Warriors Rumors

Grizzlies’ Lofton Named G League Rookie Of The Year

First-year forward Kenneth Lofton Jr., who is on a two-way contract with the Grizzlies, has been named the G League Rookie of the Year for the 2022/23 season, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Lofton has appeared in just 19 games and averaged only 5.5 MPG at the NBA level in his first professional season after signing with the Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. However, he played a major role for the Memphis Hustle, the team’s G League affiliate.

In 17 regular season games for the Hustle, Lofton averaged a double-double (20.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG) despite logging a modest 28.6 minutes per night. He shot 53.9% from the floor and also chipped in 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. Lofton’s performance helped the Hustle secure the No. 2 seed in the NBAGL’s Western Conference with a 23-9 record.

Lofton will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, since his two-way contract only covers the 2022/23 season.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), Warriors two-way guard Lester Quinones and Rockets two-way forward Darius Days finished second and third, respectively, in Rookie of the Year voting.

Quinones averaged 21.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.8 APG in 31 G League regular season games (32.0 MPG) for the Santa Cruz Warriors, while Days put up 24.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG on .486/.371/.857 shooting in 29 contests (35.6 MPG) for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Warriors Notes: Green, Myers, Rotation, Wiggins

Warriors forward Draymond Green received his 17th technical foul of the season on Tuesday vs. New Orleans, meaning he’ll be subject to another automatic one-game suspension if it’s not rescinded and he earns one more technical before the team’s finale on April 9.

While he believes Tuesday’s tech should be rescinded, Green also expressed no regrets about the confrontation with Brandon Ingram that led to it (Twitter video link), referring to it as a spark for the team, as Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes. At the time that Ingram and Green were assessed double T’s in the second quarter, the Warriors trailed by nine points. They eventually won by 11.

“It was perfect. Perfectly executed,” Green said. “We looked dead those first 18 minutes. We had to find some energy somewhere. It wasn’t just going to come, especially after losing the game like we did last game; that can carry over. I felt like it did. I knew we had to do something and do it fast before the game got out of hand.”

Head coach Steve Kerr didn’t disagree with Green’s assessment, crediting the veteran’s energy for keying the comeback win.

“Draymond willed us to victory tonight,” Kerr told reporters. “Just the intensity, the frustration early with the way we were playing. Mad at the world, yelling at everybody — their bench, our bench, me — and frankly, we deserved it.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Green and Stephen Curry, who have heaped praise on Bob Myers in the past, once again expressed admiration for the Warriors’ president of basketball operations on Tuesday after Myers helped calm Green down after he received his fifth personal foul in the fourth quarter (Twitter video link). “Y’all don’t always get to see Bob’s work, other than putting the team together. But he’s so important to everything that we do,” Green said, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. “… GMs don’t keep a pulse on the team like Bob keeps a pulse of this team. Maybe two other GMs in the league right there would come down to the bench and say something. And that’s also someone who I have the utmost respect for. If Bob comes and tells me something, that’s Bible to me. I’m going to listen to that.”
  • Gary Payton II‘s return to action this week has rotation ramifications for the Warriors, observes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Moses Moody will likely be one player affected — he logged just three total minutes in Payton’s first two games back. Anthony Lamb, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jonathan Kuminga are among the other players whose minutes could dip slightly with Payton back, Slater adds.
  • Andrew Wiggins remains away from the Warriors, having missed a 20th straight game on Tuesday as he deals with a personal matter. However, the idea of ruling him out for the rest of the season “hasn’t been discussed,” Kerr said on Tuesday (all Twitter links via Slater). Kerr, who expressed hope that Wiggins will return this spring, also noted that the veteran forward has been working out every day during his absence.

Payton II Available To Play Sunday

  • As expected, Gary Payton II was available to play for the first time since the Warriors re-acquired him from the Trail Blazers at the trade deadline, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets. He had been sidelined by a right adductor injury.

Pacific Notes: Payton, Westbrook, Lue, M. Brown

Gary Payton II‘s long wait to get back on the court with the Warriors will end on Sunday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Payton has been listed as probable to play against the Timberwolves, and sources tell Haynes that he’ll be ready to go.

Payton was able to scrimmage on Friday and participated fully in Saturday’s light practice, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. An official decision may not be made until after warm-ups, but it appears the intention is for Payton to play.

“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said. “I missed a lot of games this year, so I’m just ready to get back out on the court with the guys and wrap this up for the homestretch.”

After being an important part of Golden State’s title team last season, Payton signed with the Trail Blazers over the summer. The Warriors reached an agreement to bring him back at the trade deadline, but the deal was delayed for three days because Payton had an adductor injury that Golden State claimed the Blazers didn’t disclose. Payton, who hasn’t played since February 8, says he feels good now and he’s ready to contribute.

“Every day getting my body right, a little maintenance, fine-tuning, we had a little extra time to do all of that and get (my body) where it needs to be,” he said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Russell Westbrook has taken on a mentorship role since signing with the Clippers, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Westbrook’s main students are young guards Terance Mann and Bones Hyland, who are eager to learn from a future Hall of Famer. “I got so much love and just, just everything for Russ, man. I love watching him play, his energy,” Hyland said. “… He gives it his all. So just being alongside Russ, I learned so much and he’s always in my ear telling me the good things, what he sees out there for me. I’m glad to be a teammate alongside Russ.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue could “remove himself” from the team if things don’t go well in the playoffs, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested in the first episode of his “No Cap Room” podcast. However, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Lue, who has multiple years left on his contract, hasn’t engaged in any discussions with management about an early exit.
  • Mike Brown, who’s among the favorites for Coach of the Year honors, said the award would be important because of the recognition it would bring to the Kings and the city of Sacramento (video link).

Warriors Won’t Pursue Grievance Against Trail Blazers

4:05pm: The Blazers released a statement confirming the news, tweets Aaron J. Fentress of The Oregonian.

The Golden State Warriors have decided to not pursue a grievance against the Blazers over the Payton trade. We are moving on, and glad to put this behind us.”

3:34pm: The Warriors have decided not to pursue an NBA investigation against the Trail Blazers following the four-team trade at last month’s deadline, league sources tell Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

The trade was held up for multiple days after the Warriors failed Gary Payton II‘s physical due to an adductor injury, but they ultimately decided to go through with it.

Payton has yet to play for the Warriors since the trade, but he is officially listed as probable for Sunday’s game and he intends to play against Minnesota barring a last-minute setback, per Kendra Andrew of ESPN (Twitter links). The veteran guard will be on an undisclosed minutes restriction, Andrews adds.

Payton, who helped the Warriors win the championship in 2021/22, signed a three-year, $26.1MM contract with Portland last summer, but only appeared in 15 games for the Blazers after offseason adductor surgery. He started for Portland the day before the trade.

A formal league inquiry into the Portland’s alleged failure to provide sufficient medical information was expected to be opened, but according to Haynes, the Warriors have decided against that course of action. It certainly doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Haynes’ report coincides with Payton’s imminent return to the court.

Jordan Poole In Fine Form On Friday; Warriors Pushing For Top-Six Seed

  • Jordan Poole‘s production for the Warriors this season has been up and down, but Friday’s performance was a reminder of how he played in the 2022 postseason and what the team hopes to get from him this spring, per Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. The 23-year-old had 33 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter. More importantly, he has turned it over just once in the last two games. “Just better decision making and more mindful play,” Kerr said of Poole’s play. “Understanding that the ball is everything for us.” Poole’s four-year, $123MM rookie scale extension will go into effect in 2023/24.
  • While the defending champion Warriors aren’t concerned about their exact playoff seed, they’re certainly making it a priority to end up in the top six in the West so they don’t have to worry about competing in the play-in tournament, where one bad night could end their season, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “That is dangerous,” Draymond Green said. “We’d much rather avoid that.” Golden State currently holds the No. 6 seed, with a 1.5-game lead on the top two play-in teams.

Warriors’ Gary Payton II Could Return Sunday

Warriors guard Gary Payton II has been making “good progress” in his recovery from a right adductor injury and has “intensified” his on-court activity over the past week. He’s expected to practice on Saturday, at which point his status will be determined for Sunday’s game against the Wolves, Golden State announced (via Twitter).

Payton has yet to play for the Warriors in 2022/23 after they acquired him in a trade just before last month’s deadline. He had started for the Trail Blazers the night before the deal, but the Warriors failed his physical, putting the trade in jeopardy. They ultimately went through with the deal after exploring their options for a few days.

The 30-year-old was slow to recover from offseason adductor surgery, as he didn’t make his debut with Portland until January, 36 games into the season. Once he returned, he only exceeded 20 minutes played three times, and missed an additional five contests.

Payton, who played a key role in helping the Warriors win the championship last year, signed a three-year, $26.1MM contract with the Blazers in free agency last summer. In 15 games this season (17.0 MPG), he averaged 4.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .585/.529/1.000 shooting.

Mavericks To Protest Loss To Warriors

The Mavericks plan to file an official protest with the league office after tonight’s 127-125 loss to the Warriors, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The protest is in response to an alleged officiating error late in the third quarter that led to an uncontested basket for Golden State (video link from The Athletic). All five Dallas players were on the opposite side of the court as the Warriors inbounded the ball, resulting in an easy dunk for Kevon Looney.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban provided an explanation of the play (via Twitter), claiming the referees informed his team that it would have the ball after a stoppage in play.

“For those wondering about the play with 1:54 to go on the 3rd, let me explain what happened,” Cuban wrote. “The ref called Mavs ball. The announcer announced it. Then there was a timeout. During the time out the official changed the call and never told us. Then when they saw us line up as if it were our ball, he just gave the ball to the Warriors. Never said a word to us. They got an easy basketball. Crazy that it would matter in a 2 point game. Worst officiating non call mistake possibly in the history of the NBA. All they had to do was tell us and they didn’t.”

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd also addressed the play in his post-game press conference, claiming that officials didn’t handle the situation properly (Twitter link from Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News).

“If there’s confusion, it’s easy to just come in and blow the whistle and get us restarted,” Kidd said. “Because it was confusion. Understanding that we thought it was our ball, the referee pointed towards our bench. That was the signal of the timeout, but there was confusion on the play before it even started with whose ball it was because he pointed, I thought, to us first. Then he changed it and then went to a timeout, and pointed to us.”

In a tweet from the league, crew chief Sean Wright explained why officials handled the play the way they did.

“Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video,” Wright said.  “There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.”

Under NBA rules, notice of the protest must be submitted to the commissioner’s office within 48 hours of the end of the game. Both teams will have five days to submit evidence to the NBA after the protest is filed, and commissioner Adam Silver will then have an additional five days to make a ruling.

No team has been successful in protesting a game since 2008, notes NBA writer Marc Stein (Twitter link).

Trade Breakdown: James Wiseman To The Pistons (Four-Team Deal)

This is the 10th entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the most controversial trade of the deadline, a four-team deal between the Pistons, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Hawks.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Hawks acquired Saddiq Bey.
  • The Pistons acquired James Wiseman.
  • The Warriors acquired Gary Payton II, the Hawks’ 2026 second-round pick, and the Hawks’ 2028 second-round pick.
  • The Trail Blazers acquired Kevin Knox, either the Hawks’ or Nets’ 2023 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable; from Hawks), the Hawks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Hawks’ 2025 second-round pick (protected 41-60), the Grizzlies’ 2026 second-round pick (top-42 protected; from Warriors), and the Warriors’ 2028 second-round pick.
  • Notes: The Hawks previously traded their 2024 second-round pick to the Trail Blazers with top-55 protection. Those protections were removed as part of this deal. This trade technically wasn’t finalized until February 12, which we’ll cover below.

The Pistons’ perspective:

Wiseman was reportedly atop Detroit’s draft board in 2020, when he was selected No. 2 overall by Golden State. The Pistons wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t believe in his talent and potential.

Interestingly, Wiseman is the second former No. 2 overall pick that general manager Troy Weaver has traded for in the past two years, joining Marvin Bagley III. They have several similarities, including being left-handed big men who have struggled with inconsistency and injuries since entering the NBA.

Wiseman was something of a mystery prospect, as he only played three college games at Memphis before being ruled ineligible. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the truncated offseason, he didn’t have a full training camp entering his rookie season, which certainly wasn’t ideal for a player who already was lacking in high-level experience.

He showed some flashes of upside in 2020/21, averaging 11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 62.8% from the free throw line in 39 games (27 starts, 21.4 MPG). He also shot 31.6% from three-point range on one attempt per night.

Unfortunately, he sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee that required surgery in April 2021. Wiseman had a lengthy recovery process, which included multiple setbacks and a second surgery – an arthroscopic procedure – in December 2021. He ultimately missed the entire ‘21/22 season.

Prior to the trade, Wiseman had appeared in just 60 NBA contests. In 21 games (12.5 MPG) this season with the Warriors, he averaged 6.9 PPG and 3.5 RPG while shooting 62.8% from the field and 68.4% from the line.

Wiseman, who turns 22 at the end of the month, needed more reps. Weaver said as much after the trade. There’s a lot of pressure on top draft picks like Wiseman, but he’s still early in the learning process, as head coach Dwane Casey noted earlier this month. It’s not something that can be rushed.

The Warriors didn’t have time to be patient with Wiseman. They won the title without him contributing last season, and he was struggling when he played for them in ’22/23. The Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and can afford to be patient, at least in the short term.

At 7’0″ and 240 pounds with a 7’6″ wingspan, Wiseman has an inherent edge in two areas that can’t be taught: size and length. Those factors, combined with his plus leaping ability, make him a natural lob threat, and he has posted above average rebounding numbers with Detroit. He also has long strides and runs the floor well for a center.

Through 15 games (13 starts, 26.3 MPG) with Detroit, Wiseman is averaging 13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 55.1% from the field and 68.8% from the line. He’s just 3-of-14 from deep.

It was a risky trade, to be sure. Bey had been a solid contributor for the Pistons and rarely missed games. But they’re in a position where they need to acquire star-level talent if they want to be competitive in the future, and they think Wiseman has the upside to reach that level.

The fit is a bit clunky and will be interesting to monitor going forward. The Pistons seem intent on running a two-big lineup, as they also have Isaiah Stewart (likely out for the season with a shoulder injury) and Jalen Duren, a couple of recent first-round picks. Wiseman, Bagley, Stewart and Duren will all have to improve in multiple areas for it to work.

That frontcourt will be even more crowded if Detroit wins the lottery again and drafts Victor Wembanyama. Still, that would be a good problem to have and would be one the team can figure out later if it happens.

Wiseman will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. Given how rough around the edges he is, I would think the Pistons will wait on that decision until after ‘23/24, when he could be a restricted free agent if Detroit gives him a qualifying offer.

Ultimately, this trade was a home run swing on Wiseman’s talent. The Pistons had a long look at Bey, but they think Wiseman can be a real difference-maker while viewing Bey as having relatively less upside.

The Warriors’ perspective:

Did Golden State sell low on Wiseman? I don’t think so. Just because he was a top pick a few years ago doesn’t mean he’s still valued as such – if he was, the Warriors would have received more in return.

Golden State’s motion offense requires bigs who can set solid (sometimes illegal) screens and make quick decisions with the ball. Neither of those things are strengths of Wiseman’s at the moment.

The Warriors initially tried to cater to Wiseman as a rookie by clearing out the side and giving him isolation post-up touches. That’s never been their style though, and it totally disrupted the flow of their offense (he also was largely ineffective in those situations, often struggling with getting pushed off his spot, which is something he’s still working on).

After he returned from injury this season, they were using him the same way they’ve used their other centers over the years. He just wasn’t playing well.

Even more troubling than the poor offensive fit was how much he struggled defensively. Wiseman runs the floor well in the open court, but he doesn’t have good body control in tight spaces, especially when backpedaling.

Opponents are shooting 70.3% at the rim against Wiseman, which is the worst mark in the league among centers who contest at least four rim attempts per game, according to NBA.com‘s data. DunksAndThrees.com‘s defensive estimated plus-minus ranks him as the third-worst defender in the NBA. It’s really tough to have the backbone of your defense be that much of a negative.

It’s a small sample size (only 262 minutes), but Wiseman’s net rating with the Warriors in ’22/23 was minus-19.3, with the equivalent of the worst offense and defense in the league (he’s at minus-11.1 with the Pistons). Golden State was plus-2.3 in 2,403 minutes with him off the court.

It just wasn’t working for either side. Wiseman looked confused and was visibly losing confidence, and the Warriors had a healthy player making $9.6MM this season who was detrimental to the team’s success when he played.

Payton, meanwhile, was an excellent fit with the Warriors, helping them win their fourth title in eight seasons in ’21/22. A tremendous athlete, the 6’3″ Payton fit well as a pseudo-big man offensively, recording 55 dunks out of 212 made field goals last season, a remarkably high percentage for a guard.

The 30-year-old had a great understanding of the team’s schemes on both ends, with many of those dunks coming off scripted plays on slipped screens. When healthy, he is a top-tier defensive player often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

The problem was, according to the Warriors’ doctors and Payton himself, he wasn’t healthy. He failed his physical, which held up this four-team deal for three days after the deadline, at which point Golden State ultimately decided to go through with it. He had just started against the Warriors night before the trade, so there’s no way they could’ve known he was going to be sidelined as long as he has.

Payton only played 15 games with the Trail Blazers after signing a three-year contract with them last summer. He was slow to recover from abdominal surgery, which is the same injury that was flagged on his physical. Owner Joe Lacob said Portland was “disingenuous” and broke an “honor code” by not disclosing the extent of Payton’s injury.

This is an unfortunate example of why it’s risky to make a deal at the last minute just before the deadline. If it had been made a few days earlier, the Warriors could have asked to amend the terms of the trade, but they didn’t have that option once the deadline passed.

It’s true the Warriors could have re-signed Payton in the offseason without giving anything up. But due to the way the repeater tax works, his $8.3MM contract would have added about $60MM to their already record-breaking luxury tax bill — an exorbitant amount for a role player.

This trade saved them money both this season and next, as Wiseman is scheduled to make $12.12MM next season in the final year of his rookie deal, while Payton will earn $8.72MM in ‘23/24.

Hopefully Payton is able to return and contribute to close the season, as he has been sidelined since the Warriors approved the deal. He’s an exciting player to watch and played a key role in last season’s title run.

The Trail Blazers’ perspective:

Was it a red flag that Portland was willing to trade Payton so soon after signing him? The Blazers need defensive help and he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league when active.

Still, I highly doubt there was anything nefarious going on. Differences of opinion happen all the time when it comes to medical issues, which is why players often seek out multiple doctors before undergoing surgery.

If it turns out the Blazers intentionally withheld information about Payton’s injury, then it would rightfully impact their reputation around the league and they might lose a second-round pick. I don’t see why they would risk that just to add a handful of second-rounders and move off Payton’s salary.

The Blazers created an $8.3MM traded player exception as part of the deal, which is what Payton makes this season. They will have until next February to use it.

Portland also added Knox, who makes $3MM this season. The former lottery pick is now on his fourth team in 14 months. His $3MM team option for next season is reasonable enough if the Blazers want to bring him back, but he’s only played 55 minutes in 10 games thus far with Portland.

The Hawks’ perspective:

This trade could be viewed in three parts for the Hawks. First, they sent out five second-rounders to acquire Bey (and Knox, who was then flipped to Portland).

Second, they created about $3MM in salary cap relief by making a four-player trade with Houston at the deadline, dealing away two second-rounders (via the Thunder) in the process. That allowed them to take on Bey’s salary while remaining under the luxury tax line.

Finally, they were able to absorb Bey’s $2.96MM contract with a trade exception they generated last summer when they moved Kevin Huerter to Sacramento.

If you want to look at it in total, they basically shuffled around some end-of-bench players and dealt away seven second-rounders to add Bey, a third-year forward.

You could certainly make the case that Bey was the best player involved in this deal at the time it was made, even if he isn’t a household name. He appeared in 204 of a possible 210 games with Detroit (30.0 MPG), averaging 14.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG on .400/.357/.843 shooting in two-plus seasons.

From watching him play with the Pistons, I always felt that Bey could really shoot, but he was forced to take difficult shots because they had a team full of young players trying to figure things out, and he was one of the only real threats from deep. I think that experience will make him better in the long run because it helped him develop his off-the-bounce game, and he’s a solid passer who very rarely turns it over. He’s below average on defense, but not a liability or anything.

Frankly, I’m not sure why the Warriors didn’t just take Bey in this deal. He may not have been familiar with the system, and he certainly isn’t nearly the defensive player that Payton is, but I thought they could use another forward instead of another guard, and he seemed like a good fit. He’s also much cheaper than Payton, earning $4.56MM next season in the final year of his rookie contract.

Either way, obviously the Hawks wanted him. Through 15 games (25.1 MPG) in a reduced role with Atlanta, Bey is averaging 10.4 PPG and 4.3 RPG on a strong .466/.456/.789 shooting line.

As with Wiseman, Bey was a first-round pick in 2020 (No. 19 overall) so he will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The former Villanova product will turn 24 years old on the last day of the regular season (April 9).

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala Undergoes Wrist Surgery

Warriors forward Andre Iguodala underwent surgery on Monday to stabilize his fractured left wrist, the team’s PR department tweets. Iguodala will be reevaluated in four weeks, the team adds.

Iguodala suffered the injury on March 13 against Phoenix. The 39-year-old seriously contemplated retirement before the 2022/23 season began, but was convinced to come back for one more year with the Warriors. However, he has made just eight appearances this season, averaging 2.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG and 2.4 APG in 14.1 MPG.

It’s unclear if this will mark the end of the 19-year veteran’s career. He could conceivably return during the postseason if the Warriors make an extended run.

With Iguodala out and Andrew Wiggins away from the team due to personal issues, the Warriors promoted former two-way player Anthony Lamb on Friday to fill the 15th spot on their roster.