Darius Garland

Central Notes: Markkanen, Bulls, Windler, Garland

Lauri Markkanen hasn’t been in the Bulls’ starting lineup since March, but the power forward doesn’t consider himself a second-unit player, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. “I still believe I’m a starter in this league,” he said. Markkanen is headed to free agency — the Bulls will have to extend him a $9MM qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent.

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  • The Bulls trailed the Wizards by three games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering Monday’s action. However, coach Billy Donovan said that holding out key players and going into tank mode hasn’t been discussed with executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “No, I haven’t had any conversations like that,” Donovan said.
  • Dylan Windler‘s latest injury will probably prevent him from playing in the Summer League, but the Cavaliers swingman could be cleared by the start of next season. That’s the conclusion of medical professionals contacted by The Athletic’s Kelsey Russo regarding Windler’s left knee surgery. He went under the knife last month to address ongoing patellar tendinopathy concerns. The typical recovery time for that type of surgery is about four months for an elite-level athlete, Russo was told.
  • The Cavaliers are listing seven players as out for Tuesday’s game, including Darius Garland, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Cleveland has been granted a hardship exception due to its injury issues.

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Brissett, Diakite, Bulls

Promising young Cavaliers guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are showing signs that they can be an effective long-term pairing, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Together, the 6’1″ teammates comprise a somewhat undersized back court, but can compensate for that with high-level playmaking and scoring. The two players were top-10 picks in consecutive drafts.

“It’s really fun to play with Collin,” Garland said of his Cavaliers teammate. “It’s cool being out there with him and seeing all the stuff that he can do with the ball and even without the ball. He’s gonna go get it regardless. Anytime we need a bucket, we’re gonna go to him. Like I said, he’s gonna play hard for 48 minutes, he’s gonna do what he do.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pacers used their mid-level exception to give newly-extended forward Oshae Brissett a $757K salary for 2021/22, about three times what his minimum would have been, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Instagram video).
  • The Bucks applied the rest of their own mid-level exception, about $160K, to give power forward Mamadi Diakite a three-year deal, per Marks (Instagram video). The agreement also includes a $100K partial guarantee for the 2021/22 season.
  • The Bulls, currently the No. 12 seed in the East by percentage points despite fielding two 2021 All-Stars in Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, could see their offseason recruiting pitches impacted if they can’t at least crack the play-in tournament this season, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls are 5-10 since trading two future top four-protected draft picks and former No. 7 selection Wendell Carter Jr. in a package for Vucevic. Chicago would need to nab the No. 10 seed to make the play-in tournament this season.

Central Notes: Windler, Garland, Sexton, Teague, Markkanen

Cavaliers swingman Dylan Windler has been experiencing knee pain recently and will undergo further evaluation in the next few days, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Windler, a late 2019 first-round pick, didn’t play at all last season due to injury. He’s seen action in 31 games this season off the bench, averaging 5.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.1 APG in 16.5 MPG.

Windler suffered a hand fracture in the season opener, which kept him out of action for nearly a month. The Cavs picked up their $2,239,200 third year option on the 24-year-old in December.

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  • Utah’s backcourt of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell provides a blueprint of how the Cavaliers’ backcourt Darius Garland and Collin Sexton might eventually work, Fedor writes.  Thus far, it’s been a work in progress. In 821 minutes with Sexton and Garland, the Cavs have an offensive rating of 106.4 and a defensive rating of 115.5, for an overall net rating of -9.1, Fedor notes. However, it’s tough to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the backcourt pairing due to a lack of continuity in the frontcourt, mainly due to injuries, Fedor adds.
  • Jeff Teague will have a much different role with the Bucks than he did in Atlanta with Mike Budenholzer as his head coach, Eric Nehm of The Athletic notes. Milwaukee simply needs him to be a competent backup point guard for 10-15 minutes in postseason games. Teague has agreed to join the Bucks after being waived by the Magic.
  • Lauri Markkanen has been relegated to the second unit with the addition of Nikola Vucevic but the Bulls’ big man doesn’t want to be considered a backup, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Markkanen will be a restricted free agent this summer, if Chicago extends a qualifying offer in excess of $9MM. “I know I’m a starter in this league but I’m going to play my role,” he said.

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Nance, Cook, Garland

Kevin Love only played 10 minutes Friday night, but the veteran Cavaliers forward told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com it was a huge relief just to be back on the court. Love missed more than two months with a calf injury that resulted from being kicked in the back of the leg during a preseason game. He’s on a minutes restriction, with coach J.B. Bickerstaff and team doctors deciding to limit him to five minutes in each half for his first game.

“I don’t want to speak hyperbole or take it over the top, but this is probably the most mentally taxing — not the most physically taxing injury — but the most mentally taxing for me for sure,” Love said. “It was really a struggle ‘cause it’s who I am. I’m a basketball player first and foremost and I’ve loved this game for so long. Just playing basketball, that’s what I love to do. It’s so much a part of me. When you have it taken away from you and you feel like there’s not much you can do after working so damn hard, that can be really disheartening and a tough hurdle to overcome.”

Love reaggravated the injury in a December 27 game and didn’t receive clearance to resume basketball-related activities until early February. He was able to practice with the team on February 18, but pain following that session delayed his return even further. The Cavaliers opted to rest him through the All-Star break to give him more time to recover.

“Now I’m just hoping these next couple weeks I’ll get the wind underneath me, I’ll get to start feeling like myself again and I won’t be as sore,” Love said. “A lot of that calf pain has subsided, so I’m hoping a lot more of my lift will come back in the meantime.”

There’s more on the Cavs:

  • Cleveland also welcomed back Larry Nance Jr., who missed 12 games after having surgery on his left hand, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Nance was among the league leaders in steals and deflections before the injury. “I know Larry has been wanting to play for some weeks now,” said Collin Sexton. “… And he said he was a little bit winded out there running down the court the first five times, but it’s definitely good to have him out there.”
  • Reports that Quinn Cook was signing a 10-day contract surfaced Wednesday night, but the Cavaliers delayed the move until Friday so they could get maximum value out of the deal, Fedor states in a separate piece. Cook, who scored 13 points in 17 minutes in his debut, will be with Cleveland for six games during that 10-day stretch.
  • Darius Garland, who suffered a groin strain in the final game of the first half, wasn’t ready to return Friday as Cleveland kicked off the second half of its season, Fedor notes in another story.

Cavaliers, Pistons Among Definite Deadline Sellers

Because there’s now a potential path to the postseason for the top 10 teams in each NBA conference (via the new play-in tournament), it’s taking longer this season for clear sellers to emerge on the trade market, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Most teams are still in the playoff chase, which makes everyone bunched together and the trade market less active,” a high-ranking team official told The Athletic.

However, as Charania reports, at least two teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings look like definite sellers, according to rival teams. The 13th-seeded Cavaliers and the 15th-seeded Pistons appear to be open for business.

Cleveland’s most obvious trade candidate is Andre Drummond, who has been pulled from the rotation as the team looks to find a taker for him. According to Charania, there have been some exploratory calls on Drummond, with the Bulls among the teams to express some interest, but there’s still skepticism that the Cavs will find an appealing deal for the big man, who has an unwieldy $28.75MM cap hit.

Drummond isn’t the only Cavalier on the trade block. The club has also been open to discussing JaVale McGee, Cedi Osman, and Taurean Prince, according to Charania, who hears that multiple teams have inquired on the Cavs’ wing players. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Isaac Okoro are viewed as the club’s core pieces and are presumably off-limits.

Like the Cavs, the Pistons have an expensive big man who is sitting out as the team attempts to move him. However, Blake Griffin, who is making more than Drummond ($36.8MM) and has another guaranteed year left on his contract, will be even harder to trade. Sources tell Charania and James Edwards III of The Athletic that Detroit will likely work toward a buyout with Griffin.

Veteran shooting guard Wayne Ellington is expected to draw interest from contenders on the trade market and should be a far more valuable trade chip than Griffin, given his affordable minimum salary and his strong production in 2020/21 (10.6 PPG, .435 3PT%).

According to Edwards, combo guard Delon Wright and big man Mason Plumlee have also registered interest from rival teams, but both players are under contract beyond this season, so the Pistons won’t necessarily feel compelled to move them. As Edwards explains, while Detroit will be a deadline seller, the sense around the league is that GM Troy Weaver won’t be as aggressive this month as he was during his first offseason on the job, when he remade nearly the entire roster.

Cavaliers Notes: Drummond, Garland, Sexton, Attendance

Andre Drummond may not be part of the Cavaliers‘ long-term future, but any talk of a buyout is “nonsensical” while the team remains in the playoff race, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Several media outlets brought up the possibility last week, with Zach Harper of The Athletic calling it “just a matter of time.” However, the Cavs have little to gain by giving up their starting center, who is averaging a career-best 18.2 PPG this season while leading the league in rebounds at 14.6 RPG.

Drummond has an expiring $28.75MM contract, and the Cavaliers recently acquired 22-year-old Jarrett Allen, who will eventually take his place. While a trade remains a strong possibility before the March 25 deadline, Cleveland may opt to keep Drummond if the team can’t find an acceptable offer and try to get its young players some postseason experience.

“I know we live in the era of the 3-point shot, but at the same time when you go back and study the numbers, teams that dominate the paint on both ends are teams that are the most efficient on both ends,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Dre gives you the ability to do those things. The ability to secure possessions from a defensive rebounding standpoint, there’s no one better in our league who can do that. That helps your defense immensely.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Bickerstaff is encouraged by the level of determination from Darius Garland, who is off to a strong start after a a tough rookie year, Fedor adds in the same story. After a rough road trip last weekend, Garland watched videotape with the assistant coaches to determine why he was committing turnovers. “When you’re facilitating the ball and you’re making everybody better and making everybody feel like they’re a part of it, and then when you’re able to make those daggers, your status grows,” Bickerstaff said. “I think that’s where Darius is headed.
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was still with the Cavaliers when they drafted Collin Sexton in 2018, and he’s not surprised that the young guard became a star so quickly, Fedor writes in a separate piece. Sexton is averaging 24.3 PPG in his third NBA season and ranks seventh among Eastern Conference guards in the first round of All-Star voting. “From summer league of his first year to when we got to preseason to the six games that I coached, his shot got better and better,” Lue said. “Now he’s really shooting the basketball well from midrange and from 3, so he’s really improved that. Scoring the basketball was his thing when he came out of college and he’s doing it at a high level right now.”
  • The Cavaliers have been granted a request to increase the number of fans for home games, Fedor notes in another story. The state of Ohio has approved allowing 2,720 spectators, which is 14% of capacity for Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Eastern Notes: Monk, Knox, Ntilikina, Allen, Markkanen

Malik Monk‘s 36-point outburst on Monday pumps up his future value, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The Hornets guard has knocked down 15-of-26 from 3-point range since he was reinserted into the rotation four games ago and has also served as a playmaker.

“He makes us so much more dynamic. He’s kicking that ball out and making plays for others,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. Charlotte can make Monk a restricted free agent this summer by extending him a $7MM+ qualifying offer. Otherwise, he’ll head into unrestricted free agency.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Two prominent young players, forward Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, have fallen out of the Knicks’ rotation but it doesn’t appear they’ll join the G League’s Westchester Knicks in Orlando, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Dennis Smith Jr. agreed last week to join the G League club in order to get some playing time. Knox, who is currently stuck behind Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks, could have more trade value than Smith and Ntilikina because he’s under contract next season, Begley adds.
  • Jarrett Allen‘s big performance on Monday provided a glimpse of the future for the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. With Andre Drummond, who is headed to unrestricted free agency, sidelined by a back injury, Allen erupted for 23 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks. He’s developing chemistry with young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland and the front office views him as the better long-term fit at center, Fedor adds. Allen will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
  • Following a disappointing season, Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is making a case to be in the team’s long-term plans, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Markkanen, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, is averaging 22.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG while shooting 52.4% from the field over the last eight games.

Cavaliers Notes: Sexton, Garland, Thompson, Porter

The controversial Kyrie Irving trade in 2017 gave the Cavaliers a path toward rebuilding quickly after LeBron James left, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The centerpiece of that deal was an unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn that was used to draft Collin Sexton. Now in his third season, Sexton has developed into a prolific scorer, averaging 26.8 points per game and shooting 46.8% from 3-point range.

“He comes in every night with the mindset that you can’t stop him,” said backcourt partner Darius Garland. “And that’s what he shows the league, that’s what he shows the world and everybody that’s watching this basketball game. He’s getting wherever he wants. Getting teammates involved. I mean, a lot of people don’t do that.”

Cleveland used the other assets it acquired from the Celtics in that deal to gain valuable pieces, Fedor notes. Isaiah Thomas was sent to the Lakers in a deal for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. The Cavs flipped Jae Crowder in a trade for George Hill and Rodney Hood, and Hill was sent to the Bucks in a deal that brought back John Henson and a future first-rounder. Henson was used to acquire Andre Drummond from the Pistons, while the pick was part of the price for Jarrett Allen.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • While he’s with the Celtics now, Tristan Thompson continues to send messages of encouragement to Garland, Fedor adds in a separate story. Thompson adopted a mentorship role to Garland last year and helped him get through a difficult rookie season. “TT is like a big brother to me. He texts me before like almost every game.” Garland said. “He took me under his wing. TT has made his name in this league. He’s won a championship in this league. He knows what to do and how to get there. … Just hearing from him and having another guy I can talk to instead of my dad or some of my own teammates and coaches, it’s really cool having him there for me.”
  • Although his time in Cleveland was troubled, Kevin Porter Jr. posted a social media message thanking the Cavaliers after being traded to Houston Friday night, Fedor relays in another piece“Cleveland, thank you for giving me a chance to change not only my life but my family’s as well, and believing in me,” Porter wrote. “To the beloved city, the fans, my brothers I gained, the coaching staff and the entire organization, I appreciate you and won’t ever take the relationships we have for granted.”
  • Early-season injuries to their best shooters forced the Cavs to rely on defense, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. That approach of “playing ugly” has become their calling card and has been reinforced by the trade that brought Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn.

Central Notes: Bey, Grant, Garland, Bickerstaff

Saddiq Bey is making the Pistons look wise after they engaged in a three-team deal to land the No. 19 pick in the draft, James Edwards of The Athletic writes. The rookie forward from Villanova was averaging 10.4 PPG and 45.7% from 3-point range entering Sunday’s action, though he needs to do a much better job finishing around the rim, Edwards notes. Bey has also display uncommon maturity and has elevated his play in crunch time, Edwards adds.

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  • Jerami Grant has impressed fellow Pistons forward Blake Griffin with his expanded offensive role, according to Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. Grant inked a three-year, $60MM contract in a sign-and-trade with Denver in large part because he wanted to be a go-to scorer. He’s posted back-to-back 31-point games. “I’m very impressed with his patience and his decision-making in games. He doesn’t settle,” Griffin said. “He’ll size somebody up. Seems like he can get to the hole whenever he wants and he does a great job of finishing.”
  • Prior to suffering a shoulder sprain, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland was emerging as the most improved player of the NBA’s sophomore class, Garrett Brooks of Basketball Insiders opines. Garland, the No. 5 pick of the 2019 draft, is averaging 17.2 PPG and 6.3 APG and shooting 46.9% from 3-point range.
  • Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been forced to improvise due to a number of injuries, especially to his backcourt, and he’s using an old-school scheme, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. “It’s a flashback to the 80s,” Bickerstaff said. “We try to slow the game down. We try to make it half court. We’re calling sets and running plays that literally they ran into the early’ 90s, late ’80s when they played with those bigs.”

Central Notes: Grant, DiVincenzo, Garland, Cavs, Bulls

While the opportunity to play a more significant role on offense played a major part in his decision to leave Denver for Detroit in November, Jerami Grant was drawn to the Pistons for another reason, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The opportunity to play for a Black head coach (Dwane Casey) and for a franchise with a Black general manager (Troy Weaver) appealed to the veteran forward.

“Whether it’s on the court or off, there’s a sense of understanding that you get from — and I’m not going to say all, but a majority — Black people who have gone through and are going through some of the struggles that we do,” Grant said. “I think that gives you a better connection, makes it a little easier and makes you feel better about yourself when you have people that look like you around.”

Here’s more from around the Central: