Dion Waiters

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Jerami Grant, Nuggets, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $27.3MM deal in 2018

The Nuggets are on the verge of elimination again despite the increased offensive production of Grant. He scored a playoff-high 26 points in Denver’s lone win against the Lakers in Game 3, then added 17 points in Game 4. The trust that coach Michael Malone has in Grant defensively against the Lakers’ jumbo lineups was apparent – he played a total of 77 minutes in those two games. Grant has a $9.35MM option on his contract for next season. Prior to the restart, Grant said he was likely to decline it and test the free agent waters. It’s doubtful he’s changed his mind.

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019

Howard piled up more fouls than points in Games 2 and 3 against Denver. Instead of Howard losing playing time, coach Frank Vogel surprisingly decided to start him in Game 4. The former Defensive Player of the Year delivered a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) in 23 minutes. He’s a dinosaur by current NBA standards – an aging center who can’t stretch defenses. But every once awhile, Howard reminds everyone he can still be a factor. It’s easy to see the Lakers signing him to another short-term deal.

Dion Waiters, Lakers 28, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $500K deal in 2020

Waiters got a chance to revive his career when the Lakers signed him to a rest-of-the season contract in March. The opportunity was there for Waiters to crack the rotation in the postseason but ineffectiveness and a groin injury have rendered him a non-factor. He’s only appeared in five playoff games, totaling 10 points (no threes) in 38 minutes. Given his controversial history, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft will probably be scrounging for a veteran’s minimum deal.

Derrick Jones, Heat, 23, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018

It’s been a rough restart for Jones. He had a bout with the coronavirus, then suffered a neck strain during a collision in the seeding games. He also dealt with an ankle injury during the opening round of the playoffs. His biggest problem now is he’s out of the rotation. The emergence of Tyler Herro and the presence of veterans Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala has limited him to a total of 30 unspectacular minutes against Boston. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent and he’ll draw some interest, but his price tag may have dropped this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Clippers Arena, Randle, McGee, Kawhi

The Clippers‘ forthcoming Inglewood arena has received the final approval necessary from the Inglewood City Council, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link). The team, which announced a joint deal to buy the publicly-owned property on the arena site, now has the go-ahead to begin building its new arena in 2021.

In a press release on the club’s official site, the team notes that construction is scheduled to commence next summer. The Clippers are expected to move from the Staples Center, an arena they share with the Lakers, to their new home ahead of the 2024/25 season.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Suns coach Monty Williams has added Brian Randle to his staff as an assistant coach, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Randle is a former player development coach for the Timberwolves.
  • Lakers starting center JaVale McGee has been cleared to play in tonight’s pivotal Game 3 against the Rockets, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). McGee turned his left ankle in Game 2 of the Lakers’ series with the Rockets and was limited to just eight minutes of action. An MRI on the ankle came back negative. Mark Medina of USA Today tweets McGee will not have a minutes restriction tonight. Medina adds that bench guard Dion Waiters will not be available for Game 3.
  • Meanwhile, Rockets forward Danuel House Jr. will be unavailable tonight for personal reasons, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen adds (Twitter link) that Houston center Tyson Chandler will also miss tonight’s game for personal reasons, but that both players remain on the NBA’s Orlando campus.
  • Clippers All-Star Kawhi Leonard‘s stellar Game 3 performance showcased just how valuable he is as a two-way player, and why he was the top priority for Los Angeles in free agency ahead of the season, notes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Leonard was named to the 2020 All-Defensive Second Team earlier this afternoon.

Western Notes: McGee, Jokic, Conley, Pelicans

The Lakers could be without their starting center for Game 3 against the Rockets on Tuesday, according to the latest injury report on NBA.com. JaVale McGee is listed as questionable with a left ankle sprain. Reserve shooting guard Dion Waiters is considered doubtful due to a sore left groin.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is listed as questionable for Game 3 tonight against the Clippers due to a sprained right wrist, according to an ESPN report. Jokic had 26 points and 18 rebounds in the Nuggets’ Game 2 win on Saturday. The Nuggets made no mention of the sprain after the game. The Nuggets will make a final determination on his status after warmups, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets.
  • The Jazz hope that Mike Conley settles in after a choppy first season with the organization and that will result in a longer playoff run, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Conley is expected to opt into the final year of his contract, worth $34.5MM, for next season. The point guard will be more comfortable in his second year with the club after learning a new system and reworking his game to fit the Jazz’s style, Todd adds.
  • The Pelicans could use a defensive wing and another shooter. The Athletic’s William Guillory explores some of the draft prospects who might fit the bill with the No. 13 overall pick.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, McGee, Waiters, LeBron

Rajon Rondo turned in an up-and-down performance in Game 1 of the Lakers‘ second-round series against Houston, but head coach Frank Vogel expressed confidence after that game that Rondo would be an important contributor for L.A. in the series. On Sunday, the veteran point guard proved Vogel right.

As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin details, Rondo contributed 10 points, nine assists, and five steals in the Lakers’ Game 2 win, with the team outscoring the Rockets by 28 points during his 29 minutes. While Rondo is on a minimum-salary contract and ranked eighth on the team this season in minutes per game, he’s viewed as a leader on and off the court for the Lakers.

“He has such an impact,” Vogel said of Rondo. “His impact on our team is measured in swag and just the confidence that he brings to our group.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Lakers center JaVale McGee left Sunday’s game due to left ankle pain and didn’t return, per McMenamin. Vogel said after the game that McGee would be undergoing an MRI on his sore ankle.
  • Within the same story, McMenamin notes that shooting guard Dion Waiters also left the game with an injury and didn’t play the rest of the night. Waiters was diagnosed with a strained groin, and his status going forward remains up in the air.
  • Within a notebook piece on the Lakers/Rockets series, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register explores how the two clubs have been using “scout teams” in practices to try to prepare for their opponent’s star players.
  • Asked on Sunday why his children haven’t joined him in the NBA’s bubble, Lakers star LeBron James explained that – despite being located within Walt Disney World – the campus isn’t especially kid-friendly. “My kids are too adventurous and they love to do so much stuff,” James said, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “There’s nothing for them to do here. Go outside, come back in, go outside, come back in. They can stay in L.A. They’re great.”

Western Notes: Porzingis, Lakers, Warriors, Eliyahu

Mavericks star forward Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch for Game 4 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. He’s listed as questionable for Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 and will likely be a game-time decision, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. An MRI revealed no structural damage to Porzingis’ knee.

“Look, a lot of this is going to be hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute type stuff, probably into the later stages of tomorrow,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers’ guard rotation is still in flux, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. J.R. Smith hasn’t shown much while getting playing time the last two playoff games. A longer look at Dion Waiters may be warranted, according to Slater, at least until Rajon Rondo returns. Rondo was supposed to play in Game 3 on Saturday but was a late scratch due to back spasms.
  • The Warriors saved some money by getting the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery rather than the top spot. They’ll save approximately $4MM toward the luxury tax for next season, if the rookie scale remains the same, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • The Warriors hold the rights to Israeli forward Lior Eliyahu but he’s retiring, Sportando’s Alessandro Maggi relays. He won several championships overseas during his career and played most recently of Maccabi Ashdod. Eliyahu, 34, was drafted in the second round by Magic in 2006 and his rights were traded numerous times.

Vogel On Rondo, Starters, Waiters, Smith

Though the Lakers suffered a surprising 100-93 loss to the Trail Blazers in the first game of their conference quarterfinals series on Tuesday, head coach Frank Vogel has indicated that he will not make any adjustments to his current starting lineup ahead of tonight’s second “home” game, according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

On Tuesday, the Lakers started All-Star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, along with center JaVale McGee, and guards Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

McGee played just 12 minutes on Tuesday. Backup power forward Kyle Kuzma, meanwhile, logged 30 minutes of game action, with Davis shifting to a center role when playing alongside Kuzma. Point guard Alex Caruso played 29 minutes off the bench, the same amount of time as Caldwell-Pope and six more minutes than sharpshooter Green.

Backup center Dwight Howard and power forward Markieff Morris also logged more time than McGee, a solid post defender without much offensive range. Starting Davis at center, with either Kuzma or Caruso replacing McGee in the starting lineup, could present a unique opportunity for the Lakers to spread the floor against Portland.

Backup point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been recovering from a fractured right thumb suffered five weeks ago, will remain inactive for tonight’s game. Rondo was medically cleared for action on August 17. Rondo had the thumb surgically repaired on July 16. He has yet to suit up for the Lakers during the team’s summer games.

Vogel also noted that he will find playing time for recent waiver additions Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link). In the first game of the series, Waiters saw the court for just one minute, and took no field goal attempts, while Smith did not play at all.

Pacific Notes: Fox, Warren, Waiters, Williams

De’Aaron Fox becomes eligible for his rookie scale extension this offseason and he’s strengthening his case for a high-end offer. Even though the Kings lost their first three games during the restart, their potent point guard averaged 26.7 PPG and 6.0 APG, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. He followed that up with a 30-point, 10-assist outing in the Kings’ victory over the Pelicans on Thursday.

“I definitely feel confident that we’re seeing what kind of player we’re going to have here as the future plays out,” Kings coach Luke Walton said of Fox.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • T.J. Warren‘s explosive scoring has been one of the biggest stories of the restart. The Suns traded him to the Pacers last offseason in a salary dump but Warren claims to harbor no grudges against his former team, as IndianaSportsCoverage.com relays. “I don’t have no ill blood between anybody,” he said. “I’m just fortunate enough to be doing what I’m doing, playing basketball at the highest level. With me, it’s all love.” Warren has two years and $24.5MM remaining on his contract, which is increasingly looking like a bargain.
  • Dion Waiters has been getting steady playing time with the Lakers as Rajon Rondo mends from a thumb injury, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. Waiters is averaging 10 PPG during the restart despite shooting poorly from 3-point range. “Situation like that, you just try to take full advantage of it ’til Rondo get back and things like that,” Waiters said.  The enigmatic guard was signed by the Lakers for the remainder of the season just prior to the suspension of play in March.
  • Clippers guard Lou Williams took a lot of flack for visiting an Atlanta strip club after temporarily leaving the Orlando campus and he admits to making a bad decision, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. “It’s been documented how much I talk about this place, how much I eat there,” Williams said of Magic City. “I just did something that was routine for me. … At the time, I thought I was making a responsible decision. After looking back on it, with everything going on in the world, the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the best-quality decision.” Williams is back in action after clearing quarantine.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Barnes, Waiters, Okobo

The NBA’s four-month hiatus may have helped Kyle Kuzma rediscover his jumpshot at a much-needed time, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. Kuzma poured in 25 points off the bench in the Lakers’ scrimmage win against Orlando on Saturday, shooting 10-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from deep.

Since arriving in Orlando, much of the talk surrounding the Lakers has been about Kuzma’s impressive play, Oram notes. This includes both scrimmages and team practices.

“What he did today,” coach Frank Vogel said, “he did all through our ‘restart training camp’ so to speak. I’m just really excited about what the restart is going to look like for him.”

Kuzma’s role has been cut back with several veterans joining the team over the past year. He’s averaging a career-low 12.5 points in 24.6 minutes per game, with his shooting marks also declining (43% from the field and 30% from behind-the-arc on the campaign).

The Lakers will rely on Kuzma’s production off the bench despite his reduced role, needing all hands on deck to successfully compete against deep Western Conference teams such as the Clippers, Rockets and Nuggets in the postseason.

Here are some other notes out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Kings forward Harrison Barnes never experienced any symptoms while dealing with COVID-19, head coach Luke Walton said, according to Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Barnes could play in the team’s scrimmage against the Clippers on Monday, Walton added. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 34.9 minutes this season for Sacramento.
  • Veteran guard Dion Waiters has mostly had a soft landing with the Lakers in Orlando, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Waiters scored 12 points off the bench in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday, shooting 5-of-9 from the field. “Here, it’s like it’s different, man,” Waiters said. “It’s a vibe. Everybody’s just positive. We got our own slang and things like that going on. … It makes you feel good though. You’re excited.”
  • Suns guard Elie Okobo has arrived in Orlando but wasn’t available for the team’s scrimmage against Boston on Sunday, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. Phoenix is slated to play one more scrimmage on Tuesday before re-opening its regular season against Washington on Friday. It’s unclear whether Okobo, who likely must go through quarantine, will be available for those contests.

Pacific Notes: Rubio, A. Davis, Waiters, Fox

The Suns plan to have starting point guard Ricky Rubio active for their second scrimmage Sunday night, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Rubio sat out Thursday’s opener after a positive COVID-19 test delayed his arrival to the Walt Disney World campus.

“He should play,” coach Monty Williams said of Rubio. “He had a good practice (today). It was probably smart to hold him out. We don’t want guys playing when they’re not comfortable, we’re not comfortable. We’ve been going unbelievably hard in our practice. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the floor.”

Phoenix has been short-handed since teams began reporting to Orlando earlier this month. Center Aron Baynes also tested positive for the coronavirus, while Elie Okobo and Jalen Lecque are listed out for “personal reasons.” The Suns expect all those players to eventually join the team.

“You always want your full team out here,” said rookie Ty Jerome, who made his first start at point guard in Thursday’s scrimmage. “All the uncertainty that’s going on right now, the fact that we’re one of the healthier and more full teams out here, it gives us a chance. Gives us a fighting chance.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Anthony Davis is considered day-to-day after being poked in the right eye during today’s scrimmage, Lakers coach Frank Vogel tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). L.A. has one more scrimmage Monday before starting its seeding games Thursday against the Clippers.
  • Lakers guard Dion Waiters discussed the difference between playing alongside LeBron James now compared to when they were teammates in Cleveland six years ago, McMenamin tweets. “When you’re young, you’re still trying to find yourself coming into the league,” Waiters said. “I think Bron was trying to help me with that, but I was so stubborn back then. But I understand now. I’m 28. I’ve been through a lot. I’m at peace with myself, though.”
  • Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox declared himself to be completely recovered from an ankle sprain he suffered last week (video link).
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac reported to Orlando Friday night and is being quarantined for two days, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Heat Notes: Herro, Adebayo, Nunn, Waiters

Heat guard Tyler Herro has lofty goals for the future and is determined to improve on the defensive end of the floor, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes. 

Herro, an accomplished offensive player who has averaged 12.9 points per game in his rookie season, believes it’s imperative to take the next step defensively in order to complete his quest of becoming an All-Star player.

“My thing is, I don’t want to just be a scorer. I plan on being an All Star one day and that’s what I’m set to work out to be,” Herro said. “I know it’s going to take a lot obviously and it’s going to happen on both ends of the floor. I’m allowing coach Spo’ and the rest of the staff to push me every day.”

Herro, 20, was the No. 13 pick of the 2019 NBA draft out of Kentucky. He’s worked closely with Heat assistants Chris Quinn and Anthony Carter this season, also receiving clips from his trainer in Wisconsin to help him become a better defensive player.

“He sends me clips of Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley, guys that are on the ball and get into the ball when ball screens come,” Herro said. “There are a bunch of guys who are really good at what they do.

“I know it’s a long road and a long process. Defensively is the biggest area I need to improve in. My offense is fine as of now.”

There’s more out of Miami today:

  • Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn have yet to join the Heat in Orlando, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relays (via Twitter). Both players remain away from the organization and haven’t reported for the league’s mandatory quarantine period. Miami’s first game falls on Saturday, August 1 against Denver.
  • The Heat may have to survive for the immediate future without Nunn and Adebayo, Winderman cautions. Whether the team’s shorthanded roster will be sustainable is unclear, with Nunn and Adebayo representing two-fifths of the starting lineup this season. There is no concrete timetable for their return.
  • Winderman ponders in a separate story whether Dion Waiters won his stand-off with the Heat from earlier in the season. Miami suspended Waiters multiple times for team violations and could’ve kept him on the roster if they wished, ultimately choosing to trade him to Memphis in February. Waiters signed with the Lakers after receiving his release from the Grizzlies and is currently gearing up for a deep playoff run.