De'Andre Hunter

Fischer’s Latest: McCollum, Powell, Simmons, Turner, Hawks, Schroder

Anfernee Simons‘ breakout season is leading to speculation that the Trail Blazers may try to trade CJ McCollum or Norman Powell, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Portland entered the season with plans to be a contender, but injuries and some disappointing performances have left the team in a tight race for a play-in spot. With Damian Lillard sidelined after abdominal surgery, the Blazers may opt to unload some of their assets and take advantage of a high draft pick going into next season.

There have been whispers throughout the league that McCollum might be available, though Fischer wonders how much of a return he’ll provide considering that he’s 30 years old, is in the middle of a down season, and has been out of action for six weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. He also has two full years left on his contract at $33.3MM and $35.8MM.

Powell, who signed a five-year, $90MM extension during the offseason, seems like a more surprising name to be included in trade talks. However, about a dozen teams wanted to acquire him before he went to Portland at last season’s deadline and Fischer found that many league executives see his contract as valuable.

There’s a belief that Powell wouldn’t mind being traded again, as sources tell Fischer that there were “several snags” in his contract negotiations with the Blazers. One of the teams he considered in free agency was the Pelicans, according to Fischer, who notes that New Orleans is seeking to upgrade to improve its chances of reaching the play-in tournament.

Fischer shares a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Little has changed on the Ben Simmons trade front since the offseason, as Sixers ownership, the front office, coach Doc Rivers, and star center Joel Embiid are all united in the stance that the team needs to get an elite player in return. Fischer states that Philadelphia is willing to wait for someone along the lines of Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden or Jaylen Brown to become available. The Sixers have discussed three-team packages with the Kings, Pacers and Timberwolves, but none of those teams can offer a star that Philadelphia sees as equal value for Simmons.
  • The Pacers are seeking multiple first-round picks in exchange for center Myles Turner. The Mavericks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Kings, Hornets and Trail Blazers have all expressed interest, and several league executives told Fischer that the Raptors might be a team to watch. The Cavaliers and Knicks have asked about Caris LeVert, but Indiana also wants multiple first-rounders for him. The Pacers have gauged the trade value of Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Torrey Craig too, Fischer adds.
  • The Hawks are willing to consider a major upheaval before the deadline, with a rival assistant GM telling Fischer that he believes everyone except Trae Young and Clint Capela are available. Atlanta appears willing to move De’Andre Hunter for veteran help, and there may be a market for Danilo Gallinari, who only has a $5MM guarantee next season on his $20MM contract.
  • The Celtics will try to trade Dennis Schröder, who is unlikely to be re-signed next season because of tax considerations. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Mavericks are all possible destinations. Boston has also targeted Suns center Jalen Smith, who will be a free agent after Phoenix declined his third-year option.

De’Andre Hunter Set To Return For Hawks

Forward De’Andre Hunter is set to return on Wednesday night for the Hawks after recovering from right wrist surgery, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).

In a couple of separate tweets, Spencer notes that Clint Capela and Cam Reddish are out Wednesday due to sprained ankles, so Atlanta’s starting lineup will be made up of Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, John Collins, and Onyeka Okongwu.

We noted on Tuesday evening that Hunter was close to returning to action after participating in a full five-on-five practice. Now in his third year as a pro, the 24-year-old has played just 11 games this season after injuring a tendon in his right wrist which required surgery in November. At the time, the Hawks said he could return in approximately eight weeks, which aligns nearly perfectly with his return date, so it’s great news for both player and team that he’s right on schedule.

Hunter has struggled with injuries in his young career, but he’s shown tantalizing glimpses of improved offense and strong defense in the 34 games he’s played over the past two seasons. Through 11 games (27.8 MPG) in 2021/22, Hunter is averaging 10.8 PPG and 2.7 RPG for Atlanta, currently 17-22, 12th in the East.

Southeast Notes: Morris, McMillan, Hunter, Magic

Heat power forward Markieff Morris, who has been sidelined since suffering a neck injury thanks to a hard foul from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on November 8, will have to fight to gain back rotational time he has lost, opines writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Winderman notes that Miami opted to bring in Morris as the first backup power forward behind starter P.J. Tucker in the 10 games this season when Morris was healthy, but that the team may consider small-ball lineups with versatile reserve wings Caleb Martin or Max Strus playing nominal power forward minutes for the Heat.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan reflected on his time in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and away from his players, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McMillan recently cleared protocols and has returned to coaching the team. “I’ve never had to go through anything like that,” McMillan said. “To coach during this time with COVID, some of my guys, it’s been close to a month since I’ve seen them.” The Hawks, who had 13 players in the protocols at one point in late December, are currently 17-22, the No. 12 seed in the East.
  • Hawks small forward De’Andre Hunter is nearing his return to the team, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Hunter played in a full five-on-five team practice today. Trainers must green-light Hunter’s return to game action, which could happen as soon as tomorrow against the Heat, per head coach Nate McMillan. Hunter underwent surgery on his right wrist in mid-November. In 11 contests with Atlanta this season, he averaged 10.8 PPG on .450/.395/.400 shooting, along with 2.7 RPG and 0.6 SPG.
  • Young Magic point guards Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz have resumed practicing with the team, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. Power forward Jonathan Isaac, who has been absent since tearing his ACL in August 2020, is inching towards a return of his own, though Suggs and Fultz appear closer to rejoining their Orlando teammates on the hardwood. Fultz tore his left ACL early in the 2020/21 NBA season and has been absent ever since. Suggs continues to wear a splint for the fractured thumb on his right hand. Exact return timelines for Suggs and Fultz have not been determined.

Eastern Trade Rumors: Brown, Celtics, Knox, Hunter

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown is among the players believed to be on the Sixers‘ list of targets in a potential Ben Simmons trade, but Brown – along with Jayson Tatum – is viewed as off-limits for the time being, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

“Talking to Boston, those are the only two untouchables,” one assistant general manager told Fischer, referring to Brown and Tatum.

Although the Celtics are currently averse to the idea of splitting up Brown and Tatum, there has been increased speculation around the NBA about the possibility, given the team’s underwhelming play this season, says Fischer. Teams are keeping an eye on Brown, in particular, in case Boston reverses course and make him available at some point in 2022, perhaps in the offseason.

“I think there’s pretty widespread belief that they don’t work together,” a general manager told Bleacher Report. “But unless ownership adds pressure on [president of basketball operations Brad Stevens], I don’t see them doing anything.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference, including another Boston-related note:

  • Besides Brown and Tatum, the players the Celtics value the most appear to be Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, according to Fischer. Smart, Williams, and Dennis Schröder are among the Boston players rival executives believe could be available in trades this season, Fischer adds.
  • Following up on Shams Charania’s Monday report on Kevin Knox, Fischer says the Knicks would be interested in trading the fourth-year forward, but it’s unclear if he has any real value on the open market.
  • Rival executives think the Hawks would be open to discussing De’Andre Hunter as part of a package for an “established impact veteran,” per Fischer. Hunter, who has been limited to 34 regular season games since the start of the 2020/21 campaign due to injuries, will become extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Beal, Bridges, Heat, Hunter

Explaining the decision to sign general manager Tommy Sheppard to a contract extension, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis told Ava Wallace of The Washington Post that he believes in continuity and said the move is a reflection of Sheppard’s full body of work rather than the team’s hot start this season.

The Wizards also have an extension offer out to Bradley Beal, but it’s not a major surprise that the All-Star guard hasn’t accepted it — even if he wants to remain in D.C., Beal could sign a more lucrative contract in free agency next summer.

As Wallace relays, Leonsis believes the Wizards’ best path to locking up Beal long-term is to keep making good roster and business decisions to show the 28-year-old it’s possible to win in Washington. The Wizards owner is hopeful that Beal will follow in the footsteps of Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who recently signed multiyear extensions with Leonsis’ NHL team.

“(Beal is) not obsessing over a decision; I’m not obsessing over a decision,” Leonsis said. “I think that’s correct with my belief, just like I said, with Alex Ovechkin. I have high confidence in the integrity of the player in their believing in our city, our community. Everybody was all hyper on Alex, and he signed his long-term extension. Nick did the same.

“I’m expecting that it’s not negotiating with Brad, it’s Brad sees and enjoys and likes and believes and knows that there’s something special about spending your career and going through hard times and coming out the other end a champ.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The newfound ability Miles Bridges is showing as a ball-handler and creator this season is a key reason why the Hornets forward is on track for a big payday in restricted free agency next summer, says John Hollinger of The Athletic.
  • The Heat would have interest in point guard John Wall if he’s bought out, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, but there’s no indication the Rockets intend to pursue a buyout agreement with Wall anytime soon.
  • Heat two-way player Marcus Garrett has a reputation as a defensive dynamo, but was never a major offensive threat during his four years at Kansas, averaging double-digit points just once in his college career. He’s focusing on expanding his offensive game during his time in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “I’ve been playing point, especially with the G League team,” Garrett said. “Just learning the game, getting more comfortable with the pro level game and getting comfortable with the offense.”
  • In his latest mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores a handful of Hawks-related topics, suggesting that De’Andre Hunter‘s ever-growing history of injuries makes him an increasingly likely candidate to be moved if Atlanta makes a consolidation trade for an impact wing or forward.

Southeast Notes: Hunter, Harrell, Bertans, Beal, Washington

Hawks coach Nate McMillan says De’Andre Hunter is “down” about having to miss significant time for the second straight season, but McMillan is optimistic that the third-year forward will return in plenty of time to help the team, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hunter had surgery on his right wrist Monday after suffering an injured tendon and is projected to miss a minimum of eight weeks. He was limited to 23 games last season because of knee issues.

“Injuries, it’s going to happen to someone on the team, and you have to adapt, you have to make that adjustment, guys have to keep themselves ready to play because you just never know when it’s going to happen,” McMillan said. “It’s something that unfortunately we did have to deal with last season a lot with our guys and guys stepped up, they were ready to play and we were able to have some success with that. Right now, we’re in that same situation, where we lose Dre but we have guys who can step in and play, and it’s an opportunity for them.”

Spencer notes that Hunter hadn’t returned to the level where he was early last season, but he was still playing an important role. He started all 11 games that he appeared in, ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 10.8 PPG and is one of the Hawks’ best defenders.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards fans fell in love with new center Montrezl Harrell right away and started chanting “MVP” in his first home game whenever he went to the foul line, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Harrell, who was acquired from the Lakers in an offseason trade, appreciates the sentiment, but offered a light-hearted request to fans after Monday’s game. “Yeah, I hate it. I hate it. I ain’t gonna lie to you, I hate it,” he said. “Don’t chant it until the second free throw, I’m not gonna lie to you. Just get me to the second free throw, man. Let me get the edge off with getting that first free throw down because it definitely plays with my head.” 
  • Wizards forward Davis Bertans, who hasn’t played since spraining his left ankle November 1, is making progress and could return next week, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Bradley Beal, who is away from the team following the death of his grandmother, may return Wednesday, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link).
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington, who has been sidelined since November 3 with a hyperextended left elbow, returned to practice today, the team announced (via Twitter).

De’Andre Hunter Injures Right Wrist, Will Need Surgery

Starting Hawks small forward De’Andre Hunter has injured a tendon in his right wrist that will require surgery, per a team press release. The 6’8″ wing will undergo a procedure on Monday. Hunter will be sidelined for at least eight weeks while he recuperates, according to the team.

Hunter suffered the injury in a November 8 loss to the Warriors and a subsequent MRI determined the severity. Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds (Twitter link) that this means Hunter will now be available, at the earliest, during the second week of January. The 5-9 Hawks need all the help they can get.

In the absence of Hunter today against the Bucks, the Hawks elevated recently-extended swingman Kevin Huerter to the starting small forward slot. Atlanta beat Milwaukee 120-100. Wing Cam Reddish and forward Danilo Gallinari should also play increased roles with Hunter on the shelf.

As our JD Shaw notes (via Twitter), the injury-prone Hunter was also limited to just 23 of 72 contests during the 2020/21 season, and missed most of the Hawks’ Eastern Conference Finals playoff run.

The fourth pick in the 2019 draft out of Virginia, Hunter is averaging 10.8 PPG and 2.7 RPG through 11 games this season, on .450/.395/.400 shooting. That free throw percentage is not a typo.

Eastern Notes: Dinwiddie, Rivers, Young, Hunter, Reddish, Okeke

There was speculation last spring that Spencer Dinwiddie might return from his partially torn ACL during the playoffs. However, Nets coach Steve Nash said that was never on the agenda, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. “I personally don’t like it, I don’t think anyone in the medical staff thought it was fair to Spencer…So we didn’t bring it up,” Nash said. “We thought it was best to let him have his time to heal and further his career.” Dinwiddie has gotten off to a strong start with Washington this season.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is giving his reserves extended minutes in the early going and there’s a purpose behind it, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Furkan Korkmaz and four other reserves turned a nine-point lead into a blowout during the second half of Philadelphia’s win over New Orleans last week. Rivers wants to ensure the team has plenty of reliable options. “That’s why, early in the year, you extend your bench,” Rivers said. “That’s why you do it. It’s so important for your team.”
  • Having De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish healthy and productive is almost like signing two impact free agents, Hawks star Trae Young told Marc Stein of Substack. Both of those players were limited during Atlanta’s postseason run. “We didn’t have them most of the playoffs,” Young said. “And ‘Dre … not having him in the last two series made it a lot tougher for everybody. And then Cam only being able to play the last couple games in the playoffs. Those two guys are key guys for us. Having them healthy is going to be big.” Hunter missed Monday’s game with a non-COVID-related illness.
  • Chuma Okeke‘s return from a bone bruise in his hip remains uncertain, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said of Okeke, “There is no real timetable for him. We’re going to see how he responds to contact and to his rehab.” Okeke did not play in the preseason and has yet to make his season debut.

Eastern Notes: Hornets, Hunter, Mobley, Cunningham

The free-agent addition of Kelly Oubre Jr. is a key reason why the Hornets are off to a good start the season, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer writes. Boone also cites the team’s depth, exploring why its success could extend beyond this week.

“We have a very versatile team,” Oubre said. “A group that you can throw any guy in any situation and I strongly believe that we will succeed. It’s the next-man-up mentality, but at the end of the day we are only as good as the next man. So we have to hold each other accountable.”

Oubre struggled in the club’s first game, but the 25-year-old bounced back with a strong performance against Cleveland on Friday: 25 points and three rebounds, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor. He’ll serve as a key cog in the team’s rotation as it looks to make the playoffs this season.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • A healthy De’Andre Hunter could be a difference-maker for the Hawks, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes. The 23-year-old Hunter is in his third season with the team. He appeared in 23 games last season, averaging 15 points per contest on 48% shooting.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com examines Evan Mobley‘s debut with the Cavaliers, noting that Mobley finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his first NBA contest. “He played outstanding,” teammate Jarrett Allen said. “He did everything and more you can ask a rookie to do in their first game. Seeing stuff like this coming from his first game, it’s a lot of potential. There’s a lot of, ‘Oh, he’s going to be good. He’s going to get this down.’” Mobley, who then followed that up with a 13-point, five-rebound effort in his second game on Friday, has “changed the trajectory of the franchise,” one source told Fedor.
  • Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham isn’t accompanying the team for its three-game road trip, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Cunningham will continue rehabbing from an ankle sprain in Detroit. “He’s working. He’s day-to-day, I’m not going to put a timetable on it,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s going to stay here and work while we’re on this trip and make sure he goes through the steps to be ready to play when he’s ready to play.” The Pistons will return home on October 30 for a game against the Magic.

Hawks Pick Up 2022/23 Options On Hunter, Reddish, Okongwu

The Hawks have exercised the fourth-year team options on the rookie scale contracts for De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, along with the third-year option for Onyeka Okongwu, the team announced today in a press release.

All three players were already under contract for the coming season. Picking up their options ensures they’re locked up for 2022/23 too. Their cap hits for that season will be $9,835,881 (Hunter), $5,954,454 (Reddish), and Okongwu ($6,395,160).

Hunter, Reddish, and Okongwu have all dealt with injuries this year, but have shown promise when healthy. Hunter, in particular, was off to a strong start last season, averaging 17.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG on .517/.375/.877 shooting with strong defense in his first 17 games (33.3 MPG) before sustaining a knee injury in his 18th game.

With their options exercised, Hunter and Reddish are now on track to become extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason and would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if they don’t sign new deals before then. The Hawks will have to decide on Okongwu’s 2023/24 option next fall.

Our tracker of rookie scale option decisions for 2022/23 can be found right here.