- The Hornets‘ signing of Xavier Sneed to a 10-day contract helped clear the way for Theo Maledon to have a career night on Tuesday, as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer explains. Teams are limited to having their two-way players active for just 90 combined games (instead of 100) if they don’t have full 15-man rosters, so adding Sneed as a 15th man allowed the team to start Maledon. He responded with 19 points and nine assists in a road win over Oklahoma City.
- Hornets forward P.J. Washington may have played his last game before he becomes a restricted free agent. Washington left Friday’s loss to Chicago due to a sprained right ankle, and Boone isn’t sure whether he’ll return for any of the four games left on Charlotte’s schedule.
Clippers star Paul George isn’t expected to play again during the regular season as he recovers from a right knee sprain, but he hasn’t been ruled for the postseason. Still, the Clippers recognize that they’ll likely need to win a few playoff games without George in order to have a chance to get him back in their lineup, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance this week on FanDuel TV (Twitter video link).
“The Clippers believe, I’m told, that they’re going to have to get out of at least the first round for a real window for Paul George to return,” Charania said. “So maybe second round, conference finals. You get out of the first round and you give yourself a chance to get Paul George back.”
At 41-36, the Clippers are currently the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, so they may enter the first round without home court advantage. Winning a series on the road without their top scorer would be a tall order, but it may be L.A.’s only path to getting George back on the court this spring.
Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:
- Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left ankle sprain) was originally listed as out for Friday’s game against Indiana (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman), but has since been upgraded to questionable (Twitter link via Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic). Gilgeous-Alexander, whose team still has a hold on the 10th spot in the West at 38-39, has missed the last two games due to that sprained ankle.
- Another Western Conference All-Star, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, will also remain sidelined on Friday, tweets Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. It’s the fourth time in the last five games that Markkanen has been ruled out due to a left hand contusion. A loss vs. Boston tonight might put the Jazz’s play-in hopes on life support — they’re currently at No. 12 in the West, 1.5 games back of Oklahoma City.
- Hornets guard Terry Rozier will miss a fourth straight game on Friday vs. Chicago due to left foot discomfort, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Charlotte has just four games left after tonight, so it’s unclear whether we’ll see Rozier again this season. Kelly Oubre (right shoulder sprain), who has also been out for the last three games, has been upgraded to questionable for Friday.
MARCH 30: The Hornets have officially signed Simmons to a two-way deal, the club confirmed today in a press release.
MARCH 29: The Hornets have agreed to sign guard Kobi Simmons to a two-way contract, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Simmons will be the second player from the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s G League affiliate, to receive a promotion to the Hornets’ 17-man roster this week. The team also signed Xavier Sneed to a 10-day contract.
Simmons, who went undrafted out of Arizona in 2017, appeared in 33 NBA games for Memphis and Cleveland during his first two seasons, but has spent most of his professional career in the G League. He also played one season in Poland in 2021/22.
In 32 G League regular season games in ’22/23, Simmons has averaged 18.2 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per night, with a shooting line of .488/.383/.795. He was even better during the Showcase Cup in the fall, putting up 21.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 5.3 RPG on .491/.375/.837 shooting in 14 appearances (38.0 MPG).
If Simmons gets into a game for the Hornets during the last two weeks of this season, it will be his first NBA appearance since February 2, 2019.
Charlotte has had an open two-way slot since promoting Bryce McGowens to the standard roster a little over a month ago. Simmons and Theo Maledon will now occupy those two-way spots. The Hornets were one of three NBA teams with a two-way opening — the Pacers and Suns are the other two, as our tracker shows.
In addition to addressing the state of the CBA negotiations between the NBA and NBPA during his press conference on Wednesday, commissioner Adam Silver spoke about several other topics, including rumors that he could replace Bob Iger as Disney’s CEO (“I have no intention of going anywhere,” Silver said) and his meeting earlier this month with Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.
As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays, Silver also discussed the reports stating that Michael Jordan is in talks to sell a stake in the Hornets, explaining that Jordan expects to still be very much involved in the NBA even if he’s no longer the majority owner in Charlotte.
“One thing Michael has told me is that whether or not that transaction gets done, he will remain governor in the league, technically maybe the alternate governor instead of the governor, so he’ll still stay very involved,” Silver said. “He’d still continue to have an interest in the league.
“I recognize that over time, people’s interests move on to other areas. He’s not living in the market right now, etc. So, completely understandable. But the good news is, I think regardless of his ownership status, he will remain part and parcel of everything that this league continues to do. I have no doubt about that.”
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- The 2023 MVP race is tighter than ever in the season’s home stretch, according to the third and final straw poll conducted by Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The 100 media members who submitted five-man ballots to Bontemps picked Sixers center Joel Embiid over Nuggets center Nikola Jokic by a grand total of two points (790 to 788). Jokic actually received more first-place votes (42) than Embiid (40), while Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was also very much in the mix, with the remaining 18 first-place votes and 612 total points.
- Asked during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter audio link) if he has received feedback from NBA teams about why he’s not in the league, free agent center DeMarcus Cousins said he hasn’t gotten a real explanation. “I’ve asked many questions. I’ve reached out to former teams,” Cousins said. “I kind of get sugar-coated answers. I can never really get the raw, honest truth. I’ve struggled with that as well. I would love to get a real answer.”
- In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton considers the effect a minimum games-played requirement would have on All-NBA voting, noting that players who have earned All-NBA honors while playing fewer than 58 games have often been among the league’s biggest superstars.
- The Hornets surprisingly have the NBA’s top defense since the All-Star break, writes Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com, who takes a look at how Charlotte has made strides on the less glamorous end of the court. One player making a major impact is point guard Dennis Smith Jr., according to Duncan. Smith, who missed Tuesday’s win over the Thunder due to a sprained right big toe, is on an expiring minimum-salary contract and is set to his unrestricted free agency in the offseason.
12:02pm: The Hornets have officially signed Sneed to a 10-day contract, the team confirmed in a press release.
9:52am: The Hornets are calling up forward Xavier Sneed from the G League, according to Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer, who reports (via Twitter) that Sneed is signing a 10-day contract with the club.
Sneed, 25, has spent the 2022/23 season with the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s NBAGL affiliate, and has appeared in a total of 44 games from the club across the Showcase Cup and regular season. In 32 regular season appearances (31.2 MPG), Sneed has averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per night with a .393/.318/.738 shooting line.
A G League regular since going undrafted out of Kansas State in 2020, Sneed has also accumulated a little NBA experience. He played in two games for the Grizzlies while on a 10-day contract last season and then saw action in seven more contests for the Jazz on a two-way deal.
The Hornets have had an opening on their 15-man roster for months, so no corresponding move will be necessary to create an opening for Sneed. Charlotte still has an open two-way slot as well.
Sneed will earn $94,136 on his 10-day deal with the Hornets. He’ll provide depth for a banged-up Charlotte squad that is currently without LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Cody Martin (Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre are also on the injury report for Tuesday’s game).
- Hornets guard James Bouknight hasn’t seen regular minutes for most of his first two NBA seasons, but he re-entered the rotation on Sunday and is expected to play more frequently in the season’s final two weeks, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “I just think it’s an opportunity for him,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “He can now use this as a springboard into his summer. One of things that hurt his year this year was he didn’t have a summer last year. He was injured, so he wasn’t able to do anything. Regardless of how old guys are, most of their year is set up in the summer. Rarely do guys have bad summers and come back and have great years.”
- After leaving Thursday’s loss to New Orleans with injuries, Kelly Oubre (right shoulder strain) and Terry Rozier (right foot soreness) are listed as questionable and doubtful, respectively, for Friday’s game in Dallas, the Hornets announced (via Twitter). On a positive note, rookie center Mark Williams, who has missed six straight games with a right thumb sprain, is listed as probable — there’s a good chance he’ll return to action tonight.
For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents during the 2023 offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Southeast players.
Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Wizards
- 2022/23: $33.8MM
- 2023/24: $36MM player option
- Stock: Up
I think Porzingis has been the Wizards’ best player this season. You could interpret that as a backhanded compliment since they aren’t very good, but I don’t mean it to be — he’s having a career year.
Through 62 games (32.6 MPG) in 2022/23, the 27-year-old is averaging 23.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.9 SPG and 1.5 BPG on .492/.375/.849 shooting. The points, assists and steals per game represent career highs, and he’s scoring more efficiently than ever, recording career bests in FG%, 2PT% (.556), free throw attempts (6.5 per game), free throws made (5.5) and true shooting percentage (.621).
Porzingis is also playing solid defense, with opponents shooting just 56% at the rim against him, per NBA.com‘s data — a strong mark. He has generally been an active deterrent, and it’s tough to shoot over someone 7’3″.
The biggest question mark surrounding Porzingis has always been his health, as he could surpass the 70-game mark for just the second time in his career this season. Maybe something in the three-year, $105MM range could be within reach – I’d be hesitant to go out four or five years.
Kevin Love, F/C, Heat
- 2022/23: $28.9MM + $3.1MM
- 2023/24: UFA
- Stock: Down
Love was the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2021/22 after putting up 13.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 2.2 APG on .430/.392/.838 shooting in 72 games (22.5 MPG) for Cleveland. He had a solid start this season, averaging 11.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.6 APG on .425/.409/.861 shooting in 15 games (21.3 MPG).
Unfortunately, he sustained a thumb injury that impacted his outside shooting – a huge reason why he had been an effective bench piece. Over the following 26 games (19.3 MP), he averaged just 6.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 1.4 APG on .364/.308/.926 shooting. The Cavs subsequently pulled him from the rotation, but he still wanted a chance to play, so the two sides reached a buyout agreement, with Love catching on with the Heat.
In 14 games (21.4 MPG) with Miami, he’s averaging 7.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.0 APG on .383/.286/.850 shooting. Love has always been a very good defensive rebounder, and he is a terrific outlet passer. However, he is an overall poor defensive player, he’ll be 35 years old before next season begins, and he has a lengthy injury history.
It’s hard to envision him getting more than a one-year contract in the offseason, and I’d be very surprised if it’s for more than the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be $7MM).
Max Strus, G/F, Heat
- 2022/23: Minimum salary
- 2023/24: UFA
- Stock: Down
Strus is already a success story as an undrafted free agent who originally caught on with Boston and then Chicago on two-way deals before tearing his ACL in December 2019. He worked his way back through the G League and caught on with Miami before ‘20/21, inking another two-way deal.
He impressed the Heat enough to earn a two-year, minimum-salary contract, and had a terrific season in ‘21/22, averaging 10.6 PPG and 3.0 RPG while shooting 41% from deep on high volume in 68 games (23.3 MPG). Strus was so important that he was starting for the Heat in the playoffs as they came very close to making it back to the Finals.
As with Love, Strus started the season well, averaging 15.1 PPG and 3.8 RPG on .460/.378/.864 shooting 15 games (33 MPG). He has been in a prolonged shooting slump for much of the rest of the season though, averaging 10.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 2.3 APG on .387/.328/.892 shooting over the past 57 games (27.9 MPG).
Strus isn’t a great defender, but he’s not a liability. The main reason he plays is to make timely cuts and space the floor. He’s shooting just 34% from three this season.
He’s only 26, so I have no doubt that he will get a multiyear contract and a raise on his minimum salary. But his stock is definitely down compared to last year.
Moritz Wagner, F/C, Magic
- 2022/23: Minimum salary
- 2023/24: UFA
- Stock: Up
Part of the reason Orlando was comfortable trading Mohamed Bamba at the deadline is that he had been supplanted in the rotation by Wagner, a fifth-year big man who played his college ball at Michigan. Wagner missed the first 18 games of the season while recovering from a foot injury, but has played well since he returned.
A talented, energetic and decisive scorer, Wagner is averaging a career-high 11.1 PPG along with 4.7 RPG on .496/.310/.844 shooting in 51 games (20.2 MPG). He has played well as a fill-in starter, averaging 14.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .525/.339/.869 shooting in 17 games (26.7 MPG).
At 6’11” and 245 pounds, Wagner has an interesting blend of ball skills and footwork for a center. He’s quite effective at using pump fakes to drive and spin his way to the basket, frequently drawing fouls. He’s converting 62.8% of his twos and 84.4% of his 3.4 free throw attempts per game, which is why his true shooting percentage is well above average (62.8%) even though he’s only shooting 31% from deep.
The 25-year-old has outplayed his minimum-salary deal, and the Magic have his Bird rights if they want to bring him back. Wagner is not a rim protector and he’s just an OK rebounder. Perhaps something in the range of $5-8MM per season could be within reach.
Kelly Oubre, G/F, Hornets
- 2022/23: $12.6MM
- 2023/24: UFA
- Stock: Neutral
Oubre brings prototypical size on the wing at 6’7″ with an enormous 7’2″ wingspan. He’s an excellent athlete and excels in the open court.
Through 48 games (32.2 MPG), the 27-year-old is averaging a career-high 20.3 PPG along with 5.2 RPG and 1.4 SPG. He missed a good chunk of time after undergoing hand surgery in January.
The scoring looks nice, but it’s paired with below average efficiency, as Oubre has posted a .431/.319/.760 slash line for a 53.4 TS%. He has also recorded just 54 assists against 819 field goal attempts in ‘22/23, a remarkably low percentage. That isn’t an aberration – he’s only averaged 1.0 APG in 527 career games (25.8 MPG).
As a free agent in 2021, Oubre signed a two-year, $24.6MM contract with the Hornets, with the second year only guaranteed at $5MM. He has spoken multiple times about wanting to remain in Charlotte. I find it hard to believe he’ll get much more than he’s currently making on a short-term deal, but he hasn’t hurt his value either.
Saddiq Bey knew he was the subject of trade rumors going into last month’s deadline, but he was surprised when the Pistons actually dealt him, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News. Bey was sent to the Hawks in a four-team deal that didn’t become official until four days after it was agreed upon. He decided to look on the bright side of being traded and focus on contributing to his new team.
“It’s tough as a competitor, but you have to remember that once you get traded, somebody wanted you as well,” said Bey, who spent his first two-and-a-half NBA seasons in Detroit. “You could look at it in a negative way, like, ‘Damn, this team didn’t want me? But this team does want me.’ I think for me, looking at my faith, I just really trusted God. I think this is the place He wants me to be at, so I gotta make the most of it.”
The trade put Bey in the middle of a playoff race, and he’s been able to help Atlanta in its postseason push. He’s averaging 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15 games since joining the Hawks while shooting 45.6% from three-point range.
“Saddiq respects the game, works on his body, works on his craft,” teammate John Collins said. “Has a total understanding on what it means to be a pro, so I just try to tell him to stay solid mentally and know that his time is coming.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- The Magic are a long shot to climb into the play-in tournament, but they’re enjoying the chance to play spoiler against teams that are above them in the standings, per Nathaniel Marrerro of The Orlando Sentinel. “When you’ve got teams that are trying to fight for playoff spots or fight to get into the playoffs, the intensity in the game is just a lot different,” Markelle Fultz said after Tuesday’s win over the 11th-seeded Wizards. “Any opportunity we get a chance to do that is huge for us and we’ve got to really lock in and take advantage of it.”
- Steve Apostolopoulos, a Canadian billionaire who had discussions with Michael Jordan about buying the Hornets, has decided to focus on a chance to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders, according to Brian Windhorst and Adam Schefter of ESPN. Jordan’s company issued a statement this week revealing that he has talked to minority owner Gabe Plotkin about buying a larger share of the team, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press, but the release doesn’t specify whether Jordan plans to remain the majority owner.
- Nick Richards‘ new three-year extension with the Hornets includes a team option for the final season, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.