Gordon Hayward

Heat Notes: Trade Possibilities, Eastern Conference, Mexico City Game

Beyond re-signing many of their own free agents, the Heat have remained relatively quiet this summer, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Miami enjoyed a successful 2021/22 campaign, and found itself one win shy of qualifying for their second NBA Finals appearance in three years.

Aside from the big fish – Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant and Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell – there are many other viable trade candidates the team could look to add this summer after having lost starting power forward P.J. Tucker in free agency, says Winderman. He lists players like Pacers big man Myles Turner, Hawks power forward John Collins, Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Hornets power forward Gordon Hayward, and Suns power forward Jae Crowder – a starter on Miami’s 2020 Finals team – as potentially attainable frontcourt players who could help the Heat replace Tucker.

Winderman notes that Miami has three big pieces it could include in a trade: swingman Duncan Robinson and his $16.9MM salary; extension-eligible 2022 Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro; and the ability to send out up to three first-round draft picks, plus this year’s No. 27 pick, Nikola Jovic. Winderman acknowledges that emptying the team’s coffers to get a less starry component than Durant or Mitchell could leave the team’s front office feeling as if it missed out.

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • Though the Heat’s competitors in the Eastern Conference have, on paper, made moves to improve their rosters, Winderman wonders in a recent reader mailbag if the gains made by Miami’s East rivals may have been somewhat overstated. Though Winderman concedes that the acquisitions made by the Celtics and Hawks were fairly major, he thinks that the rest of the competitive portion of the conference made merely supplemental moves.
  • When the NBA’s full schedule is announced later this month, it will reveal that the Heat are set to play their second Mexico City regular season contest in five seasons, Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes in a separate piece. As Winderman details, Miami will play at an elevation even more extreme than the NBA’s normal high, Denver, at 5,280 feet above sea level — Mexico City stands 7,350 feet above sea level. This Mexico City return game is among several international contests the league is scheduling during the preseason and regular season for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Games are also scheduled to take place this year in Abu Dhabi, between the Hawks and Bucks, during the October preseason and in Paris, between the Bulls and Pistons, in January.

Draft Rumors: Pistons, Mathurin, Duren, Eason, J. Smith, More

People around the NBA have been “gossiping” about an incredible workout Bennedict Mathurin had with the Pistons, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who says there’s chatter that members of Detroit’s front office are “infatuated” with the Arizona guard.

Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray have long been considered the favorites to join Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, and Paolo Banchero in the top five, but perhaps the Pistons will upend that expectation by targeting Mathurin. For what it’s worth, however, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) still believes Murray is the favorite over Mathurin at No. 5 if Ivey is off the board.

Within his latest mock draft, Givony also reports that Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is one of Jalen Duren‘s biggest fans in the NBA. While Duren likely won’t be under serious consideration at No. 5, the Pistons could consider trading back into the first round if he slips at all, according to Givony, who points to the Hornets (No. 13 and No. 15) as a possible trade partner for Detroit in a deal involving Gordon Hayward.

Elsewhere in his mock draft, O’Connor writes that the Nuggets (No. 21 and No. 30) and Grizzlies (No. 22 and No. 29) have both made attempts to package their picks in an effort to move up in the first round.

O’Connor suggests Denver’s picks probably aren’t enough to move into the middle of the first round unless the team is willing to include a young player or another future pick. However, he writes that the Grizzlies have been exploring picks as high as the Knicks‘ selection at No. 11. In order to get that high, Memphis would presumably have to take on some unwanted salary or include another asset beyond the team’s two 2022 first-rounders.

Here’s more on the 2022 NBA draft, which is now just hours away:

  • Executives around the league keep connecting LSU forward Tari Eason to the Rockets at No. 17, according to O’Connor. Meanwhile, Zach Harper of The Athletic has heard from sources that the Celtics are also high on Eason and could try to trade into the first round using a young rotation player to draft him. An earlier report indicated Boston was open to discussing Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard, and Harper adds Aaron Nesmith to that list.
  • Auburn’s Jabari Smith tells Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he’ll be surprised if he’s not drafted first overall tonight. Virtually every major sportsbook made Paolo Banchero the favorite to go No. 1 late last night, but those odds have since swung back in the other direction. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report speculates (via Twitter) that the Banchero buzz may have been related to contact he and his camp had with the Magic on Wednesday after a Monday visit was canceled, but Fischer — like ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — reiterates that Smith remains the favorite to be the No. 1 pick.
  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv (video link) views Duke’s AJ Griffin as the most likely pick for the Knicks if they remain at No. 11.
  • The Raptors, who moved down from No. 20 to No. 33 in the draft as a result of their Thaddeus Young trade in February, don’t view the gap between those two selections as significant, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. As Koreen observes, there’s less of a consensus on prospects further down draft boards than there is at the very top, so several of the players drafted between Nos. 20 and 32 may not be at or near the top of Toronto’s board.

Cavaliers Rumors: Sexton, LeVert, Trade Targets, More

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com recently spoke to Michael Scotto about a number of Cavaliers-related topics for the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

Guard Collin Sexton, whose season ended prematurely after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee just 11 games into the season, will be an interesting player to watch this summer. Sexton will be a restricted free agent once Cleveland tenders him a $7,228,449 qualifying offer. As a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have the ability to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old, and since he’s coming off an injury and not many teams will have cap space to spend on free agents, a reunion seems likely.

When the Cavs were discussing a rookie scale extension with Sexton’s representatives last summer, the two sides floated a contract similar to the one Bogdan Bogdanovic received from Atlanta, which was four years and $72MM (with a player option in the final season), sources tell Fedor. However, he hears that the Cavs value Sexton in the $15-18MM per year range, while Sexton is seeking something closer to $18-22MM annually.

Although Sexton has undoubtedly been productive on the offense end, averaging 24.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 4.4 APG on .475/.371/.815 shooting in 2020/21, Fedor notes that there were questions about Sexton’s fit entering ’21/22, and his injury and the team’s success without him didn’t help his case. Given that he’s a 6’1″ shooting guard and a subpar defender, some teams view the former No. 8 pick as more of a sixth man than a starter, which could hurt his leverage in contract negotiations.

Scotto wonders if the Knicks or Wizards might be interested in Sexton, noting that both teams are looking for guards, but neither team has cap space. As Fedor previously reported, he hears that Cleveland has been curious if the Pistons might pursue Sexton, but sources tell Fedor that the Cavaliers don’t believe any team will end up offering him $20MM+ per season.

Here’s more from Scotto and Fedor:

  • Both the Cavs and Caris LeVert have expressed interest in reaching an extension this summer, and league executives tell Scotto that a shorter deal in the $19-21MM range might make sense for both sides. However, as Fedor observes, LeVert will be on an expiring $18.8MM contract in ’22/23, so if the Cavs don’t like the types of numbers Levert’s agents are throwing out, they could just wait it out and perhaps use him as trade bait next season.
  • Kevin Love improved his trade stock after a bounce-back, healthy season, and both Scotto and Fedor believe that his $28.9MM contract could be used as a trade chip if the team opts to pursue higher-paid veterans.
  • Noting Cleveland needs two-way wing scorers and a solid backup point guard for Darius Garland, Fedor hears the Cavs are interested in a number of veterans as potential trade targets: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Gordon Hayward, Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, and Mike Conley.
  • Although there’s mutual interest in a reunion with Ricky Rubio, Fedor says money could become an obstacle to a deal being completed. Rubio is likely to miss at least a portion of next season after suffering a second torn ACL in his left knee in December, and using the mid-level exception to sign him would reduce the club’s flexibility while still leaving a hole on the roster until he returns.
  • Sources tell Fedor that if a deal with Rubio doesn’t come to fruition, the Cavs would be very open to using their full mid-level to sign Grizzlies backup point guard Tyus Jones, assuming Memphis lets him walk in free agency and he’s unable to get more money elsewhere. Other guards Cleveland might look into in free agency are Delon Wright, Goran Dragic, and Raul Neto. If the Cavs pivot to a wing/forward, Kyle Anderson, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren are possibilities, according to Fedor.
  • For potential draft candidates with the No. 14 pick, Fedor hears the Cavs are fans of Malaki Branham, Johnny Davis, Bennedict Mathurin, Tari Eason, TyTy Washington, and Jeremy Sochan. Those players range from Nos. 9-18 on ESPN’s big board, so some might not be available at 14.

Lakers Not Interested In Using First-Round Pick To Trade Westbrook

Teams that have spoken to the Lakers about Russell Westbrook have been demanding at least one first-round pick in any potential trade, league sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

However, the Lakers haven’t been receptive to that idea and have no intention – at least for the time being – of using one of their future first-rounders to facilitate a Westbrook deal, Buha reports.

Westbrook is expected to pick up his $47.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season and will be one of the league’s most expensive players following a disappointing first year in Los Angeles. Although he’ll be on an expiring contract, Westbrook will be a negative trade asset, with teams only willing to take him on if the Lakers sweeten the pot.

Having already traded away a pair of future first-round picks, the Lakers can currently only trade either their 2027 or 2028 selection. After next month’s draft, they’d be able to include their 2027, 2028, and 2029 first-rounders in trade discussions — if they move the ’27 or ’29 first-rounder, they wouldn’t be able to trade the ’28 pick due to the Stepien rule.

But the front office appears averse to attaching any of those picks to Westbrook, and Buha suggests it’s not just a negotiating stance to regain leverage. League sources tell The Athletic that people within the franchise genuinely believe that the right head coach and supporting cast can help Westbrook fit in better going forward.

Buha personally believes that bringing back Westbrook would be a mistake, arguing that the Lakers should be willing to include a first-rounder if necessary to make a deal or even to take the approach the Rockets did with John Wall, leaving the point guard at home to start the season. Waiving and stretching Westbrook’s contract or attempting to negotiate a buyout are other possible paths for L.A., but Buha views those as unlikely.

While the Lakers may not be interested in giving up a first-round pick just to dump Westbrook’s salary, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be more open to the idea if they’re getting a couple legitimate rotation players in return.

Buha identifies the Pacers and Hornets as potential trade partners that may appeal to the Lakers, listing Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre, and Mason Plumlee as possible veterans of interest. I’m skeptical that a couple of those players would be legitimately attainable in a Westbrook deal, even with a first-round pick attached, but if the Lakers were willing to put two first-rounders on the table, more options would open up.

Bulpett’s Latest: D’Antoni, Hornets, Hayward, Kings, Irving

The Hornets‘ head coaching search is still in progress, but three league sources who spoke to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com said they believe Mike D’Antoni is the frontrunner to land the job.

“I don’t think it’s a done deal or anything, but I know they like the idea of what he can do with LaMelo (Ball) and their running game,” a source told Bulpett. “If D’Antoni can get those guys on his wavelength, that’s going to be an even more fun team to watch.”

D’Antoni has coached a total of 1,199 regular season games for five different teams. If he were to be hired by the Hornets, he would be the second-oldest NBA head coach of all-time, behind only Gregg Popovich. D’Antoni turned 71 on Sunday.

Here’s more from Bulpett:

  • According to Bulpett, chatter around the NBA indicates that the Hornets would like to get off Gordon Hayward‘s contract, which has two years and $61.6MM left on it. “I know Gordon’s situation has been super frustrating,” one executive said to Heavy.com. “He’s such an important player when he’s healthy. He’s talented and he plays the right way. But him staying healthy is a big if.”
  • While Kyrie Irving faced plenty of criticism for his end-of-season comments about “managing the franchise” along with Kevin Durant, GM Sean Marks, and team owner Joe Tsai. However, a source close to the situation suggests Irving was merely stating a fact. “When Kyrie signed as a free agent, he basically said, ‘I’ll come and I’ll bring Kevin Durant,'” that source told Bulpett. “And in return, the Nets agreed that he could have a say in the roster decisions. … With Kyrie, they talked this out beforehand. He wanted a situation like LeBron (James) has — or like he thinks LeBron has.”
  • Bulpett has heard that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who has had an outsized voice in some basketball decisions in the past, chose to listen to his basketball operations executives in the head coaching search, which led to Sacramento hiring Mike Brown. In addition to general manager Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox was involved in that coaching decision, Bulpett notes.

Hornets Notes: Hayward, Bridges, Coaching Search, Harrell, Washington

Hornets forward Gordon Hayward is a name to watch in the trade market, though injuries limit his value, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, who conducted a podcast with Charlotte Observer beat reporter Rod Boone.

Hayward is regarded as a “neutral asset” that the Hornets can move. However, it’s unlikely they’ll benefit much in terms of cap space if they deal the veteran, who has two years and $61.5MM remaining on his contract. One executive told Scotto they might be able to move him for two players making around $10-15MM apiece.

The Pacers are an unlikely destination after trading away Domantas Sabonis and building around younger pieces.

More highlights from the podcast:

  • Both Scotto and Boone anticipate Miles Bridges will get $25MM or more annually in restricted free agency. Scotto sees Bridges as being coveted due to his status as a young, two-way, big wing. The Trail Blazers could pursue him if they can’t trade for Jerami Grant and teams with cap space, like the Pistons, could also be a factor. Boone believes he’ll return to the Hornets due to unfinished business with an improving team. The fact that he’s close with LaMelo Ball also works in Charlotte’s favor.
  • Neither Scotto nor Boone believe Mike D’Antoni is a viable option in the search for a head coach. Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney are names to watch there. However, D’Antoni could wind up in Philadelphia if the Sixers let Doc Rivers go, according to Scotto.
  • Free agent Montrezl Harrell generally enjoyed playing with Charlotte this season and could return to the Hornets, depending upon the coaching hire. Harrell probably wouldn’t command more than the taxpayer mid-level on the open market, according to Scotto.
  • P.J. Washington, who is extension-eligible, is a movable piece and his name will pop up in trade rumors.

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Hayward, Lakers’ Coach, Clippers

After a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, it may seem like the Lakers would take whatever they can get in a trade this offseason for Russell Westbrook and his $47MM+ salary, but that’s not the case, Marc Stein writes at Substack.com. According to Stein, Los Angeles will have “more boundaries than advertised” when weighing potential Westbrook deals.

For one, the Lakers will seriously consider a player’s injury history as they explore the trade market for Westbrook. Given how costly injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis were in 2021/22, the team doesn’t want to bring on another high-priced veteran who has been unable to stay healthy in recent years.

In Stein’s view, that means the Lakers are unlikely to be very interested in a trade with the Hornets that includes Gordon Hayward, who has missed 61 of 154 regular season games in Charlotte over the last two years, plus both play-in games. If the Lakers and Hornets discuss Westbrook, it’s possible Hayward could be moved to a third team or Terry Rozier could be substituted as a headliner, but those scenarios would be less appealing from Charlotte’s perspective.

Here are a few more items on the NBA’s two L.A. teams:

  • Outside of the previously-reported big-name targets who are currently coaching other teams – including Nick Nurse, Doc Rivers, and Quin Snyder – the Lakers may consider candidates such as Scott Brooks, Terry Stotts, former Lakers coach Mike Brown, and Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for their head coaching vacancy, per Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.
  • According to Woike and Turner, people with knowledge of coaching situations around the NBA believe the Lakers‘ open coaching position isn’t looked upon especially favorably, due to concerns about possible front office meddling and the roster/cap situation. “Is the Lakers’ job that attractive?” one coaching agent said. “I’m not so sure it is. But someone will take the job.”
  • Getting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in their lineup next season will significantly increase the Clippers‘ ceiling, but there are still areas to improve if the team wants to ensure it’s a title contender, says Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group. Fortifying the point guard spot will be an offseason goal, and replacements will be necessary if key rotation players like Isaiah Hartenstein (UFA) and Nicolas Batum (player option) don’t return.
  • While Leonard’s and George’s injuries limited the Clippers‘ potential in 2021/22, their absences allowed a handful of young players to step in and grow up fast, Swanson writes in a separate story. Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Hartenstein, Amir Coffey, and Brandon Boston Jr. – all of whom are 25 or younger – had bigger roles than they would have if the team had been healthier, which could pay off for the club down the road.

Hornets Notes: Bridges, Thomas, Hayward, Offseason

Hornets forward Miles Bridges said this week that he’s grateful to the city of Charlotte and loves being a part of the team, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Bridges will be a restricted free agent this summer when the team tenders him a $7.92MM qualifying offer, which is a foregone conclusion after his breakout fourth season.

My mom loves it here, my kids love it here,” Bridges said Thursday. “Charlotte has really taken me in and brought me in. I got drafted as a 20-year-old kid. And for me to grow up here and for everybody to embrace me like they have, that’s something I’ll never forget. Especially going into the contract season. Charlotte took me in as a 20-year-old kid, and now I’m a 24-year-old man, and I love it here.”

The Hornets and Bridges had a disappointing end to their season, as the 24-year-old was ejected from Wednesday’s blowout play-in tournament loss to Atlanta and then received a $50K fine for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands and hitting a teenage fan (he later apologized). He finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists after averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 80 games this season.

Bridges sees himself as part of the team’s core alongside LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and hopes to stick with them long-term, per Boone.

I would love to play with Melo and Terry for the rest of my career,” Bridges said. “Those are my guys, my brothers. All of us damn near averaged 20 (points) this year, so just to have that type of relationship with such dynamic players and bring it to the basketball court every night, you don’t see that too much in the NBA. And we have that relationship and that’s what it is. It will always be like that. So I’m just happy to be a part of them.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Backup point guard Isaiah Thomas, an unrestricted free agent this summer who served as a mentor to Ball, would also like to stick with Charlotte. “Man, I want to be here,” Thomas said, according to Boone. “I see something special in this group. I see a place where I can really help. But I would love to be here. This team gave me a chance when really nobody was giving me one. They allowed me to come in and be who I am. They embraced that on and off the floor.”
  • Gordon Hayward is suffering from a bone chip in his left foot, which is why he missed the team’s play-in game, Boone tweets. Hayward initially sprained ligaments in his left ankle back in February, which caused him to miss 22 games, but after just one game back he started experiencing pain and was diagnosed with the foot injury, as Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer relays.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic explores the team’s offseason and future, noting that a starting-caliber center and improving the defense are areas that need to be addressed, but doing so could be easier said than done.

Hornets Rumors: Kupchak, Hayward, Bridges, Borrego

People around the NBA have speculated for years about the possibility of Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak leaving the organization or transitioning into more of an advisory role, but those whispers have intensified this year, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. As Fischer explains, Kupchak’s current contract with Charlotte is believed to expire at the end of this season.

It’s unclear at this point what Kupchak’s future holds, but Fischer says two names have frequently been cited as potential candidates for the top job in the Hornets’ front office if a change occurs. One is current assistant general manager Buzz Peterson, who was roommates with team owner Michael Jordan at UNC. The other is Bulls GM Marc Eversley, who interviewed for the job in 2018 before the Hornets hired Kupchak.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • “Word has circulated” among rival front offices that Hornets forward Gordon Hayward may be interested in a change of scenery this offseason, Fischer reports. However, a source close to Hayward told Bleacher Report that the veteran is primarily focused on recovering from the foot injury that appears likely to end his season.
  • Some league executives think that Hayward could be involved in a trade for Russell Westbrook, allowing the Hornets to increase their 2023 cap flexibility, according to Fischer. However, it would be a challenge for the Hornets and Lakers to work out a deal that appeals to both sides and includes both of those highly-paid former All-Stars. Using Hayward to try to acquire a center is another option Charlotte could explore, Fischer adds.
  • It’s unclear whether the Pacers will seriously consider Myles Turner – long considered a top trade target for the Hornets – this offseason, but league personnel expect Charlotte to be in the market for a rim protector like Turner. “They don’t defend,” one team scout said to Fischer. “You gotta find a defensive identity.”
  • Fischer’s sources believe the Hornets would match any offer sheet for RFA-to-be Miles Bridges. With that in mind, it remains to be seen if teams will be dissuaded from going after Bridges or if there could be a club willing to submit a maximum-salary offer to force Charlotte to match it. A four-year max deal for Bridges from a rival suitor projects to be worth about $128MM.
  • Even if the Hornets don’t make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, Fischer’s sources inside and outside of the franchise believe head coach James Borrego is a good bet to stick around. “It would make no sense to fire him,” an assistant general manager told Bleacher Report. “I know the NBA is a results-oriented business, but if you believe in him to be your coach, if you believe in him growing alongside LaMelo (Ball) and Bridges, you’ve taken a step forward each of the last two seasons, you just extended him. Why would not making the playoffs with a young roster suddenly change that?”

Gordon Hayward To Miss Play-In Tournament

Hornets forward Gordon Hayward will miss the NBA’s play-in tournament due to a foot injury, the team announced in a press release.

Hayward is out indefinitely because of nagging pain in his left foot. He will be placed in a cast to immobilize his foot and he will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

He missed nearly two months of action due to sprained ligaments in his left ankle before returning last Saturday, April 2. Hayward played 17 minutes but returned to the sidelines this week.

The team’s highest-paid player, Hayward is averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.6 APG in 31.9 MPG in 49 appearances during his second season with the club. He has two seasons and approximately $61.6MM remaining on his contract.

Charlotte entered the final day of the regular season tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 42-39 record. Assuming they don’t move up in the standings today, the Hornets would have to win two play-in games to earn a playoff spot.