Cavaliers Rumors

Giannis Antetokounmpo Expects Great Things From Evan Mobley

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo paid a huge compliment to Cavaliers second-year big man Evan Mobley after their meeting Friday night, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The two-time MVP suggested that Mobley might eventually be a better player than him. “I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a low back contusion, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Allen landed hard after attempting to block a shot in the first quarter Friday and was eventually ruled out.

Injury Updates: Tatum, Herro, Barnes, Langford, More

The Celtics will have star forward Jayson Tatum on the court for tonight’s showdown with the Mavericks, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive.

Tatum was listed as questionable after hurting his left ankle in Monday’s game at Chicago, but coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters that he’ll be able to play without any limitations. Tatum appeared to be moving normally during shootaround, Terada observes.

Tatum is among the early favorites in the MVP race, averaging 30.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists while playing 37.2 minutes per game, the most in his career. He has led Boston to the best start in the league at 13-4.

There’s more injury-related news to pass along:

  • Tyler Herro will return for the Heat tonight after missing eight games with a sprained left ankle, the team announced (via Twitter). Max Strus was downgraded to out due to a shoulder injury, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link).
  • Raptors forward Scottie Barnes will miss tonight’s game with a sprained left knee, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Fred VanVleet is sidelined with an illness, so Toronto is down to 10 available players.
  • Spurs guard Romeo Langford has been cleared to return tonight after missing five games while in the health and safety protocols. Josh Richardson will miss the game after suffering a sprained ankle in Tuesday’s practice (Twitter link), and Zach Collins has been downgraded from probable to out as he recovers from a non-displaced fracture of his fibula (Twitter link). Coach Gregg Popovich sounded optimistic when asked if Collins is close to returning. “Yes, I guess is the answer,” he replied. “He’s just not ready yet. We thought he might be, but he’s not.” Popovich also refused to provide any details about the illness that forced him to miss Sunday’s game, telling reporters, “I’m fine,” Orsborn tweets.
  • Dean Wade, who missed the past six games with knee soreness, will come off the Cavaliers‘ bench tonight and will be on a minutes restriction, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Nets forward Yuta Watanabe will be sidelined through at least Friday with a hamstring issue, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. An MRI taken Tuesday night confirmed the injury (Twitter link), but Watanabe doesn’t seem concerned. “It’s not that serious,” he said. “… It’s day to day. We’ll see how long it takes.” (Twitter link)
  • Mavericks coach Jason Kidd is optimistic that Maxi Kleber, who’s dealing with a lower back contusion, will be available Saturday or Sunday, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

11 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2022/23

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, Heat guard Tyler Herro is earning a $5,722,116 salary in 2022/23, but signed a four-year, $120MM extension that will begin in ’23/24. Therefore, if Miami wanted to trade Herro this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,722,116 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $25,144,423 (this year’s salary, plus the $120MM extension, divided by five years).

[RELATED: 2022 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t 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 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2022. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Zion Williamson NOP $13,534,817 $34,639,136
Ja Morant MEM $12,119,440 $34,403,240
RJ Barrett NYK $10,900,635 $23,580,127
De’Andre Hunter ATL $9,835,881 $19,967,176
Darius Garland CLE $8,920,795 $33,870,133
Tyler Herro MIA $5,722,116 $25,144,423
Brandon Clarke MEM $4,343,920 $10,868,784
Nassir Little POR $4,171,548 $6,434,310
Jordan Poole GSW $3,901,399 $26,380,280
Keldon Johnson SAS $3,873,025 $15,574,605
Kevin Porter Jr. HOU $3,217,631 $15,234,726

Once the 2023/24 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’23/24 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 these players to be moved, with one or two exceptions.

The small difference between Little’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, wouldn’t be very problematic if the Blazers wanted to trade him. But the much larger divide between Poole’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be moved to an over-the-cap team in 2022/23, even if the Warriors wanted to.

Central Notes: Osman, LaVine, Middleton, Matthews, Pistons

Cedi Osman has received sporadic playing time and has been the subject of trade rumors but the Cavaliers forward has usually taken advantage of his opportunities, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.

After playing just seven minutes against Charlotte on Friday, Osman got 37 minutes of court action the next night against Miami and put up 20 points and 12 rebounds. He’s likely to receive plenty of playing time on Monday with Caris LeVert out due to an ankle sprain.

“He’s one of those guys where there’s a spirit and an energy that we depend on, and we know the lift he gives us,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I think Friday night he didn’t play as much, and I think he wanted to show he was going to take advantage of his minutes.”

Osman’s future beyond 2022/23 is uncertain, as his salary for next season isn’t guaranteed.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine said there’s no ill feelings between him and Bulls coach Billy Donovan, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. LaVine was upset when he was benched during a loss to Orlando on Friday. “Me and Billy talk all the time,” LaVine said. “It’s a tough decision. Obviously, I’m a competitive guy. I want to play. I just told him I feel like I’ve earned the right to go out there and try to play through a bad game. His decision was to try to do the best thing for the team, which I respect. If we won, obviously I would’ve been ecstatic. We lost, I wasn’t. I had a terrible game.”
  • The Bucks assigned Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews to the G League’s Wisconsin Herd, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. That allowed the rehabbing players to get some practice time. The Bucks didn’t practice since they’re playing against Portland on Monday.
  • The Pistons played without three injured starters — Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart — at Sacramento on Sunday and lost despite scoring a season-high 129 points. Coach Dwane Casey said the team needs to push through adversity, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “It’s not ‘Woe is me’ right now in the locker room,” Casey said. “We’ve got to stay together, stay connected.”

Kevin Love Fractures Thumb

Veteran power forward Kevin Love has sustained a right thumb hairline fracture, the Cavaliers have announced (via Twitter). The team adds in a statement that the injured digit will undergo daily assessments, which suggests at least that this may not be an issue that keeps Love sidelined long-term.

The 34-year-old, a former five-time All-Star, has settled nicely into a backup role for the 9-6 Cavaliers thus far this season, playing behind starting power forward Evan Mobley and center Jarrett Allen.

Through 15 healthy games, the 6’10” power forward/center out of UCLA is averaging 11.3 PPG on .425/.409/.861 shooting. He is also pulling down 7.4 RPG and handing out 2.6 APG.

If Love does have to miss time, another longtime league vet, seven-foot backup center Robin Lopez, could be leaned upon for additional relief minutes.

Love, who won a title as a starter with Cleveland in 2016, injured his thumb during the third quarter of the team’s Friday night 132-122 overtime victory over the Hornets. He is considered doubtful to suit up against the Heat on Sunday.

Lamar Stevens Replacing Caris LeVert In Cavs’ Starting Lineup

Lamar Stevens is replacing Caris LeVert as the Cavaliers‘ starting small forward on Friday against the Hornets, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who hears from sources that the Cavs plan to use Stevens as a starter “for the foreseeable future.”

Stevens’ $1.8MM contract for 2022/23 is non-guaranteed and the Cavs hold a $1.9MM team option on the 25-year-old for ’23/24, while LeVert will be a free agent next summer.

Fedor writes that the move is being made in an effort to rediscover the team’s “lost defensive identity” amid a five-game losing streak. Stevens is a strong, tough and versatile defender, though he has offensive limitations — he has only made 25.3% of his career three-point attempts on low volume.

According to Fedor, forward Dean Wade would have been in contention for the starting small forward job, but he’s currently sidelined with right knee soreness. Friday marks his fourth straight missed game.

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said prior to Friday’s game that Wade’s knee was infected and he’s currently taking antibiotics to treat it, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Just kind of have to wait and let them set in and do their thing. He is progressing, but it’s not something you can control,” Bickerstaff said.

As Fedor notes, Stevens had only appeared in three of the Cavs’ first 12 games for a total of 23 minutes prior to starting in place of the injured Jarrett Allen the past couple games, but clearly Bickerstaff liked the energy Stevens brought. Allen will be back Friday, Fedor adds.

LeVert has mostly struggled since scoring a season-high 41 points against Boston on October 28, averaging just 10.3 points on .389/.281/.733 shooting over his past nine games (32.3 minutes), though he has chipped in 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per night over that span. Moving him to the bench will allow him more on-ball opportunities and let him play his more natural position of shooting guard, Fedor notes.

Cleveland holds an 8-6 record entering Friday’s home game versus Charlotte.

Central Notes: Crowder, Bucks, Lopez, Cavs, Duren, Bulls

After reporting earlier in the week that the Suns appeared to be making real progress on trading Jae Crowder – perhaps in a three-team scenario – Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports was hesitant to offer many specific details in the latest episode of his Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast on Thursday, noting that he has yet to confirm the exact framework of the deals Phoenix is discussing. However, Fischer was able to identify a presumed frontrunner for Crowder.

“The only other thing I really feel comfortable sharing and confident sharing is that people around the situation have said that Milwaukee is the most likely team to land him,” Fischer said. “I can say that.”

As Fischer notes, he reported last week that the Bucks – who have long been identified as a possible suitor for Crowder – were gauging Grayson Allen‘s trade value around the league. So if Milwaukee does make a deal for Crowder, it seems likely that Allen would be an outgoing piece, either to Phoenix or to a third team.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After missing most of last season due to a back injury, Bucks center Brook Lopez is healthy and making a significant impact on the defensive end this season, according to Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com, who argues that the big man should be in the early Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Lopez is on an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
  • Logan Murdock of The Ringer takes a look at the Cavaliers‘ recent slump and their efforts to become a title contender without LeBron James for the first time in the 21st century. “I think for all of us, everyone is preaching championship,” Cavs wing Caris LeVert told Murdock. “I’ve been around a lot of teams, and it’s a long season. A lot of things happen within the season. So I think for us, just staying focused on the day-to-day, getting the most of each day, trying to maximize our potential each and every day will take care of all the rest of the stuff.”
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren is the NBA’s youngest player and the only one who was born after LeBron James made his NBA debut in 2003, but his teammates and coaches have been impressed with his maturity, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN.com. “He don’t feel 18. He’s not built like he’s 18,” Isaiah Stewart said of Duren, who turns 19 on Friday. “He’s built like a grown man. He’s very mature for his age.”
  • In a pair of stories for The Chicago Sun-Times, Joe Cowley considers what’s next for the enigmatic Coby White once he gets healthy and wonders if some lineup changes are in store for the struggling Bulls.

Central Notes: Cavs, Connaughton, Nwora, Turner

It has been an unusual season so far for the Cavaliers, who won eight straight games after dropping their opener, but have since lost five in a row. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff spoke at length to his team in the locker room after Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee and told reporters that his message was about avoiding complacency and adjusting mentally to being a playoff-caliber team.

“We’ve got kind of a fat cat mentality,” Bickerstaff said. “We went out and won eight games in a row. Everyone was giving us love and praising us. We got really comfortable. We are the team that won those eight games though. We are a really good basketball team. This is about maturation and growth from a team as a whole.

“Not one guy is going to do it. Not two guys are going to do it. Just understanding the difference between being the guy who is chasing and the guy who is being chased and how hard it is to win in the NBA. You have to show up every single night. We’re still learning that unfortunately. It’s all the same mentality, the mentality of the fat cat who is comfortable and complacent. You cannot succeed in this league playing this way.”

The Cavaliers will have a good opportunity to snap their losing streak on Friday when they host the banged-up Hornets.

Here are a few more notes from around the Central:

  • After being upgraded from questionable to probable for Wednesday’s game vs. Cleveland, Bucks wing Pat Connaughton was ultimately ruled out, as Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. However, head coach Mike Budenholzer insisted that Connaughton didn’t suffer a setback, telling reporters that the team was just playing it safe, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Connaughton has yet to play this season due to a calf strain, but appears to be on the verge of returning.
  • Bucks swingman Jordan Nwora scored a season-high 21 points in Wednesday’s win, making 5-of-9 three-pointers. Bobby Portis was among those thrilled by the success of his teammate, who re-signed with Milwaukee as a restricted free agent in September. “We’re always hard on him about just being a complete basketball player and not just being a scorer, sharing the basketball and things like that and I finally think just the light bulb is turning on for him a little bit,” Portis said, according to Nehm.
  • Myles Turner is averaging a career-high 17.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG through his first seven games this season, exhibiting more consistency than he has in the past. As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star writes, Turner’s improved play raises questions about how he fits into the Pacers‘ plans going forward. The veteran center is in a contract year and has long been considered a trade candidate, but might also be an ideal candidate for a renegotiation-and-extension if he wants to stay in Indiana, as we outlined on Wednesday.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Billups, Markkanen, Jazz, Wolves

The Trail Blazers‘ success so far this season is a reminder not to overreact to trades before waiting to see what the follow-up moves look like, says ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As Marks outlines, the return in the Trail Blazers’ deadline trades involving CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, and Robert Covington was initially considered underwhelming, but those deals set them them up to acquire Jerami Grant (using a trade exception and draft pick from the McCollum/Nance deal) and to re-sign free agents Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic while avoiding the luxury tax.

In addition to Grant, two pieces acquired in last season’s trades – Josh Hart and Justise Winslow – have played crucial roles for the Blazers’ seventh-ranked defense, Marks adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In what was a lost season for the Trail Blazers in 2021/22, Chauncey Billups didn’t get to make much of an impression as a first-time head coach. However, as Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, Billups has earned praise from Damian Lillard, among others, for his game management so far this season. “I beat myself up every night after games when I come home and watch it over again, wondering what I could have done better,” Billups said. “Could I have made an adjustment earlier? Could I have subbed a little earlier? Should I have taken my timeout … But I also and say, ‘I did it right there.'”
  • The Jazz aren’t viewing Lauri Markkanen as simply a wing, a stretch four, or a small-ball five, preferring to let him take advantage of his full skill set in a variety of roles, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “For us, he’s all of those (things),” head coach Will Hardy said. “It’s like, why would we try to pigeonhole him into one thing?” Shelburne adds that the Cavaliers didn’t want to give up Markkanen, but when the two teams started discussing Donovan Mitchell trades, Utah insisted that the veteran forward be part of the return.
  • Although the Jazz lost to New York on Tuesday, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune notes that the players mentioned most enough in Knicks-related Mitchell trade rumors over the summer (RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes, and Immanuel Quickley) haven’t played all that well so far this season. In Larsen’s view, that group of players may not be worth even Markkanen, let alone Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji as well.
  • In a look at what lineups and player groupings have and haven’t worked for the Timberwolves this season, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune observes that the team’s up-and-down starting five has a net rating of +10.5 in its last three games together.

Dylan Windler To Miss 4-6 Weeks; Jarrett Allen Out Wednesday

As expected, Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler has received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his injured right ankle, the team confirmed today in a press release.

According to the Cavaliers, Windler will miss approximately four-to-six weeks while recovering, with the ankle stabilized in a walking cast for the time being. Health issues have limited the former first-round pick to just 81 total appearances since he entered the NBA in 2019.

Meanwhile, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has officially been ruled out for Wednesday’s game vs. Milwaukee, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. However, it sounds like Allen’s left ankle soreness, which sidelined him on Sunday, is no longer the primary issue — he’s listed on the official injury report as having a non-COVID illness.