For the 10th year in a row, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has named his end-of-season “Luke Walton All-Stars,” honoring overlooked rotation players and NBA journeymen who have impressed him most over the course of the year.
Nets guard Bruce Brown, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Raptors teammates Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry are among the players who made Lowe’s list, which also includes a handful of interesting tidbits on some of his choices. Here are a few highlights:
- Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, who resisted signing a two-way contract multiple times earlier in his career, has enjoyed a breakout year in Oklahoma City. Sources tell Lowe that several playoff teams expressed trade interest in Williams prior to March’s deadline, but he wanted to remain in OKC, where he’s under contract for two more years (both non-guaranteed).
- Suns guard Cameron Payne told Lowe that he thought his NBA career might be over in 2020, when the Mavericks opted to sign Trey Burke over him for the summer restart after he had played well for Dallas’ G League affiliate. However, he got an opportunity shortly thereafter with Phoenix, in large part because head coach Monty Williams had gotten to know him during their time with the Thunder.
- Another former first-round pick, Hornets guard Malik Monk, was concerned about his NBA career last year as well, following his suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, his brother Marcus Monk told Lowe. The former Kentucky standout has enjoyed a career year while trying to let go of tension about his role, Lowe writes. “Guys who have success in college think the NBA is going to go a certain way,” Marcus said. “You think you’re invincible. Malik fell victim to that. I’m proud of how he matured.”
- Before he signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Knicks last fall, Alec Burks discussed a deal with the Bulls, according to Lowe. Burks’ familiarity with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant from their time in Utah was a factor in his decision to choose New York.
- After an underwhelming stint in Denver, Isaiah Hartenstein has played well for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 16 games (17.9 MPG). Lowe says he wouldn’t be surprised if Hartenstein turns down his minimum-salary player option for 2021/22 to seek a new deal.