Dakari Johnson

Northwest Notes: D. Johnson, Felton, James, Millsap

Rookie center Dakari Johnson is making a case to stay in the Thunder rotation once Steven Adams returns from injury, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The 48th pick in the 2015 draft, Johnson saw his first significant NBA playing time Friday and responded with nine points in 23 minutes in a win over the Clippers.

Johnson earned a spot on the G League All-Rookie team in 2015-16 and the All-League team last year, but hasn’t gotten a shot at the NBA until this season. His early-season play is attracting the attention of coaches and teammates. “I think going forward it’s something huge for us,” said Paul George. “When we don’t have Steven on the floor, to rely on Dakari to step in and just give Steven a break and a breather at times, I think that’s all Coach is looking for.”

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Raymond Felton‘s steadying effect on the Thunder bench has been a bright spot in a disappointing start to the season, notes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The veteran point guard signed with Oklahoma City for the veterans’ minimum over the summer and is now on his seventh team since entering the league in 2005. “I think the glue guy to that group has really been Raymond,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “I think having veteran leadership back there from him at least allows me to communicate, and then he’s so good at managing the game, that regardless of the personnel that’s out there he can do a really terrific job of getting everybody where they need to be.”
  • The Timberwolves aren’t surprised by the success of Suns point guard Mike James, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Minnesota considered signing the 27-year-old before he agreed to a two-way contract with Phoenix in July.
  • Free agent addition Paul Millsap jokes that finally “knowing the plays” has led to the improvement in the Nuggets’ offense, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Millsap, who signed with Denver in July after four years in Atlanta, rates his current comfort level with the team’s approach at seven out of 10. “It’s a relief,” he said. “Your mind’s not all over the place. You’re not guessing or thinking. It’s second nature. You get out there and just play basketball. I dreamed of getting to this place, where I can just get out there and just play. I’m pretty much there.”

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Thunder Sign Dakari Johnson To Two-Year Deal

JULY 22: The Thunder have made the signing of Johnson official via a press release.

JULY 20: The Thunder have signed Dakari Johnson to a two-year deal, sources tell Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Charania adds that Johnson’s salary will be guaranteed.

Johnson has played for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, in each of the past two seasons. During the 2016/17 campaign, he averaged 18.5 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 55.6% from the field.

The center spent two seasons in the collegiate ranks at the University of Kentucky where he saw just 15.2 minutes per contest. He entered the 2015 draft and was selected by the Thunder with the No. 48 overall pick.

Western Notes: Rivers, Hill, Holiday, Thunder

Austin Rivers refuted reports that Chris Paul wanted to leave the Clippers in part because of a strained relationship between them, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Rivers spoke to Paul by phone shortly after the rumor surfaced and Paul assured him that there was nothing to it, Amick continues. “Chris was just like, ‘This is a joke,'” Rivers told Amick. “So I asked him, I’m like, ‘You don’t need to come out and say nothing publicly, I don’t need you to do that. It’s just going to make it even more, now they’re going to drag it out two more days. I’ll take it. I don’t care.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings’ promise that they were not in tank mode next season helped to sway point guard George Hill to sign with them, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Hill signed a three-year, $57MM contract to join Sacramento. “A couple of teams I was in talks to really weren’t focused on winning,” Hill said. “A couple teams wanted to win. Sacramento called and said we have a lot of young guys but we’re not here to tank, we want to win and we want to do it the right way and if we take our lumps and bruises, we’ll take our lumps and bruises but we’re trying to win.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins is entering his walk year and Jrue Holiday is already lobbying him to re-sign with the Pelicans, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Holiday stayed with New Orleans by signing a five-year, $126MM deal as an unrestricted free agent. Cousins is no longer eligible for the designated player extension because the Kings dealt him. He can still sign an extension but can make more in free agency, Guillory notes.
  • Center Dakari Johnson is a candidate for one of the Thunder’s final two roster spots, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Johnson, the team’s second-round pick in 2015, has spent the last two seasons with the Oklahoma City Blue. A spot will be available if forward Nick Collison declines to re-sign or if the team waives guard Semaj Christon, Dawson adds.

NBADL Announces All-NBA D-League Teams

The NBA Development League has announced its All-NBA D-League teams for the 2016/17 season, headlined by league MVP Vander Blue. While Blue didn’t play in the NBA at all this season, many of the players on the NBADL’s three All-NBA D-League squads received call-ups throughout the year, and some of them finished the season on an NBA roster.

Here are this year’s 15 All-NBA D-League players, many of whom will have a decent chance of finding their way onto an NBA roster next season:

First Team:

Second Team:

Third Team:

No. 48 Pick Dakari Johnson To Play In D-League

Former Kentucky center Dakari Johnson will sign with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, GM Sam Presti said today to media, including Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Oklahoma City drafted the 7-footer 48th overall this past June, though it’s no surprise that he’s not joining the NBA roster for the start of the season, particularly since the Thunder already have 15 fully guaranteed deals. Oklahoma City retains Johnson’s NBA rights even as he heads to the D-League.

Johnson was the 33rd-best prospect on Chad Ford’s ESPN Insider rankings heading into the draft, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress had him 45th, closer to his draft position. He averaged 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game, though he had to compete for playing time with top pick Karl-Anthony Towns and No. 6 selection Willie Cauley-Stein, among others, on last season’s stacked Kentucky team. Johnson, a Leon Rose client, saw more playing time in summer league, with 26.7 MPG, and while his 7.6 PPG were unremarkable, his 8.6 RPG showed his strength on the boards.

Oklahoma City has made frequent use of its D-League team to stash draft picks in recent years. The Thunder struck an innovative deal with Josh Huestis in 2014, agreeing to use the 29th overall pick on him in exchange for his promise to play in the D-League this past season. The team also had 2013 No. 40 pick Grant Jerrett and 2014 No. 55 pick Semaj Christon sign in the D-League.

Do you think Johnson will become a productive NBA player once he receives his shot in the league? Leave a comment to tell us.

Atlantic Notes: Smith, Embiid, Thomas

Knicks president Phil Jackson would love to have big man Jason Smith back for the 2015/16 season, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. Jackson is aware that it may not be possible to re-sign the unrestricted free agent if he is offered a deal by another team for more than the veteran’s minimum, Berman adds. New York may be willing to go above the minimum to retain the 29-year-old, but that is dependent on how the team’s pursuit of bigger ticket free agents goes, the Post scribe notes. The Zen Master has acknowledged that he may not be able to land a big man via the NBA Draft, and with the Knicks’ roster currently devoid of big men, as well as Smith relaying that he would indeed like to return to New York, the two sides could be a fit, Berman relays.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors brought in Kentucky center Dakari Johnson for a workout on Tuesday, Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun relays. Johnson is projected to be a second round pick in this year’s draft, and though Toronto doesn’t currently own any second-rounders, the team is considering trying to purchase one, Wolstat adds. “You always got to come into the opportunity and just make the best of it, no matter the circumstances, you’ve got to come in and work your hardest,” Johnson said. “That’s the type of person I am, I love to compete. I initially didn’t have this workout scheduled, but they added it on for me and I decided to come in and just compete. I just love to compete.
  • Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil has indicated that additional doctors will evaluate the latest setback in the healing of center Joel Embiid‘s right foot, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “We’re still waiting,” O’Neil said. “We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these – you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they love to see us.” Philly has legitimate concerns that Embiid could miss the entire 2015/16 campaign.
  • The Nets are pessimistic that they will be able to move up from the No. 29 overall pick in this year’s draft, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The New York Liberty of the WNBA have suspended consideration of Isiah Thomas‘ application to become part owner of the team, Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News relays (Twitter link). Thomas will remain in his duties as team president, but the ownership review process is expected to take an extended period, Berman notes in a separate piece. Both Jackson and GM Steve Mills had expressed concerns to owner James Dolan when he informed them he was hiring the former Knicks executive.

And-Ones: NBPA, Hackett, Stoudemire

The way teams discuss their own pending restricted free agents is under fire from the National Basketball Players Association, which has officially taken the position that the traditional “we’ll match any offer” comments so often made by NBA executives are a circumvention of the salary cap in their intent to discourage potential rival bidders, Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes. The league had issued a memo back in November warning teams that, while the NBA itself doesn’t agree with the NBPA’s stance on the matter, league officials see enough potential merit in the union’s stance to advise those who continue with match-any-offer comments that they could be opening themselves up to legal action, Stein notes.

The ESPN scribe’s sources informed him that this impetus stems from Klutch Sports agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini, who urged the NBPA to challenge the way that teams have historically dropped none-too-subtle hints about their plans to match offers in an attempt to depress the market for restricted free agents. This movement stems from the willingness of new NBPA head Michele Roberts to aggressively speak up for the players, Stein adds. It’s not too surprising to see Paul and Termini at the center of this, given that they represent Eric Bledsoe, whose restricted free agency dragged on for months last year after the Suns pledged to match any offer. The duo also represent Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Norris Cole, all of whom could become restricted free agents this offseason.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Unrestricted free agent Amar’e Stoudemire said that he’d love to return to the Mavericks next season, but is also potentially interested in returning to play for the Suns or Knicks, Jared Zwerling of BleacherReport tweets.
  • Euroleague guard Daniel Hackett intends to void his contract with Emporio Armani Milano in order to pursue an NBA contract, David Pick of Eurobasket.com relays (Twitter link). The 27-year-old out of USC went undrafted back in 2009.
  • The Blazers held workouts on Friday for Gary Bell Jr. (Gonzaga), Seth Gearhart (Rice),  Jelani Hewitt (Georgia Southern), Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), and Thomas van der Mars (Netherlands), the team announced.

Eastern Notes: Russell, Sloan, Draft

Ohio State playmaker D’Angelo Russell‘s workout with the Sixers went extremely well, and the franchise, though impressed with what Emmanuel Mudiay showed them during his showcase, would love to draft Russell if he falls to them at the No. 3 overall pick, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. There was speculation that Russell didn’t want to be taken by Philadelphia when he cancelled his first scheduled workout due to illness, but a source close to the young guard dispelled such talk, Pompey adds. “He really loves Philly,” the source told Pompey.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The PacersDonald Sloan, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has switched agents and is now represented by Byron Irvin and Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports, Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star reports (Twitter link). The point guard was previously represented by Impact Sports Basketball.
  • Kentucky big man Dakari Johnson said that he has a workout scheduled with the Cavaliers prior to the draft, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com tweets.
  • Shooting guard Bobby Ray Parks Jr.‘s workout with the Nets on Wednesday ended prematurely due to an inadvertent elbow to his face that required stitches, Robert Windrem of NetsDaily writes. “It’s a shame, you know, for him to be here having the opportunity and start well in his workout but there’s nothing else we could do,” said Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky. If schedules permit, the team intends to bring in Parks for a second workout, Windrem adds.
  • St. John’s guard Phil Greene has a workout scheduled for today with the Celtics, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv relays (on Twitter).

Eastern Notes: Kirk, Boylen, Porzingis

The Pistons got an early jump on their offseason today, acquiring Ersan Ilyasova from the Bucks in exchange for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. Milwaukee GM John Hammond had nothing but praise for the departed big man, Charles F. Gardner and Matt Velazquez of The Journal Sentinel write. “Ersan always represented this organization and this community in a first-class manner,” Hammond said. “He gave 100% night in and night out. We wish Ersan nothing but the best as he continues his career in Detroit.” Here’s more out of the East:

  • The Bulls are pursuing San Antonio assistant Jim Boylen to become the top assistant on coach Fred Hoiberg‘s staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. Chicago has received permission from the Spurs to speak to Boylen, league sources told Wojnarowski. Chicago has expressed a willingness to discuss the title of associate head coach with Boylen, the Yahoo! scribe adds.
  • The Nets held pre-draft workouts today for Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), George Lucas (Brazil), Lucas Dias Silva (Brazil), Josh Gasser (Wisconsin), and Luis Montero (Westchester CC), Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops tweets.
  • Center Alex Kirk worked out for the Knicks today with the hope he can earn an invite to training camp, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv writes. “I’m not going to come in and try to score 30 points and try to do some of these amazing things that these other guys are going to try to do,” Kirk told Basketball Insiders (video link). “I just want to come in and be Alex Kirk and try to play as hard as I possibly can and hopefully that turns into some training camp offers and just see where that goes from there.” Kirk was waived by New York shortly after being acquired from the Cavaliers this past season.
  • The Knicks will be one of a number of teams attending a workout for Kristaps Porzingis in Las Vegas this Friday, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com relays (Twitter links). This is likely to be Prozingis’ only pre-draft showcase, Begley notes. Also participating in the workout will be Myles Turner (Texas) and Jarell Martin (LSU), the ESPN scribe relays.
  • Kansas swingman Kelly Oubre plans to work out for the Heat in the near future, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel relays. You can see our full prospect profile for Oubre here.
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