Doug McDermott

Western Notes: Nuggets, McDermott, Green, Pelicans, Wolves

The Nuggets have debuted a new “Defensive Player of the Game” chain, something head coach Michael Malone hopes will inspire his team throughout the season, as relayed by Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (Twitter links).

Will Barton was awarded the chain after the team’s win over Phoenix on Wednesday, while Nikola Jokic received it after the club’s victory against San Antonio on Friday. Denver held both teams to under 100 points in the outings.

“For us, we want to be a better defensive team,” Malone said. “So maybe having a Defensive Player of the Game, necklace, if you will, maybe that motivates some guys.”

The Nuggets finished 47-25 last season behind an MVP campaign from Jokic, but defending has long been an issue for the team. Jokic, for his part, appears to be setting the tone early about the team’s need to commit defensively.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs wing Doug McDermott is proving that he’s one of the top shooters in the world, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. McDermott has made 10-of-18 threes (56%) in his first three games, proving his worth as a floor-spacer in San Antonio. He signed a three-year, $42MM deal to join the franchise this past summer.
  • Will Guillory of The Athletic examines whether Pelicans coach Willie Green can find a way to fix the team’s issues. New Orleans has opened the season with a 0-3 record in Green’s first campaign. The club has upcoming home games scheduled against the Hawks on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
  • The Wolves are trying to build a new identity this season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes“When you’re building an identity, obviously we don’t have one, to be very fairly honest in the NBA,” Karl-Anthony Towns said, “but if you want to build one, it’s going to take some time where you’re going to have to play your game even when people don’t understand how we’re playing. You try to be physical defensively, especially, so if we’re going to get a little foul here and there over physicality and building our identity and our culture, then that has to be what it is.” Minnesota struggled last season largely due to injuries, but the team is 2-0 to start the season.

Spurs Notes: Final Roster Spot, Eubanks, McDermott, Walker

There appears to be a three-way competition for the Spurs‘ final roster spot, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The team has 17 players with guaranteed contracts, and it looks like the decision will come down to forwards Luka SamanicKeita Bates-Diop and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Samanic, 21, was taken with the 19th pick in 2019, but hasn’t established himself in San Antonio, playing just 36 games in two seasons. The Spurs have an October 31 deadline to pick up his option for 2022/23, but they may decide to part with him before then. Coach Gregg Popovich gave Samanic a start in Friday’s preseason game, and McDonald described the results as “mixed.”

“He hasn’t played very much, so his is more of a confidence game and understanding what it takes to be a player,” Popovich explained.

Bates-Diop, 25, signed a two-year, $3.5MM contract before training camp began, but only this season is guaranteed at $1.7MM and he has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Aminu, who was acquired in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade, is owed $10.1MM this season in the final year of his contract. Knee injuries have limited him to 41 games over the past two seasons and he recognizes that he has an uphill fight to make the roster.

“That’s your whole life,” he said. “You go to one camp and maybe there are 100 guys. Even from high school, everyone is competing. We understand the business of whatever the case can be.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Drew Eubanks‘ place on the roster appears secure, even though the Spurs could easily afford to unload his $1.76MM salary, McDonald adds. Eubanks has steadily improved throughout his three seasons with the organization, and Popovich recently called him “a poor man’s Dave Cowens.”
  • Free-agent addition Doug McDermott feels suited to the Spurs’ new offensive philosophy, which is based on movement with fewer set plays, McDonald notes in a separate story. The 29-year-old is with his sixth NBA team, and San Antonio is counting on him to boost its outside shooting. “The system is great because it’s a lot of random basketball, and that’s what my game is built for,” he said.
  • Popovich is enjoying the challenge of coaching young players after so many years of having a veteran team, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The coach also praised the progress of Lonnie Walker, saying he has added game-related knowledge to his athletic skills (Twitter link).

Central Notes: Cavs’ Rotation, Pacers’ TPE, Vaulet, Cunningham

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff is planning on a 10-man rotation but the last two spots could change from game-to-game, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer speculates.

“We’re working our way to what will be probably a 10-man rotation and then there’s different nights that are going to call for different things and we will go to those different guys,” Bickerstaff said.

By process of elimination, Denzel Valentine, Kevin Pangos, Cedi Osman, Dylan Windler, Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Mfiondu Kabengele are the players vying for those rotation minutes and each brings a different skill set to the table.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • The Pacers picked up a $7.33MM traded player exception from the Spurs in the Doug McDermott sign-and-trade but it’s highly unlikely they’ll use it this season, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. They were just $763,905 below the luxury tax line before dumping Edmond Sumner‘s contract on Wednesday, which moved them $2.8MM under the tax line. That’s still not nearly enough incentive to use the exception, since the franchise has no desire to be a taxpayer.
  • The Pacers received the rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet in the Sumner trade with Brooklyn but he won’t be playing in the NBA this season, Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star notes. He signed a two-year contract with AEK Athens in July. The 6’6” Vaulet was originally drafted by Charlotte in 2015.
  • Top pick Cade Cunningham sat out the Pistons‘ preseason opener against San Antonio on Wednesday, Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets. Cunningham is recovering from a mild ankle sprain.

Spurs Notes: Primo, Aminu, McDermott, Collins

The Spurs are preparing first-round pick Joshua Primo for the possibility that he may spend part of his rookie season in the G League, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. At age 18, the former Alabama guard was among the youngest players taken in this year’s draft and he may need time in Austin to get ready for the NBA.

“I’m open to anything that is going to get me extra reps and get me better,” he said. “I know I am young, and any way I can get better, I am up to it. But I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Primo has several teammates who spent time in the G League early in their careers, and they have been selling him on the benefits.

“All the guys have told me the G League is there to help,” Primo said. “If I am there, I am going to use it to the best of my ability.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the few veterans in the Spurs’ camp, is on his seventh team in 11 years after being traded from Chicago as part of the DeMar DeRozan deal, Orsborn adds in the same piece. The 31-year-old is trying to bounce back from knee problems that have limited him to 41 combined games over the past two seasons. “It is basketball … We understand the business,” Aminu said. “I remember a vet told me, ‘Control what you can control.’ All I can do is put out max effort.”
  • Growing up, Doug McDermott thought he would be a good fit with the Spurs because of their approach to the game, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. At age 29 and with seven years in the NBA, McDermott got to San Antonio over the summer in a sign-and-trade. “Doug can fit in anywhere,” teammate Bryn Forbes said. “When you can shoot the ball and score the ball, it’s not hard to fit in. You can just kind of mold and adapt to a lot of different situations.”
  • The Spurs’ medical staff expects center Zach Collins to return “after Christmas,” coach Gregg Popovich told reporters (Twitter link from Orsborn). The free agent addition has played a combined 11 games over the past two seasons and has undergone multiple foot surgeries.

Southwest Notes: Graham, Brooks, McDermott

The Pelicans’ newest point guard, Devonte’ Graham, is coming to New Orleans with an open mind, writes Christian Clark of

Graham has bounced between roles during his three years in the league, and he’s using that experience to stay flexible with his new team.

I do whatever is needed from the coaching staff,” Graham said. “You guys followed me with the Hornets. I started, I came off the bench. I played the one, I played the two. Whatever role they need from me, I’m going to do that to try to help the team win.”

The 26-year-old added that he’s already worked out with Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who is presumed to be penciled in as the starting shooting guard next to Graham when the season starts. Alexander-Walker had a breakout last season when he averaged 19 PPG, five RPG and three APG in 13 games as a starter towards the end of the season, including two 30-point outbursts.

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Graham also reflected on his time with the Hornets, and holds no hard feelings for how the business side played out, writes Jonathan M. Alexander for The Charlotte Observer. “Their development program, the G League helped me a lot,” Graham said. “I just tried to get better at something every summer. One day it was threes, another day it was passing. I just tried to do something little every summer.”
  • Grizzlies starting shooting guard Dillon Brooks suffered a hand injury during an offseason workout, tweets Michael Wallace of Wallace adds that Brooks, who is currently in a brace, is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September.
  • Doug McDermott calls joining the Spurs a dream come true, writes The San Antonio Express-News’ Tom Orsborn. “Growing up watching all those (Spurs) teams win championships, I always kind of modeled my game after being a guy in this type of system,” he said. The veteran wing is hoping that his off-ball movement can open up the floor for the Spurs’ many young guards to attack the rim.

Spurs Acquire Doug McDermott In Sign-And-Trade

AUGUST 8: McDermott has joined the Spurs in a sign-and-trade deal, the Pacers announced in a press release.

Indiana got a future second-round pick in return, while San Antonio received McDermott, a future second-rounder and the option to swap second-round picks in a future draft. The Pacers also created a $7.3MM trade exception in the deal, equivalent to McDermott’s 2020/21 salary.

AUGUST 2: Pacers free agent forward Doug McDermott has agreed to a three-year, $42MM deal with the Spurs, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

McDermott cashed in off a career year with Indiana in which he averaged 13.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 1.3 APG. He’s a career 40.7% 3-point shooter, though he’s more than just a perimeter threat. He averaged a career-high 10.1 shot attempts and made 53.2% of them in his walk year.

McDermott’s most recent contract, which he signed with Indiana in 2018, was a three-year deal worth $22MM.

Retaining McDermott at the number he agreed to with the Spurs would have added to the Pacers’ luxury tax concerns, though they were hoping to re-sign him.

The PelicansSuns, and Nuggets were among the teams that were rumored to be potential suitors for the 29-year-old McDermott. The Spurs had an edge over many other teams due to ample cap space, while many others could only offer their $9.536MM mid-level exception.

San Antonio could simply sign McDermott with its cap room or work out a sign-and-trade with Indiana.

Eastern Notes: Bulls, Dinwiddie, Nets, Celtics, Cavs, Pistons

The first-round pick the Bulls will send to the Spurs in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade will be top-10 protected in the first year and top-eight protected in the second and third years if it doesn’t convey immediately, reports John Hollinger of The Athletic.

That pick will tentatively be the Bulls’ 2025 first-rounder, but that’s conditional on Chicago sending its 2023 pick to Orlando. If the 2023 first-rounder falls in its protected range (top four) and the Bulls keep it, the Bulls would have to wait until at least 2026 to send a first-rounder to the Spurs in order to avoid running afoul of the Stepien rule, which prohibits teams from trading back-to-back future first-round picks.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • In an in-depth look at the challenges facing the Wizards in their efforts to acquire Spencer Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade, Danny Leroux and Fred Katz of The Athletic cite sources who say the Nets are seeking a significant asset (besides a trade exception) from Washington in any agreement.
  • The Celtics are taking a conservative approach to free agency this year in part because they want to maintain a salary structure that allows them to be players for a major free agent in 2022, as Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald explains (via Twitter).
  • The Cavaliers continue to scour the market for shooting help, according to Chris Fedor of, who says Doug McDermott was the team’s top target entering free agency. McDermott, who agreed to a three-year deal with San Antonio, was one of a number of players on Cleveland’s wish list that opted to go elsewhere.
  • Pistons head coach Dwane Casey envisions Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes sharing the play-making responsibilities for the team in 2021/22, as Keith Langlois of writes. “Both of ’em are 1A and 1B,” Casey said of his two young guards. ” Either one can bring it up. Either one can initiate offense. Either one can run pick and roll. What we want to work to is position-less basketball.”

Spurs Sign Zach Collins To Three-Year Contract

AUGUST 11: The signing is official, the team confirms in a press release.

AUGUST 2: The Spurs have decided to roll the dice on injury-plagued free agent forward Zach Collins

Collins is departing the Trail Blazers on a three-year, $22MM deal, agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). 

The 10th pick of the 2017 draft, Collins has seen his career sidetracked by injuries. The Trail Blazers decided not to extend him a $7MM qualifying offer, making Collins an unrestricted free agent.

Collins has only appeared in 11 games the past two seasons due to shoulder, foot and ankle injuries.

Collins had a major setback in late June when another fracture was discovered in his left foot. He underwent a second revision surgery to repair a left medial malleolus stress fracture and will require another 4-6 month recovery period.

“Obviously with me being a free agent, it makes it tough,” Collins said last month. “But I’m less concerned about what type of deal I’m going to get, or how many years it’s going to be, or who I’m going to play for … I’m more focused on this rehab and getting this ankle right.”

Bartelstein was confident he could land a multi-year contract for his client, even though Collins will miss at least a portion of next season.

San Antonio is adding at least one other free agent forward, as it also reached a three-year agreement with Doug McDermott.

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Nets, Harris, Cavs, Raptors Staff

The Nets plan to re-sign unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and are also looking to add depth at center as the free agency period begins, general manager Sean Marks told ESPN’s Malika Andrews and other media members (Twitter link). Money does not appear to be an object — Marks said the Nets are “married to the luxury tax” and owner Joe Tsai is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.

We have more from the Eastern Conference

  • A report that the Sixers are shopping Tobias Harris isn’t accurate, a source familiar with the situation tells Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice. It’s likely that the Harris trade rumor is old news, since his name came up as part of a larger deal with the Rockets earlier this year before James Harden was dealt to the Nets.
  • Along with the pending acquisition of Ricky Rubio, the Cavaliers could look to add another veteran or two in free agency, particularly on the wing, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Doug McDermott and Reggie Bullock are two names to watch with Cleveland dangling all or part of its mid-level exception for their services. The Rubio deal with the Timberwolves can become official on Friday.
  • The Raptors have added Earl Watson, Trevor Gleeson and Nathaniel Mitchell to Nick Nurse‘s coaching staff. However, former assistant Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after a season as the Pacers’ head coach, will not return to Toronto, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter links).

Hollinger’s Latest: CP3, Knicks, Fournier, Bulls, Rose, Pacers, More

There was talk last week that the Pelicans would be a serious suitor for Chris Paul in free agency, but that chatter seems to have faded, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who says the veteran point guard is now widely expected to re-sign with the Suns.

As Hollinger explains, he heard the Suns’ initial offer to Paul when the two sides were discussing a possible extension was somewhat “underwhelming,” but the club now appears prepared to offer a more serious package. No one around the league will be surprised if the total value of Paul’s new deal gets up to $100MM or more, Hollinger adds.

Here are several more free agent rumors from Hollinger:

  • Amidst rumors that Evan Fournier‘s price tag may be too high for the Celtics‘ liking, Hollinger suggests that the Knicks may be the team preparing to make an aggressive offer to the free agent wing. Hollinger adds that it’s worth keeping an eye on Mitchell Robinson and the Knicks, since a renegotiate-and-extend deal is a possibility for the two sides. That sort of agreement would give Robinson a raise for 2021/22 and lock him up for multiple seasons.
  • If the Bulls don’t land Lonzo Ball, one of their backup plans may be offering Derrick Rose a deal in the neighborhood of $12MM per year, says Hollinger.
  • Hollinger’s sources expect T.J. McConnell to stick with the Pacers for a deal worth around – or slightly above – the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.9MM), but the competition for Doug McDermott will be fiercer and Indiana will face tax issues if the team wants to re-sign both players without trimming salary elsewhere.
  • If Richaun Holmes‘ presumed suitors – such as Charlotte and Toronto – end up using their cap room in other ways, he might be squeezed in free agency, allowing the Kings to re-sign him despite only holding his Early Bird rights. If that scenario plays out, Hollinger expects Holmes to sign a two-year deal with a player option so that he can hit the open market again in 2022 with full Bird rights.
  • There hasn’t been much free agent chatter surrounding Nuggets guard Will Barton or Trail Blazers Norman Powell, according to Hollinger, who writes that teams seems to be assuming those two players will remain with their respective clubs.
  • It has been tricky to figure out what the Spurs plan to do with their projected cap room, says Hollinger. Daniel Theis is the most prominent free agent target Hollinger has heard linked to San Antonio.