Ja Morant

Grizzlies, Ja Morant Agree To Five-Year Max Extension

The Grizzlies and star guard Ja Morant are in agreement on a five-year rookie scale extension worth the maximum salary, agent Jim Tanner tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal will go into effect when Morant’s rookie contract expires in 2023.

Morant’s extension will include Rose Rule language allowing him to earn a starting salary worth 30% of the 2023/24 cap instead of 25% if he makes an All-NBA team again next season.

Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection of $133MM for the ’23/24 season, Morant’s deal would be worth $231.42MM if he meets the Rose Rule criteria next season, or $192.85MM if he doesn’t.

It’s the biggest contract in Grizzlies history, according to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link), topping the $153MM deal Mike Conley signed in 2016.

Morant, who will turn 23 in August, has improved in each of his three NBA seasons, earning his first All-Star and All-NBA nods in 2021/22 and winning the league’s Most Improved Player award.

The former second overall pick averaged a career-high 27.4 PPG to go along with 6.7 APG, 5.7 RPG, and 1.2 SPG in 57 games (33.1 MPG). He also put up career-best shooting numbers of 49.3% from the floor and 34.4% on threes.

Morant is the first member of the 2019 draft class to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension, and his new deal is one of several maximum-salary contract extensions agreed upon as the new NBA league year begins. Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Devin Booker have reportedly agreed to super-max veteran extensions tonight as well.

The Rose Rule criteria require a player to earn an All-NBA spot in the season before his rookie scale extension goes into effect to qualify for the 30% max, which is why Morant will have to make it again next year despite claiming a spot on the Second Team this spring.

Extensions Imminent For Jokic, Booker, Towns, Morant, More

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Suns guard Devin Booker, Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, and Grizzlies guard Ja Morant are all expected to reach verbal agreements with their respective teams on new long-term contract extensions soon after the NBA’s new league year begins tonight, according to Marc Stein (Twitter link).

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Cavaliers guard Darius Garland are also “widely expected” to receive extensions this offseason, Stein notes (via Twitter).

Morant, Williamson, and Garland will be eligible for rookie scale extensions, with the exact figures yet to be determined. Rookie scale extensions are available for former first-round picks entering their fourth seasons. The three players’ offers will likely include Rose Rule language that allows them to earn a starting salary of up to 30% of the 2023/24 salary cap (instead of 25%) if they meets certain performance criteria.

Even though Morant, for example, earned an All-NBA spot this year, he would have to make an All-NBA team again next season to qualify for the higher max — the Rose Rule criteria require a player to make All-NBA in either the season before his new contract goes into effect or in two of the three prior seasons.

Williamson’s extension could take a little longer to figure out, given that he’s appeared in just 85 career games and missed all of last season after setbacks following foot surgery last summer. Still, Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said he was “confident” that an agreement would be reached, the only question is how much money will be guaranteed up front.

Jokic, Booker, and Towns will all be eligible for super-max extensions, also known as Designated Veteran Extensions, worth up to 35% of the salary cap. At least one of the following must be a true for a player to be eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension:

  • He was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • He was named NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • He was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

Booker and Towns both made All-NBA teams this past season, and Jokic was named the back-to-back MVP in addition to making All-NBA teams the past four seasons.

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is also likely to receive a two-year extension worth in excess of $100MM once the new league year begins, as relayed by Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report and Stein (Twitter links).

2021/2022 All-NBA Teams Announced

The 2021/22 All-NBA teams have officially been announced by the NBA. For the fourth straight season, Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was unanimously selected to the All-NBA First Team by a voter panel of 100 media members. Antetokounmpo, 27, is making his sixth All-NBA team overall.

Antetokounmpo, reigning MVP Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic received the most votes. Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker and Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid rounded out the list of top five vote-getters. Because the All-NBA teams, unlike the All-Star squads, require just one center per team, Embiid was relegated to an All-NBA Second Team placing.

Below is a list of the three All-NBA teams. Vote tallies are listed in parentheses next to player names. Five points were awarded to players for a First Team Vote, three points netted for a Second Team vote, and one for a Third Team vote. Antetokounmpo earned a perfect 500 points.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, Heat center Bam Adebayo and small forward Jimmy Butler, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane, Suns small forward Mikal Bridges, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet all received All-NBA votes. Surprisingly, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who played in just 29 games this season, also received a single vote.

As we previously outlined, the All-NBA selections come with significant financial ramifications. As a result of being named to All-NBA teams, Booker and Towns have become eligible for super-max extensions that would begin in 2024/25. If they’re signed this offseason, those deals would be for four years and would start at 35% of the ’24/25 cap. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter), they currently project to be worth $211MM apiece.

Young’s five-year contract extension, which was signed last August and will go into effect in 2022/23, will now be worth 30% of next season’s cap instead of 25% by virtue of his All-NBA selection. Based on a projected $122MM cap, that means it’ll be worth about $212MM instead of $177MM.

Jokic had already met the super-max requirements prior to this announcement, since he won last year’s MVP award — he’s eligible to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason and has said he plans to do so. Doncic, who signed a maximum-salary contract extension last summer, also previously met the super-max criteria by earning All-NBA nods in 2020 and 2021.

Notable players who are not eligible this offseason for super-max deals include Morant and Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine. As Marks tweets, Morant needs to make the All-NBA team again in 2023 to qualify for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap (instead of 25%) on his next deal.

LaVine, a free agent this offseason, would have been eligible to earn up to 35% of next season’s cap from the Bulls if he had made an All-NBA team, but will instead be able to earn no more than 30% of the ’22/23 cap on his next contract.

With their inclusions, Morant, Booker, and Young are making their All-NBA team debuts. Meanwhile, on the other side of the NBA aging curve, two 37-year-old veterans further cemented their Hall of Fame credentials during the 2021/22 season. James made his 18th All-NBA team, while Paul was named to his 11th All-NBA team.

Western Notes: Griffin, Williamson, Morant, Grizzlies, Wolves

Pelicans star Zion Williamson is eligible to sign a contract extension with the team this summer, but executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin admitted that negotiations could be challenging, as relayed by Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

“Obviously, that conversation is going to be one that will be a challenge,” Griffin said. “When it’s time to have that, we’ll have it. And right now what we’re focused on is him being healthy, and (being in) kind of elite condition to play basketball, and we’ll start there.”

Clark explores what Griffin could’ve meant by using the word “challenge,” noting that Williamson has dealt with multiple injuries since being drafted. The former No. 1 overall pick expressed optimism last month about staying in New Orleans long-term, but he’s only appeared in 85 games across three seasons with the team.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Speaking of contract extensions, Grizzlies star Ja Morant is eager to sign one with the team this offseason, as shared by Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (video link). Morant is coming off a career-best season, averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. “I’m definitely happy to be here. Memphis is my home,” Morant said, later offering a “hell yeah” to whether he wants to stay long-term.
  • Morant is also hoping to avoid offseason surgery on his knee, as relayed by the Memphis Commerical Appeal. The 22-year-old suffered a bone bruise in Game 3 of the Grizzlies‘ second-round series against Golden State. He didn’t play for the rest of the series.
  • The Timberwolves have declined to pick up their option on assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci‘s contract for next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who explores what the team’s recent front office changes say about Sachin Gupta‘s future with the organization. Minnesota agreed this week to hire Steve Senior as an assistant GM.

Grizzlies Notes: Green, Curry, Bane, Morant, Offseason

The Warriors are moving on to the Western Conference finals but they anticipate the Grizzlies will be making plenty of deep playoff runs in the future. Draymond Green and Stephen Curry offered high praise to their vanquished opponent after Friday’s decisive Game 6, Sam Amick of The Athletic relays.

“That’s a group of young guys who — obviously, you get to the business side of things, and you’ve got to keep that together — but that’s a group of young guys that are hungry,” Green said. “They are talented. They are athletic. They got it. You know, it will be good to see their progression over these next few years and where they can take it, because that’s an incredible young team. You know, they can be special. They can be really special.”

“There’s definitely an understanding that they made us better. I’m sure we made them better,” Curry said. “And who knows what happens down the road, but they will be here for a long time just because they have a lot going for them. So, definitely respect.”

We have more on the Grizzlies:

  • Desmond Bane, who scored 25 points in Game 6, battled lower back soreness during the postseason. He put the blame on himself, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets“I pride myself on being healthy, and getting hurt, kind of tweaking my back at a time like this kind of shows me that I probably got to do more in the offseason to be able to withstand the long minutes and long season,” he said.
  • After Game 5, there was a sense that the ball moved better without Ja Morant on the floor. Games 4 and 6 showed how much the Grizzlies missed their All-Star point guard in crunch time, Cole writes. It all suggests there’s another level they can reach when he’s to the floor, if they find more outside shooting.
  • Signing Morant to a max rookie scale extension will be the highlight of the summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes in his Grizzlies offseason guide. Morant’s backup, Tyus Jones, is eligible to sign a four-year $55.8MM extension until June 30 and bringing him back should be another offseason priority, either on an extension or a new free agent deal. The Grizzlies also have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
  • The Grizzlies might also look for an upgrade at center. Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner and Jakob Poeltl could be potential targets, HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan speculates in his offseason preview.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Anderson, Brooks, Jackson

Taking into account both regular season games and postseason contests, the Grizzlies now have a 21-6 record without Ja Morant this season, and that mark may actually understate how well they’ve played without their All-Star point guard, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Sixteen of those 21 wins have been by double-digits, including a 73-point rout of Oklahoma City in December.

The Grizzlies’ depth is one reason why they’ve been so effective when Morant has been unavailable, and the point guard’s subpar defensive numbers are another, Hollinger observes. The Grizzlies gave up more points per possession with Morant on the court than with any other single player on the court this season.

However, digging further into the data, Hollinger unearths several more interesting details, including Dillon Brooks‘ positive impact on the Grizzlies (especially defensively) and how infrequently he and Morant played together this season. The Grizzlies’ performance with and without Morant has also been skewed by their opponents’ shooting luck, which is one reason why Hollinger, unsurprisingly, concludes the team isn’t actually better off without the 22-year-old.

Interestingly, Hollinger’s data shows that the Grizzlies have actually played well with no true point guard on the court, with Kyle Anderson serving as the primary ball-handler. Hollinger suggests that could be a factor in how the team approaches Anderson’s and Tyus Jones‘ free agencies this summer.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • As expected, Morant has been officially ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 vs. Golden State due to the bone bruise in his right knee, per the Grizzlies (Twitter link). Santi Aldama (right knee soreness) and Killian Tillie (lower back procedure recovery) also remain sidelined.
  • After a 5-of-19 shooting performance with four turnovers in Game 4, Dillon Brooks bounced back in Game 5. Although he had just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, Brooks didn’t turn the ball over and was an eye-popping plus-38 in just 24 minutes. He suggested after the game that there’s still room for improvement. “I’m my worst critic. I know I’m playing like trash,” Brooks said, per ClutchPoints (video link). “I know I’m not shooting the three well, but I’m trying to do all the little things.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., who bested Brooks with a plus-42 mark in just 25 minutes on Wednesday, is realizing how dominant he can be at just the right time, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He’s the key,” Brooks said of Jackson. “They’ve got no one to guard him. No one to stop him. He needs to keep demanding the ball and the Warriors are going to have to adjust and double-team him soon. He’s going to have to learn how to pass the ball out to get his teammates shots. That’s what he needs to do. I try to tell him to stay aggressive, and you’re a walking mismatch out there for every single player that guards you, so just keep attacking.”
  • Although the Grizzlies will be playing on the road and missing their best player, Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal isn’t convinced the team’s season will come to an end on Friday in Golden State.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year on Thursday.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Morant, Grizzlies, Pelicans

The Mavericks will need a vintage performance from Luka Doncic to avoid elimination Thursday night, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic is averaging 32 points per game in the series with the Suns, but his shot has been off the past two games as he’s gone a combined 19-of-48 from the field and 3-of-18 from three-point range. He was limited to two assists in the Game 5 loss.

“That’s on me, for sure,” he said. “That’s on me and I’ve got to attack the paint more.”

Ball movement was an issue Tuesday for Dallas, which had just nine total assists, and Doncic thought the Mavs “relaxed” after taking an early lead. Coach Jason Kidd remains confident that Doncic can turn things around in Game 6, noting that he has a history of performing well in high-pressure environments.

“He’s not afraid of the stage at 23,” Kidd said. “You saw that in the Olympics. You see it in the playoffs this year. You saw it in the playoffs last year. That’s a good trait to have.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The bone bruise in his right knee that might sideline Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for the rest of the playoffs isn’t related to an injury he suffered toward the end of the regular season, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. “Everything I hear is non-surgical,” coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters, including Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian, in regard to treatment options for Morant (Twitter link). When asked why he accused Warriors guard Jordan Poole of causing the injury in Game 3, Jenkins responded, “That is what our medical team and Ja said. … I was stating what was in-house.” (Twitter link from Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN)
  • The Grizzlies‘ playoff run could end tonight, but their young roster gives them a very bright future, observes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated. With Morant only 22 and no players older than 28, Memphis has a chance to be among the NBA’s best for many years to come. Desmond Bane looked back about a decade to find a team in a similar situation. “That Oklahoma City team when (Kevin Durant), James Harden and (Russell Westbrook), all those guys were young and fairly new,” Bane said. “Other than that, I don’t know too many other teams that were young and seen as title contenders.”
  • With the Pelicans seemingly ready to take another step next season, William Guillory of The Athletic compares them to other No. 8 seeds in recent years who kept improving.

Nikola Jokic Repeats As Most Valuable Player

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won his second straight Most Valuable Player Award, topping the SixersJoel Embiid and the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo by a comfortable margin, the NBA announced in a press release.

Jokic received 65 first-place votes and 875 total points, putting him well ahead of Embiid, who finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points. Antetokounmpo came in third with nine first-place votes and 595 points.

Nobody else received a first-place vote, but Suns guard Devin Booker was fourth with 216 points and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was fifth at 146 points. With 100 total voters, the balloting system awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.

Other players receiving votes were the Celtics‘ Jayson Tatum (43 points), the GrizzliesJa Morant (10), the Warriors‘ Stephen Curry (4), the SunsChris Paul (2), the BullsDeMar DeRozan (1), the LakersLeBron James (1) and the NetsKevin Durant (1).

Jokic is the 13th player to win MVP honors in back-to-back seasons. He averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 74 games and helped the Nuggets earn the sixth seed in the West despite the absence of Jamal Murray and  Michael Porter Jr. Jokic was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice this season and reached the All-Star Game for the fourth straight year.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Monday that Jokic would win the award.

Ja Morant Suffers Bone Bruise, Doubtful For Rest Of Playoffs

All-Star Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has suffered a bone bruise in his right knee and is considered “doubtful” to play for the rest of the NBA playoffs, the team announced in a press release. Memphis anticipates that Morant will fully recover from the injury during the 2022 offseason.

How long the playoffs are going to last for Memphis had already been an open question after a Morant-less version of the team fell to the Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday night. Golden State currently leads Memphis 3-1.

With Morant now sidelined, the Warriors seem primed to make their first Conference Finals since 2019. Granted, the Stephen Curry-led Warriors have memorably surrendered a 3-1 series edge once before, but the odds of that happening without the opposing team’s best player seem slim.

Morant had by far been the Grizzlies’ top scorer in the series, averaging 38.3 PPG on 50.6% field goal shooting, plus 8.3 APG and 6.7 RPG in his three healthy games.

This had been a special season for Morant. In addition to making his first All-Star team, the 6’3″ third-year point guard was recently honored as the 2021/22 Most Improved Player after guiding Memphis to a 56-26 record and the No. 2 seed in the West. Across 57 healthy regular season games for Memphis, Morant averaged 27.4 PPG, 6.7 APG and 5.7 RPG, with shooting splits of .493/.344/.761.

The former Murray State guard left during the final quarter of Game 3 (another Warriors win) due to what at the time was deemed to be right knee soreness. Additional imaging conducted by the Grizzlies later revealed the bone bruise.

Game 5 in the series will be played in Memphis on Wednesday, presumably with backup point guard Tyus Jones continuing to start for Morant.

Morant Out For Game 4; Kerr Enters Protocols

Ja Morant will miss Game 4 of the Grizzlies’ series against the Warriors on Monday, coach Taylor Jenkins told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk (Twitter link) and other media members during his pregame press conference.

Morant was expected to sit out. He suffered a knee injury in Game 3 and will continue receiving treatment. He’s considered day-to-day, which opens the door for a possible Game 5 return.

Morant finished Game 3 with a game-high 34 points, seven assists and three steals in 36 minutes. The Warriors’ Jordan Poole tugged on Morant’s right knee as he was swiping for the ball during the fourth quarter.

Tyus Jones will start in Morant’s place, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets.

The Warriors won’t have their head coach on the sidelines. Steve Kerr has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Associate head coach Mike Brown, who was officially named the Kings’ head coach on Monday but remains on Golden State’s bench through the playoffs, will serve as acting coach.

Kerr had been wearing a mask in recent days and his voice was hoarse during press conferences, Slater adds in another tweet.