- Thunder swingman Alex Abrines has made a strong impression on franchise player Russell Westbrook, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman reports. The Euro import scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers, against the Pelicans on Wednesday. Westbrook has taken note of Abrines’ shooting ability and work ethic, Dawson relays. “He works out every day, works on his game, and that’s the best part about him,” Westbrook told Dawson. “And it’s his first year, man. He’s gonna learn the ups and downs. There’s gonna be ups and downs throughout the whole season.”
- Gorgui Dieng has become the defensive stopper for the Timberwolves, according to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Coach Tom Thibodeau assigns Dieng to the opponent’s top frontcourt scoring threat. “I think he’s getting better with his team and individual defense. And he has the right mentality for it. He’s a defense-first guy,” Thibodeau told Youngblood. “And, a lot of times, he’s giving up size. He’s small for a center, and he ends up banging with those guys quite a bit. But he’s good fronting the post. He’s a multiple-effort guy. Very good at pick-and-rolls. So he sort of anchors our defense right now.”
- Jazz center Rudy Gobert‘s four-year, $102MM extension kicks in next season and he’s playing like an All-Star, as Jody Genessy of the Deseret News notes. Although head coach Quin Snyder has been reserved in his praise for Gobert, the fourth-year center has recorded nine straight double-doubles.
Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng vows not to get complacent after agreeing to a four-year, $62.8MM extension, Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders reports. “You can get a contract, but you gotta earn it,” Dieng told Taylor. “I want to show that I’m worth every penny and I’m gonna try the best I can to help this team get better and myself.” Despite the team’s slow start, Dieng is averaging 10.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.
In other news around the Western Conference:
- Jared Dudley has been moved to the Suns’ second unit to give it an offensive boost, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays. Phoenix has placed rookie Marquese Chriss into the starting five at power forward. Dudley was expecting to be a starter until about midseason, when either Chriss or fellow rookie Dragan Bender would take that spot, but coach Earl Watson felt he needed to make a switch much earlier because the reserves were getting dominated, Coro adds. “The second-unit was suffering, especially we need to get B-Knight (Brandon Knight) going, and he’s such a huge part of us,” Dudley told Coro.
- Mavs center Andrew Bogut has no problem with playing more minutes this season, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Bogut is averaging nearly 26 minutes, an uptick from the 20 minutes he typically played for the Warriors last season. “Yeah, a good number for me is around 30,” Bogut told Sefko. “I didn’t play that the last couple of seasons, obviously. But in Milwaukee I was playing high 30s, low 40s. That’s probably a bit too much. But I’m comfortable around 30.”
- Blake Griffin isn’t being wooed by his friends to return to his hometown and join the Thunder next season, according to Andrew Han of ESPN.com. The Clippers power forward becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. “They know that my main focus is this season and this team,” Griffin told Han and other writers. “And they know that I enjoy playing here and I love this team, coaching staff, everybody. So they know that that’s my main focus. So I think they pretty much know not to bring that up.”
Gorgui Dieng‘s four-year extension with the Timberwolves, reported to be worth $64MM, will actually count against the team’s cap for $62.8MM over four years starting in 2017/18, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders details. Dieng’s new contract, which currently puts him on track to be the second-highest-paid player on the team next year – behind Ricky Rubio – will start at about $14.112MM before eventually increasing to $17.288MM in the fourth and final year.
Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert‘s four-year extension with the Jazz has a base value of $90MM, but will count against the cap for a total of $94MM over four years, since it includes $4MM in likely incentives. The deal, which starts at about $21.225MM next year, according to Pincus, contains another $8MM in unlikely incentives, per reports, meaning it could max out at $102MM overall.
Here are a few more contract details from across the NBA:
- Ryan Kelly, who re-signed with the Hawks on Monday, got a two-year deal from the team, per Bobby Marks of The Vertical. It’s a non-guaranteed, minimum salary contract for Kelly, so he likely won’t be assured of a roster spot through January 10.
- Marks also has the details on R.J. Hunter‘s new pact with the Bulls, indicating that the ex-Celtic got a fully guaranteed salary from Chicago. However, it’s just a one-year, minimum salary deal for Hunter.
- According to Marks, Victor Oladipo‘s four-year, $84MM extension with the Thunder also features $1MM total in unlikely incentives — $250K per year.
Wolves center Gorgui Dieng, who agreed to a four-year, $64MM extension on Monday, likely could have landed a larger deal on the open market but wanted to remain in Minnesota, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays. “I wanted to be here,” Dieng said. “I rather take the money now or just wait and get a different offer. If I go to another team, am I go to be happy? I don’t know. To me, after over $10 million [a season], you can do whatever you want. The money wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to be happy and make sure I’m comfortable where I am…At the end of the day, it’s not all about the money.”
Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau is thrilled the team and Dieng got a deal done prior to the deadline, Zgoda adds. “I think it’s important for the organization,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, we feel very good about him signing. That’s important for us to move forward. He embodies all the things we’re looking for. He has had a very good start to his career. He continues to improve. He gets better and better, but it’s also who he is: His character, his intelligence, his drive. I think those things are important.”
Here’s more from out West:
- Former Lakers great Kobe Bryant says he’s comfortable in retirement and has no itch to rethink his decision to hang up his sneakers, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com relays. When asked if he regrets his decision, Bryant said, “Not even a little bit. It’s strange to think a couple years ago, to be in this emotional space would be unfathomable. But I mean not even a smidge, which I’m very thankful for, because it’s made my transition seamless and I can really just watch and just enjoy the games.“
- Rudy Gobert, who agreed to a four-year, $102MM contract extension with the Jazz on Monday, weighed in on why he eschewed the chance to test his value on the open market, Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News relays. “It’s great,” said Gobert, who indicated that he knew a few days earlier that the deal was coming. “It was important for me and especially for the team, so we can get a plan and know who we want to be. I love the organization, I love the coach, I like to live in Utah and I like the way the team is building. My goal in my career is to get a championship and I think we’re going in the right direction and I want to be part of that.”
- In response to a reader question, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News opined that the Mavericks‘ deal with Harrison Barnes is likely to play out differently than most big money pacts. In Sefko’s estimation, Dallas will receive better production from the forward in the later years of the arrangement rather than an immediate value.
The Timberwolves and Gorgui Dieng are in the process of finalizing a contract extension, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). The deal will be for four years and is valued at $64MM, per the scribe. No word yet on whether or not the arrangement includes any options, player or team. His new deal with an average annual value of $16MM is certainly a hefty bump from the $2,348,783 he is earning this season.
The 26-year-old is off to a solid start to the 2016/17 campaign under new head coach Tom Thibodeau. Dieng is averaging 13.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks in 34.5 minutes through the team’s first two games.
Originally selected with the No. 21 overall pick in 2013, Dieng’s career numbers are 8.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks to accompany a shooting line of .516/.276/.780.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Within his latest piece for ESPN.com, NBA insider Marc Stein takes a look around the league to attempt to determine which players entering the final year of their rookie scale contracts are most likely to sign extensions before the October 31 deadline. As Stein points out, the uncertainty surrounding the CBA may make some players or teams reluctant to finalize a new deal that won’t go into effect until next summer, but there are still a few extension candidates worth monitoring.
According to Stein, Jazz center Rudy Gobert is viewed as the most likely candidate to be extended this month — Utah wants to lock up both Gobert and Derrick Favors to long-term deals, recognizing that securing those players could help convince Gordon Hayward to re-sign next summer. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Pistons), Gorgui Dieng (Timberwolves), and Shabazz Muhammad (Timberwolves) are also in play for potential extensions, says Stein.
Here’s more from the ESPN scribe:
- It’s not clear how eager the Thunder will be to get something done with Steven Adams and/or Victor Oladipo before October 31, since the team may be enticed by the possibility of maintaining 2017 cap room, Stein notes. Oklahoma City could take the same approach the Wizards and Pistons did with Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond, respectively, waiting to extend them in order to maximize cap room. Of course, waiting until 2017 would almost certainly mean doing max deals for Adams and/or Oladipo.
- As high as they are on Dennis Schroder‘s potential, the Hawks may want to see how he handles the starting point guard job in Jeff Teague‘s absence before committing to a long-term deal, Stein writes. In that case, an extension this month seems unlikely.
- The Cavaliers had been offering a $10-11MM annual salary to J.R. Smith, and while it’s possible they’ve increased their offer, it hasn’t been enough to entice Smith to sign. Sources tell Stein “it’s only a matter of time” before the free agent guard starts to engage more seriously with other teams.
- While they don’t have the cap room for him at this point, the Celtics‘ reported interest in Smith is genuine, according to Stein, who suggests Boston could explore moving some salary to another team in order to create space for Smith.
- There are whispers that the Cavaliers have “strong interest” in bringing Mario Chalmers aboard when he’s healthy enough to play, per Stein. Chalmers, who remains on the free agent market, continues to recover from Achilles surgery.
- The Jazz don’t appear inclined to add anyone to their roster as a temporary fill-in while Gordon Hayward’s broken finger heals, Stein writes.
A pair of standout players – C.J. McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo – have already signed rookie-scale contract extensions this offseason, but there are many more players who are eligible for those deals as they enter the final year of their respective rookie contracts. A few of those situations were addressed during media day on Monday, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…
- Suns GM Ryan McDonough said on Monday that the club has not yet engaged in extension discussions with Alex Len or Archie Goodwin, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “We want to see how it goes in training camp and preseason and then we’ll revisit it as a staff probably the last week or last 10 days of October,” McDonough said. “With players as young as those two guys are, obviously there’s some projection involved too. It’s not just what they are now but what they’re going to become over the next four or five years.”
- While there were no updates from the Timberwolves on Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that the team hasn’t had “meaningful talks” with either player yet. Wolfson expects both players to reach restricted free agency next summer.
- As Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune details, Rudy Gobert isn’t worried about his contract situation with the Jazz, suggesting on Monday that the season is “more important.” However, the young center suggested that he’s very much open to the idea of an extension. “Everybody knows I want to be here,” he said.
With training camp set to get underway on Tuesday, the Timberwolves still don’t have a definitive answer on whether or not Kevin Garnett will be back for one more season. As Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune details, Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau said owner Glen Taylor will be involved in that decision.
“Glen and Kevin and his representatives are in discussions,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll keep that private for now, and we’ll see how it unfolds. But, obviously, what Kevin has meant to our league, the organization, he’s earned the right to have those discussions with Glen.”
While the Wolves wait to see whether Garnett will play out his contract or call it a career, let’s round up a few more items out of Minnesota, via Youngblood…
- Veteran center Nikola Pekovic, who continues to recover from an Achilles issue, is not expected to be ready for training camp, says Thibodeau. “We wanted to get him here, try to give him an opportunity get in shape and get treatment,” Thibodeau said. “We were hopeful he would respond well. There have been some good days, but there have been a lot of setbacks as well. It’s something we’ll monitor going forward.” The Wolves head coach didn’t sound like he’s expecting much from Pekovic going forward, tweets Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune.
- According to Thibodeau, Minnesota hasn’t talked much to Gorgui Dieng or Shabazz Muhammad about possible rookie-scale contract extensions. However, that could happen before the October 31 deadline, writes Youngblood.
- The Wolves brought in free agent swingman Rasual Butler “for a couple days,” according to Thibodeau, who says the team will “make a final decision in the next day or so” on whether to add the veteran to its camp roster.
The Wolves’ Tayshaun Prince surprised even himself by playing 78 games and averaging 19 minutes a night, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. The 36-year-old says he feels good and has no plans to retire. The only question for Prince, who is headed toward free agency, is whether to come back to Minnesota or try to sign with a contender. “It’s all up in the air,” he said. “I really can’t speculate. I would love to see some of the things they do here and what opportunities would present themselves. Definitely it’s a possibility to come back, but it’s a crazy business.”
There’s more out of Minnesota:
- Nemanja Bjelica‘s rookie season wasn’t what he expected, but he ended it with a flourish, Zgoda writes in the same story. The Wolves reached agreement with the draft-and-stash player last summer and watched as Bjelica struggled though his first NBA season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 60 games. However, he raised his scoring average to 12.5 points per night and shot 68% over the final four games. “At the end of the day, I’m happy to be here,” Bjelica said. “I belong in this league. I compete with the best players. Of course, I have some up and downs. This is normal. I’m just happy because I finish season in good way, like positive.” Bjelica, 27, has two years and $8MM left on the contract he signed in July.
- Wolves management is asking players to do more of their offseason workouts in Minnesota, Zgoda continues in the same piece, but the Olympics could get in the way. Possible Wolves Olympians include Ricky Rubio with Spain, Bjelica with Serbia, Gorgui Dieng with Senegal and Andrew Wiggins with Canada.
- Former coach Sam Mitchell deserved the chance to build on the work he did with the young core in Minnesota, contends Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. Mitchell, who was dismissed after the season’s final game Wednesday, took over the team on an interim basis in September after Flip Saunders encountered health problems that proved fatal. Continuity is important to a young team, Hartman argues, and there will be an adjustment process even if the Wolves are able to hire an experienced coach like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks or Jeff Van Gundy, who have drawn mention as candidates. They will also expect a higher salary and more control over personnel decisions than Mitchell would have, Hartman notes.
4:00pm: The Wolves have officially announced that they have picked up the options on the five players (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY, 3:20pm: The Wolves have indeed picked up the options, as Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports hears (Twitter link), though the team has yet to make an official announcement.
SUNDAY, 1:26pm: The Wolves plan to exercise options on Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne early this week, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reports (on Twitter).
The moves are largely expected and do not come as a surprise, as Krawczynski tweets. All the options are for the 2016/17 season and the deadline is November 2nd.
All five players are young and each have high ceilings. They each are also affordable. Wiggins’ option is for $6,006,600, LaVine’s is $$2,240,880, Muhammad’s is $3,046,299, Dieng’s is $2,348,783 and Payne’s is $2,022,240.
The options for Wiggins, LaVine and Payne are for the third years of their respective rookie scale contracts and the options for Muhammad and Dieng are for the fourth. We regarded Wiggins’ option as a slam dunk, Dieng’s option as highly likely and the other three as generally expected.