Jalen Smith

Scotto’s Latest: Cavs, Bulls, J. Smith, D. Jordan, Dudley, More

There were some “intense” talks in the Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade negotiations between the Cavaliers and Bulls for several days leading up to their agreement last week, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said in his latest podcast with Yossi Gozlan.

According to Scotto, Cleveland originally wanted to include three second-round picks in their offer for Markkanen, but Chicago insisted on receiving a first-rounder, and the Cavs were able to get one from Portland for Larry Nance Jr. and reroute it to the Bulls.

Even after securing that first-round pick, the Bulls held out for a second-rounder on top of that, according to Scotto, who says some of the parties involved in those negotiations were frustrated by what they perceived to be a moving of the goal posts. Eventually though, the Cavs sent a protected second-round selection to Chicago to get the deal done.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • Second-year big man Jalen Smith has been made available by the Suns, multiple sources tell Scotto. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report stated last month that Phoenix was gauging interest in Smith, and I speculated earlier this week that the former lottery pick could be in play if the Suns make a trade offer for Spurs forward Thaddeus Young.
  • Scotto reports that the Nets have offered a first-round pick swap in trade talks involving center DeAndre Jordan, but haven’t found any takers. The two sides are reportedly exploring a buyout.
  • Jared Dudley told Scotto that he planned to retire if the Lakers didn’t re-sign him, since he didn’t want to play anywhere else. When L.A. chose to move on, Dudley accepted an assistant coaching job with the Mavericks.
  • The Bulls are among the teams that have shown some interest in free agent wing James Ennis, according to Scotto.
  • When he re-signed with the Knicks, Nerlens Noel wasn’t assured the starting center job, but he’ll get a chance to compete for that role and will “definitely” play meaningful minutes, says Scotto.

Suns Eyeing Thaddeus Young

The Suns are among the contending teams that have pursued veteran forward Thaddeus Young, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Young, who will earn $14.19MM in a contract year in 2021/22, was sent from the Bulls from the Spurs in the sign-and-trade deal that landed DeMar DeRozan in Chicago.

Young is coming off a productive season, having averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a career-best .559 FG% in 68 games (24.3 MPG) for the Bulls in 2020/21. And his expiring contract at a reasonable rate makes the 33-year-old a relatively safe investment.

However, it’s unclear whether he’s in the Spurs’ plans or if the team simply acquired him as part of the DeRozan return for salary-matching purposes and would happily flip him. Charania suggests that San Antonio is expected to receive “strong interest” in Young from playoff teams.

Phoenix could use some extra depth at the power forward spot since Dario Saric is expected to miss most or all of the 2021/22 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL. Any offer the Suns make for Young would likely start with Saric (who is earning $8.51MM) for salary-matching purposes and would have to include another asset or two.

The Suns would have to add a little more salary to Saric’s $8.51MM to sufficiently match Young’s cap hit, and many of their lesser-paid players aren’t yet trade-eligible since they were recently signed. As such, second-year center Jalen Smith looks like a potential candidate to be included in any offer for Young, though that’s just my speculation.

Fischer’s Latest: Markkanen, DeRozan, Hield, Hart, Suns, More

The Pelicans, Mavericks, Celtics, and Timberwolves are among the teams that have shown interest in Bulls restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears from sources that the price tag on the power forward would be about $15MM per year.

Landing Markkanen would be a challenge for any of those teams, however, as they’re all over the cap and would have to acquire the RFA forward via sign-and-trade. New Orleans has a traded player exception big enough to fit Markkanen, but the other teams would likely to have rely on salary-matching or offer him a lower salary (Dallas has a TPE worth $10.872MM, while Boston has one worth $9.72MM). Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade also results in a hard cap, which the Celtics are reportedly resisting.

On top of all that, Fischer confirms a previous report that the Bulls are seeking a first-round pick to accommodate a Markkanen sign-and-trade and don’t want to take on any salary, preferring any contracts to be rerouted to a third team. If they maintain that stance, the Bulls would make it very difficult for Markkanen to do anything but accept his $9MM qualifying offer.

“Chicago is playing this masterfully from no other perspective than a contract management standpoint,” a team capologist told Fischer. “It won’t do any favors relationship-wise, but they’re bleeding his market based on their tax situation, and nobody else can offer him any kind of money without them.”

As we wait to see what happens with Markkanen, it’s worth noting that the Hornets – previously rumored to be eyeing the forward – weren’t listed by Fischer as one of the teams in the hunt, and president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak told reporters today that the team is likely done with its “heavy lifting” this offseason (Twitter link via Rod Boone of SI.com).

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Sixers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Celtics, and Knicks were among the teams that expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan before he reached a deal with the Bulls, per Fischer. However, New York agreed to sign Evan Fournier and most of the other teams would’ve had to figure out complicated sign-and-trade arrangements to accommodate DeRozan, who never really entertained the idea of signing for the mid-level exception, sources tell Fischer.
  • The Pelicans and Kings discussed the possibility of swapping Buddy Hield and Josh Hart (via sign-and-trade) as part of New Orleans’ trade with Memphis, Fischer writes. It’s unclear if anything along those lines is still being considered now that the Pelicans’ deal with the Grizzlies has been completed — base year compensation rules would complicate a one-for-one swap.
  • The Suns are weighing their options for their final open roster spot and have gauged the trade value of 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith, sources tell Fischer.
  • The Raptors will meet with Goran Dragic‘s camp at Summer League in Las Vegas to further discuss the point guard’s situation, according to Fischer.
  • Zach LaVine has told Bulls staffers he’s committed to improving defensively next season, Fischer says.

Pacific Notes: Haliburton, Parker, Bowman, Smith

Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton has gotten off to a fast off the bench during his rookie season, averaging 13.2 PPG and 5.4 APG. However, the young guard isn’t concerned about not being in the starting lineup (he’s started just two games this season), according to The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson.

Instead of worrying about his place in the lineup, he switched the subject of discussion to the new fad NBA Top Shot.

“Naw, I’ve been on NBA Top Shot all day,” Haliburton said, via Anderson. “… I’ve been trying to explain to my teammates why they should get into it. There are two things that a lot of us love and that’s money and basketball, so put them together and good things can happen.”

Here’s more around the Pacific Division:

  • Kings forward Jabari Parker was placed in the health and safety protocols prior to Thursday’s game against the Knicks, relays Jason Anderson of The Bee (Twitter link). It’s unclear when 2014’s second overall pick – who has only appeared in two games this season – may be cleared. He joins teammate Hassan Whiteside in the protocols.
  • The ClippersG League affiliate (the Agua Caliente Clippers) has waived guard Ky Bowman after he suffered a season-ending injury (Twitter link via JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors). Last season, Bowman averaged 7.2 PPG in 45 games for the Warriors.
  • The Suns have recalled rookie forward Jalen Smith from the G League (Twitter link via Gina Mizell of Suns.com). Smith was the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft but has appeared in just eight NBA games. Since the Northern Arizona Suns aren’t in action this season, the rookie had been playing for the Agua Caliente Clippers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG in six games (16.3 MPG).

Western Notes: J. Smith, Pelicans, Thomas, Azubuike

With no minutes available for rookie big man Jalen Smith in the Suns‘ rotation, the team has opted to send him to the G League. The Northern Arizona Suns aren’t in action this season, so Smith will join the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, Los Angeles’ affiliate, via the flexible-assignment rule, as the Clippers announced today.

Smith, who dealt with COVID-19 earlier in the season, has appeared in just eight games for the Suns so far, logging 50 total minutes. While the Clippers’ affiliate won’t necessarily showcase him like Phoenix’s own affiliate would, 2020’s No. 10 overall pick should still see regular playing time during his NBAGL assignment.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Following a four-game winning streak, the Pelicans have now dropped three consecutive contests, all to sub-.500 teams. The slump has head coach Stan Van Gundy considering changes to the team’s rotation, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “I think now we have to take a look at who we’re playing and how many minutes and what rotations and figure out if there is a way that we can play better defense,” Van Gundy said. “But, I’m being honest with you, I don’t know how many of our guys really have a defensive mentality.”
  • After being waived by the Rockets on Friday, Brodric Thomas has joined Houston’s G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Twitter link). The Rockets promoted Ray Spalding from the Vipers’ roster to fill Thomas’ two-way contract slot, so the two players essentially swapped places.
  • Jazz rookie Udoka Azubuike suffered a severe right ankle sprain during the first game of the Salt Lake City Stars’ season in the G League bubble last week and will be sidelined indefinitely, as Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes.

Pacific Notes: Green, Durant, J. Smith, LeBron

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant will face off tonight for the first time since their confrontation two years ago that some believe led to Durant leaving the Warriors, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports. The dispute resulted from a situation late in a tie game when Green grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the ball upcourt and committed a turnover rather than giving it to Durant. Green, who received a one-game suspension from the team for the incident, reportedly challenged Durant about his impending free agency during the spat.

Poole doesn’t expect the two players to be matched up directly very often tonight, as Green typically guards the interior with three centers sidelined, while Durant is usually on the perimeter. However, Green, who missed the December 22 game with the Nets, may look at the matchup as a chance to make a statement.

“The one thing we all know about Draymond is there’s not a better competitor, not a player who looks forward to competition more, than Draymond,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “So, I know he’s looking forward to (Saturday).”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • ESPN’s Nick Friedell believes Durant may consider a return to the Warriors before his career is over, relays Grant Liffman of NBC Sports. Appearing on the DubsTalk podcast, Friedell suggested that Durant’s time away from the team has healed some old wounds and that “he’s going to do what he feels most comfortable with in that moment” when it comes time for his next career decision. Durant is under contract through the end of next season and has a $43,928,850 player option for 2022/23.
  • Jalen Smith hasn’t seen much playing time in his first NBA season, but the Suns are content to bring him along slowly, according to Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports 98.7. Smith, who was sidelined by COVID-19 in parts of December and January, has appeared in just seven games, averaging. 6.9 minutes per night. “He’s a diligent worker,” coach Monty Williams said. “I don’t think any young player understands how hard you have to work to be a good player in this league. He embraced that part, which we’re really pleased with. He doesn’t miss days to get work in.”
  • The LakersLeBron James and Kyle Kuzma both received warnings for flopping in Friday’s game against the Grizzlies, the NBA announced on its website.

Pacific Notes: J. Smith, Booker, Wiseman, Dudley

Suns rookie Jalen Smith confirmed that his recent absence was a result of testing positive for COVID-19, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix had three games postponed this month because of a shortage of eligible players due to health and safety protocols.

“I had COVID for like 10 days,” Smith said. “For like those first, I’d say eight, I didn’t experience any symptoms, but then like basically the last night before getting off, my smell was faint and my taste was faint, but I got my taste back and my smell is starting to come back a little bit now.”

The virus isn’t the only obstacle that Smith, the 10th pick in last year’s draft, has encountered during his first NBA experience. He suffered an ankle injury during a workout last month and has only gotten into two games. He was cleared to return January 6, but tested positive the next day.

“Mentally, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s a process. I still got to learn a lot of new stuff that was put in while I was out, but it’s a part of basketball. I feel fine. it’s just a matter of me getting my wind back. Just continuing to get back into the motion with the team.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns star Devin Booker suffered a left hamstring strain Friday that will force him to miss tonight’s game and possibly longer, tweets Gerald Bourguet of The Step Back. “We’re really not sure,” coach Monty Williams said. “What I’ve been told is it could be day-to-day. Depending on how he feels, it could be another week.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is coordinating the minutes for rookie center James Wiseman to get him on the court as much as possible with the team’s veteran leaders, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. So far, the No. 2 pick has played 267 minutes with Stephen Curry and 182 minutes with Draymond Green“If we’re going to be a championship contender the next few years, those guys have to learn to play together,” Kerr explained.
  • Lakers forward Jared Dudley is close to returning from a calf injury that has kept him out of action since January 8, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Coach Frank Vogel said Dudley is probably “a game or two out” from being available. The 35-year-old has played in just six games this season.

Pacific Notes: Caruso, Smith, Morris, Kaminsky

Lakers guard Alex Caruso said he never tested positive for COVID-19, but someone he had seen around Christmas-time tested positive and he was placed under the league’s healthy and safety protocols because of contact tracing, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets.

Caruso understands why the NBA set up those protocols but it was still a frustrating situation for him, Goon adds. The guard missed five games but returned to action for the Lakers on Thursday, playing 20 minutes and scoring eight points against San Antonio.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie Jalen Smith didn’t make the team’s three-game road trip that began Friday in Detroit due to health and safety protocols, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Smith, the 10th overall pick, hadn’t played since Phoenix’s second game against Sacramento because of an ankle injury.
  • Marcus Morris has no issue with Clippers coach Tyronn Lue concerning his second-unit role, Goon writes. Morris, who re-signed with the franchise for four years and $64MM this offseason, made his season debut on Wednesday. Morris had been sidelined by knee soreness. “In hindsight, I was fine with either, but I have seen how well those guys are jelling with the first unit and I thought I could help the second unit with scoring, with leadership, things like that,” Morris said. “I just told him, ‘Hey, if that is what you want to do, I’ll go along with you.’”
  • Forward Frank Kaminsky made his feelings apparent about the Suns before he re-joined them, Gina Mizell of the team’s website writes. Phoenix declined a $5MM option on his contract but claimed him after the Kings waived him late in training camp. “For some reason, people tell you, ‘Don’t let it be known where you want to go or where you want to play,’” Kaminsky said. “But I don’t care. I wanted to play here. I wanted to be with this team and with this group of people.”

Suns Sign Lottery Pick Jalen Smith

The Suns have signed lottery pick Jalen Smith, according to a team press release.

Assuming Smith received the usual 120% above the rookie scale, he’ll make $4,245,720 in his first season and a total of $19,328,334 over the next four seasons.

He’ll look to get some minutes at the power forward and center spots on a team with playoff aspirations. He played two seasons at Maryland.

The 6’10” Smith averaged 15.5 PPG on 53.8% shooting from the field and 36.8% from 3-point range, plus 10.5 RPG and 2.4 BPG as a sophomore. He finished third in the nation with 21 double-doubles last season.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Okoro, Poirier, VanVleet, Nets

The Celtics have reportedly explored the possibility of packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) to move into the middle of the draft lottery. On Thursday, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggested that Boston’s intent with that plan may be to flip the newly-acquired mid-lottery pick to New Orleans in a deal for Jrue Holiday.

However, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com hears that the Celtics also have their eye on a potential target in the top 10. Sources tell Deveney that Boston has been “enamored with” Auburn forward Isaac Okoro all year and that he would be the target if the team trades up. The C’s would also be happy to see who falls to them at their current spot, Deveney adds.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Clarifying some comments he made recently to a French outlet, Celtics center Vincent Poirier tells Tom Westerholm of MassLive that he wasn’t upset about his limited role in 2019/20 and knows that if he wants more minutes, he has to earn them. “I just told (head coach Brad Stevens) I accepted the role I had this year, because obviously that’s what I deserved, because I didn’t show anything,” Poirier said. “But I think I worked, I think I understand the game, so I used this season to grow and to progress. I’m just saying that was cool, but as a competitor, as a man, as a basketball player, I want more. I’m not here just to be with the guys.” Poirier has a guaranteed $2.6MM salary for 2020/21.
  • Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun isn’t reading too much into Fred VanVleet‘s comments about “trying to get paid” in free agency. It’s hardly breaking news that money is an important consideration for top free agents, according to Wolstat, who says he’d still bet on the Raptors re-signing their veteran point guard.
  • Maryland’s Jalen Smith declined to say which teams he has worked out for, but the Nets were one of the first teams to interview him and have genuine interest in drafting him, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Smith told reporters in a conference call that if he gets an opportunity to play with Kevin Durant, it would be a “dream come true.”