Franz Wagner

Southeast Notes: Tucker, Kuzma, Avdija, Harrell, Magic

New starting Heat power forward P.J. Tucker has grown comfortable taking on the less-heralded dirty work necessary for contending clubs to thrive, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“If you want recognition, then my job isn’t a job for you,” Tucker said. “I don’t do highlights. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.” A 36-year-old veteran, Tucker most recently served as a key three-and-D contributor on the 2021 champion Bucks before signing a two-year, $15MM deal with the Heat in free agency. In 13 games with Miami, Tucker is averaging 6.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG. The 8-5 Heat are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s just a winning player,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Tucker. “You’ll notice it when he’s on the other team’s best player defensively. But it’s the block-outs, it’s the rotations, it’s the protect-side defense, and then offensively just getting people open constantly. And he does it in every way possible, whether he’s screening pick-and-roll basketball or off-ball screening. He’s just elite in helping guys get open.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forwards Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija are building a quick chemistry both on the hardwood and beyond it, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“I think that he does a great job defending, that’s the No. 1 thing I love about him,” Kuzma said of Avdija. “He’ll mix it up, he’ll defend. He’s coachable, you can talk to him, he receives things. He’s a very sweet kid, a very sweet kid.” Surprisingly, the new-look Wizards have emerged with an Eastern Conference-leading 9-3 record to start the season, and the team’s depth around All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is a big reason why. “He’s very professional, he loves the game and likes to work extra,” Avdija said of Kuzma. “Guys that like to work and want to do extra shots or extra work, I’m always getting along with them because I’ve got that mindset, too.”
  • New additions Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma have brought a relentlessness to an improved Wizards team, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News. “They were around in September, so we didn’t wait ’til the first official day of training camp to say, ‘Hey, let’s start putting in work,'” new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Those guys were trying to play together, do a small side of [pickup] games, get workouts [in], finding ways to be on the floor and build that chemistry. So it’s paid off for us thus far.” Kuzma explained why he and Harrell appear to be helping contribute to wins right away. “We know how to win in this league. Trezz has always been an underdog his whole entire career being a second-round pick and fighting his way through the G League and all the way to being the Sixth Man [of the Year].”
  • Though the rebuilding 3-10 Magic are currently the lowest-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Austin David of the Orlando Sentinel contends that the team’s young players are showing plenty of promise. Orlando may be struggling to score consistently, but intriguing prospects like point guard Cole Anthony, rookie wing Franz Wagner and even big man Mohamed Bamba have given fans plenty to watch thus far. “We’re a young team that won’t take anything from anybody,” an optimistic Bamba said. “We just want to be a smash-mouth team, making winning plays for not only themselves, but for each other. It’s truly a domino effect.”

Southeast Notes: Avdija, Dinwiddie, Ball, Heat, Magic

Wizards forward Deni Avdija, who fractured his right ankle in April, participated in 5-on-5 scrimmages on Monday for the first time during his recovery process, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The team is hoping Avdija will be able to return to the court during the preseason, perhaps as soon as Saturday.

Meanwhile, another player coming off a major injury – Spencer Dinwiddie – is making a strong early impression with his new club. Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Tuesday that he has been “pleasantly surprised” with how Dinwiddie looks this fall, suggesting that the veteran point guard appears “he’s back to normal” following his partial ACL tear last December (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • LaMelo Ball looks fully healthy after dealing with a wrist injury at the end of last season, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, who notes that the Hornets have inserted Miles Bridges into their starting lineup this season at least in part to take advantage of the chemistry between him and Ball.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic was surprised that the win-now Heat weren’t more willing to cross the luxury tax line this offseason, pointing out that they could’ve given free agent guard Kendrick Nunn the same deal he got from the Lakers and remained below the hard cap. As Hollinger outlines, Miami could avoid the tax this season and next, but project to be a taxpayer in 2023/24 if Tyler Herro is extended.
  • The Magic started rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner alongside veterans Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, and Wendell Carter in their first preseason game on Monday, but head coach Jamahl Mosley said that won’t necessarily be the same group that opens the regular season as the team’s starting five. “The way I try to look at it in this instance was, because it’s an extension of training camp, I’m just going to try looking at different lineups,” Mosley said, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “So it was treating it similar to a practice: We’d have different lineups going against one another, different combinations.”

Magic’s Isaac, Fultz Won’t Be Ready For Opening Night

Young Magic cornerstones Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, who are both coming off ACL tears, won’t be ready to play in the team’s regular season opener next month, sources tell Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

As Robbins explains, the Magic’s organizational policy is to avoid setting specific timelines or return dates for players who are recovering from injuries. However, Robbins has heard that the team will exercise significant caution with both Isaac and Fultz. The front office views getting the two players back into games and getting them through the 2021/22 season without any new health issues as two of its top organizational priorities, Robbins adds.

“Both of those guys have been, as you would expect if you cover our team, relentless in their approach,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said of Isaac and Fultz. “They’ve been working daily grinding. They both look really good. I will not elaborate on timelines. To me as a layman, this is where I just don’t want any setbacks. … But right now, they continue to progress through their rehab right on course and they’re making progress.”

As Robbins observes, Isaac is about 14 months removed from his ACL injury, while Fultz underwent surgery on his ACL only about nine months ago, so the forward may be on track to return a little sooner than the former No. 1 overall pick.

The Magic will also be missing veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams to start the regular season, putting point guard duties in the hands of youngsters Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Isaac confirmed on Monday that he has yet to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but suggested that a recent Rolling Stone report misrepresented his views. “I am not anti-vax,” Isaac told reporters, including Robbins. “I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science. I didn’t come to my current vaccination status by studying Black history or watching Donald Trump press conferences. … But with that being said, it is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice, and completely up to them without bullying, without being pressured, without being forced into doing so. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m uncomfortable with taking the vaccine at this time.”
  • Suggs and fellow lottery pick Franz Wagner are both candidates to begin the season in the Magic’s starting lineups, but new head coach Jamahl Mosley isn’t prepared to speculate about the makeup of his starting five quite yet, according to Robbins. “I think it’s a little early to tell which way we’re going to go with lineups and the roster and rotations,” Mosley said on Monday. “We want to get that first part of training camp started just so we can see what the different combinations look like.”
  • Chuma Okeke won’t be participating in full-contact drills at the start of training camp, since he recently sustained a right hip bruise during a voluntary workout, per Weltman (via Robbins).
  • The Magic are expected to have “thorough” discussions with Wendell Carter Jr.‘s reps about a possible rookie scale extension before opening night, says Robbins. “I would love to be here for a long time,” Carter said. “I love Orlando. I love the city. I love my teammates. I love the people here, the weather, everything. So I would love to be here, but right now, I’m just focused on training camp.”

Southeast Notes: Nunn, Rozier, Wagner, Garnett

New NBPA president CJ McCollum is unhappy with how the Heat handled Kendrick Nunn during free agency. On August 3, Miami pulled its qualifying offer for Nunn, making him an unrestricted free agent. Appearing on a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, McCollum charged that the Heat made the decision after most teams with cap space had already allocated their free agent money (hat tip to Brad Sullivan of Heat Nation).

“The Kendrick Nunn situation,” McCollum said. “He was gonna be a free agent. They basically waited until the money dried up, right? You correct me if I’m wrong. Have you (Wojnarowski) seen this happening in the league and not being discussed at all? Where they talk about players forcing their way out, player movement. But then what about the manipulation that goes into some of these situations where teams are waiting for the market to dry up before they release a player’s rights.”

Nunn wound up signing a two-year, $10MM contract with the Lakers that includes a player option for the second season. L.A. used its taxpayer mid-level exception for the deal.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Terry Rozier‘s four-year extension with the Hornets is an indication of the weakness of next summer’s free agent class, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. Several big names that could have been on the market in 2022 have already signed extensions, and Charlotte doesn’t have a strong history of attracting free agents. Devine points out that Rozier’s new contract, which could be worth more than $96MM, only ranks 19th among NBA guards, which is in line with his recent production. It also provides some continuity for a team that lost Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and Malik Monk.
  • The Magic got what they expected from Franz Wagner during Summer League, according to Josh Cohen of NBA.com. The No. 8 pick averaged 8.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in four games and showed good instincts that make up for his limited athleticism.
  • Assistant coach Marlon Garnett has left the Hawks‘ staff to join the Hornets, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Thor, Magic, Dinwiddie

After finalizing his new four-year, maximum contract extension over the weekend, All-NBA Heat swingman Jimmy Butler spoke about why he wanted to commit to Miami long-term, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

“They allow me to be me here, love who I am as a person and player,” Butler said of the Heat organization. “Love the guys I have an opportunity to hoop with. I think we’ll be a really good team. We’re consistently getting better, adding the right amount of vets to get over the hump and win a championship. It means everything to me to represent this great organization.”

Butler, who turns 32 in September, said that he wants to finish his career in Miami.

“It’s a place for me,” Butler said. “Teammates allow me to be me. When I’m wrong, they’re going to tell me I’m wrong. When I’m right they still probably tell me I’m wrong. I love them for that. Blessing to play with these guys and [head coach Erik Spoelstra] and [team president] Pat Riley.”

A four-time All-NBA selection, five-time All-Star, and five-time All-Defensive Team member while with the Bulls, Timberwolves and Heat (he did not earn any of these honors with his other NBA team, the Sixers), Butler showed no signs of slowing down during the 2020/21 regular season. He averaged 21.5 PPG on 49.7% shooting from the field and 86.3% from the free-throw line, as well as career-best averages of 7.1 APG, 6.9 RPG, and 2.1 SPG.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets rookie power forward JT Thor was signed to a four-year deal, with the first two seasons guaranteed, using some of Charlotte’s cap space, reports Bobby Marks of ESPN (Instagram video link). The 18-year-old big man was selected with the No. 37 pick out of Auburn in this year’s draft.
  • The young core of the rebuilding Magic – including rookie lottery picks Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, along with second-year point guard Cole Anthony – is exhibiting encouraging signs of development during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, writes Dan Savage of Magic.com. “It’s about them developing camaraderie, and their ability to just tie together and move forward growing together,” new head coach Jamahl Mosley said of the Summer League squad. “Just continuing to build off each other and for each other.”
  • After having waived shooting guard Dwayne Bacon this weekend, the Magic project to have an open 15th roster spot, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Robbins anticipates Orlando will probably leave this final roster spot available in case an opportunity arises for the team to take on an unwanted contract – along with a draft pick – into its sizable trade exception.
  • New Wizards starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has several intriguing incentives in his three-year, $62MM deal with Washington, as Michael Scotto of HoopsHype details (Twitter link). Dinwiddie will be earn a $1.5MM bonus if he plays in 50+ games, $100K if the Wizards win a first-round playoff series, $571K should the Wizards make the Eastern Conference Finals, and $400K if the Wizards qualify for the NBA Finals. As Bobby Marks of ESPN (Instagram video link) first reported, Dinwiddie would net a scant $1 bonus for winning the NBA Finals. Marks added in the same video that the partial guarantee on Dinwiddie’s 2023/24 salary will become fully guaranteed if he plays in 50+ games during the 2022/23 season.

Magic Sign Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner To Rookie Contracts

The Magic have signed lottery picks Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner to their first NBA contracts, the team announced (via Twitter).

Suggs, a freshman guard out of Gonzaga, was expected to be a top four pick, but slid to Orlando at No. 5 on draft night. He will make about $6.59MM in his first season, assuming he receives the maximum 120% of the rookie scale.

Suggs was a standout player for the Zags, who went undefeated until the NCAA championship game, averaging 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 30 games. He figures to make an immediate impact on the Magic’s young backcourt.

Wagner, the eighth overall pick, will make about $5MM as a rookie. He averaged 12.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG as a sophomore at Michigan.

Draft Rumors: Top Picks, Kuminga, Trade Talks, Pacers, Jazz

The top three picks appear set as the draft draws closer, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We shared the news earlier today that the Pistons have decided to take Cade Cunningham with the first overall selection, and sources tell Woj that the Rockets “continue to trend toward” Jalen Green, while the Cavaliers are doing the same with Evan Mobley.

Those three selections have been been expected for a while, with most mock drafts listing Cunningham, Green and Mobley in that order. It appears that only an outrageous offer from a team looking to move up can add any drama to the very top of tonight’s draft, but the Cavs are sending out signals that they plan to keep their pick, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  •  Jonathan Kuminga‘s fate remains a mystery, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Once considered a possible top five pick, Kuminga’s stock has fallen in recent weeks, and Givony says teams are still debating where to rank him on their final boards. The Thunder at No. 6, the Warriors at No. 7 and the Magic at No. 8 are all considered possibilities, but Givony cautions that Kuminga could fall out of the top 10.
  • Several teams have been hoping to trade their way into the top 10, but right now it looks as if that won’t happen, Givony adds (Twitter link). James Bouknight, Franz Wagner and Josh Giddey have risen up draft boards, causing the teams holding those picks to consider them more valuable.
  • The Pacers have gained traction in possible deals to trade down or out of the first round entirely, but any move probably won’t be finalized until after the draft begins, tweets draft expert Chad Ford. Possible trade partners include the Knicks, Thunder and a “mystery team.”
  • The Jazz are willing to trade the final pick of the first round, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). The team is having trade discussions, but there’s one player who may be on the board that would make them consider keeping the pick.

O’Connor’s Latest: Pistons, OKC, Grizzlies, Wagner, Pacers, More

The Pistons continued to receive inquiries about what it would take to trade the No. 1 pick, with the draft now just hours away, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Although there has been increasing speculation about the possibility of Detroit trading down or even using the top pick to select Jalen Green, executives around the NBA still think the club will end up drafting Cade Cunningham, says O’Connor.

Here’s more from O’Connor on Thursday’s draft:

  • The Thunder have talked to all five teams drafting ahead of them about the possibility of moving up, per O’Connor. Rival executives aren’t sure exactly which prospect(s) Oklahoma City is targeting, but the club is thought to be high on Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes.
  • The Grizzlies, who agreed to acquire the No. 10 pick from New Orleans, are interested in another move up to the 6-8 range, according to O’Connor, who says Memphis has pursued last-minute meetings with prospects like Jonathan Kuminga, Alperen Sengun, and Davion Mitchell.
  • Franz Wagner claims he has grown two inches since college, to 6’11”, and multiple league sources believe that’s true, though there has been no update on his official measurement, O’Connor reports.
  • According to O’Connor, the Pacers are “juggling” trade talks involving the No. 13 pick, Myles Turner, and T.J. Warren in separate scenarios. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears that Indiana is fielding a lot of calls for the No. 13 selection, including from the Hawks. Atlanta has also been in touch with the Hornets about the No. 11 pick, says O’Connor.
  • O’Connor confirms a couple items that were previously speculated, writing that the Knicks are involved in trade discussions for Magic swingman Terrence Ross and reporting that the Hawks have offered the No. 20 pick and Cam Reddish to teams drafting in the late lottery.

Draft Rumors: Spurs, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Duarte, Warriors, More

Reports in recent weeks identified the Nos. 9 and 10 picks in the draft as two of the most available lottery picks. New Orleans agreed on Monday to move the 10th pick to Memphis, while the Kings‘ pick at No. 9 continues to be viewed as available, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

In addition to Sacramento’s pick, the Spurs‘ (No. 12) and Pacers‘ (No. 13) selections are among the lottery choices that could be had, according to Fischer, who suggests that both teams are viewed as candidates to move back into the mid-teens or early 20s if the price is right.

As for which teams picking later in the first round might be looking to move up, Fischer says the Knicks (Nos. 19 and 21), Rockets (Nos. 23 and 24), and Nets (No. 27) fit that bill. Brooklyn has been willing to discuss shooting guard Landry Shamet in trade talks, Fischer adds.

Here are a few more draft-related rumors and notes:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report is the latest reporter to indicate that Chris Duarte is unlikely to fall past the No. 15 pick on Thursday. The Lakers are among the teams that have shown interest in Duarte and have looked into possibly moving up in the draft, Wasserman notes.
  • James Bouknight, Duarte, Trey Murphy, and Jonathan Kuminga are among the prospects the Warriors are eyeing, says Wasserman. While Kuminga isn’t necessarily NBA-ready, there’s support for him within Golden State’s front office from those who consider his upside too significant to pass up, Wasserman adds.
  • The Warriors turned down a Knicks offer of the Nos. 19 and 21 picks for the No. 14 selection, per Wasserman.
  • Some teams outside the top 10 believe Michigan forward Franz Wagner has assurances he’ll be selected in the top 10, according to Wasserman. The Kings at No. 9 are considered a strong candidate for Wagner if they keep their pick.
  • Both Wasserman and Matt Babcock of BasketballNews.com continue to suggest the Raptors aren’t a lock to draft Jalen Suggs at No. 4, since the team has done “extensive homework” on Scottie Barnes.
  • Alabama’s Joshua Primo and Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu are two of the prospects Wasserman has heard linked to the Nuggets at No. 26.
  • Alperen Sengun has a good chance of being a lottery pick, according to Babcock, who says the Turkish big man could be picked as high as No. 8 by the Magic.

More On Grizzlies/Pelicans Trade

The Grizzlies and Pelicans made a significant splash today, agreeing to the first trade of NBA draft week. As we previously relayed, Memphis will ship center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 selections in the 2021 draft to New Orleans for center Steven Adams, guard Eric Bledsoe, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks, plus the Lakers’ top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick.

The top-10 protected 2022 Lakers pick will become two second-rounders if it doesn’t convey in next year’s draft, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The protection was previously reported, but the two second-rounders element was not.

It appears that the Grizzlies may not be done dealing, as they look to continue to build their roster around promising point guard Ja Morant and intriguing big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Morant led the Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance since the 2016/17 season this year. Memphis fell 4-1 in the first round to the Jazz.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link), the Grizzlies may be looking to move up even higher in the lottery ahead of Thursday’s draft. Memphis could be trying to add NBA G League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga or Connecticut guard James Bouknight, per O’Connor.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies also auditioned Arkansas guard Moses Moody during a private Los Angeles work out last week, apparently expecting to move into the lottery even at the time. Givony adds (Twitter link) that Michigan forward Franz Wagner, projected to be selected as high as the No. 7 pick, could be a potential Grizzlies target. Adelaide point guard Josh Giddey is another apparent prospect for Memphis, as previously noted.

New Grizzlies guard Bledsoe, who had a down season during his lone year with the Pelicans, is not anticipated to remain in Memphis next season, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

It is not at present clear if Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection, will be traded or will be waived (and possibly stretched). The Grizzlies would most likely need to attach assets in any trade of Bledsoe.

Luke Adams contributed to this report.