Devin Booker

Suns Notes: Highsmith, Baynes, Booker

The Suns are working out Haywood Highsmith this week, Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops reports (Twitter link). The small forward, who split time between the Sixers and the G League last season, recently worked out for the Bucks as well.

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns traded for Aron Baynes early in the summer and Gina Mizell of The Athletic hears that Phoenix is hopeful that he’ll serve as a mentor for Deandre Ayton. Mizell discussed Baynes with The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, who believes the big man’s skill set meshes well with Ayton’s and that the veteran center will be a positive influence in the locker room.
  • In the same piece, Weiss argues that new addition Dario Saric is the best frontcourt partner for Baynes. The scribe compares the Baynes-Saric fit to the Marcus Morris-Baynes combo in Boston last season.
  • Devin Booker decided not to play for Team USA so he could get healthy for the upcoming NBA season, though the decision didn’t sit well with everyone. ESPN’s Nick Friedell believes Booker’s move was “awful,” as he explained on The Jump.

Western Notes: Cancar, Guduric, Rubio, Bol Bol

Vlatko Cancar will have plenty of competition at the forward spots but the 22-year-old could help the Nuggets in a variety of ways, as Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website details. While playing on Denver’s summer league team for two years, Cancar has shown that he can handle the ball, knock down outside shots and battle in the lane. He doesn’t bring elite mobility at the defensive end but he uses his basketball IQ and awareness to position himself well, Spyropoulos adds.

Cancar, a 2017 second-round pick who spent the last two seasons overseas, signed a three-year contract. The first two years are guaranteed and the Nuggets used part of their mid-level exception to secure him, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. They are now $979K below the luxury tax line, Marks adds.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The addition of Marko Guduric further muddles the Grizzlies’ wing rotation, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. He’ll join a group that includes shooting guards Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks and Josh Jackson as well as forwards Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, Kyle Anderson and Bruno Caboclo. Guduric’s two-year, $5.3MM contract put the Grizzlies close to $128MM in salary commitments and gives them a full camp roster, Cobb adds. Guduric, who shot 47.7% from long range in Turkey last season, signed the contract on July 31.
  • New Suns point guard Ricky Rubio believes he can make Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton even more productive, as he told Cody Cunningham of the team’s website“I can help them reach the level they deserve,” Rubio said. “Deandre, Devin Booker, I’ve been talking to them the last couple days and they’re really excited. Can’t wait to jump on the court and start working with them.” Rubio was signed to a three-year, $51MM contract to fix Phoenix’s issues at the point guard position.
  • Nuggets rookie big man Bol Bol has moved around quite a bit for a 19-year-old but he feels at home in Denver, as he told Kendra Andrews of The Athletic“I’m happy to be here,” Bol said. “I really like the city. I’m happy to be in a bigger city again.”

Western Notes: Russell, Suns, Beverley, Kings, Rivers, Blazers

The Timberwolves, led by D’Angelo Russell‘s close friend Karl-Anthony Towns, were confident about their ability to get a commitment from Russell in free agency and went into their Sunday meeting with him ready to make the trades necessary to make a deal work, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota was just waiting for the green light from D-Lo to move forward on those trades, but the All-Star point guard instead opted to join the Warriors.

The Suns were viewed as a team that might try to get into the mix for Russell, who has another good friend – Devin Booker – in Phoenix. However, despite Booker’s campaign, Phoenix chose not to pursue the RFA guard, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. According to Rankin, the Suns “apparently felt Russell wouldn’t have been a good influence on Booker off the court.”

The Warriors, with their veteran leaders, apparently had no such qualms about D-Lo, who – by all accounts – matured considerably during his time in Brooklyn.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • After agreeing to sign a three-year, $40MM deal with the Clippers, Patrick Beverley tells Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times that he turned down a more lucrative offer from the Kings to return to L.A. “I got a bigger offer from Sacramento and I took $9-10 million less to come here,” Beverley said. “… It was the right decision. Of course, the human part of you wants to take as much money as you see, but all money isn’t good money. I did what was best for me and my family and I did what was best to stay on a winning team, and I feel like I made the right decision.”
  • Despite Beverley’s comments, Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) hears that the Kings offered the veteran guard a guaranteed total of $35MM over three years, with a partial guarantee in year three. Theoretically, it’s possible that Beverley’s claim could still be accurate if that third-year partial guarantee was very small and he’s including the non-guaranteed money as part of Sacramento’s bid.
  • Before he agreed to return to the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum, Austin Rivers had offers in the range of the $5.7MM taxpayer mid-level exception, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. “Now that the league is wide open, I just saw an opportunity,” Rivers said. “You can’t really put a price on happiness. The goal was to come back to Houston all along. I think we have the team to beat.”
  • The Trail Blazers have announced Terry Stotts‘ coaching staff for the upcoming season, with Nate Tibbetts replacing David Vanterpool as the team’s associate head coach. Portland has also promoted Jim Moran to the front of the bench and hired former NBA guard Jannero Pargo as an assistant.

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Suns Expected To Be Active In Free Agency

The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 and they didn’t exactly get closer to ending their drought during the 2018/19 campaign. Despite the lack of success, Devin Booker remains optimistic about the future.

“I feel like you take the positive,” Booker said (via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic). “That’s just me being a positive person. There were stretches this season we played really good basketball. Played the right way and it resulted in wins. We have to take that same vibe that we had during that stretch and carry that into the summer and build on that.”

The offseason will bring change in Phoenix. Jeff Bowers will take on the role of senior VP of basketball operations in the front office and the organization will look to make upgrades on the court. League sources tell Rankin that the Suns are willing to go over the salary cap in free agency this summer.

The latest projections have the cap coming in at approximately $109MM for the 2019/20 season. The Suns have slightly under $61.7MM in guaranteed salary on the books next year, though that doesn’t include Tyler Johnson‘s player option – worth roughly $19.3MM – or Kelly Oubre‘s $9.6MM cap hold. It would be an upset if Johnson decides to turn his option down.

The Suns could find themselves over the cap if they choose to sign outside free agents before circling back to offer Oubre—a restricted free agent—a new deal. Several teams have employed this strategy with restricted free agents, such as the Pistons with Andre Drummond in 2016.

The team could also go over the cap by utilizing exceptions. The Suns will almost certainly enter July operating as a team under the salary cap (unless they decide to take back salary in trades that exhaust their cap space prior to the start of the new league year). They’ll likely have the room exception at their disposal, which is projected to come in at $4.76MM.

Phoenix added several veterans over the past few offseasons and those moves didn’t work out with the team shipping Trevor Ariza to Washington as the most recent example. The Suns will need to find the right additions this time around.

“We have the good young core that’s ready to go. We just all have to stick together. Sprinkle in a couple of vets and some guys that are ready to win,” Booker said.

Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson Done For Season

A pair of Suns guards won’t appear in the final three games of the season, as the team has shut down Devin Booker and Tyler Johnson.

Jordan Schultz of ESPN.com first reported (via Twitter) that Booker, who suffered an ankle sprain during Wednesday’s loss to the Jazz, wouldn’t return this season. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed as much today (via Twitter).

The former lottery pick had been on a tear lately, scoring 48 of more points in three of his last five games. However, with the Suns only playing for lottery positioning and Booker’s five-year, maximum-salary extension set to go into effect this July, there was no reason for the club to push him to get back before next Wednesday.

As for Johnson, the 26-year-old combo guard, acquired from the Heat at the trade deadline, underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. The Suns gave no indication of his recovery timeline, but I’d expect him to be ready to go for the 2019/20 season. He hadn’t played for Phoenix since March 13.

Johnson could technically become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but is far more likely to opt into the final year of his current contract, which is worth $19.2MM+.

With Booker and Johnson sidelined, players like Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton, and Jimmer Fredette could get a long look in the backcourt during Phoenix’s final three games.

Devin Booker Plans To Be Involved In Suns’ Offseason

Devin Booker‘s new five-year, maximum-salary extension with the Suns will begin on July 1, and as the team considers its other offseason moves, the standout guard hopes to have some say in those decisions, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“It’s probably the summer I’ll be most involved in my career,” Booker said this week.

Assuming they hold the No. 2 spot in the NBA’s lottery standings, the Suns will have a top-six draft pick at their disposal. The club is also expected to have some cap room available, though Tyler Johnson‘s $19MM+ player option will cut into Phoenix’s cap flexibility, as will Kelly Oubre‘s cap hold.

Of course, it’s still not entirely clear who will be making the final call on personnel moves in Phoenix. Currently, interim co-GMs James Jones and Trevor Bukstein are running the show, but the Suns are conducting a search for a permanent head of basketball operations. Booker is counting on staying involved in the decision-making process even after that hire is made, as Rankin relays.

[RELATED: Kevin McHale, Jim Paxson Among Suns’ GM Candidates?]

“When I signed my deal, I think it was an understanding, through the franchise and myself, that moving forward, we both have the same goals at hand and that’s to get better,” Booker said. “It’s not a one-sided thing. It’s not whatever I view, whatever they view. I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on.”

Although he may have one eye on the Suns’ offseason, Booker has been at his best on the court as of late. Since the All-Star break, the 22-year-old has averaged an impressive 31.6 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 5.0 RPG with a .465/.331/.887 shooting line. He has cracked the 50-point mark in each of his last two games.

Suns Notes: Front Office, Price, Warren, Jackson

A recent report from ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz portrayed the situation in Phoenix as one long plagued by dysfunctional leadership, from owner Robert Sarver on down, and questioned the Suns‘ current front office structure, which features James Jones and Trevor Bukstein operating as interim co-GMs. For his part though, Jones believes he, Bukstein, and the rest of the club’s current management group has done well dealing with a challenging situation after former GM Ryan McDonough was unexpectedly fired in October.

“I think we’ve done a pretty damn good job,” Jones said, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic.

Within her look at the Suns’ front office situation, Mizell notes that, despite not fully replenishing their scouting department after some dismissals last fall, the Suns have been active when it comes to scouting college prospects, sending personnel to multiple ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Murray State games over the past couple of months.

“The perception is that we’re not out there,” Jones said. “We are out there.”

While they haven’t replaced all the basketball evaluators that were fired along with McDonough, the Suns did quietly hire longtime NBA guard Ronnie Price as a scout, Mizell notes, confirming a previous report from John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com. The franchise has also “taken steps to add offseason consulting help” for evaluating international draft-eligible players, though there are no top-tier European prospects like Luka Doncic available this year, Mizell writes.

Here’s more from out of Phoenix:

  • Suns forward T.J. Warren, who has been sidelined since January 22 with an ankle injury, remains out for tonight’s game against Utah. However, head coach Igor Kokoskov said on Tuesday that the club has yet to have any discussions about shutting down Warren for the season, tweets Mizell.
  • Although it’s clear that 2018 lottery pick Mikal Bridges will be a building block for the Suns going forward, it remains to be seen whether 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson is still a part of that core group, according to Bob Young of The Athletic. As Young outlines, Jackson’s long-term place in Phoenix will be even more up in the air if Kelly Oubre re-ups with the team this summer.
  • Heading into Wednesday night, the Suns have won five of their last seven games, a stretch that coincides with Devin Booker being as healthy and productive as he has been all season, writes Cody Cunningham of Suns.com. While the hot streak may cost Phoenix the top spot in the 2018/19 Reverse Standings, Booker’s run is a positive sign as he prepares to enter the first season of his five-year, maximum-salary extension this summer.
  • In a separate article for Suns.com, Cunningham explores how the Suns’ young players are looking to develop leadership skills.

Pacific Notes: Bell, Booker, LeBron, Warren

Warriors coach Steve Kerr and reserve big man Jordan Bell engaged in a brief argument during the team’s game against the Lakers on Monday, with both figures visibly upset and Kerr eventually walking away.

The dispute occurred during a timeout with 5:14 left in the fourth, with Bell playing the final seven minutes of the team’s blowout victory.

“It was a total misinterpretation of something I said,” Kerr said, as relayed by Monte Poole of NBC Sports, “and we cleared it up.”

Bell has seen his minutes decrease from 14.2 to 10.9 per game this season, with the 24-year-old currently in his second campaign with Golden State. The return of DeMarcus Cousins is only going to complicate his role further, as most of the back-up center minutes are set for Kevon Looney.

“We’re all gonna go through times throughout the NBA when we want to speak our minds and vent, and we might be frustrated over some things,” teammate Kevin Durant said when discussing Bell. “Coach has been so open in letting guys get that out but also challenging guys as well. It’s a healthy dialogue, and it’s just a healthy relationship between us and Coach. He lets us know what he sees out there and if you have something to say to him back, he’s not going to be afraid to go back at you.

“I think Jordan understands that, at this point, we just want to continue to keep getting better. Coach will always – especially the younger guys in the league – definitely be on them a little bit more because he expects a lot out of them. He sees the potential in him. On Jordan’s side, we just want him to keep playing. That stuff happens, so we’ll move on.”

The Warriors have the option to offer Bell a $1.8MM qualifying offer prior to free agency this summer.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns guard Devin Booker was fined $25K for escalating an on-court altercation by pushing Wolves center Gorgui Dieng on Wednesday, the NBA announced. Both Booker and Dieng were ejected following the scuffle.
  • The talent and leadership of LeBron James may not be enough for the Lakers to make the playoffs this season, Bill Oram of The Athletic cautions. James signed a four-year, $154MM contract to join the Lakers in free agency last summer, immediately changing the direction of the franchise to compete this season. He’s missed the past 14 games due to a groin injury, however, watching his team slip to the ninth-best record in the West (25-23) from afar. “No one here is just counting on LeBron carrying all the weight and taking us there,” coach Luke Walton said. “We know the only way to get there is to work. And for everyone to step up and make plays.”
  • Suns forward T.J. Warren is expected to miss two to three weeks after sustaining a bone bruise in his left ankle, tweets Gina Mizell of The Athletic. Warren’s timetable means he’ll likely return around the All-Star break in mid-February, with second-year player Josh Jackson set to get additional minutes in his place. Warren has averaged 18 points and four rebounds per game this season, shooting 49% from the floor and a career-high 43% from behind-the-arc.

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Shumpert, Lakers

After getting off to a very rough start, the Suns have started to turn things around, winning five of their past nine games. The recent success is mainly a result of strong play from their two franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes that Kelly Oubre‘s positive impact shouldn’t be overlooked.

As Kennedy points out, Oubre is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 threes and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting 47.4 percent from three-point range since joining the Suns several weeks ago. Ayton and Booker have loved the energy and “swag” that Oubre has brought to the team and perhaps more importantly, Oubre fits with the team’s timeline as they continue on a rebuilding path.

The Suns are still evaluating what they have in some of their young players, but it’s safe to say that the team continues to show more promise as Booker and Ayton lead the way on a nightly basis.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • An afterthought when acquired back in February, Iman Shumpert has taken up a leadership role with the Kings this season as his play has improved. Jason Jones of The Athletic details the valuable presence that Shumpert has had for this young Kings team.
  • As a result of recent struggles in the face of LeBron James‘ injury, is it better for the Lakers to stay patient or make a win-now move? Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tackles this challenging question.
  • Speaking of those struggles, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register details the Lakers‘ inability to close out games with James not playing. A recent buzzer-beating loss to the Kings and fourth quarter unraveling against the Clippers highlighted the room for growth for the Lakers’ young core.