Corey Kispert

Unseld Jr.: Dinwiddie, Beal Will Be “Dynamic” Backcourt

Wes Unseld Jr. is excited about the talent he’ll have available with the Wizards in his first NBA head coaching job, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Although the former Nuggets associate head coach is leaving the No. 3 seed in the West for a team that had to go through the play-in tournament last season, Unseld believes Washington is ready to compete right away.

He’s particularly thrilled about the addition of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who agreed to a three-year, $62MM contract in free agency and was acquired in a complex five-team trade. Dinwiddie was a proficient scorer before missing most of last season with a partially torn ACL, and Unseld expects him and Bradley Beal to form a dangerous backcourt.

“On paper, it’s one of the most dynamic 1-2s, 2-1s, however you wanna call it, on the East Coast,” he said. “So, I’m excited to have both those guys. I think they’re about the right thing. I think they’re gonna play together, make us better. Honestly, the way they can score the ball, they’re gonna bail us out of a lot of tough spots.”

Unseld discusses several other topics in the lengthy interview with Katz:

On the versatility of Kyle Kuzma, who was acquired from the Lakers in the deal that included Dinwiddie:

“Whether you wanna call him a two, three or four, he’s gonna be out there. He’s gonna space the floor. He’s gonna make shots. I think the game has moved away from the standard point guard, two-guard, small forward, etc. I think you wanna put your best matchups out there.”

On sorting out playing time at center, where Daniel Gafford is expected to start, but Thomas Bryant will return from an ACL injury and newly-acquired Montrezl Harrell will also expect minutes:

“I made this point to those guys when I spoke to them. All of that is great, but all of our decisions are gonna be based on what’s best for the group. I may at times ask somebody to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of the group. There’s times when I may ask (them) to do more. And I think that’s a fair way to look at it, and I think it’s just one of our pillars. It’s about us. It’s about ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ ”

On the plans for first-round pick Corey Kispert, who joins a team loaded with young wing players:

“I don’t know. I never wanna paint myself into a corner, commit to something I’m uncertain of, but I think he has a good chance to be impactful. I said at draft night, he’s got a discernible NBA talent. His maturity, the fact that he’s played four years at a high level for a great coach — he’s disciplined. He understands his strengths. He’s gonna play to his strengths. And his ability to stretch the defense is a premium in the league.”

On the significant changes the Wizards have undergone since the draft:

“On a macro level, (changes to the team) don’t change our overall philosophy when it comes to spacing, playing with pace, shots, as far as what we value. That doesn’t change. I think you’ve got to shift your gears as far as some of the nuanced things you run. … I think as coaches, we all steal from each other, so there are gonna be some things that are very similar-looking to what you’re accustomed to.”

Corey Kispert Signs Rookie Deal With Wizards

The Wizards have signed Corey Kispert to a rookie contract, according to NBA.com’s transactions page.

Kispert, 22, was the 15th pick in this year’s draft. He earned first-team All-America honors at Gonzaga and helped the Zags reach the national championship game. Kispert put up career-best numbers as a senior, averaging 18.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52.9% from the field and 44.0% from three-point range.

Assuming he received 120% of the rookie salary scale, Kispert will earn about $3.38MM in his first season and can make up to $16.36MM over the four-year deal.

Wizards Rumors: Westbrook, Beal, Dinwiddie, Neto, Kispert, Bryant

After spending the 2020/21 season with the Wizards, Russell Westbrook contemplated his future and found he had a growing desire to join the Lakers, according to Shams Charania and Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Westbrook’s desire to play for his hometown team intensified after he spent time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at LeBron’s home about two weeks ago and the trio discussed the idea of teaming up, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Turner says James and Davis spoke in that conversation about changing positions if it’s best for the team, with LeBron willing to play more frequently at the four, with AD at the five.

Westbrook recently informed the Wizards that he’d like to be dealt to the Lakers if they could find a trade that worked, per Charania and Katz, and the two teams did just that on Thursday, reaching an agreement on a blockbuster deal that will send Westbrook and two future second-round picks to L.A. for Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and No. 22 pick Isaiah Jackson. Washington is flipping Jackson to Indiana in a deal that will involve Aaron Holiday and No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd.

One of the primary reasons Westbrook originally wanted to play in D.C. was the presence of head coach Scott Brooks, according to Charania and Katz, who note that the star point guard lobbied for the Wizards to retain Brooks. After the team decided to part ways with Brooks, Westbrook preferred an established coach, sources tell The Athletic, but Washington opted for a first-timer in Wes Unseld Jr.

Here’s more on the Wizards and how the Westbrook trade affects their offseason:

  • Bradley Beal had no issues with the Westbrook deal and hasn’t expressed a desire to leave Washignton, sources tell Charania and Katz. For now, the Wizards remain confident they can keep the All-NBA guard long-term.
  • The Athletic’s duo reiterates that Spencer Dinwiddie is a potential Wizards target worth keeping an eye on, though a source tells Charania and Katz that the Nets wouldn’t be inclined to sign off on a sign-and-trade of Dinwiddie for Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma alone. Dinwiddie is also expected to receive interest from the Nets, Heat, Knicks, and Raptors, among others, per The Athletic.
  • Elsewhere on the point guard front, a reunion with Raul Neto is a possibility for the Wizards, sources tell Charania and Katz. The team also agreed to acquire Aaron Holiday, having grown “enamored” with him prior to the 2018 draft. Washington tried to trade for Holiday a year ago, according to The Athletic.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, one of Beal’s closest friends in the NBA, is the type of three-and-D player the Wizards have long sought, Charania and Katz observe.
  • Corey Kispert was 10th on the Wizards’ draft board entering Thursday night, and the team considered the possibility of trying to trade up for him before landing him at No. 15, write Charania and Katz.
  • The Wizards are preparing for Thomas Bryant to miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. A source tells The Athletic the club is hoping Bryant will be able to return by December.

Draft Rumors: Knicks, Duarte, Thunder, Pacers, Kings, Giddey, Nuggets

With the draft just over 24 hours away, here’s some of the latest rumors:

  • The Knicks hold the Nos. 19 and 21 picks on Thursday but they’re aggressively trying to move into the lottery with the hope of landing Oregon guard Chris Duarte, draft expert Chad Ford tweets. The Hornets (No. 11) and Pacers (No. 13) are among the teams that appear willing to trade down. The Knicks are trying to leapfrog the Warriors (No. 14) and Wizards (No. 15), the teams most likely to pick Duarte ahead of them. However, a package of their two first-rounders alone won’t get it done, Ford adds. The Thunder have also held discussions with Charlotte regarding the No. 11 pick, Ford reports in another tweet.
  • Duarte may not last beyond the Pacers, either, unless they deal the pick. According to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link), Indiana’s selection is expeccted to come down to Duarte and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, assuming both are still available.
  • If the Knicks can’t move up, West Virginia point guard Miles McBride and VCU point guard Nah’Shon Hyland are potential targets at No. 21, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report tweets.
  • The Kings (No. 9) are taking a long look at Australia’s Josh Giddey, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. The Kings not only interviewed Giddey, they made a trip to Las Vegas to see the 6’8” guard work out with the Australian national team.
  • The Nuggets (No. 26) have fielded some calls from teams in the 20-25 range looking to trade down, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. One of those teams is apparently the Lakers (No. 22).

Draft Notes: Garuba, Butler, Pacers, Pistons, Kispert

Usman Garuba is generating buzz a potential mid first-round pick, but the terms of the Spaniard’s contract with Real Madrid represent an obstacle in getting him stateside for the 2021/22 season. According to Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com, Garuba’s NBA buyout clause with the Spanish club is worth three million Euros.

An NBA team can contribute to a player’s buyout with his international team, but only up to $775K (about €655K). That means that if Garuba wants to make the leap to the NBA right away, most of the buyout would have to come out of his own pocket. To make matters worse for the 19-year-old, the amount of that buyout increases by one million Euros every year until 2024, per Urbonas. Garuba’s contract with Real Madrid runs through 2025.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic observes (via Twitter), Garuba’s buyout is “insanely large” relative to other international contracts, but it may well be negotiated down to something more reasonable when the time comes for the big man to make the move to the NBA — which could happen in the coming weeks.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have released the final versions of their respective big boards for the 2021 draft. The two draft experts have also put out updated versions of their mock drafts at Bleacher Report and SI.com.
  • Among the noteworthy items in Woo’s mock draft: Some teams have concerns about the condition of Jared Butler‘s knees, and the Pacers have thus far rebuffed efforts from teams below them to move up to No. 13. If Indiana keeps that No. 13 pick, the team is likely to target a more experienced prospect such as Corey Kispert, Davion Mitchell, or Chris Duarte, says Woo.
  • Woo also reports that there has been some “real disagreement” within the Pistons‘ front office about what to do with the No. 1 pick. However, he expects Detroit to ultimately select Cade Cunningham. In his latest mock draft at ESPN.com (Insider link), Jonathan Givony cites sources who say a Pistons commitment to Cunningham could be “imminent.”
  • Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert told reporters this week that the Spurs (No. 12), Wizards (No. 15), and Pelicans (No. 17) were among the teams he worked out for during the pre-draft process, as Mike Vornukov of The Athletic tweets. Based on reports, it looks like Kispert has worked out for every team in the 7-15 range except for the Grizzlies, who recently agreed to acquire the No. 10 pick from New Orleans.

Draft Rumors: Pistons, Cunningham, Green, Magic, Pelicans, More

Speaking today to reporters, including Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link), Pistons general manager Troy Weaver confirmed that the team hasn’t made a final decision on what it will do with the No. 1 overall pick.

[RELATED: Pistons Still Mulling Options With No. 1 Pick]

The Pistons have long been expected to select Cade Cunningham with that top pick, and the Oklahoma State guard remains the overwhelming favorite to be the choice. However, John Hollinger of The Athletic has heard whispers that Detroit wasn’t blown away by Cunningham’s private workout, while Marc Stein says Jalen Green‘s workout for the team “made the strongest of impressions.”

Even if those reports are accurate, it’s hard to imagine the Pistons selecting Green over Cunningham with the No. 1 pick. A trade down to No. 2 is a possibility if Detroit really likes Green. But for what it’s worth, Weaver provided a reminder today that not everything you hear leading up to the draft will be accurate.

“I don’t comment on rumors, but don’t believe everything that you read,” the Pistons’ GM said (Twitter link via James Edwards III of The Athletic). “… The rumor mill does nothing for us right now.”

Here’s more on the 2021 NBA draft:

  • The Magic brought Stanford’s Ziaire Williams back for a second workout during the pre-draft process and some rival teams think Orlando may be eyeing him at No. 8, says Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Two league sources who spoke to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic also believe the Magic have Williams “very high” on their board.
  • According to Vecenie, sources around the league view some of the draft’s top “older” shooters – such as Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, and Chris Duarte – as likely targets for the Pelicans at No. 17. However, there’s no guarantee New Orleans keeps that pick after acquiring it from Memphis. Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link) says the Pelicans could look to move down again or may shop that selection for veteran help.
  • There’s a belief that the Raptors are high on Evan Mobley, but they’d almost certainly have to trade up from No. 4 to get him and it seems unlikely they’ll be willing to pay that price, says Vecenie.
  • Vecenie is the latest to report that the Thunder are fans of James Bouknight, who could be the team’s pick at No. 6. However, Hollinger is unconvinced that the chatter surrounding Bouknight and the Thunder isn’t a smokescreen — he has Jonathan Kuminga going to the OKC at No. 6 in his mock draft.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Pelicans Draft Choices, Pelicans Roundup

New Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd joined ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday to discuss his time with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, as well as what’s in store for his relationship with Luka Doncic in Dallas.

Asked about what he was focused on helping Doncic improve on, Kidd replied, “My job is to help make the game easier for him. Understanding the game within the game. Understanding how to get guys going, becoming a better leader.”

Kidd was also asked about Kristaps Porzingis. “Getting KP back to what he did in New York,” Kidd said. “Putting the ball on the floor, one dribble stop-and-pop… I remember a lotta highlights when he was putting the ball on someone’s head. So getting him back to that era in his basketball when he was having fun.”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • In part one of his offseason mailbag, The Athletic’s Will Guillory explored some of the big questions of the Pelicans’ offseason. One such question regarded whether the disappointing seasons of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams were more about personal decline or bad fit with the team’s stars. Guillory maintained that Adams, who had trouble fitting in, has been serious about adding a three-point shot to extend his career, and that he’s been “shooting the snot out of the ball,” according to a source. But he also warns that Bledsoe could face boos at home if he’s still on the roster next season.
  • Guillory also confirms that many believe Jacque Vaughn was the favorite for the Pelicans’ head coaching position before withdrawing, but that Willie Green won many in the front office over immediately upon his first meeting with them.
  • In a piece for NOLA.com, Pelicans beat writer Christian Clark breaks down five prospects the Pelicans are likely to consider with the 10th pick in the draft. Clark quotes executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin on the need to improve the roster construction: “We need to make the pieces fit a little bit better. I think you could all see that this was a rather wonky group at times.” Clark names Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, Moses Moody and others, in a clear sign that wing shooting is going to be at a premium for New Orleans

Eastern Draft Notes: Hawks, Sixers, Cavaliers, Hornets

Tennessee guard Jaden Springer and Oregon guard Chris Duarte are expected to work out for the Hawks shortly before the draft, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets. Duarte is ranked No. 23 on ESPN’s Best Available list, though he’s expected by some outlets to go higher, and Springer is rated No. 27. Atlanta holds the No. 20 pick.

We have more draft news involving Eastern Conference teams:

Draft Notes: Garza, Cooper, Pacers, Mock Drafts

The Sixers, who are in the market for a reserve center, worked out a pair of big men today, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Iowa’s Luka Garza, the two-time national player of the year, was in Philadelphia, along with Utah State’s Neemias Queta.

Garza, who is projected to be taken anywhere from the end of the first round to the middle of the second round, has dropped weight since the college season ended in an effort to become more mobile on defense. Queta was named Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference and was a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year honors.

With Dwight Howard entering free agency, Pompey notes that the Sixers don’t have a reliable backup to Joel Embiid. Philadelphia holds the 28th and 50th selections in next week’s draft.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

Draft Notes: Warriors, Hornets, Green Room Invites, Preston

The Warriors brought in some first-round prospects for workouts on Friday, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweetsChris Duarte, Keon Johnson, Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy III, Ziaire Williams and Ayo Dosunmu visited the Warriors’ training facility. Johnson is the highest-rated prospect on the list, as the Tennessee guard is currently ranked No. 9 overall by ESPN.

Gonzaga’s Kispert (No. 13), Virginia’s Murphy (18), Oregon’s Duarte (23), Stanford’s Williams (24) and Illinois’ Dosunmu (34) could all be off the board by the second round. Golden State holds the seventh and 14th overall picks.

We have more draft-related news and tidbits: