DeJuan Blair

Texas Notes: Mbah a Moute, Anthony, Mavericks, DeRozan

Luc Mbah a Moute only played one season with the Rockets, but he admits it’s going to be an odd feeling when he faces his former teammates tonight, relays Mirjam Swanson of The Daily Bulletin. Mbah a Moute came to Houston as a free agent last summer at the urging of Chris Paul, then returned to the Clippers over the offseason after receiving a one-year, $4.3MM offer.

“It’s always, always [weird],” said Mbah a Moute, who has been with six organizations in his 10-year career. “Especially that team, we had a really good team and a chance to do something special, so it’s going to be weird, but I look forward to it.”

Mbah a Moute provided a strong defensive presence off the bench for the Rockets. He averaged 7.5 PPG and shot .364 from 3-point range, but a late-season shoulder injury limited his effectiveness in the playoffs.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Carmelo Anthony seems like an uncomfortable fit with a Rockets team that emphasizes 3-point shooting, and a look at the stats shows he will have to change his game to be effective in Houston, according to Ben Alamar of ESPN.
  • The future the Mavericks envision was on display in Saturday’s win over the Timberwolves, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. First-round pick Luka Doncic had 26 points and six rebounds, while last year’s star rookie, Dennis Smith Jr., poured in 19 points, including the game-winning shot. “Hey, if that was a peek at the future, it’s looking good,” said J.J. Barea. “Great win. And you see Luka. He just plays the game. And Junior, he had foul trouble, stuck with it and made the big shot. He took a tough shot and made it. They’re tough.”
  • DeMar DeRozan has adapted quickly to his new situation with the Spurs, relays Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. DeRozan had a difficult time changing teams after nine seasons in Toronto, but he’s averaging 28.0 PPG through his first two games with San Antonio. “He’s absorbed everything we’ve given him so far, knowing full well it’s a new system,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It will take some time for him to feel totally comfortable, but he’s highly intelligent. It’s the NBA, it’s not rocket science so he’s picking it up pretty quickly.”
  • Former Spurs forward DeJuan Blair is back in the organization after being drafted by Austin in Saturday’s G League draft, McDonald adds in the same story.

2018 NBA G League Draft Recap

The Jazz’ G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, selected five-year NBA veteran Willie Reed with the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s G League draft. Reed, 28, has played for the Nets, Heat, Clippers, and Pistons, holding career averages of 4.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 152 career contests. Some other notable selections include:

Onuaku, 21, was just recently waived by the Trail Blazers. He was selected in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft, and has extensive G League experience, playing in 83 total games for the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers the past two seasons.

Warrick, 36, last played in the NBA during the 2012-13 season with the Charlotte Bobcats, where he appeared in 27 games and scored 7.0 PPG. In 526 career games, the Syracuse product averaged 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Last season, the veteran played with Ironi Nahariya of the Israeli Premier League.

Blair, 29, last played in the NBA during the 2015-16 season with the Wizards, where he appeared in 29 games and averaged only 7.5 minutes per contest. In 424 career games, the big man averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Blair most recently played professionally for San Lorenzo de Almagro in Argentina.

The full results of all four rounds of this year’s G League draft can be viewed here.

G League Notes: Moreland, Select Contracts, Harrison, Draft

Several NBA teams secured returning rights for players who were in camp with them but failed to make the 15-man roster. Raptors 905 acquired center Eric Moreland from the Canton Charge, Cleveland’s affiliate, for forward Kyle Wiltjer, according to a G League release. The Raptors waived Moreland a week ago. Raptors 905 pulled off a similar deal with the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ affiliate, to acquire guard Kyle Collinsworth, who was waived at the same time as Moreland. Texas acquired the returning player rights to forwards C.J. Leslie and Kennedy Meeks, according to a G League release. The Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ affiliate, gained the returning player rights of forward Cory Jefferson in a three-team swap with the Agua Caliente Clippers and the Legends, according to another G League post. The Sixers waived Jefferson on October 13th.

We have more from the G League:

  • The league is putting together a “working group” that will determine which players are eligible for select contracts, G League president Malcolm Turner said in a Q&A session posting on the league’s website. “That group will be charged with identifying appropriate, eligible, elite talent, not only in terms of on-court performance and potential, but also in terms overall readiness for the G League. In addition to identification, that working group will really help us monitor the rollout and execution of this professional path … that working group will be charged with developing its own framework and lens for eligible players.” Beginning next year, the G League will offer “select contracts” worth $125K to top prospects who are at least 18 years old but aren’t yet eligible for the NBA draft.
  • Numerous NBA and G league executives, coaches, agents and players feel the select contract concept is intriguing, but there is widespread skepticism how much appeal the program will have to top-level prospects and how it will be implemented. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the topic in a lengthy analysis piece.
  • The Arizona Suns traded away the returning player rights of Shaquille Harrison to the Memphis Hustle in a deal involving four players and a draft pick, according to another G League release. Harrison was the odd man out in the Suns’ point guard competition, as he was waived early this week. It was still somewhat surprising they traded away his rights. The Grizzlies gave themselves a little extra depth at the G League level as protection against another Mike Conley injury.
  • NBA veterans such as Willie Reed, Hakim Warrick, DeJuan Blair, and Arnett Moultrie could be among the higher selections in the annual G League draft, which takes place on Saturday, Adam Johnson of 2Ways10Days.com reports. The Salt Lake City Stars own the top pick.

And-Ones: Blair, Hayward, Warriors/Thunder Ratings

The Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League traded for DeJuan Blair, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Adam Johnson of D-League Digest shed further light on the deal, reporting that the Texas Legends acquired a future draft pick in exchange for Blair. A seven-year veteran of the NBA, Blair signed to play with the Legends on January 17, averaging 10.6 points through six games with Texas.

  • Lazar Hayward signed a deal with Guaros de Lara of Venezuela, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports. A native of Buffalo, NY, Hayward appeared in 20 games with the Long Island Nets this season, averaging 12.3 points with 5.3 rebounds. Hayward’s last NBA appearance came with the Timberwolves in 2012/13.
  • Kevin Durant‘s return to OKC drew massive TV ratings, garnering a 4.1 metered-market rating, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman reports. Saturday’s marquee match-up drew the highest ratings of any non-Christmas NBA game since 2013. The game’s peak ratings, Dawson writes, came between 10-10:15 pm with a 4.7 rating.

 

And-Ones: Davis, Harris, Blair, Bentil

Anthony Davis left today’s game versus the Pacers after injuring his right hip and left thumb. The X-rays he received on both areas came back negative, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Davis hurt his left hip last week against the Knicks, which forced him to miss the ensuing contest against the Nets. The Pelicans won’t play again until Wednesday, so the team will have a couple of days to evaluate Davis’ latest ailment. The big man has only missed three games this season, though he missed parts of six other contests because of various injuries.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Gary Harris injured his right ankle today and he’s not expected to play on Tuesday when the Nuggets take on the Lakers, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. Injuries have prevented Harris from suiting up in 21 of the team’s 38 games this season.
  • The Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate of the Mavs, have acquired DeJuan Blair, according to Chris Reichert of The Step Back (Twitter link). Blair played for the Wizards last season before the team traded him to the Suns in the Markieff Morris deal. Phoenix waived the power forward just days after the trade.
  • Ben Bentil has rejoined the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League, Reichert reports (Twitter link). Bentil played for the Mad Ants earlier in the season before taking a deal in China.

DeJuan Blair To Play In China

Confirming international reports from earlier in the week, DeJuan Blair‘s agent, Happy Walters, confirmed that his client will head to China for the upcoming season. According to international basketball reporter David Pick (via Twitter), Blair has signed with Jiangsu Tongxi of the Chinese Basketball Association.

A former second-round pick, Blair was a solid backup for the Spurs during his first four NBA seasons, but has seen his production slip along with his playing time in recent years. After spending a year in Dallas, the veteran big man played for the Wizards the past two seasons.

In 2015/16, Blair appeared in 29 games, averaging just 2.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG while shooting a career-low 41.2% from the floor. The 27-year-old was sent to Phoenix in the deadline deal that saw Markieff Morris head to Washington, and the Suns subsequently waived him, ending his season early.

In China, Blair will be joining a team that also signed Jared Cunningham last month. Blair and Cunningham will be tasked with helping to reverse the fortunes of a club that finished with a 12-26 record in CBA play last season.

Suns Waive DeJuan Blair

MONDAY, 6:11pm: The team officially announced today that Blair has been waived (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 5:15pm: The Suns will waive newly acquired power forward DeJuan Blair, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic reports. The news that Phoenix would waive Blair or Kris Humphries was first relayed by Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Blair was shipped to the Suns along with Humphries in exchange for Markieff Morris earlier today.

Blair is earning $2MM this season, the remainder of which Phoenix will be on the hook for. The power forward is under contract for 2016/17, but that salary is non-guaranteed, so the Suns won’t have any impact on their salary cap for next season as a result of this move.

The 26-year-old appeared in 29 contests for the Wizards this season and averaged 2.1 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 7.5 minutes of action per outing. His shooting numbers are .412/.000/.385.

Wizards Acquire Markieff Morris

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports Images

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports Images

7:20pm: The Suns have traded Markieff Morris to the Wizards for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and Washington’s top-nine protected 2016 first-round pick, the teams announced. Phoenix is reportedly set to waive Blair. It’s a swap that ends a months-long saga involving Morris, who demanded a trade over the summer and recanted that stance, at least publicly, before the season, saying as late as Wednesday night that he wanted to stay in Phoenix.

Washington wasn’t prominent among the several teams linked to Morris since the summer, a group that included the PelicansRockets, Pistons and Raptors. Instead, the Wizards were among the teams linked to Ryan Anderson and other, mostly reserve big man options, before coming away with one of the season’s most talked-about trade candidates.

“Markieff is a versatile, young power forward who brings athleticism and physicality along with a good shooting touch,” Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld said in the team’s statement. “He will be a very good addition to our team as we make our playoff push and gives us a proven starter at that position for the next several years.”

Morris, who’s facing felony aggravated assault charges for his role in a January incident, is under contract for three more seasons after this one at an average of $8MM a year. Humphries is making $4.4MM this season with a non-guaranteed $4.63MM salary for next year. Blair has $2MM coming his way this season, but next year’s $2MM salary is non-guaranteed, just as with Humphries. So, this move compromises Washington’s cap flexibility for this summer, when D.C. native Kevin Durant will be a free agent. The Wizards nonetheless still project to have enough room to offer the max to Durant, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).

The $7.4MM on the books for Morris next season brings Washington’s guaranteed salary commitments to about $45MM, and that, plus a roughly $14MM cap hold for Bradley Beal and at least about $3.3MM in other cap holds, leaves room for Durant’s projected $24.9MM max beneath the projected $89MM cap. A higher cap of $95MM, which some forecast, would lift Durant’s projected max somewhat higher too, but not by as much, giving the Wizards even more breathing room.

The Wizards will hope for a return to form for Morris, the 13th overall pick from the 2011 draft whose numbers are off sharply this season. His 3-point shooting is a career-worst 28.9%. Humphries added a 3-point shot to his game this year and made 34.3%, but injuries have limited him to only 28 games this season, and his appearance against the Knicks last week was his first since January 3rd. Blair was out of the rotation for most of his year and a half with Washington, averaging only 6.9 minutes per game combined between this season and last.

Phoenix moves on from a tumultuous relationship that seemed to come to a head in the wake of the offseason trade that sent his brother to the Pistons. I chronicled the back-and-forth between Morris and the Suns when I examined his trade candidacy last month.

Today’s swap adds $1.56MM to Washington’s payroll, bringing the Wizards to only about $1MM shy of the tax line. It also allows the Suns to create a trade exception for that $1.56MM amount.

Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports first reported the deal. TNT’s David Aldridge relayed that a first-round pick would go to Phoenix (Twitter link) and Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic had news of the details of the pick (on Twitter). Marc J. Spears of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported that Humphries and Blair were Suns-bound, while Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post added that one of them would be waived (Twitter link). RealGM confirms that the pick going to Phoenix is Washington’s own.

Eastern Notes: Sullinger, Zeller, Blair

Celtics president Danny Ainge said he will continue to have contract extension conversations with the agents for forwards Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, but he added “there’s nothing imminent,” Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reports.

The two players are eligible for rookie scale extensions between now and November 2nd. Ainge reportedly began negotiating with both players’ camps in August.

Here is more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • Jonas Jerebko re-signed with the Celtics over the summer on a two-year, $10MM deal because he felt comfortable with the team and now he is eager to compete for the spot as the first small forward off the bench, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes.
  • Wizards backup center DeJuan Blair believes he needs to rebound from his disappointing campaign last season for the sake of his career and his own dignity, J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic details. Blair’s career took a major hit last year because he was relegated to mop-up duty in blowouts and never even made an appearance for the Wizards during the playoffs.
  • Andrew Nicholson‘s scoring and playing time both diminished after he stopped attempting shots in the low post with his back to the basket, but with a new coaching staff in place for the Magic, Nicholson expects to be used more effectively, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Hawks, Wizards

The Heat would be wise to move up in the draft and select Duke’s Justise Winslow, Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post opines. Winslow has the total package the Heat need at small forward if Luol Deng declines his player option and becomes an unrestricted free agent, Lieser continues. Winslow is expected to be off the board by the time Miami’s lottery pick comes up at No. 10 since many of the teams drafting 5-9 need a small forward, in Lieser’s estimation. Winslow could also play shooting guard and that’s the other position where the club needs an upgrade, Lieser adds.

In other news around the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat would not have traded two potential lottery picks to the Suns for Goran Dragic unless Miami got a guarantee of re-signing the unrestricted free agent, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel surmises. If the Heat fail to re-sign Dragic, they would be limited to using one of their exceptions to find a replacement since they would not have the cap space to chase a higher-level free agent, Winderman continues. Even a player such as Suns’ reserve and unrestricted free agent Gerald Green, who made $3.5MM last season, would be out of Miami’s reach if he wanted a raise unless a sign-and-trade was arranged, Winderman adds.
  • The individual brilliance of LeBron James has the Cavaliers in full control of the Eastern Conference Finals, but Hawks coach/acting GM Mike Budenholzer is among those with the team who aren’t about to give up on an egalitarian philosophy, observes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution“Every team has different ways to build and different ways to give themselves what they feel is their best chance,” Budenholzer said. “There is no doubt the way we’ve built the team with a lot of really good players, a lot of high-character guys. We feel like we can compete and play with anybody in the league. They’ve done it a different way. It’s a great battle. Obviously someone is going to win and lose. This is the way we are built. We believe in it. We think we can win at a high level. We’ll continue to do that.”
  • CSNWashington’s J. Michael gives his input on four key offseason decisions for the Wizards, who’ll seek a stretch four and have decisions to make regarding Nene Hilario, Martell Webster and soon-to-be free agent DeJuan Blair.