Devin Booker

Pacific Notes: Preston, Westbrook, Booker, Mann

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue expressed confidence that rookie guard Jason Preston will succeed once he gets past his rehab, Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes.

Preston, 22, was drafted by Los Angeles with the No. 33 pick in July. He recently underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right foot, a procedure that’s expected to cost him a significant portion of the season.

“He’s always asking questions about the offensive sets, about the defensive coverages, and then moving forward,” Lue explained, praising the Ohio University product. “So everything I’ve told him, he’s retained and repeated right back to you every single time.

“From the start of summer league to where he’s at now, he’s made a huge jump, and that’s because he’s asking questions, he’s watching film, he wants to get better and he wants to be better. So I don’t think it’ll be a problem for him at all, he’s very attentive and very smart and picks things up very well.”

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic gave his first impressions of Russell Westbrook‘s preseason debut with the Lakers on Friday. Westbrook mostly struggled in his 17 minutes, recording two points, seven rebounds, four assists and six turnovers on 1-for-7 shooting.
  • Despite missing the game against the Lakers on Wednesday, Suns star Devin Booker is starting to ramp his conditioning back up, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Booker tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of September. He’ll miss the team’s second game against Los Angeles on Sunday.
  • Clippers guard Terance Mann is poised to have a breakout season with the team, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times opines. Mann is coming off a season where he averaged seven points and 18.9 minutes per game, shooting 51% from the floor and 42% from behind-the-arc.

Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2021/22

The Designated Veteran extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with seven, eight, or nine years of NBA service, who would normally be eligible for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team and/or was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN writes, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic met the super-max performance criteria this past season when he won his first MVP award. However, since he still has only six years of NBA experience under his belt, he can’t actually sign a super-max contract with Denver until the 2022 offseason. At that point, he could tack on five years and a projected $253MM+ to the one year left on his current deal.

For the time being, Jokic is the best bet to receive a Designated Veteran extension a year from now, but there are other players who could join him. Here’s a look at some super-max candidates to watch during the 2021/22 season:

Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)

Towns has one All-NBA season under his belt already, having made the Third Team in 2018. Towns played in all 82 regular season games that year and Minnesota made the postseason for the only time during his six-year career.

Towns might not need the Wolves to get back to the postseason in order to earn a spot on the 2021/22 All-NBA team, but he’ll need to stay healthier than he has the last couple years — he has appeared in just 85 games since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, missing 51. If he plays 70+ games this season and puts up the same sort of numbers he has in the three years since his last All-NBA season (25.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 1.4 BPG on .506/.399/.834 shooting), he’ll have a great case.

Should he make an All-NBA team in 2022, Towns would be eligible for a four-year super-max extension that goes into effect in 2024/25. We’re too far out to accurately project the value of such a deal, but if the salary cap increases to, say, $130MM by that point, a four-year super-max extension for Towns would be worth nearly $204MM.

Devin Booker (Suns)

Booker’s current contract with the Suns looks essentially identical to Towns’ deal with the Timberwolves, since both players signed five-year, maximum-salary contracts at the same time. As such, Booker is in a similar situation — if he makes an All-NBA team in 2022, he could sign a four-year, super-max extension that would begin in 2024/25 and could be worth in excess of $200MM.

Unlike Towns, Booker hasn’t been an All-NBA player before, but he has a realistic shot. When the Suns posted the NBA’s best record in 2020/21, it was Chris Paul – rather than Booker – who earned All-NBA Second Team honors for both his performance and the impact his arrival had on a young Phoenix team.

But if the Suns are in contention for a top seed in the West again this season, it could be Booker’s turn to receive serious All-NBA consideration. He’s a safe bet to lead the team in scoring and he’s entering his age-25 season, whereas Paul – at age 36 – may see his numbers start to fall off a little going forward.

If Booker does become eligible for a super-max, it will be interesting to see whether the Suns are prepared to offer it to him, given the recent reports on team ownership’s reluctance to commit max money to Deandre Ayton.

Zach LaVine (Bulls)

Unlike Towns or Booker, LaVine will be a free agent during the 2022 offseason. He was an extension candidate this offeason, but once the Bulls used their potential cap room on roster upgrades rather than a renegotiation of LaVine’s 2021/22 salary, the odds of him signing a long-term extension plummeted.

Since LaVine is earning a relatively modest $19.5MM salary in 2021/22, his max extension without a renegotiation would only be worth in the neighborhood of $106MM over four years — and a renegotiation is only possible with cap room.

That means LaVine will almost certainly reach free agency in 2022. That takes an extension off the table, he could still qualify for the super-max as a free agent if he makes an All-NBA team this season.

Earning an All-NBA spot may be a longer shot for LaVine than for Towns or Booker. Not many centers will put up better numbers than Towns, and Booker’s role as the top scorer for a potential title contender will automatically put him in the conversation. LaVine is coming off a monster year, in which he established a new career high in PPG (27.4) and earned his first All-Star berth, but he has a reputation as a subpar defender and the Bulls haven’t made the playoffs during his four years with the franchise.

If LaVine maintains his impressive offensive numbers and shows improvements on defense while the new-look Bulls force their way into the playoff mix, an All-NBA nod becomes a more realistic possibility. In that scenario, LaVine would be eligible for a five-year super-max contract worth a projected $241.6MM. Whether Chicago would be comfortable putting that type of offer on the table is another story altogether.

The rookie scale extension recipients

Trae Young (Hawks), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder), and Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) all signed five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extensions this offseason that project to start at 25% of the 2022/23 cap, for a five-year value of $172.5MM.

However, all three players also received Rose Rule language in their deals. This is another form of the super-max — unlike the Designated Veteran contracts, which start at 35% of the cap instead of 30%, a player who meets the Rose Rule criteria gets a starting salary worth 30% of the cap rather than 25%.

The performance criteria for a Rose Rule salary increase are essentially the exact same as for a Designated Veteran bump, but must be achieved by the end of the player’s four-year rookie contract. That means Young, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Porter would have to make the All-NBA team in 2022 in order to increase the value of their respective extensions to $207MM over five years — an All-NBA berth in 2023 or 2024 would be too late.

Of the three players, Young might be the best bet to make an All-NBA team this season. Like Booker, he’s the go-to offensive option on a team coming off a deep playoff run. He should rank among the NBA’s leaders in both points and assists. If he improves upon last season’s .438/.343/.886 shooting numbers and Atlanta has another strong season, he’ll have a solid case.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, the other young star to get a maximum-salary rookie scale extension this summer, already qualified for the bump to 30% of the cap by making the All-NBA team in his second and third NBA seasons. His five-year deal will be worth a projected $207MM no matter how he performs in 2021/22.

The rest

While there are other veteran players who could technically qualify for the super-max this season, none are particularly compelling candidates. Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis and Pacers center Myles Turner are perhaps the most intriguing, especially since Turner could be a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender. But I have a hard time imagining either player receiving a super-max offer even in the unlikely event that they qualify for one.

Among players on rookie scale contracts, Suns center Deandre Ayton is the other candidate to monitor. Ayton is reportedly seeking Rose Rule language in a maximum-salary extension with Phoenix, but the two sides are at an impasse in their negotiations.

I’d be a little surprised if Ayton becomes an All-NBA player this season, but there are so few star centers around the league that it’s not out of the question, especially if he takes on a larger offensive role going forward. If Ayton and the Suns don’t agree to an extension this month and he earns an All-NBA nod in 2022, he’d be eligible for a 30% max (five years, $207MM) with Phoenix as a restricted free agent next summer.

Pacific Notes: Green, Ariza, Ellington, Booker, Kings Guards

Draymond Green is skeptical that the current Warriors roster can produce championship results, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. He doesn’t see how incorporating second-year centers James Wiseman and two first-round rookies into the mix with veterans who have won won multiple championship can deliver another title.

“Historically, we have not seen that work, where you have a mix of old … well, I wouldn’t say any of us are old. … But a mixture of experience and hardly any experience, historically, in just being a fan of the NBA,” he said. “I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen someone have success with that.”

Green, who also spoke of his relationships with coach Steve Kerr and GM Bob Myers, said he won’t urge teammate Andrew Wiggins to get vaccinated, feeling that it’s “none of my business” and “it’s not my place to tell what he should or shouldn’t do” in regard to medical decisions.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Who will start for the Lakers along with the Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook? It’s up for grabs and the speculation entering camp was that the two leading candidates would be Trevor Ariza and Kent Bazemore. Ariza still remains the favorite to claim the small forward spot but 3-point shooter Wayne Ellington is the current favorite to be Westbrook’s backcourt partner, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker recently tested positive for COVID-19, but returned to practice on Friday. He confirmed he’s been fully vaccinated and has passed the league protocols, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. Coach Monty Williams said it’s unlikely Booker will play in Monday’s preseason opener at Sacramento.
  • The Kings are expected to show a lot of three-guard lineups this season. De’Aaron Fox said it’s up to those players to make it work, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. “We’ve talked about playing three guards and, at the end of the day, what you give up is size, so that comes from rebounding and defense, but we have to buckle down and do that,” Fox said. “If we can’t, then obviously the three of us won’t be able to play together and coach (Luke Walton) is going to have to figure something else out, but we all want to play together.”

Pacific Notes: Booker, Schröder, Lakers, Harkless, Kings

Suns star Devin Booker confirmed on a Twitch stream on Sunday that he’s currently dealing with a case of COVID-19, as Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports relays (via Twitter). The team had announced over the weekend that Booker was in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss at least part of training camp.

According to Olson, Booker said on Sunday’s stream that he tested positive about a week ago. He has experienced some symptoms – including losing his senses of taste and smell – but said he’s feeling good now and expects to be back soon.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Addressing the oft-repeated rumor that he could’ve signed a four-year, $84MM extension with the Lakers during the 2020/21 season, Dennis Schröder said today that he technically never had that contract offer in front of him to sign. That may be just a matter of semantics, since it sounds like there was a time when the Lakers were willing to put that offer on the table. However, Schröder said that he never felt like he fit in 100% in Los Angeles, adding that “money isn’t everything” and he still got a “nice deal” for him and his family (Twitter links via Keith Smith of Spotrac and Jared Weiss of The Athletic). Schröder signed a one-year, $5.9MM contract with the Celtics.
  • Kings forward Maurice Harkless said he didn’t explore other opportunities when he became a free agent, preferring to work out something quickly with Sacramento (Twitter link via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area). Harkless agreed to a two-year, $9MM deal with the team on the first night of free agency.
  • The Kings have a new jersey advertisement sponsor, announcing today in a press release that they’ve partner with Dialpad and will wear the company’s logo on their uniforms in 2021/22 and beyond.

Pacific Notes: Moody, Booker, Jack, Phillips

Rookie Warriors shooting guard Moses Moody, chosen with the No. 14 pick out of Arkansas in the NBA draft this summer, is optimistic heading into his first NBA season, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 6’6″ wing was highly coveted by Golden State, who even considered drafting him with the seventh pick before ultimately selecting Jonathan Kuminga.

“I want to establish the foundation for my career, and I feel like I will be able to do that with this coaching staff and these players,” the 19-year-old Moody said of how he intends to develop with the Warriors.

Moody is a solid defender with an elite 7’1″ wingspan. He averaged 16.3 PPG, including 37% shooting from long range, during his four games in the 2021 Las Vegas Summer League. Simmons observes that, until Klay Thompson‘s anticipated return from an Achilles tear a couple months into the season, there will be something of a competition for the Warriors’ starting shooting guard position, and Moody will certainly make his case for consideration.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and will miss part of the team’s upcoming training camp for the 2021/22 season, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. It is unclear whether or not Booker himself has tested positive for the novel coronavirus or has been determined to have been exposed via contact tracing.
  • New Suns assistant coach Jarrett Jack had intended to continue his career as a player before he was summoned to the Phoenix bench, he indicated in an interview with Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. The former NBA point guard had most recently served as a veteran leader with the G League Ignite during the 2020/21 season. “I know what they’re about and I know what they want to build and how they want to build it,” Jack said of the Suns. “So now I got to get my head wrapped around this pretty fast.” In the second part of Jack’s conversation with Rankin, he discussed his role with the club. “I believe player development,” Jack said. “I believe I’ll be pretty much with the point guards for the most part.”
  • The Clippers have added former Wizards director of athletic performance and rehabilitation Jesse Phillips to their medical staff, reports Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Gasol, Drummond, Thompson, Wiseman, Johnson

The Lakers’ signing of Andre Drummond after the trade deadline soured the franchise’s relationship with Marc Gasol, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link). Gasol lost his starting job and that created a rift that could not be resolved, Oram adds. Gasol was traded to the Grizzlies on Friday, though he’ll be waived and will remain in Spain with his family.

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register runs with the same theme, noting that Gasol called his season with the Lakers “chaotic.” The Lakers signaled this week that Gasol wouldn’t return when they signed DeAndre Jordan.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are sending their own 2024 pick with no protections in the Gasol deal with the Grizzlies, Bobby Marks of ESPN confirms (via Twitter). The Grizzlies are also receiving $250K in the deal, Marks adds.
  • There will be plenty of pressure on Klay Thompson and James Wiseman to produce for the Warriors during the upcoming season, Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. It’s unlikely that the Warriors’ floor-spacing will improve until Thompson’s return, and they need Wiseman to develop into a frontcourt force in order to become a contender again.
  • Suns wing Cameron Johnson has changed representation, hiring agents Ty Sullivan, Steve Heumann, Melvin Booker and Simone Capers of CAA Basketball, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Johnson, who is entering his third season in the league, averaged 8.2 PPG in 21 game during Phoenix’s postseason run to the Finals. Johnson, a 2019 lottery pick, is extension-eligible next offseason. Melvin Booker is Devin Booker‘s father.

Olympics Notes: Middleton, Booker, Gasol, Team USA

It’s been an unusual week for the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Suns’ Devin Booker, who have gone from being Finals opponents to Olympic teammates in the span of a few days, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Milwaukee wrapped the series Tuesday night, leaving the players with a tight schedule to get to Tokyo in time for Sunday morning’s opener against France.

Middleton admits he and Booker “haven’t said a word to each other” since the Finals ended, but he believes they’ll have a normal relationship during the Olympics.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Middleton said. “I’m sure we won’t be best buddies during Team USA, but we’ll be teammates, for sure. We’ll be on the same path, talking basketball X’s and O’s, trying to get the job done.”

Booker, who has called it “a life goal” to play in the Olympics, also doesn’t expect any hard feelings to linger from the Finals matchup.

“It’s never personal between who you’re going with, unless lines are crossed,” he said. “Those guys aren’t that type and I would never go that way with them, because there’s a high respect level for each other. I think that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in right now. Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals, but I can always respect somebody that competes at the highest level.”

There’s more on the Olympic Games:

  • Spain’s Pau Gasol credits the memory of former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant with inspiring him to recover from a foot injury that could have ended his basketball career, Medina adds in a separate story.
  • France upset the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup in 2019, and the Americans see Sunday’s opener as a chance to re-establish their dominance, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The players feel like they have something to prove after two years of listening to talk that Team USA might not be the best in the world anymore. “If anything, maybe you lost a little bit of the fear that we’ve had in people’s hearts for years — which you go out and do what you’ve got to do and you can get that right back,” said Draymond Green.
  • With the last-minute addition of three players, plus the late replacements of Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee, who joined the team July 16, the coaching staff plans to keep things simple, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Head coach Gregg Popovich said he will employ a “less is more” strategy, while assistant Steve Kerr adds, “We’re not going to have a ton of plays. That would be impossible.”

Olympic Notes: LaVine, NBA Participants, Hernangomez, Finals Trio

Zach LaVine was placed in protocols due to contact tracing before he was allowed to go to Tokyo. That development came as a big surprise to the Team USA wing. LaVine was sidelined for 11 Bulls games in April when he tested positive for COVID-19, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. “Well I was a little shocked,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously, I didn’t think I could get [the virus]. Obviously, I didn’t. I’m going to have to be careful with everybody including the team and everybody coming over here, so it made sense, and I pretty much had to do my time, jump through a couple hoops to get here.’’

We have more Olympic-related notes:

  • If there are a lot of familiar faces in the Olympic tournament, it’s because there are a record number of current and former NBA participants. According to an NBA press release, there are 49 current players and 16 former players dotting Olympic rosters. The Heat lead the way with four players in the competition.
  • Spain’s basketball federation president claims that Juan Hernangomez won’t play in the Olympics because Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas nixed it, according to a Eurohoops story relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hernangomez dislocated his left shoulder this summer but Jorge Garbajosa says the big man has been cleared by Spain’s medical staff. “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no.’ We have a received a ‘yes’. … It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations.”
  • Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday arrived in Tokyo on Saturday and their Team USA teammates are impressed by the commitment of the three players who participated in the Finals, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word,” Draymond Green said. “You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something.”

Olympic Notes: Booker, Middleton, Holiday, McGee, Robinson, Top Players

Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are expected to be available to play in Team USA’s Sunday morning opener, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The Bucks duo joined Booker in Seattle on Friday to take a private plane to Tokyo. The Finals trio won’t get a chance to practice with the team but coach Gregg Popovich would like to play them right away against France.

We have more Olympic-related news and tidbits:

  • JaVale McGee is a much different player than the man he replaced, Kevin Love, on Team USA. That forces Popovich to alter his frontcourt strategy and McGee may be nothing more than an insurance policy against France, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.
  • Heat wing Duncan Robinson claimed on The Long Shot Podcast that he nearly replaced Bradley Beal on Team USA’s roster, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald relays. “It basically got to the point where like it started to pick up some momentum and it looked like it was going to happen,” Robinson said. Keldon Johnson was eventually chosen as Beal’s replacement.
  • Many of the other teams in the Olympics could threaten Team USA in its quest for gold and Vardon takes a closer look at the other 11 squads and their chances of knocking off the American contingent.
  • Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard head HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina’s Olympic player rankings. Doncic edged out Durant due to the fact he’ll likely put up big numbers for Slovenia. Urbina lists his top 30 players in Tokyo.

Olympic Notes: Holiday, Middleton, Booker, Hill

The U.S. Olympic team is about to get some reinforcements now that the NBA Finals are over, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. With the Bucks finishing off the Suns Tuesday night, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker are all headed to Tokyo and are expected to be ready when the Americans open Olympic play on Sunday against France.

All three players will bring some welcome firepower to a team that went 2-2 in exhibition play. While they didn’t have the benefit of training with their new teammates, coach Gregg Popovich is confident that it won’t take long for everyone to adjust.

“Chemistry is something that we hope forms quickly,” Popovich said. “These guys get along very well. They haven’t played together but they know each other and they’re very happy to be here. They’ve sacrificed a lot under the circumstances to do this. The chemistry builds day by day, you can’t force that issue. It just happens organically. The three guys that are coming in will blend in as best they can and we’ll try to do a good job coaching-wise to put them in situations where they feel comfortable together.”

There’s more on the Olympics:

  • Despite the difficulty of going from one high-level competition to another, none of the three players in the Finals have any regrets about their Olympic decisions, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“Yes, there is a component of playing for your country, playing for your family,” Holiday said. “My wife (former soccer star Lauren Cheney) being a two-time Olympian, was is also a factor, but I think not having a break and just feeling like, well, we’re in the Finals, why not just continue playing basketball.”
  • A busy schedule awaits Grant Hill after the Olympics, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Hill will replace Jerry Colangelo as managing director of USA Basketball and will have just a few months before qualifying begins for the 2023 Basketball World Cup. Hill won’t be at the Olympics because of limits on personnel that can travel with a team, but he has worked closely with Colangelo to prepare for the new role. “No question, these are big shoes to fill,” Hill said. “Jerry has been incredible. His vision, strategic thinking, his will to make this successful. … I’m amazed at many things I didn’t know about his various contributions to the game of basketball.”
  • Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert are the top players to watch in this year’s Games, The Athletic states in its guide to men’s Olympic basketball.