Brandon Clarke

Grizzlies Notes: Crowder, Jackson Jr., PF, Clarke, Brooks, Adams, Green

Grizzlies star Ja Morant would like to reunite with former teammate Jae Crowder, who is sitting out training camp as the Suns seek a trade partner for the veteran forward. In reply to Crowder’s tweet about seeking work “where he is wanted..where he is needed,” Morant sent out a “back soon” emoji (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Morant noted that Crowder hit a game-winning three in overtime to help him get his first NBA win.

Crowder didn’t shoot well in 45 games with Memphis in 2019/20, Morant’s rookie season, but he caught fire with Miami after being dealt away. Crowder has spent the past two seasons with Phoenix after signing a three-year, $29MM deal as a free agent in 2020. He’s making $10.2MM in ’22/23, the final season of his contract.

Here’s more from Memphis:

  • Starting power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. underwent surgery to repair a right foot stress fracture at the end of June, with the team saying he’d miss four-to-six months at that time. At Monday’s Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager Zach Kleiman said that timeline remains accurate. However, Jackson said that while he’s unlikely to suit up for opening night, he believes he’s ahead of the team’s schedule (Twitter links via Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian). Jackson hopes to win Defensive Player of the Year in ’22/23 after coming fifth last season, tweets Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I want it badly,” Jackson said.
  • With Jackson injured, second-year big man Santi Aldama was the first name to pop up as a possible replacement in the starting lineup from both Kleiman and head coach Taylor Jenkins, but Jenkins said that there are a number of other candidates for the role, including Brandon Clarke, Ziaire Williams, Dillon Brooks, Xavier Tillman, David Roddy and Jake LaRavia, so it sounds like there might be a training camp battle for the job, or even fluctuate depending on matchups (Twitter links from Cole).
  • Speaking about the contract statuses of Clarke, Brooks and Steven Adams, all of whom are extension-eligible, Kleiman didn’t want to go into specifics of negotiations, but he said the Grizzlies like all three players. “We view them as potential long-term pieces of our group,” Kleiman said, per Cole (via Twitter). Clarke would be a restricted free agent in 2023 if he doesn’t receive an extension, while Brooks and Adams would both be unrestricted. In case you missed, we broke down what an extension for Clarke might look like earlier today.
  • Despite being injured with a torn ACL, it doesn’t sound like veteran wing Danny Green is in danger of being waived anytime soon. “Danny Green is part of this group,” Kleiman said, adding that Memphis expects Green to return in ’22/23. However, his status as a free agent next summer is “to be determined.” (Twitter link via Cole). Green has a nearly $7MM partial guarantee on his $10MM contract this season, so he could be used as a trade chip for salary-matching purposes, but it also makes it expensive to waive him. If the Grizzlies retain Green, Killian Tillie is probably the odd man out, as the team is facing a roster crunch. Tillie will earn a guaranteed $1.9MM this season.

Extension Candidate: Brandon Clarke

This is the fifth installment in our series examining players who are prime candidates for contract extensions. This series will explore the player’s strengths and weaknesses, and will evaluate what a fair deal between the player and his team might look like. We’re continuing today with a look at an athletic big man with one of the league’s best floaters.


Rundown:

The No. 21 overall pick of the 2019 draft after three college seasons (the last at Gonzaga), forward Brandon Clarke was technically drafted by the Thunder, who traded his rights to the Grizzlies for the No. 23 overall pick – used on Darius Bazley — and a 2024 second-rounder. Considering Bazley is probably more likely to be waived entering 2022/23 than to receive a rookie scale extension, and Clarke is well-positioned to land a significant payday, it obviously turned out to be a shrewd move by Memphis.

Clarke made an immediate impact in year one, earning a spot on the All-Rookie First Team after averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG while shooting 61.8% from the floor and 75.9% from the line in 58 games (22.4 MPG). He even showed the ability to space the floor at times, though on very low volume: he converted 35.9% of his 64 three-point attempts on the season.

In year two, Clarke was still productive, but he developed a hitch in his shooting motion that caused his percentages to fall across the board. In 59 games (24.0 MPG), he averaged 10.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .517/.260/.690 shooting. He only attempted 1.3 threes per game, so the dip of almost 10% in that category wasn’t nearly as impactful as the 9.3% drop on twos (65.8% to 56.5%).

Instead of focusing on his weaknesses entering his third season in ‘21/22, Clarke chose to enhance his strengths, and the decision paid off with arguably his finest campaign. In 64 games (19.5 MPG), he averaged 10.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 1.1 BPG while shooting 64.4% from the field and 65.4% from the line. He all but eliminated the long-distance shot from his arsenal, attempting just 22 threes (converting five, for a 22.7% rate).

Clarke was instrumental in leading the Grizzlies past the Timberwolves in their first-round playoff series last season, averaging 16.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.0 BPG while shooting 67.9% from the floor and 65.7% from the line in six games (29.4 MPG). He also pulled down 3.8 offensive boards per contest, and second-chance points were a huge problem for Minnesota. The Warriors’ elite defense was much more effective in neutralizing Clarke in their second-round series, limiting him to 8.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a 51.4% mark from the field and 68.4% from the line in six games (20.0 MPG).

Strengths:

In a league full of incredible athletes, Clarke is a true standout as one of the NBA’s best. He knows how to harness his athleticism to his advantage in multiple ways, making him a unique and versatile player.

Clarke is a matchup problem as a big man because he’s got a very quick first step and has pristine timing for making cuts when defenders aren’t paying attention. He plays with great energy on both ends of the floor, creating extra possessions by hustling for loose balls.

Clarke is a constant pick-and-roll lob threat who is capable of some jaw-dropping dunks. His terrific body control allows him to twist and contort in the air for acrobatic finishes on plays that look like they should be blown up, a rarity for a player his size. Had he qualified, his field goal percentage would have ranked fourth in the NBA last season, and his true shooting percentage (66.0%) ranked fifth.

One of the primary reasons his rim-running is so effective is because Clarke has one of the best floaters in the league. According to Basketball-Reference, 31.1% of Clarke’s shot attempts came from between three and 10 feet and he converted 56.8% of those looks – an elite mark. If a shorter player is on him, he’ll simply rise up over them; if it’s a bigger player, he’ll use his quickness to create space and pull up with feathery-soft touch.

Clarke is an explosive two-footed leaper (40.5″ vertical) with great timing and instincts for blocking shots, ranking in the 93rd percentile of all players in block percentage (4.7%) last season, per DunksAndThrees.com. A quick second jump and a nose for the ball also make him a strong offensive rebounder — his 11% offensive rebounding percentage ranked in the 90th percentile.

Part of what makes the Grizzlies an exciting team to watch is their ability to force a lot of turnovers and excel in transition, and Clarke plays a big part in that. He possesses great speed, is a good enough dribbler to start a fast break, and is an unselfish get-ahead passer in addition to being a tremendous finisher.

He isn’t often asked to make plays for others, but Clarke makes quick, decisive reads with the ball in his hands and is an intelligent ball-mover who rarely turns it over. He posted a 2.53-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in ‘21/22, and his 6.3 turnover percentage would have ranked seventh in the NBA had he qualified, both excellent marks for any player, let alone a power forward.

Finally, Clarke is also a solid defender who can switch across multiple positions. He does a good job limiting his fouls, forcing turnovers (3.1 steals plus blocks per 36 minutes last season), and is an above-average rebounder.

Improvement Areas:

At 6’8” and 215 pounds with a 6’8.25” wingspan, Clarke is built more like a plus-sized wing than a big man. While he’s able to compensate to an extent with his non-stop motor, top-notch athleticism and court awareness, he’s still at a size disadvantage the majority of the time.

There aren’t many players with the post games to exploit Clarke’s relative lack of size, but it’s definitely problematic when the situations arise. He’s stronger than his frame suggests, but he simply lacks the bulk to compete with behemoths down low.

The hitch in Clarke’s jump shot never went away, with his free throw percentage dropping in each of the past two seasons. As deadly as his floater is, its range is still limited, which means that he functions more like a center on offense even though he spends the majority of time at power forward, making him somewhat matchup dependent.

Clarke benefited from the versatility of Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr. as frontcourt partners who could make plays and space the floor. However, Memphis let Anderson walk in free agency (to Minnesota) and Jackson is injured to start the season, so Clarke may have to fend for himself in ‘22/23.

Even though he’s the best reserve big man on the roster, Clarke isn’t necessarily an obvious replacement for Jackson in the starting lineup alongside another non-shooter in Steven Adams. It will be interesting to see how head coach Taylor Jenkins toggles the lineups, because he has typically staggered the minutes for Clarke and Adams due to spacing concerns – the two only shared the court for 165 minutes over 32 games last season, 10 fewer minutes than the garbage time pairing of Jarrett Culver and Xavier Tillman, per NBA.com.

Clarke is a decent ball-handler for a player who plays almost exclusively in the frontcourt, but he’s not particularly adept for someone his size. If he tightened his handle, he’d be able to exploit his speed advantage even more.

Conclusion:

Clarke has proven to be a high-level role player for the Grizzlies and a steal at No. 21 overall. The fact that Memphis didn’t re-sign Anderson in free agency could be a sign that Clarke is in the team’s long-term plans, and for good reason.

His energy, athleticism, efficiency and high basketball IQ have made Clarke of the league’s best bargains on his rookie deal, which paid him a combined $12.15MM over four years (ending in ‘22/23). He could equal or surpass that total in annual average salary on his next contract.

At 26 years old, Clarke is one of the oldest players in the 2019 draft class. Some might say that’s a negative. Yet despite coming off the bench, he has led the class in win shares and trails only teammate Ja Morant in value over replacement player through three seasons, per Basketball-Reference.

Another positive about Clarke being a few years older than his draft peers is that he doesn’t need more time to develop — he’s already very good — and he’s about to enter his prime years. That’s not to imply he can’t continue to improve, but instead of paying him for what he might become, whichever team ends up paying him (he’ll be a restricted free agent if he doesn’t sign an extension) will be getting a player who already contributes a lot to winning.

If I were representing Clarke, I would point to the deals signed by Marvin Bagley III (three years, $37.5MM) and Chris Boucher (three years, $35.25MM) as a baseline, because Clarke is a more well-rounded and better all-around player than both of them have been over the past three seasons.

Clarke’s game is probably most similar to Richaun Holmes’ — another undersized, energetic and athletic big man with an elite floater who’s also a great finisher. Holmes got $46.5MM over four years in the 2021 offseason. However, I think Clarke is more valuable than Holmes as well, because he’s more versatile on both ends of the court, fouls less, and is a much better passer and decision-maker (Holmes is stronger and a better shooter).

Mitchell Robinson’s four-year, $60MM deal seems a little high for Clarke, but it depends on how the Grizzlies value him. If he puts up big numbers this season and they view him as the long-term starter at power forward with Jackson at center, it could be within reach as a restricted free agent next summer.

The problem with that is the deadline for his rookie scale extension is the day before the ‘22/23 season tips off, and I don’t think the Grizzlies will go that high right now. If an extension is reached, I think Clarke will receive something close to the four-year, $50MM deal Wendell Carter signed a year ago.

Southwest Notes: Brunson, Gelfand, Clarke, Johnson

The Knicks are under investigation by the league regarding potential tampering during their pursuit of free agent Jalen Brunson, but that probe wasn’t instigated by Brunson’s old team. According to Marc Stein’s sources, the Mavericks did not file an official complaint against the Knicks, as he reports in his latest Substack post. The Knicks made a series of salary-dumping moves prior to free agency, then snagged Brunson away from Dallas with a four-year, $104MM contract.

We have more Southwest Division news:

  • In the same Substack article, Stein indicates that the Pelicans are making a hard push to hire Pistons analytics expert Sammy Gelfand. Gelfand and Pelicans coach Willie Green previously worked together with the Warriors.
  • Brandon Clarke would be a logical choice to replace Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Grizzlies‘ lineup until Jackson is ready to return from foot surgery. However, that would create other issues, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Clarke didn’t play much with center Steven Adams last season due to the fact that both operate out of the paint. Coach Taylor Jenkins also liked having Clarke on the second unit due to his scoring ability.
  • Keldon Johnson won’t rest on his laurels after signing a four-year, $80MM extension. The Spurs forward told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News that he held a little celebration with family and friends, then went back to work. “I was in the gym the next day,” he said. Johnson wants to live up to the contract. “It’s always been full-time basketball,” Johnson said. “I knew as long as I put in the time and the effort, the extension would come. … I’m in some of the best shape of my life, the strongest I have been in my life.”

Southwest Notes: Mavs’ Roster, Jackson Fill-In, Porter Jr.

The Mavericks will look to keep their 15th roster spot open as the season approaches for a variety of reasons, as Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News explains.

Dallas doesn’t have the assets or interest to pursue trades for either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, but could sign a role player waived after other teams make a significant deal. The Mavericks will also maintain the flexibility to bring in a player in a trade without having to cut someone on a guaranteed contract.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

Stein’s Latest: Grizzlies, Mavs, Pistons, Schröder, Bagley

After reporting over the weekend that the Grizzlies, who hold the 22nd and 29th overall picks in this Thursday’s draft, are “trying hard” to move up, Marc Stein says in his latest Substack report that Memphis is among the teams that has explored the possibility of acquiring the No. 4 overall pick from the Kings.

It would be a challenge for the Grizzlies to entice the Kings to move that fourth overall pick without a lottery selection of their own to offer in return. As Stein observes, Memphis would probably have to offer up at least one member of its veteran core to pique Sacramento’s interest — Stein mentions Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke as possibilities.

Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who confirms that the Grizzlies are trying to trade up from No. 22, suggests that the team has proposed package that includes various veterans, including De’Anthony Melton. However, Woo says Memphis has been trying to move “into the teens,” which is a more realistic goal than getting all the way up to No. 4.

Here are a few more items of interest from Stein:

  • Having agreed to acquire Christian Wood from Houston, the Mavericks are “far less likely” to make use of their $10.9MM trade exception, a source tells Stein. That exception, which will expire after June 27, would allow Dallas to acquire nearly $11MM in salary without sending out any salary of their own, but the Mavs already project to be well over the luxury tax line, especially if they re-sign Jalen Brunson, so they’ll be wary about continuing to spend.
  • While the Pistons have been cited as a potential suitor for Brunson, Stein hears from sources that they’ve been considering targeting Dennis Schröder as a more cost-effective option in the backcourt.
  • Stein also confirms that the Pistons continue to be linked to free agent center Mitchell Robinson and have “very strong interest” in re-signing former No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III.
  • In case you missed it, Stein also passed along several Hawks-related tidbits, which we round up right here.

Southwest Notes: Bullock, Dinwiddie, Clarke, Davis

Mavericks swingman Reggie Bullock has been named this year’s recipient of the 2021/22 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, Bullock announced in a recent Instagram story (hat tip to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News).

“Super honored to have won this award,” Bullock said in his Instagram story, which also included two photos of an engraved trophy. “My platform isn’t taken for granted and I’ll keep inspiring and doing what’s right for my ppl ‼️”

The league has not yet officially revealed the identity of this year’s victor, chose by a committee featuring several social justice leaders. The NBA is supposed to make the announcement at some point during Sunday’s TNT broadcast of the Western Conference Finals.

Aside from Bullock, other finalists for the honor this season include All-Star Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, All-Star Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, Grizzlies All-Defensive Team power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and Bucks All-Defensive Team point guard Jrue Holiday.

The league is set to make a $100K donation to a charitable social justice organization of Bullock’s choosing. The Dallas Morning News reports that Bullock has selected his hometown Kinston Teens to receive the donation. The other finalists will all be given a $25K league donation for their chosen social justice groups.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks reserve guard Spencer Dinwiddie has enjoyed a particularly lucrative playoff run for Dallas thus far, Marc Stein notes at Substack. The structure of the contract Dinwiddie signed during the 2021 offseason with the Wizards is laden with bonuses that incentivize postseason success. Dinwiddie earned $100K when the Mavericks made the second round of the playoffs and $571,427 when the club advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Should Dallas move on to the Finals, Dinwiddie would earn an additional $400K bonus.
  • Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke is hoping to improve his three-point game in time for the 2022/23 season, writes Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Clarke, 25, is eligible for a rookie contract extension this summer. “It’s pretty high up on the list,” Clarke said of improving his long-range shooting. “I kind of proved this year I’m not somebody who… needs to be shooting the ball to be playing well, but that’s definitely something very high up on the list that I want to work on more.” Cole opines that the addition of a three-point shot to Clarke’s repertoire could impact how the Memphis front office views his long-term fit. Clarke is a career 29.4% three-point shooter on 0.9 attempts a night, though he did convert 35.9% of his 1.1 looks per game during his rookie season in 2019/20.
  • The Spurs, owners of the ninth pick in the 2022 draft, are one of several clubs who took a look at top prospect Johnny Davis, a 6’5″ wing out of Wisconsin, during the 2022 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. Davis’s NCAA tenure has him well-versed with rebuilding teams, per Tom Orsbron of the San Antonio Express-News. “We lost six or seven seniors from my freshman year, so it was a very limited roster on the team,” Davis said of the Badgers’ 2021/22 squad. “Guys were looking left and right, (thinking), ‘Who is going to be the next ‘guy’ on the team?’ So I figured, ‘Why not me?’ It was a great opportunity to go out and play freely.” Davis averaged just 7.0 PPG during his freshman season, but took a leap as a sophomore. The 20-year-old put up 19.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.2 APG for the 25-8 Badgers this past season, while being named a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year. The Spurs also possess the No. 20, 25, and 38 picks in the 2022 draft.

Grizzlies Notes: Jones, Offseason, Clarke

Although he said it’s not the “end all, be all” for him, Grizzlies point guard Tyus Jones admitted in his end-of-season press conference that he’d like to be a starter, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“You always strive for more, but at the same time with that being said, I’ve always viewed myself as a starter, even coming off the bench,” Jones said. “A lot of times being called one of the best backups in the league, I never called myself that. I always just viewed that I was just a starter that’s coming of the bench. That’s always been my mindset.”

Jones will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and Cole notes that the Grizzlies will be at a disadvantage if Jones prioritizes the opportunity to play a starting role, given that Ja Morant is obviously the team’s long-term starter at point guard.

However, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman indicated the Grizzlies have interest in re-signing Jones, referring to him as a player who has “always been kind of like a cultural, foundational type piece for the group.” And, for his part, Jones hasn’t signaled that he plans to leave Memphis.

“It’s definitely not going to be an easy decision by any means,” Jones said of his upcoming free agency. “I don’t have my mind made up one way or another.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Kleiman was happy with what the Grizzlies accomplished in 2021/22, but made it clear that he believes there’s still room to improve, per Michael Wallace of Grind City Media. “The goal is, and continues to be, to win a championship here,” Kleiman said. “The decision-making North Star continues to be what’s going to maximize our chances of doing so, building in a sustainable way. I’m excited to see what opportunities there are to make us better. We’re going to look at everything on the table… to increase our likelihood of getting us to the point we believe we can get to.”
  • Head coach Taylor Jenkins conveyed a similar sentiment in his end-of-season comments, as Wallace relays: “It’s been an unbelievable year, but there are also plenty of ways we can get better. Our guys on this team have never wavered in their ability to adjust and adapt to whatever challenges we’ve faced. And we’ve found success together. After a win, after a loss, no matter, we found ways to stick with our values and get better from it. We take that same mindset into the offseason.”
  • Coming off a strong year as a rotation player, Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer and earned plenty of praise from Kleiman at season’s end this weekend. “Brandon had a great year, and he and the coaches leaned into what he’s great at,” Kleiman said, per Parker Fleming of Grizzly Bear Blues (Twitter link). “We’re in a great place with Brandon, and he fits great with what we’re trying to do.”
  • In a subscriber-only story, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian explores what’s next for the Grizzlies following their second-round elimination.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a pair of Ja Morant news items on Sunday night.

Western Notes: Adams, Bane, Gobert, Bullock, Green, Clarke

A day before Game 2 of his team’s second-round series against the Warriors, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said that center Steven Adams remains in the league’s health and safety protocols, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. Adams, who was placed in the protocols on Thursday, is listed as out for Tuesday’s game, the team’s PR department tweets. Starting guard Desmond Bane is listed as questionable due to lower back soreness. Bane was limited to nine points in 32 minutes in Game 1 on Sunday.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Rudy Gobert and his agent are still awaiting their annual exit meeting with the Jazz, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. That meeting will likely determine how the two sides proceed going forward into the offseason, Jones adds. Utah is expected to shake things up after another early playoff exit. Gobert has four years remaining on his five-year, $205MM contract.
  • Reggie Bullock‘s defensive importance was so profound against the Jazz that the Mavericks played him 254 of a possible 288 minutes in the series. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes an in-depth piece on Bullock and how personal tragedies have shaped his career. Bullock is in the first year of a three-year deal, though the final season isn’t fully guaranteed.
  • The NBA upheld Draymond Green‘s Flagrant Foul 2 ruling in Game 1 of the Warriors’ series against the Grizzlies. The player who was fouled, Brandon Clarke, wasn’t surprised that Green committed such an infraction (ESPN video link). “He’s been known for flagrant fouls in his career. I’ve watched him on TV my whole life, it feels like, so I wasn’t really shocked,” Clarke said.

Grizzlies Exercise 2022/23 Options For Morant, Clarke, Bane

The Grizzlies have picked up the fourth-year options for Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke and the third-year option on Desmond Bane, the team announced (via Twitter). The moves were expected as all three players deliver a level of production that exceeds their salaries for the 2022/23 season.

Morant, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, was named Rookie of the Year in 2020 and helped Memphis reach the playoffs last season. He will make $12.1MM next season and will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension in July.

Clarke, who was selected 21st in 2019, has been a consistent bench player and part-time starter during both of his years with the Grizzlies. He will earn $4.3MM in 2022/23 and will also be eligible for an extension next summer.

Bane, the 30th pick in 2020, was acquired in a draft-night trade and had a productive rookie year, starting 17 of the 68 games he played. He will make $2.13MM during the 2022/23 season.

Memphis elected not to pick up the $8.1MM fourth-year option for Jarrett Culver, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Culver, who was acquired from the Timberwolves in an August trade, will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Southwest Notes: Thad, Spurs Youth, Wood, Clarke, Tillman

New Spurs forward Thaddeus Young appears to be staying put in San Antonio for the time being. The Suns continue to be intrigued by the versatile veteran, but an immediate move is “doubtful,” per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Twitter link).

Young was sent to the Spurs from Chicago in the sign-and-trade package that netted the Bulls pricey small forward DeMar DeRozan during the 2021 offseason. The 33-year-old Young enjoyed a stellar year with the Bulls in 2020/21, averaging 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 4.3 APG while logging time at the small forward, power forward, and center positions for a Chicago team in desperate need of his veteran leadership, passing skills, and defensive savvy.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With longtime leaders DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay now all gone from the Spurs‘ roster, the club’s young players have developed a strong bond together, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“The Spurs do a great job of picking people who have great personalities off the court,” said 22-year-old shooting guard Lonnie Walker. “We all hang out every other day, going out to eat, doing something as a team… As we continue to build that trust, it starts to lead onto the court, knowing what each other can do, knowing what each other can’t do, what we should be better at.”
  • When Rockets center Christian Wood first inked a three-year, $41MM deal with Houston in the 2020 offseason, he was not anticipating that he’d soon find himself on a rebuilding roster. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details how Wood continues to look on the bright side of his new situation. At the time, the club still sported then-All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, along with veteran power forward P.J. Tucker. Now all those players have moved on. Westbrook was subsequently traded to the Wizards later in the 2020 offseason (and has now been rerouted to the Lakers), while Harden forced his way onto the Nets and Tucker was sent to the 2021 title-winning Bucks. “I know what we’re trying to build and develop,” Wood said. “I’m looking ahead at the future at what this team has to offer. I know we have a bunch of young talent. I said before, we’re not going to go in try to be the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But we’re going to try to play every game like it’s our last.”
  • Though they could play together, defensive-oriented 6’8″ Grizzlies bench big men Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman Sr. seem poised to compete with each other to carve out rotation roles in Memphis, writes Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian. Herrington suggests that Tillman may have an edge edge over Clarke in the eventual rotation, thanks in part to his solid shooting and half-court passing acumen.