Mavericks Rumors

Mavericks’ A.J. Lawson Promoted To Standard Roster

4:55pm: Lawson’s promotion to the 15-man roster is official, the Mavericks confirmed in a press release.

3:05pm: Two-way Mavericks shooting guard A.J. Lawson is being elevated to a standard roster deal, his agent, Elias Sbiet of Tandem Sports + Entertainment, informs Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lawson has already appeared in 28 contests with Dallas this season. The 23-year-old is averaging 3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 8.3 minutes per game. For the Mavericks’ NBAGL affiliate club, the Texas Legends, he’s averaging 20.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.9 APG.

Dallas has one open spot on its 15-man standard roster, so the team won’t need to make any corresponding move on that end to accommodate Lawson.

Promoting Lawson will open up a two-way slot, which the Mavs will have until Monday at the latest to fill. Greg Brown and Brandon Williams occupy the club’s other two-way roster slots.

A 6’6″ swingman, Lawson went undrafted out of South Carolina in 2021 and joined the Hawks’ NBAGL affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, in 2021/22.

In ’22/23, he signed a pair of short-lived two-way contracts with the Timberwolves. He then inked a two-way deal with Dallas and returned to the club in the 2023 offseason.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Claxton, Zeller, Luka, Washington

The Nets‘ trip to Memphis earlier this week wasn’t exactly a homecoming for Nic Claxton, but it gave him an opportunity to see some familiar faces, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who notes that Claxton played AAU ball in his native South Carolina with Grizzlies star Ja Morant and Morant’s close friend Davonte Pack.

“Playing that last year of AAU with (Morant) and seeing where he is now with his career and everything he has achieved so early, it’s definitely good to see,” Claxton said. “… I didn’t see him being the player that he is now with the athleticism. He was always talented, skilled, could always really pass the ball. When he got that athleticism, he just started to take off.”

As Cole notes, Claxton – who has worn Morant’s signature shoe this season – will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Grizzlies will be in the market for help at center after trading away Steven Adams and Xavier Tillman. A deal with Claxton may be a long shot, given that Memphis will be well over the salary cap and won’t be in position to offer the young center the type of lucrative deal the Nets can.

Still, Claxton didn’t close the door on the idea – replying, “We’ll see” when asked about the possibility – and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t sound opposed to it either, Cole writes.

“He’s good for that team,” Jackson said of Brooklyn’s starting center. “He’s doing his thing. Who knows, man. I can play alongside a lot of different types of players. Credit to what he’s doing over there.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • After beginning the 2022/23 season without an NBA home, Cody Zeller wasn’t sure if his days in the league were coming to an end. However, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star relays, Zeller got another shot last February with Miami, which led to a new deal with the Pelicans this past offseason. The veteran big man is happy to be serving as a veteran leader in New Orleans and grateful to still be in the NBA. “I had already had a good career (before joining the Heat last season),” Zeller said. “That gave me a different perspective that each additional game that I play or contract that I get or extra year that I get is icing on the cake. If I can be a good veteran guy even if I’m not playing, I’m totally happy with that, totally cool with that.”
  • Cautioning Mavericks fans not to take Luka Doncic‘s ongoing greatness for granted, Tim Cato of The Athletic explores the star guard’s case for this season’s MVP award.
  • Coming off a 23-point game on Wednesday in Toronto – his best performance since joining the Mavericks last month – P.J. Washington is making a case to be Dallas’ third option on offense behind Doncic and Kyrie Irving, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “We would like to be consistent with a third,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “Yes, that would make coaching or being a teammate a little bit easier, knowing who’s going to be there on a consistent basis. And I think P.J. is starting to trend that way.” Kidd added that he believes Washington is “up for the challenge” of being more of an offensive play-maker.

Dante Exum Effective In Return From Injury

  • Mavericks guard Dante Exum – who missed nine games in January due to a right plantar sprain, then 13 more in January and February due to right knee bursitis – played on Wednesday for the first time in over a month (Twitter link). A starter for 14 games in the first half of the season, Exum may not reclaim that role for a Dallas team that is deeper and healthier than it was earlier in 2023/24, but he played nearly 17 minutes off the bench in his first game back, recording four points, five assists, and three rebounds.

Mavs Looking To Fill Open Roster Spot

  • The Mavericks have an open roster spot but that may change in the near future. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News hears that the front office is definitely looking to add a player if it finds the right fit.
  • Mavericks swingman Dante Exum hasn’t played since Jan. 26 due to a knee injury but he’s close to returning. Exum practiced on Monday, though he’s listed as doubtful to suit up against Cleveland on Tuesday, Townsend tweets.

Kidd Has Pleasant Problem With Depth

  • The Mavericks began a tough four-game road trip on Sunday but coach Jason Kidd has plenty of depth now, due to the addition of big man Daniel Gafford and the imminent return of Dante Exum from injury. Kidd said his rotation could include 10 or 11 players for the time being. “We’ve got to be playing our best basketball going into April,” Kidd told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “That’s the goal.”

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, Jackson, Mavs, McCollum

Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama became the youngest player to record an elusive 5×5 on Friday, recording at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in the same game. Wembanyama joined Jamaal Tinsley as the only rookies in league history to accomplish the feat and he became just the second player, behind Michael Jordan, to record back-to-back games of five steals and five blocks.

What Wembanyama is doing as a rookie is unheard of, as emphasized by his stat line against the Lakers: 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks and five steals. In his last four games, the rookie is averaging 24.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.8 blocks, 5.5 assists and 3.3 steals.

Still, Wembanyama’s postgame comments suggest he’s more concerned about trying to win games than individual stats. When asked about joining Jordan in the history books, Wembanyama said “I wonder if he did it in wins,” according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.

Lakers superstar LeBron James had high praise for the 20-year-old rookie phenom after the game, calling Wembanyama one of the best rookies he’s ever seen.

He doesn’t have a ceiling,” James said. “He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I’m not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it’s literally that simple.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies rookie GG Jackson II has been one of the bright spots of an unusually tough season in Memphis and it looks like his offensive role with the team is going to continue to grow. According to Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal, coach Taylor Jenkins said the team will look to transition Jackson from a secondary creator to a primary one and will put the ball in his hands more, though he’ll likely continue to come off the bench. “I feel like they put a lot of trust in me and they see the confidence in my game,” Jackson said.
  • The Mavericks are on a seven-game win streak despite having dealt with a plethora of injuries all season, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. To illustrate just how unhealthy the Mavs have been, Cato points out that Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic have played fewer total games together (45) since Irving joined the team midway through last season than Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard have. Now, after trading for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the deadline and getting players healthier, head coach Jason Kidd will have rotation questions to sort through. “We’re deep,” Kidd said. “This is the first time the Mavs have been deep in a long time.” Outside of Doncic, Irving and their new trade acquisitions, Dereck Lively, Josh Green and Derrick Jones Jr. are among those who have impressed this year.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum suffered a left ankle injury on Friday night against Miami and did not return after initially being deemed questionable, according to team PR (Twitter link). McCollum is averaging 18.8 points and 4.6 assists per game this season for New Orleans.

Brunson Would Have Taken Less To Stay With Dallas

  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson confirmed that he wanted to stay with the Mavericks, but said they didn’t negotiate with him seriously enough during his walk year in 2021/22. Brunson would have signed for much less than he received from the Knicks if the Mavs hadn’t balked at a four-year extension early in the process. He made those comments during a podcast as relayed by Andrew Battifarano of the New York Post. “I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. “Before my fourth season in Dallas, my last season in Dallas, we try to extend our contract — whatever we can get. The most we can get is like four years and $55 million. And obviously we wanted to do that, I wanted to stay there and I thought I would be there for a long time. I liked my role there.”
  • Coach Jason Kidd may be preaching patience but the time for the Mavericks to win is now, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News argues. Dallas is sitting in seventh place in the West but possesses the league’s most explosive backcourt, along with frontcourt upgrades made at the trade deadline.
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson confirmed that he wanted to stay with the Mavericks, but said they didn’t negotiate with him seriously enough during his walk year in 2021/22. Brunson would have signed for much less than he received from the Knicks if the Mavs hadn’t balked at a four-year extension early in the process. He made those comments during a podcast as relayed by Andrew Battifarano of the New York Post. “I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. “Before my fourth season in Dallas, my last season in Dallas, we try to extend our contract — whatever we can get. The most we can get is like four years and $55 million. And obviously we wanted to do that, I wanted to stay there and I thought I would be there for a long time. I liked my role there.”

Mavs Notes: Nelson Lawsuit, Gafford, Washington, Exum, Luka

The wrongful termination lawsuit that former Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson filed against the franchise in 2022 is scheduled to go to trial this December, according to Xuan Thai of ESPN.

Nelson’s lawsuit alleged that he was fired in retaliation for reporting that his nephew was sexually harassed and assaulted by Mark Cuban‘s chief of staff, Jason Lutin, during a job interview on February 16, 2020. Nelson claims that he didn’t find out about the incident until five months after it occurred, by which point the nephew had reached a settlement agreement with the team.

According to Nelson’s lawsuit, he was in discussions with the Mavericks about a contract extension at the time, but those talks came to an abrupt end after he reported the incident to Cuban. He was fired the following year.

The Mavericks vehemently denied the allegations in a series of statements back in 2022 when Nelson initially filed the suit. According to Thai, in their formal response, the Mavs denied that the veteran executive was wrongfully terminated, stating that his dismissal was the result of multiple other factors, including “poor job performance.”

Here’s more from out of Dallas:

  • The Mavericks are 3-0 and have the NBA’s best defensive rating since trade deadline acquisitions Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington made their debuts. But while Gafford has been playing some of his best basketball since arriving in Dallas, the team is still looking to get Washington going, head coach Jason Kidd said on Tuesday, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). “I’ve always talked about getting their feet settled. And I think Gafford, you can see, his feet are settled,” Kidd said. “Now it’s (about) getting P.J.’s feet settled. I think P.J. having family and friends here will help with that. And then being aggressive. We need P.J. to be aggressive and not just wait for (Kyrie Irving) or Luka (Doncic). We need him to play his game too.” Washington has averaged 8.7 points on 40.7% shooting in his first three games as a Mav.
  • Mavericks guard Dante Exum, who has played just twice since January 1 due to injuries and has been sidelined since January 27 as a result of right knee bursitis, appears to be getting close to returning to action. “No setback,” Kidd said of Exum, per Townsend (Twitter link). “He’s been working out. He’ll do practice (on Wednesday), non-contact. I think the plan is for somewhere on this road trip to get him back.” Dallas’ upcoming four-game road trip begins on Sunday in Indiana and runs through next Friday (March 1).
  • Does two-time MVP Nikola Jokic believe there’s a scenario in which he and Doncic join forces on an NBA team? Asked that question at All-Star weekend, Jokic said he has no desire to leave Denver but suggested with a laugh that if Luka gets fed up in Dallas, he’s welcome to join him on the Nuggets (Twitter video link via DNVR Sports).

Several Two-Way Players Nearing Active Game Limit

A player who signs a two-way contract with an NBA team is permitted to be active for up to 50 regular season games. That limit is prorated if the player signed his two-way deal after the regular season got underway — for instance, a player who finalized a two-way contract halfway through the season would be permitted to be active for up to 25 contests at the NBA level.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contract]

Several two-way players have been promoted to standard contracts recently, eliminating those games-played limits. GG Jackson (Grizzlies), Keon Ellis (Kings), Lindy Waters III (Thunder), Craig Porter Jr. (Cavaliers), Duop Reath (Trail Blazers), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Pelicans) have all signed new deals since the trade deadline.

However, there are still a number of players on two-way contracts around the league who are at or near their active-game limit for the season. Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) identifies Celtics big man Neemias Queta, Mavericks guard Brandon Williams, Grizzlies guard Jacob Gilyard, and Hornets teammates Leaky Black and Nathan Mensah as two-way players who have 10 or fewer active games left, while Hawks guard Trent Forrest has already reached his 50-game limit.

In some cases, promotions to the standard roster may be forthcoming. Queta, for instance, has been a semi-regular contributor off the bench for the Celtics, who have an open spot on their 15-man roster, so if Boston wants to make him playoff-eligible and ensure he’s able to be active for the rest of the regular season, a contract conversion would be pretty straightforward.

Other cases could be trickier. While the Hawks would presumably like to have Forrest available for the rest of the season, they have a full 15-man roster, so they’d have to waive someone to make room to promote him.

Atlanta at least has some viable release candidates on its roster — for instance, veterans Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews haven’t played much and aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season. But that’s not the case in Memphis, where Gilyard has made a strong case for a promotion from his two-way deal by averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in 37 games (17.7 MPG), with a .425 3PT%.

The Grizzlies have already promoted Jackson and Vince Williams from two-way contracts and may not have any expendable players left on their 15-man roster who could be cut to make room for Gilyard. Luke Kennard ($14.8MM team option for 2024/25) and Lamar Stevens (unrestricted free agent this summer) are the only Grizzlies not owed any guaranteed money after this season, and both are playing rotation roles for the banged-up club.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes,” Gilyard said of his uncertain situation, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “As a basketball player, it’s definitely on your mind. I try not to let it affect me. I think that’s probably the worst part about being a point guard is you start to understand things and start to grasp things like that.”

“It’s kind of a juggling act,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said of working within those active-game limits for his two-way players, including Gilyard and Scotty Pippen Jr. “It’s hard to make those decisions, trying to preserve those dates. (Pippen’s) understood it. I was very upfront with him when he came in, (general manager) Zach (Kleiman) and myself. I think when he came in, we were maybe on the 40-game mark, but he didn’t have 40 games available, so it’s very unfortunate.

“Maybe it’s something that we look into as a league because I think he’s earned the opportunity to play every single night. We just have to balance the games he actually has available to him.”

Besides those players who are approaching their games-played limits, there are a few others on two-way contracts around the league who look like candidates to be promoted to standard rosters before the end of the regular season. Nets forward Jalen Wilson and Warriors guard Lester Quinones are among those who were playing regularly for their respective clubs leading up to the All-Star break.

Promoting a player to a standard contract would open up a two-way slot for his team, allowing that club to reset its active-game counter for that slot — at least to some extent. Due to the prorated nature of those game limits, a player who signs a two-way contract today could only be active for up to 16 games the rest of the way, but that’s 16 more games than, say, Forrest is eligible to play for the Hawks as long as he remains on his current two-way deal.

Teams have until March 4 to sign players to two-way contracts, so I expect to see a good deal of roster activity related to two-way slots within the next couple weeks.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, McCollum, Doncic, Mavericks

The Pelicans are 33-22 and have the same record as the fifth-seeded Suns. Still, they’ve got room to improve, as evidenced by several close games against some of the league’s bottom teams, according to The Athletic’s William Guillory. New Orleans won three games in a row against the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and Wizards, but they were all decided by single digits. In the wins over Memphis and Washington, the Pelicans squandered 20-point leads before coming back late to win.

When we get a lead, especially if we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, we’ve got to be able to maintain leads,Zion Williamson said. “If we were able to maintain leads, we would probably be 14, 15, 16 games over .500. I think we’re in an OK spot. But when we come back from break, we’ve got to be able to fine-tune some of those small nuances in the game.

The team’s offense and defense has been a mixed bag, according to Guillory, and neither Williamson nor Brandon Ingram has been consistent with his dominance. While the Pelicans are deep with young players and solid rotation pieces, they’re still attempting to build consistency, which will be crucial as the playoff approach.

I think we’re learning to grow with each other,” coach Willie Green said of the team. “This group is still pretty young in terms of [our starters] being on the floor together for this long in the season. Along the way, we’re starting to figure it out, but I think that plays a role in some of the inconsistencies we’ll see from time to time. We just have to stay committed to working the kinks out.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum is pleased with how Williamson and Ingram have progressed since he joined the team in 2022, according to Sportskeeda’s Mark Medina. “They have a better understanding of their game and their bodies with what they need to do each day to be ready to play, when to rest and when to workout,” McCollum said as part of an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda. “Their IQ is continuing to improve as well as their decision making. They’re just playing their total games with scoring, rebounding and passing. Defensively, I think they have gotten better and have been more aggressive. The more they rebound on defense, the better we are on offense.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic, like many other All-Stars, had no intention of being offensively assertive during the East’s 211-186 victory over the Western Conference in the 2024 All-Star Game, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Doncic had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the game and was content to let others shine. “People come in here and play 40 minutes, they don’t want to get injured,” Doncic said. “Everybody just gets out of the way. I don’t know how to fix that. I just follow the lead.
  • The Mavericks are in a much better position at this All-Star break compared to last season, even if there’s been less buzz surrounding the team, Townsend writes. The Mavs are 32-23 and are tied for the longest winning streak in the league at six games whereas last year they were 31-29 and were five games into the Kyrie Irving-Doncic pairing. After acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the deadline, Dallas looks more capable of approaching 50 wins this season, according to Townsend.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens and Spurs forwards Marcus Morris and Cedi Osman are among players we’re monitoring as possible buyout options.