Ben Simmons

Eastern Rumors: Magic, Mirotic, Parker, Simmons

The Magic will likely be in firesale mode approaching the trade deadline, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Rival executives expect Orlando, which has sunk to the bottom of the conference standings, to shop guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton and swingman Mario Hezonja, Stein adds. Fournier is signed through the 2020/21 season at $17MM annually. Payton can become a restricted free agent in the summer, while Hezonja will be an unrestricted free agent after the team declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October.

In other items regarding the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is now eligible to be dealt and admitted to reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell, that he’s motivated by the trade chatter. He signed a two-year, $27MM contract in September that includes a team option for next season. That made him ineligible to be moved until mid-January. “This is kind of some motivation for me,” he said. “I know it sounds weird. But people are talking, ‘OK, Niko be gone’ and ‘Bye bye, Niko’ or whatever. But for me, it’s OK, just do what you’ve got to do. Play well and try to do your best until the last day and not be distracted.”
  • Bucks forward Jabari Parker believes he’ll make his season debut before the All-Star break, he told Scott Grodsky of CBS 58 in Milwaukee. Parker tore his ACL in February, his second major knee injury since entering the league. Parker, who was assigned to the Bucks’ G League affiliate on Monday to continue his rehab, is targeting “the first two weeks before the All-Star game. It’s probably in that area.”
  • Sixers rookie Ben Simmons vows he won’t back down from a challenge, according to an Associated Press report. Simmons and the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry were ejected during the closing seconds on Monday after an altercation. Simmons believes that veteran opponents are trying to intimidate him. “I don’t know if they’re trying to test me or see how I am on the court, but I won’t play around,” he said.

Atlantic Notes: Noah, Dinwiddie, Embiid, Simmons

A back injury to Knicks center Enes Kanter forced the Turkish center to miss the team’s last three games. In his absence, Willy Hernangomez has received more playing time and in Monday’s loss, Joakim Noah played his first three minutes of the season. If Noah is active, the Knicks have four options at center since Kyle O’Quinn is still on the roster, and head coach Jeff Hornacek does not know how the team will manage their bigs, Alex Squadron of the New York Post relays.

Hornacek addressed sending Hernangomez to the G League so he can play consistent minutes, but downplayed that possibility.

“I don’t think we’ve discussed that so far,” Hornacek said. “As we move forward, if we’re back with Enes and Kyle, and maybe even Jo occasionally, we are going to need to figure that out. I don’t know if we can always dress four bigs.”

The Knicks are in an unenviable situation with four centers. Noah has two more expensive seasons on his contract after 2017/18, Kanter is the incumbent starter, O’Quinn has been a productive reserve, and Hernangomez is just 23 years old. Barring an injury – or stretching Noah – the Knicks will have to somehow find minutes at one position for four players the rest of the season.

Check out other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Speaking of Noah, his three minutes on Monday included two points, one block, and one rebound. Jonathan Lehman of the New York Post writes that while the season debut was brief, Hornacek wanted to get energy from Noah in limited action. “Oh my god, it’s been so long,” Noah said. “Just to be on the court is special. … Playing in the Garden is something I’ll never take for granted.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie has been productive for the Nets in the absence of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. In a recent podcast, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic and Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury-News discussed Dinwiddie’s trade value and Net Income at NetsDaily examined the possibility of the Nets trading their starting point guard.
  • Joel Embiids recovery from knee surgery has limited the Sixers big man in playing back-to-back games this season. As the start of December looms, head coach Brett Brown is unsure if Embiid can play a back-to-back starting with this week’s games on Wednesday and Thursday, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
  • Ben Simmons left the Sixers‘ loss versus the Cavaliers early on Monday after he sprained his right ankle — x-rays taken after the game were negative. Dave McMenamin of ESPN also detailed how Cavaliers — specifically forward Jae Crowder — shut down Simmons before his early exit.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Hinkie

While Joel Embiid has attracted much of the attention following a career night on Wednesday, it could be Sixers forward Ben Simmons who ends up changing the NBA, Mike Sielski of The Inquirer writes.

The scribe writes that the 2016 first-overall pick is coasting to the Rookie of the Year Award with averages of 17.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. At the same time, the Sixers rookie is as marketable off the court as he is versatile on it.

Beyond all that, however, Sielski writes that Simmons’ openness about how pointless and unnecessary he feels the one-and-done rule preventing 18-year-olds from entering the NBA Draft is could add to his lasting impact on the league itself.

There’s more from the Sixers tonight:

  • The Process worked, Victor Mather of the New York Times writes. Mather breaks down the years-long, Sam Hinkie-led roster rebuild for the uninitiated.
  • Excitement around Joel Embiid grew ever so slightly this week as a stat-filling career best provided a glimpse into what could possibly be the Sixers’ future. That’s conditional, Sam Amick of USA Today writes, on if the big man can consistently stay on the court.
  • There have been no shortage of takes that LeBron James would be wise to join the Sixers via free agency next summer. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes that Philly could punish the Warriors in the paint with James on board.

And-Ones: Youth Movement, Asian Influence, Seattle

The current crop of NBA rookies is one of the best that hoops fans have seen in years, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders writes. The scribe cites Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum as two first-year players who’ve looked poised and dominant in significant roles out of the gates.

It’s not just a top-heavy class either, however, all of Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen and Donovan Mitchell have impressed over the course of their first months in the NBA.

The youth movement may not be limited to the 2017/18 season though. Marc Spears of The Undefeated recently profiled the 12 best collegiate players who could make an impact at the NBA level as early as next season, going so far as to declare that Michael Porter Jr. should have greater star power than anybody in the 2017 class.

There’s more around the league:

  • As the world economy shifts, more and more prominent Asian businesses and billionaires are looking to buy into the NBA. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune breaks down the trend that formally started when Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor sold a 5% stake in the franchise to Lizhang Jiang.
  • While Tim Leiweke remains confident that he and his Oak View Group represent Seattle’s best chance of regaining an NBA franchise, it’s not necessarily going to happen as soon as some fans would hope. He spoke on the topic at length with Q13’s Bill Wixey.
  • The BIG3 will add retired point guard T.J. Ford to its ranks, an ESPN report says. The guard averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game over the course of 306 NBA starts in eight seasons.

Sixers Pick Up Four Options; Okafor In Limbo

The Sixers have exercised their 2018/19 rookie scale team options on four players, according to RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions. Philadelphia has picked up third-year options for Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, along with the fourth-year option for Justin Anderson.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2018/19 Rookie Scale Team Options]

That leaves Jahlil Okafor as the only player with a 2018/19 team option that has yet to be exercised. The Sixers could still pick up Okafor’s fourth-year option – which has a cap hit of about $6.3MM – at some point today. However, the club continues to explore potential trades involving the former third overall pick, and those trade talks could determine whether or not Okafor’s option gets exercised, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Outside of Simmons’ option, which will count for about $6.4MM against the 76ers’ cap, the 2018/19 options picked up by the team so far are modest. Saric and and Anderson will have cap charges of about $2.5MM apiece, while Luwawu-Cabarrot’s will be a little over $1.5MM.

The decisions lock all four players in for the ’18/19 season, and Anderson will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, assuming he’s not extended during the 2018 offseason. Philadelphia will face fourth-year option decisions on Simmons, Saric, and Luwawu-Cabarrot a year from now.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Fultz, Pullen, Anderson

The Sixers expect to have Joel Embiid ready for Wednesday’s opener at Washington, tweets Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The fourth-year center, who signed a rookie-scale extension last week, sat out practice today, but coach Brett Brown told reporters he expects Embiid to practice on Monday and be ready for the first game.

Brown also said rookie point guard Markelle Fultz, the top pick in this year’s draft, will start the season as a reserve (Twitter link). Fultz was limited by knee and shoulder injuries in the preseason and didn’t see much playing time.

There’s more news out of Philadelphia:

  • Converting his contract to a two-way deal was fine with Jacob Pullen, who was looking for any way to get on an NBA roster, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers made the move Saturday, which will keep Pullen with the Delaware 87ers for most of the season. Players on two-way contracts are limited to 45 days in the NBA and salaries that top out at about $275K. But at age 27, Pullen found that preferable to spending another season overseas. “Knowing what I know now and knowing what my dreams are, where I want to be, you have to take this,” said Pullen, who spent last year in Russia and has also played in Italy, Israel, Spain and Croatia. “I tell people all the time, there are three ways to the top — the escalator, elevator, stairs. Some people get the elevator. Some get the escalator. Some walk up all of the flights of stairs. The NBA is an important thing to me now. It’s a dream that I want to come true. So I’ll take the stairs.”
  • Justin Anderson may compete with Jahlil Okafor to be the Sixers’ most improved player, Pompey writes in a separate piece. The 23-year-old swingman, who was traded to Philadelphia in February, dropped weight over the offseason and worked to improve his outside shot.
  • Although Ben Simmons still has some flaws him his game, he impressed opposing coaches with his potential during preseason, Pompey adds in another story. Simmons is preparing for his official rookie season after sitting out all of last year while recovering from a broken foot. “That kid, they are not talking about him enough – the way he moves with the ball, his ability to see the floor, the way he can get places on the floor,” said Grizzlies coach David Fizdale. “I think once he gets confidence in the shot, where you really have to close out on him to the three, wow, he is a big-time talent.”

Sixers Notes: Okafor, Backcourt, Simmons, Embiid

GM Bryan Colangelo told reporters today he is not seeking trade offers for Jahlil Okafor, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly. A report surfaced last week that the Sixers were planning to call around the league in an effort to find a new home for the 21-year-old center, who has been beset by injuries and off-court problems during his two years in Philadelphia. The third pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor has averaged 14.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, but has appeared in just 103 games. The Sixers had advanced trade talks with the Pelicans and Bulls about Okafor before the deadline in February.

There’s more from media day in Philadelphia:

  • Okafor will probably be limited in camp because of knee problems, Colangelo adds, as will Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who has tendinitis in his knee (Twitter link).
  • Colangelo also denied that he is working on a deal to thin out the team’s backcourt (Twitter link). The Sixers have a surplus of guards after drafting Markelle Fultz and signing J.J. Redick this summer.
  • After missing all of his rookie season while recovering from a broken foot, Ben Simmons heads into training camp with no medical restrictions, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simmons had surgery on a Jones fracture he suffered during training camp last year. Although there were reports during the season that he was close to returning, the Sixers decided the wisest move was to give him the entire year to recover. “I’m ready to go. 100%. Ready to play,” Simmons said today (Twitter link).
  • Joel Embiid hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five competition yet, but he is confident he’ll be ready when that happens (Twitter link). Embiid underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery in March to fix a meniscus tear in his left knee. He said two or three scans have been conducted on the knee since the operation and all have looked perfect. “I feel great,” Embiid said. “The past couple of months since the surgery I’ve been working pretty hard on my rehab.” (Twitter link). He adds that his target date to return is opening night, and he may not play during the preseason unless doctors decide he is fully ready (Twitter link). Embiid said he would like to play a complete season, but “I’ll be honest, I’m not playing 82 games.” (Twitter link). He also denied accusations that he is refusing to take part in five-on-five games until the team gives him an extension on his rookie contract. Embiid admits that he has little leverage because of his injury history, but emphasizes that he wants to play (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Simmons, Carroll

The Raptors have four players on non-guaranteed deals effectively auditioning for the final two guaranteed slots on their roster, Josh Lewenberg of TSN writes. Given the number of veterans the team lost over the offseason, the individuals who end up in the 14th and 15th spots on the squad could actually see meaningful minutes in 2017/18.

Among those battling for one of the final openings on the lone Canadian team’s roster is Canadian national team forward Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer didn’t make much of an impact on the playoff-bound Rockets last season but serves as a potent deep ball threat, not unlike outgoing Raptors forward Patrick Patterson.

Wiltjer will face stiff competition making the Raptors, especially from the versatile K.J. McDaniels who failed to stick with the Nets last season but has otherwise shown promise as an incredibly versatile, Swiss army knife of a forward.

Also vying for the final two spots will be Kennedy Meeks and Alfonzo McKinnie, the latter of whom Lewenberg mentions along with McDaniels to be the ones to watch as training camp begins and the Raptors inch closer to finalizing their roster.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

Sixers ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Embiid Extension

Speaking to reporters today, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo confirmed that discussions concerning an extension for Joel Embiid are underway. Colangelo added that the 76ers are “cautiously optimistic” that they’ll be able to find common ground with Embiid before next month’s deadline (Twitter link via Derek Bodner of The Athletic).

Although he has only appeared in 31 total NBA games, Embiid is entering his fourth season as a pro, making him eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason. He and the Sixers have until October 16 to work out an agreement — if they can’t strike a deal, the young center will be on track to reach restricted free agency in 2018.

[RELATED: Extension Candidate: Joel Embiid]

If the Sixers could be fully confident in Embiid’s health going forward, the club likely wouldn’t hesitate to offer a maximum salary extension, but the 23-year-old’s ability to stay on the floor remains a question mark. Head coach Brett Brown indicated today that Embiid hasn’t played 5-on-5 ball yet, and he isn’t sure what to expect from the fourth-year center in training camp next week (Twitter link via Bodner).

While Embiid hasn’t yet been cleared to participate in all basketball activities for training camp, he also hasn’t suffered any setbacks, Colangelo stressed today. The Sixers are taking an “ultra-conservative” approach with their potential franchise center, and will have a better idea next week of what he’ll be able to do in camp (Twitter links via Bodner).

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Colangelo and the Sixers don’t anticipate any restrictions in camp for Ben Simmons, who has been playing 5-on-5 for some time — Simmons has been “dominating the gym,” per Colangelo (Twitter links via Bodner).
  • Although the Sixers used a chunk of their cap room this offseason, the team stuck to one-year deals for J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson, retaining future flexibility, as Ian Thomsen of details. “We went through free agency this year with discipline by not spending multiyear dollars,” Colangelo said. “That was hard but it was the right thing to do, and I think that we’re going to be very happy. That’s not to say that J.J. Redick or Amir Johnson will be a one-and-done guy. We’re going to see how we play and grow with this group.”
  • The goal in avoiding multiyear contracts for free agents was to retain max room for 2018, and Colangelo believes that space will come in handy next summer, as Thomsen writes. “Right now we see a great young core of players that will hopefully maintain the type of health we have currently — and then the ability not only to develop that core but to be in a position to add a max player next year,” Colangelo said. “We think it’s very feasible.”
  • While expectations are on the rise for the Sixers, Colangelo is trying to keep them in check, per Thomsen. “Any talk of playoffs is getting a little ahead of ourselves,” Colangelo said. “You clearly want that to be a goal that you discuss internally. But the reality is we’re so young, we’re so inexperienced right now. … Forecasting (the playoffs) would be definitely, I believe, unrealistic. But hoping for that? It’s on everybody’s mind.”

Sixers Notes: Brand, Simmons, Summer Moves

The Sixers are expected to hire former player Elton Brand as the GM of their G-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets. Brand has served as a development consultant for the franchise, Charania adds. Brand would fill the vacancy left by the departure of Brandon Williams, who was hired by the Kings late last month as their assistant GM. Brand played for the Sixers from 2008-12, then rejoined them for the final 17 games of his career during the 2015/16 season.

In other news involving the club:

  • Ben Simmons says he’s “ready to go” for training camp after recovering from the foot injury that prevented him from playing last season, he told Roy Ward of The Age. Simmons said he’s eager to prove himself after his rookie season was delayed by the surgery. “A lot of people maybe doubt me now but I’m ready to come back stronger and get to work,” he vowed to Ward. Simmons has been medically cleared for all basketball activities. He ran a basketball camp in Melbourne, Australia last week but flew back to Philadelphia on Monday to prepare for training camp, Ward continues. The Sixers sent two coaches to Melbourne to work with Simmons, including a shooting coach, but the point forward isn’t concerned about his jumper. “My shot has always been fine,” he insisted to Ward.
  • The Sixers sent a message to their players and fans that they’re finally serious about winning when they traded up for the top pick in the draft, Shaun Powell of notes in his offseason recap. The Sixers could have just taken the best available player at the No. 3 spot but GM Bryan Colangelo made a bold move by trading up for point guard Markelle Fultz, Powell continues. The Sixers now have solid building blocks with Joel Embiid, Simmons, Fultz and Robert Covington but still have to figure out what to do with Jahlil Okafor, Powell adds.
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