing more regular minutes.

Eastern Notes: J. Johnson, Thompson, Niang, Bagley

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson will undergo further testing on his left wrist, which he injured during Saturday’s win in Washington, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson left the game about two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter after taking a hard hit from Kyle Kuzma as he attempted to complete a fast-break dunk (video link). Johnson fell into the stanchion and landed on his left hand, which he immediately grabbed in obvious pain. After taking his free throws, he exited to the locker room and didn’t return.

The Hawks haven’t provided any updates on the injury since ruling out Johnson for the rest of Saturday’s game. He’ll be further evaluated in the coming days, a source tells Williams.

If he’s forced to miss time, it would be a blow to the Hawks, who have benefited from a breakout year from Johnson so far in 2023/24. Entering Saturday’s contest, the 21-year-old had averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night (14 games), with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line.

[UPDATE: Johnson Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks]

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Only two players in NBA history who are 6’6″ or shorter have ever averaged at least 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game over the course of a season (Charles Barkley and Gar Heard). Pistons guard Ausar Thompson is flirting with that feat through 16 games (9.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG), which makes him something of a unicorn, according to James L. Edwards of The Athletic, who says the rookie likes the label. “I’m a unicorn, even if it doesn’t appear that way because of how people see ‘unicorns’ in their head, physically,” Thompson said. “What I’m out there doing, as you pointed out, only two people have done it before.”
  • Now a member of the Cavaliers, forward Georges Niang faced his former team this week and spoke about how much he enjoyed his time with the Sixers, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It felt like home while I was here,” Niang said during his return to Philadelphia. “It’s a place that I’ll always enjoy coming back to. … It jolted me into the next part of my career. So I’m super thankful for the organization, the fans, the people, staff. It was an amazing place to be.” Niang also praised former teammate Tyrese Maxey and suggested the experience the 76ers gained from going through the Ben Simmons saga in 2021/22 helped them navigate James Harden‘s trade request this year.
  • Pistons big man Marvin Bagley III is playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, making a career-high 58.6% of his shots from the floor, as Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press details. Bagley credits a newfound focus on his mental health as one important reason for his strong start, noting that he has given up social media and is meditating when he can.

14 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2023/24

The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the so-called poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect.

In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

For instance, Spurs wing Devin Vassell is earning a $5,887,899 salary in 2023/24, but signed a five-year, $135MM extension that will begin in ’24/25.

Therefore, if San Antonio wanted to trade Vassell this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,887,899 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $23,481,317 (this year’s salary, plus the $135MM extension, divided by six years).

[RELATED: 2023 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t realistic candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team does want to look into trading one of these recently extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value could make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.

The “poison pill” provision applies to 14 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2023. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Anthony Edwards MIN $13,534,817 $36,573,920
LaMelo Ball CHA $10,900,635 $36,134,889
Tyrese Haliburton IND $5,808,435 $35,286,189
Desmond Bane MEM $3,845,083 $33,512,589
Devin Vassell SAS $5,887,899 $23,481,317
Jaden McDaniels MIN $3,901,399 $22,483,567
Onyeka Okongwu ATL $8,109,063 $14,021,813
Isaiah Stewart DET $5,266,713 $13,053,343
Deni Avdija WSH $6,263,188 $12,252,638
Josh Green DAL $4,765,339 $11,441,335
Cole Anthony ORL $5,539,771 $11,159,943
Aaron Nesmith IND $5,634,257 $9,658,564
Zeke Nnaji DEN $4,306,281 $7,261,256
Payton Pritchard BOS $4,037,278 $6,807,456

Once the 2024/25 league year begins next July, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’24/25 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.

Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for several of these players to be moved, though it affects some more significantly than others.

The small difference between Pritchard’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, likely wouldn’t be very problematic if the Celtics decide to trade him. But the much larger divide between Bane’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be dealt to an over-the-cap team in 2023/24 — given that the Grizzlies have no desire to move Bane, that’ll be a moot point, but it’s still worth noting.

Trae Young Questionable To Play Tuesday

  • The Hawks might play their in-season tournament opener in Detroit on Tuesday without their top player. Trae Young is listed as questionable for personal reasons, Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. His wife just gave birth, Williams notes (via Twitter).

Hawks’ Bufkin, Gueye Will Miss Extended Time

The Hawks will be without two of their rookies for an extended period, according to a team press release.

Guard Kobe Bufkin underwent an X-ray and medical review on his fractured left thumb on Saturday. His return to play timeline is eight-to-10 weeks from the date of injury, which occurred on Nov. 2.

Bufkin was injured during a practice with the team’s G League club, the College Park Skyhawks.

Bufkin, a guard out of Michigan, was the first player taken outside the lottery this June. The 15th overall pick has made two cameo appearances with the Hawks.

Forward Mouhamed Gueye, who has missed the last two games with a right lower back strain, underwent an MRI on Saturday that revealed a right low back stress fracture. He will be reevaluated in four weeks.

Like Bufkin, Gueye made two brief NBA appearances prior to the injury.

Gueye was the 39th overall pick, which the Hawks acquired in a draft-night trade with the Celtics. Gueye signed a four-year, $7.64MM deal in July.

Southeast Notes: Lowry, Haslem, Poole, Wright, Griffin

With guard Tyler Herro out for at least the next two weeks, the Heat want to see a more aggressive version of veteran guard Kyle Lowry, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

Lowry has been effective for the Heat, averaging 6.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4,9 rebounds per game while leading the team in deflections and drawn charges. However, he’s only taking 5.8 shots per night, his lowest output since the 2008/09 season.

At this point in his career, it’s all about winning,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what I really love about Kyle. He’ll sacrifice points, he’ll sacrifice stats. He does so many other things that impact winning. With that said, I don’t want him to be an afterthought, either. His aggressiveness and finding those moments in between where he can create some chaos is one of the greatest strengths that he’s had over the course of his entire career.

Lowry has just a 10.6 usage percentage, Chiang adds, which is not only the lowest of any Heat player this season but would also be the lowest in his career.

But Kyle is smart and he knows his aggressiveness is important to our team,” Spoelstra said. “The aggressiveness comes from the attacks, getting in the paint. But also being a recipient behind the three-point line and aggressively hunting those open catch-and-shoot threes. That’s really important for our team. It’s part of his brilliance. He’s been able to find ways to be effective on the ball or off the ball, and that’s important for our team.

Herro currently leads the Heat in shot attempts and points, so there’s plenty of production left to pick up for Lowry and the Heat’s other guards. Lowry, 37, is in the final season of a three-year, $85MM contract.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Udonis Haslem played for the Heat for 20 years, officially retiring after the conclusion of the 2022/23 season. Haslem stuck around Miami, helping players at practice and then taking on the role of vice president of basketball development. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, Haslem isn’t allowed to unretire and suit up for the Heat as a player now that he’s receiving a salary in a front office role, something the big man was unaware of. “I didn’t know that. But I don’t miss it. I wasn’t planning on that. I’m fine with that,” Haslem said.
  • Wizards guard Jordan Poole is taking what he learned from the Warriors to Washington, he told Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer in an interview. After winning a championship with the Warriors in 2022, Poole is getting the chance to help lead a team, something that always intrigued him, according to Fischer. “Obviously, I wanted to be in a position to have my own team, and then if it did come, how would I go about that?” Poole said. “Luckily, I’m able to do that so young, after learning from some of the best. It’s cool. It’s a smooth transition. We’re building everything from scratch, essentially. Building up a new foundation. Everything in Golden State was already established, so we kinda had to fit into the mold that they have there.
  • Wizards guard Delon Wright exited Friday’s game against the Hornets with a left knee injury, according to the team (Twitter link). According to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins, Wright won’t play in Washington’s games on Sunday in Brooklyn or Monday in Toronto and will undergo further testing to determine the severity of the injury (Twitter link).
  • Following a promising rookie season in which he immediately impacted the Hawks rotation, AJ Griffin hasn’t played much in his sophomore year. Griffin averaged 8.9 points in 19.5 minutes across 72 games (12 starts) last year compared to 3.2 points in 9.2 minutes this year. Head coach Quin Snyder explained that Griffin is working on his defense. “I think not just AJ, we want growth from others,” Snyder said, per Lauren L. Williams  of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). “As I’ve said before, sometimes minutes are hard to come by with this group… I think he’s focused.”

Largest Trade Exceptions Available This Season

As the NBA’s 2024 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.

As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception (plus $250K) is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.

[RELATED: Salary-Matching Rules For Trades During 2023/24 Season]

For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.25MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.

In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have served as wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $17MM trade exception when they sent Davis Bertans to the Thunder and moved down a couple spots in the 2023 draft lottery, the Mavericks used that TPE to acquire Richaun Holmes along with an additional first-round pick later in the night.

Many trade exceptions expire without being used, but as our tracker shows, there are many sizable ones available this season that could be useful when trade season begins in earnest.

Here are the 20 most valuable trade exceptions around the NBA for now, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:

  1. Atlanta Hawks: $23,019,560 (7/8/24)
  2. Brooklyn Nets: $19,928,571 (7/8/24)
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $18,131,946 (2/9/24)
  4. Washington Wizards: $12,354,400 (6/24/24)
  5. Washington Wizards: $9,800,926 (7/8/24)
  6. Miami Heat: $9,450,000 (7/8/24)
  7. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,778,377 (9/27/24)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,300,000 (2/9/24)
  9. Memphis Grizzlies: $7,492,540 (7/8/24)
  10. Miami Heat: $7,243,842 (7/8/24)
  11. Philadelphia 76ers: $6,831,413 (11/1/24)
  12. New York Knicks: $6,803,012 (7/8/24)
  13. Brooklyn Nets: $6,802,950 (7/8/24)
  14. Phoenix Suns: $6,500,000 (7/17/24)
  15. Boston Celtics: $6,202,500 (7/12/24)
  16. Washington Wizards: $5,379,250 (6/24/24)
  17. Phoenix Suns: $4,975,371 (2/9/24)
  18. Dallas Mavericks: $4,953,980 (7/8/24)
  19. Miami Heat: $4,700,000 (2/7/24)
  20. Houston Rockets: $4,510,000 (10/17/24)

Those Hawks and Nets trade exceptions are big enough to be genuine assets, but I wouldn’t expect either club to make full use of them during the season. Both Atlanta and Brooklyn are about $8-10MM away from the luxury tax line and would move even closer to becoming taxpayers if certain players on their rosters earn bonuses currently considered unlikely.

Neither team is close enough to title contention to warrant becoming a taxpayer this season unless it’s for a major, major acquisition, so don’t count on either the Hawks or Nets using a TPE to bring in a $15MM role player with no outgoing salary.

The luxury tax looms as an issue for some of the other teams on this list as well, but there are some intriguing TPEs to keep an eye on. Would-be contenders like the Sixers, Celtics, and Suns may consider using their exceptions to try to fortify their benches ahead of the postseason, while a rebuilding team like the Wizards – with nearly $30MM in breathing room below the tax – could be a dumping ground for an unwanted contract — as long as that contract comes attached to a draft asset or two.

Teams like the Lakers and Pelicans, who are just narrowly over the tax threshold and could duck below by trading a single player, are potential trade partners to watch for Washington.

It’s worth noting that some of these exceptions may be used in a deal that could otherwise be completed using salary matching. For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player.